Monthly Archives: June 2014

Fresh Homemade Blueberry Pie

Picture 5

The ultimate fresh blueberry pie. I have been making this special fruit pie for my family for about 8 years now. It’s so easy to make. This recipe calls for 3 pints of fresh blueberries; half are cooked in a saucepan on the stovetop, for just a few minutes, and the rest of the whole berries Continue reading

Fresh Greens & Herbs For Easy Container Gardening


Do you garden? I grew up with grandparents who worked hard in their gardens and my mother has a small garden she tends to every growing season. Back then bowls of freshly picked vegetables sat on our kitchen counter for anyone to help themselves to.  My sisters and I snacked on raw vegetables just like we ate our apples — whole and with the peel on.

We have a good size backyard with plenty of room for a garden, but it faces south towards the hot sun and has proven difficult to keep the grass watered and green, as you can see from this photo. We also get four legged visitors, like hungry rabbits and other small critters, I don’t care to know about slithering running around doing their business back there.


All the hard work necessary for a thriving garden overwhelms me, so I’m going to try container gardening.  Just simple herbs and  a mix of lettuce leafs. I’ll visit my local farmer’s market for tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.


Right outside the backdoor I have planted mixed, red and lettuce leaf varieties. The peppermint plants will go in with them and the pretty lavender will go into a large antique bowl of Hens and Chicks on the front porch. I’m not sure how I will use the lavender just yet, but I do hope to catch their sweet scent when I’m nearby.


I tucked cilantro, basil, rosemary and dill herbs into a large flower pot. There’s a lot going on in that container but I do like how it looks and it saves space and watering time. I also have a small terra cotta pot of sweet basil near the kitchen window that is doing well. I pinch leaves from it almost daily for cooking, topping sandwiches and flavoring iced tea.  I especially like fresh basil with sliced strawberries.




I’ve already made my first salad with clippings from the lower leaves of the plants, and tossed in a few of the herbs, diced tomatoes, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, and green onions. It was so fresh and delicious!


I’m looking forward to more mature greens and lots of summer salads this season. It’s not too late to start your own easy container garden. Check with your local farmer’s market, grocery store or greenhouse for starter plants.

How about you, do you container garden and what do you grow in yours? How do  you use fresh lavender? I would love to hear from you.


10 Lovely Reading Nooks

Oh, how I relish a cozy reading spot, don’t you? A few weeks ago I shared my appreciation for outdoor spaces in 10 Lovely Porches and I feel the same way about quaint reading nooks — every home needs at least one.

Almost any quiet place can be turned into the perfect nook. Requirements are a cozy seat, cushy pillow, soft blanket, good lighting, and a side table big enough to stack a few books and a hot or cold beverage.



How would you like to walk up your staircase to this inviting landing? We have a small area at the top of our steps that gets very little attention right now. This photo inspires me to turn it into something special and really enjoy it.



Morning coffee anyone? I think it would be hard to wake up on the wrong side of the bed with this mix of cheerful colors waiting in the next room.



Farmhouse flair — my favorite style to chill out in.  I love this combination with spindled antique table, black and white barn art and the unexpected pink honeycomb bench.  The updated wing chair and small pops of red add a fun, updated vibe.




My grandmother had a sumptuous lounger similar in size to this one when I was growing up. I couldn’t wait until evening when I would crawl into it with a blanket and a good book. Spending time there with Grandma felt really special and cozy.

In the photo below, the billowy chaise makes for an inviting corner in this master bedroom. The beveled mirrors are a sophisticated update to the older style mirrored closet doors we all remember. Isn’t it lovely?



What a window seat, eh? Nearly any family could easily relax, snack and play board games in this room. It is so fun and seems like a peaceful place to hang out.



This eye-catching, bright and airy place with rustic oval table beckons visitors. It may be beige but it’s far from boring.



Check out this pink chair in a surprising spot with mini library and lots of natural light streaming in. The white urn and books serves as a table to rest a cup of tea.

Isn’t it inspiring to see how other people carve out niches in their home? Do you have a favorite cozy reading spot in yours — a place to rest, read or take a nap?




Shrimp & Crunchy Calamari Fajitas With Tzatziki Sauce


I had a craving for shrimp fajitas and while gathering ingredients to make them I noticed a box of frozen breaded calamari rings in the freezer. Sauteed shrimp and crunchy calamari in a fajita? Sounded good to me! Plus mixing the two together was an inexpensive way to serve the family a lot of good food without breaking the bank.  Fresh shrimp can be pricey and we love to eat!



To keep calamari crunchy add the baked rings to the shrimp and vegetables last, then top with Tzatziki sauce (recipe below).


Shrimp & Crunchy Calamari Fajitas

8 – 7 inch soft tortillas
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or to taste)
1 small bunch of cilantro, slightly chopped
1 tsp Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning
1 lb large raw shrimp – drained, peeled, deveined, tails removed
1 – 8 oz. box of breaded calamari rings
Tzatziki sauce (optional)

1. Prepare Tzatziki (recipe below). Cover and refrigerate until serving.

2. Heat oven for calamari rings per box directions. (Tip: A slightly oiled black cast-iron skillet crisps breaded foods nicely in the oven.) In large skillet on medium high heat add olive oil and saute garlic and crushed red pepper, 1 minute. Add onions and red bell peppers, cook until slightly brown, about 3 minutes. Add about 1/4 cup water, cover and cook until tender.

