Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cooling My Jets

Light Up Night, Pittsburgh 2010

We have had many pleasant things going on these days. Since arriving back in the States, our schedule has been quite busy and very full of many blessings. Still, I feel that I can't seem to get my act together, and there are several things amiss in my daily routine. For that reason, dear friends, I must take a break from blogging. I fear that when I start again, no one will know and I won't have any readers. (*sigh*) I must take that risk. My schedule depends on it.

I'm not sure how long my break will last - perhaps a week; perhaps a few months. When I return, I hope to have useful and edifying things to share with you all. Until then, may the Lord bless and keep you!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Triggering the Salivary Response

We had a unique outreach opportunity this evening, so Craig called home and asked me to make sure that dinner could be prepared and consumed quickly, easily, and early, allowing us to leave soon after his arrival from work. Very little that we do in our kitchen is quick or easy, but we do have some tricks up our sleeves. I've made these sandwich rolls oodles of times before, but today is the first time that it dawned on me to use a quicker method.

Normally, I use my favorite bread recipe from the Bread Beckers, which takes a couple of hours. I can get four loaves of bread, or split the dough into combinations of bread/calzones/sandwich rolls/cinnamon rolls, etc. Today, however, it occurred to me that I can use our much easier recipe from Phyllis Stanley's book Healthy Recipes from the Heart of our Homes. This is actually a pizza dough recipe that takes mere minutes to prepare, does not need to rise, and bakes in about eight minutes. We've used this for pizza and breadsticks, and we personalize the recipe a bit, adding herbs to the dough for extra flavor.

I'm not sure if I've shared this sandwich roll recipe before on any of my blogs, but I'll do so now. I get many requests for the recipe, which was born of necessity. About eight years ago, shortly after I made the switch to fresh grains, I had a few failed attempts at a stuffed loaf from the Beckers' recipe book. Either the loaves wouldn't bake all the way through the middle, or after removing them from the pans, they'd flatten. Finally, I realized that my over-indulgent nature was the culprit. I'm the daughter of Wally, Maker of Sandwiches, which means that I overstuff them. The filling that I included was simply more weight than the loaves were meant to endure. After much sighing and brainstorming, I came up with the idea of making them cinnamon-roll-style.

I'll share my method, but I won't be too specific about ingredients. That way I'll afford you some latitude in being creative with your own concoction. To make the rolls: *

1. Choose your favorite dough and roll it into a rectangle, just as you would for cinnamon rolls. If you don't have herbs in your dough, it may be a tasty idea to chop some and sprinkle them across the rolled-out dough. If you like garlic, this step is a good opportunity to chop or mince some and sprinkle it with the herbs. 

2. Next, spread a layer of a deli cheese of your choice. I like to use provolone for this layer. 

3. On top of the cheese, add two or three of your favorite deli meats. 

4. Be as creative as you'd like to be. Consider adding sun-dried tomatoes, olives, pepper rings, or any other such condiment. 

5. Once you're satisfied with what is spread across your dough, grate some hard Italian cheese over this. If Morgan is helping me, she normally campaigns in favor of smoked Gruyere cheese, as well. I think she'd try to add this to ice cream if I'd let her! 

*This process should go rather quickly, so you should have had your ingredients ready on your preparation surface before beginning. 

6. After you've fully assembled your toppings on your dough, roll it lengthwise into a long rope, just as you would for cinnamon rolls, and slice into spirals. 

I've found that using a baking stone is ideal for good results. The amount of space that you leave between the rolls on the stone depends on how soft or crispy you'd like them to be after they're baked. 

IMPORTANT: If you're using a normal bread dough recipe, it will have already risen once in a bowl before assembling the rolls. After assembly, they'll need to rise again. If you're able to procure a recipe that doesn't require rising -- like I did this evening -- it's time to bake them! 

7. Place the stone in an oven that's been preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and bake them for about 10 minutes or until they're a little golden-brown, per your own preference.

I try to make a few batches of these at once. I'm convinced that my family has an endless capacity for these, so I tend to ration them. I freeze some to have for lunch at a later date. They thaw nicely and can be warmed in the microwave or covered in the oven. I recently froze one batch in sets of two, wrapped in plastic and stored in a gallon-size Ziploc bag. On some mornings, I'd grab one of these packs and send it to work with Craig for his lunch. 

