Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Am I Ready for Summer Gardening? Maybe

     Normally around the first of June I discard all the winter annuals and replace them with hardier ones that I know will thrive in our desert summers. That includes the geraniums.  Geraniums do so well here in Fall, Winter, and Spring but become spindly  and unsightly when the temperatures start to soar.  They just don't want to bloom during our three digit summers.  All the low-desert gardening experts say to just get rid of them and plant new in the fall, so usually I do.  But this year they really outdid themselves in my front planter box,  and even though I know what they'll look like in a few months, I just can't bear to toss them.  So.....I'm moving them to my shaded patio  to try and squeeze a few more weeks from them.  You can't blame me for trying, can you?

     I  tend to roll with the punches where my garden is concerned now, unlike the first  couple of years we lived here in Phoenix.....I was in garden culture shock!  So many things were different! But I've learned now to appreciate those differences, and  I've found that with a little ingenuity I can grow things year round. Gotta love it!

     The potato vines have been amazing.  I planted them last summer and here we are almost a year later and they're doing great. Now that I've found them they are definitely going to be a staple around here.  As you can see, I've already started to clear away in the front  to make room for the little toughies that will hold down the fort until September.

     In the backyard the red Oleander bush has burst into bloom and is already topping out at 7 feet. It totally fills up the southwest corner at the fence. I really won't have to think about it much at all this summer.....I just get to enjoy it!  When the temperatures get to be over 110 degrees,  any plant that can take responsibility for itself is a beautiful plant!

     Then there's my favorite climbing rose "Golden Showers". Roses have to be babied a bit to keep them blooming in our heat, but I think they're totally worth it......especially troopers like this one!

     So I'm off to the garden center this weekend and will surely run into other gardeners who are determined, like myself, to have some color even under the hottest of circumstances. We won't be able to duplicate the easy-going successes we've had during the other seasons, but we are, evidently, willing to try.

Optimistically Yours,

Today I'm linking to:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Simple Strawberry Banana Sheet Cake

      I have a confession to make. It's about my family (hangs head in shame). What is it you ask?  I know you want to know 'cause don't we all like a good confession every now and again?  Okay I'll quit stalling......we have a dessert in "we want dessert with every meal". Yep, if we could justify it, we'd all throw caution to the wind and have something luscious every night. Oh, and let's not forget a little something after lunch too.  Maybe it's just me, but I think for anyone who really likes to cook, doesn't it just look so nice and seem so right to put a delicious dessert in your daily menu plans? 

     Reason prevails most of the time in our family, thankfully, and we suck it up and have only the occasional dessert after dinner.  I think most families are doing the same thing. Still, that doesn't mean you don't WANT something more often, does it?  Obviously finding lighter versions of the originals (when you can find a really good one) is part of the answer. Smaller portions are always an option too. Hubby and son don't seem to like this option very much. Obviously there's no easy answer. I'd like to tell you I found the answer but I haven't.

     I have, though, found at least one little idea that seems to be working for my family. I've started making sheet cakes. It seems there are several definitions of what a sheet cake actually is, but here's my take on it. I took a standard cake recipe from a favorite old cookbook and adapted it (actually that means I experimented with it) using bananas and strawberries that I had on hand. The difference was that I decided to bake it in a very large cookie sheet....and when I say large I mean large (12x18). It turned out great and the best part was that I actually got 24 pieces from it. We had 3 slices for dessert that night, I saved another 3 in the fridge for later in the week, and I froze (unfrosted)  the rest in 2 packages of 6 each for another time. This kept the cake safely tucked away in the freezer instead of on the counter in the glass cake keeper. Out of sight, out of mind.  

     Obviously the slices are thinner, but very generous. No complaining at all from the guys about little pieces. I topped it with the Strawberry Cream Cheese frosting right before I served it. It turned out to be an incredibly moist cake.....good warm from the oven, reheated, or straight from the fridge. I've since made several versions, including an absolutely delicious orange version along with a chocolate one. Those recipes will be coming up real soon so be watching for them!

Strawberry Banana Sheet Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
Mashed strawberries/bananas to equal 2 cups
4 oz orange juice
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 12x18 inch baking sheet (the kind with a lip) by spraying liberally with a cooking spray. In mixing bowl combine all ingredients and mix for 3 minutes on low speed. Pour batter onto baking sheet and bake for 23 to 25 minutes.  It is okay to go ahead and frost while cake is still warm. Makes 24 slices.

Strawberry Banana Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
1/4 cup orange juice
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla flavoring
Mashed strawberries/bananas to equal one cup
2 cups powered sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a medium mixing bowl using a hand mixer,  blend the cream cheese, orange juice, salt, and vanilla until smooth. Add the fruit and mix another minute or so. Finally, add the powdered sugar a little at a time until you get the consistency you want. If you need to you can even add more orange juice if you like. I wanted it to be a spoonable consistency rather than a spreadable one but either would be good. This frosting will keep in the fridge, covered, for about 2 weeks.  


