Wednesday, July 31, 2013

{Yarn Along} Blair's Bear

My spare time this week is being taken up by a last-minute craft, a baby shower gift for my cousin's wife, Blair. I started this thing three babies back when I made a bear as a gift for the first baby on my father's side of the family. The trouble is, that was a girl bear, made for Alison, and Blair absolutely loved it. She was made of the  curtains in my pre-married apartment, in colors of olive, gold, burgundy, and pink. Blair begged for me to make her one, I told her there was one way to get one and if she wanted to go there, she was welcome to do so. Two and a half years later, it's bear time, but .... it's a BOY. No rose bear for Blair, yet.

On the reading front, with my hand often busy, the recorded book is a good thing to have but it is still not my favorite. I would have been finished a long time ago if I liked it more, the woman has a grating voice, bad news for a narrator, and makes the german characters sound like they have marbles in their mouths. There are a few things about the content of the book I like very much, but I'll save those for when I've completed the book and reviewed in in full.

The second book on my list is a book I've had for a while but it was a surprise to me when Julian pulled it off the shelf. Isabella Beeton was a Victorian woman whose columns in her husband's magazine became THE housekeeping and recipe book for basically the entire English speaking world. Next to Fannie Farmer, with her standardization of the measuring cup, Isabella revolutionized the way we keep house by writing down every single thing we need to know (for that time) from grooming a horse to dealing with payment of the house help. Her original book has been abridged, printed and reprinted a plethora of ways and times over the past 130 years. I downloaded the original, 1,000+ pages Book of Household Management last year for free on my Kindle. It is a fascinating read, if you like that sort of thing.

This book was added to my collection about a year ago on a whim to help me get free shipping from Amazon. Julian's been building a bookcase and happened to notice its author. Upon closer inspection, it is a SUPER abridged version of the original book that is packed with the best recipes and a 33 page essay for "the Mistress" that covers everything from how to respectfully retire for the evening when hosting company and judging the character of a potential hire. Love, love, love this book... and who knows, maybe I'll scrape together a rabbit pie or swish a jug of syllabub. And last but not least, I like it because it's pretty, and who doesn't love having a pretty book laying around?

Joining Ginny.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

{Recipe} Cherry Clafoutis

This is a French dessert but by all American standards, it should be used as breakfast or brunch because its a bit egg-y. It is equally delicious with raspberries or rhubarb, but the cherry is the traditional fruit for it. I had just about a pound of cherries languishing in the fridge after we'd eaten our fill of them fresh over the past several weeks. Today was the day to make something magical happen for them. It's a fairly standard recipe, but I took my inspiration from Mimi and my direction from Hugh.

Can you tell we're sitting around in the dark eating sweets and enjoying the cool breeze through the window? Well, we are.

Cherry Clafoutis
credit: River Cottage Everyday

1 lb sweet cherries (purists don't pit them, but I do - who wants rocks in their pudding?)
1/3 c sugar
1/2 c all purpose flour
pinch of salt
3 eggs
1 c whole milk
confectioner's sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 10" cake pan and dump cherries in. Combine sugar, salt and flour in a bowl. Make a well, crack in eggs, stir with a whisk to make a smooth but thick batter. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking all the while, to make a sort of custard. Pour gently over cherries. Bake 35-40 minutes of until puffed up and brown around the outside. It will fall as soon as it is taken out of the oven, do not panic. (Hugh recommends serving warm with cream, Mimi recommends cool. We both prefer it chilled w/ whipped cream.)

Throw some powdered sugar on top and its good as gold.

Friday, July 26, 2013

6th Anniversary - Watoga Arboretum

With Sunday morning's breakfast, Julian prayed the rain would hold off until we got everything packed. It did just that... and then it let loose. We had planned to visit the arboretum on our way out and we figured, what's the use worrying about rain, everything we own is a damp, humid mess already. So when it started sprinkling at the start of the two mile hike, we pressed onward. About a quarter of the way in, we were anxious for the shelter, as the sprinkle had turned into an all-out pour. We reached it (about five minutes later than we needed to but for the sake of the story, I'll say...) just in the nick of time.

We played a card game in the shelter to wait out the storm [cause I'm good like that on the packing cards]. Then forged a 1/4 mile sea of stinging nettles, the likes of which I've never seen. It made me glad for my ankle length skirt despite looking like a plain person with my tennis shoes on. Oh, I was so thankful.

The trail had many beautiful stone stairwells.
Rhododendrons were our makeshift shelter - thanks to the climate/elevation, some of them were still in bloom. 
The long awaited shelter
Sea of stinging nettles
I was not very happy with the person at Watoga who is supposed to look in on the arboretum and manage the trails. Some of them were impassable, and the nettles were downright miserable. Then we came upon the part of the park that had obviously had derecho damage and I was much more sympathetic. Whole swaths of mature forest were destroyed. Come to find out, this part of WV is still putting life back together after both the derecho and Hurricane Sandy. 

