Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve 2013

I love new beginnings.
New Year's Day feels like such a gift.
A day to reflect on all that's been learned
and how to make those lessons matter in the year to come.
Blessings to you and yours on the eve 
of something wonderful.

Maple Hill Hop

The Maple Hill Hop will be back next week!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Farm School Winter Series Week One

It may be the end of the calendar year, but
we're beginning our final season in our year-long
Farm School Series.
It's been a year of growth for the garden,
as well as for my spirit.
What an unexpected and welcome gift.

This weekend had us hard pressed to find any sunshine.
A light drizzle fell sporadically as we went about our work.

After being unable to contribute to the garden last week because of my back,
it felt good to be back out there enjoying 
Mother Nature at Her finest.

The salad is ready to be transplanted.

With a fabulous germination rate,
these leeks are well on their way.

These beauties will be ready for harvest in a matter of weeks.

The cucumbers are making progress.
I know, cucumbers in December?
So far, so good!

The farm is loaded with peas.
This is the most successful crop of peas that Lynn has grown to date.
It's a thrill to enjoy them in my daily salads once again.

The brussels sprouts and peas got a good soaking.

Radishes are a 3-week crop.
It's amazing to me that nutritious, delicious food can be grown in such a short time.

The beets will be ready for eating soon.
My roasting pan is all ready!

 The Swiss chard adds some holiday color to the garden.

Along with the tomatoes that we've been recently enjoying.

They've been used for suppertime slicing, making homemade gravy and more recently,
in some tomato soup worthy of the Soup Nazi.

Here are the scallions a week ago.

they are reaching for the sky.
If you remember, these onion sets were planted
seven inches under the soil.
What an amazing amount of energy to get this far so quickly.

 One lone eggplant was ready for me to take home.

We mixed up some of Lynn's luscious loam. 
We originally showed how this was done here.

The peat that's used in the mixture comes in blocks,

which gets screened in this homemade contraption.
It's one of my favorite jobs.

Ready for planting!

Today we transplanted about 50 Red Salad Bowl lettuce plants.
All the sooner to land on my table.

Winter is a time for the garden to really 
strut its stuff.
We are able to enjoy gardening 
almost year-round.
Looking forward to the new year
and everything there is still to learn.
Blessings be...

Check out the humble beginnings of Farm School here.
Subsequent seasons can be found under our header.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Wrapping Revisited

While I'm taking care of my back,
enjoy this post from the past.
Have a wonderful weekend!

I don't know about anyone else,
but I always prefer a gift that is homemade. 
Whether edible, wearable, or useable,
those gifts that someone takes the time
to create just for me are treasured. 
With so many people facing uncertainty
in the workforce, 
it makes sense to rein in and start getting
back to basics with our gift-giving.  
It's not only more meaningful, 
but it makes fiscal sense.
As in life, it comes down to quality over quantity. 
A delicious loaf of home-baked bread 
still warm from the oven,
a hand-knit scarf or winter hat, 
or a fun cookie recipe in a jar
that the receiver can enjoy composing with others,
are all ways to show you care deeply about someone
while adding comfort 
and maybe even a little joy to their life.
Not much more comforting than freshly-baked bread!

I've been making these gifts-in-a-jar for years. 
 I've made bath salts,
cornbread mix, cookies, brownies, and soup mixes.  
The finished product ends up looking like sand art, 
as you layer the ingredients in canning jars.  
No one I've ever given one of these to 
has been less than amazed at the idea.  
It's not mine, but I'm happy to pass it along!

 I enjoy making my own wrapping paper 
for the holidays. 
Here I took some scraps of wrapping paper 
from gifts last year
and glued them onto butcher paper, 
making sure to cut around the "Pooh" characters
(our 9-year old friend would probably not appreciate it as much 
had they been included).

I included this coupon for his mom so that she can spend one day  just doing something for herself. 
 She is a single mom and an avid reader 
who doesn't often get time alone
with her thoughts and loves being surrounded 
by great books!

This is the stamped paper 
I have been making for years.  
It's so easy and a great project for kids to help with.  
One year we had a distinct stamp 
for each person's gifts under the tree
so that at a glance, 
everyone could tell which presents were theirs!

 These stamps have been collected over the years 
and come in a myriad of shapes and sizes.
They can also be used for greeting cards, 
decorating shirts or bags
and creating a table runner for the holiday table.
It's a fun way to keep the kids happy 
while they await company or the first course!
Just lay out the white or brown butcher paper 
and let your creativity flow!

We don't have a fireplace (yet), 
so hubby created this makeshift hearth.
I think Santa still has to use the front door, 
but at least we don't
have to worry about our stockings burning!

Have a wonderful holiday however you choose to celebrate.
May you be "wrapped up" in blessings this holiday season!


Today's the last day of our 
Christmas Cookie Tag Series!
Check out what Jackie's baking.

One Project at a Time Link party - ABFOL 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Crockpot Lasagna is Baaa-aack...

Signing off for a bit to try to recover from this back injury.
I'll repost some golden oldies for the next few days.
Hope you enjoy your weekend!
(Originally posted 1/4/13)

The crockpot is a wonderful tool to use in the kitchen.
Especially in the winter,
it's great to be able to make hearty stews and soups
with very little time and effort.

We traditionally eat lasagna for Christmas supper.
Since preparing the turkey in the slow cooker at Thanksgiving worked out so well,
I decided to make Big K's lasagna version in the crockpot.
The inspiration for this dish came from this website,
but as usual, we put our own twist on things.
Stephanie O'Dea's books and website
have tons of slow cooker recipes.


No more labor-intensive lasagna for me.
Just layer it in and move on with your day.
You don't even have to cook the noodles first!


Crockpot Lasagna

1 box lasagna noodles
16 oz. container ricotta cheese
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
*16 oz. gravy (tomato sauce)
1 lb. ground chicken or turkey
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, shredded
8 oz. baby portabello mushrooms
1/2 t salt, or to taste
1 T Italian seasoning, or to taste

Brown meat with carrots and onion until onions are transluscent.
Meanwhile, sautee mushrooms
in 1 T olive oil until carmelized.
Add gravy and seasonings to meat mixture.

Place uncooked noodles on a layer of sauce.
Break up the noodles so that they fit the form
of your slow cooker.
Add a layer of riccotta, then mozzarella, then meat sauce.
Repeat layers one more time.
Add a little shredded mozzarella to the top layer of sauce.
*Pour 1/4 C of water into sauce jar and shake.
Add to the top of your lasagna.
Cook on low 8 hours, on high 4 hours.

Have leftover ricotta cheese?
Make these.


Our Christmas Cookie Tag Series continues.  
Check out what Mary's  got cookin'.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Be sure to stop by these blogs today for the final posts in our
Homemade Living Series.
It's been a blast working with these gals
and we'll keep you posted on future series.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Maple Hill Hop 11

The recipient of the  
Cobble Hill Handcrafted Soap giveaway is Liz!
Congratulations!  You'll love the stuff!
Just email me your addy at naturegurl1111@gmail.com,
 and we'll get your goodies out to you!

Displaying maplehillgiveaway.jpg

Maple Hill Hop
The Maple Hill Hop is a little different today.
I'm recovering from a back injury and can't get around too well to take pix.
I added a post from last December to the Hop instead.
I hope you'll add your posts about all things outdoors!
We hope to be able to post again next week!


Remember to check in with Sue over at 
for her addition to the 
Christmas Cookie Tag Series!

Now, let's HOP!