Monday, July 28

Somewhere in France

Just popping in to say hello and to share what my sunsets have looked like in the past week.

First this:

Then this:

I'll bet you can guess where I am!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen these already.  If you don't, I'd love for you to join me there!

Where have you been watching sunsets lately?

Wednesday, July 16

Old-Fashioned Pan-Fried Okra

"In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime. . . "

Fried okra

To be honest, although that song runs through my head a lot this time of year, summer is not really my favorite season.  I sorta melt in the extreme heat.

One thing I do love about summertime, though, is the abundance of fresh produce.  We're not growing any of our own produce this summer, but a Saturday morning trip to the Farmers' Market yields a great bounty.  One of our favorite summertime veggies?  Okra.  Because FRIED OKRA is hard to beat.

You can get deep-fried okra at lots of restaurants around here, but it's not my favorite.  What I love is old-fashioned pan fried okra, the kind that people in my family have been eating for generations.  And it's so easy to make it yourself!

Besides the okra, here's the most important ingredient:

If you've never bought this product before, you have a treat in store for you.  There are a number of good brands; this is just what I happened to have on hand.  The most important thing is to get corn meal MIX, not just corn meal.  (If you can't find this handy product, you can mix 3/4 cup yellow corn meal with 1/4 cup all-purpose flour.)

Old Fashioned Pan-Fried Okra

1 pound okra, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup yellow corn meal mix
salt and pepper to taste
oil for frying (I use canola)

Wash okra in a colander; drain. You can use fresh okra or frozen okra that's been thawed.

Combine corn meal mix, salt, and pepper in a gallon-size ziptop bag.  Add okra to bag.  Seal and toss to coat each piece thoroughly.

Heat a little oil (approximately 1/4 cup or so) in a skillet over medium-high heat.  For best results, use an iron skillet.  When oil is good and hot, add about one fourth of the okra to the skillet.  Fry, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle with additional salt if needed.

Fry all the okra in small batches, adding a little more oil to skillet if needed.  Be sure the oil is good and hot before adding each new batch of okra.

Serve immediately.

Fried okra

Have you ever made fried okra?  How about fried green tomatoes?  Or fried squash?  What's your favorite garden vegetable?

I'm joining Kim at Savvy Southern Style for Wow Us Wednesday and
Amanda at Serenity Now for Weekend Bloggy Reading.

Monday, July 14

An exciting week

I know a lot of y'all are lovers of all things French, so I should start by saying Happy Bastille Day!

One of our favorite rooms in this home is at the very front of our house, where you see the stone fireplace.  It's my husband's study, a very masculine room.  Here's how it looked last fall:

 If you were to peek into the room today, here's what you'd see.

Take a look at the titles of the books on the ottoman:

This is most of our books about D-Day.  The D-Day books are just part of our collection of books about World War II.  The World War II books are just part of our collection of books about military history.  Yes, we're history nerds.

Lord willing, this week will bring the fulfillment of one of our long-time dreams.  We're going to Normandy!

My husband was a history major in college, and he has wanted to visit Normandy, especially the D-Day landing sites, ever since I've known him.  I was a history minor, so I share his interest.  And our children have inherited our love of history.

So this week the five of us will set off on the trip of our dreams.  We'll be spending a week in Normandy, followed by five days in Paris, all of us together.  It'll be the first big trip we've all made together since 2008.  To say that we're excited is a bit of an understatement!

Have you ever traveled with kids?  Have you ever visited France?  Aside from Paris, we've never really spent any time in France, so we have lots of questions.  Any tips to share?  I'm all ears!

Wednesday, July 9

Safe and sound

I wrote last week that that my oldest son was coming home after spending a year in East Asia.  If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you saw as I progressed through the day that he was traveling.  Thank you so much for those who prayed for his safety!

Here is Will at the airport, along with his dad and brothers.  Will is average height (about 5'8"-5'9"), but he's the only average-height guy in the family.

Will posted this on Instagram that night:

Anxiously awaiting our arrival at home was Snickers, Will's 11-year-old beagle.  Snickers was Will's 12th birthday present, all those years ago.  Although it was very late at night when Will arrived, Snickers greeted him at the door.

