Snowed In

We were snowed in again yesterday.  At this point, it really doesn’t matter.  I think I ‘ve gotten used to it.  I spread my projects out on the dining room table and spent the day meandering through them all.  It’s too early to plant up the seeds but a few pots here and there give me something to look forward to.  It’s exciting to see the little sprouts coming through and to check them each morning.  March 1 st came in like a lion so you know what that means!

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My Old House


My house was built in 1848. I fell in love with it the minute I saw it and it has suited me perfectly. My youngest started college this year and the other 2 have moved out on their own. Raising a family of 5 here, a lot of stuff accumulated. A year ago January, I set a goal to clear things out and replace them with things that I made or refurbished myself. Big radiators, exposed pipes, tiny closets, funny little doors and odd little rooms add loads of quirky character and good opportunities to be creative and flexible. Every week I fill a box of things to be donated and another of things to bring to the recycling center. Progress has been slow but sure, eventually I will have everything simple and clean and homemade. We won’t talk about the dreaded cellar now.. I haven’t made my way down there yet, lol.

Valentine’s Day

 

 

When my girls were little,  I would set the table fancy for Valentine’s Day morning and bake heart shaped muffins. Their Dad gave each of them their own little box of chocolates.   This year my youngest came home for the weekend.  I  set the kitchen table up a bit  last night and made some scones to have this morning with cream and strawberry jam.   The perfect way for me to start the day, with my baby girl…Live-Love-Laugh… and happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

 

It’s all Relative

Record breaking cold and more snow on the way.  A few years ago, I saw a news report featuring a middle aged woman, braving the darkest neighborhoods in New Haven.  On  the coldest nights, such as these, she  checks on the homeless. She encourages them to allow her to bring them to shelters.  She leaves warm food and blankets to those that don’t wish to go.  Sometimes she has to call an ambulance.   I watched as the news cameras focused in on this woman.   Filled with awe and admiration, I was shocked to recognize her as my second cousin. She was clearly impatient to get on with her work and not at all interested in an interview or a pose.  She is a true hero and I never even  knew it.  I can’t believe the same blood runs in our veins.  I feel shamed to think of the complaining I’ve done about being cold and shoveling.

Snow, Seeds & Leeks

 

It’s still snowing like crazy. We got about another 10 inches so far.  As I was clearing the driveway, I made some final decisions on what to plant in next year’s gardens. I rewarded myself for the shoveling by ordering some seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  They have taken the “safe seed pledge”,  they don’t buy or sell genetically engineered seeds.  There’s a Safe Seed Resource list  online that lists sources from all over the world.

For the first time, I am going to try and grow leeks so I started some seeds indoors. In a few months, I’ll sow some more leek seeds directly in the garden to see which lot does better.

 

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Breakdown

Last night, about an hour away from home, the clutch went on my jeep as we were getting onto the highway.  Luckily, my husband was driving.   In the past, I haven’t reacted well to automotive failures and things ended badly. For about 30 minutes, stuck in fifth gear we were figuring out a plan to get as close to home as possible without having to stop.   Once the car stopped  or  if we were unable to maintain a certain speed,  that was it,  we wouldn’t be able to get the car in gear to go any farther.

We made it off the highway into a parking lot about a half hour away from home.  We thought we had roadside assistance through our insurance company but found out that we did not.   There are no taxi cabs where I live and the friends that we called didn’t answer their phones.   Finally, I called my sister who lives almost an hour away from me and she came to give us a ride home.  I’m the type of person that hates to ask anyone for help.  I  felt awful asking her to drive all that way on a freezing Saturday night.

All things considered, everything worked out really well and I  should be thankful.   I don’t know how long I will be without a car.  It’s supposed to snow for the next 3 days.  As it is, I’m beginning to feel like I live in Narnia…….Spring will never come and every day will be cold and grey.  There’s a garden center in town that has lots of green houses, tropical plants, heirloom seeds and LIGHT.  Maybe I can make a quick visit before the snow comes back.

