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Showing posts from May, 2011

Dogwood Trees

I first came to appreciate flowering dogwood trees, Cornus florida (Missouri's official state tree),  many years ago when I used to take my walks to the local library.  Across the street was a Quaker school that had many dogwoods and every May I eagerly awaited their beautiful flowers.  Although the blooms of our dogwoods have already fallen, I managed to take several pictures of the trees that surround the meadow.  These deciduous trees make wonderful understory trees and provide great texture in the woodland.  They have very narrow trunks and can grow to be about 35 feet in height.  The branches tend to grow laterally instead of upward, giving them a very interesting shape.  Let me show you what I mean. Next to these steps is a young Cornus florida. Here's a closeup.  The white bracts aren't technically petals, but rather modified leaves.  The actual  flower is the green cluster in the middle. This tree is next to the stone barn.  It's a little under 20 feet in

Mother Fox & Kits

I just wanted to share with you a special moment we recently experienced at our home.  We happen to have a fox den on the grounds and just the other day, a mother fox decided to come out & reveal herself along with her kits.  It was so heartwarming to see the playful cubs in action and their mother keeping a close, watchful eye on them.  Enjoy this little album of their afternoon on our lawn. ✾✾✾✾✾  A baby being cleaned by mother.    The triplets being rambunctious.     The mother was  biting them on the neck from time to time; essentially  a lesson on how to hunt.   This little kit also wanted to be cleaned.   He rolled onto his back while she nibbled.   More nibbling behind the ear.  In a few months, the kits will be much bigger & their coats will turn a brighter red.  They reach their adult size by six to seven months.   The cub in the foreground was crouching and ready to pounce.  The kits are roughly one to two months old.   This American red fox is such

Martha by Mail Spice List

The following is all original text from the   Martha by Mail Spice Rack . ✵✵✵✵✵ A labeled spice tin. ✵✵✵✵✵  * Denotes the 30 spices . Ground Allspice (1.5 oz.): This ground dried berry of a Caribbean evergreen tree has a scent and taste similar to clove, cinnamon and nutmeg.  It was first brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus, who mistakenly thought it was pepper, this is why allspice is known as "pimiento" outside the United States.  Allspice is the main ingredient in Jamaican jerk seasoning; it is best used in marinades, meat stews, fruit compotes and pies, barbecue sauces, and baked goods.  Allspice is one of the flavorings found in ketchup. *Anise Seed (1.5 oz): This seed of the parsley family has a sweet licorice flavor.  It is one of the oldest cultivated spices, and was used by Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.  Anise seed has worldwide appeal: It is used in European baking and in Middle Eastern and Indian soups and stews.  It lends a Mediterran

Martha by Mail Spice Rack

My spice rack always elicits comments whenever someone walks into my kitchen.  It was almost 8 years ago or so when I bought it from the now defunct Martha by Mail catalog (subsequently called The Catalog for Living).  I had always been captivated by an antique that Martha used at her Westport Television Studios many years ago, so when I discovered that she offered them through her exclusive catalog, I bought one.  At the time, the racks were offered in either a 30 spice version (5 shelves) or a 70 spice version (7 shelves).  They retailed for $169 & $359 respectively, exclusive of shipping & handling, and were available in Atlantic Green (also called Martha's Green), Drabware & Natural. 30 spice rack in Atlantic Green, 70 spice rack in Natural 30 Spice Rack Measurements: 24-7/8"L x 16-3/4"H x 3-3/8"Deep The Martha by Mail catalog description stated: "This wood spice rack is styled after an antique one used in our TV studio.  The alumi

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

The pairing of strawberries and rhubarb is a classic combination.  It's right about now that farmer's markets begin to offer the season's freshest fruits & vegetables, and I'm always on the lookout for the most delectable.  When rhubarb is only hours out of the ground and the strawberries are bright, juicy & infinitely edible, it's time to start baking.  Strawberry rhubarb pie has become one of my signature desserts of the season and I can't imagine a year going by without baking one for my family and friends.  I think that after one bite of this delicious pie, you might just make it one of your family's must-haves every spring. (The Fruit) The Ingredients 1 pint strawberries (preferably organic) 1 1/2 lbs. rhubarb, leaves removed 1 cup granulated sugar (add 1/4 cup if you prefer a sweeter filling) 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 3 tablespoons tapioca starch (or cornstarch) juice of half a lemon 2 disks of pate brisee 1 egg yolk 1 tablespoon milk

Martha's Perfect Pâte Brisée

I have been making this pie crust for over a decade and it has never failed me.  The dough comes together quickly if you use a food processor, but it can also be made by hand using a pastry cutter.  If you use a pastry cutter, it will take you a bit more time.  This is known as  Martha's Perfect Pâte Brisée  and after making it you'll understand why.  It's important to have all of your ingredients well chilled. The butter, flour, salt, sugar & water are carefully measured.  You must have these ingredients icy cold in order to make a good pie crust. Quickly pulse your flour mixture in the food processor. Add your chilled butter.  You want to cut up your butter in order to disperse small bits throughout the dough instead of big chunks.  This will make a flaky crust. Pulse this a few times until you break up the butter.  Don't overwork it. Now add your ice water slowly and pulse as you go.  You will slowly see the texture of the doug

Banana Muffins

When you have bananas sitting on your counter with more spots on them than a Dalmatian, it's time to start baking.  The recipe for these muffins was given to me by a friend who lives in Haddonfield, New Jersey.  Bill likes to bake this batter as banana bread, but it can easily be made into one dozen standard-sized muffins.  The good thing about these tasty treats is that they are quickly made in one bowl.  No mixer required!    The Ingredients 2 large eggs, room temperature 1/2 cup canola oil (vegetable oil can be substituted) 2/3 cups granulated sugar 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda pinch of salt 3-4 very ripe bananas, mashed (1 1/2 cups) 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)   Preheat your oven to 350 º F     In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil & sugar until well blended.     Freshly gra

Magnolia Trees

There are dozens upon dozens of varieties of magnolia trees available for planting.  They come as either trees or shrubs and can be evergreen or deciduous.  The southern magnolia grandiflora is well known for it's large white flowers and thick, glossy green leaves with coppery bottoms.  Around our house and throughout our neighborhood, we appear to have saucer magnolias or Magnolia x soulangeana.   The trees have already bloomed and dropped their flowers here in eastern Pennsylvania, but I was lucky enough to take some pictures to show you.  Take a stroll and marvel at these beautiful trees!   These neighbors have two trees along their driveway. The blooms are a mix of pinks and creamy whites. This tree sits proudly in front of a garage.  You can clearly see how this one has been allowed to have a multi-stemmed trunk.  If you prune the tree while it's still young, it can be trained to have one dominant trunk.   Saucer magnolias can grow as tall as 25 feet. The actual