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Rosalind Creasy Autographing her Books

Rosalind Creasy



Last June I attended an event that was informative, inspiring and enjoyable. Northwest Perennial Alliance hosted Hardy Plant Study weekend on June 18th through June 21st. The program was packed with terrific speakers, celebrity gardeners and timely topics. However one of the speakers left a lasting impression on me. She inspired me with her enthusiasm for creating edible landscapes.

Rosalind Creasy began her presentation with a story of how she fell in love as a child with gardening and later with food. Her presentation “Introduction to Edible Landscaping” attracted at least 100 people filling the large conference room.  Creasy told about her first edible landscape. In the 1980’s while living in California, Creasy replaced her lawn with an edible landscape. Now her neighbors gather to share the bounty, the FedEx driver can’t resist helping himself to a juicy strawberry, and children are attracted to the big orange pumpkins. Easy access to fresh, organic and locally grown herbs, fruits and vegetables is an added bonus.

Creasy enjoyed gardening from the time she was a child in Massachusetts. “My father gave me an array of vegetable plants for my small garden. The plants did not care for my tendency to move them around like I rearranged the furniture in my doll house.” Although her plants died, Creasy’s passion for growing food was born.

As a young woman, Creasy’s love for food and cooking not only made her very popular with her husband and his MIT colleagues, but also sparked an interest in discovering unusual varieties of herbs and other ingredients. She cooked her way through Julia Child’s cookbooks even before Julie Powell. Then she tackled, the Joyce Chen Cookbook. Both Julia Child and Joyce Chen lived in Cambridge, where they each appeared on TV cooking shows.

In 1968, Creasy and her husband Robert bought a home in the Bay Area and she returned to gardening. Creating gardens and growing food kept luring Creasy to learn more. So she returned to school to get a degree in landscape design. When her husband began to oversee scientific projects all over the world, Creasy often visited markets and gardens in places like Milan, Grenoble, Cairo, Taipei, Hong Kong, Paris and Vienna. When she encountered unusual-looking radicchios or chili peppers, she would ask, “How do I cook it?” and “Where can I get seeds?”

During Creasy’s visit to Israel, she experienced a compelling moment. Outside of Haifa on her way to visit a kibbutz, Creasy “was struck by how hard it was for the Israelis to grow food on the limited arable land in their country, which is mostly desert.” Creasy realized that Americans were missing an opportunity to grow at least some of their own fruits and vegetables in their yards. This was the moment when Creasy’s vision of edible landscaping came into focus.

Creasy’s first book, The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping: Home Landscaping with Food-Bearing Plants and Resource-Saving Techniques, (Sierra Club Books, 1982). The book was a big hit and  sold more than 140,000 copies, won the Garden Writers Association’s Quill and Trowel award, was chosen as a Book of the Month selection and was hailed by The Wall Street Journal as the best garden book of 1982.

Creasy’s most recent book, an updated version of The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping, is titled Edible Landscaping (Sierra Club Books, 2010).  The book will be available in stores November 2010.

p.s. Creasy has written 20 books. The books have vivid photographs created by Creasy. On a personal note, I own at least five of her books. If you love food and gardening, you will love these. 

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Making Whoopee

Soft, sweet, sticky whoopie pies are one of my many guilty pleasures. Until now, I’ve never made whoopie pies, however I do remember the chocolate cake sandwich filled with marshmallow cream. Funny, I don’t know where I got them, maybe a neighborhood bakery or corner store. I haven’t given whoopie pies a second thought since childhood. That is, until the November/December issue of my “WeightWatchers” magazine arrived a couple of days ago.

Browsing through the magazine, I read the articles that inspire me to keep eating healthy food, in appropriate portions and give me ideas for increasing  physical activity. This magazine always gives me new tips. Then I saw the whoopie pie recipe on page 70 for Peppermint Whoopie Pies.

That recipe activated my appetite along with my memories of past whoopie pie affairs. Suddenly I was thinking about the song “Making Whoopee”. I could hear Ella Fitzgerald’s  sultry voice singing the suggestive lyrics.

“The choir sings, “Here comes the bride”

Another victim is at her side.

He’s lost his reason

‘Cause it’s the season

For making whoopee.”

