Thursday, November 19, 2009

Saturday Shower

It's the season for hospitality around here! This past Saturday we hosted a baby shower brunch for a friend.

There was plenty of good food. Sticky Buns:

Gluten-free pumpkin bars (which taste just as good to gluten-eaters as to gluten-freers):
Scones of various assortment:

And cream puff swans:

Pumpkin yeast bread was baked for favors:

And we had a number of kinds of quiche to eat as well:

I didn't get a picture of everyone sitting in the front room eating their food and sipping tea, but this is what the set-up looked like afterward:

And now we all just have to wait a few more months to meet the baby girl we were celebrating.

Today the kids and I headed off to the International Festival here in town. It was so much fun and I took a lot of pictures to post soon. And I still need to tell you all about Baby John's baptism on Sunday. Life is busy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Baking with lots of Girls

Last night we had ten young girls and their mothers here for Rosebuds. The subject of the night was baking muffins and quick breads.

The girls were divided into small groups, given instructions, and then allowed to try their hand at blueberry muffins:

Everyone did a great job!

Afterward we enjoyed quick breads (banana, lemon, cranberry) and scones along with fruit and cheese and crackers.

And of course tea. We all sat around little tables in the front room, drinking tea from teacups and enjoying the fellowship.

A delightful evening was had by all!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Christmas Flowers

The first batch of Christmas flowers are off to the shop. I love the candy cane colors of these:

Of course we needed to have red and green as well:

And a few more "wintery" ones -- the minis are especially soft and cozy since they are made from cashmere.
They are now all packaged up and off and I've started on round 2.

Life has been busy around here with showers, baptisms, company, school, church, crafts, and cooking, cooking, cooking. Hopefully I'll have more time this week to post!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Biltmore

I don't really have a list of places I'd like to (or must) go to in my lifetime, but there are a few locations that float around in my brain. However, last year, while reading about the Vanderbilts and seeing pictures of The Biltmore, I did get it into my head that someday I wanted to go tour the Biltmore. I figured it would be about 20 years down the line when the chance arose.

But there we were, sitting in the Charlotte, NC airport, waiting for the rest of the conference attendees to arrive when one of our hosts mentioned quietly that there was the possibility of going to the Biltmore on Saturday. I could not believe my ears! How was it that we ended up in a place 30 minutes from the Biltmore with a conference program that included time for a "field trip" and conference planners who were going to treat us to this tour. I really felt that God had arranged it all just for me.

The Biltmore is billed as America's "Largest Home". It was built by one of the Vanderbilt sons in the last decade of the 19th century. He lived here with his beloved wife until his early death some 15 years after their marriage.

The house itself is amazing. Michael and I love touring historic buildings and we got the audio tours to make sure we didn't miss a thing.
I believe the house includes 43 bathrooms -- all very modern when the house was built. The rooms are sumptiously decorated and the dining room was incredible with its 7-story ceiling and magnificent fireplace that took up the whole width of one wall. I definately felt I could be back in Europe for a few hours.
The view from the back of the house looked out over rolling hills to the mountains beyond (which weren't visible due to the cloud cover).
The house also boasted a large, indoor swimming pool which was heated and lighted, along with an indoor bowling alley and gymnasium.

The house was decorated for Christmas with a Christmas tree and myriads of ornaments on it in each room.

There are many, many acres of grounds surrounding the house but time allowed us only a quick walk closeby.
The green house and walled garden were near enough to have a quick peak.

It's so fun to imagine all the people who visited and the parties that must have been held on this property. Wouldn't it be fun to jump back in time just for a day!

These turkeys in front of the greenhouse were hilarious!

And here is our one picture of the inside of the house, thanks to the Biltmore photographers who made every tourist have their picture.

So, now I can say I've been to the Biltmore. It definately was a special highlight of the weekend. And now I want to read some more books from that era and imagine myself as a house guest.....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Very Nectar Of Heaven

What's travel without food? Despite the fact that we took our meals at the conference center cafeteria, there was still plenty of opportunity to observe and try new foods.

Being in the south, the cuisine was definately different from up here in the northern midwest. Every morning, without fail, we were offered bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits and grits (biscuits and grits are what differ from elsewhere). I took the grits every morning as my "carbohydrate". Decorated with salt and pepper, they were an excellent side kick to the eggs and bacon.

I noticed we had people on both sides of the great divide in our group -- those who put sugar and butter on their grits and those who stick with salt and pepper. A similar war is waged in Scotland over the correct topping for porridge. I happen to be on the sugar side of that war.

