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Wednesday, July 20, 2011


This week has been one of those one step forward, two steps back kind of weeks.  On Saturday I took a jaunt through the farmer's market and was mesmerized by the beautiful cherries.  They cost a king's ransom, but after viewing all of your blogs, I was craving cherries  in the worst way.  So many wonderful recipes out there!  I had every intention of making Montmorency  cherry squares but when I got home I thought better of it.  Jamie only eats sweets that have chocolate and peanut butter in them, so I knew if I made them, I would be eating the better part of the tray myself.  So I decided to make cherry jam instead.  I just made it the same way I made the strawberry preserves but boiled it for a bit less.  Seems sour cherries have more pectin in them.  Turned out lovely and I was anticipating a piece of toast with the jam on it once the clean-up was finished. Isn't toast wonderful?  By scraping the pot, I was able to eke out just a dab to keep.  Anticipation.  Opened the refrigerator door and out jumped the jam and the lovely antique spongeware custard cup holding it with it.  I don't know what upset me more, the broken custard cup or the lost jam.

Well, now my craving was not abated so I uncovered a can of cherry pie filling that had been shoved to the back of the pantry and made the squares anyhow.  And you know what?  They tasted just as good as they do when I make the filling from scratch.  And a lot less dithering with pitting cherries to boot!   BTW, Montmorency Squares are simply  a pie crust fitted into a small rectangular pan with a layer of cherry pie filling, then another layer of pie crust,baked at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Then glazed with a nice almond flavored icing.  

Also spent a good amount of the last couple of days  picking and shelling peas.  I had a huge trayfull dried and was certain the were dry when I placed them in the jar, but just to be certain I left the lid off.  After a couple of days I put the lid on and thought no more about it.  I glanced over to the jar as I passed it and noticed that the jar was covered in mold.  In just one hour!  The humidity has been ghastly lately.  All those lovely peas wasted!  All that time!  Well, you live and you learn.  Glad I canned some of them.

Here's a closer look at the bouquet.  All the flowers were growing in the hedgerow.  I never can bring myself to pick flowers that I plant. But I'm always blessed with some of the prettiest orphans.

Friday, July 15, 2011


This is a rose that transplanted itself after the old porch was removed.
A new  garden that I'm starting.  Not much grows in this area as the dirt is very compacted and it recieves the full force of the sun's heat.

This tumbleweed is a rose that I started from a cutting (I'll teach you how later) and a Sweet Autumn clematis which blooms in late August through October.
This is the entrance to the back yard.The roses are New Dawn.  As you can see I couldn't find an angle that didn't capture the neighbor's junk.  
Delphiniums, double petaled lilies and nearly wild roses.
This garden on the side of the house is my attempt at trying to capture autumn.  All the plants have names with "harvest" or "autumn" in them.
The cottage garden behind the garage is full of lilies right now.  You can always get those lily bulbs for next nothing at the end of the season.
Hydrangeas are starting to blossom along with lavender and Jupiter's beard.  This is just a sampling of my gardens.  I know that you thought I was exaggerating when I said I had thousand of blooms in my yard, but now you can see that I wasn't!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I have literally thousands of flowers in bloom in my yard right now and dozens of vases.  But I find this Queen Anne's Lace in a vintage canning jar  set on the window ledge, just the perfect arrangement for these hot days.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Do you know that scene in Raiders of The lost Ark where the ark is revealed and their eyes begin to melt out of their heads?  That's how hot it feels lately.  OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but not a lot.  Of course, all this humid heat is just the thing for the garden so we are harvesting things left and right.  The cool spring and early June was a real boon for the peas. We had quite a bumper crop.  And the shells are plump with their green goodness.  Strawberries needed picking also. And the blueberries are ripe.  Hurray! Time to get out the canner.  I know that I write a lot about canning and some of you don't can, but I really want to encourage you to give it a try.  Before you go out and buy a lot of expensive equipment. maybe it would be a good thing to try your hand at making up a small batch of jam.  You don't need a canner for that.  I often use a large stockpot for making jam instead of dragging out the large canner.  Just place a couple of tea towels on the bottom so that the jars don't come in contact with the bottom of the pot or the jars might crack.  I had a real Lucy and Ethel moment when I did this once.  Apparently the tea towels I was using hadn't been rinsed well enough and all that boiling produced a lot of suds that boiled all over the stove and the kitchen floor.  So make sure you use well-rinsed towels before attempting this!

A lot of people are afraid of canning because the think they'll accidentally poison their families.  To make certain the food is safe use your senses.  LOOK at it.  It should be the same color as the day you canned it.  SMELL it.  It should smell the same as the day you canned it.  FEEL it.  The lid should be hard to pry off.  If it comes off easily, toss it.  When in doubt, throw it out.

Jars not sealing properly are what causes most spoilage.  Two things that I find causes most failures in the jars not sealing are that I didn't allow for the proper amount of headspace.  I use a ruler and measure now, instead of just guessing.  The other thing is forgetting to wipe the rim before placing on the lids.Another thing to remember is that canning is serious business, treat your preparation area like a lab and make sure every thing is clean, clean, clean.  There's no such thing as overkill when it comes to this.

The hot days are good for drying herbs also.  I put mine in the bottom of my broiling pan and put them inside of my car.  It makes the best dehydrator.  And your car smells like the herbs afterward.  Be forewarned,  if you dry dill in your car, expect to have cravings for dill flavored potato chips.  Or maybe that's just me!

