Drying Herbs

So much mint! I use it fresh in lemonades, flavored waters, mint teas, and some salads…but hello! All winter long, I buy mint tea bags. Why not dry the abundance of mint for myself? I kept my set-up super basic:

  1. pick herbs and separate good leaves from bad
  2. rinse good leaves and dry in a salad spinner and on a towel
  3. lay leaves out on an old thin cotton sheet on clothes drying rack in a dark room…you want good air circulation
  4. after a week, store in a container in a dark place (Apparently, if the herbs are not dry enough, you’ll see moisture in the container and will need to dry it longer. My jars have no sign of moisture).

 

I also dried sage. I’m going to make sage cough syrup (basically dried sage and honey) for this winter.

 

 

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These two jars are just the beginning….after vacation, I’m going to do another batch! I never realized how easy it could be!

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Recent Favorite: Easy but Challenging Piano Music

It’s been about fifteen years since I’ve had piano lessons. Although I still love to tickle the ivories, I find myself playing easier music that I know really well and not spending the time to learn new pieces.  To be honest, it would be difficult to learn new piano pieces at the level that I was playing when I stopped lessons. I have lost a lot of the skill that I had. But in the past months, I decided to try to push myself a little and learn some new pieces that required actual practice and not just sight-reading. I’ve enjoyed two music books in particular:

Chopin (an easier version of some of his classic works):

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Below is the song that I’ve been practicing. The easier version that I play starts at the 1:00 minute mark and goes to 5:30.  Of course, listening to this rendition inspires me to learn the original piece!  But if you’re not ready for a difficult Chopin piece, the book above is an excellent start. The CD that comes with it is a really nice way to hear the piece before learning it.

 

The second book I’ve been enjoying:

Keyboard pops (it’s challenging but fun to play the syncopated rhythm):

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Here’s one of the pieces titled “Lazy Louie”. It sounds simple, and in a certain sense the notes are not difficult, but the timing makes all the difference!  Playing notes off-beat takes a little practice!

 

Often when I play, Cooper trots over, sighs, and lays down to listen. He’s a very gratifying audience, even with his eyes closed.  😀

 

 

 

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Garden Gate

Before:

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Two tall posts and a wire door

 

After:

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Finally a proper gate!

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We did not follow any plans for the gate, except those in my head, haha.

 

A few considerations we had when building the gate:

  1. Keep it as light as possible by not using too much wood. We tried to avoid ending up with a sagging gate.
  2. Have it wide enough for a wheelbarrow to easily go through.
  3. Make it attractive as well as functional. I’m hoping to plant a clematis or another vine this fall that will grow over the top.

This year, our vegetable garden is very low key due to various circumstances. We have the herb garden producing full force, two rows of garlic, five tomato plants, and a few random potato plants that came back from last year.  The rest is weeds, haha.

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So much sage! It comes back bigger and bigger every year!

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Rows of garlic planted last fall and getting close to harvest.

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Good old horse manure, laying in a pile and decomposing, ready to be worked in the soil this fall.

We’re knocking down our hilltop raised-bed gardens because the boards are rotting through. It’s been eight years, and although I’ll miss the beauty of it, it was getting to be too much to keep on top of those gardens as well as the garden pictured above.  And so my focus is going to be on this vegetable garden.

My dreams for the future of this garden: a beautiful potager garden. I’d love for it to be full of vegetables, annual flowers, a small bench, and bordered by perennials. It’s exciting to dream, and it seems more doable now that we’ve scaled back.

Well, I’m off to clip some herbs, because this year I’m attempting to….

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May Favorites: (4) Heritage Hill Tour

Every May, the Heritage Hill section of Grand Rapids holds historic house tours. It’s a great way to tour some old homes, fall in love with the amazing architecture and quirky details, bike around the neighborhood, enjoy the Spring gardens, and be inspired!

This year we went with my parents:

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Our first home (which is pictured above) was my favorite. The original owner was a music lover and designed the whole house around music. He had a pipe organ installed in the house. The organ console was in the music room, but the pipes were in the basement in a humidity-controlled room. The music from the pipes would waft through the whole home because special vents were built into the floors. A man was playing the organ while we toured, and it was amazing!

No photography was allowed in the houses, and so I don’t have any pictures to show you.

And of course we brought a picnic lunch, which we ate at a park:

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dad

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May Favorites: (3) Shakespeare

I haven’t read Shakespeare since high school. I don’t know any quotes from him, and I’m unfamiliar with most of his works. And I’m an English Literature major. When the book challenge that Josh and I are a part of listed Shakespeare as a category to read from, we were excited to dip our toes in. We decided to read “King Lear” (which I had read in high school), based off of my vague memories that it was an interesting play. Ahem. I had had no recollection that it was a trajedy, and a somewhat graphic one at that. But we enjoyed it. And no, I still don’t have any Shakespearean quotes to throw at you, but we’re thinking of trying out another one.

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Here are my three recommendations if you too want to dip into Shakespeare:

  1. Listen to it on audio. Seeing that most of the play is dialogue, the character’s voice/dialect adds so much life and passion to the story.
  2. Follow along in a hard copy. It will be that much easier to know who is speaking and what they’re saying.
  3. Get a book that has a short summary of each act. We read the summary first and then listened to/read the actual act. It gave us a much better idea of what was happening in the play.

BONUS TIP: read it while being extra comfy; perhaps in bed with pillows propped up behind you.

 

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May Favorites: (2) Saturday Morning Routine

Saturday mornings have fallen into a new routine:

  1. Go to bed early on Friday night so that we can rise bright and early on Saturday. By Friday, I’m pretty tired from the work week, and so I actually enjoy going to bed early!
  2. Have a leisurely breakfast. I never move fast in the morning, and we both love a slow breakfast of tea, toast, and eggs.
  3. Hike through the Highlands (a meadow connected to Blandford Nature Center). Early in the morning, it’s absolutely gorgeous. We’re usually the only ones there, and we use this time to talk, enjoy nature, and get a 40-minute walk in.
  4. Stop by Sandy’s Donuts. Yes, we always order the same thing: 2 custard-filled long johns to-go, please.
  5. Come home, turn on the Flowerland Garden radio show, and enjoy our donut and a cup of coffee.

Do you have any new routines that you love?

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May Favorites: (1) Wildflowers

I’ve never visited Blandford Nature Center so consistently as I have since we’ve owned Cooper. Long walks (regardless of rain, sunshine, cold, or heat) opened my eyes to see the quickly changing spring landscape. Flowers came and went within a week. I was able to capture quite a few:

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Snowdrop

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Toothwort

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Yellow Trout Lily

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Spring Beauty

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Dutchman’s Breeches

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False Rue Anemone

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Large Flowered Trillium

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Marsh Marigold

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Wild Strawberry

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Wild Geranium

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Jack-in-the-pulpit

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Violet

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Wild Dogwood Tree

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Wild apple tree

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Buttercup

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Mayapple

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Mayapple

 

my walking companion:

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