It’s February Already?!

I simply cannot believe it is February 22nd already! Normally I would be pining for Spring at this time of year, but instead it has been so different. We have had the most snowy, record-breaking cold Winter ever and I’ve pretty much been homebound for most of it… and currently snowed in by the latest storm! Happily so, though, because I’ve been spending lots of time learning so much about blogging, websites, food photography and the food blogging online community and am completely enjoying it. I hope I can slowly translate all I’m absorbing into this blog. One thing I have learned is how much time it takes to create a blog that people will enjoy reading. I have a long way to go, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the process.

The holidays have come and gone so quickly – sadly so! It was a wonderful time of friends, family, creating – and enjoying the moments. It was the first holiday season without homework and finals in a very long time and I soaked it in for all it was worth! It’s the first holiday I was able to actually make a craft and I had a blast! Of course there was excessive over-the-top baking and eating of sweets and savories. Aahhh… how many more months until next Thanksgiving and Christmas?!

Gingerbread Holly Heart Ornament I made.

Gingerbread Holly Heart Ornament I made.

Meg and I had fun making a gingerbread house together.

Meg and I had fun making a gingerbread house together.

An old family favorite - Vanillegipfel.

An old family favorite – Vanillegipfel.

It's not Christmas without the traditional Sugar Cookies!

It’s not Christmas without the traditional Sugar Cookies!

We have a simple traditional Christmas dinner that includes 'Roast Beast' and Yorkshire Pudding.  It came out so wonderful this year!

We have a simple traditional Christmas dinner that includes ‘Roast Beast’ and Yorkshire Pudding. It came out so wonderful this year!

Christmas Morning 2014

Christmas Morning 2014

I was lamenting that I did not want to take down the tree and decorations the next day... it was sooo beautiful at night.

I was lamenting that I did not want to take down the tree and decorations the next day… it was sooo beautiful at night.

Some post-Christmas Sale bargains... can't wait to decorate next year!

Some post-Christmas Sale bargains… can’t wait to decorate next year!

One special event that shaped some of our festivities was the decision to go to France in October of this year. Meg and I will go together to take a four-day cooking workshop with one of our favorite bloggers, Mimi Thorisson. Meg was the one who found the workshops. She had been following Mimi’s blog, ‘Manger’ for quite a while. We looked at it together and the workshops look to be exactly the way we hope to do any kind of travelling – to the home of a native of the country. It is my experience that visiting a foreign land where the language is not familiar can be a bit daunting. The thing that turns a trip like this into a joy is being able to share the time with a family who can help guide you to the best local spots and share special moments steeping in a new culture. We absolutely cannot wait. One thing Meg and I are doing to count down to our trip has been to start a little side blog called ‘Cooking Our Way To Medòc’.  We plan on cooking a few recipes out of Mimi Thorisson’s new cookbook entitled A Kitchen in France. We’ve published a couple entries, hence, my delay in posting here! Do take a look if you have a chance.

The Title of our new blog:  'Cooking Our Way to Medòc'...  http://cookingourwaytomedoc.com

The Title of our new blog: ‘Cooking Our Way to Medòc’… http://cookingourwaytomedoc.wordpress.com

Our first blog post featured this picture.

Our second blog post featured this picture.

Mimi Thorisson's book:  'A Kitchen in France'.

Mimi Thorisson’s book: ‘A Kitchen in France’.

So with all this homebound time, I’ve had time to experiment with recipes and have found a bunch of good new ones and re-vamped some tried and true ones. I’m sharing two below. The first is one that I tried because I have a weakness for mac and cheese. It piqued my interest because it was not a typical mac and cheese recipe. ‘Deliciously Yum’, a blogger, created it. The main ingredient for the sauce is butternut squash!! I was intrigued because I love butternut squash and it was a mac and cheese to make you ‘feel good’ about the fact that you were eating a healthy, much lower-calorie version without sacrificing taste. I adapted the recipe to use what I had on hand and to be proportioned to a 16 oz. box of macaroni. I’ve never quite understood recipes that measure dry macaroni in cups! In my opinion, all recipes that use macaroni should be created for the measurement the pasta is sold in… and in most cases it’s a 16 oz. box or bag. So, that’s what I did and I absolutely love this new version. It is creamy, yummy and is not heavy feeling after you eat it. I plan on trying out some variations (keeping it healthy) in the future, but here is the recipe for ‘Feel Good Mac and Cheese’. I hope you have a chance to try it.  Here are some pics of our ‘Superbowl’ viewing fare:

The traditional family favorite:  Chalupa dip!

