Savory vignettes – tidbits of life discovered along the way

Colorado Gardens

On a recent trip to Colorado, I fell in love with the plethora of flowers. From the mountainside to the myriad planters and arrangements, color and blooms were everywhere. Everywhere! If only my flowers did so well in the heat of Central Florida–I’d put them outside my front door, on my patio, around my yard…

hanging beautyOh, wait. I already have them out my front door, on my patio, around my yard. But mine aren’t like these. Mine wilt at the first sign of sunshine. They scream “water me!” every second of the day. They whine and complain “it’s too hot, save me from this horrid heat…”

The nerve. If I lived in Colorado during the summertime, my flowers would wake to a wealth of warmth and sunshine. They’d crane gently toward the light, beg for water only when they sorely needed it. They’d love me and I’d love them. We’d get along swell. Just swell. I’d hang a colorful assortment like this one everywhere I could stab a hangar.

I’d incorporate Swiss chard like these into my every plant bed.

Edible Colorado landscaping

I’d adorn my every corner with lovelies like these…

wildflowers a plenty

Oh, how my days would be filled with color and joy. Flowers make me happy! In Colorado, they have mountain flair.

Western wagon garden

Restaurants beckon one to linger…

Cafe front

If you ever have the chance to visit Colorado during the summer, go. Enjoy. Breathe in the beauty and fresh air. More

Make Earth Day Your Own

Earth Day began back in April of 1979 coinciding with the birth of the environmental movement. Poor air and water quality were fundamental to the movement, along with protecting endangered species, a push that drew support from all sides of the political spectrum in an effort to save the earth we inhabit. We’ve come a long way since those first days but we’re not there yet. While many of us yearn for a gas and oil free lifestyle, our technology is not quite there. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make real differences in our every day lives.

Most of us recycle our plastics and glass, newspaper and cardboard. Many of us conserve water with every flush, every faucet turn, but how about moving our conservation efforts into the kitchen, the backyard? Eating is a must for life, but sometimes we prepare too much. We seal the leftovers, eat what we can, but why not compost? What goes in, must come out, right? :) As I tell the kids, there’s nothing easier than growing our own dirt. Kitchen scraps, fall leaves, grass cuttings–it all works! And the things our compost pile can grow–squash, beans and sweet potato (as seen below). It’s so EASY!

compost progress

It’s a real way to make a real difference. A good beginning. As with any new endeavor, start small, allow those new lifestyle actions to grow into habits. How about saving the gas it takes a truck to haul your fresh veggies around town, across the country, and grow your own? It’s a lot easier than you think. I mean, if my compost pile can do it, you can do it. And instead of depositing that old newspaper into the recycle bin, use it as “mulch” around your plants in the garden. Does a wonderful job of retaining moisture and breaks down into the soil without any harmful effects. More

Love in the Garden…

***Reposting the ever-popular “If your man were a plant” for your Valentine’s weekend!***

Have you ever wondered about the similarities between plants and men?  Probably not!  Most sane people don’t.  But me, when I’m not writing, I spend a lot of time in my garden—maybe too much—and my thoughts?  Well, they naturally veer in that direction and I realized men and plants have much in common!

Ever wonder, if your man were a plant, which would he be?  Just for fun, I’ve listed a few.

Corn – Tall and slender with silken hair, this man provides well and yields a harvest of golden treasure.  While pleasing to look at, beware:  he also tends to be needy; easily blown over by the slightest of breezes—not the man for you hardier types!

Peanut - This good ole boy is made of solid stuff, on the inside and the outside, not to mention he’s filled with sweet old-fashioned appeal.  For most ladies, it’s a tough combination to resist.  Add the fact the kids love him and you’ve got yourself a marrying man!

Watermelon – This well-rounded fun-loving guy is always welcome at a summer barbecue and usually proves a big hit with the kids.  Prone to balding, his colorful personality distracts one from notice.  However, take heed.  If left to his own device, this one can grow wild and get quite out of hand!

Garlic – This fellow is somewhat distant, as he spends long periods of time out of sight, only to emerge when conditions improve.  Strong and distinct, he’s not for everyone, but given the right environment, he can show great depth, even mellow his pungent tone with time.  A worthy peer, indeed.

