Jun 30, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Mom & Daughter's Hot Chicken Salad

I'd love to take credit for this recipe, but I was simply smart enough to snag it from my mom before I got married.  It makes a great dinner entree, or a savory meat dish for a brunch.  When I take it to our annual "Salad Night" for Secret Sisters, I always come home with an empty dish.  I have modified it slightly (my modifications are noted below.)

Hot Chicken Salad

Mom's original ingredients:
1 pound (approximately 2 cups) diced cooked chicken
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup toasted almonds and chopped (I prefer slivered almonds, untoasted)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, set aside
Crushed potato chips for garnish (sour cream and onion work particularly well)

Terry's modifications:
1) Substitute diced green onion (with some green tops) for the onion - adjust quantity to taste
2) Increase chicken to 3 generous cups
3) Reduce mayonnaise to 3/4 cup.  Add 1/2 cup sour cream and 4 ounces cream cheese (softened) - blend with mayonnaise before adding other ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except 1/2 cup cheese and potato chips.  Pour into a shallow baking dish; top with potato chips and remaining cheese.  Bake at 350 about 25-30 minutes or until bubbling hot.

Makes 6-8 servings.

As you can see, this recipe is not exactly heart-healthy.  If you're watching your calories or fat grams, low-fat ingredients may be substituted (mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese and shredded cheese) - experiment to find the right balance of flavor and texture vs. calories and fat.

This makes a great summer dinner with a fresh tossed salad and some bread, although someone may point out the irony of serving a salad-with-a-salad.

Jun 28, 2010

This Week in PREview

The week is off to a great start:  we had guests for dinner last night (minus one; she was missed, but that just means we need to get back together soon when she can join us, right?)  Extra nice - most of the basic housework is done for a few days...at least as soon as the laundry is all put away.

This cheesecake recipe made a very good cake, but my crust needs work. Maybe next time I'll leave enough time to do this sponge cake crust.  (I also need a new springform pan.  Mine has permanently "sprung" open.  I have two larger sizes, but honestly - who needs a 16" or 18" cheesecake?  That's HUGE!)

The A/C unit is working better now after they added 2 pounds of refrigerant this morning.   Let's hope the suspected "slow leak" of refrigerant is truly   "s   l   o   w  w  w."

Today is the day to use up the last of the hamburger buns.  Croutons, breadcrumbs and enough cubes for a breakfast casserole, here we come!

Tomorrow's a typical busy Tuesday:  early morning run, swing by the Farmers' Market on my way home, head to our last regular season swim meet in the afternoon, and prayers and thoughts all day with my mother-in-law as she goes on her next doctor's appointment.  (No surgery date scheduled yet.)

This is definitely a week of trying new recipes:
  1. Another stab at salmon; this time it's Pecan Crusted Salmon - I'm not a huge tarragon fan, so I may look at a few other recipes to get a different mix of flavors.
  2. Hot German Potato Salad is on the menu for this week.   I bought some golden fingerling potatoes, so now I just need to settle on the next recipe to try, and fire up the grill for some brats to accompany this latest culinary adventure.  
  3. Manicotti.  In 27 years of cooking, I have never (as best I can recall) made manicotti.  I don't know why - it's not a huge stretch from lasagna to manicotti, but I've just never thought to try it.  That changes this week. I think the vodka cream sauce will be particularly yummy.
  4. Summer Squash Kabobs - another new one, or at least a twist on the old summer standard.  Balsamic vinegar, summer squash, bell peppers, and skewers. What's not to like?
Slightly cooler temps may make it more pleasant to get outdoors after today.  Which is good, considering I spent all of about two minutes in the garden last week - the vegetables got short shrift with my attention focused on the roses and daylily bed.  It's definitely time to get the veggies weeded, watered and the tomatoes tied up.

The week wraps up with a holiday weekend - yay for US and God Bless the USA!  That means it's time to drag out the White Mountain freezer and whip up some homemade ice cream.  If you're in the neighborhood, you should stop by.  A little help with the cranking will earn you a bowlful of sweet creamy rewards!

Jun 26, 2010

Rose pruning 101

Question: "When is the best time to prune a rugosa rose?"

Answer:  "Anytime the pruners or loppers are in your hands." (Just don't prune immediately before first frost, or you'll risk new growth being instantly killed.)

