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fresh red cedar garland

If you love fresh greens in your home during the holidays as much as I do, you need to run, don’t walk, okay just drive, to Trader Joe’s.

They have their red cedar garlands available and just like all the holiday stuff at TJ’s, they won’t be there long. And speaking of long, they are about 8-feet long and cost $7.99. Shop around and you’ll learn what a deal that is.

If you’re saying to yourself, “But Linda, if I buy them now as you suggest, they will be like peanut brittle by Christmas.” Nope, not if you treat them right. Here is what I did last year and they looked good right up to Christmas day.

I brought them home and soaked them in tubs of water for about 36 hours. Then I spread them out, undercover in the shade to dry for another 12 hours. I turned them over and let them continue to dry for another 8 hours.

Next, I sprayed them thoroughly with a magic product called Wilt Pruf. You can find it on Amazon. Then I hung them up over doors and windows and used them down the center of my holiday tables. I didn’t blog about this last year because I wanted to make sure the Wilt Pruf worked. Since it did, I’m sharing now.

I purchased my red cedar garlands on Wednesday. I also snagged this sweet swag, took off the bow and it is soaking along with the garlands. Everything is done soaking, so I’ll be drying them for the next 24 hours, then spraying them thoroughly. They will be hung over the weekend. Get yourself to Trader Joe’s before I decide I need more!

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November 22, 2019   6 Comments

My fabulous veteran contractor, Cody Howard

Happy Veteran’s Day to all the wonderful veterans who have served. I thank you for your service. I especially thank a veteran who is close to my heart, Cody Howard. Cody is the oldest son of my dear friend and colleague, Kim Howard. Former Marine Sergeant Cody Howard served from 2002 – 2006. His service took him to Fallujah, of all the frightening places in the world! Thank you, Cody, and thank you to the entire Howard family who sacrificed during those sleepless and anguish-filled years.

I promised an update on the new bathroom that Cody put in. The glass shower doors won’t be installed until later today or tomorrow, but since I want to honor Cody today, well, today is reveal day.

It’s amazing how whenever I go to take photos, the cats show up and want to be the stars!

I love it all, but one of my favorite features and a complete surprise is the shower floor drain. Isn’t it beautiful how the drain disappears into the tile? Thank you, Cody, for adding that extra-special unexpected touch!

The porcelain wood-like tile floor, shower wall tile and shower floor tile is from Floor & Decor. My son, Connor, helped me pick it out.

Cody’s wife, Chanté, turned me on to the fabulous mirror with a shelf from Target.

Chanté also suggested I look at Wayfair for pendant lights. I need to get myself to Home Depot and get Edison bulbs without the yellow tint though.

Speaking of Home Depot. That is where I found the vanity and the shower and sink fixtures.

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November 11, 2019   2 Comments

Halloween happenings! But…

The thing is, nothing Halloween related is happening over here. I have put up not one decoration because remodeling is happening instead. So not scary unless you consider dust on every surface scary… which, actually, it is. So, in fact, the only thing “Halloween” here is Halloween Harmony Boards.

Halloween Harmony Board

When I bought my home on November 10, 2017, I had about a dozen remodel projects in mind. Here they are in order of importance to me, which translates into the order of completion.

You can click on the links above to revisit past projects.

The current projects are the 3rd bathroom flip and the new countertops. The photo above shows the old counters. It also shows the door that leads to the bathroom that is being flipped. It is between the two bookshelves filled with cookbooks. If you look closely, you can just make out the opening and framing of the door.

Below are the “before” photos of the bathroom.

I honestly think the tiny sink was meant for a trailer. The shower never worked properly and the glass doors leaked. And of course, the entry door was off the breakfast room which was my biggest pet-peeve with it. Not to mention that it is basic and boring as hell.

