Tuesday, June 10

The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes we plan things and despite everyone's best effort they change. While this can be frustrating, it can often have surprising results. Take my Mother's Day for instance- the plan was for my kids and my husband to spend the day preparing my new garden bed, and they had breakfast and dinner planned out so I could garden all day and not have to cook. It was a wonderful plan.

Saturday we found out that my husband's Uncle John, who has a pacemaker and has been on dialysis three times a day, had decided that he was tired and ready to stop fighting. He was in the hospital and his heart could stop in hours or days. We called my son who attends college in the city, and once he was able to get home we all climbed in my husband's truck and headed to the hospital, which was about two hours away. It wasn't the Mother's Day we had planned, but we were able to visit with John while he was awake and chatting with all of us about our lives and our plans. He hugged each one of us and told us he loved us before we left, which was a hard thing to do. I wouldn't have traded that time with him for anything.

Uncle John was the youngest in his family and was only 58. The doctors warned his kids that he would only live another year, but that was four years ago. His body was tired, and I think his soul was as well. Uncle John loved to chat with our boys, and always had a good word for all of us, along with a hug and a smile. I can't count how many times he brightened my day by just smiling and giving me a big hug when I was a bit down in the dumps.



Uncle John, in the picture above from a few years ago, loved making tamales with the Hyde family- it's something they started doing long before I married my husband. They make the dough from scratch, and grind roasted pork to place in the middle of the dough, all wrapped in a corn husk. It's a "by feel" recipe, and there is always a bit of "discussion" over how much seasoning to add to the dough and meat. I'm so glad I took pictures of the times we all gathered at my in-laws house to make tamales.

Uncle John died a week later after we visited him in the hospital, and it was a tough time for his family, especially his grandson who is 9 years old. When the minister asked if anyone wanted to say a few words, he ran up to the podium and told us how much he loved his grandpa and how he had been there for him all of his life. It was heartbreaking, yet precious.

This post has been waiting for me to finish it for a bit now. It was an emotional May with everything that was happening. We will all miss Uncle John, just as we still miss his wife, Aunt Marsha and his mom, Grandma Dorothy. I will always be thankful for their friendship, and the love they showed me during the last 25 years. All three of them took the time to learn that I was quiet when something was bothering me, and I knew when they asked me how I was doing they REALLY wanted to know. If I talked, they listened. If I needed a hug they gave me one.

I know they are at peace now, and while I'm grateful for that, I will never stop missing their hugs and smiles.


~Brenda

Monday, May 5

The Dandelion



You fight dandelions all weekend, and late Monday afternoon there they are, pert as all get out, in full and gorgeous bloom, pretty as can be, thriving as only dandelions can in the face of adversity. ~Hal Borland

Thursday, May 1

The Garden Projects Begin!

I had posted previously about moving landscaping blocks from the front yard to the back for a new herb bed. My husband moved the blocks just before a rain shower, with a little bit of "help" from our grandson.





Jace was convinced that grandpa was making him a new seating area:) He was also fascinated with grandpa's truck.  His Aunt Emily observed "He's such a boy!".



Now that the herb bed is in place we need to work up the soil, remove the sod and add more soil, then I'll transfer some plants and buy others. It's a start!

HOSES AND MORE HOSES...
My husband also took an hour or so out to make a holder for our hoses, which tend to lay tangled on the ground most of the garden season.  We have two faucets and a lot of property, so we have four hoses.  He used a scrap 4x4 (We have a lot of them leftover from things we took apart after moving out here.) and cut up another piece of scrap wood, then screwed it all together.  I will probably paint it at some point when he finishes building a small box that will set on top of the post to hold nozzles and sprinklers.


You can see our old post hole digger behind the post.  This is one tool we couldn't do without, and it was given to us years ago.  Remember, it's okay to be a moocher, especially when it comes to garden tools:)

~Brenda

Wednesday, April 30

Research on Altered Art

I've been researching supplies and techniques to creating altered art.  Now, it sounds like something that would be complicated, but it actually reminds me of collage fun for adults:)  Sure, it's a bit fancier and more involved but I realized one day that it's an art form made for me because I am creative, but cannot draw or paint to save my life.  I write.  I have a whimsical imagination.  I love taking inspiration from nature and my garden, which is why I love herbs so much.  When I look at altered art it reminds me of garden diaries I've seen with pen and ink or watercolor sketches, which I've always wished I could create. 

