Thursday, June 30, 2011

Through The Eyes Of An (Almost) Four Year Old

On Tuesday morning, Derrick and Davin dropped by the office while Derrick was having some work done on his car.  As is usual for an (almost) four year old, Davin got a little bored after the first ten or fifteen minutes of greeting everyone.  I had a digital camera on my desk, so I told him to go take pictures.  And so, he did!

The first thing he did was adjust the settings, which caused his pictures to come out like this.

Once we got it back to automatic, he did a lot better.

As you can tell, his Momma and Daddy were his favorite subjects to photograph! 

I enjoyed seeing the office through his eyes.  It makes you wonder what else they view differently.  I think we might try this little experiment at the Lake house next week with all three grandchildren!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What To Do With Zucchini

Are y'all tired of me talking about food yet? 

Since I finished posting our pictures and memories of South Africa, it seems like food is all I ever talk about around here!

Please bear with me as I use this blog as my memory one more time...and I post another recipe that I do not want to forget when next summer rolls around.

A few weeks ago I made the Zucchini and Feta Cheese Souffles from Better Homes and Gardens website.   Jim watched me doing the prep work and told me that I was getting far too complicated in my cooking.  He insinuated that I was trying to be more like Amanda E., our Master Chef South Africa...and he was absolutely right.  I loved how special she made us feel at her table each evening.  Not everything has to be gourmet, but she presented it in such a fashion that you thought it was. 

And so, with Amanda in mind, I give you:

Better Homes and Gardens Zucchini and Feta Cheese Souffles
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
4 eggs, separated

Place shredded zucchini in a colander, sprinkler with the salt and toss lightly.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  Rinse and drain.  Squeeze out excess liquid; set aside.

In a saucepan melt butter.  Stir in flour and mustard.  Add milk.  Cook and stir until bubbly.  Remove from heat.  Stir in zucchini and cheeses.  In a large bowl, beat yolks with fork.  Gradually stir in zucchini mixture.

In a mixing bowl beat whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Fold half of the whites into zucchini mixture.  Gently fold remaining whites into zucchini mixture.  Spoon into 6 ounce greased souffle dishes or custard cups.

Bake in 375 degree F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean.  Serve immediately.  Makes 6 side dish servings.

And, might I add that as soon as Jim tasted it all of that 'complicated' talk went right out of my husband's head!  It suddenly became a "Keeper" recipe and he suggested that it would be best served at an Adult-type meal.  Will ate two custard cups worth, but Bri and Brian weren't thrilled with it.  Of course, neither of them are big egg-eaters either.  Brian said it was 'okay', but he likes the stuffed summer squash better...and Bri...well, she just gave hers to her daddy to eat!

I'm still waiting on those summer squash recipes from you guys!  Heaven knows that we have them running out of our ears right now!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Our Homemade Life

"Food is never just food.  It's also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be."
Molly Wizenberg

I read this quote over the weekend from the introduction of A Homemade Life and it really struck a chord with me.

I have been thinking about our Sunday dinner in this context. 

Grilled Lemon Pepper Shrimp with summer squash, broccoli and onions - Who We Are.  Living on the Gulf Coast and having our own vegetable garden combined with a need to eat a little healthier...that is definitely us.

Fried Okra and Strawberry Shortcake - Who We Have Been.  If that doesn't say Southern born and raised I don't know what would!

Fresh Whipped Cream for our shortcakes - Who We Want To Be.  At least, that is who Bri and I dream of being as we watch Food Network and Cooking Channel.  Growing up, I thought that whipped cream either came in a tub or a spray can.  I had no idea that I could whip up such deliciousness with a hand mixer and a small milk carton of heavy whipping cream. 

It is true that 'food is not just food' at our house...and probably not at yours either.

Food is how we celebrate.  Each birthday girl/boy knows that they get to set the menu and choose the dessert on their special day.  Christmas is not complete until the Shrimp Etouffee has been served up with steaming bowls of rice.  The Fourth of July means Bar-B-Q Ribs and deviled eggs and homemade ice cream.  Family vacation is not official until the Bar-B-Q Shrimp has been dusted off and every last drop of butter sopped up with the French bread!

