Monday Rewards

Monday night is the perfect night for cookies. A new twist on an old favorite. I stopped using Crisco years ago but I must admit Crisco was the standard base for the Sanders Family cookie. I use Trader Joe’s BGH free unsalted butter that I but eight pounds at a time. Bustelo coffee gives it a undeniable snap and a insider’s nod the city of my birth: Miami. The added pecans count as protein and justify these as semi-healthy. Unbaked cookie

Baked cookie

Coffee Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies
¾ c butter
½ c white sugar
½ c dark brown sugar
2 T Turbinado sugar
1 egg
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 T Bustelo Coffee grinds
1 ½ c white all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup chopped pecans
½ c chopped dark chocolate
Preheat oven 350F. Mix butter and sugars well. Add egg, vanilla and Bustelo. Add dry ingredients. Once well mixed, add the pecans and chocolate.  Bake 13 minutes.



Gardening is applied optimism. Maybe that is why my yard and gardens are in such disarray. It drags on me. Truly. I want to have flower beds all tidy and weed free. I want margins and edges clearly delineated and precise. I want lush shrubs and robust berry canes and bushes.

Instead, the wild blackberries refused to fruit — probably because the previous lawn man weed whacked them down when they had the flush of barely opening white blooms. The destiny of fruit lost to the plastic guillotine. I must make it another year on the stocks of seedless blackberry jam made last summer. The blueberries produces enough fruit for a batch of jam. Of this I am proud. Next year, I will not need to pick at another purveyors field. The raspberry canes are not thriving. They barely survive this heat despite being rated to Zone 9. The loquat grows and seems hearty but bares no fruit. The pecans has a few bundles of webworm that require dispatching today. The voracious caterpillars could strip my fledgling trees. I’ve been told the birds will eat the worms if you open the web pods. The pears thankfully, have fruit and today will become conserve.

But how to be optimistic about well, anything, when the grass grows so fast and the weeds overtake you if your stride is not swift enough? Stand still for a moment and the swamp vine shall ensnare you in it delicate, sticky fern-like tendrils. And attempts to rid the beds of weeds only seems to spread the love, propagating the seeds of the offenders, giving them purchase and new territory.

I must accept my rewards when they arrive, give thanks for the beauty amidst the fury and chaos, through no effort of my own and by sheer chance of random rain and abundant sun, the gloriosa lilies arrived. Their maiden season, debutantes of the blasted lands, interwoven with their delicateness is a suggestion of something dangerous. The entirety of the Flame Lily is poisonous and deadly. Such beauty and death rolled into one spectacle.
red gloriosa lily gloriosa lily, hydrid



Beating summer heat

Summer at Biddan Ridge is a whole lot of dang heat! Too much heat and not enough rain. And when it rains, it is preceded by an hour of lightening strikes which invariably costs me a few light bulbs – usually in the entryway ceiling fixture that requires two people and two ladders to change. Minor design hassle that you do not and cannot foresee when you plan a house and select fixtures.
thunderheadandlightening I75thunderhead I don’t do much gardening (or weeding) during the summer. I can’t stand the heat or the fire ants. So, we camp out inside, watch Netflix or some other binge-worthy show and cook good, fresh food and chill in our A/C. Avoiding turning on the oven, especially for anything other than baking cookies, seems unnecessary. High protein salad with buttermilk Bleu cheese dressing hits the summer spot.
wedgiesaladAnd you have to finish it off with some of the best ice cream EVER. Southern Craft Creamery won the Garden&Gun magazine’s Best of the South award a few years ago and we order it online. I was super happy to find it for sale locally at Lucky’s Market. Lucky is right! We did a little taste test to rate and compare. Both were winners!



Winter is over

I like to pretend I have a farm. I plan for a future when I have a small but prolific orchard of fruit and nut trees. The pecan trees have finally leafed out which means we’ve had our last freeze for this winter.

The pear trees that cross pollinate actually bloomed at the same time two weeks ago and that means we might have pears on both of those trees. Can you see that they are different species by their blooms?

I added another line of blueberries, too.



It’s early January and we have yet to have any significant winter. There has been no frost. Night-time temperatures have barely reached 40F and then warms towards 70F during the daytime. The trees are confused. I saw a loquat tree downtown filled to bursting with buttery yellow fruits. My own pear trees have put out blossoms. My pecan trees dropped all their leaves and sit as if we are int he dead of a freezing cold winter. The lawn – which should fall dormant and not need cutting – is is dire need of a hacking. And yet, with such mild weather, I am loathe to go outside and work in the yard. There is plenty of stuff I COULD be doing.

Instead, I painted my office. It feels very serene and tranquil. It has made me happy. Delighted even.

Office painted


I am in no way expert but I am an enthusiastic backyard beekeeper. I know I am supposed to rob the hive. The whole point is to collect honey but I often think of them like a pasture of cows or goats. I just want them to have a happy home and range to make a healthy hive. I worry that robbing the hive stresses them and causes them to be at risk of pests and disease. Maybe that is why, in some Freudian way, I am ill prepared to rob the hive. I do not have any standard frames in my freezer to replace the honey packed frames I found in the hive this morning.




