Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Canning Tomatoes

I have been channeling my inner Laura Ingalls Wilder lately.  I've decided to try canning and preserving this Summer, to be able to experience the glory of August during the dark days in February.  Are you with me?

I am going to make a series of small batch items - and with them record the recipe source, ingredients required to make minimum batch and the date processed.  That way in the middle of the Winter, when I taste what I have "put up," I will be able to flag the successes and replicate them next Summer. 

I scoured the local hardware stores and finally settled on the supplies that I needed.  My dad loaned me his giant enamel water bath canner (looks like a stock pot with a jar rack inside), so I only needed jars, labels and the Ball Utensil Set, which includes a Funnel, Magnetic Wand, Bubble Remover & Rubberized Jar Tongs.  The set is perfect and the magnetic wand is genius!

I started with canning tomatoes.  I bought my first peck of tomatoes at the farmer's market and after reading a few different canning and preserving books, I settled on this recipe for "Raw-Packed Tomatoes with No Added Liquid" from the Ball website.  I did not add any salt, which was optional.

It all went off without a hitch and the jars look gorgeous.  In case you are curious, these are the steps in a nutshell:
  • Wash tomatoes, core & cut "X" at base
  • Blanch in hot water to loosen skin; remove skin
  • Sterilize quart jars (I used dishwasher); Simmer lids in water
  • Fill jars with tomatoes and add lemon juice
  • Help tomatoes to settle with bubble remover tool
  • Wipe any residue off jar rim and use magnetic wand (to keep lid sterile) to place lid onto jar
  • Place in water bath and process according to instructions for approx 85 minutes
I have high hopes that these 7 jars will equal 7 nights of homemade spaghetti sauce, chili and more.  When I pop open my first jar this Winter, I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Formal Flower Arrangement

If I had set out to make a formal and fabulous bouquet, I'm sure I would have gravitated toward roses of one color palette or shape.  Instead I simply "cut what was in bloom" from my garden and transported the flowers in a jam jar up to the cottage.  You know how I always travel with flowers.

After a late night arrival, it wasn't until I came upon my haphazard bouquet this morning that I saw how beautiful these colors looked together.  The colors alone give the bouquet an air of formality, don't you think?
  • Hot pink (Paul McCartney),
  • Mustard yellow (Honey Dijon)
  • Apricot (Daybreaker)
  • Sunny yellow (Graham Thomas)
I would never have selected these colors for an arrangement.  Yet an interesting bowl from the cupboard was all they needed to show us what a color story truly means. 

I love when I accidentally find art in the garden.   

Monday, August 29, 2011

Soft Greens and Gray

Most of my gardens are Cutting Gardens.  The plants are happy and healthy clustered in pots and borders, bringing color and depth to backyard, but everybody knows that they are destined for a vase.

Which is what makes this little garden on my patio a breath of fresh air.  This 2 x 2 foot plot is dedicated to soft greens and gray.  The area exists in the middle of our patio because we had tried to save a tree when our house was built.  When we designed the patio, we created this little haven around it in the hopes that it would live.  Alas, it did not and I was left with this green space.

I decided to play up the shades of gray in the cement and wood border and have filled the area with lavender plants (smells divine!), two bee skeps (that I bought at a barn sale) and a variety of hen and chicks surrounded by moss from the cottage

It almost looks like a fairy garden, don't you think?  I am tempted to place a dollhouse-size bench in a shady spot near the lavender, just in case someone wants to sit down.

Sometimes delight is really tiny.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Traverse City: The Boathouse on Old Mission Peninsula

Timing was everything on this picture perfect Friday last month.  You should know that a standard comment in Michigan is: "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute."  

It is so true!  Just one hour after I took this photo (and just minutes after finishing my lunch) on the open air deck at "The Boathouse," the sky opened up with thunder, lightening and heavy-heavy rain.  I was so happy to have had a picture perfect lunch at this beautiful spot before dining outdoors was out of the question. 

I had heard about The Boathouse restaurant on Old Mission Peninsula many times (people love it!), but since it is about an hour from the cottage I was never way out on the peninsula at lunchtime.  When I finally made it out there, I was able to enjoy a gorgeous apple and beet salad with vanilla vinaigrette and a perfect little margherita pizza.  And all the while, looking at West Grand Traverse Bay. 

