Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Myth or Magic? Does this recipe really make whites whiter?

A long while back, I shared a picture and wrote, "I hope I remember this the next time I have the inclination to buy white pants for Carrington. That's blackberries at the top, grass at the knee, and mud at the hem, and that's from just one wear!"
I try to remind myself that "boys will be boys," but not all boys wreak this level of havoc on their clothes. Carrington is a special case when it comes to destroying new pants. 
It usually starts out very innocently. Here, upon arrival at the Clifton Inn, the pants are clean.
Still clean for a game of croquet.  
See, this is where it starts getting tricky. Nothing good in the way of white pants can come from eating blueberries while also sitting on Pop's lap.  Although I didn't witness or capture the proof on film, I am confident that a great deal of silliness ensued that evening, resulting in the afore mentioned blueberry stained upper portion of the white pants.
Can you spot Carrington in this lovely picture?  Who needs a thousand words, when I can sum it up in two? Grass Stains. 
I was able to somewhat salvage those white pants. I eventually cut them at the knee, hemmed them, and made them into shorts, which he wore all summer long, and well into the following summer. I swore I wouldn't buy him any more white pants, and if he wasn't so completely adorable in them, I could have kept my promise. They weren't his first pair, and they certainly won't be the last, so I needed a really great stain remover that can get even Carrington-size grass stains out of the knees of white pants.
I have a run-to-in-case-of-laundry-emergency stain removing product that I have found myself using more than I want to. It works like magic! But it also smells like a chemical spill, and the warning label says to use in a well ventilated space and not to breathe it in or get it near your eyes. Sounds safe, right? Exactly what you want to wash your precious little mud and grass stain covered angel in, right?
Since I am in love with most all things Pinterest, I went in search of a DIY stain remover, and found one that looks safe and effective, and this week I finally got around to trying it out. It is my first SoVA Mom Myth or Magic Experiment.
I am unable to give credit to any one person for this recipe, because I found it on many, many blogs and Pinterest sites.  The recipes were the same or similar on each one.  The recipe I used calls for 1 part blue Dawn dish detergent, and 2 parts hydrogen peroxide. Jillee at One Good Thing by Jillee recommended adding a little baking soda as well, which I did. I mixed the detergent, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide in a bowl and used a scrub brush to apply and scrub the mixture on to the clothing.
We attended a potluck a couple of weeks ago at the home of friends Bob and Victoria. They have the loveliest yard and the prettiest green grass.  It had rained buckets in the days prior to the gathering, so the yard was thick and lush.  Someone told me that evening that she loved seeing the children run and play outside. They looked as though they were "frolicking." I looked outside to see the sweet frolicking children, but was confronted with my daughter lying on her back in the grass with her knees pulled up to her chest in a fetal position, with Carrington stretched out, his feet barely attached to the ground, his back pressed against her feet. The goal was for Courtland to push out with her legs as hard as she could while propelling her brother into the air before plunging himself back to the earth.  Before I could yell "Don't get any grass stains on those white shorts," Carrington was thrust into the air, landed on hands and knees, and although he could have stopped there, grass stainless and clean, he continued to roll around on the grass in a fit of giggles. I wouldn't trade those giggles for a whole closet of the purest of whites.
I was surprised that the shorts weren't more dirty and stained than this. The front looked about the same, maybe a little dirtier. I also had a couple of white button up shirts of my own, and two of Mark's dress shirts. Sometimes I wonder how white dress shirts worn at a bank can get so dirty, but then I remember that Mark is just a grown up little boy, and it all makes perfect sense. I made a bowl of the stain remover using the recipe, but tripling it.  I scrubbed, and I could tell a little difference, but not as much as I had hoped at first.  By the time I had scrubbed all of the shorts and shirts, however, and picked up the first one I had worked on 20 minutes earlier, I could tell a huge difference. The trick is to let the solution set.  The worse the stain, the longer it may take to work its magic.  There were a couple of really heavy soaked through grass stains that were the size of pencil leads that came mostly clean, but I couldn't entirely get them out. The other spots, though, were completely gone.  The whites really were whiter. Myth or Magic?  The recipe for getting whites whiter is magic!
It's hard to tell from a picture of two white shirts against a white door, but I promise the shirt on the left is dingy and the one on the right was treated with my recipe, and is much whiter. I didn't realize just how dingy that shirt on the left was until I compared it with the freshly washed one on the right.  This recipe is for making whites whiter, not necessarily getting stains out, but I used it for both, and it was effective for both.  One Good Thing by Jillee suggests using this recipe for getting whites whiter, and has another recipe just for stain removal. I think I'll try that one next time. Until then, try frolicking in the grass with the kiddos.  It comes highly recommended. If you get grass stains on your knees, shrug it off. You got this. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

