end of summer bbq

Fall is here and the leaves are changing, but we had one last hurrah before the cooler temps settled in…

Ahhhh, summer barbecuing, bonfires and good friends…a great way to end an absolutely beautiful Maine summer.

grape kabobs

Let the kids help! Grape kabobs are a great first ‘skewering’ job…

Then, let them move onto the veggies.

veggie kabobs

Even though it was a casual BBQ, I decided it was a great time to utilize a few of my ‘free finds’ – fun dishes, glassware and mason jars I used for holding all the silverware. Paper can be easier, but I prefer real plates, real silverware and cloth napkins – plus, it’s less wasteful.

setting-up

I made a few salads (in addition to the kabobs) as well as cupcakes for dessert.

cupcakes

The beets were picked from my garden and roasted, then topped with goat cheese, fresh basil and an olive oil drizzle. White bean provencal salad utilized dry beans (less than canned) which I prepared a few days in advance. Potato salad was assembled on the day of the party, though the dressing, potatoes and green beans (from my garden) were prepared two days in advance. Parties are fun if you prepare as much as possible in advance…and keep it ‘outdoors.’

salads

setting up

We thought the barn would be the perfect spot to eat. The table was set with a linen tablecloth that I picked up at Brimfield a few years ago for only $12.  The white tablecloths (under the floral one), candle stick holders, vase and a few  of the chairs were all found for free from my favorite shopping stop – the dump. The fun wooden folding chairs were picked up for $2 each, the other ‘t-back’ chairs were picked up for $5 each at a local yard sale. I love a bargain!

around the table

I also served a skillet cornbread and a fabulous cocktail – again, utilizing what I had on hand…

cucumber cape codder

Entertaining doesn’t have to cost a lot.

Invite good people. Ask everyone to bring something to share. Provide inexpensive (but lovely) salads, prepare as much as possible without buying a lot of pre-made foods, utilize what you have on hand and don’t forget the flowers. It’s the little things that make a difference…

And if you can, why not end the night with a bonfire under the stars…complete with blankets, pillows and marshmallows…

around the fire

Enjoy.

cucumber in a glass

This is my first post about a cocktail.

Anyone who knows me, knows I enjoy them, so I’m surprised that it’s taken me so long to write about one.

Perhaps it’s because I usually keep things simple;

Martini.

Bloody Mary.

Gin and tonic.

Margarita.

Vodka and homemade lemonade.

You get the picture.

Not much to write about…

Though, a few weeks ago I decided to have a little dinner party/BBQ and thought, why not serve a fun cocktail? One that can be pre-made and utilize what I have…

So I did a little research (with cucumbers in mind) – I had a lot of cucumbers (they are prolific this year!!) and came across this recipe (see below).

cucumber cape codder

I’m not fond of its’ given name…so I’ll just call it – Summer – for now…

It’s cucumber simple syrup, unsweetened cranberry juice, lime juice, vodka and I added a little bubbly with a splash of seltzer..

It’s not difficult and only requires a few hours – of which most time is the ‘steeping’ of the shredded/grated cucumber (in the simple syrup); this requires nothing of you except patience…

First you need to make the simple syrup.

There’s a reason it’s called ‘simple’ – it is.

Mix one cup water with one cup organic sugar (or whatever sugar you have on hand) in a small pot, bring to boil. Reduce heat, simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Now, the original recipe calls for one English cucumber, but I didn’t have an English cucumber…so I improvised.

I know there is a difference between homegrown pickling cucumbers (the type I had on hand) and English cucumbers – but since I didn’t have English cucumbers, I used what I had – makes sense, right? In this case it worked.

I figured the expense of the sugar, my time, and my cucumbers would be less than driving 40 miles to buy an English cucumber…and it worked out just fine.

Granted I’ve never tasted this cocktail with English Cucumbers, but I do know it tasted damn delicious with my homegrown ones…so try a batch of each and let me know what you think.

Back to the recipe;

I used two peeled medium sized homegrown pickling cucumbers, instead of one English cucumber.

