Thursday, May 23, 2013

Flower Dome Centerpiece - A Two Second Tutorial

At our recent Mother's Day Tea, we had the most lovely centerpiece on the main table.


It was just the right height as to not impede conversation.  Simple and elegant.  It looked like a professional had spent hours arranging the lavender roses just so, but that was not the case. 

Here is how we did it...

We used a round casserole dish as our base.  This is our grandmother's china casserole. 

We purchased a dome shaped florist "frog" from a craft store.  Then we shaved the edges off so that it fit snuggling into the base.
We purchased two dozen roses, but really and stiff stemmed flower will do. 



Finally, we inserted the cut flowers into the dome until it was completely covered.  We ended up utilizing the greenery to fill in the bottom portion of the florist frog. 


And there you have it!  This project took about 10 minutes, but it supplied hours of beauty to our tea table. 

Hugs, 

Melissa

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Our Little Trip to Port D'Hiver

Pete and I had an early wedding anniversary celebration this past weekend.  We took a quick jaunt over to Melbourne Beach and stayed at our favorite bed and breakfast, Port D’Hiver. 


The moment you walk onto the property of this historic bed and breakfast, you know that you are somewhere quite special.  As you enter the front door of the main house, you are greeted by a feast of sights, smells and the sound of serenity. The owners of Port D’Hiver have done an impeccable job of keeping the historic integrity of this sea side home. It is decorated and furnished with a classic elegance that makes you instantly feel at home.  Nothing is stuffy or overly formal, only truly welcoming.  The staff is equally as welcoming as they point out the perks of this amazing place.  Fresh baked cookies and tea or coffee 24/7?  Yes, please!  Oh, and Happy Hour every evening complete with homemade treats and wine, if you wish. 



As you are escorted to your room, the soothing sound of rushing water beckons you to the in ground spa.  There are many nooks and crannies to in the inner courtyard of the inn where one could steal away with a good book and get lost for hour breathing in the heady perfume of the flowering jasmine or the bougainvillea. 




First though, your room awaits you.  The rooms at Port D’Hiver are true works of art.  Each one is like a little pearl waiting to be discovered.  We have stayed in many of the rooms over the years and not one has disappointed.  In fact, we have a hard time choosing a favorite.  The Carriage House is lovely with its views of the Atlantic and dramatic natural lighting that shines warmly off of the natural wood floors.  




Crossing over a private footbridge brings you to The Mangrove Suite which feels very secluded and romantic.  Plus, it has one of  the most luxurious bathrooms we have ever seen.  The beds in all of the rooms are cloud like, making snuggling and sleeping addictive.  But not as addictive as the gourmet breakfast that awaits you each morning at the main house or on your private balcony.  Caramel French Toast, Roasted Vegetable Egg Souffle, homemade carrot muffins...all made and served to perfection. 


Melbourne Beach is a wonderful little town full of great options for dining, shopping and sight seeing. We chose to bring our bikes this time and enjoyed tooling around through the neighborhoods that border on the Indian River.  At night, we enjoyed heading downtown to Meg O’Malley’s for some authentic Irish Guinness Pie and Bangers and Mash.  

We absolutely cherish our times at Port D’Hiver and highly recommend it to all of our family and friends. 

Hugs, 

Melissa

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The House Next Door

Dear Friends, 

Please use caution when reading this post, it covers very sensitive subject matter and it is NOT appropriate for children. Thank you!


The House Next Door

Choking dust hangs heavy in the air with every step she takes toward the house next door.  The sun so bright it blinds.  The humidity oppressive. She reaches the front door and stops, staring blankly.  In a normal world, stepping into the cool shelter of a house on a scorching hot day would be a welcome relief, but her world is anything but normal.  Stepping into the house next door is like stepping into hell itself.  She is five years old.

Images hang heavy in her little mind of a dimly lit family room with curtains drawn to hide the horror.  The sleeper sofa bed open, sheets disheveled.  T.V blaring a soap opera, totally inappropriate for a child to be watching.  Then again nothing in the house next door is appropriate.  Not the death veil of cigarette smoke, not the filthy floors, and certainly not The Man sitting in the corner playing a "tickle game" with another little girl. 

A painting of Jesus hangs on the shadowy walls.  Jesus is knocking on a door.  His eyes are kind and welcoming.  In stark contrast, to the "lady" of the house next door.  She looks at the little girl, her eyes full of scorn.  The woman's accusing stare makes the child feel ashamed, but she doesn't seem to know why.  This is her babysitter. 

