so cliche, yet so true

Time is something which can pass s-l-o-w-l-y, like when your waiting in line at the DMV (department of motor vehicles) or fast, like when your on holiday and suddenly (or so it seems) it’s time to get back on the plane…and return to ‘reality’…

Though the past few months (or should I say years?), lightening speed, is a more accurate descriptive for how I feel time passing…how can it be November 18th, 2013 – already? What?

It seems the (now) routine of school, work, play, cooking, dishes, running errands, grocery shopping, paying bills, preparing for winter (or whatever season is upon us), returning phone calls and emails, keeping up with the business, planning for holidays, birthdays, writing, making time for fun…creates the feeling that time is always winning – that there is never ‘enough’… time.

They (who are they anyway?) say when you get ‘older’ time ‘speeds up’ and when you have children you see time passing before your eyes. Children are the physical form of time passing. They are newborns, then babies, then toddlers, then pre-schoolers…there is no denying the passage of time once one has a child – the months fly by as do the years and your child is the daily reminder of this.

Granted one does not need to have a child to realize life is short.

The question for me now is how to juggle doing what I want to do (without feeling guilty) with what I need to do…

I enjoy doing so many things, though time doesn’t always allow…

I need to do so many things, though time doesn’t always allow…

I want to do so many things, yet time doesn’t always allow…

I hope to do so many more things, will time allow?

I recently came across this quote from Marty Rubin,

“Time does not pass, it continues”

So, I’ve decided to try and see life as always continuing and growing (despite feeling like I’m always trying to ‘catch-up’) versus never having enough time…trusting there is (and will be) enough time…simply trying to stay in the present (not always easy)…

Enjoying the moments when time seems to ‘stand still…’

beachHow do you make time for the things you love and the things you must do?

When does time stand still for you?

Share your thoughts in the comments please…

Enjoy.

recycling at its best

Recycling.

A lot of people do it.

And, unfortunately, a lot of people, don’t. Why one wouldn’t is beyond me…

Anyway, I am someone who does. I love recycling, repurposing and general re-use of good quality items. Why not right?

My town has a brilliant concept – it’s called a swap trailer. It’s a place where townspeople can drop off unwanted but good items, for another townsperson to take home and use. Brilliant.

The photos you see above are some the recent finds I’ve scored over the past few months…to see more treasures, go here.

The swap trailer is conveniently located at our local transfer station…so people can drop off their recycling (cardboard, cans, bottles, etc.) their trash as well as their unwanted stuff.

I love our swap trailer (aka freebie barn). I have found some great things over the years, so much so that the NYTimes took notice…it’s still surreal that my house was in the NYTimes…

Regardless of who takes notice or not, it’s a resource which is beneficial for people of all income brackets as well as the planet. Simple. Brilliant. Fun.

Try starting a swap shop of sorts in your town…you just never know what you may find!

Enjoy

missing this space

I have been missing this place.

This space of food, fun and thriftiness…this world of blogging…

To be clear, it has not been a choice of mine.

Rather, it’s been more of a consequence of a martini meeting my muse, my laptop…or should I say, our laptop. Our one and only laptop. Our only ‘mobile’ device. Our only computer.

Michael (my partner) and I share a laptop and neither of us have i-phones or any phone of that sort…hence why you won’t find me on twitter or Facebook (at least regularly) – it’s impossible to ‘keep-up’ with our home dial-up service. Seriously i-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e.

We still only have access to dial-up internet service from our home. No cell service. No satellite service. No cable service. We rely on our phone line to connect us to the world wide web.

Shocking. I know…so when our computer was not working properly our life (online) came to a sudden halt.

Yikes how dependent we are upon this little (yet very vital) piece of plastic, wires and buttons…

I digress, our laptop keeps our business running smoothly and this blog a chuggin’… it allows me access the world wide web I cannot always access at home, so when a martini was mixed up with our beloved keyboard, well, it was a definite, ‘oh no’ moment.

I’m not naming names, but it wasn’t me.

