Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Warning to Boys Ages 5-18

I would just like to put out a warning to any boys that may be reading my blog, since I know there are many here . . . fascinated by the cooking, planting, and homemaking in my life.

Here is the warning:

IF you and your brother happen to decide to play hide and seek while your mother is not home and she has told you to be working hard on your chores and homework,

And IF you are sneaking around up on the catwalk, trying to get back to "base" before said brother catches you,

And IF he comes up behind you and thwarts the escape you are planning down the stairs,

And IF you decide instead to swing your leg over the railing,

Shimmy down to the top of the pillar,

Jump down to the top of your mother's beautiful English terrarium,

And from there, pop down to the floor, all the while making a brilliantly strategic move to get to "base" before your annoying brother,

THEN you will find that you may just have cracked the top of the pillar

Threatening to pull the very house down upon your shoulders

Horrifying and stressing yourself

And causing your parents to question the honesty and sanity of the people who told them "children will keep you young forever."

(Yes, I addressed this post to boys because my girls would never have dreamed of such a stunt. But if you know any girls likewise tempted, please feel free to pass along.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Day at the Park

It is the child in man that is the source of his uniqueness and creativeness, and the playground is the optimal [surrounding] for the unfolding of his capacities. ~ ~ Eric Hoffer

It is with great trepidation that a mom of teens (and younger) suggests a morning at the park . . . for ALL the kids. "Mo-o-o-o-o-m, come on!" However, it was a gloriously beautiful morning, there is sunshine to be soaked in, there is air to be breathed, and you just can't spend all your life on Facebook, after all. To their credit, I will say that they all the "olders" remained quite cheerful at the prospect of park and picnic. They expected to watch Youngest Daughter play, push her on the swing, sprawl lazily on the grass, and do a little surreptitious texting on the side . . . when Mom wasn't looking.

Who knew, then, the magical draw of The Park. Who knew that The Park could wondrously make years melt away and that the same enchantment delighting a 5 year-old could draw in a Big Kid??

Oldest Daughter found out she could still fit (kind of) on the bouncy car that "sproings" her back and forth.

Youngest Son found he could scale the to the top of the peak and proclaim himself King of the Mountain.

Oldest Son found out he could spin around dizzily on some sort of revolving ring and hysterically try to keep from flying off.

(My deepest apologies to the poor woman whose backside is now captured for all eternity on my blog!)

Oldest Daughter and Oldest Son found some other teens in the park and a game of volleyball ensued.

Middle Son found that even a newly minted teenager could be challenged to balance while having a conversation with friends on a rotating circle of bright blue plastic.

And Youngest Daughter found a friend.

Just occasionally it's nice to watch the newly found sophistication of teenagers melt away in the still joyful delights of play.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Confession is Good for the Soul

I have a confession to make. My name is Shelley, and I hate gardening.

Shoot, I thought confessions were supposed to make you feel better, and that just made me feel worse! You see, I want to love gardening! I see all the delightful benefits of gardening. I think humans should be more connected to the earth, they should know where their food comes from, they should have the wonder of seeing how the Creator can take a tiny, dead seed and bring it to life as a plant that bears food that can feed them. I think gardening should be therapeutic, enriching, and sustaining. (So, how can I hate it so??)

I even think I have a genetic right to love gardening. My paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather and My Mom would probably earn the title of Master Gardeners. They were/are magic with earth, seed, and a pile of compost. Not in me. The gene skipped my generation . . . or, worse, mutated into something else.

There are parts of gardening which I do love.

I love the planning:

I love the shopping:

I love the heady delight of surveying "the goods":

I love the potential of this:

And the hope of this:

I love how you can take the mess of your daffodils

And turn them into this, ready for planting new bedding flowers:

(Martha Stewart Living instructed me to do this 10 years ago, and I've been doing it ever since. I have no idea if this is normal behavior for daffodil owners.)

And goodness knows I love the delightful anticipation of this:

But everything else that is not pictured here, I hate, hate, hate, as much as I long to love it. This would include all digging, cultivating, watering, composting, fertilizing, weeding and bug removing. It would also include dirt under the fingernails, sore knees and the trickle of sweat down the tip of your nose that you can't wipe because of the dirt under your fingernails.

