Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lavender and Zucchini

Michael came home the other day with this lovely bouquet. He had been visiting a couple connected with our church and the wife had picked these flowers from her garden and arranged them in this vase for me. It was so lovely of her to think of me. I couldn't help but be amazed at the lavender tucked in here and there. My Mom had been on the phone that very morning telling me of her visit to a lavender farm and how much I would love it. And, then here was this lavender in the vase, a little gift from God when I couldn't be at the lavender farm myself. Such beautiful colors in the food we ate on Sunday for lunch -- grilled corn and sauteed zucchini with tomatoes.
I decided to make some zucchini bread for church Sunday evening. We bring snacks for a fellowship time after each evening service. I haven't made zucchini bread in ages, but think back to the many summers as a child that we made batch after batch of this! I pulled out the same recipe (More with Less Cookbook) and made a double batch, with the kids watching. Here is the result of our work. It was such fun to re-live a childhood memory. Somehow, I think the bread tasted better when I was a child, though. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Celebrating 8 Years!

July 17th was our eighth wedding anniversary! Our day was filled with many little blessings, and reflections of the many things we have been through together in these eight years:

-- the birth of our four children

-- surviving seminary together

-- moving to Scotland for four years

-- Michael's completion of his PhD

-- enduring a discouraging and debilitating illness

-- moving back to the USA

-- Michael's taking on the pastorate

-- buying our first house

-- all the everyday ins and outs of life that happened in the midst of those major life changes

God has been so good to us, and allowed our love to only grow and deepen even through many and varied trials.

My Mom came over Tuesday morning to help after I had a difficult weekend healthwise. She brought a bouquet of the most beautiful flowers in her garden, and I think just about every single snap-dragon she had.
Hopefully Mom's garden will survive this week while she is away visiting her brother. So far, we've had buckets of rain, so no worries!
Strawberries were on sale, so I bought 25 pounds to freeze.
In the evening Michael and I took a picnic dinner to the grounds of the Art Museum and ate beside the Lake. My dear sisters filled our picnic basket with all sorts of lovely food -- fresh bruschetta, mixed olives, sparkling pomegranate juice, prosciutto, brie, a mix of cheddar and blue cheese, crackers, mango slices, and an assortment of baklava.
We devoured the dinner and it was absolutely delicious!
The setting could not have been more peaceful and we had a delightful time looking at a scrapbook of the first year of our courtship and marriage.

"God is faithful to all His promises, and loving toward all He has made."

The Weekend

I put some fresh peaches to good use in one of the two pies I made for company this weekend. I love the combination of peaches and blueberries. The pie was delicious!
We invited friends from church over for dessert on Saturday evening. We enjoyed the apple pie and the peach/blueberry pie. We also had an incredible lemon cheesecake that my friend brought in celebration of her husband's birthday.
My sister did the grilling for us on Sunday. We grilled eggplant slices with herbs and olive oil, as well as pork with a delicious peach jam, mustard, and honey glaze.

I highly recommend the peach glaze for the pork. I was slightly dissappointed with the eggplant, but I think we just needed some fresh tomatoes and mozzarella to go with them!

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Day At Grandma's

First on my list this morning was the stack of correspondence I had been putting off all week. Birthdays and anniversaries were drawing closer, and I just had to get to work.

Letter-writing is such a beautiful art, and I would love to be able to devote more time and energy to creating these written expressions of love and encouragement. I recently read an inspiring book by Alexandra Stoddard called "The Gift of a Letter". It talked all about the delights of stationary, fountain pens, beautiful stamps, and words sent from afar, with many practical suggestions.

By the time I finished this morning I had a nice stack of colorfully addressed envelopes, some thick with enclosures, others filled with just a single card. I'm enjoying the various stamps I have at present -- the triangle-shaped Jamestown, the Happy Birthday, the striking lighthouses.

I took my letters out to our mailbox and thought how remarkable it is that my ordinary letterbox is the place from which my letters begin their journeys to land in mailboxes and letterslots all over the world!

