A Labor of Love

Hello, and Happy Labor Day weekend.

Have you ever done something that entailed a lot of work, but it didn’t seem like work at all? Those are the moments that make my heart sing. How about you?

Pictured above is the Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon I made for the hard-working folks at The Mission last Monday — yes, that’s moi in the red apron — followed by “re-invented” meals on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Waste not, want not! My initial spread consisted of a salad bar, fried chicken (from a local grocery store deli by request), roast beef, homemade mashed potatoes (peeled 30 pounds at 4:00 a.m. Monday morning), cream gravy (theirs), and beef gravy (mine), which subsequently morphed into biscuits & gravy with a green salad, fresh fruit, and garlic bread sticks on Tuesday; a ham dinner on Wednesday (the food pantry supervisor wanted us to “taste test” the ham she bought before ordering more to give them out in our Thanksgiving/Christmas baskets — two thumbs up!); and ham salad sandwiches (they don’t call me the Queen of Leftovers for nothin’) with homemade cream of veggie soup on Thursday. Oh, and Rice Krispie bars with M’n’M’s because my “Zuppa Inglese” (English Trifle) ran out early in the week… a favorite from the 1970’s… sponge cake layered with strawberries & raspberries, vanilla pudding, whipped cream, and grated dark chocolate. Swoon…

The whole point of this Labor of Love was to show folks how much they’re appreciated — NOT about meal planning, menus, or kitchen stamina — although I heard a few comments about that too, xo. One gal even called me Superwoman. Don’t I wish? :)

Behind The Mission’s philanthropic venture to feed the hungry are many dedicated volunteers, including our backroom staff that tirelessly sorts through the daily donations and carries them to the thrift store (which generates funds to buy more food for the pantry) or packs them into barrels to ship to South America to help the needy there; the fix-it folks who test (or fix) every appliance, lamp, and/or toy before they head to the sales floor in working condition (often inserting batteries at our expense); the guys who run to the food banks in Tulsa, Muskogee, or McAlester on their own time and expense with their trucks and/or trailers to keep the food pantry shelves stocked; the pantry people who order supplies, stock shelves after every incoming shipment, and fill grocery carts for 250+ families/month (elderly, disabled, Veterans, grandparents with newly arrived grandchildren by proxy, and folks facing dire circumstances) plus the “cart runners” who courteously accompany them out to their vehicles and help unload; the front counter staff (good-natured checkout clerks who rely on God’s grace, gut instinct, and common sense to fairly price everything folks bring up to buy because much of it isn’t “priced” — we don’t have time to put price tags on everything!); the gal who takes time to glean and tag “designer items” for our two boutique racks (I’m tellin’ ya, I bought a Calvin Klein purse there for $3…) to generate even more sales for the food pantry; another lovely lady who sorts through the jewelry and updates our display racks every day (she’s also in charge of setting aside/storing select items for holidays, especially Christmas); our “day managers” who troubleshoot as well as tend to the deposit at the end of each day; the Mission Treasurer who keeps our bookkeeping straight; our empathetic intake staff who listens with love and compassion to heartbreaking life-stories inorder to give folks the help they need; and even a “roving reporter” who keeps the community apprised of our goings-on to solicit more support; plus myriad others who keep The Mission functional and viable,  including a sweet lady who designs our display shelves every Monday, one who arranges silk floral displays because she “likes to”, the janitor who cleans the place once a week, another treasured volunteer who takes home Barbie dolls and baby dolls to clean them up on her own time and/or culls through countless children’s books to encourage kids to read, and everybody else who donates “all of the above” — or used shopping bags. Thank you! We couldn’t do it without you.

(Apologies if I forgot anyone… time to rest and relax… hope you are, too!)

My Labor of Love is insignificant compared to all that goes on at The Mission and it seemed important for me to divulge that. Cooking because I love to (and can) is one thing, but VOLUNTEERING to help the helpless is a whole ‘nother level of love.

What makes your heart sing?

Enjoying being chairman of that motley crew (and cooking for them),

~ Kim

Close Encounters of the Lake Kind

I admire folks with the ability and patience to capture low light images.

Above is one of my fledgling favorites, back when the Lightning Tree still existed. Unfortunately, it (and my tripods) succumbed to earth, wind, and fire. C’est la vie. Some things are better left to experts.