Her mother is working all night. She has to stay at the house next door. She certainly can not stay alone and she is too young to watch over her younger sister.  The Babysitter behaves differently when the little girl's mommy is around.  She is kind and clean.  She brings the girls cakes on their birthdays.  She lets the girls and their mom pick fresh fruits and vegetables from her garden, but at night the little girl has nightmares about The Babysitter chasing her out of the garden accusing her of stealing. 

The Man from the house next door is a smoker of Pall Mall cigarettes.  His breath smells of snuff and chewing tobacco.  Shirtless and sweaty he spends most of his days watching television and yelling at his wife, The Babysitter. He is fat and she is obese.  They eat fat back and their house reeks of old grease. She insists that the little girl help her put curlers in her hair.  Her scalp is spongy and her hair is oily. 

At night, the sofa bed is waiting for the little girl to snuggle in, but she is is ushered to the bedroom that The Man and The Babysitter share.  There are separate beds.  The little girl wants to sleep with her sister, but The Babysitter will not allow it.  She says that they will keep each other awake.  Every night, she scowls at the child and tells her to get in the other bed.  The Man is in that bed.  The little girl is five years old.  She does not know what is happening to her every night at the house next door.  

As time goes on, she does not understand what is happening to her in the daytime either. What she does understand is that she had better keep her mouth shut.  The Man has convinced her that if she says anything to anyone, he will do horrible things to her, her sister and her mom.  She is terrified because he lives at the house next door  And so, she plays along with the farce.  She begins to to get used to her surroundings.  After all, she is now six and she has been in survival mode long enough now that she has adapted somehow. The Babysitter is cruel, harsh and jealous of the little girl. While The Man is kind and defends the child.  She depends on him to protect her.  It is a warped, disgusting game of manipulation they have created in the house next door.   The little girl is caught in a web spun by a molester and his mistress. 

The year the little girl is to turn seven, an epiphany happens one quiet weekend afternoon.  The little girl's sister says something that catches their mother's attention.  The little girl's sister knows something that a little girl her age should not know.  And suddenly the little girl finds her voice and then there is light.  All the ugly wickedness comes rushing out from the darkness and into the light. Enough to drown someone if they aren't holding on for dear life.  

That poor mom!  You see, she was taken advantage of by the false kindness of a pretender during a very fragile and vulnerable time in her life. She rode many waves in the days and years to come.  Waves of grief, anger, guilt, fear and regret.

 And the little girl?  Well, let's just say she is still a work in progress, but she no longer lives in hell.  In fact, she has found much healing and restoration for her soul in her strong faith in Christ. 

That little girl is now a grown woman. She remembers that out of place painting from the house next door.  The one with the kind eyed Jesus, knocking at the door.  He has knocked at her heart's door and she has let Him in.  The Great Comforter has soothed her and given her the strength to say, "It is well with my soul."

Hugs, 

Melissa

Friday, May 17, 2013

This and That - Weekend Edition

Ahoy, mateys!  It's the weekend and whew this has been one BIG week!  It's time to kick back and enjoy.

We had several celebrations this past week.  Lots of family time and fun!

Our Mother's Day Tea was a success!  What a beautiful event!  I loved our time together as women and look forward to sharing our gratitude journals throughout the coming months (more on that project next week).





Then, our oldest monkey had the surprise of his life!  A 21st birthday bash with all of his childhood and college friends!  His sweet girl, organized the whole event.  We had a blast!  There was karaoke, a photo booth, a dessert table to end all dessert tables, and great conversations.









Finally, we had a wonderful visit with Pete's mom and dad.  We always love it when they are here and we miss them already.


So now, its time to relax and clean this house of ours.  I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend.  I will be back next Wednesday.  Pete and I have a little celebrating to do!

Hugs, 

Melissa 

P.S.  I am loving all the great feedback this week here on the blog and Facebook.  If you are a new reader,  welcome!  If you have been with us for a while, thank you!  You are the reason why I enjoy blogging so much.  I feel like we have a little community forming here.  Feel free to invite your friends!  The more the merrier! 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Holding On Like a Monkey


Lately, I have been plagued with a vague restlessness.  Something is not quite right in my soul.  I have been reflecting on the past an awful lot.  I am actually naturally wired to be a reflector.  It drives my crazy, but it does have its advantages.  Usually, when I reflect on life and my past experiences, it helps me with the present, the here and now.  When I think about the toughest and most trying times in my life or about the poor decisions that I have made, it makes me catch my breath a bit, but it also makes me thankful.  Grateful that I have learned so much from "those" times and decisions.  The bad has helped shape the good.  And still there are regrets...they linger, they poke, they nag, boy, do they nag.

