Friday, June 28, 2013

How to Cut up a Watermelon

This method seems so simple, but I see way too many pictures in design magazines (and food magazines) of watermelon in great, unwieldy chunks. What are we supposed to do, grab a fork and a knife?

During the heat of summer, we go through two or three melons a week,
so cutting off all the rind and making small cubes is too much work for me.

This is the only way we ever cut up watermelon.

It makes beautiful little triangles, easy to hold.

And little rinds, easy to chuck into the compost bin.

Just in time for the Fourth of July!

Movie by Anna Kate Murphy.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Days

At last the hot summer days have arrived.
Two days ago, we went on a date.
Not a great date, as it turned out.
For me a great date would be a boat ride, a picnic,
and time to talk without interruption.
We went to Menard's, then to a client's house where Nate needed to fix something small,
and finally to Dinkytown to deliver a used bike to our oldest son.
THEN we went on our date.
We like food that is surprising, but not too weird.
This food was astonishing.
You can see the menu here.
Nate got the grilled octopus and I ordered the "bacon chawan mushi."
The what??!!
 I usually order the cheapest thing on the appetizer course, then I take a few bites of Nate's real meal.
This appetizer was so small, I thought it was a mini candle
 I ended up with a chicken dinner that I didn't order.
Our waiter was nice, and I didn't want to point out his mistake.
Strange little missteps sort of characterized our date.
It took me awhile to recover, but today I feel pretty good again.


Yesterday I gave Malachi his first real haircut.
His hair was getting long and fringe-y on his big forehead,
and it needed trimming around his ears.

The pictures don't show how much he moved around.
He looks a little more grown-up now.
Still my baby boy,
when he's up all night cutting new teeth.

And now our garden is getting out of control.
(Not the plants - it's been a slow spring. The weeds are out of control).
We planted it in a rush, using organic seeds that we saved from last year.
They mostly came up, we just needed to replant the beets and some squash.
We've had so much rain that I've hardly had to water the garden.
This morning Anna Kate and I got outside early,
before the steamy heat set in,
and weeded and put down mulch.
We need more straw, since we used up all we had.

Beans and beets in good dark soil.

My favorite peony bloomed.
I wish these flowers lasted for weeks on end, but they're gone all too soon.

And finally, we buy eggs from two different friends.
They come in all shapes and sizes.
Brown eggs on a white platter,
so pretty that they almost rival peonies for simple beauty.

"One day in mid-June Jody saw a cock and a hen run from the grape arbor with the scuttling hurry of paternity. He was wise enough not to follow them, but prowled about under the arbor until he found the nest. It held twenty cream-colored eggs. He was careful not to touch them, for fear the quail might desert them, as guineas did. A week later he went to the arbor to look at the progress of the Scuppernongs. They were like the smallest pellets of shot, but they were green and sturdy. He lifted a length of vine, imagining the dusky golden grapes in the late summer." ( The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

One-Year Photos

Our friend Amber came to Julia's grad party and snapped some beautiful images of Malachi.

I tried to post some of his newborn photos, but the disk doesn't want to load.

I am amazed at the ways a baby changes and grows in just one year. He crawls, has about four words, gets into cupboards, stands up on furniture, and knows how to turn the pages in a book. He may have the book upside-down, but he turns pages from left to right. If the page won't turn, he bellows at it.

Maybe by the time he turns two, he will be sleeping through the night.


This is my favorite picture. Look at that cute chin. Yummy-face.

To contact Amber or see her other work, look here.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

My Dad

 In front of a village thatched house, in the Amazon jungle, around 1971.
(I am sitting on the platform, my sister is turning her cute face away from the camera).

Just a few things that I appreciate about my dad:

He can tell a joke.
Even when I've heard his jokes before, I listen with pleasure,
because he tells them with relish
and he remembers the punchline.

