Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pretty, yes. Punctual, not so much.

My Christmas cactus...I mean... my Thanksgiv......no, my Reformation cactus is blooming!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Coast Adventure

Our short time at the coast was dominated by abysmally cold and wet weather.

But this coastline is spectacular in all kinds of weather.


And as true Oregonians, the weather didn't interfere with the boys' enjoyment of the beach.

Kites, sandcastles, playing in the waves, bike rides...they fit all of it in to their day.

We took one hike during low tide in an attempt to find some sea creatures to show our visitor.

First stop was a look out point on a cliff where the wind made umbrellas impossible.

After which we found a sketchy trail that led down to a rocky beach protected from the wind. During high tide this area would be mostly underwater.

We were slightly disappointed that we couldn't find any tide pools.

This was the hill we came down to reach the beach. Going back  up was another matter.

Samuel scrambled up like the monkey he is. The other two boys also managed to make it.

This old lady had a bit more trouble.

And I had the evidence to prove it.

When we reached the top, the boys declared that it was the best adventure ever!

Immediately, when we reached the car, the sun broke out in blue sky. But of course.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Not a Tropical Beach Vacation

Someone suggested that I may need some downtime. I could get into that.

October, vacation month of the year, right? At least for wedding vendors it is one of the potential vacation months. And for homeschoolers, any month is a potential vacation month.

So, yesterday the boys and I packed up our schoolbooks (we may or may not actually take them out of the box) our warm fleece jackets and a bite of food and headed as far west as the car would take us, that is, until we hit the Pacific Ocean.

We are currently hosting a houseguest from Switzerland. Since Switzerland is a completely land-locked country, he has never seen an ocean except for the view from the airplane when he crossed The Pond to get to America.

So that reason, coupled with my need to get a smackerel of down time was good incentive to head to the coast in October. Of course we drove through pouring rain to get here but we'll take what we can get, which is rain, sun, fog, rain, wind, fog and sun. Complete unpredictability. I remember when I visited the Oregon coast for the very first time and the weather was identical in April. The thing is, when you are seeing the grandeur of the Pacific for the first time, the weather doesn't matter.

We have the cutest little beach house ever for our little get-away. It is old and tiny, smells like my grandmother's house did in 1969, and it's painted in bright colors of sun, sand, sky and sea. The adorable little kitchen is bright yellow with white wainscoting and a black and white checked linoleum floor. The dishes are turquoise melamine, just like my grandma had. Get the picture? Cute and beachy!

I slept just fine in the tiny sea green bedroom until the rascal boys I brought with me decided to begin the day at 5:30 ay. yem. They want to get the most out of the day but I want to get some long morning sleep! I will need to define "vacation" for them again. I checked the tide tables and later today when the tide is low we will venture out to find some tide pools with starfish and urchins.

But until then, this is where I am.
Could someone please bring me a Mai Tai?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ripe on the Vine

 For the first time in quite a few years - five? six? more?- we will finally harvest fully ripened Concord grapes-
 Last year we talked about pulling out the vines, one of the first things we planted here about eighteen years ago, because we seldom get a ripened crop before the cold late fall weather sets in and freezes the grapes. I have harvested the grapes while still sour and made juice with them (later adding stevia for sweetener so people would drink it) but the flavor just isn't the same as juice made from fully ripened Concords.

We just don't have hot enough summers to ripen the grapes here on the slopes of the mountain.

With this year's cool summer it looked like we would once again lose the grapes. We had a beautiful September with consistent seventy degree temperatures and bright blue skies. I tried a new strategy of keeping them dry, not watering the vines at all (we had no rain), and several times I took the pruners to the vines, cutting away lots of foliage to expose the grapes to the sun. We had several nights of frost in early October which sweetens the grapes and now it looks like we'll have some tasty ones for the first time in quite a while.

I'll be making grape juice this weekend for sure.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No Rest for the Wicked


I've been neglecting my blog. But if I could show you my schedule, outline my days, maybe there would be an understanding of why I am so uninspired and can only heave a sigh of exhaustion when I approach it.


