I didn't know pickles grew on trees until yesterday. I was in the golf cart looking around when I spotted an unusual looking tree to my left. Of course I had to get out of the cart and take a closer look.
I could barely believe my eyes. Right there in front of me was a pickle tree.
I got even closer.
Even the trunk of the tree sort of looked like a pickle.
Our annual cookie baking day is three weeks away, so the search is on for some new cookies to make. Each year we try to make different cookies because we also make a photo album with all the recipes. We've talked Daniel into participating this year. He's never made a cookie in his life, but he is willing to give it a try. He's also going to be the official photographer.
Here are the candidates for my cookie contribution:
Brown Sugar Cookies from Joy the Baker. They are sugar cookies, only better because of the brown sugar!
Florentines from the The Food Network. These cookies received almost all five stars on 64 reviews. They look very tasty.
Our pastor, Alistair Begg, is a gifted speaker and teacher of the Bible. Every Sunday his message stays with me long after I leave the church. He makes me think long and hard about how I am to live my life.
This week, he talked about being thankful. No doubt this was because it is Thanksgiving weekend. His focus was on Ephesians 5:15-21, and in particular the part that says, "giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ..."
Every gift is from God including the gift of life, which is not to be wasted. I should be living purposefully, not wasting time, and with the will of God in mind all the while. How do I know what the will of God is? By reading the book He wrote and doing what it says.
One of those things is to be thankful in all circumstances, not wishing my life were different, but embracing the road He has me on. I don't always like what comes my way, but I can trust that it was put there by Him who loves me.
Pastor Begg closed with a poem by Benjamin Malachi Franklin. It reminds me that I can't see the big picture. Only God can.
Daniel's current photography assignment is to shoot a portrait. He came home and set up a make-shift studio in our basement using our coat rack, a black umbrella, a desk lamp and some black fabric as a background. Then he grabbed his friend, Brain, who happened to be at our house, on his way back from hunting in Pennsylvania. He had his gun in the car.
I told Brian the only way he could bring his gun in the house was if he promised me it didn't have any bullets in it. Guns scare me.
According to Daniel, a portrait isn't just a picture of someone. A portrait must tell you something about the person. I think he captured Brian perfectly. He's a deer hunter, a best friend, a man's man, and one of the nicest people you'll ever meet.
I like to set the table for Thanksgiving at least one day in advance. That's one thing out of the way. I saw a photo on Pinterest a few weeks ago that looked easy to duplicate. Everything was in neutral colors. It's a very natural look: lanterns, pine cones and cream colored napkins. I had everything at home except the pine cones, so this was very simple to do.
To set a proper table, begin with the plate in the center. The fork is placed to the left, while the knife and spoon sit on the right. The blade of the knife points toward the plate. The water glass is placed above the knife. The napkin looks nice on top of the plate.
Pam and I went to a couple of farmhouses in Chardon last Saturday. They were decorated for Christmas, and local crafts people were selling their creations. In the kitchen of one house was a tray of the cutest little acorn treats I've ever seen. Instead of eating one or taking a picture, I picked one up and put it in my paper bag to take home. I knew I could make these adorable edibles by looking at the sample. Pam told me it would never survive the trip to my house. She was wrong. The acorn made it, and I made a batch of them this evening to put on my Thanksgiving Day cookie tray. Here's how you make them:
You only need three ingredients: Nutter Butter Bites, Hershey's Kisses, Chocolate Chips
Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, microwave or melting pot. Use a small knife to spread a very small amount of melted chocolate on one side of a Nutter Butter Bite. Immediately place an unwrapped candy kiss on the melted chocolate. Set down on plate or counter to let chocolate harden. When finished with all the Nutter Butter Bites, place remaining melted chocolate in a small Ziploc bag. (Tip: let melted chocolate cool a little before doing this part) Cut the tip of one corner of the Ziploc bag so the chocolate can squeeze through. Place the tiniest bit of chocolate on the other side of the Nutter Butter Bite. Set the acorn down on its side and let chocolate harden overnight.
Here's what they look like when finished. Aren't they cute?
It would be nice if my eyes looked like this every day. Lush, long, dark lashes covered with five coats of mascara, and maybe some lash extensions to top them off.
But I don't wear mascara for three reasons:
1. It irritates my eyes
2. I often cry for no good reason
3. It makes me a dangerous driver
I threw some mascara on this morning only because I was heading to the salon to get my eyebrows shaped. I was embarrassed to show up in the esthetician's chair without some makeup on my face.
