Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Autumn Lessons

"Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree."

-- Emily Brontë, English Novelist and Poet 

After a few days of chilly weather, the trees took notice. It's easy to miss these early signs if I'm not alert. But this year, I'm paying attention. At first, the world around me seems unchanged, lush and green, as if summer will last forever, but I wouldn't want that. All year, I wait for autumn, and the equinox arrives on September 22nd. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Shredded Chicken Enchiladas

As the warm, golden days of September blend into chilly evenings, I start to crave spicy foods. Last weekend, time and energy collided, along with crisp weather--it was the perfect moment to make chicken enchiladas.  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Foodie Friday and Everything Else

Fall is in the air at Foodie Friday and Everything Else. I'm looking forward to seeing your ideas.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Five months old, and Jasper is a comedienne in a fur costume.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Apple Diaries

 The smell of freshly peeled apples defines early autumn. As a result, when September arrives, I begin my search for a just-right apple cake. On Labor Day weekend, I finally had time to experiment. Unfortunately, I veered far away from Betty Crocker, into Dr. Frankenstein territory.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hilltop Trellis Garden

This post really should be titled, In Praise of Raised Beds or Gardening for People Who Don't Have Muscles. Otherwise, you'd be reading about one of my failed apple cakes. Luckily, our home came with an established yard, which included three raised beds in a trellis garden. I never realized how much they would change the way I garden.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Autumn Garden Goals

The mild, sweet days of September have awakened my gardening soul. I drove to the greenhouse and picked out a few mums and replaced my ragged gloves. I'm not quite ready to buy pansies, but soon. They look so girly and cute with their fat faces and vibrant colors. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Foodie Friday and Everything Else

Foodie Friday and Everything Else
September 7th through September 8th

With all of the dire storms in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, I hope this week finds you safe and dry. Sending positive thoughts to everyone who is in the path of Hurricane Irma (and also Jose and Katia--a triple threat). Harvey blew through our area, and lightning knocked out our Internet for many days. I did a little baking and organizing--and playing with Jasper.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Foodie Friday and Everything Else

Welcome to Foodie Friday and Everything Else. 
Before we begin, let's send up prayers for Texas and all other areas that were in Harvey's deadly path. In past years, when we lived on the Gulf Coast, we experienced tropical storms and hurricanes, but the devastation in Texas is beyond reckoning. I'm hearing reports that Louisiana is in a dangerous situation, too.
Our prayers will keep coming.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Early Autumn Pasta Salad

September is almost here, but I'm not quite ready to cook hearty meals. Warm, muggy evenings call for something light and refreshing--and easy. What's more perfect than a colorful, flavor-packed pasta salad? 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Fall Tablescape Blog Hop

I'm delighted to join an amazing group  of bloggers for a fall tablescape blog hop, organized by the talented Chloe Crabtree of the popular blog, Celebrate and Decorate. You'll find links to the participating bloggers at the end of the post.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Foodie Friday and Everything Else

Welcome to Foodie Friday and Everything Else. The next time I see you, it'll be September. Judging from last week's party, many of you have one foot in August and one in Autumn, creating a fun-filled, creative party. I'm eager to see what you're linking up today.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

10 End-of-Summer Meal Ideas

August gives us a chance to savor the very best of summer. Seasonal produce is vibrant and abundant, calling out from gardens and roadside stands. Soon enough, we'll be knee deep in cinnamon and root vegetables, but until then, we can enjoy recipes that will take us into September.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Field Notes from the Total Solar Eclipse

The total solar eclipse ventured into my neck of the woods on August 21st, putting my hilltop in the path of totality--a 70-mile wide band stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. The last event of this kind passed over the United States in 1918, and it won't happen again on this hilltop for a long, long time. According to Space.com"The mean frequency for a total eclipse of the sun for any given point on the Earth's surface is once in 375 years." 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Late Summer Pasta

Mid-August is heat lightning and crickets, blazing sunsets, county fairs and tent revivals, iced tea in tall frosty glasses. The long, humid days cry out for a simple meal. No side dishes or dessert, just a huge bowl of angel hair pasta. Scented with basil and tossed lightly in Bandy's tomato sauce, this dish is packed with flavor: roasted heirloom tomatoes, pancetta, a dusting of Parmesan and garlic-shallot breadcrumbs. Can I have an Amen?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Mid-August Garden Walk

It's 78 degrees this morning, the ideal time to walk around the yard and take notes. First, we'll stop by the pond and feed the baby koi. This spot feels private and peaceful. Each side is bordered by Burning Bushes, with little glimpses of trees in the background.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Foodie Friday and Everything Else

When I wasn't looking, mid-August arrived, bringing torrential night-time rains, humid mornings, and blazing sunlight. And yet, I see signs that summer is winding down. Days are shorter, and the afternoon light is gilded. Flowers are starting to look a little weary.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Late Summer Nesting

“Be faithful to your own taste, because nothing you really like is ever out of style.
-- Billy Baldwin