There Was Nothing I Could Do For This Old Plate

I was at Goodwill Tuesday. I am usually there looking for project inspiration in the form of something that is broken, old, or worn, something I can mend, repair, paint, or repurpose.  I do some of my most powerful brainstorming and creative thinking there. I came across an old, once-was-white dish, a small platter. A small portion of its scalloped edging had chipped off leaving its ceramic insides on display. Hairline cracks made their way across the plate,  and dark spots in various sizes seeped all the way through, showing on the underside. I casually spoke to a lady beside me who I didn’t know, but felt somehow connected to as our treasure hunting led us to standing side by side staring at the same dishes on the same shelf in the same store.  “How do you think I could get these stains out? What do you think this is?”  “I don’t think you can get those out," she told me.  "Those are heat marks and probably go all the way through.” I turned the small once-was-white platter over to inspect, and found that she was correct. “I don’t think you can fix that either. That’s broken right off.”  There was nothing I could do for this old plate.
I was scrolling through facebook a couple of days ago, and I stopped on a picture that a friend who is my age had posted of herself. As I studied the picture, I was struck by her wrinkles. Several lines of wrinkles formed around her eyes, underneath and on the corners when she heartily smiled. They were lovely.  I thought about her wrinkles, and how each one developed over years of smiling, laughing, loving, living, for every laugh line a memory, a lifetime of stories woven together to form every crease. I thought about how beautiful her wrinkles were, not only in a metaphorical, symbolic kind of way, but pretty. Her wrinkles are very pretty.
I thought about the plate again, and all of the hairline cracks and various sized brown spots all the way through and the place where it had been damaged leaving its insides exposed. I thought about how that plate must have stories to tell. I don’t know its history, but could imagine it sitting on a kitchen counter piled high with biscuits every single Sunday afternoon. Someone carried it to the table where it sat until the blessing was asked. After years of wear, it was replaced, and it sat around in a drawer or a box in the attic until someone finally decided to donate it. I bet they wondered if they should even donate it, with its heat stains and cracks and its chipped edge.  The old plate was worn, but I thought it was really beautiful, both in that metaphorical, symbolic way, and also because it was simply pretty.
To me, nothing is just what it is. Everything is a little bit more. I went back for the plate. I brought it home and put it proudly on display, where it won't serve biscuits, but will serve as a reminder.  A reminder that with stories and history and service, we withstand cracking and aging and dark spots from time to time, and that with those things come sort of an earned beauty that deserves a second look.  Living can often leave us feeling open and vulnerable and exposed, but with maturity and experience and lots and lots of laughter, we learn to love and accept that openness, displaying it with grace and charm.  I could not do anything for the plate, so I let it do for me.

