Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for...
  • the awe-inspiring grace of God
  • my lovely family and friends
  • my health
  • the health of my loved ones
  • my job, and the summer break it provides me
  • summer break, which is going by a smidge too quickly for my taste
  • plenty of food to eat, clean water to drink, a roof over my head, clothes to wear, shoes on my feet, a car that runs every time I start it, electricity
  • air conditioning
  • my Bubba's successful wisdom teeth surgery this morning...I'm glad he's feeling okay and won't even hold it against him that he texted me about the surgery while he was, ahem, sitting in the dentist's chair
  • two lovely houseguests this of the college roommate variety, and one of the college roommate's toddler daughter variety...I have a newfound respect for mothers of wee ones, and I enjoyed the stink out of their visit this week. Come back soon, Kira and Elizabeth!
  • some killer new books from the library...I'll report back as soon as I finish them
  • 65 days until football season kicks off :)
  • fun Fourth of July's hands-down one of my favorite holidays
  • a well-deserved week off for Annesta next week...enjoy it, friend!
  • a so-far successful "no mo' pudge" campaign for Lauren...homegirl makes me laugh, and I wish we lived close enough to hang out on the regular!
  • Suzy's recipes this week: Chik and Taters and Chicken Crunch
  • one more glorious month of summer break until I head back to better believe I plan to wallow around in every beautiful second of it!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011


During FriendshipFest 2011 (which I still need to post about...slacker), we had a pizza feast on our first night. I was in charge of pizza dough and sauce. Daddy helped me with the dough, and I tried my hand at my first ever homemade sauces. I made tomato sauce and alfredo sauce; they were both delicious and SO easy!

Pizza/Spaghetti Sauce
fresh tomatoes (I used the 5 I got at the farmers' market.)
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes (I squished them up!)
minced garlic (I used 2 cloves.)
Italian seasoning (or fresh basil, thyme, oregano)
cayenne pepper
pinch of sugar

In a pot on the stove, squish up the canned tomatoes (with a fork or your hands, if you enjoy a good mess like I do) and dump in their juice. Dice the fresh tomatoes and add them (seeds, skins, and all), as well as the garlic. Season to taste with all the other seasonings, and bring to a low simmer. I let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours. The goal is to let the water simmer out so the sauce will thicken a bit. Since we were using this on pizzas, I swiped an immersion blender around a few times to make it a bit smoother. I think some chunks would be nice if you use it as a spaghetti sauce.
*You could use all fresh tomatoes, or all canned...just depends on what you have handy.
*This made 8-10 servings.
Alfredo Sauce
1 stick of butter
1 8oz pkg cream cheese, cut into chunks
1 cup cream, half&half, or milk (I used milk.)
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
garlic powder (optional)
black pepper, to taste

Melt the better in a saucepan or small pot. Add the cream cheese chunks, and whisk until completely melted together. Add milk (or cream, or half&half), Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and pepper. Whisk well. Remove from heat to thicken, and serve.

*If it's too thick after being refrigerated, thin with a bit of milk.
*I thought this was plenty creamy with milk as the base. You can adjust according to your taste; the sauce will just vary in richness.
*This also made 8-10 servings.

Go forth and sauce it up! Enjoy.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The time I turned into Violet Beauregarde

This one time, I ate a whole bunch of blueberries and turned into Violet Beauregarde. Remember her?

She's the character from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who decides to chew Willy Wonka's still-in-testing-phases gum despite his warnings to steer clear. She turns into a giant blueberry and has to be escorted to the "juicing room" to be squeezed of blueberry juice and returned to her original size.

Another post would be necessary to describe my love and utter admiration for Roald Dahl's talent and imagination. In the meantime, I need to figure out a way to stop eating blueberries before I begin to take on a blue hue.

