Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Falling into Autumn

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post about childhood. I appreciated your kind words and thoughts on that post!

You may have heard me let out a sigh as the lid on the final quart of applesauce pinged last weekend, and so my canning season is done. Anything preserved from here on out will just be done for joy, but not for need. As predicted, my hopes for a Fall garden were eclipsed by my canning efforts. The stove is still in need of a final scrub down after some hard use. We've had some crisp nights recently, and a slight chill that has reawakened my interest in winter sewing. I dove into it with enthusiasm as I began tearing pieces of fabric in preparation for a rag rug I hope to make during the cooler months. This is a new project for me, so we'll see how it goes. There are usually more optimistic ideas for potential projects than I can accomplish in a single winter.

Looking at the calender reminded me that I pretty much snoozed on putting together a Fall giveaway this year. There has always been a problem with my giveaways, and that is, when I see all the people who enter, I feel badly that there are so many people competing for one prize. It's hard when you want everyone to win something, but that is not possible of course. So I do want to have a Fall giveaway, but what I would like to do is offer more than one prize so that more than one person will have a chance to win. This giveaway will be announced on Saturday, September 26, so stay tuned for details. It will run for a week, as always, so everyone will have time to enter.

Around the Home: Nothing beats a good Fall cleaning. Things that fall by the wayside during the busy Summer months are attacked with vigor in the knowledge that you will be spending more time indoors the next several months. A good time to think about organizing, airing out blankets, and putting away lighter clothes.

In the Garden: We are still getting some beans and the odd tomato. Oh, and hot peppers. Lots of them!

In the Kitchen: I used up some fresh, late season peaches with this recipe. You could also use canned slices with no problem. Also, if you don't have pancake mix, I'm sure most any kind of baking mix would work.

Peach Dumplings

5 cups sliced peaches
1 cup sugar
2 T lemon juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup pancake mix
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
2 T melted butter

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In a large saucepan, combine peaches, 2 cups water, sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil.

Combine the remaining ingredients, stirring lightly.

Using a spoon, drop into peach hot mixture. Reduce heat. Cook covered for 15 minutes without lifting cover. (This part is very hard for me, because I like to check on things!) But it works:

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Serve warm with cream or ice cream. As if I needed to tell you!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Recapturing the Magic of Childhood



The older I get, the more I look back and appreciate the wonders of being a child. It's not the experience of being a little girl that I long for, but the intangible moments in time that made up those precious years. It seemed like there were endless blue skies over the back acres where I grew up. We did not live on a farm (my father did engine repair and my mother had a seasonal pie business) but our small rental was on the edge of a lovely field, forest, and meadow. And if you walked back through the woods far enough, you came to an abandoned orchard where many forgotten and horribly imperfect apples were picked and found their ways into our pies. It was the perfect backdrop for a childhood. The sunny days of running barefoot, braids undone and breathing heavily with the excitement of finding kittens. The forest teaming with children as we built tree forts and found our way to unexplored knolls. I can still smell the cherry blossom tree on the edge of the meadow, and the wild honeysuckle that bordered the woods. You never went home for a snack (you weren't hungry and you didn't care) and only grudgingly made your way home for supper. Do children still live this way? I honestly wonder. Everything seemed hopeful, possible, and free. So when I think of how zeit lang I get for those carefree days, there is a part of me that wants to recreate that time and place. Of course, that is impossible since the time has gone and those lovely fields and forests by my childhood home are now an industrial park. And when I last visited that small home we had, I could hardly believe it was the same place. The porch had seemed so much bigger to my little girl eyes, indeed, the whole building had seemed much larger. Funny how our perception of scale is altered so greatly by adulthood.

Jesus said that unless we become as children, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Many of us are able to see a precious glimpse of a child-like world through the eyes of our own children, or the children in our lives. But there is something to be said for humbling ourselves and seeing the small pleasures on our own that we were able to view so effortlessly as children. This is something I seek more and more as I grow weary with the demands of my own life. Small moments of child-like pleasure do so much to boost my spirit. It could be something as simple as making a discovery of wildflowers in the corner of our property, or spending time sharing precious memories with a loved one. Even the words of a song repeating through my head as I go about a simple task can help me shake off the worries of the day if only for a few minutes. One day as I was sweeping our front steps I looked across the road to the corn field and an urge came over me that I should run into it and find some of my cousins playing hide and seek. Just like we did as children, and it was sweet reminder of days gone by and made me feel blessed to have that memory. Memories are temporal things too, that can leave over time. Of course, I didn't run into the field. My cousins are all grown now and living afar, and they would probably be concerned if word got out that I was found wandering around a cornfield. But I liked having that unrestrained thought, that feeling for a moment of what could be, if not for me than perhaps for some other little girl with a lovely childhood of her own. 

If you can recall anything of your younger years that brings a smile to your face, I'd love to compare notes. 

On the Table: The pie in the picture. Oh, and I don't know what will happen when we can no longer grill outdoors. It has made a summer of easy meals!

