A little bit of tidying up outside.

Today dawned sunny and clear after a few gloomy snowy days, so I decided to get out into the garden and do some post-winter tidy-up. Shadow decided to tag along and make sure I didn’t get into any trouble.

IMG_1152

First, I took down the driveway markers. We put the driveway markers in the ground along the driveway in the fall for the snowplow man so he can see where he’s going and doesn’t plow the lawn or the flower beds by mistake. Now, of course, we will probably get a big dump of snow. But the snow disappears quickly these days, and if he does have to come it will be light enough for him to see where he is going.

IMG_1155

Next I did a little bit of tidying up on the lawn where Shadow had decided it was too cold or too dark, or both, to go all the way to the hillside to do her “business”. Now the snow has gone, we’ve found you out girl!

IMG_1156

The melting snow also revealed a little antler to add to Em’s collection!

IMG_1162

Then I rolled up the electric cord that we used to light the Christmas lights on one of the evergreens (I’ll get this all into the garage before next winter, I promise),

IMG_1163

and put away the big shovel we use to chip away ice on the driveway.

IMG_1164

I think the snow shovels had better stay out for a little longer though,

IMG_1159

and I’m going to have to wait for T to come home from school to get this back up.

IMG_1166

Finally, I sprayed all the green shoots I could find so that the deer wouldn’t snack on them. Hopefully.

IMG_1168

Shadow found a sunny spot to keep watch from.

IMG_1170

After I’d finished I washed up with the lovely gardener’s soap Bob gave me for my birthday a year or so ago. He got me several bars, and I still have one left. It’s English. I love it.

Now Spring, would you please just hurry up and get here!

Now for some paint!

Calling all actual and would-be interior decorators!

Now that we have the carpet and the sofa for the den/office, we are turning our attention to the walls, which are currently plain white (because that was the quickest thing to do to clean the place up after we bought the house). We’d like to paint them so the room isn’t quite so bland, and over the weekend we were discussing possible colors.

So I wondered – what suggestions do you have for a color? Remember, it’s the California desert, not the Montana mountains, so we want something light. Plus it is a “California mid-century modern” bungalow in style. The room measures approximately 11ft square.

Should we pick a blue or a beige from the lamp? Or go with a cream or an ivory or an almond?

No prizes – but we’ll be interested to get your suggestions. Once we’ve done the walls we’ll probably pick a couple more throw cushions in a toning color for the sofa.

And no prizes either for spotting where the desk chair used to sit!

The Sleeper Sofa That Could

The Desert Oasis is going to be full to overflowing for spring break in a couple of weeks, so on top of my To-Do list when I was down there last month was purchasing a sleeper sofa for the little den/office room. With six weeks until it was needed, I was hopeful I would find one that we could get delivered in time. I’d done my research on the internet, so I had a good idea of styles, quality and prices.

My first stop was a warehouse-style furniture store, the kind of place that I usually try to avoid because the sales people are hovering at the door, waiting to swoop down, like vultures, and attach themselves to you. However, I knew it would have as good a selection as any, and that the prices on the name-brand furniture would be discounted, so off I went. I was lucky enough to be spotted by a not-too-predatory sales assistant who turned out to be quite helpful and knowledgable, and I found some models that I liked that were in my price range. However, I just couldn’t find a color that I wanted, let alone one that would work with the new carpet.

Over the next couple of days I visited a department store, more furniture stores, and a couple of discount places, but I still couldn’t find anything that I felt happy with – and some that I sat on felt that they wouldn’t last five minutes.

Finally, a friend recommended a company that makes its own furniture to order. I would normally have driven right by – in fact the building is so inconspicuous that first time I went there I really did drive right by and had to make a series of interesting lane changes and U-turns to get back to it. Although it was Sunday, the store was open. The moment I stepped in I knew I was in the right place. There were sofas and armchairs of every conceivable shape and size and color, and a long wall of fabric samples. Here was a place where I could find exactly the style I wanted (straight arms, curved arms, one cushion, two, three cushions, skirt or bare legs), and the size I wanted, and pick a fabric that would look perfect in that room. The gentleman working that day was extremely polite, and even showed me a choice of mattresses that were certainly a step up from the flimsy ones I remembered from my first sleeper sofa. I eventually discovered he was the owner. He said he only works there at the weekend, because he lets his staff have the day off; during the week he is at the shop where the furniture is made.

The company’s brochure proudly claims that the furniture will be delivered “in about a week”. I was sceptical, but the owner assured me that if I needed the sofa by April 1st then so long as I got my order in by, say, March 15th that would be plenty of time.

In the end I let Bob have the final say when he went down a couple of days after I returned to Montana. Like me, he made it his first priority, and this past Monday afternoon, amid a flurry of phone calls, text messages and photos, we agreed on a choice of fabric (we’d already settled on the style), and he placed the order for the sofa.

Today is Sunday.

The sofa was delivered yesterday morning.

That means it was made, from start to finish, in just FOUR days!

Highpoint, eat your heart out.

When life gives you a lemon tree – make Lemon Teabread!

CIMG3880

One of the things I like about our home in the desert is the large lemon tree. The adjective large can be taken both ways, by the way – the tree is large, and so are the lemons!

IMG_1118

Here are two lemons from our tree, sitting in a bowl with a rather puny specimen I picked up at the store before I left for my two weeks in the desert. Yes, these lemons are certainly B I G! I packed four into my carry-on to bring home, which, along with the other stuff, got it close to its weight limit.

I knew exactly what I was going to do with one of them – make a Lemon Teabread for my son – it’s one of his favorites, and there is something about him being away at college and not sure if he’s getting enough to eat that brings out the baker in me.

So on Friday, the day after I got home, I set to work. I found the recipe many years ago in a long-forgotten English cookbook, and it is easy – the cake looks like nothing, but looks are deceptive because it tastes divine! I used the smallest of the lemons, which still gave me more than enough grated rind and juice to make it really lemony. It is really a basic pound cake recipe, with 1 tablespoon of grated lemon zest (sometimes I like to change things up and use a zester – the long strings of lemon zest are fun!)

IMG_1115

After the cake has cooled in the pan for about 10 minutes and been turned out onto a rack, I brush a warm glaze (5 tablespoons of lemon juice boiled with 2 tablespoons of sugar and stirred for about 3 minutes until it has thickened) over the top and sides of the warm cake and leave it to cool completely. As I said, the cake doesn’t look anything special – but take a bite and you are transported to lemon heaven!

Bob is now on his way to California and planned to stop in Missoula yesterday to have a late lunch with our son. So the cake was carefully wrapped in foil and placed on the front seat of Bob’s car, along with another large lemon (I wonder what he will use it for), and several admonitions not to forget to hand it over!

A few hours later I got a text from a very happy son who appreciated that the cake had been made with a lemon from our own tree – a slice of sunshine to brighten the Montana winter.