Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December 31st

Christmas Cookie Challenge

The Gate

At the end of the lane there was a gate, and that was as far as we ever went, well, except for a few steps. But it was a sort of natural boundry, a turning point. You could rest a minute, savouring the crispness of the woods, the quiet. It was a good place to stop, to turn back to the house awaiting you down the hill, to the hot pot of tea and cookies. But sometime I want to go beyond it, to explore......

And so we come to the end of the challenge! I expect many more walks await me, past gates, through chapters in my life. There is nothing like a good walk to rejuvenate the soul.

I have had a wonderful and blessed year in 2008! I look forward to seeing what is around the bends in the road of 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December 30th

Christmas Cookies Challenge

I'm surprising myself, but you know, I think I'm ready to put away all the Christmas decorations and start the new year. Usually I feel like dragging my feet when it comes to putting the decor away, it's so pretty and makes the house so cheerful, but this time I'm feeling a need to refocus and get rolling again.

What's up with this, bah, humbug?

(Maybe I should eat some more Christmas goodies.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

December 29th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

The snow is disappearing and rain has been falling a bit today, but I don't know how long it will last. Whatever, it is much warmer than it has been, which raises the question of just how many layers I should put on for a walk? Really, that does seem the most difficult thing about this whole propostion.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

December 27th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Wow! My youngest brother's eleventh birthday is today! We're all getting so old. He shares his birth date with my grandmother, who told everyone he was going to be born on her birthday; though I don't think she believed it herself. Well, surprise, surprise!

Happy birthday Little Brother!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Quilled Ornaments

I always feel like everyone else has all the good ideas. Especially if I spend too much time browsing blogs. They can be very inspirational, but they sometimes leave me feeling an inferiority complex. "Wow, why can't I ever think of anything that creative?" God has given me creativity and talent in some areas and I need to remember to be thankful for those gifts and utilize them, while I still appreciate the talents of others.

Most of the time I don't think of myself as too creative, but every once in a while I come up with something and really impress myself. Let me share with you something that I thought was quite brilliant on my part and brought all these thoughts on creativity about. It makes me very excited to be a channel for Divine inspiration!

Here is a Partridge pattern for a pillow and ornament out of a book called Country Christmas Crafts that we've had for a long time. Several years ago I got the idea to use the pattern but transfer it to a small stocking. It turned out really cute and I made one for all my sisters, grandmother, friend, etc.

You can just see the pillow and ornament the pattern was originally made for:

And the stocking I made for myself:

And then another Christmas I made all my sisters ornaments using a pattern for quilled snowflakes from Martha Stewart as the inspiration. Only, I couldn't find quilling paper so I made do using strips of white card stock cut in narrow strips. I also improvised since I didn't have a quilling tool; I used a Q-tip and rolled the paper tightly around the stick.

I try to make all my sisters handmade ornaments each year, and the combination of those two projects was the inspiration for this year's Christmas ornaments.

Quilled Partridge:

Which led me to something else, which I made especially for my mother who loves country things, especially woolly sheep, even though her herd of "girls" is goats.

The sheep I think turned out to be my personal favorite. Again, no quilling paper, just strips of white card stock, a Q-tip and wooden toothpick for slightly tighter curves. They aren't too hard, I really should put together a tutorial for next year.

And I think the hidden moral of this post could be that we all have creativity within ourselves, but we must focus on and nurture our natural gifts and not covet the gifts and abilities of others. And I need to take more time to be creative!

December 26th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

I slept in this morning, and though I consequently accomplished almost nothing today, I'm not sorry I did. I actually awoke before my alarm clock went off and I had a slightly sore throat. After debating it for a little bit, I decided I wouldn't get up early after all and got up and turned the alarm on the clock off and went back to bed. It worked - I was fine when I finally got out of bed. Except, I always have trouble waking up when I sleep late. I'm not sure if the sore throat was because we took family pictures in the cold, cold snow yesterday or because I'm fighting something.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Images


Monochromatic fruit with shining berries:

The top of the refrigerator:

And my favourite:

Isn't he darling?

I hope you had a wonderful, Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

December 24th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Looking at my task list, which includes quite a bit of baking, it is in competition with Santa's Christmas list! It's actually not going too badly, but I'll hold judgement on my diligence till later. I sometimes find that I start really well, but get lacks with confidence and then, Oh well!

I'm off then to give all due diligence to my work!

Happy Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December 23th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

We have yet more snow falling - it is wonderful! I've thought ever since we moved here that I would like to look across the valley and just see a blanket of rolling white, dotted here and there with the farms. And it actually is covered in snow! I don't know if that happens very often.

My neck does feel much better today, and I think I would like to go for a walk, if someone else will walk Miss Ish. I think that would be too much under the circumstances.

Well, I have great plans for the day, but days have a way of having great plans for themselves. We shall see what happens.

Monday, December 22, 2008

December 22nd

Christmas Cookie Challenge

The Joyful Morn is Breaking

The joyful morn is breaking, the brightest morn on earth,Through all creation waking the joy of Jesus’ birth.His star above is glistening, where Jesus cradled lies,And all the earth is listening, the carol of the skies.

High strains of praise are swelling, from angel hosts on high,And one soft voice is telling glad tidings from the sky;Tidings of free salvation, of peace on earth below,Through every land and nation, the blessèd word shall go.

His children’s songs shall name Him in many a tongue today;His Church shall yet proclaim Him to people far away;Till idols fall before Him, till strife and wrong shall cease,Till all the earth adore Him, th’eternal Prince of Peace.

Lyrics from CyberHymnal.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Authentic Shortbread

The recipe is one my grandmother makes and is from an old English Cookbook that she brought to the states with her. Here are the ingredients for real shortbread, but the key really is in the baking. Long and slow. America is a wonderful country, but they rush their shortbread. And that just won't do.

1/2 lbs. flour (1 cup)
1/4 lbs. butter (1/2 cup)
2 oz. sugar (1/4 cup)

Beat sugar and butter to cream. Using a pastry blender or knives, cut flour in until mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Press into a 7" tin and bake for 50 minutes at 3oo degrees. I've adjusted the oven temperature slightly from what my grandmother uses, but she likes her shortbread more brown. She bakes it at 325 degrees, but I don't know if she cooks it quite as long. The lower temperature gives you good flavor and a lovely light color. While still warm, sprinkle with granulated sugar, and cut. Cool in tin (pan). Store cookies in an airtight container to keep them fresh.

We usually triple or quadruple the recipe and cook in a large pan with the crumb mixture pressed to about 1/2" thick.

For my brother's wedding I pressed the crumb mixture into mini muffin cups and adjusted the baking time accordingly. It made for a nice presentation on the tea buffet. A little time consuming though, so fortunately my sisters finished up the project.

These cookies are perfect for a four o'clock cuppa'.

December 20th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

Friday, December 19, 2008

December 19th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

I got a holiday note in my statement from the bank the other day. It read: May you enjoy health, happiness and prosperity throughout the new year.

Are they trying to tell me something?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rose Hip Swags

Every once in a while I have brilliantly creative ideas and here is one of them:

Beautiful strands of cranberries hanging in swags round the tree, adding a deep richness to your Christmas tree. I've always liked the idea, but with the price of cranberries, not to mention I don't like the idea of wasting food, it never happened.

But, I was doing something at the kitchen sink not long ago and I spotted a bowl of rose hips my little brother had gathered for me when I was trying to dose up on vitamin C. They had dried into the most beautiful jewel red color and it hit me; gather rose hips froum the mountainside and string them for the Christmas tree!

These could go very rustic country, but they dress up nicely with our ornaments for a perfect fit to our elegant country style of decor.

And I must say, thanks to help from two of my little sisters, we got them all strung. Thank you girls, don't they look pretty?

December 18th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

It has been a long time since I had coffee early in the morning, but I decided I just might need to the extra caffeine this morning. I'm not sure it worked. Well, at any rate, I have to make a pot of tea here soon for the family and I can have some of that. It probably won't wake me up any more, but I'll feel better about being tired.