Could it be this song was written with whoopie pies in mind? Or maybe it’s the other way around, the sticky, sweet treat got its name from the song? I talked with my sister about this question. She thinks there is no doubt, the Whoopie Pie is a euphemism for making love and got its name from the song. She said, “How else would you trap a man into marriage, but making Whoopie Pie?”

Turning back to recipes and baking, as I read this recipe, it triggered my imagination. I had recently purchased lavender extract from Lavender Wind Farm. What if I used that instead of peppermint extract when I made this recipe? I could replace the  green food coloring in the filling  with purple. Oh, I’m so happy with my version of whoopie pie.

 Make whoopie or whoopee (or both) you won’t regret it!

Whoopie Pies

Lavender Whoopie Pies

Lavender Whoopie

2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

½ teaspoon lavender extract

1 cup buttermilk

Lavender Marshmallow Filling (recipe below)

1.    Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2.    Sift the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking powder & salt) together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

3.    Cream butter and sugar together in large mixing bowl on medium speed. Reduce speed to low, mix in egg and lavender extract until well blended.

4.    Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternating, begin and end with flour and mix just until blended.

5.    Drop 12 tablespoons of batter onto baking sheet about 1 ½ inches apart. Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes. To test for doneness, gently touch a cookie, if the cooking shows a dent, keep cooking. When the cookie springs back after you touch it, it is done.

6.    Remove from oven and slide the parchment paper onto rack and let cool. Repeat this process with the remaining batter to make 48 cakes.

7.    Meanwhile make the Lavender Marshmallow Filling (see below for recipe).

8.    Using a metal spatula, remove cakes from parchment paper. Spread filling evenly on flat side of 24 cakes. Top with remaining cakes, rounded side up, to create 24 whoopie pies.

Lavender Marshmallow Filling

1 ½ cups corn syrup

4 egg whites, large and at room temperature

Pinch of cream of tartar

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon lavender extract

Purple food coloring gel

1.     Pour 1 ½ cups of light corn syrup in a medium-sized saucepan. Cover and cook over high heat for 4 minutes.

2.    While the corn syrup is reaching temperature, put egg whites and cream of tartar in a large metal bowl of electric stand mixer. With whisk attachment on medium-high speed, beat until soft peaks form. Turn mixed off.

3.    Uncover pan and boil syrup until it reaches 230ºF (thread stage) on candy thermometer, 8-10 minutes. Remove pan from heat. With mixer on low speed, add hot syrup in slow steady stream along side of bowl, beating until blended. Increase speed to medium-high. Beat mixture until bowl is lukewarm to touch 12-14 minutes.

4.    Turn mixer off, add powdered sugar, vanilla and lavender extracts, beat until smooth.

5.    Turn mixer off, add one drop of food coloring gel. Beat until blended.

 

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Getty Villa

Replica of First-Century Roman Country House

The Getty Villa, built in 1974, was modeled after Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy. Much of the Villa dei Papiri remains are still buried because  Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D.79 , so many of the Getty Villa’s architectural details come from other ancient Roman homes in southern Italy near Pompeii.

I was stunned by the architectural beauty of the Getty Villa. The Outer Peristyle consists of a row of columns surrounding the formal garden. The 220 foot reflecting pool, the formal gardens of boxwood, acanthus, foxglove and hellebore and the statues invite quiet conversation and peaceful contemplation. The day we visited was sunny and hot. As I walked through this space, I could feel a hush as if someone had said, “Shhh.”

Never one to want to stay too long in a museum, I wanted to tour the Herb Garden. The Villa Dei Papiri would have been a long way from Rome, so it would’ve need to grow the food for its residents needs. Ancient Romans would’ve relied on the bounty of their garden for cooking, medicine and ceremony.

The symmetry of the garden added a feel of balance and order.The herb garden is planted at the Villa’s west side. Olive trees thrived in their place next to the Villa. Along the walk ways, herbs –lavender, basil, calamint, oregano, thyme and horsemint grew. Fruit trees – apple, pomegranate, lime, pear, fig – stood at the far west side. I couldn’t help imagining what it would have been like to live in this house in ancient times, so much simpler in some ways, no cell phones, email or Facebook. What did they do with all that peace and quiet?

