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