Tuesday, June 15, 2010

When life gives you apples...

It was good to get home from our Pennsylvania trip. I used to travel quite a bit when I was younger, but I've discovered something interesting as I've gotten older and more involved in gardening - a garden does not like to be left alone, and you feel a bit uncomfortable doing so. I loved our time away, but in the back of my mind, I was thinking, "I should have staked those tomato plants before I left." "Those petunias REALLY needed to be pinched back." "Oh, I should've weeded one more time..."

Of course, all was well when I returned. My columbines had finally gone to seed and I had to quickly empty their pods before a brisk wind could scatter the tiny black pellets. Columbines are a real joy to have. Their charming rounded foliage is reason enough, but their colorful blooms nodding atop graceful stems and general ease of care make them an absolute necessity in my garden. Once they go to seed, their shy faces look skyward to reveal a rigid starburst with a scattering of seeds nestled in the core.

I was pleased to see a bright splash of orange in the garden...the very first zinnia had popped!

Zinnias are so beautiful. I have a special fondness for their pre-bloom phase. These jagged green shards don't look like much, but within a day they unfurled into a perfect bloom.

I'm always wondering at the mystery of my yarrow (achillea). I didn't plant it, but it grows and spreads every year. Every year a new color pops up. I've got a golden patch, a white patch, and this brilliant ruby-colored patch...my favorite!

This green bush cricket (Tettigoniidae) was having a snack before heading into the tangle of green at the base of the plant. I've read that they eat aphids, so I don't mind having him around.

See you later!

I was not so pleased to see three young praying mantis nymphs (Tenodera aridifolia) scurrying about. I know how good they are for the garden. I've read about how they eat harmful insects, how they don't bite humans and are even kept as pets. They are prized by gardeners, who sometimes resort to mail order to obtain a pair. This is all true, but I don't like them. As a child, a praying mantis became entangled in my hair and I haven't been able to look at them without shuddering since. Their large size, the hypnotic, rhythmic swaying, the way they swivel their heads to watch you pass, and their ability to fly (they are frequently mistaken, in flight, for hummingbirds!) all combine to equal one unpleasant bug for me. I'm trying to overcome my fear.

This little guy is climbing a zinnia...

...while his older brother is, you guessed it, watching me carefully and waiting for his opportunity to pounce!

The heavy rains have brought out the robins, too. Always nice to see them!

I'm in the middle of several knitting projects. I switch off frequently, so consequently...

This old-fashioned baby bonnet lacks a ribbon and a good blocking...

This glove is, sadly, missing a thumb...

...and this sock is somehow unworthy of the name, as it has no foot.

I used to feel guilty about my many works-in-progress, but a nice system has developed. I give myself permission to rotate freely between two or three projects...a little here, a little there...and they are all eventually completed. Variety is the spice of life!

Despite my injury, I've been hobbling around the kitchen. Just recently I've made soft, chewy pita bread and a spicy squash casserole with turkey and fire-roasted tomatoes. I've been in the mood for something sweet, though. I leafed through my cookbooks and passed by recipes for butter-laden cookies, pies, brownies, and cakes. Although they definitely have their place, I wanted something a little lighter and healthier. Then I remembered our surplus of apples.

When life gives you apples...make apple crisp!

This is a great recipe that's quick and easy to make...and eat!

Apple Crisp

4 apples, diced
1/2 - 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
3/4 + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/3 cup butter, softened

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into your diced apples, then dish them into an 8 inch x 8 inch pan. Combine the rest of the ingredients and mix well (I used a pastry cutter to mix in the butter, but a fork would work too!). Spread on top of apple mixture and bake for 25 - 35 minutes.

Sitting in my sunny kitchen nook with a sleeping cat in my lap, looking out over the garden, and with a generous helping of fresh-baked apple crisp...a great way to start the day!


  1. Your photography really is gorgeous and I appreciate the recipe for Apple Crisp. I've had it, but never made it myself. I think now is the time! :)

  2. Thanks, Jodi! I hope you try the apple crisp. Almost everyone has these ingredients in their kitchen, and it's so easy to throw together. Bake for 25 minutes if you like your apples a little crunchy (like my husband) or up to 35 minutes if you like them smooshy (like me)!

  3. Love the idea of apple crisp - I'll have to try it - it can replace one of my peach cobbler nights.

  4. Kim, we frequently have extra apples around here as I go in and out of my "apple a day" phase (mostly out!). This is a great way to use them up. I also make a really spicy applesauce...I can send you the recipe if you're interested!

  5. The pictures, as I've come to take for granted, are so delightful. I understand your feelings about the praying mantis. It seems to be the model for horrible villianous creatures in several sci fi movies.

  6. As expected, your photos are glorious. I understand your feelings about the praying mantis.You've probably noticed that they often provide the model for villianous creatures in sci fi movies.

  7. Thanks, Edna! Yes, although I'm trying to co-exist with our many mantises, I just don't trust them! :)