Saturday, October 29, 2016

Jelly Angels

Vintage Kerr jelly jars feature an angel above a crown image.

There are squat jars with the angel on the inside.

And slender jars with the angel embossed on the outside bottom.

We cannot find a really good explanation of why this image was used, 
but we like it very much anyway.

Maybe we like it even more because it is inexplicable.

Don't we all need angels watching over us in our domestic endeavors?

It is the most likely reason for our high success rate of jelly and jam setting despite our disregard for following directions to a T.

If only light bulbs came with a guardian to protect us every time we stand on a wobbly chair to change them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Highway Beautification

We went to a donut sale at a local church and came home with brooms.

The men's group was selling them and although it was not the main focus of the day's fundraiser they did a fine job with their sales pitch (that they were made in U.S.A. and that NAFTA has been hard on the broom industry was mentioned more than once), closed the deal,  and then ran to their broom closet to get the items we had chosen. The silver tongued deacon doing the selling even managed to convince us it would be sensible to go for the buy three, get a whisk broom free deal. And since we couldn't even remember the last time we saw a whisk broom for sale we succumbed to nostalgia and the deal of the day.

We were really after some big old brooms for use in garage, sidewalk and drive way, but fell for the Kitchenette on first sight. Who would not love a broom that boasts a sweeping distance of 97 miles?

So when you see us keeping America's Highways clean by sweeping our way to St. Paul one day move over and give us a little non-startling honk if you love a litter-free landscape.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Nature of Gardening Throughout the Year

Improbably, NDL is responsible for production of the Garden Club Annual Directory. After the meat and potatoes content of the publication is updated it is time to add a bit of fluffy filler. One year it was garden tips, another quotes, and this year... notes on gardening with nature by NDL her ownself.

You may notice that by the end of the directory year NDL was getting a bit punchy with editing fatigue, but we hope you may find at least one small uncultured pearl of wisdom here:

September - Designate an area in your yard to let milkweed and other butterfly host and food plants grow. Mark it as a butterfly friendly area so the neighbors will know you are growing “weeds” with the intention of being environmentally friendly.

OctoberAs you clean up the garden for winter, create, some natural bird feeding stations by leaving seed heads intact and encouraging small recesses for water to pool. Your fine-feathered friends will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

November - If you are interested in free plants don’t mulch too heavily under known reseeding perennials. Then, next spring look for volunteer seedlings to relocate or nurture in place.

December - While your memory is fresh make note of which of your plants need dividing for garden bed expansion, sharing with friends, or donating to a plant sale. If possible, before they disappear for the winter try to remember what color that iris, lily, or phlox was and write it down with a map to the plant’s location.

January - When the snow falls take a look at who is making tracks in your yard. Knowing which creatures are living in your garden and where they hide may help you to gently encourage their relocation, or continued presence in your garden habitat. 
Consider starting a nature/garden journal. Record your observations from year to year to keep track of when trees bud, birds leave and return, and when your first ripe, red tomato appears.

February - Armchair gardening has kept many a restless gardener going until she can get back in the dirt again. Get out those catalogs, books, and notes from last year’s garden efforts and start to dream and plan for this year’s garden campaign. Now is the time to review horticultural hits and misses and how to repeat or avoid them.

March -  If you are planning a vegetable garden consider planting a row to share. Programs like Grow a Row for the Hungry encourage us with helpful tips to grow extra produce to share with area food pantries or communal dining sites. Even a free basket on your curb during garden bounty time can help families add to their good nutrition efforts. Or extend this idea to growing a  row of lovely flowers for floral designs to share with friends, family, nursing homes, your church, or to grace the serving table of one of the above mentioned communal dining sites such as Agnes’ Table or the reception area of the Open Door Clinic.  Spread health and happiness, and smiles!

April - Arbor Day is a good time to hug a tree, but don’t kill it with kindness. Mulch around a tree trunk should be more like a donut that leaves the base exposed than a mulch volcano.  2 to 4” of mulch depth is enough to suppress weeds and show you care, without smothering it with love.

May - To avoid frustration protect your plants from baby bunnies who are trying out all kinds of greenery to see what is tasty. You can use this advice from February to October as rabbits have a 28 day gestation period and can produce up to seven litters per year. They are really cute, and very hungry.

June - Use your camera to help you remember good ideas from gardens you visit. Capture that lovely combo in a container planting or a particularly striking perennial pairing. Don’t forget to snap shots of your own favorite garden stars for your records.
July - If inviting friends to tour your garden it is a kindness to them and yourself to leave a few weeds, some undone deadheading, or an unfurled garden hose lying out. A garden is a dynamic work in progress, not a completed masterpiece. Everyone enjoys seeing other gardeners’ spaces, and no one expects perfection.

August - Invasives are like wolves in sheep’s clothing. Most were transplanted because of their beauty in the garden and only later discovered to be a danger to our native habitat. Weeding out invasives from our gardens and project areas calls for a “tough love” approach.

Photos from a 2010 Garden Club field trip.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


One fine Northumbrian day we took a walk along the lovely  Haltwhistle Burn path to Haltwhistle.

We checked out the town, had lunch, and met an elderly gentleman who asked us about the current election in the states and what we thought about "That Noisy Fella". The man stated that he thought the candidate in question "could wreak havoc in an empty box". Spot on, fine sir!

Moving along we passed a window display that informed us that we were not at the Spatularium showroom, but that if we wanted to be we should keep walking a mile or two down the road and we would be there. This of course was way too intriguing to ignore.

We walked to the edge of town and finally arrived and found the "showroom" was actually a woodshop, and backroom office full of plastic totes stuffed with product.

No worries, the staff was friendly and accommodating showing us the wares and telling us all about the business. Then the spatula artist himself showed up and gave us the workshop tour including instruction on the basics of spatula creation.

