“Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open…”

Whoops, forgot the warm cream for my cafe’…be right back…left the tray in the kitchen.

…sunny disposition, fresh attitude, welcoming spirit, warm reception, distinctive style, unexpectedly refined, soothing mix, vintage haven…                  FullSizeRender(17)

Sounds like you or your home or your garden…any of the phrases or words?? Certainly could…have you made your home an inviting haven?

Winter Comfort…With the days short and nights long, I find this month the perfect time to tackle a few projects while savoring the memories of the hectic holidays past. It’s when I enjoy and actually crave the soul-cleansing efforts and the comfort of fires and candlelight, the flavors of homemade soup and fresh-baked bread. I use this month to refresh, redefine, revive, catch up on tax paperwork, restore some order to my house and garden and regroup emotionally. Nothing seems to be where it belongs…or where I want it to be…so I begin to tear apart closets and cupboards and even turn over the soil in a few herb beds in the garden on warmish days! Ah, and it feels so good to be working toward an end goal…Carl always said I could be busy in a broom closet!

Sunny disposition…what says it better than lemon fresh, lemon yellow, lemon zest, lemon curd, lemon meringue pie, Limoncello, lemonade, lemon chicken, lemon bars and so on…Lemons are bursting with taste and color and can be used for cooking, cleaning and healing. In cooking they are team players as well as soloists…from a strong presence in Hollandaise,  to a must for a gin and tonic, and with fish, lemon is a flavor enhancer. The diversity of lemons far exceeds what one would expect when first introduced to this fragrant yellow gem…from skin care to cooking to kitchen cleanser to produce preserver, to its antibacterial and healing health benefits, lemons are one of life’s necessities. Even the peels have numerous benefits…one of the least known is throwing lemon peels on a burning fire to get rid of that old fireplace odor…candied-lemon-0965

Something else…Candied Lemon Peel

1 1/2 cups of thin lemon peel with pith removed

1 cup sugar

2 3/4 cups water

Bring peel and 2 cups water to a boil and cook for 30 minutes on LOW heat…stirring a few times! Strain and then: Bring to boil 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water, add lemon peel and boil gently for 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment, preheat oven to 175. Strain lemon peel and cool. Toss with 1/4 cup sugar, place peel on baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. When done and dry to touch, store in airtight container.


Appearing now…winter honeysuckle/ fragrant honeysuckle, Lonicera fragantissima, left, is a flowering shrub, one of the most fragrant blooming in late winter to early spring. The creamy white flowers pop out in rows all over the branches. This is a very fast growing shrub, usually evergreen in southern climates, that makes an excellent hedge or specimen plant. The foliage is rounded and blue-ish green in color, grows 6′-8′ tall with an arching form to branches and blooms usually turn to red berries in summer…great food for the birds, especially when used in a wildlife garden. This is a very strong branched shrub, grows quickly, tolerates cold temps and is content with very little watering…extremely easy to root. DO NOT prune this gorgeous shrub, leave it to grow in its natural shape. If you need to control for any reason, just a bit of “pick-pruning” is the best solution.

FullSizeRender(15)Closeup, right, shows blooms before leaves have fully  budded out again in a cooler climate. I have this shrub growing next to an Autumn Damask old garden rose by the back porch…but, it would also be nice growing near a door or gate where the scent can be easily enjoyed. This shrub typically blooms in early February, but in my garden as you can see, this year, with crazy warm temps for several weeks, it thought winter was ending so it bloomed in early January. Stems are also nice to cut and bring into the home where partially-open buds will continue to open and offer fragrance.

And, very soon...Few winter-fragrant shrubs are as well known as the viburnums, with strong, sweetly scented blooms that easily make cold winter days more bearable. There are many varieties of viburnums offering different sizes, shapes, and bloom types as well as being deciduous or evergreen. Any viburnum should be a welcome shrub in your garden, and especially so if you find a spot near a path so that their fragrance can be appreciated as you walk by. While designing a landscape, I typically plan for a good path near fragrant shrubs almost always including viburnums whether as an accent or hedge or focal point in the design. Other fragrant winter shrubs to consider…winter sweet, witch hazel, mahonias, and Daphnes…depending on your location, there are many more!!

Gardens rich in fragrance have a quality that so captivates the mind that they are among the most memorable…

Collecting…something different, samplers…In the past, young girls made samplers to learn the alphabet, express an old adage, bible verse, observation truth, or often a proverb…and for many, to simply perfect their sewing skills. Not to mention it filled a great deal of time sitting by the fireplace during a winter day! Most samplers have a naive quality that usually tells the story of who made them. Samplers today no longer have the great appeal for collecting as they once did…but I find them fascinating and nostalgic especially when displayed in groups with appropriate accents. In a way, the samplers were a precursor to all the canvas signs, plaques, and painted boards filled with clever and inspirational quotes you find in the “art” department of HOME stores.

Warm thoughts for winter…Rising star, with their frivolous and sublime texture, it’s high time souffles got the spotlight again! Not that hard to make but the key to achieving good results…the quality of the eggs…fresh is best! Look for farm and pasture raised chicken eggs, you’ll pay more but…And, chilly whites are hard to whisk so bring them and all other ingredients to room temperature. DO NOT PEEK AT THE SOUFFLE WHILE IN THE OVEN…CAN BE A FATAL FLOP ! So many recipes are available…you can look up on food network…I especially like Julia’s and Ina Garten’s. A favorite place to stop while in Dallas…RISE…serving many different souffles from savory to sweet, and surprisingly fast service. I love their salad dressing…a hint of maple in the oil & vinegar base. But my favorite thing to do while waiting for a table…shop the French market for fascinating vintage kitchen accouterments…

Dressed for the garden…out walking with Holly, dappled sunlight filtering through the bare trees…seed heads covered in snowy frost sparkle like precious gems. The new Formosa purple azaleas I planted in the front circle are doing very well…should be rather “smashing” when they begin blooming along with the red ones this spring! The frais des boise patch has been cleaned, plants divided and pine straw laid on the soil…ready for the appearance of the blooms and then tiny sweet fruit in a few weeks. Iris and day lilies have also been divided and replanted in new spots along with some special fragrant white daffodils I found at Brent & Becky’s Bulbs…Kristen Pritchard knows all, so see her when making selections!

Love my new boots…really keep my feet warm while walking in the snow…and the busy “bees” are exquisite!

So for now…work, eat, play, dig, walk, and be happy!

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