The traditional family favorite: Chalupa dip!

 

Meg made us Jack Frost Cocktails... mainly because they are blue - you know... cause the Patriots are blue.  ;)

Meg made us Jack Frost Cocktails… mainly because they are blue – you know… ’cause the Patriots are blue of course…😉

Balsamic Flank Steak Sliders with Creamy Horseradish Sauce on homemade 'Amazing Dinner Rolls'!

Balsamic Flank Steak Sliders with Creamy Horseradish Sauce on homemade ‘Amazing Dinner Rolls‘!

Honey Ham and Swiss with Honey Mustard Sauce on homemade 'Amazing Dinner Rolls'.

Honey Ham and Swiss with Honey Mustard Sauce on homemade ‘Amazing Dinner Rolls‘.

The second recipe I want to share with you is one of my favorite cornbread recipes with some added delicious morsels that just transform this from a delicious cornbread, to a dazzlingly delicious cornbread. Ha ha! I should probably rename the recipe to Dazzlingly Delicious Cornbread. Okay, done!  :)

Enjoy the rest of this Winter. If you are not a Winter fan or are growing weary of the cold and snow, just think how good it is for the gardens and trees and bugs… It makes this wonderful New England what it is and I surely could not live without it. It sure helps to get some spring flowers to brighten things up a bit.

Daffodils and Tulips to remind us that Spring is near!

Daffodils and Tulips to remind us that Spring is near!

OH and I almost forgot to mention – the bluebirds have returned! I am so beside myself happy about this because they stopped visiting the feeders for a while. They never left the yard, but I didn’t get to see them close-up. There are 6 of them and I hope they continue to visit. They come for breakfast like clockwork at 6:43 every morning so far. Is that cute or what?!

The bluebirds have returned!  Be still my heart!

The bluebirds have returned! Be still my heart!

Thankful…

Thanksgiving. I think it is my favorite holiday. It is a purposeful day of being thankful for all the blessings in my life. It is family, friends and a fantastic, favorite-foods feast!🙂 I think every day should be Thanksgiving – except for the food part or I’d be rather chubby! For me, the ‘thankful’ part is certainly not a one-day-a-year event. Choosing to be thankful every morning is a discipline that brings a much-needed balance in life. So often I forget to look around at the every-day blessings and become focused on the issues of life. Without the step-back perspective of looking at the whole picture of my life every morning, I can easily get off-track and overly consumed with whatever might be my challenge of the day (or week, or year, or life.) It takes discipline to choose a thankful heart attitude every morning because I don’t always feel so thankful. By choosing to be thankful for everything- the good and not so good, the result is so freeing, life-giving and truly empowering.

Thankful for Fall Foliage.

Thankful for Fall Foliage.

Thankful for the Wind and Shasta Daisies.

Thankful for the Wind and Shasta Daisies.

When this crisp, Fall air hits and the autumnal provisions of apples, pumpkins, squashes and turnips are plentiful, it is hard not to think about creating the traditional, heart-warming foods of Thanksgiving Day. This year we had a turkey ready and waiting in the freezer so we decided to go for it and have a pre-Thanksgiving dinner… (and also so that the poor turkey wouldn’t eventually turn into a ‘vintage turkey soup’… see this previous post on this subject!)  We’ve done pre-Thanksgivings before and it is so much fun. We try out new recipes and just enjoy the fun of it all. Somehow, when you are preparing the long-awaited meal on the long-awaited day, there can be an underlying pressure not to make mistakes and ruin everyone’s turkey…🙂 On a pre-Thanksgiving day, there is no pressure – just enjoyment of the process.

In the Oven!

In the Oven!

It turned out wonderfully and was absolutely delicious. The highlight of the meal was a new dinner roll recipe. It was one of the most enjoyable yeast dough recipes I’ve ever made. They were absolutely pillowy-soft and delicious. Rolling out the circles was so easy. Even though the initial dough was sticky, once it rose for the first time, forming the 4 sections and rolling out each one to a circle for cutting was so smooth and actually fun. The dough was very easy to shape, roll and cut. I do recommend using a pizza cutter if you have one for cutting the triangles. This recipe makes a LOT of rolls. It seems like a double batch recipe. I’m going to try to halve it just to see if I can, and also see if I can par-bake the rolls for freezing and just finish them off in the oven right before serving – hopefully all without affecting the final product. Here is the Amazing Dinner Rolls recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

The second rise before baking...

