Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How strange this weather has been

Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, we've had at least four inches of rain in the past 48 hours. We don't know how many for certain because the rain gauge iced over at some point in the night. We were told (though everyone around us was getting snow) that we would get terrible wind and lots of rain. I walked around in a daze last night, as if the constant drumming of the rain had hypnotized me. As the night grew darker, the silence came.You know, the sound of snow.

I am absolutely delighted by snow.

I am one of those people that thinks that driving out and about after a good snow is a WONDERFUL idea - yeah, the lapse in judgement is profound - because you have to get out there and see the world all covered up before it gets all drippy and footprint-ed.

Despite groaning of many a student, the university was open this morning and its back to work like normal.And still, I am absolutely delighted by snow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thoughts on Apples

Once upon a time, when Julian and I were living in Blacksburg, we got word of a farm called Doe Creek. It was an apple orchard that was past its prime, the owner had grown old and was battling cancer. The trees had not been sprayed in years (thankyouverymuch!) and the paths had not been trimmed. The family was offering these unkempt apples for $5 a bushel to help pay medical expenses. (A bushel is about 40lbs, so this is a massive deal.) We were greeted at the dilapidated cider barn by a man eating his Sunbeam King loaf and bologna sandwich, ushering some people left, others right. The mini vans couldn't get through the dense brush but we had the truck, so we drove where we wanted while others were stuck on the perimeter. Julian drove around and I pointed, "I want THAT apple right THERE!" and I rode in the bed of the truck until he maneuvered the truck so I could reach the desired apple. (He did his fair share of picking too, not to imply he was sitting on the job or anything!)

The sky was a blue-er blue that day, the air a bit airy-er. Its not uncommon for one of us to be having a rough day and say to the other, "Remember that day at Doe Creek?" So we hauled home our proudly picked bushel of apples and I worked them up for days... and days... pies, dumplings, sauces, you name it.

Now in Morgantown, we get our apples from either the farmers market, which has different varieties or the WVU farm, which sells them by the truckload for $.75.lb. I always find myself saying "What is this kind good for?" So, I'm going to do a review of each kind, what it is good for and how much we liked or didn't like it.

Photo Credit

Amount: 1/2 peck
Cost: $5, farmer's market
Yield: 10 apples, 5 lbs

Official apple notes: As many apple varieties are, this apple is a product of a university program... in this case, you guessed it, Penn State. It is liked for its processing characteristics, aka it doesn't turn brown so quickly, is not prone to bruising, etc. It is supposed to have good flavor and attractive orange-red color. The apple can be held in refrigerated storage for up to six months. Flesh oxidizes very slowly and imparts a highly desirable yellow color to processed products. It needs to be aggressively thinned to avoid biennial bearing, so its not likely to make it into my "someday" orchard.

Flavor: The only thing I can think of to describe this apple is "grassy". It tasted grassy and it felt grassy in my mouth. This is really unfortunate because I am confident that it would have tasted better if my apples were RED instead of just-barely-blushy green. My apples are either not what they say they are, or picked way too early. Judging by the fact that it is Sept 19 and the stats for this apple list its maturity date as mid-October, I think the latter is probably the case. 

All in all, this is a rather disappointing apple review but I will do my best to find a different batch of Nittanys later in the season and update this review. BUT, from now on I'll know not to waste money on a Nittany apple that's not this lovely red color. You see, apple reviews are where its at. 

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bike Computer

Heading north on the Cheat Lake trail
Yesterday we went to Cheat Lake and had a great bike ride. We don't get out on them as often as I'd like but we are trying to do so more and the beautiful weather has been helping. Another thing that is helping is the new bike computer Julian bought. We got it for $15 at Walmart. When mounted to the bike, a magnet on a wheel spoke transmits to a sensor which times how long it takes between magnet pulses. This means we know how fast we are going and our average speed over time. We tried to average 10 mph which is about as best as we can do for the long haul. We snuck in a few good miles before the sun went down. My, how nice.

Monday, August 20, 2012

End of Summer update

Gosh. I called this "end of Summer update." It is an accurate depiction of my life as it is the first day of classes, so summer is officially (if not  'officially-per-the-normal-calendar-or-the-weather') over AND I have no brain cells left to think up a better title.

Our summer had 12 weekends in it. We were not around 6 weekends and had house guests 6 weekends,  3 weekends were spent at home like normal people. The reason the math doesn't work out is because some weekends had both travel/work and house guests. We had really wonderful visits with all, might I be sure to say.

