Monday, July 27, 2009

blog #308 >> Peach Pie

Yes, I did bake a peach pie on the hottest day of the year! What it was over 100 degrees outside? Perfect pie weather! All weather is perfect pie weather! And it was even better since I was able to bake it outside at my parent's house in the roster oven. I got to escape the sweltering heat of my upstairs apartment, sit on the front porch swing, and eat pie. Now that made for a pleasant evening.

I tried to take a picture of all the butterflies on the butterfly bush, but they were just too flighty and skittish. The bees were much more photogenic.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

blog #307 >> Hasn't been lazy...

...very lazy that is.
Well, it is summer. And I realize I've been a very lazy blogger lately. It's just that I've done a lot of other stuff instead. And I'm trying to not feed into the narcissism that blogging creates.

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Anyhow... besides the usual accordion playing, reading, and gardening, I've been very busy canning. After all, those peaches aren't going to can themselves, and I certainly can't eat them all in one day. Therefore something had to be done with the tree full of peaches.

Dave and Trina picking peaches.

There were simply too many peaches to can by myself this time, and my mom graciously let me bombard her kitchen and can them there. I don't think I could have done these ones without her help. And it was so nice being able to cook them outside on the camp stove.

The giant shelf of jars. I have a feeling someday my house will look like this.

The finished cherries, peaches, and peach jelly.

God bless those who can fresh produce.

See how happy these children are with their fresh homemade jelly?

This page makes me want to paint happy faces on all my jars.

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Besides taking care of my abundance of fuzzy fruit last week, I also spent quite a bit of time with my telescope. I feel like we need to spend more quality time together. Since I moved to the city, I hardy ever get to use it. The skies here are just pathetically bright. It's like it never really gets dark. And the last time I took it out here, the neighbors thought I was spying on them and children swarmed me and I ended up practically teaching an astronomy class instead of using it myself. Not that that's bad, but it's just not the same. I miss the cold dark nights and the clear crisp skies. Anyhow this week I tried to get out as much as I could. This week was not like the other weeks. For one thing the International Space Station was extra low and bright in the sky. I was able to catch it three times this week. And Neptune was in transit with Jupiter. But most importantly M55 was visible just on the horizon. You see I like to collect things, books, tea cups, Jell-O molds, and one of the things I collect are Messier Objects (a.k.a. annoying dim fuzzy objects which are not comets.) I've been trying to find them all for 8 years. And out of 110 I have 13 left, and those 13 are really hard to find. Most of them are extremely dim, barely visibly through my 114mm telescope. Or they are right on the horizon and only visible a short period of the year. And if it's cloudy, or a full moon during that time, I've got to wait for the next year. Unfortunately, M55 has proven to be both hard to find and right on the horizon. And it will only be very low on the horizon for a few weeks before it disappears entirely for the year. Now I'm a GOOD star hopper, but I tried for several hours and at last gave up when I was half asleep in the grass. I even tried entering the Right Ascension and Declination into the equatorial mount and I found NOTHING! I also tried just slowly moving the telescope in circles and back and forth over the area it should be (this sometimes works shockingly well) and still NOTHING. It shouldn't be that hard to find. It's like 2/3 the size of the MOON! The only thing I can think is that it must have always been just behind the trees. Oh M55, you giant fuzzy globular cluster! Someday I will find you yet.

Also, it should be noted that things don't look like this though my telescope. These are Hubble or Observatory photos. And they look nothing like this though little telescopes, even though they print these pictures on the packaging.
Here's a good example of some of the pictures you see, compared to what they really look like through a small telescope.
(left to right, top to bottom: Butterfly Cluster M6, Lagoon Nebula M8, The Andromeda Galaxy M31, The Hercules Cluster M13, The E.T. Cluster NGC 457, The Trifid Nebula M20.

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And of course since something must be done while I wait for it to get dark. I spent a lot of my week chasing the little kiddies around. And let me tell you that Power Wheels goes FAST! I can only run after that and steer for them for a half hour or so before I drop. After that I'm much too tired to play "Power Wheels" anymore. Those kids have got to learn to steer, and to stop too. I guess that's why they don't give driver's licences to three-year-olds.

