Monday, December 30, 2019

Chocolate-covered Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Bars

Being sick over the Christmas holiday sucks. I'm just gonna say it. I know it could have been worse (I have a cold, not the flu). I tried last week not to feel sorry for myself, but it was challenging at times. My sister-in-law was sick too, but she had it worse – bronchitis with a terrible cough. Late Monday afternoon, while at work, I started feeling really cold and my throat was scratchy. Then I woke up Christmas eve day and knew I was sick. Not wanting to infect anyone else, and with two of us sick, the family decided to cancel our plans for Christmas brunch at our house. I wasn't able to attend church, either, which bummed me out (I love our Christmas service and the singing of carols). I continued to feel kinda crummy the rest of the week until Saturday, when I began to feel less crummy. I'm happy to say that today, Monday, I feel pretty darn good! And I'm still on vacation until Thursday, so I have time to do some of the things I love, like creating new blog posts!

I did push myself to do some cooking last week. I made an interesting tomato, chickpea & coconut soup that I found on the Love & Lemons website – I highly recommend it. On Saturday, I made a curry with sweet potatoes, green beans and turkey. I'll be posting that recipe on the blog soon. It's excellent!

Wanting to get in some holiday baking, I chose these very yummy chocolate-covered peanut butter rice crispy bars. I found the recipe on the blog Half Baked Harvest. I read the reviews after I made the bars (I know, that's backwards) ... and like many others' results, my bars came out crumbly. Not too bad, but definitely a little messy to eat. That's okay, though, because the bars are so finger-licking good, my husband and I don't mind a little mess. I'm more of a chocolate fan than Paul is. He said last night he thinks these bars would be great without the chocolate on top. I think the chocolate is what holds them together.

A couple of notes:
  • The recipe calls for brown rice krispies (cereal). I used regular, inexpensive, store-brand crispy rice cereal.
  • The recipe calls for 8 to 12 ounces of semi-sweet or dark chocolate, melted. I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, and weighed out 10 ounces using my handy kitchen scale. Once I got to the step where you pour the chocolate over the cereal mixture, I realized more chocolate was needed. So I quickly melted more chips but didn't measure. I'd use 12 ounces to be safe. 
  • When I began to "spread" the melted chocolate over the cereal mixture, that's when the panic set it. Bits of cereal separated from the bars (which I had firmly pressed into the pan as instructed) and incorporated into the chocolate. There was nothing I could think of to prevent this. Next time, I will thoroughly chill the cereal mixture before pouring/spreading the melted chocolate over. That may help.
  • I topped the bars with Snyder's of Hanover gluten-free mini pretzels. This makes the recipe gluten free. You can use regular pretzels, or omit them.
  • I haven't noticed any difference in how the bars hold together whether stored in the fridge or on the counter.
You can find the recipe at Half Baked Harvest. I suggest giving them a try. Let me know if you do.

Thank you, as always, for visiting My Little Bungalow. I hope you have a very happy, safe and healthy New Year! See you in 2020.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Hearty Vegetable Chowder

Making soups and stews from scratch is one of my favorite pastimes during the chilly months of fall and winter. Today I'm sharing a recipe for vegetable chowder that I adapted from an old issue of my favorite (now defunct) magazine, Everyday Food. No cream or cheese is in this recipe, making it a healthier chowder. Rather, the creaminess comes from milk and partially blending some of the veggies. It's comfort food that isn't too heavy or fattening. I hope you like it!

Hearty Vegetable Chowder

3 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 medium red bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced
3 cups 2% milk*
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3 large baking potatoes, peeled and cubed (3/4" cubes)
4 cups frozen yellow corn kernels
1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed and beans cut into 1" pieces
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1) In a large stock pot*, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

2) Add the milk, thyme, potatoes and 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until potatoes are almost tender, 6 to 7 minutes.

3) Stir in the corn, 1 tablespoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Simmer for 3 minutes. 

4) Using an immersion blender*, puree the soup until about 1/4 of the vegetables are pureed.

5) Add the green beans; bring to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender, about 8 minutes. Season with more salt, if needed. Serve with hot pepper sauce, if desired, and a crusty bread. 

You can substitute 1% milk for less fat or whole milk for extra creaminess.
I use a 7-quart stock pot to make this soup. 
If you don't have an immersion blender, transfer about 3 cups of the vegetables to a blender container using a slotted spoon and process until smooth; return pureed veggies to the pot.