Tim Foxall is a very enthusiastic and congenial guy. His spatulas reflect his spirit.

We couldn't choose, so we went for the quantity discount. 

It was a bit like going to the dog pound and trying to leave all the puppies but one, behind. Fortunately the spatulas take less care and travel well so we could be a bit more generous in giving them homes.

If you are ever in Haltwhistle, UK we recommend you stop in at the spatularium to see Tim and his crew and all their little spatula friends. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Foodie Babies

On our recent trip to England we were talking with the mother of a wee one who, when the bairn became a bit fussy midday said it was time for her Sunday Roast Lunch. We were quite surprised as the little girl, just 7 months old or so didn't seem to have enough teeth to manage a meal such as this classic family repast.

Then the mother clarified that her Sunday Roast Lunch was pureed in a jar.

Later that week when we were in Hexham checking out the local grocery store as we always do when we travel we spotted an amazing selection of mushy meals for babies with real names you would find on any pub menu in England.

Just in case you can't read these they are: Lancashire Hotpot, Fisherman's Bake, Scrumptious Sunday Lunch, Hearty Cottage Pie, and Spaghetti Bolognese. 

These sound right tasty and many measures more exotic than we remember baby food being when we last bought it two decades ago. 

You have to be 7-months-old to eat these. Imagine the burps that come out of these intrepid infant diners. Stand back!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Edible Hexham

To counteract the effects of daily white cane sugar on the population this clever town has grazing stations.

These are in the Abbey Courtyard.

The pretty bluebells are a bonus. A quick look-up shows they may have uses in folk medicine, but perhaps a bit more research is needed before you add them to your salad.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sweet Sentiments to Live By

Seen at the Poundstretcher store in Hexham, Northumberland, UK.

Not only is this great packaging, we think it is the national philosophy.

Why not? Good as anything.

And perhaps the accompanying sentiment that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down will be reaffirmed upon the release of "Mary Poppins Returns", starring Emily Blunt set to open Christmas Day 2018.

We hope Lin-Manuel Miranda, of "Hamilton" fame, as a London lamplighter opposite Blunt's Mary Poppins will have an accent more acceptable than that of Dick Van Dyke who has offended ears since 1964 with his awful cockney impression. But if there are still problems with the production not living up to standards just remember what Julie Andrews had to say....

In every job that must be done

There is an element of fun

You find the fun and snap!
The job's a game
And every task you undertake

Becomes a piece of cake

A lark! A spree! It's very clear to see that
A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down

The medicine go down-wown

The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way
A robin feathering his nest

Has very little time to rest

While gathering his bits of twine and twig
Though quite intent in his pursuit
He has a merry tune to toot
He knows a song will move the job along - for
A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down

The medicine go down-wown

The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way

Buy yourselves some Jujubes, Milk Duds, or Junior Mints at the concessions counter, spoon them into your gob, sit back and enjoy.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Jelly Jewels

Fortunately, right on the heels of learning there would be no wild rice to harvest this year we received a windfall in the form of free grapes to ease our disappointment and give us an up North project.

The free grapes were not just any grapes. 
They were beautiful, blemish-free, perfectly ripe Concord grapes that made wonderful juice and jelly.

The jars full of the sugary, violet concoction glisten in the sun like gems. So pretty.

And the flavor is not to be beat. Jelly on  toast is the best.

But the PBJ is a close second. Hadn't had one in years. Now we are eating them everyday.

And here, according to the Concord Grape Association is the story of how the famous partnership of PB and J was formed:

Three products came together in World War II to create the lunch classic, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  

Welch’s invented Grapelade in 1918.
The next major product improvement was bagged, pre-sliced bread, created in 1928.   

The last product came from the need to get U.S. soldiers more protein during World War II.  Inexpensive but nutritious, peanuts were ground into a smooth, buttery consistency, canned, and put into soldier’s rations.  

Somewhere, someone mixed his rations in a very new way, and so we have been eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for sixty years now.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Cordially Yours

If you come around this upcoming holiday season you might be offered a small glass of blackberry cordial made from our very own up North blackberries.

The recipe came from an octogenarian church lady with whom we have served many funeral dinners.

The recipe is simple: 4 cups berries, 4 cups sugar, 2 cups vodka. 

Stir once-a-week for several months. Strain. Enjoy.

Do you remember the sisters on the Waltons? They often offered their guests refreshment of "the recipe". We like to think we are helping to carry on a lovely tradition of making food and drink from local ingredients that stretches way back past our church lady friend.  In fact she may have gotten the recipe from her famous relative who might have picked blackberries from the same bramble patches that she does now.

Perhaps it was handed down from the wife of her great Grandfather who is remembered for having sold the eagle named Old Abe to a Civil War Regiment to be their mascot. It's a great story and you can read about it here.

See you in November for a cordial visit!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

What We DIYed on Our Summer Vacation

 We needed a new screen door at the lake. The door itself was super inexpensive. 
Until we paid the painter to stain and hang it. Doh!

And then we determined that the screen would not last the summer without a sturdy surface for pushing it open so we devised this DIY plan.

Which worked beautifully and was a fun collaboration.

However, between coming up with the plan and executing it we found we may need further reinforcing on a much lower level.

Do you see a little hole left of the bottom center? 

I guess we will have to make a wee flap so the mice can let themselves in and out without having to eat their way in each time.

And then next the mosquitoes will be wanting accommodations made for them too. 
Sheesh! Where will it end?

And while we are on the topic here is a favorite poem:

How Many, How Much

How many slams in an old screen door?
Depends how loud you shut it.
How many slices in a bread?
Depends how thin you cut it.
How much good inside a day?
Depends how good you live em.
How much love inside a friend?
Depends how much you give em.
 Shel Silverstein