Monday, June 30, 2014

Coming home


Last August, my oldest son left home.

Even though I was so proud of him and so glad he was going, one of the hardest things I've ever done was to send Will off to the foreign mission field.  Jack snapped this photo of me and Will at the airport just before Will left.  I'm valiantly holding back the tears. 


Will has been serving in East Asia for many months.  I was privileged to visit him in Asia this March.



But his father and brothers haven't seen him since August 2013.



I took this photo of Jack taking pictures of all three boys last August.  What a blessed woman I am to have four wonderful men to love and care for!



Lots of red hair in one family, huh?



Tonight, Lord willing, Will will be home.  We're so excited we can hardly stand it.

Would you join me in praying for his safe travel? 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Deep Dish Key Lime Pie


Last week my son Preston turned 21.  It was hard for me to adjust last year to his no longer being a teenager, but I'd had a year to adjust to the idea of his being a full-fledged adult, so I was ready to celebrate with him!

Adult or not, he's still my boy.  And I still get the honor of making whatever kind of birthday cake his heart desires.  This year, it wasn't a cake he was craving; it was pie.  Key lime pie.

We don't live anywhere near the Florida keys, and good Key limes are hard to find around here.  So technically this is a Persian lime pie, but that doesn't sound nearly so good, does it?

I started looking for Key lime pie recipes, but I couldn't find one that quite delivered what I was wanting.  So I experimented and came up with my own.  If I really can't call it Key lime pie, I know what I'd call it instead: Sublime Lime Pie.  Because that's what it was.


The crust is a simple graham cracker crust.  I've used this recipe for many years, and I think it's just the right proportion of crumbs to sugar and butter.

You'll need 1 1/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs.  I make my own by crushing a sleeve of graham cracker sheets in my food processor.  You could crumble the crackers by hand by placing them in a ziptop bag and crushing them with a rolling pin or mallet.  One sleeve of graham crackers should yield a little more than you need.  You can also buy graham cracker crumbs.  But I would not recommend buying a pre-made graham cracker crust.

Melt 1/3 cup (5 1/3 Tablespoons) of butter (I do this in the microwave).  Add 1/4 cup sugar and the cracker crumbs.  Mix well.

Dump the crumb mixture into a deep-dish pie pan; form into a crust with your fingers, and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Set aside.


The filling is special mostly because there's a lot of it.  To fill a deep-dish pie crust, I made double the amount of filling I'd otherwise use.  (Note: I had a tiny bit of filling that wouldn't fit in my deep dish pan without running over.  If I'd known to expect some extra filling, I might have made a few tiny pies by making some extra crusts in muffin tins.)

The filling takes a few minutes to make, but it's quite simple.  First, you need some fresh lime zest.  This recipe requires a heaping tablespoon of zest, which was the zest of three of my limes.  I don't have a zester; I just use a microplane grater and it works just fine.  A tip: zest lightly, getting just the top layer of skin from limes that you've washed and dried thoroughly.

Next, you need fresh lime juice.  Bonus: the zested limes are so easy to squeeze!  No bottled variety of juice will suffice for this recipe, in my opinion.  Fresh limes are required, and you'll need several: enough to yield a cup of juice.  I was grateful for the juicer attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer.


Then you'll need just the yolks of four eggs.  Set the whites aside for another use; you won't need them for this pie.

And last is the magic ingredient: sweetened condensed milk.  TWO cans.  That's the real "key" to this Key Lime Pie.

After you've mixed the ingredients, you simply bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, just long enough for the custard to set up.  Then you cool the pie completely before serving, and it dishes up beautifully.  It's extra-good with fresh whipped cream on top:


After Preston had blown out the candles on his birthday cake pie, imagine my delight when Jack said, "I think this may be the best pie you've ever made."  This recipe is a keeper!

Here it is:


Sublime Key Lime Pie
(Deep Dish Key Lime Pie)

Crust
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs 
1/3 cup (5 1/3 Tablespoons) butter
1/4 cup sugar

Melt butter.  Mix cracker crumbs and sugar into melted butter.  Press crumb mixture into deep dish pie pan. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cool.

Filling
1 heaping Tablespoon lime zest
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
4 egg yolks
2 cans sweetened condensed milk

Beat together lime juice, egg yolks, and lime zest.  Stir in sweetened condensed milk.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  Pour into prepared crust.  (Depending on the size of your pain, you may have a bit of filling mixture left over.)  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.  Chill well before serving.


