Posts Tagged ‘Summer’

Summer, Don’t Go

It was beautiful … all of it.

What started with sun, blue skies and a blank slate is now coming to an end with sun, blue skies and a (shorter time-limited) blank slate.

There were lazy days of sleeping in, afternoon naps, a novel on the lap and an icy cold drink by the side.

There were times with friends, family and furry beasts.

There was water in the pool, at the beach, and the waterpark.

There were times away … far, in our own towns and just down the street.

There was food on the patio, at the park, and while walking on the pier.

There were new adventures and regular old chores, done with new vigour.

There were new skills and well-practised abilities utilized in completing and crossing off items from the ‘summer project’ list.

There were slow, sweet moments of staring at the sun, the stars, your sweetie’s eyes.

There was time at the lake, the beach, walking the bustling city streets.

Summer was so full, for a season that started with a blank slate.

I don’t want to see it go.


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This recipe is the one that, to me, says ‘it’s summer’!

It is the combination of colors, the freshness, the cornucopia of summer vegetable and herb flavors with that deliciously filled pasta, also known as the ‘belly button’ pasta (obviously an outie, or maybe an innie from the inside view). Also, you can ‘change up’ the vegetables that you use, depending on what is fresh and what you have on hand. Who doesn’t love versatility?

I also love it because you can make it the day ahead, or even the day you want to eat it (although it is better if made ahead, even a few hours, to let the flavors blend).

This recipe came from the same summer cooking contest as my summer recipe a couple of weeks ago (on July 30), in our local newspaper. I cut both out of the paper, and have been making both of them, regularly ever since.

So, here is the recipe of the week …

Tortellini Pesto Salad

Chop up 1/4C fresh parsley, and 3/4C fresh basil (okay, confession time … years ago, I bought a butt load of herbs for my garden, and planted them all together. Well, the next year only one came back … what I thought was basil … not! It was Thyme, but I thought it was basil … so, for about four years I made this recipe with fresh thyme … and it tasted pretty good too! So, if you, like me, have blond roots, and no sense of taste, you can use either one … but, I digress ;).

Whip together 1C mayonnaise, and 2Tbsp milk (or, if you want to live on the edge, half and half … but I do prefer my blue-hued non-fat milk) until smooth. Then stir in the parsley, the BASIL, 1/4C fresh parmesan cheese (if it comes out of a can, that you bought from a shelf, and not from a cooler, it is NOT fresh … fresh parmesan melts, stuff in cans does not … I am a parmesan snob), and 2 cloves minced garlic.

Set your delicious saucy mixture into the refrigerator, while you get ready to chop, chop, chop.

Now, this next step is only for the adventurous cooks out there … it is the vegetable chopping time! And, if you take your vegetable chopping as seriously as I do, when it comes to knives, size matters! The bigger the better to make cutting vegetables more … funner (?).

Get ready to slice / julienne your 1C carrots, and 1C zucchini. Then cut 1C of cherry tomatoes in half. Other vegetables that could be good are small snow peas, corn kernels, broccoli (small florets), diced sweet peppers and any other vegetables that sound appealing. Once you are finished slicing better than a Slice-O-Matic, get out your P & P’s … pots and pans …

Really you just need the pot … Fill it about three quarters full of water, cover and place on stove top on high. Once it boils, add salt and 1 package (24oz / 518g) cheese tortellini (I like the ones that are multi-colored … orange and green … it kind of makes you think you are getting healthy vegetables in your carbohydrate-laden pasta), and cook until al dente (tender, but firm). Drain in colander, and run cold water over the pasta, until cooled down.

Toss pasta, vegetables and saucy stuff in a big bowl (and if you are nuts about nuts, throw in 3/4C walnuts … my family is nutty enough without them). Then chill until ready to eat!

It is great served with grilled meats, or on it’s own as the main event. It will be hard to eat only a little bit.

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Although garden vegetables are available all year, there are some recipes that are simply reserved for when the vegetables are fresh from the garden … and this one is best when the vegetables are taken from the garden and made up the same day.

Now there are different varieties of this recipe. Some have vegetables that would never have been added to the Hodge Podge recipe that we would have enjoyed. Such as turnips or carrots.

Now to start this recipe get your big pot (the one you make spaghetti in), and place it on the stove top. Put about two inches of water into the pot to boil (depending on how many vegetables you use).

While waiting for the water to boil, wash the vegetables. Since they are fresh, and their outer layer is thin, there is no need to peel them (this helps to make this recipe easie peasie).

