Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Year of the Tent

If days could speak, this weekend would speak volumes. But all I can do is sit here, with deep sighs of contentedness, and wonder where all the words have gone. So I'll show you pictures instead...

Among all the celebrations this weekend we celebrate the Year of the Tent.

The traditional gift for seventeen years of marriage is furniture. Surely a new tent and sleeping bag count.

It was a good weekend...

For the record... while shopping this weekend The Mister did buy a new tent and sleeping bag for an upcoming trip, but it was not my anniversary gift. Although i wouldn't have minded if it was...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Thankful Things

1. School is OUT!! HOORAY! This next week will be a teacher/student work week as we clean up and organize the Little Yellow House on the Hill. I cannot wait to get this house back in order!

2. Sunshine after rain. The weather this week has been a bit gloomy. I was grateful for a bit of sunshine yesterday!

3. Dahlia's. This was the first year I planted these flowers and I cannot imagine my garden without them.

4. Flip-flop Flintstone feet. When I loaded this picture up I laughed out loud. I have the biggest, flattest feet ever, but I am not a huge fan of wearing shoes...I like to be bare foot. I'm so glad its time for flip flops and ....and pedicures.

5. Lessons from the garden.  "Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again - rejoice!" (Phil. 4:4) I don't know what it is about the violet that makes think about this verse. Perhaps its her happy little face in a jungle of green; or maybe because after the soaking of rain she just keeps-on-keepin'-on... but her purple-blue hues with contrast of yellow is joyful. And reminds me to be the same.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


In music there is something called dissonance, a “simultaneous combination of tones conventionally accepted as being in a state of unrest and needing completion.”

In choir we’ve been singing the song Psalm 150 - based on the short, but powerful Psalm written as praise to God. The chorale piece, at times sung in eight parts, is lovely. But right at the most beautiful of phrases (in word and music) comes the dissonant chord. It is unsettling; a true clash of cymbals. Beautiful and unnerving, my heart is glad when its over. Harmony feels complete.

Dissonance feels awkward, even distressing. But I can’t help thinking that it is also a gift given as a picture for this beautiful life... more importantly it is an encouragement for the eternal life to come. 

Today I look around me and choose courage because there is God-given beauty - today - and it gives me hope, but there is something I cannot put my finger on; something that causes me great dissatisfaction. Something, that in the midst of a million brilliant moments, causes unrest and leaves me grasping for resolution. The now and the not yet.... dissonance living. Sometimes I can ignore the uncomfortable sound, that part that makes me uneasy. But sometimes the unrestful tones are so loud I cannot hear the beauty between.

Someday, God will resolve this unrestful chord and we will throw our heads back in relief and our songs will burst forth. Until then, we can use that sound as a reminder to look to Him who sings over us in love (Zeph 3:17). Three times in John 15: 9-10 Christ says this: (As my Father has loved me) Remain in my love. (Obey my commands) Remain in my love. (As I obeyed my Father) Remain in my love.
It is this active, living, sacrificial love that gives us the room to readily, wildly, praise Him even in our unresolved moments. He loves us and has promised that dissonance will not chain us. There will come a day when our uneasiness, our fear, our discontent will no longer hinder us because we will be standing face-to-face with Him who makes our joy complete. (John 15:11)
Dissonance resolved. 

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Cinnamon Chili Brownie with Salted Caramel

Last weekend The Mister and I had two other couples over for a Cinco de Mayo dinner party.

I really wanted to make something traditional for dessert, but I'm not a flan fan, and sopapillas are only good when they are served from fryer to plate-- didn't want to have to cook while everyone was enjoying after dinner conversation.

I decided I would make a Cinnamon Chili Brownie with salted caramel.

Mexican Brownies


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (rounded) teaspoon ground cinnamon (canela)
  • 1/4 - 1/2  teaspoon chili powder or cayenne pepper (I used 1/2 tsp, but could have used more!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Press the paper into the corners of the pan and spray paper with cooking spray.
Melt the 2 sticks of butter (but do not boil.) Let cool. Mix sugar, eggs, vanilla and butter. Until light yellow and creamy.  
Add the cocoa, flour, cinnamon, chili powder, salt and baking powder and mix until smooth. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out fudgy, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack, then use the parchment paper to lift out the brownies before slicing.

Salted Caramel

At some point I had read that if you simmer a can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot of water for several hours, it would turn to caramel. I tried it, and it is delish.

