Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Meeting

The March 10 meeting of the Genesee County Herb Society was held at Carman-Ainsworth Senior Center.
Our president Ulrike updated information on our participation in Garden Day at Heavenly Scent Herb Farm:  we will be located in the various demonstration gardens, the Matthews will be giving a free plant for every guest, and there will be refreshments. Sounds like fun!
 Ulrike sent around the Frontier catalog for orders. Norma and Ulrike will get together to order teabags for our Tea. Ulrike mentioned ordering lavender to fill both cellophane and cloth bags which are big sellers at the Ladies Night Out sale at Crossroads Village in November. Ulrike also mentioned that she will order Cinnamon, Cloves, and Orris Root, so we can get a head start on making pomanders for decorating the Eldridge House for the holidays, which is in November.

Mark your calendars! Norma Jones reminded us that our annual Tea is scheduled for our regular second Thursday meeting night, September 8, 2011.  Norma reported that she found a guest speaker for our Tea, which should provide us with a timely theme: Jim and Wilma Dodder, local beekeepers who own Bees and Berries, will present a program on beekeeping and honey and wax related products. Their business is located on 744 N. State Rd., just north of Davison.

Ladies’ Night Out: We were again reminded to look for teacups with saucers, not mugs, for the sale. If everyone brings at least one, we'll have a good selection for our "deer widow" shoppers.

Michigan Herb Associates 2012 Herb of the Year will be The Rose. Lois Meldrum reported that she would like to have a committee to spend this year collecting interesting information about roses to share at our outreach table at next year's conference (in March).

Herb Study: Milli sent a parsley plant along with Joanne Belill, and Joanne provided information on parsley, Petroselinum crispum.

Our Speaker, on "Crafting Creative Garden Pots" was our own Norma Jones, who teaches various crafts for the Flint Community Education program, and occasionally sells her work at craft shows in the area. She showed us various projects she's created, including painted and mosaic covered pots and containers, and she included lots of tips and hints about how she does her art work.

First, Norma showed us one pot I particularly liked, which was a mosaic of colored broken glass glued on a clay pot with a glue made for mosaic work.

She had several containers and pots from the dollar store, made of plastic and wood, that she decorated with different painting techniques (Norma is an expert painter.) She recommended up to three thin coats of glaze on these.

Norma recommends using enamel paints from the craft store for outdoor decorative painting. Enamel paints have an E on the lid to make finding them easier. Enamel paint has the advantage of drying to a nice hard finish.

She also uses acrylic based 'patio paints' - the textured type is particularly nice looking - and she seals them with an outdoor rated clear glaze. Enamel paints need a chemical medium for thinning and clean up, whereas acrylic paints can be thinned with water, or used with other mediums.

Norma showed us an attractive container painted with a crackle medium. First the base coat is painted, then the crackle medium is painted over it "with a single swipe", and white acrylic is painted over the crackle medium. As it dries, the cracks appear. (I think thats how it works. Norma, please correct this if it's in error!)

She talked about her preference for an angled brush for getting into corners, and her preference for shading with the use of a "float" medium. She said she used transfer paper to trace her chosen designs onto the surface, and had several tips for the care of paint brushes. Never leave your brush point down in the rinse water, it will become misshapened. Instead, rinse it and shape the bristles into a point with your fingers. Norma recommends soaking in Simple Green cleaner if your brushes get clogged with dry paint.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

Sharon P. gave me this recipe to share from Lois M., who attended the Conference at the MSU campus in East Lansing. Horseradish is the Herb of the Year for 2011, and these mashed potatoes featuring horseradish were served at the conference banquet at the Kellogg Center. Lois mentioned some great horseradish-laced cheese spread, and some intriguing horseradish-encrusted pork chops. (I want THAT recipe!)

Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

(Make a pot of mashed potatoes and) stir in 1/2 cup finely grated fresh horseradish, and 1/2 cup sour cream.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

February meeting

(For a detailed account, after the minutes have been accepted at the March meeting, members may sign in to the Yahoo group and read the February meeting minutes, located under Files.)

Our plans for participating in a community outreach at Heavenly Scent Herb Farm are taking shape. The Fenton, Michigan business is celebrating its 23rd year in business and is planning a free Garden Party on Sunday, June 12, from 11 to 4. We will be in the gardens demonstrating various ways to use herbs, and showcasing the activities and talents of our group. In return, we will earn a donation of live plants from Heavenly Scent, to restore the gardens that we sponsor at Crossroads Village. Sounds like a win-win-win arrangement. Wish us good weather!

Our activity this month was an program about Tea,  Camellia sinensis, presented by members Lois Meldrum and Milli Paxton. They discussed the history and cultivation of tea, and how to prepare some of the various types of tea with plenty of tips and a tabletop full of tea samples and accoutrement. 

(For more information on Tea, check out the April, 2010 entry.)

I particularly liked seeing Lois' 1800's tea 'brick', a pressed brick of a pound of tea leaves that Lois told us once was worth an average week's wages and was used for money in older times.
One point Milli made, that I never really considered, is that kettles are used for heating the tea water, and tea pots are used for steeping the tea. I guess some modern gals don't know such things!
She also shared that different teas require differing temperatures of water: the stronger teas, like black needing a more rolling boil, while the more fresher, delicate types, like white or green need water that is not quite to the boil. The heartier teas also can take a longer steeping time.

Milli made the most delicious scones with a recipe she found in some literature from the Bigelow Tea Company. I do need that recipe:) Milli shared that she used a Berry flavored tea bag for flavoring, and dried currants. Lois told us of spreading the trimmed edges of tea sandwiches with a spread, such as mayonnaise, and then dipping the edge in chopped fresh herbs, for a special presentation.

And Lois gave some wonderful direction on setting up a personal tea "sanctuary" - a peaceful spot with a prepared tea tray, ready to use when needed. The spot should "call to you", with nothing that is not pleasing to the eye and the spirit. Along with the tea tray, Lois suggests having a chair and table, a book, a candle, or perhaps a bud vase for a fresh flower. (I'd like to add, maybe, a picture or a view.) The main thing is to have a place with relaxing surroundings to cultivate the spirit. Lois reminds us that taking out a little needed quality time for one's self will help us to be a better wife, mother, relation, friend.

It was a nice presentation to go along with our Tea themed evening. Our members each brought favorite teacups and saucers, and we all supplied the refreshment table with finger foods, and then we enjoyed our good company.

Hi all, 
I found a few of Lois' tea notes on the back of a recipe that she shared, so I thought you might like to read a few more of her most excellent thoughts about making your Tea a pleasant occasion for all ...

Cut your food one bite at a time, never all at once.

Do not use your silverware as a mirror to check your lipstick or teeth. Grooming should be reserved for the privacy of the powder room.

And finally, manners are a sensitive awareness of the feeling of others.
This last one says a lot, eh?

January Meeting

Big news! Ulrike reported that we have been invited to participate in an herbal garden outreach event on June 12, at a local Fenton herb farm. Stay tuned!

The Herb Study on Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, was presented by Norma Jones. We sampled sugar cookies flavored with some fresh rosemary that she found in her planter under the snow. There was a good discussion of rosemary, and Norma provided a handout with some recipes.

Here is Norma's recipe for Rosemary Roasted Walnuts
(makes 1 cup)

1 cup walnut pieces
1 Tblsp. olive oil
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine walnuts and olive oil, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper.
3. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from pan and cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

We rounded out the meeting by making Valentines to donate to a local nursing home.