You Can’t Always Believe What You Read

Saturday, when I was doing dishes, I asked the MR if he thought those were apples on the ground out in the orchard. Neither of us were quite sure, and somehow I never made it down to check things out that day. By Sunday, it was clear I had apples everywhere.

But you say isn’t that kind of early? Well yes, yes it is. According to four out of five websites, Chehalis apples (a derivative of Golden Delicious) don’t ripen until mid-September or early fall. This is August. What’s going on? The one website that slated harvest for August was based on California’s climate. We never get that hot. Sometimes you have to embrace reality over what you read.

Now that I have about 15-20 pounds of slightly bruised apples, I decided it was time to make some applesauce.

I love homemade applesauce because it’s just apples pure and simple. First I washed and quartered the apples and cut out the bad parts. Then onto the stove they went with a cup of water.

After about an hour, with frequent stirring, the apples were cooked, and soft, and ready to be milled.  A friend of mine was talking about processing apples a few years ago and extolling the virtues of her Kitchen-Aid mixer’s food mill attachment. After peeling and coring apples for years, I thought I’d give it a try.

She let me borrow hers, and I wound up buying my own. Your applesauce won’t have the chunks that give it character, but the mill has cut down on so much of the prep work.

Once you’ve cooked your apples, you run them through the mill—seeds, peel, and all. Then your left with sauce.

Meanwhile, I had jars boiling in my water-bath canner ready and waiting. Fill jars, wipe rims, add flats and rings, and your set. Process for 15 minutes at a full boil (for pints), and enjoy.

The half-filled jar makes a lovely addition to lunch. I figured this is a good start at dealing with my glut of apples.

I’ve got quite a few blueberries down in the orchard, so I was eyeing a recipe for blueberry-apple jam, and I have an Italian inspired canning book that has a recipe for apple-pear paste. With a name like paste, it’s go to be good. Seriously, it’s more intriguing than it sounds.

We’ve eaten all the red beauty plums, but I still have a bowl of yellow ones to find a use for. They’ve been a great addition to fruit salads lately. And we’re at the tail end of both the currants and blueberries. You may have noticed the large zucchini in the photo of my jars. I think we’ll be having blueberry-zucchini bread before the week is  out.

I always get such a sense of accomplishment when we’ve had success in the garden or the orchard. We still don’t have any ripe tomatoes, but the farmer’s market and farmstands have come through while we wait.

Another week, and we’ll be enjoying green beans and lettuce from the garden. I do love our long growing season. We’ll be in harvest mode through October if all goes well.

How does your garden grow? Any favorite apple recipes?

We do love our Sweet Miss. And yes, I did make her pose like that.

In other news, Sweet Miss celebrated her birthday this week as did The Fella. Wishing both of them many happy returns.

 

 

 

 

And That Was July

Me and the MR have been playing hooky for the last few weeks. We’ve been in Europe with Sweet Miss seeing the sites and visiting Baby Girl, and it was wonderful.

Now we are home playing catch up with laundry, and gardening, and grocer shopping, and dead mice, and harvesting. And finally, I’m getting to my blog. So while it’s a little late, here’s what July brought to the Big White House on the Hill.

  1. The MR’s folks were in town, and Papa Larry (aka the Handyman) needs projects to keep him busy. The Handyman Can get the job done…hanging shelves, servicing the lawnmower, replacing a sink. You name it; he’s done it, and we are so grateful.
  2. While the Handyman started this project, the part for our leaky shower didn’t arrive until after he left. Isn’t it amazing The Power of Technology? You can take a photo on your phone of a 20-year-old, leaky valve, send an email to the manufacturer, and someone thousands of miles away knows exactly what you need and mails it off. It’s a crazy world we live in.
  3. Currant Events featured some of our red gems and some of the delicious recipes I want to try this year. Since I’m feeling generous, I thought I’d share one of the new app’s I downloaded recently.  It’s Yummly. One of the great features of this app is the filter system. Since me and the MR can’t eat constant cake and sweets, it’s really nice to be able to select main dish or sides when I’m searching for currant, or plum, or blueberry recipes.
  4. I’m really liking the laid-back vibe of our new linen shams featuring A Little Contrast Please. And the cute bag they came in was the perfect way to wrap up my sandals before putting them in my suitcase. Those ancient cobblestones get pretty dusty.
  5. Now before we left, the garden was looking good. I was like, The Garden Fortress Has Come to Fruition copping attitude and all. Then we came home. Gardens do need a little attention. The lettuce is up, the beans are up, the peas are toast, and the broccoli has bolted. At least nothing seems to be messing with my vegies. And me and the MR enjoyed a lovely zucchini orzo dish our first night back. I predict that this baby is going to make some fabulous vegetable fritters with smoky tomato sauce.
  6. In the Orchard life is good. I’ve been enjoying blueberries and plums in my breakfast yogurt, and we had chicken salad with plums and blueberries for dinner last night. Remember my fears? Remember the stinky string? I was sure I’d find a demolished tree or two, but so far so good. In another year, most of the trees will be big enough to withstand some major deer attack. I’m glad we’re finally getting to that point, and even happier to be enjoying some tasty fruit.
  7. And that brings us to The Mystery Unwrapped, my own personal journey towards using less plastic and making my own waxed fabric alternatives. They are still in the drawer. Apparently after starting with Czech meat-and-potatoes,  enjoying Viennese cake for breakfast, and healthy doses of Italian pasta, we don’t have much in the way of leftovers. The homemade wraps do seem a little stiff, but I’m sure they’ll work out. I’ll keep you posted.

