Tales from the Garden: April Showers, Forgotten Flowers

I am sure I’m not the only one guilty of planting a bulb and then six month later, when it pokes out from the ground, having absolutely no recollection of what it was. Take this little guy for instance. I bought a bag of bulbs from Costco last fall — 30 were crocuses and 15 were daffodils. The other 5 were a species I couldn’t have remembered if my life depended on it.

Top view of a fritillaria

I kept looking at the leaves thinking…hm…a lily of some kind? A few friends thought hibiscus. My husband swore they were alliums. Finally once the first flower bloomed, I showed a picture to another friend who does wedding bouquets as a side business and she figured it out.

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The Berry Best Spoonbread…

Mixed Berry Spoonbread

Mixed Berry Spoonbread Cake

The alternate title to this post was something along the lines of  “the amazingly delicious dessert I could make in my sleep.” It might have been a little wordy (and less punny) but it would’ve been entirely accurate. I have made Food & Wine’s Mixed Berry Spoonbread Cake for family reunions, barbeques, holidays and even (all by myself) for a crowd of 75-plus people at a kind-of-crazy pig roast last summer.

In fact, I had a different dessert all picked out for Easter Sunday (I wanted to try making this Blueberry Slump) but at the last minute, I changed my mind. I didn’t want to take the chance of it being ‘meh.’ Given the rather stressful week, I wanted to make something that I knew everyone would love — and so I turned to my old standby.

There are several reasons why this is my go -to dessert recipe:

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The perfect spring-time salad and cooking for catharsis

Spring Asparagus Panzanella

Spring Asparagus Panzanella Salad with Radishes, Eggs and Pecorino

Two weeks ago my Easter plans were pretty loose — mainly revolving around the couch, a cat on my lap and maybe some bubbly in my hand. But things can change quickly. My grandfather, who was six months from his 98th birthday, suddenly became very ill and passed away last Thursday. Now I rarely get overly personal in these posts and I certainly don’t intend this one to get weepy, but I will say it’s been a very difficult week.

Luckily, I live close enough to my grandparents that I visited them as often as I could. And so after I heard the news, I packed up a bag and headed north to see my family. Many family members had made the pilgrimage, first to visit with him, and then to help plan the memorial. This was how I ended up cooking Easter dinner for nine last Sunday.

It was actually the perfect way to spend the day. For me cooking is a peaceful endeavor and it was nice not only to have a distraction but also a sense of purpose. And being surrounded by family as everyone traded stories about my grandfather (and discussed how people get famous from YouTube videos) was undoubtedly the best place to be.

Losing people you love is always hard. It was especially devastating for me to say good bye to the man who taught me to play cribbage, made me learn to use the brakes on my bike (long story!) and walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. But we honor these people with stories, recalling their memories to help continue their legacies.

To lighten things up, I’m going to tell you one of the more amusing stories being passed around over the weekend:

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Things That Make Me Happy: Spring is Coming!

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Spring Crocus

The first of many….

Last fall I planted 30 spring crocus bulbs and I’ve been impatiently waiting for them to bloom. Finally Friday afternoon I noticed I had one perfect bloom in my backyard. After years of thinking that I was born with a black thumb, bulbs are becoming my redemption. For a little effort, you get a whole lot of reward!

Things that make me happy!

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Seeing the first ladybug of spring!

I have had a thing for ladybugs ever since my college dorm room was infested with them sophomore year. It was such a weird thing to have happen but slowly, over a course of a few days, about 50 of them congregated in a corner of the room. It was fun for a couple of weeks, but finally I had to call maintenance to remove them because they were creeping me out. (I did make sure they weren’t harmed in the process.)

Even after all of that, I still get excited when I spot them in my garden. They are just irresistably cute!

Why use a bunny when you can just mail your Easter eggs?

Thanks to Pinterest, I stumbled upon a blog post not too long ago that blew my mind. It was about all of the stuff you can just drop in a post office box and (with the correct postage, of course) have delivered. Now I’m not talking about large envelopes or small boxes, I’m talking about stuff like 2-liter bottles, soccer balls, flip-flops and…Easter eggs! As long as it weighs less than 13 ounces and isn’t breakable, it’s okay to mail.

I was stunned. And counting down the weeks until I got an opportunity to send some candy-filled Easter eggs to my nieces and nephews. I could just imagine my brother’s befuddlement at finding a stash of Easter eggs mixed in with the bills.

I decided to do a test-run just in case, so a few weeks ago I sent a surprise gift to my friend DB. It was actually a late party favor from my birthday — a little goodie bag with some honey candies and cookies that I had forgotten to give him before he left that night. However, I knew the cookies wouldn’t make it safely without a protective shell. Luckily a co-worker offered up a plastic quart container she had.

I printed out an address label and using our postage scale at work was even able to determine the exact amount of postage necessary. Then I taped that sucker to hell and back and threw it in the mail box outside of my office. Two days later I got a text that just said, “You are one crazy lady.” That’s the sound of success!

Since then I have been impatiently waiting for Easter to get close enough so I could mail out my eggs. I decided that two weeks prior was an acceptable time frame so I bought all my supplies last weekend and got to work…

Ready to roll…And yes that is a Bloody Mary. I drink while I craft.

I have five nieces and nephews (all in the same house) so I figured I had better send an emergency egg just in case one didn’t make it. Better safe than sorry. Once the eggs were stuffed with candy (a combination of Robin’s Eggs, Milk Chocolate Mini Eggs and Spring Skittles), I shoved in as much Easter grass as I could before sealing them up.

As a disclaimer — these eggs were far from sturdy. In fact, just closing them, I could tell they were in dire need of some serious reenforcement. So I used packing tape a few times over the seal and then covered that with some cute patterned adhesive tape I found at Joann’s. They turned out pretty adorable — and hopefully pretty durable.

The next day at work I printed off some address labels. I figured since the post office employees would already hate me enough for throwing Easter eggs in the mail box, I could at least make the addresses legible. I also added some adorable stickers just because. Then I used our handy dandy electronic postage scale and weighed them. Each egg was $.84 to mail, which is reasonable. Once the eggs were labeled with postage, I wished them luck and safe journeys and plopped them in the big blue mail box on the corner.

I spent much of my day reassuring my colleagues that you can indeed mail eggs, no box required, but a hint of uncertainly began to nag at me. What if the eggs didn’t even make it outside of the Portland post office? What if they break in transit?

* Click to read the update!