Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Farm Boy Benefits

I have never had a garden.  Only flowers.  I'm really good at growing pretty flowers.  But, the closest I've ever been to growing a garden was when I had to grow a little corn plant in a pot when I took Botany in college.  My plant didn't do so well...never got more than a little sprig.  I didn't much like that class either.

When I started dating David I learned that he was a farm boy and that his parents had a good-sized garden up on their land.  David also has a decent-sized garden in his back yard...it probably takes up one third of the entire yard.  Last year we had a lot of corn and quite a few green beans.  I asked him to grow some tomato plants for me, but they just didn't do very well.  He also had beets and potatoes last year, but I don't like beets and the potatoes were rather "ho hum" for whatever reason.  Oh yes, and we can't forget the cayenne peppers; I still have crushed red pepper flakes from last year!

But, this year...this gardening thing is getting pretty fabulous already!  I just want to share a few of our tasty reapings.  These are the green beans and tomatoes I found in the garden night before last.

And this...this is what I pulled last night (I also pulled some more green beans, but I put them in with the rest before taking this picture).  The real beauty that I'm excited about is that pepper...

Yes, we're growing bell peppers this year!  In lieu of the cayenne plant we decided to do bell peppers and a habanero plant.  We couldn't find a jalapeno plant, unfortunately.  This bell pepper is pretty small, though I'm not sure how big bell peppers get in gardens...anyone have any previous experience?  I didn't try to pick it, I just tilted it up a little to take a better look and it popped right off the plant.  There's another one, even bigger, still on the plant that I'm leaving alone to see if it gets any bigger.

Stay tuned for more garden pics from this excited city girl!  We also have a ton of corn (David's favorite garden vegetable), beets (running a close second-blech!) and that habanero plant I mentioned earlier.  It's really exciting to see all of this grow and produce right in front of you and I'm lovin' the fresh produce!  I had two sliced tomatoes last night and they were deeeeelish!

The Lucky One

What do you expect when you read a Nicholas Sparks book?  You usually expect to cry at least once and there's probably going to be someone that dies.  Well, this book, The Lucky One, doesn't disappoint if that's what you're looking for and expecting.

I have to admit that this book has an unusual premise, here's the blurb:

When U.S. Marine Logan Thibault finds a photograph of a smiling young woman half-buried in the dirt during his third tour of duty in Iraq, his first instinct is to toss it aside. Instead, he brings it back to the base for someone to claim, but when no one does, he finds himself always carrying the photo in his pocket. Soon Thibault experiences a sudden streak of luck—winning poker games and even surviving deadly combat that kills two of his closest buddies. Only his best friend, Victor, seems to have an explanation for his good fortune: the photograph—his lucky charm.

Back home in Colorado, Thibault can’t seem to get the photo—and the woman in it—out of his mind. Believing that she somehow holds the key to his destiny, he sets out on a journey across the country to find her, never expecting the strong but vulnerable woman he encounters in Hampton, North Carolina—Elizabeth, a divorced mother with a young son—to be the girl he’s been waiting his whole life to meet. Caught off guard by the attraction he feels, Thibault keeps the story of the photo, and his luck, a secret. As he and Elizabeth embark upon a passionate and all-consuming love affair, the secret he is keeping will soon threaten to tear them apart—destroying not only their love, but also their lives.

The way this story plays out is odd, but the premise behind it...that true love conquers all time and space, regardless of whether or not you've met or are continents away...yea, the premise is as old as time.  Authors like Sparks love to play off of this idea.

Personally, I really liked the story and did not close the book mad at Sparks (like I have in the past).  If you're looking for a hokey love story equivalent to something like The Notebook, then pick this one up.  If the cheesiness is too much for you, then don't.  I will admit, you do have to be in the mood to read a cheesy love story like this and I was in the perfect mood for that while I was reading this book earlier last week...while all Oklahoma City was floating away in the flood!

