Monday, August 26, 2013

Bits and Pieces & Luke Update

A fall wreath is in the planning stages.
     It seems as if I have been busier than usual lately. Since my kids left home, I tend to have one or two things a week to do and pretty much stay on schedule...the past couple of weeks have been hectic and this week will be the same I think. I thought I would do one of those posts that answers a few questions I've been asked recently and I also have a "public service announcement"!
     Yesterday, we went to a "Thank You" party that was put on by our little friend Luke's parents. He has continued to have cancer-free, excellent check-ups since the bone marrow transplant and is once again a thriving little boy. Their family is building a beautiful new home and other than frequent check-ups, things are getting back to normal for this wonderful young family.
Luke leading the pack at his party yesterday.
     I have been asked how my dad is doing. He is great. In fact, he is on a road trip to my part of the world right now. He was here on his way to Wisconsin weekend before last and will be here for a few days this week. He turned 87 this month, so part of me really worries about him taking a 2000 mile plus trip, but a) he wouldn't listen to me if I told him not to; b) they seem to enjoy themselves and c) if something is going to happen to him, I'd rather have it happen when he is having fun rather than sitting in a rocking chair! I truly think he has more energy than I do. I only hope that I inherited a bit of what he has.
     I was told that I needed to update the progress my daughter and I have made with our "new lifestyle" of eating and exercising. We are both doing very well. I reached a place that felt comfortable for me and so I have spent the past few weeks trying to adjust to maintaining the progress I made. I still work out 5 days a week most of the time, I still hate it. I have continued to log in what I eat, even if I have a day where I eat things that aren't good for me. I also still weigh daily. That is what works for me. I am usually up a pound or so after a weekend, but I go right back to it on Monday and so far so good. My daughter continues to lose weight. It is a slow process right now for her because she doesn't have much to lose and she is so busy at work. She is almost at 50 pounds off and is certainly working on her last 10 pound goal. It really has become a way of life for both of us (my husband too). We all 3 feel better, look better and notice now just how awful we feel if we have a high fat or greasy meal. That doesn't mean we don't do it now and then, but we pay for it!
     Last week was doctor week for me. I know I'm getting old when I make several appointments at once. I had an eye appointment (new frames-fun), a dentist appointment (no cavities-yay) and an appointment with the dermatologist (this one has the public service announcement). Sometime around Christmas, I noticed I had a spot on my chest that itched. It was a tiny little red spot and I didn't worry about it. When it was still itching in February, I called my dermatologist. I couldn't get in to see her for months, so I saw a nurse practitioner. I spent much of my youth in the sun, so I have a yearly screening and because my dad has had melanoma as well as both other skin cancers, I watch very carefully for anything unusual.
     The nurse practitioner said she thought it might be a pre-cancer and she froze the spot. I waited several weeks and it was still itching, although it didn't look like much of anything...just a tiny red spot. I went back in July, again I couldn't see my doctor and the nurse practitioner said it was fine. I knew it wasn't. I thought it was a rash or something. So, I called again and told them I would wait until I could see my doctor to come in and guess what, they got me in. Now, months after the first pre-cancer suggestion, it has had time to become skin cancer. It is a basal cell carcinoma, which isn't all that serious and I'm not freaking out about it at all. However, it looks like nothing. I have always watched for brown spots, changing moles etc. This doesn't look like anything even now except maybe a flat red mosquito bite, I can barely feel it and no one would even notice it, except it itches! I am on a 6 week treatment with a cream and then wait 6 more weeks for a re-check to see if it is gone or if I have to have it cut out.
    I am only discussing this because many of my readers probably also have a bit of sun damage, often on our chests. Many of us were in the sun long before SPF 30 existed! If I had listened to the "this is nothing" appointment and not pushed to see my doctor, this would only have gotten worse. As it is, I wasted several months by not getting to see my doctor. So, please, be aware that something very tiny, red and itchy can be skin cancer. I didn't know, now you do!
     We were shopping on Saturday and fall has hit the stores. I am going to try to decorate with things I already have this year, with a few small exceptions. Fall is my favorite season, I love the weather and I love the clothes. I only wish the longer daylight hours would last as well. It won't be long before it is time for jeans, sweaters and boots! It is time to savor the long, hot days of summer before they are gone!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Summer Breakfast

     This table was all about teacups, but there actually wasn't any tea involved. The morning was all about four good friends finally taking time to catch up over a light breakfast and coffee.