Many crafters use vintage photos, greeting cards or other paper combined with bit and pieces of cloth, buttons, ribbon and other textured items.  To say I collect all these things is a bit of an understatement.  I walked into my bedroom, opened the top drawer of my dresser, reached in and came out with these items:



Imagine that I've been collecting this type of thing for over 25 years and you get an idea of how much I love paper, cloth and ribbons.  

I've found over the years that the first step to starting new projects to research on how to do it as frugally as possible.  Since I'm on a tight budget I won't just walk into the nearest craft store and start buying supplies because that is a sure way to cut into money set aside for other things.  This is what I found out so far:

1. Gesso is the paint type medium that altered art crafters use to cover whatever object they are turning into art.  It's sort of like a chalky white paint that can be sanded.   So far I've found two recipes to make it at home.  Once I try them out I'll blog on the results.

2. Anything can be altered, and most of the items used are easy to find and free such as:  small boxes, old books, frames, notebooks, cardboard, etc.

3.  What about paint?  I did some looking around the last week and found some sources:  Goodwill, a local closeout store, dollar stores,  yard and church sales and my husband's garage:)  All of the projects I found online used different types of paint, markers, and sometimes words printed from a printer or cut out from books.

4.  As I've been researching I started thinking of things I know I have in the basement that would be perfect to use in projects:

-Old Dictionary that has lost it's spine.  The pages would be great as background for projects.
-A pile of old magazines from the 20's to the 40's
-A tub of lace, ribbon and other leftover crafting supplies
-Various old calenders, notebooks and journals
-Old greeting cards
-Fabric and clothing that can be rescued for buttons and/or the fabric itself
-Puzzle and game pieces

My goal is to start with projects that I can give as gifts and use for decorating.  Once I decide how much I like it, the cost of the pieces, and how much time is involved I'll consider making some to sell.  

I will also work on starting a blog list with tutorials, and a Pintrest board.

~Brenda


Wednesday, February 12

Quote of the Week: Love Makes Us Feel Alive



The hours I spend with you I look upon as sort of a
perfumed garden, a dim twilight, and a fountain singing
to it … you and you alone make me feel that I am alive.
Other men it is said have seen angels, but I have
seen thee and thou art enough.

-   George Moore

Monday, February 10

Monday Recipe: Chocolate Chip Coconut Bars

This isn't exactly a vintage recipe, but it did come from a collection of clippings I've had for years.  I had to share because they turned out SO delicious. I fooled with the recipe and baked a pan the other night with the dark chocolate chips I had in the pantry:)



Chocolate Chip Coconut Bars

Ingredients:
2/3 cup butter or stick margarine
1 cup brown sugar 
1 cup granulated sugar 
2 large eggs
1/4 water 
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder 
1/2 tsp. salt 
1 cup coconut 
1 pkg. dark chocolate chips

Mix the butter (room temperature), sugars, eggs, vanilla and water until light and smooth. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl, then stir into the wet ingredients along with the coconut and chocolate chips. Place into a buttered or sprayed 9x13-inch pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F. 

Notes: Margarine or butter can be used in this recipe as long as it's in stick form. It should be room temperature when used.  I loved the dark chocolate chips, but any chocolate chip can be used. I'm big on variations because I never seem to have the same ingredients on hand, so I experiment. This recipe came from some old clippings, and I changed it slightly.  

Many bars turn out dry, but this is moist.  When it comes out of the oven it continues to cook and firm up some, so don't over bake, then it will dry out.

Variations: 
-Oatmeal instead of coconut
-Butterscotch chips and oatmeal instead of chocolate chips and coconut
-Crushed nuts instead of coconut with toffee chips instead of chocolate

~Brenda

Sunday, February 2

In the Garden: My Plans for 2014

Last year was a disappointing year in the garden because it was the first year in 15 years that I didn't plant a vegetable or herb in my garden.  I still had my perennials, but I missed the entire garden season. Partly it was the preparing and helping care for our first grandchild. His timing wasn't ideal, but he is a joy to his parents and everyone in his life, so it's all good.  He was too little to do more than lay in the grass soaking up the sun last summer, especially when his Aunt Emily joined him.