All was well on the way there, but on the way home, I was thinking of something sad, and tears started rolling down my cheeks. Don't tell me this doesn't happen to you. I dabbed the drops with tissue, which caused a chunk of mascara fall into my right eye. Before I knew it, I was veering into oncoming traffic.
I looked in the rear view mirror to behold a woman who kind of looked like me, but she had two black eyes. Her right eye was very bloodshot. Curse that mascara!
Where can I go with mascara? Weddings and funerals reduce me to a puddle. Except maybe date night, mascara is not for me.
When I go back to the school where I worked for seven years, I can barely stand to walk the halls. For one thing, I'm afraid I'll run into a student I used to see in the library, and because it's been so long, I will have forgotten his or her name. Three years can turn a baby-faced second grader into an awkward preteen with braces and glasses. Worse yet, I may see lots of students I don't even know - students who came after I left - students who don't even know who Mrs. Richards is.
The girls in this picture are no longer there. They are now all in high school. Then they were sixth graders who gave up their lunch period one day a week to help me shelve books. They were fun, they were loud, they were full of energy. They would do anything for a piece of candy from my drawer. They look so sweet in their chapel uniforms. I miss those girls!
Daniel is continuing his photography thematic sequence at Miami University this semester with a class that requires a film camera and black & white film. This is the old fashioned kind of camera some of us used before the age of digital photography.
So much can be learned by stepping back in time to study the process of developing film, enlarging negatives and printing your own pictures. Daniel loves this class. He said he's going to have a hard time going back to the digital dimension.
Here are a few pictures he took during this semester. He gets his talent from his mother.
Inside the Farmer School of Business at Miami University.
Look closely at the little mirror on the big mirror and you will see the photographer.
A piano in the park? This must be a double exposure.
Every so often a friend moves away. It's always a sad day. My friend Becky will be moving to Georgia in two weeks. I'm going to miss our routine breakfasts and lunches. I'm going to miss our shop-til-you-drop outings, and I'm going to miss Becky's sweet, generous, loving self living 15 minutes away.
We met when Daniel and her son Andrew were in Kindergarten. Daniel and Andrew will graduate from Miami University in May. They went to school together their entire lives.
Last Thursday, Becky invited all her girlfriends over for a wine and cheese party. There was much more than wine and cheese. There were pastries, fruits and veggies too. She did all this for us, and she was the one going away. But that's just the kind of person she is.
I had so much fun, I forgot it was a going away party.
We were allowed to sit in the big chair and get a hand massage.
Becky's dog, Mia, gave herself a hand massage.
Someone once said, "It takes a long time to grow and old friend." Is 17 years long enough?
Don just emailed this photo to me. He's downstairs with Riley, and I'm upstairs. He said Riley slept like this for two hours. I know Riley is really, really tired because he would normally be upstairs with me. Not that he doesn't like Don...
Riley chased Jake around the house for three days, and he is exhausted. Riley never started the chase. It was always Jake who got him going. Jake is good at sneaking up on Riley, staring him down, pouncing, then taking off like a rocket. Riley can't help but go after him, barking at Jake's rear end the whole time. Jake loves it.
If it's any consolation to Riley, Becky sent me a text message telling me that Jake is exhausted too. I replied, "he should be!"
My sister Carolyn was blessed with four daughters and one son ... in that order. The oldest one, Elizabeth, was born 25 years ago today. After that was Laura, then Megan, then Rachel. And of course Patrick.
I love this photo of Carolyn with the girls. Aren't they all so cute? Happy Birthday, Elizabeth!
The photo to your left might not look very appetizing, but it tastes good! I'm not a professional food photographer, so you have to bear with me.
I tried a new recipe tonight: Stuffed Shells. It was easy and it got Don's approval. The nice thing about this recipe is you can make the filling and sauce early in the day, then when it is time to put dinner in the oven, all you have to do is cook the shells for 9 minutes.
This recipe serves 6-8 people.
Stuffed Shells Filling:
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 t. fine grain sea salt
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 bunch chives, minced
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 t. fine grain sea salt
4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
25-30 jumbo dried pasta shells
zest of one lemon
Oil a 9 x 13 baking pan and sprinkle the zest of 1/2 lemon across it. Set aside. Get a big pot of water boiling and preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle.