Friday, June 18, 2010

One Crazy Week...and Strawberry Jam Bars

This week has been beyond crazy.  You might have heard in the news that Oklahoma City received record rain fall...what one local weatherman called a "500 Year Flood."  Apparently, the last time we received this much rain in Oklahoma was 500 years ago...how they know that considering the fact that Oklahoma is just barely 100 years old...ummm...who knows? 

Anyway, I intended to finish this post on Monday, but Mother Nature had other plans...

Here are the jam bars I made and brought to the JH Board of Directors Retreat.  I made them with some of the jars of strawberry jam my future mother-in-law made in our last Kansas trip.  You can make them with whatever jam or jelly you have on hand! 

These particular jam bars were quite tasty and I'm definitely listing them as a Dave's Faves.  He's been eating on this batch and he doesn't even like strawberries!

Jam Bars

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats or old-fashioned oats
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup cold butter
2 cups jam or preserves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In large mixing bowl stir together flour, oats, brown sugar and baking soda.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two forks until crumbly. 

Press two-thirds of flour mixture into 13x9 inch baking pan.  Spread jam on top. 

Crumble remaining flour mixture over top.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool completely. 

Cut into squares (makes 24).

I promise I'll be back on the blogging board next week.  After a crazy Monday of almost flooding my car numerous times, getting drenched and my office closing due to flooding...it's been a little hectic!  Our entire division has been temporarily displaced into a pseudo conference room and it is quite cozy.  But, after moving and cleaning and organizing and getting accustomed to our new environment, I think we'll be good to go come Monday morning.

Just to give you guys an idea, here is a pic of my mother's back yard at 8:34 Monday morning.  Anyone see any grass?  I don't!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

This is Rhoda Janzen, author of Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.  I found out about this book via my daily "trying to sell you something" email from Barnes and Noble.  B&N suggested it as a good read and provided a discount coupon for purchase.  I immediately emailed David about it and he told me that I should get it; David had already heard about it and said that it was well reviewed.  THEN, when I had already purchased the book, David and I were up in Kansas for our showers and Donna mentioned that she had already read this book!  Donna and I always relay what good books we've read recently and she encouraged me to read it soon!  All the more reason for me to read it up quickly!

Now, I don't want to get into a religious discussion here...after all, this isn't a religious blog.  But, the Mennonite religion is the environment into which I'm marrying...which provides you guys with insight as to why David and Donna had both heard about this book (it's mentioned in the book how all Mennonites seem to know each other and from what I've seen, this appears to be pretty accurate!).  Whenever I mention David being Mennonite, I get a lot of, "Isn't that the people where the women wear funny hats and long dresses?" or something to that effect.  This is not necessarily the case.  Like in any religion, there are differing variances of practice.  You will see Mennonites that will wear hats and long skirts, not listen to the radio or watch television, etc.  However, don't assume they all are this way.  In fact, there is an excellent Appendix at the end of this book that provides some background information about the Mennonite religion (how it was founded, it's relation to the Amish and so forth).

Anyway, back to the book!  The gist is that Rhoda Janzen's husband has left her for a man he met on Gay.com...then a week later she is involved in a horrific car accident...so she goes back home to her Mennonite roots to lick her wounds and recover.  If you are looking for a good laugh-out-loud book that might provide you with a little insight into this community, pick this book up!  Now, if you are offended by crude humor...I'm talking bathroom humor and the like...I'm not sure I would recommend you reading this book.  There are a few instances regarding these types of situations and they are funny, but a little bit "out there" as far as being couth.  Oh yea, and there is the occasional curse word (I'm talking maaaaybe 5-10 throughout the entire read).

Janzen's purpose in writing this book was not to be bitter, but find the humor in her situation.  She describes how when everything in your life is going wrong, sometimes going home is best because that's where you find out who you truly are.  Then, you can dust yourself back off and move forward from that point.  I love this moral, by the way.

