Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Vegas, Baby!


Lee has business in Las Vegas this week.
I'm headed out today to join him.
Penn and Teller and Circ du Soleil will entertain us.
We'll be eating high and sleeping late.
No gambling for us, we'd rather give our money to someone who deserves it.

See you on Saturday.

Monday, June 28, 2010

When You Tire of BLTs

I first ate Tomato Pie, last year at a local diner called, Kerbey Lane Cafe. I knew I loved tomatoes. I knew I loved pie. What's not to love about pie?
This pie was heaven on a plate! It was sweet from the tomatoes, salty from the cheeses and olives, a bit spicy from the onions and fresh basil, and savory from the buttery crust filled with herbs.

I make a mean pie crust, and so decided "I can make this pie!" It took me a year, but here's my go at it.
I will tell you that I ended up making a tart---a whole pie was too much for just Pearl and I to eat. To make a full blown pie, double the ingredient list and bake it 1 hour.

All the veggies and basil are from my beloved CSA, Johnson's Backyard Garden.

Ingredients:

5 Tomatoes
10 large Basil leaves
1/2 a small Onion
2/3 cup Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup 'garlic and herb' Feta cheese
A 9" Homemade Pie Crust
Italian Herb blend, Garlic powder, and Pepper--all to taste.
Preheat oven to 425*

Note: You can use a store bought crust, it's just not nearly as yummy.

I peeled the tomatoes. I don't care for the skin when the tomatoes are cooked.

Fresh Basil.

Tomatoes: Peeled, sliced and deseeded.
Is that a word?--Deseeded?

I then put the cutting board at a slant, held in place by a paper towel. The idea is to get the tomatoes to give up some of their juices so the crust won't be soggy.

Mozzarella and Feta.
Of course, you can use plain Feta, but the flavored kind adds a little extra something.

Tomatoes and Onion awaiting their place in the pie.
Slice the onions very thin so they will cook well.

Sliced Basil.
Be sure not to do this until right before you assemble the tart/pie. Otherwise it will turn dark from exposure to the air.
The crust, full of herbs and spices.
I roll it out between two pieces of plastic wrap. That way no extra flour is added and I can pick it up to place either in a pie pan or onto the cookie sheet. It takes all the pain out of making homemade pie crust, as far as I'm concerned.
Here, you see I've placed the crust on the cookie sheet before I add the ingredients. Once they're in, there's no moving the tart.

Tomatoes, Onions, Cheeses and Basil.
Repeat one more layer.

Gently pull the corners up around the veggies.
I brush on egg to make sure all the cracks are sealed up and the crust browns nicely.

Bake at 425* for about 30-40 minutes or until you see the tomatoes bubbling a bit.

Voila'. Dinner is ready!
Let is rest for about 15 minutes before cutting.

Add a salad and you have a meal.
Or not.
Whatever you want.
I'm not your mother. You can have ice cream as a side dish if you want.
In fact, strike the salad idea.
I'm thinking that vanilla ice cream would pair well with this pie.
If you're a wine drinker, I have no idea what wine would pair well with this pie.
Maybe someone can chime in and help you out in the wine selection.
Maybe I should get off here before I get any more off topic.

Enjoy.
By the way, I never tire of BLTs as my title suggests.
The end.



Circle of LIfe

For those hesitant to read this--Don't worry, it has a happy ending.

Every human knows, when they get a pet, it won't be forever. We know, with a few exceptions, that our pets won't live more than 10 or 15 years. Some, far less. It is the price we pay for unconditional love.
This is Pearl with her first rat, Snickers. Yes, a rat.
Goodness, he was smart and friendly.
We've always said that rats are really just like little dogs. Pearl and Snickers could sit and watch TV or read a book for hours. He was content to sit with her, wander out and then come back to her lap. When he died, after three short years, we were all very sad. She would visit his little grave and cry and visit for some time afterward. As sad as that was, she knew he loved her. He loved her when she was happy, sad, snotty and every emotion in between. I believe he taught her about the nature of God.
Here's our Lucky. He disappeared in February after 10 wonderful years with us. I think he lived quite a wonderful life. He was primarily Pearl's cat. I think he loved us all, though. He was the object of much affection, whether he liked it or not. Goodness, we miss him. We'd never owned a cat before him. Lee and I grew up in 'cat free' homes. The only cats I'd ever met were sort of mental. I always wonder what Lucky's life was like before he found us. He convinced us that cats can be great pets.
Speaking of the circle of life......we get a giggle out of this picture of Lucky. He's drinking out of the fish bowl. I think he was positive we made fish-flavored water, just for him. He never bothered the fish, one bit.


