Sunday, December 22, 2013

Here

We are at home, on vacation. Its nice to have these two days before we have to be on the road and visiting. My family was in for Friday and Saturday for Matthew's Masters graduation. It was nice to have family here at Christmastime; usually we are the ones doing the going and no one ever visits to see our decorations.

Today was spent mostly getting things wrapped up and ready to be gone for a week. Remember this lemon we grew on our tree? It's now marmalade. It is a very strong flavor but it is very refreshing to taste marmalade that's not Smuckers-mass-produced-ness. I should make a ginger cake and try it out. Another day perhaps.




Tuesday, December 10, 2013

{recipe} Cranberry Chutney

I made this for a baby shower tea I hosted back in November. I pulled it out the other day for a picnic and was wowed by how the flavors had come together. It smelled, and tasted, delightful. I served it with soft cheese on seedy, oat-y brown bread.

~ 1 small bag fresh cranberries, whole and washed
~ 3/4 c. apple cider
~ 1/4 c. cider vinegar
~ 1 large tart apple, grated or chopped
~ 1/2 c. dark brown sugar, packed
~ 2 T. chopped onion
~ 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
~ a healthy pinch of ground cloves
~ as much ground ginger as you like in these sorts of things, optional

Put all in a medium saucepan and cook on medium-low, stirring occasionally to encourage the cranberries to burst and help thicken the sauce. Cook until desired consistency, noting that it will thicken a bit when chilled. Store in mason jar in fridge.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thanksgiving debriefing and a recipe


Thanksgiving was like a slow motion dream. We were gone for eight days and we sort of planned that long of a trip but sort-of-not-really. Julian's grandfather has been in ill health for a while and passed away while we were gone, just before we planned to return home, so we stayed over. We had our first Thanksgiving dinner with my sister-in-law and her family -- our nephew made this delightfully bedazzled placemarker for me.While we were there, she made these pork chops and I thought they were quite tasty so I snapped a pic of her cookbook.

We came back to Rockbridge Co. for Thanksgiving with my family which was a very nice occasion, if I do say so myself. I didn't get to do any of the cooking, in part because of our travel and in part because we did not leave Julian's grandfather in the nursing home until about 11:30am on Thanksgiving day, so by the time we arrived, everything was ready. Unfortunately, Julian came down with a headcold that evening.

Friday, while we were still in Lexington, Julian's grandfather passed away, so Sunday evening, we went back across the mountain for the services Monday and Tuesday. I'm sitting in the office today, absolutely exhausted and wondering a.) how everything that has happened in the past 8 days really happened and b.) how it all happened and yet, on any given Wednesday in December, it seems like nothing has changed. 


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Vacation, day one.

It's Saturday and the long awaited first day of Thanksgiving vacation. The university is closed W-F of next week, but I took M-T as leave. We woke up at 9am. We ate muffins and cookies and leftover pecan pie. We tried to watch football but the networks disappointed. At least, at this point, Tennessee is winning.

I wrapped some of the first Christmas presents so we can take them home this coming week and stash them under the trees of others and out of our way. I worked a bit on my embroidery, which is so near to being finished that I am almost sad to see it come to an end. And we made taffy. Strawberry. Its kind of weird but oh, so very taffy-ish, so I take it as a success. All in all, a pretty lazy day and just what the doctor ordered.

(Psst... it's our little secret that Julian has officially declared that we have experienced a "dusting". I feel that by saying it loudly, I am jinxing the weather. I wish so hard it would be 6" of snow by the morning, hey,
a girl can dream.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Remnants of a party.

I hosted a long awaited baby shower for a friend who is eagerly anticipating her long awaited baby boy. The party was a great motivator to get some of those tasks done around the house that always get neglected: dusting the ceiling fan, wiping down the baseboards, etc.