Dominos, Snow & Salad Dressing

Last night my daughters came over for dinner and a game of Mexican Train Dominoes.  With temperatures in the negative digits, 2 feet of snow on the ground and a forecast predicting more snow for 3 straight days, I needed some fun.  Plus, I got to to send care packages home with my girls.

We had escalloped potatoes with ham and a  big salad with homemade dressing and some side fixings.   Instead of mixing all the salad ingredients together, I  put everything on the table like a salad bar.  Mixed lettuce, tomatoes and celery went together in a big bowl  and  then onions, blue cheese, dried cranberries, nuts, avocado, peppers were in their own smaller bowls. Everyone added what they liked to their own salads. I made a basic creamy garlic salad dressing by mixing these ingredients together in a jar:

  • 1 small, raw garlic clove, mashed (sprinkle a little sea salt on the garlic before you mash it up to pull the juices out of it)
  • 4 Tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonaise
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (  I used apple cider vinegar but white wine vinegar is good too)
  • 1/4- 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • salt and pepper to taste

This tastes better if it’s made a few hours ahead and even better made the night before.  It will stay about a week in the fridge.   Shake the jar before serving.

For dessert I made vanilla cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting.

I’m ready for the snow.

 

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odds & ends

I’d rather be gardening….but that is a long way off !  Reading this morning’s  post of  one of the bloggers I follow, Johnwhays, renewed my resolve to enjoy these cold winter days and put them to good use.

I finished a pillow I was making and it adds a cheerful note to this funny chair that I painted and reupholstered earlier.  I removed the back from some earrings I had and gorilla glued them onto the ends of the arms.   I don’t go for “high style” here, (obviously, lol),  I lean more toward the whimsical….things that make me happy

I made my weekly batch of kefir in this big, 8 cup glass jar. For any of you out there that want to make your own kefir and haven’t gotten your own kefir grains or don’t want to deal with maintaining them..dehydrated kefir starter works great and it’s quick and convenient. Eventually, I will get a hold of some live kefir grains  but this is  fine for now.

A while back  I learned from another blogger, Agnes from Gaiainaction , that it’s possible to start plants from  grocery-store bought ginger and tumeric  and that she had done it.  I potted some up and will keep them moist.   Hopefully, if I can keep myself from poking at them, they will be growing in no time!

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Missed by the Blizzard

It was our turn to get lucky, I guess.  We ended up with only 6-8 inches of snow where I live.   I took a ride around town in my old jeep and everything was shut down except for a gas station and a liquor store.  Sending out warm and safe thoughts to those who did not fare as well!

Thanksgiving plans


The snow is falling and the lights are blinking. Six to nine inches of snow are predicted but it’s alternating with sleet so the roads are treacherous and the lines are heavy. All I can do is keep cooking. If there is no power tomorrow, we’ll load up my old jeep with food and figure things out.
I started my pies early. The dough was mixed up yesterday so I just had to roll it out and prep the fillings. My daughter came home from college yesterday and I was happy thinking about her waking up to the smell of pies baking, in her own bed. Unfortunately, the apple pies started bubbling over onto the bottom of the oven and caught fire. Smoke poured out from the stove and the fire alarms went off, LOUDLY all over the house. I opened the doors and the dogs took off in 2 different directions, running outside towards the road. I would like to say I quickly, calmly and competently handled the situation…BIG LIE
I made a cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries and brown sugar but it was too watery and didn’t taste very good. I added a lot of blueberries that I had frozen from my garden, cider vinegar, allspice and cinnamon and cooked it down until it got thick. Now it’s delicious. The pies are kind of a funny color though.
Things rarely come out the way we expect them to. Maybe tomorrow will turn out to be the perfect ‘Norman Rockwell’ Thanksgiving! Probably not. That’s okay.