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And last weekend was my summer tea party. Now I realize, that although I was the hostess, I completely forgot to take pictures. I ended up only taking three photos. A photo of the hard boiled quail eggs, a picture of Maggie playing dress-up, and a picture of Stella sucking her fingers. Well, I guess I'm a better aunt than a photographer. At least I have a five year old niece who likes to play with the camera, who became the event photographer. Now I've got a lot of random fuzzy photos of flowers, and low angle shots of people, and a couple of the photographer's dress. But really, she did a pretty good job.
Overall, it was a lovely tea party, but I should have thought out the part about carrying everything out to the garden first. It was a lot of work, and now I'm wishing I had just had it out in the courtyard. But my biggest regret was my choice of shoes. I've got the worst blisters I've had in years. I knew I was in trouble when Amy asked me, "How heavy is your kitchen table?" But it was really nice, it didn't rain and it wasn't a hundred degrees and the food everyone brought was wonderful. Mary brought some amazing scones, Amy Lynn brought some chocolate zucchini bread, Amy M. brought some mini-lemon margin tarts, chocolate pecan cookies, chocolate bisscotti, Trina brought some jelly, butter, cream, and peaches, Mom brought fruit, davendour cream, cucumber and rye bread sandwiches and I had the hot tea, raspberry peach iced tea, strawberry lemonade, regular lemonade, petticoat tails, chicken salad croissants, and egg salad sandwiches with deviled quail eggs. Let me tell you, peeling quail eggs is a LOT of work. It said to roll them in your hands, and I squished the first one as flat as a pancake. I was much more careful after that and I had to pipe the filling in with the pastry bag. But they were very good and tasted just like little mini-hard boiled eggs.
Perhaps my next party will be a "Come Celebrate the Boston Tea Party" tea party. I think that one will have to be an open house though.

Until I have time to post something again...

Monday, July 13, 2009

blog #306 >> Dilly Beans

Yesterday, I took yet another bold step in home canning and tried making "dilly beans." I have to say that pickles are a lot harder to make than jam. It took me ALL day and I was still mopping up the floors at nine o'clock last night. First, I had to go buy the special pickling salt and some other groceries. Then, I ran out of jars and had to go get some more and pick up the scale. And then I had to wash and trim all the beans to fit in the jars, and sanitize the jars, and boil lots and lots and lots of water. Then I ran out of the pickling liquid and had to make some more. And at the very end one of the jars exploded in the canner. But for all that I've got six little jars of dilly beans. (And "yes" they're very tasty, although I haven't tried any of this batch yet. They need to cure for 2-3 weeks.)
I can't wait until they're ready to eat!

"The Joy of Pickling" book I borrowed from Trina.

The Dragon Striped Beans before I canned them.

The fresh dill from the pot on my porch.

The finished "dilly beans!" I wish they had kept their stripes, they're kinda a weird color now. But they'll still taste good.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

blog #305 >> More of the Same

Well... I can't say I've done anything out of the ordinary lately. So all this is simply more of the usual.

Here are some of the cherries that I helped pick at my parents house. The tallest ladder they had would barely reach the branches with cherries, so we ended up chopping down the top of the tree to get them. Now it finally makes sense why George Washington would want to chop down his father's cherry tree. Maybe I'll make a pie...

Here's one of the fancy Jell-O molds I made this week. You can get the recipe here on my "The Joys of Jell-O" blog.

Here's one of the pictures I took out boating. I wish I worked closer to the river. I'd just live out on the water all summer and drive the boat to work.

Last week I also discovered that I really like the show Heroes. I had never really watched it before and whenever I did, I was really confused. Then I watched the whole third season on Hulu. And I liked it so much I decided to rent the first season. The only problem with renting it was I only had five days to watch it, so I watched it every spare minute of my day and it still took me six days to finish. Now my brain has turned to "mush" because I normally turn on the television once a month, if that. I think I might wait a few weeks before I rent season two. But oh, it's so good and so addictive... sort of like LOST.

And here's the garden again! I'm afraid I never tire of taking pictures of our little garden. I spent all morning weeding it today.

The lettuce and the little baby spinach.

We have a LOT of green tomatoes but not a single red one yet... I think they'll be turning soon.

Pole peas.

The monster head of lettuce, which is even more monstrous than before.

Baby zucchini.

My giant bowl of dragon striped green beans. I'm going to make them into "dilly beans" tomorrow.

And well... I guess that's it!