Strawberry Granita

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My sweet niece spent most of today with me. We watched a movie together and we talked about what organic meant. I had already decided that today was going to be a recipe creating day. DG loves strawberries and our weather has been pretty hot and humid lately, so something fresh and icy seemed like a good idea. DG helped me make these wonderful strawberry granita’s and it was a success.
Before I picked up my little angel this morning, I went to our local Co-op and picked up some very ripe, locally grown, organic strawberries and lemons. DG and I cleaned our produce and I put together a simple syrup. I decided that a simple syrup made with lemon zest would work great for the granita’s and the leftovers could possibly work in a cocktail later this weekend.
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We took one container of strawberries and removed the leaves. After, we put them in my Magic Bullet blender. It was the perfect size and my mini blender made it super easy for my niece to do the work on her own. After we macerated the strawberries, DG poured them into a large bowl. I took the job of zesting two lemons which I put in the simple syrup that was already cooling and I let DG squeeze the juice of the two lemons into the bowl with the strawberry puree. At this point, we both felt like we needed something else, so I grabbed about 8 ounces of frozen strawberries and raspberries. We blended them with a little simple syrup in the blender and added it to the bowl, also.
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DG was such an incredible helper. She mixed everything together so that it was ready to be put in the freezer. I poured the mixture into two cold casserole dishes and placed them into the freezer.
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After thirty minutes we removed the casserole dishes and scraped with a fork. This keeps the fruit mixture from freezing solid. We then put it back in the freezer for about 45 minutes more and repeated scraping again. We repeated this for a little over two hours. image
We pinched a little mint out of my garden to top the frozen treat at the end. It was a lot of fun creating a frozen treat with my niece!
Ingredients:
1 container of organic strawberries
2 large organic lemons
1 cup lemony simple syrup
8 oz of frozen strawberries and raspberries

Make simple syrup first so that it can cool first. Combine 1 cup sugar with one cup of water and bring to a boil. Whisk so that they will combine and the sugar will not burn or stick to the bottom. This only takes a few minutes. Pull off of the heat and add the zest of two lemons into the water. Allow syrup to cool to room temperature. While this is cooling, place two large, empty glass casserole dishes into the freezer.
Juice the two lemons into a bowl. Cut the tops off of the strawberries and put into a blender with 1 cup of the simple syrup. (Most traditional recipes for granitas tell you to strain your fruit after blending, but I wanted to keep the fiber in tact, so we didn’t). We blended separately the frozen fruit with a little of the simple syrup, but I’m sure it would be fine to put it in with the fresh strawberries and save a step. After blending all of the fruit, pour into the bowl with the lemon juice and mix well. Divide mixture into the two cold casserole dishes and return to freezer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove from freezer and scrape with a fork. Return to freezer and repeat scraping every thirty minutes for the next 2 hours. At this point you’ve made granita! Serve immediately with a sprig of mint and enjoy!

Note: It’s my preference to use local and organic fruit. This is not necessary.
(Maria-if you read this, I had you also in mind-Add vodka and have a great weekend)

Parallel Jump

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Cameron Garriepy has composed a great novella with this one. Sadly, this book has been sitting on my dresser for far too long. I have been slowly sifting through the stack of books on my dresser this summer. Parallel Jump has been sitting patiently waiting for my attention. I have a bit of a problem when it comes to books. I love them so very much and I buy them often. I joke with my friends that if the lights ever go out, I’ll have a great library that they can borrow from and enjoy.
So finally, I picked this book up on Monday evening after work. For the month of July, I read The Goldfinch and The Glass Castle. Both books were astonishingly good, but oh so deep. I also read The Vacationers, but it wasn’t really my thing. I needed something fun and light to follow them up and Parallel Jump fit the bill. To be honest, it will be a great book to recommend to my middle school teachers and friends. In fact, one of my book club ladies has a daughter that I adore, but sadly I had to tell her that she couldn’t be a part of our book club due to the sometimes “too adult” content of our choices. Also, the excessive wine that I indulge in during our book club talks probably isn’t suitable for an eight year old, either. But what I did promise her was that I would keep her in mind when I found books that I thought were appropriate and that we could discuss them on our own. I can’t wait to share this book with her and then later have our own book discussion. Parallel Jump is a great book. I look forward to picking up another book by Cameron D. Garriepy. Next up, The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat.

