Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Of Pine Straw & Hostas

You may recall my recent post in which I was waiting for a delivery of pine needles (aka:  pine straw).  Because there were some questions at the time about what I would be doing with them, I thought I'd snap a picture of my freshly mulched beds featuring pine straw.  When they are first done the pine straw looks so nice and fluffy.  In time it will flatten out and eventually break down completely.  Since we didn't get any last year, ours had become almost non-existent leaving lots of tree roots and red dirt showing.  Not a nice look :/

While I was taking pictures I noticed that the hostas will soon be blooming.  Oh how I love this time of year in the garden.
Something new every day.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Blondie Recipe and a Cookbook Connection

 Well, the summer of 2013 is off to a fine start.
I hope that is true for you too.
The outdoor concert has become a yearly tradition.
Through the years we've had everything from scorching heat to heavy downpours that sent us scrambling for the car where we sat dripping wet and drinking a glass of wine until it was decided that the concert would be cancelled that year.  It was a disappointment at the time, but has now become a fond memory that we get a chuckle out of every time it gets brought up.
This year, however, the weather was just perfect.
By the end of the evening I even put on a jacket which has never happened in June in North Carolina since I've lived here.

The blondies were a hit.
This was the first time I've made them, but I guess they are kind of like the blonde version of brownies.  With the chocolate chips sprinkled on top, they fill that chocolate craving without being overly chocolatey.  They taste kind of like a chocolate chip cookie in bar form.
I had to smile when Vee requested the recipe (more on that later).
So, for Vee and anybody else who is interested, the recipe is as follows:

Blondies with Pecans & Chocolate Chips
recipe from the book Recipes From a Very Small Island by
Linda Greenlaw & Martha Greenlaw 
 serves 8 to 10


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder 
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips


1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter & flour a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.
2.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.
3.  In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Stir in the brown sugar until melted.  With the pan off the heat, whisk in the eggs and then the vanilla.  Gradually stir in the flour mixture and half of the pecans.  The batter will be thick.
4.  Spread the batter in the prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with the chocolate chips and the remaining pecans.  Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the blondie comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it
5.  Cool the blondies in the pan on a wire rack.  When cool, cut into squares and serve.  These may be prepared a day ahead of time, covered, and held at room temperature.


 Now, as for the reason I smiled when Vee asked for the recipe...
I suppose it will sound rather silly, but here goes:

Long before I knew what a blog was I was at the Goodwill one day and they were unloading a huge box of brand new cookbooks.
Really good ones with beautiful photos and mouthwatering recipes.
In no time I had a cart full of these irresistible books, one of which was this one:

 I suppose it would help if you knew that I love to read cookbooks and learn about different ways of life through them.  Since entering blogland I now know that I am not alone in this.  In fact this is one of the things I love about blogging too... learning about the way everyday life is in different areas.
Anyhow, this particular book is written by a mother & daughter, Linda and Martha Greenlaw.  They live on a very small island in Maine called Isle au Haut where Linda is the captain of a lobster boat and both women share a love of cooking.
I have only visited Maine once, but it was an experience I will never forget.  I would love to go back someday, but in the meantime I have enjoyed getting lost in the lives of Linda & Martha as they bake things like this:

 and share a bit of what it is like to live  on this small island.

A way of life so different from my own, but through the gorgeous photos, recipes and stories, I feel as though I've been transported there for a short time.  


A few years after purchasing this book, I entered the blogging world where I met Vee who also lives in Maine, although not on this tiny island.  Through the years I have so enjoyed learning more about day to day life in the lovely state of Maine from Vee.   

So now you know why Vee's simple request for the recipe caused me to smile.  It's all about the Maine connection.  
 Either that or it doesn't take much to make me smile


Friday, June 21, 2013

Starting Summer in the Kitchen

 Last night I put a pan of blondies in the oven and while they were baking I decided to do a little summer spruce up on my kitchen shelves.

