A Heartfelt Apology and Announcements

First of all...an apology. Today, I received a very sweet note from a reader, Anna, who wondered if I was no longer accepting comments on my blog, because she had left many and they never appeared. What on earth? I was completely shocked to hear that! Apparently, Blogger has stopped sending up a little flag to tell me that I had comments awaiting moderation. But I just researched it and, lo and behold(!), there they are...dozens and dozens of sweet comments that you have all left me. It literally brought tears to my eyes to see them all and to realize that you must have thought me terribly rude for never posting your comments and never responding! Is my face red! 

So do please forgive me? And tomorrow, when I have a bit more time, I'm going to go through and approve every one and respond to them.

Next...a quick business announcement that my shops are set on vacation mode from now until July 20th. I will most likely not be returning any inquiries during that time either.

And lastly, I will not be blogging much during that time either, because we will be...

- traveling to South Carolina to see Max graduate from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center!

- joyously attending the WEDDING!

- hosting houseguests for two weeks!

I may pop in for a quick update now and then, but that's uncertain. But I will have so many photos and stories to tell when I return.

AND, if you want to see pictures earlier, you can follow me on Instagram @goodwifeh

Love to you all!

Pickling


Monday, I did some quick pickling. All three of these jars have currently taken up residence in the refrigerator, where time will work its magic and turn them into salty, savory deliciousness in just a week or so.

From left to right, they are: my own recipe for Super Easy Dill Refrigerator Pickles (found here), Pickled Onions (found here), and British Pickled Onions (found here).

Make and Freeze Individual Crustless Quiches

Yesterday, to prepare for a houseful of guests, I made and froze 20 individual, crustless quiches. I've been experimenting with this recipe for a bit, and I've finally got it down enough to share with you. Super easy! WAY easier than making several full-size quiches. AND the best part is that you bake them once, freeze them, and then reheat them by putting them straight from the freezer into the oven. It's a super easy hot breakfast in minutes!

Now, the trick to these little gems is that you have to buy high quality, cardboard tart pans in which to bake them. Don't settle for cheap substitutes, because they will not retain their shape, and your quiches will look all wonky. I purchase mine (size small - 4") from Jenny Steffens Hobick (click here) and they are THE BEST!


Choosing what to put in the quiches is half the fun! I chose one meat and two veggies for each of the three varieties I made. They were:

- fruitwood smoked bacon, Baby Bella mushroom, and baby spinach
- hickory smoked ham, red bell pepper, asparagus
- hickory smoked ham, caramelized onions, and chive



Each, individual quiche will also need: two eggs, 1 1/2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream, 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese of your choice, salt, and pepper.


In about 2 teaspoons of butter, saute all the filling ingredients for each type. Cool to room temperature.


Now you are ready to assemble the quiches. Place the cardboard tart pans on a rimmed baking sheet. Working with them one at a time, whisk together the: eggs, cream, salt, pepper, and cheese. Pour into the tart pan. I wanted mine to look pretty, so I scattered the filling ingredients in a crescent pattern around the pan and topped them with a spinach leaf, a few long chives, or a few asparagus tips depending on the variety.



Pop the baking sheet with the tart pans into an oven preheated to 375 degrees and bake for 25 minutes, or until knife inserted into the center of the largest one comes out clean. Don't be alarmed if they are puffy when they come out of the oven. They will settle right down within a few moments.

They can be eaten immediately, or wrapped in foil and placed in the freezer. To reheat, place fully frozen quiche back into the oven at 375 for about 20 minutes.


Bon appetit!

Less than Two Weeks

It's less than two weeks until Max's wedding, and we are in high gear...we are nose to the grindstone...we are working our tails off! Being the parents of the groom is WAY easier, but we are still busy in plenty of ways.

