Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween

Halloween has now become more popular than Christmas for many kids here in the US. It's partly due to the family stresses at Christmas time for kids whose parents have divorced and also due to having to visit with extended family members who are difficult to get along with. Halloween is pure candiness for kids as they bring in a big haul of sugary treats from an evening of trick-or-treating. It's all about the kids, with no worries of stresses with relatives, plus they get to dress up in a costume. I think Halloween is now the second biggest income-producing holiday for retailers next to Christmas.

As a teacher, however, I always dreaded Halloween because even my high school students would start eating candy the day before or the day of Halloween and they were sugar-intoxicated and not really interested at all in doing math or much of anything else. Plus, they would wear costumes to school, the more gross and disgusting-looking, the better. You can imagine what a distraction THAT was! After the sugar high of Halloween, the next day they would be lethargic from the sugar low. They were not supposed to eat in class, but they would have a stash of candy hidden in a pocket and would keep dipping into it. ARGGHHH!

My sons are still mad at me for not allowing them to go trick-or-treating because at that time I thought it was a pagan holiday extolling superstitions. Being Christians, I thought we should not celebrate such a thing. I hereby apologize, Nathan, Ben and Tim, for ruining your childhood by never allowing you to go trick-or-treating! I realize now that it is harmless (other than to your teeth and your pancreas!) and I was wrong. I remember my own childhood of trick-or-treating and what a blast it was scurrying around the neighborhood wearing costumes and collecting candy.

I still don't like the "holiday" Halloween and I don't decorate at all for it. But I will wear my camouflage army uniform as a costume today to my News Club...I'll be G.I. Jane, in the Lord's army.

Oh, btw... because we live in such a rural area where houses are far apart and there are no streetlights, we never have trick-or-treaters coming by our house, so I never buy candy to hand out. That saves a little money and since it's not in the house, I am not tempted to eat it!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Losing water

I confess...I've been a boring blogging slacker lately. It seems as though I've been spending inordinate amounts of time dealing with our large apple and pear harvest....apple cakes, applesauce, apple pie, and dehydrating pears. The latter takes about 2 hours of washing, coring and de-stemming the pears, cutting up, dipping in pineapple juice, and then putting them on the dehydrator racks. Then, just 24 hours later, they've lost most of their water.
This photo shows about 12-13 pounds of dried pears which came from 30+ pounds of fresh pears. I did about 3 or 4 24-hour sessions of dehydrating. It does give a lovely pear scent to the house and a friendly humming sound as it dries out those juicy pears. It's amazing how much water they have in them! The dried ones are deliciously sweet and chewy.

...and here they are all bagged up in freezer bags ready to give away to a few select lucky people.

Now there are several people wondering...Hmmm...Will I be one of those select lucky few to receive pear candy?!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Nathan!

Nathan at 4 months...February 1979...a sweet, mellow baby boy

Nathan, now a husband to Cori and father to Andrew...still mellow after all these years!

Happy 31st birthday, Nathan!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Esther!


A happy birthday, Esther G.
To you in Zinder land;

I hope your day’s a memory
Like flowers in your hand.

Your writing keeps me entertained
With tales of Ishtar’s Ark;
My interest has never waned;
You always hit the mark!


Isolde, Kalahari, too,
And Sheba make me smile;
Sahara, Arwen, mothers two,
Can still run a good mile.

That Dennis Mugu tolerates

Young Sheba’s antics now,
And lovely Allis operates


With jumps and takes a bow.

With Sheba’s seven on the move
And wrestling all the time


It’s puppy heaven, time to prove
Their mom’s still in her prime.

At Eden’s station we see trees
Whose leaves and fruits are fine.
They’re drought resistant, good for bees
And on them you can dine.

Your work in Eden land is great!
Each plant, each shrub and tree
Gives food, and more, can procreate
And give you fare for tea.


So on this day, sit back, relax,

And have a ride for fun
Enjoy your friends, don’t overtax
Your brain; play in the sun!

