Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A colorful pair

The colorful pair I'm referring to is Roma tomatoes and red onions--I just love that combination! With our garden in full swing, here are a few recipes that take advantage of our backyard produce, highlighting this lovely pair.

Orzo salad

The original recipe for this salad can be found here, but I am posting my adapted version. I had never tried orzo (a small Italian pasta) until last year, but I loved this salad--it's a fresh accompaniment to a summer meal! And it tastes even better right now because I made it with red onion and Roma tomatoes from our garden.

4 c. chicken broth
1 1/2 c. orzo
1/3 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. diced Roma tomato
1/4 c. diced red onion
1 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper
red wine vinaigrette (recipe below)

Bring broth to a boil in a covered saucepan. Cook for 8-9 minutes until orzo is tender. Drain and cool. Toss the orzo with remaining ingredients.

red wine vinaigrette:

1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/8 c. lemon juice
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. salt
dash black pepper
1/2 c. olive oil

Mix ingredients well using a whisk or blender.

Guacamole

I am pretty casual when it comes to food. I also like to eat healthy meals (now dessert and snacks, mind you, are altogether different), and though I love some dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and of course ice cream, I never eat any sour cream, cream cheese, etc. So with that in mind, most would find that my method of making guacamole is a minimalist approach. If you love sour cream, you may want to stick with your current recipe!

1 ripe avocado
1/2 large Roma tomato, diced
1 T. red onion, diced
splash of lime juice
dash of hot sauce

I scoop the avocado out with a spoon, which I then use to mash it. Then I stir in the remaining ingredients and scarf if down with a handful of tortilla chips. Simple and yummy! Even better because avocados and tomatoes are a true "super-food" combo!

Bruschetta

This is one of my favorite quick summer lunches--I had it 3 days in a row last week. See note above on minimalist approach.

3-4 slices French or Italian bread
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/8 c. red onion, diced
olive oil
basil to taste

I usually brush a little olive oil on each slice of bread and toast lightly. Then I mix the tomato, red onion, basil to taste, and about a teaspoon of olive oil. I spoon a generous portion of the mixture onto the slices of bread and return to the toaster.

If you have any other recipes combining this colorful pair, I'd love to see them!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Introducing Sisters' Shoebox Swaps!


You are invited to participate in the first Sisters' Shoebox Swap hosted by two real-life sisters: Monica and myself!

Our swap theme is refresh. Isn't that such a beautiful word? Now, here are the details of this event:

* To sign up, please send an e-mail to sisterswaps@hotmail.com and include your name, mailing address, e-mail address and blog address if you have one. You do not have to have a blog to participate in the swap.
* When we receive your request to sign up, we will send you a short list of questions which will be sent to your swap partner to help them get to know you and what you like.
* The swap goodies should all fit inside a shoebox (please include several items) and be built around the theme of "refresh". This is a broad idea, so there is plenty of room for creativity! There are no specific expectations about types of items, for example there does not need to be a homemade item, though that is fine if you so choose.
* We will accept international swappers on the basis that we have other swappers who are willing to ship internationally. Please indicate this when you sign up.
* Sign-ups will be open from Monday, July 30 through Wednesday, August 8. Swap partners will be assigned and sent out as quickly as possible after that date. Boxes should be mailed no later than Friday, September 7.
* Please make sure that if you sign up, you really want to participate and will follow through so that no one is disappointed. Also, please mail using a delivery confirmation number, which should be sent in to sisterswaps@hotmail.com so we make sure everyone gets a swap.

HAVE FUN! Feel free to post the button and info on your blog with a link back to either of our blogs ~ we'd love to have great participation!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Summer in a box

How much fun is swapping?! I just received this box from Ms. A:


Packaged inside an orange paint roller liner: organic lemon juice, cardmaking kit, costume jewelry and tiara, calling cards, and iced tea mix packaged with a vintage jar/spoon/doily!

And she received the following box from me:



A bucket of fun summery items (lip balm, seasoning for grilling meat, bandanna, tea, etc.), orange polka-dot box, homemade note cards, tag book, fun household booklets, and a t-shirt packaged in a car shape for her husband.

Thanks to Sweet Goodness Swaps for coordinating and to Alex for the fun mail!

If you're interested in participating in a swap, tune in Monday when Monica and I make a special announcement!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Giveaway winners!

Wow, has it been fun--I never imagined a total of 151 comments on one post! Thanks to all who entered, and to all who are hosting their own giveaways!

#1 birthday package: one set of "magic" candles, one homemade birthday book--a cute way to record special dates, and one birthday card

And the winner is . . . groovyoldlady!

