When we moved to League City, south of Houston, in 2007, we planted a church. It was just a little different from most churches where we had served in the past.
But, it was a good different.
We tried to take the good from the past and chuck the ineffective/not-so-great, and planted a church, designed on the church in Acts, in the Bible.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
Not every idea worked perfectly, and our church, which is still in existence, even though we had to move, is still trying to get it right. (Aren’t most churches trying to get it right? We are a group of flawed humans, after all.)
But, through all of it, we felt (and still feel) God’s hand of favor was and is upon that little church.
One of the things we did a little different was to have weekly local neighborhood gatherings. (A couple different families would host in their own neighborhoods, getting to know their neighbors.)
There was ALWAYS food involved!
(And, you know how I love me some food!)
Long story, short, we would meet at our house, or at our neighbor’s house, bring a pot-luck meal, and while eating, we would share our lives. The highs and lows of the week. The kids were included in the conversation, as well. It was important for them to hear and be heard.
We invited other neighbors and we shared meals with them. It was not designed to be exclusive in any way, shape, or form.
But, it was bigger than just a supper club.
We served our neighbors together.
We played together. (That link is only one of the many Hunks vs Punks posts I’ve written about…do a search for Hunks vs Punks, and you can read them all!)
(Not only did we play football together, we went to football games together…)
(I actually DO know the lady at the bottom right; I just didn’t when I took that picture. She’s probably still talking to her neighbor because he’s probably still texting…)
We prayed together and even baptized together…
And, of course, we ate together.
It was a beautiful thing.
ThrillCam and I will forever be changed, for the better, because of our neighborhood Table Group.
(photo credit to Jeremy Knight)
So, guess what?
We are trying it, again, with our new neighbors!
We had a group of 4 families over, on Tuesday night (no, I didn’t take pictures…yet!).
We threw out the vision.
We’ll see what happens.
Either way, whether we meet weekly and eat together, or not, I’m excited to see where God takes us, as a neighborhood.
Because, I KNOW how lives can be impacted and changed just by reaching out and loving one another…doing life together.
I made strawberry jam!
My internet friend, MizBooshay, recently posted pictures of her strawberry jam on Instagram.
I was smitten. I adored the little jars of red jelly, although I was very leery of the time and effort needed to tackle such a domesticated project.
I mean canning things communicates that you mean business.
Donna promised me it was easy-sneezy.
(I trust Donna. I read her blog daily, and I feel a connection…a friendship.)
(I don’t believe MizBooshay would ever lead me astray.)
So, I took the leap.
Once I washed all the mason jars, I was ready to go.
I cleaned and hulled my strawberries.
Then, I smashed the living daylights out of the sweet berries.
(Cooking is cruel, y’all.)
(And, I would know, because I.mean.business! I’m canning after all…)
Next, I added some sugar to give the strawberries extra sweetness.
I also threw in a little lemon zest to give it, well, a little zestiness.
(I am fully aware zestiness is not a word. But, I stand by my made-up word, because we all know what it means, whether it’s real or not. And, really, if we want to get picky, “Yay” is not a real word, either, but y’all don’t seem to mind using that word!)
(My English major mother, God rest her soul, would have had a conniption over that one. Yea is yea, not yay!)
After I added the sugar and zest, I had to boil water and the pectin for a bit.
Not much, just a bit…like one minute, I think.
After the minute, I poured the water/pectin mixture into the strawberry/sugar bowl and stirred until all the sugar was dissolved.
The final step was to fill my jars with the red, juicy sweetness…
I could not contain my excitement as I waited the 24 hours to see if my jam would actually set up.
Once the jam has set, you can store your jam in the freezer, so you’ll have some for later.
And, I am here to say, my boys LOVE this jam on biscuits in the morning!
So, MizBooshay did not lead me astray! It was as simple and as delicious as she promised!
If you follow me on Instagr.am (esimmonsphotography), then you’ve already seen pictures of my latest breakfast obsession.
How can pictures truly depict how delicious this is??
How can words fully describe this experience?
Lemon juice (don’t skip).
Red pepper flakes (a MUST).
Salt and pepper.
Unadulterated, uncomplicated, luscious, creamy, light, scrumptious, melt-in-your-mouth, nummy, yummy…
I’ll stop now.
For my sake.
I beg you.
Do you recall the zucchini growing in my garden?
Let me remind you…
I don’t think the picture does it justice.
Imagine a hand at the end of that thing and you’ve got my arm.
