Sunday, October 18, 2015

2015 - January Planning Brunch at East Side Cafe

This post, "2015 - January Planning Brunch at East Side Cafe", was posted by AnnieinAustin/Diva Glinda to the divasofthedirt at blogspot dot com blog. If you are reading it elsewhere this copyrighted material has been used without permission. 

Our January meeting is a planning meeting - we leave the work clothes and garden gloves at home and head off to a local restaurant for conversation and brunch while we set up the calendars.
This year Sophia suggested a trip to East Side Cafe - one of those iconic places that make Austin into Austin.
Buffy immediately approved - she's such a fan that she bought their cookbook on her last visit. Some of us had been there before but it would be a first visit for others.

For brunch on a Saturday we'd need reservations - it's a very popular place. Mindy took care of the reservations and the usual flurry of emails followed, setting up carpools and sharing directions. 

The Divas of the Dirt had a great time at East Side Cafe - a pleasant room, well-made, inventive dishes with quality ingredients and as always, we had lots to talk about. The midday January sun streamed strongly through the windows, washing out the photos but sun is so welcome in mid-winter.

Mindy, Sophia, Sugar, Mattie and Karla are glad to be together.

Since Annie and Glinda were sitting on the shady side of the table they were the only Divas in focus that day!

ould that sun shine on our project days in 2015? Would we bake in heat or would we be rained out? Since this is Central Texas, the odds were that our workdays would swing wildly between hot, cool, wet, dry, overcast and sunny, muddy and dusty.

February was set as the first meeting of 2015 with Buffy taking her turn as hostess... you'll have to come back to find out!

This post, "2015 - January Planning Brunch at East Side Cafe", was posted by AnnieinAustin/Diva Glinda to the divasofthedirt at blogspot dot com blog. If you are reading it elsewhere this copyrighted material has been used without permission. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

2014 December Holidiva Day

This post, "2014 December Holidiva Day" was posted by AnnieinAustin/Diva Glinda to the divasofthedirt at blogspot dot com blog. If you are reading it elsewhere this copyrighted material has been used without permission.  

Mindy was excited to have our annual party at her house - it had been seven years since she'd hosted Holidiva Day and she was in a decorating mood.

We'd hoped that all our Divas of the Dirt could be together, but Sophia's sister was visiting from the Left Coast so she decided to opt out.  Mindy set 11:30am as the start-time.
Diva Annie and I counted it as a win when we arrived at 11:37am! After greetings we immediately went to look at the stylish Christmas tree all aglow in Mindy's welcoming living room.

Let's take a closer look at the ribbons and ornaments.

The table was beautiful!

I caught a picture of Annie with Karla and Mattie, the next to arrive. We'd all been at Mindy's house so many times over the years!

When I took these photos, we didn't realize they'd be "before" pictures! Not long after the holidays, Mindy & Warren began a major remodeling project that would transform the original kitchen, living room and this dining room into the home of their dreams.

Mattie was in charge of the appetizers and she chose gluten-free nibbles: Raw vegetables, hummus, corn chips, guacamole, and tasty spinach balls.

Mindy's variation on Poinsettia cocktails combined cranberry juice and Prosecco for festive sparkle.

Diva Sugar arrived with a special big salad - mixed greens, with goat cheese and pecans. Mindy looks pretty pleased about this!

For the main dish Mindy had chosen a spiral cut ham; she presented us with a choice between two sweet and tangy sauces, Jezebel sauce or Mango Jalapeno sauce. Since we are who we are... most of us chose both!

Annie brought roasted Brussel sprouts in a creamy bacon sauce...

...and Karla made a delectable sweet potato bake with a nutty top.

Everything was ready  - should we wait for Buffy? She was running late and said to start without her. Soon that salad was on the plates

In a short while Buffy arrived bearing a mandarin orange jello mold that was decorative as well as delicious. 

Dessert was.... well, guess I'll use this photo from a previous year. My contribution was the traditional Amaretto bread pudding and by the time we got to dessert, I'd completely forgotten to take a new photo.

After dinner we gathered in Mindy's living room, seated around the fireplace... but there was no crackling fire. In fact, the day was so warm the air-conditioner kept turning on!

The conversation roamed everywhere, from new jobs, to volunteer training, to cars, to health issues - but it was Kitchen Remodeling for the win!

Eventually we were in the mood for the annual "pull-a-number, choose-a-package, and see-who-steals-it" grab bag game.

Diva Annie won a Market Basket given by Buffy

Mattie won a wire wall sconce given by Mindy

Buffy won 3 Butterfly Art tiles given by Glinda

 Glinda (that's me) won a Red Barn gift certificate given by Sugar.

