Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Poppies - Don't Forget the Reason for the Day and Show That You Remember and Honor

Happy Memorial Day Everyone!
I hope that you everyone is enjoying their long week-end and, for those of you who are so inclined, enjoying your various meats that have been cooked upon a grill with friends and family.  Grilling, for most of us, is a Memorial Day tradition.  There is just something about this holiday and the start of summer that makes it almost a moral imperative to go and char some meat on an open flame.

And though I myself will be doing my part to eat far to much red meat than is healthy, I wanted to take the time in this blog to remind everyone why we have this Monday off.

Memorial Day began after the Civil War to remember and honor those soldiers who died while serving in their countries armed forces.  Although people had been honoring fallen soldiers before then, this is when the holiday gained national recognition in 1868, so I'm going with that.  It started as a day when family and friends would go and put flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers.  Not a very happy holiday, I must say.

The tradition that I remember best from when I was a little girl was wearing a "Buddy Poppy" on Memorial Day.  These poppies were sold by veterans outside of stores and my father always bought one whenever we came across a veteran who was selling them.  Sometimes, I would have several paper poppies that I would wear in my hair and on my clothes.  I didn't know then, as a little girl, what they really symbolized, even though my dad and grandfather did their best to try to explain the meaning behind them to me.  I just new that I looked pretty and that the older gentleman that sold them always made me feel like a beautiful "little lady".

As an adult, I recently remembered the poppies and  I went to track down what those poppies meant and find out why my dad would purchase them whenever we would run across a gentleman selling one.
Here's what I found out:

It was after World War I, that people started the tradition of wearing tissue paper poppies to honor the soldiers that had fallen.  The red common poppy grows wild throughout Europe and is "seeded" by the tumbling of dirt.   Trenches created by the fighting soldiers during World War I were the perfect place for poppies to bloom and was a vivid symbol in the poem "In Flanders Fields".

In Flanders Fields

by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That marks our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from falling hands with throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

During the early 1920's, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) adopted the idea of wearing the poppy, which resulted in the VFW "Buddy Poppy".  The paper poppies were fashioned by disabled veterans, who were paid for their work as a practical means of financial assistance.  This practice is still going on today. For more information, click the link below.

I remember. as a child, that these veterans used to be as much of an institution on Memorial Day as fireworks are on Fourth of July.  But I haven't seen a veteran selling one of these "Buddy Poppies" in at least a decade.  Maybe, I am no longer visiting the stores that they are at.  Or, maybe, I am just not living in an area that has many veterans, I don't know.  I only know that, this year, when I was consciously looking for a veteran so I could buy my poppy, I could not find one.

I still wanted to carry on the tradition of showing that I remembered why were celebrating Memorials Day and I wanted to wear a poppy.  I could have gone to Michael's or Hobby Lobby and purchased a flower, but that didn't have the same feel for me as the tissue paper poppies.  So I decided that I would make my own tissue paper poppy and wear it in my hair.

Let me stress this before I show you the tutorial on how to make your own tissue paper poppy --- If you can buy a poppy from a veteran DO SO!!!  This money goes to a good cause and is the way to wear a poppy.  But if, like me, you are having trouble find a veteran selling poppies, then this an alternative that I feel still honors the intent behind the symbol.

Excuse the messiness of my hair in this picture.  I was only focusing on the flower when I had my hubby take the picture.

How to Make a Tissue Paper Poppy

1 sheet red tissue paper
1 sheet black tissue paper
1 green pipe cleaner or a 4 inch strip of floral wire
wire cutters
glue (Can be a hot glue gun or Elmer's Glue)
Green scrapbook paper or leftover scrap leaves from a previous floral project

1.  Start with one sheet of red tissue paper.  As you can see from the picture below, my tissue paper was used tissue paper that I had saved from a Christmas present that I had received.  I always save my tissue paper to use for other presents or for craft projects.  You can iron your used tissue paper to make it flatter, but since I knew I was going to wrinkle up my flowers anyway, I decided that I would just use it as is.

2.  Fold the tissue paper in half.  This should give a rectangle.

3.  Fold the paper in half again forming a square.

4.  Cut along the folded edge with a pair of scissors.  This will give you two squares.

5. Fold one of the squares in half forming a rectangle.

6.  Cut along the folded edge of the rectangle.  This will give you a long rectangle.

7.  Fold the rectangle in half and then fold it in half again.

8.  Cut along the folded edges.

9.  Keep repeating these steps until you have eight tissue paper squares that are about 10.5 centimeters in size.  Don't worry if your edges aren't perfect or if you have squares that aren't exactly square, this will get fixed later on in the project.

10. Gather your black tissues paper and create a rectangle.  I didn't measure my rectangle, but it was about 1 quarter of the total tissue paper rectangle.  Fold the rectangle in half.