Size does matter here. The bigger the cuc, the fewer you will need. Use an average sized English cucumber (in your mind of course if you don’t actually have one) for comparison…

Grate them, don’t worry about the seeds being mixed in.

Measure two cups worth of this cucumber mix and add to simple syrup.

Pour carefully into a wide mouthed jar and let cool.

cucumber in syrup

Let rest, overnight, in the fridge.

top view - cucumber in syrup

Strain and collect simple syrup – discard solids.

strained syrup

You should end up with about two cups cucumber simple syrup.

Mix this (cucumber simple syrup), with the rest of the ingredients below and serve over ice with a cucumber wheel on the lip.

cucumber cape codder

enjoy!

  • 9 ounces vodka, chilled
  • 12 ounces cranberry juice (no sugar added)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from about 4 limes)
  • Ice, for serving
  • Splash of seltzer

What do you think this drink should be named?

Do you prefer English cucumbers?

If you enjoy cocktails, do try this one. It’s refreshing, light and packs a punch. It’s also the epitome of summer…

Enjoy.

in the garden

This summer has not been my summer to be in the garden…at least not as much as I’d like…

But today, time and circumstance allowed and I was able to get out there!

Phew.

1.garden gate

I pulled weeds, cut back tomato plants, and harvested a few goodies…

in the garden

garlic

from the garden

swiss chard

corn

buttercup squash

pepper

peas

cucumber and kale

aug

I was amazed by what was growing – despite the neglect and lack of water.

Thank you plants.

SO much green!

What have you been growing…?

Enjoy.

xo

it’s been far too long…

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I’ve needed to post.

Desperately.

So here it is.

In photographic form…

A taste of the last six months.

Yeah for summer!

What have you been up to?

enjoy

xo

planting garlic

Have you ever done it?

I hadn’t until last week.

I was given three beautiful home grown (thank you Mim) heads of garlic and decided this was the year I would experiment with growing garlic…we enjoyed one head and used these two for planting…

1. garlic heads

So I asked a few gardener friends of mine if they had ever grown garlic and most had…all agreed it had to be the simplest bulb to grow.

Finn and I broke apart each bulb and then headed out to the garden…

2.top view peeling

3.Finn peeling garlic

4. heads pulled apart

5. close-up cloves

It was a beautiful day. The mosquitos were quiet, the sun was warm and the ocean could be heard…

7.holding clove

It’s so simple – if, of course you already have a garden or area to plant in…

Make little holes. We went about 2 inches apart. 2 – 3 inches deep.

6. make holes

Pop a clove in.

8. little hand over row of holes

Cover.

9. cover with dirt

Cover well.

10. cover well

Tamp gently.

11. tamp down

Water (not shown). Finn moved right along to picking carrots…but you can see the completed row of garlic behind him…

pulling carrots

Mulch garlic bed well for winter (still have to do). Wait for spring…

So, have you ever planted garlic?

everyone should have fresh cut flowers

I was going to write about Finn’s first day of school (pre-school, that is), which was two days ago…or about the fact that I am now (and have been since early May) working, at night (to supplement our income) as a server (aka, waitress) at a super fun restaurant, with great people – but it’s still waitressing…in addition to keeping up with the house, the laundry, our business, the dishes…phew.

Days are long and the nights are late…mornings now begin only a few hours (or so it feels) after I’ve (finally) fallen asleep…oh the conundrum of working (or not working) as a mom.

Who knew?

But instead of sharing more about my busy life (I’m sure you can relate!), I decided to talk about the little luxuries growing throughout my garden and surrounding my home – my flowers. Flowers I started from seed months ago or planted as bulbs, years ago…

flowers in the garden

They are simply spectacular right now. And all that beauty cost me next to nothing to start – granted there is a time investment, but it’s oh so worth it!

sunroom

It makes me so happy when I look out my windows or pull into my driveway and see a variety of colorful petals and leaves looking back at me…especially when the hummingbirds are humming about…do you see them, there are two!

two hummingbirds

Morning glories, sunflowers, nasturtiums, lilies, beach roses, delphiniums, dahlias, poppies – all started for a few dollars…

nastursiums

zinnia

galdiolas 2

the time invested starting these little beauties is nothing compared to what I’ve gained – and will continue to gain…

a bunch of flowers

I’m already thinking about next years plantings…

sed starting packets

So when I spotted some discounted seed starting pots I had to pick them up – they were only .60 each, how could I not?