(Except my arm is not as smooth and it jiggles more.)
But, just imagine, okay?! (Not my jiggly arm…the zucchini with a hand…wait.)
I wasn’t real sure the zucchini would taste all that great once I actually tried to cook it. So, someone on Facebook suggested I use the big zucchini for bread.
So, I made muffins.
I’m a rebel like that.
“You don’t wanna get mixed up with a guy like me. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel. So long, Dott.”
Name that movie.
Has nothing to do with zucchini.
I used an extremely easy recipe on AllRecipes.com.
I, of course, tweaked the recipe.
(We’ve already established my rebel-ness.)
For example, it called for 3 cups all-purpose flour, I used 1 cup all-purpose, the rest whole wheat flour.
The recipe called for 1 cup vegetable oil.
I used 3/4 cup coconut oil and 1/4 cup vegetable oil. (Some people suggested, in the reviews of the recipe, to use a portion of apple sauce to cut down on the oil, but I didn’t have any on hand. So, I tried using a healthier oil.)
I sifted together all the dry ingredients, except the sugar. Then, I added the sugar into the oil, eggs and vanilla (above) and beat them until creamy.
Next, I poured the dry ingredients into the wet and mixed those thoroughly.
(I didn’t take every single step pictures. I’m too messy, I usually forget, and don’t like to get my camera all sticky. Plus, the lighting in my kitchen is icky.)
Finally, I dumped 2 cups of grated zucchini and 1 cup chopped walnuts into the bowl and mixed it up.
Notice that cute spatula/scraper/thingy I have!
See it below?
It’s shaped just like a baseball bat!!!
(My sweet friend Julie R. gave it to me. We’ve only been friends for a short while, but she already knows me well!)
I baked the muffins with the convection oven for about 15-20 minutes or so at 325 degrees. But, the recipe calls for a much longer baking time of 40-60 minutes for a loaf or two of bread.
(Loaf. What an odd word. Say it a couple times real fast and it starts sounding weird… loafloafloafloafloaf… See what I mean?)
Boy, am I happy I made these into muffins, though! Bread would have been super, too.
What I like about this recipe is that it is not too terribly sweet. But, will certainly scratch that itch, if you’re hankering for a little sweet something.
(Oh! And, if you chop the walnuts small enough your non nut-eaters will never know they’re in there.)
I like them in there. They add a certain…um… nuttiness to the recipe.
ThrillCam gave his seal of approval–he confirmed that I put zucchini in them, because he said you couldn’t taste it at all.
A sorta sweet, sorta healthy muffin that even your kids (and your hubby) will like…you could re-name them if need to.
Take out the zuchhini part and just call them Magnificent Morning Muffins!
After they’ve scarfed down 3 or 4, then you can tell them there are veggies inside! (Or, just wait a couple years until they can handle the truth.)
By the way, you can freeze the bread/muffins for a quick breakfast or snack.
You really should give these a try, especially this summer, while the fresh zucchini are plentiful!
1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 C. whole wheat flour (or all 3 C. can be all-purpose flour)
1 t. salt (I used Morton’s LiteSalt)
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
3 t. ground cinnamon
1 C. vegetable oil (or coconut oil)
2 1/4 C. sugar (I think I used much less than that)
3 t. vanilla extract
2 C. zucchini, grated
1 C. walnuts, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 325*
2. Spray with non-stick spray, or grease and flour muffin tins or two 8×4-inch pans.
3. Sift together flour(s), salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon in a bowl.
4. Beat the eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla until creamy.
5. Gently fold in the zucchini and walnuts.
6. Pour or scoop batter into prepared pans.
7. Bake loaf pans for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. (Or, if making muffins, in regular oven, bake for about 20-30 minutes.) (Or, if making muffins in a convection oven, bake for about 15-20 minutes.)
ThrillCam left Monday afternoon with a twin bed tied down in the back of his truck, headed to Houston to see our oldest son play baseball and give him a bed for his summertime apartment. It was a very quick trip, but required ThrillCam to spend the night.
Of course, with ThrillCam away for the night, it meant our youngest punk and I were given the opportunity to have a date night and share one of our most favorite foods: sushi!!
ThrillCam will go with me to eat sushi, but it’s not his favorite. My youngest son and I love the little raw fish wrapped in yummy sticky rice and dipped in soy sauce… So tasty…
(My oldest son and I share an intense love for boiled crawfish–also not a favorite of ThrillCam, nor my youngest. Do you have a special food you share with only one of your children or with a sibling/parent?)
