Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mimi Camp Muffins

Sour Cream Blueberry Banana Muffins

Here is the muffin recipe that I promised. The one that Little Sister made during Mimi Camp. We chose this recipe because I had all of the ingredients here. No extra trip to the store required. And we chose it because smashing bananas is great fun when you're six!

The texture of these muffins is a little different than other muffins I've made. You can see that the tops are flat, not rounded as you might expect. But the taste? I ate three of them for breakfast two mornings in a row. (They were little, y'all. Don't judge.)

I saw the recipe on online. The pictures from the original source were thin, flat muffins, so it wasn't our mixing that made the difference. It's just how this recipe is supposed to be. Whatever the shape, we were happy with the flavor.

In the process of making these, Little Sister learned she had to wash her hands before she started and after cracking the eggs. She learned about measuring and leveling with the back of a knife. But when we got to the two bowls—one for the banana mixture and one for the flour—she exclaimed, "Oh! We're going to add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients." Pioneer Woman and Trisha Yearwood (her favorite TV cooks) should be proud.


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, use a mixer on low speed to combine butter, sugar, eggs, bananas, sour cream and vanilla.
In another bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda to combine. Gradually add the flour to the banana mixture and mix until combined.
Gently fold in blueberries.
Grease muffin tins, or use paper liners. Spoon batter into cups (about 1/4 cup each) into tins.
Bake at 350 degrees for 17-22 minutes, or until golden brown.

The recipe said it made 24 muffins. We got 22 muffins.

Our batter was almost a liquid instead of a thick batter. I went back and found the online recipe post and asked the author how she measured her flour. I am in the "gently scoop into measuring cup and level." But she said she just scooped it up out of the canister. That would give you a little more flour and a thicker batter. Next time I'll do it that way. And one day I'm measuring one cup of flour both ways and will weigh each cup to see how much difference there is. Yep, I'm a kitchen nerd like that.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mimi Camp Highlights

She had a fishing lesson from Daddy-O and she caught three fish this year.
She baked a pineapple angel food cake all by herself to take to favorite cousins.

She baked and decorated cookies. With LOTS of sprinkles and icing.
She learned how to cut flowers for a table centerpiece. Long stems are the secret.
The cookies and flowers looked so pretty that she decided we should have a party.
Daddy-O was guest of honor at the dinner party.
She painted a mask for his special gift.

We had a girls lunch out one day and stopped by the town fountain to make a wish.
By now she was a expert at cutting flowers.
This time we made vases and delivered them to special friends.
She did a little "basement archeology" to check out the old Happy Meal prizes.
This summer she could use the mixer by herself.
She is a fan of TV cooking shows and has mad kitchen skills for a 6-year-old.
Blueberry Banana Muffins (recipe coming soon)

The photos just are only a few of the things we did. We didn't have much of a formal plan for Mimi Camp this year because of all the coming and going that preceded our week together. This might have worked out even better.

Our cookie baking session evolved into the high point of our camp—a surprise "formal" dinner in the dining room for Daddy-O. (I had only planned to bake cookies.) Tablecloth, fine china, silver tray for the sandwiches, and fresh flowers for a centerpiece. We dressed for dinner and chose Yo-Yo Ma for our music. The menu was ham sandwiches cut in triangles (so they will be fancy,) sliced cucumbers and grapes.

I would have never thought to plan this as an activity. But it was the single best thing of the week. The next morning, Little Sister looked at Daddy-O and told him, "That was the best party last night." She was right. It might have been the best party in the history of parties.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Why This Blog Has Been Quiet

1.  We made a quick weekend trip to the Rocky Mountains for a July 1 wedding. That's two-thirds of the way across the country from here.

2. We hosted a large family annual gathering at the lake for the 4th of July, a little over 24 hours after returning from the wedding.

3. The immediate family stayed at the lake for the rest of the week.

4. Car problems kept Mommy and Baby Girl with us at the farm for a couple of extra days after the lake week.

5. When Mommy headed home, we kept Little Sister at the farm for a week of Mimi Camp.

6. We drove Little Sister back home this weekend.

For the first time in about 2-1/2 weeks, we are home alone. Sitting still for a change. Craft supplies put away. Pink electric car parked in the garage. Toys stashed until the next visit.

Bear with me while I rest up from all the fun we had. I'll be back here soon.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Busy Week - Fun Times

We did it all in one week. It felt like a month. But it was only a week. Jessica and I flew west to attend a wedding in Colorado. I was there less than 48 hours, but it was enough to know that I'd like to go again. And visit at a more leisurely pace.

Outdoor weddings can be tricky but this one was perfect. The weather was clear. And in the Rockies, they don't have to deal with the heat and humidity that is our everyday fare.

