Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Joy of Family Recipes

Do you have a kitchen collection? There are so many things one could collect. Antique kitchen gadgets, silver spoons, tea strainers, crystal glassware, and more. Some things cost a pretty penny to collect! And other things are free. The free things are the best, because they usually harbor memories or bits of history. These things are priceless. Recipes that are passed down from mother to son, grandmother to granddaughter, or great-uncle to your favorite cousin are not only measurements, words, and instructions. They are also a very tangible piece of family history and lore. Additionally, taste buds can create very strong emotional responses when it comes to family recipes! Therefore, family recipes are really worth the effort it takes to gather and transcribe them.

Sometimes these recipes come with stories. In our family, some recipes immediately remind us of aunties or a grandmother who specialized in making a specific dish. And sometimes they come sprinkled with a but of humor. One of my dear aunts always baked the most delicious "crumb buns". They were a white and delicious yeast roll that was dipped in milk and then a crumb mixture of flour, vanilla, sugar, and milk before being set to rise and bake. Oh, they were so good! Dear aunt would always pack a lunch for us after a trip to visit her. She packed our lunch in colorfully painted tins, and one tin always contained a good supply of her "crumb buns". When I became a teen, I decided that I should learn to bake "crumb buns" myself. Mostly dear aunt cooked from memory, never really following a recipe in a book or card. But she was willing to assist in helping new cooks to learn, so she would carefully measure ingredients the next time she made a requested dish in order to know amounts she used. Upon my request, she mailed me a neatly typed card which contained the measurements, ingredients, and instructions for baking her famous rolls. I trusted dear aunt implicitly, not once questioning her choice of ingredients. But my "crumb buns" simply fell flat! Upon further analysis, I discovered that dear aunt and I had both left out the yeast! She on the written card, and me in the bowl! Oh dear! They were a total flop! Later, dear aunt and I would laugh over this adventure many times. She thought anyone would know to add yeast, even if she had left it out. And she was correct. I'd spent many Sunday afternoons since 4th or 5th grade, baking bread for the family's food needs for the upcoming week. I should have been experienced enough to know.

Recipes can go in notebooks, recipe boxes, computers, cookbooks, scrapbooks, and more. My recipe gathering habit has me take advantage of many methods of storage. No matter how organized and efficient one is, I suggest that at least one box be available on the kitchen counter where recipes can be "stuffed" as they are discovered or received. My box is a recipe storage container that is from the Martha Stewart line. It's a beautiful faded green and holds quite a bundle of recipe papers and cards. Someday the recipes here will go into a notebook in order to make room for the next batch of recipes collected. How do you store your recipes?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Wildflower Day

Wild onions.
Lupine from the pea family.
Star flowers.
Wild ginger.
Calypso Lady-slipper Orchid.
Shooting Stars

Wishing you a wildflower day!  That means a day filled with beauty, joy, and serenity.  Can you find the wild ginger leaves?  They are such sweethearts!  And the orchid?  The shooting stars?  And the wild onion? One of these flowers is a member of the pea family.  Can you identify which one?

Mountain flowers are so delicate and pretty.  Finding them is always a fun-filled treasure hunt!

Enjoy your day!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Homestead Cabin

The hills are alive with wildflowers and lush, green growth. And recently they harbored. . .

. . .tasks that needed done and a man who was willing to do them! A few seasons ago, a very large tree fell on one of the mountain wood sheds, crushing it to smithereens.  (The wood shed was behind this homestead cabin). Last summer Brent, Rylan, and Grandpa worked hard to disentangle the shed from the trunk and branches. They sawed up the tree, hauled it to a more remote place on the property (it was too dead to use for firewood), and hauled the wood shed, piece by piece, into a large pile in a space in front of the homestead cabin so it could dry out. The homestead cabin is very old and empty on a corner of the land, but it is a place I love. It's quaint craftsman style and faded red paint invite the heart. It could only benefit from the removal of debris.

So armed with tools, Brent set to work to burn the old shed. A season had given it time enough to dry out. It was ready to burn. Since I love old things, I had a hard time watching the old "barn wood" going into the burn pile, but it was too extensive a task to remove old nails, hinges, and fasteners and to take it apart piece by piece to haul back home for crafty projects. The wood was beautifully aged.

The pick-up tailgate provided a ring-side seat of all the action.

And the fire burned. . .

. . .to a pile of beautiful embers. All that were missing were the hot dogs for roasting!