Or memories.

Once in a Blue Moon

Over the years I’ve fooled around with nighttime photography and/or the full moon has fooled around with me. Raise your hand if its tidal pull gets the best of you, too. One thing I love about the photo above — blurry though it may be — is the spot on the lunar surface. What was that anyway? Don’t think it was a satellite zooming across the sky — it remained stationary. Ya never know when folks are watching.

I’ve even tried to take pictures of lightning. Let’s just say it was a hair-raising experience. (Do not try this at home!)

Last night I also witnessed a super nova. Such is my writerly life at 2:00 a.m. without photographic evidence. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of strays from the Perseid meteor shower — an annual August event —  when a familiar star blazed incredibly bright, then disappeared. Whether or not that celestial anomoly was documented by anyone else, I saw what I saw and was WOWED. Coincidence? I think not.

Full Moon over the Lake

What I’m trying to say is: live YOUR life whether you capture it on film or not.

Stellar moments happen but once in a lifetime.

Or at the right shutter speed.

Enjoying nighttime Lake Life,

~ Kim

A Slow Roasted Kind of Day

Summer is in full swing here with temps near 100, but today also included an early morning thunderstorm, revisiting old and new kitchen utensils, simmering spaghetti sauce (not pictured), baking a batch of five-cheese garlic toast (also not pictured), and roasting garden-fresh veggies because my oven was going. A good “inside day” with time to regroup and re-evaluate. Thank God for A/C! Hope you’re all cool and comfortable, xo.

I also swept floors (a perfunctory chore I enjoy for its instant gratification), unloaded/loaded the dishwasher, cleaned the fridge, wrote several letters, two thinking of you cards/notes, a birthday card, and answered a couple of emails. Basically, I had the house to myself. Peace and quiet. Sheer bliss! Don’t get me wrong. I miss my hubby when he goes to work, but sometimes a girl needs a lil’ “alone time” — and I’m not one to waste time. All in all, it was a productive and peace-inducing day.

Ahhhh…

Pictured above is my “Toy Box.” (The Land of Lost Toys for kitchen gadgets!) Most of them are/were from my mother-in-law circa 1950’s — potato ricer, et al — but they’re too precious or one-of-a-kind to discard. By now you know I tend to be nostalgic. :)

Over the years I’ve added a few others to the mix due to infrequent use or lack of a place to store them, but it’s always a delight to open the lid to discover what I “shoulda/woulda/coulda” been using. Wonderful innovations, now and back in the day.

Plus, I like mixing things up. Speaking of which…

Here’s my latest kitchen mat — an ergonomic wonder featuring “air pockets” to relieve fatigue. When I think of my Grandma hovering over her ol’ cookstove on a linoleum floor (or worse) I feel entirely spoiled, but grateful. Grandma would have embraced change. And kitchen mats. A very forward-looking lady.

The next one was “just for fun” after I acquired a lil’ wall decor at the Mission store. Gotta love it when themes unexpectedly appear in life.

What are yours saying to you?

Re: garden-fresh veggies, I’m talkin’ new red potatoes, pattypan squash, a head of cauliflower sliced, diced, & drizzled with EVOO, and sprinkled with a variety of flavors — summer savory, marjoram, freshly ground black pepper, pink Himalayan sea salt, and a dash of garlic & onion power — my makeshift version of Herbes de Provence minus the rosemary and lavender. I was too lazy to walk out to our front yard, plus it was pouring buckets. But, I wore my “lil’ French housedress” — or at least I imagine it to be — a cute black & white number trimmed in hot pink. We should all feel so lovely when we cook.

Stirred with a spurtle procured from my aforementioned Toy Box, the golden goodness that resulted will feed me for days to come.

Ditto on ahhhh…

Are you mixing things up? Do tell!

Enjoying slow-roasted days,

~ Kim

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Summer provides a revitalizing palette for my soul. (Ahhhh…) Besides the brilliant backdrop of greens and blues from our lawn, lake, and sky, there’s a veritable rainbow of fresh produce to cook with — and eat.

Serenity mixed with intensity.

