Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend 2010

So I did something today that I have been wanting to do for some time. It wasn't some great feat of skill or brawn. I didn't scale Mt. Everest, or run a marathon. I made hummus...

I have loved hummus for several years; probably would have loved it before, only I had never tried it until three years or so ago. In these years since I first discovered this healthy little dip, I have said that I wanted to make my own instead of buying it ready made. The trouble came when I went in search of tahini.

What is tahini exactly? Well tahini is a lot like peanut butter only made with sesame seeds. It middle eastern in origin, and there they eat it as it is or use it to make hummus and a few other things.
When I tried to find tahini, I originally didn't have much luck. Then when I did it was only sold in larger containers...What would I really do with a large jar of tahini. I would only make hummus a time or two a month and the recipe doesn't call for a large amount. Not to mention, I am the only one in my household that even eats hummus. So I just never would buy any.

So today, I am looking for something to snack on and I had a bag of baked bar-b-que Lays potato chips; the only chips I eat other than Stacy's Pita Chips. But I wanted something to go with them...hmmm...I opened the fridge to find some chick peas left over from the day I made the Cobb salad for supper. So I decided why not try my hand at some hummus. Instead of tahini, since, well I didn't have any, I used peanut butter. I must say, other than the fact that I didn't use roasted garlic and all I had was garlic powder, I think it turned out fairly well for my first try.

If you want the recipe, go to the recipes page listed on the side bar of the blog.

Let's backtrack a couple of days. Friday we left around 1:00 heading to Blacksburg, Virginia for Andrew's nephew, Christopher's graduation. He was graduating from Med school and will be heading to Michigan for his residency. The trip was somewhat stressful and took us a bit longer than expected.

Saturday morning we woke later than we had planned and rushed around trying to get ready to be at Virginia Tech by 9:20 for the graduation at 10:00. Fortunately, Andrew's brother saved us seats. The auditorium was packed and the air conditioning wasn't sufficient to cool it off. To say it got a bit warm is an understatement. The graduation lasted for close to three hours and little man lost patience with sitting still for that long. Andrew had to get up and go out with him for a while.

By 2:00 we had changed our clothes, (parked behind a Walmart, next to a bed from a semi truck), eaten, (our second Subway sandwich of the trip), topped our gas tank off and were on the road back to North Carolina. We were all glad to be back home Saturday evening.

Sunday we heard an awesome message from Pastor Mitchell. I am always thankful to be reminded that God is all I need, and all I have to do is call on the name of Jesus. His scripture text came from Exodus 3:11-15. Verse 14 being the key text. "And God said unto Moses, I AM That I AM."

There was no service Sunday night, so we just spent the afternoon and evening relaxing and enjoying the fact that Monday was a holiday.
Today started with Andrew putting Cornish game hens in the smoker along with some potatoes. I grilled some steak and my first zucchini from the garden. Andrew made brownies and I baked a blueberry bread pudding since I don't eat brownies.

The afternoon ended with Andrew and I sitting on the front porch watching the rain, listening to Chris Botti and watching the humming birds fly in and out, jockeying for position at the feeders we have on the front of the house. I would have included photo's of that but those little hummers move rather quickly. All I could get with my camera was a blur.

I had planned to plant my peas today, however, the rain had other plans. I suppose I could have gone out earlier in the day, but I was busy around with other activities and didn't make it out there. Looks like there may be rain most of the week. I will have to be on lookout for the right time to catch it when it isn't raining and try to get them in the ground.
Bed time for Little Man is drawing near, so I will wrap this up with a couple pictures from the weekend.

Dr. Christopher Thomason and his dad, Mark and uncle Andrew

Blue berry bread pudding

Flag flying on the front porch in honor of those who sacraficed it all for our country and our freedom.

The first zucchini from our garden.

Yummy on the grill with a little sea salt and cracked pepper

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fig preserves and memories


the fruit of my childhood memories

I have always loved figs. When I was young we lived in south Louisiana and were blessed to have a large fig tree in our backyard. The tree grew right beside an outdoor patio. I was the unofficial fig picker in our family. After climbing up the tree and gathering from underneath, I would climb on a ladder to the top of the patio and pick the figs from the top of the tree. The leaves of a fig tree will irritate your skin and my exposed arms and legs would itch for some time after I climbed down. But in my mind, it was well worth the discomfort. Usually the fig gathering would happen when my granny was visiting. She would take the figs and make fig preserves from them. I couldn't wait to open the first jar of preserves and spread that sweet, gooey goodness onto a biscuit or a plain piece of toasted light bread. I know I was strange child, remember fried chicken liver was also one of my favorite meals...