This tree had fallen and taken the stones with it.
Obvious devastation of forest and trail
A section about as big as a football field had been basically leveled.
My favorite things about this hike: the incredible moss, which I didn't photograph because it was pouring; the stone steps; the shelter; my new found knowledge of stinging nettles. 

Next up: Beartown...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

6th Anniversary - Watoga Campsite

Waiting out the rain.
In celebration of our sixth wedding anniversary, we wanted to relax. We wanted to get away, be in the quiet, do a little fishing, do a little snoozing... camping sounded good to me. Sometimes it seems that we attempt to celebrate an anniversary and it turns into one of these if-our-marriage-survives-this-we-can-swing-one-more-year type things. This was one of those times.

BUT - we're focusing on the positive! Many lessons were learned: don't wait until last minute to plan a three-hours-away camping trip that requires reservations; feeling good about cooking on the dutch oven is a matter of just doing it, and doing it again, and again; gross things sound and feel better when you devise cheerful nicknames, and even better when those nicknames are made up Frenchy words.

Long story short, we got to the park of our choice without a reservation and told we could choose either privacy and riverside bliss OR electricity. We chose electricity. This landed us seven miles away from our intended original destination within the park. That's seven miles at 25mph - if you want to go to the riverside and fish, 20 minute drive. If you want to visit the gift shop or pick up a map or brochure, 20 minute drive. Pool? Rec center? Stinkin' park EXIT? 20 minute drive.

We were able to have some really cool experiences regardless of our initial frustrations and its going to take me three or maybe even four posts to get it all down. I'm going out of order because these are the easiest pictures for me to access - Watoga: the campsite experience.

Campfire, night two
Beaver Creek Campground, site #1 
Home away from home, pine sap dripping from above
Anniversary breakfast, homemade sausage, casings exploded
Really good campfire toast.
All packed and ready to leave
Leave nothing behind

The only thing that's missing from here is the fact that we were 30 yards from a festering cesspool of runoff water. Silver lining? It had two  "fountains" that ran intermittently to stir up the water enough to keep the mosquitos out. To perk it up a bit, we called them the "bubblers" (and "les bubles", pronounced "lay boo-blay"). They ran for about five minutes out of every twenty. While we were happy to not be getting malaria, with the weather being the spongy mess it has been all summer long, each time the bubblers turned on we went into split-second total panic mode, thinking it was a downpour. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Place holder...

This is really just a place holder for a real post. We had a great weekend but my pictures are on three different devices. Happy anniversary to us. Until next time...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The oven is toast.

Julian's been saying that we needed a new toaster oven. We looked at a few but never pulled the trigger on making a purchase. The problem is the top element, its gone squirrely and when I make the toast, it will be white, white, white, burned - like an evil game of breakfast duck, duck, goose.

Julian's a good sport and he usually eats the too dark toast anyway. Me? I'm a bit more particular. I'm a "lightly-toasted" kind of gal and sometimes, I just want the butter melty and that's all. I'm not big on wasting food, but this morning, I decided my breakfast needed a redo. And looking at this picture now, I realize that maybe I over-reacted. The toast doesn't look that bad, but I just wasn't having it.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER? The only reason this matters is that its a wee bit sentimental. You see, Julian's toaster oven died just after we started dating. This anger-inducing toaster oven is the first thing we shopped for and bought together. I still recall that it felt like a big deal, in that we-might-actually-live-together-some-day kind of way. {I wish I had realized this a bit more and not insisted he purchase a butter dish for his apartment because a year later we married, set up housekeeping, and now we have two!}

This weekend, we will celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary. Maybe I can talk him into taking me out and buying me a new toaster oven to commemorate the occasion in celebration of those good ol' days of banana splits and busted toaster ovens in Blacksburg.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Smoking weekend. And the rub.

We had a good weekend. We bought a new computer last week and got a free gift card to the app store, so our weekend was filled with hours and hours of this fun little game, interrupted only by water breaks and smoke breaks.

Let me tell you - there is nothing I love more than a smoke break. Go outside, sun on your shoulders, deep breaths, delicious smells of smoke and burning and summer. Sometimes we journal them, timing, temperature, etc. This time, we just winged it and maybe it was the best yet.

Deee-li-shus. It definitely helped that we found some $5 binoculars at a yardsale so Julian could sit on the sofa and play the game, but use the binoculars to read the smoker's temperature gauge so we didn't have to get up more than necessary. Couch potato triumph.

We used a rub from a smoker forum, and I liked it enough to write it down.

Random Rub Recipe (thanks mystery online guy):

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup paprika
2 T salt
2 T black pepper
1 T cayenne pepper, less to taste
2 tsp dry mustard
2 T garlic powder
2 T onion powder

We also used Tyler Florence's South Carolina-style mustard-based sauce. I loved it. Julian didn't mind it but its not really his favorite style of sauce to start with.

