Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Farewell my bleeding heart...

This is an Outdoor Wednesday post to join in over at A Southern Daydreamer's blog.

In the spring, I bought a bleeding heart plant with no flowers on it. I planted it and diligently cared for it through the summer knowing that next year, the beauty would be unleashed. The plant was gorgeous, light green leaves, which bordered on almost yellow. It was the perfect foil during early summer to the purple clematis or the baby blue eyes (as shown below) growing nearby.

Yesterday morning, while letting my dog out, I noticed that it no longer existed. And although I nurtured it with hopes for next year's glory, it is naught to be. Some hungry bunny or deer has brought the plant's life cycle to an abrupt end, and left a divot in my garden. Look how lush it was. Can you imagine what next year was to hold?

So farewell. Farewell my bleeding heart. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Estate Finds and Roiling-boiling Clouds

Yesterday, I stopped by an estate sale in my neighborhood. I had seen signs for a "sale" but was unaware that it wasn't just a simple yard sale. By the time I arrived there was not much left, but I did find a few items for purchase. I spent $28 dollars as follows:  $0.50 on some gingham fabric that will be made into cafe curtains in my kitchen; $1.00 on an oval enamelware basin with red trim; $1.50 on a vintage wool cardigan; and, $25 on a hutch for my dining room. I had been looking for something for the dining room for some time and finally decided that I was going to build a built-in to fit the space. I still hope to do that as the hutch is not my style; however, it adds storage space in the meantime. Here are the goods:

Please excuse my dust vac peaking out from around the base of the hutch (the plug is back there). I think $28 was a great price. I don't know why, but my favorite is unexpected - I just love that enamelware basin. I guess it reminds my of my grandmother's house. This mosaic of my finds was put together to join in the Mosaic Monday event held over at the Little Red House blog. I hadn't joined in for several months, so pulled together some photos to make a mosaic. These photos are to show my finds rather than to impress with their artistry. However, there are some amazingly wonderful mosaics over there - I'd suggest you pop over for a browse.

On Saturday, there was the most amazing cloud formation in the sky at around 8am. I just had to memorialize it in a photo:

Doesn't it just look like the sky is boiling?

Friday, July 16, 2010


There is some sort of weed flowering outside of our house. It is pretty and kind of looks like a plant that would grow by the edge of water. I was trying to get a nice picture of it. I tried once but didn't get a good picture. So I tried a couple more times.  A friendly creature inserted himself into the last photo.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Camera Rebirth - Part II

Earlier this month, I wrote about pending (FREE) repairs to my Canon A75 camera in a blog post. I am happy to say, I received the camera back yesterday. As my camera died photos got progressively worse and worse. They went from clear and crisp to halfway clear, this picture shows how the problem started.
Then things got worse as shown here:

Then even worse:
Following this, the LCD Sensor finally died for good and there was only blackness. As I mentioned before, I loved the camera. So I was very excited to get it back. The following are a couple of pictures I took in my backyard today after the camera came back from Canon following repair.

What a difference, no? (I wish that were my yard, but it's not. It is a school yard. I took the picture because that darker clouded area to the right of the picture was giving off a lot of thunder but the sun was shining brightly where I was. I thought that Charlie Brown must be sitting somewhere under that cloud, melancholy as ever.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Smoldering July

What a hot week it's been in Michigan with temperatures in the 90s and humidity up there as well. From what I can gather, the whole country is feeling the heat.

My brother and sister-in-law are in from L.A. and rented a small cottage on Wamplers Lake in Brooklyn, Michigan. The cottage sleeps six, but the lake site was perfect for my siblings, their children, and our parents to visit during the day. I have some adorable shots of my nieces and nephews, but I will not share those without their parent's approval. So, in the stead of those photos, I will share some shots of the great outdoors as taken around the cottage. I am linking this to A Southern Daydreamer's Outdoor Wednesday event.

 The view from shore.

The glory of the heavens.

