I love them..I love them not

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If you’ve ever driven down a Southern Interstate Highway and your windshield  suddenly became covered with a goo so thick that seeing became harder and harder, well then you know Autumn must be coming soon.  Welcome to the South in September!

The goo I’m referring to is actually the end result of a swarm of “Love Bugs” so-called strange little insects that come out in droves this time of the year.

According to the encyclopedia, no insect is actually named “Love Bug”; rather, they are part of the fly family. These bugs are not harmful in any way. They don’t bite or sting but they are a pain in the neck.

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Autumn is their mating season. That is why they got their name and appear to have two heads. Down south, it’s not unusual to see bug-encrusted bumpers and windshields full of unfortunate insects that got in the way of the automobiles.  I honestly think they are actually drawn to the heat from the vehicle, because the bugs are like magnets to your car.

The splattered insects on my windshield are quite a nuisance. Unfortunately, I can’t just wash them off with a rinse from my windshield wipers. In fact, I have to get out the old bucket full of suds and give the entire car a good hard scrub with extra elbow grease. You can’t leave the smooshed love bugs on your car. The acid in their bodies can actually eat the paint right off your car.

Heck, those pesky “love bugs” should be called “hate bugs”, because there’s not much to love about these bugs!

A Splash of Fall Color!

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With Autumn approaching, temperatures will begin dropping and Mother Nature’s colors will start to fade. One of my favorite ways to add fast and easy color back into my scenery is to use container gardens. You don’t need a large yard, or any yard at all to create beautiful vistas with potted plants. Using containers for your plants allows them to be portable so you can move them wherever you want an extra splash of color.  Use them for a dramatic punch flanking your front entrance or for dressing up your porches and patios.   You can even incorporate them into your outdoor parties.

The first step is selecting the perfect container.  Basically, anything that can hold soil can be used; however, the most important thing is having holes for drainage. To ensure the holes don’t get blocked, you can place broken clay pots, stones or pea gravel to the pot before adding your soil.

farm 017Selecting your container is your personal preference, but make sure the pot is large enough to allow for root growth.  Some of my favorites are large urns, glazed pots, cedar boxes, strawberry pots or even a garden box on a plant stand.pot2

I enjoy making a container garden and decided to make one for my porch.  I opted for a large pot and added broken pieces of a clay pot to the bottom for drainage. Next, I gathered several plants and laid them out to decide which colors blended well.  You should play with all types of foliage; green leaf colors, bloom colors and grasses. Have fun with it and first arrange the plants in several combinations until you achieve the look your want.

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I placed an old curly twig and Purple Fountain Grass for height in the center.  Next, I mixed Red Pentas with Mexican Petunias, Biloxi Blue Verbena and pastel colored Calibrachoa.  Tucking in purple-tipped Romain Lettuce added more shades of Fall color.  Give container gardening a try and I think you’ll find it great fun.

 

 

Porch Living

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Porch living is as Southern as Magnolias and Azaleas. A classic fixture on most homes, they are inviting and inspiring. “Porch Living” is a favorite activity for any Southerner because, if they are well-designed, a porch can make a great backdrop to welcome friends and family. It makes them want to come sit a spell, share stories, catch up on neighborhood news, or just peacefully enjoy a gentle breeze on a sultry summer evening. And who doesn’t enjoy snuggling up on a porch swing with a sweetheart in hopes of stealing a kiss?

They can serve as an extension of our interiors as an al fresco dining room, a relaxing reading nook or the perfect spot for an afternoon nap. Whether built-in a nostalgic or modern design, porches have claimed their place as prime outdoor living and gardening spaces. We don’t just have the run-of-the-mill porch, our porches are made for living! They were the first area my husband and I tackled when we began to design our farm-house. We knew that a wrap-around porch was a must.  Our builder just laughed and said we have so much porch space that it looks like more living space outside than inside.  That was fine by us.

Even though the foundation to our house is the only thing completed, I can look at our home site and visualize beautiful containers filled with flowers on the steps leading to the porch. My children are quietly playing jacks and pick-up sticks while I take a well-deserved nap in an oversized porch swing. As I’ve stated before, I do like to dream!

Key Lime Whoopi Pies

Key Lime Whoopi Pies; by Martha Stewart

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INGREDIENTS

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup whole-wheat flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup full-fat plain yogurt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon grated lime zest plus 3 tablespoons juice (from 6 key limes or 2 limes)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS

STEP 1
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in middle and bottom thirds. Whisk together flours, brown sugar, baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt. In a large bowl, with a mixer, beat yogurt, oil, and eggs on medium, 3 minutes. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions; beat in vanilla until combined. Refrigerate batter 30 minutes. Meanwhile, using clean mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in confectioners’ sugar and lime zest and juice until smooth. Refrigerate filling, covered, until ready to use (or up to 3 days).
STEP 2
Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and granulated sugar. Drop dough in 40 rounded tablespoons, 1 1/2 inches apart, on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until puffed and set, about 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Remove cakes from oven and immediately sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks. Peel cakes from parchment. Spread 1 tablespoon filling on flat sides of half the cakes and sandwich with remaining cakes. Serve immediately (or refrigerate in a single layer in an airtight container, up to 2 days).

GOOD LUCK  AND EAT UP!

Labor Day Picnic

 

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According to the weather reports, Labor Day was scorching hot here down south and the rest of the U.S. I hope that didn’t stop everyone from enjoying the holiday with family and friends.