I went blueberry picking at Morgan Creek Winery yesterday morning with two work friends, and we had a ball. We paid $7 to pick half gallon buckets (read: oodles) of blueberries and participate in a free wine tasting. Their muscadine blush wine has been a longtime favorite, but I enjoyed branching out a bit and trying some new varieties. The whole experience was lots of fun, and I definitely recommend it if you're ever in this neck of the woods.

Since I now have an entire half gallon of blueberries all to myself, I've declared eating the whole thing my mission in purpose, if you will. Oh. My. Heavens. These blueberries are so good. So good. I've been eating them by the fistful. I reckon the majority of them will find their way into the freezer, because I couldn't live with myself if I let them go bad. Any other fun blueberry ideas?

In the meantime, if you need me, they're expecting me in the juicing room.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for...
  • the all-encompassing grace of God
  • my darling family and friends
  • my lovely cousin's her birfday today and I kinda love her a lot
  • my health, and the health of my loved ones
  • all that Daniel is learning through his internship at the hospital...he makes me very proud
  • air conditioning in this tropical rainforest-esque weather, electricity in general, clean running water, food in my belly, shoes on my feet, clothes in my closet, a roof over my head, a fully-functioning car
  • enough money to take care of my needs and a few "wants"
  • some much-needed, much-appreciated rain this week...keep it comin'!
  • my job, and the fact that it provides me a summer break
  • a fun-filled blueberry picking expedition with some work friends today
  • the nap I let myself take this afternoon...boy, did I fight it at first, but I slept as if it were my job and my sole purpose in life
  • a chance to catch up with my college girls last weekend...LA graciously hosted us in her beautiful home and posted all about it on her blog...I'll get around to it here soon
  • an exciting maybekindasorta business venture in the planning stages
  • the public, I don't own an e-reader, and yes, I still go to the library...every week in the summertime...and I love it
  • a new book just begging to be read...has anybody read The Help by Kathryn Stockett? I'm so excited and want to love it. Tell me what you think!
  • a clean little home and a toilet that, as of today, is very happy
  • my plants still being alive and well...I'm surprised but thoroughly pleased
  • Suzy's successful move across the state and her new recipes this week...Chicken and Dressing...Ranch Potatoes
  • Sarah Barry's words of wisdom she shared today...such a refreshing, real post
  • some great new ideas learned at the math workshop I attended last week
  • the people who stop by and read here...I appreciate you all very much!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A call to kindness

Are you a kind person? Are you thoughtful? Do you truly think of others in your everyday life? This has something that's been weighing heavily on my mind lately. I've seen so many examples of general unpleasantness lately that it's starting to be discouraging. Just today, I've been honked at twice (just for being on the road, I guess), witnessed a library patron yell at the girl behind the counter about an overdue book, and checked out at a store where the cashier never actually spoke to me. I feel bad for these people; are their lives really so unpleasant that they've forgotten how to be friendly?

Maybe it's just me, but I try to consider the feelings of others when I act/don't act. Is that a novel concept? If it is, that makes my heart sad. How hard is it to be considerate?
  • In a conversation, stop talking for just a second, and let the other person have a moment to speak. Your stories may be important, but other people may just possibly have something to say, too.
  • Smile at a stranger and say hello.
  • Keep up with your family and friends. Do you know about your friend's latest date? What about Aunt Sally's test results? How's BillyBob's job search going? It amazes me how many people don't know these sorts of things about their loved ones. Make the time!
  • If the person behind you in line has fewer items, offer to let them go ahead of you.
  • Pay someone a compliment, and then watch their face light up. {Last week, I told the greeter at Wal-Mart that I liked her headband. She grinned, and we talked for a few minutes about how she'd made it herself out of elastic, a fabric flower, and hot glue. She thanked me, and said I was the first person all day who had spoken to her. It only cost a few minutes of my time, and made her smile. How easy is that?}
  • Leave a comment on a blog you follow, or officially become a follower. It might just make someone's day.
  • Mail a card or letter to a friend. Snail mail is underrated.
  • Remember birthdays and other special dates. Heck, write it down if you have to! No excuses there.
  • Call up a friend or family member. Show them they're important enough to give up some of your time.
  • Be sensitive and polite and use common sense when in a conversation with someone.
  • If you're in a really happy mood, pay for the person in the drive-thru behind you. {Check their car first to make sure they're not driving a van full of hungry kids :)}
I think we would all benefit from stepping outside of ourselves a bit and thinking about how to make someone else smile. What about you? Do you think common decency and consideration of others are vestiges of the past? Do you make a conscious effort to be kind to other people? What do you do? I'd love to add to my list of ideas.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest today!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Daddies are pretty wonderful