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Sorry, My Image Couldn't Capture the Fragrance

Yesterday, I found a small package on my doorstop. I looked at the return address and discovered it was from my sister Chris who lives in Columbus, Ohio. I ripped the package open, and before I could see the contents, I could smell the fresh fragrance. Inside was a bar of soap. Not just ordinary soap, it was handmade with natural olive oil and oatmeal; its fragrance came from lavender.

Naked Bear

"Naked ....It's Natural": great tag line!

I smiled when I read that the farm’s name was Freckle Bear Lavender . What’s the story behind that name? I’m going to make it my mission to find out what it is. The soap was made by Bear Naked Goods. The person who dreamed up these names must be creative. Then I noticed the logo, and laughed.

I’ve never thought much about soap. For most of my life, my favorite was Ivory Soap. When I took a bath, it would float around the tub making it easy to find. What it was made with never  crossed my mind. Over the years, I’ve become more careful what I put on my skin.

This past summer, my hands were rough and red with a strange rash on my palms. I went to a dermatologist who took one look at my hands and asked, “Are you using antibacterial soap?”  

I answered, “yes.” Then she told me antibacterial soap was probably the culprit. She told me to stop using it. My hands were back to normal within a week.

When I was researching lavender farms in Virginia, I came across a farm called The Lavender Path. This was posted on their home page:

“You need to read the most recent article explaining the negatives of anti-bacterial soap published by Scientific American. Our hand soap is one of the most popular products and the lavender essential oil has natural anti-bacterial properties. That means the Chesapeake Bay does not get any nasty chemicals to harm the ecosystem.”

Now I’m even more aware of the risks of using antibacterial soap. Not only does it cause skin rashes for people who have sensitive skin, it contains potentially dangerous chemicals that can disrupt hormones and “may actually be aiding in the development of superbacteria.” Another problem is that these chemicals eventually get into our water supply, soil and food.

I am grateful to lavender growers like the one at The Lavender Path for getting the word out about the benefit of using natural soaps. If you are like me, and have not thought much about soap, I ask you to consider switching to natural soap made with natural ingredients.

Thank you, also, to my sister, for a thoughtful gift!

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Lavender Heart Botanicals Shop

Lavender Heart Botanicals Shop

When I met Holly Henderson at her shop, Lavender Heart Botanicals, I wanted to know more about her. After writing a book about lavender, I was curious about how this herb had enchanted Holly.

Holly grew up on her family’s farm, The Henderson Holly Farm, in the 1960’s. My first question was, “Were you named for the farm?”

She tossed her long red hair back, and said, “I never knew for sure. My mother told me that back in Minnesota, a lost little girl knocked on the front door on a snowy winter day. Mom invited her to come in out of the cold while she called her parents. Her name was Holly. Mom decided then if she ever had a baby girl, she would name her Holly.”

Holly’s parents set up a production facility, enlisted a crew, and created a business making and selling wreaths, topiaries and garlands. They shipped their botanical masterpieces across the United States and to seven foreign countries. Holly and her five siblings worked on the farm cutting holly, making wreaths and packing them for shipping. This experience would eventually lead Holly to lavender, however the route would be indirect.

Holly couldn’t wait to escape and go off to college. She joined several bands, where she sang and played acoustical guitar.

When the music scene wasn’t paying the bills, Holly got a part-time job in a florist shop. With her blue eyes flashing, Holly said, “You won’t believe what my first customer ordered: a casket cover! I didn’t have a clue how to make one. My mother looked everything up, so that’s what I did, I looked it up in a catalog. I found fresh gladioli, carnations and lilies, foam and a form to hold them in place, and actually created one.”

As Holly told me similar stories of her resourcefulness, I began to wonder when lavender would enter the scene.

Several years later, Holly was living in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. A phone call from Jan, a grade school friend, brought her another opportunity. “Holly, I’ve been looking at wreaths in the catalogs of Williams-Sonoma, Smith & Hawken and others. I know we could do better. Let’s start a business making wreaths and garlands. You’d be great at design and I could do the marketing.”

Jan snagged a large order with I Magnin, an upscale department store in Seattle. They were looking for a ‘gift-for-purchase’ item. Jan showed them the Lavender Heart Sachet that Holly had designed: a heart-shaped sachet filled with lavender buds & decorated with pink roses made of satin ribbon. I Magnin ordered 1000!