Below is an interview with Janzen regarding this book.  I enjoyed this interview and hope you do too.  If you happen to read this book, let me know and we can discuss!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

This peanut butter cookie recipe I have been making since I was a little girl.  Throw in the chocolate chips and it just gets better. 

Funny thing, I noticed the Pampered Chef recipe I have on file is the exact same one and I KNOW this recipe is not just a PC recipe.  I don't even think PC was around when I was a wee one...wait, I take that back...I just googled it and they started in 1980.  OK, so I was barely born after their inception. 

I have no idea where my mom got this recipe, we've just had it.  The reason I know this is because she'd never heard of PC until I was middle school-ish age.  Regardless, this recipe...it's wonderful.  Never fail PB cookies.  I love 'em.  My mouth is salivating looking at the picture below, in fact. 

Try 'em soon, I know my ex-neighbor is enjoying them alongside his glazed apple cookes.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup peanut butter (I always use crunchy)
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package (6 oz.) chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Beat peanut butter, shortening, sugars, egg and vanilla until creamy.  Stir together flour, baking soda and salt.  Add to creamed mixture; blend well.  Fold in chocolate morsels.

Drop dough by teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased cookie sheet.  Make criss-cross marks with fork to flatten (coat fork in sugar to keep dough from sticking to fork).  Bake 10-15 minutes.  Cool 2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

So, what did I do with the rest of all those apples?  David's poor apple rejects...  After the cookies and this recipe, I only had two left.  Thank goodness, I hate waste.

This recipe came out of the same 'lil Wal-Mart booklet I referred to yesterday.  I guess I was just feelin' these recipes this weekend.  Never have I made apple butter, nor have I ever thought to make some.  I had clipped this recipe, just for grins, a while back and forgotten about it, then while thumbing through my recipe books...voilĂ !

Normally, you would want to can apple butter.  However, I cut this recipe in half and it only makes enough for me to keep a container and share a container, specifically with my mother and step dad.  No canning required!  But, if you're into canning and want to make a vat of this stuff, double this recipe and you're good to go!

Though...I will probably get some canning tools eventually.  I made jam (freezer jam, specifically) for the first time ever on the weekend of my showers in Kansas.  It was fun!  And have I mentioned the amount of strawberry jam I now have in my freezer?  Perhaps I'll make some jam bars soon...I did volunteer to make some bars for the JH Board Retreat this weekend...hmmm...  In the meantime, enjoy this recipe!  I sure am!

Slow Cooker Apple Butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples

Combine first 3 ingredients in slow cooker, stir to mix well.  Add apples, toss to coat.

Cook on low 8-10 hours.  For chunky apple butter, break up apples with wooden spoon.  For a smooth version, mash with potato masher (this is what I did).

Makes 2-3 cups.

Again, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product, but this is what it looked like mid-way through.  Mmmm...steamy, cinnamony, sweet goodness!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Glazed Apple Cookies

This weekend was busy, busy, busy for me!  And not intentionally...it just happened that way.  One of the things I really wanted to do was express how appreciative I have been of the neighbor I have had for the past six years. 

There is a small Hispanic family that lives across the street from my now-former abode.  The man was (and I'm sure still is) outside constantly.  Whether he's doing lawn work, working on his truck, visiting with family members or just hanging out...he's always within view.  This also meant he was always on the lookout for our block, which I was grateful for.  He was never nosy and never encroached upon anyone's personal business.  Just always the friendly neighbor you waved at coming and going. 

In fact, the only time I've seen him do anything that could be considered encroaching was, he started parking his truck next door at this little, old lady's house.  Her name is Ruby and she's super sweet.  She made me a coconut cream pie one time, she's that sweet.  I didn't think anything of this at the time, other than to think it was a little odd.  But, then Ruby told me that he started doing that at her request.  You see, she lives alone and she figured if some random person staking out the street saw two cars parked in her driveway, they wouldn't figure she was alone.  It's a protective maneuver.  His incentive for parking there?  There's a carport, so his truck is protected from the weather.  A true win/win situation.  He also mows her lawn for her and does odd jobs around the house, which I think is very sweet.  A great all-around guy.

