Wednesday, April 1, 2020

SPLURGE STORY

Steve Aiken is editor of my favorite gardening magazine, Fine Gardening.  In this this month's  issue
his opening editorial really hit a cord with me as a avid gardener..and my name is Steve too!

Splurge Story
by Steve Aiken

From what I understand, avid gardeners can go a bit overboard when buying plants.  I don’t ever do this, but I know it happens because people have told me.  It reminds me of something that happened to a friend of mine, not to me.
He was shopping at a local nursery widely known for its outstanding selection of cool and unusual plants.  Sure, I shop there too, and am male, but this story is not about me.  It is about my friend, who is not me-and who happens to be quite handsome for an  older fella.
Amid all of the treasures at this nursery, he spied a shrub with glossy burgundy leaves shining in the sunlight, as though the gardening gods had focused a spotlight on this very plant so that he might gaze upon it.  He was drawn to it, and reveled in its beauty.  
As he bent down to add the plant to his cart, he happened to notice the price tag. Immediately, clouds obscured the sun and a cold wind blew.  It was way too expensive.  He placed it back where he had found it-with, it seemed, a little piece of his soul.

He continued shopping but his attention always went back to those glossy burgundy leaves. He looked at the carts of the other customers hoping that none of them had bought the coveted plant either.  

That’s when he came up with a plan.  He would buy the plant (car payment be damned) when he knew his wife wouldn’t be home. He would plant it immediately and once the plant was in the ground, he would cover up the evidence.

With the course of action clear before him, he returned to the plant where he had placed it, slightly obscured from the view of less-discerning customers.  He placed the shrub in his cart and felt the warmth of the sun on his back. A bluebird perched on a near-by tree and chirped its approval.  His soul was restored.  And he marched triumphantly to the cash register, thinking to him self, “Nice choice, Steve!” Oh, my friend’s name is also Steve. This didn’t happen to me. Did I mention he was handsome?

Monday, March 30, 2020

CONCRETE FLOWER MESSAGE BAR


Concrete Flower Message Bar 
This is a fun project to do by oneself or with a group of helpers. Plastic flowers are given a transformation by dipping them into a wet concrete mixture, which makes them “outdoorable”.
Use as ornaments for planters, pots or wherever you want to add a surprise element in your garden. These instructions will show you how to create these flowers and a Word Bar to display them as a hanging plaque or as container ornament and you can use the single flowers any way you see fit.

What You Need:
-Simple plastic flowers (daisies are perfect, roses not so much) with leaves and a strong stem.
- can of old spray paint
-1 1/4” x 4 ½” x 8 ½” piece of insulation foam 
-sand topping concrete mix (yellow/red/black Quikcrete bag)
- yogurt cup
-white glue
-pair of scissors, a ruler and a pencil
-X-acto knife with a sharp blade
-10  3” common nails
-small hand or keyhole saw
-vegetable oil or bakers spray
- large plastic mixing bowl or pail
-wooden spoon or cement trowel
- 1-inch paint brush
- extra foam pieces to hold drying flowers
-latex or vinyl gloves

What you do:
1. Make the Word Bar mold first. Photocopy the pattern on these instructions.  Cut out the large rectangular pattern. Do not cut the inside strips at this point.  Trace the rectangle on the piece of 1 ¼” thick foam. Now cut out the four strips. Save the lettering pattern for later. Trace the strips onto the foam and cut everything out with the handsaw- 1 rectangle base, two long strips and two short. 

2.  Lightly (just a smear) coat the back of the lettering pattern with white glue and center in the middle of the large rectangle base and allow to dry.  

3.  Using the X-acto knife held at a 45-degree angle cut out the dark letters using small up and down strokes. Don’t worry that the letters are backward.  They will read correctly on the finished product. Remove the remaining pattern paper from the foam. 

4.  Assemble the mold using the nails.  Measure down the middle of the top and bottom mold pieces making a mark with the pencil every 1-½ inches.  You will end up with three evenly spaced marks on the top and bottom of the Word Bar. At each mark, use the pencil to pierce a hole, starting at the bottom and passing through the topside of the mold.  Run a plastic straw through these holes from bottom to top.  These will become the holes that hold the flowers in the Word Bar. Spray or oil the inside of the mold and set aside. 

 5.  Prepare the plastic flowers by trimming stems that are too long and “fluffing” the leaves and petals so they look their best.  If they seem especially slick and shiny, spritz them with any color of spray paint you have on hand.  This will help the concrete to adhere.