This chicken is Sophia. She lets our rooster, Tuesday, think he's in charge, but all the other chickens know better. She's at the top of the pecking order. Tuesday can go in the coop to roost at night and sit there by himself for a half hour or more. I've been outside to hear him carry on from inside the coop, "girls, it's time to come in, girls it's time to come in, girls it's time to come in.......". Only when Sophia heads in, do the other hens come in for the night.
Sophia will be 6 in October. Pet chickens, ones not destined for the crock pot, can live 10 years. I think that number is the outside limit.
It has become clear that Sophia is ill. She's just not right. I believe in the next day or two, I may have to put her down. It is a gift I can give her for all the years of glorious eggs she has given us.
"A gift?" you say? Yes, a gift.
We as humans, have one last bit of love we can give our animals when it is clear they are suffering and dying. It is our duty. That last bit of love we can give them, as crushing as it is for us.
**************************************************

But wait, didn't I say this would have a happy ending?
Yes, it does.
While Lee is not convinced we need another cat, he has decided that it might be okay. He, understandably, is worried that a new cat might not be so considerate as Lucky regarding the rules of the house.
No cats on the counter (eewwww).
No scratching the furniture.
No pulling the loops on the oriental rug.
No pottying anywhere but the litter box.
No biting or scratching the humans (unless you leave the cat locked in your closet all day--another story, another time).
I believe cats can be trained, the same as dogs. Goodness knows, Seigfried and Roy had that figured out. I know there was that little "try to kill Roy" incident, but we won't be getting a tiger. Just a kitty.
Wish us luck in choosing. Lucky chose us. We are new at the choosing of a cat thing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Happy Birthday, My Love

Today you have shared 24 of your birthdays with me. This will be the first one we have spent apart.
You and Tom are in South Carolina, having a guys trip. It was your gift to Tom for his 18th birthday. It turns out it works well for your birthday, too. I would venture to guess that it will be your best birthday ever. That doesn't hurt my feelings one little bit.
You and Tom are driving fast.
Faster.
Fastest.
I hope you're wearing helmets and 5 point driving harnesses. More than anything, I hope you're having the time of your life and bonding with our first bird out of the nest.
Don't bring home a BMW, though. How can a person own a car like that and not drive fast?
We will celebrate with your favorite cake on July 4th, even though you arrive back home on June 28th. James will be away at camp all week. He certainly would not want to miss helping Grandma make your cake. He wouldn't want to miss eating it either.

Happy birthday, my love. I hope you have a fabulous day and eat someplace wonderful to honor this special day.

Love,
CeeCee

Monday, June 21, 2010

Eight-Leggeds

If you haven't guessed by the title, this is about spiders.
Fair warning.
I love just about all spiders. The one caveat is venomous spiders.
I suppose it could be argued that all spiders have venom. I just don't care to spend any time with those that can pierce human skin and cause a trip to the ER.
Spiders come in so many shapes and sizes.
All are voracious hunters.
They are so good for the garden and often good for humans that tend to wander around the house without shoes. I'll get to that later.
Some spin webs, some hunt, some build traps.
All have eight legs.
For some reason, all spiders are "she" to me. Much the same way all cats are "she" to some people.
Sexist I know.
You'll have to forgive me.
Crab spider.
She hunts. You can't tell from this picture, but they often take on the hue of the plant they live on.
Another crab spider.
You'll have to look a bit close at the picture to spot her.
It looks like a nice picture of a Red Admiral butterfly. It's a nice picture of a dying Red Admiral. The spider has captured the butterfly. Obviously, crab spiders are strong. She's holding this butterfly up with her front legs.
This tiny silver dot, is the male version of the common Garden Spider. In the spider world, the male is often much, much tinier than the female. I don't understand the biology of it, but I bet Google can help me out.

Here is an Orb weaving spider.
She spins an intricate web (think Charlotte's Web). Unfortunately, to do that properly, spiders need all 8 legs. She's missing one of her back legs. The back legs are the ones to attach the silk to "spoke" of the web. She seems to be doing alright, despite the missing leg.

The largest spider in North America.
Beautiful Miss Tarantula.
The main reason I like them so much, is that they eat scorpions. Scorpions come in the house and get stepped on by unsuspecting humans.
Nasty sting! Hurts like the dickens for hours.
Tarantulas, while vemomous and certainly able to pierce human skin, do not worry me. I have no need to pick one up. That would be the only reason she would bite me.
She's a hunter, too.

