a view from the laundry pile…

…it's all about perspective.

The Soap Dish: Passive Aggressive Much?

I’m sure I could use my time more effectively while doing the dishes; plotting and planning the days activities, mentally going through the refrigerator and cupboards trying to decide what to make for dinner, balancing the checkbook in my head (ok, that one even made me laugh out loud…), or even singing to the dog (what? She likes it). But, instead, my mind wanders aimlessly until it hits upon a topic that I can’t let go of and there it stays until I’m done washing and move on to another project and another thought.

Today it was a conversation I had a while back with someone I’ve been acquainted with for a few years now. We were sitting in a bar talking about a particularly gory movie we’d both seen. I mentioned that it didn’t really phase me (because it is, after all, just a movie, right?). Not only were they were shocked and appalled that I didn’t have the same reaction that they did, regarding the violence, they actually said they “felt sorry” for me because of it. This really threw me off (enough to still think about it while doing the dishes months later…).

My initial thought was “who are you to be telling me how I should be reacting to something?” My second was “wow. Passive aggressive much?” Followed closely by “really? Isn’t this a type of bullying?” Of course, I had third, fourth, and probably, fifth thoughts the rest of the week, going over the conversation in my head trying to decide if there was any merit to what they were saying or if they were just trying to mold me into their own seemingly narrow idea of right and wrong.

I realize that I’m, possibly, less sensitive to these things because of the people I live with and socialize with (fire service, law-enforcement, military, etc.) but don’t you think there has to be a line drawn as to what you let affect you and what you don’t? If you don’t take in enough, you’re perceived as heartless. If you take in too much, you end up sniffing the flowers on the wallpaper. Where, exactly, is the balance?

Thankfully, I know my heart hasn’t turned to stone, yet, because I still cry at Hallmark Christmas movies, I enjoy making children laugh til they (nearly) pee, and I know there’s nothing better than the smell of a new puppy.

Samantha5

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Sometimes less is more and other lessons learned

I’m still on my iPhone photo kick and am having a lot of fun with it…and as a bonus, maybe, learning a bit more about photography, too.

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I’ve realized that I have difficulty letting go of certain ideas when it comes to photography, though, like needing to center people in the pictures and making sure the whole thing gets in the shot. But I’m getting better…

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I think the most difficult thing I’ve had to learn was “sometimes less is more.” My initial impulse was to center that horizon smack dab in the middle of the view finder. But I fought back, raised the camera, and am glad I did. I love this shot.

Photos by LB Driver ©2015

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A Trip to the Finnriver

One of our local cideries was having their yearly holiday open house this month. I’d never been there before and had heard a lot of nice things about it and thought “why not?” Fred was working so I grabbed a girlfriend and off we went!

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They had live music – two unusually paired gentlemen. One was a tuba player and the other a guitarist. Surprisingly, they sounded very good together and I was impressed with their musical abilities.

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While we listened to the music we had fresh from the oven (yes, they even have a super-sized oven in their outdoor gazebo that, I found out, is used for “pizza Sundays” in the summer – I must come back!) pretzels with spicy mustard and cranberry cider! Delish!

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While waiting to join the next group in the tasting room we wandered around to look at the farm. In the summer they offer pick-your-own berries and various produce, meats, and eggs throughout the year.

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A few bottles of wine and some cheese later (no, no, to take home), we were on our way after a lovely afternoon!

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Christmas in New England

You would think the thing I miss most about New England would be the fabulous fall colors. They are spectacular, mind you, but it’s actually the Christmas season that holds the most wonderful memories for me. Taking a moonlit sleigh ride with the Christmas lights twinkling and snow gently falling as you’re snuggled up and holding hands under the warm blanket (I know, I know. It sounds more like a Hallmark Christmas special than reality, but it does happen!).

One of the things I loved to do over the holidays was shop. Not the big chain stores or malls but the small, hometown Mom & Pops & village stores that are strewn about the area. One of my favorites was The Christmas Dove in Barrington, NH. I would go there twice a year. Once on the hottest day of the summer – walking into the air conditioning, surrounded by rooms and rooms of Christmas always made the worst day of the summer the very best – and again just before Christmas. After hours of wandering in awe like a child, I would carefully choose my one new ornament, usually a small glass vintage-looking one by Christopher Radko, to put on the tree.

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Then I would head across the street to Calef’s Country Store to pick up some delicious goodies for the holidays (like their to-die-for homemade fudge and cheeses!) and poke around for any other new treasures in the adjacent stores.

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“First Night” is a big deal there, too. More so than any other place I’ve lived in the US. It seems every little town has it’s own traditions to go along with welcoming in the New Year. Portsmouth, NH was the best, I think. Good Food, hot drinks, live music, various shows, and even warming stations were available!

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(Photo by Dan Gargano)

I still dream of the white Christmases there and hope to go back again one day. Maybe next year…

Happy holidays to you and yours no matter how you celebrate!

Here are the links if you want to take a closer look at these fabulous places!

