Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush (Tree)

Bird droppings make great jam.

Perhaps generated by seeds embedded in bird poop; I’m not sure where this tree came from — I never planted it  — but one day there was a little sprout and a few years later it bore its first harvest.

We have two mulberry trees in our yard; the volunteer is fruit-bearing, the other that provides shade to the deck, is not.

silkwormcloseupSilkworms eat mulberry leaves; maybe I could raise a few silkworms and spin my own fabric — except worms are kinda gross, so I guess not.

mulberry tree3

Technically, the fruit of a mulberry is not a berry but a collective fruit, in appearance like a swollen loganberry. When the flowers are pollinated, they and their fleshy bases begin to swell. Ultimately, they become completely altered in texture and color, becoming succulent, fat and full of juice.

In appearance, each tiny swollen flower roughly resembles the individual drupe of a blackberry. Mulberries ripen over an extended period of time unlike many other fruits which seem to come all at once. {Wiki} They’re very sweet and mild.

mulberry tree2

mulberry tree

I learned from Martha Stewart to spread an old sheet on the ground and shake the tree. All the ripe fruit fall; I wash, dry, and freeze in quart bags. So far, I have about eight quarts and the tree’s not done. Raccoons come by at night and gorge themselves;  during the day, crows and other birds eat from the very highest branches.

mulberrysheetA bowl of mulberries.mulberrybowl

Three beautiful specimens. I add them right from the freezer to smoothies and cobblers and I’ll make a batch of jam, too. If I have enough, I’ll make a pie.

mulberry3

Mulberry Jam
(This recipe uses no pectin)

  • 2 1/2 cups mulberries, rinsed (the tiny green stems do not need to be removed)
  • Approximately one cup granulated sugar (I start with a very small amount of sugar and keep tasting. You can try agave, too.)
  • 3 tablespoons water
    Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Drop heat to medium-low and add jars and their lids. Simmer for 10 minutes to sterilize. Using tongs, remove jars and lids and place on a clean towel to let cool.
    In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat, combine mulberries, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil, boil for one minute, then drop to a simmer. Cook fruit, stirring occasionally, until foam subsides and mixture thickens slightly, about 7 minutes.
    Using a ladle, carefully transfer hot jam to sterilized jars. Wipe mouths of jars clean and screw on lids very tightly. Let cool at room temperature for at least 8 hours before using.

Sunday Blues

Happy Father’s Day

Happy Baby Daddy Day

Happy Deadbeat Dad Day

Tugboat Man Update

There are only a few blues in my garden — I wish I could successfully grow hydrangeas, but I think the soil would need a major overhaul.

I found these blues on my morning tour (to see if any more sick squirrels came to visit.)

Lily of the Nile, also known as Agapanthus…
against a backdrop of neon-pink Sweetpea Bush.

LilyoftheNile2 LilyoftheNile

An artichoke that didn’t get picked in time to eat. 

artichoke2

Lots of unpicked artichokes…see what the captain missed?

artichoke1

The only other blue is the flower from Ajuga, a ground cover.

ajuga

 

The Lovely Luscious Loquat (Jam)

I wish all of you could taste a freshly picked juicy loquat. It’s not a kumquat or even a distant relation… loquatsI posted a pic of our loquat tree on my Facebook page and was really surprised to learn how many have never tasted this juicy sweet fruit.

Thin velvety skin embraces yellowy orange flesh that tastes  like a cross between an apricot and a peach.

loquatseededIf you have a chance to try them, just remember, the seeds are extremely toxic! They contain many toxic alkaloids like cyanogen-glycosides.

Loquats grow all over my SoCal neighborhood — everyone seems to have at least one or two trees and they’re very prolific producers — but no one knows what to do with them, which is really too bad because they’re full of nutrition.

  • Low in calorie,, rich in insoluble dietary fiber; pectin.
  •  Excellent source of vitamins A and C, rich in potassium and some B-complex vitamins such as folates, vitamin B-6, and niacin.