Okra – Strong, of firm build, this one likes it hot and enjoys it spicy—very at home in the Big Easy, too.  Generally speaking, he blends well with others, can plant himself anywhere, but caution:  he can be seedy, even a bit slimy at times. More

April Showers, May Flowers

While many of you are currently welcoming your favorite blooms, a few are stuck in cold and snow. And I should know–just returned from a conference in Kansas City MO where it snowed. In May!

Crazy. Back in Florida, my flowers are in full bloom. From the gardenias—one of my vivid connection to my childhood…

 gardenia morning glory

 …to the jasmine, I’m treated to the decadent scents of spring.

jasmine in bloom

My Gerber daisies are blooming, but while pretty, they have no fragrance. None that I can detect merely passing them.

Clipping a gardenia, I place it by my kitchen sink (because I spend a lot of time there). Not only can I behold it with my eyes, but breathe in its sweet perfume.

Life is busy. I’m busy. Growing flowers gives me pause. Unlike my vegetables where I reap the reward of food, flowers are simply aesthetic, grown for their beauty alone. But indulging in their glory is a reward in and of itself. It reminds me of the little things in life, the sweet moments, the calm between storms.

Flowers remind me to breathe. Slow down, and just breathe.

No mad dash to pull weeds, no heated job of harvest, just be. I don’t know about you, but it’s a concept I need reminding now and again.

 

Lucky in Love and In the Garden

Now this can go either way.  We can talk about how men resemble plants.  A few of my favorites are potatoes and watermelon…

Potatoes – These fellas are generous producers, enjoyed by most everyone as they appeal to a variety of tastes.  They can get easily crowded, though, so give them plenty of space.  If you do, you’ll have yourself a real winner with this one.  Note:  be patient with the sweeter types—they need a little more time before they’re ready to hit the dinner-date table.  But if you can wait, go for it.  You’ll reap the gold with this gem!

Watermelon – This well-rounded fun-loving guy is always welcome at a summer barbecue and usually proves a big hit with the kids.  Prone to balding, his colorful personality distracts one from notice.  However, take heed.  If left to his own device, this one can grow wild and get quite out of hand!

Or when it comes to love, we can simply talk plants.  The green stuff.  Those we love, those we love-hate.  There out there, you know.  And they come in all sizes and shapes and pose different challenges for different regions. 

Me?  I love herbs–specifically herbs that grow themselves! More

Get Out and Get Your Berries!

It’s that time of year again, when the strawberries are calling your name.  From Plant City, Florida to your local grocery store, the filed up the road or the guy on the corner making your purchase all the more convenient, it’s time to get your strawberries.  And here in Central Florida, it’s a beautiful time to get outside and get pickin’…

We go to our area strawberry farm, Oak Haven.  They have plenty of u-pick hours for the kids to race down the rows (only kidding–they prefer you don’t run :)), a country kitchen open on the weekends, serving up the best strawberry shakes and now, strawberry wine.  Ah….  Fun for the whole family!

Out back, they also have a playground and zip line (of sorts).  Definitely a place to check out if you’re looking for something fun to do.  And speaking of great country fun, the Plant City Strawberry Festival is opening its doors THIS week.  From February 28 – March 10, stop by and enjoy fresh strawberries, strawberry shortcake, petting zoo, garden shows and live music from some of the hottest names in country!

 So if you’re not growing strawberries in your garden this year, don’t dismay.  There’s plenty to choose from out there.  For a strawberry farm in your area, check the website Pick Your Own.  This is a GREAT resource for everything fruits and vegetables.  It’s a BloominThyme favorite!  For recipes to highlight your bounty, how about a little Strawberry Goat Cheese SaladJuicing? Maybe the kids would like to give their favorite teacher a sweet giftStrawberry cupcakes always sound good around my household. 

But no matter how you like your strawberries, get outdoors and enjoy the season.  Blueberry pickin’ will be here before you know it!!