Many years went by and I had pretty much forgotten about the figs of my childhood. I moved on to other delicacies. However, it is strange what happens to trigger those long repressed memories. It is also strange what craving pregnancy will produce.

When we lived in Arkansas and I was pregnant to with Noah, I developed a craving for figs. I searched high and low and couldn't find the first jar of fig preserves in any of the local grocery stores. It wasn't until a spring trip to the Bluegrass festival in Mountain View, Arkansas that I was able to satisfy that desire.

Tucked away in a little shop, along with the jars of local honey and pickled okra, were beautiful golden jars of fig preserves. I couldn't believe my fortune. I ate fig preserves on toast for weeks. When the jar was empty the search was on again to find more. After Noah was born I begin to visit the Farmer's Market in Little Rock and to my great fortune a vendor there carried a wonderful fig preserve. Since moving to North Carolina I buy a small jar of preserves from Harris Teeter, a local grocery store. I eat them spread on an Arnold's whole wheat Sandwich Thin with natural peanut butter. I often make a meal out of just that. When I do, I close my eyes and am once again transported back to my carefree childhood days when this wonderful brown, sweet treat grew in my backyard.

In the last few years since reacquainting myself with the delicious fig, I have thought of having a fig tree, to grow my own and put up preserves the way my granny did. Because of our "gypsy" lifestyle I didn't think that was possible. Then I began to read about people growing small fig trees in pots on their decks and I knew this was something I had to try.

Last weekend while Andrew, Noah and I perused the lawn and garden area of our local Lowe's store, I found it! Tucked away with some blueberry bushes, there were fig trees. These trees were about a foot and a half tall and and looked very healthy. I debated; should I, shouldn't I? I really wanted to but being a skeptic, I wondered if you could actually grow figs this way. I saw that they were marked down to ten dollars, so I figured, why not find out?

We purchased two large pots to bring home to re pot what we refer to as "our twins." They are two ficus trees that someone gave to our family seventeen years ago when my brother, Daren, was killed. We have had them ever since. They have been moved many times in those years and they have been re potted several times into bigger and bigger pots. They have had times of plenty and times when they dropped so many leaves I didn't know if they would make it. However, last spring when we moved here and they found their place on either end of our front porch, they have thrived like never before. I suppose the climate and conditions are just right for them to really grow.

Bringing our new little fig tree home we re potted it into one of the large terra cotta pots that we took the ficus trees from. It now sits proudly on our little deck. The leaves look great and it seems to like its new home. I go out regularly and speak encouraging words and imagine the day that I can walk out and pick fruit off of its branches and taste the incredible flavor and sweetness of my very own figs.

Last night Andrew and I sat on the deck in the light of a full moon rising behind us, with the flames of the tiki torches wafting citronella scent across our little backyard paradise, and we agreed that we wanted to go back and buy another fig tree to fill the empty terra cotta pot from the other ficus tree. It only seems fitting that we would have two figs growing together just as our ficus trees have done all these years. We will now have two sets of "twins" to carry with us through the coming years.

Here are some great reference sites to check out if your interested in figs...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

As of lately...

News from the home front:

Lauren is home from her two week stay in Charlotte. Taking a much needed couple of days of R and R before starting to work on Thursday.

Andrew had a golf filled weekend in Myrtle Beach and is home with a little sunburn and sore from all the golfing.

Megan did a wonderful job on the church Mother's Day photo's. She was thrilled this week to discover that her camera wasn't actually missing the mirrored lens after all. So we didn't have to send it off for repair. She is happily snapping photo's again with her own camera. She is also watching for the Fed Ex truck everyday for the last couple of days looking for her birthday present. She is getting an iPhone. She is very excited about that!

Noah and I have have been doing some planting and working in our little garden.

We have been having lots of rain the last few days. And according to the weather reports looks like more is on the way throughout the week.

For some of you who have read my facebook page you know I have been on a search for some time to find some Lady Pea seeds to plant in the garden. Sometimes they are called Lady Cream Peas. We use to grow them when I was young. My granny use to buy the seeds in DeRidder and give some to us to grow. They are a small pea, with a delicate flavor. Mixed with cornbread, they were Divine. So recently I have become obsessed with finding some. I searched the Internet when I was unable to find them locally. Apparently they are a regional crop, not grown or known of except in the far south; such as Louisiana, East Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi. The rest of the world just doesn't know what they are missing out on as far as I am concerned.

