Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer Fare

We have done a lot this week.  Cutting grass, painting a room, clearing out the basement, (well, not clearing out, but at least clearing off the floor)  Today we treated ourselves to brunch with all the change we've been finding doing all this work.  Grand total: $36.10.  Anyway we went out to eat at the Pop Shop in Collingswood and it was SO. GOOD.  Smore French Toast, Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Oreo Pancakes, and I had the Veggie Rollo Omelet.   I asked for the salsa on the side and I'm so glad I did.  Not because it wasn't good, no, but because this way I could savor the lime-y-good-ness-soaked-tomatoes and peppers and whatever else made it so.good.  It got me thinking of the myriad ways we can make a salsa.  Too many to count.  Which leads me to the topic of this blog.
Summer afternoons are hot, sticky, slimy, tiresome.  We wish we lived in Europe so we could take a siesta, a long cool nap under the shade of a tree, maybe with a little sangria to induce a summer dream coma.  But we don't.  We're either working or taking care of kids or running around like hot chickens.  We don't want to think about cooking.  Anything.  So I think I have the perfect antidote.  Summer fare: Salsa and tea.
First the tea.  Tea can be made of anything really.  Tea is just soaking something in water to extract its essential-est goodness.  
Tea:any of various infusions prepared from the leaves, flowers, etc., of other plants, and used as beverages or medicines.  
Bags are easy.  Pick them up at the grocer and top with hot water.  Let it steep and you can pour over ice.  You can also fill a big jug with tea bags and water and let it sit in the sun.  Every summer my mother would buy a new SunTea jug at the grocery store - think 1970s avocado lime funky lettering on the side and you've got the picture.  It was like her summer project and she was very proud of it.  I'm trying to be a bit more homemade.  You can use tea leaves, but you can also use mint leaves or lemon balm leaves or pineapple mint or any leaves that sound good to you.    We have something growing in the backyard that I think is chamomile and I'm going to try them in my tea.  Then there are dandelion leaves?  I don't know.  I have to look that one up.  And then there's fruit.  You can use strawberries, blueberries, lemons, limes, oranges, peaches, etc.  Vanilla?  Orange flower extract?  Almond?  Maple syrup?  Honey? Cinnamon?  They are all healthy and SO. GOOD.  There are also recipes out there for Bubble Tea, made with Tapioca and Milk.  It's a Taiwanese drink that sounds pretty good. And you can blend a little of everything to see what marvelous infusions you can conjure up.  

So the blending gets us back to the Salsa.  Just like the tea, salsa can be made from anything.  It's just a sauce that contains chopped up ingredients.  I don't know if I love salsa or the lime and salt that are essential to every good salsa.  Regardless, I've been playing around with all kinds and I'll keep playing.  Here's the playlist so far:
Corn-Black Bean-Tomato-Lime-Salt
Avocado-Black Bean-Tomato-Lime-Salt
Clams-Tomato-Red Pepper
Garbanzo-Avocado-Red Pepper
Mango-Black Bean-Roasted Red Pepper-Lime-Salt

I'm trying to stay away from tomato for now, because in a few weeks we are going to have more tomatoes from the garden than I know what to do with!   But they are quite acidic and today at the Home Depot, the salesperson started talking about how all our diets are so acidic it's influenced the types of countertops that are available?  Really?  I was so stuck on what he was saying, I didn't pay attention to what he said about the new kinds of countertops!  Maybe that Quartz is better than Granite now, because the finish isn't damaged by the acid?!  Anyway...

I want to try fruit salsas too.  Mint and maybe peaches and strawberries? with lime and sugar instead of salt?
Here is a link to another favorite blogger site called Top With Cinnamon.  This girl is amazing, I think she's 16 and from England and her photographs of food are as good as her food.  She has a recipe for Apricot Salsa, that also has tomato in it, and she mentions having had Pineapple Salsa too.  Hmmm.  I could try that.

Anyway, all those leftovers in the back of the fridge are getting put to use tonight.  Just blend a couple together, squirt with a lime and salt and you've got a salsa.  Usually the salsa gets put on some type of cracker or chip.  Tortilla, pita, crostini, a toasted baguette.  But really it can go on pasta or rice too.  Toss it with couscous or quinoa.  It can also be a spread to kick up a grilled cheese sandwich, a salad, or a quesadilla, as in Izy's recipe.  If you find you've made too much, blend it up in a blender and whola! it's Gazpacho!  Tomorrow night's dinner too! Do the Salsa! And then cooking won't seem so laborious and looming.