#2 zen package: one set of 4 new bamboo coasters, one unopened packet of Japanese blotting papers (for unwanted summer "shine"), and a bag of lemon ginger green tea.

And the winner is . . . liz at abundant grace!

#3 crafter's surprise package: a grab-bag of embellishments and fabric and paper scraps

And the winner is . . . Elizabeth F. at The Whole Family!

Congrats, ladies! I will send each of you an e-mail this morning.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A different kind of date night

Since our son was born, our date nights have become shamefully irregular. The other day, my husband mentioned he had procured a babysitter for Wednesday evening. I had visions of a movie and ice cream until he explained that he wanted us to volunteer together at the local women's shelter. I have to be honest, ladies. I was wishing for the theatre and dessert outing I'd pictured.

Nonetheless, we headed to the shelter last night, me with my less-than-positive attitude. But from the moment we arrived, and the director gave us a tour of the place, I got really excited. It is a place of hope and transformation. The director gave us some little odd jobs, and then asked if I would be willing to bake some cookies. Opening the refrigerators, she pointed to two huge 20-gallon buckets of dough. The center is having an open house tonight, and they wanted to serve fresh-baked cookies.

I got to work right away, and the time just flew by. While the cookies were in the oven, I chatted with other volunteers and put my amateur organizing skills to work. One small drawer held over 40 baking tools (multiple whisks, spatulas, etc.), so I was able to implement a more user-friendly solution.

Although I made dozens and dozens of cookies, I had only made a dent after two hours. I was determined to finish my baking assignment--so when it was time for us to leave, I scooped all that remaining dough into containers and lugged it home.

My oven will be in full force today, as I bake more cookies--with joy all day long, I hope. I am thankful my husband would consider volunteering to be a worthy date night activity. And I'm thankful God uses us, even with less-than-stellar attitudes.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." Colossians 3:23

"God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7b

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Traveling prayer

Several years ago, my mom came across the following prayer for travelers. (It's credited to St. David's Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland.)

I keep a well-worn copy in my car and pray it aloud before embarking on every trip. It has been a source of great comfort and peace, so I wanted to share it with you, especially during this season:

I know, O God, that wherever I travel, You will be with me. There is nowhere I can go, no situation I can face, which is outside Your love and strength; and so I commit myself into Your care and keeping on this journey, knowing that at all times I am in Your hands.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My baby has a chef


Last week at the grocery store I purchased "representatives" from a large selection of the produce department. I wish I could say it was for my own consumption; however, I am venturing into the world of making healthy, balanced meals for my son. Until last week, I had never purchased a butternut squash, let alone prepared one.

Similar to canning, a good amount of effort and clean-up was required--but I also felt that satisfaction that comes from having a more active role in what is being eaten in your own household.

Although we tried other store-bought foods while we were on vacation, here's the home-prepared stuff my son has tried (and loved) this week: nectarine, plum, butternut squash, pear, sweet potato, mango and avocado*. Foods in bold needed no additional cooking/softening, so I just placed chunks of them in my handy food mill (Thanks, Mom A.!), and cranked out lovely pureed fruits and veggies. The other three foods required some steaming/baking before going through the mill. I kept out 2-3 portions to be served fresh from the fridge, and froze the others in 1-ounce portions in ice cube trays. (*I did not strain or freeze the avocado, as it was extremely easy to mash and seems better fresh. After giving my son a sample, I made the rest into some fabulous guacamole for myself.)

This first round was experimental. I wanted to see how much each fruit/veggie cost, how much effort was involved in preparing the food to be baby-friendly, and if my son would even eat it. In purchasing single items, I felt the squash and sweet potato delivered the most "bang for the buck." Conversely, even after steaming the pear, I found it difficult to work with and will probably stick with other fruits for now. Applesauce is so easy and inexpensive that I am purchasing it until I can make some of my own with local apples in the fall.

There is so much I want to learn about this process. I found lots of helpful info on-line, but am excitedly waiting for my copy of this to arrive via interlibrary loan.


Check out this comparison of home-prepared vs. store-bought green beans--what a difference!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Dog Days of Summer giveaway!

UPDATE: Sign-ups ended at 7 AM CST Friday the 27th--winners will be announced by noon!

Oh, yes, there is some fun stuff going on in the blogging community! Rocks in My Dryer is hosting a fabulous carnival this week--all about giving stuff away!

I've put together 3 different themed "freecycling" packages, and I'd love to send one to you.

