Pink Blossoms

Remember the surprise flowers I found in my garden recently? These flowers were another sort of surprise.

I have been checking on this plant daily, waiting for the flower buds to open up. My vigilance was rewarded! So what’s the surprise? Until I started my gardening this year, I didn’t even know this bush was there. A patch of red valerian had grown up over it — I almost trampled this bush in my first round of weeding this year.

I also discovered the same plant near the back walk of the garden, but with deep red flower buds. I’m hoping those will be next …

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Haleem

This may look like an innocent bowl of porridge. Perhaps nicely cooked oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon on top. But I am here to tell you: Do not be fooled, my friends. This is haleem (حلیم‎).

I have listened to my husband tell the tale of haleem for a while now. He told me all about his favorite breakfast, how it is warm and filling and tastes like home. And finally he got the recipe from his mother and decided to make it himself.

Thankfully, I knew enough about haleem to be sufficiently wary. (A friend was not so prepared when he was served haleem at his in-laws house.) You see, haleem includes lamb. Lamb. In breakfast food.

I discovered my husband’s plans when he brought home a lamb neck from the grocery store. (One bonus of living in Wales is clearly the abundance of lamb in the stores here. My husband loves this. I, however, was raised in Iowa and much prefer beef and pork. Don’t tell my in-laws.) The other main ingredient is bulgur wheat. So he set about to cooking this up, pounding the cooked lamb with a pestle, mixing it together, and finally topping it all with a healthy spoonful of melted butter and cinnamon.

I tried to give it a fair chance, I promise. But while my eyes and nose made me hope for the sweet oatmeal I know and love, that hint of lamb turned my stomach. Let’s just say my husband has had enough haleem to keep him thinking of home for days.

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Barberry

We’ve been keeping a fairly close eye on this tree. It’s tall and when its orange flowers started budding we could see them every time we looked out the window. I was just waiting for the flowers to start opening — and this weekend my watchfulness was rewarded.

We’re pretty sure this tree is a Berberis darwinii, or Darwin’s barberry. We got excited at that discovery, wondering about the tree’s fruit. Berberis vulgaris is another barberry species that produces zereshk, a sour dried fruit that’s used in a tasty Iranian rice dish called zereshk polo (nomnomnom). I’m not sure what the Darwin’s barberry will turn out like, but despite our freezer overflowing with zereshk I’m going to watch for it so I can give it a try.

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How does your garden grow?

I tried to get an earlier start on my garden this year, and so far it’s paying off. I am pulling out old growth (like the brambles that thrived behind all the hedge bushes last summer) and keeping the weeds from taking over. And because I’m spending so much time in the garden, I’m noticing all the little changes — like this bush (I think it’s Spiraea nipponica, or “Snowmound”) going from tiny budding leaves last month to being fully covered in little white flowers now.

Spirea bush - flowers

Walking the Little Orme

Most people who visit Llandudno focus on the Great Orme. It looms over the town, and there are so many ways to enjoy it: driving around the edge on Marine Drive, walking up to the top, taking the tram or the cable car. It certainly held my attention for many months.

But as you walk along the promenade in Llandudno, you may notice the Little Orme sitting at the other end of the bay. Although only minutes away by car, it seems like a distant land:

Little Orme from Llandudno

We finally decided to explore the Little Orme over Easter weekend. It happened more or less by chance — I had suggested an inland walk and my husband had convinced me to walk farther down the coast, but as we drove toward that trail we ran into increasingly thick fog. I had been looking forward to a sunny afternoon adventure, so we turned around and chased the sun into Llandudno. Having already explored most of the Great Orme, we settled on a completely unplanned walk around the Little Orme.

As it turned out, the fog had found its way to us:

Fog rolling over the sheep on the Little Orme

But we walked on, and we found ourselves surrounded by the smell of coconut. It caught me completely off guard until I realized it was coming from the gorse flowers around us:

Gorse on the Little Orme

As we walked over the hill and down toward the bay side of the Little Orme, we encountered the fog in full force:

North Wales Path - Little Orme

The most amazing part was how every cliff turned into the most dramatic drop-off you’d ever seen, simply because the fog hid whatever lay beyond the edge. We caught sight of a rainbow in the fog and my husband captured this panorama:

Rainbow at the edge of the world - Little Orme

Although I knew — based on the trail and the voices I heard rising out of the mist — that there was ground below the edge of those cliffs, it really felt like standing at the edge of the world. But down we went, descending into a layer of fog right at the edge of the water.

And finally, like waking from a dream, we walked out of the park, out of the fog, and back toward our car in the full afternoon sun.