Friday, July 31, 2009

Never Trust the Weatherman

We arrive and it has just rained,
It is still raining under the trees,
Steam rises up from the road.
As we head off on our bikes toward the dam,
My previous hesitation (fear) seems ridiculous.

The mud flecks onto my thighs,
And sprays up the back of my shirt.
I notice the mud on my shoes,
I should have worn my new water shoes.
We arrive at the dam viewing area.

It begins to rain,
No, it is pouring.
At least the mud is washing off.
As the rain drops pelt me,
I imagine my sunscreen being whisked away.
I feel my socks soaking up the rain.
A frog jumps through the water covering the path.

Thunder cracks overhead,
We are completely soaked.
Just before the rain lets up,
We slide on the wooden bridge,
And both end up laying on the bridge in the rain.
As we continue,
I'm strangely not upset.
A turtle pulls into his shell as I pass.

What is the point of a swimsuit,
When we are soaked?
I put on my water shoes,
And head to the river.

The water level is high,
Finding a warm spot,
We wash the mud from our clothes.
It starts to rain again.
In the car we change into dry clothes (our swimsuits).

An hour later the sun is,
Shining--brightly.
Never trust the weatherman.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Am Not a Factory

I used to say that all the time. Just because I make a quilt, or a cake, or a painting, don't expect me to make one for you. I am not a factory. Well, in the last 24 hours I've felt like a bit of a factory. Last night I made two batches of cupcakes (almost 4 dozen) for Ross's company picnic and I frosted them this morning. I made one batch of red velvet with butter roux frosting, and one batch of yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I didn't use my usual chocolate frosting recipe. I used a much simpler one, and it turned out all right. One of our errands last night was to get some piping bags and tips. The piping bags worked out well, and I ended up using a couple of tips that I already had. I am not a decorator at all, but now I can at least play and practice.

Waters and Wellies

After tearing up my feet in the river I decided to buy some water shoes. I really don't like the ones that are mesh on top and rubber on the bottom. I have such bad memories of those. They smell so bad! I found some Speedo Hydro Tread shoes on ebay and bought them. They arrived super quickly and now I'm ready for our next trip to the river.

I have toyed with the idea of getting wellies. Silly, I know, but it seemed that every time I left the house in April it rained. We have had some major downpours here lately and it got me thinking about boots again. I found some cute rubber boots on ebay, but the price went higher than I was willing to pay. I went to DSW with Valerie yesterday and found a really great pair. The really odd thing is that when we went to the clearance section I found them there too. Same boots. Same size. Same color--but thirty percent off. Okay. That works for me. The thing is, that isn't the only pair of shoes I saw both in the regular area and the clearance area. I had a ten dollar off coupon, so I think I got a pretty good deal. The boots are actually clear rubber and the print is on the inside--on cloth.

It was raining yesterday when we left the house to run errands. I wore my new wellies. I jumped in the water puddles, just like I told Ross I would. My pants got a little wet, even though I had them rolled up. Good clean fun, and all my other shoes were at home, nice and dry.

Here Comes 70 Tons!

Yesterday Ross got to drive a Tank! It sounds like he had fun. I am so glad the weather cooperated for him. Down in the DC area we were getting rain, but up here he said it was very nice.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Baby Safari Blanket

Ross made this baby blanket all by himself today. The sewing machine quit on him a couple of times, and we have no idea why. As usual we poked and prodded and shook things until it worked again.
I really like the material he chose, and I'm sure his future niece or nephew will like it too. Well, at least enough to lay, crawl, and spit up on it!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Advice

There were so many times with my nieces here that I wanted to spout out little bits of advice. I figured they wouldn’t listen, and who wants to hear all that crap on vacation anyway? I don’t know if they will read this, but I’m just going to lay it all out here. Little things that I’ve learned along the way.

Answer the question asked.
Listen carefully. It will help with that first one, and lots of other things.
Read, read, read. Read and learn.
Everything in moderation. I really can’t stress that enough. (Smoking and Sunning don’t fall under this category.)
No one can make you feel guilty except yourself. (Don’t fall for guilt trips.)
Don’t start smoking.
Be proud of who you are. If you are tall, stand tall and don’t be afraid to wear high heels. Don’t hide your intelligence, beauty, athleticism, or sexuality. Accept who you are and allow yourself to shine.
Nobody is perfect. Nobody. So striving for perfection is a sure path to failure. Just do your best.
Accept compliments graciously. Say thank you and take it to heart. On the flip side–listen for truths in constructive criticism, but just blow off outright insults.
Take responsibility for your actions. If it was your great idea then own up to it and accept credit. Own up to your mistakes too. Life doesn’t just happen to you. You make choices. Take responsibility for those choices.
Learn to listen to your body.
Keep an open mind.
Always wear sunscreen. Never ever go to a tanning salon or lay out in the sun to get a tan.
Remember, you aren’t perfect, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Also, don’t be afraid to say no. Trying to please everyone by saying yes to every request will just make you miserable.
Don’t skimp on shoes, toilet paper, or milk.
And as my mom always says: books before boys.

