Phlox-y Lady

On our recent trip to Las Vegas, we saw some of the most fantastic flower arrangements in the lobbies of all of the hotels we visited.  At the Wynn hotel in particular, I was amazed at the large balls of flowers that were hung from a grove of trees that was located next to guest registration.  Admiring these huge multi-colored clusters of flowers reminded me of the phlox that were growing at home in my garden.  When I returned home, the phlox must have known I was thinking of them because they were in full bloom.

The phlox that I grow in my garden, Phlox paniculata, are the ones that most people are familiar with when you mention these beautiful Summer stunners.  Phlox paniculata are the tall garden phlox with their big, fragrant clusters of blossoms.  The blossoms vary in color but are most commonly seen in red, pink, salmon, lavender, purple or white.  They grow two to four feet tall and are most common in planting zones 3 to 8.

I have three varieties of phlox in my garden.  Along with the picture at the top, here are some shots of the bright red Phlox paniculata ‘Bright Eyes’, which is my favorite:

Here is the lavender Phlox paniculata ‘Franz Schubert’:

Rounding out the trio, here is Phlox paniculata ‘Bright Eyes’:

Phlox prefer full sun or very light shade along with light, fertile soil with ample organic matter to retain moisture.  They also need good drainage.  I try to provide adequate air circulation around the plants and also stake them up versus letting them fall over onto the ground due to the weight of the flower cluster.  You should also cut off spent blooms to avoid having the plant go to seed.  If you are looking for a great garden perennial, especially one that blooms in the heat of Summer, the phlox is the plant for you.  They are quite phlox-y (I had to write that just one more time…sorry).

What’s Blooming – Another Virtual Garden Tour

This is one of my begonias that opened up a number of fiery hot blooms this week.  This begonia, ‘Bonfire,’ is a variety of tuberous B. boliviensis.  It wasn’t the only fiery hot thing going one here at Glen Road this week.  The weather actually decided to push up to 100 degrees for several days this week meaning lots of watering to keep the garden supple.  Come with me to see what else was braving the heat and blooming full and lush this week.  Besides begonia ‘Bonfire’, here’s what else was out there in full glory:

So tell me, what’s blooming in your neck of the woods?

What’s Blooming – Our First Virtual Garden Tour of 2012

If you garden much, you become very familiar with transitions.  Moving from one phase to another is a pretty common occurrence when you are dealing with soil, seeds, plants, sun and rain.  My flower gardens are ending a big transition right now.  The fury of Spring blooming is coming to an end and we are now entering the Summer period when bloomers tend to act much more slowly, but the beauty seems to be worth the wait.  Take a little look at what’s happening in the gardens right now (you can click on any picture to start a slide show).

Friday Dance Party – Back Again

I just looked up the last time I posted something here on Acorns On Glen and I can’t believe that it has been close to three months ago.  A year ago, I was posting stories (sometimes almost daily) about my life here in Connecticut and now I am posting nothing.  From cooking and gardening stories to absolutely nothing.  I just haven’t felt like it.  I just haven’t had the energy.  You see, I lost my father on April 12.  You may remember that I briefly wrote about it during the holidays.  The days leading up to his leaving and all these days after have been some of the hardest of my 48 years.  I think I have learned a lot about myself during these days of despair.  I know that I have faith.  I have never really been a religious man.  Don’t get me wrong, I have always believed in a power bigger than me.  I think it’s God, but whatever you want to call it is fine by me.  But the belief that there is someone or something up there for me to talk to as well as someone or someplace up there for my father to go to has been very comforting to me over the last few months.

I have also discovered from the ‘most played’ feature on my iPad, that I have listened to the same group of songs over and over during the last few months.  Songs of inspiration, understanding, hope and faith.  The one I chose for today is the one that I listened to the most.  Sometimes it made me think about myself and sometimes it made me think of my father and his battle against cancer.  I’m just glad I found it.

