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Friday, September 28, 2012


backyard at Sweet Briar Cottage
                                                To everything there is a season,                                               
                                                a time for every purpose under the sun.
                                                A time to be born and a time to die;
                                                a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
                                                a time to kill and a time to heal ...
                                                a time to weep and a time to laugh;
                                                a time to mourn and a time to dance ...
                                                a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
                                                a time to lose and a time to seek;
                                                a time to rend and a time to sew;
                                                a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
                                                a time to love and a time to hate;
                                                a time for war and a time for peace.
                                                            ~ ecclesiastes 3:1~
Hello dear friends!   First I'd like to thank all of you kind and gentle souls that wrote to me to inquire about my absence and left me encouraging little notes.  Words will never express how very dear those words have meant to me.  
We have  arrived at  a new season of life at Sweet Briar Cottage.    My darling Ran has retired and now has taken up residence.  We have managed to squeeze him in, but it has taken a lot of organizing and disencumbering to reach the point where he now has a place for his necessities and treasures.   Retirement is like all important steps in life, first you analyze it from all angles, then you pray over it, then, like all major decisions you just take a giant leap of faith and do it!   Just like deciding to marry or to have children, if you get too analytical about it, logic would say it's impossible, but in the end you must follow your heart.  

Retirement means big changes in our lives.  For one, we will be as poor as church mice. But that's fine with me, because I've always loved the challenge of making a dime stretch into a dollar.  There's always something new to learn about being thrifty.  Do you know what I did yesterday?   I made my own vinegar from the peels left over from the apples I was freezing!   Now that I have a "mother" batch, I'll never have to buy cider vinegar again, as long as there's windfall apples in the world! 

Another exciting event for us, is that our house renovation is finally finished!   Above is a picture of our little cottage.   The first I've ever shown you of it taken from the front.  I had always hated the big ugly picture window and the aluminum siding  that was scratched and really just an eyesore.    The final touch was placing the "Sweet Briar" quarterboard  over the door.  Ran and I have scrimped and saved for years to  redo this little cottage.   Even before we owned it.  We always dreamed of a little cottage on Nantucket, but of course, some dreams are out of our grasp, but now we live in a little seaside town with or gray weathered shake Cape Cod and we are overjoyed.  Lesson learned - find a way to make your dreams come true, even if it is not the conventional way.  I had to cut down all of my roses so the workers wouldn't complain, but I can't wait until the grow back and travel up and over the roof again.   I'm sure Jeff, our contractor, will have a fit, but the cottage has to live up to it's name, so he'll just have to look the other way when he drives past!   Don't you think the front yard is crying out for a white picket fence?

My dear friends, this will be my final post.  I have discovered that life with Ran leaves very little free time!  I really admire all you gals that  home school, knit beautiful things, put three meals on the table AND blog.  Maybe time management is something I need to work on!   Goodness!   By the time I make breakfast, do the dishes, get cleaned up and dressed, make the beds, gather what needs to be gathered from the gardens, and  walk to the post office, my morning is over and it's time to start in on making lunch.  How do you all do it?  Anyway, I'll still leave my blog open, so that those that wish to communicate with me can leave a note in the comment section. Or you can e-mail me.  I will still try to leave comments on your blogs as often as I can find a spare moment.  

So I leave you with my final piece(es) of wisdom.  Never borrow trouble.  Always seek joy.  Never try to keep up with the Joneses, but look for contentment in your own little world.  Be encouraging, rather than discouraging.  Remember there's no such word as "can't".  Self-sufficiency is the only true path to freedom.  Jealousy is such a useless emotion, no one get richer, thinner, or happier by envying others.  Never complain about the cards you have been dealt in life, others have it much worse.  Speaking of which, there will always be someone that is more  talented, more beautiful, richer, thinner, luckier, than you, so you best just get on with learning to be content with "you" and your lot in life before the whole shooting match is over.  But most importantly always remember that this is a day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalms 118:24)

                                      LOVE, PEACE, AND HAPPINESS TO ALL!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Hello dear friends!   Sorry if I've been pokey about leaving comments on your blog lately.  Just been very busy, which I know is a very poor excuse.  There is always time for friends!

One of the things we've been up to is canning spaghetti sauce.  Here's my recipe:
This is a great recipe because you don't have to remove the skins, and since the tomatoes are on the small side this year it really is the only way I'd be able to cope with them .   Made a couple dozen pints already.  We never can get enough of this stuff!

All the large tomatoes  go toward making tomato sandwiches.   A really thrifty meal this time of the year and nothing taste better!  Here's how:

How to Make a Tomato Sandwich

Spread  good sturdy bread (we use sourdough)  with mayonnaise. As much or as little as you want, but more is always better.  BTW, there is vegan mayo out there.  Next, thinly slice an onion and place atop the bread.  Red onions are the best, but an onion is an onion.  Next place thick slices of farm fresh tomatoes over the onions and sprinkle liberally with fresh black pepper and less so with the salt.  Grill.  Note:  we've found that heating a skillet with olive oil and then placing the bread on the skillet, turning once to coat the bread, makes the nicest toasted sandwiches.  No burnt bread from uneven butter distribution.  OH!   And mozzarella cheese is always a nice addition, if you are so inclined. There you have it, nothing finer in the world!

One thing that is keeping my mind preoccupied is this.  We are finally getting our house resided.  I feel somewhat like Mr. Blandings as we make decisions about where, what and how.   Exciting though!

I found this quote the other day.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.
~John Muir~

Here's a little corner of beauty I found this week.  Our hydrangeas have bloomed!  It was touch and go there for a while.   All the blossoms appeared and the were bitten by the frost in that strange weather we had this spring.   I'm so happy that decided to show themselves after all!

It occurred to me that I've been neglecting the thrift part of my blog lately.  So here's my tip for this week.   The cattle growers are running out of feed and have begun to sell off their herds, so for a while there will be a glut of meat on the market, forcing the prices to go down.  Now is the time to buy and freeze or even can some.   After the initial flood of the market, prices will go back up and because you can't just get livestock overnight, you have to grow it and that takes a lot of time,  prices will be much higher in the for quite a while.  Corn will also be expensive, the farm report says it's selling for an all time high of $9 a bushel.  Corn is used in a lot of foodstuff, so groceries will be much higher.  BTW, listening to the farm report is a good way to keep abreast of the economy.  Now is the time to stock up your pantry.  A  post I wrote about stocking a basic pantry can found at the right under the label category entitled The Basic Pantry Items.  In the past I wrote more about being thrifty, but have given it up lately as I feel I'm preaching to the choir.  But if you're interested there's a lot of earlier posts that have thrifty ideas.   You can always use the search engine at the top of the page if there's something specific you are interested in.