Enjoy!

I'm joining these wonderful parties:
Amaze Me Monday at Dwellings
Inspire Me Monday at Sand and Sisal
The Scoop at Stone Gable and Worthing Court
Inspire Me Tuesday at A Stroll Thru Life
Tutorials and Tips at Home Stories A to Z
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style 
Sunday Pinterest Party at Makely Home

Friday, June 20, 2014

The purpose of my life


It's been one of those where-did-I-put-my-Superwoman-cape? kind of weeks.

You know the kind, don't you?  The kind with special occasions to mark and special preparations to make and special measures to take.  The kind that starts with good and wholesome desires but that can all too easily leave me feeling as though I need to be locked up in a special kind of room--the kind with padded walls.

But something important happened to me this week.  By the grace of God, in the middle of one of the busiest days, a friend asked how I was doing, and I answered honestly: "Frantic."  My friend pressed for details, and I shared them: in addition to the normal activities and responsibilities of the week, my son was turning 21, I was hosting a large dinner party for some important business associates of my husband's, I was preparing for an important Board meeting, and I was getting ready to be away from home for a week.  With a haircut and a dentist's appointment thrown in for good measure, I had way too many things to do and not enough time to do them, at least not the way I wanted to do them.

My friend prayed for me, and I felt the stress of my busyness melt away as I remembered the truth: that the reason I was doing all these things was to bless people, not to impress them.


There was no need to be frantic.  Yes, I had a lot to do.  And yes, I wanted to do a good job.  But the purpose of my doing all these things was to be a blessing to people, and my being frantic would not be a blessing to anyone, including me.

So I made some adjustments--a few to my task list, and a lot to my attitude. The centerpiece for the dinner table, for instance: I simply placed some hydrangeas in a crystal bowl and lit a few candles.  It was simple and beautiful.  I cried a little, and I laughed a lot.  I asked for help, both from God and from people.

In short, I left the business of impressing people up to God, and I just tried to bless them. 



And my week with too much to do and not enough time to do it turned into a week of truth and goodness and beauty and--dare I say it?--fun!

How about you?  Do you ever get overwhelmed with your to-do list?  Can I pray for you?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Simple and delicious summertime desserts


We love to have folks over in the summertime. There's just something about not having the pressure of the school year that lends itself to hospitality, don't you think?

Here in North Carolina it can be so hot that I often avoid having the oven going for long periods, but I still like to have a killer dessert to serve.  Here are three of my summertime favorites!

 

Lemonade pie.  This one does require a few minutes of oven time if you like a homemade crust (I do!),  but the rest of the magic happens in the refrigerator.  This is one of our family's perennial favorites and always a hit with guests.



Lemonade Pie

Crust
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (you can buy crumbs or crush 15 graham crackers)
1 stick butter
1/3 cup sugar
Filling
8 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed slightly
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
6 oz. frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed

Directions
Melt butter.  Mix cracker crumbs and sugar into melted butter.  Press crumb mixture into pie pan. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cool.
Combine filling ingredients; mix well.  Add a little food coloring if desired.  Pour into prepared pie shell.  Refrigerate until serving.  The longer it cools, the better, so this is a great make-ahead dessert.

Oreo Cream Delight.  I've been making this one since I was in college many years ago.  It's better than any cookies and cream ice cream you can buy--I guarantee it! 



Oreo Cream Delight

Ingredients
1 carton (1/2 gallon or similar) of  reduced-fat vanilla ice cream
8 oz. container Cool Whip
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package chocolate sandwich cookies

Directions
Crush cookies.  (I use a zip-top plastic bag and a rolling pin to do this; be sure to leave some good-sized chunks of cookie.)  Thaw Cool Whip and soften ice cream slightly.  Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Spread in pan and freeze. Cut into squares to serve.


Peanut Butter Ice Cream Delight.  This is a variation of the Oreo recipe, and honestly it might be my favorite!  My son and I created this one lazy summer day, and it's been a favorite ever since.



Peanut Butter Ice Cream Delight

Ingredients
1 package (16 oz.) peanut butter sandwich cookies
1 package (8 oz.) Cool Whip
1 carton (1/2 gallon or similar) reduced-fat vanilla ice cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
creamy peanut butter

Directions
Crush peanut butter sandwich cookies. (We use a zip-top bag and a rolling pin to do this.) Soften Cool Whip and ice cream slightly, just enough so that they're stirrable. Place Cool Whip and ice cream in a large mixer bowl. Add vanilla and mix thoroughly. Stir in peanut butter to taste: we used three heaping tablespoons. Mix in crushed cookies. Spoon into serving dish and freeze until hard enough to scoop.

