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Homemade Pretzels

I haven't made homemade pretzels since we were in Alabama and I had forgotten how easy they are if not a little time consuming. I made these last week for Oscar night. They keep a long time in an airtight container. 1   (.25 ounce) package   active dry yeast 1 tablespoons   brown sugar 1  teaspoons   salt 1 ½   cups   warm water (110 degrees) 3   cups   all-purpose flour 1   cup   bread flour 2   cups   warm water (110 degrees) 2   tablespoons   baking soda 1-2   tablespoons   butter, melted 2   tablespoons  kosher salt Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Place the yeast, brown sugar and salt in the 1.5 cups of warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in the flour. Knead for about 7-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and cover. Let it rise for an hour (I place mine in the oven with the light on). Combine the two cups of warm water with the baking soda in a square shallow pan. After the dough has risen, cut it into 12 equal pieces.  Roll each section into a

Gardening books for Christmas

It is almost 75 degrees here today with a balmy breeze and storms predicted for tonight. I spent some time out on the patio with the cats reading and enjoying the weather. And speaking of reading, I got some great gardening books for Christmas. Michael spoils me rotten by whittling down my Amazon Wish List every year (or maybe I've just been a really good boy). Here is my haul this year:

The Gardens of Russell Page by Marina Schinz - I would hope that all avid gardeners will have read Russell Page's classic 1962 book The Education of a Gardener (if you haven't, shame on you!). The influential garden designer created fantastic gardens all over the world. Sadly, many of them are no longer in existence. This book profiles some of the ones that are still remaining. It is a gorgeous book and the photographs are fantastic.

The Garden at Hidcote by Fred Whitsey. I've never been to Hidcote or even England for that matter but when my feet do touch English soil one day, this will be one of my first destinations. I have read a lot about Hidcote and its creator Lawrence Johnston but never anything in this much detail. I can't wait to start this one.

Shade: Ideas and Inspiration for Shady Gardens by Keith Wiley. Our garden is getting shadier so I need some inspiration. I'm determined to solve the problem with the area behind the garage this year so maybe this book will give me some ideas. The photos are wonderful.

Easy Container Gardens by Pamela Crawford. I stumbled upon this book while browsing at Barnes & Noble while we were on vacation. Great illustrations for dramatic containers.

American Horticultural Society Pruning & Training by David Joyce. When it comes to pruning, I need all the help I can get. I've heard great reviews about this book and I'm happy to have it in my collection. I'm sure it will get a lot of use.

I got some other books as well. 80 Years of Oscar by Robert Osborne. I'm crazy about the Oscars and I try to get this book every five years when it is updated.

Cookbooks are always on my list! Baking is my forte but I do want to learn to cook everyday food. Martha Stewart's Cooking School is supposed to help. In the meantime, I'll still be making desserts. I'm sure Crazy About Cupcakes by Krystina Castella will be a fun diversion when I need a break from learning how to make that frittata from Martha.


  1. Looks like a great stack of books to read!

    Hidcote is on my list, too. I've been to Kew Gardens and Hampton Court... need to see more of the UK.

    Glad you had a nice holiday.

  2. I am feeling a bit of book envy Phillip. You must have been a very good boy.

    That book about purning would get worn out here. I am not very good at pruning so I would be checking in it often.

    The wind has now taken over our world. It was so warm here today too. I went outside for awhile wishing all our lawn furniture wasn't put away for the season. There are always a few nice days during winter that I can sit outside. Today was one such day.

  3. My brother gave me The Education of a Gardener for Christmas, and I can't wait to crack it. I gave myself a trip to England for my 40th birthday and Hidcote was on the agenda. We saw lots of lovely gardens, but this one was the best. We had soaking downpours during our visit to Hidcote, but that did not stop me from enjoying this marvelous garden.

  4. Phillip,

    Not a garden book at all this year! But I did get to buy my own...I am reading about fungi and mushrooms. A Paul Stamets book...Mycellium Running. Not as many pretty pictures as yours!

    I will be interested to see what you do with shade...that is primarily what I have in the area I cleaned the honeysuckle from...

    Happy New Year Phillip to you both!


  5. Merry Christmas Phillip! I can't think of a better gift. I love reading online, but nothing compares to having physical possession of a good book. I unfortunately didn't get any books for Christmas so I bought my own.
    Happy Reading and Happy New Year to the both of you.

  6. What a treasure trove of books! "The Education of a Gardener" was one of the first garden books I read, and I love his gardens. Martha has the best recipes...everything I have made of hers has been just perfect...very Martha!
    Happy New Year!

  7. What a wonderful haul you made! I'm ashamed to write I've never read The Education of a Gardener, but it is now on my Amazon wishlist. Glad you had a great Christmas.~~Dee

  8. Your list is not so different than mine just change the gardening books to Elizabeth Lawrence and you have my list. I made bookmarks from old calendars this year to keep my place for the many sources of goodies.

    Happy New Year and you deserve to be spoiled.

  9. I have to remember that Amazon wishlist next year . . .

  10. Wow, that's a nice book haul. And 75 degrees?! I'm swooning, but that may just be the cold air here in MI cutting off my circulation! My ctas also like to sit with me when I read, but they seem to have a Human Illiteracy Campaign in which they like to sit on whatever I'm reading!
    ~ Monica

  11. Wonderful books. The winter is when I most appreciate my garden books. I only got one book this year, something like Annuals for the Connoisseur. Happy reading!

  12. A great collection. Do you also have my favorite? The American Horticultual Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants.
    At 1090 pages, it's my go to bible for finding plants.

  13. Happy New Year, Phillip! I received DiSabato-Aust's Mixed Garden book, as well as two on identifying desert plants (I'm constantly bugging my family, "what's this one? what's that one?") Hidcote's on my list, too--I've seen Kew, but not Hidcote or Sissinghurst. Wish I could taste those cupcakes . . .


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