I had about 20 people on the list and I ended up very glad that not everyone came. The house was full. It was hot. I had the windows open. The food ran low. There weren't enough pens to go around. And it was perfectly lovely, nevertheless. But, it never occurred to me to snap one single photo to document the occasion for myself. Before I knew it, the dust had settled and I was left with the remnants. I was absolutely exhausted and I found myself wandering the house like a private investigator - "yes, this must have been a veggie tray at one point... there was, indeed, a party here... women - not men...oh, for a baby boy..."





Friday, November 15, 2013

{This Moment} On the current


{this moment} -  A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. 



Linking up with Soulemama

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A bit chilly now.





It has gotten cold. This was the second real cold front that has blown in this fall that has made it feel like winter is just around the corner. We are expecting lows in the 20s, highs in the 30s this week. We've gone out twice to the lake to see if we could spot the tundra swans mid-migration. Twice, we've been rewarded with little-to-nothing. I'm so tired of seeing pied billed grebes, but I ought not be ungrateful, I suppose. We rushed out to the lake on Thursday to see the 500+ reported swans that were there at 1pm. By 5pm, when we arrived, there was not so much as an ugly ducking left on the water.

Anyhow, the chickadees have been our consolation this weekend. Our Kmart is going out of business so we bought an el cheapo feeder to take the place of our hummingbird feeder throughout the winter. It is nice because, so far, the chickadees are the only ones that can get to it because it is so close to the window that the other birds cannot fit. They are so gregarious, too, that they don't mind our company at all.

We attended our last WVU game of the season. It was a bit chilly to say the least and OH so long. We made the best of it though, can you tell? (WVU vs. Texas, and we lost in overtime)

I've tried so far not to get ahead of myself and start pinning winter themed things yet on Pinterest, but this past week, I just couldn't help myself. I started the third seasonal board, Winter Wonder, and it makes me oh so happy. It (wait for it!) melts away all the dread of the "grayness" that permeates this town from October to May each year. It sounds really cheesy but the seasonal board really help me focus on the present and not fret so much about what lies ahead. Its nice to be able to think about the hear and now (and maybe next week and next month) without getting carried away.




Monday, November 4, 2013

Time change

 'Tis the season for the migratory ducks to pass through Morgantown. 'Tis also the season for them to come in late at night and leave in the early morning so we never get to see them but only read the tales of their existence on eBird.org. Nevertheless, we try.






Saturday morning, we got up and went out. We were out of the house in the truck with the kayaks and our "expedition" bag (the backpack along with every little thingy we could possibly need while we're out). We left around 9am, stopped at two regular bird spotting places (I-68 bridge and the marina) before coming to the Cheat Lake Park and paddling around for a bit. It was quite the experience with the water being what we could only manage to describe as "jiggly."

No ducks wanted to be seen. It turns out that to watch ducks, you have to watch the weather. We were on the near side of a cold front that was blowing through, which is shown by the grayness of it all. Despite the clouds, the foliage was incredible to behold. 



Sunday afternoon, the cold front had passed but by the time we made it to the lake, with bicycles this time, so had the afternoon. We completely forgot about the sun setting sooner, and just beyond the point on the left, there was a raft of ducks that we couldn't get close enough to ID before the sun went down. The park closes at dusk and we've been chased out by the park manager before. When I got home and looked at the eBird.org logs, I saw that we had been right to go back out since the front had passed and the clouds had been replaced with a brilliant sun and crisp autumn air. It turns out that there were a great many ducks of all kinds (buffleheads, surf scoters, ring-neck ducks, etc) on the lake that day and they were seen by a great many people before continuing their southerly migration--while we were sitting in church.

Monday, October 14, 2013

October weekend

I spent a lot of time thinking about candles this weekend. In my short time as a housekeeper I have learned many things. One of them is that if you have a candle lit where people can see it, they tell you that they love the smell of your candle. If you hide the candle, people tell you they love the smell of your home. It is a small semantic difference that makes a big impact on me. So I hide my candles.