But haven't you ever bought something you liked and later, you had second thoughts? Maybe, for various reasons, you weren't able to return the item. Heaven knows, this has happened to me. Yet for the most part, I have really liked things I've bought over the years, and just looking at them evokes happy memories. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Foodie Friday and Everything Else

On this hot August afternoon, Foodie Friday and Everything Else welcomes you to sit down and relax. Let's get you something cool and frosty to drink, along with (calorie free) nibbles. The last few weeks have been busy--lots of cooking, dog tending, and house fluffing. One adds girth, the others bring joy. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Taste of Summer on the Porch

Rain was on the way, so I took advantage of a breezy, sunny moment to eat on the porch. It's soothing and quiet out there, a place to regroup and reflect. A Medrol Dosepak left me feeling like a land whale, so I'm trying to prepare meals that offer at least a few health benefits (I remove seeds from my portions). And since summer will be over in a flash, I want to take advantage of seasonal food.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Rooms That Make You Go Hmmm

The other day, a fit of decorating wildness came over me, and before I knew it, I'd decided to shake up the sunroom. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Dog Days

"Our perfect companions never have less than four feet."
-- Colette 
Our Scottie puppy, Jasper, is 4 months old. Though we bought him a few summer outfits, Jasper thinks they're horrible--he's all boy. He loves Kong toys (the Yorkies wouldn't spit on them) and a giant stuffed turtle, which he thinks is a fat, fuzzy green puppy. He can fetch a ball like a pro baseball player. No, I'm not bragging one bit. 😄

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Foodie Friday and Everything Else

I'm delighted to see you this week at Foodie Friday and Everything Else. Come on inside and get out of the August heat. Speaking of August, can you believe that summer is winding down? How are you spending the month--weeding, canning, getting ready for autumn?

Garden Mysteries and Little Wonderous Things

"My idea of gardening is to discover something wild in my wood and weed around it with the utmost care until it has a chance to grow and spread."
-- Margaret Bourke-White, American photographer

In early May, I planted annuals in beds and pots, and some of them are lush, spilling to the ground. Others are struggling in the heat. To my surprise, last year's annuals have reseeded here and there--and in unusual places.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Around the House

Come November, we will have lived on the hilltop two years, and I still have so much to do, mainly because I decorate in the turtle style. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Lessons Learned from the 31-Day Joy Challenge

"I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it's being conscience of living."
-- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Without having a solid plan or expectations, I began the 31-day challenge on July first. I only knew that I had to write what was on my mind. I didn't want to preach or sell anything. I just hoped I could do my best and that my posts reached the right destinations. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 31

During the 31-Day Challenge, I found myself questioning the definition of joy. The word is used as a synonym for happiness and contentment, but are they interchangeable? And what about other words that are stirred in--hope, grace, mercy, and gratitude? Are they just words?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 30

During my 31-Day challenge, I wrote about the quest for joy and the roadblocks that prevent us from developing a resilient foundation. Sometimes I think I wrote more about the roadblocks, but it was a necessary part of the journey. My goal was to face my fears, to stop dousing my writing with vanilla flavoring, and to be as honest as possible. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 29

Through the ages, talented women have been squeezed into narrow pigeonholes. We were expected to be wives and mothers, and our avocations were supposed to enhance our primary role. When I was a girl, guidance counselors advised me to "not spread myself too thin." Meaning, I should choose a career that allowed a long summer vacation, one that coincided with my childrens' holiday. Most importantly, I should choose  a profession that I could set on a shelf, to retrieve at a later time. "Be a teacher or a nurse," my mother said, "so you'll have something to fall back on if your husband dies."

Friday, July 28, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 28

I remember a Thanksgiving in the blue mountains of the Cumberland Rim, the air spiced with roasting turkey, sauteed onions, browning rolls. Visitors came and went, catching up on stories. One of my mother's friend dropped off a homemade chocolate pie, then left in a flurry of hugs and good wishes. Later, when we tried to cut a slice, the rich filling oozed, pooling in the bottom of the pan. We just we dipped it out like pudding, and everybody said it was the best chocolate dessert ever, the perfect ending to our meal. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Foodie Friday and Everything Else

Foodie Friday and Everything Else Link Party
Party with us every Thursday and Friday at Rattlebridge Farm.