Once the water is boiling, add enough fresh from the garden baby potatoes to cover the bottom of the pot. Then add an equal amount of fresh from the garden green beans, and fresh from the garden peas (in or out of the shells … I prefer in, but it was always made without shells, at home). Boil until the vegetables are just starting to get softer.

Now, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and add cream. You can add cereal cream, coffee cream or milk. I prefer half and half, as it still gives a creamy, rich flavor, but is not quite so heavy, and unhealthy as heavy cream (do not use skim milk … the final product will not be appealing at all). Simmer until the vegetables are all softened.

Then add about 2Tbsp of butter (margarine should not be used … yucky). Once the butter is melted, and warmed, the meal is done, and ready to be enjoyed.

Season with salt and pepper … especially the pepper 🙂 . This recipe is cheap, quick, easy, and terribly nutritious.

The taste of hodge podge is the taste of freshness!

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It is summer and the cooking MUST be easy!

Today’s yummy summer recipe is called CAFE MOCHA

I found this recipe for Cafe Mocha, years ago, in a local newspaper. The paper had a contest to find the best summer recipes, and this was the winning dessert recipe. It is a recipe that I have often referred to as quick and easy Tiramisu. It is divine!

Pros …


Contains whipping cream

Can be made the day before it is needed

No cooking!

Cons …

Contains whipping cream (this is only a ‘con’ if you look at the nutritional information on the carton)

Can be made the day before it is needed (it is not still going to be there tomorrow … once it is made, NOT eating it is impossible)

Not enough chocolate (this is not a problem if you are making it 🙂 )

So, here it goes …

Cafe Mocha

Make yourself the stiffest drink … of coffee that you can imagine. Set it aside.

Layer lady finger cookies (you will need about two packages of them) on the bottom of a 13X9 glass or ceramic pan (or a metal one lined with parchment to prevent rusty whipping cream … YES! This recipe has whipping cream 🙂 )

Now, take a spoon and drizzle (oh, how I love the word ‘drizzle’) your strong brew over the ladyfingers, until they are all saturated with caffeine (or decaf. if that is what you must do … but, seriously, 1 tsp. is only going to be a problem if you are planning to indulge in the entire recipe … come to think of it, maybe decaf. is a more sensible choice). Set aside.

Haul your electric mixer out of mothballs. Into it pour:

2 Cups whipping cream (you could use that low fat, oil product, or frozen stuff, but seriously, it’s summer! Don’t deprive your taste buds … use the good ol’ fashioned whole fat, found on the dairy aisle, whipping cream).

3/4 Cup powdered sugar (sometimes known as snow, icing sugar or simply that stuff that seems to melt in your mouth … or so I have been told …).

1 tsp instant coffee grounds (this is an ingredient that I ONLY recommend using for this recipe … coffee should NEVER be instant or powdered).

1 tsp pure vanilla (okay cheapo’s out there, imitation vanilla is just that … an imitation! Go pure or go to the dessert aisle of your local grocery store and just buy a ready-made dessert … gramma never used imitation!).

Now, whip the life into this weird and wonderful concoction of ingredients, until it has been whipped firm like my thighs …

Once the mixture has been whipped and creamed into culinary submission, spoon half of it onto the soaking ladyfingers. Then top with another layer of lady finger cookies. And, finally (unless your ‘just a taste’ of the creamy mixture has resulted in an empty bowl … not that that would ever happen to me), spread remaining whipped mixture, over cookies.

Then, sift cocoa (I am not providing an amount here, use at your own discretion) all over the top of it!

Then, the most difficult part of the recipe … chill at least six hours before serving (if there is anything left to serve after your family of five has been taste testing when you haven’t been looking).


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This is definitely an easy please recipe!

So, as I write this I am in the midst of summer vacation, and the only thing I have cooked (?) is wieners in the microwave for my sons lunch (and do not go getting all nutritionally righteous on me … he likes it, and they are simple, which makes HIS life more healthy … because it is so easy to prepare for him, I do not get stressed and then uptight and grumpy … ever heard the old adage … if momma ain’t happy? Oh, how I can digress …).

Obviously, I am not an expert cook! But, it is summer, and I bet that even the best chefs grill hot dogs (just maybe not in the microwave) in the summer.

The recipe today is even easier than hot dogs. And, in case you cannot figure out my unique style of recipe writing, just check out Kraft Recipes where you can find a more traditional style of recipe, in the place where I first found it.