Sushi, while yummy and often memorable, is not the point of this story.
As we were driving home, my son started playing Tom Jones’ It’s Not Unusual on his ipod!!
Check out those moves!!! (My parents both really liked Tom Jones, so it was a wonderful memory for me. Music can do that, you know?) (How many 14 year olds do you know who has Tom Jones in the music library?? My kid is a goofball, honestly.)
Again, though, Tom Jones is not the point of this story.
Well, actually, he sort of is, because his music was the start of an entirely unforgettable evening I had the privilege of sharing with my son.
You see, we had to get home to make 50 pancakes (and one GIGANTIC one)…
…for a school project due the next day.
Now, in order to keep this real, I must admit that sometimes in moments like this I am prone to feel a little resentful and grumpy. (He texts me about this project on Monday at 1pm and it’s due on Tuesday; his partner is not coming over to help, so it falls solely on us to provide the pancakes; he has no idea what making 50 pancakes entails–“Does mom have milk and eggs and pancake mix? Does mom even have time to make 50 pancakes? Oh! You mean I’m supposed to help cook them? Should I provide syrup and butter? How am I going to keep 50 pancakes cold until class so I don’t poison all my classmates? How are we going to warm up 50 pancakes so my friends will actually want to eat them? Maybe mom can bring 50 pancakes plus one gigantic one to me on Tuesday right before my class at 11:28 a.m.? I like turtles.”)
Tom Jones changed my attitude. He put me in a good mood. My son didn’t even realize the impact the playing of a now-funny song would set the tone and mood for the evening.
Then, he played another 70’s groove.
Once we got in the house, still laughing about the songs we just jammed to, I turned up the stereo and blasted him with a whole playlist of 70’s R&B Funk while we made pancakes.
(He was making a REALLY weird face, on purpose, for this picture…I didn’t think he wanted it plastered all over the interwebs, so I photoshopped it. All photos were taken with my iphone.)
We cooked and played songs like:
We flipped pancakes.
We mixed more pancake mix.
We Vine-d some of his dance moves. (Vine is a new social media app that uses video.)
We flipped more pancakes.
We danced more.
We laughed…a lot.
I know this sounds so weird, but I will live on this evening/memory for a very, very, very long time. My son really has no idea what the evening meant to me, even though I’ve hugged him and told him how much I enjoyed myself and his company.
My hips are sore, but my heart is full.
May I just say, it’s quite hard to type while licking icing off your fingers?
You see, on this cold and blustery morning (it’s late April–what’s up with that!?!), I invited some neighbors over for coffee and some scrumptious goodies to gab by.
About 6 months ago, we moved to a completely new area of Texas, one that we were familiar with, but one where we didn’t really know anyone. So, we’ve had to very intentional about meeting and making friends. With that in mind, I have occasionally invited over some of the neighborhood girls for coffee. I absolutely love the time we spend together–we laugh a lot, which is good for the soul. And, we, of course, eat a lot.
Well, not all of us. Just me. I eat a lot.
Anyway, I thought I’d pass along the recipes I made this morning. I figure, this way, if you have these easy recipes, you too, might invite some neighbors over for coffee (and goodies).
It makes the world a better place…or at least your neighborhood a better place, no?
This first recipe is not really a recipe. It’s just cooking an already prepared item in a new way. (This is why I still have icing under my fingernails.)
Cinnamon Roll Waffles!
Just place one or two cinnamon rolls (store bought pop-open-the-can cinnamon rolls–you know, like Pillsbury) into a greased waffle iron, close the lid, and press down. Once they’ve reached the crispy edged done-ness you desire, place them on a plate and squeeze on the icing!
(If you don’t have enough icing from the can, just stir together about 1/2 C. powdered sugar and 1-2 T. milk–or heavy cream–and a pinch of salt. You want the icing to be thick.)
By the way, your kids will love this new presentation of a cinnamon roll!
I also whipped up a batch of Orange Juliusessssss. (How do you pluralize Orange Julius…esesesessss??)
(Can you tell I snapped all these pictures with my phone-camera? blech!)
Add 1 Can frozen OJ (12 oz.) to a blender, along with 1 OJ can of milk, 1 T. sugar and 1 T. vanilla. Blend away! (Add ice cubes, if desired.)
It’s good for what ails the soul.
Or for a nasty cold.
Or for neighbor friends.
