Garden Progress: Week of May 28

There’s not much new to report on my bucket garden, except I pulled everything out of the buckets. A friend of mine recently mentioned her concerns about edible plants being grown in used buckets. If you know what the bucket has previously been used for, then it’s probably not a problem. You wouldn’t grow tomatoes in a bucket that once hauled paint or cleaning solution or any other combination of chemicals, right? The moment I realized I planted my edibles in used buckets not ever once used by me, I got nervous. What had been in those buckets the previous owner had left us? Carpet cleaner? Wood floor refinisher?

So I spent part of my weekend re-gardening.

After an already busy day in downtown Cleveland visiting a number of festivals and food spots, I ran to the store to buy new containers and two more 80-pound bags of organic soil. It probably took me close to 4 hours to reorganize all the tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, and beans. The buckets are now the very unattractive homes to marigolds and sweet peas. It all worked out in the end, especially since my friend and coworker gifted me with some giant aster and phlox that was recently pulled from her mother-in-law’s Pennsylvania garden. Coincidentally, my entire body is in so much pain, but my front yard is going to explode in color by the end of the month. Also, I won’t soon be dying of some freaky chemical-via-snap-pea ingestion. Hooray! Thanks for the tip, Kristi!

I’ll share a few photos here of the re-garden, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to share more of what’s happening in other parts of my yard. Though I can’t be certain, I do think the previous homeowners took the time to landscape the property with trees and flowers that bloom throughout the seasons. (This surprises me, seeing as they did not take the time to clear out the garage of any of their old crap.) Currently, my rhododendrons are starting to conk out, but the mock orange that surrounds them are starting to bloom. And just as the lily-of-the-valley and the Solomon’s seal are beginning to go bust, the coral bells are beginning to boom.

As I was digging holes in my front yard beds for the newly-acquired Pennsylvania flowers, I came across this stone – again, left behind by the old owners. It’s in the shape of Ohio. And it’s pretty perfect for a our walkway.

IMG_20170604_193527

The re-gardened tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, and peas are in these new pots (hey, it’s a special appearance by Teddy!). Now I have to find the time to stake our new trellises into the ground…

IMG_20170604_193418

The coral bells and Solomon’s seal (among so many other plants) are in the side yard which gets little practical use. It’s a great spot to put things that are fairly self-sufficient. This area gets the most sun, but it isn’t inside the fence. And deer…well, I’m pretty sure they were nibbling on my cucumbers when I had them prepped in the corner to climb the fence. So, nothing of importance gets put in the side yard.

IMG_20170604_193702

The begonias that started it all…

IMG_20170604_193803

Another mystery plant. I almost pulled it a few months ago because I thought it was hideous. It’s amazing what a little bit of color can do. Those little pink clusters saved your life, plant…whatever you are.

IMG_20170604_193914

Here is my favorite corner for the moment. That’s a begonia, hanging down so beautifully. Beneath it is one of the Pennsylvania transplants. Phlox, I believe. I had never heard of phlox that grow that tall! I’m only aware of creeping phlox. If all goes well, she’ll be blooming bright purple flowers in late June.

IMG_20170604_194008

As you can see, the rhodie flowers to the right are starting to wither out. Alas, mock orange blossoms come to the rescue! It’s the perfect convergence, really.

IMG_20170604_194024

IMG_20170604_194230

Back in March, I picked up three seed packets from Monticello: snap peas, nasturtium, and alpine strawberries. The alpine strawberries aren’t doing a darn thing, and today I headed up to the local fruit farm to buy a pint of fresh-picked strawberries off of them. But my Jefferson snap peas and nasturtium are right on schedule. The nasturtium has especially taken off in recent weeks, and I’m hoping to see some blooms from these plants in the next month.

IMG_20170604_194336

This is another begonia that I have in a pot in the backyard. I never gave begonias a fair shake all these years. My three potted begonias have really made me a fan (and not to mention that gorgeous salmon-colored begonia that hangs in the front yard).

