Hooray for February

February has always been one of my favorite months of the year; let me count the ways...
1) January (yuck!) is over. Winter white may be pretty at Christmas, but 
I prefer green and yellow and pink 
and flowers and birds and...well, you get the picture!
2) My first date with my husband was on February 1st; a hike to some waterfalls.
3) Valentine's Day
4) The first daffodils bloom at our little farmstead
5) It's spring lamb season
6)The outdoor furniture gets uncovered with the first taste of spring sunshine
7) Most important of all, it was the middle of February that I became a Christian at the age of 16, and the Lord has been forever at my side and blessed me much more than I deserve.
For me, February is filled to the brim with love. To all of you, I hope that your February is full of joy, love and a bit of spring, too.

Greet Your Guests

Even in winter, the hopeless gardeners among us can find solace in some outdoor "gardening" to get outside and get dirty!
Winter pansies waiting to come home with me
Greet your guests before they knock on your door with personal touches along the path. 
A nice arrangement of winter pansies and evergreens
Punctuate the walk with planted pots of early spring bulbs or group containers of collected enamel ware with various sizes of evergreens. 
My latest favorites...lemon cypress!
What a nice excuse to visit our favorite garden shops!
Moss grows abundantly in the Pacific Northwest;
I tuck it into most every arrangement
Think big and generous when it comes to pots. Use faux terra cotta or concrete pots that are fiberglass or plastic sot hey don't crack from ice and snow.
Ornamental kale and cabbages are like huge flowers
On dark winter days, guide the visitor with luminaries or strings of white tiny lights placed discreetly among the plants.
I'm a pushover for an old chair
Spray paint an old chair, not more than $5.00 from the thrift store, that you don't mind sacrificing to the elements. Place pots on and around it, and maybe a cup of bird food. Expect happy sounds from thankful birds and smiles from your guests!
Stellar jays flitter among our evergreens all winter long.

Arkansas Black Apple and Carrot Winter Salad

We grow lots of apples on our little farmstead. Most are eaten fresh, pressed for cider, made into applesauce and apple butter, and prepared and frozen for desserts. But, there are a few that are good keepers. Still, it is time to use the last of them.
Arkansas Black Apples
My favorite is the Arkansas Black apple. This tree has special meaning, since it was my dad's favorite. This last autumn some of the apples remained on the tree through a heavy frost. The apples were such a gorgeous dark crimson, I just had to bite into one. I was so surprised to find them sweeter than ever. They were still firm and juicy.
Arkansas Black Apple
The Arkansas Black apple is
an old time heritage variety
Now, while winter is in full force, a bright salad is in order to liven up hearty winter meals. This is a delicious salad that can be made with any sweet apples.
Apple and Carrot Salad
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
3 Arkansas Black apples (or other small-medium size sweet apple) cored and cut into matchsticks
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except poppy seeds in a large bowl. Refrigerate at least two hours, or overnight. Toss with the poppy seeds just before serving.

Hopeless Collector of Memories

As I open the doors to my home, you'll see that my husband and I are hopeless collectors.
The lavender we dried in July still smells delightful in January!
The gardener and nature lover in me enjoys creating vignettes throughout my home with collections from the gardens and woods around us, while the romantic side of me enjoys collecting vintage vases, dishes, and other containers to grow and show the nature that I collect.
All things "garden" in our sunroom
Most have a wonderful memory associated with my grandparents; jadeite dishes that grandma Jennings used as their everyday dishes and depression and carnival glass my grandma Williams displayed in her loving home. There's also the vintage flower vase collection; just because I love fresh flowers in cute little vases!
Some of my vintage vases in paint studio B
My husband collects books, coasters and cups from fun places we visit or from memories of his childhood, walking sticks, hat pins (the manly hiking-hat type) and rocks. If I took a closer look into his study, I imagine I'd be amazed at what other prize collections he has hidden in there.
Tiny lights among mason jars of botanicals above my kitchen cabinets
Now is time to pack away the Christmas decorations and store them in the barn until next year. That can be a bit depressing, seeing as how we have the bleakest month of the year greeting us now. I've never liked January...until now. I enjoy sweeping out the Christmas tinsel and placing my collectibles in all the nooks and crannies after filling them with all the beauty of nature; pine cones, evergreens sprayed with "snow", and flowers from the market.
Battery operated candles on timers are cheery among the clay pots
Pretty lamps, a few discreetly placed strings of white Christmas lights and cheery battery operated candles are on timers to chase away the many dark hours. The fireplace and wood stove flames dance away the chill of winter snow and ice.
Fires warm the body and soul while the snow flies outside our window
It's a good time to not only display those fancy tea pots, but to keep a pot of our favorite tea sipping-hot to warm us as we merrily work through the dreary month of January.
I love everything to do with English teas
And, what is tea without cookies? 
Lemon snowball cookies
Here's a recipe for melt-in-your-mouth cookies that are tart, yet sweet, and a favorite of mine to go with a cup of Earl Gray or Constant Comment tea. Click on the recipe image to enlarge and print.
There's something exhilarating in the juxtaposition among the found, the collected and the natural. Since we all tend to collect something, I hope you find a creative springboard to brighten your winter's day.