29 June 2009

English Lovely

Tonight I said farewell to the last last two finches in the porch nest. So soon they grew to look like miniatures of their parents! Just this morning mom and dad were visiting the nest. Then, this evening as I watered the flowers, I startled the younger ones and they flew away. It was time. Bye, bye birdies...

I have fallen in love all over again with a blog on my 'eye candy' list. Maybe it's the English countryside...or the farm...or the comforts of her home... Whatever the reason, today I am addicted. Won't you visit Bertie Meadows and see for yourself?
Ready to book a flight? Me, too.

Also of note is a new novel I just purchased. My local library is hosting a meet-the-author event in October and I'm reading the current book club selection, The Night Birds, by Thomas Maltman. I've only just begun, but I'm becoming addicted to it as well. I love the historical setting and sense of adventure. You can sneak a peek, too. Just click on the title. Until then...

Sleep tight.

23 June 2009

South of the Border...Ole!

I did it! I received a compliment from my husband about last night's supper. This is a rare treat. (He can't help it...he's honest.) I made another of my "cooking club" meals and this is one that I created! I can't wait for you to try it! The recipe below is designed for six 8"x8" pans. The next time I prepare it for freezing, I'll assemble it in three 9"x13" pans instead...OR you could also divide the ingredients by one-third for a single, 9x13 family-size meal.

Mexican Stuffed Pasta Shells
(again, this recipe is the large-batch version and the instructions are for a plan-ahead-stick-it-in-the-freezer-or-give-it-to-a-friend-in-need type of meal)

90 jumbo pasta shells,
(about 3 boxes)
6 medium onions
6 lbs. lean ground beef
3 Tbsp. chili powder
1 lb. cream cheese,
room temperature
4.5 cups taco sauce
6 cups Colby Jack cheese,
shredded (4 oz.)
3 cups corn chips
six 8" square pans
(or three 9"x13" pans)
12 small zipper bags
(or 6 small bags if using three pans)

Prepare: Cook ground beef and onion. Drain. Cook pasta shells and drain. Package 1 cup of shredded cheese in small zipper bag. Package 1/2 cup corn chips in another small zipper bag.
Assemble: Reheat beef. Stir in chili powder, cream cheese, and 1/3 of the taco sauce. Heat until cream cheese is melted. Spray pans with non-stick spray. Fill each pasta shell with about 2 tablespoons of meat mixture and place in pan. Pour 2/3 of taco sauce over filled shells. Cover with foil. Add one bag of cheese and one bag of chips and store meal kit in a gallon-size freezer bag.
Serve: Thaw. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and chips. Bake uncovered for 10 additional minutes. Garnish with green onion and sour cream. Enjoy!
Hint: If freezing this dinner, you may wish to add additional taco, enchilada, or tomato sauce over the dish to completely cover noodles. This should prevent the noodles from drying out.
And for dessert...

These Farmstand Candles from Wal Mart are, in a word, delicious! I'm in love with the Sugared Pears and Fresh Picked Apples. And the timeworn look of the canisters reminds me of yesterdays at Grandma's house in the country.

On another note...
Recently my family journeyed to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The scenery was beautiful. If you go, you must stop by Wilson & Wilson Folkart Co. The owner, Ms. Blakeley Wilson, is a ray of sunshine! She is a self-taught artist who paints in-shop. Her folk art pieces are amazing! (Click on the link, visit "shop online" and read About the Artist.) Here are a few sweet treats I picked up during my visit... The watering can will hold a glass vase or jar so you can enjoy fresh flowers anytime. And the polka dot, large wooden mug...I can't wait to fill it with sweet surprises for my classroom visitors!

And this sweet pillow made from old quilts and scrap fabric reminds me that there really is
no place like home.


After an enjoyable, l-e-n-g-t-h-y spring, summer has ARRIVED in the midwest. Today's heat index is 110 degrees, and to step outside is to step into a sweltering sauna of humid air. It takes my breath away at the mention of it! Summer is my least favorite season for this reason...I abhor sweat, mosquitoes, followed by even more sweat and mosquitoes. And yet I have titled this post 'Happiness'. I am turning over a new leaf, or at least trying. I'm going to sit in the air conditioning and dream of fall (and winter and, yes, snow!), all while appreciating the joys that even I can find during summertime.
First ~ Very soon the little guests in my flower basket will soar to new heights and leave my front porch for good. I have enjoyed getting to know them. I have tried often to photograph them before they go, but as there were six in the nest, it has been very difficult to capture them distinctly with the camera. The little birds continue to huddle together and I cannot be certain that all of them remain. I am sure, though, that there are at least three sweet house finches growing and preparing to grace my yard with their presence. I will miss visiting them everyday.

Second ~ I love a good thunderstorm... the sounds, the lightning across the sky, the smell of the coming rain. Just last week my daughter called me outdoors to see the sun. It was my favorite time of day...dusk...and I couldn't imagine there was any sun left to see. While she saw the rays etched against the coming night, I saw the clouds bringing the anticipated storm. Both encouraged a smile.

