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June 07, 2011

Climbing Vines and Willow Furniture

I'm not crazy about hot weather. I spent too many years in Arizona enduring it. I seem to have little tolerance both emotionally and physically. One look at my fair skin and red hair and you really understand that I'm genetically predisposed to bogs or moors rather than deserts. Moving to the Pacific NorthWest had been the plan since we moved away when I was 9. I knew I wanted to live here and it only took me over 30 years to get back. I don't mind the rain and gray. Well, there is a point in the Spring when I think even the most web-footed of us are ready for some color and dry weather. Once Spring starts giving us greenery, I can forgive the rain again. Now that we are solidly ensconced in June I'm feeling Summer knocking on our door with these gorgeous peonies.

Last weekend we had two days above 80 degrees. Most Oregonians were thrilled. While I was thrilled for some dry, sunny weather, I was not thrilled for the heat. It did make everything in my garden spring to life so I sucked it up and enjoyed the beauty around me.

The honeysuckle are busting out as well as my wee Clematis. The Clematis is my new favorite vine. I have these terribly ugly metal supports for my porch. The big 70s curly-cues. I hate them and I've started trying to hide them with flowering vines. One support is completely hidden by a monster honeysuckle that may take over the entire porch. I had a jasmine that was killed off this winter by an unusually long freezing spell. I've tried Morning Glory there a few times and had no luck. A few weeks ago Trader Joe's had these lovely little Clematis plants. I couldn't resist. I love these showy, almost gaudy, vines. I know they can get enormous so I put it two supports over from the honeysuckle hoping they wouldn't fight each other. I was starting to feel sorry for myself as it just sat there. I know, logically, the roots are getting established but I admit I had high hopes for this little vine. Yesterday morning I noticed that suddenly, the Clematis has grown over a foot in a week. She is starting to shoot up and bless her little flower-heart, she has grabbed a hold of the ugly curly-cue supports herself and is twining around happily. I can't wait. She has also put out a couple buds so I'm back to singing the praises of Clematis.

I took a willow furniture making class. This was something offered by my local nursery and I thought it sounded like fun and is certainly not anything I've ever done before. So I signed up and had a really fun day! It was absolutely exhausting because my poor hands and arms are used to being at a keyboard all day making very fine movements. I'm just not used to hammering at all. It was a bit brutal to be outside building furniture in the heat but totally worth it. I'm so pleased with the final product.

One of the things I appreciated about the class was the combination of beauty and practicality. The instructors guided us in the building so everything we created is structurally sound. All the furniture has little touches like the bottom of this table. You probably wouldn't see this until you bent down and really looked at the base of the table. Adding to the strength of the piece is this lovely bit of curly willow bracing the bottom base.

I spent way too much time playing with the different woods and colors getting as much color variation as possible. I'm told these will weather to a brown but I can't believe it would all be the same brown since they are different woods. There is alder, maple, and willow here. Everything is amazingly sturdy

And finally, I'll close with the obligatory dog picture. Frankie basking in a wee patch of sun after tearing up the tidy futon to make it more comfortable. My dogs seem to be against folded blankets of any kind.

June 01, 2011

Pecan Cakes and Rooing

I have very little food storage space in my kitchen. I desperately need a pantry but that problem just isn't a post. What IS my post is the fact that my one food cupboard has begun bulging with baking ingredients. I'm sure it is due to my reading through all of the Yarnstorm archives. This is a lovely, beautifully photographed blog with tons of baked goods. I have a file FULL of recipes that I've scribbled down when she provides them and I couldn't wait for the US version of her cookbook. Because of all my baked good lust, my cupboard is absolutely overflowing with flower, sugar, nuts, and oatmeal. So I tried to whip up a basic cookie. I wanted something nutty and oatmealy with that brown sugar flavor. I didn't have the proper butter. I had a soft butter SPREAD which I adore on my toast but was clearly too soft for a cookie structure. Even my untrained eye could tell these cookies weren't going to hold up. However, I marched ahead (because why admit there is a problem?) and ended up with these.

Now the good news is, these were delicious. The bad news is, they had kind of a strange texture. They weren't very sweet at all (which I love) and they were a little cakey. So I poured the rest of the batter into a 9x9 pan and tried it as a coffee cake.

This worked much better. The texture was about spot on for a dense, little cake. Very coffee cake-ish (if a little dry, which is why you need the coffee/tea). I put in chopped pecans so the cake had this wonderful pecan flavor. I love pecans in baked goods. I'll finish a bag of Pecan Sandies before chocolate chips any day. Even though I loved that it wasn't very sweet, it was calling for something to finish it. A cream cheese frosting. I tried to whip up a cream cheese frosting and was again faced with a runny finished product. I poured it over the cake anyway and called it a cream cheese glaze. It looked pretty and tasted absolutely wonderful. The only thing I would do differently would be to poke a bunch of holes in the cake so the glaze would run down and leave lovely little, tangy columns of glaze in the cake.

The cake actually got better after a few days. As it got a little stale, it got chewier which I enjoyed. Clearly I'm not your average baker.

We have a new addition to the dog family. One of Mom's greyhounds died suddenly a couple months ago. She just dropped in her tracks and I'm sure never felt a thing. It was absolutely devastating for my Mom who was talking to her one second and couldn't get her up the next. It scared my Mom that she couldn't lift her dog (greyhounds may be skinny but they are kind of big and can run as heavy as 80 or 90 pounds). Because Mom's last dog can't be an only dog (she just gets so depressed without a doggy friend) we looked to the Bichon Frisee rescue group for a little, fluffy guy that Mom could easily lift.

Welcome Sammy Adams to the family. He is a very sweet, cute pookie. It has been strange for Mom getting used to a doggy-dog again. Greyhounds are more like cats or horses so if you like doggy dogs, this is generally not the breed for you. I had a similar big adjustment with Oscar when he joined the family but he is at least a hound so there are a lot of similarities in behaviors like rooing. I think Sammy has been a good fit and he is clearly a happy boy.

We will be off to the beach this weekend to visit with Sammy Adams and Godiva. I'll wrap this up with a flattering picture of Godiva. She sleeps with her mouth open. What a lady!