Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Salads Virtual Potluck

Happy Summer!

In honor of the sizzling days when no one wants a light bulb on in the house, much less an oven, I'm hosting a virtual potluck party of summer salads.

Every Tasty Tuesday this summer, one of my blogger friends will drop by with a recipe. 

To get this shindig started, I'll share the recipe of the potluck dish I take to everything. EVERYTHING. Birthday parties, family reunions, grieving families, camping trips. 

My tortellini salad goes in, and I take home an empty bowl.

Now you can, too.

Brandi's Tortellini Salad

package of 3 cheese tortellini (cook as directed on package)
small can of sliced olives
chopped peppers (I like to get one each of red, yellow, and green)
chopped cucumber (remove peel)
cherry tomatoes (optional)
Italian Vinaigrette (avoid the kind with high fructose corn syrup)

Cook the tortellini. Chop the veggies.  Drain the olives. Combine.  Pour the vinaigrette (about half the bottle) and mix until coated. Pasta can't swim so don't drown it.

Special tricks:
Swishing all of the ingredients around in a large freezer bag is easy and makes it portable.

    Complete Magical Meal Suggestions
    I like to eat this as a meal with some crunchy bread and mixed fruit.  I like it cold. My husband prefers it warm. Sometimes we toss in some chopped turkey pepperoni. Also, this versatile super-salad makes a great side dish for any kind of grilled meat. I've served it with pork tenderloin, steak, chicken, brisket, and fish. The photo below shows a recent lunch when I scavenged our fridge for leftovers. Yeah, that's KFC.

    Drop back by next Tuesday to see what Jennifer McMurrain is bringing to the party.

    Tuesday, June 18, 2013

    Sink or Swim

    When we took this photo, we had no idea how much we truly were living on the edge. 
    We were on vacation.  When nothing bad can happen. Right?

    We were so naive.

    When we decided to leave the pool, we removed the kids' life jackets. As he has so often done, Max declared that he didn't need swimming lessons or a life jacket because he already knew how to swim.

    Then he jumped in.

    We've all heard the saying "sink or swim." I figured he'd get a little scared and then realize that some skills need to be learned. Maybe, I thought, this would be a good lesson.

    We all watched him. He was only a couple of feet from me. He seemed fine. Maybe Max had been right all along and he truly could swim.  He has a build similar to Olympian Michael Phelps --long body, big feet, broad shoulders.  Maybe he would show us all. Good for him.

    His eyes were wide and he had a dazed smile on his face--like maybe he was surprised.  He moved his arms and legs like he was trying to move toward the stairs and climb them. He opened his mouth as if to speak and then closed it.

    That's when Garrett jumped in and pulled him into his arms.

    Thank God.   Thank God Garrett was there.  Reality punched me in the gut.  We'd all been watching him struggle right in front of me, but I thought he was okay. Thank God Garrett was there.

    Not long after we returned a friend posted this article on Facebook, and I lost it.  Full blown tears. If I'd been unnerved at the pool, I was terrified when I read the article. We are so, so lucky.

    Read this article.  Drowning doesn't look like it does on television.  Know the signs.

    Max splashed through his first official swim lesson today.  He wasn't scared, and he didn't have false bravado either. When the instructor asked for a volunteer, I heard his little voice ring out. "I can try."
    And he did.

    Friday, June 14, 2013

    The Magic of Independence

    The instant I placed a tiara on Alexandra's head, Max was awestruck. "Ooooh. She needs a magic wand. She's a magical princess!"

    He was a police man. In a construction hat. While I hunted for a wand, his plans for capturing trolls flowed quickly. He declared he would identify the bad trolls so Alexandra could capture them with her magic.

    When we arrived at our playdate, she proved she had other plans.

    She acquired a cool car...

    ...that she borrowed from her cute sidekick...

     ...and then she donned a mask.

    Apparently, she was a super magical princess.

    I like that she didn't let us define her. May she always be so brave.

    Keeping it real: Even a super magical princess has to hydrate

    Wednesday, June 5, 2013

    The Getaway

    On Mother's Day, I received flowers and an envelope. I nervously slid my finger under the flap because I expected to see flight and hotel information for the SCBWI LA conference.

    Don't get me wrong: I'm not oblivious to the generosity! Garrett had pressured me to attend since I told him it was supposed to be a great conference--even better than the NY one I attended a few years ago.

    When I told him I needed to finish some details on my book before it was ready to pitch, he insisted...until I compared  it to him going to the Tour de France and being almost ready to compete.

    After that, I suspected he might buy me a bike.

    Instead, the envelope held confirmation information for two nights at a hotel. 

    Last weekend, I lost myself in the final polishing touches of my book. Meals were delivered to my door.  Garrett had even booked a massage.

    Room keys for my computer and me.

    Best. Gift. Ever.

    At 8:52 PM on Saturday night, I celebrated the completion of Society of Legions with Hershey's kisses and a small bottle of wine.

    What's your idea of a self-indulgent fantasy weekend getaway just for you?

    Monday, June 3, 2013

    Taking Flight

    A family friend was watching our children recently when she witnessed a baby bird dangling from the nest on our patio. A wire was wrapped around the baby bird's leg and wing.  Wearing gloves, Beth carefully freed the robin.  When she replaced it in its nest, however, the little birds inside knocked it out again.  Beth caught it mid-air and returned it carefully to the nest.  Mommy bird rushed up immediately and fed him. 

    Garrett saw all of the birds learning to fly the next day.  Now, they're gone.

    Another robin couple considered the children's fort a suitable place to build a nest. But something happened.  They haven't hatched.  They never will.

    Those baby birds will never take risks, take flight, or leave the nest.

    These two little eggs are good reminders for me during graduation season.  Max informed anyone who would listen that he was not going to stay for a local church's Mother's Day Out, half-day, three-day-a-week preschool program next year. Although he loves his teachers, he declared he was going down the street to the five-day-a-week, full-day preschool.  His little sister wants to attend the Mother's Day Out program.
    Celebrating after Max's closing program. Alexandra is trying to get away to play in the bird-bath fountain.
    I must not be sad.

    They're ready.  It doesn't matter if I am.  My job is to welcome them to the nest when they return and hope a helping hand will rescue them if they need it.

    My friend Dee Dee Chumley is giving away a necklace this month. Deadline is June 17, 2013. Check it out and remember our robins. You'll understand why I love her giveaway so much.