Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sweet, Simple Things

"I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all."

Laura Ingalls Wilder

I came across this quote in a cookbook a few weeks ago.  Having read and watched much Little House on the Prairie for years now, it is safe to say I admire Mrs. Wilder.  I even dressed up as a little Laura one year for Halloween in the early 80's!

When I read that quote from Laura in my cookbook, it really hit home for I too am growing to learn that the sweet and simple things are the most real in this complex world.  More and more it seems that simplicity and authenticity go together in my heart and mind.

As life has hurried on and sometimes forced its perplexities my way, I have found myself stopping quite often to intentionally notice and focus on the sweet and simple.

And so I thought I would occasionally stop to share some of these sweet, simple observations with you so we can slow down to enjoy the small and genuine together.

Here are a few glimpses of the sweet simplicity that surrounds me...

Fresh flowers on my kitchen table...

Simple ingredients that turn into something delicious...

Truth and beauty on display in my kitchen...

Priceless works of art...

I'll stop for now with my five year old's depiction of a mermaid on a rock by the water.  Such simple sweetness in those strokes.  I will be sharing more of these observations very soon, and would love to hear that you too are stopping to reflect on the sweet and simple in your path...

That's What Grammies Are Made Of

My kids call my mom Grammie.

And just as she was a stellar mom, she is a top notch Grammie.

We had not gotten to spend any time with her for over a month due to various life circumstances, so this past Monday she took my daughter and me out on a Grammie/Madi/Mommy date.

We started our day by going to see the movie Ramona and Beezus which was absolutely delightful!  I just loved it!  Of course, I have always been a fan of Ramona.  I started to love the Ramona books, as well as all of Beverly Cleary's books, in the third grade when my teacher, Miss Taylor, read them out loud to us.  There is just something about a teacher who takes the time to read out loud to the class!  I was an avid reader as a kid, and read as many of  Beverly Cleary's books as I could get my hands on.

When Madi was 3 and 4 years old, I read her all the Ramona books except for the last one.  She adores this literary heroine, and often says she is a spunky girl just like Ramona  Though thankfully, she  hasn't squeezed a tube of toothpaste in the sink...yet.   ;)

After the movie we got our photos taken in one of those little photo booths (which cracked my mom and I up as it now quite a modern experience with a digital voice guiding you through the process!) then we walked to the bookstore where we browsed and I picked up the final Ramona book we need to read.  The Beverly Cleary books were buy 2 get 1 free, so I also picked up Henry and Beezus and Sister of the Bride which was absolutely, positively one of my favorite books as a girl.  I use to check out the same hardcover version of that book over and over from our local library.  I can still feel the plastic cover in my hands and smell the musty scent of the pages, and remember how I felt after I finished it for the first time.  It is right up there with Cleary's book Fifteen, another absolute favorite.

After taking our time in the bookstore, we walked to a favorite boutique of ours that has a large Vera Bradley selection.  Madi is starting kindergarten in the fall and my mom, who takes her role as Grammie very seriously, wanted to make sure we sent her off in style.  After all, what kindergarten girl wouldn't have a little more pep in her step sporting some chic Vera Bradley on her very first day of school?  My daughter picked out her own patterns and we had lots of fun laughing about how there was no way she would have ever gotten me these types of school supplies!  But that was when she was Mom.  Now she is Grammie.

When we walked out of the store with two packages and one excited little girl, we made one more stop.  The three of us had lunch at Mimi's Cafe, one of our favorite places.  My mom and I split a hummus appetizer and an albacore and avocado sandwich and Madi got her typical macaroni and cheese and applesauce.  Since we were having such a special day, my mom and I decided to try the beignets.  When we dipped those hot pastries - which were filled with custard and coated in sugar and spice - in the hot strawberry and caramel sauces, we knew we had found a new favorite dessert.

Sugar and spice dipped in strawberries and caramel, and special splurges to make the first day of school memorable, and treating your girls to popcorn and a matinee just because, and cramming into a photo booth to capture a moment, and a day simply celebrating being together, and a life that is a constant and vibrant outpouring of love...well, that's what Grammies are made of.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Do It Anyway

As the sun was rising earlier, I was doing a quick facebook check with my morning coffee when I saw a poem my sister-in-law had posted on her page.  It was by Mother Teresa, and the words cut straight to my heart.  I spent a little time googling it and found it over and over, sometimes with slightly different wording, but with the same message.  I found the truth in these words completely raw and inspiring, especially knowing they were from a woman who spent her life giving and knows of what she writes.

These were words I needed to hear.  So I thought I'd share this poem with you, in case you needed to hear them too.


by Mother Teresa

People are often unreasonable, 
illogical and self-centered; 
Forgive them anyway. 