Now, Holly had to figure out how to actually produce these sachets.  “My dad offered the barn as a production space, his crew for assembly, and, suddenly, I was back to the place that I had wanted to escape from during my teens.”

Pink Heart Wreath

Heart Wreath at Lavender Heart Botanicals

Now, I began to see how wreath-making, lavender and Holly’s forceful personality were coming together to weave a path to her shop.

“Lavender was becoming popular in wreaths, topiaries and floral arrangements. I looked to France, Germany and Holland for new design ideas. When Eddie Bauer was opening stores, they engaged us to provide props; when Victoria’s Secret was doing a photo shoot and wanted lavender en masse, they turned to Lavender Heart Botanicals.”

As time went on, Jan decided to leave the partnership, and Holly’s five-year old son, Will, was ready to start school. Holly wanted to simplify her life and concentrate on parenting her son. “I found a retail location here in Madison Valley that met my criteria:  a five- minute drive to Will’s school.”

Whimsical Chicken Purse

Whimsical Chicken Purse

“My shop offers unique products such as lavender water, wreaths, fine soaps, candles and unique gifts like this whimsical chicken purse,” Holly said. While I talked with Holly, several customers came into her shop. Two women walked in together. They oohed and awed over the chicken purse and eventually bought it. I asked them if they lived around here.

Music lured Holly away from wreath-making at her parent’s holly farm. Then lavender inspired Holly’s

What a lovely cookbook!

creativity for botanical design, and under the spell of lavender, she returned to the holly farm. When Holly’s son Will came along, opened Lavender Heart Botanicals. Today, Holly’s Lavender Heart gift shop offers her customers unique gifts for nearly every occasion. Holly’s son is in college, planning on becoming a doctor. Holly’s creativity continues to delight her customers.

You will love the items in Holly’s shop, however if you’re looking for a chicken purse, you’re out of luck. Somebody already bought it.

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Comfort Food?

 

 

 

 

Mulled Wine

Lavender Mulled Wine

 

Mulled wine is warm and comforting when the weather turns cool. It is great for sipping while sitting by the fireplace. 

 

1 bottle dry red wine (Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon both work well)

1/2 cup lavender sugar *

1 cinnamon stick

6 allspice berries

2 whole cloves

2 strips of lemon zest

2 strips of orange zest

Additional cinnamon sticks for garnish

1.   Combine the wine, lavender sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, lemon and orange zests in a large saucepan. 

2.   Bring to simmer over medium heat.  Cook for 5 minute then strain.

3.   Ladle wine into mugs and garnish with lemon or orange slice and cinnamon sticks. 

 

  • Note: To make lavender sugar, add 1 cup granulated sugar and ½ tablespoon of dried culinary lavender buds into a covered container about 3 days before you plan to use the sugar. The lavender buds will infuse the sugar with its fragrance and flavor.

 

Serves 6

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Hail to the Wreath

    

Wreath made with hydrangea, lavender and heather

 

I will admit it. I love wreaths. Whether it’s a holly wreath during the Christmas season or an autumn leaf wreath, a wreath on my front door makes me happy. From ancient times, the wreath has symbolized honor, hospitality and celebration.     

This beautiful wreath came from Bella Home and Garden, the shop that celebrated lavender this past weekend. I mentioned on my post yesterday that once I spotted this wreath I could not resist the temptation to bring it home with me.   

Today, I looked around my garden.   

Hydrangea

 

 I noticed hydrangea flowers in tones of blue, purple and gray. My eyes rested on heather blossoms of pink, violet and dark purple. I have bundles of dry lavender, too.   

These were all in my garden before I brought this wreath home, but somehow I did not see the potential for cutting the flowers, drying them and creating a wreath.   

My Wreath

 

I found a wreath form I had tucked away in my garage. My creativity began to call to me, and I began to make my autumn wreath.This garden cat was feeling creative, too, and stopped by to help.   

Creative Cat

 

Making a wreath is easy. One of my favorite books on wreath-making is “Making  Wreaths” by Barbara Radcliffe Rogers.  Have fun and find flowers, leaves, berries and seed pods or cones to add to your wreath.

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