This was my poor overgrown 'Sarah Van Fleet' before:

And this was her after: 

I quickly discovered that bees (yay) Japanese beetles (yuck) and yellow jackets (yikes!) all like her, so as I lopped and pulled off each branch, I had to contend with her extremely sharp thorns, and also with the swarm of flying things that came out with the branch.  Fortunately I suffered no stings and only one gash on the thigh for my efforts.

There's also a lesson in there about heeding the available horticultural information before planting.  She's a big girl and most references say she gets at least 4-8 feet tall and a good 4-5 feet wide.  I put her in a position where she can only get about 3 feet wide (We were easing around her to get into the garden.)  And for aesthetics, I'd rather keep her at a 3-4 height.

Fortunately, rugosas have two things going for them:
1) they can be severely pruned just about any time of year; and
2) they are disease resistant, so her crowded quarters had not led to a nasty outbreak of blackspot.

Lesson learned:  From now on, I will prune her each spring on to avoid  having to do that again.

The worst part of the exercise was the extreme humidity.  My clothes were DRENCHED in minutes, even though the work was not exactly strenuous.  After I got the rose trimmings hauled off to the burn pile, I worked on my daylily bed for a bit, where at least it was shady.  That bed is now in a little better shape (I am not a fastidious gardener, sad to say), and some Crocosmia bulbs have been planted among the daylilies.  I don't know if they'll bloom yet this year, since they were planted so late - but we'll see.

A late afternoon storm blew in and knocked out power to almost all of the 'boro.  There are 25 stoplights between here and Oakland High School, where the daughter was swimming before the storm.  My fellow 'boro residents have no idea how to proceed through an intersection without a functioning traffic light, so it was a lesson in frustration.  At least it was temporary - by the time we headed for home the lights were back on.

Jun 25, 2010

End of the A'Fare

I received emails this week from our local Dinner A'Fare advising their customers that this week would be their last week; after Sunday they will be no more.   I was saddened by the news, but not really surprised. The economy has taken its toll on many small businesses.  The convenience of quickly assembling gourmet dinners with all your ingredients pre-measured and lined up for you is a luxury.  When money is tight, it's an extravagance that can be eliminated.

Last fall was my first venture to The Dinner A'Fare and I credit that with getting me out of a deep culinary rut.  Choosing some dishes I had never cooked before sparked a renewed interest in cooking (and ultimately in starting this blog as well.)  So for that, I owe a debt of gratitude to them.  I never became a regular patron: I'd checked their menu most months, but some months just didn't appeal to me and others were too busy for me to commit to a scheduled time.  I am thankful we live in a country where entrepreneurs can dream up (and start up) businesses like this.  I hope the local franchise owners are successful with whatever the future holds for them.  If you live in an area that still has a Dinner A'Fare, it's worth looking them up and giving it a try.

The last time my  cooking "genie" was unleashed from the bottle was about 11 or 12 years ago, when I discovered the Once-A-Month Cooking book by Mimi Wilson and Beth Lagerborg.  It's kind of like a humble do-it-yourself version of the same concept.  You create a massive shopping list and follow the steps to prep, chop, dice and pre-cook, then put together meals in an assembly-line fashion.  It takes a couple hours to shop for everything, and 4-5 hours to assemble everything.  But when you're done, you have a freezer stocked with enough dinners to get a family through a month (a little longer if you stretch them out with a few nights of whipped-together spaghetti or take-out pizza.)  When our kids were in their heyday of activities and we were both working long hours, those meals were a godsend.  (Except for the "raw egg soup" incident, which my children can all tell from memory - let's just say I should have left more specific cooking instructions for their daddy since I was out of town that night.)

For busy families who want to save money on their food budget and have home-cooked family dinners more nights than not, I HIGHLY recommend giving this concept a try (now there are many OAMC cookbooks and websites that provide a wide array of recipes and hints and tips.  Once you understand the concept, you'll find many of the things you cook can be adapted.)  Not all the recipes were huge hits with my family (see note above), but the crockpot brisket, chicken packets and homemade sloppy joes were all-stars.  I still use those recipes even though the days of needing to stock my freezer with huge pans of casseroles is a thing of the past.