If you are kind, 
people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives; 
Be kind anyway. 

If you are successful, 
you will win some false friends and true enemies; 
Succeed anyway. 

If you are honest and frank, 
people may cheat you; 
Be honest anyway. 

What you spend years building, 
someone could destroy overnight; 
Build anyway. 

If you find serenity and happiness, 
they may be jealous; 
Be happy anyway. 

The good you do today, 
people will often forget tomorrow; 
Do good anyway. 

Give the world the best you have, 
and it may never be enough; 
Give the world the best you've got anyway. 

You see, in the final analysis, 
it is between you and God; 
It was never between you and them anyway.

There Is Just Something...

There is something about being in the kitchen and watching your children paint while listening to Disney songs on Pandora radio as their creativity bursts onto white paper and you keep staring at them while you bake banana bread thinking that you have never seen anything more beautiful in your life and you stop to memorize the sights and sounds and scents of an everyday moment that you will remember for the rest of your life.

There is just something about that.

Laughter, Coffee Creamers, and The Love of A True Friend

My friend Laurie recently came to visit.  She and I became friends 9 years ago when I was a newlywed and serving with Jimmy at a new church plant.  We hit it off right away with our love of scrapbooking, food, and girls weekends.  I was a working girl with no kids yet, and we had memorable adventures on Longaberger bus trips and Women of Faith conferences.  We did the home party rounds together.  I gave her daughter piano lessons. We baked Christmas cookies together.  I often sat around her kitchen table scrapbooking while she prepared something tasty in her kitchen.  Many times when we got together we would get to laughing so hard and her face would turn red as a tomato!  Perhaps we were an unlikely pair as she had been married for a long time and was homeschooling a teenage daughter while I was fresh out of college and a brand new wife working for a financial advisor...but we were sisters in Christ who loved to have a good time together, and our friendship was formed and cemented.

She has been faithful friend.

Her daughter recently started an internship at Disney, so she came down to visit both her and me...and developed a case of strep throat immediately upon arrival which spread like wildfire and altered our plans for her visit quite a bit!

We still had a great time though.  One night she and her daughter disappeared into the guest room for awhile, and came out with homemade party hats and birthday gifts for everyone in our family!  The kids thought this was the greatest thing ever, and in typical Laurie fashion she gave.

We were hoping to spend a day at Disney with the kids since we could get in free, but the strep didn't allow that to happen.  However, when she and I went to pick up her daughter from work one afternoon, we got to go in and ride a few rides, including the Tower of Terror which made us laugh our head off!  That is one awesome ride.

But my favorite moments of her visit were probably the ones we spent at home.  We had a blast playing Rummikub with some fun friends of ours, and absolutely cracked up through an entire game of Pictionary with my Madi!  Who knew that "house plant" would be so hard to draw, or that my depiction of running shoes would look like wooden Dutch shoes, or that playing by a 5 year old's rules would be so much fun (especially when the 5 year old can draw better than either of us!)?  We played games and laughed and cooked and ate and laughed some more.

And we talked.  Laurie is one of those friends who is refreshingly real, and around whom you can be authentic.  There is freedom in our friendship to share personal struggles and heartaches and challenges and thoughts that swirl around in our heads just waiting to be shared with someone...and so we shared, each morning over a few cups of coffee and my baked oatmeal, sometimes with the kids at the table playing Play-Doh while we caught up.

We were enjoying our mornings of coffee and conversation so much, and a few days into her visit when I went to the store to get a prescription filled for my case of strep throat, I went to pick up a gallon of milk and saw a new vanilla caramel coffee creamer.  I immediately knew Laurie would love it, and picked some up.  Later that evening when she returned home after she was out and about, she was all excited to show me something she had found at the store.  Wouldn't you know it was the same coffee creamer?!  We laughed.   And the next morning we added it to our little coffee/oatmeal/conversation routine.

I think the best part of her visit was came at a time when I needed a friend.  And all those months ago when she planned it, God knew that.  And right on time He gave me a glimpse of His affection through laughter and coffee creamers and the love of a true friend named Laurie.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

All This Talk About Pie...

"Baby don't you cry, gonna make a pie, gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle..."  

I've been humming this song all morning as I blogged about the tomato pie my mom baked for me yesterday and thought about another pie I've been meaning to tell you about.  But with all this talk about pie, I thought I'd better let you in on a little secret...

I don't really like pie crusts.  I know. When I eat pie, I usually eat the filling and leave most of the pie crust on my plate, a fact which greatly distresses my husband and grandma, though they've still agreed to love me.

