Monday, August 30, 2010

Changes and The CSN Stores

It's been busy around here since my last post found me contemplating going away party menus and kitchen tables.  The party has come and gone.  We enjoyed a menu full of summer's best ~ grilled meats, corn on the cob, watermelon, tomato & cucumber salad, pasta salad and potato salad. 
We also spent time on the lake.

 Some of us were content just hanging out in the water while Jeremy entertained us with wakeboarding and flips off of the boat. 

He always has been the more adventurous one in the family.  That's probably why he chose to go all the way to Australia for his study abroad program.

~ Brothers ~
Mike (l), Jeremy (r)

Later in the week we took him to the airport and wished him well on this exciting adventure.  I'm proud to say that despite stuffing a handful of tissues into my purse, I didn't need to use them.  I got by with a lump in my throat and a bit of mistiness.  Thankfully no embarassing watersheds :).

Also last week I was asked if I would be interested in doing a review of a product from the CSN Stores.  They made it possible for me to do 2 giveaways in the past and I have noticed CSN giveaways on several other blogs.  If you aren't familiar with them, they have over 200 online stores and offer a wide variety of products.  I think I could spend all day looking around at what they offer.  As a matter of fact I almost did that after receiving this generous offer :).

So, when they offered to send me a gift certificate in exchange for a product review, I knew just what I wanted to use the gift certificate for.    For the past few years I have been using a set of dishes that was perfectly fine, but they didn't match my kitchen.  I suppose I was hanging onto them for sentimental value.  They belonged to my mom and she absolutely loved them.  But, I've decided that I have many other things to remember my mom by and since she always liked her dishes to coordinate with her kitchen, I know she would understand.
So, on Tuesday I placed an order for 2 sets of these dishes:

I was pleased to find out that there was no shipping charge for this item and also no sales tax.  Yippee!
The dishes were at my front door on Friday.  As you can see by the above photos, they were packed very well and consequently there were no broken or chipped dishes.

Unpacking these new dishes led to a thorough cleaning of the kitchen cupboards.  There are now several boxes packed and ready to be taken to Habitat for Humanity.  I love how they use the proceeds from their thrift shops to help build homes for people who might not otherwise be able to afford them.  I think my mom would be happy to know that her dishes are being used for this purpose.

And I'm pleased to have dishes that match my kitchen. 

My mom's dishes were covered in flowers and had a lot of purple and pink in them.  Even though I love flowers, they sometimes seemed a little too feminine for every day.  This time I wanted something "gardeny" but not flowery.  I think these will work just fine.

And you know I can always flower them up a bit by adding fresh flowers to my napkin rings ;-).

Shopping at the CSN Stores was a great experience for me.  Placing the order was simple, the product was well packaged and arrived in a matter of days.  I would highly recommend checking them out.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Sentimental Journey at the Kitchen Table

As I sit here today planning the menu for an upcoming event, my mind is wandering a bit.  One minute I'm pondering what would taste good at a late summer get-together, but I'm also pondering back to school time and kitchen tables.  I know ~ odd combination, right? 
I guess back to school time always seems to remind me of how fast time flies.  Even though my kids are grown and my nest has been empty on and off for a couple of years, I still find it hard to believe that this:

Is no longer this:

How the heck does that happen so fast??

The upcoming event I'm planning is a going away party for my son, Jeremy.  We have had the pleasure of having him in the nest for the summer, but next week he will be leaving for Australia to study abroad for a semester.  I am very happy for him and know that he is about to begin a wonderful chapter in his life.  I look forward to hearing about his adventures and learning experiences.  At the same time, I will miss him.  He is a joy to be around.
It will be a change to have the nest empty again.  Our older son, Mike, is living in an apartment now.
  We all know what they say about change.  It is good, right?

So, now that I've talked about my back to school thoughts, you may be wondering what all of this has to do with kitchen table thoughts. 
It seems after sitting at the table for so long as I was planning my menu and taking a sentimental journey, I was noticing that the table is showing it's age in places.  Hmmm... sounds like someone else around here :).  Once in a while I entertain thoughts of updating the kitchen table.  Perhaps with something like this:

On second thought I think I'll stick with what I have.  I'm not sure I could handle any more changes right now.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fresh From The Garden Mint Cookies

Reasons why it's a good day to bake cookies:

  • I haven't baked any since last Christmas.

  • My sweet tooth is calling.

  • The mint is going gangbusters in the herb garden.

What's that? 
You've never put fresh mint in cookies?
Well, I hadn't either until I tried these a few years ago.  Now I make them at least once each summer.
I find chocolate and mint to be a tasty and refreshing combination.

