Herbs Feed

Reds and Greens and Orange and Blue ...🍂

(And yellows and browns and black!)

Happy Friday, my friends! Here's a little bit of Autumn from my home & garden to yours ... 💛

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Autumn is truly settled in around here as you can see - inside and out! The weather has been just glorious, as it tends to be in New England at this time of year: brisk, bright and OH the colors! Although ... we are expecting a brief return of summery weather this week - 80s even! - but since St. Luke's Day is this Tuesday, I'm not one bit surprised. ;)

Why you might wonder? Well, have you ever heard of St. Luke's Little SummerAccording to The Old Farmer's Almanac ...

Lovely, summerlike days that occur around October 18 are called St. Luke’s Little Summer in honor of the saint’s feast day. In olden days, St. Luke’s Day did not receive as much attention in the secular world as St. John’s Day (June 24) and Michaelmas (September 29), so to keep from being forgotten, St. Luke presented us with some golden days to cherish before the coming of winter, or so the story goes. Some folks call this Indian Summer, but that officially occurs between November 11 and November 20.


This brief warmup may be unseasonable, but it will be nice ... because any day we can throw open our windows and spend time outside comfortably is a gift. Dark and gray days are coming, I am ever aware! I can feel my internal clock slowing down, taking its cue from the world around me. The crickets are still chirping but more slowly, and the breeze is a noisy rustle as crisp leaves shake from their branches and head for the ground. I don't mind this slowing down though - in fact, I relish it. It's all part of life's rhythm and, after all, we humans are part of that great cycle, even if we can ignore it with all our modern conveniences! I feel it's a good thing to embrace the season's changes ... I've been turning more of my attention to the inside of our home (and the inside of my head), concentrating on domestic comforts and inner lights - cooking, reading, writing, planning, nesting ... preparing my family for the long winter ahead.

Anyway, speaking of domestic appreciation, here's my dinner menu for the coming week. It's been way too long since I've shared this (and to be honest, it's been too long since I've been consistent with meal planning)!

S - (Full Hunter's Moon) Hunter's Stew (A chicken-sausage/sundried tomato dish served with rice - one of Bill's specialities!)

M - (Practice night) Baked ziti, meatballs, garlic bread, salad

T - (St. Luke's Day) - Burgers on the grill, corn-on-the-cob, farmstand salad, fries

W - (It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV tonight!) - grilled cheese with tomatoes and ham, chicken soup, apple-pumpkin dump cake & steamed almond milk w/spiced pumpkin marshmallows

T - meatloaf, roasted multi-color carrots, stir-fried broccoli & whole grain rice

F - (Practice night & Bookworm home for the weekend!) - crescent dogs, baked beans & brown bread, tater tots

S - (Family Anniversary Lunch) - leftovers since we'll be eating a big lunch!

Well I guess I'd best wrap up now, as this post is getting rather long ... but as always I thank you for stopping by! I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend and would love to hear how your autumn is unfolding if you have a chance. In an upcoming post (hopefully sometime this week) I will give you a tour of my new desk and chat a little about how I'm keeping organized these days. I am also working every moment I get on the next set of seasonal planning sheets. I'm hoping to have Late Autumn pages available to you well before the end of the month!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

p.s. Don't forget to watch that moon rise tonight! 🌝


Summery Thoughts & Pics ... 🌞

St. johns wort 1

Happy mid-July, my friends! I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their Summer so far ...

I know my posting has been very slow lately, but all is well here - it's just a very busy, hands-on season in my life! Days begin early - end later than I'd like - and I'm afraid naps are just not a regular thing anymore, lol. I'm finding it a challenge to carve out blogging time these days ... but I am still here! And I appreciate all your thoughts and queries, both here and at my Facebook page. I do not have my blog email working yet, so if you need me, please contact me by leaving a comment here or at FB for the time being. :)

Well, I'm popping in today to say hi and share a few photos if I may. I'm working at the kitchen table right now, sipping some cold coffee and listening to my boys all around me. Little Bear is singing a Spiderman song with Crackerjack while they work on a puzzle on the family room floor ... Earlybird is working hard on math skills with his therapist in the sunroom ... and Bookworm is weaving in and out of the kitchen, getting his own day going ...

Free time might be hard to come by these days, but I'm awfully grateful to be here in this season of life. These full and blessed days go by all too fast ...

Ok. First up - here's a sun craft I made for the Summer Solstice:

Sun plaque 2

I have always loved those colorful sun and moon plaques you see hanging on the sides of sheds or garden gates ... but goodness, they are expensive! This one is handmade (and rather humbly so) with salt dough. We left it to finish drying outside under its namesake. I haven't had the courage to paint it yet, but once I do and it is sealed against the weather, I will hang it somewhere in our garden ...

Speaking of my garden, it's doing very well, too!

Bee balm

Above is the Bee Balm which started blooming just before Independence Day. I think it looks like little firework explosions! And boy, do the hummingbirds enjoy them ...

The herbs we planted last year are quite plentiful - I've been gathering them on dry days to hang over my kitchen window.

Herb basket

In my basket above is St. John's Wort (seen in top picture, too), Thyme, Lavender and Rose petals. The rose bushes out front really did well this season - in fact they are now mostly covered in hips!

Rose hips 1

I'll be researching what to do with rose hips, but in the meantime, I used the petals I collected to make some rosewater:

Rosewater 1

Doesn't that look pretty? 

Rose water 2

Very easy to do - I placed a cup of rose petals in a glass bowl, covered them with 2 cups boiling water and then allowed them to steep (with a dinner plate resting on top) until cool. Then I strained the water into a jar as seen above. I purchased some amber glass spray bottles which I plan to fill with a couple of different herbal concoctions, one of them being a "rosewater refresher" for hot summer days. :)

And here is the "pretty pink forest" growing in my front yard ...

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These lovely blooms are Astilbe, and there is tons of it growing beneath the family room windows. And out back the Spirea is a veritable pink explosion:

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This whole area (which stands right beside the chicken coop) is a bumblebee haven!

