Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sonnenburg Gardens

 Earlier this month Adam and I visited Sonnenburg Gardens in celebration of our anniversary. Sonnenburg is a beautiful historical mansion surrounded by incredible gardens. It is truly a treat to walk about the grounds enjoying the variety of gardens.

In the photo above Adam is standing beneath a huge beech tree. The photo is rather poor at capturing just how huge this tree is and how the branches create a canopy over the path.

As we walked about the grounds we enjoyed the unique variety of trees. It is also interesting that many of the trees at Sonnenburg were planted by notable historical figures such as Thomas Edison.

Here is a photo we took of the mansion from the back. Isn't it fantastic? The house was built in 1887 and named Sonnenburg which means "sunny hill" in German.

 I believe I took these photos in the "Old-Fashioned Gardens". I was so pleased to have photographed the honey bee busy at work.

 We were hoping to see all of the roses in bloom, but most of the roses are late blooming this year.

 Peonies- they smelled so pretty!

  An interesting historical fact concerning the owner of Sonnenburg, Mary Clark Thompson. In 1912 she visited Europe and was scheduled to sail back to America on the Titanic, but was prompted by a friend to extend her trip in order to visit Holland and purchase tulips. Being lover of flowers Mrs. Thompson could not resist the invitation and was spared that fateful voyage.

 The rose garden.

 Part of the rock garden.

 Lily pads in a pond.

 Here is a photo I took inside the mansion. This sewing room is off of the beautiful bedroom shown in the photo below. What a grand idea to have a sewing room off of the bedroom. : )

  I love the Victorian decor of this bedroom. There was also an exhibit of vintage dresses throughout the house that I really enjoyed having a chance to see. 

 The view from the upstairs porch that overlooks the Italian gardens.

We certainly enjoyed our visit and we were grateful for the perfectly beautiful weather we were blessed with that day!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What I've Been Reading

I thought I would share with you some of the fiction books I have enjoyed so far this year. In January I read "A Lantern in Her Hand" by Bess Streeter Aldrich. The story spans the lifetime of the main character, Abby Deals; beginning with her childhood in "The Big Woods",  progressing to her young womanhood as a teacher, how she meets her husband, marries and moves even farther west to the territory that would become the state Nebraska. It truly is a touching a story, that tells of the hardship and love that settled the west. By the end of the book I was crying, and I can't say that I often cry when reading a book!
During the winter months I also read "Sweet Love's Atonement" and it's sequel "Zenobia's Suitor" by E.D.E.N. Southworth. I have enjoyed the writings of Mrs. Southworth ever since reading her book "The Hidden Hand" republished by Lamplighter. Her stories are generally set in the mountain region of Virginia, and include some form of mystery and intrigue. I love her style of writing and the fact that I never seem able to put her books down. I think for the most part her books were originally published in the format of magazine serials, so they have a tendency to leave the reader dying to turn the next page. I must admit I did find it hard to put these two books down, but feel that I cannot wholeheartedly recommend them. The story line is filled with deceit and violence. There are characters that display godly character in contrast to the evil characters, but I still felt that each night I was becoming a little too distressed before bed. : )

The next two books I read were purchased from Lamplighter a wonderful source for beautiful literature! Not only are the stories inspiring, but I love the design and binding of their books! Both "The King's Gold" and "When You Least Expect It" were wonderful stories that I found encouraging and uplifting. If you click on the titles you can read a brief synopsis of each on the Lamplighter website.
The book I most recently finished is "Through These Fires" by Grace Livingston Hill. If you have followed my blog over the past two year you will have undoubtedly noticed that Mrs. Hill is one of my favorite authors! Her stories are so wholesome and filled with the kind of people you would like to meet ,mostly... there were a few stinkers in this story I would hope never to encounter in real life. : ) "Through These Fires" is a heartwarming tale set against the tumultuous backdrop of World War Two. The story tells of a soldier experiencing the literal fires of war in Europe and a young lady back home, in the US, experiencing the figurative fires of life.
Currently I am reading "Forrest House" by Mary J. Holmes. It is an enjoyable story, somewhat like all of her other books, but a fun read. I am moving a little slowly through this novel as I find myself anxious to knit or crochet baby things each evening before bed!

 Adam many times will read aloud as I work on my current project, and his latest book is part of the "Jeeves" series by P.G. Wodehouse. Adam does a great job reading in different voices for the many characters, and I usually find something to chuckle about in the story.

What books have you been enjoying lately? Have you read any of the books mentioned in this post?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Maternity Blouse

Recently I found that all of my blouses were becoming too tight through my waist, so I decided it was high time I sewed a couple new summer blouses for myself. When my sister Rachel was expecting he little boy, my mom and I sewed some maternity peasant blouses for her. She wore them quite often and they lasted right through her pregnancy.

 I pulled out the same pattern we used for my sister, and was once again delighted with how quick and easy this blouse it to sew! The pattern is Simplicity 5756. I used some poly/cotton my mom gave me to sew the blouse I am wearing in these photos. Although poly/cotton may not be as breathable as 100% cotton, it is great to have a blouse that always looks fresh and tidy. I have also sewn this blouse from a red and white striped cotton, which looks great with a white skirt. I am so pleased to have some pretty and comfortable maternity clothes!

The skirt I am wearing is not a maternity skirt. I simply sewed the skirt in a size larger than what I usually wear (plus I think the pattern runs a bit big), so I am hoping to use the skirt after the baby is born. After the first trimester I discovered that all of my skirts had zippers and were not fitting very comfortably. At that point I sewed some elastic waist skirts that I am still enjoying. The pattern used to sew this skirt is The Sedona Skirt, I like the panel design.

Another design feature of this blouse that I really like are the back ties. This helps the blouse look flattering, and yet it can still"grow" as I grow.

It is hard to believe I am already 25 weeks along! I am feeling more excited to meet our little one with each passing day.

To end this post I thought I would share a photo the beautiful flowers that have begun to bloom in our garden this past week. This bush is very special, as it was a wedding gift Adam and I received last year. Apparently it blooms right around our anniversary, and the colors are our wedding colors.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Toffee Bars

This past weekend I baked a batch of toffee bars. While mixing the ingredients I thought back to the first evening I tasted this delicious recipe. My grandma was in the habit of stopping by in the evenings during the summer months. We would often have a basket of tomatoes from our garden ready for grandma to take with her, and occasionally she would bring by a treat to enjoy while we visited. Grandma had her specialties, a family favorite often baked were molasses crinkle cookies. But this one evening grandma had tried a new recipe she discovered for toffee bars. They met with our approval, and she made a copy of the recipe for us.

I have made them several times over the years. It is a very simple recipe and quick to whip up in a hurry. Each time I bake this recipe I think of grandma, and cherish the legacy of cooking and baking she left behind her. That is how grandma shared her time and love through tasty meals and baked goods.

Toffee Bars

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown suger
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg yolk
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1.) Heat oven to 350 degrees
2.) Combine butter, sugar, vanilla and egg yolk until well mixed. Add flour and salt, stir. Press dough into ungreased 13 x9" pan.
3.)Bake 25-30 minutes or until very light brown (crust will be soft). Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over hot crust. Let stand about 5 minutes or until soft; spread evenly. Sprinkle with walnuts. Cool about 30 minutes in pan. Cut into bars while still warm.


You may have noticed the beverage in the photo above. It is my new favorite- 1 tsp. instant coffee, 1 tsp. sugar mixed with warm milk. We refer to it as coffee milk in my family and it tastes great with a toffee bar. : )