Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Salad: Heather Davis

Guess who is at our virtual potluck today, ya'll?

Minivan Momma is in the house! Heather Davis is the award winning author of 
the TMI Mom humor series.

She's partied with Dr. Oz, so I feel extra fancy that she's hanging out with us.
You may know her as one of the leaders of Oklahoma Women Bloggers as well
as one of the talented producers from the Listen to Your Mother Show in Oklahoma City.
Watch her video here.

How does she accomplish everything?  Stick around the party, because she's sharing
some of her magic tricks.


I found myself awake at 3:00am (that's the morning, y'all) just knowing I had
forgotten something. I just knew it, but I didn't know what it was. Later that 
same morning, when we were trying to get out the door on time, I remembered. 
I had to take a salad to work for a luncheon. I could have stopped by Hellmart 
on my way to work, but I really didn't have the time or the desire to do that.

I opened up my fridge and contemplated dousing the head of lettuce with ranch 
dressing and Parmesan cheese, but I was afraid of the lawsuit, because the lettuce 
was limpy and the Parmesan was putrid.

I perused the panty not really sure what I would find. I felt the spirit of Julia Child 
enter into my soul as I glanced at three cans of beans. Within five minutes I had what 
I now call the "Oh Crap! I Forgot! Salad."And at the end of the luncheon, I had an 
empty bowl to take home. What do ya know? I pulled it out just in time.

 Oh Crap! I Forgot! Salad

Three cans of beans, any kind, drained and rinsed. (My favorites are black 
 eyed peas, garbanzo beans and kidney beans. But, I've made it with chili 
beans, black beans, purple hull beans. I'm pretty sure re-fried beans would not 
work, though. Pretty sure.)

One purple onion, diced or sliced. (How much time you actually have when you 
remember that you forgot will determine how fancy you cut up your onion.)

Half a cup of Italian dressing. (Truthfully, I don't have a clue as to whether
or not it's a half cup or three-quarters of a cup. I never measure. I just pour, 
cover and shake.)

When all of your ingredients are in your salad bowl, stir well. Or put a lid 
on the bowl and shake well.

This does well when you have an hour or two to refrigerate it. It'll last for 
three days if you make it for your family and they refuse to eat beans.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Happy Birthday, Brother

My brother had rules.
1.  Don't hug him.
2.  Don't go in his room.
3.  Don't touch anything if he allows me in said room. (His dog Yoda could drool on his pillow, but if I so much as wrinkled the comforter, I apparently left my inherently offensive sister-smell on it.)
4. Do what he says. 

He reinforced his views with backup.
Mooooom! Tell her to stop singing at the table.
Mooooom! Make her sit with her legs together.
Mooooom! She has milk-breath. (Again, the dog?)

Even then, I suspected Brett loved me.  After all, he loved his dog.  And he called me a dog so often that in the first grade I barked and walked on all-fours at school for a period of time. 
photo credit: Martha Bryant                                Disney World

As if my sheer existence wasn't embarrassing enough for a brother five years older than the little sister who idolized him, it would seem that having a dog for a sibling would push him over the edge.

It didn't.

He was too cool for that. We watched Empire Strikes Back for his 10th birthday. I've been a scifi geek--if mostly closeted--ever since.  He gave me Madonna's True Blue tape.  I memorized every word. One of my favorite memories is us blowing up his models in the field behind our house while filming it. It's no surprise I wanted to create a story to accompany the explosions, but he was the special effects guy and had no time for his little sister's nonsense.

As an adult, he put a poster of a monkey in his classroom and told his students it was a picture of his sister.  When visiting him once, a child ran up and hugged him around his kneecaps (my brother is 6'2").  Brett introduced me as his sister.  The kid's eyes widened and he whispered. "She doesn't look like her picture!"

That's when I found out I had been promoted from canine to primate.

I should not have felt as happy as I did.

In addition to being older, and therefore cooler, Brett was good at stuff I was not. Probably our biggest scholastic difference is his scientific mind. I signed up for an astronomy class in college, thinking it was astrology.  Brett became a science teacher.  One of my biology teachers accused me of asking "stupid questions" as a joke.  Another student came to my "defense" and informed her that, no, I really was that bad in science.  Such an event never happened to my brother. He created spectacular science projects.  The science fair filled me with dread, but it lit him with excitement. Most of my projects were his ideas and simple--like making a compass by rubbing a needle against a magnet. I had no ideas of my own.

He's still teaching me.

Earlier this summer, he showed up at my house with shears.  Since he's all science-y, Mother Nature likes him. Plants wilt at the sight of me. Brett has a green thumb. Mine is black. 