Happy Valentine’s with YOUR Man in the Garden

Have you ever wondered about the similarities between plants and men?  Probably not!  Most sane people don’t.  But me, when I’m not writing, I spend a lot of time in my garden—maybe too much—and my thoughts?  Well, they naturally veer in that direction and I realized men and plants have much in common!

Ever wonder, if your man were a plant, which would he be?  Just for fun, I’ve listed a few.

Corn – Tall and slender with silken hair, this man provides well and yields a harvest of golden treasure.  While pleasing to look at, beware:  he also tends to be needy; easily blown over by the slightest of breezes—not the man for you hardier types!

Peanut - This good ole boy is made of solid stuff, on the inside and the outside, not to mention he’s filled with sweet old-fashioned appeal.  For most ladies, it’s a tough combination to resist.  Add the fact the kids love him and you’ve got yourself a marrying man!

Watermelon – This well-rounded fun-loving guy is always welcome at a summer barbecue and usually proves a big hit with the kids.  Prone to balding, his colorful personality distracts one from notice.  However, take heed.  If left to his own device, this one can grow wild and get quite out of hand!

Garlic – This fellow is somewhat distant, as he spends long periods of time out of sight, only to emerge when conditions improve.  Strong and distinct, he’s not for everyone, but given the right environment, he can show great depth, even mellow his pungent tone with time.  A worthy peer, indeed.

Okra – Strong, of firm build, this one likes it hot and enjoys it spicy—very at home in the Big Easy, too.  Generally speaking, he blends well with others, can plant himself anywhere, but caution:  he can be seedy, even a bit slimy at times.

Potatoes – These fellas are generous producers, enjoyed by most everyone as they appeal to a variety of tastes.  They can get easily crowded, though, so give them plenty of space.  If you do, you’ll have yourself a real winner with this one.  Note:  be patient with the sweeter types—they need a little more time before they’re ready to hit the dinner-date table.  But if you can wait, go for it.  You’ll reap the gold with this gem!

Onion – Sometimes sharp, sometimes sweet, this notable companion enhances every dish he meets.  But don’t be fooled.  You have to watch yourself around this double-edged treat.  He tends to “age” those around him quicker than most, and will often make you cry.  But if you like a challenge, give him a try.  He will infuse your life with flavor!

Raspberry – Sweet at first sight, this guy may follow up with a tart bite.  He generally likes to be left alone—literally thrives out in the wild of nature.  Ah…an adventurous type yourself, you’ll feel drawn to this bright and colorful character, but be forewarned:  he’s got thorns and lots of them.

Squash – Talk about diversity, this one has it!  From sunny yellow summers to cold and cozy winters, this man will keep you well supplied no matter the season.  The cutest of pumpkins, he’s always welcome during the holidays, and his cousin plays a mean racquet ball—for you sportier types.  But keep him moving; stagnation easily leads to illness with this one.  Rest assured, if variety is your thing, take heart.  This dazzling character can fulfill your desires, tenfold.

Carrots – Bred from firm and solid fiber, these men are steady and strong and always there for you.  Given proper attention, they can also become quite sweet in nature; a true hidden treasure, if ever there was one.  They do need some elbow room, exhibit a bit of thinning at times, but if you’re willing to work for it, this one’s a keeper!

Beets – Down to earth is putting it mildly with this guy—he’s knee deep in it!   Quiet, mellow, well-rounded…  It’s a wonder he doesn’t rank top of the list for every woman in town.  Perhaps he can come on a bit strong, in an easy-going sort of way.  But if you have thick skin and like to keep it real?   This one’s for you. More

Martha and Me

I love Martha Stewart.  There.  I said it.  She cooks, she crafts, she gardens, she adores her dogs–what’s not to love?  Her desserts are to die for, her garden is poetry in nature…

Okay.  That’s a lie.  It’s a perfection of nature. I’ve browsed the magazines.  I’ve seen the pictures.  It’s intimidating.  Really.  Which is why personally, I’ve given up perfection in my garden.  Weeds need to live, too.  That, and my kids have revolted.

Gloved hands to my hips, I stared at them.  “It’s once a week.  What’s the problem?”

Both returned a frown.  “It would be more fun if we had a friend.”

