Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bonsai Care & Feeding

I met my first Bonsai last summer, when S entrusted me with her beloved little Azalea tree while she was on vacation.

Yikes. She was barely out of my driveway when the first panic attack set in.

What if I kill it?

I immediately embarked on the most high maintenance program of tender loving care a plant could ever imagine.

* Each morning I misted her.

* Every afternoon she enjoyed dappled sunlight out on my deck.

* I fashioned a humidity tray out of rocks and saucers so she could breathe easy in my dry, desert air.

* I was like a mother chimpanzee, daily inspecting that plant for bugs. And, I was exhausted...

Then S came home and casually commented: Wow, it looks great. All I do is water it.


That's when I discovered that Bonsai trees aren't nearly as high maintenance as they look.

The beautiful Plum Bonsai shown in these photos was a birthday present from a very sweet friend. It's a bright spot in my day, now that winter is upon us.

True confessions: I panicked a bit when I received this plant ~ wondering how quickly I could kill it. But, then I remembered that J never comes to visit me so if it kicks the bucket, she will never be the wiser!

Moisture: The Key to a Happy Bonsai
  • Keep your bonsai slightly damp.
  • Mist her in addition to watering. They enjoy the feel of a spring rain.
  • Misting cleans her leaves and helps moisture absorption.
  • Once every couple of weeks immerse the entire plant, pot and all, in a bowl of water. They love it!
  • Fertilize monthly with a 5-10-5. (Deciduous Bonsais appreciate a dormant period of no fertilizer.)
Thanks, J! It's not dead yet! :))

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Freesia ~ November
My Flowering Plant of the Month

I've been so busy complaining about being busy that I almost forgot to mention the latest and greatest addition to the sunny window.

Each month, I purchase a flowering plant at the local supermarket when I'm buying groceries. As much as I love cut flowers, I never buy them for myself. Mostly because I'm cheap and cut flowers don't last very long. Potted flowering plants will generally bloom for a whole month. If you're nice to them, they just might bloom again.

Freesia is a delicate flowering plant with a lightly, sweet citrus fragrance. Perfect for a kitchen window. Keep the soil moist and add a dash of 5-10-10 fertilizer for longest blooms. If you're lucky enough to live in USDA zones 9 or 10, you can transplant her into the garden when she's done blooming.

* A member of the Iris family. Lots of beautiful colors to choose from.

October Plant of the Month: Kalanchoe

Monday, November 26, 2007

Takes Two To Tango

Of all the get rich quick schemes Ann and I dreamed up, the idea that would have made us rich beyond our wildest imaginations was: The Man Manual.

We wanted to publish a simple, how-to pocket guide designed to help the men in our lives navigate the complexities of a brave, new world.

One where women have jobs (hey!)
Opinions (really?)
And, very little tolerance for stubborn, controlling behavior (whaa??)

It’s rainin’ men around here and not in a good way.

For years, now, one bitter divorcee has clouded our get-togethers with anger and negativity. Then there were two. This year, four. And, that’s what has me most concerned. Because if this mess is growing by exponential numbers, I’m outta here.

Perhaps we should dust off our big idea and publish the Man Manual. It’s the ideal stocking stuffer! WebMD could endorse it as a new way to lower high blood pressure! Oprah could promote it as the saving grace for thousands of guys unwilling to admit they're (at least partially) to blame.

Problem is… it’s a one-page guide, so the leather bound edition might look a little odd:

Say you’re sorry. And, say it with flowers.

Admit when you’re wrong. And, make up for it with flowers.

Here is a break-through concept in the battle of the sexes: If you still love this woman, then knock off the silly games and send her some damn flowers!

Oh, and by the way, if you're thinking of buying an engagement ring this Christmas, don't. A gift of you for the rest of her life might not be nearly as exciting as a thoughtful bouquet of flowers.

Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then. ~Katharine Hepburn

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ultimate Green Bean Casserole

Update on Thanksgiving: My beans were a big hit. I can't bring myself to open a can of Campbell's soup on a holiday so this is a much fresher, from scratch version of that best-loved...

