Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Friday Brunches

Our daughters, both teachers, are enjoying their summers home with their small children.  Our oldest daughter was lamenting the days gone when we used to spend time together (before children), going out for lunch or going to museums and other such outings.  So she came up with a plan.

Every Friday morning this summer either she, her sister, or her father and I host a brunch for the four adults and three little ones.  I love it.  I don't know which I enjoy more, watching our daughters sharing the bond they have as sisters, or their children bonding as cousins.  Either way, Grandpa and I are just happy to be included.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Weekend Cooking

I realize the title of this post doesn't quite match up with the date of the post.  But here's to cooking on the weekends.

If you're in the mood for that wonderful yeasty taste of homemade bread, and you're grilling this weekend, I have the recipe for you.

Last Saturday I made grilled flat bread.  I followed this recipe from Food52.  If you haven't been on their website, and your're a foodie, I highly recommend you visit.  I get their email updates and follow their Facebook page.

This is the simplest yeast bread I've ever made.  I made it on the indoor grill so Paul didn't have to mess with it while he had a grill full of meat.  But really, it's so simple to do it wouldn't have mattered.  It's a great way to have fresh bread in the summer time.

Also, last weekend I noticed the stores had pickling cucumbers in the produce section so I was able to make both sweet and dill pickles, two of my favorite things about summer.

When I was younger I canned old fashioned hot water bath pickles.  Then one day it dawned on me that refrigerator pickles would be so much easier.  Not only are they easier, they're so much better. The pickles stay really crisp. The only problem, well two problems are waiting two days to eat them and keeping up with demand.  I can't wait for the farmers' markets to have the minis available.

You can find the sweet pickle recipe here.  I add sliced sweet mini red peppers and mustard seed to this recipe.

The dill pickle recipe is here.  My first jalapeno was ready so I picked and sliced it and added it to the jar.  I wish I would have had two ready to pick, one isn't quite hot enough.  Next batch I will add two.

Summer is such a great time for cooking and eating!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bulldog for Baby

I just finished knitting this little bulldog for our granddaughter, Amelia.

The pattern is in the book, Knit Your Own Dog.  I found a copy at the library.

The bulldog is a little bit of a challenge.  Those wrinkles and folds take some maneuvering.


Amelia lives in a house with two English bulldogs, Frank and Beans, roughly the same age she is.  
 She turned one yesterday. 

Now on to making her book.  I have one week till her party.  I'm always working up to the last minute on gifts.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Weekend Cooking

I enjoy cooking, when I'm trying out new recipes that is.  This past weekend I tried out a few.

Last week we picked, pitted and froze 24 and 3/4 quarts of sour cherries.  Yesterday morning I made cherry turnovers.  I used the recipe from The Vanilla Bean Blog.  Since I was pressed for time I used frozen puff pastry.  Delicious!! 

You can find the recipe here.

I also tried two other amazing recipes this weekend.

I made this awesome sauce for fish.  I think it's by far the best fish I've ever made, simple, fast and wonderful.  

I did substitute cod fillets for the tilapia.  The recipe is here.

And finally, I had some sirloins in the freezer so I thought I would fancy them up a little by adding some crab meat and an indulgent sauce. I made this Steak Jalisco.  I think next time I will omit adding the lime juice at the end.  

The recipe is here.

I usually try a new recipe at least once a week.  My husband is tolerant of this hobby.  When he doesn't like something he'll say, "So, what do you think?"  I know then I won't be making that dish again. 

These recipes got three thumbs up.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


One sunny day at the end of March I was doing my initial clearing out around my peony bushes, prepping them for blooms, when something small scurried from underneath.  Startled, at first I thought it might have been a mouse, but then I saw it was a tiny baby rabbit.  He was really tiny and seemed to be all on his own, no sign of a nest or siblings.  Since then, and until recently, I only caught a few glimpses of him

But lately we've been meeting each other regularly.  I have an herb garden planted right outside my door next to the house and deck steps.  I believe he's living here, or possibly the flower garden and lilac bush on the other side of the path.  He particularly likes the Italian parsley so I've left him one parsley plant uncaged to share. The area really is a perfect home for him, gardens backed by a hedge, deck and house 

The other evening when I opened the front door I saw his two little ears popping up over the ledge of the top step on the path.  He ducked back down giving me the needed seconds to retrieve my camera.  From then a game of hide and seek ensued with him popping up and then ducking again below the ledge of the top step.  I remained frozen.  He must have decided I was only a mild threat so he hopped the top step onto the path and allowed me a few seconds of photos.

