Summer Freshness

I hate to keep harping on this but… it’s summer! It’s warm outside, the days are longer and there is so much freshness. Not just produce but flowers are blooming, lawns are freshly mowed and soon the back to school excitement (at least for parents) will begin.

Remember that Staples commercial where the dad is running up and down the aisles singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” – that’s me. And I don’t have kids. Or classes. Maybe I just have an office supply addiction.

Right now I certainly have a farmer’s market addiction. We have a year round co-op that has so much great stuff it’s hard to list but in the summer my town also has a twice weekly farmer’s market downtown.  Between the two stops my fridge, freezer and countertops are overflowing.

I love these peppers, they’re small and so much more flavorful than the bland gross ones you get in December. A bunch will be going in the salsa I’m making, even more flash frozen in strips for fajitas or pasta dishes.  The orange bowl has tomatoes for salsa, I need to pick up a lot more but I’m waiting for next week’s advertisements. If the prices are too high I’ll just pick up a few pounds during the tomato festival in 2 weeks.  And I’ve still got a few of those lemons left! Love them, as soon as I get a chance to juice them I’m going to freeze them in ice cube trays.

Here I have peppers for the salsa and maybe for my next batch of scrambled eggs, the tote filled with squash, zucchini and various herbs and onions and garlic. I have family in Gilroy (the garlic capital of the world) so I’m rarely without garlic. It’s a nice edition to salsa, good to throw in salads, pasta dishes and great roasted with potatoes.  The zucchini is incredibly cheap right now, about 50 cents a pound for the bulk pack. About half will be sliced, frozen and bagged. I like to make individual servings in the freezer so they’re super easy to pull out, steam and have for dinner.The big bunch of rosemary, lemon something and a bunch of other herbs are things I have no idea what to do with. Honestly, I asked for rosemary and the vendor just kept adding stuff to my bag. All for $1. Crazy. But it’s in a little cup of water so it stays fresh until I can ask my grandma what to do with it.

I picked up those peppers at the farmer’s market this morning. 20 peppers for $1 and so many varieties. I have no idea what most of them are I just remember the “really hot” ones so I don’t attempt to eat those plain.  Again, adding peppers, garlic and onion to the next batch of salsa and other dishes. Yes, they’re in a corn on the cob holder but I ran out of dishes!

Here I’ve got the last of my peaches, really ripe plums and nectarines.  My grandparents said they’d be bringing more peaches, figs, avocados and lemons tomorrow so I’ve got to throw some of these into a smoothie.  I just visited my grandparents a few weeks ago and while I was able to share the figs and avocados, freeze lots of peaches and make a LOT of lemon slushies, I can’t turn down their produce. It’s impossible. In fact, here’s a picture of my grandma, who just turned 90, using a crazy long tool thingy to get avocados from their tree.

What kinds of foods do you like in the summer?

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Puppy Photos

The puppies went out for a little photo shoot this week.

They’re about as cooperative as toddlers.

Look this way. Heeeeere puppy! I have treats!

Yeah, so cooperative. But I got some good pictures after all:

End of July

There’s been a lot going on a Casa de Kelly but nothing big enough to warrant its own post. So here’s the hodgepodge of randomness that’s kept me on my toes these last few weeks of July.

One morning as I tried to wet my toothbrush in the bathroom I came face to eyeballs with Aragog. Now, I’m no fan of spiders (unless they’re killing mosquitos) but good lord, I especially don’t like them hanging right where I reach every morning usually without thinking.

I brushed my teeth in the other bathroom but despite the urge to give up my bathroom I grabbed some windex and drowned Aragog in a blue puddle. Bathroom is mine.

***

My parents vacationed in Hawaii this past week and as the designed dog sitter, I had some extra pups. Which was fun, but also not. Four dogs means twice as much time feeding, watering and playing. There are more snacks to be distributed, play fighting to break up and LOTS more barking when I’m on a conference call. And when I’m on a conference call the pups favorite position is on my lap.

