Monday, August 18, 2014

Virginia's Own High Line

My friend Mark and I walked through Freedom Park in Rosslyn, Virginia the other day. He's been to New York's High Line, and made an astute comparison.

NYC's High Line is a mile long and built on a now-unused railroad. Freedom Park in Arlington, Virginia towers above a busy road just across the river from DC, giving pedestrians a striking alternative to dodging traffic below.

Enjoy the unexpected beauty of an urban walk in these photos. 

The Lynn Street arch is an
unassuming entrance to Freedom Park. 
Within a few steps, lush yellows and greens provide a
welcome contrast to concrete and gritty
red brick buildings.

About 1/4 of the way up to the top.

Coreopsis softens a concrete wall and
metal railings. 

Who doesn't love black-eyed  Susans?

More Susans on the other side of the walkway, just in front of
grasses standing guard.

Groundcover roses, with a
grass cowlick sticking up behind.

Up, up, up.

Russian sage. 

Taking a lunchtime break in the shade.

Japanese Forest Grass.

At the top.

Bocce ball, umbrellas, and benches at the top.

Starting down the other side. The Artisphere sphere is a remnant of the old Newseum.

Continuing on down the hill. The ubiquitous but always welcome impatiens add a punch of color.

Benches in the shade of crape myrtles provide a nice lunchtime seat.

The Artisphere globe, reflected in an office building,
punctuated by a crape myrtle to the right.

Friday, August 15, 2014

When the Ordinary Is Extraordinary

What is it about orange with turquoise? What a yummy combo.  Howard Johnson was onto something! Here are a few pedestrian marigolds and zinnias in a handmade vase in a jaw-dropping turquoise color.  Stunning, no?

I think the combination's yumminess might have something to do with their locations on the color wheel. Remember learning during art class that colors on opposite sides are complementary? Turns out your teacher was right.

Color wheel graphic courtesy of HGTV.

What are your favorite combos?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Making the Most of Blueberry Season

Among the various fun reasons to visit Chincoteague Island on Virginia's Eastern Shore is the July blueberry festival. It's held each year on the weekend before the famous pony swim.  You can pre-order blueberries and then pick them up during the weekend.  The festival also includes various blueberry-themed crafts and foods, plus a live band, other crafts, snacks, and artwork.

I decided to give it a try, so pre-ordered 12 pints a week in advance. The berries had been picked and packed on Thursday -- can you fathom that?  Picked one day and in my hands the next. Talk about fresh. The chap taking my order joked that I could have ordered by the individual blueberry. HA HA HA.

I froze 3 pints, gave away 3 more, and made blueberry barbecue sauce, a blueberry crisp, waffles, crumbcake, and blueberry ice cream over the course of the next week.

The ice cream recipe follows, adapted from a Cuisinart ice cream maker recipe. Enjoy!

Blueberry Ice Cream
1.5 cups whole milk
1.5 cups heavy cream
1 whole vanilla bean (about 6 inches in length)
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups washed and dried blueberries, mashed
1/3 cup sugar
3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan. Use a sharp knife to split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, then scrape out the seeds. Stir the seeds and bean pod into the milk/cream mixture. Bring to a slow boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Combine the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in a medium bowl. Use a hand mixer on medium speed to beat until the mixture is thick, smooth, and pale yellow in color, about 1.5 to 2 minutes.

Remove the vanilla bean pod and discard. Measure out 1 cup of the hot liquid. With the mixer on low, add the cup of hot milk/cream to the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream. When thoroughly combined, pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap placed directly on the custard, and chill completely.  (I do this a day in advance.)

Two hours before chilling time, combine the mashed blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a bowl and let macerate for 2 hours. Drain and set aside the accumulated blueberry juices, and set aside the mashed berries.

Turn the ice cream machine ON, pour the chilled custard and the blueberry juices into the freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 25-30 minutes. Add the mashed berries during the last 5 minutes of chilling.

Delicious right away (somewhat soft), or scoop into an airtight container and freeze for later use.

Makes about ten 1/2-cup servings. (Fabulous on blueberry crisp!)

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Marsh Hibiscus, or Mallow, If You Prefer

Marsh hibiscus in bloom in
backyard protected wetlands.

Apparently what some folks call the "Marsh Mallow" plant on Virginia's Eastern Shore is really a Marsh Hibiscus. (The Marsh Mallow originates in Africa, and the root produces what the modern marshmallow treat is derived from.  But I digress.)

Marsh hibiscus seen in the marsh while biking
in the Wildlife Loop.

Back to Virginia.  The marsh hibiscus is a wetland plant that grows in large colonies.  I don't think I'd ever really noticed them until a year ago when I was on Chincoteague while they were at their peak in the island's various marshy areas.  Like garden variety hibiscus available at your local nursery, their papery petals combine to form a showy bloom. The ones that grow wild in the marshes are either pale pink (almost white) or hot pink.

Wildlife Loop panorama.

They're like weeds, really.  But who cares -- they're stunning. As Ralph Waldo Emerson famously quipped, "A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."

I'm glad I've discovered this one.