We grilled out steaks last night to celebrate oldest son's job offer.  I whipped up some feta-walnut butter (where's the gorgonzola when you need it???) to top the steaks.  It's pretty yummy stuff, but needs to go on top of a sizzling hot steak to fully melt and blend in.  Just saying.  I also tried Southern Living's Best Brownie recipe (from their August 2009 issue.) It's a keeper, but personally I think it needs some nuts.

Tonight it's time for a Low Country boil, something I have not made in several years.  That may mean braving a visit to the shed to look for the turkey fryer (yes we have one; no we've never fried a turkey in it.  Yes, we've eaten fried turkey - and turducken, too.  We do live in the south, after all.) Or maybe I'll just use the super-big stock pot for the boil.  It depends on how hot it gets this afternoon.

Jun 23, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

I've been asked by a few friends to share some recipes in my blog.  I'm flattered by their requests, and I figure this is a good excuse to blog every Wednesday.   So here goes...

This recipe was one that was asked for - and as luck would have it, I'm making this on Saturday to serve Sunday evening to some dinner guests.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

3-4 pound pork roast (the original recipe calls for boneless pork shoulder but I usually use a Boston Butt and remove the bone after it cooks)
1 envelope Onion Mushroom or Onion Soup mix
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (I adore Sriracha ever since my mom introduced me to it)
Kaiser rolls, potato rolls or other good quality sandwich rolls.

  1. Rinse pork and pat dry.  Place in slow cooker. Combine remaining ingredients (except rolls) and pour over pork, turning to coat.
  2. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours, until pork is tender and shreds easily with a fork.
  3. Remove from slow cooker, reserving juice (I run mine through a fat separator).
  4. Stir shredded meat back into juice and serve with rolls.  Or allow to cool and place in large Ziploc bag or an airtight container for reheating.
Makes approximately 10-12 servings.

I've made this recipe a handful of times since I discovered it last winter.  I typically serve it with homemade colseslaw, pickles and a variety of sauces, so everyone can create their own masterpiece.  (I think coleslaw is pretty awesome on top of my sandwich, but pickles are mighty fine, too.)

It has always turned out great, but if you're making it for guests I recommend making it a day or two in advance because the vinegar smell can be a little overpowering as it cooks.  It reheats nicely and stays good and moist for several days - if it lasts that long!

The original recipe can be found on Lipton's website.

Final note:  Many years ago, there was a BBQ take-out place over in Lebanon TN that had the BEST hot vinegar sauce for their pulled pork.  All I can remember is the owner's name was James.  I'd love to find a really great (hot and spicy) vinegar sauce like that to serve with pulled pork, so if anyone has one to share, please let me know!

Jun 21, 2010

A long trip on the longest day of 2010

Today we made the trip home from central Kansas, heading out a little before 9 a.m. there and pulling in our driveway 753 miles and almost precisely 12 hours later.  It's a long drive, but it was blissfully uneventful: no near misses, no breakdowns, no wrong turns, and no awkward conversations with state troopers in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky or Tennessee.   That spells success in my book.

The weather systems that beset us all weekend got in a final parting shot before we hit the Missouri border, but after that it was dry and muggy and just really loooong.  Or maybe it seemed long because the visit was too short. Yeah, we'll go with that.

It was such a whirlwind weekend that it wasn't until late last night I even realized I had failed to remember it was Father's Day and have a gift and card for my husband or my dad.  Ooops!!!  Hopefully the other festivities eclipsed it in their minds too, but I really hope they both know they are two very special men in my life, and I am blessed to have been sheltered and protected, loved and nurtured by each of them.  They've both gone toe-to-toe with me when it was necessary, but they've also had my back more times than I know, and they never gave up on me even when I've been nearly impossible.  (It's hard to imagine, I know ;o)  But seriously, I just thank God that He thought enough of me to give me these two men as my life anchors.  I love you both more than words can say and I hope your Father's Day was terrific even if we didn't have a traditional celebration in your honor.

Jun 20, 2010

Just. Be. Cuz.

We enjoyed a great weekend get-together with some far-flung family, including some cousins I haven't seen in many years.  Brothers and sisters shared a laugh... 

And so did mothers and sons...

