Friday, May 27, 2011

Sitting Pretty

Wrought iron chairs on a brick walkway.
Fleur de lys designs.
Southern charm, with a Central Louisiana accent added.
The word "President" in wrought iron tracery.
Inspiring and historic.
Just up the road...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fresh Garden Harvest

Aren't these beautiful? If you like green zucchini, I suppose.

This is the first of a batch of zucchini the squash plants have put out the last week or so. We steamed these and had them at a family dinner. Fun!

This is another batch I just picked from the garden on Sunday.
There is a cucumber, some beans and one more zucchini.

I have four kinds of beans growing, including a yellow pod bean. I think I'll cook them all up together and have a little pot of home grown green beans.

This is the second cucumber we've pulled. We ate the first one with rice wine vinegar on it. 

I'm still waiting for the tomatoes to ripen and turn red, but in the meantime, I'm happy to much down on these veggies!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

French Treats

I've read on other folks' blogs about the adventure of making french macaron cookies.
It sounded like a lot of work, and yet made me curious about how they might taste, and what the texture would be.
I found a cookbook on making macaron cookies, and I studied it for several days, wondering if I could make it work.

Yesterday, after stocking up on eggs, gel food coloring, butter and almond meal, I decided to give it a try.

If you're like me, once you've heated up the oven and gotten out the mixing stand, you figure you may as well make a bunch of stuff before you put everything away again.

I made a batch of plain, peach colored macaron with cherry filling.

And a batch of lemon flavored, mint colored macaron with lemon buttercream filling.

Not to mention two dozen mini-cupcakes, but that's another post.

I was experimenting, learning how to make them in my oven and my kitchen. I found that the heavier weight baking sheets worked better than my thin, air-filled ones. But they had to be watched on the heavier baking sheets, so they didn't overcook.

French style macaron are supposed to be light and airy, with a smooth round top and little feet on the flat bottom of the cookie where it rises when it's baked.

My first batch of peach-colored macaron didn't have feet. I may not have let them sit long enough after I piped them out of the frosting bag, they are supposed to sit for 30 minutes. And since they were the first batch, I slightly over cooked them.
But if you look at the mint colored ones, they have the pretty little feet and smooth tops. and the bottoms are flat, without sticking to the parchment paper or cracking.

But I promise that, no matter if they have no feet, are cracked or don't have flat bottoms, they are ALL YUMMY when you eat them.

They have a crisp outside, a melty-meringue interior, flavored with the filling.
And .... they're pretty, too.

If you've never made them, try them, they're not really that hard to do. Here's a website with some links, if you want to learn more, and a very PERKY video tutorial.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Riding Around

My hubby has been mowing the lawns at the house, the new lot we added, and the yard at the studio.

So we did some research, and added this little mower to our stable.
It is a Weedeater One Riding Mower. It fits through the gates in the fence we just put up. And it can turn corners like the best of them.

He says it's like mowing on a go-cart.
Whatever makes it easier, I say.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cold Drink, Deer

I'm still getting used to living in Central Louisiana.

Over a week ago, I watched live crawfish being dumped into a plastic swimming pool full of salt water.  Then, I got down into a tray of hot boiled crawfish and learned how to break them open and eat 'em. YUM!

Last week, I ate something at a restaurant (I'm still not sure exactly what it might have been) that made my neck swell up alarmingly, and my face get all red. I went to the pharmacy to ask the pharmacist what to do. He took one look at me and told me to take an antihistimine tablet. He came out from behind the counter to pick it out for me.

"Take one! Take one! Take one now! Take one RIGHT now!" 
he said very loudly ...

So, before I had even paid for the package he handed me, I opened it up and swallowed a tablet while he watched me. Satisfied, this pharmacist, who didn't know my name, said, 

"There you go, baby, that'll take care of it," and returned to his counter.

This is a place where folks call you "sweetie," "honey" and "baby" even though they don't know you.

And call me "Miss Lynn" when they do.

The swelling in my neck went down, most likely because I "took one RIGHT now!" like the pharmacist said. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

IF Mama Ain't Happy-Feed Her Seafood

Oh, No! Has MAMA got the blues?

Buy MAMA a Cold Brewed Beverage at MAMA's Blues Room!