He's athletic.
He played baseball as a young man, but when we were growing up, he learned tennis.
He taught most of our children how to ride their bikes.
(Don't lose your edge, Dad. Just five more years and you can teach Malachi, too).

 Painting pots with the Chayahuitas.
Defying convention, he took his family to the jungles of Peru, giving me the best childhood ever.

He can roll with the punches.
(Flexibility is the number-one trait of missionaries).
(And as you see in this photo, so can my mom. This was her kitchen. Not all the time, just during the summers that we spent with the Chayahuitas).

He's brave.
He figured out  how to manuever a deeply-laden canoe through the vagaries of Amazonian rivers,
with an Indian guide along to keep us pointed in the right direction.

Church with the Chayahuitas.
He somehow adapted to being the father of three girls.
(Even though he grew up with all brothers).
And he's a bit mystified by us, but proud of us, too.

He's a born teacher.

 Lake Yarinacocha, the dolphin-filled lake that was the soul of our mission center.

He seeks the Lord continually.
One of my favorite memories, which I found embarrassing at the time, was when he used to shout out from his hammock, "Thank you Lord!" or, "I love you, Lord!"
The parrot learned to imitate the squeak of the hammock, but not the heart-felt praise and worship.
I think the hammock was consistent, but my dad's shout-outs were varied.

 My dad, Dr. Dodds, and George Hart running a TB (tuberculosis) clinic in the tribe.

He has spent his life serving others, and has found that giving continues to bring him life.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you!

Pilot Me by Josh Garrels. Listen here.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Jess's Nursery, Gray and Green

 (Note the Japanese tape behind the tv, in a chevron pattern, and the simple doily swag above the fireplace).

I have been wanting to blog about mantels, and my friend Jess graciously allowed me to take a few photos of her house. I love her decorating. It's clean, simple, thoughtful, and some of the prettiest things in it are handmade. But I got to her house, and she pointed out that her mantel isn't exactly decorated. She has to keep it plain because of the television. I snapped this pic to show the book pages that she taped around the fireplace. Malachi didn't rip them off, although he thought about it.
 Look at this wall art! Ribbons sewn in a row. Jess says they flutter in the breeze when the window is open.

So we went upstairs and she let me snap photos of her nursery!
(Even though she and her husband are real photographers, and I am not).
Baby W is due any day now.
Here is what I love about this nursery:
No plastic.
No clutter.
Gray walls.
Handmade art.
A subtle polka-dot theme.

Look at this wonderful book corner.
Even the mobile above it is made from a vintage book.

 (To the left you can see a few of the copper polka-dots that sprinkle this wall).

Above, a close-up of the mobile, crafted from a Curious George that Jess has been saving for ages.

Malachi did try to destroy this polka-dot swag on the crib.
If Baby W is a girl, Jess will add accents of pink and orange.
Quilt by Jessica's mom.

I would blog about design more, but this guy keeps me focused on the things that matter.
Like the little person who will soon occupy this beautiful room.
Blessings on you all your days, Baby.
We can't wait to meet you!

Here is a sweet lullaby by one of our favorite artists. (My husband will not go anywhere without the cd, Love and War and the Sea In Between.)

Update: Greta Mae was born on June 20, perfect and beautiful. So I  made her a pink and orange blanket!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Garden Tour

Nasturtiums make me feel so successful.
These were grown from seed.
I tried to keep the cost down (planters can get spendy),
so I bought about six petunias, eight pansies, a spike for each urn, and I filled in the rest with pansy and nasturtium seeds. (The big, flat leaves that float above the other flowers are the nasturtiums. They should bloom right around the time the pansies die out).

This year I tried something new for this patio pot.
I planted lettuces, chard, kale, parsley, and I can't remember what else.

The lilac is done blooming, but the Snow-in-Summer beneath it is gorgeous.

Here is a close-up of the Snow-in-Summer.
My sister-in-law got a little pot of it years ago, and now it fills several gardens.
I love it.