While reading with the monkeys today, we came across something that made me perk up my ears.  It came from a book called God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew.  In the book, there is a story told about how the natives in Indonesia catch monkeys in the jungle.  Here is an excerpt from the story:

"The natives know that a monkey will never let go of something he wants even if it means losing his freedom. So here's what they do. They take a coconut and make a hole in one end just big enough for the monkey's paw to slip through. Then they drop a pebble into the hole and wait in the bushes with a net. "

"Sooner or later a curious old fellow will come along.  He'll pick up that coconut shell and rattle it. He'll peer inside.  And then at last he'll slip his hand into the hole and feel around until he gets hold of that pebble. But when he tries to bring it out, he finds that he cannot get the paw through the hole without letting go. That monkey will never let go of what he thinks is a prize.  It is the easiest thing in the world to catch a fellow who acts like that."

This story resounded in my heart today.  I found myself wondering if the regrets that I hold on to are holding me back from freedom?  Like a monkey, I have a hold of that pebble and I just can't seem to let it go.  I wonder if the monkey were given another alternative, perhaps another pebble or a banana or something, if he would let go of that "prize" pebble he covets so and gain his freedom?  I have been given another alternative.  I know Christ and His love for me.  His sacrifice for me. I know that I am set free from those past decisions and choices that caused heartache.  Yet, there are times when I relapse into regret.  I just need to learn to let go of that pebble. Sometimes it's a daily struggle. 

And you, friends?  Are there "pebbles" that you have trouble letting go of?

Hugs, 

Melissa


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Writing on the Wall

Yesterday, as I was powdering my nose, I noticed something on the wall of our guest bathroom. It was a precious drawing done in the loveliest shade of brown colored pencil. I took a picture of the little masterpiece and texted it to Pete who was at the park with Little Monkey. I asked him to ask our youngest monkey child if he was the artist.

Little Monkey said that he indeed was the artist and that the picture was actually a sign with a message to all the patrons of the guest bathroom. When Pete inquired what the sign said, Little Monkey told him that it said, "Only two people are allowed to use the potty at the same time." Hmmm...

Either our little guy is totally into efficiency or he is lamenting the lost days of potty training when we spent quite a few hours a day together in the bathroom. Either way, rest assured that if you come to our house we will NOT require you to utilize the loo in two's

Ah, the mind of a preschooler!

Hugs,

Melissa

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

From Uterus to University - Putting the Brakes on Dates

This post will be controversial.  Okay, you have been warned.



I had my first "boyfriend" when I was in the fifth grade.  We even kissed one day after school. Fifth grade! By the time I was in junior high school, I had regular "make out" sessions with a guy who I was "dating".  My freshman year in high school, I lost my virginity.  I was fifteen years old!  Fifteen!!! In no way, shape or form was I ready for the emotional mess that I was making of my life.  I was dishonoring myself, my parents, and God.  Too young and immature to realize that "love" is not found in the backseat of a car or in the warm fuzzy feelings of holding hands walking down the school halls.

In my quest to love and be loved, I began a down hill spiral of dating guys, giving away more and more of myself emotionally and physically.  I was convinced that I needed a boyfriend to be a complete person.

My high school sweetheart and I were committed to each other.  I followed him to college, we lived together.  There was nothing left to the imagination. We dated for five years and vowed to be together forever.  "Forever" ended the summer before my senior year in college when he broke off our engagement. My life came crashing down around me.  I was broken.  I attempted for months after the break up to mend myself.  More guys, more loss. As I scraped and scrambled to pick up the pieces, I found that I did not even know who I was.  For years, I had received a large part of my identity from the guys I dated.  I did not know how to be alone.  I did not know who I was. I was twenty-two years old and utterly lost.

In the years that have followed, I have discovered my true self. I have learned tremendous lessons in love and self sacrifice by being a wife and mother.  I have also developed convictions as a parent about what is beneficial for our children.  Pete and I both feel like our life stories, the good and bad chapters can be used as teaching tools for us and our children.  We are not perfect and we know that our kids are not perfect, they make mistakes and they will continue to, but we are here to point them in the correct direction whenever possible.

