Friday, September 30, 2011

September 365

September is by far my favorite month.  It's a month of crisp air, new beginnings, crunchy leaves, new blue jeans, school supplies, wind storms, pumpkin spiced candles, apple pie, flannel shirts, extra blankets on the bed, rainy days, and of course, my birthday!!  That said, I thought my favorite month should kick off with my favorite photo.  Only um... I can't choose one!  That's like trying to decide which I love more, chocolate or caramel.  So, I give you my photo gallery wall, in part.  I love this wall.  I have three more frames that I'm hoping to add soon... looking for a forth.  If I get many more "favorite" photos, it will be time to begin another wall. Ha!
Okay I have no witty explanation.  (Not that I normally do, I'm just saying.) I had nothing for ya but a candle on this day. I was trying to burn the last of my summer candle, so I could start burning something that smelled like pumpkin. (It's a sickness that overtakes me on September 1st.  It's called pumkinloveitis.)
Ava's at a really sweet and fun age.  She put on my leopard heels and tromped around with that little, man-do-I-make-this-look-good attitude, and I thought she was so cute that I snapped a photo. 
This was our hiking day and the day my family chose to celebrate my birthday.  Such fun to be with family. And be celebrated.
Picking the last of the tomatoes off the vines....
....and lining them up to ripen in a window sil.
First day of school.  My heart just fluttering.  So many of you have emailed me, asking why we chose to quit homeschooling and jump into public.  It would take a long time to give those explanations, and most are very private, so I'll just say that this was the best and right decision for our entire family, given our specific needs, at this point in time. (How's that for vague?)  We considered every option, we prayed very seriously about it, since early last spring, and God opened every door for us.  We are crazy happy with the choice, and feel amazingly blessed by the school, staff, and teachers we have been dealing with. 
This was my birthday... Sadly, I didn't take a very birthdayish photo... I couldn't resist this little green-eyed hoodlum, who is also my favorite boy on the planet.  He has a sweet heart and he brings me joy every day.  After I took this photograph, I couldn't believe how grown-up my little man is getting! 
Okay now this was a fun day.  We invited my parents over for our final BBQ of the season, so the kids could share stories of their week, and it was so fun.  The kiddos jumped on the trampoline and the adults hung out visiting and savoring dark chocolate.  Seriously, it was a perfect way to kiss Summer goodbye. 
Ava and I painted together... there is nothing quite a sweet as spending happy moments of quality time with your babies after a week of missing them while they were in school. 
Such a good reminder to sprinkle throughout the house.  In all things, give thanks. 
After school, the kiddos singing songs and goofing around...
I don't know... sometimes there is no explanation.  Kids are funny.
Some sweet friends over... a yummy zuccini cake recipe, adapted from this recipe, using gluten free baking mix instead of regular flour.  It was so good I almost cried. 
I ran all day long.  I dropped off the kids at school, and was gone running errands until I picked up the kids again.  I need a nap just remembering this day. 
Ava's after school snack.  She really wanted her snack to make it into my 365.  Who am I to say no when I think of some of the other things I've photographed for 365?
I found these knobs for $1.50 each at Michaels.  What on earth should I do with them?  I don't really have anything that needs a knob... hmmmm.  I'm sure I'll find something. 
Gluten-free.... getting the hang of this... I think.  
I found this at my consignment store for a dollar.  I loved the sentiment.
My door used to be a sort of rusty red color, and while I liked it, it's been the same color for over eight years, and my babies, then toddlers, then preschoolers rammed toy after toy into it over those years, fired nerf darts at it, taught a dog to look out the window, and many other destructive things, slowly chipping and scratching away the paint.  It was time for a repaint, so I decided a color change couldn't hurt either.  I told my man kind of what I was looking for, and he chose the color for me!  It's so pretty... (It's called "Clover" by Sherwin Williams.)
I am so happy with how it looks, alongside the white trim and yellow house paint. 
Little white pumpkins... maybe my favorite fall decoration. (Pumkinloveitis)
Counting laps at the school's fun run. By the way... is it hard for any of you guys to make friends with other school parents, or is that just me?  I've always been so bad at that.  I can make friends just about anywhere else, no problem, but I seem to have a tough time breaking into established school groups (though everyone is of course sweet and nice!)  Hmmm... maybe that one goes back to high school and four moves in four years.  I'm pretty sure that means it's me... but can anyone else relate?  I see all these other moms laughing and joking and they all seem to know each other so well. 
The good thing about that, is that I go home to a guy who knows me better than any other person on the planet, and he makes me laugh like no one else can. He took a bunch of photos of me while blackberry picking, that had me doubled over laughing at one point.  (I'll spare you those.) He's such a goof behind a camera. 
I've made my own chicken stock one other time this month you guys.  For the first time in my entire life!  And the thing is, it was so easy and made the most amazing difference in my soup recipes, I had to do it again!  Plus, Adrain brought home a chicken because he wanted me to make some more so how could I resist?  Have you ever made it?  (Drop a chicken carcass into a big pot, add some chopped up carrots and onions and celery -don't worry about peeling carrots or onions just chop them.. and throw in some salt, pepper, fresh or dried herbs, and cover it all with water.  Then set to boiling and cook that baby til the veggies are soft, then pour into containers over strainers and you've got some delicious broth for the freezer!  Ready when you're getting ready to make soup.)
 Little girl sweetness. 
 This was all I could find to photograph.  (Well I mean obviously I could have photographed anything, but there was nothing I really wanted to photograph, you know?) I had on this cozy gray turtleneck sweater (consignment find a while back) and a darling vintage flower pin that I nabbed the other day, also consignment!  I do love my consignment stores...But I guess you already knew that.
 Salted.  Caramel. Apple. Pie. Bites.  If you didn't make these yet, you need to. Not that I'm trying to boss you around or anything....
Soothing.  Pretty.  Vintage looking, golden floral sheets, all clean and crisp, just waiting for me.  And man, did I need em!  Loooong day.  Looooong week. 
No matter what else the month brings me, nothing in life makes me happier than this.  Two hoodlums, all in a row.  (I cheated a little bit and took this photo on a different day, but I had to put it in, because it was the perfect way to end the month.  Sometimes.. cheating can be okay.)

