Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Supper on the deck

When we got our patio set at the beginning of summer, we envisioned lots of suppers on the deck.  It hasn't worked out quite as we'd hoped, although we have eaten some meals out there.  We had one entire week where it rained pretty much every day.  We had another couple of weeks when it was just brutally hot outdoors.  Even though we don't have AC, it was cooler inside the house than out, so we ate indoors.

So last Thursday night when we were ready to eat, Mr. T suggested we eat outside.  The meal I had planned and was ready to serve was just perfect for this: some simple wrap sandwiches and a pasta salad with veggies.   I'd made some iced tea, too.

 I really doubt you need recipes for these, but I will just quickly share how I made these very simple foods that work so well for al fresco dining.

Wrap Sandwiches
Some sort of flatbread intended for wraps, or flour tortillas
Some sort of spread -- mayo, mustard, barbecue sauce, pesto, guacamole, hummus
Some sort of meat, the more thinly sliced the better
Some type of cheese; I like the ultra thin slices
Vegetables like lettuce or spinach leaves, chopped tomato, chopped or thinly sliced pickles

Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap for each sandwich desired.  Lay a flatbread or tortilla on the plastic.  Spread with whatever spread you choose.  Lay a couple slices of meat on top, then a couple slices of cheese.  Sprinkle with the vegetables.  Fold in two ends of each wrap (so now you have a circle with two straight folded edges).  Roll up the bread tightly and wrap securely in the sheet of plastic wrap that's underneath it.  Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Now the pasta salad is even easier.

Vegetable Pasta Salad
12 ounces of any pasta shape -- I like either the tricolor rotini or the tricolor ruffles
1 pkg. (16 ounces) of any frozen unsauced vegetable mixture -- I like the sugar snap pea stir-fry blend or the deluxe stir-fry blend
Salad dressing to taste -- either Italian, or Greek, or some other type of savory vinaigrette
Salt and pepper to taste, or other seasonings like herbs or seasoning blends
Parmesan cheese if you like

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Stir in the pasta and cook as package directs. 

Meanwhile, place the frozen vegetables in a large colander and set it in your sink.  When the pasta is done, pour it into the colander right on top of your vegetables.  Let it stand as it is for a half hour or so, then rinse with cold water.  You have just "cooked" your frozen veggies to the point where they will be just right in a pasta salad.

Let the pasta and vegetables drain thoroughly, then transfer them to a large bowl.  Add salad dressing and seasonings to taste.  This most recent batch that I made had freshly snipped chives and basil in it.  Sprinkle in some Parmesan cheese if you like.

Will probably make 4 to 6 servings or so.

When my hubby suggested eating outdoors, he quickly set the table.  I chose this pretty vintage tray to carry out the food and so I arranged the wraps, salad, and salt and pepper on it. It looked so inviting!

So there you have some no-recipe recipes that just might facilitate an outdoor supper for you as well!

We've decided we are going to eat supper on the deck whenever possible.  Just being out in God's creation, even in our own backyard, has such a calming and relaxing effect on us after a busy day.  Before we know it, the weather will be too cold to eat outside, so we plan to make the most of our deck and patio set throughout the summer and fall.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Breakfast at Cracker Barrel

It has been far too long since we've visited Cracker Barrel.  As I've mentioned before, we have only one of these wonderful establishments in our state, and it's an hour and 20 minutes from here in a direction we seldom travel. 

Over the years we've met up with friends for breakfast at Cracker Barrel; other times we've chosen to meet there for personal business or (in my husband's case) pastoral search business over a meal or coffee and a snack.  However, our more likely reason is if my hubby needs to be in the area because of work-related errands he occasionally does here:
That was the case a week ago Saturday.  Our day was booked.  We had something going on around noon and something else we wanted to do in the evening.  But he had an errand to do at Cat, and so, we planned to head out very early and hit Cracker Barrel for breakfast first.  Our Nevada family had given us a CB gift card for Christmas that we hadn't found time to use up until now.

