Monday, August 27, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Due to a series of God-sent events over the last several months, my parents are moving to Knoxville today and tomorrow.  So, if you will indulge me, I would like to share a few thoughts with you this morning about my family's dear, sweet home of 23 years:  2221 Stella Ruth Road.

Or, as I first knew it, Rt. 1, Box 354.  It's amazing how much change can creep and ease in over the years.  Trees come down, concrete buildings get covered in vinyl siding.  Children grow and leave.  And come back with their wife.  Or husband and baby.  And dog.

This house has held many special places to me over the years.  The yard, where I learned to ride a bike and drive a lawnmower.  Where I spent days at a time with my sweet Lindsay friend swinging on the swingset and singing.

The bedroom where I had many sleepovers throughout the years with that same childhood best friend.  The dining room where I spent countless hours learning to play the piano.  A skill that I cherish and use daily.  The kitchen where my mother taught me to cook.  My husband thanks her for that on a daily basis.  And the living room where I sat on December 27, 1995 and accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior.  

These last several months have taught me that home isn't about the roots you put down or where your memories are made.  It's about what kind of roots you put down and the sweetness of those memories.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Home Cooking

Apparently, I have food on the brain lately.  I promise it's not the only thing happening in our house.  For instance, yesterday I vacuumed up a harmonica.  However, Blair and I have been reading through the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and so much of that series revolves around good food!  I first started reading these books as a five-year-old.  I've read them all at least once a year (sometimes more!) for the last 22 years.  I adore them.  I have much of them memorized.  Blair, however, has never read a single one.  I was almost offended.  However, rather than taking the offended, emotional route, I took the educational high road and handed him Farmer Boy.  He loves it.  He hasn't finished it yet, because he is a very busy man (much like the male characters in the series), but he reads a little of it every evening. I'm pretty sure if there was a farm house for sale in our county, we would be buying it and raising livestock.  Tomorrow.  Instead of falling into financial ruin by buying a house and animals we can't afford, I have been channeling that homesteading energy into the kitchen.  Last night I baked parmesan crusted chicken (locally raised, organic, and free range), creamed potatoes and peas (both garden fresh, though the potatoes were from a friend), corn on the cob from my parents' garden, risotto, my Mama's Biscuits, and chocolate peanut butter cookies.  I probably went a little overboard, but I shouldn't have to cook for the next couple of days.  I don't have a single photograph to show you, but, despite Garth Williams' amazing illustrations, neither do the Little House books.  I shall just let you use your imaginations.  Now, go read a book and bake something!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sunday Lunch

Sunday lunch was typically a very nice meal in my home growing up.  At least, that's how I remember it (a roast with carrots and potatoes comes to mind).  The food wasn't always fancy, but we ate from nice dishes, used my mom's special green stemware, and the food was put into pretty serving bowls.  My mom had two sets of "nice dishes".  One pattern was of little blue flowers with scalloped edges, and the other was rimmed with a design of honey-colored wheat.  The blue flowers were my favorite, but I preferred the wheat dishes on Sundays because they matched the glasses better.  

I try to do the same thing in our home on Sundays.  We typically don't eat out even during the week, but it's particularly important to us to be home together in the (relative) peace of our house on the Lord's Day.  Blair has a chance to wind down from leading worship and spend a few moments with Noah.  I try to have as much prepared the night before as possible, leaving minimal work in the kitchen once we get home (after all, I have a two-year-old used to eating at noon).  We sing the Doxology as our blessing and wait to see just how long Noah will last at the table before it's time to excuse him to his play.

Yesterday, I served mac and cheese (homemade, of course), peas (my mother would have served green beans), yellow squash, potato salad (with homemade pickles), and rolls.  There were leftover apple cinnamon muffins from breakfast for anyone in need of a sweet (Mr. Noah), and plenty of leftovers to send with my darling to work for his lunch today.  There was something about the dried onion in the mac and cheese that made me think of Grandma Cook, although she would have put them on green beans, and I found myself wishing I'd made mashed potatoes and deviled eggs in place of the potato salad.  Potato salad is just too summery, and yesterday felt like Autumn (I'll enjoy it while it lasts).  

Sunday lunch is a tradition dear to me (and to Blair), and I hope that one day it will come to mean as much to my little ones as they grow up as it did to me in childhood.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Photo

This is how Noah sits in the sandbox.

 Notice that horrible, terrible, mean old mosquito on his face.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Love Had a Birthday

Noah and I spent the week making decorations and a card.

A simple meal of meatloaf and fresh garden veggies.

And a homemade apple pie.  The crust and filling recipes are both from the 1954 Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.  My favorite. 

