Planting Our Garden

 

Two weeks ago my husband and I planted  our annual vegetable garden. It was quite a project and took longer than we expected. As the sun warmed the earth, there was that sticky change in the air. It was the distinct sign of rain, as bugs went crazy in our face and nibbled at our exposed ears.  Although our bout with the annoying insects drove us crazy and tried our patience, we still persevered at our gardening task with a farmer’s steadfast determination. 

 

 

 

 

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A tilled sandy garden plot from the very beginning of the season.

 

 

 

 

My husband and I  are quite a team because we work together in tandem like a well oiled machine, but we should, as we have been doing this for a few years now. It’s our fourth year planting here at our home overlooking our pond. Before that we worked and enjoyed a vegetable plot for sixteen years. It’s just what we do in June with persistent faith in what will grow. Tom raked the rows and I planted the seeds and plants. After it all was planted and marked, we watered the rows for the first time. 

 

 

 

Here we are immersed in the June season…a time to start anew and plant in hopes of mother nature’s cooperation. It’s a rush to plant because if you wait until now  it may be too late. The growing season is so short lived here that time is of the essence. I always start the first weekend of June for I fear the weather will have a frost or my delicate saplings won’t make the cold weather. So we plant  hurriedly in hopes of a harvest in July, August and September depending on what vegetables they are.

 

 

 

 

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A little view of our planted product in the early stages!

 

 

 

A New England tip for gardener’s is to not only sow seeds but buy or start plants for a head start. I don’t have a sun room or anything ideal to start seeds in February, although a greenhouse would be nice someday! Buying started vegetable plants boosts your garden and you will harvest much quicker than if you started planting seeds. Some veggies grow super fast, so those you can sow seeds and it’s fine. They are green beans, carrots, spinach and lettuce, herbs, and radishes to name a few. I always choose tomato, squash, cucumber and eggplant plants so that I can harvest in June for the cukes and August and September for the rest.

 

 

 

 

In previous years my dad always has his ground seeds planted by mid May while my plot hasn’t even been tilled yet! The amazing thing is that he lives even more north of me and has different weather but it seems to always work out for him. I have to remember that he’s retired as well and has more time on his hands than me! This year he has a little greenhouse with shelves in it to grow veggies in containers and then he’s placing the containers outside where his garden was. I wish him well with his new system and there will be less weeds doing it this way.

 

 

 

 

 

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my spooky owl that hopefully will scare little critters from our harvest.

 

 

This year we had a deluge of rain, raining just about every day and as that happened, our brook bordering our woods was churning and bubbling fast because of all the water rush. I hoped that our seeds wouldn’t rot in all the muck but with  wishful thinking and the warm sun pulling its weight now,  it all will be fine.

 

 

 

 

Gardening takes lots of patience…patience for it to happen on it’s terms and not yours. Here it’s been two weeks since I planted and little has changed with the plants, although most planted seeds have sprouted from the earth.  I can continuously check every day like an anxious elementary child who has sown her bean seed in a little cup. Even so, if I constantly watch for some growth, it’s definitely not going to speed up it’s progress.

 

 

 

 

This year our vegetable garden includes corn, green beans, carrots, two kinds of cucumbers ( straight 8’s and pickling), beets, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, basil, thyme, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, buttercup squash, zucchini and summer squash, tomatoes ( cherry and early girl), and marigolds lined up as soldiers to ward off the pests.

 

 

 

Have you planted your garden yet? What did you plant for your family and friends? I wish you many harvested goodies from your countless hours of gardening! The pure gift of sunshine and freshly fallen rain helps a bunch and a never ending faith of what will be.

 

 

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

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My little row of carrots, broccoli, and Swiss chard. Oops! A footprint!

I am a Writer

 

 

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Picture taken from Willard Beach in South Portland, Maine. It looks like a perfect place to write!

 

 

 

Hello fellow bloggers and readers!  As I write this post today, I’m asking myself why do I write and continue to do so? My inspiration has always been to get the thoughts and ideas out. I feel that writing has saved me, for I am a talker. You know those type of people…those gabby people who incessantly talk about themselves and their lives. I confess that I may be one, but writing it down saves the spoken words. I think many people prefer a writer over a talker. Don’t you agree?

 

 

 

 

I write because it feels free. While typing away furiously, I experience a euphoric burst of joy. Have you ever felt that hypnotic rush while practicing a hobby? It’s that one special thing that you live to do and you can hardly wait to indulge in it.  If you haven’t stumbled upon it yet, try new things to seek your niche. Everyone has that special talent or hobby that brings out the best in them. I strongly encourage you to attempt to discover it!You may not know right away but keep seeking it with silent faith.

