Sunday, October 28, 2012

O God, Be Merciful To Me...

With broken heart and contrite sigh,
A trembling sinner, Lord, I cry;
Thy pard'ning grace is rich and free:
O God, be merciful to me.
I smite upon my troubled breast,
With deep and conscious guilt oppressed,
Christ and his cross my only plea:
O God, be merciful to me.
Far off I stand with tearful eyes,
Nor dare uplift them to the skies;
But thou dost all my anguish see:
O God, be merciful to me.
Nor alms, nor deeds that I have done,
Can for a single sin atone;
To Calvary alone I flee:
O God, be merciful to me.
And when, redeemed from sin and hell,
With all the ransomed throne I dwell,
My raptured song shall ever be...
"God has been merciful to me".
~ Cornelius Elven ~

Saturday, October 27, 2012

So Vogue...Perspective Is Everything

I'm writing this post from my iPhone today and thanks to Siri and the Blogger app, this just became way easier to accomplish. Who knew?
If you follow me on Facebook or on Instagram then you likely saw a picture I posted the other day of the book Vogue Editor's Eye - a hardbound book of over 416 pages of beautiful photographs and fashion scenes put together over the years by the infamous editors of Vogue magazine. This glamorous collection of styled photo shoots showcases the talented eye of the many editors at Vogue magazine. And I have a complimentary copy sent to me by Vogue and signed by each of the current editors including the iconic Anna Wintour. Now...if you are local to me maybe you've seen me running through my neighborhood in a tattered "Marines" T-shirt or looking awful while I check the mail in an old Michigan State shirt and a pair of running shorts. Perhaps you teach at my children's preschool and you've seen me drop off my youngest two offspring with no make-up, greasy hair and a baseball cap. I sometimes feel I owe the entire preschool an apology for my morning appearance. These lack-luster efforts to face the world in vogue-style glory would leave the average observer supposing that I am anything but fashion friendly...Let's face it: I. Am. Mom. Oh I wear many hats with the business and mama being the top two priorities right now and sometimes my love of all things art and fashion just have to take the backseat. This does not, however, mean that I ignore art and fashion - oh just the opposite - I am a life-long student of the art of pretty things - truly a passion of mine. So I sit in my tattered Marines T-shirt and thumb thru Vogue magazine on a regular basis. I love the unrealistic, unwearable, avant-garde fashion artistically styled between the covers. I sometimes fall back on the ole standby fashion guide, InStyle magazine, for more practical, real life wardrobe combinations. However, at this point in my life, I'm keeping my higher ticket items in the back of my closet safe from spit-up, leaky diapers and runny noses. Do you know what it's like to have a limited edition handbag filled with vomit? I. Do. And the feeling is not warm and fuzzy. That said I must answer the question of why on earth the editors of Vogue would send me their latest's really quite simple. Just before launching their famous September Issue (note: if you have not seen the documentary, "The September Issue" look it up on Netflix-so interesting! A perfect peek into the hedonistic world of high end fashion - both equal parts exhilarating and nauseating)...anyway, before launching the 2012 September issue Vogue magazine asked if anyone could guess just how large this years issue, their largest yet, would be...since I'm a big fan of the mag and of the September issue in particular and since I'm fairly familiar with such things as the publishing industry (I grew up with a printing press in the garage after all) I felt that I could make an educated guess and come really close to I did and I was...absolutely correct on the number of pages contained in the 2012 September issue. What can I say? 916 pages of spectacular...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Boiled Peanuts

Greetings! I am thrilled that the "Goddess of Eats" has invited me to contribute to her blog occasionally! I look forward to visiting with you through this venue. To learn more about my life, visit the "about" tab on the right side of the blog homepage. - Leah Belle
Fall is such a beautiful time of year. Down here in the Deep South, fall does not necessarily  mean cooler weather. But it does mean hay bales and cotton harvest and peanuts.
Our small town (and the entire region) is bustling with tractors working on harvesting peanuts. Our roads are busy with peanut-laden wagons, and in the air is the sound of the peanut driers at the local co-ops.

Since moving to this area of the U.S., I have learned a lot about peanuts and how they are grown. Did you know the peanut is not actually a nut? It is a member of the legume or bean family. Peanut fields are rows of pretty green mounds of plants that produce peanuts underground. Yes, peanuts grow underground!

When it is time to harvest the peanuts, a tractor and implement will lift the plants from the ground, gently shake the soil from the peanuts and turn the plants upside down. The plants and peanuts are then left in the field to dry.
In the photo on the left, you  can see the plants in the machine as they are dropped back on to the field. The photo on the right shows the upside down plants with the peanuts laid out to dry in the sun.

