Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Zucchini


Hmmm...I just took the zucchini bread out of the oven and I'm waiting for it to cool. So while I'm waiting, I thought now would be a good blogging time. Since I have zucchini on the brain, I might as well post a picture and write on this subject.

The zucchini plant is a summer squash that is prolific and versatile. It can be served as a casserole or a side dish, fried or baked, or can be made as a tasty bread or even as the dessert to your meal. There are so many recipes out there featuring the amazing zucchini. This is our first year of coming back to planting and cooking zucchini. We had poor soil when we first moved here and it was disappointing to discover that we would have to put our love of this fresh vegetable on hold. Now our plants are huge and the smell of zucchini bread in our kitchen makes your mouth water.

The picture above includes some cookbooks that I'm enjoying this summer. Yes, I can get any recipe off the internet, but its not the same. I'm a visual person so holding an actual book in my hands and turning the pages to find interesting recipes with beautiful pictures is priceless. And besides, these cookbooks were from a collection of 150 books that I won at an auction. The elderly woman was downsizing with her husband to be closer to family. Cookbooks and recipes have a value that is hard to define. They can leave a legacy.

(Hold on for a minute...) Thanks, I'm back! I had to cut a piece of warm zucchini bread to snack on. So worth it! Caution: crumbs on the keyboard may become a problem.

So where was I? Oh yes, I wanted to mention that you can also do some preserving when it comes to zucchini. How about zucchini relish or jam? All you need is the right recipe and fresh zucchini. I'll let you know if I try it.

Now excuse me, but the zucchini bread is calling out my name. Till next time!

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Basil Vinegar, Anyone?



We sure love pesto sauce! This year, I have 5 basil plants in my garden. What was I thinking? I'm already harvesting basil like crazy. I thought today would be a good day to experiment with making a basil vinegar.

I first went out to the garden about mid-morning. If you have herbs, you know it is best to pick them after the dew dries off and before the hot sun has a chance to evaporate the oils from the leaves. I filled a basket and I know that I was not keeping up with my basil. You should always top your plants before blossom growth so your plants fill out.

I rinsed the leaves carefully and let them fully dry so not to cloud the vinegar. I sterilized a quart jar, filled it loosely with basil (including stems) along with some chives from my garden, filled the jar to within 1/2 to 1 inch from the top, bruised the herbs with a wooden spoon to release the oils, and put plastic wrap over the jar opening before putting on the metal lid. Vinegar and metal will cause a reaction so remember to first place a barrier between the two. I used about 2 cups of red wine vinegar and filled the rest of the jar with what I had on hand. Just be sure your vinegar label reflects that it is 5% acidic for best results.

I put the jar in the basement as it is cool and dark there. I'll need to shake the jar a couple of times a week and my herbal vinegar should be ready in one month.

When it's ready, I'll put it through a colander and coffee filters to clean it and add fresh herbs to make it pretty. My newly flavored vinegar will be placed in a wine bottle to look more attractive.

Now who wants some pesto sauce?




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Friday, June 26, 2009

Using Vinegar


White distilled vinegar has many uses and is quite inexpensive compared to the many products we buy to solve everything from cleaning to first aid and more. I am working on making vinegar my new habit. Here are my first five tips on how to use vinegar...

1. Stop insect stings and bites from itching.

I am allergic to insect bites. I am so paranoid when even a mosquito gets near me because I know I will swell up and it's not pretty. I practically live outdoors so I really needed to find something that is inexpensive, natural, and actually works when it comes to my bad relationships with bugs. Just put some vinegar on a cotton ball and apply to the bite. I found relief this morning when I tried it.
2. Soothe sunburn. Put in a spray bottle and it can be refrigerated for a cooling effect.

Don't know if this works yet as I have not been sunburned recently. Being prepared before going out into the sun is the best solution. I will need to try this on the hubby though. He gets red a lot.
3. For cuts and scrapes.

