Thursday, July 31, 2008

Food for Friends

The whole family made it to the Farmer's Market on Saturday. We aren't big buyers, but it is fun to look around and I came home with a few useful things for our dinners.

Our guests this past weekend were easy to please in the food department since they mainly eat the same way we do. And, since they had just come off a week of cafeteria food at a conference they automatically thought my food tasted good. (Good trick!)

One night we tried grilled peaches since the grill was heated up. They were nice, but I think I prefer them done under the broiler as I felt mine had too much of a grilled/hamburger taste.

All our guests seem to enjoy the menu that I keep posted on the refrigerator. They all comment on it. :)
Monday night I tried a new recipe for Summer Squash Soup. I must highly recommend it. It is super easy and very delicious.

You make a mint and parsley pistou to go on top and it is terrific!

I served my favorite salads: tomatoes with cream and cucumbers with sourcream, vinegar and dill.

We also enjoyed homemade pizza, fajitas with meat from the grill, my favorite rarebit chicken on Sunday, and quiches with salads on Tuesday. I frozed ahead the baked quiches as a friend suggested and was surprised that they came out okay! They seemed a bit watery in the oven but after sitting for a few minutes that problem seemed to resolve.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

From Arizona and Scotland

Our visitors are now on their way back home. We had a lovely weekend with Hal and Dawn (from Arizona) and their daughter Karen (our friend from Scotland).

My zinnias are now ready for picking and the first bouquet came in time for the guest bedroom!

The children spent the weekend listening to Dawn tell stories -- for hours (literally)!

And there were little presents for the kids, much to their delight.

The last time we were all together was at our little home in Scotland.

The kids have grown SO much since then!

Maybe tomorrow I'll post some of the delicious food we enjoyed. We also made it to the farmer's market on Saturday and a local water park for the kids to play. Now it's time for a few loads of laundry and that post-company syndrome of "nothing exciting" happening.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dealing With Berries

It's berry season around here. My dreams of getting out to the fields to actually pick berries have not yet come true. However, one of our grocery stores has had some terrific prices on blueberries and strawberries and the last week has kept me busy getting them into the freezer.

A few of the berries ended up in cereal bowls, on top of tarts and in blueberry pancakes. I think about 25 pounds went into the freezer.

Then came the strawberries -- 24 pounds to be exact. And, they were GOOD strawberries -- the kind that actually smell like strawberries. Yum!

I flash-freeze all my berries on trays first before slipping them into freezer bags for long-term storage.There is something I really love about little square boxes of Ball jar lids. I'm not sure what it is. Maybe just the possibilities it suggests: of jars and jars and jars of jam!

This year, with little time on my hands, a friend suggested I try freezer jam. With her "virtual" help I made 18 cups of strawberry jam in one hour! I could not believe how easy this jam was to make! And, I love it's fresh color and taste. I think I like it better than cooked jam.

Isn't it beautiful?! I was so pleased to have so many jars to tuck away for the winter.

I've been thinking about my whole philosphy of jam making -- why do I do it? It's not really for my tastebuds, because I'm not supposed to eat it (that doesn't stop me from imagining how I would like to eat it). I think part of it is the desire for a well-stocked pantry and the sense of security such a pantry evokes. And it also gives one that feeling of being very domestic. :) So, whenever I have the time, energy, and availability of fruit, I'll probably be working hard to develop this relatively new hobby of mine.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Blogging 120 Years Ago

I'm nearly finished with the book "My Antonia" by Willa Cather. It is a novel (but very true to life) set on the Nebraska frontier about 120 years ago. I love reading about other times in history, imagining what my life would have been like if I had lived then.

So, what would I have been doing back then instead of blogging? Blogging today fulfills part of that "need" in me to write, journal, create something beautiful, record photos, and interact with others.

I'm sure I would have tried to keep a journal which, despite my blogging, I still do. It would have been written in only once place though, and with beautiful copperplate-type handwriting with pen and ink.

I would probably have developed sketching to take the place of the camera I use now. One has to wonder how many more people would have artistic talent if they were forced into using and developing it. I would be compelled to record the various wildflowers found on the prairie, the outline of our house, or the shocks of wheat at harvest.

Interaction with other people would be in person or by letter. I would be writing many more letters than I do now. On the other hand, my circle of friends and acquaintances would be so much smaller that perhaps I wouldn't be writing as much as I imagine. However, the letters I would have written would be long.

Perhaps all this imagining is unrealistic. Perhaps if I had lived on the frontier I would have been so busy with all the work it took just to survive that I never would have had the liesure to sit down and journal, sketch, or write. One never knows, but it is fun to think about.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Birthdays -- The People

Of course what's a party without the people?! Here's Baby Cakes with his new Panda Bear from Auntie C and Uncle JK.
All the kids benefitted from David's birthday -- a tool bench showed up for them to play with!