It was Christmas when I opened this
fun-shaped box from my dad... find these beautiful cups and saucers.
The hat box they came in, the soft colors...
I felt like I had stepped into a cross
between Easter and Alice in Wonderland.

     I knew that I wanted to use the cups and saucers when I had 3 friends in for breakfast last week. I also knew that two of them aren't coffee drinkers and that the two of us who did drink coffee would use the Keurig pot and we would want big mugs for our coffee. So, I came up with a plan. I wanted to use the cups, keep things simple and still be fun for my girls! As you can see, I have switched my formal dining table for my round oak table for the summer. For those of you who don't remember, this table was purchased by my grandmother with her first paycheck as a gift for her mother. My grandmother was born in 1900, so this table has been in the family for quite a while. I am happy to say that this is one of the few pieces that my daughter actually does want.

     I used a simple runner with a large shell on each end. One of my friends is all about polka dots, so I pulled out the dotted plates and fun silverware to match. A simple white plate provides a layer between the blue plates and the pastel cup and saucers. The juice glasses I first used myself at a hotel in Vero Beach, Florida. I loved them and asked if I could buy them from the hotel. Imagine my surprise when the waitress told me to just take them, "she wouldn't tell". Of course I didn't do that. I did find them shortly after that trip at TJ Maxx.

     The centerpiece has been on the table all summer. A silver edged tray with a starfish on it, some beach glass and shells and a favorite "beachy" piece of pottery from an artisan show in Sarasota, FL. Simple, easy and light for summer.

     White napkins, sea glass colored napkin rings and I was ready to add a simple fruit mix to the cups. I always tell you to think outside of the box when setting your tables! 

Breakfast was easy.
 Fruit, juice, cherry scones, bacon and coffee.

Sometimes it is much nicer to keep it all simple.
Don't worry so much about the menu
or the table setting.
It really is about the friends and the conversation!

     I have had an interesting service provided this summer. An organic family farm in a small town near here sends out an email on Sunday nights and I place my order.  Every Friday morning they deliver produce, herbs, fresh eggs and flowers depending on what I have ordered that week. I had her bring my first bouquet on Friday morning and it came like this, in the vase for $5! Needless to say, she is bringing another one this Friday.

I am joining Kim @ Savvy Southern Style for
Wow Us Wednesdays

Kathleen @ Cuisine Kathleen for
Let's Dish

for Tablescape Thursday

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I Finally Cooked Something!

     It isn't all that often that my husband actually requests me to make a recipe. So, when he goes to the trouble to actually cut out a recipe and ask me to make it, how could I say no? He found the recipe in the Wall Street Journal and thought it looked good and also healthy enough to fit in with the way we eat these days (most of the time). I did have to "tweek" the recipe a bit based on what I had and what was available in small town Illinois. The actual recipe was called Grilled Shrimp with Watermelon, Basil, Corn and Burrata. Of course I had no idea what Burrata was and when I did figure it out, I knew that I wouldn't find it in my little town. I did find that a good substitute for Burrata is Fresh Mozzarella Cheese. Burrata is an Italian fresh cheese that oozes with cream in the center. Doesn't that sound good? I guess the texture on the outside is very much like fresh mozzarella, but it has a gooey, creamy center.
Grilled Shrimp with Watermelon, Basil, Corn and Mozzarella
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 1/2 T. olive oil, plus a little extra for drizzling
2 tsp. minced garlic (I left out, we don't like it)
4 T. finely sliced fresh basil
salt and pepper
kernels from 4 ears of corn
1 1/2 T. balsamic vinegar (aged balsamic is worth the extra cost)
3 cups cubed watermelon
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, quartered

Toss the shrimp (raw) with 2 T. of the oil, the (optional) garlic,
and 1 T. of the basil along with the salt and pepper. Set aside.
     I didn't peel and devein my shrimp until after they were grilled, because they were frozen. Next time I would buy raw shrimp that were already peeled.

