Aug 31 2010

Frugal Gardeners should always grow peppers of all shapes, sizes and fire power.

The last few weeks have been the culmination of working since last fall to produce extra food without lots of extra cost. It is amazing how much food you can grow in a small space and for a small amount of money. We gardened with flowers and ornamental shrubs before we got savvy to all of the food that can be produced. Now, a plant has to justify its existence to be in our garden. And the gardens are just as pretty. In fact they have a beauty that can’t be surpassed. Each plant works everyday to make food for us and each plant becomes a member of the family.

How long we have waited for the harvest,
but we were well rewarded for the wait.

I didn’t grow up around anyone who seriously gardens vegetables, so learning has been a long process, I think because I didn’t have a “feel” for what we were doing.  Each year it has gotten better. I had grown tomatoes off and on through the years, but our first real garden was in 2008. We started seeds inside in March and never looked back. Now, we wouldn’t be without a garden. It’s so much fun and lots of work, but every effort brings BIG returns.

Heritage, organic tomatoes are the real workhorses.
Indeterminate plants seem to produce forever!



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Aug 29 2010

Vision is the ability to look at one’s future to decide where you want to be in a selected period of time.

Then, you choose a path while taking positive action and thinking affirmative thoughts.

This may not speak to everyone, but I thought I would share some ideas on how to make your life more satisfying, in case it has some areas that need work. The beauty of what I have learned is that a simple adjusting of the way one sees the world can have a powerful effect on what enters and exits your life.

The interesting thing is, you have to take total responsibility for where you are. Whoa! That’s heavy. Maybe it takes saying it again in a different way to help it sink in. No matter what has happened, no matter how you might feel victimized, you have to ask yourself, why did I think the thoughts or take the actions that would specifically bring this into my life?

If you approach the hardship as a victim, then you will tend to stay victimized, but if you approach the hardship as if it is a learning lesson, then you can enter into an active partnership with the experience. It will seem easier, then, to take proactive steps to improve whatever negative thing happened so it doesn’t happen again because you are in control.

Asking “Why is this lesson important for me?” will help you take control.

Another way to look at it is to wonder, “Why did I ask for this lesson to be brought to me?” Depending on your personal beliefs, you may want to ask questions of your Supreme Being or the concept of Universal Energy or whatever you turn to as something bigger than you. You might even ask or question in prayer, “What is my version of What’s Bigger than Me trying to teach me?”

In the 1980s, there were many counselors who specialized in working with dysfunctional people who had grown up in dysfunctional families. I am sure that many of those excellent facilitators are still around today, it’s just that I don’t need to reach out for somebody to speak with like I did then.

But, what I’m getting to, is that one time I mentioned to the lady who was helping me that I was sick of getting calls from bill collectors and having the telephone shut off. She thought I was short of cash, but, no, I explained, I was “too busy” to pay the bills and “just didn’t think about it” until I went to use the phone and it was without its dial-tone.

Entertaining suggestions from friends, family and facilitators can help you focus on your future.

My counselor’s next comment floored me. “Why do you feel a need to withhold their money?,” she said. What an ODD concept, I thought. Why in the world would she say that because I would never intentionally withhold someone’s money? I didn’t see myself in that role at all. But, then as we discussed it, I grew and began to understand that there was no in between, my bills were either paid or they weren’t. If I wanted them to be paid, I would choose take steps to pay them and if I chose not to take steps to pay them, then I was in effect, withholding their money.

Sometimes talking to a family member, good friend or counselor creates a shift in thinking that is very helpful for the resolution of a problem.



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Filed under: Head,Vision — admin @ 12:30 pm Comments (0)
Aug 28 2010

Are you a Higgins?

Or related to or descended from a Higgins?

But, not just any Higgins…

…No, not just any Higgins.

Does your list of ancestors include
James Higgins and his wife Luraner Becraft Higgins
of Rockville, Maryland?

Well, if so, “Hello Cousin! You are in the right place!”

James Higgins fought in the Revolutionary War
as a Patriot.

Chevy Chase Chapter DAR
National Society Daughters of the American Revolution
marked James Higgins’ grave in November 2002.

There are lots and lots of descendants of James and Luraner Higgins and they are located all over the United States. Like many families who saddled up horses, hitched up wagons, packed up station wagons and headed west, the Higgins were not going to be left behind. But, there were many members of the family who never left and stayed right here in Maryland to keep the home fires burning. Somebody had to stay and leave a light on and we have always taken our duty very seriously.