{l-r: Daddy, Mom, Mimi, Uncle Robert, me, Grandad, Daniel}

I enjoyed the opportunity to get together with my nearest and dearest this past Sunday to celebrate the daddies in my life. I'm blessed to have my daddy, my Grandad, and my great uncle (Uncle Robert) in my life. They're all beyond wonderful, and I could just go on and on about all of them, but I won't...they'd hate it. I've shared about Grandad here and here. Uncle Robert is Mimi's older brother, and he moved back to Tuscaloosa from Texas eight years ago. I've really enjoyed getting to know him, and I love to hear his stories. I'm glad he's still with us.

My sweet daddy has a wicked sense of humor and can do anything. If he doesn't already know how to do it, he can teach himself. He teaches me how to cook. He has a whole bed full of tomato plants in his garden, even though he hates tomatoes, because he knows I love them and have no garden of my own. He taught me how to drive. He works harder than any human being I know. He's helped me move 10+ times, even though he despises moving. He bit his tongue and helped dig me out of the hole when I bounced no fewer than 247 checks in college. He encourages my fledgling photography attempts. He loves me even though I'm a goober...he loves that I am a goober.

{We kinda like him.}

{dynamic duo}

{re-enacting the "Thinker" pose the church directory photographer made him do...needless to say, he didn't choose that picture}

Daddies are pretty wonderful.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for...
  • the never-ending grace of the good Lord
  • my delightful family and friends
  • my health, and the health of my loved ones
  • Uncle Robert working hard to make a recovery from pneumonia
  • a weekend of epic proportions to look forward to :)
  • a very productive fact, I've gotten more accomplished this week than I have over my entire break so far...I'm a bit embarrassed by the scope of my laziness
  • the dark clouds that just rolled in...we've had weeks of no rain and unrelenting sunshine, so I'm hoping a few drops will fall
  • a lovely new shower curtain that makes me smile
  • finally, FINALLY finding a recycling bin to unload the trunk full of plastic bottles I've been riding around since school got out
  • Neeley getting settled in her new Dallas home...can't wait to schedule a visit!
  • a successful internship for Daniel, so far
  • money to pay my bills, make my car payment, and (sometimes) a bit left over for some fun
  • air conditioning and clean, running water whenever I want it
  • shoes on my feet, clothes to wear, a roof over my head, food in my belly, and a car that runs...I'm indescribably blessed
  • the good days my mama has been enjoying...such a blessing!
  • my first ever batch of from-scratch pizza sauce turning out to be, well...edible! It was so easy; I'll share next week.
  • Ashley making a big decision that I think will really pay off for her...steppin' out on faith!
  • the world's tastiest peaches (Chilton County, of course) that I bought at the farmers market this week


Anything fun on your horizon?

Monday, June 13, 2011

End of an era

{playing a comb on her 90th source}

I was saddened last night to learn of the passing of Kathryn Tucker Windham. This woman could tell a story like nobody's business. She was a treasure, and will be sorely missed in our great state.

I fondly remember my Girl Scout troop hitting the road and traveling to Selma for the annual Tale-Tellin' Festival. We enjoyed listening to the music, looking at the quilts, and hearing other story tellers, but what we really looked forward to was Kathryn Tucker Windham. She was always the last one on the schedule, and the one everyone wanted to see. She would have the room absolutely silent as she sat in a rocking chair and wove her tales. Our favorite were her stories about Jeffrey, a not-too-scary ghost who loved to stir up mischief.  We would always buy one of her ghost story tapes and listen to it on the ride home, huddled together in the backseat, convinced those rural highways were littered with ghosts. We treasured our autographed copies of her books, and it makes my heart happy that my students still enjoy reading her stories. Her "13 Ghosts" series (profiling states around the Southeast) is beloved.