I think most people just have to figure this stuff out on their own, but a couple of these I really took to heart when I first heard them.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Censorship

I find censorship fascinating. I'm sure most Americans think that we don't have censorship in this country, but we do. I love to read Pearls Before Swine anthologies because Stephan Pastis (in his comments) talks about censorship in the comics world. I've heard certain actors talk about things they can and cannot say on TV (besides the 7 bad words). I'm sure them talking about it is taboo. I so rarely hear about it. It always tickles me to see what does and what doesn't get past the censors. I'm not sure what brought all this up, except that I've been self-censoring my posts lately. I'm just amazed at the whole idea. It seems unamerican, and I just don't think that most people know about it. Oh well, that's all I have to say.

Raspberry Ice Cream

Monday I made raspberry Ice cream with the raspberries that we all picked on Thursday. I used cream, milk, yoghurt, raspberries, sugar, vanilla and lime juice. When the mixture was all smooth I didn't like all the seeds so I strained most of them out. I didn't add a lot of lime juice, but I thought in the end it had a bit of a cherry limeaid flavor. Everyone got two scoops--and it was gone.

Speaking of ice cream we went to the dairy quite a few times last week. I've had trouble with vanilla ice cream. Sometimes I think it tastes mediciney. It happened at the dairy recently. Well, they had a new flavor this week and it was really good--Cinnamon Honey Vanilla. No medicine flavor there. Right now I think my favorite flavor is peanut butter. I can't get enough of it. Still, I really miss Amy's. It is better than the dairy, and the dairy doesn't have any alcoholic flavors, so I won't be getting Guinness or Bourbon ice cream any time soon.

Challah French Toast

This week I made challah specifically for French toast. I didn't get a photo of either loaf of challah intact. One was sliced and the other ripped and gobbled up. I haven't made challah in a long time. I had challah recently, and it wasn't very good. With the Foxes here it was a perfect time to make it. This is my own recipe that I formulated years and years ago. This week it was a little overcooked (I was concerned about it being gummy and doing too many things at once), which was perfect for the toast.

Challah

1 Tbl. + 2 tsp. yeast
1 3/4 c. warm water
2 Tbl. sugar

2 eggs
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. oil
3 c. whole wheat flour
3 1/4 c. white flour
1 Tbl. + 1 tsp salt

1. Proof yeast 5 minutes with sugar and water.
2. Add eggs, sugar, oil, and salt. Mix.
3. Gradually add flour.
4. Kneed dough until smooth.
5. Leave dough to rise in oiled, covered bowl until doubled (about an hour).
6. Punch down dough, divide in half.
7. Shape dough. To make braids divide each half into thirds. Roll out each third into a rope. Braid ropes together starting from the center. The braid can be put into a loaf pan or onto a baking sheet.
8. Allow the dough to rise again (about another hour).
9. Preheat oven to 350 F.
10. Glaze bread with mixture of water, honey, and egg.
11. Bake for 20-30 minutes.

To make the French toast, slice the loaf and check out my other blog post on the subject.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mani-Pedi

I had my third ever mani-pedi this weekend. Now I remember why I don't go for them. You know, I really don't mind doing my own nails. Also, I think I do a better job. I had to wait for the mani-pedi and it took forever! I could have done it at home and watched something other than CNN the whole time. Still, my nails turned out nicely and it gave me and Laura a chance to chat. Next time I want to treat someone to a mani-pedi I'll just do it myself.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Long Day in DC

We spent a whole day in DC. We started by visiting the Zoo. It was cool to see the pandas, but I think the invertebrates section (aquarium), was my favorite part. It rained off and on, but we managed not to get too wet. I actually brought my little umbrella!

After the zoo we checked out the Natural History Museum. The temporary exhibit on ants was interesting and after that we split up. I went to the American History Museum and the rest of the gang continued to explore the Natural History museum.
I was interested in seeing an exhibit marking the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that I had seen listed on the web site, but no one seemed to know what I was talking about. Instead I rested, and saw an exhibit on the history of illustration. I remember reading something interesting, but I don't remember what I read! Ha! So I guess I didn't learn much. There were lines to see half of the exhibits.
I stood in one line, but just for a minute or two. I saw what I wanted to see (had my photo taken), and then left.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Milanesa

I'm up early because I can't sleep, so I thought I'd do this post.
I've always liked milanesa, but in the past I wasn't very successful in my attempts to make it at home. I've made it twice recently and it turned out really well. I buy a thicker cut of meat at H Mart than what is usually sold/used for milanesa. I want more than just a wafer of meat! Okay--here are the steps. First, coat the meat in flour. Second, dip the meat in well beaten eggs. Third, coat the meat in bread crumbs. Next is the key step--refrigerate the meat for half an hour. Then heat up some oil--I like to use canola with some butter or olive oil--and fry up the meat. The other night we had it with some excellent guac and black beans. I usually only make 3 steaks, and that's good because I'd be tempted to eat more if I made more.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We Can All Climb Trees!