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and those you love. I'm thankful for faithful visitors, readers and commenters on this little blog I've been writing for almost nine years. I am grateful for your interest, support and kindness. Wishing you a safe, happy and healthy holiday.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Mudroom Refresh

We renovated our small mudroom in 2015. If you didn't follow along, feel free to check out these mudroom renovation posts: the new bead board ceiling, choosing our paint colors, restoring the wood floor, some before and after photos and a new cherry and steel storage cabinet from Room & Board.

A few months ago I gave the mudroom a refresh. The first thing I did was to purchase a basket for stashing flip flops, shoes, slippers, umbrellas and the like. My husband and I had gotten into the bad habit of sticking our shoes under the storage cabinet when we came in the door. This looked sloppy and took away from the beauty of the cabinet. When you live in a small space, it's important to keep things streamlined, simple and organized, so I knew I had to come up with a solution.

Since there was a little space to the right of the cabinet, I thought a storage basket would be both useful and attractive. And who doesn't love shopping for baskets, right?

I headed to HomeGoods where they have a huge selection of basket styles, shapes and sizes. In fact, their selection is so large, it was hard to choose. But, since I had limited space, I was able to narrow down the choices based on size. I liked the idea of a soft basket made of cloth rope since the door to the basement is to the right of this space, and I wanted something soft that wouldn't scratch your leg when you walked by it. I was also leaning toward a round shape to soften the hard edges of the cabinet and door frames in this room.

Next on the list: a new rug. I knew I wanted an indoor/outdoor rug for this room – something durable and washable. The previous indoor/outdoor rug in the mudroom was all fuzzy around the edges. Actually, it started looking not-so-great soon after we bought it in 2015. Then it began to smell sour this year (probably due to some doggie accidents). While we could have taken it outside to give it a good soaking and scrubbing, I didn't think the rug was worth the effort, and I'm also a bit of a rug junkie. I'm always looking at them online.

Somehow I landed on the Annie Selke website and saw some very out-of-the-ordinary-looking indoor/outdoor rugs. I landed on this Dash & Albert rug – the Samson in black – and I absolutely love it! Part of the Bunny Williams collection, the Samson was inspired by an antique rug sample from the designer's personal collection. It is handmade, low-profile and very durable, but still feels great underfoot. You'd almost think it was wool. I can totally recommend this rug and wouldn't hesitate to buy another one for a different room. I'd also like to note that this is not a sponsored post. I'm just sharing with you one of my favorite purchases!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Diffusing with Essential Oils

Before diffusers were popular, I bought my first bottle of essential oil – eucalyptus scent – to help alleviate nighttime congestion (I'd put a couple of drops on the edge of my pillowcase). My next essential oil purchase was lavender, one of my favorite scents! I mixed it with unscented hand lotion, put several drops on a cotton ball in the vacuum bag to scent the house while vacuuming, and made my own fabric softener with it.

Then, about a year and a half ago, I purchased a PureSpa Natural diffuser for scenting the house. If I remember correctly, it was in the $25–$30 range at Whole Foods. I actually bought it with our beagle, Ella, in mind because I'd read that certain scents – lavender, in particular – can help create a sense of calm, which Ella needed. At first I thought it helped lower her anxiety level a little, but did not produce the result I had hoped for. Even so, the diffuser is great for adding a nice fragrance to the house without burning candles. 

After a while, I added sweet orange to my essential oil collection. Just the other day I added balsam fir needle and clove bud and am having fun experimenting with different scent combinations. Orange is definitely my favorite along with lavender. The label reads "brightening" and it really does provide a mood-boosting effect. It's the perfect year-round scent and combines beautifully with the balsam fir and clove to create a lovely holiday aroma. The next oil I will buy is lemon, but I will wait until springtime.

Holiday Evergreen-Citrus Essential Oil Blend

To the water in your diffuser, add:
  • 3 drops of orange essential oil
  • 2 drops of balsam fir needle or other evergreen essential oil
  • 2 drop of clove bud essential oil

There are many, many different diffusers to choose from in a huge variety of styles. Amazon sells this one which is by the same company as mine. It has a thin band of light that changes colors, but has an option to run it without the colored light. It's silent, except for a slight bubbling sound, which I don't mind. It has an automatic shut-off when the water level gets low. I read some mixed reviews on Amazon's site. I would shop around and read reviews if you're looking to purchase a diffuser. Always unplug it when not in use. I also wouldn't leave the house with it running.

