Sunday, June 6, 2010

Landscaping Makeover

You can click on to any photo to enlarge.

We built our home 29 years ago and at that time had it professionally landscaped. Included in our original landscape plan were lots and lots of shrub holly's that had really gotten to be drudgery to maintain. Not to mention that every time one of the grandchildren bumped up against them we heard lots and lots of tears. I think both my husband and myself wanted to remove them.

A couple of months ago my husband told me he wanted to put in a circular driveway. Our street had become a cut through to a major road in our area. When we had guests they usually parked on the street and he wanted to resolve this problem. At the same time he proposed taking out all the holly's and doing some new landscaping. I was game and in the process we decided to brick all our walkways and it also required reworking our irrigation system. Nothing was simple and it ususlly isn't when you jump on a project like this.

This was the way our front landscaping used to look. It was also the photo I used on my blog.

The old look wasn't bad but you really didn't see our house.

I hired a landscape designer who was trained in England and lived for a time in France. She designed exactly what I was looking for and along the way we made a few changes that I wanted to make but for the most part we worked well together. It does look very different and I will share the changes we made.

This is now my new photo for my blog.

To the right of the house.You can see a boxwood hedge that I plan to keep trimmed, up close to the house in the left corner is a delicate looking low growing maple, to the other side of that is some azalea's that are evergreen and when in bloom are a deep pink.

To the right of the boxwood hedge are some holly's (Remember that we removed some low growing holly's. I told the landscaper not to use the word holly in front of DH.) that we intend to keep sculpted in this cone shape.

On the corner we planted a camilla which will bloom a deep pink double bloom in the winter and directly behind on the trellis we planted a beautiful double white clematis. As it grows I will take some photos of it. To the other side of the camilla we planted more azalea's and a lace cap hydrangea in front.

Behind the sculpted holly's we planted several lacecap hydrangeas in pink with burgandy stems. Can you just imagine those in a clear glass vase with the burgandy stems showing. Some of the plant material was already there such as the boxwood hedge you see in the background. Directly behing that hedge is my back yard garden.

On the left side we did another low boxwood hedge and more azalea's closer to the house. These azalea's will only get about three feet tall.

This is to the far left of the house in front of another side porch. I will take you behind this area too. We used a lot of hydranges, some interesting evergreens and some evergreen ferns.

Some of this plant material was already here such as this entrance to this side walkway. These are Susanquia's that when in bloom are a cherry red. They are always in bloom at Christmas time. The window just ahead is my kitchen window and I will share that view.

To the right of that walkway and behind the white Victorian iron bench.

The left side of that walkway. I already had some old roses planted here called Pink Pet. We added several hydrangeas and azalea's.

This is directly under my kitchen window. I had bought these iron fencing pieces that we used at my daughter's wedding last year which was an outdoor garden wedding and we decided to do a little recycling. I love the way they look here. With a two story house it needed some immediate heighth. We used more everygreen ferns and lace cap hydrangea.

Going down the walkway back towards the front of the house.

It's a newly planted young landscape but it has lots and lots of potential.There have been areas left for me to put annuals and I am looking forward to the Fall when I can plant some Heirloom Daffodils, some Tulips and some more blooming perennials. We have reached the point in our summer that it is too hot and humid to be planting anything in our area. We just got all of this planted in time. The rest will have to wait but that is how I have been spending most of my time the past couple of months and I am pleased with it's progress. I think it definitely has an English feel to it.

I am joining Susan this week for Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch. Please take a look at other participants by clicking here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Almond Cake

One of my favorite cookbook authors is Lidia Bastianich and her cooking program is a favorite of mine as well. It is so different from most cooking programs in that she takes you to whatever area in Italy that she might be cooking from and shares with you that region. Often her daughter will join her program especially if that area has some historical landmarks or cathedrals and she will talk about the history of the area,she is a Art History expert. Lidia's son Joseph who owns several winery's and is also a business partner with Mario Batalli also joins her program on occassion and talks about wine parings. I always feel that watching Lidia's program is an education beyond her showing us how to prepare a particular Italian dish.

Most Italians have an Almond Cake in their repertoire and Lydia is no exception. I love anything with the flavor of almond and using fresh almonds as well. This cake is a simple cake and so very good.

Almond Cake
Makes a 9-inch cake, serving 8 or more

5 1/3 ounces (1 1/3 sticks) soft butter, plus more for the cake pan
2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
3 1/2 ounces whole blanched almonds, toasted (about 2/3 cup)
1 1/4 cups sugaar
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons milk

Recommended Equipment: A 9-inch springform pan; a food processor; an electric mixer with paddle attachment

Arrange a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350*. Butter the bottom and sides of the assembled springform pan, add the bread crumbs, and swirl them around to coat the insides well, tapping out the excess.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pulse the almonds in the food-processor bowl until finely ground but not pasty, about twelve quick pulses.

In the mixer, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Drop in the egg and yolks, one at a time, mixing well on medium speed, then scraping down the bowl. Once all the eggs are in, add the lemon zest and almond extract, and beat on high speed for a minute or so until very light.

On low speed, spoon in half the flour mix, and beat just to incorporate. Beat in the milk, then the remaining flour mix. Scrape the bowl, and beat briefly until smooth. Finally, mix in the ground almonds for a few seconds to disturbute them evenly through the batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it in an even layer.

Bake the torta for about 1 hour, rotating the pan after 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and dry (it's okay if a few moist crumbs stick to it).

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan, then open the spring and remove the side ring.

Cool the cake thoroughly before serving. Wrap well to keep fresh for 2 to 3 days.

This recipe comes from Lidia's most recent book, Lidia Cooks From The Heart of Italy, A Feast Of 175 Regional Recipes.

It is a quick and easy cake recipe to prepare. Lidia talks in her book about the importance of using the best quality of almond extract that you have availiable. Never to use almond flavoring.

And the end result is just divine, a very moist cake with the flavor of almonds. The smell in your house wafting through is amazing.

It is a wonderful cake to serve after a heavier dinner with a dollop of whipped cream but also pares well with morning coffee, warmed a little. It is also a wonderful little nibble with afternoon tea.

Try this wonderful little cake, it is a "Good Thing".

It is time once again for Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum. To see other recipes being shared by participants click here. Have a great weekend.