Monthly Archives: May 2009

Gorgeous Greens {lightly dressed

Let first the onion flourish there,
Rose among the roots, the maiden-fair
Wine scented and poetic soul
of the capacious salad bowl.
                        ~Robert Louis Stevenson

perfect in every way!

What a morning! The azure blue sky is spectacular, the leaves on the trees are a vibrant spring green and the flowers growing at Rose Cottage are strong and healthy. The earth is alive with excitement and enthusiasm for the day. It is the kind of morning that sings to me, “come out and play in the garden with us!” 

Pansies cream soft pink 3

The sweet pansies are still taking my breath away with their happy pansy faces . I remove the “spent” pansy blossoms–not wanting them to go to seed, yet. I pause for a minute or two to admire their cheerfulness in the mixed planters and window boxes. Who can resist a smile when you see their faces? Aren’t the soft rosey-cream ruffles of the pansies (Antique Shades) heavenly in the early morning sunrise?

Pansies cream soft pink

pansies cream soft pink 4

The bridal wreath is spectacular this morning, too. Each bridal wreath shrub (Vanhoutte Spirea) is like a  fountain with it’s white spray of thousands of tiny white flowers cascading more than eight to ten feet. These shrubs grow with very little attention, and are so lovely in the late spring.

After it is done blooming, we cut the old wood back by about one-third on the dozen or more shrubs at Rose Cottage. This encourages healthy growth and abundant blooms for next year.  The bridal wreath is just beaming in the morning light next to the east arbor, don’t you think?

bridal wreath and east garden arbor

 

a saturday field trip

It is such a lovely day, Mom and I decide to take a little “field trip.” Up the hill–just a mile or two out of the river valley west from Rose Cottage–lies a hidden treasure that I love to visit. Little Foot Farm and Greenhouse is a jewel box filled with the most vigorous, organically-grown annuals and vegetables imaginable! Started from seeds when the thermometer has dipped well-below zero, we are not disappointed again today–the green house is filled with the delicious fragrances of amazing plants dressed in their finest! We pick out some lovely gems to dazzle our gardens at home. I wish I could linger a bit longer among Karen and Sally’s symphony of beautiful flowers…

Just as we are leaving, Karen reaches into the cooler and presents me with a bag generously filled with gorgeous freshly-picked spring greens–at least ten salad varieties–sprinkled with lovely culinary pansies and violas! What a gift…the greens will have a starring role at dinner tonight!

gorgeous and delicious spring green salad

The dressing for the spring salad is light so not to overwhelm the delicate flavor and texture of the beautiful greens.

spring greens and flowers 3

A simple dressing is one My Sweet Girl loves to whip up when she is at Rose Cottage–it will be perfect on the greens from Little Foot Farm! I make a modified version of her dressing for the lovely greens.

spring greens and flowers 2

Rose Cottage Spring Green Salad Dressing 

 1 tablespoon of champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

1/4 teaspoon of honey dijon mustard

Pinch of sea salt

Freshly cracked Madagascar pepper or other whole black peppercorn to taste

(The pepper is a perfect compliment to the peppery flavor of pansies!)

1 tablespoon of finely-minced Italian parsley (optional)

3 tablespoons of high-quality extra-virgin olive oil

(I prefer the milder flavored Italian olive oil from Liguria on spring greens, but any light-flavored olive oil will be perfect.)

Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Put the salad greens and culinary flowers in a bowl. Just before serving, lightly add the whisked dressing to the greens and toss gently. A touch of the vinaigrette is all that is needed to dress up the spring greens. Garnish with crumbled, fresh goat cheese and fresh raspberries or blackberries.

spring greens and flowers 1

“He that sups upon salad, goes not to bed fasting”
                                                   ~Thomas Fuller (1608-1661)

The gorgeous lightly dressed spring greens salad is a perfect ending to a perfect late spring day at Rose Cottage. Tomorrow…promises to be another. We are filled with gratefulness for the beauty of the day, and gift from our lovely neighbors at Little Foot Farm!

What is your favorite way to serve spring greens? Do you have a special salad dressing you like to make?

You may want to talk a morning walk over at The Southern Daydreamer for more Outdoor Wednesday posts.

For more ideas about creating a beautiful life, visit Melissa at The Inspired Room.

