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.

Deadheading Has Nothing To Do With The Grateful Dead

This is the only nice part of deadheading in the garden.  Every once in a while, as you are cruising through the garden and cutting off spent flowers, you see the occasional moth or butterfly trying to hold on to something that was once so plush and gorgeous.  It happens every Spring.  Your garden flowers come on hard and strong.  You get such a magnificent display of color in all the blooms that open.  All the beauty makes you proud to be a gardener.  Then in a few short days for some flowers and a few short weeks for others, it is over.  The blooms wilt and die.  The dead flowers become a grim reminder that Spring is leaving.  As a gardener, you then move into the next phase of gardening and what I officially think of as the start of Summer.  The dreaded deadheading.

This was once a peony.

There are a lot of chores that a gardener needs to do during the growing cycle.  There is none that I hate more than deadheading flowers.  I like the chores that are about encouraging growth.  I hate the ones that make me deal with the dead.  There is no amount of songs on my iPhone that I can listen to that keep me motivated enough for the task of snip, snip, snipping dead flowers.  The dead flowers are everywhere and the chore never seems to end.  You can go through your entire garden and end up at your starting point and will still see dead flowers that you’ve either missed or they have died since your last trip through.  It’s depressing!

A spent allium.

So why do I do it?  Because dealing with the dead helps bring back life.  If left to their own devices, many flowers will bloom heavily for a short period of time, then set seed, thinking they’re done for the season.  Deadheading interrupts this cycle.  You’re actually fooling the plant, forcing them to send out another flush of blooms to try to complete the reproductive cycle.  The blooms in the second or third display may not be as large or as numerous as the first, but they are certainly worth the effort.  This is especially true for roses, day lilies and flowering annuals that inhabit a large section of my garden.  For the bulb population like alliums and tulips, deadheading flower and stem down to the ground helps keep the energy in the bulb versus having the bulb send it to the flower to produce seed.  Deadheading these perennials helps to strengthen the bulb for next year’s growth.

A rose that has seen better days.

So if you ever see me in my garden with a sad or bored look on my face, you will know it is deadheading that is what is bringing me down.  Please try to distract me….it won’t take much.  I know I’ll be happy when the next round of rose blooms come around, but in that moment, I would give anything to be somewhere else.  What garden chores are your least favorite? 

Apples Of My Eye

This is a very good sign.  There has been a lot of work getting the espalier apple trees in order this season.  We’ve spoiled the trees in every manner imaginable.  We started with two trees, noticed one was not doing well, removed it and replaced it with a new tree, built a support system to secure the branches and gave them a haircut.  With all this work, we have kept saying one thing.  “We better get some apples this year.”  The good news is that it appears we may be in luck this season.  The trees are producing apples for the very first time.  There aren’t a lot of apples on the trees.  Probably 20 at the most.  However, it is just nice to see your hard work pay off, especially in the garden where sometimes the harder you work results in some of your worst harvests ever.

The trouble we are facing now is how to take care of the fruit over the remainder of the Summer.  The last thing we want to do is have disease or insects take away our apples.  We try to garden in an organic fashion as much as possible.  Many of the established gardeners here in Connecticut are telling us that organic is not going to cut it as these apples continue to mature.  We will have to use some limited amounts of chemicals on them to keep them safe.  Do you have any recommendations on how to care for the apples over the Summer using the least amount of chemicals possible?

Estate Sale Stewartia To Honor ‘Now, Voyager’

This tree is to pay homage to our favorite movie, ‘Now, Voyager’.  Have you ever seen ‘Now, Voyager’?

The 1942 movie stars Bette Davis and Paul Henreid.  Charlotte Vale (Davis) suffers under the domination of her Boston matron mother until Dr. Jaquith gets her to visit his sanitarium where she is transformed from frump to elegant, independent lady.  When she goes off on a South American cruise, she falls in love with Jerry (Henreid), already married.  Back home she confronts her mother who dies of a heart attack.  Charlotte, guilt-ridden, returns to the sanitarium where she finds Jerry’s depressed daughter Tina.  Tina achieves happiness through her attachment to Charlotte and the two move back to Boston.  When Jerry sees how happy his daughter is, he leaves her with Charlotte.  What about marriage for Charlotte and Jerry? Davis utters one of her most famous lines, “Don’t ask for the moon when we have the stars.”

One of our favorite parts is when Jerry says that Charlotte looks like a camellia in a white dress she is wearing while on their cruise.  When she returns to Boston, Charlotte receives a corsage of camellia flowers from Jerry and then she continues to wear camellias on her dresses as a reminder of her love for him.