These sandwich rolls travel very well, and we've taken many a road trip with them in tow, along with some fruit salad served in individual Ziploc bowl (the ones with the handy screw-on lids). These are also great to take to sporting events, on hikes, or any other on-the-go occasion. It definitely beats fast food, in my opinion, and takes minimal planning and labor. It's worth it in the end, and your family will beg for more!


I'm sure you're familiar with the analogy of the frog placed in luke-warm water, who slowly begins to boil as the temperature is gradually increased. Happily desensitized, he's oblivious to the danger and remains in the pot until he succumbs to the inevitable.

Although I hardly believe that having an inside dog will kill me, I am struck by occasional realizations of Rhodes's newly-broadened boundaries. It seems that little by little, he enjoys new privileges that were never intended for him. Entering the living room, where the large window affords him a better view of the squirrels, is among these presumptions. Yesterday, I even discovered that he was lying on the carpet in front of the window... and let him stay. What's happening to me?

*     *     *     *     *     *

One of life's little bonuses is when I'm told by my sixteen-year-old that BLTs are on the lunch menu for the day, only to be served this, instead:

Turkey pastrami, herb Havarti, egg, roasted vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh wheat bread

*     *     *     *     *     *

In other news, I'm pleased to report that our outside railing was recently fixed. Guests may once again navigate the steps from the street to our house with confidence.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Y'all! Check This Out!

I love to glean from talented people. E at Pink Suede Shoe is one of those people. Not only does she do amazing projects for Sew & Tell Fridays, but just check out her recipe for this lovely snack pictured here! OK. That's all I have to say. I need a shower.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I love my husband! There are so many things to love about him. One thing that I've come to appreciate is his weekend tradition of fixing Coco-Wheats and sharing it with the children. Although this particular choice lacks any real nutritional value -- and I strongly oppose it as an acceptable breakfast "food" -- I love that he and the children have this special treat together. They're building memories while giving me a break.

I poked a little fun of this on Facebook yesterday, so today I thought that I should make up for it. I did a little brainstorming and came up with a very yummy breakfast idea for this morning:

Roasted Garlic Chicken Sausage

Sun-dried Tomato Chicken Sausage

Roasted Vegetables & Feta on Eggs Over-Easy

Blackberry Chantilly with Fresh Wheat Biscuits 

And a good time was had by all!

I'm a Country Girl at Heart, But...

Don't be deceived. Craig's no coffee drinker. This is tea.

... the city certainly does have its perks! I think that I've mentioned 21st Street Coffee in the Strip District before. No visit to The Strip is complete without making this our first stop -- especially since the roasting chamber of my coffee roaster was accidentally shattered earlier this week. I was not only in need of a cup of coffee yesterday morning, but I also needed to buy some beans to carry me until my new chamber arrived. (Incidentally, the package was by our door when we returned home yesterday.) I ended up buying the Otoño blend. 

We stopped at Penzy's for some empty bottles for the spices I bought on our last trip.

 The street food was quite tempting, but we had a plan in mind.

We really miss mangoes. I romanticize about becoming a locavore, but I just can't help myself. When I see a good deal on mangoes, my desire for smoothies drives me to the checkout.

This guy claimed to have the "best fresh bread in the 'burgh". Hmm. Well, maybe the best purchased fresh bread in the 'burgh. He hasn't been to our house. Still, I give him credit. It all looked tasty, and he was very enthusiastic.

This was our plan. Craig hadn't yet been to the Smallman Street Deli, so we planned our trip around meeting friends there for lunch. (Somehow, our friends didn't make it into any photos this time. Sorry, Tom, Amy, & Levi!)

Filet Mignon Sandwich

The sweetest little teenage girls sold me this irresistible scarf, and I just had to buy these magnetic bracelets. I regretted not buying more of these before leaving Moz, so I was quite pleased to find them in the 'burgh. At first, I only bought the yellow and brown ones. As we were driving off, I realized that they almost matched the scarf. My wonderful husband agreed to return quickly so that I could add a green one to complete the set. What a guy! He understands a girl's need to accessorize properly.

