Witness to the Fall Symphony

FALL SPILLS FROM NATURE’S SPIGOT, and robust reds, rust, yellow, bronze and cinnamon hues tumble out, painting the landscape low to high. The transformative symphony shouts to us like a toddler seeking his mother’s attention!  Look! Watch me!

AN ONGOING EXPLOSION of  sights and sounds fires our passion and stirs memories of our youth in the embrace of our family. Now listen!  The wind whooshes and the seasonal dance accelerates, then slows and picks up tempo again. Leaves twist and turn in the wind as the trees let go of warm weather attire that hid nests and wooded retreats.  Each step through the leafy carpet adds a crunch and snap to the Fall harmony of sights and sounds. Walking here is meditative…heart rates slow and endorphins soar.

THE MARCH TO THANKSGIVING BEGINS!

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TODAY, I AM THANKFUL  I am here in this place and time to witness the ushering in of the Fall season once again.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2015

Pumpkins Everywhere in Oatmeal, Smoothies, and …?

IT’S FALL!  PUMPKINS ARE EVERYWHERE, ..and they  offer so much more, than jack-0-lanterns for Halloween, and pie for Thanksgiving.  Aside from decorating our front entrances and hearths, pumpkins can be enjoyed in so many sweet and savory foods…and it seems they are healthy too!

THE TEMPERATURE WAS IN THE HIGH 60’S  and sunny early this morning… a great morning for oatmeal. As I opened the pantry to prepare breakfast, I noticed a can of Libby’s pure pumpkin puree. The label on the can suggests pumpkin is chock full of vitamins.  Pumpkin is an “excellent source of vitamin A and fiber” and is very low in fat (no trans fat or saturated fat), only “4 g sugar and no preservatives” added.  That’s a lot of healthy beta-carotene!

WHY NOT PUMPKIN OATMEAL?   I added a couple of tablespoons pureed pumpkin to each bowl, along with raisins, walnuts and a sprinkle of brown sugar.  Pumpkin oatmeal,  orange juice, whole wheat toast, coffee and the morning paper.  What a comforting way to begin a Fall day!

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AFTER AN AFTERNOON WALK walk with our dog Bear, I enjoyed an icy… rich tasting… pumpkin smoothie.
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons almond butter
1/4 tsp almond  flavoring
1 scoop vanilla slimfast protein powder
dash of pumpkin spice and Splenda
ice cubes
After blending,  a dash of grated nutmeg was added on top.   Hmmm. So refreshing.

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WHEN I WENT GROCERY SHOPPING LATER at Trader Joe’s store, I found that pumpkins had taken over the store! There was pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin salsa, pumpkin corn bread, pumpkin pita bread, pumpkin cereal, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin latte coffee, pumpkin ravioli.  pumpkin muffin mix, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin butter, …and more.  WOW. I had no idea.

I PLAN TO KEEP SOME CANS of pumpkin puree on hand this Fall to see where the pumpkin inspiration takes me.  For now, it’s time to savor the transition to Fall and plan a weekend in the beautiful North Carolina mountains.

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Sue Marquis Bishop 2015

Raising Seafood in the Midwest! What?

“Indiana could become the shrimp capitol of the world”, according to the  Brown family, who raises shrimp in a land-locked farm.  No!  That can’t be!  Can it?

My family moved to the flatlands of southern Indiana from the mountain state of West Virginia when I was a teenager. Neither of these states is situated near the coast for easy access to all kinds of seafood, with the exception of lake fishing.  In the Midwest, corn and soybeans are common crops.  Is Indiana, in the heartland of America, on the way to becoming a major center for farming shrimp? Really?

I didn’t know about the rich variety of seafood available when I was young, as there was a limited selection of seafood available at the local Kroger store  in Madison, Indiana where Mom did her weekly shopping. (Changes in distribution and frozen foods have increased seafood choices in the Midwest from the years when I was growing up.)

 I learned to cook a variety of foods from my mother who was a good cook.  Mom prepared a full sit down dinner every night, and our family of six ate together in the dining room. Our plates were stacked in front of Dad who sat at one end of the table, and he dished the plates with food and passed them around.

Our meat entrees included pork chops, roast cooked with vegetables, hamburgers, chicken and turkey.  Mom bought a lot of ground beef each week and we helped her patty them out with a wooden hamburger smasher.  My younger brothers were picky eaters and hamburgers were one thing they would eat without complaining. We had potatoes every meal – usually baked potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, or homemade French fries.

We also enjoyed mom’s desserts – pies, baked custard and ice cream most often, and she always baked each of us a birthday cake for our special day.