A trip to the Mac store validated the fact that it needed a new keyboard. I was relived. That’s it? YEAH!! I wanted to scream with joy!

‘You mean it’s fixable?’, I said to the tech. He said, ‘yes’ and it will be ready tomorrow. WOW! I was so relieved…

I didn’t lose all those photos and all those documents and everything else which lives on this portable device…note to self, back-up info. more than once every few months…

So, here I am again.

Ready to share more fabulous recipes and silly stories about my freebie barn finds and my life…plus, I’m looking forward to catching up with all the blogs I follow – I’ve missed them!

Enjoy the weekend!

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.

fresh corn, basil and tomato tart…perfect for a maine lobster bake…

Michael (my partner) and Finn (my 3.5 year old son) were out for a few hours, helping a friend put together the necessary components for a lobster bake…

Seaweed. Rocks. Wood to build the fire (and maintain it for hours). A few canvas tarps. And most importantly, a dug space. A pot in the earth so to speak… in which to bake the lobsters, corn and clams.  A real Maine lobster bake.

Hot rocks layer the bottom of the ‘pot’ (a hole dug into sand or soil). Seaweed is dropped on top, creating steam…lobsters are placed on top of this, and then they are topped with another layer of seaweed and a few splashes of sea water…sizzle, sizzle, sizzle…

seaweed + steam

lobsters, corn + seaweed

Corn is layered next, followed by more water, seaweed and then finally, the clams…more sea water and more seaweed are added, and then the tarps are tossed over, covering the opening, thus creating a ‘lid.’

tarps

As the sun sets over the Atlantic, lobsters bake, in the ground, on an island…

sunset

freshly steamed lobsters, corn and clams

I digress…this (potluck) lobster bake, and the fact that Michael and Finn were out for a few hours helping organize the party, is what inspired me to try this recipe.

It’s a recipe I found some time ago…torn from a magazine I regretfully do not know (note to self, write down the month, the year and the title of the magazine, from which the recipe was removed…), and I had yet to make it…

Basil was in the garden, corn I could buy 6 minutes down the road at a local farm stand (my corn is not ready yet), I had eggs (from same local farm stand), cream and enough grape tomatoes to give it a go…I decided this is what I was going to bring to the potluck lobster bake;

A fresh corn, basil and tomato tart.

complete

Plus, I had one hour of uninterrupted time – something truly treasured – now that I’m a parent, and phenomenal lighting, so I prepped, photographed and baked this scrumptious tart in only 60 minutes.

Fun.

Gluten free? Just substitute flour with a gluten free flour and enjoy…

 Fresh corn, basil and tomato tart

Print this recipe!

Ingredients;

ingrediants 1

1/3 cup butter, softened

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

3 eggs (despite only seeing one in the photo)

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup half-and-half or light cream

1.5 cups fresh corn kernels (2-3 ears of corn, depending on size) – steamed or boiled for 2-3 minutes

peel the corn 1

remove corn kernals

1/2+ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

chopped basil

1/2+ tsp. salt

1/2+ tsp. freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup freshly chopped tomato

fresh basil

spring of fresh basil for garnish

First the cornmeal crust;

What to do;

adding dry to wet 2

1. In a medium bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high for about 30 seconds.

2. Add sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt. Beat until combined.

3. Beat in 1 of the eggs until combined.

ball is formed 3

4. Beat in cornmeal and flour, until ball begins to form.

5. Shape into disk with hands and wrap in wax paper and chill for 30-60 minutes or until easy to handle.

chilled dough + tart pan

Next, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

– Lightly press dough on bottom and up sides of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom…

press into pan and up sides

work dough towards the sides of the pan and then gently with your fingertips, force the dough upwards, along the sides of the tart pan,

even sides

keeping the thickness even all around and up to the brim. This is not as complicated as it sounds. The dough is so malleable, it moves upwards with ease…make sure you keep all sides uniform and to the brim (to prevent overflow, over the top of the crust, when filling).

crust close-up

– Line crust with double thickness of foil and bake for 10 minutes; remove foil and bake for an additional 6-10 minutes more, or until pastry is set.