Kathryn Tucker Windham saw the importance in sharing stories and history to preserve it for future generations. I sure hope that doesn't die out with her.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mule Day

Have you ever been to a Mule Day parade? No? I hadn't either, until last weekend. Mimi, Grandad, and I headed over to itty bitty Gordo, Alabama to watch the Mule Day parade. Mule Day is a celebration of the agricultural past, present, and future of the town. Didn't that sound great? Thanks! I copied it from a sign :)

The temperature was nearly 100 by the time we made our way to the parade route, but we were (blessedly) able to find a spot in the shade. The parade started an hour later than we thought it would, so we had plenty of time to chitchat and wander around. We also had plenty of time to people-watch. Are you a people-watcher? I am. I could keep myself entertained for hours just watching people and wondering what their lives are like.

{I so love old houses. I had to restrain myself from knocking on the door and asking to see the inside.}

{the 3 'em}

{beautiful Clydesdales}

{I got so tickled at these guys, just chillin' in lawn chairs in the back of an old truck.}

{Yep, it's a racing lawnmower.}

We had a great time. This was such a quintessential Southern, small-town affair. I love where I live.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for...
  • the never-failing grace of God
  • my lovely family and friends
  • my health and the health of my loved ones
  • summer break
  • my job, which provides me an opportunity to impact the lives of children...oh, and which provides me a nice little summer break :)
  • this chance to rest and recuperate before gearing up for another school year
  • fun plans for a girls weekend coming up soon...SO excited
  • the tasty fruit and veggies I got at the farmers market this week
  • my popsicle mold
  • finally finishing PawPaw's book...I can't wait to get my thoughts together enough to share it with yall
  • all the modern conveniences, luxuries, and clothes I have...reading PawPaw's book made me feel very spoiled
  • getting to chat with Kate glad they made it safely home from their European adventure
  • a really, really wonderful conversation with Grandad yesterday
  • fun plans with Mama and Mimi this summer
  • sweet, thoughtful LA...she read that I've been searching (unsuccessfully) for agave nectar, so when she saw some, she bought it up for sweet of her!
  • a successful start to Daniel's internship at the hospital...I'm glad he's enjoying it, and I'm thankful he's getting to get some experience that will come in handy when he gets his first nursing job
  • Suzy's recipes o' the week...French Toast Casserole and Homemade Ice Cream...I think I could stick my face in a bowl of that casserole topping
  • my visit to the library this week...first of the season, with many more to follow
  • the blessedly wonderful rain that fell from the sky this evening...okay, so it was only a short-lived sprinkle, but I went out and let it tickle my face and drank in the lovely, rainy smell of it...I so love summer rain
  • my Tigers finally getting their recognition at the White House...I'm so glad Kodi Burns got to present the helmet and jersey...such a classy fella

  • more blooms on my desert rose...for a plant that hasn't flowered in nearly four years, it sure is showing off these days!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blueberry-peach yogurt popsicles

I'm working to refine my popsicle-making technique. In my last batch, I was left licking a bar of plain yogurt with some fruit chunks scattered throughout. Eh. I could use flavored yogurt, but I want these to be as low in refined sugar as possible. (A couple of people commented on my last post and mentioned agave nectar. I'm still on the lookout because none of the stores I visited carried any.) A squirt of honey made my second batch a bit closer to what I wanted, but it still wasn't perfect.

I pondered. I reflected. I scratched my noggin.

Then, it appeared to me as if in a vision. Drag out that handy dandy food processor and work it! Last go-around, I just chopped my fruit into pieces and mixed it with the yogurt. This time, I nearly pulverized the fruit...big difference. This batch of popsicles has been a real treat. Try for yourself sometime!