Our culinary fare in seafood was limited.  We ate our share of tuna salad sandwiches, baked salmon loaf made from canned salmon, and as children we seemed to like the fish sticks that mom heated from a frozen food package.  What did we know?  We were kids.  Grouper? tilapia? Never heard of them or knew what fresh salmon or tuna filets looked like .   Lobster? Never saw a live one up close.  We would have likely said “yuck” when we saw the insect-appearing critter anyway, just like we refused to eat frog legs someone gave our family.

When I moved to Florida, and later North Carolina, as an adult, my love affair with all things seafood began, and I learned to prepare a variety of delicious foods for my family that were harvested from the sea.  How wonderful that they are more healthy than the heavy dose of red meats I grew up eating each week.  In her senior years, my mother enjoyed new seafood dishes in my home that she had not tasted before.CIMG3146

Tonight, I prepared a simple dinner with baked tilapia… seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon, rolled in panko crumbs, baked and topped with sour cream/dill sauce.  We also had baked sweet potatoes, grillled zuchinni and cooked cinnamon apples. Comfort food on a cool September day.

New technology is creating seafood farming options for land-locked areas of the country. The Brown aquaculture farm, one of 11 shrimp farms in Indiana, is becoming a leader in the inland farming of shrimp in the U.S, and is one of 11 shrimp farms in Indiana, seven added just in the past four years. The Browns who previously raised hogs before switching to shrimp, hope to expand to tank farming of oysters, talapia and crawfish (Popular Science, 2015).

 An article in the October Popular Science (2015), entitled “The Midwest is Our New Ocean”, describes the low-tech methods developed by Texas A & M that is enabling land-locked areas to enter seafood farming. Basically, the tanks don’t need to be filtered, as bacteria held in a liquid suspension keep the tanks clean and with no need for antibiotics. The article states that this sustainable method of in-land farming may be critical for our future, as our “ocean is dying unless we change our ways”.

It’s exciting news that research has devised a way for in-land farming of seafood in cost-effective and healthy ways in the Midwest, with other possibilities on the horizon.  This new technology creates jobs and provides healthy food for a growing population.

But, I can’t be so cavalier about the oceans becoming toxic. It will not be so simple to have any quality of life on the planet if we destroy our oceans, even if we increase the farming of seafood in the Midwest. Reducing over-fishing and curbing pollution remain huge environmental concerns.

Sue Marquis Bishop, 2015

Little Free Libraries: One Book and One Community at a Time

 “To be caught up in the world of thought – that is to be educated” (Mary Webb, 1924).

The Little Free Library was born in 2009, when a Wisconsin man built a small replica of a schoolhouse, in memory of his mother who was a teacher who loved to read, and he installed it on a post outside his house. Todd Bol was inspired to create his little free library by the philanthrophy of Andrew Carnegie, who financed the building of over 2,500 libraries in the 19th century.

 As school children, we learned about Andrew Carnegie, the richest man in America in the 1800’s, who not only built libraries worldwide, but also gave the land and construction money to build Carnegie Hall in New York City.  Carnegie came to America from Scotland as a poor young man, made his fortune in steel manufacturing, and then gave away nearly all of his vast fortune to establish foundations and projects in research, education and science throughout the world. Many are still in existence http://www.history.com/topics/andrew-carnegie

In a few short years, Bol’s idea of Little Free Libraries has caught the public’s fancy, and little free libraries are appearing in coffee shops, residential neighborhoods, churches, train stations and bus stops in rural and city communities throughout America. By February 2015, Little Free Libraries had grown to over 25,000 in many countries throughout the world, including Sri Lanka and India.

“Books are the carriers of civilization” (Barbara W. Tuchman, Authors League Bulletin, 1979)

Todd Bol’s inspiration to create his little free library is yet another contribution paid forward for the benefit of individuals and communities worldwide…promoting literacy and learning…and possibilities for living.

Books …allow us to learn to sympathize with (others),… (and) to learn truths about ourselves, about our own lives, that somehow we hadn’t been able to see before” (Katherine Paterson, The Horn Book, 1991)

The memory of being read to, is a comfort I carried with me to adulthood.  One of the greatest gifts my Mother gave me and my sister and brothers was a love of books. Our adventures with books began early. She weaned her babies from the breast by reading to them, and she took her children to get their library cards when they could walk.  Research suggests children who read perform better in school.  And a child who has difficulty reading has significant handicaps in life.

“There is no substitute for books in the life of a child” (Mary Ellen Chase, Recipe for a Magic Childhood, 1952).

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.“Books, to the reading child, are so much more than books – they are dreams and knowledge, they are a future, and a past” (Esther Meynell, A Woman Talking, 1940)

Books introduce us to far away places, occupations we might never have understood, cultures and new knowledge that enrich our lives.

