Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

You have probably come to recognize this cranberry glass pitcher by now.  I've used it in several blog posts.  It's my favorite little vase that I keep filled from May through September.  Once the flowers die, I replace them with different ones.  I walk myself out to the yard and pick a bunch of something that I think would look pretty.  I love how the light reflects the pink glass and how it contrasts against the colors of different flowers.  This is baby's-breath that I picked from my front yard.  The bush gets so big that I have to trim it or else the flowers will lay on the ground.  Lucky me.  I have little bunches of baby's-breath all over the house.....

This is what I call my blue shelf.  It hangs in the family room and is filled with my most favorite blue dishes (from my childhood) and this little blue vase that I got at a junk store for .25.  I was so happy to bring it home and put it on my blue shelf.  It's now the perfect vase for more baby's-breath. 

And of course you can't have blue without a splash of pink - which is my favorite color.  I cut these from the rose bush by the boccie court in the back yard...shhh - don't tell my hubbie....

It's the simple things that make me SO Happy : )

It's been unbearably hot here lately.  Everything in the yard is crying for water.  I come home from work and their shrivelled up little blooms are just begging me for a drink.  It's no fun being out all day in the hot, hot sun.  I know how they feel.  I hate the heat myself.  I love the early days of summer when it starts to stay lighter longer and you first hear that ice cream truck bell.  Exciting for the kids!  I love going to the beach early in the morning before it gets too hot. Even better if I can wear my sweatshirt because there is a cool breeze.  I can enjoy my morning coffee while gazing at the ocean, listening to the sounds of the lapping waves.  There is nothing like that feeling.  I really do love it.  I love taking care of my flowers and watching them grow.  I miss that in the winter.

What I don't love is a 95 degree day with high humidity.  Ugh.  I have to hibernate inside with my air conditioning.  Ever since I was little the heat has bothered me.  I used to get terrible headaches from being overheated.  I would be outside playing with my friends and would have to come in and lie down because the sun got to me.  I'm also very fair skinned and it seemed like no matter how much sunblock I put on I would get a sunburn. I remember my mother having to spray me with solar cane before going to bed so the sheets would not stick to me.  I hated every minute of that.  I loved summer vacations, family cookouts, and night bon-fires on the beach.  But on hot, hot day - you would find me on the couch watching The Price is Right.  Honestly, I haven't changed much. 

Being indoors on a hot, hot day has it's advantages.  The first one being air conditioning (obviously).  The house is cool and peaceful.  Another advantage is that I can still bake and cook - something that would never happen if I didn't have a/c.  Turn the oven on in July? No way!  You all know what I'm taking about : ) 

Last Saturday we packed our beach bags and went to the ocean for a few hours in the morning.  My hubbie knows how I am so he's fully prepared with my umbrella and gallons of water.  I love him for that.  Our son LOVES the water and sand and no matter how much I hate the heat I would never miss that.  We are lucky that we live so close to the beach, so it doesn't have to be an all day trip.  After a few hours we pack it up and are home in 20 minutes.  Sweet. 

I had intended on making lemon squares this weekend after our beach trip.  When I went food shopping the night before I saw that these yummy raspberries were on sale. Since I never met a raspberry I didn't like, I couldn't resist buying them.  I did have my heart set on lemon squares so I decided to combine the two. 

If you love lemon and raspberry together you will love these.  Here is my recipe for Lemon Raspberry Bars.

1 cup butter
1/5 cup confectionery sugar (¼ cup plus a little more)
2 cups flour
Pinch of salt

Mix ingredients together and press into a greased 9x13 baking dish. Bake @ 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

1 cup fresh (or frozen/thawed) raspberries
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
½ tsp baking powder
4 tbsp flour
6 tbsp lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)

Puree raspberries and spread on baked crust. (I pureed my in the magic bullet : )

Mix all other ingredients together....

...and pour on top of raspberry puree.

Swirl a spatula around a little bit just to marbleize the two flavors.

Put back in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.

When thoroughly cooled sprinkle with confectionery sugar and cut into bars.

Keep in the fridge and serve chilled.

A perfect ending to a summer meal. 

This is how I stay happy in the summer.....: )

I took this picture last night at dusk.  Aside from early morning, dusk is my favorite time of a summer day.  All three of us go outside after dinner and have a Popsicle on the front steps.  The sun is setting so it's not as hot, and we sit and watch the sky turn colors while red and blue popsicle juice runs down our arms.  Seconds before I took this picture the sky was pink.  By the time I got the camera it was gone.  Still a pretty view, though. 

Sitting on the steps having popsicles while the sun sets seems to have become an every night occourance around here.  I guess that's what traditons are made of.  Summer traditions.  Maybe the dog days of summer aren't so bad afterall. 


