Happy Summer!

I can’t believe how long I’ve been going between posts. I have no real excuse, other than my life seems to be an endless stream of appointments for the kids coupled with hours of weeding the gardens (followed by removing dozens of ticks every night).

Thankfully, there’s something else that’s been endless recently: wild blackberries. Every year I’m astonished at how much more there are than the previous year. It’s also a time game, though. You have to pick them just at ripeness or risk losing them all to japanese beetles and birds. Since I don’t always have time to do anything with the bucketloads I’ve been picking, I’ve been letting the kids eat them all in one go. With the solstice, though, I decided something special needed to be done with them. So I made ice cream.

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I started by heating up the berries with some sugar and cinnamon on the stove and lightly mashing them to release some of the juice.

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While that was cooling, I used a Ben & Jerry’s recipe for the base. It basically entails whipping eggs with cream and sugar until fluffy. Super easy and quick.

Then the berries were added, and I poured as much as I could fit into the trusty Cuisinart ice cream maker.

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There was just enough left over to make popsicles.

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When the machine had finished churning, I froze the ice cream an additional few hours before serving.

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Success!

 

S|NO|wpocalypse ’17

We were so hoping for a snow day. They’d been calling for a foot or so for us, and everyone was out in force yesterday clearing the stores of eggs, milk, and bread (not to mention the liquor store).  I had no appointments or places to be the next couple days, and was prepared to give the kids a day off from school to play in the snow and enjoy our one and only day of winter.

We got 4 more Pekin ducklings a few days ago, and I  beefed up their bedding and made sure they were good and cozy and the heat lamp wouldn’t be affected by ice or snow.  We have gallons and gallons of kerosene in reserve for the heater, just in case. In short, we should’ve known.

This was our glorious snow storm:

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SO DISAPPOINTING.

It looks like winter has passed us by this year, and we may as well keep on our path to spring.

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So what do you do when you’ve lost out on your much-needed snowday?

First I put together dough for cinnamon bread and made a good strong cup of coffee.

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Then I worked on cutting some pieces for quilting.

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Of course, Widget wasn’t going to allow that to last without some “help”.

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I can’t resist him. I’ve put away the quilting supplies and moved on to transferring some of my seedlings out of the starter kit that Widget keeps sitting on and trying to eat the sprouts out of.

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It was a decidedly NOT snowday thing to do.  It did, however, make me happier about the impending spring and summer weather. I can’t wait for those  juicy tomatoes, fresh off the vine (if I can keep the deer out this year!).

I did make the kids do their schoolwork today, as well. They didn’t mind, since there was no snow outside to frolic in. Plus they were all gathered around the table once the cinnamon bread came out of the oven.

I’ll be making a giant batch of Bolognese sauce and knitting more hats the rest of the day while I resign myself that winter is pretty well done.

Someone better tell my hens it’s time to start laying some eggs!

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Solstice

“And so the Shortest Day came and the year died

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees;

They hung their homes with evergreen;

They burned beseeching fires all night long

To keep the year alive.

And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake

They shouted, reveling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them

Echoing behind us – listen!

All the long echoes, sing the same delight,

This Shortest Day,

As promise wakens in the sleeping land:

They carol, feast, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,

And hope for peace.

And now so do we, here, now.

This year and every year.”

 

Susan Cooper

 

It’s the Winter Solstice, once again. Slowly but surely the light will come back now, as we round the year and tilt toward summer again.  But first, winter is upon us (though it remains relatively warm here, and aggravatingly snow-free). It felt fitting to spend the day baking cookies and enjoying each other’s company. In the late afternoon I took my usual walk around the pastures and found my center among the natural world.  This is my favorite time of year for walking in the woods and bringing treats to the sheep. Though low, the stream is full of tiny minnows. The dried-up weeds and vines and fallen trees become like hedgerows, teeming with birds. You’d be forgiven for thinking there was a huge animal crashing about out there, the birds are so plentiful and noisy. It’s hard to get pictures of them; I haven’t got a zoom lens and they fly off in huge clouds of winds and chirping if I get too close.

I can see now that the small, wild holly trees are thriving, and I’m hoping I can transplant them at some point to a better location. I also found the remains of a skunk in the back pasture, who I assume was killed by one of the many hawks we see out there every day. We’d been smelling the pervasive scent rather strongly back in October, but never found the source.

After dinner the girls and I bundled into the car and we set off for our yearly viewing of Christmas lights. It seemed fitting on the night of the Solstice to celebrate the colorful lights people have on their homes.

Happy Solstice, all. May your days be long and bright, and your nights warm and cheerful.

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Cats and Drinks

This weekend I had the house to myself while Paul and the girls were visiting family in New York.  Maddie came down and we went and had lunch with our friend Kim before heading to our friend Heather’s bridal shower.  We made candle centerpieces for the wedding while the host served us hot buttered rum. Um…Heather? I’m gonna need that recipe. 😀

When I wasn’t cleaning or spinning wool, or snuggling kitties (had them ALLLL to myself!) I was making some yummies for holiday consumption.

