April 30, 2010

charleston, how do i love thee?

Let me count the ways.

This city has been on my go-to list for quite a while, and it did not disappoint.

I honestly don't even know where to begin or how to group the photos.

Should I group by color?

By street?

I wonder what my hubby will say when I tell him I think we should replace our paved driveway with cobbles.

Actually, I don't wonder at all. I'm pretty sure I know.

Should I group my photos by paths, drives and alleys that run perpendicular to the sidewalk where I am standing?

Or perhaps by really cool stuff growing up, out of, or all over even cooler stuff.

Speaking of growing things, more than a few houses had this lovely feature.

I wonder what my hubby will say when I tell him I want our wooden steps replaced with brick steps so I can grow perfectly manicured greenery along the risers.

Pretty sure I know the answer to that one, too.

Should I group by houses with an extra splash of personality?

Or by houses with owners who don't like tourists?

How about by amazingly gorgeous and grand houses.

Or perhaps by houses that are not quite so grand, but still beautiful in their own right.

Then, of course, we have the gardens.

When we visited the plantation, we were told we were there on the peak azalea weekend. We certainly couldn't have planned that if we'd tried.

Charleston was beautiful. Every single house and garden was a treat to see. I would have thought there would be a clunker or two, here and there, but not so.

My very favorite part of Charleston, and what I will remember most, has to be the windowboxes.

In fact, one day I may go back and photograph a book entitled, "The Windowboxes of Charleston".

Would you buy a book like that?

Yeah, me neither.

They were all quite different, yet equally appealing.

Usually, I'm drawn to colorful flower displays, but for some reason, this was one of my very favorites. The creamy white brick, combined with the black shutters, different shades of green and chartreuse, (I am not normally a fan of chartreuse in the garden), just made for a striking combination.

Whew! Is anyone still with me?

We spent at least a part of three different days walking miles through the streets of Charleston.

We also spent at least a part of three different days trying out various and assorted ice cream flavors. My favorite by far was the Coconut from Kilwin's. It was amazing. Apparently, Kilwin's is a chain, but alas, not one is to be found in my neck of the woods.

So sad.

All I can say to wrap up this photo tour is, if architecture, history, gardens, churches, quaintness, grandness, and beautiful agedness is up your alley, then Charleston is the place for you.

Charleston.....I will be back!

April 28, 2010

a four part story

Part One:

I love, love, love old windows.

I collect old windows.

I have quite a few old windows displayed in my home in various and assorted ways.

I have even more old windows living in the barn.

Part Two:

Last year, I found this calendar by Cavallini & Co.

I thought it would be fun to frame the pictures and put them in the greenhouse. It quickly became apparent that the high humidity level would not be kind to any sort of paper product, so the calendar found it's way to a shelf and spent the winter out of sight and out of mind.

Part Three:

Many months ago, while strolling through the archives of one of my very favorite blogging friends, I came upon this post featuring the very clever and fun idea of using an old window as a multi-picture frame. For quite some time, I've had my eye on the frame idea in this picture, but loved the old window idea even better. I filed it away in the fine mesh sieve that is my brain, otherwise known as the great idea graveyard.

Part Four:

About a month ago I came across one of my favorite barn exiled windows, and all of a sudden the stars aligned, the light bulb went on, and a project was born.

I have to say, the majority of my projects never make it to completion, but this one was quick and fun, my favorite kind of project, and I love how it turned out.

I love this combo too, so I'll be on the lookout for another triple window that will fit the bill.

Now, the fact that I don't have a specific spot to hang my new creation is a minor detail that I suppose will have to make for Part Five of this story. And it goes without saying that I am totally ignoring the fact that I spent the winter getting rid of absolutely everything that doesn't have a place in my home.

Totally ignoring that fact.


April 23, 2010

southern living

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the South. Southern movies, Southern food, Southern towns, cities and countrysides. It has always appealed to me.