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Lovely Lilacs {sweet morning fragrances

        In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
with many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle – and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.

                                                                           ~Walt Whitman, 1865

fragrance everywhere

Each spring, I am eager as a child in anticipation of opening a Christmas gift or peering into the stocking hanging on the mantle…the spring lilacs are in bloom! I love the heady lilac fragrance and the billowing gorgeous blooms next to vibrant green heart-shaped leaves.

Lilacs- white and purple

Lilacs are all abloom around Rose Cottage, and their fragrance perfumes the crisp early morning air. The golden sun is barely up over the river…the call of the exquisite lavender, purple, white and pink lilac blossoms bekons me to join them in celebrating this beautiful May morning!

 

a bit of forgotten memory

Fragrances are intimately associated with memories. This morning, the lilac fragrance reminds me of our first few years at Rose Cottage–it was so overgrown with lilacs, un-descript shrubs and scrub trees– the 100-year-old farm house was barely visible. The ancient lilac bushes nearly surrounded the entire house–especially on the east and north side.  The lilacs were right next to the windows and went out about 75 feet from the house. They reached to the bedrooms on the second story. When we opened the second story windows–it was as if we were floating on top of billowing, gorgeous purple clouds when the lilacs were in bloom. I think we may have picked bouquets from the windows!

In early summer, the sweet alluring fragrance of lilacs filled each room, and lulled us to a deep slumber in the cool evenings. I cried the day we had to take out the lilacs–I loved their fragrance so. We saved several clumps for re-planting along the west property–just on the other side of the meadow.

Lilac white 2

Memories aside, who can resist the fragrance of these ladies? With my pruners in hand to collect several lilac sprigs for a bouquet, I am off on the morning walk. I go down the hill, across the meadow and through the little woods. There they are–the sweet spring fragrance!  An armful of white, lavender and purple blossoms are quickly gathered. The cone-like blossoms smell so sweet. I can’t stop inhaling the amazing fragrance!

Lilac white

more fragrance  

More fragrant flowers are blooming this morning at Rose Cottage. I follow the sweet aroma of honey undertones in the air.

Honeysuckle White

The white honeysuckle are blooming all along the east side of Rose Cottage. Across the garden path, the rose honeysuckle are blooming, too. The pink honeysuckle fragrance is reminiscent of old roses, honey and raspberries. How dreamy!

Honeysuckle PInk

The unmistakable scent of bridal wreath fills the morning air. The bridal wreath is just starting to put on it’s snow-white gown!

Bridal wreath

Nearing the end of the morning walk, I stop by the fern garden. Here, ferns and hosta surround the boy and a bird with a broken-wing fountain. A soft southerly breeze parts some fern for a special surprise…lovely lily of the valley tucked underneath the fern fronds and hosta leaves.  It looks like a minature secret garden, doesn’t it? Ahhh…the fragrance of these sweet little lilies…isn’t it delightful?!

lily of the valley with fern and hosta 

morning memories

I am back at Rose Cottage, and bring in the armful of lilacs for casual arrangements in four vases around the house. Each stem is recut and then crushed to absorb as much water as possible. While lovely and over-the-top fragrant, lilacs do not last very long after picking. I plan to change the water tomorrow morning to extend their vase life.

The white lilac bouquet graces the 1880’s marble top dressing table in the powder room. Isn’t the lilac reflection amazing in the mirror? Other rooms have the lavender and purple bouquets. I would love to give you a bouquet, too!

Heavenly fragrance again fills the rooms, and brings back sweet memories. What fragrances bring back sweet memories for you?

 

Lilacs - White Powder Room 2

 

Lilacs living room 2

A bouquet of lily of the valley finds it’s way to the kitchen. The fragrance to be enjoyed throughout the day.

Lily of the Valley Close

Oh, I hear my sweetie coming down the stairs, and I switch on the espresso machine for his two cups of a quick “jump-start” to the morning. The sweet fragrances of an early May morning have already started my day out beautifully.

Good morning! Waffles and strawberries this morning? It is such a lovely morning…would you like breakfast on the porch? There is a fresh-picked lilac bouquet on the table on the south porch…isn’t it gorgeous?

Won’t you join us on the porch for waffles and strawberries, too?

Lilacs. False blue. White. Purple.

Colors of lilac.