With the building of this house, it is the first time in my life I’ve had a pretty bathroom. I have a sumptuous bathroom with a truly divine tub. I designed the tub and asked that the back wall be smooth finished so that I could add a large stencil to the wall. I had been looking at stencil on this Etsy site. I’ve had a large chrysanthemum rolled up in a tub for three years. Two weekends ago I painted the bathroom. I’ve had the paint chip [Carolina skies] taped to the wall for more than two years. I was very pleased with the paint – so pleased that I intend to paint the whole bedroom the same color.  It is serene and peaceful. Today, I added the stencil in a shimmery silver metallic paint by Benjamin Moore.

before painting after painting

taped stencil painted stencil

Finished stencil


Fall is here

Fall has arrived bringing a cool, foggy, sunless morning. This is my fourth fall season at Biddan Ridge and I slowly find a rhythm. For many months, I get up on Saturday mornings and go to a two-hour yoga class. This morning instead, I baked a large Honey Crisp apple tossed with dried cherries and topped with an oatmeal pecan topping. As it cools, I brew a pot of coffee – my favorite blend from the Kitchen & Spice store: Highlander Grogg. I opened all the windows in the house to capture the soft, steady breeze and set myself up to write. If only my wild turkeys would arrive as they did that first foggy fall morning.

The Hawks' Ridge gaggle of wild turkeys, DEC2012

The Hawks’ Ridge gaggle of wild turkeys, DEC2012


Instead I hear children in the house across the street. I have neighbors. I’ve made friends. I can lend a cup of sugar or borrow a ladder. Someone else occasionally gets a piece of my mail. I can share my honey or jams. It is home.

Baked applesBaked apples

Recipe: 1 apple peeled and sliced, 2 T dried cherries. Toss together and put in a oven safe dish. Topping: 3T brown sugar, 1/4 c quick cooking oats, 2 T flour, 1/4 c chopped pecans, 2 T melted butter or coconut oil.  Spread on the top of the apples. Cover with tin foil. Bake @ 375F for 25min, uncover and bake another 10 min. 1-2 servings depending on your generosity.



Fig jam

The frost and then the yard man’s weed wacker have hindered my fig production. Honestly, it reduced the number of fig bushes from six to two and those two are limping along. So, I tried to barter honey from my summer robbing for figs. I asked my fellow local gardeners through Facebook but I missed the summer figs by a few weeks. The I walked into Publix and they had black Mission and brown Turkey figs BOGO. Wining!

Fresh figs

So I stemmed and quartered thirty figs, I added two cups of white sugar and one whole vanilla bean, split. I put it all in a heavy LIDDED Le Creuset Dutch oven and cooked it on very low heat until all the figs were soft and brown. I used a pastry knife to chop any remaining pieces into smaller chunks. I removed the vanilla bean and scraped out the bean paste, returning it to the slow boiled jam.

Cooked vanilla fig jamThe outcome was six half pint jars and a small quarter pint remnant that goes into the fridge for me to eat now on toast or with cheddar cheese on crackers.

Fig jam in jars



All’s Pear in Love

Yesterday morning it was cool by July standards and foggy. A good time to attend to the pear trees. This is their second fruit season and I am blessed with an abundance of fruit on such small trees. Calling them trees exaggerates, embellishes. The Biscamp pear, a self-pollinating variety bore the most fruit; its reed thin branches heavy laden with large man-fist sized fruits.

Biscamp pear

The Pineapple and the Sug variety, more old-fashioned sand pears are meant to cross pollinate. It is unclear if these two trees even like each other. They had some kind of tree-sex because they each had one pear. One. Their fecundity is yet to be determined.

Sug pear Pineapple pear

I had hoped that planting the pears close to the Carolina Redbuds, the bees would work the five trees indiscriminately. I will have to consider better protecting these trees and their early spring buds from late freezes.

The pear trees needed a spa day. I shoveled a ring around each base, hand troweled the grass runners crisscrossing the ground and stealing the trees’ vital nutrients. I added six double hand-scoops of Black Kow manure to the base and worked it all in.

Weedy pear Neat pear

I then re-attached biodegradable twine and staked the branches wide to open up the inside of the trees. It is not meant to be a true espalier.

Biscamp staked Sug staked Pineapple staked

Then it was time to make my Granny’s conserve. By my Granny’s definition, a conserve was two (or more) fresh fruits cooked with sugar. The traditional culinary definition is cooking dried fruits and nuts which I think of more as a chutney. A conserve is slow cooked, chunky, sweet and has no added pectin. The literature on the Biscamp, the majority of the fruit I have to make my conserve, is said to be a “soft eating pear” supposedly like a Bartlett. After peeling and slicing…that is a liberal assertion. And thank God for it. I didn’t want a soft, fine grained eating pear. I wanted SAND pears.The Biscamp is as gritty as coarse sand paper but it is very juicy, even with still-green skins.

I have an Apple-Mate 3 that attaches to my kitchen counter and peels the pear skins. These pear skins have a tannin in them and hand peeling turns your fingers and nails brown for days. Plus the skins are TOUGH and attached to the flesh of the fruit. The Apple-Mate scratches the peels off perfectly. Final touches are made with a very sharp paring knife before chopping off the core and mincing in a Cuisinart. I am all about the gadgetry.

Peels20150719_091212In the pot

I embellish my Granny’s recipe which used canned pineapple, sand pears and sugar. Instead, I use fresh pineapple, sand pears, sugar, a split vanilla bean and a stick of cinnamon. The outcome is a conserve perfect on English muffin, bagel, sour dough toast, warmed and poured over ice cream, served over warm gingerbread cake or bread pudding or in a spoon: plain and simply perfect.

Eight jars

Jeweled pearfection