Herb Gardens

HI am planning my herb garden.  Last year I was quite successful and I can’t wait to get it going again.  The first thing I have planned is to attend our local Asheville Herb Festival at the end of the month.  This is a wonderful place to buy any and every herb out there- culinary, medicinal you name it.  The first time I attended last spring, I could hardly breathe with all the wonderful things I saw- I wanted everything.  Of course, I only have an apartment balcony but it works nicely and my herbs were happy growing there last year.  They lasted well into November and all my cooking included fresh herbs from my little garden.  Here’s a picture of my little balcony garden:

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This year I plan to add more variety to the garden, now that I know they will happily thrive out there.  So far, I want to plant Basil, Mint, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Tarragon, oregano and chives.  These are the herbs I cook with most, and I look forward to going out there with my scissors to snip what I need.  I will also have a tomato plant, since I had lots of luck with that as well.

The Asheville Herb Festival takes place at the end of April, so I have a couple of weeks to wait until I can get the garden started.  If you are ever in the area during the time of the festival, don’t miss this awesome event!

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Gearing up for Garage Spring Cleaning

GI have a garage full of wonderful things.  I have pitchers, china, household goods, kitchen gadgets and more.  When we moved here from Florida, my husband got here first and lived here for 6 months before I was able to join him for good.  So, I only unpacked a few kitchen items that he would be needing in my absence.  Flash forward  to a year later- I’m here for good and I can’t find any of my favorite things.  This is because they are buried in the garage.  Stored carefully away, buried under boxes of stuff and completely out of my reach.  So close but so far- my near future plans include a huge clean up and finding what I need.  Just as soon as the temperature gets above 40 degrees and the winds die down.  I’m ready!

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Fresh Farm Food Love

FToday I needed eggs, and being back in Asheville I knew I could just drive a mile or 2 and end up at my favorite little shack/farm stand to get what I needed.  There’s just nothing like fresh eggs- not even the most expensive, organic, cage-free, grass-fed supermarket eggs could ever hope to compete with the little farm that sells me fresh-from-the-chicken eggs.  Their beautiful orange-gold-yellow yolks taste so fresh and wonderful that I am spoiled for any other.

This weekend my downtown farmer’s market is open for business and I’m ready to fill my kitchen with gorgeous spring vegetables- peas, ramps, radishes, lettuces…oh my! Real, unprocessed fresh food makes me happy.  I’m eagerly perusing my cookbooks in search of the perfect recipe to complement my planned bounty.

IMG_1246I can’t wait.

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In search of ENERGY

EToday I need energy to tackle cleaning the house.  As previously mentioned, I’ve been away for 3 months working and my poor abandoned husband has been holding down the fort in my absence.

Granted, the mess is minimal and things are in their place with only a few pieces of mail scattered about. BUT there’s at least a half inch of dust on every piece of furniture and the carpet is covered in cat hair.  I’m not even going to try to describe the condition of the toilet bowls and counters in the kitchen.

So…ready, set, GO!  Well…here I sit typing this blog trying to muster up the energy to START…all the while trying to motivate myself to go into the closet and get the necessary tools I need to BEGIN…OK here I go…wish me luck and ENERGY!

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Destination Asheville

DI’ve been traveling the past few days getting back home to Asheville from West Palm, so I’m playing catch up with the A to Z challenge this morning!  I left an 80 degree day in Florida on Monday afternoon to arrive at a chilly spring day in NC.  It’s funny, but after spending the better part of 3 months in the tropics, it amazes me on how fast you get used to your surroundings.  Especially in South Florida, where it’s hot, humid and FLAT.

As my flight took me closer and closer to the Blue Ridge Mountains, I looked out the window and marveled at the majestic peaks and valleys and the beauty of the area that I was returning home to.

Of course, Florida is beautiful too and when I arrived last January I thoroughly enjoyed stepping out of the airport terminal into the gentle tropical breeze,  with sunshine and swaying palm trees.

I truly feel blessed and appreciate that I can enjoy the best of both these worlds!  nc-mountain-banner

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C is for Cross Stitch

Cross Stitching is an old-fashioned hobby for sure, but I love it.  When I lived in Connecticut, I spent many a fall and winter evening stitching up a storm- cute country themes, kitchen wall hangings, dish towels….everything.  I don’t know why, but cross stitching feels like it should be done when the weather is cooler, with a nice mug of tea nearby.IMG_1532

When I moved to Florida 15 years ago, I kind of let the hobby go.  It just didn’t match the tropical weather- not something you could pack to work on at the beach, for instance.  Last year when I moved to the mountains of NC, my mother came to visit in the fall and was leafing through a Country Living Magazine when she found a pattern for a little log cabin.  She asked me to help her with it, so I went through my old basket filled with cross stitch supplies to find her a hoop to borrow. The basket was filled with memories for me…little alphabet girls that I stitched for my baby daughter, patterns I had finished for the walls of my house in Connecticut- all of a sudden, I had an overwhelming urge to start a new project.  After all, it was FALL in NC- the start of cooler weather!12605517_10206549137780164_7659608055046670539_o

We spent the next few weeks working on cross stitch projects together.  Mom finished her little log cabin and I stitched up a masterpiece for my sister’s Christmas present.  I felt like I found an old friend. I worked on a few more projects before it was time to go to Florida for my winter job.  I did pack a project to work on but alas, Florida won again and I never even picked it up.

Flash forward to the end of my work season here, I’m leaving to go back to the mountains tomorrow, and what’s on my to do list?  You guessed it- the cross stitch project I never touched while in Florida!