 

 

 

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One corner of my yard in our country town

 

 

 

My personal journey that I’m traveling on has truly spanned much of my life. As I continue on my path, I hope to bring readers along for the ride. Most times my writings are a plethora of rural moments, family togetherness and magical nature encounters. They may seem simple and plain, but to me, they are mountainous! As I live in every moment and soak it all in, I hope to share the wonder of the country to you all. Perhaps my writings can touch a heart and teach people why country  life is so special. 

 

 

 

 

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the nearby Pearl Lake and mountains

 

 

Lastly, I write because for some reason God placed it in my lap, to pursue and to mold words into meaning. I realized that as a third grader, when I started penning creative writing stories on yellow lined paper. I don’t take this responsibility lightly, as I express my ideas I hope to affect people even in small ways. Maybe a few words may shine a positive light on someone and make them feel good about life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To fellow bloggers, why do you write? Maybe you’ve never been asked that before and you need to ponder over it. I hope that it’s an enjoyable endeavor for you, for if it isn’t you need to question if you really do WANT to write. It’s a hobby and vocation for people that feel that need in their gut…the desire to get the words out or the ideas will be lost forever.

 

 

 

 

 

To readers, why do you read and what topics interest you the most? What draws you to my blog and what would you like to hear about in the future? Do you enjoy the northern New Hampshire posts, in the kitchen or inspirational food for your soul?

 

 

 

 

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤

 

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Another special spot to write, Ogunquit, Maine.

Geranium Love

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This dark red color has an orange tint to it. I like their glow for my boxes!

 

 

 

I simply love geraniums but it’s a rather new adoration for me. My early memories of geraniums date back to relatives’ porches and upon graves in cemeteries. As a young girl they didn’t impress me that much.  As an adult I was reintroduced to them by my husband’s former employer, Mrs. Geneen. She had Tom plant several box planters on her deck. Patriotic red geraniums were boldly the focal point of each beautiful arrangement. There was a staunch beauty in those geraniums…and so my adoration of them was born.

 

 

 

 

 

Last year Tom built me window boxes and we planted Mrs. G’s flower mix as a tribute to her. The familiar flower mix brought us back to the summer days she and her family visited the farm. They looked amazing and grew even better than we expected. Vibrant colors of dark purples, rich patriotic reds and pure white flowers greeted everyone passing by. We planted two geraniums, two petunias, two white bicopas and a gorgeous spike in the middle to balance it out.

 

 

 

 

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Newly planted, the purple petunias have yet to grow, but with time and patience they will.

 

 

Geraniums are hearty and easy to grow. They are far from fragile and thrive whether the weather is rainy or hot. They withstand heat pretty well and don’t need to be watered as often as most flowers. In our old house, it was pretty impossible to hang petunias or any other flowers in our back yard. With no trees or forgiving shade, planters cooked in a matter of weeks and never survived the entire summer season. Not willing to give up, I resorted to geraniums in pots! Tom said they were strong and seemed to be heat resistant and so I decided to give it a go. He was right…the deep red flowers did well in the heat and made it to September.

 

 

 

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Our simple but lovely window boxes add a splash of color and beauty to our house front.

 

 

Yesterday I visited the nursery at Sullivan’s Greenhouse in Lancaster, NH, where I bumped into Landaff neighbors Stephen and Annette. While flower and plant browsing, I noticed geraniums come in a variety of colors now. There were bright red with a flashy eye popping hue and dark red, which I prefer. The dark red reminded me of the  patriotic red flowers I picked up last year and was close enough in color for me to snatch them. Other colors were pink and coral with an pinkish tone. They even had pink and white striped variegated geraniums for a different color scheme ( maybe someday I may try these to go for a new theme).

 

 

 

As this lovely and tranquil Sunday morn awoke from it’s nightly nap, I waited for my husband to return from early day chores. We ventured out and shopped for Miracle Grow soil, cedar chips and cow manure for our gardens. The day warmed up nicely in the 70’s with a blazing sun cooking us as we gardened. First we visited Tom’s dad grave in our little town cemetery. We were content to plant red geraniums on each side and a spike plant in the middle. After saying a prayer and us being silent for a minute, Tom and I left our new flowers with his dad.

 

 

 

 

 

It took us just a few minutes to screw the boxes on and fill with the soil. From then on, I took my time planting my flowers and soaking up the beautiful and healing sun. A faint lilac scent from my nearby tree almost put me in a trance. By day’s end the window boxes were planted and watered, as I breathed a sigh of contentment.

 

 

 

 

How great gardening is, especially after a 8 month hiatus! The time in between is a quiet period of reflection, dreaming and hoping for the sweet spring days to arrive. As I grow older in mid-age, I cherish these moments more than I did in my 30’s. Gardening is a healing practice for the soul, the mind, and the body. It’s a hobby that does me more than good and I never want to live without it.