Food is how we soothe what ails you.  Yesterday afternoon Bri fell off her horse.  She was pretty banged up with a sprained ankle and a cut over her left eye that required gluing her back together.  But, because we were so close to her one year recovery period from her car accident last May, we knew we had to be absolutely certain that the fall had not re-fractured her pelvic bone.  We barely escaped surgery last time and the orthopedic told her to be super careful for the first year.  So...what did she and I do between the Urgent Care center and the diagnostic clinic?  We grabbed my baby girl some Chick-fil-A...that's what!  Cold and flu season means whoever is feeling under the weather has special permission to request whatever might taste good.  And heaven knows, when I was pregnant with my babies, my grandmothers would cook anything they knew that I was craving.  Banana pudding...boiled okra with new potatoes...biscuits with chocolate didn't matter, I got it!

Food is also how we express love.  Any time we have a child come home for a visit with a special request, we try our best to accommodate.  Last minute get tegether's that linger long on the back porch means some sort of appetizer will be thrown together to tide us over while we sit long and reminisce.  Even cornbread...the love language of My Hero.  He like his plain, I like mine five out of every six times I make it, you will not find any sugar in the batter. 

It is my love for you that moves me to share a recipe that I came across last night.  I had thawed chicken breasts for supper and planned to put together some sort of casserole when I arrived home.  But with the unexpected stress of Urgent Care and a later arrival home than I had planned, I needed a Plan B.  Thank goodness for the Internet.  I found a recipe for "Easy Garlic Broiled Chicken" at  (Click the link to see the original.)  I had to improvise a little due to the lack of time to plan...but everyone LOVED it and requested that I save that recipe.

Fonda's Version of Easy Garlic Broiled Chicken
4 chicken breasts (Mine were huge, so I cut them into three smaller portions each)
1 stick of butter (I use salted butter)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Dash of black pepper
2 - 3 tablespoons cilantro (I finely cut mine with kitchen shears)

Preheat the oven broiler.  Lightly grease a baking pan.

In a small saucepan, over low heat, melt butter.  Add garlic, soy sauce, black pepper and cilantro.  Cook two minutes or until cilantro begins to wilt and garlic looks softened.

Arrange chicken on baking pan.  Pour two-thirds of the butter mixture over the chicken.  Reserve the rest for basting.

Place chicken under broiler for 10 minutes, turn and use remaining butter mixture for basting.  Broil for 5 minutes, and turn for remaining 5 minutes. 

Place chicken on platter and scrape drippings on top.  Serve to smiles and oohs and aahs and 'can I have more's!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

2011 Vegetable Garden Update #2

My, oh my, how time flies when you have a vegetable garden to attend!  
Produce from one day's harvest!  Yikes!!!
Do you see all that produce?  I am thinking about putting it out by the road with a sign that says 'Free Produce' today.  I picked all of this yesterday morning.

Wednesday morning we experienced our first rainfall since February.  Our garden just soaked it in...and now the plants look all happy and fresh.  There is nothing like a fresh drink of cool water when you have only been getting chlorinated water from the local water company for so long. 

Even though our plants sure did enjoy it, we are most thankful for the rain because it has helped to bring a wildfire under control that started about a mile north of us on Father's Day.  Just that few hours of rain brought that fire from 25% controlled to 75%!  The last time I checked there were up to 1,800 people out of their homes, about 10,000 acres and 30 plus homes destroyed.  While we escaped any threat of danger, we realize that had the winds been blowing from the north instead of the south...we would have been one of those 1,800 hoping to have a home to which we could return.

As the rains fell on Wednesday morning and our hearts did a 'hallelujah' dance, my mind was burdened by the 60 pounds of tomatoes that were sitting waiting for me to do something with them.  I did what any good gardener would do...I took the day off of work and declared it 'Salsa Day'.  I sent all three children who live at home a text message letting them know that they were to report to duty by noon. 