Well, here we have arrived at the middle of the week already.  If we don't chat sooner, have a lovely weekend!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Hello dear friends!   Here's a  picture of some of the flowers I picked by the wayside.   I love these type of bouquets so much.  Their unabashed  lovely disorder just speaks to my soul. I hope you will bear with me today, because this post will be rather disjointed, I have so many things I want to express.   I guess you could say that my thoughts are wayfaring.

First, he had some rain!  Hurray!   I wish that I could share with you the joy it brought.  It wasn't really enough to do any good, but it was so pleasant to hear the rain falling upon the roof, Jamie and I went out and stood in the middle of the yard with our faces uplifted to the heavens, just rejoicing in it.   And after the rain. it was as though the world rejoiced also.   The birds came out and started chattering excitedly and flitting back and forth.  Mr. Rabbit came out from his abode under the raspberry bushes and hopped about the yard. He was so cute, I forgave him for eating all my beans and cabbages.  I wish I could have taped it for you.  I would have entitled it Joy!

All that are fans of Tasha Tudor are familiar with this quote:

The gloom of the world is but a shadow.
Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take Joy!

~ Fra Giovanni~

I always try to live each day like this.  I have to admit there are some days that it is easier said than done.  As a matter of fact, during one dark period of my life, the only good I could find in the day was that I awoke.  And on some days, I rather hoped I wouldn't.  But like the warmth returning after a too long winter, ever so slowly I was able to once again find joy  in the simple little things that make a life.

So how does one climb out from a deep dark depression to become what some may think of as a bit of a frivolous , happy-go- lucky person?   One word - faith.  Now, my faith, may not be the same as yours, you may not even worship the same God as I, but I truly believe that to live life without some sort of faith in something bigger than our own little selves must be a to live a life without hope.

Isn't religion a funny thing?   Everyone is so sure that their way is the only way?  I used to feel so inadequate, when I talked to or read blogs from Bible scholars.  Some people are just so knowledgeable and can quote scripture for hours at a time.   They always know just how to pray and can give a verse for any situation.  I could study until Kingdom come (and I may very well do) but I'll never be  one of these types.   Just never been any good at memorization.   But I get the gist of the Bible.   And that's is to love thy neighbor and follow the commandments and to not judge people to harshly.  And to be thankful for all the He has given us.

My mother is always arguing that I need to attend a church.  I do not,  by the way.   I understand the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy, but I fail to see, how attending a church that I do not feel part of, that has made no effort to make me feel a part of, makes the Sabbath holy.  She argues that it isn't supposed to be about me, but what is the purpose of a church but to bring its parishioners closer to God?  So that they can have a personal relationship with Him?  Cannot my family by ourselves, worship and praise the Lord without the aid of a minister or a church building?   I may be wrong, but this I do know, no amount of church attendance (and I attended every week, plus twice during the holy seasons for thirty years)  every brought me closer to the Lord.  But hey, if you find church a solace or a prerequisite to being allowed into Heaven, I will not argue with you.  Just being honest here about my faith and I will freely admit, I do not have the answers.

In catechism we were taught to love, honor and fear the Lord.   I always got the fear part, and even the honor part. But the love part was difficult.   I could say I loved God, but I didn't really feel it. It wasn't until I went on my own journey of discovery that I learned to think of Him as a loving parent, that really wants the best for us.  Now I would say, I have the faith of a  small child.   A child doesn't second guess it's parent, just accepts what they are given.  It's simple, there aren't a lot of rules to my faith.  I just am thankful for all that is given and TRUST. 

So each day I rejoice in the little things, like wayside flowers, and send up thanks to the Creator.  I have conversations with Him all day long.  "Just look at that beautiful  sunset, God, thank you for sending it my way!''  "Well I really messed up there didn't I?  Will You please show me how to fix it?"   Some may think that this is too simplistic and some make think it is disrepectful, but that is how I  have a personal relationship with Him.

So here I arrive at the subject of personal relationships.  Recently my son and I had a conversation about a friend of his that had committed suicide when he was in high school.   He said, "You remember her don't you?   She was always hanging out at our house, because she liked to feel part of the family."   I'm ashamed to say, that I vaguely remember the girl, there were always so many children running about our home  back then.   I wish I had known her situation, I would have given her extra attention.  We had a rather unconventional home life.  There were always gangs of kids hanging around.  I allowed them pretty much free range of the place.   The math geeks were allowed to write out a complicated math equation on the upstairs hallway wall (it had ugly wallpaper I was going to strip anyhow), the musicians  played in the garage, and it was sort of a home for the broken hearted girls that had a case of unrequited love for either one of our own boys or one of the other boys that were always there.   Many an afternoon some sweet little girl and I would sit together on the settee in my bedroom watching an old movie,  knowing that I was tending to a love lorn little soul.   My neighbor, who was a teacher, always felt it was her duty to warn me that so-and-so didn't come from the right family or that they had a substance abuse problem.  But they never had any problems while they were at our house and who knows?   Maybe just hanging about a "normal" family and eating cookies fresh from the oven was what they needed.  I never regretted that I didn't shelter my children from the unsavory facts of life; that some people have problems.  They all grew up to be wonderfully compassionate people.  It didn't keep them from accomplishing much in their young lives, from attending good universities, and none has ever gotten into trouble with drugs or alcohol, so I guess it all turned out OK.  As they say the proof is in the pudding.   I loved my little adopted wayfarers and think of them often.  I gained so much from them being in my life.  I hope they look back on those days fondly, when crazy Mrs. Z. used to let them camp out on her hard old Victorian sofa, when their parents kicked them out of the house. 

