Wednesday, April 29, 2009

April Invocation

We take this moment to recognize You, God, before country. For only with Your support, our abundant blessings may be secured. Words alone do not express our gratitude to live in this nation where we can publicly seek Your divine wisdom. Lead us beyond slogans, but also the actions which marry our individual faiths to our mutual political philosophy.

Lord, we give our frustrations to You. The world has been busy since we last prayed together. We have many concerns. With the government. With news agencies. With other nations. With our neighbors- some of whom express a lack of gratitude and aversion to reason.
We acknowledge that You have made us physical, mental and spiritual beings. As complex beings, we seek not an easy life, but a good one. We understand that some problems should be under the responsibility of the government to solve. But not always.

There are problems whose solutions are best left in the hands of spiritual leaders. Always we must exercise our individual accountability. Let our actions be guided accordingly.
Temper our tongues with kindness and our pride with humility, that we will not extinguish the gift of the ability to learn.
When we prefer to easy retreat, but the worthy battles of our time need our muscle, give us strength to go on. Give us courage to speak with simple clarity, so that those who for their own purpose would make us out to be unfeeling and irrational- their words will be obvious to all who listen, be false witness.
We humbly ask you do the same for our officials, elected and appointed. Those we voted for, and those we did not.
As we succeed, remind us gently the importance of humility. The goodness of love. The motivation which springs from hope. And the importance that the change we seek is not for ourselves, but for the people and the nation you have so blessed in this most beautiful of states.
As this is the custom of my faith, I ask this in the name of my Lord, Jesus Christ.

Thank you to Trisha Bowler of Diamond Bar for the photos of Egret which dropped by her backyard for a lizard snack. This is the same type of bird I mentioned in previous post, but misidentified as a crane. Judy Duvall, in our morning Internet coffee-klatch, informed us that an egret is a very large white (instead of blue) heron. They are referred to as Great Egrets.

This invocation was my pleasure to write and deliver to the Diamond Bar Republican Women last week.

Wednesday letter appreciation will be back on track next week.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Company We Keep

Uninvited company. Living in the hills, we get allot of casual company. Some slither in. Some, like the crane earlier today, swoop in for a quick bite to eat.

This purr-tee darling walked in and made herself at home. This time, it wasn't my garden the bobcat graced. It was that of photographer Gene Sasse.

I first met Gene at Roger's Garden's in Corona del Mar at a Garden Writer's Association regional meeting. We probably first struck up a conversation at a Southern California Horticultural Association meeting at Griffith Park. Then, we were touring Greenwood Daylily Gardens in Somis at the same time.

We have worked together on a few projects since then. And it is always a pleasure. We both love the great outdoors. We live in different cities, but similar geography and wildlands interface issues. Although, when Gene sees a rattlesnake in his front yard, he is likely to move it someplace safer. That would not be my initial reaction. In fact, the snake's safety would never be a consideration, let alone make it to an action item.

Our collaboration works because we communicate through different arts. Gene, as photographer, speaks through images. I, as a writer, sketch with words. However, our goal is the same. To create on a flat surface, a thought or feeling which leaps from the page and lands firmly in the soul of the person viewing what we craft .

Photographs by
Gene Sasse Photography
5288 Ranch Gate RoadAlta Loma, CA 91701909-
941-3993 Studio 909-319-6101

used with permission.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Vanilla Voyage

This culinary adventure begins in the age of the Conquistador, in Castilian Spain. The parents of young Hernándo Cortés Pizarro sent their only son to study law, but he longed for a less cerebral life. Failing law school, he returned home, and became involved with a local young lady. His desire for her was matched only by his curiosity about the mysterious “New World” west of the Atlantic’s watery horizon.
His desire for her would not deter Hernan’s ambition. He signed onto an expedition to explore this New World. Before sailing west, he climbed the wall to the young lady’s apartment, to bid her adieu.
The wall collapsed, a heap of rubble upon the would-be Romeo, forcing a different type of bed rest than the young man imagined. It wasn’t until 1504 that Cortés sailed from Spain to meet his destiny as the bold explorer, conqueror and governor of New Spain, now known as Mexico.
When Cortés returned to Spain, be brought riches from the new territory. Gold. Silver. New flavors- chocolate and vanilla. The Aztec Emperor Montezuma introduced the conquistadors to it when serving his most honored guests with a sweetened chocolate beverage, laced with pulverized ripened fruits of the vanilla orchid. This is a brief history of the cultivation of vanilla.

Vanilla quickly captured the hearts of Europeans. Not just as a flavoring for chocolate. Queen Elizabeth was besotted with vanilla custard. Its reputation as an aromatic perfume with medicinal and aphrodisiac value spread. As interest in the new commodity grew, the desire to expand where it could be cultivated became an obsession of traders.

