Now, where did I leave that?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fall on Your Tongue

I have to share this; it's too awesomely delicious to keep to myself.  I've never made apple butter before, so took several recipes off the internet and combined them to get this:

Fall In A Spoon Apple Butter (a slow cooker recipe)

16-20 apples, cored, peeled, sliced (I used a mix of Honeycrisp, Opalescent, and Ginger Gold)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp salt (okay, probably 1/8 tsp)

--Put all the apple slices in a very large bowl that will allow for ample stirring and tossing.  Add 1/2 tsp vanilla, mix well, repeat with remaining 1/2 tsp.
--Combine remaining ingredients, blend well.  Pour over apples, toss well.
--Pour apples into crockpot (mine is 6 quart), cover with lid.
--Turn on high for 1 hour.
--Reduce heat to low, cook covered for 10 hours.
--Remove lid, turn to high, cook for 1 hour or until it's not too liquidy.  Periodically use a whisk to break up remaining apple pieces.

Voila!  It's done, your house smells exquisite, and Fall is bursting on your tongue in a symphony of abundant sweet spice.  I hear it can be frozen; we ate alot of it (testing is imperative to the creative process), and then canned the rest, yielding 8 preserved cups.  If you haven't canned before, a fantastically helpful site is Pick Your OwnWe refer to it regularly.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Time is Fleeting...

...madness takes its toll".  As well it might, given how weekends race by at the speed of light!  This one was as short as all its predecessors, but wasn't solely devoted to chores this time.  There was fragrant, bubbling apple butter; a brief, long-overdue but sweet birthday porch visit with a friend who is dearly missed; coffee on our porch this morning; a long ramble through Ramshorn-Livinston Sanctuary with Linda and Yeti; and a journey to Spruce Ridge Farm in Chatham to see alpacas (photos to follow). Ever see the Kohler commercial with the snooty, upper-crusty couple who plops a rather ugly faucet on the internationally famous architect's desk and orders "Design a house around this."?  Well, an alpaca 3' x 5' rug in cream, sand and chocolate has become the inspiration for our one-day upstairs bathroom: a year+ ago we brought home a clawfoot tub to someday put in that room; a minor disaster in the existing 1/2 bath up there last week (miraculously and most efficiently repaired totally by the Jill-of-all-trades I call 'beloved'), and today's rug--which instantly captivated Linda--are all coalescing into a vision for a wonderful bathing retreat.  Of course, we can't even start until we empty the storage room up there, which we can't empty until we clean out the garage so we have somewhere to store all that stuff, and so on and so on and so on. 
Our visit with the alpacas raised again that round-and-round-we-go question: do we want to raise alpacas?  SHOULD we raise alpacas?  My answer before was pretty much "if we aren't ready to even commit to a dog, should we be considering livestock?".  Well, um, there would now be a Yeti sprawled on her back in the office as I write, so we've jumped that hurdle.  Should we wait until an alpaca as unceremoniously and unexpectedly crosses our path?  Do we want one to hug and cuddle and give Yeti something to herd (the cats have made it clear with barely a glance that they are not now, nor will they ever be, open to herding  by Yeti or anyone else, thank you very much), and occasionally get some fleece from for spinning and knitting as a bonus? Or do we want a life of beekeeping and raising alpacas (and maybe some sheep and goats) and growing herbs and such because that's what the next curve in the path is leading us to? 
So let's recap....cooler temperatures, lovely scenery, some healthy exercise, engaging conversation, lots of adorable critters both foreign and domestic, good food, plans and mind-twisters, and a whole day spent savoring Linda's company while not attending to an excess of chores.  I'd call that a successful weekend....any wonder I can't bear to see it end?

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Do Not Attempt to Adjust the Picture...

there is nothing wrong with your television set...".  That's what flitted through my head driving home from work this afternoon.  The Fall colors are there, but already weary and muddy; the haze has erased the mountains, leaving only ghostly imprints of where they once ruled.  Leaves are skittering across the road, crisp and dry from drought, not cooling temperatures, and the very air looks baked and burned.  Where, may I ask, is Fall?  This doesn't even qualify as "Indian Summer"; there's a mean harshness to it...not the soft, gentle warmth of an October Indian Summer day.

