Zinnias

I love Zinnias.

They are easy to start from seed. They grow slow and steady, and they make great cut flowers – what’s not to love?

One plant yields quite a few flowers over the course of the summer – cut them and they keep coming back until colder nights settle in…

Start them in mid spring and transplant out once warm enough…around here it’s usually June to mid-June.

They start to flower in early August and are perfect for bringing indoors.

I hope you are able to bring a little of the outdoors, in.

(:

Stay well.  Be well.

I hope you plant some next spring.

Enjoy.

2020

Wow. 2020.

There is a lot going on right now.

Actually, I think that’s an understatement.

So much to consider, to think about, to question, to worry over…the future feels very  uncertain. On. So. Many. Levels… 

Granted, life is never certain. 

Well, except for death. That is certain. The timing of your death and your whole life preceding it, is of course – uncertain. 

Though right now, we are at an unprecedented level of ‘uncertainty.’   

Well, at least that’s how I’m feeling. 

How about you? 

For the past three years I had been focused on working, saving money, raising my son, working on my business, working on myself, paying bills, organizing my family, etc…life stuff.

Things were going along. I had plans. 

2020 was going to be ‘the year’. 

‘The year’ I turned fifty. The year I did so many of the things I had been wanting to do. Trying to do…

I planned on visiting friends (across the country), having friends come and stay with me, treat myself to a luxurious day at the spa (it’s been over a decade since I’ve had a ‘proper spa day’), buy something pretty for myself and plan a fabulous 50th. birthday party…

I booked tickets to visit a dear friend in Arizona. I was going by myself. I was envisioning being on the plane, by myself, enjoying a cocktail – mid flight – then landing, stepping off the plane and seeing my friend.

 Giving her a big squeeze, then off we go. Just two grown women. 

Able to talk, uninterrupted. Able to go wherever we want – without question or coercion, able to just ‘be’ without parenting…

The joy this brought me was immeasurable.

This was going to be my first trip – ALONE – since becoming a parent, (I became a parent over ten years ago), needless to say, I was r-e-a-d-y.

I had plans.

I’d been saving money for the past few years – specifically for my (month’s long) ’50th’  celebration!

If you’ve followed me in the past, then you know I love to save money.

(That was and is the whole point of this blog – to share ideas about saving money and living well…anyway – it’s been awhile since I’ve posted (years) but recently I’ve needed to get ‘back here’).

My months long celebration was going to start in April.

As I mentioned earlier – I was going to Arizona. 

I had the plane tickets (free from my credit card points), spending money (from my diligent saving), time off work (from my planning), my friend had taken time off, we already had a few restaurants in mind (research) …I was going to a new place. To spend time with a friend.

By m-y-s-e-l-f. 

BEYOND excited to say the least…it was happening!! 

You see, before I became a parent, I loved traveling.

Traveling by myself. Traveling with my partner…

My partner and I had traveled and lived abroad for years before starting our business and having our son, but I hadn’t traveled on my own, since having our son…

Well, our son is ten years old now.

Needless to say, 

I was ready.

I was ready for a lot. 

I was ready for change. 

I was ready to be kinder to myself. 

I was ready to make the next fifty years better than the past fifty…

I was envisioning my trip to Arizona to be a reminder of what it feels like to wake up without immediately having to take care of someone else’s needs, answer questions, make a plan for the day, not think about what’s for dinner…not be responsible for someone else’s needs…except my own.

Two free days.

To remember myself…

Pure bliss. 

It felt like a dream. I had the money to make it happen. And I was going to make it happen…I deserved it. I was turning 50 and had worked my ass off saving money to do all these lovely things for myself…

Turns out the dream never happened. 

In December (while online scrolling), I noticed an article about a ‘new virus’ surfacing in China. 

My stomach did that ’churny thing’ – that thing that makes you wake up and listen your instinct.

A new virus? Oh dear. What if it spreads? 

It’s only in China (right now).

Don’t panic.

Just keep an eye out for information regarding it’s spread…

Well, we all know what happened next. 

It spread.

It spread before anyone knew it was spreading…

Anyway – I had to cancel my flight. I lost my job. My child has been out of school since March 15 and my business is teetering on extinction…

So, ‘my year’ isn’t quite as I had planned. 

Granted – it’s like that for the entire human race right now…

Better for some. Worse for others.

Luckily I’m very resourceful…

I did take my trip, but it wasn’t as I originally envisioned…instead of flying across the country, I drove across my state – for nine hours – along nearly the entire coast…

I saw parts of Maine I had never seen and it was b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l.

I didn’t have to answer one question or be badgered with ‘how much longer??

I could just drive…and drive and drive…

So that’s what I did.

It was divine (despite the covid restrictions)…

Just me, myself and I – in my home state…

Happy Birthday to me.

I kept my promise to myself.

I traveled to a new place. Stayed in a new space, looked at things with new eyes and was grateful for where I was…

I turned 50. How did that happen?

