Morning Tomato Harvest


The bounty of our tomatoes means lots of fresh delicious salads and sandwiches!  Meg and Jim pluck them off on her way out the fence for a quick healthy snack.

The best time to pick is morning before the heat sets in! 

I’ll put some in the freezer just like I did when we lived in China.

Those will be for salsa and sauces. I don’t want any to go to waste!  Freezing is easy and quick.  I did it routinely in China. The fresh produce offerings were very seasonal.  No, I did not can.

Today, I am sharing a round up of recipes I routinely use.



Here are a few favorites.

Above is the classic caprese salad tomatoes layered with yellow sweet peppers and sliced mozzarella.  Love these bright colors. It looks so good and is so good!  I used an old standby dressing, Italian made from Good Seasonings mix.

Classic BLT’s….worth the effort to fry or bake the bacon.  For a twist, add avocado slices.


Need a dolled up dish for a gathering?  Skewer tomatoes, mozzarella balls and fresh basil leaves.  Arrange on a white platter and drizzle with balsamic glaze.


Is brushetta is one of those things that seems beyond yourscope?  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Can you toast and chop?

Impress your family and guests!

Chop fresh tomatoes into small pieces.  Tossing with salt, pepper and a very small amount of extra virgin olive oil.  Fresh chopped basil used sparingly is a taste treat!  Optional adds are Italian seasonings and small amount of balsamic vinegar.

Toast thin slices of “loaf” bread brushed with butter or extra virgin olive oil.  My choices are Italian or French.

Arrange on a pretty platter.  Serve tomatoes in a charming dish.  Adding those touches are like serving up a little love and extra special treatment!


A light quick easy meal for those hot days of summer!  Grill or quick sauté boneless chicken tenders seasoned lightly with garlic.  Layer these yummy ingredients; sliced avocado, crumbled feta cheese, lettuce, cucumbers, colorful fresh  peppers and fresh tomatoes!  Dress with vinaigrette. Details HERE.


Shrimp Primavera recipe coming next week!  I make this family favorite with fresh (or frozen in winter) tomatoes and green peppers from our garden.


Classic simple tomato sauce served with pasta.


For a pop of taste, toss a few tomatoes sliced or chopped in pan drippings or olive oil.  Seasoning optional.  Served here with shrimp, asparagus and rice.  These gently sautéed tomatoes are also delicious with steak.


Finishing up where we started…

Traditional Greek Salad

Feta Cheese, Tomatoes, Cucumbers with vinaigrette arranged on a beautiful white platter.


The possibilities are endless!

Hope this gives you some fresh ideas you and your family will enjoy.

signture with tag

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Renovating Our Old Farmhouse


Living in an old, old house has its draw backs like lack of closet space and an abundance of walls.  This old house had no fireplace.  How is that even possible?


Living in an old house has its advantages too. after all it is a piece of history.

We got two estimates.  I knew what the result was going to be based on watching lots of HGTV reno shows.  We were right on the dot!  But I have to tell you, seeing those numbers printed on letterhead took my breath away!  Now what?

Future home of new fireplace

Image 2

Opposite wall between the dining and living room

Our grand dream got a large dose of reality.  Jim and I made a list and prioritized.  What did we really want for our home?

We wanted a fireplace.  Unreasonable perhaps but I felt it was totally necessary.

BEFORE Fireplace was put in on this wall.

We decided on 2 closets for 2 rooms.  More on that project later.

We hired contractors we felt we could work with best and got a revised estimate.

So, this is what happened.  A lot of work!

The ugly paneling had to go!  New drywall was going up.  Old horse hair insulation and plaster crumbled away underneath.  Plastic sheets hug all around.  Ram board protected our original pine sub-floor.


Plugs and switches were laying about on the floor waiting to be installed.


The framework went up.  New installation was hung.  We should be toasty warm this winter. Putting in a fireplace is involved.  We got a new chimney too.

I dragged the furniture around to see how it would look.

One afternoon, sitting the couch in the new spot, I looked over my shoulder to the wall that hid the basement door.



See how it was blocking us in !

BEFORE Wall view from the dining room

Can we get rid of it?  How much to take that out?  Jim said , “Let’s ask.”


Image 2

BEFORE Half would be felled.

The answer…

Not much!

Tear it down! 



Original horse hair insulation hanging from the upper wall. Note missing ceiling dry wall.

My kids were aghast!  It seemed rather radical to them.  I was feeling free and excited! 


Horse hair insulation and original plaster


Pre new dry wall

The response was WOW!  It looks amazing.

This open look fit our old farmhouse perfectly! 

Image 1

BEFORE Dividing wall between front room and living room

A dream revised is still a dream.

Jim and I sat on the couch picturing how beautiful it as all going to be.  I looked over at the other wall.

“Hey, how about that wall?  Think it could go too?”  I hope for a good affordable response from our project manager. “Let’s ask.”

Stripped dividing wall

Stripped dividing wall

Not much.

It would be about the same as new drywall if it is not structural. None of us thought it was but you never know. The hard part might be the floor; the stains are different.  There may be a large gap if boards don’t line up.


AFTER Both walls came down.


Tear it down.



AFTER The wall came down. The stain is darker. More stuff to put away!

A few days later I got a call while I was out from Jim.