11.  Fold the paper in half again.

12.  Fold the paper in half again.  You should now have a fairly small rectangle/square.

13.  Place a spice bottle cap on the black paper and trace around it with a pencil to create a circle.

14.  Cut the circle out of the tissue paper.  You should now have eight small black tissue paper circles.

15.  Grab one of your eight red squares and fold it in half.

16.  Fold the tissue paper in half again.  You should now have a small square.

17.  Position your folded tissue paper square so that all of the folded edges are pointing toward you and the unfolded edges are away from you. Fold the square in half going from corner to corner forming a triangle.

18.  Along the unfolded edges of the triangle use your scissors to cut a curve so that you make a "petal" shape.

19.  This is what it looks like if you have cut it correctly.

This is what it looks like if you have not cut it correctly.  This is what you don't want to happen.

20.  Repeat steps 15 thru 19 until you have eight of the red poppy petal squares created.
21.  Take all eight of your red tissue paper petal squares and place them in a fairly even pile.  Don't worry about trying to line them so that they all face exactly the same.  Then place your eight black circles in the center of your petal squares.

22.  Using a green pipe cleaner or a twisted length of floral wire, poke through the center of all of the blossoms.  I find this easier to do if I do them one by one and just keep stacking rather than trying to do all of them at the same time.  Leave about one inch of the pipe cleaner or wire poking out from the top.

23.  Bend the pipe cleaner or the wire until it forms a hook and push the hook back into the center of the flower until it goes through all of the layers of the tissue paper.

24.  Twist the ends of the hook to the "stem" of the flower tightly.  Then put a drop of glue at the base of the flower to help it stick.  To be honest, pipe cleaners work better for this than floral wire, but floral wire was what I had so it was what I used.
25.  If you have leftover leaves from a project, slide those down the "stem" facing up toward the flower.  Or, you can make paper leaves.  You also don't have to do any leaves at all.  You do what makes you happy.  you should already having something that looks a lot like a poppy.

Sorry the picture is a little blurry.  I didn't notice while I was taking it.

26.  Crumple and play with flower to make it look more "poppy-like".

27.  And voila!!!  You have a tissue paper poppy!

It is up to you how you want to wear it.  You can leave it stem alone and pin it to your clothes with a straight pin or you can just poke the step into an updo.
I wanted to wear mine in my hair, so I glued mine to an old pin curl clip that I had that was starting to get rusty.

So I have my poppy and I am honoring our fallen heroes?  Do you have any Memorial Day memories traditions that you haven't seen in a while?  Or do you have any Memorial Day dishes that you always make for the start of summer?
If you do, please let me know.  I would love to hear about them!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Summer Tomato Bacon Soup - and I have turquoise hair!

Hello Everyone!
It is almost the end of May and that means two things:  Memorial Day Weekend and the start of Summer!

I don't know about you, but I have a very full weekend of fun planned.  Which means, by Monday, I should be exhausted from my restful week-end.  I wasn't sure what I wanted to put in this post, so I decided that I would put in a little bit of everything.
First, my exciting news, or at least it is exciting for me; after years of wanting turquoise/green hair my husband finally decided that I should go for it and gave me a gift of a trip to Lee Caro's Salon in Baton Rouge.  What I was asking was no small feat.  I wanted to go from red to green and I wanted to do it in one sitting.  It took a team of five skilled technicians and four and a half hours, but I left the salon with the anime hair that I have always wanted!  (And for those of you who are wondering, no my hair isn't brittle, it is just as soft and healthy as it was before.  They are wizards!)
This is me having all of the red pulled out of my hair.  I look like some sort of cyborg.  And, even trying to do Zoolander's Blue Steel pose doesn't make it look any sexier.  And let me tell you, that get up was heavy!
Its hard to tell with my group of four blow drying my locks, but that's me in the center of all that attention, and with lemon lime hair!!!  This was the coolest color I have ever seen, it was not the color that I wanted, but it was fun to have.  Even if it was just for about five minutes
Here is what it looked like when they were finished.  The amazing part to me wasn't the color as much as the 60's flip that they were able to put in my hair using just a brush and a hair dryer.  And it lasted!!!!  I wasn't allowed to wash or get my hair wet for 5 days and that flip lasted!!!  I have to learn how to do that.
In my husband's truck right outside the salon in the sunlight rather than florescent light.

And here's the hair as it looks now.  I love to wear snoods and this one is one of my favorite that was made special for me by Tanis, the owner of the shop Gin Poodle on Etsy.  I love this shop! And I love snoods.  I especially love it with my turquoise hair.
I truly love this hair.  And, even though it sounds strange, I feel that it fits my slightly retro sense of style even better than my red hair did.  I don't know how that it is possible, but that is how I feel.

And another one in front of my bird tree!

