The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6 nasb

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Honey Cinnamon Butter

Yum.  Just yum.  That's all I have to say about this delicious butter.  I modified this from the original recipe and it is amazing.  A sweet young lady friend (one of my borrowed daughters) paired this with Irish soda bread, and that was a perfect combination.  I took it a step further and toasted some slices of the soda bread, and that was even more amazing.

Honey-cinnamon butter on toasted Irish soda bread.

The only downside of this recipe is that you'll have the urge to slather it on.  As in, Have a little bread with your honey-cinnamon butter!  Yeah, that happens.  Just look at this, below.  I actually ate this.  And I may have added some more butter as I was eating it.

Honey-Cinnamon Butter
Makes a little over a cup.

2 sticks butter, brought to room temperature
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon (or 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon pie spice!)

Using your mixer of choice--I use a hand-held mixer since this is a small batch and easily whippable--whip all ingredients together until fluffy.  Spread on bread or tortillas.  Make sure you lick the beaters.  Yeah, it's butter, but oh well.  Waste not, want not!

Back to life,

Visit my photography blog
Visit my photography website

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tartar Sauce

I have never bought tartar sauce.  I've never eaten it on fish when I've had fish at home.  Take me out to a restaurant, though, and I go all bug-eyed with the tartar sauce on my fish.  Until--I ate out recently with Fernando at a new-to-me restaurant, and the tartar sauce was, well, meh.  Not real tartar sauce by any stretch of the imagination.  That's when my brain kicked into recipe mode and I decided I would make it better, and healthier, at home.

I used this recipe as a guide, fiddling with the onion and eventually cutting the entire thing in half, because this is best used fairly quickly, and I'd rather not let it sit in the fridge for several weeks waiting on the next fish-for-dinner night.  (It's expensive to feed five men fish, since I don't have multiplying powers or anything.)

I also used my home-fermented pickles in this recipe, and it about killed me to use a whole cup of them.  I felt so much better using half a cup of my pickles, though, which is the other part of the reason I halved the recipe.  I guess I'll be fermenting more pickles more often!

Here is the recipe.

Tartar Sauce
Makes about a cup.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely chopped dill pickles
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion (or about 1/8 teaspoon onion powder)
1 1/2 teaspoons dill (I used dried, but fresh would be amazing!)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cane juice crystals (or sugar)
freshly ground black pepper to taste (4-5 cranks of your pepper mill)

Mix everything up in a small bowl.  Bam!

Store leftovers in a glass jar in the fridge.  Use within a couple of weeks, but should last several if needed; stir before using.

NOTE:  I like to blend it for a few seconds with my stick/immersion blender.  It helps blend in the pickles a little more and distribute the flavor.  It's still a little chunky, and oh so good on whatever you put tartar sauce on.  Betcha it'd be good on potatoes--french fries, baked wedges...!!

Back to life,

Visit my photography blog
Visit my photography website

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Garden God Provided

With me working full-time for the past few weeks, I didn't think I'd have a veggie garden this year.  But God thought differently!

The first ray of hope for plants in my back yard raised beds came in the form of an email from The Growing Place.  Their Aurora location was giving away compost, for free, one day only, the very next day.  I hadn't started working yet, but compost was an expense lifted off our shoulders, and Fernando was game to shovel the back of the Suburban for me the next morning.  In fact, after we got home and I left again to spend the day with Mom, he went back for a second load!  (I love my man!)

Then, on May 14, a Saturday and the only morning I had free (I had to go in to work that afternoon), I decided I could go and purchase plants.  Jake was ready to go with me and help carry, load, and unload.  I would purchase fewer this year, I decided.  Then I received an email--a friend of my neighbor Lorraine was offering me tomato plants--she would drop them off that morning!  Even more money saved!

First, though, I opened my three-ring Garden binder.  I had to plan the gardens--always a tricky task depending on what I wanted to plant and where I was in rotating those plants.  I frowned when I opened it to my blank planner.  There was already a planned-out garden with 2016 written in the square for the year.  I must've goofed last year and wrote the wrong year in.  But then I realized I had already planned this year's garden last year, when I started rotating my garlic beds with the rest of the garden.  It's the first year I've ever planned my garden a season in advance, and it couldn't have come at a better time, when I had no time!

