August 19, 2012

Mirror Image

This, my dears, is that beautiful Caddo Maple seen through the double windows in my office.

Over 21 years ago, Husband and I bought the 1935 English Tudor home in which we now live.  Over these last twenty years we have made some much needed the kitchen...the studio out back...the heat and air (BORING!)... 

but we waited until our boys were both off to college last August before renovating our bedroom, bath, closet...and what is now my office.  Our salon I tell my friends... because after
living with a master bath the size of a postage stamp, and closets not much larger, it does indeed feel quite grand to have a new master suite.

But back to my Caddo through the windows. 

While still in the renovation process, this is what that golden beauty looked like in October of last year.

Even on the dreariest of days, my office was as bright as if bathed in brilliant sunshine.

I knew then and there that as I decorated my work space,

I would have to have

on the opposing wall

a mirror image of my windows reflecting that golden leafed maple.

And while a reflection of this tree right now in August 

is all very nice...

can you imagine how magical it will be

when those golden leaves

are reflected off this mirror...sandwiching me in

August 17, 2012

Caddo Maple

 I am waiting for this. 

I've been waiting since August of last year for this brilliant blast of gold from my Caddo Maple. 

More than usual...more than in years past. 

Not just because of the temperatures and heat and hardship of this summer and last...

but because in my small world, one thing always informs another...

every one thing relates to every other thing...

these 'things', both inside and out, evolve organically, contextually,

and responsively over time

Tomorrow, I'll tell you why I am especially giddy at the thought of my Caddo Maple in its full golden, gilded, glowing glory. 

August 15, 2012

Out of Africa

Crocodiles at sunset on the Rufigi River

For our honeymoon, Husband and I went on a three week walking safari in the Selous Game  Reserve in Tanzania 

One of those trips of a lifetime that you have the wisdom (thanks to Husband) to take when 

a)  you're young enough to both enjoy and endure it

b)  you're young enough to recognize the need for spending that kind of $$$ for an experience BEFORE you're old enough to be thinking about how that $$$ would translate into a semester's worth of pricey tuition or 401K contribution (or, for that matter, a summer cabin in Colorado...)

c) you're young enough not to have children...yet,

but wise enough to know that you'd want to tell them about a place like this some day...

Not surprisingly, I brought back much from this trip.  A treasure trove of memories,

a fear of hyena laughter while peeing in the dark,

an appreciation for afternoon tea, roasted cashews and coconut,

and evening cocktails 

listening to the larger than life stories of African guides, porters and gun bearers. 

The experience more than lived up to the romance-meets-'bush-camp luxury'-meets-a once in a lifetime adventure promise of every African Safari.  

In primitive conditions especially, one appreciates and admires the effort it takes to pull off the luxury part.  The small ones no less than the large.

And when little touches, little luxuries are accompanied by the unusual, or at least, the unfamiliar, it can make quite an impression.

I'd never had a Vegamite sandwich, been exposed to Nuttella spread, had water buffalo spaghetti...

or experienced such an abundance and variety of insect life trying to dive bomb into my morning juice or evening wine.

Enter a new-to-me, charming little problem solver.

Beaded doilie covers for beverage glasses and pitchers. Find some charming ones here if you get as annoyed with drunken gnats as I do.

I found a set of these in a Dublin shop years ago, but put them in a linen drawer and promptly forgot them.  I came across them this summer and

was instantly transported back to that exotic place.

I finally put them to use battling my own kitchen and garden wildlife.

Lesson learned?

Such lovelies are meant to be used

not stuffed in a drawer for some non specific occasion in the future. 

How else can they evoke such happy memories

Out of Africa.

August 12, 2012

Fifty Shades of Gray and Texas Sage

I have a renewed crush on the color gray.  I've always liked it...but I wouldn't say I loved it. That was before I started planting Texas Sage Silverado and some of its heat-loving, drought resistant compadres.

I took these pictures just this week, and despite another hellish summer, they look as fresh and perky (if not better) as they did the day I planted them.

Frequent clipping not only keeps them full and bushy, but also keeps their size in check for smaller spaces like mine. I adore the way all this snipping creates the look of clipped box...only in gray (or rather a yellowy-greenish-gray when pruned so often.)

I plan on using even more of them towards the back of another flowering border where I'll let its natural arching habit have its way

and where it will look  mahvelous planted with this gray Giant Coneflower L. Rudbeckia maxima.  Its tough as nails sword shaped leaves will make a wonderful textural counter point to the smaller-leaved sage. 

