Sun – Drenched Solstice

Happy (officially) summer!

We celebrated with fresh-picked peaches, berries, our first pesto of the year, and s’mores.

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Aren’t they just little globes of sunshine?

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Speaking of sunshine…..my sunflowers are starting to bloom!

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The berries are really starting to come in now. I’ve been putting at least as many directly into my mouth as into the basket as I pick them!

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Maddie brought Twyla along to pick peaches; she had a blast meeting new people and smelling new smells. The poor little thing completely passed out from all the excitement in the car and slept for a few good hours afterwards!

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Peach slushies are a must!

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We brought home 25 pounds of peaches, and I went to work to preserve those that weren’t going to be eaten right away.  I couldn’t wait to put up a batch of this peach salsa from Marisa McClellan’s  Food In Jars, which is among my favorite cookbooks ever. While cooking, it made the house smell heavenly!

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Post-dinner wine for me, s’mores for the kids.

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We stayed out and played Mad Libs while waiting for the full moon to rise. The temperature was perfect and for once it wasn’t too buggy. I can’t think of a better way to have spent the longest day of the year!

Lighting the Solstice

I have to admit: I kind of love the winter solstice. Not because it’s the shortest day, or even because it means the days will begin to grow longer. I love it because I see so many of my friends rejoicing it. So many of us lighting candles and trying themselves to be a light in the dark. It’s also a day that’s been recognized and celebrated for a millennia; it’s kind of profound to feel that sort of connection with so many of those that have come before us.

We missed the summer solstice at Stonehenge by a matter of weeks, and though it’s become a bit of a carnival atmosphere, it’s something I truly wish to do one year.

Last night we lit all of our candles, turned the tree lights on, and ate cookies to celebrate. Now that I think of it, I should have had some bourbon and egg nog. (Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon and Homestead Creamery natural eggnog is a killer combo!)

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All of my favorite things at this time of year are those that sparkle and glow.

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Now THESE. These you have to make. Meringue cookies that melt in your mouth and are dead easy to make.  I made the espresso ones and cocoa ones (I added red food color because I was planning on adding peppermint with the cocoa and then forgot. Tonight I’ll make another batch and won’t forget – though I’ll make them green).

The recipe is simple and straightforward. Last year I just used a spoon and plopped small rounds onto baking sheets. This year I used a pastry bag and star tip. I do like to make them a bit small so they are bite-sized.

There’s just a few days left until Christmas. I haven’t quite finished my baking, but I got all of my boxes that I am sending out packed today (they’ll likely be late, but……better than never, right?).

Baking Christmas

Every year I draw up an ambitious list of cookies I plan to bake, and every year I begin to falter a few days before the holiday, having worn myself out in the process of producing so many goodies.

This year I have an ace up my sleeve: Neve.

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She’s been a great help with prep work and with getting everything into and out of the oven and onto cooling racks.  She’s also made up several batches of Peanut Butter Blossoms on her own.

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As always, we also made a large batch of Hamantaschen.

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Once again I also attempted Springerle. In the past, these cookies have consistently defeated me. This year I tried a new recipe, using King Arthur Flour’s Speculaas dough. There was a lot of chilling, rolling, chilling, molding, chilling, chilling, and more chilling. The results? Not too terrible. Not perfect, though, and I had a hard time with them. Still, I consider it progress!

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We have many, many more to go, but the doughs for our butter cookies and gingerbread cookies are already chilling and ready to be cut and baked.  I am going to try and get the Meringue cookies whipped up tonight to set in the oven overnight.

I also felt overly ambitious (or stressed?) and decided to make the gingerbread for our gingerbread houses this year. I used the recipe from the America’s Test kitchen cookbook and simply measured out shapes for the houses by hand. Neve wasn’t thrilled with how thick it was (and not perfectly straight-edged), but Oona was ecstatic that she had a house she could actually eat this year.

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Emily and I have been stuffing ourselves with all the extra gumdrops. I am going to need a major sugar-detox after this Christmas!

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Tomorrow I’ll work on getting the cookies ready for the kids to decorate, as well as trying some new recipes. That is, if I have the time. Paul is taking them out to see the new Star Wars movie so I can wrap gifts (and drink gluhwein, of course). For a few glorious hours I’ll have a Christmasy house all the myself (and the kitties).

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Getting Festive Up In Here

Happy Hanukkah!

We like to celebrate with food every opportunity we can.  So even though we are not Jewish, this time of year there are plenty of latkes and blintzes to be had. If I had other culturally Jewish food in my repertoire, there’d be that as well (I mean, aside from all the cookies and breads and cakes, natch).

Tonight was our blintz night.  We LOVE blintzes. One of the kids usually asks for them for their birthday as well.  Honestly, though there’s a lot of steps, they’re super easy. I whip up some crepes, and fill them with a cream cheese/ricotta/powdered sugar/vanilla mixture, roll them up burrito-style and pan-fry them until they’re browned and hot.

Then I top them with some pre-fab blueberry pie filling and whipped cream. Done! Happy family.

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Then we eat them by candlelight. It’s really the only way to properly enjoy them.😉

The weather has been working against our holiday spirit – it’s been so warm that we have been sweating while trying to do our schoolwork. In the evening, once it has cooled down again, we’ve been trying to keep the holiday ambience going as much as we can.

