happy new year

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Confucius.

Great quote to remember as this new year begins…Happy New Year to all – may it be filled with beauty of all kinds…and in many ways…

enjoy.

beach at sunset

 

love

I came across this quote by Oren Arnold, while reading Simply Sage, and realized it was just what I was looking for…With so much focus on consuming during this holiday season, I thought why not remind myself (and others) of what this time of year (and life) is truly about. Love, forgiveness, understanding, patience and compassion – towards others yes, but also, ourselves.

“To your enemy, forgiveness. 

To an opponent, patience. 

To a friend, your heart.

To a customer, service. 

To all, charity.

To every child, a good example.

To yourself, respect.”

Oren Arnold

the beach 

inspiration

What inspires you? That was the question asked by the folks from WordPress’ daily post last week. It’s not only a question, but a special photo challenge. They want to see what inspires each of us to blognot only through words, but in action. They want to see what it is we ‘do’ – what makes us want to blog. What inspires us.

So I decided to accept this challenge and set up my camera (while little man was napping) and take a few snapshots of me ‘doing what I do’… I’ve also included a few photos other’s have taken along the way…

To me, inspiration is endless, it’s everywhere, it’s ever changing, it’s fun, it’s life. This is why I blog.

I love (thus am inspired by) finding a great deal (preferably free) unfortunately no photos of me dump shopping (yet), traveling, gardening, growing my own, cooking for family and friends, making art with my son, being outdoors, living in Maine, the sky at sunrise and sunset, baking, taking pictures…this list can go on and on, but for now, just a few pics of me, doing what I do

The timing of this ‘what inspires you’ challenge is quite poetic for me. It goes beyond blogging… I started this post before knowing my life was about to change. My mother, unexpectedly, passed away last weekend.  And while it may seem strange to some that I am sharing this, I am because She was my inspiration. My mother lived life differently than most.  I learned what to do and what not do from her – but most importantly she always inspired me to be me. This is why I blog. Thank you mom. I love you and I miss you. You, Gypsy Di, will always be my inspiration…wherever you may be.

weekly photo challenge: green

Gallery

This gallery contains 26 photos.

I’ve been following the WordPress weekly photo challenge for a few months now and I just hadn’t participated yet. This weeks’ challenge is a color. You guessed it – green. I instantly thought, I’m going to do this one! I … Continue reading

planting bulbs indoors – all winter long…

Do you miss the scents and sights of flowers outdoors? I do. I live in Maine and winter is quickly approaching, thus flowers are but a distant memory…so what is a flower lover to do? Plant flowers indoors. It’s easier than you think, low maintenance and inexpensive. I personally love Paperwhite Narcissus and Amaryllis.

While Amaryllis are more common to find, boxed with ‘everything you need’ – paperwhites (above) are just as simple, with less waste (no packaging and no plastic pot). You only need four things – of which, two may be used year after year – bulbs, rocks, vase and water – that’s it.  Simple beauty, love it!

Now to start. Gather what you’ll need;

The bulbs (about .80 each), a small vase (think individual bud vase), small stones/rocks (5 lb. bag white rocks $2.99) and water. The stones can be rinsed and re-used for years – I’ve been rinsing and re-using mine for about four years. The water and the bulb will need to be discarded or composted once the flowers have past.

It’s done in 4 easy steps. Pour rocks, place bulb, pour a few more rocks, pour water. It’s that simple, really.

Here you go;

If using new stones, rinse stones first. Place about 1-2″ of stones in vase – amount is dependent upon height of vase. This flower tends to flop over, so the taller and narrower the vase, the better (you can always stake and tie the stem if using a more stout vase).

Place bulb, root side down on top of rocks.

Pour a small amount of stones over the top and sides of bulb, not completely covering bulb, but enough to help weigh it down (again, it’s a top heavy plant, so once roots start shooting downwards and the stem upwards, the stones will aid its’ ability to stand upright). If the vase is quite tall and slender, less rocks are needed on top, if any. (I always like to use a small amount of stones on top, simply to help keep the bulb in place, regardless of vase style).