This week's must-do list includes:
- finish running all errands (MUST find shoes!)
- finish and photograph the colonial gowns for the shop
- plant the hydrangeas that are anxious to get out of their pots
- go to Boston with the girls and grandkids
- do ALL cooking/baking that can be done ahead of time
- possibly a trip to Maine

Now, if the Great Sport Coat Debacle will resolve itself and one of the THREE that will arrive here this week will fit and look good...life will be excellent!

Time Management After Kids

How does a woman manage her time in middle-age? How does one manage one's time after years of homeschooling? Is all this extra time a blessing, or a curse?

This has been a post that's been rattling around in my head for quite some time, but hasn't quite made it to paper, so to speak. Partly, I think that is because I haven't been able to fully conclude who this is written for...the homeschooling mom who has finished homeschooling?...the mom whose chickens have all flown the coop?...maybe both of the above, but I'm not entirely sure I'm qualified OR have enough perspective of time to do the subject justice. So, perhaps it's more of a ramble through miscellaneous thoughts and a hope that it touches a chord in someone.

I homeschooled all of our children from kindergarten through high school graduation. That's 13 years of education x 3 kids = 19 years. That's a long time to devote to one purpose day in and day out. It was a joy! My husband and I would count it as one of the best decisions we ever made. And while everyone homeschools differently (that's part of the beauty of it), I would say that I ran a tight, but thriving and imaginative ship! Our days, for 19 years, ran a very predictable pattern. It looked something like this:

9:00 a.m. - school starts
10:45 a.m. - break for snack
11:00 a.m. - school resumes
12:45 p.m. - lunch
1:30 p.m. - school resumes until finished
afternoons often spent running to various lessons and extracurricular activities

The schedule allowed us to get all subjects accomplished AND maintain enough free time to keep us all from going bonkers (most weeks), which meant that I had enough time to maintain the household too (which was half my job) and the kids had enough time to be kids (run and play outside, invent, create, grow into their own persons, and bond with friends and each other).

And then, with Max's graduation, that daily, predictable schedule ceased. Nineteen years and then the schedule was wiped clean. 

I had seen a lot of my friends flounder at that point. They wondered aloud to me...what were they to do now? How were they to spend their time? I knew myself well enough to know that I must have some productivity every day and that floundering would never do. So, I started my Etsy shops in my waning years of homeschooling, gradually ramping them up as each child graduated. For me, that was a wise move.

And while my small businesses keep me bustlingly busy at times, and for that I am so grateful, there is still the matter of managing my time.

"See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." - Ephesians 5:15-16. Whether you are in the midst of homeschooling or not, have kids at home or no kids at all, this statement of Scripture is true for all of us. We are to be wise in how we spend our time, because we naturally want to spend it foolishly and in evil ways. We are wont to spend it solely on our own pleasures.
It IS tempting to fitter away time on social media, on watching a movie (because there's no reason not to watch one when you're alone at home at 10:30 a.m.), or spend the day reading or shopping. 

To that end, the best thing I've done to keep myself from squandering time is to be diligent about setting goals for the year and breaking them down to months and weeks and days, and within each day into morning, afternoon, and evening. This has given me a much needed framework to structure my days. It keeps me on track. It gives me focus. Absolutely everything I do goes onto the calendar. Breaking everything into such tiny pieces is helping me keep on track to accomplish big things over the course of the year. For example, this year I set a spiritual goal to keep a daily gratitude journal. And while it may only take me five minutes each morning to write in it, a journal kept faithfully for 365 days will be an accomplishment by the end of the year. You might've noticed that I've been much more faithful about blogging this year. That, too, is due to my goal setting and breaking goals down into manageable bits. To read more about my planner, you can read this posting here.

But are there advantages to the extra time one has at this time of life? Yes, and as much as I miss my kids being school age, I will admit that there is more time for me, which I am just now really starting to enjoy. But one must guard against selfishness, as at all other times of life. Just the same, it feels good to have more time to devote to my quiet times with the Lord. There is more time to exercise, which was sadly neglected when more pressing matters were at hand and children needed to be nurtured. And there's more time to explore creative pursuits (take a class, learn a new skill). And more time to read for my pleasure. But it's taken me three years to get to the point of really starting to enjoy it.

