Biltmore Gardens & Chihuly Glass


Sole d’Oro by Dale Chihuly – Image:

Early in May, my son and I were able to accompany my husband on a business trip to North Carolina. We were able to stay with close friends that had moved from Seattle to Waxhaw several years ago. While there, she wondered what I wanted to do most…visit the Biltmore Estate & Gardens was my first request! I’d heard about it and seen gorgeous pictures, but never had the opportunity to visit. I had suggested it to a friend who was in the area, but she responded she didn’t want to go to a “mansion that slaves built” – this statement got me curious as to the background of the American historical monument. During my research, I came upon an article, More than Biltmore, written by Mark Derewicz for Endeavors – Research & Creative Activity at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The article states that Vanderbilt and black leaders during the 18th century worked TOGETHER to establish many things including what would eventually become the YMCA:

“In fact, on the corner of Eagle and Market Streets in downtown Asheville there’s a large historic building that houses the Young Men’s Institute (YMI), which has been an educational, recreational, and cultural refuge for African Americans since 1893.
And it probably would never have existed, Waters says, had black leaders and Vanderbilt not worked together.”

Later in the article it discusses how Waters, a freed slave turned entrepreneur worked for and was paid by the Biltmore House during the construction phase:

“On his first day researching the YMI at the Biltmore Estate, Waters mentioned to the archivist that his great-great-grandfather had probably been a freed slave who moved from South Carolina to Asheville in 1850. Waters’ great-grandfather, Louis Waters, had owned an apple orchard in Edneyville. But that’s about all he knew.
For the heck of it, the archivist did a quick database search for Louis Waters. She got three hits — handwritten letters from the 1890s that Louis Waters sent to Charles McNamee, Biltmore’s manager. Turns out, Waters’ great-grandfather had a business and hauled debris off the estate during construction of the Biltmore House. In one letter, Louis asked for his pay in advance so he could buy a team of horses. In another he asked McNamee to renew his contract.”

I highly encourage you to read the article in its entirety. Once I had for myself found out the background information about Vanderbilt and the Biltmore, I felt that I could go to the estate with a clear conscience.

I was extremely stoked to be able to visit just the Biltmore, but then I realized that Chihuly had one of his glass exhibits there as well. What a treat! The mixing of Châteauesque architecture with modern day, blown-glass artwork was an overload for the senses.



Waterlilies & Reeds in the Italian Garden – Image:


Italian Gardens glowing at Night – Image:


Walled Garden near Conservatory – Image:

After touring part of the estate, we decided to venture out to the gardens. However, we got caught in a major downpour. We ran as fast as we could to the conservatory for cover.


Biltmore Conservatory – Image: Malia’s Miles

Below the conservatory is the garden store, I asked one of the associates what was the Vanderbilt’s favorite plant and she quickly responded that they had records of receiving over 800 different varieties of orchids – some only costing $2.99 at the time. Their love affair with orchids was one I can deeply appreciate. As the website states:

“Today, Biltmore’s orchid collection contains approximately 600 plants. The staff has spent time carefully researching and procuring some of the same varieties contained on Vanderbilt’s original list. Marc Burchette, Biltmore’s Orchid Specialist, assisted his co-worker Jim Rogers with tracking down the heritage varieties and worked with a commercial grower to procure more than half of the plants contained on the archival list.”

What an absolute dream job to research, procure and archive orchids!


Biltmore Conservatory Orchid Collection – Image:


Oh La La – Orchids are SO glamorous! – Image: Garden & Gun Magazine

It is impossible to pick a favorite when it comes to orchids or any flower for that matter. The one that was fascinating to me was this almost blue orchid; as blue is an uncommon color to come by in the gardening world that is natural and not dyed. I searched the internet trying to find this gorgeous plant’s name, but had no luck. So I have reached out to the Biltmore Orchid Curator to get more information and crossing my fingers that he replies to my email.



Touring the Biltmore Estate & Gardens will be an experience I will never forget and hope to one day see it when it is decorated for the Christmas season!