Have a wonderful birthday, Esther.
Photos by Esther Garvi

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Apples and pears

An apple tree volunteer grew up from the bank below our back yard during the last few years, taking us quite by surprise. It popped up from the vinca groundcover with no help from us, and surprising us again, it has produced small Golden Delicious apples for the second year...not many, but more than enough to make an apple pie.

These are all the apples from that tree...about 40 of them. We picked them yesterday morning and I told Jerry I'd make an apple pie out of them for him because he's been picking lots of apples and pears for me. Not one of them had a worm in it, though they had been pecked on by birds a bit.

Here's the Volunteer Apple Pie that I just popped into the oven. I made the crust from scratch with Crisco, that stuff that's really bad for you... :) ...but it makes a nice flaky crust.

Ah...la piéce de rèsistance...hot apple pie just out of the oven.

So after the evening meal I served my sweetie a piece of hot Volunteer Apple Pie with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top. He loved it. Oh, btw, he helped peel apples for the pie....what a guy!

He was so excited about the coming apple pie that he went down to the orchard and picked 1,230 more apples. Yes, again he counted them. Here they are nearly filling six five-gallon buckets. Most of them he picked up off the ground--the latest wind and rain have been knocking them off the trees. We will be giving lots of them away, making some into applesauce, some into apple cakes and some into apple pies.

Before I started on the apple pie, I started dealing with the pears that have been ripening in many paper bags. They are deliciously sweet and juicy, but if I don't do something soon they will spoil. So I decided to dry some of them in the dehydrator.

I cut them in half, scooped out the seeds and stem and cut each half in half again. Then I dipped each piece in pineapple juice to keep it from darkening too much. Then I put them on the drying racks...

I have six stacking drying racks. I placed them all atop the base which houses the motor which blows warm air up through the racks.

I left it running all day yesterday and all night, about 18 hours total...and voila!

Dried pears:

I'll be giving these dried pears away, too.

Only two more apple trees to harvest. I see hundreds of little apples as I close my eyes to sleep.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Last gasp of vegetable production

Well it was October 17th yesterday and our garden is still producing, though it's slowing down and the tomatoes are taking longer to ripen due to the hours of sunlight decreasing daily.The cherry tomatoes are still prolific, though some have split since they got rained on last week... ...as have the big tomatoes. But they still taste good and sweet, so I don't care if they've split as long as mold hasn't started to grow on the split part.
I don't know if this second round of cantaloupes will ripen before the big freeze happens, but we have our fingers crossed....just kidding; I'm not superstitious and they probably won't ripen.
The foliage of the yellow squash is starting to look pathetic, but it still has big beautiful yellow flowers and it's still pumping out nice little yellow squashes.
This gorgeous golden squash flower is my contribution to "Today's Flowers."
I picked all this produce yesterday morning: Armenian cuke, two Japanese eggplants, and lots of tomatoes!

Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone!

See all kinds of beautiful and unusual flowers at Today's Flowers hosted by Luiz, Denise, Laerte and Valkyrien.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Boys and Grils and Spelling

Having taught second grade for a couple of years in the early 1990s, I love reading primary grade kids’ creative writing. I find their invented spelling charming as they spin fanciful tales. Of course, by the time they’re in middle school, it’s not so charming anymore because they should know better, and by the time they’re out of high school, invented spelling is depressing to me as a teacher. Where did we go wrong? I should say, where did they go wrong, those middle grades teachers?

I was mainly a high school math teacher, but I did my part in the war on bad spelling. I often had to point out to a student that the subject was "Algebra," not "Agelbra" or "Agelbar, and that those pointy things were "angles," not "angels." But I remember every year starting in about 6th grade (1959), teachers would warn us...You’d better learn to spell correctly this year because once you get to 7th grade, you won’t be getting spelling tests any more. But then we’d still get spelling tests in 7th grade, and so on and so on, year after year. I think the final year of spelling tests for me was 11th grade. That was the 1964-65 school year. Nowadays spelling seems to go by the wayside after about 6th or 7th grade. I always took great pride in getting 100% on every spelling test. I know, I know, pride goeth before a fall.

