Chirped by Tina and Cass
As you’ve probably noticed, we like to end each month by highlighting ten great things that we enjoyed over the course of the last 30 days or so. Whether it was a fun event we participated in, something we read for book club, a new recipe we tried, a craft that we loved, or an awesome life hack we discovered, taking the time to make our list helps us appreciate the good stuff and stay positive even through difficult or trying times.
Favorite Books for the Month
Ok, full disclosure, Cass and I didn’t actually finish/read July’s book club selections, but you’ll be happy to know that if our clubs didn’t think a book was really great, or we didn’t actually read it ourselves, we’re certainly not going to list it as a favorite! So we’ve gone back into our pre-blog archives to pull out two favorites from last year.
At the Edge of the Orchard, by Tracy Chevalier. Set in the mid 1800s, this novel introduces you to James and Sadie Goodenough, who headed West with some cuttings from the family orchards to stake their own claim… on the edge of a swamp in Ohio where their wagon got stuck. I loved being immersed in the brutal realities of frontier life, and was fascinated by the descriptions of cultivating and trying to maintain an apple orchard. When their youngest son escapes the crazily dysfunctional family to head to California, we learn all about the giant redwood and sequoia forests, which were already on my bucket list to see one day. Happily, I’m headed out this fall to check them off the list (while drinking some wine with friends in Napa)! We paired this book with an apple-themed recipe contest last fall, with everyone bringing their favorite apple dish, along with the recipe to share with our book club. Prizes for sweet and savory categories included apple butter and mulling spices from a local farm stand.
The Aviator’s Wife, by Melanie Benjamin, is a historical novel based on the diaries of Ann Morrow Lindbergh, an amazing woman in her own right, and so much more than just the wife of Charles Lindbergh. Their marriage, partnership, adventures, heartbreaks and troubled relationship make for a compelling read that we found really added to what little we learned in school about this famous aviator couple.
Fruit and Meat Dishes (Tina)
I love any recipe that involves fruit and meat – makes my entrée feel like a dessert, and I love the sweet and savory mix. Sometimes my family will object that the recipes I find are actually too sweet for them (what is this “too sweet” thing of which you speak???), but this one is a keeper we could all get behind. Sauteed Chicken with Fresh Blueberry Sauce from MyRecipes.com. Only has a pinch of sugar, is portioned perfectly for the empty nester plus one, and looks fancy enough for company! I found the full cup of chicken broth took too long to reduce, so I halve it, and I use any kind of onion I have lying around if I don’t happen to have a shallot. Doesn’t take long to make and I almost always have blueberries in the fridge in the summertime. (Just wish I’d put a green vegetable or parsley in the photo – it looks a little bland with the rice and corn, but tastes delicious!)
Shopping Local (Cass)
Summertime always means trips to the local farmers’ markets for fresh produce. We have several farmers’ markets that are open on Saturdays during the summer season. But we also have some great local meat markets and farm stands in our area as well. Within a 10 mile radius, there is a turkey farm/market, a chicken farm, a pork butcher/store, and a beef farm. It’s great because you can get fresh meats and support local businesses in the area. Tina had never been to ANY of them, so last week I dragged her out to broaden her horizons. One of my family’s favorite meals is the stuffed pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon from Blooming Glen Pork and Catering. We get it sliced so you can easily throw it on the grill.
Breaks in the Weather (Tina)
Here in PA we’ve had several weeks of on and off rain, high heat, humidity and thunderstorms, sometimes with flash floods thrown into the mix! This week we finally caught a break, and I got in some long overdue gardening. As you can see in the “before” shot, you really don’t want to be my neighbor! But an hour and a half’s work in relatively comfortable conditions yielded a very satisfying “after” picture.
Easy Wallpaper Remover (Cass)
My siblings and I have been working at my dad’s house taking down some wallpaper that has been up for 35 years, and boy….. it really has stuck on the walls. After trying several products, one which was like a gel (what a mess), we came across this one. It has little odor, it works fast, and it’s simple to spray on. Our stubborn wallpaper is coming off….making our renovating-for-resale job much easier!
