Loving The Lilacs

One of the best things about May is that this is the month our lilac bushes bloom.  Not every year, mind you, because for some reason they tend to skip a year every couple of years, forcing me to wait for them to return the following year.  This year though, both our bushes bloomed.

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Bell loves sitting right by the lilac bush in the warm sun. I’m not sure if she too likes the smell of the lilacs or if it’s just the full sun on her back — either way, she’s enjoying something!

 

This afternoon I cut the first two bouquets from the bushes. The bushes are loaded with partially bloomed lilacs, but I managed to find two vasefuls of fully open lilacs. One for my neighbor Karen who absolutely loves lilacs, and the other for Grace.

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I’m glad I cut them today because frost is predicted for tonight which might brown all the remaining. Thankfully the house will protect the ones I cut, filling the great room with the sweet scent that only comes round once a year, if I’m lucky, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

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In Need Of Some Spring

The weather here in Michigan continues to be bitter, unrelenting, and completely disheartening. With the cold pounding at the windows and snow piled high against the house, I needed a bit of spring this afternoon.  For a few glorious moments, I basked in the beauty of spring’s past.

2013 096 2013 099 2013 110 2013 117I can’t wait for warmer weather, longer days, and budding flowers to fill the air with the sweet scent of spring.  For now, a moments reprieve from winter’s arctic blast will get me through the day, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Perfect Planter

There are some things that touch you a certain way and for some unknown reason bring happiness when you really need it.

A few days ago a very special friend brought me a new planter that she picked up for me. The moment I opened it, I knew immediately where it was going and what I wanted to plant in it. I could hardly wait to fill it with compost, buy some plants, and place it on the patio to enjoy.

Day 1: Assembly

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Day 2: Filling with compost

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Day 3: Plant

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Bell approves!

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Today was the perfect day to finish this project. I needed something that would bring a ray of sunshine to my day, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Tiny Bee Visitors

The past four days have been spent picking, cleaning, prepping, and canning strawberries, pineapple, rhubarb, lemons, limes, mangos and apricots.  It has been exhausting, but satisfying.

So far I have canned ten different concoctions and still have a fresh flat of strawberries and some rhubarb that Grace and I picked this morning, six pineapples, a case of apples, and a few kiwi left to work with.  Tomorrow the strawberries will be finished along with the rhubarb and pineapple, I hope.  Then I’ll finally have some time to sit down and share some of the recipes with you.

For now, I took a break from the hot kitchen this afternoon to check out my garden and other plants and found some tiny bees on the flowers of my own strawberry plants.  I might not get many strawberries this year, but the flowers are certainly giving these tiny bees a workout.

First there was one!

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 Then there were two! 

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Finally, there were three!

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I love canning and everything that it brings me, but even with the urgency I feel to get all the fruit we’ve picked canned it was nice to take a short break and witness one of nature’s finer moments, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Lilacs A-Blooming

The last few days have been picture-perfect here in Michigan — warm, sunny, and no rain, it doesn’t get much nicer.

With all the sun and warmth, the lilacs are pretty much in full bloom.  Just walking on the side of the house where they grow, you are consumed by their fresh, sweet scent.

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I don’t understand why lilacs last for such a short period of time.  Although they have been “blooming” for about a week, they just reached full bloom when their scent becomes inescapable and will probably begin to wither and die by the weekend.

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Knowing that they will last only for a few short days, I took the opportunity today to pick two bouquets.  The first went to a neighbor who recently got out of the hospital and the second went up in my daughter’s room.  It is a surprise for her when she gets home from work.

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Summer is right around the corner.  It is so close you can smell it, and not just in the blooming lilacs, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Farewell to Blossoms — Hello to Plums

Having only one tree on our double lot, I tend to obsess over our little plum tree.  When it got brown rot a few years ago and my husband began cutting, pruning, and clipping — I nearly had a heart attack.  So when we finally got the brown rot under control last year and had a bumper crop (over 200 pounds of fruit) I was elated.  Still, as the spring progresses towards summer, I am nervous as to whether or not this year will prove to be as “fruitful.”