As usual, it was worth the trip. Because of our time constraints,  I could only take a very few minutes to look at some of the fall items in the country store.
I loved the squirrel with the lighted acorn lantern.  Sweet!
The "Autumn Blessings" galvanized sign is so pretty!  I also liked the teapot.
This "We Are Blessed" tray may be my favorite.  It matches the teapot above.
And our meal, as seen at top, was wonderful as always.  This time we chose the Grandma's Sampler breakfast from the seasonal menu.  Simply scrumptious!

We did take our time over breakfast and then completed Mr. T's errand at Cat before heading home.  We traveled a good bit of the way home in torrential rain.  But it was worth every raindrop to have enjoyed our Cracker Barrel breakfast at last.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

A summer afternoon's hike

A couple of Sundays ago we finally found time to take a hike with friends.  This is something we've had on our agenda since May but up till now, it just hadn't happened.  Even though we had had a very busy weekend (that was when we went to Maine for Friday night in Saturday, as described in the post "Whirlwind weekend"), we decided we had better take the hike since the Sunday afternoon would work for all of us.

Three young friends from church joined us, along with two of our grandchildren, Josiah and Julia.  All photos in this post, except for three, were taken by our friend Rachel using her phone.
Mr. T and I had done this hike before, but it had been years.  I didn't remember it being so steep.  The steepest parts were covered in slippery pine needles.  Josiah and Julia would scout out the safest route for Grammy.  At one point Josiah shouted back, "Grammy, I think you should just sit down and slide down this part!"  When I noted that I didn't want pine pitch all over my pants, he called back, "You can wash them!"

(For the record, I did make it down that steep section without sitting down.)

And also for the record, we found out later that we should have taken a different trail which would have been much more level.  Undoubtedly, that's the one we took last time.

Imagine our amazement, as we hiked along, to see this:

 Yes, it's an owl.  A gigantic barred owl perched in a tree.  We stopped there for quite a few minutes to get photos.  Then, just a little distance away, we spotted this one:
I'm quite sure no one will be able to see this properly, but Rachel managed to capture a photo with both owls in it, below.  One is about 1/3 of the way up the photo on the left side; the other is about 1/4 of the way down from the top on the right side of the photo.  It is partially hidden by leaves.  Double click and you may be able to spot both owls.
There was a place overlooking a swamp where a bench had been thoughtfully placed.  A very cute  photo bomber appeared as Rachel was trying to get a photo.

 Make that two photo bombers!

We did get to the falls eventually, but as mentioned (and as seen at top) it was only a trickle of water. Below you see it in a previous summer.

The kids enjoyed playing around on the rocky area below where the falls should have been.
The weather seemed to have become much more humid as we started our return trip. Thankfully, we had planned to end our hike with ice cream!
 You can't see Josiah's ice cream cone very well, but he had one scoop combining lemon and strawberry ice creams.  A yummy choice!

And they even had some energy left for cornhole!

Later, I looked this hike up on a couple of websites and found we had indeed taken the wrong trail.  When I told Mr. T, he very simply noted that we obviously were on the right trail: "If we had gone the other way, we wouldn't have seen the owls."

There's food for thought in that.  Sometimes the paths God has us on are a lot more rugged and steep than we would like.  But they always include blessings and benefits we could not have experienced on any other path.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

August goals

So it's a new month, and time to set some goals for August:

