Starting Seeds, Kumquat Marmalade, Sand Pears, and Mystery Flower

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Starting Seeds, Kumquat Marmalade, Sand Pears, and Mystery Flower

It’s time for my favorite gardening season – fall! I was able to start some seeds today: dill, cabbage collards, kale, curly leaf mustard, and Black Beauty zucchini. The dill and zucchini are a bit of a gamble, but I think they will do fine in the fall. I’m hoping there is plenty of warmth left for the zucchini.

I’d like to start some flowers next and get them in the ground so they’re ready for the spring: Shasta daisies, black-eyed Susans, and Sweet William.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of baking recently, so maybe I’ll share a couple more of my cakes soon.

It was nice to be outside though.

After the gardening, it was time for a snack!

Kumquat marmaladeย is my favorite. I think I’ll give myself some for Christmas.๐Ÿ˜€

I was given so many sand pears recently. Probably enough to fill two 5 gallon buckets?

I got my apple peeler out and made some sauce. I didn’t make nearly enough applesauce last year, so I’m hoping this will hold us over until I get some apples.

Pear sauce

I made about 3.5 quarts, some plain and some with a little pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon.

I didn’t even bother canning it- I have a feeling it will be gone quickly. I still have enough to possibly make another 8 quarts.

Can anyone help me ID this flower? I didn’t notice any leaves, just a stalk. It’s pretty neat looking, and I don’t think I planted it.

Hope you’re able to do a little gardening this fall!

How to Decorate a Sprinkle Cake

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What can be happier than sprinkles? It’s really hard to be grumpy when you have sprinkles on your cake.

I was recently asked to make a smaller version of this cake from Something Turquoise for a birthday. I’m not nearly as good a photographer as Christa Taylor Photography is, but here are some of my shots of the process.

Did you know you can buy sprinkles by the pound?
I figured buying a gazillion little containers of sprinkles would be pricey, so I bought a whole pound from Amazon.

A pound of sprinkles

It’s about 2 cups of cheerfulness. 

For a sprinkle cake, I thought that funfetti would be the perfect choice for the inside.๐Ÿ™‚

It was a two tier cake, and each tier had 3 layers. The bottom was 9″ in diameter, and the top was 6″ in diameter. I used a total of 4 batches of buttercream to crumb coat and frost the cake.

There are various ideas floating around about how to apply the sprinkles. Some roll the cake in the sprinkles, some use parchment paper and press the sprinkles into the frosting, but I went a different route.

I reasoned that those little nonpareils would stick to freshly applied frosting if I just kinda sprinkled them on the cake. I tested my theory on a swatch of frosting smeared on a plate, and off I went.

After the final coat of buttercream, I took the cake, tilted it over a cookie sheet, and sprinkled the sprinkles over the sides first.

I sprinkled the tops last. I used about a cup of sprinkles for the whole cake.

I made the marshmallow fondant bows ahead of time so they could dry.

Fondant is like Play-doh for grown-ups. People don’t usually even eat the fondant, so maybe bakers should just switch to Play-doh. It is non-toxic, isn’t it??

I used wooden skewers in the bottom tier to support the top tier,  glued the tiers together with a little soft frosting, and kept it refrigerated.

I also put a skewer through both tiers to help prevent shifting during delivery. 

Driving with a cake is the most nerve-wracking part of the whole cake business, in my opinion. Always carry an emergency kit!

The fondant ribbon was added just before delivery. If you refrigerate fondant, it tends to “sweat,” or get shiny with condensation.

A little frosting “glue” to hold the bows on after delivery, and it was done!

How did it taste?

Like childhood.

What do you think? Who do you know that would love a cake like this?

Hardy Flowers for Florida Summers

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Do you have a favorite summer flower? If it will bloom for me, it’s pretty much an automatic favorite.๐Ÿ™‚ Here are some of my flowers that are blooming in Florida’s  heat and humidity. 

I planted some vinca years ago, and they have been on my list of trusty standbys ever since.

They reseed themselves, and bloom happily all summer without extra care or water. They don’t need to be pruned, and the only work I do for them is to spread out the volunteers in spring and to prune them back once their life cycle is complete.