Huh. You see, for them, gardening is a group activity.  At school, when surrounded by their classmates, all is well.  They weed, they chat about movies, discuss video games (depending on which kid we’re talking about here), they spend time in the glory of nature…  It’s a sight to behold.

As an avid gardener myself, I understand this completely, though I tend to enjoy my solo moments in the garden, too.  Nice break from the family, if you get my drift. :)

But more than a break, gardening can be an obsession, too.  And featured in this month’s Martha Stewart Living, you’ll find a host of wonderful garden books, like Thomas C. Cooper’s The Roots of My Obsession.  A collection of 30 essays from notable gardeners such as Rosalind Creasy, author of The Edible Garden and Stephen Orr, gardening editor for Martha Stewart Living, this book is packed with the love of gardening, the joy, as well as the adventure.  (I do love a good adventure, don’t you?)  It’s like receiving letters from your garden friends, notes sure to bring a smile to your face.  Most likely a nod from your head, too! More

Out Of This World

And into the next—that’s what I discovered with my current garden coaching project. While poking around the peas and carrots, conversation changed from the ground to the sky. No, not the weather.  The stars.  And it just goes to show, you never know what’s going on over the neighbor’s fence.  Incredible.

When he’s not gardening, working, or hanging out with the family! Justin is staring up into the sky, but the stuff he’s seeing? It’s not what you and I see.

This picture was not downloaded from the NASA website. It was downloaded from Justin’s new blog: J Low’s Astrophotos.  He took theses photos, not NASA.  I’m still in awe. More

Interesting Tidbits from the Garden

Did you know that parsley is a natural breath freshener?  Yep.  A couple of chomps on this distinctive green and you’ll feel minty fresh and ready to converse.  So next time you see that little gem on your dinner plate, pluck a few leaves off and plop them in your mouth.  Your table companions will thank you. :)

Basil?  This one is just pain delicious with a scent rivaling the rose–IMHO–but guess what?  It’s also good for digestion.  And you probably know that chamomile has calming abilities, but how about lavender?  I don’t know about you, but every time I catch the scent of lavender I’m instantly transformed into a relaxing machine!

But lavender does double-duty.  Not only is it perfect for bath time before bed, this plant is said to repel fleas.  *gee* Does it get any better?  Plant it everywhere–inside, outside, you name it!

Talk about two-timing duties, did you know that cilantro and coriander come from the same plant?  Yes, ma’am!  The first leaves are used as cilantro (think salsa), but if you let it continue to grow and flower, you’ll find yourself with a whole host of coriander seeds.  Awesome.  Just awesome.

One of my all-time favorite herbs is rosemary.  Not only does it make for a great hedge around the house, but this one provides a natural mental boost.  Simply brush your hands through its leaves and inhale.  Ahhh…….  Better yet, it prevents forgetfulness. Woo hoo!  I mean, who doesn’t need that?

And your kids will love this one:  how about growing your own sugar?  Well, in so many words, that is.  Stevia is a plant that produces naturally sweet leaves–leaves you can use to sweeten almost anything.  The kids and I made a lovely cucumber soup sweetened with stevia, and it was delightful.  (They ate it, anyway.)  But how about lemonade?  Pull a few lemons from that tree and juice them up, add a few leaves of stevia and blend.  Voila!  Instant homemade lemonade to die for.  Add a cup of steeped rosemary per gallon of lemonade and now you have yourself a REAL treat.  For this recipe and others, check out my garden blog Bloominthyme!

Caution:  if you love both basil and rosemary, be aware that planting basil near rosemary can KILL your rosemary plant.  Who knew?

Got ants?   No problem.  Plant mint–peppermint, spearmint, plain mint–they’re all good not to mention they make wonderful borders along walkways and flower beds.  Last but not least is my beloved aloe plant.  You may have heard this one is good for burns and you heard right.  Anytime I burn myself slaving away over a hot stove or oven (the things I do for my family), I immediately cut a spiked aloe leaf and rub the gooey salve directly on the fresh wound.  I’ll warn you, it’s stinky (and stains), but doing so will eliminate any scar you may otherwise have suffered.  LOVE it!

So what do you say?  Know of any special herbs or plants in the garden with outstanding qualities that I missed?