Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

It has been a warm week all over the Pacific Northwest... but, a fairly typical July in Walla Walla. I really feel for friends sans AC, as well as those not acclimatized to the heat, or those in humid places. Ugh. Here though, I can already feel the days getting shorter (what, dark at 8:30?) and starting out cooler, so I can feel and anticipate that bestest and most fantastic time of year... autumn. Crisp, clear, cool... ah. Just thinking about it makes me happy. And so very grateful, of course!

*Thankful that Seth came home bright and early this morning. Our intention had been to leave on vacation this morning, but that didn't happen... so very much on husband's workplate. So he's at work clearing things off his desk and we're here at home getting ready for our departure... tonight? tomorrow? Who knows... but we know we'll love hitting the road as soon as it happens.

*Grateful for the juxtaposition of work and relaxation. Nothing makes me happier than getting things done, then taking a well-deserved break. Seth was greatly reassured that he and I, at least, are already on vacation and that I don't have a pile of yard work lined up for him. He's been going going going so much this summer we really want/need a good relax together. And I'm all about that right now. (Ask me about my nap yesterday afternoon. So rare. So precious. Quite relaxing.)

*So thankful for a garden that's putting out peppers, basil, tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash and eggplant at a good clip. It's wonderful to see all the plants respond to water and sunshine and all my humming and singing in the garden (it's the humming and singing that makes the difference, I'm convinced of that). And, of course, I had a pesto and roasted veggie wrap for lunch and it was like eating summer.

*Thankful that the apricots have been ripening somewhat gradually. I have been able to marginally stay ahead of them--I can pick for an hour or so every morning and get my 50-75 pounds and come back the next day for the same amount. I have also been fairly successful in finding good homes for the lovely (a friend even called them "gifted" apricots) little fruit, and haven't quite resorted to dropping them on the doorsteps of strangers, ringing the bell and running away... though it has crossed my mind.

*Grateful for hope and peace in a time that still seems largely marked by fear and uncertainty. Which is not to say I don't have my moments... but with a little peace, quiet, prayer and recentering, it's possible (most days) to find the peace again.

*So grateful for the song and dance show we get to watch each week right now. I am just always so amazed at the creativity and athleticism that they all bring each week... two new dance styles and a group routine AND a solo. Holy cow. In one week. I am always so impressed, even if I don't always agree with the voting results! (Though I have to say, all things being equal, now that we're all caught up on our dvr'd episodes, that I'm cool with the final 4. I could live with any of them as the top dancer... 'cept maybe Evan. Love him, love his style, but top dancer?)

*Thankful for a fun week, music-wise. Did a little lookin' around and using itunes Genius is just a really fun way to find other artists and songs you might like... here are a few I found that I love (though I think this first one came my way through Pandora, another wonder of the internet):

I have always wanted to own this song, ever since Toy Story 2. Just discovered Sarah's Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff, Vol. 2, which has She Loved Me as well as some other lovely tidbits:

This one really was from Genius!

And I'm a little late to the Ben Folds party, I know, but I'm currently IN LOVE with this song...

*Grateful for encouragement. To each of you who has encouraged me regarding this blog, or just writing in general, thanks. It means a great deal. I got an email from an college classmate this week reminding me of how much I enjoyed poetry writing in college, and how much he appreciated my writing, and also happened upon an old folder of writing from that same era (20+ years ago... that slays me!). So I'm bolstered and encouraged to try my hand at some essays and poetry again, and was even discussing short stories with a friend yesterday... that would really take me out of my comfort zone, to say the least... Found this quote that seemed kind of appropriate:
If you don’t feel that you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, of losing control of the whole thing, then probably what you are doing isn’t very vital. --John Irving
Well, there you have it... On to humiliation!
Happy weekend, everybody. Wherever you are, make it a good one.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thursday 13: 13 reasons I love summer

We are well and truly in the midst of summer. And it does seem to be racing by. While fall is my favorite season, I have come to love summers here in Walla Walla. Ironically, for all the heat this area is known for, this week we've had lower temperatures than our oven-baked friends on the other side of the state... (I had to add the Thursday Thirteen graphic for this week--it just seemed so appropriate for my list!)

But for me, here are the best things of summer:
1. The never-ending parade of fresh fruits and vegetables. I picked peppers and cucumbers and zucchini from the garden tonight, and popped cherry tomatoes by the handful as I was wandering through. For supper: a roasted vegetable and pesto taco... it was amazing.

2. Early morning sunshine. I love having it light so early in the morning. I've somehow turned into a morning person and my best energy is from 6-10 a.m. Go figure.

3. Later evening sunsets. The sunsets have been gorgeous and red this week, very full of harvest dust. Of course, by the time I run for my camera, it's gone. Poof.

4. Flowers. The zinnias are growing, the snaps are blooming, the butterfly bush is doing its thing and lavendar is getting ready for its second go-around. I really enjoy all the color and texture of summer flowers and am plotting a cutting garden for next summer...
5. Sprinklers. I love water and how it cools and sprays.