A little more pink to be found along the front walkway ...

Dianthus

These are Cottage Pinks! I love their clove-like scent - and that they remind me of my grandparents' garden AND that they were a favorite of Tasha Tudor's. So much of gardening is creating and recreating fond memories, isn't it?

 Now, here's a very "interesting" visitor we had in our yard recently ...

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Yes, that is indeed a red fox - and we've never seen one before (even at our old house) but wouldn't you know, the year we finally get chickens ... this fella shows up?

One more garden pic ...

Faerie flower

This tiny plant popped up all on its own beside my herb patch, and I wasn't sure what it was, but after consulting google - and helpful friends on Facebook - we've identified it as "Straw Foxglove!" A tiny cousin to these beauties out front ...

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I love that it's a mystery how it got there ... :)

And here's a pretty picture from my living room, taken on Independence Day morning ...

4th of july morning

The summer weather has been wonderful here in New England - bright and hot for the most part. Maybe a bit too hot this week (mid 90s by Friday) ... so as much as I love open windows, I'm very grateful for air conditioning!

Speaking of gratitude ...

Magnetic letters

It's been many years since we've had magnetic letters on our fridge! I LOVE this age, don't you?

And how about a family pic? 

Happy birthday dad

We celebrated Bill's birthday last weekend, and I just love this shot of him surrounded by all his boys (and me)! In case you can't tell, he's lighting the candles on his cake - we couldn't fit all FIFTY on there! ;)

(Any longtime readers here astounded (as I am) at how big my boys are all getting? They were tiny when I started this blog!)

Parting shot, taken at my local Michaels craft store recently ...

Fall at michaels

Mind you, this was taken BEFORE the 4th of July! I am all for planning ahead - and you all know how much I love autumn - but even for me this is just a wee bit too early!

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

(His birthday was yesterday - aka National Simplicity Day - and this is a topic for a whole 'nother post!)

Well my friends, I am going to wrap up now, because if I don't push "publish" soon there's a chance it will be another day or more before I get this post up! (Remember how I was sipping cold coffee back in that third paragraph? Yeah, it's taking me a while to get this post done!)

Plus, I have supper to make, and tonight it's sloppy-joe biscuits, corn on the cob and waffle fries - a real "boys' favorite." I've been a little lax in the meal planning department and really need to get back on track. I'm at the food store more than I'd like these days! 

(Another topic for another day!)

But as always, I thank you for stopping by and reading, and I hope this post finds you well ...

See you here again very soon!


Playing Catch Up!

Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! And for that matter ... Happy June! :)

Gosh, it's been a while since I've posted ... and I'm sorry about that. Everything is fine here, we're just extra busy as the year winds down and a few computer issues have slowed me down a bit, too. I hope to find more blogging time this Summer because I have an awful lot of ideas and things I want to talk with you all about!

But for today, I'd like to play a little catch up and share some pictures from the past few weeks, as this will give you a glimpse of what's been going on around here ... most significantly ...

THIS!

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Our baby chicks arrived three weeks ago! Aren't they sweet?

We ordered six one-day-old pullets and they sent us seven. Unfortunately, one of them didn't make it so we now have the original six. They are doing quite well, I'm happy to report! They are getting so big and Bill and the boys are working hard to finish the coop and pen! 

Chicken pen

We've got a few more weeks to get it done ...

Here are my "Full Flower Moon" cupcakes from a couple of weeks ago. We baked these as part of our seasonal homeschooling rhythm. (That week's theme was "Spring Flowers.") You probably saw these if you follow me on Facebook, but they're too pretty not to share again! :)

Flower cupcakes

More flowers from the spring garden .... also gathered during "Spring Flower" week.

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I love pretty vases and old pitchers, but nothing is more charming than a plain old Mason jar. :)

Here is a lovely pond in our neighborhood ...

Morning pond

On this walk I had Little Bear with me as you can see. We were saying "Good Morning" to the geese and frogs and turtles and blackbirds ... and whoever else we could hear on this breezy May day!

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Some of the pretty purple phlox that bloomed last month ...

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Oh, and here is Little Bear's birthday cake! My mum made the cake and I supplied the trucks and "rock wall." Mum added Oreo crumbs to make the construction site!

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And here is a close up of a braided rug set we purchased for our kitchen - I am so in love with these colors! Bill and I stopped in at a moving sale up the street and I just could not pass these rugs up. (Two runners and an under-table rug.) They look great in the kitchen! Braided rugs just say "cozy home" to me ...

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Thankfully, Archie approved the purchase ... ;)

Kitchen table with peonies

The largest rug fit our breakfast nook perfectly! It means a little more vacuuming, but I'm ok with that. :)

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Oh and did I mention, Bookworm (our college boy) is home? He arrived mid-May and is with us till the end of August. It is SO good to have him home - to have ALL my chicks back in the nest! And of course, Little Bear is just soaking up all the extra big-brother attention. 💙

But back to the garden ...

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I love this little herb-and-flower patch, which I'm hoping to expand this summer. The yellow flowers are Yarrow, and the purpley things are Coral Bells, which the hummingbirds absolutely adore. They drink deep from those tiny pink blooms!

Peonies 3

On the other end of the scale - here are my gigantic pink blooms, our lovely Peonies! I wish they would linger longer ... they are the most photogenic flowers and do they ever smell heavenly!

But my Foxgloves are really stealing the show this Spring ...

Foxgloves sunshine

Foxgloves pink

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Foxgloves are biennial so they didn't bloom last year and the year before that was their first so they were fairly small. This year though, boy oh boy are they doing well! (And to think, we almost pulled them up thinking they were weeds!) Also known as Fairy Thimbles (or properly, Digitalis purpurea), this plant is one of my all-time favorites ... it reminds me of Beatrix Potter and Tasha Tudor ... a sweet, old-fashioned, country cottage kind of flower!