In the second grade classes I taught, I noticed many of the kids frequently wrote “gril” for “girl.” I couldn’t figure out why they would think that girl was pronounced like “grill.” As I thought about it, I realized that it was a perfectly logical way for a child sounding out “girl,” in American English, of course, to spell it as g-r-i-l. (S)he would say grrr-ul, and knew that it had an “i” in it, and so (s)he would write g-r-i-l.

As a tip of the hat to all those cute little second-graders I once taught, I present to you a creative writing story in the style of a second-grader (a gril second-grader).

The Fish Gril

Wunce upon a time there was a gril who lived in the oshun. She lived under the water and she was rilly pritty. Akshully, she was haf fish and haf gril and so rilly she was a mermaid. Her name was Ariel. Ariel lived in a pritty pink house. Becuz that was her favrit color. It was rite down there on the bottom of the oshun. It had pritty undersea flowers growing around it.

One day Ariel stuck her head up from the water and she saw there was a bad storm and the waves were high. A ship with a hansum man on it was bouncing around. And the man fell into the oshun. He was drounding. Ariel swam fast over to the hansum man and grabbed him to save him from drounding. She had special powers. One was her kiss would turn a human bean into a merperson. And it was for forever. It couldn’t go backwards. She was desprit to save the hansum man, so she kissed him and bam he was a merman. Just like that.

They got merried and they lived haply ever after in their pritty pink house. And they had 3 merbabies. Oh yeah, the dad’s name was Dred Pirut Roberts. But he was a nice merman, not a mean one.

The End

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sunset over Garden Valley

Jerry and I were driving down the mountain to church for worship team practice on Wednesday around 6:15 pm when I gasped at the stunning beauty of the big golden clouds to the south. Fortunately, I had grabbed my camera before we left home, in hopes of catching another sunset. So here, ladies and gentlemen, are some of the sky canvases I captured...

Click on any of these for the big picture.

We had just started down the steep part of Marshall Grade when I saw the sun just about covered by the mountains in the distance...
The sky was still light...
...but gradually darkened. Good night, sun.

See more lovely skies from all around the world at Skywatch Friday! Thank you Klaus, Sandy, Ivar, Wren, Fishing Guy and Louise for maintaining it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Apple time again

It's October and that means it's apple picking time again! Yesterday, Jerry picked 670 apples from one of our trees. Yes, he counted them. It took him about an hour. All of our fruit and nut trees produce organic fruit and nuts. In our case, organic is a euphemism for not watered by us or fertilized because it's a bother. It's just not a priority with us, because, guess what?! The trees produce fruit, albeit small fruit, even though they get no fertilizer or water throughout the summer months, as it doesn't rain here in the summertime. You can't kill them with neglect. That's what I call hardy fruit trees.
We haven't picked the Granny Smith apples yet. They make the best apple pies.


The two shots above are of another one of the trees we haven't picked yet. I don't know what kind of apple tree it is as I didn't save the label they came with 25 years ago.
Here are the 670 apples Jerry picked. They are small but tasty! I think they might be Red Delicious.

In order to make a dent in the hundreds of apples, I decided to make two Appple Hill Cakes. Apple Hill is an area here in the foothills where there are lots and lots of apple orchards. I have saved their Apple Hill Cake recipe since I first got it during a visit to one of the orchards some 25 years ago. It makes a deliciously moist apple cake and you don't have to peel the apples!
First, I quarter them and cut out the core and any bad parts.
Then I cut the quarters in half and put them in a food processor.
I process them until I have 4 cups of diced apples.
...And here's a piece of the finished product--a deliciously moist apple cake.

Apple Hill Cake
Combine:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs

Add:
4 cups diced apples

Sift together:
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp soda

Add to apple mixture. Pour into 9" by 13" greased cake pan and bake for one hour in preheated oven at 350 degrees.

Serve it hot, warm or cold. Try it plain, frosted or with whipped cream. Your family will really enjoy this dessert any way you present it!