First was a pineapple-infused mandarin vodka for book club.

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I got a large mason jar from Michael’s – big enough to hold 750ml of vodka – and chopped up some fresh pineapple. I covered it with a whole bottle of Absolut Mandarin, and it gets to sit for two weeks now. I can’t wait!

The second thing I knew I needed to make is Alton Brown’s Eggnog. This one will sit for a month or so – or until after Thanksgiving anyway.

The only change I made was accidental – I left out the rum.

BUT.

I taste-tested before bottling it (it made a little more than 2 quarts) and it was delicious. I can tell after aging for a bit that it will be transcendent. I may have to buy some more bottles and make more!

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Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised; you really can’t go wrong with Alton Brown!

Now that we find ourselves so close to Turkey Day I encourage you to try the eggnog if that’s up your alley. I’ll be poring over my recipes and planning and shopping for the big meal the nest few days.  Although we don’t have anyone coming (or at least, no one’s mentioned anything yet) I’ll still make a mountain of food. We gots to have our leftovers, yo!

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“Did someone say turkey?”

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“Mmmmmmmmm turkey!”

 

No Sleep ‘Til Rhinebeck

Have I used that title before? It’s apt, every year, I think. And not just for me. Every fiber crafter I know has something they want to complete before the festival each year. Last year, it was my Shepherd Sweater. This year, Chimney Fire. I’m about done with the length – I just need to complete the ribbing on the bottom – which leaves the sleeves. Can I manage it in time? Your guess is as good as mine.

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I can’t wait to wear it.

The girls are all working on various items for the festival, too. Emily is sewing a top, Neve has started her first hat, and Oona is working on a fall-colored scarf.

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Trying to wind yarn in this house is rather challenging.

Speaking of cats, our hospice patient has been responding very well to the prednisone.

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She’s been perkier, more playful, and even put on a bit of weight.

Of course, everyone’s feeling better with the cooler temperatures lately. It actually feels like fall. Which means we are feeling like baking every day.

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Bread. I used the Cinnamon Bread recipe from King Arthur that I always do, but instead of mixing the cinnamon for the filling with eggs and water, I substituted pumpkin. Divine!  (I tried to link the recipe here, but I’m using my iPad, which makes things difficult. I’ll try editing later to add it).

We haven’t yet gone apple picking, but I’m going to make that happen very soon. So many apple treats to make!

Jamming in the Summer

Lately I’ve been craving jam. A lot. I think it *may* have something to do with my friend Sarah in Canada who keeps posting pictures of all the delicious jams she’s been making the last couple of months. But, as I don’t at the moment have a ready supply of fruit to use (some people around here keep eating it all before it can be used for anything…..), I turned to what I DO have: tomatoes. Tomato jam is incredibly delicious. You can use it in place of ketchup, or slather it on some french bread with chevre  (the yumminess!).  I also wouldn’t judge you for eating it out of the jar with a spoon.

The recipe I use comes from the fabulous Food In Jars by Marisa McClellan. Chopped tomatoes get cooked down with cinnamon, cloves, red peppers, lime juice, ginger, and sugar to make a zesty, sweet/savory, tomato-y jam that will deliciously haunt your dreams forever.

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I can’t wait to put this on everything!

The downside is how wonderfully fall-like it made the house smell, what with the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. We’re struggling hard to enjoy every last bit of summer before we have to close the pool and pack up our sun dresses and sandals for the year, but the light quality is already changing and the nights have gotten noticeably cooler. Enjoy this last bit of summer, everyone. It won’t last long.

The Pancake Queen

Oona has always been our pancake fiend. Since she was old enough to take her first bite, she’s been completely obsessed. Every morning she’d have pancakes (or “panic-cakes”, as she called them) if she could. The problem is, I don’t necessarily want to make them every day.

Neve is pretty proficient with them, but Oona has also had trouble convincing her to get up early to whip out a batch for her. So recently, Oona decided to take matters into her own hands. She searched around Pinterest until she found a good, easy recipe she could put together on her own. Then she went to work.

Over the past few months she’s gotten good enough that she can make a batch of perfect – if plain – pancakes on her own. I decided yesterday it was time she upgraded to a better recipe.

Now, there are lots and lots of pancake recipes I like, but I decided Oona would love the recipe from New England Farmgirl, by my friend Jessica.  Using maple sugar in the batter charmed Oona right away, and I knew we had a winner.

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She’ll need to practice folding in the beaten egg whites before she gets it just right, but she’s ready to jump in and try.

We decided to use blueberries this time, and the results were just what we wanted: light, fluffy, perfect pancakes.

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I had to restrain myself so as not to eat the entire plate. Before I know it, I’ll be waking up to these beauties more often than not. And how can you start a day better than that?