It was great getting everyone together (the excuse was my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, which we celebrated today with a reception and lunch.)  But last night we shared a meal and a lot of laughs and memories, then we spent time going through grandma's old recipes (I made copies last Thanksgiving, but this was the first time I got to see everyone and hand them out.)

We broke up the party last night only after a storm passed by and it was safe to let those traveling get on the road and grope their way to their hotel rooms for the night.  We then regrouped at noon today for an informal barbeque and fixins buffet lunch, topped off with cake and confetti, sweetened more with love and laughter from family and friends who helped us honor a couple who has reached their golden anniversary.

Before we all headed out, promises were made to not wait for the next wedding, funeral or anniversary to get our families together.  Hopefully we can find a free weekend on our collective calendars to gather aunts, uncles, cousins and and cousins a few times removed, and kick back for a few days of revisiting old memories and making new ones.  Just. Be. Cuz.

Jun 19, 2010


This morning started off hot and muggy, as we enjoyed coffee on the deck.  When we moved inside for breakfast, we sat munching some delicious fresh-baked cinnamon rolls and the sky started to cloud up, then darken, and darken some more.  A fast-moving storm was barreling toward us, bringing strong winds, some hail, and some very weird cloud configurations.  But no tornadic activity - yay us.

When the storm passed, the skies became sunny once again, so we headed for my favorite place to shop for cooking and baking "needs," The Clay Gourmet.  (Yes I said needs and I meant needs.)

After I pried myself away from the FiestaWare display, I spied (and scooped up) a beater/scraper for my KitchenAid (hooray!) and a new stainless baking pan, since my last one was a heavy-duty professional with a non-stick finish, which started flaking off like a bad sunburn after its first venture into the oven.  We also found some new silicone ties designed to cinch up those asparagus spears, truss the turkey and hold loins and roasts together.  Nifty things.

I was almost out the door with my new purchases in hand, when what did I spy but a new spice "cabinet" rack thingamajig.  It's designed to fit in a cabinet, it holds up to 27 big or 54 half-size spice jars on three convenient pull out drawers that cradle the bottles so they won't roll around as you pull them out.  Wowsers...something that might be able to help me corral my messy and full spice cabinet, and give me room to store the spices I currently stow in the freezer (for lack of storage space as much as prolonging their shelf life.)  Sooooo....it was back to the checkout counter for round two.  The aprons were a triple threat (enticing, enchanting and entreating) but I think the spice rack is much more practical. And there's always Thanksgiving...

Jun 16, 2010

A whirlwind week

I knew it would be an all-out sprint this week, and so far, it has lived up to my expectations.  As a testament to the craziness, I filled up my gas tank last night for the third time in 6 days.  A trip to Knoxville and back last Thursday drained it once.  Then the usual back-and-forth twice to church on Sunday, to/from swim practice on Monday, roundtrip to Smyrna twice on Monday and twice again yesterday, in-town errands, and a trip to Brentwood for a swim meet yesterday...quickly added up to another 350 miles and drained the second tank.  Not to mention, I think I have spent more time behind the wheel this past week than I've spent in my bed sleeping!

On Sunday, we kicked off our 2nd annual School Supply Giveaway drive at Highland Heights.  The next 5 weeks will positively FLY by.  I am blessed to have the same co-leader heading it up with me again this year (she's otherwise known as my partner-in-crime) and we have many returning and new volunteers who want to be involved in the entire process.  One of my favorite expressions is John Heywood's "Many hands make light work."  Very, very true.  Plus it's just more fun to have so many people all pulling in the same direction.  We hope to provide supplies to at least 150 Rutherford county schoolchildren this year.

Today's activities involve watering plants (we've enjoyed several lightning storms over the past few days, but no rain), a dash to my beloved hair dresser for a quick touch-up, and all the last-minute to-do's to gather things I need for this weekend. (Stay tuned for a recap on how the weekend goes!)  Tomorrow morning starts with an oil change for the car, and then I'll be picking up a special something from the Painted Clay Studio.  (Yes, it's all very secretive, at least for now...)

At the rate I'm going, menu planning is out of the question for this week.  Last night, we finally got to grill and enjoy the flat-iron steak, which got pre-empted last week by the white water rafting excursion.  Dinners will be catch-as-catch-can until normalcy returns next week. (Insert insane laughter here.  Normalcy?  What IS that???) I did pull out my KitchenAid and made yummy Reese's Chewy Chocolate Cookies last night.  Not exactly gourmet cooking, but some hungry girls scarfed 'em down when they got back from their "secret devo" last night.  (A super-huge thanks to Wilber and Alison for all they do for our youth group at Highland.)

