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Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Hello dear friends!  Aren't we having a glorious spring?   With forsythias and daffodils in bloom and buds on the birch and willow trees, everything is bathed in a golden glow.   Yesterday while taking Georgie on his morning walk in the back fourty,  I spotted this little scene.  Something about the yellow wheelbarrow leaning against the compost bin and the hedge of forsythias just made my heart leap.  It just speaks of the  hope of an abundant garden, doesn't it?

Speaking about leaping hearts!  On Sunday I came around the corner and spotted a fox skipping down the street.  He was a jolly  fellow  and very handsome!  He climbed atop a ridge to give me a better view of his magnificent  self and I sat for a good quarter of an hour watching him  while he sat warily keeping an eye on me.  Finally he became bored and sauntered off over the ridge.  Hope I meet him again!

I also had good fortune in spotting something else this week.  Yesterday, I had to make the eighty mile (one way!) trip to do some banking.  Every time I have to make a trip to the big city with it's crazy traffic, I'm always so grateful for my little home tucked away in the middle of nowhere.  Anyway, I'm digressing here.  To make the trip worthwhile, I stopped at my favorite thrift store.  This little place is always a treasure trove and today was no exception.  Sitting on a shelf, just waiting for me, was this whale oil lamp.
Of course it didn't look like this when I found it.  Someone had filled the font with nasty moldy looking seashells and had inserted a tipsy electric socket on the top.  I brought it home removed the electrical parts, shook out the shells and now have a lovely antique that just says "New England".  So is it  collector's luck or a good eye that I manage to accumulate such lovely things for so little money?  Probably a bit of both. Oh!  Guess how much it cost. Four dollars!

All this yellow is making me hungry for something lemony.  I think I'll make some lemon squares.  That should be nice and refreshing for a snack when I come in from turning one of the garden plots.  Here's the recipe:

Lemon Squares

1 C. flour
1/4 C. confectioners' sugar
1/2 C. butter

Melt the butter.  Stir in the remaining ingredients.  Put into a greased 8 inch pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Lemon filling:

2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 C. sugar
1 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. lemon juice

Beat the ingredients together.  Pour over the baked crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Cool and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.  Cut into squares.

PS:  I forgot to add that we had our first meal of asparagus from our own plot and we mowed the lawn today.  Two things I can never remember doing in March.  We are really enjoying our early spring!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Look at that!  Our forsythias are in bloom!  In March! What a joy this past week has been.  I believe I might have been suffering from that sun deprivation syndrome, because suddenly with the emergence of the warm weather I feel energized.  It's like that scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy steps over the threshold from a somber black and white world to a technicolor  fantasy land. How wonderful it is to open the windows and let the breeze blow away all the staleness.  What a joy it is to run errands without the burden of heavy coats and boots. Kind of a metaphor for life isn't it?

This past week,I've read blogs about women with empty nest syndrome,others worried about the health of loved ones or their own health, others fearful about the economy and what it means to their own stability.  My dear friends, I want to assure you that just as those old gray twigs bring forth lovely bright spring flowers, so is our Lord working miracles in your life.  But just as sometimes the plants need the help of a gardener to prune away  the dead branches, we sometimes need to prune away the dead  branches of our lives; the self-doubts, the should ofs, the what ifs, the guilt, and  the worry.  Don't let them take over and ruin the beautiful bush that is your spirit.

"Well", your probably saying," easier said than done!"  One thing that I've found that helps is to be a little selfish (just a little).  I know that bucks conventional wisdom, but I truly believe even the best Christian, wife and mother needs a little time to themselves just to connect to their self and renew their spirits.  So each day, I set aside a half hour to do something just for myself.  Whether  it's reading something just for entertainment that doesn't serve the purpose  of educating, or proving to someone that I'm an intellectual.  Just something purely entertaining.  For me that's childhood favorites like Anne of Green Gables or the Betsy-Tacy books.  BTW, I must confess that I've become quite impatient with this snobbery that  only certain books (such as Glenn Beck and Oprah's book lists and PBS)  are deemed worthwhile.  Read and watch what you want  and hang those that think you are shallow or silly if it isn't  "serious". Or doing a craft for the love of it.  Not for a gift or for charity, or as often in my case, to be sociable, just for the enjoyment.   Or how about watching your favorite childhood sitcom on Youtube.  Swing in a hammock and daydream. Go outside and do some cartwheels.  It doesn't matter what it is, just as long as it makes you happy.  Just for a little while tuck away all the thoughts about what a mature person should be doing, stow away the worries and just be a child again. Just for one half hour a day unpack your burdens and feel the joy, just like shucking that heavy winter coat after a long winter!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Hello everyone! We're having an early spring here.  It's so nice to go outside without piling on heavy coats and boots.  Certainly gives a person some pep!  The other day, we started cleaning out the flower beds.  How exciting it is to discover green shoots under all those dead leaves.  I even did a load of laundry and hung it outside.  Don't remember ever doing that in March!  The other thing I don't ever remember doing in March is watching for tornadoes.  Yesterday we had a tornado watch.  Strange weather!  