Castles, churches, and museums are great, but the best part of our trip was being together.

I love this bunch. Hope you had a wonderful July. Good luck with all the back-to-school stuff; fall’s just around the corner.

In a side note, my friend’s dad was a farmer and grew carrots. She remembers planting season, and she knew exactly what my green, lacy bouquets were. Check out Changing Perspective to see how pretty carrots can be.

 

 

The Handyman Can…

That silly old song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been running through my head.

Who can take a sunrise
Sprinkle it with dew
Cover it with choc’late and a miracle or two
The Candy Man can…

I’ve changed the words a little:

Who can fix a broken faucet
Hang up all the shelves
Grab a few tools and make everything look swell
The Handyman can.

You see, the MR’s folks have been visiting, and we’ve been keeping Papa Larry busy. The MR has been hogging his services this year with dripping faucets, broken vacuum cleaners, and riding lawn mower maintenance. Doesn’t he know I have little jobs that need done, too?

So the other day, I was happy to see Papa with time on his hands, the MR at work, and me with a list of thing to keep him occupied. When I shuffle the trays on the worm bin,  I always hose out the base in the flower beds to remove the sludge and fertilize the plants. Well, the spicket I use is near the ground under some bushes, and the valve always falls off, so when I’m done, you’ll find me crawling on the ground looking for it. All it needs is a screw.  All it’s needed for the last five-and-a-half years is a screw, but somehow I’ve never gotten around to it. But the Handyman can.

And then I had some great honeycomb-shaped shelves that I oohed and aahed over for ages. And then they were on sale, and I bought them. And then they just sat around for a couple of years. Uggh, I don’t know why I’m so indecisive. They needed to be in a place where we wouldn’t bump into them. Did we really have anything decorative to showcase? Would they look good next to the art we bought or just weird? Would the screws and fasteners they came with really work? Sometimes I am filled with angst over nothing.

I remember when I told Baby Girl that I’d bought three different bedspreads and returned them all, because they just were’nt the right color of gray. She honestly told me that was ridiculous. At first I thought yeah, why don’t manufacturers make a better shade of gray? And then I realized she was talking about me. Hmm, sometimes you just have to go for it.

So I said Papa, we have these shelves, and the handyman took it from there.

Once they were up, I shopped my house and found bits and pieces to add here and there. A book art flower, some shell balls from Hawaii, vases from my mom. It all just seems to work.

With the change of seasons, I can swap out shells for more fall or wintery decor. And this will be a great place to display Christmas goodies.

With the MR busy spraying blackberries, mowing meadows, maintaining the driveway, and keeping the house in one piece, it’s nice to have the handyman visit.

Thanks Papa Larry!

We have a few other posts featuring Papa Larry for your reading pleasure: The Handyman Is Back and My Own Personal Handyman.

 

 

 

 

A Look Back at June 2017

I’ve been doing these monthly blog posts forever—or five years, whichever comes first—and I decided it was time to shake things up a little. Sometimes you gotta add a little spice to keep things new and fresh.

OK, so it’s just a collage and numbers, not that exciting, but it’s what we’ve got, so enjoy.