And welcome to my brother and sister-in-law who just moved to the area! They really didn't have the best weather for their move, but they are here safely. In fact, the only real trouble they had might have been on our hill trying to get the trailer up in the snow! We get to have them here until they find a place in town.

I really think that even if they find a place before Christmas they better spend Christmas Eve up here because I have announced that we are opening gifts early this Christmas morning. We'll see what happens. Even though I had lots of support for my proclamation, most importantly from Father and Mother, old habits are hard to break. You know, I just thought of something, we haven't done it for twenty-eight Christmases, so we should be okay.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

December 17th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

The girls stayed up very late last night talking. You can only imagine the subjects we encompassed, but let's just say it started out with bad habits. Apparently if you do something for twenty-eight days it becomes a habit. My question is this, if you don't do a bad habit for twenty-eight days, do you break it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December 16th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

The city with the closest weather to our place in the country says its -2 degrees Fahrenheit. Brrr, I can believe it!

The Christmas tree is up, the lights are illuminating the room softly and I'm drinking my morning's hot water from a Christmas mug. I've learned to drink my water hot because I was drinking too much tea and coffee, and cold water makes me freeze!

My sister has a friend out from town spending the night and I need to go finish making the Pumpkin and Oatmeal muffins for breakfast. I ground the flour last night and mixed up the dry ingredients. When you grind your own flour, you have to plan ahead so you don't have to run the grinder early in the morning when people would really like to be sleeping!

Monday, December 15, 2008

December 15th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Finally! The tree is up and there are some cedar boughs decorating the house! Even though there is a thick layer of snow outside, I think I should go collect a little more greenery. Today perhaps. We'll see, the task list is a bit long and that just might not make it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

December 13th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

It is going to be a white walk today. The winter weather has finally arrived and we have a few inches of snow.

Apparently, Miss Ish really likes snow. She is refusing to go inside and prefers romping in the cold, white fluff. She reminds me of a child.

Friday, December 12, 2008

December 12th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

What to prioritize, that is the question.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December 11th

I picked up several cooking videos at the library and yesterday I started watching the Jacques Pépin Fast Food My Way. I love the inspiration of watching a professional chef. Mother and my siblings are watching it with me and our favorite part is when he dices the garlic. Watching that knife fly across the smashed garlic dicing it is incredible. And the butter roses, I really need to give those a try.

The one thing is, he uses a lot of olive oil and when he says a "little bit" he uses what seems like overkill to me. After all, that would be a lot of walking!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December 10th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Oh, do I like this keyboard! I'm up at the cabin at the moment and this is spiffy. Hmm, I've been thinking about trying to do my writing up here and now that my "little" brother will be in the cabin, he'll probably keep it warmer and make it a very viable option. Very nice.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

December 9th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

I think I really would like to start decorating for Christmas. You shouldn't decorate too early, but it's not too early anymore. I want to start feeling the season; the smell of greenery, tiny lights that make you think dreamy thoughts on a quiet evening, baking, Christmas carols. I'm ready to savor the season.

Which means I ought to do some more cleaning today. Which means I had better go draw up a task list. Which means I need to get myself a nice hot cup of tea.

Monday, December 8, 2008

December 8th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

If our little piece of earth was a cookie, we got dusted with sugar this morning. Much to the disappoinment of my brothers it wasn't a blizzard.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

December 6th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

It is already the 6th and my mental "I want to have it done early in the month" is still woefully unaccomplished.

Today seems like a good day to have a nice hot beverage (I'm not sure what yet) and do some planning. And hopefully I can just tick a few things off the list as well, without procrastinating.

And, I have to fit that walk in somewhere. Maybe a nice long one all the way to the gate to really invigorate me.

Friday, December 5, 2008

December 5th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Oops - look at the time! School is early this morning and I need to rouse the troops. We are supposed to be starting a spelling test and I need to brew a pot of tea real quick. Aren't I kind to provide a fresh pot of hot tea when I wake them up early on a cold, cold morning?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

December 4th

Christmas Cookie Challenge

Brrr. What a brisk morning! It is one of those times that even though I like getting up early, I miss the warmth of my snug bed. Hot water, hot tea and just grin and brrrr it.

My mother and I were in the kitchen yesterday when Twiglet turns and asks me, "Are parents expensive?" She gave me pause, of course she hadn't just asked that, but she had to have. My mind couldn't figure any other word for parents and I was certain about the other two words. Where was she going with this? I repeated the question back to her, "Are parents expensive?"

"No, are parrots expensive?"

Mum and I answered her first question with a laugh, "yes, very."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

December 3rd

Christmas Cookie Challenge

My grandmother left yesterday to return home. She has to make shortbread for a ladies tea my aunt is putting on for her church. Real shortbread, that is. They had shortbread last year, but my grandmother asked my aunt, "where's the shortbread?" When it was pointed out to her she replied, "that's not shortbread." Well, my aunt said, "it's not the recipe you taught me." And my grandmother simply said, "It's not shortbread."

I really ought to share the recipe for real shortbread with you one of these days. I love the old English cookbook it came out of, with faded cover, worn pages, the love of many recipes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December 2nd

Christmas Cookie Challenge

It is one of my brothers birthday's today! A very reasonably excuse for cake, even though he isn't currently living in the area. We can think of him, can't we?

As darkness fades, the rain is pitter pattering on the roof. Unless it clears up a little, it might be a dance with the sisters day.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Denim Skirt

Of course, and I think just about all of us did it. We’re madly rushing to finish ball gowns before a trip, and just as we’re pretty much done, we decide to squeeze one more project in before we leave. Here’s my squeezed in project:

I love this fabric called Baby Roses on Cream. It makes a sweet waistband lining.

The denim was extra from a skirt Retro Girl made and I washed it in black dye to give it a very slightly darker color. I had just enough fabric, but then I forgot I had to turn the pattern pieces over to cut out the second pieces. Oops. Fortunately I was making the hips straighter and I was able to work the pieces to fit anyways. I used Simplicity 9825 and depending on how you look at it, I either lengthened View C, or shortened View D.

And an action shot with sister's Aussie. Don't you just love those gloves? Authentic vintage from my grandmother.

Christmas Cookie Challenge

This is not the sort of challenge I think you are expecting. Not how many cookies you can bake, not how many you can eat, not the best recipe, but very disappointingly; how can you enjoy them without having to try a new fad diet in January.

It seems like every year people talk about going on diets when the new year rolls around after all their holiday indulgences. I was thinking about this since my weight is just about where I want it and I don't want to have to lose holiday pounds come 2009. I also have wanted to work on getting in better shape (no pun intended).

My goal for December is going to be to try and get a good walk in every day, except for Sunday. I'll probably stick to walking, but if you would like to join the challenge, you can do whatever works best for you: running, dancing, ice skating, snowball fights, skiing, etc. And you don't have to do the same thing each day. The idea is to get in some good exercise each day and bump up the calories you'll be burning.

I don't suppose that means you can eat whatever you want, but let's face it, this is a feast time and there are just more calories to be consumed, even if you partake judiciously. (I'm sorry about using that word, it does rather throw a damper on things.)

I'll post each day and you can leave a comment reporting in on your status. Let's try not to turn it into an excuses column, but keep each other motivated. "I couldn't walk today because the weather was awful, and I had to run into town - but I was determined to keep up so I danced with my sister for ten minutes. I'm sure it added to my enjoyment of those cream puffs." See what I mean?

I thought it would be extra fun if I did it with others. You can set your own pace, and do what works for you. Would you like to join?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Pies

Cherry Pie:
I love the warm glow in this picture. The softness of it reminds me of the images I conjure of Thanksgivings long ago. In the foreground, cherry pie from the canning efforts of the summer. I like to use Thanksgiving as an official mark of the changing seasons. I don't open any home canned goods until preparations for the Thanksgiving feast are underway. Apple and pumpkin pie are in the background.

Apple Pie:

And here's a picture with natural lighting. I used the ingredients as inspiration for the decoration. Apples of course, and wheat since the crust is made from freshly ground flour from Soft White Wheat grown by a local farmer.