If you enjoyed this article, here are some others that you may find interesting:

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Interview with Growing Heirloom Flowers Author – Chris McLaughlin

Book Cover small

Chris and I have known each other for several years, but I was trying to pinpoint how exactly we meet. I believe it was when I was working for Proven Winners as their Public Relations & Marketing Coordinator. Then when I started my own business Flora & Fauna Media, I worked with Chris to promote her book, A Garden to Dye For, which I fall in love with. Once I had seen that Chris had written another book, I asked to review a copy of it. When it came in the mail, I was so excited! I immediately started reading and couldn’t put it down (ask my husband)! I love history, but only when it comes to flowers and there are SO many fun flower facts in her book, Growing Heirloom Flowers, that it made it a page turner. I think I read the entire thing cover to cover in two days! Not only does it have great historical stories and forklore, but floral craft projects, beautiful entertaining ideas, gorgeous photography and much more. This is a must-have book for any gardener!

MJF me

Danielle Ernest: How did you become interested in Heirloom Flowers?

Chris McLaughlin: About 22 years ago, I met a local woman who grew a ton of flowers. I mean acres of them — It was an amazing sight. While we were both avid gardeners, I had never grown anything in those numbers. As we waded slowly through the bounty, she introduced me to the concept of growing open-pollinated and heirloom plant varieties. She was a natural teacher and I become fascinated. In fact, she actually was a college professor in the years prior to those days!

DE: I love all the historical facts about flowers in the book! Where did most of this information come from?

CM: I’ve been collecting stories and anecdotes about plants for many years. My first heirlooms book was about vegetables and I ran into an amazing amount of information while researching that book years ago, as well. So, it was simply a matter of seeking out old books and cross-referencing. Although heirloom flowers are endearing for many reasons, the stories and folklore around them are like icing on the cake!

DE: To be honest that was one of my favorite things about the book the stories & folklore around the flowers. What is your favorite Heirloom flower? Why?

CM: I can’t think of one heirloom flower that stand out as my favorite, to be honest. The flowers that I love are special for different reasons – there are so many! I do have a few that come to mind immediately, though. Peonies have always attracted me and my favorites remind me of bowls of ice cream.

Parade peony by Nadeen Flynn

Bold and dramatic Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus) is always worth having in an heirloom garden.

MJF heirloom love-lies-bleeding by Nadeen Flynn

Also, strawflowers (Helichrysum bracteatum), no matter how many times I grow them, I am amazed to find these colorful everlastings perfectly preserved from the moment the buds open.

Parade strawflower by Nadeen Flynn

DE: Man, Love-Lies-Bleeding is a favorite of mine as well. It is just SO striking! And come on with that name…who could say “NO”! It seems that Strawflowers have really been lost in the gardening world. I hope to see them make a comeback as these colors are absolutely gorgeous. What is your favorite floral craft? Why?

CM: Again, I don’t have a favorite because I enjoy creating floral crafts for different reasons. That said, I never get enough of making flower crowns. Everyone that’s made turns out different from the last. Each person who tries it creates a crown unique to them I love that.

Bella by nadeen

DE: Flower crowns are such a wonderful project to get children into gardening and the adults helping out have a pretty great time too! They remind me of an era very long ago. From your research, what historical plant fact did you find most interesting and hadn’t heard before? Mine was about the nosegay or tussie mussie being worn to cover up body odor!

Nosegay nadeen

CM: One of the funny things I found is that while opium poppies (Papaver somniferum) are illegal to grow in the United States (think “narcotics”), it’s perfectly legal to buy and sell the seeds.

DE: If a gardener only had space for five Heirloom plants due to space constraints, which would you select?

CM: For a small space garden, I like

  1. Zinnias for sure — They’re big on cut-and-come-again bloom production.
  2. Vining Sweet Peas – To take advantage of vertical space (plus, perfume city, my friend!)
  3. Heliotrope – Fairly small, well-behaved plants that smell delish. Great for containers.
  4. Lavender – Easy care, well-behaved, handsome, and extremely useful and versatile.
  5. Marigolds – Easy to grow, lots of blooms, and versatile for crafting.

lavender chair nadeen

Those are tops on my list, too! Zinnias are just so beautiful and last so long as a cut flower. Everyone knows I’m a sucker for any type of pea especially sweet pea flowers. During Mother’s Day weekend, I was searching for bouquets at Pike’s Place Market for them.  I find Heliotrope to be such a great vertical element in a container and it has such a wonderful fragrance.