Once letters were finished we spent a delightful day at my mother's house with my sister and the children. We sat outside, talked, knitted, enjoyed the lovely weather, mom's beautiful flowers, and the children playing.

My sister is busy working on another version of her newly designed tank.

Mom's flowers are looking lovely!
The zinnias are our favorites!

The delights of going to Grandma's -- special treats!

We also spent time digging through Mom's hall closet, looking for pictures from our years in Africa, and discovering pictures from the year we were married, baby pictures, pictures of trips overseas, and even two ancient cookbooks belonging to my Great-Grandmother, which will definately be showing up on this blog at some point. And then we dug through Mom's boxes of old little treasures -- jewelry, gloves worn by my Grandmother, pins won in a competition, and baby rattles.

How thankful I am for the gift of being close to family. After living away for 6 1/2 years, and most of those on another continent, it is very special to be so close we can drive to each other's houses whenever we want.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Simple Pleasures

We set to work on the peaches today. I had the children take all the stickers off the peaches as the first step.

I was amazed at how fast and easy it was to blanche all those peaches in a pot of boiling water. The children sat at the counter and helped me peel what we figured to be about 60 peaches. The skins slipped off in about four pieces, all the while reminding me of peeling sunburned skin. I think it took us 10 minutes to blanche and peel the peaches. It took significantly longer to cut them all up! Ten bags of sliced peaches are now sitting happily in the freezer!

Later in the day I headed to Walmart for my shopping. While it may be a culinary ideal to shop at Farmer's Markets and Health Food Stores, a mark of a true Foodie is shopping within your budget and making the most of it. So, I go to Walmart.

I did find something that sparked my interest in the produce department. On sale were bags of red, white, and blue potatoes! For just a dollar, I couldn't resist! Already I could imagine them steamed with a dressing of olive oil, chives, salt and pepper.

Dinner had to be easy. My husband was out of town and the children don't realize that dinner needs to be involved or substantial. Eggs, I decided. And for me, an omelet with fresh herbs picked from my pots out back. No herbs for the children, they would just complain about the green things and pick them out.

I just about had to throw in the towel and forget my wonderful dinner when my body decided to shut down. I was back to scrambled eggs and toast while my body tried to recover from the shopping excursion. And then I began to think that perhaps.... just maybe I could steam those potatoes, and cook an omelet. And there was a tomato on the counter -- if I could just cut it up and drizzle it with some olive oil, salt & pepper, and fresh basil.

Within the hour we were sitting down to our very simple, but outstanding meal. The children were very intrigued with the "purple" potatoes, and didn't complain about them one bit. They scarfed their eggs and bread and left me to enjoy my summer meal. The omelet was perfect and I can't remember when I've enjoyed such a wonderful egg. The potatoes were just as I imagined, all salty and olive-oily with just a hint of the chives. And I never tire of tomatoes with fresh basil. My meal was eaten with absolute delight, and thanksgiving -- how can one not give thanks for such simple pleasures!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Summer Peaches

I went to Walmart this morning and bought 20 pounds of peaches for the wonderful price of 76 cents a pound! These peaches are wonderful, and the stones come away from the centers so easily! I decided these peaches were better than the ones I bought from Michigan last year, and would be great to freeze. So, my next project is peeling, slicing and freezing all my peaches.

We enjoyed this gorgeous plate of peaches with our afternoon tea along with some amazing new cookies we discovered (which also happen to be gluten free!). Made from just 3 ingredients, these cookies were so "moreish" we had to set ourselves a limit before eating the first one.

Chocolate Nutcakes

(seen in a book called "Picnics")

1 can sweetened condensed milk

4 squares unsweetened chocolate

1/2 pound toasted pecans, chopped

Put the sweetened condensed milk and chocolate squares in a saucepan and melt together over low heat. Mix in the toasted pecans. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes until firm. We made 3 dozen cookies.

Idea for Dinner: Fluffy whole wheat pancakes with fresh peach slices, slathers of whipped cream, and a drizzle of pure maple syrup;