and has been doing so since some time after midnight Friday. We've had 2.56" so far, including .75" in just a little over two hours this morning. Enough rain that it may have been able to penetrate our bone dry soil. Definitely enough to penetrate our basement where Mark got to try out his new shop vac.
After watching (via the library window) our dry stream come roaring to life (above), Mark grabbed an umbrella and went outdoors to shoot the fall color in our garden which looks beautiful glazed with rainwater (below).
This is the most significant rain we've had since July 18. We're down at least 10" for the year, so it will take a lot more before the garden is in ideal condition for winter!
Back-to-back pot-luck parties made me turn on the oven for the first time in weeks. I made two batches of my old standby brownies. And then I tried a recipe that I had pulled out of Martha's magazine back in March: Irish-Coffee Blondies.
Since I had to carry the cookies to the party locations, I pulled out a couple of tins from a collection that I've amassed over the years and use to store/transport cookies rather than a traditional cookie jar. The two pictured above are among my favorites and have held a lot of treats over the years. Churchill was a gift from a long-ago boyfriend. I bought the tin commemorating Queen Elizabeth's Silver Anniversary while I was in Chicago for a day on a job interview in 1977.
Here I am, pulling the bars out of their travel tins and arranging them on a serving tray. I always cut brownies into "fingers" so I get a few more bars out of the recipe, but also so they are the right size for everyone who just wants a sweet "bite" of dessert. The Blondies are supposed to be cut into 2-inch squares but I cut them in half again — on the diagonal — and that smaller size seemed just right to me.
You can click on the link at the top for Marth's recipe for Blondies and here's mine for Brownies.
BEST BROWNIES I EVER TASTED
(I gave them this name after I requested the recipe having enjoyed them at a party.)
Melt 2 squares of unsweetened baking chocolate and 1 stick butter (8 Tablespoons) in a medium saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup granulated sugan, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and the finely grated rind of a large orange. When this mix is cool, stir in 2 eggs (one at a time). Mix well and add 3/4 cup of flour.
Pour into a 8-inch square pan lined with parchment paper and bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees. You can cook them a bit longer for a cakier texture. I like the brownies in the center of the pan to have the consistency of chocolate truffles: solid but soft, so I always cook them the shorter time. I test with my finger and consider them done when a light touch no longer leaves an impression. And then I double check with a broom straw.
Cut into 24-32 pieces and dust with powdered sugar. The orange rind adds a touch of sophistication to the brownies and is always a surprise that gets lots of rave reviews.
Here's the view from the screened porch at the country party where these photos were all taken. The hosts had big stacks of china and cutlery gathered from thrift stores which you can see silhouetted and long tables covered with bright green fabric where all the pot-luck offerings were assembled. We had a wonderful time and I also picked up lots of great party organizing ideas!
Recent frost warnings made me realize it's time to gather up the garden "debris" that can be transformed into interior and exterior decor. I'm talking about pine cones and assorted pods from trees in my garden. Now's the time to collect them before they get beaten down and damaged by fall wind and rain — should we be lucky enough to finally get some rain.
Though you can make elegant creations, I often take the lazy way and just pile my finds in containers like this glass jar (above) filled with pine cones. Come winter, I'll add bowls of paperwhites but for the moment the cones are my solitary decorative item in the front entrance.
I found the two images (directly above and below) last winter and saved them as inspiration for this fall when my trees star shedding cones. I paticularly like the long string of pine cones because you can use any color of ribbon — matching or contrasting with your house color outdoors or indoors in the room you want to decorate. Such an easy way to personalize a decorative item.
You can see more photos of designer Dorothee Schumacher's home (below) here.
Here are some of the other ways I've used pine cones and assorted pods for fall decor:
Saturday afternoon we drove out into the Wisconsin countryside for a Harvest celebration hosted by friends. On our way we stopped to see painter Chuck Bauer who was exhibiting his work in his "Hen House Gallery" as part of the 14 South Artists annual tour. We've known Chuck for many years but I'd never been out to the farm to see his paintings in the location where many of them were painted — including "My Front Yard and Road" — which came home with us as souvenir of a perfect autum afternoon.
September Bloom Day offers an unexpected surprise in this long, hot, dry summer: lots of flowers all bloooming right on schedule. Thursday's rain passed us by again and much of the garden remains stressed, but these plants seem to be coping nicely.
The Hendrix Border (aka Purple Haze) is awash with Anemone japonica 'September Charm' (above) and an Aster (below) that remain nameless since I purchased it unlabeled.
Allium senescens 'Glaucum' and Sedum hybrida 'Matrona' (the next two images) complete the purple theme. Though these colors are all so soft I guess it's more of a lavender haze.
Elsewhere Cimicifuga racemosa 'Brunette' (snakeroot or bugbane) is blooming in a number of locations throughout the garden.
But all the Tricyrtis hirta 'Tojen' is concentrated aound a stone lantern in one huge clump in The Sacred Grove.
The Traffic Island garden in the street in front of our house continues its bright color scheme with Pelargoniums, newly planted Sedums, Agastache 'Tango', Coleus and a Geranium 'Rozanne' for contrast. These next pictures show what's happening in each of the four corners of that little garden surrounded by concrete curbing.
To see what other gardeners have blooming in their plots this September, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens who hosts this monthly bouquet.
On October 20, 2008, I posted the picture below showing that our Acer tschonoskii ssp. koreanum (Butterfly maple) tree was just beginning to color.
Most likely as a result of our hot, dry summer, this year the same tree (bottom photo) has already started to turn color on August 20 — literally two months early! Another reason the weather in 2012 will be one for the record books.
Our big sugar maple is losing leaves and turning color already as well.