Could I almost say that a garden isn’t a garden without lavender. An essential for anyone that loves cutting for indoors, using for crafts, cooking or baking. You’ve convinced me that I need to add Marigolds to my garden. I’ve always looked at them and thought they were not very pretty and SO old-fashion, but your craft project on page 106 to create a dye-bath with them for scarfs is absolutely brilliant and a great idea that I would love to do as gifts for friends.

Thank you Chris for taking the time to do this interview and with sharing this amazing knowledge with the world! Wishing you great success with your book!

Reader Note: By clicking on the plant you are interested in – it will take you to a source such as Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co, Botanical Interests, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Renee’s Garden, Seed Savers Exchange, The Shop at Monticello, Southern Exposure Seed Company, Terrior Seeds and Victory Seed Company.

More Information About Chris:
Chris McLaughlin is a writer and author whose hands have been in the soil for nearly 40 years. She became a master gardener in 2000, followed up with specialty certificates in wildlife, children’s, and vegetable gardening. She’s the author of seven books including, A Garden to Dye For (St. Lynn’s Press) and Vertical Vegetable Gardening (Alpha Books). Her work can be found in Fine Gardening Magazine, Hobby Farm Home Magazine, Urban Farm Magazine, The Heirloom Gardener Magazine, and Mother Earth Living. Online, she’s a staff blogger for and has written for a variety of sites including Vegetable,,, and From Scratch Magazine.
Chris and her family live on a flower and fiber farm in the Northern California foothills where they grow flowers, food, and Angora goats. You can track her down at her brand-spanking-new website,
Chris’ Backstory:
I am an Old MacDonald child born into an IBM family. My brothers and I grew up being chauffeured around in one of those station wagons that had a third seat facing backwards. Looking out that big window, breathing in a little exhaust, I was able to take in expanses of land and watch it slowly disappear from view. Along the stretches of highway, I would see property with fenced land and fantasize about pumpkin patches and flowers stands where people couldn’t help but stop and and visit. The dream came complete with crisp cornstalks flanking the entry to straw bale mazes. Back then I felt certain that my parents enjoyed torturing me, as they kept moving us to the suburbs that rested just on the shoulders of my beloved farmland. They carefully chose housing developments that seemed to always bring me within feet of my true love. I spent my weekends walking to nearby farms, pretending they were mine.
When I shuffled back to my side of the fence, I was determined to create my own little farm. As I dug into the hard pan soil of our backyard, the difference in the freshly cultivated earth of the neighboring land was clear. Would it have really been a stretch for my parents to move just one street over and onto the farmland? But, I digress. When I was ten, I snagged some Dixie cups from the upstairs bathroom and filled them with some potting soil out of a bag my mother had bought to top off the planters in our yard. I scooped up some small seedlings (and later learned the term “volunteers”) from our yard and transplanted them into bathroom-sized Dixie cups. Being raised by entrepreneurs, my instincts told me there was a profit to be made. I probably lined up fifty of those little cups into my younger brother’s red wagon and rolled along down the street selling them door-to-door for ten cents each. I do realize that I will never see that 100% profit again in my lifetime.
All images used with Chris McLaughlin’s permission from her book, Heirloom Flowers.


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Why Stinging Nettles Should Be Added to your Diet!

The time to harvest stringing nettles in Seattle is right now! When harvesting make sure that the area has not been sprayed with any chemicals – one telltale sign is if chemicals haven’t been used there are tons of weeds growing in the area. Also make sure to harvest off of roadways to avoid any runoff. As the name implies, they will string you so harvest using gloves and pruners.

I first become familiar with stringing nettles two years ago when a friend and fellow writer, Jessi Bloom, invited me to harvest some with her to make pesto. I didn’t realize what an amazing and medicinal plant this was. Over the course of my horticulture career, I have had my mind renewed and see plants for what they truly are – they are not just for our enjoyment aesthetically, but they were created by God to bring healing and wellness to the body, but unfortunately most cultures, except Native Americans, have not handed this extremely important information down through generations.


Genesis 1:29 – And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”

There are hundreds of plants specifically mentioned in the Bible. Nettles are mentioned in Isaiah 34:13. One of the gifts from the wise men in Matthew 2:11 was frankincense and myrrh, which are used to heighten ones experience during prayer or meditation. Its earthy scent provides the user with grounding and a sense of spiritual connectedness. I often defuse it when I am having my morning quiet time in prayer and Bible study.

