Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Sorry for the lack of posts this month, but I've been VERY busy writing and gardening.
Warning: This is a long post. You may want to read it in installments, as it may be a week or so before I post again.While I’ve been busy working on The Mystery Project, my garden has slowly progressed from early- spring flowers to mid-spring blooms.
That's a Peony 'Gay Paree' (below)
Next to daffodils, I love iris best. Nola's garden is a great source for them. Here are a few of my favorites. Iris 'Patty's Plum' (below) reblooms several times each summer.
White and purple 'Temple Song' and dark 'Sambuca' (below)
'Gypsy Romance' (below)

Two Toned 'Chartres' (below)...
and apricot 'Beverly Sills'...
and a mystery yellow one.

Looking back at my last few posts, I realized that I forgot to mention…
That I finished the last 4 chapters of the Second Section of The Mystery Project at the end of April. Hip, hip, hooray!
There was little time to celebrate, however, just enough time to stop and smell the tree peonies (above) and wisteria (below.) I immediately started work on the Third Section of the book.
My first task was to establish a “voice” for this final section of the book. And, that’s what I’ve been up to day and night for three solid weeks. It's been slow going...
It took more back and forth (quotes or no quotes, first person or third, etc.) e-mails and calls with all parties involved than you would ever imagine. Over 250, but who’s counting?

Anyhow, judging by this e-mail from the publisher, I’ve nailed it.

“The text for these sample rooms is perfect. Truly. I have nothing to add. The voice is personal and warm. The information is the right blend of fashion reference with solid decorating information. There is no need to tell more than this in terms of the person living in the room. I like the way you sometimes give the person’s full name, sometimes just give the first name, and sometimes no name is given and instead you describe who lives in the space. This has the right touch. I am so excited for how this is turning out!”

Time to celebrate? No way! Even though six chapters are now done, there are another 17 to go!

Unlike the past two weekends, this weekend I wasn’t glued to my computer. Instead, I was the featured guest at Heather Hill Garden’s annual Herb Festival.
Heather Hill is a small family owned nursery not far from where I live. I did a story about Heather Hill for an issue of Flower Gardens magazine not long after I moved to Virginia.
The owner, Bonnie, and I both had young boys and we became good friends. Bonnie's older son, Ben, took all of the photos in the "Herbs" section.A talented graphic designer and computer art student, Ben is off to college in this Fall. Time flies.

This year’s theme is a British tea party. Guests sampled herbed mustards (honey mint, tarragon Dijon, rosemary and basil whole grain), Victorian lavender scones, Cheesy herb puffs, and Herbed spinach tea bread (recipe below).
Beverages included chocolate mint teas and lavender/tarragon lemonade.
I shared my favorite herbal recipes and horticultural expertise. Visitors are always amazed how easy it is to improve any recipe by adding appropriate herbs.Lisa, who works at Heather Hill, demonstrated planting a strawberry pot with herbs.The weather was perfect, and a good time was had by all.

This tea bread was served at a luncheon at Caprilands Herb Farms in Connecticut. It’s based on a medieval recipe from 13th century Rome. I’ve been baking it for over 20 years and it always gets rave reviews. Just don't anyone it's made with spinach before they taste it!

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely crumbled mixed herbs (such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, mint, lemon verbena)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 cups chopped fresh spinach (if frozen, drain well)
Butter for greasing pans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Using a wooden spoon or hand-held mix all dry ingredients, then add oil, eggs and spinach. Beat until well blended. Lightly grease one loaf pan or two half-size loaf pans with butter and pour in batter. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 30 minutes or until edges are just starting to brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool. Freezes well.

Makes one regular size loaf or two small ones.


A Fanciful Twist is a treasure trove of interesting treasures. Here's how the author Vanessa describes herself: "I feel like a strange and curiously artistic woman from the 1800's trapped in the body of a thirty year old girl living in a bizarre Arizona." Visiting her is a real treat.


Susie Q said...

I am first to comment? Will wonders never cease? *smile*
I LOVE long posts...especially when they are from you Barbara.
Your garden delights are, well, delightful! I too love iris and they are blooming and blossoming all over just now. Yours are so lovely.
The festival sounds (and looks) amazing. Chocolate mint tea!! Oh be still my heart!

You look just adorable in your pretty hat and those very chic glasses! Love them!

Congratulations on the good book news...now, on to the rest! I can not tell you how excited I am to get my hot, wrinkled, little hands on your finished gem of a book. I KNOW it will be amazing.

Love and hugs,

Desperate Diva said...

Hi Barbara,
OH my gosh, I LOVE the pictures of you in your HAT. And what a lovely day spent at an herb festival. They certainly had a fabulous featured guest...:) The tables of food look delish.

Your flower gardens are lucious and so so colorful.

I'll be waiting for my signed copy of your new book and just can't wait to hear all about it.

Hugs to you,

NeereAnDear said...

Oh my goodness where to start...

First off.... Barbara the grounds and flowers at your home are so beautiful!! There is something about nature that makes you smile when you see it in all its loveliness... The peony ... I don't think I can think of an adjective worthy enough to describe it ... your irises... the colors... they pop...

As for herbs... I cant get enough of them... I cook with herbs in everything ... everything... they add such flavor without overpowering a dish...

And the photos of the herbs... and the set up at the Heather Festival... lovely ... the young man that took them did a fabulous job...

Barbara ...I must say ... LOVE THAT HAT!! Tres Chic you are!!

The book... sounds like you are making progress and that has to feel real good...

The blog Du Jour (I spelled it right this time)
What an absolutely fun place to go!!!

Thank you for putting a smile on my face today... and bringing lots of sunshine our way



Sherri said...

Hello my dear - well, first, you look fabulous darling. Also - that Apricot "Beverly Sills" is gorgeous - it's the perfect shade. The peony "Gay Paree" is divine - I love that one too. The Photos of the gardens are marvelous - a sight to see! I can envision myself surrounded by all that beauty, just lazing away on a crochet hammock, breathing deeply - and reading my fave magazine to boot! (insert Mint Julep drinking here)
I can imagine Belgium waltzing around and smelling everything - please take some shots of the beloved next time - I want to see him "Tiptoeing Through The Tulips"...He's so gorgeous :)
xoxo Sher

tales from an O.C. cottage said...

What flowers!So amazing!

M ^..^

Brook said...

Gorgeous flowers! Thanks for sharing the beauty.


Penny @ Lavender Hill Studio said...

You have been busy! But it sounds like things are progressing well with the mystery project.

Your garden and flowers are beautiful. I have some iris's and peonies, but really am just starting to build my garden. You have given me inspiration.

What fun it looked at the Herb Garden Festival! I am definately going to try that recipe.

I hope you take this weekend off (Memorial Day) and just enjoy your garden..

CIELO said...

Such lovely garden you have! How long does it take for peonies to bloom? I just planted several bulbs in early spring... :)

Congratulations on all your achievements....

FrenchGardenHouse said...

Wow, what a fabulous post! You,in a garden hat, herbs, the most beautiful flowers, how good can it be. throw in a recipe or two, and the news about your book, too.

ps. I am jealous, yes, I am, of the peonies. They don't grow here.

xo Lidy

Anonymous said...

I had so much fun at the Herb Festival at Heather Hill. Love the wonderful recipes that were shared that day. Great to have discovered you and look forward to seeing the new book.

Miss Sandy said...

A feast for the eyes! The recipe sounds like a must try, thanks for sharing!