Panama City Beach, Florida…she WASNT there!

Richie and I just celebrated 9 years together on Wednesday.  The last nine years has been interesting and fun to say the least.  The only regret I have for the last nine years is that we haven’t done more trips “just the two of us”.  I can just imagine the repercussions that will come from publishing this on the internet for all to see but I have to be honest with myself.  Since I have never been a “journal-er” and this blog is the closest thing I have to that I think it’s important to keep it real.

Most of the time I love my mother in law to death.  But sometimes it feels like she never goes away.  She often shows up right when dinner is about to be served.  Most of the time I am okay with this.  I am, after all, a damn good cook and we usually have leftovers.  If we go to Searcy or Little Rock or anywhere else Richie always invites her along.  For the last nine years, barring a few random over-nights to Branson or trips to visit my family, she has been on EVERY vacation with us.  Paris…she was there, Rome…she was there, Hawaii…she was there, Alaska…she was there, Glacier National Park and Yellowstone…she was there, Grand Canyon…she was there, Galveston/San Antonio…she was there.  Most of the time it was okay but there were moments when if I had had some sort of lethal weapon or even a pillowcase, things could have gotten really nasty.

I understand where Richie is coming from.  I understand the feeling of needing to take care of his mom and stuff and that loyalty is something I love about him but sometimes enough is enough!  Sometimes, thirty-somethings who’ve been married almost a decade just need some time to themselves.

Well I FINALLY got my wish.  I told Richie since my birthday and our anniversary were coming up I wanted to take a trip. JUST THE TWO OF US!  So we did!

We spent four amazing days in Panama City Beach, Florida which is just about as close to paradise as you can get without getting on a plane.  It was absolutely beautiful.  We spent hours on the beach each day.  We enjoyed the sand, the sun and the waves.  We played around like kids.  We enjoyed delicious dinners in beach-side restaurants and drank margaritas and hurricanes while we watched the sunset from the balcony of our hotel room.

The trip was so special and so romantic. It was honestly the BEST vacation I have taken in years.  And the best part, while I am sure I will endure days of silence and dirty looks for professing so in such a public way, was that in Panama City Beach, Florida…she WASN”T there!

Cooking With Farmer’s Market Finds

I have been volunteering at the new farmers market in Searcy.  I’ve had such a fun time and really enjoyed getting to meet people and getting some great seasonal products.  The Searcy Farmers Market is a Certified Arkansas Farmers Market.  That means that everything at the market is grown or raised in the state of Arkansas!  Vendors are not allowed to ship in produce and sell it under the presumption that it is local when its not, which is sadly what happens at many farm markets across the country.  Because each farmer undergoes an onsite inspection at least once a season I can be certain that what I am buying is local produce.

I got so many great things at the market Wednesday.  I came home with a bushel basket that was filled with new potatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, turnips, beets, spring mix salad greens, fresh pasta, butter, cheese, milk, eggs, peaches, red onions, bacon, summer sausage, shiitaki mushrooms, blueberries, green beans, pinto beans, and sunflowers!

I have been cooking up a storm with all my market finds.  Here are some of the recipes I made with what I have found!

Shiitaki Mushrooms and Brown Rice

10 Fresh Shiitaki Mushrooms
1 tbs. light olive oil
2 Tbs. White Wine (optional and only if you have on hand)
1 cup brown rice
1 Cup chicken broth
1 Cup Water
Salt to Taste
2 Tbs. Fresh Butter

Heat a medium saucepan over high heat.  Add olive oil.  Chop the shiitaki mushrooms into small pieces and add to the pot.  Cook mushrooms for about 5 minutes or so until they have become soft and darker in color.  Add white wine to “deglaze” the pan and cook 2-3 minutes until the liquid is evaporated.  Pour in one cup of brown rice.  I used a mixture of long and short grain.  Stir until rice is coated with remaining oil.  Add chicken stock and water and bring to a boil.  Cover with a lid and reduce heat to low.  Allow rice to simmer about 35-45 minutes or until done to your liking.  Remove lid and stir in two tablespoons of fresh butter and add salt to taste.  Enjoy!

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of that one before we ate it all.  The mushrooms and butter were from yesterdays market.  The brown rice was leftover from some I picked up at the market last fall.

