Cucumber and Green Onion Salad

…and it’s Fight Back Friday! Hooray! (I’m so glad to be home!)

I got hooked on this salad a number of years ago.

Before I finally figured out how to consistently grow my own cucumbers.

Oh my – what a difference using cucumbers fresh off the vine makes! Yummy!

But anyway… fell in love with it, tweaked the recipe a bit. It’s not any huge secret how to make a simple sweet and sour marinade – but this one is just so good with the rice wine vinegar (I prefer the seasoned, myself).

It’s easy.

It’s yummy.

When it’s 107° F outside and you have some cold in the fridge, your family will love you FOREVER!

Here you go – as easy as can be!

Cucumber and Green Onion Salad

Ingredients

2 cups

Cucumbers, peeled, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons

Kosher salt

2 teaspoons

Sugar

1/4 cup

Green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup

Rice wine vinegar

 

  1. In a bowl, sprinkle the thinly sliced cucumbers with salt. Let stand for about 20 minutes, then drain.
  2. In the same bowl, mix the cucumbers, green onions, sugar, and rice wine vinegar. Stir thoroughly.
  3. Ready to serve!

Notes:

This may be served at room temperature or refrigerated. I personally love it best when it’s been refrigerated.

And… in the interest of full disclosure – I NEVER measure the cucumber and the green onions. I go out to the garden, find what I can find, then come back and make some up. If I need to make a little extra marinade, then so be it!

If I’m really feeling impatient, then I don’t do step one above – I just peel and slice the cumbers, throw everything in, give it a good stir – and start chowing down!

Enjoy!

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Home… at last!

I knew I was starting to get sick on Friday, the 10th of this month.

It’s a long, involved, too detailed to convey adequately right now story – but suffice it to say I’ve had this illness previously. It was believed to have gone away – TWICE now.

As my symptoms progressed I wondered at some subtle differences to this illness as opposed to the two prior instances this spring. I did the prescribed home treatment options, however, tracked my fevers, pain levels, and nausea as previously directed, like a good patient.

On the 21st I called the doctor.

Something was… different. But the same – well – ish.

He was in surgery all that day and the next, but his assistant left him a message.

Just a note here. I have the world’s most awesome General Surgeon here in my town. The man will pick up the phone after hours to say, “I was just wondering, how’s it going?” Or a week before a scheduled appointment will call me and say, “I was just going over your chart, and wondered…” He’s a detail guy. God led me to him six years ago – another long story – but suffice it to say that the man is a huge blessing to me.

On Wednesday I started wondering if I should be in the hospital.

I hate being in the hospital.

On Thursday things were significantly worse. Maybe even a little bit frighteningly worse.

The doctor’s nurse called in the afternoon and said he’d just called in an antibiotic for me, and then she paused and asked, “Dina, how are you?”

So I told her.

In no uncertain terms she said to me, “Go to the ER now. Tell them who is sending you, that you need a CT evaluation, and they should report back to me!” She’s young, cute, very perky – but has the stern Mom voice down very well. It will serve her well in future life.

So I packed, put my medical records in my bag, and when John got home he drove me in.

They took me back immediately, and really, before too long, we knew that it was significant, and I was to be hospitalized.

Last time it was for 2 days.

This time – well, I got home this afternoon. And I’m on IV antibiotic therapy for another 4 to 6 weeks.

This morning when they said that I finally got to go home I went through a lot of emotions.

One – AWE over the amazing, benevolent, loving, gentle hand of God. How he had directed my paths. Brought me the exact doctors that I needed, who brought in excellent doctors to be on my new team, who chose a path of therapy and healing for me that has been a little humbling.

God – why do you love me so?

I’m so very thankful that He does.

And that He guides.

And nudges.

And sustains.

And comforts.

And loves in a way that only He can.

I have experienced fear, as well as an understanding of just how gravely ill I was, joy, pain, and peace this last week.

My theme song for the week? Here, let me share. If you do iTunes or Zune or whatever – go right on over and buy it – it’s a keeper!

“Made me Glad” by Darlene Zschech

I will bless the Lord forever

I will trust Him at all times

He has delivered me from all fear

He has set my feet upon a rock

I will not be moved

And I’ll say of the Lord

 

You are my shield, my strength

My portion, deliverer

My shelter, strong tower

My very present help in time of need

 

Whom have I in heaven but You

There’s none I desire beside You

You have made me glad

And I’ll say of the Lord

 

You are my shield, my strength

My portion, deliverer

My shelter, strong tower

My very present help in time of need

 

All one can say in response is: Amen!

So tonight I go to bed in my own wonderful bed. Next to my own wonderful husband. And will be singing this song in my dreams.

Dina’s Favorite Corn Chowder…

…well, sort of.

