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Happy People!

Happy People!

With the anticipation of all the summer adventures ahead of us, what better time to remind ourselves of all the things that make us happy……and do some of them!!!

Emoji balloons!

“Happiness is not ready made.  It comes of your own actions.” 

Dalai Lama 

If you need a fresh perspective on truly being happy, listen to the lyrics of “Happy People” by the country group, Little Big Town.  The following is one of my favorite lines from the song:

Happy People by Little Big Town.

“Well, life is short and love is rare, and we all deserve to be happy while we’re here…so here’s to whatever puts a smile on your face!”

Here’s To Whatever Puts A Smile On Your Face!

I certainly don’t need to remind you that life isn’t all roses, in fact, it can bring us to our knees (literally) sometimes.  But perhaps we can all do a little better at making a conscious effort at seeing the fun and funny side of life!  So let’s consider a few of the little, everyday things that might make us smile!

1. Setting your alarm to a song that makes you happy to wake up!  I know, that’s a stretch…but I’ve tried it and it works!  I’ll find myself humming or singing some of the words to whatever song I woke up to throughout the day!  The song mentioned above is a good one—and will surely put a smile on your face.

2. A hot breakfast!  Especially if you don’t have to fix it!  On the weekends, my hubby will often make hot oatmeal with blueberries (so good) and wheat toast with fresh jam–eating it out on our patio during the summer months definitely puts a smile on my face!  A weekend brunch after doing some early morning cleaning is a win/win–and sure to have you smiling all day long!

The Park Cafe in Salt Lake City, Utah

A favorite brunch spot of mine is the Park Café!  (If you live close or find yourself visiting Salt Lake City, I highly recommend eating here!) 

3. Being outside when the weather is just right!  After a long winter season and a wet, rainy spring here in Utah, it seems that finally being able to get outside has everyone I meet sporting a happy smile!

Adventuring outside up City Creek Canyon!

A recent hike up gorgeous City Creek Canyon on a perfect summer day with two of my granddaughters had us all smiling! 

4. Laughing!  There’s no better way to put an exclamation on your day than laughter!   There are few things in life that lift my spirits more or put a smile on my face quicker than hearing my son’s deep, full-hearted laugh as he shares funny anecdotes from his experiences of living abroad in Germany, or as a dentist for the US Army.  Life can get hectic–we’d all do well to just smile and laugh at the craziness a little more!

5. Growing something!  I learned to love gardening from my grandmother, and my husband and I have planted a little vegetable garden almost every year.  The accomplishment of tending to something, watching it grow and then harvesting the fruits of our labors is rewarding and indeed smile worthy!

Growing strawberries!

I tried my hand at growing strawberries this year and I have to admit, I had a giddy smile on my face when I saw the first few blossoms turn to strawberries and start to ripen!

6. Encouraging others!  Being genuinely happy for others and offering them support and encouragement as they try hard to live their lives to the best of their ability can’t help but put the most satisfying smiles on our faces!

Being happy for others quote.

My parents were always quick to impress upon me the importance of showing love and appreciation for those who were happy to see me make accomplishments and achieve my dreams, as well. 

7. Being curious!  I’m a firm believer that inquisitive thinking and a passion for exploring will nourish our minds…and that my friends, is something to smile about!

8. Remaining young at heart!  No matter our age, don’t we love to be around those who have chosen to live, laugh and love with the infectious playfulness of a person untainted by the harsh realities of today’s world!  Let’s face it, when we choose happiness, we’re more fun, more childlike, we smile more…and hopefully, those around us will too!!

I love the saying, “Happiness appears where dreams meet preparation.”  It implies, that like most things in life, happiness takes a little work–but living a more fulfilled life is the ultimate reward–that, and a lot of smiles!

Happy looks good on you quote.

Add to the list…I’d love to know some of the little, everyday things you do that help you smile more?

–With love and a big smile, Mary

The Cookbook Challenge! Recipes From Huckleberry!

The Cookbook Challenge!  Recipes From Huckleberry!

Recently, I tried my hand at another epic cookbook challenge from a wonderful cookbook that my husband and I bought, in part, because of the stories the author, Zoe Nathan, shares of her adventures in baking.

The Cookbook Challenge!

There’s nothing that endears you to a cookbook more than reading about the “inside” story, so to speak, of how it came about…after reading about Huckleberry, one of my goals in life is meet the unique and enterprising author of this cookbook!  The recipes are also mostly breakfast and brunch recipes, which are my weakness, so of course, this cookbook is quickly becoming a favorite!

Huckleberry Cookbook by Zoe Nathan

My husband was drawn to this unique cookbook because he remembers picking huckleberries as a young boy by his uncle’s farm in Idaho.

Huckleberry cookbook.

I just knew that a cookbook with polka dot paper edges had to be worth trying!