Thanks to some crazed house cleaning here in the homestretch, I am actually ending this busy season with a relatively nice house, thanks to said house guests and the accountability they provide to keep life tidy and do long over due chores. I got so much help from Julian there, and I am thankful for my newly added storage solutions and his time and effort.

I'm so ready for a nap. Even Julian, who is "anti-nap" has been napping if he can catch one here or there. This semester was supposed to be the first one we could all relax and have a bit more down time but suddenly he's found more responsibility on his plate, which is good in the long term but not much fun in the short term.

My travel schedule is booked through Christmas, and there are even dates carved out in March. I'm heading to Ohio tonight for a work trip and will return late tomorrow. I hope to take some stitching of one sort or another to work on in the down time.

Soon I want to update the blog with our late season harvests, some canning I've done, and my joy over winning a Kindle. It would be fun to add pictures of our family visits but now I realize we didn't really take any. Oops.


This is from Mark 6 - I think it is interesting that Jesus and the apostles sought out quiet rest before He performed one of the most notable acts of his ministry, the feeding of the five thousand.

30  The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.  
31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
32  And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

{Humble Pie} Our Anniversary

This past Saturday was our fifth anniversary. Despite being a nice milestone, we have had lots of travel and busy-ness so far this summer so I was expecting that it would stay "low key". We hadn't made any plans except for a "fancy" dinner for which we'd splurge on ribeye steaks and drink cheap champagne. Oh... and eat at the Mediterranean restaurant on Friday for lunch because I was able to snag a gift certificate through one of those online discount deals. Yeah... super fancy.

This was our anniversary gift from Ivy last year,
in lovely bloom for the occasion this year.

So I was quite surprised to wake up on Saturday morning, make our "gourmet" breakfast of a nectarine and some cinnamon toast, and come back into the bedroom to find a gift. Not just any gift but a brown paper package, tied up with string. What's not to love about that? (And someone's been practicing his package knot.)

The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals
By Gail Damerow
It was this book, which I've daydreamed about for a while now. These past two years in Morgantown have been a bit rough. We have so much to be thankful for and all is going well but its hard to be so far away from family, in what is so obviously "the North," living on a postage stamp, were the stress never ends. We carry on all the time about having a small holding in our next season of life... not a farm, per se, but just enough land to have just enough stuff to keep us good and busy while having fresh, homegrown food. Even though this book seems quite random for anyone else, it hit me hard because it was the first step towards that future we talk about so often. It took the plan out of imaginary-land and into reality, just a bit. I cried. It didn't help my case that the book was accompanied by one of Julian's signature homemade cards which induce sidesplitting laughter, except when I'm already crying.

We did some yardsale-ing since it was Saturday morning and scored a $50 auto timer sprinkler set for the yard for $6, a triumph for Julian. We did other shopping that is outside of the normal realm of "shopping day" and when Julian asked if I wanted to go to Chili's for lunch (we've put the kebash on eating out for a bit) I cried again! For heaven's sake! What is wrong with me?

So we had a great time at Chili's and ate so much we took home the rest in boxes. But alas, that meant that the one sweet thing I HAD planned wouldn't even go off, because there was no way we would have a steak dinner after eating out. So out came the heart shaped pancake tins, it was the very least I could do.

Anniversary pancakes

Throughout the day I just kept thinking, "I've got nothing to give, I don't deserve this." It was a very humbling experience to realize that Julian loves me because he is my groom, the one for whom I was chosen as helpmeet (good thing he didn't need much help on Saturday, cause I wasn't it!) It seemed a perfect picture of the Gospel because we do not deserve anything but God's wrath and yet through Jesus, the groom of the church, we know God's love. 

So the weekend was calm with no great hoo-rah, yet it was full of precious moments I won't soon forget. It was a perfect way to commemorate our happy marriage. How blessed am I!

We finally landed two fish from the Mon River.

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New discovery....

Normally I am so anti-what-everyone-else-has. BUT, in this case, I think I have come around to the popular side of things. You see, I've been following Deb Duty, a photographer /scrapbooker for the past month or so in my Google Reader. She makes the most beautiful scrapbooks and takes the most beautiful pictures. I thought it was actually kind of gross, the obsession she had with these things, because in my head I was envisioning cutting the paper, sticking the stickers, layers upon layer, the whole day gone for one pretty page.
Courtesy Christine Newman through Pinterest

Then today, on Pinterest, (of course) I discovered Becky Higgins and Project Life. I thought, "my how these things look familiar" and snap, crackle, pop! I realized Deb Duty is in cahoots with Becky Higgins.