Not all orchids bare fruit. While orchids are the single largest plant group, numbering in excess of 23,000 varieties, barely 110 of these are capable of forming fruit.

Of these, only the vining orchid V. planifolia produces green bean shaped fruits laden with the signature scent.

There is but the briefest opportunity for insects to pollinate this yellowish green Cattleya-like orchid or the flower simply dies without baring fruit. Despite the best attempts by prestigious horticulturalists to produce crops away from its native Mexican rain forest, insects in prospective groves were just not willing to do their part in pollination. The farmers pressed forward, but their alternative methods to coax a vanilla crop by hand proved clumsy, unreliable and unprofitable.

Then, east of Madagascar, on the French Island of Réunion, a twelve year old orphaned slave, Edmond Albius, changed the course of history. According to Wikipedia, Albius developed this technique to manually manipulate a fruit into being.
“In 1841, Albius discovered how to quickly pollinate the vanilla orchid with a thin stick or blade of grass and a simple thumb gesture. With the stick or grass blade, field hands lift the rostellum, the flap that separates the male anther from the female stigma, and then, with their thumbs, smear the sticky pollen from the anther over the stigma.”
Now, the rare vanilla orchid is grown in many regions worldwide in a band which extends 20 degrees north and south of the Equator’s girth.
There is a complex richness in real vanilla. Imitation vanilla only contains one aromatic, vanillin, synthesized from guaiacol, a coal tar derivative; or produced from lignin, a byproduct of the paper industry. By contrast, real vanilla is composed of 250 harmonious organic components. The aromatic scent of real vanilla is complex- calming, comforting to the nose- uplifting other ingredients to the taste. It elongates and elevates the pleasure of the moment.
To choose artificial vanilla flavoring over real vanilla is to choose to play a single ivory key when the whole keyboard is available.
Because aroma is such an important component of enjoyable food, I insist that only the finest vanilla be used in my kitchen. After years of experimentation with various brands, I am pleased to stock my cabinet with Rodelle Gourmet Vanilla products.

Just as the right wine elevates the dining experience, so does Rodelle Vanilla. There are things I will compromise on when cooking. But not with vanilla. It must be real. And for gastronomic pleasure, there is no better vanilla on the market.

What are some of your favorite uses for vanilla? Please share.

Credits and Links of Interest
Painting of the Spanish Explorer is by unknown artist in 16th Century.
Group orchid shot from my personal collection.
Image of V plantifolia courtesy of National Park Service, Everglades National Park
Vining orchid photograph copyrite by David.Monniaux

The image of Edmond Albius firstpublished in Album de l'Ile de la Réunion (volume III - 1863)
Lithography : Antoine Roussin / Publisher : Antoine Roussin
To learn more about the line of Rodelle Vanilla products, please visit their site at

Cost Plus World Market is now the exclusive purveyor of Rodelle's 'Vanillas of the World'- a delightful way to taste the individuality of different climates and soil.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Letter Appreciation Wednesday- G- wiz

Time to name rougly ten favorite things- starting with the letter "G".

My husband Gerry (Gerald to everyone who knew him before UCLA), strolling through the herb Garden at the Cheyenne, Wyoming Botanical Garden in the summer of 2006. I was a newspaper editor. He is an engineer. This was the rarest of occasions. We were both awake and not picking something professionally apart.
GWA- Garden Writer's Association. What a Godsend- an absolutely superlative organization. I could not have transitioned from Editor to writer without their educational programs and contacts.

That was where I first met some of the most important people in my current professional life. Including photographer,Gene Sasse. If you enjoy the many photographs he allows reprinted here, run up to The Garden in Pomona, and pick up his inspirational gift book Garden Thoughts.

Three roses, all with names starting with the letter "G" beautifully demonstrate the versatility of the genus.

"Gourmet Popcorn'

'Gentle Giant'

'George Burns'

Garlic. Who isn't transported to a dreamy vacation by the aroma of a head slowly roasting in the oven in a bath of olive oil with a sprig of thyme.

The Golden Gate Bridge. Who doesn't remember the first time they saw it? How it felt to cross the ocean in a car?

The Grace of God. I love this quote by London journalist Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) about his devotion to his relationship with the Almighty-
"You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink."

Finally, this shot was taken at a location starting with a "G". First correct guess will get a surprise gift from me.

All photos in this post, except top photo, are by Alta Loma photographer Gene Sasse.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Eve of Easter

I hardly know where to point the camera. Color is everywhere.

In one mixed border, the smoldering sunset reds of the new 'Cinco de Mayo' roses beam brightly in happy contrast to cooler mauve and purple tones of nearby geraniums and red Valerian which volunteered to keep them company. Not everything is "Bloom where you are planted". We should learn from the flowers to "Bloom where you find yourself."

