Welcome to My Kitchen Sign

 Isn't this a fun welcome to my kitchen sign?

Isn't this a fun welcome to my kitchen sign?

Welcome to My Kitchen Sign

I have terrible handwriting so I admire people who can beautifully write with chalk on signs. That's not what caught my eye about this sign, it was the hectic daily schedule it outlined.

Cooking for me is more of a fall and winter sport. Soups are a favorite, and cookies for our local bee club. This year I will be doing some experimenting incorporating honey into some recipes but when it comes to spring and summer...well, this sign better reflects my cooking routine.

It's not so bad. I have lost 40 lbs keeping to fresh salads and fruits, not eating after 6 p.m. and sticking to cooked chicken, salmon and turkey. I also try to button up my kitchen early in the evening so I am not tempted to eat later in the evening. All except for my hot cup of water with lemon.

Sometimes I skip the fresh lemon. Must be a Friday.

Charlotte

Cat Fishing Tea Infuser

 Isn't this adorable? It is a gift from a dear friend who has a cat named after her.

Isn't this adorable? It is a gift from a dear friend who has a cat named after her.

Cat Fishing Tea Infuser

I had a late Christmas with a dear friend in January. She's dear enough that my 19-year old cat is named after her. Although she is allergic to cats, this friend loves to visit and check up on her name sake and Margaret, the cat, seems to know they have a special bond.

So it's no surprise that one of my gifts this year starred a white cat with a pink nose,  this darling cat fishing tea infuser.

 So the Meow Tea Cup infuser features a fish tea infuser that holds the loose tea.

So the Meow Tea Cup infuser features a fish tea infuser that holds the loose tea.

Tea infusers are used to brew loose tea leaves. They are also called tea balls and tea eggs. There are a number of different tea infusers on the market that, over the years, I have also used to add herbs to soups.

I have a couple tea infusers that I use with my dried herbs when I make tea but this one is the highest on the adorable meter.

First I should tell you that one of my cat's favorite games is to chase a fishing line on a fishing pole with a catnip toy at the end. It's a great way to practice my casting and keep my cats exercised.

I don't recommend casting this fish tea infuser but it reminds me of those cat fishing games my little feline friends like so much.

 Here's the tea infuser taking a dive into a cup of hot water.

Here's the tea infuser taking a dive into a cup of hot water.

Once filled, the fish tea infuser goes into my cup of hot water, supervised by a little white cat holding on to the edge of the cup.

 And the little white cat holds on to the tea infuser chain until it's ready to be retrieved.

And the little white cat holds on to the tea infuser chain until it's ready to be retrieved.

So much like the spirit of my cat Margaret, who also takes her supervision duties seriously and infrequently leaves me to my own devices. Not that she is a lot of help but she does think my days go better if she's close by. And they do.

I really like this gift to add to my breaks with Margaret the cat in my lap. Now I have yet another reason to slow down and enjoy the day.

Thank you, Margaret!

Charlotte

One of My Favorite Foods to Grow

 Bluebird Gardens pears not quite ready for picking.

Bluebird Gardens pears not quite ready for picking.

One of My Favorite Foods To Grow

If there is a favorite food I like to grow, it is bartlett pears. Not that I have been terribly successful.

I planted a semi-dwarf Stark Brother's tree in 1983 next to my driveway. The thought was once the tree was bearing fruit, I could sit on my deck and pick a pear off a nearby branch. No one said I had to expend a lot of energy to do so.

I used to dream about picking those pears but over the years, I almost forgot I even had the tree. After three decades of not blooming, or giving fruit, I had given up on ever having pears. 

In 2010, the tree had its first blooms, courtesy of wasps that had taken up residence in some of my birdhouses.

Since then, I have had pears every other year. I could have made jam but I enjoy them as they are, sometimes cut into a salad or as a desert fruit. If they are not quite ripe, I put them in a brown bag with an apple for a couple of days until they are soft to the touch.

Summers with record hot temperatures drive squirrels to eat the pears still green so this year I won't be picking any. There is always next year!

Charlotte

Bartlett Pear Gifts

 A friend has a neighbor with an old Bartlett pear tree, notice all of the pears are at the top??

A friend has a neighbor with an old Bartlett pear tree, notice all of the pears are at the top??

Bartlett Pear Gifts

When I used to dream about adding fruit trees to my garden, having a pear tree was top of the list.  Now I do have a semi-dwarf Bartlett pear tree that's several decades old and just recently has started to provide fruit. This year, my Bartlett pear tree gave me only one pear  but that doesn't mean I won't have fresh pears this year.

A friend with a neighbor with a traditional Bartlett pear tree invited me over to pick pears and I was not going to turn down the opportunity.

The first thing we notices was that the remaining pears were out of reach at the top of the tree. My friend said you would think wind would knock over those pears. Not to be daunted, we started to pick through pears already on the ground.

Contrary to popular belief, those pears on the ground are fine, even with a little damaged corner. These pears are grown without any pesticides so there may be a few little spots that need to be cut off. Use a knife, clear out the area and enjoy.

Also don't be afraid to pick up more than you can use, pears make wonderful gifts.

Gift Basket of Pears

Once I had my stash, I stopped by a local thrift store and picked up a basket and two napkins to use as a basket liner. Once the pears are gone, the napkins can be re-used when setting a table for meals. I selected a variety of pears, from ready to eat to still a little green, and dropped the basket off with a friend who recently had surgery.