Our neighborhood installed a Little Free Library this Summer in our Spring Park community.  We are still learning to use and value our little library. If you want to build one in  your neighborhood, this is what we have learned so far about making our little free library a learning and recreational resource for our families::

  • Consult the international web site http://littlefreelibrary.org for information on building a Little Free Library.
  • Identify a neighbor who is willing and able to build the little library
  • Install library for maximum accessibility by members of the community.  Our neighborhood installed our LIffle Free Library on a post at the community pond and park near street access and the walking trail.
  • Identify a neighbor to serve as the neighborhood librarian (weekly check to add or remove books)
  • Register your library on the http://littlefreelibrary.org web site and order an official Little Free Library sign
  • Set community guidelines for operation of library: Ours simply says
    “Take a Book!  Leave a Book! Share a Book!  Books for adults and children should be suitable for a community of families. Books  in the Little Free Library change from time to time as new books are added, and some return back to be re-circulated. Books will be retired to another neighborhood after a period of time in our own library.”

In  some communities,  the availability of the Little Free Library has spawned books clubs, reading tutors for children, writing groups, and relationships with regional public libraries.

Little Free Libraries hosting books… free and accessible…passing it on…. sharing neighbor to neighbor…community to  community.

“Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier” (Kathleen Norris, Hands Full of Living, 1931)

Sue Marquis Bishop 2015

Sounds of Long Ago Summer Evenings

“Summertime is the time of sharpest memory.”
(
Ruth Sidransky, In Silence, 1990)

As I worked on writing projects today on the back porch,  I heard sounds of children playing outside. It’s August, and the new school year begins for them in a few days.

The happy sounds bouncing around in the sunshine turned my thoughts to past Summers days as a child.  I remember the last days of Summer as especially sweet, as we anticipated the start of school and the end of our Summer freedom.

 Sounds of Summer Evenings on West Virginia Avenue

Warm Summer evenings stir memories of sounds from long ago
evenings on West Virginia Avenue, and I listen and remember,
Chiming bells announcing the arrival of the ice cream truck,
Buzzing of a bee as it flits from flower to flower gathering pollen,
Gurgling Icy lemonade pouring from pitcher to glass, ,
Whirring clicks of the push mower cutting grass next door,
Bumping of a basketball hitting the rim and bouncing in,
Var-ooming of brother Ed playing with his toy cars,
Pattering rain outside an open window after napping,
Swishing of the water sprinkler on the front lawn,
Pounding feet on the driveway playing hopscotch,
Shouting children, “You’re it”, “My turn”, “I won”,
Rolling metallic sound of skates on the sidewalk,
Hammering by Dad who is repairing something,
Ch-chinging of the bell on the paperboy’s bike
Cracking of a ball on a bat from the vacant lot,
Chirping bird songs in the backyard trees,
Thumping on a watermelon to test ripeness,
Splashing water from the kiddie pool,
Twacking of a mallet on a crochet ball,
Barking of our dog Fluffy as he runs,
Crashing of a Summer thunderstorm,
Sizzling bacon for BLT sandwiches,
Cranking from the ice cream freezer,
Rustling of the wind in the trees,
Squeaking of the porch swing,
Slamming of the screen door,
Laughing and yelling children,
Mother calling,
“Sue, Nancy,
time to come in.”
Low voices talking
inside houses with lights,
at days end.
Sounds of my life
from long ago..
Musical memories,
stored for a rainy day.

Close your eyes.  What do you hear?

Sue Marquis Bishop, 2015

It’s Spring at Spring Park! Flo Builds a Rabbit Warren

AS I SAT IN THE SUNROOM reading yesterday, I witnessed an AMAZING scene.  I was in the right spot, at the right time, to see a busy rabbit prepare her Spring burrow.  What a privilege to watch!

THE RABBIT SELECTED A LOVELY SETTING for her den underneath a patch of purple groundcover in the backyard.  She worked diligently digging out a cavern with first her front legs.

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THEN SHE STRETCHED HER LONG, BUNNY LEGS straight out and dug some more and pulled the dirt away from the growing hole ballooning under the flower bed.

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I ADMIRED HER DEDICATION to her task.  I named her Flo.   She finally excavated a hole with an opening about the size of a softball.  (I regret I didn’t get a picture of the entrance before she closed it).

FLO PULLED GRASS AND CLOVER and carried it in her mouth to the rabbit warren…  I supposed she was making a soft bed for some baby rabbits she was expecting.

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WHEN SHE HAD CARRIED enough grass to suit her, she entered the rabbit cave, and began to pull the mulch surrounding the flowers over the opening, until it was completely covered, and she was no longer visible.

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I DIDN’T HAVE THE HEART to chase her away before she took up residence.  I guess I’ll need to fence my vegetable garden and protect the young flower shoots a little.   Maybe there will be enough for all of us.

SPRING IS EVERYWHERE NOW… bringing industry and enthusiasm for new beginnings.

