Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I finally broke down this morning and pulled out the sprinklers to water the front lawn. I watered it really well for about an hour. Of course you know what that means. It started raining shortly after I put the sprinkler away, and we've had three good showers throughout the day.

My vegetables are certainly happy about it, even if I'm not thrilled with the timing. I've got beautiful Swiss chard, a teeny tiny yellow squash, two tomatoes, and a mini-bell pepper.

Now, call me crazy, but I don't love plain raw tomatoes. I adore them cooked in a sauce or in salsa or even chopped on a salad. When the first tomato ripens this season, I am going to slice it up, layer it with sliced mozzarella cheese and basil, then drizzle the whole thing with some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a little kosher salt, and some pepper. That's a caprese salad, and I think for me it will be the perfect celebration of the summer's first tomato.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hot June

The weather over the past two-and-a-half weeks has been HOT and DRY. We've either topped or have been close to 100F heat indexes every day. I've been caught in pop-up thunderstorms all over the state, but none at MY HOUSE. That means I've been busy watering my vegetable and herb gardens and my new plantings in the patio and azalea gardens, but I have not yet watered the front porch beds or the lawn. Well, today it looks like I'll have to. Lacecap hydrangea in the shady front bed and shasta daisies in my perennial bed are looking pretty awful. In the spring I planted hot pink geraniums, dark purple petunias, and white sweet alyssum in these pots on either side of the front door. I was really hoping that by the Fourth of July, they'd all be bursting with color, and I'd have a creative red-white-and-blue container. The alyssum did great for a while, but it hasn't put on any new blooms. Any suggestions on how to get it to put on more? It is the lacey plant in the front.

Happy Friday! I can't wait to get out in the yard tomorrow. I've got a few things on my list.

  • Replace lantana in the front porch bed. I FINALLY finished weeding and cleaning out the bed, and now I need new lantana plants. Can you believe I haven't been able to find ANY 'New Gold' lantana at the garden centers this year? WTH? Three years ago the garden centers were drowning in the stuff. All I can find this year is some no-label lantana that is lemon yellow. But I want 'New Gold'!
  • Pull up fennel plants. Again, they never made bulbs, just started producing a flower stalk once it got hot. This year is the last year I try fennel in the spring. It just doesn't work. I am going to try it this fall, but it seems I never have enough space for it in the fall.
  • Plant butternut squash 'Autumn Glow' and beans 'Burpee's Tenderpod' where fennel was.

As hot as it is supposed to be tomorrow (96F is the high, with a heat index well above 100F), I am sure that will be plenty!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Another Summer Salad

This week I pulled out another salad recipe from my summer arsenal. This recipe combines crusty wheat bread with feta cheese, basil, balsamic dressing, and tomatoes. The surprise in this recipe is the edamame. I clipped this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens quite a few years ago, and I have to admit that I didn't even try it until last summer. The combination of ingredients didn't really appeal to me at first. But out of necessity last summer to make something with some leftovers, I pulled out this recipe and gave it a try. I was so impressed! First of all, the feta, yogurt, and basil spread that goes on the bread is divine. I can eat it by itself with crackers. Then the sweet bite of the tomatoes and crunchiness of the beans really takes it up a notch. Definitely give this recipe a try soon!

3/4 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup Greek yogurt or plain low-fat yogurt
2 Tbsp. snipped fresh basil
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 12-oz. pkgs. frozen soybeans (edamame)
1-1/2 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed
1 recipe Balsamic Dressing, below
2 cups yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
12 slices crusty country bread, toasted
Fresh basil leaves

In bowl combine feta cheese and yogurt. Using fork mash into paste. Add basil and garlic, mash to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate, covered, up to 8 hours.
In saucepan bring 8 cups lightly salted water to boiling. Add soybeans and green beans; return to boiling. Reduce heat and cook, covered, 6 to 8 minutes or until tender. Drain; cool. Prepare Balsamic Dressing.
Add tomatoes to bean mixture. Drizzle 1/2 of dressing; toss to coat. Refrigerate, covered, up to 8 hours. Toss before serving.
Spread feta mixture on bread slices; place slice on serving plate; mound bean mixture on top. Drizzle remaining dressing; sprinkle basil.

