Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A SHORT TOUR OF THE PATIO AND GARDEN & A DELICIOUS SIDE DISH RECIPE


Hello, friends.  I hope all of you are off to a great week.  Our high temps are cooling off as we speak but a nice breeze has been so great in keeping us cool and making being outdoors tolerable with 90+ degrees.

Taking a walk around the Ponderosa today I had my camera in hand while I randomly watered some pots of flowers.  I've seen these little herb boxes on many blogs, I have had the set for quite a while; Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.  This summer they are all up on the brick around my patio.  There are so many things you can do with these boxes.  So this is one.  I'll share the others later.  The Husband constantly harps that our house is going to crumble down if I hammer in one more masonry nail. 



Thought I'd zoom in on a few things.  This basket holds a mismatch of outdoor essentials.  I love these colorful citronella candles found at Marshall's.  I try to use citronella as opposed to an air spray or bug repellent applied to the skin.  If I do use a body spray I try to find the gentlest.  Right now I'm using Cutter Skinsations (no promotional deal going here).  It has Aloe and Vitamin E.  The key I believe is to wash it off once you head in.  Many find these repellents to be unsafe but I prefer to lean toward the lesser of the evils and West Nile Virus is something I never want to have.  


I have some Asiatic lilies blooming near my herbs.  Gosh, they really make me smile.  They look like they are virtually painted in watercolors.  You can see there are many more buds to open. 



As you know, I LOVE my chairs.  In fact I am really looking forward to getting up to the lakehouse just to hunt down more.  This wrought iron chair holds a special place in my heart.  A few years after we moved here we literally had some strangers show up at the door and tell us they were the children of the original owners.  We were as excited as they were.  All they really wanted to see was the backyard where they had so many fun memories.  One of the things I could never part with when we moved in was this lone chair (and it only has three legs).  I kept it propped up in a corner of what I call my Woodland Garden.  The two daughters saw it and nearly cried while remembering the matching table and second chair, a bistro set I imagine.   So I keep it, adorn it every spring and love it. 


The latest in Blondieville.  Son Kevin turned thirty~three on Friday.  We went to dinner at a favorite steakhouse nearby.  Most of the kids had Friday night plans but Kevin, Mary Clare, her mother, Peggy (my partner in crime) and The Husband had a great time.  This is the cutest picture of Kevin and MC.  They had a sitter for Elsie so I hope they painted the town red later on!


We spent a glorious weekend with long time friends Zeke and Jill at their new home on a lake southwest of us.  They bought it to use for weekends and then took the plunge last year to move in full time.  They had retired but after several months of contemplating this new chapter of their lives they decided to take part time jobs.  Jill has forty some years as a nurse under her belt   Going from working in a hospital to a medical clinic has had its challenges but she takes it in stride.  I truly admire how she takes the bull by the horns but is also very honest and humble at the same time.  I could stand to learn a lot from her.  I hope we see these friends more in the future, we lost touch as raising kids took precedence over most thngs and it's so good to reconnect.  

We spent much of the weekend cruising on their pontoon with a few other friends, sharing great meals cooked on the grill by the menfolk, wiling away the time on the deck.  Jill took me for a ride around the lake by car.  It's a heavily wooded area and we saw groups of deer munching the vegetation along the road.  They would stare at us for a second and then bound into the woods.  This was awesome for me as I've only seen a handful of them in my entire life and then only from a distance.  All in all, this was just the remedy for The Husband and I who continue to miss our lake life tremendously.



