Maple Syrup Lollipops

Sugaring season has come and gone but about a month ago we made our usual pilgrimage to our good friends annual Sugar Festival.  It’s always a fun day spent out of doors, by a fire, usually with an adult beverage in hand.  One of my favorite aspects of their sugaring festival is that the proprietor in chief, a.k.a. Big Fred, always makes something ‘new’ from the syrup for everyone to try.  One year it was Maple Syrup Candy, another Maple Sugar, and this year it was Maple Syrup Lollipops.

Maple Syrup Lollipops

They were so good, not just the kids, but the adults were hoarding them too.

Maple Syrup Lollipops

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Maple Syrup
  • 1 cup Corn Syrup
  • 1 cup White Sugar

Directions

Maple Syrup Lollipops
Spray your lollipop molds with a cooking spray (make sure the molds can withstand high temps) and insert a lollipop stick.
Maple Syrup Lollipops
Combine the three sugars in a heavy duty saucepan. Heat to the hard crack stage (300°F) and I would advise using a candy thermometer.
Remove from heat once you hit 300°F and very, very carefully pour into the prepared candy molds (remember that you are working with molten sugar - if you are not careful it will be the worst burn of your life). And a tip from big Fred: he gently reheats the pan if the candy/sugar starts to thicken up midway through.
Maple Syrup Lollipops
The lollipops will cool quite quickly. Pop them out and wrap them in a bit of plastic wrap or in cute little bags.

I’m not a huge fan of baked sweets, but I do LOVE candy and these were just amazing.  Also, I’ve always wanted to try and make lollipops and it took Big Fred to show me just how easy it is…  Thanks Fred!  And follow this link if you’re interested in the cute little candy molds he used.

Have a great weekend everyone and be sure to brush your teeth if you try making these :)

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Lego’s at the McKee Botanical Garden

Over our children’s spring break we payed a visit to the McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach Florida.  While you all know I’m a crazed garden person, that is not in fact why we went for a visit.  The real reason is… LEGO SCULPTURES!  Yes, there were some extremely cool Lego’s at the McKee Botanical Garden…

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Hummingbird

This was amazing…

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Lily Pad and Frog

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Lily Pad and Koi

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Yellow Jacket

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Solitary Rose

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Hovering Dragon Fly

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Bison, Calf and Small Bird

The Bison was terrific but I loved the tiny detail of the bird resting on it’s back…

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Butterfly

Also stunning.  This was truly amazing…

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Fox and the Rabbit

And a touch of humor in the garden, not to mention the sculptures we’re fabulous…

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Lawnmower

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Gardener toiling away

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Birdfeeder

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

I loved that the bird feed was individual Lego pieces…

Lego's at the McKee Botanical Garden

Phalaenopsis

Of course the final sculpture, the orchid, was in the gift shop, but that’s ok – it was amazing.  And they also had some very cool plant seeds that I picked up so it was still decent garden shopping.

Sadly the exhibit has closed as of April 12th, but it was amazing and you can catch it in different, upcoming locations.  The artist who created these sculptures is named Sean Kenney and if you’d like to catch the next leg of the show check here and you can also gather a bit of information on Sean.

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Awesome Deviled Eggs

Awesome Deviled Eggs

It’s that time of year, many of us were dying Easter eggs over the weekend with the kiddos, or like me, you’ve added insult to injury and your chickens are out producing consumption. So, I’m cracking out (ha, ha) my Awesome Deviled Eggs recipe!

Awesome Deviled Eggs

Ingredients

  • 10 Lg. Eggs
  • 1/2 Tspn. Onion (finely minced - no chunks allowed)
  • Tspn Mustard (I used Dijon but you can use whatever you like)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 Cup Mayo
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Sweet Paprika
  • Chives

Directions

Crack and peel the eggs. Older eggs peel more easily and it is claimed if you add a teaspoon of vinegar to the water it helps as well. It's always worth a shot...
Cut the eggs in half placing the cooked yolk in a small bowl.
Add the onion, mayo and mustard and mash together with a fork until smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I like to squish all of the egg yolk into a ziplock bag, snip the corner off, and use it as a piping bag. You can do this or use a real pastry bag, you could also just use a spoon - your call, but stuff those empty egg whites with a bit of the filling.
Garnish with a bit of paprika and a chive. Yummy!