Thanksgiving Table Arrangements

I spent some time today figuring out how  I’m going to set the table for Thanksgiving.   There’s a lot of Bittersweet outside but the berries are poisonous and drop easily from the vines.   Better to keep everything contained. A few strands placed within vases does the trick. There’s no need to add water and they will stay pretty for a long time. These bring color to the table, look light and airy and stay neat.  Sparkling glass, natural twigs and berries with a bit of metallic…  Simple, homey and a  little special. Works for me!

Hello November

Hello November! Today was windy, raining and cold.  Gloomy  Aconitum, not one of my favorites,  is still holding on to its flowers.  Also called Monkshood and Wolfsbane, every part of this plant is poisonous.  It’s often featured as the culprit  causing gruesome deaths  in murder mysteries.   It was one of the few plants here when I moved to this house 14 years ago.

This little Black Eyed Susan vine, on the other hand, is so cheerful and  still blooming.   I started the seeds inside in early April and  then set the baby plants into a pot,  trellis in place,  6 weeks later.  By mid June the vines had scrambled to the top of the trellis and were covered with flowers.  I save these seeds.   After the flowers bloom, I pull the pods and set them in a bowl on the window sill.  One night in September, I heard  lots of little popping noises. All  the pods were opening and shooting little black seeds out of the bowl.  This is a fun and exuberant plant from start to finish.

Today I made some pizzas.  Trying to come up with a  thin crust that is  both crispy and a little chewy, I  substitutied 1/3 of the white flour for semolina flour and it worked pretty well.  I topped them with mozzarella, cheddar and asiago cheeses and tomato sauce.   Really good! Thinking of something else I wanted to get done, I headed out to the vegetable garden for some cabbage. Halfway there, soaking wet and freezing, I turned around and decided not to make sauerkraut. Better to spend the afternoon with a pot of tea in my favorite chair, making Christmas presents.  Happy November!

Last Call

I finally called it quits and gathered in the last of the tomatoes and peppers from the garden.  House plants and patio plants that could be wintered over came in as well.  These had to be repotted. Their soil is tired from the summer’s growth and I didn’t want to bring in any bugs that might have been crawling around or laying eggs in them.


I spent a lot of time this past week with my Father, trying to help him decide where he wants to live after December 1st, when the closing on his house will take place. We looked at different condos and communities but his heart isn’t in it. A decision seems a long way off. Meanwhile, a relative showed up at his house one night needing a place to stay. Amongst the truckload of her possessions were 3 cats. As the house is still being shown until the buyer’s mortgage approval comes through, this is a problem.  That is not the only problem with this arrangement but my Father feels he can’t turn away a family member in need. Hmmm, life gets complicated.

Ripening tomatoes in the windowsills and finding sunny spots for the newly potted plants is very therapeutic. Cooking is too. I baked my oldest daughter an upside down peach cake. Then, I sliced up 5 big apples, added some cinnamon and 2 Tablespoons of honey and dotted them with a couple of tablespoons of butter. This cooked along with the peach cake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Topped with freshly whipped cream, it was delicious.

Herbs in the Home

One year ago, I was putting up “Going Out of Business” signs in the windows of the little store I had for 9 years.  I carried a lot of organic herbal products that I made and packaged myself. Many of the ingredients were grown in my own gardens.  It was a LOT of work making it all on a large scale and adhering to strict, high quality, organic and sustainable standards that I wanted to maintain. I gave up the whole business and selling part of things, but I still make everything for my home and my family. I thought it would be nice to start sharing some of the recipes of the things I make on this blog.

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This time of year, I used to sell a lot of herbal sachets. They are little bags filled with dried herbs that naturally repel mice and insects, particularly moths. They are used in dressers, linen cupboards, closets and packed among clothes and blankets in storage. They can also be used in suitcases, tossed in a sleeping bag or sent off to college in the clothes bins.
I make them with dried herbs from the garden. Lavender is one of the main ingredients because I love the fragrance and it is a natural moth repellent. I use lots of peppermint and pineapple mint. Any type of mint is fine. It acts as a fixative and is an insect and mouse repellent. Ground orris root is a fixative as well. It has a subtle, powdery floral scent and one tablespoon of orris root is added for every 5 cups of dried herb.  If orris root isn’t handy, no worries, mint will set everything up just fine. Dried rose petals go into the mix too. Dried citrus peels or chamomile flowers add a nice note. There is no set recipe here, the key is to make mint about 1/4 of the total mix.


