Friday, July 31, 2015

Gardening Wins and Losses

 

 

 

The beginning of August and hotter days without much of a break can bring a quick end to a flower garden's lushness and growth. Some flowers just don't like the heat, no matter how often you water them. I already have a few early blooming perennials that need cutting back and my hanging basket of pink petunias is getting that leggy look that late in the season petunias tend to have. But, many are still blooming and loving the sun and my frequent watering.

 

 

After losing a patch of Black Eyed Susans last year for a mysterious reason I still don't understand, I babied these new plants ever since I planted them in late May. They have rewarded me with lots of flowers and are my favorite blooms at the moment.

 

 

The vincas planted around a tree in the front are thriving in the morning sun and frequent watering by the sprinklers. They can take the heat as long as they are established and watered daily.

 

 

The cosmos I planted in the ground in my perennial bed are looking so pretty and rewarding me with continuous blooms. Others, I planted in pots, are barely blooming. I will remember that next year.

 

 

I adore the zinnias I have planted in several different pots. I have found that getting them off the ground does a better job at keeping away the bugs. They give me many new blooms and I use them for bouquets.

Other losses include my clematis which never bloomed and some sweet pea that will be moved from the shade, to a sunnier spot next spring. Every growing season there is something new to learn and that's what makes gardening so fun.

 

{Linking with these friends}

A Stroll Thru Life

Savvy Southern Style

The Charm of Home

Have A Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson

Gooseberry Patch

Between Naps on the Porch

Cozy Little House

Sunny Simple Life

Live Laugh Rowe

Skip To My Lou

Rooted in Thyme

DIY by Design

No Minimalist Here

Stonegable

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Simple Blueberry Peach Jam

 

 

 

Making homemade jam with summertime fruit could not be any easier. I love to buy my fruit from my city's Farmer's Market, but if I can't make it there, my locally owned grocery store has amazing locally grown fruits and vegetables too. On my last trip, I bought beautiful blueberries and peaches, both for enjoying as a snack and for making some scrumptious jam.

 

 

My method is foolproof and needs no pectin added for thickening. I have made all flavors of jam with this recipe and even use frozen fruit in the dead of winter, when fresh is only a memory. If you have some fresh fruit and 40 minutes to stir a pot, you will have 2 delicious jars of jam before you know it. I use Ball brand, 2 cup plastic freezer jars and use one right away and freeze the other for later. I found them in the canning section of my grocery store and no sterilization is needed.

Here is the simple recipe that can be adapted for any fruit.

 

2 cups blueberries

2 cups peaches ( peeled and chopped)

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 T lemon juice

1/4 cup water

 

Put all ingredients in a large, heavy pan and bring to a boil, stirring often. Continue to cook at a rolling boil for 40 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Mixture will reduce and thicken close to the 40 minute mark and that is when you know it is done. Spoon carefully (very hot) into freezer jars and let cool completely before putting on lids. Freeze one jar and enjoy the other right away. Enjoy!

 

{Linking with these friends}

A Stroll Thru Life

Savvy Southern Style

The Charm of Home

Have A Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson

Gooseberry Patch

Between Naps on the Porch

Cozy Little House

Sunny Simple Life

Live Laugh Rowe

Skip To My Lou

Rooted in Thyme

DIY by Design

No Minimalist Here

Stonegable

Rattlebridge Farm

 

 

 

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Change of Direction

 

 

My summer reading has taken a change of direction so far. I'm not sure what leads me to the books I read, but this summer, I have been reading some fabulous non fiction. I will return to my favorite authors, but for now am enjoying a different kind of pace and a different kind of storytelling.

 

 

First up was a book that has been on my reading list for over a year. I had read fabulous reviews of this book, especially from other bloggers. And, it lived up to every expectation and even exceeded them. Bread and Wine is a journal of sorts; one that through storytelling tells the author's relationship with food. At the heart of the book is her need to nurture through food and the simple act of sitting around the dinner table. There are stories of family dinners, elaborate parties and wonderful food memories from vacations. Many stories are tied to the author's faith, but in a subtle way. Each story is also tied to a specific recipe, that is included at the end of the chapter. As the title page states; it is a love letter to life around the table.