I am always cold these days, so when we were admiring the wares of an Ecuadorian vendor and chatting with him about his goods, his former home, his children, our children, etc., I was smitten with this hoodie. It's perfect for wearing around the house to keep warm while trying to save on energy costs.

After making homemade pizza with my new friend, Esther, in her kitchen, I decided that I need a wooden pizza peel. The one I use has a metal paddle, which makes transferring dough a bit of a challenge. I found using Esther's peel much easier. I searched high and low (literally) until finding one at the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. It was "high" above the produce display. I noticed it while standing in the checkout line. Craig Grayson reached one for me, and here it is! I plan to put it to use this afternoon. It's been a while since I've pulled out my pizza apron.

Shabbat Shalom!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Finally, A New "Sew & Tell"!

It has been far too long since I've been productive at my sewing machine, and I have greatly missed being a part of Amy's Sew & Tell. After our overseas move, finding a house, getting back into a daily school routine, my son's football games, birthdays, and much more, I'm glad to again have the therapy of sewing.

Thankfully, my mother gave me a good excuse to have something to post today. Yesterday was her 64th birthday, so my daughters and I took her to lunch at a quaint little cafe in town. (I love homeschooling. When our server asked the girls how they were able to get away from school to have a lunch date, Morgan answered, "We finished our work early so that we could come.")

When we arrived from Moçambique in late July, my mom was armed with some quilted fabric and immediately "tasked" me. She had seen this tote and this tote I made from this tutorial, and she wanted me to modify it a bit and make a tote for her to carry her Bible to church. In the midst of all our transition, this project was tucked away in the outer recesses of life; but in anticipation of her birthday, I decided to finally sit down in my new little sewing corner of the world and get to work.

Because the original tutorial includes a lining, which hides all inside raw edges, it was necessary for me to find a solution for the pre-quilted fabric that Mom chose. It created an inside raw edge that would indeed be quite unsightly. So, when I mentioned that to Mom earlier, she bought some 1/4" bias tape, which fixed the problem nicely. (I once tried to reverse-engineer a Vera Bradley clutch of Gabriela's, and I saw that this is part of her design method.)

Mom was so pleased to pull her tote from the gift bag we presented to her at lunch. We had a marvelous time. If you're in the Pittsburgh area, you must try Iovino's Cafe in Mt. Lebanon. After lunch, we headed to Cold Stone to pick up her ice cream cake, then returned to our house to find that my dad and the boys had built a fire in the fireplace. They know that this something I particularly appreciate. 

My parents stayed for dinner, and we presented my mom with her final "gift" - a letter I wrote to poke fun at some of her amusing traits. Morgan made it so that Mom can add it to the scrapbook we made for her a couple of years ago. (I posted more birthday photos here.)

Today in honor of Grandma’s 64th birthday, we want to pay special attention to her many admirable qualities, as well as to some of her… idiosyncrasies.

Grandma’s house is a place where we always feel WELCOME. Her many, many knickknacks show her girlish love of whimsy. Always a child at heart, Grandma appeals the inner youth of all who enter her home.

Her CHRISTMAS SPIRIT shows 365 days a year, as made evident by the extensive collection of snowmen and gingerbread men, seen on kitchen linens, dishes, candle holders, tole-painted crafts, sweatshirts, jewelry, and much more!
Grandma has such a GENEROUS nature. She delights in giving gifts to others. Anyone who has known her for at least 20 years has probably worn one of her famous painted sweatshirts. This particular craft, in fact, is where I got my start as a crafter.

Grandma sets a strong example for the rest of us to follow in the area of ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS. Are you finished with that napkin? Perhaps she can extend its use by saving it for dabbing acrylic paint. Or if you no longer need that Q-tip that you used to clean your computer keyboard, she can certainly find a use for it in her craft room.

FRUGALITY is very important to Grandma, so when she passes a dollar bin in a store, she makes sure to stock up rather than miss an opportunity to save money.