Recipe for Mango Black Bean Salsa

1 whole mango, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups black beans, rinsed
1 red pepper, roasted and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small bunch fresh cilantro (use scissors to cut up about 1 tbsp.)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
juice of 1 lime

Toss ingredients gently together and serve with fresh out of the oven tortilla chips.  (Even the bag chips can be heated up for extra deliciousness!)

Simple Tea

6 bags Green tea
2 tsp. honey
8 mint leaves
Cover with hot, almost boiling, water.  Pour over 4 glasses of ice.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Consolation Prizes

I have been praying for a really, really long time for something and it seems like it will never come!  I know that It wasn't meant to be and all that stuff, and that there's Something better down the road, and that where God closes a window, he opens a door, but sometimes I'm just like, Dude, where's the door?  I'm human. Shut the Front Door!
But God does have a sense of humor.  I think last year I blogged about running shortly after my brother's funeral and crying and not knowing where to go, to stop by a friends or keep running home and then I looked down the street and saw this great Chair!  I'm like Cool chair, and I stopped crying and got myself together.  God was like, Get it together, I have great things in store for you, starting with this great Chair!  I ran home, got in my car and as I turned the corner, someone Else was lifting the Chair into the back of his car.  I'm like, Dude, that's my chair!  But the chair had served its purpose for me and I easily let it go, laughing to myself.
God sends me Consolation Prizes like this all the time.  Yesterday while running I was thinking of a lattice I want to make for the garden out of sticks.  I saw this idea up in Massachusetts in a garden and my garden needs one, so it has been on my mind.  So I'm running and I'm thinking about sticks and then I look up and there are a pile of Sticks!  And they are exactly the right diameter and length for my lattice thing.  God's like, Look how quickly I answered that prayer!  And I'm like, Wow, Thanks, God!  (The sticks were still there when I went back to get them.  Go figure.)
So this week I got two other consolation prizes.  I can almost hear the voice of Robin Williams in my head, saying, "AND FOR YOUR CONSOLATION PRIZE.. WE HAVE..." like I'm on Let's Make a Deal and Monty Hall is up there with a microphone...
Anyway, my consolation prizes usually have to do with decor.  So here's what I found:
A practically new overstuffed white chair IN THE TRASH!  Only it get's better!

There were two!  The slipcovers slipped off and we washed them and they came up really nice.  There is a big paw print right smack dab in the middle of one cushion, but I like it.  I feel like I know the dog everytime I sit down.  Practically new.  Good prize, right?
Then we started planning our bathroom renovation and there was no way we could get a new clawfoot tub but I REALLY wanted one.  So for the first time ever I got on Craigslist and did some research.  I found a few but nothing looked promising.  I went on ReStore's website and they had one listed for a few days but it seemed like a lot of trouble. When I went back to Craigslist, there was a tub but no pictures but it was right in my hometown, less than a mile from my house.  Without going into the whole long story, this was delivered to our house last night:

I love it!  Needs a little work, has a lot of Character, but I'm sure it will clean up nice.  Cool clawfeet, right?
The chairs cleaned up too.  I added these cushions so the kids can sit here in wet swimsuits.  Plus we needed a little color.

I added the accessories... I'd been saving these little San Pelegrino bottles (Can you decorate a whole room around a label on an old glass water bottle?) and why is it that in summer we always need napkins?
The bench underneath needs work too.  I'm going to try something I saw on pinterest, where you take off the rushing and use fabric or webbing to make the seat.  I'll let you know about the progress.
So, I've taken my mind off of my other as-yet-seemingly-un-answered prayers and I'm focusing on the good stuff. Monty Hall had some good consolation prizes behind all those doors.  I'm just praying God shows me the way to the right door that will answer my Real Prayer.
In all seriousness, I know that God doesn't send us sticks to answer our prayers and I am praying very seriously for a lot of special people right now that God answers their prayers and for their health and happiness.  My need is trivial in comparison to theirs.  There is some heavy-duty praying going on all around, I'm certain.  My Real Prayer today that everyone finds some Consolation, whether it's a prize or just some peace.   I hope you find some too.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Children's Summer House