Despite the fact that he did not get any extravagant gift, Blair declared it his "best birthday yet."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Apples, Apples Everywhere

And quite a few to eat!  I remember as a little girl going to my grandmother's house around this time of year to help out with apple picking.  She only had one tree, but it usually produced a large number of apples.  The only thing I ever remember her making with the apples was applesauce.  Lots and lots of applesauce, usually stored in the dozens upon dozens of empty butter tubs she saved.  Grandma Cook would sit in the kitchen paring, slicing, and cooking while we worked to pick all of those apples under and in the tree.  My dad would use an apple picker of my grandfather's making, which was little more than an old shovel (or other tool's) handle with an old coffee can nailed to the end, while Matt and I worked on the ground and from the few branches we could reach.  

I've done my own fair share of paring, slicing, and cooking over the last two apple seasons.  I'm not quite good enough to peel the entire apple while keeping the skin intact, but I'm determined to get there.  We have two apple trees of our own in the backyard that aren't yet old enough to produce fruit, but when they are, I'll be ready.  I like to call these "real apples."  Apples that look the way they are supposed to.  They're not shiny and gleaming and perfect.  But they taste so much better than those farmed-for-the-store apples.

Noah prefers his apples lined up in a row.

Making some applesauce of my own.

This is about 1/3 of the apples in our house.  We have very generous friends.

Apples sliced to be frozen, bagged, and used in pies later in the year. 

I have several ideas in the works for these apples, and hopefully over the next couple of days I'll have a few more to share with you.  For now, I shall go have a snack.  An apple, of course.

Monday, August 13, 2012


These beans will stay on the vine for the rest of the summer until they are completely dry.

I have already used a large part of my garlic harvest.  It was small this year because I didn't realize until too late that I needed to cut the scapes.

The okra is blooming beautifully.

Tilling up some new dirt for the autumn garden.

Noah will tell you that, "They're busy!"

One day, we'll sit in the shade of these apple trees

instead of in the shade of the laundry line. 

(By the way, I'm looking for vintage sheets or even those that are just a little old and thin.)

Sadly, not all of our blackberry stalks survived the dry heat this summer.   Fortunately, we have two good, healthy stalks to put back here once they are dormant.  

So grateful for the cooler weather.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Bit of Writer's Block

Sometimes, even at the end of a wonderful day, there is no quieting of the mind.  And yet I really have nothing to say.  Just images, flashing several at a time.  Reminders of the day's moments, triumphs, and stumbles.  The rhythm of another day has passed, the rhythm of the next already at the forefront of my thoughts.  And so it should be.

Even as I woke early this morning with the thunder (and rain!), it felt so nice to just be still and let my mind wander, enjoying the sounds from outside and the quiet within.

**By the way, the chicken and dumplings are not my usual recipe.   They come from here.**

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Slow and Steady Pace

The relief of cool weather hasn't made it here yet (nor will it until at least the middle of October), but I feel our days settling into a more "autumn-like" pace.  Blair's back at school, so our days start early and have more structure.  And yet, there's a slow, steady, and comfortable pace to the way Noah and I move through the day.  We read and sing and snuggle.  We stir the tomato sauce cooking in the crockpot and put bread or muffins in the oven.  We still have to wait until late in the day to go out and play, but we seem to always find just enough to do in the house.  Nothing is rushed.  Nothing is pressured.  My floors need mopping and the bookcases could use a good cleaning, but I have fresh tomato sauce and yummy muffins on a pretty plate.  

And I have slow, easy days with my little boy.

Monday, August 6, 2012


We had one of those rare and glorious weekends where Daddy was home with us for longer than a few hours.  Noah helped me make a loaf of bread (and if you've never tried a fermented bread, I highly recommend it), but mostly we just laid around watching the Olympic Games.  I did also make tomato soup, and there's just something so delectable about making something from scratch with ingredients you plucked from your own backyard (or you already had on hand).

Tomato Soup

2TBS butter
2 TBS olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
1 small yellow onion chopped
1 quart homemade tomato sauce
2 cups homemade chicken or turkey stock (or water)
3/4 cup heavy cream

Melt the butter and oil in a large soup pot.  Add garlic, celery, and onion.  Cook for 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.  Add tomato sauce and stock.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Using an immersion blender (or small batches in a regular blender), blend until smooth.  Slowly add cream.  Season to taste.  

**I also added a packet of slow-roasted tomatoes that I made and froze last year.  To make these, slice tomatoes into halves or quarters depending on the size, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake at 200 for 3 or 4 hours on a foil lined baking sheet.  If you're in a hurry, you can increase the oven temp and decrease the time.  They just won't be quite as sweet.

If you want to make this in larger batches to freeze, simply complete all of the steps except adding the cream.  Add the cream once you've thawed the soup and are ready to serve it.