Top Shelf

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My dad enjoying a nice Easter last year

 

 

It’s the tough moments that make you resilient, when you want to cry in agony but instead you stand strong and tall. You hold back tears and swallow hard when faced with a loved one’s sickness. It’s this way because there’s nothing you can do but be there. When darkness shades the good of your day, we must remember who really is in charge of our fragile lives. You can’t control the situation and you must kneel and pray and give it to God.

 

 

 

That’s what I did this week when my dad went through surgery and complications. In one afternoon I heard terrible news about a sick co- worker and then received an emergency phone call from my sister, about my dad. After finishing work we raced an hour and twenty minutes north to see our dad in the hospital.

 

 

 

Although he had a tough painful day, my dad was lying in a hospital bed and when the nurse asked how he was, his answer was, “Top Shelf ” with a smile on his face. This is the ultimate strength, perseverance and a positive uplifting attitude. It’s this man who I look up to and proudly say, he’s my dad.

 

 

 

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Just one of his amazing wood projects, dad has such a talent!

 

I  am relieved to share that dad is home and resting. Hopefully he is on the mend and better days are ahead! It’s this scare that solidifies how much I love him and value him in my life.

 

 

 

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Another hobby of dad’s, gardening. This is something that I love too.

Two little reminders slapped me in the face boldly…first trust God and give your problems to him and notice how he pulls you through every time. Second, when down and out there’s always some light of good to be optimistic about. Even if you are in a dark place, find the positive face and you may end up on the “ top shelf”.

 

 

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💕

 

 

 

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce🍅🍅🍅

 

 

Every Fall season I look forward to walking among my tomato plants, spying red and ripe fruit. With vim and vigor I snap them off the vine and dream of making delicious homemade spaghetti sauce. Most years I make endless batches, a weekend project lasting well into October. I relish harvesting these Crimson beauties and lining them up on my counter to see. Once they ripen and age a bit, it’s time to get to work!

 

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Where it all started

 

I put them tenderly in a hot bath and boil for a few minutes. You can tell when it’s time because the peelings will start to give in the water. Next I drain them and place in a cold water bath. Sit them in the bath for a minute or two. This helps peeling the skins easily. Peel the tomatoes and discard skins. Put tomatoes in blender or food processor to purée. Sometimes I skip this step for  a chunky sauce and I figure it will cook down.

 

 

Dice green pepper ( if you’re lucky you’ll have some garden ones, mine didn’t grow this year…beautiful healthy plants bearing one sacred pepper) and onion. Add tomatoes and a few cans of tomato sauce or jarred spaghetti sauce to thicken. This is kind of cheating but is homemade with the fresh tomatoes. I’ve added fresh carrots and zucchini before, a splash of olive oil and a tablespoon of sugar if you don’t add the carrots. Don’t forget the chopped fresh basil! Yummy!

 

 

 

Simmer an hour and shut off. Let set for awhile and then simmer again for 45 minutes. Let set. I do this in stages and have had great results. I usually save a portion for dinner that night and scoop into freezer containers. Let cool. Freeze and label.

 

 

It’s a great staple for pasta or eggplant parmigiana and is refreshing to find in the freezer in the dead of winter. It’s a gift tasting your harvest a few months later, some motivation to plant again in the spring!

 

While I’m knee deep in homemade sauce I’m thinking of possible other tomato uses. Do you have any ideas?

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️

Pumpkin Pride

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Enter my pumpkin patch…

 

Proud pumpkins

 

cook on the vine,

 

cheeky and

 

bearing  a bright orange blush.

 

Scattered along the threading vine

 

their faces absorbing 

 

the radiant sun’s glow

 

 

Wait!

 

I spy changes

 

Beneath those handsome

 

yet crinkly

 

Prickly outstretched leaves

 

lies the truth.

 

 

They appear to be done!

 

Ripe

and

Ready

for picking!

 

Happy Fall everyone!

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️

 

 

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A Passing Goodbye to a Growing Season

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Sadly my cuke plants wither in the September month

 

You can tell it’s September in our neck of the woods. Crickets chant opposed to peepers, the hummingbirds desperately sip their nectar to fill up for their long journey. A few Oak and Maple leaves have already changed into vivid yellow and red colors. Nice sunny and pleasant days turn into cool bearable nights with windows wide open. Fall is springing upon us in New England and I couldn’t be happier!

 

 

 

Something else that I notice is that my garden is dying back. Boo hoo, this statement is told with sadness and regret that I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted out there. Cucumber leaves have shriveled up to rusty brown and crinkle as I walk among them. A few last stragglers continue to hang but Im not sure if I’ll pick them soon or not. Tomato plants have spiked into full trees, bearing nice red scrumptious tomatoes for homemade spaghetti sauce and sliced in meals. Butternut squash are just turning that creamy tan color and just wait to see how huge they are! Tom and I will take a good month to eat all of these beauties…time to give away again!

 

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As turkeys trot by our yard and a doe and fawn pass on the game trail nearby, I know this change is good. All seasons must end and change…this change into fall is exciting because it’s my favorite season, and Tom’s too! I love the vibrant hues of yellows, reds and pink leaves draping over branches and wispy, floating towards the soft ground. The cool air revives us after spending hot sticky days outside. Pumpkins and gourds scatter on porches and stoops with homemade scarecrows placed nearby. Lofty winds pick up and wildlife desperately search for winter’s rations.

 

 

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Yes, I left my bygone lettuce in and for the first time in years, my carrot tops are dying. Maybe not enough water? I’ve picked carrots well into November before.

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Our cozy spot bordering our garden.

