Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Bit of Fall Nesting

 Even though Mr. Squirrel already has a stash of acorns, I think he is finding the bigger ones to be mighty tempting.  See his little paw going in for the grab.  
His little white-rimmed eyes remind me of someone else around here. . .

Dear Peanut.
She was quietly observing me as I worked at playing with my fall decor.  At 13, she is starting to show her age and it tugs at my heartstrings.  Such a loyal companion she has been to us.

I'm somewhat hesitant to do a post on my fall decor because there's not a whole lot going on and it doesn't change much from year to year.  However, since I enjoy the opportunity to visit all of the beautiful homes decorated for the season in blogland, I thought I'd hop onboard and join in the fun.
This year I decided to gather up a bunch of dried hydrangea heads and place them in a bowl.  I think their understated colors are a good match for my pastel sofa and I like the texture they provide.

The bookcases got a slight makeover.
Translated to mean I replaced the summery looking books and pottery with the same things in more autumnal shades.

My vignettes seem to always include vintage pottery, books, birds and candles.  Most of which have come from the thrift shops.

On the kitchen table...
more dried hydrangeas and more thrift shop treasures.
How's that for budget decorating? ;D
Do you see those tall things outside the window?

Here's a closer view.
This was something planted with our summer landscaping project.
It's called Zebra Grass.  All summer it grew as a pretty and interesting striped grass.  It has been a pleasant surprise to see all of these tassels pop out as fall approached.  Many of them are taller than I am.  They gently sway in the breeze and add a lovely sense of movement to the garden. 

When they begin to open they remind me of corn on the cob tassels.  Once fully opened my thought was more like fall fireworks.  Which reminds me it's time to celebrate fall and all of the joys this season has to offer.  It also reminds me that it's time to put away the pallet flag.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Peach Jammin'

 Every so often a day comes along that is so perfectly delightful I just want to bottle it up and preserve it for future enjoyment.
Today is one of those days. 
Nothing big or earth shattering going on, just a peaceful, ordinary day that began with a plan to make peach jam.
So, after exercising, showering and making the bed I began to set up for jam making.
Earlier this summer I was pleasantly surprised to receive this Sugared Peach candle from my sister.  It smells so good and seemed like a nice accompaniment to my peach jam session.
The other scent that I was enjoying was the fresh, crisp air blowing into the kitchen through my open windows.  Yes, really, open windows!!  This is hugely exciting to me as they have been sealed shut since May keeping the dreadful heat and humidity out.
Honestly feeling fresh air again is enough to make me giddy.
It's like the spring fever I remember experiencing every year when I lived in Michigan.  It makes me happy, energetic, invigorated and inspired.  

Every year since I've been blogging I marvel at so many of you who can and preserve the most beautiful bounty from your gardens or local farm stands.
Every year since I've been blogging I tell myself I've got to try my hand at some food preservation.  For whatever reason, it hasn't happened until today.  Today's the day :).
I got my "fit for the freezer" jars washed up and then let the fresh, fresh air go to work at drying them while I got ready to get the jam session underway.

 While waiting for the water to boil, I got a bowl of ice water ready.

 The blanching method for removing the peels works very well.
A quick dip in the boiling water...

followed by a quick plunge into the ice water

 those skins practically fell right off.
 In no time at all I had a pile of peaches...

 and a pile of pits.

 All chopped up and mingling with the sugar & lemon juice.
Soon it was time to add the pectin and fill up those jars.

 Before long those summer peaches were preserved and ready for the freezer.  
I may not be able to bottle up this lovely day, but I somehow think I might have preserved a little of it along with those peaches.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Peaches to Pumpkins

Pinehurst, NC is probably best known for golf, but it wasn't golf that brought us there over the holiday weekend.  Our first visit to this part of the state was to attend a wedding and we added an extra day to check out the area.
Tall pine trees lined the roadsides.  It was soon easy to see how Pinehurst might have gotten it's name along with the neighboring towns of Pinebluff, Southern Pines and Whispering Pines.

 Driving along the country roads admiring the pine trees we were starting to get hungry.  The sign for Homemade Peach Ice Cream came along at just the right time. 

Creamy with chunks of fresh peach in every bite.
Seemed like a great treat on this late summer day.