If that doesn't work, just down the sidewalk is MAMA'S OYSTERS.
That should put a grin on Mama's face.
If you're not close enough to Nachitoches, Louisiana to hit these two Mama's places, I'm sure there's a Mama's Place near you!

family, fun, friends... none better.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Where Oh Where

"Where," you might ask, "have you been," 
"Why haven't you been in the studio lately?"

Remember when I moved to Central Louisiana last July, and I thought I might "retire" from working in the law and just make jewelry full-time? But then a law office had someone suddenly gone (sadly, killed in a tragic automobile accident) and they needed help. PRONTO! So I came out of retirement and went back to a 9-to-5 job in the law. To help out because they were in a dire pinch.

It's a very small office. Just four people, including the attorney. I like the casual setting, the variable work, and the fact that I get to leave on time every day, and early on Fridays. And wear jeans on Friday, too.

About a month ago, there was the attorney, the receptionist/file clerk, myself and one other lady at the office working. The four of us were it. If it got done, one of the four of us did it.

The other lady who does what I do suddenly, one Thursday a month ago, gave one day's notice and left. 
No two-week notice. Just gone. Bye-Bye. Outta Here. See-ya.
So it was just the three of us, until we could find a replacement.
Needless to say, I've been BUSY-BUSY-BUSY since then.

But a new person has joined the office recently. It's back to the four of us again. The newly hired one does have a learning curve, but it still helps having four people again.

So it should really slow down some for me again, hopefully soon.
And I will be able to get back to the studio more now! 
To create!
YAY... and WHEW! 

So ... "that's where I've been lately."
By the way, it's my turn to do the Studio Saturday post at the Art Bead Scene blog. Pop over if you'd like to reply to the question and enter for a chance to win something fun. Also check out the May challenge, for yet another opportunity to win some gorgeous prizes.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cooking Homegrown From Venice

I've been reading a series of books, mysteries by author Donna Leon. Her stories are set in Venice, Italy, although she is an American. 
Her books are very evocative of beautiful Venice, and her main character in them is Commissario Guido Brunetti. 

So many of her stories include descriptions of meals, home cooked and at restaurants, and they sound so tasty. There are also coffee, pastries, wine. So I was happy to learn about the cookbook.

Look at all that ripe produce on the cover in the picture of the market. Zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce and lemons, just gorgeous.
Not to mention the beautiful picture of Venice at the top of the book's cover. The light, the water and the colors of the houses. Makes me want to travel and taste in person.

But if I can't do that, maybe I can prepare some recipes from the book using my own home grown produce soon, and get a taste of Venice that way.

If you like mystery stories with a slow pace, and set in idyllic Venice, try her books. Very inspirational.And likely to make you hungry!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Few Household Additions

This is a bright yellow bloom on the cucumber plant, growing up the bright red tomato cage. I love fresh veggies, I hope we'll have some to eat by the end of the month.

Another change we made recently was to add this four-foot picket fence across the front of the lot next to us that we purchased in April. This keeps critters out of the garden, and makes it safe for the grandbaby to play away from the street.
I bought four kinds of dwarf okra, and they are coming up now in the square foot garden. Because they are dwarf plants that grow only about two feet tall, I've planted four per square foot. They have blooms on them that look like hibiscus flowers, because they're in that same family of plant, but they bear pods you can cut, deep fry and eat. I have six squares with four in each square planted, and they are coming up now. I'll take photos of the flowers, when they start blooming later.

When it starts to get really hot here, they'll take off growing and get tall. They prefer it hot and dry!
Speaking of hot and dry, now that we have a fence around the entire side lot, we put up a swimming pool to splash around in.

I remember last July when we moved to Central Louisiana, how Hot! Hot! Hot! it was outdoors. This year, I plan to take a dip in the pool to cool off. And of course, I've got some floaty toys and fun things for the grandbaby, so she can go swimming too. Right now the water is a cool 65 degrees F, but give it a couple of sunny, hot days and it will warm right up, I'm sure!

Can you tell I've been busy in the yard and outdoors lately?
It seemed best to get as much of this done as possible early in the spring, before the heat wave hits and makes it hard to hang out in the yard.

I can't wait to get some beans, so I can teach my granddaughter how to snap them. I remember my grandmother teaching me, a long time ago.