IMG_20170604_194500

That’s really all I have for now. Sadly, I’m still going to the grocery store for zucchini and squash, and I just hope I’ll have enough paste tomatoes this summer to make and freeze homemade pasta sauce and pizza sauce. Yet this is why we have farmer’s markets. Worry not, farmers. I have a feeling I’ll be keeping you in business for a long, loooong time.

Garden Update: Week…I have no idea

I really underestimated the power of a good garden box. Matt and I have no idea how many tomato plants we actually put in (we’re guessing six?) but they’ve become their own region of the garden. The tomato jungle, I call it. My supports – which include stakes, towers, tie-ups, and, as a last resort, 5-foot tall broken tree limbs – cannot contain the tomato plants. They’ve fallen over. They’ve put so much weight on the nearby sunflowers that the sunflowers have fallen over. As a result, I have a ton of delicious tomatoes. This means homemade pizza sauce and pasta sauce, BLTs, tomato and cucumber salad…oh my god. The cucumbers! They’ve taken over the sunflowers, too.

My vegetable plants are pretty much self-sufficient. So are my zinnias. The okra are coming in quite nicely. The peas got pulled a few weeks ago. I have a whole batch in the freezer, so they’ve done their job.

Untitled

What happens when it's too hot to check my garden on the daily... #garden #gardening #veggies

Untitled

Untitled

I’ve moved on to succulents. This is all new to me. I don’t even know what a cutting is (I think I do, but I’m not 100% sure how to make it work). Because I work in a library I have an endless array of informative books at my disposal. Books on succulents, cacti, and the like are plentiful. But as soon as I open one wanting to learn, I get distracted by all the photographs. The reading, the learning, doesn’t happen. All I really know is there’s a ton of pea gravel in my backyard and it’s been useful for potting my new plants. These, by the way, are what I plan to bring indoors during the winter.

When it comes to seasonal depression and how to alleviate it a bit, I like to plan ahead.

I adopted some cacti and succulents this morning. Though it's mid-July I'm already prepping for winter with indoor-friendly plants. #succulents #garden #gardening #babyjade

Untitled

#succulents #garden

Untitled

A Tour of the Midwest: Part Three

A few months ago I listened to the Laverne & Shirley theme song a ridiculous number of times. That song, and the whole show, really, help keep vivid a memory I have of touring my first brewery in Milwaukee, which was the Pabst Brewery. I was young, too young to enjoy the samples of free beer at the end of the tour, but I remember watching the bottles fly past me on the assembly line. There were high hopes that a glove would stow itself away on the neck of one of those bottles and wave to me as it made its way out into the world, a la Laverne & Shirley.

Everything I just mentioned is important to me for these reasons:

1. The glove on the bottleneck never appeared. Disappointing, but life goes on.
2. The next time I took a brewery tour I was of legal age, but then I was too pregnant to enjoy the free samples of beer at the end.
3. While in Milwaukee this month, we had lunch at Lakefront Brewery but decided to skip the tour. Later in the week, while standing in the atrium of Lambeau Field, a gentleman struck up a conversation with my husband about Lakefront Brewery and mentioned the tour. “Oh, it’s one of the best in the city. They have the whole group sing the theme song from Laverne & Shirley at the end!” OH MY GOD. WHY DID WE NOT TAKE THE TOUR!?!?!?!

So, here. Just because.

MILWAUKEE

We didn’t plan too much of our day around Milwaukee. Matt and I had three goals. Visit the Pabst Brewery gift store. Eat lunch at a brewery. Dip our toes into Lake Michigan (okay, that one was my goal).

The Pabst Brewery was fairly easy to find. I mean, you kind of drive into the area like it’s a subdivision or the town’s historic district, with signs a’blazin’: YOU ARE HERE!

IMG_2379

IMG_1699

IMG_2383

Lakefront Brewery is situated in the middle of a what looks like a condominium farm. A former industrial area? Probably. At least that was my guess after finding the nearby train bridge had been turned into a pedestrian walk-through. And there was thistle, just like here in Oklahoma!