Whole Grain Pastry Crust:
4 cups Soft White Wheat flour (Pastry Flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup natural vegetable shortening
1 cup very cold water
Mix together flour and salt, chill in refrigerator. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles course crumbs with some shortening still the size of small peas. Make sure the shortening isn't too soft, chill slightly if you need to. Toss water into flour mixture by tablespoonful working all around mixture. Once all the water in incorporated, toss with fork until any dry area are incorporated into moist areas. Press lumpy mixture together and work into smooth ball. This should make two double crust pies.

It's just about time to eat those pies. Something to be very thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Latest Fascination

Plums have been quite my thing this year. Well, I've always had a thing with plums, but this is an entirely different thing. The fascination that has been inspired in me this year is not only the bounty of them, but the variety. Just look at the specimens below, all picked within a lot less than an acre of each other. Fascinating, very fascinating.

I of course wanted to make plum jam and take advantage of the wild bounty. The purple plum jam was first, and then when we found the yellow plums, why I had to make yellow plum jam too. And then my little sister discovered the green plums, I simply had to make some of them into green jam. I really couldn't resist.

Interesting, I'll allow. Especially all by its little lonesome.

But all three together? I think they're rather fetching.

Friday, November 14, 2008

As the seasons change….

Having moved to a new state just a little over a year ago, I’m still adjusting to the new area. There are things I miss about the old countryside: the sun rising over the mountain range, rolling green fields, trees, rain, fog and our sweet cottage.

It was fall when we moved and some of my last and best memories of the area are walking early in the morning, when the mist still hung heavy in the air. I would go down our long driveway, along the road past a little house with two large birch trees in the yard, with their golden orange leaves falling softly on the ground; peeping up in the grass were whimsical toadstools. It was just as if I passed a page in a fairy book each morning, its own little picture shrouded in the fog. At the oak tree, I would turn off the country road down between two fields, the ruts of tires cutting into the grass, a wheel line stretching away into the mist marking my path. As I walked, little drops of the vapor would cling to the wisps of wool on my hat, taking me into the magic crispness of the morning.

I love fog. I love the way it romanticizes the every day and ordinary, turning the landscape into softened silhouettes, emerging them one at a time as you draw nearer into dew laden pictures, shutting out the past, hiding the future, and silencing the present. Fog is like fairyland, and into the mist your spirit soars and you can dream.

That is what I miss the most; early morning walks through misty landscapes.

Wherever I go, there are treasures to be found. I don’t have the same beautiful misty mornings here. We get fog, but it is different, somehow. Up on our mountain, I’m enjoying a new season in my life. In the winter the cold snow fell and I got to go sledding, a winter sport I haven’t enjoyed for a long time. And one of my favorite memories from our first winter here was a walk up the snowy mountain, in the soft light of evening with my mum and several siblings, while little snowflakes twirled and fell softly in the gathering dusk. It was another chapter to add to my fairy memories.

With spring came an abundance of wildflowers in a surprising variety. Whenever I ventured outdoors it seemed I discovered a new specimen or another color of the same flower. I flower lover at heart, it was as if a treasure chest had been given me. For many weeks I delighted myself with arrangements of the wild beauties that brought spring indoors.

As spring faded into summer, the bounty of the wild fruit began to unfurl its arms of plenty as wild cherries ripened, raspberries were discovered, apples began to grow, pears started forth after the blossom of their flowers. There is something about the bounty of the wild that hearkens to the pioneer that must lurk somewhere deep within me, and something that makes me have to pause to marvel at such an awesome God giving such richness and treasure to us.

As fall came, the fruits of summer ripened and more surprises greeted me. Yes, I knew there were plums; in fact there were several varieties of purple plums. At least I think you would qualify them as purple, though they were not the strictest hue of that color. But I was thrilled to discover yellow and green plums too! And in one area all three grew near each other. Down a little lane through the shrubbery that when snow covered it, looked like a path into a storybook, and in the light of late summer, beautiful, plump fruit was the fulfillment of a sweet plot.

As I was approaching my trip back East, I thought back to four years previous when I had last been there. I had expected many changes, and I looked forward to them. But if you I told me where I would be today, I would have been very surprised. I don’t think even my wild imaginations could have turned my life through the paths it has taken. It was fun to think back and try to imagine myself seeing me where I am today. It's almost like taking a peek into someone else's life.

I never would have planned the changes that have happened as they have, and yet, I am thankful for them as they are.

Cold winds blow, the first light snow has already fallen and a full year on the mountain has already turned round. I’ll always miss those romantic foggy mornings, but I’m cherishing every exciting discovery as I turn the pages on my new adventures. And someday again, I’d like to pause, and think upon where I am in the future from the perspective of the past.

I wonder where the road of my life leads?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Five Little Ladies and How They Flew

Our tickets were booked four months in advance and then we anxiously awaited the arrival of our departure to visit three sisters on the East Coast.

Our visit took on even more excitement when we were invited to attend a ball while we were visiting. Eight girls and a chance to dress up! Actually, one of my sisters wasn’t too happy about the idea. But then of all five of us, she was asked to dance the most, and I think she changed her mind and had lots of fun.

We decided to make all our dresses for the ball so the last few weeks before our departure was a mad rush of fabric purchases, humming sewing machines, spools of thread, gathering yards of tulle for petticoats, etc. I think the threads were still settling as we finished packing and headed to the airport.

Of course we were expecting to have fun on our adventure. That was why we went, right? But we were not expecting to have that much fun! It was incredible!

Our hosts were wonderful. We felt right at home the moment we walked in the door. They are incredibly fun, inspiring and witty people. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but very soon we were not less friends, but more sisters. And there were a few times when we accidently referred to each other’s parents as our own. It was fun to see how many things that aren’t usual that we had in common. They don’t have a microwave, we don’t have a microwave. They don’t have a toaster, we don’t have a toaster.

The father of the girls took a day off work to escort us all to D.C. We walked for several hours solid taking in as many landmarks as possible. The trip culminated with a tour of our Capitol and then a very long walk back to the car. And then we ate just about every scrap of food in the car. We’d earned it. But because there were so many girls, it was perhaps surprising. Do you know how good it feels to eat food you really feel you’ve earned?

My sisters and I had never been to a ball before and didn’t know any of the dances, so before we left a friend came up and coached us in the two she knew and then once we got into town, Tricia, Theresa and Hannah dedicated many hours to teaching us the dances. After our adventures in D.C. the next day we still practiced the dances and then went to the Ball that evening. My legs actually didn’t feel like falling off, somewhat to my surprise.

On Sunday we went to church and then we had company over for lunch. I mean, they had more company over for lunch. :) It was fun to get to know their brother and his wife and little boy better, and two family friends that were a blast. We played volleyball, Ultimate Frisbee and shared our “intellectual game”. This was really funny because all of us had figured it out earlier in our visit on the way to D.C., so the only people that didn’t know the rules were the three guys. We had them calling for “men’s rights,” and “what about men’s suffrage?”

Our fast paced trip wound down with exploring the ruins of an old factory, learning some more new games, watching movies, deep talks, looking at pictures, singing together and discussing our week. I knew it was going to be a week of many wonderful memories, but they are sweeter yet than ere I expected. Such a blessing was an answer to prayers for a very special trip that would uplift us all.

On our way home our plane had engine trouble and we ended up missing our connecting flight. After the substitute the airline had arranged wouldn’t take us, Delta paid for two hotel rooms and meal vouchers so we could catch our flight the next morning. We saved the PB&J sandwiches Mrs. M had sent for our dinner for a quick breakfast and tried the hotel restaurant. Which I’m afraid was a disappointment. The food was good, but the service was very inattentive and then we had a little more trouble with them. I think perhaps because it was five young ladies, but I can’t say for sure.

All five of us wore hats to travel, and as we were getting off the shuttle from the hotel the next morning, the driver asked if we were a singing or dancing group, “No, sisters,” I replied, and he asked, “nuns?”

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Six Random Things Tag

I've been tagged!