The Christmas Dove
http://www.christmasdove.com

Calef’s
http://www.calefs.com/shop/m/viewCategories.asp

First Night :
http://www.proportsmouth.org/EntertainmentandActivities.cfm

IMG_2351-0.JPG (Photo by LB Driver)

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Vegetarian Broccoli Cheese Soup

Between Pinterest, the online magazines, and my friends, I don’t think there will ever be enough time to try all the recipes I want to. But, now that’s it’s getting cooler here in the PacNW and, being the weather wimp I am, I will be spending more time, inside, experimenting with those that do sound most interesting.

And, while Fred isn’t always thrilled with coming home to “guess what we’re eating?” and “it’s supposed to be that color…” he really is my biggest fan and I’ve not disappointed him yet…well…not often, anyway.

Vegetarian Broccoli Cheese Soup

Ingredients

1/4 cup Butter
1/4 cup Flour
2 cups Half & Half
1 14.5 oz. can Vegetable Broth
1/2 medium Onion, chopped
1/4 cup Carrots, chopped
2 cups Broccoli Florets, rough chopped
1/2 tsp. Garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste
pinch of Cinnamon
1/2 to 1 cup fresh grated Cheese (you can use whatever you’d like or a blend of more than one, such as sharp Cheddar and smoked Gouda, for example. I chose Tillamook Cheddar because it’s vegetarian).

Directions

1). In a large sauce pan, over medium to medium-low heat, melt the butter.
2). Whisk in the flour to incorporate and cook until it’s light brown.
3). Slowly but steadily add the Half & Half, whisking continuously. This will begin to thicken the longer it cooks.
4). Once the mixture (“roux”) has thickened, whisk in the vegetable broth.
5). Let this cook 5-10 minutes, stirring often.
6). Add in the chopped vegetables, salt, pepper, garlic, and cinnamon (you don’t want this to boil but you do want it to be hot enough to cook the veggies so adjust your heat, if necessary) and cook 20-25 minutes, or until the veggies are cooked/very soft.
7). Let this cool 15-20 minutes.
8). In a blender or food processor, puree the soup, in small batches, and return to the pan.
9). Turn the heat to medium-low and stir in the cheese.
10). Once the cheese has melted (you can no longer see “strings” when you stir and lift the spoon), it’s ready to serve.

This would be great in a bread bowl but, tonight, I’m serving it with buttermilk biscuits and adding some diced, cooked chicken to Fred’s bowl and bacon bits to mine (imitation, of course!).

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Vegetarian “Philly Cheesesteak” Sandwich

I know. That’s a confusing title.

When Fred and I were first married I happily “shared” all my favorite vegan and vegetarian recipes with him…until he very gingerly told me he really didn’t like most of them. I spent the next several years cooking 6 meals a day, 3 for him and 3 for me (we’ve already long established that neither of us is going to change our eating preferences and that I’m the only one who “knows how” to cook vegetarian foods. This is according to Fred, of course,*ahem* so I’m the designated chef in the family).

It took me a while but I finally wrapped my head around the idea of taking everyday “normal,” as Fred would say, recipes and make vegetarian versions of them – something that we would both eat and enjoy. With everything available at the market these days, it’s been a lot easier than I thought!

Here is the recipe for my latest experiment. I think it turned out pretty darn yummy, if I do say so, myself!

Vegetarian “Philly Cheesesteak” Sandwich
(Makes 2 large sandwiches)

Ingredients

2 Tbs. Olive Oil
1/2 package Morningstar Farms Crumbles
1 small Onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbs. Flour
1/4 cup Vegetable Broth
1 cup Sweet Peppers, diced (use any color)
2 slices Vegetarian American Cheese (more for topping — and you could also use the equivalent of Provolone or Cheese Whiz)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dash of Thyme

Directions

1. In a medium pan, over medium-high heat, sautéed the onions in the olive oil until translucent.
2. Add the flour to the onions and cook just until the flour starts to brown.
3. Add the broth and stir until it forms a gravy (you may need a little more liquid if it’s too thick or pasty. Only add a little at a time).
4. Add the peppers, Morningstar Farms crumbles, salt, pepper, & Thyme, stirring well.
5. Tear the American cheese slices into pieces, add, and stir until it’s melted.
6. Serve on any type bread you want. I had French slices on hand though I think this would be delicious on buns or sour dough rolls.
7. Top with additional cheese, if desired.

I also read sautéed mushrooms are typical for this sandwich but didn’t have any on hand. Next time, I will…

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Creamy Sausage & Tortellini Stew

Ok, so this was supposed to be a soup. But, like almost all of the other soups I’ve made in the past, it came out more like a stew. Hey, if the flavor is right and Fred eats it, I can adapt. Besides, I’ll take a big spoonful of hearty flavors over chasing little noodles around a sea of broth any day.