Mindy won a horseshoe dragonfly bought in Colorado, given by Karla

Karla won a GROW sign made of cement composite, given by Diva Annie

Sugar won the Homesick Texan Cookbook given by Mattie.

We missed Sophia, but our day had been everything that a party with old friends should be: relaxing, mellow, delicious, hilarious, warm, entertaining and emotionally enriching.

A postscript: Since this account of our holiday party was written months after it happened - I can show you what I did with that gift certificate from Sugar -it magically turned into a hanging basket containing a large hybrid Begonia with the cultivar name 'Russian Sabers'.

It's the kind of extravagant, exotic plant that you might not buy for yourself - but when there's a gift certificate to use, anything goes!

This post, "2014 December Holidiva Day" was posted by AnnieinAustin/Diva Glinda to the divasofthedirt at blogspot dot com blog. If you are reading it elsewhere this copyrighted material has been used without permission.

Friday, July 24, 2015


This post, 2014 November, Buffy's Garden Day, was written by Diva Glinda/Annie in Austin for the Divas of the Dirt Blog

The day for Buffy's garden project fell at the beginning of November, on a day so warm it would be called Summer in other parts of the USA. Halloween was just barely in the rear view mirror and Buffy's decor let us know her family had celebrated that holiday.

Glorious orange flowers from the Cedar Park Farmers Market were right for the season.

We got off to a late start and had a lot to catch up on before we gathered at the long table - some of us had been on vacation, some traveling to visit family. There was talk of new jobs, medical woes, events both joyful and distressing among our family and friends, and promising news on the home remodeling front.  (A few new kitchens are on the horizon!)

Buffy had baked a different kind of banana bread. Rather than the traditional mashed raw bananas, this recipe called for baked, juiced bananas, resulting in a more intense flavor. Raw fruit was well represented by a huge plate of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, pineapple and melon.

We quite liked Buffy's new recipe for Eggs, Grits and Greens - baked and cut into squares. The greens turned out to be spinach and arugula.

But wait! There's more! Also piled on the plates were chicken-apple sausages and biscuits.

We went out to survey the garden. This year, rather than a big intensive project, Buffy wanted a general once-over, with tired plants replaced by fresh ones, weeding, cutting back, mulching and an emphasis on curb appeal.

The gate was a rather recent addition - and even newer were the terracotta pots stacked on a tall rod, planted with colorful foliage plants and blooming geraniums.

Let's take a closer look at those clever pots on stakes.

Buffy has a corner lot so the amount of parkway is extensive. (Maybe you call this a parking strip, planting strip, verge or hellstrip instead of a parkway?) Over the years we Divas of the Dirt have helped Buffy turn much of that strip of land from thirsty grass to well mulched native and adapted plants. We started in on one of the more recent projects - doesn't that Gopher Plant look great?

We moved around in turn to all the parkway strips, the center bed, the drive bed and the area near the bright gate.

After four hours outside, the various beds were shaping up - Buffy told us it was time to take a break for lunch. She had an enormous pot of chili simmering on the stove - made according to an American Test Kitchen recipe.

Set out on the serving table was a delicious Kale, Almond and Cranberry salad, along with an array of toppings for the chili: avocado, lemon, sour cream, cheese and Fritos.

The fruit plate and biscuits from breakfast also went well with lunch. And the bowl of candy? Just a touch of Halloween.

When Buffy's sister popped in for a visit, her timing was perfect because dessert was fabulous! Whoever invented apple(!) brownies with caramel topping and ice cream should get a prize.

We went back outside. The Cannas on one end of the center front bed hadn't flowered, but by the time we left, they were mulched and the bad leaves snipped, so even without flowers the foliage looked good.

On the opposite side of the center front bed under the oak, the Fall Asters were amazing against the silver leaved Teucrium background.

The parkways looked much better after being weeded and mulched. In this photo we see Damianita, an ornamental grass, a silver groundcover (might be Woolly Stemodia) and an annual Gomphrena that reseeds.

Another section of this bed nearer the corner has the thriving Gopher Plant and a tumble of Blackfoot Daisies.

The first strip of parkway that we'd done back in 2007 is now quite mature - some plants have endured from the beginning with new plants plugged in where the originals failed and the result is a mini-meadow. On one end we see Skullcap, Damianita, Gomphrena and ornamental grass.

Moving along we see more Gomphrena, more Skullcap, Blackfoot Daisies and Four Nerve Daisies.

And back in that bed near the gate it was satisfying to see how just a few plants of dwarf 'Katy' Ruellia - planted long ago - had gradually spread to make a solid groundcover in front of the shrubs.

This was the last Divas of the Dirt project for 2014 - next time we meet it won't be work time... it will be Party Time!

