Tasty Tuesday Blog Party – Strawberry Festival

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Welcome to Tasty Tuesday!

Well, I don’t know about the “Tasty” part, but it is Tuesday.

This week I wanted to go on and on about my love of strawberries and share some recipes with you. I did run into a little problem as I started making my pound cake. I’ll tell you a little more about that later.

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Growing up in Florida and going strawberry picking almost every year of my life, I’ve learned a thing or two about these wonderful treats.  We always end up filling the whole trunk of the car with quarts of strawberries fresh from the fields.

We have a hard time knowing when to stop ourselves from the fun of finding the biggest (they get really big) and best strawberry out there. Having a little friendly competition never hurt anyone, right? Even though you really shouldn’t…you have to test a few to make sure they’re alright. Just wipe them on your shirt a little and quickly pop it in your mouth!

Visiting the Florida Strawberry Festival and making the biggest possible Strawberry Shortcake you can fit in the bowl would have to be a highlight of Strawberry Season. If you’re in Florida, theFlorida Strawberry Festival is coming up!

Making fresh Strawberry Jam and feeling like you are “Ms. Homemaker” or something is part of the fun.

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Strawberry Jam

  • 2 quarts fully ripe strawberries
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 3 ounces liquid fruit pectin

1. Wash and hull the strawberries, and place them in a medium bowl. Using a potato masher, crush the berries. You should have 4 cups of crushed berries.

2. In a heavy saucepan combine the crushed berries, lemon juice, and sugar. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly; boil, stirring, for 1 minute.

3. Add the liquid pectin; boil and stir for 1 minute longer. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, skim off and discard any foam that rises to the surface.

4. Spoon the hot jam into 8 widemouthed, warm sterilized 1/2 pint jars, leaving a 1/4 inch space between the top of the jam and the rim of the jar. Wipe the rims, cover, and process for 10 minutes in boiling water. You might want to look up canning instructions for this part. I don’t feel qualified to tell you. This is usually where I call my mom asking if I’m doing it right or not!

What NOT to do!

Now, back to the story about the “What-Not-To-Do” photo at the top of the post…

It all started when I thought I would like to make pound cake to use for my Strawberry Shortcake instead of buying those cute little round ones at the grocery store. Let me just say that I’ve never, ever, ever made a pound cake before.

I found a recipe in a great cookbook labeled “NEVER-FAIL POUND CAKE!” This seemed like the obvious choice for someone like me. But, maybe it should be a warning sign when something starts out with “NEVER-FAIL!”

I had a few setbacks on my road to a wonderful Strawberry Shortcake! I’ll quickly list them so we can move on and you can appreciate all that I went through to give you an interesting Tasty Tuesday Post!

  • I decided to “SOFTEN” the butter a little faster (I could have a patience problem.) by setting the stick of butter in the microwave for “just a few seconds” while talking on the phone. It melted all over the freshly cleaned microwave, and I had to scrape it out.
  • I pulled my favorite, antique mixing bowl out of the cabinet to find it cracked. I threw it away after trying to decide if a giant crack caused a problem for a mixing bowl or not.
  • Then Jacob, my youngest son, sweetly helped me mix everything together. It was all happy, happy in the kitchen for a few minutes.
  • I popped the cake pan in the oven and began the baking. I decided to peek through the window after 30 or 40 minutes to find the first photo. It was overflowing everywhere!
  • I pretty calmly cleaned out the oven and threw everything else in the sink to deal with later. Then I decided to start over.
  • I had all my ingredients on the table and I decided to tweet about my fun in the kitchen. (Follow me on Twitter for exciting tweets – Ha!) I turned back around to only four eggs. Where’s number five? On the floor. It rolled off the counter.
  • I was still being very calm (as usual) and started putting some stuff up in the kitchen and when I turned around with paper towel in hand, the dog was licking up the egg. She was done. It grossed me out!
  • The second attempt went fine, but my sink is still full of dishes and an oven rack!