Now onto the next ‘big plan’;  learning how to homeschool while updating my resume…

How are you adjusting to this ‘new world?’

Be well.

Stay safe.

Until next time…

(: 

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White bean, kale and potato soup

Now here’s a versatile soup that can be made utilizing a few basic ingredients;

Kale, onions, potatoes, white beans, veg./chicken stock, corn kernels, salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, garlic, olive oil.

It can be made vegan or not. No white beans? Substitute navy beans.

No kale? Substitute spinach.

No potatoes? No worries.

No fresh corn kernels (who does in winter?) – use frozen.

Choose between vegetable stock or chicken stock (or bone broth).

Add sauteed mushrooms or not.

It’s truly a ‘use what you have’ soup!

Jennifer Wurst - Potato, kale, white bean soup

Half of one small onion – chopped.

One or two heads of garlic – chopped.

One good handful of kale – chopped.

5-6 peeled and chopped potatoes (depends on size of potato)

I.5 cups of white beans (or one can – rinsed)

4 cups of stock – veg./chicken.

1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernals.

Juice of one lemon.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Olive oil.

First take out your heavy bottom soup pot. Drizzle in some olive oil.

Add the chopped onion and saute until slightly browned. Add garlic. Saute a bit more…

Add in kale and maybe a little more olive oil – if needed.

Saute together until the kale softens. Add in potatoes. Give it all a good stir…and then add in the stock.

Add a few good pinches of salt. Freshly cracked pepper. Stir again.

Bring to a slow simmer, then continue simmering until potatoes are cooked through. About 20 minutes – give or take a few minutes …

Add in corn and lemon juice.

Taste for and add more salt/pepper if need be.

You can also add in dried oregano, basil or parsley. If you like to cook with wine – white wine would be nice to add in after the onions are sauteed. Give a little splash before adding garlic…

Serve with warm rolls/bread/pita – whatever you have…

Add a salad and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal!

Enjoy.

(:

 

In the garden…

It blows my mind. How things change…

It was only five months ago that my garden looked like this.

Yes.

Five months ago – February 2017. Snow to the tops of the fence posts – more than thigh high snow…

And while that was going on outside – I had these beauties going on inside…

and these lovelies waiting to pop up…

(garlic).

Though before any of these seedlings could be put into the ground, the snow needed to melt, the earth needed to warm and the ground needed to prepped…

Here was April.

I turned the soil, added peat moss, seaweed (collected locally), wood ash and love… then covered with a landscape fabric to help prevent weed growth, while also warming the soil…

The mosquitos are INSANE here and harvesting is challenging enough once July comes around, let alone weeding – so to minimize being maddened with buzzing while working in the garden, I try to keep my weeding needs to a minimum.

I cover the majority of the garden with breathable fabric and then fill in with hay. Each  allows water and sunshine through, while keeping weeds at bay…

In the pic above you can see black instead of the earth – that’s the fabric covering warming the earth while suppressing weed growth.

I cut openings for each row of veggies/flowers. I simply cut a line for a specified length and then pin down each side with landscape pins and wooden row ‘tags’ on each end. I then cover seeds with hay (to help with heat and moisture retention), and water – then once seedlings/plants begin to grow and become larger, I place hay between each individual plant. Like with the garlic greens seen above, (behind the wheelbarrow full of seedlings waiting to go in)…

Amazing to think that only a few months later the same garden would look like this.

Tomatoes, basil, leeks, red onions, broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash, cucumber, beets, lettuce, green beans, peas, swiss chard, kale, potatoes, brussel sprouts and self seeded cilantro. Phew.

Most started from seed.

Months ago.

In my house.

On window sills during the day…

And at night – moved beside our woodstove…

Or sown directly into the ground as soon as the garden was ready. In the case of garlic (below), it was planted last fall…while others waited until spring or early summer.

 

Either way, much love, planning and work has gone into each plant with the hopes that each will feed us…

Planning and growing are one thing – though there’s also the watering and the harvesting…

the picking, gathering, cutting, pruning, then it’s the washing, cleaning and storing…

A lot goes into growing food – yet it’s all necessary and SO worth it!

My kitchen sink doubles as the wash station and each veggie goes into it’s own separate bag and stored in the fridge – if necessary. Some veggies, like tomatoes (which aren’t ready for a few more weeks/months) are stored best on the counter. Each vegetable has it’s own needs…

Flowers are not be forgotten in a garden either…not only are they beautiful and useful (think cutting flowers), but helpful for pollinators. (:

So plant, plant, plant, plant. And love it – even when it’s 100 degrees outside, with 100% humidity and mosquitos are swarming you! (: It’s worth it.

Hopefully you can try it someday – even if it’s simply one pot of tomatoes or cucumbers on your fire escape.

Everything tastes better with love…

Be well.

Eat well.

Enjoy.

What’s you favorite vegetable?