Monday, July 11, 2011

Just Peachy

How are you all today?  I am just peachy.  As I write this blog post the sun is shining through my window and I can smell the honeydew melon candle burning in the kitchen.  I just made myself a tall, ice coffee - loaded with sweet cream and sugar.  When I opened the freezer to get a few ice cubes I had an amazing thought.  I just put a big scoop of coffee ice cream in my ice coffee! Wow!  Has this ever been done before and I did not know it?  It's so good.  I feel like I just discovered liquid gold!  I am in a coffee lovers coma right now. 

At this moment my hubbie took our little one out to breakfast with some friends and then they are off to his grandparents house for a dip in the pool.  I stayed behind to catch up on a few things around the house and enjoy some serenity now.  I know my little boy is having fun, so it's a win-win situation.  I can never truly relax when I'm not with him, unless I know that he's happy.  Well, a pancake breakfast and then a dip in the pool is a home run for my little guy.  I'll see him soon and hear all about it. 

The summer produce right now is at it's peak.  Especially the peaches.  Saturday morning I made this peach cobbler.  I wanted to share the recipe with you in case you've had a craving.... 

Here's what you need to make it:

6-8 ripe peaches
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar

For the filling, cut the peaches in half and remove the stones.  Slice the peach halves thinly and put into a bowl.  I leave the skins on. 

Add 1/3 cup of sugar and 1 tsp vanilla to the peaches.  Mix and set aside while you make the batter.

In a separate bowl combine the milk, flour, baking powder, and sugar.  Melt the butter and add to the mixture.

Mix with an electric mixer or wire whisk.  Make sure there are no lumps.  The batter will be a thin consistency. 

Grease or spray an oven proof baking dish.  I always use this 8x8 Pyrex.  Pour a little bit of the batter in the bottom of the baking dish - just to coat.  Then add the peaches.  Sprinkle with a little cinnamon (or a lot of cinnamon  : )

Cover the peaches with the rest of the batter.  Some of the peaches will poke through the top.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown. 

Perfect peach cobbler makin' music...."Je Cherche Un Homme" by Eartha Kitt.  One of my favorite songs.  I have to stop myself from dancing around the kitchen. 

Let your cobbler cool on the stove top for a bit but it's best served warm with a dollop of ice cream or whip cream....

Or cool whip : )

I made this cobbler early Saturday morning.  After I took it out of the oven we packed our beach bags and headed out for a few hours to enjoy some sun and sand.  When we returned the house smelled sweet and inviting.  I could almost taste the peaches and cinnamon just by breathing in the aroma.  That night I grilled  Italian sausages with peppers and onions, made sweet potato fries, and corn on the cob.  For desert we had this cobbler.  I feel good when I know that my family is eating well with fresh, healthy ingredients.  And a little cool whip doesn't hurt either...wink, wink. 

In other news, my tea cup obsession continues....

Friday night I couldn't sleep so I decided to do something that I know I am good at.  Cleaning.  I go through phases sometimes where I need to take everything down of the walls and clean it until it sparkles.  Friday was one of those nights.  Anything that could potentially have a shine to it, I took down and washed it in the sink. 

I like to do this because everything I own has a memory to it. Like this demitasse cup.  This is the cup my best friend gave me in high school that started it all.  I had never even taken a sip of espresso at the time, but knew I loved the cup. She gave it to me with a gold spoon, which I also still have. I've kept it all these years.  I love it.  Washing my things, touching them, and remembering good times always makes me happy. Sometimes you need that boost.  Isn't that why we keep things, anyway?

I hand washed everything and then let them air dry on a towel.  These looked so pretty lined up. I think the saucers are just as pretty as the cups.  Sometimes I use them as desert dishes. These here are years of birthday gifts that I cherish. 

After I lined everything back up on the walls I felt the house had a different aura to it.  The rooms felt cleaner and brighter.  A little sparkle will do that, thus made me a happy homemaker. 

Well, I'm off to my deck to water the plants.  The sun is blazing today and I'm sure they are thirsty.  This afternoon I'm meeting up with my girlfriend (yes, the one who gave me my favorite cup).  We are taking the kids to the playground and out for an ice cream.  She lives out of state now and I only get to see her a few times a year if I'm lucky.  She's home visiting this week, so we are looking forward to catching up - in person! We thank the heavens for email and cell phones, though.  We've been friends for thirty years and we always joke we will someday live in the same retirement village.  I'm very grateful to have her in my life.  Our kids call each other "cousins".  We are that close. 

Tonight I promised my hubbie pasta for supper with lots of chopped garlic, basil, and extra sauce.  And no doubt we will finish off the cobbler for desert. Yum!

I just love days like this. 

I hope things in your world are just peachy too!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hello, Miss American Pie

Well, here we are - fourth of July weekend already.  Hard to believe. 