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October 31, 2019   5 Comments

Hi Shirley

It’s official – I can no longer say, “I’m back,” as a heading to a post. I’ve used that a few times after a planned extended break from blogging. I said, “I’m back!” as recently as last spring. I meant it at the time. I wholeheartedly planned on getting back to blogging on a regular basis, but then life, in the form of a new business, got in the way.

It’s been more than a month since my last post. As soon as summer remotely felt as if it was over, Harmony Boards took off like a speeding bullet and I’ve been non-stop, often working 12-hour days, ever since. I am not complaining! I love it, but it makes finding the time or wrapping my head around doing anything else, very difficult.

That changed with a comment I received from loyal blog follower, former Les Gourmettes student, repeat blog contest winner and friend, Shirley G.

Shirley { 10.20.19 at 8:33 AM }

Hey Linda,
I haven’t seen a blog post from you in a while…is everything alright? Did I accidentally remove myself from your list??? You know I am not the most tech-savvy person around…lol.
Thanks and I miss your posts!
xo,
Shirley

Thank you, Shirley, for the love, for missing me and for giving me the wake-up call I needed! Here’s a recipe with a tablescape that I’ve been wanting to post. It is from a dinner party I co-hosted on Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day. My co-host, Angela, is 100% Italian. So this 100% Irish girl and Angela taught a lovely group of women to make Gnocchi and I made up a big pot of Cacio e Pepe Pasta (literally cheese and pepper) and an even bigger bowl of Panzanella Salad and of course, an antipasto Harmony Board. We sat outside and it was a glorious night celebrating Italian food and the end of a long hot summer.

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October 23, 2019   3 Comments

persimmon tree and jam

In the early spring, I planted a bare-root persimmon tree. The persimmon tree is that stick with a tag on it in the photo above

I planted it because I love to use persimmons on my Harmony Boards in the fall.

The little tree set so many blossoms that I was pinching them off daily.

As the fruit set, I eventually put on netting to keep the birds away.

During one of the recent monsoon storms, part of the netting blew off and ended up high in my Joshua tree on the front side of the house.

This photo shows where the persimmon tree is in relationship to the Joshua tree.

I tried getting it off with the telescoping pole from my pool net, but it is not budging. I guess it’s there to stay.

Anyhow, the fruit I had left on the tree to ripen was weighing down the branches and putting undue stress on the tree, so I picked the majority of the fruit off last week. The persimmons were small, rock-hard and not yet ripe, but I discovered that when I left them at room temperature for a few days, they began to ripen and soften.

The outside was still green but the inside flesh was vibrant orange and sweet. What to do with it all? Jam seemed like the best solution.

I did some research and learned that persimmons do not have a high enough pH value to be safe for water bath canning.

The same article suggested adding another fall fruit, such as pears and plenty of lemon juice. Problem solved.

While I was in Canada with Kim last month, we talked about the dilemma of making jam and all the sugar that is needed. Kim did some research of her own and we learned about Pomona’s Universal Pectin. This brand requires far less sugar.

For instance, I found several pear jam recipes online that used about the same about of fruit as I used in this recipe, but used 4 cups of sugar versus the 1 ½ cups I was able to use because I used Pomona’s Univeral Pectin.

The Pomona’s box also comes with a little packet of calcium powder that you mix with water to activate the pectin. Here is more about the calcium from Pomona’s website:

“Pomona’s Pectin is activated by calcium, so calcium has to be present in the mixture either naturally or added by you. Since most people don’t know the calcium content of their fruit, we recommend a calcium water amount in every recipe to be sure there is calcium in the mixture. If your fruit has calcium in it naturally, you don’t need to add the calcium water.”

One mistake I made was that I didn’t cut the fruit small enough for my small jars. As you can see in the photo above, it wasn’t as much a jam as it was chunky fruit.

To fix that, I transferred the cooked jam to a food processor and used the pulse button to get it to the consistency I wanted. I rectified that in the recipe by called for diced fruit instead of chopped. But if you want do less initial chopping, you can use the food processor after the fact too.