Then add enough water to cover/reach the root base.

It’s that simple. Be sure to place in area where it will receive indirect sunlight and can enjoy cooler temperatures (60-65 F ) and that’s it – really. Maintain water level and only add when it falls beneath the root line (careful not to overfill as rot may set in), check it about once a week…then watch it grow.

The best part of forcing bulbs indoors is that you can plant subsequent plantings and have fresh flowers all winter long – regardless of your hemisphere! Narcissus typically flower at around 4-6 weeks after planting (depending on conditions), so if you plant every 3 weeks your guaranteed to have sweet scents week after week – even throughout the doldrums of a dark, cold New England winter….The other practical side to plating paperwhites during the winter is that they like cooler temps and indirect sunlight – which is great news for those of us in New England as it is cold and sunshine is fleeting…love this idea below too.

Incredibly scented flowers atop slender bright green stems what’s not beautiful about that? These bulbs also look fabulous planted as a group of 2 or more, in one larger container – just remember to space each bulb and place rocks between each.

Looking for an inexpensive, simple, yet lovely gift? Plant a bulb (or two or more) two weeks prior to gift giving and wrap vase with a bit of red ribbon, the recipient will enjoy loveliness for weeks to come…as will you.

Narcissus planted now, will become divine in December…enjoy.

apple picking in New Zealand and Maine

Apples. Love ’em. Especially this time of year. The smell of apples, fallen leaves, wearing boots and sweaters and feeling the crisp air is just lovely this time of year…the last time I had picked apples was a little over 10 years ago – in New Zealand. Now, my most recent apple picking experience – this past weekend, in Maine – was vastly different than my last apple picking experience, in New Zealand.

Michael and I visited New Zealand while on our ’round the world trip. We stayed for four months. We camped, hiked, fished, visited thrift shops, bought a car, met some amazing people and drove all over the entire country – both the North and South Islands. While there, we did what a lot of travelers do, we looked for work. We were in the middle of our year + long travel trip and wanted to keep our ‘kitty’ afloat as well as have some for when we arrived back ‘home’ – wherever that was to be…so we worked along the way. We were in New Zealand during their apple season; we had heard about the prospect of apple picking and had met quite a few people who had done apple picking themselves and made suggestions as to where to do it. So we did. (photo of a photo of our tractor while in New Zealand – each pair of pickers had their own tractor, this was ours)

We found a beautiful orchard with lovely owners and the job allowed us to live on the property (for a small weekly fee) in a one room studio. It was hard work. Up at sunrise, pick, pick, pick, drop off at sunset, eat, rest, sleep. Four weeks we picked. I gained a whole new appreciation for apples. Apple picking for profit and apple picking for pleasure are entirely different experiences…

This past weekends’ experience was for pleasure, Michael, Finn and I went apple picking.

You choose a wagon, a bag and go out into the orchard.

Pick, pick, pick till your hearts content.

We ended up with 19 pounds of apples – that’s a lot of apples – nothing compared to what Michael and I would pick on a daily basis in NZ, but a lot for three people to eat nonetheless.  Now, I know – apple pie, apple sauce, apple bread, apple crisp, baked apples, caramel apples – but there’s only so much time in my day, so I’ve decided to make pies (and freeze) and apple crisp. I have the best recipe for apple crisp. Really. I found it in a cookbook given to me by my grandmother, 12 years ago. It’s a cookbook created by and for the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary; titled, Savoring Cape Cod.

This recipe can also be used for blueberry crisp, raspberry crisp and a combination thereof. It’s quick, delicious and easy. Top with a bit of fresh creme and or vanilla ice cream and well, your in heaven…

Apple Crisp

5-6 apples (any god pie apple) – peeled and sliced. I used Cortland and Macintosh.