Any idea where I might lodge a formal protest?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I Survived...and Now It's Fall

Or at least, it will be Fall in 17 hours.  It was a long difficult Summer.  Work supplied seemingly endless challenges and stress, the weather was brutally hot and dry, we said goodbye to two much-loved cats, hid in the air-conditioned bedroom for days on end, and dreamt of Fall.  And while the forecast for the next three days (90 on Friday?!  Are you kidding me?!) belies the astronomical event that is the Fall Equinox tonight, the dreams are becoming reality.  We've had a fire three evenings in the last week (okay, one of them was to make Linda happy; I was in shorts and a T-shirt).  I slept in fuzzy socks two nights ago. There's been pumpkin bread and carrot soup.  More importantly, last night's wind had an October sound; the leaves and grasses are turning (granted, it's early, and probably induced more by lack of water than Fall temperatures); the sunlight this morning, when I walked Yeti  to the cow pasture and back, was liquid gold as it rippled through leaves.  The male hummingbirds have already left to scout out South American winter love nests, pumpkins and winter squashes are piled high at the Farmers' Market, squirrels are racing about frantically, stockpiling for lean, cold months ahead, and we already have mice in the house (deep sigh).  I'm making plans...from finally covering my fabulous yard-sale -found cedar-lined wool storage chest with the atrocious 1970s blonde finish, to gathering wool of all kinds so I can get back to knitting (I have a scarf to finish, three more to make AND a throw to complete--all in time for Christmas; alas, Linda's sweater will be a post-Christmas project), to staining and assembling--or watching Linda assemble--the spinning wheel, to planning with delight for the arrival of friends in October (and October will be beyond-words-decadent, because after the painfully long Summer at work, I'm taking lots of vacation time during my favorite month; I'll actually be home more days than at work for one blessed month!!). Summer is grasping at life with now-bony fingers, fighting to the death (could this be part of the meaning behind skeletons at Halloween?), but after tonight's delicate, momentary balancing-of-the-scales at 11:09 pm, only the remnants, memories and last gasps will remain. For many people in the northern hemisphere,  Fall--and her sister Winter--gift us with a time of turning inward, of contemplation, dormancy, rest and restoration; for me it's all of that, a season of ritual--but a time I feel well and truly alive.  I'm all for adding a pumpkin or two and tipping the scales my way right this moment!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ah....Now I Remember

Yeti and I strolled through the Ramshorn-Livingston Sanctuary this morning, and as we listened to water shushing through cattails and loosestrife and the chittering of flocks of redwing blackbirds, watched the powerful flight of a great blue heron, felt the kiss of sunlight and caress of Fall-like breeze, I realized how much I've missed long woodsy wanderings.  For years, taking walks in the woods was a natural and magickal part of my life.  I've done ritual within a ring of ancient trees and had a herd of deer dash through my circle.  I've celebrated the first day of Spring in the rain, surrounded by woods high atop a bluff looking over the Hudson...and been awed that my candles stayed lit until the ritual was done, despite the raindrops.  I once walked the dappled paths at Stonykill feeling truly broken by a relationship that was causing as much suffering as pleasure.  As I wandered, crying, railing at the Universe and asking the Goddess for wisdom and solace, She led me to a nut, cracked open with a gaping wound but fresh and green, and whispered that sometimes one's heart has to be broken open so it can heal and grow.  Once while racing to teach a class, my car navigated itself on a detour to my then-favorite wooded place.  Although I argued about having someplace to be, I was soon at the edge of a woodland pond, and was gifted with an otherworldly joy that surged from the Earth, through my body, fountaining out of my head and raining back down into every cell, and back to the Earth Herself.  Only then was I allowed to head to my class.  For years the woods were my home, my place of peace, and solitary walks weren't lonely; they were the moments that I shut up and listened to Her.  Today I remembered all of that--the joy, the peace, the comfort, the whisperings, the wisdom...and while wandering with a Yeti is a wee bit different than the meditative meanderings of the past, for sure these woodsy walks are making a welcome and most blessed return.....