Creamy Sausage & Tortellini Stew

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Ingredients

1/2 lb. Gimme Lean Vegetarian Sausage*
1-14.5 oz can Vegetarian Broth*
1-14.5 oz can Petite Diced Tomatoes
1-9 oz package Fresh Cheese Tortellini
4 oz Cream Cheese
2 cups Baby Spinach

*Or substitute with equal amounts of other vegetarian or non-vegetarian alternatives.

Directions

1. In a medium-large saucepan, brown the sausage (you may need to either spray the pan or use oil).
2. Add the broth and tomatoes (liquid, too).
3. Bring this to a low boil.
4. Add in the cream cheese and stir until it’s melted (cutting it into chunks before adding helps it melt faster).
5. Add in the tortellini and cook, stirring frequently but gently until it’s done (5-8 minutes).
6. Turn off the heat and stir in the baby spinach.

Serve hot & add a sprinkle of fresh grated Parmesan, if you want (believe me, you’ll want…really).

Enjoy!

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Repost: More Ways To Reuse Glass Bottles

I love to reuse, repurpose, and upcycle whenever I can find or come up with ways to do it and, when I came across this post today, I thought it had some rather clever ideas to try. Here are a few of my favorites!

Vacation Memory Jars

Vacation Memory Jars

Baby Food Jar Hanging Vases

Baby Food Jar Hanging Vases

Sewing Kits

Sewing Kits

Stacked Storage

Stacked Storage

Here is the link to the full post with credits and sources for making your own!

http://www.bystephanielynn.com/2011/05/50-ways-to-re-purpose-and-reuse-glass-jars-saturday-inspiration-ideas.html

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The Garage Door Project

Between the move and figuring out what to do with the 5 acres of property (and I am certainly not complaining. It’s a glorious space!), it’s been a very busy summer for us.
We’ve been working on a lot of various projects, most of which would probably bore people to tears, but a few have been pretty fun.
As you may know, we like to reuse
and recycle whenever possible. So, when I came across this at a local junk shop, the lightbulb went on in my head and I knew, exactly, what I wanted it for.
We are putting up a potting shed next to the berry patch. My original idea was to put up a half wall with old hanging windows above it. After spending a lot of time looking, and realizing that old windows are getting really hard to find, I found this garage door piece and, I believe, it works even better! (And that’s not just something I’m saying because I couldn’t find windows…).
This is a mixed media piece that’s visible from both sides. I painted the tree branch to look like stained glass (many tutorials on this out there) and added acrylic pieces for the flowers. Then I coated it with a clear polyurethane since it was going to be outside.
To hang it, we left the original metal connector pieces (at the top) and added three more to the other side (otherwise it won’t hang straight).
And that’s it! A custom piece of artwork for our new (still in progress) potting shed!

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Before & after.

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“Strawberry Rocks”

I’ve found, now that I have no television, no Wi-Fi, and limited internet access, two things happen 1). I get frustrated, a lot, over not being able to connect to the rest of the world and 2). I find new things to do besides tv and the internet, like go outside…

Fred and I have been reading books (the real ones, like with paper and binding and stuff! Ha! I joke – we’re both avid readers) and taking advantage of the internet access that we do have to learn more about gardening, like propagation, maintenance, and pest control.

Yes, pest control. Besides the deer, we’re finding the birds are going to be a challenge to keep out of the food we have growing.

Enter “strawberry rocks.” The theory behind this is that you place the painted rocks by your strawberry plants (once they’re grown and just before the berries start to turn), all around the outside, like the rocks are growing there, and the birds will come and pick at them. Apparently the birds are either suppose to think the berries are “bad” or they think all the berries there are rocks and will leave them alone.

I already had paint and we’re certainly not at a loss for rocks, here at the property, so why not try it? I have no idea how smart birds really are but this is one way to find out, right?

Steps to painting “strawberry rocks” (this is pretty straight forward, and I’m still learning, myself, but will share the tips I’ve come up with so far):

1). What you’ll need; berry-shaped rocks (washed and dried), acrylic paint (red, white, brown, green), sealer (your choice of spray or brush-on. Just make sure it’s for outdoor use), 2 small paint brushes (one a liner or similar), & toothpicks.

2). Paint the rocks with a single coat of white. This will do two things; first it will make the red brighter and, secondly, you will need to do fewer coats of red (the first rocks I did, without first doing white, took 7 coats of red paint…oy).

3). Once the one layer of white has dried, paint them a nice cheery red (2-3 coats should do it, letting each one dry in between).

4). Paint on the green leaves (the “cap”). Don’t go too far down with them – maybe 1/5th of the way – and don’t make them so small you can’t see them from the side, either. Highlight them with other shades of green if you have it (or mix some white with green to get another shade).

5). Paint the “seeds.” (This can be a little tricky. Too many and it looks like a mutant watermelon. Too few and it doesn’t look like a berry). First, with the brown paint, paint little “pockets” for the seeds (basically, tiny vertical hash marks). When those are done and dried, using the end of the toothpick, make little white seeds for the pockets, one per pocket.

6). When the paint is dry, give them a few coats of sealer (allowing each coat to dry).

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Now to wait for our strawberry plants to get bigger…

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