6. Ice cream. Sorbet. Gelato. Popsicles. Fudge bars. Whatever's cool and sweet, it's summer!

7. Basil. This ingredient deserves a number all to itself. I can't get enough.

8. Ever-changing tan lines. I noticed I need to sun my feet today... the little line around my ankle from socks and shoes while working in the yard is kind of obvious... I need some just "lyin' around" time.

9. Pedicures. Yes, you can get these year round, but they are best in the summer when sandles and flip flops rule. If you can't flaunt the pretty toes, it seems a shame. I indulged myself today during the worst heat of the day and it felt positively posh. (Try not to notice that my feet are already dirty again... my goodness, those piggies just can't stay out of the dirt, can they?)

10. Summer reading. Why is it you can get away with fluffier reading in the summer? You just can, or at least I can. I've been indulging in all kinds of audio fluff while working in the yard and it's wonderful! It's my equivalent of a "beach read."

11. The aromas of summer. From the first harvests of the Walla Walla Sweet Onions (makes the fields smell like sour cream and onion chips!) to freshly mowed grass or alfalfa, to some of the beautifully scented flowers (love my mock orange, see above), I love inhaling them all. Even the dirt smells better in the summer!

12. Air conditioning. I may like the warmth, but I'm not stupid. I love my AC, whether in the house or the car.

13. Extra time with the boy(s). This really is my No. 1 favorite thing about summer. The young man and I get extra time together, and then the three of us get away for family time too. Doesn't get much better than that. Routine, schmoutine. There's plenty of time for that come fall!

What are your favorite things about summer?

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

From the mouths of babes

You've probably all seen this before, but I hadn't; so when it came on its merry forwarding way to me today, I thought I'd share. It's too hot to be actually creative and write my own material, much less cook (what's that? It's watermelon for supper tonight!), so I'm letting the kids speak for me.

How do you decide who to marry?
You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.
-Alan, age 10

No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with.
-Kristen, age 10

What is the right age to get married?
Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then.
-Camille, age 10

How can a stranger tell if two people are married?
You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids.
-Derrick, age 8

What do you think your mom and dad have in common?
Both don't want any more kids.
-Lori, age 8

What do most people do on a date?
Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.
-Lynnette, age 8

On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.
-Martin, age 10

What would you do on a first date that was turning sour?
I'd run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns.
-Craig, age 9

When is it OK to kiss someone?
When they're rich.
-Pam, age 7

The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that.
-Curt, age 7

The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do.
-Howard, age 8

Is it better to be single or married?
It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them.
-Anita, age 9

How would the world be different if people didn't get married?
There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there?
-Kelvin, age 8

And the #1 favorite is...
How do you make a marriage work?
Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck hit her.
-Ricky, age 10

I like that Ricky! He can come hang out with me any time.

Tuesday Table Topics #5: 20 pounds or celery?

The question I pulled for this week is kind of a no-brainer, for me: Would you rather live on celery or be 20 pounds overweight?

Um. I'll take that extra 20, Bob, thanks.

Not only do I not enjoy celery (it's only passable with a good dallop of peanut butter), I also can't really imagine eating only ONE thing indefinitely. And if I did have to choose one thing, it couldn't possibly be celery. Maybe pesto pasta. Or guacamole. Or pizza. Or tacos. Notice none of those items are a single ingredient... and none of them are really in the healthy category. Hence the extra 20, I guess.

I'm not saying weight isn't important... to me. It is. Kind of. But not to the detriment of my widely varied and highly subjective menu planning. So you can stick that in your jar of peanut butter and bite it, Table Topics!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A little inspirational weekend video sharing

Here are a couple of videos to contemplate in your quiet weekend hours. The first one is very up my alley in terms of the grateful list concept. The second one I have known of for some time and finally remembered it enough to go find it on youtube. If you can get through the second one without at least a little lump in your throat, well, good for you.

Both of these ladies are authors. I've read one of Katherine Center's books (The Bright Side of Disaster, a good read) and have the sample for Kelly Corrigan's (The Middle Place) downloaded to my Kindle... it's down the list a bit, but I am very much looking forward to it.

Katherine Center

Kelly Corrigan

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

It is completely silent right now... no dogs barking, no TV, no irrigation running on the alfalfa... just so peaceful and calm. So lovely, a great start to the weekend.

This week my blessings are many, as always...
*Thankful that Seth called this morning from basketball camp in Spokane. He was in need of a little mom/stepdad encouragement, which we gave him in spades. 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. is a long day for the littler guys, but he's holding his own and learning as he goes. He's rooming with a buddy from his team last winter, so that's really made this camp fun for him. We can't wait to see him next Friday!

*Very grateful that Ruby seems to be responding to my "bitter barrier" spray on the drip irrigation... she's not completely "cured," but it's much, much better. Our local Home Depot isn't going to know what's up in the world, without seeing me two, maybe three times a day. (I know, I could remember all my myriad yard needs at once, but why?!)

