Wednesday, August 03, 2016

2015 DECEMBER - Holidiva Day

This post, 2015 December Holidiva Day, was written by Diva Glinda/Annie in Austin for the Divas of the Dirt blog

Can you believe it’s been 10 years since Diva Annie had a turn at hosting the annual Holidiva party? She decided to go all out! There would be a traditional roasted turkey with bread and sausage stuffing as the entrée. Soon we were all emailing back and forth as we decided on appetizers, sides and dessert.

The day of the party Sophia and I arrived first – we were bringing appetizers so did not want to be late. The Central Texas weather had been warm, muggy and drizzly – no Yule logs were wanted today – this December we were grateful for air-conditioning! 

I forgot my camera back when Annie was hostess in 2005, so that post had no pictures. (Just thinking about this still makes me sad.) This year there would be photos! Lots of photos!

Annie’s Shrimp plants were in full corally-pink bloom
and everyone’s favorite ‘Patrick’ Abutilon was covered in beautiful bells.

Every inch of Annie’s house was decorated and it looked so pretty! From the fireplace mantle
 To the sideboard

to the plume trees covered in vintage ornaments

to the dainty miniature holiday village all was perfect!
Annie had her part of the dinner under control but was glad to have Sophia for company in the kitchen

We snapped a few photos of each other while we were waiting for the rest of the Divas.
Glinda and Annie stand near the beautiful sideboard

No garden hats! No garden gloves! No work clothes! Will anyone recognize Glinda and Sophia?

The table décor was imaginative and fun – Annie used poinsettia-themed vintage china and glassware from her mother’s collection, displayed to advantage against the soft green of the tablecloths, then filled planters with ornaments. Don’t you just love the shapes of the poinsettia bowls?

The table and chairs were ready for eight Divas of the Dirt.

The appetizer table looked great! Sophia brought two warm cheeses, one Camembert & Walnuts and the other Brie with Cranberries. She also brought French bread and assorted crackers to serve them on. Anne contributed tortilla chips and Glinda made the guacamole. Soon after this photo was taken, Sugar arrived with a delicious creamy hot artichoke dip to add to this bounty.

Annie had prosecco and cranberry juice ready for the first guests. In a little while Mindy came to the party with another bottle of prosecco and more juice. And a little while after that, Buffy arrived bearing a third bottle – has prosecco become our Signature Beverage?

Longtime friends Mattie and Karla always find something to laugh about

Sophia and Mindy are glad to be here

Longtime friends Sugar and Buffy look pretty amused, too!

What a feast! Perfectly roasted turkey with bread & sausage stuffing made by Annie; Karla’s dish of Special Asparagus made eating your vegetables a treat. Mattie’s Crunchy Mixed Kale salad was a hit and the Butternut, Baby Green, Pistachio & Blueberry Salad from Mindy turned everyone into salad fans.

I don’t know if Sugar’s Fancy Mashed Potatoes had secret ingredients but they were addictive!
Buffy’s Cranberry Sauce went way beyond the ordinary and the Rolls were perfection.

Sophia and Mattie were glad to escape from their demanding jobs and spend the day relaxing together

Karla, Mindy and Buffy know how to enjoy every minute they spend together

We did not rush, appreciating the work put into making every dish delicious. After we finished our lunch, we decided dessert could wait a while. We folded one of the tables, began the cleanup process and got ready to play the traditional swap & steal game with the gifts.
As the late afternoon winter light turned the room golden, we began to play. After many rounds and some hysterical laughter we all had a gift to take home. (Blame some of the unfocused photos on how much everyone was laughing.)
Diva Annie won this cool birdhouse made in Africa of sustainable materials -  brought by Mattie.

Glinda brought bronze metal mushrooms on springy stems – Mattie and Karla each held onto them for one turn but those fungi went home with Sophia.

Annie found cool copper poppies on long stems – Glinda got these (and they look fabulous in my garden!)

Buffy brought a black garden trug and really good gloves from the Natural Gardener – taken home by Karla

Diva gifts tend to come in odd shapes and the wrapping can be very creative – what could be inside this big plastic sack?

Aha! Mindy had hidden a decorative spade with attached birdhouse inside the sack … Sophia opened it but Mattie quickly stole it!

Sugar brought cool garden signs (one from Maine) and Mindy won them

Karla brought a Metal Centerpiece with Mason Jars for candles or flowers – Sugar took it home.

Sophia brought a big metal rooster disguised in a storage bin – oh, my – Buffy was quite pleased to win this prize!

Dessert was an experiment. I (Glinda) wanted to make something with the Almond, egg, raisin and Amaretto flavors of our traditional Amaretto Bread Pudding, but without the gluten – a problem for some of us.
When an episode of the Great British Bake Off on PBS/KLRU introduced me to the Joconde-sponge-based Opera Cake, it seemed like a fun idea to try. Layers of eggy, no-flour sponge were alternated with an almond, amaretto, golden raisin and fig filling and a chocolate-amaretto buttercream frosting, decorated with holly sprinkles to look festive

We missed the creamy soupyness of the bread pudding but the flavours (oops, been watching those Brit shows too much - that should be flavors) were spot on.

