High Hopes for a Fruitful Summer

Our plum tree has blossomed and if every flower turns into a plum — well, let’s just say I’ll be happier than Little Jack Horner!

Tiny little bees were buzzing around the tree all day yesterday, pollinating away. Keeping my fingers crossed that the unpredictable Michigan weather doesn’t blast us one last time with winter’s rage.

For now, enjoying the beauty of spring, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Gotta Love Michigan Weather!

Last week we had some gorgeous early spring teaser weather with temperatures in the low 70’s and mid-60’s. Even earlier this week it was still in the upper 50’s, close to 60. Still, I knew it wouldn’t last — thus my first garden projects of 2017 (check out my latest posts at Simply Grateful Gardener):

Lean-To Greenhouse

Free-Standing Greenhouse Frame

This morning as I was making breakfast I could hear the rain pelting against the windows and yet thought it was a bit too loud for just rain. Sure enough, it was snow mixed with ice. Nice! The pictures of it falling don’t show the snow very well, but the accumulating slush on my garden gloves, our fire pit cover, and my greenhouse lean-to are testament to the fact that Michigan weather is definitely fickle.

Blurred snow coming down with a vengeance.

Good thing I remembered to put my garden gloves away! At least maybe the snow will help wash some of the dirt off them.

Snow collecting on the greenhouse lean-to.

No worries — With my first two garden projects behind me, the early planting in the gardens is safe and warm. There was a good amount of humidity in both enclosures yesterday and the temps are supposed to rise into the 60’s again this weekend, so things are looking up. Just in time for another garden project, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

She’s Not A Bird Dog — She’s A Bird Monitor!

One of my favorite things about spring is filling the bird feeders. I know that it would probably make more sense to fill the bird feeders during winter when the birds are far less likely to have an abundance of food, but for selfish reasons I typically only feed them in the spring.

Spring is when I have time to sit and enjoy watching the birds at the feeder. There are feeders set up along the back of our house so that no matter where I’m sitting, whether it’s in the kitchen nook, the dining room, or at my desk in the great room, I have a view of a bird feeder. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the birds find the feeders even after months of them being empty. It takes less than an hour before the first sparrow visits.

Besides myself enjoying all the activity at the bird feeders, Bell enjoys it just as much. She will sit at the back door staring at the birds flying from feeder to feeder for hours. If it’s warm enough and I put her cushion out on the chair, she will sit there even longer.

One thing about Bell though, she is not a bird dog…she is a bird monitor. She lets me know when there are birds at the feeders, but has never tried to catch them. Just by the position of her ears, she tells me when there are or aren’t birds at the feeder.

If her ears are down, this means there aren’t any visitors. But when her ears go half way up, ahhh, then you know there’s activity.

Ears are getting perky – definitely activity at the bird feeder.

Bell has never chased any of the birds in our yard. In fact she’ll walk by the bird feeder and quite often the birds won’t even leave. She will walk within two feet of them, and they just keep on feeding.

When I fill the feeders, birds are not the only visitors we receive. Unfortunately there is an abundance of squirrels in our neighborhood and the minute those feeders are filled, the squirrels are determined to get their share. To their utter disappointment, however, Bell will have none of that. You see, as much as Bell is a bird monitor, she is even more so of a squirrel evictor.

When her ears perk up as high as her ears perk

and she stands on her hind legs to look out the door

This is when you know a squirrel is nearby. She runs to the sliding door and chases those squirrels out of our yard.

This goes on all day long. I have seen as many as three squirrels at one time in our little plum tree trying to get into the bird feeder, but the minute Bell bounds out the door, they scatter. Bell especially likes it when she traps a squirrel in the tree. She will pace around the tree, run up and down the patio, and try her hardest to climb up the tree trunk for however long it takes that squirrel to get up enough nerve to bolt out of the tree and over into the security of our neighbors fenced-in yard. One morning Hubby and I watched her happily keep a squirrel captive in the tree for 45 minutes before she finally walked far enough away from the tree for the squirrel to make its escape. She certainly slept good that afternoon.

This squirrel escaped to our neighbors roof and sat there growling at Bell for the longest…

Bell definitely has a job! She doesn’t bother the birds, but is sure to chase away those pesky squirrels. The fact that she’s a bird monitor rather than a bird dog is something I am truly – Simply Grateful for!