In keeping with the spirit of green things, I planted my herbs, a couple tomato plants and some cucumbers at the beginning of April and boy are they starting to grow!  They're not anywhere near where one of my friend's garden is.  But I'm not retired and don't have a whole spot of the yard designated to vegetables and hours to spend maintaining my garden - so I'm pretty happy with where I am at.  Although I am thinking about putting in some raised beds this summer.
Here are some pictures of my veggie babies:

Here's a teeny tiny cucumber with the bloom still on the end of it.  This particular cucumber plant is an heirloom variety that doesn't grow huge cucumbers.  I thought that would be cute and adorable for a family of two, so that it what I got. 

These are my cherry tomatoes.  I didn't grow any last year, so I was a little worried that they wouldn't grow, but I have quite a few clumps of tomatoes and I am very pleased with the results.  As I tend to use cherry tomatoes in my recipes more than large tomatoes, I think that I will plant more of these next year,
Speaking of tomatoes, if you garden, you know that first you start off lean and then you seem to have a plethora of the gorgeous red beauties. And you are always trying to find new ways to prepare them because there are really only so many times in a week that you can eat BLTs before you get tired of them.  No matter how delicious they are.  Thus was the case in my kitchen just last week.  I had purchased some beautiful tomatoes from the Farmers Market to make BLTs and then I had a friend give me some from his garden.  They were huge and gorgeous, but I had to find a way to fix all of them before they went bad.  The library came to my rescue.
I had checked out a new cookbook by Meike Peters called "eat in my kitchen".  (This book has some really delicious recipes and I really think that I may have to break down and purchase it - or put it on my Christmas list for things that I really want.)  Of course, I didn't have all of the ingredients the way that she described them in the recipe, so I had to modify the recipe.  So below is my recipe for Fresh Summer Tomato Soup that I came up with instead.

Fresh Summer Tomato Soup with Bacon and Cream Cheese

This recipe is super quick and super easy!  It is a summer tomato soup because you don't roast the tomatoes ahead of time and then skin the tomatoes.  You just let those puppies cook down on your stove top for a little while.  This soup may be thinner than what you are used to in a tomato soup, but it thickens up when you add the cheese.  Remember, this is a summer soup, so you want it to be lighter than it's winter counterparts.
Sorry I don't have pictures for this.  But I had a minor disaster with my new blender and pictures were the last thing on my mind.

1 tbsp. olive oil (If you can find it, use a Tuscan Herb Olive Oil or Garlic Olive Oil)
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced or flattened into a paste
Kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup homemade chicken broth, hot  (You can use low sodium store bought chicken broth or vegetable broth, but the homemade is better.)
1 tbsp. sun dried tomato paste (you can also use regular tomato paste)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar (Needs to be a good balsamic that tastes sweet, if it is not, you will want to add more sugar.)
Pinch of sugar
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 handful fresh basil, finely chopped (or 1 tsp. dried basil)
2-3 sprigs fresh dill (or 1 tsp. dried dill)  I actually put more than that in, but I really love the taste of dill with tomatoes

Garnish Ingredients
3-4 slices bacon, crumbled or finely chopped
2 tsp. per bowl cream cheese  (The original recipe called for ricotta, which I think would be delicious!  But, I hardly ever have ricotta in my fridge and I almost always have cream cheese so, cream cheese it is.)

1.  In a large heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is heated, when it starts to shimmer or cold water "dances" when you sprinkle it on the surface of the pot, add the tomatoes and the garlic and saute, stirring occasionally for 4-5 minutes.
2.  Add the hot chicken broth, tomato paste, bay leaf, balsamic vinegar, basil and dill.  Stir until well blended.  Taste with a small spoon to check the seasoning and acidity.  Add a pinch of sugar.  Depending on your tomatoes, you may have to add another pinch of sugar to get rid of the acidity.
Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.  (You may also add salt here, although I frequently don't use any.)
3.  Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered for five minutes.
4.  Remove the soup from the heat and remove the bay leaf.
5.  Very carefully pour the soup mixture into a blender or food processor.  Blend the soup mixture until smooth.  (I never find that my mixture is too thick, but if yours is, you can simply add more chicken broth to the mixture at this time.)
6.  Put a fine sieve over the same heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven and pour the soup back into the pot through the sieve.  This is a very important step, otherwise, you will have what my husband and I call tomato "bones" in your soup.  These can be eaten, but they aren't very pleasant so I like to remove them from my soup.
7.  Taste the soup.  At this time you can add more pepper, salt or balsamic vinegar if it suits your fancy.
To Serve:  Put the soup into bowls and top with the crumbled bacon and 2 tsp. cream cheese per bowl/serving.

See!  I told you it was going to be easy!

Well, that is all that I have for tonight.  We have a long weekend coming up, so I may actually get a chance to post again this week-end.  Maybe a Memorial Day weekend post.  If I don't post again until after that, y'all have a great and safe Memorial Day weekend!