The second rise before baking…

Glorious, golden goodness after baking and brushing with melted butter... what a beautiful batch of dinner rolls!

Glorious, golden goodness after baking and brushing with melted butter… what a beautiful batch of dinner rolls!

Here are some more pictures of the meal as well as some pics of the Fall yard.

Meg made us Caramel-Apple Martini's!  They were DE-LICIOUS!  :)

Meg made us Caramel-Apple Martini’s! They were DE-LICIOUS!🙂

De-Stuffing the Turkey...

De-Stuffing the Turkey…

Meg's Plate!

Meg’s Plate!

My Plate!

My Plate!

Tom's Plate!

Tom’s Plate!

Ivy Chimney

Nasturtium and GeraniumFall Trees 2Front Porch

Fall Trees

Our Favorite Field Next Door!

Our Favorite Field Next Door!

The geraniums did not get the memo that it is Fall!

The geraniums did not get the memo that it is Fall!

Enjoy the remaining leaves… Thanksgiving Day will be here before you know it!

Stacking wood for the Winter

Fall, Wonderful Fall

Written Sunday, September 28th

Today it suddenly became beautifully, wonderfully Fall. The official first day of Fall was last Monday, but the leaves did not have a stitch of color. Two days ago the tips of the trees began their ascent into the glory of sparkling shades of yellow, red and gold. Over the last two days, I’ve eagerly awakened to see the progress. Taking the time to purposely soak in the beauty of Fall is one of my favorite seasonal joys. Each year is so different. This year the color is sudden and absolutely gorgeous. Of course, after pretty-much one of the most perfect Summers I’ve ever experienced, this Fall seems to be following suit. Today, as I drove to the end of our street, the morning haze and the sun-kissed foliage took my breath away. I wanted to stay and dwell there. The car in back of me would not have appreciated that, so onward to church I went…

It has been a happy day – the kind that burns memories into the heart. Between the foliage, the Durham Fair, wood stacking and Fall decorating the house, it pretty much epitomizes all the things I look forward to when I think of Fall. It sets the bar. All future Fall’s will be compared to it. Its’ memories will be added to all the other memories collected that contribute to the perfect Fall.

Guess what! I won first prize for my Peach Melba jam!🙂 I got a third prizes for the Peach Raspberry and Blueberry Lemon jams… very happy! Here are a few pics from today.

Durham Fair Kettle Corn

Durham Fair Kettle Corn

Last Caprese salad of the season

Last Caprese salad of the season

Stacking wood for the Winter

Stacking wood for the Winter

I sit here as the sun sets and am filled with gratitude for the amazing beauty that surrounds me in this quaint New England setting. I am a true New Englander. I could never leave New England. I would love to visit many other places of this world, but New England will always be my heart and home – especially in the Fall.

Big news here is that Tom has moved back in, albeit short-term. He’ll be moving to Nashville after Thanksgiving. I’m excited for him. I know that Nashville will be much kinder and appreciative of his talents and abilities than Connecticut. Meg has stepped through the first three interviews for Delta Airlines. She has wanted to be an airline stewardess her whole life. It’s been exciting to go through this with her and my prayers are with her. My children face such different struggles than I did when I was their age. I don’t even know how to help sometimes because I don’t have a frame of reference. I pray. I ask God to show them what is right for them and provide the way in these trying times.

We attended the most beautiful, long awaited of weddings this month. Our dear friends finally tied the nautical knot and did it in the most joyful, fun and beautiful, way. We have not had such a blast in a very long time. Here are some of our favorite pics…

Dock party at Aaron's house

Dock party at Aaron’s house

Family time and the view from our hotel

Family time and the view from our hotel

Harbor the Hostess with the Mostess!

Harbor the Hostess with the Mostess!

The Groom to be and Drew

The Groom to be and Drew

The Bride to be and Father-in-Law to be

The Bride to be and Father-in-Law to be

Eileen and Luke (Mr. Ben and Jerry's)

Eileen and Luke (Mr. Ben and Jerry’s)

Life-long buds...