Hold on folks – its Fight Back Friday – and…

Truth be told, the Corn Chowder served at Manzana in the Pearl District at 12th & Glisan every Tuesday – that’s my favorite Corn Chowder. But some stupid corporation bought them out and put some other dumb restaurant there – without the to die for corn chowder, I might add. And so I was forced to figure out how to make one that – at least tries – to be like the one from Manzana. One of these days I’m going to break down and write Gourmet or Bon Appetite and send them after the scoundrels who bought Manzana out and force them to share the recipe!

This is also going to be a lesson in how to make a soup based on what you’ve got written down in the recipe, but actually isn’t exactly what it is. Why? Cause I just felt like some alterations in the method, ingredients, etc. So here we go! This is Dina’s Favorite Corn Chowder – sort of. (Who knows, maybe it’ll be my new favorite!)

Dina’s Favorite Corn Chowder

Ingredients
2 tablespoons Butter
4 medium Potatoes, peeled and diced
3 stalks Celery, diced
1 medium Onion, diced
4 cups Water or chicken stock
2 cups Corn
1/2 cup Butter
1/2 cup All-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon White pepper
1 cup Whole milk
1 cup Chicken stock
2 cups Heavy whipping cream
1 cup Medium white cheddar cheese, shredded

 

Here are most of the ingredients – some things are stored in bins too large for me to schlep up onto the counter top – sorry. But, suffice it to say they are nearby and ready for active duty!

  1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 4-quart stock pot. Add onions, celery, and potatoes – cooking over medium-high heat until the onions are beginning to become translucent.

I probably ought to mention something here. This recipe calls for 1 medium onion. I love onions. My kids – not so much. Pretty much everything savory that I cook has onions in it. And if the recipe calls for one medium onion, I’m going to either a) add a large onion to the medium onion, or 2) just get a large one instead. I know – I’m bad. For this batch – I added the large onion to the small one that really needed to be used up. This recipe also pretty specifically said 3 stalks of celery and 4 medium potatoes. Know what? I feel like more celery and more potatoes today – so I’m upping the ante a little. The great thing about soup? You can make it your own really easily! J

  1. Cover the potato mixture with water (and/or chicken stock) and boil until almost tender.

It just so happens that I didn’t want water in my soup today so I used up some Chicken stock that needed to be used up. Okay – you caught me. Not actually covered with the stock are they? I didn’t actually have quite enough, but that’s okay – I had plenty, and what I had worked.

  1. Add the corn. Reduce heat to medium low.

See, I told you! There was plenty of liquid there! After the potatoes cooked well, I added the corn in.

  1. In a medium-sized sauce pan, heat ½ cup butter until melted. Stir in flour with a whisk until roux forms, stirring over medium high heat for about five minutes.

Do you know how to make a roux? It’s one of those things that every girl needs to know how to do before she leaves home for college or parts afar. I didn’t learn how to make one until well into my 20’s – oh! All of the fabulous sauces I could have made! BTW, you have a wire whisk, right? Cause every kitchen ought to have at least 2, you know that, right?

  1. Gradually add in 1 cup of chicken stock, stirring with the whisk as you add the liquid to ensure a smooth consistency.

Here’s what it looks like after the stock has been added. Honestly – it’s a little dark, but I got an important phone call at this point in time and had to step away. That’s okay – I always prefer a more cooked roux to a floury/powdery tasting one.

  1. Now add the milk and whipped cream to the roux; again – stirring with the whisk as you slowly add the liquid to maintain the smooth consistency, allowing the mixture to come to stay at a steady medium temperature.
  2. Sauce mixture may need a few minutes to simmer – stirring all the while – to thicken some more. Add the salt and pepper (you may substitute black pepper for the white pepper if you prefer).

Here’s the lovely roux with the cream added. I’ve just sprinkled the Kosher salt, ground some black pepper in, and added some celery salt. Yes, I know! The recipe doesn’t say that exactly, does it? I’m not loving white pepper so much of late, but I am loving the fresh ground black pepper, so I chose to use that. And I should come clean – celery salt is probably my favorite spice. I use it in almost everything!

  1. Gradually add in the shredded cheddar cheese until the sauce is completely integrated.

I’m just not in the mood for the cheddar added to this today. I got it out. I grated it. I was all set to add it. But then I stopped, and tasted the roux and you know what? It was perfect. Why mess with it?

  1. Add the sauce mixture to the potato mixture. Stir and let come back to a gentle boil, and then reduce heat to very low. Allow to sit for five minutes before serving.

So that’s pretty much it. It’s an easy little soup to throw together – has elbow room to be messed with to your personal preferences – and even if I do say so myself – it’s delicious.

Enjoy!

Notes:

Options: You can kick this up a notch by throwing in some fire roasted peppers, and a bit of cilantro.

