Monday, August 31, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

First of all, we got this on Friday...after 2 months of squatting here:

It was a beautiful weekend! I love the cool evenings again, after the past couple of sweltering weeks. We worked outside this weekend, while the girls played and danced, and a light wind tossed leaves in the air.

We discovered this gorgeous monarch chrysalis hanging from the soffit on the North end of the garage. It looks like it has been hand-detailed with 24k gold.

We (mostly JP) got this big old HD antenna installed. We were able to watch SNL this weekend! After a 2 month break, it was really annoying to be confronted with commercials again. We are having some problems receiving channels because this antenna seems to be very directional, as are HD signals apparently. We are having to go outside, turn the antenna, then come back in and reprogram the TV to get different should definitely limit our TV watching to those things we only REALLY want to watch!

We also got a shelf hung in my laundry closet for supplies, a couple more pictures hung, and some organization going in the Library. The laundry closet is sectioned out of my craft handy!

I am feeling nervous/queasy this morning. Tomorrow we start back to school with Agora. I am trying to get everything organized and a schedule made up so that we can be as efficient as possible starting tomorrow. One thing that I learned last year was just to go with the many things happen day to day, that you can't always stick to the schedule. I did, however, feel a bit unorganized all year, and perhaps making up a schedule early on can help us all stick with the project at hand. Happy First Day of School all you kiddos!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

MH 606

Anyone my age (which I won't disclose at this time), and who grew up in the Mennonite church, should be familiar with Hymn 606 in The Mennonite Hymnal: the Mennonite National Anthem, "Praise God From Whom". There is something comforting about this old, rust colored hymnal, with its friendly shape notes dotting the pages from front to back. There is something comforting too, in sitting in the midst of a group of people, singing #606 in four part harmony. Most of the churches I was associated with during my college days switched from the old hymnal, published in 1969, to a new blue book . The blue hymnal still seems like the pushy new kid, and I have never warmed to it (not to mention the fact that "Praise God From Whom" was demoted to 118 or some such random number.)

Here is a clip of "Praise God From Whom" sung at the Mennonite Convention in Columbus this summer:

Mennonites are Anabaptist folks, typically not quite as conservative as our Amish cousins. But the values of "more with less", recycling, reusing, and preserving are as Mennonite to me as Hymn 606. I learned to can, freeze, and dehydrate food along side my mother as a girl, and I now feel some how inadequate if I don't accomplish some sort of food preservation every year (and boy, do we appreciate it every winter!)

For D, my dear, Mennonite friend, here is the recipe I use for sweet pickles. It is so easy and very tasty. The recipe comes from my preserving Bible: Putting Food By, edited by Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg, and Beatrice Vaughan.

Sweet Pickle Chips
-makes 5 pints

Brining solution:
1 Qt distilled white vinegar
3 T salt
1 T mustard seed
1/2 c sugar

Canning syrup:
1 2/3 c distilled white vinegar
3 c sugar
1 T whole allspice
2 1/4 t celery seed

4# cucumbers (about 9 medium)

Wash and trim cukes, then cut into 1/4" slices. Mix brining solution in a large pot and add sliced cukes. Cover and simmer until the cukes change color from bright to dull green, stirring occasionally (about 5-7 minutes).

Mix together canning syrup and bring to a boil. Drain pickles and pack them, while still hot, into hot pint canning jars. Cover them with very hot syrup, leaving 1/2" head room. Remove air bubbles and adjust lids. Process in a Hot-Water Bath for 10 minutes, then remove jars. (Be sure to adjust for altitude!)

All of this sweet and pure domestic stuff is covering the irritation I am starting to feel after not being able to watch any television for 2 months. We cannot get any stations with rabbit ears, and the cables and antenna have yet to be connected. Judging from our DVD collection, we really don't need TV any time soon, although I really enjoy "The Mentalist", and L is missing her "Sesame Street". Here is a shot of some of the built-in shelving in the Great Room. This houses DVDs, and (on the kitchen end) cook books.

This is a shot of the Great Room. It is a tricky room to photograph during the day because of all the light coming in the windows. All those plants on the plant shelf were brought by my Mom. She has been saving starts of her plants for me for a long time, and even painted the pots she put them in! Thanks Mom!

Here is a close up of the built-in china cabinet, on the left, just outside of the Master Bedroom.
This close up is of the built-in entertainment center, on the right side, just outside of the Library.

And finally, I have re-started doing Yoga in the mornings. I should probably be going for a walk instead, but I am finding it a very calm way to start out the day. The girls like to do it too. Hopefully this is a routine that I can continue once school starts.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Peach Gluttony

It was a beautiful drive out to the peach orchard in Prosperity, PA on Friday. I came home with a bushel of peaches, and bags of yellow tomatoes and green beans. Inspired by a recipe I saw there, I made Risotto for dinner with yellow squash, green beans, green onions, grape tomatoes and fresh basil...wasn't a hit.