BRIGHT PINK DRESSES cover the bases of our trees,  making an appearance just in time for Easter this year.

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SOFT PURPLE SPRAYS  tossed in the air by other trees.

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CAROLINA JASAMINE waves its branches in  the April wind…decked out in lemony yellow and whiffs of lovely.

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IRISES are popping open their showy beards in colorful array.

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THE MALLARDS ARE PAIRING for their seasonal selections of mates.  Annie stops by each evening with the two drakes she has accepted for this year.  They are always at her side … her mate and his wingman (wingdrake?)   They wait patiently while she eats her fill, and protect her when other drakes come too close   They stay about 15 minutes, begging for a corn  handout before flying back to the pond across the way.

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OBSERVING SO MUCH  industry outside, I am motivated to work on my own Spring “to do” list.  Let’s see, I have cleaned out the sock drawer…

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… and had the chaise lounge in the sunroom re-upholstered.  What’s next? (The chaise is my favorite place to read, make lists or just enjoy the flowers, birds, and other critters at play and work in the back yard.)

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Happy Spring!

Sue Marquis Bishop 2015

Sammy Squirrel, Shamrock Cookies and Brown Cows

IT’S  84 F DEGREES with scattered clouds and Carolina blue skies in Charlotte.  Buds are swelling on the trees.

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WE CELEBRATED St. Patrick’s Day by sitting on the patio with shamrock sugar cookies and a cold Brown Cow.

THERE ARE DIFFERENT RECIPES for a brown cow.  One calls for a chocolate liquour, milk,  whipped cream and chocolate syrup… a refreshing  drink really.

OUR BROWN COW is a drink we had as teenagers in Indiana.  The Black Cow of my adolescence was made with coca cola and ice cream.  The Brown Cow that I loved best contained root beer, vanilla ice cream, a dash of chocolate syrup and sometimes whipped cream on top. Hmmm!

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MY HUSBAND HAS BEEN FIGHTING what is likely a losing battle with Sammy squirrel trying to keep him out of the bird feeders.  We have a large wind chimes just outside the sunroom door. When we’re in the sunroom, we can see  the back yard with the various feeders.

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ONE FEEDER IS beside a tree.  The cardinals and woodpeckers love this feeder.   Sammy climbs up and jumps on the roof of the feeder. He then climbs down and and hides his body inside the feeder,  with his fluffy tail hanging out giving him away.  When my husband sees Sammy’s bushy tail hanging down from the feeder, he opens the door and rings the chimes.  The squirrel runs like the wind two or three yards away.

WE SET OUT oranges cut in half for the Baltimore Orioles and a suet, peanuts  and mealworms cake by the sunroom window hoping we would attract Bluebirds.

SAMMY must have smelled the peanuts in the mealworm cake hanging at the top of the tall pole with a big hook at the top.  It was too high for him to jump up and there was no tree nearby.  He was soon struggling to climb the shepard’s crook.  After sliding down many times, he finally figured out how to get on top.

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HE STOPPED AND STARED at me through the window, like he was thumbing his nose at me.

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I GOT THE IDEA to grease the pole to inhibit his climbing.  I greased it well with butter.  It didn’t take long for him to attempt the climb again, sliding down each time. SO FUNNY.   I wish I had a picture of him sliding down the pole holding on for dear life.   He left finally, deciding to forego the peanut treat – at least for today.  I have no doubt, he will be back.   Sammy is clearly the clever clown of the back yard.

Happy Spring!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Sue Marquis Bishop 2015

RedBirds, Southern Snow and Lebanese Porkchops

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WE’VE WAITED ALL WINTER for a decent snowfall in the sunny south and it’s finally arriving.  It was dark when it began to snow, and I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of the snow coming down in huge snowflakes, blanketing our world outside.

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OUR 3-4 INCHES OF SNOW will melt in two days, but we enjoy it while it’s here.

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THE SHOWY REDBIRDS  gather at the backyard feeders as the snow  begins to fall.

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THE RED BELLIED WOODPECKER family visits to sample the peanut suet.

TWO CROWS stop in briefly and the small birds arrive and walk under the feeders catching the fall out.

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TIME TO THINK ABOUT DINNER. The slow cooker is a welcome fixture in my kitchen, especially on a cold winter day, when I want to prepare an easy meal.  I decide to make Lebanese Pork Chops. Each Lebanese cook creates her own mixture of spices, based on family tradition.  This is my version of Lebanese Seven Spices Seasoning, modified from a recipe I found several years ago in The Week (no author).

5 Tablespoons  Allspice

5 Tablespoons Cloves

3 1/2 Tablespoons Cinnamon

4 Tablespoons Ginger

4 Tablespoons Greek seasoning

4 Tablespoons Nutmeg

3 1/2 Tablespoons Pepper

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COAT THE PORK CHOPS well  with the Lebanese Seven Spices mixture and rub into meat. Brown each side In a hot skillet with a splash of olive oil to seal in juice

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MOVE PORK CHOPS TO CROCK POT (slow cooker). Wash and cut sweet potatoes into large chunks and add to crock pot.