While that is happening…

pouring cream

eggs + cream blended

– In a medium bowl whisk together the remaining two eggs and cream.

corn + basil added to eggs

blend all

– Stir in corn, basil and 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper.

tart filled

– Pour over crust.

baked

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until set. Let stand for 10-15 minutes. Remove sides of pan to serve.

complete

Top with chopped tomato and fresh basil.

top view slices

side angle view sliced

Makes 8 servings or more if sliced smaller…

tart with cucumbers

 Sliced cucumbers and lime are in the background – I brought a plate of these (cucumbers are plentiful right now) as well as blueberry crisp. Abundant summer fruits – love it!

Enjoy.

versatile swiss chard becomes a tart

I’ve found swiss chard to be one of the most forgiving greens to grow. Having said this, kale is also very tolerant. For me, the challenge with kale is that it does not have the ‘softness’ that swiss chard has thus is not so easily substituted for spinach…swiss chard on the other hand, is.  Swiss chard is versatile, easy to grow, nutritious and abundant this time of year…

swiss chard ready to cut

Granted, kale grows well into the cooler months and can easily be substituted for spinach or any dark leafy green, though there is something about swiss chard (at least for me) that I just love…perhaps it’s the red and green contrast or simply its abundance all spring, summer and fall…you can count on swiss chard to be there when spinach is not. I like kale  but I love swiss chard…

swiss chard

I plant swiss chard in the early spring and enjoy it all summer and into the late fall…

baby swiss chard

During the hot days of summer I rely on it to become my ‘spinach.’ Spinach bolts when the weather turns hot – swiss chard does not…one row will give nutritious greens for months.

I simply cut the larger, outer leaves, and more grows back! Plant seeds, water, nurture, cut, grow, cut, grow, cut…grow…

Enjoy it in recipes which call for spinach or swiss chard. Simply cut or tear the leaves away from the thick stem, chop and then steam, saute, bake or add to soups.

swiss chard piled on board

My personal favorite is a swiss chard and ricotta tart. I use two different recipes. The one below is an open faced tart. Both require basically the same ingredients; the difference – one is open faced and one is not…

This recipe is the simplest of the two as it only requires a baking sheet and one puff pastry sheet…I have yet to make my own puff pastry, though I so want to…but, until then, a store bought one (without the high fructose corn syrup) will suffice…

So buy yourself a packet of puff pasty and get going!

This recipe also freezes well…plan ahead, bake ahead…dinner or a delicious appetizer is served…

Swiss Chard and Ricotta Tart

Print this!

Ingredients;

1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry. One sheet thawed. Save remaining sheet for another project…

1 large egg beaten with one teaspoon water (for egg wash)

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

15 ounces ricotta cheese (one small container)

2 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin, if you have it)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh, if you have it)

12 ounces fresh swiss chard (frozen works well too – be sure to thaw and squeeze dry) – spinach can be substituted or a combination of the two.

What to do;

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unfold one pastry sheet, pinching seams together, if necessary…and roll out to cover baking sheet. Fold over edges, just slightly, to create an edge. Brush with egg wash (if desired).

2. Prick bottom, all over with fork. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan over the bottom; place tart on lower rack in preheated oven, for 5-8 minutes, or until cheese lightly browns. Let cool a few minutes.

ricotta + pastry

3 .While baking, combine combine ricotta and next five ingredients.

ricotta ingredients

4. Chop and saute swiss chard, in a large skillet, over medium heat. Cook in batches if necessary. Drain excess liquid.

sautee chard

5. Spoon about 2/3 ricotta mixture onto the baked pastry shell and then top with swiss chard. Dollop remaining ricotta mixture…

toppings on pastry

6. Finish with parmesan.

7. Top with fresh basil.

8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until set, in 350 degree oven.

pastry baked

9. Cut and serve.

enjoy!

tomato worms in the August garden

Tomato worms.

tomatoe worm

They are so well adapted for their environment – tomato plants.