Your great puffs of flowers

Are everywhere…[in this my Rose Cottage]

Lilacs in dooryards

Holding quiet conversations with the early morn.

Lilacs, watching…[our sweet cottage]…

Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom,

You are everywhere.

                                                                                                                     ~Amy Lowell

You may want to talk a morning walk over at The Southern Daydreamer for more Outdoor Wednesday posts.

For more ideas about creating a beautiful life, visit Melissa at The Inspired Room.

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Night Magic

When bright flowers bloom
Parchment crumbles, my words fade
The pen has dropped …

                                                                         ~Unknown

Spring brings the amazing flowering trees at Rose Cottage. First, the ancient apricot tree blooms early in April–the sweet fragrances just make us swoon!  How we love when the soft southernly breezes carry the intoxicating fragrances up through the windows in the early evening…

Flowering Crab Pink Close

The fragrant pink flowering crab steals the limelight for a week or two in May with the spectacular display of pink flowers. Planted as a mere 18-inch high “stick” in celebration of our Very Sweet Girl’s birth and baptism, it has grown into an amazing beauty–just like our little miracle daughter! What a marvel.

Flowering Crab Pink Close2

The flowering crab is covered in so many soft pink blossoms we can’t even see the bright spring green leaves–it is like a giant, super-sized stick of pink cotton candy from the county fair! Don’t you agree?

Flowering Crab Pink Close 3

We use little white garden lights on several arbors, in bushes around the porches and on a few trees at Rose Cottage. The little lights twinkle like stars when breezes blow the leaves–it is so romantic to sit in the gardens or on the porch at night amongst the “stars!”  Ahhh….

Flowering Crab Night

The pink flowering crab creates such night magic with over 1200 little stars nestled in the soft pink clouds.

Flowering Crab Night Close

The Snowdrift crab next to the porch will be amazing covered in little garden lights–maybe, next year when the branches are a bit stronger.

Snowdrift Crab close

Will you join us in the garden for a cup of coffee after dinner…under the stars with pink clouds floating overhead?

It will be a magical evening!

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Savoring Violets {la partie deux

Hath the pearl less whiteness because of its birth;

Hath the violet less brightness for growing near the earth?

                                                                                                       ~Thomas Moore

second thoughts on day two

What was I thinking when I decided to make jelly using a simple spring flower?  Oh, modest violet–what kind of flavor do your azure blue blossoms impart to a jelly?

Blue Violets close

My taste buds and mind can’t quite grasp the flavor, even though I cook with a lot of fresh herbs and culinary flowers. Is violet jelly a novelty or is it something that I would really serve our guests at Rose Cottage? 

glass basket and violets

jelly making

Yesterday, I spent a fair amount of time preparing for jelly making — picking enough dainty, sweet blossoms (all chemical free!) to nearly fill the English trug, and then removing the blossoms from each stem while struggling against wind gusts. So, I resolve to not give up on making violet jelly. (Read more about getting started on making violet jelly on yesterday’s Savoring Violets post.)

Monet in a Jar

After, 24 hours of “steeping” in the refrigerator, I strain the infusion using a fine mesh strainer into a glass measuring cup . The result is crystal clear light turquoise-colored violet water.

Violet Infusion Before Lemon

One Meyer lemon is squeezed–decidedly, to preserve the gorgeous color and fresh delicate flavor.

Meyer lemons and violets

Next, the juice of the lemon is strained using the fine mesh strainer. The 1/4-cup of lemon juice is added to the turquoise-colored violet water. Viola!

Violet Infusion After Lemon

Look at this! Isn’t it remarkable how the violet water turns to the most gorgeous rose color within seconds after adding the lemon juice?

Then, in a large stainless steel pan, I pour in the rosey violet water and add one box of powdered pectin. The mixture is brought to a boil, and 4-cups of granulated sugar is added. This mixture is brought to a boil again, while stirring constantly. It is kept at a full-rolling boil for one minute, then removed from the heat. One-tablespoon of raspberry liquor is added for an extra depth of flavor; although, this could be entirely optional.

The violet jelly is quickly ladled into sterilized jars and sealed with lids and rings. It is then processed for five-minutes in boiling water bath.

This recipe results in nearly five half-pint jars of beautiful rose-colored jelly.