The back garden (what I call, unromantically, the Fire-Pit Garden).
Nate built these rock walls about ten years ago.
At the time, somebody we knew was moving, and she gave me many of her plants.
My favorites are the blue flax (you can just barely see it on the right),
the irises, and the garden phlox.
I wouldn't recommend planting the spider-wort (the bright pink in front),
because it's invasive and tries to hop everywhere.
It has invaded the peonies on the upper level of this rock wall.

A periwinkle iris from my friend Jamie.

This garden represents the best of times and the worst of times.
The tree in the middle is a terrible tree.
Look it up, it's called a Siberian Elm.
Nate and I think that someday scientists will be able to utilize its tendencies
for regrowth, refusing to die, and covering an area with its own kind.
Most of my weeding is tearing out the seedlings from this tree.
Below this awful tree, however, is one of my favorite little gardens.
More Snow-in-Summer, creeping phlox, hosta, bleeding heart, yarrow, bluebells, and some mystery plants that just might be weeds.

By the shed is the garden I probably look at the most, since I can see it from our living room.
This is a fantastic lilac.
It's called Tinkerbelle, and if you want some, I have plenty of good little baby Tinkerbelles to share.

Back around to the front of the house.
With our wet, cold  June, the bleeding heart have lasted a long time.
I like how the dianthus in front reach toward the sun.

On the north-east side of the yard, we planted a beautiful linden tree.
This is a wild-looking bed of columbine.
I tore out all the landscape fabric so these could reseed.

The columbine up close.
They are called Carol Ann, a misspelled version of my mom's name!

Back on the front porch, in damp flipflops,
happy that these blooms are finally taking off.
June has taken a long time to arrive.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Birthday Boy

When I woke up yesterday and flipped my daily verse to June 7,  I read,
"My health may fail,
and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
He is mine forever."
(Psalm 73:26)

A year ago today, June 8th, things started to go wrong in the hospital.
Before we were discharged two days later, our baby boy had undergone several blood draws,
an echocardiogram test for his heart, an X-ray on his bowels, light therapy for jaundice,
and by far the most upsetting, had been placed on intravenous antibiotics.
He had tested positive for infection from the blood draw (a painful, awkward draw that resulted in skin contamination). Because of hospital policy, he had to be on antibiotics for 48 hours, undergo another blood draw from his tiny chubby arm, and have a clean result before they would release him.
We felt like the hospital owned our baby.
My sister, who was newly pregnant at the time, became determined to have another home birth
when she saw how they made our healthy baby seem so sick.

Of all those awful procedures, the only one he needed was the light therapy.
And my goodness, how he needed that.
When we finally escaped the hospital, I was determined to keep him home, safe with us, away from all tests and procedures and fear.
But he became dangerously ill with jaundice
(it turned out to be breast-milk jaundice, which lasted for 12 weeks),
and he needed another 4 days of hospitalization when he was three weeks old.
I spent a lot of time singing and praying Scripture over him.

I love knowing songs to Scripture.
The verses above sing beautifully,
"God the Lord is the strength of my heart,
He's my portion forever.
Yes the Lord my God is the strength of my heart,
Your nearness, oh God, is my good."

Happy Birthday, Malachi Jude.
May His nearness be your good,
all the days of your life.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Naomi's Almond Bars


My wonderful niece Naomi made these for the grad party. People raved about them. The aqua frosting was specially mixed to match Julia's party (we were going for mostly red and aqua). 

Almond Bars
(Recipe has already been modified with reduced sugar amounts, so I wouldn't recommend reducing sugar further)

1 cup butter, softened
2 c. flour
1/4 powdered sugar

Cut the butter into the flour and powdered sugar until fine and pebbly (I like a pastry blender for this).
Press into 9x13 pan, bake at 350 for 20 minutes

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. almond extract

Beat ingredients together until very smooth. 
Pour over crust.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (also at 350)

Allow bars to cool.