Do you use a diffuser or essential oils? If so, I'd love to know some of your tips and tricks, favorite products and scent combinations. Please leave a comment by clicking on "comments" below. Look forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Apple Cider-Cranberry Sorbet

Hello, do you remember me? So October came and went and now we're almost into the middle of November. How did that happen?! Sorry for my lack of presence the past few months. I feel like I have a lot to share, but have lacked the motivation to write about it. This December will mark 9 years of blogging on My Little Bungalow. Maybe it has run its course. We'll see.

For now, how about a recipe? We had friends over for dinner last night and I made boeuf bourguignon, which is a bit of a production. I wanted to make an apple dessert, such as apple crisp or apple cake, but I didn't have the time (or energy) to make dessert plus the main course. So I opted for something much simpler. 

As I was thumbing through my list of recipes made over the years, this apple cider-cranberry sorbet jumped out at me. I made it for Thanksgiving dinner in 2016. It is an icy cold dessert, which seems better suited for warm weather, but the cider and cranberry flavors give it an autumnal feel. It is an easy, make-ahead dessert that can also be served between courses to cleanse the palate. And with only a few ingredients, it is suitable for people who follow a gluten-free, vegan and/or low-fat diet.

Apple Cider-Cranberry Sorbet

2 cups cranberry juice (I use Ocean Spray 100% cranberry juice, not cranberry cocktail)
1-1/2 cups apple cider (apple juice can be used, but apple cider makes it more flavorful)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • In a saucepan, bring cranberry juice, apple cider and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice.
  • Let cool slightly, then transfer to a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish.
  • Freeze for 2 hours, then mash with a fork. Cover, and continue freezing until set, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  • Transfer sorbet to a food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer sorbet to an airtight container. Refreeze until ready to serve.

This ice cream keeper from Tovolo comes in handy for storing homemade sorbet and ice cream.

Now it's time to start thinking about Thanksgiving. I love planning and making Thanksgiving dinner! And I've been craving pumpkin pie lately, so I am looking forward to that! What are your Thanksgiving plans this year?

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Remembering Ella

Hello, friends. I apologize for being MIA since early July. About two weeks after my last post, on July 24, we had to say goodbye to Ella, our sweet senior beagle. It was a very difficult loss, and I've not been able to write about it until recently. 

Ella came into our lives in March 2013. We adopted her when she was 10 years old; she had just given birth to four puppies and her owner surrendered all five dogs to the county shelter. I have no idea what the owner's circumstances were, so I try not to judge – but I admit, it's hard not to. Ella was 10 years old and not spayed. She may have been used as a breeding dog. Then she gave birth to four mixed-breed puppies and was given up. It's unfathomable to me how someone can just get rid of a pet. In our house, our dogs become family members and we give them our full love and devotion. It makes me sad that not everyone feels this way.

I love his photo of Ella and two of her four pups. It was taken at the shelter shortly after they were surrendered. Fortunately, a selfless volunteer who already had dogs, cats and two boys to care for, took Ella and her puppies to her home to foster them. Shelters are not good places for tiny puppies; they can easily contract serious illnesses and die. You can read more about Ella's entry into our family here.

In late May of 2013, one of Ella's pups, Vivian, came to visit. Vivian was adopted by Ella's foster mom. The reunion, chronicled here, was very sweet. Ella definitely recognized her daughter. Vivian was 5 or 6 months old at the time, and you can see she was already as large as her mama.

Once Ella settled in, things were great. She and the other dogs got along wonderfully. There was a lot of snuggling, many walks and even a trip to the antiques mall. There were overnight stays in hotels and canoe rides on the lake.  

Ella had her share of surgeries in the six years she lived with us. The first was to have her spayed (a county adoption requirement) and while she was under anesthesia we had her teeth cleaned; eleven had to be pulled. Several mammary gland tumors were removed. Later, she had more growths and small tumors removed, including one on her snout, near her left eye, leaving a long scar. This growth eventually came back and was inoperable due to its location and size. After each surgery, despite her advanced age, Ella rebounded and was back to her lively self. 