These recipes are fool-proof and delicious and perfect for hot summer days!

Do you have any favorite summer desserts?  Please share!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Some Thoughts on Flag Day



Happy Flag Day!

June 14, 1777 was the day that the Stars and Stripes were adopted as the flag of the U.S.  More than 100 years later, many Americans began celebrating the birthday of the flag. Flag Day was officially established by a proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916.  On August 3, 1949, an Act of Congress signed by President Harry Truman designated June 14 as Flag Day.



Of course, the United States of America is a nation with many faults, like every other nation.  But I would argue that, in the quest for governance that provides its citizens with the greatest benefits, the "American experiment" of government begun on these shores in 1776 and preserved at great cost over the years is the most successful the world has yet seen.  Perfect?  No, not by any means.  But important and worth celebrating.

I imagine that citizens of every great nation feel a real pride in their citizenship and salute their flags with gratitude.  Today I do the same.  Although I know that this world is not my home, I am grateful that I have the privilege of living in the United States of America, and today I proudly display my flag.

On this day particularly, I like to remember the verses to Francis Scott Key's wonderful poem that now provides the lyrics to our national anthem.

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

What country are you from?  Do you display your country's flag?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Evolution of a barstool


The barstools in my kitchen are oldies but goodies--and they've gone through quite an evolution since I've owned them!  Here's how they look today:


I laughed to myself recently when I read that a blogger got rid of her barstools with backs because her kids were big enough now that they no longer needed the backs on the stools.  I have exactly the opposite situation in my house: my family members are so big that they DO need the backs on the stools!

Seriously, three of the five people who live in this house are over six and a half feet tall.  Think I'm kidding?  Here's a photo of my guys:


For perspective, you should know that the shortest fellow in this photo is 5'9", which is the average height for an American male.  You can see for yourself how "average height" looks in my family.

Anyway, for people this big, a low-profile barstool with no back is just not comfortable.  And I want my kitchen to be a comfortable place in every way.

I found plain Jane barstools at TJMaxx several years ago.  The seats were covered with a flimsy canvas, but I immediately re-covered those with an upholstery-weight fabric and all was well.  Here's how my kitchen looked back in 2009.


Then I decided to emphasize the black in the granite of my kitchen.  I made a faux Roman shade with a black-background fabric, and I transformed the barstools with some spray paint and fabric.


Here's how the kitchen looked then (complete with Legos on the bar):



This spring I've decided to embrace a lighter, brighter look in my kitchen.  I'm planning to do a full reveal of my "new" kitchen next week, and I'm looking forward to sharing all the details with you.  One of the first things I knew I needed to change was the barstools.  I loved the black, but that wasn't a light, bright look.

After I painted the walls and transformed my kitchen island, I decided that my faux Roman shade made from a tablecloth worked well in the new space.  But what fabric to use on the barstools?  After lots of searching, I found the answer at Online Fabric Store: a Premier Prints fabric called "Ozbourne Village."

The best part?  It cost me only $7.45 per yard!  Mind you, it's not an upholstery weight fabric, but so far it's holding up just fine.  I sprayed the seats liberally with Scotch Guard before installing them.  I'm so pleased with how they turned out!


If you've never recovered a chair or stool, I encourage you to try it.  It's the simplest form of re-upholstering.  All you do is flip the piece upside down, unscrew the seat, use a staple gun to attach a new piece of fabric right over the old fabric, and screw the finished seat back in place.  Really, the only tricky parts of this kind of job are pulling the fabric really taut and easing your way around the corners.  Anyone with a staple gun can do it!

As for the wooden part of the stools, I toyed with the idea of refinishing the stools with chalk paint, but decided that all in all spray paint is still my favorite method of painting furniture.  The stools are painted with Rustoleum's "Ivory Silk."  After painting them, I distressed them lightly--so lightly that you can't really see the distressing in the room photos, but here's a close-up:


Why distress them?  Well, I like the look of distressed furniture, to start with.  But more than that, I know that these stools will get a lot of use.  The painted finish is bound to get nicked and scratched.  With a distressed finish, nicks and scratches just add to the charm!

Here's a look at my barstools as they've looked over the years:


And since they're still just as sturdy as they were the day I purchased them, the current look may not be their last!