Grits aside, there were also some other things that appeared on the menu: fried okra -- I first tasted this in Uganda when we stayed with some missionaries from the south; fried anything and everything (some form of fried meat was available at every dinner), sauteed apples (I think these are meant to go by the name fried apples too, but they looked more like apple pie filling with out the crust); sweet as can be sweet potatoes with brown sugar topping; and one day there appeared a great pan of butter beans.

It was then that I heard a friend utter the phrase, "The very nectar of heaven," as he sat down at our table, his plate more than half covered in the pale, cream-colored beans. "What's the very nectar of heaven?" I asked, eager to learn about some new, wonderful food. "Butter beans are the very nectar of heaven," he repeated with relish. And then proceeded to launch into a weighty argument with another friend about the truth of this statement, all arguments based on the principles of apologetics.

By the time lunch was nearly over I was ready to get past my dislike of most forms of beans and give the butter beans a try. I remember being served some type of huge bean in Scotland which was actually so soft and melting that I didn't mind it. Perhaps the butter beans were the same. So, I tried some. "I'm not sure these qualify as the very nectar of heaven," was my verdict. My friend assured me that, while these beans were very good, they didn't compare with the butter beans his grandmother could make in her pressure cooker.

The next day, while sitting in the airport awaiting our flight home, our friends happened to walk by. We decided we'd all sit together to wait the time out and our friend excitedly declared, "We're going to have Carolina barbecue for lunch. Now THAT is the very nectar of heaven." Somehow I believed him a bit more than I had with the butter beans.

We waited all morning for the lunch hour, sitting in front of the Carolina BBQ sign.

And then it was finally time to order: barbecue, hush puppies, greens, green beans, coleslaw, mashed potatoes and even a fried pickle.

This time I had to agree -- this food was good, even if it was served in an airport. Imagine the taste if our friend's grandmother had made it!!!!

The barbecue had flavor, was not dry, and appropriately covered in coleslaw, was delicious! And cooked greens -- so good!!! (Maybe that's how my friend felt about the butter beans.) Not to mention everything else.

So I really did get to have something authentic while we were away!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009


Last weekend Michael and I traveled to North Carolina to attend a retreat for pastors and their wives put on by the Home Mission Board. We stayed at a lovely place called Bonclarken where the scent of pine hung heavy in the fresh, October air.

I found it very strange to be seeing fall leaves on the trees and azaleas blooming on the ground. The timing of those has never mixed before in my world.

We stayed in nice little hotel-like rooms in one of the guest houses and walked every mealtime to the dining hall, past this beautiful view:

Friday and part of Saturday were spent hearing talks from Dr. Curto, a minister in the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church). It turned out that Dr. Curto and his wife were the missionaries to start the mission work in Karamoja, Uganda where two of the girls from our church are (or will be soon) serving. Not only that, but the mission the Curtos were with ended up buying the mission compound in Mbale, Uganda that I visited as a teenager when friends of ours from a different mission group lived there! Small world, really.
Dr. Curto's talks were encouraging and the fellowship with all the other pastors and their wives was very special. I think we all benefitted from that part of the weekend.
This is the house at the center of the retreat center. It was built in the late 1800's and is just gorgeous inside. It goes on and on forever with little bedrooms and sitting rooms tucked in every little corner.

Another view:

Here is a picture of what the house looked like before they added the dining hall (which makes the left part of the house hard to see now). It was built by a man for his Swiss wife, thus the European look.

Next time I post I'll have to fill you in on the food we ate!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Christmas Tea

This blog has been silent for a long time! Life has been very full around here and priorities must be kept! Between our 5 days away last weekend, hospitality, homeschool, ballet, housework, and the cooking blog, there is not much time left for other things. :)

Yesterday we headed to Christina's house for "Christmas Tea." We used to have this at the beginning of September and begin planning what we would make for Christmas presents.

Christina had a beautiful table set:

She tried out the pumpkin bars from TCND but made them with brown rice flour instead of wheat flour. Excellent! No compromise here for being gluten-free.

Mom had seasonal note pads for everyone!

And Christina made it very festive with gingerbread and lemon sauce:

The kids enjoyed themselves:

And they even started making lists of presents to make. :)

We decided to draw names for presents this year -- which was hilarious, really. It was obvious JK and Michael would take each other and that left Christina, Emily and I to match up. Easily done with one little draw.
I have lots to show and tell about our trip last weekend -- where we stayed, what we eat (very important) and the surprise tour we got to take! Hopefully I'll be posting soon!