So, guess what is the first ingredient? You got it … meatballs! NO, you do not have to hand form them! Go to your local frozen foods section of your grocery store, and pick up a bag (whatever size floats your boat) of preformed, frozen meatballs (any variety … heck, even the faux meat ones work). These babies need to thaw, in your refrigerator. So, take them out in the morning, go to the beach all day, and then they are ready for you when you get home with a rumbly in your tumbly (in the immortal words of Winnie the Pooh).

Now, when you place your frozen meat product in the refrigerator, remember to place your kabob sticks/skewers in a dish of water, if they are wooden. This keeps ‘burnt offerings’ out of your skewers … aka, it prevents your skewers from burning up. By the end of the day, they will be more wet than your lawn in the Northwest from October to June! For those of you a bit on the slow side … this is NOT necessary for those using metal skewers … enough said.

If you want to be really prepared (and people to call you Martha … Stewart), cut up a red pepper, and a green pepper (and maybe a yellow pepper),  into about 1″ square pieces, also in the morning. That way everything is ready when you get home (and if you are smart, you will just stop at the store and purchase a ready made green salad, and maybe a potato salad, and maybe a nice french loaf too, on your way home too).

Now, when it is show time, you need to mix equal amounts of apricot jam and barbecue sauce, in a bowl, and nuke it ’til it bubbles. Then skewer your meaty (or not so meaty) balls and peppers (in whatever creative manner you choose). Now, place skewers onto hot barbecue grill, and heat until warmed all the way through (somewhere around ten minutes). When they are almost done, brush with delightful saucy stuff. Grill ’til caramelized. And enjoy.

And, if you want to make it look like you put far more effort into dinner than you really did, make sure you rub a bit of the sauce on your cheek before serving 😉

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My son and I were discussing last evening, summer break is about to reach it’s midsection. With that realization, we both started expressing what still needed to be done, enjoyed and experienced so as to squeeze everything out of this summer. I could feel my heart quicken as my mental ‘to do’ list was growing. Then I remembered that summer was not just about recreation but relaxation as well.

Last summer was a bust for me. The moment I began to rest, my body decided to stop. It was as though all the energy reserves dried up and I was physically lifeless. So I vowed that this summer would be different. I had check-ups and blood tests. I have been eating well, getting ample sleep, and taking my vitamins. I also have been staying busy with home renovations, painting furniture, working in the garden. I have not really sat still yet, with little TV or movie watching, a book barely started, and only a handful of walks out in nature. This summer has been delightfully productive … but, not restful.

Then twice last week I said, out loud that we would not be going to our favorite west coast beach this summer, and twice I sobbed. You see for years our return to that beach meant stepping onto the sand, facing the horizon, and an immediate exhaling of all of the stresses of the year. Our week there was rest and refreshment for our dry and weary souls.

This year, we will need to find a new source of refreshment and rest. This will not be easy for me, as I struggle to stop when I can see work that needs to be done … I struggle with not being productive. I struggle with a fear that being still will cause my energy to dry up and leave me lifeless.

The following guest post, by Anna Rendell, at (in)courage, called On Blinking Cursors and New Pathways, spoke to the need to be still, and what might be found in the desert places of our lives.

“My tea is hot, steaming in the cup set on an old apple crate beside my armchair. Soft piano music drifts out of my sons room, where he’s cozy asleep in bed. Crickets are chirping outside, and the birch trees across the pond rustle in a breeze. The setting perfect, I open the laptop and stare at the screen, blank and bright. The cursor blinks as if it’s expecting a next move and I know I’m letting it down. My tea is hot, steaming in the cup set on an old apple crate beside my armchair. Soft piano music drifts out of my sons room, where he’s cozy asleep in bed. Crickets are chirping outside, and the birch trees across the pond rustle in a breeze. The setting perfect, I open the laptop and stare at the screen, blank and bright. The cursor blinks as if it’s expecting a next move and I know I’m letting it down. My tea is hot, steaming in the cup set on an old apple crate beside my armchair. Soft piano music drifts out of my sons room, where he’s cozy asleep in bed. Crickets are chirping outside, and the birch trees across the pond rustle in a breeze. The setting perfect, I open the laptop and stare at the screen, blank and bright. The cursor blinks as if it’s expecting a next move and I know I’m letting it down.My tea is hot, steaming in the cup set on an old apple crate beside my armchair. Soft piano music drifts out of my sons room, where he’s cozy asleep in bed. Crickets are chirping outside, and the birch trees across the pond rustle in a breeze. The setting perfect, I open the laptop and stare at the screen, blank and bright. The cursor blinks as if it’s expecting a next move and I know I’m letting it down.