What do you think of their latest iteration?  Does your furniture evolve over time?

Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day 70th anniversary


Today is the 70th anniversary of the Allied landing in Normandy--the beginning of the end of the horrors of the Nazi occupation of Europe.


War is terrible.  But sometimes there is no choice but to undertake any means necessary to battle a great evil.  The fight against the atrocities of the Axis powers was such a time, I think.

Here is General Eisenhower's message to the members of the Allied Expeditionary Force.  If you've never read it, you should.  If you've read it before, I know you'll appreciate reading it again.
You are about to embark on the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.  The eyes of the world are upon you.  The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.  In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one.  Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened.  He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944!  Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41.  The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man.  Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground.  Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of fighting men.  The tide has turned!  The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle.  We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good Luck!  And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
As I reflect upon the freedoms that we enjoy, I am grateful beyond measure for the many men and women who sacrificed so greatly 70 years ago.


 

I am thankful that these good men and women would not do nothing.

 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Summer home tour 2014


I'm so glad you're here!  Today I'm thrilled to participating in the Elements of Summer tour.  The Grace at Home link party will return next Thursday; for today, welcome to my home!

The sun is shining, the flag is flying, and I'm so glad to welcome you.

Early summer is one of my favorite times for a party--and one of the best things about a party is having the house all cleaned up and ready for guests, don't you think?  I took advantage of my clean house and snapped some photos to share with y'all.

First stop is the front porch, which is one of my favorite places in the house.  We recently installed new ceiling fans out here, and it's so comfortable I could sit here all day.



A number of people have asked me about the floor plan of our house.  I don't have a good floor plan, but here's a rough sketch that will give you an idea of our space.  Our house is built on a hill, so we have two stories in the front and three stories in the back.




Now come on in and I'll show you around.  As you can see from the floor plan and this photo, our foyer is quite a hub.  Up those stairs are three bedrooms and two baths.  Straight ahead is the living room; to the right is the dining room; to the left is a hall that leads to the powder room and a master suite.  With all the traffic that goes through the foyer, I keep the decor here really simple.  The walls are painted Sherwin Williams "Buckram Binding," which is a nice creamy neutral.


One of my favorite things in the foyer is the Waterlogue portrait of the house I created a few months ago.


 Here's a glimpse of it from the dining room:


My husband's library is just to the left of the front stairs.  The decor in this room is very traditional, with the cowhide ottoman providing a nice playful touch.


Jack is a military history buff.  The reading materials out on the ottoman right now are all about D-Day.  This week is the 70th anniversary of  the invasion, you know.

Over Jack's desk is a vintage war bond poster.  And on his desk is the 50th birthday gift the boys and I gave to Jack: a World War II Norden bombsight  We're such lovers of history.


Also on the main floor is our master bedroom.  I'm so grateful for this feature of our house.  Right now we use all levels of this house, but after our kids have left home Jack and I could live on just this level if we ever needed to.

Here's a look into our bedroom.  I like a dark, cool bedroom, which is what we have with the walls painted Sherwin Williams "Mystery Green":



Now to the living room, which we've been re-doing over the past year.  It's still not completely finished, but we're enjoying its new look.



The wall color in this room is Benjamin Moore's Fieldstone, a greenish grey.  It's a wonderful backdrop for this traditional but comfortable room.



For years I had a gallery wall of crosses in the living room.  Lots of people have asked what I've done with all my crosses.  For now, most of them are packed away, but I chose a few of my favorites to display on this little wall:



As you can see, the living room leads to the kitchen, which is also undergoing some changes.  I've been wanting to create a lighter, brighter "farmhouse" look in this room, and I'm almost finished.  I hope to share a full reveal of the updated kitchen in the next couple of weeks, but for now here's a peek.

Looking toward the workspace, including the newly painted island:



Looking from the workspace toward the eating area.  This is a big room, and I love it when it's full of family and friends.  We've fed a lot of people around that big table!



The breakfast area leads out to the screened porch.  As I said, our house is three stories in the back, so the screened porch is high off the ground.  One of my favorite things about our neighborhood is all the trees; this room makes the most of that feature.


Although the porch isn't large, it's big enough for an eating table and a small sitting area.


Thanks so much for joining me for a look around my home!  Here's to Summer 2014!


I'm joining Kim at Savvy Southern Style for Wow Us Wednesday.

I'm so proud to be a part of the Elements of Summer event!


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There are lots of wonderful blogs featured in the Elements of Summer tour.  You can visit them all!