Meanwhile, I processed the tomatoes for peeling and coring so that once the rest of the family arrived we could get moving!  By the end of the day we had put up 31 pints of Salsa...from unbelievably hot to just plain hot...and 4 quarts of spaghetti sauce.  Plus, we had put 6 pint bags of purple hull peas in the freezer.  After a ten hour day, I was exhausted!  But there were NO tomatoes sitting on my counter tops (until the next morning)!!!!  Jim made me a spaghetti dinner and I fell into bed content.

The garden is doing great, but we have had a few 'oops' moments.  For one, we planted our summer squash and cucumbers in consecutive rows.  Now we are seeing squash that are looking a little green...

This what happens when your cucumbers like your squash a little too much!
  ...and cucumber that are trying to develop crook necks!

...and vice versa!!
 Note to self: Plant them at opposite sides of the garden next year!!  The cows sure are enjoying the funky produce though! 

As a result, I don't think I will get as many pickles this year.  The ones that are cross bred just don't taste straight to the cows they go.

We have also lost a whole two days crop of the cherry tomatoes due to the rains.  Most of them burst open before we could pick them.  But we aren't hurting for tomatoes, so I am not too disappointed.

We have also decided that we probably will not plant Kentucky Wonder Beans again next year.  We want to find a more tender green bean.  August has given me the name of the one she likes, so I think we will give those a try next year.

Well, I am I guess it is time to get off of here.  Plus I need to get ready for my Girls Day with Bri and Meagan.  We are going to see Chicago the musical this afternoon.  Kelli is having date day with Matt, so we gave her ticket to Teri (Derrick's mom).

But before I leave, I want to tell you about our summer veggie recipe of the week.  Jim looked at it sideways on the platter, but then he and the boys nearly consumed the whole thing.  What do you do with all those tomatoes?  Make a spin off of the Caprese Salad!

Fonda's Caprese Salad
4 large tomatoes (I used two Beefsteak and two Yellow Oxheart to give it color)
4 string cheese sticks (Mozzarella)
6 fresh basil leaves (can use dried)
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper

Chop tomatoes into bite sized pieces.  Set aside to drain.  Cut string cheese into 1/4 to 1/2 inch rounds.   Combine drained tomatoes and string cheese chunks, arrange on pretty platter.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Add a few splashes of red wine vinegar (you can also use balsamic vinegar if you like that flavor better).  Sprinkler with salt and pepper.  Cut fresh basil leaves into strips and sprinkle on top.  Sit down with your family and enjoy the fresh taste of summer!

(Caprese Salad is usually made with sliced tomatoes layered with slices of mozzarella from a fresh round ball.  Since my only mozzarella was in string cheese or shredded form, I decided to cut my tomatoes to a similar size.  And my husband, who thinks I cook too complicated, LOVED it!  Definitely a keeper.  Come to think about it, maybe I should fix another one for lunch today.  I certainly have enough tomatoes!)

Until next time.  Bye, y'all!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Family Vacation Countdown

We are in family vacation countdown mode.  It became official when Will climbed in my truck smiling this morning and said, "A week and a half!" 

Yay!!!  A week and a half until it is LAKE TIME!

Time to gather our WHOLE clan under one roof, spend days on the water, evenings around the pool table and lots of mealtimes around one table.

So, I am in list making frenzy.  Trying to remember everything that I need to pack and take with us, plan activities to keep the grand children occupied (that don't make huge messes) and making my meal plan for the week.

Any ideas you would like to share? 
What is your favorite summertime recipe? 
What do you like to do on family vacation?
What is the one thing you can't travel without?

Come on, throw me some ideas!  I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wisdom From The Major

Last night I finally finished the novel "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" by Helen Simonson.  I say 'finally' because it took me two weeks to read it.  The book was really, really good...but I have been falling into bed exhausted at night.  Between the garden and the canning and cooking dinner, many nights I drifted off halfway through a chapter.

(If you would like to check out the reviews at just click on the link in the book title above.)

Image taken from

I am not going to even attempt a book review as I would do it a huge injustice.  But I did want to share five quotes that have me thinking.  (I love it when a novel can entertain and provoke me to meditation!)