In her fun writing style, Zoe Nathan tells the reader that there are two ways to use her cookbook:

“If you choose to wake up at 6 A.M. to surprise your family with muffins made by exactly following one of our recipes, I promise you will be successful and get a lot of extra praise and appreciation from your family.  You can also use these recipes to give you guidance, messing around with them, inserting your own ideas, until you get it exactly as you want it.  I will certainly not be offended.  Remember, baking is supposed to be fun, so don’t take yourself too seriously while doing it!”

Huckleberry Cafe in Santa Monica, California

The Huckleberry cookbook also shares the name of  Zoe Nathan’s bakery and café in Santa Monica, California!  Anybody game for a road trip!!

Besides being a visual feast, Huckleberry cookbook features recipes that are hearty and healthy where basic ingredients are combined in a way that you won’t soon forget the deliciousness–they’ll put a whole new twist to your next upcoming family get-together!

Huckleberry Cookbook Challenge!

Huckleberry bakery and cafe.

Zoe Nathan first met her husband, Joel Loeb, when she was hired to bake pastries at his restaurant, Rustic Canyon.  Their “real life” collaboration was meant to be…together they own and bake for Huckleberry Bakery and Café now! 

Huckleberry Monte Cristo Sandwiches! 

I had my first delectable Monte Cristo sandwich at a local deli and was hooked from the first yummy bite!  That deli has since closed up shop, so when I saw the recipe in Huckleberry for these sandwiches, I knew it would be one of the first things I made from this wonderful cookbook!

Ingredients:  Serves 3

3 tbsp. heavy cream

You can use half and half or milk too–I love the cream.

3 sage leaves  I don’t add this.

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Pinch of fresh ground pepper

3 eggs whisked

1 tsp. sugar

9 slices brioche bread

Brioche bread.

The Huckleberry cookbook has a recipe for Brioche bread, I just bought mine.  Challah bread works great too.

4 tbsp. Dijon mustard

I don’t usually like Dijon, but it’s good in these.

6 tbsp. mayonnaise

12 thin slices of ham

I like Land O’ Frost Bistro Favorites Black Forest ham.

1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese 

Sometimes I substitute Swiss cheese, which is just as good.

Blueberry jam

Huckleberry homemade jam recipe after sandwich instructions.

Powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions:

In a small sauce pan, bring cream to boil with sage, salt and pepper.  Allow to cool completely.  Whisk in eggs and sugar.  Put in refrigerator until needed.

To build the sandwiches, start by laying out all nine slices of bread.  On 3 slices spread mustard; set aside.  On the 6 remaining slices spread mayo, and divide the ham and cheese on these bread slices.  Put mustard-covered bread slices on top of 3 of the ham and cheese slices, then invert those onto the last 3 ham and cheese slices.  This makes 3 triple decker sandwiches with the mustard slices in the middle.  To be honest, I don’t make triple decker sandwiches, but I’m sure I would love every extra yummy bite of bread if I ordered these at Huckleberry!

When you’re ready to cook sandwiches, heat 1 tbsp. of butter in large saucepan over medium heat; dip the sandwiches in egg batter until well coated and cook until the top, bottom and sides of sandwiches are goldeny brown and cheese is melted.  Slice and serve with a light dusting of powdered sugar and a dollop of blueberry jam,  the recipe for Huckleberry homemade blueberry jam is below.

Cooking with a skillet.

I cook these in a cast iron skill because it creates the best golden brown color. 

Blueberry Jam:

4 cups fresh blueberries

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup water

Combine above ingredients in medium stainless-steel saucepan.  simmer until jammy, about 15-20 minutes.  Serve as dip for Monte Cristo sandwiches.  This will keep good for approximately two weeks in your refrigerator. 

Homemade bluberry jam.

This jam is easy to make and used for several recipes throughout the cookbook.

The Cookbook Challenge! Recipes From Huckleberry!

Every Monte Cristo sandwich I’ve ever eaten has always been cut into fourths, making them the perfect triangle size for dipping in the jam.

I have also had Monte Cristo sandwiches served with turkey slices add along with the ham and cheese, with strawberry or raspberry jam.  

Zoe Nathan states in her introduction, that this cookbook came about largely due to the fact that after she had her son, baking became more personal and she loved to make him freshly baked goodies from her own kitchen; it gave her a great sense of satisfaction.  That’s the special feeling she wanted to share with us in her Huckleberry cookbook.

If you try this recipe, let me know how you liked it.  Any new recipes you’ve tried lately and absolutely loved?

Happy baking…..and eating!  Mary

Garden Therapy! Colorful Shade Plants!

Garden Therapy!  Colorful Shade Plants!

So far, spring in Utah where I live hasn’t consisted of too many sunny days…but thank goodness the sun does eventually shine!  Meanwhile, I’ve been wandering our local garden centers in anticipation of getting out in my flowerbeds again.  Usually, my focus is on good hardy plants that will survive and thrive in the heat of the summer sun, but since the trees are maturing and getting bigger in my yard, I’ve been doing a little research on fun, colorful plants that do good in shady areas.

Colorful Shade Plants!

Well-Known Shade Plants!