Another thing we love about Grandma is that she always comes PREPARED. Whether it’s change for a $100 bill or a coupon for a free week of cross-country skiing in North Pole, Alaska, it can probably be found in her large, rhinestone-clad purse. And if you should happen to fall into a vat of mire, she’s armed with plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer – and possibly even a hose – to get you all shiny and new.

With her ANIMATED personality, she makes movie-watching a memorable experience. “Ooo! Whoa! Did you see that?! It’s taken 37 times watching this movie for me to see that part of the scene. It never stood out to me before!”

A working KNOWLEDGE of her home inventory is essential to an efficient homemaker like Grandma. Ask her for a cotton ball and she’ll answer, “Go into my closet and turn on the light. On the right you’ll find my collection of suit jackets from when I worked at the bank and they made us wear uniforms. I don’t know why those silly people didn’t just let us wear our own clothes. On the other hand, it eliminated the headache of trying to figure out what to wear everyday. Anyway, right beneath my suit jackets is a stack of tissue paper – so if you ever need any tissue paper, you’ll know where to find it. Just to the left of the tissue paper is a stack of shoeboxes. I think the one on top has that extra pair of Easy Spirit walking shoes that I bought and can’t use. (*sigh*) I wish you or one of the girls could fit my shoe size. I hate to see it go to waste, and it’s too late for me to return them. Oh well. It is what it is. OK. The shoeboxes are stacked on top of that plastic rolling cart that has all the drawers. I bought that from LTD when we were still National City, before we became Northwest Savings and that unkind boss of mine made us stop placing LTD orders at work. In the third drawer down, you’ll see a bunch of Michael’s coupons and some extra packs of travel-size tissues. Do you need any of those? If you do, just grab as many as you need. I have more upstairs in my craft room. Oh, did you see what your Dad did up there for me? He does such good work. Anyway, behind the tissues are brand new bags of cotton balls. Giant Eagle had them buy-one-get-one-free, so I bought six.”

If you're still with me, allow me to share other sewing news. It's been a good week for me. I can't wait to see what everyone else made for Sew & Tell!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Making Up For Lost Time

I have so many things to blog about and so many excuses for why I haven't done so. But there's no time for that now. First things first. A while back, I mentioned that I had the honor of being invited to participate in a swap making these adorable little gathered clutch bags.

The swap was being organized as we were planning our relocation from Moçambique back to Pittsburgh. The coordinator, Penny, very graciously agreed to let me send mine late due to the dynamics of an overseas move, waiting on our household goods, house hunting, getting settled in, etc. I had no idea just how long I'd end up taking to finish my end of the deal, and I'm quite ashamed at how long it's been. I certainly don't deserve the patience that was shown me, especially since Anna finished the one she made for me right away and had it awaiting my arrival at my parents' house.

I was excited and nervous to learn that Penny would be the recipient of the clutch that I was to make. She's quite a well-rounded gal, and I labored over the details. At one point, I was torn between just sending her a finished product in a semi-timely manner, and finding the final item that would complete the idea that was forming in my head. I'm so thankful that Penny is really a laid-back kind of person who assured me (several times) that she didn't mind waiting until I was really ready.

My friendship with Penny began with a giveaway that she held almost two years ago, when she asked readers to name her new espresso maker. I won with "Stella", and the beautiful items that Penny sent adorn my kitchen today. So, since Penny and I share a love of good coffee, I definitely wanted to somehow incorporate that into the details of her clutch - hence, the burlap. Penny has done some pretty amazing work with burlap, which made me a bit nervous. She's totally a professional! I managed to score a coffee bag from our favorite cafe in Moz. The beans had been imported from Malawi. I was pretty excited about including an element from our African experience.

I bought this zipper pull from a local gift shop in Maputo while shopping for beads to bring back to Craig's cousin who makes jewelry. I knew that I must also include this, adding to the African element.

If you peruse Penny's site, you'll find that she really does a great job of choosing cheerful fabrics with vibrant colors. I love this fabric that I used to make a nursing cover for a friend recently, so I thought it would be perfect for this project, as well.

Penny and her husband are outdoor enthusiasts. I wanted to include something that appeals to that part of her nature. I decided that a carabiner was the perfect hardware for attaching the wrist strap. It's rather hard to locate "biners" on our side of Pittsburgh, so I'm pretty thankful that REI has recently come to town. They've changed a bit since we originally purchased our own camping gear, so it was interesting to find that they now come in a double-sided "S" shape.