(Out of my deep respect for the South, and perhaps more importantly, my weakness in the area of capitalization rules, I am making the executive decision to capitalize South and Southern. After Googling the rules, I am further entrenched in my capitalization confusion, and decided to err on the side of over capitalization. If I stew over it any more, this post will never see the light of day. Please send capitalization help.)

While I've been to Mississippi to help out after Hurricane Katrina, and Fort Jackson, SC for my son's boot camp graduation, this was my first true Southern vacation.

It lived up to all my expectations.

Beautiful scenery.

Gorgeous weather just perfect for strolls down flower lined walkways.

Tree lined avenues.

Live oaks.

Spanish moss.

The South dressed in all its finery. What could be better.

In a week, I only saw one drawback.

One potential downside to Southern living.

Do you see it?

Or should I say do you see him? (Could be a her, but it seems like it should be a him.)

How about here?

That's right.

Now this may be a normal sight for you Southern girls, but to me, it's kind of a big deal. I'm used to being on the lookout for bears/moose/wolves/mountain lions when I'm in the woods, but these slithery ankle biters quickly topped my list of animals I don't want participating in my demise. Being eaten by a wild animal is one of my biggest fears. Just going on a hike in the Montana mountains is an act of courage and bravery for me. My hubby once pointed out bear grass on a hike, saying "Oh look, bear grass", and in the time between the word BEAR and the word grass, I managed to scream and jump and my heart rate sky-rocketed. We now have a list of words that are banned while hiking. He promises if he spies a real bear or other threat to my existence, he will get between us, be my protector, and if need be, sacrifice himself and take one for the team. That scenario doesn't really appeal to me a whole lot either. Besides, what if he's walking in front of me, and the wild beast sneaks up behind me? What then? Or, what if..... Needless to say, he hikes by himself a lot.

Wow, I really didn't mean to go down the wild animal carnage rabbit trail.

Back to the trip.

It was amazing, truly perfect. Many more photos to come, but in the mean time, I will be watching Fried Green Tomatoes, Steel Magnolias, and Gone With the Wind.

(Pictures taken in the Charleston, South Carolina area. For specifics, click the highlighted links throughout the post.)

Have a great weekend, y'all!

p.s. For those who asked questions on the last post, I answered in the comments there.

April 14, 2010

the list

On my list today....

1. Deal with ginormous pile of laundry. Be impressed that spell-check approves of the word ginormous.

2. Take junior to the dentist.

3. Ponder why Amish Friendship Bread doesn't kill you. Feel a small amount of pride that I made seven loaves of friendship bread this week - the one with the starter (a mixture of flour, sugar and milk, and maybe a secret ingredient that only the Amish know about) that you pass from one unsuspecting friend to another. Wonder if anyone can explain why something that contains dairy products, and sits at room temperature on your counter for ten days, something that you have to feed, which would indicate that it's alive, doesn't send you to the emergency room? Think about the fact that part of my starter came from my friend's starter, which came from someone else, and so on. Wonder just how old some of the molecules in that starter really are. Be a bit nervous about the whole starter process, but figure it's all okay because so far, there have been no signs of food poisoning.

So far.

4. Beg, plead, bribe, whatever it takes to ensure that my family remembers to water my newly planted seeds for the next seven days.

5. Vow to use better penmanship when writing on popsicle sticks with a Sharpie, just in case I decide to take a picture with said popsicle sticks prominently displayed for the internet world to see. Wonder why spell-check wants me to capitalize popsicle.

6. Marvel at the fact that rosemary plants bloom. Wonder why I did not know that rosemary plants bloom, since they have resided in my garden for years and years.

7. Say goodbye to my new batch of ladybugs.

8. Use the last tomato and chunk of cucumber for my current favorite lunch. A lunch inspired by the Costco sample lady who was peddling feta cheese in a 40 pound tub, and had the brilliant idea to mix the feta with cucumber, tomato and olive oil and put it in the tiniest paper cups I've ever seen. Mix my cucumber, tomato and feta with a blue cheese vinaigrette and put it atop a toasted Oroweat Sandwich Thin. Marvel at the fact that I did not spread the sandwich thin with cream cheese first.