One last shot, here they are this morning under our glorious American flag ...

Flag day foxgloves

(Happy Flag Day!)

Ok, and finally, a little more wildlife news ... we have a woodchuck family living in our backyard!

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This is the mother - who, I think, wintered under our old shed on the hill and then spent the spring making herself a few dens here and there around our property. (We'd see her hurrying across the yard, with her mouth full of leaves!) Well, yesterday we watched her and her THREE babies enjoying our plentiful (organic, weedy) grass! They are so cute I can't stand it!

This picture doesn't really show them that well, but it was hard to get a picture through the sunroom window ...

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I can't wait to watch them this Summer!

We also have a red squirrel family that visits our deck every day for the seed I scatter ... there can be up to six squirrels at a time! There are also lots of chipmunks and gray squirrels, of course. The usual songbirds - goldfinches, chickadees, titmice, mourning doves, woodpeckers, wrens, cardinals - and a pair of HUGE ravens that are so incredibly majestic.

Oh, and a gorgeous fox trotted through our yard the other night as we sat in the kitchen nook enjoying our dinner. We have never seen one before!

(And yes, we are planning to keep our chickens in a pen! They will be allowed to roam "free" with supervision.)

***

Well my friends, that's all I have time for right now! I hope you enjoyed seeing these pictures and I thank you so much for joining me. I can't promise when my next post will be up, but I hope it won't be too long ... I would like to do a Q&A roundup and show you all how the Day Designer is working for me now that I've used it for a whole two weeks. :)

I do hope you are all enjoying your June so far - has your Summer begun yet? - and I wish you all a pleasant evening (or day as the case might be) ...

See you here again very soon! 


Themes & Plans for May (Updated!)

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(Note: This is a post originally composed in 2008. I have fixed any broken links and updated the content to correspond with the current year, 2016. Hope you enjoy!)

May brings flocks of pretty lambs, skipping by their fleecy dams ... 

It's no wonder it's called the merriest month of the year - there is just so much to love about May! And it's no surprise this post is a day or two late - the call of "the wild" gets stronger every day. :) I hardly ever find myself at my desk anymore - and boy, does my inbox show it!

So, what follows is just a sampling - of things to do, things to notice, and things to remember this month. I hope you might find something useful in my ...

~ Themes & Plans for May ~ 

Nature

  • Flowering trees at their peak.
  • Lilacs bloom around Mother's Day.
  • Tulips are up now.
  • Violets and wild pansies in the grass.
  • Warblers in the tops of the trees.
  • Orioles passing through.
  • Goldfinches are brilliant yellow.
  • Cool rainy days are possible ...
  • ... but so are 80 degree days!
  • The lawn might need mowing ...
  • ... but watch for toads in the yard!
  • The orchard is frothy and white.
  • Wood ducks are returning.
  • Nests spotted at the pond.
  • Tent caterpillars in the trees.
  • Morel mushrooms sprouting.
  • Spring butterflies are here.
  • Watch for hummingbirds.
  • Jack-in-the-pulpit in the woods.
  • Last frost occurs this month.
  • The Full Flower Moon rises on the 21st.

Folklore

  • Birthstone: emerald
  • Flower: lily-of-the-valley
  • "A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay ..."

Food

  • sweet onions
  • rhubarb
  • early strawberries
  • new potatoes
  • radishes
  • artichokes
  • asparagus
  • baby lettuces
  • morels
  • peas
  • spinach
  • mint juleps
  • pecan pies
  • edible flowers
  • spring herb soup
  • first barbecue of the year

Faith

  • May Devotion ~ The Blessed Mother
  • Season: Easter; Ordinary Time (Summer) begins
  • St. Joseph the Worker (1)
  • Minor Rogation Days (2-4)
  • Ascension Thursday (5)
  • Our Lady of Fatima (13)
  • Pentecost Sunday (15)
  • St. Isidore the Farmer (15)
  • Trinity Sunday (22)
  • Corpus Christi (29)
  • The Visitation (31)

Household (& Garden)

  • Mow lawn; leave grass clippings down as mulch.
  • Clean and arrange deck/porch furniture.
  • Clean the grill; fill the propane tank.
  • Inventory/organize the kids' backyard toys.
  • Hang hummingbird window feeder.
  • Visit the family graves on Memorial Day ~
    • Tidy and add new flowers.
  • Purchase citronella candles or torches.
  • Famly physicals this month.
  • Launder spring linens and hang in the sun to dry.
  • Make travel plans for summer.
  • Clean car and organize for summer activities:
    • Beach
    • Picnic
    • Road trips
  • Plant garden on Memorial Day weekend.
  • Hang the American flag.

Life

  • American Bike Month
  • National Duckling Month
  • National Salsa Month
  • National Strawberry Month
  • National Egg Month
  • Be Kind to Animals Week (1-7)
  • National Postcard Week (1-7)
  • National Wildflower Week (2-8)
  • National Nurses Week (6-12)
  • National Herb Week (1-7)
  • National Police Week (8-15)
  • May Day (1)
  • Mother Goose Day (1)
  • Star Wars Day (4)
  • Cinco de Mayo (5)
  • Midwives Day (5)
  • The Kentucky Derby (7)
  • Mother Ocean Day (7)
  • Village Plant Sale (7)
  • Mother's Day (8)
  • National Apron Day (12)
  • Leprechaun Day (13)
  • Tulip Day (13)
  • Letter Carrier Food Drive (14)
  • National Train Day (14)
  • World Fair Trade Day (14)
  • Chocolate Chip Day (15)
  • Hug Your Cat Day (27)
  • Indianapolis 500 (29)
  • Memorial Day (30)

Book Basket

Field Trips & Outings

  • Visit the apple orchard to sketch trees in bloom.
  • Nature walk to the pond.
  • Visit the cows at a nearby dairy farm.
  • Purchase herbs at the garden store.
  • Lilacs walk at the arboretum.