I'd love to hear from some of you, if you struggle to manage your time, or to adjusting your time post-kids! Do leave a comment!

4th of July Costume


If you are in need of a patriotic costume for the 4th of July, I have one Revolutionary War Soldier Costume (click here) in the shop...size Medium (8-10). Perfect for parades!

Currently Reading: Prince Phillip


After watching every riveting episode of The Crown, the person who most intrigued me was Prince Phillip. I wanted to delve deeper into his early life. He is the Prince of Greece, but related to the Danish royal family as well as being a descendant of England's Queen Victoria. His sisters were Nazi sympathizers. His mother spent much of his childhood institutionalized. And she walked in his wedding ceremony wearing a nun's habit (can't tell you exactly why, because I haven't read that far yet). What is not to find fascinating in all of that? Thus far, it is an easy and interesting read!

Testing Food for Guests and Planning Ahead

We have wedding guests arriving in just a few weeks...two weeks' worth of guests! And all of these people (family and close friends) have stayed with us multiple times before. So the challenge in planning what to feed them for 14 days is in figuring out what I can serve that I haven't served them before.

One of my many lists currently in the works is a list of food prep that can be done ahead of time, so as to free up more time to spend with our loved ones while they're here. Here's the list, which also happens to be pretty handy if YOU are prepping for summer visitors:

- mini quiches for the freezer (a whole blog posting coming on these at some point...you're going to LOVE them!)

- granola

- sweet breads and/or muffins for the freezer

- lemon aoli for sandwiches

- homemade dressings (or I may just buy them and be done with it)

- a jar of pickled onions

- refrigerator pickles

- marinate/grill/freeze chicken for sandwiches

- balls of cookie dough for the freezer (making freshly baked cookies a delicious option)

- marinate and freeze chicken breasts for dinner

- make and freeze soft chicken taco meat

- make ice cream AND sorbetto terrines (another blog posting on this coming up)

Maybe I'm crazy, but I'm saving ALL of that to do next week. I hope I'm not crazy. I think it's possible, if I'm strategic and don't squander time.

I've also been experimenting with a few foods, including the mini quiches and the terrines. But also, I've tried out:

- a Mediterranean salad for lunches (that was a hit with the family)

- an Italian chopped salad (not such a hit, so will be crossing that one off the list)

- British cordials (another blog posting coming on this deliciousness!)

- Italian pressed sandwich (super easy, recipe below)

Italian Pressed Sandwich



1 loaf cibatta bread, sliced lengthwise

pesto (I had store-bought, sundried tomato pesto on hand, but I'd recommend just a basic basil variety)

olive oil

sandwich pepperoni

hard salami, sliced thinly

slices of mozarrella cheese

1 tomato

spinach leaves

roasted red bell peppers

red onion slices

black pepper

Spread the bottom half of the cibatta loaf with the pesto. Layer all the ingredients on the sandwich. 


Drizzle the top half of the cibatta with olive oil and sandwich together.


Wrap the sandwich very tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight with a heavy weight on it to press it. (I used a cast iron skillet with two 6-lb. hand weights in it.)


Then remove the plastic wrap and carefully slice off all the edges of the sandwich. Cut into serving-sized pieces and serve to hungry guests!



Costume for the 4th of July


There is one Revolutionary War Soldier Costume left in the shop (size Medium 8-10), if your little patriot needs one for the 4th of July! Click here. Order by Friday, June 29th!

Light and Bright


I love our summer bedding. It's light and fresh and has an updated-antique vibe. It came out last month, and it will go away sometime in September. Then it will be all blue velvet...the color of a stormy sea. But for now, I'm enjoying everything light and bright and summery.