Take paper off of the can, submerge it in a pot of water; bring the water to a simmer (do not boil); refill the water when low (be sure to keep can completely submerged at all times).  Simmer for three (ish) hours. Let can cool, then open, and spread on brownies.

Sprinkle a dash of kosher salt on the top.

Serve with a scoop of Vanilla Bean ice cream and a cup of hot coffee.

Muy bueno!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Hot Turkey and Pink Hair: Just Another Day with CPQ

She doesn't like hot turkey in a sandwich.

It's true.

I've seen her eat from hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and reindeer sausage in a lavender field on an island, but she doesn't eat hot turkey in a sandwich. And you know what? It makes me feel better. Because when I turn my nose up at mayo, or mystery meat, or marinated bug juice on the side of a Jamaican road, I finally know she has a culinary kryptonite too.

About once a month the Carpoolqueen and I meet for coffee or lunch, and I always learn something new. I look forward to spending time with her. Not only is she is a good friend, but fun things happen when she is around.

For instance, I didn't get a picture of the two of us, which is a shame, because we both looked pretty cute...

But,  I snapped this picture outside of the cafe seconds before an amorous couple stood beneath the Japanese lanterns, right in front of the upstairs window and enthusiastically showed their love for one another. Think excessive PDA. I almost choked on my salted carmel brownie for the chuckling that ensued.

Soon after I snapped this picture of the robot a very sweaty (if not slightly under-dressed) woman ran into the bakery in nothing but short running shorts and a smallish sports bra, and ran out with a cup of coffee in her hand.

I'm pretty sure you'll want to click on over to CPQ's site at some point, because she got the GOOD pictures... the pink-haired lady and the dessert.

That's the thing with CPQ, wherever she goes something fun(ny) will happen, and she will take it all in stride (along with a picture or two.)

In between bites of sandwich and pastry (with a heavy side of people watching) we laughed and talked about things on our mind and our heart, and it was just nice to be with someone who wants to enjoy life and know others... and can see the humor in everyday things and encourages others to do that too.

Love that CPQ.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Pleasant Places

She sits quietly in the garden, waiting for such a time as this.

I cannot take credit for her growth or grace; nor the way her deep purple petals slowly opened to reveal a sweet yellow face. 

 I cannot begin to understand  how an ugly brown seed placed deep in the soil, my hands barely dirty for the digging, grew up to be a picture of God's goodness and glory. 

But I do know this...

I planted that seed in hope of a coming beauty, and I was not disappointed. God, who orders our days even as we think we've got it all planned out, is in control. He knows how that seed becomes a flower, because He made it so.

Last week I was complaining to a friend that the seeds planted many months ago had not yet flowered and I was irritated. I wanted to hurry the process and yet haven't any means to make it grow. I watered and fed and tended as much as I knew how, but the waiting? That is hard - both in the garden that sits in my own back yard and the one I tend in my heart.

This heart-garden of mine has felt weedy, my hands dirty for the digging. I had been discouraged that the passing of years seems to have left some areas stunted and slow when I feel they should be pretty and light. At the very least, there should be some sustainable fruit.

However, through the course of many events last week- long walks with The Mister, the reading of God's Word, lunch with a friend, listening to the ladies in my small group - I'm encouraged

I cannot understand why the dusty brown seeds of my life have been set in pleasant places, but I do know this: set before an unknown future and surrounded by good friends and a loving community, I need only to bloom where I have been planted; focusing on Him who orders all things in this world and yet knows me better than I even know myself.  

I will not be disappointed.

..."Then you will know that I am the LORD; 
those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”
Isaiah 49:23

Friday, May 04, 2012

Breakfast Blogging Friday Favorites

Ah! Friday. Such a good day.

This morning I've taken my breakfast outside to the red chairs.

We have had an uneventful week. I went running with my friend early yesterday morning and while we were out there was something in the air that was so familiar. I don't know if it was the humidity or the smell of morning green that hung in the air, but it was decidedly summerish.

I came home and cut open the first watermelon of the season.

Yes, summer is coming...

It was delightfully sweet. I think it might be my favorite fruit of summer.

Speaking of delightful, I've been meaning to post this tree that is blooming in our back yard. I don't know what it is, but the blossom just makes me happy.

The picture makes it look like they are huge, but one of those flowers is about the size of a thumb nail... So, so delicate.

I think my favorite part is the faintest brushing of pink on the backside of each petal...

Or maybe my favorite part is how they open up with their faces pointed down, so those of us standing underneath can appreciate the fullness of their beauty.