Blueberry-Peach Yogurt Popsicles (inspired by Tyler Florence's recipe)
1 cup combined blueberries and peaches (I used half a pint of blueberries and two fairly large peaches. It was probably more than 1 cup; I just eyeballed it.)
3 cups yogurt (I used organic plain, but any variety would work.)
juice from 1/2 lime
squirt of honey, to taste (optional)

{Step 1: Cut up peaches and dump in food processor with blueberries. Complicated stuff here. Pulse until you reach a consistency you're pumped up about.}

{Step 2: Move past the sheer repulsiveness of this picture. I ain't no food photographer. Squeeze your lime, add a bit of honey if you want, and pulse a few more times.}

{Step 3: Mix fruit with yogurt. Accidentally wind up with more than 4 cups. Spill fruit on your recently-cleaned counter.}

{Step 4: Pour into molds...or paper cups with craft sticks...and freeze. Eat them as if it's your job and your sole purpose in life. Refill molds as needed, since you'll probably have a lot of mix left over.}

And yes, I'm still eating these for breakfast. It's a fun way to kick off these blisteringly hot days!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Various and sundry thoughts on a Monday

I grew up hearing "various and sundry" to describe a random assortment of something, and I use it often. I thought it was normal until I first said it to my students this year and they looked at me as if I had multiple heads. Have you heard various and sundry? It's one of my favorite phrases. Your challenge for the week: use various and sundry in a conversation this week. And...GO!

Have you used it yet? How 'bout now?

*I went to the farmers market today for the first time this season. I spent $20 and came away with a bounty:

{I inexplicably left out my onion, cabbage, and new potatoes. They were sitting on the counter inside, feeling dejected.}

{I love a good speckled egg.}

There was a group of dulcimer players providing shopping tunes. I so admire people with musical talent, especially people who can play instruments that are a bit out of the ordinary. They were playing old hymns and were quite popular. I talked to one elderly man who wasn't planning to buy anything, but he saw the group playing and decided to stop and listen for a while. He said his mother used to play the dulcimer and it made him think of her. {Heartstrings tugged.}

*I heard this on one of my XM country stations this afternoon and wanted to scrub my ears out with bleach, just to rid myself of the sounds. I wanted to invent a time machine and go back to the happy, peaceful time before I heard this song. What. The. Heck. I refuse to embed the official video because it features greased-up, short-short-wearing, redneck girls dancing on poles. Not kidding, and I don't want that mess on my blog. Take a listen, and then pass the ear bleach.

*History nerd alert...Did you remember what today was? Read up. It's worth remembering. This is also worth a click.

*I went to the eye doctor this morning to pick up my new contacts. I've been wearing my new contacts all day, and now feel as if they are superglued to my eyeballs. On the uncomfortable scale, I'm sittin' at a 14. I have a love-hate-hate-hate-hate relationship with contacts.

*I want so desperately to have a green thumb. Nearly everyone in my family does, my mama especially. I have a desert rose that a student gave to me at the end of my first year of teaching. Four years later, it's still alive. {Insert enthusiastic fist pump here.} It's only flowered once, when she gave it to me, and I thought it's just been dying really, really slowly. But this past week, tightly closed pink blooms have appeared. I've checked on my plant multiple times a day, waiting for the blooms to open. My patience was rewarded this morning; two of the blooms were waiting to greet me!


{today...sweet, flowery victory!}

Happy new week, yall!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bathtub dreams

There's a bathtub that sits in my great-grandmother MawMaw's garage. MawMaw went on to glory 16 years ago, and her house still stands just as it has for 70+ years.

PawPaw and his brother built this house themselves in the 1930s. Grandad was raised here. I love this little house so much that it deserves a post to itself. I'll get on that one of these days; back to the bathtub.