Or just because.
Lastly, I made Eggs Benedict Casserole.
So, creamy and delicious. It’s one of those make-the-night-before-breakfast-casseroles that definitely fits the bill.
It had me at hello.
It hits the spot.
It scratches that itch.
It completes me.
The hardest (not really hard, but step-intensive??, if that) part was making the hollandaise sauce. Not a big deal, I promise. Just have your hand mixer near your microwave, so you can easily beat the sauce between heatings in the microwave.(The recipe I used calls for a hand mixer and the microwave. Most of the other recipes online have you whisk it over a simmering pan of water. I suggest you compare the recipes and decide which you think is easier for you and then go for it.)
I have all of these recipes on my Pinterest breakfast board. Check them out!
Now, make your grocery list and text or call a couple of neighbors, including one or two you don’t know well, and invite them over for coffee.
Don’t make a fuss. Just keep it real and casual.
Deepen those relationships!
Oh, and eat some good food!!
And, I really meant I wouldn’t.
I told him I was not going to blog about him…or about his…our…making of waffles.
I told him I was just taking pictures for the sake of taking pictures only. It was for the sake of recording a memory, because often my memory cheats me, steals from me, and it only seems to become more greedy as I age.
Besides, they weren’t even good pictures, because I was hurrying to snap them with my phone-camera, since he was/is so ANTI-picture-taking.
Yesterday morning, started out normal, with the exception that my oldest slept in. The Seniors did not have to take benchmark tests, so he stayed home.
Yes, the school took attendance, but I can’t feel too bad that he missed sitting in the auditorium all day watching Disney movies, so the school could receive their tax dollars…my tax dollars.
A morning that started out much like any other morning, ended different than usual. The morning’s punctuation mark was the making of waffles.
Sounds simple enough.
And, I meant it that I would not blog about him. He is private and my blogging is not, so I told him I wouldn’t post the silly pictures.
Unfortunately, I had a little time to think about our short 30 minute cooking class.
I changed my mind.
It’s my prerogative, no?
Now, initially, my blog post was going to be about the fact that I have failed as a mother, in that, my oldest punk-kid has no clue what to do in a kitchen.
He knows how and where to put dishes away, how to assemble a plateful of food, turn on and off the lights, and how to toast a Pop-Tart, but the actual mechanics of making a meal?
That’s how I wanted to begin my post. Making fun of both of us.
But, as I considered the moment of making waffles, the laughter, the oh-so-brief and meaningful interaction between the two of us, I had to stop.
And I had to say a prayer of thanksgiving to God.
I had to thank Him for the gift of a connection, a moment, an opportunity to genuinely laugh together, to get flour all over ourselves, to truly just be.
I thought about how proud he was of his waffles…about the joy the simple, little round of flour and milk, baking powder and eggs, covered in butter and syrup brought to his morning.
I thought about the fact that it is far less common for just the two of us to be together, alone, in the kitchen. Normally, if that is happening, we are performing kitchen chores, him unloading the dishwasher, me attempting to keep him on task, him looking for ice cream, me cooking dinner, etc. Talk of homework, baseball hitting, the mail, The Office, the weekend’s upcoming events, all being thrown about, both of us looking ahead and not at the NOW.
He is no longer my little boy.
He has stealthily morphed into a young man right before my eyes.
He will not be around my house for long periods of time come June. It will be sporadic. Brief.
That thought I push out of my mind.
If I don’t think about it, it won’t happen. Right?
He’s quiet, but possesses a wicked sense of humor that shows itself briefly and quickly. He’s tall. And he has muscles, defined muscles. He thinks a lot. Talks little. Loves music, but not necessarily what the masses love. He loves Jesus. And, he loves his mama.
And he loves him some waffles.
This young man, who, once he leaves home for college, probably won’t want to make waffles himself, but will ask his mama to make them instead.
Gladly, I will!
I will make as many as he can possibly stuff into that tall, thin body.
…but, I want to make a mental note to remember to ask him to help me.
Not because I can’t do it. But because I want more moments, like yesterday morning, where we shared something as simple as mixing milk, eggs and flour.
These precious moments are fleeting. And I have never been very good at stopping to smell the roses. I am more of the type to look for the roses, take a snapshot and move on to the next garden.
I don’t want to waste away, busy-away, distraction-away the moments I have left with him.
Because, soon enough, they will be even more fleeting and farther between.
Yesterday morning I said I would not blog about him.