Life-long buds…

Sunset on the Docks

Sunset on the Docks

Spectacular view

Spectacular view

WEDDING DAY!!

Wedding day - Rainbow right on time!

Wedding day – Rainbow right on time!

Flower Girl, Gabriella

Flower Girl, Gabriella

They DO!

They DO!

Postlude...

Postlude…

Those beautiful, happy faces just say it all!

First Married dance together...

First Married dance together…

Okay, so here are a couple pics of my sweet Lucy Loo.  She’s a momma’s girl and not very happy when I have to go away on business trips…

Lucy Loo Missing Momma.  Heart melt.

Lucy Loo Missing Momma. Heart melt.

This was her spot for a good two weeks after she saw some kind of little creature run into the garden.  We think it was a bunny, but every time I went to see what she was so beside herself about, I saw nothing!  You will notice the purple and green toys… those are Aslan’s.  They are all over – everywhere and he always has one handy to chomp on or to play catch and fetch.  :)

Lucy keeping watch for cute furry creatures...

Lucy keeping watch for cute furry creatures…

I don’t have many pics of the kitties, but Peeka and Leila do just the same at filling my heart with joy. Peeka is such a character. She can make me laugh in the middle of the night with her antics. She does this thing that I cannot capture in a photo. I will try my best to describe: When I am sleeping she climbs up onto my stomach/chest. She takes her little paws and reaches out – usually to my chin, nose or hands and taps me until I pet her. It is hysterical and causes me to giggle in the middle of the night! Yesterday, just as the sun was rising she did a new rendition: I was lying on my side. I was awake but not ready to move. I was looking out the windows enjoying the sunrise and the progress of the Fall foliage… and the awakening birdies. She crawled up onto my side and reached under my wrist/arm to reach further to my nose so she could tap it to get my attention. Oh my goodness I nearly lost it. SO ADORABLE! How can anyone get through life without such adorable companionship? She is so very smart. Now, she knows that when she can elicit a giggle out of me that she has accomplished her goal. Sigh… love…

Alas, the gardens have finished their displays.  The last to perform was a new hibiscus plant I got this Spring.  Its’ first blooms were late in the season but worth the wait.

Hibiscus 2014

Hibiscus 2014

The colors are so striking!

The colors are so striking!

So onto Fall we go.  Here are some favorite fall decorations… enjoy the season – it passes so quickly!

Fall Decos4

Fall Decos2

This is a little tune I learned in Kindergarten and I hum it every Fall to myself!!  Talk about Fall memories!

Falling, falling, falling down

Red and Yellow, Gold and Brown

In the country and the town

Falling Autumn leaves!

Up next… our Pre-Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving!  :)

Peach Melba Jam

Raspberries, Peaches and Lobstahs, OH MY!

What can I say?  It has been a great couple weeks.  Two weekends ago I made an absolutely delectable Raspberry Peach Jam.  It is so scrumptious on a hot-buttered slab of artisan toast.

Raspberry Peach Jam

Raspberry Peach Jam

Making Peach Melba jam has been a desire for many, many years and even though its’ been on the to-do list, it has never come to fruition… until this weekend.  Its actually been a bit of an intimidating thought since you basically have to make two jams and then put them together.  I hardly felt knowledgeable enough to do one at a time!  Well, I bit the bullet, dove in and am happy to say that it turned out perfectly.  It is every bit as gorgeous as I envisioned!  I will not consent to even opening a small jar!!  I’ve waited so long for it to happen that to open a jar would be like opening all of them and negating my efforts.  I now realize that I am really weird and have come to the conclusion that the only way I can reconcile my weirdness and move on is to make more… hee hee!  Then, maybe, I’ll be able to part with a few due to over abundance…?  Is that possibly an adequate justification?  Ha ha!  So yes, my confidence has grown tremendously in creating jams without added pectin.  I know what to look for.  I’m in the jammin’ groove.  :)  I want to make a blueberry lemony combo… and I so wish rhubarb was still in season, because now I know what I did wrong with my batch that burned this Spring.  It was not a good year for rhubarb, so I was not able to attempt a second batch.   This jam made up for all my sulking over the raspberry-rhubarb loss.  ;)  Here’s the recipe:  Peach Melba Jam