The Rules of the game are as follows:
~Link to the person who tagged you.
~Post the rules on your blog.
~Write Six Random Things about yourself.
~“Tag” six-or-so other people at the bottom of your post…
~…And leave comments on their blogs, letting them know they’ve been tagged.
~Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve written the post.
I don’t usually do things like this, but Annie at Little Miss Oakley tagged me. The things I do for my little sisters. :)

Six Random Things About Me (T.W.)

1. I have three younger brothers and four younger sisters. And, I also have older siblings.

2. I would love to go dry camping sometime, but with just the right people.

3. I was told recently that I was a lot more fun than expected and prettier in real life. That really was a very fun conversation.

4. People often think I’m a lot younger than I really am. When I was younger, they thought I was a lot older than I was.

5. I miss foggy mornings, and an early walk through the mist that left dew drops clinging to my hat and scarf.

6. I like etiquette and cook books.

I can’t think of anyone I’d like to tag, but please do it if you want to.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pear Delight

Canned pears
Vanilla ice cream
Cream, whipped
Carmel Sauce
Coarsely chopped pecans

For each dessert: Place one pear half on plate with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Top with a dallop of whipping cream, swirl carmel sauce over dessert and sprinkle with nuts. Savour!

This is how I think it should be served. My family is of the opinion I don't know how it really ought to be done. They would suggest at least two pear halves per dessert, several scoops of ice cream, a generous drop of whipping cream, and lots of carmel sauce and nuts. Uh, huh - if I need a comfort dessert that sounds like a good idea. But on general principal, no.

I canned special pears just for this dessert taking great pains to make sure the stems were attached. I'm very into presentation - most of the time. There are other times when that heaped up bowl of delicious goodness is just fine.

I made my own carmel sauce from an adapted carmel candy recipe but I boiled it too long and it hardened into candy on the dessert. Still good, but I think I'll opt for a little less boiling next time. I need to perfect the recipe since it is made with honey and I'm working on collecting really good honey recipes.

Father and Mum used to go on dates to this little restaurant nearby called The Village Trolley which served this dessert. This is the version mother created for the family to enjoy at home. Well, at least the principle, I came up with the smaller portions. The restaurant closed down, but the dessert lives on in the family repetoire.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Harvest Cake

I originally tried the recipe for this cake because it was so pretty, not because I expected a chocolate cake with a creamy pumpkin filling to be particularly good. But it was good, so good. It is Mum's favorite cake now. This is the first one of the fall season and I expect I'll be making a few more.

This particular cake really was very fortunate to be in existance. Almost out of butter, almost out of cocoa, and I didn't have enough honey - even though I had already halved the recipe (there are supposed to be two layers of chocolate cake). I did have enough sugar so I substituted, but I didn't think the cake was as good. The honey adds an extra richness that really brings out the chocolate.

A hike up the road and then a turn off down a grassy lane to a wild plum patch, then a little further and there was an elderberry tree. The rose hips were collected on the way back. And, Twiglet decided that those green plums had been green an awful long time and what if they were supposed to be green? They are. Ripe, tasty and very fun. I need to hike up and get some more.

It's only been a few days, but I think I'm ready for another Harvest Cake. The cupboards are restocked, except for the cocoa, which we're going to have to find a local supply for buying in bulk.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The leaves are starting to turn, the air is fresh and crisp, and the wonderful smell of Autumn is in the air.

Father was taking one of my pupils with him for a day of woodcutting with friends, so we all took the day off school and I worked on getting out my fall/winter clothes and going over them to see what I will need to get for the cooler seasons.

I walked up the hill to the neighbors with my sister so she could feed their Pugs, and the other neighbors herd of goats spied us and started following. We got a bit ahead of them on the road, and they started bawling and it quite amused me. It sounded just like they were saying, "Hey ma, wait up!" We discouraged them and managed to get to the neighbors but as we were heading home, they were coming trotting back down the road from the opposite direction we had taken. "Oops, they didn't go this way ma, we would have seen them by now. I think we better turn around." They came thundering after us and I wasn't so certain we weren't going to get run down, but they ran around us and then escorted us back home. At the last minute we made a run for it and closed the gate so they couldn't follow us onto our property.

Tis' the season and today I tried a new recipe for gingerbread cookies. Miracle of miracles, I didn't even have to substitute ingredients, though I did halve the recipe. You have to chill the dough so tomorrow I shall bake them and see how they taste. Some of my absolute favorite cookies are Anna's Ginger Thins so I might try to come up with a similar cookie. If I can't, I do hope Costco is still carrying them - now that is the way to purchase those crisp bits of deliciousness!

Crisp air, changing leaves, spicy goodies. Fall is perhaps my favorite season.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wild Plums

Plums, plums and more plums! Last week I canned fourteen 12 ounce jars of plum jam. This week....

....On Monday I made six quarts of yellow plum juice which I canned on Tuesday before heading into town for errands and a hair appointment. I was quite pleased to get so much juice, I really wasn't expecting that. We don't have juicing equipment so I used Mummy's method*.

On Wednesday I canned 18 quarts of plum halves**! Wow, wee! One of my sisters came through in the beginning and helped me pit an entire quart, and then gave up on the project. Thankfully, Twiglet came through and helped me pit the next twelve quarts of plums.

Thursday I made more jam, but I only canned four 12 ounce jars and let the rest cool in bowls for enjoying now.

There are still a few more plums in the house and I'm thinking about a plum cobbler and a kuchen. I was going to do it today, but instead we went to the county fair! We perused all sort of entries, ran into a few friends and shared onion rings, funnel cake and Carmel popcorn! I think it will be fun to go back next year, hopefully a little earlier in the day - and maybe even try doing a few entries!

Well, there are still more plums on the wild trees around here and despite the fact that canning them made my hands look so brown and icky that one of my brothers even suggested I try gloves, I'm still game for putting some more up. My hands recover quick enough and the satisfaction the accomplishment gives you is really quite worth it.

And I do want to try making some yellow plum jam.

*Plum Juice

Cook ripe fruit until soft in a little bit of water to prevent scorching. Mash and cool. Strain/press through several thicknesses of cheese cloth. Heat juice to boiling, pour into clean jars and screw on sterilized lids and rings. Let cool and voila! I wanted the juice a tiny bit more clear and re-strained it through fresh layers of cheese cloth overnight and then processes it the next day. It's still not perfect, but it was much better. It's the first time I recollect making juice and I should look into it a bit more.

**Plums Halves

Wash free stone plums. Halve and pit, place in clean quart jars. For each quart of plums place about a tablespoon or more of honey on top of plums and pour boiling water until about one and a half inches from top. Make sure top rim of jar is clean, place sterilized lids and rings on jars, tighten. Place in pressure canner with about one inch of warm (not too hot) water. Place jars carefully in canner, bring water to boil and follow canner instructions to process fruit at fifteen pounds pressure for zero minutes. (Don't try this at home! Really, this is how I did it, but I don't guarantee the method. Should you choose to use this method, proceed at your own risk.:))

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

It Was an Omen

I'm an aunt! Junior as he as been called, made his appearance yesterday evening. My sister-in-law couldn't have been more right when she jokingly commented that Labor Day was an omen. The little guy came into the world and now bears the impressive IV after his name as he bears the same name as his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Last night after we heard the news we celebrated with Sparkling Cider Floats - which we just happened to have the ingredients for! I can't wait to see the little guy!

The first day of school got off to a good start with the buzz of excitement we were all feeling - or perhaps in spite of the buzz! Fortunately we had all night to adjust our excitement and be jubilantly tempered!

What a blessing! Welcome to the world little guy! We're proud to have you join our clann.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The End of Summer

I'm supposed to start school tomorrow. I almost wish I had a few more weeks of summer left. Funny, it is my prerogative when school starts, I could delay and draw out the relaxed days of summer just a little bit longer. Alas, I am too dutiful, and tomorrow it shall be. (Sorry, m'dears. Don't you just wish I wasn't quite so dutiful?)

