BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: THE FORBIDDEN GARDEN

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I must admit I was drawn to The Forbidden Garden by its cover, I am a sucker for a floral book jacket and the garden in the title intrigued me and since this week’s posts are dealing with earth, particularly clay, why not do a book about a garden as my book review.  I have not read The Sparrow Sisters, which probably would have been a good idea since the Sparrow Sisters history is often referred to in this book. But not to worry you can get the idea of the first book and read it in the future if you enjoy this one, which by the way I did!

The story is multi layered but primarily concentrates on the history of an English garden that is in total shambles, actually, it has been dead for years, and a young gardener from the States who has been hired, because of her reputation, to bring it back to life with her unusual skills.  Sorrel Sparrow and her sisters have almost magical powers when it comes to gardens and making them extraordinary.  Sorrel is met at the airport by the brother of the Lady of the Manor, Andrew, and we really know from the onset that this will be a romance, how much of one I will let you read for yourself.  Andrew has been put in charge of taking Sorrel around London before they drive to the Estate, this, of course, includes some of London’s magnificent gardens.  I must say this and actually, most of the book made me very “homesick” for England, I truly love the UK, but by now you, my readers, know that!  The story is quite layered just like the garden and holds many hidden and forbidden stories.  They, of course, all come together for the climax.  We have hidden rooms, secrets held for decades, families almost destroyed by the past but the main story is of a living entity, the garden and how love can make it and the people around it come back to life.  To some extent, it did remind me of A Secret Garden, which we have all read, just a more “grown up version”. It seems the decayed, once magnificent, garden doesn’t wish to come back to life until Sorrel works her magic but does it spring back into bloom….perhaps!  Through the years the Kirkwood women have become ill after being in the space and what does this have to do with the hideous family tapestries, one of which is missing, does the missing piece solve this puzzle, perhaps!  The original garden was based on a Shakespeare Garden. I love the one I have often visited in Stratford, Canada, when I go to the Stratford Festival, and have had guided tours of the garden, not only is the layout of the garden described but each plant has meaning and is discussed.  This is done in great detail in the book and Sorrel keeps a diary of each planting and does a sketch of her plans which is charmingly featured at the beginning of the book.

Did I enjoy the book, yes, very much, who won’t find a romance of a space and people delightful, would I read another Sorrel Sparrow story, absolutely.  The author, Ellen Herrick, writes well, makes us like the characters, has thoroughly done her research and takes us on a most interesting journey.  Please leave your comments when you have read the book, (I would highly recommend it for your book club) or have you already read it!?

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From the book jacket:

“When Sorrel Sparrow is hired to restore the walled Shakespeare Garden at Kirkwood Hall—the ancestral home of Sir Graham Kirkwood and his wife, Stella—she finds desolation and shadows. According to family lore, generations have tried to return the garden to its former glory, but every attempt has failed. Determined, Sorrel vows to save the garden as only a Sparrow Sister can.

But as soon as Sorrel enters the garden, she feels a sense of heartbreak, betrayal . . . and perhaps even a dark enchantment. Intrigued by Kirkwood Hall’s history—and also by the haunting tapestries that tell its story—Sorrel, increasingly drawn to Stella’s enigmatic brother, sets to work. She slowly unravels the ancient garden’s secrets, only to learn that its destiny is irrevocably entwined with her own.”

For more on the author, Ellen Herrick go to her website www.ellenherrick.com

 

 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: GARDENS PART 2

imageMy garden cherub (originally in my Evanston garden) now residing in a lush garden in Harbor Country, Michigan.

Today’s post is the continuation of my story on gardens I have visited and all photos are mine.  Some older than cell phone cameras so they might be a bit “off”, sorry about that!  Again, not a lot of text just a comment here and there. Enjoy lazy summer days.

imageMichigan or France….this one is Michigan with day lilies, hedges and beautiful trees around water….

imageHere we are in Giverny www.giverny.org a side trip when I was in France for the Haute Couture shows in 2006.  It was the hottest summer France had ever had, it was quite brutal and there wasn’t much color, grass was brown, blooms were not at their peak, but it was lovely in Giverny, loved it but then I have always been a sucker for Monet, especially his water lilies and it was like being in one of his paintings.

imageGiverny

imageMichigan

imageOur Monet at The Art Institute of Chicago www.artic.edu

imageMore Michigan and actually I think these are lotus flowers. “The lotus flower represents one symbol of fortune in Buddhism. It grows in muddy water, and it is this environment that gives forth the flower’s first and most literal meaning: rising and blooming above the murk to achieve enlightenment.”  Taken from www.buddhists.org

imageMonet’s home and studio in Giverny, glorious!

imageA charming home in a Michigan garden.

imageA vignette with Lutyens bench in the walkway next to the house.

imageMore Giverny

imageTrees being trained over an arbor in Michigan.

imageThe white garden and trained arch shrubbery at Sissinghurst, my Queen Mary II trip in 2004. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sissinghurst-castle-garden

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Two views of Sissinghurst, 2004

imageA hidden treasure at Sissinghurst

imageNena in the Sissinghurst formal garden

imageSissinghurst path

imageMichigan garden path

imageBack in France, 2006 and Paris in the Jardin du Luxembourg on my last Sunday, glorious day.

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imageAnd another lovely Sunday this time 2017 and in a Michigan country garden

imageFreshly picked from the garden for a cold soup, how delightful to forge for your own dinner and carry your bounty back to the kitchen in a trug, seriously, how wonderful for a major City Girl to play Country Girl at least for a few days…….