Feeling a bit like Beatrix Potter, I've started calling him Pete, which I think could work for either sex: Peter or Petunia.  I look for him every morning and afternoon.  Each time I see him brings me a ridiculous amount of joy.

The night before last while I was dragging the hose out to water the potted deck plants, a black snake was making his way across the deck.  Paul removed the snake from the deck, leaving me to worry for Pete.  But yesterday there he was, relaxing by the parsley and the cilantro, safe and sound. What a relief! 

I'm hoping he'll stay for the summer, making my garden his home, and then I will get to watch him grow. (Which by the way, shouldn't he be bigger than this by now??)  And who knows, maybe I'll attempt a few Beatrix Potter like watercolors along the way.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Handmade Birthday Present

Last weekend our second grandson turned three.  This little guy usually has one thing on his mind, cars, his most favorite things.  So much so, he takes one special car to bed with him each night.  And when he leaves the house for an extended time his favorites go with him. So when I saw this DIY on Pinterest I knew I had to make it for him.

Here are some photos of the car caddy I made for Jools.

I was hoping his name looked like a car, but I might be stretching here.

You can find the full, easy to follow tutorial here. Thanks homemade by Jill.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Why have a Mother's Day?

I was lucky enough to spend Mother's day with all four of our children, albeit not at the same time.  That doesn’t happen every year.  We juggled schedules and extended families' celebrations to make it happen.  My two daughters and I went out for a lovely brunch in the morning and later my husband and I threw a barbecue dinner for our sons' families.

Thanks to social media this year I read all sorts of opinions on Mother's Day.  Sure, we don't need a commercial holiday to tell us to appreciate our mothers.  For that matter, why do we need any designated holiday to honor any specific person or event?

There's no one holiday I can think of that's celebrated by every person.   But in the reality of most of our busy lives, holidays make it easier for us to come together as a family, or surrogate families, and spend some time with the people who are important to us, should we choose to do so.

When it comes to parenting, my husband has often said that we parents of each generation take the best of how our parents raised us, leave behind the bad, and hopefully become better parents than our own.  These recent years Mother's day has been for me a time to not only think of myself as a mother, but of my children and the parents they've become.  I'm proud to watch them take the good, eliminate the bad, and become better than we were.

A few weeks ago one of my daughters was relaying to me a conversation she had with a friend.  They were discussing the everyday fear you have of just getting through the day with toddlers and keeping them safe.  It reminded me of a passage I read in a book I was reading at the time when my own children were teenagers and young adults.  It resonated with me so much I copied it down. 

"All the times when he and I lay like this, side by side, in the dark, unsure, unknowing, scared as children; while the children moved dangerously around in the world, learning to be adults."

I didn’t mention at the time that the fear they feel today will never leave them, mostly because I know she already knows that.

So this past Sunday I was able to tell my daughters how proud I am of not only the women they are, but the mothers they are.  And on Father's Day I will take the opportunity to make a special point to tell my sons how proud I am of the fathers they've become, as well as thank my husband for being the father he is and my partner in parenting.  And I will remember my own father even though he is gone.  I'll do this because parenting is a damn hard job and I think it’s nice to have a day to remind us to remember those who helped us become the people we are and appreciate those who choose to take on the job.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Letter to the Church

This week the Kansas City Archdiocese severed ties with the Girl Scouts.  Not only was it all over our local news, it made national news as well so maybe you saw it.  What follows below is my letter to Archbishop Naumann, because sometimes you just have to speak up.

Dear Archbishop Naumann:

I’m writing to you today because I am saddened by your decision to have the church sever ties with the Girl Scouts.

In the few days since this story has become public, I’ve been trying to find if indeed, the Girl Scouts do give money to Planned Parenthood.  But the only mention I find of this is in Catholic written articles.

I know you site the revision of Girl Scout material to include inappropriate content.  I don’t have access to this material but I’m sure you’re able to produce it, as I’m sure I probably wouldn’t find it as offensive as you. 

