Don’t Blink – You’ll Miss the Legos and Tinker Toys

That Kenny Chesney song, Don’t Blink, always makes me cry. I always change the station if I hear it on the radio.

From the time I was a little girl, I remember my dad would tell me how much he loved me. And I would say it back. And then he would say, “Janellen, I know you love me, but parents love their children in a way that’s different than any other kind of love. Someday…someday you’ll have your own kids, and you’ll understand.”

I wish he had lived to see me become a mom. I would tell him, now, “I get it, Dad. You were so right. Now I understand that love.”

Love is the most powerful force on the planet. Parental love is the most visceral.

I love hearing the words, “Wanna play,” come from my son. Sometimes I’m flat exhausted, sometimes there are dishes to be unloaded from the dishwasher, clothes to be folded, work to be done.

There will be a day when those words don’t come anymore. With our son, I believe that he’ll always love us and want to be with us, but in the natural and healthy course of life, other things will occupy him. And that’s okay.

So when I am unloading the dishwasher, I say, “Yes,” and he’ll wait for me to finish, but more recently, I’ve started to give him little jobs, a plastic bowl, wooden spoons to put away. If I’m working, he knows I need to finish, and he quietly plays in the same room. But then we play!

I believe it’s the important matters that should take precedence over the urgent. What do I mean? Thanks to my college minister, Bill Potts, I have always held this concept close to my heart. Someone will always be urgently knocking at your door, calling your phone, etc. And those urgent things will get done. However, your parents will also call. Your spouse will need to talk. Your child will want to play catch in the back yard, or need help with homework. Those are the important things because those are your relationships – your family. Those are the moments, where if you blink, you’ll miss them. And I think that is what that song is about with raising children: don’t blink. It’s a word of caution: don’t miss the important stuff. Building legos or playing dolls with your kid, especially when invited.

Mac said he was “working to get more money to buy a bunny and a kitten.” When we’re on our computers, we are working, so that’s his concept of earning, right now.

My mom always said, having a boy is finding tinker toys in your potpourri. There will be a day when the potpourri is perfect. When you don’t step on a stray LEGO. And you’ll miss it. So, don’t blink. Don’t miss the important things.

Grounds in Coffee Almost Ruined my Morning…Almost

Has this ever happened to you? A foggy-headed morning, you shuffle into the kitchen, set the coffee filter perfectly into the coffee pot, despite being groggy, and you press start. A few agonizing minutes coupled with the glorious smell of a strong, dark brew, and it’s ready. Finally.

You stir in your whatever- additives: cream, milk, sugar, sweetener. And then, those pesky little grounds rise to the surface, taunting you.

Boy, did they make me mad this morning! I fumbled for another coffee filter, opened the canister to make another cup, and the coffee-fix-it gods descended upon me. A filter! A fine sieve.

Coffee hack 101: when you get unwanted grounds in your coffee, find a sieve. Save the coffee!

See. Who needs coffee for brilliant morning ideas? It was the threat of not having the cup I wanted that inspired me, I guess.

Happy morning coffee drinker, my favorite Shakespearean Insults mug, pre make-up and all!

Two-boat-day Weekend: Cruising, Tubing, Jellyfish, and Storms

End of season, we found a great tune on sale. I figured next summer would be great for Mac to try tubing…then my hubby surprised us with one!

Mac had a blast! We each took turns riding with him. He is a great swimmer, thanks to my hubby who had him in the water very early, having lifeguarded and taught baby swim classes when he was in college.

The rest of the weekend was amazing with our visit to The Bay and cruising around Choctawhatchee Bay. Even my horrible jelly fish sting (not my first, but the worst), and my goose egg I got on my shin from catching myself on the trailer ladder when I slipped (first time for that, ever) didn’t slow us down. (If you ever get stung by a jellyfish, while there are several solutions to remove the sting, we keep apple cider vinegar on the boat for stings. It helps!)

It was a perfect weekend on the water, despite our Saturday escape from a storm that popped up. My hubby is an expert water man – he can tell when it’s safe to stay and when to run!

I felt the shift in the wind, right about the time my hubby heard the thunder (I couldn’t over the stereo.) We packed up and made the run back to the boat launch and made it back before the rain.

I love the beauty and unpredictability of our boating life. It’s easy to love when I have an expert water man in my hubby.

Happy Boating,

J.

The Bay – Perfect Atmosphere and Food

The Bay, coming in by boat

The Bay restaurant is fabulous! just over the 331 bridge, it’s nestled on a sweet shoreline with the casual coastal feel of white sand, fire pits, bistro lights, and most importantly, yummy food!