Since we are the subject of friendships, I would like to talk about blogging friendships.   I hope everyone that visits here, feels welcome.   Some of us may not have much in common, except for the fact that we both read blogs.  But if you leave a comment, I will do my best to answer it,   and if you'd like to talk about something different, don't be afraid to mention it.  If it's personal you can always send me an e-mail.   If you feel that you are out of the loop, I'm sorry.  Sometimes, it just happens that a post isn't relevant to everyone.  It's not deliberate that I'm leaving you out,.   Being an outsider all my life, the very last thing I would want to do is to make anyone feel like they are standing on the outside looking in.   Everyone is welcome to join the party here.   Just leave a comment.  If you leave comments regularly, don't be surprised to find your blog listed over in  my blog roll.   Speaking of which, I don't follow blogs because of two simple facts.  One, I don't know how, and secondly, ever since Comcast switched to Xfinity,  my e-mail is so slow, that I try to eliminate as much of it going to the mailbox as possible.   So if the number of followers is something you value, and I comment often on your blog, or you see your blog listed on my blog roll to the right, just  mentally add one more to your followers -me!  

Friday, July 13, 2012


Hello everyone!  I'm sending you a bouquet of dill today.   There's never was a more wonderful summertime scent then dill, was there?  And a meal of freshly dug potatoes dabbed with butter and sprinkled with fresh dill is a taste of heaven.  Time to make some dill bread, the recipe is here:  If you want to impress your guest,bake some of this bread, roast a chicken, toss a nice salad and serve them picnic style out on a blanket spread out on the lawn.  There's nothing finer!  Who says entertaining has to be expensive or complicated?  

My dear friends, I have a prayer request.  Let us all pray for the poor farmers.  This drought is really taking a toll on them.   I just read today that 97% of the cherry crop was destroyed and also heard that the corn crop is in jeopardy.  Since corn is widely used in food, not to mention to feed livestock, we can only wonder how expensive groceries will be this fall.  A prayer for the farmer is a prayer for all.

Speaking of droughts, I've read that some people are having trouble with their tomatoes.  A lot have blossom end rot, which is caused by the lack of water, or inconsistent watering. It leaches out the calcium.  Tomatoes need  consistent watering, strangely, if you get a big rain storm it can leach out the calcium also.  I once heard that you must treat your garden like a guest and give it a nice long drink of cold water to refresh it.  That is why, this summer, I haven't accomplished much.  Too busy watering!

Now for something silly.  I wanted to cut my hair, but I have a major phobia of hairdressers.  It seems they never listen to me.  I could go in with a picture of a six foot high beehive and request it and will come out with a bowl cut.  Bowl cuts, seem to be my lot  in life.  The other problem with my hair is that it is what my hairdresser call heavy and silky, which is just an euphemism for stick straight and doesn't hold a curl.  It's a teenager's dream, they wouldn't need to use any straightening irons, that's for sure.  But on a fifty year old woman, it's not so dreamy.  I try to pin it up, but the silky part resists pins and elastics, so I always look disheveled.  So anyway, I was studying hair-dos, trying to find the perfect one for me.  First you have to determine what your face shape is, which is where the troubles begins.  The experts disagree.  On one web site, they'll show a starlet as having a round face, on another site, she's considered square and on yet another they think she has an oval face.  So if they can't figure out face shapes, how in the world can I?  Oval faces are the shape we are all supposed to strive toward.   But who determined that this was the ideal and why?   What's wrong with a sweet round face or a pretty little heart shaped one?   Why must we all strive to look alike?  What a boring world it would be.  It reminds me of the 80s when everyone was wearing shoulder pads, because we heard on Oprah that shoulder pads balance our bottom heavy figures.  We all went around looking like linebackers.   The silly things we do for fashion.  You don't see men behaving this way, by the way.  We women are so hard  on ourselves.   Remember when getting our colors done was the thing to do?   I went around wearing colors I hated because they were supposed to be flattering.  Never liked to draw attention to myself with bright colors.  Wonder if the look on my face from feeling uncomfortable in orange  and gold, made me look attractive?  Long story short, I decided not to cut my hair.  Guess if women my age don't have long hair, I'll  be considered eccentric.

You know, the word, eccentric, is a wonderful word.  I so often read on blogs, that people considered themselves outsiders and that they don't fit in.  If we would only consider ourselves eccentric and artistic instead.  It's really just a matter of attitude.  Just have the confidence to be the authentic you!  The people that love you, will still love you, and those who can't accept you as you are, are not true friends anyhow. 

Having at length accepted my place in the universe; mine and no other; I grow quiet like my hemlock tree; tranquil, like my elm.
~David Grayson~

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Thought you might enjoy seeing how some of the houses in our neighborhood were decked out for the Fourth.   It was an old-fashioned American kind of a day.  Complete with children selling lemonade in red white and blue stovepipe hats, picnics on the lawn  and a parade in all it's flag-waving glory.   Part of the charm of our little village is how the everyone turns out to celebrate.  Sorry about the quality of the pictures, I was trying to be discreet as I snapped them.
This last picture is of our little abode.  As you can see, the Russian sage is growing like gangbusters this year.  And the phlox is blooming, its scent wafting about as we sit on the porch.  On Sunday, Ran and I celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary.  How time flies!   I am always honored that this kind, generous, intelligent man has chosen me to be his wife.  No matter how hard times have been or will become, life is always sweet!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Hello everyone!   Are you enjoying the weather?   Getting cranky when people say things like, "Hot enough for you?".  Watering the garden has become a full time job and still the garden looks sickly.   I'm really concerned for the farmers.  And the poor birds!   The ground is like concrete.  Where will they ever find worms?   But enough about that!

On a much more pleasant note, we are preparing for the 4th here.  Can you believe it is already July?   My grandpa used to say it is always Monday or Friday.  I couldn't understand this when I was a child when a week seemed to stretch on for an eternity, but now I know exactly what he means.  Except for me, it's always the first or the last of the month.   Anyway,  one thing we  will be doing on Independence Day is taking our breakfast on the porch.  Just something simple like blueberry muffins and cranberry juice for a red, white, and blue theme.  By the by, how do you like my red and white teapot?  I was on my way to the store when I spotted a garage sale and couldn't resist  stopping.  And there it sat, just waiting for me.  It's a cute little Myott art deco-style one and can you see that it has a matching trivet?   And guess what?  It only cost four dollars.   I'll probably enjoy it for a little while then donate it to a local thrift store that is run for battered women.  They have a little shop in front where they sell antiques to the tourists.  