 

 

I filled the house with the artificial yet oh-so-neccessary fragrance of fall candles, baked a carrot cake, worked on my stitching, overheard some college football, and pruned the butterfly bush. We got just enough accomplished that we didn't feel slothful but not so much that we got cheated out of a restful weekend. The long awaited saffron crocuses came up and I plucked all their yummy fronds without taking the time to photograph them intact. Oh well. There will be others. The moment called for immediate response. To top it all off, we spent sweet time in the company of dear friends and what do you know? In celebration of my birthday, I received my first Wood Wick candle and it is lovely. I'm not even going to hide it. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Seed saving and such

I am happy to report that I'm on the mend and Julian seems to have come through these past 10 days unscathed. Turns out it was "just" a sinus infection but its honestly the most ill I've ever been in my life. I missed five days of work and cut short my birthday weekend in Va. to return to the doctor first thing on Monday morning. The lingering cough is now my only remnant... that and the undone house chores.



Speaking of chores and one that is made particularly difficult by a lingering cough - I've been trying to be intentional about seed saving for next year. I've collected seeds from all over; from the Sarah J. Duke Botanical Gardens (prickly pear cactus and water iris) to South Middle School where our church meets (cosmos, zinnias, misc wildflowers).

In total, I have amassed seeds of coneflower, columbine, redbud, oak, zinnia, cosmos, daisy, butterfly weed, iris, daylily, marigold, cilantro, sunflower, dill, basil, clematis (what a weird seed!), prickly pear, rose, peas, lettuce, and snapdragons. I keep them in bead bags I get from the craft store and them file them away in an old floppy disk storage box. I am always entertained by how the seeds are a perfect fit for the archaic and seemingly obsolete box.

There is no better way to get free plants and often they are colors and varieties that I'm not likely to come by in a garden center. I don't know why but I always seem so shocked at the cost of seed packets - $3.50 for tiny little grains of dust? Besides, acorns are not just nuts. They are FREE OAK TREES, people. Plant them!

In addition to being free, I'm really enjoying that the seed collection process adds a new awareness and appreciation for the season. I grow basil every year but, just yesterday, I took the time to sit down and dissect my browning basil plant to figure out how the plant works and where the seeds come from. Fascinating.

It is tempting to look in the garden and be discouraged by the end of the growing season but this year I am looking out my window and there it is - seed season - happening right before my eyes. Love it.

***

Linking up with Little House in the Suburbs .

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Birthday Week






It's my birthday week and I'm very, very sick. The whole episode is messing with my brain. All I want to do is huddle in a germ-y pile with down comforters and bunny slippers, drink tea and eat pie. That did not happen today - it was 80F outside. So, I just laid around the way we did as children, craving a box fan and {not} watching soap operas during the dog days of summer. If it is fall, no one is telling.

I'm not keeping up with this journal much, in part because there is too much to do elsewhere but also too many things I'm holding very close to my chest. Changes, they are a-coming, but we do not know the when's and where's. Only the why's... and they take so much energy.

"For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." 1 Cor 2:11


Friday, September 20, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Our fish...

Julian: Do you think I should {insert something that would make us more prepared}?
Amanda : No, we won't need it!
Julian: Ok, if you're sure...

***

That is how most of our adventures have started these days. Catching this fish was no exception. We took the kayaks out last Sunday as a way to get out since we were having a "rest day" from our regular 5k training. Julian's been reading a great book about sea fishing, and he said, "Nick says to never go fishing without your 'priest'." {'Priest' is the tool of choice for whacking your fish on the head to accomplish a speedy and humane dispatch.} "Should I take one?" I replied that he shouldn't worry about it because he probably won't catch anything and if he does, we will release it. Then I'm pretty sure he asked if I was sure and I said yes, and he said oooooohkaaay. It's clear to see where this is going.

Julian didn't take the priest but he did every other thing Nick - cause we're apparently on first-name-basis with awesome British sea fishermen now - said to do, from watching the current to picking his bait. Lo and behold, in less than 30 minutes, he landed a hybrid striped bass.