Looking back through the ol’ blog archives (which I do every once in awhile to ensure that my writing and photographic integrity are still intact) I was tickled to rediscover these blasts from the past in somewhat “rainbow” order:

Regarding the Ranier cherries in the first photo (with a batch of ‘flat belly water’ in the background —see previous post) and the bell peppers below….

Sometimes colors meld into each other, transitioning from one hue to the next like “in between” colors of the rainbow. Love when that happens! Gradual is the name of the game here.

The striated cherries were a lovely snack all week and the peppers are soon to be stuffed. (Sorry, no recipe — “throw-together” supper tonight.)

What’s your favorite color of the rainbow and/or summer food to eat?

Enjoying subtle transitions,

~ Kim

In My Kitchen ~ Summer 2019

In My Kitchen… it’s Summertime and the living is easy. (Sing along if you know it!) Roadside farmer’s market stands are popping up everywhere with a vibrant array of vegetables and I feel blessed to have access to their bounty.

My own garden is coming along nicely, too. The tomatoes and cherry tomatoes (front and center) were picked just outside our back door this morning. Although my plot isn’t as large and prolific as most of my friends’, it feels good (and tastes twice as good) to grow my own. The Man Of Few Words and I were also blessed when some of our lake neighbors offered to water everything while we were away over the Fourth of July. Good friends.

Good eatin’ when we got home, too!

In My Kitchen… is (was) a bowlful of Potato Salad with Dill Pickles courtesy of Karen from The Backroad Journal. (It was her mother’s recipe and it was dang good!) Apparently adding dill pickles is a Southern “thang”… a fellow at the Mission recently raved about it and how much he missed that flavor. Guess I know what I’ll be making for our next church potluck dinner. :)

In My Kitchen… I debated whether or not to show some of the kitchen gadgets I’ve acquired since Spring. Most of you probably have them in your kitchens already, but they were new to me and too fabulous not to share. First up, my fish spatulas…

I’ve read about them, pondered how to use one if I had one (and/or how often or where I’d store it), but curiosity finally got the best of me. Plus, The Man Of Few Words keeps catching fish! The one on the left is from Pampered Chef and features a longer oval handle. The one on the right is from T-Fal and has a beveled edge. Which one to keep? I kept ’em both!

A lake girl can never have too many fish spatulas.

In My Kitchen… BLT’s are in progress with my new/used Black & Decker griddle — look away, my vegan and vegetarian friends, sorry! — another “find” at the Mission. I tried to take a photo of just the griddle, but it was rather shy (or difficult) and BLT’s are one of our favorite summer “sammiches.” Plus, it cooks and cleans like a dream. No more spatters, stove jobs, or skillet scrubbing to make one sandwich.

I also tried to depict my infusion pitcher, but the Oklahoma sunlight (and pitcher) wouldn’t cooperate. Right now I’m infusing a batch of Flat Belly Water. Ever heard of it? The first recipe I found called for 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup strawberries, 2 sprigs of rosemary, and a liter of filtered water. Check. Then I did more research.

Also known as “Flat Tummy Water” (and/or the Flat Tummy Detox), many of the recipes required ginger, cucumbers, and mint. The strawberry/blueberry version also seems to be turning out rather “purple-ish muddled-looking.” Now I don’t know who or WHAT to believe! However, I do know that drinking more water — no matter what flavor or color — during the summer is beneficial. Plus, I came home from Minnesota with more “middle” than usual as always (aarrgh!) and consuming fresh fruits, vegetables, and water helps. Do whatever works for you!

Last but not least, In My Kitchen… is this set of dishcloths, a potholder, and a towel that properly depict SUMMER — a vibrant “thank you gift” from a lake guest. (How thoughtful!) May your days be as colorful and unexpectedly blessed, no matter what season.

Thanks, too, to Sherry of Sherry’s Pickings for hostessing In My Kitchen each month, and for being so amenable as to include my seasonal inspirations, xo. I’ve missed you and everyone worldwide there! Looking forward to catching up.

Enjoying lake life,

~ Kim

Herding Armadillos and An Overdue Letter

How close can you get to an armadillo? Depends on how brave you are. The Man Of Few Words recently got close enough to photograph the hairs on its back, gently poked at them and concluded they’re more leathery than armored (oblivious, too), and grinned at me. We should all be so trusting.