  1. It Doesn’t Look Like Much started the month off with a look at our new kiwi vines. Sadly one has died, but the other two are plugging along—make that one, the other is in dire straights. Remind me not to go out of town when it’s hot, and I’m babying plants. It’s going to be a while before we have vines covering the fence but we have time.
  2. This Old Dog is a sucker for an interesting book. So while I’ve been trying out some new techniques, Interweave had a sale, and I’ve stocked up on a few more. I even shortened the table runner just like the MR suggested.
  3. Clean Up the Mess is never a bad idea—even when it comes to the outdoors. While yes, we did have bits of construction debris, the now-spent lilies looked lovely after I cleaned away the daffodil leaves.
  4. This Old Dog Part II (because once is never enough) had me climbing through the treetops and blowing glass with the MR. Our ornaments turned out wonderfully well. We may have discovered a new pasttime.
  5. What’s That Smell? Why it’s your experiment with patchouli and string, you silly woman. While the delphinium still looks pathetic, our columbine looks much better. A couple flowers can make anything look better, right? And after a week or two outside, it still smells.
  6. That Trickle Down Effect talked about how once you’ve started making changes things just keep going. First I changed the coverlet, then I couldn’t ignore the fact that our sheets were tearing, and so it was new sheets, and then new shams. I’m still waiting for the shams…they’re in the mail. You’ve heard that line. And for inquiring minds, Papa Larry bought his sheets at Lake Havasu Linen Company which is now London Bridge Linen Company. They offer custom sheets. He says they’re pricey but worth it. So now we’ve all weighed in on the matter.
  7. Changing Perspective highlighted carrot leaf bouquets. Yes, you read that right. So much of life is about perspective. You can grumble about the overwintered carrots that are too tough to cut with a knife, or you can decorate your house with them. Your friends will never guess what they are.

And now for all the news that didn’t make it into the blog. We had everyone home along with the MR’s folks for a bit this month.  Baby Girl is off to Europe to study wonderful things till September. And Sweet MIss is starting a new job, moving to a new city, marrying a great guy, and searching for the perfect dress and ceremony site. Lucky us; we get to be part of it all.

MeeMee and Papa are visiting, so we’ve had lazy evenings on the deck playing cards and discussing the mysteries of life, relaxing sunset walks, quick trips across the state, and crazy owl fights. And yes, the deck guys are still working—don’t ask. It’s just another day in the life.

Hope June left you feeling happy and blessed just like us.

 

 

 

 

This Old Dog Part II

Along with pushing myself to learn new techniques in my hobbies, I’ve been pushing myself in other ways. Last weekend was all about stepping outside my comfort zone.

First off, I climbed a 30-foot rock wall, ziplined through giant evergreens, and crossed seemingly endless chasms. OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that death-defying, but it was pretty scary.

My sister-in-law—who is obviously way more adventuresome than I—wanted to do the Zip Wild Challenge Course at Northwest Trek for her birthday. And yes it’s just as terrifying as it sounds; it was also amazingly fun. I spent a few hours in the treetops, pushing myself beyond my capabilites, and laughing with a bunch of great women.

I believe I am the black spot in the very center. Thanks Holly for taking the photos.

That sounds like plenty for one weekend, but that was just the start. I bought the MR a glass blowing class for Valentine’s Day, and it was getting ready to expire. He suggested company would be nice, and I again faced my fears. You see, I’ve always been kind of klutzy. If an accident is going to happen, it’ll probably happen to me. I’ve been known to reach out and touch things without thinking. I came home from my one glass-fusing class with plenty of cuts and burns. But anything for my guy.

So Sunday found us at the Redmond School of Glass ready for our lesson.  We could make a glass float or a glass ornament in whatever color we chose. The instructors demonstrated the steps and then carefully walked each student through the process.

Working counter-clockwise from the top right, first we rolled the molten glass in colored glass, then heated it in the furnace, repeated the process, shaped and blew, and ta-da an ornament was born. The MR took a video of me, so you get his smiley face this time.

Hot? Yes. A little intense? Yes.  Very cool? Yes.

We had a great time. The MR’s first ornament broke as the instructor removed it from the tube, so he got twice the experience. It was a very fun afternoon. And yesterday on the way home from work, the MR picked up these beauties.

I’m not sure if they’ll make it on the tree—it’s always my favorite ones that get broken when it takes a tumble. For now, they’re at home on the dining room table.

What new adventures have you started on?

By the by, we also ran on down to Oregon this week to pick up Baby Girl. Year two of college is over, and she’s home for a minute before heading overseas to study this summer. Enough time to recover from finals, do a little shopping, take some photos for Mom, and laugh at Dad’s jokes. If a week’s all we’ve got, we’ll take it. Fun to have our baby home.

 

 

 

How Did May Fair 2017?

The other day, the MR says to me, we have workers here a lot at this place… Why yes, yes we do. This is the first day in weeks that I haven’t had my daily routine accompanied by pounding. I’m enjoying the peace and quiet albeit short lived.