I purchased plants and seeds, came home, set the plants inside (our last frost was that evening), and went to work.  Meanwhile, Jake spent some time digging up weeds for me.

Sunday afternoon was Planting Day.

The guys all pitched in to get the compost worked in to the soil in the open beds.

Danny took some time to attack the yucky prickle plants growing just outside the garden near the pool deck.

With the afternoon ticking away, I got the tomato plants planted, along with the herbs I purchased.  The seeds would have to wait until Monday.

Danny showing Joe how to water the tomato plants.

The garden is coming along!

The guys hosed off the tarp/cover that had been protecting the compost, and Thomas laid it out to dry.

Jake got innovative in getting the dirt off the table.

Finally, on Monday, Joe helped me get the seeds--green beans, peas (late, oh well), and carrots--into their respective beds.  We staked what needed to be staked, and the garden was complete.  Wow.

Back on Sunday, I bribed the guys into posing for a picture.  Totally bribed, no guilt about doing that, with Andy's frozen custard.  I partook as well, so it really wasn't much of a bribe.  But it got Joe back outside and standing with his brothers, even smiling for me!

The Fearsome Foursome!

And through free compost and tomato plants, a hardworking and generous husband, thoughtful neighbors, and hardworking sons, God provided my garden.

Back to life,

Visit my photography blog
Visit my photography website

Saturday, May 21, 2016

I Live Soft

I got a job.

Life took a distinct left turn right turn (I'm not sure which!) recently.  Either direction, it definitely took a turn, and I followed where the Lord led.  I wasn't looking for a job; it wasn't even on my radar.  But within a few days, this is where the Lord led me, and I followed Him through the door once more.

Let's back up to Friday, April 22, when, on a whim, I decided to roll out of bed before the crack of dawn to stand in a line for four hours because my sister-at-heart Lori told me that her store was having a grand opening.  (Her store meaning she was recently hired there.)  Danny rode with me in the car at 5:45am downtown Naperville, since I understood that women started lining up as early as 6:00am, and Danny needed to catch the 7:30 train, and he was already up and ready to go, and he could walk to the station from the store where I waited in line.

When we pulled up to the store, one lone woman was sitting on the bench just outside the store, doing some needlework.  I wondered, Is this the right day?  Surely this can't be the beginning of the line...  But it was.  I was #2 in line--me, who never stood in a line for concert tickets, black Friday sales, or store openings.  Especially not a women's clothing (fashion, beauty, furnishings) store.  Me, who shops for clothing maybe three times a year.  But there I was.

I got to know Jennae, the needlework lady and #1 in line--we talked for two hours before others started showing up!  She took the picture of me above, so I had proof I did this crazy thing.

Closer to the grand opening time of 10:00, Lori G., the store's district manager, came along to chat with us and take our picture together.  She mentioned to us that they were also opening a store in Orland Park in May, and we should apply for a job there.  We chatted for a bit, then she left to slip inside the store to help get everything ready for the doors to open--there would be champagne and macaroons, and a goody bag with over $200 of products waiting for us.

Soon, the doors opened, I went in, and experienced the world that is Soft Surroundings.  Beautiful store, friendly sales associates, yummy macaroons (flown in from New York!) and champagne...  Their clothing was soft and flowing, comfortable, and I actually stood in line for 45 minutes to try on a few items, then stood in line another 45 minutes to purchase my favorites.  Whoa--departure from my normal, that's for sure!  I had a fun, fun time.