I Miss My Mommy


(My uncle and my Mom.)

My Mom hated having her picture taken.

The truth of the matter? She was terribly self conscious of severe scarring on her face caused by acne. Her acne was so bad that she was a member of a study at UCLA in the 50’s to treat severe acne – they’d do prolonged radiation exposure to the affected area (i.e., the face/neck) – to the point that they’d actually burn the skin, then when it blistered – they’d scrape the skin and acne away. If the acne came back – they’d repeat. My Uncle told me once that she would lay in her bed after these treatments and whimper – afraid to cry because the tears would feel like rivers of fire going down her face.

It would be lovely to say that she grew out of that self-consciousness as a young lady – but it wouldn’t be true. As a woman in her 50’s she was still as self-conscious of her complexion.

It’s sad – because she was truly beautiful.

Her most pronounced feature?

A smile that could outshine the sun.

She loved to laugh.

She loved to love.

She loved Jesus with all of her heart – and that kinda spilled out into every pore of her body.

But she went through a long period of rebellion before she came to peace with God. Nothing wild or shocking – just open opposition to the things of God. Probably not wise to say “just” – that’s a pretty profound stance to take if you have any understanding of Who God is – and who we aren’t.

While still in her years of rebellion – much to her parents’ dismay, she met a young man from Mississippi at a New Year’s Eve party. He was charming, unassuming, kind, and genuine.

They eloped 21 days later.

My Grandparents were outraged!


(Serving as Best Man and Matron of Honor at a friend’s wedding, with my cousin who served as the flower girl.)

One of the first things Mom and Dad decided was that they loved kids and wanted some! They went through five miscarriages, and they lost twins at delivery before I was born. The doctor told my Mom that if she got pregnant again, they would schedule her for abortion – it was obvious to him that she was incapable of carrying a baby to term.

Very unexpectedly Mom realized some months later that she was pregnant again. She reluctantly scheduled the appointment with the doctor for the abortion. As she was driving there she began weeping uncontrollably. She found she couldn’t drive safely any longer, pulled over to the side of the road, looked up, and realized she was in front of a church. She got out of the car, went into the church, and finding it empty, approached the altar and poured out her heart to a God she’d rejected up until that time.

The only Bible story she could remember was the one of Hannah who desperately longed for a child and promised to dedicate her child to God if she be blessed with one. Mom made that same pledge, humbled her heart before God, and knowing peace for the first time in her lifetime, she left the church.

One more stop on the way to the doctor’s office was at a toy store – where a stuffed teddy bear was purchased for this baby that she believed she would carry to term. His name is Ted, by the way. Ted E. Bear. Got it?

When she arrived at the appointment she informed the doctor that she disagreed, she WOULD carry this baby to term, and she would be finding a different doctor.

You gotta remember this was 1963 – that was pretty unheard of. And she was kind of a wimp when it came to confrontation – so it was, she reported, Power that didn’t come in or of herself.

So… I was born. At 10 months gestation. They put my poor Mother in the hospital for the whole last month of her pregnancy because they were so afraid something would go wrong. She said it nearly drove her nuts!

I was born on New Year’s Eve at 11:59 am.

I was born to two parents who couldn’t love me more. I have NEVER doubted that at any point in my life. I had four doting Grandparents, and one doting Uncle on one side of the family, and one doting Aunt other side of the family.

Interestingly enough – after I was born – it seemed the baby making capacity was fixed or something. Just two and a half years later my brother was born, then two years after that my sister, and then two years after that my other brother.


(My Mom and my Grammy – about 1964, I think.)


(Mom, Gram, and me!)


(A watermelon eating contest with the cousins.)

I have a lot of cousins – and my Mom loved that. My Dad had an aunt who was 2 years older than he – and she had her husband had four children – the eldest of whom is about ten years older than I. My Mom’s Aunt was only 5 years older than she was, and that aunt had three kids – the oldest of whom is about 8 years older than I am. Then my Aunt had four kids – the oldest of whom was 7 years older than I. There were always kids around. That so floated my parents’ boat.

We had Easter Egg Dying parties at Easter time. We had watermelon eating contests when melons were in season. We had picnics in the yard. We went to Disneyland – a lot! We went to the beach – a lot! We had water fights galore. We blew more bubbles than one could begin to fathom. We played together – seemingly all the time. I kid you not when I say that those days are tinged with gold, laughter, and the sweet smell of my Mom’s Shalimar perfume, and her infectious smile.

(My Mom and my Aunt – with me. Doing what they did OFTEN – laugh! Aren’t they beautiful?)


(Mom with my baby sister. How’s that for a pink room?!)


(Mom, my brother, and I – he and I having never tried out snow before. I was HORRIFIED it was so pretty but so STINKING cold!)