See how pretty the little flecks of fresh mint look in the dough.
After they are baked you dip them halfway into melted chocolate.  I thought this picture looks like it could be their school picture.  If I knew how to draw faces in photo editing, I would have.  Some could be smiling, others could frown, a few would have glasses and at least one would have their eyes closed.  Good thing I don't possess this skill or the cookies might never be finished.

Milk and cookies ~ now there's a combo I'll never outgrow.

Fresh From The Garden Mint Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons milk

  • 1 cup fresh mint, finely chopped

  • 1-2/3 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

  • 1 tablespoon shortening
In a small mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Beat in egg yolk and vanilla.  Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk.  Stir in mint.  Shape into two 8 inch rolls; wrap each in parchment paper.  Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.
Unwrap and cut into 1/4 inch slices.  Place 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes or until edges are golden.  Remove to wire racks to cool.
In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and shortening; stir until smooth.  Dip each cookie halfway into chocolate; shake off excess.  Place on parchment paper to harden.
Yield:  about 4-1/2 dozen.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Which Way Are You Leaning?

Is it hot in here, or is it me?

Now there's a familiar saying for women my age.
But this morning I'm hot melting for another reason.
I just came in from watering my garden, filling the bird bath and doing a bit of pruning.  Now I have to cool down before I can even think about facing the steamy shower.  We're headed for 95 degrees today.  I think I can honestly say that I am so.over.this.heat!!
As I've been visiting blogland, it seems there are some of us who wouldn't mind seeing summer end and others who are in no hurry for it.

I seemed to notice this same thing in the garden this morning.  Some of the flowers seem to be thriving.

In some cases they were doing better now than they've done all summer.

Although many are content that it is still hot, humid and, well ... summer.  There were others who seem to think they're also so.over.this.heat and are ready to bring on the cooler temperatures of well ... fall.
For instance, this beautyberry bush is beginning to change from green berries to light purple.  By September those berries will be a gorgeous shade of purple.

As I stood under the oak tree enjoying the shade it offered, I looked up and saw this.  Made me think the mighty oak is also ready to move on.

Looks like Mr. Dogwood might be ready to jump on the fall bandwagon.

Those don't look like summer colors to me ;-).

This plant was new to my garden this year.
It has looked a bit like an ugly weed, but I did have a reason for buying it.

The tag said it would grow little decorative pumpkins in the fall.

I guess it's no secret which way it's leaning.

How about you ~ which way are you leaning?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I have a confession to make ~
I like to peep in windows.
But, I'm not a peeping Tom.  I promise.
If I haven't scared you away, allow me to explain.
It's just that if I'm the passenger in a car and let's say my husband is driving and it's nighttime, I tend to notice lit up windows.  Now, let's also say we are driving through the country and the lit up house is one of those cozy farm-type houses.  Well . . . my imagination takes over as I begin to picture what life is like for the people who live inside that cozy place.  Have I mentioned that I think life on a farm sounds appealing to me?
I'm not sure why as I've only spent time on a farm once in my life.  I was a kid then and this is what comes to mind from that experience:
  1. A very full fly strip hanging above the dinner table.  Every night I lived in fear that one of those flies was going to drop on my plate.
  2. No air conditioning.
  3. Trying hard to pretend that I liked the taste of milk fresh from the cow when inwardly I was thinking YUCK!
  4. Forgetting my toothbrush and having the farm wife sterilize one of her toothbrushes for me to use.  Can I just say that combining that fact with well water made this city girl not brush her teeth for a week.  I feel another YUCK coming on.
Despite these facts, I romanticize life on a farm with all that fresh country air, homegrown vegetables, slower pace of life ...

I think I've watched "The Bridges of Madison County" one too many times :-).

Anyhow, it seems that this summer I have spent more time peeping out windows than in.  The heat, high humidity and my back issues have caused me to be in the house quite a bit this summer. 

So, rather than peeping in, I've been peeping out and, for the most part, enjoying the view.  So glad I planted lots of flowers on my patio so that they could be seen from the kitchen and the family room.

Sometimes I peeped into little windows in the kitchen.  I did encounter a bee, but at least she doesn't sting.

This window had a cooling effect even on the hottest days.

One day I spotted two butterflies dancing around the plants on the patio.  I grabbed the camera and ran but was only able to capture one of them.

Right after I captured it big rain drops began to fall.
I wondered what it would do as the drops were hitting it.  It seemed to nestle into the flowers until the rain subsided a bit.  Either that or it was hiding from this peeping Tom camera happy lady who's been cooped up in the house too long.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August 1st?

I picked up a few little treasures on my walk today and had to ask myself . . .

Is it the first day of August or . . .