All clear – Just Bell and the birds!


Blogging Secretary Update

It has been one week since I started using the voice recognition software on my computer to make blog posts and it’s been an interesting week. I’ve learned a lot about using the software, the glitches involved, and even more about myself.

First I’ve learned I can really talk a lot about nothing! The first time I turned on the voice recognition software and started dictating a blog post, within 30 minutes I had four type-written pages of dictation. This transformed into the beginnings of four separate blog posts and I wasn’t even close to being done. I continued to talk as I made dinner and by the time dinner was served, I had the makings for nearly six more blog posts. So far this first round of dictation has resulted in three posts directly from the dictation and three additional posts dictated based on the posts I had done. And I still have dictation to review and edit. Yet, based on what I actually dictated, there should have been enough to fill 20 blog posts. Instead there was a ton of garbage. Boy I have a lot of hot air in me!

Next I’d have to say that dictating is hard. It’s not like you’re addressing an individual or anything like that. You’re basically talking to yourself. Because of that, there seems to be a lot of times when what I’m saying is choppy and not very clear. This can be resolved in the editing process but so often while I’m dictating it’s difficult to know what to say out loud. It’s amazing how much easier it is to think what I want to say than to actually say it out loud.

Further, I’ve learned that talking into the computer is one thing, but making what you have said readable is something totally different. When I put blog posts together in my mind everything seems so cut and dry and perfect. When I started dictating it felt like I had to force the words out and a lot of times I just stammered or stuttered. Even though I thought I had everything clear in my head as to what I wanted to say, I just couldn’t spit it out in a way that was pretty. Plus I’ve noticed I use a lot of words when I’m talking that I would never use when I’m writing. So talking and writing are very different animals.

I’ve also learned that when I do finally get the juices flowing and get on a dictation roll, I need to be sure to stay focused on the subject I want to dictate about. A lot of times I find I go off on a tangent and all of that just ends up getting deleted in the long run. Plus, occasionally the voice recognition software shuts off for no apparent reason. And this must be one of those “Murphy’s Laws,” but it only seems to shut off when I finally get back to talking about what I should be talking about not all the jibber-jabber that ends up deleted. There are definitely glitches to be worked out but it is still a workable endeavor.

Finally, I’ve learned that dictating a recipe isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I thought I could just list off the ingredients and then dictate the step by step, but the dictation software that I’m using doesn’t put in bullets or number formatting. Knowing this just means I read the list of ingredients needed in paragraph form and then copy and paste it into my recipe template. Still, in a perfect world the software would be able to do this. I know that there are softwares out that have this option, but they cost money. The one I’m using is free, so I really have no right to complain.

Overall I’d have to say this has been a very good experience and it is something I plan to continue to do. I have decided however I do not like doing it when Hubby is around. He can be rather infuriating with his interruptions and making fun of me talking to myself, but I know it’s just because he’s trying to get a little attention. Actually this is probably a good sign. It proves he’s not sick of me yet. Spending 24/7 together for the past year has been wonderful, although challenging at times. The fact that when I finally take a few minutes to do something solely for “me” and he feels a bit insecure and displays this through his actions, well, I think I can cut him a little slack.

So if you’d like to check out my posts that I made last week and today, head on over to Simply Grateful Cooking and check out my recent posts or simply click on the links that I provided below.

As much as I like the speech recognition software, I do have to say I really wish they would come out with something for “thought recognition.” Because although I use the voice recognition while I’m cooking which was one of the times I found myself thinking about making blog posts but was too busy to do them, I can’t use this during the only other spare time I have – while showering in the morning. I don’t think they have a headset and computer that’s waterproof, so for now it’s going to have to be while I’m cooking or if I can find a spare moment when hubby has left the house.

At any rate it’s just another challenge and hopefully this new trick of the trade will enable me to get back to blogging more and for this I am – Simply Grateful.


A Secretary for Blogging

One of the reasons that my blogging has been so sporadic and pretty much non-existent for at least the past six months is that I can’t find the time to sit down and type them up. I’ve taken pictures of tons of things that I’ve wanted to do blog post on, I’ve kept lists of what I wanted to do blog post on, and I have all of the recipes organized for blog posts that I want to do, still there have been so few blog posts that I dare say I can’t even call myself a blogger any longer.

