Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful For The Apples Of My Eye, And Pie

This week began with a very special birthday party.  Our granddaughter turned 5 and asked for a flamingo party/ swim party. She LOVES flamingos. My ingenious daughter decided to secure a room at the local YMCA for the party and rented pool time for the party goers. 
Notice our youngest grandson arm in arm with his big sister, monkey boots still on.
He did take them off to swim, briefly, replaced with the monkey swim ring. 
I doubt there is anything in the world better than being a grandparent, and sharing in all these milestones.
(not to mention we just get to show up and help a little and enjoy a lot!)

As I have said before, all of our wishes have come true.
We are very blessed.

This expression says it all, pure joy! And she was so appreciative of everything, no "too much birthday" tantrums as is often seen at these events from some children.
Then we got domestic again.
 What can I say, we are foodies for sure. We all get together and cook and eat and visit.
This time I made apple butter in the crock pot which was a great improvement over doing it on the stove top and having to cook it for hours and hours stirring constantly.

After it cooked down, about 20 hours, I ladled it into jars and processed in a water canning bath.
I had also made an additional 2 batches of pumpkin butter with pumpkins bought last week at the Green Dragon flea market in PA. only this time I decided to process the jars as well in the canning bath.

Thanksgiving is for us like it is for most, a time of family gathering and feasting and giving thanks for all of our blessings.
I personally am thankful everyday for my blessings and don't need one day a year to remind me what's important.
We noticed after we took this picture of Ray and I at our daughter's house, that the cabinet behind us had a picture of our son and daughter above us.

But we posed for a group shot anyway. It was good to have our son with us, last year he was travelling for work and couldn't be home.

Our daughter, SIL and 3 grandchildren hosted Thanksgiving at their house again this year for the second time, a group effort and still a lot of work.
I cooked 2 turkeys, the gravy, oyster dressing, fresh collards, cauliflower, sweet potato biscuits, sweet potato pies, apple pie, & chocolate cheescake. By the time we added what everyone else cooked and brought, we had more food than we could eat in a week! 
Can you say leftovers?
4 generations picture

We never know exactly how much is left for each of us, or what the future holds, so these times together take on more meaning each year as we gather to give thanks for each other and all the good we have in our lives.
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving filled with family, good food and blessings through the holiday season and beyond!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

2 Weeks Full -Part 2

I said 2 weeks full but in retrospect it's been about a month.
I am 2 weeks into 2 online classes with Susan Tuttle in photomanipulation ( 2&3)
Working in photoshop learning some new techniques and processes.
I have taken Susan's Layers class and Ghostly images in the past and decided to catch these 2 since she was repeating them this month before moving on to new workshops in the new year.
I highly recommend any of her classes if you are into photomanipulation and art photography.

Then, on a whim, at the suggestion of a friend i joined this online class with Sharon Tomlinson since i love doing collage and hate doing faces but love faces. Figured this might be a way out of that dilemma and so far it is proving to be a wonderful class and Ning group. Sharon's classes are ongoing and don't close so this was really nice as i can't do the work just yet.

Then, a class I signed up for as soon as it was announced, MONTHS AGO, and couldn't wait to take, is this encaustic class with the oh-so-talented Judy Wise.
It was so jam packed full of info, new videos and intructions 5 days a week for 4 glorious weeks with a yahoo group for Q&A and show and tell.
It was the best! I hated to see it end, i so enjoyed all the videos and Judy's calm voice so full of knowledge and peace, every morning.
Judy will be releasing an ebook and DVD for purchase on the class and i highly recommend this also if you're even the slightest bit interested in painting with encaustics.

Now, I haven't actually been able to do any of the classwork for these workshops yet, probably not until after the new year and things settle down but i am absorbing them and their creative energy like a sponge!

So much so that about 10 days ago, I was getting ready for sleep, TRYING to pray, and an epiphany came to me and my muse was yelling at me so loud that i had to get up, head to my desk, and start writing.
The ideas that came out on paper, drawings, process, ideas, names and titles was unreal!
I looked up supplies and info on the computer and had all the answers before I could head back to bed and quiet the noise in my head!
It was blissful though.
I began this blog about a year and a half ago to find my muse and my direction and my voice again.
It is found.
Loud and Clear.
Only problem is, my muse picked a heck of a time to show up, just when i won't be able to get to work on it until after the holidays!
My life right now is bottlenecking, more than usual, like 10 lanes of traffic trying to merge into 3.
We will be closing the restaurant from Nov 28th, right after Thanksgiving and reopening February 9,2012.
We used to close like this many years ago from right after Thanksgiving until the first week in February while things were slow here, tourism down and try to do renovations and upkeep and get a break before slamming into another season.
I think it will do us a world of good this year as it has been a trying year for sure.
There is just so much that i have to take care of to close and end the year, books, taxes, paperwork etc and I've been out of practice, having not done it this way in so long.
Hence the not being able to be creative just yet.

Then of course I am also in the middle of cleaning closets, reorganizing, trying to take care of things that don't get done while we are in the busy season, hosting company, getting ready for the holidays and finishing up the round robin I am involved in.

So, that's my 2 weeks.
Now to catch up on some blog reading!

Monday, November 14, 2011

2 Weeks Full- Part One

It is so hard to stay inside when all this beautiful fall weather and sunshine is beckoning outdoors.

It's been a full 2 weeks. everytime I say that phrase- 2 weeks, I am reminded of the movie with Tom Hanks, "The Money Pit" in which everytime he asks how long a renovation or step in the renovation will take they flippantly respond "2 weeks"

I have been going over to the Assateague island refuge to practice my nature photography and have been pretty pleased with some of the images.

This Crane has a fish in it's mouth having just plucked him from the water

This Great Blue heron tried to swallow his fish so fast he actually gagged, that's his tongue hanging out. In subsequent shots, he coughed up the fish and then swallowed him back down. Yum.

More to my liking is the pumpkin butter I made with help from the grandkids while they were here after only a half day of school on halloween.
Remember the neck pumpkin I told you about that we bought while on the field trip a few weeks ago? Well, that is what we used and I promised if it turned out well, we would share the recipe

It turned out well enough that when shared with people at our restaurant, their tongues look much like that of the heron and everyone was asking for the recipe. If you like apple butter or pumpkin pie you're sure to like this.

The littlest halloween witch helping me stir the pumpkin butter, is that a spell she's casting?
Pumpkin Butter

1 cooking pumpkin, we used the neck pumpkin
Peel the skin using a vegetable peeler, empty seeds ( we spread ours out on paper towels over a few pages of newspapers to dry and try to plant next year)
Cube the pumpkin flesh and put into a pot of water big enough to cook until tender ( about 20-25 minutes)
Drain in a colander
Place the cooked pumpkin in a blender  ( or food processor) and puree.
Empty the blender into a glass measuring cup or bowl and continue pureeing the cooked pumpkin until it is all pureed.
We got 12 cups of puree out of the one pumpkin, each will vary depending on the size.
Once measured, place all the puree into a crock pot large enough to hold it and add the sugar and spices.
The puree to sugar ratio is 2 to1,  2 cups of puree to 1 cup of sugar.
You can use all light brown sugar or half white half brown.
For ours we used 3 cups of white, 3 cups of dark brown to the 12 cups of puree.
You can add individual spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice to taste but we used the McCormicks Pumpkin Pie Spice and used 2 tsp. for the batch. You can taste it and add more if you like but I liked this amount.
Stir all ingredients together well in the crock pot, turn on low  and prop the lid sideways to allow for the steam to evaporate as it cooks down.
I placed mine on 10 hours low which went through the night and automatically went to warm about the time we got up.
Once it really starts to cook, it will bubble and thicken and i used a wooden spoon to stir it all around about once an hour until going to bed.
Once it is as thick as you would like, the consistency of a butter spread, I ladled it into hot ball jars and secured the lids but DID NOT process in a water bath but placed it in the refrigerator for keeping.
There are conflicting ideas about canning pumpkin butter. There are instructions where you can process in a water bath for 40 minutes and also directions for a pressure canner, but the USDA recently suggested keeping it in a refrigerator instead of canning. Your call. I have purchased canned pumpkin butter at fairs and have lived to tell the tale. I may try that in the future.

Both grandchildren took a jar into their class to share along with some crackers.
It is great on toast or homemade biscuits and is the perfect fall treat!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Halloween Treat

This year for Halloween, we went with the grandkids to Chincoteague Island to trick or treat. The historic downtown merchants association held the event where all the shop owners provided treats for the little ones.
So we parked at the town dock and off went Strawberry Shortcake, Batman and Robin . (Robin's nickname is monkey boy and I bought him a pair of monkey rain boots which he has to wear everywhere I'm told!)

It's hard to see from this angle, but this Witch had a big furry black and purple spider attached to her back which I think kept the kids at bay for a few moments.

The library had pirates galore

The bookstore sported Confederate soldiers

One of the kids gave my husband a real sour candy and the antics that followed kept us all entertained for a few minutes

I wanted the vintage dressform with the gorgeous witch outfit

Even the fire company participated and what little kid doesn't like fire trucks??
The candy was icing on the cake!
It was just enough by the time we walked up and down both sides of the street, the daylight was completely gone and it was time to go home and sort through the loot!
Hope everyone made some fun memories!
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