But how does it taste?

refreshing violets

Now, my dear friends, would you want to know what was that most amazing jelly you just savored along side a sliver of triple cream Brie, fresh-picked raspberries and a still-warm baguette? Or that you just had as accompaniment to your tea and scones? Would you try it if you knew what it was in advance?

You will be absolutely befuddled with the simple brightness and amazing delicateness of the jelly– you will never guess it is the low-growing, sweet violet providing such refreshment!

Oh, yes! My dear sweetie is still swooning over his sampling of the spring nectar from the unassuming violet–you will, too! But, I might not tell you what it is until you are done raving about it and begging me for a jar of the amazing jelly to take home!

Violet Jelly

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Savoring Violets {la partie une

The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily

do not rob the little violet of it’s scent nor the daisy of its simple charm.

 If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose,

spring would lose its loveliness.

                         ~Therese of Lisieux

 

violets underfoot

It is a spectacular morning at Rose Cottage…hundreds and hundreds of sweet little violets have burst into bloom in the northeast corner near the emerging lady fern. It is as if the violets have put on their very finest for the spring dance!

 

Field of Freckles1

 

Especially breathtaking are the lovely “Freckles” violet. Just look at the soft lavender freckles over their little faces. I want to gather them all and arrange them in tiny vases throughout Rose Cottage. Alas, they are too delicate to last very long once picked–I simply enjoy them growing with wild abandon under the spruce trees, amongst the fern,  beneath the bridal wreath and tucked between the flagstone. Some call them weeds–I prefer sweet violets. Often, the simplier things in life–like enjoying a small, obscure woodland flower–can refresh our soul and change how the world looks. Sometimes, it is all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? 

 

Field of Freckles and Heidi

 

There are so many violets it is impossible to not crush them underfoot–but they are forgiving. I bend down for a closer look and inhale their delicate fragrance.

 Freckles close 4

 

Even the common violet is so beautiful in the early morning sunlight, and the soft fragrance fills the cool morning air.

 

Violet Common

 

gathering violets  

Each year, I plan on making violet jelly, but have never carried out the age-old idea of preserving the little delicate blossoms. Today is different–it is a perfect morning in May for gathering violets for the jelly. The dew is evaporated and the petals are fully opened. Time to use the sweet, simple gift offered so generously this spring. But first, I catch a glimpse of the red violets–not wanting to be outdone by Freckles.

 

Red Violet

 

I find the old, shallow wooden trug in the garden house next to the cottage garden. The shallowness of the basket makes it perfect for gathering the tender purple blossoms. In less than an hour, a generous amount of the sweet violets are gathered in the English trug. A few Freckles have slipped in the basket, too.

 

violets and garden trug

 

Next, the stems are removed from the blossoms. Stems may cause the infusion to be bitter.

 

Violets in frog close2

 

The wind blowing from the southwest is challenging, and a few blue violets are lost to the occasional surprise wind gust. Unexpected “wind gusts” can make our lives difficult, too-especially when we least expect it. But, I persist and keep on with the project. This year, I am going to make jelly!

 

glass basket and violets

 

making a tisane {steeping the blossoms

Though, not technically a tisane, the next step is to steep the blossoms to make an infusion. Four cups of loosely packed violet blossoms fill a quart canning jar.

 

violets and quart jar

 

Then, boiling water from the tea kettle is poured over the violets–about three cups of water. Look how quickly the infusion changes into a lovely “Monet-esque” piece of art–“priceless!” Within a few magical seconds, the tisane turns into a dark turquoise. Who would have thought the simple violet could hold such beauty and create such surprising “magic?” Beauty shows up when I least expect it.

 

Monet in a Jar

 

The quart jar is covered with a lid and stashed away in the refrigerator for 24 hours to draw out all the lovely sweetness and color of the violets.

 

Tomorrow, the jelly making will continue…

 

Would you like an espresso or a little cup of tea while we chat about your morning? The tea or coffee is waiting for you. We can sit next to the violets if you would like…

 

demitasse and violet

 

savoring violets (part II) –more about using these delicate culinary flowers in jelly tomorrow…

 If you are thinking more about creating beauty in your life, be sure to stop by  The Inspired Room .

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Blissful Lavender Pomanders

Lavender, sweet-briar, 0rris, here
shall beauty make her pomander,
her sweet-balls to lay in clothes
that wrap her as the leaves the rose.
 

