February...the shortest month, packed with romance, holidays and that time on the calendar between winter and spring, that we endure with chocolate! Which of course makes everything better!

Just when it seems as though winter will never end…over the next few weeks, winter will gradually release its grip on our gardens. Right now leaves and petals stay tight within their protective covers. As daylight hours increase and temperatures warm a bit, the force of growth within every plant pushes aside their cover, revealing delicate beauty and color…and along comes a few buds to brighten our spirits.

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Pussy willows…I eagerly await this unfurling of the first buds of spring…this uplifting sweet sign that blooms are on the way.

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Those first flowering bulbs will soon emerge like hidden treasures…even though these first signs of new life appear outside…it is also a time to bring a sense of the season into your home with fresh flowers, branches and bulbs to force into bloom…

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Endeavor to Persevere…The Chocolate Torta shown here is one of my many chocolatey favorites! Simple and easy to make…First, make a crust using 2 cups finely crushed butter cookies or Lady fingers or cookie of choice. Put together in typical way using 4 tblsp melted butter and 1/2 cup crushed pistachios. Press mixture into a 10″ tart pan w/removable bottom. Place on sheet pan and bake at 350 until golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. Remove and let cool. For the filling…Melt 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate and 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate in a bowl over hot water. Stir until chocolate is smooth. In a saucepan, combine 2 cups heavy cream and some orange zest, and heat to almost a simmer then set aside. Whisk 4 egg yolks in a small bowl, slowly pour in 1/3 of hot cream Pour while constantly whisking. Pour egg mixture back into saucepan while whisking and continue to whisk until combined. Slowly pour cream & egg mixture into chocolate while stirring. If you have any lumps, simply strain mixture. Pour chocolate filling into prepared crust. Chill for 3-5 hours. Remove tart from pan and garnish with sea salt, chopped pistachios and more orange zest.

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Along with fresh flowers and bulbs…a gathering of wonderfully shimmery metallics add light to an otherwise dull setting and will bring a bit of glamorous glint to any room.

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Bird Boxes, Bird Houses…Start spring cleaning by the end of this month. Most birds don’t start their courtship till March or April so there is still time to allow returning birds to get acquainted with their new accommodations. TIPS: Make sure you hang houses/boxes several feet off the ground; Point entrance away from prevailing winds; Add a metal cover to protect the hole size if predators chew on entrance.

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Grow time…get excited about potatoes! I love digging through the soil with my hands to find new potatoes attached to the fine roots of green plants above ground. So it’s time to get chitting…getting the seed potatoes to sprout much like they do when you leave them too long in the cupboard. Place tubers in an old egg carton in a bright cool place…not direct sunlight. Put the potatoes with most eyes pointing upright so that you can see when where the sprouts will appear…and wait. In just a few weeks you’ll have lovely sprouts all over the place ready to be planted outside in early March.

birdheartThe birds BELIEVE!

Sooner than later…we will be back.

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Holly waiting for spring!!

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