*Grateful to have gotten my brick project done in a couple of days. Not knowing what I was getting myself into (as per usual), I had a few moments of "what if this drags on for days?" as I was just starting... Luckily it all fell into place with a little elbow grease and sweat (well, a lot of that), and many many bottles of water. And some good audiobooks. I have mentioned my gratitude for those, right? And how.

*And also grateful that after living in this hot, dry climate for 20 years (more or less), 100 degrees F doesn't feel quite as bad as it used to. And today was only 88. Positively pleasant.

*Grateful for others who see the value in assessing blessings, choosing gratitude... I went on a little blog surf and found a few examples of others with this listing penchant...
Here We Are Together from the UK; some great art examples on Getting My Feet Wet, The Haystack Needle's "things that make me happy" list, A Beautiful Truth, and many more. It was really amazing how many blogs I quickly found where the writer was talking about gratitude, whether on a regular weekly basis or just as a topic for the day.

*Grateful for old, new friends and all the inbetween friends. Sent a note to a very old friend from grades 9 and 10 in Canada who went with my on my first adventure to Australia 22 years ago. She was horrified to remember how long ago that was! Had coffee this morning with a neighbor-turning-into-new friend and enjoyed sharing stories, hearing where she's from and about her family. And had lunch with an "inbetween" friend, someone I've known for a few years and enjoy her company very much. Good times, good friends.

*Always grateful for the power of words. Here's a quote I found last weekend and really appreciate--can't remember where; if you shared it with me let me know!
"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares." --Henri Nouwen

I would do well to heed those words! Oh yes.

And here's my Wordle of it, which I can't figure out how to make any bigger (Jen, help!)... so click on the picture and it will pop up bigger. I do love Wordle.

Wordle: Friendship

*Grateful for husband and all he shoulders at home and work to keep things going smoothly. As Seth says, "Yeah, but that's just who he is." True story.

*Grateful for giant blueberries now in season... massive, as it were. Size of your thumbnail. Well, my thumbnail, anyway... maybe bigger... I handed a few to husband last night while we were watching TV and he ate them, instantly said "Where did you get these?" Cuz they were just that good. Klicker's good. Worth the drive to the other end of town and back again, oh yeah.

*Grateful that I didn't forget to get tickets for the SYTYCD tour this fall. They went on presale at 10 a.m. this morning. I remembered at 11:45! Ran ran ran to my computer, clicketyclackety, voila, tickets were still available. And some decent ones, too. So come Nov. 21, Seth and I will be happily ensconced in the Comcast Arena watching the Top 10 (and Philip too, they've promised that!) do their thing. Happily.

*Most of all I'm grateful to be on this planet, at this time, knowing what I know (not much some days!), believing what I believe, loving who I love. It's a gift, and I accept it gratefully. And I'm not giving it back!

Happy weekend! Peace and joy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday 13: 13 summer salads I love!

Here is a great list by an all-time wonderful chef, Mark Bittman: 101 Simple Summer Salads. Looking it over, and salivating, of course, it made me think of my favorite summer salads... some you may even find on his list. We're that much alike, Mark and I. Well, I can always dream.

1. Greens with figs, chevre, hazelnuts and balsamic. Couldn't see that one coming, could you?

2. From-garden tomatoes with basil, pinenuts and parmesan. Who needs pasta? This is great all on its own.

3. Greens with raspberries, blue cheese and walnuts.

4. Fresh steamed green beans, hard boiled egg, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers and slivered almonds. My tuna-less version of a nicoise...

5. Roasted asparagus with goat cheese and hazelnuts. This one's a little more spring than summer, but I had to throw it in. (Picture has a variation with pecans instead of hazelnuts, and the addition of cherry tomatoes.)

6. Panzanella--bread salad with tomatoes and for a little extra *wow*, peaches. I just had this combination for the first time last year and am hooked.

7. Tomato, onion and cucumber salad with a light Italian dressing. This is one I make for husband a lot over the summer months, and it's become a fave of mine as well. Walla Walla Sweets for the onions, please!

8. Avocado, tomato, black bean, corn and peppers with a little lime juice and cumin. Maybe a few tortillas on the side...

9. Tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, kalamata olives and feta, with a drizzle of balsamic/olive oil.

10. Grilled zucchini, summer squash, peppers, mushrooms and onions, tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper.

11. Noodle salad with carrots, cucumber, pea pods and sesame seeds, with a spicy peanut dressing. (Picture is of my zucchini "noodle" version of this last week. It was good!)

12. Steak salad. This is my lunch standby at our local country club when I take Seth there for swimming: Grilled steak over romaine with blue cheese and sliced apples, with balsamic vinaigrette. Yummy.

13. Fruit salad. There is nothing like a summer combo of berries, apricots, peaches and watermelon. Nothing. I have been in fruit heaven for weeks and would stay here forever if possible!

Happy salading! May your summer be filled with ALL your favorite ingredients!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday Table Topics #4: Top pastry

Here's a little something to chew on: Which pastry would be your top choice with your morning coffee?