                                           ~Katherine Tynan

a creative moment

Sometimes, all it takes is a brief moment…an inspiration…to use a few vintage finds and treasures in new ways. My Sweet Girl and I decide we need a simple and fun project to top off the fabulous weekend together. We spend a few hours combing through recent vintage finds tucked away in all sorts of nooks and crannies at Rose Cottage–some treasures find their way into My Sweet Girl’s (and her hubby’s) suitcases bound for Seattle!

Then, we have a great thought! We decide to make pomanders using deliciously fragrant French lavender..the kind of fragrance that just makes a girl swoon. There just happens to be a very ample supply in the old pie safe…

lavendar-in-a-bowl

Now, a pomander is most often thought of as a sachet-type ball that is placed in a drawer or closet to sweeten linens or clothes. We decide to broadly interpret the definition of pomander to include any type of container that is filled with a mixture of dried flowers or herbs to provide fragrance. So what shall we use for the containers?

Going through the cupboards again, we find a pair of vintage seven-inch shakers and a single four-inch crystal shaker–all past their prime. Soon, these shakers are about to be given new life as embellished pomanders!

lavendar-shakers-flowers-on-plate

We find some fantastic vintage metallic French thread in bronze, silver and gold that we will use for attaching the embellishments.

lavendar-metal-thread-spools

Just a few more things that serve as inspiration for the pomanders…tiny jewel box keys, heart lockets, hand-painted rose buttons and sensational silk ribbons.

lavendar-keys-and-flowers1

 

magnificant millinery

We gather up some lovely vintage linen, cotton, silk and velvet millinery from our favorite shop, Rose Mille, just up the river from Rose Cottage. I just adore the soft-blue velvet forget-me-knot millinery, don’t you?

The millinery is so lovely! What shall we pick out to use? Lately, neutral tones are quite appealing…cream, latte,  soft ivory, subtle taupe, antique apricot, olive and soft blue…all show off the texture and design of each piece of millinery so well!  

lavendar-millinery

Some of the millinery needs a bit of freshing. We decide to  create “magic” by using steam from the whistling teapot using a trick my friend, Mi, told me about. More about this on the Romantic Millinery Magic post.

lavendar-steaming-flowers

The petals unfurl, and the millinery is refreshed after just a few seconds held over the steam from a tea kettle.

lavendar-steamed-and-empty-shakers 

making happy memories

Next, we fill the crystal and glass pomander containers with the fragrant French lavender. It just makes us swoon and feel so relaxed–just like being at the spa!

My Sweet Girl and I talk about how wonderful it is to create memories together with our last few hours before she and her hubby jet back to Seattle. It’s simple mother-daughter times like these that make me happy. I tuck this happy memory into my heart! (Visit The Inspired Room for more about what creates happiness.) What are simple pleasures that bring happiness to you?

lavendar-bowl-funnel-spoon1

lavendar-filling-shaker1

lavendar-filled-shakers-and-steamed-millinery2

 

viola!

With just some pieces of silk ribbon, metalic thread, millinery and embellishments we are finished! The blissful lavender pomanders are dressed up and ready to provide their fragrance in the powder room and boudoirs. 

lavendar-lge-shaker-best1

 lavendar-lge-shaker-closeup1

lavendar-two-shakers-on-mirror-4

My Sweet Girl is head-over-heals with the turquoise and cream striped millinery ribbon she adds on her pomander, and just has to show how gorgeous it is! Did you see that she added a swap of antique chandelier  crystals?

lavendar-rebekahs-shaker-3

lavendar-rebekahs-shaker-1

 

lovely Spanish lavender

There are several variety of lavenders–some fragrant, some culinary and others just breath-taking in the garden. Spanish lavender is not very frgrant, but is stunning in the garden border. Bees and butterflies find it amazing and are in blissdom, too! These lovely lavender photos are from My Sweet Girl’s home.

lavendar-1

lavendar-2 lavendar-3

lavendar-close-4

Lavender, sweet lavender; come and buy my lavender,
hide it in your trousseau, lady fair.
Let its flovely fragrance flow over you from head to toe,
lightening on your eyes, your cheek, your hair.

~Cumberkand Clark, Flower Song Book (c.1929)

Thank you, my dear friend, for visiting Rose Cottage.

May your day be filled with the lovely fragrances of spring flowers and herbs, and much happiness!

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