Socca, A Niçoise Specialty

Socca being made and baked over a fire at
the Marché Provençal, Antibes, France.
March 2012.
Freshly baked, piping hot socca
is a Niçoise specialty
made from chickpea flour and olive oil.

Socca is a specialty of the area of France around the city of Nice on the Côte d'Azur. At the Marché Provençal in Antibes, we enjoyed a piping hot socca made over a fire. For only two Euros ($2.67), my husband and I shared the socca.  Made from chickpea flour and olive oil, it has to be healthy, right?

This was my first taste of socca as there are always long lines of customers waiting for these pancakes to come out of the oven.

If you're interested in making socca at home, here's a recipe from David Lebovitz, an American pastry chef and cookbook author, who lives in Paris.

Hot work!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Garden Inspiration: White Garden Vignettes

1.  Jenny's White Garden at Fearrington Village.
Pittsboro, North Carolina. March 2012
2.  Duke Gardens, Duke University.
Durham, North Carolina. July 2011
3.  Duke Gardens. July 2011
4.  Central Park, New York City. June 2011
5.  Musée des Impressionismes, Giverny, France. May 2009.
6.  In a Paris, France park. April 2011
Sprinkles, masses or entire gardens—the use of white flowers can be a huge success or a total fail. These six inspirations were gathered on visits to gardens at home and abroad.

  1. Jenny's White Garden at Fearrington Village changes with the seasons. Since this is located only five minutes from my home, I've seen the changes. In early spring, the white blooms are primarily daffodils and other spring bulbs.
  2. I've seen the Page-Rollins White Garden at Duke Gardens only in the heat of July where it was splendid in the 90+°F heat of the summer sun. There are succulents, perennials and annuals as well as foliage plants. I've not located a list of their plantings as this section of the garden is very new.
  3. The yucca container in the center was surrounded by sweet alyssum, a plant that I grow from seed that overwintered here in my zone7b garden during our mild winter of 2011.
  4. White hydrangeas and large, blue hostas provided a cool vignette in the shade on a hot June day in Central Park, New York City.
  5. For more information on the black and white flower garden, see my story about the Musée des Impressionismes in Giverny, France.
  6. Walking through a random park in Paris, France, I photographed these white tulips underplanted with white forget-me-nots.
For my own garden, I've started a small vignette using phlox 'David', Japanese iris 'Mount Fuji', sweet alyssum and snapdragon 'La Bella' white. A nandina 'Alba' is the only shrub. I've sown seeds for white moon vine to climb the fence behind this grouping. Outside the fence, three large oakleaf hollies provide the dark green backdrop.  I'm looking forward to seeing the results.

I love fragrance and there are some white flowers that do not disappoint! The sweet alyssum smells like honey. Ginger, gardenia, jasmine and sweet bay magnolia are other fragrant plants in my garden.

With hot summers, the idea of enjoying the garden in evenings with cool temperatures is hugely appealing. White flowers can add sparkling magic to a garden in the evening. Added fragrance and good paths for meandering in the dark enhance the experience.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Baking Biscotti

I faced and conquered a fear. On a January evening, I was bored with reading the Internet and watching TV. I avoided reading a novel because I was writing a novel and didn't want someone else's fictional work to influence my own. I needed a challenge that was creative and different. It was time to attempt to bake biscotti!

Biscotti is a twice-baked Italian biscuit. The "twice-baked" aspect is what seemed daunting to me. Every time I took a bite of a biscotti from a bakery, restaurant or store, I was in envy of the baker behind the product. How difficult can it be?

Ingredients in my kitchen led to my choice of a recipe. I had almonds and dried cherries on hand. Finding a Williams-Sonoma® recipe for hazelnut and dried cherry biscotti was close enough. I didn't want to go out and purchase more ingredients, so I substituted almonds for the hazelnuts. Other than the substitution, I followed the recipe, adjusting my oven temperature down by twenty-five degrees to use the convection baking option.

I was so pleased with the results! There was nothing difficult about baking biscotti except for allowing the amount of time to cool between baking. The tasty slices stored well but didn't last long as my husband and I enjoyed the biscotti with our coffee...that I can no longer drink...but, that's another story. I now drink decaffeinated ginger tea for breakfast.

Go ahead and bake a batch of biscotti!

(All photos were taken with my iPhone. Click any photo to view enlarged in a slideshow.)
Biscotti after first baking.
I used parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
After cooling,
cut slices diagonally and turn on sides.
Bake for the second time.
Let biscotti cool again.
Shake off loose crumbs and store
in airtight container.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

12 Places To Experience 'The Hunger Games' In North Carolina - What's New In NC – North Carolina Travel & Tourism

Yes, the Hunger Games movie was filmed right here in North Carolina!

Take a look at the link to the official tourism website,, if you're interested in visiting the locations. Scenes were filmed in the beautiful western part of our state, including DuPont State Recreational Forest for the "arena" and below the Craggy Pinnacle Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

12 Places To Experience 'The Hunger Games' In North Carolina - What's New In NC – North Carolina Travel & Tourism

There is even a suggestion for a 4 day itinerary on VisitNC.

An article on Huffington Post® provides a good overview of the travel options here in North Carolina.

Are you going to see the movie?
Did you read the books?

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

The Gravel Garden Expansion

We're rocking around the garden again! After the April 2011 gravel garden project proved to be such a success, we were shoveling and raking again on the first sunny days of a very early spring. I have to be more specific with the work credit—my husband did the heavy hauling and shoveling and I raked the gravel to smooth it into place.