* Continue with my Bible study of Colossians
* Memorize at least 4 Bible verses and review some older ones.
* Add 4 pages to my "What Do I Know About My God?" Scripture notebook
* Continue study for Sunday School -- A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus
* Get to bed by 9 pm each night  
* Limit sugar and red meat.
* Drink enough water each day.
* Walk and/or exercise each day.
* Keep up with Flylady's homemaking zones of the week.
* Do something creative each day
* Post in this blog at least twice weekly if possible
* Continue working on several UFO craft projects
* Continue planning for family birthday gifts and crafting any handmade ones
* Continue stocking my Etsy shop and continue selling vintage items
* Write at least 4 encouraging notes to friends and family
* Send lengthy email to a friend
* Call faraway friends to chat
* Learn more about cultured foods and begin making more of them
* Declutter and reorganize my closet
* Declutter and revamp computer room
* Help and encourage my local daughter as I'm able
* Go out to breakfast with friends visiting from Wisconsin
* Continue to encourage and support my hubby as he works through a pastoral search for our church
* Clean church and set up for fellowship time
* Sort out and declutter my dad's house; work on estate
* Possibly plan an overnight with my hubby
* Plan meals with a greater emphasis on healthy eating

AUGUST'S HEALTHY HABITS:  Drink enough water/exercise/eat healthfully
WORD FOR 2018: Settled
 🍓    🍒     🍉     🍃      🌻     🎈      🍓     🍒     🍉     🍃    🌻

And here is how July went:

* Continue with my Bible study of Colossians -- done!
* Memorize at least 4 Bible verses and review some older ones -- not done
* Add 4 to 8 pages to my "What Do I Know About My God?" Scripture notebook -- done!
* Continue study for Sunday School -- A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus -- done!
* Get to bed by 9 pm each night  -- not done
* Limit sugar and red meat -- not done consistently
* Drink enough water each day -- not done consistently
* Walk and/or exercise each day -- not done consistently
* Keep up with Flylady's homemaking zones of the week -- not done consistently, though I do work at it
* Do something creative each day -- done!
* Post in my Christmas blog daily this month for Christmas in July -- done!
* Post in this blog at least twice weekly if possible -- I'm calling this  done!
* Continue working on several UFO craft projects -- not done
* Continue planning for family birthday gifts and crafting any handmade ones -- done!
* Continue stocking my Etsy shop and continue selling vintage items -- done!
* Write at least 4 encouraging notes to friends and family -- done!
* Send lengthy email to a friend -- not done
* Call faraway friends to chat -- not done
* Learn more about cultured foods and begin making more of them -- not done
* Declutter and reorganize my closet -- not done
* Declutter and revamp computer room -- not done
* Help and encourage my local daughter as I'm able -- not done consistently
* Continue to encourage and support my hubby as he works through a pastoral search for our church -- done!
* Clean church and set up for fellowship time -- done!
* Help with a meal for a college music team at our church for a concert -- done!
* Attend a wedding in Maine -- done!
* Hopefully meet up with a blog friend while in Maine -- done!
* Spend time with faraway friends who are in our state for a few weeks -- done!
* Sort out and declutter my dad's house; work on estate -- continuing to work on this
* Possibly plan an overnight with my hubby -- done!
* Plan meals with a greater emphasis on healthy eating -- done!

JULY'S HEALTHY HABITS:  Drink enough water/exercise/eat healthfully
WORD FOR 2018: Settled
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Monday, July 30, 2018

Another sensational main-dish salad for those hot days

(Photo above is from Taste of Home.  My salad was not as pretty as theirs but it sure tasted good.)

Things continue hot, humid and showery in the Granite State.  Cool main-dish salads are the order of the day at our house.  We have old favorites but are always happy to try out a new salad recipe.

I tried this recipe Friday night: Cobb Salad with Chili Lime Dressing.  I found it while browsing through a 2009 summer issue of Simple and Delicious magazine and decided to try it, since I had everything on hand that I needed (other than salad greens, and I was grocery shopping that day).

I did change up a few things.  I left out the raw onion as we just don't enjoy them in salads.  I left out the shredded cheese also, since chicken and beans provided plenty of protein.

Some reviewers on the Taste of Home site said that they swapped out black beans for the kidney beans.  I just used the light red kidney beans and they were delicious in the salad.  I would think just about any type of bean would be good in this.

