Monday, March 19, 2012

Philadelphia Flower Show

One day I came home from work in a decidedly grumpy mood. I used up all my vacation time having fun in the Summer and Fall, and now there isn't any time for a Spring vacation. I suggested that maybe we should go to New York for a weekend. So Miss J told me that she was planning to take me to the Philadelphia Flower Show for my birthday! What a treat!

The Garden Show was amazing. I visited Philly in the fall, and the conference I attended was at the same convention center. It's huge! I was really glad that we got over there just as it was opening on Saturday. At 9:00 AM it was just a little bit crowed, but by 11:30 it was jammed. We saw examples of every kind of flower possible. We've had an early Spring here, but not so early as to have things blooming like they were at the Flower Show. 

We are making our project list right now for this year's gardening, and we got some interesting ideas at the Show. I am absolutely dying to put in some kind of a rock garden. I saw these home made planters made from Styrofoam and cement that end up looking like that volcanic rock, tufta. They looked spectacular. J isn't as enthralled, but I think I might be able to get her on the bus.

I bought myself a new pair of gloves, a pair of flower snips for arranging, and a "frog"  - a round piece of heavy metal (brass I think) with pins sticking out of it that you can use for flower arrangements. I've already used all three!

Philly was just lovely -- I hope we get to return there some time soon. I've got a couple more posts on our dinners there. The food was only second to the flowers!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Four Signs That It's Spring in Rochester, NY

I love Rochesterians in the Springtime. Everyone is so HAPPY that it's over. It being winter. People are practically giddy. Rochesterians really appreciate the good weather. Where else do you have at least one festival of some sort or another every weekend from April 15 - October 1. Most weekends there are several, especially once the volunteer fire companies start their "Firemen's Field Days".

So here are the four signs that say Spring is definitely arrived:

 Red Winged Blackbird from Wikipedia!
1. Red wing blackbirds have returned! I know some people think it's the first robin, but we had the first robin in February. I think that's too soon. Miss J insists it's the return of the Junkos -- but I've never seen them. They seem to come while I'm at work and only Miss J is around. Hmmmm. The Canada Geese (not, as frequently labled, "Canadian" geese.) also return and pair up for breeding time. Soon we will look like a page out of Make Way for Ducklings as all the babies hatch out and doing what Canada Geese do best: make goose poop!

Our little piece of paradise!
2. I arrive late for work. I don't leave the house any later, and in fact, I might even wake up earlier than in the winter. But I can't seem to get to work on time because I start "touring the grounds". I have to see what in our rather extensive gardens is starting to come up. Right now we have crocuses and snow drops blooming. Daffodil buds are swelling, and I expect blooms by the weekend if we really get those 60 degree days that are promised. The new tulips I planted across the front of the house are up. I'm thrilled they didn't all end up as squirrel snacks.

3. Love is in the air, at least for the squirrels. I'm not going to include a picture so this blog will remain "safe for work." All I can say is, "bow chicka bowbow!"

Spring Peeper, thanks to Wikipedia
4. The peepers start singing. My friend Lois used to say, "The peepers have to freeze three times before it is really Spring!" I think we are a ways out from peeper time, but soon I'll start driving home with my windows down, straining to hear those peepers. Then count 3 freezes and I'll know for sure that Spring has arrived and Winter is gone. Lois is gone now, and I miss both her and her hubby, Bruce. Especially when I hear the peepers singing.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pretty Damn Amazing Carrot Cake Cupcakes

J loves carrot cake, and believe me, her standard is high. Last year I probably made 4 different recipes, and there was something that could have been improved on every one of them. Saturday, I decided to give it one more try. But because I am supposed to be loosing some weight, I made cup cakes. I thought it might be easier to control portion size with these.

I started with a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I wanted to be sure I had the chemistry part (baking soda, eggs, flour) right. Then I made my own edits. I cut the recipe in half (there are only 2 of us, after all!). I substituted a zuccini for some of the carrots. I think zuccini is the answer to almost everything. You can't taste it, but it makes food a lot juicier, and I mean that in a good way! I also used coconut oil for the fat. I like the Living Foods brand - it has a nice flavor and texture. You can order it here. I'm doing an experiment to see if using coconut oil has a positive effect on my bad cholesterol. More about that later. I reduced the sugar. I swapped out some of the flour and substituted almond meal. (By the way, the reviews I read of almond meal on steered me AWAY from Bob's Red Mill brand for almond flour.)

Next time I make these, I'll add more veggies and I think I'll grate an apple and reduce the sugar further. I'll use more almond flour and less wheat.

Beauteous Carrot Cupcakes - makes 12 cupcakes

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cups white sugar
3/4 cup melted coconut oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups grated vegtables - I used 3 peeled carrots and one peeled zuccini
1/4 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup raisins

1. In a medium size bowl, mix the flour, almond meal, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, ginger.
2. In a large microwavable bowl, melt the coconut oil. Mix in the sugar, and then one at a time, the eggs.
3. Grate the vegetables.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the oil/egg/sugar mixture and stir until well mixed. Stir in the veggies, walnuts, coconut, and raisins.
5. Scoop the mixture into baking cups in a cupcake pan. You can fill them up quite a bit because they don't rise a lot.
6. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.