Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Couple Things

First, a word on Sun Tea.

Can you believe I happen to have a picture of brewing sun tea in my photos? It's 2 years old. Cory keeps telling me to weed through all of my photos, but these sorts of occasions serve as an important reminder that we just never know when a humble, unattractive photo from the past may be called upon to serve the greater good of the blogosphere and general mankind.

Sun Tea is the easiest thing Evah. People probably have different ways of doing it, but here's what I do:

Buy one of these kitschy jugs at your favorite grocery store.
Fill the jug with hot water (leaving a little room at the top).
Stir in a scant 2/3 cup of sugar.
Add 6-8 tea bags of your choosing. (Last time, I used 4 regular old green tea bags, along with 2 flavored green tea bags.)
Set the jut out in the sun and go weed your garden, kiss your babies and water your roses.
Within a couple of hours, you will have a jug of tea.
Keep it in the jug, in the fridge and watch how quickly it vanishes.

Next, a meal, to go along with the tea:

I found this recipe back in 2000 in Country Living (or was it Country Home?) magazine. It is still in one of my recipe binders and I make it at least a couple of times a year. It's easy, fresh, relatively healthy and we all love it.

First, seed and chop 6-8 Roma tomatoes. I usually do 8, because I'm all different kinds of tomatoey.

Next, cut a bunch of asparagus into 1 to 2-inch pieces. I do not have a picture of this step, or any step hereafter. Who do you think I am? Pioneer Woman?

Close your eyes and envision yourself chopping 3 cloves of garlic.

Now, heat some olive oil in your saute pan then toss in the garlic. Once that's nice and smell-goody and golden, toss in the tomatoes and the asparagus. Toss in some salt. Cook until the tomatoes start to break down. Maybe 10 minutes? Maybe 8? I don't know, I'm in Ohio and the recipe is not in front of me.

This is all from memory, baby. And I can tell you from experience - it's a scary place to be.

Once your veggies are softened up (but not too soft!) pour in one cup of white wine (I use white cooking wine, because I know no better...) Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and add 2 T of butta. Stir until melted. (I have taken the liberty of doubling the wine/butter "sauce". I'm a saucy gal! And so are you.) Throw a nice handful of chopped, fresh basil in and you're ready to eat.

Except for the fact that I forgot to tell you to boil some angel hair or thin spaghetti. So go do that and don't you dare curse me, because God is always watching.

Shovel some of the veggie sauce over your pasta and thank your lucky stars that fate has lead you to FPFG, the keeper of all good tomato-based recipes.

Isn't it weird to think that I was barely married and a spring chicken of just 23 years old when I had the good sense to tear this one out? I probably didn't even have wrinkles or an age spot and still, so wise!

What can I say? A stomach knows what it wants.

Finally, here's a cropped-in view of what allaya'll have taken to calling "the flower cart". An Amish man loads up two trailers with the most gorgeous hanging baskets and such and hauls them about, every day. He does not go door-to-door. He does not stop to see if I'd like anything...although holy cow, that would be phenomenal! I honestly don't know where he takes them, but I do know that he goes by our house later in the day, around 3 or 4, and his wagons are empty. The last time I saw him, he also had 4 smallish-to-small children on the wagon. Sometimes, when it's raining, he covers himself up with this blue tarp.

It's all quite fascinating. But mostly, it's beautiful. It's the picture of serenity, to me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

On Folly Beach - Book Review

I once vacationed on Folly Beach in South Carolina with one of my greatest friends, along with her parents and another family which I had never met. This trip was offered up to me hot-casserole-style just a couple of weeks after the 11th hour cancellation of our wedding, but you already know that story.

Suffice it to say - I needed to get the heck out of Dodge. So I went, and I brought a bucket full of memories home with me including the vague hilarity of a comment Melanie's Dad made whilst driving car-bound for hours on end. I cannot for the life of me remember what he said, or even the general theme. But I do remember it being the funniest thing ever, and that notion alone makes me want to laugh one more time.

What I'm trying to say is, how could I not read On Folly Beach?

I was sucked in from the very first page, with this: "But now the keening of the wind through the colored bottles bled through her bones and flashed behind her eyes like a newsreel, illuminating the one thing she'd never wanted to know."

It turns out I'm a pretty easy sell. Feed me a juicy simile and I'm yours for the next 300 pages.

The story alternates between Emmy, a modern-day Indiana transplant seeking escape from the recent loss of her husband; and a pair of sisters, Maggie and Lulu, in the 1940's during World War II. The characters are linked through dusty boxes of beloved books...books that just so happen to have clandestine love notes scrawled in the margins. As Emmy willingly hurls herself through that trapdoor and into the past, her grief begins to loosen its grip and she finds hope in the life she has now.