Jun 12, 2010

Smells of summer

This morning saw the husband and daughter head off to go white water rafting.  (My hernia problems have kept me from joining them for several years now.  Bummer, but it beats having a second hernia surgery, which the surgeon warned would not be as quick or easy to recover from as the first.)

As soon as I got them out the door and finished a cup of coffee, I poured a second mug to go and headed to town in search of anaheim pepper plants.  Three nurseries later, no anaheims, but amazingly, my car was full of plants, wheat straw...and a cantaloupe.  The aroma of wheat brought back memories of riding in an un-airconditioned pickup as we bounced along rutted dirt roads and fields, to check on the guys in the field, harvesting the wheat or baling hay.  I remember those trips as hot, dry, dusty and I was probably cranky and whiny.  But the smell of wheat brings back a flood of good memories.  Long days, when the sun didn't set until after my bedtime, and when I was the one asking "what's for dinner?" instead of the one answering.

The cantaloupe smells luscious...we'll see if its taste lives up to its smell when I slice it for breakfast tomorrow.

The additional tomatoes (2 Health Kick and a Black Prince), a hot chili pepper, plus zucchinis, cucumbers and pole beans are in the ground, and everything is mulched with straw.  It was tremendously hot and muggy work, but middle child helped, so the job went much faster than it would have otherwise.  Thunder grumbled a few times while we worked, but it held off while we broke for lunch.  As soon as I began setting out the bedding plants and perennials, the rain began in earnest, so I took it as a sign to break for a while.  Hopefully it will clear off and I can go back out and finish up everything today.  But in the meantime, my desk is going to get a deep cleaning and the card table that has been set up for VBS activities will be tucked away in its rightful home.  Order WILL be restored to my workspace today.

Jun 11, 2010

Daylilies: here today, gone tomorrow

We created the bed alongside the driveway 8 years ago by my guess-timation.  The guys laid the landscape timbers to my specifications, we added leaves and compost that fall, and I covered the mess with plastic for a little natural radiation treatment on the bermudagrass.

The following spring, we removed the plastic, and I introduced about 150 daffodils bulbs.    I then drove to a private residence  on the north side of Knoxville and helped myself to daylilies from the friend who lived there.  I distinctly remember planting them because that was the year I broke my great toe on my left foot.  I sat on the ground, squatted on an upturned bucket and contorted my body to baby that toe as I dug hole after hole for the clumps to fit in.  The friend has since relocated to the Houston area, but her daylily divisions remain part of my landscaping - the daffodil/daylily combinaton is something I saw touted in Southern Living many years ago.  Over the years, I've divided and shuffled my own daylily clumps, trying to get a better blend of colors and blooming times down through this very long bed (the driveway stretches about 70 feet through here before widening in the turnaround area adjacent to the garage bays.)  I've also added a few dozen varieties, thanks to plant sales and eBay.

The introduction of a sprinkler system last year has helped the plants in this bed tremendously.  The bed is located under a couple (beautiful) sugar maples that suck the nutrients and moisture from the soil every chance they get.  My efforts at keeping the bed watered with a hose have always been hit-or-miss, so now they're responding well to the more regular waterings thanks to a timer and pop-up head sprayers.  The daffodils are probably saying a silent prayer as they recover from their late winter/early spring display.  That's okay - they can thank me by showing off next spring.

For the next few weeks, the daylilies will be on parade, with one after another blooming until they're all spent.  The purple ruellia I dug up out of the cow pasture behind us has finally settled in and filled in some of the blank spots, so it will provide some color after the daylilies are gone.  If I had room, I'd introduce some crocosmia to the bed, just to keep the color going into early fall but I think this bed is near capacity.  And in case you think I can't mix colors, check this out.

Put on your sunglasses for indeed, it is a combination of bright yellow (I love the spider-y dayliliies) a vivid cherry pink, right in the middle of pale pink, lavender with a splash of red and orange thrown in for good measure.  Subtle and demure are not my strong suit - at least when it comes to flower colors.  What can I say? I live in a state that thinks orange looks good on all skin tones!