Pete and I both feel strongly that our kids should not date until they are in college.  College?  Yes, college.  I know that this sounds radical, but it is our opinion that middle school and high school kids are not ready to date.  Let's face it, kids that age are hormonal.  They are naturally attracted to the opposite sex and that is normal, but why fuel the hormonal fire?  Most kids that age are not self-controlled or mature enough to handle a relationship with the opposite sex beyond a friendship.

So friendship is what we encourage. What more do they need from their peers at this age than to work on developing strong, solid friendships?  Isn't that important training ground for the future serious relationships that could lead to marriage?

Kids need to be able to grow, develop and discover who they are without getting lost in someone else.  Kids need to be able to concentrate on their spiritual, emotional, mental and social development, their family relationships, and their school work without the distraction of a boyfriend or girlfriend.

The way we see it, there will be plenty of time for our kids to date when they are ready.  College is a great place to start.  Although, I will say that waiting until at least the second semester of their freshman year in college seems to be a better time to date. That way, they have made it through the first semester adjustment period.  Even in college though, dating should be a carefully thought out endeavor, because really, if you are not ready for a commitment, then what is the point of getting into a romantic relationship?

I want to say that my parents raised me right.  They tried to instill sound moral values into me. The bottom line here is that we as parents can try to help our kids and try to give them the right tools to navigate life; however, our kids are going to make choices that are not the best from time to time.  Our hope that is that our kids will only make those mistakes from time to time and not all the time.

Two great resources on this subject are:  I Kissed Dating Goodbye  and When Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris.

Hugs,

Melissa

Friday, May 10, 2013

This and That - Mother's Day Edition


Hello Friday!  So glad that you are here.  Happy Mother's Day to all the moms, grandmas, aunts and all the special ladies who invest in the lives and hearts of their families everyday.

My Mother's Day present came a few days early.  On Thursday night, our middle monkey boy attended prom with his sweet gal pal.  They were so cute all dressed up!  The best part (and a true gift to me) was when our monkey opened the car door for his friend.  I was all teared up and so proud.  You see the boy is learning how to be a gentleman.  I guess that we are doing something right around here.  Now, if we could only get him to clean his room.

Enjoy the weekend all!

Hugs,

Melissa

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Juice, the Whole Juice, and Nothing But the Juice



For the past two weeks, I have been consuming nothing but pure fruit and vegetable juices and a few raw almonds here and there. Sound crazy?  Radical?  Unhealthy? Like the latest "fad"? Read on to find out how juicing has made me a new person.  Well, not really, but it sure has made me feel better.

This whole juicing thing started back a few weeks ago when Pete and I watched a documentary called, "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead".  You can watch it for free on Hulu. This film documents an Australian man named Joe on his quest to get healthy.  He travels the United States juicing and telling people about his mission.  As a result of Joe's dramatic transformation, other people end up getting involved in the juice fast and have health transformations of their own.  It is a really powerful documentary and it got Pete and I thinking about our health.

At our last check up, we both had higher than desirable cholesterol levels.  My weight was also, um, higher than desirable. Now, I have been exercising consistently for a year now.  In fact, this week is my year anniversary of being a YMCA member.  I love Zumba and lifting weights.  Somehow though, with all the exercising and trying to eat right I have not quite managed to get where I need to be health wise.  So, when we saw the documentary, Pete and I thought that we should research it some more and give it a try.

We went to the "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" website and read up on all the details of doing a juice fast.  On the website, there are very good recipes and helpful hints on the best juicers to purchase.  We bought a basic model Breville juicer.  I really like this juicer.  It's the most bang for the buck.

I would not recommend doing a juice fast until you speak with your physician.  We started our fast with the intent of going for 10 days.  Days 1 - 4 really sucked.  Like really.  Pete realized that he had to modify the juice fast by adding in other small meals throughout the day.  I realized just how addicted to food I am.  Like seriously, seriously addicted.  I was hurting.  I had a headache, body aches, chills and a slight fever.  I was detoxing from all the crap that I have put in my body over the years. After Day 4, I began to feel so much better.  I was having a 16 ounce glass of fresh juice 5 - 6 times a day. My energy levels starting rising, my body starting feeling really strong. No more aches of any kind. Then, I noticed that the weight was sliding off and I got really excited!  By Day 10, I had decided to go further with the fast.  My last day is tomorrow.  I will break my 15 day juice fast at dinner time.  By that time, I will have lost 4 inches from around my waist, 10 pounds, and a lot of junky build up from my body.  I am sleeping better, my skin looks clearer, my mind is sharper, and I feel really great! Most importantly, I w have learned something crucial about myself.  I can have will power around food.  Food is not my master.