Behind the Cottage.

An old abandoned dock also resided behind the cottage. In my opinion, this added visual interest.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pasta Salad

My brother and his wife will be renting a cottage in Michigan over the next week, and my parents, two sisters, their spouses and kids, and me and my husband will all be converging to spend time with them. It is on an all sports lake, so they've rented a jet ski and boat as well. I'm pretty excited and have been busy preparing food to take out there tomorrow. The grape leaves were the start a couple days ago, today I made a cream cheese, sour cream, habanero,  and spring onion spread that will be put on tortillas, a pasta salad, a red velvet cake with blueberries on top. Next, I preparing a potato salad and a self-designed garbanzo/avacado/tomato salad. I'll leave a cucumber salad, hummus, and tzadziki for tomorrow.

In honor of Foodie Friday and Vegetarian Foodie Fridays, here's a picture of the pasta salad (the dressing is homemade). This time I put zucchini and summer squash in the salad, which is unusual, but I'm sure it will be good. One of the things I do that is a little different is that I like to put poppy seeds on my pasta salad because it seems to add visual interest.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Camera Rebirth

Years ago I got a Canon Powershot A75, and I LOVED it. It took most of the pictures I wanted it to take, even doing a halfway decent job at close-ups. But toward August of 2008, the display started to intermittently become problematic, showing lines across the digital display, eventually making things look like they were melting, and then not displaying anything (or taking pictures).

I called our local camera shop and found out that it would be more than $100 to fix. Since a new basic digital camera is hardly more than that price, I felt the best thing would be to buy a new camera, which we finally did last August. We purchased a Nikon CoolPix L20 to take on our honeymoon. It was great for that purpose and took lovely pictures of the scenery and of us. However, I've never been happy with it in my day to day life because I like to take pictures of animals, flora, fauna... With the Nikon I get a ton of blurry shots before I get a clear one.

I was bemoaning my situation the other day, and thought I would take another shot at figuring out whether the Canon was salvageable. While on the Canon website today, I found that there was a special notice with respect to the CCD image sensors in the Canon model I bought. Canon is replacing these sensors regardless of the warranty status of the camera, and is paying for shipping. This type of customer service is unheard of now-a-days. (Sometime let me tell you about my unsuccessful dialogue regarding a Sharp Microwave that quit working after one year. It runs, but won't heat anything probably because of a faulty magnetron , and I got no help from the folks at Sharp.) I will be giving Canon more of my business based on their courteous and responsible manner when faulty parts are involved. And, the ONE contact I had to make (not 5-6) to get resolution.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Grape Leaves

We haven't had an opportunity to go grocery shopping on a big trip in quite some time, so I've been eking out meals from the random sundries in the pantry. I have beans, rice, flour, but I've run out of pasta and bread so you see, the cupboard is not entirely bare, but it's on the way. When thinking about what I might still be able to make, I realized we also have grapevines growing along our back fence, and some type of wild mint mingling with our bushes. (AKA ingredients for vegetarian grape leaves!) So, armed with this knowledge I went in search of recipes. I didn't find one that sounded right so I just added what I thought would make sense. First I harvested the goods from outside.
 Can you see the mint hiding in the middle there?

Next I brought them in and cleaned the leaves off.

After washing the leaves and mint, I boiled some water, removed the pot from the heat and soaked the grape leaves in the hot water to soften. While the leaves soaked, I made some rice (about 2 c. cooked), and selected the healthy (unmolested by bugs or beasties) leaves from the stem and chopped them.
I pressed three cloves of garlic, added some olive oil, parsley, dill, vinegar, lemon juice, a small onion, some sea salt, fresh ground pepper and a dash of paprika to the rice.
And, I wound up with this:
I removed the grape leaves from the now fairly cool water using the stem, clipped each stem off and placed the leaf vein side up. I put a bit of the mixture onto each leaf and rolled it tight. I placed the finished grape leaves in a pan oiled with olive oil.