So, what we’re saying is, “Enough of this wanderlust
foolishness. It’s time to come home!”

Time to meet your cousins, the ones you left
behind…sniff…and time to see from
whence you came!

We are celebrating the lives of
James and Luraner Higgins with a
Great BIG Family Reunion and
we hope you will join us.

James Higgins’ descendants were there for the ceremony.

Get out your 2016 calendar, the year that will mark the 200th Anniversary of James Higgins’ death, and pencil in the month of June when the youngsters are out of school and you can make the trip back. We want to meet every Higgins descendant we possibly can and give them family memories to tell their grandchildren. So, “Come EAST, young man!”

We can’t wait to see you!

To tide you over until we meet in person, you can meet us online by
visiting The Higgins Cemetery Historic Preservation Association, Inc.
website by clicking here.



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Filed under: Heart,Higgins Reunion — admin @ 12:14 pm Comments (0)
Aug 27 2010

My marble sculpture is not at a museum,
but in our rock garden.

Everyone who decides to attend college eventually has to take a course that they wouldn’t have otherwise selected, to fulfill a requirement or an open time slot in their schedule. Colleges want graduates to be well rounded in their field of study, not just proficient in their favorite courses.

So, that’s how I became a sculptor of marble. I was a drawing and painting major working on my studio art degree at the University of Maryland in the early 1970s, and to complete my degree, I was required to take a sculpture class. I had watched a talented sorority sister, also in studio art, sculpt a clay figure with a wire armature inside to support it and that was the class I wanted to take. But, that class was full and so I had to decide whether to wait a semester or go ahead and sign up for the only other sculpture class fitting my schedule, a marble sculpting class. Well, I thought, how hard could it be?

Well, it was really hard. The physicality of marble sculpture is not to be taken lightly. On the first day of class I found myself standing on a HUGE block of marble with a jack hammer trying to hold it steady while I was shaken beyond what I had ever thought possible. Kenneth Campbell, a renown marble sculptor, was the Professor and he insisted we learn the art from start to finish. I did not expect to be hammering off large chucks of marble from the huge block I was standing on, enough for each person in the class, but I had to jump up and take my turn like everyone else.

A sculpting tool kit offered by Sculpture House.

Then I had to learn to sharpen the tools, the chisels and points on a sharpening stone with oil as a lubricant.  Next, I had to learn to hold the tools correctly and hit them with the 2 1/2 pound hammer to flick off a tiny chip of stone. Finally, I had to learn that my hands would be “ringing” with the feeling of the hammer hitting the chisel long after the sculpting session had ended. It was a long and laborious process, my marble sculpture class that semester. One that gave me the highest respect for anyone who completes a marble sculpture. Especially getting it shiny smooth by using the progressively smaller sizes of abrasive grits rubbed over and over on every surface. What I learned that year was, completing a marble sculpture takes nothing short of a miracle.

I wouldn’t know how that miracle happens because my marble sculpture was never finished to that level of perfection. Even so, my scuplture and I spent so much time together that I now display it proudly: as a petunia support and chipmunk watering hole. I feel both petunias and chipmunks should have nothing but the best.

And, every time I go to the University of Maryland and am walking by the Night – Day sculpture created by Professor Campbell and photographed below, I say, “Hi!” to him and wish him well.

Kenneth Campbell (1913 – 1986)

When I was enrolled in Mr. Campbell’s marble sculpture class in 1972, he was installing his Night – Day sculpture on the University of Maryland, College Park campus. Marble sculpture is physically so demanding. I mean these blocks are HEAVY. It is amazing how he was able to balance them so that they are in place today, just as he left them, thirty-eight years ago. (Thirty-eight years ago? I was watching him thirty-eight years ago?…sigh…)

“Night – Day” sculpture resembling Stonehenge along the path between Holzapfel and H. J. Patterson Halls at the University of Maryland, College Park; sculpted by Kenneth Campbell, art professor emeritus, who taught stone carving for fifteen years; created in 1972, the pieces represent the various stages of “enlightenment”

If you are interested in seeing this sculpture listed in D.C. Memorials or view other sculptures in natural settings in the Washington, D.C. area, click here.

“High Class in a Minute”

In this video, we can watch marble sculptress Jill Burkee use both hand tools and power tools as she breaks her sculpture free from a block of marble. While watching Ms. Burkee, you will be listening to Luciano Pavarotti, the world famous tenor opera star, singing Franck’s Panis Angelicus with some Ave Maria at the end for good measure. This is quite a dose of High Class. I hope that if it’s first thing in the morning, you’ve had your coffee.