Quote #1:
"Don't rush to trade places with an old man...Youth is a wonderful time of vigor and action.  For possibilities, and for collecting friends and experiences."  Major Ernest Pettigrew

(I need to remind myself of this these days.  Youth may have left me about twenty years ago, but I am still guilty of thinking that I might get myself together during the next stage of life.  I need to enjoy where I am now.  I certainly look back on the last ten years and think...'man, I wish I had relaxed and enjoyed it more!')

Quote #2:
"We're all in favor of preserving the countryside until we see how much money we can make by adding on, or adding up, or building down the back of the garden.  Every one's green except for their one little project, which they assure us won't make much difference - and suddenly whole villages are sprouting attic windows and two-car garages and mum-in-law extensions."  Alice 

(Reminds me of the story I once heard about a room full of Pastors being asked the question, 'how big of a house is too big?'  One honest soul spoke up to say, 'Anything bigger than mine.'  I know that I am guilty of thinking anything more than what I have is too much...or anyone who doesn't do things the way that we do it is just crazy!)

Quote #3:
"I know something of shame...How can we not all feel it?  We are all small-minded people, creeping about the earth grubbing for our own advantage and making the very mistakes for which we want to humiliate our neighbors."  Major Pettigrew

(I have a friend whose favorite saying is, "If you spot it, you got it!"  Why is it that the things that bother us the most about someone else are the very areas where we ourselves are weak but refuse to see it?  I have to remind myself that if someones behaviour is really bothering me, I need to ask the Lord to reveal my own motivations in that area.)

Quote #4:
"They are a motley and ragged bunch...but they are what is left when all the shallow pretense is burned away."  Mrs. Ali

(I just love this one.  It reminds me that while I may not have as many people on my Facebook friends list as someone else, I would rather have those who are true friends and not those who are indulging in shallow pretense.  And I used Facebook just as an example...I don't really worry about how many friends I have on my list!)

Quote #5:
While standing on a cliff side park: "But on a spiritual level, there is something about the edge of the land that does make one feel closer to God."  Major Pettigrew

(My favorite quote and the one holding closest to my own belief.  I don't know what it is about the water that soothes my soul and causes my mind relax...but it is where I feel closest to God.  And that is also why I am sooooo looking forward to our family vacation at the lakehouse next month!  Woo Hoo!)

Well, I hope I helped to whet your appetite for this one.  It was named #3 in "O" magazine's top five Best Fiction in 2010 and #13 in Amazon's Best Books of 2010.  But you better read it fast, because rumor has it that we may be watching the movie version as early as next summer! 

If you would like my copy, just let me know.  I would be glad to pass it along!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Monday, May 23 and Tuesday, May 24

On Monday afternoon Tino, Amanda and Tianda dropped us off at Tangala Authentic African Camp for our last evening in South Africa.  Saying goodbye to new friends was a little tough...but it was also nice to be alone for the first time since arriving in South Africa.

Tangala is an electricity free camp on the Thornybush Private Nature Preserve.  It is a small camp with only six chalets.  Upon arriving in camp, we learned that we were to be the only guests for our visit.
Our Thatched Chalet - Very authentic, as well as romantic

See...I told you it was Romantic!

 I truly felt like this was taken straight from Meryl Steep/Robert Redford's 'Out Of Africa'...'a colonial Africa feel', as their website so aptly describes it. 

After arriving, we took some time to sort through some of the souvenirs we had picked up over the weekend and to just relax on the deck.  It was soon time for High Tea.  Since we were the only guests, we had our tea at the Lounge's conversation area instead of at the dining table.  It was a beautiful view overlooking the swimming pool, the watering hole and the Drakensburg Mountains in the distance.  We watched as warthogs, baboons and impala wandered through the open field.

After High Tea, we loaded up on an open air truck for a game drive.  Thornybush is famous for being a place to see the 'Big 5': Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino & Cape Buffalo.  We had seen the lion, elephant and cape buffalo while driving through we were hoping to see the rhino and the leopard during our stay.
First thing we see on our game drive is a Puff Adder!
 I don't like seeing snakes.  Jim and Arno had seen four or five black mambas while we were hunting.  Thankfully, I missed seeing them all!  I think seeing a snake raised three feet or more off the ground would have given me nightmares.  Though the mamba is the longest snake in Africa and the fastest snake in the world, he is known as 'the gentleman of the bush' because he will give way to humans rather than face them.  The puff adder on the other hand is the cause of the most snakebite fatalities because he refuses to move out of your way.  This one just sat in the road for a good five or ten minutes while we waited for him to move.  (We were on a conservation ranch, so they don't just take them out like I would!)