When I had the clutch fully assembled, I realized that I had forgotten to sew the divider inside. So, I took it apart and added the missing piece. Penny is definitely worth the effort!

On one of my very few fabric shopping excursions in Moçambique, I came across this print that just cracked me up. It's so fitting, considering the crime rate in South Africa. I couldn't pass this up. I thought I'd include this as the credit card pocket, just for fun.

It was Penny's tutorial that inspired the tags that I now include in my sewing projects. Naturally, I added one to her clutch.

I'm hoping that by the time she reads this post, she'll already have received her package in the mail from me. I waited a few extra days before posting this so that she'd see it in person first. I really hope she likes it! I had a blast making it for her. Hopefully I'll have an opportunity to do another swap and finish on time. I don't foresee any relocations in our near future, so I have no excuse.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Love My Vita-Mix!

If you used to read my old blog (my first one -- this is my third), you already know that my Vita-Mix is my favorite kitchen appliance. Although there are machines in my kitchen that are more practical and necessary, this one definitely offers the most fun.

From warm "raw" soup and fresh salsa to frozen desserts, smoothies, and nut butters, this machine lives up to its reputation and proves a worthwhile purchase. Shortly after it arrived at our Alabama home in spring of 2008, we had already done a great deal of experimenting with this tool that is too attractive and versatile to be referred to simply as a blender.

Years ago, my cousin, Stacy, showed me how to read labels and determine which ingredients cause a health concern. Commercial brands of peanut butter, for example, pose a real problem, with hydrogenated oils and other mysterious ingredients. Our family consumes large quantities of peanut butter -- except for Graham, who's allergic to it -- so naturally, I wanted to find a better alternative without having to give it up altogether. Although my sweet husband flatly refuses to kick the Jif habit, the rest of us have been on a quest to find the tastiest version of natural peanut butter.

We settled on a decent health-food-store brand for a while, but we were excited to begin experimenting with homemade peanut butter when our Vita-Mix arrived.

 Here's a photo of Craig Grayson's first attempt at peanut butter in 2008. I'm convinced that it was his own labor that made it taste good to him. He doesn't usually reach for the healthful option. I thought it was delicious, though.

Now that we're settled again, I've been brainstorming about peanut butter. This morning, I decided to give my idea a try:

coconut oil
agave nectar

It turned out really smooth and won the approval of all of the children, minus Graham. Morgan declared it to be the best she's ever tasted! I doubt that Craig will be convinced, though. I've added more Jif to my grocery list, just in case.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Trees: Friend & Foe

It is amazing that God in His sovereign providence created us the way He did, so that our bodies respond to the environment He so intricately created -- with every perfect detail carefully planned, yet instantly spoken into existence. We breathe oxygen. Trees give off oxygen. Trees require carbon dioxide. We exhale carbon dioxide. What an awesome Creator!

In Moçambique, as I read blog posts from our stateside friends, I began to realize how much I missed the beauty and splendor of the autumn season. In Alabama, fall arrived quite late and lasted only briefly, as a torrential downpour usually stripped the trees of all their colorful foliage in a matter of days. Penn's Woods, on the other hand, offer quite a spectacular display that outlasts our tolerance for yard work.

One thing that I especially love about our neighborhood here is the fact that the large, beautiful, ancient trees give the illusion that we are not a mere six (or so) miles from downtown Pittsburgh. They offer shade, character, and plenty of creatures to tempt and taunt Rhodes as he remains tethered to our outside railing during school hours.

There is a dark side, however, to these botanical monuments, and we are discovering the hazards thereof. Behold this weekend's fiasco:

As we were preparing to take a day trip with my parents on Sunday to Christmas in the Woods, Graham was returning Rhodes to his pen when he discovered a sewage problem in the back of the house. Further investigation revealed a growing puddle in our basement laundry area. Without lengthening the story, I'll say that an entire day's visit from a plumber unveiled a problem from a past architectural era: terra cotta pipes that hadn't yet been replaced by PVC. Apparently, the old pipes finally met their destiny with the large, invasive tree roots, carrying the problem far beyond our property line, into the main road running through town. 