I think my father left us in Spring so that there would be so much for us to do after he was gone.  We’d get on with our lives in a quick manner because there would be gardens to plant, yards to be mowed and flowers to watch bloom.  He wouldn’t want us to be sad for very long and he would want us to quickly get back to living our lives to the fullest without him, just like we did when he was here.  So guess what?  Like I’ve done for so many Fridays here on Acorns On Glen:

It is time for another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

Friday Dance Party – My Whitney Tribute

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

As most of you know, Whitney Houston was one of my favorite singing stars ever since I first heard her in my senior year of college.  I can pretty much say without hesitation that I have played her music about every week from the time I discovered her through today.  I wouldn’t feel right if I did not take this opportunity to pay my respects to this wonderful singer.  If my life ever becomes a movie (which I doubt, but let’s just say), Whitney’s music would surely be on the soundtrack.  I remember hearing her in college during my senior year singing ‘The Greatest Love Of All’.  I then traveled to New York City for the first time shortly after and heard her sing it live on Governor’s Island for a celebration of the re-opening of the Statue of Liberty.  There would be four other times I heard her sing live in concert.  I remember begging my friend to dance with me at the clubs to ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’.  That was when I was young and thought going out to a club was a good time.  I remember a big break-up and listening over and over to ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go’.  Feeling proud to be an American from her ‘Star Spangled Banner’.  You really couldn’t turn on a radio when I was on the West Coast and not hear ‘I Will Always Love You’ during ‘The Bodyguard’ era.  It always makes me smile today when a contestant on ‘American Idol’ tries one of her songs from ‘The Bodyguard’ era and the judges criticize the contestant because no one can sing ‘Bodyguard’ Whitney better than Whitney.  I discovered gospel music after buying the soundtrack from ‘The Preacher’s Wife’ and the song ‘I Believe In You and Me’.  Happy to hear her voice again when ‘I Look To You’ hit the airwaves.

So thank you Whitney for always singing when I needed someone to sing.  In your honor, we dance with you today here on Acorns On Glen.  I hope all of you who are reading this will join us.

Fun And Light Stalking In East Hampton

We were invited to spend the weekend with our good friends at their house in East Hampton, Long Island, New York. Our friends are part of a small percentage of people who actually spend the Summer and Winter at their home in the Hamptons. The Hamptons are mostly known as a Summer destination where people travel there to relax and enjoy the heat of the Summer in their home or at one of the many beaches that are on the Atlantic Ocean. Many people have never been to the Hamptons in the Winter, but it is actually a great time to go because there is no crowds and, better yet, no traffic in getting there.

From a history perspective, the Village of East Hampton is a village in the Town of East Hampton, New York. It is located in Suffolk County, on the South Fork of eastern Long Island. The population was 1,083 at the time of the United States 2010 Census. Founded in 1648 by English farmers, East Hampton remained a quiet farming community until the late 19th century, when it became a resort for the wealthy upper class. It became an artists colony in the mid-20th century, popularized by the Abstract Expressionists, most notably Jackson Pollack. Today, it has become a premier weekend destination during the Summer season.

Winter has another benefit in East Hampton as well. Besides no crowds and little traffic, finding your favorite star’s cottage is much easier as well. Yes, I admit that I enjoy finding famous people’s houses and staring at them from the car or from the road that runs in front of their places. Winter is the best time for a light stalking adventure because you can see through the vines and shrubs that are in front of the houses because they have lost their leaves.

My latest trip centered on finding a few homes of my favorite FOODIE people. Enjoy a few of the shots I took on my East Hampton adventure:

Come out, come out Martha Stewart. Here we are in front of Martha’s East Hampton home on Lily Pond Lane. The front yard was filled with burlap covering various shrubs, bushes and small trees for the Winter. The burlap is sort of her Winter trademark. Since I am a civilized stalker, I only go as far as the front gate! If you want to see what the inside looks like, visit here.

