Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Blackberry Pie to Remember

The wait is finally over!

My husband and I walked out to the blackberry patch and were greeted by dozens and dozens of ripe berries. My heart skipped a beat.

Picking blackberries just makes me smile! It's fast work of the ones you see easily, then it's time to look among the leaves.

More are almost alway hidden beneath. This year because of all the rain, we even found branches bowed over and touching the ground under the weight of the huge, succulent berries.

This variety, Chester Thornless Blackberry, from Stark Brothers Nursery, is sweet and juicy. They are the reason we have not accumulated any berries so far this summer. We keep eating them!

Fortunately, we were able to keep ahead of our eating on this excursion and collect more than enough berries for a pie.

My mother made wonderful pies. A couple of years ago, we made pies together and I wrote down the recipes as we estimated the amounts on each ingredient. As you can imagine this pie has special meaning to me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Homegrown Tomatoes

Oh, my! It's been a fun week in the garden. Between rain storms, I headed to the garden

...and this is what I found.

This beautiful, BeefSteak tomato made incredible tasting BLTs.

The rest became frozen tomato sauce. I used an EASY method my Dad taught me.

Wash the tomatoes, remove the core, cut into quarters and drop into a big pot. We keep the skins for the fiber and nutrients...and because it's much easier! If you prefer you may blanch the tomatoes and remove the skins first. You may also remove the seeds, too. Not this girl, too much fuss.

Now bring the pile of tomatoes in the pot slowly to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat to allow the now nearly-liquified mixture to simmer. Simmer to evaborate off extra water and stir occasionally to check the thickness. This may take several hours depending on the quanitity and water content. When desired thickness is reached, remove from heat and let cool. Ladle into blender and puree. Ladle into freezer bags, mark the date and throw in the freezer.

It's wonderful sauce for pizzas, spaghetti and soups. It will last about 6 months, so if you have more than 6 months worth, you will need to take the canning plunge. I haven't tried canning yet, but hear it's not hard. My pile made 4 pint bags of sauce, which will last us less than a month in the fall, so I haven't yet felt compelled to can. I am, however, toying with the idea because I could then have diced tomatoes.

If you have any experience canning, I would love to hear about it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

An Adventure in Kansas City

We traveled to Kansas City this weekend to meet my brother, Marty, his wife, Leslie and their kids, Marshall and Ellie. On Friday evening, we ate dinner outside as the temperature and humidity dropped to tolerable. We had heard of some alien activity in the area, so Saturday morning we were up early and set off to investigate.

It was true!

Aliens have set their mothership down in the Power and Light District of downtown Kansas City. They call it the Sprint Center. These creatures enjoy good concerts, so we investigated procuring tickets to the Tina Turner concert, but felt the $150 per ticket was beyond our human limits.

Basketball seems to be another favored pasttime of these extraterrestrials. They have constructed a Basketball Experience.

As you begin your "experience", you are surrounded by images of the game. A distraction while being x-rayed, brain scanned and otherwise analyzed.

The Stretch.

or wing span?

In the main arena, you are enticed by a variety of physical challenges.

Many were entranced by shooting as many free-throws as possible while the clock ticked to zero.

My Sister-in-Law
My Brother
My Husband
My Nephew

...and even me!

Goals that allowed normal sized humans to dunk were also a draw.

My oldest, just like a pro... yeah, baby!

Yep, it may be a few years and some inches before this guy is ready for the NBA.

Future sportcasters in training...

ET, can you say rivalry???

Intense rivalry?

For an out-of-this-world adventure: The Basketball Experience in Kansas City.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Garden Update

I just couldn't let you get away for the weekend without a garden update!!! You've probably been wondering, waiting with baited breath, dying to know...ha ha ha hee hee hee. I hope to not bore you, 'cause it's been so busy in the garden this week, like finding treasure every single day!

My youngest came along with me to the garden yesterday, at first to help pull some weeds, then he noticed some very red tomatoes. Off he went to the house and he came back with two very large bowls. He meant business.

It was fun to be in the garden with him, because he was very excited. He showed me the cherry and roma tomatoes he was picking several times as though they were jewels. I know that feeling! He was even a bit annoyed that I stopped the action for this picture.

He looked in all the good hiding places.

He also picked our last batch of green beans. We've had them at dinner four times in the last week or so.

Meanwhile, Mom worked on the weeds:

I had definitely neglected this particular bed, because look what I pulled up with the weeds.

Now the bed is ready for planting. It still has carrots, green onions and leeks growing...they need some company, I think.

Time to make Pesto with this basil. I hope I haven't waited too late as they are just showing flower buds. I learned from Susie this weekend that you can cut them back for regrowing several times in one season! All is not lost if it is too late as we have already enjoyed Ensalada Caprese several times.

Look at this beauty - Peaches and Cream. I was so thrilled to open this ear and see the beautiful corn inside. Stunned may be a better description of the worms and lovely kernels. If an amateur like me can do it, so can you!