 

 

Next, was a lighter and less thought provoking read, but interesting none the less. Driving With the Saudis is the story of a down and out Hollywood actress that through circumstance, becomes the only female driver for the Saudi royal family on an extended visit to Beverly Hills. It is a fascinating story of privilege, excess and cultural differences told from an outsider's point of view. If you like reality television, this is similar, in that it is a peek behind the curtain of an affluent lifestyle that isn't always as pretty as it seems.

 

 

Finally, while this book is not truly non fiction, it is of a style that weaves historically accurate details with fictional dialogue to tell the story of a real person. House of Hawthorne joins the list of books I have enjoyed telling the story of the women behind the lives of famous men. Since The Scarlett Letter is a favorite of mine, I was especially interested to see the atmosphere in which it was written. As is the theme in many of these books, living with a creative genius is difficult and challenging for the women who loved them. Perhaps the most fascinating, is the poverty in which these artists lived while writing and longing for success.

Happy reading and happy Monday!

 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Farmer's Market Dinner

 

 

 

 

My city's farmer's market is usually held on Saturdays and it can get quite busy and crowded. It is fun to go, because there is music and a lot of activity, but it can be a little hectic, rather than relaxing. I was excited to see that the farmer's market was now open on Tuesday afternoons as well and was happy to see it was busy, but much less so than on Saturdays.

 

 

 

The colorful and fresh veggies are always such a pretty sight and I love walking around and deciding what to bring home. These farmers have their marketing skills on display, with pretty tablecloths on their tables and the veggies portioned in cute baskets.

 

 

The farmer's market also had in season fruit - cherries, blueberries and some early peaches. To tempt even further, there was cheese, baked goods ( I bought some yummy whole grain bread) and fresh honey.

Fresh produce always brings back memories of the big garden my parents used to have and the dinners filled with vegetables cooked simply, but so delicious. Last night I cooked a meatless dinner from the veggies I purchased and it was the best meal I have had in a while. There is definitely a difference between the farmer's market veggies and those from the grocery store.

I made yellow squash, sautéed in a little olive oil and onions and green beans with baby redskin potatoes, boiled with a bit of butter and turkey bacon - just like my mother used to do it, but with a healthier twist; less butter, salt and turkey bacon instead of the real kind. Still fresh tasting and oh so delicious.

Happy Thursday!

 

Linking with Savvy Southern Style

 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Baked Blueberry and Raspberry Pancakes {Recipe Redo}

 

 

 

Berries and summer go together and with both blueberries and raspberries in my refrigerator bursting with color, I just had to make some delicious fruit filled pancakes. This recipe for Baked Blueberry Pancakes has always been one of my most popular recipes and it is easy to see why. There is all the flavor of pancakes cooked on the griddle, but you don't have to stand at the stove flipping them. They are soft and fluffy in the middle; the perfect pancake texture.

For this recipe redo, I made two changes. I halved the recipe and made it in a 8 X 8 baking dish and I added raspberries, as well as the blueberries; 1 cup total. The combination was lovely and I served it with just a sprinkle of powdered sugar. This is a summertime pancake recipe you will make again and again.

 

{Linking with these friends}

A Stroll Thru Life

Savvy Southern Style

The Charm of Home

Have A Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson

Gooseberry Patch

Between Naps on the Porch

Cozy Little House

Sunny Simple Life

Live Laugh Rowe

Skip To My Lou

Rooted in Thyme

DIY by Design

No Minimalist Here

Stonegable

Rattlebridge Farm

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Sweet Parts

 

 

 

The summer is humming right along and the weekends come and go so fast. This weekend I made a point of savoring the things that made me happy along the way.

First, Melissa and I spent hours at the mall on Saturday. Normally that would not be my first choice for a summer activity, but we made an afternoon of it, with lunch at Nordstom Cafe ( one of my favorites) and a search for the perfect business appropriate cocktail dress; red, white or black. We went in store after store and wouldn't you know it, ended up back where we started, with the perfect little black dress. And, a bonus was the even further discounted sale price when we went to the counter to pay. Melissa is fun to shop with and it was a great spending the day with her.

Sunday afternoon was spent at our club's pool, relaxing and beating the heat by taking a dip every now and then. I couldn't be bothered to read my book and really just spent my time looking at the sky and clouds and not thinking about much at all.