Ella's eyesight diminished toward the end of her life. We prepared to have cataract surgery performed, but her retinas failed the test, which meant inevitable blindness that cataract removal wouldn't help. She also lost most of her hearing. These sensory losses brought about some changes in her personality. For at least the last year of her life, she had nightly episodes of barking and restlessness, like sundown syndrome common to people with dementia. However, her loss of vision and hearing did not slow her down physically. She ran wide open up the three steps to the side door of our house, which occasionally resulted in a tumble. But she'd get right back up again. She never got hurt, even when she took a bad spill down a flight of 20 hardwood stairs in a beach rental house. That was scary! But after a couple of minutes of being held and examined, all she wanted was dinner! We said over and over that Ella was tough as nails, and we meant it.

Ella was a true beagle and had a voracious appetite. Sometimes her appetite got her into trouble, like the time she ate a small hole in a bag of dog food. Fortunately we caught her, otherwise she might have eaten herself to death. Over the course of the evening, though, her belly started to bloat and she began whimpering, so off to the emergency clinic we went. X-rays showed a mass of food in her gut that only time and IV fluids would help (they couldn't induce vomiting). It required an overnight stay and resulted in an $800 bill. That beagle!

Ella lived to eat, snuggle, sleep and go on adventures – and probably in that order! Ella would curl up in the darnedest places, including my husband's open guitar case. She did this many times over the years, sometimes with her head hanging over the side of the case, making it look like she'd had a long night of hard partying.

Ella was a good sport. She let me dress her in sweaters, coats – even a Halloween costume. She didn't care much for the hat, though. Ella greeted the children who came to the house at Halloween and even the little ones who were scared of dogs warmed up to her. She was wonderful with children.

Ella loved to roll in the grass. It was a form of exercise for her. She'd squirm her way from one side of the yard to the other!

Ella was spunky and playful until the end, and she left an imprint on our hearts that will remain forever. While I'm grateful she lived to be 16, we only had her in our lives six years. Even so, it was a fun-filled six years, and I wouldn't hesitate to adopt a senior dog again. I encourage you to visit your local shelter and consider adopting an adult or senior dog. Please adopt, don't shop, for your next pet. The number of dogs and cats euthanized in shelters is staggering. Every single animal adopted out to a loving forever home helps lower that number. You can make a difference.

Monday, July 8, 2019

No-cook Summer Supper: Salade Niçoise

When it's too hot to cook, but you want to enjoy an easy-to-prepare meal at home, try making a salade niçoise. Having originated in Nice, France, the salad is traditionally composed of tomatoes, Niçoise olives, anchovies and hard-boiled eggs. Tuna, potatoes and green beans are frequently added.

My spin on a salad niçoise one Sunday recently included: canned tuna in olive oil, mixed olives, green beans, tomatoes, snow peas, marinated artichoke hearts, small red peppers (we refer to them as Peppadews, which I learned here is a brand name), hard-boiled eggs and feta cheese, all on a bed of Bibb lettuce. I drizzled some balsamic vinaigrette over the salad, and voila, dinner was served.

To make this simple supper even easier to make, I bought hard-boiled eggs at the grocery and left the green veggies raw. We enjoyed a refreshing pinot grigio with the salad and ate out on the porch. It was a bit toasty, and the flies were a nuisance, but sometimes that's what we have to deal with when dining outdoors.

What are your favorite no-cook summer meals? Do share!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Peanut Butter, Banana and Cocoa Popsicles

Hello, everyone, and happy Independence Day to my American friends!

Summer is in full swing here, the weather hot and humid. It's the perfect time to make homemade popsicles! I tried a new recipe last month and added cocoa powder to make it my own. Give these yummy frozen treats a try before summer comes to an end (don't worry, you still have plenty of time).

Peanut Butter, Banana and Cocoa Popsicles

3 ripe bananas, cut into chunks
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural)
1 cup yogurt (I used Siggi's 0% milkfat, vanilla-flavored) 
1-1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons honey

Put all ingredients, except honey, in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Add honey and process. Taste and add a little more honey, if desired. Spoon into pop molds and freeze overnight. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 29, 2019


Summertime, and the livin' is easy ... Happy summer y'all. Summer is my favorite season. And our lovely dahlia garden is one reason why. This year my husband planted several new tubers. The white flowers and the deep pink one seen here are new flowers. The peach colored dahlia is one of our original plants, and one of my favorites. Cutting these lovely blooms and displaying them around the house makes me so happy. What's blooming in your summer garden?