There are many health benefits to eating Nettles or what some would call a “weed” or “pest plant”:

  1. Urinary Issues

Decreases urge to urinate, incomplete emptying of the bladder, painful urination, post urination dripping and reduced urinary flow. Stinging nettle root extract has also been shown to slow or stop the spread of prostate cancer cells.

  1. Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain

Arthritis sufferers often experience joint pain, typically in the hands, knees, hips and spine. Nettle works alongside non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to allow patients to decrease their NSAID use. Another study published in the Journal of Rheumatology shows stinging nettle’s anti-inflammatory power against other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

  1. Hay Fever

Stinging nettle’s anti-inflammatory qualities affect a number of key receptors and enzymes in allergic reactions, preventing hay fever symptoms if taken when they first appear. The leaves of the plant contain histamine, which may seem counterproductive in allergy treatment, but there is history of using histamines to treat severe allergic reactions.

Another global study from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine found that stinging nettle use for allergy relief was rated higher than placebos in a 98-person, randomized, double-blind study.

  1. Bleeding

Certain products containing stinging nettle have shown, when applied to the skin, can reduce bleeding during surgery. The product, called Ankaferd blood stopper, is made up of alpinia, licorice, thyme, common grape vine and stinging nettle, and has also shown evidence of reducing bleeding after dental surgery.

  1. Eczema

Eczema is a dry, itchy rash that can last on sufferers for a very long time. Because of stinging nettle’s antihistamine and anti-inflammatory qualities, it can be a natural treatment for eczema, as the Penn State University College of Medicine study shows. Sufferers can use a combination of nettle taken orally to tackle the eczema internally, as well as a cream to provide relief from the rash’s itch and redness.

There is much more research that is being done on the how stinging nettles can benefit the body. Here are some further articles to reviews:

Now that I have sold you on why you should be eating stinging nettles. Here is a fabulous way to use them in your kitchen tonight!



Stringing Nettle & Arugula Pesto

Yield: 8.5 ounces

Level: Easy



2 tongs of Stinging Nettles

2 cups of Arugula

¼ cup of good parmesan cheese

3 cloves of garlic

¼ cup of toasted cashews (pine nuts, walnuts – whatever you have on hand)

Pinch of salt

Olive Oil


Place your nettles and arugula in a saucepan of salted, boiling water. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour over a strainer and press with a spoon to remove all excess water. Using a Vitamix blender (or food processor) – combine greens, parmesan, garlic, cashews and salt – blend for a couple seconds.

Then start to pour in olive oil through opening in top of blender or processor. Keep slowly adding oil until the mixture become a lovely pale green consistency (similar to the image).

Place pesto in a mason jar for use on homemade pasta, mixed with mayo on a turkey sandwich or eating by the spoonful!


Medical Information from Dr. Axe website as I am not a professional doctor
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Gifts for the Gardener on your Mother’s Day List

Mother’s Day is this weekend and I finally get to celebrate! After 4 years of trying to conceive naturally and 3 years trying to adopt, I’ve finally made it to the Mother status that I have been dreaming of for some many years.

Here are my five top garden gift picks:

  1. Gardening Magazines

Keep the love coming all year with a subscription to a gardening magazine! Some of my favorites include Organic Life, Mother Earth NewsBirds & Blooms, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Country Gardens and Garden Design.

        2.  Gloves, Gloves and More Gloves! 

A gardener can never have too many gloves and I swear I have to buy a new pair every year because I have worked them so hard that there are holes in the fingertips. I have several favorite brands of gloves including Foxglove and Women’s Work Gloves. I first fell in love with the Foxglove brand when meeting the owner Harriet, who is an absolutely wonderful women. These gloves come in gorgeous colors, machine washable and extremely durable. I have them in multiple colors, but my favorite colors being iris, fuchsia or periwinkle. Who am I kidding I love them all!

        3. Gifts Cards 

There is really nothing like going to your favorite garden center on a sunny, warm spring day. The feeling of being surrounded by beauty everywhere is really indescribable. One of my favorite garden centers nearby is Molbak’s Home & Garden. I actually prefer to go there when it is raining…I know funny, but I love the sound of the rain beating on the greenhouse roofs and the store is more quiet during these times of the year.  Gift cards to online retailers are wonderful option as well such as Annie’s Annuals, Garden Crossings or Jung Seeds. 

