Friday, August 30, 2013

Fall Berries

I'm kind of obssessed with the berries on my kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) tree. The other day I was looking out my kitchen window and was astonished to see just how many berries there are and that almost all have turned red.  It really flowered profusely this spring, so I shouldn't be surprised at the berries. And it's like it happened overnight--well, not really, but it does seem like they turned red quickly. I looked up the fruit online and apparently the berries are edible--they make delicious wine and jam!  Who knew. The fruit is supposedly sweet and creamy, and the redder the berry and the more berries on the tree,  the sweeter the fruit.  Hmm, I guess I am going to have to try a few of those berries.

There are tons of berries on the back of the tree, too, that haven't turned red yet. Really, it's incredible how many berries there are. I have noticed that my kousa blooms well every other year. I can find no explanation for this, but it is like clockwork.  I am going to have to watch to see what happens next year.

And as evidence for this, here is a page from my garden journal for last summer--2012--No kousa flowers!

I also like the fruit on my Japanese snowbell tree (Styrax japonica). Not quite as showy, but still pretty. I love the creamy green color.

And here are two pictures of these trees from May, when they were in their blooming glory. You can see the immature berries in the flowers. These are both beautiful trees.

Kousa dogwood

Snowbell tree

Thursday, August 29, 2013


My library book group read Canada for a discussion last night and I was pleasantly surprised that so many people liked the book. I found it kind of slow moving, there's really not much of a plot as you learn most of what is going to happen in the book in the first sentences of the first chapter.  "First,  I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later." It is the story of 15-year-old Dell Parsons, whose parents make the unfortunate decision to rob a bank to pay off a debt, and are sent to prison, leaving Dell  and his twin sister Berner abandoned and alone, and the family torn apart forever.  After a few days on their own, Berner runs away to California, and Dell is taken by his mother’s friend across the border to Canada, where he lives for a short time in Saskatchewan province with some shady characters.   The book is divided into three parts--his life with his family in Great Falls, Montana, and when the robbery takes place, the short period when he lives in Saskatchewan, and 50 years later, when an older Dell is looking back on his life. I liked the first part the best and felt the second part was too long and slow.  The strength of the book is Dell's voice,  telling the story and describing the setting, and his feelings about a life gone astray and what happens next.

When I got to the end of the book, I thought the very last sentences pretty much summed up the book and how Dell made sense of his world.

“What I know is, you have a better chance in life—of surviving it—if you tolerate loss well;  manage not to be a cynic through it all; to subordinate, as Ruskin implied, to keep proportion, to connect the unequal things into a whole that preserves the good, even if admittedly good is often not simple to find. We try, as my sister said. We try. All of us. We try."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Obsessed With Wardian Cases

Image via Pinterest

One of these days I am going to get myself a Wardian Case. I keep browsing Pinterest and online, searching for just the perfect one. I would really like a freestanding one, like the one above, but maybe the tabletop ones are more practical?  I would love to plant mine with some ferns, mosses, and begonias. I can tell summer is coming to an end because I am getting interested in house plants again. My sister had an interesting ruffled fern at her house and now I may have to look for that...

Antique Wardian Case,  Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pottery Barn
The case below is one I always look for when we visit the U.S. Botanic Gardens in D.C.  They move it around and change it up periodically so you have to hunt for it. But I always find it and I always start thinking about Wardian cases again.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Weekend on Lake Erie

Sunset on Lake Erie

We went to visit my sister Linda and brother-in-law Rich in Cleveland this weekend and had a great time at their home on Lake Erie. It was an absolutely perfect weekend, sunny and warm, and the lake was clear and calm. The best part was seeing the whole family, all their kids and grandkids, and we had some wonderful meals, of course.  I think we ate every meal outside on the patio or deck. When we got there on Friday, Linda and Rich had clams and shrimp ready to grill, along with some delicious pasta. Yummo. Those clams were delicious! A few of the kids also stopped by that night to say hello.