By this morning it was obvious that I needed to spend the day in the kitchen. Besides the peaches, I had a grocery bag full of cucumbers, and a couple of soft bananas. By dinner time, the counter was loaded with canned goods: 9 half-pints of dill relish, 5 pints of our favorite sweet pickles, 15 pints and 8 quarts of peaches (one broke in the canner)...

...and 4 pints of peaches to freeze.

I also made peach crisp, which we ate with our leftover homemade peach ice cream from last night. It was delicious!

Fresh Georgia Peach Ice Cream
-Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book

2 c finely chopped, peeled peaches
1 1/4 c sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 large eggs (I use egg beaters since it is pasteurized)
2 c heavy or whipping cream
1 c milk

-Combine peaches with 1/2 c of sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes, then drain and save the juice.

-Whisk the eggs until light and fluffy, then whisk in the remaining sugar, a little at a time. When completely blended, add cream, milk and peach juice and whisk to blend.

-Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze, adding the peaches approximately 2 minutes before it is finished.

Peach Crumble
-Cooks Illustrated

for the filling:
6 1/2 c sliced, peeled peaches
1/3 c sugar
1 1/4 t cornstarch
4 t lemon juice
pinch: salt, cinnamon, nutmeg

for the topping:
1 c flour
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c packed brown sugar
1/8 t salt
2 t vanilla
6 T butter, cut into 6 pieces
1/2 c nuts

-Toss peaches and sugar together and let stand 30 minutes, stirring several times. Drain and save juice. Whisk 1/4 c peach juice with remaining filling ingredients then toss with peaches and transfer to a greased 8" square baking dish.

-While peaches are macerating, combine flour, sugars and salt in food processor and sprinkle with vanilla. Pulse 5 times until combined. Add remaining ingredients and process until mixture clumps. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and gently pat into even layer. Bake at 350* for 18-22 minutes.

-Slide topping onto peaches and pat into even layer. Bake until well browned and fruit is bubbling around the edges, 25-35 minutes.

I never did get around to those bananas!

Tomorrow I start back to work after the summer off, and school starts oh-too-soon for J. Where did the summer go?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wooden Bowing Giant

I drove a van load of happy people up to the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh yesterday. We had a full day, and came home exhausted. One of the newer exhibits I enjoyed this time was a huge wooden sculpture which could be animated by using a series of pulleys and levers. Here is a short clip of J & M making it bow.

We had a big thunderstorm last night. The wind blew rain all the way under the prow and got our french doors wet (about 8 feet in)! One of my tomatoes-in-a-bucket also blew over and the first ripe-ish tomatoes of the year harvested themselves, along with a couple of green ones.

Today we are headed to Prosperity (just a few miles up the road) to get peaches at an orchard there. It is a never ending party out here, believe me!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Tonight was the first Fall soccer practice for J. She has played County Soccer for two seasons now. We got involved to help the socialization issue when we began Cyber School, and she really enjoyed it last Fall. This Spring it really didn't click with her, she didn't play her best and complained about it a lot. This Fall she is on a really fun team with 2 of her best buds, and 2 boys that she knows well also. It was a super hot and muggy evening for practice, and she drank 2 bottles of water in an hour, but she enjoyed herself.

Little L was in her glory, showing her hand-me-down Leap Pad off to a gaggle of other 3 year old girls. (I'll have to take a camera next time to catch a glimpse of how adorable that bunch was!)

And me? Well, I'll tolerate the oppressive weather for the chance to chat with my own buds...the other Moms at practice. It makes me feel so much like I belong here in our little corner of PA to have a community of Moms that I've come to know through all the activities I've been to with my kiddos: M.O.P.s, Library Story Time, Play Groups, and Soccer. I've never experienced that sense of community before in my adult life, so yeah, call me a "Soccer Mom", I'm proud of it!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Emptying the Garage

If you have been following this blog at all, or know us, you'll recall that we stored about 75% of our belongings in our 3 car garage over the winter while we resided in a 600 square foot apartment in town. You also might remember that the garage became infested with mice because I shortsightedly left some pecans in a box that I packed, and then the mice moved into the house (along with their pecans). Since we moved into the house back in June (and chased the mice out), we have been trying to clean out the garage of stuff and mouse residue in order to use it for its intended purpose: to park our cars there. It has been slow going, in part because it started out like this:

...and in part because the contractor is still finishing up around here, and has stacks of stuff both in our basement storage area, and in the garage.

This weekend, due to a forecast of several clear and sunny days in a row, we decided to bite the bullet and clear EVERYTHING out of the garage. This is what that looked like.

Then we thoroughly cleaned the garage, including scrubbing it with Simple Green and water.

After it dried, we (JP) painted the floor with 2 coats of Quikrete 1-Part Epoxy Garage Floor Sealer. This was to protect the concrete from salt in the winter and oil all the time.

While that was drying, we took 2 more storage shelves downstairs, and some more things that belong down there. I also separated piles of recycling (which I took out this morning), and Thrift Store donations (which I still need to log and load into the van). Then, after a delicious dinner of Greene County trout, fresh corn on the cob, roasted potatoes, and fresh tomato slices with drizzles of Balsamic Vinegar last evening, we set about to return things to the garage. This is what it looks like now...much more like a garage.