The chili lime dressing is fantastic.  I changed a few things there too.  Didn't have quite enough sour cream, so added a few tablespoons of mayo to make up the difference.  I didn't want to mess about with a blender, so I left out the canned green chiles and substituted an equivalent amount of salsa verde.  And I used the squeezable cilantro paste from Gourmet Garden -- always my go-to when recipes call for fresh cilantro.  I find that the fresh stuff goes bad far too quickly.

We loved this salad.  My hubby declared it "one of those meals that I could eat and eat."  This will definitely be going into our rotation of main-dish summer salads!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Desperate times call for desperate measures ... like iced tea

And the times lately have certainly been desperate as far as heat and humidity are concerned.

As a rule at our house, we no longer drink sweetened beverages.  Mr. T does use a little stevia in his coffee.  But for cold beverages, our first choice is always nice cold water.  Sometimes we will have kombucha.  I enjoy unsweetened iced tea with lemon, but my hubby does not, so I don't usually bother making it just for me.  Usually, water is the most refreshing and most usual cold drink for us.

However.  There are times when a lightly sweetened iced tea is just the ticket.  We've had an unusually long spell of heat and humidity and I have found myself making a jug of iced tea twice during it.

I do use my daughter's recipe,  which is a good bit healthier than my mother usually made iced tea.  (She used a can of lemonade concentrate, replete with high fructose corn syrup I am sure.  Though, in her defense, I do remember many, many years ago when she used lemons and sugar instead.)

I have copied and pasted Carrie's recipe just as I wrote it in a 2007 blog post.  When I've made this during those desperate times this summer, I've made half a batch.  And I've used brown sugar, which feels just a tiny bit healthier and adds a bit more depth to the flavor.


12 cups boiling water
12 green tea bags
1 cup sugar
4 Tblsp. orange juice
4 Tblsp. lemon juice

Pour the boiling water over the tea bags in a large bowl. Let steep 5 to 7 minutes only. Stir in sugar and juices. Stir well; let cool. Transfer to a pitcher and let chill in refrigerator. Serve over ice.

This recipe may easily be halved and is very adaptable. I often add in some lime juice along with the other citrus juices, and usually when I halve the recipe I still use the full amount of fruit juice. Sometimes I use regular tea in place of the green tea -- just as tasty! Sometimes I use 11 regular tea bags and 1 flavored one such as mint, raspberry, or peach. Gives a nice, different flavor.

If heat and humidity have you desperate, too,  you might like to give Carrie's recipe a try!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Whirlwind weekend

 The weekend of July 13-14 was a busy, but wonderful whirlwind.  I alluded to it a bit in my Hodgepodge post,  but wanted to expand on it somewhat so I don't forget the details.

 Mr. T and I were invited to attend a wedding in Maine on the Saturday, on behalf of our daughter and son-in-law who live in Nevada.  It was their former pastor's son who was getting married, and the whole church from Elko was invited provided they could get to Maine.  Our daughter asked if we could attend in their place, and the answer was a gracious yes.

When she broached the idea to me, our daughter also suggested, "I know it's a ways up in Maine, so I thought you and Dad might turn your trip north into a getaway."  Of course she had barely suggested the idea when we began to run with it.  We love getaways!

(This makes it sound as if we are taking getaways very frequently indeed.  Not really ... the last one -- to Stowe, Vermont -- was in May!  And these are overnight getaways, just long enough to get a bit refreshed.)

So we headed out early Friday afternoon, knowing it would take us at least 5 hours to get to Brewer, where we had a room reservation here:

It was a little amusing that my hubby had two work-related phone calls (which he had to pull over for), before we even left New Hampshire!  We made a quick stop at a post office to mail some things along the way, but otherwise did not stop until we reached Cornish, Maine and a favorite road trip break:
A frozen strawberry lemonade for Mr. T; iced coffee for me.
Sadly, they were out of donuts, but we made do with a box of Munchkins:

From there, we headed north and arrived at our hotel a few minutes after 6 pm.

This hotel has two buildings, the Maine Woods building, with an outdoorsy lodgy theme as in the lobby photo below, and the Maine Coast building, with a pretty coastal theme.