9. Check the weather forecast for South Carolina and Georgia multiple times, and say a prayer of thanks that the sun will be shining and the air will be warm for the next seven days.

10. Call my sister and two nieces and discuss our mutual excitement regarding the fact that we leave tomorrow for a much anticipated and looked forward to girl getaway.

11. Continue to feel deeply ashamed of the fact that I spent valuable time...time that I will never, ever get back...taking pictures of my clothes.

12. Tell myself, once again, that just because I have a blog, and just because the clothes that I laid out on my floor in packing preparation suddenly reminded me of my old Seventeen magazines where they showed cutely arranged outfits for *trip to the beach* or *trip to the city*, that is absolutely no reason to spend my time, time that should be spent cleaning my house, arranging my clothes in an attempt to mimic magazines from the 80's.

13. Remind myself that my house is not going to clean itself, and also remind myself that when people say "you could eat off her floor", they are usually speaking about the cleanliness of "her" floor, not the fact that there are enough crumbs scattered about to feed a family of five.

14. Sweep my floors.

15. Pack my bag.

16. Think about the massive to-do list that awaits me upon my return from this little getaway.

17. Decide not to think about the massive to-do list that awaits me upon my return from this little getaway, and prepare to have the trip of a lifetime with some of my favorite girls on the planet.

April 12, 2010

strawberry rhubarb pie

Last week, I shared one of my two rhubarb recipes, Rhubarb Crisp. This week, I'm going to bring out the big guns and introduce you to Strawberry Rhubarb Pie like you've never had it before.....unless you just happen to already have this very recipe, in which case you'll probably want to just click to the next blog on your list.

With this recipe, there will no longer be any question as to where I stand on the whole cream cheese issue. So far we've seen it turn up in enchiladas, soup, and now pie.

Not only is it a perfect compliment for the strawberries and rhubarb, but one could argue that a nice layer of sweetened cream cheese just might keep your pie crust from getting soggy.

Let's hear it for cream cheese with a purpose!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

1 baked 9" pie shell

8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar - I used powdered sugar this time
Mix together and spread in bottom and up sides of cooled pie shell.

2 cups rhubarb cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup sugar
1/2 of a 10 oz package of frozen strawberries
lemon juice - I did not use this and there is no amount given on my recipe
red food color - I used one drop only, as fakey, bright red pie is not happy pie
3 heaping tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with a bit of water to thin it out
1 pint fresh, sliced strawberries - I used more than a pint

In a saucepan, combine rhubarb with 1/4" of water and simmer till soft. Remove from heat. Add sugar and food coloring, then add frozen berries, lemon and cornstarch. Cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Cool and then add fresh strawberries. Cool completely and then add to pie shell. Chill till firm.

In my usual habit of recipe skimming, I missed the fact that the cornstarch amount was 3 heaping tablespoons, and so my pie turned out a bit runny. I'm pretty sure that extra bit of cornstarch would have solved the problem.

I'm really looking forward to making the recipes that were kindly left in the comments of the rhubarb crisp post. They all look delicious, and once I've worked my way through them, my freezer stash should be pretty much gone.

April 9, 2010

everything nice

One of the benefits of getting....older...is the wonderful fact that the younger generation of our family is starting to have their very own younger generation. On Easter, the newest member of our extended family put in a very adorable and much welcomed appearance.

This is my newest little great-niece, and she definitely fits into the sugar, spice and everything nice category.

This little girl's got it all going for her.

Chubby baby hands.

Soft baby arms with little pudding rolls.

What a sweetie pie.




April 6, 2010

rhubarb crisp

Spring is springing like crazy around here. Trees are cautiously budding, and despite quite a few twenty degree mornings, many of my perennials are poking their little heads up in a very brave way. When I noticed my rhubarb was making an appearance, it reminded me that there is a box in the bottom of my freezer full of beautifully packaged, pre-measured, recipe sized bags of the tart little treat, just waiting to be made into all kinds of wonderfulness. Unfortunately, along with the many similarly beautiful packages of pie cherries and marionberries, they have suffered the out of sight, out of mind fate that often befalls the occupants of a large chest freezer.

