Summer

Gratitude Day 316

Mon., Aug. 12, 2019

Luke 21:30 – When their leaves appear, you know that summer is near.

These are a few of my favorite things of summer:

Flowers

Cucumbers

Long walks

Fair food

Backyard fires

Peach Iced Tea

Ice Cream

Bike Rides

Outdoor music

Kayaking

Eating on the porch

Late sunsets

I’m sure there are more. Here’s a start.

What are some of YOUR favorite things about summer? Drink every single one of those things in during these lovely days of summer.

For blessings all summer long, I am grateful.

Dear God – May we not wish away a season, a month, a year or other some other thing. Instead, may we simply love every opportunity that lives before us these days. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 92 – Cucumbers

20180731_192544Wed., Aug. 1, 2018

Numbers 11:4-5 – Then the Egyptians who had come with them began to long for the good things of Egypt. This added to the discontent of the people of Israel and they wept, “Oh, for a few bites of meat! Oh, that we had some of the delicious fish we enjoyed so much in Egypt, and the wonderful cucumbers and melons, leeks, onions, and garlic!

One of Hubby Rick’s and my favorite aspects of summer: fresh veggies out of the garden. Our garden isn’t huge. Neighbors have often commented that we grow the most produce per inch they have ever seen. This is probably true!

In the last two weeks, we have had lots of fresh veggies. Earlier, we had radishes and lettuce. Now, we are reaping broccoli, beans, peppers and cucumbers.

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Ah, the cucumbers. I will can some pickles just as soon as I find some fresh dill (We neglected to plant dill.) For now, we are eating them fresh. And, I made some great refrigerator pickles.

These pickles are kept in the refrigerator. With a different flavor than canned pickles, I like them because they are crisp and crunchy.

My Mom used to make refrigerator pickles. I’ve put together a hybrid recipe that I like. They are really very easy. And boy, do they taste good!

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Gather some cucumbers, onions and peppers. I use whatever peppers I have in the garden at the time. Cut everything into bite-sized pieces. I quarter the onions and slice them. Basically, the same with the pepper. For the cucumbers, I like then thin. I don’t have a mandolin, but I cut them as thin as I can. My basic ratio is about 9-10 c. cucumbers, 2-3 peppers and 1-2 onions per batch.

Put everything into a large bowl. Sprinkle with 2 TBSP pickling salt. Cover with a generous layer of ice. If you have an ice maker in the your frigerator with the crushed ice option, use this. Let the bowl sit for two hours.

Some recipes skip this step. I think it is important. This is how the cucumbers become nice and crunchy, which is what I like.

Make the brine. Combine 1 ½ c. vinegar, 2 c. sugar and 1 TBSP celery seed. Bring to boil and remove from heat when sugar is dissolved. Let brine cool.

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After two hours, drain the cucumber bowl contents. Remove the remaining large pieces of ice. In a container with a lid, combine everything. Let set in the fridge for one day. Pickles are ready to eat!

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Here are couple of my extra secrets:

  1. When you have more cucumbers, just cut them up with additional peppers and onions. Let them set for 2 hours in the ice mixer. Drain and add to the brine mixture you already have in the fridge!
  2. These pickles will last for several months refrigerated.

I love them on salads, in sandwiches, as a side dish or just plain!

In the scripture passage from Numbers, the people are complaining because they miss the fresh food from their native land. I find summer much more enjoyable when we can walk out to the garden, see what is ready to harvest and make a meal based on what is found. It makes for so much enjoyment to take veggies right from the garden and make them into something we’ll enjoy.

For cucumbers and other fresh veggies out of the garden, I am grateful.

Almighty God – what a complete joy it is to eat fresh produce right out of the garden. Thank you for this abundance in our lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 77 – Peaches

Mon., July 9, 2018

Amos 8:1– This is what the Lord God showed me: a basket of summer fruit.

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A basket, or really a box, of summer fruit made it to my house this week. A box of beautiful Georgia peaches.

I live in Wisconsin. This past week, a semi-truck full of Georgia peaches and pecans stopped in a neighboring town for an hour. Since I was already in town, I bought a box of peaches.

The kind woman who sold them to me asked, “You’ve bought from us before, right?” I felt like I was the only person in the rather long line who was a newbie to buying peaches from this semi in the greenhouse parking lot. While she gave me a slip of paper with instructions, she reiterated what the paper said out loud. Take the box home, put the peaches on a counter or table and let them ripen for a few days before using them. Then, they can be refrigerated but not before.

I followed her instructions to the tee. I laid a towel on our buffet and carefully placed every peach on the towel. Then I waited. Every day as I walked by, I pinched one of the peaches to see if they were softening. By Friday night, they were ripe.

I awoke early Saturday morning and realized I had no sugar in the house. (Part of my plan to reduce my sugar intake is not to have sugar in the house. And, I didn’t.) I waited until the grocery store opened and zipped over to get some. Once home, I began the process of canning peaches.