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The kitties enjoy it as well; if by “it” we mean chewing on the branches and swatting the candy canes off the tree.

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“Who, us???”

We have had morning frosts, which is a reassuring sign that it really IS winter, even if it doesn’t feel so much like it.

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It would be nice if the cooler weather would hang out long enough for us to wear our nice winter sweaters, though. It’s hard to stay motivated to knit with wool right now and create even more sweaters that will sit unhappy and unused all through the festive season each year.  Not that my Chimney Fire sweater is growing that fast or anything.

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During the week it’s usually evening before I have a chance to pick it up, and I’m pretty tired by then. As for the weekends, well…it IS gluhwein season, and you know wine and cablework don’t mix.

This weekend we’ll be hitting the holiday baking pretty hard; I’m feeling the usual ambition for lots of cookie variety and quantity. Now to figure out how to distill some of Oona’s energy for myself!

 

 

Pumpkin Day, and Spinning Love

After I bought a bag of wonderful fall-colored roving at Rhinebeck, I could not stop thinking about how I needed to spin it!

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Though I am still very new at spinning, one of the things I learned is that it makes it easier to keep practicing when you are spinning with fiber that you love. So, caution (and thoughts of saving it for when I am an expert) aside, I jumped in and spun that baby up into three spindles.

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Once I had three spindles of single-strand I couldn’t wait to see how it would look all plied together.

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Boy, it did NOT disappoint! I am so in love with this yarn I have made!  It isn’t a very large amount, but definitely enough for a nice autumn-y cowl. Now I can’t wait to get my wheel going again!

In the meantime, Halloween is very nearly upon us, and the kids kept reminding me of the many things that needed to be done, like pumpkin carving.

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This year I let Oona do all her own tracing and cutting. The only help I gave was removing the pieces, since it was a bit fiddly for her.

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They made such a glorious mess.

You know who wasn’t complaining about that, though? The pigs! Pumpkin day means it’s time for their annual treat of pumpkin guts.

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They loooooove pumpkins. In a few days (before total rotting can set in), they will be given the Jack o’lanterns as well. But for now, we are enjoying our day of handiwork!

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Emily’s Raven, and my “Nightmare Before Christmas” theme.

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Oona’s pumpkin

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Neve’s pumpkin.

Now that Pumpkin day is accomplished, there is only really Trick or Treating left. Tonight we’ll watch Hocus Pocus and bask in the last remaining glorious bit of October before it is done.

Autumn Delights

It’s officially autumn now, and today it certainly feels it. It’s rainy and chilly, and the trees are showing the faintest hints of changing color. Only one mum plant from last year made it to this year, but it’s my favorite color, so that’s at least something!

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I bought two more in orange and yellow; hopefully I’ll get around to planting them soon!

It’s also time again for me to play with yarn and dyes, and combined with all the baking I’ve been doing, the house smells of wool and cinnamon. It’s heavenly!

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Apple pie is most definitely our favorite treat this time of year.  As always, I use Smitten Kitchen’s All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough. 

As for the filling, I sprinkle dry tapioca on the bottom crust, and toss in chopped apples mixed with cinnamon and sugar.  Add some dabs of butter, cover it with a second slab of crust, and voila!

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We’ve been hogging out on the pie and my Butternut Squash and Apple Soup.  Last night I changed it up just slightly by adding a teaspoon of boiled apple cider along with everything else. It added a whole other layer of delicious.  The combination of all these things makes for such a lovely, cozy evening.

But, though it’s not all doom-and-gloom around here, it’s also not all rosy and rainbow unicorns, either.

We are still trying to raise as much as we can to better contain the dogs.  Orzo has an appointment for a neutering, in the hope it will quell some wanderlust (and make him gain enough wait to not be able to clear a 6 foot fence anymore!).  Paul is in talks with a few folks for estimates, and we have made a campaign of aggressive friendliness while out walking the dogs.

Now, let me ask you: have you ever tried walking dogs that have spent their whole lives off leash? It’s getting better, but my first efforts were nothing short of epic disaster.  CIni is 12, after all. They all sort of had this reaction of what fuckery is this???

Cini and Lucy flat out refused to do their “business” while on the leash for the first two days altogether, and there was quite a lot of cleaning up to do in the house from that debacle.

It’s getting better with them, but Lucy is still pretty upset about the whole thing and regularly digs in her paws and refuses to move.

But we’ve been doing our best, and trying to greet as many people as we can with them.  We already know quite a lot of our neighbors who are wonderful, but we’ve seen a few out and about we haven’t met yet. A couple have been unfriendly and refuse to wave back or acknowledge us; but they’ve been few. Oh, humanity. You’re a crazy, messed up, beautiful, awful thing!

Our nearest neighbor told us she misses having Lucy keeping guard over her and her dogs; Lucy, for her part, seems to miss them as well, and keeps pulling me hard to get over there to greet them.

Sabine and Orzo are firmly chained up at the moment. We have no idea how else to keep them close while we await fencing options. They are not happy at all; Orzo has been whining and barking non-stop. Sabine just seems defeated.  It breaks my heart. But, they have shelter and access to food and water, even if they are unable to chase off any threats.

I’m cautiously optimistic; we’ll figure out something. In the meantime, we are hoping to keep some donations coming in so we can be sure we area able do things right!

And, lest you think it’s only the dogs that are tough to contain, I leave you with this hilarity:

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