It's time to make some room in the old Kenmore.

One of my very favorite rhubarb recipes also happens to be the easiest to make. In no time at all, you can have a pan of sweet/tart bubbly goodness, just begging for a scoop of ice cream to make it's life's work complete.

(Please ignore the over sized sprig of pineapple mint. My food styling skills are still in their infancy.)

Rhubarb Crisp

1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 C old fashioned oats
1 1/2 C brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 C melted butter

Press half of this mixture in the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 pan.

In a medium sauce pan combine the following ingredients...

1 1/4 C sugar
3 Tbs corn starch - whisk together with sugar, then add...
1 1/4 C water

Cook until clear and thickened, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat, and stir in...

7 cups of chopped rhubarb.

Place rhubarb and sauce over your base, and sprinkle remaining oatmeal mixture over the top.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350*.

I serve it very warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I like mine pretty sweet, but if you prefer a bit more pucker power, you could just drizzle a bit of cream over the top. My sister-in-law uses less sugar in the crumble mixture, so you can play with the recipe a bit depending on your sweet/sour preferences.

If I'm making this just for my family, I usually make half of the recipe and bake it in an 8x8 pan. The only hitch with that scenario is the effort involved in dividing 3/4 cup in half. Math is not my friend.

I still have a pretty good supply in my freezer, so if you have a great rhubarb recipe, I would love to hear about it.

Have a great day!

April 2, 2010

another week in pictures

I'm thinking this whole farm tour idea could become a somewhat regular feature, since it's much easier than coming up with one fabulous subject for a photo post. Basically, it's just a collection of not as fabulous subjects all put together in the hopes that quantity will win out over quality. It's the same philosophy that comes into play when you're out of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and end up settling for a bunch of chocolate chips out of the freezer. Not quite as satisfying, but it gets the job done.

So, buckle your seat belts and let's start the tour.

The pond this morning, bright and blue.

We've had a powdered sugar dusting of snow the last few mornings.

The pond yesterday, dark and stormy.

Every spring, we cut down all the old cattails and trim the pond grasses down to the ground, so the new growth doesn't have to fight it's way through the old.

It looks kind of naked to me, but it won't be long before that changes.

My favorite tree.....

has a fuzzy green glow.

I love green.

Last weekend, The Farmer and I built rock beds in front of the greenhouse.

He placed the big rocks, and I placed the smaller rocks. When he was done with the big rocks, he helped me with the little rocks. Then I re-did most of the little rocks he placed.

He likes it when I do that.

We're going to leave the farm now for a quick detour.

Now that the Junk House is pretty much done, I think we might need to take on a new project.

What do you think? Should we go for it?

Actually, I'm totally kidding. I don't think I have another renovation in me. Plus, this place needs to be condemned. It's beyond help. It really is for sale though, and I'm dying to see the inside. I love all the cruddy old porch posts and railings, but it does look like a bit of a hazard. What I'd really like to do is use it for a photo backdrop, but the large quantity of no trespassing signs are making me hesitate a bit.

Just a bit.

Lastly, a bouquet of beautiful tulips courtesy of my dear husband.

He does not bring me flowers very often, but this week he was getting his hair cut, and his hair dresser/stylist (can someone please tell me what the current, appropriate term for the person who takes care of your hair styling needs is these days? ) had a bunch of tulips on her counter. Knowing I would like them, he made a special trip out of his way to bring me a bouquet of my very own, and it made my day.
While I don't get flowers on a regular basis, what I do get on a regular basis is an offer to stop at the grocery store while he's going through town. That right there is my love language, and I'm happy to have flowers only make a rare appearance if it means I'm regularly treated to a gallon of milk without having to leave my house.
Thanks hon!

Have a truly wonderful and blessed weekend, as we celebrate our Lord and Saviour's resurrection.

Happy Easter!