Mrs. Wolf spider with her babies along for the ride. I blogged about her last month.

This is the female version of the Garden spider.
Isn't she a beauty?
She is also an Orb weaving spider.
This one was fantastic at web building and smart about it too. She built it outside the kitchen window. That seemed to be the window that had the lights on most of day and evening. Lights draw insects.
Voila'---dinner comes to her.

Lastly, another orb spider. She was a giant compared to the one in the 4th picture.
As big a kumquat!
I only discovered her because of the guide 'wires' from her web. I nearly wiped out her whole web while mowing the pasture.
She would never come out of her camouflaged hiding spot so I could get a better picture.
Sometimes you just have to be happy with what you can get.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Songbirds

Nobody told my chicks that chickens can't fly.
My newest additions think the tree in the chicken run is the perfect place to get away from the fuss-budget older hens and rooster.
While my older chickens don't actively chase my new pullets (that would be too much work), the babies can't really set up shop for a nap or preening without fear of getting pecked on the head for just being in the way.
Their solution is to get up where the older chickens can't get---the tree. The little ones are surprisingly agile flyers. Even more so, their landings. Unfortunately, that won't last for long.
Buff Orpingtons hens can push up against the 6 lb. mark as fully grown chickens. I guess by the time they reach that weight though, they'll be able to peck the other chickens right back.
In other chicken news. The little hen in the center of the picture has begun laying eggs. Small, almost pink eggs. They'll grow in size as she does, and the color of the egg will become darker--closer to the natural brown that they're supposed to be.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I Miss Them


Tom and Pearl are away at Camp Sionito this week. This is the first time they've attended the same camp in several years. The last time, I was a counselor. I miss them, far more than I thought I would. I thought, "Man, there's going to be such peace and quiet this week." It's too quiet and too peaceful.
This year, we are all aware that Tom will be headed to college in the Fall. Some days we all want Tom to go away tomorrow. Last winter, Pearl and James began saying, "Go to college!" when Tom would tick them off.
Most days, we know that his presence will be missed in our daily lives.
Tom and Pearl have always been friends, but went through a period of time when they could barely breathe the same air. I understand that it's completely normal, but it befuddled both Lee and me. Lee and I were both born several years after the next oldest sibling. We were both sort of 'only children'. Sibling rivalry wasn't something we experienced.
The picture above is when we surprised the kids with a trip to Disney World. We secretly packed their bags and then took them to a pancake place for dinner. When they'd eaten as much as they could, we said, "Do you want to go home, or do you want to go to Disney World?" We then presented them with airline tickets (in Tom's right hand) and off we went. I don't think we're going on a family vacation this summer. We've talked about going to the coast, but I think the BP oil disaster will be a factor.
They come home in two days. I know there'll be times this summer when I wish they were back at camp. I know there'll be times when they wish they were back at camp.
Until then, I choose to miss them. I miss their silliness, their fights, their inability to remember their chores, their stubbornness, their smiles, their hugs, their "I love you", their thoughtfulness, their empathy, and their ability to make me want to strangle them.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Pot of Gold

When I was a little girl in Missouri, it was popular to have fruit trees. We, however, did not have any. My dad was content with having an enormous vegetable garden.
Our neighborhood had several folks with apple, pear or plum trees. There was a general rule that if a branch hung over a fence, the fruit was free for the taking.
I was happy to take it.

If I wandered outside my general neighborhood parameters and discovered a new tree hanging over someone's fence, I felt like I'd discovered gold. Maybe I'd get to try a new kind of apple or pear.
It didn't take much to make me happy.
I had long forgotten about those experiences until we moved to this property in 2000. We were one of the first to build in our area, and that meant there were acres and acres to be explored.
On on particular outing, I noticed a tree that was covered in birds. Upon closer inspection, I discovered they were gorging on figs. Small, purple-brown Turkish figs. Figs that cost upwards of $10 a pound at the grocery store. I'd discovered gold, all over again. What was even better, is the tree didn't belong to anyone.
Every year after that, I'd race the animals to get the figs before they did. The birds got the ones in the top of the tree, the deer would get the ones nearest the bottom, and I'd get the ones in the middle.
The last two years have been dismal for fig production. Figs are primarily water and sugar. No rain means no figs. This spring, it began to rain again. Long, soaking rains.
The fig tree has rewarded my patience with enormous fruit this year. They are bigger than any fig I have ever seen--as big as a jumbo egg. Their sweetness is not rivaled by sugar nor honey.