Rachel embroidered and stitched a new tea cozy for Grandma and there were crocheted necklaces, belts and a plastic decoration James found to wrap up and give to Grandma:

Friends to help celebrate:

Waiting for the candles to be lighted:

Some help needed to blow them out:

"This cake is good," thinks Baby Cakes. "I think I'll have another piece."
The big picture:
Baby Cakes discovered presents are fun!

And today is David's "real" birthday so he is off to breakfast with Daddy before a day of spoiling at home. He's all excited to have pancakes with berries for dinner and maybe a few more presents. :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Birthdays -- The Food

We had a dessert buffet of sorts for the birthday celebration. Baby Cakes had a proper cake -- my favorite 4-egg Cake from Joy of Cooking filled with blackberry jam and topped with a mixture of sweetened whipped cream and sour cream and plenty of berries:

This nectarine/blueberry tart had a filling of sweetened cream cheese and whipped cream:

The raspberry tart was filled with sweetened whipped cream and sourcream. It was really, really good.
Emily made this Bobby Flay recipe for tropical tapioca pudding. The pudding itself was made with coconut milk and fresh ginger and the fruit salsa on top had lime zest, more fresh ginger, mangos, rasberries, blueberries, and fresh mint. An incredible array of flavors!

Here's Baby Cake's first glance of the cake he's been talking about for weeks: Berry Cake.

I thought perhaps we had overdone the desserts and would have too many leftovers. Much to my amazement the 16 people present devoured nearly everything! And there was plenty of tea and coffee to wash everything down.

Today we are off to the pool, perhaps our only chance this week. We are gearing up for another round of company -- from Scotland and Arizona!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Birthdays -- The Table

Yesterday we celebrated my mom's 60th birthday and Baby Cakes' 2nd birthday.

Emily chose a beach theme for decorating the table. I pulled out all the green and blue teacups, including these green ones which I really love:

There were flowers from the fields and little pebbles that looked like sea glass.

I used my new napkins and two new tea cozies that match.

It all looked so pretty with the candles lit:

Next I'll show you what we ate! It was delicious, and we all had a wonderful time!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

10 Things I'm Loving Just Now

1. James' Fashion Sense -- James makes us smile with his wonderful outfits and accesories. We try to imagine just what he's going to be like when he's older. :)

2. My New Centerpiece -- a friend gave me these beautiful doilies and I think they are so pretty! They are done on a ecru linen with different colored embroidery. They look adorable with my two new violets.

3. The Pool -- It is so nice to be able to take the children to the pool on a regular basis. Rachel has taught herself to swim and they all enjoy the chance to play with other children.

4. Farmer's Market Produce -- I had so much fun this past week using my purchases from the farmer's market. We had zucchini in stirfry, tomatoes with cream and salt and pepper, eggplant pizzas (which were incredible inside a sandwich), and steamed green beans.

5. The Doctrine of God's Sovereignty -- which can be summed up in these verses from Romans 8:28,29: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his be conformed to the image of his Son..."

6. The Children's Craft Creations -- Rachel and Andrew are so busy braiding and crocheting these days. Every now and then they emerge from their work area with new jewelry for Mommy to wear!

7. James and David Playing -- It's really so fun to see David old enough to properly play with the other kids, and it's especially fun to see James and David playing together on their own.

8. My New Allergy Medication -- I'm finally symptom free since going on to Zyrtec!

9. My New Napkins -- After sitting in the project pile for 1 1/2 years, I finally sat down and finished off these napkins, which definately say "summer" to me!

10. Picking Our Own Tomatoes -- our little cherry tomatoes are finally ripening and we've picked about 8 so far. The first few were each cut into 4 pieces to enable everyone to have a taste. :)
I hope you too are enjoying many wonderful things this summer!

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Summer's Picnic

Yesterday Michael and I celebrated 9 years of marriage! We took a picnic to a local park and enjoyed a beautiful evening outdoors.

We took along pastrami, cheeses, and mixed olives,
a plate of tomato and mozzarella, some good bread, and a homemade tart,
and cherries! We both really enjoy cherries and thus we usually have them on our anniversary. As much as I think about trying to cook with cherries, I don't think they get any better than eating them fresh!
There was a pet duck in the park, spending the evening with her owner. The duck was adorable, and I had to take a picture for the kids:
And then I decided that we needed to practice self-portraits since so many of my blog friends are so proficient at it. :)
It was a lovely evening and we both look forward to many more years together.