One time my aunt asked me if I liked teaching, and in summary my answer was; "yes, when I remember to." I'm a very task oriented person and it is very easy for me to see each days lessons as tasks to be checked off. Especially when I'm tired and my pupils are being difficult. It happens. That is I suppose one of the disadvantages of being the older sister as well as the teacher. That throws a whole new aspect into the teacher student relationship. They're pretty good, most of the time. But were all human, myself included, which I think adds to the problem. I do wish I were perfect.

Something I've learned over the years is not to be too ambitious. Sometimes you can I have so many good ideas and goals that you get overwhelmed before you even start. I feel it's better to set realistic and achievable goals, and then if you are being consistent in those, slowly expand. Uh, one of these days I'll learn to be consistent in the basics.

There is so much more I wish I were doing when it comes to curriculum, so much that I dream I might by some miracle work into the school year. Well anyway, it's one comfort to think that my siblings are likely to succeed in spite of me. :)

There is a part of me that is feeling slightly burdened by the start of school, and then there is the optimistic me that knows how much I can enjoy it, how much I'll learn and what a privilege I have to be able to impact my younger siblings in such a dynamic way.

Yes, summer break will officially end tomorrow, but the cooler days of late summer and early fall still beckon and I hope to sneak in some more canning and some enjoyment of the soft fall afternoons. And maybe I'll recruit my siblings to go wild plum picking and we'll have a canning lesson. It sounds like a good idea. Will it happen? I don't know.

I should make a note to myself where I'll see it frequently: Enjoy the ordinary moments. It's too easy to forget to enjoy every day life, and why waste a life in unhappiness or just bored acceptance?

Enjoy the ordinary moments. That is something I want to remember not just when I'm explaining a math problem to one of my younger siblings, but in every task I set my hand to do.

Here's to tomorrow and all tomorrows. May God bless them, all of them. (Didn't you know I had that Dickens streak in me?)

P.S. Teaching my younger siblings was my choice. I don't even recall that my parents asked me to do it. I just did it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cleaning Inspiration

His car is immaculate. Every inch of the sporty SUV is polished, inside and out.

When my younger brother first bought the car in an inner family purchase , it was in good condition, but he's a bit of a perfectionist and he slowly began redoing small things that were wearing and looking faded. All the black trim was carefully repainted, the paint was painstakingly given a deep polish and buff to bring out the original luster, and he worked on replacing wearing parts.

It is was a nice car when he got it, now it is the height of respectability. Not only is the car clean, but every polishable surface shines, the carpet is vacuumed, and a miniature garbage can in bright yellow is carefully place between the back seats to keep garbage from littering his pristine vehicle. In the back, a large tote organizes, well, whatever he has in there. I'll have to look next time I see him. Sure I'm a bit nosy, he'll just laugh at me. Anyway, I'm pretty sure it's emergency supplies: water bottles, flares, bug repellent, etc. I wonder if there's traffic cones? Now you can see why I really do need to take a look.

The car is older and he's debated updating for a newer ride. It's especially tempting when all the young guys he works and associates with drive great big fancy new rigs. But he's wise, and when he's tempted, he looks at it financially and decides to stick with the same car for now. And then he goes and gives it another wash.

I'm sure the day will come when he opts for a newer ride, but for now his car is the perfect reflection of the young man; unpretencious, but exuding unquestionable respectability. He works for a contractor and his job can often be dirty, but even there he upholds a standard: no t-shirts. his work attire is an assortment of collared shirts in subtle plaids, usually blue and pressed. I don't see him as a snob about these things, it is merely how he sees fit to live his life.

His personally tidiness is applied to his job as well, when he's driving a vehicle for his employer, it is kept clean, and he does a thorough job. That means he doesn't just clean out the garbage, but the vehicle is washed, probably waxed; he sees to the details. It not just about cleanliness, he gives his all to doing a quality job in whatever area he is working.

Having just seen him recently, I'm feeling a renew of the challenge of his example. There are many areas for which I'm personally responsible that I need to go that extra mile to keep clean and - polish! Most particularly my room. I want my personal responsibilities to be in perfect order and cleanliness so I'm free to serve others with the same standard. It's a wonderful goal to want to be faithful in little so you are prepared to be faithful in much, but sometimes it is easy to forget in the mundane of day to day. I'm so grateful that God has seen fit to give me such a wonderful example.

My brother is quite a guy, and if I wasn't his older sister and he didn't make me scream when I was little, I'm sure I'd have a crush. He's the poster child for those witty mugs: tall, dark and handsome. He's perfectly gorgeous in a top hat and looks like he's should be hob nobbing with the royals, only perhaps he has more presence. I'm not trying to be clever there, he does.

In truth, the only time I think he was ever more gorgeous is when he was about three, with his bottle, blue eyes and a beautiful head of curls.......Though I'm sure I didn't think so at the time.

This past week I've been trying to go through and finish up projects that have been "energy drainers". It seems so easy to keep putting off little things, but then they stay there sapping emotional energy. Do you know how good it feels to finally finish up those little projects that have been nagging at you?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I'm home again after a delightful week visiting at my married siblings!

On the road trip down, father had to stop to get internet service so he could order a part and it would ship and arrive in time. After having my sister pull over, back up and then cut across to the libary parking lot trying to get a good signal for his laptop, he finally decided to go into the local library and use one of their computers. Well, my sister and I had to check out the libary in a large wide spot in the road sort of town. I of course had just painted my nails and couldn't look at the books, but my sister found one on the Queen Mum and we flipped through looking at the pictures. That is until we thought father was ready to leave and we made a quick departure. It turned out he wasn't gone yet, but we never got back to the book. Which is too bad, and perhaps I shall run across another copy of it someday.

At the same large wide spot in the road town at the gas station I walked into the convenience store to be confronted by a cardboard silouette of a race car driver advertising a soft drink. I walked to the back of the store down the hall to the restrooms where another driver was advertising a different soft drink. I smiled. My sister asked me why and I told her, "the other one was better looking." She laughed and told me that is exactly what she had thought, which made us both chuckle because my sisters and I don't notice guys and we thought it immensly amusing that we had the same random thought. Maybe it was only because the second guy reminded us of somebody that I wouldn't classify as be all he is cracked up to be.

Once in town I visited the mother of a young boy I tutored a couple of years ago. My former pupil and two of his sisters were there too. It was fun to see them again and we had a nice visit. There is actually a bit more connetion than just the time I tutored the son. We were neighbors for years and two of my brothers work for his father, as well as one of them being a roommate to the boy's older brother. I had really enjoyed my chats with the mother while tutoring and it was very enjoyable to visit with her again.

We managed to make a girls trip to the beach where we tried to find some maturnity clothes for my sister-in-law, with no luck. I ran into some friends and it was fun to walk up and address them out of no where. They didn't know I was in the state and they were hardly expecting me at the coast. After purusing a few stores at the outlets, we made a quick stop at the beach to brave the cold weather and get our feet wet.

Catching up with a special friend.....relaxing and reading.....visiting with my new walks....listening to my brother telling stories...... lots of cream and watermelon and donuts.....watching my brother work on a beautiful and rustic frame for a mirror.....coming home to some new room arrangements and....

....Rain! The perfect end to a relaxing week. I love rain! I think fresh rain is one of my favorite scents! As one of my sister-in-laws said, her three favorite smells are: fresh rain, cut grass and garlic french bread!

I had a wonderful week, but there is nothing quite so sweet as home. Sometimes I think it is nice to leave, just so you can come back.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tea Tales

In our household tea is not a luxury, it is an everyday necessity. There is always a fresh pot in the morning to start the day, sometimes one around eleven, though often we have coffee at this time, accept father who doesn’t drink coffee but once in a blue moon, and then four o’clock tea.

For as long as I can remember, tea has been part of our life. Father always had his tea mug, which changed fairly frequently, either with the latest gift, or when it got broken, but the mug was always big. Father takes honey and cream in his tea (cream as in milk), but mother just has cream. And so it has passed down; all the gentlemen in our family drink their tea like father, with perhaps one exception, and all the girls take theirs like mother.