Friday, April 6, 2012

The Last of the Oranges

During the winter months here in the desert we are blessed with an abundance of fresh backyard oranges.  Which means, naturally, that we have fresh squeezed orange juice almost daily. In my book, there's nothing better!  We have, however, just used the last ones, so I found myself scouring the ads this afternoon looking for deals from the grocers.....something I have not had to do for a while.

Right before Christmas we bought and planted yet another citrus for the yard. It's a Trovita Orange, a juicing orange, and is supposed to be a particularly sweet orange in our climate.  Evidently in this case the warmer the climate the sweeter the orange.*It's supposed to make a very good patio tree and can be brought into the house to overwinter in colder climates. It's a late producer too so in the coming years we won't run out until later into the Spring.  Which will be a very good thing.

Obviously we will have no oranges on this tree this year, but the last week or so it has began to burst forth with dozens of the most heavenly smelling orange blossoms!  Since it is planted right behind our backyard swing, it is making for the most delightful of afternoons.  My family sometimes finds it amusing that I like to take a nap outdoors. But to my way of thinking, "who wouldn't? ".......not with this kind of stuff going on out there!  Right? 

Hope you're enjoying your Spring!

I am linking up with:
Outdoor Wednesday @ A Southern Daydreamer
Feathered Next Friday @ French Country Cottage
Fertilizer Friday @ Tootsie Time
Friendly Friday Blog Hop @  The Clumsy Coquette
Friday Follow Over 40 @ Never Growing Old
Todays Flowers @ Flowers From Today

Friday, September 23, 2011


Not that I don't love summer....I's just that the desert summers can seem sooooo  long! So today, at least on the calendar, it's official. Fall is here. The weather is even cooperating a little, providing us with some deliciously cooler mornings!  So let's get this party started with a video of one of my favorite singers, Diana Krall and some gorgeous autumn foilage.  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dynamite Autumn Combo Cookie..Peanut Butter and M & M's !n

Since I've had quite a few requests for the big cookies recipe I mentioned here in my Autumn Meal post I thought I'd share them finally.  On a recent Facebook post  I said I was "Autumnizing" my house....making it look and smell like Autumn on the INSIDE even though the temps were still over 100 on the OUTSIDE! It does take some creativity and quite a bit of imagination but it is worth it. This time of year goes by so fast, and as one of my friends pointed out, it will be Christmas (and 2012) before we know it! It's amazing how quickly  time seems to pass....especially once we get into this last part of the year. 

So I took the time late this afternoon to make these cookies just because I felt like it....and nothing can make a home smell better than the smell of cookies in the oven.   Like most good cookie recipes these take very little time....don't you love that about cookies? This is a conglomeration of recipes I've seen over the years that I've tweaked to just the way I like it.....but it's very forgiving and can be played with even more. Gotta warn you though, this version is pretty darn good! Make a batch or two and see if you don't get some instant love going on at your house.

Monster M&M Peanut Butter Cookies



2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter

 1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup peanut butter (crunchy preferred but smooth is fine)
1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar
2 eggs (beaten)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups M&M's (divided)

Step #1: Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the baking soda, baking powder, and salt with the flour.......sifting it all together is a great way to do a large mixing bowl and set aside. Combine the next ingredients in the mixing bowl of your stand mixer, or in the bowl you use for mixing with your hand-held mixer.

Step #2: Using your electric mixer (or it can be done by hand) beat the butter, shortening, and the peanut butter until nice and smooth. Add white sugar and brown sugar and beat until well blended.

Step #3: Add the eggs one at a time....mix a little between each addition....then mix in vanilla.

Step #4: Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time mixing each time until well blended.

Step #5: Fold 3/4 cup of the M&M's into the batter, distributing it as evenly as possible.

Step #6: For really big cookies, scoop out dough using a heaping Tablespoon measure and drop balls onto a cookie sheet. Or actually use a bigger measure to make gigantic ones if you like. Be aware that if you use the Tablespoon measure you should only bake 6 or 8 cookies at a time so they will not run into each other.....even fewer if making the super large ones. If you use a teaspoon measure you can bake a dozen at a time as in most recipes. With a fork dipped in granulated sugar,  flatten each ball slightly making a criss-cross pattern on each.

Step #7: Top each batch of unbaked cookies with remaining M&Ms. Bake in the oven about 9-10 minutes for chewy cookies or 11-12 minutes for crispy. After letting them sit for a minute or two remove the cookies from the baking pan with a spatula. Let cool on rack.

HINT: As with all cookies take them out of the oven right before they look done to you. They will continue to bake for a short time after they are removed! Experiment with each cookie recipe you bake to get them just the way you and your family likes them!


Today I'm linking to these fabulous sites:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

From Our House to Yours, Happy Fourth of July!

Due to a series of events last week, it turns out that we are spending the Independence Day Holiday at home this year.  Actually this is fine with me.....I love to travel and I love to go to special events.....but I like to stay at home as well.  I'm pretty easy that way.

Waiting on the counter for tomorrow are some fresh fruits and veggies that we'll be eating with some traditional BBQ. We couldn't wait....had to cut the watermelon this was calling to us.  Turns out to be the best one so far this season.

We're also having to use some self control with the bowl of strawberries.....okay, actually we have no self control when it comes to these and have eaten quite a few of these already since I took the picture this afternoon. They're very hard to resist, so why not?

