Wednesday, September 30, 2009

There have to be some kind of perks...

...to being the boss's wife. Don't you think?

Today a satisfied Expertec customer brought in a little thank you gift to her mechanic...

...a box FULL of the exquisite pastries that she makes and sells in the big city. A certain partner who shall remain nameless SET THEM OUT FOR THE OTHER CUSTOMERS TO EAT.

Hello???

The customers do not deserve french pastries when they get free homemade cookies and coffee all day every day and donuts on Friday! The french pastries are for the bosses! Or more importantly- the bosses wives! Wouldn't you agree?

There has to be some kind of perk to supporting our men who are working hard to start a business in a depressed economy and who come home every night unable to form a sentence much less have meaningful chit chat with their devoted spouses after a long day of talking to people about their car troubles and who crash in the easy chair to snore for thirty minutes before breaking for a hot meal before their next nap so that they are ready to go to bed and then get up to start again at 5 a.m.

It's a good thing that Mr. Dirtywrench mentioned in passing..."oh yeah, that lady, Monica who tried so hard to hire you last year- we fixed her car and she brought us a box of tarts."

My eyes nearly popped out of my head. "WHERE ARE THEY?"

"What?"

"THE TARTS?"

"Um. On the coffee table at work...."


I won't describe the following scene but needless to say, we rescued them before any customers could get their sticky fingers on them.


(So sorry I didn't get a photo of these gorgeous morsels before we dug into them. What's left there is a prosciutto and parmesan quiche, a spinach and tomato quiche (my breakfast!), peach crumble, plum and almond galette and apricot biscotti. There were about six other items that I unselfishly left for the nameless partner to take to his devoted wife. I may have to pummel him with a cake box if he doesn't.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

5337.18 miles

My oldest son, Kristin, is in Peru. He has been in South America for over a year. Peru is far away folks.



Since we now live in the age of the Jetsons, well, almost -I don't have a flying car yet- and I can sit at this little screen and do my banking and shopping, I can also keep up with my kid who is 5000 miles away in the jungles, mountains and deserts of another continent.

It is still pretty ridiculously far away. Another culture, another world. But connected by satellite.


He has been honing his photography skills while he's been working and adventuring down there. I am very happy that he is finally getting his photographs up in a place where I can see them all easily. He is cataloging and captioning his favorites.


Here is one:

One of my favorite shots, for so many reasons-
This kid really captures a lot of the feel of the indigenous Quechua culture in the Andes in Ecuador. In a way, sad and bleak; yet, colorful and vibrant. Simultaneously dirty and pure. His expression is one I saw many times while in the Andes- pensive, quiet, and calm. Everyone seems to be this way, from the little kids to the adults to the eldest members of the communities.
I also love this shot because I shot it JPEG and took it straight from my camera, and it needed no processing, sharpening, color enhancement, or exposure correction. I wish all my shots came out with this color and and vibrancy.

Andes mountains near Cayambe, Ecuador - 2008




We hear he may be home again before this year is out.

I have a feeling he won't be the same kid that left.

And I know he is expecting pie when he gets here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Harvest Time

Last spring I told you about blossom time here in our fruitful valley.





And then I showed you the valley in mid-summer.




Now we are in the midst of harvest season.



Pear and apple crops are being picked. Farm trucks loaded with bins full of fruit are barreling down our road all day long.





The fruit is headed for the packing houses where it gets shipped out around the country.


Lots of the fruit is available at the farm stands selling their crops.





There are countless farm stands all over the valley.



Oops! Did you miss that one? Never mind- a couple miles down the road there will be another.



And another...



It is guaranteed that there will be varieties of apples and pears of which you have never heard before. Sample tastes are always available.

You won't find any Red or Yellow Delicious apples here. They got sent to the packing house.





There will be lots of jams, jellies...




...baked goods and fresh cider.




The choices for fruit are endless.




Look for fruit grown here in the Great Northwest in your own grocery stores and support the American farmer.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The family that plays together, stays together

My dad was a firearms safety instructor.

I spent many days traipsing around the woods with him, hunting pheasants and grouse and later ducks and deer. (I never got anything, by the way).



I started shooting clay pigeons with 20 gauge shotguns before I was in middle school. There were display boards of ammunition in the basement. We had iron-clad strict rules about handling guns. I never had a girly-girl fear of firearms, just a healthy respect for them.
My boys, all five of them, were given BB guns by their uncles as soon as they could squint one eye closed.


And they immediately became well-versed in the iron clad rules of gun safety.



So what better family past-time for the last sunny weekend of September then to go shooting?




The guys usually forget to invite Mom, but I really wanted to get out in the sunny woodland so I invited myself!
After warming up with some friendly turn-taking at the flying clay pigeons, we played Annie Oakley.

Annie Oakley is a shooting game where you take turns shooting at the clays. If you miss, you are out. If you miss and the next shooter takes a shot at the same clay and misses too, you are still in.


My boys do a lot more shooting than I do. They can be hard to beat.



But guess what?



I won one.



Oh yes, I did.

I won. Uh huh.

Oh yeah.

I won.
Yes, I won one!
Mark that down.
Yes, boys. Remember that.
Your Mama won Annie Oakley!