Last year I was with my four younger sister in the first group to arrive on a camping trip to Hells Gate State Park on a warm summer day. We arrived at about four o’clock in the afternoon and set up camp, including the propane stove because no matter if it was nigh 100 degrees, I wanted my afternoon cup of tea! We set up a very cute little camping area, with white wooden boxes, stainless steel dishes and donned adorable aprons.

Then came the propane stove. I had never actually set up a propane stove before, but how hard can it be? We got the stove set up and turned it on, put on a pot of water and started worrying about the funny smell. All safety conscious, that aroma was not right, so we kept a close eye on the stove, thinking back over the setup and worrying. Pretty soon I noticed the flame, not from the burner, but from the feed valve from the cylinder. Aught, oh, we have a problem.

I wasn’t certain just shutting the propane off was such a good idea, that cylinder had me a little worried, the last thing I wanted was to create an explosion. We had a fire extinguisher, but was that going to work? Now is when you call your brother, who is very fortunately a volunteer Firefighter.

(Don’t let that volunteer fool you, those guys have to have all the same basic certification as the paid guys, they volunteer countless hours, and they don’t get paid. Go volunteers!)

After much discussion, my brother said to go ahead and wait for the park people to arrive, which some of my sisters had gone speeding off to get. This was dry Idaho, we didn’t want to be responsible for starting a wildfire. Now, don’t ask me why the guys in the camping space almost directly across from ours didn’t come over and at least offer some assistance. It would have seemed to me that the casual observer would have realized we had a problem.

Anyway, my sister and I were watching the fire gradually getting larger and larger until the entire stove was engulfed in flames. My brother had told us to use the extinguisher if it got too bad, and at that point I decided we had reached the too bad stage and told my sister to hit it. And she did, with great delight, since she has always wanted to use an extinguisher.

The young Park Ranger did eventually arrive and he disconnected the propane cylinder and told us they had been having trouble with that particular type of stove (I don't know, we've had the stove for years with never any trouble. Did we not hook it up right?). I thanked him for his assistance and told him, “All I wanted was a cup of tea!”

Hot weather, hot tea. We’re talking Idaho – do you think he was worried he’d strayed into a female nut house?

He can think what he will, there I times if I didn’t have a nice cup of tea, I would go nuts!

If it’s a bad day around our house, we refer to it as a whole pot day. In other words, one person could drink the whole pot! This goes back to an old family story about a grandmother having difficulty changing a baby and when she was done, she made herself a pot of tea, “and drank the whole thing.”

I understand perfectly.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Relating the Bible to Day to Day

Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. Psalm 34:19

The honest truth is I got a rather sinking feeling when I read that verse this morning. Uh, huh. I had a bad feeling about that afflictions part. Well, I had to go to work this afternoon and where I'm working is away off in the mountains, over mostly gravel road. Now, add to that they had just oiled and graveled the paved section. When I got to my destination there was a very depressing hissing coming from one of the tires, and it was very shortly flat. ..."but the Lord delivered him out of them all." I tried to draw assurance from that while I worked and the lady I was helping had her husband change the tire for me when he got home.

Just a little reminder I guess that the Bible relates to our modern lives.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The mind of man plans his way...

Saturday was not what I expected. Yes, we did can 17 quarts of pie cherries, but the one hundred fifty acre wildfire burning towards our house, I did not expect. Praise the Lord that they were able to get it out quickly. No houses or lives were lost, but a farmer did lose quite a bit of grazing land. We had company over from town with lots of little kids, they all pitched right in to do what we could around the house in case it reached us. By tea time, the fire was under control and the lady visiting us surprised her husband when she called to say they were fine and would be able to leave shortly - after they were finished with tea.

Here's a picture of the first batch of preserves. Oh, and I should tell you in justice to Miss Ahem, that she didn't know were were going to pick cherries and didn't even realize we were gone until I was missing. And she did help pick all those pie cherries, which I am very grateful for. The fire didn't burn the wild cherry trees and there's more ripening - want to join me next time Miss Ahem ?(I'm in such good charity with you at the moment, I need to think of another name. :)

Friday, July 25, 2008

More Cherries!

Alas, the picking crew was much smaller this time with two of my sisters out of town, one having to work and, ahem, one just stayed home. So my mother, youngest brother and I went gathering the bounties of the wilds.

We took a ladder, so hopefully we could reach more. But remember that steep bank I mentioned? Were my brother or I allowed on the ladder? No, it was much, much too dangerous! Mother climbed the ladder. That doesn't surprise me. And it didn't surprise me that when the ladder slipped and tipped over sideways sending her to the ground and a bit down the bank, that she determindly got back up and declared over little brothers protests, "I am going to get up there!" I know Mum and I didn't protest, I just helped her back up the bank and watched her resent the ladder while I sent up a prayer. If I were catholic, I would have crossed myself. Mums main worry wasn't falling, it was tipping over the bucket and spilling the cherries. I quietly went about my business, picking cherries that I could reach from the ground. My mother and I, we've picked a lot of berries over the years.

When we got back home Father informed us that the farmer we buy wheat from had asked if we wanted the pie cherries from his tree. So Mum and "Miss Ahem" went to pick more cherries while little brother and I pitted the cherries we'd already picked. We used a straw this time and it worked as slick as a whistle. You poke the straw through the cherries, and the pit pops right out and then when your straw is full of berries, you slide them off. Voila! It didn't work super well on the not quite ripe ones, so we used the hair pins on those. On the ripe ones it worked fine, and splattered just enough juice that I had red freckles all over my face. It's quite a look I assure you. But I got thirteen more jars of preserves, and the freckles washed off.

Today Little Brother helped me pit all those pie cherries from the farmer, this time with a very wonderful cherry stoner. Plip, plip, plip - so sweet. I would have used it on the wild cherries, but it doens't seem to work on small cherries. My hands are very grateful that the pie cherries are big enough to use the stoner. While Little Brother and I canned ten quarts of pie cherries, Mum and Miss Ahem (she's stuck with that name - at least for this post!) went and picked more cherries. Yes, more. That's what I'll be doing tomorrow. And you want to know something? They're planning on making another trip back to that pie tree.

I'm becoming more and more grateful these cherries are big enough to use the stoner and I just love having a little brother that likes to operate it. In fact, I've noticed all the men like the gadget, father even took a turn. I smiled to myself when Little Brother informed his older brother when he tried it, that he didn't have any style or speed. I really liked that style.

There's quite a few cherries sitting on the counter so Little Brother ought to get lots of practice working on his style and speed. And I ought to be in bed now!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Natural Facials

I’ve tried both honey and baking soda as facials before, but wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the results. I have continued to use baking soda, since it helps some, and it certainly didn’t seem to be any worse than the commercial products.

I rediscovered honey and baking soda and now have a very favorable opinion! In the not too distant past, my face was giving me serious trouble and company was coming in a few days and a trip to town wasn’t imminent, so I did I a quick internet search and found honey and baking soda among the most common homemade facials. Well, I’d tried that before, but there was some application instructions that piqued my attention and gave me hope.

Here’s the gist of what I did:

Morning: Using a wash cloth I ran it under hot water and wrung it out, and held it over my face, pressing it gently against my skin, repeating multiple times to really warm the face and open up the pores. Next, I applied honey in a mask, avoiding the eye area. I really don’t have problem with the stickiness on my face - as long as nothing touches it. Make sure your hair is pulled securely away from your face! Leave on for 15 minutes. Wash off with tepid water and rinse face with cold water to close pores.

Evening: Run a wash cloth under hot water, pressing to problem areas, refreshing cloth in water several times to keep it hot. Again, make sure the area is warm and the pores have had a chance to open. Make a paste in your hand of baking soda and a few drops of water till about the consistency of cream (I find a thinner consistency works best. Too thick and it just doesn’t seem to work as well), apply to blemishes. Let dry for 15 minutes. Wash off, rinse with cold water. If you want to know a fact, I have left the baking soda mixture on all night, but the 15 minutes works and it doesn’t dry and fall off all over your pillow and you worry about getting it in your eyes.