Friday, September 10, 2010

West and Wewaxation

The title of the post is a nod to Elmer Fudd, of course, as well as summing up my weekend plans.  I was horrified today to learn that Oscar the Grouch is no longer grouchy, and Cookie Monster has abandoned cookies for carrots.  THIS is what my PBS dollars are paying for?   Granted, the showing of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Hamlet with Patrick Stewart was great, and I'm an Antiques Roadshow slut (an earlier post pointed out that one version of a perfect evening includes knitting and watching as one person or another discovers that the hideous vase left to them by Great Uncle George is worth gazillions of dollars), but to learn of the bastardization of Sesame Street was truly sad.  Okay, granted, I'm pretty exhausted at the end of several days of rising at 5am and leaving work at 8pm, so maybe I'm overreacting, but seriously????  Cookie Monster now sings the CARROT song??????  And Oscar the Grouch is a 'nice grouch'?  'O" is for Oxymoron....let's say it together!
On an absolutely unrelated note, abandoned work a couple of hours early today, and headed home. My weary soul perked up just a bit as I hit the bridge and the mountains came into view.  The air was clear and cool, the river sighed and ruffled with the wind, and there was enough shadow-and-light play that every dip and hidden valley was visible, aching to be stroked, the velvety curves longing to be traced by a celestial finger.  I could happily have nestled into those inviting folds and slept more deeply deeper and contentedly than Rip Van Winkle ever did.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Weary Thoughts on a Thursday Morning

1) I may have been an early riser my whole life, but getting up day after day at 5 or 5:30 is literally exhausting. 2) The scent of of a warm dog on a cool morning as she nuzzles me while I'm on the computer is actually kind of earthy and pleasant. 3)The 24 lbs I've lost following Weight Watchers since June is taking a hit, and getting on the scale tomorrow will be disturbing.  Note to self: next time you buy cookies for the customers during a rush period, buy cookies that you DON'T like.  Exhaustion and stress are a fatal tag team! 4) Getting home after 8 at night and then leaving again by 6:45am is decidedly unpleasant. 5) Fall is racing towards us now; I can see it even through the windows on a hot day. 6) Dehydrating grapes creates exquisite smells, but one needs to SEED the grapes first! 7) I'm dreaming of my fabulous carrot parsnip soup (okay, Moosewood's carrot parsnip soup!) and my cranberry pumpkin bread. 7) Is it Friday yet????  Please?????

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Sheer Yeti-ness of It All

Last night we took Yeti for her--our--first training session with Charlene Marchand, a renowned trainer.  It was fascinating and surprisingly hard work, but we look forward to helping Yeti be even more wonderful than she is.  We've become 'those people', those folks who want their dog with them everywhere, so we need to learn how to help Yeti be one of 'those dogs' who can join us on our wanderings and explorations. A couple of nights ago, Linda took some Yeti photos as the sun was setting.  Gorgeous, isn't she?
We're so glad that she's come into our lives....

And Then It Happened

Although this past week was brutally hot, seems like everything got the memo about Fall just when the calendar page flipped.  Last night we were slightly north of here; the yellowing leaves and golden grasses told us Summer is releasing her stranglehold.  This morning, Yeti and I watched squirrels--red and gray--chasing each other up and down the black walnut tree.  Linda and I saw low-flying geese. And my sister, Yeti and I went walking at the Greenport Conservation Area; fallen leaves were sprinkled about on paths that were leafless a week ago.  On Tuesday I'll dive into a two-week work frenzy during which I'll barely see the light of day; it's so strange to think that when I emerge, we'll be mere days away from the official start of Fall...but it feels like I've never longed for it as much as this year.
This Fall celebrates the anniversary of two love affairs.  Six years ago, over the course of a glorious Fall, I fell profoundly, deeply, and passionately in love with Linda, and it never ceases to amaze me how blessed I am that--for inexplicable reasons--she fell in love with me too.  And a year ago, I embarked on my wild and wooly affair with wool.  There's been alot of experimentation, some daring, a little flirting and alot of wallowing in the wooliness of it all.  Today I marked--just a wee bit early--the beginning of the affair by ordering my own spinning wheel!  In a few short weeks, an Ashford double drive Traveler will take up residence here (um, a note to my aforementioned beloved: ya know how you LIKE assembling things?  Did I mention the wheel comes UNassembled in addition to unfinished???  Got any plans for late September?).  And since the NYS Sheep and  Wool Festival is in October, I can't wait to bring home bags of roving to work with!  I'm anxious to have lots of time for knitting and spinning, and will have some time off in October to sit out on the porch soaking up colors and coolness, feeling the wool on my skin, sipping cider, listening to the rustle of leaves.  Is it any wonder that my longing is outpacing the final days of Summer?