Ultimate Green Bean Casserole Recipe
(Feeds an army)
  • Snap 2 pounds of fresh green beans into bite-size pieces.
  • Drop them into a pot of boiling salt water (use a generous amount of sea salt.)
  • Cook for 5 or 6 minutes.
  • Drain beans in a colander, then plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. (They'll be bright green, crisp-crunchy and oh so delicious.)
Make Your Own Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • Remove the stems and slice up 1 lb. of white button mushrooms (tip: if you'd like to be extra hip and cool, use mini portobellos.)
  • Simmer shrooms in 3-4 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoon fresh garlic.
  • Stir in 3 tablespoons flour.
  • Add 1.5 cups chicken broth + 1.5 cups cream
  • Salt & pepper to taste. (I use extra spicy Mrs. Dash.)
  • Once the sauce is thick and bubbly, stir in those precious beans.
Building the Ultimate Green Bean Casserole
  1. Place a can of those yummy French fried onions in the bottom of a casserole.
  2. Pour in the beans and 'shrooms.
  3. Sprinkle another can of yummy French fried onions on top.
  4. Up the fat content a bit more with dollops of butter.
  5. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.
* Talk about a crowd pleaser! Even the nutbag who might vote for Giuliani had to admit these beans were to die for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cranberry Apple Pie

Fun Facts to Know & Tell:
I have never tried Pumpkin Pie.

Whenever I mention that at a holiday dinner, someone inevitably takes the fork that was recently inside their mouth and pokes it at me, hoping I'll try a bite. I don't like, or dislike, Pumpkin Pie.

I simple prefer pretty little cranberries to messy orange pumpkins, filled with slimey junk and ghostly white seeds. Once you try my pie, you will, too.

Cranberry Apple Pie
  • 1.25 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh, lovely, cranberries
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 5 sliced Granny Smith apples
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 Pillsbury pie shell (Don't bother making your own. Face it. They're better at this than we are.)
Luscious Topping
1 cup crushed Graham Crackers
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter

Create the Masterpiece:
  • In a saucepan, mix together sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and salt.
  • Stir in cranberries and maple syrup.
  • Cook over high heat, stirring, until mixture comes to a boil.
  • Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in apples and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, add walnuts.
  • Pour apple mixture into pie shell; set aside.
  • Mix up Luscious Topping sprinkle over the pie filling.
  • Bake 30 minutes @ 375 degrees.
Serving Suggestion:
Cut yourself a big slice and wait for an idiot Pumpkin Pie fan to say something derogatory. Then slowly remove the fork from your mouth, scoop up a sample size piece from your plate and ask them to try a bite, germs and all. It's only fair.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Toast to Biodynamic Wine

Growing up, we never celebrated Thanksgiving with wine, champagne or anything else really fun. There was no religious excuse surrounding this decision. We just didn't do it.

I always thought that was a huge mistake. After all, we were living in this horrid little town in South Dakota. Just looking out the window could drive ya to drink!

If you ask me, we should have invented the concept of Bloody Marys with Breakfast. Talk about family tensions! Mom had 11 sisters and Dad had at least as many siblings. God forbid they could ever enjoy a big group hug. (Champagne Cocktails could have helped that cause, too.)

Everything is more palatable when we all get along. And, that's why I'm so fond of the concept of Biodynamic Wine.

It's a nice, fancy term for returning to our roots, finally listening to our elders and farming the good old fashioned way. Organic is great but Biodynamic takes it to the next level by making the land self-sustaining.

Cover crops return nitrogen to the soil. Trees, birds and bees all play a role. Essentially, the acreage becomes a nature preserve surrounding the vines.

Thanksgiving is Thursday ~ and half the nation is expected to show up with a side dish and a bottle of wine.

In the spirit of getting along, bring one from a Biodynamic Vineyard.

Why? Because everybody's gonna be bitching about global warming when you get to the party. You can show off your bottle, brag up biodynamics and act all smug.

I can actually afford this one: Frey Wine is around $12. (But, you could bring a super expensive bottle just to piss off your less successful siblings!) Here's a great big list of Biodynamic Wines.

PS: This might be a good day to visit Gardening While Intoxicated.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Marvelous Mashed Potatoes

I go through periods of my life when cooking everything from scratch is essential to good living.

Then the dishwasher breaks and I rebound. I can't help myself. I'm weak. Plus, I'm hungry. And, it's hard to cook a meal once you've run out of dishes.

It begins, innocently enough ~ a dinner date with my on again, off again par amour, Mr. Microwave.

Soon, I'm sucked back into one of my most enjoyable bad habits: the cutting of corners.

Take potatoes, for instance. Sure you can tub 'em, rub 'em and scrub 'em or... you could just doll up the pre-made varieties.

Because no amount of toil and trouble can match the stirring in of some fresh chives and Gournay cheese.

Recipe Steps for Marvelous Mashed Potatoes:
1) Get yourself to the hot mashed potato stage however you please - work yourself into a frenzy or buy them pre-mashed from the store.
2) Dice a couple tablespoons of fresh chives (just the stems) into the potatoes.
3) Add a few tablespoons of real butter.
4) Stir in a package of Garlic & Herb Gournay cheese.

Warning: These are the fattiest fat fat potatoes you've ever tasted. Which is why I call 'em Marvelous!

