Sunday, November 16, 2014

2013 - December - HOLIDIVA DAY

The Divas of the Dirt, Austin, Texas 
 Remembering our December 2013 HOLIDIVA DAY

The December day chosen for our annual Holidiva party was unusually cold & crisp at midday, just the right kind of weather for Christmas decorations and a feast with friends.

But first things first! The hostess may be Mattie, but the house also belongs to Barbie... the little dog was delighted to see her friend Diva Annie at the door.

The dining room with its dramatic red and black table decor was beautiful. 

Annie, Karla, Sophia and I arrived close to the time on Mattie's invitation but where were the other three Divas? We weren't worried - they'd show up eventually!

We munched on delicious baked Brie & crackers served by Mattie and sipped wine provided by Karla and Mattie, enjoying being together and feeling the holiday spirit.  

A couple of hours after the planned start time, Mindy arrived bearing Poinsettia cocktails and wonderful crab cake appetizers. Not too long after that, Sugar and Buffy showed up - Buffy brought something new - Pennsylvania Eggnog.

Mindy's crab cakes had two sauces, the Brie was delicious and the wine was flowing.

Let's move into the elegant dining room.

Sophia's Spicy Tuscan Soup with sausage and kale was a hit - and it was spicy.

Since we'd had quite a lot of Brie and Crab and Soup - maybe the main courses could wait for awhile? We headed for the long sectional sofa in the living room.

It would be a good idea to play the grab bag stealing game now - look at all those beautiful packages under the tree!

The cold day meant Mattie could make a fire - perfect! We settled back with our eggnog and the gift exchange began.

All the gifts had some kind of garden theme, like these sweet watering can salt and pepper shakers.

Two sets of terracotta pot feet can be both amusing and useful on the patio.

Buffy displays salad servers made to look like small garden spades.

Glinda (that's me) went home with a beautiful ceramic bell - here it is in my garden last summer- a perfect color with blue plumbago.

Buffy found this inspirational, handmade, fired terracotta wall art at a farmers market.

Not pictured are the New Orleans recycled metal art, a beautiful handblown glass vase and a charming glass knobbed wall rack. We were all happy with our fun gifts.  

That game took a long time! We were ready to move on to the main courses. Mattie's entrée was very cool - cranberry-stuffed chicken breasts. The sides were great: Annie made mashed potatoes with wilted leeks, Karla brought asparagus with snap peas and Buffy's contribution was Spinach Casserole, Threadgill's style (heavy on the dairy, bacon & maybe ham?).

Sugar's spinach salad featured goat cheese and candied pecans.

What a delicious combination everything made on our plates

This was not a year for experimenting with dessert recipes - I baked the traditional Amaretto bread pudding, doubling the recipe for the Amaretto sauce.

Let's dish it up and celebrate a sweet end to another busy, garden-loving, friend-filled Divas of the Dirt year!

                                   The Divas of the Dirt, Austin, Texas

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

2013 - October GLINDA'S GARDEN DAY

This post, 2013 - October GLINDA'S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt Blog.

n 2013, October was my chance to have the Divas of the Dirt come over and do their magic. No one date was good for everyone... and every Saturday was bad for someone!

We went for the "least-worst" date and I started getting the menu together.

The decomposed granite needed for the October project was delivered to the driveway on Friday morning and some light rain followed.

Would we be rained out? Saturday brought off-on sun and humidity, but no showers. Game on!

Someday I'll figure out how to be hostess while taking photos. By the time I remembered the camera, only the gourd centerpiece remained along with Buffy's plate - she had a schedule conflict, but we hoped we might see her later on.

Unphotographed but pretty darned good were coffee, Paradise juice, Peach Mango juice, a fruit salad of black grapes, pineapple & watermelon, a bowl of sectioned grapefruit, and a Potatoes, Eggs & Swiss Cheese Casserole with Shallots and Sundried Tomatoes. The Pear Bread made from a Smitten Kitchen recipe was a hit - even better with a little blueberry or raspberry preserves. 

Mattie's sweet dog Barbie found her favorite place on the back of the sofa (actually, this is the favorite place of every small dog that visits here) and waited patiently until we'd caught up on conversation and were ready to go outside.

A little backstory: our boxwood hedge was quite mature when we bought this house. We clipped it lightly, letting it grow dense, at a level just above the iron porch rail.

The unsheared hedge worked well for years, but the lush life was over once the gutters failed and needed to be redone. In order to get the old gutters down, paint the wood underneath and then install our new Rainhandlers, the poor boxwoods had to be chopped. And once the boxwoods were cut back enough for ladders to fit, the mess under them was revealed and for the first time we could reach the ground underneath.

A previous owner had put down black landscaping fabric, swirling it around the base of the boxwoods. It had ripped and buckled with time, making the area impossible to rake.
What I asked from the Divas was to pull out all the black plastic, rake out all the accumulated leaves, twigs and junk, and then we could add the decomposed granite under the boxwoods.