My Mom and Dad moved us to Oregon when I was 4. My Aunt and Uncle had moved shortly before we did – so there was family. Other family followed eventually. It was pretty cool. I have the most amazing memories of the crazy costumes that Mom and my Aunt would put together for us at Halloween. Mom was so imaginative – and so NOT crafty.

Over the years our home was the place where all of the kids wanted to come and hang out. My parents were a major draw – they just had this knack of loving unconditionally. I have great memories of Vacation Bible School in the back yard, neighborhood hide and seek with as many as 50 kids from the neighborhood playing, day trips to the beach or Multnomah Falls or Champoeg Park.

Mom had this crazy little book – I wonder if I might have it stashed away somewhere – that had off the beaten path trips to take throughout Oregon. I think it was published in 1960 something. She planned – scrimping and saving along the way – amazing fun outings for us and as many cousins as we could cram in the car to go along with us.


(Mom with some of her grandchildren.)

From the time her first grandchild was born, Mom started planning the trips she was going to take – with a boatload of grandchildren in tow (but they had to be potty trained first) each year.

She’d pack as many as seven kids in the car – and drive from Oregon to Yosemite.

Or she’d take them on a cruise to Alaska.

Or she’d taken them to Disney World.

Or she’d take them to the Grand Canyon.

She was a really cool Grandma.

She was also my best friend, when it comes right down to it.

It wasn’t always that way. We had our teenage angst kind of issues. But when my Dad was diagnosed as terminal, we went through a refining of sorts – becoming pals.

I believed that my Mom would live – well – pretty much until she was about 100. My Grandmother was certainly working toward that mark! I was convinced Grandma would live to 100 and then die of food poisoning – UGH! – the stuff she’d eat!

I never in a million years dreamed that they’d die just shy of a year of one another – or that the last months of Mom’s life would be marked by two debilitating forms of dementia – Lewy Body Dementia and Frontal Temporal Lobe Dementia. The FTLD is known to be associated with prolonged radiation exposure that occurred anywhere between 40 and 60 years prior to onset. Remember that acne treatment? Yeah.

Dementia sucks.

But it also has its moments of absolute hilarity.

One of these days I’ll share some of the hilarity. There are stories… LOTS of stories.

I really consider myself privileged to have been my Mom’s primary care giver. What a gift every single stinking moment was – even the sucky ones.

Cause you know what? I even miss the dementia version of Mom – not the real Mom. There were still glimpses of her – maybe shadows of who she had been – and I loved God more for each and every one of them.

I could go on and on – oh wait! – I’ve already done that! But let me close with one of my favorite dementia interchanges with Mom.

Toward the end when it was no longer safe to keep her at home with us, she lived in an assisted living memory care facility. I would go and visit her at least daily, sometimes more. One day she wasn’t feeling so great, she was lying in her bed, and when I walked in she held her hand out to me. I took her hand in mine and said, “Hi Mommy, how are you?”

“Not so good today.” She answered in her dementia sort of way.

“Oh yeah? How come?” I asked.

“Don’t know…” she answered – obviously distracted.

For a while she stared at me with quite a lot of concentration and consternation and I finally asked her, “Do you know who I am?”

She looked at me for a while, then took her index finger, tapped her lips, scrunched up her face a bit (which, if you know dementia patients – those facial muscles are not always so responsive!), and then said, “I’m not sure, but I think you must be a really, really good friend of mine.”

And then she smiled her famous smile.

And I said, “Yes, you’re right. You’re absolutely right.”

I miss my Mommy.

But I’m so glad she’s in Heaven!

It’s Just Not Working Out…

It’s time for a parting of ways…

Remember when I started this blog? I mean – moved it over here from Blogger? The goal was to live a less fragmented life and so I was combining a couple of my more active blogs into one – this one!

Here’s the thing…

It’s just not working out.

When I feel the desire/need/thought to post about my weight loss surgery – or the technical stuff that goes with being a WLS post-op – or pre-op who is still researching – I feel myself go through this jumble of emotions…

…is it appropriate? I mean, how does it mesh with the garden? The chickens? The other stuff? Yeah, some of it works… some of it not so much.

…if I get too technical – well, there are a bunch of people who will wonder what the heck I’m talking about!

…if I post too many posts about WLS or the DS – it’ll seem kinda weird and out of balance…

So I’ve made a decision.

I’m keeping the DS-related stuff here – but I’ve created a NEW Living the DS Life on WordPress (cause it so kicks butt) – right here.

I’ll copy over posts from here that pertain to my DS – but all new DS- and WLS-related posts – they’re going over to the new blog:

http://livingthedslife.wordpress.com/

In case you didn’t know – a really easy and great way to stay current on topics – on ANY blog – is to subscribe. I use the RSS feed subscription (that’s the funky little orange block up there) – and I love it. I have it set up to actually download new posts from blogs that I’ve subscribed to into a content specific folder in Microsoft Outlook. It’s so easy to manage that way!