Here’s the recipe you’ve been waiting for…

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From Uncle Bubba’s Savannah Seafood Cookbook (Paula Dean’s brother)

Never-Fail Pound Cake

Serves 10 to 12

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract

Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

In a large bowl, using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour and milk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the lemon extract. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Place in oven and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Increase the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes more. Do not open the oven door while baking. After 30 minutes, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake to see if it comes out clean. If it doesn’t, continue baking at 350 degrees until the toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

While this was baking I sliced up about two pounds of fresh strawberries and mixed them with about one cup of sugar. Covered it and put it in the refrigerator for at least an hour. It makes a wonderful topping!

Tip:  Do not accidentally grab “self-rising” flour out of your cabinet.  Only use “all purpose” flour.  Trust me!

Ta-Da, I give you Strawberry Shortcake!!!

strawberry shortcake

Enjoy, and thanks for joining us for Tasty Tuesday this week!

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New Zealand: A Family Travel Dream Come True

Sometimes, I wish they would stop walking.

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When I took this shot, I knew what it would say to me forever. I knew that what I was seeing in front of me was the eternal conundrum of parenthood, you want them to grow, you want them to walk forward day after day, but then again, maybe not!

You wish they could stay just like they are. I know Kim and I think that way all the time. This picture, printed at poster size and hung on the living room wall, has always reminded me that I better get while the gettin’s good!

Everything Boils Down to Pizza

Pizza! How can pizza lead me to talk about this picture? Well, we’re not talking just any ole pizza here, we’re talking fancy pizza, special pizza, magic pizza. You’ll find out more tomorrow on Tasty Tuesday.

But for today, I’ll just tell you that this particular pie reminds us of a trip to New Zealand and Australia we took in December 2004 (Dec. is summer Down Under). It was an amazing trip, an unforgettable string of days that we would recommend to everyone!

Red Tale Saleqantas

It started with a sale on tickets. Some people are a sucker for shoes on sale, some for furniture, some (like my dad) for the best clothes at 80% off. Kim and I, we’re suckers for an air fare sale.

What a sale! Qantas had a sale that had the total price of the tickets at hundreds lower per person than the best fares we’d seen. We haven’t seen them as low since. On an impulse, we booked ‘em. Cool!

The dance went like this: We’re goin’ to Austrail-ya, we’re going to Austrail-ya…excitement filled the house. New Zealand was part of the itinerary too, but we had no idea how magical of a place it is.

New Zealand is Beyond Description

We flew into Auckland from LAX and arrived at about 6:30 am local time. We had not slept much in about 30 hours. But the excitement and the early hour gave us the energy to push ahead.

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We rented an SUV and we were off. I was mentally competing against the Amazing Race contestants I had seen get so lost leaving this very airport. I did not get lost. We would so win that show.

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

Our first stop was just completely out of this world! Really. The Waitomo Glow Worm Caves has to be one of the most amazing displays of God’s creation that we’ve ever witnessed.

Caverns alone are pretty neat. Awesome caverns (a technical term) are a step up. Awesome caverns with little actual glow-in-the-dark bio-luminescent little creatures all over the ceiling is just something else altogether.

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The whole area around the caves is a beautiful hilly area with farms, sheep, and all the uniqueness of a foreign culture.

The immediate surrounds of the cave facility is captivating in it’s natural beauty. The place is very nicely done and blends in with the landscape perfectly.

The tour through the caves is magnificent and the highlight is a boat ride, on an underground river with glow worms all over the ceiling. Check out the picture to the right!

Unreal! Sure enough, the light at the end of the tunnel appears and the boat emerges into a rain forest. Truly a highlight of all of our travels.

The Show Must Go On

We only had three nights in New Zealand and a whole list of things we wanted to see, so we moved on pretty fast. We left the caves and asked around for directions for a place to go on a hike in these amazing forests.

After a bit of confusion about the word “hike”, Kiwi’s call it a “bushwalk”, we were directed to a great hike nearby. After that we had an incredible meal of New Zealand Style Barbecue (this was lunch!). And we were off.