Next, the man has plans to mow the meadow surrounding homestead cabin.  It still remains, but without a wood shed behind it. It's time that it looked a bit more loved and cared for. Sometimes it is hard to know if it should be left looking as though abandoned, or if it should look much loved. Ruffian's tend to like to break into it, sometimes building a fire on the concrete floor or simply curious as to what is inside. After fixing and re-fixing the broken front door after break-ins, Brent has solved the problem by nailing the door shut and then covering a window (which someone broke out) with a hinged wooden covering. If anyone wants inside, all they have to do is open the shutter and look right in. The window is large enough, they can crawl in if they want to! This solution has seemed to solve the problem. It seems no one has entered since it has been made accessible to all.

A little red barn beside the cabin is quiet and quaint. Worn wooden stalls and a creaky ladder to the loft above reveal years of use. I'm sure interesting stories could be told from years gone by. It sits quiet now, although several summers past a twelve-year-old girl got lost in the mountains overnight and used it's shelter overnight for protection and security. We could see the outline of twigs and grasses that she used to create a nature-crafted bed on the dirt floor. When she was found, her mother left a note of thankfulness for the shelter (and drum of water we'd left nearby). I'm so happy it was there for her. I carefully saved the outline of her little fabricated bed as a reminder for the remainder of the summer.

A hard days work (and observation by me and my good book) warranted a seat on the observation log on the point where we enjoyed some good cups of tea. The man is making plans for his next trip to the mountain. Work, work, work is his motto. It brings him much joy.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Farmer's Market

There are so many smiling faces and friendly people at Farmer's Market. Don't you just LOVE summertime?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

l a v e n d e r

With the arrival of summer, the hot weather is here. Our three week delay in blossoms is starting to catch up. I was happy to be able to pick my first bundle of lavender recently. Weeks behind in blooming, it is still more bud than bloom, but the fragrance is lovely! They hybrids are blooming well right now, and the rest aren't far behind. I'm especially enjoying the white and pink lavender blossoms. They are delicate and sweet, giving contrast to the dark blues and purples of the other plants.  It's time to start harvesting lavender for projects.  The ideal is to gather them to dry while they are just about ready to blossom.  Petals are not considered desirable for lavender craft and food projects.  But, they are so pretty in the garden that I have a hard time actually harvesting too many of them.  Even when the blossoms are past their prime, they look beautiful in the garden as the lavender dries on the stalk, creating a contrasting backdrop for other flowers in bloom.  There is such beauty in such a simple plant.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dear Diary in England

A note from Aunt Cella includes passages from her diary that are a simple delight to read!  She and Uncle Mike routinely have "porch teas" on their sunny Arizona porch where they reread diaries of the past forty-plus years.  I think you would enjoy reading some of her diary passages too.  At the end of this one she shares a recipe for her favorite Buttermilk Pie.  Grab yourself a cuppa tea and enjoy the read.

The Diary.  It's August 4, l970 (Aunt Cella is 7 months pregnant)   "Lovely rest all by ourselves in this big open lot under a shade tree near York.  Beautiful sunny but cool day again.  We both exercised on a tiny road, & then drove into York.  Found it a delightful place, esp. the old narrow winding streets near the Cathedral.  Walked up the famous Shambles Street, a quaint little touristy-charming walking lane with no cars & bosomy overhanging 2nd stories on the houses & shops, so crooked they nearly touched on the tops.  Found a sweet little beamed & wall-papered Shambles Restaurant, & having just cottage cheese & peaches for breakfast (& no dinner the night before because I was both resting & punishing my stomach for eating  a big breakfast & then apple pie with cream yesterday afternoon),  I was hungry!  We enjoyed a delightful but cheap lunch (85 cents each) including everything! Soup, rolls, full delicious entree plate (mine was chicken fricassee with Yorkshire pudding & Mike's was steak pie & both were delicious), coffee & dessert!  Wow, never such a bargain again I'm afraid. (some lovely camp sites are 50 cents for the night with facilities.)  Anyway, "Dessert was gooseberry & apple tart in custard sauce which needed sweetening--but 85 cents!!!  After touring the famous cathedral, now being restored & nearly impassable in places, but a beautiful creation, we strolled back through a quaint area till I spotted a winsome old timbered 2 story restaurant, standing amid the stalls of the open market.  This place, the Tudor Rose, was delightfully old & beamed & we enjoyed an orange squash on the 2nd floor.  Anything to get into these places was our motto!  How we sacrificed & suffered! Drove then right on towards the Lakes District & Beatrix Potter country, passing through a town where we stopped for.......let me guess, yes 3 (THREE!) soft ice creams each!  And absolutely bereft of our long-used alibi that eating something was just an excuse to get into these places--shameless.  We then crossed the Pennines, the rocky backbone of central England via small grey stoned farming towns.  This Pennine area is much akin to Scotland, wild, brooding, craggy, green, & lovely.  Found a campsite among the many available, high on a hill & commanding a wonderful view.  Enjoyed the outlook immensely & also the price of 50 cents!"  