It’s beautiful there. I like how the wild things are very obviously trying to take the area back, and I especially like how the people around here let it.

IMG_2396

IMG_2387

IMG_2390

Lakefront Brewery

IMG_2393

IMG_2394

IMG_2397

After a lunch of polish sausage on a stick and fried cheese curds, we headed toward Lake Michigan via Brady Street and the rich neighborhoods of the lakeshore. There was a beach volleyball tournament going on which involved a national championship. Naturally this left us with nowhere to park. And here is where we leave Milwaukee.

PORT WASHINGTON

Forgive me, BUT MY GAWD THIS IS ONE OF THE CUTEST TOWNS I HAVE EVER SEEN! Our timing is impeccable seeing as we Oklahomans rolled into this quaint little town at the exact moment they were testing their tornado sirens. Was it noon? Yep. Was it Saturday? Yep. We know the drill.

The sky was a bit overcast when we got into Port Washington, but the air was not cold (believe me, I’m just as surprised as you are that I didn’t freeze in the 70 degree weather). We spotted a Duluth Trading Company shop at the port. Matt needed pants. I needed a hat with a strap. Elle needed socks. So we shopped.

Just across from this small strip of stores is the harbor and marina. Next door was some kind of fishing derby. And there were two walkways that led visitors to separate lighthouses. We chose the one that warned of slippery rocks, a sign blaring DO NOT ENTER in red (to convey seriousness, always use red), and joined the throngs of other trespassers. It was probably the most dangerous thing I’ve done this century.

Even if I’d fallen in, it would have been worth it (I spotted the lifesaver rings way before I stepped foot on that breakwater – those of us riddled with anxiety are always prepared). The sky even cleared for us.

IMG_1713

Port Washington marina

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

IMG_1710

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

Did I get to dip my toe into Lake Michigan? No. I’m actually okay with this. That water is COLD. This time I chose to stay dry and warm.

Next up: Our family’s pilgrimage to Mecca.

A Tour of the Midwest: Part Two

IMG_1594

Our first night at Little Cedar Lake started late. We pulled in around 9:30 Wednesday evening, said hello to our hosts for the week (my cousin Debbie and her fiance, Mike), and went to unpacking the van straight away so we could get to the business of sleeping. For months I had been looking forward to “glamping” in one of my cousin’s two glampers. Oh, the fresh air, and the sounds of nighttime! Who was I kidding? I gave up after a few hours and went inside to take over the couch.

I woke up refreshed, as if I’d slept a full 8 hours (which NEVER happens). And with the sun shining so brightly outside, I actually wondered if I had slept in too late. When I checked the time it wasn’t yet 6 o’clock. IN THE MORNING. Northern latitudes – you play mean tricks! I immediately thought of all those nights as a kid in Upper Michigan when I could play outside until it was 10 o’clock at night. The sun comes up at four a.m. during some parts of the year. Then a delightful thought sprang into my mind – GO BACK TO BED. IT’S TOO EARLY. Before I fell back to sleep, I took this photograph so I could remember not only the view I had each day, but also what early morning looks like up north.

IMG_1591

We spent most of our days on the lake. There was fishing. There was boating. There were July Fourth fireworks coming from every direction. There was family reunion-ing. I finally met my cousin’s son, born only two months after my own daughter. He is autistic but he held my hand when we said goodbye to each other. I’ll remember that forever.

Little Cedar Lake

Little Cedar Lake

IMG_1630

I took some time to introvert in the glamper – to read, to nap, to listen to the birds.

Little Cedar Lake

Little Cedar Lake

Little Cedar Lake

The weather was near-perfect everyday. Having adapted to Oklahoma’s dry heat from Florida’s humidity, I worried Wisconsin would chill me to the bone. I believed in this fact so hard that I actually packed winter clothing. Silly of me, really. It turns out the heaviest thing I ever wore was a flannel, so quick was I to tap into my once-northern blood.

