Thursday, July 31, 2008

Happy Birthday!!!

Today is your special day, Paula! It comes just once a year. May it be filled with happy moments and lots of delightful cheer!

Would you like a slice of chocolate cake?

Served with a delicious cuppa tea?
[I love that teacup, don't you?]

I wish I could stop by today, but since I cannot, I hope this birthday greeting will suffice for now. A surprise from me is forthcoming, but you'll just have to wait for now (no clues). Today, be a lady of leisure --- relax and enjoy a great time with your family and friends.

May the year ahead be filled with blessings!

Wishing you safe travels and a fun time in the week ahead as well!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mushroom and Tofu Stuffed Tomatoes

Recently Rylan watched a cooking show on Food TV and was inspired to try a new recipe. When I called home today while running errands, he asked if I could bring home a few ingredients to make Mushroom and Panko Stuffed Tomatoes. What fun it was assisting him as his sous chef this evening as he created a yummy supper (with many alterations to the original recipe). Here is his altered-enough-to-be-an-original-recipe:

Mushroom and Tofu Stuffed Tomatoes

1 1/2 cups white mushrooms, chopped
1 1/2 cups brown mushrooms, chopped
1 sweet onion, large, chopped
2 Tbsp. shallots, minced
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
3/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Bragg's Liquid Aminos
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 block extra-firm tofu (15 oz.)
3 cups white grape juice (or water)
1 1/4 cups dried bread crumbs*
2 - 3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
6 tomatoes, cored and seeded, plus 1 tomato chopped

Place sweet onion, shallots, garlic, and mushrooms in skillet with olive oil and saute' until tender. Add salt, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, and balsamic vinegar. De-glaze with white grape juice, adding one cup at a time. Add tofu, crumbled. Stir in bread crumbs*. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Prepare tomatoes by cutting off the tops and scraping out the seeds and pulp. Reserve and chop to add to the filling mixture. Chop last remaining tomato and add it an the tomato centers to filling. Stir and cook long enough to heat through.

Place filling in hollow tomatoes. Put in a casserole dish and broil for 2 - 3 minutes until golden brown on top. Garnish as desired. Serve with basmati rice and cucumber slices. Enjoy.

*The original recipe called for panko, a dry Japanese-style bread crumb (wheat). To make this gluten-free, we replaced it with brown rice bread that we broiled in the oven and then crumbled to make bread crumbs.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Summer Blog-Hop Continues

Our summer blog-hop continues, but Mr. Linky is getting farther down the page. It's not too late to participate, though. Just click here to share about your summer or scroll down this page to read what other bloggers are doing. It's a fun way to make new friends and meet other bloggers. Please join in!

A Perfect Day

A quiet day in nature soothes the soul and gives one time to reflect and regroup for daily tasks to come. Yesterday was such a day. A pretty Western Tanager was waiting for us on Cabin Woods Road as we arrived at our cabin. So pretty and unafraid --- a perfect welcome committee of one! Later in the day another arrived and brightened up the day.

Slowly but surely my embroidery project is reaching completion. DMC floss 320 was my color for the day, a beautiful sage green that matched the cabin paint. Quietly stitching in the coolness of the cabin where I could listen to the sounds of nature through an open window was so relaxing.

After awhile hunger pains started to surface, so I made an impromptu afternoon tea tray for Brent and me. Crackers, cookies, nuts, and open-faced sandwiches were garnished with little tangerine pieces. I really must plant some mint up there, as 'color' for the plates is hard to find without planning ahead. I wonder, do deer and elk like mint? And speaking of wild animals, last week on our walk we spent time observing animal tracks in the road and trails. Not far from the cabin we spotted a huge mountain lion print. Cougar, puma, mountain lion, panther --- all one and the same --- and always something to be wary about in the wild. When I go anywhere, my can of industrial size pepper spray goes with me!

Brent's task of the day was to install a tank and get running water to the cabin. Using our old hot water tank from home, an RV pump, a filter, numerous valves and pipe, and a deep-cell battery --- he invented a water system that provides pressured running water from woodshed to cabin kitchen. Washing dishes was SO much fun! No more hauling water from pitcher to basin to kitchen sink for me!

In the coolness of the evening we enjoyed a simple supper and then closed things up for another week. Homeward bound, we enjoyed deer who gracefully jumped over fences or gazed at us from meadows along the way. Serenity. A perfect day.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Home-keeping Hearts

"Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest;
Home-keeping hearts are happiest,
For those that wander they know not
where are full of trouble and full of care;
To stay at home is best."