I added a little water, a little more olive oil, and squeezed a little more lemon over them. I cooked for about 1/2 hour at 300 degrees. I've packaged them away after drizzling them with a bit more olive oil for use within the next week.
 I had enough of the rice mixture left over to eat for dinner. It was surprised by how delicious it was. It tasted buttery, but there was not a stitch of butter in it, and hardly any oil either since most of it was added to the pan and finished grape leaves. The mint, onion, garlic, dill, parsley sure did their jobs. And then, halfway through my meal, and even though I've used the mint in my lemonade before, and checked before,  I freaked myself out and needed to make sure there was no poisonous mint that grows in Michigan. I couldn't find any reference to any mint being poisonous to humans, and I learned something. Did you know that mint stems are square?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rednesday in Rimini

For our honeymoon, my beloved and I visited Italy, the land of lovers. We chose to bide our time slowly, to relax, to appreciate, rather than to rush, rush, rush (which is our normal modus operandi). Thus we ventured to a resort town named Rimini which is off the traditional beaten path for a non-Italian tourist. It was a fun city, that's for sure. This town is but 20 or so kilometers from San Marino, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, and is the birthplace of Fellini. We had a wonderful time at the beach, at the pubs, the clubs, at the sidewalk diners, and walking through the park that bisects the city. While in the park, not only did we see an arch from 27 a.d., built in honor of Agustus, but also a war memorial for Canada. Yep, Canada-we were surprised too. I'm posting this as a part of the It's a Very Cherry World's red themed event Rednesday.

How we wish we could return soon.

Outdoor Wednesday in the Boonies

My youngest sister moved to a country town in southern Michigan several years ago. The place she lives is much like the village we grew up in; however, the village we grew up in has gotten much more suburban since those days. Her town still rotates around the high school football team, farming, and raising children. It can sometimes be a little close minded, but I wouldn't mind living there none-the-less. Here's a couple photos of the lovely view she can see from her home after a storm.

Quite a lot of green, wouldn't you say? Also, in addition to the "meadow" across the street from her home, there is a marshy area behind it. That leads to quite a few visitors including sandhill cranes, blue herons, and tons of red-winged blackbirds, among others. The same day as the post-storm photos above were taken, I caught this guy trying to cross the street to return to the marsh.

This post was inspired by A Southern Daydreamer's Outdoor Wednesday theme. Visit her page to see other inspiring outdoor photos.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thunderstorms and trees

We've all known the comfort that shade brings on a hot summer day. Personally I appreciate the large pines surrounding our property. They provide shade in the summer and protect from winter drafts during the coldest months. But, I'm always scared one of these will fall on our home during a storm. They are probably almost 40' tall of varying diameters. A tree from my property is shown below (middle right).

Today there was quite a lightening storm and one strike seemed fairly close, although the blinds were drawn, I saw the flick of lightening, the cable went out momentarily and the thunder started immediately. About an hour later, when the storm was over, I let my pup out. I was quite suprised when I saw one of our neighbors trees had gone down. For all that it looks like, it seems that there was minimal damage.

Thank goodness nobody was hurt.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Of Red Yesterdays

I grew up on property with a barn, and many of my neighbors had barns on their property as well. There is nothing quite so iconic to rural American life than a barn and a silo. I miss the days of fields and farms for miles on end. The town I grew up in is much different these days, as is much of the surrounding area. I am sharing this red barn in memory of days past as a part of Rednesday over at It's A Very Cherry World.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

This week, as part of my Mosaic Monday post, I chose to highlight the textural quality of the summertime. When the sun shines bright, the bark and leaves of trees are shown in their full glory. A pebbled path and a decrepit window frame are visually interesting as well. See beautiful mosaics over at the Little Red House blog.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mosaic Monday: June 14, 2010

This is a Mosaic Monday post (see more over at the Little Red House Blog).