Tyler's Cider-Vinegar Barbecue Sauce:

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup yellow or brown mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pan drippings from the pork

Friday, July 12, 2013

{this moment} Primanti Bros

rivendell, downpour, lost power, corned beef, IKEA, donuts, datenight

{this moment} with Soulemama

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Forest by bike

There is some kind of juju misty magic the forest has that calms my nerves. I never realize how much I need to go until I'm there and feel so much better. We needed some outdoor time but the river wasn't in the mood, so we did the Uffington rail trail by bike. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

{Yarn Along} Progress Stalled

So yesterday I waxed poetic about the spotted fawns. Today it seems they've gotten the best of me - and my bean patch. Julian specifically asked if he should run them off, I said NO! So the burden is entirely mine today.

I could see that a few things around the yard had been munched, edges of the sweet peas, a few hosta blooms, but this year has been so much better than last because of my magic potion. This stuff actually works! Throughout the spring, I applied it every Saturday and had not a nibble. I knew I needed to reapply last night but we had torrential downpours, "I'll get it in the morning, I told myself."

Anyhow, as far as my Yarn Along update is concerned, I've been listening to a Recorded Books of The Union Quilters, by Jennifer Chiaverini. I am having a hard time with it and I am really only pressing on because I don't want to quit and I like Civil War history. The narrators voice is grating on my nerves and the author uses very 1990's-movie-lines dialogue. Its not very believable to me. And I know it was a different time but you better believe I wouldn't be sending Julian off to war with a precious heirloom quilt in his rucksack. "It will be right here when you return, thankyouverymuch," I'd say.

My knitting has stalled. I knit up several of the "teeth" but I'm having a very hard time with my tension and the slippery needles and tiny yarn of the Hitchiker/Ella Rae Lace Merino. I ripped it all out in the name of "practice" and started again. It was nice to have confirmation from my mother in law that it really WAS slippery and I'm not just inept, and she came up with some different #3 needles which are easier to use. I'm seriously considering that this may not be the season in my life for crafty progress.

I'll finish the post with some pictures of the lovely things those fawns haven't munched, yet.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Spotted fawns

I got a text with this picture from Julian this morning while I was at work. What a special treat. It seems its spotted fawn season for everyone
Now, I'm 30 years old and I like to think I know some stuff, but it is so nice that in each season, every year, I learn more and become more aware of the world around me - things that have always been there but I've never noticed. I know fawns have spots. I've never realized that June and July is the season for fawns to have spots. I know that bucks have fuzzy antlers, but likewise, I never realized that now is the time for fuzzy bucks.
Just last night, Julian was sharing his thoughts on having a seasonal world view. Until winter of 2009, the Christmas of the great snow-in, whatever season coming 'round the bend was my favorite. I "just couldn't wait until..." whatever was next. Over the past few years, Julian and I have adopted a much more seasonal worldview and what a blessing it has been to enjoy something in the moment and not worry about what comes next. It helps you notice things you've never paid attention to before: birdsfoot trefoil is beautiful and all around us, baby birds - ugly little fledglings coming out for the first time,  the first of the growing seasons is done and the second is only beginning! It is so nice to look at seasons as something other than just weather. Summer is cherry season, spotted fawn season, 90-days-til-a-watermelon season.
What a wonderful season!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

July 4th Holiday

You can tell by the photos that it was a bit of a disjointed trip. We left Wednesday night and came home Saturday evening. The past two years we have stayed only for the hot air balloons and returned for the fireworks in Morgantown - not so this year because July 4th was on a Thursday. Its a good things because the weather was so terrible that the only balloons we saw went up on Friday morning. That was disappointing still because the air was so heavy with humidity and there was not even a hint of a breeze, so we just sat for an hour, watching them go up and down, never moving closer or farther away. 

Despite the rain, we kept ourselves entertained by playing Suspend (which I highly recommend), watching these darling fawns frolicking all day (can you spot them) and collecting the snails that came up on the sidewalk after the rain (a task deemed necessary by Harris, the nephew - proof that children warp the mind, because there is one thing I do with snails and that is avoid them).

We spent a bit of time with Mom and Dad, helping hang some pictures and a bathroom cabinet. It is so nice to hang stuff on a wall - it really makes a place feel like home, like it is yours. I was very happy to do that with them and to see how far their house has come over the past two years. In other news at Shady Lane, Goosey is the final remaining goose out of a shipment of six ducks and six geese that we brought to the farm when I was 16. Mom and Dad moved off the farm in 2008, I think, eek, and she's been living here and there through the hospitality of my uncles since then. There is finally a home for her at Shady Lane and she is happily honking under the chestnut tree right now. I only wish she had a companion, wink wink!