Repeat this routine for a week, or until your face is clear, then periodically for problem areas. And if you’re really having trouble, you could do both facials twice daily.

I’ve been very happy with the results. I was only trying to get my face back under control, but realized a goal I’ve had for a long time – not having to wear concealer (foundation) all the time!

The key to the success of this facial routine is making sure your face has been warmed up enough with the water. Another something you can do is rather than using the warm water, steam your face for a quick five minutes over a bowl of boiled water, with a towel draped over your head. Quickly pat with a dry towel to remove excess moisture from the steam and then apply the honey or baking soda immediately. Perfect for early in the morning before anyone else has bestirred themselves. And did you know five minutes is just perfect for brewing a cup of tea to sip while your facial works?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wild Cherries

They were so beautiful, with their ruby spheres hanging in cascading scarlet amongst the green leaves. Perched precariously on the edge of a very steep bank, where the wrong step would send you through bushes and onto the unfriendly rocks below, some of the clan determinedly picked wild cherries. We didn’t get too many, since we valued out necks, but we got enough for some preserves.

I’ve made a bit of jam, some jelly, but never preserves. In fact, I didn’t really know what classified a preserve as a preserve. Now I do. Preserves are fruit that has been cooked in an equal or ¾ as much sugar as fruit and cooked until the syrup is thick and the fruit transparent and plump. At least that is the gist of what an old Kerr canning book said.

Mummy wanted to try putting up some fruit jams and such without pectin. I used a recipe from Prudence Penny for Cherry Preserves, but rather than sugar I used honey, and only half the amount as specified for sugar. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, but I cooked it until it seemed right and then canned it.

Today Mummy and I tasted a small amount that didn’t fit neatly into a jar and it was so good! She’s all for going back and trying to wrestle some more cherries off that tree.

I am too! I just hope Twiglet (an affectionate childhood name for my little sister) will help me pit them again. We have a really neat cherry pitter, but last time I tried it with small cherries it was a dead loss. So we pitted them all by hand with hair pins. Okay, it worked.

One thing I am very grateful for is the beautiful red color of the preserves. That is something to be grateful for after making strawberry jam that had a very blah color. I even added red coloring to the second batch, but I didn't add enough. I'm very happy with my naturally red colored cherry preserves.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Yesterday's Dessert

In honor of my older sister's birthday (she was absent, but I will not be cheated out of cake!) I made this lovely rich fudgy cake. More fudgy than it was supposed to be because it was slightly underdone. Fortunately it wasn't yuck underdone, it was moist, wonderful underdone. I might even do it on purpose next time. It did make it hard to get out of the pan (this is becoming a bad habit), but I was able to manipulate it into a layered confection anyway.

Chocolate frosting between the layers and on top. Except for a small amount of clarified butter, I used the very last of the butter in the house for this frosting. I don't even think there was half a cup in there, but it worked wonderfully. Whew! That was a close one. It tasted quite good - I should write down what I did real quick! I'm always on the lookout for good frosting recipes made with honey.

I garnished it with a lattice pattern of natural shredded coconut and fresh lavender on the side.

It was good, very good. And it doesn't look to bad either.

Monday, July 7, 2008

God, make my life a little flower
That given joy to all,
Content to bloom in native bower
Although its place be small.
-Matilda B. Edwards

Saturday, July 5, 2008


For breakfast: honey and peanut butter mixed together on whole wheat toast. High calorie and so delicious. Certainly a perfect start to any day.

Planted lettuce in the garden. The garden is a sorry story and a short one, becaue it really isn't.

Experimented making a lime dessert, using a creamy lemon pie filling recipe. The cool green citrus mixture is chilling in white tea cups in the refrigerator. There isn't any whipping cream in the house so zest will have to do for the garnish.

In the closet, I ordered one sister to put in storage anything that didn't fit her and helped another sister get rid of things she didn't fit anymore or she ought not to be caught dead wearing. She is so agreable and what I says goes. Good girl. I also managed to aquire a few pieces for myself. Now lest you think I'm taking advantage of my little sister, it is not so. I only got one blouse from her that wasn't in her size. It really is much more bold than I usually do, but the "committee" watching decided it was quite the thing for me. The bright blue shirt I also aquired was from another sister and she was just going to cut it up, but I decided the color didn't look so bad on me. My grandmother ought to be happy that I have two very colorful peices in my wardrobe now.

I should go check the sheets on the line so I can make my bed. Freshly laundered, sun dried sheets. What a dreamy way to fall asleep.

Then perhaps I ought to go make something for breakfast tomorrow...

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force.
Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
-George Washington

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Miss Ish Gets Big'ish

We're waiting for the group to get assembled before making our way down to the lake after a picnic lunch at a local park. At about three months old, it seems to me that she is already bigger than the first Irish Wolfhound I remember our family getting at five months. Our neighbors frequently comment on how fast she is growing. I live in the same house, I see her every day, but I still see a difference.

She is a puppy, and does as puppies do, but for the most part she is a little angel (I did say little, it's relative you know). She is very amusing when she gets to running around the house, she doesn't have a lot of room, but she still makes up routes and completes them with amazing agility for her size. We're talking pretty tight corners and she usually doest it running.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Chocolate Trifle

I tried a new chocolate cake recipe the other day and it rather flopped. The texture was fine, the flavour good, but it clung to the pan and got a bit broken up coming out of it. It was certainly in no shape for a nice layer cake. So plan B: Trifle.

Chocolate cake layered with sweetened raspberries, chocolate pudding, and cream! And now it has been nicely blending flavours since I assembled it late Thursday afternoon. It could have been served yesterday, but my father and grandmother were out of town and they laid down a strict warning to not touch it!

Now I better go dish it up and oblige everyone.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


I love these flowers! I’m quite honestly not sure why. I have this feeling that a few years back I would have considered them quite unattractive. Though maybe not. But I do like them now at any rate. They are so fascinating. The first ones to come up this spring were more orange than red, and then deep watermelon colored ones made their appearance. At first I thought that the orange ones were just the paling red. And then one glorious walk in the rain over the hills, I discovered every different kind. Soft apricot ones with blushing tips, salmon colored, pale yellow, light yellow and shades and combinations of many different hues. It is fun to discover all the variety that one little type of flower can encompass.

I think they are Indian Paintbrushes, or at least that is what my research has indicated.

Fascinating, just fascinating!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

On Saturday I went to the airport with a small assortment of family members to see a sister off on her vacation to Colorado for a few weeks.

Airports are very fascinating places, with such a varied assortment of people. I have always liked the excitement and hubbub of so many different individuals setting off to so many varied destinations.

Once her luggage was checked in my sister still had a bit of time before her flight, so we sat and chatted and people watched. I do wish people dressed better. Where has elegance gone? In my youthful naivety, influenced by popular fashion, I would have thought it cool to wear snazzy sport clothes to travel. I shudder. My taste has developed and I now realize that while some people do it, it is not elegant. And it is hardly appropriate attire for “ to the manor born.”
Fashion is fashion, and something I have come to realize is that it very frequently falls short of showing how to dress appropriately. The difficulty lies in trying to decipher between what is fashionable, and what is truly correct.

Back from my fashion tangent, as we were watching people we saw several young men that looked like they had just got back from a tour of duty in the war. Then as we were watching my sister through security, there was a young man that appeared to be military saying goodbye to his family. It is very sobering to be aware of a tearful farewell between a young soldier and his father, siblings, and mother.

My prayers are with not only the soldiers that go off to war to fight for our freedom, but the family they leave behind. May God bless them and return them to their loved ones safely.

Memorial Day – And the soldiers who will never return, may God be with their families in a very special way.

Thank You! Because freedom is about more than being able to wear what you want to the airport.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Heels and Hay

My sisters and I were dressed for a luncheon tea in town, long skirts, heels, and I was wearing a wide brimmed hat. We’d already made our appearance at the grocery. Mother asked us to stop on the way home and pick up a couple bales of alfalfa. You read that correctly.

