A Moment in a Spring Garden

Wind Chime in the Apple Tree

Wind Chime in the Apple Tree

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The apple trees are blooming, a warm breeze is blowing–a spring moment in the garden accompanied by the bronze-tones of wind chimes…  Every other year we have a bumper crop of apples, and this is the year.  The trees are loaded with blooms.  Thy are scattering from the trees in the breeze of an incoming weather front, covering the stepping stones in pale pink petals.

Rhubarb Patch

Rhubarb Patch

I see a fresh rhubarb pie in my immediate future…and fresh strawberries soon to follow.

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My pallet experiment last year was successful.  The strawberry plants weathered the winter between the slats and are producing an abundance of blooms that should yield berries in early June.


The carrots, sweet peas, kale, spinach and potatoes are beginning to break through the soil.  These are the reasons I love spring.

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Seasons of Farm Grove Cookbook – 2nd Edition


We are excited about the 2nd edition of our family home and restaurant cookbook. It is an updated and expanded version of the original, containing not only recipes from our tearoom but favorites from our families and the best of my Cottage Chat newsletter recipes. The book is soft cover, 210 pages, with full-color illustrations of Sunday dinner-ready dishes and views of the Farm Grove farmstead. The price is $20 + $3.50 S&H if mailed.  Seasons is available at Farm Grove, 18886 Springfield Road, Groveland, IL 61535 [309]387-6652, just fifteen minutes from downtown Peoria,  or from The Emerald Tea Room, 132 McKinley Street, East Peoria, IL [309] 694-1972.  Seasons is also available at Amazon.com but at a higher price.

Author Sharon with Signature Farm Grove Cinnamon Rolls

Author Sharon with Signature Farm Grove Cinnamon Rolls

Seasons includes anecdotes from the family about the adventure of owning and operating a family business through faith and hard work.  Recipes are introduced with notes about the region or friend from which they came and recommendations for preparation. Bonus recipes such as Bookbinders Glue and Crazy Green Diet Drink reveal some of Sharon’s best-kept secrets. Look for Seasons of Farm Grove in the May issue of 50+ News and Views magazine, available in libraries and professional offices throughout Central Illinois the first week of May.


Book Signing at Farm Grove:  Saturday, April 30 – 10 a.m.  Join us for a book signing and excerpts from Seasons, complimentary coffee and Farm Grove cinnamon rolls.  Location:  the Farm Grove barn, 18886 Springfield Road, Groveland, IL 61535.  Call [309] 387-6652 to let us know you are coming or e-mail sharonlclemens@gmail.com

Breakfast with the Author at the Emerald Tea Room:  Saturday, June 4, at 9 a.m.  Sharon will sign copies of Seasons and read excerpts.  The tearoom breakfast will include specialties from the cookbook. Call the Emerald Tea Room for prices and reservations – [309] 694-1972 or e-mail emerald132@frontier.com

It’s always good eating at the barn!





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Are You a Closet Prepper?


Women like security. With the increase in natural disasters, having a stash of handy tools is a good idea; and I have friends who feel the same way.  If the electricity is off for a protracted time, there are simple ways to keep warm, cook dinner, make a hot cup of coffee or tea, and generally keep control of the situation.  This post is about keeping warm.

I am putting together a little Tea Light Home Heater kit for some birthdays. Here is all you need:

  • loaf pan [$1 at Dollar Tree]
  • pack of 16 tea lights [$1 at Dollar Tree]
  • small box of matches [$1 for a multiple pack at Dollar Tree]
  • medium terra cotta pot with hole in bottom [$1.77 at WalMart]



  1. Place 4 tea lights in center of loaf pan

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2.  Place pot on loaf pan, centered over tea lights

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3.  Heater is ready to use. Simply remove the pot to light the tea lights and replace.

HOW DOES IT WORK?  The pottery pot magnifies the heat of the candles and acts like a chimney.  All heat is drawn up into the pot, which when it heats, radiates the warmth into the room.  One of these will keep a small room warm for several hours–not piping hot, but warm.  A couple of these would help keep a bedroom warm in winter for sleeping and is safe as the candles are contained in metal. Cost:  Under $4.





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They Grow Up So Fast–Tomato Sprouts

2 weeks

2 weeks

Healthy and Happy Sprouts

Healthy and Happy Sprouts

So proud–my little sprouts are growing heartily in their windowsill home.  The first picture is at 2 weeks just after I removed the cover to their germination tray.  Look at my bouncing babies at 6 weeks!  They will languish inside until the end of April and then transfer to our sheltered back porch.  After hardening-off to the outside air, they will go in the ground about mid-May.  Tomatoes here we come!

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Crazy Green Diet Drink

There are lots of diet ideas out there, but this one seems to be working well for me.  I wanted something to help me maintain a good weight while cutting hunger and cravings.  Tall order, I know.  I am still on month 2 with my own Crazy Green Diet Drink; but with a reasonable diet and truthfully not much exercise, it is working well.  Plus the fresh aloe is full of antioxidants, vitamins, and too many health benefits to mention here.

  1.  For 1  quart of Crazy Green, brew 2 green tea and 1 peppermint tea bags in 2 cups boiling water.  Allow to steep until cool.  Pour into a 1 quart container.

2.   Pick a mature aloe leaf for a meaty 5 inch section.  The larger, mature leaves have the highest concentration of antioxidants.  Use a sharp potato/vegetable peeler to slice off the top peel to expose the aloe gel.  Use a knife to scrape out the pale green gel.


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Place at least 2 tablespoons of gel in a small bowl.  Use an egg beater to crush and break up the gel until it is the consistency of heavy egg white.  Add 1 cup cold water and whip well.  Add to quart container.  You may also place the aloe gel and cold water in a blender and blend until mixed.  The aloe juice will be the consistency of lightly-whipped egg white.  Aloe juice has no discernible flavor.

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3.  Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 tsp. honey to container.  Fill with cold water to the top and shake well to blend.  Keep refrigerated.  Crazy Green is fresh for 3 days.  After that time, the antioxidants and vitamins in the aloe will have lost most of their potency.

This green tea with aloe and a touch of peppermint and lemon is a tasty way to cut cravings and help metabolism.  I consume a quart about every 1 1/2 days, sometimes less.  Too much aloe can act as a laxative so pace yourself.  Aloe acts as a detox drink as well.

Of course, it is helpful to have a very large aloe plant in your basement.  If you do not have access to a plant, the juice can be purchased at health food stores but it is considered fresh only for 3-4 days.

Happy health!





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Pussywillow On The Easter Table

The Pussywillows are in bud–a perfect time to cut some branches to bring inside.  Place the branches in a tall vase with warm water and watch them slowly unfurl.



The soft downy bloom reminds me of baby duck down or bunny fir–both very reminiscent of childhood Easters.

My uncle raised rabbits and would occasionally bring baby bunnies to the family Easter dinner for the kids to hold.  I miss holding a small living thing in my hands.  Life is what Easter is all about.

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Fresh Spring Fruit Salad

606053986a545910efd98ce568f032f4 Fruit catalogue

We just returned from Florida where my sister-in-law served us a delicious fresh fruit salad.  What a lovely way to celebrate Spring.  The recipe is from Hallelujah Acres 60 Days to Reclaim Your Health from http://www.60dayJuiceUp.com

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • A little orange and/or lemon zest


  1. Bring the above to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat.  Cool.

Meanwhile cup up the following in a bowl:

  • 2 cups pineapple chunks
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 cups strawberries
  • 1 cup red grapes [seedless]
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 kiwi, sliced

Pour cooled dressing over fruit and mix well.


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