I’ve been watching the Great British Baking Show, which has to be addictive somehow. Did they get sugar over the airwaves straight to my veins?

I got so involved with the techniques, the bakes, the people, the judges that I searched Netflix and Prime Video for last season, found it, and binge-watched for hours. Then bought a $30 book that came from this season’s contest, only to discover that all the ingredients are measured in (shudder) milliliters. So how many ounces to 600 ml of milk?

Finally, I decided that my old lift mixer wasn’t good enough. I wanted a tilt mixer like the ones on the show. Mysteriously, just as I thought what a good thing it would be to have a tilt mixer, Amazon messaged me about a Gold Box special for one. Amazon is mind-reading now. Now that’s powerful marketing!

Jim bought it for me. Bless him. Although I think he knew there’d be cake in his future.

From Google, I found an American measurement recipe for chocolate sponge glazed with ganache. I do not bake often, but as I said, Jim will eat anything sweet that I make. Sponge came out perfectly. Ganache – despite my worries due to past failures – came out amazingly perfect.

Except that when I tried to take the sponge out of the half sheet pan, it broke into pieces. Color me disappointed! My visions of a many layered cake filled with ganache and raspberry jam (seedless) were dashed.

Darn. I would have tossed the whole thing in the trash, but Jim took the pieces of sponge and layered them in a bowl topped with ganache.

How was it? Achingly sweet.

Next I tried an almond sponge. I am a little suspicious of recipes that start off with two sticks of butter and six eggs, but okay. The recipe said to bake for 45 to 60 minutes in a ten-inch spring-form pan. After 75 minutes I took it out of the oven. The middle seemed a bit jiggly, but the toothpick test turned out okay.

But, when I turned it over, I had cake soup instead of cake. Jim stopped me as I went to throw it away.

“Just put it back in the oven for a while,” he suggested. “What can it hurt? You were going to toss it, and this way, it has a chance.”

Despite my suspicions about his motives – my Jim really likes his cake – I did as he suggested.

Another half-hour later, the cake was done and very, very brown. Again, no layers, but the white chocolate ganache turned out well. Our Thanksgiving dessert.

Happy holiday to everyone. Wonder what I’ll be baking for Christmas?

Victorian Dreams

My dream garden includes a greenhouse a la the Victorian structures of wood, brick, and glass found in gardening magazines. Starting price $25,000. Surrounded by a parterre, brick walkways, and lush flowers. Interspersed by statuary of angels and fairies. Hmmm… not on my budget.

Instead I’ve been considering the mini greenhouses in catalogs and on Amazon. Looking over my shoulder, Jim said, “Oh I can make you that.”

And indeed, he did.


The goal for this makeshift greenhouse is to over-winter my blueberries in pots. You may remember that our soil here in Kansas has a high pH, making acid-loving blueberries difficult if not impossible to grow and fruit. Pots filled with a soilless mixture might work, if I can keep the pots from freezing this winter.

The blueberries will take a lot of cold. Not so with the dipladenia that I want to keep alive this winter. I just don’t want to bring it in the house. First, I have no room. Second, I have a very low light situation, excellent for growing my African Violets, poor for the usual light hungry tropical. Will this plant survive the winter?

The polypropylene wrap that we used promises protection down to about 8 degrees Fahrenheit. Will it get colder than that? Possibly. But I can go out and wrap pots in blankets if it does. Will a tropical plant that does poorly when it’s less than 40 degrees survive. Uh, doubtful. But we’ll give it a try!


One of the fun parts of the greenhouse is the old window Jim used as a roof. When we first thought of this project, we looked at photos of window greenhouses. Cute! But have you seen the prices of old windows these days?

We picked up a couple for less than $10 apiece – a steal, trust me – and Jim created a lift-able roof, allowing air to circulate.


“It’s crooked,” Jim said when we were all done getting it in place. Maybe so. It sits on a patio that we (he) built so that it slants away from the house for drainage. The window roof faces the southeast. It’s protected from the wind on three sides.


It’s not a Victorian greenhouse, but for my purposes, it will do!



Remember the Otis Redding/Aretha Franklin song? Remember Rodney Dangerfield? Like the song and the actor, respect can engender pathos and comedy. But respect for others has the potential to solve a lot of ‘human condition’ problems.

Giving (and getting) respect allows folks to hold onto their dignity. It’s a precursor to empathy. It creates a barrier against all the inhumane things people do to other people.

Last week, I did something again that I early-on promised to never do. I responded to a post from one of my Face Book friends who asked the simple question: what do you want? I replied that I wanted people to learn to treat other people with respect. And inevitably, someone added a comment, saying that as long as single moms received subsidies, children wouldn’t learn respect.


For starters, I believe that sweeping generalizations – statements that characterize all members of a certain group – lack respect. Respect, like trust, is about individuals. Respect means that people can see the individual as potentially different from the group they belong to. Stereotypes occur all along the slippery slope of contempt.

And why single moms? Last time I looked, about 25 percent of the children in this country are being raised in single parent families. And how does receiving a subsidy reduce the possibility of learning respect for others?

In the nicest way possible and with respect, I tried to argue.

Nope. He wasn’t having any.

Back in the late 1980’s, John Lee published a book called “The Flying Boy.” My take-away from that book was the impossibility of having an intimate relationship without mutual respect. Minus respect, love turns to dislike or hate and then, finally, indifference. Like the song says: “Respect [me] When you come home, Or you might walk in, And find out I’m gone.”

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life? Escape the field. Walk away. Avoid pointless conflict.