The Foxes arrived late last night, and today we took them to Susque-hanna for some hiking and swimming. We even got to pick berries on the trail. All of us climbed the big tree on the green trail. It was humid and we were wearing our suits under our clothes, so we were definitely ready for swimming at the end of our hike.

Swimming in Deer Creek was actually really cool. The rocks were hard on the feet though! Some were slimy and slippery, some were sharp, some were oddly shaped and some were covered in a grassy carpet. The grassy carpet ones were easiest on the feet. We had fun with the currents and finding a couple of deep spots. I think we all got cuts on our feet. Laura broke a toenail and I'm missing a chunk of skin from the end of my big toe. Amazingly, it doesn't hurt.

At the end we drove over to the mill and the girls all got to see the Susquehanna River. I found another few fully laden raspberry bushes behind the mill and we managed to almost fill our bag. We had waffles this morning with raspberry sauce and I'll be making some ice cream soon.

Critter spotting: lots of spiders, two fledgling falcons (I thinks that's what they were), lots of other birds, small frogs, fish, a snake, butterflies and squirrels. On the way home we saw deer, cows, and horses.

Up for tomorrow: DC.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Random Things

I'm not ever going to make Lemon Blueberry Cake again. When it turns out right it is awesome. It only turns out right half the time. Usually when it doesn't go quite right the cake is really sticky. Well, I made it this weekend, and it came out rubbery. Frustrating. I love cake. I ate a slice. It is pretty gross. It isn't cake. Now I have to throw it all out! Awful! I'm blaming the oven here. Things don't turn out like they usually do in this oven. Piece of crap electric. Still, I'm not going to make that cake again. I'm a little worried about making any cake in that oven. Will the dessert party be possible? We'll see.

I'm super stressed out and can't blog about it (which annoys me, but is probably for the best).

We have had guac with the jalapenos from my mini garden. Yummy. I have another eggplant growing. And another bloom, so I might eventually have two growing at once. I'm going to try and take a photo every day, or every couple of days and see if I can make a little slide-show movie out of it, like they do in those documentaries.

I didn't go hiking today because I feel like I just need to chill. Maybe I'll do some yoga.

Ultimate Egg

Ross played ultimate egg this weekend. It is like ultimate frisbee if you've ever heard of that. Sort of like football, sort of like basketball. It was played with eggs. 9 dozen eggs. That's right. They went through 9 dozen raw eggs. The eggs ended up broken all over the field and all over everybody. It was kind of gross. Ross's T shirt went through the wash and didn't come out clean. I think everyone had a good time, but some of the people were rather serious about the game. It seems silly to be so serious about a game that involves tossing eggs.

Gingerbread Bars

I saw these bars in bon apetit and just had to try them. I think I've made them four times already. This last time I really ramped up the ginger and used some whole wheat flour. They turned out a little darker than usual because I used the really dark molasses. These have gone over well at Ross's work, and at a birthday party we took them to on Sunday. With my nerves (and thus munchies) at an all time high right now I can't believe we still have some in the house.

Gingerbread Bars

1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
4 tsp. ginger (powder)
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

10 Tbl. butter
3/4 c. brown sugar
6 Tbl. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbl. grated fresh ginger
2 eggs
1/4 c. molasses

flour (a little less than 2 Tbl.)
turbinado sugar

0. Preheat oven to 350 F.
1. Butter and flour a 9.5x13.5 inch baking dish (The original recipe calls for an odd sized pan, but I just use my lasagna dish, and it turns out fine).
2. Whisk together dry ingredients.
3. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy.
4. Add vanilla and fresh ginger and mix thoroughly.
5. Add eggs one at a time.
6. Mix in molasses.
7. Add dry ingredients and beat to blend.
8. Transfer batter to pan and spread out evenly (it will be thick).
9. Sift flour over batter and spread evenly with pastry brush.
10. Sprinkle turbinado sugar evenly over batter.
11. Bake until tester comes out clean--about 25 minutes.