Noticing that there were little green buds starting to form on the rose canes, I decided to root some of them.  I have had so-so success with this in the past, but since it costs nothing, it worth a try.  Here's how:

Rooting Roses

Cut rose stems about eight inches long.  The bottom should be cut at a fourty-five degree angle.  Remove all the foliage from the cutting.  Now you can dip in rooting hormone, but I use an old-fashioned method of making a tea from willow branches that I will explain after these directions. place the cuttings in a pot with good potting soil or directly in the garden in a place that doesn't get the direct sun and stays cool.  Water well.  Place a bell jar or if you don't have one, a quart sized mason jar will do,  over the cuttings.  In a bout a month roots will start to form and hopefully you will begin to see green  beginning to sprout from the cuttings.

So there you have it.  What have you got to lose?  I read somewhere that a woman took the roses from her wedding bouquet and did this.  Wouldn't that be nice?   Well, here's how to make a "tea" from willow branches that helps plants root.

Willow Tea for Rooting

Gather up some thin pliable willow branches about the thickness of your little finger.  Cut into small pieces about an inch long.  You'll need about two cups to make a  half gallon of tea.   Just as tea, steep the cut up pieces in boiling water.  Allow to steep overnight.  Refrigerate. Will last for a few months.  But it's easy to just make up a batch whenever needed, which ensure it's effectiveness.

Now that you have your rooting tea you can either steep the cutting directly in the tea  or do as I do and use it to water the cuttings.  If I'm gathering cuttings from afar, I'll take along a quart size mason jar of this and keep the cutting in it.

The other thing I wanted to share with you today, is my recipe for good olde Irish Stew as we are nearing St. Patrick's Day.  It's so much fun to plan something special for these little holidays.  Helps to make the time pass until we can get busy outside in earnest. This is a recipe I clipped from a magazine decades ago, supposedly it comes from a genuine Irish Inn:

Three Chimneys Inn Irish Stew

2 lbs. lamb, cubed
1 C. celery, diced
1 C. carrots diced
1 C. parsnips, diced
1 C. onions, diced
1/2 C. turnips, diced
1/2 C. potatoes, diced
1 C. tomato juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 C. brown sugar
rosemary to taste
thyme, to taste
salt and pepper , to taste
coriander, to taste  (I skip it)
cardamon, to taste (only if I have some left over from Christmas baking)
1/4 C. oil

Lightly brown lamb in oil.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer over low heat until meat is tender and the vegetables are soft.  For me that's about two hours, but the beauty of a stew is that there's no such thing as cooking it too long.  Just add water if the liquids evaporate.  Or you could experiment using the crockpot for it.  It's better to err on cooking too long than not stewing long enough.  No one wants to bite into tough meat!

I used to make this stew after Easter, when costly lamb would be in the reduced for quick sale at the grocery store.

Friday, March 9, 2012


What helps luck is a habit of looking for opportunities,
of having a patient but restless mind, of sacrificing one's
ease or vanity, or uniting a love of detail to foresight, and
of passing through hard times bravely and cheerfully.
~Victor Cherbuliez~

Above is a picture of a cupboard that my husband made from a discarded window  that we found on the curb.  Our kitchen is small, 17 X 7 feet.  So we don't have a lot of storage.  But we needed something to fit inside the little niche that is created by the chimney  wall.  We  searched for a suitable cupboard and even toyed with having the local Amish make us one, but in the end we came home, put on our thinking caps and created this one.  And it's like it was meant to be!  Lucky me!

So often I hear people tell me that I'm lucky.  Lucky that my house is paid off.  Lucky that we were able to put our boys through college.  Lucky that we don't have any debt.  Luck had very little to do with  it.  Indeed, we had more than our fair share of misfortune.  But if there is any "luck" involved in our lives, is that we had enough foresight to learn to be thrifty at an early age, enough sense of ourselves not to be swayed by fads, enough patience not to become indebted to credit cards but to wait until we were able to afford what we needed.  

