Thursday, June 30, 2011

summer fun

Last night was the first real cookout our yard has seen this summer.  Complete with citronella candles and baked beans. 

I love these beans.  The only picture I have is this one as I was just starting to mix everything together.  I wasn't really able to get any pictures of the food all ready to serve, what with the 30ish hungry people milling about. 

Here is the recipe for the beans so that you can make them for your very own summer cookout:

1 large can baked beans (I used 2- 24 oz. cans)
1 15 oz. can kidney beans
2 15 oz. cans lima beans (drained)
2 15 oz. cans green beans (drained)
1 lb. bacon, cut in pieces and browned
1-2 cups chopped onion

After browning bacon, save half of the grease and saute the onions in it.  Pour all the beans in a large roasting pan and add onions, bacon, and the following mixture:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dry mustard
salt to taste
1 cup ketchup

Mix well.  Bake uncovered at 275 for 4-5 hours. 

Now I know what you're thinking: "FOUR TO FIVE HOURS!?!?!"  And I guess this would be the appropriate time for me to admit that I really like things that slowly cook for most of the day.  Something I can mix up in the morning, and then forget about while I go about the rest of the days work, smelling delicious food in the background.

Don't judge until you've tried it at least once. 

We had lots of food other than beans, plus drinks in our big metal tub.  This tub is really getting a workout this summer.  Best $13 we've spent this year. 

The evening was lovely and, thankfully, not too hot.  It's been darn hot around here lately. 

In a rare moment, I caught just one child in the hammock.  There were usually at least four. 

True to the "when it rains, it pours" theory, today I am simultaneously cleaning up from last night's fun, preparing for two house guests to arrive by dinner time, and packing our things to travel north for the weekend, where we will be throwing another party.  No one will be able to blame me if I sleep through the fireworks this year.

Don't you just love the fourth of July?  It feels like the peak of summer to me and makes me want to buy lots of watermelon and decorate with this.  Or spiff up my bike and ride in a parade. 

Have a lovely long weekend!  I'll be back next week to share pictures of all the festivities!  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

S + L

This past weekend, we did a million little house projects and felt super productive.  One of the projects was to fill in the "mystery hole" in our patio with fresh cement.  (No, we did not know about the mystery hole when we bought the house and yes, next time we buy a house we will check underneath every door mat first.)

Steve let me carve our initials in the wet cement. 


I love that this is a permanent part of our home now.   I love that the next person to buy this house will probably spend time wondering about "S" and "L", just as we wonder about the mystery hole.  I love that Steve let me scratch up his perfectly smooth cement square.  

Other than completing household projects, we are gearing up for a couple big events this week and eating berries on absolutely everything.  I'll share some event pictures and recipes later in the week!

Monday, June 27, 2011

H. Bird

Much like the elderly, we enjoy bird watching.  In the warmer months, we are especially captivated by hummingbirds.  Many of them nest right in our yard and spend the day zipping back and forth to the feeder. 

This was our old hummingbird feeder.  It was very special because we bought it as a souvenir on our first anniversary.  Unfortunately, five years later, it is also very broken.  Several of the glass petals have broken off, making it a real challenge to keep all your fingers while refilling it. 

Speaking of refills, we brew up hummingbird nectar by the quart and keep it in a big jar in the fridge.  Those guys are heavy drinkers. 

So our new feeder is this big red bottle with a hummingbird on the front.  And it says "Perky Pet", so clearly, we had to have it. 

The biggest difference between feeders is that our new one has four places for the birds to drink and our old one had just one.  I have seen one bird try out multiple drink stations in search of the best spot.  I have not seen more than one bird drinking at a time yet, but I have high hopes.  I think that if we watch long and carefully enough, we might catch a bird party. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must finish darning socks before we leave for bingo night.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Steve's mom has excellent taste.  Every time we visit, I end up admiring things in her house and she usually sends me home with a few of them.  She is an avid thrift store shopper, something I don't quite have the patience for, and ends up with some beautiful finds. 

This visit was no different and I came home with a backseat full of bounty.  I love dishes, especially charming, slightly unmatching ones. 

These footed bowls are the perfect spot for the hydrangeas that I cut this morning.  They still need a bit more drying time, but I like to catch them before they lose all their color.  Remember last year's wreath

I also came home with this handy wristlet, a sweet gift from my sister in law.  And it matches my toenails.  Bonus. 

One of the projects I've been working on this week was a new laptop bag.  Our newish laptop doesn't fit in our old bag, so we bought an inexpensive sleeve for it and decided that I would make a bag for the sleeve to go in.  And Steve was such a good sport about the fact that our old laptop bag was hot pink, that I decided to make this one in his favorite color. 

In the process of making the bag, I learned how to make these snazzy elastic side pockets and now I want to put elastic pockets on everything.  Don't you think elastic is just so great?  It's right up there with duct tape and peanut butter. 

Today I'm enjoying the cooler air and hoping it sticks around for the weekend.  I love Friday- right on the edge of the weekend is my favorite spot of the week!  Next week, let's talk about food again, shall we?  It's been too long.  I'll share some recipes and you can wonder why I take so many pictures of what I eat.  Deal?  Deal.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

summer romance

In the summertime, Steve and I like to sit down with our planners and schedule some dates.  Not that we don't date during other seasons, but we always step it up a bit in the summer months. 

