Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Spring in Your Step

I love spring.

I love the colors of spring flowers: deep purple, vibrant red, bright orange, and electric yellow.

I love spring bouquets. I bring home armfuls of clearance flowers from the grocery store and set up vases all over the house.

I've pulled out my vintage mason jars and put them to work! Ahhhh...happiness.

I've finally gotten out in the yard, under the watchful eyes of Tabitha and Bosewichte.

Joy! The lilacs are budding out.

My achillea (yarrow) is popping up all over the yard, the little fern-like leaves filling in over the faded grass and patches of dirt. Soon I'll have maroon, white, and yellow yarrow all over!

The daffodils have made great progress.

Feverfew is spreading...

...and the tulips, with their pink-edged leaves, are unfurling in patches all over the yard.

Here come the irises! My great-grandmother had over 100 varieties of iris in her garden. I only have three...but just wait until we move and get settled somewhere!

I look forward to the brilliant green of my false dragonhead plant. It is otherwise known as the Obedient Plant, despite being very disobedient in the garden by spreading mercilessly. Thankfully I have a messy, easy-going garden that doesn't mind a little disobedience!

This wild ajuga is a welcome sight. It's considered an invasive plant, but it's a nice ground cover with deep green, almost purple leaves. It keeps down the grass a bit, so we don't have to mow as much.

Lo and behold, the first insect of spring!

To continue my theme of bringing spring indoors, I've ordered some vintage insect prints. This page was taken from a 1903 book and shows a variety of butterflies that are common in this area.

I love the detail! I've bought a large wooden frame for it and just need to cut the matte.

I sewed a series of bunting flags for a back wall of the sunroom. I can't believe what a difference a bit of cheerful fabric makes!

So, although it's 38 degrees outside, and pouring down rain, and everyone feels more like this:

...we'll continue to celebrate these little bits of spring in our lives!

Of course the kitchen is a great place to bring out the flavors of spring. I made a light, tasty cake last week that was absolutely delicious and a perfect end to a day spent in the dirt. It's part yellow cake...part cheesecake...and part crumb cake. How can you go wrong?

Lemon Fruit Crumb Cake
Recipe from Beth Hensperger's "The Best Quick Breads"
Makes one cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh or frozen fruit

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 egg
1 tablespoon flour

Crumb Topping
1 1/4 cup white flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold butter, diced

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. If you don't have a 10-inch springform pan, you can use a regular cake pan, but the presentation isn't as nice. Whatever you've got: grease and flour it.

First make your cake. Cream the butter and sugar until smooth, and add the eggs, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and add that to the sugar and butter mixture, alternating with the milk. Mix until combined, but do not overmix!

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and spread it around a little. Sprinkle your fresh or frozen fruit on top, making sure that you've got an even distribution. Set aside.

Make the cheesecake! Beat the cream cheese until smooth, and then beat in remaining ingredients, combining well. Pour on top of the fruit layer of your cake and spread it around!

To make the crumb topping, combine all ingredients but the butter, and then cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or fork. Sprinkle evenly on top, pressing it gently into the cheesecake. Careful...those handprints will bake into the cake top!

Bake for 55 - 65 minutes and let it cool. The cheesecake layer melts into the cake layer, making it even softer and more delicious. The lemon in the cheesecake gives it a nice fresh zing, as does the warm fruit. I highly recommend this!

I hope you have a nice, bright spring day, no matter what your weather's like. Enjoy!