At the risk of exposing my simple mind, I will say that this era-tripping worried me a little right out of the gate. Alas, I reminded myself that I survived and grew to love "The Time Traveler's Wife" and soldiered on.

The author, Karen White did a fantastic job of building momentum as the stories progressed and ultimately stitched them together in such a way that while each story stood on its own merit, the convergence of the two was even more compelling.

The chapter lengths were ideal (this is of utmost importance to me for reasons I cannot fully explain) and the historical aspects were laid out with detailed restraint. For a girl such as myself, fiction with a historical bent can, at times, become drudgery. In this case, however, I found myself trying hard to picture these girls...their hairstyles, their home, their bookstore. I imagined the handsome soldiers and wondered what life was really like "back then". I harkened myself right back to the Folly Beach Pier and felt lottery-lucky to learn after all this time and in this way, that those boards were once danced upon by the likes of Maggie and Cat. The history was the story here, rather than being mixed in with a heavy hand and an unwieldy spoon, as I've seen so many times before.

I grew to care about the characters - or at least, to care about what would come of them. In the end, I felt that there was a significant question that went mostly unanswered, but I can handle a loose end or two. I've decided that it can be a good thing to be left wondering - it supports the delusional tendency I have to choose to believe that characters of a great book are real. That maybe one day I'll run into someone who knew Cat later in life and can fill me in on what I missed.

As Karen White painted the pictures and left me guessing, I stole away in search of answers. I found myself ignoring late-night burning eyes and turning the page, again and again. What more could be said of a novel, really?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jessica's Swoony Blooms With a Side of Thinking Out Loud

The breeze makes wind-chimes of my napkin-curtains clipped to the rod. Calvin shoves around a wooden semi truck, 3 decades old, and the tired wheels creak belligerence. Outside, the lawn mower. Upstairs, two sleeping babies; brown eyes closed, unfair eyelashes lazy napping on chubby cheeks.

This day has been so good to us. We shared a picnic on a pink quilt with friends; two mamas energizing as small forces combine, conjuring up Southern twangs, swine sales, hired farmhands, then onto an elaborate effort for the butterfly to catch the spider.

Our road home is fortuitous, if only in theory. Off-the-beaten-paths teach me something new about myself. God whispers into my heart the start of a new paragraph.

The sun beats down and cooks life into my bones. Who can be tired on a day like this?

This life of ours is a haven. Keeps us warm. Cools us. Holds us together tight. We unfurl the twine, tie up world-weary Delphinium and the twine circles back around, drawing us in, standing us up taller. We nudge new growth and cut back old. We feed our bodies and our souls.

Down-time once spent wrapped up cozy and dreamy-eyed is now spent noticing and soul-searching.

I tap at the keyboard, my insides electric with possibility. Or is it worry? Maybe a little of both, but the ratio is an honest 70/30 and I call that promise.

All at once, the chimes, the squeaky wheels, the whirring blades fade and I hear only quiet. I feel a nudge, very nearly tangible.

I sneak away, to no one's notice except for the one who invited me.

"The Lord will work out his plans for my life - for your faithful love, oh Lord, endures forever."
Psalm 138:8

Reminded again - it is not up to me. We are not the bosses.

I pluck that ruffled stem and find that it fits rather nicely in my pocket.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's Summer When...

Around here, it's officially Summer when:

* The littles require a bath every blasted night (we're not nightly kid bathers in the cool months - so sue us).

* The tub requires a cleaning after the nightly Kid baths. (Almost seems easier to let 'em sleep off some of that grime...)

* I come home from the grocery store with 3 kinds of berries - all on sale - and a watermelon.

* I contemplate fruit salad and ice cream for dinner.

* My feet are flip-flop-achy and my fingernails are woebegotten.

* My Sweet Petunia falls into a stone-cold sleep coming home from the grocery store, at 10:30 a.m. (These long days are catching up with us...)

* My wedding ring doesn't freely slide around to the back side of my finger. Between the sweat and the grime and the puffery, it's not going anywhere.

* We get 2 more hours of outside work done after the kids are in bed.

* The glaringly obvious age spot on my nose rears its ugly head.

* My flower obsession kicks into full-throttle.

* We forget we own a t.v.

* The thought of folding laundry - touching anything remotely warm - makes me sweat.

* I make my first jug of sun tea.

* Calvin commences the wearing of a sweat-band all the livelong day. (You'll never meet a sweatier boy.)

* This passes by every morning, around 10:00.

* The shy first-glow of a flip-flop tan line emerges.