* * *

Aunt Cella comments that "the diary goes on & on.  I have notebooks full of those 30 years of traveling.  I'm so glad I've got them".

She ends her note to me with this:  "Now is there room for a recipe?  Lemon-Buttermilk Pie    3 eggs, 1 & 3/4 c sugar, 4 big rounded tbsp. flour, 1 stick butter or margarine melted,  l c buttermilk, juice & rind of 2 lemons or more ( I use about 4 because we both love strong & tart lemon taste, but then of course you should increase the flour amount).  Pour into unbaked pie shell & bake for about 1 hour at 350.  Take out even if a bit soupy in the middle.  Will set.  Yum, yum." 

*The photo shows Aunt Cella preparing a "porch tea" in January.  Only in Arizona!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Teakettle Sings from Happiness

"A roof to keep out the rain. Four walls to keep out the wind. Floors to keep out the cold. Yes, but home is more than that. It is the laugh of a baby, the song of a mother, the strength of a father. Warmth of loving hearts, light from happy eyes, kindness, loyalty, comradeship. Home is first school...for the young ones where they learn what is right, what is good, and what is kind. Where they go for comfort when they are hurt or sick. Where joy is shared and sorrow eased. Where fathers and mothers are respected and loved. Where children are wanted. Where the simplest food is good enough for kings because it is earned. Where money is not so important as loving-kindness. Where even the teakettle sings from happiness. That is home."  

Ernestine Schumann-Heink

Lovely Rose, Queen of Fragrance

Queen of fragrance, lovely rose,
The beauties of they leaves disclose!

The winter's past, the tempests fly,
Soft gales breathe gently through the sky;

The lark's sweet warbling on the wing
Salutes the gay return of spring:

The silver dews, the vernal showers,
Call forth a bloomy waste of flowers;

The joyous fields, the shady woods,
Are cloth'd with green, or swell with buds;

They hast thy beauties to disclose,
Queen of fragrance, lovely rose!

Poem by William Broome
Roses from my garden

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Late Arrival!

Finally. . .we were able to pass through the snowbanks. . .and get to the cabin. It's been eight months since the snow arrived. It's mostly gone now except in shady spots in the woods, and one spot on the road up the mountain where it has stayed deep and mushy for weeks on end! Each time we have arrived at this spot, one or more 4x4 trucks have been stuck. Brent has pulled three of them out of the deep snow so far. On our last trip up the mountain we again towed someone out and they returned down the mountain and said they'd try again another day. But my optimistic husband thought that we could get through. I held me breath, and he slowly inched along through the deep, packed yet mushy snow. And we made it! Once we were through that part of the road it was clear driving all the way in. The wildflowers were blooming on the mountain top. Due to the difficulty we had getting there this year, we missed seeing the early spring flowers. But the violets, wild strawberries, and calypso lady-slippers are all blooming and looking cheerful and beautiful. We un-boarded the cabin and were happy to find everything exactly as we left it. No mice! No leaks! It was cozy, clean, and comfy, just as we left it. In the midst of winter, the snow levels reach the second floor, so both the lack of mice and leaks is a sure victory. We enjoyed a picnic lunch in the sunshine, a hike through the woods, and some quiet time with a good book. It was a happy relief to finally be able to spend some time on the mountain.

Click on photo for larger view.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Congratulations, Aaron

Congratulations, Aaron! All your hard work has paid off! With diploma in hand, you can now venture into the world of full-time work! Being an Industrial Designer sounds interesting and fulfilling! Best wishes in your new career! We are proud of you!

The "Class of 2011" Rocks!
Click on photo for larger view.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tea with Karleen

Yesterday I went to visit Lucy and Chalupa. . .and my friend, Karleen.  I was eager to hear about Karleen's holiday in England and to learn about the places she visited with her family.  We usually have a cup or two of tea when we are together, so this time I said I'd bring scones.  Karleen said she'd think of something to make as well, and by the time we got together, a full-blown, impromptu tea party had developed.

Our menu consisted of a variety of tea sandwiches, raw veggies, a leafy green salad, chips, rosemary crackers with fontina cheese, scones with strawberry jam, s'mores brownie bars, and chocolate and lemon tarts with fruit compote.

Karleen moved a drop-leafed table into her living room and set it right in front of the picture window.  The view of the river and all its activity created an ambiance as fine as the best restaurant in town.

Our tea of the day was Ti Kuan Yin, a gift from my friend, Marilyn, who just returned from visiting Taiwan and the tea plantation where it was grown.  The tea was delicious, rich, and soothing.  I especially enjoyed the appearance of the individually rolled leaves and how they unfurled as they steeped.

We decorated with miniature roses.  Completely unplanned, Karleen picked some of hers and I picked some of mine.  When we got together we discovered that we had each picked the exact same color combination:  yellow, peach, and white.  How cool is that?