What did this neighbor do for me?  The main thing was, after trash pick-up he rolled my trash bins up to the house on I don't know how many occasions.  There have been other little things like edging my yard without my asking and placing my newspapers/coupon bags (those Buyer's Edge thingies) on my porch (always behind potted plants).  Basically, he's the epitome of the perfect neighbor.  Very sweet, does things for you and never pries into your personal business.  I will miss him and his sweet little family.

About a year ago one of his boys was playing ball with his friends outside.  They accidentally broke one of the windows in the front of my house.  Not a big one, just a little framing one on the picture window...if you look in my previous post, it's the top left little window.  The boy felt awful and didn't want me to tell his parents, but the window needed to be fixed.  This window was only broken for a total of...maybe...three hours.  I don't know exactly what the boy's punishment ended up being (his scolding was spoken in rapid Spanish, which I only remember a snip-it from high school and college Spanish), but he helped his father go procure and replace the window. 

Regardless, I wanted to thank the neighbor for all of his "good doings" and also provide a treat for the boys (to show there's still no hard feelings about the window).  What better way to do this than whip up some tasty treats, shall we say cookies?  I made these cookies a couple of Christmases ago and they received FAB reviews.  They're a little unusual, but make for a yummy holiday treat.  I clipped this recipe out of one of those Wal-Mart mini-booklets containing submitted recipes from Wal-Mart shoppers.  I have no idea where you get these...I stole this one from my aunt...I might have mentioned that one time before...

Why I decided to make these now had more to do with the fact that there were 12+ apples in my crispier...that were purchased from Sam's and later rejected.  You see...David doesn't really like apples...unless they taste juuuuuust right.  He's what one might call an apple connoisseur.  Or something.  Anyway, these apples didn't taste right to him.  He said they were mealy...whatever, I think they taste just fine.  So, I decided to use them up in this recipe, plus one more that I'll share later this week.  I could have gone his mother's route and made an apple pie...but, I didn't.  I wanted to make cookies for my neighbor.  And I did.  These and another cookie recipe I will share with you this week!  Yes, that's three whole recipes I'll be posting this week, I'm going to try and make up for lost time.

I forgot to get a pic of the finished product, but just imagine the cookies in the final shot drizzled with a creamy-looking mixture.  Try these sometime, they're sure to please! 

Glazed Apple Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 egg, beaten
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup milk
2 cups peeled and chopped apples

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. butter, melted
1-2 tbsp. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Beat softened butter and brown sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add salt, cinnamon, cloves and egg, mixing well.

2. Sift together flour and baking soda, add to butter mixture with 1/4 cup milk, stirring well.  Add apples, mixing well.

3. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased cookie sheets.  Bake 10 minutes or until firm when touched (**be sure they're firm, you don't want mushy cookies!).  Cool slightly on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, for glaze, combine powdered sugar, melted butter, 1-2 tablespoons milk and vanilla until smooth and creamy.  Drizzle cooled cookies evenly with glaze.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Finally, Finally, Finally!

This is my house...wait, scratch that...WAS my house.  It is finally sold.  Finally!

Isn't it a cute little house?  This house has been so good to me and I will never regret a day of living in it. 

I bought this house the April prior to graduating from college in May of 2004.  Six-plus years ago.  Wow. 

I was still working as a teller at a bank and I'm not quite sure how I was able to afford it then.  I probably really couldn't because I needed a roommate and was only working part-time.  Honestly, it was probably my connections at this bank that got it done for me, otherwise it would have never happened.