Mix all the dried herbs in a bowl. Essential oils can be added, if you like. A tablespoon of vegetable oil for every 5 cups of ingredients can be added to enhance the natural fragrance of the herbs. Loosely fill muslin, drawstring bags. They can be used multiple times. Little bags are easily made using fabric scraps too.

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Rainy Day Remedies

imageThe ordinary arts we practice every day at home are more important to the soul than their simplicity might suggest -Thomas Moore

We’ve had a lot of rain.  Truth be told, waking up to gloomy skies again had me feeling a bit glum. I began to imagine all the bulbs I recently planted rotting away outside under all the soggy leaves. That led to the thought of leaf removal, never a fun prospect. As I thought about this, my yard grew into gigantic proportions and the thought of raking it all made me want to stay in bed. Overwhelming thoughts…one led to another. Better to get up and moving instead of mentally wallowing around in moldy leaf piles.

A little Aromatherapy was called for. I added some lemon oil to the cleanser I’d made.  Lemon, clean and bright was bound to help lighten up this dismal day. Motivating too….soon the kitchen was sparkling. A touch of lemon oil and tangerine on my dust cloth had things picking up a good shine and looking better. Thunder began rumbling outside, the temperature was dropping. I soaked a bit of cotton with cinnamon oil and sucked it up with the vacuum. The faintest scent of cinnamon trailed behind me as I made my way through the house. By now the rain was pouring, pounding on the roof and lashing against the windows. Definitely a day for soup and some home made bread. A big pot of soup went on the stove and as it was simmering, I mixed up the bread dough and set it to rise.

Upstairs, before putting fresh sheets on the bed, I sprinkled a few drops of lavender oil on the mattress underneath. A few drops more on the mop smelled heavenly and picked up the grain on my old wooden floors. It looked so good, I did the stairs on my way down as well. The wind was picking up and howling. Leaves were coming down in sodden masses. Soon the trees would be bare. Still some time for apple picking but not this day. This was a good day for baking them. Baked apples and whipped cream. I peeled the apples, sliced them up, added brown sugar, some spice and popped them into the oven with the bread. I made myself a cup of tea and pulled out my work bag. Spreading out my projects, deciding what to work on, I noticed the darkening sky which got me thinking how nice it would be to light the fireplace…..

Home Made

hand painted table

Table I painted

My Grandmother grew up on a farm and raised her children on a farm as well.  They had a cow and some pigs, geese, ducks and chickens and a giant garden.  Canning, churning, cheesemaking, baking, sewing, soap making, tending the garden and the children…she did it all and nothing went to waste.    She made comforters and stuffed them with goose feathers.  Any stale bread or cake was ground into crumbs and added to the next batter.   Ashes and fat were used to make soap.

I’m told the house I live in now is a lot like where she raised her children.  By the time I knew her, she was widowed and  living  down south in reduced circumstances.  She had 4 small rooms and the littlest bit  of land.  No matter.  She made it her own and she had a garden.  Behind the house was a small tin shed she called her “utility room”.  There she kept her treasures, all cast offs and rummage sale finds.  There were yards and yards of material,  neatly arranged, color coded, on  floor to ceiling shelves that lined  2 of the walls.   Glass jars filled with buttons, thread, yarn, laces and trims, were on shelves along the third wall with pots of glue, sparkles and paint. In the middle of it all was an old wooden work table and next to that, her  foot pedaled, black Singer sewing machine.