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ADD ABOUT 1/2 CUP OF ORANGE JUICE.  Cook on low for 3-4 hours until pork shops are done.  Then, I peeled apples and cooked them with butter and brown sugar in the microwave oven. (Sometimes I  add the apples to the crock pot later in the cooking  time )

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WHILE THE PORK CHOPS WERE COOKING,   I  baked some mini apple caramel cakes for dessert by adding diced apples and spices to a cake batter and topped with a caramel topping.

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It’s difficult to catch the woodpecker with the camera, but I finally caught him two days later, as the snow melted away.

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Sue Marquis Bishop February 28, 2015

A Valentine for My Husband

Again this year, advertisers courted us to purchase a variety of Valentine products and services, marketed for lovers. But… Valentine’s Day can be a perfect day to focus on the blessings of love in our lives. 

Given the state of unrest and suffering in the world,  a day set aside to celebrate a gentler agenda is welcome…and it’s fabulous that  a day is set aside to focus on love.  The world needs more days like this.

As I prepared our Valentine’s Day dinner this week, I thought about the blessings that a marriage of many years can bring.

We never run out of things to talk about.

I whipped up a white cake recipe, coloring part of the cake mix red, to create a red and white swirl cupcake…and counted some of the blessings of love that my husband brings to my life:

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I look forward to hearing your key in the door when you have been away on errands.

I appreciate the flowers you frequently bring to me on random days, for no particular reason or occasion.

I know you have my back when I am concerned about something and you seem to say just the right thing to put it in perspective.

When the cupcakes were done, I removed the pan from the oven, enjoying the warm vanilla aroma, and continued my reverie:.

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One of my favorite times of the day is having breakfast with you in the morning…a quiet time together before the busy day begins.  The sun shines into our breakfast room heralding the new day, and we watch cardinals, bluejays and red bellied woodpeckers through the window.  Even on rainy days, it’s a cozy way to begin the day.  We sit across the table from one another, silently reading two morning  papers, … occasionally reading something interesting to one another.

I prepared almond frosting and red decorating sugar and selected a few large chocolate discs for decorating the mini and regular size cupcakes.  

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My second favorite time of the day is our pillow talk at bedtime, sharing the the good and the great, and the not so great, about our day, and our plans for tomorrow.  No matter how busy we each have been during the day, we touch base again at day’s end.  

Thank you for your loving care and attention to my parents, especially in their senior years.

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You occasionally reach out and touch me gently as you walk by, even in a crowd, …and I interpret your touch as a quiet message that says, “I see you.  I love you.”

You have the best hugs in the universe, and we know we can ask for each other for a hug anytime (some hectic days a hug is needed).

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My heart grow in affection for you as I watch you being a loving father to our children.

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Even when we were engaged in working through some disagreement or hurt, I have always felt loved by you. 

I am proud to take your arm as your wife and join in any and all social situations, and I know you are proud of me too.

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I’m so glad we can laugh together!  It feels so good to laugh.

I am thankful there continues to be room in our relationship for our independence as individuals in thought and activities, as well as our togetherness as a couple..

We have been together for some time now and have so many shared memories we can talk over…something we can do when we really grow old.

I made some homemade boiled custard to serve with the cupcakes and strawberries,… and a sweet Valentine’s dessert is ready.

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Happy Valentine’s Day to my Husband!  …and to all  new and experienced lovers everywhere.

In Thomas Moore’s (1779-1852) words:

“…the heart that has truely loved never forgets….”

“…time will but make thee more dear….”

Sue Marquis Bishop February 2015..

Butternut Squash Soup for an October Lunch with Friends

Fall is in the air in the Carolinas and it’s the perfect time for making hearty soups and arranging friendly gatherings.  One of my favorite soups this time of year is butternut squash soup.

My sister-in-law Yvonne is visiting from Kentucky and we invited our friend Barbara to join us for lunch.  The table is set in the breakfast room to enjoy the outside view from the adjacent Carolina Room.

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I love to make hearty soups… seems like magic to add, blend and stir…and  end up with something new and warm to enjoy. I make it differently each time based on what I have available and want to try.  This is the soup for this day.

1 large onion, minced

4 garlic cloves

1 Tablespoon butter and splash of olive oil

Wash and slice one large onion and sauté in a splash of olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter.  (Adding minced pieces of celery is optional.) When the onion is nearly translucent, add 4 garlic cloves, salt and pepper and heat for a few minutes longer..