I love house finches. They are very beautiful and illustrate the attentiveness of good parents. I was very excited when they returned to my porch this year to raise a batch of babies.

Their first nest was blown asunder when a big thunderstorm whipped through the area, but as they are diligent birds, they quickly rebuilt. The nest wasn't far from our front door, and at night we would often scare mama bird from her perch where she was keeping the eggs warm, which wasn't ideal by any means.  We tried to do as little disturbing as possible.

After about a week, I stood on a chair and took pictures to understand how many eggs were in the nest. The pictures were too blurry to post here, but showed something I didn't like. To my dismay, I found five beautiful blue house finch eggs and one speckled brown egg. Evidently a brown headed cowbird played a dirty trick and did what has earned it categorization as a brood parasite - it laid an egg in the house finches' nest.

Through research, I found that the cowbird baby would most likely hatch first, then potentially kill the other birds by destroying their eggs prior to their hatching or by out begging the parent birds. However, there was information stating that a cowbird cannot exist on a house finch diet and would most likely die anyways, but that both species are protected enough that you are not suppose to mess with their nests. These were from forums and blogs, so I am not sure how reliable the information was. I will have to figure out what is allowed in Michigan for the next time I run into this problem.

Knowing that I wanted the house finches to live, but not wanting to kill the other bird, I decided in this case to let nature do what nature does. I snapped pictures after one bird hatched. I believe this was the cowbird. A couple days later, I found a broken blue egg on the ground. A day or two later, I found a baby bird corpse on the ground. I think this was the cowbird baby. I checked the nest and it was empty. The parent birds haven't been seen since.

I think the whole nest perished because I didn't make a choice which would have saved at least one bird. I was at a moral crossroads though because although it is not believed that cowbirds can survive on a diet of seeds only, it is not an absolute and I didn't feel good about either decision. So, I let nature take over. I don't like the results though.

What would you have done in this situation?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Common Mullein

Just found out the "lamb's ear" I've been letting grow is a Verbascum thapsus (Common Mullein) plant. Not really knowing what a lamb's ear was, I kept thinking I had one growing at the edge of my flower garden.  And, literally, it was growing at the edge of my flower garden, essentially just inside the flower garden at the front of my house. And, since it wasn't hurting anything, I let it grow. I see the first hints of yellow, as it is preparing to bloom, and I'm excited.

When I was little, these plants would grow in and around the pastures where we kept our cows. The cows wouldn't touch them, and so they would grow tall and proud. When I found this one, I just thought back to those memories. My husband thinks it looks horrible. But then again, he thinks cottage gardens look messy and overgrown, and I think they look gorgeous. This may be a little out of place, but I'm kind of into letting things be if they aren't hurting anything. He grew up in the suburbs, and I grew up on a dirt road with wild phlox, tiger lilies, Queen Anne's lace and mayapple plants growing abundantly at the side of the road.

What I am most excited about, are the medicinal uses I've learned about since looking into this plant. The sites I've been looking at suggest it is a good for lung ailments, infections, and headaches among others. Next time I have a mild asthma attack, I think I might make myself a little tea, sit back and evaluate the outcome.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mosaic Monday

Taking part in Mosaic Monday to highlight blooming beauties of summer. See other Mosaic Monday gems at the Little Red House Blog.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sauce Recipes pulled fromTHE EASIEST WAY IN HOUSEKEEPING AND COOKING. Adapted to Domestic Use or Study in Classes BY HELEN CAMPBELL

So I was looking for some cleaning recipes from yesteryear, and thought I would head over to the Project Gutenberg website to see what I could dig up. (For those of you that haven't heard of that website, it is a collection of books that are in the public domain because the copyrights have expired; they have lots of great stuff over there and lots of not so great stuff but all is free and is allowed to be copied, distributed, etc.)

I didn't find any satisfactory recipes for cleaning, but did find some interesting recipes for soups, sauces, and desserts that will definitely be tested. I thought I would share the sauces as inspiration, although not all of them sound appetizing.