So with respect, maybe my 2016 New Year’s Resolution needs to be: Avoid making possibly contentious comments on Face Book. And it looks like even the most vanilla comment will elicit a ‘nay’ from someone out there. Maybe I’ll give up Face Book for Lent…

Looking Back, Moving Forward

What a busy fall it has been, beginning with the run-up to the Miami County garden tour and culminating in garden and home fall clean-up. I planned to begin this Blog with a statement like: “Where did September go?” But in point of fact, where is October going? Today, November is just one week and two days away!

So. Garden catch-up. Here is glimpse at my fall garden, consisting of Sedum Autumn Joy and ‘Profusion’ zinnias bought at a Summer Solstice Sale.


Melons and big tomatoes did not do well this year. We picked each melon when all the indicators said ‘ripe’ but ended up with green nastiness. Tomatoes just rotted on the vine without ever ripening. That is, except for the grape tomatoes, which were plump and tasty!

And a new experiment for next year – row covers or, as they say in the horticulture biz, low tunnels. Metal piping hand-made at low (okay, lower) cost by my clever Jim. To be covered by 10 x 25 foot spun polypropylene covers that arrived Monday, compliments of Amazon. I plan to try and extend the lettuce season and plant spinach and beets for spring.

Will it work? That remains to be seen. I had high hopes last year for my cover crop experiment. It failed, I believe, due to our unusually wet spring, making a swamp in our garden plot, which led us to add more raised beds.

The row covers will work best if we have a mild winter so, of course, I anticipate temperatures running below zero Fahrenheit on a regular basis.

And that – meaning my pessimistic outlook – brings me to the title of this Blog.

Facing retirement in 2013, I decided to write a gardening Blog because first, I planned to do a lot of gardening and second, I really knew very little about it. At the time, I thought this would be a splendid way to learn how to garden while keeping my writing hand in practice.

As time went on, I found that telling stories about gardening was more rewarding for me as a writer – and I hope for you as a reader – than adding to the amazing number of how-to articles on the web. Looking for how-to? Look no further than your local extension office or do a web search of the extension .edu (university) sites. You’ll get great, research-based information.

Then, as these things go, serendipity took a hand. In 2002 I began writing daily ‘tips’ for clients of a former employer. I had a great time writing them – ten years’ worth! When I announced my retirement, my employer switched to a tip writing service. But suddenly, it seems, they are recycling my old tips.

Since I hadn’t discontinued the service, I had a chance to reread my own tips. It reminded me of all the things I could be writing about. So here’s another experiment – one outside the garden.

I’ll still write about gardening and sometimes about food. In addition, I also plan to write about some other things, issues that touch me day to day and make me think.

Now that my garden is winter-ready and my house organized, I promise to write more faithfully. My hope is that you will continue to read and react!

“Something Completely Different…”

I bought three Ophelia eggplants (Solanum melongena ‘Ophelia’ Hybrid) from Gurney’s last year and thought I’d get a couple of eggplants from each plant.

Oh dear. Thirty plus eggplants later, I’d tired of baba ganoush, baked eggplant Parmesan and eggplant lasagna. I needed something completely different. And then I remembered.

Back in 1978, I visited my folks in Israel. One night, we ate at a great restaurant that served the most delicious pickled eggplant. In fact, I spent a bit of time looking around Omaha, where I lived back then, for a similar dish. No pickled eggplant in Omaha.

Now, with this surfeit of eggplant in my kitchen, I wondered if I could make pickled eggplant. I found a recipe for Moroccan Eggplant Pickles on the Feasting at Home Blog, and decided it might work.


The Ophelia eggplants are bigger than the ones shown on the Feasting at Home site. I figured I’d need half again of the pickling mixture and three quart jars. I guessed about right as you can see from the photo.


So now, the jars filled with eggplants sit in my frig to get cold and let the flavors blend. As time passes, the pickling mixture has become decidedly more brown – not the most appetizing color. I’ve already heard one “ewww…” but we’re into trying new things at the Coffelt house, so maybe…

For a special gardening friend: the Ophelia hybrid is self-pollinating, which may be why I had eggplants when others had none.

A Garden of Rusty Things

So many of my creative gardening friends have rusty things as yard art. Maybe it’s a Kansas thing to do, although I’ve seen found-object art in a lot of magazines lately. While I admire these gardens, I never thought of this as my aesthetic. At least until I acquired some major rusty things.

What you see below is an old car (or is it a truck?) frame. I had it laid out on the ground, thinking I could use it to plant onions and garlic, along with some horseradish. Problem is, I have enough gardens to take care of, so this one more plot defeated me. Weeds grew up under the frame, inside the frame, around the frame … it was a weedy mess.


Jim and I spent part of Sunday lifting the frame out of the ground, weed-eating the weeds, tilling, and planting – heavens – grass seed. Jim went off to find the tools to take the frame apart when I started thinking: door number one, door number two, door number three … Okay, so it has four doors. But what a cool entrance to a garden of rusty things.

The amazing Jim went along with the plan, dug the trench, and using the front loader, set it upright. And here it is. As you can see, it’s perfect for us shorter people!


I already have a rusty 500 gallon gas tank as a start to my garden of rusty things. Enter through the car frame. Do I need more treasures? Just some vines to dress things up? What about a gravel circle and gravel paths – making it harder to mow, yes, but defining the space. What about a couple of rusty metal chairs? And maybe one of those stunted pecan trees will grow up to shade the gravel patio. Lots of possibilities.

Thoughts? Send them my way!!



This summer for the first time, I invested in containers for flowers, both front and back yard.  My thinking?  I wanted more freedom from weeding.

But uh oh.  Freedom from weeding meant becoming a slave to watering!

In the backyard, I planted two half whiskey barrels with petunias, verbena, and geraniums.  Pretty at first.  One day without water in this heat and my whiskey barrel of flowers turned into a crispy critter.

Guess there’s no easy road to a beautiful garden.