Thursday, May 26, 2016

Making Music


I didn't get home until Tuesday night this week. And first thing Wednesday morning, I sat down at the piano. It is where I've stayed for much of the last two days. I received a call as I was leaving to go babysit last weekend to see if I would possibly play for the morning worship service on (this) Sunday. I have no doubt that the pastor had called every possible person she could think of before she called me.

Our most excellent organist has been out for weeks now, battling a serious illness. The substitutes have been almost as good as our regular organist. But not one of them was available for this Sunday. Not one single person.

I have played piano since I was a child. I have even played at church, but usually for smaller things like Sunday School classes, or meetings. I have never played for an entire service. Music for the entire service is a stretch for me. But with some dedicated work and choosing music that is reasonable for me, it will happen. It will be simpler. But maybe simpler music will lead to more reflection.

The bonus part of this is that Mommy and Big Sister are singing, too. They will be here for Memorial Day, so I recruited them to help. I love hearing them sing together. Little Sister volunteered to sing, also. "I can help! I'll sing Let It Go!" We appreciate her spirit, but I don't think our church is quite ready for music from Frozen yet!

I will continue practicing until the last minute. I may not be the most skilled pianist, but I do know quite a bit about good practice techniques. (Knowledge gained while teaching guitar for years.) I will be using all  of those techniques for the next 48 hours.

All I kept thinking as I worked was that in the Parable of the Talents, the servant who was given one talent was expected to use it, just as those had received more were to use theirs. The master didn't say, "Well, you don't have much anyway, so we just won't bother with you."

Say a big thank you to your church musician this week. Appreciate them for their talent, for their time, for their dedication, and for their service. I surely have a heightened awareness of what they do now.


If you are a pianist, you might enjoy checking out some of the free arrangements from Greg Howlett. If you are a little rusty, some of these beautiful but quite simple arrangements might help get you back to the piano.





Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I'm Back


This is one tired Mimi checking in. I am back at the farm. I've been on full out grandmother mode. I kept Baby Girl for several days while Little Sister took a preschool graduation trip with her mommy and daddy. (There were princesses involved. Want to guess where they went?) This precious little one is not fond of staying buckled in a stroller or waiting in lines, so we had our own fun time at her house.

The very first meal with the others away, she climbed into Little Sister's chair and without hestitaion, she sang the blessing. Loudly. That's usually Little Sister's job. We didn't know what the words were, but it was certainly a thankful tune.


Daddy-O came down for a couple of days to help out (and to keep me company) and his little sidekick was not happy when I was the one to get her out of bed in the mornings. She wanted her Daddy-O. I feel the same way about him.


We stayed busy for days. So busy. She gave several "woo ka way wee" concerts. Sometimes to the animal audience. Sometimes to us. And often she just sang for herself. This entire family loves music.


There might have been some television involved in our weekend. Mommy has strict limits on TV watching. And I think we may have slightly exceeded those. Desperate times, and all that. Her favorite is Little Einsteins. At least she's learning about classical music.


I did sneak in a little knitting. Very early in the mornings before she woke up was the best. And nap time was good--unless I needed to take a nap, too. Yep. That happened. If she happened to see me knitting she usually directed me, "Put the knidding away, Mimi! Put the knidding away!" And I was glad to do so. But she has not learned about "just let me finish this row." Sometimes I did have to stop mid-row. Good thing this is a simple pattern.


The first day was cold and wet, but the weather warmed up nicely and we spent lots of time on their beautiful porch. We played "socka" (with the soccer ball) and tea party and had many conversations between Daisy and Donald Duck. She always handed me the Donald toy. I thought I would have made a great Daisy. But I never got to find out.



"Let's draw, Mimi" was a frequent request, too. I discovered that washable markers are still messy even though they do wash off of things. But of course, she liked them better than the crayons.  But the markers mysteriously disappeared and she had to make do. I loved it when she said, "Mimi, I working on my lines." And darned if she wasn't. I didn't know she knew what lines were. She turned two less than two months ago.


And of course, there were some of "those" moments, too. It is amazing how rusty your skills get after a few,  several, a LOT of years away from full time care of little ones. She was sitting at the table, eating her oatmeal one morning, and I was cleaning up the kitchen. I stooped down to fasten all of those awkward child-proof latches on the lower cabinets. When I stood up, she was gone. I didn't hear any noises. I looked around and then I heard a little voice. "Mimi! I eating outside!" She had decided to have her breakfast al fresco. Those quiet little feet. That's what I get for leaving the porch door open.


