Wednesday, September 28, 2016


This post, 2016-FEBRUARY MATTIE’S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt blog

Remember Mattie’s experimental Keyhole Garden back in March, 2015?

The frame wasn’t very full when we left, but Mattie added cardboard, paper and compostables, a top layer of soil and then she planted herbs and vegetables. The garden produced herbs and an occasional vegetable all through the mild winter – a real success!

But from observing sun and shade patterns for a year, Mattie realized the Keyhole Garden was not placed as well as she wanted it – there was a better spot less than 25-ft from the original location. Mattie was glad to have her turn as hostess in February; she hoped we could move and refill the Keyhole for our first garden project of 2016. I admit wondering whether we could do this - even had a weird dream about it!

When I pulled up at Mattie’s house I found Diva Annie (First, as usual!), Karla and Mattie. We took a look at the garden.

The contents had been decomposing all year. Now the Keyhole was only one-quarter full. Some tomato and pepper plants were still growing – inside the keyhole structure there had been no freezes.

Sophia arrived a few minutes later and then Buffy practically floated in… she’d had a really fun birthday with many friends and the euphoria had not yet worn off. Sugar was out-of-town and Mindy would be a little late, so we’d start with six for breakfast. Mattie snapped a photo.

The dining room looked welcoming – what a beautiful arrangement of roses!

Mattie put together a wonderful berry bowl with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and pomegranate seeds. She also gave us a choice of gluten-free muffins… some lemon and some blueberry.

The main dish was a gluten-free casserole. This started with a base of gluten-free Bisquick, topped with a mixture of onion, red peppers, hash brown potatoes, eggs, cheese and sausage – really good!

Barbie loved having company and ran around visiting everyone. We were in the middle of breakfast when Mindy arrived to greet her.

After breakfast we went out to work. The place where Mattie wanted to move the Keyhole was not an empty spot so our first task would be to clear the area and move the existing plants – including a fig tree and some iris.

Any worries about the difficulty of moving the frame disappeared as soon as the Divas grabbed the rail – the contents had decomposed to the point that it was the work of a few minutes to lift and reset the frame.

Then the real work began… Mattie had been saving cardboard for years! Mindy and Karla began dragging the enormous stacks of boxes and cardboard from the garage to the back yard so they could be torn and cut in into smaller chunks to fill the relocated keyhole. This photo shows approximately ¼ of the total cardboard.

Annie and I sat and ripped and cut cardboard. Sophia raked leaves from all over the back yard to go into the keyhole. (Sophia also snapped this photo) Buffy sawed logs and boughs and heavy cardboard packing supports. Karla transported cardboard. Mattie was all over the place, directing and working.

It took over an hour to get the keyhole half-full.

As the layers were added, the Divas soaked them with a hose so they’d compact. At one point Mindy climbed inside the keyhole to stomp the dampened layers as if she were I-Love-Lucy-stomping-the-grapes.

In mid-afternoon, we went inside for lunch – oh, what a lunch! A most delicious Salade niçoise with green, tuna, hardboiled egg, Greek olives, tomato, roasted potatoes, capers and balsamic dressing.

Half-croissants were filled with Costco Cape Cod Chicken Salad, accompanied by three kinds of Kettle potato chips (Mesquite chips were voted as the best by the Divas).

Beverages were Lemonade, tea and coffee.

Dessert was super! Mattie and Karla made a mixed fruit Cobbler (including apples and different berries) topped with vanilla ice cream.

Mellowed by the delicious food, we talked about movies and television shows, Sophia’s joining a service organization, family problems, health problems, the sudden closing of the local Luby’s restaurant, fun places where Karla’s singer-songwriter partner had been performing, visits to wineries, and events strange, tragic, distressing or funny in the big world.

Then we went back out and began shoveling up what was left on the ground after the keyhole moved – dirt, logs, partially composed materials –

then transferring it to the interior of the Keyhole. Stacks of newspapers and more leaves went in, too. Soon the cardboard was invisible.

Some of the Divas went to work in the front beds. I replanted the fig and the iris on the fence side bed in back. Mindy dug and separated Malvaviscus that had seeded itself into a giant Liriope.

When the keyhole frame had been filled with all the available material, the peppers were replanted and long tomato stems buried to see if they’d root and regrow.

The rose bed near the front curb was edged, weeded and mulched.

The Rosemary bed was edged, weeded and mulched.

With weeds removed and plants cut back, we could now see the blooming society garlic.
  And the replanted Keyhole Garden was ready for the new growing season.

The Divas of the Dirt said their goodbyes and headed home after 6 pm, all feeling pretty satisfied that our first project of 2016 had been a successful one!

This post, 2016-FEBRUARY MATTIE’S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt blog

Thursday, September 15, 2016


This post, 2016- January Planning Meeting, was written by Glinda/Annie in Austin for the Divas of the Dirt blog. 

January is the month we Divas of the Dirt hold our planning meeting. We've been to many local restaurants over the years and been sad to see quite a few favorites close. How I wish we could still meet at Elsi's on Burnet!

Should we try an old favorite or a new one this year? How about this - some of the well-known Austin restaurants have several locations so let's try the far NW Austin branch of long-established Kerbey Lane. Since it's popular and busy, we'd better plan on a wait for a table.

Sophia and I got there first and got our names on the list, followed quite quickly by Karla and Mattie.

With Mindy arriving at almost the same time.

We chatted while we waited and before we knew it, five Divas of the Dirt were at a long rectangular table in the middle of the restaurant.

Soon Buffy arrived and a bit later Sugar and Annie came in.

Most of us had seen each other at Mattie's New Years Eve party, but the eight of us never seem to run out of news and conversation, no matter how often we're together.

The food was delicious - my choice was a Chicken Verde omelet.

but other Divas went for the Signature Dish of Kerbey Lane - those famous Gingerbread Pancakes!

The only drawback to the restaurant was how loud it was, making it very hard to discuss setting up the 2016 meetings. We managed to get that done, but as happens so often, our ideas of what would happen in 2016 bore little resemblance to what actually happened in 2016. The first two months went as planned before the schedule rapidly disintegrated under pressure of weird Central Texas weather, health issues, strange accidents and sad losses in our extended families.

But for that day - we were together! We had a great time, and were all fired up for a new gardening year.

This post, 2016- January Planning Meeting, was written by Glinda/Annie in Austin for the Divas of the Dirt blog.

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