Everywhere I looked there was another beautiful vista. I'm so glad that we were able to go. To celebrate the marriage, to spend time with family and to see a little of the landscape that was so different from ours.

And then in the blink of an eye we were back in the deep South where the air was thick and steamy when we stepped off the plane. But we had things to do here. Every July 4th for many years, we have had a big family dinner. I told someone this year that it was just like Thanksgiving, but with BBQ instead of turkey and it was much more casual.

I just read in a decorating magazine about a similar cottage that the owner called "the glue house." He said it was the house where extended family gathered and kept them glued together. I understand what he means. This year it was tempting to skip the family day because of the wedding trip.

But big family gatherings are rare as it is and it was important to me to keep the tradition going. We buy the barbecue and everyone brings the rest of the food anyway, so I wasn't doing lots of cooking. We just needed to set up tables and pull out a few tablecloths.

There were 25 cousins of all ages who came for the day. The little ones played in a wading pool and went on a boat ride. The older ones found a seat in the shade and visited.

And then when the multitude of cousins went home, we stayed on for our vacation. Lots of time for play outside, boating and fishing. Lots of "Aunt Jecca" time for the little girls. They love that she will play with them endlessly. Lots of memory making.

Both little girls got time "at the wheel" as they drove the boat sitting in Daddy-O's lap. After the 4th, there aren't so many boats on the lake so it's wide open for them to steer—under his watchful eye.

We always take at least one night cruise to watch the sun go down. The little girls love to see the birds and squirrels and lightening bugs and cicadas and lizards and frogs that are the real owners of the lake.

Breakfast was on the porch every day. How much fun is that? In fact, all meals are eaten on the porch. The lake cabin was built nearly 60 years ago (it's been in this family for over 50 of those years,) most likely as a small fishing cabin where cooking wasn't much of a consideration for the fishermen. But we now have the whole family here, so we added a big screened porch several years ago and that porch has become our primary summer living space.

One college-aged cousin who was at the lake for the first time on July 4th looked at our antique stove with raised eyebrows and asked if I really cooked on it. Of course, I cook on it. It has served us well for a very long time. And this tiny kitchen is a reminder that it doesn't really take much to produce a meal. No granite countertops. No large island. Not much counter space. (The sink is right beside the coffee pot.) I've learned to be very efficient.

And suddenly, it was time to pack up and head home. Our family week was over. We will be back several times before summer is over, but for shorter stays. Our grandchildren are the fourth generation of this family to enjoy this lake house. Here's hoping that another generation or two will get to enjoy this spot that we love.

Monday, June 26, 2017

It's A Boy!

Yes. It is a boy—but not the baby kind of boy. Our family is getting a new son-in-law. The wedding planning has commenced. Things are busy here. And busy there where they live. So much to be done in a hurry (choosing venue, date, etc) so that the other plans can start.

I'll be popping in and out here as I can. We still have to eat which means I still have to cook. At least some of the time. There are days to be spent at the lake with family. We're not missing that. So don't give me up if I'm not writing as much as usual. I have no particular schedule for posting or for skipping. The blog will just fit naturally into our real life schedule which looks like it's going to be crazy busy for a while. And I'm committed to making sure there is breathing room in the midst of the activity.

So instead of thinking, "She's not posting much," think instead, "She's making space to breathe. Good for her."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

My New Favorite Summer Salad

It's garden season here at the farm. We don't have a large garden like my father-in-law planted here years ago. But Daddy-O does plant enough for us to enjoy fresh salads during the summer. Cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes. And there is always yellow squash.

When those squash plants start to produce, it's crazy. We are overloaded with squash for a couple of weeks or so. And then it's over. Thankfully, not every vegetable is of the "come-and-gone" kind. The cucumbers just come and come and come and come.

This was the very first harvest. The next day, I sent this much more home with a friend. The following day, I took another bag to my sister. I've taken bags and bags of cucumbers to church for the teens at the summer work camp this week. Evidently, they love the cukes-and-onions-in-vinegar-sugar-water. And the friend who got the first bag of extras have taken cucumbers home two more times. We cannot eat up the cucumbers fast enough. But it's fun to share. Last night Daddy-O picked another basket full right before dark.

I have already done the cucumbers-and-onions-in vinegar several times. We love that! It only takes a minute to do. I don't even measure anything anymore. It's good beside a sandwich and we even love it as a snack. I've made microwave pickles.That recipe is so easy I did them on Sunday before we left for church.

And then I found a new-to-us recipe. A lovely, light cucumber salad. We had it as a side dish with roast beef from my freezer stash and mashed potatoes. (The potatoes came from our cousin's garden. He lives just down the road and plants many things we don't. That works well for us!)