Will's brothers had taken good care of Snickers while he was gone, but there's nothing like the bond between a boy and his dog.


What I haven't shared yet, simply because it's been so raw, is how anxious I felt while Will was traveling.  Just a couple of days before Will left Asia, college friends of ours were traveling with their children to a family wedding.  They were involved in a horrific highway accident.  The mom (age 50) and two oldest children (age 22 and 19) were killed instantly; the dad and youngest child are still hospitalized.

My heart is broken at the death of my friend. She was a delightful Christian woman. I've been married 29 years, and I still have a bridal shower gift she made for me. The world is a much poorer place for her absence. But my heart is especially broken as I think of her husband and surviving son. In an instant, their lives were forever altered.

So as Will prepared to travel home from Asia, I found myself worrying much more than usual.  But on the day that he was boarding the plane, I read these words in my daily devotional book:

Jesus says, "You gain confidence through knowing that I am with you--that you face nothing alone.  Anxiety stems from asking the wrong question: 'If such and such happens, can I handle it?'  The true question is not whether you can cope with whatever happens, but whether you and I together can handle anything that occurs.  It is this you-and-I-together factor that gives you confidence to face the day cheerfully" (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, June 29 entry).

Obviously Will made it home safely.  I must say that I was all the more thankful for having not taken his safe travel for granted. 

Right now I'm clinging to the knowledge that the Lord is with my friend and his son, that the "you-and-I-together factor" that Jesus promises will sustain them in a time of unspeakable grief.  Would you join me in praying for them?

And then you may want to thank God for your loved ones--and give them an extra hug.

I'm joining:
Thought-Provoking Thursday at 3-D Lessons for Life 
Thoughtful Thursday at Eat Sleep Be
Fellowship Friday at Christian Mommy Blogger
Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now

Friday, July 4

Happy Independence Day

Can you believe it's already July 4?

One of my favorite stories about 4th of July celebrations comes from Little Town on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder's book about the small town of DeSmet, South Dakota.  Having survived the long, harsh winter, the townspeople are thrilled to celebrate the anniversary of their country's independence.  Although they can't afford a grand spectacle, the townspeople gather for a celebration which includes the reading of the Declaration of Independence. 

When I first read this book many years ago, I was amazed at the idea that the Declaration of Independence would be read aloud at a 4th of July celebration.  Even more amazing, though, was the next statement:  "Laura and Carrie knew the Declaration by heart, of course."

What?  Can you imagine?  So beloved was this document that schoolchildren once learned it by heart. 

"Laura and Carrie knew the Declaration by heart, of course, but it gave them a solemn, glorious feeling to hear the words.  They took hold of hands and stood listening in the solemnly listening crowd.  The Stars and Stripes were fluttering bright against the thin, clear blue overhead, and their minds were saying the words before their ears heard them."
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. . .
When the Declaration has been read,  Pa Ingalls leads the townspeople in singing "America," the relatively new song set to the old tune of "God Save the King":

Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!

After hearing the Declaration of Independence read aloud and singing that song, Laura is struck by an amazing thought. 

"The crowd was scattering away then, but Laura stood stock still.  Suddenly she had a completely new thought.  The Declaration and the song came together in her mind, and she thought: God is America's king.

"She thought: Americans won't obey any king on earth.  Americans are free.  That means they have to obey their own consciences.  No king bosses Pa; he has to boss himself.  Why (she thought), when I am a little older, Pa and Ma will stop telling me what to do, and there isn't anyone else who has a right to give me orders.  I will have to make myself be good.

"Her whole mind seemed to be lighted up by that thought.  This is what it means to be free.  It means, you have to be good.  "Our father's God, author of liberty--"  The laws of Nature and of Nature's God endow you with a right to life and liberty.  Then you have to keep the laws of God, for God's law is the only thing gives you a right to be free."  (Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder,  New York: HarperCollins, 1969, p. 76.)

Oh, how I wish that more of us could understand what Laura understood that day!

Happy Independence Day to you!