I wish you could smell the perfumes wafting through my garden. It is like a flower shop- everywhere you turn- there are blossoms calling you to be of good cheer. Each has their own scent in leaf or flower. Roses. Lemon. Pine. Bay laurel. None clash.

What I can send you is one of the best tasting and easiest recipes you will ever prepare. It is perfect for the Easter Ham.

While I would love to take credit for the recipe, it is a family recipe of Lisa Butler's. She graciously allowed me to pass it on to all of you because "Yummy things should be shared!" It bears the name of the woman who passed it on to her.
Lois’ Ham Glaze

1 C. Brown Sugar
1 T. Cornstarch
¼ t. salt
1 (14 ½ oz.) can of crushed pineapple
2 T. Lemon Juice
1 T. prepared mustard

Mix together brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Add pineapple, lemon juice, and mustard. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until the mixture boils and thickens. This should only take a few minutes. Serve over baked ham.

Thank you, Lisa! And to everyone, all the blessings of the season to you.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Letter Appreciation Wednesday - F

To garden is to show faith that there will be a future. One where flowers will bloom with abandon.

This week I interviewed ceramicist Leslie Codina. The quote we both love was written by the German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who published in 1810, The Theory of Colours, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

The peach Angels Trumpet (Brugmansia) began as a cutting from the University of Riverside's annual plant sale. In colder climates, it is grown under the protection of a glass conservatory. But here- where it rarely freezes- in open shade it reaches the full height of the patio. When the pendulous blooms wave in the evening breeze, the heady perfume calls the night pollinators to it.

Flowers bloom everywhere. Even next to my husband's shed. Tufts of lavender Armeria and swaddles of nasturtiums prove that even common flowers glorify the garden. Look closely- spot the miniature roses which beat most of the bigger ones to the festival of blossoms.

The yellow blossoms of the new Julia Child rose bush are the color of good Irish butter. Behind it, the scented geranium, around 10 AM, is the all-you-can -sip hummingbird hangout.

On the corner of the patio is this spiky thing. I bid on it at a silent auction to benefit the Southern California Horticultural Society after a glass of wine.
I do like it. Whatever it is. Not that I was sure how to safely replenish the soil as it sank beneath it- but Nan Sterman- author of the California Garden Guide, Vol II instructed me- wrap it in an old blanket and tip the pot to the side. Both the plant and I obviously survived.

Back to the letter F- I love freedom. Good food- especially enjoyed al fresco with family and friends.

And football.
Thank you to the Diamond Bar City Council and staff for exercising bold genius. The agreement negotiated regarding the proposed NFL stadium in the City of Industry - WOW! The City of Walnut chose a different path. For their own reasons. However- when it comes to litigation vs mitigation- rarely is litigation the perfect solution. I think time will teach that Diamond Bar did better with what fate brought to our border.

Now- what are your favorite things which start with the letter "F"? Have FUN!

Leslie Codina's website is at

Friday, April 3, 2009

Before It's Too Late

It all began in 1958. From a handful of daffodil bulbs planted in the hillside a dream to pain the 5 acres of hillside with the color of daffodils began. No fertilizer. No summer irrigation. Every year, one at a time, Gene Bauer bent over and planted more bulbs one at a time.

Just like life, it wasn't always easy. The Willow Fire of 1999 destroyed the Bauer's A-frame home, its surrounding shady trees and garden. Fortunately, the fire was swift, and the bulbs in their protective covering of earth survived the scorching.

If you are familiar with The Daffodil Principle, then you are familiar with the private garden, and the ah-ha moment it inspired for author Jeroldeen Aspund Edwards. In the story, which first appeared in her book, Celebration!, the mother of 12 wrote of seeing the garden for the first time
"For me that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than thirty-five years before, had begun - one bulb at a time - to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountain top.
Still, this unknown, old woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. She had created something of magnificent beauty, and inspiration. "

For many years, the garden has been open to the public from 10am until 6 pm during the bloom season. But after April 12th, their glorious garden will no longer be open to the public. Gene and Dale Bauer are retiring from their duties of keeping their private Eden open to the public.

So before it is too late, plan a trip up to the San Bernardino Mountains to see what is possible when you have a dream and go forward boldly with intent and persistence.

Let the garden take your breath away.
Celebrate the collaboration of man and nature while it is still possible.

The story of "The Daffodil Principle" is now available for the first time as a an illustrated gift book, with artwork by Anne Marie Oborn.

Jeroldeen Edwards passed away last May of heart disease. But she lives on through her children and literary work.

St Anne in the Mountains Catholic Church will allow you to park in their lot. The Bauer garden is adjacent. It is located next door at 30480 Fredalba Road 30480 Fredalba Road, Running Springs, Ca. 92382 just a short drive off Highway 330.
The photographs of the garden are by Alta Loma photographer Gene Sasse- used with permission.
If your favorite local book seller does not have copies of The Daffodil Principle- click here to order