Monday, June 29, 2009

Spicy Pita Chips and Cheese

This weekend I was asked to bring an hors d'oeuvres to a special friend's birthday party. I knew just the thing. Spicy Pita Chips and Cheese.

No one wants a hot appetizer on a hot summer night. This one is cool, creamy, spicy, crunchy. It's packed with flavor from fresh garlic, oregano, chili powder, cumin, and ground red pepper.

It's usually a hit. And, sure enough, I came home with an empty platter and bowl.

You can make the dip and serve with store-purchased pita chips (yawn!). But, just saying, the recipe is MADE with the combination of the two!! Well worth the time.


Spicy Pita Chips and Cheese (I doubled this for a group of 25)

8 oz. cream cheese
1 tablespoon milk
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cumin

Combine all ingredients. Sprinkle with paprika. Chill at least 8 hours.

Pita Chips:
4 pita bread rounds
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Separate each pita into 2 rounds. Cut each round into 8 wedges. Place wedges into large zip-loc bag. Combine remaining ingredients. Drizzle butter mixture over wedges. Seal and shake, coating wedges as well as possible. Bake in a single layer at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.

(This says "30 minutes," but I checked mine every 10 minutes or so and removed the ones that had already gotten crisp. Some of the pita pieces are very thin and crisp up quickly, some are thicker and need longer. Keep a good watch on them.)

A Notice to the Children

Good Monday morning!

I have had houseguests for the last 3 days . . . 2 children whose parents were out of town. Really good kids.

However, children can tire of each other so quickly and then you have issues. You know. So, for the last 3 days I have shuttled 7 kids to the pool, to a movie, to the pool, to the mall, to the pool. There have been pizza nights and house-wide hide and seek games, and one child has stashed all his valuable toys in piles in my room so as not to have the visitor touch them. (Yes, I'll be working on selfishness issues.)

So, this morning I find my house in chaos. And I'm not really one to mind chaos. Actually, I find it a little invigorating. However, a close inspection will reveal popcorn on the rec room floor and stuffed into the cracks of the couch, cracker crumbs dotting the rug in the Man of the House's office (So not good! This man is not invigorated by chaos!), and peanut butter and jelly in swaths on the kitchen chairs.

I have, therefore, taken steps to remedy this. I have hired Youngest Son to babysit Youngest Daughter for 3 hours, (he can still be purchased relatively inexpensively . . . and he's saving up for a really big Lego set) and I have posted the above notice.

I just hope the kids understand that dogs escaping in a neighborhood with "leash laws," a brother tickling you while holding your head under his knee, or a small child walking through your freshly painted room making soft zigzags on your wet walls with her fingers do not constitute "national emergencies."

3 hours without interruptions? We'll see how that goes! I think it's worth scrubbing bathtubs and shampooing a carpet just to find out!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Summer is THE time for picnics . . . family picnics, community picnics, church picnics, big picnics . . . intimate picnics for 2 by the side of a gently meandering river. ::sigh::

Okay, (shaking self from reverie), where was I going with this?

Oh, yes, for us, it was the excitement of a big church picnic with all the favorite things a big church picnic should have!

It was a feast for the senses!


Brightly colored quilts and blankets set out for a long, warm afternoon on the grass.

Tangles of folding chairs and the occasional umbrella for the pessimistic.


The sticky sweetness of cotton candy in the air.


A little bluegrass music.

The roar of a young boy who has just become a tiger.


The icy crunch of snow cones.

The mandatory tang of mustard, ketchup, hot dogs and baked beans.


The wet paint on your face as your cheek is turned into a work of art.

The thrill of being the next one in line for the inflatables.

And when the senses are saturated with all they can take in,


That it's time to go home and look forward again to next year.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Just the Right Kind of Bowl

This is my new bowl. It came to me from a dear friend, not for any particular reason . . . no birthday, no special occasion . . . but just because she found it in a store and she thought of me and she bought it and brought it to me . . . to show her friendship, to bring a smile, to have something tangible to hold in my hand that says, "My friend thinks of me, cares for me, loves me."

