Tuesday, October 19, 2021

MERRY AUTUMN DAYS…

‘Tis pleasant on a fine spring morn

To see the buds expand; 

‘Tis pleasant in the summer time

To see the fruitful land;

‘Tis pleasant on a winter’s night

To sit around the blaze,

But what are joys like these, my boys,

To merry autumn days

We hail the merry autumn days,

When leaves are turning red;

Because they’re far more beautiful 

Than anyone has said,

We hail the merry harvest time,

The gayest of the year;

The time of rich and bounteous crops,

Rejoicing and good cheer.


~Charles Dickens~

Born Charles John Huffam Dickens 

February 7th,1812 - June 9th, 1870 



Dedicating this post to all our farmers, and to those who work very hard trying to keep the supply chain going.





Monday, October 18, 2021

MONDAY RECIPE POST - BUTTER CAKE

 

The first time I made this cake was in the wintertime, so my notes are from then.

  On Saturday afternoon, when the weather was so cold that I didn't feel like poking my nose outdoors, I declared it would be my baking day.  I found this recipe at "Just A Pinch" at this link.   Please go visit as it is always worth looking at the original recipe for any good tips I may not have shared, and besides that there are lots of other delicious recipes you can try.  The recipes are actually a collection from several good cooks. I am thinking of making it again for Easter.  I have a cute bunny cake plate that is ready and waiting.  

Butter Cake  -  Serves 10

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients:

3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup of buttermilk
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softend
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 eggs, room temperature

Butter Glaze:

1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar (white sugar, not powdered)
3 tablespoons water
1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract


Turn oven on to 325 degrees F.

Get your bundt pan, grease well with butter and add a couple of tablespoons of flour.  Roll the flour around until flour coats all the pan. Knock the excess out.  It is important not to skip these steps, otherwise your cake may stick.  

With an electric mixer combine the cake flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and mix to combine.

Add the buttermilk, butter, vanilla and almond extracts and eggs. Mix well.  Do not over do it, mix just until ingredients are combined.  It takes about three-and-a-half minutes but use your own judgement.  If you feel everything is mixed in properly then stop.

Pour into the prepared bundt pan.  

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour to 1-1/4 hours, or until tester comes out clean.   Mine took the longer time but oven heat varies. Another tip suggests checking after 50 minutes.


Glaze instructions:

Combine all the ingredients except the vanilla in a saucepan.  Bring to a slow boil over medium heat.  Stir in vanilla, set aside to slightly cool.  I started this process about 20 minutes before the cake was due to come out of the oven.  

Using your favorite oven mitts, carefully take the cake out of the oven and place bundt pan on a cooling rack.  While it is still hot and leaving the cake in the pan, pierce exposed cake all several times with fork tines or a bamboo skewer (I used a pointy chopstick).  Pour half the glaze slowly over the cake and let the glaze drip into those holes.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then unmold onto a cake plate.  

Pour the remaining glaze slowly over the cake.  Let cool and serve with fruit or ice cream and refrigerate any leftovers.  

Apparently the longer this cake sits and matures, the better it will be.

Notes:

If you don't have any cake flour there was a very clever substitution tip which produces great results.

Cake flour substitution: 

All-purpose flour (just under 1 cup)
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Place two tablespoons of cornstarch in a one-cup measure.

Fill the rest of the cup with all-purpose flour.

Use in place of the cake flour in any recipe.

One cup of substitute is equal to one cup of cake flour.





What did we think?  It came out beautifully and was a delicious cake.  I can see it will be a favorite to prepare for company.  The glaze alone was delectable, and I was very happy with the texture and taste.

I didn't have any ice-cream or fruit, but if I am going to prepare this for company, I would definitely dress it up with our favorite vanilla ice-cream and fresh strawberries. To be perfectly honest it can stand alone as is but looks prettier dressed up a little.

The almond taste isn't overpowering, very subtle, which was a big plus in our book

I decorated simply by putting raw almonds on the top at intervals.  They made a nice tasty nugget to eat with a slice. 

With any leftover cake, I cut into slices and individually wrapped for the freezer.  


Thanks for looking and have a great week!







Friday, October 15, 2021

GREEN SPRING GARDENS - PART 3 - 9-2-21

On this part of our walk we visited the children's garden.  Always worth a look.  