Every once in a while, he beautifies my neglected yard.  Most recently, he brought reinforcements.  The whole family--okay, mostly Uncle Brett and Aunt Lisa--lopped limbs, trimmed bushes, and pulled weeds for an hour or so. I tried to guess where he would next tell me to clip, but I was always wrong. Of course. A beautiful lawn is a science.
Brett and Lisa in their backyard aka Eden
 A horsefly bit him that afternoon. He shrugged as blood dripped down his leg and went on clipping. If that had been me, I would have curled into the fetal position.

Still, it was . . . fun.  Usually, the surest way to get me to cuss is to do yard work, but with our families working together it was a garden party.  Maybe next time I'll have snacks and drinks. 

I'm not sure what motivates him to help us with our yard.  Maybe he recognizes my complete incompetence with all things green.  Maybe he feels sorry for plants who can't cry as my children do to complain of thirst. Maybe he's embarrassed by how sad our lawn looks and that people know we're related.  Maybe he is just super generous and knows it makes me happy.

Whatever the reason... it really, really does make me happy. Like getting that Madonna cassette or being allowed to cross the threshold of his room and play Atari.  I looked at my front yard this morning and sighed. It was pretty. I felt cool.

And I was so glad my little ones witnessed siblings as friends who know their siblings' greatest weaknesses and faults. And they help make them right with the world.  I tried to drive the point home with my son. "Isn't it nice of Uncle Brett and Aunt Lisa to come help us?"

Max nodded. "That's what brothers do."


That, and compare their little sisters to animals.

photo credit: Martha Bryant

Happy birthday, Brett the Brat.

Anyone have a sibling story to share?  How does your sibling help balance you?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Camping Round Up

Are you a happy camper?


This post explains how I avoid tent camping with my babies.

This one indicates I do enjoy the great outdoors.

Posts like this one about the Inklings and this one about the Red Tent Sisterhood show I'm not totally opposed to camping within walls. And with air conditioning.

Have you seen my post on Oklahoma Women Bloggers today? I shared my guide on how to glamp.

What do you think about camping? What about glamping? Where is your favorite spot to camp/glamp?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer Salads: Kelly Bristow

Mississippi Cornbread Salad

1 (8 oz.) container of sour cream
1 (8½ oz.) box of Jiffy cornbread mix
1 (1 oz.) envelope of Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch mix
1 cup mayonnaise
1 ½ large tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
½ cup chopped yellow pepper
¾ cup chopped green onions
1 (16 oz.) can Ranch Style Beans, drained
1 (15¼ oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained. Save the water.
2 cups (8 oz.) cheddar cheese, grated
10 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

Prepare cornbread mix according to package directions; cool. Stir together salad dressing, sour cream, and mayonnaise until blended; set aside. Rinse the beans with the water from the corn and let drain. Combine tomatoes and next 3 ingredients; gently toss.

Crumble 1/3 the cornbread into a 2 quart trifle bowl or salad bowl. Top with half the ingredients in this order: beans, tomato mixture, cheese, bacon, corn, and dressing mixture. Repeat layers. Top with the remaining cornbread. Cover and chill 3 hours.

Makes 6-8 servings (if served as a meal)

Magical Meal Suggestion

The magic of Mississippi Cornbread Salad lies in its versatility, its ability to be either a main or side dish. If you choose to serve it as the main dish, pair it with a crunchier side: carrot sticks or a spinach or lettuce salad with a lite vinaigrette dressing. If you serve it as a side, couple it with grilled or baked chicken.

Continue the enchantment by serving this salad with iced tea or lemonade. Want a little more sparkle, serve Mississippi Cornbread Salad with Mike’s Hard Lemonade or a white wine.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Red Tent Sisterhood

I'm a sucker for sisterhoods. There's just something magical about the bonds women form. Like spider webs, they appear delicate--but those intricacies create deceptive strength.

photo credit: Valarie Olson
As I sat in my kitchen with my new friend Valarie I discovered she felt the same way.  Somehow, the conversation came around to Anita Diamant's book The Red Tent

We love it.

Valarie and I are both fairly new to the area and discussed how we missed monthly gatherings of women--book club, writing group, etc. We discovered how similar we are to those ancient women in the novel who gathered beneath the moon each month in their red tent and relaxed, shared, and bonded.

