A Closer Look at the Book: Grasshopper Bubblegum

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Grandma and Grandpa lived on a dairy farm just a few miles from home. We were fortunate to spend many days on their farm throughout the 70s and early 80s. Playing on the farm was always an adventure. Working on the farm became a delightful chore.

Grandma was creative. With lots of grandkids running around she had to be on top of things. There was plenty to do to keep busy, but Grandma was a genius for encouraging us to be productive in our play. She had many clever incentives to inspire this productivity and keep us out of her hair!

Some of my favorites?

Climbing to the very top of the tree for the best mulberries. Sometimes we even took a sandwich and a jug or canteen of water up with us, just in case we wanted to gather berries through the lunch hour.

Filling buckets with thistle was a thrill. We got to cross the road (by ourselves) and hike out far from the house. We were sure we were even out of Grandma’s perfect sight! Grandma offered a penny per thistle in the bucket upon our return. No matter how long it took, our buckets were always full.

And of course I will never forget the garden chores as described in Grasshopper Bubblegum.  Filling our jar with grasshoppers. Trading grasshoppers for Grandma’s pennies. And walking into town to purchase bubblegum.

I wonder if she knew the true value of her pennies. I wonder if she knew these seeds she had planted would grow crops of wisdom, ingenuity, work ethic, problem solving, cooperation, patience, sharing…

These were her true gifts. They are priceless. And she shared them with me.

If you would like to know more about Grasshopper Bubblegum visit my website http://www.shellysimoneaustories.com

I would love to hear from you! Until then…

Keep up your good work,

Shelly Simoneau

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Please Share the Caprese!

One of my favorite summer flavors is sweet basil. Every year I explore new ways to freshen up a dish with this sweet wonder to enjoy with my family, or friends, or both!

20150718_142439-1As you can see, my basil patch is just starting to shoot up. It has been an unusually wet summer in Kansas. The excessive rainfall and flooding has wreaked havoc on my garden! I am delighted to see the basil has survived and is starting to thrive.

Just in time, actually! I thinned the young plants recently and prepared a delicious caprese pasta salad to share with my Monday night ladies’ Bible study group. Several of the ladies asked for the recipe, so here it is!

pasta_120811I started with 2 cups of cooked pasta. My children always loved the bow tie variety when they were littles, so I kept with that nostalgia. After draining the excess water, I coated the pasta lightly with olive oil and stirred in a bit of salt and pepper. Next, I prepared a creamy dressing, stirring together about 3/4 cup of mayonnaise and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. You can use more or less of either ingredient to your own liking. I then stirred the dressing and pasta together and let it chill in the fridge while I prepared the key caprese ingredients: basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella!

sun-dried_121351I love to use fresh cherry tomato halves for this salad, but my tomato plants have struggled through this soggy Kansas season. I opted instead for a handful of tangy sun-dried tomatoes. These are handy to have in your pantry for quick substitutes. I just slivered them up and they were ready to go in the dish!

basil_120533I picked a handful of young basil to thin out my row in the garden and allow the other plants to grow bigger. These young plants are still packed with great flavor and I never let them go to waste. I tore the leaves into smaller pieces for this salad.

mozz_121933Of course fresh and creamy mozzarella is a must! I like to chop mine a little chunky. I folded the tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella into the pasta salad and packed it for the church potluck.

The flavors had plenty of time to blend as we greeted each other with fellowship and prayer. This caprese pasta salad tasted delicious alongside other summer favorites, but could also stand alone as a quick and easy summer meal. Enjoy!