Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Passage of Time. . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . time flies, time heals, there's never enough of it, and it passes far too quickly. 

Recent brief stop at IKEA during a trip to Charlotte, NC was just to look around.
 I like to see what's new in the modern design world, find perhaps a few items to put
 away for gifts later - I like their kitchen/storage items - and grab a couple of 
bars of dark chocolate (IKEA's is good, inexpensive, and hopefully good for 
you . . . . . in small doses).

Made time for all that and discovered this, the modern take on the hourglass.
It came in two sizes with different color sand - I chose the larger
with 'sand' more like very minute creamy colored pearls, fascinating as they pour
steadily, silently, calmly through the neck.
Sometimes one just needs to sit, clear one's mind and let time take its time.
How much precious time passes as the sand trickles?
3 minutes & 8 seconds.

An hourglass (or sandglasssand timersand clock or egg timer) is a device
 used to measure the passage of time. It comprises two glass bulbs connected vertically 
by a narrow neck that allows a regulated trickle of material (historically sand) from
 the upper bulb to the lower one. 
Factors affecting the time it measured include sand quantity, sand coarseness,
 bulb size, and neck width. 
Hourglasses may be reused indefinitely by inverting the bulbs once the
 upper bulb is empty. Depictions of hourglasses in art survive in large numbers
 from antiquity to the present day, as a symbol for the passage of time. 
These were especially common sculpted as epitaphs on tombstones or other
 monuments, also in the form of the winged hourglass, a literal depiction of the
 well-known Latin epitaph tempus fugit ("time flies").        
via Wikipedia  ~

"If I could save time in a bottle. . . . ."
Jim Croce ~ 1973

Monday, July 29, 2019

Raggedy wrens - making pesto . . . . . . . . .

Like most everywhere in the northern hemisphere, we too are going
 through heatwave/drought conditions.
I recall childhood summers of near perfect weather. 
But those are history, in another time and place. 
I seem to dislike almost everything about summer now - except perhaps
 fresh picked tomatoes and country rides under deep blue skies - and
 although I don't wish time to fly too fast, I will embrace the arrival of Autumn. . . . 

. . . . . . .and I know the garden birds will too.  

The pair of Carolina wrens came to the porch yesterday looking tired and dishevelled. 
 Usually such sleek little birds with never a feather out of place, they were
 ruffled, messy and obviously feeling the heat. I see them drink from the bird baths
 but don't recall seeing them actually bathe, something the robins love to do.
The pair each clung to a hanging basket chain and proceeded to have a
 very noisy conversation. No doubt it was about the weather, just like the rest of us!


8:30 AM Saturday we were at the local Farmers' Market - and things were jumping.
We went for German Johnson tomatoes - best for slicing and tucking 
into a traditional sandwich. Bob's favorite is easy, two slices of a good dense
 oat bread spread with a smidgen of salted butter, layer of juicy sliced tomatoes 
slathered with real mayo with a grind of black pepper.  Let sit a little while to 
bring to room temperature, then bite in!  
Summer in a sandwich. . . . . . . . nothing else required.

I was late sowing my own three pots of basil seeds this year - waiting until
 returning from Ireland knowing they would need daily attention. 
All pots are looking good now and I'll have plenty of basil to use, freeze as pesto,
 and share. 
Until my harvest I'm buying bunches of basil. At the market I found a 
large bunch from an organic farm and made pesto as soon as I arrived home.
Green and gorgeous, BUT within minutes in a bowl the top had turned 
that ugly army green shade.  
Later I checked Cook's Illustrated online to see how that can be avoided and
found two remedies you may already be familiar with, but quite new to me.
I will definitely be testing them in the upcoming pesto making days!

         BLANCHING - deactivates the enzyme that causes browning when cut
 basil leaves interact with oxygen.    
             Blanch basil for 30 seconds in boiling water and then shock it in ice water
 before drying it and proceeding with the recipe. 
This brief dunk causes minimal flavor loss. 


ADDING LEMON JUICE - which contains antioxidants citric and ascorbic acid.
Add 4 teaspoons of lemon juice per 2 cups of packed basil.
Lemon juice also adds a pleasant acidity to pesto.


Have a happy summer week in the kitchen - so many fabulous vegetables
to play with now that August is almost here.


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Pizza fast. . . . . . .

Need a quick tasty something to nibble on a summer evening?

Take a readymade frozen cheese pizza base - this one from LIDL.
Bake directly on rack at 400F for 12 of the 14 minutes cooking time.
Remove on a baking sheet.
Break open a large size ball of Buratta cheese and spread quickly
 over crust, don't fuss, it should look rustic.
Put back in the oven on the baking sheet and bake 3-4 minutes longer
 to finish crust and warm the cheese.