Don't you just love friends like that?

This bowl has turned into my perfect bowl.

In the morning it can hold my granola and milk. When the cereal is gone, I can glance around furtively and then, if no one's looking, forget I'm a mom who has to be a good example and tilt up its curved sides and drink down the last drop of sweet milk from its smooth rim.

It's the perfect size for a salad lunch. I know if I fill it up, it's going to be just the right amount. And today I'm filling it up with romaine, chunks of fresh young zucchini from My Mom's garden, tomatoes, feta, chicken, and a heavy sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds.

This bowl is a yellow the color of a creamy lemon pudding, with bright pops of tomato-red and a shocking purple. It is glossy and cool to the touch and just the right size to be cupped in the hands.

In this imperfect world, I must say it is nice to have just the perfect bowl . . . that's mine.

And now, if I can just keep it in one piece. I wonder which dear child is emptying the dishwasher tonight!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Knotted up in a Crochet/Knit Quandry

I've shown you my knitted dishcloths. I've shown you my crocheted baby booties. But, now it's time for a project. I mean something of substance.

You see, it won't be long before our family of 7 is going to be heading out to our big silver van, packing enough goods to last a month, and driving 24 hours to Minnesota for a reunion. Yes, that's 24 hours sitting in the passenger seat of a conversion van there, 24 hours sitting in the passenger seat of a conversion van back, and (perhaps) another 5 hour jaunt to Lincoln, Nebraska. As I said . . . I need a project of substance.

I had so much fun getting back into crochet when I did up those baby booties. So, I thought I'd maybe like to crochet up an afghan for the master bedroom. Look at this gorgeous beauty!!

The pattern is in this book. I love, love, love paisley. I can see it elegantly draped across the end of our bed . . . until stolen by a devious child.

I had totally set my heart on this paisley beauty, had the heart flutters and all, when I flipped over a Debbie Bliss magazine and found this picture in an ad for a new Ella Rae knitting book.

Oh, my!! Now we're talking knitting, not crochet. This stunning creation took me beyond the heart flutters to the butterflies in the tummy. Simply amazing. But maybe a bit TOO ambitious??

Then there's also the fact that wonderful Lucy in Attic24 has really gotten me wanting to do a crocheted ripple blanket in many fun colors, perfect for having around for children to snuggle under on chilly winter mornings.

Isn't that fun. It would be really quite exciting to move from one delicious color to another, without taking a lot of brain work to keep up with the pattern. I could totally see that working on the 24-hour trip . . . giving me the ability to still hand out snacks, put in a new CD, or keep children from crossing the invisible line into the other's territory in the backseat.

And then, you DO realize Christmas will be here in a mere 6 months. Which does bring up the possibility of some Christmas knitting. Wouldn't I be proud of myself if I actually completed a project before Christmas Eve!!

What about a knitted cushion for a favorite brother and sister-in-law?

You can buy these at Neiman-Marcus for a mere $284. That would be $284 EACH. Yikes! Debbie Bliss has a simple moss stitch cushion cover in this magazine buttoned up with big gorgeous shell buttons. Dreamy!!

So, I've gotten myself into a lovely knot of knitting and crocheting confusion. Can't decide what to tackle. But must soon. 24 hours of staring into space watching cornfields flick by could begin to drive a person crazy. What to do! What to do!

Any suggestions, dear friends??

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dad's Day

These are the two Dads in my life. Dad of my kids and My Dad. Today is their day. A day to honor and appreciate.

These are men of integrity, commitment, dependability. They are humorous, stern, tough, soft. They love God and they love their family. They are flawed, loved, celebrated.

And celebrate them we did, with garlic lime chicken and Parmesan mashed potatoes,

spicy sauteed green beans with shallots and red peppers,

and blueberry/strawberry/banana/peach smoothies.