Jun 8, 2010

June is the dangerous season

It's the perfect storm for any gardener who also happens to be a bargain shopper.  The nurseries start slashing prices on their remaining spring perennials, just to move them out of the way so THEY don't have to water them all summer.  (That should be a clue right there.)  And I always have a few bare spots that need a little something, and an urge to fill them with something new and fun...and cheap.

So the markdowns beckon.  Sure, they're a little shopworn, lanky and in need of TLC, but they're cheap.  Dirt cheap.  Enticingly cheap....so I take a few (?) home with good intentions of planting and nursing them.  It's hot outside, and there's plenty of other things to do today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. Sometimes my "foundlings" sit in their pots, slowly declining until they're finally brown and crispy and they get pitched when fall cleanup time rolls around.  Or I actually do get them planted, but then forget my promise to water them and keep up with them all summer.  So when the frost comes, they go to that great compost heap in the sky, never to return.

I know all this, in my head and in my heart.  And yet I am fighting the urge to just go SEE what the nurseries have left in stock.  My optimistic side is telling the rest of me that this year can be different - this is the year I will keep them watered all summer.  Sigh... When will I learn my lesson?

In other news, I discovered that I do not care for whole-wheat sourdough bread.  The wheat and sourdough flavors fight each other and nobody wins.  Next time we'll try half white, half wheat.  But at least my sourdough starter got a much-needed feeding.  The honey-lime glaze on the salmon went over well with the men in the family; I thought it was okay, but not as good as the chili-lime sauce for chicken.  And my salmon grilling skills need some work - it always winds up just a little dry.  The only thing to do is just keep trying, I guess!  Today I've got a crockpot of Kim's baked beans going for a pre-Bunco picnic buffet.  It ought to be a fun night, and it'll keep me from moping around while the youngest is away at swim camp.  I hear-tell she's having a great time, although she hasn't called to tell me personally. See my lip quivering?  Hmmmm?

Jun 6, 2010

Success is....

1. Having a freshly-made bed, a clean bedroom and closet (no more pile of lost little shoes hanging out in there...)
2. Seeing the top of my desk again. Hello, old friend - it's been a while!
3. Seeing the top of my dryer again.  Amazingly, it was still there after I excavated a mountain of unfolded clothes and towels (which are now folded and ready to be put away.)
4. Seeing my laundry folding counter again.  No more trays of leggy tomato seedlings desperately waiting to be planted.  (Thank you sweet husband of mine!)
5. Taking care of all those pesky, easy-to-forget chores like emptied wastebaskets in out-of-the-way rooms and a clean air filter on the A/C unit.
6.  Having a full-week's menu planned out, with some new recipes to boot.. 
7.  Getting it all done while it rained, so I didn't waste precious daylight doing indoor chores. AND the deck plants got watered courtesy of Mother Nature.

Sun's shining...time to hit the grocery store!

Jun 5, 2010

A bowl of cherries

Life may not be the proverbial bowl of cherries, but June does bring the opportunity to enjoy a bowl of them.  Savor the fruit, spit out the pits.  Kind of sums up a lot of things in life, doesn't it?

Today was the second hurdle for our new Summer Bible Vacation program - a "sneak preview" day, where we invited friends and neighbors from the community to join us and see what we're up to this summer.  A guarded success:  we had just over 100 in attendance, we stayed pretty close to the set schedule, and the "Harvest Hut" had a big crowd for its grand-opening.  Lots of wide-eyed children, clutching their first few blue Bible Bucks in their hands, eager to buy something.  Anything.  When the last child finally scampered out, proudly holding a handful of cherry Twizzlers, the remaining crowd quickly dwindled down until it was just a few of us finishing up and comparing notes on how things went.  All in all, the day was very smooth, thanks in large part to the number of adults in attendance.