Though I’d never been to Little Cedar Lake before this, the surrounding towns played a huge part in my growing up. My parents brought us to visit this side of the family often – we only lived five hours away when I was a kid – and we’d established traditions. My childhood is here. At the farmhouse, at the Jackson Motel, at the Everly House, at Jim’s Bakery (now Jim’s Place), in the cornfield where, decades ago, my cousin and his friends showed me where they stashed their booze.

IMG_1607

Sometimes we ventured away from Little Cedar Lake. There were day trips to see the old Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee and other drives north to Port Washington and Green Bay. But we always returned to Little Cedar Lake in time for the sunset.

We can’t wait to get back.

Little Cedar Lake

Little Cedar Lake

IMG_1620

Next stop: Port Washington and Milwaukee. Or, as I like to call it, Milwhoa (like Joey from Blossom – I can’t help it).

Eco-Therapy & Books

There has been a lot of reading and outdoors time going on, often at the same time. The nights are mild; the mosquitoes have returned. I’m not deterred, though. I still like to take a glass of wine out to the back stoop and catch up on some reading.

I’m unable to say what has gotten into me lately. In summers past, I was quite happy to spend an hour outside and say I’d done myself some good with that single hour. Not this year. I don’t mind getting dirty from pulling garden weeds, and I don’t mind getting sweaty from a long walk around the block or even around the zoo. In fact, the kiddo and I spent nearly four hours doing just that this weekend.

All three of us played for hours on an outdoor ropes course downtown with the hopes of ziplining across the Oklahoma River. The skyzip didn’t happen due to wind gusts but I’m pretty sure I would have chickened out anyway. It seems I have a newly developed physiological reaction to heights that I must work on before I step out onto the Willis Tower Skydeck next month (I only made it to the third story of the ropes course – out of eight – before feeling a little queasy).

Untitled

Untitled

We recently attended an outdoor wedding reception at our friends’ new homestead/farm-to-be where there was canoe filled with ice-cold beer and soda, a metal washbin for a firepit (to cook our hot dogs and s’mores, of course), as well as a petting zoo. All the guests parked a few hundred yards from the event which meant we had to find our way back to our cars in the dark. Being that far out in the country gave us all a fantastic view of the stars and a nearly full moon, though, not to mention the spectacular firefly show.

Untitled

I have felt so happy lately and I truly believe it’s from being outside so much. It helps to be so blitzed out by the sun and heat of the day that I usually fall into bed blissfully exhausted.

Untitled

Untitled

Between walks around the nearby lakes and city parks (and cutting flowers during my many trips to my garden), I read. Most recently I’ve finished Susannah Kaysen’s Cambridge, Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird, and Maggie Shipstead’s Seating Arrangements. My most favorite was Shipstead’s novel; my least favorite was Oyeyemi’s. Cambridge fell disappointingly in the middle.

I’m reading two books at the moment: Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez and Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories by Lauren Groff. It’s funny how the two of them are so drastically different yet each one serves up a good fix for my Floridana literature itch. Groff lives in Gainesville, Florida, my one-time hometown, the city in which my daughter was born. I miss that place. The tall trees, the afternoon thunderstorms, the summer jasmine scent in the air. Lopez’s book on the Arctic explains in detail why dwarf trees are so prevalent in regions with violent weather and temperature extremes. Wind is one of the greatest weather forces. There is so much wind here in Oklahoma that I now understand why there are so few tall trees. And the way Lopez talks about the Far North, or the way most Alaskans talk about the Far North, for that matter, is what makes me miss the South.

That is how I feel about the South, except I haven’t yet found Arctic Dreams‘ southern equivalent.