 The pots of lantana were doing a nice job of attracting butterflies and hummingbird moths.  Not to mention their colors coordinated nicely with the ice cream.

The pumpkin sitting (amongst the pine needles) at the base of the lantana served as a small reminder to me.  It seemed to be saying enjoy the last of the summer bounty before it's too late.  Soon I will be the center of attention and fresh peaches will be a distant memory.

 Not being one to disregard a pumpkin, I promptly finished my ice cream cone and headed back to the stand for a basket of peaches for the road.  Once home again, I located the pectin I'd bought last summer or was it the summer before??  Who knows but a quick check of the expiration date told me I had until October 2015 to get some freezer jam made.  Perfect timing.  Now as soon as those peaches ripen I'll get right on it.  How nice it will be to have a taste of summer all through the winter.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Dry! Dry! My Darlings!

 With our most recent landscaping project came several new hydrangeas.
Most of them are still alive, but the drought took it's toll on them in the form of sunburned leaves and no flowers.  The pink variety, however, put on a rather nice show.  This morning I decided to cut a bunch with the intention of drying them.  I find them to be beautiful in all of their stages... growing on the shrub, fresh cut in a bouquet and even dried to be enjoyed throughout the fall and winter months.

 About this time of year I like to cut some of the older, more faded blossoms.  The flower should feel somewhat leathery to the touch.
I strip off all of the leaves and set the stems in a small amount of water (1-2 inches).  There they stay until the water is totally evaporated.  At that point they should be completely dried and ready to be used as decoration.  I have a bunch of blue ones on my dresser that I cut last year.  They are still doing great and even have shades of blue and purple on them.
I also like the look of them tucked into an antique or vintage basket.  Years ago my mom had a friend who dried enough to tuck in amongst the branches of her Christmas tree.  I would imagine that looked very pretty with the white lights illuminating them.

 This pink bouquet will reside on the little table next to my reading chair.  The sun won't touch them here, which is another key to successfully drying them.  Keep them out of direct sunlight.
I decided that this cup and saucer would pair nicely with them.
The pink, blue and yellow flowers coordinate pretty well with the room and I like the brown foliage as it looks "fallish" to me.
My reading time will be an even more pleasant experience with these little signs of the season close at hand.
I usually do my reading after I've finished my office or housework at which point I like to make it a well anticipated event.  In other words, I tend to get comfy in my chair with a beverage and maybe even a cookie at hand. ;).

 A while ago I received a lovely surprise in my mailbox.
This charming tea cup mat handmade by Vee.  So darn cute!!
I have been using it to rest my beverage on being very careful not to spill a drop.
It has a special place on my little reading table where it serves a dual purpose... a darling spot to rest my cup and a gentle reminder of the many kind people I've come to know through this blogging community.
Many of you know Vee and know that she's just returned to her blog after taking a brief and well-earned break.
Vee, if you're reading, welcome back.  You have been missed.


A note about my title today...  as I was cutting the hydrangeas and thinking about drying them, that popped into my head.  Don't ask me why, it just did and I know it comes from an old movie I remember seeing as a teenager.  Not really remembering much about it other than that it was kind of creepy, I did a search to refresh my memory.  Oh my, no wonder my brother told me recently that the movies my sister and I used to watch scared him.    Back in those days we were fans of movies like The Birds, Madame X and Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.
Perhaps I should have chosen a tamer title like, maybe, As The Hydrangeas Dry.  That would conjure up memories of soap operas to me.  Not sure which is worse, old horror movies or soap operas. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Softly Comes September

 Last night, while watering my wee vegetable garden, I looked around me and noticed subtle changes confirming the fact that the fall season was on it's way.  You see, it's at this time of year that I've had it with the heat and really had it with the humidity!  I'm just ready for the cooler air of autumn to blow on in.
We've had a very dry summer and it has led to drought conditions.
A recent local newscast informed that for now the farmers are reporting that their crops are okay.  However if the drought goes on much longer it could cause problems for them.  
In my own garden I'm still trying to keep it going with a nightly watering despite the sorry appearance of the yellowing foliage on the tomato plants and the nibbled on leaves of the pepper plants.
We're still enjoying the fresh tomatoes no matter how small the harvest and I want to make a few more batches of pesto before the frost hits.

 The limelight hydrangeas are still putting on an impressive show.
I rather liked how the dogwood leaves in the background are showing signs of the coming season.