As pleased as I am about how well today went, it confirmed why I'm not a big fan of one-day VBS. For starters, it's totally hit-or-miss on everyone's schedules.  Today there were many rain-out ballgames competing for space on everyone's refrigerator calendar.  As it is nearing the end of the season for most youth teams, games won out for many families and I hope they all did great!  But had this been our only opportunity to reach out to the children of our community this year, our efforts would not yield much fruit, mainly due to simple mathematics:  it amounts to only a tiny fraction (1/365ths, to be precise) of the year.  I don't know if we'll reach more families as the summer progresses, but I pray we do.  At least we stand a better chance of reaching them if we offer them 25 more opportunities to see our sign out front or spot our listing in the Rutherford Parents magazine, or get a postcard from a friend or neighbor and decide to come check us out.

After I left the building mid-afternoon, I hit Sonic for a celebratory diet cherry coke, and ducked into my favorite little place for a quick cure (a pedicure, that is), then came home and cleaned off my desk.  (Hey, there's my desk calendar again..guess I should change it to June, huh?) and snacked on that bowl of cherries as I cleaned and tidied all the way down to the desk's surface.

Before dark, I grabbed the leash and took the pooch for a walk, which she loved.  On our way back, we stopped and chatted with the neighbors sitting on their front porch, then ambled home and snacked on some pizza for dinner.  Bedtime will come early tonight, I predict.

Tomorrow is the third hurdle - the first actual class for the SBV program.  After Wednesday night, we'll know if everything is indeed working as planned.  If so, then we can shift into maintenance mode:  making sure vacationing teachers and guides have a substitute, getting attendance and visitor information to send out postcards every few weeks, and making sure the classrooms are stocked up on everything they need for all four lessons.  That also means it's time to gear up for our 2nd annual school supply drive.  And get a jumpstart on some curriculum design work, so our fall-spring classes are every bit as up-to-date and cohesive as the summer "vacation" classes.

Now that the biggest push is over, it's back to other domestic dalliances...I might even try my hand at making a cherry pie, or at least a cheesecake with a fresh cherry glaze.  Might as well enjoy them while they last!

Jun 2, 2010

Now THAT'S a rain storm

Daughter and I headed to Smyrna about 6:20, thinking we'd catch a quick bite at Sonic, then head to Highland Heights for the Summer Bible Vacation open house.  As we headed north, the sky looked really dark...even though it was clear and sunny no less than half an hour before that, when I came FROM Smyrna, after spending a day putting the finishing touches on things.

But we are plucky girls and we plowed ahead.  Before our exit, the wind kicked up..a sign of things to come.  Just as we exited I-24, the rain began pelting us.  Big drops.  Bad sign.  But still, forward we went.  I decided we wouldn't stop at the Sonic off the interstate, but go around to the on the other side of town, hoping to beat the rain.  Bad idea.

A mile down the road, the rain was so heavy that it became difficult to see the road.  A minute later, it was literally impossible to see the road.  It was like being in a demon-possessed car-wash with hail thrown in for good measure.  Cars slowed to a crawl, then stopped.  On the road.  In their tracks.  We crept to the side of the road, hoping we wouldn't run off said road in the process, flipped on the emergency blinkers and waited it out.  I called my husband to let him know where we were.  (You know, just in case we pulled a "Wizard of Oz" meets "Twister" move or something.) I could barely hear him over the rain beating the car.   In all my years of driving, I've pulled over a few times, because of heavy rain, but I'd have to say I've never had to pull over because I absolutely could not see the road for the rain.  It's a scary thing to drive blindly and hope you don't hit anything.

Five minutes later, it was still raining hard, but at least there was enough visibility to make out the lines on the road as the wipers cleared the windshield.

We slowly made our way to the other Sonic, placed our order and then listened to the second wave of the storm pound the roof overhead.  Wow.  By the time we woofed down our food and made our way to the church building, the rain had almost stopped.  Several people mentioned another front was approaching but we never heard it inside, if it did rain again.

What was I saying earlier this week about spring rains being a thing of the past?  Apparently my prognostication skills are as accurate as ever.  Four out of the last five days have brought showers - or storms. Tomorrow has a 40% chance of precip.  I don't think I'll take up meteorology as a new avocation.

But the open house went smashingly well.  People were overheard arguing over which room is their favorite. Teens and adults were bemoaning the fact they are no longer age-eligible to participate in VBS.  Our teachers were glowing with pride, and our guides were grinning like possums, because they know they're in for a  real treat this summer.  I'm hoping that doesn't mean we'll have too many volunteers next year...but it might.  (Then again, my prognostication skills are...well, sketchy at best.)