Two weeks ago, I was contacted that there was an estate sale in the area that included garden plants from the estate.  I have never heard of that in my life.  The estate actually dug up mature trees, bushes and shrubs and sold them.  In looking at the plant list, I saw that there was a Stewartia Pseudocamellia that was over 10 feet tall.  While not a true camellia, the flowers are so close, I knew I had to have it in our yard to pay homage to ‘Now, Voyager’.  I won the auction for the Stewartia and had it planted in our backyard.  Here’s a little background on our Stewartia:

Stewartia Pseudocamellia is a plant species in the genus Stewartia in the family Theaceae, native to Japan and Korea.  It is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree, often with multiple stems and/or low branching trunks.  The bark is smooth textured, exfoliating as the plants age and has a camouflaged or mottled appearance with patterns of dull orange and green with grey mixed in.  Because of this, it has great Winter appeal as it displays its bark against the snowy landscape.

The trees are pyramidal to rounded in shape with deep green colored foliage.  Young stems have a zig-zag shape with flattened, divergent buds.  The leaves are arranged alternately on the stems with an elliptical shape and finely serrated edges.  In the fall the foliage turns yellow, red or purple. 

The flowers have five white petals with orange anthers and are shaped like Camellia flowers, round and flat to somewhat cupped.  They are produced in Summer, generally in June until the end of August.  Each flower is short-lived, but many are produced that open over many weeks.  The fruit is a brown capsule, triangular in shape with four or five angles, persistent on the trees but not showy.

We’ve often said that we like plants in our garden on Glen Road that are unique in nature or have a story behind them.  So the Stewartia fits right into what we like in the garden.  So now you know that on a clear night when the moon and the stars are shining bright, we will be outside standing by the Stewartia talking about ‘Now, Voyager’.  The two of us and the Yorkie….let’s consider her our Tina.  What are your favorite old-time movies?

Fried Baby Artichokes

This is a pan full of baby artichokes.  Did you know that they sell regular artichokes and baby artichokes?  When the Brooklyn Italian Grandmother is in the house, she likes a dish that can start as an appetizer and then be carried to the table and continue as a side dish.  That’s why she likes fried baby artichokes.  The trick with this recipe is to get the smallest baby artichokes you can find.  The smallest usually are about the size of a golf ball or a little bigger.  If the baby artichokes are any larger than that, they will require a par boil to make them tender before frying.  Our baby artichokes looked big so we actually par boiled them in water for about 20 minutes before starting the recipe.  Once they had cooled, we took a very sharp knife and cut off the top and cut the stem off the bottom so that it could sit on its bottom without tipping over.  After that, we cut them right down the middle into two pieces.  For the breading, we used a mixture similar to what we made for the stuffing in our cubanelle stuffed pepper recipe.  So sit back and let’s start frying some baby artichokes with the Brooklyn Italian Grandmother.

Ingredients:

  • 15 baby artichokes, cut in half (remember, smaller is better for this recipe)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 1/4 cup of seasoned bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 thin slices of Italian sopressata, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:

Mix garlic, bread crumbs, cheese, sopressata, salt and pepper in a bowl and combine well.  Break eggs into a separate bowl and mix with a fork.

Heat olive oil over medium heat until hot.  Coat artichoke halves in egg mixture and then in bread crumb mixture.

Place into heated olive oil and fry until breading is brown and artichoke is tender.  Continue to add more olive oil as needed.

When all of the artichokes are fried, sprinkle with more salt, pepper and cheese and serve warm.

The good thing about these artichokes is that, because they are small, there are less leaves to eat through until you get to the heart of the artichoke.  There is very little waste because the leaves are so small you can eat the entire thing.  Start with these as your appetizer and then move them in to munch along with your main course.  Just like the famous brand of chip…..you can’t eat just one of these fried baby artichokes.  Give them a try.  What are you cooking today in your kitchen?

Friday Dance Party – Tonight Tonight With Hot Chelle Rae

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.

My company has summer hours.  This means that people who work at my company are able to leave every Friday from now until Labor Day at 1:45 in order to enjoy a little more time at home with family and friends.  I’ll be honest, most Fridays I don’t get out of the office until much later, but even leaving early by an hour or two seems like such a big deal.  It gives me the extra time to run a few errands, get home and take a little disco nap with the Yorkie and then wake up and get ready for some Friday night fun.  Summer hours are such a great way to start a Summer weekend.  So given that I’m able to catch up on a little sleep each Friday before I go out, I seem to be in much more of a party mood these last couple of Fridays…..meaning I don’t want to go home and be in bed before 10:00 PM!  So this week, I’ve decided to celebrate the start of Summer and summer hours by partying on top of the world.  So be happy for living and shake your money maker to this new song by Hot Chelle Rae (again, sorry for the pop up ad – just hit the ‘x’ to suppress it.  Anyone know how to get rid of these annoying things?).  This is a tune where dancing hard and wild is just the ticket.  Go ahead and let loose….you deserve it.  Do you get summer hours where you work?