Stuff and Nonsense: September 2019


9.27.2019

Road Trip: Cape Fear Botanical Garden

I'd scheduled a stop at Cape Fear Botanical Garden during our drive down to South Carolina mostly because we needed a stop around that point and who doesn't want to visit another botanical garden? Other than The Husband, covered in insect bites as he is?



If you prefer large formal gardens Cape Fear might not be for you. Cape Fear is young for a botanical garden, having only come into existence in 1989, and much of its acreage remains undeveloped. The gardens that have been created are, aside from those nearest the visitors center, very natural-looking. However, if you're looking for hiking trails and spots to engage in quiet contemplation, Cape Fear has those in spades.



We had a very pleasant walk around the gardens, particularly enjoying the swing benches by the banana tree garden and all the butterflies and dragonflies on the butterfly stroll. Overall, a lovely stop on a long road trip.

9.25.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Hesperia comma

Hesperia comma, the common branded skipper, enjoying a thistle.

9.23.2019

Road Trip: Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park

In downtown Wilson, North Carolina lies Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, a whimsical two-acre park bursting with color and creativity. The park is named for a North Carolinian artist who repurposed salvaged metal -- everything from roadwork signs to mirrors and bicycles -- to create extravagant wind-driven kinetic sculptures he called windmills. The thirty windmills/whirligigs displayed are all massive, complicated and colorful pieces that move with the lightest puff of air. We were lucky enough to visit on a day with intermittent breezes so we could admire the construction of each piece as well as its function.


In addition to the windmills/whirligigs, the park also contains an amphitheater and shelter. There are plenty of benches to sit at and the lawn would make a great picnic spot. The restrooms, in an air-conditioned portable trailer that is completely handicapped accessible and ostomate-friendly, are probably the nicest public restrooms I have ever used.



While Wilson is in the early steps of downtown revitalization, there are many boarded-up storefronts surrounding the park and, initially, it doesn't look like there's much else to do. However, there is a brewery, 217 Brew Works, next door as well as bakeries and restaurants within walking distance. Also, if you time your visit right, you can attend the Wilson Farmers and Artisan Market and pick up some tasty treats to eat on the lawn.




Even the fire hydrants are fun

9.21.2019

Road Trip: Longwood Gardens

On our drive down to South Carolina we stopped for a few hours at Longwood Gardens, long on my list of botanical gardens to visit. While it is autumn now and many of the summer blooms have passed, the Gardens are so large and varied that our eyes did not lack for beauty. We spent a good three hours at Longwood, giving us just enough time to explore the Italian Water Garden, Conservatory, Main Fountain Garden, and Meadow Garden as well as take in a fountain performance.

A small part of the Italian Water Garden

In the Conservatory

Also in the Conservatory

In the Meadow Garden

In the grotto behind the Loggia in the Main Fountain Garden

I would love to go back and see more of the gardens. Really, I would be happy to visit every season if I could as the Christmas lights, orchid extravaganza, and amazing tulip display in the spring all sound delightful.

9.11.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Lichens & Old Wood

There's beauty in lichen colonies on an old fence rail.

9.04.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Sea Holly (Eryngium)

Love the toothed leaves and long-lasting, teasel-like blossoms of the sea holly.

9.03.2019

Mom's Zucchini Bread


It is that special time of year, when an overwhelmed gardener's thoughts turn toward zucchini bread. I am not even growing zucchini this year and I still have too much. Thankfully, there's always Mom's zucchini bread recipe to fall back on. My mother baked this spicy zucchini and walnut bread for as long as I can remember. Dad and I love it for breakfast, but it also makes a great mid-afternoon snack. The bread bakes up light and fluffy on the inside while the outside is delightfully crunchy. Below is an image of the recipe she wrote down for me a few years ago and I've followed that with the tweaked version I made this weekend.



I was careful not to fiddle with the original recipe too much, because I still needed it to be Mom's bread. If I don't want to bake Mom's bread, well, there are eleventy million zucchini bread recipes on the internet -- I don't need to go inventing my own. Basically, I:

  • Didn't peel the zucchini
  • Toasted the nuts
  • Added more ginger
  • "Fancied up" the flour
  • Baked it in a bundt pan
  • Glazed it

While I don't usually glaze my quick breads, I was taking this bundt to work and felt like going the extra mile. The glaze is dairy-free, consisting of powdered sugar, water, Mexican vanilla extract, and ground cinnamon. Then I threw some organic flowers on, because I'm a show-off.


Mom's Zucchini Bread

Yield: 1 6-cup bundt

Ingredients

  • 1 cup apple flour blend [Nature's Earthly Choice]
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Mexican vanilla
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F°. Grease and flour a 6-cup bundt pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla until foamy then stir into the large bowl until just moistened.
  4. Gently fold in the zucchini and walnuts.
  5. Bake in the 350F° for an hour or until done.
  6. Cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

I came across the apple flour blend in the clearance bin at Shoprite and it really intrigued me, so I had to buy it. It bakes well, doesn't taste like apples, and has quite a lot of iron -- something I am low on -- but, honestly, it's just not wow enough that I feel a need to pay full price for it. Tl;dr: feel free to use all white wheat or all-purpose.