Sunday night is my favorite night of television in the summer and there are two shows on PBS that I am trying not to miss. Last Tango in Halifax was extremely emotional, poignant and I was happy I was able to avoid the spoilers since the series has already been shown on the BBC. But, my real favorite and a show I highly recommend to anyone who loves a BBC period drama, is Poldark. The class struggles give an interesting 18th century slice of life and the romance between Ross and Demelza is wonderfully written. And, every week, I am enthralled by the beauty of Cornwall with its beaches, cliffs and fields of wildflowers.

Happy Monday!

 

 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Reflections on Blogging

 

 

 

This week ( July 11th) marked my third anniversary of the day I first pushed that scary publish button and sent my first blog post out over the Internet. Both then and now, I am thankful for this lovely on line world I discovered that day. I am thankful for the scrapbook I have of the last three years and especially the words and pictures of day to day life that I would never have recorded without this blog.

The blogging world is special and I am so happy to be a part of it. It inspires me daily, pushes me to be better and gives me so many wonderful ideas. It teaches me many things, makes me a better writer and most of all has brought me many friends.

So, I want to say thank you. Thank you for coming here, reading and commenting. Thank you for being kind and supportive. You hear a lot about cruelty in the Internet world, but my experience is different. You all are generous with compliments and quick to give wonderful advise. When I started blogging, my goal was to make a happy, calm space and because of you, I think it is.

Happy Thursday!

 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Parmesan Thyme Grilled Tomatoes

 

 

 

Don't you just love a simple, fresh side dish to pair with meat cooked on the grill? I don't like to prepare fussy meals in the summer and more and more, we are grilling our veggies along with our meat. We grill asparagus, broccoli, squash and now, these tomatoes will be a staple.

I have made stuffed and baked tomatoes with breadcrumbs and Parmesan in the past, but these, cooked on the grill, have a whole different flavor. They have a distinct smoky taste that went so well with the barbecued pork chops I served them with. I also used fresh thyme, picked from a planter in my yard, but you could really use any fresh herbs, such as rosemary or chopped basil.

To prepare: cut a slice from the top of a tomato, then cut in half. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with cracked black pepper, thyme leaves and grated Parmesan cheese. Place on grill pan and cook on grill with cover closed for approximately 15 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and cheese is melted. Enjoy!

 

{Linking with these friends}

A Stroll Thru Life

Savvy Southern Style

The Charm of Home

Have A Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson

Gooseberry Patch

Between Naps on the Porch

Cozy Little House

Sunny Simple Life

Live Laugh Rowe

Skip To My Lou

Rooted in Thyme

DIY by Design

No Minimalist Here

Stonegable

Rattlebridge Farm

 

 

 

Ms Toody Goo Shoes

 

 

 

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Perfect Walk

 

 

 

Usually I walk on the paths in my neighborhood and it's easy and quick and right outside my door. Sunday afternoon, I felt that I needed a change of scenery and headed in my car to my favorite nature park just a few miles away.

 

 

There are paths through tall banks of cattails along the edge of various natural ponds. You feel like you are very far from civilation, but every once in a while you catch a bit of traffic noise to remind you it's an illusion.

 

 

 

 

 

There are just beginning to be wild flowers blooming within the cattails, as well as pretty white blooms on the many lily pads in the ponds.

 

 

 

There are wooden bridges to wander across and also overlooks here and there to get a better view of the ponds. It is a relaxing place to be and I find looking for pretty shots to take, helps me focus on and appreciate the details all around me. The perfect place to walk on a pretty summer afternoon.

Happy Monday!

 

Linking with Between Naps on the Porch and Savvy Southern Style

 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday Fragments

 

 

 

This fire was the view from my chair last night, as I caught up with some friends at a lake cottage only thirty minutes away from my house. We don't see each other as much during the summer, since everyone is busy with vacations and family commitments, so it was wonderful to give all these women a hug and hear about their lives since our last book club. These are friends who sincerely want to know about how you have been, how your children are doing and it leaves you with a warm feeling at the end of the night. We also laugh a lot and just enjoy each other's company so much. A casual girl's night out with a glass of wine, is the best kind of night.