Anyway – thanks! Thanks for putting up with my little experiment. Thanks for the congrats when I had my 7 year anniversary. It’s been a great ride so far – I’m looking forward to decades more posts about Living the DS Life.

Too Much for Words

Rom 8:26-27

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.

(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

This morning our pastor continued his series on Romans. We’re in chapter 8 – you can listen here, if you’d like. I don’t know if you’ve read Romans much in your lifetime- but it’s deep! It’s got stuff in it that you need to think on. Seriously. Today’s verses (above – and no, Carl doesn’t move very quckly! J) have been a comfort to my heart for many years.

Do you ever have periods of time – or events – in your life – where the emotion is just too… profound?… for words? Those are the times that I think of in relation to these verses.

Times like…

Saying goodbye to my Dad – a month after marrying John – knowing that this would be the last time I’d ever see him – as we embarked on the trip to my new home in Kentucky.

Holding my first born – born prematurely at 23 weeks gestation, as she breathed for her 4 minutes of earthly life before she was ushered into Glory – and her first deep breath of REAL air – in the presence of the Savior!

Holding my Grammy, caring for her – everything – after she’d had a series of strokes – she’d chosen to die at home, and she’d asked me to take care of her until she did.  Knowing that even though she was blind, paralyzed, and struggling for every breath – that she oozed with the presence of the Holy One.  When I’d lay next to her and hold her hand and whisper hymns, or read her Bible to her – there would be the smallest hint of a smile – and my heart would SING – because I knew she would soon be at the feet of Jesus – and so did she!

Understanding for the first time – as fully as I was able to at that point – that my loved one was accused of horrific evil. Realizing that our lives would never be the same because of it.  Feeling so – I don’t know if that emotion has a name – deeply – Horror? Overwhelming sadness? – that the strength to draw the next breath LITERALLY escaped me.

Being knee deep in my Mom’s dementia – only not knowing what it was yet – and feeling angry, confused, sorrowful, fearful – trying to figure out what it was that I was supposed to do, how we would get through it, how I could keep her safe, how I could stay sane.

Feeling indescribable joy the morning of my birthday – walking into my Mom’s room at the assisted living memory care facility – and she knew me!  She knew it was my birthday!  She told me she loved me!  She gave me a quick hug – before she went away again.  Or the three or four other snippets of moments when she came out of the fog of her dementia – was fully herself again for mere SECONDS – and I was privileged enough to BE THERE!

Being in so much physical pain that it was literally impossible to utter noise, move, anything.

There have been moments of great emotion – so deep that I – to this day – have no way to adequately voice.  There are times when the only prayer I can utter is, “Father…  please!”  Or “Jesus!  Help me!”  I’ve prayed these prayers so many times I don’t think it’s possible to recount how many times.

NEVER have I found myself alone.

ALWAYS He has been there.

This is when these verses have been so near – so very real – and I really can’t explain it well other than to say I’d be undone without this amazing, loving, unsearchable gift of God!

I love this time of year…


I was laying down on the couch-y piece of lawn furniture in the yard this afternoon and looked up and saw this pretty cloud formation. It was about 85° F, there was a bit of a breeze, and it was lovely.

Here’s Crayon checking out the new digs. She – along with the rest of the girls – are trying to figure out the new set up. John built new roosts – so that everyone is at the same height when they sleep. It’s really throwing them for a loop – you should hear them squawk when it’s bed time.

See? It’s cool, huh?

Of course, at the end down there – right before the fan, you take a left into the old part of the coop, where the nest boxes are. There will be additional nest boxes soon – John’s working on them. They’ll be to the right – between the door frame closest to us in the picture and the beginning of that roost.

Are those not the cutest little feet? Isn’t it the cutest little butt? And look! Wing feathers! The chicks are going to be 2 weeks old on Monday. There seriously is nothing more precious than watching these three little adoptees follow their Mama Shelly all through the yard each and every day. She clucks when she finds something yummy for them to eat. She’s teaching them that I am the queen of the world because I bring fun snacks. I love it that they are excited to see me! We are SO doing the letting the broody hen set on fertilized eggs again thing!

There have been lots of visiting kids here the past couple of weeks. My neice and nephew have been visiting off and on over the summer thus far – although they’re returning home on Tuesday. I’m going to miss them so! And my best friend – who lives in Mexico with her husband and children – spends the summers here with her parents, who live right down the street from us and go to the same church that we do. So Pepper has been on recipient of oodles of love overload all week long. I think she’s had more kids throwing balls for her to chase the past two weeks than she has in the entirety of her life. She’s really been sleeping well at night!