We were in the Maine Coast building.  I failed to get photos of our room, but it had a nice coastal decor.   After settling in a bit our first order of business was to find some supper.

We ended up having fish and chips at a nearby restaurant.  Although not as scrumptious as the fish we would enjoy the next day, it was good, and the price and location (walking distance!) were right.
After a wonderful night's rest we ventured to the Breakfast Room at the Inn for a nice continental breakfast, made even nicer by the homemade waffles with Maine wild blueberry sauce.  Using pre-measured portions of homemade batter, diners bake their own waffles in one of three waffle irons, which are kept constantly busy.  Bowls of blueberry and strawberry sauce await, along with syrup dispensers.

If you look at the small photo to the right of "Free Deluxe Breakfast" on the business card above, that is one area of the breakfast room.  One really neat feature of that room is the old cookstove (not in use as a stove) just to the left of the woman in the photo.  We sat in the second area.
Sign on the wall above our table
Another part of the breakfast area -- the "windows" here are mirrors.
 Returning to our room, we took good time over our Bible reading and prayer before checking out and heading for our wedding destination.  I will share just a few general photos from the wedding.  I did not try to get photos of people or of the ceremony.  These were taken with my Kindle, so are not the very best quality.

 The front of the sanctuary before anyone came in.  I love the lights draped inside the swags of tulle. 
A glimpse of the table centerpieces and the favors -- tiny jugs of maple syrup!
 The centerpieces were so simple but so pretty -- just slices of wood with a paper doily and mason jar atop each one.  Jars were filled with roses and baby's breath, then an engagement photo was propped against each one.  A few dark blue silk rose petals were scattered about.  (Wedding colors were orange and navy.)

I loved how they combined these gorgeous colored roses with the rustic look of old wood.  Touches of both were everywhere throughout the decorating.

After saying our goodbyes to the bride and groom and our friends (the groom's parents and grandparents), we headed south on I-95 en route to a meet-up with my blog friend Vee.  We were a tad early, which was a good thing,  because we drove right by the rendezvous at the first pass.

We had made arrangements to meet at one of Vee's favorite places and we very much enjoyed the delicious seafood and the wonderful fellowship.   We are kindred spirits in many ways and it truly was just like meeting up with an old friend.  Vee is warm and genuine, a delight to spend time with.

You can just catch a glimpse of the deck (look for the umbrellas) at the upper right.
 (The mosquitoes drove us off the deck -- which had a water view and would certainly have been a delightful place to eat on a sunnier day -- and inside, which could have been far more delightful without a particular inebriated patron.  But no matter.  Food and fellowship still wonderful.)

Vee had also told us about an ice cream place not far away ... so we all drove there for dessert.  It has mini golf and a driving range with a view of Mt. Washington.  And delicious ice cream.  The veranda had plenty of seating and no mosquitoes, so we continued to chat as we enjoyed dessert -- Campfire S'mores ice cream for Mr. T and myself (it's our new favorite) and Maine Deer Tracks for Vee. 
Curious about the flavors?  Campfire S'mores is described as graham ice cream oozing with marshmallow ripple and crunchy chocolate chips. Maine Deer Tracks is described as "rich espresso ice cream with crunchy toffee pieces and tracks of thick chocolate fudge."  Now I wish I'd had that one!

To learn more about the flavors of Gifford's Ice Cream, go here: Gifford’s Ice Cream and click on "Flavors".  Although Gifford's is a Maine company, several of our favorite ice cream places in New Hampshire serve their ice cream.
Before leaving the grounds, we brought out the gifts we had for one another and opened them at a nearby picnic table. Vee was far too generous ... besides the squash referenced in a previous post, there were books, including one from her beloved John's library.  What a treasure!