I read the church concerns include having Margaret Sanger, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem as role models for the Girl Scouts. Following this logic, albeit convoluted, Paul Ryan is a Catholic, a Republican and a conservative. Mr. Ryan is also fighting for a health care bill that will greatly harm the poor, sick and elderly.  I believe in fighting for those groups.  I believe “Whatsoever you do to the least of your brothers, that you do unto me.”  So therefore, I should sever ties with the Catholic Church because Mr. Ryan is a Catholic.

As I see it, the Girl Scouts is a world wide organization, who reaches out to girls of all races and religions.  When you deal with a world wide group you have to be respectful, and inclusive, inclusive being the operative word.  At a time when the world needs a church that fights segregation and intolerance, your decision fosters both. As far as I can tell, your decision also legitimizes false news spread through the internet.  Another issue we should be fighting.

I was raised a Catholic and was a Girl Scout.  Over the past ten years I’ve found it very had to be a Catholic.  I found it hard to be liberal and listen to homilies that have nothing to do with the gospel but more to do with the Republican conservative agenda.  I found it ridiculous passing the newsstand in the hallway holding pamphlets of what books, movies, and television shows to boycott.  And now we’re to boycott the Girl Scouts.

I feel that the church wants to close me off from exposure to anything different from Catholic opinions for fear I will believe something other than the church’s teachings, rather than trusting me to stand by my beliefs.  For me, this method has back fired.  Instead of keeping me close, the church continues to push me away.

It is your right, as head of the church, to enforce this decision.  It’s part of what makes this country great, freedom of religion, freedom to shape your preaching to fit your needs.  But I see this as yet another door closed between me and the Catholic Church.

Sincerely, a saddened Catholic without a church that represents me,

Lisa Jewell

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A First Attempt

I think I mentioned in my last post my grandparents were Hispanic and lived in south Texas when I was growing up.  There in the little town where they lived they had a restaurant  and tavern, Raymond's Cafe.  The food was amazing, good old fashioned American and Tex Mex cuisine.  I'm sure the tavern was nice too, but I wasn't allowed in there.  When we visited we ate all of our meals at the cafe.  I grew up eating enchiladas, chalupas (tostadas), guacamole, and homemade flour tortillas long before Tex Mex was readily available in the southern Illinois town where we lived.

Later after the restaurant was gone, and I was a new wife and mother, I asked my grandmother how to make those homemade flour tortillas.  Maybe it was because she was already well into the task standing at the stove heating the tortillas, but I didn't get much of an answer.  No measurements for the ingredients were given, just a quick "throw some flour, salt and lard together, shape into tortillas, and cook".

Since my mother didn't know how to make them either, I always thought they must be too difficult.  And of course back when I was a new wife and mother Google didn't exist.  

Well last night I made my first attempt at making this lovely flat bread.  I swear it felt like I was channeling my grandmother while standing at the stove.  Just the smell alone of that piece of dough hitting that scorching hot cast iron skillet filled me with nostalgia.

I'm happy to say they turned out just like hers.  They are perfect, depending on what you are serving them with.  Next time, if I intend to use them for fajitas or tacos I might make them thinner.  But for saucy recipes, I won't change a thing.  Now I only wish I knew how to make my Aunt Cookie's Spanish chicken and rice. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


I am currently reading At Home in the world: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe, written by Tsh Oxenreider.  It’s a memoir of a family's trip around the world: mom, dad, and three children whose ages (I believe at the time of the trip) are nine, six and four, a daughter and two younger sons.   The family sells their home in Oregon and spends one year traveling the globe; giving the children an education of a lifetime.  

I've been enjoying Tsh's writing so much I looked for her blog, The Art of Simple.  This week on her blog she asked readers to reflect on where they feel at home in the world,  and/or why they've chosen to stay at the place they call home.

As I read her book of adventure, her fears and reflections on life as a  global wanderer, one thing comes to mind over and over:  I could not do this.  As much as I would love to think I would be adventurous enough, in my heart of hearts I doubt it.  I don't dislike travel.  While I've traveled to Mexico enough that I've lost count, (mostly as a youngster when my Hispanic grandparents lived in south Texas), and I traveled abroad once, (a short trip to England to visit our daughter while she was studying there) both of these countries have a familiarity that didn't force me out of my comfort zone.  And although it may have at one time been a dream on my bucket list that we would wait to be empty nesters to embark on such adventures, now that we are empty nesters, one of us retired and the other just a year away,  I'm afraid I've lost my nerve. The world, just in the last eight years since my trip to England, is a vastly different place. 