 

 

 

 

How is your planting going? Do you have geraniums as well? Do you plant window boxes? I do hope you are enjoying your planting season and soaking up that wonderful sun!

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤

 

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 💕

 

 

 

Scrapbook Cookbook

 

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About ten years ago I revamped my recipe collection in a big way. First I threw out my dilapidated recipe box and hauled out recipes that I never used. Second, I found a cute whimsical Susan Branch cookbook kit with scrap booking pages and stickers. The book was cheap enough but cheaply made too, as I found out this year.

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Like many housewives who cook everyday, my recipe book started to show wear and tear. Then one day after making a delicious meal for my family, the books’ binding fell apart.  I busily shoved it on my little shelf in the kitchen and soon forget it’s desecration. Every time I reached for my recipe collection, the broken book with pages falling out reminded me that I had been doing this awhile and my book couldn’t keep up.

 

Last week, on an energetic whim, I set my mind to repairing and giving new life to my book. I searched our file cabinet and found a 1 ½ inch binder that one of the boys had used for school. I recycled it at the end of that year and put it in my stash of “ maybe I’ll use that someday.” I’m grateful for that because sometimes I throw things out in an organization fit.

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Next I found plastic page protectors to slip all the handwritten and computer copied recipes in. I highly recommend this step because we all know cooking can be messy and can stain and alter our nice cards.

 

What I especially love about the Susan Branch cookbook kit was that it supplied folders with heading for extra recipes. What I’ve always done is displayed my favorites, family favorites,my mom’s recipes,  Tom’s mom and dad’s and meme’s staunch winners on the pages and others can rest in the folders.

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I bought the cookbook scrapbooking kit on Amazon but you could do it yourself, if you have the supplies needed. You would need a 1 ½ inch binder, scrapbook pages, stickers, recipe cards, pouches for the miscellaneous recipes and page protectors. If you do buy the scrapbook kit, try to find one with a sturdy binder or buy the binder separately.

 

Now I can’t wait to cook and use my cookbook, that I gave new life to. It’s the little things that make me happy in the kitchen.

 

Good luck scrapbooking and happy cooking!

 

All My Best,

 

Heart and Soul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baking Tips

 

 

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I have never been formerly taught the art of cooking and baking. As a young woman, it never interested me and I only associated it with tireless house wives who considered it a chore. In seventh and eighth grade I had Home Economics classes and that was my first true introduction to it all. We made simple dishes, no bake cookies and rice krispies bars and I have a fleeting memory of cooking pudding on the stove.

 

 

 

 

My present baking knowledge is from observation of others and from trial and error by myself. I guess it’s true what some people say, that no matter how old you are, life is full of learning opportunities. Recently I wrote a post highlighting my friend Michelle’s exciting career as a baking instructor at King Arthur Flour. I asked her to share some useful baking tips for others and I ended up thoroughly surprised that I didn’t know some of the tricks.

 

 

 

Michelle informed me that most people’s mistakes with baking is using too much flour. People are always asking her why their bread comes out like bricks and pizzas like hard frisbees.  The key is using less flour. While many experts will tell you to measure in cups, King Arthur Flour encourages bakers to weigh the flour. A cup of King Arthur Flour weighs 4- 4 ¼  ounces.  By weighing flour and not using volume, you’ll be accurate with the amounts.

 

 

 

Another tip Michelle shares is when measuring flour, don’t pack it in the cup. ( if you are still using cups and not weighing) Instead, sprinkle the flour in loosely and level with a knife at the top. When I think of this, I think of the act of packing brown sugar in a cup. You want to do just the opposite because if you pack it, you have too much flour.

 

 

 

I have the King Arthur Baking cookbook and I noticed when browsing recipes, a commonality is the note of avoiding over mixing. I already knew this tip from blueberry muffin recipes. Michelle says to be careful not to overmix cookies, cakes, and muffins. If you mix the batter too much, there will be too much gluten. If you want tender baked goods, DO NOT OVERMIX!

 

 

 

 

A hint for amateur pie crust bakers, keep your butter cold when adding to your flour mixture. Also Michelle reminds us that using melted butter instead of softened makes a negative difference. For example,  when baking cookies make sure you leave out the butter overnight so it softens. Melting the butter will change the consistency. When you cream the butter and sugar you are supposed to put air bubbles in. If you use melted butter instead, it’s very hard to get the air in it. I didn’t know this, amazing fact!

 

 

 

 


Now that we learned some valuable baking tips…let’s get out there and bake! Use these techniques and see how much better your cakes, cookies and breads are! Share these tips with your family and friends and always have fun in your kitchen!