 

 

 

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.

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

easy maine crab salad

This must be the most simple Crab Salad Recipe – ever!

crab salad prepared

It will also work for lobster…

I’ve not bought Maine crab meat since last summer and it’s been on my mind a lot lately…so, on a whim, I stopped by a local fish market just a few miles down the road (open only during the summer months – one must take advantage of the few places open this time of year!!) and picked up an 8 oz. package of local crab meat.

Drove straight home and began dicing.

ingredients

A few minutes later I was in heaven.

crab salad on bed of greens

Fresh crab salad on a bed of crisp local greens – my lettuce never did make it…yet, that is…once cooler weather approaches, I will plant again…fingers crossed.

Anyway, if you like crab meat, have the ability to buy it – fresh – then do try this recipe.

Crab Salad

8 oz. Crab meat

One Celery Stalk

Quarter of a Shallot

Mayo.

Juice from one lemon

Salt

Pepper

Love

That’s it.

Find yourself some super fresh crab meat. Not in a tin.

8 ounces is just fine.

Flake into a medium sized bowl.

Finely dice celery stalk and shallot.

Add to crab meat.

Add pinch of corse salt,

and a couple of turns on a pepper grinder…

Add juice from half a lemon.

Then add one small spoonful of mayonnaise and mix.

Taste,

and adjust to liking – perhaps more lemon juice, salt or pepper?

Maybe it’s just perfect…

Serve between two slices of soft bread and fresh lettuce leaves or on a bed of greens with crackers served on the side…or enjoy by the spoonful…

No matter what – just enjoy!

Let me know what you think?

What would you do differently?

Enjoy.

xo

the last two weeks…

These last two weeks have been busy – and that’s a good thing – summertime in Maine is the busy season…

S-u-m-m-e-r-t-i-m-e….and the livin’s e-a-s-y…fish are j-u-m-p-i-n’…and the c-o-t-t-o-n is high…(click on the link and listen while viewing)…

Time for being outdoors…and taking things a little more s-l-o-w-l-y…

Gardening, playing, swimming, enjoying windows being open, going to the beach, being barefoot, balmy breezes, fresh strawberries, kale, peas, corn…boating without jackets (warmth jackets – not life jackets), blue skies, picnics, fans blowing humid air, fresh cut grass, seaweed in the air…lobsters, fresh Maine crab meat, time on the dock, feeling hot, being sun-kissed, sleeping with just a light cotton sheet…enjoying long light filled days with starry warm nights…

summertime…

fresh food. warm nights. open windows.

bliss…

pea tendrils

peas

Peas in the garden

marigolds

kale

garlic scapes curling

garlic scape facing downward

more scape curls

loosely tiedfamily maiden voyage - July 2015in the harbor

lovely boat in harbor

strawberry picking

strawberries

strawberries ready to eat

freezing strawberries

crab salad beginnings

seaweed

the beach

all done

Love it. Summer.

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

the summer garden

Phew, it’s September 3rd and the garden is in full force! garden mid summer Corn is ready, fresh sweet corn   swiss chard has been prolific, swiss chard tomatoes are slowly coming along first ripe tomato beets have been the sweetest ever and the green beans were fabulous and abundant! beets and carrots beets and green beans Not sure how to cook beets? Check out this recipe for roasted beets – d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s !   This year, Finn and I have been able to keep up with the squash bugs, so we have lots of buttercup squash growing! Yeah! buttercup beginnings squash beginnings squash And the flower beds have done well despite the japanese beetles trying their best… front garden lilly garden spider We’ve been enjoying swiss chard in just about everything and I’ve even found a great recipe for a home made puff pastry, homemade puff pastry so I’ve made a few of my swiss chard tarts this summer too. Recipe for pastry in a future post! Oh, I can’t forget my garlic! fresh garlic garlic before cleaning opened bulb Wow. I can’t believe it has taken me so long to grow this simple and scrumptious bulb. Thank you Mim for giving me the garlic to plant and the encouragement! Store bought garlic pales in comparison to homegrown. Actually, there is no comparison. If you have space, at all, try planting garlic. While it’s not an expensive herb, it is a delicious and easy homegrown plant to try. Bonus, the scapes garlic scapes which come out in early summer… While school has begun, summer weather still abounds and there is still plenty to be harvested and enjoyed. Lettuce is growing again, spinach is planted and more beets and carrots are on their way…and some plants are also going to seed…gather, dry and save those seeds! Below are pansy seeds, which I started from store bought seeds, though this year will start from my own seeds. pansy seeds If you can’t or simply don’t garden, don’t forget to check out your local farmers markets – they are fabulous resources for fresh, organic fruits and veggies and they may cost a bit more than the supermaket, but not that much more and many accept food stamps too! What you may spend in dollars saves your health and supports your community. So do check them out! How does your garden grow? Anything exceptional this year? Anything troublesome? late august in the garden Happy gardening and eating! enjoy!