Shall we now have a recipe….I’m thinking a cold cucumber soup, the Swiss chard soup we made with the ingredients above took a long time and was cooked plus we kept adding and adjusting ingredients and I didn’t write anything down, sorry…so let’s do a noncooked soup.

CHILLED CUCUMBER SOUP ADAPTED FROM FOOD AND WINE

Ingredients

  • 2 large European cucumbers (2 1/4 pounds), halved and seeded—1/2 cup finely diced, the rest coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt (Nena’s note…I would do half sour cream and half yogurt)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove (Nena’s note…I always use the jarred minced garlic not as strong but gives the flavor)
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons loosely packed fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Salt (Nena’s note….don’t skimp, always taste before adding more!!!!)
  • Fresh ground white pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped (Nena’s note….I didn’t find this necessary but up to you)

How to make this recipe

    1. In a blender, combine the chopped cucumber with the yogurt, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, dill, parsley, tarragon and the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and white pepper, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. Season the soup again just before serving. Pour the soup into bowls. Garnish with the finely diced cucumber, red onion and a drizzle of olive oil and serve.

      I would serve as a first course for dinner or perhaps in demi tasse with a glass of sparkling wine before dinner or a main course for a light lunch with a salad of all the summer bounty, lightly dressed, crusty country bread and, of course, a lovely light white wine….enjoy!!!!

 

COLLECTIONS: FLOWER FROGS

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imageimageAbove photos taken by me with my iPhone at Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com of Dollies’ Antiques and Treasures www.dolliesantiques.com who will be outside at the July 29th and 30th Market.  I became fascinated with her collection in May and she explained how she got started collecting Flower Frogs. Another reminder to engage the vendors in conversation, not only are they eager to talk about their treasures but you will learn something new every time…I most certainly do.

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imageA rare matte green flower frog

imageA marriage of a wire cage flower frog on top of a vintage plate.  Owner says it is quite useful for floral centerpieces.  Above photos were taken by Linda Heister of her flower frog collection exclusively for nenasnotes.imageimageimageimageimageAbove photos on how to use your flower frog collection (when not used for flower arrangements) from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

A site to show you how to use flower frogs from Martha Stewart http://www.marthastewart.com/271596/how-to-use-flower-frogs

imageA book, of course, there is….looks quite interesting…found this on Amazon.

When I was a little girl we lived in Rogers Park on the Northside of Chicago (I wish I had that apartment today, it had incredible space, never did understand the long hallway from the front door to the living room but  it did make a great gallery for my Father’s artwork, but no matter, it was extraordinary!) Mom and Dad would often take me with them (read, always took me with them) to dinner and one of our favorite neighborhood spots was in an alley at the end of Howard Street just before you came to Sheridan Road.  It was an exquisite French Bistro and I adored it.  One of their specialties was fried frog legs (don’t get your knickers in a twist, they happen to be delicious, taste rather like chicken, you should be able to find them in the seafood section of a Whole Foods for an example) and I couldn’t eat enough of them.  My Father was of Russian descent, so perhaps his food tastes were a bit more European than most, and he was a superb cook, as was my Mother, (he loved to cook and I would stand on a chair and be his sous chef, I wish I had his recipes, I have shared his borscht with you in a previous post) and I ate many unique items from birth, one ate what was in front of them, I wasn’t told to clean my plate but knew early on that what was there was the choice for that meal, therefore, I eat just about anything (no insects, please and no, they weren’t on Daddy’s menus….).  I am sharing a recipe for Fried Frog Legs that I found on the internet, it sounds much like the recipe used from my childhood….this nostalgia is making me crave them again….I need to get to the Store……..

FRIED FROG LEGS RECIPE FROM HANK SHAW
Prep Time
1 hrs
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
1 hrs 15 mins
This recipe works best with a combination of clarified butter, which you can buy in large supermarkets as Indian ghee, as well as regular unsalted butter. Or, you can clarify butter yourself; my colleague David Lebovitz has a tutorial here. You use the clarified butter to cook the frog legs and the regular butter for the sauce. Why bother? Clarified butter has a higher smoke point and holds up better when frying the frogs, while the regular butter tastes creamier for the sauce. You can, of course, use regular butter for everything, but it will scorch a bit.
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: French
Serves:  4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds frog legs (have your fishmonger remove the skin from the frog legs)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Instructions
  1. Soak the frog legs in the milk in the fridge for an hour. Meanwhile, mix the salt, black pepper and flour in a bowl, then chop the garlic and parsley.
  2. Heat 5 tablespoons of the butter in a frying pan large enough to hold all the frog legs; if you don’t have a pan large enough, put a baking sheet in the oven and set a rack inside. Turn the oven to about 180°F. You’ll use this to store the finished frog legs while you fry the rest. If you do have a large enough pan, set the baking sheet with the rack set inside next to the stovetop.
  3. Dredge the frog legs in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess. Fry in the butter over medium-high heat until golden, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Flip only once if you can help it, as the flour coating is fragile. Set on the rack to drain when the frog legs are done.
  4. Discard the butter in the pan and wipe it out with a paper towel. Set the pan back on the stove over medium-high heat. When the butter is hot, saute the garlic until it smells good, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and swirl in the lemon juice. Arrange the frog legs on individual plates, and, right before you serve, mix the parsley into the sauce. Pour it over the frog legs and serve immediately.

    Hank Shaw’s comment: “I served my frog legs with sauteed chanterelles and crusty bread. But boiled or roasted fingerling potatoes would be another good option, green beans an ideal veggie, or maybe a bitter greens salad with a vinaigrette dressing. White wine or a lighter beer, i.e., a lager or pilsner, is a must”.

    Hank Shaw’s fascinating site, Hunter Angler Gardner Cook can be found at www.honest-food.net