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In a large pot, whisk together squash, vegetable stock, honey and cornstarch. When well mixed, set pot on heat and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally.

1 can butternut squash

1 large carton vegetable stock (broth) (chicken stock OK too)

1/4 cup honey

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 Tablespoon butter

1 cup cooked carrots, sliced  (or one can of carrots with liquid)

1 large white potato, previously baked and cut in bite size chunks

Spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, thyme, curry

When squash mixture boils, add cooked onions and garlic, cooked carrots, baked potato, butter and spices. Begin adding spices at 1/4 teaspoon and increase to get the flavor you prefer.  Use a pinch of curry, as a little goes a long way.  (I use curry with 2-3  basil leaves stored in the big curry jar to infuse savory basil flavor… as suggested by my dear Chinese friend Leai).

When the soup returns to a boil, turn heat to medium-low and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes to blend flavors. The last couple of minutes on the heat, gently whisk in the milk. . Serve soup with a tiny sprinkling of nutmeg to enhance the aroma. Serve with great breads and crackers and a tossed salad with strawberries or other fruit.

The breadbasket for this meal holds raisin bread, pumpkin bread (not the sweet bread) and crackers. (I crocheted an edge on some material I liked for napkins.  I think it adds a nice touch.  I don’t do any fancy crocheting… just the basics.)

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What could  be  better  than  homemade  squash  soup, a sunny Fall day and  good conversation with friends. CIMG2181

Sue Marquis Bishop 2014

Saying Goodbye to my Summer Garden

As garden plants begin to dry in their last stages of growth and Summer flowers fade to sleep, I want to revisit one more time some of the lovely flowers in my yard this Summer.

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I look forward to the return of the colorful Summer flora next year.  I’ll add some new flower bulbs in the yard this month so they can rest in the Winter ground until time to add their voices to the Spring symphony in my garden.

Every season has it’s beauty.  As I see evidence of fading flowers and leaves, I know that Fall will soon burst forth in a dazzling and noisy display.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2014

Tomato Crab Pie: One-dish Meal from a Charlotte Summer Garden

 TOMATO CRAB PIE TONIGHT? A  tasty way one-dish meal with tomatoes juicy ripe homegrown (or farmer’s market)  fresh from the garden.  As the end of  August heats up in North Carolina, time is fleeting to continue to enjoy these seasonal delights.

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I CAUGHT A FEW MINUTES of a Martha Stewart cooking show today showing her tomato cheese tart.  I was inspired to create a new recipe for our dinner with freshly picked tomatoes using some fresh crab meat on hand.   

FIRST, PREPARE A BAKED PIE CRUST.  I used a refrigerated crust and baked in a 375 degree oven until lightly browned. 

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WASH TOMATOES AND COVER with boiling water for 45 seconds so peels will come off easily.  Immerse in cold water and remove peelings, stems and any hard core. Grease baking pan with olive oil and arrange tomatoes with stem side down.  Sprinkle with salt and  pepper and oregano and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. (Picture below is after baking.) 

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TWIST ALUMINUM FOIL around a garlic bulb and roast in oven at same time as tomatoes.

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WHILE TOMATOES AND GARLIC are in the oven, slice a large onion and stir fry in a small amount of olive oil and a pat of butter. 

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REMOVE GARLIC BULB from oven and spread garlic paste on bottom of baked pie crust.  (Thanks Martha for this idea.!) 

ARRANGE TOMATOES,  touching side by side, over garlic spread in baked crust.  Layer 1/2 of the onions on top of tomatoes, then add a layer of shredded cheese.  (I used 3 cheeses I had available: Monterey Jack, cheddar and asadero – a low fat mixture).

MIX CRAB MEAT in separate bowl with seasonings and rest of the onions, and layer onion-crab meat generously over and around tomatoes and cheese.  I used cooked crab meat and several seasonings (basil, oregano, papricka, salt, pepper, celery seed).  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to blend flavors.

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SERVE WITH TOSSED SALAD, garlic toast, peach ice tea, and lemon sherbet for dessert.

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ADD FRESH FLOWERS to the table and dinner is served. 

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WE THOUGHT IT WAS DELICIOUS. Next time, I think I’ll add some carrots and just a taste of bell peppers, sauted with the onions.  If you have ideas for improving this recipe, I would love to try it. 

  Sue Marquis Bishop 2014

What is Carolina Tomato Marmalade? A Delicacy of the Tomato Season

MAKING TOMATO MARMALADE is a richly rewarding way to approach the end of the tomato season.  AND… jars of this homemade jewel of a sweet treat make fabulous holiday gifts.  

WE HAVE ENJOYED EVERY DAY of the long tomato season this Summer with a bounty of tomatoes, from only eight tomato plants.  We have eaten our fill of bacon and tomato sandwiches, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato salsa and chutney and more.  Today, I made a simple  lunch with tuna salad and tomato. 