::Sigh!:: Okay, time to grow up. Sometimes you just have to do things because you love the end result and you know the process is good for you. But I sure do wish I could love it! Oh, I do so wish I could love it!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Contemplations - Marriage (Part II)

While reading "Sacred Marriage" this week, I envisioned coming up with the one "big thought" from my reading and posting it for contemplating on over the weekend. But instead, I found myself madly highlighting this and that and, oh, don't miss this! So, I'll put out there what was a feast of thoughts for me and maybe you'll find one that can be thoughtfully nourishing to you. (All quotes from "Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.)

Any situation that calls me to confront my selfishness has enormous spiritual value, and I slowly began to understand that the real purpose of marriage may not be happiness as much as it is holiness.


I found there was a tremendous amount of immaturity within me that my marriage directly confronted. The key was that I had to change my view of marriage. If the purpose of marriage was simply to enjoy an infatuation and make me "happpy," then I'd have to get a "new" marriage every two or three years. But if I really wanted to see God transform me from the inside out, I'd need to concentrate on changing myself rather than on changing my spouse. In fact, you might even say, the more difficult my spouse proved to be, the more opportunity I'd have to grow. Just as physical exercise needs to be somewhat strenuous, so "relational exercise" may need to be a bit vigorous to truly stress-test the heart.

* * *

I adopted the attitude that marriage is one of many life situations that help me to draw my sense of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment from God.

* * *

I guess what I'm after is a quieter fulfillment, a deeper sense of meaning, a fuller understanding of the purpose behind this intense, one-on-one lifelong relationship. As a man who believes his primary meaning comes from his relationship with God, I want to explore how marriage can draw me closer to God.

* * *

Both of us [marriage partners] can find even more meaning by pursuing God together and by recognizing that He is the One who alone can fill the spiritual ache in our souls.

* * *

What both of us crave more than anything else is to be intimately close to the God who made us. If that relationship is right, we won't make such severe demands on our marriage, asking each other, expecting each other, to compensate for spiritual emptiness.

* * *

We need to remind ourselves of the ridiculousness of looking for something from other humans that only God can provide.

* * *

I believe that much of the dissatisfaction we experience in marriage comes from expecting too much from it. I was created with a spirit that craves God. Anything less than God, and I'll feel an ache.

* * *

Just as celibates use abstinence and religious hermits use isolation, so we can use marriage for the same purpose---to grow in our service, obedience, character, pursuit, and love of God.

(All quotes from "Sacred Marriage" by Gary Thomas)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Frugal Meal

I need to throw in a couple of "frugal meals" for dinners this week. Don't tell, but I spent way too much of my grocery money feasting on gourmet pizzas, fresh, warm scones, and sweet strawberry cream tarts at Flat Rock Village Bakery last week, and I have to now make my grocery budget s--t--r--e--t--c--h until the end of April!! So, here's the perfect meal to do it. It's frugal, it's fast, and it's fabulously tasty (oh, and it's nutritious too!!)

Spicy Black Beans and Rice

Start out with two 15 ounce cans of black beans. Open them up, drain and rinse them well.

Open two 15 ounce cans of either mexican stewed tomatoes or diced tomatoes with green chilis or (if you're REALLY adventurous) diced tomatoes with jalapenos.

Now, take a really large yellow onion (I always use the sweet or Vidalia onions) and 6-8 cloves of garlic (depending on your garlic love/tolerance!) and chop them into tiny pieces.

Start 3 tablespoons of oil heating over medium-high heat.

And then add in all that delicious onion and garlic goodness and saute' until tender.

When the onion and garlic are tender and getting translucent, add in the tomatoes and black beans. (If my tomatoes in this picture look remarkably smoother than they did above, it's because several in my family are averse to chunks of tomatoes in their food, so I puree' them to make everyone happy.)

At this point, you will also add in some ground cayenne pepper if desired. Because I used the diced tomatoes with green chilis (and not the jalapenos) I put 1/4 teaspoon in of the cayenne, otherwise I would just skip it. Go easy! This stuff is powerful!

Now, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer away, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes on a low temperature and let all the delicious flavors of tomato, chilis, onion, garlic, and beans meld and morph together. Smells divine too!