The foundation for a large proportion of sauces is in what the French cook knows as a roux, and we as "drawn butter." As our drawn butter is often lumpy, or withthe taste of the raw flour, I give the French method as a security against such disaster.

Melt in a saucepan a piece of butter the size of an egg, and add two even tablespoonfuls of sifted flour; one ounce of butter to two of flour being a safe rule. Stir till smooth, and pour in slowly one pint of milk, or milk and water, or water alone. With milk it is called cream roux, and is used for boiled fish and poultry. Where the butter and flour are allowed to brown, it is called a brown roux, and is thinned with the soup or stew which it is designed to thicken. Capers added to a white roux—which is the butter and flour, with water added—give caper sauce, for use with boiled mutton. Pickled nasturtiums are a good substitute for capers. Two hard-boiled eggs cut fine give egg sauce. Chopped parsley or pickle, and the variety of catchups and sauces, make an endless variety; the white roux being the basis for all of them.

For this sauce boil one point of milk, with one onion cut in pieces. When it has boiled five minutes, take out the onion, and thicken the milk with half a pint of sifted bread-crumbs. Melt a teaspoonful of butter in a frying-pan; put in half a pint of coarser crumbs, stirring them till a light brown. Flavor the sauce with half a teaspoonful of salt, a saltspoonful of pepper, and a grate of nutmeg; and serve with game, helping a spoonful of the sauce, and one of the browned crumbs. The boiled onion may be minced fine and added, and the browned crumbs omitted.

Wash and boil a small head of celery, which has been cut up fine, in one pint of water, with half a teaspoonful of salt. Boil till tender, which will require about half an hour. Make a cream roux, using half a pint of milk, and adding quarter of a saltspoonful of white pepper. Stir into the celery; boil a moment, and serve. A teaspoonful of celery salt can be used, if celery is out of season, adding it to the full rule for cream roux. Cauliflower may be used in the same way as celery, cutting it very fine, and adding a large cupful to the sauce. Use either with boiled meats.

Look over and strip off the leaves, and cut them as fine as possible with a sharp knife. Use none of the stalk but the tender tips. To a cupful of chopped mint allow an equal quantity of sugar, and half a cup of good vinegar. It should stand an hour before using.

Wash one quart of cranberries in warm water, and pick them over carefully. Put them in a porcelain-lined kettle, with one pint of cold water and one pint of sugar, and cook without stirring for half an hour, turning then into molds. This is the simplest method. They can be strained through a sieve, and put in bowls, forming a marmalade, which can be cut in slices when cold; or the berries can be crushed with a spoon while boiling, but left unstrained.

Pare, core, and quarter some apples (sour being best), and stew till tender in just enough water to cover them. Rub them through a sieve, allowing a teacupful of sugar to a quart of strained apple, or even less, where intended to eat with roast pork or goose. Where intended for lunch or tea, do not strain, but treat as follows: Make a sirup of one large cupful of sugar and one of water for every dozen good-sized apples. Add half a lemon, cut in very thin slices. Put in the apple; cover closely, and stew till tender, keeping the quarters as whole as possible. The lemon may be omitted.

Make a white roux, with a pint of either water or milk; but water will be very good. Add to it a large cup of sugar, a teaspoonful of lemon or any essence liked, and a wine-glass of wine. Vinegar can be substituted. Grate in a little nutmeg, and serve hot.

This sauce is intended especially for apple dumplings and puddings. One pint of molasses; one tablespoonful of butter; the juice of one lemon, or a large spoonful of vinegar. Boil twenty minutes. It may be thickened with a tablespoonful of corn-starch dissolved in a little cold water, but is good in either case.