Art on the Beach! (Tina)
I like to try to tempt my kids, nephew and nieces to help me out with little tide-constrained sand art installations when we get together in Massachusetts for July 4th. No takers this year, but they enjoyed watching my progress! I had fun anyway… (-;
Board Games with Friends (Tina)
My family loves a good board game, and this summer we’ve been getting together on weekends with a lot of different friends and dragging them into our game-playing mania. Sometimes the kids branch off on their own, sometimes we find games that are good for all ages, even after a few glasses of wine… (-; Salad Bowl is a great party game for a large group that only requires some scrap paper, pens, a large bowl (or box, hat, etc.), a minute timer, and a way to randomly generate a starting letter. (Point blindly at a page in a book? Pull a Scrabble tile?) Players get creative writing 6-10 words starting with the chosen letter on small strips of paper that go in the bowl. Then teams take turns trying to guess as many of the words as they can in one minute, with one player either giving verbal clues, charades, or single-word clues, depending on the round. It can be very entertaining. Especially when someone decides to put words like “the” or “tiramisu” in for T-words. Try charading either of those! (It helps when you’ve already had to describe them in the verbal rounds, but still…)
Up-Cycling the Remains of the Yarn Bloom (Tina)
The local park’s Yarn Bloom had to be taken down, but a lot of the knitted and crocheted pieces were still in great condition. Being as the Bloom was part of an Earth Day event, naturally the plan was always to re-purpose as much of it as we could – either by donating laundered blankets back to thrift stores or turning them into dog and cat mats for animal shelters. That process has begun, much to the distress of my lungs, as we shake out the dusty tree huggers, pick off the seedpods and occasional spider egg case, and undo all the careful stitching that our volunteers used to create giant blankets to wrap the trees. So far we’ve donated a pile of smaller patchwork pieces and frayed blankets to Furever Yours Rescue, and a couple of bags’ worth of remarkably pristine afghans to Care and Share Thrift Shoppes. My “blog dog” approves of one of the smaller blankets heading out in the next load…
When You Gotta Go on the Go… (Cass)
I recently went to a Shania Twain concert with some girlfriends, and of course we tailgated before the event. My friend was well prepared with the standard supplies like a cooler, folding chairs, a corn hole game, etc. But I had no idea how really prepared she was until someone announced they had to go to the bathroom. Out from the back of the truck came a 5 gallon bucket (equipped with a toilet seat and a waste bag inside), a roll of toilet paper, and a Pop-Up Pod… Greatest invention ever! No waiting in long restroom lines, less smelly, totally private, much cleaner than a Port-a-Potty, and totally portable!! What a game changer! The ladies parked next to us ordered one for themselves from Amazon, right then and there! All the possibilities… remote road trips, boating boondoggles, weekend camp outs, and of course more tailgates parties!
Finally Ordering the Dang Replacement Part! (Tina)
My dishwasher is about 13 years old, and still perfectly functional, though I suspect not as energy-efficient as it could be. When the racks started rusting a couple of years ago, I stuck little rubber caps from the hardware store on the rusty spokes to protect my dishes and made do. (Replacement racks were ridiculously overpriced.) Several months ago, the now brittle silverware caddy got holes in the bottom, so I started carefully angling all the silverware pieces in the middle section so that maybe they wouldn’t drop halfway into the machine and block the spray arm or catch on the door sill when I pulled the bottom rack out. Argh! I began wondering if it might time to replace the dishwasher. After a little research, I determined that the highly-rated dishwashers take even longer to run than my old one (how can that be more efficient??). So then I was torn – buy the ridiculously expensive replacement parts and ride this machine into the ground, or buy new and spend more time waiting for the dishes to get clean? Who knows how much longer the old clunker will hang in there, but I hate to wait. Last week I finally ordered a $45 replacement caddy. I love it every single day. My dishwashing life is near perfect now… Why did I wait so long?
That’s our list for July! Got anything happy that you want to cheep about? Tell us in the comment section! (-:
– Cass and Tina