Crafts & Activities

  • Make homemade bread and butter
  • Decorate fresh butter with clover.
  • Look for 4-leaf clovers in the yard.
  • Find a special spot in your yard for a Mary Garden.
  • Celebrate Derby Day:
    • Read the papers and choose a horse to cheer for.
    • Make "Juleps" for Derby Day (herbal iced tea)
    • Wear big fancy hats while watching the race.
  • Make a paper bag piñata on Cinco de Mayo.
  • Decorate a canvas (field) bag with leaf prints.
  • Decorate a plain canvas apron (smock) on Apron Day.
  • Make nature playdough.
  • Collect and press wildflowers; begin a herbarium.
  • Plant a sunflower house.
  • Make a toad home.
  • Attract orioles passing through.
  • Spend an afternoon coudwatching.
  • Learn about waterfowl: ducks, geese, gulls.
  • Visit a duck pond and observe nesting behavior.
  • Play Duck, Duck, Goose!
  • Make a feather collage.
  • Make wind chimes with flower pots.
  • Go on a mushroom walk after a few damp days.
  • Make a catnip toy (with real catnip!) for the cats.
  • Eat rhubarb stalks with dixie cups of sugar for dipping.
  • Paint and fill herb pots for Mother's Day gifts.
  • Mix up some herbal mosquito repellant.
  • Make a handloom; weave it with rainbow yarn.
  • Fill a box with food for the letter carrier on the 10th.
  • Work ahead on handcrafted Father's day gifts.

Whew! As posts go (and mine can go long) that was a big one! ;) Thanks for reading through, and thanks, as always, for stopping by. I hope you'll enjoy the lovely new month which begins in but a few days ... and I hope you'll let me know what you love the most about May!

See you all again very soon ... :)

"What is so sweet and dear
As a prosperous morn in May,
The confident prime of the day,
And the dauntless youth of the year,
When nothing that asks for bliss,
Asking aright, is denied,
And half of the world a bridegroom is,
And half of the world a bride?"
~ William Watson, "Ode in May," 1880


Spring Garden Plots & Plans ...

Happy Tuesday, my friends! :)

It's been such a nice day here - for one thing, Bill is on vacation all week, so our days have been fairly slow and easy (what a treat!), but also, the weather is just so deliciously "Spring!" Today started cloudy and a bit damp, but by afternoon the sky had brightened and the air dried out - and now this evening is just lovely! We've been out and about in the yard a lot lately, so I thought I'd share a few pictures. Are you doing any gardening this spring? Do you have any new projects planned? We have a few things going on ... :)

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First off, this is my new garden journal and matching mug - aren't they pretty? I bought them at Joann's Fabrics last month, and could hardly wait for the first nice day to sit in the garden, sip tea, and "plan." 

Spring yard 3

And here we have the beginnings of our ... chicken coop! Bill is building it himself (coop + pen) so it will take a little while before we actually have chicks of our own. (The play set will be moved to the other side of the yard ...)

 Spring yard 7

This doesn't look like much but it's a nice little sloping garden bed beside the patio - I have some things growing here (coneflowers, coral bells, snapdragons, sedum, yarrow, thyme, lavender) but would like to make it a little more formal and add a few more bee- and bird-friendly things.

Spring yard 2

Along the back of the house is a bed that, though shaded in this picture, gets a lot of full, southern sun. Our rhubarb plant thrives here and last summer we had good luck with tomatoes and peppers. I'd like to try growing things upright against the house, too - something climbing perhaps. (Currently, Little Bear considers this his personal digging spot.)

Just beyond the edge of the house is a hedgerow in front of which last summer I parked my herb pots. I'm moving those to the patio this year for easier access (and a better view).

Spring yard 4

I love these stone steps that lead from the driveway to the backyard ... I'd like to do something more creative in the beds on either side. They get good sun in the summer.

Spring yard 5

This here is an untamed "bed" beneath a large maple tree. It doesn't look so shady at the moment, but once the leaves are formed, this is a really nice, cool "alcove." I forget the name of the ground cover here, but that's about all that grows in this spot. The chiminea has been parked here since we moved - it was just where it landed! (We don't burn in it anymore.) In the summertime I love to step into this "bed" - it feels a bit secluded, all shady and enclosed. I was thinking of making it into a little shade garden of sorts. I might use the chiminea as a planter and weed out the ground cover and establish this as a true bed ... with shade-loving herbs and flowers, stepping stones, a wind chime, a thistle sock for goldfinches, and a comfy chair for nestling in ...

Well, these are all just thoughts for now, but this is such a fun stage of the process! The "planning part" when so many things seem possible ...

So these are a few of the gardening "areas" I'm concentrating on this year. I hope to grow lots of herbs and flowers plus a few kinds of vegetables. I hope to grow things we can use and that are attractive and beneficial to bees, butterflies and birds. I am also hoping to have garden areas that are fun for the younger boys to work/play in! I'd like to be better about harvesting and preserving what we grow. I have organized a binder (green of course!) with alphabetical tabs - her is where I will record information I glean from research, friends and first-hand experience!

Garden journals

This month we are concentrating on preparing the beds - next month we will get our plants. The average last frost is in mid- to late-May for my area. We don't really grow much from seed - I keep things simple and buy plants! Next month I will visit the local village plant sale as well as a local farm that specializes in herbs of all kinds. Hopefully this year I will have better luck with finding the best spots to grow what I buy!

🌱🌱🌱🌱

Well my friends, I'd best be off now, but I thank you very much for stopping by! I would love to hear about your gardening plans for the growing season ahead! Drop me a note if you have time! :)

Wishing you a pleasant evening and a lovely day tomorrow ... 

See you here again very soon!


June Sweetness ...

Strawberry bouquet

(Daisies: innocence ... Strawberries: perfect goodness)

I love to keep a seasonal "bouquet" on my kitchen windowsill ... and this week it's a small gathering of field daisies and wild strawberries, gathered by my younger boys for their mama. I placed the blossoms (and fruit) in a tiny cordial glass and set it just behind my kitchen sink. A nice reminder of June's sweetness - and that of my little men!