This past Sunday, we enjoyed our 2nd boat day of the weekend cruising Choctawhatchee Bay, and while we usually grill on our boat grill, we do like to pull up to some of our restaurants that have boat slips. While at The Bay, I was thrilled to see they also have a sushi bar. It’s st the top of my list for a date night dinner!

Porch seating offers a beautiful bay view!

I have only been here once before, and I was excited to bring my family here for the first time. Our friend, a ship captain, came with us, also. We all ordered the fried shrimp, which were huge and plump. I had a green salad and scalloped potatoes. Delish!

Seafood – my favorite!

We look forward to coming back on the Wednesday night happy hour. With plenty of indoor and outdoor (including beach) seating, it’s a great place that accommodates families with children as well as the couple looking for a romantic date night.

Our view during lunch.

Whether by boat or by car, this is a restaurant to check out when in the Destin area of North Florida!

Happy Exploring (and eating),

J.

Pizza on the Joe!

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Pesto, mushroom, and chicken pizza going on the Joe!

We love to cook on our grill and smoker! We had two of our smokers go out on us, and this last one was a real problem. It was an electric smoker, and it only lasted us a year. Since we have plans of building an outdoor kitchen in the future, we decided to go ahead and get what will hopefully be our lifelong smoker: a Kamado Joe. It’s a ceramic smoker, similar to the “Green Egg,” but not as expensive. We love our Joe!

This smoker runs on charcoal and it’s also a grill. We have plans to do more baking on it, but up to now, in addition to smoking fabulous meats, we’ve only baked pizzas on the Joe.

Charcoal glow: the magical source!

The best and easiest pizza dough recipe I have found is on sugarspunrun.com, the recipe is here. It only needs a half hour to rise. I add dried basil to the dough, and when I roll it out, I brush it with melted butter or olive oil and garlic powder, otherwise the dough is bland.

The hubby spreading on the butter and garlic

Pesto based pizza

I love how this dough cooks. It holds toppings and isn’t at all flimsy. I have not baked it in the oven, but I imagine if a pizza stone is used, the effect would be the same.

Pepperoni going on the Joe
Now that’s a pie!
Our version of Mellow Mushroom’s Magical Mystery Tour pizza.

We live in a fairly rural, coastal area. There isn’t a Mellow Mushroom anywhere around us, so we cook to recreate some of our favorite restaurants’ signature dishes. This pesto, chicken pizza is my husband’s favorite!

We set our Kamado Joe to 450 and set the stone in 10 minutes before the pizza. Then, we cook the pizza 7-10 minutes. Then, it’s pizza perfection!

Happy Cooking,

J.

Rosemary Gone Wild!

I’m like my rosemary plant: we love the sand and the sun! They say you should plant rosemary by your front door for luck. Mine is in the ground, as close to my front door as it can be, in my front flower bed. I love the smell, but I think of it as a winter herb to be used in marinating meats and cooking in stews…mixing into potatoes. What other uses does it have besides drying it and cooking with it?

Rosemary, rosemary, and more rosemary!

A lot. Here are a few I’ve tried.

Stovetop Potpourri: Right now, my house smells amazing! I love to put water and herbs on the stovetop to simmer and fill my house with amazing fragrances. I have a rosemary and lemon concoction on now, and it’s so clean and refreshing!

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Leaves from our lemon tree and rosemary

I love lemon in my water and drink it throughout the day. We have a baby lemon tree in the back yard that has produced a few lemons, so while I used some lemon wedges in today’s potpourri, I like lemon in my drinks, so I took some lemon tree cuttings (minus the barbs!), and set those to simmer.

Other Uses: I plan to make a few wreathes for indoor use, and I have also set some in small jarred bouquets around the house, and I made a few sachets.

I am looking forward to trying different projects and recipes. How do you use rosemary in your cooking or in your home?

Happy Harvesting,

J.

 

Presto: Pesto!

Basil!

My husband loves pesto. He could eat it by the spoonful, I think. So, I recruited my Sous Chef, my son, to help me surprise his dad and make pesto so that we could make our first homemade, pesto based chicken pizza.

I had Mac help me pick pesto leaves from our basil plant, and we had fun! The best part for him may have been getting to push the button on the food processor.

Mac the chef picking basil.

Mac mixing it up!

Pesto is so simple: basil leaves, olive oil, walnuts or pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and lemon zest all blended in a food processor. Check out this recipe I found on The Suburban Soapbox here. A simple and straightforward recipe. My grandmother Lois used to say, “You do the best you can with what you have.” So, I used what I had in my house. I used walnuts, and I used processed, grated Parmesan cheese, but next time, I will buy a wedge of Parmesan and try pine nuts.