Now my idea of traveling is to drive our motor home to scenic destinations, where I speak the language if not the dialect, savor local dishes and sites, but always return to my own bed at the end of the day.   The motor home is my comfort zone, the place where I feel is still my home.  My bucket list dream now is to drive our motor home across the country and see as many states as possible.  

At times we think of selling our home, live in the motor home, and dump the increasingly overwhelming upkeep that comes with home and land ownership. Once before in our married life we were homeless.  I was pregnant with our third child, (we have four), and my husband was working about three hours away.  He was working long hours, lots of overtime, which only allowed him to come home on the weekends.  The hotel my husband stayed at allowed the families of the employees who worked for my husband's company to stay for free.  We made the decision to put everything in storage and put the money we would be saving on rent towards a down payment on a home.  We had a great time while living in the hotel.  I delivered our second son while living there.  And I really only missed two things about a conventional home, a yard to plant things in and a kitchen to cook in.  The RV has a kitchen.  

This is the first and only home we've ever owned.  A home we've been in for thirty two years.  We moved in the spring before our oldest started kindergarten.  Our fourth (youngest) child was born the next spring.  At sometime when I wasn't looking that same youngest child carved her name into the banister that overlooks the great room.  And I planted...a lot: cherry trees, two forsythias in memory of my brothers when they passed away, a magnolia tree, and too many perennials to name. 

Our home sits in the center of a rural community which served as the county seat in the 1800's.  Over our time here it's been great fun to learn the local history.  At one time this little community had a school, general store, and a church that is adjacent to our property.  The school no longer stands, the store is falling down, so when the church became available twenty years ago we bought it.  Our oldest daughter was married there in 2008.  

There's so many reasons we've chosen to stay in our home all of these years.  The rural setting, the small town where our children attended school, are just two of the reasons it was a great place to raise a family. Move a blurring fast forward and it's been wonderful to watch our grandchildren play in the same places their parents did.  We've been lucky that all of our children and grandchildren are, at the most, 45 minutes away.  

When we inevitably do leave our home I know what I've planted here over the years are what I will miss the most.  Maybe home will always be where most of my memories are planted.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Hobo's Life

Four years ago all I could think about was how I wanted a little dog.  I wanted something smaller, older, slower, and starved for love. He also had to be good tempered around small grandchildren.  Problem was, my husband was not thinking about dogs whatsoever.  And yet I persisted with my search.  Eventually I found an ad from a rescue center for an adorable little guy about two hours from where we live.  It said he was nine years old, trained, and great with kids.  I sent an email to my husband, one he's kept all this time.  The day we brought him home it was clear to us he was just a little Hobo.  So that’s what we named him.

At first he didn't want anything to do with us.  He'd snap at us and growl when we tried to pick him up.  But we were sure we could love him enough to gain his trust, although we would have to kennel him when the grandchildren were visiting.  When we took him to the vet they told us he was older than nine, more like twelve or thirteen years old.   As for what we thought were just "accidents" in the house and would get better with time.....never did.  It eventually became clear that this dog did not care about using the great outdoors for his restroom.  Inside suited him just fine.  You could have just brought him in from outside and he would hike his leg and pee on the floor.  He became a kitchen dog.  But as my husband said, "In for a penny, in for a pound."

One night while fixing dinner he was circling my husband’s feet.  Paul had just put a ham steak on a platter.  So my husband did what we thought everyone did for their dogs, he gave him the bone as a special treat.  Hobo swallowed it whole.  This was 8:00 p.m.  The local vet met us at his office and took some x-rays.  The only way Hobo could be saved was to drive him into the city and have it surgically removed.  We had no idea there were all night animal hospitals. “In for a penny, in for a pound.”  It was about 4:00 a.m. when we returned home.