We did nothing to the last year's garden (photo below, click to enlarge) except raked it a bit and tugged out a few weeds that were easy to pull. All the shoveling and raking work of the last week was done to extend the use of gravel in the front entrance, upgrade the path through the deer resistant garden and create a Zen-inspired garden where a chaste tree was removed.

The gravel garden/guest parking on 15 March 2012.
View is looking toward driveway from the garden gate.
Constructed in April 2011.
The Pros of Using Gravel

My husband is an enthusiastic supporter of gravel projects because he is in charge of mulching. Over the  years, the application of hardwood mulch had to be repeated at least twice a year. That was a lot of work and expense. Voles love to tunnel under the hardwood mulch and they were slipping into the garden and devouring nearly every root they found. In Winter 2010, the vole damage was devastating! In Winter 2011, after we'd increased gravel mulch, the vole damage was ZERO!  Of course, we still use  hardwood and compost mulch in some garden spaces.

The maintenance of the gravel garden has been easy and I certainly needed to downsize my work! We've not added gravel to last year's locations and the weeding was minimal. We use a wide plastic rake and a battery-operated blower to keep the gravel clean. The ground beneath the gravel stays relatively moist, making it easy to pull weeds (and flower seedlings). In fact, I easily wiggled out larkspur, poppy and nigella seedlings that were then transplanted into proper spaces in the garden beds.

We mulch Japanese irises, monarda, nepeta, salvia greggii, perennial heliotrope, amsonia hubrichtii, rosemary, sedum, buddleia, crape myrtle and hollies with gravel. When I left the irises and monarda in place last year, I was sure that the perennials would bake and die since the gravel garden is in a southwest location. However, the opposite happened! I never once provided supplemental watering to any of the gravel garden plants during the summer drought. The gravel is permeable, allowing water to slowly seep into the soil. The gravel then reflects the sunlight, keeping the soil shaded and moist far better than hardwood mulch.

The gravel makes it easy to walk in the garden year-round. It is especially nice on moonlit nights!

The Cons of Using Gravel

Not everyone likes the look and it's difficult to remove gravel once it is in place. While I'd love to use an expensive pea gravel for a prettier look, the cost is prohibitive, tripling the price of what we are using. The gravel that we use is $50 per CUBIC yard.

You must keep the edges separated from grass. Grass will creep and crawl across the top of gravel, so using edging will help keep the grass at bay. We use a flexible metal edging (dark brown color) that is easy to drive into soil using the provided stakes and a rubber mallet. If you've got rock beneath your soil, it will be more difficult.

You must have a way to keep the gravel from washing away during heavy rains. We have buried French drains around our entire garden perimeter, uphill from all of our gravel.

Entry Garden: 15 March 2012.
View is from the gravel/guest parking
looking toward cottage garden gate.
Container gardens will be placed on the
right side of the existing flagstone walk.
The Gravel Garden Expansion Projects

Entry Garden: We removed the unwanted plants and hardwood mulch on either side of the flagstone walk that leads to the cottage garden gate. In areas where we want in-ground plants, we do not use landscape fabric beneath the gravel. Sedum and dusty miller are at the base of a crape myrtle (on the left behind birdbath). I am going to use container gardens, placed on top of the gravel on the right side. Nepeta, crape myrtle, Japanese irises, amsonia and a clumping bamboo remain planted in the ground.

Deer Resistant Garden Path: We set aside our existing flagstone while we worked. We hammered the flexible brown metal edging in the ground. The edging curves along the bottom of the deer resistant garden on the slope on the right side. On the left side, around the carrisa hollies and the crape myrtles, we replaced hardwood mulch with gravel to integrate with the new path. We raked the gravel into place and then placed our flagstones on top.

Deer Resistant Garden Path: March 2012.
Hollies and crape myrtles mulched
with gravel while metal edging
keeps the gravel out of the thickly planted
deer resistant garden on the right.
Zen-inspired Gravel Garden: After seeing a Karesansui garden at Villa Ephrussi in France, I wanted to create a similar space here at home. At the willow tree on the far end of the deer resistant front garden, there is a left turn on the outside of the cottage garden, east side of the house.

In that location, we had a large chaste tree that littered the ground with millions of seedlings each year. The seedlings were horrible to pull, requiring a shovel for the long roots. (We transplanted a few offspring out into our grassy meadow where they can no longer cause a problem in the garden.) Removing the large tree freed up my space for the Zen-inspired gravel garden.

While it is still a work in progress (I want to add evergreen hollies behind the pagoda and find more large rocks for the edges), we're already enjoying this tranquil space. An existing clumping bamboo (fargesia variety) was left in place.

Osmanthus fragrans provide a green, fragrant wall on the left side. Another osmanthus fragrans on the right side creates the entrance to the this garden after passing the willow tree and a garden space filled with red monarda 'Jacob Kline' and crocosmia 'Lucifer'. I must say that the fragrance from the osmanthus is heavenly right now! We moved our curved concrete bench to the space to provide a place to sit. The willow tree, large oakleaf hollies and osmanthus provide afternoon shade.

Zen-inspired Gravel Garden:
work still in progress, March 2012.

Early spring is the perfect time for construction projects. While the edging looks stark right now, the plants will grow and flourish to soften the edges as the garden wakes up from winter, fills in, greens up and blooms. We have some tweaking to do as the gravel settles. We'll level out the flagstones and rake the gravel again after a few rains. Then, we'll enjoy the new space year-round.

Powered by Blogger.

Popular Posts