Here's the scoop on the goods:

#1 birthday package: one set of "magic" candles, one homemade birthday book--a cute way to record special dates, and one birthday card

#2 zen package: one set of 4 new bamboo coasters, one unopened packet of Japanese blotting papers (for unwanted summer "shine"), and a bag of lemon ginger green tea.

#3 crafter's surprise package: a grab-bag of embellishments and fabric and paper scraps

If you'd like your name to be entered for one or all of these little gifts, please leave me a comment, indicating which of the 3 you're interested in (#1, 2, or 3--any or all). I'll draw names on Friday and let you know who can expect some fun mail!

Update

Thanks to all who sent encouraging thoughts my way with having my wisdom teeth pulled on Friday. I am glad it's over with, but find that I am almost fully recovered at this point.

My weekend therapy? In addition to the help and support of my wonderful husband, I enjoyed smoothies and indulged by watching one of my favorite films.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gaining and losing wisdom

In my first year as the director of a woman's dorm, I found myself constantly praying for wisdom. Walking with students through difficult issues required that I rely on the Lord for strength. Now in my first year of motherhood, I have the same desire--and need--for wisdom. There are so many decisions to make! May I, as Solomon did, choose wisdom above other things.

"Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." Proverbs 8:10-11

As much as I want to gain wisdom, tomorrow morning I will actually be losing it--in the form of two teeth. (I wonder why they're even called wisdom teeth, but whatever.) Recuperating this weekend will hopefully include catching up on all of your blogs from when I was on vacation, but I probably won't write again until Monday. =)

When I mentioned to my husband my anxiety about the pain of having teeth pulled, he reminded me that I'VE HAD A BABY. Well, that's a good point. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength!

Road trippin'

First of all, I just love road signs. Had we not had a sleeping baby in the car, I would've been thrilled to capture a few of the funny ones on camera. My favorite: a sign with an arrow to the "Regular Baptist Camp" (where I wondered do irregular Baptists go?!) I also love those signs outside of small towns proclaiming hilarious mottos or farfetched claims to fame. This time, my winner is "The jewel in the crown of Iowa"--does Iowa even have a crown?! What a hoot!

Second, let me just say that it's a long haul to Michigan by any route we take, but on the return trip, my husband agreed to my request that we drive a more alternate path. I recently finished a compelling book about a small northeastern Iowa town, and I was itching to check it out. I am fascinated by the idea of place--how places shape people, and vice versa. With that comes a love of geography and a particular interest in this state I've come to call home. I enjoy surveying the varied terrain (contrary to popular belief, Iowa is not flat--at least not everywhere) and trying to imagine life in other areas.

Your turn--What are some other funny road signs you've seen? Are you fascinated by a particular place, whether you live there or not?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why I love Jesus

Joy tagged me to share five reasons why I love Jesus. As I made my list, I realized this beloved hymn says it so well--I love Him for being my lifegiver, redeemer, teacher, comforter and friend.

Oh, How I Love Jesus

(American melody by Frederick Woodfield)


There is a name I love to hear, I love to sing its worth; It sounds like music in my ear, The sweetest name on earth. Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh, how I love Jesus, Because He first loved me! It tells me of a Savior's love, Who died to set me free; It tells me of His precious blood, The sinner's perfect plea. Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh, how I love Jesus, Because He first loved me! It tells me what my Father hath, In store for every day, And tho'I tread a darksome path, Yields sunshine all the way. Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh, how I love Jesus, Because He first loved me! It tells of One whose loving heart Can feel my deepest woe, Who in each sorrow bears a part, That none can bear below. Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh, how I love Jesus, Because He first loved me!

I'd like to hear from my dear sister Monica at The Homespun Heart, Susan at Colorado Girl, and Tracy from I am by Grace.

Vacation in Michigan, part 2





I'm having some trouble posting photos today, so opted for the "collage" look. From left to right, here is our son meeting great-grandma K, posing with his grandparents, playing in the water, snuggling with Aunt Kendra, and showing off his cute new hat.

Vacation in Michigan, part 1

After arriving at the lake, we all had to dip our toes in the water.
We celebrated our anniversary by going out to dinner, taking a walk downtown, and watching our wedding video.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Our first harvest

After being gone on vacation, it was fun to come home to produce ready to be picked from our garden. To the tune of "The 12 Days of Christmas," here is what we harvested the other day:

3 tomatoes, 2 onions, 1 green pepper and a bunch of green beans

Monday, July 16, 2007

Lessons in graciousness

Upon returning home from our trip to Michigan last night, we immediately began unpacking our bags. While putting things away in the kitchen, I quickly noticed the refrigerator door was standing open a few inches. Hoping my husband had just grabbed a drink, I opened the door wider to see (and smell) that everything was warm. A partially-used stick of butter had dripped yellow goo all over the shelves, and there was a strong stench from fermented juice. At the end of a long day of travel, it was particularly upsetting to come home to this.

