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.