I also made a jar of sun tea this afternoon and now have it chilling in the fridge.  Does anyone else like to have a big cold glass of sweet iced tea for breakfast in the summertime?  I grew up in the South and iced tea goes with any meal, right?

Jim or Christopher are usually the ones who man the barbecue  in the family, while I make the sides. I've had my copy of The Summer Book by Susan Branch  for several years's such a cute book I'd enjoy reading it even if I never made any of the recipes.  I have, however, used it quite often over the years so this weekend I pulled it out and chose the "Peach and Plum Crisp" to make for our July 4th dessert.

Here's the finished product when it first came from the oven.  It looks and smells so good that I've included the recipe in this post for you.  In fact, I've had so much fun this afternoon looking through this cookbook with all it's adorable summertime drawings, I've decided to choose something to make from it every week for the rest of the summer.....I'll be sure to share with you when I do. :)

Peach and Plum Crisp

4 medium peaches, peeled and pitted
2  1/2 lbs plums, pitted
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs quick cooking Tapioca
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Butter a 10 inch glass or pottery pie plate...... I used a different size dish because my 10 inch is broken :(   ...... I think the trick is to make sure it is at least 2 inches deep.  Peel peaches by dipping each one briefly in boiling water. Cut them and the plums into wedges.  Mix together all ingredients for filling and put into the pie dish.  Let stand one hour, stirring occasionally. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together topping ingredients and spread evenly over fruit.  Bake on center rack of oven, placing a cookie sheet on lower rack to catch juices.  Serve hot with ice cream or cold with whipped cream. 

Enjoy and have a Happy 4th!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Mother's Day

Mother's Day will never quite be the same again.....

Remembering you today.......

Missing you today..........

Wishing I could talk to you today........

Even though I know I surely will again .......

Loving you always..........

Her children rise up and call her blessed....Proverbs 31:28


Be sure to join Ginger and Charlotte for Spiritual Sundays this week to read all about how Mom's influence lives.  Be blessed!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Case for Outdoor Lunches

Since I knew I'd be eating lunch alone this afternoon I made myself a favorite Spring Salad, grabbed one of the books I'm currently reading, and set a place on the patio. Such lovely weather right now........don't want to waste a minute of it.

It's so quick and easy to put together a salad like this. I like to use the Baby Leaf Spring Mix from our local Fresh and Easy market......a nice mixture of organic green and red romaine lettuce, green and red oak leaf lettuce, arugula, spinach, and chard. My sister Jane likes to put little raspberries in her salad, but today, since I didn't have any fresh or even frozen ones, I decided to add a few mandarin oranges. Then I topped it off with avocado slices and glazed walnuts.

Finally I drizzled it with Lite Raspberry Pomegranate Dressing......doesn't just reading that name make you feel good?.......and it was every bit as delicious as it sounds.

The place mat and napkin are Laura Ashley, and the salad bowl and plate are some of my favorite inherited blue pieces.


As I spent time in California a couple of weeks ago, I had several lovely lunches on Jane's patio.....and today I found myself wishing she was here enjoying this with me on my patio. Still, even lunch alone on a beautiful spring day like today is definitely worth the effort!
Hope you're enjoying your Springtime,

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tortilla Soup

A day or so after Christmas we made a trip to California to visit with relatives we had not yet seen during the holidays. While we adore leftovers this time of year (who doesn't, right?) it was really nice to find out what was on the menu at my sister's house the first night we were there. You got it......tortilla soup. Spicy, festive, and different. *Little note here....if you haven't seen the movie by the same name, "Tortilla Soup" you may want to watch it, if only for the gorgeous food preparation much fun to watch.

Jane always sets a beautiful table.....spicy and festive, just like the soup.

You garnish the meal with sliced avocados, grated cheese, and sour cream. For variety you can try the "blue" tortilla chips along with your favorite regular ones.

So here's the recipe........Enjoy.......we did!
Tortilla Soup
2 fresh tomatoes chopped ( or 1 can of tomatoes), 2 8oz cans of Tomato sauce, 2 gloves minced garlic, 4 cups water, 2 Tbl sugar, 3 tsp chili powder, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp cumin, 1 4oz can of chopped green chilies, 2 cups of chopped cooked chicken,
Tortilla Chips, Grated Cheese,
Sour cream and avocado for garnish
Bring all ingredients except chicken, chips and cheese to boil in a large pot. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add chicken and simmer an additional 10-15 minutes. (This can also be made in a crock pot as shown in the pictures)
Ladle into bowls and top with chips, cheese, etc.
My first chance to say "Happy New Year!" to you all,

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus - Must See!

I know this clip has been on countless blogs and all over Facebook, having recieved over 9 1/2 million hits on You Tube already.......but I just couldn't reist putting it on "At Home 'n About" anyway because I just love it and it's my blog and I can do what I want. How's that for a reason? :)
I think you'll enjoy it as much as I do.....if this doesn't just thrill you and get you in the Holiday Spirit.......well. Wouldn't you like to have been there? Certainly makes me want to start wishing you all a
Merry Christmas!
Enjoying the Reason for the Season,