Plus, loquat jam is delicious.

A couple days ago, I made a batch of loquat jam with this simple recipe:

Loquat Jam


Directions:

In a large pot, add…

Twelve cups seeded loquats.
Leave the skins on but cut off the blossom end.
Five to six cups of sugar.
I used white sugar, but I’m sure you could play around with the amounts and use agave nectar or honey.
Two tablespoons cinnamon. Loquats are slightly bland and really respond well to spices. Pour over enough water to cover the fruit.
Cover with a lid, quickly bring to a boil, and allow to boil for five minutes.
Turn down the flame to simmer, uncover, and cook for a couple of hours, stirring with a wooden spoon so it doesn’t burn.
After a couple hours or so, take an immersion blender pureed the fruit (the skins disappear), and continued to cook for another hour.
After tasting it, I added a bit more cinnamon and three tablespoons of lemon juice which really helped the flavors develop.
I wanted to turn it more apple butter-like and thick, so I carefully poured it into a crockpot and let it cook on low all night.
In the morning, wash canning jars and lids with hot soapy water, rinse with hot water. Fill jars with hot jam and put the lids on, but don’t tighten too much. As the jam cools, you’ll hear popping sounds which means the lids are sealing. When the jars are cool to touch, tighten the lids a bit more and refrigerate.

Loquats in bowl

Just started the cooking process. It was a real surprise to watch the cooked loquats turn a deep rich burgundy.

Cooking loquats

Use an immersion blender to puree.

Time to sleep in the crockpot all night and get nice and thick.

Crockpot loquat

I’m really happy with the results. It looks a lot like apple butter.

Loquat in bowl

Jars and jars of jam! I’m refrigerating them; didn’t feel like going through the hot bath canning process.

Jars of loquat jamMore ways to preserve the bountiful abundance of loquats:

  • I’m freezing some fruit whole to use in smoothies.
  • Drying the leaves to make loquat tea.
  • Loquat salsa, like mango salsa.
  • Loquat cobbler. YUM.
  • Chutney

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Lemoncupcakesingle

My version topped with a lush garden strawberry

A while back I read Our Growing Paynes post about Lemon Meringue Cupcakes. (Click here for their recipe.)

I love anything lemony and it looked so amazing and mouth-watering that I had to try it.

There’s a tangy sweet burst of lemon curd and fluffy meringue in every bite.

It brings out the Nigella Lawson in me to try and conjure up sensual adjectives to describe how they taste.

chocolate babkaMy son said it was the best thing I’ve ever made, and ranked it right up there with the Chocolate Babka I made a while back.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
Lemon curd, cupcakes, and toasty meringue…how could it be anything but spectacular?

I made the Lemon Curd the day before.. the old school way with my mom’s vintage double boiler. There’s an easier microwave version that has great reviews; try that one if you’re short on time. This is the recipe I used:

3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Whisk eggs, sugar, and lemon juice in a double boiler over simmering water until mixed well, then continue to stir until thick, 7 to 10 minutes.
Drain through a mesh sieve to get rid of lumps. Fold in butter until well incorporated. Mix in lemon zest. Cover curd and chill in the refrigerator until it’s thickened, about four hours. Very important to sieve it, don’t skip this step.

The finished product. So smooth. Like lemon velvet.lemon curd

The vanilla cupcakes ready and waiting for embellishment and a little sparkle.
vanilla lemon cupcakes

The meringue.
lemoncupcake4

It’s fun to core out a bit of the cupcake ‘cos you can eat the middle and pretend it doesn’t have any calories. I used a tomato stem end corer —
a weird but very useful tool. Works great for strawberries, too.
tomato stem end corer

Fill holes with lemon curd and spoon meringue on top in fluffy clouds of goodness.
Place in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes. Don’t go too far away because it takes just a second to go from beautifully toasty brown to burnt.
Lemncupcakes3

Out of the oven, I topped each with a lush garden strawberry.lemonmerenguecupcake1

That first bite… Cake, lemon curd, meringue.
ABSOLUTE HEAVEN.
There are no other words necessary.
Thank you, Our Growing Paynes!lemonmerenguecupcake2

Hello Kitty Is My Soul Sister: Princess Rosebud’s Hello Kitty Birthday Party

Taking my son to the airport after a fun week of Mother’s Day and birthday celebrations, he says in that snarky tone he’s perfected after thirty-two years,

“What’s the deal with you and Hello Kitty?”

