When Spring Comes Early…


quince

As I tune in to gardening bloggers’ reports of their garden activities and local weather around the country there is a common thread–most of us are getting an early version of spring, followed by a colder, wetter winter pattern. So January and February sported some unusually warmer temps now followed by some pretty colder nights and days! Ah, but those warm days were appreciated in all honesty, and for a few weeks the garden flourished, and some hardy souls still prevail!

Blossoms in the plum tree were more abundant than I ever recall before, backed by the bluest sky to grace this valley in a long long time.


plum tree

Consistent with the generous bounty the daffodils made a splendid showing!


daffodils

Not to be outdone, the rosemary sported the most blue blossoms since being planted a decade ago!


rosemary

Responding to the unusual warmth and gentle rains, the camellias began their annual parade. I never tire of their beauty, as one might imagine.


pink camellias


red camellias

These large white with pink camellias are a double joy as they smell like gardenias!


white and pink camellias

Inspired, I pulled out winter pots, cleaned them up and began filling them with flowers I know could withstand any turn in the weather. I learned when I lived in Asheville through two cold winters that I could rely on pansies and violas. Good to know!


violas

And primroses will also do well in the changing of the seasons, particularly if left in pots on tables protected by an umbrella or overhang or perhaps a shrub overhead.


primroses


primroses

Yesterday I saw the my first butterfly of the season and this afternoon I spied two bumblebees in the blue blossoms of the rosemary. If indeed there are more cold nights spring has taken a firm hold in Northern California and I celebrate and embrace its beauty with love and great joy.

What is blossoming early in your garden?

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: This month I was blessed with this beautiful review of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy written by Diana Wentworth, co-author of two Chicken Soup for the Soul Titles. “I love depth and wisdom of this beautiful book. It brings back the joy and discovery of A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh that I read in my twenties. My own cherished copy is dog-eared, marked with stars and hearts, and resides on my ‘Favorites Bookshelf.'”


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Basic Mac ‘n Cheese


Scrumptious mac ‘n cheese

Recently I made some classic mac ‘n cheese and posted a pic on Facebook. A discussion ensued that included a dear friend in the UK who apparently was not a fan. What? “You’d love mine!” I assured her. This led to various comments and my ultimately, as I am wont to do, googling mac ‘n cheese, where I discovered it’s regarded as having come from England! Well, this piqued further interest. Like, why the Southern roots in America? Enter Thomas Jefferson!

Having recently read The Hemingses of Monticello, I had learned, among many other fascinating things, that Jefferson was a foodie. When Congress sent Jefferson to Paris in 1784, he took one of his trusted servants and arranged for him to be tutored by a well known and respected chef to ensure he would have French cuisine back in Monticello. Jefferson at some point discovered macaroni and arranged to have a “macaroni machine” shipped to Monticello and later served macaroni to his guests, thus popularizing it in the South. There even survives a recipe for macaroni in Jefferson’s own hand! (Note he referred to all pasta as “maccaroni”.)

Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for macaroni
6 eggs. yolks & whites.
2 wine glasses of milk
2 lb of flour
a little salt
work them together without water, and very well.
roll it then with a roller to a paper thickness
cut it into small peices [sic] which roll again with the hand into long slips, & then cut them to a proper length.
put them into warm water a quarter of an hour.
drain them.
dress them as maccaroni [sic]
but if they are intended for soups they are to be put in the soup & not into warm water

Having learned this story I was inspired to post my recipe for mac ‘n cheese, partially hoping my friend in England, who is a whiz in the kitchen, will give it a try. 😉

This recipe evolved out of a recipe in The Joy of Cooking, which was fine as a starting point, but I found cumbersomely written, as well as not fully in keeping with my own preferences, so it’s tweaked from both those perspectives. I took lots of pictures in case you learn visually as I do.