 In honor of the first day of Summer, I brought out Susan Branch's Summer book and rather liked how the blue and white checks matched the ones on my mugs.  
The cherries you see propped against the book are a recent find from the thrift shop.  They're made out of chalk ware and have a little hanger on the back.  Do you remember those from the way back machine?  My mom once had some that were fish complete with bubbles.  They made quite a statement in our 1960s era bathroom.

Now that my shelves are decorated, I'm ready for Summer.
Tonight we're going to an outdoor concert overlooking the lake.  
The blondies will be part of the picnic we'll be sharing with our neighbors.  It's the first time I've made this recipe, so I hope it turns out well.  It sure does smell good.

The salt & pepper shakers are ready for Summer too.
How about you ~ are you ready?

~ Happy First Day of Summer 2013 ~


Thursday, June 13, 2013


It's hydrangea season here at my happy home.
This morning I finished watering my flowers and decided to bring in a few of these beauties to enjoy in the house.  Once I got them all in vases, I thought you might like to enjoy them too.

 I hope you will find something you like.

 We have a new pink and white variety this year.
It's called a Peppermint Hydrangea and is supposed to be a repeat bloomer.  Woo Hoo!  I hope to see plenty of them all summer.
 I planted one on either side of my arbor.  One is definitely pink & white, but the other one ...

 looks a bit more purple and white to me.
Hydrangea colors are influenced by the amount of acid in the soil.
These two hydrangeas are probably 5 feet away from each other, so I wouldn't think the acid content of the soil would be too different.
I guess it's just one of the many mysteries of gardening.
In this case I'm not bothered a bit as I think they are both beautiful.
But then I'm rather partial to hydrangeas.

We have big ones and ...

 wee ones.

 As you might have guessed, there are plenty of blue ones too.
When I first moved here I planted 8 Nikko Blue Hydrangeas (4 in each corner of the backyard).  That was 13 years ago and now 4 of them are in such deep shade they barely bloom.  Since then I have added 3 of the repeat blooming type and really like being able to enjoy them all season long.

I think one of my favorite things about hydrangeas, other than the gorgeous colors, is that it doesn't take a lot of flowers to create a sizable bouquet.  They also last quite a while as a cut flower and dry beautifully too.

 One thing I know for sure...
we'll be enjoying hydrangeas until the cows come home.

As I'm typing this post the sky has darkened and the thunder is rumbling...  I'm going to dash now and turn off the computer.
Heading for the living room with a good book.  My very favorite thing to do during a summer rainstorm.
What are you up to today?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Outsmarting Mr. Squirrel

"Oh look, a new feeder"

"Up I go, time for lunch"

"Hmmm...  wonder how I'm supposed to get in there?

"This doesn't seem to be working."

 "Looks like I better come up with another plan."

 " I think I'll try this angle"

"I've tried every one of the holes and no food will come out!"

 "This is my last ditch effort and it was a dismal failure :("

"Can you believe we finally get to eat our own food?"

"Hey lady, congratulations... I think you've finally outsmarted Mr. Squirrel"


If you like to feed the birds too, you are no doubt very familiar with this scenario.  We've tried many different "squirrel proof" feeders through the years and, so far, this seems to be the best.  
When the squirrels put their weight on the perch around the bottom, it pulls a little door down over the feeding holes.  The birds are so light that they can perch there and the holes stay open.
This one is called the Squirrel Buster Plus.
 Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!!


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cheerful Daisies

If you or someone you know could use a bit of cheering up ...

I think the answer just might be a little bouquet of daisies.
Their cheerful faces are sure to provide a bright spot to someone's day.

 The sun isn't shining here today, but these cheery daisies are
 working wonders to brighten up my kitchen.

Now that the daisies are blooming, it's time to enjoy a glass of iced tea in my vintage daisy glasses.  Today I'm serving peach flavored.  Care to join me?