What is the thing that repeatedly catches my attention and has me grabbing my camera for yet another photo? The equivalent to the squirrel that is forever distracting Dug in the movie Up? The theme in over 20% of the photos on my cell phone?
I have a fascination with what is happening in the wild blue yonder and regularly point my camera upward to capture the ephemeral drama. I’ve chosen a sampling to illustrate my addiction. (They are cell phone images so the quality may be a bit questionable.)
WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Ooh, Shiny!
At the back of our yard is an unruly patch of wilderness we loosely refer to as “our garden”. We never seem to have the time to plant and tend anything worthwhile so the patch is overrun with leggy raspberry canes and prickly thistles. As bad as it sounds, it’s not a total bust. In one small corner of the patch, four little blueberry bushes are thriving and have produced a gorgeous crop of spicy, midnight-colored gems.
This surprising bounty is due wholly to Jay’s efforts. He is the blueberry whisperer and an all-around green thumb. He grows and tends to all the things and I take that raw potential and create art with it in my kitchen. This recent blueberry windfall is the perfect example. As soon as Jay brought the berries in from “our garden” I put butter on the counter to soften and then grabbed my camera to capture the dark beauty of the tiny fruit. After about a hundred shots of blueberries from every angle and degree of magnification, I got busy making the real magic – turning these berries and a few other humble ingredients into one of the finest coffee cakes in the history of the world.
Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake (Adapted from a recipe submitted to Taste of Home by Lori Snedden several years ago.)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Grease a 9×9 inch baking pan.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
- Add egg, milk and butter. Beat well.
- Fold in blueberries and pecans.
- Spread batter into pan.
- In another bowl, combine the sugar and flour.
- Cut in the butter until crumbly.
- Sprinkle over batter.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.
I can’t really tell you what it is about this cake that makes it so good. The delicate crumb topping? The abundance of blueberries? The pecan chunks in every mouthful? Who knows. Maybe it really is magic. All I can say is that I’ve eaten four pieces of this cake in the last two days and I’m about to have another and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Do yourself or those you love a favor, friend, and make this cake.
July was filled to the brim with good things: rest and relaxation, fun celebrations, lush summer landscapes, and local farm stands overflowing with deliciousness. The downside of all this goodness is it’s been a struggle to edit my Small Pleasures list into something manageable. So, after much deliberation, here are my top five (plus a bonus) little happinesses of the month. Enjoy!
July’s Small Pleasures
- Swimming in the ocean. From the first time my dad walked me into the breaking waves at Tower Road beach in Dewey, Delaware, I’ve nurtured an undying love for the ocean. I love it when it’s gentle, perfect for floating on my back with my eyes closed, losing myself in the gentle rocking. I love it, too, when it’s rough and churning with waves that boss me around and deliver tenfold on the promise of boisterous body surfing and boogie boarding. I even love how refreshed I feel when I mosey back to my beach chair, my skin tingling from the brisk salty water. I don’t live very close to the ocean so I’m thankful for the time I was able to spend in it during my trip to the Outer Banks at the beginning of July.
- Orange Creamsicle smoothies. In Corolla, North Carolina, there is a little café that serves up the best remedy for a hot day. Their Orange Creamsicle smoothie tastes exactly like the namesake popsicle and I indulged almost every day of my vacation. Yum!
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman (audiobook narrated by George Newbern). The story of Ove, a crotchety older guy with a hidden heart of gold, is a delight as an audiobook. Through George Newbern’s narration, I grew to love Ove and the people who inhabited his world and I looked forward to washing the dishes or taking my walks just so I could spend more time with the whole bunch. Listening to this book was a very satisfying experience and my thoughts frequently wander back to Ove and his “family”.
- Peaches. Peaches are in season around here and they are delicious. We’ve been enjoying the sweet, juicy fruit by the basketful and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
- Walking at sunset. July has been a sizzler so Jay and I have started walking later in the evening to get away from the worst of the heat. The sunsets have been spectacular lately and the stillness of dusk has been soothing and restorative. It’s become a restful way to close the day.
- The Bonus Pick. This video by Mark Broussard and his daughters. Evie just cracks me up…
I hope your height-of-summer has been as delightful as mine. Now it’s time to wave good-bye to July and embrace the mellow last days of the season.
Once again, I’m taking a moment to linger over the little joys in life that have enhanced my recent everyday like frosting on a cupcake. Or, like fresh flowers in a vintage vase…
June’s Small Pleasures
- Father Brown mysteries. My daughter and I were suffering from Phryne Fisher withdrawal so we started trolling Netflix for some kind of substitute. Enter Father Brown, a cozy mystery series based on the G.K. Chesterton character of the same name. This series is based in a quaint English village in what looks like the early 1950’s and is filled with interesting characters and entertaining plotlines. Father Brown, a priest and amateur sleuth played by Mark Williams of Arthur Weasley/Harry Potter fame, solves an inordinate amount of murders in his parish and surrounding environs with dogged determination and a pleasing amount of grace and compassion. The show is light-hearted in general but offers a surprisingly hefty dose of legitimate, accurate Christian theology. We’re currently on the 5th (and last season), so I’m open to any other suggestions for our next Netflix marathon.
- Berry season. Strawberries, blueberries, and those elusive and delicate black raspberries. These delicious gems have been the bright spot in my recent Whole 30 attempt. I’ve eaten so many strawberries this past month, it’s a wonder I don’t look like one.
- Having Fridays off from work. One of my most favorite perks of my job as a professor is a four day work week with Fridays off during the summer semester. Three day weekends for 12 weeks straight! What’s not to love about that, I ask?
- Greenglass House by Kate Milford and Far Far Away by Tom McNeal. In my opinion, summer books should be fun reading. Give me an interesting plot, quirky characters, a mystery or two and a pinch (or dollop) of the fantastical, and I’m all in. With this in mind, let me recommend Greenglass House (a middle grade book I listened to) and Far Far Away (a YA book I read). Each provided me with hours of delightful bookish entertainment in June. I’m not going to say anything about either of the books – you’ll get the most benefit if you go in blind. Just trust me when I say, “Read them”. You won’t be disappointed.
- When the Night Comes by Dan Auerbach. The perfect summer-evening-on-the-porch song. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of listening to it.
Now it’s your turn. Any small pleasures you are currently enjoying? Please share in the comments.