6.  Remove the flower heads and stick the stems with leaves into a sheet of foam or an overturned cardboard box punched with holes.  This will serve as your drying rack.

7.  Put on the latex or vinyl gloves. Measure three yogurt cups of sand mix cement into a plastic mixing bowl.  Slowly add warm water and mix thoroughly to the consistency of melted ice cream: smooth, rich and not too runny.

8. This is the messy part…expect a mess! Dip and slosh each flower head into the mixture, using your fingers and a paintbrush to coat everything- petals and centers, fronts and backs.  Carefully lay the dipped flower heads down onto the foam with the front side facing up.
Now dip the leaves on the stems completely into the mixture and stick them into your drying rack. Allow setting and hardening before repeating this step a second time. Two dippings should do the trick.

 9.  Pour any remaining concrete into the Word Bar mold and tap to remove air bubbles.  If, after both dippings, you do not have enough concrete to fill the mold, mix enough to fill it and allow setting and hardening overnight.  When hard, carefully remove the nails to free your cast Word Bar.  Smooth the edges and trim off the excess straws with the X-acto knife and make sure the straw holes are clean.  Reassemble the mold because you can use it repeatedly to make additional word bars.


Once everything is dried and cleaned, you’ll have the fun of finding creative ways to use your flowers and Word Bar around your garden. The concrete covered flowers will shed a few crumbs every time you move them, so once in place, leave them be.  It’s time to bloom!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

SPICED CHAI CAKE WITH PUMPKIN FILLING


When I visit a coffee shop, I usually forego the coffee and order a Chai Latte.  I love this combination of spices with a bite.  Here is a cake that mimics this flavor with a luscious Spiced Pumpkin Dip filling made by KC Gourmet.  Holy yum!

SPICED CHAI CAKE WITH PUMPKIN FILLING

1.  Coat a 13” X 9” pan with baking spray and line bottom with baking parchment and preheat oven to 350F.

2.  Mix together:
1 yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1 cup applesauce
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 TBS Chai Spice*
*You can buy this premade on Amazon.  I like to make my own that is less sweet with more of a snappier bite.

    3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon ground ginger
½ tablespoon ground allspice 
½ tablespoon ground cloves
½ tablespoon ground nutmeg
½ tablespoon ground black pepper

3.  Pour mixed batter into baking pan.  

4. Bake for 30-35minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. 

5. Run a knife around the edges of the pan and invert cake onto a sheet of parchment paper.  Cut in half horizontally.  Then cut top half into four smaller equal sections. 

6. Return the top half to the cake pan one section at a time. A nice wide spatula makes this easy work.

7.  Spread the contents of one jar of KC Gourmet’s Spiced Pumpkin Dip. Replace the second half of cake on top of the filling.  You can try it in one piece using the parchment paper or cut the second layer into sections as you did the first.

8. Allow to cool and then place covered in the freezer while you prepare the frosting.


SPICE CHAI CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

1/2 cup of butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
About 3 cups of powdered sugar 
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon Chai spice
1. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until completely smooth, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl to ensure that the mixture is mixed evenly.
2.  Beat in vanilla and almond extract, Chai Spice. With the mixer running on low speed to start, slowly add in 2 cups of the powdered sugar. Keep adding  powdered sugar until you get the desired spreading consistency.
3. Spread the frosting over the surface of the cake.  Dust the top lightly with more Chai Spice. Refrigerate and serve.

When I visit a coffee shop, I usually forego the coffee and order a Chai Latte.  I love this combination of spices with a bite.  Here is a cake that mimics this flavor with a lucious Spiced Pumpkin Dip filling made by KC Gourmet.  Holy yum!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

FACETED HYPERTUFA CACHEPOT

Faceted Hypertufa Container

Here’s a nice, simple project for the winter months.  It will make a make a great little cachepot for fresh flowers and a perfect pot for small herbs in spring. 

What You Need

1 ¼”pink (Home Depot) or blue (Lowes) insulation foam 
    White Styrofoam blocks from shipping cartons can work but will take a bit more preparation.
X-acto knife
Small keyhole saw
3” common nails
baking spray
Plastic mixing bowl
Mud gloves
Mason’s trowel
plastic covered work surface

Freshly mixed hypertufa.  Here’s a simple recipe;

What You Do

1.  Measure four 5” x 6” rectangles from the sheet of insulation foam for the sides of your mold and one 7 1/2’ square for the base of the mold.