 

 

This weekend I’m baking a chocolate cheesecake for my son’s girlfriend’s birthday and old fashioned whoopie pies shaped like footballs for the Super Bowl. Go New England Patriots!

 

 

 

This is a heartfelt thank you to Michelle for her gift of time for the interview and her kindness.

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

 

 

 

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My Vanilla Twinkie cake with marshmallow fluff inside

King Arthur Flour Baking Classes

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Meet my friend, Michelle Kupiec. I first met her a few years ago through my good friend, Laurie Burridge. Ever since we get together a few times a year for lunch. We used to go Black Friday shopping together at Wal-Mart but have graduated to a shopping day.  I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter what we do, it’s always great conversation and really fun! We are just busy working moms and wives with no airs about us, just working hard and loving our families.

 

 

Michelle has a pretty cool job at King Arthur Flour Company in Norwich, Vermont. She’s a baking instructor/ purchaser, which means that she instructs cooking classes and purchases all the supplies for the class. Michelle’s one of about a dozen instructors. If you love baking, then doesn’t it sound like your dream job?

 

 

Michelle started at the company working on the baking hotline and did this line of work for a year. Did you know that King Arthur Flour hosts a hotline? People call with their baking questions to converse with an employee, who can help them figure out what went wrong with their project. Michelle says that she enjoyed it because it was detective work to figure out what went wrong with peoples’ baking projects. One common mishap is using too much flour. Adding too much changes the consistency of cakes,cookies and breads.

 

 

 

We were all laughing hysterically when Michelle shared her favorite caller stories. One outrageous baker called with a bread emergency! Her loaf of bread was exploding and popping out of the oven! Laurie kept us in stitches, reminding us of the bread scene in the Lucy show. The woman told Michelle that she used a pound of yeast, when an average recipe calls for a teaspoon. Another caller asked where you can buy scalded milk for a recipe. This sounds like an entertaining job!

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I just watched this clip on YouTube and can’t stop laughing! Welcome to my world, yeast and I do not get along!

Presently Michelle teaches different classes from making pizzas ( one of her favorites) to breads. Baguette classes and Bread101 are popular choices and because of that, Michelle suggests to sign up early. She also instructs a Pizza From the Hearth class, where you can learn how to bake a pizza in a wood fired oven.

 

 

 

Classes consist of 12 to 16 people with one instructor and assistant. King Arthur hosts children classes, children and adult classes ( for instance a mom, dad or grandparent could bring a child) and adult children and parents are welcome to sign up as well. This sounds like a good Mother’s Day experience or just a special day with someone close to you.

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Michelle reminisces of her favorite classes, the ones with kids because they’re funny and cute. Many times the little ones wear their apron from home, such a great idea for fun and learning! Holiday classes are also popular and fun. My friend’s favorite aspect of the job is making people happy while finishing the class. It’s rewarding to her and I can see how this would be!

 

 

 

King Arthur Flour classes range from 3-4 hours for a day event. Some are long class workshops, some four and five days a week, 9 am to 5 pm. Classes on cookies, cakes, breads, pizzas and pastries all tempt the baker inside you. If you’re interested, you can sign up online at Kingarthurflour.com under the learn tab. A monthly calendar shows the class variety and times and if any there are any openings.

 

 

 

The classes start with all the participants in front, watching the instructor demonstrate. Then each person bakes the piece with guidance from the teacher and assistant. Not only do they learn a new baking skill or hone on one, they get to go home with your creation.

 

 

 

King Arthur Flour originated in 1790, the days of George Washington. The company started out near Boston Harbor, importing the product from England. Soon after, colonist farmers started growing wheat in the colonies and the flour was made here. Eventually the company made its home in Norwich, Vermont ( just a hop from Hanover, NH). The company is completely owned by its employees!

 

 

In the last 20 years or so, the flour has been available in all 50 states. Michelle says a new classroom facility is open in Burlington, Washington. This is a sure sign of progress and popularity.

 

 

 

King Arthur Flour’s facility hosts a store, cafe, classrooms for the classes and kitchen area. I visited the store last year with my mom. It’s fun to browse at different kitchen tools while instructors are creating goodies before your eyes. Within the facility is a cafe as well, where you can buy a coffee and danish or sandwich for lunch. From the tables in the cafe, sprawling windows invite you into the kitchen where the bakers are baking bread.

 

 

 

If you wish to call King Arthur’s baker’s hotline, call 855-371-2253. Monday-Friday: 7am-9pm Saturday & Sunday: 8am-5pm. You can also email them with questions by visiting the website, kingarthurflour.com and click on the contact us tab. For delicious recipes and baking help, see their blog at blog.kingarthurflour.com.

 


I have the cookbook as well, that’s jam packed with delicious and unique recipes.
Thank you ever so much for your time and great ideas, Michelle!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul