Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Day In The Life Of Maggie

     Several years ago my friend Amy made up the most adorable dress based on an image dated 1848. She recently sent the dress to me in hopes that Maggie could now wear it and I've waited several days for the chance to get some action shots. Amy's original post is here.

    For reasons best known to herself it didn't happen to suit Maggie to pose for pictures, she is pretty hacked off in most of them. Still, the dress is beautiful and these pictures do capture her as she actually is.  :)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

What happens when you put on your makeup.......

     Asa, who is 5, came to give me a picture and tell me the story that he "wrote". It goes a little like this:
"One day she was putting on her makeup when she accidentally lit something on fire and cut her head open."
     End of story and he runs out to play. I've appropriately captioned the picture so you can enjoy this too.  :D

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Growing Old Gracefully

     This post will not be a literary tour de force, it will instead be a stream of consciousness, quasi-coherent ramble on my thoughts about growing old. Go forth at your own risk.

     So, I'm 44 and youth has been heading South for a while now.  My hair has/had a blond streak in it and I was told it would be the first thing to go grey. Yes indeedy. Except I don't have grey hair, it's white and it's pretty uniformly turning that color. I used to color with a "wash out in 28 shampoos" jobby, but I hate the fakeness of it. I just think that at a certain age brown/blond/black hair that comes from a bottle looks silly. I don't want to be that person, but I hate feeling like the only one who is just letting the aging process go unimpeded. I tried some herbal stuff, Bulk Herb Store has a mix that they don't advertise as a hair color, but lots of people give reviews and say that it does lightly cover grey. It did absolutely nothing for me. So I got a henna mix from Mountain Rose Herbs and in one of my more brilliant moments decided that heck yeah, 10 days before my sons wedding is the PERFECT time to take that baby for a spin. Bep looked at my hair and said it was really pretty, but the grey is "an unfortunate shade of orange." I busted out laughing, I laughed until I cried. Apparently nobody has ever said anything as witty as that. Maybe it's hormones; who cares at this point.

     I do occasionally see women going naturally grey, I saw a gal recently in a parking lot and wanted to tell her how beautiful I thought her hair was. I got scared that she'd think I was some sort of psychotic lesbian though, so I didn't. I mean, look at this woman. Lovely, no?
    I know that I'm not the only one who struggles with this, so does this blogger. And the increased cancer risk worries me too, see this page for a start. I just hate feeling so out of step with everyone else. I guess maybe I thought that by the time it happened, I'd be ready for it.

    I'll try to muddle my way through this, but when the time comes for you to cross this bridge, I'll be here to support you. And pass you the henna.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Blackberry and Blood Orange Marmalade

     We have a glut and I mean a glut (in excess of 40 pounds) of citrus fruit here. The children are eating 2 or 3 oranges a day plus an occasional grapefruit and still the fruit lies in piles on the table. I decided to make more marmalade and even after 12 jars were on the shelf there was still plenty of fruit. I wanted to try something different, I get so tired of the same old stuff year in and year out. But what? So I made up a batch (and then another because it was so stinking tasty) of Blackberry and Blood Orange Marmalade.

      The recipe is super easy and really worth the effort. Peel 6 Blood Oranges removing as much pith as possible. Shred 1 whole lemon- peel and all, but discarding the seeds. Add 6 ounces of blackberries, 2 cups of sugar and 3 cups of water. Boil until lemon pieces are tender and it begins to jell. Marmalade is a deceptive thing, by the time it looks cooked down enough it will actually have the consistency of road tar when it's room temperature. Aim for under cooked and see how it looks as it cools down, you can always cook it more if needed. Jar it and process for 10 minutes. We use most of our marmalade as a meat glaze, it pairs wonderfully with chicken and pork; but this stuff is too high class for that. I'm thinking this will be best eaten directly off the spoon late at night when the children can't see.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Rest In Peace, Dad

    William M. Near, age 90, passed away peacefully at his home, February 20, 2014 with family and his beloved dog, Zoey by his side.
    Born in North East, Pennsylvania to the late Winfred and Julia (Schultz) Near on January 19, 1925, he grew up on a dairy farm in Sherman, New York, where they farmed with horses and logged with oxen.
    Bill married Norriel (Nonie) Lanphere April 28, 1950 and they were married for 62 years before she passed away in 2012.  They lived in Ripley, New York where they raised five children.
    In his younger years Bill went to all the barn dances in the area as well as local square dances where he loved to dance the ladies around the floor. Always a gentleman, he never missed an opportunity to compliment a waitress, nurse or store clerk and make them smile.
When he returned home, he worked on the Nickel Plate railroad, and then became an over-the-road truck driver. Always mechanically inclined, he used his skills as an auto and truck mechanic for many years. He drove school bus in Ripley for several years and he worked as a custodian at BOCES, in Lakewood, NY, then as a security guard for Mogen David Winery in Westfield, then  North East Marina, North East, PA.
    Bill loved music and listened to Molly B’s Polka Party faithfully for years. Besides polka music he loved to listen to bagpipes. In his later years he decided to teach himself various instruments to “keep his mind sharp.” He learned to play the concertina, mountain dulcimer and autoharp and while never proficient at any of them, he enjoyed the learning process and practiced them throughout the years.