At today’s date, I have more than 300 new recipes that I have pictures of and have tested that I want to do blog posts on that I have yet to do any work on other than organizing it. It is frustrating that I want to do all of these things and yet each week I continue to work on new recipes thus digging myself further and further into a hole. For months now I have complained, “I need a secretary!”

Well I don’t really think the “secretary” thing is going to happen, being a stay-at-home mom/wife and all. It’s hard to believe I’d ever be able to afford such a luxury. However, the thought prevails.

A few nights ago, as I sat stewing because I wasn’t blogging as I sat exhausted on the couch after another day in the homemaking trenches, I began to wonder where in my busy day could I possibly fit blogging. The only time I could come up with was while I’m in the kitchen cooking. Honestly, that’s when I’m thinking about doing blog posts anyhow. That’s when I write out blog posts in my head. So what if there were some way I could actually put my thoughts down somehow while I was cooking. If I could do this, then maybe I could actually get some blog posts done.

These thoughts brought to mind a software I used to use for journaling. Hubby bought me a software called Dragon. It was a voice recognition software. I used it for years and I enjoyed the freedom it gave me, but when my computer crashed and because I had not printed off my journaling or backed up my computer, and therefore lost months worth of journaling, I was completely devastated and stop journaling on the computer and using my Dragon.

That was several years and several computers ago. When I pulled out my Dragon software to see if I could install it on my new computers, I found my current operating systems didn’t work with it and to buy it again would cost around $75. Now that’s not a huge sum, but at the same time I can’t really justify buying voice recognition software just so I can blog. Hubby would definitely support it, but I would feel guilty.

Looking for another option I went online, did some research, and found a few options for free voice recognition software. One was already installed on my computer from Windows. I tried the program, but it was awful. It didn’t recognize the majority of what I said and it didn’t follow commands. It was very basic and not worth the effort.

The second option was through Google Chrome. Since I use Chrome on my computer all I had to do was open a Google Doc, hit the mic button and start talking. It worked far better than the Windows voice recognition software. As I explored Google Docs, I found there were add-ons that could be used to improve various aspects of the Google program. There I found another speech recognition program to add on to the Google Docs that was free. I installed it ,opened it up, and started talking.

Viola! It was like night and day. Everything I said, it typed. There was no punctuation, but for now I’m not concerned. I figure once I get everything down on paper all I have to do is go back and put in punctuation, paragraphs where I want them, and I’m done. I really hope this works. Although it’s only been one day since I began using Google Docs and the Google speech recognition, already I have four blog posts ready for editing. Even this little blurb was dictated into my headset and it took about 30 minutes to edit.

I’m not really sure how this is going to turn out but the more I use the software, the easier it should get. If this does turn out the way I’m really hoping it does, and I’m really really really hoping it does, this could mean I come back to blogging and it could mean getting back to journaling. It’s amazing how having Hubby home 24/7 takes up so much of my time. It seems like half of the day is spent just with him and I don’t even know what we’re doing but it takes time. I’m not complaining though. I have missed him for far too long, so I’m not going to look this gift horse in the mouth. But if I can utilize the time spent just standing around, cooking by myself and simply just talk my posts into the computer, this could be the beginning of something great.

The wonder of technology! I’ve often thought technology is a scourge on society, at least in some circumstances; now I’m not so sure, at least not in this particular instance, and for this I am – Simply Grateful.

 

Awesome One-Pot Side Dish

Surprise! Surprise! It’s only been 10 days since my last post — actually it was only 9 if you count the post I did yesterday on Simply Grateful Cooking.

Yesterday after months of Grace bugging me for a recipe that one of her bosses wanted for a noodle side dish I began making last summer, I decided to type it up. Of course, this being a new recipe and one I definitely wanted to share, I thought I’d actually do it right and make a post about the recipe as well. So while Hubby was tutoring online for a few hours, I cleared off my desk and wrote a post for Simply Grateful Cooking.

Once the post was done and the recipe printed off for Grace’s boss, I couldn’t help myself, I just had to head to the kitchen to make it. While I was working, Hubby came out to see what I was doing. I told him I was making dinner. As usual he asked me what I was making.