After several days of drying, the peanuts will be harvested with a combine. This machine separates the plant from the nut, returning the plant to the field and storing the nuts in a basket on the top of the machine.

These peanuts have been drying in the field for several days and are ready to be picked.

Peanut plants are being swept up into the combine where the plant and peanut will be separated.


These peanuts are placed into peanut wagons and taken to the local co-op to be dried even more. At the co-op, warm air is circulated through the peanut wagon for long periods in order to reduce the moisture content of the peanut. The moisture must be greatly reduced to prepare the peanuts for storage.

As you might expect, the residents of Southeast Alabama love to eat peanuts. Not only do we eat them roasted and salted like the rest of the country does, but we also like them boiled! Before peanuts are considered ripe, some of the “green” peanuts are harvested and boiled. Boiling makes the peanuts soft. Add a little salt, and a delicacy is born.

There are two ways to boil peanuts.

To boil them the traditional way, wash two pounds of green peanuts well. Place them in large pot. Pour in enough water to almost fill the pot. Add 3T salt and stir. Cover and cook over high heat. Bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat only enough to prevent water from boiling over. Add water as needed to keep peanuts under water. When adding water, increase heat to high until peanuts are boiling again. Boil for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Test to see if they are done by spooning out a peanut, cooling briefly, opening the shell and biting into one. Boiled peanuts should be soft, not crunchy or hard. Drain, rinse well and cool slightly before serving.

A quicker method for boiling peanuts is to use the pressure cooker. This is my favorite way to cook them.

Wash 2-3 pounds of peanuts in the shell in cold water until the water runs clear.

Soak peanuts in cool clean water for 45 minutes before cooking. This helps soften the peanuts which enables them to absorb the salt during cooking.

Place peanuts, 2/3 cup of salt and enough water to cover the peanuts in the pressure cooker. The amount of salt can be adjusted to taste.
Cook for 45 minutes at about 10 pounds of pressure.

After cooking, allow the peanuts to cool in the water.

Enjoy this southern delicacy, then store leftovers in the freezer.

Better yet, head on down to Southeast Alabama during the fall, and we’ll visit on the back porch over a tall glass of sweet tea and a big bowl of peanuts!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Many Hands Make Light Work!

I feel as if it's either feast or famine here on the blog. Blogging is a fun outlet for me and a great way to share recipes and photo's with friends and family across the nation - what a wonderful thing the internet is! However, I struggle, as I'm sure all moms do, to keep balance between family, work and hobbies. That said - I am super excited to announce that help is on the way! I've enlisted the assistance of a sweet friend, Leah Belle, who will begin contributing an occasional post on a variety of topics. You can read Leah Belle's full bio under the "about" tab on the right side of the blog homepage as well as at the end of this post. She too is a busy home-schooling mom with a variety of interests ranging from gardening, to photography, to crafts and cooking! I'm looking forward to her posts and very excited to have some additional content on the blog.

I've been racking my brain in an attempt to find a succinct way to articulate just how I know Leah Belle. The relationship between her family and mine began before either of us were born when her Grandparents became acquainted with my in-laws. The circumstances surrounding the introduction involved an accident that nearly cost my in-laws their lives when they were hit head-on by a drunk driver, finding themselves with multiple broken bones and hospitalized for several months while faces were pieced back together and bones were held in place with traction. Leah Belle's grandfather was a pastor who regularly visited and checked on my in-laws. His faithful concern over them touched them deeply and one could say this tragic accident was the point in which they turned their lives around. Here's a peek at the tragedy:

After gaining a full recovery and a few too many scars, my in-laws joined the congregation of Leah's grandfather and never looked back. Our families have had a relationship since the late 60's and much more could be said about the intertwining of our lives, but I'll spare you the details and simply say - I'm thrilled we know each other and even more thrilled that Leah will be sharing a bit of her life in the deep south with us! If I could insert applause here, I totally would! Huge welcome for Leah - yay!

"Hello from the deep south, y’all! I’m a Midwest girl, born and bred, but have been blessed to live in many parts of the country during my lifetime. I’m the first born daughter to an Oklahoma Pastor and his Arkansas bride. I met my hubby at church and have been following him there ever since. You see, he’s a pastor too! We now reside in southeast Alabama with a daughter and son.

Most days find me schooling my children and keeping house. I admit that the house cleaning is not something I enjoy so I find myself hurrying through it in order to get to the book I’m reading or my latest sewing project. My daughter and I often get crafty together, and you can find a little of our work on etsy (The Crafty Caroline

I love playing with my camera, reading my favorite blogs, and crafting. My little family loves to travel, and I bet if you twisted our arms, we’d become nomads: so much to see out in the big, big world!