Forward a few days, to April 24 and a Sunday night.  I was mulling over what that district manager said about Orland Park.  It was a bit of a drive--35 to 45 minutes, I supposed, depending on traffic--and not a direction and town I was at all familiar with.  I went over to the website and scrolled to find Careers at the bottom.  Curious, I clicked through until I saw it--Part-Time Sales Associate, Orland Park.  More on a whim than anything, I started filling out the application.  I actually had a resume to upload (with a few quick updates) since I had looked (unsuccessfully) for a job a few years ago.  Before submitting things, I talked to Fernando again about this possibility.  (Rest assured, I didn't just do this then mention it to him!)  He was so positive about it, and enthusiastically told me to go for it.  A click later, I just prayed--Lord, You're going to have to either open doors wide that no one can shut, or slam them tight to make it clear to me.

The next morning, I got an email from my Lori (two Lori's in this story, how fun!).  She had chatted with Deanna, the Orland store manager, during Lori's work shift, and told her all about me.  She had also chatted with Lori G., and then assured me that the job was mine and I should apply.  I emailed her right back with a simple reply--So, I submitted the application last night.  Not an hour later, my phone rang and Deanna asked if I could come in for an interview, which I did the next day (Tuesday).

I was hired.  The details, the flexibility, Deanna herself--everything was right.  I still wasn't sure I could do it, but the door was pretty wide open.

I worked full-time for two weeks, from orientation, to Truck Day (everything from fixtures to furniture, clothing and beauty, books and fragrances, rugs and tables comes off the truck and into the store), store set-up, "soft" opening, then our grand opening last Friday (the 13th!!). 

Soft Surroundings, Orland Park -- Grand Opening!

And this week, I worked part-time as promised, enough hours to learn how to ring customers, help them find outfits, answer questions (and the dreaded phone!), re-stock merchandise, close the store, and open it in the morning.  It's exciting--sometimes scary, really--to learn all things retail.  But women are women, and we have many things in common, so when customers come inside to browse or shop, it's easy to make them feel comfortable, to help them with whatever they need.

A month ago, I never envisioned this (I'm glad I don't know the future!).  I still have my photography business, and it's going great!  But, life took a turn, and here I am. 

I have a job!

Back to life,

Visit my photography blog
Visit my photography website

Friday, May 20, 2016

Red Rover, Red Rachel

A week ago, Fernando drove home in Arctek Red.  I let her sit in our driveway for a few days, letting her get acclimated to our suburban home and our chilly but beautiful Chicago spring weather, before I went out to greet her and introduce myself.

Before I go any further, I do want to give you a caveat:  I am whimsical.  Although I treat these satellite trucks as though they have personalities (which they do, believe me--why do so many people name their cars, right?), and although my words here may sound "spiritual," and my actions like a spiritual exercise, they are not.  It is pure whimsy on my part.  My faith is in God, and it rests solidly there.  I simply enjoy being quirky as the Lord brings these trucks into our lives--for a blessing, both for us and for Arctek.  That's said, I'll type on now...

So far, I've named these trucks after girls--Penelope (Purple), Sandy (Cyan).  Before I went outside to get to know this new truck, I thought it might be a guy; after all, Fernando did tell me that the odometer is 500,000+ miles and it seemed to me this truck was a tough fighter (not that girls aren't, but it's what I thought).  So this beauty has definitely seen some road and a lot of life.  As I got to know her, though, I realized that she was classy and beautiful, and needed a name to reflect that.  Red Rover, although playful, wouldn't do.

The blue painted swoosh of her logo was peeling, hinting at her age.  That reminded me of my own self, even though I feel 23 at heart!  Fernando says I'm a Jaguar convertible--classy and playful, sleek and beautiful and fun.  I can definitely relate to this beauty of a vehicle.

I walked around this truck, putting my hand on her side every now and then and thanking the Lord for her presence in our driveway.  I thanked the Lord for a new path, the opportunity to get to know this truck whether or not I get to drive her (Fernando says she gets interesting between 50-60mph--a shake, a shimmy, then she smooths out).

This isn't home for her, obviously, but I hope she'll enjoy her time with us.  Whether I get to meet all of Arctek's trucks or not, I'm grateful to have this one, Red, in our driveway.  I'm thankful she came to visit, and however long she's here, I'll think of Him, His faithfulness, His hope borne in my heart, His future already planned for me.

By the end of our meet and greet, I knew her name was Rachel.  She's a classic beauty, as I said, but with age comes experience and wisdom from miles traveled, things experienced, and sights seen.