For more dahlia photos, follow me on Instagram: @claudiabunglaow

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Vegetable Fried Rice

Here's a delicious and very easy recipe for vegetable fried rice that I made for supper last evening. Why eat out when you can make this tasty dish at home? Cooking at home has several advantages. First, it costs less than eating out. Second, it allows you to control the amount of sodium and fat in your food, and your portion size. Third, sometimes you have leftovers for another meal, which further extends the economical benefits. In the case of this recipe, it makes only enough for two, but you can double to recipe to serve four or to have leftovers. 

I substituted organic tamari sauce for the soy sauce to make it gluten free. If you are limiting your sodium intake, use low-sodium tamari or soy sauce. I also used a lovely ginger rice vinegar, which complements the dish perfectly, but you can use plain rice vinegar if that's what you have on hand. When a recipe calls for vegetable oil, I use avocado oil, which has some health benefits you can read about here and here. Give this tasty recipe a try and let me know what you think!

Vegetable Fried Rice

2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce (use tamari labeled "gluten-free" if you have a wheat sensitivity)
2 tablespoons ginger-rice vinegar or regular rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large carrot or 2 small carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced (don't skip this ingredient – it makes the dish)
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 cups cooked white rice, cold (note: I cooked the rice about 40 minutes prior, so it was at room temperature, not cold)
2 cups baby spinach

1) In a small bowl, stir together tamari (or soy) sauce, vinegar and sugar until sugar is dissolved. 

2) In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Add egg and let cook until set. Transfer to a cutting board. Dice or cut egg into strips and set aside.

3) Add remaining oil to skillet, then add carrot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add scallions, ginger and garlic; cook, stirring, until scallion is soft, about 2 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the tamari or soy sauce mixture and cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Stir in egg and serve.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Happy Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day, friends. Let's take some time today to remember those who have fought for our freedom – the brave men and women who loved our country so much that they were willing to give their lives to protect it. What a sacrifice! Last year I posted six ways to honor Memorial Day. You can read the post here.

Today I wanted to share some garden updates. On the front porch we have two ferns, a palm, a fatsia japonica, and some impatiens and coleus in the planter (which isn't looking pretty enough to photograph). This year I bought ferns at a different nursery – the one where we bought our new maple tree – and I think they're the best ever. Very full and healthy.

And here is the first dahlia bud of the year. It's going to be a beauty. The dahlia garden is looking so happy and healthy! My husband planted several new ones this year which we're excited to see. I shared on Instagram two photos of the dahlia garden taken several weeks apart to show its fast progress. You can find me on Instagram: @claudiabungalow.

Our hydrangea is blooming. One of my husband's coworkers, who has since passed away, gave him this plant from his garden. Even though I never met the gentleman, I often think of him when I enjoy this hydrangea he gave us. 

The astilbe 'Fanal' my husband planted in May of 2016 is doing beautifully this year. A year or two ago it was looking awful and we almost removed it and another astilbe from the garden. They looked like they were dead. But good thing we didn't because this year they are both thriving. 

The Sun Valley maple Paul planted is settling in nicely, as is the arborvitae in the corner. The hosta on the right is getting huge, and putting out some pretty flowers (above). All the plants are enjoying the little bit of shade the maple is already providing. When a tree in the yard behind us came down last year, we lost all the shade it provided. Our back yard became full sun for much of the day. We planted this maple to provide both shade and privacy. It should grow quickly, and I look forward to seeing its color this fall.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Banana-Oat-Raisin Bread

Banana bread is one of my favorite things to bake. I love bananas and always have them on hand. If they ripen too quickly, I either freeze them for smoothies or use them to make a loaf of bread. This past weekend, I was looking for a banana bread recipe and pulled out the little recipe box my dad gave me when I was a teenager, which is when my interest in baking started. 

As I flipped through clippings and hand-written recipe cards, I found one for banana-oat-raisin bread. I can't recall the source, but it's a recipe I've made several times over the years. This time, I substituted gluten-free flour for wheat flour, and changed up the spices, increasing the amount of cinnamon and adding ginger, which I think improved upon an already great recipe. The use of oats and raisins give this bread a hearty texture that's perfect for breakfast. Give it a try using regular flour or gluten-free flour! My preference for gluten-free is Cup4Cup brand.

Banana-Oat-Raisin Bread

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup unsifted flour, or gluten-free flour such as Cup4Cup or King Arthur Measure for Measure (both contain xanthan gum)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1-1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 large bananas)
1/4 cup milk (I used 1% milk)
1 cup oats (if following a strict gluten-free diet, use gluten-free oats)
1/2 cup raisins

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan with butter and set aside.