Friday, May 16, 2014

What I Found on My Town of Halifax Morning Run

My son Carrington was standing in the upstairs hallway with his backpack strapped across his back, his dad and sister walking out the door calling him to hurry up, and his yearbook in his hand and a grin on his face.  He couldn't find his yearbook a few minutes before and called down to ask me for help. When I got to the top of the steps he explained that he had stood "right here" and prayed for God to help him find his book. And he did! 
We should always ask for God's help, guidance, and support in times of need. I told Carrington how smart it was of him to ask for help, and that he is very fortunate that God has given him two eyes, hands, and feet so that he can look for things on his own. Carrington needed to focus, be attentive, and keep his eyes open in order to find his book. God gave him the ability to do those things so that he can help himself.
It was ironic that I had this short conversation with Carrington this morning right after my workout with Kasey at 524, the fitness community in the Town of Halifax that I wrote about yesterday morning. You can read more about Kasey and 524 here.  When I went in to work out this morning, I warmed up, and then she sent me and the other two girls on our morning mission, my workout being halved since I'm a beginner. (Thank you, Kasey!)   We started out with running loops around the War Memorial and Beth Carr Baptist Church, then I completed 50 lunges (25 each leg) and 50 sit ups, then two more church loops, which made my running/walking total one mile. I did all of that in 27:33! 
I actually enjoyed the run/walk I took around the loop. I remember when the War Memorial was dedicated. My husband was on the War Memorial Committee, and we attended the 2003 dedication. I knew the Memorial was there, but had not paid a lot of attention to it in the years since.  I also drive by Beth Carr Baptist Church on a regular basis, but never really noticed what a lovely church it is until this morning, as the sun was rising, rays shining on its steeple.  After my workout, I went back with my camera and took a few pictures. These things have been here for years, and I have never until today truly appreciated their beauty.
One of the things I have noticed about blogging for the past couple of months is that I am now more aware of what's around me. I am on the lookout for these things. I notice more and appreciate more.  There is so much beauty in this world, and God has provided so many opportunities for us to take advantage of them.  Matthew 7:7 tells us to "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." This can be applied to so many things in our lives. I believe this is true. I believe that we find what we are looking for, whether it is beauty, peace, negativity, doubt, or grace, or even a yearbook from time to time.  There are many things to be found on this earth, so I remind myself to be on the lookout for the beautiful, the peaceful, the mysterious, or any of the lovely things that my heart desires. God has provided for all of these things, and has given me the ability to see, feel, and experience them if I choose. I encourage you to do the same. Keep your eyes open, be attentive, and look for the miraculous in the mundane, the beauty in the ordinary, and peace amidst daily chaos. You may very well find what your'e looking for in the most extraordinary way.  
I would stay and write a little longer, but I have some asking, seeking, and knocking to do. I'm headed outdoors, and I believe there's something out there for me to see...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

It's a Big Deal to Me!

We’re not expecting! I’m not moving. I’m not going back to school. I’m not getting a new job, a new car, or even a new haircut.

I announced on facebook a few days ago that I was a little nervous, a little excited, but very, very ready for my 9:30 am appointment. I finished it off by saying, "Wish me luck!" Evidently I evoked quite a bit of curiosity, which resulted in a phone call asking if we were expecting, and another friend who quipped about whether or not I might be "getting boobs." Nope on both accounts.  We all know that what is important to one person may not be so important to another, and what is no big deal to one, may be a huge deal to another. Well, this is a big deal to me!
Mother’s Day was last weekend, and I am a firm believer that if and when you want something, you should express it.  Let it be known. Ask for it. Work for it. So I did.  This Mother’s Day, I asked for and received a month of personal training with Kasey Rising at 524, a fitness community in the Town of Halifax, here in Southern Virginia.  The way I see it, it’s more than just a month of training. It’s an opportunity to look, feel, and perform better.
I went in Monday at 9:30am for my first meeting with Kasey at 524. I had a 7 minute workout to complete. Kasey turned up the music, set the timer, and I got busy assessing how much I could complete within that 7 minute period. I surprised myself! In 7 minutes, I completed 20 modified pullups, 40 pushups, and 60 squats. Who knew??
My stomach was sore for the rest of the day, and I woke up the following day not thinking I could work out two days in a row, but I went back Tuesday morning, too, and had my first personal training workout.
I'm on the board!  Results are posted on the board each week, so I can keep up with my progress. I don't want to compare myself to others, but I do like to have a frame of reference and a little assurance that I'm in line with what others are doing. 
I have thought for a long time about having a trainer and working on getting back into the shape I used to be in before I had children. When Carrington was a preschooler, I started jogging and swimming, really being careful about my eating, and I lost 30 pounds. I have gained some of that weight back, so I really want to push myself to go further in my fitness journey.  Although I would love to lose weight and get into better shape, it's not just about how I look. In fact, I don't think I look too bad when I put forth the effort to look nice. My biggest problem is that I don't feel well.  When I wake up some mornings, I feel like I have been run over by a truck! When I was twenty, working out was about how I looked. I am quickly approaching my forties, and this time, it's all about how I want to feel. (Looking better won't hurt, though.) Again, I believe that if and when you want something, you should express it. Let it be known. Ask for it. Work for it. So I am.
524's fitness space is located in the basement of the Edward Jones building in Halifax, around the corner from the courthouse on Mountain Road. She is available for training from 5am until 10 am, and from 3 pm until 7 pm, five days a week, and for several hours on Saturdays, which is nice because you can choose to work out before or after work. I love this picture Kasey has on her facebook page of the 5:30 group working out together. Looks like fun, doesn't it? That's Kasey on the far right in the purple shirt.
I am using my free trial week this week, but plan to start using my monthly membership next week. Monday I will have my measurements taken and BMI calculated, etc. I'll be sure to update my progress over the next month.  As for now, I have to go - I have an appointment. Wish me luck!