There's a newness with Rachel's presence, and I feel new life seeping into my bones, my heart, my being.  I feel the upbeat of the Spirit, bringing a lilt to my heart's music and a sparkle to my mind.  It's appropriate that it's spring outside, with the newness of color, green grass and flowers, and He has brought spring to my heart.  Life won't suddenly become all smiles and roses, of course, but I'm definitely going to enjoy this newness, where everything seems to come alive.

Back to life,

Visit my photography blog
Visit my photography website

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Biochemist, by Degree

Sunday, May 10.

Danny graduated today.  I couldn't have asked for a better Mother's Day gift.

He was allowed four tickets to the ceremony, so Fernando (who just made it home the night before in Arctek Purple--read the back story here) and I, along with my dad and mom, made the trip downtown Chicago with Danny.

Since seating was general admission, we texted Danny our location as soon as we were seated, and we got a good look at him--and he at us!

Cheryl Underwood--host of CBS' The Talk--was the commencement speaker.

Mortarboards sported a variety of messages, including this humorous one...

Danny isn't sure if he'll graduate magna cum laude or cum laude, but the school gave him the bronze tassel for cum laude.  He'll know in a few weeks what his final grade is, and that'll be the determination.

My baby walking the stage!

Afterwards, Harrison Street was closed as thousands of graduates and parents flooded the area.  I held up my camera and shot to get the below image of the chaos.

We finally found Danny, then took the standard posed shots.  :)

Well, Danny, you did it.  You worked your tail off, knuckled down, and finished the task before you.  Dad and I are so blessed to be your parents, and are so thankful the Lord decided to bless us with you.

You are an amazing young man!

Back to life,

Visit my photography blog
Visit my photography website

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hello, Goodbye, Hello!

Change.  No one likes it, least of all me.  And, the older I get, the less I like it.  But I'm here, and things are changing, and I have to walk the road.  However, as a popular Christian song lyric says, There's not a place where I'll go where You've not already stood.  For now, on to last week's story.

Within three days I got a job; it was a whirlwind thing, almost a whim, when I filled out the application, and then I found out my sister-at-heart had sung my praises to the store manager, and 24 hours later I was interviewed and hired.  It's part-time, but for these first few weeks until the store's grand opening (Friday the 13th!), I find myself a full-time employee.  Exhaustion doesn't describe it, but since I'm blogging tonight about it, you know His strength is in me!

During the same time, I found another truck in my driveway...Arctek Cyan.

Hello, Cyan!

The current driver B. drove it right to our home so Fernando could work on an amplifier that was having some issues.  It was a straightforward fix, and for a day or so we hosted this sister truck in our driveway.

These trucks represent hope to me; they represent God's work in our lives, and personally in my own heart--a simple, quiet message that He is still in control, that although I'm standing on new ground, He isn't.  He walked before me.  He stood before me, in this very spot, at this very moment.  I am not alone.  Because of that, I can trust Him.

Cyan stayed with us just overnight, then B. drove her away.  A few days later, Fernando flew to North Carolina to pick up Purple, then drove her home for another overnight stay--just in time to celebrate Danny's college graduation (post coming shortly!).  Then, Fernando drove Purple home to Minnesota, met up with Cyan and Red, and now...

Red is here, this very minute since Fernando, having driven straight from the Minnesota meet-up, literally just walked through the door.  Now, I haven't met Red yet (it is after 10:00 p.m., after all), but I'm sure Red is a guy.  So, he's out in my driveway, and I'll write more about him in a few days.  They don't look very different, these trucks, except maybe for the types of antenna on top.  But, silly or not, they each give me a little piece of God's heart of compassion and care for me.

For now, I'm focused on trusting in Him, with the strength He gives me.  Though I may not receive the answers when I ask, though I may not see the path I feel I need to see, I will trust Him.

Here's the song that has been a focus to my week so far, and the source of the lyrics I quoted above.  This is my prayer this week.

Back to life,

Visit my photography blog
Visit my photography website