Next ~ For all of my married life I have been quite hopeless in the kitchen. I have yet to find my niche there. Recently some great friends and I gathered for 'cooking club', also known as 'freezer cooking'. The goal is to prepare meals and have them ready in the freezer when needed. (Can you sense my excitement?) We each chose two recipes, and made and assembled enough of each for six families. It was my first foray into this type of sorority and honestly, I'm questioning whether or not the meals are sizeable enough to feed my family. (An 8x8 pan doesn't hold much...especially not in this household.) But I love, love, love the idea of sharing recipes and good times AND having some meals prepared ahead of time (so I don't have to ponder... What in the world am I going to cook tonight?) Here is a tasty recipe for you. Make ahead and freeze if you'd like! Multiply it and share with your neighbor in need. *Smile*

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
3 Tbsp. garlic
1 Tbsp. oil
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
1 cup corn
1 can (14 oz.) kidney beans,
rinsed and drained
4 ounces green chopped green chilis
1 can (14 oz.) black beans,
rinsed and drained
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
2 or 3 boneless, skinless checken breasts,
cooked and cubed
1 can chicken broth
1 can water

(Note: You may wish to reduce the amount of cilantro added unless you like a strong cilantro flavor to your dishes.)

Saute onion and garlic in oil. Add everything else (chili powder, Italian seasoning, tomatoes, corn, beans, chilis, cilantro, chicken, broth and water) and stir. [If freezing, place these ingredients into a one-gallon freezer bag. Save chicken broth and water for use during reheating... Add to thawed soup mixture.] Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-25 minutes. Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with avacado, grated Colby Jack cheese, chopped green onion or crushed tortilla chips if desired. Enjoy!

Finally ~

"The Amen of nature is always a flower."
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

13 June 2009

Welcome to the World

I confess. I've been keeping a secret! For the past three days (or so) baby finches have snuggled soundly in their nest on my porch. I noticed them quite by accident. As I lowered the planter to water the flowers (and not drown the eggs), I became frighteningly aware that something was in the nest. Upon closer inspection, it was apparent that this something was baby birds. I had expected to see small birds, beaks open, eagerly awaiting lunch. (My experience with newborns is limited to human beings.) I worried that something was wrong... They were little pink things with no feathers and the biggest, unopened, eyes. (I think the phrase, "a face that only a mother could love" originated with this species...but what adorable creatures they become!) And so, I am waiting for my new friends to grow a bit more before I take their picture and share it with you. Interestingly, like all good fathers, the male finch is attentive to the female during nesting, and he helps to care for the young before they fledge.

As I continue to watch this family of finches interact and as Father's Day approaches, I am especially grateful to my husband. His steadfast love and encouragement of our children is priceless. My prayer for you is that your children are likewise blessed.

"Father! - to God himself we cannot give a holier name."
~William Wordsworth

10 June 2009


I so appreciate your sweet comments about my new adventures in blogging. Thank you, too, for your thoughts regarding my template and banner efforts. It's exciting to learn what you can do with a free download of Paint.Net and a cache of random, public domain, clip art images! I am also enjoying playing with my digital camera again. I turn the dials (with no clear direction) and sometimes get lucky enough to snap a photo worth posting. Each layer used to create the header is a symbolic representation of someone special to me, or of a cherished memory. While you see an artistic banner ~ I see a childhood, a mother and father, a spring garden with grandparents...and I can even hear a bit of piano music playing from years ago. (Yes, the imagery is even there for that as well.) I hope you, too, find a way to capture all that you love, so that someday when these pass from your presence or simply fade away, some small memory will linger...and bring a smile to your heart.

09 June 2009


Sickness has been the pervasive theme in our household for nearly a week. I suppose that's one advantage of having a summer break...the sickleave used is simply that of your own time. The ability to sleep in, with no one to whom I must report, has been a gift. And so now I return...

...to a house that really needs some tender-loving, germ-fighting care. I am also wondering about 'my' birds. As of a two days ago, six eggs remained in the nest. I have not been able to return for an update. Tomorrow. Surely tomorrow I will see six young finches-?

...and to mothering my children with more efficiency than I've been able to elicit recently, compliments of the flu. Tonight I slipped outdoors to watch some of my favorite people in the world chase fireflies. It was a rainy day here which made their dark silhouettes dance stark before trees of the truest emerald ...all of which played on a curtain of a dark and hazy, thundering sky.

And that reminds me of a story. When Lightning Comes in a Jar

If you have not met Patricia Polacco, I hope you will become acquainted. She is the author and illustrator of the most incredible stories for children (both young and old), and they originate from her own experiences and memories. Just click on the links for a visit! And speaking of the weather, check out Thunder Cake while you're there. Enjoy!

03 June 2009

This morning as I began to prune geraniums, a small house finch abruptly flew from a hanging planter on the porch. I quickly learned the reason why.

Worried about upsetting the nest (whose parentage was anxiously twittering across the yard), I left certain spoiled blooms intact.

In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence.

- Robert Lynd

Upon closer inspection you might notice the faintest horizontal crack forming midway across the centermost egg in the clutch. I wonder what tomorrow will bring...?