I have no next move. I’m totally empty, utterly spent, not a word to be found in my brain or heart or fingers.

But the cursor doesn’t know that, and demands to march on. I half-heartedly clack away at the keys, flailing wildly for any thought that might make sense outside of my own head. I am sure none of them do. This heart that has always penned its feelings is dry, chalkboard dust all that remains of words. There’s been no great catastrophe, nothing life-altering to make my heart shrivel. I’m simply weary with the daily, the diapers and too-fast days and spilled juice, meetings and deadlines and full squares on the calendar.

There’s no room to just be and I am drying up.

Feeling dried up scares me. How am I supposed to teach my children, write blog posts, lead a devotion in my MOPS group, if I am running on fumes myself? A re-fueling of my heart seems impossible because there’s no time to go sit in a quiet sanctuary, on a dock at a lake, in a field of wildflowers. The perfect setting is fleeting. This is real life, people, and real life is messy and full of blinking cursors. Real life is loud, and I think I’m afraid that if I stop and be still, underneath the chatter, there won’t be anything worth saying. I forget that He calls us to stillness, to a deep sense of calm. That He speaks most clearly when I am most quiet. That even in my dryness, He shines clear.

When we are most dried up, He is able to do some of His finest work.

For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
– Isaiah 43:19 (NLT)

Those verses make me shiver with anticipation. Real life forces us to be still and know despite the dryness we feel. Our hearts may be covered in a thick coating of dust. We may be scared – to speak, to write, to be still. We may not see the new works, the new pathways, the rivers flowing. We may see nothing but wasteland from the horizon to horizon of our lives.

Even then, He is at work creating. In us and for us, He is working. And in spite of the blinking cursor and volume of our real life noise, we can be still and know that to be truth.”






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That season that many of us fear, dread and deny it’s existence is upon us. The season, of course, is swim suit season.

The thought of baring, normally covered up, skin, stretch marks and cellulite to the unassuming public is enough to force a woman to lock herself in a closet with a good quality dark chocolate.

A number of years ago I felt I had to confront my fear of baring almost everything about myself. I had two daughters, of seven and three, and a toddler son. We lived across the street from a public pool, and they could not go swimming unless I accompanied them.

Would my self consciousness concerning my body image keep my kids from the cool of the pool on a hot summers day? Would my stretch marked naval gazing keep me from fun with my kids in those precious young memory-making years?

I decided I would not be ‘that mom’ who would let her body image detract from meaningful experiences with her kids. I would purchase the first suit that would cover her well, and I would (literally) dive into summer with joyful abandon.

I was thrilled to read a post at http://www.incourage.me, just last week, by Lisa-Jo Baker, called, “You Are More Than Your Swimsuit.” I hope you enjoy it, and her challenge, as well.

“My kids officially smell of summer. And to me summer smells like sunscreen.

From the moment the gates of our community pool crank back open again, our kids will swim, dive, splash, lather, laugh, lick ice cream and live at the pool.

And I know for many of us, that is the exact same amount of time we will spend trying to hide, cover up, conceal, suck in, and disguise the very bodies that gave birth to these kids.

These bodies that stretched to accommodate sets of feet, brilliant heads and minds, beating hearts, and flexing limbs. These bodies that are round where some say they should be flat; soft where some say they should be hard; and full where many others are running on empty.

These bodies that are winsome and wise with their wrinkles that wink back at the world and share more inside jokes and delicious life experience than could possibly squeeze into the tiny, polka dot bikinis of our youth.

These bodies that are in the service of the King who sculpted them out of sinew and His own Spirit.

These bodies that bend low and pick up socks and broken hearts, wipe crumbs and tears and walk the long, lonely hall ways of two a.m. – rocking babies or waiting up for teens.

These bodies that are the sanctuary for tired kids and continue to carry them and all their hopes and dreams deep here under our rib cage. The place that aches when they smile; the place that spills over with wonder at all this eternity walking around with skin on.

These bodies with wrinkled hands from years of serving meals or making art or sewing or digging gardens and planting bulbs.

These bodies that have born children through our words or blogs or hundreds of hours spent mentoring the next generation or bringing babies home from broken places – all the incredible, miraculous ways our bodies mature and our hearts explode the limitations of skin and muscle.

These bodies that tell the story of miracle and wonder and wink from wide hips and wrinkled steps at the tiny life guards who don’t know yet that living life unguarded in the wide open expanse of opening your life up to others is the best way to be beautiful. They will grow into it. They will earn their own scars.