These little signs of autumn had me wondering whether it would be a good year for acorns.
Looking up into the oak tree I was shocked to see branches of leaves completely decimated.  Most likely the work of some type of caterpillar.  Ugh!  Not what I was hoping to see and I didn't see many acorns either :(.

 The acorns may be in short supply here this year, but the beautyberries are looking plentiful and beautiful too.
I'm thinking a bouquet of limelights with a few of these mixed in might be nice for the table.

 I couldn't resist bringing a touch of autumn inside in the form of my coffee mug and yes that is a land line you're seeing in the background.  We still use them, do you?  My kids find it hard to believe.  Personally I prefer them when I'm at home.  It seems like the connection is usually more clear than when I talk on my cell phone.

A new month is upon us.
The older I get the less I want to rush through the seasons, however I wouldn't mind a bit if the sweltering heat of summer would zip on out of here.

Happy September Friends!


Monday, August 31, 2015

Happier Pantry

The other day I was sorting through my magazines and came across this photo.  The entire pantry was decorated like this.  Mixing bowls held collections of cookie cutters, Mason jars held flour, cereal and grains.  Cookbooks were stacked and lined up on shelves.  I was struck by the overall cozy look.
I began to think of the old mixing bowls in my attic and a few rolling pins tucked in drawers.

When I see pantries like that I can't help but wonder where the canned goods are hiding.
Looking at my own pantry, I knew it wouldn't be practical to have all my shelves look that way.  On the other hand, I might be able to devote one tiny shelf for the cause.

 Now when I open the door this is the first thing I see...
or maybe this is the first thing I see:

I guess it doesn't really matter which one I see first.
I'm just happy to have that little burst of cozy pantry going on.
It kind of makes the time I stand in there wondering what to make for dinner a bit more pleasant. 

Speaking of that, what's for dinner at your house tonight?

I'm on my own tonight.
Sometimes that can be fun.  Like last night I had one hamburger bun and a dab of pesto left in the jar.  I sliced a chicken breast thinly, laid it on the bun and sprinkled some shredded mozzarella on top.  In the toaster oven it went until the cheese was melted and the bun was crisp.  At that point I spread the pesto on the bun and sliced a few heirloom tomatoes from the garden to put on top.
Tonight, however, is a different matter.  Here it is almost 6:00 and I have no clue what I'll eat.  Guess I'd better hop into the pantry for some inspiration.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Late Summer Yellows

Scrolling through my photos on this late August morning, a subtle theme became apparent.  Little bits of yellow popping up here and there.  Like, for instance, this volunteer sunflower.  It volunteered at the base of one of my camellia bushes and soon soared past it.  Since the camellia was only recently planted I didn't want the sunflower to take away the nutrients from the root ball so I let it bloom, took it's picture and then cut off the seed head to feed the birds.  Not a bad deal for a free flower.

 The butterflies have been keeping me company during my morning flower watering sessions.  I never ever tire of the beauty and movement they add to the garden.

 The container gardens are still hanging in there.
While they aren't quite as lush as they once were, the bees and butterflies don't seem to mind a bit. 
 The American Goldfinches are daily visitors to the feeder, coneflowers and Black-Eyed Susans.  
Like the butterflies they add movement and beauty to the garden.

Yellow spaghetti squash made a recent appearance in my kitchen.
In the past I've always roasted it in the oven.
Did you know you can poke some holes in them, plop them in the crock pot along with 1-1/2 cups of water, set the timer for 6 hours on low and have it ready when you return from a day on the lake (or wherever your day may take you)?  Well, you can and we did and it worked very well. 

 The tomatoes are ripening up fast in my little veggie garden.
We bought four different heirloom varieties this year.  The long skinny ones above look orange, but they are really yellow and quite tasty.

 Yours Truly floating around the lake with her yellow noodle.
While my brother and sister-in-law were here last week we spent a wonderful day together on the lake.  I'm always a bit hesitant to feature other people on my blog without their consent so you'll have to imagine them floating around with me.

Hard to believe school started here today and summer will soon give way to fall.  Personally I'm ready for the heat and humidity to hit the road.  Until then, I'm content to enjoy the many good things summer has to offer.  Birds, butterflies, flowers, garden produce and dips in the lake to name a few.