Hmm. This one requires a little thought, but not a lot... I have a particular weakness for all things frangipane; now, the traditional form is made from almonds, which are fine. I happen to prefer hazelnuts, but you probably could have guessed that, eh? Don't know when I acquired that little fatty vice (probably college or thereabouts), but it is well and truly embedded in my preferences. Give me a little ground hazelnuts, butter, sugar and eggs and, if you must, throw a little pastry around it. The pastry can come in many shapes, but I will probably look for the one that has the most heavenly goo in it, and that's usually a pretzel. Pinwheels are fine, but there's all that pastry space out there, plain and unadulterated... Pretzels have nooks and crannies that will hopefully be full of frangipane!

The photo above came from a lovely food blog called the home baker. How impressive is that--homemade danish! I could wake up to that on occasion! I looked high and low all over ye olde internet and couldn't find a single decent image of my beloved frangipane pretzel--it made me think maybe the only place that makes those is our local deli, Merchants... and I should go down and take a picture for you, so that you can invision the deliciousness of which I speak... I can't even remember the last time I had one, which is pretty sad. Pastry and my morning coffee don't often meet up anymore... maybe it's time to do something about that.

(Yes, Kim, I really did mean it. I need some kind of nutritional reset button, now! Peach cobbler is gone, but apricot must surely follow?)

Additional tidbit... did you know the plumeria flower, of which I am particularly fond, has the proper name of frangipani? How clever is that? Well, not very. But quite handy for me when I need to remember: favorite flower? Frangipani. Favorite pastry? Frangipane. Helpful, no? Tuck that away in your memory banks, would you?!

Inhale. Aloha.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Panna cotta for a crowd

I needed to take a dessert for a potluck volunteer board meeting last week, and knew that it would have to be fruity, of course, but which one, what kind? So many options this time of year... I had some of the last of Klicker's strawberries sitting around, and haven't made panna cotta for a while, and I do so love me anything custard! There's something about its non-egginess that is refreshing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not turning on the old creme brulee standby, but if you're looking for less oven time (try NO oven time) and a little lighter (ie, eat more!) the variations on this Italian custard are endless.

(Caveat: I would advise against just assuming you can stir in ANY old flavoring... I thought I'd toss a little nutella into a portion of my panna cotta and it simply did NOT turn out... separated and made a bit of a mess. So, no pictures of that!)

I have always fiddled around a bit with my panna cotta recipes (see note re: nutella above), but the one I followed most closely for this recipe was this one from epicurious:

Strawberry Panna Cotta
3 cups sliced strawberries (1 pound)
1 3/4 cups well-shaken low-fat buttermilk
6 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin, from less than 2 (1/4-oz) envelopes
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream

Blend strawberries, buttermilk, and sugar in a blender until very smooth, then pour through a very fine sieve into a medium bowl, pressing hard on solids. Discard solids.

Sprinkle gelatin over milk in a small bowl and let stand 1 minute to soften.

Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture, stirring until dissolved.

Whisk cream mixture into strawberry purée and pour into molds. Chill molds, covered, until firm, at least 8 hours.

My variation on this was to not completely blend the strawberries and seive them--I mashed them with a potato masher and just stirred in the buttermilk and sugar. I liked having pieces of strawberries in the custard, though it is definitely a more rustic approach. And rather than make a strawberry compote for the top as the recipe calls for, I just sprinkled some fresh blueberries for a little color/texture contrast.

One last note: Panna cotta is traditionally turned out of a mold/form/cup (like a flan), but if that intimidates you, don't let it. I have made countless panna cottas that have been eaten straight out of whatever custard cup I put them to chill. Tastes the same: Yummy.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

Ahoy there, Friday night! Where did you come from so quickly? And why do I remark upon your speedy arrival every week? I should be used to it by now...

This week was a good one. Full of all things summer... and so much to be grateful for.

*So grateful for a husband who is patient and kind (I lost a thing of some monetary value this week. Right now we're calling it misplaced, but I really can't think where it's gone. I think it's really gone.) and will only remind me of this a few (dozen) times. Aside from that bugaboo, I am truly a lucky woman, and Seth is a fortunate boy to have him as a stepdad. The bonus is that we know it!

*Thankful for a good week with Seth. He did another basketball camp for a few days--and he's up for more of that next week too--and did well, got some good recognition from his coach and won a few pizzas. (I just love how all these fitness camps feed the kids pizza and McD's. Classic. Next they'll be bringing in the coffee...) Thankful to have such a wonderful son with a real maturity and thoughtfulness, really growing into a young man.

*Grateful for friends and bike rides. Seth and I went out for breakfast with friends this morning and took a lovely bike ride around our lovely town--I especially enjoyed biking through Pioneer Park and those giant sprinklers with their overspray... heavenly. It was only in the 90s, so we weren't boiling yet... when it got to the 100s, we went to the pool and dipped our hotness into the coolness and order was restored.

Seth and his spoons at breakfast... his version of "hear no evil."

Smell no evil?

See no evil? Or maybe smile no evil, as he really had to work to not crack a grin while posing for this shot.