That’s what we chose to do; have a family cookout at our farm. Even though we have just begun construction on our house, we’ve already built a huge metal building that we use as a storage shed. That’s where we set up picnic tables and opened the doors to get a great breeze. Even with the breeze and a commercial size fan blowing, we couldn’t escape the sweltering heat and thick humidity.shed

We all had glistening beads of sweat running down our backs but that didn’t stop conversations from flowing as we caught up with the latest news, swatted gnats while sampling the dishes everyone brought. We definitely succeeded in having a good time in spite of the smoldering heat.

The menu was simple. My husband decided to grill chicken and I made a pot of seafood gumbo. Other family members pitched in with their favorite dishes, so there was plenty to eat.

Although I knew others would bring dessert, I wanted to wow everyone with something new and unusual. I enjoy trying new recipes and always want to mix things up when it comes to entertaining, so I often search through cookbooks and magazines trying to put a twist on the same old edibles usually offered.

I found a fun dessert called “Key Lime Whoopi Pies”. I love key lime anything and decided this was just the ticket. The recipe was from an authority in cooking as well as gardening, crafts, DIY projects, you name it. She is my mentor, Martha Stewart. I know, everyone has their opinion of her. They either like her or they don’t. Well, I’m not ashamed to admit I like her. There I said it! It’s out there. I am a huge fan of Martha Stewart. I find her to be very talented in all areas and she is my go-to-gal when I need inspiration. Sorry, I digress. Back to the Whoopi Pies.

I had lots of cooking to do the morning of the cookout, but I was determined to shine with this dessert. I gathered all the ingredients and put forth my best efforts. The recipe called for a creamy key lime filling to use as glue to bind two delicious cookies together. My filling would not thicken. It was very runny and defied all efforts to bind with the homemade cookies.  I am still not sure what went wrong but I ended up with a thin useless mess. Even adding a little corn starch didn’t help. Meanwhile, my husband and kids were begging for me to hurry things along, so we could leave in time for the cookout. Still, I tried to figure out how to rescue the dessert that I was sure would be the “hit” of the Labor Day picnic. Alas, all efforts failed. I’m embarrassed to say the dessert got left at home. I feel like I disappointed Martha; I could not execute her recipe. I can’t believe I got whipped by a Whoopi Pie!

Of course, the picnic was still a success, minus the dessert. I guess when you gather with your family and close friends, no grand eats or special entertainment are really necessary. We fed carrots to the horses and took short hikes while talking about the fading Summer days and hopes that a cool Autumn to soon arrive.

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To find the complete recipe of Martha Stewarts’ Key Lime Whoopi Pies, see my page at the top of the menu bar titled, “Eat Up!”  Please give the dessert a try and let me know how you do.

Campfire Banana S’mores

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My family just loves these.  We made them last Fall at a cookout with the whole family.  So much fun to make and they were just oozing with melted chocolate.  Definitely one of those “lick your fingers clean” kinda dessert but Oh, so delicious!

The neat part is that each person can personalize their own Campfire Banana S’more to their liking by adding options. such as nuts, M&M’s, coconut, caramel sauce, and my favorite, peanut butter chips.

The directions are as follows:

Take approximately 8 bananas, 1 bag of chocolate chips and 1 bag of marshmallows. ( I prefer the miniature marshmallows)

Split your banana lengthwise, but don’t cut all the way through.  Try to create a boat to hold in all the ingredients and don’t take the peeling all the way off.  It helps hold in all of your items.  Then load the split banana with chocolate chips, marshmallows and then any extra add-on that strikes your fancy.

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Wrap each filled banana in heavy-duty tin foil and place near the campfire.  Avoid placing them directly into the fire.  They will burn.  Leave them near the hot coals for approximately 5 to 7 minutes until everything has melted.  Remove and let cool.  Now you can enjoy one gooey concoction.

 

 

Hold the Pumpkins!

 

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I was out shopping today and was amazed at the amount of Halloween decorations already on display. Bear in mind, that today is August 26; it’s not September yet. Is it just me or do the years seem to be getting shorter and shorter? We all know the calendar never changes, so what is making the days move by faster? Where’s the fire, people?? Let’s slow down and enjoy September for what it has to offer before jumping head first into the rush of the holiday season.

It is, in my opinion, an awesome time of year full of change; in the weather, in Mother Nature’s colors and in people’s demeanor. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of us love summer time when the heat from the sun bakes your skin and adds warmth to your bones. You can sit on the beach burying your toes in the sand while ice cream from your cone drips down your arm, and you don’t have a care in the world.

However, it’s September when people can feel a change. With the inauguration of Fall, the air feels different. The flowers and leaves parched by August are transforming into beautiful colors of scarlet red, golden yellows, lime greens and more. Everything about Fall feels lush.

TOle_Miss_and_Mississippi_State_Egg_Bowl_1970she month of September offers us so much. If you’re lucky, it is a time when you can see a harvest moon and enjoy an Indian summer. We must even change the time on our clocks and unpack our sweaters. You know its Fall by the commencement of football season and the savory aromas from tailgate cookouts.

The first Monday of this month is set aside for the Labor Day. Officially it’s a holiday to honor the working force in the United States. However, the majority of folks use it as a kickoff to our farewell to those lazy summer days and a salute to cooler days to come. So gather with friends to celebrate with good food and drink and lift a glass to summer. Goodbye old friend.

Embrace September and take delight in the gentle chill of Fall, enjoy the new smells like apples and cinnamon while enjoying the sounds of crackling Fall leaves under your feet. Now, take a deep breath and hold on for the start of the mind-blowing blitz of the holiday season!

“When the goldenrod is yellow, And leaves are turning brown – reluctantly the summer goes in a cloud of thistledown.  When squirrels are harvesting and birds in flight appear – By these autumn signs we know September days are here.”  author, Beverly Ashour