We recently took a trip to Massachusetts for Old Home Days.  Every year we visit my husband's homestead, which we still affectionately refer to as Grandfather's, although grandfather passed a few years ago.   If you want to see what it is like there, just read All the Places to Love, by Patricia MacLachlan.  Most beautiful, gentle book ever!
Anyway, we are no longer fitting in the Camp, Grandfather's house, so we rented a farm house with cousins. It was a magical utopia kind of farm, complete with sheep, (don't count the sheep, you'll fall asleep!) chickens and this summer house:

I have more pictures but I can't download them right now.  Anyway you can get the main idea here:  
A chalkboard for writing
A desk for writing
A sofa for lounging and reading
Upper bunks for sleeping, reading, and the like
Marshmallow roasters behind the door because you never know when you'll need them.
The scattered rugs and the torn cushions just make it that much more inviting, as if to say, C'mon in, you can't hurt us.  Be as carefree as you like!  It's summer!
So how do we replicate this little house if we don't have one?  Well, collect all the old stuff you have laying around.  An old chair, an old rug, an old desk, an old bench and old table, an old chalkboard.  Sweep out a room, a closet, a basement corner, an attic corner (not the hot side) or a nook under a big tree.  Put up some fabric over the rafters, lay out some soft cushions or blankets.  No paint or touch ups required here just good old beat up furniture.  Get out the kids old wagon, load it with books.  Leave colored pencils and chalk and a pile of drawing paper out.  Put some lemonade in a pitcher and some old tin mugs.  Pillows sleeping bags and a few throw rugs.  And the most important part, Enjoy!  Take a nap in the shade.  It's summer!  It's for relaxing! In your very own summer house.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer House

Welcome back!  I have been out of touch and had summer between my toes, not doing much of anything, except if you count working full-time, job-hunting, and raising kids!  But the mud is back and hopefully with some fun stuff to blog about!

We started summer by getting the house dressed!  Really, this is what we do, right?  We change things to look like we are ready for summer by getting the right clothes on, bringing out last year's shorts and tees and seeing what fits and what doesn't.  Then we create plans for shopping and outfits we can pack for every adventure we'll have.

Here are the old house clothes:

Still fits, but not with my new idea.  There's no ORANGE SPLOT here.  So out it's going.  


So my debate was whether to paint the whole door a new color:  magenta, yellow, aqua, orange.  People are getting really creative with door colors these days.  A new family moved in down the street and painted their door bright aqua green-ish.  It was there for about a day.  Then they went back to the traditional forest green that had always been there.  I wanted some WOW-factor.  Maybe not with capital letters.  But if you're into capital WOW, I say go for it!  There's a great children's book, (c'mon, you know I love to work these in...)  called The Big Orange Splot, where the main character takes a big orange paint splot that fell on his roof and changes his whole house because of it.  I won't spoil the ending, just read it.  Anyway, I really can't do Orange Splots, not because I don't think it's cool, but because it's not my type.  Really.  Geminis, according to design researchers, change their minds so much, they should stick to whites and add color with the accessories.  So that's the route I chose.  The path I can travel.  Little bits at a time.  
Here was my inspiration:
A couple of silk purple dahlias and striped ribbon.  I found these in a little gift shop and they just called out to me.  Bright cheery faces for my front door.  And I love ribbon!  That's my big orange splot.  
From there the rest was easy:
old star + rustoleum spray paint + ribbon = wow (lower case!)

old watering can + spray paint ...
My purple splot!
(Credit must go to Nicole for this book title!  Thanks, Nicole!)
And then finally, my gardens.  Last year I began by planting the hydrangeas.
They have been thriving!  There is a purple tinge which blends nicely with the purple purple.

But then I did another little orange splot thing by putting my vegetable garden in the front yard.  We only get sun out front and so it had to be.  A little awkward at first but it's working (and growing way too big for the space I allotted.) 
The tomato stakes are painted purple too!
It looks weedy but it's because it is!  Like I said, Lazy days of summer between my toes.
So that's our summer house with a Little Purple Splot!