A well-meaning friend had set something in our fridge more than a week prior. If you've been reading my blog, you know how much I hate when anything is wasted. Though I of course appreciated the friend's intended gesture, I was really annoyed about having to throw everything away. I was especially bummed to pitch a large supply of cheese and a newly-opened jar of yeast. My husband graciously began to clean out the fridge--taking the spoilage to the trash and wiping up the mess.

After mourning the loss of our condiments, I had to put things in perspective. It could've also been the freezer. The fridge could've been more fully stocked. No one was harmed, etc. I had to acknowledge (internally, if nothing else) that I could just have easily been the one to leave the door hanging open. I realized I need to be gracious to my friend by not saying anything and basically by "getting over it."

The real graciousness happened today when some friends who are moving out of state stopped by with a bag of stuff they needed to clear from their fridge. Inside were many of the items we had just thrown out, plus some bonuses. Italian pesto? Wahoo! The bag also included two kinds of cheese, and wouldn't you know it? Almost a full jar of yeast.

I am amazed at the ways God provides for His children, and thankful that He is the ultimate example of graciousness to us. I just love stories like this and wanted to share mine with you.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Home sweet home

We are thankful for traveling mercies throughout our trip to Michigan and are glad to have arrived home this evening. I am excited to post some photos and highlights--we had a wonderful time. I also realized how fond of blogging I've become, as I missed reading your blogs and wrote several posts in my head (many of which my memory may never recover!)

After I have a chance to sort through laundry and some of my thoughts, I hope to be back up and running tomorrow! Thank you for your kind comments.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

On the road again . . .

Every summer, we spend a week in June visiting my parents in Colorado, and then travel to Michigan for a week with my husband's family. We're taking off tomorrow morning, and this time we're driving instead of flying. Road trip!

Since we'll be vacationing at a lake, my computer access will be limited, but I do hope to check in a couple times while we're gone.

I'm looking forward to

  • spending time with family (we'll miss you, Sedys!)
  • napping in a hammock (really, napping anywhere these days is something to look forward to!)
  • finishing The Complete Tightwad Gazette (so inspiring and resourceful!)
  • celebrating our wedding anniversary on Monday (and having free babysitters thanks to Mom and Dad)
  • making fun of Michigan drivers (ever heard of a Michigan left?)

Happy summer!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Make it from scratch!

After my recent post on making my own fajita seasoning, I came across this fabulous blog carnival hosted by Stop the Ride! Click here for lots of ideas on making your own ____.

Product suggestions, please

1. For the past couple of years we've been using this mop. I read about it here, and thought it sounded like a good idea--a microfiber mop head that you can toss in the washer? Fabulous! I read that these mop heads could be used up to 100 times. Not so much. I had thought this was an economical and environmentally friendly choice, but the refills cost $12 a pop and we've had to replace them more than once a year. (If you're doing the math, you can see that I've definitely gone against my frugal nature in this area. We all make mistakes, right?) Anybody have a good mop to recommend, or would you suggest that I get down on my hands and knees with a sponge or rag?!

2. I am a compulsive listmaker; however, I tend to write on little scraps of paper that form a pile by the phone. I would love to get some kind of spiral-bound (or similar) calendar/planner where I can write notes and to-do lists on each daily page, but I'm not sure where to find one. If you have one that you like, or can point me to a website that might offer such a thing, I'd really appreciate it!

Thanks for your help.

Monday, July 2, 2007

More ideas for going green

I recently came across an article about "green parenting" on Baby Center. After reading through the 20 ideas in the article, I am inspired to make greater strides in being environmentally friendly by doing the following:
  • Unplugging unused or chronically charged appliances (like our handheld vacuum)--I'm really terrible about this, and need to make more of an effort, especially when we leave on trips.
  • Putting a brick or plastic milk jug filled with pebbles in the toilet tank to save water (and money) with each flush.
  • Actually remembering to bring cloth or used plastic bags with me to the store so I won't need new ones. I usually have good intentions, but often forget. Another option I'm interested in is these that I saw featured here.

My goal is to begin practicing these ideas from today on. If you read through the article, I'd love to know which of these ideas you're already implementing in your home, and what you'd like to challenge yourself with.