If you make it out to Old Mission Peninsula, be sure to have lunch at The Boathouse before you head farther into the peninsula for sightseeing and wine tasting at some of Michigan's most famous wineries.  I know you will just love it!

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Little Wine and Cheese

A beautiful (but easy) ramp up to dinner, that was what I was trying to create. 

My dear friend, Kerry, was our house guest for the better part of a week and two of the nights we had planned to cook at home.  I imagined us puttering around the kitchen chopping vegetables and prepping dinner and I wanted to have an easy-breezy something we could snack on.

I decided to choose one cheese that I know I like (a Spanish Manchego that is nutty and mild) and another cheese that I had never tried, but was intrigued by.  I saw this British cheese called "Wensleydale with Blueberries" and I loved that the blueberries were incorporated into the cheese and thought it would compliment the Merlot.  This Wensleydale with Blueberries (by Ford Farm in Dorset, England) is dry, crumbly and sharp tasting.  I really enjoyed the taste of blueberry and know that I will break up the balance of this block into a salad with dried cherries and a tart vinaigrette.  Yum!

I placed a really cute "wine & cheese platter" cheese button into huge block of Manchego (to steady it while slicing), pulled out some crisp wheat crackers, filled a miniature trifle dish of olives and we were ready!

Having company is so much more relaxed when everyone is participating.  Kerry made the salad and set the table, I worked on the sauce and vegetables and we nibbled on our little cheese platter all the while.  Success!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reflecting on Summer

As funny as it sounds, this moment made me wish that I had a canoe.  Paddling down a river when the water is flat like glass has to be the most relaxing thing in the world.

I was having dinner on a patio by the river when the early evening light started to change and I noticed that the entire landscape was reflecting in the water.  The blues and greens blended back and forth and I felt very lucky that I was there to capture it.

I feel the same way about the blur that I call June-July-August.  This has be a wonderful Summer packed with fun.  We've had long stretches at the cottage, friends in from out of town, family parties and long phone conversations that have left me feeling more connected than ever - and I've got the photos to keep these memories fresh in my mind.  As you reflect on your Summer and the conversations and connections that made it special, look through your photographs (are they still trapped on your camera?) and print a few of the special ones. 

Whether you magnet them to the fridge or frame them grandly on the piano, the glimpse back to your Summer will do you a world of good. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sanders Hot Fudge Sundae

I think this birthday was sponsored by sugar.  I mean really, have you ever seen anything as gorgeous as this hot fudge sundae?  Eaten with friends in honor of my birthday, of course.

My dear friend, Kerry, is in town from Virginia this week (a gift in itself!) and we have been meeting up with mutual friends and reminiscing about all the fun we had in college.  Over dinner with our friend, Kim, it came out that Kerry had never had a Sander's Hot Fudge Sundae when she lived in Michigan.  What?? How is that possible?  So we jumped in the car and headed to the nearest Sanders for dessert.

Upon entering Sanders ice cream parlor, Kim and I took turns telling the lore of Sander's candy, dessert sauces and hot fudge cream puffs.  Part of my dissertation was about Sander's dark chocolate honeycomb chips.  I told a big story about how they were my maternal grandmother's favorite.  Whenever I was spending the day with her as a child, she would decide that it was time for us to have some candy.  We'd get the box of honeycomb chips down off the top of the dining room hutch and eat about seven candies each.  Heaven.

The other night, when I made my way to the end of the counter, and climbed up on the stool next to Kerry, the hot fudge sundae I had ordered was there waiting for me, just as you see it.  When I looked into the silver ice cream dish, I realized that the woman making our sundaes had heard me telling my story and impulsively placed a dark chocolate honeycomb chip into the top of my sundae as a garnish. 

Is that love, or what?  I was really touched at her kind gesture and thanked her from the bottom of my heart.  This is yet another example of why I love people.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Upcycle Frappaccino Bottles as Vases

Want to up cycle your Frappaccino bottles?  Turn them into vases that let you "show the love" to your friends and family.

My definition of up cycling is "to improve an item (that would otherwise be thrown away) into something that is better that the original."

I wanted to have lots of inexpensive (but cute!) vases that I could give my flowers away in.  A vase that my friends, in turn, could keep and reuse.  By up cycling a stash of empty Frappaccino bottles, I have created the perfect sturdy vase.  An added bonus to this project is that this "vase" fits perfectly in a car cup holder, so driving your bouquet to a party is a piece of cake!  

