Tuesday, April 27, 2010

O is for Oenothera Speciosa

is for

Oenothera Speciosa

Today I'm taking you along to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to see some of my favorite Texas wildflowers.

Oenothera speciosa is the scientific name for evening primrose.

This plant is sometimes known as showy primrose because the flowers often open in the morning rather than evening.

You might know this little wildflower as a buttercup. It gets that name from the cup shape petals and its butter colored pollen. As a child, this is one of the first wildflowers I knew. It was great fun to pick one of these and push it onto someone's face to give them a "butter nose".

The delicate flowers are about 3 inches wide with four petals. They can range from a dark pink to a pale pink.

Here in Texas we can plant them from seed in the fall, though they are common along the highways and in open woodlands. They generally bloom from the middle of March well into July.

Lady Bird Johnson, a former First Lady of the United States, delighted in this sweet, pink flower. In her book, WILDFLOWERS ACROSS AMERICA, Mrs. Johnson said, ". . . evening primrose — to me one of the most exquisite and feminine of all wildflowers." At one time the pink evening primrose was chosen for an early logo for her National Wildflower Center at Austin.

This hardy drought tolerant wildflower is one of the few evening primroses that blooms during the daytime.

Some of these little "buttercups" also come in a sunny yellow variety.

The square-bud primrose has a more distinctly square shape to the petals, and the flowers are a bit smaller than the pink evening primrose.

Mixed in among the pink and yellow evening primroses in the planting I photographed are these striking winecups that are a deep burgundy color.

The cupped petals of the winecup are deeper than the primrose. This deep burgundy color is a common variety to Central Texas.

There is also a white variety.

The winecups are in the Mallow Family.

The National Wildflower Center was established in 1982 to protect and preserve the native plants and natural landscapes of North America. The Center is one of the leading research institutions for native plants.

Spectacular displays of color blanket both garden plots and open areas at the center.

Lady Bird Johnson was a strong advocate for preserving the natural flora of North America.

Across from the National Wildflower Center is another nature preserve for those who like to bike.

The Veloway Park is exclusively for bicycles or rollerblading. It's a three mile paved loop that winds through Slaughter Creek Metropolitan Park.

The roadside is sprinkled with blankets of beautiful wildflowers.

To read more about the National Wildflower Center click here.

This post was written for Mrs. Matlock's class assignment for the letter O. Click here to join Mrs. Matlock for more Letter O topics for Alphabe-Thursday.

I've also linked this post to the following upcoming weekly blog parties. Click on each below to visit others participating in that day's party.

Saturday ~ Beverly's Pink Saturday

Saturday ~ Laurie's A Few of My Favorite Things

Tuesday ~ Tam's Three or More Tuesday

Wednesday ~ Susan's Outdoor Wednesday

Friday, April 23, 2010


is available here on Amazon.
I give this book ****.

This is my 6th book review linked to Food for Thought hosted by the incredibly talented Jain of Food with Style and Once in a Blue Moon. For those of you here for Pink Saturday there is plenty of pink scattered about. I'm also serving tea today. Enjoy!

THE CALLIGRAPHER'S DAUGHTER is set in early twentieth-century Korea and spans thirty years. It's the story of Najin Han, the only daughter of an aristocratic calligrapher and his strong willed wife. I admit I knew nothing of the history of Korea before reading this remarkable piece of historical fiction, but I now have a new appreciation for the people and culture that suffered during Japan's aggression and occupation of their county. Inspired by the life of the author's mother, Ms. Kim, masterfully weaves together Korean traditions, historical facts, and a portrait of a strong, independent young woman.

Raised in a home with both Confucian traditions and Christian beliefs, Najin Han is fortunate to have a mother who encourages the young girl's independence and dream of a formal education. It was fascinating to glimpse this period of history through Najin's eyes as she grew into a young woman who learned to balance her dreams and goals with the centuries old traditions of her cultural heritage.

Though the book is an intimate portrait of Najin Han's early life and the story of a nation in transition, it is also a beautiful and touching love story. Eugunia Kim's rich and descriptive narratives painted images within my mind as if I were looking through a photo album.

Ms. Kim's poetic imagery gave me a sense of the beautiful culture of Korea

and transfixed me in this time and place.

I'm pleased to say this book offers a perfect format for Food for Thought. There are numerous food references scattered throughout the pages.

The description of the 100th Day Celebration for Najin's baby brother was exquisite.

I was intrigued with the fact that the wife served the husband his meals, then retired to her quarters to eat. The meals described were of simple, fresh foods.

There were absolutely wonderfully descriptive passages of two different picnics. I considered recreating one of these, but in the end decided on a simple afternoon tea.

About a third of the way into the book, Najin, a teenager, is sent to Seoul to live with her aunt. Though Najin's time in Seoul is a significant part of the story, I'll let you discover the details for yourself. In the passage above, Najin and Imo have returned from yet another shopping spree in which Imo has purchased more gifts for Najin. It's a rainy afternoon, and the two go into Imo's sitting room for afternoon tea.