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Filed under: Beauty,Outside — admin @ 6:31 pm Comments (0)
Aug 26 2010

I find Harold S. Kushner’s books very helpful.

When I was little and thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up, my main goal was to have life interesting. I didn’t want routine. I didn’t want to be bored and I have gotten my wish. It has been a very interesting life so far. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I have always felt that everyone’s “good things” and “bad things” even out over a lifetime, and because I have had some stupendously wonderful things happend, that gift has been balanced by having some horribly debilitating things happen. It is easy to get through the good times, but when things in your life get so complicated that you can’t figure your way through it, try flipping through the pages of a book such as this one. When Good Things Happen to Bad People and the rest of Harold S. Kushner’s books are worth considering. They have always helped me hold on until I felt more balanced.

If you would like to preview When Bad Things Happen to Good People, hover your mouse over this link:

When Bad Things Happen to Good People



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Filed under: Loss,Money — admin @ 6:26 pm Comments (0)
Aug 25 2010

Dresses from times past are coming back in style.
They are flattering, feminine and tasteful.

Sunbonnet Smart is a working blog. In other words, we won’t just sit and talk with you all morning at the kitchen table. I am personally going to take you into my sewing room to look around and have fun. And, by the way, accomplish lots of work in the process. I want to be sure and pass on my hints and tips on clothing construction, quilt making and interior design, so I will be sharing patterns I have created from my collection of vintage looks and styles. Right now, we are fine tuning the workings of the Blog, but when the dust settles, we will be posting lots and lots of patterns for you to download. Based on the idea that “they just don’t make things like they used to,” Sunbonnet Smart will help you economize on your fabric goods and enjoy the process.



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Filed under: Clothes,Patterns — admin @ 6:23 pm Comments (0)
Aug 24 2010

Just when you think there can’t possibly be anything new to add to the vintage craft of canning meats and produce, along comes “Pickl-It.” Those of you who can regularly may be way ahead of me on this, but Pickl-It was new to me when I saw it in the back of the Summer 2010 issue of Wise Traditions, a regular publication of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

The Weston A. Price Foundation, found here online, promotes eating foods alive with probiotic bacteria and Pickl-It jars makes the process of lacto-fermenting your own foods pleasant and convenient.

Down through history, foods all over the world were harvested and preserved by lacto-fermentation. In fact, there are those who say the human digestive developed around, and can’t be efficient without, a steady source of probiotic, lacto-fermenting bacteria. Lacto-fermented foods are pre-digested when eaten and are therefore more easily digested by our bodies. In addition, live probiotic foods replenish the good bacteria in the gut, giving humans the help they need to effectively digest food and promote the assimilation of nutrients.

It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution using factory processing techniques that lacto-fermentation fell into disuse in America and Europe. This was because industrial processes could not provide environments conducive to lacto-fermenting bacteria and the use of acetic acid from vinegar was substituted.  Although the acid environment created by vinegar preserved foods, it did not sustain growth of probiotic bacteria and so, foods eaten after pickling with vinegar were not living cultures that aided human digestion.

Returning to tried and true natural pickling techniques, Pickl-It jars use easy-to-do, clever methods to produce a better oxygen-depleted environment to enhance lacto-fermentation. The probiotic microbes that take action on cabbage to turn it into sauerkraut, for example, need an anaerobic or oxygen poor environment to function, the less oxygen, the better. While most living creatures need oxygen and can’t live without it, anaerobic microbes thrive without it and suffer in its presence. Pickl-It lacto-fermentation systems create effective oxygen deprived environments that promote bacterial formation of lactic acid allowing consistent good food flavor, texture and color.

So, for great tasting sauerkraut without lots of mess, go to the Pickle-It web site found here and see what size Pickl-It system will work for you. For beginners, I would suggest the 1 ½ liter “work-horse” Pickl-It system for a first attempt.

Why not try your hand at a batch of sauerkraut by following the Pickl-It photo essay on the Pickl-It website.



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Filed under: Food,Processing — admin @ 6:13 pm Comments (0)

Cinnamon Currant Scones will delight all of your family and friends.

Are you for round scones or pie wedge scones? I don’t know that I would turn down a scone based on its shape, but when I bake scones, I like to cut them with a 2 1/2 inch round biscuit cutter and pile them up for their entrance display.