     The recipe did not call for the corn to be blanched, but I did mine. I didn't want it to be raw. I simply dropped it into boiling water for just a minute or so. Remove the corn, dry and cut the kernels off the ears. Let the corn cool a few minutes before mixing with other ingredients.
In a large bowl, mix the watermelon with
the remaining basil, remaining oil and vinegar.
Toss in the corn kernels.

Slice the cheese into 4 pieces and set aside until serving.
     Grill the shrimp over medium-high heat until pink (1-2 minutes per side). After making this, I decided that while the grilled shrimp does add some color and extra flavor...once the ingredients are tossed together, you can't tell as much that the shrimp was grilled. I think this would be almost as good if you simply added boiled shrimp.

     Add the shrimp to the watermelon and corn mixture. To serve, divide the salad onto 4 plates and place a hunk of cheese next to it. Sprinkle the cheese with salt and drizzle with olive oil.

Here is the picture from the Wall Street Journal.
I think mine turned out looking similar.
It is a delicious, fresh summer dish that I will
be making again soon!
I am joining Kim @ Savvy Southern Style for
Wow Us Wednesdays
I will be joining Michael @ Rattlebridge Farm for
Foodie Friday

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Where the Tea Grows

     One of the reasons that I love to travel is that you never know what you might find. Last year while in Traverse City, we read that there was a tea farm nearby, but we didn't find it. In June, we decided we were going to make a point of locating Light of Day Organic Teas. It was really interesting and fun. Light of Day farm is Michigan’s only certified Demeter Biodynamic farm. “Biodynamics is a holistic, sustainable form of agriculture that dates all the way back to the 1920's. It takes into account everything from the cycles of the moon and stars to the soil, plants, animals and people, with the ultimate goal of making each garden or farm a healthy self-sustaining ecosystem.”

     Light of Day products are grown certified 100% organic and certified Demeter Biodynamic under the guidelines of the National Organic Program, and Demeter U.S.  The exceptionally high quality botanicals are hand-harvested, dried in their licensed commercial farm kitchen, and packaged carefully, on site. With each step in the process, positive intention and prayer for well being is offered up. They blend all of their private recipe teas in small batches to promote consistency, to maximize freshness and for optimal nutritive benefit.

     When we walked through the door of the small shop and tea bar, we were warmly greeted and handed a cup of delicious tea, in a real cup! Our "hostess" was very knowledgeable and patient as she explained the many tea varieties available and the benefits of drinking each. The tea is actually grown on site for many of the varieties and so are any fruits, berries or herbs that might be added to a blend. She said they even grow their own oranges. For the teas that they can't grow locally, the buy only from other organic Fair Trade growers.

     I couldn't get as close as I would have liked to show you the actual tea growing process, but you can see the building above and a closer view in the photo below.

     Tea was available to purchase by the cup (which of course we did). You could also do a "tea tasting" for a small fee and try several varieties of tea. We came home with 3 varieties of tea. I bought Namaste from Nepal, an organic Nepalese first flush green tea and Peaceful Peninsulas, also an organic natural wirey-style green tea leaf with cherry, blueberry, grape, apple, rose hips, currant elderberry and hibiscus. The Namaste is my favorite because I don't "do flavors" as well as I like plain teas. The Peaceful Peninsula is a nice change in the afternoon. Because the fruits are all natural, there is no artificial taste that you often get from a tea bag or from tea leaves that have simply been sprayed with a flavoring. My husband selected an Herbal Tea, Hummingbird Nectar, because he loves a strong, fruity flavor. It is an organic, caffeine-free blend of Montmorency cherry, hibiscus, blueberry, grape, currant, elderberry and maple syrup bits.

A special place for classes and other tea related events.

     This was one of the things I enjoyed doing most on our trip. I don't know how to explain it, but the place had a "good vibe" and we felt better when we left than when we got there, even after spending way too much money on tea and tea-related items. The tea is expensive compared to tea bags from the grocery store, or at least most people will have a moment of "sticker shock" when they see the prices. However, there is simply no way to compare this tea to anything you buy at your local market or even tea leaves from other places. These leaves aren't flavored with fruits, they have the actual fruits in them, which makes the taste so unique and fresh. You also get more than one cup from a teaspoon of tea leaves. I know that this will now be on our "must do" list when we make our next trip to Traverse City. You can read more about Light of Day Organic Teas by visiting their website here or following them on Facebook. I hope you enjoyed your tour!