Basic Mac ‘n Cheese

1. Make 1 1/2 C. bread crumbs.

2. Toss the bread crumbs in butter goodness.

3. Sauté 1/2 large onion, almost to the point of carmelization.

4. Throw the onion into your Cuisinart briefly.

5. Grate a block of sharp cheddar cheese.

6. Prepare 2 C. macaroni. I rarely use actual traditional macaroni. I prefer penne rigate or, even better, torchiette. Add the pasta to boiling water, which has been lightly salted. Do not add oil to the water. Cook al dente. Drain.

7. Simultaneously, melt 3 T. butter in a good sized saucepan, preferably stainless steel. Add 3 T. unbleached white flour. Stir to near browning. Add 2 C. whole milk, a bay leaf and a bit of paprika. Stir constantly over medium heat until it thickens. WATCH this carefully. You do not want this to stick to the bottom! Stir in the onion. Remove from heat.

8. Add 2/3 of the grated cheese to this mixture. Season to taste.

9. Add the pasta to this mixture.

10. Pour one half of the pasta/cheese/sauce mixture into a buttered casserole dish.

11. Sprinkle 1/2 of the remaining grated cheese over this.

12. Add the remaining pasta to the casserole dish.

13. Top with the remaining cheese and then top with the bread crumbs.

14. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for ten minutes before serving so it keeps it’s form.

And that’s how I do it! I know this dish has reached gourmet status in some realms. Please do share what your variations are. I’d love to know what your favorite tricks are! Meanwhile, you have the basics on classic comfort food with a very rich history! Enjoy!

Love and kitchen blessings!
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: Watch for Annie Haven’s book giveaway mid-March, where you can enter to win a copy of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy. You can find her on Facebook at Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew page on Facebook! Thanks, Annie! 🙂


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Sharing Christmas

Some of you might recall that awhile back I was invited to do a booksigning at Whispering Winds Nursery here in Mendocino County, and the generosity of spirit of the owners drew me back recently when the idea of securing live Christmas trees for our recent fire survivor families was suggested on a Facebook page I was following. This nursery is clearly a destination nursery, built under the canopies of various centuries-old redwoods and oak trees, one which sports a rambling ladybanks rose in summer. That’s co-owner Kristine Hill with me in the pic above. And she was delighted to help make that vision a reality by offering a 10% discount to those who wanted to supply fire survivor families with a live Christmas tree which they could later plant on their properties. I happily notified the editor of the local newspaper, thinking she might lend us a tweet, and boom, two days later this Christmas story ended up on the front page of said paper!

As fate would have it I had an unexpected visit from a longtime dear friend, Eta, an artist you would appreciate as she makes the most delightful succulent container gardens, which she sells throughout the Bay Area, who spent the night, and in the morning I was inspired to take to Whispering Winds. Both of us immediately brought out our cameras, well worth sharing with all of you here this Sunday morning. May the goodness and joy of this project and venture find its way to open hearts and kindle the spirit of Christmas in your lives.

Enjoy!


my favorite tree


St. Francis


kitties


angel


muse


Christmas trees


Maytag!


kitty!


loveliness


Eta and Kathryn, proving old friends are the best!

Love and Christmas blessings!
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: Anyone still pondering gifts for the thoughtful on your list, please do consider gifting a copy of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden. You can find on Amazon (which has currently lowered price!) and GreenPrints and a few indie bookstores around the country, including Malaprop’s in Asheville; Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino; Three Sisters in Ukiah; various Copperfields in Marin and Sonoma; Book Depot in Mill Valley; Book People in Austin; Eureka Books in Humboldt County; Four Eyed Frog in Gualala; Sun Dance Bookstore in Reno. Ask your local store to order and I will send directly. ISBN is 978-0-9815570-0-7. If you want an autographed copy let me know and we can go through the PayPal door, and I will pay your postage! I even can giftwrap and send elsewhere in the country! Ebooks are available worldwide on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and through Kobo as well. There’s still time! Thank you! Merry Merry Christmas to you and your family! XOXO


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