Daughter Abigail finally finished up teaching last week. Amazing how some schools go so long.  Her guy Tom also finished up so they have a whole 6 weeks of fun together.  They have so many cool things to do near their apartment on the Northside but they also love to come down here (the Southside) to enjoy the pool at Tom's family's home a few blocks away.  Abby loves being outside as they live on the third floor of their building without a balcony, and she also spends a lot of time with Milo and Layla, she misses them so.  To think she was just thirteen when we got Milo, it really is a special relationship.  This is a picture of her playing with Layla on the back steps but I also wanted to sneak in a picture of those outdoor lights I bought at Target last fall on clearance.  We had more than we needed and so we hung them in a swag pattern.  I love them along with the solar lights I have here and there in my garden borders around the patio.  At night I really have no use for the porch light or spot lights, thus, fewer bugs.  We do have the 'flight of the bats' around dusk.  They swoop and dive for about 5 minutes eating up the flying bugs.  I used to enjoy watching them from the safety of my patio table under the umbrella until one decided to fly under and whizzed inches from my head.  Now when I sight the first few I make a hasty exit to the house.  ;-(



The bed along the house is doing great.  The pink clematis have died off for now but will be back.  I wish I had the names of the varieties.  The purple ones are doing well.  I have bunches of cosmos planted here and there to fill up space.  In a few weeks I'll hit some garden centers to find perennials on sale to add and fill in spaces.  Still, I may continue to add cosmos every year...I simply love them and their fluffy leaves and how they sway in the wind.  



I know, this looks like one full plate and it is, The Husbands at dinner tonight.  But trust me, this is just one simple recipe that I wanted to pass on and it is for the Parsley Glazed Carrots.  I came across the recipe around Easter, we all loved it and then tonight I wanted to make it again and had to pull the ingredients out of my head.  

I cook fresh veggies every single night.  It sounds time consuming but you can easily do it while you are at the stove working on the other parts of your meal.  The only veggies I don't prepare are peas (I get them frozen).  I don't have the patience to shuck them.  I think that jazzing up your veggies makes them more tasty and you tend to add more to your plate, a great trick to get those nutrients.  And oh, I got to use some fresh parsley I have growing in abundance!  So, very simply:

Parsley Glazed Carrots

4 cups carrots (sliced in half and then cut lengthwise very thinly into long spears)
S & P to taste
1/2 t sugar
1/4 cup water
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T butter
2 T fresh parsley, chopped

*******

Add all ingredients except the butter and parsley to a sauce pan or skillet with a tightly fitted lid and cook over moderately high heat for approximately 7-10 minutes.  Toss frequently in the last 3 minutest prevent burning.  Remove from heat when they are lightly charred and tender.  Toss with the butter and sprinkle with parsley.  Serves 4-6.

The beauty of this recipe is that the small amount of sugar caramelizes the carrots, and the bit of charring makes for a crispness and earthiness that is softened by the butter.  I hope you try this as a side dish.  It really is delicious.



After our mini vacation at the home of our friends, the dogs were more than happy to see us.  Arriving home at 8:00 p.m. Sunday night we had just enough time to enjoy the last of the sun and play a little fetch with the rubber ball that Milo has yet to chew into shreds.  He tires a little more quickly but I still try to keep him active and in shape.  Isn't that what we are all supposed to do?  And then he is content to lie in the grass and sniff the warm summer breeze.  My favorite memories will always be the outdoor ones.  My dogs are always happiest there and I simply can't wait to get back to the lake and see them run wild.  And that's coming soon.  More on it later!

Have a wonderful 4th!  Celebrate and sparkle!

Jane x

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

THE LITTLE THINGS


I usually find inspiration to write a post by looking at my photos and seeing a little pattern of what I've been up to, places I've been and sometimes things I think you guys may be interested in.  The other day I thought, man, it's been awhile since I wrote a post but there doesn't seem to be anything to write about.   Then today I thought of a quote that says something to the effect of looking back on your life and realizing it wasn't the big things, it was the little things that counted.  I love that and I thought maybe that's the nudge I need to sit down and just start typing.  