Untitled

Untitled

Nostalgia

Sometimes I wonder if I might feel claustrophobic now if I stood among the tall pine trees of North Florida. A year ago this thought would have sent me into a panic, homesick and spun out on nostalgia.  These days, though, I am feeling much more comfortable here in Oklahoma. The wind is barely noticeable except on extremely gusty days or when it’s missing altogether, and we’ve had more earthquakes lately than tornado-producing storms. Now that winter is over (thank goodness), it is so lush and green outside that I have almost forgotten how ugly winter is. Almost.

image

Plans are being made for the house (which is, unfortunately, not the whimsical structure pictured above): a three-panel world map will soon be hung on the wall; evergreen trees and an arbor, possibly covered with jasmine or miniature garden lights, need to put into the ground soon; a backyard deck with lighting on the stairs; adding more beds to the garden.

When I moved here two years ago I wouldn’t take any time away from missing Florida to consider making long-term arrangements and landscaping decisions for my own house in Oklahoma City. Today I spoke out loud about planting asparagus and of turning our backyard into a fruit orchard. Apple trees and Bartlett pear trees. Fig trees. A Japanese maple, perhaps, for a spectacular color show once a year.

*****

Last month we visited with some friends in a neighboring town. On the way to their house I spotted fields of yellow that went on for what seemed like miles. Luckily I have a husband who is willing to pull over onto the side of the road when I ogle the landscape. He also doesn’t mind when I hang out of the passenger door of the van with my camera, standing and stretching for height and perspective, until I’m happy with my shot. I especially get a kick out of  scenery that includes oil rigs and wind turbines, but most of the time Oklahoma’s landscape is still very foreign to me. The canola field is one of my new favorites, though.

13939499504_e92dd569e4_z

Sunset courtesy of Oklahoma. #oklahoma #sunset

*****

Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is collecting dust inside one of my book cabinets and has been since last summer. I sometimes wish I could begin reading a book without knowing how many pages are actually involved. Or at least knowing it will be a fantastic novel and every page will have been worth every minute I devoted to it. Yes, I do judge people this same way. It’s probably why I didn’t marry until I was 35. The Goldfinch just feels like such a goddamn commitment and I don’t think I’m ready for that kind of commitment yet.

Relatedly, I’m reading a book about the history of anxiety as told by Scott Stossel, who, as it turns out, is a near-perfect spokesperson for those of us who suffer so intensely on the inside but manage to fool nearly every person we meet. He’s the editor of The Atlantic. You don’t get that kind of job without bullshitting your way through countless social engagements. How many times have I been told that I sound like I have everything “so together”? More times that I can remember. Remarks like that only serve to assure me that I can function fairly well in a world unwilling to acknowledge the quiet ones, the worriers, those of us made anxious by the energy or speed with which others work.

I’m left-handed so I feel like I’ve been playing this kind of role all my life anyway. We always manage to get by, though, sometimes after having worked a little harder, especially because we know ballpoint pens are still made to perform better for right-handed people.

*****

Summer vacation this year will consist of a trip to the Milwaukee area to see my extended family. It’s been more than twenty years since I’ve been there. Jim’s Bakery is gone and so is my uncle’s farm. They were both swallowed up by development and the economy. This makes me sad for a number of reasons, but mostly because I expected these two things to always be there. The last time I visited was shortly after my grandmother died. Two decades later I still expect her to be there, too.

Nostalgia should be classified as a mental illness.

What I’m Reading

cuddling with Teddy

A recent backyard reading session that included a cozy blanket and a cuddly dog

Over the course of the last month, since my summer semester at University of Oklahoma came to an end, I have spent nearly every day reading. FOR FUN. No biology textbooks or humanities essays. No critiques on art or poetry. Just new literature and mindless, fun crap. I even bought myself a seek-a-word puzzle book to have around when I need a quick word fix. It reminds me of when I lived with my grandmother decades ago. She and I were both horrible sleepers so we would often be wide awake at 3 o’clock in the morning. Neither of us cared much for conversation so late in the evening (or early in the morning?), but the companionship of words and each other seemed enough to pass the time until the sun came up.

