Monday, April 26, 2010

Just Another Saturday

Early morning. Weeding the strawberry patch. Enough clover to justify buying a cow. Planting more lettuce. Re-potting tomato plants. Dog in the compost pile. Put down that rotten banana peel! Bags full of rhubarb to clean and cut.

A lilac bouquet so lovely, but the cause of many sneezes. More laundry. A trip to the store. A walk in the park. Supper: chicken, tossed salad, and corn relish. A canner full of rhubarb. My back is killing me. It's only 8:30? Oh, to be 25 again. Lie down, read a page, sleep. Zzzzz.

Some of you who read me through feed readers might have noticed some old posts popping up. I moved a few of my favorite posts from my old blog (which has been deleted) over here. Of course, I lost the original comments on those posts when I moved them, but looking back, some of the posts still make me smile. One I remember fondly is the saga of the "good dress" in which I had a new dress made by a seamstress (serged seams and all) which was accidentally left in a motel during a trip, never to be recovered. I hope who ever ended up with it is still enjoying it!

Also, who could forget my great Aunt Margaret's pet fox?

Those are just a couple of favorites that are back there in the 2007-08 years.

I started blogging sometime back in 2007, as a way to primarily keep in touch with far away friends. But once I started writing my posts, it turned out there was another benefit. It helped me find my writing "voice". After years of performing academic research and writing technical-sounding papers on specialized topics, it was so hard to write anything that didn't sound like I was trying to have a paper published in a scientific journal. My writing was cold, and stark, and not like life at all. Also, the challenge of writing about things that were important to me personally, or things that were personal yet not so important, was a welcome one. My brain could use a good stretch once in while. And my first blog served as a priceless scrapbook of our first 1-2 years of marriage.

Anyway, I've met so many wonderful people through my blog. Quite a few of you have become good friends. As my posts may become less frequent over the coming months (maybe once every couple of weeks) I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who stops by to read my meanderings!

This is a favorite way we enjoy rhubarb. I like it because you can make it quick with a canned quart, or the defrosted equivalent. We eat it "out of season" quite a bit this way.

Rhubarb Dessert

4 cups of finely chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar (less if using canned fruit)
3 T flour
2 T strawberry jello

Combine rhubarb, sugar, and flour, then place in a greased baking dish. Sprinkle with strawberry jello. Make topping from 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup oats, 3/4 cup flour, and 1/4 cup butter. Sprinkle topping over rhubarb mixture. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Good served warm with vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

On Herbs and Things

My cousin, E- is a "community herbalist" and has her own practice consisting of people who seek her out to cure their ills, using natural methods. For a long time, E- was actually a registered nurse, until in later years she broke her foot and ended up on an extended leave from her job, and found herbs. Now, she delights in growing pots of weedy looking things I've never heard of, and making salves and ointments. Anyway, for the past year she's been enthusiastically singing the virtues of her main herb supplier, a family business run out of some green houses next to a home called King's Herb Nook. E- loves their organically grown herbs, loves their little shop of hand made soaps and salves, and loves the King family. Now, I'm not much into herbs, and tend to just grow a couple pots of parsley, thyme, and other assorted cooking herbs, and start the seeds myself. I couldn't imagine what all the fuss was about, but promised E- that the next time I was in the area of the Herb Nook that I would stop in and pay a visit.

So one fine day of shopping, I found myself driving down the pleasingly hilly road on the way to the thrift shop when I saw the cheerful sign welcoming customers.

Pulling into the gravel driveway, a little boy pushing a lawnmower and some wash on the line were the only signs of life. My first thought was, my, this really is a remarkable collection of herbs. Anything you could think of and many you've never heard of were spread out in flats throughout several green houses and outdoor tables. It was not my intention to buy anything, until I saw every herb I had ever wanted to try, all young and healthy.

Soon, the owner greeted me and as we were chatting I found both the owner and her mother to be very congenial and helpful. We never even got around to discussing mutual acquaintances as I was so full of questions and they were so full of knowledge. And that is how I found myself at the cash register with lemon verbena, oregano, rosemary, chives, and an heirloom tomato plant all for less than I would have spent on seeds. Yes, that little shop really is a gem.

So this year I am increasing my herb garden to include new plants with my old favorites. This was so timely as I had this planter I wanted to fill....
...and if you think the planter might resemble a crock pot, you are right. A few weeks ago the stoneware insert for my six quart sprung a fracture in the bottom, making it impossible to use for cooking. But surely it would be good for something else?

While I'm mentioning new favorite places, I'd like to give a mention to an old favorite that happens to be just ten minutes from the Nook. It's a little grocery store- Hershey's Farm market.

Here is what I love about this store: Even though it is tiny, it has tons of great buys, old local brands that you don't see too many other places, and fresh vegetables. The meat selection is ridiculously large for such a small store, and high quality. All these things mean a lot since the large chain market where I do most of our shopping has recently scaled back their selection and raised their prices so they can open a "wine and spirit shop" inside the store. Yet, this little store thrives. Hershey's market is located not too far from a large Wal Mart with a packed parking lot, but there are only a few people at any give time in Hershey's. So when you are shopping there, it makes you feel like you know some great shopping secret that the masses down the street don't know about. (I shop at Wal Mart too, but this little treasure of a store would be my first stop.)