To complete this silvery trio, let me also sing the praises of the ferny-leaved yarrow, Achillea 'Moonshine'.  Like its other gray companions, this perennial wants excellent drainage - give it a generous scoop or two of gravel (if your soil is as heavy as mine) when planting, and then enjoy its delicate foliage and brash yellow flowers.  (Though, honestly...I can take or leave the flowers.  I am ALL about the foliage on this baby.)

If this trio is not enough to satiate your appetite for silver, then 

snag some seed somewhere from an unknown, unsuspecting mullein 

and let it come up where it may to join the party

and lend a little (rather BIG-leaved) fuzzy drama.  Just make sure to give it the same excellent, gritty drainage.

Did I fail to mention that Texas Sage also puts out delicate pinky-lilac flowers in the summer when all of the other bloomers have given it up?

It's a lovely gesture, really it is,

but like that yarrow,

I'm all about the foliage with this one too.

August 8, 2012

Amaryllis Rebloom and Christmas in August

Sometimes a girl will do anything to distract herself from the summer heat.

I've taken to reading cookbooks and magazines with recipes for Thanksgiving side dishes.  Last night I bathed to Christmas music on Pandora Radio and I've  begun to worry about a pumpkin shortage due to the drought. We're still months away from the first fire in the fireplace, but I'm already scheduling my chimney sweep in anticipation of sweater weather. 

This is all fine and good, of course, as long as I do a reality check before I open the door to get the paper...  and feel the day's first blast of heat  .... thus getting blasted back August. Ugghhh.

Not all of my distracted wool-gathering is unproductive, however. This week I'm ordering my garden bulbs for spring

and also some glorious amaryllis bulbs for the holidays.

Of course, I've still got the dozen or so bulbs that bloomed during the last holiday season.  I've been watering and feeding them all summer...

but now it's time to stop all of that and bring them in from their home outside

to their way station in a dormer closet with bright light.

I'll withhold water until the leaves yellow and dry.  Then I'll remove them, shake off the dirt

and store them individually in these mesh bags (marked as to variety) in a cool, dark place

until sometime in October when I'll pot them up and start all over again.

For full instructions on getting your amaryllis to re bloom,

read this article and put reminders on your garden calendar to tickle your memory about the timing. 

In addition to my current stable of these
holiday lovelies, I am adding three new varieties I've not tried before:

Amaryllis Trentino
Amaryllis Gervase  and
Amaryllis Floris Hecker

Find them here at John Scheepers.  I always buy them in threes...

amaryllis gluttony proportionate to summer temperatures.

Because having almost survived another Oklahoma summer, 

         I sure as h*#! DESERVE IT!

Thank you very much  :)

August 4, 2012

Historic Heat Wave in Oklahoma

Sometimes, those of us who live here don't think that the rest of the country fully understands what it can be like during the summer in Oklahoma City.  My friend Bubba in Alabama sent me this , so I thought I'd pass it on.  A 'cold front' is supposed to come through tomorrow or Monday, bringing with it frigid temps in the low 100's.

I won't detract from the import of these figures with pictures, sarcasm, or how-to garden survival tips.  The numbers speak for themselves and they are truly frightening.

To all of you out there suffering from drought, extreme heat, or extreme weather of any kind....we feel your pain.

Historic heat wave in Oklahoma

A historic heat wave and drought fueled raging fires on Friday in Oklahoma. The fires destroyed at least 65 homes, forced multiple evacuations, and closed major roads. Oklahoma City had its hottest day in history, hitting 113°, tying the city's all-time heat record set on August 11, 1936. The low bottomed out at 84°, the warmest low temperature ever recorded in the city (previous record: a low of 83° on August 13, 1936.) Oklahoma City has now had three consecutive days with a high of 112° or higher, which has never occurred since record keeping began in 1891. With today's highexpected to reach 113° again, the streak may extend to four straight days. Yesterday was the third consecutive day with more than a third of Oklahoma experiencing temperatures of 110° or higher, according to readings from the Oklahoma Mesonet. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) declared a "Critical" fire weather day over most of Oklahoma yesterday, due to extreme heat and drought, low humidities, and strong winds. Between 4 - 5 pm CDT Friday, Oklahoma City had a temperature of 113°, a humidity of 12%, and winds of 14 mph gusting to 25 mph. Another "Critical" fire weather day has been declared for Saturday. A cold front approaching from the northwest will bring winds even stronger than Friday's winds, and Oklahoma will likely endure another hellish day of extreme heat, dryness, and fires.

