Monday, September 28, 2020

Front Porch company and pumpkin bread -

I've only purchased one new decorative item for Autumn this year -
this sign for the porch which says it all for me personally.

We were able to spend some fun 'porch time' on Saturday - first with
 our former neighbor April, who recently moved, when she visited late
 afternoon. Then, quite late into the evening, with our neighbor Bob from
 the other side who joined us after his 4.5 mile run, then shared a good
 bottle of Portuguese red and an impromptu supper of Italian baked 
eggplant Parmigiana, followed by an English sherry trifle I made
 earlier in the day. 

I love unplanned happenings such as that - lighting the candles as
 darkness arrived, good conversation, a drink, and an easy meal.

Do you enjoy pumpkin bread. . . . . . an Autumn bake many of us concoct
 from scratch or, much easier, a readymade mix?  For several years
 I've turned to Libby's mix to which you add just fresh eggs, oil and water.  
Libby's is known for their great canned pumpkin and this colorful box which
 makes two delicious 9"X5" loaves - and includes their awesome can of
 pumpkin - is the best. At $4.99 it's a great buy.

This year I stocked up early with several boxes as they disappear from the
 grocery shelves fast. I found them at Target and also at LIDL. 
I've already baked and shared a couple of loaves. They also freeze well so
 you can enjoy pumpkin bread all winter. . . . .along with hot chocolate or
 a cup of tea on a chilly day. . . . .I'm waiting for them!

Another week, hopefully a good one for all.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Amphibians, butterflies and figs. . .

Busy days in the garden again this week. 

The tree guys were back to prune the fig, some overgrown privets, 
and limbing up an oak tree encroaching on our neighbor's tall conifer. 
All looks so much neater now, especially the fig tree which had
 become more like a gigantic shrub!

Before and after. . . . . much better now we can see the trunk again.

Eastern Black swallowtail on asters.

While emptying pots of summer annuals, herbs etc., I also moved the pots
 of asters and was surprised by this rather large frog in the bottom of a planter.

I think my visiting frog is a Carolina gopher frog. 
Very handsome, about 3" long with beautiful markings. . . . . the first
 seen here in my garden!
If interested in frogs you can read more about him/her here.

We tipped him out of the planter near the bee bath as he obviously 
requires water - then he hopped into a pot of ivy. I haven't seen him since
but hope he stays around and devours unneeded insects!

Have a great weekend.
Stay safe - be well.
 . . . . plan a visit to a lovely garden or a pumpkin patch!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Pumpkins and Round Houses --------

However in Laayoune, Western Sahara, there were these really cute
 pumpkin-looking 'round houses' in an area called Spanish Town.

This year I'm missing travel to distant lands so much! 
I was more than ready to head south of the city on the first cool
 day to our favorite small family farm, Johnson Pumpkin Farm, 
and pick up some traditional pumpkins for a little fall decor. 
The ride through the countryside was fabulous - green
 fields, blue skies and plenty of brilliant pumpkins.

These came home with me and are now decorating the
 front porch. . . . . . .the two large paler colored pumpkins on the right
I will roast later as they are good for soups and veggie stews.

Also picked up a couple of pots of heavily budded mums - should open
 with a lot of yellow blooms soon!

Are you planning to decorate for Autumn and Halloween this year?

Monday, September 21, 2020

Waning late summer days. . . . . .


This is how late Summer, early Autumn should be! 

A busy weekend flew by.
Perfect weather has arrived at last.
Sleeping with the windows open.
Drinking the last of the rosé wines.
Baking a little sweet thing now and then.
Having company on the front porch.
Granddaughter came for lunch in the gazebo.
Buying fresh, chef-made pasta for a pumpkin sauce.
A cord of firewood delivered then stacked by Bob.
New young neighbors moved in across the street.
Fig leaves falling in the cooler nights - acorns too.

Up early today - baked buttermilk biscuits. 

Taking a country ride this afternoon to shop for pumpkins. 

Blogging has been on the back burner - will catch up with you later!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Aftermath of Hurricane Sally -

They said this would be a busy hurricane year, and it looks like they are correct.

 My thoughts are with the people hit hardest by this latest storm. The damage looks terrible and, as always, recovery will take so long, and so many lives already impacted by living during a pandemic will now be even worse.

As always with natural disasters, we question so much and nobody really has the answers.

"Coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle face a daunting recovery Thursday, as ponds of floodwater and chunks of debris surround homes and businesses. Rivers also have spilled over their banks there, and Sally's remnants still threaten more flooding Thursday as they push into Georgia and the Carolinas" 

 . . . . via CNN today

So, although we have nothing going on such as in the atmospheric
 painting above. . . . . . 

. . . . . . here, "in the Carolinas" I'm sitting out in the gazebo, rain constant
 on the roof, pleasant cool at last air, but no wind thankfully, however things
 will get worse later with 100% rain falling steadily for perhaps another 24 hours!

As you can see, our back garden is a disaster. The guy who planned to
aerate and reseed the lawn area, bring in topsoil, bailed on us - he found
 another job.  
Also, we haven't found a landscaper yet who can give us an affordable
 plan to address the water draining from the property behind us, 
which in heavy rains like we're having again, cause substantial back yard 
 flooding for us. This means also the back bed along the fence, although 
cleared of ivy etc., still can't be built back up and new shrubs planted.