Pre-Peach Melba Jam

Pre-Peach Melba Jam

Peach Melba Jam

Peach Melba Jam

Lottsa' Peach Melba Jams

Lottsa’ Peach Melba Jams

Then… the time was finally right.  It was lobstah roll makin’ weekend.  I have longed for this day since writing my blog entry from about this time last year.  I ran into road blocks with my own creation of the perfect lobster roll until this weekend.  I can easily say that it was so worth the wait.  What a happy time tending to the details of what I think make the perfect one.  If you haven’t read my account of this from last year, you can read it here: The Perfect Lobster Roll

So here are some pics.  Sadly, I was so excited by the end of the preparations that I did not take up-close shots of the roll itself.  Meg was my wonderful photographer of the process, so all credits to her.  I think there are a couple from Tom too, but I can’t remember which is which!  :)  Here you go:

Cookin' em.

Cookin’ six, one-and-a-half pound lobstah’s

De-shelling 'em.

De-shelling ’em.

The picture says it all.

The picture says it all.

Dicing

Dicing

Drooling

Drooling

Melted buttah...

Melted buttah… NOT mayo!  Poured on – a bite at a time.

Grilled not toasted...

Grilled NOT toasted…

Stuffin'

Stuffin’

Gorgeous... can't wait one more minute!

Gorgeous… can’t wait one more minute!

The perfect lobster rolls!

The perfect lobster rolls with baked potato and silver queen corn.

Truly, they were the best lobster rolls in my book.  I think the only thing I would do differently the next time is put the meat in the microwave for about 15 seconds to warm it up a bit since it cools down quickly.  I seriously want to make them again before this summer is out.  As if this meal was not enough of a culinary endeavor, I found this recipe for Raspberry Lemon Buttercream Cake on Pinterest that I just HAD to make.  I’m so glad I did.  It was fun and the recipe was perfect.  I made double the raspberry compote – the recipe just did not seem like enough and I always double the amount of lemon a recipe calls for.  It was a good call.  It was as decadent and delicious as it looks.

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Raspberry Lemon Buttercream Cake

So Meg keeps telling me the Summer is over.  I refuse to acknowledge that.  I am loving this wonderful cool weather.  It is so unusual for August, but so perfect for making jam.  The gardens are fading, yet there are still some beautiful late blooming flowers to enjoy.  Here are some of the last garden pics.  I’m adding a few from the early spring since they are just so beautiful and I can’t help myself.

Red Hibiscus

Red Hibiscus

I adore these hibiscus.  This is the first year the plants have thrived, now that I know what to do to combat the deer!

I adore these hibiscus. This is the first year the plants have thrived, now that I know what to do to combat the deer!

White hibiscus

White hibiscus

IMG_3567

Red geranium and nasturtiums to replace the zinnia

Red geranium and nasturtiums to replace the zinnia.

The pink rose of sharon that makes me smile every morning because it has a crazy white flower branch that grows like a gray hair on a brunet head.  :)

The pink rose of sharon that makes me smile every morning because it has a crazy white flower branch that grows like an unwieldy gray hair on a brunet head.🙂

A pollen covered bumble in one of the rose of sharon blooms.

A pollen covered bumble in one of the rose of sharon blooms.

The climbing roses over the arbor this Spring.

The climbing roses over the arbor this Spring.

Fragrant Spring peonies.  I miss Spring already.

Fragrant Spring peonies. I miss Spring already.

I'm going to miss this little lady when she flies to Mexico in a few weeks.

I’m going to miss this little lady when she flies to Mexico in a few weeks.

She's so dang cute and is highly entertaining protecting her nectar from her husband and child!

She’s so dang cute and is highly entertaining protecting her nectar from her husband and child!

IMG_3588  IMG_3587

You are all so kind to listen to my rambling.  I look at the stats from my blog and am humbled by all the countries represented who view it.  Thank you.  You all inspire me to be better at this blogging endeavor and would love to hear your thoughts and/or comments.  I will leave you with a this question:  Below is a picture of a dozen eggs in a bowl.  How many yolks do you see?  Yeah… 23.  Every single one was a double-yolker except one whose yolk was the size of two!

So cool!

So cool!

Hang onto and enjoy these last few weeks of Summer!

 

Coconut Cake

Cuckoo for Coconut!