I guess I'm still a firm believer in the way to a man's heart . . . .

It's not an easy thing, this "Dad" business. And my hat's off to them. Great jobs, Men!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Boy

Please allow me to introduce you to Middle Son. Hello, Middle Son.

You have now seen him the full amount of time that I will see him on any given day of this summer.

A second before I snapped this photo, he said 3 words to me.




The first word told me the location to which he was headed. The second, the adult into whose care I would be entrusting him. The third word told me whether he was leaving or arriving. And this summer it's generally leaving.

Pool, kickball, "manhunt" (huh??), pool, capture the flag, "sardines," pool . . . I've lost him to a summer of playing in all the best kinds of ways, all over the neighborhood, with some really fun neighborhood kids.

When he leaves, I am convinced it's without a single thought of ever coming home again. He's only coaxed back under duress to complete the day's chores, world's quickest meals, and enough sleep to give him the energy to start it all up again in the morning.

'Bye, Middle Son. See you in the fall!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Painting with Shaving Cream!

The deliciousness of "having to do nothing" is beginning to wear thin this summer. Or, I should say, beginning to wear thin for the Youngers. The Olders know the dangers of mentioning that they are bored or have nothing to do. It is entirely possible that Mom will remember that they have summer reading, encourage a review of fractions, or insist on the washing of the family cars.

So for the Youngers, it's a morning for "Painting with Shaving Cream"! This, of course, involves the filling of bowls with shaving cream,

the adding of food coloring,

the fascination of stirring,

and the delight of painting.

Let's see, what shall we paint? Let's paint the deck. The Man of the House says it needs painting . . . I'm sure this is not what he had in mind. Sure hope it rains before he comes home from work!!


Okay, that's an hour of play.

Game over! Did I mention it's time to work on summer reading?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Learning to Love Vintage

(Quilt made by either my grandmother or great-grandmother)

I have to confess that I haven't ever given "vintage" a lot of respect. There has been a good bit of vintage floating around in our family and every couple of years My Mom will bring me over an armful that might include linens, tableware, pictures, or the odd piece of furniture.

I've been appreciative and for the most part treated them with care . . . ummm, for the most part. But I definitely didn't give them the honor they deserved.

(Quilt made by my grandmother)

Until I entered Blogland. Curiously, some of the favorite sites I've been drawn to have been blogs of women who love, love, love vintage . . . antique . . . old. I guess I'm salving my conscience by vicariously watching them revere and delight in their heirlooms or thrifting finds.

(My great-grandmother's kitchen utensils)

Some vintage-loving blogs I enjoy are Brin's, Deb's, Anna's, and Lulu's. They've inspired me to appreciate the old, use it, enjoy it, display it.

(My grandfather--born in 1904--remembered his grandmother rocking in this chair!)

So, this week, when My Mom brought me over another armful, I wasn't so quick to smile appreciatively and shove the contents to the back of a closet. I'm learning to enjoy the history, beauty, craftsmanship, and memories that vintage represent.

(Yes, another of my grandmother's quilts)

Thanks blogging friends!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Of Sisters, Zithers, and Red Sunglasses

This bookshelf sits in my entry way and holds many meaningful objects . . . memory of a summer spent in Antigua, hand-carved animals from Kenya, my great grandfather's flute.

But one thing it does NOT usually hold is a pair of red sunglasses, doll-size, attached to my grandmother's German zither!

I know to whom these glasses belong . . . a certain American Girl doll belonging to Oldest Daughter, long since put up for safekeeping in the closet.

What on earth? Why a pair of red sunglasses? Why on this shelf? Why attached to an antique zither?

Me: Oldest Daughter, can you tell me what these glasses are doing attached to my grandmother's zither?

Oldest Daughter: Ummm, Youngest Daughter threw them at me.

Me: What ??!! Youngest Daughter, what can be the meaning of this?

Youngest Daughter: Oldest Daughter threw them at me first.