Julian and I are coming up on five years (count them, five) and since we set up housekeeping, I 've been telling him I'd reorg our photo stash for that long. Still, the pictures just take up the whole shelf under the plants in the "office". I even failed at a scrap-book-documenting our wedding.

Project life gives me hope. I'm not sure I'm going to jump in with both feet, because really, we don't do that many exciting things but I think I'm on board for documenting the most special of occasions this way, surely I can do that! (?) The idea of having those special moments documented so easily IN PAPER instead of the almighty internet just might be what the doctor ordered, even if my scrap book does look like everyone else's... the pictures will be mine!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sweet Nectar of the Birds

This spring was a lesson in humility and patience as far as the hummingbirds are concerned. Our weather was really hot, really early. All the flowers were blooming 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule. I watched this hummingbird tracking website like a hawk. I told everyone I knew who had hummingbirds that they would be here two weeks earlier than our normal date of April 15th and encouraged my friends to put out their feeders (yes, I'm the  CBL of the neighborhood - Crazy Bird Lady).

On par with my predictions, the map showed that the first hummingbird was reported in my area on March 25th. But did I see one? Nope. Not in March... and not in April. Note: My kitchen sink looks out at the feeder same as my dinner table does. Its not like I just never look out there, I spend a good part of my day watching.

Then, as is always the case, I come home and Julian says, "Oh yeah, saw a hummingbird today." What?! Not. Fair.

It was another week or so after he saw the first one that I got my chance. They were waiting for the honeysuckle jungle on the edge of our yard to burst forth with life.

To make a long story longer... my boss, Bonnie, has several feeders, fuchsias, and a trumpet vine so she has more hummers than she can count. In casual conversation, she mentioned that she makes her hummingbird solution 1:1 sugar to water. What, What?? I've always heard to make it 1:4.

So I did a little research. Come to find out, hummingbirds LOVE 1:1 sugar water. Studies show that if a migrating hummer finds a 1:1 feeder right after its migration, it will stop and spend its whole summer in that place. The 1:4 ratio is more like the natural make up of flower nectar, so they tend to "graze" these feeders and move around as territory and temperature fluctuate.  To strike a good balance, I've started making mine 1:2.

Sweet Nectar of the Birds
1 cup almost boiling water
1/2 granulated sugar

Combine and stir until all sugar dissolves, leave on the counter to cool. No need to put any red color in it; unless you are my grandmother and you find it helps you see how much is left in the feeder when it is running low. Even then, don't over do it. :)

Make sure you put it in a clean feeder that is washed/rinsed between each fill up. There you go. Watching these gems is one of the cheapest, highest quality forms of entertainment I know!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

If we faint not.

Just a snippet which serves as a good reminder these days. Thanks to my friend, Stephanie, for posting on FB.
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Galatians 6:9

Saturday, July 7, 2012

{Sunday Best} Hot Air

It's been a long hard week beginning with a devastating storm and ending with a miserable head cold (not to mention that the thermometer topped 108F in the shade on our back porch). I have so many things about which I could and should blog, but until I get everything in order around here, I just wanted to post this Sunday Best photo. It was likely the high point of my week. You see, Lexington hosts a july 4th Balloon Rally each year and this guy always comes, his balloon has a three dimensional teddy bear on each side, the silhouette of which you can see. We look for him each year and what you're not seeing in this photo is Julian and me on the front steps in our PJs.

The wind blows one of three directions for the balloons each of the three mornings they go up, one of which is straight over my in-laws' house. If we're lucky, we wake up at 7am to the unmistakable, dragon-breathing sound of the balloons over head. It's magical, and this year, I decided it beat out Christmas morning as my favorite of the year.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dealing with Deer, Part 1

Along with my friend, Danielle, I've had it with the deer. When I complain about the deer on here, I tend to get comments like, "Well that's what happens when you live in the country." But you see, this is why I am even more angry. The deer are brazen city dwelling deer.

They are not cruising my yard amind acres and acres of untouched meadow lands... I'm in suburbia. It makes me so irrate that they come right up, day or night, and help themselves to anything they want from my yard. Just feet away from people, pets and cars. I told Julian I was tempted to kill a deer and let the whole thing lay and rot in the yard just as a warning to all the others what their future holds.