Well, isn't this an interesting photo?  That Milo can be like a bloodhound sometimes.  I have a few outdoor toys for Elsie, we love to play in the backyard.  Milo actually gets into the action by retrieving  a ball when we throw it and dropping it in front of Elsie.  She runs to me or The Husband with it and we repeat.  I don't think she knew that dogs could play like this.  She's also taken a liking to dropping food down for Milo and Layla and they all get a huge kick out of this.  Anyway, Milo knows the smell of rubber.  And he loves to chew it.  We had to stop giving him rubber toys long ago and now we have to keep an eye on Elsie's favorite toys.  So...I caught him doing this the other day, just wanting that rubber ball with a passion.  Crazy mutt.  


This is a little old bench I painted a few weeks ago to fill in a corner of the patio (you can see it in the picture above).  Nothing huge, I just wanted it to be a bright spot.  I kept the legs the original color as it's almost too bright.  I've toned down the bright colors on my patio.  I may just give this a little darker wash.  My garden tools hang on a rack above the bench.  I've heard that it's a good idea to paint the wood handles of your tools a bright color, it makes them easier to find if you lay them down in the grass. Good tip and maybe my tools won't blend in so much with the wall.   I may do this.  


My day lilies are starting to bloom.  I have them in a lot of different spots all over my yard.  It's so big and sometimes I just want to fill areas with tried and true plants that take up chunks of space.  I have yellow and pink varieties in another area~~~I really favor them.  They bloom later in the summer, most likely as they don't get as much sun until mid summer.  



This is my idea of perfect whimsy, Jane Style.  This little chair used to be in one of our more 'natural and shabby" bathrooms so it looks pretty good.  I'm looking forward to seeing it get a little distressed over time.  



The Husband and I are so happy to have Elsie every Thursday night when Kevin plays softball and Mary Clare plays volleyball.  We love it.  She's just in time to have dinner with us.  She can't really chew food but it's so fun to watch her try new things that she can.  She was really intrigued by the jello I made last week.  She didn't know whether to play with it or eat it.

We like to take little walks, she pushes her baby doll in a mini stroller.  I can't help but think that these are the same sidewalks on which I walked with her dad (and the rest of my brood) to kindergarten.  Full circle and another great reason to be happy we've lived in this home for so long.  Forever actually or so it seems. 


I feel like summer has been here for a long, long time.  The things I've accomplished in the yard and garden, the time I've spent outdoors simply started so early that it truly feels like mid summer.  We've  have had a major heat wave, some days have actually hit 90+ degrees and that's very unusual for this part of the country in early summer.  Today was hot and humid but I was determined to get those pups out and active for an hour.  Layla loves grass...in the early morning she goes out and finds a patch of sun and just lies in it.  The other day she was lying on her side snoozing peacefully and she looked almost dead.  My heart almost stopped, then she lifted her head and looked around, and immediately went back to sleep.  For her there's nothing better than sniffing a random spot, scratching at it (a bug?) and then rolling in it.   I caught her in the act this afternoon and luckily had my camera with me.  A video would have been better, she can be hysterically funny.  Another crazy mutt.  They keep me happy and busy.

I'm beyond complaining about my daily running around.  I call my afternoons my 'Doctor Dates'.  I do the physical therapy on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the light therapy for my rash Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Afterward I do the groceries or errands.  By the time I get home its time to start dinner and after that I can barely keep my eyes open.  I am liking the PT though.  Spending an hour stretching muscles you never knew existed is quite exhilarating, for lack of a better word (after the first initial days of pain!).  It makes me look forward to doing the exercises at home and I've been pretty good about that.     

We have some fun things coming up.  We have plans to spend a weekend with old friends at their new home on a lake about 2 hours from here.  Oh!  To wade in the water, eat hotdogs and have a beer at 1:00 p.m.  Ha!  Life's little pleasures.  And we are going to our place in Asheville the last week of July.  My sister in law and her young daughters took a road trip recently and stayed several nights at our condo.  They had a ball.  They loved the pool, I've never been as we haven't been there in the summer.  I know The Husband will want to do some fly fishing so I'm looking forward to whiling away some time by the pool and in the hot tub and plowing through some books I have sitting on my night table.  