Yes, she did!

(And she has a blog and can brag if she wants to)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Summer's over? Say it isn't so!

Remember last May when I planted my window boxes?



This is how they look now.




I only have a few dahlias but they are purty!




Fall crocuses produce leaves in the spring and blooms in the fall.





Japanese anemones grow four feet tall and herald the end of summer.




The ubiquitous black-eyed susan is a late summer staple.

I'm dreading the first frost that will wipe out all my garden delights.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Visiting the Past

One of the touring excursions my friends and I went on while in Switzerland was to Ballenberg.


Ballenberg is a Swiss open air museum similar to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.





The purpose of the exhibits is to show what life in Switzerland was like during different parts of its long history and in the various regions of the small Alpine country. All of the many buildings are actual historic structures that were moved to Ballenberg and reconstructed. The oldest building dates from 1400 (that's before the Americas were even discovered by the Europeans!)





There are farmhouses, barns, mills, and working shops (blacksmith, potter, weaver, herbalist, etc.).


The museum is arranged in villages connected by hiking trails. Each village depicts a different era and region of Switzerland.


The buildings are furnished to show how people lived and worked. I love this sink with the drain going out the window and the drying board on the side. Not that I would trade my dishwasher for this arrangement...




This is a herdsman hut. It was a shelter for the herdsman tending their animals in the mountains and provided a covered area in front to milk the cows. Notice the rocks on the roof. I was told their purpose was to keep the snow from sliding off.


Animals were grazing all over the area. They wore the iconic Swiss bells around their necks. Their music was a constant reminder that, yes, I was in Switzerland.




My very favorite part of the day was visiting the cheesemaker.
He was stirring this large pot of cheese curds and whey over an open fire and keeping a close eye on the temperature.

Since I have made cheese myself I had many questions, the first of which, of course, was "Sprechen Sie English?" Unfortunately, every single person at Ballenberg to whom I asked this question replied, "Nein." I really wanted to talk to this cheesemaker though so I persisted. He told me he could speak to me in Italian or French which didn't help me much. So I proceeded to speak in rudimentary German mixed with goofy sign language. One thing I asked was what he would do with all the leftover whey from the cheese. (That is the liquid in the pot that the curds are swimming in.) Many gallons of whey would come out of that pot every day. The cheesemaker enlisted the help of another employee to determine what I was asking and how to answer. After a "conversation" that included some grimacing and arm-flailing the likes of which would have made a good "I Love Lucy" episode, the other guy said the whey went to the "pork". Since I was expecting this may be the answer, I said, "Pigs?" and the guy said "Ya! Pigs." and then he imitated the pig's snorting. So we got that question answered.

Next I was dying to know how the cheesemaker was going to get the curds out of that very large copper pot so I stuck around long enough to find out.

His technique made me swoon. This guy knew what he was doing!


I won't describe every detail but needless to say, he scooped out every bit of cheese in one pass and didn't spill a drop. I was greatly impressed.




...And I told him so in Lucille Ball sign language. He was so pleased with my enthusiasm that he took a handful of that fresh cheese, squeezed out the whey and gave it to me to try. It had a clean, fresh flavor of sweet raw milk. Very delicious.


The cheese he had made earlier was ripening on a side board.





I have a great respect for the old ways and admiration for people who have the talent to keep the traditions alive.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Plum Galette

Saw it on Martha and said, "gotta have that...now"

Our plums are ripe so it was perfect timing. I made a spelt crust. Here's my crust recipe:

Mix together 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Cut in 1 cup of cold butter (I did it by hand today since my food processor was in the dishwasher!). Add 1/4 cup cold water to make a dough.

I used the whole amount of dough for one thick galette crust. Otherwise this amount of dough will make two crusts for a ten inch pie.

Roll the crust out thickly on a large sheet of parchment paper to about sixteen inches in diameter. Sprinkle brown sugar over it leaving about three inches all around.

Lay sliced plums over the sugar. Fresh peaches, apricots, apple or pears would also be wonderful.



Fold the edges of the crust over the plums.





Brush the crust with cream or an egg wash, dot the fruit with butter and sprinkle the edges with sugar.






Bake on the parchment (I used a pizza pan underneath) at 425 degrees for 40-45 minutes until fruit is bubbly and crust is golden.






Easy as pie and just as delicious.

My breakfast...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Switched Before Birth

Remember when I told you about my late summer broody hen?


She was nesting in the goat pen and laying infertile eggs.
Since she wasn't going to give up trying to hatch them I had to assist her by switching her eggs with fertile ones from the chicken coop.




Well, we're happy to report that she managed to produce offspring.


She hatched two of the eggs which made her so happy that she abandoned the nest (she had only been sitting there for, oh, thirty or forty days). There were still five eggs left in the nest which then died. This made the boys very unhappy with her since those eggs were probably only a day or two away from hatching. Such is life on the farm with small-brained critters...





This hen is now diligently protecting her chicks from the paparazzi. I had to chase her all over the farm begging her to let me take just a few shots of her little peepers.



She wasn't about to accommodate any crazy bloggers wielding cameras.




Hopefully I'll never have to explain to her why one of those chicks does not look like her.