Remove and add toppings of choice.
I oven roasted a load of small mixed cherry and plum tomatoes
with a sliced shallot, garlic, a couple of mild chili peppers for a bit of heat,
olive oil, salt and black pepper.
For green, some arugula and freshly torn basil leaves.


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Nature quotes -

My garden sunflowers ~ Summer 2018

Have a great weekend dear friends. . . . . . 
. . . . . take care in the heat, and remember 
water and sunscreen if spending time outdoors!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Neighborhood farmers. . . . . . . .

Most of us love having a Farmers' Market convenient to our home, don't we?

It's one of those special places to spend a couple of hours on an early
 summer's morning. Armed with a cute shopping basket or recyclable bag, 
you soon find yourself filling it with beautiful fresh fruits, veggies and 
if lucky, freshly laid eggs and bunches of just picked flowers.

We are close to several excellent markets open at this time of year, however
lately, two of my immediate neighbors have been very generous sharing
bounty from their gardens. Tomatoes, cukes, peppers appear often. . . . .these
 above from Nick across the street on Monday.  Nick is young and really
interested in gardening - I see how excited he is picking his veggies
and having extra to share. In return we sent him back across the street 
with a bowl of our freshly picked figs. 
Great to have 'farmers' tapping on the door with good things to eat. . . . .
. . . . . but of course we'll still enjoy going to the market on a Saturday morning.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart to all the farmers who work
 so hard to feed us.  
It's not until you dig up a bed of heavy clay soil, amend it, plant a few tomatoes
 and spend weeks in the hot summer sunshine, wielding a garden house while
 praying for some rain, picking off gross fat worms, running off deer, squirrels
 and pecking birds, that you understand just how hard farming is. 
I know, I've done it, and I know many of you have too!

Here's to farmers everywhere, ploughing acres of fields or puttering about in
 raised garden beds, we salute you all.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

It's raining figs!

They're sweet, tasty, healthy, and there are pounds and pounds of them 
ripening on the huge Celeste fig tree in our front garden!

Yesterday afternoon we had some heavy rain which lasted long enough
to give the parched garden a good soaking.  Longed for rain always
looks and sounds wonderful and it caused the temperature to drop
 by 20 degrees which was awesome! There was thunder and lightning
 but we were thankful the predicted strong damaging winds didn't 
accompany the rain.

Here's the tree in the rain - I noted many birds leaving the feeders 
and sheltering in the branches when the rain was heaviest.
People stop in their tracks when they realize this is a fig tree - it certainly
has become a talking point around the neighborhood.

Fig and Finch

I will definitely be pruning again in late winter when the branches are bare
and I can see where to remove old wood.  The tree is impeding parking
and walking up the driveway now!

This morning, the tree in the sunshine - and the grass looks greener since the rain.

Many figs end up such as this one - a meal for a bird!
Birds enjoying dining in the tree include many cardinals, finches,
robins, catbirds, and blue jays.
On the ground, enjoying fallen fruit, are mourning doves, brown thrashers, 
towhees, and of course the never ending visiting squirrels!

Glorious figs - summertime sweetness!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Bookish --------------

Many friends are sharing their Summer reading lists lately.
So many wonderful books, so little time to read them all.

I'm mostly a 'read in bed before putting out the light' person,
however these torrid days have me worn to a frazzle by
 mid-afternoon. Grabbing a book, a cool drink such as a 
tall glass of elderflower cordial, (or sometimes a cup of tea
 despite the heat), and my ever present readers, I pick a place
 to sit before prepping dinner, and lose myself between the
pages for a while.

ICE - just the title brings shivers and the cover art is fascinating.
Life on a group of tiny islands off the coast of Finland is cold and 
hard much of the year. Translated well from the original Swedish 
prizewinning novel, this is the prefect story for the heat of 
summertime here in the southeast.
Thank you again dear friend Ruth in England - your book gifts
are always surprising reads and very special.

Where do you find your books?
Above are the ones I'm currently reading, or will be 
reading soon. I usually have two or three on the go and
the same number waiting in the wings.

My fascination with Nature, in all its glorious seasons, is why I read
 and thoroughly enjoy British author/farmer John Lewis-Stemple's
remarkable stories, each centered on a specific place in the 
British landscape. I have started The Running Hare and will 
follow soon with Still Water.

Oh yes, about finding books. The other two here were found on
 that always untidy, tucked away shelf in the Dollar Store!
 I hope you have one near you and check it often because for just $1
 there are often great hidden books. Of course it's hit or miss but last
 visit I picked up these. Have started on
the Mockingbird Next Door and love learning more about
Harper Lee.  The Bones of Grace I know nothing about yet,
but feel it may be a wonderful story.

Any special books on your nightstand or coffee table you would like
 to share for these hot summer days and nights?