I serve a nice big helping of the Spicy Black Beans over brown rice and top it with some grated monterey jack and a tangy dollop of sour cream.

Breathe in deeply and enjoy.

Here's the recipe:

(Please forgive the spacing below. The blog wants to double space, and I cannot tell it otherwise.)

Spicy Black Beans & Rice

1 cup sweet onions, chopped

6-8 cloves of garlic, minced

3 Tablespoons of oil

2-15 oz. cans of black beans

2-15 oz. cans of mexican stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes w/ green chilis, or diced tomatoes with jalapenos (undrained)

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (or to taste)

Saute' onion and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in tomatoes, rinsed and drained beans, and red pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 15-20 minutes. Serve over rice and garnish with grated cheese and sour cream.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

At the Edge of a Precipice

The last of my dishcloths are completed, wrapped up, finished. These last 2 are the favorite waffle knit pattern. Easy but gives a good textured surface to the dishcloth.

And so now, I have promised myself I will move on to something a little more challenging. Not difficult, mind you, but challenging. And when all you have been knitting is dishcloths, is does not take much to challenge!

There is a baby to be born in June in our extended family. And I think now is the time to try my knitting on a simple piece of babywear. Even typing that has my fingers trembling.

When knitting a dishcloth, I can smile with easy disregard when I accidentally knit in a hole or rip out an area three times . . . or lose an entire ball of yarn. Not so when you are knitting with Debbie Bliss Cashmerino and the garment will be worn by a tiny, angelic, first-born baby girl.

So, here is my precipice.

Please note the use of the word EASY in the title. I am counting on this! And here is the specific garment.

The description of said garment uses the words "simple," "very simple," and "quite simple." It does look lovely.
I don't know, I'm getting a little nervous on this precipice. It's really looking like a long way down.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Flat Rock Village Bakery

Nestled in the North Carolina mountains is the quaint little village of Flat Rock---historic and charming. And on the main street of this quaint little town is an artsy, gift-y, quirky shop called The Wrinkled Egg.

It has a wide porch for rocking on summer afternoons and enjoying mountain breezes, while the lowlands stifle and poach in the heat.

The bright geranium flower beds

and vintage bike with basket overflowing with funky flowers give you a little, tantalizing tease of the fun to be found inside the shop.

BUT if you go to the back of the store, ah, that's where you find the real treasure.

And not just ANY bakery but :

And, indeed, not just any bakery at all but my brother's bakery!!

Can anyone explain to me how this can be? How one minute your brother is an annoying junior high kid at whom you threw a phone because he was sneaking around hiding behind the couch while you were telling your best friend that you were in love with Mike, and the next moment he's this amazing adult man who up and starts this fabulous bakery that all of Flat Rock, Hendersonville and the surrounding area are raving about!! Wow!

So, that's exactly where the Kiddos and I headed the end of last week for a day of spring break. I love leaving the "city" behind and climbing up into the mountains, where the air feels fresher and the lifestyle more satisfying on many levels.

Here's the hand-built brick oven where the Flat Rock Village Bakery bakes up its organic, artisan, wood-fired breads that are its specialty.

And some of the mountain of wood that it takes to keep it going.

My ultra-talented sister-in-law did all the design and execution of mosaic tabletops, murals, faux-finished walls, and fun signs all around.

Her painting of my brother hangs in the bakery, depicting him working the brick oven.

She even made the bathrooms fun!!

We started our morning in Flat Rock off with some of the signature scones, fresh strawberry and cream tart, and a banana nut muffin. I have been known to eat one scone and a mocha first thing in the morning and not be hungry for the rest of the day!

After a morning of seeing The Cousins, clambering over rocks, and exulting in mountain meadows with expansive views of the towns below, it was back to the Bakery again for lunch. We can't leave Flat Rock without indulging in the brick oven pizza.

We sat on the back deck under a huge magnolia tree and munched away on the best pizza I've ever tasted.

Look at this slice: pesto, sun-dried tomato, artichoke, goat cheese, topped with fresh basil. (There are no words for this!)

Then, with table brushed off, trash tossed, and cousins hugged we headed back down the mountain with full tummies, contented hearts, and a little of the mountain air still invigorating our spirits.