3. Bake calamari rings in the oven as directed.

4. Add onion powder, salt, Greek seasoning, sun dried tomatoes and raw shrimp to the pan and saute until shrimp are cooked through, about 3 minutes. Pour into serving dish and top with fresh cilantro. Scoop baked calamari rings onto a separate serving plate.

5. Warm soft tortillas, two at a time, in microwave about 18 seconds. Add cooked shrimp and pepper mixture to the center of the warmed tortilla, top with 3 to 5 calamari rings and a large dollop of Tzatziki sauce. Makes 8 fajitas.

Greek Tzatziki Cucumber Sauce
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cucumber cut in half, center seeds scooped out
1/4 tsp Cavender’s All-Purpose Greek Seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)
salt and pepper

Stir yogurt, sour cream and lime juice in a bowl until mixed. Add cucumber seeds, Greek seasoning, garlic, cumin, parsley and mix. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature, or cover and chill.


Greek Tzatziki Cucumber Sauce



The best tasting, most versatile creamy Greek sauce for dipping raw vegetables, sliced pita, grilled kebabs, meats, fish, gyro sandwiches and more. It’s the same sauce used to top my most delicious Turkey Burger with Caramelized Onions ever! Burger recipe here. I love grilling soft pita then slathering this Tzatziki on them. So good and addictive!

Greek Tzatziki Cucumber Sauce

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cucumber cut in half, center seeds scooped out
1/4 tsp Cavender’s All-Purpose Greek Seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)
salt and pepper

Stir yogurt, sour cream and lime juice in a bowl until mixed. Add cucumber seeds, Greek seasoning, garlic, cumin, parsley and mix. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature, or cover and chill.  A favorite to dress most any dish!

Next week I will post the recipe for shrimp and calamari fajitas that can be topped with Tzatziki. Oh, my you don’t want to miss it. Stay tuned!


Fresh Pineapple Mango Chutney



My family and I recently celebrated a monumental adjustment to my life when I “retired” from the newspaper business after 25 years. Of course our favorite way to celebrate any big (and small) event, birthday, or holiday is to enjoy a nice meal out on the town at a favorite restaurant.  This particular evening the entrees we ordered came with a small side of fruit chutney. I enjoyed dinner, but it was the delicious petite, chopped salad that stuck in my head. I like the texture of a smaller chopped salad versus the big-leaf lettuce or large chunky fruit salad we often throw together.  This tropical fruit and vegetable chutney is simple, light and refreshing.

Fresh Pineapple Mango Chutney

Fresh mango, removed from pit, diced small
1/2 a cucumber, peeled, diced small
Cup of fresh pineapple, diced small
3 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 lemon or lime

Dice first 3 ingredients and toss. Add chopped basil and squeeze lime or lemon citrus juice over the top. It’s that simple. Serve next to your favorite main entree. Enjoy!



25 Reasons Your Library Rocks This Summer!


To our good fortune, most of us have a library not far from home and there are many reasons to take advantage of yours this summer. The public library is easy on the wallet, it opens doors to the whole family’s imagination, and there is plenty to discover for all ages — from toddler to grandparent. Besides complimentary use of almost everything under one roof, most library systems support what’s happening in the community such as area and state-wide tourist attractions, and often partner with local festivals and concerts to bring in a variety of affordable, and oftentimes free, entertainment.

This summer why not plan a field-trip with the kids and head out for an excursion to your local library. If you are staycationing at home this year then check with your librarian for activity booklets, reading club calendar, concert series schedule and other budget-friendly activities for the whole family to enjoy.  Here are 25 other reasons to ROCK your library this summer:


1. Membership is FREE and it has privileges!  The use of almost everything offered at your library will be free to rent or available at a low-cost.

2. You will find a huge selection of books, magazines and newspapers to sit and read in the library’s lounge or sign them out and take them home to read at your leisure over a few days or weeks.

3. Audiobooks can be borrowed and used to entertain during long car trips.  And they offer those with low-vision or blind another way to connect and learn.

4. DVDs & VHS tapes of family movies, classics, documentaries, and tv shows are available. You can watch programs with the kids that were popular when you were their ages, and oftentimes had great life-lessons in their themes.

5. You can get popular music on CDs and hard-to-find classics on tape cassettes.

6. Internet, computers and technical equipment is usually available free of charge.

7. Working from home this summer? While the kids are discovering their library, you can work away at a table nearby and also have use of the branch’s low-cost copiers and fax machine.


8. Libraries foster independence in kids. Finding, checking out, and accepting responsibility for membership are all small steps to independence.

9. Summer camps! Not only is the library a creative distraction from tv and video games, but many offer themed summer camps to keep the kids busy exploring outside and interacting with others. The summer day camp offered at our local library is called “Civil War Experience” — the kids can have fun while learning a bit of history, too!