Hello Kitty 4My tugboat man, who also serves as my HK enabler ‘cos he thinks I’m adorable – uh, note to single girls — only marry a guy if he thinks everything you do is adorable — responded,

“Hello Kitty is for girly girls and your mom is one-thousand-percent girly girl.”

Well said, my captain, well said.

I’ve thought a lot about the reasons why I’m so drawn to Hello Kitty and I think it’s ‘cos she’s like my pretend soul sister.

HKwatchThe Urban Dictionary defines soul sister as “someone who fully understands you.”

Yup, that’s about right.

I’m not sure if I can pinpoint the exact moment when I first became aware of Hello Kitty.

With a son, it was never really on my radar as he was growing up. Shelves full of dinosaurs and skateboards were the aisles we aimed for at Toys R Us. We dug in the dirt; not so much matching dresses or spa days for us.

hello kitty pajamas and slippers

Sexxxyyy!!

I guess it was more of a gradual appeal;  a (grown-up) friend wore a Hello Kitty watch and I was drooling — drawn to the Swarovski crystals surrounding HK’s face and I HAD to get my own; I walked by a Hello Kitty display at Target (great point of purchase placement)…

OR

…maybe it was always hovering in my subconscious, fermenting and fomenting—until one day I succumbed.

hellokittycupI was hooked.

I fell in love with that adorable mouthless face. One watch led to a ring and to a matching bracelet and then slippers, and OMG the cutest hat with an anchor! (!!!! had to have it, right? It was a nautical theme)hkhat

OK, most people associate HK with little girls, but did you know that there is a secret society of adult women who collect HK?

More often than not, when I wear my HK tee-shirt, I’ll be approached by women I do not know,

Princess Rosebud wearing glasses.

Princess Rosebud wearing glasses.

“Pssst…excuse me” [pointing to my shirt]…do you collect?”

It’s like the Skull and Bones society for women “of a certain age.” Haha.

I confess: I’m an ADULT COLLECTOR of HK. Recently at the Baltimore Airport during a layover, a Southwest employee saw my HK watch and struck up a convo about her collection that includes the HK toaster, which I really need. Really.

We were whispering, “Are you one of us?” “Yes, tell me what you have” and we each listed the items in our collection.

There we were, two college graduated women of adult children — I am not kidding. It was surreal. I mean, who wants to talk about the depressing economy or the strange weather? BORING! Hello Kitty is a sweet, innocent diversion that makes us happy. What could be wrong with that?

Since I really can’t for the life of me logically explain the appeal,  I wanted to explore the psychology of adult women who are obsessed with  enamored of HK and thought someone should write their dissertation about the marketing genius of this huge pink kitty head with a bow. And sparkles.

I discovered a WordPress blog that seems to be a dissertation of sorts; check out http://hellokittydevotee.wordpress.com/dissertation/

BTW, HK is worth about FIVE BILLION DOLLARS yearly in licensing. And finally the ultimate…did you know that HK teamed up with one of Taiwan‘s biggest airlines? What a great experience–a Hello Kitty extravaganza; from meals to mascots to boarding passes.
hellokittyairlines2hellokittyairlines

HKparty1Which might in some small way explain the excitement I felt for my very first Hello Kitty Birthday Party! I’m not going to tell you how old I am; does it REALLY matter? I think not.