Vinegar can be used as an antiseptic. Go figure!

4. Tone facial skin with a solution of equal parts vinegar and water.

This is just maintaining the PH balance so you can have great skin.
5. Eliminate bad breath and whiten teeth by brushing them once a week with vinegar.

Will try this soon. I also came across some information that said to use a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda to whiten teeth. Either way it is going to taste nasty, but worth the effort due to the high cost of whitening strips. I'll give more details on this after trying both methods.

And there you have it. I will continue posting such tips for our households and our health. If you have any that are tried and true for you, please share. Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend!

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Preserving


This was a very hot morning and a prefect time to leaf through the many brittle pages of some old, worn cookbooks. Such fun to read and they do have a wealth of information along with some humor sprinkled in here and there.

I need to relearn everything when it comes to preserving the produce from our garden. It came to me naturally some 25-30 years ago and I haven't done it since. I'll find the help I need in these old cookbooks.

Now back to the humor I mentioned earlier. I found this 'recipe' in more than one book and thought it would be fun to share. I think you'll find it entertaining.

How To Preserve A Husband

Be careful in your selection. Do not choose too young and take only such varieties as have been reared in a good moral atmosphere.

When once decided upon and selected, let that part remain forever settled and give your entire thought to preparation for domestic use. Some insist on keeping them in a pickle, while others are constantly getting them into hot water.

Even poor varieties may be made sweet, tender and good by garnishing them with patience, well sweetened with smiles and flavored with kisses.

Then wrap well in a mantle of charity. Keep warm with a steady fire of domestic devotion and serve with the fruits of constant devotion and milk of human kindness.

When thus prepared, they will keep for years.

(We hope this gets desired results, which is to help women who have 'em to keep 'em and those who don't have 'em to get 'em and keep 'em well preserved.)

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What's It Worth?


Arms are flinging in the air. Sweat is dripping off the brow. Dirt is flying everywhere. Just another good day in the garden and it is so worth it.

I decided to plant blackberries in a new bed across from the new red raspberry plants I received from my sister.

I'm taking a water break as I'm now determining fencing. With an old hound dog we rescued, it's necessary. She stomps all over everything. And for a lightweight, she can do quite a bit of damage.

It's a little after 8:00 am and I love the mornings out here. No noise breaks the silence except for the birds in song. Bluebirds and cardinals seem to be my best buds this year. They really seem to enjoy the garden area with a bluebird swooping down to snag a bug in flight and a cardinal taking advantage of the new birdbath.

The above picture shows the new bird spa I put together last night. You can really do so much with so little. The beautiful and heavy birdbath was some body's throw out at the curb. Are you kidding me? I'll take it,thank you very much! I set it on a piece of granite that was free from a stone company. The metal pot holding the flowers is actually an old fair trophy that a woman received for her prize vegetables. I found it at the bottom of an auction box. I had to use it in honor of all gardeners out there. The hanging basket was given to me and the flowers I bought on sale after my seeds did not pop through. The cute little fencing came out of a whole stack of used fencing I bought for $1.00. There ya go. Being thrifty and recycling can produce beautiful results.

All it cost me was...arms flinging, sweat dripping, and dirt flying. It was worth it.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More on Sheet Composting


Every morning, I take the newspaper out to the garden with me. Not to read, but to use as my weed control. I use the edition from the day before and remove any pages with colored ink.

When I first planted my garden, I put 3 to 5 layers of newspaper down and then had a decision to make. What should I put over the newspaper? Dirt, straw, or how about my neighbor's grass clippings? I decided to just let it be for now. The newspaper decomposes quite rapidly so it gives me the opportunity to just add more paper here and there each day.

In the book Lasagna Gardening, Patricia Lanza also uses newspaper as her first layer when she builds a gardening bed. No removing topsoil for her. She has a preferred method she has developed by adding specific layers and building to a height of 18-24 inches. Patricia uses quite a bit of peat moss and I feel that could get expensive. I don't believe I have ever used peat moss. I prefer to use what is available to me and use the basic composting formula of 3 parts carbon (dried leaves, straw, etc.) to 1 part nitrogen (vegetable scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc.).