       4.  Fun Gardening T-Shirts

I love this t-shirt from my fellow garden blogger and friend, Amanda, who writes at Kiss My Aster! You can buy this shirt on her Etsy store! There are tons of cute shirts on Etsy with fun saying for gardeners like Crazy Plant Lady, Life is a Garden – Dig It or Sometimes I Wet my Plants! Any would be a welcome addition to my closet!


      5. A Potting Bench

One of my favorite purchases for my garden was my potting bench. It just makes planting containers so much easier. There are many different ones to choose from and would depend on the style of the person you are buying for, but mine is made out of reclaimed barn wood.


Well my time is up for today by the sound of a crying baby waking from his slumber. I hope that this list helps to make the buying decision one step easier for the gardening mother in your life. And to all those mothers out there, including those that have lost their little ones through miscarriage or failed adoption placements, I raise my champagne glass to all of you and celebrate this beautiful journey of caring for these beautiful gifts from God.

Take Care and Happy Gardening!


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Guest post for Creative Living Garden Blog

I was so excited when fellow garden blogger, Bren Haas, reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in doing a guest post for her blog Creative Living. Let me think about it – of course I would! My goal for this year is that I blog more frequently as I have started a new journey in life as a Stay at Home Mommy!

Spring is one of my favorite times of year – when the earth is waking up and all the plants are coming out of dormancy and emerging from the ground. My rhubarb has been going gangbusters and fresh California strawberries are showing up at the grocery store. So it is no better time than the present to make something fresh with those two ingredients like garden fresh rhubarb and strawberry crumble. Head over to Bren’s blog to get the full recipe:


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Salmonberry Sorbet to Celebrate My 3rd Anniversary

Today, I am celebrating the 3rd year of my blog! My goals for this year are to blog on a more frequent basis as I have let other endeavors get in my way to personal growth and success.

This year, I have discovered a lot about myself and a newfound love for being in the woods and learning about the edible qualities of many plants. I’ve also learned a new term – Wildcrafting – which is defined as gathering herbs, plants, fungi from the wild just as our ancestors once did.

One of my newest loves are Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis)This relative to the raspberry grows in abundance in the forest of the Pacific Northwest and was very important to the indigenous peoples of this land. These orange berries were typically consumed with salmon or mixed with its roe, hence where the name is derived.

How-To Identify Salmonberry


Salmonberries have a gorgeous, deep pink flower on plants that range anywhere from one to several feet. Berries transition from salmon color to deep ruby red as they mature and ripen. In the PNW, the picking season is early May to late June. The berries are a bit tart, but can be made into delicious jams, candy, jelly and wine. Being the foodie that I am, I had to take it up another notch and use them in Balsamic Roasted Strawberry, Rhubarb and Salmonberry Sorbet.

Making Sorbet


Balsamic Roasted Strawberry, Rhubarb & Salmoberry Sorbet

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A cool, refreshing, Wildcraft-inspired sorbet recipe perfect for a hot summer day


  • 1 1/2 lbs strawberries – stems removed, halved or quartered
  • 1/2 lb of salmonberry berries
  • 1/2 lb of rhubarb
  • 1/4 cup of honey (or white sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Optional: Fresh mint to top



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Place strawberries, rhubarb and salmonberries on a sheet tray. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, honey and season with black pepper. Bake for approximately 25 minutes.
  3. Transfer mixture to a blender (Vitamix is preferred) and puree until smooth. Taste mixture to see if it suits you – add more honey, vanilla or black pepper where necessary.
  4. Run through sieve to remove all seeds then run through blender again. Chill in refrigerator.
  5. Once chilled transfer mixture to ice cream maker and follow manufacturers direction.
  6. Serve topped with mint and enjoy!


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Interview with “How to Grow a Living Wall” Author – Shawna Coronado

Hi Res Jacket Image Grow a Living WallI had the privilege and honor of interviewing Shawna Coronado, the author of the newly released book, “Grow a Living Wall – Create Vertical Gardens with Purpose” to share with my readers. Shawna and I have known each other for some time now and have become good friends.  Her book is full of great ideas and I absolutely feel in love with her cactus vertical garden that was written about on Garden Therapy as well as the gorgeous pictures from the book. However, I wanted to take a different approach, asking Shawna both questions about the book and some fun, personal questions as well.

Cactus Garden Vertical Final

Shoot of the vertical cactus garden that I feel in love with from Shawna’s book.