And if you’re a mayonnaise person and like to make your own for recipes, try this.  It’s done using an immersion blender and it’s very cool and very fast.  Sometimes trying to whip mayonnaise up can be irksome, but this truly amazed me.  It’s akin to Julia Child’s blender hollandaise that I love so much.

Hope this helps with using up all of your hard boiled eggs.  And if you live near me and need eggs – shoot me a message.  I’m overwhelmed!

Xoxo,

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A,B,C’s of Extravagant Garden’s

A,B,C's of Extravagant Garden's

Welcome to the A,B,C’s of Extravagant Gardens…

A is for Artichoke, that I’ve started from seed.
B is for the Beets that I don’t really need.
C is for Chard, of which I can’t get enough.
D is for Daikon, what is this stuff?
E is for Eggs, thanks to the hens.
F is for the Fennel I plant again and again.
G is for a Grape Vine that I need to train.
H is for Hose, when will it rain?
I is for the Iris that’s in a perfect spot.
J is for the Juniper I dropped in a pot.
K is for Kousa and it’s edible fruit.
L is for Lavender than lines a pathway route.
M is for Malus, my favorite is Macoun.
N is for the Netting which I’ll need to toss over it soon.
O is for Oregano, which I must confess, I’ve let it run wild and it’s a bit of a mess.
P is for Poppies, and it’s kind of strange, that I just started growing them – I must have needed a change.
Q is for gardening Questions which I so often pose.
R is next and it can only represent a Rose!
S is for the Sage I like to preserve.
T is for Tomato, stuffed for an hors d’oeuvre.
U is for Uncork, need I say more? Sometimes after a day in the garden, you must pour.
V is for Vegetables, that are starting to grow.
W is for Water, please stop the snow.
X is for Xeriscape, let’s save water!
Y is for my Yarrow, that likes it hotter.
Z is for Zinnia, a perfect cut flower, one I would choose if stuck in a tower.

Happy gardening everyone!

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Seed Starting Has Begun!

Let the seed starting begin!

Seed Starting
I rarely get my Sweet Peas in the ground in a timely fashion, which results in very few blossoms, so I’m trying them early this year. I’m going to pot them up and see how far I can push them in a cold and sunny back room.

One of the tricks with sweet peas is to let them soak for a day before you plant them. It’s not essential, but it helps to speed the process along. Once they sprout and grow a bit, I’ll pinch the tops so they don’t get so leggy, and then hopefully I can plant them out early and have loads of bouquets through the late spring and early summer. And did I mention they’re wickedly fragrant??? One of my favorites!

I also grow a perennial sweet pea, its not really fragrant but I do love it for the non-stop show of blossoms all season.
Perennial Sweet Pea
I ‘borrowed’ the seed for this plant a few years back while on vacation in Maine. It has thrived. If I’m ever lacking for a cut flower in the house I can always turn to this plant for a few blossoms.

So what seeds have you started? Are you trying anything new this year? My next big planting is going to be fava’s and I’m trying artichokes again. Hurrah for SPRING!!!!!!!

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Propagating Schefflera

Whenever we travel I like to bring back natural ‘souvenirs’ of our trip, sometimes it’s a shell I find in the sand, and sometimes it’s a plant of some sort.  If I’ve taken a cutting of something, I’ll pack it with wet paper towels to be certain it makes it back alive.  I’ve also been known to dig up an entire plant and try and bring it back in a shampoo bottle or something of that sort (and I confess to smuggling a bay tree back from Rome many years ago in this way… shhh!).  So during our Florida vacay a couple weeks back, we returned to our cute little cottage and they we’re trimming the schefflera hedge, I knew it was the perfect cutting to bring home and propagate.  Yes I could easily buy one at home, but it’s a lot more fun to try and grow one from a cutting.

Propagating Schefflera

It’s actually a super simple plant to propagate.  Fill a pot with organic potting soil (you don’t have to use organic, I just like to when I can) and carve out a small hole with a pencil or chopstick.

Propagating Schefflera

Strip lower leaves to a node, and dip the end of the cutting into the rooting hormone.Propagating Schefflera

Propagating Schefflera

This is a bottle of rooting hormone if you’ve never used it before.