Go beans! Bloom ... and grow quickly!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tomatos Up, Tomatos Down

These are Big Boy tomatos, growing upside down in a Topsy Turvy planter. I bought it for my hubby as a gag Christmas gift, and we decided to give it a try.

This tomato plant was planted at the same time as the one in the red tomato cage in the side garden, and it's way ahead on tomato production. I think it's because the soil warms up more quickly in the Topsy Turvy planter than the ground outdoors does.

We used Miracle Grow potting mix, and we've added a little sprinkle of 'Mater Magic to the soil. My hubby waters the Topsy Turvy every day. We should have some ripe tomatoes soon!

This tomato plant is also a Big Boy, and it has one good sized tomato on it, getting ready to ripen. It's in the square foot garden, with one square foot all to itself.

Right next to the tomato are two squares of cucumbers. They have one red tomato cage to themselves to grow up, and they share one side of the red tomato cage with the tomato. I like having them close together, it makes it easier to train them up the cage, and encourages pollinators to find them. It takes less time and water, too. Can you see the little tendrils wrapping themselves around the red wire of the square cages?
For fun, I put one squash plant into the container with the zinnias I planted from seed. It's a little behind the other squash, not blooming yet, but they still have all summer to catch up and bloom later.

We liked the Topsy Turvy so much, I ordered three Sweet One Hundred cherry tomato plants from Burpee and my daughter got us two more Topsy Turvy planters. We put two Sweet One Hundred plants in the Topsy Turvey planters and hung them beside the shed, and planted one cherry tomato plant in the square foot garden. It's a race! Which ones will have tomatoes first?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Herbs and Blooms

On the south-facing side of the house, we put up a box for an herb garden.

I've always had fresh rosemary, sage, marjorum and miniature roses in my herb garden. This raised bed box is made of composite materials, pre-formed to slide together, so it doesn't rot. 

Herbs don't need as rich a soil as garden vegetables. I do have a small yellow pear tomato in this bed and a jalapeno pepper plant.
I also include marigolds and zinnias in the herb garden, for some color and to attract pollinators. 

I had some extra squash plants so I put them in the herb bed, to see how they liked it. They aren't growing as large as the huge ones on the side lot. If I get any squash off them, it will be a bonus.

The herbs are planted right by the back door to the kitchen, so it's just a few steps down to gather some fresh herbs for cooking.

I planted some zinnias from seeds, they are growing but way behind the ones that are blooming. I bought those at a nursery because I couldn't wait to have zinnia flowers.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May First Garden Photos

First, it's been a while since I posted. I've been working in the garden and yard.
Here's a photo of the pretty pink blooms on my bush bean plants. I think we'll have beans soon!

The way I garden is from a book I bought in the mid-70's, the title is "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew. I recommend it to anyone who has a small space, or who doesn't want to spend a lot of time weeding and watering.

Each raised garden bed is four foot by four foot. Each is divided into twelve one foot squares with a divider, to help show where things are planted.

These are the three four foot by four foot beds we set up on the lot next to the house after we bought it in April. We brought in fresh soil and compost to fill the beds six inches deep, with a weed barrier on the bottom first to keep the weeds from growing up through.

We just finished having a new fence built around the side yard. It's a privacy fence on one side and a four foot picket fence on the front and sides.

The three garden beds are closer to the side of the house than the center of the lot, because there are lots of trees in the yard and I needed to avoid the shade.

You can see my bright red tomato and cucumber cages. They're very sturdy and square instead of round, and they fold flat for storage when the season is over.

The big plant in the front corner there is a zucchini squash. In square foot gardening a squash gets three square feet, and when we planted it, it looked so lonely there in the middle of the bed. But now, it's got those huge leaves, so it's a good thing I gave it as much room as recommended. 

It is blooming now, we'll hopefully have zucchini in a week or two. YUM! See the baby zucchini growing where the bright yellow flowers are?

I haven't had to spray to keep off the squash bugs yet, but I think I'll mix up some soap water spray and give them a squirt, just in case those bugs get any ideas about my squash plants.

I've wanted a garden for such a long time, in Saint Louis we didn't own the house so digging up the yard just wasn't a good option. It's an indulgence, and I get out every morning and water the plants to check on progress.
How's your garden growing??