Uh, huh. We are very dutiful girls, but it was with chagrin that we anticipated meeting the farmer who had already previously commented on far less dressy attire.

We were spared.

He wasn’t home, everyone from the farm was at a horse event except his wife, who would sell us the hay. Yes, not load, sell.

When duty calls, one answers, so my sister and I, heels and all, each loaded a bale of hay, weighing about 80 -90 pounds each. (I’m not quite sure on the weight, but others with more experience say it is so).


Afterwards, I paid out of my pink clutch, returned to the car door and dusted off the alfalfa leaves and retrieved my white silk scarf from off the seat. This I draped around my neck, tossed the end over my shoulder in a dramatic gesture and reentered the vehicle. When you do unusual things, do them with flair.

Heels and hay? Well, why ever not?

Friday, May 9, 2008

This Was the Week

It was high time for me to get a cleaning routine going. Months after our move, the house still limped along. I finally decided enough was enough, and being inspired by Pleasant View School House, I got down to business and mapped out a cleaning schedule.

Before we moved to our current abode, I had a routine to clean the entire house quickly. Being a beautiful old home, it wasn’t exactly low maintenance, but with a long ingrained system, I was usually able to go over the entire house daily.

Then we moved to a much, much newer house that should have been a quick clean. But I’d lost my routine. I didn’t know the new house and so it has gone along, surviving with occasional spurts of cleaning. I like things clean, very clean, as a matter of fact, and so I have been less than pleased.

Determined to change, I first penciled out a basic schedule that would encompass everything I needed to do to keep the house top cleaned, then this week I did a practice run to see how it would work. I like the basic routine and now I can expand upon and fine tune it. Because of all the dear little mess makers around here, I think I will have to make a time every day to do a quick run through and pick up everything that has been left out. I might have to do this twice a day, once in the morning and then sometime in the afternoon.

It was the perfect time for a change with the wildflowers springing to life on the mountainside, the daffodils and grape hyacinth coming cheerfully to life in the yard. Perfect because I love flowers, and what better way to finish a nice cleaning job than to place a fresh bouquet of them as a seal of completion. Not just flowers either, I love cuttings of new greenery just budding forth for a simple, inspiring touch. It’s a good time of year.

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The New Puppy

This is Miss Ailish, our new Irish Wolfhound puppy! This is perhaps not the best picture, but it is very insightful. She is eight weeks old in this photograph and it was her first day home! She really is very sweet. However, I noticed early on that she was inteligent and very determined, something that time has only confirmed.

Even though she is very young, I see lots of Wolfhound traits in her. She likes to lay at your feet when you are working and she wants to be with her people and she thinks she's a lap dog. She still hasn't learned that Irish Wolfhounds are stoic and don't cry. She's such a baby.

The fun thing is she is related to our families first two Irish Wolfhounds.

Hopefully I can get a picture posted with her wearing her pink bow. Pink seems to be her color.

Isn't that the sweetest little face?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Quote Worthy of Remark

"I felt myself very unwell and directed a little chocolate which Mr. McClellan gave us prepared of which I drank about a pint and found great relief."
-William Clark, excerpt from his journal on September 13, 1806

I always did like history.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Carrot Filling

1 cup finally grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped pecans
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
A couple pepper grains and a few drops of Soy Sauce

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and serve in sandwiches on whole wheat bread.

You can substitue walnuts for the pecans and use lemon juice instead of the vinegar. I have always used lemon juice but for want of that ingredient I substituted vinegar the other day to very good effect.

I found a variation of this recipe awhile ago in an old cookbook and have made it several times since. I'm so glad I tried it in the first place in one of my more experimental moods. Even if you don't like carrots, I suggest you try it, at least once. I served it at a tea at my grandmothers once and a lady less than fond of carrots found it quite enjoyable. That time I also used lightly toasted white bread and then prepared as usual for tea sandwiches.

I think it would be very vintage served as a late night snack with hot chocolate. I have not tried this last one yet, but I shall have to remember it. Of course in order for it to sound like it might come straight out of a vintage novel, I suggest that all parties partaking first live a very exciting and harrowing existance (which of course includes spies) culminating in the capture of the bad guys and then have servants serve these sandwiches on silver platters while everyone listens to the hero explaining what exactly happened while a hot fire crackles, chasing away the chills of the stormy night. He also must occassionally turn to smile at his beautiful girl, which of course after a stormy relationship, they have just come to an understanding when he rescued her a few hours earlier from the perilous perfidy of one of the spies.

Well, sandwiches and hot chocolate I might be able to manage. The perils and stormy night would come readily enough.....'s the servants and silver platter that might be difficult to arrange.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Our House Guest

Introducing Eeyore, which he is rarely called around here. Among others, the more prefered names being Puncher Pug, Franklin and my personal favorite, Mugs McGuinness. Really, I don't suppose it's every house guest that you address by the name that you happen to think suits them best, but he's a good sport. I think all the nicknames are a sign of distant affection. He really is very well behaved and is lots of fun to have around. I’m going to miss him when his mother returns home to claim him. He likes to sit up like this and beg. Homemade bread seems to make him very excited.

Isn't he cute?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

My Brother's Wedding

The last week in March, my sisters and I traveled to Oregon to help with our brother’s wedding. The last few days were rather hectic, by we managed to squeeze some non wedding events into the first part of the week.

Early on the morning of the 22nd just as the sun was breaking through the morning fog, we set out to meet one of our brothers on a hike at Silver Falls State Park. It was lovely to hike the wet trails, enjoying the lovely twists of the paths as we followed the creek and wound through the woods. Spring was evident everywhere, parading forth in fresh greenery and wild flowers.

Early in the week, we met a good friend for coffee at Starbucks. Over various and assorted beverages, we caught up on the happenings in our lives, debated on just which language the guys at the other table were really speaking, wondered who the guy was that two police officers met for coffee, tasted the coffee cake they were giving away because they couldn’t sell it - no surprise, I thought it had too much flour. And finally went our separate ways, knowing we would see each other again later that week sometime over the wedding festivities.

Then it was wedding preparation time!

We had a bachelorette tea rather than a wild party. We couldn’t help getting our sister-in-law to be this ring that lit up. We’ve long teased our brother in emergency personal about his love for lights and joked that he was going to get his bride a flashing ring. Well, it didn’t flash, but it did light up. Can you see her real engagement ring in the photograph? It is a beautiful vintage ring and I absolutely love it.

And here is the wedding cake. My sister-in-law and I combined efforts for this confectionary masterpiece. At least we thought it was a masterpiece. It wasn't perfect (thanks to me) and I'm a perfectionist, but for a first attempt, it turned out relatively well. Everyone seemed dually impressed with the results. I rather was too, and very relieved. It was a chocolate cake with a chocolate filling and a mint frosting. I baked the cake, and did the basic frosting. My sister-in-law did the decorative frosting. She did an amazing job- though rather tired being several months pregnant!

And another first – I put together all the bouquets! The bride was there to approve the bridesmaid’s bouquets but then she took off before I started on her bouquet. It had to be done that night, and fortunately she had mentioned what she wanted, so I put it together and hoped she liked it. I did. I actually even wanted to catch it! After I made up example boutonnieres and corsages, my sisters helped do the rest of those. Thank goodness!

I don’t have any of the professional photographs, but here is a back view of the bridesmaid’s dresses. The bride wanted a vintage themed wedding. She chose a very basic style for the dresses, and with the right hats, shoes and gloves, the look came together beautifully. All the gloves were authentic vintage, borrowed from my sister’s collection and my grandmother brought some in from Colorado.
And the lovely little vintage inspired caps. I thought up the design, my sister CheeringOn made the design work and then it was team effort to put them together at the last minute. We weren’t sure the bride was going to approve the hats, so we hadn’t made them yet. Yikes! We did get them done at the last minute.

It was a very busy time for me as maid-of- honor, wedding coordinator, as well as heading up almost all of the decorating! It was a lot of places to be at once. I did enjoy the challenge and it was a good experience. Oh, but lots of sleep was needed afterwards!