That wraps it up.  Do tell what you've been been doing so far this summer.  Any vacation plans?  As I write I hear we are having some terrible storms down in Texas and some are headed our way.  It's hard to be vigilant at night.  Be safe. 

And in closing I want to express my sorrow over the events in Orlando.  I'm sure you share my feelings.  Let's continue to pray for peace while we grieve for the victims and their families.  

Jane x



Sunday, June 5, 2016

GREEN LIVING


All of the pictures in this post are of the outdoors and at the risk of sounding like a braggart, they may all be of my progress in the gardens and on my patio.  Yawn.  

The clematis is blooming like crazy.  I think it looks so pretty close up but in reality, I simply don't know how or when to prune back the woody stems so this is all you are getting now.  They thrive on this black trellis which some of you may know was actually a wrought iron headboard Emily and I scavenged from a neighbors trash.  I digress.  On one side of the trellis I have a variety that blooms purple and I think it's very common, I see it everywhere.  The cool thing is both the pink and purple varieties bloom all summer long.  For not knowing what I'm doing, I'm doing alright! 



I mentioned I had ordered some urns from Amazon.  None of them were over $30.00.  I am so pleased with them.  Each one is made of different material but all are lightweight, even with your potting soil inside so you can move them around until you're happy.  This is one of my favorites.  I love impatiens because I have so much shade (they dry out in direct sun) and I'm partial to that pretty peachy color.  This is a sweet combo of color and in another 2 weeks they will be billowing over the edges of the pot.



We have a lot of 'not so expected/invited critters' in our yard right now so I stand on my back porch a lot when I let Layla and Milo out, especially at night.  We have a family of opossum living in a cardboard box (of all things) in little alcove that leads to our garage.  It was hidden under some heavier things over the winter.  The husband was attempting to take a bit at a time out to the trash and last week that protective mother reared her ugly head.  Okay...have your way.  Raise those babies up to be cowboys for all we care.  But I digress.  No I don't.  I have a raccoon family under my shed and we've spotted foxes strolling down the street like nobodies business.  Life in the city.  But still, I digress.  This is my lookout tower on my back porch and if you peer down to the right you get a bird's eye view of the herb garden.  I forgot to get dill!  Can you believe it?  I must have brought some milkweed seeds home with me a few years ago from the lake because it's sprouting all over and I have these beautiful monarchs as well as some blue swallowtail.  And then I realize---no dill.  I had such a great time seeing the caterpillars munching away on my plants last summer.  So I'm off this week for some.  Forget using it in my recipes...I just want to see those beautiful (if not a little creepy) caterpillars. 

On a sad note, I had a birdhouse close to the house and just off our patio.  I had so much fun watching the two sparrows make a little home in it.  The Husband could hear the chirping of the babies last week (I couldn't).  And then two days ago I was cleaning up outside and I found a little featherless baby.  I buried it quickly.  The next morning I found another and before I could get my garden gloves on I noticed it was still breathing.  I broke my cardinal rule and climbed on a patio chair to get it back into the birdhouse.  Later in the afternoon I found another and had to bury it.  By then I hadn't seen the parents for awhile.  It saddens me.  I blame myself for having the birdhouse so close to the patio where they would be disturbed.  I'm moving it away to some mulberry bushes that are quite tall.  I thought I had learned my lesson when it came to manipulating nature for my own benefit.  I have a few stories I can tell...but the moral is, leave all of it alone.



I used to plant tomatoes in this humongous pot but they never made it with the squirrels and their daily volleyball matches with my just ripened babies.  Or they'd take one bite and spit it out like a spoiled child.  Back in March I planted spinach, butter lettuce and baby carrots.  I've already made a few delicious salads.  A nice trick I learned from a fellow gardener at the lake, don't pull the whole plant out.  Hold a few very gently at the tips and use a serrated knife to do a sort of 'crew cut'.  The plants will grow again and you'll get a second harvest.  We've had great salads and sandwiches and BLT's.  The little carrots are dwarfed by the lettuce.  Maybe next year I'll give them their own planter.  These may do well when I use up most of the other greens.  Am I boring you?