Whether you call it lasagna gardening or sheet composting, it is just a way to create a no-till garden. It is a method of adding organic material to the soil in multiple layers. I plan to do that.

This fall, will be a good time to prep my raised beds with a layering method so over the winter months a beautiful soil will develop just in time for spring planting.

Which do you prefer...to till or not to till?

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Sheet Composting


What's that white stuff in the beds of my vegetable garden? It's my way to recycle and to keep those nasty weeds down to a minimum. I thought I was the only one who used this method (did I make it up?) because when I tell people how I control the weeds in my garden, I get the response...'Really!?!' Hmmm...did I hear a sarcastic tone?

The answer is as simple as the daily newspaper. Newspaper decomposes and you can even use it in your compost pile as dry material if you shred it first. Make sure there is only black ink before using for gardening purposes as colored ink contains toxins.

I had a stack of clay saucers left over from another project and found them perfect as markers and as paperweights for the newspapers used for weed control. You need weight so the newspapers don't take flight when a breeze comes along. Once they have had a good wet soaking or two, the papers pretty much stay in place.

Over the weekend, I found a book entitled Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza. This sounded interesting. Reading and staying informed on various gardening techniques allows you to develop your own style.

As I started reading, I realized that lasagna gardening is just another name for sheet composting. You just compost in broad layers right into your garden. Now I have a compost pile, but I had already decided that this fall I would try composting right into the beds. Why not? Saves you time, energy, and work. Now who wouldn't want that?!?

More info about sheet composting in tomorrow's post. See ya then!

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Hot, Hot, Hot


At 10:00 am, our deck thermometer read 110 degrees. Ouch! It really wasn't that warm (the thermometer is in full sun), but it felt like it. We do have a heat advisory so it is a good day to stay inside with air conditioning. I'm proud to say today was our first day to run it. What can I say? I want to be as efficient as possible and when it becomes too warm in the house, I turn on the window fan. I prefer fresh air anyway.

In spite of the heat, today was a good day to get a lot accomplished...

Got groceries

Ran errands

Cleaned the floors

Did the wash

Baked four loaves of bread

Made banana bread

Fixed potato salad

Washed dishes twice

And other stuff that just needed to be done before the weekend

-Keep cool ya all!


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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chasing Rainbows


Another clap of thunder. Another day of a heavy downpour. Still thankful for the occasional break in the clouds with a peek of sunshine here and there. Looking up, not to check if there is more rain on the horizon, but to seek the meaningful and magnificent rainbow.

It has been raining so hard here every day that it has created a very wet garden. Even though I have raised beds, I feel my plants are crying out 'enough already'. A couple of my baby cucumbers have turned to mush. Big sigh. I'm learning that I am just the keeper of the garden, a shepherd of sorts. My job is to tend to my garden and watch over it. And I appreciate the opportunity to do so.

I did not see a rainbow, but that does not mean it was not there...

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pressure Cookers...never say never


A decent sized garden this year means finding a way to preserve every vegetable for future enjoyment. No waste allowed. How to do so? Depending on the type of produce, one favorite and popular method is canning using a pressure cooker.

Confession time. I sold my beautiful cooker at a garage sale years ago. Years ago! Why? I was in my 'career' phase and had no time for what I thought was a time consuming, frivolous effort of putting up produce. I thought I would never use that thing again.

Are you kidding?!? Never say never! I am amazed at how we perceive life, its meaning, and what's important. Thank God I'm coming back to my senses. I want the comfort and pleasure of taking my food from the soil and tasting its wholesome goodness year round.

So I began my adventure in the pursuit of another cooker. And since I believe in 'used is usually better' philosophy, I started scoping the auctions. This past Saturday was a gem, and yes, they had a pressure cooker, canning jars, and lids!