*Thankful that the summer picnic at work went reasonably well... we had it catered by a local burger joint that is of some reknown, but they don't cater... did it as a favor to me... Catering is tough, tis true, and it's really only with practice that it comes off as looking effortless... So it was hot (like, 115 by the grills), the deep fryers didn't work as promised, and there were lines for burgers... But in the end, everyone got fed, enjoyed it, and most important... it's done! (And I think the burger-makers will go back to their previous statement of "no, we don't cater." And I don't blame them!)

*Thankful for health. I've been feeling illness and death quite close and real and not limited to that shiny land of Hollywood of late. Attended a funeral on Monday for the dad of a friend and it really was a thoughtful and lovely celebration of a life, but the loss for the family was so palpable, especially the grandkids. Grateful for them for the years they had to know their granddad, and that they heard from others how much he'd accomplished, what he'd meant to people, in his lifetime.

*Thankful for my audiobooks. I can't tell you what a difference it makes to have something going on besides my own thoughts rattling back and forth while I'm out in the yard. I mean, there are times when I'd rather be with my own thoughts, but while doing repetitive manual labor? Not so much. Right now I'm finishing up "Belong To Me," by Marisa Des La Santos, after listening to "Love Walked In" by the same author. I got them last summer, I think, with my credits, but hadn't listened to them... but then I got the prompt from my friend Jen that she had just finished "Belong To Me" and it got me all revved to go. Good prompt, Jen! I am in agreement re: the author's writing style. I often pause and say aloud one of the phrases I've just heard, letting it roll off my tongue--she has a real lyrical way with words. I know, a little odd, me and my yard chat. But I'm generally alone with the doggies when I do this, and they feel most edified by it!

*Thankful for my ice cream machine! I have no idea why it takes me until July to remember that I have one of those happy ice cream machines, but it does... so I finally hauled it out and made a happy, healthy strawberry fro-yo today that we all lapped up in the heat tonight. Quite lovely. There will be more where that came from. (And pictures too. I took a few in a rush tonight and they are all blurred... like someone was moving too fast to eat, and couldn't bother to take a proper picture. Don't know who that could be...)

*Grateful for all I've been able to accomplish in the yard, and for what's to come next week--lots on the list! I know it won't all get done (though I do love me my deadlines), but progress is progress; I'll be hoping for temps closer to 90 than 100. The high temps really limit my mid-day activity... I'm a little nutty, but I'm not heat-stroke nutty!

Happy weekend all. May you feel the peace and joy of the weekend, whatever your particular activity or non-activity!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Future files: Peach cakes

My dear friend Margie sent me this link to a wonderful foodie blog, Big Red Kitchen, a couple of weeks ago and I have been salivating ever since! Seriously. If you knew me as a toddler, you wouldn't doubt that to be possible.

Take a look at these sweet cakes... don't they look like the real deal, sorta crusted in sugar? Yum.

I will be making these lovely wonders... one of these days!

So let's see... so far the future files contain chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes (not yet made), lemon meringue cupcakes (check, pretty good), sweetened condensed milk as coffee sweetener (check, no need to pursue further), and that scrum-deli-icious rainbow cake (not yet made). Is there anything I want to make that's NOT sweet? Ponder.

Actually, tomorrow I'm off to experiment with two things: that zucchini "pasta" concept with peanut sauce and a homemade V8 (husband's request). I'll let you know how it goes.
But it's a toss up between the rainbow cake and the peach cupcakes, which one gets made first... until I see some new, drool-worthy sweet thang tomorrow....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tuesday Table Topics #3: Treasured handwritten recipes

This week's Tuesday Table Topic: Do you have any treasured handwritten recipes?

Oh yes.

I have a soft spot for handwritten recipes, which may seem odd, as most of my recipe hunting now takes place online... but there are a few oldies but goodies that still have a place in my recipe box. Yep, still have one of those too!

But the thing about handwritten recipes are the memories they represent, either a specific food memory, or, equally likely, the remembrance of the person who wrote it. Or both...

Here are a few of my favorites.

This one is written by a good friend of our family's and must have been handed down to my mom, and then to me. Can you see how much it's been used? It is a real vegetarian comfort food casserole for the holidays. A big favorite.

Bon bons were an annual holiday favorite around our house--again, you can see how well-loved this recipe card is. It's my handwriting, probably from around high school era.

Again, this is my handwriting, of mom's much-loved rhubarb custard pie. I think I wrote this out sometime in the 90s.

This is my mom's handwriting, of another childhood casserole favorite. This one is quite yummy. And I always loved that card it's written on too.

This is my Grandma Kandt's handwriting, but I've never even made this recipe, to my memory. But anything in her handwriting is precious to me, and I have kept every card/recipe/note from recent years. Maybe I'll have to give this granola recipe a whirl!

