Archive for house & garden

Spring Returns

The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.
—Harriet Ann Jacobs


{tulips blooming in the side garden}


{Callery Pear blossoms dripping with dew}


{giving in to the urge to create}


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Fancy Fall Candles

I made this candle in 2008 and have been meaning to write up a little tutorial for how to make these lovelies. I haven’t had the time in the 2 weeks since taking these photographs. (I’ve been reallllly busy.)

But really it’s quite simple. You gather various sewing pins, tiny beads, and pretty ribbon scraps.

You place the beads on the pins to decorate the pin heads and then use the fancy pins to attach the fancy ribbon.

See? I said it was easy.

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To-may-to, To-mah-to.

Our tomatoes have been so happy with the heat and humidity that summer has brought to the DC area. To say that I feel the same would be an outright lie, however I do appreciate the bounty of juicy tomatoes our plants have provided because of the weather conditions.

We have so many tomatoes that I have incorporated them into most of our evening suppers. This weekend we had a light late-supper of Onion Omelets and Bruschetta and last night we enjoyed a Home-Grown Tomato Gratin that I served with Shrimp Scampi over Cappellini. The tomato dishes used the same basic ingredients but were prepared in different ways to create two very different meals.

Bruschetta or Tomatoes on Toasted Baguette:
The first time I made this in 2009, I had just seen the movie Julie & Julia and was captivated by how delicious-looking this was. Can you imagine how fun and yummy that dining scene must have been to make?! Now, in my mind, Bruschetta is very controlled and dainty, a small portion of neatly diced tomatoes with a leaf of basil and a slice of mozzarella which is why I didn’t originally recognize this dish in Julie & Julia as being Bruschetta.

This time I kept it simple and quick– I sliced the tomatoes (Yellow Taxi) and tossed them into a bowl with some coarse salt, freshly ground pepper, and some basil and oregano from my herb garden. That’s all. (Last week I diced them and piled mounds of them on baguette.)

I sliced the bread about 1/2-inch thick– much thicker and you’ll have a hard time biting into it. I coated each side with extra-virgin olive oil and toasted it in on a sheet pan in a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes, flipping once. (We’ve also done this successfully on the grill or you can use a sauté pan on the stove top.)

One the bread is toasted and golden-brown, remove from the oven and carefully (!) rub the cut side of a garlic clove over the entire top of the toast until it glistens.

Once the toasts are coated in garlic, layer the tomatoes on top. (If you chop the tomatoes, pile as many on top of the toasted baguette as possible and then add some more.) There will be liquid left in the bottom of the bowl, pour this over all the toasts so that more of the tomato flavor soaks in. I promise they won’t get soggy, but I can’t promise that they will not be messy.

Dig in and enjoy. If you don’t have tomato juice running down your chin you’ve done something wrong.

Home-Grown Tomato Gratin:
Second dish, same as the first. (Alright, so I used a different herb, some onions, and cheese.)

I used the recipe for Heirloom Tomato Gratin found here. The only changes I made were to use fresh bread crumbs that I made from the baguette I had leftover from this weekend and I halved the amount of cheese. (I love cheese, however we have lactose-intolerance issues in this household so we can’t use it with reckless abandon, as I’d like to.)

The result of this dish were truly epic— I have never tasted something so delicious! The tomatoes are warm, sweet, and tangy, and the bread-crumb crust is crunchy and rich with the flavor of garlic and thyme. Serving this with Shrimp Scampi was a fabulous idea as the flavors played well together. (Sorry folks, no photo of that– we were too busy eating!) I think next time I make these I would love to use individual ramekins– they would make for both a beautiful and delicious dinner party side.

Now, who wants to come for dinner?!

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Wings of Fancy

Have you ever been so busy that you feel as if you are caught in a white water current and its carrying you down the river so quickly that you can’t even see the scenery? That’s how I feel lately. I’ve been having a lot of fun and getting a lot done, but I rarely have time to reflect. I’m trying to slow the pace a bit so that I can at least enjoy the scenery.

Two weekends ago (for the opening day!) M and I visited the Brookside Gardens butterfly exhibit, Wings of Fancy. It was lovely to be inside the conservatory with all the butterflies fluttering around us, sometimes even landing on an arm or head! We stayed in the conservatory for well over an hour before strolling around other parts of the gardens. When we returned home I was so excited to share photos of our day that I somehow managed to erase over 60 photos from my memory stick, luckily not of the butterflies themselves, but of the lovely azaleas and wisteria that I found so magical. Just another reminder to slow down…

My favorite species is from these first few pictures: the Leopard Lacewing. Maybe I’m biased because it landed on me. Or maybe it was just the brilliant orange colors.

We were also fortunate enough to be able to view freshly laid eggs! The eggs were laid that morning by the Julia Longwing, the orange butterfly pictured below. The eggs were tiny yellow sacs just a bit larger than a period.

We also saw these humongous Atlas Moths. They were stationary the entire time which was probably a good thing. With a wingspan of about 7 inches, I have a feeling I might have let out a little scream if one of these landed on me. The reason that they are so slow is because these moths get all the nutrients they need for their lifetime as caterpillars because in the moth form they don’t have working mouth parts. After mating, the females will lay eggs and then die. They only live for a week or less.

Chocolate Pansy

Brown Clipper

Blue Clipper

Lemon Pansy

Blue Tiger


Pipevine Swallowtail


Zebra Longwing

Paper Kite

In addition to my veggie and herb gardens, I have planted a flower garden designed to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Lantana seemed to really attract the butterflies last year so it is definitely included! (See here, here, here, here, and here. Oh, and here too.) Shall I add that it was much less stressful photographing butterflies in a closed location with no wind than chasing them wildly through the front yard through swarms of bees? Yes, it most definitely was.

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Spring Blossoms

Lately it has not felt at all like Spring. Every night M lays plastic tarp out over our vegetable garden beds to protect them from the unseasonal  temperatures.

The beautiful blossoms on my Tulip Magnolia tree have turned brown and rotten. Most never had a chance to open before the cold snap hit. Very sad.

Tulip leaves abound, though I have doubts that I will see any of those blossoms because of the chilly nighttime temperatures. We shall see.

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Flowers in my Garden!

I’ve taken note of the various bulb foliage popping up in all of our flower beds. Dutch Irises, Daffodils, Tulips, Anemones.

But the crocuses, they were very sneaky.

Usually first to show, they were fashionably late.

I wonder where they were hiding?

And oh, what’s this? Hello! I know the neighbors despise you, but don’t fret for you are safe in my yard!

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Signs of Life

Dutch Irises are poking up through the mulch in the front and side yards. I didn’t realize when we planted them in November that they would arrive so soon! Perhaps that groundhog was right?


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