This post, 2014 November, Buffy's Garden Day, was written by Diva Glinda/Annie in Austin for the Divas of the Dirt Blog

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

2014 - October SOPHIA'S GARDEN DAY

This post, "2014 - October SOPHIA'S GARDEN DAY" was written by Glinda/AnnieinAustin for the Divas of the Dirt Blog.
Showers overnight into morning had put more than an inch-and-a-half of welcome rain in the gauge - but would it be too soggy to work in Sophia's garden?
Diva Sophia said breakfast was going to be on the table and someone had better be there to eat it, work or not!

Sophia likes to have a theme for her garden days (last year she'd dived into an Appalachian-style cookbook and come up with winners) and this year the theme was The Experimental Kitchen.

The table was set with colorful plates and bowls and harvest decor - pumpkins rule October!

Our Diva number was down by two - Mattie was on an out-of-town business trip and Mindy had just returned from a journey halfway around the world. Since she'd arrived in Austin one day before, there was no way Mindy could come.

Buffy was helping out at a breakfast benefit for a local organization so she would show up a little late.

Glasses filled with candy corn and battery candles made the dreary morning bright.

Chefs Sophia, Roger and Mark had a great menu planned - they're pretty practiced at working together in the kitchen. Karla and Annie were there when I arrived, with Diva Sugar following soon after - then Surprise! In walked Mindy, ready to garden (and eat) and not even appearing jet-lagged.

Red and yellow raspberries, strawberries and blackberries topped with whipped Mascarpone cheese, apple juice, orange juice, great coffee and English muffins made a colorful start to the day.

Main dishes of scrambled eggs and a creamily delicious potato & Gouda casserole were not to be resisted.

The rain had just slowed, so we didn't hurry over breakfast - there was a lot to talk about! Soon Buffy joined us and we seven went out to groom the garden. There would be no planting or major digging this day. Sophia's request was for us to clip back, to prune, to weed, to cultivate, to compost and to mulch everything we could see.

Weeding was so easy after the rain! We pruned the red tip photinia and weeded the groundcover area near the covered porch. One of the pickiest tasks was to groom the cast iron plants, individually cutting out the damaged and/or drought-browned leaves and cleaning up around the huge clumps.

This was time-consuming but when finished, all the plants of Aspidistra elatior looked happy and green. What good things the Divas will do for each other!

A mutabilis rose can be one of the prettiest things in Texas when it's in bloom but when the flowers stop that's a good time to cut it way back, ready for the next bloom cycle.
Sophia's Rosa mutabilis shares a border with an orchid tree - if the boisterous rose isn't pruned regularly, that orchid tree can disappear! Here's the border, done and mulched.

The parkway bed (AKA the hellstrip, or the parking strip, or the curbside bed) had some weeds, some dead plants, and some overgrown perennials. Attention from the Divas made it ready for fall.

On the other side of the sidewalk a grouping of blue plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), burgundy oxalis (Oxalis regnellii 'Atropurpurea') and native inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) has filled in beautifully - but it looks even better when the weeds are banished and the dark native hardwood mulch sets off the leaf and flower colors.

We didn't neglect the far parkway bed or the long bed along the driveway. This area had been revamped in 2013 - on a hot day that called for a breaker bar, a sledgehammer and a tiller. Today's grooming session was much easier! The blocks and gravel had held up well - it was satisfying to see our previous project look so good.

Sophia's Experimental Kitchen had come up with an amazing late lunch for all of us. Ooh - look at all those interesting toppings - green olives, black olives, cucumbers, tomatoes and cubes of cheese.

(Maybe you've probably heard me say this before, but does anyone else immediately think of the movie Tortilla Soup when you see the word 'toppings'?)
If the bowls and plates made you guess soup and sandwiches were up next, you are quite right. But when the cooks are Sophia & Roger & Mark there will be nothing ordinary about that soup and those sandwiches.

Italian Wedding Soup! Sophia was a bit hesitant about making it, because she's served it a few times before. We were glad - why strive for novelty when you have reached perfection?

And there were Panini sandwiches, loaded with grilled eggplant and grilled zucchini, a salad ready for the toppings and crunchy breadsticks.

Then, the finale made by Sophia & Roger's talented son Mark - simply the best Italian Cream Cake, ever - can this be a poster if Mark ever opens his own bakery?

If you've heard our We Are the Divas of the Dirt song from 2006 you may remember this line, "...spend all day working with our friends, before we go inside for cake..."

Some things do not change and we like it that way.

This post, "2014 - October SOPHIA'S GARDEN DAY" was written by Glinda/AnnieinAustin for the Divas of the Dirt Blog.