Monday, June 30, 2008


Just had to post this delicious summer salad we enjoyed for several meals this weekend. I think it will definitely join the short list of favorites around here, since everyone who tried it seemed to enjoy it.

Rusty originally had it at a cookout last week, and requested that I pick some up at Costco before our company arrived Thursday. I gladly complied, but it was so good we ate it all up before they had even pulled in the driveway! So then I had to figure out how to make more for our Friday night cookout. Easy enough!

Easy Greek Pasta Salad

(I didn't measure anything, just kept adding until it looked good to me.)
Penne pasta, cooked and chilled
Crumbled feta cheese ( Mine was seasoned with garlic and herbs)
Diced red onion
Halved cherry tomatoes, or diced Roma tomatoes
Marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
Pitted whole kalamata olives
Kraft Greek Vinaigrette

Combine pasta with vegetables and cheese, and then toss gently to coat with vinaigrette. I also served some on the table for those who wanted additional dressing.

This was delicious as a side salad, but we added rotisserie chicken and rolls for a fast and light lunch, too.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Easy Summer Cooking

I love the relaxed schedule of summer, and time spent hanging out at the pool or on the cul de sac chatting with neighbors in the evenings. It's a standard joke that as Rusty pulls onto our street, I sprint for the kitchen and scramble to get dinner on the table. As a result, meals that I can prep ahead of time, and that cook quickly, are a favorite around here. If I can grill instead of heating up the kitchen, better yet.

Since Big Mama seems to face the same dinner issue, she asked for easy summer time recipes, and I immediately thought of my favorite standby. Originally made as kabobs, and great for a summer dinner party on the deck, I simplified it for family nights by simply skewering the peppers and mushrooms and putting everything else directly on the grill in whole pieces. Simple, fast, and delicious!

I 'm also not much for preparing desserts, and in fact only have one real dessert recipe to claim. It seems to be a hit with everyone, however, and has totally redeemed my reputation as a terrible baker. (Of course you don't bake this, but still, after eating this pie people tend to be forgiving of a lot of my faults.) Heath bar pie is my one-hit-wonder dessert.

Tropical Chicken (I just made that up- we actually call it "the chicken I make on kabobs" or something equally unique)

4-6 chicken breasts (I use individually frozen pieces and let them marinade as they thaw)
1 bottle of your favorite zesty Italian dressing
1-2 bermuda onions, in thick slices
1 fresh pineapple, cored and sliced
red and yellow peppers, in large cubes
fresh button mushrooms
skewers soaked in water

Marinate chicken breasts in Italian dressing. In a separate container marinate the onion, pineapple, mushrooms, and peppers in Italian dressing. I usually do this in the morning, and when it is time for dinner I skewer the mushrooms and peppers while the grill heats up.

Grill and serve with rice and a tossed salad or broccoli. So easy but truly delicious.

Heath Bar Pie

1 large graham cracker pie crust
1 gallon Breyers Heath ice cream, softened
Magic shell ice cream topping
Heath bar pieces (available in the baking aisle pre-crushed, or buy several heath toffee bars and crush into chunks)

Pour a thick layer of magic shell in the bottom of the pie crust and place in freezer until hardened, 5-10 minutes. While this is hardening, in a large mixing bowl mix the softened heath ice cream with more pieces of the heath bar, as much or as little as you like. I like to add a lot. When the magic shell is hardened, pour the ice cream into the pie crust, and drizzle more magic shell on top of the pie. Sprinkle on the rest of the crushed heath pieces and put in freezer to set. This part can be a little messy, so you need to work fast and may not be able to use all the ice cream, depending on the depth of your crust.

When frozen solid, slice and enjoy. Happy summer evenings!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Company's Coming

  • Launder guest room linens and re-make the bed
  • Clean guest bath and put out fresh towels
  • Make menu for weekend and grocery shop
  • Prepare treat baskets for the boys beds, to greet them at bedtime
  • Borrow ice cream maker for homemade ice cream Friday night
  • Purchase white t-shirts and tie-dye kit to make matching tie dye shirts for the kids Saturday
  • Go to costco for snacks in bulk sizes and to pick up paper plates so noone is spending time cleaning when there is fun going on outside
  • Relax and enjoy the anticipation of fun times withour very dearest friends

Monday, June 23, 2008


This is how far into Monday we made it before my 11 year old came crying into my office. I can't say I am surprised, I heard the siren of her wails from the basement where the girls had been peacefully playing the Wii, so I knew she was on the way. I also correctly predicted that she would be upset at some injustice done to her by her 9 year old sister, and that said sister would be hot on her trail, professing her innocence.