The Huka Jet

A few hours of travel through the countryside brought us to one of the things New Zealnd is famous for: Jet Boating. Wow! Take a look at the smiles on our faces:

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That was in this: After doing this:

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The Huka Jet ride is best explained by video at their website. You really want to see this.

What Could Top That?

Would you believe that the trip kept getting better? Kim and I often discuss which of the umpteen amazing experiences on this trip was the most thrilling. She often settle on the Huka Jet (unless we count Australia). For new Zealand I usually settle on the next place we went.

Rotorua, New Zealand

Adventure central! This medium sized city is surrounded by endless outlets for the adrenaline junkies of the world! New Zealand has some different rules about lawsuits and insurance, so they can get away with more than we can.

Like this for example:

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That’s AJ and I in a tricked out dune buggy out letting it rip on a racetrack (and off)! We did this at Off Road New Zealand, just outside of Rotorua. Of course, there is another adrenaline pumping, airline ticket selling, video at the website.

Next?

ZORBING

Adjectives fail me. How do I describe being put inside a giant inflated plastic ball with a little core in the middle (that’s where they put you). This core is lubricated with hot water (free from the geothermal activity in the area) so you basically feel like you’re in a giant washing machine. And then they shove you down a mountain, okay a hill. A big hill.

This is what they call a Zorb:

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And here is the hill you roll down in it:

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We all laughed as hard as we could all the way down, and came out saying “Dad, can we go again?” Oh wait, I am the dad…I wish my dad had sent his credit card! Um, let me think, I could choose fiscal responsibility, OR, I could choose another trip (or two) down that hill for the most amazing experience EVER. “Oh yeah, we’re goin’ again!”

Another amazing video is available at the website: Zorb Rotorua

Agrodome

After all of that, Kim and I figured we could use a little break from the non-stop action. We thought the Agrodome would provide a little breather. While it wasn’t non-stop thrills, the place was amazing. Here is the website for Agrodome. They have a whole menu of things to do, we stuck with the tame Farm Show and it was awesome. The petting zoo was a big highlight:

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Back to Auckland

We wrapped up our stay in New Zealand back in Auckland which could be a whole post in itself, but I’ll just put up a simple picture that warms my heart.

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I doubt myself sometimes. I worry that I should have buried the money we spent on this trip in a coffee can in the backyard. Not only this trip, but all of the travel we’ve done. But then I look at the picture at the top of this post, and this picture here and I realize that the time with the family, the experiences we’ve shared, the places we’ve seen…they’re priceless.

Two final things I’d like to say:

1. For most of us who can’t afford a trip like this right now (and I’m right with you, it should be obvious that we know how to SPEND money!) there are very inexpensive ways to get memories like this. I’m going to write a post soon about camping with kids, either in an RV or in a tent (which we’ve done for a week in Colorado). That will be a little more down to earth.

2. For those of you who DID bury your money in a coffee can. My advice is to do the following…click on this link right hereQantas Airlines

They are having another sale…not a bad one either. $720 round trip fare.

To see some more photos, check out our Photobucket Album

Homeschooling Starts Again

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It’s that time of year when all the homeschooling materials have been gathered, fresh pencils and paper have been purchased {I always love fresh notebooks…I have a paper thing.} and plans for lots of learning in the coming year are all written down and ready.

This is where I always need to take a step back for a moment before I jump into our new year with a plan to learn it all…right now. 

I have to remember to not compare my children to someone else’s crew.  They might have the perfect looking schedule mapped out and color coded.  They might have the next three years planned out to ensure a college scholarship.  But, God gave me these boys to teach and I’m the perfect teacher for them.  Awesome! 

I want to teach my children the love of learning and the desire to explore new things until they find the their spot in this world and know they are doing the right thing.

My homeschool planning needs to allow that to happen.  Hours and hours of school can’t compare to the hours they spend discovering their dreams and learning what they need to reach them.

It’s amazing what can happen when people follow their passion. 

21 Years!!!

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Seriously, when we say “Forever, Wherever”…we mean it!  This photo was taken the morning after we camped and spent most of the night sleeping in the car or standing by the fire, only to wake up to chain saws cutting down large trees all around our campsite.  Ha!  Who knew a park could have too many trees! 