I think the rounds are easier to split in half. Furthermore, there is no need to create stress at the breakfast table by having to wrestle a scone point that’s decided to fall off rather than be split in half. Surely there will be those of you writing in to say that a scone is not a scone if it is round, but may I beg your indulgence in this regard?

Would it really step on your toes if I do as I please in my own kitchen?

Oh! (shutter) Where was I?

As you can see, it is easy to get heated over scones.

Cinnamon Currant Scones

MAKES 12 SCONES

Be sure to read the recipe first to gather ingredients and equipment.

PREHEAT OVEN to 425°F and insert baking stone or flour a cookie sheet.

COMBINE in a large bowl:

2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1 cup organic unbleached white flour
3 TBSP organic sugar
1 teas. baking SODA
1 teas. organic cinnamon
1/2 teas. sea salt

ADD: 6 TBSP cold farm fresh real butter or organic butter, cut up into pieces and

BLEND
with pastry blender until mixture looks like fine crumbs.

STIR IN: 1/3 cup dried currants, organic if possible.

MIX IN to form soft dough:

1 lg. organic egg, lightly beaten
3/4 c. plus 1 TBSP organic buttermilk

TURN DOUGH onto lightly floured surface. Pat dough 3/4 inch thick. With 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible. Then, combine scraps, pat out and cut again to use up all the dough.

TRANSFER ROUNDS to floured cookie sheet or, even better, use large baking stone that has been preheated along with the oven.

BRUSH TOPS OF ROUNDS with buttermilk.

SPRINKLE EACH ROUND with a little sugar.

BAKE 18 MINUTES or until golden brown and centers are done.

SEND ME AN E-MAIL and invite me over.

SERVE WARM with farm fresh real butter and jam, jelly or preserves.

You’ll notice I mentioned  a baking stone in this recipe.  That’s what I use at home. I have gotten to LOVE that baking secret. It is just amazing how much better everything I bake turns out now. I still tend to use double-walled cookie sheets for baking cookies, placing a dozen on each pan, but for biscuits, pastry rings, and these scones, I feel very secure using the baking stone. I know I will have a good product when I’m done. Be sure to be careful with it.  If it is dropped, it will crack and break. Also, I always put mine in a cold oven and let it preheat along with the oven so it isn’t shocked by the temperature change.

If you haven’t tried one as yet, hover over the link below to preview a good stone.  And notice, I say a good stone.  This one is more expensive, but it’s worth it. I am a bargain shopper on everything I buy. These heavier stones are worth the investment as they last longer without cracking and I use mine almost everyday.

Rada Cutlery Stoneware Round Pizza Baking Stone, 15 Inch, Made in USA



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Filed under: Food,Recipes — admin @ 5:38 pm Comments (0)
Aug 20 2010

I have to begin the first post of my new blog and web site with a tribute to Jethro Tull, musicians of note from the 1970s when I was in college. With today’s “Auto Tune” music culture using synthesizers and electronic voice manipulation, Jethro Tull stands out as a legendary band of true musicians, actually singing with their own voices and making real music with real musical instruments.

When Songs from the Wood was released in 1977, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  The music was so inspirational to me; the wonders of natural settings was given a soulful tribute. As one reviewer says in the comments beneath the video below,

I was inroduced to Tull by me dad.

Everytime each song you are slapped in the face by the musicianship and dare I say it? the Englishness of it, when he is singing I can almost smell the wet grass of a summers day after a shower.

Genius!

How I love that image! He says he “can almost smell the wet grass of a summers day after a shower.” Yes! I can daydream on demand whenever I hear Songs from the Wood. If you are not a fan or familiar with the title cut, just click play on the video below, after you learn about Kitty’s choice in music.

 

Kitty prefers Jethro Tull and has every disk in her collection.

Lead Singer Ian Anderson with Jethro Tull performing Songs from the Wood in 1977.

If you like it as much as I do, then go the the group’s web site by clicking here and enjoy the rest of the albums.

To appreciate what the group Jethro Tull has accomplished by creating real music for five, yes FIVE, decades, this Nova special on Auto Tune voice enhancement will explain how most singers today, including Madonna, Celine Dion and Reba McIntyre are enhanced by Auto Tune.

Andy Hildebrand, an electrical engineer and the Inventor
of Auto Tune, gives a great demonstration on NOVA.

If you want to preview Songs of the Wood disk, just
hover your mouse over the link below:

Songs From the Wood



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Filed under: Beauty,Music — admin @ 5:10 pm Comments (0)

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