Now, does this mean that I won't ever have french fries, ice cream or the awesome Lobster BLT that S.C. posted about. Absolutely not.  I LOVE food and I WILL eat it!  It's just how and when I will eat the foods that are near and dear to my heart (and stomach).  Moderation is the key here.  It's all about making healthier choices.  Like, actually eating vegetables and fruits, instead of just thinking about eating them.

Would I recommend this juice fast lightly? No.  It is really tough.  Especially when you are cooking and food shopping for monkeys, attending parties with very yummy looking and smelling treats, and all the other food bombardment that occurs here on a daily basis.  However, if you are fat, sick and nearly dead, you and your doctor might want to check into this whole juice thing.

Hugs,

Melissa




Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Like a Bull in a China Shop

Yup!  That's exactly how I have felt this week.  You see, I am not the most graceful or careful person on the earth.  Truth be told, I am a klutz.



This week I have been putting my butter fingers to the test by cleaning my grandmother's china.  I am getting it all ready for a Mother's Day Tea that my sisters and I are hosting. Basically, I've been sweating and praying all week that I would not break any of the precious pieces.  It's not even like I could replace a single piece of this china if I blunder, because it is from Okinawa, and it was made years ago.  My grandparents bought all of it when the were stationed on the island in the 1960's. It's not replaceable, no pressure or anything.

While I was drying out the tea cups from one of the two sets of china we will be using, I noticed something very curious.  The inside bottom of the tea cup had a little raised area.  At first, I thought that it was a blemish in the china, but upon further inspection I noticed that it was definitely meant to be there.  I held the cup up to the light, and this is what I saw...


Do you see what I see saw?  I did some research and found out that this is a Japanese lithophane.  A lithophane is a panel made out of porcelain that is placed in the bottom of the tea cup.  The porcelain panel has an image impressed into it.  When you hold the cup up to light, you can see a pretty detailed image of the head of a geisha girl.  Pretty nifty, right?

Now I will have even more of a reason to be careful with this china.  Oh, help me, Rhonda! 

How about you friends? Does anyone else have some cool Japanese lithophane china or any other precious family heirloom in your house that you are afraid of breaking? I'd love to hear about it. 

Oh, I have coined the term Antiqueaphobia to describe my fear of breaking old stuff.  Feel free to utilize this word liberally. 

Hugs, 

Melissa 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Secret Chef Says, "Who Says Sandwiches Can't Be Superheroes?"

I certainly didn't say that, did you friends?  I mean we wouldn't want to get on Secret Chef's bad side now would we? (cue music from the God Father).  Actually, I'm just kidding, Secret Chef is a good fella and he has superhero skills in the kitchen that he so graciously shares with us here on "This and That".

This week, Secret Chef is serving us up some killer B.L.T.s.  These are not your average sandwiches.  I mean, a lobster B.L.T?  Whaaat?  I will certainly be trying that little number.  Plus, there's a little history lesson to boot. Good reads and recipes ahead...