We love chicken pesto and we love it in pasta. I can’t wait to try it on our pizza, tonight, and I’ll create a pizza post, after. (We love to bake our pizzas on our Kamado Joe, and this has been a new thing for us, but the oven is great, too.)

Pesto!

I would highly recommend that if you have kids, get them in the kitchen, early! Obviously, give them “safe” jobs – pouring, measuring, etc., and keep them from stoves, ovens and sharp objects. Practice common sense and caution. However, creating those lasting memories, and teaching your child how to be clean and practice food preparation is priceless. Both my husband and I have fond memories of being in the kitchen at a young age, and it certainly has influenced our love of cooking, today.

Happy Eating,

J.

Sourdough Lessons

Second, unsalted batch. The far right is the doughy loaf.

Well, I did it! I did “me” and boy, was it a doozie. I thought I could handle overlapping my sourdough bread process. I had company coming in and wanted to bake a trial batch and the actual to iron out any problems. Timing worked out that I truly didn’t have time to do a trial batch and a real batch, but I wanted the same “trial run,” so I jumped in and thought I could do it all.

Haha.

The first batch was great save an overly crunchy/overly cooked bottom. I found a solution on a bread baking forum online: crumpled up tin foil, stretched back out and layered to make an insulator under the cast iron Dutch oven. I tried it on my second batch, and it worked like a charm!

However, I forgot the salt! Salt! The flavor of life…and bread. So, with a sprinkle of salt, and a spread (or two or three) of butter, we managed to salvage one loaf from that batch.

The other, however, was terrible. I forgot to put the lid on the Dutch oven, and the loaf didn’t pop on the top, where I had scored the dough, but it did pop on the side, and looked like it had a tumor. Or some odd side-growth. A hernia. And because of the side poof, it was dense and doughy. Not edible. Not even as French toast.

Third loaf – the charmer.

However, on an upward note, after about a week, I attempted my third batch. The dough texture was like silk. I didn’t forget the salt. The sour in the sourdough “popped” through, according to my husband and my tastebuds. The bottom wasn’t over cooked. It was the most perfect batch I have made, yet. I was happy to share a loaf with new neighbors who move in, two houses down, and to serve when a friend came to dinner.

Like all good things, well baked bread takes time.

Happy Eating,

J.

Roots and Wings

I am soaking up the quiet times and the squeals of excitement in these final days of summer; the Sepia afternoons of sunset and the crystal shimmer of the sea; the salty air that permeates my coastal life and the smell of succulent meats on our smoker in the backyard; the laughter that arises from play with our child and the quiet moments of our family together at the end of the day.

These late days of summer have been the sweetest of my life. Be present! Don’t miss these moments. I want to be fully aware and in the moment I am in and fully enjoy the sounds, sights, smells, and feelings all around.

The only constant in life is the inevitability of change. My son’s world is about to explode into the beauty of friends and school and learning, and I am so grateful. These summer days are drawing to a close where his realm of influencers will reach beyond the walls of our home – to teachers and friends. With that naturally comes a mother’s celebration, and a slight, momentary mourning: we will no longer be his everything. But, that is okay. We will always be his loving parents.

We have given him roots, and now we are about to give him his first real set of wings: school days. What an amazing adventure it is to be a parent! I am grateful. And I am actively working on being present.

I hope you are enjoying your summer and wherever you are in life, you are present. Whatever is happening in the ebb and flow, you’re able to know when to establish roots, or when set forth in flight.

Blessings,

J.

Sourdough Bread Success!

I did it! The test was my 4 year old son – he wanted seconds. My husband wanted seconds. And my friend who gave me the starter said the pic I sent him looks great.

So, now that I’ve baked once, I get to try again tomorrow and fine tune my dough-ball shaping skills. I wanted a “practice run” before some of my family come to visit this weekend, and circumstances sent me into overlap with the 3-day process. Trial by fire. Go big or go home. Dive in head first. That’s my nature, so here I am, baking again tomorrow.

I was able to walk my second loaf over to my neighbor’s house, and my friend, S, popped her head out the back door a little while later and said they love it and were eating it right then.

That’s why I bake. I love doing it, but I love to gift the goods to friends and neighbors. It always brings a smile to their faces.

And to see the buttery grin on my son’s face, and know my husband has a treat to enjoy after a long work day. I am looking forward to baking the next batch, today, and continuing to perfect my sourdough! Many thanks to my neighbor and friend, Shaun, who gave me the starter and recipe!

The following are pics of my “bake day” process.

Loose square formation before folding and forming the dough balls.
After folding corners of “square,” it looks like a diamond. Fold each corner once more.
After 2nd round of folds
Both dough balls
Dough balls and banneton

Happy eating!