We spent the morning and early afternoon hiking Crystal Cove State Park (read about that HERE). When we returned home, hubs was exhausted and immediately fell asleep.

So much for that birthday cake he was sposed to make.

chocolatecoconuticecream

Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream

I threw together a One-Bowl Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting and Chocoate Coconut Ice Cream.

The cake was out of the oven and cooling before he woke up. Figures, right? If you want something done, ya gotta do it yourself. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

I challenged my tugboat man and my son to create dinner all by themselves. OK. We’re talking a Ph.D. Yale professor and a maritime academy graduate with a BS in Engineering.

Two smart, functional, adult men, right?

OMG, watching them write a grocery list and take off to the store offered tons of fun.

“Mom, do you have jicama? Mom, where’s a knife?” “Rosebud, can you chop this onion for me? Uh — how do you chop cilantro?”

I kept looking up recipes on my computer because I felt sorry for them.

Birthday barbecue

Hubs chose to make Mango Salsa with Blue Corn Chips for his appetizer; my son’s contribution was a Jicama Kumquat Salad. It was delicious.

I thought it’d be a good idea to barbecue because I had a feeling the kitchen was going to take me a week to clean up. This was a smart decision. We had potatoes, asparagus, beets (from the garden), corn, Smart Dogs, and it was all absolutely yummy.

Best of all, it was made with love.

HKparty2

keep-calm-and-love-hello-kitty-165

The Convoluted Logic of Our Mother’s Day Tradition

depositphotos_5078841-Happy-Mothers-Day-with-Daisy-FlowersIt started with my own mom; she presented ME with gifts on Mother’s Day — thanking me for being her daughter — and any excuse to shop is a good one, right?

I was born on Mother’s Day, so it makes sense to give me lots and lots of presents. Even though it only occurs that way every seven years, it’s still always within the same week.

I enthusiastically carry on the tradition with my son; well, because — uh –if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have a reason to celebrate Mother’s Day at all, would I?

As my son would say, “Duh.”

This year I got him an array of products from Kiehls — skin cream, shaving cream, shampoo, and penned a mini-poem:

You have always been my Angel Boy

As your mom

Every day has been filled with joy.

Other girls wanted to be doctors, lawyers, teachers — all I ever wanted to be was a mom.

While all the other mommies are having breakfast or brunch or lunch, I’ll be spending my day driving to the airport to for a Southwest Airlines delivery of my Angel Boy. Can’t wait!

Best of all, he’ll be here all week and that is my best birthday present ever.

Happy Mother’s Day to cat and dog lovers!

crazycatlady

 

happy-mothers-day-bitches

Beginnings and endings: 1966 and 2007

“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.”–Coco Chanel

Two special dates: July 1966 and April 2007

Beginnings and endings.

July 1966 – Detroit, Michigan

I’m in the bathroom, calling out to my mom.

“MomMomMOM MOMMEEE!! Where ARE you? Guess what?”

You know what they say, a mom always knows.

“Honey, I bet you just started menstruating, am I right?” (She was a nurse and always always used a medical term instead of slang. Like we always said “urinate” instead of pee; vagina and penis instead of -well– instead of anything else.)

After a hug and a lengthy (yawn) tutorial about personal hygiene, my mom took me out for lunch and a shopping spree to commemorate this milestone towards womanhood. She told me that when she first began to menstruate, all she got was a slap in the face from her mother, some kind of archaic ritualistic symbolism that had something to do with the fact that her father (my grandfather) was a rabbi. She told me that she was horrified and never forgot it, and if she ever had a little girl, she’d mark the occasion with a celebration, not a punishment.

At school it was called “Aunt Flo” or “Secret Sam” (don’t ask me why.)

Back then everyone used cumbersome huge Kotex pads attached by a hellish contraption known as a “Kotex belt.” Made up of white elastic encompassing your waist along with two plastic clips that attached to each end of the pad, it took some getting used to — and felt very much like my biking shorts do now. It was a great day when I graduated to tampons.