Peonies


Rain is in the forecast in the early morning hours, so I gathered in the peonies ahead of the storm. And I managed to catch the softest light in the living room to capture them showing off their voluminous petals to their best advantage...like so many finely dressed ladies in swishy skirts.

Top 10 Favorite Instagram Accounts

Don't you just love Instagram? I do! Maybe I love it because I'm a highly visual person, and Instagram is all about the visuals? And maybe I love it because it's a more positive, less political, and less controversial place than Facebook? But whatever the reason, I love this place where people share the beauty they see in their everyday with all the rest of us, because the world IS beautiful and how can we NOT share it? And people are fascinating, and it's fun to have a window into another's world. 

I wish I could share with you some images from my favorite accounts, but those belong to each person, so you can't copy and paste. But you can copy and paste profile pictures, so I'll have to make do with that. And my best advice is that you read this posting with your Instagram app open in one hand, so you can easily see what I'm referencing. I hope I can point you towards some accounts that will bring a smile to your face, brighten your day, and inspire you with beauty and/or adventure, because each of these accounts does that for me.


#1 - Jo Rodgers (@jo_rodgers) - who describes herself as, "Loves stories. Often in the kitchen. London."



jo_rodgers's profile picture

Although this list is not meant to be in order, I will freely admit that Jo Rodgers' account is my hands-down favorite! Every photo is a small story of details waiting to be studied and appreciated. And her writing style is brisk, descriptive, humorous, and engaging. Here's a caption from one of her photos:


"It’s been snowing today, thrillingly. During the first whoosh of it, all of our potted plants were hustled into temporary shelter in the kitchen, where they have formed a great green divide between ourselves and the bread box (so long, toast). The space heaters are whirring hell for leather, and the house smells like paperwhites and blood orange loaf cake."


She has the consistency of a beloved friend who can always be counted on, as her photos are always top notch and her passions are worn on her sleeve, so that you really do feel as though you have been allowed to occupy a small corner of her home...just quietly observing the goings-on. If a complete stranger asked me, "What is Jo Rodgers doing right now?", I feel like I could hazard a guess with reasonable accuracy...cooking?...working a crossword puzzle?...reading a book?...gardening?...eating?...planning a luxury vacation?...sipping hot chocolate? That is one thing I really adore about her...we share a passion for hot chocolate.


-She is a contributing editor to Vogue.

-She and her husband are renovating a Georgian-era home in London.
-They are expecting their first baby!
-She creates the most amazing picnics.

#2 - Amanda C. Brooks (@amandacbrooks) - who describes herself as, "Author of Farm From Home and founder of @cutterbrooksshop"



amandacbrooks's profile picture

She is an American socialite who married an English artist and took up residence on his family farm in the Cotswolds. Her life is a captivating blend of jam making and Paris runway shows...farm animals and stunning vacations. Perhaps it's because I've always been drawn to things coexisting in contrasts, like rustic elegance, that I find her Instagram account so intriguing. I also find it admirable when people create a life of beauty in an element not their own, (one reason why "Out of Africa" has always been my favorite movie), and Amanda C. Brooks seems to have done just that. Plus she has an adorable Golden Retriever! AND she has a sheep named Juice (love that name!) who was quite tame for a long time and behaved more like a dog than a sheep, and what's not to love about that?


-She just opened a shop in Stow-on-the-Wold.

-Her photos of "fox hunts" are straight out of another era and positively swoonworthy.
-Her Instagram story that is permanently etched in my memory is of her children (and her?) running along a stack of hay bales that looked to be about three stories high!

#3 - Beverly P (@ducklasagne) - who says of herself, "Primarily a Bostonian, with occasional travels in between."



ducklasagne's profile picture

Ducklasagne is my favorite Boston-based Instagrammer. Always stellar photography...never anything mediocre, and I respect that sort of professionalism in a hobby! She's drawn to architecture and flowers and people and seems to have an expert knack at catching just the right person striding past a classic brownstone. Her captions are short and to-the-point, and touched with a trace of humor that frequently makes me titter.