This selling experience has been on intense ordeal.  The gentleman that bought this house from me is a veteran and is receiving a VA loan.  All the paperwork is that much more cumbersome, not to mention the fact that appraisals and loans are getting more scrutiny now after the mortgage industry fall-out the past few years.  He's also receiving that lovely tax credit from the government because we closed prior to the end of this month.  The appraisal seemed to take forever to get done and turned in plus the lender has been slow moving the paperwork through.  Aren't paperpushers supposed to be good at pushing paper??  Because of all this, closing was rescheduled FIVE times.  Yes, five.  I was about at my wits end. 

But, it's done.  And I'm glad.  Relieved really. 

And a little sad. 

The selling of this house represents the closing of one door (and of course, the opening of another).  When I purchased this house, I told myself (and anyone else who would listen) that this house was going to last me until I got married.  Finding David seemed to take me a while and two years ago I attempted to sell this house and upgrade.  I actually had it on the market when David and I met.  But, that didn't workout...which actually has turned out best in the end.  My original plan was actually "the plan" all along. 

And it's worked out wonderfully. 

And I'm happy.

The End.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Half Broke Horses

So, I was finally able to read the follow-up novel to The Glass Castle.  You guys have read about my love of The Glass Castle more than once before, so I'll spare you a rehashing of that...

This book is the story of Jeannette Walls' maternal grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, who had a very interesting life, to say the least.  Jeannette writes about her grandmother from stories her mother has told and retold Jeannette throughout her life.  In the epilogue, Jeannette says that the vast majority of these stories she was able to verify going through records (court, newspaper, etc.).  This is amazing, considering the shock value of some of the stories told. 

I would highly recommend this book if you have read The Glass Castle.  If you haven't, I would recommend them both to you. 

I will admit that this book didn't quite live up to the reading experience you have in The Glass Castle.  Mostly because you're not going to be getting exasperated over and over at someone in this book... ::cough cough:: Rex Walls ::cough cough::  However, you will get irritated by a person here and there, plus the situations that Lily Casey Smith gets thrown at her. 

Don't read what I just wrote the wrong way, this is a great book and I loved it.  I just didn't feel my blood pressure rising in anger with this story, more I just felt like Lily kept getting antagonized over and over throughout her life.  She was definitely a spit-fire with a strong backbone and kept coming back for more!  I commend her and loved her character.

If you have read neither book, it doesn't really matter which you read first because one does not necessarily require the story of the other.  However, I will say that this book provides a more insightful view into Rosemary's character, Jeannette's mother/Lily's daughter.  There were a lot of things that occurred early on in Rosemary's life that helped me understand why she acted the way she did in The Glass Castle.  That doesn't necessarily excuse her behavior, but it does provide some perspective into her background that I didn't feel I had before. 

Donna and I discussed my take on Rosemary's character after I had finished the book, and she hadn't thought much about this.  Did anyone else feel this way about Rosemary upon finishing Half Broke Horses?

This is a very quick read, I believe I read this in less than a 24 hour period.  If you are looking for a quick and interesting read, go for this one!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's Raining, It's Pouring...No, Wait It's Just SHOWERS!

As I mentioned yesterday, this past weekend was my first two wedding showers.  Because it was going to be a nice, long holiday weekend...and because David and I usually drive up to Kansas on holidays, David's aunt Bev asked me if she could schedule a shower from their side of the family.  Bev is Richard's (David's dad) sister-in-law.  We'll simply call this the "Z Family" shower.

The "Z Family" shower was fabulous!  All of David's cousins, their spouses and children, plus one aunt showed up.  We had a fun family picnic and played games.  One was a fun matching game where you had to match famous lovers from history, literature, etc.  Of course, David and I were one of the couples included in the game.  Others that were listed were Romeo & Juliet, George & Martha Washington, Lancelot & Guinevere, Homer & Marge...well, you get the idea.  Whomever finished their matching list first and got all the answers correct won. 

Did I mention there was great food?  We had barbecue with different salads and beans.  The absolute BEST part was the dessert though.  Let me tell you, this family knows how to do dessert!  We ate homemade ice cream, fresh from the garden strawberries, poppy seed cake, PW chocolate cake AND peanut butter cake.  OH. MY. GOODNESS.  There is nothing better than...well, any of this! 