Are you there, Barefoot Contessa? Yes, here is a shot of Ina Garten’s East Hampton home. See how the hedge in Winter enables you to see right through?

Another shot of Ina’s home as the car creeps down the roadway.

Remember the season that Ina moved from filming in her home’s kitchen to a look-alike kitchen in her new studio? Here is a shot of the studio which is on the lot right next to her home.

Don’t think less of me because of my stalking. I like to think that it shows I have a high level of curiosity versus stalker-like tendencies. I can’t believe I am the first person to do this, so I feel secure in the knowledge that there are others out there who are like me and understand. Now I just have to figure out how to get one of them to invite me in for a little bite and some tea without getting arrested.

2011’s Top 11 – Decided By You

JoJo the Yorkie and I curled up yesterday to pick the top 11 stories that we posted during 2011 here on Acorns On Glen.  Some of us curled up a little too much.  Can you see where JoJo starts and the faux fur blanket ends?  We started this blog in February as a way for us to realize and then give thanks for all the great things that happen in our lives.  You just can’t take life for granted and this blog is a great way for us to reflect and cherish the fact that we have great family, great friends and now a whole group of great people that visit Acorns On Glen on a frequent basis.  We’ve been blown away by the number of people that stop by and read our posts.  Thanks to all of you who have welcomed us into your lives this year.  The posts that have been visited the most are varied, but the majority of the top 11 seems to show that all of you, our readers, like good food and how to cook it.  Here are 2011’s top 11 posts:

1.  Funky Italian Stuffed Peppers

Our Notorius B.I.G. (Brooklyn Italian Grandmother) heads the list with her great recipe for cubanelle peppers.

2.  South Carolina’s Unbelievable Angel Oak

You liked our sight-seeing trip down in Charleston, South Carolina.

3.  Time For Tuberous Begonias

The story about the begonia tubers I’ve had for years is our most viewed gardening post.

4.  Lots Of Bling – Christie’s Important Jewels

You like jewelry, eh?  Yes you do, big stones with lots of sparkle is what you like.

5.  The Man Behind The Curtain

My bio….you like me, you really like me.

6.  A Toadstool Birthday Tea

Our first guest blogger shows us how to throw a great birthday tea for the little ones.

7.  Luna Moth Or Not – You Be The Judge

A truly magnificent discovery that landed on the back side of our house and stayed for a few days so that we could marvel at it.

8.  A Field Trip To Le Farm Restaurant

Just like us, you enjoyed the cooking of Bill Taibe at his Westport, CT restaurant, Le Farm.

9.  Chocolate Caramel Tart With Fleur De Sel

Who can resist this sweet-salty flavor combination?  We can’t!

10.  Thinking Of My Citrus House Guests

Our little orange and lime trees impressed this year and even gave us a few pieces of fruit.

11.  Meatball Mania With Sauce

Finishing off just the way we started, another hit dish from Notorius B.I.G.

So here’s to everyone who has helped make Acorns On Glen a success.  We are truly humbled by the response, along with your words of encouragement, and can’t wait to share 2012 with you.  We want to wish everyone a Happy New Year (wish I could pass everyone a glass of champagne now) and may 2012 bring you great joy and happiness beyond your wildest imagination.

Christmas Cookie #3 – Cookie Press Cookies (Depressed With My Press)

This cookie press recipe was a true test of my baking and decorating patience.  As most of you know, a cookie press is nothing more than a hollow tube fitted with a decorative nozzle at one end and a plunger at the other.  You insert your cookie dough into the hollow tube and then you press a trigger that makes the plunger press out the dough.  The dough is pressed out through the decorative nozzle and a pressed cookie is formed.  The nozzle holds discs that turn the dough into various shapes-hearts, wreaths, Christmas trees, flowers-the list is long and covers most of the major holidays.  Here is the cookie press I used at the start of my baking.  Little did I know that two more would follow.