This tart is just the beginning. Figs will find themselves in jelly jars and in salads. I will scour recipes online for fig recipes. Above all, my favorite way to eat them is raw. Skin and all.
Good thing they aren't really gold, or I'd have a broken tooth or two.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Flying Cigars

I debated between that title and "my chimney is chattering".
Either way, I'm thrilled.
Those descriptions mean I have chimney swifts back for the 10th year.
When we began building the house in the summer 2000, we noticed sounds coming from the chimney, that was obviously being made by birds.
It was very close to the time when our builder wanted to light a fire in the fireplace to make sure it drafted properly.
I wasn't having any of it. I don't know how I got away with it, but I put my foot down. We were not going to kill birds just to see if smoke goes up the chimney. Our fireplace is huge and built the old fashioned way. Very different from our previous house that had a metal pipe that went up the center of a faux chimney on the outside of the house.
If smoke didn't rise properly in this monster, I didn't know what we'd do about it anyway.
I digress. Sort of.
It's the fact that the chimney is built with stone and mortar that lead me to quickly discover what sort of bird it might be.
They build tiny, stick nests in the lower 1/3 of an upright structure that has texture on the interior walls.
They are migratory birds that spend their winters of the Amazon basin in Peru. They arrive in mid/late March in the southern US and head back south in November. Those months are very reason so many humans are able to abide their noisy chatter. It leaves them free to use their fireplaces in the coldest months of the year.
Their flying/landing behavior makes them more like bats than birds. They are unable to stand upright like other birds. They cling to the sides of the chimney to sleep at night.
During the daytime, they are eating machines! A pair of adult swifts, feeding a brood of chicks (3-5) can consume more than 12,ooo flying insects a day.
Goodbye mosquitoes and flies!

Our chimney is especially noisy this year. We have a very successful nest of babies.
The last two summers, the drought was so severe that I believe the parents couldn't find enough food for the chicks.

My only wish is that these pictures were mine. I have no way of getting into my chimney without terrifying both the chicks and their parents. Having a chick fall because of fright would be a death sentence. It's not risk I'm willing to take.
I'm just thrilled that we have babies this year. Noisy chatter and all.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Fabulously Busy Month

From mid-May to mid-June, we were busy with wonderful things.
Our family is blessed beyond measure.

As you can see, it was someones 82nd birthday. Grandma and James got together on May 18th to bake the cakes that go into our family tradition for birthdays---homemade German Chocolate cake. Triple layered!
Grandma and James have started their own tradition of getting together to bake it. After it's cooled, they put the cakes in the freezer. On the day of celebration, the cakes are taken out of the freezer and topped with homemade frosting.
Happy Birthday, Grandpa!! And many, many more!

Next came the informal graduation of James from elementary school.
What an amazing year he had. Two teachers right from heaven. The children in their classes are going to take the middle school by storm. None of the kids will be caught off guard by the level of work required by middle school.
James got all A's by the way.
Great work, son!!


The week before graduation, we hosted a party at our house in honor of Tom.
How blessed we were with 60 guests that included people from all circles of our lives--church family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
Somehow, I managed not to get one picture of the events that day.
We had Rudy's BBQ, cakes made by Rolling in Thyme and Dough, and Blue Bell ice cream, of course.


Next came the day, 13 years in the making.
Tom graduated high school.
We were so thrilled that some of our extended family got to come.
Lee's brother, JD. His wife, Joanne and one of their sons, Daniel.
Late the night of graduation, their other son, David joined us.
Taller than both of us.
It's official!
Out of order here, but the cousins gathered round for a rousing game of Apples to Apples, Jr. Aunt Joanne gave them a run for their money, but David won.

The three musketeers.
Tom's two best friends, Connor and Christian.
Connor's medal is for leading our marching band to 1st place in state competition. Drum major extraordinaire.
He and Tom will be headed the same college.
Christian will be headed to a college nearby the other two boys, and continue his swimming career.

I feel such immense gratitude for all the blessings in my life.
I know life can change in an instant, but for today, I will be grateful for the health of my children, the choices they have made and the family that is mine.
Thank you to each and every person that made this month what it was.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Be Back Soon

Not even a picture for this post.
If you'll look to your right, you'll see that we have a big, family event coming up.
I've been so busy and not thinking too much about blogging.
I spent 12.5 hours on a riding lawn mower.
I vacuumed things that I don't think I've ever vacuumed before---same goes for dusting.
The bathroom was so clean that I put a 'do not use' sign on it.
We planned and executed a graduation party for 60 friends and family.
The list is longer, but I'm out of time.
See You soon. I hope you have a great week. I'll be back next week and it'll be summer!!