I woke up early thinking about my To Do list so I just got up and got to it. I had three boxes of tomatoes waiting to be made into something that would keep for winter and they were starting to go bad so I began the day by washing them and starting some of them roasting in the oven and the rest in a pot on the stove. After that I baked four loaves of sourdough bread and began school with my two boys.

Last weekend was my last wedding of the season. It was delivered early Saturday morning and I heaved a sigh of relief and relished the thought of a weekend without deadlines- the first in many months. Before wedding season even ends, apple turnover season begins. Every week, the boys have been peeling boxes of apples and Alyssa and I have been making and rolling dough, pinching and baking hand pies. This week the order is a big one for the annual Harvest Festival. But there was no cake on the baking schedule.

Then I got a call from a friend who wanted to provide large cakes for the local crisis pregnancy center's fundraiser. I get a lot of calls for fundraisers but this is one I really wanted to do despite the fact that my week is already very full of apple turnovers. I said yes to cake and supporting an organization I care about.

The only way I will pull everything off this week is to bake some cake today, so after school lessons were finished I got right to the cake baking. The boys peeled apples and then I had apple filling to bake too. Of course, there is also supper since around here people expect to eat once in awhile. My goal was to get supper on early so I put beef stew on the stove.

I should have photographed the kitchen at about 5:00. Large cakes cooling on racks, pans of apple turnover filling also cooling, beef stew and pots of tomato sauce (still) on the stove, cake batter bowls stacked in the sink and I have miles to go before I sleep.

Supper over, on to the next project. Finishing this tiling project-

 -because until it's finished, the woodstove won't be back and my buns will be cold. It is October after all.

Three hours later and the last tile is on, the boys are heading to bed, the kitchen is getting its final clean-up and it's time for the last task of the day.

Another cake.

I had a request from a photographer for a prop cake. She is shooting a one year old baby's birthday photos and wants a frilly pink cake for the child to mash into. My last project of the day is to pipe ruffly buttercream to a vanilla cake for a birthday baby.

And now it's midnight and I'm writing a blog post.

Tomorrow there is more cake to bake, apple turnovers to create, school lessons to teach and always, always, a kitchen to clean.

I'm starting to look forward to a serious winter storm that just shuts everything down.

Wait. Did I really say that?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

On the Homestretch

It's been a whirlwind wedding season that is winding down. Two more weddings on the schedule and we'll call it a success- 49 weddings! It's entirely possible there will be a few more before the end of 2012 but the official season is coming to a close. Already I am hearing from brides for cakes in 2013.

This cake was a lot of fun. I found a great variety of fruit at a local orchard farm stand including those cute little crab apples. The leaves are sturdy salal. I sugared them by painting them with egg white and dusting with baker's sugar. When Peter saw the fruit on a tray, he asked me why I had frozen the fruit. I had some leftover fruit pieces that I put in a cut glass bowl for a lovely table centerpiece that has lasted for a couple weeks.

This cake caused a bit of anxiety as I worked through figuring out exactly what color "platinum" is. I just happened to have exactly the right shade of grey/silver/chrome/platinum ribbon in my stash which was a huge relief the night before the delivery. The ribbon perfectly matched the bridesmaid's dresses (I discovered at the delivery) so the bride was pleased!

This wedding cake was ordered two days before the wedding. A Taiwanese couple apparently decided to throw a wedding together that quick. I got a somewhat panicky, early morning call from a chef at a mountain resort. They wanted vanilla/vanilla with red and hot pink, the couple's cultural wedding colors. I now surprise myself at how easily I can throw out one of these things on short notice.

A classy cake for a classy hotel wedding.

And then something out of the ordinary-
This couple wanted to incorporate their Norwegian heritage by having a rosemalling design on the cake in their colors of turquoise and purple. This is way outside the box for me since I'm not an expert at piping and the thought of it can send me into fits of anxiety. Combine that with the fact that the piping is purple which leaves absolutely no disguise for goof-ups and I'm a bundle of nerves. I don't think I nailed the design but the cake was acceptable. At least I hope it was.

One more, easy-peasy, "rustic, messy" icing and beautiful flowers, then some slab pies and a groom's cake and it's on to next year!