I used pink gloss enamel paint (make sure the paint bottle says it is for glass) from the craft store and painted hearts on with a Q-tip!  You can make simple and consistent hearts by following the same motion you do to make the letter "V" - it's easy.  Just keep your cotton swab loaded with paint and make your movements slow and steady.  Allow the vases to dry according to the instructions on the bottle and then you are ready to give them away.

The next time you are invited to a friend's house (for Bunko, book club or more), fill one of your heart-covered vases with a small bouquet from your garden.  Your hostess will feel the love. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Latte Like

I love this a latte!  (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Knowing my deep love (and dependence) on coffee in the afternoon, my friend decided that I needed my own "Aerolatte Mooo," a battery operated milk frother.

I must admit I was sceptical.  It was cute and everything, but how could this little toy really be worth using.  I tried it the other night and the results were so fantastic, it became worthy of a blog post.  Look at that foam!  Would you believe that I used skim milk?  Remarkable.

So my new afternoon ritual is this:  Brew some coffee.  Microwave skim milk in a glass pitcher.  Froth with the Areolatte Mooo.  Pour the hot milk into the mug of coffee and generously spoon meringue-like foam into my mug.  Shake on a little nutmeg and live the coffeehouse life right in my own home.  Thanks, Kim!    

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Birthday Dinner

This is my pretty birthday table setting!  A happy table for a happy occasion.  My dear friend, Corinne, is in town from Hawaii and she was able to join us tonight for my birthday dinner. 

I started with a bright plaid plastic tablecloth that I have been saving for the right night all Summer.  I tore open the package, snapped my arms to loosen the folds and when tablecloth unfurled it was almost solid white!  Not at all what I was expecting.  The darling plaid was printed only on the border.  Hmm...

So I grabbed the scissors, cut out the white center, slid the 2 plaid panels next to one another and taped them together!  A custom runner was born - and it looks fabulous over my green and lavender linen tablecloth.  Whoosh, the cute tablescape in my mind was back on track.

I floated "Graham Thomas" roses and pink verbena in water on hot pink glass cake plates.  Added a turquoise serving dish.  Some Bamboo flatware.  Three cotton napkins in aqua with green ric rac and Voila!  I believe that everything tastes better at a pretty table.

The night was a big success - the dinner was delicious, we remembered to pop open my special bottle of bling water and we sat for hours talking and catching up.  Friendship is the greatest gift of all. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Camera Ready

To be able to capture dewy moments like this, you have to take your camera with you everywhere.  That is what I mean when I say "camera ready."

We have been having coffee on the patio every morning (*sigh* I don't want summer to end) and I was still in my pajamas when I took this picture.  I walk out each morning with coffee in one hand and my camera in the other.  When I saw the dew drops clinging to this blossom, I knew you had to see it.

This rose is a David Austin English Rose called Heritage.  When its buds are just beginning to show color they look like they were piped from pink frosting. 

When you hear someone describes a rose as "tissue paper pink," this is what they mean.  Simply gorgeous.  If you have a favorite aunt or dear mother-in-law that you are looking to spoil, this is the rose bush to send her.  David Austin (and his son of the same name) are based in England, but you can order any David Austin rose from their location in Texas.  This is delight!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sleeping Bear Dunes - America's Most Beautiful Place 2011

My first reaction was, "Shh...let's keep this our little secret.  Part of the beauty of Leelanau County is that it is not crowded."  But something this spectacular is meant to be shared, right?  You've probably heard by now that Good Morning America has named my part of the world (at least in the Summertime) as America's Most Beautiful Place! 

And it is true, Leelanau County, home to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park in northern Michigan is the most wonderful place I have ever been.  It is beautiful, natural, peaceful - all of these adjectives and more.  These photos were taken by me with a point and shoot camera on a typical day at Sleeping Bear Dunes.  It is a natural setting in which Lake Michigan can look as grand as any ocean.  I spend my summers here and it is my favorite place on earth.  

You can watch footage and hear from Chef Mario Batali in the Good Morning America television piece below. 
Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan Voted Good Morning America's 'Most Beautiful Place' - ABC News

I took this photo from an overlook that is 450 feet above Lake Michigan (the world's 4th largest fresh water lake).  Visitors are welcome to explore the dune and climb all the way down to the water, if they so choose.  The trick is climbing up 450 feet of sand.  For every few feet you climb up, you invariably slide back half as much.