The photo above is what I walked away with for $2.00. Not one person even bid against me. It was meant to be. That baby was mine! Come home to mama! I'm excited with this find.

I picture myself using that pressure cooker this summer and thinking how lucky I truly am. I may even create my own little ritual by saying 'never say never' each and every time! Cause ya just never know!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Time, Anyone?


Do you have the time? I'm not asking you to look at your watch...I'm just wondering if you have the time to fully enjoy your family, your friends, and your life in general. In fact, life should not even be spoken about in 'general' terms. It should always be regarded as special and over the top.

I've given up my crazy calendar and demanding schedule. I thought it would be difficult as I fully believe in never wasting time. Since I've left the 'traditional business world', I've discovered I don't miss filling up every moment with appointments and meetings. I've changed my priorities and my daily actions now coincide with my values. That's so refreshing.

We all have our own journeys. Take the time to see if you are on the right path by matching your actions to your values. Go ahead and enjoy the journey!

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Auction Specials


Saturdays are my auction days. I love auctions! The discovery of special vintage pieces can be priceless. Then there is the bidding. How much is something worth to a person? And how about when you bring home a box and discover something clear at the bottom of it that brings a smile because of its unexpected value?

I have fond memories of my Grandmother's auction antics and accomplishments. She eventually had a building built on her property to house her auction finds and for the purpose of resale. She became quite the little entrepreneur with her own home-based business. So I acquired my taste for the love of auctions from Grandma.

I'm an auction snob. :) That just means that I prefer a certain auctioneer and his team because of how they conduct business and have some fun while they are at it. I must say, the auction was a little more special this past Saturday. People talked and bonded more. I'm getting to know people and we are becoming more considerate of each other. One gentleman quit bidding on a box after he asked me if I really wanted that lot and I said yes. One woman gave me some teacups that I admired and in return I gave her some amber glass that she desired. I found myself watching a young woman who was rummaging through a box of baking pans and a variety of loaf pans that would be perfect for my homemade bread. I asked her what she would want out of that box. The Tupperware was her immediate answer. She had just started her own household, needed storage containers, and just could not afford to buy them at the store. I told her I was bidding on the box for the bakeware and would give her the Tupperware. I ended up paying a bit more than I would have liked, but I still had a great deal. When I handed her all the Tupperware, she asked how much she owed me. Nothing, of course.

How cool is that to find people who understand and give to one another...no questions asked. Need something special in your life? Go to a auction and make a new friend!

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Freegans


Have you heard of the supposedly latest and greatest trend? It's all about being a Freegan. Actually, this movement started in the mid 1990s and is coming to light due to the media's attention because of the current state of our economy. Freegans are mostly known for dumpster diving for presumably good, packaged food thrown out by food establishments.

I find it fascinating that the word Freegan is a combination of free and vegan. My daughter and son-in-law are vegans and have some of the same values of Freegans such as not buying (no pun intended) into consumerism. But the word, free, does not fully embrace the spirit of the whole movement. This brings misunderstanding and confusion to their true commitment. Outsiders are now focused on the diving for free food, not the waste that our culture has created and seems to accept. What's with that?

I feel the Freegans' commitment is the same that many of us have by being frugal, living simply, being thrifty, and going green. We just do it the best way we can. We all don't dumpster dive for food, but we may plant a garden instead.

According to the their website, Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.

Now that is something to embrace and look up to. May we all see the light!

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Life's A Picnic

According to Wikipedia, a picnic can be defined simply as a pleasure excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors, ideally taking place in a beautiful landscape such as a park, beside a lake or with an interesting view.

I would add to the definition to include the words "a picnic is a celebration of life with the sharing of food with one's family and friends". Of course, it is also fun to self-indulge in a picnic by yourself if you choose. I allow myself and my family to celebrate life with a picnic when and where we want including our own beautiful backyard by the lake.