From this place, she worked her magic, transforming  her little home into a clean, cozy nest.  She did it all with her own hands.  Everything always had a fresh lick of paint.  Starchy white curtains were drawn back so sunlight filled the rooms.  Chairs and couches, plumply reupholstered, were strewn with cheerful pillows in happy colors. Chenille bedspreads and patchwork quilts were on the beds and her braided rugs on the floors. Here and there, you’d see a bit of sparkle from some old jewelry, on a soapdish she’d  made or on a picture frame.  Pick up a dishtowel, and there was a smiling duck she’d embroidered.   There were always homemade jellies and a scratch cake in the pantry, and homemade bread in the breadbox.  Her house smelled like laundry brought in fresh from the line.

This is what I aspire to, though I have a long way to go.  I have my own little workspace where I sew, paint and repurpose things to make them beautiful to me.   I’m happiest there, in my garden and my kitchen, working on things to make my home fresh, cheerful and clean, where nothing goes to waste and  I can make things that I call beautiful.  Life is not easy, far from it.   Appalling things happen, personally,  globally.   I am learning to do what I can and let go of, or pray about , those things over which I am powerless.   In the meantime, this is where I am and what I do.

Painted rocker with my Granmother's quilt

Rocker I painted with my Grandmother’s quilt

Pinwheel Party Favor Bags

Pinwheel Party Favor bags

Pinwheel Party Favor bags

This past summer I had a bridal shower for my daughter Emily in my home.  Of course, I wanted to make everything myself.  Lol!  Looking back, I see that I need to work on my delegating skills, not to mention that whole ‘perfectionist’ issue I have going on.  Anyway, I found some really cute bridal shower wrapping paper that fit perfectly Continue reading

Upcycling the ‘End of Summer’ mood

Upcycled trunk I found for $20.  I painted  it and use it for storage/ coffee table

Upcycled trunk I found for $20. I painted it and use it for storage/ coffee table

This morning I started pulling my Fall and Winter clothes out of the dresser in my closet .  They’re all to be washed , ironed and  laid nicely into the main dresser where my summer clothes are now.  While they are in the washing machine I’ll be starting the process of putting some of the gardens to bed.  I’ll clean them up, feed them up and tuck them under until spring.  Feeling a little sad and a bit daunted at the thought of another long winter, I reminded myself that there is a lot of  creative time in the cold.  So much time has been dedicated to the garden and in the kitchen the past few months, and I loved it .  I do have to admit it’s wearing a little thin.  This post is just a few pictures of  what I worked on in past winters, a motivation to  get those creative juices flowing and to embrace the coming seasons.

Upcycled table, painted and handles replaced

Upcycled table, painted and handles replaced

This post was shared with Mod Mix Monday

 

 

Sunday Morning Visit

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I have 3 daughters. Within the past three years, two of them have left home and gotten married. I am happy and excited about the new lives they are building, but I miss them! I miss having them here;  baking with me …..going apple    and berry picking together.  I miss doing art and sewing projects with them and redecorating their rooms….I miss hearing about their lives on a daily basis and having their friends around.  I miss my little girls.  I even miss my teen-agers. The good part is that I love having grown-up daughters and the relationship we are developing as adult women.

I was excited yesterday when my oldest daughter, Amanda, said she would be stopping by for a couple hours this morning. I decided to make our visit a little special. I mixed up some pastry dough and stuck it in the fridge. This morning, I rolled it out, piled some of our garden blueberries in the middle, gathered the dough up around them, pinched it together and sprinkled it all with a little sugar. Into a hot oven it went!  Then, I set the table on the back porch with some pretty china I found years ago at a second hand shop in town.  I went out back and picked a big, fat bouquet of limelight hydrangeas.  In less than an hour, everything was done! My open blueberry tart was delicious! My daughter was surprised and happy to have a little fuss made over her. We had such a great  morning, sitting on the back porch, drinking tea and talking together like old times.  I do miss the old times. ….thankfully, now is wonderful too!

Limelight hydrangea

Limelight Hydrangea

Open Blueberry Tart

Open Blueberry Tart

I shared this post with Bernideen’s Tea Time and Share Your Cup Thursday