Not easy to balance. And when it’s time for bed there were four dogs fighting for the right to sleep closest to my head. Which meant one dog on each side, another by my feet or lying across my legs and the smallest one, Chase, sleeping on the pillow behind my head. Usually with his head on my shoulder.

I didn’t sleep well this last week.

But now that the pups are back home and my dogs are in a constant state of snooze after all that playing it’s time for me to clean the carpets after half a dozen spills.

And Jackson decided to eat watermelon rinds from the trash can on my new carpet.

***

Saturday I decided to rearrange all the furniture in my living room since the dogs were using this chair to gain access to the kitchen counter:

I didn’t change the overall layout to this very weird room but I did move some things to the office. Next up to rearrange: the office!

***

In the midst of dog sitting my aunt came to town and then needed a place to stay. So in between work and freelancing I cleaned up the guest room for her stay. She’s back home now but it was certainly different to come home and play hostess instead of getting straight to work.

***

And finally, speaking of work, I’ve picked up a freelance job as an online community manager. I’m the liaison between members of the community and the staff, specializing in communication through a variety of mediums. It’s a ton of fun, challenging, entertaining and intellectually stimulating. In between ‘just getting by’ jobs and ‘I’m slightly more specialized than a highly trained monkey’ jobs I’d forgotten how enjoyable it is to be challenged and be appreciated for doing good work.

Working in this community has also shown me how many amazing people there are who I want to get to know better and work with now.

A friend of mine shared an interesting podcast that I listened to today and I wanted to share this challenge. How do you bring value to those around you? And do others appreciate that value? At my full time job I can clearly outline all the ways I bring value to my organization. But they fail to value that contribution beyond a (very low) salary. There’s a distinct lack of appreciation in the organization which devalues the work of the employees.

In contrast, I have personal relationships that work extremely well because both individuals contribute value and appreciate value the other one brings.  Whether that’s the best place to go fishing on the lake, business ideas, coupon sharing, or just friendship – how do you bring value to those around you? Anyone who has attended high school probably recognizes that there are toxic people in the world. Thankfully it’s a big world and with 6 billion people in it I can afford to fire some friends. In a Facebook world it’s easy to go for quantity over quality but please resist.

As I’m working to continually challenge myself to be a better person I consciously step away from negative people, debbie downers, stuck in a rut-ers, flakes, and fair weather friends. Also most of the people who make an ultrasound pic their Facebook profile pic. That’s just creepy.

Signs of Summer

Time for picnics (and picnic baskets), watermelons, pools and vacation! I don’t think I’ll be taking time off this summer, I just picked up a major freelance job that’s keeping me on my toes. Thankfully nothing can tear me away from my camera. Here are a few signs of summer at my house:

Lemons in a Caddy
figs, mint & avocados
sweet summer drinks
Climbing Vines
Ripe Peaches
getting stalked by peacocks

The fresh fruit comes from my grandparent’s house, as do the finger biting peacocks.

Favorite Flower

Today I went out for a short drive to take pictures of my favorite flowers which are, conveniently, growing in fields nearby.

Awesome! Except for one tiny little thing,

Can you see it? Look to the lower right of the shot, near the center of the flower.

Bees are useful, I suppose (except those Africanized killer bees), but mostly they make me shriek because I’m allergic. Deathly allergic. I carry TWO epi pens for the day when I get stung because I am so allergic my doctor tells me to go directly to the ER because it’s likely my airway will swell and I’ll be unable to breathe.

So I stayed back a ways to got this close up thanks to my zoom lens,

And one in black & white,

I love sunflowers. Even if it means facing the buzzing death.

p.s. my personal horror movie is My Girl. It’s so horrible that someone gave me the DVD and I’ve never watched it.