Amish farm, Morgantown, PA

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring, in Pictures

I was walking around in our over-grown yard last weekend when a squeak erupted from a thatch of grass. What in the world? Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a baby bunny that promptly leapt away to safety under our gate door.

After corralling the curious dogs elsewhere, I went back to check and make sure the little rabbit was okay. Turns out, it was fine, just a bit surprised at meeting my garden boot.
And can you believe that while I was laying in the grass checking on bunny, I looked down and saw this four leaf clover?

When we bought this house three years ago, I planted dozens of tulip bulbs in the front flower bed. Imagine my sadness to discover that all but four were eaten by something! I didn't try tulips, again. Last year, the same four bloomed, still hanging in there. But this year, those tulips multiplied like crazy and it was a surprise to see bunches of flowers.

All of this lovely weather makes it hard to stay inside...more than ever I crave looking for time outdoors. So I took a little field trip, which I'll share about in my next post.

Thank you to everyone who left comments and mentioned in e-mail your prayers for Hope's daughter Charity and the upcoming LLF mission trip. Although Charity is not healed yet, and recently suffered a setback when she had to go to the ER for her right ear. Yet, her family is still hopeful for her healing in time for the trip. Praise God, a very present help in this time of trouble.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Do You Have a Prayer to Spare?

Spring tulips, Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA

Have you ever felt that you were out of sorts in your life? That you don't fit in? That you are not where you are supposed to be? Yes, I'm sure maybe a few of us have experienced a season of such feelings, and some of us are going through that right now.
Imagine what it would be like to know that you are on that path that the Lord has so carefully set out for you. That He has opened doors that were so hard to open. That He made possible things that only He could. And the best part- that He is using you to to show His glory. What a blessing to be so perfectly in His will.

Then, imagine that something starts to go very wrong.

That is exactly what has happened to Hope Ann (or more accurately, her daughter) as her family prepares for their medical mission trip to Russia later this month with Little Loaves and Fishes. After getting through this awful winter with her entire family in excellent health, Hope's daughter is suddenly suffering a painful affliction in her ears. Not only could the mission trip be in jeopardy, with all of its non-refundable tickets and expenses, but her daughter's hearing is in failure. This is a large concern, as her passion is playing the violin, a passion she wants to use for the Lord, and you need to have outstanding hearing to play the violin in a pleasing manner. It makes you wonder how such an awful thing could happen at such an important time. It makes you a little suspicious that something else is going on.

Would you all please join me in praying for Hope's family, the LLF mission trip, and her daughter's health? I would consider it a gift.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Something Old Made New & Something Delicious

On Sunday, we started the day with our church's annual pre-service Easter breakfast. It's always a nice time to fellowship and meet with visitors. After worship, we enjoyed a walk in the park, and found quite a few people to be out enjoying such a warm and sunny day. Finally, we had dinner with family, which rounded out a peaceful Easter celebration. He is risen, indeed.

Now, another busy week lays before me. Feeling rather purposeful lately, I am indulging in finding my creative balance before the hard work of summer is soon upon us.

About a year ago I read an article on decoupage, which is really a fancy word for cutting out pictures, pasting them on to an object, and coating it with a sealer. The project featured in the article used pictures cut out from a seed catalog sealed on to a photo frame. It was adorable. I filed away the idea until the right opportunity came up to try it. There was a plain memento box that had been getting increasingly dusty and dirty which was the perfect canvass for this craft project, and as seed catalogs began to trickle in, I put aside the ones that featured pictures of large, vibrant roses.

Here's everything you need- a paint brush, some sealer which you can find in the glue section at the craft store, some pictures, and an item to decorate.

The finished project.

This was a very easy project, quick, too. The sealer dries fast and doubles as glue. Aside from cutting out the roses, it took less than an hour to complete this. The results were worth it, I think. At least not bad for a first try. I used a matte sealer, but next time would probably try the gloss.

In the Kitchen:
One of the perks of being a librarian (there are only a few, and they are different for everybody) is having access to the newest cookbooks fresh off the press. I was delighted when a few copies of this one arrived...
"Fresh from Central Market" Cookbook: Favorite Recipes from the Standholders of the Nation's Oldest Farmer's Market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, by Phyllis Pellman Good.I love farmer's markets, and although I don't recall ever visiting this specific one, which is located in Lancaster city proper, I knew the book would be a gold mine of delicious ideas. It was not a disappointment. Standholders past and present have generously contributed many wonderful recipes, and there is quite a variety, too. Anyone could find something to love in this book, whether it's the Old Fashioned Corn Fritters, Buttermilk Chicken, or authentic Amish Roast. But the first one to catch my eye was this delicious side...

Red Skinned Mashed Potatoes

2 and 1/2 lbs. red-skinned potatoes
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream
3 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
4 T butter cut into chunks

Wash potatoes, but do not peel. Cut into quarters.

Place potatoes, garlic, and 1/2 tsp. salt in soup pot. Add 2" water. Cover pot and cook potatoes until soft, about 20-30 minutes.

Drain liquid, and mash potatoes.

Add sour cream, cream cheese, garlic salt, pepper, and butter. Mix well.

Place in greased 2-quart baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 30 minutes.

By the way, these are very hearty, and you will have no trouble feeding a small crowd with this one.


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