Finally I found some on eBay. Someone in Texas was selling them. I jumped on it immediately. When a couple of weeks went by and I still had not received my peas, I contacted the seller. To make a long story short, although I had changed my primary shipping address on my eBay account, my old address was still on the account somewhere, and that is the address that the seller chose to send my peas. Well, after several emails back and forth, he told me I would have to take up the matter with eBay. So I did. At first they ruled against me and decided not to refund me for the purchase. I chose to appeal the decision and after a little sarcasm on my part, they changed the ruling and refunded the full amount of the purchase. I was thrilled, although it was only six dollars and some change, for me it was the principle of the matter.

With my refund in my pay pal account, I set out to find more lady peas. Much to my chagrin, no one else seemed to have any. Well in the meantime, a wonderful friend of mine in Louisiana took it upon herself to hunt down these illusive peas. She checked several places in the DeRidder area, and although many of the "ole timers" knew what she was talking about, no one had them. She finally visited the Mennonite Nursery and there she found them! I think she was a thrilled as I was to have scored them. Yesterday I received a 1/2 pound of Elite Cream Lady Pea seeds. I am so excited. I can't wait for this rain to pass so we can get another bed made for the peas. If all grows well, I am going to get those wonderful peas of my childhood and my kids are going to get to experience the thrill of sitting around and shelling peas. So everyone wins in the deal! I don't know that my children would agree, but one day they will look back on it and be glad for the experience, I am sure of it...Thanks Dana, I owe you!

In other gardening news:

As of now, we have two and a half raised beds built and mostly planted. I have one bed designated for later season crops. Right now it has Yukon gold potatoes and sweet potatoes in it. I have two rows left to fill with something. Maybe some beans of some sort. If I can find some speckled butter beans, I think I will plant those there.

The other bed is filled with tomatoes of different varieties. Mostly Roma since we use those more often. Several types of peppers, zucchini and yellow squash, eggplant, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach and basil. I still have some room for a few other items, maybe okra and broccoli. This bed is already showing quite well. I have been pinching blooms from my tomatoes everyday in order for the plants to get established and put more energy into the roots and growth before they start to put on fruit. Apparently I wasn't as diligent as I thought, some managed to get by me. I now have several tiny little tomatoes growing underneath and tucked away behind leaves on the underside where they escaped my sight. I also have beautiful squash blooms that open so graciously every morning. I have discovered a couple of finger sized zucchini growing as well. I have already harvested and dried some basil, so this bed seems to be doing quite well.

The third, or half bed is filled with leeks, carrots, and green onion. I have space in the middle of the bed to plant more herbs like chives, cilantro, oregano and thyme.

The final bed will be filled with those wonderful Lady peas.

I do have garden photo's to post, I just haven't managed to get them downloaded onto the computer yet. I will have them posted soon.

On Books:
I just got this book in the mail yesterday. I can't wait to get started on it.

I have a couple more on order that I want to read. Other than online research and magazine reading, I haven't been doing much reading lately. I do have to say that since I got my iPhone last week, I am really enjoying the KJV Bible app. It is so convenient to read your bible anywhere you are with that.

Exercise and fitness:
It has been four weeks today since I injured my ankle. I have done very little in the way of exercising during that four week period. I did try to continue with strength training, but not as regularly as before the injury. I just got a bit discouraged that I couldn't do more. Starting today, I can begin slowly to work my way back into my routine. I have been watching what I have been eating and have stuck to my eating goals for the most part. I haven't weighed lately because I just didn't want to know I suppose. I suspect I have stayed right at the same weight through it all. Next month will be my one year mark with Curves and I had hoped to be at or near my original weight loss goal by then. With this set back and the fact that my weight loss just stopped several months ago, I don't think I will be there by that time. As of the last time I weighed, I was sixteen pounds away from my original goal. With the set back of the ankle and four weeks until the one year mark, I don't think there is any way I will get more than maybe five pounds off between now and then. If I can manage that much.

My running plan is to slowly work my way back to where I was before the injury. By doing mostly walking and very little running in the beginning. I have to admit that I am a little nervous getting back to the cardio exercise that I was doing, I am fearful of re injuring my ankle. I didn't enjoy being injured, as I am sure most people feel the same way. It was more the feeling of limitation than the actual pain. I don't like feeling that I am limited by anything other than my own desires. I think that is what this journey is about for me. Taking away the limits that I have allowed to control me for so many years. Taking back the power of choice. I understand there are limits with everything...there are things that are beyond our control and ability, but many things are in our hands to either make happen or keep from happening. So as I approach a turning point in my life, I don't want my physical body or my mind to put limits on the things I can do anymore. I want to be able to enjoy a much better life without physical limitations of illness as I get older. I know again, that things will happen, but if I do my part I am hoping to lessen the probabilities of certain preventable illnesses.