 

Here’s one of the Blue Andalusians. I think they’re just beautiful. They are great foragers – and so GREAT for a backyard flock that gets to free range. They’re quiet, polite, and are reputed to be excellent layers – of white eggs! Go figure!

Here’s one of the Delawares in the garden – eating weeds. I love it when they eat weeds – and remember to leave my cucumbers alone! Isn’t she pretty? She’s got black tips on her tail feathers, too. Interestingly enough, the Delawares lay brown eggs!

John and I were lamenting tonight about the sad state of affairs the garden is in this year. Well, I did have a major orthopedic surgery – so I’m almost no help. I can weed some – but as you can see here – not nearly enough! Here a couple of the Speckled Sussex are helping me with weeding. Those are lima and bush beans behind them.

But when it comes right down to it – we’re doing the best we can – and were just so thankful that we have a garden to grow things in!

Look – lots of cucumber flowers – woo hoo!

When this cucumber grows up – it’s going to be in my next batch of Creamy Cucumber Salad!

Here’s Caleb – without a nose. When I was out weeding in the garden tonight he HAD to get close – and as I was trying to take his picture he turned away! Stinker!

OH! And look what we have! I actually ate one tonight – and it was perfectly ripe, sweet, luscious, and perfect. It was the ONLY ONE that was ripe, though. That’s okay – I need the week that it will take them to ripen up to get some projects done before I jump in and start canning jams and jellies.

This is our first year to do corn in AGES. We just really hadn’t had success previously. But with the expanded garden plot we decided to try again. It’s actually about as tall as John – and has put tassels on. I love that! That means there will be corn!

The green beans are coming along nicely. Thus far – no deer have obliterated them. I’ve got a couple of tomato plants that have bites out of them – but so far, they’re leaving the green beans alone.

And if this isn’t cause for rejoicing, then I just don’t know what is!

 

I love these tomatoes – even with the couple of little chicken peck marks in them. They’re a green stripey tomato. I think they’re going to be similar to the ones I eat in Spain – I sure hope so. If so – then it’ll be tomato mush for me!

This really has been the weirdest tomato year we’ve had in a long time. Some of the plants are thriving. Some have set fruit literally at the GROUND – what’s with that? Others are just looking like late bloomers – big time. Virtually every plant has some fruit on it – but man, not the bounty we had last year. Of course, it’s still early…

One of the blogs I’ve read in the past – The Shibaguyz – have constructed potato condos. John decided to give the design a go this year. You build this frame, put the soil in the bottom, add your seed potatoes, and then when the potatoes have come up about a foot or so, you add the next row of boards all around, adding more soil. Again, you wait until more growth, and repeat the process. They say you can harvest 100 pounds of potatoes from one Condo. When it’s time to harvest, you unscrew the bottom row of boards, pull the soil out, and there will be your potatoes! Cool, huh?

Here’s a good peek at the expanded garden plot. See all of the blank space? Yep – it’s the stuff we just haven’t gotten around to planting this year. It’s so bizarre. But, oh well!

Here are my sunflowers (three different varieties, if memory serves), nasturtiums, and poppies that are coming up in the little bed along the street. Please ignore all of the weeds that are coming up along side of them. One day I’ll make it there – just not today, or likely this week.

William was so proud of himself – he caught one of the Delawares!

The hammock my sister sent from Mexico back with Jonathan last year has gotten a real workout the past couple of weeks. The kids swing each other about halfway up the pear tree that it’s tied to. I just don’t watch. They have a great time, though!

So – that’s pretty much what’s going on in the yard!

We’re loving summer – and the beautiful evenings that we can sit out and enjoy the cool breezes and the company of friends and family.

We are blessed.

Tortilla de Patata

…and it’s Fight Back Friday!

Some of the best meals I’ve eaten I’ve had when I was in Spain.

My first trip there in 2002 John and I were completely wowed by the full flavor, the richness, the integrity of nearly every bite we took – of everything! How, we wondered, could the tomatoes taste so tomatoey? Or the melons more meloney? The layers of simple dishes were so robust! Vegetables seemed – I don’t know – less bitter? It took us a while – but eventually we were sitting and enjoying a meal one day when it dawned on us.

They harvest stuff when it’s ripe.

They’re using local produce – it hasn’t been picked green, trucked hundreds or thousands of miles, gassed to promote the appearance of a ripe product, or any of that kind of nonsense.

The difference was staggering.

And pretty much – from then forward we were hooked on sustainable, organic, local.

Here’s the thing – once you are exposed to “the good stuff” you never want to go back.

So why should you?

We decided we didn’t have to.