This picture is of my new (old) picnic basket. I bought it for $1.00 at a yard sale, cleaned it up, stocked it with supplies, and have it sitting in my kitchen. At a moment's notice, I can add some homemade bread, fresh veggies & fruit, cheese, and our favorite tea. We're ready to walk out the door.

Our picnic basket has participated in our favorite past times, has gone to other states, and has visited with family. The sharing of food, whether around the kitchen table or around a picnic basket in the great outdoors, brings family and friends closer together.

Take the time and go celebrate life with your own picnic basket!


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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Garden Journey


My early morning ritual consists of strolling through my garden to discover what magical and creative stirrings occurred while I slept. Within the stillness and the quiet of the moment, I am never disappointed.

The grass is saturated in dew and the lake is alive with the mist playing and dancing off its surface. Yes, another breathtaking view and I feel it was all designed just for me.

With the sun starting to rise and chasing the shadows away, I turn to admire the garden. It brings me so much joy in so many ways. I become totally immersed with my senses, my spirit, and my soul. I find myself in a place beyond the material and physical world.

Some cannot understand or appreciate the value a garden provides, but I'm writing for those who are nodding their heads in complete agreement. We are privileged.

My gardening experience is not only a joy...it's my journey.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Sister is a Forever Friend






My sisters and I are country gals at heart. We take pride in our gardens, our homes, and our families. The three of us have started a new tradition of spending a weekend together to celebrate who we are and what it means to be family.

This past weekend, we went to some old stomping grounds on Lake Erie. Two of us currently live in Kentucky and the 'baby' sister lives in our hometown in Ohio.

We spent the time junk shopping, eating, visiting, and just plain relaxing. I must say that I truly love junk shopping. It is all about the challenge of finding something special at the right price. I was on a mission to find large recipe boxes to hold all my homesteading tidbits and a stick blender for making my own soap.

Luckily, we found both the boxes and the blender at great prices. The blender was only $5.50. What a deal! I will share my soap making experiences with you once I get started. I have so many fun and exciting projects to look forward to.

It was a good weekend and we have started our plans for next year. The three of us are so very much alike, yet so different in many ways. A common thread was the discussion of our dear Grandmothers and their significance in our lives. So the legacy continues.

Sisters are forever, sisters are forever friends.










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Monday, June 8, 2009

Quit Playing Around?!?


My, time sure flies when you are having fun. I have been in the garden for about 5 hours today when I said to myself, "I need to quit playing around and get busy!" What?


I am filthy with garden dirt from head to toe and exhausted from the heat and humidity. So maybe I'm just not thinking clearly? While I 'played', I actually planted raspberry bushes after working the ground, weeded & hoed every bed, trimmed unwanted leaves & flower heads, protected my new bushes with some fencing, and added & arranged some whimsy to the garden.


I am so fortunate to consider this all play. So now as I'm sitting here on my garden bench with a glass of ice tea, all I can say is nothing is more satisfying than playing around all day. :)

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Too Much Stuff???


Do you need to rethink your role as a consumer? My daughter sent me this fantastic website that has a video which is thought provoking to say the least.


Now I would like to share it with you: The Story of Stuff


Have a wonderful weekend!

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Our Daily Bread


Even though today is Thursday, I am doing my Friday bread making. I celebrate Fridays with filling the house with the fresh aroma of home baked bread. The reason I am baking today is that tomorrow I will be having a Sister Weekend. It is our first annual get together with the three of us sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Today is a good baking day anyway, as it is wet and chilly outside. You have to love Mother Nature because we just had a few days in the 90's! I don't think it has even reached 60 degrees on our thermometer today.

I make all my loaves of bread at the same time in order to save energy and my own personal time. I average between 2-4 loaves a week and that is with the two of us. We eat a lot of sandwiches as the weather continues to warm up. Of course, I freeze the loaves in order to preserve that freshness.