Speaking of tourist, our little village has swelled about tenfold with all the visitors.  Yesterday I needed a few lemons and stood in line for over half an hour at our little grocery store.  But it wasn't so bad, because I had a nice conversation with a young couple.   They were just so happy to be on vacation, it made my day to talk to them.  I'm afraid we take for granted all the beauty that surrounds us, and it takes a stranger to point it out to us from time to time.  Which reminds me, I read this quote recently:

"For each of us, there is some corner of the world, and I rejoice that this is mine. . . ."
~Henry Beetle Hough~

Probably everyone feels this way about there home.  I know I do!   My husband recently won an all-expense paid vacation for two to anyplace in the United States, but we couldn't think of any  place we really wanted to go more than we desired to be  right  here at home.  Who knows, though?  Maybe after the last potato is harvested, we'll take a trip.  

Inside the house, my thought are on red, white and  blue as I'm making strawberry jam, blueberry pie filling and drying strawberries.  Nothing white though!  The recipe for my jam is here: . Recently someone asked me how to know when the jam is set.  I use an old-fashioned method that never fails.  Simply place a saucer in your freezer.   When your jam begins to thicken, place a dab on the cold saucer and place it back in the freezer for a minute.  Take it out and run your finger right through the middle of the jam.  If it remains separated and doesn't run back together, it's set.   Here is the recipe for canning blueberry pie filling:

Blueberry Pie Filling  (for five pounds of blueberries)

5 lb. blueberries  (that's the amount I use because they come in five pound boxes at the green grocers)
3 C. sugar
1 C. water
1 package liquid pectin (the packages have two pouches, use both)
juice of 1 lemon

Heat the  water, sugar, pectin and lemon juice slowly until it begins to boil.   Add the blueberries and bring to a boil and the mixture begins to thicken.  Pour into sterilized jars leaving 1 inch headspace.  Place a previously simmered lid on top and screw on the rings.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

This makes between 3 1/2 -4 quarts or 7-8 pints.   It is a bit thin so you may have to thicken it a bit with cornstarch AFTER you open the jars to use.   We used to make pie filling with cornstarch, but now the extension office says that method is too thick and may not heat through enough to be safe.  Isn't it amazing that we all are alive?   I remember when people used to make jam and sealed it with paraffin.  If it had a little mold on top, we would cut it off!   While I'm not suggesting anyone do this,  I guess being a little reckless just built up our resistance.  Don't remember people having all the digestive issues they seem to have these days, either.  There was an old saying that you need to eat a pound of dirt before starting kindergarten.  Now people are so cautious with anti-bacterial soaps, antibiotics, etc., I'm afraid we have lost are ability to build up resistances to things. When I'll hop off my soap box now!

And finally, since we are speaking of the color blue, I have some exciting news.  Both of my sons have informed me that they are expecting little boys!   I'll be up to my neck in blue yarn knitting for little grandsons. Wishing you all a happy 4th and everyday!   Until next time!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Hello again, dear friends!  Sorry about not posting anything lately.  Was trying to figure out whether I wanted to continue on with blogging or not.  Sometimes I get quite frustrated with the whole thing, after all, I'll never be one of those bloggers that they write about in magazines.  The ones with beautiful photography and wonderful witty things to say.  I always tell myself that some day I'll learn to take a good photo, but then, who am I kidding?  All that technical stuff bores me to bits, and I know I will never learn.  And I don't want to, either!  Nope, what I have here is just your run of the mill type of blog with a few sweet friends.  And that sounds just about perfect!  So I suppose I'll prattle on, hoping that you won't become too bored. 

So now that is out of the way, what have I been up to?  Jamie and I painted the service  porch, but I won't write about that because reading about painting is like, well, watching paint dry!  Here's how it looks all sparkling and fresh.:
The strays love the bench.  I still have to find something to hang on the wall, just waiting for something to inspire me.  This is where we have our lunch every day that is sunny.

Speaking of sunny days, we have had more than our fair share, I'd say we are experiencing a drought.  So a good portion of my day is spent watering the garden.  But that doesn't stop the binder and pig weed from growing or the purslane.  I've never seen such an abundance of weeds.  Oh well!  At least the pig weed and purslane is edible, so  if all else fails, we can always eat them.  Between the weather and all the wildlife that makes my garden their favorite delicatessen, we just might need to do this!  But the dry conditions haven't bothered or roses.  That's my beloved New Dawn on the header picture and the one to the right is Evelyn that grows by the  porch.

The other day I received a strange package in the mail.  It was a box of pictures from my mother.  She's getting rid of things and she wanted me to have some of my childhood.  I came to a sort of epiphany looking through those old pictures.  One was a  newspaper clipping from the time I won a blue ribbon at a fair when I was eleven.  It was a group photo and I was trying to locate myself, but had to read the copy to figure out where I was.  The reason I couldn't figure it out was because I was looking for a "fat little kid".  I have three older sisters and to this very day they like to remind me that I was a fat little kid.  I'm afraid my mother instilled in us a spirit of competitiveness  (or is it jealousy?) that some of my sisters have never outgrown.  We were always competing who had the most boyfriends, the thinnest, the most successful, the most popular, etc.  It didn't help that my mother put a lot of value on appearances.  So anyway, I always grew up thinking I was fat.  I can remember clearly having an argument about the dress I was wearing in the picture because my mother wanted me to wear a fancy dress, but my 4-H instructor told us to wear a plain cotton dress.  My mother told me I would look fat in it.  She used the word fat a lot back then, whenever she was angry with any of us, she wouldn't tell us, but would start with the"you look fat" tirades.    What I found in the picture was a very tall, healthy young girl with very nice legs.  Didn't look at all like the image  of the blob I had been carrying around in my head for the past fourty years. 

This got me to thinking.  Suppose you lived back in colonial times when there were no scales to weigh you and all your clothes were handmade, so you weren't aware of sizes and there were no magazines to tell you what a beautiful woman should look like.  Would you be happy about your size and shape?  I'm a tall, sturdy woman, that looks more like Jane Russell than I'll ever resemble a character out of a Jane Austen novel.  I go out where I should go out and in where I should go in.  My husband finds me attractive.  I'm healthy.  I can work hard all day.  I have long legs that can swing easily over a fence or take long strides to get me where I need to go fast.  So yes, I am happy with my body. After many years, I'm going to stop beating myself up because the scale  no longer registers under the 110 mark or that I'll never have a twenty-three inch waist again.  From here on out, I'm going to celebrate that I am a woman.  How about joining me?

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Hello dear friends! The roses are beginning to bloom here at Sweet Briar Cottage in spite of the fact that the temperature have rarely reached the seventy degree mark this year.  I think the cool weather has been beneficial to them,because the canes are just loaded with buds, especially the New Dawn on the arbor.   The rose pictures above is Zephrine Drouhin, a wonderful climber as you see  and it grows in the shade.  Did I mention that it smells heavenly too? 

