Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Finding Our Autumn Stride

My last post, by the way, hit the mark for a lot of you and is one of my most-read posts thus far.  I thank you for your encouragement and comments - I came away feeling like it had been a meaningful experience for a lot of us and resonated some truth that we must have needed to hear.  I'm just the pencil.

That makes me happy - that I could share a story and some thoughts and have it impact others like it did me.

And, as a silly little nursey-wifey-mama blogger, it also terrifies me to pick up my fingers and write again.  My thoughts must often be mundane to you.

And yet I keep talking.

......Make her stop......


However, you'll be relieved to know that I don't share nearly as many things with you as I think about sharing.  Like how I've been on some medication and I finished it yesterday and for the first time in two weeks my mouth doesn't taste like I've been sucking on a metal fence post, worst taste ever, that seems to have disappeared now that I've finished the medicine, praise God, and how I'm not totally convinced that I should have taken the medicine in the first place but it was a long shot at trying to make me feel better after I had been feeling sick for too long and, well, now, I feel better so will never know if it was the metal tasting medicine that made me feel better or time or I just 'got over it' or what but it's all good and I can sleep better at night and I'm so glad we had this little talk.

Anyway, this little garden of mine - she continues to be a bossy master.  I pulled all of the carrots yesterday - 40 pounds worth!  Oh my, if you read my post on Facebook, I have been offered a few options of what to do with those carrots, including the 'interesting' options of "carrot Frappuccino's", "chocolate dipped carrots" and "carrot lattes".  Oh dear.  Well, I bagged them all (11 large Ziploc bags) and I gave some away to some favorite people, and will give some more away to a few more favorite people and then I hope that my family can eat the rest over the winter.

Today I worked on the first batch of tomatoes - I only got a small amount from my own garden this year and they were either pleasantly ripe or disgustingly rotten today so I worked at a bit of salsa, etc.  Once I get into it, canning food is a good deal of fun for me. It's like riding a bike - you start washing the jars and packing them and getting the canner boiling and soon I feel like I'm carrying the torch for the work of my mother and my mother's mother and her mother's mother - providing food for my family, upholding my heritage. It's not that noble but I'm kinda pleased with myself even though there is this little voice that occasionally whispers "you know you can BUY salsa, right?"

Now I'm sitting here counting "pops", hoping everything has sealed.  No better sound!


Changing subjects now.

Sometimes you just need a little inspiration.  I read a LOT of cookbooks and recipes - both in book form and online.  But the other day, we were standing in line at St. Arbucks for the DRINK OF THE SEASON (Pumpkin Spice Lattes) and, being a tad snacky, helped myself to one of their food samples, a glazed scone (of some sort, see, I already forget.  Must have been the metallic tasting meds that I was on, fried my memory bank).  Anyway, that taste bite was an eye opener.  "Something isn't right with my scones".  I've always thought my biscuits and scones are pretty darn good.  I KNOW my biscuits are good because they are always a hit with me and the household.  But my scones - well, I think that most scones should be of the "drop" variety - a little rustic and loose.  However this Starbucks scone - smooth, rich, creamy texture, nicely rolled and cut.

So I spotted this recipe on Pinterest yesterday morning and whipped them up for breakfast.  Instead of babying the dough by under-kneading, I kneaded that dough (GENTLY of course) until it came together nicely and didn't have any raggedy edges then I rolled it until I was satisfied that it was just right and cut it into triangles and baked it up and it was the best batch of scones ever.  It wasn't tough or over-worked.  It.  Was. Perfect.

Glazed Cinnamon Scones
Scone Ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 egg, separated
3 Tablespoons honey (different sweetener, hey?!!)
1/3 cup buttermilk (or 1/3 cup milk mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice)

Crumb Topping (can be adjusted to your liking):
1-2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Glaze Ingredients (can be adjusted to your liking):
1 cup powdered sugar (you can make your own homemade unprocessed powered sugar)
1-3 teaspoons milk (enough to make a glaze)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.  Separate the egg white and yolk. Set the egg white aside. 
In a separate bowl, mix egg yolk, honey and buttermilk (or milk/lemon juice mixture). Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Form dough into a ball on a floured surface. Roll or pat out to half an inch in thickness and eight inches in diameter. Cut into eight equally-sized pieces.  Transfer to a greased baking sheet. Whisk the egg white until froth forms and brush over the tops of scones (I used about half of the egg white).  Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over egg-white-topped scones.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.
Mix together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until glaze forms. Drizzle over scones after they bake.

I think Starbucks will be hiring me soon as their baker.  Just sayin'.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Racing Towards The Finish Line

A week ago, a large group of students and parents gathered at a local school for the first competitive Cross Country run of the year.
Both of our boys have demonstrated some skill in cross country running so we loaded up the car with our kid and one extra and headed over to the race.
We've been to this race for a few years already.  And, as luck would have it, the weather was sweet - the sky was clear blue, the sun was warm, the wind was on the calm side.
The competition has changed a tad - when we first started taking our son to this race, it included all of the school divisions in the city and there were HUNDREDS of kids there to compete.  They lined up the Atom boys/girls, Peewee boys/girls....all sorts of age groups one by one....and at the sound of the starter gun, a veritable herd of kids headed off across the football field, across the street and through the park, shoes flying off, elbows out, serious expressions.  Must.  Run.  This.  Race.  Well.
This year, the separate school division didn't join us.  The race was a lot calmer.  And as we looked around the field, we saw a lot of familiar faces - parents from the band trip last spring, music students, youth group friends.  It's nice to be in a friendly place.
Mr. B. ran his race and did his best.  He has fine form.

