Monday, June 30, 2008

White Flower Challenge - Final Day

Citrus, lemon

Lemon tree very pretty with the lemon flower so sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat....

Actually the fruit of the lemon is valued in many cuisines. We especially like to use them for roasting meats, desserts, and lemon sauce for chicken paillards. But our favorite use for lemons is lemoncello. I looked through my old posts and can't find the recipe. I'm so sorry I haven't posted it yet! Here it is, from my dear neighbor Emil:
15 thick skinned lemons, not Meyer
2 bottles 100 proof Vodka (750 Ml each)
4 1/2 cups sugar
5 cups water
Wash lemons in hot water. Remove peel with a vegetable peeler. Don't get any of the white part. Put peels in a 4 quart glass jar. Add one bottle of vodka and stir. Cover and label with date. Put to rest in a dark cabinet at room temperature for 40 days. I know this sounds like forever, but trust me - IT'S WORTH IT!
After 40 days boil the sugar and water in a sauce pan for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes, then add to lemon/vodka mixture. Also add the second bottle of vodka. Label with date and put back in dark cabinet for another 40 days.
At the end of that 40 days, remove and discard lemon peels, strain into clean bottles, store in dark cabinet. Put one bottle in the freezer for use.
To serve; pour semi-frozen lemoncello into a straight sided tiny glass and serve after a meal. It's like a little taste of summer. Cent'anni!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

WFC - Day 29

Centranthus ruber 'albus'

Valerian, Jupiter's Beard

This plant grows like a weed here in my garden. The seeds are fluffy dandelion-like
things that float all around and sprout easily. Thankfully the seedlings are recognizable and can be pulled out before they get too big. It comes in shades of pink too. A great plant for any cottage garden.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

WFC - Day 28

Campanula medium

Canterbury Bell

I bet you thought I'd forgotten about my White Flower Challenge. No such luck. I have only three more days, and I'm gonna go the distance!

This is Canterbury Bells, I think. Please someone who knows, let me know if I'm right. I got three tiny little plants at the nursery a few years ago. I planted them and kind of forgot about them, then the next spring they really took off. They grew to be 5' tall with huge stalks of purple, lavender, and white bells. They keep self sowing so I never know where they'll be next. The big black bees just love them and get completely lost in the large blossoms. They always make me laugh when I see them emerge covered in pollen.

As everyone knows, California has hundreds of wild fires burning right now. Consequently, our skies have been a dirty gray for over a week. The rising sun yesterday looked like a pink marshmallow. And the temperatures seem cooler. I know I shouldn't be happy about this, but it's making my flowers really happy, so I'm kind of happy too. Usually by this time of year, my garden is suffering from the dry heat, but right now everything is looking pretty good. Hopefully the skies will clear soon and we'll be back to normal. I just hope the cool temperatures remain.

Pink Saturday #3

Teen1 and Teen2 have been tie-dying things this summer. They had some items hanging on the clothesline the other day in the afternoon sun. These pink colors attracted my eye. What fun tie-dying is!

Friday, June 27, 2008

WFC - Day 27

Trachelospermum jasminoides

Star Jasmine

We have a fence along our driveway covered with this vine. It creates a well behaved green wall most of the year, but in June it explodes with millions of fragrant flowers. It makes a pleasant greeting when getting out of the car, but must be shaved regularly to keep it in check.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Taken about 1985. This is the Larry I'll always remember; clever, fun loving, young at heart.

Our local sign industry lost a legend Tuesday night when Larry passed away. His career spanned 60 years, from the days of mixing white lead and linseed oil to computerized sign making. He loved to tell funny stories about the old days, but he lived in the present and looked to the future. His passion for the industry showed in many ways; not least his interest in teaching young people the craft.

Meeting Larry in 1974 was one of the best things that ever happened to me. As the shop foreman, he encouraged me to move from the office to the shop and mentored me for several years. He introduced me to quills, calligraphy, letterstyles and ligatures. He instilled in me the dedication to make well designed, legible signs. He was a constant in my life for many happy years there at my first job. When he started his own business I was one of his first employees, but then I started my own company and we drifted apart for a while.

When Larry retired in 1994, he came to me for a job and worked with me for almost 14 years. He was always ready to help with a design, offer advice, or just talk about current events. Larry could never really retire; he was too much of a people person. He had lifelong friends from every walk of life and looked forward to each day as an opportunity to build relationships. He will be sadly missed by his many many friends, his large family, and one little lady sign painter.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

WFC - Day 25


Tears for Larry; my employee, my friend, my mentor.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

White Flower Challenge - Day 24

Pandorea jasminoides

Bower vine

We were driving back from BevMo the other night when I spotted this vine. Barely a block from my house, and I'd never noticed it before! It looked like a trumpet vine to me, but my book said they only come in orange, so I checked the section on vines, and there it was.

Its family, Bignoniaceae, includes tropical vines like all the trumpet vines and cape honeysuckle, plus trees like calabash, catalpa, and jacaranda, and some really weird plants like the candle tree and the sausage tree.