I am so grateful that the blossom in the yard each take turn to showcase His glory. I just couldn't handle it if they all bloomed at once...

Everyday I look forward to going outside to see what new flower will be awake. This morning the rhododendron are happy and light. They are my favorite front-yard flower.

We've had a bit of a "creature" problem here in the Little Yellow House on the Hill. We had mice in the garage, snakes in the garden...

And now we have bats in the attic (we'll be taking care of that problem this weekend... And by "we" I mean The Mister.) But my favorite woodland insect this week was the newly hatched Luna Moth who rested on our front porch while his wings got ready for flight.

I love the Luna Moth... Heartier, hairier and heavier than its cousin the butterfly, but beautiful just the same...

It's time to go get my favorite kids out of bed, so I will close with my favorite quote from this weeks devotional:

There is freedom in dependence. It enables each of us to accept our vulnerability. We no longer have to hide in shame or self-sufficiency. You and I can choose to lean on our Father amid a full range of disastrous and delightful events, praying, "Please, God, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me" (Psalm 70:1).

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Take My Name In Vain Cookies

I'm sorry, but I must share this recipe with you.

You are probably going to take my name in vain when you eat them. But its worth it...

A friend of mine made these for our small group meeting a couple weeks ago. I didn't have one that night, but The Mister couldn't stop talking about how delicious they were. Luckily she shared her recipe. And I've been taking my wonderful husband's name in vain all week... no, not really. Well, maybe a little bit-- his ability to resist cookies is stronger than mine.

Here is the recipe:

1/2 c butter
1-1/2c sugar
1-1/2c brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2-1/2 tsp baking soda
12 oz chocolate chips
6 c whole oats
18 oz peanut butter 
Cream 1st 6 ingredients together. Stir in , Chocolate Chips, PB, and oats.
Bake at 350 degrees until beginning to brown, about 12-14 minutes. Let cool a bit before transferring to wire rack. 

This makes a huge batch. I made large cookies (one fills a six-inch salad plate) and I got 38 cookies out of it.

They do puff up and spread out quite a bit while cooking so give them room on the sheet.



Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Wednesday Work(s) in Progress

What are you working on?

Its a question I get asked a lot.

Recently, the answer isn't very exciting.

The BIG project at the moment isn't so much creative as necessity: I'm clipping recipes from over 8 years of Cooking Light magazines, and putting them in a binder that will (in theory) help me to build weekly menus more efficiently.

The criteria for clipped recipes are:

  • must be something at least three-out-of-four family members will eat. 
  • ingredients can't be too out of the ordinary.
  • shouldn't take more than 30 minutes in prep work.
I did clip a few recipes that didn't meet one, or more, of these criteria, but they will go under the Entertaining category, and are recipes I have already used for that purpose.

So this is what my work table currently looks like:

You see that box in the middle? I'll show you up close...

I am almost embarrassed to tell you that this is my current working recipe box. About six months ago it got knocked off the pantry shelf. Whoever dropped it just scooped all the scraps of paper and cards into a big pile and stuffed them back in the box. I keep meaning to reorganize. Now I am going to add these recipes to the binder. 

My hope is to be finished with this project within the next week or two... which means it won't be done until June.

I have managed a little creative mojo... I finally pieced together this quilt top last weekend:
I'm not going to do the quilt sandwich just yet.  I'm trying to decide if I want to do some hand embroidery on the white squares... we'll see. 

I also am still working on the Dahlia afghan: 
I had finished the squares and began piecing them together, but they were starting to pucker.... grrr.  So I ripped out the seams and set the squares aside. Sometimes time is the best creative inspiration.

What are you working on?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Strawberry Evening

When I was a little girl I had romantic ideas about North Carolina.  I never imagined I would live here one day.

As if the beauty of spring, with her cool air and blossom, wasn't enough, it's also strawberry time. 

It was the perfect evening for heading out to the farm and picking our fill. The cattle on the hill were eating their dinner and birds sang happy songs. The farmer and his wife were friendly and warm, and their kids played happily in the field. 

The setting sun dipped slowly behind the clouds keeping us shaded while the "work" was done.

Even the bees got our of our way as we plucked (and sometimes tasted) the fruit.

I took pictures...
...and picked a bunch too.

Occasionally... well, probably more than occasionally... I look at The Mister and think out loud, Can you believe we live here? Because sometimes I can't.

When I was a little girl I had romantic ideas about North Carolina, and so far, they've all been true.