Friday, December 31, 2010

Bonding with Puppies

I promised I wouldn't turn this into a puppy blog, but I wanted to post a quick update on how the girls were doing.  In a nutshell, they are doing great.  They are growing and putting on weight, although we are wresting with some aggression issues with Gretchen.  I don't know what the first three months of her life were like, but she is having a very difficult time getting along with the rest of the pack.  But we're working on it.

I'm working with a wonderful dog trainer and one of the things she recommends is at the end of every day, I do a  bonding exercise with the pups.  What she wants me to do is to have the pups settle down and have quiet contact with me and Harry.  We've been doing that pretty much every night for the last two weeks and to be honest, it's become my favorite time of the day.  And this is what it looks like:


 Sweet Laci

Beautiful Gretchen



Raising these pups is like having babies kidding!  Up at 6:00 am (which is OK since I'm a morning person anyway) and it's constant attention, stuff-to-do throughout the day...walking them (3-5 times a day) feeding them (3 times a day), breaking up too rough play (5-8 times a day), training them on feeding habits, working on getting along within the pack, free play outside, picking up dog poo...ya da ya da ya da...(you get the picture :)  But honestly and truly, it's all good.  I'm lovin it and the pups are happy, healthy, safe and warm.

With the New Year upon us, I'm excited to see what it will bring with these puppies and how I integrate them into my spring and summer gardens.  I don't have a crystal ball, but I'm excited and optimistic about this coming year.

 Happy New Year to all of you!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Recent Garden Happenings

My fall garden is winding down.

The only thing I have left out there are carrots, beets, Brussels sprouts and a single head of cabbage.  I'm still picking carrots and they are still scrumptious!  Check out these beauties...

And the Brussels sprouts are doing very well also.  I picked two stalks for Christmas dinner and made a delicious (and easy) dish I've been wanting to try, Creamy Braised Brussels Sprouts.  Stay tuned for that post!


And my beets got hit pretty hard by several hard freezes; but aside from the greens looking pretty ragged, they are growing and are quite tasty, although not very big.  But that's OK...I prefer baby beets anyway :)  I made a baby beet, goat cheese and toasted pumpkin seed salad the other night, (adapted from a recipe from The Whimsical Gardener).  Thanks, Cat, great recipe!  I'll post that one soon as well. 

My green onions are finally growing!  Once I took out the oak tree that was blocking the sun from my garden, the spring onions began to sprout and are doing quite well.  They are somewhat shielded from the frosts by the Brussels sprouts so that helps also. 

My fall garden has done fairly well this year, although I am disappointed with a number of things.  Again, most of these are due to lack of sunshine from that oak tree:  None of the spinach, kale, or Swiss chard that I planted germinated; my beets were pretty lame; and the green onions were very slow to grow.  But, all in all, it was a successful fall garden, but not my best by a long shot.  But that's OK...there's always next year :)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas!

Like most everyone, I love my Christmas tree!  It's not fancy, nor is it perfectly decorated with a particular theme.  Its decorations are random and very simple.  I love my tree because on it hangs so many ornaments that my boys made for me while they were growing up.  And every year, it's a joy to take each ornament out of the Christmas ornament box and find a special place for it on my tree.

Decorating the tree is a heartwarming experience for me and I look forward to it every year.  This year was even more special because my sister and I decorated my tree together.  I celebrated another Christmas blessing of this past year...having my baby sister close by and part of my life again.  I truly believe that a sister is one of life's greatest blessings. 


I am so thankful for the many, many blessings in my life and I wish each of you a 
Blessed and Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Orchid

I bought this orchid about six weeks ago.  It had lots of tiny buds that promised a show of beautiful flowers when they bloomed.  And it did not disappoint.  Look at this beautiful plant!

It's an Oncidium Twinkle Fragrance Fantasy orchid and it is gorgeous.  And it's timing was perfect!  We had my husband's annual staff Christmas party at our home this past weekend and this beautiful plant was in full bloom.  It fit in perfectly with my Christmas decorations.  The flowers are tiny white blooms and quite fragrant for an orchid.

It should bloom for weeks and every time I look at it, it makes me smile :)  Now my challenge is to get it to rebloom!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Heartfelt Thank You... everyone who offered wonderful thoughts and good wishes on the adoption of my new puppies.

I heard from people all over the world:  England, Malaysia, London, Hungary, Australia, Pennsylvania, Austin,San Antonio, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Grapvine.  The outpouring of support I received was amazing.  The gardening blogosphere is filled with wonderful, caring people and I thank you all for your warm wishes and support.

The puppies are doing amazingly well and I cannot imagine my life without them.  I promise I won't turn this into a puppy blog, but I will from time to time post about their progress and puppy antics, which are hilarious!  Again, many thanks to all :)

Laci & Gretchen

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Cactus

My Christmas cactus is getting ready to bloom!

It's a time I look forward to every Christmas season.  Around the middle of November/early December, I start looking at the tips of the leaves to see if I can see the buds beginning to form.  Well I noticed a couple of days ago that yes, they sure are!

Last year, I posted the story behind my Christmas cactus so I wont' repeat myself.  You can go back to that post and read it if you'd like.  In any case, this plant is very special to me and it makes me smile to know it will bloom again this year :) 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Risotto al Limone

This is by far the most decadent risotto I've ever tasted.  And the most delicious.  Of course it is, it starts out with 7 tablespoons of butter and ends with 1 cup of creme fraiche.  What's not to love?  :)  And it's really very easy too, as are most risottos.  You just have to constantly stir them for 20-25 minutes.

Since I'm still picking gorgeous lemons from my tree, I made this as a side dish to grilled New York strip steaks some time over Thanksgiving weekend and it was a huge hit!

A friend of mine went to the Amalfi Coast on vacation this past summer and she spent a day at Mamma Agata's cooking school.  This recipe is an adaptation from Mamma Agata's.  I do hope you try it.  And fresh lemons are a must here.

Risotto al Limone 
Adapted from Mamma Agata
7 tablespoons butter
1 small shallot, finely sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/3 cup Carnaroli or Arborio rice
Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of 1-2 lemons, finely grated
1 quart vegetable broth
1 cup creme fraiche
3 tablespoons finely chopped, flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigianno

Pour vegetable stock into a sauce pan and heat over medium heat until hot, but not boiling.  Keep simmering over low heat as you will add the simmering broth to the risotto, 1 cup at a time.  You may not need all the broth.  But if it seems like you'll run out of broth before the risotto is cooked, add a cup or 2 of water to the broth and heat through.  It won't affect the flavor of the risotto.  And you don't want to run out of hot broth before your risotto is cooked.  

Heat butter in large pan over medium heat.  Add shallot and saute until soft.

Add rice to the pan and stir until it becomes translucent.  Add the white wine and stir again until wine is absorbed into the rice.

Add the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, one ladle full of vegetable stock and a pinch of salt to the pan.  Cook until the liquid is absorbed.

Add another ladle of broth.  Cook the rice in the broth for 5 to 8 minutes per ladle, allowing the rice to absorb the broth before adding any more.

Once the liquid has been fully absorbed by the rice and it is fully cooked (this may take 20-30 minutes), add the creme fraiche and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley to the pan over low heat.  Stir well for 2 minutes until the cream is warm, but not boiling.

Plate the risotto and garnish with the remaining lemon zest, Parmigianno and chopped parsley.  Serve immediately.

Buon Appetito!