There’s just something about coconut… it’s my favorite flavor.  I have a Pinterest board dedicated to it.  I think I have links to just about every coconut recipe ever made.  I’ve gone through a phase of making a bunch of coconut recipes… and have been on a 3 or 4 year quest to find the perfect coconut cake recipe that is both uncomplicated and a perfect balance of coconut and cake and frosting.  I think I’ve finally found it!  I’ve put a link to my copy of the recipe at the end of this post since I cannot find the original link.  Forget trying to search for ‘coconut cake’ – there are a MILLION recipes!

Here are some of the recent things I’ve made with coconut and the other abundance this summer – zucchini (links to recipes under each picture):

IMG_3396

Coconut Pancakes

IMG_3380

Zucchini Coconut Bread

IMG_3378

Zucchini Butter

This last month has been the most excellent gardening month.  I have enjoyed the flowers’ gorgeous display every day.  The zinnia have actually spent themselves in showiness and because they are in a window box planter, they are done.  I’m setting out today to get some late summer/early fall replacements.  Here are some summer flower favorite pictures:

IMG_3419My favorite Stargazer Lilly

IMG_3342

Hardy Ivy Geraniums

IMG_3350

Phlox, Daisies and Coneflowers

IMG_3358

Zebra Grass planted near the pool

This weekend is peach-picking weekend with Meg.  We always have so much fun going to Lyman’s orchards.  It is another gorgeous weather weekend and I have to say – it is hard to watch the news and see other parts of the country getting battered with extreme weather while we here in CT are having probably one of the best summers I can ever remember.  I actually have a tan this year and have been able to enjoy the pool.  I am savoring every moment.  I have learned that you have to savor every good moment in life because you never know when it will take a turn.  We have been through a stretch of twelve years of pretty big difficulties, so I think that is why this summer is even that much more appreciated and sweet.  Hoping the goodness stays this way for a little while anyway…

I know – you are amazed.  I have managed to write a post without one mention of Aslan, Lucy, Peeka or Leila. 🙂

Here is a link to my favorite Coconut Cake recipe – I hope you like it too:

IMG_3386

Coconut Cake

 

The Summer of My Dreams

It’s mid-July. I have spent yet another Summer Saturday reveling in all that I find peaceful and life-giving. I am overwhelmed with it because it sure has been a long-time coming. Quite honestly, I cannot even remember such a perfect Summer weather-wise.  I believe its been about 7 or 8 weekends in a row of sunny, mild, minimally humid days. Yes, we’ve had some days in between that have been less than perfect, but quite honestly, it justifies getting things done indoors and has actually been welcome!

Today I spent the day harvesting squashes, tomatoes, rosemary and basil. The garden is picture perfect this year – not just in how it looks, but it is producing nicely. I am trying to keep up on the zucchini and have baked 8 loaves of zucchini bread so far with more to come! I’m trying out lots of new recipes – some good, some not so good, but you have to try them or you’ll never find that new favorite! Tomorrow I’ll try a new zucchini bread recipe that has coconut in it (coconut is one of my favorite flavors.) My tried and true zucchini bread recipe is my absolute favorite and as easy as can be to make. I’ve put the recipe at the end of this post.

IMG_3306

IMG_3324              IMG_3323

Our gardens have been such a joy this year. I’ve planted lots of new things. Red and black raspberry bushes that’ll take a few years to mature. A couple blueberry bushes… a pink wisteria that is actually purple… but that’s okay. It’s still gorgeous. Three new ‘Rose of Sharon’ plants that will have bright blue flowers with magenta centers. The Rose of Sharon that we already have, have begun their month-long showy flower blooming. These plants are amazing and make me happy every time I wake up to see it out my windows. We have three and they are huge now and the blooming is prolific for a whole month.

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IMG_3329  IMG_3332 IMG_3330

I love all the bumble bees enjoying the Rose of Sharon.  Caught this one in flight!

I had read an article a long, long time ago which said that you should garden from the inside of your house; meaning, you should garden so that you can see it from the inside of your house for the most full enjoyment. It is completely true advice. Even though there are places that need gardening that you cannot see from in the house, I try as much as possible to approach new plantings from this perspective – especially the bigger plantings like trees and shrubs.

IMG_3328          IMG_3292

One of the biggest troubles I’ve had with gardening where we live are the deer that eat everything. This year, however, I’ve been using this spray that is all natural and is made with rotten eggs! I’ve sprayed it on all the plants and to my amazement, IT WORKS!! I cannot tell you how happy this has made me. I have hostas that I have never seen grown full out because of the deer – and this year they are whole and beautiful! The Rose of Sharon are rather misshapen because of the deer, but now they are filling out and I am delighted! I feel like I have a new lease on gardening! This fall I will be planting TONS of daffodils and other bulbs. I am very excited about it.