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes is estimated to be about two thousand years old.  It is a wonderful destination for nature lovers, tourists and, of course, photographers.  What a sight!

I know, I know.  Now you want to come to Michigan, right?  Good Morning America has confirmed what I have been saying all along.  This is the most beautiful place in America.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dutch Stroopwafels

Stroopwafels, where have you been all my life?  From this day forward, any friend flying through Amsterdam, must get me a tin of these divine cookies! 

Remember when our friend was flying in from Kazakhstan?  He picked up a tin of his favorite cookies for us on his layover in Amsterdam.  Stroopwafels are butter waffle cookie filled with cinnamon-scented caramel.  He taught us that stroopwafels are placed on a cup of hot tea or coffee.  The warmth of the beverage melts the caramel filling and creates a delightful chewiness.  We all stood around in the kitchen and I broke pieces off of this cookie and gave everyone a sample.  The consensus was: Yum!

But as the weekend wore on, no one else seemed to be craving the cookie like I was.  I ate one that night with coffee.  I ate another at breakfast.  Then on Monday while blogging.  I was following my own philosophy of enjoying gifts and not "saving them."  By eating one cookie a day, I made the contents of the pretty tin can (representing wind mills painted in the style of Holland's Delftware) last a whole week. 

Looking back, I think I actually showed a lot of self-control by making them last at all.  These are fresh, chewy, caramel cookies and you must try them if you get the chance.  I am trying to refrain from ordering a huge box of them, I found the exact cookie here - my tin is the first one shown.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Welcome Mat

What is the first thing you do when company is coming over?  In my house growing up, we would always head out to the garden to cut a fresh bouquet of flowers.

Because really, aren't flowers the ultimate "Welcome" mat?  When my aunt was about to arrive, we went out and picked this pretty bouquet in celery green, pale yellow and white with a few touches of deep red. 

I love the wispy effect of the celery green Lady's Mantle, the dry platform-shaped blooms of the mustard and deep red Yarrow, and the "bad hair day" look of the white Shasta Daisy.  The bonus flower that really made this bouquet for me was the hydrangeas blossom.  This variety of hydrangea, when fully developed, has blooms that are pure white, but for some reason (too much rain?  funny soil?) they look greenish-yellow right now.  All the better for my bouquet, so I cut them!

How do you throw out the Welcome mat? 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gifts from Poilâne

It’s true - this little loaf was made for me!  This type of culinary art is known as pain décoré - a custom loaf of bread with words, leaves or decoration to denote a special occasion.  With advance notice, Poilâne bakery in Paris can make one for you too!

When I was in Paris, I was given a tour of the Poilâne and while I was there, one of the bakers was crafting a phrase out of dough for a special loaf. 
It said: “Alba...Je T’aime” (translation: Alba...I love you”)

*Sigh*  Who wouldn’t love to receive that?  Alba is one lucky girl.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Northern Michigan Winery

Would you believe that I took this photo just yesterday?  I spent the day exploring Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City and captured this view from the vineyard at Chateau Chantal

The ribbons of interest are as follows: the vineyard, a red barn and farm house with pine trees, a cherry orchard, a swath of trees and farmland, the water of West Grand Traverse Bay and the shore beyond.  I love the layers and texture, don't you?  It actually includes all of the elements that I have been looking for in a needlepoint landscape. 

I know it sounds ambitious, but this really is the scene I would like to convert to a needlepoint canvas.  I'd translate it using the same colors, designate special stitches to make each tree in the orchard stand out, do a long stitch to replicate the wooden planks of the barn.  Oh, I think it would be wonderful.  A lot of work, but wonderful.

Someday, when I have a little time, this will become my needlepoint canvas.  A girl can dream, can't she? 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Birthday Month

What is this you ask?  A "Flowers of the Midwest" poster?  A botanical display?  No, this is my birthday lunch!

For ages, I have been amusing myself by saying that I celebrate my birthday for the entire month of August.  While it's true that I can't fit all of the cupcakes, visits with friends and general revelry into one day, I also am particularly vocal about it because I want you to embrace your birthday month too.  Let everything good that happens, be because it's your birthday.  Why not?

So often people play down their birthdays because (*gasp*) they are getting older.  I want to encourage my readers to soak up as much fun as they can.  If a friend wants to bring you a cupcake or go out to lunch - do it!  If you need an excuse to buy a romance novel or order dessert, let your birthday be the reason.  I like to imagine someone out there thinking, "Well if Anne is celebrating the entire month, surely I can do (blank)."  Maybe you don't think of me when your birthday month rolls around, but in case you do...I'm here and I say enjoy it.