1 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg, beaten

1 stick butter (1/2 cup), melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9″ X 13″ baking pan.

Spread apples in pan.

Blend dry ingredients. Add egg and melted butter. Mix until dry ingredients are moistened.

Pat mixture over apples.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until top is browned.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

coffee and cake, need I say more?

Coffeecake. I can’t remember the last time I baked one or ate one for that matter…but last weekend, I thought, ‘I’d like to bake a coffeecake’ (thus eat some), so I (we – Finn and I) did. It was delicious. I also realized it’s good for a crowd – it makes a substantial amount, 12-16 servings. Perfect for a brunch or as a light dessert for a dinner party – drizzle with heated, melted chocolate and freshly whipped cream – or simply enjoy on a crisp Saturday morning, coffee in hand, with nothing to do…

I found it in a cookbook titled; Joy of Cooking, All About Breakfast & Brunch, by Irma S. Rombaur, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker

This was the first time I tried this recipe – I loved it – see what you think.

Yogurt Coffeecake

Prepare and set aside streusel topping.

Streusel Topping

Blend the following with a fork or or pulse in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs – (I just used my hands);

2/3 cup flour (I used white wheat)

2/3 cup chopped walnuts (recipe calls for finely chopped, I prefer chopped – you choose)

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

5 tablespoons butter, melted (recipe calls for unsalted butter, I didn’t have that, so I substituted salted butter)

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

Have all your ingredients at room temperature (I didn’t do this – I didn’t want to wait for things to come to room temp. – you decide) Position a rack in the lower third of the over. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 X 9 X 2 – inch pan.

 Whisk together thoroughly;

2 cups flour (it calls for all-purpose – I used white wheat)

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1.2 tsp. salt

Combine in another bowl and set aside;

1 1/4 cups yogurt (sour cream can be substituted)

1 tsp. vanilla

 In a large bowl, beat on high speed until lightened in texture, 3-4 minutes;

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (again, I used salted, no problems) – here, it is easier if you use room temp. butter – I didn’t, but will in future.

1 cup sugar

Beat in 1 at a time;

2 large eggs

Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with yogurt mixture in 2 parts, beating on low speed or stirring until smooth and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the streusel. Bake until toothpick inserted (or knife, as I use) in the center comes out clean – about 25-30 minutes. Let cool briefly in the pan on a rack.

Serve warm.

Yum.

Fun fact. The cookbook, the baking pan, the cooling rack, the dish and mug are all from, the ‘dump.‘ The Laguiole knife, I actually purchased.

Don’t think you need high tech gadgets or the ‘best of the best’ to bake, cook or prepare any meal – you only need some basic tools (a lot of second hand stuff rocks) – and a willingness to try.

Enjoy

soup season

So, it’s official – fall is here. The leaves are already beginning to change and there is a definite nip in the air, especially once the sun goes down – which, by the way, is getting earlier and earlier…all this change has got me thinking about soup. I just love soup. It’s warming, comforting and can be simple or complex. It can be an appetizer, lunch or dinner. You can make a big batch and freeze some or just make enough for dinner (and maybe even lunch the following day). I think the best part about soup is that it can be made from just about anything – a few basic ingredients, some time, a soup pot and bit of creativity is all it takes. Here’s an absolutely light, yet hearty flavored soup – perfect for this time of year. The ingredients are simple, minimal and common. It’s a perfect recipe for those times when, ‘you just don’t have anything in the fridge/cabinets/ pantry’… it makes you forget you apparently had ‘nothing‘…

Corn + Potato Chowder

1 cup onion, chopped

2 cup potato, peeled and diced (I used 5 small red potatoes)

1 cup celery, finely diced

2 cup corn (if using frozen, run hot water over it or let defrost prior to using)

1.5 tsp. cumin (add/delete to your liking)

4 cup chicken broth (vegetable broth works well too) – the better the stock, the better the soup…

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or juice of one lemon

olive oil or butter for sautéing

*freshly grated parmesan and a smidgen of chopped parsley (basil or tyme) for garnish (optional of course).