Photo credit: Michael Kraus



Super Heroes of the Sandwich World 
Ok, sort of a play on words considering the release of Iron Man 3 this weekend and a few others speckled throughout the summer.  But, who says sandwiches can’t be heroes?  Seems like a decent idea since word hero a synonym for sandwich.   In the past we have discussed the limitless possibilities of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich, today we’ll meet his distant cousin, the B.L.T.
Speaking of Sandwich…ever wonder who the Earl of Sandwich was?
His name was Sir Edward Montagu and he was a Naval Commander in 17th Century England.  Sandwich, Kent to be exact.   Earl was the title given to a particular political rank at the time.  He was also an avid gambler and card player.  According to legend, he did not want to take breaks from his often high-stakes card games to eat, so he instructed his cook to create something he could eat with one hand and still hold his cards in the other.  And thus, the Earl of Sandwich belongs to the ages with this association to Sir Montagu.
Now, a  brief history lesson for those that don’t spend their spare time studying food history, like me.
Although the ingredients of the BLT have existed for many years, there is little evidence of BLT sandwich recipes prior to 1900. In the 1903 Good Housekeeping Everyday Cook Book, a recipe for a club sandwich included bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and a slice of turkey sandwiched between two slices of bread. Whilst the 1929 book Seven Hundred Sandwiches does include a section on bacon sandwiches, the recipes often include pickles and none contain tomato. (I do own a copy of this book that took me almost 15 years to find)
The BLT became popular after World War II because of the rapid expansion of supermarkets, which allowed ingredients to be available year-round. The initials, representing "bacon, lettuce, tomato", likely began in the American restaurant industry as shorthand for the sandwich, but it is unclear when this transferred to the public consciousness. For example, a 1951 edition of the Saturday Evening Post makes reference to the sandwich, although it does not use its initials, describing a scene in which: "On the tray, invariably, are a bowl of soup, a toasted sandwich of bacon, lettuce and tomato, and a chocolate milk shake."  By the late 50’s, Hellmann's Mayonnaise advertised their product as "traditional on bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches," suggesting that the combination had been around for some time
The rest remains history because from the eccentric advertising of the 50’s it became a staple in cafĂ©’s and diners and remains popular to this day.  However, said sandwich has evolved into the gourmet arena in recent years…
Combinations of Flavors
Basically the evolution of this most basic comfort food has to do with flavor profile.  You need several components here, so I’ll explain the basics of what each part does, then we can move on to variations.
Toast – having the bread toasted slows down the rate of absorption.  It will stay crispy and not get soggy with residual juices from interior ingredients.
Lettuce – creates a barrier between the bread and the interior ingredients, helping prevent gravity from pulling moisture to lower layers of bread.  This is why when you build the sandwich, you start with toast, mayonnaise and then lettuce.
Mayonnaise – essentially a fat.  Mayonnaise is essentially an emulsion made from egg yolks and oil.  Oil being a fat and also a lubricant.  It helps with that we call “mouth feel” or how the food reacts in your mouth while you are consuming it.  Mayo keeps things moving.  Think of a dog with peanut butter on the roof of its mouth.
Bacon – this is the major component of the sandwich.  It’s salty, it’s smoky and it’s something you can sink your teeth into.  There are lots of varieties here that you can choose from.  Bacon is more popular (and expensive) than ever before.  I personally don’t buy into the whole “bacon-mania” thing, but the rest of the world does, so we have to deal with the high prices of bacon.  Just go with your personal taste here, what you buy and how you cook it is up to you.
Tomatoes – there are also limitless varieties of tomatoes out there.  All I can say about that is the fresher the better. Look for a vine-ripened tomato for best flavor and texture.  If it is not vine-ripened, chances are it’s a green tomato.   The skin may be red, but it’s still a green tomato.  Remember the old trick of putting green tomatoes in a paper bag to let them “ripen?”  Here’s what that is:  it’s a mini-greenhouse effect.  Tomatoes naturally give off ethylene gas, which when it comes in contact with the skin, will cause it to turn red.  Trapping it in a paper bag exposes it to the small amounts of this gas that the tomato gives off.  It does nothing for anything else past the skin, it’s purely cosmetic.
Extra’s – this is only limited by your imagination, but you want ingredients that will go with the traditional ones or variations of.  Here’s where the gourmet twist comes in.  
A few years back, the Smoked Salmon BLT was all the rage.  Chefs would add the component of thinly sliced smoked salmon to the classic BLT, then mix some fresh dill and garlic into the mayonnaise and serve it on artesian bread.  Tasty eh?
B.L.A.T – sound appetizing?  The A stands for Avocado!!!! (this is also known as a California B.L.T.)
The Club Sandwich – Add Turkey
Grilled Salmon BLT – add a grilled fillet of salmon and a squeeze of lemon to the mayo
Italian BLT – add slices of Fresh Mozzarella Cheese and Pesto.  (recipe below)
Crab Cake BLT – substitute Remoulade Sauce for Mayonnaise.  Remoulade is a traditional cajun condiment, similar to a spicy tartar sauce.  Recipe below.
Next, is a great example of a high end variation and a recipe I will share.  This is from a Chef I had the chance to work an event with a few years ago from California.  His name is Ben Ford and he’s the Chef/Owner of Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City CA.  He is quite the accomplished Chef, thus eliminating the notion that he’s a spoiled rich kid who’s dad bought him a restaurant.  Far from it.  You may have heard of his Dad, his first name is Harrison.