  • Impatiens

Probably one of the most recognizable and popular colorful shade plants is Impatiens; they are fairly hardy plants and require little care other than moderate watering and some insect and slug control, since snails love their delicate petals and aphids breed well in shady areas.

Colorful Shade plants--impatiens.

Impatiens are pretty annual flowers that come in a variety of colors and bloom all summer long.  They usually grow about 8-10 inches tall.  I like to plant a combination of all the bright colors in some of my shady flower beds.

Slug and pest control for flowers.

I’ve found sprinkling Corry’s slug bait in the mulch around my plants works best to protect them against snails, and that Bayer Flower Insect Spry does a great job of protecting flowers from a variety of insects–it’s also animal safe.

I think we’re all pretty familiar with many of the more well-known shade plants, typically planted in the north facing areas of our yards.  Growing up, we had a large side yard that faced north where several pine trees grew; it was a favorite place to play with neighborhood friends during the summer, since it didn’t get the heat of the midday sun.  My mom grew rhubarb plants along the fence and planted what seemed like hundreds of colorful Impatiens under the pine trees.   

Impatient: Colorful shade flowers.

Impatiens will do well in rocky and clay soil if you just add some sand and mulch to your dirt for the best flowering results.  Since decorative, cement curbing wasn’t available back then, my parents often lined rocks around their flowers beds–I love the natural look and have used some in parts of my yard.

  • Coleus    

One of my very favorite shade plants is coleus; the variety and colors of these lush, leafy plants seems to be endless.  Coleus are a great filler to any flowerbed, but also gorgeous all on their own!

Coleus plants.

Coleus provide stunning color to any shade area.  Most varieties grow 16-18 inches tall, but you can pinch them back so the plants grow out more full.  

Photo (105)

Colorful shade plants for container pots.

Impatiens and coleus are perfect for porch planters where there’s no direct sun! 

  • Pansies and Violas

These pretty, lacy-edged flowers were a favorite of both my grandmother and my mother-in-law.  They’re usually the first flowers you’ll see blooming in all their pretty color combinations come springtime.

Colorful shade flowers-pansies and violas.

While pansies and violas tend to thrive in the cooler, early spring sun, I’ve found that they don’t like the heat of the hotter summer sun unless planted in shady areas that only allows for some indirect sunlight to shine on them.

Colorful shade flowers-pansies and violas.

If you’ll pinch off the old, wilted blooms on your pansy and viola flowers, it will help generate new ones much quicker.  They require regular watering too.

Other Colorful Shade Plants!

  • Lamium 

Lamium, better known to me as purple dragon, is a pretty perennial flowering ground cover that blooms most of the summer.  I love the variegation of the silvery green color of the leaves along with the unique flower shape.  (There’s a white flower variety too.) 

Colorful shade flowers-lamium.

I like to mix Lamium in with other kinds of ground cover under the big maple trees in my back yard for some fun added color and texture.  

  •  Astilbe

When I was first in search of some long lasting, blooming shade perennial flowers, a cute gal at our nearby garden center introduced me to Astilbe flowers–my granddaughters knowingly refer to them as feather duster plants–since that is exactly what they look like!  (Your yard will thank you in lush plants if you become good friends with your local plant ladies…and guys–seriously, such fun people and they all love what they do!)    

astilbe-bloom

Astilbe flowers can tolerate some indirect sunlight, but do best when planted in mostly shady areas.  They also like soil that stays pretty moist, so you will want to keep the slug bait and sprinkle some around them every other week.  Even when their blooms fade, they have a neat rustic look to them.   

  • Hydrangeas

I was always fascinated with the ever-changing color hues of the hydrangea bushes my grandmother grew in her beautiful gardens, and to this day the smell of them reminds me of the blooms she’d clip and put in fun vases throughout her house.  For some reason though, I didn’t think I had the “green thumb” so to speak, to keep any growing in my own yard…but come to find out, they are really very easy to grow as long as you plant them in more shady flowerbeds that don’t get hot afternoon sun and fertilize them regularly.

Colorful Shande flowers-hydrandeas

I usually plant the “Endless Summer” variety of Hydrangea bushes because, as the name indicates, they bloom all summer long.  I love how the blossoms fade from bright pink to a pale bluish hue as they mature.  Hydrangeas like mulch rich, moist soil.  Plant Hydrangeas where there is room to grow since they will get about 3-5 feet high.  I treat them with Bayer pest spray once a month. 

Easy to grow Endless Summer hydrangeas.

I love to plant Hydrangea bushes in large ceramic pots in my flower beds too; just water every other day and make sure there’s good drainage.

My grandma was such a neat influence in my life.  As a child, I loved working together in her flowerbeds; those memories are some of the main reasons I look forward to getting out in my own yard this time of year–she often told me that…

Quote about spring.

Whatever you like to do to renew your spirit this special springtime of year…I  hope you find it in abundance!

What are some colorful shade plants you love to plant in your yard?  Do you have any handy yard care tips that you’d share with us here?

–Mary