Friday, May 9, 2014

What I Gave Myself for Mother's Day (and the Surprise in the Mailbox that Made Me Eat My Words)

Meet Courtland Elizabeth, also known as Courtland, Courtie, Miss Courtie, Ladybug, Doodlebug, Doodles, Oodles of Doodles, Pumpkin, Pumpkin Pie, Darling, And Sweet Pea. Isn't she precious? She is my first born, the one who made me a mom. I was posing for a picture this morning, when she ran up to me in an attempt to "photobomb" it. At first I thought about shoeing her off so I could go on with my picture (for this article) but decided quickly to grab her up and take the picture with her. I'm so glad I did, because it is the most candid picture we got this morning, and it is also my favorite. Thanks, Miss Courtie for always keeping your mama on her toes! I love you, Doodles.

Do you know what's a great feeling? Having an organized purse. Also, having a clean car. But when those two things happen on the same day (and they rarely do), it is the best feeling! Knowing how awesome (and rare) of a treat that is, I decided to give myself an early Mother's Day gift.  

Forget the flowers. Forget the jewelry. What Mom wanted was a clean car and a little organization. Oh, and about sixty minutes of Mom-Time to give myself a mani/pedi.  With this thought in mind, I started by dumping out the purse and starting over with a clean slate, so to speak. When it was as organized as it could possibly be, short of maybe being completely empty, I moved on to the car. I spent three hours in a marathon car detailing, sanitizer spraying, toothbrush scrubbing, washing cup holders in the kitchen sink, vacuum cleaner attachment, seat-tilt feature, kind of way. I cleaned out the inside, then drove to the car wash for the outside. I'm not quite sure why I do that, because by the time I scrub the wheels, scrub the fenders, and wipe down and clean the windows, I could have probably just washed it myself in the driveway. Maybe its because every time I go I am reminded  of Miss Courtie and Cary as toddlers belly laughing in hysterics when the pressure sprayers took turns pounding the window closest to each of them.  We still giggle about it a little even today when we go through the wash. 

Where was I?  My nails were an absolute wreck when I was done. I considered putting the mani/pedi on hold to do some other things that needed to be done, but felt like taking this time for myself was more important.  Plus, I had no idea when else it would get done, if not now. I saw a recipe on pinterest that calls for pouring white vinegar, mouthwash, and water into a pan or bowl and soaking the feet and/or hands for twenty minutes. Have you seen that one and wondered if it works? The answer is a resounding "yes." I have used this mixture probably five times in the last year, and it works wonders for softening my dry spots. I managed to find the time to also paint my nails, and I must say, I finally feel "put together" and it feels fine. Happy Mother's Day to me!  

Remember when I wrote "Forget the jewelry?" May I take that back? I would like to eat those words, please.  This package was waiting for me in the mailbox that evening when I was already in my feeling-put-together celebratory mood. You know the one.  I was expecting a package, but didn't know what it contained. My friend since college, Dawn Biddlecomb, has always had a keen fashion sense, balancing contemporary flair with her own classic style. Dawn has been a successful Stella & Dot stylist for several years. Something about this package told me that the contents would be good. Hello Gorgeous.
Maybe it was the love note on the outside encouraging me to recycle... 

