Fire Pit Project

Last summer, Max began work on a fire pit in the backyard.  Things were going along well, and then we discovered a problem.  We all sat back, looked at it and said, “Hmm…”, and there it sat until last week.  Now we have begun anew, with the pit re-leveled, the interior bricks reinstalled, and the purchase of some really fabulous tumbled bluestone.

We’ll be hard at work finishing it this week, because Colette is hosting a “s’more night” Saturday!  More pictures of the finished fire pit to come!

Sewing, Sewing, Sewing

I’ve had a very productive two weeks of sewing for my Etsy shops!  Here’s a glimpse at my latest creations:
Two similar, yet different beach bags, found here or here.

And two different shopping bags, found here or here.

Homekeeping Library

I am a passionate homekeeper!  I positively love all aspects of homekeeping!   Over the years, I have acquired quite a fine collection of books on the topic.  Some of them are still in boxes (from our move six years ago) in the basement.  The ones that aren’t in boxes recently moved from the surface of my kitchen desk to the shelf above it.  So, in case you are in need of a handy reference book, or your homekeeping needs a little dusting off and fresh inspiration, here are some titles I recommend from my collection.

Apples - Roget Yepsen
The American Frugal Housewife (a reproduction book) – Lydia Marie Child
Forgotten Household Crafts - John Seymour
Butt’ry Shelf Almanac - Mary Mason Campbell (illustrated by Tasha Tudor)
Housekeeping in Old Virginia (a reproduction book)
Honey Crafting - Leeann Coleman and Jayne Barnes
The Forgotten Arts: Growing, Gardening & Cooking with Herbs - Richard M. Bacon
Home Cheese Making - Ricki Carroll
Kitchen Gardens - Mary Mason Campbell (illustrated by Tasha Tudor)
Your Backyard Herb Garden - Miranda Smith
Gardening in New England - Jacqueline Heriteau and Holly Hunters Stonehill
Household Wisdom - Stephanie Donaldson
Home Comforts - Cheryl Mendelson (an indispensible reference!)
The New Hampshire Gardener’s Companion - Henry Homeyer
The Best Apples to Buy & Grow - Beth Hanson
Successful Berry Growing - Gene Logsdon
Milk Based Soaps - Casey Makela
The Joy of Keeping a Root Cellar - Jennifer Megyesi
The Soap Book - Sandy maine
The Herbalist (antique book)
Advice to a Wife and Mother (antique book)
Wmsbrg Art of Cookery (a reproduction book)
The Naturally Clean Home - Karyn Siegel-Maier
Fun for the Household (an antique gem of a book!)

Hopes for the Garden

Memorial Day is the traditional time to plant the garden here in New England.  That day came and went and I continued on with bronchitis.  One thing after another (weather, illness of others in the family, etc.), and still the garden remained unplanted.  Finally, last week, we planted.  I have no idea if we’ll get any crops this year.  Here’s hoping for a warm autumn of extended growing time.
From my plan sketched in the middle of winter, we staked off the garden into beds.  I like the idea of raised beds, but I really don’t want to invest in the wood for them or the soil to fill them, nor do I like the permanency of them.  So each year, I just reconfigure everything to meet that year’s garden needs, drive short stakes in the corners of the “beds”, and then rope each area off with twine.  So far, this method has worked great for us.  Perhaps when I find a design I really love, I’ll be ready to put up a permanent, picket fence.  Here’s what the garden looked like with the black plastic down and the stakes and twine done.  I love the symmetry of this year’s plan!

Plants went in next.  Many were my long-neglected, spindly seedlings.  And the others were purchased from a local, organic, no-GMO grower.

Then, Max spread a layer of straw over it all.

Finished.  Now all it has to do is grow…quickly!

Blueberry Pie Time

Last month I made a strawberry pie, because it was strawberry season.  This month, it was the blueberry’s turn.  I wanted it to be really heaping with blueberries, so I measured them directly into the empty pie pan until I felt it was full enough.

I used Tasha Tudor’s recipe, which has you sprinkle the flour and sugar into the bottom of the pan (before the blueberries go in) and then again after they’ve been added vs. mixing the flour and sugar with the berries and then adding them to the pan.  Either way seems to work.

The seasonal produce comes and goes SO quickly here in New Hampshire, you have to hop on it, if you’re going to enjoy it.  This month was also cherry month.  A local farmer knows I covet the tart cherries that grow on his farm, so this year he saved them for me!  So now, safely tucked into our freezer, is cherry pie filling (enough for a deep dish pie) for Washington’s Birthday.  In the dead of winter, that is going to taste so good!

Summer Dinners

Simple, fresh, and no-cook dinners are one of summer’s delights.  I have two such meals planned this week…taco salads and tonight’s dinner of sub sandwiches.  Ingredient list: grinder roll, mayo, Dijon mustard, Black Forest ham, dry salami, meunster cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, dill pickles, banana peppers, and black pepper.  Served with a custard cup full of fresh pineapple.  Yum!  What are some of your favorite no-cook meals?

Summertime Refreshment

My new favorite, refreshing, zero calorie, no guilt summertime beverage is herbal iced tea.  So simple to make!
I went to the pantry in search of a canning jar, but alas…they were all packed in the basement. However, an empty milk bottle caught my eye and seemed an even better choice.

