Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Inspiration: Landscaping

If you've been following my blog for some time, you may recall the work we've done to our yard, including replacing a chain link fence with a 6-foot wooden privacy fence, removing a large tree and taking out a stand of overgrown privet. 

Now we have a blank slate to work with, which means I'm always thinking of ideas for landscaping our small backyard, both with both plantings and hardscape. Here are some photos of nicely designed small yards that provide inspiration for those of us with limited space.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Thyme Lemonade

As promised, here is an excellent recipe for lemonade that I made recently. The sugar water is infused with fresh thyme, which I am growing in the garden this year. To make it into a grown-up cocktail, add some gin (but my preference is without). Homemade lemonade is the quintessential summer drink! It's a little bit of effort, but totally worth it.

Thyme Lemonade

1) Squeeze about 10 large lemons to get 2 cups of lemon juice. Make sure to remove all pits. I like some pulp in my lemonade, but you can strain the juice to remove pulp and pits, if you wish.
2) In a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup of water, 1 bunch of fresh thyme and 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let sit for about 10 minutes. 
3) When cool, transfer sugar water to a large pitcher. Add the lemon juice and 6 cups of cold water. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least an hour and up to a week.

If making into a pitcher of cocktails, add 1 cup of gin in step 3 when adding the lemon juice and water. Or, you can add 1 ounce to an ounce and a half of gin per serving, keeping the rest of the lemonade alcohol-free. Serve over ice, garnished with thyme sprigs (which I forgot to do when photographing my drink).

The thyme infused simple syrup would be delicious in other cocktail recipes too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Lemony Tuna-White Bean Salad

Summer and lemon go hand in hand. In the hot summer months, lemon desserts, lemony salad dressings, and a cold glass of lemonade are so refreshing (I have a great thyme-lemonade recipe I'll be sharing with you soon!).

This lemony tuna-bean salad comes from the cookbook Weeknights with Giada, which I borrowed from my local library. I made a couple of small revisions to the recipe, which is absolutely delicious! No stove top or oven cooking is required, and the dressing has a surprise ingredient.

Lemony Tuna-White Bean Salad

1) In a large bowl, combine 1 (15 ounce) can white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed; 1/4 of a red onion, cut in half and very thinly sliced; and 2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed.

2) In a small bowl, whisk together the finely grated zest of one large lemon, the juice of one large lemon and 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. Slowly whisk in 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil until smooth. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground pepper to taste; whisk well.

3) Pour the dressing over the bean mixture and toss until coated. Drain one or two 5 oz. cans of chunk white tuna in olive oil. Using a fork, separate tuna into 1/2-inch chunks and add to bean mixture; toss gently. Serve tuna-bean mixture over arugula or, as I did, a mixture of arugula and baby spinach. Pour a little of the dressing over each serving, and top with freshly ground pepper.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Inspiraton: Fire Pits

There are two things I am drawn to: fire and water. In this post, I featured some beautiful, inspirational pools. Today I'd like to share several inspirational fire pits. Besides the fire pits themselves, I like the furniture surrounding them and the locales and/or homes. Some are traditional in style, some contemporary, some rustic. But each is a place I'd like to spend an evening with good friends and a glass of wine. Do you have a favorite?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter

Have you noticed how many nut butters there are now in the grocery store? I was checking out that section when I noticed all the new brands and varieties of nut butters. Call me odd, but I've never joined the Nutella bandwagon (I try to avoid certain ingredients, such as palm oil and artificial flavor, when I can). But there are several other brands that incorporate chocolate into their nut butters. One example is  Wild Friends. I decided to try their Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter. 

Made of only five ingredients -- peanuts, coconut, organic agave, unsweetened dark chocolate and sea salt -- Wild Friends has a wonderful balance of flavors. It's not too heavy on the chocolate, not too heavy on the coconut, not too heavy on the peanut butter. You can read about the two young women who founded the company here

Their website also has a link to some delicious sounding recipes. I made the Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter Smoothie for breakfast and it was yummy!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Inspiration: Pretty Porches

I'm so glad we have a front porch. We enjoy spending time there, especially when the weather is cooler. The front porch is an extension of our living space, a place to read, eat supper or just sit and enjoy a glass of wine on a balmy summer evening. Porch time is a great way to meet your neighbors, too.

Here's some pretty porch inspiration for your viewing pleasure. Some are decorated like an outdoor room (note to self: find a storm door like the one below) ...

Some have ceilings painted light blue, an old superstition thought to keep away restless spirits of the dead, which I wrote about here ...

These porches are lovely, aren't they? If you had to pick one, which would you choose? Okay, two -- one for your main house and one for your weekend getaway! Leave a comment and let me know your favorites.

Monday, July 6, 2015

New Faces in the Dahlia Garden

Here's what's happening in the dahlia garden these days. Pretty amazing. Our weather has gone from bone dry and scorching hot to rainy, humid and cooler. Some of the dahlias seem to like the change; others aren't as happy. I've been deadheading lots of rotten blooms and buds thanks to all the rain. Who's that hiding under the leaves?

Why, it's this beauty! Such a splendid color.

Our old peach dahlia is perking up, and her color is looking more lovely since the weather has changed. Thank goodness.

This gorgeous white-tipped scarlet red flower might just be my new favorite!

Then there's this drama queen, with her spiky, vibrant orange petals!

This dahlia garden my husband planted sure is making me happy. I thanked him again today and told him it's worth all the work of staking and watering. Dahlias are amazing, aren't they?

A note about the photography. These photos were shot with my husband's Nikon D40 camera, which I've been experimenting with lately. I'm liking the results.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Decorating with the American Flag

I hope everyone will enjoy a safe and happy Independence Day tomorrow! In honor of the 4th of July, here are some inspirational photos that showcase the Stars and Stripes.

Fingers crossed, it won't rain tomorrow so we'll be able to enjoy a magnificent fireworks display at the country club not far from our home. Every year, hundreds of folks set up chairs and blankets around the perimeter of the golf course to enjoy the show. Other weekend plans include making some new frozen popsicle treats, which I will share with you in an upcoming post. 

How will you be spending your 4th of July weekend?

Other Metro Home Builders The Bagby Companies, LLC

Note: When hanging the flag vertically, like in the two photos below,
be sure the field of stars is in the upper left corner.
Pontiac Doors Clarkston Window And Door
And here is our bungalow. We hang the flag at Memorial Day and leave it up through Labor Day. We always leave the porch light on overnight. I love the punch of color the flag brings to our house, not to mention the patriotic message it sends. Happy 4th of July!
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