 

Buckaroo Beans

1 lb. (about 2 1/2 c.) FRESH pinto beans
6 c. water
1/2 lb. smoked bacon
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 lg. onion, thickly sliced or chopped
1 lg. cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 sm. bay leaf
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
5 leaves of fresh oregano, chopped
3 fresh roma tomatoes, chopped

Put beans into a crockpot and add six cups of water.  Turn crockpot to high heat setting.  Cut bacon into chunks and add to the beans.  Add remaining  ingredients. Cover and cook slowly for 6-8 hours, until liquid resembles a medium-thick gravy. Stir once or twice during cooking. Long, slow cooking helps make a nice, rich flavor.

This recipe used pinto beans, onion and bacon from the farmers market.  The oregano and tomatoes came from my garden.  The bay leaf came from my mom’s friend.

 

Peach Blueberry Cobbler

1/4 cup fresh butter
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh sliced and peeled peaches (I used 4 peaches)
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
Heat oven to 350° Melt butter in a rectangular baking dish. Set aside. In medium bowl, combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar and baking powder; add milk; and stir until blended(will be thick). Spoon batter over butter in baking dish; do not stir. Combine peaches, blueberries and 1/2 cup sugar; spoon over batter. Do not stir. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 55 minutes until dough is lightly brown. Serve warm with vanilla gelato, if desired(recipe below).
 
 
 The butter, milk, peaches and blueberries all came from the farmers market.

 

Vanilla Gelato

6 Large Egg Yolks
3/4 Cup Of Granulated Sugar
2 1/2 Cups Whole Milk
1 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Tbs. Real Vanilla
1 tsp. dried lavender
Pinch of Salt

In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until light and thick. Add the lavender to a mesh tea ball and place in a medium saucepan. Add the milk, cream, vanilla, and salt and heat over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges. Remove the tea ball.  Remove from the heat. Take 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture, and slowly whisk it into the beaten eggs. Next whisk the egg mixture into the saucepan. Cook over low heat stirring continuously until the mixture thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a metal bowl and refrigerate until cold. Once the custard mixture is cold, transfer it into an ice cream maker and churn following the manufacturers instructions. Serve immediately, or freeze in an airtight container until you are ready to use.

 

This recipe used eggs and milk from the farmers market and lavender from my own garden.

Pasta Primavera

1 Pound Fresh Pasta
Variety of seasonal veggies (I used zucchini and yellow squash, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and shiitaki mushrooms)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Fresh Herbs (I used thyme, basil, sage and oregano)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add about 1/4 cup or so of salt to the boiling water.  In a large skillet, add the olive oil and saute the chopped fresh vegetables until cooked to your desired level of doneness.  Remove the veggies to a separate bowl.  Add the pasta to the boiling water. (Fresh pasta cooks very quickly.  If using dried pasta you will likely want to add this earlier.)  In the pan in which you cooked the veggies, ladle about one cup of pasta cooking liquid. Stir in order to incorporate the bits of fond on the bottom of the saute pan.  Add ricotta cheese and continue to stir.  Add Parmesan cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Return the cooked veggies to the sauce you have created.  Add the cooked, drained pasta and stir until the sauce has coated the noodles.  You can add additional cooking liquid if the sauce is too thick.  Top pasta with freshly chopped herbs and additional Parmesan as desired.  Enjoy!

This recipe used veggies and pasta from the market and herbs from my own garden.

 

The Grass is Always Greener

I have finally worked up enough nerve to let two of my chickens free range.  Here are Claudia and Hazel enjoying the free life.  Olivia is busy raising a baby chick and Francine is sitting on eggs that should have hatched yesterday.  We got them from a friend who said she was certain they were fertile.  I’m gonna give her another day or two with them before I get rid of them.  I hate that she sat there for three weeks for nothing!

June Reading List

This month’s books:

Home: A Memoir of my Early Year – Julie Andrews
Firefly Lane – Kristin Hannah
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Alice’s Tulips – Sandra Dallas
Summer Snow – Amy Warwick
The Persian Pickle Club – Sandra Dallas

Home: A Memoir of my Early Year – Julie Andrews

In Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, Julie Andrews takes her readers on a warm, moving, and often humorous journey from a difficult upbringing in war-torn Britain to the brink of international stardom in America.

I found this book about Julie Andrews to be truly fascinating.  I have been a fan of Julie Andrews work since I was a young girl.  It was really great to read about her life as told in her own words.  She faced many hardships and struggles that you would not guess.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the work of Julie Andrews.

Firefly Lane – Kristin Hannah

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all—beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.