Thank you Lord, for every moment, and every day of this month, that I got to have.... all the ups and even the downs.  Every need met, with always just enough.  Lessons learned and hope restored in the smallest places, ready to bloom and grow.  YOU are so good to me and I rejoice in Your blessings.  Amen!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Post in which I tell you everything. (Within reason of course.)

Today I'm dual posting.  (Which incidentally, I realize that I do a lot!)  I'm posting photos with a recipe at the end, (which I've also been doing a lot of lately since I'm winding my way into the gluten free world) and an update that I thought I should share... being this is my blog after all. (giggle.)

For those of you who have been following along for ages, you may remember me saying something around six months ago, about throwing my back out.  It healed up mostly, but over time it's just ached and ached.  It has seemed like the littlest thing would tweak it and hurt for days.  (I'm normally kind of a baby so no one took much notice of my whining-which I totally understand, given the circumstances.) As they began running tests for my liver issues and the subsequent vitamin B deficiency, shots, anemia, and the removal of gluten, my doctor revisited the whole back hurting topic.  He decided to do some x-rays and guess what?  I have arthritis!  (I know, right?)

(***Disclaimer, the authors of this blog understand that arthritis is no laughing matter for the general suffering public, and can actually be a serious condition.  If you or someone you love is suffering from arthritis pain, you are advised to see your nearest health care provider immediately.  And maybe go slather yourself with some BENGAY®.***) 

You see, the minute I found out, I started laughing because this was not at all on my 36 year-old radar.  And then... I got off the phone and began texting and calling all of my peeps, who in turn spent the next six hours emailing, texting, and calling me with obnoxious quips about Cymbalta and Bengay, not to mention calling me, "old lady" and reminding me not to miss Bingo and be careful driving after dark.  In fact, when I texted Alli this morning to ask if she wanted to raise Arthritis awareness with me and do a fun-run in December, she immediately agreed, suggested we dress up my dog, and wear matching tee shirts for our "team photo."  (I suggested that our shirts say, "I heart arthritis," but then later realized it might not exactly be the message we wanted to send.)

I swear.  I have never laughed so hard.  Let it be noted, I've got the weirdest pack of peeps on the planet.  (I wouldn't have it any other way of course.)

Which brings me to my point, because of course I've got one.  I've shared stories of my grammie with you guys in the past- joked about her green and blue shag carpet, laughed about her beehive hairdo and silk pillow, shared stories of my inherited kitchen chairs and how they were covered with turquoise pleather, and howled with laughter every time I remember that she custom-ordered a macrame chandelier for her kitchen, when I was a little girl.  She is an original.

