Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Late Summer Pears



After such a long hot summer, I am so very excited to see signs of autumn on the horizon. Beautiful ripe pears are just the beginning of our transition into another gorgeous season. 

Here are a few scenes from the pear orchards early this morning...






Happy pear season to you! 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

August Blueberries


Graham is a gardener at heart. He runs around the vegetable garden picking and then sampling right off the vines! Shown here, the blueberries bushes were no exception. He even sampled a blackberry that wasn't ripe. After he removed it from his mouth and threw it onto the grass, I could just hear him thinking...hmmm, another week and they'll be delicious.  xo

Our berry pickings from last year, here and here

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Will you plant those hydrangeas...?

Here is a photo of our old oil tank from a few years back. It took us several years until we switched from the original in-floor oil furnace (heated one spot really well, really noisily, rest of the house not so much) over to electric baseboards. It was another year before we got around to having the old tank hauled off (as scrap metal). 


I took this right before the scrap metal guy picked up the tank. Mike had tipped it up to drain the remaining oil so that we could dispose of it properly. 

What instigated the next photo is something I wrote on one of my infamous 'to do' lists one weekend, shortly after the oil tank got hauled away. 

It read, "Plant hydrangeas by basement door." 

This task was aimed at Mike for one very good reason...

A thick concrete slab had to come out before the hydrangeas were planted! Loud and heavy machinery had to be rented. 


After he broke up the concrete,  he hauled it away for recycling.

Concrete removed. There was a foot of gravel under the concrete, so next up was an infusion of soil and compost. Eventually the siding will need some touching up (on another 'to do' list). Those  vents you see in the two photos above are from the old California Cooler. This was the only section of the house that didn't get resided, thus the old vents are still in place. 

Endless Summer hydrangeas planted. xo. This is the best hydrangea bed in the whole yard. They love the full shade. I was lucky to find these at our local nursery for just $17 each, which I thought was a great deal considering their size.

 The only original windows left in the house are the basement windows, of which the laundry room window is shown here. These basement windows were an old blue for a long time until we had the chance to paint them white one day. They look much crisper now. 

More blossoms are on their way. 


They'll keep the limelight hydrangeas on the patio company. The limelight are getting bigger each year. I'll do a patio post on them soon (it's on my 'to do' list). 

This fall I'll prune them back as they are getting a tad overgrown around the stairs and reaching out into patio a bit too much. 


Monday, August 6, 2012

Refrigerator Pickles - with bite


Cucumbers always sneak up on us, seemingly magically appearing overnight. While out in the garden the other night, Mike picked a huge crop of them.  Later that evening (when everyone was fast asleep, including myself),  he made these delicious refrigerator pickles. They are good. 

Refrigerator pickles are great because there is no canning involved, which makes them fast and easy. You basically make the brine, plop in your fresh picked cukes (or bought fresh from the farmer's market) and a few seasonings, and keep the large jar in your refrigerator.

After about forty-eight hours, they are ready to eat. They are so crisp and so fresh you'll have a hard time eating pickles from a jar again (even your own canned ones!). 

After a few rounds of pickles, if they don't have that same great pickle 'bite', you can just make another batch of fresh brine. 

Mike's recipe (as best as he can remember): 

3 cups apple cider vinegar 

9 cups water 
1/2 cup pickling salt 

2 tablespoons of sugar 
2 tablespoons of pickling spice 
12 fresh garlic cloves, peeled 
lots of fresh dill 
2 -3 lbs cucumbers, sliced (enough to fill the jar)

Onions are good in the jar too, but he didn't have any on hand this time around. 

Directions: 
Combine cider vinegar, water, pickling salt and sugar in a large pan. Bring to a boil while stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature. 
Put dill, garlic and pickling spices in large jar.
Add sliced cucumbers. 
Pour in cooled brine. 

Wait 48 hours. 

For a sweet refrigerator pickle with less bite, you can use this recipe. 

For a good recipe to use for canned pickles, go here



Thursday, August 2, 2012

A New Painting


A few months ago I came across this very large (40" x 23 1/2") antique landscape oil painting in one of my favorite antique stores in Portland. I was looking for a table for the guest house, and of course, found a painting instead. 

I love antique paintings, especially landscapes, and thought that its antique frame (another passion of mine) was in fairly good condition considering its age. 

The painting was extremely dirty however. A heavy layer of black dust (or most likely soot) covered the canvas, so I knew it would require a good professional cleaning. 

Although I've considered having some of my other paintings cleaned, it is something I have yet to do. So I was actually quite excited to go through that process. I was extremely curious to see just how much of a transformation would result. 

Here is the painting after the cleaning. The process involved removing the many layers of dirt down to and including the old varnish...and then re-varnishing. This is a process best left for professionals, particularly if the piece is of value (sentimental or otherwise). 

The Cultured Pearl in downtown Portland cleaned this piece for me. Their gallery makes my heart flutter. Not only do they do painting and frame restorations, but they specialize in antique art from around the world and have a collection that will make you wish you had a special art 'fund' set aside (I need one of those). 

Steve was able to tell me that this landscape was most likely from New Hampshire. He explained that the deer are a regional detail typical to certain parts of the country, which often reflect where the artist is from (this piece of art work is not signed). When combined with the canoe and the scale of the mountain range, the scene was narrowed even more specifically to the New Hampshire region. 

Their wealth of knowledge at The Cultured Pearl is extensive. I could stand in their beautiful gallery all day listening to their every word. 

It's just so fascinating. 


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