On the subject of heavenly scents,  the rose  at the right started out as Heaven Scent, but after years of harsh winters, it had to be cut back.  I guess I must have been a bit prune-happy because what was once a pretty yellow rose, is now this dark red rose.  Guess I pruned it back to it's original root stock.  Ah well!  Whatever it is, it is certainly hardy and loves to climb.    A truly wonderful climber is Paul's Himalayan  Musk, pictured below.  Such dainty sweet blooms and a can it climb!  Up to fourty feet!  I'm hoping that it will someday grow high enough to ramble over the top of the roof.
Soon the New Dawns and Evelyns  will bloom.  Then everyone will know why our house is called Sweet Briar Cottage. 

Speaking of rose covered cottages, I have a book recommendation that's perfect for summertime reading, Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart. It's supposed to be a mystery, but you certainly don't have to be Agatha Christie to figure it out by the first few chapters.  It's just a sweet little bit of fluff, with one of the nicest of endings.  And it's a lot cheaper than a plane ticket to the Cotswolds. It's been ever so long since I've read a book that I've loved.  Lately, I've been just slogging through books, trying to give them a chance by reading the first one hundred pages, then figuring since I have that much invested in them, I might as well see it out to the end.  When I truly love a book, I can imagine myself right into the action.  I have a very rich imagination, that's why I can see cute little cottages in run-down shacks, much to my husband's consternation!

 Imagining life as you'd like it is such a wonderful catalyst for attaining your dreams.  I'd like to imagine myself as a proper lady that wears wellies and tweed skirts while she gardens.  And I'd look fetching in a sun hat instead of looking like Ma Barker.  When people stopped by, I'd say, "Darling, you must simply stay for tea!", although I've never called anyone darling in my life and we never have any tea in the house, except for Ran's Arnold Palmers. Oh and did I mention, I'd look and sound like Greer Garson while I did these things?  Well, I'll never look like Greer, but at least I can match my gardening clothes and perhaps find a hat that's a tad bit more flattering  as I wheel my barrow about.  What is life without hopes, dreams and goals?

I leave you with one of the philosophies of my life, put to word much more eloquently by Emerson, then I could ever say:

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing
anything that is beautiful
for beauty is God's handwriting
- a wayside sacrament.
Welcome it in every fair face,
in every fair sky,
in every fair flower,
and thank God for it as
a cup of blessing."
                                                          ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson~


Wednesday, May 30, 2012


                                           "Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade."
                                                                  ~Rudyard Kipling~

Hello everyone! This weekend we worked at planting the garden.  After working all day for three days, I'm happy to report it is in.  Now for the next four months, my time will be spent weeding and watering, harvesting and preserving.  This is no lady-like, garden-gloves type hobby garden, but a real "provide food for the family" garden.  It takes up the better part of one suburban lot and yields enough  to feed a family of four,  plus plenty  left over for family and friends.  There are five plots each about 30 feet  long by 6 feet wide, plus we grow grapes and blackberries  along the fence and  have a strawberry and blueberry patch.  On a second lot, we have a small "handkerchief " orchard  of semi-dwarf apple, pear and meddlar trees. Since we are vegans (for the most part) all we really need to buy is flour, yeast, sugar and coffee and a few other staples.  Unfortunately, we also indulge too often in a bit of cheese or eggs to bake with, hence we are not true vegans.  But if we were in a bind, we could live off this garden, and in the summer, we often do, not stepping inside a grocery store for weeks at a time.  Not only does that save a lot of money, it saves a lot of calories because I'm not good about  fattening and unhealthy impulse buys!   All of our plants are started from seed, including the onions, which make it very economical.   One plot is dedicated to our favorite type of food, Italian.  All the tomatoes, peppers, onions and eggplants are old heirloom varieties.  If you are going to go to all the trouble to grow a garden, why settle for ordinary varieties that you can find in the grocery store?  It's so much fun to taste something that perhaps the pilgrims ate.   Each year I plant something unusual.  Last year it was broccoli rabe, which was a disaster.  This year, it's woad, an herb used for dying.  So far the plants look like they are doing great.  Oh! By the by, the roses I started  died from neglect when I was sick, so my apologies to those I promised one.  But if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.  I'll give it another go and see what happens. What have I got to lose?  Here's on of my favorite quotes about gardening:

"A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust."...Gertrude Jekyll

Pretty much sums it up doesn't it?

 Above is a picture of my "wild" front yard garden.  Right now the Jupiter's Beard  and the honeysuckle (hummingbirds love these vines)  are in bloom.  Later it will come into its full glory when the hydrangeas and roses make an appearance. I love this time of year, so full of hope, so full of possibilities!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Hello everybody!  Sorry I've been away so long, I guess time just got away from me.  Been spending a lot of time getting the garden ready and planted.  And a lot of time pondering this simple life.   The term "simple life"  really is a misnomer isn't it?  After all, there's nothing simple about growing and preserving your own food, or heating your home with wood, and there's certainly nothing easy about homeschooling. By the by, I want to take the time to tell all you homeschooling moms that I really admire you.

The reason I've been pondering the simple life, is that I got the usual call from S.  S. is a career woman, extraordinaire.  As a matter of fact, she told me that she'd like to work four more years before retiring, so she can say she worked fifty years.  Her first question is invariably, "What's on your agenda for today?"   How can I explain to her that the word "agenda" is not even in my vocabulary these days.  Oh, I have an occasional  appointment penciled in on the calender,  but the days of the five-year planner are long gone.  My agenda is set when I arise in the morning.  If the sky is clear and the forecast says warm, I might do up the laundry.  If the weather is really hot and dry, I might spend most of the day monitoring and watering the garden (as I did on Sunday).  On a blustery day, the  baking is done so the heat from the oven can take the chill off the house.  Or the sun shining in the window, might highlight how dusty everything has become, so an afternoon spent dusting and waxing is in order.  On other days, a particularly thought-provoking Bible verse, might send me in search of answers, and I'll spend all day researching and studying every aspect of it.  I never miss the opportunity to enjoy nature or am too busy to talk (not gossip).  Everything gets done eventually.  Everyone gets fed.  In other words, I am simply living.