So easy.

The purple spiky flower you see on the left is angelonia. It was a fun addition this year and has bloomed reliably as well.

Another favorite is the zinnias. I bought some short white zinnias as living decorations for a party last spring, them tucked them into the flower bed.

They have spread out and needed no maintenance once established.

Butterflies love them too. These short white ones haven’t seemed to have the disease issues that my taller ones have had.

Here’s a pink zinnia with a butterfly, some purple Mexican petunias, and a happy orange cosmos.

These mini black eyed Susans are cheerful, and the Knockout roses still have some blooms on them. 

All is not lost in the vegetable garden, even though it is quite the mess. The habenero peppers are starting to turn a pretty tangerine color, I have a few bell peppers, and I spotted a few eggplant blossoms.

What’s blooming in your yard? Did you find a new favorite this year?

On a totally different track, did you know you can buy sprinkles by the pound? I bought a whole pound of sprinkles!!๐Ÿ˜€ Look for a post on what I did with them next week!

An Unusual Curb Appeal

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I was popping into a grocery store when an unusual planting caught my eye. Usually stores plant flowers, bushes, or trees to beautify their landscape, but this was different.

Do you recognize these plants? It’s a very interesting choice for a grocery store.

How about a closer look?

If you guessed tomato, you’re correct. I didn’t see any ripe fruit, or even any decent sized green tomatoes, but that didn’t surprise me.

It’s still pretty hot here, and not many varieties of tomatoes will set fruit at these temps.

I do have to say that I was impressed by how good these plants look. 

Mine have usually succumbed to mildew, blight, or some other ailment by now.

In about a month or so, they should be overrun by tomatoes.

Anybody else in Florida have tomato plants that look this good?

My front flower planting has filled in nicely, so I’ll share some of those hardy souls with you soon.

It’s almost time for fall plantings, and I am looking forward to that!

Ever feel like a vase of wilted flowers?

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I’ve been pretty sick lately.

The 103.6 F fever kind of sick.

It’s no fun waking up so hot you’re panting as you breathe. That’s legit fever right there.

I had energy for sleeping and sipping water, that’s about it.

Amoxicillin took a while to kick in, but I was so grateful my husband encouraged me to go get seen.

You know you must not be feeling well when you’re the second name on the sign in sheet.

I’d say I’m about at 70%, which is a huge improvement over this time last week! 

Maybe tomorrow I’ll tackle the looming pile of ironing, but for now it can wait. 

After all, it has waited this long, what’s a little longer?๐Ÿ™‚

Bright Spots in the August Garden

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Bright Spots in the August Garden

I’m planning to start over in the fall, but for now I’m going to emphasize the positive.

Like these peppy little flowers. These little black eyed Susans are great. I was expecting them to be much bigger, but they are so sweet.

Aren’t these the cutest little tomatoes you’ve seen? I’m going to save seeds and plant more. If I start seeds this month, they should be ready for the fall garden.

I’m still picking muscadine grapes from my backyard. They’re growing wild up some trees, and I have been enjoying them fresh.

Picked this beauty this morning. I saw a yummy recipe with eggplant, tomatoes, and cheeses that I may try.

I usually dice eggplant, sautรฉ it with garlic, then add it to a veggie scramble; but I may branch out this time. 

What’s going on in your garden? Any plans for a fall garden?

How to Decorate a Buttercream Flower Cake with Russian Piping Tips

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If you’ve been following my blog recently,  you know I recently got a very nice set of Russian piping tips. In my previous post, I shared some advice for using them, but here I’ll break down decorating that cake and tell you about the colors.

I decided to use shades of coral for this cake; I thought it would look nice against the brown mocha frosting.

I did a graduation cake  with coral peonies recently, and I loved the coral against the mocha.

I started with a bit of No-Taste Red and Golden Yellow and made the lightest colored flowers first, using a tulip tip.

Russian Piping tip

Then I darkened it a bit with more colors, and used the rose tip.

Can you tell I have an aversion to making lots of dishes? I just added more color and gave it a whirl in the mixer.๐Ÿ™‚

Russian Piping tip

Not sure what to call this last tip. Maybe another tulip? It makes pretty flowers though!

