Monday, February 22, 2010

Sweet Georgia Blue

We've had an unusually long and cold winter this year. This past weekend was very nice, but the weekend before we had snow. And in the days between those two events, it was still chilly and windy -- with pretty cold nights. So I was surprised to go out there one of those days and be greeted by this sweet little harbinger of spring. Amidst the dead leaves that have lay there all winter, and despite the harsh weather conditions, she stuck her lovely little face up toward the sun and, unlike the grousey ground hog, declared that spring is just around the corner!

There is an area in the front of the house where we put a fountain a few years ago and I consider this spot to be my "presidential garden"...because it is a garden of hope and change -- and ultimate disappointment. Every spring when the weather warms up, I get energized and enthusiastic about gardening. This is a nice little area to work in. So I go up the road a ways to my favorite nursery and start buying plants to put in. I get Jerry to dig lots of little holes (hey...that's hard work!) and I start putting things in. The fact that most of these are perennials and yet I'm buying new ones every year will tell you what kind of green thumb I have. So with great expectations for the riot of color that I will see all summer long, I plant. I read up on these plants and believe all the wonderful things that they are said to do. But then, alas, summer comes. And with it comes heat. I don't "do" sweating, so I go in the air conditioning and read a book. Then come the bugs...feasting on the tiny roots of my new friends. Then, more times than I care to remember, comes the drought -- and the "Sweet Georgia Brown" clay turns to adobe bricks. Mi Casa doesn't look so good by now.

So last spring, in a fit of such enthusiasm, I purchased three of these cute little plants called Veronica peduncularis 'Georgia Blue'. They were only $1 each and I took them home and apologized to them for what their future would hold. I nestled them together under a hosta and next to a cute rock that has actually survived in the "garden" for several years now. But they shared my vision and soon spread out and made themselves at home. A short while later I had to take the two that were closest to the hosta and move them on the other side and space them out further. They are spring bloomers, so the flowers didn't last long. But these little plants delighted me all summer. Because of the low height they neatly mounded even as they spread and the foliage was a pleasant change from brown dirt.
In the last few days, with the warmer weather and sun peeking out, several others have joined the first flower in opening up and I'm seeing lots and lots of buds! So I'm going to hang my hopes on the catalog description (this is THEIR photo) and expect this little gem to please me for many months to come. I'm sure she'll be one reason I go to the nursery and spend lots and lots of green on my "presidential garden" again this year. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Perfect Storm

Usually the term "perfect storm" brings to mind a series of events that converge to make a horrendous impact on the weather and those affected by it. But last weekend, we had what I would call a "perfect storm". Emphasis on the "perfect" rather than the "storm". We were under winter storm advisories, but it was wonderful.

We are always skeptical of weathermen calling for snow in our part of the country. If we get anything at all (and more times than not, we don't) it's hard to even see it or it is in the middle of the night because that's the only time it gets cold enough. We get excited about a little dusting on the ground about once a year and everyone goes into panic mode -- for no reason. But last Friday the weathermen were right on. It started snowing...and actually about 2:30 in the afternoon -- just like they said it would. For a few hours these big, soft, beautiful flakes floated down at a pretty good rate. We got about 4" at our house and it covered everything and was as pretty as anything you've ever seen on a Christmas card.

Jodi and the kids had a Valentine party to go to, but they were coming over after that. They got here about 5:30 and it was great packing by then. We made a snowman, had snowball fights, made snow angels and just enjoyed being out in it till after dark. Then Jess joined us and we had a spaghetti supper. After that, we set the air mattress up in the living room and all settled in to watch the Olympics' opening ceremonies. Jess' work was cancelled, so she got to spend the night, too.

In the morning, Emery woke me up all excited that the snowman was still there. The sky was as blue as it's ever been and the sun was shining on all that beautiful snow. After a breakfast of streusel muffins (yum...thanks, Jodi), Jess and grandpa went out to play with the kids. We discovered that a large trash bag makes a very good sled. And who knew we had a "sledding hill" in our front yard? They had a lot of fun sledding. We decided to name them our Olympic Trash Bag sledding team. Go, USA!

By the time they were getting cold (oh, please. They don't know what "cold" is!) and ready to come in for some hot chocolate, the sun was doing what sun does to snow. It was starting to disappear. By Monday morning, there was no sign of it anywhere. How magical is that?

I know, some of you reading this live in other parts of the country and you are sick and tired of snow and cold this year -- and you might even welcome the chance to have a conversation with Al Gore. But you have to admit that when you have a snow "storm" as rarely as we do and it looks like this and then goes away...that's just about "perfect"!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Notes From the Wine Cellar

In a conversation a while back on Face Book, my cousin, Lynn, was telling me about a wine called "Choco Vine". Yes, that's Dutch for "chocolate wine". The label clearly states..."The taste of dutch chocolate and fine red wine." Well...who could resist trying that?

Lynn said she gets it at her local grocery store. So I went on the hunt for Choco Vine. My local Kroger store has an extensive wine department, so I started there. Turns out they don't carry this particular treat. I was able to find it at another store, though, and I can tell you that it's very good. Tastes pretty much like Bailey's Irish Cream.

But while in Kroger's, I spent quite a bit of time really looking at all the wines they did have. I usually just run through and grab one of our favorites. Moscato is our current wine of choice. But I didn't know what Choco Vine looked like and Lynn said there were red and yellow tulips on the label. So I was looking at all the labels on the bottles. That's quite an adventure! There were a couple of labels that caught my attention, so I decided to buy these and try them based on that alone. One called Three Alarm Cellars had a really neat label. It simply said it was a "California red wine". They didn't say what food it would be good with, but I'm guessing maybe Five Alarm Chili? But when I read the label I saw that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of their wines goes to an organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of burn survivors and promoting burn prevention. In addition, the painting on the front of a 1945 Diamond T fire truck was painted by a fire captain and his paintings have earned thousands of dollars which have been donated to the Widows and Orphans fund of 9-11. So there were a couple of good reasons to try this wine. I wish we would have liked it better. It was a little robust for our taste. But we like sweeter wines, so don't let my opinion stop you from trying it. They also have a white -- so maybe I'll try that one.

Another one that caught my eye was one called "pink truck" (no capitol letters). And the description was simply, "California pink wine". Well, that was just a fun looking label. Apparently the wine makers in California don't give a lot of descriptions on their labels. We tried that one the other night and I can tell you it goes quite well with meat loaf.
I was telling the girls about my sophisticated new system for choosing wines and Jessica told me I should check out some that Target had called "Middle Sister Wines".
Since I AM a middle sister, how could I not? Some of you may be thinking Target is not a place where you would choose a fine wine, but here in "redneck country" that's what we do. Well....there were so many to choose from. Names like "Wicked White", "Drama Queen", "Rebel Red", "Mischief Maker", and "Forever Cool" beckoned me. But I chose one called "Smarty Pants". Not only did it fit, but it was a chardonnay and I thought we might like it. And we did!
So there you have it. A wine novice's tour of grocery/department store wine selections. Take up my challenge -- and let me know what off-the-wall wines you try and what you think of them. I toast your adventuresome spirit!