Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Best Thing About Summer Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping in the summer is a treat!! Bins of large, fuzzy peaches; strawberries sold in 2-pound boxes; plums in every color of the rainbow. But by far the biggest treat of the summer is the blueberries!

And at the height of blueberry season they are available for an unbelievable $2/pint!! Handfuls of fresh, sweet blueberries for less than I can drive through Starbucks and order a coffee.

When the other groceries are tucked into the back of the vehicle, the blueberries come and sit with me in the front seat for just a few tastes of their summer sweetness.

In the parking lot of the grocery store:

"Oh, yummm! Just look at those blue, blueberries against my blue, blue jeans! I'll open the top and eat that big one over on the right."

Before turning out of the parking lot onto the road:

"Okay, I'm going to pick out all the biggest and sweetest ones and eat them on the way home."

At the first traffic light:

"Wow, that was a lot of biggest and sweetest ones. But, mmmmmmmm, nothing says 'summer' like a handful of blueberries!"

At the second traffic light:

"Okay, another handful to celebrate summer."

Turning off the main road toward my subdivision:

"Oh, my! Blueberries really disappear quickly when you're eating them by the handful! Guess I'll just finish these off!"

Turning in to my subdivision:

"Ah, summer, sweet summer. At least no one sees my secret summer indulgence!"

Pulling in to the driveway:

"Mom, mom, mom! You're back!! Did you bring home any of those yummy blueberries???"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An Easy Way to Bring a Smile

I have a dear friend who is a widow. She has no children at home. And I got to wondering the other day what she eats for meals. So while at her house, I made a visit to her refrigerator. Do you know what I found? Bottled water!!! And I think there may have been a full squeeze-bottle of mustard and maybe a half-empty container of salad dressing. Gasp!

This is not for lack of time. This is not for lack of money. No, this is for lack of desire. Because sometimes it just doesn't seem worth it to cook "just for me." And because the act of cooking a meal and eating it all by yourself can make your loneliness increase three-fold.

Yes, she is eating, but they're usually meals eaten out, where at least there are people around.

I thought of the large meals cranked out in my kitchen on a daily basis and wondered why I hadn't thought before of sharing some of this home-cooked goodness.

Yes, we've had her over for meals, but I'm not sure our rabble-scrabble dinner table is just the thing for her nerves. She's refined. I don't know that I could use that word to describe our dinner table . . . or the seven people around it. :: sigh:: At our table you are likely to find a child carving a great gouge out of the top of the butter stick, instead of making a neat slice from the front. Or you might see a hand, an arm, and half a body stretch clear across the table to get the last of the watermelon, instead of asking for it politely. And I know I've seen a chocolate chip waffle be tossed across the table when someone asked for the plate to be passed. There's lots of noise and chatter and somewhere along the line something will be spilled or food covertly slipped to one of the dogs. No, my refined widow friend can take our meals only in occasional doses.

But this night I was making Black Bean Soup . . . spicy, fragrant, nourishing. I made a little extra and put it into 3 empty (and clean!) salsa jars. I added a nice, thick slice of watermelon, my very favorite multigrain sourdough bread from Publix, and a small container of sour cream (because this soup is even better with some of this creamy goodness!).

It was so easy and inexpensive . . . goodness, it was what I was already serving!! And I think I got more joy than she when I saw her delighted face and knew that she would enjoy 3 home-cooked meals with a little family love stirred in for good measure.

It's an easy way to pass on comfort and bring a smile to someone who could use it. I must remember to do this more often!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Simple Joys Along the Way

There is delight in looking for, and finding, joy in the simple, the everyday, even the mundane.

To my great surprise, I find that when I am intent on finding these little pleasures in the everyday, I begin to find them in abundance. Each day can become a treasure hunt. And each find a surprising gift.

Here are some of the simple joys I have stumbled upon lately. I would've missed them if I wasn't looking.

Flowers that by a dictionary definition would be called weeds but when
picked by the hands of Youngest Son and Youngest Daughter, stuffed into
miscellaneous vases and salt shakers, and placed "up high" so as to be
best seen become sweet objects of art.

Laundry hanging in the summer sunshine behind a tiny,
wood-heated house down the road.

The slowly unfurling, waxy petals of the magnolia
blossoms in the backyard.

The look of awestruck wonder on the face of a child allowed to eat her entire bag of Skittles.

Who knew you could find beauty while
walking the aisles of Sam's??