Another Warning: Read the label! Last Thanksgiving, I accidently bought a package of reduced fat Gourney cheese, by mistake. That was a dark day, indeed.

Third & Final Warning:
Chives are a pretty pink and purple lifetime commitment in the garden. That's because they are hellacious re-seeders. No matter how hard you try, once you plant them, you'll always have them. Personally, I think they're worth it. Their fresh green stems have a delicate, oniony flavor that simply cannot compare to a dried spice.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Indian Summer

I love simplicity so I'm as happy as the next person to blame everything under the sun on global warming.

Take this morning, for instance. It's mid-November and we should be skiing. Instead I'm outdoors, in a t-shirt, marveling that it's been so warm, for so long, that my Honeysuckles are greening up and beginning to rebloom.

To be fair, I should probably point out that this November is exactly like the very first November we experienced in Utah, when we moved here 10 years ago. Warm, wonderful autumn days that seem to go on forever. Back then, we were allowed to enjoy them.

I am not diminishing the problems we're creating. I'm just having a hard time with all the doom and gloom. These days, everything is on the endangered list. Including happiness.

So, I've decided to enjoy this lovely autumn day and consider it a blessing vs. a curse. I will leave the newspaper untouched and the television off so no one can make me feel the slightest bit guilty about anything.

Well, almost no one. You don't fully appreciate Bad Dog until he's intent on going for a walk

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Roasted Squash with Sage Cream

I am concomitantly blessed and cursed with a freelance job of writing for a number of food companies. The curse part is how they expect me to write all sorts of annoying health tips for the holidays. This is why I'm so over Thanksgiving it's not even funny.

Helloooo! The whole point of the holidays is NOT to be healthy. This is the most wonderful time of the year because we finally have a legitimate excuse to buy pounds and pounds of real butter, heavy whipping cream, and bacon galore!

Jumpstart the feeding frenzy with this little goodie:

Roasted Butternut Squash
With Maple Syrup & Sage Cream
  • 2 pounds squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 fresh sprigs of sage
  • Little bit of maple syrup

Remove the icky junk inside and then slice the squash into 1-inch squares. Brush with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet @ 350 for about an hour. (Turn once to brown on both sides.)

Simmer heavy cream and sage sprigs in a saucepan over low heat for about 30 minutes. Remove the sage sprigs. Bring the cream to a boil and cook until this aromatic mess is reduced to about 2/3 cup. Place squash in a serving dish. Drizzle with maple syrup and sage cream.

Serves 8 polite guests or 4 ill-mannered friends.

Here is a handy chart so you know what to shop for!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Kwanzan Cherry Trees & Prairifire Crabs

Kwanzan Cherry Tree Blossoms

Maude asked if she could surround her new Park City home with cherry blossoms. The hardiest is the North Star Dwarf but it blooms white so what's the point?

When I think of cherries, I think of pink.

Well, actually, I think of Washington, D.C.
I'm not much of an activist but if you need me to march on Washington you should schedule the riot during springtime. When those amazing Okame Cherry Trees transform themselves into breathtaking balls of fragrant pink flowers.

Maude: growing that tree in Park City will give you fits but don't put your house up for sale just yet.

Because the Kwanzan Cherry Tree does grow here and it's just as lovely. It's also more adaptable, cold hardy, and requires less water.

Prairifire Crabapple Blossoms (above)
Another bright pink beauty that does a fine job of coping with life in the mountains.

Speaking of life in the mountains... soon you'll figure out how badly you'll want to escape Park City every once in awhile. Heading to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival is as good an excuse as any!

* There are a number of ornamental trees that do well at high altitudes ~ as long as you're more interested in the flowers vs. the fruit. Our short growing season is not great for fruit production and that's okay. Local songbirds are more than happy to do the harvesting for you.

- The Kwanzan Cherry is a cousin of the DC darlings. Fast growing, USDA zones 5-9.
- The Prairifire Crabapple is also a cold hardy bloomer, USDA zones 4-8.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Blind, Blonde, or Both

I do appreciate an optimistic attitude. These flowers have it in spades. They're still blooming and it's November!
Early in the summer, I not only lost my prescription sunglasses, I also lost my regular spectacles. Amazing all the things that go flying off your body when you're trying to calm down a bucking horse. Suffice to say that cost me a fortune, though it really didn't cost me a dime because I never replaced them.

How you see my fall-blooming Mums

I decided a cheaper way to travel might be to ride around half blind. After all, the horse has excellent vision, so it's not like we'll trot off a cliff or anything.

Snubbed! Yesterday I bumped into a neighbor who was acting kind of weird. "Have I done something to offend you?" he demanded. Apparently, I've been riding past him for months without saying hello. How could I? I'm blind as a bat without those glasses.