Anyway, I was sitting at her kitchen table as a teenager (obviously, long, long ago) and she confided her new cure for arthritis to my mama and I.  She said, "Darlin' here's what you do.  You get nine white raisins- they've got to be white- and soak them in a shot of rum.  Then you eat them every single day.  It has to be nine."  Then after a pause where my mama and I bit our lips and avoided eye contact, my grammie conspiratorially patted my hand and whispered, "Personally, I'd just as soon toss those raisins and just kick back that rum."  Which is hilarious in and of itself, since my grammie still calls any alcoholic beverage a "toddy." 
 I gave her a glass of wine once while I cooked some Italian food, and she sat in my rocking chair smiling and thanking me for the delicious little "toddy."

So... in closing, I suppose it's not the worst diagnosis in the world.  If all else fails, there's always raisins and rum.  Ha!

Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bites. (created for tonight's company!)
Gluten-free pie crust, refrigerated pie crust, (I used a box mix because I was rushing.) or your favorite pie crust.
1 1/2 cups finely diced apples, ( threw mine into a food processor) sprinkled with 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1 tsp lemon juice
My Salted Caramel recipe can be found, here
 *Press a small ball of pie crust into mini muffin pan, and press gently up each muffin cup. Make sure it's not too thin or they will break when you pop them out.  (If you're worried, just use a liner in each muffin cup.)  To center of each muffin cup, add a tiny dollop of salted caramel sauce, and top with spoonful of apple mixture.  Bake 350 for 25-30 minutes or until pie crust is done.  Let them cool for a bit and then gently run a butter knife around each one and they should pop out easily. 
 Once cool, drizzle with a little more salted caramel sauce. (This is optional of course, but tell me... why would you opt out on that?)

(**FYI**  I just listed the last of my "give thanks" napkins, found here.  Once these are gone, I won't be making any more this season.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

If you're gonna have ice cream... HAVE some ICE CREAM!

You know the other day when I rallied my precious troops and we went blackberry picking?  Well, I had a plan...(Muwahahahahaha!!!)
We were having a big group (25+ peeps) over for ice cream sundaes that night.  What's a more crowd-pleasing array than bowls with candies, cherries, hot fudge, and of course, the occasional gourmet sauce for the adult crowd?  (Because let's face it, children have zero appreciation for things like sea salted caramel- especially when it's made from scratch.)
I found a recipe for maple bourbon blackberry preserves on the internet and thought it would be easy to convert into a delicious gourmet ice cream sauce.  (Love her blog and her photos by the way- amazing talent!)  Boy was I right... We didn't pick enough blackberries (too late in the season) to actually follow her recipe and make the preserves, but with a few tweaks, it was a perfectly saucy blend for ice cream. 
Let it be said first... I'm not a fan of bourbon. (blech) I'm also not a fan of fruit in my ice cream... (because why on earth, would you opt for fruit, when you could have chocolate chunks?  Or peanut butter cups?  Why?  My man completely disagrees.  In fact, we've had some major meetings about what ice cream to buy in our nearly 16 years of marriage.  He who runs into the store, wins. Ahem.  For this sauce, I made an exception, so if you have similar feelings, take heart, this was really delicious!  There's something about the flavors of the bourbon, maple and blackberries that seem made for each other.
Maple Bourbon Blackberry sauce: 
2 cups water (I'll reduce this to one cup in the future when I make this.)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon, and nutmeg
3/4 cup bourbon (truthfully, I'd probably reduce this by half, but it was still amazing.)
3 cups blackberries, mashed slightly (That's all we were able to gather so that's what I used.)
*Combine everything but the bourbon and blackberries in a saucepan and bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved.  Reduce heat and cook at a low boil about 10 minutes.  Add bourbon and bring back to a boil.  Add black berries and simmer about another 10 minutes, using a potato masher to gently mash the berries.  Refrigerate until it's time to serve this sauce over some ice cream! 

And then, there's the sauce to end all sauces.  I have the recipe on my sidebar, on top of a chocolate cupcake.  It's just bliss, I'm not gonna lie.  You can leave it at room temp so it's more glaze-like and "saucy" or refrigerate it overnight so it's thick and sticky.  (That's my favorite.)

Salted Caramel Glaze 
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp freshly ground sea salt
*Melt butter in saucepan.  Add sugars and bring to boiling, stirring constantly.  Stir in whipping cream and bring back to a boil.  Boil for exactly 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in salt.  Cool completely.  Pop it into the fridge over night, and it will turn into this amazingly sticky, thick caramely substance that will haunt your dreams for weeks. 

Now truth be told, these are both out-of-this world sauces... but... together, they make beautiful magic.

Or something like that.