Photo: Paula's Place on Elm Street

Tea Guy

Blogland is like a maze where readers jump from blogroll on one list to another --- a hop, skip, and a jump. Sometimes it's difficult to find all the blogs that are themed to subjects one enjoys. For those who enjoy reading tea blogs, Tea Guy Speaks has a comprehensive listing of tea blogs that you might enjoy visiting. Have fun!

Schoolgirl Glee and a Cup of Tea

It feels so good to have a friend
on whom you can depend.
A friend can help
to mend a heart,
boost you toward a brand-new start,
clown with carefree
schoolgirl glee,
share a quiet cup of tea.

~ Jan Miller, Pals ~

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Honey of a Summer

This summer I have spent time learning about botanicals for culinary use. Since the lavender and roses in my yard are grown without pesticides, they are safe to use for food purposes. This afternoon I decided to try to make flavored honey. Rose Blossom Honey and Lavender Honey now sit on my countertop, waiting for toast and tea!

Floral Honey

42 ounces honey
1 cup fresh lavender bud or rose petals

Heat honey in a kettle over a double-boiler. After the honey becomes thin, add flowers and cook for 10 minutes more. Remove from heat. Using a small strainer, pour honey into small jars. Lid and label. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

Makes four small jars of honey.

Both were delicious and the flavor of the lavender and roses was perfect! If you'd like a rosy color, add food coloring --- two or three drops will do.


Summer Blog-Hop

The summer seems to be flying by so fast! Have you noticed the 'back to school' advertising that's showing up in the newspaper? Or the school kiosk in stores where each school has listed supplies needed for the upcoming school year? It's hard to believe that August is just about here.

How has your summer been going? Have you done something especially creative? fun? helpful? interesting? Have you traveled to another country or been to the beach? Have you braved bugs and bears on a camping trip? Or taken the little ones in your life to summer camp or a music festival?

We haven't had a blog-hop for awhile, so I think it's time again. Let's see how everyone is doing and what's up with their summer-time. Instead of me listing blogs, this time I'd like YOU to add your blog to this post; an invitation for others to drop by and visit you. Mr. Linky is the doorway to a virtual visit by each of us to the back porch of blogging friends. There's ice cold lavender lemonade on my porch table. Let me pour you a glass. What's on yours? Cookies? For me?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Listening to this Stillness

I am sitting in the blue chair
listening to this stillness.

The only sound the occasional gurgle of tea
coming out of the pot and into the cup.

How can this be?
Such calm, such peace, such solitude
in this world of woe.

Verse: 'The Sixth of January' by David Budbill

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Friendship's Ties

A delightful package arrived from a sweet friend this week. We'd planned on meeting "live and in person", but connections and time-lines did not mesh, so my little package was sent via UPS rather than delivered personally. So sad. But the beautiful contents made me smile, as these simple things represent so much. A pretty tin of waffle-cookies with a creamy caramel topping came from
here. They can only be described as heavenly! They are being dutifully rationed, but I couldn't resist making a fruit salad for supper tonight, inspired by the colors of these prints and served with the sweet wafers. Fresh raspberries, blueberries, bananas, and pineapple drizzled with honey and topped with banana mint. . .yum!

The pretty windmill ribbon that ties together quilting quarters represents my dear blogging friend, Lucy, who inspires me often with her beautiful hand-made quilts.

And the crisp red, white, and blue grosgrain ribbon represents me and the country that I call home. The ribbons tie two hearts together in friendship from across great distance and more than one time-zone.

Thank you, Lucy! I cherish the gift. . .and am refilling the box to send off to you. Keep watch for the postman to deliver a surprise from my house to yours.

A clue to it's contents? Alright, only one: Sisters.
Can you guess?

Rose and Plum

My adventures in making botanical syrups continues, as I work on creating new ways to use herbs and flowers in cooking. The Wild Yellow-Violet Syrup and Rose Syrup were fun to make and quite tasty as well. Several pounds of ripe plums that needed used quickly were a jumping off point for a batch of Rose and Plum Jam. I used the plum jam recipe that came in the Pectin box, but added rose water instead of plain water to the recipe. As Rachel Ray would say: Delish! It was very good. One jar made a nice topping for pancakes (with a few blueberries sprinkled on top) and the rest have been canned for winter's use. Of course, one thing led to another, and. . .

. . .before long a blueberry cobbler was created, using the Rose and Plum Jam for it's sweetening agent. Yummy!