Confession time...shhhh...come a little closer...listen as I don't and won't repeat this...here is my secret...I USE BREAD MACHINES TO KNEAD THE DOUGH!!! Okay then!!! Never judge yourself on how to accomplish the end result. My hands cannot take that much kneading so I use what is available to me and am grateful for it. We received a bread machine awhile back from a neighbor who was going to throw it away and we now have a second machine due to a great deal at a yard sale.

I look forward to the whole process of making many loaves. It allows me to take my time and reflect on the nourishment it brings to our bodies. And nothing tastes better than fresh baked bread. Bread baking days are truly blessed days!

“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.” --Robert Browning


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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What's Life All About?


I've asked myself this recently due to the abrupt turn of events in my life. I've just walked away from everything I know within the business world.


Is it my age? Am I overstressed? Have I missed something in my life? Does the economy play into this at all? Have my priorities changed?


Yes to all of the above. I have decided to come home to 'plant some roots' and leave a legacy. What does that really mean? It's all about finding peace, comfort, and harmony. It's all about being aware and responsible for myself, my family, and the world around me. I did not have that in the traditional business environment. I went with the flow on what was expected and then became addicted to appointments, my cell phone, meetings, and a ridiculous schedule.


I definitely needed an intervention. And it happened...my daughter's wedding. Family events, whether good or bad, can bring your life into perspective. The wedding was wonderful and lead to some reflection on who I am and what I really want in life.


I want to live the life that was gifted to me. How to do that? Start with your interests and what brings you joy. Here are my top ten:


  1. Gardening to produce fresh and healthy foods

  2. Turning trash into treasures

  3. Saving energy & becoming earth friendly

  4. Experimenting in the kitchen to entice the taste buds

  5. Making our house a home & a haven

  6. Connecting and playing with nature

  7. Creating and crafting

  8. Becoming self-reliant by making soap & such

  9. Participating in fun with the family

  10. Educating myself & hopefully others

What is your top ten?


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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Compost Happens!


This year is my first attempt at making our own compost. Our soil is tired and needs a natural perk. I researched what to do (online) to determine what method would suit us best. Discovering how to do a compost pile is like looking at cookbooks for the best recipe...there is more than one way to do it to get the same results. And just like recipes, I don't follow them religiously. I use a recipe as a guideline and then go by the look and feel.
I chose to use wooden pallets wired together since I had access to them and believe in recycling as much as possible. I also like a quick and easy method. Another thought-always place your compost pile in a convenient location to save yourself some steps. I wanted ours between the house and the garden.
Recently my pile has become smaller which is a good thing. It is starting to do its job and decompose. Depending on the time you give to your compost pile will determine when it will be ready. Don't rush it. It's a work in progress. It can take anywhere from two to six months, give or take.
Here's my recipe:
3 parts carbon which is the dry stuff: dried leaves, straw, etc.
1 part nitrogen which is the wet stuff: vegetable scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc.
Your pile needs to have moisture like a wrung out sponge and needs to be mixed every few days.
You can also use grass clippings, but we feel they should be left in the yard for a better lawn.
And there you have it. Compost happens!

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Monday, June 1, 2009

A Grandmother's Love

Growing up, I was very fortunate to have two Grandmothers who taught me how to live and love through their example. They did not attempt to teach worldly lessons. They just brought love to everything they did, whether it was baking cookies, planting flowers, or just being plain thrifty.


I've recently discovered that I want and need to return to the lifestyle that was gifted to me from my Grandmothers. Over the years I must admit, I've lost my way and have become entangled within the traps of the traditional business world. Well, I temporarily forgot that finding comfort and peace in one's life should always be a priority and can be found by going back to your roots.

So here I am. I hope to 'plant some roots' in my daily activities in order to leave a legacy just as my Grandmothers have for me. I devote this blog to them both. I hope to someday have my own grandchildren so they can reap the benefits of what is truly important in life. Please go 'plant some roots' and leave a legacy in all you do.





















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