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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cocktail Friday

Last night's libation...
St-Germain Cocktail
2 parts champagne
2 parts club soda
Serve over ice, with a twist

I first tasted St-Germain during girls' night out at Audubon Circle in Boston and it definitely made an impression. This French liqueur is made from elderflower blossoms, which impart a sweet, floral, almost citrus flavor to your drink. It's not a common product, so imagine my joy when Steven found it at our local packie! Last night's home-mixed version was really good, and I think this may be my favorite cocktail. Ever. It's sweet, yet light, and definitely refreshing. It's a perfect summer cocktail, but I declare it fair game all year round. ;)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Garden Updates

I'd be lying if I said that I don't spend a lot of time fantasizing about our garden plans for next year. Hopefully we do the fantasies justice, but for now, I've got visions of gorgeous ripe heirloom veggies, fresh cut flowers, and well-shaped flowering bushes dancing around in my head. Here's a little bit of what I'm thinking...

Veggie Garden. The weather was just too nice last weekend for me not to put in some time in the yard, so I spent a couple hours turning over our giant weed patch. Word is, it was once a prolific veggie garden...and our goal is to revive it next summer. I managed to completely weed and turn over about 1/3 of the area, something like a 4'x8' patch. My hamstrings were none too happy about the task, but I was very pleased to see beautiful, dark, rich soil--full of earthworms--when I turned over that first fork full of earth. In fact, it was so rich that I suspect it needs to be lightened up a bit...the fresh dirt was pretty densely packed again after only being stepped on a couple of times.

And speaking of footprints...

On Sunday, I went out to do some more manual labor in the (future) veggie garden, and what do I see, but dainty little hoof prints tracked right through the middle of the section I had turned over the day before. Seriously? Out of the entire 1/2 acre yard, the little darlings prance right through the one tiny area that reflects my intentions for next year, the night after I work on it? Obviously, these are mafia deer, and this is my warning. Which brings me to the...

Raspberries. After finding irrefutable evidence that there are evil deer lurking about, I went to check on the raspberry plants I planted during our September staycation. Sure enough, all of the leaves on the top 1/2 of the plants were gone. Anyone know any good deer repellents? This is NOT something I thought I'd have to worry about in such a suburban/urban environment!

The Greenhouse. I went spelunking in the greenhouse for the first time a couple weeks ago, as it was finally cold enough for me to expect zero interference from angry wasps. I thought it was so cool! Upon opening the door, you go down 3 steps to the recessed lane between the actual dirt beds, which are at ground level. This makes it possible to work the beds standing up, and I found some perfectly-proportioned tools lying around in there. I also discovered that it has 3 pop up windows, presumably for air quality control (?). The only glaring negative about it is that the corrugated plastic sheets that make up the walls are in pretty shabby condition. Sure, they're translucent, but just barely. Anyways, I love it and I think it would be an awesome way to grow a nearly year round supply of greens...arugula, romaine, boston lettuce, mesclun mix, spinach, kale, swiss chard, etc. Wouldn't that be sweet?
The Mystery Plant that I blogged about here has been loosely ID'd, based on a similar plant seen at a garden center. We now believe it to be a Rose Mallow, a type of Hibiscus. While our bush did develop a bunch of flower buds, it had a late start this year, and the cold weather came before they bloomed. Can't wait to see what they look like next year!

The Master Plan. I've convinced Steven that we (well, HE, being the landscape architect and all) should make a full on, professional grade master plan of our yard next year. As it stands right now, we're not sure what is growing where, but we've been told that the yard is full of blooms in the spring. The idea is that we'll enter plants into the master plan as we discover them. That way, we can work in the yard without fear of accidentally digging something up, and we can identify spots to plant more plants (I'm dying to put in some snowball white hydrangeas!). So far, I know we have peonies, roses, lupine, yarrow, phlox (both garden and creeping), poppies, rhododendrons, azaleas, the rose mallow, lilies, siberian iris, day lilies, foxglove, columbine, and these mums, which bloomed recently:
Winter Plans. Among all of the other things we found in the house when we moved in was an Amaryllis. I'm determined to get this puppy to bloom this winter, so I'm following the forcing procedure I found on this website. I'm also going to attempt to propagate the impatiens my grandmother gave me this summer, so that I'll have several of them to plant next summer. This is allegedly very easy to do--just take cuttings, place them in water until they sprout roots, and then pot them. Yeah, we'll see.

Lastly, I'm in desperate want of a compost tumbler, but I have cold feet when it comes to choosing one. I'm thinking this one, simply because of the positive reviews. I'll need to decide soon, though...I want to compost all the fallen leaves in the yard.

Okay, that's it...feel free to share any gardening tips or product recs!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Weekend

It was a good one. We decorated, I tried out some autumn-appropriate recipes I'd been eying for a while, Steven carved an awesome pumpkin, and the weather was beautiful. (Thank you bizarre New England climate!) We didn't get a ton of trick-or-treaters, but we had some, and they were pretty cute...especially the 5 year old Darth Vader. :)

Steven's jack o' lantern:
Isn't it great? He just DID it...no tracing, no copying...he just envisioned and executed. It was so impressive! And we had so many compliments on it throughout the night. Okay, I know I'm gushing, but I'm just in awe...my pumpkin carving abilities have not advanced past the basic 2-triangle-eyes, open mouth-with-a-single-tooth stage!

I also loved the other decorative items we had on the front porch. I'd like to have even more next year so it really pops (and Steven demands corn stalks, LOL), but I think we did a good job of using a melange of gourds/squashes, and I thought the mums we planted in the flower pots were super pretty:
I don't know what these flesh-colored gourds are called, but I absolutely love their exaggerated segmentation. The big bluish one in the background is a Blue Hubbard squash, which is supposed to be good eatin'. If this one is in good shape after decoration duty, I think I might make a soup or casserole out of it.
Speaking of cooking, I did quite a bit of it this weekend, which was really nice...I had been itching to do some "recreational cooking", as I call it, for a while now. I settled on 3 very autumnal recipes from various Martha Stewart Living magazines:

Pork Loin with Apple-Cornbread Stuffing: Awesome recipe! I thought the stuffing was delicious and I'll definitely be making this again. I do have to say that I found the butterflying, stuffing, and tying of the pork rather challenging. (It fell apart when I served it.) However, the recipe is worth the hassle, and I'm sure it will get a lot easier with a little practice.
Apple, Leek and Butternut Squash Gratin: Meh. Won't be making it again. I love these ingredients, but nothing special happened when they were combined like this. Roasting them with some salt and olive oil probably would have tasted just as good or better.
Apple Onion Tarts with Rosemary-Manchego Crust: WINNER! It's such a good combination of ingredients and flavors...sweet caramelized onions & apples, some zing from cider vinegar, woodsy rosemary, and nutty salty manchego. We had these for dinner tonight, and they were fantastic!
I also wanted to post a picture of these adorable cupcakes my MIL brought up for Halloween...aren't they cute? Steven's mom is in a league of her own when it comes to holiday decorating, and these festive cupcakes are just a tiny little taste.
A very yummy taste. :)