Virgil Donati in Greensboro

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Let’s take a moment and talk about sexy. Yes, I said it. For me, it’s always been musicians. Daddy always played the best jazz and orchestra music in the house. We always had season tickets to see every band and orchestra that graced our small home town, too. Mom and dad instilled in me a true passion for music. I guess it’s no surprise that I fell hard for one of those musician guys 22 years ago. During a time in my life that I’m still not so proud of, I fell for a drummer. I spent years following him from club to club and learning how to haul and help set up drum sets. I love drummers, in particular, my B. Since I love a drummer, it’s a large part of my life. We see a lot of shows that revolve around great drummers and we subscribe to a lot of things musical. Our man’s den is a lot of fun.
Modern Drummer is a magazine that features drummers. We have subscribed to it for years. I’ve tried my best to organize B’s drum mags. Certain names have become familiar to me through B’s stories and through the magazines I’ve moved around and read. I’ve accompanied B to many shows where instead of a crowd of dancers, there are only watchers. The intricacies of the music requires complete attention. A lot of mouths, including mine are open for the entire shows. Amazing. To name a few bad ass drummers; Terry Bozzio, Stewart Copeland, Steve Gadd, Chad Smith, Vinnie Colaiuta, Neil Peart and Virgil Donati. I would even mention Phil Collins from my childhood crush. Needless to say, the music at our house is far from main stream-most of the time.
Last night we were privy to seeing Virgil Donati. It was one of those times that you feel like something must be wrong. For One, paying $20.00 to see one of the worlds greatest is slightly unusual. I’m so annoyed with seeing the astronomical ticket prices today. I’m just sayin’. Two, to see an intimate show where you can talk and shake the hand of a master without a VIP pass and three to see it all locally. It just doesn’t happen that often.
Virgil Donati is an Australian born drummer. His chops, his rhythms, his passion…oh my. He had his first drum set at age three, like my husband. Although, I doubt Virgil’s had Animal from the Muppets on them. He’s been in the states for some time now and has recorded with Steve Vai and many others. He’s someone to know if you love drumming.
Although my “older” ears aren’t as accustomed to some of the Prog rock bands that played before Virgil yesterday; I still can’t deny the talent displayed by some of the younger, local bands. Hats off to Kindler, Artilect and Hephystus Who preceded Virgil’s performance. Like many things in life, I’ve learned to appreciate different styles of music. Although I prefer my music a little less heavy these days; I can’t deny the thrill I still get when I watch a drummer in the groove. So yeah, I’m still in awe of the drummer and wow, Virgil Donati was in Greensboro yesterday. (And he shook my hand)

When Life Hands You Lemons

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My book club is small and relaxed. It’s just the way I like it. We’ve been getting together for over a year now and we all still find it enjoyable. I’ve had a hard time not feeling like a jerk when people ask to join. I’m not willing to change a thing, because it works as it is now. When it started I had a syllabus of books with reviews and we followed it for a few months before we found our groups flow. It has evolved in a way that allows one to read at their own pace. Some of us read slow and some us read fast. One of the members savors each page of a book so much, that sometimes she’ll spend a week on the last five to ten pages. Some of us read multiple books at the same time, while others can’t fathom reading that way. We each give each other “suggestions” of books we think would be awesome to read. We normally meet at our local wine and cheese shop. They have a large wooden table, ironically named Woody that we reserve. I usually show up with a pile of books to either share or to review with the group.
Last month I decided to mix it up a bit. A short half hour drive away is a wonderful book shop in Fearrington Farms. It’s called McIntyre’s Books. It’s an independent book store, too. My heart sings when it comes to supporting these places and this place deserves the support. They have regular author events at the store, which most of the time are free to the public. Of course, I recommend purchasing a book or two in thanks. I suggested to the group via email that we go to one of these events. Who knew that I would choose an author that two of the ladies already loved? I had not even researched the author, other than to read one of the reviews of her latest book.
Jeannette Walls is an American author. Her first book, The Glass Castle was on the New York Times Best seller list for five years. Once again, where have I been? I loaded the ladies up in my ride and we drove to McIntyre’s books. Since we were all meeting after work, we made it just in time as she began to speak. It was so packed that we were seated in a secondary room. Since I had not read her books yet, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Let me say, she did not disappoint. Of course I had no idea on what a harsh upbringing she had experienced. She was homeless at different points of her childhood and never had a real home growing up. My heart ached for her as she told her story, but not because she was asking for any sympathy. Quite the contrary. She embraces her childhood and gives it credit for her strength. My only quote from the night that I will take with me was, “I’ll never start a fight, but I will never back down either”. She was witty and strong. After meeting her I read her first book, The Glass Castle, in about two days. Knowing it was her truth was tough, but mostly it was enlightening. Truthfully, I’m glad that I had not read her books prior to meeting her. It was good to know that she had survived and excelled in her life. When life hands you lemons, Jeanette Walls made a tasty lemonade!