 

 

I just finished reading Summer Secrets by Jane Green and though I have enjoyed her books in the past, I can't say this was my favorite. It as her typical British girl in America story and while I did enjoy the setting and descriptions of Nantucket, the rest of the story fell a little flat and was pretty predictable. Luckily it was a quick read and there are plenty of other books on my summer reading list to look forward to.

 

I'm still feeling happy that I was able to see Megan for dinner this week and catch up with her life. Though we text almost every day and I'm thankful for the technology that makes it so easy to keep in touch, there is really nothing like giving your child a hug in person and seeing their smile. And, I get to see her again in just a few weeks :-)

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pineapple Banana Muffins

 

 

 

Whenever I wake up to a morning that feels a little cool in the summer months, it always puts me in the mood to bake something sweet. There is a perfection about cool air streaming in my kitchen, my morning cup of coffee and a freshly baked muffin. I saw a recipe on Pinterest for Pineapple Banana Bread and decided to give it a few tweaks to suit my lower carb, diabetic needs and it was still delicious. As always, I used the Truvia equivilent instead of the sugar. For those of you wondering, there is a chart on the back of the package that gives these equivilents. I also left out the coconut and did not glaze the muffins to further decrease the sugar amounts.

These were perfectly sweet the way I made them, with flavor from both the pineapple and the banana. It was a great combination of flavors and perfect for a summertime breakfast treat.

 

Pineapple Banana Muffins

1 stick, butter, softened

1 cup sugar ( I used Truvia equivilent )

2 eggs

1/2 tsp almond extract

1 T poppy seeds

1 ripe banana, mashed

1 cup crushed pineapple, juice drained and reserved

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar with mixer; beat in eggs one at a time, then almond extract and poppy seeds. Blend in crushed pineapple and banana. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, just until blended. Place batter in muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden on muffin tops. To glaze muffins: mix reserved 1/2 cup pineapple juice with 1/2 cup confectioners sugar and drizzle on top of muffins when cool.

 

{Linking with these friends}

A Stroll Thru Life

Savvy Southern Style

The Charm of Home

Have A Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson

Gooseberry Patch

Between Naps on the Porch

Cozy Little House

Sunny Simple Life

Live Laugh Rowe

Skip To My Lou

Rooted in Thyme

DIY by Design

No Minimalist Here

Stonegable

Rattlebridge Farm

 

Nancharrow



Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Day At The Lake

 

 

 

We were lucky enough to spend the 4th of July holiday at a friend's lake cottage and it was such a beautiful day. The weather could not have been nicer, with plenty of sunshine and a slight breeze off the water. We took a ride on their pontoon boat before dinner and it was really lovely to relax, have a cocktail and talk, as we slowly made our way around the lake.

 

 

 

Our hostess set a beautiful table for dinner with a view of the water and festive red, white and blue touches galore. We sat around the table for quite a while, enjoying both the delicious food and the good company. My contribution to the meal was my favorite summer salad; butter lettuce, green onions, mandarin oranges, strawberry slices, Chinese noodles and poppy seed dressing.

 

 

This was our beautiful view as we ended the day around the fire, waiting for the fireworks over the lake to begin. Just a beautiful and relaxing way to spend the holiday.

Happy Tuesday! I am excited because Megan will be here for dinner tonight and even though it is just for a few hours and she will be heading back to Pittsburgh, I am so looking forward to giving her a big hug and hearing all her news.

 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fireworks and Symphony

 

 

 

We started our 4th of July holiday weekend on Friday, the 3rd with a date night at Salute to America at Greenfield Village, one of my favorite spots in the metro Detroit area. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra plays a concert right up to and during the fireworks display and it is just a lovely evening all around. We took a picnic with some yummy appetizers ( including this Proscuitto Wrapped Aspargus) and snacks, along with a few cocktails and found the perfect spot on the hillside to watch fireworks and listen to the music. It was a sellout crowd, but that just added to the festive atmosphere.

 

 

The weather was just about perfect too; one of those Michigan nights with just a bit of chill in the air, requiring a sweater or a sweatshirt to be comfortable. There were patriotic songs from both the symphony and the U.S. Army Band and all current and former military members were saluted with the anthems from their individual branches. A favorite part is always the Wiliam Tell Overture, with real cannon fire at the climax. As the fireworks concluded for the night, we agreed it was the best performance in all the years we have been attending. The perfect way to kick off the 4th of July.

 

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