Diva-Annie charged right in.

The plastic came up pretty easily, revealing an assortment of long-lost, battered children's playthings, sort of like an archaeological dig. Did the dad put the plastic over the toys or did the kids hide the stuff under the edges?

Once the ground was clear under the hedge, we could use the wheelbarrow to transport the granite from the driveway pile to the nearby boxwood hedge.

Mattie decided the best way to get the granite exactly where she wanted it was to fill a bucket, then stand on the veranda to pour the decomposed granite behind the hedge.

Once in place, the granite needed to be smoothed and tamped down. Sugar stepped in.

OK! The weedblock and junk is gone and new granite is in place.

A second, smaller project was to redo the area with tiles in granite under a big brown pot. Karla and Sophia went after this one - it looks great reset with new granite.

Sophia approves their work!

and Karla shows how she was able to move that pot.

As long as we're up in front, let's see how the woodland garden is doing... the Asters divided by the Divas of the Dirt in 2012 have settled in and are in bloom.

The salvias planted by the Divas in 2012 are also becoming established.

Things now looked not only cleaner, but more grounded, connected, purposeful - whole front yard just looked Better! Let's go inside.

We nibbled on baby carrots, cherry tomatoes & red-pepper hummus while everyone visited and played with Barbie, and the hibiscus-mint tea steeped.
Then to the dining room for Meatballs in red sauce, Spinach with 4 cheeses lasagna, green salad with avocado dressing and Onion/Asiago bread from the Cedar Park Farmers Market. 

To celebrate the October birthdays, we enjoyed Henrici Tunnel of Fudge cake with chocolate fudge frosting decorated with pecans.

Another year of our Divas of the Dirt garden projects was done, and I was tired. Does anyone else know this old bricklayers' trick? Tip a wheelbarrow down and you can use it as a temporary chair.

Just a few days after the Divas of the Dirt put down the decomposed granite, the entire system got a test... 5" of rain in one storm!

The Rainhandlers worked great and the granite stayed in place, looking good from inside the veranda...

And also looking good from the front walk.

But the boxwoods? They had finally begun to recover by early spring 2014, full of new growth and covered in flower buds. Then something the local meteorological community called "Thundersleet" hit, followed by a sudden plunge down to 14F.
Most of the new growth froze off. A year later, the boxwoods are alive, but may never fill in again. With sunlight now reaching under the hedge, I've added bulbs of rainlilies and am now trying to get bluebonnets to sprout there, too. I'll let you know if it works!

This post, 2013 - October GLINDA'S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt Blog.

Friday, June 13, 2014

2013 - September MINDY'S GARDEN DAY

This post was written for The Divas of the Dirt blog by AnnieinAustin, writing as Diva Glinda

Diva Mindy thought up a different kind of project day for the Divas of the Dirt in September - she'd seen an Empress of Dirt blog post on making decorative garden glass flowers from dishes and servingware and thought it would be fun for all of us to try it. Mindy had quite a few old dishes that she'd acquired over the years. She asked up to bring whatever we could find for the project. The default assembly technique would be bolts, nuts and washers, but fancier door pulls and knobs could also be used as flower centers.

Two tables were set up in the garage - here's part of what we started with.

Some of the dishes brought to the project were garage sale/resale store finds or odds and ends left over from some old set. Other dishes had meaning for the Diva who brought them - full of memories of happy times with family and friends. We took a long time to try out combinations, stacking and restacking the pieces until we each had a couple ready to go. Tape covered the area to be drilled with the center point marked.

Mindy had ordered a special diamond cylindrical bit for her drill and she set to work drilling the holes. We were surprised at how much time and effort it took to drill each piece. No wonder dishes can be used day in, day out for decades - those materials are hard! A few of the pieces started smoking as the drill went through - good thing we were outside

Other Divas also tried their hand at drilling, and progress was slowly made. Mindy's husband Warren did a great deal of the drilling - he also fabricated copper pipe holders that could act as 'stems' for the flowers when used in a border. This was not a speedy project - it took long, hot hours.

 But the results were delightful -  Mattie looks pleased with  these two beauties.

Dish flowers covered the dining room table.

DivaAnnie liked the flower-on-a-stem idea

This is how Dish Flowers with stems will look when used in the ground outside

A few asymmetrical plates resulted in exceptionally artistic flowers.

In order to get my two dish flowers to hang straight on a board fence, I used washers & coated wire to make hangers.

This technique worked on the board and rail type of fence.

But Karla had another idea: her fence is lattice, so springs-and-wire plate holders worked just fine.

Thanks for making this Divas of the Dirt project happen, Mindy!

This post was written for The Divas of the Dirt blog by AnnieinAustin, writing as Diva Glinda