Saturday, April 26

Backyard Field Guide: Annual Spring Affair

Yes, yes, that's me, there in the middle, reaching for the rosmarinus officinalus...see me? I'm the one grinning...!

Today is my
favorite day of the whole year (!!)--no exaggeration. I get to go on a mad shopping spree for spring plants.

In late April, UNL hosts their
annual Spring Affair--a huge perennial plant fair. Thanks to this event I've become one of those fanatic Lincolnite gardeners (we'll call it enthusiasm but sometimes it looks like obsession...). I am now one of the green-thumbs waiting in line for the doors to open, highlighted list of Latin plant names in hand, ready, set to go...!

This year, we've decided to expand our back garden (seen
here) and fill in spaces that over the years have become a bit bare. Rather than buying new plants in order to experiment, we went with reliable, dry-soil loving perennial favorites.

Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Superba', or Russian sage
Pardancanda norissi, or blackberry lily
Delphinium x cultorum, or Delphinium 'Centurion Sky Blue' (nothing compares to the blue in this delphinium--it is indescribably brilliant)Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba', or old-fashioned white bleeding heart...just to name a few! If I had to design a garden and could only choose four plants, I swear, these would be them. I hope to have pictures throughout the summer as we make progress on the project.

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Friday, April 25

Thank You, Ritzy Bee!

I'm so excited: I've won my first blog contest! I can't believe it! Thank you so much, Maria, for the wonderful book and your great blog.

What a day I've had...more on that lat

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Wednesday, April 23

Gratitudes: Week in Review

Just when you think things can't get any better...they do. I've been having to make so many lists lately I figured I might make one in the spirit of this very fine week.

I'm thankful for:

1) Communities of love, as
bell hooks describes them, and the budding love stories of others (especially those I love very much).
2) The patch of white daffodils in my backyard.
3) Mail, including the big shipping box of sparkling wine that arrived on my doorstep this afternoon.
4) The fact that I was able to walk our dog three times in a single day.
5) Short & sweet conversations with my officemates.
6) Crisp, new travel itineraries.
7) Young poets and literary friendships.
8) Paintings and cool museum boardrooms.
9) Witticisms.
The promise of summer teaching.
11) Diana Krall. Tift Merritt. Kate Wolf. Anita O'Day. Ray Charles.
12) Putting my sandals back on for good, for a good, good while.
13) Having enough. Not too much, just exactly enough of what I need.
Finding new causes and new causes for hope.

(Picture found
here and for sale!)

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Tuesday, April 22

Great Book: What Becomes You

Teaching this evening, I had a student walk out on my class because she couldn't handle reading or discussing this book. For just this reason, and many more wonderful others, I recommend this memoir to you. Read it, share it, and, for goodness sake, talk about it.

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Monday, April 21

Wedding To Do: Branch Arrangement

Not the best working picture--obviously! forgive the shipping boxes in the background! the bad light!--but a sneak peek, nevertheless, of the enormous centerpiece I'm working away on (5 ft tall or so!). I love mitsumata branches. Soak them in water and they become pliable and feel a bit like paper pulp. Brilliant. You can find more ideas for using them here.

UPDATE: I tossed in two more pics--here's what the big arrangement looked like on the big day! Nothing but blue skies....

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Find It on Film: Dance in America

If you get a chance, I highly recommend watching this PBS Great Performances program: Dance in America: Wolftrap's Face of America. The whole video is online and it is remarkable, especially the work of the Hālau O Kekuhi dancers.

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Into the Kitchen: Bourbon Pecan Pie

The daffodils have bloomed, our grill is out on the porch and I'm ready to while away some hours gardening & baking. This weekend, I made my favorite pecan pie for the special occasion of having my future in-laws in town. What a wonderful time we had, and the pie--a complete bonus. The recipe below is one I've tweaked over the years, incorporating elements from multiple versions.

1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup light Karo Syrup
3 large eggs, beaten
2 to 2 ½ pecan halves, according to taste
2 tablespoons good Bourbon

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice water or less

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Crust: Combine flour, sugar and salt in mixer bowl. Add butter pieces and slowly add water to combine. When crust looks like coarse meal, stop and knead by hand. Flatten into a disc and then roll out. Lay crust into a 9 inch pie pan. Freeze for at least 10 minutes.

Filling: Combine sugar and butter in a bowl; stir in syrup, eggs, pecans, and bourbon. Pour into unbaked pie shell; place on heavy-duty cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for an additional 25-35 minutes, or until pie is set (I usually press the center nuts to make sure). Remove from oven and allow to cool.