Gaining strength from other women must be engrained in my DNA.
We decided to create our own Red Tent Sisterhood.  We knew we wanted to meet once a month... but doing what?  I wanted to involve food because something special happens when people break bread together. Valarie suggested we exercise.
Those of you who know me well can stop snickering.
I mean it.
Really? Now you're just being insulting.
Possessing many talents, Valarie is also a yoga instructor.  She teaches at 108 Yoga Studio, an amazing gem our mutual friend Libby Rogers opened several years ago. I've met so many nice ladies since I've moved here, and like that intricate spider web I mentioned earlier, somehow many of them are connected to the studio.

And that realization was it.  On the last Monday of every month, we planned to meet for yoga and dinner. We mentioned it to friends who mentioned it to their friends.  I think the first text said something about inviting any woman who wants or needs a sisterhood. Our Red Tent Sisterhood was born. 
Libby loves glamping, so at our first dinner, she wrangled a bunch of us into her Girl Camp.
photo credit: Valarie Olson

 I was hesitant.  I mean, there would probably be bugs since outside is their house and all. I had several excuses--one of which was that Garrett was out of town on the weekend it was scheduled.
Others were completely excited.  Once Moria Kinsey mentioned costumes...well, I was in. That really should have been brought up first, right?  
photo credit: Valarie Olson
 The kids went on "vacation" with my parents and I made it to Girl Camp. And I'm so glad. Gratefully, we didn't have to sleep in non-air-conditioned red tents--but we were beneath the moon in our metaphorical red tent in spirit.
photo credit: Valarie Olson
Check me out on Oklahoma Women Bloggers this month. I'll tell you all about glamping at Girl Camp and how you can do it, too.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer Salads: Lisa Marotta

Welcome to the party! Every Tasty Tuesday this summer, I'm hosting a Virtual Potluck.  
A gal who loves celebrations as much as--or possibly more than--I do is my friend and Inkling critique buddy Lisa Marotta. You may have caught her last month as Oklahoma Women Blogger's Blogger of the Month. She's known around the web as The Feelings Doctor.  Check out her blog and you'll know why.  
My father claims her dish is the best pasta salad he's ever tasted.  *sniff* I'll pretend he didn't say this when my own pasta salad was available, but I can't.  Whether it's the magic of Marotta or mozzarella, it is certainly delicioso

*Mama Mía! Pasta Salad
1 lb Campanelle Pasta (Or you can use plain or tricolor Rotelle)
16 oz Wishbone Robusto Italian Dressing (Robusto has zing! Don’t accept substitutesJ)
1 Large Bell Pepper, or 3-4 Mini Bell Peppers, sliced
1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
¼ Cup Red Onion, sliced
1 6oz Can Pitted Black Olives
1 8oz Fresh Mozzarella Ball, sliced into bite sized chunks
Prepare the pasta according to the al dente directions.  Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.  Put in a large bowl, add the Robusto. Set aside.
Slice the vegetables (Pepper,Tomatoes,Onion) and drain the black olives.  Toss together in a small bowl before adding to the cold Robusto pasta.
Refrigerate for at least one hour. The longer you let the pasta marinate the happier you will be with your salad. 
Slice the mozzarella and set aside for later. If you add the cheese too soon it gets hard by the marinating.  Let the pasta and veggies do the soaking first.  While you are waiting try not to nibble the mozzarella even though you will be tempted. 
Mix the yummy fresh mozzarella to your chilled pasta salad before serving.
Magical Meal Suggestion: This pasta salad is named Mama Mia! because when I was pregnant it was a frequent midnight craving. Back then I skipped the marinating and it still tasted good.  It just tasted BETTER in the morning! These days I pair this cold salad with anything hot off the grill, like burgers or chicken breasts or pork loin.  I like to add a fresh green salad and fruit for color. If the grill master wants a break I grab a rotisserie chicken and make it work.  For a second meal: Cut up the left-over rotisserie chicken and add to your salad for lunches or a main dish later in the week. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer Salads: Dee Dee Chumley

Thanks for dropping by my Virtual Potluck today.  We're partying every Tuesday.
I'm so glad you are here so you can meet my friend Dee Dee Chumley.  She's the author of young adult novel Beyond the Farthest Star and one of my critique buddies in the Inklings. Plus, we taught together, so I'm not kidding when I refer to her as the Grammar Goddess.  She also knows a thing or two about the many uses of cream cheese. Today, however, she brought a delicious and healthy salad and margaritas! 