And on the very last day, we were washing her hands after breakfast. She can just barely reach the water when she stands on a stool. She loves the foaming soap and willingly washes her hands. But this time, when she got the soap on her hand, she plopped it instantly on her head. <sigh> I had just washed her hair the day before. This time, I held her up, told her to close her eyes and stuck her head under the water faucet. Turned out she had put more soap on her head than I thought. We rinsed and rinsed and finally got it all out. Her hair was still wet when the rest of her family got home.

We did it. We made it though the long long weekend (can you call five days a weekend?) without any major disasters. I remembered all the medicines. Bedtime was less painful than I expected. I was delighted to have some one-on-one time with this youngest granddaughter.

The thought did go through my head that many grandparents do this full time. God bless them all.


 


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pesto Chicken

Pesto Chicken Bake

It's time for me to head back down the road for another babysitting assignment. And I haven't quite caught up with posting a couple of recipes from my last visit. But I certainly want to share this one because it was wonderful.

After all of those wonderful strawberry dessert recipes I've posted, it's time for something that isn't sweet. This one is good choice if you're watching your calories, watching your gluten intake, watching your carbs, or like us, just watching out for something yummy to put on your plate. This was what Mommy made for supper one night while I was there last visit. Definitely adding this recipe to my list of regulars.


 CHICKEN PESTO BAKE

1 package chicken cutlets (her pack had 6 cutlets)
salt & pepper to taste (she used House Seasoning*)
4-6 teaspoons pesto (1 tsp per cutlet)
2 medium tomatoes, sliced thin
6 tablespoons part-skim mozzarella cheese
4-6 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil, for easy clean up.
Season chicken with salt & pepper. Place chicken on baking sheet. Spread 1 teaspoon of pesto over each piece of chicken.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until chicken is done. Top each piece of chicken with tomato slices, mozzarella and Parmesan. Slide pan back into hot oven for a couple of minutes to melt cheese.

*House Seasoning:  Mix 1/4 cup salt, 1 tbsp. black pepper & 1 tbsp. garlic powder. Store in an air-tight container, such as an empty spice bottle.


If you tried the Naan Pizza that was another of Mommy's recipes and loved it (I heard from several people who did,) this is the same flavor combination. I'm thinking maybe I should plant more basil in the garden so that I can make my own pesto later this summer. I didn't know how much I loved the flavor.




Monday, May 16, 2016

It Was A Lovely Lake Weekend


This early in the season, the lake is quiet. In a few weeks, it will be filled with boats and pontoons and fishermen and water skiers and noisy children playing. 


But this weekend, we nearly had the lake to ourselves. We savored the stillness. Enjoyed the quiet. Took pleasure in the sunset. Just the two of us. There aren't many days like this.


The next morning, we could barely see the lake for the fog that swirled over the water. But the sun rose higher and higher and the fog became mist and the mist slowly drifted away.


As the sky brightened, we discovered we had not been as alone at the lake as we thought. We were sharing the dock and the pier with spiders, who must have worked all night after we went inside. As the sun came up, we could see these magnificent works of art, visible from the porch up the hill. The sunlight sparkled on the dewy webs and they were shining.


We had swept the boat dock the afternoon we arrived and this space between the dock posts was empty. How quickly can a spider spin a web? They must work at a furious speed, because these webs were enormous. (Actually, I looked it up–it takes about an hour.)


Of course, we had cleaned our favorite seat on the pier. That's our favorite spot for watching the water. We sat out here until the sun went down.


But this is what we found the next morning. It evidently is a favorite spot of the spiders, too. We are back at home now. The spiders can work undisturbed until we have another lake weekend.
  

Poetry is a fresh morning spider-web
telling a story of moonlight hours
of weaving and waiting during a night.
 –Carl Sandburg
 






Poetry is a fresh morning spider-web telling a story of moonlit hours of weaving and waiting during a night.

Read more at: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1342554

Friday, May 13, 2016

Grab 'n Go Sandwiches


I have made this recipe for years and years, usually around Christmas when we need party food. But when I came across slider rolls at the store, I thought I would make this recipe again using these slightly larger rolls. And this time I'm wrapping them in pairs before freezing.

That way, when Daddy-O needs a quick lunch while he is busy outside working, or wants to pack a cooler to take with him in the tractor during hay season, he can grab a pack or two. Of course, they are meant to be heated before eating, but there is nothing that must be hot to be safe.

If he ends up with a cold sandwich, the worst thing would be the cheese not being melted. He could live with that. But if he takes a break while still in the field, he could lay those foil-wrapped sandwiches on the hot tractor engine for a few minutes. Use it like a toaster oven. Tractor hack!


It will be great to take some of these to the lake, too, where the kitchen is the size of a postage stamp. We could even heat these wrapped sandwiches on the grill if we wanted to. There is really no cooking—they just need to be heated.