LOVEPEAS: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them? 

SHAWNA: My goals with the book were focused on making it easy for people in small spaces to grow large quantities of plants. I want people who have not previously had access to growing to discover what an amazingly healthy and positive experience it is. With living walls, it is surprisingly easy to plant over 40 plants in less than a square foot of floor area. Why isn’t everyone with a tiny space building a garden for themselves? I think they can and I want to teach them.

LP: What was the first plant that you were drawn to? Tell us about that experience.

S: When I was a little girl my grandmother used to have a flower cutting garden that she placed in long rows at the end of her acre wide vegetable plot. She had the most amazingly stunning zinnias I have ever seen. They grew straight and tall – probably 30” high, which was nearly as tall as I was at that time – with bold shades of red, yellow, and magenta which she would cut and place in all kinds of crazy vases on her front porch and in the kitchen windows. I loved them. There’s nothing better than a zinnia smiling at you from the window sill.

LP: What projects are you working on at the present?

S: This season is a very exciting year for me! In January, I taped a yearlong radio show/podcast/YouTube series with my co-host Richard Christakes. We call it “The Good Green Home Show” and we’ve really presented stories that are about gardening, culinary, and home, which help educate the listener on how-to live a little greener and healthier. It was great fun taping the series and will continue to be a social media project I’ll be presenting through the rest of the year. Outside of that, I have some very fun garden designs planned. My shady backyard vegetable garden is getting a complete renovation with an emphasis on the artistic. I cannot wait to get out there and get muddy in the beds.

LP: What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?

S: Question – How did you accomplish building all the gardens for all the living wall stories and photos for your book “Grow a Living Wall”?

Answer – Last season I planted and grew over 2,500 plants in all the living walls and my garden in its entirety. This involved a lot of panic and hard work – it refused to stop frosting until June 1. This meant I did all the planting in under 2 ½ weeks starting at June 1. I would be out everyday and every evening planting, planting, planting while covered in dirt and hurting from sore muscles. It was an adventure, but in the end all the plants were grown and the photos taken and the book assembled. Hard work is good for the soul and this book was certainly challenging to create.

LP: If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead – who would it be and why?

S: I love people and want to have dinner with everyone from George Takei to President Lincoln to Oprah to Gandhi. Imagine the conversations over martini’s? But in all practical seriousness, I dream of having a dinner meeting with Jacquelline Fuller, who happens to be the Director of, a philanthropic division of Google, which has worked to change the world, making it a better place to live for many. I see the conceptual idea of small space gardening, particularly vertical and living wall gardening, as a practical way to help feed the world on an extremely large scale. I would like to meet her because I admire her, of course, but also to discuss the possibilities of how I could help a team feed the hungry and make a true global impact with the conceptual ideas I have on growing. Anything is possible over dinner, right?

LP: What do you like to read in your free time?

S: From the time I was a young girl I have been an avid reader. Perhaps that’s why writing comes so easy to me. However, it’s my complete downfall into boredom without something constantly stimulating my thoughts, so I prefer action-adventure, high fantasy, and stories that take the reader along on a magnificent, albeit impossible, journey. It reminds me to keep challenging myself towards the impossible in my own life.

Could not believe that I didn't have a picture of Shawna and I, but here is a group shot from Garden2Blog where arrows pointing to us.

Could not believe that I didn’t have a picture of Shawna and I, but here is a group shot from Garden2Blog with arrows pointing to us.

I want to thank Shawna for her time in doing this interview! You can learn more about Shawna at her website which has loads of great content from inspirational speeches she given to how-to videos and blogs about everything green and healthy.

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Raspberry Lemon Trifle Dessert for Easter

On the Saturday before Easter, my husband and I sat in our living room debating what to make for dessert for our guests that would arrive on Sunday evening. I was trying to convince my husband that we should try Hummingbird Cake that a friend of mine had been raving about at lunch the week before. However, he reminded me of advice that I often say when having a party. NEVER try a new recipe when you are throwing a dinner or party. It is best to go with tried and true recipes that you know will turn out the way they did in the past. Although, that is sometimes up for debate as well. So we started discussing dessert recipes that have been hits at previous get-togethers and Death by Chocolate came to mind. If you have never tried this dessert, it is a MUST especially if you love chocolate.