As for the glorious lunch above, it is this year's masterpiece from Punzel, a tiny Scandinavian shop near Interlochen, Michigan.  My mom and I visit every August for my "birthday" lunch and I love it.  Edible flowers, cold fruit soup (complete with one gummy fish), squash blossoms, an open face sandwich of Swedish cheese and fresh herbs all artfully arranged on a leaf-lined glass plate. 

Certainly not your everyday lunch, but then again, it's my birthday.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Earth Star Mushroom

You know that I like to write blog posts that are beautiful and interesting.  Here I go again.  I didn't think that I would be writing about inedible mushrooms this week, that's for sure.  But my mom's friend came to the door yesterday to show me this!

She had found this unusual mushroom in the shape of a blooming flower growing under a tree and was sure that I would want to show it to you.  Honestly, it looked like it was made of putty-colored leather in the shape of a flower.  Just like the ones that are gracing so many leather bracelets right now. 

We looked it up online and determined that it is an "Earth Star" mushroom - not edible, but certainly beautiful.  When I returned with my camera, I noticed that her garden glove was almost the same shade as the mushroom and suddenly a gardener's open palm was the perfect way to show off this natural treasure.  Isn't it neat?  If I didn't think the spores would mess with my allergies, I would try to transplant it into my terrarium at home.

I just love Mother Nature, she's given us "stars" in heaven and on earth.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Joy of Painting

"Look at the color of the water!  Anne, take a picture of this."  The remnants of our art lesson looked as pretty as the actual paintings! 

My mom's sister is an artist and when she came to the cottage for a few days, the three of us spent an afternoon painting.  Our plan was to paint Lake Michigan (and get a quick lesson in watercolor clouds), but the weather changed and the intermittent rain showers kept us from setting up outdoors.  We worked from memory and had the most relaxing time encouraging the blue paint to soak in and swirl with the water on the paper.

I had no illusions that my painting would ever amount to anything.  But spending time with my mom and my aunt on a rainy afternoon felt wonderful.  I knew right away that what we were making was memories.     

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Homemade Raspberry Jam

Who is up for some homemade raspberry jam?  When I learned how to make jam with Ball's Instant Fruit Pectin (sometimes labelled "No Cook Freezer Jam"), it changed my life.  All you need is one envelope of instant fruit pectin, 1 1/2 cups of sugar and four cups of crushed fresh fruit and you can make 5 (8 oz) jars of jam.  In less than 30 minutes, you measure, stir and fill the jars.  Read the directions, but it is that easy!  It will keep in the refrigerator for 3 weeks and can be frozen for up to one year.  Can you say Christmas presents? 

I can't think of anyone who wouldn't love toast spread with raspberry jam on a cold Winter morning.  Or how about a crisp cracker topped with a sliver of white cheddar and a dollop of bright red jam. Yum! 

In a few easy steps, you can preserve the delights of Summer 2011.  Come on, you know you want to.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Eating Outside

What could be better than eating outside?

The bright yellow umbrellas of this outdoor restaurant in Palm Beach create a canopy keep customers happy and cool in the shade.  Isn't it lovely? 

As we enjoy this last official month of Summer, do your best to enjoy as many meals as you can outside.  A picnic in the park.  A Lean Cuisine on the deck.  Do what you can to make it happen - fresh air and blue sky can do you a world of good.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Flower Arranging Tip

I thought that these green "wellies" would be the perfect vase for a small bouquet of nasturtiums.  But I needed an orchid clip - it keep stems together and blooms upright.  When I was searching the house for a spare orchid clip, I found this package of soft wire tie.  It is designed to gently attach tomato plants to their supports.  You clip the length you need and wrap it around the tomato branch.

Well, I realized that you can also clip the amount you need and wrap it around the base of a bouquet to hold the stems together.  It is gentle (nasturtium stems are very delicate), easily camouflaged (the color of the tie blends in with the green stems) and works like a dream to keep your blossoms artfully arranged. 

So get yourself some soft wire tie and start making some flower arrangements!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Coffee Talk

There is nothing like having coffee with friends.  I have fond memories of having for coffee with our neighbors not long after we moved into our first house. 

