Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Beauty of Spring and the Promise of New Beginnings

Each of the seasons offer something wonderful to enjoy, but there is something special about the beauty and promise of new beginnings that spring brings, especially after the long winter we had here in the northeast. 
These are some of the flowers my daughter gave me for Mother's Day. The color is so beautiful.

The white and purple lilacs in our yard are blooming and filling the area with a gorgeous scent...

I couldn't resist cutting several, and bringing them inside to enjoy in as well. Lilacs are some of my favorite flowers.

Did you notice the matching lilac themed table runner? I will be posting a tutorial on how to sew one of your own in the near future so be sure to check back. These are easy to make and can be adapted to match any decor, holiday, or season based on the fabric you use.

However the following pictures are a true representation of the new beginnings of spring...

The robin's nest is located in a shrub that is planted at the base of our deck. My daughter was able to capture these great photos by gently moving the branches of the bush above the nest when the mamma bird briefly flew away in search of food. The nest is actually very well concealed in the shrub. The way we even became aware that it was there, was that the robin would chirp and furiously fly out of the bush each time we walked near it, or when we sat on the end of the deck where it is located. We have several bird houses located throughout our yard, and have experienced getting to watch mother birds fly in and out of the houses as they care for their young each spring. We have also witnessed the baby birds learning to fly. This is the first time that we have had a nest built in such a prime location however, and we can't wait for the hatching of these babies. I hope we are able to capture some more great photos for you when they emerge.

The promise of new life....

Monday, May 11, 2015

Easy Double Chocolate Bundt Cake

I enjoy baking "from scratch" but there are also days when things are busy and you just need a little short cut. This recipe uses a cake mix as a starting point, but by adding a little bit extra than the  normal cake mix directions would require, you create a really moist and delicious chocolate cake without too much fuss. 

I box of white cake mix with pudding in the mix
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
3/4 cup water
1 package of instant chocolate pudding
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup butter softened
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
Powdered sugar for dusting the completed cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour a bundt pan or prepare using Bakers Joy spray.
In a large bowl combine the cake mix, sugar and pudding. Using an electric mixer add in the oil, water, buttermilk and butter. Mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Fold in the chocolate chips.
Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes and then remove from the pan.
Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack.
Dust with powdered sugar.


Friday, May 8, 2015

My Secret Weapon for Gardening Success

The weather for the past couple of days has been incredibly beautiful! Each morning our yard has been filled with a chorus of singing birds and all of the spring perennials are blessing us with a rainbow of colors. The raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry bushes are starting to sprout their green leaves and offer a promise of the sweet juicy goodness they will bring this summer. As I shared in a post this past weekend, the herb garden is already starting to offer an enticing aroma. Monday evening we enjoyed dinner on our deck as gentle breezes were blowing, and we actually saw our first butterfly and hummingbird of the season as we dined. The beauty of spring was all around us, appealing to all of our senses and encouraging us to appreciate everything that this season has to offer!
Therefore, this seems like the perfect time to share one of my favorite gardening secrets.  Many years ago my dad, who happens to be a phenomenal gardener, introduced me to a product called Spray-N-Grow

Spray-N-Grow is not a fertilizer. It is an organic micro-nutrient complex that you use in addition to your regular fertilizer. I am not a chemist and I am not going to pretend to know how it works.What I can tell you is that I definitely see great results on all of my plants when I use it. It comes in a liquid concentrate form that you add to water and spray on your plants. The directions indicate that you should start using it as soon as your plants begin to leaf out and then apply it every 1-4 weeks throughout the growing season. They suggest using it weekly for maximum results.
We applied our first application this past weekend and if our past experiences hold true, we expect to see some great results again this year.

Stay tuned for more photos of our garden treasures as the season progresses.Have you ever tried  
Spray-N-Grow, and if so, did you see an improvement in your garden too? 
(This was NOT a paid endorsement. I am simply sharing my favorite secret garden weapon with you because sharing secrets is what friends do, and we all reap the benefits of a world filled with pretty,flowers, green plants and luscious fruits and vegetables.)

If you would like to do something else to celebrate spring and the gardening season, head over to Katherine's Corner
where Katherine and some of her blogger friends are offering the chance to enter a fun give away that includes $200 in Pay Pal Cash and some fun lady bug themed items. What a great way to usher in the warmer weather!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Marinated Four Bean Salad

This is a great make ahead cold side dish that you can serve at all your warm weather gatherings. It is an easy to make and can be doubled if necessary depending on the amount of people you are serving. With barbeque season and graduation parties about to head into full swing, this is a great recipe to keep on hand. The weather was so gorgeous this past weekend that we made sure we took advantage of dining on our back deck, and this was one of the items on the menu.

1 can of garbanzo beans
1 can of wax beans
1 can of kidney beans
1 can of green beans                                                        1 red onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup salad oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup wine vinegar

Drain the beans. Mix the oil, sugar and vinegar together. Add the beans to the oil & vinegar mixture. Allow to marinate for 24 hours to several days. Stir occasionally to make sure all of the beans are coated. To serve, drain the dressing off.

For a nice presentation on your spring or summer buffet table, you can pour the salad into a lettuce lined bowl. This is also a great dish to pack in a picnic basket for those warm weather excursions.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Creative Teacher Appreciation Day Gifts That Can Be Made Quickly

Happy Monday Everyone! I hope you had an amazing weekend and spent some time with family and friends. The weather here was absolutely beautiful and that made it perfect for getting some yard work and spring gardening chores checked off our "to do" list. However, now that it is time to get back to the regular work and school routines, did you realize that this week is "Teacher Appreciation Week"? If it happened to sneak up on you, don't fret, as I am going to share some adorable gifts that you can create rather quickly to honor the educators in your children's lives. My daughter is a senior in high school and my son is in college, so the days of bringing 'cute' gifts in to their teachers are a thing of the past, but one of my most creative friends sent me some photos of the gifts she made for her children's teachers this year. I thought these were great ideas and couldn't resist sharing them with you.
For the first gift you will need some wide mouth mason jars, ribbon, and some cookies. My friend is a phenomenal baker in addition to being extremely creative, so she made homemade chocolate chip cookies. However, if you are pulling these together at the last minute, you can always run to the bakery and purchase some cookies.
 All You need to do is put the cookies in the jar, then tie a ribbon around it and attach a tag that says "Thank You For Making Me One Smart Cookie!"
The next idea is just as creative, just as easy, and just as sweet. For this one you also need a mason jar and ribbon, but instead of cookies, you need to buy some Smarties Candy rolls.
On this tag  write "You Are The Sweetest Teacher...Thank You For Making Me Super Smart". You just fill the mason jars with the candy, attach the ribbon and tag and you're done. You can make the gifts as decorative or as simple as you'd like, depending on how elaborate you get with designing your bows and gift tags.
There you have it...two thoughtful gifts that you can quickly create for all of the sweet teachers in your children's lives. I'd like to take this time to say "Thank You" to all the educators out there, who work so diligently every day to create a better future by imparting their knowledge and enriching the lives of their students. Your devotion and hard work make the world a better place!
(I'll be linking this idea up with Sunday Features Link Party, Love of Home Sundays at Home Link Party, The 36th Avenue Best DIY and Recipe Link Party,
Just a Girl And Her Blog " Hit Me With Your Best Shot Link Party" 
Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop