Grandpa’s Birdhouses

My father-in-law Tony is a craftsman.  He can do anything, fix anything, wire anything or build anything.  There isn’t a room in our home that he hasn’t had a hand in and he lives in Arkansas.

Years ago, for Christmas, he made bird ranches for the families.  I’m an avid gardener so it was an added pleasure to have the ranch in my garden.  That ranch has taken a beating from the squirrels but it still stands in our yard. 

My sister-in-law gave him a wonderful book “Designer Birdhouses” created by an architect.  I’ve since purchased that book and have given it to two friends.   From that book he’s made MANY new houses for the families and others.  He was featured in his local home paper.  They’re so beautiful;  I don’t have the heart to put them in the garden as they’ll weather taking their beauty away. 

In order for any garden to be successful you need birds.  Birds can play a vital role in the garden’s ecosystem, as pest controllers of everything from snails to aphids, and as consumers of wind­fall fruits, they also entertain us as they visit the feeders, or bird baths.  Who doesn’t enjoy the chickadees, gold finches or cardinals feeding at the bird feeders?

When you provide them with nesting opportunities (birdhouses), food, water and habitat your back yard will be a haven for birds that will assist in getting rid of your pests.  You need a habitat for the birds to attract them to stay.  Feeding them isn’t enough.  Pick plants that provide a berry such as cotoneaster.  Honey suckle will attract humming birds as will any trumpet flower.  Trees, bushes or vines are essential for a habitat or just resting.




Rolled Rosette Tutorial

From Two Peas in a Pod, Trish shows how to make Rolled Rosettes for anything and everything.  I know there’s a lot of moms out there looking for things for their daughters to do over the summer.  Here’s one they’ll enjoy.

::rolled rosette tutorial::.

F is for Fuschia

I was a teenager the first time I saw a Fuschia.  That plant has hypnotic it draws you into its beauty.  You can’t wait to see another one.  The abundance of like type flowers on one habitat just is stunning as it makes a lovely gardening focus in a shady part of your garden.

Fuschias are greenhouse grown.  From what I’ve been able to find from The BritishFuschia Society its native land is in South America.  It was brought to England by Captain Firth, a sailor, from South America in 1788.  He brought the plant back for his wife.  A successful nurseryman purchased it from him for £80 to grow as an investment.

Cicely Mary Barker saw the beauty as well and created a Fushia Fairy.  Talk about a lady with a creative imagination to lure children to learn.

The Song of The Fuchsia Fairy

Fuchsia is a dancer
Dancing on her toes,
Clad in red and purple,
By a cottage wall;
Sometimes in a greenhouse,
In frilly white and rose,
Dressed in her best for the fairies’ evening ball!


Brunch, Pump and Tote

It’s been a really busy day.   When I was working outside the house I had a cleaning service every other week.  It saved my sanity.  Now, I’m the cleaning service.   Hubby headed off to play golf this morning at 5 am and I had been up since 3 am.  While he was away I cleaned the house and made him a decent breakfast for
when he returned.   (Bacon, sliced potato and Romano frittata.)

We’re visiting tomorrow and I wanted to take a tote.  Hubby wanted to replace the sump pump.   We did both and ended up in each other’s space.   He dealt with acid, apparently batteries do not come with the acid in them for sump pumps.  I read him the instructions while pinning the corners of the tote together.  It filled the day quickly.

In the end, new sump pump with a back up and another Miss Mary makes its way to a home.

A view from the patio

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Gardening is a passion.  You either love it or it’s a chore.

My love of gardening started when I was really young.  In each of our homes my husband and I have built perennial gardens and vegetable gardens.  Twice we’ve been showcased on the McHenry County Garden Walk.

As a teenager we lived on a rented farm.   My mom was single raising four children.  We had to grow a garden and “put up” all the fruits of the garden which would last us all year.  The first two weeks of August were unbearably hot in our kitchen as we used a boiling water bath for the canning with no air conditioning.  The cutting, peeling, sterilizing and eventual tightening of the jars or freezing of the blanched vegetables was a summer time ritual.

We planted the entire side yard which was probably 50 yards front to back and 40 feet wide.  We borrowed a tiller from a friend to work the garden.  The spring was laborious.   Corn, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, peas, cucumbers, zucchini,…and more.

I remember our neighbor who was already an organic farmer but back then we didn’t call it organic, we just thought he was different.  My mother never learned how or took the time to understand how he gardened.   He had lush vegetables while ours struggled in the heat.