I wish I had more recipes from my grandma, written down when she cooked and baked. Because, boy, did she cook and bake! Strudle, kuchen, cinnamon rolls, perogies... an Eastern European smorgasbord of goodness. Makes me want to lay down in a carb coma just thinking about it. I can usually find recipes online if I have the urge to make one of her specialties, but it usually isn't quite the same. There was something special about her feel for the ingredients and how the recipe should work--tweak a bit there, add a little here--that made it work. A great way to cook!

Monday music meme

So Jen stole a meme from her friend Chris (and it appears he did the same!). So I'll keep it moving. I'm looking to delay starting my workout this morning, so I'll use up a few minutes fiddling around on my iphone...

The rules:
* Turn on your music player or computer.
* Go to SHUFFLE songs mode.
* Write down the first 30 songs that come up–song title and artist–NO editing/cheating.

Jen also made a crack about my new-ish (actually a hand-me-down, but why split hairs?) iphone being the 26th ipod to join my collection... a well-deserved crack, and one that made me snort my coffee, but I must protest just slightly, ever so slightly...

This list is from my iphone, which has a great deal of music, but not my entire collection. So it should bring up stuff I really like, as opposed to strange one-off downloads from itunes Free Music Tuesday! We'll see. I can't say I'll stand by every song, but very close...

1. Tracy Chapman, Fast Car
2. Ingrid Michaelson, Little Romance
3. Fleetwood Mac, Big Love
4. Everything but the Girl, 25th December
5. Joni Mitchell, You Turn Me On I'm a Radio
6. Amy Grant, Abide With Me
7. U2, All That You Can't Leave Behind
8. The Rongetz Foundation, Almost
9. Chris Rice, The Old Rugged Cross
10. The Shins, Mine's Not a High Horse
11. Stevie Wonder, You Are The Sunshine Of My Life
12. JMDee Beat, A Fool Like Me
13. S-Tone Inc., Dreamer
14. OMD, If You Leave
15. Michael Buble, Home
16. Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, Ringa Ringa
17. The Bird & The Bee, How Deep Is Your Love (I love this cover!)
18. Goldfrapp, Beautiful
19. The Pfeifer Broz. Orchestra, Sex and the City Movie Theme
20. Fleetwood Mac, Everywhere
21. Sarah McLachlan, Fallen
22. John Denver, Poems, Prayers and Promises
23. Norah Jones, Come Away With Me
24. Elton John, I Want Love
25. Rachel Lampa, Blessed
26. Carole King, The Reason
27. Fernando Ortega, Be Thou My Vision
28. Big Bang, Yo Yo Jazz
29. Ingrid Michaelson, The Way I Am
30. Paolo Nutini, New Shoes

Yep, that's pretty much it. No real surprises. A little weighted toward a jazz collection that I ripped from Corinne when I was in California this spring, but pretty much everyone else is on there very intentionally... I'm sure it would be quite a different story if I did it off my entire itunes library, which right now has enough music that I could listen for 312 days straight and not repeat. Yikes. That includes books and videos too, but still, that might just qualify as a sickness... I have my excuses, but they are pale.

I'd love to hear what your music shuffle brings up too!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

I'm getting a jump start on this week... we're headed out to Joseph and I think I'll leave my computer behind. How radical of me! No computer for 24 hours? Rather frightful. I think I'll make it. However, knowing my attachment to this little ritual, I thought I'd hit the publish button before we go.

This week has been quite lovely. Truly what summer is about... except, no pool time. Regardless, much to be thankful for.

*I'm thankful for cooler weather. Makes catching up on watering that much easier... and I've even bought some more plants and will hopefully get them in the ground before we're at 100 degrees again.

*Especially thankful that Ruby had a 24-hour period of chew chew chew and now has eased off on her irrigation destruction.

*Thankful for a good week with Seth, with some relaxation, some chores, a major amount of "So You Think You Can Dance" catching up. We are all caught up, except for this week, and so so ready for our Top 10 dancers. And ready for them to announce their tour dates. I know, dance nerds. That's us.

*Thankful for health and the ability to pursue fitness. When I think of all the challenges and barriers to health and fitness that I could have, I am very thankful to be able to hop on the treadmill and just go. I don't want to lose that ability. I may not have the desire every day, but I do still have the ability.

*Thankful for the inspiration I find through the creative outlets of others. From the blogs I wander through, to the beautiful plants in my mom's garden and the placed-just-so rocks in my dad's rock walls, to the stack of books by my bed, to the songs on my ipod, I so appreciate all the many things that bring me joy.

*Grateful for a good cry, and a good reminder of how fleeting life is... and to not delay your dreams in hopes of the "someday." We went and saw "Up" as a family this week. I had been warned that tears could happen, but I was a bit unprepared for how sad it was to me that the sweet little couple couldn't have babies, and then how quickly their lives flew by, and then she passes away. More than a few sniffles from me, tis true.

*So thankful for family and friends. That means you!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thursday 13: 13 favorite new sites I like

I sometimes mention the websites/blogs I frequent daily... or at least every other day or two or three. And at the very least, you can see them in my blogroll over to the right. There's always Jen's blog, of course (my original inspiration, in addition to the now mellowing Goerlitz Family Commentary, in getting this whole blog thing going), and The Gift, and through her I discovered noodleroux, whom I adore, as well as a few other joyous nuggets. It's like a snowball effect--one blog brings you other blogs, who bring you other blogs, and so on.