#SummerStack

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Well, I’m not a student anymore or a teacher with her summer off, but what I do have is lots more energy. The added daylight makes me so much happier. I do more in general. Mostly, I like to read on my porch after work, if possible. I’ve been slowly reading The Goldfinch, for too long. Don’t get me wrong…it’s a great book, but a long one that is a little slow to get into. Now that I am over halfway through the book, I’m hooked. I had planned on finishing it this past weekend, but I ended up playing too much. Well, maybe not too much. I just did other fun things. Tonight is my book club get together and I am disappointed that I did not finish in time to fully discuss it. Of course during the time I’ve been reading this book, I started and finished two other books.
So tonight I will admit to the group that I didn’t finish the book. Booooooo. Anyway, our assignment for tonight was to bring a list of at least two books that would make fun summer reads. I’ve been seeing a lot of posts recently on the book, The Vacationers, so I picked it up. Sisterland just looked good and so I added that to my cart. It looked so good that I think I may have already read it. Haha. Margaret Atwood has been sitting on my nightstand since Christmas, so it now has become a part of my summer reading. Really? I just can’t seem to get my reading mojo right this year. I get a little overwhelmed with the greatness of authors and books. My stacks keep growing. Last night I looked around the den that I’ve housed with a ton of my books and imagined myself being locked up in that room. How long would it take to re-read the books in there? Between the treadmill and the books, I think I would be pretty happy for a long time. I guess the need for food and water would have to come into play, but that was not part of my daydream.
If you had no obligations for the next week of your life and could relax on a screened-in porch with an oscillating fan blowing softly by you…What would you read? Would you use the time to think and write more? I’ve been a terrible writer and reader this year and I need to get it together. I’m going to take a long weekend, make a list of my writing goals and hopefully work on my summer stack. How about you?

Happy 4th With the Fam

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Traditions are important for so many reasons. My dad loves them. Fourth of July is always celebrated at the family beach house. We have a great view of the downtown fireworks from our pier. Last night the fireworks were canceled due to the hurricane that had passed through the previous night. We were far from disappointed, though. After staring at the weather channel for 48 hours anticipating the horrors of what was in store for us, finding the cottage and city damage free was all the celebration we needed. My parents, in true Keen form, decided to go early and ride out the storm. It’s always stressful knowing that your parents could be in harms way. Of course when I called again at ten pm when I saw the red directly over the city and listened as the meteorologists spoke about the 100 miles per hour squalls, my dad answered (clearly I woke him up) and said, we are fine. The worst had passed.” I breathed a sigh of relief and told him I would be there first thing in the morning. The hubs and I packed the generator and lots of tools in preparation of a power outage and lots of debris cleanup. We pulled out of our driveway at 6am. As hard as it was, I waited until seven am to call again. We were well on our way at that point and when I called, my dad answered with his jovial self shining through the phone. My heart smiled and I thanked God for keeping my family safe. My dad said they had no damage and it was beautiful.

The rest of the drive was much easier. The music got louder, as well as my singing, and the remainder of the drive flew by. When we arrived, my dad was sporting a sweatband, shirtless and mowing. I walked swiftly to him and hugged his sweaty self, again thanking God for his mercy.

It was weird, as if nothing was off. Mom was more worried that we heat up the chicken kabobs she had prepared than discuss the hurricane that had just passed through. Rather than harp on how scared they had made me by staying for the storm, I just went about my normal beach routine. We put the boat in the water, loaded the cooler and took off for a nice ride. My sister and family showed up a couple of hours later. We took them for a ride and then went back to the cottage and cooked the standard fourth food. We gorged ourselves on hamburgers and hotdogs and drank a few too many beers. As the sun was setting, my sister and I took the dogs for a walk. As we were returning, we heard loud fireworks. We couldn’t believe the city had decided to have the fireworks. We got the kiddos up and raced outside, only to find it was our neighbors shooting off amazing fireworks. They were incredible! The reflection of fireworks in the kiddos smiling eyes erased every stressful worry I had felt in the previous 48 hours. As I laid my head down that night and looked over at my sleeping dog and husband, I breathed a sigh of relief and smiled a happy smile of thanks for another 4th with the fam.