We started off the month checking out that noise that Wasn’t Going Away. Turns out that hum from the mechanical room in the entry wasn’t a ball bearing going out; it was pumps seizing up from rust—uggh. It was another day and lots of dollars later that we got it all fixed up. I told the MR I was glad it didn’t happen in the middle of winter, but than he replied at least we’d have noticed if it was cold outside.

While I’m still looking for a shade-loving color bowl for the front steps, it’s amazing what a difference a simple Sweep & Scrub can make. Getting rid of the cobwebs certainly makes your front door more inviting.

On gray days, and yes it’s full on spring and we’ve still had quite a few rainy, overcast days, my Striping It Orange throw keeps me smiling—there is hope. When you can’t have sun outside, a little bit color inside just might do the trick.

While the heating guys were here for a few days, it’s the deck guys that have been a constant. You see we’ve had some Rotten Luck literally. While the upper deck is mostly done, they still have the stair landing and hot tub removal on the docket. Sadly for us, they found a lot more rot than expected extending the project by a few weeks and a few dollars, so they’re taking a break for another job and will be back in mid-June to finish up. Until then, at least it’s getting closer.

When I was talking about Embracing the Crazy, the MR’s experiment with pruning, I noticed one of the smoke trees wasn’t cooperating.

Turns out getting to the soffit on the steep slope hasn’t been beneficial for that middle tree. Several of its limbs are on the ground. I’m not complaining; this is not an easy house to work on and don’t even think about getting me up on a ladder. Next year, when it’s not in the middle of the action it’ll start shooting up.

The MR went around and pruned immediately after I’d taken photos. The evergreen near the deck is starting to take shape although it still looks a little crazy.

You may have noticed the bougainvillea inside has now become the bougainvillea outside. When it starts heating up, we like to move some of the larger plants out on the deck. Now when I’m sitting on the little couch, I smell the sweet scent of lemon. And the hummingbirds vist our bougainvillea.  I bet they’ll visit the plumeria too, if it ever decides to bloom.

As we were moving pots out, we moved pots in. Sweet Miss brought me sedums for Mother’s Day. Now I have Sweet Sedums & Violets on the dining room table. Her plan was to set the out on the steps, but I’m not ready to see them go just yet.

As for the Unexpected vs. Uninvited guests, the Mr has been working on that. We have a new post in place, and he has posts and straps, and netting, and big plans. I’ll keep you posted. (How many times can I use the same word in a paragraph?)

Unfortunately, something’s still getting in. I’m not sure if it’s slugs or bunnies eating the onions. Perhaps I need to throw a party for the slugs, or Cocoa needs to catch a few of the rabbits she loves to chase.

At least the weather has been nice, and we’ve been able to get outside a bit.

In other May news, Baby Girl mentioned how much she liked the flowers before noticing they were the ones we bought together; Mexico was lovely and relaxing; the MR’s new TV is incredibly thin and lightweight, so I didn’t worry about it crashing down on my head while I helped him hang it in place; the local LYS tour was great; hummingbirds are rather violent and territorial; and life is good.

Hoping May faired well for you.

 

Unexpected vs. Uninvited

Unexpected guests can be a delightful thing. You hear a random knock only to find old friends on the doorstep. Suddenly, a quiet evening has turned into a party. Or out of the blue you get a text and your headed out for an evening of dinner, and laughter, and catching up.

We’ve even invited friends for a weekend away and had them show up with some tagalongs. The more the merrier; people are always welcome.

It’s the uninvited that bring me down; the uninvited garden guests to be specific. The MR took Cocoa for her evening walk the other night and found giant slugs dessicating our newly-planted columbine. And when I went down to the check the state of our garden I found unequivocal evidence of invaders.

The first sign was random onions tossed about.

Moving along, I found carrots similarly thrown aside. Invaders, let it be known, if you’re going to tear up my vegetables, you can at least have the decency to eat them.

But I had the last laugh. Whatever has been messing with my garden appears to have had a bit of trouble exiting.

Now that the weather seems to have turned—we’ve had a run of dry, hot days—I’ll have to see if the garden has dried out enough for proper weeding. It’s just so much more fun to work outside when it’s quiet and peaceful, and I can listen to the birds. For the next few weeks, my efforts will be accompanied by the sound of hammers as work on the deck continues.

To be honest me and the MR have been playing hooky for the last few days down in Mexico. We spent a long weekend with my brother and his lovely wife at the Viceroy down in Zihuatenjo. Good food and good friends coupled with sunshine made for a lovely weekend.

But now it’s back deck repairs, garden mishaps, and real life.

How do you get rid of those uninvited guests?