This week I thought I'd show a few recently discovered gems from a variety of of blog/website genres... crafts, gardening, food, and just plain old sharing what's up in their world. Take a browse around and see if any hook you.

In no particular order...

1. LaDue&Crew. A fun recent discovery, I think she's on both the blogroll at both noodleroux and The Gift--lots of good food ideas!

2. Mighty Girl. Lots of fun things to look at here! Kind of a funky online magazine.

3. Simply Breakfast. How cool is this--to record your breakfast every day. And make it different. My breakfast blog would be really really boring... same shake, day in, day out.

4. Craftynest. Fabulous craft ideas. It's the how-to pictures that set this blog apart. Makes you think YOU could actually do some of the projects!

5. Milk, Eggs, Chocolate. More food. Done well.

6. Poppytalk. Canadian. Handmade. Design. Need I say more?

7. Sugarloop. A New Zealander with a passion for print. Completely inspiring to me.

8. Life as I see it. I discovered this one through Thursday 13. I want to look around more, but I like what I've read so far!

9. Don't Look Now. So colorful and crafty. I want to sew like that! (In my dreams...)

10. My Tiny Plot. A gardener in the UK. Good photography, great to see her garden grow!

11. Wide Open Spaces. The tagline is: finding beauty in the basics. I like her style!

12. Craftgawker. An aggregate, like foodgawker or tastespotting, but for the crafty types. As if I don't have more ideas than ambition in a day already? Yikes. But so fun to browse.

13. Tartelette. This one is listed in the Top 50 food blogs by the Times UK, and I was immediately taken with the amazing food photography on this site. Just breathtaking... I think I first discovered Tartelette on foodgawker.

And I have to throw in one I found just today when I was looking for a good link to directions for the balsamic reduction: Good Things Catered. Her tagline is: Recipes from a casual cook turned professional caterer and back again. Hello? I think I will love her. I haven't looked around a lot but plan on doing so soon!

If you've got a favorite, I'd love to hear about it! Sharing is good.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fig season is upon us!

When Seth and I went on our little NYC adventure the spring of 2005, we quickly established a fun routine of heading out in the morning to Starbucks, picking up a pint of fresh figs from the fruit vendor just outside of Starbucks, and wandering to whatever we had in store for the day. We called it heaven, and it was. Well, it was for me. He was happy enough to sip his hot chocolate, eat whatever Starbucks goody was passing for breakfast, and watch me inhale the figs.

Of course he remembered that when, last week, grinning, I practically floated out of the produce cooler at the Kelowna Costco. Both he and husband instantly knew that I had indeed found fresh figs! This is one fruit I wait for all year and cannot get enough of when it's around (it joins a long list of such fruits, but is well and truly queen of said list).

We got enough to share, and MJ nabbed Bobbi's little balsamic reduction bottle, and away we went for supper. And breakfast, and snacks between. Heaven!

If you don't happen to have a little balsamic reduction lying about, you can easily make it yourself. Be forewarned: smells up the house somethin' fierce. But it's not a bad smell and it won't last for long. It's just powerful in the moment.

Expect many fig posts in the coming weeks... though I was horrified to see that CANADA had Californian figs before Washington state. What's up with that? Somebody needs to talk to somebody else about that... pronto.




Do I look a little piggy with my chevre portions? No judgement! It was heaven, I tell you, heaven!

Wordless Wednesday #6: Where I was one week ago today

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Zucchini again!

Pasta was on the menu for lunch, and I knew that mine would have basil and tomatoes featured prominently, while the boys would have more of a bolognese (a la Morning Star beefy crumbles). I am alone in my true devotion to basil, but it's one thing I don't mind not having to share! I did a brief sojourn through the garden looking for tomatoes--still green--and saw that the basil needed a hefty snip to keep from bolting, so came back with my scissors and did a trim.

Back in the kitchen I noticed another zucchini I'd picked but hadn't cooked up yesterday and decided rather spontaneously that today would be the day I would experiment with zucchini "pasta." I have read about this dish for a couple of seasons now, where you make zucchini ribbons and they supposedly mimic the pasta in a dish. I do love me my carbs, but if there's something that can mimic it well and not leave me with the carb coma, I'm all for at least taking it out for a test drive.

I did my google search thing and found a number of options. I settled on the NYT article from last summer and ran with it. Got out my trusty mandoline and had a good time making the ribbons--I went for a smaller cut than they did, but it turned out yummy and very very easy.

Sher's zucchini pasta with cherry toms and basil
1 8-inch zucchini, mandolined to your liking
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tsp. olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cups basil leaves, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup parmesan

In a medium frypan, sauted the garlic in the olive oil for a couple of minutes over medium heat. When it is fragrant, add the zucchini ribbons and toss lightly. Let them saute for a couple of minutes and toss again; do this repeatedly for about 4-5 minutes, until the ribbons are soft.