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I never knew being married to the love of your life could just keep getting better and better every year…it’s so true!  I love us!  We are perfectly matched and our future is beyond exciting! :)

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Forever…Wherever!

Happy 21st Anniversary, Tim!

Happy 4th of July!

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Happy 4th of July!  I hope you have a fabulous day full of food and fireworks!  Since I have two teen boys, that means we need to have an ginormous amount of both of those around here…ha!

Have fun!

~Kim

Fast Fajitas & Southwestern Salad {Oh My!}

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This is one of those times when I can’t manage to get a photo of a fabulous meal before everyone digs in and starts dishing out the compliments.  Do you have boys in your house?  Well, mine go on and on about how wonderful the food is so I make it again…and more of it, of course.

This is one of our new favorites…Fast Fajitas & Southwestern Salad! It will make you look like you know what you’re doing in the kitchen, that’s for sure.  I took the liberty of kicking it up a notch from the original recipe and I love the way it turned out.

Fast Fajitas

  • 1 pound of beef strips
  • 1 pound of chicken strips
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 large sweet onions, sliced
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 envelope fajita seasoning mix, divided
  • 3 small tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
  • 12 {6-inch} fajita-size flour tortillas, warmed

Slice and cook the onions and peppers with vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until the peppers are soft and the onions are clear.  Sprinkle with a tsp. of the seasoning mix and remove them from the heat.

I cooked the beef and chicken strips together in the same pan with the rest of the fajita seasoning and a dash of salt and pepper.  Once the meat is all cooked, just add the tomato wedges and cook for 3-5 minutes .

Toss the peppers and onions back in the pan and toss it all together…yum!  Serve with warm tortillas.

Southwestern Salad

  • 2 packages sweet butter lettuce
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican four-cheese blend
  • 1 can Mexican-style corn, drained
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup Ranch dressing
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 4 cups blue corn tortilla chips, coarsely crushed

Here’s the easy part…combine everything but the chips together and toss.  Gently stir in the chips just before serving to keep them nice and crunchy.

Tim likes to add this salad in his fajita and I just make one big salad for myself.  It’s flexible to keep everyone in the house happy!

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I found this great recipe in this awesome book and I have to say it is my new favorite cookbook!  There are lots of easy and yummy recipes that work great for entertaining.  We’ve made Fast Fajitas & Southwestern Salad twice and I plan to make it for guests someday soon.

Stop by Balancing Beauty & Bedlam for more Tasty Tuesday recipes!

Try it and let me know what you think!

Forever…Wherever!!! – Even if Wherever is Here!

Tim here! (inline blog refresher: This is a “couples” blog… husband and wife write together. We usually take turns)

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AJ at Ponce DeLeon Park, Punta Gorda

I’m feeling pretty good, in case you were wondering.

Want to know why? Okay, I’ll tell ya.

I’m feeling good because I’m writing here on Forever…Wherever! and I think we’ll be doing a whole lot more of that and I, for one, am doggone glad about it. Did you notice our absence? We’ve written a post or two but not much for awhile.

Want to know why? Okay, I’ll tell ya.

For me, it’s been because I kept thinking of this as a family travel blog and we’ve not been traveling as much, like at all. So I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to arise for us to go somewhere and write about it. I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.

Do blogs get dusty? If they do, that’s exactly what would happen if I wait until we start traveling the world again. It’s just not in the short-term cards. We’re so addicted to travel that we actually considered ditching it all and filling the back of the truck with camping gear (spelled T-E-N-T) and a few backpacks. We thought about it and came up with …”naaaa, let’s not.”

At least not right now.

The Here and Now

You know what we realized? We could write a “family travel blog” about the amazing area we live in for years without getting bored with it! I bet we could even make it interesting for readers too! We live in an amazing part of the world and there is so much to do and so much to see. Sometimes we miss what is right in front of us while we break our necks trying to see what’s around that next bend.