It's not raining here at HFTS so I thought we'd have tea in the garden.

Click here to visit Eugenia Kim's web site for more information about this remarkable book. You can also view an album of family photos taken in Korea circa 1920s and 1930s that Ms. Kim provides for yet another layer of this fascinating story. I recommend that you get a copy of this book, fix a pot of tea, and settle in for an amazing journey to early 20th century Korea.

Don't forget to stop by Food for Thought for more edible book reviews. Visit Beverly @ How Sweet the Sound for a list of Pink Saturday participants, and on Tuesday you can enjoy more tea parties at Lady Katherine's Tea Time Tuesdays , Wanda's Tuesday Tea for Two, and Sandi's Tea Time Tuesdays.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

N is for Nantucket

is for

Nantucket, a wind-swept island off the coast of Cape Cod, stole my heart and imagination many years ago. Only fourteen miles long and three and a half miles wide, it is full of beauty, charm, and history.

With thoughts of one of my favorite destinations, I've set a lunch table for you today. Please come in and join me for a bowl of clam chowder.

I like to make New England clam chowder with fresh clams, potatoes, bacon, onions, and cream.

The tureen is Nantucket by Wedgwood. The details on this piece replicate the details found on many of the Nantucket lightship baskets.

A Nantucket lightship basket 
holds fresh rolls right out of the oven.

This young man holds a little salt and pepper should you desire more seasoning in your chowder. He's French and must have come ashore from one of the many sailing vessels moored in the harbor.

You'll dine with my new Gourmet Settings flatware, a gift from Michael Lee West. I was the lucky winner of this set of Treble Clef flatware as part of Michael's Boucoup Give-Aways. Michael hosts Designs by Gollum, a daily style magazine that features Cooking, Tablestyling, an Inspiration Gallery, Design, a Newsletter, and Give-Aways. An accomplished author of fiction, Michael lives on a farm in Tennessee. Designs by Gollum is a site not to be missed as Michael Lee shares the simple pleasures of her life: cooking, writing, collecting, tablescaping, and interior design.

Thank you, Michael Lee! 
 I feel honored to have 
won this beautiful set of flatware.

This service for four of five piece place settings is 18/10 stainless steel and handmade. I like the organic feel of both the design and the unpolished steel handles.

Our lunch table is set with the theme 
of sailing ships and Nantucket Lightship Baskets.

The chowder bowl features a jaunty sailor who sailed into port from France. Notice the French flag? This bowl is a limited edition issue of a design in the Musée des Faiences de Quimper's archives.

The concentric rings of yellow and blue of the Quimper bowl contrast with the woven pattern of the Nantucket dinner plate. Both sit atop a square red plate by Waechtersbach, Germany on a simple woven placemat.

The organic shape and feel of the 
Treble Clef flatware reminds me of seaweed.

It's such a beautiful spring day, 
I thought we'd dine on the sunporch.

I filled some of my Nantucket Lightship Baskets with cut flowers from a friend's garden ("Thank you, Ann!") and gathered them together with a scrimshaw box upon a large Courtly Check tray from MacKenzie-Childs.

These beautiful roses have filled the 
room with the most delicious fragrance.

The sweet snapdragons 
are some of the last of the season.

This basket still holds the 
bittersweet berries from the fall.

The distinctive shape and simplicity of Nantucket Lightship 
Baskets make them unique. You can read more about the 
fascinating history of this craft at: 

The oak or cane staves of these baskets 
are formed over a wooden mold 
and then woven with fine cane.

The photo above shows an incredible 
Nantucket Lightship Basket style bassinet.

It's said that mermaids 
live off the coast of Nantucket.

And the whaling industry was an 
important part of the history of Nantucket.

Scrimshaw is the American version of ivory carvings. It is the folk art of carving on whale teeth or bones and was an important part of the daily life aboard whaling ships. Antique scrimshaw pieces are highly collectable and expensive. The above collage is of three pieces that were purchased as souvenirs while visiting Nantucket. With the exception of the "woven" piece top right, these pieces are made of synthetic bone. They are not antique and were not expensive.

The detail is carved into the 
bone and then later inked in.

This piece is made of bone and 
carved to resemble a woven basket.

I hope you've enjoyed lunch 
and a little bit about the island of Nantucket.

New England Clam Chowder
1/4 cup finely cut bacon or salt port
1/4 cup minced onion
1pt. shucked fresh clams with liquor or
2 cans (7 oz. Each) minced or whole clams, lobster, or other seafood
2 cups finely diced raw potato
1/2 cup water
2 cups milk
1tsp. salt
1/8tsp. pepper
Sauté bacon and onions in large kettle. Drain seafood. Add Liquor, potatoes, and water to onion and bacon. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Just before serving, add seafood, milk, salt, and pepper. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately.

Thank you for joining me!