In a bowl, combine the cherry tomatoes, basil, parmesan and pinenuts. Add the cooked zucchini and toss well to coat the rest of the ingredients with the wetness of the zucchini. Flavor with salt and pepper and enjoy!

Is this pasta? No. Was it yummy? Absolutely. I will make this again, many times. Will the boys eat it? Probably not. But I will try...

In true Sher fashion, I will undoubtedly have to figure out how to make this with Alfredo sauce or something so that it's not too healthy!!

Tuesday Table Topics #2: Food snob or happy foodie?

Today's question: What's your definition of a food snob and are you one?

Hmmm. I've pondered this for a bit and while I have a picture in my head of a food snob, I have a hard time with the actual description.

But I'll give it a stab: A food snob is someone for whom food is very important. They have all the qualities of a happy foodie: they love good food, good quality, great ingredients and fine dining scenarios. They savor their food, and they will go out of their way to find just the right meal/dish/ingredient. Sounds pretty good, right?

The thing that differentiates a food snob from what I call a "happy foodie" is attitude. With a food snob, there isn't a relaxed flexibility in regards to food--food snobs look down their noses at people who eat things they don't approve of, whether that's processed or "junk" foods, or people who eat at chain/franchise restaurants, particular ingredients, etc. They take it all just way too seriously, and they are happy for you to know it. Not the right cheese? Tsk tsk. Oh, you'll eat there? Really? Hmmm. Creamer in your coffee? How gauche. (It's all in the tone.)

So that's my definition. Am I a food snob? I certainly hope not. I see myself much more as a happy foodie (totally my term, don't blame the poor table topics folks for that one!). I like good food, very much. I like it fresh and local and homemade as much as possible. I've made dinner more times than I can count when I've been dead-dog-tired just because I know it will be yummier than most places I would eat out and I am in the mood for a certain something.

But, just as many times I've ordered in pizza, take out Mexican, Chinese or who knows what, just because. I think spray-cheese from a can has it's place in snacking (not often, but for kicks!), I believe Smarties (the Canadian version, of course) actually do raise your IQ, and I think grocery store potato salad beats mine plenty often.

We're off to weed the garden, pick lavendar and cherries, and fix more drip irrigation. Life on the farm is never dull. And maybe for lunch we'll order in pizza!

Monday, July 6, 2009

My creative boy

Seth is pretty nutty for this online game/program called Line Rider. He's been fiddling around with it in his spare time for a year or so, watches YouTube videos to see how the "masters" do it, and pretty much thinks it's taught him more about art and physics than school... not sure about that, but he has gotten better and better at composing lines and scening them (where you draw in art around the basic lines that the little sledder dude navigates). He spent some time last week at Grandma and Grandpa's working on a special one for me. I love it! I think you'll see why... (Sorry it's so small. My first video upload; we'll see if future ones can be bigger!)

First fruits of the garden

We got home last night to 102-degree weather (outside of town, it got cooler as we approached the mountains), a wild and crazy pack of dogs and the garden having grown by leaps and bounds in just one week! We also were happy to be home to a better internet connection and the ability to upload photos without watching your hair turn gray while it happens! The simple pleasures... (And that wasn't a dig at Mayne Island, Mom and Dad, really. The connection in Kelowna was equally slow.)

I was quite surprised to see two good-size zucchini in the garden patch, and a few summer squash following close on their heels. A little sun, a little water--you'd think those things were weeds the way they grew!

Luckily, I knew just what to do with one of the larger zucchini. We went to a B.C. favorite last week while in Kelowna, White Spot. Seth has fond memories of the place (I think it's the giant milkshakes? Or is it the "endless" fries? Who can say...), and begged to go back, so we had a quiet little lunch, just the three of us. One of the favorites on the appetizer menu are deep-fried zucchini sticks. As I'm sure you've heard me say before, if something is fried, it's just that much better. Even zucchini.

Well, we decided that in the spirit of being home and back to being "good," we would try our hand at baking some zucchini sticks up for lunch. Turned out pretty spiff, and I dare say I didn't really notice that they weren't deep-fried. I know, there will be some skeptics to the comment, but it's true!

Seth did the honors:

I beat up 4 eggs and about 1/4 cup milk in a bowl and we tossed the zucchini sticks in there. This zucchini was about 10 inches long already, and so I cut it in eighths, then each eighth into thirds (following me on those fractions? This is where we're trying to have the young man's brain not turn to mush over summer break!). Then we just dumped (technical term) some bread crumbs in a bowl and dipped the zucchini sticks in the bread crumbs before placing them on a well-sprayed cookie sheet. We baked them for 15 minutes at 425, and I turned the sticks once to get some browning all around, and they were good to go! At White Spot they serve it with "zoo dip" (I think that's a rip-off of ranch? Since that's what it tasted like...).

Happy summer! The zucchini is only beginning, I fear... I would welcome creative zucchini recipes, yes I would.
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