Me: Excuse me (voice an octave higher)?? In this home of constant love, tranquility, and joy??? How is this possible?

Oldest Daughter: She wouldn't stay out of my stuff.

Me: And so you felt the best place in the house in which to keep these red sunglasses protected from the ravages of your little sister was attached to the strings of an aging, fragile instrument belonging to your great-grandmother, probably brought over from the Old Country in someone's leather satchel as their most prized possession along with the only other dress they owned?

Oldest Daughter: Ummm . . . yes.

Sisters . . . spatting . . . loving.

And so it goes on through the day. The two Daughters are next spotted shoulder to shoulder, cheek to cheek coloring the skirt of Cinderella's ballgown and her tiny glass slippers, giggling.

A while later I hear howls as Youngest Daughter is dumped unceremoniously outside Oldest Daughter's door, a voice utters sharp scoldings, and the door slams.

I find them yet later cuddled up together on a one-person leather chair, one earbud of an Ipod in Olders' ear, one earbud of the Ipod in Younger's ear, Younger's head snuggled up in the curve of Older's shoulder, sharing a favorite song . . . a "sister" song, they call it.

Not long after, there is a squall of angry voices, a torrent of tears, a stomp of a little foot on the floor, and something that would sound a lot like a kick to the shins . . . if I weren't totally sure it couldn't be . . . in my house. ::sigh::

How could two girls love each other with such abject adoration and then despise each other with such frustated fury. It's the way of sisters.

Man, I love 'em. With all their illogical, tender-hearted, sensible, catty, cherishing ways . I just adore them!

And I've kept a certain pair of red sunglasses on an aging German zither to remind me just how much.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Shameless Peach "Cobbler"

This recipe is an embarrassment!

It's an embarrassment because I really do try to stay away from packaged foods with all their additives and preservatives. It's also an embarrassment because it tries to calls itself a "cobbler" all the while secretly knowing this is nothing but a charade . . . a farce.

And it's an embarrassment because it's so doggone easy that calling it a "recipe" is laughable!

All that being said, this recipe is a necessity!!

It was a necessity when on Memorial Day I was scrambling to hand-make meatballs and a homemade barbeque sauce and whip up cream cheese mashed potatoes and set the table and make everyone feel welcome and I realized I needed dessert!! Fast, easy, delicious. Yes, those are the kinds of times this recipe is a necessity!!

I fed this dessert to my company that night, biting my tongue so as not to apologize all over myself for not being more stunning in my dessert offering. And wouldn't you know, my table of foodie friends loved it!! They'd never heard of making "cobbler" like this before. For goodness sake, they called me from out of town 2 weeks later to find out how to make it!!

So, for all the above reasons and for more you may think of on your own, here is my shameless peach cobbler. Serve it with your head held high, my dears, and, for goodness sake, serve it with a large scoop of vanilla bean ice cream!

Hope you're having a wonderful, sunny weekend!!!

Shameless Peach "Cobbler"

1. Set oven to 350 degrees.

2. Fill a 9 x 13 pan half-full with sliced peaches. Since they're in season down here, I used fresh, but you can also drain several large cans and use canned instead. (Oldest Son told me the flavor of the fresh is MUCH better). I used no sugar on the peaches.

3. Empty a box of cake mix into your mixer and cut 1 1/2 cubes of butter (I like the real thing!!) into slices on top of the cake mix.

4. Mix the ingredients until small, sweet chunks of cake-y, butter-y goodness form. (The butter could also be manually cut-in to the cake mix.)

5. Sprinkle topping on top of the peaches.

6. Bake at 350 until browned and bubbly (Sorry, I can't get any more specific than this. I go by the smell : )!! It calls all of us from wherever we are in the house and begs us to remove it from the oven!!)

7. Enjoy with ice cream. (When you use fresh peaches, it can get a little "soup-y" on the bottom with all that fresh peach goodness baking. Don't let this bother you at all. Simply ladle the soupy part over the ice cream. Problem solved!)