Insert gently into the space in the soil, trying not to knock off too much of the hormone.  Tamp the soil down around the cutting and set it in a not too sunny spot.  If I’m trying to propagate cuttings from a plant that has a more delicate leaf, I’ll also trim the leaves themselves by half, but in this case it’s not really needed.

Propagating ScheffleraAnd that’s it!  So easy .

Do you ever take cuttings at home?  It’s a great way to expand your plant collection or to create quantities of plants that you need for mass plantings.  I’m planning on propagating about 40 boxwoods this spring for what I hope will be an amazing hedge in the future!

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First Chicken Eggs

Can I be any more excited about the first chicken eggs from the girls?  Pretty much not…

First Chicken Eggs

First Chicken Eggs

Definitely compliments of the Buff Orpingtons since they lay light brown eggs.

First Chicken Eggs

I’ve had a few people ask via social media why they’re laying in such cold weather, and the reason is that their laying cycle is triggered by light, not the cold temps.  I truly am surprised I have eggs at this point since I still thought they were too young, but I gather Orps lay early and quite often throughout the winter.  My other two breeds, Barred Rocks and Ameraucanas will most likely start laying in the Spring…

I’m taking this as a sign that Spring is truly on it’s way!  Hope you all have signs of it around you as well (and if you do send me a link or a line!)

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A Few Vacation Pics…

We spent a week in the Florida Keys for our winter vacation and it was such a treat to see some flora and fauna.  I don’t know how much snow you have on the ground by you, or how low your temps have gone (and sorry to my non-U.S. readers for whining), but we have some seriously deep drifts and it was -6 degrees fahrenheit today.  I’m done with winter…

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

I love this shot.  This is a giant poinsettia that’s thriving in it’s spot against a stone wall.  I had seen them growing in Greece years ago, but I didn’t think they’d survive anywhere in the U.S.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation PicsThis gardener had packed spanish moss around her tree-tied orchids.  Not sure if it would help or hinder the orchid.

Vacation PicsEvery now and then I remember that I’ve downloaded the app Waterlogue.  It’s kind of cool.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

 

Vacation Pics


Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Poolside visitor.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Palm in bloom.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Our island retreat.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Seriously!  Right???

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation PicsSo that’s vacation in a nutshell.  Have you booked a trip and gotten out this year?  Was this year so bad you’re planning on booking and bolting next year?  Would love to hear where you’re going or what you’ve done!

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Beautiful Winter Tree Bark

Beautiful Winter Bark

When you’re up to your eyeballs in snow, and you have to walk super slowly along walkways or you’ll wipe out on the ice underfoot, it gives you that extra moment to stop and take a look at beautiful winter tree bark that you would not otherwise notice.

It’s not a silver lining but it’s all I really have to work with…

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Ultimate Chocolate Mousse

Ultimate Chocolate Mousse

When I was young, my parents would frequently take us to a dear friends restaurant in NYC named The Chambertin.  Without fail, I alway ordered clams chablis, duck a la’ orange and a light and fluffy chocolate mousse that is absolutely, sublimely perfect (and I really don’t like dessert to be honest).  It took forever to figure out how they made it – I was stuck in the egg trap (whipped, yolks etc.), and invariably they we’re dense and heavy.  I stumbled upon a recipe that used gelatin to achieve the fluff without the density and it worked.  This recipe has evolved over the years and it’s the flavor of my childhood, and I’m calling it the Ultimate Chocolate Mousse – and it is!

And I admit this has zero to do with gardening, but really, since it’s chocolate, who cares, right?

Ultimate Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Tspns Unflavored Gelatin
  • 2 Tbspns Cold Water
  • 2 1 Oz. Chocolate Squares (unsweetened)
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Tspn Mace
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 Tspn Vanilla

Directions

Soften gelatin in the cold water. Set aside.
Put the chocolate, 1/2 cup sugar, mace and milk in a double boiler and heat until the chocolate melts. Don not let it boil.
Beat until smooth. I have an old rotary blender but you could use a whisk.
Add the gelatin and stir until it's melted. Pour into a bowl and chill until it's nice and thick, then beat it until it's fluffy.
Whip the cream and add the remaining sugar and the vanilla. Fold the whipped cream and the chocolate mixture together. Squish into cute little cups and top with toasted nuts. Chill.

And I always rig a double boiler with two pots.  No need to have extra equipment you have to store.

This mousse lived up to my memories.  Hope you enjoy it too.

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