Lastly, another reason why the above gardening details have been so fulfilling to me is the fact that I have purposed to not make any kind of plans for the Summer. In May I finished school and promptly collapsed from the stress and rigor of the work of the last year. I thought it would be just a week of time off to decompress, but it took about a month for me to really register and re-orient my thoughts and let that understanding pervade my being! Even now, I get moments of realization that it is done and a wave of relief and peace fill me. I then do a little happy dance.🙂 It has been important for me to take this time, doing just what is needful and no more.

IMG_3318 IMG_3239   IMG_3228

Today when I stood in my kitchen after harvesting the garden, I felt like a kid in a candy shop – except my candy was delicious yellow cherry tomatoes and deciding what I wanted to create with all this loveliness! It’s a little hard to convey why today was different from the many other times I’ve stood in my kitchen to create, but it really has to do with this purposeful intent to keep life quiet and restorative.

IMG_3310

Here is Auntie Glady’s Zucchini Bread Recipe – easy peasy.  Be prepared to have the most wonderful aroma fill your home!

Zucchini Bread (Aunt Glady's Recipe)

Un-Expectations…and Big Anticipations

This weekend was completely unexpected.  I’ve had a project looming since 2005.  A project that was so overwhelming at the thought that I avoided it and made every excuse to not think about it until…Friday night…

I have about 12 photo albums that have been collecting dust since 1980.  I went through a phase of converting all the negatives from those albums to digital pictures a couple years ago.  That was a huge accomplishment; however, I never really knew whether these now digitized renditions represented all the photos in the albums that have accumulated over the years.  I’m not quite sure why the very thought of loosing even one precious picture tormented me so, but it has.

Thursday night I had a dream.  I dreamed that I took all the photos out of the albums and organized them in a box.  Oh my GOODNESS!!  That was about the most simple, basic, yet freeing dreams I have ever had.in.my.life!  :)  On Friday afternoon I just started on two albums.  I took the pictures out and categorized the years.  Well, on Saturday, the crazy, rainy, thunderstorm and lightening/downpour day that it was, I was completely in the zone.  It was perfect.  I depicted ALL the albums.  There were only two that were challenging in that they adhered to the picts in such a way that it took 3x the normal amount of time to get the pics out of the albums… otherwise, I had them all out and done by the end of the day.  Zowie!!!  I organized them according to year and will now (well, eventually) cross reference them with the pics on my computer to be sure to scan any that I don’t have there.  I don’t anticipate having time to do this step until I am done with school in May.  The awesome thing is, the old, falling-apart, dust-collecting albums are gone!  Woo-hoo!  Wow, I cannot believe that I have waited 9 years for this!

Lots of other organization and cleaning are getting done here as well.  I have no tolerance for old junk anymore.  Stuff that just collects dust?  Not happening here!  I have all the old VHS tapes the kids grew up watching that they have never even watched in this house… have to conquer those.  Old music that fills one cabinet – has to go.  We have an old up-right piano that has to go as well – one day to be replaced by a baby grand, but that’s a whole other story…

Meg moves into her new apartment in February.  We have been anticipating and enjoying all the progress and have been having so much fun watching each step being done.  Marie, the owner of the apt., is such a sweetheart and has involved Meg every step of the way as the apt. was being created.  It is absolutely gorgeous and Meg is very blessed with such an amazing opportunity.  Last Wednesday, we went to pick out a love-seat that she has been saving diligently for.  Tonight we talked about pillows and she found some at an excellent clearance price and ordered them.  We are collecting things for moving-day and are very excited!  It’s so much better that she will have a place of her own and it is minutes away from her jobs!  My heart as her mom rests in this.  The worry factor is completely neutralized!   I know she is going to be happy and do well there.  Sigh….

 

A New Year, A Clean Sheet of Paper and a New Blog

I love the New Year.  It’s like having a fresh, clean sheet of paper with all kinds of writing and drawing and coloring utensils at the ready.  Oh the possibilities!  I also love the new year  because it is an opportunity to let my clean-freakishness run wild with organizing and purging and the casting off of the old and establishing the new.  Especially when the last year was not such a great year, it is an opportunity to let it go and face forward to the opportunities of the next year with all the hopes and creative possibilities before me.  I just want to jump in and give it all I’ve got.