After filling the bottle with water, I chose my favorite, fruity herbal tea.  Let me just say, if you’re still drinking teas from Lipton or Celestial Seasonings, or any other standard brand of tea, you have NO idea what you’re missing!  Such delectable flavors await from some fabulous, lesser known tea companies.  Paromi teas and Harney & Sons are some of my favorites!

Three tea bags were all that were needed for a quart of water.

Then I capped the bottle and set it outside for the rest of the day and overnight, bringing it in the next morning.  Look at that incredible color!

I find a hint of tea so refreshing, so I fill the glass with ice, then about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way with tea, then the rest of the way with water.  Delicious!  Naturally sweet with no added sugar.  Colette likes to add a few sliced strawberries to hers.  It’s the perfect drink for hot summer days!

Sabbath Rest

"Oh, thus be it ever when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, "In God is our trust"
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"

- Francis Scott Key

Happy Independence Day!

It’s been a wet, rainy week in New Hampshire.  But on sunnier days, I’ve been snapping pictures of the fabulous 4th of July decorations in a neighboring town.  That town’s parade is very popular with politicians running for office, due to its lovely backdrop of flag bedecked colonial homes providing  a great photo opp.  So I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you!  Enjoy!

Due to approaching Hurricane Arthur, outdoor dining on the deck was not possible today.  But I did manage to scamper out and gather some flowers before the rain started this morning.  If we couldn’t eat outside, at least we could look festive inside!

 Although I usually keep the vintage Bakelite silverware for picnic use, it dawned on me that it is the perfect silverware for the 4th of July too!

Got to love a man who will cheerfully grill in the pouring rain!

- 4th of July Menu - 
grilled burgers with all the fixings
old-fashioned potato salad
stawberries and blueberries
fresh corn-on-the-cob
Cape Cod potato chips
Sprite with fresh fruit
Red, White, and Blue Ice Cream
(or Raspberry, Coconut, and Maine Blueberry ice creams)

A very happy Independence Day from our family to yours!

Evening on the Town

We country mice went to the big city this week!  My Mother’s Day gift was tickets for the four of us to see “Phantom of the Opera” at the Boston Opera House!!!  And finally the day had arrived!  (All photos snapped with various cell phones.)
But the family was in for a surprise!  I had made pre-theatre dinner reservations for us at the Omni Parker House hotel in Boston. (And, yes, that is a revolving door!  Got to experience those every chance you get, because they are…well…just so fun!)

I chose the hotel because its history has a connection to the history of our town.  In the 1800′s there was a man, J.R. Whipple, who lived in and owned a creamery in our town AND owned five hotels in Boston, including the Parker House.  He was instrumental in getting the railroad (now defunct) to come to our town, so that products from his creamery: milk, cream, butter, eggs, and more, could be quickly transported to his hotels.  In my volunteer work with the town historical society, I have worked on cataloging his ledger that recorded shipments to his hotels.  His house and creamery still stand in our town.  And in the Parker House, there’s a large oil painting of the man himself.  The placard next to the painting said that at the time of his death, he was “the best known hotel man in America.”

The Parker House interior was warm and inviting with an 1800′s elegance.

The Parker House is also famous for some of its food.  If you’ve ever enjoyed a soft and buttery Parker House roll, this is where they were first served.  And it is also the place where Boston Cream Pie originated.  Conveniently, they have a pre-theatre dinner menu with entrees that are quick to prepare.  The guys had the steak.  We girls had the chicken.  And we all enjoyed the best Boston Cream Pie ever!

We then walked just a few blocks to the Boston Opera House.

We had never been here before, and from the outside it is deceptively small looking. But inside it is huge and spectacular!  It was built in the 1920′s.  But in the mid-90′s it was listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Buildings list.  It underwent an extensive renovation and reopened eight years ago.  A note on the restoration from the opera house’s website says, “While all the mechanical, fire protection and HVAC systems were installed to conform with modern standards, a rare assembly of old-world craftsmanship and highly-skilled trades went to work restoring sculptural plaster, gold leaf finishes, Carrara marble, paintings and tapestries, grand staircases, chandeliers, walnut and oak paneling. The restoration included replication of historic carpet, seating and silk wall panels. When the historic patterns for the silk wall panels proved too large for modern looms, a loom was custom-built to create the historic pattern.”  Here’s a glimpse at the restored grandeur:

Max’s new phone can take panoramic pictures, and he captured this view of the inside of the opera house before the performance.

Waiting for the show to start!

What a delightful evening!  The show was everything you would expect and more…fabulous singing, beautiful music from the orchestra, spectacular costumes, amazing sets, and the crashing chandelier!

Scenes from Concord

Today, I made my twice (or thrice) annual trip to my favorite fabric source in Massachusetts.  On the way back, I stopped in Concord to meander the center of town and stop in at three of my favorite shops.  Sadly, two were closed, but it was fun to window shop and take some photographs.

Concord is rich in history, architectural details, and charming trade signs, and I enjoyed playing tourist with my camera.

Although the cook’s shop and the cheesemonger’s were closed, Nesting was open, so up the stairs I went to explore.

Next time, I think I’m going to plan on having lunch at the Colonial Inn (c. 1716).  Yes, definitely going to do that!

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