Potatoes with thyme

These are some small potatoes from the market, chopped and tossed with olive oil, salt and bits of thyme FROM MY GARDEN! I can't tell you how nice it was to walk outside and grab some fresh herbs for our supper!

Csa 1

And here we have our first CSA pickup ... all this goodness from a Massachusetts farm! We'll get our share each week and this time it was ripe strawberries, mixed greens, fresh eggs and jam. I'm sure I'll be posting more about our shares throughout the Summer!

***

Well my friends, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend - we have Father's Day ahead and the Summer Solstice, too ... and hereabouts there will be a family lunch, some yard work, as well as a MILESTONE birthday to celebrate ...

 

Our oldest is entering his TWENTIES!!!

(Oh, and we might catch that movie about dinosaurs ... you know the one?)

:)

I will see you here again very soon!


Dewdrops or Diamonds ... ?

You decide. :)

Dewdrops 2

A day of rain followed by a sunlit morning = sparkling greenery in the herb patch!

Dewdrops 1

This is Lady's Mantle, one of my favorite "green" plants.

More vibrant green to be found in these ferns which grow widely - and wildly - around here:

Ferns banner 2

Some folks find ferns rather ordinary (and perhaps a bit invasive), but I do love them. In the language of flowers they mean ~ magic, fascination, confidence and shelter. I like that they ring our property like a quiet, feathery guard.

O project 6-14 2

My younger boys "weeding" a pear tree while Bill readies a raised bed in the background. I love this picture, taken at the end of a hazy, summery day ... :)

Such is the magic of nature ... I'm just relishing these lovely June days. It's 70s and sunshine for us here all week, with very little rain. Picture-perfect blue sky, and bright green all around, warm sun and cool air, as we near the Solstice on Sunday ...

How is Summer unfolding where you live?

I hope you all have a nice Wednesday ... see you here again very soon!


Hello & Happy June ...

And Rabbit-Rabbit, my friends!

:)

It's a cool and rainy day here - which is a good thing, actually! We are in sore need of rain in our region, whereas other parts of our country have been deluged with it lately. (My prayers are with those suffering through destructive storms and their aftermath.) Generally speaking though, here in New England the Spring has been lovely ... but I can tell Summer is nipping at its heels!

Well, it's been a while since my last post and I hope you've all been well! We are winding down our homeschooling year here, though we have lots of summer learning planned, natch! We've been quite focused on projects around the house lately and I'd like to share some photos this morning if I may?

First up, these great second-hand planters!

Front door planters 1 

I've wanted a pair of planters like this for our front doorway since we moved here nearly two years ago - but gosh, they are expensive if bought new! Well, Bill happened upon a pair bring thrown out - and scooped them from the side of the road and brought them home. We plan to clean them up and repaint them (solid black) and then fill them with some nice plants - geraniums, perhaps?

And here's how my kitchen wall looks now ...

Kitchen prints 1

You might remember it once held large maps and a calendar - useful, but not necessarily what I wanted here. Well, I absolutely love botanical prints so I was looking online for some to purchase when I came across a series that looked vintage and interesting and kind of "French Country." I ordered the 22x28 prints (about $5 each) and then kept my eyes open for frame sales at the craft store. We found the frames for 60% off at Michaels (!) and splurged on custom-cut mats ...

Bill added hardware to the backs and hung them for me as a surprise while I was at Mass yesterday morning. I am beyond thrilled with how they look here! Here are a couple of close-ups:

Kitchen prints 2

Kitchen prints 3

Aren't they lovely?

Now here's a glimpse at a new binder I've made for myself ...

Herbal book 1

This is my plant journal - or Household Herbal - where I'm recording information and observations for each of the plants we are growing in our yard. (And those I hope to grow someday.) I'm using alphabetical tabs to organize the information for now. I also have gardening goals listed in here and sketches/plot plans ... as well as a section on using herbs for health and housekeeping. This past weekend we visited a local farm that specializes in organically grown plants and really stocked up!

Here are some pretty "botanical" papers I picked up recently ...

Herbal book 2

I'll use them for dividers by cutting them to fit and adding tabs to the edges.

Oh, and here are some of the herbs awaiting planting!

Herbs 1

We have rosemary, lavender, thyme, bee balm, calendula, horehound, Lady's mantle, scented geranium, peppermint, nasturtium, lemon balm, marshmallow, morning glories, catnip, St. John's Wort, yarrow, sage and chives to name a few ... :)

Also, here is another project we've been working on - and by "we" I mean, mostly Bill:

Orchard 1

Our fledgling home orchard!

So far we have six semi-dwarf apple trees and three pear trees as well as two hazelnuts. It will take some time for the trees to bear fruit (and nuts) but it's just great to have them in our midst ... we've wanted fruit trees for the longest time!

Here's Bill getting them in ...

Ochard planting 2

(And if you're wondering, yes - the chickens and bees are on hold. We hope to get around to them next year. Too much on our plate this year!)

Also, remember the birdhouse I had at the old house? The one the boys gave me for Mother's Day years ago? Well, we left that for the new owners to enjoy, but I have been generously gifted with another!

Birdhouse 1

And at its base we planted a deep purple, climbing clematis vine. The front of the house faces north so it gets partial shade through the day. Bleeding hearts and ferns grow well here.

This is the herb garden under construction out back. In the foreground is an already established bed of various flowers - phlox, forget-me-nots, sedum and coneflowers. The little black pot holds a moonflower plant and we're adding yarrow and herbs. And just beyond, under the windows is a full-sun bed for rhubarb and cherry tomatoes, pickling cukes, hot peppers and wee pumpkins. The wood on the ground will form a raised bed where some more herbs and flowers will go, those that can tolerate partial shade ... and there will be containers will move around on the sunny patio. The herbs that need full sun will go in these.