Last week one of ’em almost ran up my leg. After a few “Oh, OH’s!” it scampered into the underbrush. (Didn’t realize they could run so fast!) As a result of that — plus previous encounters with cottonmouth snakes and a stray dog — I’m still a lil’ gun shy and/or photo shy with unexpected “up close and personal” opportunities to document Oklahoma’s wildlife. But, I appreciate “seeing” all of it — even through someone else’s lens — and I’m feeling braver by the day.

Thankfully Mama armadillo wasn’t around. (Not sure what I would’ve done with a full-sized armadillo chasing after me!) Here’s another pic of one of the babies courtesy of TMOFW, followed by a long-promised letter from me. Sometimes words are more forthcoming than photography on my part.

Dear Friends,

I’ve been a letter-writer all my life. Pen pals. Best friends. Family members. Even long distance crushes. (More on that momentarily.)

As long as I have a pen in my hand with access to paper, stamps, and a mailbox, I’m a happy camper. I’d even go so far as to say that if I don’t write something every day I’d be as skittish as an armadillo. (Bet you’ve never heard that comparison before.) Whether or not my thoughts make it to another human being’s mailbox, the fact is: I WRITE every day. Some days I scramble into the underbrush. Tentative. Unsure. Unable to to portray the real “me.” Still, I write nonetheless.

Life’s too short not to be candid.

Speaking of that long-ago long-distance crush, what a humbling moment that was in my letter-writing life. I grew up on a flat, fenced farm in rural Minnesota and the nearest body of water was a tributary named the “creek” (pronounced crick) a quarter-mile away. More of a dribble than a tributary, except during the Spring and Fall rains when it overflowed and chewed away at our rural gravel road with a gaping whirlpool — it served as a convenient get-away after a short hike — a respite and quiet place to think and write. I’ve been looking for the ideal spot all my life and finally found it at “The Lake.” (Thank you, God.)

Round about that time the musical “Oliver” was released. While everyone else was enamored by Mark Lester — the “star” — my girlish notions were captivated by The Artful Dodger, Jack Wild. (For some reason, I’ve always favored the underdog — a life-long habit, ahem.) I wrote a letter to him on the banks of the “crick” and put it in the mail, hopeful of his personal reply. Imagine my chagrin when the mailman returned my letter a few days later due to “insufficient postage.” (Who knew international postage rates applied?!) Appalled and ashamed, I tore up my love letter and tossed them into the flowing waters of the “crick.” Since then, I’ve decided to do a lil’ more research, pay the price (as needed), and continue to let people know how I feel — postage rates or not. Also sorry to learn that he succumbed from cancer at an early age.

I’ve also learned not to mess with Mama!Above is TMOFW’s favorite goulash with corn because that’s the way his Mom made it. Who am I to upset tradition? Ever the faithful wife. :)

Some lessons are learned alongside fledgling waterways, heart-felt love letters returned with insufficient postage, and “the lake.” (Even armadillo encounters…)

I’m grateful for every one of them on the journey toward being “me.”

Enjoying discoveries one day at a time,

~ Kim

The Current State Of Capital K

A few years ago I penned this post about being “nicknamed” and how thrilled I was to find a Capital K to express myself. Despite heartfelt pleas to PLEASE call me by my name (with continued disregard for my feelings and/or preferences, all in the name of endearing) it went on for six decades. FYI, my late brother and sister also despised their “lifelong nicknames.” I was sick of it — no disrespect intended — but there comes a time to draw the line and that’s the Truth.

Fast forward to The Current State of Capital K.

Initially (no pun intended, lol!) I was enamored by its old-school-font and whitewashed exterior — a fresh start — but soon after it arrived I relegated it to a bookshelf until I had time to decide what to do with it. Cool the way it was, but it was “missing something.” Sometimes self-discovery (and playfulness) takes awhile.

Last weekend I finally released my Capital K from its bookshelf-bondage, painted it metallic copper, added a few pressed-flower stickers I intended to give my sister (who died before I could “gift” her with my latest thrift store find) and thought NOW is the perfect time to play. Welcome to the new Capital K! I’m feeling more like “me” by the day.

My name is Kim — without a “nickname” attached.

Enjoying the freedom to be me at last,

~ Kim