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I have taken photos of the progress of our tree and posted them throughout the past month and looking back it is a sight to behold.  After the rain last week, however, nearly all the blossoms have gone, leaving behind tiny stems that will hopefully turn into tiny plums very shortly.  Until then, the leaves continue to grow and my hubby keeps spraying to keep the brown rot at bay.

The lilacs on the side of the house are just about ready to bloom.  They are not very fragrant for now, but I know as soon as those tiny flowers open up, I’ll be clipping those stems and filling the house with lavender blossoms.

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Today I cleaned out our main garden on the side of the house.  Tomorrow I am building an A-frame trellis and planting some pickling cucumbers.  Wish me luck!  The soil has so many worms in it, I can’t dig a hole without two clinging to my shovel.  I’ve heard that this is the sign of healthy soil.  I hope so.  I’m not the best gardener, but enjoy the challenge and getting outside.  Even if the pickles don’t grow well or give me enough bounty to can, there are always the local farmers down the road and trying to grow them gave me a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the weather, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

It’s Snowing — Flower Showers!

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Slow down and enjoy life.  It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.  Eddie Cantor Yesterday, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. I woke to a 70° morning, clear skies, and the sun blazing over the horizon. Sitting on … Continue reading

Quick Fix Monte Cristo

Hard work is often the piling up of the easy things you neglected to do. – Unknown

The weather did not cooperate today, so the garden will have to wait at least another day. The plum tree though is well on its way to full bloom.

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Instead of dodging raindrops outside, I decided to concentrate on finishing up a ton of little projects that have been accumulating since Christmas. Spring is the ideal time for deep “spring cleaning” so today was the day.

The first chore on my never ending to do list I wanted to get done was a trip to St. Vincent De Paul to drop off a carload of donations. It amazes me how much crap one can accumulate in a short period of time. I made a trip like this just before Christmas, and now I’ve got twice as much stuff to get rid off. Clothes, books, purses, shoes, bags, appliances, dishes, Christmas decorations, and even some exercise equipment — and that was just the first load. Next week I’ll fill the car again and maybe free up some extra space for my pantry.

Next on my list was a clothes basket full of ironing. I swear I let it pile up until there isn’t a clean shirt for my hubby to wear. Does anyone iron anymore?  None of my neighbors do.  How do they manage that?  Even hanging clothes outside on the line I need to run an iron across nearly every shirt and pant that I bring in.  At least it’s not as bad as when my grandmother used to iron — she ironed underwear and sheets.  I don’t take it that far.  It took most of the afternoon, but now it’s done until I clean the winter clothes out of the closets for the summer — yes that was on the to do list too, but I needed to enjoy the moment, albeit temporary, of an empty ironing basket.

All afternoon I checked little things off my list and really thought I was making headway, until I looked at the clock and realized I had only 30 minutes before dinner was supposed to rear it’s ugly head.

What to make? Although I don’t like to make a habit of serving sandwiches for dinner, the Monte Cristo sandwich is definitely filling enough to squeak by as a meal.

The traditional Monte Cristo is ham, turkey, and cheese dipped in egg, of course, as usual I did not have all the ingredients. Not being one tied to a recipe, I took all the lunch meat and cheese out of the fridge and viola! dinner.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches on the griddle.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches on the griddle.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

  • Bread or Rolls
  • Lunch meat – I used ham, salami, bologna, and pastrami
  • Cheese – traditionally it calls for cheddar and swiss. I used spicy Fiesta Jack and Provolone
  • 3 Eggs
  • Milk
  1. Assemble sandwiches making sure to place the lunch meat in between two slices of cheese.
  2. Dip completed sandwich in egg mixed with milk.
  3. Cook on griddle until cheese melts and bread browns.
  4. Serve with maple syrup.

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I was the only one who ate the sandwich with syrup. Hubby likes his plain, Zeb eats his with ranch dressing, and Grace uses thousand island dressing. Served with a side of homemade French fries and a salad it was dinner.

Some days it’s nice not to spend hours in the kitchen making dinner and yet serving something that is hearty and fulfilling, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Summer Beginnings

Today was the first “summer-like” day of 2014 here in Michigan.  The bugs were buzzing, the birds were singing,  the flowers blooming, and the sun was shining.  A perfect day to be outside enjoying the gifts of nature.

A ladybug checking out my laundry hanging on the line.

A ladybug checking out my laundry hanging on the line.

Hanging laundry on the line, spreading fresh mulch in the flower beds, cleaning out the gardens — and way too much sun.  I always forget the sunscreen on the first summery day of the year — one of these days I’ll remember, just not today

Mr. Robin watching as I worked.

Mr. Robin watching as I worked.

It was amazing how many birds were hanging around and chirping.  It was borderline “loud.”  The game of chase that the wood sparrows played, the red-tailed hawks soaring high above my head, and the blue jays squawking in the trees, and the chimney swifts darting about kept me company all day long.

The first open blossom on the plum tree.  Looks like I'm canning plums this summer!

The first open blossom on the plum tree. Looks like I’m canning plums this summer!

There are a ton of flowers itching to bloom.  I bet by tomorrow there will be lots more blooming.

There are a ton of flowers itching to bloom. I bet by tomorrow there will be lots more blooming.

The bloom I took a picture of opened up early afternoon and I had to stand on a ladder to get it.  It was the only one open on the whole tree.  By the end of the day the tree had at least 50 blooms wide open.

The bulbs around the plum tree continue to grow and although they are few, their scent fills the back patio with sweetness.

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The lawn needs cutting, but because of the terrible storms we had last night, it was too drenched to try.  My husband is not going to be happy because the dandelions are getting ready to seed.  I think it looks pretty, even if it does mean we’ll have yellow in our lawn all summer.  Some weeds are just too pretty to be without.

Maybe tomorrow this dandelion will have a puff for a neighbor -- then I can make a wish!

Maybe tomorrow this dandelion will have a puff for a neighbor — then I can make a wish!

The lilacs are still not blooming, but one particular bumblebee keeps visiting — waiting for those tiny flowers to open up for him to suck out the sweet nectar.  I tried really hard to get him to turn around for a picture, but he was not very cooperative.  I sort of felt like he was mooning me.

It was a great day to add fresh mulch to the flower beds and clean out a few small garden spots.  If the weather holds, tomorrow I’ll tackle the big garden so it will be ready for planting mid-month.  For now, I am happy that the plum tree has flowers so we’ll have plums for fresh plum pie, plum pie filling, and plums in syrup, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Dandelion Bouquet

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Every year with the first signs of spring, dandelion buds begin to dot our lawn.  My husband will spray, but to no avail.  Most of our neighbors lawns are pristine and dandelion free, but not ours.  Although not a sea of yellow, the yellow spots among the green aren’t hard to miss.  As much as this bothers my husband and our neighbors I’m sure, I like it.

Since my son was very little, he has taken great pride in picking me dandelion bouquets whenever he was out and about in the yard. At first the bouquets consisted of just the heads, because that was all his stubby little hands could grasp.  I would fill a bowl with water and let them float on top until they shriveled and died, keeping it on the kitchen counter for all to see.

When he did figure out how to grab the stem as well as the flower, many of them would come to me broken and mangled because it wasn’t that easy breaking those sticky, flimsy stems.  Still, I would fill a thin glass with water and let the bouquet use the sides to hold up the heads until they shriveled and sunk down into the glass.

Eventually, after many years, he was able to break the stems without any problem and present me with wonderful handfuls of dandelions.  Finally I was able to put them in a bud vase where on occasion they lasted for nearly 24 hours before closing into themselves and dying.

My son is now 20 and although he doesn’t go out in the yard to play anymore, yesterday he took Bell for a walk and when he got home he presented me with a single perfect little dandelion which I set on a canning jar next to my computer while I worked.

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Some things never get old, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.