Herbs 3

We're eager to add fruit bushes as well - elderberries, blackberries and blueberries. We do have some wild raspberries and strawberries right now, but eventually we'd like to add more formal hedgerows.

Finally, here is a rather majestic fellow, sitting atop some spent spirea ... 

Dragonfly 1

Our yard is full of dragonflies these days! Which is a good thing, because it's also full of mosquitos ...

Well I'd best wrap up now as I could go on and on but this post would never be published! Are you planting anything new this year? I will keep you posted on how our little pocket farm develops ... it sure is benefitting from all this rain but I am looking forward to warm sunny days ahead.

Well, my friends - thanks so much for stopping by! I pray you are all well and enjoying your Spring wherever you are in the world. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, and I will see you here again sometime soon!


In Today's News:

A Blizzard, A Baby & Bathwater

Though not in that particular order ...

Local Weather

Today's top story: A BLIZZARD hits New England!

Blizzard 2

The above photo was taken last night, about 7 p.m. We had 14 inches at this point ...

But by daylight we had nearly double that!

Blizzard 4

(Today was to have been Earlybird's EEG at Children's Hospital in Boston ... needless to say, it's been rescheduled for a later date. His MRI is next week.)

*

Calendar & Quiz Pages

January brings the snow ... and calendars! Of all kinds. Here are my two page-a-day calendars, sitting side-by-side upon my desk (my purse calendar lies flat just below) ...

Downton abbey page a day calendar

 I have always used the Mary Engelbreit calendar (going back how many years I can't count) but this year I could hardly resist (at 50% off!) a Downton Abbey version as well. Who wouldn't love a little Downton to start their day?

Today's quote:

"Downton is a great house, Mr. Bates, and the Crawleys are a great family. We live by certain standards and those standards can at first seem daunting."

Do you remember who said that?

*

Recipe Box

While poring over my January journals, I found a neat bath recipe I'd saved ...

Carnation bath 1

This is from a magazine called Herb Quarterly (issue: Spring 2009). I was hoping to get this made up in time for my birthday (carnation is my birth flower), but as it needs three weeks to steep I'll be a bit off. That's ok, though - I think it will make for a lovely foot bath on a cold winter evening.

(Very easy to mix up: 1 cup fresh carnation petals, 6 clove buds, 4 cups lukewarm white vinegar - combine and let steep for 3 weeks. Strain and pour into a clean container. Pour 1 cup of scented vinegar into a full bath and stir well.)

Here's a link to another sweet scented bath I saw online at Elizabeth's yesterday ... I'll need to pick up some new essential oil(s) and some fresh epsom salt in order to make this one up. Out comes the marketing list ... 

Society Pages

And in other news, Mr. Little Bear tried a sippy cup for the first time yesterday! He was mostly amused by the cup itself - the water inside, not so much ...

O sippy cup 1

O sippy cup 2

O sippy cup 4

O sippy cup 6

(Sorry, the staff photographer got a bit carried away!)

Well, my friends, I'd better "go to press" as my deadline is looming large ... in other words, the little guy is about to wake up from his nap! I hope you have a wonderful weekend, enjoying your family and friends, and perhaps, depending upon your locale, the weather as well.

{Drop me a note below if you have a chance: have you ever had 23.8 inches of snow?}

:)

Blessings on your day ... see you here again very soon! 


Advent: Moments of Peace & Joy

 Happy Thursday, my friends! I hope this note finds you well, and enjoying this last week of Advent. Things are fairly quiet on our homefront, and I'm grateful for that. These days I'm trying very hard not to "stress" over the many things left un-done on my to-do list ... trying to re-set my expectations ... and remember that the true spirit of Christmas can be found without spending a cent or stepping outside of my home.

To that end, I continue to find a little joy and peace each day, when and where I can find it ... here are a few recent moments I'd like to share with you:

Advent calendars 2

Advent calendars - the simple old fashioned kind - one for each child, and a chocolate for each day. (I eat Little Bear's, natch.) With thanks to my brother who surprised the boys with these on Thanksgiving Day.

Wise men 1

The wise men, starting their long journey in a sunny, south-facing window. I find two or three of these guys on the floor every morning. Thanks to Oliver who is oddly fixated on the nativity set.

The three kings will start their trek on Christmas and by Epiphany they'll have made their way 'round the room to the hearth ...

Creche in hearth

Solstice books 1

And here are a bunch of winter books for Saturday's solstice. I've been displaying seasonal books on my desk and I love the way they look - even if we don't get to read them, they're so good to see ... like old friends, you know?

Winter tea set

My wintertime "boy-friendly" tea set ... love how it looks in the late afternoon light. I set it on top of a hand-painted tray which is set upon a ruby-red brocade ottoman. It makes me all kinds of happy that I have this little set up in my house. :) Looking at it makes me think of the long winter to come, and afternoons filled with hot chocolate, good books and kids.

Snowmen

And here we have a paper parade of vintage snowmen, perched along the windowsill... I love Christmas decorations that will suit the winter as well.

Bird garland]

A very pretty garland featuring softly painted, slightly glittery Victorian birds - strung along the mantel on an ivory ribbon. This is a gift from my parents, another wonderful "Vermont" find. It looks so, so pretty in this room - my library. :)

Tree candle

A beautiful window at dusk ... on these short, dark afternoons, little lights like these are so comforting. The tree candle is energized by a battery and it turns itself on at the same time each day. I think that's neat - when I see it on, I know it's "that time" of day.

Snowy lamppost

Our lamppost all covered with snow - a Narnia moment, don't you think?

Peace candle

Another candle - this one smells of peppermint and I've been burning it on the kitchen windowsill as I work towards supper. I find the smell of peppermint invigorating, and yet calming at the same time - it reminds me of Christmas treats, winter snow and my summer herb garden. (Because I love to grow mint!)