There were years that we had only one car (and a clunker at that), which  meant I walked to the grocery store with a baby in a wagon and another  in a stroller.  No wonder I was so skinny back then!  There were years when we had no discretionary income.  I learned to add interest to my small wardrobe by adding a pin, belt, or scarf.  Turning the hem up or adding a peek of lace to it.   Not eating what we were "hungry" for, but eating what we could afford from reduced for quick sale produce and meats and creative uses of leftovers.  In other words, what we lacked in funds, we made up for in creativity.  

I think that the most important muscle you can exercise in learning to become thrifty, is learning how to be creative.  Really, that old phrase "making do" means just figuring out how to do or obtain something  without spending money.  How do I make that old ratty davenport look nice?  How about making some cute pillows from the scrapbag  and adding a throw knitted from leftover yarn?   Sure is cheaper than going out and buying a new one.  Can  you combine several cans of paint to make a pleasing color for those old tired looking walls?  Maybe planting a pretty garden from plants started from seed and painting the front door a pretty color is all you need to make your "less than a dream" house become a dream house.  Which leads me to my second point .....

Be content!  So many times I hear people be apologetic for what they have or the lack of what they have.  You know those people.  You compliment them on their home and they quickly start pointing out its faults and make it clear that its just a place to hang their hat until they get their "dream" home.  But why?  It's a perfectly lovely home.  And maybe if they saw it in a different light, they might find it is all they really need and maybe even desire.   Or the woman that you compliment on their pretty dress and they say "This old thing?  I've had it for years!"  So?  It's still pretty!  It's just a matter of attitude really.  That old clunker that I mentioned earlier?  It was a wonderful car and never had any mechanical problems ever.  If the body wouldn't have rusted out, we would have been happy to drive it forever.  I'm so glad we had it when our income really couldn't take a hit from costly car repairs. I never felt ashamed that it wasn't stylish or expensive looking. As a matter of fact, when people made fun of it, I felt rather protective of it and would give it a pat and let it know I appreciated it.  I will continue to look at my life like that old clunker  and instead of saying"poor me!" , I'll say "lucky me!'.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Hello everyone!  Well!  March certainly came in like a lion, didn't it?  Hope this post finds you all safe and sound. 

We started our seeds!   Can spring be far away?   Just the usual tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.  Plus we needed to start some more Alpine strawberries, as I'm concerned how all the freezing and frost has affected them this winter.  Another thing that we discovered is that we get just as good results from onions when we start them from seed as we do when we buy those onion sets.  It's always a source of wonderment to watch those tiny blades of grass develop into lovely onions.  Whoever doesn't believe in miracles has never planted a seed!  We're growing an antique variety that dates from the 1700s.  It's always fun to plant those unusual varieties.  Plus these are supposed to be good winter keepers!  Another seed we are trying is soapwort or Bouncing Bet (love the old name, don't you?).  I used to have some at another house, but  neglected to  dig any when we moved.  Never could find any plants again.  So hopefully we'll be able to grow our own "soap".  Here's how to make a shampoo from the leaves:

Soapwort  Shampoo

a dozen leafy soapwort stems (roughly chopped)
1 pint water

Bruise the stems lightly with the back of a spoon in an enamelware  or any non-metallic pot. Add the water and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  At this point, you can add a handful of fresh  herbs, such as chamomile for blonde hair or rosemary for dark hair.  Just toss into the infusion and cover the pot.  Allow to cool, then strain and use immediately or store in the fridge for up to two days.

Ta Da!  Paraban free shampoo!  Oh!  And lavender would be a lovely addition too!

This weekend we hung some circa 1940s wallpaper in our little hallway.   Now I know this style wouldn't be for everybody, as a matter of fact, it probably only appeals to three people on Earth.  And fortunately those three people happen to abide at Sweet Briar Cottage!  This is a very special wallpaper because it is the exact one that is in the set of my favorite movie, The Trouble with Harry.  Different colourway though.  For that matter, the movie is a rather strange comedy that a lot of people don't "get".  But I love everything about it, from the clever dialogue, the beautiful Vermont setting, the Bernard Hermann score (love this guy), to the wonderful character actors (Edmund Gwynn and Mildred Natwick).  But isn't it funny that I'd come across the very same wallpaper?  After all it was manufactured over sixty years ago!   And isn't it fortunate that I'm married to probably one of the few men that knows how to hang old, unpasted wallpaper?  And isn't it a miracle that our little old-fashioned hardware store still stocks wallpaper paste?  I'd say, it was meant to be!

PS:  When I enlarged this picture I noticed that now I need to touch up the green trim.  One thing leads to another!