Karleen's tiered tray was beautiful and I wondered where she got it.  At the end of our luncheon she asked me if I recognized what she had done.  She had made the tiered tray from two glass plates, two crystal candlesticks, and adhesive.  She said the instructions on the blog she'd read that gave directions spray painted theirs in a bright color, but she decided to leave hers as clear glass.  I thought it was beautiful that way and went well with the glass water pitcher and goblets. 

While we were eating, several barges and tugboats motored on by.  It's always interesting to observe them as they head upriver to Idaho to load up with wheat to transport to the closest sea port.

Our scones were special on this occasion, as I used Eve Hill's Kensington Palace Scone recipe.  I must say that they were the best scones I have ever eaten, and I give all the credit to her fabulous recipe!  Eve is an online "tea friend" and she received this recipe from Ernest Titmuss, a shop owner who sells teapots and other fine things on Kensington Church Street in London.  He once sold a Royal Doulton tea set to Princess Diana.  Her butler, Mr. Brown, picked it up from the shop and sometime during the exchange shared the recipe for scones that he frequently made for the princess and her family.  Later Mr. Titmuss shared the recipe with Eve.  Isn't it interesting how something as simple as a recipe can be exchanged, laden with meaning and memories?  

The afternoon flew by!  Time goes quickly when shared with a lovely friend.  In my next post I will share pictures and descriptions of the beautiful gifts Karleen brought to me from London.  So, come back, y'all!

A Little Bit of England

Karleen brought a little bit of England home with her.  The part she gave to me arrived in a golden shopping bag with the words Buckingham Palace marked across the front.  It was so much fun to open!  She knew that I have several "Princess Diana" decorative plates and that I would really love to have one from the royal wedding to go with my collection.  She found not just one, but two lovely plates that she gave to me.  The first is quite royal looking.  The colors are a deep royal blue with gold trim.  They encircle pictures of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  Their pictures are surrounded by their names, their royal coat of arms, and English flags.  I will be hanging this plate in a set that includes a decorative plate that my dad gave to me years ago when Prince William was born.  It commemorates his birth.

The second plate is somewhat smaller, but more romantic than royal.  It's very sweet in mauve with flowers circling a picture of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  It includes their names and the place and date of their marriage.

My package also contained a set of votive candles from Buckingham Palace.  Can you see the royal coat of arms?  The candle fragrance is English lavender and they smell wonderful!  Even when unlit, their fragrance fills the room.

I decided that the candles look best on the mantle and I love how they cast their lavender fragrance throughout the room.

An official program from the royal wedding was included in my package.  Karleen knew exactly what I'd enjoy!  After all, I'm probably the only person in her group of friends who got up in the middle of the night to watch the royal wedding live!

Lastly, the package contained a beautifully decorated box of English Afternoon Tea from Buckingham Palace.  The same lovely lavender color and golden logo is used on the tea box as was embossed on the votive candles.  I haven't tried the tea yet.  My tendency is to save it for a special occasion.  Maybe I should invite Karleen over soon for a cuppa!  That would be the perfect conclusion to a delightful bag of gifts!  Thank you, Karleen!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Hope & Dreams

When we allow ourselves to dream
We plant a seed so promising and fair
to grow and blossom, a precious garden
of fantasies unique and rare.
With each flower blooming, a new hope arises
each petal with smell so sweet.
But when we stop ourselves from dreaming
the petals wither in defeat.

By Jaime Polaris 

Monday, June 06, 2011

Honored Guests

In addition a visit from Dad and Alma, we've had two other honored guests at our house.  For two weeks, Lucy and Chalupa joined our household.  Our schnauzers weren't too sure about the competition at first, but it didn't take long to establish a routine.  Except for the cat, everyone was happy in a short time.  Lucy and Chalupa belong to Karleen, who was spending a wonderful vacation in England.  Lucy is one of those dogs who becomes your very best friend!  She's devoted, smart, and obedient.  I'd told Karleen that Lucy would be living outside, but it took just a few hours at our house before Lucy weaseled her way into our hearts and soon graduated to become a house dog!  She knew her boundaries and kept to them well (except when husband would call her into the TV room to watch a basketball game with him!).  Chalupa became my little buddy.  As the smallest dog in the pack, she became the queen of all.  She loved to tease me.  Whenever we were outside for her walk, she exhibited great ability to scamper away quickly and return back to me as slow as can be.  My favorite name for her was "you little turkey".  She loved it!  Calli the cat decided it wasn't safe to live at home any more.  He disappeared to the neighbors for the duration of Lucy's and Chalupa's visit, returning home three or four days after they left.  Calli was allowing for lots of time to make sure they didn't come back!  They haven't returned, but I sure miss them!