While an older home that's been refurbished is charming, it can present issues that we hadn't considered at first. Two days later, the men are still working. I'm thankful for our Moçambican experience that conditioned us to adjust in times when we can't run water or flush the toilets. Praise be to God -- there's a light at the end of this tunnel!

While living in Alabama, my one complaint about the new development where we resided was that there were no shade trees. The builders provided a couple of token landscape trees per lot, but we'll never see them reach full maturity. The bright side of this situation was that our yard responsibilities were minimal. Here in our tree-lined suburban Pittsburgh community, quite the opposite is true. Morgan took this photo this morning, after sweeping the patio just yesterday. If this is any foreshadowing of what winter will offer, Craig Grayson and Graham would do well to strengthen their arms for their snow tasks.

Before leaving the subject of the hazards presented by our trees, I can't fail to mention that our damaged railing is yet awaiting repair. We're settled enough now to offer hospitality to friends and family, despite our inhospitable railing. I pray it's fixed before anyone gets hurt.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Busy at Home

Oh, what a beautiful morning! And afternoon! And evening! This has been a simply marvelous day. I didn't have to drive Craig Grayson to his early morning football practice, because Craig did. (*cheesy grin of satisfaction*) I was able to sleep a little bit later. I washed my hair. My eyebrows are plucked. The little things in life really do make a big difference.

Once I finally emerged from my little corner of the world and joined the family downstairs, I was eager to get started on some of the preparation that I've been postponing as we unpack and organize. Of course, I needed the proper fuel to get me going, so I roasted some coffee. This morning's fare was Sumatra Blue Batak Tarbarita Peaberry. I just roasted this a couple of days ago and found that it needed to stay in a little longer, so I went ahead and roasted it longer this time. Mistake. It could have fueled a semi. I still finished it, though, because I don't like to waste.

Craig, in the meantime, was making his Turkish coffee, which he shared with all of the children. I had to direct him to where I had stashed his demitasse cups when Morgan and I unpacked the kitchen. Having cute little serving pieces just enhances the whole experience. I love that Craig shares this appreciation for special things. What a great memory the children will now have of sharing a morning cup of one of their dad's favorites.

Once I had fuel in my veins, I started on today's task list. I'm trying my hand at some homemade cleaners, so I've been filling jars with white vinegar and orange peel for use in several "recipes". I'll give this a trial run, and if I like the results, I plan to "shrink" our grocery expenditures by reducing the amount of cleaning products that I buy. Confession: I'm addicted to bleach and Tide with Downy, so there are some things that won't change. Anyway, check out my little stash that is growing: (I think that I should do a post about the many uses of canning jars.)

Since moving into this (lovely!) house, we've realized that we can't fit all of our (rather large) furniture, so we're getting rid of some things. Actually, a year in southern Africa showed us that we should get rid of a LOT of things. One such item is the TV armoire that was included in the bedroom collection we purchased during my pregnancy with Gabriela over 11 years ago. It's funny how something like the sale of an item on craigslist can start a new friendship. I've so enjoyed corresponding with the sweet lady who wanted to purchase our armoire, and this morning we were privileged to meet her and her husband when they came to pick it up. 

I'm continually reminded that God is in the details and delights in blessing us in unexpected ways. When Jeannie and her husband, Terry, arrived at our door, they presented us with treats from our favorite PA bakery. We only seldom get to enjoy pastries from Kretchmar's Bakery, as it is quite a drive away. Craig's sister understands our deep appreciation for their cakes, so on special extended-family occasions, she usually buys one for us all to enjoy. What a great and pleasant surprise it was to receive these from Jeannie and Terry, who had no idea that we are big fans of the bakery near their home! During their visit, I roasted more coffee for them to sample. This time I chose Rwanda FT (fair trade) Dukunde Kawa Musasa. 

 The word "amazing" doesn't begin to describe the delectable flavor and perfect texture of this almond torte. Superb!

 The children were especially fond of these Steelers cookies. For me, the cookies served as a decoy to redirect the children away from the cake, saving more for me. (I'm not helping my fitness plan At. All.)