To make the filling: combine the ricotta, egg and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until combined., then stir in the mozzarella, zest of 1/2 lemon, and 3/4 of the chives. Set aside.
To make the sauce: combine olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and garlic in a cold saucepan. Stir while you heat the pan over medium-high heat. Saute 45 seconds - don't brown the garlic. Now stir in the tomatoes and get to a gentle simmer, just a minute or two. Remove pan from heat and let cool.
Cook the shells 9 minutes in well-salted water. If you over cook the shells, they will tear when you fill them. Drain the shells until cool enough to handle.
Spread 1/3 of sauce across bottom of prepared pan. Fill each shell with ricotta filling, and arrange them in a single layer in the pan. Ladle remaining sauce over shells. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15 minutes more. Top with remaining chives and serve.
I am not sure who coined the phrase "Calories & Kleenex" but I'm going to credit my friend Crystal. Back at my old church, we had a group for moms. We met monthly for a Bible study, but occasionally we would venture out and have a girls night just for fun.
Calories & Kleenex night was a yearly event held at my house. If you wanted to attend, you had to come in your pajamas, bring along your favorite junk food, and be ready to cry your eyes out without shame. I provided the Kleenex.
The ladies were not shy about their junk food. Cake, cookies, candy and brownies were surrounded by bowls of chips, dips and ice cream. A free for all.
I can't remember all the movies we watched together, but here are a few to get you started if you want to host your own party:
1. Life is Beautiful
2. Memoirs of a Geisha
3. Mr. Holland's Opus
4. The Notebook
5. A Walk to Remember
6. P. S. I Love You
7. Terms of Endearment
9. Cast Away
10. Marley & Me
My little collage on yesterday's post, the one of the trick or treaters, was put together on my iPhone using an APP called picframe. It came out quite small. I was disappointed. So I went searching for a way to make a larger collage.
Using iPiccy.com, I was able to throw together the family collage above in about five minutes. All you do is upload your pictures, select a collage format, insert the pictures where you want them and save the collage on your computer. My first collage was very basic. There are many options which I will experiment with in the future. I'm so excited to be able to do this. Give it a try.
Trick or Treat in our neighborhood gets smaller every year. When my kids were little, I would hand out 45 treats. It has dwindled to about 10. Either our neighborhood has gotten really old or all the kids have figured out that they can get more candy in less time if they go trick or treating in a different neighborhood. Our houses are far apart, and our driveways are pretty long. It just takes too much effort to get a piece of candy.
The few who came to our door got a special treat. They got to see Riley in his Rufferee costume. That made it all worth it.
This is a sad bunch of bananas. If my kids had been here, this crime would not have taken place.
I knew my kids weren't here. I let these bananas go bad on purpose because I wanted to try a new banana bread recipe.
I have another banana bread recipe on my blog, but this one is simpler, and it has double the banana flavor.
Banana Banana Bread
2 cups flour
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas (about 5 bananas)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
Cream butter and brown sugar. Mix in eggs and mashed bananas. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Combine flour mixture with banana mixture until just moistened. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack.
When I was growing up, we did not have cell phones. We didn't have cordless phones either. All the phones had a spiral cord attached to the handset which allowed you to move about four feet from the device.
There were no push buttons. We had rotary dial. This is how it worked : "To dial a number, the user puts a finger in the corresponding finger hole and rotates the dial clockwise until it reaches the finger stop. The user then pulls out the finger, and a spring in the dial returns it to the resting position." (Wikipedia)
My phone number was 745-0889. That was extreme rotary dialing since the zero came after the nine on the phone.
Teenagers needed to communicate with each other the same as they do today, but it was a lot more difficult. When I wanted to gab with my best friend, or worse yet when a boy happened to call, I couldn't just stand in the kitchen talking within earshot of the rest of the family. I needed some privacy. That's how my personal phone booth came about.
We had one phone on the kitchen wall, and it was very near the door to the basement. When I got on the phone, down the steps I would go with the cord caught in the door as I closed it. I went as far down the stairs as possible, making the cord stretch at least eight feet. All the curl went out of the cord when I was talking. I imagined my phone booth was sound proof. Now, I realize it probably was not.
I talked on the phone for hours. We didn't have call waiting, so my mom was always after me to "get off the phone, Marianne...someone might be trying to call!"
Communication sure has changed. Now, no one is further than a text message away. But the charm and coziness of the phone booth on the stairs will forever remain dear to my heart.