Simply living applies to my garden too.  When I had my other blog, I once posted a picture of my front garden.  I received a few comments that it looked rather "wild". I'm pretty sure the commenters didn't mean it as a compliment either! Ha!  But it didn't bother me any, because that is exactly the look I was going for.  The front garden is completely designed around where I can plant things, being completely netted by the roots of two  old maple trees.  Although I'm not the most petite petunia in the onion patch, standing atop the shovel, I cannot get it to budge into the rooted ground.  So when I find a little pocket of earth, I pop a plant into it. The picture at the top of this post is one of my favorite spots.  It's my back steps. It's not the most beautiful garden, but I love it the most because it was completely created by the Creator.  The columbine just sprouted there and the rose rooted under the porch and found it's way to travel up the wall, hiding all the ugly mechanicals that are there.Every time I   approach it, it makes me smile.  A special  reminder to me that He loves me and wants me to be happy.  Now if I were not open to the randomness of life, I probably would have tried to remove the plants and I would have missed all this joy.  There are times when we need schedules and control, but there's such happiness in simply living!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Hello everyone!  I hope you all are enjoying your May so far.  We are getting our April showers a month late here, but that's OK because it gives me time to do all the things I should have done last month but didn't.  Like taking down the heavy draperies and hanging the lace and sheer ones. While I was at it, I  put a vase of pussy willows on the window sill.  One of the things I love most about this old house is that it has nice deep window ledges.  Perfect for flower vases.  Aren't pussy willows wonderful?  Something about them belongs in the fairy tale realm.  By the by, can you see how close our house is to the neighbors?  That should give you an idea about the size of the yard we have.  So no more excuses about lack of yard for not gardening, now!

Now if you have remained with me after my scolding, I will reward you with a picture of my little southern border garden. Ha!  At the moment it is in it's purple/lavender glory, with lilacs, tulips and aliums in bloom.  I'd like to take credit for planning such a beautiful display, but the truth is it is just one of those happy happenstances.  I planted the mini-mini lilacs (they only grow to two feet tall!) but the tulips were there from the previous owner.  And last year I bought the alium bulbs at the end of the season for a deeply discounted price.  After they sat around the house for a week or so, I decided I better get them planted before the snow flew, so I just popped them in where the ground was easiest to dig.  And there they are! The perfect companion to the tulips and lilacs.  What a delight to discover them this spring.  I'm ashamed to admit it, but I had forgotten all about them.  What a wonderful surprise!

May is also, the month of my dear husband Ran's birthday.  He requested kuchen or crumb cake for his birthday.  This picture doesn't do it justice, but it was the last piece grabbed away from you-know-who to get a shot before being eaten.  I love to bake, but with Jamie being not much of a sweets eater and me being perpetually on a diet, I rarely get the opportunity.  A far cry from the days when all the boys were at home and there were always big crowds of  neighborhood children lurking in the kitchen, waiting for cookies or pies to come out of the oven.  My neighbor Pam, dubbed our house The Bakery.  A very nice thing to be, indeed.  So anyway, when I do get an opportunity to bake something, I don't hold back.  Farm fresh  eggs, real butter  and vanilla, cane sugar, and sour cream with the higher fat content the better.  I warn you, this is not a health food! But birthday cakes shouldn't be, should they?


1/2 C. butter
1 C. sugar
2 eggs
1 C. (8oz.) sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 C. sugar
1/4 C. brown sugar (I use dark)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C. chopped nuts (I use pecans)

Cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the sour cream and vanilla; mix well.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well.

Spread half of the batter into a greased 9 inch baking pan.  Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle half over the batter.  Spread the  remaining batter over top and sprinkle the remaining topping over the batter.  Gently swirl the topping with a butter knife through the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

This is nice served with whipped cream and strawberries.  Maybe for a Mother's Day brunch?  I must confess we eat it  plain and warm from the oven, when the cinnamon part is all melty.  Tastes like a cinnamon roll.  Well, I hope that you all are enjoying and will continue to enjoy your lovely May. Until next time, I will leave you with a verse from my favorite hymn, Simple Gifts:

                                 And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
                                 "twill be in the valley of love and delight.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Hello everyone!  We are a having a nice day today here at  Sweet Briar Cottage.  A perfect "hang the laundry on the line" day.  Hope you are having a lovely day where you are at also!  A few people wrote to me with questions about drying foods, so I thought I'd wrote a post about it and hopefully answer all your questions.

First things first, what to dry?  I only dry fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are grown organically and have been picked at their peak of freshness.  That's easy for me, because I grow all my food, but if you don't have access to your own garden, a good source of such things is the farmer's market, roadside fruit stands, and a good reliable fruit market that specializes in locally grown fruits and vegetables.  It's a colossal  waste of time to preserve fruits and vegetables that have been trucked half-way around the world because they lose a lot of their nutritional value in the process of shipping them plus you lose more in the preserving of them.

There's three ways that you can go about drying your foods; solar, in the oven, or in a dehydrator.  I have a dehydrator made by Excalibur  which costs about $200.  A pretty expensive machine, for sure, but really does a great job on things like tomatoes, peppers, and apples.  In my younger years, I had one of those cheaper ones that you can buy at any big box store.  It did an OK job on drying some things like mushrooms and peas, but I've been equally successful drying those things by the solar or oven method, so I'd say it depends on what you want to do.  Sometimes you just have to wait to buy the quality product rather than settle for a cheaper one.  In the meantime  you can try solar and oven drying.

Solar drying can be difficult.  The extension service says that you need 3-5 days of temperature above 95 degrees and very low humidity.  Something we rarely experience around here.  But if you live in a drought area in the south, you might want to give it a try.  Just put your vegetables or fruits on trays, cover them with some cheesecloth and put them in a sunny spot that is away from animals and dusty roads.  Having lived in some industrial areas, where there was so much pollution, I wouldn't attempt to dry anything outside.  You need clean fresh air.  Anyway, if the temperature drops more than 15 degrees at night, bring your trays inside, or else the dew will rehydrate what you are drying and may cause mold and spoilage.

Another method that I use that's kind of a cross between solar and oven drying is to set my trays inside my car.  You know how hot a car gets inside on a hot, sunny day.  Works beautifully for drying herbs.And I've also used it for peas and broccoli minced fine (we use this in everything; sprinkled into soup and salads, thrown into spaghetti sauce, and cheese sauces).