 

Don't know what your summer schedule is, but these sandwiches might be a handy addition to your freezer stash. A grab-and-go kind of meal.

HAM DELIGHT SLIDERS

1/2 lb. butter, softened (that's 2 sticks)
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
3 tablespoons French's mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 small onion, minced
1-1/2 lb. ham from deli, shaved (I have used smoked turkey)
2 packs ultra thin Swiss cheese slices (18 per pack--you won't need quite all)
2 packages slider rolls (12 per pack)

Mix butter, poppy seeds, mustard, Worcestershire, and onion, blending well. 
Spread top and bottom of rolls with butter mixture. On bottom half, place ham and cheese. Replace top half of rolls. Wrap in heavy duty foil. Bake at 400 degrees and bake for 10 minutes.

These can be frozen and heated straight out of the freezer. Just allow extra oven time if you do it that way.

I also heated a couple of them in the microwave for Daddy-O's lunch when, on the day I made them, he came in late from hauling hay and needed a quick lunch. Microwave heating means NO FOIL, remember? Those two sliders were not frozen, but ones I had saved out from my freezer stashing.


Here's how I packaged them for the freezer... I wrapped two sliders in foil, using pre-cut foil sheets and then slid them into a freezer ziplock bag. Two sliders is the right size for Daddy-O's lunch. This foil, like regular aluminum foil, is NOT a freezer wrap. If you want to wrap and freeze them without the plastic bag, you need to use heavy-duty foil.

If you have made the original recipe, you'll notice that the amounts here are slightly different. I discovered that 1 lb. of shaved ham wasn't enough to make 24 sliders. I got 18 sliders from my single pound of meat.






Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Strawberry Cobbler

Strawberry Cobbler

One more excellent strawberry dessert. This recipe is a new one to me, but Mommy had made it before. I was so happy to be around when she made it this time. It was absolutely delicious! This is one time I was a little sad that I am being so careful about eating sweets—doctors orders. I only had one spoonful. And it was about the best thing I've tasted in ages.


Daddy-O came down to visit for a couple of days while I was at Mommy's for the week. She did need to use the strawberries, but I think she made the cobbler especially for her daddy. He loved it! Grandchildren and strawberry cobbler. How perfect a visit was that for him?


STRAWBERRY COBBLER

1 cup self-rising flour (or, 1 c. all-purpose flour + 1/2 tsp salt & 1-1/2 tsp baking powder)
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups sweetened strawberries, fresh or frozen (used 1 cup sugar to sweeten berries)
1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in a 2 to 2-1/2 quart casserole. While butter is melting, cut strawberries and sweeten with sugar and let stand while you mix batter.

Mix dry ingredients together. Stir in milk until smooth. Pour batter over melted butter. DO NOT STIR!

Pour strawberries down the center of batter. DO NOT STIR!  (Optional: Sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar over the batter and strawberries to make a nice finish on baked cobbler.)

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until you can insert a knife into center of and peep into the cobbler. The batter should be cake-like and not soupy.



Monday, May 9, 2016

Strawberry Bread

Strawberry Bread

Maybe your strawberry season is just starting, or maybe like us, your season is about over. But I still have strawberry recipes to share. This quick bread is delicious. Jessica made this right after our "jam session" because she didn't want to waste any berries. One loaf was nearly gone before it had cooled off. I took the other loaf to Mommy's house and it was quickly claimed by the little girls. That's what they wanted for breakfast until every crumb was eaten.


Jessica made two more loaves later that afternoon (yes, it's that easy) and took some to her co-workers. I've told her I think she has extra job security because in addition to being good at what she does, she provides them with homemade goodies on a somewhat regular basis.


STRAWBERRY BREAD

1 cup butter, softened
1 ½ cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ½ cups self-rising flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ cup chopped fresh strawberries (dredged in a little flour)

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Add sour cream and vanilla; mix well.

In another bowl, whisk flour and cinnamon; gradually stir into creamed mixture just until moistened. Gently fold in strawberries.

Pour into 2 greased 8x4-in. loaf pans. Bake 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 2 loaves (12 slices each).


You can find the online original recipe here, if you want to make yours with all-purpose flour. It works either way.


I have been away, visiting both daughters and doing some babysitting and decided to leave my computer at home. I am "back in the saddle again" and will try to get caught up on things. If you looked at the Strawberry Ice Cream recipe posted last Thursday and noticed that something wasn't right, you were correct. One of the milks was left off the ingredient list. I was trying out a new phone app for blog posting. It is harder to use than I had hoped. All has been corrected now, so make sure you have the corrected recipe.