And if you read on. . .you'll see my morning tea, sweetened with Rose and Plum Jam. It doesn't get much better than that, my friends! It was pure perfection!

Lovingkindness in the Morning

" Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee."

Psalm 143:8

May your day be blessed with many good things: joy, contentment, and a hug!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Dog's Eyes

"My sunshine doesn't come from the skies, It comes from the love in my dog's eyes."
Unknown Poet
Domino enjoys a happy time with Natalie and Haylie.
Domino is a Jack Russel Terrier.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Blueberry Blessings

It's blueberry season --- little purple orbs of luxury! Rich in antioxidants, they are also poor on the pocketbook if you buy them at a place like Farmer's Market or the local grocery store. But these antioxidant-rich berries have such awesome food value, that it pays to take advantage of blueberry season to fill the freezer for winter's use. This week I was not only blessed with blueberries, but with a blueberry picker!

Cousin Levi is nine already and under the tutelage of his parents, is learning about earning money and keeping accounts. He asked his Auntie LaTeaDah if she would like him to pick her some blueberries, and I said YES! His prices are much lower than the Farmer's Market, and the berries delicious! A willing picker, he's happy to pick as many as I wish to order. If the task gets somewhat overwhelming at times, I suspect that his mom and dad lend a helping hand, 'cause that's just the kind of people they are.

Of course, others like the blueberry patch as well. Long lines require patience, but so far everyone who has wanted to has had a chance to pick. Levi's three trips to the berry patch have resulted in. . .

. . .more than 100 lbs. of blueberries in my freezer!

Thanks, Levi!

Foody, Foody, Foody

Summertime. . .the best time of the year for a 'foody'. Summer fruits and vegetables are wonderful building blocks to plan a meal around. Sweet onions, garden tomatoes, cherries, apricots, blueberries, salad greens, zucchini, peppers, and cucumbers all provide a wealth of healthy ingredients for meal planning. What's growing in your garden? Do you have favorite ideas for serving your favorite fruits and vegetables?

Pictured here is a simple summer sandwich that is 100% plant-based and gluten-free. It's no small feat to find a 'burger' that fits this description, but recently I found a package of these delicious portabella patties* that grilled up nicely. So good with Veganaise, sweet onions, and garden tomatoes. Yum!

*Veggiburger from Franklin Farms; vegan and gluten-free

Cousins Cute

Danielle and Nikki come up the front walk, sharing radiant smiles. They really had a fun time modeling and their auntie and I enjoyed helping them dress up for pictures. These matching dresses were found at a local thrift shop for $5.00 each. Nubby silk and fully lined, they were hand-made by someone who excelled in needlework. The girls were so tiny we had to cinch them with safety-pins in the back, but who cares. We were having fun.

Tia seemed to think she belonged in this picture, so we let her be. If we'd wanted a dog in the picture, she wouldn't have cooperated!

Fastening pearls and comparing matching French manicures.

Sweet sixteen. . .beautifully sweet. . .cousinly perfect. . .good friends.

Learning People Skills

This evening friends dropped by for a dinner of Taco Salad and cookies. After our meal, the men visited around the table and the women had fun dressing up the teen-age girls in costumes for a photo session. Reminiscent of childhood dress-up days, it was so much fun! Photographing people is different than the usual still-life photography I enjoy. Lighting is especially challenging, but rewarding when it turns out just right. I have much to learn, but enjoyed the process so much! I'm eager to learn more and to practice until I get it right. This evening, my bedroom was heaped with gowns, scarves, shoes, and gems as the girls changed outfits many times. Such fun!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

We Should Be Like Gardens

Flower Quilt
by Mom

Thanks, sis, for letting me be the keeper of the quilt for awhile.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Meadow Paintbrush

The meadow next to Paintbrush Lane is filled with green and vibrant darts of red. The paintbrush are blooming and add such a beautiful bits of color to the meadow. As George Santayana can be quoted as saying: "I like to walk about amidst the beautiful things that adorn the world". There's so much of creation to view, enjoy, and appreciate!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sunshine and Rice Salad

It's picnic season! Yummy foods served to a group of young people is sure to be devoured and appreciated in short order. Sometimes it's fun to 'kick it up a notch' and provide something different than the expected. So today, along with traditional sandwiches and potato salad, I made Golden Summerhill Roasted Potatoes and Rice, Basil, and Sun-dried Tomato Salad with Daylilies. Yikes! I wasn't sure if the kids would eat foods with flowers in them, but both dishes were a great success and seconds were taken all around.