Death by Chocolate Trifle

Death by Chocolate Trifle

I thought with Easter everyone would be chocolate out and then my mind started replacing each layer of this trifle dessert with different items. For instance, vanilla cake & pudding for chocolate. I started to brainstorm with my husband on this modified recipe on a dessert that everyone loves and he was sold on the idea. THEN, the great “AH” moment was when I started googling Raspberry Lemon Trifle to see many people were doing individual, mason jar serving. Oh and how I love personal servings and all the cocktail dish sets that go along with it. Here is what the final dessert looked like:

Raspberry Lemon Trifle

Raspberry Lemon Trifle

I love cooking, baking and feeding others. I get so much joy out of sharing my creations with others and seeing their face light up with joy over something that I’ve been able to prepare for them. It truly is a blessing! Here is the recipe so that you can share it with the ones you love:

Raspberry Lemon Trifle

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Credit: P.S. I Love Peas Blog


  • 1 Vanilla Pound Cake
  • 1 – 5.1 oz. instant Vanilla Pudding Pkg.
  • 2 1/2 cups milk (for pudding)
  • Lemon (1/4 juice & 2 tbsp. rind)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 box of Vanilla wafers
  • 1 jar of Raspberry Preserves
  • 1 lg container of Fresh Raspberries (seedless)
  • 2 cups of heavy cream (or whipping cream)
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup powder sugar


Combine instant vanilla pudding with 2 1/2 cups of milk (preferred 1%, 2%). Mix for two minutes and set aside to let thicken.

Now make a simple syrup with lemon, granulated sugar and water. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, once boiling and sugar dissolved, remove from heat. Place in a bowl to transfer to the refrigerator to cool.

At this time, make the whip cream. Put heavy cream and vanilla in KitchenAid mixer bowl (or hand mixer). Place bowl cover on and whip on high for 10 minutes or less; until peaks begin to form. Once this happens add powder sugar and lemon rind to cream. Continue to whip for 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure to taste to confirm the sweet and lemon level is what you desire.

In another bowl, combine a 1/2 cup of raspberry preserves and refresh raspberries. Mash some of the fruit, but make sure that a lot it remains whole. Taste! If too tart, add sugar or honey.

Now it is time to create your trifle. Take 8 to 10 small mason jars and line up in an assembly type fashion. Take your pound cake and cut into cubes. I prefer to remove the more darker parts of the cake, but it is totally your call.

First layer will be cake, then drizzle some of the lemon syrup simple that has been cooling. It is just to moisten the cake lightly not saturate it. Second layer, vanilla pudding. Third layer, raspberry layer. Fourth layer, vanilla pudding. Fifth layer, crumbled vanilla wafer. Six layer, whip cream. Top with vanilla wafer, raspberry and mint leaf.

The layers can be rotated however you would prefer, I was just trying to keep in mind colors. Also, if you would like the dessert to be more lemony, use lemon cake or pudding; both would be good. I’ve also substituted strawberry and strawberry preserve instead of raspberry too.




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Belated Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – August 2013

Being a new blogger and all, I’m still adjusting to all the great activities I’m able to partake in with my new community. On the 15th of each month, garden bloggers from across the country post the lovely blooms that grace their garden that month. This was started by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Her blog is super entertaining and I would highly recommend it.

Being the plant geek that I am, here is what has got me all hot and bothered during the month of August in my garden.


Kaffir Lily (Schizostylis coccinea) is a relative to the Iris family and hardy to Zone 7. The beautiful blooms add late season color to the Pacific Northwest garden as the flowers will hold on til winter. They are an evergreen in this part of the country and a flower that I have fallen in love with. Even though I am in Zone 7a, I will be bringing it in the garage this winter to ensure that I do not lose it.



I’m a sucker when it comes to Begonias. These tuberous Begonias were potted up later than I would have liked and they are finally blooming gorgeously. Recently, I have been doing research on buying some Begonia odorata for next year. A fragrant Begonia – what more can this girl ask for!


Yes, Calla Lillies (Zantedeschia) are hardy in my garden. I have a small area that is sheltered by two sides of my house and I believe it is a microclimate for plants that would prefer to be grown in Zone 8. Typically, these beauties are sold at garden centers in our area to be used as annuals in container designs.


