Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day Melee

With the weather getting warmer, I've been out in the garden a lot. We've got dandelions with stems as thick as small trees, it seems, that break in two with a gleeful ~pop!~ when you tug on them. As much as I dislike trying to uproot them, dandelions have a special beauty, I think. They are so symmetrical, with their delicate, feathery seeds.

The seeds themselves remind me of arrows. They're tiny and ridged and cling loosely to their base, just waiting for a light wind to waft them away. To make more tree-sized dandelions. But we've got to take our small pleasures where we can, and I enjoy THIS part of the dandelion, at least!

I'm continually amazed that despite my bumbling ignorance in the garden, plants continue to flourish year after year. Without much thought to soil or light needs, I planted a tiny sage plant by our back walkway a few years ago. Now it's a woody shrub and provides me with fresh sage for 9 months out of the year.

I adore sage leaves. Not only do I like to roll them between my fingers for the smell, I like how they look - and feel! - exactly like cats' tongues.

My dill self-seeded with abandon.

My bronze fennel did too. I dug up all the volunteers yesterday and planted them in a row in front of a poor-soil area of fencing. I know they'll be beautiful (and caterpillar-covered!) in two months.

My obedient plant is thriving...the yarrow is throwing up stalks...the columbines are more beautiful by the day...the peonies are nearly ready to open...and the irises are up. Irises have the most delicately veined petals.

My favorite part, though, is this strip of 'fur' on each one. It looks like a sea anemone, and is a welcoming beacon to bees and butterflies.

Bosewichte stays in the window constantly, watching me work. He would like nothing more than to be outside with me, but he's going to have to wait until we move!

Tabitha, who has never been outside, is content to loll around in a sunbeam and leave the outdoor longing to her big brother.

Mother's Day was last week, and as usual, I planned a big meal for a few mothers that I know. I set up a table in our "second living room", although I was short a few chairs...so many things are in storage!

I filled the room with flowers. Geraniums and violas, because they're so bright and colorful...

...but also bunches of lilacs from my dwarf bushes that are just starting to bloom. The smell is amazing!

Everyone got a little packet of one of my favorite flowers...

...and a little stamped placecard.

I worked up a menu: 44-clove garlic soup, fresh baguettes, spinach quiche, roasted asparagus, and a shrimp and feta dish, plus salad. I wanted a special dessert and decided on an old Martha Stewart trick: dried pineapple flowers. It's ingenious, really. Remove the rind from a pineapple and cut paper-thin slices. Put the slices on a greased cookie sheet and place in an oven preheated to 225 degrees and bake for 1 hour, flipping halfway through. If the slices aren't dry enough, continue to bake until they're almost completely dry.

When you reach that stage, press the slices into muffin tins so they'll dry into a flower-like shape and leave them out overnight.

Because my pineapple came off in "slabs" rather than "slices", I had to dry mine for a really long time. But they eventually dried - for the most part.

I decided to make hummingbird cupcakes, which are made with banana, coconut, and pineapple. I went to a reputable source for the recipe, but my cupcakes were completely flat and wouldn't bake in the middle. I was in a panic. I knew I had to salvage them somehow, because people were coming in just 2 hours! I made a quick batch of mini cupcakes that I knew would bake through easily. I topped them with cream cheese frosting and a dried pineapple flower.

Then, I cup up the regular-sized cupcakes and layered them in a trifle dish with cream cheese frosting. I've got to say...it was beautiful, and they were delicious! Just in case, I whipped up a batch of my favorite can't-go-wrong lemon blackberry muffins topped with nutmeg and turbinado sugar.

I also made berry charlottes, which didn't turn out like I'd hoped. These charlottes consisted of 2 layers of homemade fruit mouse, on a ladyfinger base, surrounded by ladyfingers, topped with fresh fruit. Well, my mouse didn't taste sweet enough and my ladyfingers were floppy.

The berries looked pretty, though!

All in all, even with droopy ladyfingers, the meal was a success! I love getting together with friends for a home-cooked meal. I think it's a lost art in today's "dine out" culture. I'm looking forward to our next time together!

I hope you have a great week!

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