I have a Summertime crush on Summer. I don't even mind the 90 degree temps with the no AC. Please, Summer, be yourself this year. There's no need to play it cool, like last year. Give us your best. We can take it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Covert Mission - Accomplished

Here's a bit of family trivia for you: Cory and I have been sleeping in the guest room since Silo came home. I'm digging the Fox Room, named such because it was decked out in a 3-part, coordinating Fox wallpaper motif when we arrived. Foxes on the bottom half, forest landscape on the top, Different foxes on the mid-section border.

Dreamy, no?

Alas, I'm finding the Fox(less) Room so homey. I can't entirely put my finger on it. I just feel at peace knowing that we're all up there together.

But the bed is a double and our toes hang off the end. I think the novelty wore off with Cory about 6 weeks ago...

Don't you just love these rambling posts where I take a month of Sundays to get to the point?

What can I say, I like to set the stage.

As I was saying, the two biggest littles are always the first to wake up. They tip-toe downstairs and 99% of the time, I hear them.

On this day, I did not.

This place does fall toward the nutty side of a normal/nutty continuum, but it is not commonplace for me to happen upon my children standing double in a window sill in the early morning hour.

Word on the street was that Jumpy/Buddy the Beanie Baby kitten had mysteriously landed atop the armoire.

I guess he's not named Jumpy for nothing.

It took them a while to notice that I was even in the room. Ruby kept saying, over and over, "Calvin! You're so brave! You're really, really brave, Calvin!"

And then I was spotted.

And then Jumpy Buddy was retrieved through the courageous valor and steely mettle of Calvin, Ruby's on-again-off-again Honey.

After the ticker-tape parade, we celebrated over bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios.

Tomorrow begins another week of possibility and temperatures in the 90's. Bring it on, baby. We're ready. We have squirt guns.

Summer Buzz

It's buzz-cut season.

Calvin doesn't know a summer without one.

Dude was blessed with an abundance of thick hair and plentiful sweat glands.

It's old hat to him, as you can tell.

After much deliberation we decided to go all-in and buzz the Little Guy, too.

We were on the fence because while he shares the same hair/sweat ratio as his brother, he's also got a wonky-shaped head.

No offense, Siley.

In the end, practicality won, as it typically does with the men-folk.

I was thrilled to see that he was feeling cooperative, this being his first buzz-cut and all.

What started as cooperation soon turned into a giggle fit...

Which turned into unbridled glee...

Which turned into... The Chicken Dance?

Maybe something a bit Jay-Z inspired?

The Macarena?

All I'm saying is, homeboy had never felt such freedom.

His back may still be hairy and his sideburns might, in fact, extend down into the formation of a miniature beard, but his noggin is now free and easy as the day is long.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Bits

,The perennials are wide awake and it couldn't have come at a better time.

Who could fathom blooms so intricate, symmetrical, breathtaking?

Incidentally, here's a conversation I had yesterday:

Calvin - Mommy, what are those flowers called?
Mommy - They are called Lupine.
Calvin - Why are they called Lupine?
Mommy - I have no idea.
Calvin - Uh...maybe because they look like pine cones?

Tell me, why didn't I think of that? Even if it's not true, it sounds pretty good to me.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, thank you for your many kind words and earnest prayers. We are fine. We are good.

That's not to say that I don't have jittery moments, but all-in-all, we are hopeful. And a little excited.

I have shared with a few friends that my biggest concern is not Cory finding a job, but that we will end up in a position where we have to choose the "best" job. I worry that we will not recognize the right choice.

One friend responded to my concern with these words: "How can a Father with a heart like His allow his son and daughter with hearts like yours to miss the right answer?"

So thank you, friend. I have carried those words around in my pocket, ever since.

Now Tuesday has become Friday.The sun has shone and then hidden itself and the rain pours down and I feel the inescapable truth that being in this position -- the position where my hands are tied and my job description reads only: "Pray. Listen. Wait.", is the very best place to be. How daunting would it be to believe that we had to clear our own path? How scary would it be if the weight of life decisions rested square on my bony shoulders?

I did not imagine that it would be possible to face an utter, impending loss of income and not be bathed in fear. But I'm here to tell you - it's possible.

To be continued! And happy weekending. We should totally cook-out! I'll bring the salsa. And the goat cheese.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Photo-Heavy Post Examining Every Detail of Sarah's Shower, Because (Some of) You Asked For It

Let me start off by stating that this shower was extremely thrifty. The girls and I are proof positive that you can throw a beautiful bash without spending much cash.

Holy moley, that rhymed, and I'm not much of a rhymer, but it seems too serendipitous to correct...