tomato worm two

Their coloring, their form…mother nature has disguised them well…good for them, bad for organic gardeners…

They are quite the creature. Soft green body, white angular stripes, little black spots lined up along the white angular lines creating another line of sorts…the long reddish thorn/horn sticking out of the top of their head, their little white tipped sticky feet…I despise them. They can wipe out a crop of tomatoes in no time.

tomato worms on plate

Thankfully I found them before they devoured my beautiful, yet still very green tomatoes…they are a gardeners nightmare…

So, I disposed of them. One by one…

While clipping away all the excess leaves and stems on each of my 5+ foot tall tomato plants I also clipped them.

I felt terrible. Yet, it had to be done.

My tomatoes were under attack.

Homegrown tomatoes come once a year and the process is a long one, particularly in this region – I’m not going to let this beautiful menace of an insect eat my tomatoes. No way.

In each of them I saw the disappearance of my dreams…my dreams of slicing into a juicy ripe tomato – picked fresh from the vine (literally), grown and cared for with love, for months…those threatening horned headed creatures were not going to ruin my summer. No.

Instead, I apologized to each before snipping it in half. I felt terrible and relived all at the same time. My tomatoes are safe for the moment, though my eyes are opened now. My borage helped me last year, this year, not so much…

August in the garden

The squash bugs have been perpetrating my cucumbers ever since they were transplanted, poor things… though my daily retaliation (I hate squishing them – I cringe with every squish – yet one must do, what one must do) has helped and they are still thriving…sadly, my pumpkins not so much. I fear this may be my first year with no pumpkins – shame.

Oddly though, just across the garden, my gourds are going mad. I’m trying to train them to grow up the corn stalks…some have been listening, others are beginning to take over that section of the garden…either way, these beautiful ornamental gourds will most likely be gracing our trees (as bird feeders) and our home (as decoration) this fall. Or at least I hope…

gourds The bean flowers have produced a prolific crop of green beans. I’ve already frozen one batch and enjoyed another. Simply steamed then topped with butter and salt. Yum. So fresh. More green beans on the way…

green bean on the vine

I also planted Mexican sunflowers for the first time. They are great! Super full and so colorful, very different than the traditional sunflowers I’ve planted in the past…thanks Kate for the suggestion.

mexican sunflowers

My other new planting were leeks. They are looking good and I’m so excited to make potato leek soup with them! I think I’d like to try planting potatoes next year – though I’ll need to create a new garden for them…I’m always planning…aren’t all gardeners always planning or at least thinking about ‘next year’? …

I hope the corn makes it before frost arrives. I hate to even type that word (frost) but reality is reality and nights have been getting a bit chilly lately…summer is far too short here…note to self – start corn indoors and transplant. Then, perhaps I will have an abundant crop, in time…

August corn

Swiss chard is glorious and I will be posting about it soon – more specifically, swiss chard tart. It is so good, especially when paired with minestrone soup!

swiss chard

Radishes were fun. I had never planted radishes before but I came across a packet of free seeds (from a local store I frequent – also how I got my gourd seeds), so I planted a row – and in days (or so it seemed) I had radishes.

radishes

I will definitely plant this veggie again. Does anyone have a great recipe for radishes? If so, share in the comments section below – thanks!

Fennel is growing, slowly, but steadily…in its own bed, beside our breezeway…fingers crossed all goes well there too…I am so looking forward to some braised fennel…

fennel

All in all, for such a crazy summer (weather wise), the gardens (both the vegetable and flower) are doing surprisingly well. I’ve recently planted more lettuce and spinach seeds and am planning on planting garlic this year. A wonderful reader (thank you Mim) recently gave me three beautiful garlic heads from her garden and while I will enjoy two heads now, one will go into my garden for next year!

in the garden

(I’m all covered in the photo to thwart the bites from the incessant mosquitos…)

How has your garden fared this year?

Have you tried anything ‘new’? If so, what was it and how did it work out?

Love to hear your thoughts on gardening.

Happy planting!