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Country Gardens Early Spring 2012 Issue

Cute idea for a tiny flower display.

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Memorial Day Foxtrot

This year marked the 35th annual 5K Foxtrot through my “city in the suburbs” Elgin.  So much like the past four Summers I’ve lived in the neighborhood, I’ve dutifully risen before the sun to cheer on the runners/walkers with a mimosa in my hand alongside my friends and neighbors; unlike the past Summers, however, this party migrated to my front porch as the race route changed.

I had planned on taking photos to share of the brunch-like dishes and simply decorated party, but we moved the table outside, covered it, then uncovered it, then moved it inside as the rains came–well, it just didn’t happen.  And, too, my husband ran the 10 mile portion of the race, so he could only help for so long.  As this was rather an impromptu event, the simplicity of potluck dishes and yummy morning cocktails was a perfect way to celebrate the morning and cheer on the participants.

I think I may have learned a lesson in all of this: even a casual affair can be a success.

Dreams of Better Homes & Gardens

BH&G has always been the dream: each month I pour over their glossy photos of the perfect lunch soiree or the perfectly manicured garden or, well, perfection of any kind, while I sweat on the elliptical–something that no BH&G contributor or staffer would ever lower themselves to.  In fact, I even have a neighbor’s whose traditional, manicured English garden was featured in BH&G a decade ago.  In my sweat-induced ellipticalling, I’ve come to realize one fact conveniently left out of the magazine: in the end, perfection is all smoke and mirrors.  Much like airbrushing the cellulite behinds of Vogue models, we have come to think that if our gardens do not look like the *perfection* of the magazines (how dare we have dandelions?!), we are somewhat lesser.

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On more than one occasion, I have taken an entertaining design from the mag, just to find it fall flat.  A party goer whispering to his wife, “What am I supposed to do with this jar or sugar orange peels?  Gross!”  As I made the glittery treats with festooned packaging in my toile apron, I envisioned party goers giggling with delight over the extraordinary effort to make such a lovely treat, not realizing that it didn’t taste particularly appealing and all the glue made the jar nigh on impossible to open.

Much as BH&G‘s garden parties appear to almost glow with perfection, mine will always have the spills, the awkward moments, and the weeds, but guests will always have too much to drink, far too many laughs, and leave with smiles of fond remembrance.  Maybe my parties aren’t so bad?

Barbara Swell’s “The Lost Art of Pie Making: Made Easy”

I picked up this little book on Amazon a few years ago to fill up my “$25 to free shipping”, and I don’t think I’ve ever found a cookbook as helpful as this in making desserts.  Yes, I have the Martha Stewart tome Pies & Tarts, but that is too clinical for what should be the simple, pioneering joy of pie making.  Along with traditioaln and modern-twists on the varieties of pie, Swell offers vintage advertisements and lore on the quintessentially feminine art of pie.