Monday, June 23, 2008

White Flower Challenge - Day 23

Bellis perennis

English Daisy

I returned the park of my childhood for this white flower. As a child I used to gather these and make daisy chain necklaces and bracelets. So I sat right down on the damp grass and made a daisy chain bracelet.
It seemed like there were a lot more of these in lawns when I was a kid. Now one rarely sees them. Maybe because of all those daisy chain necklaces?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

White Flower Challenge - Day 22

Convolvulus arvensis

Bindweed, Wild Morning Glory

Here is another weed I found in the field Friday. Although it has a pretty flower, it is generally considered one of California's worst weeds. It's habit of twining and spreading quickly builds an extensive root system which easily withstands most half-hearted weeding techniques. And the seeds can lay dormant for 50 years! So, if you have it, keep digging the roots out and if all else fails, use soil solarization to kill it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Second Pink Saturday

I like pink a lot, so I have lots of pink things to choose from for my second Pink Saturday. Here is a little silk purse that holds my Mom's pearls. She gave them to me when I turned 50. She gave them to me because when I was a baby I grabbed at them and broke the strand. They went flying everywhere, but thankfully they were gathered and restrung.

I love cranberry glass and have a few pieces. Here is a cranberry glass vase that my sister gave to me. Actually, she gave it to Teen1 when she was about 4 months old, and I suppose I'll give it to her someday, but for now I think of it as mine.
And here is a scarf I bought in Paris. It was so cold that spring we thought we'd freeze! And as we were driving back from Giverny, it even snowed! I really needed that scarf and when I wear it every winter, I think back on that fun trip.

White Flower Challenge - Day 21

Daucus carota
Queen Anne's Lace, wild carrot

On the way back from the marina today, I stopped to take some photos of weeds in the farm fields. I think this is Queen Anne's lace, which isn't native to California, but has naturalized quite well.
It has umbels of tiny white flowers and leaves that look just like carrot leaves. So what do you think, is it Queen Anne's lace?

I'm getting desperate for white flowers now. Everywhere I go I'm craning my neck to check for them. I hope I can make it nine more days!

Friday, June 20, 2008

White Flower Challenge - Day 20

Chrysanthemum maximum

Shasta Daisy

Daisies are related to sunflowers, asters, coneflowers, dandelions, and chrysanthemums. The flower center is made up of hundreds of tiny disk florets which produce the seeds. They are arranged in a beautiful swirling pattern that has some complicated mathmatical formula, I'm sure. But I think I'll just enjoy them for their beauty. The disk florets are surrounded by the ray florets, what we think of as the petals.

Below you can see the individual florets. All this in a simple daisy. Isn't nature amazing?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

White Flower Challenge - Day 19



Oregano is in the mint family(Lamiaceae); related to basil, sage, lavender and thyme. The tiny white flowers appear between bracts. The bees love them, but don't stay long at each tiny flower, making photos of them difficult.

For the best flavor, one shouldn't allow the plant to flower, but I always do because I like to share with the bees. But I keep one plant trimmed and use that for cooking. Here is one of my favorite recipes that uses oregano. I posted about it in November.

Braised Fennel and White Beans

1 medium fennel (also called anise) bulb, trimmed, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4" slices (about 3 cups)

1 medium red onion, halved lengthwise and cut lengthwise into 1/4" slices (about 2 cups)

1 can (15oz) white beans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, plus a handful of whole leaves for garnish

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon butter

Heat the oil in a heavy saute pan over med-hi heat. Add fennel and onion, and cook stirring occasionally until tender and edges are brown, about 10 minutes.

Add beans, stock, chopped oregano, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced by about half, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in vinegar and butter, put in serving bowl, garnish with oregano leaves.

This recipe can easily be doubled, but everything takes a little longer. In fact, we usually double it because the leftovers are so popular.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

White Flower Challenge - Day 17

Myrtus communis

I went by the park early this morning to take photos of the myrtle and look what I saw. There was a group of retirees gathered around the duck ponds feeding the ducks. They were chatting away having a grand time, visiting and enjoying the ducks. I thought it was so cute.
And the ducks were cute too. There were several baby ducks following along behind their Moms.

But back to the myrtle bush. It is a Mediterranean native and is commonly used as a seasoning. The leaves have a pungent aroma not unlike rosemary. It can make a large tree-like shrub with age. These have been here by the ponds for many years. I remember seeing them when I was a kid. Sometime I'll do a post on this particular park where I spent so many happy hours as a child; swimming, visiting the museum, making myself dizzy on the merry-go-round, winding the May Pole, and visiting the rose garden. Happy, happy days.

Monday, June 16, 2008

White Flower Challenge - Day 16


Mock Orange

When we moved to this neighborhood 11 years ago, I had never seen this plant. It lives in a semi-wild area across the street that we call the jungle. It's really a 25'x 75' densely landscaped strip that hides a neighbor's fence along their back garden. But it has lots of interesting plants and provides cover for the critters that scurry through our neighborhood. The oleander from Day 5 lives in the jungle too.

When this plant bloomed with its heavenly scent, I got my Sunset Western Garden Book and searched until I discovered Mock Orange. (Since I started the White Flower Challenge, I've had that same book on my desk every day.) The book says the flowers have four petals, but this plant's flowers have both four and five petals. The scent is wonderful and I usually make a bouquet at least once, even though the petals soon fall.