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September 11, 2019   4 Comments

Well, look at me – 3 days in a row!

It’s crazy how often you can post when you have content! Here is the third recipe from Labor Day 2019.

I would absolutely love to have a big shrimp boil one of these days. It’s such an iconic east coast summer meal.

But here in the desert, in the summer, even the thought of standing outside while shrimp boils and then standing over the steaming masses of food poured out in front of you sounds absolutely torturous and horrendous. Maybe in the fall!

Something like any one of these images is the dream. Have a bunch of friends over and just dump it all out for the taking on a long table covered in paper.

This Fall. For Sure!

In the meantime, I made this attempt at a touch of the “shrimp-boil” flavor for our Labor Day BBQ.

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September 6, 2019   No Comments

big burgers

Along with the Corn and Shishito Salad I posted yesterday, I made burgers for the guys on Labor Day. I used one-half pound of 80/20 ground beef for each patty. So yeah, they were BIG burgers! If you’d like to make them more manageable, use about a quarter-pound of beef per patty.

But this recipe is really about the great zippy basting sauce that consists of sweet chili sauce and sriracha. The sauce really makes these burgers sing. Added bonus: Half of the sauce gets mixed with mayo … truly addictive stuff!

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September 5, 2019   2 Comments

Labor Day salad

I had my dad, Connor and Dave over for a Labor Day BBQ and swim this past Monday. Of course, I made a Harmony Board for the occasion.

Another of the dishes I prepared was a quick, easy, healthy and delicious side salad. I’ll be making it again before the summer is over … which, sadly, isn’t for many more weeks here in the desert southwest.

One of the salad’s main ingredients is shishito peppers. Most grocery stores are carrying them now and you can always find them at Trader Joe’s. I forgot to take a photo of the bag before I began slicing the peppers, so this photo is of the bag filled with the stem ends that I was throwing away. Sorry!

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September 4, 2019   2 Comments

5 winners

Many thanks to all of you who played along with the 10th Blogiverary Contest!

Congratulations to our five winners. If you recall, to win you needed to follow Harmony Boards on Instagram and get two of your friends to also follow. So it seems appropriate to share the winners with you by showing their Instagram home page header.

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August 26, 2019   1 Comment

Canada 3.0

My fabulous vacation to the Howard’s Deer Lake in Canada is coming to a close. On one hand, I hate to be leaving so soon, but on the other, I can’t wait to get home to my kitties. That sounds like crazy-cat lady talk, I know, but I hate leaving them home alone for so long.

How about I share images from my trip in today’s post?

You’d like that! Yay, here we go.

2019 Sturgeon Moon

Seriously, this is the only photo I really need to post. So GORGEOUS! Kim woke up early last Friday morning and caught the full moon over Deer Lake. Absolutely Stunning!

The local market in the Village of Ripon had the cutest booth signs above each vendor

We visited a variety of markets during my visit, here are my favorite images.

These tomatoes were delicious and the flesh was so beautiful. The center flesh was blush and slowly turned to yellow.
These cabbages looked like huge roses.
I never see garlic scapes in Phoenix.
Such sweet displays in this little local market!

Another day we drove into Montreal and visited the Marché Jean-Talon.

The sights, sounds and smells at this market rival any in Europe!
Can you image buying this $100 basket of blueberries and making pies and jams and cobblers? Wow!
So many baskets of berries!
Like a beautiful dream!
Eggplant of every variety and color variation.
Fresh summer sweet corn is available at every vegetable stand. Loved this stand of only corn. Look at the dump truck full!
Along with loads of fresh produce that we purchased from the markets, I picked up these unique items for future Harmony Boards.
We saw wild turkeys on most of our drives.

After one afternoon of being out for the morning, we came home to find that two birds had flown into the sliding glass doors along the back of the house.

I was able to save this little guy.
But sadly, this little hummingbird did not make it. Heartbroken!
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August 21, 2019   1 Comment