Only comparable heat wave: August 1936
The only heat wave in Oklahoma history that compares to this week's occurred in the great Dust Bowl summer of 1936, the hottest summer in U.S. history. Oklahoma City experienced three days at 110° that summer, and a record streak of 22 straight days with a temperature of 100° or hotter. Those numbers are comparable to 2012's: three days at 110° or hotter, and a string of 17 consecutive days with temperatures of 100° or hotter. It's worth noting that Oklahoma City has experienced only 11 days since 1890 with a high of 110° or greater. Three of those days were in 2011, three were in 2012, and three were in the great Dust Bowl summer of 1936. Clouds moved in over Tulsa, Oklahoma yesterday, holding down the high temperature to just 107°, ending that city's 3-day streak of 110°+ days. The only longer streak was 5 consecutive days on August 9 - 13, 1936. 

August 3, 2012

Salmon with Pinot Noir Reduction and A Nifty Idea

Long before there were modern inventions like IPads, cookbook holders and recipe boxes...there were skirt hangers. (Maybe I have the wrong chronology on that.  Anyway...)

My friend VeeBee sent me this little tip, and I was so intrigued by it that I put it to the test right away.

What genius thought of this?!  And why didn't I think of it myself...especially because I have so little counter space in my 1935 kitchen...precious surface area that is often taken up by cookbooks like the WILLIAMS SONOMA  Pacific Northwest New American Cooking.

Order it here if you want to make


* 4 salmon fillets with skin intact, each 4-5 oz. and 3/4 inch thick

* 3/4 t. coarse salt

* 3/4 t. freshly ground pepper

* 1 T. olive oil

* 1 cup Pinot Noir

* 4 fresh thyme sprigs, plus extra for garnish (optional)

* 1 T. unsalted butter

1.  Sprinkle the salmon fillets with 1/2 t. each of the salt and pepper

2.  In a large frying pan over high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the salmon, skin side down, and cook until browned and crisp, 3-4 minutes.Turn the fish and cook for 2-3 minutes longer.  The salmon will be slightly rare at the center.  If you prefer it fully cooked, continue cooking for another minute or so.  Transfer the fish to a warmed platter and cover to keep warm.  (very important!)

3. Add the wine and the thyme sprigs to the pan and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Remove the thyme sprigs and stir in the remaining 1/4 t. each salt, pepper and butter.

4.  Pour the sauce over the salmon.  Garnish with additional thyme sprigs, if you like, and serve immediately. 

I must tell you that the cookbook holder worked like a dream and the salmon was delicious and SO easy.   Why not give both a try this weekend?

August 1, 2012

Off The Grid

Ah, for the good ol' days...which would be just last week when temps hovered in the low 100's, peaking at a modest 106. 

But this week, it's back to the new summer normal it seems.  Today the forecast is a high of 111-112, blasting yet another record... excuse me RECORDS, and the long, parched slog till fall is well underway.

Like last year, boxwood is frying, burn bans are in place, water is being rationed, landscapes and gardens are being rethought.

But this year, unlike last year, I am trying to put it in perspective.  

Conditions seem to be extreme just about EVERYWHERE.  For example, 

India is just now recovering from the worst power failure and grid overload in human history.  I know this not just from the news (read about it here), but because my oldest son was one of the over 620 million people suffering due to this energy outage and India's overburdened power infrastructure.

He has been in Lucknow, India for the last five weeks on a government Critical Language Scholarship studying the culture and language of Urdu (native tongue of Pakistan...I'd consider that critical, wouldn't you?).

Obviously, he is a special kind of kid...kind of MAN.

And not just because of his accomplishments and his drive, but

because when I spoke with him today, he said "Oh, it really hasn't been all that bad...".

This from someone who hasn't been able to sleep for days because of the intense heat (up to 124 one day), has only taken cold bucket baths for weeks, and still won't be back in the States for another three weeks. His only complaint:  not having enough time or enough companionship to go visit the Himalayas this weekend...because, after long as one is in India...

Ah! youth, with its swagger, its bravado, its risk tolerance, its

HEAT  and GRUNGE tolerance. 

Obviously, Husband and I are unbelievably proud of him and his intellectual and academic successes.

But I am equally proud of his resolve, his temperament, his ability to

refrain from complaining and whining.

So as I sit here typing away in my beautiful, air conditioned new office, with fresh flowers on my desk and an icey drink at the ready, I am practicing my mantra for the week:

ahh, I guess it's really not all that bad.

Stay cool, stay sane, everyone...or as they say in Urdu

Actually, I have no idea what this  says, but I bet you won't catch my mistake... :)