Once Mr. Lazybones decided to crawl on off into the bush, we went down to the waterhole where we got our first look at the White Rhino.
White Rhino - Our 4th 'Big 5' sighting...we only have a leopard left on our list. 
But we are told those are much harder sightings to come by unless you stay for a couple of days.
According to our guides, the name White Rhino is a mistranslation of the original Dutch name 'wijd'...which means wide.  It is really their wide mouths that are being described, but somewhere along the way someone mistook 'wide' for 'white' and the name stuck.  The other rhinos which have the narrow mouths were then name 'Black Rhinos' but they are both really the same color!

Giraffes at dinner time!!!

At this point I was thinking 'Jungle Book' instead of 'Lion King'!
 As the sun slid lower into the skies, I couldn't help but think how this was to be my last South African sunset.  I was a little bit sad at the thought of it.

Getting close to sundown...I will truly miss looking out at the African sky.
 But then the radio crackled and the truck leaped into action.  Another game truck had heard a leopard nearby and we were heading that way.

Our guides were actually congratulating us at having seen the 'Big 5' in one day. 
They had prepared us that this might be one animal that we didn't find.
 It was almost dark and he blended into the trees so well.  I had to lighten these photos for you to get a look at him.

He was just snoozing in a tree, waiting for it to get dark enough to go hunting for dinner. 

We were parked (in an open air truck) right underneath the tree.
After a little bit, he decided he was tired of having his picture taken so he started down the tree.

He was standing just feet from the truck on Jim's side.

Look at those eyes!

He started off into the bush...when our driver punched it to try and cut him off so that the other game trucks could get a look at him.  I didn't want to be the one between him and dinner!
 This was a young male, but B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L!!!  Actually, that word sounds too plain for this animal.  I would love to hunt a leopard one day.  Of course that costs a lot more in money and we will see about that.

After we stopped the leopard, we moved out of the way to allow the other game trucks a closer look.  We drove to an open area to enjoy the sunset and our Sundowner.
Sundown at Thornybush Private Nature Preserve

 Y'all may be tired of seeing my sunset pictures, but I can assure you I have been selective and not subjected you to all of them!  I love sunset in Africa, it doesn't really matter to me.
Our Sundowner meal.
 It isn't dog food bowls, I swear. 
We toasted to the day and had a light snack before heading out for the second half of our game drive.
 After our stop, we headed back out to see the nocturnal animals.  The first ones were the female lions.

Female lions in the sand.
 This one is laying in a dry river bed, but there were two more just beyond her in the tall grass.  I asked the guides if the females always stayed together without a male.  I was told that there was definitely a male, he was just probably out patrolling their area before they began hunting for the night.  As we sat there taking picture after picture, all I could think about was what if he was on his way back to his harem and he was coming up behind us!  I could not stop looking over my shoulder.  I mean, we were in an open air truck!

After the lions, our tracker pointed out several other animals, but most didn't stand around long enough for us to get pictures.  There were a couple of lemur type animals and antelopes.

As we were nearing the lodge, our driver threw the truck in reverse and our tracker jumped out of the bull seat to capture our last wild animal of the trip.

Jim and the Chameleon

 This chameleon was hiding in a bush near the edge of the road.  By the time I got my camera out and ready, he had already began changing colors on Jim's jacket.

We were greeted at the camp with a glass of sherry and the announcement that Amanda had arranged for a private dinner at our chalet.
Private Dinner on the Deck
So Romantic!!
 This electricity free thing really does lend to the romantic feeling of Tangala.  We enjoyed a sumptuous meal of curried chicken with all the trimmings.  It was delicious!
Happy 30th Anniversary to us!
 The humorous part of stay happened as Stella was announcing our dinner menu and going over our agenda for the next day.  She was letting us know that we were to be picked up for the airport at ten o'clock the next morning.  The game drive would return just before nine, breakfast was at nine and we could shower at nine-thirty.  She mentioned this shower thing several times during the conversation.  After she had left, Jim looked at me from across the table and said, "did you get the idea that we were supposed to shower at 9:30 and not before?"   We laughed about it and went on with our dinner. 