Another book was a recipe binder, to write my own recipes in.   I'm planning to use this to copy down all of those random, often-used recipes that are floating around my kitchen on scraps of paper or on recipe cards so stained they can barely be read.   It has a number of cute divider pages to divide the various sections of recipes.  One of them is pictured below.  How true it is!
And to top it all off, she brought us a tin full of her marvelous Rhubarb Custard Pie, cut in neat pieces.  I was tickled to see that Vee packs things in tins lined with waxed paper just as I do.  I guess it's the New England girl in us!

Meeting Vee was something I'd wanted to do for a long time.  Now that we've done that, Mr. T and I are hoping we can get together with this dear friend again at some point.  We don't live that far away, and we do travel to Maine occasionally.

The whirlwind weekend held even more fun and surprises, including the hike pictured at the top of this post.  But the post is getting rather long and unwieldy, and besides, the hike deserves its own post.  So that will have to wait for another day!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Recent simple crafting

I do love making things, but life is too busy right now to do much of any crafting on a regular basis.  I have a number of UFOs to finish, and I want to try my hand at some cushion covers for the patio chairs.  Maybe next week ... possibly even Saturday.  We will see!

In the meantime, here are just a very few small projects I've completed lately:

Above, two more crocheted hot mats  -- from this pattern -- some have asked about it, so here's the link again -- Scalloped Potholder --in the Fruit Punch ombre.  I'm pretty much addicted to making these.  I love seeing how they turn out in the various colors of ombre and whatever accompanying colors I choose.

Then I completed a bit of sewing:

 The doll t-shirts were some I found at a bargain several years ago.  I used fabric to coordinate with them to make this simple reversible wrap skirt.  You can find the free and easy pattern here: You Can Make This.  I chose fabrics that would work with both the blue and red t-shirts and my granddaughter liked the outfits very much.

Later, when I had a few minutes, I made a second skirt -- again, planned to go with both t-shirts for maximum versatility.  I'm pleased with how they came out!

And finally, some embroidery:
 This is the same dish towel as at top.  I purchased the embroidery pattern from an Etsy shop called Lova Revolutionary.  The design is intended to be used in a hoop, but I thought it would look nice on a dish towel, so I used some dollar store dish towels from my stash.  The one I just completed has a red border, and the one  I finished last fall has a tan border.

The red one has been languishing around half finished, so I finished it up this summer.

Lastly, I've been making a few handmade mailing envelopes from old calendars.  These are to use in mailing certain sizes of vintage sewing patterns from my Etsy shop.
Still working on this project, but you can see a finished envelope above.  See the fold at the top?  That's the flap to fold down and seal.

There you have it, short and simple, but I am so pleased to have created a few projects lately!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

When Vee hands you a squash ...

[a little spin off "when life hands you lemons ... make lemonade"].

Vee actually did hand me a squash a week ago Saturday (along with many other lovely gifts which will be discussed in an as-yet-unfinished post).  I believe she said that her neighbor had given it to her and so she was passing it along to me.

The other night I needed a side dish with some BBQ chicken and potato salad for supper, so I decided to cook the gifted (or should I say re-gifted?😀) squash.  The side I ended up with was a little bit different and very easy, so I thought I would share how I did it.  I'm sure this would work with green zucchini as well, but it was so pretty with the yellow zucchini.  As per usual with food, I completely forgot to take a photo, so Pixabay comes to my rescue again.

So, here's the recipe:

 1 yellow zucchini or summer squash, sliced -- I cut the larger slices, from the middle, in quarters
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tomato, chopped
Italian seasoning or basil to taste

Heat some olive oil (I think I used a couple of tablespoons) in a saucepan.  Add the sliced squash to the hot oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes.  Cover the saucepan and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes or so, until the zucchini is nearly as tender as you like it.  Stir in the chopped tomato and the seasoning, cover and cook for another minute or two until the tomato is heated through.

Makes 2-4 servings.

I added the tomato for color, but it contributed nice flavor as well.  I wish I had thought to use my fresh basil in this!  I'm sure there will be other opportunities throughout the summer, as zucchini and tomatoes will no doubt continue to be abundant.

And there you have one idea for what to do when Vee (or anyone else) hands you a squash.