Have mercy, can we not even make it to lunch without bickering? Oh well, looks like I just earned some free child labor, which is my new consequence for sisters who aren't exhibiting loving attitudes towards one another. I'll let you know how the afternoon turns out after they make some beds and fold some laundry.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Now We're Cooking

Cailin has been asking to cook dinner one night a week for a few months, and I promised her in the summer I would gladly let her. I assumed by the time school was out she would have forgotten, but picked up a Family Fun cookbook at the library just in case. Sure enough, she was eager to get started in the kitchen, and chose stir fried steak and veggies with brownies for dessert. Wednesday we went to the grocery store, recipe in hand, and selected red pepper, fresh ginger, snow peas, flank steak, and even oyster sauce (not a staple in my pantry!). As soon as we got home, she proudly started cooking... and cutting. Trust me, I prayed a lot while she was in the kitchen! Please ignore the counter tops; I pretend they are granite and my husband doesn't want anyone to burst my imaginary bubble, lest he have to actually replace them.

Voila! Here she is with the delicious fruit of her labor. Daddy is thrilled to have dinner at home instead of a restaurant, and I was thrilled that the girls both devoured the meal- oyster sauce and all. Maybe there is hope that we will expand our horizons beyond chicken nuggets for every meal!
A close up - she was so proud I truly thought she was going to dance to the table. Yes, she has streaks of color in her hair, and no, I don't typically allow the girls to dye their hair. However, they have several packets of washable hair color from Justice and I figure summer is the perfect time to use it up. Can you tell I am feeling defensive? The children's pastor at church greeted me today by saying, "Does your daughter have blue and pink streaks in her hair? I knew you were her mother!" To which I wanted to reply, "How? Do the blonde streaks in mine give me away?" He is actually a sweet gentleman and was only trying to make a connection, so I just laughed and listened as he repeated a story she had shared at VBS. I love that girl and her independent style... she is my world changer! Never to be outdone, little sister Cassidy decided she wanted to make dinner on Thursday nights. Daddy embraced the idea of two home cooked meals in one week, so once again, off we went to pick up the ingredients needed. Cassidy spent the morning prior looking through several of my cookbooks and insisted on making something we hadn't made before. Mexican lasagna was the winner, followed with funfetti cupcakes for dessert. I am loving her tie dye shirt from VBS... we are just a colorful family, aren't we? Here is her yummy creation, which will be a tough act to follow. I'm hoping this new passion sticks around until next week so we can get a few more hot meals at home!
Now, if I could only get them this excited about doing the dishes, too.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I love my home, I really do. I am so amazed at how God provided this house (not the picture- that's my dream) for us, and what a blessing it is. We fully intend to raise our daughters here, and send them off from this nest into the next phase of their lives. Still, though, I dream of a home surrounded by trees and empty spaces of grass, instead of other houses and neighbors.

I grew up outside of town on 2 acres, with a garden in the summer, and sledding down the hill in the winter. My parents were organic before organic was cool, and we had a huge compost pile and a tiller to prove it. They made me eat whole wheat bread when it wasn't available in the grocery store, but could only be found in the health food store. Needing a loaf of bread required a special trip to the shop frequented more often by crunchy, vegetarian patrons than by my meat loving, school teaching, Christian parents. I could not believe the "misfortune" that I had been born to a family that preferred fresh vegetables and foods like pita bread (another rarity from the health food store in the 70's), to Doritos and candy. I thought of instant mac 'n cheese as an exotic delicacy similar to white bread in its allure.

Summer months were spent helping weed the garden and harvesting fresh, red tomatoes and corn, which had a 1 minute shelf life before being placed, still warm from the sun, on our dinner table. Vacations were planned around the garden, and when it would be time to can the green beans; it would never do to be out of town when the green beans were ready for harvest. They had to be picked, canned, and neatly loaded on the shelves in the basement for our winter pantry. Alongside them would go the corn, and beside that were row after row of whole tomatoes to be used for spaghetti sauces and soups until next summer. Many chilly fall afternoons found me in the basement, collecting the vegetables Mom needed for dinner.

I didn't realize then what a treasure my life was. I had a childhood filled with innocence, and was so blessed to have parents who weren't afraid to do things differently than "everyone else". I can assure you that their friends and family were more apt to subscribe to Better Homes and Gardens or Southern Living than Organic Gardening. Yet my parents quietly did their own thing, teaching me by example that living life in the way God guides you is your gift and responsibility as Christians. They gave me a solid foundation on which Rusty and I have built our own family, and are so grateful for. A foundation which apparently also carries with it a great desire to have acreage and grow fresh veggies. So these days I am dreaming of a home with land to grow a garden and where the girls can chase fireflies and gaze at an expanse of darkness, wishing on stars as I did so many summer nights. I am dreaming of a childhood of innocence for them, just like mine.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Summer Garden Tour

Welcome to my home and garden! I am so glad Lisa at The Preacher's Wife decided to host this little garden party! I don't have much of a green thumb, but I do enjoy digging in the dirt and attempting to make things pretty. Thankfully my husband is game to go along with my ideas, since he typically winds up doing the hard labor portion of any project... like moving all the slate from an existing, boring edging and creating the fun border gardens for our front yard.