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Being “Stephanna”

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Last night was the final gathering of our Comedia Del’Arte troupe for the season and it was amazing! After much mead and merriment, we set about to do a read thru of next year’s performance for the Florida Renaissance Festival.  Our leader, Richard, penned an abridged version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest for our troupe, and we sat back and enjoyed each others portrayal of the characters.

I was happy to find myself cast as the comic relief of the piece- and playing what I do best, a drunk!  My character, Stefano, is usually performed by a man- but not in this production- “Stephanna” will make people laugh this time.  I can’t wait until next December when we will begin rehearsing for the season.

Merry Meet~ Merry Part~ And Merry Meet Again!

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And…I’m giving this A to Z Challenge a try

 ALooking back it’s been a while since I have posted on this blog, so I decided to give this A to Z Blog Challenge a try.  I’m in Florida right now, typing on my laptop on my makeshift card table “desk” at my Mother’s house.  I’ve been here about 12 weeks, working on the weekends at the Florida Renaissance Festival as an actress in the Shakespeare/Comedia Del’arte troupe.

I moved from Florida to the mountains of North Carolina last year.  My husband and I were brave enough to take a chance on a big change- moving from our 15 year residency in FL, back to change of seasons and beautiful mountain landscapes.  Before Florida I lived in New England for 40+ years, so living in North Carolina is like returning to a missed memory of Fall leaves, Spring flowers and pretty Winter snowfall (but not too much snowfall, thank goodness!).

I have 3 more days here in the tropics, and very soon I will be packing everything up and reuniting with my husband.  I miss my family here already, but they will be visiting when they can.

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Remembering Cold

FB-Fall-JG-RecoveredI’ve been living in South Florida for the past 13 years.  Before then, I lived in the land of cold winters, vivid falls, late springs and hot summers- Connecticut. When September rolls around, I always feel the stirrings of anticipation…anticipation for a change of seasons, namely FALL.  Off course, Fall never comes to the tropics.  No colors falling and the crunch of dried leaves underfoot, no wood-smoke scented air, no blazing yellowish-orange bursts of cozy colors surrounding you- nothing.  Of course, Florida is beautiful and breathtaking it it’s own way, but my New England roots are yearning for cozy fires and the sipping of hot mulled cider.

Most people think Florida is one big, long never-ending summer, but those of us who live here year-round know it isn’t true.  We do have subtle seasons, and occasionally a few cold blasts in the 50’s and 60’s.  Our “seasons” are exactly opposite of New England. The “good weather” starts in November and lasts about 6 months, until April.  November is also the start of the growing/gardening season. So strange to me, an avid gardener in Connecticut. Summer means it’s too hot for anything to grow but tropical flowers and plants.  Even the basil and tomatoes die from the heat.

Recently, my sister and I took a trek up to North Carolina.  We visited Asheville, with it’s very cool downtown and craft beer creations.  Enjoyed a trip to the Biltmore to admire the rolling hills, beautiful gardens and historical mansion.  But best of all was driving and hiking around the Blue Ridge Mountains, where at high elevations the mountains were kissed with color and so awesome we gasped at every scenic stopping point.

Two cold sisters

Two cold sisters

My sister Jill lives is Florida too, and we both enjoyed the refreshing change in weather, remembering how it was in New England in October.  I recommend this therapy to all Floridians who long for a taste of the cold.  It does a body good.  Happy Autumn!

Fall in Asheville

 

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Soup for a Saturday Supper

Even though it’s still quite warm here in Florida, Autumn still brings out the yearning for a cozy meal.  Join me won’t you in a pot of Chicken Soup?  I’m going away in a week, so it’s time to use up what ever veggies and things I have in the fridge and pantry.  This meal, along with a nice loaf of Italian bread, will make the perfect dinner tonight.

Saturday Chicken Soup with pasta,  zucchini, bacon and white beans

Saturday Chicken Soup with pasta, zucchini, bacon and white beans

“Chicken Soup with Zucchini, Bacon, Pasta and Beans”

1tbs Olive Oil

1 slice of thick Applewood bacon, chopped

1 tsp of red pepper flakes

1 small shallot

2 cloves of garlic

1 stalk of celery

1/2 cup white wine (whatever you’re drinking)

1 Carton (about 4 cups) organic chicken broth

2 tbs tomato paste

1 large tomato, diced

1 cup of shredded, cooked chicken (I used left over from a roast I made a couple of days before)

2 large zucchini, chopped into bite-sized chunks

Italian seasoning, salt & pepper to taste

1 can of white beans

1/2 cup of small pasta (such as ditalini)

Warm the olive oil in the pan, add the chopped bacon and saute bacon until just crispy, remove to paper towel to drain.  Remove most of the bacon oil with a spoon, leaving just a bit for flavor.  On low heat, add the red pepper flakes, shallots and garlic and stir, cooking until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the celery and saute 2 minutes more.

Add the white wine and cook, deglazing the pan, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the chicken, stirring and coating with the shallot/garlic/celery mixture and saute about 3 more minutes.

Pour in the chicken broth, raise the heat so it will start to boil  Add the tomato paste and blend.  Toss in the diced tomato, zucchini, Italian seasoning and white beans.  Let it all come to a nice boil, turn down the heat to med-low and finally  add the pasta.  Let it simmer for 30-45 minutes, melding the flavors.  Check the seasonings, adding salt and pepper as desired. Simmer 5 minutes more, then serve with a nice chunk of Italian Bread.

 

 

 

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