There was a compost display...

where youngsters can learn the reasons for composting and what materials to use...
with examples below.  I am not quite sure what the corks are for, whether there is a purpose or for decoration.  Perhaps a critter deterrent ?
The birdhouses are permanent fixtures.
Always good to see areas planted especially for the well being of butterflies and other pollinators. In this case particularly for Monarchs.
All very quiet...
and no breeze to send the whirligig flying.
Goldfinches have flown south for the winter, except for this one.
I have always liked these fence posts, such a cheerful display.
There have been programs for families and children where they can learn all things in the garden. Perhaps they have finished for the season?  Also trips are offered for all age groups to enjoy, and I found two left on their website.  One is to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on October 21st, and the other to Lewis Ginter's Gardenfest of Lights on December 7th.  Both these places are in Richmond, Virginia, about two to two-and-a-half hours away.
Another part of the children's garden is in a quiet corner at the back of the visitor center.  
I was curious about their signs.
A poem for you.


If words are seeds, 

let flowers grow 

from your mouth,

not weeds. 

If heart are gardens, 

plant those flowers

in the chest of the ones

who exist around you. 

The following two poems are written by children which I found online.  These creative young people were not from this area.  I left details off for privacy.

My Dream Garden Poem

2nd grade student

If I love gardens
Then I love animals too
I would put animals, plants and tree’s too
And I love gardens forever
I would add things everyday
And I am happy with my gardens

The Garden Rap

Look at my garden so

Big and bright. When the

Sun’s out it has light.

When it becomes night

It gives people a fright,

Then they get a nightlight.

I got a fountain and it

Looks like a mountain

Then people started pouting.

In our garden was a gnome

Next to our home

And our dog found

bone. We found a

Watering can next to

A man named Stan.

We found a rock on the

Shed’s lock. I hope you liked

Our garden rap but now it is

Time to take a nap.


All the benches in the garden are dedicated to 

 family, friends and all loved ones.  This is the first

 I have seen for a four-legged fur child.  

The yellow flower is called the Bitter sneezeweed,

 botanical name Helenium amarum.  It's other

 names are Sneezeweed, Bitterweed and Yellow

 sneezeweed.

The very first bouquet my Sweet Other Half ever gave me when we were newlyweds, contained the Peruvian Lily.  There are many hybrids and over 190 cultivars of Peruvian lily.  However, the great majority of them have one feature in common: no matter what their basic color, the tepals are striped and speckled with a darker color, giving the flower its characteristic look.  
As you may have guessed from its name, it is originally from Peru, the Peruvian mountains to be precise.  Its botanical name is Alstroemeria aurea and its other names are Lily of the Incas, Golden lily-of-the-incas and Inca lily.  This flower will always be my favorite, not only for its beauty but because of its great sentimental value.

A Bumblebee on Crested cockscomb.
The green in the center of the garden was very quiet.  I have often seen parents and children playing, sometimes throwing a football back and forth, or a baseball, kicking a soccer ball.  It's also a great place for a picnic.  
A better view of the map.
Isn't this a great shade tree?
One of the gardeners, maybe a volunteer, was hidden from view, weeding in a flower beds.  I saw the top of a straw hat as I walked by.  
A Common zinnia.  Botanical name Zinnia elegans.  Other names are Zinnia, Elegant zinnia, Youth-and-age, Wild Zinnia.  Its name was given in the memory of German botanist Johann Gottfried Zinn.  
The following is a Mexican zinnia, botanical name Zinnia haageana.  Other names are Haage zinnia, Orange zinnia, Narrow-leaved zinnia.  It is a native shrub from Mexico.  It has a rather sweet symbolism which means thinking of you, remembering absent friends and sentimentality.
The plant below is called the Princess flower.  Botanical name is Tibouchina urvilleana.  Its other names are Glory bush, Lasiandra, Pleroma, Purple glory tree.  It was past blooming but they produce beautiful purple flowers which you can see at this link. It is a native to Brazil and grows best in sunny areas and can climb trellises.  Because of its color it is commonly planted in royal gardens, hence the name Princess flower.  Its symbolism is actually royalty, elegance and healing.
That's all from this trip to Green Spring Gardens, and if you missed them, Part 1 and Part 2 can be found if you click on their links.  I never get tired of going there and like so many places we visit, there is always something new to see.

I found another post from a previous trip to this children's garden in 2017, which you can read here.  And if you don't mind reading in instalments there are many, many other posts to see if you click on the label "Green Spring Gardens_Alexandria_Virginia" below this post.

Thank you for coming with me to the garden.
Have a great weekend!