 Enough said.

I've been wanting to make my own kefir for a while, but I haven't had the means to do so until now. It's not complicated, but our circumstances weren't conducive to making cultured dairy products before settling into our new home. We recently located a source for raw, unpasteurized milk and cream, and fresh eggs. My wonderful husband, who passes by the farm on his way from work, agreed to visit the farm and purchase these for me. If you've never had fresh milk, find some as soon as you're finished reading this post, then reject hereafter anything sold in the dairy section of the grocery store. Now, where was I? Oh, yes. I made kefir this morning, thanks to Sue, who shared her starter with me a few days ago. I'm hoping to use the rest of the cream for homemade ginger ice cream.

As I was busying myself with the kefir, Morgan was hard at work making granola for us to keep on-hand for breakfast. My plan was to make at least two batches, but in the end, we only ended up with one. Maybe tomorrow... (We shared a little of this with our guests.)

 This yummy recipe comes from Christmas with Southern Living 2008, but we change it up a bit. It's incredible! I'm hoping to try this recipe soon that my precious friend, Lauren, fed us on our recent visit to Indiana. It was equally delicious. So, rather than choose between the two, I want to have both!

I've been wanting to make sprouts for a while, as well, but I've been much too distracted. This morning I finally took the plunge. I don't think it gets any more brainless than this. Really. It's probably the simplest kitchen task in the whole world, but the result is literally a super food. I chose lentils, alfalfa, and wheat. I like to use the wheat grass in my juicer and add it to smoothies. The other sprouts are great in salads or on sandwiches, but I'm hoping to experiment with a couple of other ideas that I discovered recently.

We managed to squeeze in a family walk with Rhodes this afternoon, taking in all the beauty of this neighborhood. It's amazing that this dog has transformed my husband into a man who enjoys taking walks. Rhodes is stealing hearts, for sure. One guy actually backed up his vehicle and got out to admire Rhodes, telling us that his girlfriend forced him to compromise and get a vizsla, rather than a Ridgeback, as he had hoped. Another guy spoke to us through his car window amid the traffic that characterizes this area, remarking about our "gorgeous dog".

After a brief trip to the mall with Craig for a new cell phone plan and some clothes for the children, I returned to assist Morgan in making spinach calzones. Behold:

Now, I'm off to enjoy one of the Oatmeal Scotchies that Morgan made yesterday, along with a piece of Scharffenberger chocolate.


Friday, September 24, 2010

My Fruit Bowl Overfloweth

So far, living near family has some pretty great bonuses. My dad is a serious food shopper. My mom is a serious browser of all things girly. I am the product of both.

We've been in our house for just over two weeks, and there is still so much organizing, planning, scheduling, (sewing!!!), and stocking up to do. I decided that I couldn't possibly postpone our new homeschool year any further, so we started gradually moving into our school work on Monday.

My 96-year-old grandfather is in a nursing home on the opposite side of Pittsburgh, so I try to plan our visits to coincide with my parents' visits. It turned out that Craig Grayson's football game was at a school just up the street from the nursing home, so on Wednesday, we planned our first visit to Grandpap in over three weeks. Being a multi-tasker, I thought we should also squeeze some "special" grocery shopping into this trip.

The Strip is the mother lode of imported and local food and goods. My dad is the perfect tour guide for this place, and we were almost in competition with our purchases. He teased me later when he learned that I hadn't thought to buy Buffalo mozzarella at the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company (but he had). I did, however, get some other great cheeses while we were there. The lady in the deli kept calling me "Dear Heart" as she helped me with my order. Precious.

I especially enjoyed visiting Labad's Middle Eastern Market. (Labad's also has a restaurant annexed to the store, but that's not how Daddy rolls; so we ended up eating at Smallman Street Deli. Allow me to recommend their filet mignon sandwich. Mmm. Hmm. That's right.) Anyway, I was delighted to find that Labad's carries the Turkish coffee that Craig likes. I'm sure that I could just add cardamom to his coffee at home, but he enjoys the experience. So, I let him have his fun and use his ibrik. By the way, if you are in the 'burgh and decide to visit Labad's, make sure and purchase the special Medjool dates that are sold at the counter for $5.99 per pound. You'll be glad that you opted against the smaller ones that are sold in a container. (Daddy won this one.)