Or the lovely box in my favorite spring color...
The packaging was nice, but...
This is what was inside that fabulous package:
The Elodie Necklace by Stella & Dot
Simply Gorgeous.
It was perfect with my lace top... 
and my grandmother's diamond earrings.  I don't look happy to be wearing this necklace, do I? The eating of words will now commence. Having a clean car is nice, but what's the point if you don't have a little sparkle for the drive?   
I wore the necklace with the lace top yesterday, but today I wore it with this white cami and a coral cardigan sweater. What I like about this necklace is that it is versatile. It looked just as pretty with the cotton sweater as it did with the lace. I can also see wearing it with my aqua and navy blue maxi sundress.  What I also love about this necklace is the array of colors. The aqua blue, teal, coral, citrine, and pumpkin not only all go well together, but are also all popular colors now, so I have lots in my closet that I can wear this with. I also have a tendency to wear a lot of neutral colors, such as creamy whites and tans, so having a necklace such as this one gives me a pop of color without making me feel overdone.
This brings me back to my first picture...the one of Courtie helping me out with my "modeling session." I don't mind at all, and think the picture is much better with her in it, anyway.  

Dawn Biddlecomb is a Stella & Dot Stylist, and she sent me the lovely necklace as a gift, but she didn't ask me to say these things. These are all my opinions and my own words, and I simply shared them  as a way of expressing my appreciation.  
Do something nice for yourself and someone you love this weekend, 
and have a very Happy Mother's Day!
Update: This blog article about the Elodie Necklace by Stella & Dot received over 300 views plus at least one necklace was purchased via my article, all within 24 hours.  Because of the attention my blog article drew to her website, Dawn set up a “party” for me.  Having an online Stella & Dot party wasn’t my reason for writing the article, but I’m happy that Dawn set this up for me, so that I might get credit for the sales from my article, earn some more of this beautiful jewelry, and continue to introduce friends to this line of jewelry and accessories and to Dawn. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pick Your Own Strawberries in Southern Virginia

Miss Courtie at Reese's Farm in Scottsburg, Virginia

(Update: This list was originally published in May 2014. The information may still be accurate, but calling in advance just to make sure is always a good idea. Have fun!) 
Pick-Your-Own Strawberries
A List of Farms in Southern Virginia 

Appomattox County, Virginia:
    C and S Farm – Strawberries, 2082 Oakleigh Ave, Appomattox, VA 24522, 434 352-5971,, May, Monday - Friday, 7:00am-7:00 pm. Saturday 7:00am-4:00pm, We raise strawberries that you can pick in May. 

    Brunswick County, Virginia:
      The Cabbage Farm – Strawberries and farm stand; 1020 Regional Airport Road, Brodnax, VA 23920, 434-729-2111,Pick your own, Farm stand with pre-picked strawberries.

      Campbell County, Virginia:
        Yoders' Farm - Strawberries, 1134 Browns Mill Road, Rustburg, VA 24588. 434-401-4864 or 434-332-6657; Open: Monday to Saturday, from 7 am to 7 pm; Closed Sunday; Payment: Cash, Check. 

        Charlotte County, Virginia:
          Bakers' Farm Fresh – Strawberries, 3030 Fearstown Rd., Randolph, VA 23962, 434 542-5658. Pick your own and pre-picked strawberries. Call for hours. 

          Chesterfield County, Virginia:
            Chesterfield Berry Farm - 20501 Skinquarter Road, Moseley, VA 23120, 804-739-9056 or 804-739-3831, Open: Strawberry season starts May 1: Hours will be 9:00am to 5:00pm daily. Market opens mid March; Strawberry festival is May. Payment: Cash, Check, Debit cards, Visa/MasterCard, Discover. 
              Swift Creek Berry Farm - blueberries and vegetables, 17210 Genito Road, Moseley, VA 23120. (804) 739-2037, Open: April through October. Call for hours and picking information.  

