January 12, 2015

New Year, Memories, & Pancakes

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. -Dr. Seuss 
photo cred: free people
Memory is a blessing, sometimes a very painful one. Just as 2014 closed and I thought of all that had transpired during the year, I received the dreadful news that a childhood friend, one who played in my house every week when we were girls, was gone. Her life- over too soon. I was devastated. We are young. We're just beginning. There's so much life left to live. All this raced through my head as I grappled with the terrible reality.

Throughout the next week, I was overwhelmed with recollections of the past. I grappled with a constant torrent of emotions as I remembered our childhood-- the days my mother let us pose for photos in her wedding gown, slow bike rides around the lake by her house, entertaining ourselves with silly giggles and gossip about boys. Things long forgotten were suddenly fresh and played over in my head like a film.

On Sunday morning, I wanted little more than the relief of sleep, but my five-year-old, oblivious to all that was on my mind, was persistent. Mommy, make pancakes with me!  I envisioned the mess that would follow: bits of eggshell to retrieve from the bowl, dribbles of milk and drips of batter on the counters, and lips sticky with maple syrup planting kisses on my cheek. Memories, I thought. Make the memories.

These are the pancakes we made, from chef Jamie Oliver's super-easy two cup recipe. This is the recipe I use every time my daughter wants to make pancakes because its speed and ease are geared to her attention span. It's so easy, I hate to even call it a recipe.

photo credit; JamieOliver.com

Fluffy American-Style Pancakes

  • Fill a coffee mug with self-rising flour, level the top, and pour into your mixing bowl.
  • Fill the same mug to the top with milk. Add to the bowl.
  • Add a pinch of salt, 1 egg, and whisk all ingredients together. Add 1 pear, grated, to the bowl, and stir.
  • Heat a dollop of butter in a pan. When the butter is melted, add the batter a spoonful at a time. Turn when the bottom of the pancake is golden and cook for a few minutes on the other side.
  • Serve right away with a dollop of full-fat plain yogurt and honey, maple syrup, or creme fraiche. (Creme fraiche, by the way, makes everything amazing.)

Here's a cute video of Jamie with two of his own little girls, making pancakes with this recipe.

This year, hug those you love often, and take the time to make memories of the happy, sticky, heart-warming kind.

Wishing you all the very best memory-making in 2015,

November 24, 2014

Tulips Understand

This may be the most wonderful time of the year, but for me it has its difficult side. These beautiful late fall days are a reminder of the stark winter that's just around the corner, and like spending Sunday afternoon dreading Monday morning, it's easy to waste these beautiful days on melancholy.

Darwin hybrid 'Pink Impression' tulip bulbs.  (photo: IvyClad.com)

That's why I like to plant tulips. Tulip bulbs are my friends. They know that when late September and early October rolled around, I was still walking around barefoot with iced tea in hand pretending summer was going to last forever. They know that when I saw the first light frost of the season, I shrugged my shoulders and smiled to myself that it would warm up later in the day, leaving the morning to wear a new sweater. And when a light snow fell awaking me from my never-ending-summer fantasy, they were still there, patiently waiting to be planted without being worse for the wait.
This auger does most of the dig work. Similar here $32.

The tulip bulbs know that when I finally take to the task of planting them, I'll remember that this is where the best of spring gardening begins, and that after the grays of winter, I'll be rewarded with huge colorful blooms, and waiting for their arrival somehow makes winter not quite so long.

From a few years ago, around 100 'Pink Impression' tulips in front of my house.

This year, I've massed around 100 of the Darwin hybrid 'Pink Impression' tulip bulbs in street-facing flower beds around my house. I've planted a few dozen other varieties, too, including the late spring blooming and nearly black, 'Queen of the Night', planted in pots that will sit in a corner of the garage until spring, and will be used to fill in late spring garden gaps.

 'Pink Impression' tulips are apricoty-pink on the outside and deep pink inside.

I like to plant tulip bulbs after the first hard morning frost, and because they are so "understanding", they can be planted as long as the ground is still workable. I've dug up freezing soil in December when I could barely feel my fingertips, plopped them in and still had a remarkable show in spring. (If you wait past fall to plant them, the bulbs do appreciate being kept in a cool, but not freezing, spot.)

Voila! Bulbs in spring. They usually bloom for me (zone 6a) around April 15... perfect to lift the gloom of tax day.

All winter you can congratulate yourself for how forward-thinking you've been about the garden, and in spring when the tulips are blooming in all their glory and your neighborhood friends are thanking you for the beauty you've added to the world, you can graciously accept their praise while enjoying their visits. The tulips won't mutter a single "ahem".

This is why I plant tulips. Tulips understand.

Learn more about how to plant tulips, here.
I hope all you American pals have a wonderful Thanksgiving! gobble-gobble
Catch me on Instagram between posts.


September 17, 2014

Chincoteague and Assateague Islands

I have a white-knuckled grip on summer. Blame it on Atlantic Ocean salt breezes and island music. I've just returned from the islands of Chincoteague and Assateague off the coasts of Virginia and Maryland, voted #1 on Coastal Living's list of happiest seaside towns.

From my hotel room balcony overlooking the bay and neighboring restaurant, Jackspot.

I'm pretty sure this beautiful place still has me in "slow" gear as I'm having a little trouble resuming life as usual. But that's the best kind of vacation isn't it? -- the kind you can give 5 stars because regular life got left behind somewhere.

Oversized Adirondack chairs by the bay.

Speaking of 5 stars, Chincoteauge and Assateauge Islands are destinations that consistently get more 5 star reviews than anything else on TripAdvisor

A monument honoring 'Misty' of Chincoteague.

The popularity of the islands is a credit to the power of the well-written word. Once small, unknown fishing villages, author Marguerite Henry put them on the tourism map with her children's novel, Misty of Chincoteague. Written in 1947, the tale is fictional but is centered around real people, places, events, and wild horses

The islands are known for the herds of wild ponies that roam Assateague. For hundreds of years, they've survived on marsh and dune grasses and fresh water from ponds. Read more about the islands and ponies, HERE. Locals have passed down the story for generations that the ponies are descendants of surviving horses from a Spanish galleon shipwreck. 

Wild ponies grazing on Assateauge Island. 

The wild ponies get a lot of press as the islands' main attraction, and they were certainly a hit with my children, but it was the easy non-fussy, laid-back vibe, friendly people and beautifully clean beaches that won me over. Watching dolphins play in the bay from my hotel balcony didn't hurt anything either! 

Lunch on the patio at Jackspot, Chincoteague Island, VA

Soon my grip on summer will be useless.  A sure sign are the ripening apples on my backyard espaliered apple trees... :)

I'll be back soon!