Light, delicious, and healthy!
Black Bean and Hominy Salad
15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
15-oz can hominy, rinsed and drained
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 small yellow pepper, diced
½ small red onion, diced
1/3 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp honey
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp table salt

In medium-size bowl, combine beans, hominy, tomatoes, pepper, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno.
In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, honey, oil, cumin, and salt; pour over bean mixture and toss to combine. Yields about 6, ¾ cup servings.
You can serve this right away, but it is better after an hour or so or even a day.
Magical Meal Suggestion
This salad goes well with anything southwest or Tex-Mex. You can use it as a side salad with grilled chicken or beef or fajitas or as a topping to tacos or tostados. Serve with chips and salsa and/or queso and—ole—you’ve got yourself a south-of-the-border meal in minutes!
The perfect beverage? Frozen Margaritas!
1 can frozen limeade
1/3 can Triple Sec
Tequila to taste (I use about half a can)
Lime wedges

Blend ingredients in blender to desired consistency.
Run lime wedge around rim of glasses, dip rims in margarita salt; pour, add lime wedges, serve.

Can’t you just hear the mariachis?
Stop by next Tuesday to see what Lisa Marotta is bringing to the party!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Gnomes at Our Chateau

I spent the weekend with gnomes. Alexandra twists the tips of their hats each time she arrives at our chateau. (Okay, it's an old camper ya'll, but it's on a hill, so I call it The Chateau.)

Being so close to nature makes me realize how small I am.

The chiggers remind me that no matter how big I am little things can get to me.

But the gnomes never falter. These little guys work hard.

They also know when to take it easy and add whimsy to the world.
I wish I could harness their magic.

After all, it's their world, too.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Inklings Retreat 2013

I love my writing group and our annual writing retreat at Lake Tenkiller.  This summer was our tenth-ish year to hang out at the lake, eat lots of food, critique works in progress, and laugh. A lot.
photo courtesy of Lisa Marotta
This year Dee Dee Chumley introduced a word tournament.  It's kind of like March Madness, but with a bunch of logophiles instead of athletes  We (okay, mostly I) slung a lot of words around trying to intimidate other players and help Dee Dee with tough-talk dialogue for her next novel. Of course, one can only sound so intimidating when throwing around language like "confabulation" and "diaphanous." But it paid off.  I won with the word "petulant."  (Ironic since I was talking trash, don't you think?) We might have trouble if you tell me you would have voted for Lisa Marotta's word that also made the finals:"serendipity.'

Sometimes we make it to the water to float around and commune with the dragonflies.  This year, a few of us ventured forth and practiced water yoga with Heather Ezell of Hang Zen.  It was awesome. Then we went back to the deck and enjoyed some of my daddy's special sangria--that Kelly helped doctor with OJ--while talking about all things bloggy. I'm already looking forward to our fall retreat!

Pictured below are Martha Bryant, Dee Dee Chumley, Kelly Bristow, Heather Ezell of Hang Zen, Lisa Marotta, and Brandi Barnett.
photo courtesy of Kevin Ezell of Hang Zen yoga
 Read more about my ideas about yoga over on Oklahoma Women Bloggers.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Salads: Jennifer McMurrain

Hello, friends! I'm so glad you made our Virtual Potluck Party. We're meeting every Tasty Tuesday this summer.  Today's guest blog is brought to you by Jennifer McMurrain.  Enjoy!
I love a good potluck. So when Brandi said she was doing a virtual potluck featuring salads, I knew just what I wanted to make, my Mac Daddy Macaroni Salad. Now I must issue a warning, this is a salad you want to make in moderation, it's definitely not on any diet lists, but it's oh so yummy, you won't be able to help yourself. And you don't need anything to go with it, this salad is a meal in itself, although saltines are a nice addition.
3 cups uncooked macaroni
1 can sweet peas, drained
10 to 12 chopped green onions
8 oz of cubed cheddar cheese (I like mild cheddar)
1 lb of cubed ham
4 to 6 boiled eggs, roughly chopped
3 heaping spoonfuls of Miracle Whip Light
1 cup Light Ranch Dressing
*Author's note: My mother has informed me that I must include cucumber in my ingredient list because it is her recipe. So you can add one peeled, roughly chopped cucumber if you like that kind of thing. I don't. ;o)
1. Cook macaroni per package instructions.
2. Boil eggs.
3. Drain macaroni and rinse with cold water. Pour into bowl.
4. Add peas, green onions, cheese, ham and eggs.
5. Add Miracle Whip Light and Ranch Dressing, to taste. You want it to be kind of tangy. Start with what I have above and then add a bit at a time until desired taste.
6. Chill overnight before serving for best results.
And done. My family will eat this for day and then beg for more. It's a quick one bowl meal, that's great for picnics and pot lucks. Enjoy.
One thing I love about parties is meeting new people.  If Jennifer McMurrain is new to you, go visit her over on her blog A Moment of Jen and check out all of her books.