This recipe has been around forever. I had everything on hand to give it a try. Glad I did, because it's a keeper. Again, I didn't measure a thing, but I'm giving you an actual "recipe" as a starting place. After I mixed mine, I tasted and adjusted the seasonings. Mine needed a little more salt and dill. Do it that way and you won't have to go find the "recipe" when you want to make this.


2-3 cucumbers, thinly sliced
1/4 Vidalia onion (a sweet white onion,) thinly sliced
1/3 cup sour cream
juice of half a lemon
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh dill
salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix cucumbers and onion in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix remaining ingredients and stir until blended. Pour over cucumbers and stir to combine. Garnish with more dill and serve.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this, I've made this sour cream version two more times. Yum!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

There Has Been Knitting

 Pattern:  Snowmelt, by Curious Handmade
Yarn:  Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light
Needles: size 8

Back in the winter, a big event was happening in the knitting world. Helen Stewart, of Curious Handmade, held a mystery knit-along (MKAL). People from across the globe joined in and knitted this pattern at the same time. They were told in advance that they needed three colors of fingering weight yarn and what size needle to use. That's it. With total trust in the designer (who is one of the best,) folks cast on and knitted diligently as the clues arrived weekly.  Soon after the start date, there were nearly a thousand knitters sharing photos of their progress and cheering each other on. (All of this happens on Ravelry.)

Now, I had qualms about spending that much time knitting over 1,200 yards of yarn in hopes that I would like the end result. What if I didn't? I know, I know. I missed the online camaraderie that was happening and that is fun thing to take part in. I have participated in an MKAL before and it is fun.

But I wanted to wait and see what the pattern actually was. After the mystery was over, I looked at pictures of hundreds of finished shawls. I could see if I liked the shape. I could see how the colors worked together. I looked at shawls in bright colors and subdued colors. I saw high contrast combinations and others that were more like color shifts than stripes.

Then after careful consideration of colors choices, and in a solitary fashion, I made mine. And I am so pleased with it. It's the first shawl I've knitted that is big enough to wrap up in. This was my first half pi shawl. (That means it's a half circle.) What I like about this shape is that it hangs nicely over my shoulders.

 Pattern:  Alexandra's Airplane Scarf, from Purl SoHo
Yarn:  Madelinetosh Tosh Lace
Needles:  size 8

And although this scarf was started months before I began Snowmelt, I finished it a week after I completed the shawl. This scarf was knitted in the round with lace weight yarn (that is a very fine yarn.) "In the round" just means that it's a knitted tube. I just knitted and knitted—no other stitches to think about—forever. Endless round and round and round. Until it was about six feet long.

There are knitting projects, and there are knitting projects. They have different purposes beyond how you wear them The Snowmelt shawl wasn't hard, but it wasn't meant to be a take-along project. With three colors of yarn and charts to follow, it needed to stay home where I could work in peace. It was so much fun to work on the lace pattern, keep up with the charts and enjoy the color play. I loved knitting it.

The Alexandra's Airplane Scarf, on the other hand, was the PERFECT project for traveling. Once I got it started, there was nothing to keep up with or measure. I worked on it while waiting for Little Sister at dance lessons. I knitted while Baby Girl napped. I knitted at the lake. I knitted on the porch. I knitted in the car. The challenge here was working with the lace weight yarn. But after knitting six feet of scarf, that tiny yarn and I are friends.

I splurged on some new blocking tools just in time to make this a little easier to pin out. The grids on the mats let me keep the edges straight without measuring every couple of inches. And I bought a couple of sets of Knit Blockers from Knit Picks. Each one is like putting in 8 pins with one stab.

For the non-knitters, blocking means soaking the knitted item, then pinning it into shape and letting it dry. (Remember the "reshape and lay flat to dry" tag on some of your laundry?) Google "blocking your knits" if you want to know more.

This scarf is wide enough to worn as a wrap on a cool day. And the day I finished it, we had an unseasonably cool day. One chance to wear it outdoors before next fall. It's always cold indoors when the air conditioning is going full blast.

And at six feet long, and because it's extremely light, it can be worn as a scarf. Here, I have the ends pulled through the folded scarf.

I will say that the most intimidating part of knitting this scarf is getting started. When I was about an inch into it, I was thinking it would take forever. It seemed like I knitted and knitted and it didn't grow a bit. But I would work on it. Put it down. Work on it again later. Stuff it back in the bag. And on and on, until I realized I had about two feet of scarf. Then two feet became four feet. And then suddenly (actually, it was six months beginning to end) it was done!

It's a great project if you don't have a deadline. I have a idea I'll start another one of these one day. And maybe in another year or so—no pressure there—I'll have another one!