We drove home through drizzly fog, glad for another happy Holidiva day.

This post, 2015 December Holidiva Day, was written by Diva Glinda/Annie in Austin for the Divas of the Dirt blog

Friday, July 08, 2016


This post, 2015 October, Glinda’s Garden Day, was written by Annie in Austin/ Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt blog.

The hot dry weather continued over most of Austin in September 2015. In the neighborhood where Sophia, Karla and I live there was no measurable rainfall from the beginning of July to the 3rd week of October - some precious moisture did fall on other parts of Austin.

Once we got into October some red Spider lilies brightened the garden. Would there be more flowers when the Divas of the Dirt came to my (Glinda's) house?

One tree was already looking forward to fall – here is the loquat forming buds on October 12th

October was my assigned month as hostess but there was no good date for everyone. Our Divas of the Dirt lives were even busier and more erratic than usual. I was expecting out-of-visitors, other Divas faced necessary medical procedures, one was going to a big formal wedding in East Texas, another was involved in house renovation work. There were fundraising events for nonprofits, birthdays, people arriving and leaving, aging parents in need of care, and some of us hoped to go on the semi-annual Travis County Master Gardeners tour on the 17th. I decided to go with Halloween day – no matter how many of us showed up, we could have a few laughs.

A couple of us made it to Pam Penick's extraordinary garden for the Master Gardeners tour – what fun! 

A few days after the tour my out-of-state houseguests arrived, and the moment the wheels of their plane hit the runway at ABIA, it started to drizzle. The promised El Nino was sneaking in.

Rain fell off-and-on for days – in our neighborhood the total was about 13" over an 11-day period. One big storm dropped more than a foot of rain in places like Wimberley, South Austin, and Buda – a dangerous and damaging amount of water. 

Meteorologist Emily Borchard posted an amazing map showing the speed at which the rains had banished drought.

Then some sad news – one of the Divas would soon be on the road, heading to the funeral of a beloved relative.

The day before our meeting, more than 4” of rain fell in a few hours in my neighborhood, swirling and threatening to lift the pots on the patio. Thank heavens our lot has a bit of a slope!

From the front porch I could see a squirrel clinging to the underside of the Arizona Ash trunk, trying not to be swept away by the downpour.

By Halloween morning the rain had slowed to a drip. I added a black lace cover to the piano and topped it with an orange pumpkin.

The dining room table was set with a few Halloween decorations, ready for the arrival of Mattie, Sophia, Buffy and Annie.

The casserole was ready for the oven  and it was costume time! When the Divas arrived, they were greeted by someone from the days of early TV – Lucy, the Vitameatavegamin saleswoman from I Love Lucy.

This goofy idea got a great reaction from Buffy! Thanks to Sophia for snapping the photo.

Eventually we got around to eating breakfast – cranberry juice, orange juice and coffee to drink, cut up pineapple, red grapefruit and watermelon for fruit, and a casserole of wild rice, jasmine rice, eggs, shallots, mushrooms, Greek yogurt and Swiss cheese. And pear bread with blueberry preserves and cream cheese frosting.

After breakfast we kept talking for awhile because the yard so wet. But we couldn’t stay inside – maybe we should just take a stroll around the garden to look at the plants or sit on the patio? Sophia took a photo when Annie gave this a try.

 Well, you know those Divas of the Dirt – the “looking” part only lasted a few minutes and soon they were raking up the leaves and sticks, then pulling tree seedlings and weeds out of the softened earth. [Photo by Sophia]

They said raking was no big deal, but when they were done – it was a big deal to me!

Buffy decided to tackle the horrible Bermuda grass which was trying to take over the parkway.

Look at the parkway after her work - what a garden angel!

Mattie’s pooch Barbie is our unofficial mascot and a good companion when we’re in the garden. 

Although it was too wet to plant bulbs or transplant perennials, the cleanup made an enormous difference.

There are no photos of the simple lunch – I borrowed Sophia’s panini grill and made sandwiches with Black Forest ham and Herbed turkey on a choice of rye bread, sourdough or gluten free bread. There was a green salad with tomato wedges and avocado dressing.

There are photos of the dessert – a mostly gluten free Black Forest Cake from a recipe I found online.

I had all the pieces baked and ready to assemble – starting with the chocolate shortbread base. This layer was not gluten-free but since it was separated from the rest of the cake by whipped cream, anyone avoiding flour could just leave it on the plate.

In another bowl was a mound of just-whipped cream.

There were three chocolate sponge cakes, pre-soaked with cherry juice spiked with Kirschwasser, ready to be spread with cherry preserves and layered with whipped cream.

Then the cream was topped with chocolate curls. The cake was a hit!

With the ground still quite saturated, we’d done all that could be done outdoors … it was time for everyone to go home and get ready for the Trick or Treaters!

A few days later, the rain convinced bluebonnet seedlings to sprout. The seedlings would have enough time to grow before April bloom time.
This post, 2015 October, Glinda’s Garden Day, was written by Annie in Austin/ Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt blog.