Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dill Pickles

When I was in college, my roommate and I lived on Jell-O, fatback she brought from the farm, eggs, and pickles my Grandpa made and sent with us every weekend or two. Pickles were our snacks, and they became our vegetables. He made them in quarts and gallons from the cucumbers my Grandmother grew in her garden.

I had my own small garden when I was a young mother. I canned beans, tomatoes, froze corn and okra, and made jars of jelly. I also learned to make those dill pickles of my Grandpa, but they never tasted quite as good as the ones he made. Maybe it was the water, my dill, weak garlic, or maybe it just needed his loving touch to make the best pickles in the world.

Recently, Good Ole Days magazine accepted an essay I wrote on my Grandpa’s dill pickles. The writing and submitting made my mouth water for that briny taste of summer pickling. When I saw some dill at the farmer’s market, I decided to give it a try again. Today I made a few jars and they look delicious. Now is the hard part, waiting a while until I reopen them again. Until then I will stand in my kitchen and reminisce as the whole kitchen smells like vinegar, dill and garlic. Ah, a fragrance of comfort and love!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bike Day

My all time favorite pastime as a kid was riding bikes. My dad forced me to learn in one evening when I was in kindergarten. He did not want to see me tootling around town on training wheels! From then on, I rode the neighborhood streets daily, branching out further with each grade of school. Summers during junior high and high school, I rode to the library, the drug store and even long excursion to the country with my friends. As a new mother, I rode many miles with a baby on the back, and I got my boys onto bikes as soon as possible.

This morning was busy with good things. We left early, took the bikes to Lone Jack Trail, and rode eight miles. This is the longest ride since DH’s knee surgery, and it was wonderful to be riding on a trail again. It was fairly cool to start, but by the time we were belting the bikes to the truck rack again, we were sweating. The trials to rails rides are nice, but the trees and brushy growth areas don’t allow much air to circulate.

A muffin, some errands, a quick stop at the library and then we went to the Farmer’s Market. It is a lovely place and you cannot stir the people there at first. Cars and trucks inch in the side road, trying to find a place to park in order to get the first call on the fruits and vegetables. The produce must meet certain standards to be sold there, and it is all displayed in an almost artistic manner. The Vietnamese truck farmers not only have beautiful produce, they have it washed and bundled pleasantly. Every stand makes you want to be a good vegetable eater!

After preparing both okra and bok choy for the freezer, this evening’s supper was fresh mushrooms, onions, zucchini, and yellow squash stir fried and then treated to a wash of wine to reduce a bit. The whole concoction was poured over rice noodles and served with baked chicken and sliced tomatoes. It felt good to eat healthy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

His & Her Day

Yesterday the morning air was like a dawn in the Colorado mountains. Later in the day, the sky was reminiscent of New Mexico skies. The entire day was a His&Her Day, mostly His though. After some lab work, we went to Grizzly’s where DH went in for a drill bit and came out with the bit plus a joiner he has been wanting. Next on the list was a stop at a flea market, a Goodwill Store, Bass Pro and finally a couple of lumber mills to find new sources for reasonably priced wood.

The Her part of the day was we ate at a new tearoom, Beth’s Bakery and Tea Room. It was a delightful place tucked away in a strip mall. It was pristine fresh with a gift shop on the side. The tearoom was in with the bakery so one could view all the luscious pies and cookies, planning dessert while one ate her lunch! The food was good and the tea excellent. However, like a good many tearooms, they served iced tea with no teaspoon. Amazing fault for tea drinkers who like to sweeten their own.

One last stop produced some Market Spice tea to tote home. Two new flavors, one was raspberry and the other was huckleberry. While I am not a fan of raspberry, this one is rather tasty. The huckleberry is a nice change of pace for summer drinking.