Thursday, October 14, 2021

GREEN SPRING GARDENS - PART 2 - 9-2-21

Continuing our visit to Green Spring Gardens, I have shared some of the flowers from my previous post, with the addition of a Tiger Swallowtail. There were many that day.  The Creeping Zinnia and Bluemist Flower I have shared before.

Next you can see the fruit of the Jujube. Jujube fruits are eaten fresh, dried, boiled, stewed and baked, and are used to flavor tea. 
They resemble Persian dates and when made into glacĂ© fruits by boiling in honey and sugar syrup, they resemble dates and are sometimes known as Chinese dates.  Juice obtained from the fruits is used in making small candies called jujubes.  The raw fruits are high in Vitamin C.  
Most are varieties of the common jujube (Z.jujuba), native to China, where they have been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. They have small yellow flowers followed by dark, brown, round to oblong fruits the size of small plums.
Cardoon (in the photo below and also shared in previous posts) is a type of thistle.  It tastes like a bitter version of a giant artichoke, and has small, prickly flower heads.  Unlike the artichoke, you eat the stems not the flower buds.  The edible part looks like a celery stalk.  The ones in my photo have all gone to seed.  I wish I had taken photos earlier when they showed their prettier version, but there's a certain beauty in these too.  It is a perennial that is planted in late January to February and harvested in early spring.
The next interesting flower is called the Klip dagga.  Its common names are Christmas candlestick, Bald bush and Lion's tail.  Botanical name is Leonotis nepetifolia.  Some of the stalks towered above my head and I read that it grows up to 10 feet.  It is native to tropical Central Africa and southern India.  The petal colors range from purple to orange to red.  The nectar has a sweet grapefruit taste, and many parts of this bitter plant have been used in traditional medicines. It likes full to partial sun and is moderately drought tolerant and prefers well-drained soils. 
I always enjoy looking at what is growing in the garden.  I wished that I could get closer but it has a tall, see-thru barricade.  To protect it from any hungry deer and other animals no doubt.  
We do have a good view of what is growing.  The pumpkins are the first thing that caught my attention.  There are lots of fruit trees in the garden also.   
I found a Skipper on a Mexican Sunflower.  Skippers remind me of a cross between between a butterfly and a moth.  
They are generally small but their wings have powerful muscles for such a tiny creature, and enables them to fly up to speeds of 20 miles per hour (30 km).   
A butterfly that I see a lot of in the warmer months is the Tiger Swallowtail, and it can be found from Canada to Mexico.  It is widespread and numerous in the wild and fortunately not on the endangered species list.  
Males have yellow wings covered with black stripes.  Borders of the wings are black with yellow spots.  Hind wings end with 2 black wing tails.  Females look just like males with additional blue markings on the hind wings.  Certain percent of females have completely brown or black wings with faint stripes.  
The Tiger swallowtail has a straw-like tube in the mouth which functions like a flexible tongue designed for the suction of liquids.  This is curled into a spiral when it is not in use.  They visit oregano, purple coneflowers, zinnias and the butterfly bush to extract nectar from the flowers.  It occasionally consumes juice extracted from the overripe fruit.  
They can be seen in the wild from February to November.  It has a wingspan of 4 to 5 inches, and usually moves by gliding through the air.  It can also lose one of its wing tails after a close encounter with a predator, and is still be able to fly. A female produces 2 to 3 broods in a lifecyle.  She lays yellowish-green, spherical eggs on wild cherry, tulip tree, white ash and sweet bay.  Leaves on these plants are a basic source of food for the caterpillars (larvae that hatch from the eggs).  Nests made of leaves and silk are used as shelter from predators.  The egg stage is generally from 4 to 10 days, depending on temperature and host plant.  The caterpillar (larval) stage is 3 to 4 weeks.  The Chrysalis (pupal) stage is 10-20 days (except for overwintering pupae) and the adult butterfly stage if 6-14 days.
There is an interesting website at this link telling us all about the Mexican Sunflower.  It has other common names, Tree marigold, Japanese sunflower, Nitobe chrysanthemum and its botanical name is Tithonia diversifolia.  I have taken several photos in previous posts from my visits to Green Spring Gardens.  It is a native to Mexico and other regions in Central America, but will readily grow in any tropical climate.  It has been used for cultural and culinary purposes in Japan, and as the regional flower in certain parts of Thailand and Vietnam.
Since writing this post we have made another visit to the garden a few days ago.  I was amazed at how many flowers were blooming.  We are very grateful to all the hardworking people who keep this garden going, not only the staff but all volunteers.  A lot of hard work but I would imagine a labor of love. 

You can see Part 1 and Part 3 if you click on their links.