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TWO YEARS AGO, when our daughter Heather spent a week with us in our cabin in the North Carolina mountains, she asked if I would show her how to make jelly or jam.  We had just purchased some large candy stripe tomatoes from the farmer’s market in Burnsville. The tomatoes were  mustard yellow, with narrow  ruby-red stripes that were, widely spaced around the tomatoes from stem to bottom. I hadn’t made any jellies or  jams for a few years and didn’t have any old recipes with me.  So, we created a new recipe using these wonderful tomatoes.

THE CANDY STRIPE TOMATO MARMALADE we made not only tasted fantastic, but the deep yellow and red colors in the jar were striking. We only made 6 jars and hoarded them for ourselves, bringing out a taste when company came.  Heather tried to take her 3 jars home on the plane and they wouldn’t let her board with them, so she mailed her jars to her house

I DIDN’T HAVE any candy stripe tomatoes this year, but did have several red varieties, so I used our same recipe with red tomatoes and named this version Carolina Tomato Marmalade. (The recipe can be doubled with good results. )

Carolina Tomato Marmalade

WASH AND STERILIZE jam or jelly jars.  Leave lids and rings in hot gently boiling water until use. Leave jars in hot dishwasher after washing until use or sterilize in boiling water. . 

  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced and seeded
  • 1 medium orange, thinly sliced and seeded (thin skin orange)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated gingerroot (peel and grate)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves

CHOP EACH LEMON SLICE into quarters and orange slices into eight pieces. Remove white center segment and seeds. Then chop into thin pieces and add to saucepan.  Add sugar, orange juice, grated gingerroot, cinnamon stick and cloves.

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Bring to boil and reduce to gentle simmer until liquid is reducd and lemon and orange slices are translucent, tender and “candied”.  Stir often to prevent burning.  Remove from heat.  Remove cloves, cinnamon stick and discard.

WHILE LEMONS AND ORANGE MIXTURE is simmering, prepare tomato mixture.

  • 5 cups tomatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 Tablespoons fruit pectin
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

WASH AND IMMERSE TOMATOES in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen skins so they will peel off easily. 

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DISCARD PEELING and cut tomatoes in 4-8 pieces. In large pan, add tomatoes, butter and pectin and stir to mix well.  (Use of pectin will decrease amount of foam to be skimmed off later.)  Leave pan off heat for 10 minutes.

STIR TOMATO MIXTURE again and place on medium high heat.  When the mixture hits full rolling boil, add sugar and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly

TURN HEAT TO MEDIUM TO MEDIUM-HIGH.  Add candied lemon and orange mixture from small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup orange juice, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground allspice and black pepper.  Let it boil (low boil) until it begins to get thick, about 20-30 minutes. (We found it took longer to thicken in the high altitude of the mountains.) You can check how it is thickening, by adding a teaspoonful in a small dish and cooling it, or seeing it flow off the spoon in a thicker sheet (as opposed to a single drip).

WHEN IT BEGINS TO THICKEN, remove from heat and skim off foam on top with a metal spoon. 

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FILL JARS leaving 1/8 inch at top.  Wipe sides and top edges of jar to remove any spillage and tighten lids and rings.  Move jars to deep pot on stove and till with water 1-2 inches over the tops of the jars.  Place cover on pan and bring to boil.  Boil for 10 minutes.

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THIS CANNING POT allowed the lowering of the jars into the water on a rack.  When we made it in the mountains, we did not have a canning pot, but used a deep pan.

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SET PAN OFF HEAT and allow to cool. When jars are cool, check lids and rings.  Lids are sealed when center of lid is pushed down and will not release up. The Carolina Tomato Marmalade was a deep burgundy color with pieces of yellow lemon and orange rinds visible among the tomato seeds.  Lovely!  

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I PREPARED A SIMPLE dinner of  ham, mashed potatoes and green beans,  and made biscuits for dinner, so we could enjoy the new treat.  My Dad so loved tomato preserves. As I put the biscuits in the oven, I thought of how Dad would have enjoyed this dinner, ..and I remembered the day my daughter and I created the tomato marmalade recipe.  Such warm memories make my life that much richer.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2014   

Ducklings Rescue at Spring Park Pond

On a warm Summer Day, a family of resident ducks went for a stroll. This duck family needed help from the Fire Department before the day was done.

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Our new neighborhood has a community pond that has been adopted as a home base for several families of ducks.  Some are mallards with their beautiful green necks.

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Some are domestic ducks.  They come in all color combinations.  The black ones with white necks and chests remind me of penguins as the drakes waddle along, typically in a group.

One of the black hens with white markings we named Henrietta.  Every day, she brought her brood of ducklings to rest under the red maple beside our sunroom.  We had a front row seat to watch the ducklings grow from day to day.  We gave them fresh water, but took feed to the pond each day.

