Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Garden Envy

Garden Envy

In my travels, I visit gardens of all shapes and sizes and take tons of photos.  Always excited to visit my friends’ gardens, attend garden tours and visit local botanical gardens,  I just love to pick up new ideas and think about how I might apply new designs or planting combinations in my own gardens.   I am often as envious as I am inspired.  Here is a collection of some of the gardening ideas I admire:


Teri’s tomatoes were protected from early season hail under the hoops. They are so tall and healthy.



Dale’s potted tomatoes and trellised vegetables. Its a marvel what he accomplishes in a side yard.


My neighbors at Rosedale in 2014, Diane and Johanna Montague, had such a perfectly orderly spring garden. Beautiful!


Christine’s garden was already chock full of produce in late May – garlic, kale, berries, onions, greens, herbs. I loved how she used every square inch and had seedlings growing in egg cartons ready for hot season crops. Easthampton, MA



At Nate and Ashley’s 2013 wedding in New Richmond, WI, the reception was held at a local farm. The little garden next to the house was surrounded by flowers and very organic in it design.


My friend Mary’s squashes were trellised on these cool wooden structures. Hartland, WI. July 2017


Centennial Gardens, University of Wisconsin, Madison. I love the order of this planter although I am realistic enough to know that my plants won’t conform to such order.



I love the idea of a garden right outside the front door. The log Adirondack chairs, prayer flags and hollyhocks in the background all create a lovely vignette. Steamboat Springs Garden Tour, 2013.


Spring Garden with lots of space to grow up. Spinach in the foreground with tomatoes in wall of water. Ute Trails Garden, May 2017



A Tour and a Taste at Tabal Chocolate

A Tour and a Taste at Tabal Chocolate


During my recent visit home to Wisconsin, I had the opportunity to visit Tabal Chocolate, a business owned by my high school friend, Dan Bieser.  For nearly five years, I’ve followed Dan’s journey of sourcing cacao beans from Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Nicaragua for use in making his own custom chocolate all the way to the opening his first shop in our hometown of Wauwatosa earlier this year.   All through the miracle of our Facebook friendship!   He told me that when searching for a name for his business, he discovered the Mayan word “tabal” meaning relationship.  He thought it perfectly expressed what he was trying to do with his business.  Eager to check out the new store, I googled the shop and called to see if I could sign up for one of the classes.   Making Truffles was top of the list!  As it turned out, the classes were full but Dan offered to give me a private tour!

The moment I walked in the door of Tabal Chocolate, my senses where overwhelmed by the aroma of rich chocolate.   Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath and remembered the days of my youth when we were treated to the same rich aroma driving past the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory in downtown Milwaukee.   If one could taste chocolate from merely inhaling it, Tabal Chocolate is the place.   Located in the charmingly intimate and walkable village of Wauwatosa Wisconsin, this new shop is a great place to buy locally made chocolate bars, chocolate nibs — the new superfood, gelato, cocoa shell mulch for the garden and delicious desserts created with chocolate made on the premises.

Dan greeted me at the door and introduced me to several of his friendly employees.   I was impressed with the warm inviting decor of the shop.   The space was framed by a marble counter displaying a selection of gelato, pocket candies, warm chocolate churning in a circular dispenser, wooden shelves displaying a variety of chocolate bars, bags of nibs, samples, and comfortable tables both inside and out.   The aromatic space was complemented by the warm employees and awash in sunlight from two floor to ceiling windows looking out on Harwood Avenue.    I was particularly interested in the operation going on behind the glass window at the back of the store.   Dan invited me into this production room, showed me how the cacao beans were ground and spooned out a sample of chocolate from each machine.   Sweet!

We then headed down to the basement where Dave showed me how the chocolate was  tempered and later, poured into molds.   At a counter nearby, a young employee was busy wrapping finished bars in gold foil and then, affixing an outer layer of paper labels.   It was a thrill to peek into the storage room which smelled more heavenly than the threshold above.   Imagine being accidentally locked in this room?   A sweet debacle!!   Stacks of large chocolate bars lined the shelves and Dan let me select a few discounted seconds to buy.

affrogatoBack upstairs, I selected a few more items to buy and accepted Dan’s invitation to sample their signature dessert — the Affrogato.   He told me that the parents of a friend from Italy created this dessert for their business years ago and it was very popular.   Their daughter now makes the gelato featured in the shop.   I selected hazelnut gelato which Dan topped with fresh brewed espresso, warm melted dark chocolate and fresh whipped cream.   Heavenly doesn’t even begin to touch how uniquely delicious the affrogato was.   What could be better than a mix a cold, warm, chocolate, and cool whipped cream?!   A dessert for a celebration, made to impress a date or revive difficult day?