I have decided however, through this time of injury to celebrate the progress that I have made. Not to just focus on the goal but to also enjoy where I am today and realize that this is a journey, not just a goal out there to reach and then be satisfied. This is something that will continue on and on. I have allowed myself to be happy with what I have accomplished. To look at myself and be happy with now and what I have done up to this point. Before I was just so focused on the goal that I couldn't allow myself any reward for how far I have already come. But now, I am able to see my sucesses and be glad in them. No, I am not where I want to be, but neither am I where I was, physically or mentally. I am stronger, wiser and more determined to make this happen, to make the necessary lifestyle changes to be the person I want to become.

So as the saying goes; it is time to get back on the horse and continue on this journey.

Today's Quotes

Serendipity: Look for something; find something else, and realize that what you've found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for

~Lawrence Block~

Desire is the starting point of all achievment, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything

~Napoleon Hill~

Burning desire to be or do something gives us staying power- a reason to get up every morning or to pick ourselves back up and start in again after a disappointment

~Marsha Sinetar~

Monday, May 10, 2010

Another place and time

I just love days that are filled with relaxing and enjoying life. Some days are just so rushed and hurried that you actually forget to just take a breath and enjoy being alive. One of the disadvantages to growing up and becoming an responsible adult is that we are often so weighed down with our load of responsibilities, our worries, and all the "necessities" of life in our society that we forget to just enjoy living.
I remember the simple pleasures of being a child. Waking up each morning with a renewed sense of adventure. The thought that anything was possible and fun waited on every turn.
I think that feeling of endless possibility and the sense of wonder are the two aspects of childhood that I most miss. I can almost remember the point when I crossed over that threshold, the place of feeling anything was possible to the new reality of adulthood, feeling limited by life and its circumstances. Fully understanding the weight of reality and the fact that dreams don't always come true, no matter how hard you wish it to be.
But there are moments, although they are only fleeting now, moments that it seems as though I am breathing the same air and have been transported back to the 1970's when I was still a child. I can feel that feeling that is free of the load of life, free of the responsibilities of adulthood, and the capacity to believe that anything is possible...
I was reminded of this when I saw Noah sitting in the chair mindlessly watching TV, with Bentley the guinea pig on his lap. I was for a brief moment caught up in the wonder of childhood and enraptured by the simple art of enjoying each little moment that life offers.

Last Saturday Megan and I drove to Cameron to the Antiques Festival they hold there every May and October. This was our third time to attend. We had an enjoyable day although we didn't find much that caught our attention and even less in which to spend our money.

I did end up buying a wire basket with Farmers Market painted on it. I really didn't have anything special in mind for it, I just liked the way it looked. I thought it would be a good basket for gathering the veggies from the garden when it is harvest time. I also decided to purchase a sign that I had seen both times I had attended the festival previously. It is a framed sign that says:

Help Wanted
No Irish Need Apply

I plan to find a better frame to put it in and hang it in my bathroom upstairs. I don't know exactly why, but it caught my attention last May, and I saw it again in October. So I decided to finally buy it this time.
Here are a few more images from Cameron that caught my eye:

A little boys dream! If I had several hundred extra dollars to just blow, I would have brought this home to my little man, even if he is nearly to big to fit in it. But I figured there was a more sensible way to spend that much money...

Here are a whole fleet of boy toys

This house was actually the most interesting thing I saw

Unfortunately, it wasn't for sale

I loved this old gas pump. The colors were great!

This brought back some memories. We use to fight over who got to crank the handle. I also loved the blue color. Would have like to have had this to put on my front porch. But it is hard to have a minimalist lifestyle if you keep bring things home.

Old roller skates

An old tricycle
I don't know why I like old things so much. I suppose it has to do with being nostalgic for the past. The memories of another place and another time. An attempt to bring back those days and the people with which they were shared and enjoyed.
When I am around these relics from the past, I can conjure in my mind the life that these items have had and seen. I can for those fleeting moments be carried away, back to my childhood, back to that place when life was simple and carefree, when I was young and unencumbered by the weight of life and the adult world. When my mind was not burdened by the reality of a world that is full of hate and unhappiness, mistrust, lies, hurt, pain, and loss.
I lived a very sheltered life, a life full of love and peace. I was around adults that were kind and loving, who would never think of hurting a child. I feel very fortunate to have lived in a place and time where children could run freely about, playing and enjoying childhood without the worry of being exploited or abused.
We grew up in a idyllic world where we were able to dream good dreams, and have pure thoughts and not know of anything bad or fearful. A world before all of the modern day conveniences but also a world absent of our modern day perils.


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