And we will be there modeling what brave looks like for them. Every step of the way into the deep end of the pool with miniature daughters clinging to our necks. Or with other wrinkled sisters who still swim on fearless. With joy off the diving board and loud laughter trying to out race our sons.

“You should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its eighteen-year-old form. Let it be used. By the time you die, you want to have a very dinged and dented body… Scars and stretch marks and muffin tops are all part of your kingdom work. One of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of giving your body to another.”

~Life-changing wisdom from Rachel Jankovic, author of Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches.

Let’s not hide this summer.

Let’s spend it all. Lavishly.

All this life we’ve been gifted with.

Let’s spend it down to the very last delicious drops of summer – because you are created for more. Much more than your swimsuit.”

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The long weekend has ended, signaling to students, parents and school staff the start of the final countdown to the end of the school year (just twenty-four work days, plus one workshop day for me … and, for the record, I have NOT been counting days until now … I DO have the ability to practice self-control).

From now on, as each day dawns, our thoughts and dreams will be of sunshine, BBQ’s, beaches, campgrounds, hikes, bike rides, swimming and sitting around a fire pit looking up at the stars and across to the ones we love. We will be focusing our anticipation on friends, family and free time!

It will be difficult to keep focused on the days at hand when the future is so bright we gotta wear shades.

Yet, there is still so much to do.

There are end of year assignments, tests, exams, graduations, parties and farewells, for the students. There are vacation plans, spring gardening, kids schedules to manage, spring sports to taxi to, and encouragement to offer those students, for the parents.

There are curricular goals to achieve, marking to complete, exams to prepare, students to prepare for exams, exams to mark, report cards to prepare, meetings to be had, farewells and parties, then the final clean up for the school staff.

But, but …

the sun is shining,

the daylight stays longer,

we just want summer


As eager as we all are for all that summer may for each of us, we have a work to complete, and we must keep our focus on finishing it with eager willingness to complete it well.

Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness
to it it may be matched by your completion of it,
according to your means.”

2 Corinthians 8:11




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It’s the most wonderful time of the year … and I do not mean that it is Christmas (my hubby is known to sing this song the first day back to school … cruel man). I am, of course, referring to summer.

I am slowly (ever so slowly) getting parts of the house cleaned, renos. started, new recipes researched, and fun things underway with the family.

The beginning of the summer break can be ever so messy. I am simply so very excited to have a significant amount of free time that I try to do everything that I want to … all at once! Just last week I started to clean out the bedroom of an international student who is not returning, I also started to clean my bedroom closet, I also started pruning my grapevine, I also took one of my kids for lunch, took in a sale at a store, and cleaned out the cabinet where I house candles and their holders.

The result of my ADD (attention deficit disorder) behavior was a very messy house. Stuff from my closet ALL over the bedroom, and streaming from it into the kitchen and living room. Stuff from that student’s bedroom streaming all over the hallway outside of it. The can holding yard trimmings in the middle of the backyard. My coffee table full of candles and their holders. Bags of purchases from the sale on my bedroom floor. And dirty floors … how could I possibly have time to clean when I am out, or cleaning, or organizing?

I feel as though my actions mirror the excitement my beast experiences when the door is left ajar, and she runs with joyful abandon.

It is the freedom availed after being locked in to the busyness of the ten months prior that causes this crazed activity. Now that the initial excitement is over, I can truly relax, and enjoy … no, savor the freedom that summer brings.

That reminds me of our beast too. Once she has been out and running like a race horse, mouth hanging open like she is crazed with excitement, she returns home, chooses the most lush part of our front grass (moss), under the shade of the trees, and she simply lays their, with the appearance of the biggest dog smile across her face.

So, now that I am into week two of the summer break, I too am searching for an equally lush and shady place, to enjoy the freedom … the freedom of rest.

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.””Matthew 11:28


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A prayer for this summer …

Because we could all use a prayer …

to give us hope,
to give us dreams,
to give us direction.

Dear God,
Thank-you for summer …
for it’s heat
for it’s light
For warm nights
and bright early mornings
Thank-you for the unique rhythms of each day
and the bright stars at night
For the days at the beach
and the days cleaning a closet
For the times with friends and family
and for the times with only You
For the meals juicy and tender off the grill
and the marshmallows burnt to a crisp
For the summer parties
and the lazy days
For adventures in places near
and trips to places which are far.
Please great me these things, this summer :
refreshment from my soles to my soul
challenges to make me stretch
memories with my babes
joy with my love
and excitement to start the insanity all over again in September

Oh, and soft rains to fall asleep to at night.


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