I don’t remember which trip to Spain it was that I fell in love with the Tortilla de Patata – but it changed my life, too. You can get Tortilla – as the locals call it – pretty much everywhere. Some of it’s okay. Some of it’s downright kinda grody. But others – oh my – you can hear the hallelujah chorus kicking into high gear as you take the first luscious bite. And I should warn you – you’ll find it by different names in different regions of Spain – and it WILL be different in form and function in different regions, as well. The one I love is from the Alicante province – up in the hills where they speak Valenciano. This, my friends, is the way Tortilla was meant to be!

 Tortilla de Patata

Ingredients
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced
1 medium Walla Walla or Vidalia sweet onion, thinly sliced (into rings or julienned)
6 large Eggs
1 cup Heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350° F.

  1. In a heavy skillet, heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Brown sliced potatoes until golden on both sides. Set aside onto a paper towel lined plate.
  2. After potatoes have all been sautéed, add thinly sliced onion to the pan, adding more olive oil if needed. Sauté onions until just browned and caramelized. Drain on a paper-towel lined plate.
  3. In a generously sized glass pie plate (depth is important here – go for the deep dish model!) layer potatoes and onions.
  4. In a separate bowl, using a wire whisk or hand mixer with whisk attachment, mix eggs, whipping cream, and kosher salt together, making sure to mix ingredients completely.
  5. Pour egg mixture slowly into the pie plate – you can use a large spoon to divert the flow so as not to disturb your layering.
  6. Place the pie plate on a cookie sheet in the oven. Here’s the tricky part – it will take about 30 minutes to cook. Check for doneness by shaking the pie plate slightly to see if egg has set completely. If it’s not set – give it another 5 minutes. A sharp knife will come out of the center of the tortilla clean if it’s set completely.
  7. Allow to cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before serving.

Notes:

When I have this is Spain, my favorite places to order it serve with thinly sliced wedges of cheese – Manchego, Mahon, or my very favorite – Trouchoú. And of course, pretty much every Spanish meal comes with a lovely little crusty roll and olive oil to dip your bread in. J I, of course, ask for the fabulous local butter!

It is traditional to find Tortilla de Patata listed on menus in the region of Spain that I travel to most often – either with or without onions – there’s no assumption you’ll prefer it one way or the other. If you prefer no onions – just skip that part!

Boysenberries!

These are the boysenberries that I picked at my Uncle Butch’s house this afternoon. Aren’t they pretty? They taste fabulous. Tomorrow they will be jam!

Have you ever had boysenberries? Do you know about them? They are a cross between a raspberry and a Pacific blackberry.

My Uncle Butch is my Mom’s only sibling. He lives a little SW of us on a lovely 2 acre piece of land. When I think of Butch – I can’t help but smile. He is an awesome man of God, marked by a sweet, gentle, and humble spirit. He was such an encouragement to me when my Grandma and Mom were going through their successive final illnesses and deaths.

When he called the other day and said that Boysenberries were ripe and I could come and pick them if I’d like, I put it on the calendar. Part of every summer for me is the countdown until the berries are ripe and I can start making jams, jellies, and syrups. (Well, and just eating berries, too!)

After days and days of chilly weather, I was thrilled that the forecast for today was 90 degrees. There is really – honestly – nothing better than berry picking on a good hot day!

Butch was kind enough to help me pick. As we were working I said, “Boysenberries, right?”

“Yep.” He confirmed. “Mom brought these canes up from the house in Burbank.” My Grandmother had moved from the Los Angeles area to live with my parents about 20 years ago – and many plants were transplanted, had cuttings made from them, or had seed harvested to bring with her. Some of the things were planted at my Mom’s house, others at Butch’s.

“Wow!” I said.

“Yeah,” he continued, “in fact Mom got the cuttings from my Grandfather White – he and Grandma lived in El Monte. She got the cuttings from Grandfather shortly after she and Dad married in 1936.”

“WOW!” I exclaimed.

“So these are the genuine old fashioned article. Never been sprayed or messed with – I guess you’d call them the real organic thing!”

How cool is that?

But more amazing is this – from Wikipedia:

In the late 1930s, George M. Darrow of the USDA began tracking down reports of a large, reddish-purple berry that had been grown on the northern California farm of a man named Rudolph Boysen.[4] Darrow enlisted the help of Walter Knott, a Southern California farmer who was known as a berry expert. Knott hadn’t heard of the new berry, but he agreed to help Darrow in his search for the berry.

Darrow and Knott learned that Boysen had abandoned his growing experiments several years earlier and sold his farm. Undaunted by this news, Darrow and Knott headed out to Boysen’s old farm, on which they found several frail vines surviving in a field choked with weeds. They transplanted the vines to Knott’s farm in Buena Park, California, where he nurtured them back to fruit-bearing health. Walter Knott was the first to commercially cultivate the berry in southern California.[4] He began selling the berries at his farm stand in 1935 and soon noticed that people kept returning to buy the large tasty berries. When asked what they were called, Knott said, “Boysenberries,” after their originator.[5] His family’s small restaurant and pie business eventually grew into Knott’s Berry Farm. As the berry’s popularity grew, Mrs. Knott began making preserves which ultimately made Knott’s Berry Farm famous.

