Not in the garden for a change

french breakfast radishes + rainbow chard
french breakfast radishes + rainbow chard (Photo credit: mamichan)

Glinda brought home a bunch of rhubarb and an enormous bunch of French Breakfast Radishes from the farmer’s market downtown, so dinner was radish sandwiches (Good, crusty bread, good butter, sliced radishes, preferably FB, and a bit of salt.)  Heaven!  And today I’m making a strawberry-rhubarb pie with ginger and an almond crumble top.

Yeah, I’ve been in a bakin’ mood.  On Monday I made a batch of my breakfast cookies. Glinda took some to work and said that everyone went nuts over them.  She ventured the opinion that they were “Nikolaj Coster-Waldau naked good.”  I think those deserve to be immortalized with a name and a fixed recipe, don’t you?   Before I print it, I should say that these began life as Doubletree chocolate chip cookies.  You know, those big ones they give you when you check in?  They’re really extraordinary as they stand, but I’ve been playing with the recipe the way I always do, and some of the variations have been quite good. (A couple sucked, but that happens.)  This version?  Best. Ever.

The Nikolaj  

1 cup butter
1/2 cup almond butter
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 eggs
2 T vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon or more
1 tsp ground cardamom or more
8 oz bag semisweet chocolate chips
4 oz chopped pecans
4 oz chopped almonds
8 oz shredded coconut
4 oz dried cherries
4 oz chopped, dried apricots
2 T cocoa nibs
2 T flax seeds

Cream butter, almond butter and sugars together until fluffy.  Add eggs and beat until they’re blended.  Add vanilla and lemon juice, then the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Mix well.  Then add the cinnamon and cardamom.  You really need to flavor these to your taste.  I used a lot of both, probably more than a teaspoon of each.  Use your own good judgment here.

Then the fun really starts.  Toss in the nuts, coconut, oats, dried fruit and chocolate chips.  Then add the cocoa nibs and flax seeds.  By now your batter is getting stiff, so you may have to blend with a spoon at the end.

Bake on parchment @ 350 for the best results.  You want a mound about the size of half an apricot, maybe a little larger.  This batter doesn’t lend itself to small cookies.  Just go with it.  They’re usually done in about 13-15 minutes, and will be a bit golden around the edges.  They’ll make about 4-5 dozen lovely, chewy cookies.

Crazy weather

See the little flower thief?

It was pretty muggy indoors this afternoon, and the writing wasn’t going well, so I stepped outside to have a bite of lunch and look around.  This is what I saw when I stepped out of the back door.  Can’t see it?  Look carefully between the fence and the base of the rose bush.  Yup, that’s Fleur.  When I came out, she was ripping leaves off of Buffy.  I said, “Hey! What’re you doing?” and she dropped the leaf and said “Nuthin’.”  Then she ran into the neighbor’s yard.  I fear she’s been gnawing on Zoe; there are several blossoms on the ground right now.


I took a good look around and discovered that Tara is growing like the proverbial weed, and Willow is about to pop with at least half a dozen buds close to opening. Buffy has, probably, hundreds of buds in spite of having been trimmed back so Tara got some sunlight.  Cordy is hanging in there.  Zoe is limp except for the new growth, Fred has put out a new and somewhat erratically-placed cane, and Faith is budding out nicely.  River is filled with buds and blooms but the flowers last about a day before they drop off.  I pulled some grape vines and leaves down to give the girls more sun, and when I went to throw them away I discovered that someone had tossed a dead rat into our dumpster.  The little pink feet made me feel very sad; I don’t care what you are, being thrown into the garbage is an ignominious end, and it’s a shame.  Godspeed, M’sieu Raton.

Dorothy, the clematis is getting very tangly above the fence.  We’re going to have to pull the vines apart and
train them down onto the fence if she’s not going to kill passers-by.

It was about then that Glinda texted me to ask if I’d gotten the severe weather alert on my phone.  Just as I was saying I hadn’t, it popped up.  She told me it had rained like crazy in the Loop.  There’d been nothing around here even though the sky to the east of us looked pretty threatening.  Out west, which is where our weather comes from (There’s a big factory in Rosemont.) it looked nice and sunny, big fluffy clouds and all.  I sent her photos of the rhododendron, which has ten buds opening and only five that haven’t shown any color at all, and of

Josephine who, though she lagged behind some of the others in actually putting out a first bloom, had


suddenly gone crazy during the night and opened half a dozen blossoms.