Extra Daylight

Although the summer heat isn’t, let’s say, fun to deal with, I do love the long summer days.  There have been times in my life when I’ve gone weeks without seeing sunshine so now I soak it up.  Here’s what I accomplished today:

  • Work
  • Walk during lunch
  • Made raspberry-strawberry icees
  • Put out the trash cans
  • Mowed lawn
  • Trimmed with string trimmer (and ran out of string!)
  • Pulled weeds
  • Used leaf blower to clean
  • Seeded lawn
  • Fertilized lawn
  • Filled doggy wading pool for aforementioned hot days
  • Watered lawns & flower beds
  • Cleaned it all up
  • 90 minute group call

I have a similarly long list of things to accomplish tomorrow. Here’s the short version:

  • Laundry
  • Bathe dogs
  • Balance bank accounts
  • Donate office supplies
  • Sort papers
  • Take donation to Goodwill

I’ll be on furlough tomorrow so lots of daylight to get things done!

Fourth Food

I’m not a big holiday girl but I do try to take advantage of the sales that surround holidays. When it comes to the Fourth of July that means fresh produce! Like corn 7 for $1.00,

fresh strawberries and raspberries,

and of course, watermelon,

But I’m rather stuck with a full fridge at the moment, a downside to cooking in bulk when good deals come along and not eating much in the hot summer months.  I’ve organized as best I could and then began to share the perishables.

Like taking cupcakes to my Grandpa for him to share with the caregivers,

and inviting Tressa & the pickle over for lunch!

I went blog splunking on Friday and came up with a ton of links to people who are WAY more talented than I am. They’re not hard to find, trust me.  In doing so I found 2 new recipes to try – a drink and a dessert – and another variation of my favorite cobbler recipe.

First the cobbler!

I took 4 cups of the berries I picked on Wednesday and added a half cup of sugar. Stir it up and put it aside. For the record this is a pretty even mix of blackberries, Marion berries and Ollalie berries. Some sweet, some tart, all very ripe.

Then I mixed 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1/3 tsp salt, 2 tsp baking soda and 3/4 cup milk in a bowl and mixed that together.  Preheat the oven to 325 and melt a stick of butter in a glass pan.  I used a small 8×8 pan but you can use another size as long as everything fits.

Layer the dish with the butter, then the batter, then the berries. I’m stubborn so I added the last bit of the batter on top. The result was a smell so amazing I wish this blog were scratch and sniff enabled. Alas, no.

But I think there’s a rule that holidays cannot just have one dessert. So I made a frozen layered dessert.

Layered from the bottom up with ice cream sandwiches, bananas, strawberries, chocolate sauce, a mix of crushed pineapple and whipped cream and topped with crushed Butterfingers candy bits.

And since lady does not live on dessert alone so I made fajitas: chicken, white rice, peppers, onions, zucchini and cheese. Along with lunch, slushies! These are almost better than Sonic. I say almost because Sonic has an ice machine and I don’t.

You start by making raspberry paste. My raspberries were half price which is co-op speak for ‘eat quickly’! There were a few berries that had gone bad so I but off the bad parts and pureed a cup of fruit with 2 Tablespoons of water and 2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar. This can be done ahead of time and put aside in the fridge. You’ll only need about a tablespoon of raspberry for each drink so plan accordingly.

When it comes to making the citrus slush start by juicing lemons. About 6 lemons for 6 large drinks is right – or 1 cup of juice. Add 2/3 cup of orange juice, any variety. I used a frozen concentrate since it’s easier to store than fresh. Add 3/4 cup of sugar, 3/4 cup water. Pour the entire mixture over 4-5 cups of ice in the blender.  Blend on high until it’s nice a slushy.

Spoon a tablespoon of the raspberry paste into each glass and top off with the citrus slush.  The recipe recommends mint and raspberry garnish. I used a cherry and a pink umbrella.

Here’s one I made when the slushie mixture was pretty melted

Happy July!

Recipe Links

Raspberry Citrus Slushie

Frozen Banana Split Square

Chicken Fajitas

Mixed Berry Cobbler