Speaking of herbs, my favorite herbalist Marqueta is having a giveaway on her blog:  If you've never visited her blog, I'll know you'll enjoy it.  Marqueta is a wonderful mother with the most adorable children.  She is also one of the kindness, most Godly woman that you could ever hope to meet.  As we say around here, she's the real deal.  Her giveaway is for her E-Book, The Young Lady's Guide To Natural Health is chockablock full of  wonderful information.  And although no one will ever call me a young lady anymore, I enjoyed it also and found it informative.

I know that you probably have your own favorite recipe for strawberry jam but just in case ....

Strawberry Preserves

1 quart of roughly sliced strawberries or whole ones if the do not have hollow centers ( I measure them by placing them in a quart-sized  ziploc.  When I can just barely close the bag, that's the right amount)

5 C. sugar
1/2 C. lemon juice

Place the  the strawberries and sugar in a large non-metallic  pot and let them set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  Heat the berries/sugar and bring to a boil.  Boil for 20 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and boil an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Stir and skim the foam.Place in sterilized  half pint jars, leaving a 1/2" headspace.  Wipe rims and place sterilized lids on.  Process in a hot water bath  for 15 minutes.

Friday, July 8, 2011


God speaks to me all the time.  In the certainty of a decision.  In what some people call coincidences.  In the glory of a garden.  But one time God spoke to me in a voice.  A very loud and authoritative voice.  When I was fourteen, blissfully going about life, just beginning my freshman year of high school.  I remember it as if it just happened  minutes ago.  I was putting my books in my locker, when I heard a very real and very loud voice say "This is your husband".  At the same moment my friend Kurt Centella was speaking to me, trying to introduce me to his friend Randy.  I turned around and stared into the bluest eyes and I knew.  I often wonder why our marriage was so important to God that he personally introduced us.  What did he have in store for us?  I do know that together that we've reared wonderful, successful, hard-working, and more importantly kind and generous children.  We've made a pretty good stab at this thing called life.  And we certainly have enjoyed the struggles along the way.

I know no one wants to hear it, so I'll just say that neither one of us had a happy childhood. So when we left  home to marry, we knew that there would be no running home to mama if things didn't work out, which was actually a blessing in disguise.  We took the part of the vows about cleaving to each other very seriously.  We were united in adversity as many so-called friends discouraged us by arguing that we were too young (19 and 21), needed to get out and explore the world more, needed more experience in life, etc. I often ponder if those people have made happier marriages than we have, it's doubtful..  As for the exploring the world, it was much better to do it together.  At the end of the day, the best place in the world has been our own dear little home, and no five star restaurant could serve a tastier dish than strawberries and peas plucked from the vine and eaten right there in the garden.

So today, after thirty-three years together, we still laugh, dream and scheme together.  We still cleave to each other in hardships.  And he still sees me as that young girl not the fifty-two year old woman that I am!   With love and fidelity to my dear Ran, the most exasperating and wonderful person on Earth!

The picture is of our front garden.  Ran loves hostas and this one is huge.  I get a lot of hosta envy from fellow gardeners  over this one!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Ah, mastery... what a profoundly satisfying feeling when one finally gets on top of a new set of skills... and then sees the light under the new door those skills can open, even as another door is closing.
~ Gail Sheehy ~ 

Well, we finally got the settee reupholstered that I mentioned in a previous post.  Reupholstering is one of those skills that has saved us thousand of dollars over the years.  I always say that if you can wrap a complicated shaped gift box, you  can reupholster. There are lots of books out there on the subject,  but to learn, you really just need to keenly observe how it was done in the first place.  I wouldn't start out with a deeply tufted Victorian davenport, but eventually you could work your way up to it.  Dining room chairs are a good place to start. Then maybe a simple chair that doesn't have a separate cushion. If you ask me, reupholstering is a lot easier and takes a lot less skill than making slipcovers that so many of you wonderful seamstresses make. 

And the money you'll save!  This cute little loveseat started out as a rather staid fussy thing with a formal powder blue brocade cover.  By switching the fabric to this serene blue-green vintage Waverly print, it went from uninviting to comfy English cottage.  The settee cost $35  and the fabric was about $30 from an Ebay auction.  And additional $5 for staples and that brings the total cost to $70. By the by, don't you love the names of those vintage fabrics, Quaker Lady, Sturbridge Stencil, Wedgewood Trellis?  They seem so romantically New England-y  farmhouse-y  dear.  Auctions, estate sales, and garage sales are chock full of nice well made furniture just waiting to be revived and that can be purchased for a song (well maybe not a song if I'm singing!).  And usually it's better made than the newer stuff since most have hardwood frames and tendoned joints.  Plus the scale is right for smaller homes.  New furniture seems to be made for the Taj Mahal or something.  

The bottom line is this; don't let the fear of failure keep you from trying something new, be it gardening, canning, playing piano or whatever your heart desires to learn.  The libraries and book stores have volumes of how-to books. Schools offer classes on all sort of things.  Study up and take the plunge.  You might discover a new skill that gives you joy.  If not,it will be an oy vay! moment and you can move on knowing you tried at least.  This winter when I have more time, I'll be studying photography.  As you can see by the above picture, that's one skill that needs some honing! I think that the battery needs recharging, that might help it look a bit sharper.  Lighting wasn't good either.  Even I know that much!