Now you have to realize that Hubby loves to yank my chain. Every time he asks me what I’m making for dinner, he already knows how he is going to react, and so do I. He will give me a disinterested nod of his head and shrug saying, “Yeah, that sounds great” only saying it in his most sarcastic, disapproving voice. It’s a game he seems to enjoy and for the most part it doesn’t bother me. There are some days though that he catches me in a bad mood and I bark at him for his seemingly harsh judgement, even when I know deep down he’s teasing me. Not my best moments, but hey — I’m only human!

Anyway, yesterday when I told him we were having fish, he gave me his usual “That sounds great” response. Then as an after thought as he was walking out of the kitchen he turned and asked, “What are we having with it?”

“Herbed Garlic Parmesan Pasta.” I told him

With a slight trill in his voice he said, “Really! Great!” Now I’m not positive, but I think I saw him skip out of the kitchen with glee. Maybe not, but his excitement was palpable.

I guess there are some things I make that even he can’t fake disinterest in or contain himself. It’s probably one of the families favorites and with good reason. Herbs, noodles, Parmesan cheese, and mushrooms…it doesn’t get much better than that.

If you’d like to try a great one-pot side dish that is sure to please, check out my post at Simply Grateful Cooking, Herbed Garlic Parmesan Pasta. It’s one side that I always make far more than we’ll eat in one sitting because the leftovers are as popular as when I serve it with dinner, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

6-Month Hiatus

It’s been a long while! Six months and a day since my last post here at Simply Grateful Housewife and even now writing is not going to again be part of my normal routine.

So much has happened in the past 6 months, but not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about blogging. I have piles of recipes and post ideas ready for the writing, but time just escapes me. When Hubby retired ten months ago I never dreamed that so many things that filled my days would suddenly become things of the past. It’s not that I don’t want to do them anymore, but for the moment I don’t NEED them as I used to.

Blogging used to be more of an escape for me. It filled in the long hours I spent alone — or at least without the company of my Hubby. Seeing him 16 hours a week for nearly two years and not much more than that for the twenty or so years prior to that, I was always looking for things to fill my time. Crafting, scrapbooking, writing, journaling, cooking, canning, blogging, and then gardening were just a few of the things I took up. Through the years I got burned out doing several of them, but the last batch of time-fillers I had chosen are still high on my list of things I want to do, it’s just that now isn’t their time.

Now my days are spent enjoying the company of a husband that I never truly got to know. It’s amazing how I could have been married to this person for 24 years  and am just now beginning to really know him.  Spending 24/7 with him for ten months is bound to give you a bit more insight into a person.

For better or worse! Hubby has brought this up many times and always concludes it with, “We’ve did the worse part for the past 23 years, so how about trying for the better part now!” Sounds like a plan.

We’ve taken day trips, seen parts of Michigan that we’ve never seen, done things we’ve never done, and spent days just sitting together doing absolutely nothing and yet we’re not bored. At first I thought I’d want to do all the things I thought I was missing out on. Now I’m just happy to spend a quiet morning with him sitting in front of the computer drinking coffee and me putzing around the house. Just having him home is enough to fulfill me.

This too shall pass!

Maybe.

I’m not going to expect this honeymoon phase to last forever and I can’t say honestly that there haven’t been days when he’s gotten on my nerves and I have to run up to the store to escape, but when I think back about all the time we lost and will never get back, I think I’ll take being with him rather than without him.

I’m always surprised to see how many visitors I receive each day on my blog and want to thank all of you for stopping by. I know as Hubby and I get more used to being together I’ll be able to return to blogging and do look forward to it. I miss the blogging but at the same time I don’t want to take time to do something so completely selfish — not now. Eventually the day will come when I’ll be able to split my time between “making up for lost time with Hubby” and doing the things that I enjoy doing by myself, but for now the only thing I want to fill my time is Hubby. That being said, who’s to say that day won’t come next week or even tomorrow?

At the moment Hubby is sitting in the office, in front of the computer, drinking coffee. I’m sitting on the couch, with Bell between my legs sleeping, and blogging. Not a bad way to spend the evening, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Fruits of my Labor

The harvesting has really been good these past two days (check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardener for more info Two Days Of Harvesting.) Not the biggest harvests, but things are definitely picking up around here.