How I see my fall-blooming Mums. (Softer and prettier, if you ask me.)

Clearly he was upset. The burning question in my mind was "Why did you wait so long to say something?" But, I know the answer to that. It's a lot more fun to stew about things. Significantly harder to confront the big elephant sitting in the room.

The thing is... no matter how poor, or perfect our eyesight, we only see what we want to see.

Take last night, for instance, when a gardening friend stopped by and gleefully pointed out the weeds that were taking off in my Big Rock Garden. I half-hoped she'd zone in on the itsy bitsy pink flowers still putting on a pretty show. Some people are just prone to poke around for problems.

And, that got me thinking how she & K (upset fellow from paragraph above) might be a match made in heaven! They both waste a good bit of energy on imaginary slights. Plus, he's rich and when it comes to money... well, I've heard love is blind.

I've gotta get these kids together!

Chick Flick Extraordinaire:
If you're bored this weekend, rent 'How to Marry a Millionaire.' The director had this brilliant idea of putting Marilyn Monroe in a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles. When she met the guy who could see the beauty behind the glasses, she finally found the love of her life.

* Oxalis Crassipes Rosea just might bloom all winter long. Stay tuned.... ** Fall Mums are a fab way to add late color to the garden. The orange and red varieties look gorgeous in an autumn landscape.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

5 Minute Molasses Cookies

Your kids might not like these but my 'kids' jump for joy.

Who doesn't have time for this?
5-minute prep, 20 minutes in the oven and you'll have some very happy horses on your hands.

Oat & Molasses Horse Cookies
  • 2 cups of EACH of the following goodies: grated carrots, grated apples (or applesauce,) rolled oats, flour.
  • 4 tablespoons corn oil
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Easy Prep:

Stir together carrots, apples, oil, and molasses.
Mix in salt, oats, and flour.
Spread onto a cookie sheet and bake @ 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

PS: Test your baking skills carefully. They 'mobbed' me when I walked into the corral sporting these cookies. I know they meant well but oats & molasses is to horses what wine & chocolate is to us...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Breakfast & Roses

There's this freebie going around the internet called Share Senseo. Senseo is a new-fashioned, single-serve coffee pot that allegedly brews one perfect cup at a time. You can win one if you answer their survey questions correctly. Back when I had a real job, I worked in market research so I know exactly how to answer such questions. (Yes, I know that's cheating but I'm desperate. My old coffee pot is ready to kick the bucket!)

So, I 'won.' They sent me a coffee pot but it's far too noisy first thing in the morning and the coffee doesn't taste so good.

However! My roses are once again thrilled by my mistakes.
I'm growing micro mini roses in my window and container roses need lots of fertilizer in order to bloom well.

Egg shells and coffee grounds are the perfect combo.
  • Egg shells are about 90% calcium carbonate - this is what's in the bag of lime you purchase every few years and sprinkle around the garden.
  • Plants suck quite a bit of calcium from the soil. Calcium needs to be replenished, so this is a great way to get rid of your egg shells.
Coffee grounds have all sorts of goodies that equate to the acid fertilizers available for purchase. My baby roses are blooming up a storm and I'm not spending a dime.

Try your luck at winning a coffee pot here. Or, send me your address and I'll send you mine!

* Micromini roses are cute perennials for a high altitude garden. Many are USDA zone 5. I'm growing some indoors because it's winter, now, and I want to see if they will survive.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Miracle Diets & Amaryllis Bulbs

Atkins, The Zone - who needs 'em?

During the course of this year, I have discovered 3 miracle diets that put these popular diets to shame!

I fondly call the 1st one the Oyster Diet. Wanna lose 10 pounds fast? Simply slurp one bad oyster and wait for the excitement to begin. (Try not to throw up on your date.)

Diet #2 is equally effective. It's called Certain Types of Sushi (aka raw salmon and cilantro.)

This left a sick soapy taste in my mouth and zero desire to eat anything for two solid weeks. (I was all Zen about throwing up on my client for this one because he forced me to eat it.)

By far the most effective is the Pistachio Diet. Take one innocent looking shell-on pistachio, pop it in your mouth and crunch down hard. Then wait 8 painful days for your dentist to fix the broken tooth.

While I was lying around feeling sorry for myself my pretty Amaryllis burst into flower. She's my test bunny for the upcoming holidays (because the growing times are unpredictable.)

Amaryllis bulbs make great Christmas gifts but the flower is lots more impressive than the bulb. Try growing them now so they are in full bloom when you give them as gifts. This is my sneaky trick to make a $5 present look like it's worth a million bucks. :))

* Amaryllis bulbs need 6-8 weeks to reach flowering stage. Keep away from direct sunlight and they will bloom for about a month.