Heart ornament

And finally, this lovely ornament is new this year - I bought it as a gift but loved it so much I bought a second for our own tree. I think it's so pretty, and a perfect reminder for those days when I'm rushing about trying to make Christmas something more than it needs to be.

**

Well my friends, I wish you all a pleasant evening - or day if you're across the sea! Thank you so much for joining me here, and finding a little peace and joy alongside me. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll be back again just as soon as I can!


Thoughts on, and from, My Kitchen ...

Happy Wednesday, my friends! What's up in your kitchen this week?

Are you trying a new recipe? Is your sink shiny, a la Flylady? Are you happy with how things are organized?

Well, it's a snowy winter's day here, which is lovely ...

Snowy kitchen day

... and a quiet homey day is just what I need. :)

According to my weekly routine, it's "kitchen day," but friends - my kitchen is in such a state, I can't tell you! I really haven't cleaned it much since Christmas. Or maybe even before that, I'm afraid ... Because first there was morning sickness slowing me down, and then there was the rush of the holidays, and then we got sick ... so I've mostly just been keeping up with the dishes, sweeping the corners, and giving the counters an occasional swipe - just to keep things somewhat sanitary. Clearly then, this room's due for a deep cleaning!

And as if I needed further inspiration, I came across a picture I had taken a few years ago - a snap for a post, I'm sure - and in this particular picture my kitchen is the cleanest it's ever been. It looks so fantastic! I showed it to Bill and the boys and they didn't even recognize it as our kitchen at first!

Clean kitchen picture

So I've posted that picture near my workspace as a reminder of what can be. The kitchen is the heart of our home and when it's looking its best, my "homemaker heart" feels its best. That may sound shmaltzy, but it's true - for me, anyways. And all that open space really makes me want to cook up a storm! Nothing fuels the urge to bake/cook/create like a ready-to-go kitchen ...

***

Now, I have a couple of cookie recipes to share ...

The first is a recipe I've shared off and on over the years: my favorite (and dare I say, signature) Christmas treats - lemon snowballs. Reader Joanna brought it to my attention that the posted link no longer leads to the original recipe. So I searched through my (seriously disorganized) recipe collection and found the print-out I'd kept. (Good ole paper to the rescue again!)

In case you're interested, here it is ...

Lemon Snowball Cookies

Cookie Dough:

2 sticks butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
2 cups flour

Coating:

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kool-Aid lemonade unsweetened drink mix powder
(Mix these together in a bowl)

Cream butter, sugar and flavorings. Add flour and mix until a dough forms. Roll into 1" balls and bake 1" apart on ungreased cookie sheet at 350 F. for 15-18 minutes. They will not be brown on top. While cookies are warm, toss them in the lemon powdered sugar mixture and put on a plate to cool.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

(My print-out does not say where I got this recipe, but I know I found it somewhere online. Also, when I make these, I roll a few in plain powdered sugar so that Earlybird may indulge if he wishes.)

Snowball cookies

And as I was searching through all those recipes - making plans for a major pruning and sorting - I came across one for lavender tea cookies. Generally speaking, I love the idea of herbal cooking moreso than I do the actual flavor, but I'd like to give this one a try. Because I read somewhere that the expecting Princess Kate has been craving "lavender biscuits" lately ("biscuits" meaning cookies in Britain). As you all know I'm a certified Anglophile as well as a big Princess Kate fan ... and I also happen to have a large lavender patch in my front yard. So yes, I'll be trying these cookies this summer ~ I've even made a note in my summer planning pages. (Had I managed to dry and save those lovely buds last summer I'd have some to try now, but alas, I must wait till my lavender's in season.)

In case you'd like to try this recipe as well, here 'tis!

Lavender Tea Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter

2/3 cup minus 1 tbsp. superfine sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 1/4 cup minus 1 tbsp. self-rising flour

1 tbsp. fresh lavender flowers

 Preheat your oven to 350 F. Cream butter and sugar, add egg and beat well. Stir in flour and flowers. Drop by teaspoonful on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing widely to alow for spread. Bake 15-20 minutes until pale golden and edges tinge brown. They will be soft until cooled on waxed paper. Store in airtight tin.

(From The Summer Book by Susan Branch. I find all those SB cookbooks so charming - I've had my collection for years. )

***

Speaking of cookbooks, then ~ can you recommend any new/good ones?

I have The Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace on request once again ... Elizabeth Q. first mentioned this book to me some time ago, and today Elizabeth F. reminded me of it! I liked it the first time I got it, but as usually happens with me and library loans ... I only get a chance to skim a book before I have to return it. This time however, I'll make time to get through it.  :)

Also on my hold shelf - The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier and Meat-Free Monday: A Full Menu for Every Monday of the Year. The latter I read about in a magazine this week, and the idea of more meatless days really appeals to me. While the former is chock full of meat recipes, I'm sure - but hey, it's all about balance, isn't it? And finding what works best for my family. We'd never give up meat entirely, but we are trying to cut down on our consumption - for economic, environmental *and* health reasons. Ironically I was told to up my protein intake at my last OB appt., so I'm looking for ways to do this without just adding more meat. I've never been a big meat-eater really - except it seems when I'm pregnant. ;)

***

OK, one more kitchen topic before I go - how are your coupons working for you?

I myself am giving up on coupons ... for the time being at least. Yes, there, I said it. No more coupons for me. I'm just not finding the time to deal with all the steps involved in successful couponing - clipping, sorting, comparing, matching - and they get to be such a mess ...

So instead I'm concentrating on other methods for keeping grocery costs down ... cooking more from scratch, buying in bulk, meal planning, etc. Perhaps I'll revisit my Money $ Monday posts for more ideas? I'll let you know how it goes. :)

***

Well my friends, I guess I'd best wrap up this post. Goodness, I can be wordy!

I hope wherever you are - on this earth, in this day - you are feeling healthy, happy and hopeful ...

See you here again very soon!