Hermia and Mary, lush as they are, remain resolutely budded.  Glinda observed later this evening that Hermia looks as if she aspires to be the Sleeping Beauty rose, forming a thick hedge wherever she grows.  There’s a reason why Fleur hides under her.  Mary is over four feet tall now.  She’s one of those grandifloras, a long-stemmed lovely.

Morgan? Droopy.  She’s going to need a new trellis and some trimming.  Mistress Masham?  Looking good, though still small. Rita?  Gone.  There’s no way she’s going to come back now.  Kate and Karen, and Zephie in front all need some good, solid feeding.  Kate and Zephie are looking quite pale.  On the other hand, the fairy rose in front, Diana, is in competition with Hermia for most impenetrable wall of roses in the universe.

Josephine again.  You really should smell
this rose to know what a beauty she is.

By the time I’d finished taking pictures and sending them to Glinda, the sky had turned that eerie greenish gray that you see before storms, when the trees seem to glow against it.  I thought it might be time to go inside but then I caught sight of Fleur again, eating grass in the next yard.

She nibbled for a bit, then saw a sparrow near the lilac, jumped up and rushed at it.  Of course it flew away, so she ran in a circle, then ducked under the fence and into the yard beyond.

I look at her now and think how odd it is that she was the littlest, shyest baby of the three born in our raised bed.  She still doesn’t want to leave, but I think now it’s more a case of knowing where the good munchies are.


It’s been raining a lot the last few days so the garden is extra super muddy. Squelchy, even. 

Mud. I kind of like ending the day with it on my shoes. And sometimes on my jeans, and under my nails. I’m sure there have been days when it’s even been in my hair. But I don’t especially like tracking it all over my flat so I often wish we had an official mud room. You know Martha Stewart has a mud room.

Actually, I bet she has two: one for garden mud, and one for all-purpose mud. Because she’s Martha.

Pictures, pictures, pictures

Not a lot to say.  It’s warm out there, and damp.  We’ve had so much rain we had to turn off the watering system.  Here’s what’s happening out back.

River bloomed rather suddenly.  She’s covered in buds.

The geums are coming back.  Can’t say the same for the anemones.

Dorothy, the clematis with blossoms the size of small plates.
She’s just lovely this year.
And yes, the relocation seems to have worked!  Our rhododendron is starting to bloom.
I counted 7 buds that are starting to open.

Josephine, my pride and joy.  Still the most sweetly-scented rose in our garden.


A black Krim tomato.  We call it a Victor Krum since we can rarely recall the real name.

Hermia, the rose we bought at the supermarket.  Who knew she’s just take over like this?
We call her Hermia because of that character Shakespeare wrote: Though she be but little, she is fierce.
That’s what I should have named Peeb.


20130527_112302I just posted a bunch of garden pics over on Those 2 Nice Girls Next Door, and while I’m busy cleaning up my transfer file, I thought I’d post some here as well.

First: “Hi, is that you?”  “Yes.  Go away.”

He likes to keep checking.


Next, Peeb settles back into her basket, but keeps one eye open in case he comes back.

And finally, is he not the handsomest boy ever?













It’s raining

20130523_094319I’ve been sitting here feeling uneasy for an hour or more, and I don’t know why.  Maybe it was the weather, the constant threat of rain all day and nothing until the sky opened up a few minutes ago, drowning the music that had  been drifting out of one of the backyards.  No great loss, that music, but the stillness now is as heavy as the rain.

I shouldn’t feel this way.  I had a nice week.  Glinda had the week off and we got a lot done in the garden.  We went out, we enjoyed ourselves, we came back and made things a little prettier, a little pleasanter.  It’s spring and we’ve been reconnecting with our neighbors, people we saw only sporadically throughout the winter.  This afternoon we had lunch with our 101 year old neighbor, his daughter and nephew (whose mother just died), and his 80+ y.o. sister-in-law.  You wouldn’t think it was the sort of gathering where there would be much jollity, but we laughed a lot.  Then we came home and made cookies; my breakfast cookies, aka, Never Twice the Same Cookie.  I think I’ve published the recipe here in the past.  We took a stack over to our other neighbors and got back a big plate of arroz con gandules in return.  Could that be more perfect?  Why am I eating myself alive?