Sounds like a good way to crash to me.

So we’re not going to do that. Forever…Wherever! is a blog that will be here for many, many, many years to come. We’ll never get tired of writing here. The name is too cool.

For today, it’s about the here and now.

Here: Punta Gorda, Florida Now: Spring 2010

I think one of the first things I’ll write about is this amazing park about a mile down the road. It’s called Ponce DeLeon Park and it’s really beautiful. But in order to properly research my post, I’ll probably need to spend some time hanging out over there. Like Jacob is doing here:

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If you want to read my thoughts on the Christian life in today’s world, I have a blog for that: www.iWillLead.net

And you can always find Kim in her colorful world, www.EverythingEtsy.com

I’m so looking forward to being back here writing about wonderful life again!

These Boots Are Made For Walking

And walkin’s just what they’ll do! Eventually!

I’m so over this cold weather! I want to go outside, to the mountains, and go for a walk. Not in the snow.

The Walks Are The Best Memories

Kim and I have traveled to five continents and dozens of countries and in each of the places we’ve been, it’s the walks we really remember. (helicopters, boats, jeeps, and scuba gear all seem to stick well too!)

A Couple of Amazing Walking DestinationsImage

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil – it’s tough to pin down the best walk we took in Brazil, and we only saw a small part of that amazingly beautiful place. The area around Rio has two don’t miss walks (excluding the beach and city, which could keep you enthralled for months).

The Botanical Gardens – I’ll never forget the rows of absolutely magnificent towering palms lining the main walk through the Jardine Botanico in Rio.

Tijuca National Forest – Wild toucans, views of the city of Rio and Cristo Redentor (Christ The Redeemer) are totally incredible. Only a five minute drive up the mountain from the city, this place feels wild and exotic. I could walk, and walk, and walk.

Waitomo, New Zealand

Of all the jaw dropping things you’ll ever encounter in your life, the glow worm caves of Waitomo, New Zealand will make the short list of “best wow factor”. There is no describing the first-hand view of a dark cavern with a ceiling covered in tiny bio-luminescent creatures that literally…glow!

The area around the caves is amazing and one of my favorite hikes, was just down the road from there. We had an amazing time in an incredible setting where rivers literally pop out of the side of a mountain. And not just water, mind you, but tubers too! They do cavern tubing there where you go into the dark on an inner-tube with nothing but a head-mounted lamp to light your way… and more glow worms!

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I’m Hooked On Walking Boots

I’m not sure what it is, but while I’m not one to spend much money on clothes, I’ll sell the farm for some good hiking boots! They just represent freedom and adventure to me in a way that only jeeps and leather backpacks can compete with. I’ve got probably six pairs of great boots. Waterproof boots, leather boots, lightweight boots.

In fact, it was a web page full of walking boots that got me started on this post to begin with!

I’m really yearning to go now!

I know we don’t post much here, but I know some subscribers are still out there… tell me, you loyal ones, where is your favorite place to walk?

What’s Your Problem? Be Consistent!

Tim here:

Did you know that there is a huge discrepancy between the new ways and the old ones? Well, not just one but many. One is this whole concept of being authentic.

AUTHENTIC

What does that word mean anyway? I didn’t know I could be otherwise. I thought that, by default, I’m the real me. Even when I’m not. Right? Like even when I’m pretending to be normal, that’s the real authentic me, faking like I’m better than I really am. See, so even when I’m faking, I’m being real.

Now you understand.

But maybe that’s the whole point of the new authentic. Maybe somehow, somewhere, people got sick of trying to look normal. Maybe the crazy idea that everyone is different and that there is no one-size-fits-all “right” way to live is starting to gain some traction.

Hmmm. I’m not sure what I think about that. Social “norms” have some safety built-in. You know what people will think is okay, and what they think isn’t okay. So if you don’t want to upset anyone, you know how to behave. Without the ideal, what do you do? Be totally, like, authentic?

That sounds risky.

But it sounds nice too. What do you think? Do you show your true self on your blog, or do you keep it within the “norms”? Or are you actually normal?