(Photo from

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Wednesday, April 16

Great Wedding Blogs

S'wonderful, s'marvelous.... I am completely hooked on two wedding style blogs--

Snippet & Ink
for her real wedding posts (this one is just 'wow') and lovely inspiration boards:

and Abby's Style Me Pretty for 'Unqiue Wedding Week':

What a pleasure it is to see such free-spirited, joyous and absolutely beautiful events. Here's hoping I can pull our day off in this way!

(P.S. Thanks, too, Kathryn, for your comments on my little 'ol blog!)

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Sweet Find: Papier Valise

My new favorite trinket & bauble seller: Papier Valise (the absolutely next best thing to actually looking through little bins of things locally). Why is it that these knick-knack shops make me sentimental? (Remember when libraries actually ran by these yellow index cards? When amusement parks had tickets?) I think it may be time to head to the poem writing desk....

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Friday, April 11

Into the Kitchen: Fig and Walnut Tapenade

Thinking about my friend Lola (yes, you!), I'm on the hunt for the perfect fig tapenade recipe and I have a hunch I may have found it thanks, once again, to epicurious:

Fig and Walnut Tapenade with Goat Cheese

1 cup chopped stemmed dried Calimyrna figs
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup chopped pitted brine-cured black olives
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon drained capers, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 5.5-ounce logs soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet), each cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 cup toasted walnut halves
Fresh thyme sprigs (optional)
Assorted breads and/or crackers

Combine chopped figs and 1/3 cup water in heavy medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until liquid evaporates and figs are soft, about 7 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl. Mix in olives, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, capers, and chopped thyme. Season tapenade to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Arrange overlapping cheese rounds in circle in center of medium platter. Stir chopped walnuts into tapenade; spoon into center of cheese circle. Garnish with walnut halves and thyme sprigs, if desired. Serve with breads and/or crackers.

I'm sort of ambivalent about the olives. What do you think, Lo? Will this do it?

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Sweet Find: Ann Wood

And with nests, it's only natural that little birds are to follow....

I'm now the proud owner of an
Ann Wood original and sooo excited. His name is 'Dill' and I just love his personality, dapper and homey. Plus, gingham and bubbles are two of my absolute favorite things.

Can't wait until he arrives!

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Thursday, April 10

Home Is Where the Art Is: Nesting Down

It's good to be home and seeing the end of a long week. Time to nestle in and hope for no snow--crazy spring! (Amazing nests from Audobon Magazine via

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Tuesday, April 8

Backyard Field Guide: First Sprouts

On a whim and as a budget-wise measure, I decided to plant several trays of flowers from seed (see here). We bought the eco-friendly seed flats--the ones that look like molded coconut strands--and I went to work with the zinnias and my new perennials. After a few days sunning in the basement--a few days!--we are now the proud parents of some little flower sprouts. I think I love gardening because it simply dumbfounds me: just a few days and there are new plants. I can't wait to watch their growth this summer when they explode and look like this and this:

Photo from Elizabeth Licata's inspiring & hilarious blog, Gardening While Intoxicated.

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Monday, April 7

Sweet Find: Great Etsy Sellers

I admit it--I have become a full-fledged Etsy addict. I'm on the site every day, browsing, perusing and not-so-infrequently purchasing. I think the idea of the marketplace is just brilliant.

Some pieces that have caught my eye recently:

Handmade clutches from
Red Ruby Rose

Cotton gift bags from something's hiding in here

Animal push-pins from Simplesong Designs

An adorable dress for one of our favorite young friends (love that pocket!), from little girl Pearl

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Wednesday, April 2

Gratitudes: Special Charms

Browsing around different blogs, I found daisy chain's most recent post about the Saint Joseph bag she carries with her everywhere and I couldn't help but think of all the little things I have slipped into nooks & crannies too, all the milagros, beads, crystals, painted doohickeys, swatches, seashells, buttons--the list goes on and on.

When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, a good friend of hers put together a tiny purse like this filled with gemstones, a handful of the most colorful and textural bits you could find. For a long time it has been one of my most prized possessions and, after some plain old wear, the fabric seams just started to fall apart. I knew I had to find a new home for it (one of those projects you always mean to get around to!) but what would work? Just by chance, at one of the plant fairs we visited last year, I brought home this tabletop birdbath and, voila!, my charms had a new life. Thanks to the find, I can't help but think they look like some kind of magical water now, out in the open for all to see.

Thanks, Amber, for this moment of reflection!

What's tucked away in your world?

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Tuesday, April 1

Vena Amoris

It's official--we're engaged!

Jewelry artist
Carla Caruso makes such delicate, beautiful rings. This set is actually three thin bands sculpted to resemble willow branches, a subtle symbol of my Polish background. In addition to the more traditional small pieces, Carla is also a master crafter of the most exquisite tiaras. With their leaves and flower bells, they look as though they've floated straight out of Greek mythology. Plus, her studio is situated in one of my very favorite towns in the whole world.

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