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The ducks wander about during the day throughout the streets of the community when they aren’t swimming at the pond.  Ducks are monogamous during one mating season, but  may choose another mate the next season.  When the ducklings are very small, the drake stays nearby for a short time.

After a duck was killed by a car, the homeowner’s association installed speed bumps in the neighborhood to slow down the traffic and they moniter speed to keep our community safe for children, walkers and ducks..

Some of the ducks have markings like abstract paintings with varied patterns of brown, tan, cinnamon and white stripes… some have a formal looking tweedy vest, and some have black  polka dots on their white chests.

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Some of the brown mature ducks have a navy blue stripe on the sides of their  wings. The baby ducklings are various shades of black and white and brown….with tiny black bills.  Some have yellow on their necks and upper breast when they are young.

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Occasionally mixed into with a large brood, there are 2-3 butter yellow baby ducklings with orange bills and orange  webbed feet.. They are storybook gorgeous.  My husband names them Marilyns.  They seemed to be the first to disappear.  I wonder if large predator birds or turtles can see them easier?

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Mother ducks would never be accused of neglect.  Ducklings stay with their mothers for 6-8 weeks, trailing along after her.  When they are small, they gather under mother’s body, so 18 or more can be completely hidden.

As they grow in later weeks, the mother hen hustles to stay up with them, but she keeps them together.  They continue to sleep a lot when young and to sleep in a heap touching one another.

I noticed that only a small percentage of the ducklings tended to survive …. maybe 5 or 6 only from large litters of 18 and 21.   An internet check revealed that this is typical for wild ducks.

One  afternoon this Summer,  Ethyl and her brood went for a fateful stroll… The ducklings veered off the sidewalk  to the edge of the street, and one by one, followed their siblings  down the sewer drain.  An alert neighbor called the fire department and Engine 28 responded…our heroes to the rescue.

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I snapped a picture of one of the fireman with his arms and torso stretched down inside the drain as he searched for the ducklings..

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Success!  He kept at it until he retrieved all but one of the ducklings.. and they were pulled out to safety and an anxious mother duck..

The duck family was  soon on its way back to Spring Park pond, apparently none the worse for the experience in the sewer.

The neighbors expressed their gratitude to the Fireman for the rescue.   I sent them some tomatoes from the garden, with a pound of bacon, to make bacon and tomato sandwiches for their lunch in the Firehouse .

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And the ducks went on their way back to Spring Park Pond.

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Sue Marquis Bishop 2014

 

 

Tomato Peach Salsa Takes Talapia, Chicken or Pork Roast to a Starring Role on Your Table

The bounty of luscious and plentiful fruit and vegetables of warm Summer days stimulate creative days in the kitchen.  Today was such a day when I used available foods and spices to make a tomato-peach salsa.  Sooo good with a meat entre for dinner!!

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Our tomatoes are producing generously this year.  We are enjoying our fill of bacon and tomato sandwiches, tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad, sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, as a side dish of breaded tomatoes.  The best is grabbing the salt shaker and eating a freshly picked whole tomato warm from the Summer sun…tomato juice dripping through our fingers, as we hold our heads over the sink..

Today, I noticed two peaches sitting on the kitchen counter beside the basket of tomatoes we had just harvested.  The thought occurred that I might develop a salsa recipe that we could use with the pork roast I had cooking in the crock pot.

The first step was to wash the tomatoes and cover them with boiling water for 30-45 seconds so the peelings will  come off easily. One of the features in our new house that I love is the boiling water faucet in the kitchen (Thanks Peggy, for including it in the kitchen remodel!.).

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And, it really works too.  So much easier than trying to peel the tomato skins off.

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When I am creating a new recipe, it’s a little of this and a pinch or splash of that.  So, I will share the approximate measurements.  You may want to adjust several of the ingredients for your own tastes.

The salsa I made today includes peeled and quartered tomatoes (about 5 cups), two peaches, lemon juice (about 1/4 cup),apple cider vinegar (about 1/4 cup), honey to taste (1/2 cup), 1/2 diced green bell pepper, 1 tablespoon minced basil, 1 tablespoon  minced gingerroot, 1 medium diced onion, black pepper, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon allspice, 2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup raisins.

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Cook at gentle boil until thickened, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

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The tomato-peach salsa was processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes to seal canning jars.

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The crock pot pork roast was tender and juicy and ready for dinner when the salsa was done.  The meat-salsa combination was delicious… spicy and sweet-tart.

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We munched on turkey sandwiches on sour dough rolls for lunch the next day.  The tomato-peach salsa made the sandwiches extra special with icy orange-ice tea.  I’m so glad I made enough for another day.

Sue Marquis Bishop   2014

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