(Here, Mom and I are taking advantage of the 3 for $25 deal on scarves. [What is UP with my side profile?? Look at that cranium!])

 (This place reminded me of the souk. In fact, there was a bag that drew me back three times to the souk in the Old City in Jerusalem, only to decide in the end not to buy it. How funny that the same style of bag is right here in Pittsburgh, PA!)

 (The clerk was so pleasant and hospitable. I love that we can still enjoy an international experience here in the 'burgh.")

 (I'm not sure if our friend, Arun, reads this blog, but this photo is for him. 5 kilos of Nutella. It doesn't get much better. This was taken in Pennsylvania Macaroni Co.)

(And for the occasional "shot", I bought a few of these pocket-sized samples for Craig to carry in his car.)

As we shopped for produce, Daddy and I planned future shared meals. While shopping for peppers, he requested that I invite him over for some of my Abobora and Lentil Stuffed Peppers. I saved the last one for him to sample last week, and he liked it even more than I had expected. I'm trying my best to wean our family off of sausage, and I hadn't yet purchased ground beef; so I used lentils and mixed them with ricotta, roasted butternut ("abobora" in Portuguese), spinach, garlic, and herbs. I can't recall which cheese is over the top. It doesn't matter, really, as long as it's Italian. That's my default: You can't go wrong with Italian. Check it out:

Before leaving The Strip, Morgan and I stopped by the Asian market to pick up a few things for my friend, Sue. We agreed to meet my parents and the other children (minus Craig Grayson, who stayed behind to catch the bus to his game) at the truck. It was at this point that I really learned the link between fitness and homemaking. If it hurts me to carry two bags of groceries a few blocks to the parking lot, it is time to ante up with my upper-body workouts.

(Here's a layout of some of our loot. I was able to stock up on some everyday seasonings from Penzey's Spices.)

(I was happy to find that this jar of artichoke hearts did NOT cost $80, as it would have in Moçambique. However, to my chagrin, I discovered a day later that I could have saved $4 on this very same jar at Sam's Club. Lesson learned: don't get too tickled just because it's sold at the Italian market. [What would Barbara Kingsolver say of my purchase of CA artichokes in Pittsburgh? And how ARE her books distributed to such widespread locations, considering her 100-mile rule?])

Reader survey:
Italian olive oil or Spanish? 

(Since Craig hasn't been traveling to Israel for business, I can't get it from there.) 

Following our city shopping excursion, we headed to see Grandpap, and then on to Craig Grayson's football game. Upon our arrival at the field, a knock-down, drag-out storm swept through the city, postponing the game an hour and a half. Craig was on his way from work to watch the game, but had to turn back. Along the way, he ended up with a cracked windshield on his new car. The radio reported that our neighborhood would receive the brunt of the storm, which we later found to be true.

Just that morning, the children and I sang "All Creatures of Our God & King" as our morning hymn. I had been reflecting on God's sovereignty and all of His creation that points to His Majesty. Even in a storm, He is shown to be in control. As they say, "There are no maverick molecules." The Book of Job and the Psalms have much to say of this Truth. It is by God's Divine Providence that this large limb from one of the colossal trees in our front yard landed on the iron railing that leads down our steps from the street, rather than on our house. Notice the damage to the railing:

(This limb also fell, just feet away from our glass patio table. I was away when the clean-up crew came; but Morgan said that as they were working, yet another limb fell. Fortunately, no one was in its path.) 

Although we were only without electricity for about 12 hours, two days later, part of our neighborhood is still without power. There are many traffic lights that are not working, causing awful congestion, even beyond what is typical for Pittsburgh. 

I have had a hard time getting used to the idea of having an actual "Pittsburgh" mailing address, but I'm liking what the city has to offer. The trees in our neighborhood, though dangerous in storms, give the illusion that we live away from the city. Still, I'm very aware of our proximity to "where it all happens". Today, I experienced the bonus of having a Pittsburgh address when my wheat order was delivered by truck to our doorstep for a mere $3 service charge. I'll save the spike in wheat prices for another post.