February 22, 2011


I've spent that last little while chatting with my DD on gmail chat - what a nice privilege! What a nice daughter! It gave me the inspiration to write a little today, which has been lacking. I know as soon as the garden gets rolling I'll be writing too much!

Speaking of inspiration - I've been watching Mad Hungry lately. Lucinda Scalla Quinn is the cook on this show and I just love her style. She's passionate about food, but even more passionate about her family. Good balance! Recently we tried out her corn fritters as a side dish with fish, and they were delicious. Watching her videos is helpful since there are recipe details she gives on the show that don't end up in her written recipes online. Might have something to do with the Martha Stewart Corporation filter that she has to go through - just postulating!

She has also inspired us - or I should say specifically my DH - to put our cast iron into use. He even grabbed one of our camping skillets and used her instructions to bring in back to life. The other cast iron grill pan is a recent gift and it came pre-seasoned. Now that he's learned the proper care, this should be easier to use than ever. Tonight we're making steaks, which will sear in the cast iron, and then go into the oven to finish cooking. Great stuff!

Hunger, plus increasing prices at the grocery store, inspire me to make bread each week! I've shared the video of making this perfect whole wheat bread in another post. In that post, you can click on the link for the food storage site that offers two great videos for the method they use with the bread.
The latest thing I've been doing is making homemade croutons from the crusts of the bread. I just chop them into medium sized pieces, let them dry out, and store them in a baggie. To make croutons, I toast them in a skillet with a little olive oil and whatever seasoning sounds good that day. After you toast them in the oil, it works well to let them sit on a paper towel and crisp up a little as they cool off.

The same goal of saving money led to my experiment in freezing sun-dried tomatoes. I like to save money by getting the huge jar at Costco, but how can two people ever get this thing used up before it goes wrong?!! I love these freezer jars and made sure to leave a little "head room" at the top. They're now solidly frozen and no bulges or cracks, so - success!

All the way back in November, we had the wonderful experience of a photo shoot with our friend Bonnie in Maine. At this lovely New England studio she took some truly amazing photos of our girl. We finally got our order in this week and now we're inspired to begin working on a family photo wall, between our living room and kitchen. Upon opening a couple of storage bins, this layout on the table attested to the fact that this project is long overdue!

Another project that is finally becoming a reality, is painting the outside of our house!
DH is going through the lovely process of getting bids, and we've both been looking online at color combinations, and getting inspired to do something brave - like a pumpkin colored door?? This faded yellow abode will hopefully be brightened up in the near future!

And finally, the February thaw has inspired us to get serious about seeds and starting seedlings -THIS WEEK! We got our leftover seeds and empty packets organized into this storage box first. Then we made notes about which ones we liked and which were a bust, plus which were empty and needed re-ordering. Oh, these seed catalogs are so captivating!

"And God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth." And it was so." Genesis 1:11

Everlasting inspiration...

February 13, 2011

Our Bundle of Joy!

And a joy she was, and still is! Today she is 21, and she is everything that makes for a lovely young woman. As I look at her contented little baby face in this picture, it's hard to believe she's nearly finished with college, is student teaching, and searching for a job. It's so trite to say that time flies, but there are few other expressions that can capture the way the years flash past. And they have been wonderful years, and God has been so gracious to us all. May He continue to be your Wonderful Counselor as you journey on. Happy Birthday our Dear, Dear Daughter!

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD,
plans for welfare and not for evil,
to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11

February 11, 2011

A February Frenzied

The month of love, the month of cabin fever and the winter blahs, the month before spring officially starts, and in our house, the month of birthdays! Between our family and close friends, we have no less than 8 birthdays in February! My time and attention has been split between getting my sea legs in my new job, a quick weekend trip to Omaha, trying to do some special things for our daughter's 21st birthday, giving a little thought to Valentine's Day, starting the planning for our daughter's college graduation, plus truly fun hospitality responsibilities at church. There you have the mildly frenzied part of my February, or the first 11 days anyway! I took these dark chocolate/buttercream cupcakes to our last potluck at church - they have a very calming effect on the frenzies!

While in Omaha, we visited a remarkable restaurant called V. Mertz. I was anything but frenzied when we dined here! It was quite an experience and one we probably wouldn't repeat, but wouldn't have missed either. At times we felt as though we were on one of the snotty cooking shows where the server is telling you in excruciating detail what is on your plate. Apparently that helps you appreciate what your eating? It was a little hard to stifle a giggle at times, but the server took his job so seriously and was so earnest that you wouldn't dare! The bottom line was that the food and service were both pretty amazing and it did indeed feel like a special birthday celebration for both my DH and my daughter. The setting was wonderful too, as it was in the Old Market section of Omaha, and we'll want to visit this charming area again.

This bag holds my "little bit of thought" for Valentine's Day, referenced above. I wanted to make a care package for my daughter and her lovely roommates. This will be one of the last times I can do this for them - oh dear! Inside was some Play-Doh in Valentine colors, a bag of Hershey's Valentine Hugs candy, Valentine cereal bowls for each (so cute and only $1.79 at Target), and a big bag of homemade cranberry-almond granola. It's so much fun to put packages together, and I'm not sure how I'm going to get my care package fix after DD graduates!

Is it a stretch to combine these two items in this photo?! First is the recommendation for these little containers, and I do love a new container! Yes indeed, I freeze bacon fat and left over jalapenos in these tiny containers, among other things! The lids actually snap onto the bottom of the container, so you can stack them in the freezer - love it. The little smiley girl in the pictures behind the containers is the same one about to be 21 - and this thought does have me a little frenzied! I'll be more than a little emotional on Sunday when this becomes a reality - more in the next post about this life passage. The photo series of "I Love You" was a Father's Day gift a number of years ago, and would make a great Valentine's Day gift too.

And speaking of bacon fat, our little piggy did go to the market and we now have a freezer full of lovely, pastured, hormone-free porky products. It's been tender and sweet and we're really pleased with it! Last night we had a couple of the Iowa chops, which had a pocket cut into them for filling with stuffing. I made the stuffing from the crusts of our whole wheat bread. Just delicious. I have no picture unfortunately, since I'm never really happy with food pictures that use artificial light, and of course this time of year, dinner is usually after dark! But days are getting longer, we have so much to celebrate in our family this month, groups of bright red cardinals are busy at our feeders, and this weekend we're picking out garden seeds - yippee!

"It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter." Psalm 74:17

February 2, 2011

Snow Day!

Well, I've been whining about needing sunshine, and today we got some - never mind that it came after a blizzard! It was a doozy, but we have nothing to complain about since we didn't lose power and neither of us had to go to work. DH worked from home, and the dentist I work for had lots of cancellations and didn't want her employees out on the drifted roads. She's a good egg that way. There's a lot to appreciate about a snow day. It really is beautiful when the sun comes out and plays off the marshmallow landscape.

And on snow days I certainly appreciate having this cute man around, who is always willing to clear the driveway and sidewalk! Don't you love this furry hat that our DD picked out for him for Christmas?!

That same man also came up with this thoughtful idea to warm up my snow boots that had been left in my car. Can you see the heat register under the cupboard there? It certainly did the trick!

And of course on snow days it's a bonus to make a pot of warm soup. This is Roasted Tomato Tortilla Soup , and you can find the recipe on my recipe page by clicking on the link. I just revised and revamped the recipe, and I think it's better than ever!

To our friends and family in Colorado, Illinois, and Maine where the weather is still frightful, or where our storm is on the way - we're praying for you, and warmer days ahead! And for our family in Alaska, well...spring is coming soon!