I fill these urns (they're plastic- from K-Mart- can you believe it? I know!) with bright blooms to make me happy when I come through the front door. Not doing so well this year, but pretend with me, okay? I'll go get new flowers at the nursery tomorrow.) My favorite spot of our home- the front porch where I do my Bible study every morning and sip my sweet tea and watch the girls in the evening.

These are more shots of the gardens we put in the front of the house last year, I am clearly going to be transplanting some of these perennials.

Happy petunias to greet me as I arrive in the garage repeatedly though the day.

One of two pergolas Rusty built for me last summer. I do love that guy! The first one was for the larger part of the deck, hoping to add some shade, but he didn't want anything growing on it. With very little begging on my part, he agreed to build this smaller one that leads down to the hot tub, giving me free reign to cover it in wisteria.
See the big bucket o'stain in the background? That has been his constant companion for the past three weekends. As soon as he is finished, I get to fill in those planters with wisteria... I can't wait. I'm sure the neighbors can't either~ notice the red bouncy ball loitering in the large empty planter? It is soon to be replaced with hosta to mirror the other side of the deck.

You can't see them, but there are tons (OK 5-7) of giant bumblebees hovering over this plant at all times. Any ideas on how to get rid of them?

Ferns waiting patiently to be hung on the back deck as soon as somebody wraps up the staining project of 2008.
A tomato plant to save us from the salmonella scare. We also grow peppers and zucchini and squash. It is so much fun for the girls to go out and pick the very foods they are eating for dinner. Love it. Wish we had 10 acres in the country.
A hydrangea bloom from the plant Rusty bought me our first summer in this house. He knew I always dreamed of hydrangea plants surrounding my home and wanted to start me on the path to making that a reality. I have since planted two more, but they are still little babies and haven't bloomed yet.
And last but not least, my newest addition and second favorite place to hang out. I found this antique glider and coordinating bolsters while yard saling two weeks ago. Woohoo! There is something so peaceful about gently rocking as the sun sets, that just blesses me all over. I think I have many happy moments to be spent here.

Thanks for stopping by! I'm off to tour some gardens and be inspired....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Great Commission

I'm thinking about what the Great Commission looks like in my life, as I sit on my front porch in solitude, soaking up a few moments of peace as the day winds down.

I came outside, thinking I would enjoy the silence that descends on the neighborhood as twilight draws near, and yet instead I found discord. The new neighbors on the corner were playing in the driveway with their young daughters, or so it appeared. The Rockwell image was distorted when I heard the mama say to the child that it was time to go, and to say good bye to daddy and the older sister. As the two year old ran down the street, crying as she prolonged the inevitable departure, my heart hurt. How it must wound each member of that family to go to sleep under two roofs, knowing they will be forever involved, and yet not attached.

Then I watched as the neighbor across the street pulled up to drop off his teenage son, "Bye Dad. Love you! See you Friday, maybe I can practice driving in the neighborhood." Minutes after the father pulled away, his wife's new boyfriend drove back into the driveway, occupying the parking spot filled only a few short months ago by the husband of the house. As I watched him close the garage and go through the doors of the home built by another man, my heart hurt.

Two families, different in every way except for one, both needing encouragement to get through the bumps in the road. As I watched their lives unfold before me, it occurred to me that maybe one way I can fulfill God's call to share His gospel with the world is by starting on my own street in the midst of middle class suburbia. Maybe instead of resenting my neighbor's boyfriend, and blaming him for the break up of what appeared to be the all American family, I can pray for him. Maybe when the toddler down the street tries to make a break for it and runs through the yards I can help her mama corral her, and offer her some words of encouragement.

Maybe if I am faithful in doing the little things, God will present me with bigger opportunities to be His light in the darkness. Maybe the Great Commission starts with baby steps.

Energy Source

Whew! We managed to survive an 11th birthday, a surprise 40th birthday party, two end of year picnics, two end of year chapels, a recital, and are now in the final preparations for this weekend's 6 performances of "Snow White". Throw in work, all those last minute teacher gifts to buy, a deck needing 30 gallons of stain, and two a.c. units that decided to go out on the hottest (105 degrees) weekend yet this spring, and you have a reason why I have been too drained to write anything here.
I have lots to say, as always, but no energy to say it. However, I awoke early this morning, (obviously God had something to say to me) and as I searched His Word for some wisdom on how I can be a more patient parent, a better friend, and a more loving wife, I read through John 6. As Jesus was directing the disciples to stop wasting time on the foolish things, and instead to be about Him I found my strength...
When the disciples asked Him how they could work the works of God and carry out what He requires, this was His answer, "... that you believe in the One Whom He has sent. (that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His messenger.)
So simple, and yet I try my best to complicate it, to make it something I can do in my own power, instead of just believing, in His. So today, despite feeling slightly overwhelmed at the tasks before me, I am going to strive to believe in the One He has sent for me, and to trust that His strength will carry me through when my own energy seems depleted.