If I had to describe my life in one word, I would choose: Grateful. I am grateful for the blessing of salvation through Jesus Christ. I am grateful for His grace in my daily life and strength for the struggles of life." ~ Leah Belle

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Real Moms Totally Eat Quiche

Some time ago I saw the saying "Real moms don't eat quiche" making its way around Twitter and Facebook and various other social media circuits. A silly saying that supposes "real" moms - busy, hands on moms who have a lot on their plate - are too dutifully providing for each member of their family to take the time to eat (let alone make) quiche. This makes me laugh out loud as quiche is so relatively simple, while utterly filling and delicious that this real, homeschooling, business-running, mother-of-four often whips it up for lunch for my hungry brood of offspring. Served warm or room temperature, this stand-by favorite can be made in numerous variations and prepped the day before. Personally, I can devour three slices in record time. I'm awesome like that. Brunch, lunch, or dinner - get your quiche on!
Start with a run-of-the-mill pie crust lining an ungreased, deep dish pie pan. I use my standby favorite Pate Brisee. Then layer on 1 cup shredded swiss, 8-10 slices cooked and crumbled bacon, 1/2 red onion, and about 5 oz. chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained.
Beat together 9 eggs, 1 1/2 cup half and half 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Pour eggs right into your pie plate and poke down and stray filling ingredients that aren't covered by the eggs. 

Bake in a 425 degree oven until golden and set. Eggs will rise and puff up during baking - this is normal - after your quiche cools and settles it will flatten back out and be simply perfect.

Serve some up for your next lunch with girlfriends, cozy late night dinner with your man, or filling lunch for starving offspring. Enjoy!

Spinach Quiche
1 pie crust, rolled out and pressed into a 9-10 inch deep dish pie plate
8-10 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1/2 large red onion, chopped
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
5 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
9 eggs
1 1/2 cup half and half or heavy whipping cream
Line your ungreased pie plate with the pie crust and layer in the crumbled bacon, onion, cheese and spinach. Beat together eggs and half & half. Pour egg mixture into prepared pie plate, making sure all filling ingredients are covered. Bake in a 425 degree oven until puffed, golden and firm, about 45 minutes. Cool 15-20 minutes and serve warm or room temperature.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Day in the Life of...Part I

I field a fair amount of questions regarding our day-to-day life and I admit, I would be curious too if I knew someone with this amount of crazy going on. The business, the blog, the four kids, the homeschooling, the husband's crazy schedule, no family within a 150 miles - one could justifiably say that I might be headed to the sanitarium at any moment. My one request is (and always has been) that my straight jacket be pink on that glorious day when "they" come to take me away. I've always liked a good buckle.
At any rate, here is a little peak into a typical day at Casa de Howard. Full of cuteness and lots of dirt. Curiosity and crazy - oh the adjectives could go on and on, so many would be appropriate.
Sometimes we get a little curious in the office -
Occasionally we find half eaten crackers where we least expect it (tub of baby wipes) -
We build things in the back yard -

We climb trees -


 We share the living room with the local speedway -
We get very...VERY dirty -

Too many times we play in the water -

But at the end of the day, the bath water washes it all way and the snuggles are the best -

About half-way thru this post, loading all the pictures, I realized we'll have to split this installment of "A Day in the Life..." into two, possibly three posts. Too many pictures and so many little people. Stay tuned for a later post and we'll delve in to chore charts and juvenile labor. Such a tight ship around here...ha! 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Black Eyed Pea Salad

Those of you north of the Mason-Dixon and east of the Mississippi (a.k.a. God's Country) may not be familiar with our fiber filled southern commodity: black eyed peas. Typically reserved for a southern New Year's meal, the black eyed pea is served up alongside cornbread for good luck. It's both low-fat and filling and lately I've seen it popping up in unusual places such as this cold salad. I tasted something similar at an event a few months back and have been wanting to replicate it ever since. Not only is it yummy, but look how colorful it is as well! I love the above picture and I have to say - it is completely unedited save for the addition of my little "goddess of eats" label in the corner. My what a great lens can do - I used the Canon 24-105mm lens here and with great lighting - wowza.

I cooked the black eyed peas myself, but I'm sure you could easily substitute the canned variety, just rinse and drain well. For best flavor, let all of the combined ingredients marinate together in the refrigerator over night. Enjoy!

Black Eyed Pea Salad
6 cups cooked and drained black eyed peas
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice wine or red wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
Combine peas, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, scallions, garlic clove and jalapeno. Set aside. Whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Pour oil and vinegar mixture over black eyed pea combination and toss together. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight for best flavor.