Balsamic Dressing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons each balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
2 tablespoons whipping cream

In blender combine first 5 ingredients; blend until smooth. Add cream; blend to mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Cocktails

On Sunday night, Chip made us two yummy, warm-weather cocktails. For me, a Pink Salty Dog. For himself, a Blackberry-Mint Julep. Both recipes I'd clipped from Martha Stewart a few years ago.
My salty dog was so delicious! It reminded me of a grapefruit flavored margarita. I didn't try the julep because I'm not really a fan of bourbon, but Chip said it was delicious, too.

Summer Salads

This week I've made two of my favorite summer salads, and I thought I'd share my recipes.


1/4 cup water
1/4 cup cream of coconut
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp poppy seeds
6 cups baby spinach
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
2 cups cubed fresh pineapple
1 banana, sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

For dressing, in a small bowl whisk together water, cream of coconut, lemon juice, mustard, ginger, and poppy seeds. Cover and refrigerate the dressing until cool. To serve, toss together spinach, strawberries, pineapple, and banana with the dressing until coated. Sprinkle with almonds. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


1/2 cup lime juice
2 Tbsp honey
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
3 Tbsp snipped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
6 fresh ears of corn, husked, and cleaned
4 cups baby spinach
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
3/4 cup seeded chopped cucumber

In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice and honey until well combined. Stir in jalapeño pepper, cilantro, and salt. Carefully cut corn kernels off cobs. Add to lime juice mixture. Add spinach, tomato, and cucumber, and toss to combine. Serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

I made the Corn Salad on Sunday and served it with Mark Bittman's Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce grilled in a cast iron grill skillet in the house. It was way to hot to cookout on Sunday! Then, I made the Strawberry Salad on Monday. I think I clipped both of these salad recipes from Better Homes and Gardens magazine a few years ago. For the strawberry salad, you could definitely use canned pineapple and store bought poppy seed dressing to make a super easy side salad. The corn salad is a fantastic side with Tex-Mex or Mexican food. It is one of my very favorite salads and is a great way to use fresh corn, tomatoes, and cucumbers from the veggie garden or the farmers' market.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chip and Lisa at Wormsloe Plantation in Savannah

I just noticed I didn't post any photos of me and Chip from the Savannah trip. Well, here are a couple from the set. Fun times.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Signs of Summer

I had a great day on Saturday working on one of the "bad and ugly" spots in my backyard. I'm about 70% done, and I can't wait to finish up this project and show everyone my accomplishments in this section of the garden! In order to finish it fully, I've got to wait for fall so I can divide some massive daylilies that were needing to be divided 2 years ago. I do love dividing plants. How cool is it to start with one big plant and end up with two, three, or four little plants that will grow into big plants?! I think it is GREAT.

Part of my "bad and ugly" rehaul this Saturday consisted of dividing four ornamental grasses (variety t.b.d.) into ten clumps, planting two 'Tropicanna' cannas, dividing two agapanthus (a.k.a. Lily of the Nile, 'Ellamae' variety) into 6 plants with some babies that I will try to root.

A couple weekends ago, I moved 3 junpiers. Two of them never took to the new spot, so I pulled them out and planted three new junipers in their place. Then, I remembered that I had two blue oat grasses drowning under all those daylilies, so I moved those, too. The oat grasses reseed freely, so I am hoping that they'll take off in their new spot. I have lots of space for them to fill.

During all of this work (oh, my aching back!), a nice rain shower came through to cool things off. I was working in the rain under a big oak tree, but then I started to get soaked, ran under the porch, and watched the storm pass. I started working in the yard around 9 AM and before I knew it, it was 3:30 PM and I hadn't had a bite to eat. I was really "in the zone"!