I have a lot to be grateful for.  To quote Cokie, in “The Horse’s Mouth”:  “… I got both legs the same length, and I don’t squint.  It’s a sort of miracle.”  But that’s damning with faint praise and it’s not fair.  I’ve had a good life, an easy one, I suppose, up until I hit my mid-40s and it fell apart with a ferocity that was hard to comprehend.  I think, because I exist in a very comfortable state of numbness much of the time, that when I do feel something it makes me uneasy.  I think I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It always seems to.

My to-do list for yesterday started with: 1) Try not to kill anything.

Please don’t even think about telling me how you feel right now.  This is not an engraved invitation to a pity party. This is just me working out why I feel like crap right now in spite of all the good things that have been happening.  It’s me wondering if I need to go get some new meds.  Probably when I wake up I’ll feel fine and it’ll all be forgotten until the mean reds come down hard again.

It’s raining. I miss the music.


Into the Wilds of Central Illinois to Snag a Rose

See this rose?  Her name is Zoe.  She’s a William Shakespeare 2000 rose from David Austin.  And she’s ours!  aHAHAHAHAHAHA!
No, seriously, on Thursday we did go all the way down past Peotone IL (Go look it up, it’s like 65 miles from us) to get this rose.  And to look at SEVEN ACRES of plants at the Woldhuis Farms Sunrise Greenhouse  which was recommended to us by our friend, Mija. Who’d have thought they’d build Paradise in Illinois? 
Yes, the whole place really does look like this.  These are just some of the geraniums.  This room went on forever.  And the normal size geraniums, the kind you’d put in your kitchen window over the winter?  $2.50 a pot.  No, we are not kidding.  (BTW, Glinda is here with me, and we’re writing this together.  No, really, she is.  Hold on a sec…  

So anyway… we actually exercised some will power, in part because, y’know, seven acres.  But we bought the rose, two small geraniums (Deep red), a fern, a hosta, and a heuchera, all for our shady corner, and all ones we didn’t yet have.  The selection is amazing there!  We also bought five different coleus plants @ $2.29 each, and… wait for it…

We got an escargot begonia for under $10.  Given the cost of some of the more rare begonias like the escargot, this was an incredible deal.  We also picked up a couple of plants for some friends, a nice geranium and a clematis.  Oh yeah, and we bought some rocks, too.  Twenty-nine cents a pound.  Three nice ones for about $4.  Woldhuis is a very nice place.  They excel at reasonably priced annuals.  Their perennials are pretty much in line with everyone else, but they do have a spectacularly good selection.  When you have space like that, you can afford to carry 30 different heucheras, 300 different roses, and dozens of hostas.  
On Friday we worked in the garden because, plants.  Zoe went in the ground next to River, the shade plants went into the shade garden, and a bunch of things got repotted and placed.  Alas Zoe is looking rather droopy.  I believe it has to do with being parted from Wash, but I think she’ll snap back.  Morgan is going through the same thing, as was Philippa, the new clematis (a Sweet Autumn) and the tomato I’m growing from a seed I harvested from my lunch.

No matter how it seems, the fact is that we don’t have a lot of money to play with this year, so we’re having to rely on luck and some creative thinking to improve the garden.  We have some garden art to put out, and we’re creating more.  Here’s a peek at the Gandhi quote that Glinda is painting on what used to be a window.  She’s got the design roughed out, and has started to paint.  And to the right of that is our drainpipe which I’ve yarn-bombed. It’s ugly and it gets very hot in the sunlight.  We’re afraid that some of the plants that are near it are going to get fried, so wherever there are plants, we’re going to yarn-bomb the pipe.  We may paint some other areas simply because this is a lot of work.  But it’ll be nice to have some art on the thing. It’s ugly and it’s driven me nuts since we moved in here.

And here’s a shot of our jasmine.  I wish you could smell it.

I should say that since this post has been written over the period of about four days, Glinda is no longer here helping me write this, though I expect her back relatively soon.  She’s taking a walk.  The weather has been threatening all day, but she’s out to make her 10K steps per day.  I wish I had that kind of will.  Though I spent half an hour picking worms out of sod so they didn’t go into the compost bag while Glinda wouldn’t touch them, so I have my moments.