 

The garden is almost ready to put to bed until next year. Tomatoes, carrots, squashes and new eggplants still need a little time. Thoughts of its beauty remains, even with its latest brown colors. Every year I truly regret not spending more time out there, for it’s my sanctuary. As always I’ll vow to do that next year but what will happen is yet to be determined. I may not know this but I do know our family and a few others reaped its rich benefits and I thank God for the harvest.

Is anyone else seeing changes in his/ her garden? Do you see the change of seasons in its veins?

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️

A CUCUMBER FOR THE AGES

 

 

 

It’s been a hot fiery summer in our state and my garden is showing it. Everything seems to be thriving from good ole Mrs. Sun. Despite this, we all know a cleansing rain shower feeds the plants as well and makes a difference in growth. The last couple of days have been cooler with the anticipated showers soaking the patch.

 

 

 

 

In past summers,  I’ve noticed that the saving rain brings forth miracles. Let me explain before you think I’m crazy…after rain showers I wait a day to dry up my crop. I really don’t mind getting my gardening clothes damp by walking through or working in a wet patch, but have found that the day off brings unexpected surprises!After a day’s wait,  I have entered my squash patch to find numerous treasures ready to pick and ripe red tomatoes bursting for my picking. Just yesterday a miracle veggie hung on my new fence, vines trailing up the lattice. When I approached this amazing wonder, there was a jaw dropping cucumber for the ages. It’s definitely the longest and  most hearty one I’ve ever grown!

 

 

 

 

Tom and I couldn’t stop laughing at this miracle and chalked it up to the fertile soil and the splash of mother nature’s juice. While taking a picture for posterity ( because you never know if this gem will ever be matched), promising thoughts of our town’s special annual day popped up …wouldn’t it be hilarious to showcase the town’s potential longest cucumber on display at the town hall? People from every corner of its borders would relish in this wonder! Saturday is the big day, a day of celebration, a firemen’s auction and community dinner and playing band to wrap up the day and my 18 inch cuke could be a part of it! Haha.

 

 

With the cuke harvest in full swing, I dream of delicious creamy cucumber salad and scrumptious cuke sandwiches! Cuke sandwiches are simple and so easy to make! Once you taste one, you may just be addicted. Here’s a warning, though, it must be made with fresh grown cucumbers, preferably from a local garden.

 

 

Simply choose your favorite bread ( I like multi grain from the store’s bakery) and spread a thin layer of mayo on both sides. I love sliced onion and tomatoes and lay them down first. Follow with sliced cukes. Sprinkle with McCormick’s Salad Seasoning, which is a delicious spice combination of paprika, poppy seeds, celery seed, black pepper,sesame seed, Romano cheese, salt, sunflower oil and a few more things. Add salt and pepper and you’re ready to eat! It’s very tasty and adds some punch to your veggie sandwich!

 

 

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Yesterday’s picking, washed and drying

 

If anyone knows wonderful cucumbers recipes, please share! I’m bombarded with cukes! I would like to give away some but my veggie table isn’t working. People are not stopping so I need to find a different way to give them away!

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️

 

Green Bean Glory

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Gorgeous green bean plants early on, with not much spacing.

 

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There’s nothing fresher than picking for dinner minutes before.

 

 

Two thick rows of green bean plants stretch across my garden, very close to the middle. Every year I vow to plant with keeping ample space in mind and then the idea gets lost….so once again there’s no room between plants, which is okay because they still will produce nice beans. Yet if you are an experienced gardener you’ll know that the space is vital for drying. If you plant too close together it takes much longer to do this. It rained two days ago and yesterday was kind of cloudy so when I ventured out to the patch to pick beans, I couldn’t. They are still wet and we all know that’s taboo to pick when the leaves are wet because it will rust the rest of the beans. Sometimes I’m impatient and end up with rusty beans anyway! Even though there is a lesson to be learned, the beans look healthy when I snap them off the plant.

 

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Green rich fibrous beans, just the right size and grown in my backyard! Amazing and how gratifying! I love the fact that you can eat them raw or cooked a bit. At an early age my son Dylan would pick and eat them right from the plant. Just the other day I washed and sent some beauties home with him. They didn’t even last the trip and all Lexie found was an empty plastic bag!

 

 

Right now I’m thick in the green bean season and I share with my son and his girlfriend, friends and family and incorporate them in my menus a few times a week.Tasting them at dinner as a fresh side dish, I’ve learned over the years to hardly cook them so they snap with every bite.  Some ways I use green beans:

The other night I diced potatoes and fried them with onion and garlic. Once the potatoes were cooked, I threw the beans in just to cook for a minute or two. It was delicious!

Who doesn’t love a nice colorful healthy stirfry with fresh garden veggies? In summer I make one with green beans, squash, basil, green pepper, onion,mushrooms and broccoli. I serve it with rice pilaf or spaghetti noodles. It’s delicious!

Throw fresh green beans into a  tossed salad, with beef instead of broccoli or sautéed with olive oil and slivered almonds.

Fresh garden green beans are delicious however you prepare them. If you don’t have a garden, visit your local farmer’s market and support local growers.Now is the time to frequent these markets and veggie stands while fresh organic grown food awaits! It’s important we all do that instead of buying all our produce at a chain supermarket.

 

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

Photo Challenge: Morning

via Photo Challenge: Morning

 

 

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As I walk silently with a purpose across the lawn, I notice sparkling sunlight welcoming me, the family gardener. Ahh…there is an enveloping cool air, a sure sign of summer in New Hampshire. Visions of digging in dirt overcome me. The growing patch bathes in glowing sun rays as little birds chirp and whistle, ” Good Morning!” Morning spent in the garden equals harmony and essential for a great day, well spent.

Happy morning to you all wherever you may be!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️