-Captures the Back Bay area of Boston primarily, but expands elsewhere too.
-Doesn't often post a story, but when she does, they never disappoint.
-Likes bakeries. (My kind of gal!)

#4 - Marte Marie Forsberg (@marte_marie_forsberg) - who says of herself, "Norwegian writer and photographer living in the English countryside. Author of “The Cottage Kitchen” cookbook. Photography and cookery workshops."

marte_marie_forsberg's profile picture

Her mesmerizing photography drew me in, and her heartfelt captions speak to my soul. Considering herself a "visual storyteller", Marte Marie Forsberg combines cooking with hauntingly beautiful photography with philosophical captions to create one of the most unique Instagram accounts that I've encountered. 

"The gorse are blooming and the sun is out. The kettle is on and the builder is coming to look at the renovation plan for the cottage. Some days are more productive than others, and today I’m determined to get as much off my to-do list as I can, in a calm manner. The cottage kitchen smells divine with a cardamom infused Norwegian waffle mixture resting till tea time, and a jar of Norwegian raw strawberry jam...is opened. I’m playing Mozart for the baby, and Mr Whiskey is snoozing in his chair by the window. It’s a Tuesday that positively feels like a Sunday..." 

Her Rembrandt-esque photos of her cozy English cottage take kneading dough and chopping vegetables to the level of the poetic. Time seems to stand still and every morsel...of food and life itself...is savored. She turns Instagram to fine art.

-She has an oft-photographed dog named, Mr. Whiskey.
-She has an adorable new baby!
-Her mother is beautiful, and I love how she honors her with her words and photos.

#5 - Jackie Greaney (@jackiegreaney) - who says about herself, "Adventures on the Eastern Seaboard...Travel & Lifestyle | Maine...1 of Yankee Mag’s 10 Favorite New England Accounts".

jackiegreaney's profile picture

If you could capture New England in a bottle, shake it whenever you pleased for a fresh, new view, and be thoroughly delighted with what you saw each time, you'd have a pretty good idea of Jackie Greaney's Instagram account. Original and pretty and quintessential New England is how I would describe her photographic depictions of the region we both love so well. Hers is a great account to follow if you want to know more about the New England...its hidden gems and classic sights.

-Her dog, Poppy, is her faithful companion.
-She's a California girl originally (just like me).
-I've actually met her, and she's a sweetheart!

#6 - Paul J. Havel (@pjhavel) - who says about himself, "New England". Don't you love it? What more is there to say?

pjhavel's profile picture

I love the clean, crisp lines of Paul Havel's photography...always classic and always classy. His seamless blending of tradition and innovation give you the feeling he's reinvented old school for a whole new generation. His captivating cinemagraphs never fail to bring a smile to my face! His feed is selective and curated with taste.

-He and Jackie Greaney are one of the cutest couples ever!
-If I were to give his advertising company a slogan, it would be "Advertising That Makes You Smile", because it ALWAYS does!
-He looks more like a New Englander than most New Englanders.

#7 - Daylesford Farm (@daylesfordfarm) - which describes itself as, "We've been farming organically for over 35 years, with a simple passion for real food. Visit us in the Cotswolds and London."

daylesfordfarm's profile picture

I follow quite a few companies that I love, but Daylesford Farm's account is the freshest one of all. I followed them long before we went to England, and fell in love with the farm through its Instagram account, so that visiting it when we were there became an absolute must on our itinerary. And when we go back to England someday, renting a cottage close enough to Daylesford that we can pop in for breakfast each morning is a priority! Their account is everything they are...a perpetual springtime of fresh produce, adorable farm animals, tasty edibles and recipes, and all the agricultural beauty of the Cotswolds.