My trips these days to the library are planned with methodical precision. I have a Goodreads list (as seen in the sidebar) of books I want to read and I usually spend an hour or so each Saturday searching the library catalog. I make notes on what books can be found at which location, and write call numbers and order of preference next to each one. If there is anything I like to do as a loner-personality type, it’s figure my own way around. The Target grocery store and the library are all I’ve really mastered so far since Oklahoma City’s highways and grid system still boggle my mind. Remember, I come from a city in which three streets can share one name and I apparently got used to that stupid system. (But I’ve worked at a library before, a public library/university learning center hybrid. The two cataloging systems used by each one are so vastly different from one another but they make sense in their own ways. Learn the basics of them both, I IMPLORE YOU.)

Basically, my library book-borrowing list is planned more thoughtfully than my grocery list. Everyone in this house is well-fed, even the dogs; nobody suffers from scurvy. Why fix what’s not broken?

I tend to come home with about half a dozen books at a time, books ranging from novels to memoirs to cooking and gardening how-tos. My husband, who tends to be so deeply involved in a single book at a time, is in awe of this. To be clear, I never intend to read all of the books I bring home, but I approach library-shopping the same way I approach preparing for a road trip. While I never intend to wear all the clothes I pack in my suitcase, they’re all there in case I decide to do just that. No, I don’t think that makes any sense, either, but it calms my anxious ways to have what I might possibly want at hand. Also, sometimes a book disappoints and you just have to abandon it and open another, right then and there.  Just like if I wanted to change my outfit mid-day while on vacation…now it makes sense, right?

My book recommendations:

The Kings and Queens of Roam by Daniel Wallace – I’m not a big fan of fiction, or at least I wasn’t until I read this book. My interests usually lead me toward biographies, historical events, and travel memoirs. I think all those years I spent living in the world of facts squashed my confidence in knowing how to choose a good make-believe novel. This one gave me my fiction-choosing swagger back.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories by Karen Russell – To be honest, I slogged through the first few stories with the same feeling of disappointment as when I slogged through Swamplandia! (which I never finished). The only short story worth reading is Reeling for the Empire and it made all that other work worth it just to read this tale. I promptly closed the book afterwards, not wanting to be further disappointed by Russell’s writing style. The word “disappointed” could easily be replaced with “exhausted”. Reeling was just a well-earned reward for having to wade through the crap of every other paragraph before it.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker – This story was magical, it was fantastic! I mean, the slowing of the earth? The lengthening of the days and nights? Circadian rhythms a jumbled mess. I actually spent a few days not reading anything because I was in a period of recovery. When I closed the book, though, I had so many more questions: Did the wars stop? Did cancer rates fall? Did Alaskans suffer the way Texans did? And what about the equatorial islands? Decades of fictional information are missing and I find myself caring about those unknowns as though the slowing of the earth could really happen.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed – It’s a horrible feeling to acknowledge that someone’s grief, someone’s gut-wrenching heartbreak, is my constant companion these days. That grief came with me to the salon when my daughter got her hair cut today. I had breakfast with it and fell asleep with it, that grief. I can’t get enough of it. What’s even worse is that I don’t want it to end. When Strayed’s grief ends, the book ends and I haven’t finished this book – I am only about 80% through it all. When deciding if I’m going to give a book my time, I usually only read the first three to five pages. If I’m not into it by then, I won’t get into it at all. Strayed had me hooked from the first page. I can’t remember the last time that happened. Strayed, because of or in spite of all her self-admitted character flaws, is a phenomenal writer.

Arcadia Lake

IMG_1621

Arcadia Lake was surprisingly quiet last week. Elle and I headed out there for a swim on a Thursday, in the middle of the day, expecting to find a crowd of kids being entertained until school starts back up in two weeks. What we got instead was a near-empty beach and a genuinely peaceful afternoon. No complaints here.

It’s funny how different the landscape is from what she and I are used to. As recently as three weeks ago, all of us were playing at the beach in North Florida. There, the ocean floor is soft, the sand is its usual neutral tone, and the waves are tall enough and strong enough to knock me on my keester. Here, at Arcadia, the lake floor is rocky, the sand is red and pebbled in places, and the waves come only after a lone speedboat makes a harrowingly sharp turn near the designated swimming space.