The gazebo, with me in it, might just float away by tomorrow!
SOS - send a boat please!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Southern sounds and Autumn colors -

I told you recently about these noisy insects - and today I can
 actually share a photo I managed to take of a '17 year cicada' hanging
 out on the back deck. If you touch one of these guys - about 2" long - their
 shriek is quite startling!

Along with donning face masks, some North Carolinians may also be wearing
 ear plugs! 
After nearly two decades underground, a wave of periodical cicadas
 emerged this summer and they are a noisy bunch! 
Last spotted in 2003, hoards of 17-year cicadas, referred to as Brood IX,
 have arisen from the soil and they are deafening. When one whizzes by your
 ear you are startled at the noise it makes. 
Then, when several thousand start 'singing' together in the trees
in the early evening, you really could use ear plugs!

With evenings now starting to cool a little, at the weekend we enjoyed
 grilling outside, then eating supper in the gazebo. . . . . .serenaded by
these creatures!

Sunday, before the heat set in, time was well spent doing a lot of front garden
 late summer chores.  These consisted mostly of working with pots of annuals,
 herbs etc. all of which had seen better days. I've kept a couple of pots of basil
going for a bit longer - just have to have fresh basil outside the door while the
 good tomatoes are still coming!

At Home Depot I picked up a couple of pots of asters for some much needed
 color outside the front door - chrysanthemums will be added a little later,
still too hot for them.
Bees and butterflies found the asters immediately. 

Noticed today Blogger is playing with us yet again regarding font
 and photo sizing - have you noticed? 
Getting the type sized to match in each row of a paragraph is often a pain.
I must say though I do like being able to do a final resize of photos by 
dragging the corners. Do you like this new feature? I wonder if it will
remain. I hope so.

Friday, September 11, 2020

A Day to Remember. . . . . always.

I wasn't here on my front porch early on the evening of September 10, 2001. Perhaps the Peace roses were blooming and the moon shining above the house, I can't recall. Perhaps it was a fair night, cooling off somewhat after still hot days, typical here in the South at this rather lovely time of year.  Suspended between the torrid afternoons of Summer and the soon to be crisp mornings of Autumn, September can be almost perfect.

I flew into Raleigh very late on that quiet night with Bob and granddaughter Jasmin. We had enjoyed a visit to Florida with several days at Disney World, that perfect world of vibrant colors, smiling faces, kindness, and make believe.  We fell into our beds, exhausted but happy after such a wonderful trip.

While getting Jasmin ready for pre-school the following morning of September 11, the phone rang. Our son told us to turn on the TV but not to let little Jasmin view it.....................the picture appeared just as the second plane hit the second tower of the World Trade Center.
The rest of this story doesn't have to be told here.  It is a memory we each share.  It is a day we will never erase from our memories. We will never forget.

The roses are named PEACE and the same plant blooms still on 
hot summer days in front of the porch.
 A sign, a memory, that hopefully we will never see such a day
 as 9/11/2001 ever again.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Gratinée Tomatoes, and a change is in the air. . . . .

 . . . . . . . . . . and I actually started walking early morning again over the holiday weekend. I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it feels out there in 58-63F temps. after such a long hot, humid spell. I can breathe. I can wear long sleeves in comfort. I can listen to the 'morning sounds' of birds and barking dogs. I see rabbits hopping, and if I get out there before 7 AM, there is no traffic. There are silvery dewdrops on the spider webs. The leaves are fading and there are a few yellow ones drifting down onto lawns and garden beds.

The last of my summer flag collection - soon time for autumn leaves and pumpkins!

Above: Prepping Penne with Gratinée Tomatoes

Did you cook over the Labor Day holiday?  
We fired up the grill - real burgers for Bob, a veggie burger for me. I grilled red peppers for another meal this week. Also made two Lebanese dishes, mjeddrah (lentils, rice, and caramelized onions) and felafel (spicy chick pea patties) for pita bread sandwiches. . . . . . .and some prepped dishes for the week ahead.

With abundant Roma tomatoes filling a bowl on the kitchen island I made this easy peasy, tasty pasta dish. 

This quick pasta with a green side salad was enjoyed in the gazebo.

I often think that eating well has everything to do with having the correct food on hand in the fridge. It's so much easier to be innovative and pull a healthy and tasty meal together when things are waiting, chilled and still fresh, when one cannot do daily shopping as most of us don't these days.
You have to agree if you're the one searching recipes, choosing dishes, prepping and then cooking and serving, it's exciting and easier to have quick cooked veggies at the ready, steeping in olive oil with a few aromatics. . . . . some crushed or chopped garlic, shallots, grated lemon zest, and hardy herbs like thyme, rosemary, bay etc.  Just remember that sharpening veggies with lemon juice and vinegar, or anything acidic, should be left until just prior to serving.  

I'm making another dish of gratinée tomatoes today, a mix of Roma, cherry, and cocktail, they all work.  . . . . . and can be used in so many dishes.

Bon appetit.