That started years of worry. Worry about waiting to “start”. Worry about what to wear to avoid an accident, and later, worry about NOT starting, waiting every month with a silent prayer to the Period Goddess — please oh please let me start; I’ll be more careful next time. And then getting married and wanting to start a family; holding my breath every month and willing my body to NOT– becoming compulsively scientific, taking temperatures and  stressing over ovulation days and counting. Worry, worry, worry.

Worry about the baby I did become pregnant with…will he be healthy, will I be a good mom, will I produce enough milk, can I protect him from all harm and sadness–the what ifs drove me crazy.

April 2007 was the date of my last menses, my last period. At the risk of alienating my peers, I have to be honest and admit that I had no symptoms of menopause — I experienced none of the common complaints. Oh, I had an occasional hot flash–which I actually enjoyed since I’m always cold — for a few brief moments, it felt like I had my own personal heater. And once in a while, I’d feel a bit tingly which brought back awesome memories of a similar feeling when I was breastfeeding and my milk “let down”. I told my doctor all this and she nodded her head and said she had experienced the same sensations.

I am so happy to be done with all that worry.  I don’t have to check the calendar every month and worry about when or if I’m going to need to carry tampons with me.

It’s not that I’m not still kinda crazy, but my level of worry is diferent. Not that I don’t worry constantly about my son, but he’s a grown up thirty-two- year-old Yale professor and my worry for him is a bit less intense.

I feel freer. Tranquil. Confident. Satisfied. I can take a deep breath now and exhale.

Don’t get me wrong; I do believe Coco Chanel. I still work out like a fiend every day to fit in my size two skinny jeans; I fight the good fight with Botox and color my gray hair, but I’m a very happy fifty-eight-year-old, and proud to say it. Bring on the next chapter of my life. I’m ready!

This post is written for a Generation Fabulous BlogHop. Generation Fabulous is a new website for and about women who are rocking middle-age and beyond. Please click here to see more.

A Grateful Monday

As part of my 2013 resolution to release my inner beeyotch, Helen Reddy‘s inspiredI am Woman helps me stay on track!

I would like to thank three awesome women for their creativity and imagination, especially since it’s all about ME!

1. Rarasaur’s delightful interpretation of ME! Check out her incredible blog and just try to figure out how her mind works! She’s another SoCal girl and she loves cats! And she’s only 60 inches tall just like me! I love her a lot and you will too. Rarasaur doodle enchanted seashells

2. IB DesignsUSA banner in nautical flags, because sometimes the best answer is “Meow”.  Kathy loves all things nautical and is a lovely lady with a great business. International maritime navy signal flags are a colorful way to spell names, messages, or to decorate your home. Give a personalized signal flag banner or wall hanging as a nautical wedding decoration, an unusual boating Christmas gift, or just for the plain fun of it!

Meow banner

3. In response to a tweet of mine bemoaning my lack of mail–no packages, no invitations to a ball, no requests to attend a movie premiere with Tina Fey–wonderful, awesome Red Dirt Kelly sent me a t-shirt!! I was so excited to return home (from my all day torture of my tugboat man as I dragged him from store to store at South Coast Plaza in the OC until he was so exhausted that he was at my mercy and he begged me to buy something, anything from Chanel so he could go home) and find a package to open and it was this t-shirt! Everyone needs to read the Red Dirt Chronicles!

reddirtkelly

Don’t miss Tuesday’s exciting blog! I’ll share an in-depth reportage of our day at South Coast Plaza, a day of torture and retaliation, culminating in a new Chanel acquisition!
Beeyotches RULE!

Seashell insanity–Episode #452

Well…my tugboat man spent pretty much the entire day surfing. He came home at 2:00 p.m and said he had been trying to catch a wave in to shore for over an hour or he would have been back sooner. RIGHT.