I’ve discovered that my right arm has gotten incredibly strong.  That’s because my squeezing of the cookie press trigger achieved pressing out five dozen cookies, but, on the bad side, it broke three cookie presses.  Yes, three presses that broke-two triggers broke off and one shaft that holds the dough cracked into two pieces!  Is this bad luck or what?  I got my cookies done, but had to order a new press at the end as a result.  This time I paid a little bit more and got a “heavy-duty” press.  I’m hoping this solves the problem.

These cookies are very tasty, with a rich butter and vanilla taste.  The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of vanilla, which seems like a lot, but really works well with the dough.  After the cookies had cooled, we decorated each one with a glaze made out of confectioner’s sugar and a variety of cookie decorating supplies-colored sanding sugars, melted chocolate, tinted glazes, chocolate sprinkles, etc.  Most of it was purchased at the supermarket so just have fun and get whatever supplies catch your eye.  With cookie decorating, there really is no bad way to do it.  Here’s the steps:

For the cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted, for decorating
  • Confectioners’ Sugar Glaze (see recipe below)
  • Food coloring, preferably gel-paste, for decorating
  • Sanding sugar, for decorating
  • Other favorite items, to use for decorating

Directions:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add egg yolks, flour, salt, and vanilla.  Mix until well combined.

Fit cookie press with desired disk and fill with dough.  Press out shapes onto prepared baking sheets.  Transfer to refrigerator until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake until cookies are lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To decorate, tint confectioners’ sugar glaze as desired (dividing it among a few bowls to make different colors, if desired). Dip cookies in glaze and decorate with sanding sugar, nonpareils, or dragees.  Let set until the glaze dries, at least 1 hour before serving or storing. Cookies can be stored, between layers of parchment, up to 1 week at room temperature in airtight containers.

For the glaze:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons water

Directions:

Mix confectioners’ sugar and the water to achieve an easy-to-pour consistency, adding more water as necessary. Use immediately.

These are a great cookie.  They taste great and look great.  Impress your family and friends with a cute little decorated cookie.  They will be impressed.  At our house right now, none of us want to eat my cookie press cookies.  Not because they don’t taste good, but because they are so pretty.  Knowing how we like to eat, this mood will change soon and we will devour them.  It’s the holidays right?  Overeating is expected!  Do you make any decorated cookies during the holidays?

Friday Dance Party – Getting Into The Spirit Of Christmas

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

It’s official…we are most definitely in the holiday season.  Besides coconut pyramids and cranberry-pistachio biscotti, Christmas carols are always needed to get me into peak Christmas spirit.  So given we are a little over a week away from Christmas, I thought it was only appropriate to pull out one of my favorites.  There is none better to me than Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” from the 1944 movie “Meet Me In St. Louis”.  I love this song on so many different levels.  First off, Judy Garland can sing this song with a voice so clear and sweet how can you help not loving it.  The way it was shot is also fantastic.  Every time I watch this clip, I feel like I am sitting there in that cold room with them looking out over the snow in the yard.  The lyrics about friends and family are great.  Isn’t that really what the holidays are all about?  I also love the back story on the movie.  Judy Garland was 21 when she was filming the movie and it was the movie that successfully transitioned her from child star to an adult superstar.  The movie was also directed by Vincente Minnelli, who fell in love with Judy Garland during the filming and eventually became her husband.  From there, I’m sure you all know that this union produced a daughter, Liza Minnelli.  Margaret O’Brien, who is the little girl in this clip, won an Oscar for her work in this great movie.  The song is also special to me even more than it has been in years past.  It’s because this year I won’t be with my parents and brother for Christmas day, so the lyrics really hit home because I think this is only the second time in my life I have not been with them.

Someday soon, we all will be together,

If the fates allow,

Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow,

So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

So join me in getting into the spirit of Christmas and listen to this little carol.  Turn your speakers up and I assure you that when the song is over you will be a little more in the mood for this holiday.  I hope you like it as much as I do.  What is your favorite Christmas carol of all time?