However, since crusts hold the pie together and most people like them, I make pies with crusts.  But I recently discovered frozen pie crusts which, in my opinion, are the bomb.  No more attempts at homemade crusts or trying to pinch the sides of refrigerated crusts for me.  Frozen all the way, baby!

Anyway, back to the pie I've been meaning to tell you about...

I read cookbooks and cooking magazines for fun.  And everything I had been reading lately kept taking about buttermilk I just had to try one!  

It was the right thing to do.

A buttermilk pie, I learned, is made up of just a few, simple ingredients.  As I made it I could envision women of the past baking these with the fresh ingredients from their farms.  As I tasted it, I thought of creme brulee.  I love creme brulee, though I've never made it because I don't have a torch, and quite frankly, don't know if it's a good idea with my klutzy tendencies.  But that's another story.  

Back to the pie.  Like I said, it tasted like creme brulee, custardy in the center and crispy on top. It tasted fresh, especially since I had topped mine with a pile of blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries (I'm a berry fanatic). 

Honestly, I was surprised how good it was! 

I used a Paula Deen recipe which was, well, easy as pie.  And here it is...

Preheat oven to 350.  In large bowl, beat 1 1/4 cup sugar; 1/4 cup melted butter; 3 large eggs lightly beaten; and 1 TBS flour.  Stir in 1/2 cup buttermilk and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  Pour into unbaked, thawed frozen pie shell.  Bake 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 325 and bake 1 hour, shielding edges after 30 minutes.  Cool completely and garnish with berries.

"Baby don't you cry, gonna make a pie, hold you forever in the middle of my heart."

Tomato Pie

My mom and I are born and bred D.C. Suburban, Mid-Atlantic girls with some southern roots...and we are currently living in the South.

And in true southern fashion, my mom dropped by a pie to my house yesterday...but not just any pie. A tomato, basil, and cheese pie that was (in the words of my cornbread, grits, and collards loving Aunt Linda) one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth!

I mentioned this on my facebook, and immediately had some requests for the recipe. She made it from that Point of Grace cookbook I have been talking about for months now.  It is fresh and fragrant and rich and wonderful...and perfectly southern summer!  Here goes...

Preheat oven to 350.  Bake a frozen 9 inch pie crust for 10-15 minutes, until starting to brown.  Layer 4 sliced tomatoes, 10 or more chopped fresh basil leaves, and 3 chopped green onions in the pie shell (I think my mom purposely left out the green onions).  Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  Combine 1 cup mozzerella, 1 cup cheddar, and 1 cup mayonnaise (preferably Duke's if you live where you can get it).  Spread on top of tomatoes.  Bake pie for 30 minutes or until pie is lightly brown and bubbly.  Let set for 10 minutes before slicing.  

"Ya'll" try this, and let me know what you think!


I was awake long before the sun came up this morning, with lots on my heart and mind.  Instead of tossing and turning I went ahead and got up to make some coffee and spend some quiet time with God.  My friend had recently given me a box of Caribou Coffee's Daybreak coffee pods, and I chose one since the name seemed to fit the morning.  As the coffee dripped into my favorite oversized teacup covered in cheerfully colored flowers, I breathed in the aroma and opened the blinds to let the little light of daybreak in.  The windows were covered in dew.  Everything was quiet as I stirred in my cream.  Then I sat down on the green chair in the corner, coffee on the table next to it, with journal, Bible, and devotional book in hand.

I love moments with God.  I need them.  More and more I realize how dependent I am on God to accomplish anything, especially things of lasting value in people's lives.  After some time in prayer I opened up a new devotional book the same friend had given me with the coffee.  It was a Women of Faith book titled Encouraging One Another, a topic near and dear to my heart.  The forward was written by Nicole Johnson and I delighted in her words as I sipped my coffee and the sun started to come up...

She wrote, "Encouragement is to a relationship what confetti is to a party.  It's light, refreshing, and fun.  It's cheer you can throw someone's way.  But even deeper, it is the assurance you are there, that you are standing behind them and supporting them.  The time it takes to gather little pieces of love, grace, strength, and hope is well worth it when you see what happens as you shower those gifts on someone else.  It's like spiritual confetti, and it's the ultimate encouragement."

Friends, I love that!  I thought of the confetti I had put on the table at my children's last birthday parties, and the color and cheer it added to the spirit of the day.  I want to add that color and cheer into the lives of those around me.  I want to be a spiritual confetti thrower!  During some recent discouraging times, God has put some encouraging people in my path just when I needed it desperately...and I want to do the same for others.  I want to gather pieces of love, grace, strength, and hope to shower them on the people in my path both on their good days and bad.

Because from everything I've always studied in God's Word, that's what He would want me to do.

