Right now, my garden is aflame with a brilliant butterfly weed, orange-smoothie hibiscus flowers with hearts of blood, pink and white echinacea blooms, pink and yellow dahlias, snow-white daisies and yellow daisies, lavender clematis and delicately hued hollyhocks, to name just a few.
Desi and I bought our fixer-upper home during the hot housing market of 2005. In other words, we paid too much for a house that needed more work than our wallets could handle. But we fell in love with the 1925 Sears Home-- a charmer with its historic trim and spacious rooms. We thought our three dogs would love the large (for the Washington-area) backyard shaded by a towering Holly and a beautiful Oak.
Over the years, we have worked to make it our home. For the first few years, weekends were taken over by "house" work-- Desi spent hours on a ladder steaming the walls and scraping painted-off wallpaper from every single room. I learned all about staining wood floors and spackling and sealing superficial cracks in the ancient but still beautiful plaster. Both of us became such quick painters that we joked about starting a business.
Our old house is certainly a money pit. We have spent nearly extra penny we had hiring people to do the work we couldn't do-- repair the broken-down chimney, waterproof the basement, replace the nearly century-old water pipes and a kitchen that was as old as the house itself, add a fence to keep our rambunctious doggies in, among many, many other projects.
With all of our attention focused on the house, the yard suffered. When we bought the house it had been a nice enough yard, with a neat lawn and a few flowering plants, mostly hostas and day lilies. Under attack from three dogs, it soon began to show signs of wear and tear. So this year, although our house project is far from complete, I've decided to take the yard in hand. As anyone who knows anything about gardening knows, that's a lofty project for the best of yards, and especially for one in the shape that ours is.
Let me backtrack here, though. I haven't neglected everything (just the lawn and the edging and the weeding and...okay, let's not make a list). But I have been planting some perennials assiduously each year and now, year after year, they have been returning and rewarding us with some beautiful color. We have also planted flowering trees and bushes over the ashes of our three beloved pets because, honestly, we didn't know what else to do with them and I didn't want the ashes in the home-- it just seemed so...morbid.
We shared our brilliant idea with the guy at the nursery who assured us that the ashes would do the plants a world of good. So Freddie's now a brilliant-red crepe myrtle who is about to flower for his third year, Pubm's a delicately beautiful rhododendron who bursts into lavender blooms with deep-purple centers every spring, and Lucy's a stunning pink rose.
They still make me happy when I look out the window and see them smiling in the sun.
***I had a couple of overripe bananas hanging out in the kitchen and I put them to good use with these delicious Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting.
This is a very easy cupcake to make and you likely already have all the ingredients you will need sitting around. The two bananas in the recipe give it just the right hint of banana flavor, although if you want a more intense experience try adding three bananas and reducing the liquid in the recipe.
The peanut butter frosting is mindblowingly good, and it pairs rather naturally and beautifully with the bananas. I added some coconut oil to both the cupcakes and the frosting which made these cupcakes even more amazing, if that was possible, and kept the frosting really smooth.
Try 'em. You're gonna love it!
Looking for more vegan cakes and cupcakes?
Vegan Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
For the banana cupcakes:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup ripe bananas (about 2 large bananas, very ripe. If you want an intense banana flavor, use 1 1/2 cups of banana puree-- about 3 large bananas-- and reduce the amount of nondairy milk to 1/2 cup)
- 1 cup almond milk (can use any nondairy milk)
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Make the Banana Cupcakes:
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
- Mix the wet ingredients -- the mashed bananas, the nondairy milk, coconut oil, sugar and vanilla -- in another bowl.
- Pour the well-mixed ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until you have a smooth batter. Do not overmix.
- Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners. Divide the batter equally between the cups. Smooth down the tops and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 25-27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
- Remove the cupcakes to a rack, let them cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then unmold and let them cool completely on the rack. These cupcakes are gorgeously golden.
- Make the Peanut Butter Frosting:
- Cream together the peanut butter, vegan butter, and coconut oil until they are smooth and fluffy, about two minutes.
- Slowly add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix well after each addition. If the frosting is too stiff, you can add a little more coconut oil.
- Frost the cupcakes once they have cooled completely.