I’ve decided that I wanted to start fresh in many ways and this blog is one of them.  This year… I hope to be faithful at updating at least once a month… inspiration or no inspiration.  Some things are important enough to become a discipline, so that is what I intend to do with this blog.  I admit, I more enjoy creating and not necessarily saying anything… so at the very least in those times I will try to be disciplined to upload pictures or snippets of things I find interesting and share-worthy.  Sometimes I can’t stop talking, so there may be those kinds of posts too.  :)  One thing you can probably count on:  lots of pictures of adorable, furry creatures.  Especially pictures like this:  Lucy (and I) wish you a very Happy and Blessed New Year!

Photo Credit:  Meghan Hawes

Photo Credit: Meghan Hawes

Inspirations…

I’m sorry. I’ve been pathetic at updating my blog.  Last September was the last time I had time to update it and even I cannot believe that.  Between school, power outages, holidays, blizzard, sicknesses etc.…. I have not had time, but the additional truth is, I’ve thought about it… but could not find inspiration in my circumstances.  Today, however, I had an inspiration – ha!  Lucky you!  Yes, I need to have inspiration – something share-worthy, and today that would be…. [insert drum roll…] a seven year old frozen turkey breast I found in the bottom of my freezer!  YES!  Aren’t you excited?!  I was!!  Seriously, I was – hence the reason it takes me so long to blog.  Strange things inspire me.

Okay, so our chest freezer needs to be de-frosted – plus, I wanted to get to the bottom of it and use up all those forgotten frozen things like turkey breasts from when we first got the freezer in 2006.  It’s actually been pretty fun and sort of like a trip down memory lane with the things I’ve dug out.  Hamburger and hot dog buns from a Labor Day picnic from like 2006.  A package of scallops wrapped in bacon from BJs from a New Year’s party we threw in 2007…  various containers of left-over sauces and soups I’ve made over the years… shredded zucchini from the garden from about 4 years ago.  Going to make some zucchini bread with it this weekend – in the middle of winter – as intended, albeit many more years later than intended.

Well, back to the turkey breast.  It was a 5.5 lbs.   I threw it in the oven and roasted it today.  I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do with it, but when it was done cooking, I looked at it and asked it what would make it happy.  It said, “soupie”.  Yes it did.  So that’s what I made.  I shredded up the meat and put 2.5 large containers of broth in my big, black vat.

Turkey Soup 1

Then, I took the pan that had all kinds of good, yummy goobers from roasting the turkey and put it on the stove-top.  To it, I added a couple sticks of butter, three large chopped Vidalia onions and 1 lb. sliced mushrooms.  I let that sauté and get all yum in the pan.

Turkey Soup 2

Turkey Soup 7

Meanwhile, I took 3, 6 oz. bags of fresh spinach and dumped that in the vat.

Turkey Soup 6

When the onions and mushrooms were done, I dumped that on top of the spinach in my vat.  The heat from that began to cook the spinach.

Turkey Soup 8

Next, I cooked up a pound of ditalini macaroni and then dumped that on top of the onions and mushrooms in the vat.

Turkey Soup 9

I stirred all the yumminess together and texted the daughter to pick up some more broth on her way home because the goober to broth ratio was not quite right.

Turkey Soup 10Turkey Soup 11

I hauled the vat onto the stove top to heat ever so slowly until the extra broth could be added… and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I tasted it and had an idea… what if I added a bit of half-n-half?

Turkey Soup 12

Best soup you ever had in your life.

As I was furiously concocting this amazingly fun soup, and the smells were filling the kitchen, I realized it was all-of-a-sudden way too quiet.  I looked down to these faces staring at me and realized it was their dinner time.  What a tease – they’re hungry and patiently waiting as I finish my mad-scientist work.

Turkey Soup Aslan Turkey Soup Lucy

Turkey Soup Boo

So, I wish I could say, something like ‘until next week’ – or even ‘until next month’, I’ve now realized I have to stick with something very non-committal like, ‘until the next inspiration hits…” I bid you happy inspirations!

P.S.  Oh, and speaking of things that inspire me?  My favorite soup-stirring spoon… it’s enamel and has an inviting guest designed onto it.  Can you spot it in this picture?

Turkey Soup 13