That’s 150 seedling beginnings for only $1.80!

Granted, I’ve used used egg cartons in the past, but my ‘egg guy’ has asked us to start returning them to help keep his costs down…so I do. With that in mind, I couldn’t pass this bargain up!

So while our household income has increased (slightly), so have our expenses (Finns education)…every purchase has a purpose (if not a dual one)… Whether it be for necessity or fun, everything is accounted for. But that doesn’t equate nothingness…

Living within your means or more appropriately, on a budget, doesn’t have to mean living without life’s little luxuries….grow your own flowers and enjoy freshly cut flowers all summer through!

It’s the simple things that make life, lovely…the first day of school, watching your child play on the playground with his new school mates and flowers in the garden…

finn at school

flowers in the garden

enjoy.

life last week…

Last week was my week to prepare for an upcoming art show in which we exhibited…hence, my absence here…

Michael (my partner) has been busy for the past few months designing and building new pieces to showcase. Below, the back of one club chair and the root is a table base – both of which sold (yeah!),

back of club + table base while I have been busy with all the other things involved with owning one’s own art based business, Designs Adrift…and planning for an off site show. Below, our booth…

right side show space 2013

The exhibition took place on Mt. Desert Island.

A very beautiful and picturesque area of Maine…to say the least…

Somes sound is absolutely incredible and Acadia National Park is not too be missed…

The tiny cottage in which we stayed was situated perfectly within Northeast Harbor.

A ten minute walk and we would be in town. And the 20 minute commute to the show grounds afforded us a luxurious drive past grand estates and then into the Somes Sound…a magical fiord…

The narrow, winding two lane road, where fog and mist intermix with brilliant azure skies and green covered mountains (East Coast mountains) on either side of it, holding boats of all types… reminded me of being on South Island, in New Zealand…

It was an incredibly beautiful commute, and one we fully appreciated…particularly after all the hours we had spent preparing for the show and all the hours we knew were ahead…

Collecting the wood. Designing and building each piece. Deciding what should be showcased and where. Laying out the space. Pricing. Wrapping each piece for travel. Loading the U-haul trailer and remembering to bring everything we would need (shame I didn’t take any packing/moving photos)…

And then there was the food.

Lunches were kept simple with salads

bulger + red pepper salad

(garden veggies abound at the moment),

garden veggies

breakfasts were oatmeal with yogurt and fresh blueberries (in season here now), homemade raspberry muffins

wild raspberries

raspberry muffins

and on our last morning we savored a delicious quiche.

Dinners were one pot meals – chili, mac + cheese (cheese sauce below)

chili + cornbread

mac + cheese sauce

and a side of cornbread, black bean and sweet potato tacos complete with guacomole and on our first night, haddock chowder and blueberry pie for dessert; compliments of my cousin who lives in Northeast Harbor…

she is the reason we were able to stay in this posh town, for four days in July, over a weekend…Cheryl (my cousin) has a friend who does not use her home on the weekends…hence, our incredibly affordable, beautiful and convenient accommodation…thank you Cheryl and Margaret!

Back to the food.

Everything could be made and was made days in advance (except for the oatmeal) and then frozen. Voila. Meals were served with the least amount of effort and clean-up. Love that. Granted it’s a lot of work up front, but the pay off was worth it. Plus, they were all dishes I’ve made a zillion times before, so no checking in with recipes – just prep and cook…

Appetizers were enjoyed and prepared fresh.

Olives, goat cheese, guacamole, chips, salsa, hummus and sliced tomatoes topped with fresh basil leaves and freshly sliced mozzarella, to name a few…

Doesn’t sound like we’re ‘skimping’ now does it?

Budget doesn’t have to mean scarcity.

For me, it means to live within your means.

So why not do it as well as you can…(:

enjoy.