How to decorate a cake with Russian piping tips

A Wilton tip #352  with some Moss Green color finished out the design.

Those leaves are such a wonderful finishing touch! Love them!

Do you have any Russian piping tips yet? If you like to decorate cakes with flowers, they will totally change how you decorate a cake.

If you’re new to the Russian piping tips, be sure to check out my 5 tips for using them!

What do you think of the cake? Any more color scheme ideas for chocolate or mocha frosting? Maybe I should try white and pale green next time? Tell me what you think, I’d love to hear your ideas!

5 Pointers For Using Russian Piping Tipsย 

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5 Pointers For Using Russian Piping Tipsย 

So my husband surprised me by ordering a mega set of the Russian piping tips. I was so excited!

It even came with some of the Russian ball tips, which make ruffled cupcake tops easily. It also came with some basic tips, only in a larger size. The really big petal tips are fun too.

What was of most interest to me was the all in one flower tips. With just one tip, you can make a flower quickly, without a flower nail, without changing tips!

Here’s my 5 tips for using these great decorating tools.

1. Make plenty of frosting; the tips are huge! See how big they are compared to a typical Wilson tip. I used a large Ateco coupler for them.

Size of Russian piping tip

2. Make your frosting really stiff so the petals will hold their shape. I used a classic buttercream. 

3. Don’t be afraid to pack the flowers closely together. The smaller you make the spaces between the flowers, the better it will look at the end. 

4. When you start squeezing the frosting out, be sure the frosting is anchored to the cake before you really start squeezing out the flower and pulling up. Stop squeezing when it’s as tall as you want, and carefully lift the tip straight up off the flower.

5. Adding leaves at the end really pulls it all together. I love a Wilton tip #352 for leaves. I used Wilton’s Moss Green color for the cake above because I think it looks more natural.

How to use Russian Piping tips

I’ll be posting how I decorated this cake soon- so if you want or know what tips I used and what I mixed to get those shades, check back tomorrow!

Remember, you can like Coffee to Compost on Facebook or subscribe to me via email too.๐Ÿ™‚

Do you have these tips yet? What do you think of them?

Foraging for Muscadine Grapes in My Backyard

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If you have grape vines near you, it’s time to check them!

Foraging for Muscadine Grapes

I just had some of the sweetest grapes that I have ever tasted.

I took a colander and collected all these yummy fruits.๐Ÿ™‚

Maybe I’ll make some jam with the next batch, but I think these will be consumed quickly!

I had to zoom in to get a shot of all these grapes far above my head. Any suggestions for how to get them? Besides borrowing a ladder? 

So near, and yet so far. 

The taste of a sun-warmed perfectly ripe muscadine grapes is marvelous! Let me know if you find some!

So I Drank a Shrub Today

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It was scratchy. And really, really, really fibrous. 

Kidding. Do you know what a shrub is? A blueberry shrub drink, specifically? 

I had never heard of such a thing until I was looking though the book, PutEm Up! Fruit.

My blueberry shrub started out with blueberry vinegar.

I made my blueberry vinegar with delicious late season berries from Touchablue Farm.

The first time I tried it I used 3 tablespoons of vinegar and added about a teaspoon of sugar. 

The second time, I filled a pint jar with ice cubes, 2 tablespoons of blueberry vinegar, and poured club soda over the top. It seemed better that way, or maybe I just knew what to expect.๐Ÿ™‚

If you’re expecting something similar to blueberry soda you’ll be disappointed. 

I know I was. The vinegar flavor is pretty strong.

Reminded me of my high school days when I drank apple cider vinegar to try to lose weight. I remember holding my nose and gulping down tablespoons of the stuff.

Is it as good as an iced coffee? No, but not much can beat that.

These might be kinda good for you.

Better than soda, anyway.

Any suggestions for how to use up my remaining 20 ounces of blueberry vinegar?

Please give me some yummy ideas, otherwise I’m going to  feel obligated to keep chugging pints of shrubs.

Maybe I’ll learn to like them.๐Ÿ™‚