We boiled the corn up for dinner and it was spectacular!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Challenges of Learning Photography

As you may already know, I purchased a new camera. I have been studying the manual, reading photography blogs and trying out the camera. I'm finding that being madly in love with the art form clearly will not be enough! It's hard to take a good picture! It's not just having a good photo "eye"... or being mechanically adept...or being gifted creatively...or being able to figure out all the lingo... it's remembering to take the picture! I have realized that my ability to take even a medicore picture will be resting on my memory!!! I'm doomed.

The first mountain to climb...just remembering to take the camera along. I had the rare opportunity to go to Lawrence, a town I love...forgot the camera. We took our boat out for the first time in 9 months and my kids learned to kneeboard...forgot the camera. When my sister, Pam, was here visiting we got all dolled up and went out to dinner...forgot the camera. Grrrrr. I think I need some sort of carrying device that I can strap to my body, kind of like a bra. I NEVER forget my bra.

Second issue, when I have the camera, I need to REMEMBER to turn it on and take some pictures! You may have noticed in my camping trip post, I forgot to take a picture of the camp site. Good Lord, we spent hours packing all that gear in the car and then another hour or so putting it up by the lake and I couldn't remember to take one measly picture! I think I need to start thinking about pictures in the same way I think about feeding my children. I'm a three meals a day girl, so they get three meals a day AND snacks. Some would say I'm a bit neurotic about feeding my kids healthy food. Come on now, fess up, some might say that!

Finally, even with the camera turned on and at the ready, I tend to get so caught up in the excitement, I FORGET to take a picture! I crouched by the fence at my sons' final baseball games, killing my 40-something body, so as to be ready to take an action shot. I saw lots of action and THEN remembered the camera was in my hand!

Here's a rather embarrassing example. My son, on the right, had caught a line drive flyball to the cheers of the crowd. I swear he did. I swear! It's just, well, I took this picture about a minute later when I had recovered my senses. Darn it!

At my middle son's game, I vowed to do better and took this pretty cool action shot of him pitching. However, I had to take 397 pictures to get this one and since he's also in motion it could be any kid. Daggumit.

What to do? How about a brain transplant. May I request a new brain with lots and lots and lots...and lots of good memory cells! Please. Pretty please. Pretty, pretty please.

Big sigh. I'm open to suggestions.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

In Training!

Remember this guy...

...he's been recruiting!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Camping, Swimming and Goofing Around

When I was a kid, we camped for almost all of our vacations. Didn't everyone camp? I thought so. Many of our family's friends camped and we traveled together for many years to set up our tents for a week in Florida. My parents "had it down" even building a large, wooden camp box, which they painted pea-green. The sides folded down to reveal dozens of cubby holes all carefully packed with the essentials. The box stood on legs and with the flaps down provided "counter" space. As long as I can remember, my family also owned a boat, so we camped by the water. I have wonderful memories from this time.

My husband and I have wanted to share the camping experience with our boys, so when we heard a family reunion was being planned at a lake, camping came to mind. The departure day arrived and we began to pack and pack...and pack...and PACK...AND PACK! Clearly we do not "have it down".

We were forced to do some unpacking, so we could fit the kids into the car. Jeez, you need a lot of stuff to least we thought so!

All that packing was forgotten when we found our campsite.

Ahhh...the water. We sat at the water's edge and enjoyed the view, while the kids explored.

Get a look at this table! Stone posts also line the top edge of the damn on either side of the road. Some campsites had stone fireplaces with cooking grills. Several of the camp areas have old concrete pads with a raised edge...we thought old cabin foundations. No, they once would be filled with water in the winter for ice skating!

This is the...,you guessed it, the potty hole. I kept thinking Civil War-era jail and left the door open just in case.

I neglected to take a photo of the fully assembled campsite, so please conjure your own imagine. It will be better than the real thing. Friday night, Bart's cousins, Rick and Susie, and Jim and Jenni joined us for storytelling around the campfire. Jared, Rick and Susie's son, helped our boys fish and make s'mores. We were all shocked to learn that what seemed like a half an hour had stretched to nearly midnight.

Saturday morning we hit the swimming beach for some surfing,...

jumping and...

Super Hero flying.

Saturday afternoon was the family reunion and Sunday was exploring and boating...more on that later.

This sun-soaked guy, like the rest of us, was sad to leave the lake but ready to be home.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Harvesting Green Beans

Since it's a first year garden at our new house, I planted a little of everything this year. Why not experiment a bit to find out what grows well AND disappears at the dinner table?

The green beans snuck up on me...

I thought I should take a look the other day and was surprised to see a batch ready to be picked, right that minute!

I'm afraid I was forced to relieve my first garden assistant of her duties. She was a real pain in the ....y'know. Immediately following our sojourns to the garden, she would need a bath, dry, fluff and curl. Way too much work! So I hired a new assistant, our trusty Lab, Bailey. She sat in the path while I enjoyed picking green beans. The panting was a little annoying, but hey, one should not be picky.

She looked the green beans over carefully.

"I prefer Zucchini".

Well, I never. Solo may be the answer.
We steamed those beans up, added a little butter and they disappeared. Don't you love seeing kids eat vegetables?