He was thrilled, the first thing he said was "oh, good, something soft I can eat."

 Locally-grown pears in a napkin-lined gift basket ready to be delivered.

Locally-grown pears in a napkin-lined gift basket ready to be delivered.

 A variety of pears, some ready to eat, others still green, are a good variety.

A variety of pears, some ready to eat, others still green, are a good variety.

For those still green pears, you could add a little brown bag with instructions to add a pear and an apple. The apple will give off a gas that will help ripen the pear.

So glad I kept a few for myself as well, fresh pears are wonderful just as they are!

Charlotte

My One BIG Pear

My one Bartlett pear in 2016 from my pear tree at Bluebird Gardens.

My One BIG Pear

Once again, my 35-year old Stark Brother's Bartlett pear tree has given me a delicious token of what it is capable of growing.

Every other year, this semi-dwarf fruit tree gives me a pear. Just one. A beautiful, large fruit, enticing me to be patient and to dream of what I will get next year.

Long History

This tree was planted in 1983 close to my house deck. The idea was that one could walk up to the deck railing and pick one of my favorite fruits and eat it right there. Fast forward to 2010, when I frankly had forgotten about the tree because it didn't bloom for all of those years.

In 2010, wasps covered the white spring blooms in pollen, resulting in more than 250 fruit that fall. It was so exciting, I shipped fruit to family and friends and shared locally and still had fruit ripening in my garage well into winter.

The next year, the tree gave me only a handful of pears.

In 2012, the summer drought forced wildlife to eat the green pears as a food source. 

The following year, once again the tree gave me one very large pear.

In 2014, I had to beat my resident squirrels to the bounty but there was enough to share. Last year, I got one pear again, which meant this year should have been a year of bounty.

In 2016, we had another summer drought period with record hot temperatures in July and August. The tree was well-pollinated this spring by my bees and wasps but wildlife, once again, turned to the green fruit for a food source during the drought.

How to Ripen a Pear

This one pear is now in a small brown bag with an apple so it can ripen for a special treat. I check it every day or so, giving some thought about how I will enjoy it. There are some old-fashioned recipes on preparing pears, but having only one seems a bit of overkill.

My brother David loves poached pears. I do as well but not sure I won't just enjoy this special one fresh once it ripens.

Now the big question is, what will I get next year - more pears or another promise of one?

Charlotte

Blue Ribbon Lady at Farmers Market

 Laura at August 2, 2016 Rolla Farmer's Market, just after her ribbon haul from Phelps County Fair.

Laura at August 2, 2016 Rolla Farmer's Market, just after her ribbon haul from Phelps County Fair.

Laura the Blue Ribbon Lady at Rolla's Farmers Market

Over the years, I have toyed with the idea of entering something into the local county fair contest. I have been a judge at fairs, and since then have enjoyed seeing winning entries when I was visiting communities with fairs. I can honestly say I have never met someone with so many blue ribbons!

I didn't catch her last name but her first name is Laura. She was talking to a couple of customers when I stopped by so I took the time to look at what all had won the coveted blue ribbons. There were the standard salsas, pickles, relish and jams next to the unusual pickled eggs and pineapple salsa.

 Some of the award-winning canned fare Laura won at the 2016 Phelps County Fair.

Some of the award-winning canned fare Laura won at the 2016 Phelps County Fair.

After carefully perusing each and every jar, I selected a jar of her mild salsa. I like to use salsa on my summer salads, I told her.

Most definitely, she said. And do you add onions to your scrambled eggs?

Of course, I said, along with green peppers and tomatoes at the end to add color.

Don't forget the mushrooms, Laura said.

 More of Laura's award-winning jars from the 2016 Phelps County Fair.

More of Laura's award-winning jars from the 2016 Phelps County Fair.

Did I forget to mention the cute floral hat she was wearing? Hard to miss, channeling comedian Minnie Pearl even with a price tag on the side.

Not sure if it's polite to ask for a favorite recipe or not but it did cross my mine.

I may have to try some more of her jars. The pineapple relish looks interesting!

Charlotte

Wedding Gift Cookies

Wedding Gift cookies July 23, 2016 in Kansas City.

Wedding Gift Cookies

When I think of gifts for a wedding, my mind almost automatically goes to a double wedding ring quilt like the blue double wedding ring quilt we just finished making. What a delightful surprise to greet guests to a wedding rehearsal dinner with gifts for a wedding in the form of a table full of pre-packaged homemade cookies!

This was the wedding of a dear Navy friend's son July 23, 2016 in Kansas City, Mo. Knowing one side of the family, and getting to know the other one, I was charmed to see the cookie packages so lovingly packaged. It became obvious very quickly that friends and family are very important to both sides.

The bride's favorite color is pink so of course the cookies were tagged with hearts in those colors.

Each package had four handmade cookies. On the front a white icing-covered wedding cake form cookie. 

 Homemade cookies packaged for a July 23, 2016 wedding rehearsal dinner.

Homemade cookies packaged for a July 23, 2016 wedding rehearsal dinner.

The back of the cookie package had the peanut butter cookie dipped in chocolate.

 The peanut butter chocolate-covered cookie was in the back.

The peanut butter chocolate-covered cookie was in the back.

The one I was most intrigued with was the Italian seven layer cookie. Moist and delicious, by the way.

I'm working on getting that recipe from the mother of the groom!

Have you made an Italian seven layer cookie?

Charlotte