Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It Was Beyond Great

"Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life."
~Pablo Picasso

We got crafty the other day, Megan and I.  Having a crafting partner was a nice change, as usually I'm left to my own with anything in the creative realm.  

She made some string art for her college house and I made a crayon canvas for my classroom.

Let's not kid ourselves.  I mean, I'm not the least bit jealous that she gets to jet off to college to live with her sorority sisters while I get to move into a very dusty, asbestos filled classroom.  

No, not one hint of hostility or jealousy here.

I looked forward to our day for a full week, continually thinking and planning how it would be, what would happen, and how the projects would turn out.

I'm pretty sure that we impressed the heck out of ourselves.  It's not everyday that two Duquesne grads are seen lugging planks of wood and wielding hammers.

Or, for that matter, connecting a hairdryer to an extension cord and turning the old Conair on full blast while sitting under an umbrella on the patio.

What a great day. One of my summertime favorites.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Infused with Sunshine

Grow what you love. The love will keep it growing. 
~Emilie Barnes

With happy fingers I plucked tomatoes from the vine.  My feet danced a snazzy jig and off I rushed to pull up the onions. Ponytail sagging over my left shoulder, I gave it a little toss and snipped away at the fresh oregano and basil.  

It was salsa making day and I had to gather the ingredients.

When I say "gather the ingredients" I secretly smile- no lies here.  This shopping spree took place on our little patio (with some banana peppers and jalapenos from my sweet mama).  I never, ever get to shop in my own corner of the world, so imagine my sheer joy when I realized that I had grown enough produce and herbs to make and preserve an entire batch of salsa.

Big. Proud. Grin.

Honestly, I'm still amazed that it worked out.  I mean, I really did it!  I really grew an entire garden full of ripe red tomatoes, crunchy bell peppers, flavorful onions, and spicy banana peppers and jalapenos.  In some small way, it proved such a joy to see it come to fruition.  

With the harvest gathered I packed it away and headed across the lawn and over the fence to my parents' house.  My mom and I had a salsa making date and I wasn't missing it for the world.

We pre-gamed with a good cup of hot java, read over the recipe, checked out our impressive stash of veggies and herbs, and took stock of the situation.

She pulled out her canning equipment, we discussed how it would work, and then set about chopping and chopping, slicing and dicing.

Thankfully, my mama chopped the tomatoes, removing every one of those pesky little skins.
She's a trooper and a master of all things kitchen.

I preferred dealing with the peppers and onions and garlic-- more aromatic and completely worth the watery eyes.

After much preparation, which included boiling jars and sealing lids, our "Sunshine Salsa," as we chose to call it, emerged from the cooker and our hard work was complete.

 My mama and I had ourselves the most wonderful time: talking, daydreaming, and admiring our hard work.
I'm beyond blessed to have such a special person in my life. I can't imagine learning from and with anyone else.

Now we're all eagerly awaiting football season.  
There's something about a salty corn chip, a scoop of summertime, sunshine salsa, and Sunday afternoon Steelers victories.

Bread Baking Day

“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.” 
~Robert Browning

The clicking sound of the oven preheating, mixed with the tapping of Charlie's tag against her water dish are the only sounds to break the silence.  The house is calm and in order, two notions which I love.

I'm about to say farewell to that calm and order, because in a few short days this holier-than-thou summer vacation will screech to a halt and I'll find myself thrown into the tornado of adolescent issues, paper grading, and lesson planning.  

While I try and forget about the alternate life awaiting me (a life which I truly do enjoy), I'm baking bread.  Two loaves. 

Yes, you read correctly. I did use the baking word.  I've long ago given up on baking cakes, as that tended to end in disaster and dysfunction, while giving my ego a strong lashing.  Plus, we don't really eat enough sweets to make it worth the while.  Sure, a cookie or ice cream cone here and there, but overall we're just not sweet treat eaters.  

But, bread, well bread is another story.  I'll never turn down a slice of homemade bread, be it topped with jelly, oozing with warm butter, or -heck- even plain (my personal favorite).

For the past two weeks we've enjoyed nothing but our own homemade bread.  No preservatives or chemicals or crazy compounds- just whole grain goodness with nifty designs (mostly stars) carved into the perfect golden crust.

Could this be a dream come true?  Carbs and art?  
I'm in bread baking heaven.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"Whoo" Would Have Thought?

“Industry, thrift and self-control are not sought because they create wealth, but because they create character.”
 ~Calvin Coolidge

  Are you like me?  
Do you look for the details?  
Do you see the potential and the fun in something forgotten or left behind?

For whatever reason, I truly marvel at the lost world of others.  I love to scour thrift shops and find buried treasures- not of value- but of opportunity and potential.

Rewind to last summer.

My mom and I found ourselves in a Salvation Army looking for a few old shirts with which she was using to make the most adorable pillows.  While there, I stumbled upon these fascinating owl bookends at the amazing price of $2.99 for the set.

These once discarded and lonely friends now have a new lavender flocking and are on their way to room 004.  

Yes, please.  Instant classroom decor.

All Things Warm and Cozy

"Be a good human being, a warm-hearted affectionate person. That is my fundamental belief. Having a sense of caring, a feeling of compassion will bring happiness of peace of mind to oneself and automatically create a positive atmosphere."
~ Dalai Lama

The sun continually played tricks that day.  Out- beautiful, bright sky.  In- cloudy, gray haze.  The breeze blew gentle and calm while a hush fell over the ground.  A storm was approaching.  I could feel it in my bones.

Feeling the need to play in the garden, I grabbed my white gathering basket and set out with the task to harvest my jalapenos.  "Why not begin preparing and storing for the autumn and winter chili-eating, football watching season?" I silently wondered.

And with that, I gently plucked a few dozen spicy little peppers and began slicing and dicing.  The aroma proved potent and had me yearning for all things warm and cozy.  

So as the jalapenos found themselves hibernating in the freezer, and the sky turned a bit more gray, my locally farmed alpaca yarn emerged from it's safe and secure home in my yarn cabinet.  "Mitten knitting time," I thought.  "Why not really kick-off these winter preparations?" 

 While the rain streamed down the windows and the puppy burrowed under the bed, I lost myself to an old afghan and the gentle rhythm of my knitting needles.  

One mitten down, one to go.

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