Lobster BLT
Recipe courtesy Ben Ford, Ford’s Filling Station    Culver City, CA

Aioli: 

For assembly: 
1 pound cooked lobster meat, preferably Maine lobsters 
1/2 pound melted butter 
8 slices country white bread, toasted 
Garlic Aioli 
8 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked 
12 oven-roasted tomatoes 
1/2 cup pea sprouts 
1 1/2 avocados, sliced 

To make Aioli:
Mash garlic into a paste. Whisk together yolk, lemon juice, and mustard in a bowl. Combine oils and add, a few drops at a time, to yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until all oil is incorporated and mixture is emulsified. Whisk in garlic paste and season with salt and pepper, to taste. If the aioli is too thick, whisk in 1 or 2 drops of water. 

Assembly:
Warm lobster in melted butter and set aside. Toast white bread. Smear with aioli. 
Layer bacon, lobster, tomatoes, sprouts and avocado. 

Basil Pesto
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup  grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. 
If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.

Remoulade
  • 1 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon capers, minced
  • 1 cornichon, minced (small dill pickle)
  • 1 or 2 anchovies, minced (optional)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Ketchup
  • ½ teaspoon horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt and Black Pepper
In a bowl, combine all the ingredients until well blended. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep refrigerated until needed

B.L.T. Panzanella (Bread Salad)
For Dressing:
  • ¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • ¾  cup Olive Oil
  • ½ tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 Tbsp Water (or any liquid you can drain from diced tomatoes)
  • To taste – Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
For the Salad Base
  • 2 cups  chopped Lettuce of Mixed Baby Greens – your choice
  • 2 cups Roughly Chopped Tomatoes (chop and place in colander over a bowl to catch any drippings)
  • 2 Tbsp Basil Leaves, rough chopped (about 12-15 leaves)
  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Oregano, chopped
  • 2 Cups Cubed Bread.  About 1 ½” dice.    Place in a 200 degree oven for 15 minutes to dry a bit)
  • 8-10 strips of Cooked Bacon.  Chop into 1” squares.
  • 1 cup Fresh Mozzarella, chopped into bite-sized pieces. 
To assemble:
In a large bowl, add the bread cubes and toss with a small amount of the dressing.   Add the remaining ingredients and add dressing little by little until the salad is dressed to your liking.

That’s all for this time.  Happy Cooking everyone! 

S.C.  (yes Melissa, it’s perfectly fine to call me S.C.)

Thank you kindly, S.C.! That B.L.T Panzanella and the Lobster B.L.T are calling my name. Can't wait to try them.  

Enjoy!

Melissa

Monday, May 6, 2013

From Uterus to University - Coming Home Can Be Awkward

Our oldest monkey girl is home from college for a short while this summer before she jets off to her summer job as a camp counselor.  Pete and I are so excited to have her home hanging out with her other monkey kin.  We love seeing them all goofing off together.  Like this past weekend, when they were washing the van, or each other, or something like that.


Pete and I love hanging out with our oldest girl so much.  She is a breath of fresh air.  It's so hard to believe that she has completed her first year of college already.

There is something very surreal about having two kids in college.  Our oldest son just completed his third year of college.  He is out living on his own now and mostly independent.  I remember the first time that he moved out at the beginning of his Freshmen year.  It was tough stuff.  We missed him terribly.  I mean, he is our first monkey and he was with us mostly everyday of his life, and then to have him not here at the dinner table every night or just chilling out with us was traumatic.  No one prepares you for that transition.

Then he moved back in and we were thrilled to have him here again.  However, while "home" had remained largely the same for us physically and mentally, for him "home" was different.  The same mental shift has happened with our oldest daughter.  Her "home"for the past nine months has been her college.  She has developed relationships there, she has built a life for herself there.  She studies, eats, sleeps, works, plays and dreams big dreams there. I think that in order to really thrive and blossom there, she had make a mental shift from our home that we have always shared to her new home. That is another tough, but necessary transition.

So, now that she is home for awhile this summer, what adjustments will she need to make?  What adjustments will we all need to make?  We worked through some of these "coming home" adjustments with our oldest monkey, and we learned a lot, but there is still so much to learn.  Because let's face it, coming home can be awkward at times.

Monkey girl and I sat down and talked about the pros and cons of being home.  Thankfully, there are many more pros than cons.