              Danville and Pittsylvania County, Virginia:
                Motley's Strawberries Gretna, VA. (434) 656-2838; Bring your own containers. 2009 prices: You pick, $1.10/pound. Open:  Monday to Saturday from 7am to 8pm. 
                  Bachelor Hall Farm and Nursery – Strawberries, 224 Bachelor Hall Farm Road, Danville VA 24541, 434 685-7959, Open: Please call for times and hours. We also host school groups during Strawberry Picking Time (April 25-June 1).  
                    Owen Farm Tours - 1668 Silver Creek Road, Danville, VA 24540, 434-685-4123 or 434-728-2698,  Payment: Cash, Check, Debit cards, Visa/MasterCard, Discover.
                      Halifax County , Virginia
                        Dean Puryear Farms – Strawberries, 3191 Huell Matthews Highway, South Boston, VA 24592, (434) 575-7307 or 517-0237 (night);  Open: 8 am to 7 pm, Monday to Saturday; 1-7 pm, Sunday. pick-your-own or fresh-picked strawberries. 
                          Giant Oaks Farm and Orchard, Bed & Breakfast - Uses natural growing practices, 3035 Neals Corner Road, Clover, VA 24534, 850-691-9661 or 804-712-1738, Open: Farm store open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am until 6:30 pm Use natural practices, but are not yet certified Organic. Payment: Cash, Check, Debit cards, Visa/MasterCard, Discover, AmEx. USDA Registered Farm and working on Organic Certification with all sustainable practices already in place. 
                            Reese Farms, Inc. – Strawberries, 8125 James D. Hagood Highway, Scottsburg, VA (Near Halifax and South Boston, VA) Pick-Your-Own or pre-picked strawberries, Scottsburg, VA 24589, (804) 454-6808; Open: 8 am to 7 pm, Monday to Saturday; 1-7 pm, Sunday
                            Nottoway County, Virginia:
                              Blue Feather Farm  Strawberries, 2276 Ridge Road, Blackstone, VA 23824, 804-926-1875,,Crops are usually available in April through October, Monday to Friday 10 am to 8 pm; Saturday 8 am to 8 pm; Sunday 11 am to 5 pm. Strawberries begin late April to early June, Payment: Cash, Check. 
                                Windmill Hill Farms – Strawberries, 1553 Orchard Road, Burkeville, VA 23922, 434-767-4224, every day during season from 8 am to 8 pm Strawberries: Late April to Early June Payment: Cash, Check

                                Monday, May 5, 2014

                                Salsa Three Ways~Garden Fresh Salsa, Black Bean and Corn Salsa, and Avocado Feta Dip