Icy cold bottled water taken in refreshing gulps
in the muggy heat of summer.

Large, barely blushing dahlias just cut
from My Mom's garden.

A riotous celebration of the ability to do your hair "all by myself."

"Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father . . . "

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Hero

Some women want their heroes to come dashing in on a stunning white stallion.

I'll take mine in a small VW bug with a logo on the side.

Some women want a shiny, silver shield over their hero's arm.

I'm satisfied with a badge.

Some women want their hero to be suave, debonair, and buff.

(Hmmm, this does look pretty appealing.)

I'm pleased with slightly portly and plump.

Some women would be thrilled to be rescued by a man wearing strong, sturdy combat boots.

I'm currently attracted to black shoes, white socks and slightly too-short black pants.

Sometimes you just can't be choosy when it comes to being rescued.

All I know is this man restored my internet service, and he is my hero.

(So sorry not to give you a good face shot. This hero is shy like that.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Due to Technical Difficulties

I had a plan . . . it was a great plan. Totally switch around the rec room, take the computer desk out and move it into the boys' room, put the computer elsewhere in the rec room, move the couch back, open the room up.

Behind the computer there was a nest of colored wires . . . red, blue, black, white, cream, yellow, grey . . . thick, thread-skinny . . . all twisted together, braided up. How hard could this be? They're just wires. I executed this puzzle brilliantly. Everything taken apart, put right back as it should be. Mmmm-hmmm.

The assumption was, then, that the computer should now recognize my hard work, my flawless deconstruction and reconstruction of wires and connections, my total conscientiousness in remembering all its intricacies.

Reality is, in fact, that although the wireless connection is working brilliantly, putting out a strong signal, doing its best, there's not an electronic device in the household that can access or communicate with or connect to the DSL's nice, strong signal . . . no desktop, no Ipod, no cell phone, no laptop. Nothing. The wireless might just as well be speaking in Mandarin Chinese and the devices decoding in the Castillian dialect of Spain. There is no communication.

Apparently I don't know as much about technology as I thought/wished I did.

So, I am now posting from the library computer, with 5 children playing Runescape and a squalling baby to my left. Geek Squad, how quickly can you get here???

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Wow, I haven't had this little jewel out in a while . . . like, about, 15 years!! But it just so happens that several weeks ago I saw Pioneer Woman had made homemade ice cream. And you know how it is when you're around those strong-willed types. You think you don't want to make homemade ice cream, and the next thing you know you're stirring together milk and sugar and grabbing a box of rock salt.

I did put my foot down on one item, however. Pioneer Woman was NOT going to convince me to heat half and half, temper egg yolks, cook over medium-low heat, or stir constantly. No, I did the no-cook variety. Sometimes a woman has just got to assert her independence.

I made peanut butter ice cream, topped it with chocolate syrup, and it was divine!! The Man of the House loved it, and kids loved it, and I loved everybody loving it.

"We should make this every day; it's totally quick and cheap," chirped the 13 year-old, who neither purchased the bag full of ingredients nor prepared the ice cream he was sucking down rapidly.

Well, maybe not every day but certainly not every 15 years either!! This is an easy summer treat that's too good to miss out on.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream - for a 4 quart ice cream freezer

Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, combine the following ingredients:

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cans evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 can Eagle sweetened, condensed milk
2/3 of 15 oz. jar of peanut butter (sorry for the vague amount . . . I adapted this from a 6 quart recipe!)

Fill container of ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Letdown

Oldest Daughter is home from camp.

For 6 days straight she made new friends, screamed herself hoarse with camp cheers, laughed at hilarious skits, slid down giant lake slides, climbed rock walls, whispered in the dark after lights out, got up early, and went to bed late. Six exciting, exhilarating, adrenalin-pumping days.

And now she is home and life is just slightly dull. The summer stretches out before her . . . very drab and brown after the technicolor week she just had. She e-mails her new friends, downloads new praise and worship learned at camp, wears new camp shirts . . . but it's not the same. Unbelievably, she still has to empty the dishwasher, do poop pickup, babysit her little sister, clean her bathroom. Ahhh, the injustice.

Tonight she looked at me with doleful eyes. "Mom," she said, "I think I'm having post-partum depression from leaving camp."

Oh, Honey, I understand. Man, do I understand! And we cuddled a little longer at bedtime, as she learns that life ebbs and flows, thrills and bores, always changes, never stands still. And under it all is the hand of our God who always stays the same and is, Himself, the giver of all good gifts.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

If You Can't Live On a Farm . . .