So far our weekend has been great.  Yesterday the sun was blazing and we spent the day at my in-laws pool. We sat poolside and snacked on homemade pizza and watermelon. Today we packed up our beach bags and spent the day sea side. Anyone that knows me knows that I am not a big fan of the sun and not the best swimmer, but I do LOVE to plop myself under an umbrella and watch the tide roll in.  I love the smell of the salt air and the feel of the sand between my toes.  Something about being at the beach lightens my mood. It's very relaxing. Plus my son loves it because he can get sandy and muddy and have Popsicle juice running down his arm and it's no big deal. Today we built sandcastles and stood in waist high water as huge waves crashed into us, which he thought was hysterical.  The water was freezing, but he did not care one bit.  The colder the water and the bigger the splash, more excited he got. 

The mind of a three year old is a magnificent thing. 

Tonight we had my mom's birthday dinner and tomorrow we have a family cookout at my hubbie's uncle's house. This is an annual extravaganza and we are looking forward to it very much.  My hubbie's family sticks very close to their traditions and this one is a biggie.  The cousin's will have their annual barefoot soccer game, there will be volleyball, cannonballs in the pools, and of course - Boccie.  Rob's uncle will make his famous fish chowder, and that's just the beginning of the food.  The grill will be on fire all day. It's really a great time.  This year I'll be bringing blueberry pie.

My mother's actual birthday is on the fourth of July.  She has a love/hate feeling about this.  One of the great things about it is when she was a little girl her father told her that the fireworks every year were just for HER.  Can you imagine being a kid and actually believing that?  Sweet.  Another great thing is that nobody ever forgets her birthday - so no matter where she is, she's getting a cake.  I think that's where the hate part comes in.   As a kid it was great, but as an adult she's not big into making a big deal about things.  But it doesn't matter - no matter where she is - a cake will find her on the fourth of July.  Personally, I think it's great. 

I made my mom a blueberry pie for her birthday this year and I also made one to take to the cookout tomorrow.  I learned how to make pies from my grandmother when I was a little girl.  Here is her tried-and-true recipe for pie crust and blueberry pie. It's so simple.

First the crust.  All you need is:

2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening
7-8 tbsp water

Sift flour and salt together in a medium bowl. 

With a fork, cut in shortening until the pieces are the size of small peas...

...and the mixture is crumbly. 

Add the smaller amount of water and toss with a fork until the flour is moistened.  With your hands knead the ball until a soft dough is formed.  If needed add more water if too dry.

This is a double crust recipe, so once a dough ball is formed, divide it into two equal pieces - one for the top crust and one for the bottom.

Grease and flour a 9 inch pie plate.

On a floured surface roll out dough (11 inches to fit a 9 inch pie plate) and fit into dish. 

With a fork, make a few air holes in the bottom of the crust.

For the filling you will need:

4 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp quick cooking tapioca

Wash and dry blueberries.  Makes sure all the stems are discarded.

Pour blueberries into pie shell.  Cover with sugar and tapioca. 

By they way, in case you have never used tapioca it looks like this:

It has no taste, but acts as a thickening agent.

But anyway....

After covering with sugar and tapioca, mix with spoon until the blueberries are coated.

Roll out your top crust and cover pie. 

Crimp edges with a fork and make a few vents in the top crust. 

Melt 1 tbsp of butter and brush the top crust with it.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and you are done : )

Preheat oven to 375 and bake for 60 mins or until crust is golden brown. 

Serve hot or cold with vanilla ice cream. (coffee ice cream works well too...mmmm)

Every year on the night before the fourth of July the people that live on the next street over have a block party. We have never met them, but for the last 12 years we have been enjoying their fireworks right from our own backyard.  I took this picture tonight as I sat in my jammie's and slippers and enjoyed my own little private showing of fireworks, flying high above our trees.  The smell reminded me of the fourth of July celebrations I had with my family growing up. My grandparents had a cottage on the beach and every year we would have a big party (much like the one I'm going to tomorrow). During the day there would be games of horseshoes, swimming, and canoeing. At night my cousins would light fireworks that would light up the sky and then we would have a big bonfire and toast marshmallows. And of course there would be a birthday came for my mother, which she loved.... Everyone was happy and everyone was together. Those are good memories.  They don't make 'em like that anymore, do they? Funny how we sometimes don't appreciate things until they are a memory.  I hope as my son gets older he will look back on his youth in the same fondness as I do.  I'm sure that was my parent's wish as well. 

Before I sign off for tonight, I wanted to show you how my shoes came out.  With Arlene's Tacky Glue and a tweezers I applied the sequins and applique to the flip flops and let them dry overnight  Here they are:

I'm crazy happy about how they came out, but because I am in need of a pedi, I won't model them for you... : )

Have a happy and safe weekend to all!

PS Happy Birthday Mom xo