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Par for me though, I’ve also discovered yet another ailment for the tomato plants — Blight. Early? Late? Does it really matter? More on all that in my post The Continuing Saga of How The Tomato Grows.

Oh well, at least I’ve got vegetables to can, freeze, roast, and cook with, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Michigan Tart Cherries – The Most Wonderful Time of Year

Tart cherry season here in Michigan has been open for about two weeks. Last weekend we made a family outing of picking cherries and raspberries. The picking was easy because the fruit was very plentiful. If the family hadn’t spent more time arguing than picking, we probably would have been done a lot sooner, but then it just wouldn’t have been a true “family” outing if that were the case.

DSCF5170

Why is it that we can’t have just one family outing where everyone gets along? If I go out with Grace alone or Zeb alone or Hubby alone, everything is great. We have a good time, we laugh, we relate, we make some great memories. Throw anyone else into the mix though and it’s a constant battle. There’s teasing and picking on, ganging up, and bullying. By the end, actually it doesn’t even take that long, at least someone isn’t talking, someone is grumpy, and I’m left wondering why I even suggested we go out as a family!

The silence was deafening!

The silence was deafening!

I thought as the kids got older they’d mellow and we’d fall into an easy, getting-along stage. At ages 20 and 22, we haven’t gotten there yet. Perhaps Hubby at 53 and me at 48 are the problem. Who knows?

Actually though, for all the fighting and bantering, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave anyone home. While they all got into their little tiffs and exchanges of words, I kept my distance and enjoyed the day with each of them individually. I didn’t dare try to converse with more than one of them at a time. Separately they were fine. It was just as a group things weren’t going to mesh. So when we got home Grace wasn’t speaking to Hubby, Hubby wasn’t speaking to Zeb, and everyone was still speaking to me. That works for me!

Oh well, what’s the saying “This too shall pass.” I sure hope so. Growing pains aren’t much fun on family outings or vacations.

With the 20 pounds of cherries we managed to pick I’ve been busy canning. Recipes for Danish Cherry Sauce and Cherry-Rhubarb Pie Filling can be found at Simply Grateful Canning. I’ve also updated the Fruit Page to include sections for all the recipes from Simply Grateful Housewife and Simply Grateful Canning for Sweet Cherry Canning Recipes and Tart Cherry Canning Recipes. Check them out if you need some ideas for canning either of these fruits.

Michigan cherries are some of the best and picking them every year has become a tradition for me. It’s unfortunate the family couldn’t set aside their differences and make the most of the time we had together, but I didn’t let them ruin it for me. Family dynamics aren’t always easy, but taking them in stride helps ease the pain a bit, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Gardening Stops and Starts

I can’t decide if I take one step forward and two steps back, two steps forward and one step back, or if I’m just running in place. For everything that goes right in the garden, there is at least one thing that goes wrong.

Yet, I love it. I absolutely love being in the garden, tending to the plants, figuring out how to fix problems, and especially picking all the veggies!

Yesterday I picked our first cucumber. It was perfect.

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Grace and I split it and ate it like we hadn’t eaten in weeks. There is nothing like the taste of freshly picked, home-grown vegetables.

Last year I harvested about 200 cucumbers from the A-frame which was far less than the 300+ I’d gotten the year before. I moved the A-frame to a new location this year in hopes of returning to the 300+ again, but at the moment it doesn’t appear I have too many female flowers on the vines.

I’ll keep checking and pollinate when the bees aren’t so we can get as many as possible. Last year, practically every cucumber went into jars of pickles. This year I’d like to have a few more to enjoy fresh.

Other than the cucumber, I haven’t harvested anything else recently. Rather I’ve been dealing with slugs in my fruit trees and splitting tomato plants. Check out these posts at Simply Grateful Gardener for more information: Tomato Plant Woes – Splitting Down the Middle and The Cherry Slug.

It’s raining cats and dogs outside right now, filling the rain barrels and watering the garden. Tomorrow I’ll harvest the rest of the first crop of peas, possibly the remaining first crop of beets, and maybe I’ll even find another cucumber. Oh, and yeah I do have some blight to deal with in the tomato garden…the bad with the good, and still I am — Simply Grateful.