After dinner, we decided not to go on the morning game drive as we would need to repack for the airport.  It was time to sort our luggage so that we could meet all of the security requirements.  Thinking that we could get up a little bit later, shower and leisurely pack before breakfast...we turned in for the night. 

The next morning I awoke around seven and as usual, made the restroom my first stop.  I noticed something out the bathroom window.
African Hot Water Heater
 It was our water being heated for our showers!  I had forgotten all about that electricity free thing including water heaters!  No wonder we were told three or four times that we could shower at nine-thirty.  That was how long it would take to heat the water! 
Our Last African Sunrise

It was time to say goodbye to Africa...and I hated to go.  At this point, we were both tired and ready to go home...but at the same time, this place pulls at you.

Do we have to say goodbye?
For the next thirty-six hours, as we drew closer and closer to Waller, Texas, we couldn't help but think about what people were doing back in Africa.  It was a wonderful trip and one that will remain with us through the years.  As we were shopping on Tuesday in Polokwane, a shop owner had made the statement, "Africa calls".  As we got our last glimpses of South Africa in Jo burg, I knew exactly what she meant.

Totsiens - Goodbye!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kruger National Park: Skukuza

Sunday, May 22 and Monday, May 23
Today's post is filled with pictures from Kruger National Park. Kruger is H.U.G.E. We saw a very small section of the park called Skukuza. There will not be much commentary in today's post...just pictures of LIVE animals. That's right, nothing taken with a rifle in this is all as seen through a camera lens!
Brianne's Greatest Fear was that we would see Hippos...and we did!  Did you know that the Hippo is considered the most dangerous animal in Africa?  Go figure!

Elephant grazing by the watering hole.  Our first Big 5 sighting!

Zebras...real live ones!

Baboon at the campsite.  There was a really cute baby one too...but I didn't get a good picture of him.

Impala...yet again a live animal!  The ones in Kruger were not a large as the ones in Polokwane.  These were more "Lion To Go" Size!

Elephant Family Stroll

Kudu sniffing the air...sooo close!

South African Sunset
 It was time to head in for the evening, since the gates close at sunset to protect the campers from the wildlife.  Freaky thought, huh?  We enjoyed a nice dinner at Selati...the Skukuza Railway Station that is now a grill house.  The South African Rail car was put into service in 1949 and ran until the 70's.  Now you sit under the pavilion in view of the rail car to eat.  Really nice ambiance.  Next time I go to South Africa I think I would like to take a train tour too!
As we left our campground the next morning, the hippo had moved near the bridge to eat.

Warthog!  He is so ugly is cute!  I think Disney did a pretty good job on Pumba, how about you?

Lion Brothers. Our second Big 5 sighting.
We drove up on what we originally thought were three young male lions.  They had all of the traffic at a stand still while they walked, sat and laid in the road.
What are you looking at?  Poor thing is covered in flies!
We watched them for a good little bit.  They eventually moved off into the grass and nearly disappeared from sight.  See how hard it is to find him in the tall grass?
They walked through the grass and over a small ridge.  As they crested the ridge, I counted four of them!  That is just how easily a lion can go unnoticed in the Sahara.  He really did blend right in.  Even with all five of us watching and taking pictures, we thought there were only three...yet the fourth one was there all along!
African Buffalo...another one of the Big 5 and also A Most Dangerous Animal.  Some people refer to them as Dagga Boys.  Dagga (sounds like Duggah to me) is the Zulu word for mud...and if you look real closely you will see that he is half covered in mud.  This is to keep off the parasite...which you will also notice are buzzing all around him.

Morning at the Waterhole

Elephant...waving his ears to cool off in the morning heat
From Kruger, we were taken to a small private reserve on the outskirts of the National Park where we enjoyed a romantic evening before embarking on our long journey home.  In my next post I will share pictures from Tangala with you.  It was wonderful!