The husband opened the cupboard and revealed an entire shelf of coffee mugs.  He mused aloud about which person would like which cup ("Anne should have Walt Disney World and Dan, hmmm, let's see,  Dan should have The Grand Canyon.")  From then on, every time we had an impromptu cup of coffee with them, Alex would choose our mugs.  He selected a different one every time and his choice often spurred him to tell a story about the vacation or the venue that the mug represented.  It was charming, personal and I loved it.

Being thoughtful.  Showing love.  Making someone feel special.  It is as easy as picking out a coffee mug.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hot Pepper Profile

I really like it when people put a creative spin on their businesses, and when I heard the gist of this hot pepper stand, I knew immediately that I wanted to share it with you.

Piper's Peppers at Detroit's Eastern Market sells fresh vegetable/herb kits to make homemade salsa.  What a neat idea!  When you choose which type of salsa you want to make (we choose two different salsa kits: Pineapple and Tomatillo) they discuss your "heat tolerance" and add the appropriate variety and number of hot peppers to customize the heat of your salsa.

The peppers for sale (and on display above) range from mild to hot hot hot.  You might want to refer to their online heat guide here to get your bearings.

I really enjoyed talking with Ann about the recipes and spice levels and the minute we got home I started cutting up the treasures in my Pineapple Salsa kit (fresh pineapple, red bell peppers, green onion, salt and a super mild " hot" pepper) so that the flavors could meld while I made dinner.  We served it as a sauce for char-grilled pork tenderloin and it was delish.

Have you ever made homemade salsa?  You might never go back to the jar.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lilly Pulitzer Cookie Cutters

For a limited time only, "cute" reigns in the kitchen!  Lilly Pulitzer designed a limited edition set of cookie cutters that I just had to have.

The shape of the palm tree, monkey and elephant cookies are pulled right from Lilly's famous fabric designs and I think they are a scream.  The cookie cutters are made of hot pink plastic and feature a plunger-like panel that pushes down and imprints the dough after the shape is cut.  I think the detail this creates in the palm tree (bark/leaves) and money (face/chest) are perfect. The next time I bake, I will dye the cookie dough pink and let the detail speak for itself - no frosting needed!

Come on Buffy, it's time to bake!

My Grandmother's Old Fashioned Rolled Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 Tablespoons 2% milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
Cream butter in mixing bowl. Beat in sugar, egg, milk & vanilla. Add flour, salt & baking powder. Mix well. Divide dough in half and wrap in waxed paper. Chill in refrigerator at least one hour. Use plenty of flour on board, rolling pin & cookie cutters to prevent sticking. Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick and cut out shapes with cookie cutters dusted with flour.  Bake at 375 degrees on an ungreased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper) for 5-8 minutes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pasta Garden

I have been amusing myself lately by talking about my "Pasta Garden."  You've heard of a Salad Garden (full a healthy assortment of lettuces) and a Salsa Garden (which is primarily tomatoes and hot peppers).  Well, right now my small garden is producing lots of tomatoes, basil and zucchini.  To me, that means pasta.

I absolutely love the fact that I can "eat what I grow," so I react by making a quick saute of olive oil, diced zucchini, cherry tomatoes ("Sweet 100") and fresh basil (with a dash of hot pepper flakes, sea salt and black pepper) and serve it over angel hair pasta (and it doesn't hurt that the box of pasta was $1 at Walmart).  So dinner is basically free and I feel a little "green" (I'm sure this dinner reduced my carbon footprint somehow, right?) and a lot smart.

If you have space for one pot outside, check to see if your garden store still has a "Sweet 100" and a pot of basil for sale.  You too can have your own very "Pasta Garden."     

Monday, August 1, 2011

Christmas in July

I'm having a little "Christmas in July" moment.  I would never have guessed that The Wise Men would coordinate so beautifully with a bouquet of roses and verbena, would you?

I have a soft spot for vintage nativity scenes.  Remember my blog post that explains how it all started?  I have fallen for another distressed set that I found on Friday at a vintage shop called "Chestnuts of Suttons Bay" in northern Michigan. 

These figures are made of plastic (not a treasured material in the antique world), are terribly worn (not pristine for collectors) and I love them, plain and simple.  And yes, they are going to provide a little holiday spirit in my family room for at least as long as this bouquet lasts.  Then I will wrap them in tissue and tuck them away in the basement until the snow flies. 

Today I say, Season's Greetings!  May you find delight in the beauty of every day things.