Speaking of herbs, they are the easiest thing in the world to dry.  For optimum flavor pick them early in the morn and tie bunches together and just hang and dry.  Above is  a picture of some that are drying in my kitchen. A kitchen isn't the best place to dry herbs, as there's a lot of grease and steam lurking about, but these are not ones that I use for flavorings, just for the scent.  To dry herbs, Just gather a bunch together, place a paper lunch bag with holes punched and cut into it over the top and suspend someplace that's dry and out of the direct sunlight.  I don't dry too many herbs, as they remain fresh out in the garden well into late fall and are one of the first things to reappear in the garden.  I do make some herbal concoctions such as Herbes de Provence,  Scarborough  Faire, and an Italian mix.  These three mixtures serve most of my seasoning needs.  I'll write more about them in future posts.

Oven drying is another method.  It's quite not very energy efficient as you have to operate your oven for several hours.  So I like to do this on a cool day, when I want to take the chill off.  You need to have an oven that you can adjust the heat down to 140 degrees.  Arrange you trays so that there is room for air to circulate around them.  Keep the door slightly ajar to help with the air circulation, or if you have a convection  setting on your oven use that.  Rotate the trays every half hour.  You must use caution so that it doesn't get to hot or the fruits/vegetables will harden on the outside before they dry on the inside, causing spoilage.  Plan for enough time to dry your produce thoroughly.  Do not stop and restart the process.  This can cause spoilage.

There's little prep work to drying fruits and vegetables, but there is some.  For fruits with tough skins, such as, blueberries, grapes, cherries, and plums the skin must be checked, or cracked.  To do this blanche the fruit in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then immediately plunge  into very cold water to stop the cooking process.  Light colored fruits such as apples and pears need to be treated with ascorbic acid to keep them from turning brown and mushy.  You can find this by the canning supplies.  A mixture of 2 teaspoons to 1 cup of water sprinkled over the slices does the trick.  Except for mushrooms, tomatoes and onions, which will turn to mush, all vegetables need to be blanched.  Just use the guidelines for blanching for freezing to do this.  You can find this easily on the internet.

Once you have the dried fruits and vegetables, now what?  Use them in soup and casseroles.  They don't have to be reconstituted for soups.  Just add them to the stock.  As a matter fact they used to manufacture a product called Soup Starter that was just a few dehydrated peas, onions and celery, etc.   To reconstitute the dried fruits and vegetables, just soak whatever amount you are using in twice the amount of water for a couple of hours.  Remember to save  the water.  You can use it like you would vegetable broth.  Of course, dried fruits and vegetables make dandy snacks.  We love the flavor of dried corn.  And the tomatoes are good too.  A winter compote of dried apricots, pears and apples is a lovely thing in the cold winter.  A lot better than something made from anemic fruit that is available that time of year.  Although this was a rather long post, drying fruits and vegetables isn't a complicated process.  As a matter of fact our forefathers, dried apples and beans (leather breeches) just by string them up over their fires.

So I hope that answers all your question.  Next time I'll be back with some lovely things I want to share with you.  Have a nice week until we meet again!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


April is a long month up here on the the tip of a peninsula.  It isn't truly spring but it isn't really winter.  It's a neither here nor there month.  Too cold and windy to go out and dig in the garden, but the blue, blue skies tease us and we have a bit of wanderlust.  Indoors we are waiting impatiently for the day when we can retire the heavy insulated draperies and rehang the crisp white Cape Cods.  What a difference that will make when once again the rooms are filled with sunlight.

When we were out, I noticed the white trilliums on the edge of the forest.  They are always a good indication that the elusive morel mushroom is lurking about.  When I was a child, mushroom picking was part of our family's spring  ritual.  The entire family went; parents, grandparents, children and even babies. My grandfather was the best hunter.  He said he could smell them, which I could never figure out, since the smelled just like plain old dirt to me.  At the end of the day, we would have several grocery sacks full.  When I see how expensive they are in the store, all I can think of is the thousands of dollars worth we picked in my childhood.  Once home with our bounty, my mother would fry them in butter and we would have them on toast for dinner.  The rest were frozen for use throughout the year.  Even as a child, there was great satisfaction in knowing that you had contributed in a small way to our family's  budget.

Now days, I buy my mushrooms from the mushroom farm.  They always have nice sackfuls for a good price.  We dehydrate them and pack in those vacuum packed packages.  Dehydrating and drying is something I plan to do more this year.  And less canning.  The peppers that I diced and dried are still better than any of the fresh peppers I can purchase at the grocers.  And the tomatoes taste just like they did fresh.  Plus the dried ones take up a lot less space.  A whole bushel full condensed down to a few canning jars.

Taking stock of the pantry is one of the April activities here at Sweet Briar Cottage.  There are some things that I've discovered are useless to can, like asparagus.  Asparagus is just one of those things that is to be enjoyed while in season.  Ditto for rhubarb.  A rhubarb pie in December just doesn't taste right.  Rhubarb and asparagus belong to the spring.  There are some things that I cannot can enough of.  Spaghetti sauce never lasts until we can make more, no matter how much I can.  And I've discovered that the chili that I experimented with when I was trying to use up the last of the peppers and tomatoes was a big hit.  I can it in pint sized jars and my husband loves it for a snack in the evening.  Why not?  With all it's tomatoes and peppers, it's a lot healthier then chips and dip. 

So that's it for the month of April here at our little abode.  Not much new to report.  I've been knitting lots of socks, using up my yarn stash, but they are just plain old socks and not really anything remarkable.  Everyone will be receiving a pair this Christmas.  Or maybe a couple pairs!  Next month brings gardening, and repainting the porch.  I'm thinking about doing a splatter pattern on the decking.  Always looking forward to what lies around the bend!

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Hello everyone!   Thank you so much to all that left or e-mailed get-well wishes.  Mere words cannot express how much it meant to me.   Well, for the most part I'm all better now, although my legs are still as shaky as a fawn, newly born.  Doesn't take much for a body to fall into disrepair does it?  Must say I was very economical in both time and money with being sick.  One little vial of pills costing less than five dollars cured three different illnesses in one week.  You know, I'm a foolish old woman, stubbornly holding onto the belief that if I can just ignore being sick it will go away.   Wasted five days of life, just lying  about alternating between chills and fever, expecting to get better.  It wasn't until Ran threatened to hog-tie me and drag me to the doctor that I agreed to go.  Once I got one of those little miracles called anti-biotics into my system it wasn't long until I felt better.  So if you are like me, and would rather be on a forced march to Burma than go to the doctors, I hope my little confession here helps you to see that doctors can be helpful.  Sometimes you have to humble yourself and ask for help.  And that's not just help from doctors either! If you catch my drift here, whilst I'm trying not to sound too preachy.