How to;

Heat enough butter or olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot. Add onions and saute until slightly browned. This gives a lovely richness to the soup. Add celery and saute until translucent.

Add diced potatoes and a tablespoon of butter (more richness), cumin, salt (a good pinch or two) and pepper – stir and cook gently.

Add 1 cup corn.

Mix well while cooking on low.

Add stock.

Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes or so, just enough to allow the potatoes to cook thoroughly and the flavors to meld…add in apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.

Simmer a bit longer…

Remove from heat and scoop half of soup into a food processor – mix carefully – slight pulses; careful not to over process as the potato will get gummy. I know this from experience -it’s definitely better to under mix than over mix with this soup.

 

Pour processed soup into pot, add remaining corn, mix and simmer.

Season to taste. Ladle into bowls and top with freshly grated parmesan and a pinch of chopped parsley – yummy…

Serve with warm bread + salad and dinner is served. Don’t have any fresh bread on hand, check this out – an easy (basic ingredients – no yeast) and quick recipe, for a no fuss homemade bread

enjoy.

wood wood wood

We live in Maine. Winters are long, summers are short. Heat is a necessity for survival – seriously.  The saying goes, ‘Wood heats you three times; once when you cut it (we used to cut all our wood), once when you stack it (we still stack about EIGHT cords of wood each year!), and once when you burn it’ – so TRUE! It’s an incredible amount of work – a cord of wood measures, 4′ X 4′ X 8′ L – Stacking eight cords of wood is not easy task. It’s not a horrible task either, just time consuming. I’ve stacked wood while pregnant, with Finn on my back in a pack, and in good and bad weather – you do what you have to do…it’s a labor of love really – wood heats this house better than oil could any day, and I feel better about utilizing wood, I feel it’s the lesser of two evils… solar would be best – maybe our next house…but until then, wood it is. 

Under the best of circumstances we would have all our wood already stacked, dried, and ready for the season – well, we don’t. So much to do and so little time for the parents of a two old, growing an art based business – all on a tight budget…

We have a few cords ready (and a small amount stacked) and one more cord was delivered today.

Three more cords are on order and due to arrive shortly…wood, wood and more wood is what will be on our minds for the next few months.

Keeping it dry (covered with tarps in bad weather and uncovered in good weather), making (and finding) time to haul and stack it and then moving it inside to burn, unfortunately that will be sooner than later – we typically burn wood from mid October through mid June – we have a constant fire in our home for nearly eight months, equal to the amount of wood we burn – one cord a month…

So until we get that fire going, I will enjoy the windows open, the sounds coming through and revel in the fact that until then, there’s one less thing to do…may winter take its’ time…

green beans galore + heirlooms

The garden is finally looking lovely…

as a garden should, on the coast of Maine, by mid-August…and the green beans have been abundant.  It’s amazing how many beans grow on one bush, organically…here’s a super simple recipe for green beans and it’s yummy served warm or cold.

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed

Zest of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp. lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper

2 ounces goat cheese, softened and crumbled

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add green beans. Cook 3 minutes; drain well. Set beans aside in colander; do not rinse (they will continue to cook).

Whisk together lemon zest, juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss with beans in large bowl.

Transfer to serving platter and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese.

*This vinaigrette can be made up to a day in advance, covered, and refrigerated, and brought to room temperature before serving.
I just have to mention the heirloom tomatoes too. I picked (and enjoyed eating) my first ripened black krim tomato. They are so incredibly delicious and luscious I had to include them…everyone should be able to experience the taste of a REAL tomato – not one which has been trucked across the country, green, ready to ripen ‘on route’ – no.
A tomato which has truly been vine ripened, without chemicals, pesticides or been biologically mixed with some other life form…and not one which you have to take out a loan to afford…one you grow yourself. Simply slice, salt and enjoy – your taste buds will love you!