On Sunday it was pretty dang hot, but Chip manned the grill for a cookout and pool party with our friends. I made my fish tacos with baked fish, grilled pork tacos from a Rick Bayless recipe, and Chip made grilled banana splits! Everything was so good. It really feels like summer is here.

My perennial corner in the front garden is saying summer is here, too. Just this morning one yellow gladiolus and one shasta daisy ('Becky' variety) have opened up. It won't be long before this area is full of color. Last week, the echinacea popped open, too. This variety is called 'Sundown'.
And my mother-in-law brought me a cupcake and this gorgeous vinca because I'd had a tough week. Isn't she sweet?!
Happy Monday, y'all! Have a good week.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Vine Borer Battle Continues

This evening I found four holes in three of my squash plants and orangey sawdust stuff coming from the holes. After all my searching for and squishing vine borer eggs, I guess a few still hatched and ate their way into my plants. I extracted the icky worms and smooshed them. They were tiny, not even half the size of a pencil eraser.

One of the plants didn't need much repair at all, but two others needed major surgery. I washed out the holes, staked the plants, and mounded soil around the wounds. I need to keep a good watch over them because they are blooming, and that means I'm only a few weeks away from squash!

Some of my Swiss chard is ready this week, and I'm planning to cook a new dish with the chard, garbanzo beans, and feta cheese. If it turns out good, I'll post the recipe.

Who else out there is happy that we have a short work week? I know I am!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A Long Weekend In Savannah, Georgia

When my friends Casey, Leah, and I get together, we always have a great time. We had a wonderful weekend at Casey's house in Birmingham back in 2008. Casey and Leah both got married last year, so we decided this year we would include our husbands in the "girls' weekend". This year Casey was gracious enough to have us meet up at her house again, this time in Savannah, Georgia.

Chip and I met up with the crew on Saturday morning and had a delightful lunch at Back in the Day Bakery. I had a ham and grueyere sandwich on rosemary ciabatta slathered with sweet butter. It really hit the spot after the drive in from Atlanta. We headed down to the River Street historic district where we shopped, drank Sweet Water 420 drafts, walked around, people watched, and chatted. The weather was perfect: breezy, not too hot and no chill in the air.

Saturday night Casey cooked dinner for all of us. She made a fabulous dish of roasted cornish hens stuffed with a wheat bread, ricotta, rosemary, and sausage stuffing. It was so delicious - seriously good! As if we weren't wowed enough, she plated it with roasted asparagus and arugula salad. It was divine. After much talking and wine, Casey whipped up some cream to top off pound cake with fresh strawberries and peaches. After dinner, the boys puffed on cigars on the deck and the girls watched a chick flick. So fun!

On Sunday we slept late and chilled before our 6 pm date with a kayak tour guide! Casey called and hooked us up with a guide from PaddleFish. I was pumped about the possibility of seeing dolphins and everyone else seemed to be excited about getting on the water, too.

Literally 3 minutes after we all got in the water, some dolphins came right up to the marina and really put on a show. I don't know how I didn't get any pictures! I guess I was just in awe of seeing them, and forgot all about getting photos. Two dolphins jumped in & out of the water and swam near the marina for a good 10 minutes. It was great!

After we saw the dolphins, we really had to dig in to make it to the tidal creek - the tide was coming in as we were paddling down river and the wind was blowing into our faces. Once we made it to the creek though, we had a nice slow paddle. And the paddle back was even easier. All we had to do was ride the tide in and paddle a stoke here and there to keep straight.

Michael, Leah, and Chip


Casey and Michael

Our group on the tidal creek

Sun setting on the river

Michael. Casey, Leah, and Brian

After some beers and dinner at Tubby's Tank House, we headed to a ghost tour of downtown Savannah. But this tour was special. We all hopped into the back of a hearse and listened to the guide tell us chilling stories about many of the haunted places in Savannah.

I am so lucky to have such good friends! We had a great time catching up and sharing some of the things we love to do. I can't wait to do it again next year!