Cream half a cup of butter till very light, and add a heaping cup of sugar, beating both till white. Set the bowl in which it was beaten into a pan of boiling water, and allow it to melt slowly. Just before serving but not before, pour into it slowly half a cup or four spoonfuls of boiling water, stirring to a thick foam. Grate in nutmeg, or use a teaspoonful of lemon essence, and if wine is liked, add a glass of sherry or a tablespoonful of brandy. For a pudding having a decided flavor of its own, a sauce without wine is preferable.

Beat together the same proportions of butter and sugar as in the preceding receipt; add a tablespoonful of wine if desired; pile lightly on a pretty dish; grate nutmeg over the top, and set in a cold place till used.
The sirup of any nice canned fruit may be used cold as sauce for cold puddings and blancmanges, or heated and thickened for hot, allowing to a pint of juice a heaping teaspoonful of corn-starch dissolved in a little cold water, and boiling it five minutes. Strawberry or raspberry sirup is especially nice.

Three tablespoonfuls of best olive-oil; one tablespoonful of vinegar; one saltspoonful each of salt and pepper mixed together; and then, with three tablespoonfuls of best olive-oil, adding last the tablespoonful of vinegar. This is the simplest form of dressing. The lettuce, or other salad material, must be fresh and crisp, and should not be mixed till the moment of eating.

One can of tomatoes or six large fresh ones; two minced onions fried brown in a large tablespoonful of butter. Add to the tomatoes with three sprigs of parsley and thyme, one teaspoonful of salt, and half a one of pepper; three cloves and two allspice, with a small blade of mace and a bit of lemon peel, and two lumps of sugar. Stew very slowly for two hours, then rub through a sieve, and return to the fire. Add two tablespoonfuls of flour, browned with a tablespoonful of butter, and boil up once. It should be smooth and thick. Keep on ice, and it will keep a week. Excellent.

For this sauce use the yolks of three raw eggs; one even tablespoonful of mustard; one of sugar; one teaspoonful of salt; and a saltspoonful of cayenne.
Break the egg yolks into a bowl; beat a few strokes, and gradually add the mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper. Now take a pint bottle of best olive-oil, and stir in a few drops at a time. The sauce will thicken like a firm jelly. When the oil is half in, add the juice of one lemon by degrees with the remainder of the oil; and last, add quarter of a cup of good vinegar. This will keep for weeks, and can be used with either chicken, salmon, or vegetable salad.

A simpler form can be made with the yolk of one egg, half a pint of oil, and half the ingredients given above. It can be colored red with the juice of a boiled beet, or with the coral of a lobster, and is very nice as a dressing for raw tomatoes, cutting them in thick slices, and putting a little of it on each slice.
Mayonnaise may be varied in many ways, sauce tartare being a favorite one. This is simply two even tablespoonfuls of capers, half a small onion, and a tablespoonful of parsley, and two gherkins or a small cucumber, all minced fine and added to half a pint of mayonnaise. This keeps a long time, and is very nice for fried fish or plain boiled tongue.

Cream a small cup of butter, and stir into it the yolks of three eggs. Mix together one teaspoonful of mustard, one teaspoonful of salt, and quarter of a saltspoonful of cayenne, and add to the butter and egg. Stir in slowly, instead of oil, one cup of cream, and add the juice of one lemon and half a cup of vinegar.

This is good also for vegetable salads. One small cup of good vinegar; two tablespoonfuls of sugar; half a teaspoonful each of salt and mustard; a saltspoonful of pepper; a piece of butter the size of a walnut; and two beaten eggs. Put these all in a small saucepan over the fire, and stir till it becomes a smooth paste. Have a firm, white cabbage, very cold, and chopped fine; and mix the dressing well through it. It will keep several days in a cold place.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Stressed Out!

Well, my quest for peace has hit some bumps. I have been overwhelmingly busy at work. While I have been doing several people's jobs for going on a couple years now, we are finally hiring some folks. However, unfortunately for me, neither of those people will be sharing my workload. It is very frustrating. Ah well. I need an attitude adjustment for sure. Hopefully I shall soon resume a more successful quest for peace than has been the case recently.