In the Kitchen: The last pints of salsa are sealed and apples are on order.

Around the Home: Hoping our living room floor will be rebuilt quickly. It is currently a large dirt pit, right down to the foundation. Unsightly and inconvenient!

In the Garden: Pole beans are being picked little by little.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is your refrigerator running?

A friend often makes the casual observation that our house is cursed. While the Mister and I tend not to be superstitious, I do admit that in the short time we have lived here (not quite 2 and a half years) we have suffered some discouraging episodes. In fact, when the lightning struck and took out our phone lines a few weeks ago, I was more than a little surprised that it actually did not strike the roof and just plain set the house on fire. Yes, it's been a trying experience. We've suffered a number of crazy incidents, including discoveries of terribly unsafe electrical wiring, phone outtages when it so much as drizzles rain, and a number of precarious situations that were difficult to explain even to our family. Every appliance in our house, which were all purchased new in the past couple years and were all highly rated by Consumer Reports, has required service by repairmen for odd problems. All but our refrigerator, which has done remarkably well and has performed like the nearly new machine that it is. Until this week.

Can you imagine coming home to start supper, opening your refrigerator door, and finding that not only are the refrigerator contents not chilled, but are actually hot? We're talking so hot that the industrial glue that holds your temperature device to the ceiling of the fridge has actually melted, and your control panel has fallen off. The fridge was filled with a terrible odor from the glue, and I immediately started pulling out spoiled food. Miraculously, the freezer was working just fine. I immediately called the customer service number which is conveniently located on a sticker inside the door panel and they agreed that a service repairman would need to come out. And yes, it's still under warranty. They gave me a number to call, and I left a message on an answering machine while my husband made an ice run. We put what we could fit in a cooler. Thankfully, there wasn't too much waste, or too much that we could not eat for supper or freeze. I never saw anything like a crazy refrigerator that suddenly went hot, and the whole time my friend's words rang through my head..."You know that house is cursed."

This morning the repair service called us back to let us know that they have not serviced our brand of refrigerator for years, so we called back the company and they gave us a new number to call. Which was an answering machine. Of course. And no one has called us back either. Maybe because they don't want to come out to a house that is cursed to repair anything.

Oh, and at some point the refrigerator did start working again, which is even worse. Because now we don't trust it. 

In the Kitchen: Half pints of yellow tomato preserves spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, and quarts of tomato sauce. I rarely do well with tomato sauce, so each year it's a new experiment. This week I'll start pricing apples for sauce and pie filling. And is it too late to get some peaches done? Last week in the kitchen while I was trying to simultaneously stir a pot and wash jars, I had an "I need a daughter" moment.


In the Garden: With the cooler temperatures we've been having, production is slowing down in the garden. It makes me sad to see the first leaves fall so early, where is this global warming they've been promising us? The final tomatoes are almost certainly around the corner.


Around the Home: Cleaning out my "pantry" which is really just an old bookcase shoved into a corner. Still, I could not believe the forgotten goods on those three little shelves- the things I've been buying when there was extra hidden right in front of me. Oh, and grudgingly refusing to pull out the quilts before summer is officially over. 

Friday, September 4, 2009

Reaping the Rewards of the Season and Recipe


A few things found in the garden one recent morning. 
A hint of crispness in the air and sunsets arriving increasingly early are some of the things that have been on my mind, and to be honest, filling me with panic. I dread the loss of sunlight and the chill in the air, and yet, it is exactly why we garden and preserve food, so that it will last through the cold, dark months. But for now, there is still plenty of summer to still be found in warm afternoons, barbecued meals, and flowering blossoms, and I intend to soak in every available minute of it. It is gratifying to see the shelves fill up with jars, the freezer packed, and the fruits of our labor.
I can remember my mom making jelly rolls when I was young girl. She often made chocolate ones with ice cream inside. It always seemed like such a big production, what with all the wax paper and rolling and unrolling an re-rolling. Now, with my own cupboards becoming increasingly stocked with jams and jellies and preserves of all sorts, it seemed like the perfect time to make one. I used a recipe from Country Extra as my guide. It was noted to be "prize-winning" and turned out delicious.
Ingredients: 
 
6 eggs, separated
1/4 cup water
1-1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1-1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Confectioners' sugar
1 jar (12 ounces)  jelly

Start with two large bowls. Place egg whites in one large bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Line a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan with waxed paper; grease the paper and set aside. 

    In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and water on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar. Stir in extracts. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together twice; gradually add to yolk mixture and mix well (batter will be very thick):




    In a large bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, on high until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold into batter. Spread evenly into prepared pan:



    Bake at 350° for 15/18 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool for 5 minutes:


Invert onto a kitchen towel dusted with confectioners' sugar:

Gently peel off waxed paper. Roll up cake in the towel jelly-roll style, starting with a short side. Cool completely on a wire rack:


Unroll cake; spread evenly with jelly. Roll up; dust with confectioners' sugar. Yield: 8-10 servings.

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