It has been awhile since I’ve canned peaches. While I can and freeze every summer, I just haven’t canned these orange-maroon tinted globes for a while. Betty Crocker helped me remember just how long I should blanch them and a couple other hints I found helpful. In the end, I basically canned them just like my Mom canned peaches. She would buy a couple boxes of peaches each summer. As a youth, my sisters and I formed an assembly line and helped can them.

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I prepared a hot water bath to blanch the peaches. Here are some ready to go into the boiling water.

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One tricky spot is letting the peaches blanch long enough to easily slide the skin off easily without over cooking them. About a minute worked best for me.

As soon as I removed the blanched peaches, I put them into a sink filled with cold water. Let them cool before trying to remove the skin. Patience here means the skins come of easier.

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Then, cut the peaches in half and remove the pits. While I longed to have these picture-perfect half-moon rounds of peach every time, the reality is much different. It isn’t very easy. Most of these peaches were so large, half of a peach did not slip easily into a freshly-cleaned jar for processing. The quartered peaches fit better.

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The peaches should be pit-side down in the jar. Fill the jar with a sugar-water syrup. I used a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water. Some people like a sweeter syrup. I prefer a more natural peach taste.

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Once the lids are tightly attached to the jar with a ring, processed the jars in a hot water bath. For the quart jars, I processed them 30 minutes. The pint jars were processed for 25 minutes. Let the jars cool before moving them far.

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I was processing the last batch of jars when Hubby Rick asked if I had made a peach cobbler as well. I assured him it was in the oven. We shared it with friends at a potluck that night. It was fantastic.

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In sharing with people that I canned peaches over the weekend, I have heard this comment more than once: “People still can?” Yes, we do. I am not a master-canner. I do not can as much as my Mom nor my Grandmothers did. But I love to continue this family tradition. I often give home-canned items for presents and pray the contents bless the people I share them with.

We haven’t cracked open a jar of the canned peaches yet. I’ll wait for a cool fall day when we can enjoy another fantastic peach cobbler with guests. Seriously, aren’t the peaches just so pretty in the jars?

For wonderful peaches, one of the fruits of God’s kingdom, I am grateful.

As summer fruit comes into season, may we celebrate the unique and special care You took for everything created in this world. May the sweetness of the peaches point me back to the sweetness of Your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 71 – Summer Sabbath

Sun., July 1, 2018

summer-sabbath

Mark 2:27 – Jesus finished by saying, “People were not made for the good of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for the good of people.

Today is Sunday, the day Christians label as a day of Sabbath. A day to slow down, rest, recover. Time to reflect, feel peace, listen for God.

It is also July 1st. The 4th of July is just a couple days away, the unofficial halfway point of summer. We are halfway through a season that often yearns to be slower. Less packed. More opportunities to enjoy the flowers, trees, water and grilled chicken of summer.

How can this summer be halfway over? I thought it was just beginning! It’s rounding second base? I haven’t taken advantage of so many things I wanted to do this summer. Watch a baseball game. Go for a super long bike ride. Hike through the woods.

This past week has not been my most productive week. I am calling it mission trip hangover. While the Martha in me wants to hurry, the Mary whispers in my ear, “It’s OK. It’s summer. Less is more.”

Pick up the book you’ve longed to read and sit on the porch and indulge. Walk through the yard or your neighborhood and drink in every hint and shade of green. Savor an extra piece of rhubarb crisp or strawberry pie. It will never taste this good in the middle of the winter.

Savor Sabbath. Savor Sunday. Savor Summer

For this I am grateful.

Lord God, too often, we think Sabbath is for everyone else but ourselves. May we find moments to rest our souls, quiet our banging thoughts and listen for your still, quiet voice in our lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 51 – Summer is Here!

 

Sun., May 27, 201

Kids at Mirror Lake
Hubby and our three youngest grandkids: Dylan, Ellie and Waylan

Proverbs 14:30 – A relaxed attitude lengthens a man’s life; jealousy rots it away.

While the calendar still says “May,” today in Wisconsin, it felt as if summer arrived. While in the car Saturday afternoon, the temperature registered at 92 degrees Fahrenheit. It is hard to image that a short six weeks ago, many inches of snow dotted our landscape.

Hubby Rick and I took full advantage of the beautiful weather. We had our youngest three grandchildren for the day. And we did everything summer. Jumping on the trampoline. Picnic in the park. (Yes, we cheated and picked up food at Culver’s, a local take-out restaurant.) Swam in the water. Played in the sand. Learned about various wild animal tracks. Stopped for ice cream. Basically, we checked off most of the items we would put on a “great summer day” list. Only downside? Because we have had lots of rain in May, the mosquitos are persistent. We kept sun screen and bug spray nearby all day.

The last two days, Rick and I have spent working and playing together. It has been great! Maybe what I needed to appreciate all that I have in my life.

We all need space in which we step back from our daily lives and rediscover what makes us tick and what is so important to us. I have been able to do this the last two days.

For this, I am grateful.

Lord God – thanks for a couple days of relaxation in which I have uncovered just a bit of my mojo again. I pray that my relaxed attitude of today can sustain me for days ahead. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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