Friday, December 28, 2007

New Board Member at RCGC

...that would be me.

Right before Christmas I joined the board of the Rochester Civic Garden Center, an organization I dearly love and have had close ties with for years. I'm very happy and flattered that they wanted me.

To learn more about the RCGC, visit their site and/or blog. Oh! And be sure to block out some time on January 26th to join us at the castle in celebration of National Seed Swap Day.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Good Day to Get Outside

The forecast calls for rain and wind, but also a high of 58 degrees! I'm planning on getting out there and doing all those little things I didn't get to before we got dumped on by snow. There are still containers to be emptied and stored, can you believe it, and even those hoses aren't all put away.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


My column in Saturday's Democrat and Chronicle is about spices and herbs. Near Christmas I always try to talk about plants that have to do with the holidays, and spices and herbs are all, obviously, plant-based, so that's my topic.

All the spice research got me remembering this recipe card I have from my great-grandmother Elsie May Rogers Helms, a wonderful little slice of history that I always find strange and funny, yet oddly familiar. Grandma Helms wrote out recipes the same way I do. Here is the recipe, for soft gingerbread.

The first part that always gets me is the line about 1 t. spice (double for Jim). First of all, what "spice"? I realize this is a recipe for gingerbread, so you'd think ginger, but at the bottom of the card ginger is added, in pencil, obviously an afterthought and without a quantity. So what's the spice? I have no idea. I do know who Jim is—he's my uncle, Eunice's grandson. Apparently he likes his gingerbread spicy.

Moving on, notice 1/2 c. fat, melted. I have to assume this is [cough] suet, 'cause it ain't Crisco, I can tell you that much. I prefer to use butter in baked goods, but maybe Eunice knew something I don't, something I'm never going even allow myself to learn. Although I always keep a jar of suet in the fridge (I know, gross, right?) in case Dean's making gravy and the roast beef just doesn't give off quite enough.

Right above the line about the fat, Grandma Helms has written out water as h20, which I also always do. But the best part of it, for me, is the complete lack of instruction. Temperature of oven? Whatever. How long? Who knows? In which way are the ingredients combined? Well if you have to ask, should you really be messing around with this thing, and the fat, and the spice? Why don't you just toddle off, dear, and let Grandma make you a batch just the way she knows you like it.

Do you think maybe Jim was her favorite?

I hope my great-grandchildren enjoy my recipes as much. When I write out a recipe for my own use, it's in as few words as possible, usually because I'm transcribing. When I'm done, I never copy it out onto a fresh recipe card or page. Even if it's on the back of a gravy-stained envelope, it goes into a clear sleeve and right into the binder. I think I like this because every time I look at the recipe, it reminds of the first time I ate that thing, and how I liked it so much I had to get the recipe right away, and how my friend gave it to me, right away.

Then there's the lazy person, Eunice's descendant, who writes recipes just for herself, and because she know what she means by "spice," doesn't have to spell it out. Like this one, on a post-it stuck in the binder probably five years now, one I frankly should be able just to remember. It doesn't have a title.

RCGC Symposium Announced

March 1, 2008, Karen Bussolini and Gordon Hayward will be the featured speakers at the Rochester Civic Garden Center's annual Spring Symposium. New! You can now buy tickets online! For full details, go here.

Symposium tickets would make a great last-minute gift for the gardener who has everything. Come to think of it, so would a membership. (Did you know that every member gets a complimentary subscription to the Upstate Gardeners' Journal? Well they do!)

GardenScape Presale Tix Available on Web

GardenScape is just around the corner, and from now until January 1, you can buy tickets online at a $2 discount here. Seeing as how the show is attended by around 20,000 people every year, I'd wager they'd probably make an excellent Christmas gift for someone you know.

This year's theme is "'It's a Garden Life,' illustrating ways people can enjoy 'living in their landscapes.'" (That's a lot of nested quotes.)

I took this picture at last year's show. It was probably my favorite display, though there were a lot of beautiful gardens. This one I loved for its pure sweetness and because early, early spring is my absolute favorite time of year. The days are sunny, the crocuses are pushing up through the snow, and you can still ski. In a t-shirt. Plus my daughter was born in March, during the night following an absolutely perfect, snow melting-away kind of day during which I walked MILES and MILES in the sun trying to bring on labor (it worked!)