When I moved from my Zone 5 garden in Michigan, I was absolutely floored seeing Hardy Fuchsias in bloom while visiting the Bellevue Botanical Garden. I couldn’t wait to have my own home again to be able to grow several Hardy Fuchsias. This variety is Fuchsia megallanica ‘Pat’s Dream’.


I have several Coneflower (Echinacea) in my garden, but I was on a wild goose chase last year looking for this doll. It is the first double, orange Echinacea from Plants Nouveau with a fabulous name to match – ‘Hot Papaya’. It has been blooming its head of for several weeks.


In my opinion when it comes to annuals, Non-Stop Begonias are the best bang for your buck for the shade. Their blooms brighten up the darkest corners and they come in a fabulous range of colors to choice from. And you know me, I haven’t found a Begonia that I don’t love.


We’ll end with a gorgeous picture of the sunset on a beautiful summer day! I hope your garden is full of blooms and beauty.

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Simple Summer Sides – Green Bean Almondine

Last week, I was able to harvest my first round of green beans from my vegetable garden.

Green Beans are ready to harvest for dinner!!

Green Beans are ready to harvest for dinner!!

Beans are easy-to-grow by seed. Since the seeds are so large, they are easy to see and handle. There is no thinning required later on since they are easy to sow separately when planting.  I prefer to grow bush rather than pole beans as I don’t have many vertical structures for them to climb. I planted my seeds when the soil temperatures were around 60 degrees and the threat of frost had passed. If you have never grown beans, I would highly recommend it. Anything freshly picked from the garden just tastes so much better than any vegetable you can buy at the grocery store. They also make a great plant to show kids how to garden with since the seed germinates in one to two weeks. Seeds can be started in containers indoors or sown directly in the ground when the temps are that above.

Garden-grown green beans as the star of dinner!

Garden-grown green beans as the star of dinner!

I knew that I loved green beans, but I didn’t know how much I did until my husband and I ran across this recipe from the brilliant and talented Tyler Florence of The Food Network. Personally, it tastes like a grown-up version of green bean casserole to me, but try it out and see what you think. Thank you Tyler for elevating the green bean to be the star of the dinner plate.

Ingredients Needed:

Kosher salt

1.5 lbs of green beans

1/4 cup of sliced almonds with skins

1.5 tablespoons of butter

2.5 tablespoons of olive oil

1 large Walla Walla onion, sliced thin

Freshly ground pepper

Yield: 2 to 3 servings

First, dry roast some almond slivers in a pan. The natural oils in the almonds will be enough for them to brown without adding any additional oil. Once the almonds are lightly toasted brown on both sides. Sit aside to add to the final mixture.

Slivered almonds dry roasting in a skillet.

Slivered almonds dry roasting in a skillet.

Next boil some water for the beans. Once the water has come to a boil add a large pinch of salt and your raw green beans.

Raw beans ready to add to boiling water.

Raw beans ready to add to boiling water.

By adding a pick of salt, it will keep the beans really fresh and green. This process of boiling the beans is called blanching by putting the beans in hot water, but only cooking them slightly so a crunch remains. Then removing and immediately putting them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. The beans will boil for 5 minutes. While they are cooking get your ice bath ready.

As the beans are cooking, next start sautéing the thinly sliced onion. In a skillet, add olive oil and butter, melt and then add the onion. Have your range on medium heat (6 to 7) so that the onion will slowly caramelized. Once they are nice and caramelized, season with salt and pepper to your preferred taste. This could take up to 20 to 25 minutes for the caramelization process to occur.

Onions as they appear when first put in the skillet.

Onions as they appear when first put in the skillet.

Onions appearance after they have caramelized for 20 to 25 minutes.

Onions appearance after they have caramelized for 20 to 25 minutes.

Once the beans have boiled for 5 minutes – remove from stove, drain and put immediately into the ice bath. Let chill out for a couple minutes roughly. The ice bath will stop the cooking process within the bean.

Immediately after the beans have boiled for 5 minutes put into an ice bath.

Immediately after the beans have boiled for 5 minutes put into an ice bath.

Beans, onions and almonds are all cooked separately and then combined at the end to make the final side dish. Once combined, double check your salt and pepper level and readjust if needed.

The final side dish all assembled.

The final side dish all assembled.

Enjoy this simple summer side dish straight from the garden!


Source: Original recipe from Tyler Florence – Green Beans with Caramelized Onions and Almonds. This recipe varies from the one above.

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