                                Today is May 5, also known as Cinco De Mayo, and is celebrated by people in Mexico as well as much of the United States. Cinco De Mayo is known as The Day of the Battle of Puebla, celebrating Mexico's unlikely victory over French forces on May 5, 1862 during the Franco Mexican War. I love a celebration and in celebrating with our neighbors to the south, our family is having a Mexican inspired dinner tonight, so I have been busy making salsa three ways. 
                                While my salsa recipes aren't authentic Mexican dishes, I do use some of the same ingredients as those in the authentic recipes. Mine are inspired creations using fruits and garden vegetables, and all have a few ingredients in common: tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, and citrus juice (either lemon or lime).   I often use roma tomatoes when making salsa, but today I had 8 beautiful farmers market style slicing tomatoes that were perfect for this project. I used 7 of the tomatoes, and will keep the last one for dinner.
                                I feel the need to say a word or two about these vegetables. I believe that vegetables are one of the most amazing gifts that God gave us on this earth.  Have you ever thought about it? Vegetables are vibrantly colorful and shapely. They are truly a fun creation. It is hard to beat the flavor of fresh fruits and vegetables. The variety and combinations of flavors are endless.  God created them to grow in such abundance that we are able to enjoy them daily. Those of us who have access to fresh vegetables are extremely fortunate. I try to never take that for granted.  To sum it up, they are beautiful, tasty, meant to be enjoyed daily, and the best part…we are rewarded for using them by looking, feeling, and performing our best. 
                                I try to chop the tomatoes and onions large enough to get the whole food taste and texture, but small enough that it will fit onto my Tostitos Scoops.  
                                Garden Fresh Salsa
                                This is the easiest and the first salsa I made today: The Garden Fresh Salsa using only 4 ingredients.  In this salsa:  3 slicing tomatoes chopped, 1/2 heaping cup -3/4 cups red onions chopped, 1/4 to 1/2 cups cilantro chopped depending on your taste, juice from 1 large juicy lime. Feel free to add salt according to taste.  
                                Garden Fresh Salsa
                                This is so simple, and it tastes wonderful. I took this to my husband and his coworkers this afternoon. He called to say that they  loved it and there would be none left to bring home this evening. That's what I like to hear! 
                                Black Bean and Corn Salsa
                                The second salsa that I made today is a Black Bean and Corn Salsa. This is what I mixed together: 3 large tomatoes chopped, ½ red onion chopped, 1 can corn drained (use fresh, frozen whatever you like. If I had fresh ears of corn on hand, I would have used them), 1 can black beans drained and rinsed well, 1/2 cup cilantro chopped, juice from large lemon, and salt to taste. If your salsa is too runny for your liking, drain it using a colander. You may want to drain the tomato juice before adding the lemon juice, as to maintain the citrus flavor.       
                                Black Bean and Corn Salsa
                                Isn't this a pretty combination? 
                                The third salsa I made today is really a dip instead of a salsa, but I am couting it anyway because it does call for tomatoes. It is the Avocado Feta Dip.  If I were to make a list of my favorite things, many of them would  revolve around food in some way or another…orange marmalade, covered dish dinners, balsamic vinegar… This recipe calls for feta cheese, avocados, and balsamic vinegar. How could it not be delicious?
                                Avocado Feta Dip
                                This is what I mix together:  2 hass avocados chopped, 2 slicing tomatoes chopped, 1/2 red onion chopped (about 3/4 or so), 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, about 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice, about 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup fesh cilantro or more to taste.  You do not need to add salt to this recipe. The salty feta cheese and the balsamic vinegar give it a very salty flavor.
                                Avocado Feta Dip
                                This is a very pretty salsa dip until you add the balsamic vinegar, and then it isn’t so pretty. What it lacks in good looks, however, it compensates for with flavor. This is so good I could seriously eat it out of the bowl with a spoon. No, seriously, I have eaten it out of the bowl with a spoon. Delish.
                                Almost everything not used in these recipes goes directly into my backyard compost pile.  Lemons and limes take a long time to compost, so here's a little trick I like.  Slice what is left of the lemons into small pieces, then slide them right down the garbage disposal drain while running hot water. Lemons have a natural bacterial fighting property, so you're cleaning while making your kitchen smell lemony-fresh, too.
                                If you think my little family can't finish off all this salsa, think again! Mark and his coworkers finished off the first batch, the children will finish off the black bean and corn, and Mark and I will take turns with the avocado feta dip. Try one or all of them, and let me know if you have a favorite. 

                                Saturday, May 3, 2014

                                What's In My "Day Off?"

                                Have you ever seen the youtube videos called "What's In My Purse?" where girls show you...well, all the things in their purse? This is my grown up mom-version called "What's in my "Day Off?"  I have no idea what's in my purse, but I can share what's in my day. Some things are pretty mundane, and some are pretty cool.

                                This is how my day started, with a facebook post: I love having a day off from work! There is something so refreshing and enjoyable about going to the gym, making breakfast, packing two lunches, working the school lunch room, grocery shopping, hauling off the recycling, returning items to WalMart, running miscellaneous errands, doing three loads of laundry, cleaning the house, walking the dog, cooking dinner, and volunteering at the Beehive the box office on a day when I am not also working 8 hours. 
                                There is some sarcasm in the comment above, but there is some truth in it, too. When I'm working and I feel like is so hectic that I'm falling behind, it truly is nice to take my dog for a walk, and catch up on the laundry, and cook a nice meal since we've been eating out more than I want to admit. Even doing things like running errands and going grocery shopping are things I've sometimes taken for granted. In this sometimes hectic and crazy life, it's good to have a change of pace from time to time, and I appreciate having a little time to get some needed things done.
                                The things on my To Do list that I DID do: Went the the YMCA and walked an hour on the treadmill, made a breakfast that required no cooking, and very little clean up, i.e. fruit, yogurt, and cereal, packed two school lunches, worked in the school snack/lunch room with assistance from my helpful husband, hauled off the recycling to the landfill, took plastic bags for recycling to Lowes (No matter how many reusable shopping bags I take with me to the store, I always end up with a mountain of plastic bags in my recycling bin), returned three items to WalMart, which was relatively painless, and then headed next door to buy some teacher gift items. bought a buggy full of groceries (yep, I say buggy), walked my dog, and sort of cooked dinner.
                                I also ran a few of my errands. My first stop was Garland's Jewelry in Halifax.