10. Most have children’s areas with puzzles, toys, games and outdoor parks to keep them engaged and socializing.


11. Check out Moms and Parenting groups to connect with others, swap tips and share advice.

12. Travel clubs can be found at your library. Do you dream about taking the whole family on a trip to Disney but need to do it on a squeaky tight budget?  Ask if there are groups that meet to discuss budget and family travel planning.

13. Most libraries offer computer education games for all ages. Keep the kid’s on their toes over the summer but in a fun way and they won’t even notice they’re building skills.

14. How can the library benefit your family pet?  Your family can learn how to best care for and train your pet through a variety of books and videos for rent.

15. Join a Writer’s and Reader’s club for kids and adults. The club close to my home meets in a park near the river in a beautiful setting throughout the summer months.

16. Learn to quilt, knit, crochet, paint, finger paint, sculpt and draw. Check your library’s catalog and get signed up!

17. Acquire couponing skills to maximize money savings. Ask if your library offers guest-speakers on this topic and others that interest you.


18. Restyle your home this summer and borrow art from the library. Many branches offer art for rent or purchase. Ask if they will be hosting an Art in the Park or festival where you can support local artists or even enter your own art.

19. Stroll their indoor/outdoor gardens and arboretums. Attend lawn concerts and pack a brown bag lunch to enjoy eating while listening to live music. Check to see if your library will be hosting a “Green Gym”, or something similar,  to state parks and recreation areas where you can walk, run, bike, and swim for FREE. These passes are popular so be sure to sign-up right away.

20. Visit and support the library’s gift shop, cafe or snack area.

21. Go to “Author” signings . Famous people are often booked to come in and discuss their careers on the big and small-screens, where their lives are today, and recent books they have written. Some are authors of children’s books, too.

22. Take part in book fairs and fundraising raffles. Let the kids do all the choosing, registering and handling of the money for purchases.

23. Do you need a summer meeting spot for your scrapbook or craft group?  See if your library’s activity room (offered to non-profit groups) is available, or meet in their public lounge area, cafe or on the lawn while enjoying refreshments.

24. Ask about tickets to local concerts, entertainment, and to purchase discount parking passes to state-wide cultural events and tourist attractions.  You may be pleasantly surprised by all the connections and savings your library has waiting for you locally and state-wide.

25. And last but not least, your library is the perfect place to spend a hot, muggy summer’s day to get out of the heat. Invite a friend to join you and have a great time at the coolest place in town — your library!

And if that weren’t enough, here are a few more suggestions to consider:  Check your library’s website for special events and browse their online catalog for more information on regularly scheduled programs. Since most library branches are on community bus routes, consider taking the kids there on a field-trip to teach them how to use public transportation. Your library staff will be happy to guide you in getting the most out of your experiences, so be sure to ask questions.

With so many reasons to ROCK your local library this summer,  you may have a hard time deciding where to start. Remember your library any day, but especially this summer when there are so many fun things to do there this time of year.



Zesty Marinated Shrimp & Artichokes



This shrimp dish is a nice appetizer served before dinner and on special occasions. It takes just a few minutes to prepare and a day to chill. Enjoy!

Zesty Marinated Shrimp & Artichokes

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped green onion
3 tbsp olive oil
1 packet garlic-and-herb dressing mix .75 oz (Good Seasons brand or the like)
1 lb peeled and deveined large cooked shrimp 21/30 count
1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained  and cut in half
1 cup olives (black or Kalamata)
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes or crumbled feta
Small fresh basil leaves, chopped

Whisk together vinegar and next 4 ingredients in a bowl. Stir in shrimp and next 4 ingredients. Cover and chill 8 to 24 hours. Stir in desired amount of basil just before serving.

Hope to get a DIY project posted this week, too! xo



Roasted Garlic Couscous with Chick Peas


Cous Cous


A tasty, quick and easy side dish for those nights when you need to get dinner on the table fast!  Also great for lunch, or a light meal.

Roasted Garlic Couscous with Chick Peas

1 tbsp olive oil
1  green onion, chopped fine
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper seeds
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup Craisin brand cranberry raisins
1/2 cup Chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained
1 – box (5.8 oz) Near East brand Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil Cous Cous, 5 minute Quick Cook. (Usually found in the rice aisle in stores)
1/2  fresh cut lemon

In medium saucepan sauté first 5 ingredients together over medium heat for one minute. Add Craisins and chick peas, saute one more minute then remove from pan to a separate dish and set aside.

Fill the same pan with the amount of water as directed on couscous box, plus 1/2 cup more and bring to a boil. Add the dry couscous and sautéed chick pea mix, bring back to boil and stir.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit several minutes until liquid is absorbed. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over couscous and serve. 

It has been a busy 5 days around here. From graduation ceremonies and parties for my niece and nephew, to sports banquets and a final three-week push until school is out. Classes will run until  June 19th and then the kiddos will be out for a long-awaited summer vacation. Yay!  Hope you are well!




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