Asymmetrical Parterre

I love parterre gardens. For anyone who doesn’t know, a parterre is a symmetrical garden on flat ground. The design is typically formal and ornate. Maybe French. Maybe Victorian.

My parterre started with a truck frame. I’m not sure where it came from, but it lay flat on the ground for years. Finally, Jim and I supported it upright so that it forms an archway for short people–we are short–with four openings.

And that’s why the garden is asymmetrical. With four openings, we don’t have a true middle.

For another few years, I turned this space into what I called The Garden of Rusty Things. I even had a sign made.

I planted daylilies, a climbing rose, and clematis Happy Jack under the truck frame. A rock pile supported a 500 gallon gas tank (subsequently sold), surrounded by myriad rusty items–old garden tools, a wagon, a sink, a gate, an iron bed.

This spring, I decided I had enough pavers and stepping stones to create a parterre. I wanted a pond or a fountain, a bench, some plants. Keeping it simple. We surrounded a square bit of level ground with the stepping stones, creating a walkway.

We had black plastic trash bags on hand, purchased last year to cover the raised beds in hopes of killing weed seeds. Bags went under the stepping stones, again as a weed preventer. Pea pebbles are planned between the stepping stones, with rubber edging on the outside edge and pavers along the inner to keep the pea pebbles in place.

Stay tuned. Next week–the pond.

Heroes and Villains

Whatever happened to stories that distinguished the hero from the villain by the color of their hats? White for the hero, black for the villain. Where are the villains stroking their handlebar mustaches and laughing maniacally while tying the helpless, hapless heroine to the train tracks? And where the heroes galloping up on a white horse at the last possible second to save said heroine?  

For me, reading Sir Walter Scott’s Lochinvar—I think in high school—changed forever my perspective of what a hero could be.   Lochinvar comes too late to the wedding, forcing him to steal the fair Ellen from her family. Is kidnapping heroic?

I’ve written about the character milestones I use as a way to organize character arcs. In my latest work in progress, I discovered—with amazement—that my hero and my villain had virtually identical histories.

Both lost mothers. Both had emotionally unavailable—absent—fathers. Both had conditional love and support from replacement mothers. Both were sent far from home to learn their craft under the same demanding and morally-suspect teacher.  Both were forced to accept culturally defined roles that curtailed their freedom.

The difference between them, what made one the hero and one the villain, had more to do with conscious choices than with nature or nurture. Neither was born inherently good or evil.

Leaving me to ponder—am still pondering—the difference between them. Resiliency? Stubbornness? Positivity? Sheer dumb luck?

The challenge for me is to sort through the little choices they made and will make as I tell the story. I need to sketch their emotional connections to those choices, to get at what motivates them to be hero and villain. I’m a bit daunted.

Meanwhile, the query quest continues. No news on that front, but I hope there will be soon. Please keep fingers crossed for me.

Cloudy Sunday

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It’s been raining, which makes wanting to get out in the garden more difficult than if it were sunny. But the daffodils and tulips wait for no woman, and so the weeding has begun.

The potatoes are in as are the beets, the sugar snap peas, and the romaine lettuce seeds. Green lettuce plants are on the deck, hardening off. The asparagus has been fertilized and now we wait for the first luscious shoots.

Toward the end of April, I’ll see how my basement-planted Ophelia eggplant and tomatoes are doing, and think about setting them outdoors.

It’s spring.

Cloudy Sunday

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A look at next spring’s asparagus.

The calendar shows it’s still fall, but it feels more like winter has arrived. The garden’s done for this year. All that’s left to do is wait for January seed catalogs to arrive.

Other People’s Recipes: Blueberry Muffins Redux

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Epic fail. They don’t look unappetizing. And they taste good. But something’s wrong with the texture of these blueberry muffins.

As usual, I used ingredients from several different recipes–including the two muffins I blogged about previously.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 4 TBSP melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (from the dairy case, not canned)
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 cup blueberries

Mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients until incorporated. I hadn’t planned to use so much coconut milk, but the dough seemed too thick, so I kept adding, a quarter cup at a time.

Add the blueberries last, then spoon into a 12 cup muffin tin. I’ve used parchment paper muffin cups to prevent sticking, but these fell out of the papers when I took them out of the oven.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

The flavor was spot on. Lemony with pops of luscious blueberries. But the muffin turned out the way it looked. Dry and grainy, and sort of unpleasant on the tongue.

This recipe also made about twice as much dough as needed for 12 muffins. I spooned the rest in a thin layer into a loaf pan. The loaf’s texture was a tad better, but not by much.

Less of the flours? Omit the baking soda? Another egg?

Your thoughts?

Other People’s Recipes: Almost-Paleo, Almost-Waffles

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In December 2018, I will have owned my waffle iron for 50 years. Yes, it still works as well as it did in 1968. Made in America. But already I digress.

For the last 25 years or so, I’ve made an overnight yeasted waffle that is to die for.  My print copy of the recipe is stained yellow with age and spilled ingredients. If you’re still using wheat, Google Overnight Yeast Waffle. Many different versions. Most are good.

Although take a tip from my hard drive copy, which includes this note: DON’T ADD BAKING SODA BEFORE COOKING. Many of the newer versions give the dough an added pop with last-minute baking soda. Not necessary.

But …

I’ve given up grains for the duration. I’m eating like a caveperson. Almost. But I really, really wanted waffles for breakfast, necessitating a different kind of Google search.

Paleo waffles.

Again, I found many different versions. Some made with coconut flour, almond flour, tapioca flour or plantains. Some made with coconut oil and coconut milk. Or water. Or ghee. Two, three or six eggs. What to do?

Here’s the list of ingredients I ended up with:

  • 1 cup fine ground almond flour
  • ½ cup tapioca flour
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • 2 TBSP ground flax and chia mixed
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 whole eggs (do not separate)
  • 4 TBSP or ¼ cup melted butter
  • 1 cup Lactaid 2 percent milk
  • 1 TBSP cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

A lot of recipes call for the addition of honey or maple syrup. Since I like pure maple syrup or jam or fruit ON the waffles, I didn’t add sweetener to the dough.

The method is what you’d expect. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Mix all the wet ingredients together. Be careful to cool the melted butter before adding it to the eggs.  Then mix dry and wet ingredients together until incorporated. Don’t overmix.

Follow your usual process for using the waffle iron. I used a bit more than 1/2 cup of dough per waffle, ending up with a thick waffle that didn’t quite make a perfect round.

The recipe is ALMOST Paleo because it contains dairy. For the Paleo purists among you, replace the milk with coconut or almond milk, although I have my doubts that Paleolithic humans had access to these substances.

And why do I call these ALMOST waffles? Jim called them ‘light and fluffy’ and scarfed them down. I found them somewhat dry and not-to-be-compared with my yeast waffles. But they did satisfy that I-need-a-waffle craving.

I may have to try Einkorn wheat—the wild wheat cultivated about 30,000 years ago—with yeast and see what happens. Definitely not Paleo, but genetically different—better?—than modern wheat.