Hobo went on all of our RV trips, not just local trips but Colorado, Maryland, and Texas.  To a stranger Hobo looked to be a puppy.  He was a true “babe magnet”, especially on the beach.  We liked to imagine this was just a continuation of the life he led before, but now the accommodations were much better.  My husband would tell great stories of Hobo’s earlier life, in Hobo’s voice of course.  Jumping trains, circus life, war stories, and oh the females he loved and the puppies he fathered!!

After some time Hobo really slowed down.  At first it was hard for him to get used to.  He was bow legged and walked with a bit of a prance.  Sometimes his legs would give him trouble and slide out from underneath him.  Some days he’d be in the yard with us and he would literally bounce, what we would call “frolic”.   The next day he wouldn’t be able to get out of bed.
Then we noticed he was becoming senile.  We would let him out and he would forget how to get back to the front door.   Once I let him out in the middle of the night and later I was army crawling under our deck to retrieve him.  After that his eye sight failed.  He would wander around, find himself in a corner, and not know how to back himself out of it.  He wouldn’t be able to find his food and water bowl until he walked through it a couple of times.  At times we were just sure he was not long for this world, but he would always bounce back.  He’s been this way for about the last year. 

Eventually we put two of those small animal play pens together on our deck and when he needed to do his business we would put him in there and then just hose it off.  One thing Hobo would never do was lay down when he was outside.  Last Thursday when we went to bring him in he was lying down.  He couldn’t stand.  We tried rolling towels up creating a cushion for him to lie on with his legs extended, hoping it would help.   By Monday he was unable to lift his head enough to eat.

My husband said it was like he was in hospice and we were just waiting for him to die.  Neither one of us have ever been faced with this decision before.  Is it really humane to decide when an animal should die?  Really?  We took him in on Tuesday.  Unbeknownst to us until later that evening, it was national pet day.  What a complete kick in the pants.

Now there’s an overwhelming void in our house.  Even the house itself seems to be making noises it didn’t use to make. 

Hobo was an old, grumpy, at times pain in the ass who I believe at most just learned to tolerate us.  But we loved the curmudgeon.  And he was as cute as any dog I've ever seen.  My daughter said we gave him a good retirement home.  At least we brought him in from his life on the road.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Making Memories

From the time I was a girl remember imagining what it would be like to be a grandmother.  Both of my grandmothers were a big part of my life, but they weren’t a part of my play.  We didn’t have sleepovers, unless my parents were along, and I don’t remember sitting on their laps reading together or having conversations.   Children played and adults visited.   

What I do remember most about my grandmothers were their homes, down to the smallest detail.  I often dream about those homes now as an adult.  It's a bit sad that I didn’t grow up feeling as connected to the women my grandmothers were as much as the connection I have to their homes. 

Now that I am a grandmother I do my best to create memories my grandchildren will carry with them.  I make them things, and we make things together.  They never come for a visit when I don't have a "project" handy for us to work on. 
One day a few weeks ago my oldest grandchild, Olivia, asked me to teach her how to knit.   I was skeptical.  I taught myself to knit as a young woman.  I wasn't sure an almost nine-year-old would have the dexterity/agility to manage the needles.  But her birthday was approaching and I was grasping for suitable and interesting  gifts for a nine-year-old girl.  So I began to research teaching children to knit. 

I decided to make this her gift.  I bought a knitting kit with child needles, some extra yarn, a spool knitting doll, an amazing knitting book for children, wrapped it up in a pretty decorative box with a ribbon, and gave it to her with the promise of a sleepover and a knitting lesson.  The sleepover was also to include a viewing of the new Disney Beauty and the Beast movie and some St. Patrick's day shenanigans 

After our busy day she was a bit too excited and distracted and I thought twice about mentioning the knitting lesson.  But we started, with a little frustration.  Then there was a moment when I could tell something clicked.  Sure there were mistakes, but she had the concept.  And she was having fun.  That moment became a moment I will always treasure. 

Later in the evening she told her mom on the phone, "I'm knitting and I'm great at it."  She started out with the intention of knitting her mom a potholder but time was running short and she wanted to make sure she knew how to stop knitting.  So the potholder became a fairy blanket and she learned to do a basic bind off.   

First thing the next morning she grabbed the needles and the book.  She looked up how to cast on and did it again, without help from me.  I knew then my choice in books was a good one, and that a memory and hopefully a skill was born.