Beat together:
1 c. powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 tsp. milk (or a little less, depending on how much food coloring you use)
1 tsp. almond extract

Spread frosting on cooled bars. 

I was going to make these this week using almond meal for one cup of the flour in the crust. But we are still lounging around, recovering from the party! It feels great to let the house be messy, and go an entire week without weeding.
Here's what we did this week, besides cleaning up and returning all the stuff we borrowed:
Malachi got proficient at crawling. This means we are on high alert at all times until the gate gets installed (which will be tonight, I hope).
Anna Kate learned the joy of reading short stories. She started with Chronicles of Avonlea, then she asked me about scary short stories. I have quite a list of those, but she can't read them all just yet. I let her read A Rose for Emily, The Most Dangerous Game, The Open Window, Music on the Muscatatuck (my favorite, found here) *, and next I'll look for The Ransom of Red Chief.  Does anyone out there have other suggestions? I won't let her read Poe!
Julia wrote thank-you notes. All done! Thanks to all for your generous gifts, she was so happy.
We are getting ready for Malachi's first birthday tomorrow. I made cupcakes. There were ten cupcakes, and they were so delicious that the girls and I ate nine of them, saving one for Malachi for tomorrow. Then I made a cake. Wow.

*This one isn't scary, maybe one reason why I like it so much.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Carole's Potato Salad

My mom's famous potato salad.
Julia's party menu was very simple: sub sandwiches (she loves subs), chips, fruit, veggies.
Carole's Potato Salad was the only made-from-scratch food at the party, except for the desserts.

Here's what the bowl looked like after the party.
(This is a big Grip-Stand bowl, just like on Downton Abbey!)
We filled it twice, and our 100-plus eaters emptied it twice.


Something is missing...

Yep. That's more like it.
Thanks, Mom!

Carole's Potato Salad

5 lbs. potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half (either russet or red are good)

1/4 cup olive oil
scant 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
squirt of mustard (maybe 1 to 2 tsp, definitely less than a tablespoon)
dash of pepper

10 eggs, boiled (bring pot of eggs to boil, turn off heat, keep covered for 15 min., then drain and rinse with cold water)

1/2 c. finely diced onion, soaked in a bowl of water with a dash of sugar and a bit of vinegar
1 jar pimiento-stuffed green olives (10  oz, but you might not use them all)
2 c. diced celery
optional:  5 chopped green onions, paprika (if you don't use green onions, you may want more regular onion)

Boil potatoes in their skins (this will take about 20 min., depending on the size of potatoes). Check them with a fork to test. My mom is picky, so she lifts them out as they are done, and this way she doesn't get any mushy ones.
Drain the cooked potatoes in the pot, return pot to stove top, and dry out potatoes on very low heat for a few minutes.

While potatoes are cooling, make vinaigrette by whisking together the olive oil, vinegar, salt, mustard, pepper (to taste).

Peel potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces. I quarter each potato half, then slice the quarters crosswise.
While you are peeling and slicing the potatoes, boil the eggs.

Place peeled potatoes in a large bowl and pour the vinaigrette over them.

Dice eggs, either by hand or with a good egg slicer. Save a few eggs for garnish.
Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper to taste.
Stir eggs into potatoes.
Drain the onions: using a strainer, rinse the onions under hot water, shake excess water out, add onions to potatoes.
If using green onions, add them at this time.
Stir in mayo to taste. Depending on your potatoes and how long they've been soaking up the vinaigrette, you'll probably need one to two cups of mayo.
Slice the green olives, using as many as you like, and when you add them to the potatoes, also add a splash of the olive brine.
Refrigerate the salad several hours, or overnight if you have time.

Add celery. Do not add it until shortly before serving, as it can make the salad watery.

To serve:
salt and pepper to taste
add in more mayo if needed
Scoop salad into a beautiful bowl, top with sliced eggs if you like, and sprinkle with paprika.