2.  Measure in 1 ¼” from the left side and draw a line of each of the four side pieces of the mold. Draw a rectangle on the right side of each piece.  Draw an “X” from corner to corner of the rectangle and then a cross from center to center.  Cut each section of this rectangle using the X-acto knife.  The blade tip should always be pointing inward and held at a 45 degree angle. Cutting in this way on each side of each shape, a faceted piece of foam will pop out for each one.  When you are finished, you will have a beautifully faceted surface. 
3. Assemble the four sides of the mold using 2 or 3 common nails in an overlapping fashion so the resulting mold has four equal sides. 
 4. Attached the base of the mold to the sides using common nails. Spray the inside of the mold with baking spray.

5.  Mix your hypertufa to a clay-like consistency and pack the mold starting at a corner in the base and building brick-layer style around the mold until you reach the top. Sides should be between ½’ to ¾” thick. Poke a hold in the bottom with your finger for drainage if desired. Use your hand to smooth and round the edge of the cachepot along the top. Allow to set and cure for three to four days.  
6. When the hypertufa is hard to the touch, remove the bottom of the mold first and then each of the sides.  If you are careful, you will be able to use this mold repeatedly.
7. Cleanup rough edges with the edge of the trowel and then rinse the cashepot with water to remove dust.  Allow to dry and then put it to use by slipping a glass filled with water into it for fresh flowers or potting it up with a living plant.




Saturday, November 2, 2019

THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS...HAUL OUT THE HAPPY



The 12 Days of Christmas…HAUL OUT THE HAPPY
10:00 am -8:00 pm Daily
Opening Day is Wednesday, November 13,
running 12 consecutive days through
Sunday, November 24. Come join us!
At From the Summer’s Garden you’ll find joy inside and out.  
Discover handmade artwork, as you stroll about!  
We’re open for twelve days straight days from ten a.m. to eight,  
Our shelves are stocked, our spirits high, we simply cannot wait! 

 We’ll help you HAUL OUT THE HAPPY!

From the Summer's Garden
8601 Barkley Street
Overland Park, KS 66212
913-579-5395


Info: fromthesummersgarden.com

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Browned Butter Pumpkin Pie













So I have recently discovered baking with browned butter and it is really yummy. In their pie shop, Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn, the bakers make this awesome pumpkin pie with browned butter which gives the pumpkin a subtle butterscotch note that makes for the perfect autumnal pie. 

Browned Butter Pumpkin Pie

Your favorite crust for a 9-inch single-crust, partially prebaked 
6 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1 cup light brown sugar 
2 tablespoons water ½ cup heavy cream 
½ teaspoon vanilla extract 
2 large eggs 
2 large egg yolks 
½ teaspoon kosher salt 
12/3 cups pumpkin puree 
½ teaspoon ground allspice 
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 
Pinch ground cloves 
1 teaspoon molasses 
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 
1 cup evaporated milk 

In a heavy-bottomed skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Continue to cook; the butter will foam and then begin to turn golden, then nut brown; whisk occasionally. When the butter is nut brown, immediately add the brown sugar, whisk, and then carefully add the water to loosen. 

Cook until the mixture smells caramelized and starts to darken. Note: This does not take very long! Remove from the heat and slowly add the heavy cream (the mixture will bubble rapidly) and whisk until smooth. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Place the prebaked pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and yolks together with the salt. Set aside. 

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, blend the pumpkin puree with the allspice, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, molasses, and lemon juice until smooth. With the machine running on low, stream the brown-butter butterscotch through the food processor's feed tube and process until combined. Stream in the egg mixture, followed by the evaporated milk; blend until smooth, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides with a rubber scraper. 

Strain the filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a separate bowl, pressing through with a rubber scraper. Pour into the prebaked shell. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, rotating 180 degrees when the edges start to set, 30 to 35 minutes through baking. 

The pie is finished when the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is no longer liquid but still quite wobbly. Be careful not to overbake or the custard can separate; the filling will continue to cook and set after the pie is removed from the oven. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature, or cool. 

The pie will keep refrigerated for 2 days or at room temperature for 1 day. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

2019 AUTUMN TO WINTER WREATHS

As you view this slideshow of the 2019 Autumn into Winter Wreath Workshop, note the variety and richness in each of these unique wreaths. Wreath-making is a first love at From the Summer's Garden. You can join in the fun too!  We will be making wreaths for the coming Holiday season soon.  
Get full information on our website fromthesummersgarden.com