Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Morning

I just love Sunday Mornings!

Leisurely sleeping in. Waking up to morning light through lace curtains.

Having the time to read the whole Sunday paper.

Taking an early morning walk with Hubby by my side.

Finding fresh berries and a beautiful feather.

Placing fresh flowers on a clean linen tablecloth.

Fresh baked berry muffins.

The smell of sizzling bacon and fresh brewed coffee.

Sharing a relaxing breakfast at a table set for two. 

I love Sunday Mornings!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Night Life

This morning, as I sipped my first cup of Java, I stepped outside onto the deck to enjoy the first light of day. 

The birds were already singing and the dew was rising. The porch lights were still blazing, and as I made my way towards the sliding glass door to go in and hit the switch to shut them off, I stopped. Because this is what I saw.....

He is two inches long and his little black beady eyes were looking right at me. It turns out that he is a Polyphylla decemlineata.
Say that three times fast!

In other words.... a Ten-Lined June Beetle.
The guide book says he eats conifers. Plenty of those around! They live 3-4 years! And when the adult is handled, they make a sound like a child's cry!
I didn't feel like testing that theory!
( If you click on the pictures, you can enlarge them to see the intricate details.)

After seeing that little bugger, I decided to have a look around to see if there were more! Instead, I found this little guy hiding behind my strawberry pots. He is a Green Tree Frog. No doubt he was having some happy hunting under the porch lights. I have heard these tiny frogs croaking back and forth to one another in the Spring and Fall evenings. They like to hide in damp places during the day, like my potted plants!

Then I became curious about what else I might find! So I started really looking around. This beautiful pale green moth was clinging to my screen door under the bedroom porch light.
It is a Nemoria darwiniata. They eat Willow and California Lilac, among other shrubs and are attracted to lights at night.

This pretty speckled moth is an Acronicta hesperida, part of the 'Noctuid Moth' family. They consist of 1/3 of all described moths in North America. They eat Alder trees. Plenty of food for them here!

This amazing beauty is called a Catocala aholibah. (Who comes up with these names?) He is trying to hide in the door frame. I love his white spots and beautiful pattern. They eat oak trees. My neighbor has a couple of those.

This beautifully patterned moth is a Spargania magnoliata. It is from the same family as the pale green moth; called Geometer Moths. They can be easily recognized by their habit, when at rest, of spreading out their wings. The larvae are the little 'inch worms' that you see 'inching' along by drawing up the center of their bodies.
This particular moth dines on Fireweed, which are just now starting to bloom.

This intricately patterned fellow is called Syngrapha alias. He dines on Sitka and other spruce trees. ( I have a couple of them growing here; they have lovely pale blue tipped branches and small golden cones.

This colorful orange and white moth with the furry mane is called a Lophocampa maculata, or in other words a 'Yellow-Spotted Tiger Moth'.

These are common and eat broad leaf trees. The hairy orange with black end catepillars are commonly found crossing the road in the fall, looking for shelter.

Well, the sun is up now and it is time to start the day. I hope this inspires you to take a closer look at what is really going on around your own porch light at night! You might be amazed!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

One of Those Days....

As I sit here waiting for my tea kettle to whistle, so I can make myself a cup of tea to soothe my frazzled nerves, I want to tell you about my morning.

You see, I have been staying up way too late every night reading. I have been reading the most delicious books and they are too good to put down. So I have been burning the midnight oil, and the one o'clock oil and the two o'clock oil.....

The first book was written by Ree Drummond, and was taken from her now famous blog, called 'The Pioneer Woman'. The book is called 'Black Heels to Tractor Wheels', and it is about her unabashedly romantic courtship with the man she married, whom she calls, 'The Marlboro Man'.

The second book was written by Isabel Gillies. She is also an actress, and her book is called, 'Happens Every Day'. It is about her romantic romance with the man she married (a college professor) and her idyllic life in the little college town with him and their two little boys. That is, until a woman named Sylvia comes to teach at the college. Well, you will just have to read it to find out what happens.

Both true stories.

Consequently, I have been over-sleeping every morning and rushing up, bleary eyed to help Hubby out the door for work.

So when I started packing his lunch ( I spoil Hubby, I know), I couldn't find the nearly full package of sliced turkey I knew I had just bought over the weekend. I searched the whole refrigerator. I had dark, accusing thoughts towards Hubby. (That he must have woke up in the middle of the night and helped himself and the pets to the turkey, or he had thrown it out because he was sick of turkey; things like that.)

I had to tell him to go out to lunch.

Then I started ironing Hubby some clothes for the day. (yea, yea, I know, spoiled rotten). I was nearly done with his favorite blue pinstripe when I turned the last panel over and realized the whole front was stained. Sigh..... I had to start over. So after stain treating his shirt, I grabbed another one from his closet and ironed that up. When Hubby came in to get dressed, he told me that was the shirt he wore yesterday. (Hubby, why did you hang it back up? Because it wasn't dirty, he says! Sigh....) That goes to show you how bleary eyed I have been not to notice.