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 27

Each summer my mother sent me away to live with my Southern grandmother. Mimi loved Jesus, lemon pound cake, old fashioned roses, and afternoon tea. As she hummed "In the Garden," she brewed a pot of tea, then made vignettes for us with china and fresh flowers. She also created a world, a little pocket of calmness, a place for a young girl to gather strength. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 26

I remember a hot summer day in 1985, when my youngest son was a toddler. I filled a plastic wading pool in the backyard, and he entertained himself by dipping cupfuls of water out of the pool and pouring it into a concrete bird bath. His forehead puckered when he realized he wasn't making progress. No matter how hard he worked, the water spilled over the concrete rim and vanished.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 25

At times, blogging reminds me of a fast-moving river, its powerful current rushing downstream, washing away everything in its path. Rocks are eroded, creek beds are carved out, and debris is carried for many miles. Drop a penny into the water, and it disappears. Writing a blog post is like building a paper boat and setting it gently into a wave. The boat launches, scurrying into the tumultuous current. Will it stay afloat or get sucked to the bottom?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 24

A few years ago, I took a writing course to help me better understand my characters and their motivations. The class delved into a personality tool called Enneagrams. It consists of  9 basic archetypes, and each one has a designated number and a descriptive tag (it varies), along with behavioral traits. The Enneagram system has been dismissed as New Age hooey, but the FBI and CIA use it to create profiles. By the end of the class, I was able to deepen my fictional characters; but it also gave insight into myself and basic human nature.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 23

During my search for a slower, sweeter lifestyle, I kept track of daily speed bumps--a whole cluster came from social media. I just couldn't believe it. After all, I am a Facebook Failure and a Terrible Tweeter. I prefer Instagram, mainly because I adore my tribe, but my phone isn't set up for alerts or email. How could social media be a problem?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 22

"When one door closes, another opens." That's what my mother always said. "And don't forget about windows," my grandmother would add. Apparently this quote isn't in the Bible, and it is attributed to Alexander Graham Bell and, in slightly different form, to Helen Keller. But is it true? When a door slams shut, will a window fly open? If so, do you want to climb through it?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 21

Joy has its own music, a spiritual hymn with movement and melodies, the notes playing through our days. And it can be muted by the sheer busyness of living. Without realizing it, we can become tone deaf to positive feelings. Negative emotions are so loud, they muffle the lovely background music. All we hear is grinding heavy metal from high expectations, over-committing, too much social media, saying "yes" more often than we say "no."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 19

 During the long winter, I studied positive affirmations, and I slowly began to understand that I was like Dorothy Gale, stuck in Oz, unaware that I had the power to return home by clicking the heels of my ruby slippers. Instead of slippers, I had another tool: Daily affirmations.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 18

What if joy was a rare event, occurring only once a year? Not only would we look forward to that day, we would also worry that something might steal it. What if a catastrophe ruined our special day? What if we fell off a mountain or a mountain fell on us? We might string up imaginary barbed wire, hoping to snag trouble before it had a chance to creep up and steal our joy. The problem is, we could get tangled in our self-protection and sabotage that one, magical day.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 17

In the Medieval period, people believed that life's ups and downs were governed by the Wheel of Fortune. When the zenith was reached, the inexorable, downward journey began. From peasants to kings, no one was happy all the time.  Adversity was seen as a judgement from God, but folks also believed that it shaped and strengthened one's character. Then and now, few people endured non-stop trouble or joy.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 16

"And they lived happily ever after. . . ."
A storybook life only happens to fictional characters. In real life, the prince turned out to be a compulsive philanderer, gambler, drug abuser, or garden variety pest.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 15

Our lives are shot through with colorful threads. Some dangle out of reach, luring us with a metallic sheen; others lay behind us in hopeless tangles. We may reach for a thread that's so short, we lose our balance and fall. Or we may grab a thread that's long enough to lead us safely through a labyrinth. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 14

"Isn't this your old house?" a friend asked, pointing to an image on her iPad. I bent closer. The photograph resembled my old Four-Square: brick walkway, L-shaped porch, and Corinthian columns. In 1995, I had stood across the busy street, trying to determine the best placement for those columns. The house was over 100-years old, and I'd spent three years renovating (in the house's long history, which included overhauls from many owners, those three years were tiny). Back then, I'd painted the clapboards pale yellow, the shutters bottle green. I'd lived there a decade, until my husband wanted to raise chickens and move to the country. I remember leaning against those columns and crying. Well, time to dream another dream. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Foodie Friday and Everything Else

Foodie Friday and Everything Else Link Party
Party with us every Thursday and Friday at Rattlebridge Farm.

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 13

No one can sustain a joyful state. Bad days are just part of being human. Yesterday was packed with challenges, and my pulse zoomed, fast and irregular, like a squirrel racing across piano keys. I wasn't sure if I could get centered enough to work on Day 13. I reminded myself that negative emotions, events, and people can be countered if I made a conscious effort to find sweetness in the world around me. And sweetness, as we all know, is a gateway. I played with Jasper, then reached for my "Grace Notes." Inside this worn, spiral book, I document moments that bless my daily life.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 12

The journey to happiness begins in the mind. It starts as a kernel, and the kernel turns into a decision; the decision turns into a plan, and the plan turns into actionable steps.With steps, we begin to walk down a new road.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 11

At some point in your life, you may have put on your favorite striped outfit and asked a quintessential question: "Does this dress make me look fat?" The question beneath the question is, "Do I look ugly, self-indulgent, or weak? Am I giving off vibes of a woman who is splitting apart at the seams?"
The need for approval is human, but it's not helpful. It's baggage.