Rice, Basil, & Sun-dried Tomato Salad with Daylilies

4 cups cooked rice, chilled if there is time
2 cups green peas, frozen and thawed
1 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 - 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup Veganaise
1 - 4 oz. can chopped olives
1 large handful sweet basil, torn
salt to taste
drizzle of olive oil

In a large bowl, mix cooked rice and other ingredients. Stir until well blended, adding additional Veganaise if moisture is needed. Spoon into a large serving container. Garnish with daylilies and celery leaves. Chill until ready to serve.


What is your attitude about work? This is the question Anne Ortlund asks in the next chapter of her book, Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman. Rather than pushing women to work harder and longer, she reminds us to keep a balance between work and rest. Even working at tasks in which we are Spirit-gifted can lead to excess and can be abusive to our bodies. Thus said, she reminds us that God puts a high level of value on work of all kinds; especially work that leads to eternal results.

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain for the Lord." 1 Cor. 15:58.

Anne says that 'the industrious spider gets a large web', and although Solomon didn't write this, he could have! What a proverb! She reminds us that hard work never hurt anyone and that it's only a bad attitude about hard work that causes the gears to grind and the tensions to mount. Any work done in God's will should only bring physical fatigue. Rest will bounce us back quickly from this type of fatigue. And that work done in God's will should not bring emotional or spiritual fatigue. If it does, we need to re-evaluate and refocus our efforts.

He will make our yolk easy and our burden light. The author reminds us that when we work in obedience to Him, saying yes unreservedly before we see how, He will make it right. He will make it up to us in a thousand secret, delightful ways.

How exciting! As Anne says: 'Dear Christian women, see the glory of productivity. May part of the way you represent Christ in this world be your reputation for hard work!


Friday, July 11, 2008

A Lavender Boutique

Lavender fields provide tranquility and relaxation to the guest who wanders through the rows and leisurely picks a bundle of the fragrant stems to take home. But it's the boutique that inspires creativity and joy in incorporating the texture, fragrance, and beauty of the lavender plant for one's home use. Lavender is multi-faceted, useful for decor, toilette, and culinary purposes. It can't get much better than that!

Beautiful lavender wands and baskets look pretty in the boutique. Each is different and hand-made by Karen, her mother, and daughters. Guests to the farm are invited to sit a spell and weave a wand or two as well.

Pretty sachets filled with lavender bud are displayed in tiny cubicles. Each is unique. Pretty fabrics, unique patterns and shapes, buttons, aluminum name tags, and silk ribbon decorate them in unusual ways.

A ribbon tassel is fragrant and pretty, as lavender bud fills the hand-made rosettes at the top where they are kept on with a pretty bead.

Soft and dainty flour-sack tea towels are hand-painted by Karen's dad and are beautifully displayed amongst other lavender textile crafts in the shop. Being the designated tea towel artist, he's kept busy, as these pretty tea towels fly off the shelves.

Dancing Diva Dolls --- each unique and colorful --- are stuffed with lavender bud to make a fragrant addition to any room. Tiny bead necklaces and assorted styles and types of hair make each one different. Beautiful lavender baskets underline the diva's on this window pane, giving the appearance of diva's dancing through a meadow on a fine summer day.

Karen teaches classes in wreath-making. It takes much lavender to make a pretty wreath like this one! But once completed, it will grace a wall for years to come, keeping it's beautiful silvery color and adding fragrance to a room.

A lavender scented shirt or blouse? Yes! Simply hang on these pretty padded hangers, and the lavender bud used for padding will freshen up any outfit you choose to hang on it. Heavenly!

Lavender sachets for many purposes fill a suitcase display. Toss in the dryer for fragrant linens, or tuck in a lingerie drawer for a fragrance much nicer than any of the fancy fragrance papers and shelf liners can provide! Sachets mixed with rice make a soothing compress when microwaved or put in the freezer, and calm tired muscles after a hard day of work and stress.

Even the dog can be blessed by lavender! I wonder if it keeps ticks and fleas at bay? A lavender-stuffed bandanna makes Fido pretty and fragrant too!

Karen has so many other beautiful products available in her shop. The hand-made textile products make this lavender boutique unique, as it's one-of-a-kind treasures are beautiful, elegant, and cheerful! Oh, and did I say fragrant? Additionally, Karen sells her own special blends of culinary lavender, Blue Eyes Lavender Tea, Herb d' Provence, lavender lotions, and other bath products. If you stop by, tell her 'hello' from Gracious Hospitality.