#8 - Tessa Foley (@nineandsixteen) - who describes herself as, "blogger | interior design | classic style".

nineandsixteen's profile picture

I don't feel like I look at Tessa's Instagram as much as I step into it...like stepping into her home with a warm welcome. It's loveliness in photography is punctuated by kindness in words, so that you know she just must be THE sweetest person. She posts about family and home and design/style with a heartfelt and peaceful thoughtfulness that makes her Instagram one of the most pleasant places to be in social media.

-Her annual family vacation to Nantucket postings are some of my favs!
-Their family recently gained an adorable bear of a Golden Retriever.
-Her kitchen is the cutest one you'll see anywhere.

#9 - a tie between the husband/wife duo of Oddur & Mimi Thorisson (@oddthor and @mimithor). He describes himself as, "Living with smooth fox terriers, lovely children & her - regular contributor to Condé Nast Traveler & regular consumer of Champagne". And she describes herself as, "Cookbook author of A Kitchen in France, French Country Cooking & "Manger" blog. Cook, TV host & contributing editor to Condé Nast Traveler."

oddthor's profile picture

mimithor's profile picture

I include them together, because they are always together and frequently post about the same things, but with their own particular perspective. The photography, which I believe is all his on both accounts, shows their daily life In France and Italy, which consists of creating incredible food while raising seven children and 14 dogs. And while I can hardly imagine doing all of that, the care and attention taken to creating and enjoying the beauty in it all is like a lovely graciousness from a bygone era. His wry sense of humor and ability to capture expressions that convey a complete story often make me titter.

"Let’s imagine that you are reading this post. Let’s assume it’s Sunday. And that tomorrow you have something important to do. Or nothing at all. Either way just forget about it and hop on a plane to Milan. Have lunch at Antica Trattoria Della Pesa. Then hop on the fast train to Turin and have dinner at Al Gatto Nero. This is just an idea, offered to you with humility and in good faith. But it’s a good one. Cheers mate!"

And her account is more about food and the preparation and beauty of it. She also has a blog where she writes lengthy posts with passion and perspective, which impresses me to no end. 

-Though I've learned to be content with my squishy bone structure (inherited, apparently, from my Belgian ancestors),fair skin, and blonde hair, I will confess that all my life I've wanted to look like she does...dark hair and high cheekbones. I spent far too many hours pining for that as a teen. But she does wear it SO well!
-Her kitchen floor!
-Every day I want to give her a high-five for managing to cook with seven children and 14 dogs (and does she EVER cook!), but I suspect the delightfully doting appreciation of her husband is a huge support to her. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

#10 - Annabel Bird (@bleakhouselondon) - who describes herself as, "A lifestyle brand for women with an adventurous spirit. Novice quilter. Wild(ish) swimmer. Owner of @edward.lear".

.bleakhouse.london's profile picture

All of the other accounts, #1 through #9, are ones that I have followed for years, but this is my most recent discovery and has rapidly become on of my favorites. While it would seem on the surface to be a company (and it is), this is so much more than that, as Annabel Bird is a passionate voice for living life well and with an adventurous spirit. Her forthright speech (her stories are fabulous!), dry wit, and determined spirit make her shine off the Instagram feed. I want to virtually tromp along with her on her walks and discover all the hidden gems of London and the countryside with her as my tour guide. Don't miss signing up for her monthly Red Book on her website! And if all that wasn't enough, she has just about the most adorable dog ever, Edward Lear, whose own Instagram is utterly charming.

-Her Instagram story on her company's values was one of the most inspiring things I've listened to all year.
-What is not to admire about a woman who swam through a pond, breaking ice as she did so, because she was just determined to do it?
-That dog! Love!

This was a jolly fun post to write, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. It's always inspiring to discover new people, places, and perspectives! Do leave me a comment and let me know which Instagram accounts are your favorites!
(And please excuse the incomprehensible highlighting of some portions of this post. Blogger drives me crazy sometimes.)

Sabbath Rest

I spent part of my day in this lovely spot in the Maine woods.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 
1 John 1:5-9
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