Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gardening at Night

Not really. I just love that R.E.M. song.

But since I brought it up … my garden is starting to shape up nicely here in Central Pennsylvania. I have herbs and flowers and lettuce and edamame all planted in this lovely raised bed that my husband “built” for me a few years back:


To the left, he has radishes planted; and those willows in the back, he started as sprigs from my brother-in-law’s tree.

I’m also experimenting with two TopsyTurvy® planters that my mom gave me as a gift:

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In the one on the left, I’ve planted a Better Boy tomato, and in the one on the right, cherry tomatoes for my son to enjoy.

But the real stars of my garden are plants no one will care about as much as I do. Like this mint:


…because it reminds me daily of my grandfather — who long ago left us for Heaven. He used to wear just one sprig of mint above his ear, I’m told because the smell stayed with him all day long. My father followed suit as far back as I can remember, and until the day he died as well.

And this beautiful hosta…


It too originated with my grandfather — in his garden, actually. Each move my family has made, we’ve taken a piece of the plant along to put into the garden of our new address. A literal piece of my past.

My grandfather, Ralph. What can I tell you about him? He died when I was a few days  short of five years old. He “came over on the boat” from Italy, settling just north of New York City in Westchester County, New York. His marriage was arranged, as they all were back then, and he and his wife, Marietta, were the proud parents of three children: Philomena (we know and love her as Aunt Fan), Frank (my dad), and Barbara (who you know from past posts and Mom’s party).

My grandfather was a hard worker, a concrete mason and a builder … and he constructed many of the beautiful homes that now grace Harrison, New York. We will drive from my aunt’s house to my cousin’s house, and they’ll say, “Poppy built that house ... and that one … and that one…”

That’s what we called him. Poppy.

Poppy was a quiet man … a good man. Even though I only knew him when I was young, I have fond memories of his visits to our home in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania. We would walk the sidewalks together, just he and I, and he would hold my hand.

I don’t know much about having grandfathers. My mother’s father was long gone when I was born, and Poppy was around for only a short time in my life. And my children have inherited the same fate — both their grandfathers gone before they were even born. I often wonder what it’s like to have had a grandfather into at least your 20s or 30s. Share that with me, please, in the Comments below. I’d love to hear your stories.

5-24-2010 4;43;07 PMIn the meantime, I’m challenged to offer a recipe. My mother tells me that on Friday nights, Poppy liked to cook Lobster Fri Diablo, with spaghetti on the side. He also enjoyed making escargots … and he was a grill man, through and through, constructing his own grill in his backyard. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of that grill, or copies of any of his recipes.

What I can offer is a tradition, started by my grandfather … the tradition of “the drink.” You see, when my brother Ralph (named for my grandfather) was born, Poppy picked a “spirit” in his honor – Chartreuse. They drank it at my brother’s Christening, at his Communion, at every important occasion in his life. When Nick was born, Poppy chose Drambuie for him. For me, it was Tia Maria. (Did you expect anything else?)

My brothers followed in the tradition, choosing a "drink” for each of their children, and of course, being a fan of any good spirit, my husband heartily agreed to do the same when our children came along (like he really had any choice anyway). For Joe we chose one of my favorites, Bailey’s Irish Cream. For Maggie, we went high class with Godiva White Chocolate liqueur. I love this tradition. It’s different … it’s special … and it started with my grandfather.

Years ago, a coworker of my brother Ralph offered up a great homemade version of Bailey’s. (I know it’s a stretch, but it’s a great and tested recipe, so humor me.) With thanks to “Patty,” I give that recipe to you today … in honor of all good grandfathers everywhere, and especially mine, who started a “way-cool” tradition and is missed dearly by many people every single day, almost 41 years later. Io ti amerò per sempre, Poppy.


Patty’s Irish Cream
(Click here to view and print recipe)





Patty's Irish Cream on Foodista


CraigS said...

I love this recipe. Been making it for a long time. You should have posted this last week to remind me of it! I made Guinness and Bailey's cupcakes on Saturday and would have been cool to make everything ... except the Guinness.

Allie and Pattie said...

Ooooh I make Irish cream too!! The best!!
xoxo Pattie

nitte said...

This beautiful garden,i like how we care very beautiful.Hello from Italia!!!Good also bayles.

Donna F, said...

ahhhhhhhhhhh Tia Maria! Seems we created a few of our own occasions so that we could celebrate with Tia Maria!

Wendy said...

We are going to need to give your Irish Cream a try!!!
Maria, Your garden is awesome! I love how it is a raised bed! Of course you know if you have extra's we're just around the corner!! We could trade some strawberry pie for some mint :)

Beth said...

What a nice story about your grandfather. I didn't know my mother's dad very well, he lived in Baltimore most of my life, but he called me Bethalene,which I thought was beautiful (when I was little). The other gradfather was not so nice, he died when I was in my early thirties. Memories from him are not so great.