Anyhow, I am finally able to get outside and walk about a bit.   The apple orchard is in all of it's glory at the moment.  There's something so calming about an old orchard with bent and lichen-spotted trees.  A connection to the past.  Always reminds me of this quote:

We plant trees not for ourselves, but for future generations.
-- Caecilius Statius

Martin Luther said if he knew he had only one day left to live he would plant a tree.  Makes  my answer about eating cake seem pretty shallow!  But then, I could never hope to be as virtuous as Mr. Luther.

 While I was on my walk-about, a flock (?) of Monarch butterflies flew up as I passed.  They were feasting on the ground ivy which is blossoming at the moment.   I hesitated to write this, as it really does sound like something out of fairy tale.  Who has butterflies rising up to greet them?  Or deer sunbathing in their front yards?   Or snow geese flying overhead, daily?   Or a nesting robin tame enough to feed strawberries? Perhaps you think the next thing I will tell you is that little bluebirds help me dress each morning?  But the truth of the matter is anyone can live an enchanted life.   It's just a matter of really taking the time to notice the little things.  Something anyone can do anywhere.  For instance,  these long-legged tulips that grow on the side of my house are some old variety that have been blooming for many decades.  Because they are so long stemmed, the slightest  breeze will cause them to sway.  Every time  I pull into the driveway, it makes me smile because they look like they are waving "hello" to me.  How many people pass them without even noticing them?    While I was  abed, the moon was shining in my window.  It was so close, so large, so bright, that it seemed like it was near enough to touch if I were to reach through the window.  The enchanted life is out there like that big ole pumpkin moon.  We just need to reach out and grasp it!  Keep that child-like sense of wonderment even if we have very un-child-like burdens in life. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Hello everyone!  First I'd like to thank all that left well wishes and offered prayers in the previous post.  In world were the news has become ever alarming, it is so good to know that there are kind and gentle-hearted people still on this Earth.  You'll never know how much it means to me.

Now to get to the gist of this post.  This week being Easter, eggs are the lost leaders in many grocery stores.  So now is the time to plan a few meals around them and to stock up.  Did you know that you can freeze eggs?  Just lightly beat them to break up the yolk and pour them into ice cube trays and freeze.  Defrost in the refrigerator.  They last for six months in the freezer.  Since I'm a vegan and rarely bake these days (although I love to), I take advantage of the low prices and buy low.

Which leads me to my next point.  Never berate yourself by calling yourself "only a housewife".  Besides being a caregiver, nurse, chef, decorator, bookkeeper and economist, you are also a commodities trader when you buy low, such as these eggs.  Only you don't sell high, you eat well, and the commodities you invest in are groceries and clothing rather than oil and precious metals! 

There's many ways to prepare eggs; deviled, in a quiche, in an omelet, made into sandwich filling, or how about a plain old meal of eggs?  One of my favorite meals used to be an egg, sunny-side up with a piece of toast and a side of sliced tomatoes fresh from the garden.  Now if you can get farm fresh eggs and a loaf of homemade bread, why it's a meal fit for a king!

Now I'd like to direct you to the picture in this post.  I love Christmas cacti.   They are so reliable.  Well, when I was in the garden center of the Wal-Mart dreaming about spring, I spied these spring cacti.  Had to have one!  As you can see, the regular old Christmas cactus is in bloom too.  They are make a home so cheerful and inexpensive too, especially if you buy them the day after Christmas.
I have to admit that Easter is not a holiday that I spend a lot of time planning for in a celebratory manner.  For me it is more of a time to turn introspective. I think about the sacrifices that our Lord had to make for us and it saddens me that we are not more appreciative.  Is that strange?  However I always manage to have guest expecting something nice for lunch.  My standby  thrifty Easter meal has always been scalloped potatoes with ham, a nice big tossed salad, rolls and a jello salad.  I used to make the jello salads in individual molds.  The boys got a kick out of them when they were small.  To this day, whenever I see those little molds, it always brings back happy memories of little boys and family gatherings.  We never could afford a whole ham back then even if they were on sale, hence the scalloped potatoes and ham.  It only takes one of those ham steaks to feed a crowd.  For dessert we either had lemon meringue pie or strawberry rhubarb if it was up far enough to harvest a few stalks.  One other thing we had was a coconut orange coffeecake from Hamilton's Bakery if we had the funds and the good fortune to purchase one before they were sold out.  Now that we no longer live near by we have to rely on these muffins to get our  orange/sweets fix:

Orange Nut Muffins

1 2/3 C. flour
1/2 C. sugar
1 tsp.  baking soda
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
1/2 C. buttermilk
1/3 C. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/3 C. butter, melted
1/3 C. chopped nuts

Combine the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk, concentrate, and butter.  Make a well into the center of the dry ingredients and add the egg/ buttermilk mixture.  Stir until just moistened.  Fold in the nuts.  Fill 12 muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  Remove from pans.  Cool slightly and ice.


1/2 C. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. orange zest
orange juice

Combine powdered sugar. zest and enough orange juice to make a glaze of drizzling consistency.  Drizzle over muffins.

I hope that you will all have a blessed and restful Easter surrounded by loved ones!

Love, Jane

Monday, April 2, 2012


I always display family pictures on the top of my bookcase in the living room.  Well, I'm going to need a bigger bookcase!  A few weeks back my son Erik called to tell me that my daughter-in-law Erin is expecting!  Last year I wrote that they were expecting, but sadly Erin had a miscarriage.  After a couple more failed attempts it looks like all is well!  She has passed the crucial first trimester and the doctor says all looks well.  She even said that she was going out to buy some new clothes as her's were getting too tight.  So, if you would please keep them in your prayers, it would be much appreciated.

Now, if that wasn't enough good news, this weekend my granddaughter called (she's the cute one in the purple tiara) and said her mommy is going to have a little baby!  Yes, that's right!  We're expecting two grandchildren this fall.  My cup runneth over!  Just wanted to share this bit of joyous news with you all, dear friends.  I'm knitting a very cozy baby bunting.  Looks like I'll have to knit another!  Should have it finished this week and will post pictures when I do.

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.