Thursday, January 20, 2011

Have you ever BEEN to a botanical garden?

China claims to be a blog reader, but when she makes statements asking us if we’ve been to a botanical garden, it’s clear she hasn’t. I mean, 2010 was clearly the “year of the flower.” And even though we’re in 2011, it hasn’t changed our interest in all things flora. We had some time to kill after dropping Thatmom off at the airport before our flight later in the afternoon. Since the Phoenix Botanical Garden was close, had free parking, and Toxicesq was a member, we thought it would be an excellent way to kill a few hours. China wasn’t in total agreement. Luckily we live in a democracy, and a 3 to 1 vote meant we were off to explore cacti and succulents.

(Poor China, she’s such a good sport. I swear we drag her to a million places she’s not interested in.)

When we arrived at the gardens we were greeted by their Chihuly installment. TMIL is a HUGE Chihuly fan. She has prints, books, she ventures to visit exhibitions as often as possible.

Personally, I’ve never really “gotten” it. I mean, I like glass as much as the next guy, and I’ll never turn down an opportunity to watch a glass blower at work. (I’m sure they have a fancier name than glass blower, but this way you all know what I mean.) But squiggly colored glass just doesn’t send me flying. The Chihuly at the botanical garden though was just PERFECT. I loved it. It’s my favorite of his pieces. Mostly because I love the imitation/contrast of putting it against the natural counterparts.

The green spikes perfectly reflect the spikey palms growing beside. It is both completely organic and completely artificial.

We weaved through the garden, examining the various types the cactus in much the same way as the “party game” Thatboy came up with. It involved partygoers trying to weave their way between tightly planted cacti. The person with the least amount of needles stuck in them would be the winner. I don’t see Milton Bradley contacting us anytime soon.

This guy is honestly called the "old man" cactus. How adorable is he? He's like the cute little old man who lives around the corner. Not the creepy old guy who sometimes forgets to tie his robe.

It was too early for most of the cacti to be in bloom, but this one is an early riser.

Thatboy was amazed by how big these barrels were. They look like cushions to me!

Century plants take 100 years to bloom, and then they die. I'm still trying to figure out if that's a good deal or not.

And in honor of the end of our Arizona trip, this Southern-at-heart girl gives you a twist on the typical southern grit. Cheese grits are a quintessential Southern treat, but stir in some green chiles and you've got the perfect combination of creamy with a kick. Like the Chihuly, it's a little bit spikey, and a little bit natural, and oh so perfect in its environment.

Phoenix Grits
1 cup grits
3 cups milk
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
6 Tbsp butter
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped green chiles

1. Preheat oven to 350. Heat the milk over medium high heat in a saucepan.
2. Stir in the grits and salt, stirring often so the milk doesn't burn. When it is thick, remove from the heat.
3. Add the eggs and 1 cup water, stirring.
4. Return to heat and cook until thickened again.
5. Stir in the butter, cheese, and chiles. Spread in a casserole and bake for 30 minutes.


  1. I enjoyed your photos and really believe you have a future as a tour guide:-). I especially loved your grits. This was my first visit to your blog and I really had fun poking around. I felt welcome here and will definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  2. What beautiful photos! Can I get on a plane and go see those flowers myself?
    I love grits and don't use them enough. Thanks for a great recipe (and for visiting my blog!).