To me this story is about girlfriends.  The truest of friendships, yet also the most heartbreaking.  It symbolized to me the type of friendship I think most women are looking for.  The book follow Kate and Tully from their first meeting and throughout their lives.  It follow them when they are close and when they are far apart.  It is well written and very touching and heartfelt.  I really enjoyed this book.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

I struggled with this book from the very beginning!  I had such high hopes because I had heard so many great things about this book.  Although it is something I RARELY do, I put this book down at page 116.  I just couldn’t get into it.  I like a book that can capture me.  I like to feel as if I am a part of the story or watching it unfurl before my eyes.  I just never got that with this book.  Maybe I’ll go back to it at another time, it just wasn’t for me.

Alice’s Tulips – Sandra Dallas

Alice Bullock is a young bride whose husband, a Union soldier in the Civil War, leaves her on his Iowa farm with his formidable mother. Equally talented at quilting and gossip, Alice fills her letters to her sister with accounts of her daily life, from the local quilting bees, to the rigors of farm life, to the customs and restraints of small-town America. No town is too small, however, to escape intrigue and treachery, and when Alice finds herself accused of murder, she must rely on support from unlikely sources. Rich in details of quilting, Civil War-era America, and the hardships and rewards of a woman’s life in the 19th century, this is Sandra Dallas at her best.

I typically enjoy any book that falls into the Historical Fiction genre and this was no exception.  I couldnt put this book down.  As Alice stuggled with life on the farm while Charlie was off fighting in the civil war I was right there with her.  I enjoyed every page of this book.

Summer Snow – Amy Warwick

In the rural farming community of Glendale, Washington single mother Mystery Abbott struggles daily with three children, an overbearing mother, and the town gossips led by her neighbor Liv. Liv Randall strives to be seen as the pillar of the community, a complete antithesis to her neighbor. Twins Dana and Janie Abbott struggle with their own coming of age issues, independently fighting against the stereotype of being Mystery Abbott’s daughters. When Mystery’s dilapidated roof caves in after a series of unseasonable storms exposing a secret lover hidden in Mystery’s closet, the women are forced not only to deal with their feelings about one another, but also with the self-imposed limitations they have placed on themselves.

This is Amy Warwick’s debut novel.  It was well written and easy to follow.  The story line was captivating and moved quickly.  The chapters switched back and forth between the four main characters until they all come together in the end.  If Mrs. Warwick’s future novels are anything like this one, I can not wait to read them.

The Persian Pickle Club – Sandra Dallas

It is the 1930s, and hard times have hit Harveyville, Kansas, where the crops are burning up, and there’s not a job to be found. For Queenie Bean, a young farm wife, a highlight of each week is the gathering of the Persian Pickle Club, a group of local ladies dedicated to improving their minds, exchanging gossip, and putting their quilting skills to good use. When a new member of the club stirs up a dark secret, the women must band together to support and protect one another. In her magical, memorable novel, Sandra Dallas explores the ties that unite women through good times and bad.

This book was set during the time of the Dust Bowl when crops were withering and rain was scarce.  This was not my favorite of Sandra Dallas’ books but was still very enjoyable.  I read it in just a few hours.

Well there you have it, my June Reading List.  I hope you have enjoyed this months selections.  As always you can purchase any of the books listed above by clicking the pictures or by visiting my Amazon Store.  Thanks and Happy Reading!

Orchard House Bed & Breakfast

My mom and dad own the Orchard House Bed & Breakfastin Lovingston, VA.  We went to visit them a few weeks ago.  The even closed down for a few days while we were there so we could do some sightseeing and hang out with the place to ourselves.  Mom and dad live in such a great area.  There are always some really neat things to do it is always a fun trip.  Every summer it seems to go by so fast though.  Mom and Dad will be hosting Christmas at their place this year though so it wont be too long til we go back.  Plus my sister and her family will be coming down too!

Here are some pictures from around my parents place.


My  mom and her cat Cali.


A view of my parents house from their vineyard.


My parents dog Lacy.


My Dad – showing of his grapes!  They are growing Petit Manseng grapes which will be bottled at the Lovingston Winery.


A view of the Apple Blossom FarmHouse from the vineyard.


Richie (You can also see my mom relaxing in the chair in the upper right hand corner of the picture)

If you want to learn more about the Orchard House you can visit their website http://www.orchardhousebb.comor visit their blog at http://orchardhousebb.wordpress.com.

Dill Pickles and Pickled Beets

The garden is in full swing!  If only the 1 million tomatoes out there would turn red!  I did get some dill pickles and pickled beets put up!  I am also drying basil, dill and lavender.  I am drying a few sunflowers so I can give the seeds to my chickens.

In real life the pickles are more green and the beets are more purple.  I wish so much my camera had captured the true colors!

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