What do you think about a new ceiling? It looks bad with all the walls coming down. How much?

Not much.

I told you there would be things I just never thought of just to get a fireplace! Between us, I kind of dread the not much extras on the final bill.

Result… Love, love, love it!!

We’re not finished, not anywhere near finished.  A  dozen details are left to do before we are finished!

Can’t wait to show you more of our exciting farmhouse changes!  


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Post Haven Conference



These ladies could not have been more friendly!  They were just as excited to be at Haven as Rosemary and I were.  Watch Beach Flip on Sunday nights at 9PM to these gals work their renovation magic!

My youngest daughter, Meg and I hit the road to head south to Haven 2015.  Nothing outstanding about that. Except it was the first time in years I have driven that far without another driver! 12 hours!

We made it!!

So the first big thing about the trip was connecting with my brother and his family.  Meg and their daughter are great friends and had a blast together while I was at Haven with a bunch of fun bloggers.

My take aways

I was eager to reconnect and to make new friends.  Rooming again with my cousin Rosemary was wonderful.  I love how we connect and catch up so easily.  Be sure and visit her at                                   Not Just Paper and Paint.

I love how women who have a common purpose come together to learn and share.  Friends are made   in a short time over a meal or a project.  It was so energizing!

Being around women who are confident in what they do is pretty cool.  Purposeful interaction with others who have common goals is down right fun!

This time I decided to get into the fun with all the sponsor photo booth.  Here I am with the                        La-Z-Boy guys decked out in the latest upholstery choices!


I actually took some DIY classes.  Last year I fried my brain with too much technical and blogging      “how to” information!


My experience with the Ryobi nail gun confirmed what I had known for ages. I cannot hammer a nail straight!  Not even with a nail gun!  The Ryobi staff did not laugh at me.  They smiled encouragement  as they helped me with the K cup Crate and Pallet project.  It’s crooked. I doubt a K cup will ever fit in.

I managed to miss the sweet spot entirely several times.  Pulling the nails out required the efforts of 3 people. Yes, 3 professionals! I had a blast!

Sticking to painting from now on.




I went to the Modern Masters workshop.  Joe was super with the explanations on a variety of paint techniques. The silk wallpaper effect with the metallic paints will be perfect for Amy’s room.  Seriously, he made us think we could paint anything and make it stunningly beautiful.  Can’t wait for my          “Spin the Wheel” to win a prize paint arrives!

Amy Howard included some personal stories in her workshop. I just love a good story!  My husband and I work with an import furniture company so I was especially interested in the parts that included the furniture business plus the branching out with a paint line.

I am thinking my new fireplace may just need the Amy Howard treatment.



Kirsten shared about the how to’s of newsletters.

Other aspects of blogging I learned was effective use of Facebook and tapping into ad revenue.

Thanks bunches Karianne, Jenna and Laura!

Thanks to the Haven team and attendees for a great conference !

I’d love to hear for you about your experiences with conferences too!


Drop by to visit here


I was the Mother of the Groom


See this picture of me.  Do I look pained?

No!  My heart was full to overflowing.


I am trying my best to not boo hoo.

I was looking at my boys standing next to each other with their father.

boys & Jim

I was feeling emotional.  Joy for them with a mother’s heart.

I was the mother of the groom.

I wore dark teal green and did not buy new heels.

I was escorted down the steps and aisle by my youngest son.  I told him to go slow; I did not want to fall on those steps!  He smiled just a little.  “Really Mom? I am not going to let you fall.”

My little boy was getting married.  I was not the most important woman in his life anymore.  I am happy to say I am still important, just not the most important which is just as it should be.

But somehow when I saw her walk down the aisle and looked at his face, once again the little boy memories were whisked away to see the man who loved this woman.  Loved her to commitment



She was beautiful.

I was the mother of the groom.


I had different emotions that I didn’t when my daughter got married.

I wore dark teal green and did not buy new heels.

I realized just how adult and grown my sons are.  My oldest is mother of four. My youngest two are no longer children.  All still need me. Just not the same.

Not the same.


I watched the mother of the bride and saw emotions and tears cross her face all that showed great joy.

I watched my beautiful girls come with grace, smiles and joy down the aisle.  The dresses were swayed gently as they walked.  So feminine. So perfectly beautiful.  I loved them.  The dresses too.

I watched Mary toss petals and scamper slowly down the aisle to stand with her aunts.

I seem to remember the other bridesmaids coming too.  Vaguely.  They were beautiful.  Smiling.  Who am I kidding?  They flowed together in a stream of color and heights as I tried to hold my threatening tears back sitting in that front row without my husband.  Jim was under the pergola with his sons waiting like the rest of us for the bride.

I was thinking about how different it was to be the mother of the groom.  Letting go of my son as another woman becomes his most important woman.

Not just saying the vows but committing themselves to the sworn promises.  Their love seemed palatable. It was almost to intimate to see.

Robert kissed her hand after he put her ring of commitment, her wedding ring on.

He bent and held her hand up and kissed it!  That is the most romantic thing I have ever seen!  And it was my little boy with his bride!  That sealed the commitment almost more than the kiss at the end.

I almost lost it then.

We danced at their wedding.  I danced.  We all danced.

mary & meg dance

It was a joyous time.



All about the wedding planning and decorating fun to come! 

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