I finally got the patio tidy and clean.  I wish I had been patient enough to power wash it but I have to say, its seventy years old and has cracks like an earthquake hit it.  I make do with a cute rug and plants to distract. Recently I found an indoor/outdoor rug at Home Depot for a terrific price.  I had some mildew or mold on my last rug and I know I might have removed it but I never liked the bright lime green color.  I had really toned down some of the bright colors everywhere.  I had been one dime short of a few colorful gnomes from Walgreens.  Nothing else is very new.  I had these place mats which were pretty beat up (and I hope the birds don't find them perfectly satisfactory for nest building after my recent tragedy), and I also found some old pillows I can hide away.  I just tuck them in a corner when I know we have rain coming.  I'm so loving my retreat.  Afternoons puttering and pulling weeds, reading around 4:00 p.m. before the sun moves far enough west to start to blind me and then one last hurrah for the dogs about 8 p.m.  Heavenly.




I won't take much of your time with this recipe.  It's just one part of a salad that I found here.  I've never made the whole deal but I'm sure it's delicious.  I was curious about the shrimp and marinade and I just happened to have a pound of nice sized shrimp in the freezer.  I served it over thin Thai noodles (my new love) but it would be great along side rice or pasta tossed with your favorite sauce.  Keep it light to compliment the tanginess and spice of the shrimp.  I took the liberty of giving it my own name.

Spicy Marinated Shrimp

1/2 to 1 lb jumbo shrimp
1/3 c packed cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 c fresh lime juice (2-3 limes)
1/4 c olive oil
1 T honey
1/2 t chili powder
canola oil for cooking
S & P

Blend all of the ingredients except the shrimp in a food processor.  Place the shrimp in a large zip lock bag and pour the marinade over.  Place in refrigerator for no longer than 10 minutes or the shrimp will actually 'cook' in the acidic ingredients.  

Heat 1 T canola oil in a skillet or grill pan.  You can also do this on an outdoor grill.  Place each piece on and grill 1 minute on each side until lightly charred.  

As I've said, you can serve this in so many ways.  I am looking forward to having this as an appetizer for company over a bed of lettuce, it's great at room temp.  Something cool to counteract the spiciness would be a yogurt dip with cucumber slices or tortillas and a salsa verde.

This comes together very fast if you peel and devein the shrimp ahead of time.  I do this unpleasant task because I save big $$$.  In any case~~~you will love it and get great rave reviews if you serve it to company.  :-D



The Husband has been making periodic trips to the lake to see what the crew is up to and meet with the contractor.  Things are moving along well.  I need to get an email out to the contractor and carpenter as to the details on the kitchen I've planned as well as the powder room. 

In the meantime, The Husband took pictures of my monster wisteria which I haven't seen in full bloom for 2 years.  You can look on my sidebar at the front view of the lakhouse to see how it grows up the left side of the house from the front  porch to the upper balcony which is off the master bedroom.   Above is a view from the bedroom.  It has flowed over the balcony and God knows where it wants to go after this!  I have to make some sort of trellis to get it to go up to the slatted arbor as you can see.



Another view.  Look at those blooms (in spite of a poor pic..though I know the guy tried).  I think maybe now my neighbors know what the heck I had growing up my house.  Even The Husband, who absolutely hates the ivy I've grown all over our little city house here is loving this.  I have a young guy who cuts our lawn in the summer.  I had asked him for an estimate to trim the wisteria.  I usually do it every spring myself.  He texted back the day after I saw these pictures and said, "Mrs. B.  This vine is so beautiful.  I would leave it alone for a few months!"  He's so cute.  I've waited 10 years to see this and now I'm not there!!!!!  But we have just a few weeks left.    Unpacking will consume most of our time but I have to get some work done on the gardens.  As far as the wisteria...you just go girl!

See ya soon.

Jane  x