Does he think I just fell off the turnip truck? Do I look stupid? I know that trick–the old “I couldn’t get in so I just had to stay surfing until the sun went down and the tide changed” lie.

I was so mad at him for abandoning me that I had to devise a painful retaliation to convey my displeasure. I decided that we were going to go walking in our little village of Carlsbad and go in and out of EVERY shop. That is absolute torture for my hubs, which meant it was perfect. And since I’ve gotten my Chanel, she hasn’t really had a good outing and begged to come along and see and be seen by all the tourists and locals in our little town.

We went to every single store including one where I bought some beautiful seashells, ‘cos, you know, I just don’t have enough seashells. I made him go into antique stores, sandal shops, shoe stores, clothing stores–up and down State Street and Grand Avenue without a moment to rest. When I felt he had been punished sufficiently, we went home and he installed a shelf that he made for my new shells and my seashell box we created together.

There’s more surf tomorrow, so I’ll be thinking of more ways to make his life miserable.

shelf1shelf2

 

 

A lost opportunity, a huge regret, a haunting feeling

During one of my healing retail therapy sessions in the shoe aisle at Nordstrom, an older (and by older, I mean WAY older than me, like late sixties) well groomed beautifully dressed lady was sitting nearby trying on a pair of boots. She had a scarf around her neck that you could tell simply by looking that it was woven of the highest quality cashmere. She had a lovely air of grace and elegance. I think it was that regal essence that reminded me of my mom. She owned that quality too, always dressed head to toe with class.  The woman looked so together that I couldn’t keep from sneaking glances at her while I too tried on boots. I’d been looking for a pair of flat riding boots that fit snugly but weren’t too high, which is a tall order. (ha ha). I’ve never been accused of dressing elegantly. Sexy, flamboyant, stylish, wild even–but never Lilly Van der Woodsen Upper East Side elegant. Lilly van der woodsenHere’s an example of me getting dressed… If one pearl necklace is good, a dozen is better! A ring for every finger, well, why not? We have ten of them, isn’t that what they’re for? And aren’t our arms just begging to be filled with every bangle and charm bracelet in the jewelry box?

My mom would shake her head and say, “Princess Rosebud, haven’t you heard the old saying, less is more?” My response to her was, “Haven’t YOU heard of my saying, more is better?”

So I’m sitting there and this lovely woman is sitting there and she turns to me and says softly, matter-of-factly,

“My husband died last week.”

What do you do when a stranger opens up that way? What do you do? I said,

“I am so very sorry for your loss.”

She continued,

“We had been married for fifty years. I don’t know what to do with myself so I shop all day. I can’t bear to be home alone without him.”

If anyone could empathize with that philosophy, it would be me. Not that I’ve lost my life partner, but when my darling thirteen-year-old kitty died, I felt the same way. I left the house early in the morning and stayed away ’til dark, wandering around the shopping centers like a lost soul. I couldn’t bear to open the front door and know that I’d never again see her face at the top of the stairs greeting me. I couldn’t bear to sleep in our bed and never again feel her jump up and scratch at the covers to join me, nestled against my body, so I slept on the sofa until the captain came back. What made it even more difficult to bear was that it happened while he was out to sea, and I was the one who was unanchored, aimlessly drifting. I totes understood the poor lady’s pain.

“He made every day worth living.”

I asked her if she had family in the area to help her with her sadness, and she shook her head. It was on the tip of my tongue to invite her to join me for a cup of coffee when when my cell rang. It was my son. He needed me to run to the post office before it closed and send him a book he had accidentally left behind the previous week.

As I walked away, I touched her gently on the shoulder and told her once again how sorry I was for her loss and I hoped she’d be all right.

I really, really regret not getting her name and telephone number so that we could meet at a coffee shop or simply make sure she’s OK. I have a feeling she might not be. I do have that feeling. I’ve never seen her again.

For the most part, women are a truly and deeply caring and nurturing community. I dropped the ball that day and it haunts me.  It haunts me.