Pros:

She loves being able to be here with her family.  There is nothing like face to face conversations and real hugs as opposed to Skype or phone communication.

After being on a meal plan and eating cafeteria food for nine months, she is thrilled to have healthy home cooked meals.

Since she works two jobs, volunteers, plus has a full time college load, having a more relaxed schedule for a little while is nice.

She has more time be creative and to plan without the pressures of "what's next?" in her daily college grind.

Cons:

She feels out of the loop with our family schedule and with some of her friends back here in town.  She realizes that while her life is happening at college, life is also happening here and with her friends.  She is trying to get up to date on it all.

It is strange to her to not have the structure of going to chapel everyday.  She came to enjoy that aspect of her college.  It kept her challenged and now she knows that she will have to find other ways to grow spiritually this summer.

It is weird to have parents on the scene now.  She is used to making her own schedule and decisions at school and now she has to include us to a certain degree because she is living here and we have to run a household.

We both agreed that communication is key in having your college-aged child come home for a season.  Parents should clearly communicate any expectations or boundaries that they have.  The young adult should respect those boundaries and agree to communicate their needs.  For example, we have a curfew for our college aged kids.  It's liberal.  If our kids know that they won't be home by that designated time, they should text or call ahead of time and let us know.  We also don't care for our oldest kids sleeping all day.  It sets a bad example for their younger siblings.  We ask them to be up and about by 10 AM at the latest.  We have a household to run and we want them to participate as much as possible. I lovingly tell them that this is not a hotel.

Overall, the transition from college to home is doable.  We are all finding our "new normal".  It's just so wonderful to be together that any "awkwardness" is totally worth it.

Hugs,

Melissa


Friday, May 3, 2013

This and That - Weekend Edition

Friday, I love you!  You are the harbinger of good things to come! Who else is with me on this?

This Friday is particularly sweet because our college monkey girl is coming home tonight!!!  Woo Hoo!!!  We have missed her so much this year, and yet it has been so encouraging to see her thrive at college.  One year down!

It seems like just yesterday when we were dropping you off at college and boohooing.
Also, this is the first weekend in May!  I love May for so many reasons.  Pete and I were married in May.  We will celebrate 16 years of marriage later this month!

This seems like just yesterday.
Also, our oldest monkey boy man turns 21 years old this month!  What?  I can't believe it!  Where has time gone?

I remember this like it was yesterday too.
May has brought the liquid sunshine here to us in Central Florida.  Our lawn feels like a soggy sponge when we walk on it.  Little Monkey has been loving it!  He's been sailing makeshift boats on the puddles around our yard.

This was just yesterday.
So was this. 
So friends, what is up with you this weekend?  Any special plans?  I hope it's a great one for you.

I wanted to say, "Happy May!" to you all by sharing a fun little movie that our middle monkey boy recently made.  It is shot at our favorite place, doing one of our favorite activities.  The background music is "PaperMan" by Christophe Beck.  It is the best quality when you watch it in the smallest version. Enjoy!



Hugs, 

Meilssa

Thursday, May 2, 2013

One Lump or Two?



Mother’s Day is just a couple of weeks away! Last year to celebrate our special day, we went to a quaint tea room in Lake Mary, Florida called The Dickens Tea and Coffee Room.



We were spoiled by the staff there.  




They served us an assortment of the most delectably delicate finger sandwiches and the tastiest pastries I have ever tried.  Also, scones with jam and cream.  Amazing!




Plus, the tea was steeped to perfection.  And, oh yes, real sugar cubes!  



I kept asking my mom in my best British accent, "Would you like a spot of tea? One lump of two?"  I think that she wanted to give me a bump on me head before the afternoon was over.  Sometimes I take things too far.  



It was a lovely afternoon. 

This year,  I am so excited because my sisters  and I are planning another Mother’s Day Tea. The guests of honor will include our mom, Pete’s mom, our Grandma Janet, our Aunt Gail, and all of us girls. The tea will be hosted at my sister’s house. We are going to transform her living room into a vintage tea parlor. Such fun!

I can't wait to fill up the sugar bowls with sugar cubes.  I am going to sit next to my mom again this year and ask her, "One lump or two?", all afternoon!  Love you, Mom!  You are such a loverly Mum!

Hugs, 

Melissa

P.S.  If anyone has any tea sandwich recipes or pastries recipes you would like to share, we are all ears.    Please just leave a comment below or on FB.  Smooches to you!
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