Let's start with the tables, shall we?

We used several banquet tables, along with 2 rounds. We knew from the start that we wanted to use vintage china and drinking glasses. (I have collected $1 plates for years from garage sales and thrift stores and the other girls had some, too. Even Sarah herself contributed a stack of plates to the cause.) Because we were using "real" plates and such, it was important to us not to have the metal banquet table legs showing...but buying or even making tablecloths was out of the question. Someone came up with the brilliant idea of using white sheets, which Holly scored for a couple of dollars apiece at a local thrift shop. We then topped the sheets with some of Lois's smaller, vintagey lace toppers.

Next item of business - napkins. Again, everything else was "real", but we did not have a stash of 30 cloth napkins at our disposal. So, we went with paper, for $2.49 a package. Thank you, Tuesday Morning!

I fretted and frittered over the mixing of so many patterns, but the paisley spoke to me. In the end, the soft blue was the perfect contrast and brought out some of the blue shades in the plates and it looked perfect against the vintage sheet music.

(Am I the only one craving an apple fritter donut?)

Speaking of the sheet music - I found it for peanuts at the antiques store in town. I sorted through the big stack and snagged only those 1) without words 2) without too many crazy notes (trust me on this) and 3) with brown tinged paper. It was purely bonus that the titles I wound up with included "Romance", "Lover", "Spring Morn" and so forth.

The favor bags/place cards were from the Martha Stewart line, found at TJ Maxx for $3 for 8. The included white ribbon, but I used a fiddy cent spool of vintage pink seem binding (is that what it's called?) because I thought it needed lipstick.

The favor bags held a lone Garden Shortbread cookie (only one would fit inside the little paper bag) and a packet of zinnia seeds.

These cookies smelled like a dream while they baked and they were unique and tasty and perfectly befitting the Garden Shower theme.

For the seeds, I bought 2 regular packs of seeds ($1 total). I then cut a small portion of the original seed packet to fit the size of the paper bag and color-copied it. I cut them out, taped them on with double-sided tape, tossed some seeds in, and stapled the bag closed.

So inexpensive and charming and Gardenesque. Plus, who doesn't love Zinnias?

Apparently nearly everyone at the shower, since they almost all left them behind.

One more reason not to break the bank on this stuff, folks.

But back to the really fun stuff...

As I mentioned earlier, the flowers were mostly cut from our respective gardens. We used my collection of garage sale milk glass along with plain, old soup cans as vases.

Lilacs from my yard, rhododendrons from Loey's. Roses courtesy of Meijer.

The flowers were utter perfection and I am convinced that they would not have turned out better if a fancy-pants florist had put them together and charged us an arm and both legs.

The food labels were an extra, cost-free touch of whimsy. We labeled "Meat" (sandwiches), "Greens" (fun salad), "Potatoes" (potato salad), "Sweets" (dessert table) and "Drinks".

Speaking of the sandwich...the sandwich caused us much consternation as we were on the hunt to find something more special than ordinary cold cuts, but it needed to be inexpensive, too. We all dilly-dallied on our search for recipes, so I dreamed one up: Regular old sandwich buns with sliced turkey, a smear of spreadable Brie, sliced avocado, sliced strawberries, baby spinach and dijon mustard. It was purely luck that avocados were on sale for $1 each and strawberries are in season. The Brie was an unnecessary splurge, but one $4 container was all we needed.

The other girls did a spectacular job of baking up the treats.

Don't they look phenomenal perched up on Loey's cake stands?

He thought so.

Can we take a moment to talk about Ralphie?

In all of the planning I did for this party, I never once considered that Ralphie would be a problem.

To say that he was a "problem" would be an understatement.

This brute paraded through the ladies with a half-dead mouse in his mouth, then he leaped up on the fully-loaded dessert table. (God bless my SIL, who has the reflexes of

Just when we thought his antics were over, as Sarah opened gifts, he commenced in attacking a baby bird, resulting in a raucous dive-bombing from Baby Birdie's kin.

Tears were shed by more than one guest.

We promised a serene Garden Shower in the country. We delivered a back-woods bash, complete with multiple varieties of wildlife carnage.

Bad Ralphie. Bad!

The final detail worth mentioning is the vintage handkerchief line. I have seen it done before and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it for myself.

It was my favorite aspect of the whole shebang. I wanted to leave it up forever. And the only expense was a batch of new clothespins, which I needed anyway.

Dare I say...swoony?

So, there you have it. I hope I have answered all of your questions. Thanks for the fun feedback on what we created together! My advice? Go all out, when opportunity knocks. Pull out those Tea-With-The-Queen pieces and use them!