We had an old chicken coop with no chickens, just storage.  There was a double sided barn that a farmer in the area stored his baler.   The baler was home to Mrs. Beasley, our calico cat, and her minions of kittens.  We built a garbage storage area with white fencing and a school bell attached to the top.  That bell was to bring us all home.  Everyone knew the bell.   The raccoons loved the open garbage area and were experts at opening the lids to the cans almost every night.

There was a long white farm fence that was about 60 feet long.  Alongside of the fence grew these inviting pink and yellow holly hocks.  We didn’t think about perennial gardens at all.   It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I saw my first ever perennial garden and fell deeply madly in love with every inch of it.

Did hard labor as children damage us?  On the contrary, it made us work harder, do more with less, wish for a better life (hence college education), dream constantly of something different, taught us patience and perseverance but also gave us a place to remember.   I can smell my mom’s pies now.

I still dream.  You’ll see a small planter in the slide show that is our “fairy” garden for the kids in the neighborhood.  My five year old neighbor collects shiney stones that will refect the moonlight for the fairies to travel at night.  You have to dream.  You have to think of a better life.

Handcrafted Gifts

I had a few things I needed to complete so my day’s been busy.  It’s been raining here in Algonquin giving me ample time to do more.

The clutch pattern I purchased and used was from Noodlehead.    I was able to download the pdf which I find fascinating that the pattern is really at my finger tips.  I predict that so much more will happen in the pattern industry to go this route.   I’ve not made any of my totes or purses with zippers, now I know why, but it wasn’t that terrible to install.

The cute little Scotty pattern came from Denyse Schmidt Quilts and it is a  a free download.

And, the baby blanket is headed out the door with the Scotty tomorrow, hopefully.

What’s for Dinner- Pork Saltimbocca with Rosemary

UPDATE:  A fellow blogger from Bleeding Expresso, Michelle Fabio, offered this suggestion – Saltimbocca di maiale con rosmarino – Pork Saltimbocca with Rosemary.  I think that works.


William Sonoma sends out the best seasonal catalogs because they have recipes in them using their products. One of those recipes was for Pork Saltimbocca. We tried it but sage wasn’t our thing.  It did taste good, but the sage had to go.

Another wonderful recipe, TuscanLemon Chicken, from Ina Garten that we’ve used MANY times and love it, I chose to use some of her ingredients.  She uses lemon zest plus the juice, rosemary, salt, pepper and garlic as a marinade for the chicken.

So why not combine these two recipes?   The etymology of saltimbocca:  comes from saltare (to leap) & in (into) & bocca (mouth).  In many Italian recipe blogs the definition is veal, chicken or pork cutlets wrapped in Italian ham with sage and cooked quickly.  In all the recipes I can find with saltimbocca sage is the predominant herb.  Not so in this recipe.  Saltimbocca infers sage in the recipe.

Unfortunately Tuscan infers lemon is used in the recipe.  Not so here in our pork recipe.

So what do we call it?  Maybe you can help me come up with a “sexier” name.   :D

Pork Saltimbocca with Rosemary Saltimbocca di maiale con rosmarino

  • 5 boneless pork chops
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 Tablespoons of extra light olive oil
  • 5 to 8 slices of prosciutto * optional

Combine all these ingredients in a small bowl.  Leave the chops in the carrier they came in.  Spoon a tablespoon of the mixture on each of the chops.   Wrap in plastic wrap and marinate at least an hour in your refridgerator.  Sometimes I do this in the morning and leave all day.

When you’re getting ready to grill and you’d like the prosciutto on your meat, wrap it around the chop before you place on the grill.  This time around I did not.  It does taste really good with the prosciutto.  Grill as you would any chop.  There should be no pink in pork when done.

We served this with New Potato and Green Bean Salad.

  • 2 Red potatoes cut up into manageable pieces
  • 2 Yukon Gold potatoes cut up
  • 1 pound fresh green beans with ends removed

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup extra light olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar (choosing balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 large garlic clove minced
  • 1 small shallot minced
  • 1 teaspoon Maille Dijon Mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt/sea salt

Salt your water for your potatoes.  Bring to a boil and add your potatoes.  Cook till fork tender.   Drain and cool.  Meanwhile start boiling your water for your green beans.  Add your
beans and cook for about 3 minutes till the green beans turn bright green and they maintain their crispness.   Drain and place in an ice bath to stop the cooking.  Drain those when cool.

In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients until imulsified.

Combine all the components in a medium size bowl.  You can make this ahead or serve immediately.

Mangiere bene (Eat Well)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 648 other followers