So out the door he went, no lunch, and the same shirt as yesterday.

And guess where I found the turkey?
In the bread box!  I must have put it there the morning before when I had packed his lunch.  I usually don't have toast in the morning, but this morning I had a craving. And when I opened up the bread box, low and behold, there was the turkey!

I think I need to get to bed earlier.

My whole week has been going along this way.

I went shopping on Saturday and had one important thing to buy. A birthday card and gift for my daughter J's significant other. Did I remember? No. But I did buy myself these beautiful sunflowers. Thinking they would open up. I thought they were the freshest ones because they hadn't even opened yet. Yea. They never opened. Aren't they pretty? Not!

And this is the sad remains of Hubby's little shed garden that I so lovingly potted up this Spring with bright sunny Marigolds. Who knew slugs love Marigolds? I even put out slug bait. The organic kind. They ate that, too. I don't think it works. Every one of the little pots look like this.

And seeing I am on a roll, this is my Mother's commemorative garden. Not too pretty is it? The Forget Me Not's are done blooming and have left a big weedy mess.

The weekend was the same.
 The 'kids' all went camping. The campground was on the route that goes past our little town. Of course they stopped by. Which I loved. But....
I had to pet sit daughter J's Dachshunds and the weekend was chaotic with pets, impromptu visits, and my son G and fiancee' E, sorting through all the family pictures to use in the upcoming wedding. There were photos scattered everywhere, food preparations, people running in and out. And then I accidently left the door to the bedroom open and the hunt was on. Two baying Dachshunds, racing after one terrified Siamese, Ling-Ling. Crash, smash, scratch and flee! Ling-Ling raced out the open sliding door on two wheels and up and over the deck railing.
But one of the dogs made it out the front door when someone walked through and found the cat, and the chase was on once more. She sought refuge in my flower box outside my bedroom window. (Bye, bye sweet little flowers) The other dog spied her through the window. I never heard so much commotion in my life. By the time I rescued poor little Ling-Ling, she was lying flat, eyes as big as saucers, and firmly attached to the window box.

Both of our nerves were shattered.

I still hadn't recovered and I stayed up too late, and now Hubby is gone to work in a dirty shirt and no lunch. My flowers are flattened and eaten or gone to seed. I look like a wreck.

But the white roses I bought for my Mother's garden are starting to bloom.

And the Sweet William up by Hubby's shed are putting on quite a show. (Just don't look at the dead ones out in front)

Well, now I hear my tea kettle whistle. The dachshunds have gone home, the cat has recovered, and the sun is shining. I think I will go out today and replant my pots, and do some weeding. Then I will cook up some chicken to make Hubby some chicken salad for his lunch tomorrow. All is right with the world once again.
Mmmm.....What's next on my reading list for tonight?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Broccoli Cheese Soup and Irish Soda Raisin Bread

This is a surprisingly easy meal to make and perfect for a rainy day to warm you up. Full of fresh, healthy ingredients and low in calories! It passed the 'Hungry Man' test, too, as Hubby loves it!

Broccoli Cheese Soup
4-6 servings

2 large heads of Broccoli
2 stalks of Celery
1/2 cup chopped Mild White Onion
32 oz Chicken Broth (low sodium)
8 oz block Swiss Cheese, grated
4 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 cups milk (I used 1 percent)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Chop Broccoli into bite size pieces, discarding tough stems. Chop Celery and Onion.
Place vegetables and broth in a large saucepan or small soup pot. Bring to boiling; reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender.

(Once vegetables are tender, at this point you can reduce the heat to low and cover and keep warm while you prepare the Irish Soda Bread. During the last 10 minutes of baking, bring the soup back up to a simmer and add remaining ingredients to finish off.)

In a medium bowl combine milk, cornstarch, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk well until cornstarch is thoroughly dissolved. Add to cooked vegetables.

Cook, stirring constantly at a low simmer, until thickened and bubbly.

Remove from heat. 

Add cheese and stir until cheese is melted through.

 Irish Soda Raisin Bread
4-6 servings

1/2 cup White flour
1  1/2 cups Whole Wheat flour
1/4 cup flax seed meal or additional 1/4 cup WW flour
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar
1/2 cup Sugar
1 beaten Egg
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, melted
3/4 cup Buttermilk
1/2 - 1 cup raisins (depending on how well you like raisins)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix together all dry ingredients except raisins in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center, pour in wet ingredients (butter, egg, buttermilk)

Mix together to form a pliable dough. Add raisins while mixing.

Turn out onto a floured board and knead about 10 times or until dough is no longer sticky. Form into a circular loaf.

Cut a cross on top

Bake on ungreased baking sheet in pre-heated oven at 375 degrees for 50 minutes to 1 hour until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped.

Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

This bread is best served right away, as it tends to dry out after a day or so. It is delicious toasted the next morning for breakfast. Wrap well in aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator for next day serving, or in the freezer for long term storage.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Collecting Straw Bags

It all started with this little beauty that I found at a garage sale. I couldn't resist the blue flowers with the sparkly jewels, the blue calico lining, the sweet leather handles, the diminutive size (6x8"). I just had to have it. I thought it would be so precious holding tall bottles of lotions and potions in my bathroom. So I brought it home.

Then I found this one. Again; sweet little flowers, calico lining, leather handles. I stuffed it full of old men's neckties (I use them to make sachets), and hung it on a peg in my sewing room.

Oh my!, I was hooked. When I found this one with it's straw embroidered seascape and it's wrapped round handles, I knew just what I would use it for....My crochet projects. It is just the right size to hold my yarn and supplies. And with it's flat bottom, it would stand on it's own. I couldn't get it home fast enough!

Soon, I was searching for them everywhere I went. This little darling came from the Thrift and Gift. It is fully lined in luscious pink fabric and is just the right size to hold all of my supplies for garage sale shopping. Maps, magnifying glass, measuring tape, sunglasses, a little scarf for those windswept days, pad and paper, and of course a pocket for all those dollar bills.

This large zippered bag with the long handles is great for weekend trips to the beach. In between, I use it to hold craft projects. The long scarf comes in handy to wrap around a wind blown waist or neck.

These long slender beauties are so handy for throwing a pair of jeans and some tops into for a weekend getaway. I have also taken them with me empty, to use for gathering seashells, pine cones, or other interesting finds when walking the beach or in the woods.

This little trio are used as purses. They have zippers and are fully lined with pockets. The middle one has been used as a carry on bag when flying, as it is just the right size for carrying magazines, some snacks and my camera and sunglasses. I love it's polished nut button.

My latest addition is this large and very sturdy bag that I use to hold my sketching supplies.

You can see that the lining has slotted pockets to hold my pencils and brushes, and it is big enough for a large sketch pad and even an easel. The inside liner cinches tight with a drawstring that has round woven straw bobbles.

I am completely smitten with straw bags.

They are useful for so many things and are as lovely as can be with their intricate weavings so beautifully hand made. I hope this inspires you to start a little straw bag collection of your own! Happy Hunting! 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bedroom Decorating

I just finished 'redecorating' my bedroom. I wanted to give it a brighter, lighter look. Of course I chose my favorite colors, soft robin's egg blue and pale green.

I made up a duvet cover for my thin 'summer' down comforter .
I chose two vintage sheets, one of them re purposed from a collection of Laura Ashley sheets I had used for curtains at one time.
I had taken my Dear Mother into Seattle. She wanted to eat lunch at the famed 'Olympic Hotel' and then go to the Laura Ashley store.
We had a wonderful lunch in the garden tea room. Then we walked down to the Laura Ashley store. We each spent way too much money. She bought beautiful bed linens for her bedroom, along with wallpaper to match, and I bought fabric to make slipcovers for my living room sofas, along with sheets to coordinate for curtains and a slip cover for my chair.

The money was well spent, as the fabric and sheets have lasted for years. And now I am re purposing them yet again.

The finished duvet cover with coordinating pillows from vintage pillow slips. The little blue box at the end of the bed has the sentiment, 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' and was a gift from my daughter, 'H'. I use it for keepsakes.

This is the little chair I slip covered all those years ago from the Laura Ashley sheets. It still looks fresh and new. The rug is Rachel Ashwell, 'Shabby Chic'. It is made from braided cloth strips.

I made up some curtains from more vintage sheets and a lace panel, all from thrift shops.

My bedside table. The lavender is from my future daughter in law's family. Every year they send me the cuttings from their gardens and I use it for sachets and potpourri.

I found this sweet little dresser scarf at a flea market, along with the vintage brush and keep them on my vanity.

I love vintage photo's. This one is Hubby when he was a ring bearer in a long ago wedding. He doesn't remember who the little girl was. Aren't they just precious? I like to drape my jewelry from the frame.

A lovely vintage sheet.

This is my little dish of 'bling'. The rhinestone belt buckle was my Mother's. It held a black velvet belt around a black velvet sleeveless top. The velvet faded away, but I kept the buckle.

My stash of coordinating vintage sheets and cases. I love the faded old fashioned flowers.

This little crocheted pansy 'candle cozy' is a vintage pot holder.

I have two little matching vanity lamps with night light bulbs inside. I use the shades to hang my earring collection. The lamps were a gift from daughter 'H'. They came from a Victoria Secret store and were used as props. 'H' worked there and when they were going to be replaced, she bought them and gave them to me.

I hope my bedroom 'redecorating' gives you inspiration to do some redecorating of your own. It is very inexpensive to do if you take the time to gather over time and use your imagination to re purpose. Vintage sheets are wonderful sources of fabric and can be found at yard sales, thrift shops and even your own linen closet. Even if you don't sew, you can hang sheets as curtains and use vintage pillow slips to change your look. It is always nice to have a little change and even better if you can do it in a thrifty manner.

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