Some of DH's wood projects.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher

Nothing is more disappointing that waiting long and hard for a well-publicized book or movie only to find it is average at best and sometimes a big bummer. When I pay $30 for a book, I want it to knock my socks off with wit or wisdom. On the other hand, when I find some odd title tucked quietly on a shelf or buy a bargain book that offers a bundle of surprises, I am delighted. Such was the case on a recent stop at a Goodwill store in Florence, Kentucky where I picked up Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher. The book looked brand spanking new and cost only one dollar!

Pipher is known for her book Reviving Ophelia about adolescent girls. This new book, published in 2006, is based on a writing course she taught in Nebraska. It has the usual writing tips about organization, metaphors, research and revising, but it is all delivered in a delightful conversational tone using stories and quotes of other writers as well. The first half of the book recounts the author’s growing up years, her love of writing and family, all inspired by a Midwest upbringing.

Pipher stresses the importance of story through out her book. Says Pipher, “Good storytellers heal the world.” The book is informative but also inspiring even to already established writers. If one needs a reminder, Pipher’s book reminds us of the reason WHY we write and motivates us TO write.

Writing to Change the World was a bargain find for me and worth the price I paid the Goodwill store for sure. I am amazed I had missed this book in bookstores and on my reading lists, but now that I own it, the volume will have a permanent place on my writing bookshelf. Although I could highlight many passages, one sentence stands out from the rest. “The best writing causes readers’ breathing to change.” That sentence alone was worth my dollar!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Toys and Tea Today

I have just found the most delightful new toy! It makes noises, makes me laugh, and is called a “grandson”. Who would know that baby could make you giggle and bring a lump to your throat at the same time. Mason is cutting teeth so he was biting into everything, slobbering, and bearing cheeks red as crab apples. His mother let me feed him supper, and like his daddy used to do, he cleaned up the pureed food like a vacuum cleaner. He seemed to like the chair Grandpa had made for him!

The drive out to Kentucky was a story in itself. DH kept moving the stopping time so that we were on the road until midnight. I drove to St. Louis, and we finally stopped to eat about 7:30 in New Harmony, Indiana. We ate a fast sandwich at the Yellow Tavern where they have brain on the menu! I passed on that delicacy. The waitress said it was common in the area over to northern Kentucky. When I continued to drive across Indiana late at night, a highway patrol stopped me and was angry because he thought I had tried to hit him as he was standing at the roadside. He saw it wasn’t me and hurried on down the road where we saw him later “catching the right guy”. I was so scared and shaking so badly David made me stop driving.

Son told us about a tea room not far from his work. After we had lunch with him and he went back to the office, we stopped at Yesterday’s CafĂ© and Tea Room in old Florence. It is lovely place with outdoor patio and little nooks inside to eat in for lunch. The original building was a black smith shop and you could still see the folding doors of the original entrance and the brick walls. We were full, but had a dessert there. It was their specialty, a cinnamon bread pudding, and it was wonderful tasting, a huge serving and made with real sugar too. They gave samples of loose tea to bring home, and I bought some coconut tea and some almond sugar cookie tea to try as well.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July, 2009

Today is not one of those steamy hot and sunny firecracker days! Instead there is a slow and steady rain spoiling a lot of picnics, hiking and such. We started our day with chocolate tea and bird song on the deck while the skies were merely preparing to open up. Once the rain started, DH moved to his shop and I came inside for a day of candles, music, and books.

I lit a fragrant spicy candle, put on a new CD (Beyond the Sea) from friend Tracy, and picked up a stack of books. I started with Blood Debt by S.J. Stewart. I met Shirley Stewart when she spoke at a writer's meeting in the spring. She was a delightful and informative speaker, and she enticed me to buy one of her books even though I am not normally a western reader. Shirley has been very successful as a western writer, and while I enjoyed her story, I don't think I'll ever be a western writer myself.

Friday, July 3, 2009

July 3, 2009

The Fourth of July weekend is to have spotty showers and this pre-holiday Friday is damp. We managed to squeeze in the morning walk just as showers started so no tea on the deck this morning. However, after a pot of tea inside DH went to his shop for the morning. I made old fashioned tapioca pudding for the first time and then came to my shop the comptuer. Trying a blog, let's see how it works!