During my visit, I visited Tabal Chocolate twice and told everyone I encountered to put it on their list.   From my mother’s hospital bed, she asked if I could bring her some cards for her to share with her friends.   Once she’s better, I am sure she will be visiting as I will be when I return to Wisconsin.   Next time, I’ll be sure to sign up for a class in advance so I don’t miss out.   Great job Dan — Tabal Chocolate is the best!


Savoring my salted dark chocolate Bolivian bar one square at a time.






Can I Show You My Jugs and My Rack?

Can I Show You My Jugs and My Rack?


Honestly, it’s not as bad as it sounds.   I am referring to the milk jugs and the new light rack I am using to grow seedlings for my garden.  When I found myself asking my garden pals this weekend if they wanted to see my jugs and my rack, I got a few laughs but I didn’t realize how totally funny it sounded until a male garden pal laughed and said, “Yes, I want to see your jugs and your rack!”   Oh, geez, this is a  slightly dirty spin on my garden projects — which are dirty to begin with!

The exciting news is that my experiment of using milk jugs as little greenhouses has sprouted success.   Thank you to hometown Wisconsin friend Maggie Strunk Leyes for inspiring me.   Here are two jugs with little sprouts inside:

I am also stoked about my new grow lights which arrived via Amazon last week and have been shining on my happy crop of tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.   The green glow of the lights has prompted some to ask if I’m growing marijuana plants.   But, although it is legal to grow 6 pot plants per adult in Colorado, I am not growing weed.


The Best Farmer’s Market is in Madison, WI

The Best Farmer’s Market is in Madison, WI

IMG_0548With the coming of Spring, the season of farmers’ markets is upon us.    Although here are many available near my home in Denver, Colorado there is none so wonderful as the Dane County Farmer’s Market in my home state of Wisconsin.   This Saturday morning institution encircles the state capitol in downtown Madison and features a wide variety of local produce, honey, jams, meats, cheeses, flowers, plants, delicious bakery and more.   If I am ever in Wisconsin, I devote every Saturday morning to a visit to my favorite outdoor shopping venue.IMG_0528 My first stop is always Stella’s Bakery to line up for a few loaves of their famous spicy cheese bread; a favorite of my husband and family.   Next, I stock up on goodies to snack on — fresh cheese curds, berries, fresh cut greens, carrots and popcorn.    I always bring a friend and a camera and never leave without seeing a familiar face or picking up a bouquet or two of fresh picked flowers.


Peonies — ahh!!!!

Ran in a friend at the market, Elizabeth Krause.

Ran in a friend at the market, Elizabeth Krause.

The beautiful backdrop and plethora of colorful edible selections is just one aspect of this lovely field trip.   There is always a corner featuring some political campaign, street musicians sharing their tunes, carts selling coffee, smoothies, burritos, and more as well as ample people watching and tempting local restaurants and shops just steps outside the crowded circle of market stalls.

My best advice is arrive early (7ish) with a pocket full of cash and a large cloth bag to haul your purchases.   Better yet, bring a wagon because you might find a pot of flowers you can’t resist.   Take time to sit down with your purchases, people watch, listen and breath in the aromas, eat some decadent bakery and relax.   Save time to enjoy lunch at Marigolds or walk down State Street to have a beer on The Terrace at the University of Wisconsin Union.   Its a beautiful day!!!IMG_0565 IMG_0552 IMG_0542


Nancy and I enjoyed the morning at the market.


If I lived in Madison, I sign up for the Paddle and Portage in a heartbeat. It sounds like a blast!!!

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Visiting a Hmong Garden Enterprise


IMG_0448After eight airport hours traveling from Denver to Madison, WI, I asked my hostess Nancy if we could go for a walk.   My friend lives on a pastoral country road in Waunakee,  a rural community near Madison, surrounded by rolling hills, green vistas and farm fields.    Our hike took us to the fields next to her property which were planted with a vast array of vegetables, neatly rowed and precociously sprouting from the abundant spring rains.    The fields of onions, lettuce, peppers, kale and more were much bigger than my community plot but not expansively large like the corn fields across the road.    I wondered if theses were plots designated for sales at local farmer’s markets.    Yes, Nancy, told me, these fields are populated by industrious Hmong gardeners who grow food to supplement their incomes.    Almost immediately, we were greeted by a very friendly little man named Vang who offered us onions and rhubarb.   And profusely refused any attempt to give him money for the vegetables.   Vang gave us a little tour of his plots and talked to me about his organic methods.

When we returned with our cameras the next day, we explored further traversing more fields, past makeshift scarecrows made from plastic bags, rows of raspberries, strawberries, beans, basil and more.   I was most interested to see the garden trellises made from the branches of trimmed sumac bushes growing along the margins.    And the distinctive straw hats of the Hmong gardeners working hard hoe the weeds and harvest for the famous Saturday farmer’s market at the Madison Capital.