I dream of living on a farm. My dream is totally unrealistic. My dream is romantically idealistic. I know this.

In truth, I'm not gifted for farm life and the Man of the House has no desire for farm life. It's just not going to happen.

But the dream persists. ::sigh::

So, if you can't live on a farm, if you don't live on a farm, if you won't ever live on a farm but wish you could, did and would, I have discovered the next best thing to being there!!

Oh, this game is fun with a capital F-U-N!!

Look at the adorable game markers . . . John Deere hats! Even a pink one for idealistic, unrealistic, wannabe farm girls.

Here's the family farm I inherited in this game. I was glad to see that even though I'm out in the sticks of farm country, I still have quite a nice back deck and pool . . . with a giant John Deere tractor backing right up to it.

Youngest Son was the "banker," and I was loving, loving, loving the mental math skills the game required.

By the time the game was over, I had purchased seed, plowed my land, been mercilessly attacked by rootworm, had my soil inspected by the Department of Ecology, narrowly missed a flood, sold my crop, and bought a lottery ticket at the farmer's supply store (just as much of a waste of money in a board game as in real life . . . I really should have known better!)

For a one-hour period I was a farm owner, with all its accompanying joys and struggles, victories and disappointments. I got to strategize, analyze, plot and plan for the success of my farm, all without coming into contact with dirt, large machinery, or demanding livestock. Ah, it was sweet!

I think playing this game once a week should keep my farm cravings satisfied . . . for now.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Oh, it is sweet to be a "winner" once in a while; isn't it!! Yesterday I got to be a winner in a giveaway done by the very fun and creative Erin at her blog, Rare and Beautiful Treasures. Erin's blog is a decorator's dream. Always inspiring.

The giveaway was for a print from Craft Therapea. Here are some examples of Kelly's work:

I think I'm going to get the starfish print and another 2 starfish prints that you can see at Craft Therapea and put them together on a wall in my half bath. This will, of course, necessitate a complete redo of that bathroom. What fun!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Missing My Girl

Camp has stolen away another of my precious kids for a week ::sigh::!

This time it took my oldest . . . my steady rock . . . my stabilizing force.

(She's on the right. This is all paint . . . trust me!!)

This child is a gift . . . like all children. We're so totally different . . . and that makes her such a blessing.

My head is usually somewhere in the clouds, dreaming, planning future plans. She is practical, sensible, no nonsense. She finds lost library books, obeys instructions to the letter, reminds me to put on my seatbelt, gets us out the door on time.

She watches sports with the Man of the House and laughs at me when I try to make an intelligent comment. She adores her friends. She plays Barbies and Polly Pockets by the hour with her little sister.

Is she perfect? No. No way. But she's loved. And she's becoming. Becoming more Christlike every day. Becoming more and more the woman He made her to be. Becoming more patient and gracious and kind. And that's exciting.

And, by the way, I got all these pictures off her camera, and she's going to kill me. KILL me!! Well dear, you know, when the cat's away . . .

Monday, July 13, 2009

Emotions of a Garage Sale

1. Anticipation as the children and I clean, pile and price our items, merchandising them "just so" on the tables, and close the garage . . . waiting for morning.

2. Irritation upon hearing the alarm clock buzz at 6:30 on a Saturday morning and knowing I am going to be haggling over the $2 price I'm charging for the $55 shoes my child had to have and never wore.

3. Amusement at watching the Man of the House try so hard to be a supportive mate and help me with the sale . . . and have to leave after a mere 20 minutes because he just can't stand the garage sale scene.

4. Joy at seeing a little boy clutching my son's Nerf gun, grinning ear to ear, and raining foam ammunition down upon himself as he walks back up the road.

5. Melancholy in observing a stack of wooden "peg" puzzles that Youngest Daughter has outgrown and remembering the hours of fun we had during puzzle time right before bed.

6. Happiness as we meet strangers, swap stories, encourage purchases, share smiles, and chat with neighbors.

7. Freedom in seeing the "stuff" cluttering up our home being whisked away.

8. Pride in watching the children's faces as they pocket their earnings and squirrel the money away for a new Lego set . . . or a prop for a magic trick . . . or a CD . . . or . . .

9. Relief while folding up tables and bagging up the "leftovers" for charity . . . and knowing Garage Sale Day, with all its accompanying emotions, is over for another year.