Doesn't he?!!
But his defining moment came when his friend raced.  Being senior students on the field, his friend's race was last.  Parents were going home.  Kids were dispersing.  And this oldest group of boys had some fast runners in it.  It was probably the quickest race of the day.  Before we had time to engage in another conversation, the first runners were heading home already.  The finish line is always lined with coaches, parents, students cheering on runners from their schools.  I always get a lump in my throat as I hear the encouragement and see the delight on both runners' and spectators faces when another one makes it across the line. GOOD JOB! We're proud of you!!  Wow, are you ever good at running!
Mr. B.'s friend, well, we've known him for a couple years. Nice kid.  He's gained a little weight and hasn't stretched into it yet as Grade 7 boys are wont to do.  He's not the fittest kid on the block and certainly wasn't the fittest kid at the Meet.
Mr. B:  "He's not going to do well, Mom."
Me:   "That's okay; he's going to do his best."
The runners started coming one by one.  Sprinting towards the finish line.
And no sign of the friend.
People started to pack up their things.
And no sign of the friend.
We waited by the finish line, looking through the trees in the park.  "Is that him?" we asked each other.  "No, not yet".
Finally, after it appeared that everyone else had crossed the finish line, we caught a glimpse of yellow through the autumn trees.
He was finally coming.
Mr. B. looked at me and said these words that changed my heart forever....
"I think I should go run with him, Mom."
Through leaky eyes, I nodded..."yes, I think that would be nice."
And Mr. B. ran away from me and towards this young man who was going to cross the finish line well after everyone else had finished.  He would no longer have to cross the finish line alone.
His friend would cross the line with him.
And they ran, side by side, to the end of the race.  Their arms pumped and their legs worked and their lungs panted for a fresh breath and smiles plastered their faces. and we cheered and applauded and my heart burst with joy that my son knew that being last sometimes sucks and being alone sometimes sucks and having someone with you can make all the difference in how you finish a race.  And I wonder how many 'races' are being run around me by people that I love and how often it feels like we're losing the race and I suspect that all we really need, all we really want, is someone to come alongside us and help us cross the finish line.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.

10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.

12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.

A race I will not forget, Sept. 11/13.

Eccl. 4:9-12.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Fall Harvest

I started the dreadful annual-seasonal-predictable routine of starting to clean the garden out this week.  When the quick things are on, like peas and beans, one picks with a fervor known only to other gardeners who know the value of the perfect pea pod vs. too old.  (Isn't that sort of like misguided dating that happens in your 20's?  Sorry, I digress).
But, when fall comes, there's a harvest of a different speed.  I leave the tomatoes on as long as I dare before frost comes.  The carrots do better with a touch of cold.  Cucumbers eventually give up giving fruit.  And, digging potatoes, well that's a job for the whole family.  So, we take our time in fall harvest.
I took a few pictures this afternoon of what's left in the garden.  Dear friends, what on earth will I take pictures of this winter when I can't hop out the back door and find instant inspiration?  Sigh.
Despite the fact that nothing is fresh and green or at its' prettiest anymore, there were still beautiful things to be found.

I chuckled to myself when I saw this rhubarb plant because it reminds me of me!

 It's hard to tell from this picture, but the rhubarb is flat against the soil.  Its' perfect fruit season is long past.  It is SPENT!  Kinda reminds me of getting to the end of a season in ones' life - after being who you need to be and giving all ya got, sometimes life leaves you flattened to the ground, SPENT!

Next spring will come and it will be ready to give freely again.


Dill, dill, beautiful dill!  How I love thee!  I think that I shall freeze some of your tender fronds for dining pleasure until we can meet face to face again. 


This gorgeous zucchini blossom blooms but doesn't look like it has any fruit on it.

I remember one year I planted 4 or 5 zucchini plants because, hey, why not?!!  When my mom came to visit in September, she picked off dozens of zucchini and lined them up on the lawn in a row, from biggest to smallest.  She started to count them and then got a severe case of the giggles as she thought that I had really over-done it in the zucchini department that year.  I hope I remember that moment for a long time.

Silly mother!

My beets are too small this year.  We'll get a couple of meals out of them but not much more.

However, I give beets 5 stars for being the most striking plant in the garden every year.

....show off.....

Many of the apples have already fallen off the tree but the best still remain at the top, out of reach.  By hook or by crook, I will pick enough for a few tasty treats.  Last weekend, I made a batch of Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies that were good.  It's so nice to run outside and pick a few apples to toss into a recipe. 

I love eating what we grow!  That's the addictive edge of gardening!

Not sure what type of tomatoes these were, but I always end up with a plant or two of cherry tomatoes.  They grow so differently than regular sized tomatoes and it's fun picking them, as they grow in clusters and fall into your hands like grapes.  This year, these tomatoes are SO SWEET.  I've been eating some every day with fresh cucumbers and dill and cucumber dressing.

Ah, lovely tomatoes.  You are my favorite thing to grow, by far.

However, ahem, this year, we need to talk. 
You guys let me down.
You didn't produce enough and now I must make the grand decision of buying tomatoes to can,
....or buying cans of tomatoes....

....perhaps you have done me a favor by saving me some work....

Okay, I'll let you off the hook but NEXT YEAR, let's work a little harder on this whole bearing good fruit thing.

Until next year, move over tomato and cucumber salads...

It's time for toasted tomato sandwiches.
Bacon, tomato and cheddar cheese sandwiches.
Fresh salsa
Here's my go-to salsa recipe!

8 cups peeled chopped tomatoes
2 cups chopped onions
2 green peppers, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 can tomato paste
3/4 cup vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin

Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Turn down heat and simmer for 2 hours.  Process in jars or freeze.

You could also add chopped jalapeno peppers.  We like to add a tablespoon or two of chipotle peppers, to taste.

Store bought is good; homemade is better!