                                In this package is my souvenir from Mount Vernon, which the family and I toured on Easter Sunday a couple of weeks ago: a silver dogwood charm and silver charm bracelet upon which to wear it. I took the charm and bracelet to Garland's Jewelry in The Town of Halifax, just across from the Courthouse to have the charm attached. For future reference, Owner Garland Childrey can solder charms on bracelets for about $6 each.  
                                After I dropped the charm and bracelet at Garland's I walked a few stores up to Triangle Florist, and delivered my Kentucky Derby party hat to Owner Bill Granger.This floppy sunhat has seen better days, and had the hat band sewn and monogrammed at Distinct Impressions in downtown South Boston for last year's Kentucky Derby party, so I wanted something fresh for this year's party. Bill Granger promised to add some fresh flowers to the hat, and within my $15 budget. I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of magic Bill Granger has worked on my old hat when I I pick it up on Saturday morning. If anyone can salvage this old thing, he can!

                                You know you're in a small town when the jewelry store owner calls the floral shop owner to say that my bracelet is ready. I love our friendly community! I hadn't been in Triangle Florist very long at all, when Garland called to tell him that my bracelet was finished. Isn't it lovely? The dogwood is a favorite flower of mine. It is the Virginia state flower and state tree, and is a symbol of Easter, which is when I purchased the charm. I'm looking forward to adding more Virginia related charms...perhaps a cardinal, a pineapple, a wine glass...
                                Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week, May 5-9, 2014, and I am planning to send small gifts to the 8 teachers and administrators on behalf of the PTO each day of the week. I am on a tight PTO budget, and want to send inexpensive, but clever and nice gifts to them each day. These are the items we made last year for the teachers.
                                I went to the Dollar Tree and bought planters, cute and colorful cups, popcorn, milk duds, flower seed packets, baskets, Crystal Light, basket fillers, and more. I can't wait to make these projects and share them with you. And the teachers, of course.
                                This is not going in the teacher baskets, but how cute is this? I couldn't resist! I've seen these before, but not at the Dollar Tree. I will probably be back to buy more for the girlfriends. I have a girl's weekend coming up and my friend Laura would dig these, for sure. Maybe I can put a couple of these together with a bottle of wine and a couple of treats or cute little beachy things. Any ideas? I'm open to suggestions.
                                When I said I sort of cooked dinner, this is what I meant. I bought these awesome asparagus and cheddar cheese stuffed chicken breasts from Food Lion. I have never bought these meals before, but thought I'd give them a try since I had limited time, and I'm so glad I did. They were tasty and super easy. I also chopped and sliced some colorful veggies and tossed them in the steamer basket. Voila! Meal served.  
                                I also had to get the children ready for National Day of Prayer.  Mark was asked to say a prayer at the National Day of Prayer event, which was held at the Halifax County High School, and these two sweethearts accompanied him onto the stage. I hated to miss the event, but had been committed to work the Will Call table at the Prizery for the Beehive shows, and since every single upcoming show was completely sold out... 
                                How's My Beehive?
                                All dressed up and working Will Call at the Prizery. By my right side is Victoria Thomasson, Director of Halifax County Little Theatre's production of Beehive, the 60s Musical. This picture was from several days earlier, but you get the gist. Beehive has been the biggest hit. I can hardly believe the amazing talent here in Halifax County! Well done and many thanks to all who have made this production what it is. 

                                What a full, but productive day! I did a lot, but not everything on my list. This is what I did NOT do: Three loads of laundry (I did one and will call that a success) and clean the house.  I'm not too worried about those two items on my agenda. They'll still be there tomorrow...