David's family introduced me to poppy seed rolls when I first met them.  They are to-die-for!  They look like the picture to the right...and Donna, David's mom, told me this was one of my "tests" on whether or not I was a keeper.  You HAVE to like poppy seed rolls to be a member of this family, haha!  Luckily, David's sister's boyfriend passed this test as well.  If you have never had a chance to try these...you must!  That black stuff inside is the ground poppy seed spread and it is deeeeeelish.  They're like little black, crunchy seeds that are sweet with a tiiiiiiny bit of bitterness.  Perfection.  Hmmm...maybe we'll get a poppy seed grinder at some point throughout this whole wedding stuff...  This is definitely something I'm going to want to learn how to make someday!

Anyway, all I had ever had was poppy seed roll...when I saw the poppy seed cake I HAD to have some...but, I couldn't pass up the PW chocolate cake.  I mean, HELLO!  Oh yea, and the homemade ice cream AND fresh strawberries.  Alas, my tummy was too full to make it to the peanut butter cake.  But, I heard it was scrumptious as well. 

Getting back to the shower...we also opened presents.  Lots and lots o' presents.  The Z's also bought us one big present, David's newest pride and joy:

We can't wait to try 'er out!  Plus, if anyone has any tasty ice cream recipes, I'm all ears!

David's church was also chomping at the bit to throw me a shower and since we were already up that way this weekend, they scheduled theirs for after the service on Sunday.  Because we both have/had established households (I'll give an update on my house-selling adventure soon-promise!), they ran with the idea of a recipe shower.  I had never heard of this before, but I was game.  What the attendees bring is one of their favorite recipes along with a utensil or appliance required to make the dish.  This was A LOT of fun!  David was extra excited to see what I came back with because the women in this church have a reputation for being great cooks/bakers. 

I received everything from a crock pot to dish towels (my favorite one was embroidered with "Crystal's Kitchen") to servers to a cookie sheet to a cake pan to a peeler and many, many more items!  One of my favorite items that I cannot wait to try out are silicone cupcake liners.  They look exactly like this...only different colors.  Don't worry, there will be a review on these cuties!  My other favorite item was a custom-made modern-looking apron in colors of red and purple.  I'll have David take a picture of me wearing it some time.

Of course, I received TONS of recipes as well.  A lot of these women couldn't pick just one, so it wasn't unusual for me to open a present with 2-3 recipes and 2-3 items for these recipes.  You can be sure I'll be trying a bunch of these recipes out (everything from muffins to cakes to meat marinades to casseroles) and if they're goodies, I'll be posting 'em!

To say that David and I made out like bandits this past weekend is an understatement.  I am so incredibly thankful for this new family and church environment that David has been raised within.  These are some great people and I look for many years to come with these generous and warm-hearted individuals!  I am truly blessed to have found this man and his delightful family and friends.  More wedding updates to come!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


OK, so this weekend I was able to continue on with my Twilight addiction...errr, I mean reading.  I was able to finish Eclipse and I have to say that it was a little slow in parts for me, but I did end up loving it just as much as the first two.  Now, on to Breaking Dawn...when I have time.  I know all you real Twilight lovers are appalled that it's taking me this long to read the entire series, but with a wedding to plan and a house to sell...well, time is not my friend! 

What I'm really excited about is going to see the movie with my fellow Twilight-enjoying friend, Susan.  We're going to the Warren Theater as soon as we get a chance.  They have fabulous food and fabulous seats and this should be a fabulous movie...not to mention the fabulous time I'll have with one of my best friends!

This weekend I was able to finish this book, read another and begin a third.  Why do you ask?  Well, I had a lovely weekend visiting the future in-laws because it was a nice, long holiday weekend and I had my first two wedding showers.  Be looking forward to an additional book review (or two!) and a recap of these showers within the next couple days!


Related Posts with Thumbnails