I hope some of you will join me in throwing some confetti someone's way today...

Hebrews 10:24 "Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds."

The table from my daughter's last birthday party, sprinkled with confetti...


Do you ever get it backwards? 

I sometimes do.

One day a few weeks ago I was in my kitchen when I noticed something.  My Keurig coffee maker (which I very happily received as a present last Christmas!) was next to the pantry, beside the sink, and under the cabinet with all my baking supplies.

My KitchenAid mixer was beside the refrigerator and under the cabinet which holds all of my mugs.

It dawned on me that day when I was spilling flour taking it across the kitchen that I had had it backwards for months would make so much more sense for me to switch the two appliances, making everything easier and more convenient!

So I switched the Keurig and the KitchenAid. And life was made least for the moment!

It's funny though, ever since I made this simple switch it has been on my mind how often we get it backwards, not in the kitchen...but in life.

My mind went to the passage in Matthew 7:3. Jesus asked, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"  In other words, he asked the people why they were judging others for small infractions when there was a huge, obvious problem in their own life; why in their judgment of others they never stopped to examine themselves; why when they thought they were so righteous, they were actually getting it completely backwards.

We've all been there at one time or another.  Our own sin issues, whatever they may be, become a plank in our eye that literally blinds us from seeing truth and our thinking gets all mixed up.

But just like the simple switch in my kitchen made life easier, so it is when we allow our thinking to be governed not by our opinions, selfish desires, and pride, but rather what the Bible says.  What God would want us to do.  What Jesus taught.

That's when we stop getting it backwards.



Wednesday, July 21, 2010

4th of July!

As you know, I love to celebrate! Celebrating brings so much joy, and I think the act of celebrating together bonds families and friends even closer together. When holidays roll around, I like to do small things to celebrate and make the day memorable and special.  Here is a little glimpse into our celebration of the 4th of July....

Since Independence Day fell on a Sunday, we started our day by going to church.  My daughter pulled out a sailor hat she used to wear when she was about 2 years old...and it still fit!  It went well with the rest of her red, white, and blue sailor themed outfit.  It brought back a lot of memories as well....

At church we heard an inspiring message entitled "God Heal Our Land."

Then we went home and I baked some fun cupcakes for a party later that evening.  I love using holiday themed baking decorations!  These were compliments of Crate and Barrel and were so fun!

Sunday evening we had some lake fun with some wonderful church friends!  

The next day I made a 4th of July breakfast, complete with frozen orange juice popsicles and a bowl of cherries, because what could be more American than that?  :)

Happy Birthday, America!  Thanks to God for the way He has blessed this country.  My prayer is that He will continue to bless our land and that we will as a nation turn our hearts toward Him.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I Found A Treasure...

If any of you know me, or have read my old post "Confessions of a Clearance Rack Queen..." know I have always lived on a budget and love to find a good deal!

The other day I didn't just find a good deal, I found a treasure at Ross, one of my favorite budget-friendly stores.  

I love to collect and use pretty serving dishes to serve up home-cooked meals, and found one with Jeremiah 17:7 inscribed on it. "Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, and have made the Lord their hope and confidence."  The dish was all of $4.99, and now every time I use it I can be reminded of an important trust, hope, and confidence are found in the Lord alone.  So no matter what storms of life surround me, I can rest sweetly contented in the shelter of that truth.  

And to think that God, who knows His daughter so well, would send me this reminder through a good deal and a serving dish, two of my very favorite things...well that is a treasure in and of itself.

Fruit Salad...Yummy, Yummy!

Okay, I couldn't resist using the title of a silly children's song for this blog entry!  My kids are not Wiggles fanatics or anything, but we know enough about them to know that song and, well, it just seemed to fit!

For years my mom has made a simple fruit salad that everyone loves.  I started making it when I got married, and any time I serve it people rave about it and ask what makes it taste so good.

The secret?  A box of vanilla pudding mix.

This fruit salad is so simple as it uses mostly canned fruits, so it can be prepared the night before.  I use bananas and usually add those in right before serving.

You can make a smaller batch, but these are the proportions I recently used which is good size for serving a crowd or if you want it to last several days.  Again, each day you can add fresh bananas.

Drain the juice of 2 cans diced peaches, 2 cans diced pears, and 1 large can of pineapple chunks into a bowl.  Whisk in a large, dry vanilla pudding mix (the fat free, sugar free works fine by the way).

Stir in the peaches, pears and pineapple.  Fold in a drained jar of maraschino cherries (this is what sells my daughter on this salad - she calls it "cherry salad").  Chill.  Before serving, add 2 or 3 sliced bananas.

So easy, family-friendly, and of course...yummy, yummy!!