So pretty

Clams on the grill

My great niece, Emily

On Saturday night, we had my Aunt Peggy and Uncle Tom over for dinner. My aunt Peggy is my mom's sister and we have always been close to their family. She just turned 92 and it was so great to see them both, and enjoy such a lovely evening on the lake.

Linda and me with Aunt Peggy

Rich and Aunt Peggy

Uncle Tom talking to Walt

Color in the garden--those hydrangeas are gorgeous

Coffee on the deck

Linda's pots

My sister is a gardener too and they have a really lovely yard. They have lots of shade so they grow a lot of hostas, hydrangeas, daylilies,  and use annuals to fill in with color.

Shady gardens

Morning on the beach

My sister Linda

On Sunday all my nieces and nephews and their kids came over for a beach day, apparently one of the best days they have had all summer. The kids got the boat out on the lake, the jet ski, kayaks, paddle boards, and rafts. We all just floated in the lake on rafts all afternoon, only getting out to have a beer and sit on the sand with our feet in the lake. Nice way to live. We had a summer turkey dinner with two turkeys roasted on the grill, fresh corn, Linda's purple coleslaw, broccoli rice, and rolls. My niece Kirsten is the dessert maker and she outdid herself with ice cream pies, with a rice crispie and peanut butter crust, a layer of hot fudge, then filled with toffee ice cream. A dollop of hot fudge on top.  Delish.  I think we finished up 3 pies--not hard to do with 25 people. It was so nice to have a summer weekend on Lake Erie.

Great day on the lake

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Beautiful Morning

My favorite kind of morning--a steady rain during the night, cooler temps this morning, and beautiful light,  a perfect time for a walkaround and a cup of tea in the garden. Things are starting to wind down in the garden, but the asters and sedums are starting to show color, letting me know that fall is on its way.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The View From Penthouse B

This latest book by Elinor Lipman is a great summer read--light and with just enough of a story to keep you interested. But it is the characters you will love in this book. Two New Yorkers,  sisters 'of a certain age,' are both faced with different kinds of loss and must deal with the many issues of loss, aging, forgiveness, change, and romance. Margot loses her husband to a scandal (her fertility doctor husband was a tad too helpful to his patients) and then loses her money to Bernie Madoff, and younger sister Gwen loses her husband to an early heart attack. Fortunately Margot owns  her Greenwich Village apartment and so she invites Gwen to move in with her to help pay the bills. They soon take in a boarder, Anthony,  an unemployed former financial analyst in his 20s who likes to bake cupcakes, along with a few other random people who move in and out. After Margot's paroled husband get outs of prison, he too moves into a basement apartment in the building, causing lots of angst. All push to get a reluctant Gwen back into the dating scene.  There is nothing deep here, just some quirky characters trying to cope with their changing lives amid a busy Manhattan setting. Very readable and humorous, I found myself laughing out loud at times.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nitsa Time

Nitsa visited us this weekend on her way home from the beach. She stopped here last week on her way down to Nags Head, and then again on her way back,  and stayed an extra day to visit.  We have been friends since at least 1980 when she was working at the same place as Walt, and she and I became fast friends. We used to spend a lot of weekends together at a friend's cabin on the Shenandoah River back in the day.  We had our girls within a few months of each other and our families shared many dinners and holidays until she moved away to upstate New York. So I don't get to see her very much anymore, but when I do, we have the best time. We went out to dinner, had some delicious Nutella donuts for dessert, drank some wine, spent a good part of the day at IKEA, and on Sunday made a summer dinner of teriyaki pork chops,  along with Armenian Country Salad. Readers--Nitsa is the original maker of Armenian Country Salad! The first time I had that salad was at Nitsa's house back in the 1980s, and it has been a favorite of ours ever since. I can't even think how many times I have made it. The perfect summer salad.  So fun to be with my pal Nitsa again.

Nutella donut
And I can't forget to mention what Nitsa always brings me from upstate New York! My own box of black and white cookies--yummo.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Fleurs

"The garden is where I go to for refuge and shelter. Not the house."
 ~ Elizabeth von Armin, English writer



'Black and Blue' Salvia

Anemones, Phlox, Zinnias, Coreopsis

'Limelight' Hydrangea