These are great with milk. The original recipe says they can also be used to make ice cream sandwiches. I haven't tried that yet. Just so you know, ginger is a fire. If you are a fire, then be careful--don't eat a bunch of these (especially with lychee or pineapple). You'll get a nose bleed like Ross did.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

More Surprises

I dragged Ross through the raspberry patches yesterday and we came upon lots of critters. We saw a bunch of tiny frogs, dragonflies, a box turtle, a deer, long legged spiders, iridescent spiders, butterflies, fish, and birds. I was much more selective about my berry picking and came home with a bag of very ripe raspberries. I used some of Wednesday's berries to make flax muffins. I think I'll use the rest of the raspberries to make smoothies and ice cream. The blackberry bush had some nice ripe berries and a snake. Yep, a snake, high up in the bush! I reached for a berry and something moved. I noticed a small striped rope hanging by my hand. I called Ross over and he got to see it too. Half way through the hike Ross was sick of the humidity and was done picking berries. At the end we were both really, really worn out.

Glittering Fields

The marvels of nature never cease to move me. We went to the dairy on Friday night specifically so that I could watch the glittering fields and try to catch it on video. As the skies darkened the fields began to light up with hundreds of lightening bugs. The bugs would glow and drift upward like embers. Amazing. Delightful. Magical.

There were hundreds of tiny lights drifting up from the bean fields. The video really doesn't do it justice. The audio adds nothing. In fact, I think it detracts, so you might want to mute it.
video

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Surprise!

I didn't think there would be anything to report today, but there were lots of surprises on my hike. The hike went much slower than usual, but not entirely because I haven't had a real hike in about a month. Before I could even get on the trail I was attracted to something bright red on the side of the road. Berries. I always want to eat berries when I find them, but I'm not sure what most of them are so I resist. Not today. They were raspberries! I was picking and eating them, but then I decided to take my sandwich out of its ziplock bag and use the bag to collect berries. I got an entire bag full! So, since I kept stopping all along the trail, the hike that normally would take me less than two hours took me two and a half. I had so much fun. Free, organic raspberries! When I got to the end of the first trail I found another surprise--Blackberries. There was one large blackberry bush, but not many of them were ripe. I found one huge, black blackberry and it was so juicy and sweet. I managed not to get too scratched up--I remember climbing around in the berry patch behind my great grandma's house and getting pretty torn up. I used my long arms to reach as many berries as I could.
These really ripe ones were just out of reach! My bag was full about three-quarters of the way through the hike, so after that all I could do was pick and eat--so that's what I did.
Critter spotting: Today was also a great day for critter spotting. My hearing seemed especially sensitive today (maybe because I didn't have headphones in and I was paying attention) and I caught sight of 5 deer! This particular deer was walking right towards me. I kind of wish I'd waited just a bit longer to take the photo. When he finally saw me he freaked and took off. I also saw a few squirrels, birds, bees, wasps, spiders, and lots of zebra striped butterflies. I finally saw one of the woodpeckers too. I picked a few bugs along with the berries and had to pull a praying mantis nymph and a couple of stink bugs out of the bag.
I don't know what kind of flower this is, but it smelled good, like a tuberose, but not nearly as strong. The bugs seemed especially attracted to it. There are at least four insects in the photo, and I'm pretty sure there is a butterfly on the backside. I sure am glad I forced myself to get out and go hiking today.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bailey and the Goldfinch

When Bailey sees the hummingbirds she does this funny thing that cats do. She cries/chirps and her jaw quivers. Lately a goldfinch has been perching on the railing of the balcony. This upsets Bailey more than the hummingbirds, probably because the goldfinch sticks around for a while. Yesterday Bailey cried and chirped (a lot)--doing that funny thing with her jaw. I managed to catch a little of it on video.
video

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Falls Branch

Today we headed to the Falls Branch area of Rocks State Park. I really wanted to go for a swim, and it was a pretty cool swimming hole. The problem was the temperature. The water was frigid, and it wasn't that hot outside. It will be a great place to go when it is really hot outside. And it will probably be less crowded during the week.

The water was really cold.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Picnic on the Rocks

Yesterday we headed back to Rocks State Park for a picnic. It was kind of crowded. There were a few groups of rock climbers. I decided that I wanted to climb the rocks too so I climbed up the rock face and Ross took this photo.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Blueberry Pie Ice Cream

Blueberries were a really good price so I bought two pints. I thought I'd make gelato or ice cream. I finally got off my butt and made some ice cream today. I added the spices that I usually add to blueberry pie, so it tastes like blueberry pie. The texture isn't quite right--it reminds me of canned pears. I used my gelato recipe as a base, but changed it up a bit.

Blueberry Pie Ice Cream

1 c sugar
1 c heavy cream
vanilla
nutmeg
cardamom
1 pound blueberries (about 2 2/3 dry pints)

1. Stir together sugar and cream in a heavy pot over medium heat.
2. Add spices to taste.
3. Continue to stir cream until sugar is completely dissolved.
4. Dump blueberries into blender and pour cream mixture over them.
5. Puree berries until smooth.
6. Put mixture in refrigerator until completely chilled.
7. Pour puree into ice cream maker and churn for 25-10 minutes
8. Scrape ice cream into container and put into the freezer--ice cream will be firm and ready in 3-4 hours.