Monday, July 22, 2019

Summertime fruit desserts -

OK, I know I said I wouldn't be heating up the kitchen with the oven - but I did
after all over the weekend!
A punnet of California plums needed to be used so an easy plum galette.
 I used a readymade piecrust, threw in a few toasted sliced almonds - and it 
came out well. I love summer stone fruits, especially when cooked.

Then there are these - the first gathering of Celeste figs came Saturday.  
Still not much rain but all this heat and sunshine has apparently started 
the ripening. They are now coming along fast and furious and I've
started sharing with neighbors.
Jeannette if you're reading this I know you'll want some, so come
on over.

As the oven was on for the galette I used the heat to roast figs in butter, 
 Acacia honey and lemon juice, tossed in walnuts for crunch.
These keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and are great with 
a scoop of ice cream. . . . . . . . but I enjoy them added to my morning
 Greek style yogurt which cuts the sweetness.

. . . . . . and do go HERE for a lovely easy recipe for the little fig frangipane
 tarts I shared a few years back when overrun with figs - great for tea time
or dessert.

Enjoy your week - hope everyone gets some cooler days for cranking
up the oven and baking something fruity and healthy.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Last of the Sunflowers. . . . . . .

I took this photo of my remaining lonely sunflower on Wednesday in
the heat of the day. Each time I tried to focus, the lens clouded 
over with the brutal humidity.  Visible is our grass now browning out.
Today dangerous heat is expected yet again.

The sunflowers must have been exceptionally tasty this year!
Only a few reached maturity, such as this beauty, the remainder 
never grew to expected heights or even bloomed. . . . . . . . . 
. . . . . . . due to the marauding deer!  
My neighbor sent a photo he took at 6:30 am yesterday of
two grown male deer with large antlers chomping on this last flower.
Then they joined a third male under the fig tree where they tucked 
into the freshly filled bird feeders.
C'est la vie. . . . . . .and it's just too hot to get mad at them!

Have a great weekend and stay cool.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Hot and cold!

Of course it is summertime.  
So the heat continues.
Stay inside if possible. . . .  
. . . . says she heading out to fill the bird feeders!
Our winged friends look bedraggled and
tired, and I feel guilty watching them
trying to find a seed or nut.

Making icy cucumber gazpacho today.
Cool pasta salad (I'll share a really good recipe later).
Fresh strawberry shortcake.
No oven - no grill - thankful for refrigeration!

Chilling out - perhaps some rain this evening which will be welcomed.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Some Like it Hot . . . . . . . .

OK. It's really hot!  No actually it's so darned, over the top hot, I could scream.
The oppressive heat, the biting insects, the clouds rolling in late afternoon but still
no rain. The baby bunny who ran up the driveway this morning looking so hot and
raggedy in his fur coat. The birds, who just want to bathe in the baths, look skinny,
messy and tired of it all, just like me, except I'm not skinny.

This week promises days of 99F and nights of 75F so not much cooling. One wakes 
tired in the morning and gets more tired during the day as the temperature climbs. 
The southern summer is abominable - why do I even live here? 
Only God knows - oh and the international company who moved us here in 1977.
I never knew it might be forever.
How/why have I stayed so long? A pale English girl who grew up in a cool, 
often (very often) wet climate. I don't know. . . . . . . guess it was meant to be.
Will I stay forever? My 'forever' is probably not that long. We talk about it. You know,
which one will go first and what will the remaining one do with what remains
 for him, or her!

I'm staying in the kitchen a lot these days. I know, that sounds a bit silly, 
don't they say - "if you can't stand the heat stay out of the kitchen."

Yesterday I stoned a pound of Washington State cherries and made a 
French clafoutis. I added a big slosh of Chambord Black Raspberry liqueur 
which gave it a nice flavor.
We didn't really need dessert but I needed to use up the cherries.

The kitchen window sill basil has gone to seed but is pretty and cool looking as
 I snip off leaves to add to anything with tomatoes.
My three late seeded pots of basil are coming along outside. Earmarked for 
a few batches of pesto to freeze for the winter months, I'm hoping it does well 
over the next few weeks. 

My kitchen is producing quarts of soup. We were out of town last weekend but since
 returning I've made three vegetarian soups. 
Friends and neighbors are tossing lovely veggies our way as they harvest.
Today, this one perfumed the the kitchen - Curried Summer Squash, the recipe from
 my friend Jeannette. I love it plain to start then add lentils and a little more Indian spice
 to leftovers for another day.
A bowl with a salad is easy. Or a flatbread with melted cheese, arugula tossed in EVOO
 with freshly ground black pepper, makes a good light supper.

Actually, my kitchen remains a cool place thanks to the recently installed
 new HVAC system. A lot of money, but well spent, temperatures and tempers
 have definitely cooled too!

Hope your little corner of the world is comfy.
Have a good week.