It was also a year of failures as our rototiller broke down, and our neighborhood farmer couldn't fit us in his schedule to work up the garden area. This year, come hell or high water, I will start my new garden plot, revamp my raised bed and build my new herb garden. The herb garden will be made by using the blocks from around this tree:




For some reason, this flower bed never took off no matter how I amended it, or what I planted. We'll use the blocks for my new herb bed, and build an octagonal picnic table there instead.  I haven't mapped out the herb bed yet but I do know I want to include hardy Mediterranean herbs that are perennials in our zone. I know the following will be included:

Lavender
Sage
Oregano
Lemon and Regular Thyme
Chives
Garlic Chives

I have an old chiminea that I'm considering using as the center of the bed to plant nasturtiums each year, or possibly mint.  Basil isn't a perennial here but I'll plant as much of that as I can either in the herb bed or the vegetable garden.

I'm also going to plant sunflowers and calendula where I can fit them in amount the herbs and vegetables.  As far as vegetables, I plan on growing tomatoes, radish, kale, greens, beans, cucumbers and squash.  

I think it will be a grand garden season this year!

~Brenda


Wednesday, January 22

Quote of the Week: The Cloak of Winter


Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle ... a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream. ~Barbara Winkler

Monday, January 20

Vintage Recipe Monday: Potatoes Persillade



Today I have a recipe from The American Woman's Cook Book, which has had many editions over the years.  The one I have is missing it's cover, but I remember it was from the early 1900's.  If you ever run across an edition of this book, no matter what the condition, it's well worth adding to your kitchen library. It's chalk full of tips and recipes.  The recipe today I picked because it's simple and I loved the name:)

Potatoes Persillade

12 small new potatoes or 6 medium 
Butter
Juice of one-half lemon
1/2 cup minced parsley

These are dependent upon parsley, not only for their name but for their attractive appearance. Scrape new potatoes. Pare old potatoes and cut the size of a small egg or with a vegetable scoop cut them into balls. Boil until tender. Add salt just before cooking is completed. Drain, place in a saucepan with sufficient butter to coat all the potatoes, add the lemon juice and sprinkle with parsley. The potatoes should be well coated with parsley when served.

Notes: This recipe has to have fresh parsley, which is available in most grocery stores and is very inexpensive. It will keep in the refrigerator if the stems are placed standing up in a small jar of water, then covered loosely with a plastic bag.  If the water is changed every few days the parsley could last up to two weeks. 


Friday, January 17

Garden Friday: Roses in Winter

Here in Michigan we've already had an huge amount of snow, and though it warmed up slightly, we have a long winter ahead of us.  I love snow, and wouldn't want to live somewhere that I couldn't have winter. That said, I hate driving in winter.  I miss my garden in winter.  By February I am ready for spring, but in Michigan we don't really get to work in the dirt until April usually.  So, today's post is about roses.  I love roses, but so far I've had the best luck with miniature roses.  My other roses are always plagued with one problem or another but the miniatures grow like troopers right up until snow.  The pictures below are from this last summer...some are my roses and some are roses from public gardens we visited where I drooled with envy.

God gave us our memories so that we might have roses in December.
~James Matthew Barrie









~Brenda

Wednesday, January 15

Quote of the Week: Winter Solitude


There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you ..... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself. ~Ruth Stout

Monday, January 13

Vintage Recipe Monday: Potato Soup




I've decided to start scheduling theme days to give myself a guide to blogging and the first one will start today and repeat each Monday.  I have been collecting cookbooks since college, and have everything from recipe booklets to full size cookbooks that range from the 1800's to present day.  I love recipes, especially those that are tried and true family favorites.  I'm not a fan of complex recipes with expensive ingredients, so you won't find those here.  I love recipes that use quality ingredients that can be purchased without breaking the grocery budget, and don't take all day to prepare. 

Today I'm sharing from The Ladies Union Cook Book which was published in Detroit during the early 1900's. It's bound with a string much like twine, and has good, basic recipes contributed by members of the group. This recipe is very simple, and perfect for a cold, winter's day.

POTATO SOUP

Six boiled potatoes
1 quart milk
a little mace
1 small onion
pepper
salt to taste

Heat the milk, strain the potatoes through a colander, chop the onion and cook all together 15 minutes. Must be served immediately.

Notes: The milk would have no doubt been whole milk back then, and using skim or 2% would make the soup less rich. Mace isn't a spice many people have on hand, but either nutmeg or allspice can be used instead in this recipe. 





The Last of the Roses in Autumn

The milkweed pods are breaking,   And the bits of silken down   Float off upon the autumn breeze   Across the meadows brown. ~C...