Since we try to schedule something weekly, the dates can be pretty simple.  Anything from coffee to Barnes and Noble to ice cream to a walk in a beautiful spot to renting a movie on a week night.  The main rule is that it has to be something out of the ordinary and fun for both of us. 

This morning we kicked off the summer romance with a coffee date before Steve left for work.  We went up the street to Starbucks, where we ran into our pastor, Bill.  It's just not romantic until Bill shows up. 

Then we walked around a lovely shopping center while we enjoyed our mocha and the cool morning air.  We always share a drink because we're frugal like that.  And also we're small and don't drink that much coffee.

Now I get to go about the rest of my day fueled by a great morning with my sweetheart.  I just can't get enough of that Steve. 

If you are wondering what I'm sewing these days, the truth is that I took a much needed break after the party kits.  But this week I am back at it, working on several custom orders and a few personal projects that keep getting pushed to the bottom of the list.  Hopefully I'll have some pictures to share later in the week!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

route 29

The drive is usually the least memorable part of the trip, but this past weekend it turned into an event in itself.  We have been driving the same route to and from Steve's family's house for six years now.  I don't know exactly what made us take a new path, but here's to shaking things up a bit. 

The scenery was everything I'd hoped for and more- farms, horses, cows, fences, trees, crops.  Noticeably missing from this trip: large trucks, traffic, and fast food.  I did see a few McDonald's, but they were not the norm.  The roads felt quiet and empty, like we were taking a Sunday drive in the country.  Which I guess is exactly what we were doing on the way home on Sunday. 

We stopped a lot more than usual, but there were so many great places to stop!  Our first stop was at the North Carolina welcome center, which is a cute little house with a wraparound porch. 

And water pumps.  We tried one, just to make sure they worked. 

For lunch, we stopped at a precious little place, appropriately named "Travelers". 

Chicken salad and sweet potato fries sure beat fast food in my book. 

There was so much picture taking and pointing and looking out the windows that seven hours flew right by.  This wasn't some boring drive.  We were exploring new territory! 

(Just when we started to feel like Lewis and Clark, they showed up on a monument around Charlottesville.)

There were so many places that we didn't get to stop, but wished we could have.  I already have a list in my head for the next time we go. 

The truest test of the new route was if we would use it for our return trip or not. 

We did. 

It was equally grand.

You just can't beat rural charm. 

Or trains that run parallel to the road for so long that you feel like you may just be going to the same place.

All in all- a complete success.  As great as it was, it's even greater to be home again and I secretly love going away because it makes me appreciate our house anew every time we return. 

Today feels like the perfect start to summer- hot and sunny and fresh cut grass and watermelon and wet hair on bare shoulders.  Hope yours is off to an equally satisfying start!

Friday, June 17, 2011

we come bearing gifts

I never like to show up empty handed.  I think that if you are going to invade someones home for a weekend (or longer), you should bring some sort of prize for them.  Like a "sorry I used all the hot water/ thanks for letting me eat your food/ there are way too many cars in the driveway" prize. 

We are headed north to visit Steve's family for the weekend, loaded down with ripe southern peaches and homemade coconut macaroons.  I bet they'll be glad to see us. 

I hope to have lots of fun pictures to share next week because, instead of taking the boring old interstate, we are taking the scenic route.  I'm hoping to eat at some great local places along the way.  Maybe I'll share my macaroons with them. 

Have a great weekend!  I'll see you back here on Monday!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

harvest day

I know I've mentioned that I'm mainly growing herbs in my garden this summer.  That probably sounded to you like not a lot of work.  That's sure how it sounded to me. 

And the thing about herbs is that they're not a lot of work to grow.  They really only want water and sun and are apparently really unappetizing to all garden pests.  It's after you harvest them that the real work begins. 

Yesterday was harvest day.  The first of, what I'm sure will be, many similar days this summer and into the fall.  Not to imply that this was the first time I've cut any herbs this year.  But those cuts were more of the "I'm making pizza and would like some fresh basil" type, whereas these cuts were of the "I can't see the neighbor's fence anymore because the parsley is three feet tall" variety. 

In case you're at all interested, or in case you have piles of fresh herbs at your house too, I thought I'd share what I did with them all.  First I put everything on a wire table outside and hosed it down thouroughly.  Then I laid the herbs out on the patio to dry in the sun for about an hour. 

I like to dry oregano, thyme, and sage in our food dehydrator.  It takes about two days.  I just throw in the whole stems and then crumble the leaves off once they're dry. 

This is what our food dehyrator looks like.  You can use it for anything, but we mostly use it for herbs. 

The basil got tossed in the food processor with a few other ingredients for a big batch of pesto.  I like to make pesto to freeze throughout the summer so that we can enjoy it all year. 

I made a batch of herbal tea with the mint.  It is not very strong, but has a great smell. 

I don't think that dried parsley is a good substitute for fresh, so I learned this trick a few years ago.  I take several stems of parsley and hold them together in my hand.  Then I dip them into boiling water to blanch them for about 30 seconds- just until they turn dark green. 

Each bunch goes into a separate baggie and they all go into the freezer.  And whenever I need fresh parsley in the dead of winter, I just pull out a bag!

I had such a great time playing in the kitchen all afternoon.  There is something very satisfying to me about preparing food to be used at a later time.  It's like money in the bank.  Today, I feel pretty rich. 


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