    At the age of 17 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II and served in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, aboard the USS Izard and USS Ross, taking part in the Philippine’s Liberation including the battles of Leyte Gulf and Lingayen Gulf as well as the battles of Iwo Jima and Truck Island among others, earning 13 battle stars in all.
    Discharged in 1945 from the Navy, Bill and a friend worked their way across the country, doing odd jobs.  Upon his return, he enlisted in the Navy Reserves in 1950 and was called up for the Korean Conflict and served on the USS Lioba until 1952.
    Over the years, Bill adopted several dogs, but especially loved his Basset Hound, Herky, and his Dobermans, Sabrina and Sydney. He loved feeding the birds and watching them at the feeder, through his living room window.
    As well as his wife and parents, Bill was preceded in death by his sisters Alice Rogers of Erie, PA and Audrey Rowe of Corning, NY.
    He is survived by his children Robyn (Bob) Albright of Ripley; Shelley Near (Peter Boesch) of Erie, PA; Dawn (Ted) Rickenbrode of Ripley, NY; William Jr. (Aileen) of Orchard Park, NY; and Paris (Gill) Graham of Knoxville, Tennessee; twenty-one grandchildren, as well as six great-grandchildren; sisters Dorothy Johnson of Mesa, AZ and Betty Richardson of Berwyn, IL; a brother Gerald Near of California; as well as many nieces and nephews.
    Visitation will be at Mathews Funeral Home in Ripley, NY, services by Michael Fantauzzi of Fredonia, from noon until 2 p.m. on February 28, 2015. A private memorial service will be held at a later date. “Flowers are for the living,” Bill said. Please make a donation to the organization or charity of your choice in his name.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mandarin Oranges

     I've been canning mandarin oranges this last little while; since their season doesn't generally coincide with when we think of canning it does seem a bit odd to have the canning supplies out again. Canning season for me generally runs from May through October, unless I have a glut of meat which then gets canned in the winter. However, you must can when the season dictates and mandarin orange season has been running for a few months and is about to wind down.

     A mandarin orange is actually a tangerine, you've probably noticed the prepackaged bags of "cuties" in your store. To can citrus you peel the fruit and then remove as much of the pith as possible. Most of the cuties have a string running up the outside that is easily removable with your thumb nail and a larger amount of pith along the inside curve.
Fruit in the jar before adding liquid

   I prefer a blend of citrus, but couldn't find blood oranges or any other good deals, so I settled for grapefruit. I used the ratio of 1 pink grapefruit per 3 lbs of tangerines. The grapefruit isn't as cooperative and most of my pieces were shredded trying to remove the tough inner skin. Add sugar if you wish, I used a scant half cup. Place the fruit in a clean jar and boil your jar rubbers for a few minutes (or wash your metal lids if you prefer. :)  ) Leave about an inch headspace and fill with orange juice, or pineapple juice or sugar syrup if that's what floats your boat. Final headspace should be 1/2", remove air bubbles and process for 10 minutes in a boiling waterbath.
Jars filled with orange juice. Not quite so pretty.  :(

     A had a gal ask me once if I liked to can. The answer is no, no I don't. I can because it's an economic necessity, it has literally kept us alive when we had little else. I can because I have definite ideas about how people (and children especially) should eat and so I need to buy fruit in season and set it back against the time when fresh fruit choices are limited. I can because I believe that it's the epitome of hubris to think that God is going to step in and provide when I'm not willing to work for it. I like the feeling of satisfaction from seeing the shelves fill up with jars, I like feeling proud of myself and I like that our children are learning to appreciate this way of life, but I don't jump up and down and think "Oh goody, I get to process fruit and jar it. Woot!Woot!"  I'm like that about many things: sewing, knitting, spinning, canning, cheese making, butchering......... I like a job well done and I'm glad to do it, but I don't do it for kicks and grins. We must be careful to guard against the mindset that we should only do what we love, we should do what needs to be done cheerfully and thank God for the ability to do so. That's what I'm striving for.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Friday's Breakfast Is Loving & Giving


We have a breakfast schedule here:

  • Monday is Levi's turn
  • Tuesday is Micah's
  • Wednesday is Tabitha's
  • Thursday is Rebekah's
  • And every other day gets argued over by Bep, Abby & Asa for the privilege of making breakfast.  :)
     The little girls wanted to make fry pies, so we did that this evening. It was a community effort and went by quickly. Even Maggie "helped" and no, I didn't mind at all. It reminded me of years ago when I let the older ones dump cornstarch on the wood floors to "ice skate" on. Time sure flies. 

     We used our own Old Fashioned Peach Jam as the filling and fried them in lard. Abby sprinkled the powdered sugar on them after she transferred each to the cookie sheet. In the morning we'll warm them up and then breakfast is served. Perfection!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Rye Bread For Haters

     I loathe rye bread, it's right up there with store bought whole wheat bread for unpalatability. However, as with many things made at home, I love my own rye bread. If you're a rye bread lover, this recipe probably isn't for you, but if you think you're no fan of rye then give this a try.

     Begin by grinding some rye berries until you have a cup and a half (more or less) of fine rye flour. Mix in a half cup of plain Greek yogurt (or buttermilk if you'd prefer) and as much warm water as needed to form a thick dough. Allow to rest overnight at room temperature. For the specifics of soaking grains see this.

     The next morning in a separate bowl combine 1/2 cup warm water, 1T molasses and 2T yeast. Let rest until bubbly. Combine with 1t salt and soaked rye (which may look grayish on top, this is fine) and a pat or two or three of butter, coconut oil, olive oil, mayo, applesauce, or whatever. Begin adding white flour until dough reaches proper consistency. Allow to rise until doubled. Punch down and form into 2 round loaves, cut 2 deep slits in the top.

     Micah made me 2 round cardboard bread "molds", they're approximately 5" high and 5" across, I line them with parchment paper and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Then gently place the loaves inside.

     Allow to double again in size and then bake in a 350-375 degree oven. Dust with flour after baking. We'll finish off both loaves tonight with sausage links, sharp cheddar and fruit. Yummy homemade goodness at its best!

     As you can see, the only real difference between mine and other rye recipes (other than the soaking step) is that my recipe lacks caraway seeds. It is solely the caraway seeds that account for the yuckiness factor in traditional rye bread. Now you know.  :)