**


Thoughtful Thursday: Natural Cold Remedies

Clementines

My friend Jenney has a lovely blog called Journey Towards Simplicity - she's a wonderful writer and has many great natural living ideas over there! I thought this post was particularly timely since so many people I know - and live with - are dealing with terrible colds at the moment. I'm going to make up some of Jenney's "Mama's Chest Rub" this weekend ... a quick trip to Whole Foods should provide me with the few simple ingredients I need.

Now, so far I have eluded the currently circulating cold, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time ... because if it's not this cold, it may be the next one. And I'm kind of living in fear of it, to be honest, because this time around I can't take any medicine! (Dayquil is usually my one true salvation when a cold hits. Hardly a "natural" remedy, but it works wonders!)

So I stand here at the brink of cold & flu season - surrounded by sick people, lol - and thinking about both sides of infection (preventing + soothing). I'm looking to arm myself with information and advice ...

My friends, what are your favorite natural (homemade) cold remedies? What should I add to my Whole Foods list?

Here's what I have so far ...

lots of fluids

fragrant oils for steam

(I'm not a fan of eucalyptus, so maybe something else?)

vitamin c and zinc?

lemon & honey

favorite fruits

decaffeinated tea

***

*I'm a little nervous about herbal/vitamin supplements - only because I don't know what's safe for pregnancy and what's not. I'm sure if I "google" the issue I'll find plenty of (possibly conflicting) information, but I'll turn to my friends and readers first ... as well as my midwife, of course.

:)

Well my friends, I hope this week's been treating you well. I have my first OB appt. today so please wish me luck! I'll ask about "nursing a cold when you're pregnant" and let you know what she tells me.

Have a great Thursday, everyone ... see you here again very soon!


Thoughtful Thursday ~ on Summer's Bounty

KG picking peaches 1

"If produce had a holiday, it would be August. All of August. There's just no better time to eat melons, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, and every other fruit and veggie you can pluck from your garden or pick up at a farmer's market ... Enjoy!"

(From Better Homes & Gardens, August 2012)

I was flipping through my BH&G, waiting for the oven timer to ring, when I came across this quote and I thought it quite lovely ... and so true! I was just thinking about our neighborhood farm stand and what might be fresh there this weekend ... I'm itching to make zucchini bread, and perhaps some peach butter.

How do you take advantage of the bountiful produce at this time of year? Do you preserve it in some way or simply enjoy it fresh while you can? Perhaps you do a little of both?

I haven't done much preserving myself, though some years I put up several jars of my grandmother's picalilli. That's a Labor Day family tradition I would very much like to honor this year! 

Anyhoo, while I'm here, two more things to share - a link and a recipe ...

From Simple Pleasures of the Garden by Susannah Seton, a recipe just perfect for this time of year:

Vegetable Gratin

2 1/2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 medium-size green bell pepper, diced

8 smallish summer squashes (such as crookneck, pattypan, ronde de Nice, or zucchini), about 2 lbs. total, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

kernels from 2 ears of corn

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

4 tbsp. fresh basil or thyme, or a combination of both

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup lowfat milk

3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a shallow gratin dish or other baking dish with 1/2 tbsp. of the butter. Place 1 tbsp. butter and the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and green pepper; saute over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.

Add the squash, corn, and salt and pepper; saute another 4 to 5 minutes, until the squash is nearly tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Mix together the flour, cornmeal, basil and/or thyme. Stir in the eggs, milk and vegetables.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a crust has formed and a knife inserted into the center comes out nearly clean. Dot with the remaining 1 tbsp. butter, sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake for 7 to 10 minutes longer, until the crust has browned slightly and the edges are bubbling and crispy. Serve hot or at room temperature. 

Serves 6.

Doesn't that sound delicious?!

I will certainly be making this sometime very soon ... I will pick the basil and thyme from my deck and I'll get the rest of the produce at the farmstand down the street. And I'll see what I can find for local milk, eggs, butter and cheese ... I can't wait to try it!

 ☼

Also, here's a follow up to the local-food challenge article I posted about earlier this month:

"Shop-Local Challenge Trickier than I Thought"

{I'm really enjoying reading about her journey!}

Well, my friends, thanks for checking in and leaving your thoughts if you have a chance ... I hope you all have a pleasant night! 

See you here again very soon!


Blooming in June: Lovely Lavender

Just harvested a bunch to hang and dry inside ...

Lavender sprig 1

It looks pretty here in the window, where there's enough light for a picture, but I actually moved the sprig to our bedroom closet as apparently lavender is good for warding off moths. The smell is so very lovely ... except it does make me sneeze a little!

So I found this wonderful recipe for "Lavender Linen Water" and thought I'd share it with you all. How nice would it be to have lavender-scented bedsheets this summer?

From Home Enlightenment: Practical, Earth-Friendly Advice for Creating a Nurturing, Healthy and Toxin-Free Home and Lifestyle by Annie B. Bond:

"With this simple formula you can "sweeten" your linens, and if you aren't sensitive to essential oils, you can use it to freshen rooms. Sprinkle on sheets or other linens for a fresh scent and spray on linens before you iron them."

1 teaspoon (100 drops) lavender essential oil

5-10 drops peppermint, spearmint, or rosemary essential oil (optional)

2 ounces 80+ proof vodka

Bottle with tight-fitting lid

24 ounces distilled water

Pour the essential oils and vodka into a bottle. Tighten the lid and shake until the oils are emulsified (suspended throughout). Mix with the distilled water. Shake well before each use. Pour into a shaker jar or spray bottle to use. Shelf life: indefinite.

I have A LOT of lavender growing in that front, south-facing bed, so I'd love some suggestions for using/handling this herb (recipes, crafts, tending, etc.). Please leave a comment below if you have an idea for me - thanks!

And I hope you're all having a nice weekend ... it's a beautiful day here ... soccer in the morning, grilling at night ... feeling very thankful for all my blessings: health, home, family and friends.

Who could ask for more?