2) In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger; set aside. In another bowl, combine mashed banana and milk; set aside.

3) In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter for about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes (at this stage, you cannot overbeat the butter and sugar mixture). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3) To the creamed butter and sugar, add the dry ingredients alternately with the banana-milk mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix just until combined. Gently stir in the oats and raisins.

4) Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Ovens vary, so check the bread about 10 minutes before the timer goes off; mine was done after 50 minutes, and, as you can see, was quite browned. Remove pan from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Turn bread out onto rack to cool completely.

Other banana bread recipes I've shared include banana-nut bread and an amazing chocolate banana bread. What do you add to your banana bread to make it extra special?

Friday, May 10, 2019

Cocktails to Celebrate Spring & Summer

Hello! How in the world did it get to be May 10th already!? Time is going by so quickly that I'm afraid I'll blink and summer will be over. Summer is my favorite season. When I first moved south (back in my 20s), I didn't dream I'd ever say that. As a New Yorker, I found the summers here quite oppressive for a long time. But over the years I've grown to love summer, heat and all. The worst part? The mosquitoes. See this post for our reliable method of keeping these pests at bay.

Summer is also synonymous with cocktail-making. On a summer evening after work, I like making a refreshing cocktail. Here are a couple of easy recipes that will inspire you to kick back and relax.

The first is a familiar favorite – the Paloma – and the second is a "Claudia original," which I am calling an orange-peach blossom, for lack of a better name. Cheers!


2 ounces good tequila, such as 1800 Silver
One 6.7 oz. bottle Q Grapefruit 
Kosher salt for rim of glass
Grapefruit, lime or lemon slice, for garnish
  • Put salt in a shallow bowl 
  • Run a slice of citrus around a portion of (or entire) rim of a highball glass  
  • Dip the rim in the salt to coat
  • Fill the glass with ice
  • Pour in the tequila and the bottle of Q Grapefruit
  • Stir gently and garnish with citrus slice

Orange-Peach Blossom

1 ounce vodka
1 ounce white peach liqueur, such as Pallini Peachcello
4 or 5 ounces orange juice
Orange wedge, for garnish
  • Fill a cocktail shaker with ice
  • Add the liquors and orange juice
  • Shake well and strain into a glass filled with ice
  • Garnish with orange wedge 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A Garden Update

Welcome! Let me show you what's new in our garden. Two weeks ago we visited a nursery and purchased several plants, including two Boston ferns for the front porch, a hibiscus for the garden, an Emerald Green arborvitae, a dwarf cryptomeria and a 15-gallon Sun Valley maple tree for our very bare and sunny back yard. The nursery was very backed up due to the Easter holiday, so the maple and two evergreens were just delivered yesterday.

We bought more plants this past weekend at my favorite little garden shop where each spring I purchase a few plants for the front porch planter. This year I kept it simple with two kinds of coleus and some bright pink impatiens. The asparagus ferns at the shop this year were very small, so I will look for a larger one someplace else. Photos of the porch planter to come!

We also bought a beautiful evergreen foliage plant called fatsia japonica. It looks stunning in the cobalt blue planter. Once fall comes, we may put it in the ground, as it is a plant that can grow quite large.

We bought a new green planter for the back yard, and my husband chose a foxtail fern for it. I added the pink calibrachoa, which looks like a mini petunia, but I read they are not related. It is supposed to mound and trail. We'll see how it does next to the fern, which is a relative of the asparagus fern.

Foxtail fern and pink calibrachoa in a new planter

Emerald Green arborvitae; similar to Leyland cypress but smaller. It will fill in this corner, covering the telephone pole and odd fence post of our neighbor's.

Cryptomeria japonica "Dragon Prince" will only grow 2 to 3 feet high

Last but not least, this pretty Sun Valley maple

I'm in love with this tree already! Isn't it lovely? I'm looking forward to the shade and privacy this maple will provide in several years, and I'm excited to see the leaf color come fall.

I can't believe how big the dark green hosta on the right has gotten! Click here to see it in May 2016 when my husband planted these hostas. We lost a few plants from this area of the garden since then, including a painted fern, two coral bells, and a hosta, all of which succumbed to the summer sun after a huge tree in the yard behind us was removed.

What's new in your garden? 
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