Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Soap, Vinegar, Oil and Sachets at Southern Exposure

If there is any one thing I look forward to more than others when spring begins to smile, it's that first trip to Southern Exposure for a garden walk, fabulous dinner and a creative experience.

For those new to the Gypsy, Southern Exposure is an herb farm and garden near Battle Creek, Michigan. It includes several buildings in which dinners are served to guests and decorating crafts are taught. Numerous weddings are held here as well.

In addition are loads of gardens that travel with the seasons from daffodils in the spring to pumpkins in the fall.

It is my happy place.

And the first visit of the season is always filled with anticipation. Will we hit early flowers at peak?

Will the weather be nice? Anything new in the chicken coop?

My friend Kate and I arrived on a somewhat dreary late afternoon, but the earlier rain had dried and we enjoyed a wonderful walk in the gardens before coming in for dinner.

There is thought put into everything they do, whether it is a series of stone towers that appear...

... a drawer filled with ivy...

 ... or a simple, yet elegant table setting.

One of my favorite spots is the greenhouse. It's very small and yet they create the most beautiful vignettes.

Here's a closer look.

Now, isn't that the prettiest thing? Oh, so many more lovelies here!

We couldn't resist a gazebo selfie, either!

And the setting was so very pastoral. Literally!

After we walk the gardens (we always arrive in time to walk the garden!)   we enjoyed a beautiful dinner in "The Milking Parlour."

Our Easter springtime feast included ham, new potatoes, a wonderful salad and home baked bread, asparagus and strawberry rhubarb pie by Chef Elsie. (The pie went home to Rick. Alas...)

After dinner the group of about 60 divided into four and we rotated to various sites. Our group first went to the Main House where Scott invited us into his kitchen and dining room to make herbed vinegar.

Everything was perfectly organized for us. We stuffed our wine bottles with spring onions, a dianthus bloom, a sweet red pepper slice (skewered) and some dill.

Then we went to the kitchen and filled the bottles, being sure our herbs were below the vinegar line. (Otherwise, they may mold quickly.)

The finished product, with a bit of cloth and raffia to finish it off!

Then it was off to the Corn Crib where Micah taught us how to make soap! Our supplies were set out for us on parchment so we could easily wrap them to take home.

We kneaded the mozzerella-like grated goats milk soap block and added hefty doses of oatmeal, lavender and a bit of lavender oil and molded them into bars.

The soap could be used immediately but he advised us curing them in a cool, dry place for two weeks to harden and they'll last longer. No room has ever smelled as good as the Corn Crib!

Or, for that matter, looked so charming with sweet holiday vignettes everywhere you looked!

It was back to the greenhouse, where Angie was in charge of talking about sachets.

Ours used lemon verbena and dried roses (she said San Francisco Herb Company was her supplier), stuffed into organza bags.

That room smelled pretty amazing, too!

Then it was off to Chef Elsie's Kitchen where Josh guided us through infused vinegars.

All the supplies were waiting for us! We were each given a pretty bottle to which we added a clove or two of garlic and a hefty sprig of rosemary.

Then again, we filled the bottle to above the herb line.

Our instructions included letting the vinegar and oil cure for about two weeks, tipping the bottles now and then, to fully develop the flavors.

I left behind beautiful areas of just blooming flowers...

...loads of dried rose petals...

...and memories of sweet, bright pansies.

But I brought home with me many treats!

(And a plan to return in a few weeks for another project and a garden update! Stay tuned!)

Join me in checking out fun links at Share Your Cup, Share Your Style, Sweet and Simple Saturdays and Pink Saturday!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Aftermath

We don't always get what we want -- but this Easter, I did. I wanted a quiet Easter, pretty but not fancy, sunshine, warmth, one-on-one time with Rick. And I got it all!

Usually on Good Friday night we decorate eggs with our friends Mark and Jan and then watch "Life of Brian." But this year they were traveling so it was up to Rick and me. We did our eggs on Saturday. The only dye kit I could find was Paas "Golden Eggs" and to be honest, when they were wet, they were a little disappointing. But when they dried they had a wonderful glow. And the untinted eggs, with just the color tablets, were especially vivid. I'd get it again!

(That pretty little sugar egg in the middle of the first photo is one of several Rick's mom sent -- an Easter tradition!)

I finished up my centerpiece, adding a grapevine wreath with some silk flower.

I got the table set and ready to go!

I love my new bunny plates (Home Goods). If they'd had more, I would have bought them, too. But they are huge -- better for a platter than a plate!

Still, when you have bunny plates and it's Easter, you must use them, right?

I had pretty napkins that I would have normally used (and some very cute Easter papers from World Market) but I "hopted" for these bunny towels! Good coverage and easy to wash.

In the afternoon, Rick and I went to see the fascinating play "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time." (Poor sound in the auditorium; hard to hear when they brought in the background music and sound effects, made more difficult by the Brit accents speaking over din.) But when when the effects were down, all was well once we got into the rhythm. The play is extremely compelling and brought me twice to tears. I would recommend it should it come to your town. Pretty serious but well worth it.

The theatre is on our Michigan State campus, which is waking up after the long winter.

It was pretty joyful to walk through a field of daffodils on the way to the car on this beautiful Easter Sunday.

Dinner was simple. Roast chicken, rice and that fabulous veggie dish from Splendid Table that I linked two posts ago. HIGHLY recommended. And very fast and easy. They say you can serve it room temp too. Either way would be good.

Meringue with fresh strawberries on top and my neighbor Rosie's Easter Bread made for a perfect dessert. All in all, it was exactly the day I wanted.

Within a few days the eggs will be off the chandelier, the egg trees down and the obviously Easter tucked away for another year.

But the birds nests, flowers and bunnies? Those will be out for rather a long time!

And that's just the way I like it!

Joining the fun this week at Monday Social and more!

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