Tomato and Petunia:

Hot pepper (what eats a hot pepper plant?!?!):

Spinach, munched and uprooted:

 Hosta scapes:

Hosta (salad anyone?):

This is what angers me most. These are daylily scapes that had been heavy laden 
with blooms that I have waited for these past two years. TWO YEARS!
(you can see how close all our houses are)

 Hosta before ----------------------------------------> Hosta after

And this dear, sweet, blowzy gem...? It is no longer with us.
We tried the spray repellent, Liquid Fence. We tried the fishing line trick everyone swears by. Now, $43 poorer, we have decided to employ the ScareCrow motion activated animal deterrent sprinkler. 

While we were at Walmart purchasing this thing, I got a phonecall from the neighbor who said he'd witnessed a deer coming down my back bank, looking him straight in the eye, and swaggering over to clean out my bird feeder. Said deer wasn't swaggering anymore after Neighbor Scott put four hot orange paint balls on its rump. Thanks, Scott.
Wish us luck.

Linking up:

BeadForLife Party

I'm excited to be hosting a BeadforLife party on July 28th, from 1-3pm. I hope lots of folks come out and learn about the organization and take home some great bead loot! I'm wearing some of the pieces to the office each day as advertising and people are quick with their compliments. The only bad thing is trying to figure out which ones are my favorite!

More about the Bead for Life organization: 
BeadforLife is a nonprofit organization that works to eradicate extreme poverty by creating bridges of understanding between impoverished Africans and concerned world citizens. Ugandan women turn colorful recycled paper into beautiful beads. Women in Northern Uganda, displaced by the 20 year war led by Joseph Kony, are now rebuilding their lives by gathering shea nuts and pressing them into shea butter for cosmetics and soaps. And people who care open their hearts, homes and communities to buy and sell both products. The beads and shea butter become income, food, medicine, school fees and hope. It is a small miracle that enriches us all

And now for what came in my box - 

Sanyu Short Necklace (about 20"): $13
Sanyu Long Necklace, each necklace is one color (about 40"): $18
Satin Drawstring Jewelry Purse: $15
Leena Earrings: $15
Leena Three Stand Necklace: $20
Musana Bangle: $5
Etana Necklace, can be doubled, tripled, or worn as a belt (about 80"): $28
Sanyu Bangles, they come in so many colors : $5

Leena Three-strand Bangles: $15

And last but not least, there is shea butter peppermint lip balm and 
lemongrass lavender shea soap for $4 each.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What's Blooming

I have little time and no energy so here is a quick post on what's blooming in the yard. I am so irate that just hours after I took these, deer came through and mowed down my hosta, nipped the buds off my daylilies and grazed the hydrangea down. There's always next year, right? Stay tuned for a few posts on what I think about deer.

Hosta scape and bee balm,  Hosta and Monarda

A beautiful daylily that I started from foraged seed, finally coming into its own, Hemerocallis
My sister's wedding hydrangea (was a live plant decoration), Hydrangea macrophylla
Dwarf butterfly bush  and purple coneflowers, Buddleia davidii and Echinacea purpurea

Asiatic lily,  Lilium asiatic
Zebra Mallow (from seed), Malva sylvestris "zebrina" 

Linking up to A Rural Journal:

Linking up to This or That:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

About a book - The Enemy Within

One of the many things I love about Julian is that he is a great out-loud reader. During calm seasons of our lives, we tuck into bed at night with a good book, and he reads aloud to help us both quiet down from the day. We've read the entire Lord of the Rings series this way, and we like to read Nancy Guthrie's devotionals at Easter and Christmas, too.

I am excited to have started a new one this week, Kris Lungaard's The Enemy Within.The book is formatted for a lesson group with small sections and discussion questions at the end. Lungaard draws from the writings of 17th century reformed theologian John Owen so much so that the author admits if Owen were alive today, he'd have grounds to sue. But by doing so, the author makes Owen's concepts much more accessible to a modern audience.

Being wiped out after two hours in the kayaks, we didn't read for long. But we read long enough to find the first nugget of truth in what promises to be a vast gold mine. Sin is a law - like gravity. I don't know why this hit me with such profundity, but it did, and it makes perfect sense. In this out-of-Eden world, saved or unsaved, we cannot escape sin any more than we can escape gravity. It is pure and simple nature of how the world works. Accepting this truth allows us to stop wasting time and energy trying to evade sin in our lives but rather to focus on the next steps of conquering sin and bringing light to the dark places of our hearts.

I'm excited to have more to share in the near future.