The sound of crashing waves is the same, though, no matter where I am.

Enter the Blueberry: Part II

Last year I bought Cooking for Two, an end-of-year celebration of America’s Test Kitchen’s best recipes “cut down to size”. In it is a fantastic recipe for blueberry cobbler which calls for only a cup of the berries. I had slightly less than a full cup of blueberries left over after baking my blueberry cream cheese bread, but the cobbler still ended up being delicious.

This recipe is great for singles, date nights, or for having to come up with something for dessert after you return from a dental appointment and walk into the kitchen to find your blueberry cream cheese bread has been savagely devoured by your dog. Funny, because that’s what happened to me! My kitchen floor was covered with crumbs and tiny pieces of aluminum foil. It was almost like an explosion of Christmastime tinsel! (I have lost entire loaves of bread, hamburger buns, hot dog buns, and pita bread to our carb-loving dog over the year. Yes, we have a breadbox. No, we still haven’t figured out how to use it, apparently.)

BLUEBERRY COBBLER (for two)

1 tablespoon butter, cut into two pieces, and an additional 2 tablespoons melted and cooled
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk (the recipe calls for whole, I used 2%)
2 12-ounce ramekins

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Place ramekins on prepared sheet and place 1 butter piece in each. Heat in oven until butter is melted (approx. 4-5 minutes)
  3. In the meantime, mash 1 tablespoon of the sugar with the lemon zest in small bowl until combined.
  4. In a separate small bowl, mash blueberries and 1 teaspoon of the lemon-sugar until coarsely mashed.
  5. In a large bowl, combine remaining sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in the milk and melted butter until mixture is smooth.
  6. Remove baking sheet from the oven and divide the batter evenly between the two ramekins.
  7. Top the batter with the blueberry mixture evenly and sprinkle with the remaining lemon-sugar.
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating the baking sheet about 20 minutes in. In the end, the cobblers should be golden brown around the edges. Let the ramekins cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before serving.

IMG_1618

IMG_1615

Enter the Blueberry

IMG_1609

Do you know how hard it is for me to pay for blueberries? As a kid in Upper Michigan, all I had to do was walk outside with an empty gallon-sized ice cream bucket and spend a few hours in the woods picking them for free. It was unheard of to come home without filling up at least half of that bucket. My younger brother, born in the Upper Peninsula, grew up on blueberries and milk sweetened with a little bit of sugar. For the rest of us, blueberry muffins and pancakes were the norm during our short northern summers.

Hmmph, and now I pay for blueberries.

Anyway, after I purchased a pint of blueberries, I teetered back and forth between making blueberry cheesecake or blueberry-maple pancakes. Neither one of them seemed to get me excited. Then I remembered this fantastic cream cheese bread I’d made nearly two years ago back in Florida. I used in-season strawberries for that loaf and actually found myself falling back in love with the fruit I’d severed ties with in my childhood (it’s a sordid tale of food poisoning, Girl Scout camp, and Red Cross nurses – see why I decided to end it with strawberries?). The strawberry cream cheese bread was delicious, and even I was surprised, but my love affair with strawberries was not rekindled.

Enter the blueberry. Or, rather, the blueberry cream cheese bread. Keep in mind you can use your favorite fruit in place of blueberries (I’d love to try a raspberry cream cheese bread)…

BLUEBERRY CREAM CHEESE BREAD

½ cup of butter – softened
1 cup of sugar
3 ounces of cream cheese – softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
½ teaspoon of baking soda
½ teaspoon of salt
½ cup of half & half
1 ½ cups of blueberries – chop the fat ones in half

  1. With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and cream cheese until fluffy. Add eggs (one at a time) then add vanilla.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Blend the flour mixture with the butter mixture first then add the half & half. Stir until creamy.
  4. Drain the blueberries and blot dry. Fold in the blueberries– dough mixture will become thicker.
  5. Pour into greased and floured 9×5 loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees

blueberry cream cheese bread

blueberry cream cheese bread