Apparently – shortly after the time my Grammy and Grandpa married, my Great-Grandfather must have met up with Mr. Knott and his new berries – and procured a cutting or transplant to grow on his own property. I’ve heard stories my whole life about the amazing garden that my great-grandparents grew – and the memorable meals that friends and family from near and far traveled to be a part of.

Isn’t history amazing?

Cutting Back

I can – and will – admit it.

I’m vain.

Oh – wait – add to that – I’m lazy!

Since I was 16 years of age I have scrimped, schemed, strategized – all toward one end.

To get my nails done.

Why, pray tell, you may ask.

Well… ’cause they’re pretty… and they’re strong… and they don’t break… and they’re pretty… and I don’t have to do the work myself!

Honestly – there are all sorts of amazing things you can do when you’ve got super reinforced amazingly strong nails!

You can open all sorts of packages.

They’re great for… okay, maybe not all sorts of things. Maybe just the packages thing! LOL!

In the nearly 30 years since I was 16 – there have been brief periods of time when I did not have my nails done professionally – usually when I was poorer than poor. You know, when I worked in full time ministry – and made something like $2000 a year and lived on carrots, bagels, and baked potatoes.

Shortly after John and I got married I let them grow out – there was a snafu in scheduling with my nail tech just days before the wedding – and they weren’t able to give me a fill. Technically – my nails were a mess on my wedding day. I, of course, was the only one (well, and my nail tech) to really be aware of it. Life went on. Anyway – let them grow out… I managed to live life successfully without them (see! It can be done!) and eventually decided to have them put back on again – I think under the auspices of needing to appear more professional for work.

Did you know that some women have more meaningful relationships with their nail tech than they do with their own family members? It’s true! I’ve seen it frequently in the salon – it’s a little frightening. But, suffice it to say, that Tina – my nail tech, who has been doing my nails for EIGHT years – and I have lived through some life together. After eight years, she may as well be honorary family!

I mean – she’d just immigrated from Viet Nam months before I met her. I was still more than a year before my DS surgery – so a super, super morbidly obese woman who was barely able to ambulate at all – at yet she treated me like a queen. She met a guy, developed a meaningful relationship with him, got engaged – and married. She’s had three babies – I was the first one to know she’d just taken the pregnancy test – and it was positive, much to her surprise – for the baby just born in April! I’ve helped her with her homework. She’s opened her own salon. She loved it when Grammy, Mom, Jessica, and I – on occasion – would all come in for a fun spa experience.  She lovingly did my Mom’s manicures and pedicures – even knee deep into Mom’s dementia.  And she every now and then will look up and quietly say, “I still miss her, do you still miss your Mom?”  Yes, I do.

It’s always so funny when I call, she’ll answer, “Tips ‘n Toes, how may I help you?” I’ll say, “Tina, this is Dina!” And she’ll laugh and say, “Can you come in now?” She knows that I never plan ahead and always desperately need a fill – about a week before my call!

BUT – it ain’t cheap…

And with the economy being what it is…

And we’ve decidedly felt the pinch…

We realized we were going to have to find some things to do without…

It was then that I realized a pivotal truth:

I can live without getting my nails done professionally.

I can’t believe I typed that and didn’t even flinch! So it must be true!

So tonight – I made a step toward cutting back – literally.


(Boy am I overdue for a fill!)

I dug through my nail kit – cause I’ve got all sorts of nail type tools and stuff – I used to go and do Mom’s nails when it was no longer safe nor advisable to take her out to get them done professionally. My first question was: which tool? I mean, I’ve got some honking nails on there!

I tried the one on the left first – it looked pretty heavy duty. I wasn’t strong enough.

So I tried the one on the right next – still, too wimpy!

I decided to give the nail clippers a go – and you know what? They actually worked – pretty easily! See?

Okay – they do look pretty awful, but I’ve decided I’m just going to let the acrylic grow out and keep trying to file it down as it grows out.

I should confide in you the fact that I am perhaps the world’s worst nail painter. But being that I happen to actually have some nail polish in my stash of stuff, I may break down and try doing that in the coming weeks – all by myself.

We’ll see.

In the hour or so since I cut my nails down I’ve realized something kind of interesting.

It’s WAY easier to type! It’s been so long since I’ve had nails this short that I’d kind of forgotten this might be a factor!

Now it’s got me wondering if I’ll be able to pick up the communion wafer without embarrassing incident this coming Sunday… hmmm… there may well be some benefit here beyond financial!