 

The only problem was that, just like all the reading said, the striped bass is an "aggressive feeder" and it swallowed the whole thing, hook, line and sinker. There was no catch and release for this bad boy. So we made an executive decision to dispatch him and take him home so as not to leave him to die in the river from a terrible fate. But we didn't bring the priest.... or any ice/cooler/anything helpful for dealing with a caught fish.

We dealt with him by using a 21-in-1 type fisherman gadget tool which I'm pretty sure was a hand-me-down from his dad. Then we went home as fast as we could manage, and we decided this whole experience would serve as a great practice round, should we decide to actually fish for food someday. I made a homemade de-scaler and we consulted the fish book again to disassemble the fish as best as possible. The long and short of it - we had NO plans to spend our Sunday evening this way but it was super fun to do together, and even though it sounds cheesy, a big confidence boost. Waste not, want not, and even though this was just "practice," we DID eat it.



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Peach Leather


For the first time since we've been in Morgantown, we were able to get WVU Farm peaches. Apparently, Peach Day is a big deal for both locavores and the farm staff, mainly because it only takes a day [or two half days in this case] to sell the entire crop. The WVU farm is on a side of town we rarely visit but if he wants, Julian can make it "on the way" to and from his weekly meetings.

So what do you do with 11lbs of peaches? An assortment of things, I am learning. This peck of peaches comes right on the heels of some angst I had as a result of throwing away about a pint of strawberries that perished in the fridge from neglect. You see, I have this habit of buying produce at really outstanding prices but then not taking the time to prepare it to eat. It shrivels, or worse, in the fridge and then I pitch it. Sadly, this has happened with cherries, strawberries, and kumquats, in the not so distant past. I said to myself, "Self, you've got to get this under control!" Enter: the dehydrator.

If you Pin-search "peach leather" the results are delightful ... but off topic, so I just stuck to the books on this one and wished I had a reason/bank account to buy these. I consulted the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. I also consulted Pam via Twitter - ah, the interwebs...so impressive these days.


Recipe for Peach Leather
Adapted from The River Cottage Preserves Handbook

2 lbs washed peaches, peeled or not
7 tbsp good honey
1 lemon,  juice from

{Depending on what you have and what you had to pay to get it, this recipe can be modified by substituting cored apples for up to one pound of the fruit. And feel free to add spices like ginger and cinnamon.}

Preheat the oven to 140F. You can also use a food dehydrator if you have one. {Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions because it will take much less time than in an oven.}We tried to do it in the oven. Our oven's lowest setting was 170F and that produced a product much more like leather and less like peaches. We promptly bought a dehydrator. I love it.

Pit and pare your fruit, put into a large pot with lemon juice. Bring to low simmer, adding only a small amount of water if necessary to keep fruit from sticking. Simmer about 20 minutes or until soft and pulpy.  Add the honey and buzz it all until it is smooth in a blender or food processor.  Pour out in thin layer on non-stick sheets or on cookie sheets covered with parchment. Make sure depth of the fruit puree is consistent throughout. Don't be tempted to make it all fit on one sheet. It will be able to fit but it will take twice the time to dry. Bake in cool over 12-18 hours or until leather peels easily from sheet. Or just buy the darn dehydrator and its done in 6 hours or less.

***
Confession - this all happened two weeks ago now but I was holding off to come up with a picture of the finished product. Trouble is, we ate it all, and didn't slow down for snaps. Oh well - make some of your own and you'll know what it looks like.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bridges - part one

Gosh its been a while. So much has been happening that its hard to keep up with but I am taking many pictures so in due time, I'll be able to sort it out. 

***

We recently learned that there are 17 historical covered bridges in West Virginia and agreed that it would be cool to witness all of them. A few we had already seen in passing and on other adventures. Over the Aug 10-11 weekend, we were headed to the WV State Fair to join my sister Julie for her birthday in Lewisburg, WV. Fortunate for us, with a little careful planning, several of them were "on the way" or nearby. Saturday morning, we packed it up and headed south. On our way to Lewisburg, we picked up three new ones: Simpson Creek, "Old Red" or Walkersville, and Fletcher.