Here she is. A little worse for the wear, yes, but that adds to her charm. I think of this tub often. It tugs at my heartstrings to think of this pretty thing just sitting there, neglected and unused. My mind wanders to the decades of babies bathed in it, the hands that scrubbed it clean over the years...

 I imagine the cost of having the tub refinished would be more exorbitant than this schoolteacher can afford, and I don't know if I'd ever consider it clean enough for my behiney to touch. I have a thing about clean tubs and my behiney. I won't elaborate; you're welcome.

My visions for the tub lean more toward this...

Oh, the dreams I have for this tub. Someday, I want a yard with room for a garden. I see this tub in a spot of honor, filled with lovely blooms and frilly green leaves. Alas, there are a few kinks in my scheme:

1) I have no yard.
2) The tub surely weighs eleven million pounds.
3) I live in a tiny little nest with absolutely no room to store a tub that weighs eleven million pounds.
4) Everybody in my family claims they're unwilling to move and store the tub that weighs eleven million pounds. Clearly, they're not thinking about how cute it will look in my backyard filled with summer blossoms. Someday. You know, when I have a yard. 'Cuz I currently don't. Sob.

Until then, I settle for driving by to visit the tub every once in a while. She's almost as excited about her future purpose as I am. One of these days, I'll get myself a yard and give her new life. One of these days.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday...on a Friday

During summer break, I tend to lose sight of what day it is. I spent the whole of yesterday, a very nice day, convinced that it was Wednesday. It was not Wednesday but was, in fact, Thursday. Which means today is Friday. I feel like I lost a whole day of my life. What does it all mean? Waaaaaa! Building a bridge and getting over it...

Today I am thankful for...
  • the never failing grace of God
  • my family and friends and their health and safety
  • my health
  • my job, and that it provides me a lovely break between school years
  • this chance to rest and relax
  • being able to take more than 15 minutes to eat my lunch
  • being able to drink as much water as I want and visit the facilities whenever I want :)
  • air conditioning, particularly this week...the highs are nearing 100 degrees, the humidity is swampy, and it's miserable outside
  • my new popsicle fun
  • a chance to catch up on reading the books I've been trying to get to for months
  • electricity, a roof over my head, clothes and shoes, plenty of food, clean running water
  • a fun girls' weekend approaching
  • the fact that Garrett Jones is still fighting for his life as hard as he can...he's a friend of a friend, a tornado survivor who lost his wife of 8 months...check his blog out and please add him and his family/friends to your prayers
  • exciting news that Lisa and her husband have decided to adopt!
  • Suzy's recipes this week: Chicken Asiago Spinach Quiche and Mocha Chocolate Chip Scones
  • plans with Mimi & Grandad this weekend


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A happy toilet

I need to get something off my chest: I like cleaning toilets. In fact, that may be one of my favorite chores. Is that strange? I'll ponder that someday. I like that kind of cleaning because it's immediate and you can clearly see a difference. Unlike sorting through clutter...easily (EASILY!) my least favorite task. Gag. Shudder.

I've become very interested lately in finding chemical-free strategies for cleaning my little home. I'm convinced that breathing in all those fumes can't be good for you. Plus, many of those cleaners aren't cheap, and I'm all about saving pennies. I've been using white vinegar/water solution in a spray bottle and baking soda for a while with much success, but I feel like a toilet and a tub need a little more scrubbin', know what I mean?

Enter: my new cleaning arsenal...

Borax and lemon juice. That's it! Just pour 1/4 cup of borax in the toilet along with some lemon juice (I used a half). Let sit for a while and then scrub it out. I couldn't get over how well it worked and how nice and fresh it smelled. So much better than those fakey "mountain meadow spring" smells in some cleaners.

Give it a shot! It's better for you. It's cheaper. It makes you feel delightfully old-fashioned, which is always fun. Plus, it makes your toilet happy. Who doesn't want their toilet to be happy?

I found this idea and oodles of others at Make It Do, a treasure trove of little tips like this one. Just a great site that I found and wanted to share with yall!