We still need to organize things in there, and we have plywood up above the rafters to screw down as flooring for a storage area up there, but we definitely made progress! In the process, we realized again that we made an error on the plans. The single bay is meant to be a work shop for my Dad, but instead of putting the walk-through door on his side around the corner to the North, it is next to the garage door. We will have 20 feet in which to park our 2 vehicles, which measure together 13 feet wide. (If we had relocated the walk-through door, we would have 3 or 4 more feet of space.) When JP was explaining this to me yesterday, I thought he was saying that we would be unable to park both of our vehicles in the garage, which made me want to rearrange the wood shop space a bit. I now understand that it will just be a close fit, and I'll have to be extremely careful when parking the whale of a minivan! I also see need to have a shed for the mowers and other yard care equipment down the road some day! It will still be a while until the wood shop is entirely set up, meaning that we can use some of that space for storage for a little while longer.

The other step in this process before we can park in the garage is just that: a step.

We need to get some driveway work done, including some gravel in front of the concrete so that we can get the vehicles up there and we don't end up with whip lash injuries every time we try to leave (the driveway is bumpy need to add to it!)

So, thank you Mom for all of your assistance with the carrying and cleaning this weekend, it was a HUGE help! And sorry, Dad, that we weren't able to sit and chat more...we'll save that for this winter when we are all snuggled up in the home on Poplar Ridge during a snow storm!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Green Laundry

JP got a clothes line up for me on Monday. About 20 minutes after I happily hung up my first load of sheets, L commented "it waining!" JP and I frantically dashed outside to pull everything in. It has been raining since then, so today was my first successful attempt at drying my clothes in the great outdoors. Mmmm...there is nothing like the smell and feel of line dried sheets! The line is hung between the corners of the "L" shaped porch, and just steps away from the washer.

I finished my pantry re-organization yesterday, and now have one entire empty shelf, and more room on others if I squish.

I get a sick kind of pleasure out of labeling things. I told JP that I did this for my Mom's sake (I kinda did!)

While I was on the pantry pics, I thought I'd snap the kitchen since it was relatively clean. I'd still like to do something with the pantry entrance since we lost the pocket door, but I'm not sure what. Right now we are using a Japanese noren as a divider...a gift from JP's sister in Japan.

This is the Dining Room, and strangely, the main entrance to the house. We recently hung faux wood blinds in this window since the dusk-to-dawn light on the garage was bothering us in the bedroom at night. There is a small coat closet just to the left of the entrance in this picture. The pass through is my work space, and the doorway to the left of that goes into the Craft Room (which also houses the freezer, extra refrigerator, washer and dryer)...I'll photograph that room later as we are still working in there.

The cream colored table on the far left was a Big Lots find. We plan to put it on wheels. It will function as a sofa console table, buffet table and pattern cutting table.

The girls and I had a fun day today: we had friends over to play in the morning (including one of L's "tiny boyfriends"), and we adults were so deep in conversation that we talked through lunch and had to whip up some mac-n-cheese quickly for the kiddos. We then accompanied them to another friend's pool for some water play. Now J is anxious for L to get up from her nap, and I'm not (since blogging doesn't really count for accomplishing anything during nap time). Ah goes on!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

One Misty, Moisty Morning, When Cloudy was the Weather...

This is the view from the deck this morning. We have had a lot of spectacular views with low-lying clouds and fog lately, as well as some doozies of rain storms. We noticed this sunset up the road on our way home from the Greene Co. Fair last night.

I'm beginning to feel a bit like Mrs. Noah, shut up in the Ark up here on the ridge. (Minus the animals...haven't heard the mice for days and days now!) Much of the soil meant to be lawn is washing down the hill with all the wetness in the past few days. I did notice a few brave sprigs of grass popping up off the porch.

I don't know if it is the weather affecting me or not, but I feel like not all of my brain synapses are connecting lately. I walk around in a daze from one half-finished task to the next. It has been a bit busy here lately. JP's sister and family, along with his mother came to visit for a long weekend last week. The girls were overjoyed to see their cousins, and their cousins were very sweet about playing with them which gave a few of my synapses a rest! Here is everyone except Bro-in-Law (who is taking the picture) on our deck.

JP needed to use up the rest of his vacation/personal days from his '08-'09 work year this week, so he had Monday-Wednesday off. We managed to get most of the pictures hung, and some garage organizing done, but it seems like the projects still overwhelm our time to work on them. You may have noticed that I changed the title of this Blog to "A Home on Poplar Ridge". It is definitely feeling like home, especially since we hung our collage of family photos on the landing wall of the stairs.

The bedrooms are now finished enough to photograph, so here is a shot of the Master Bedroom...

...And this is the Guest Room. We do have a framed print of Monet's Water-Lillies for over the bed, but the frame was broken while in storage, so it needs to be repaired first.

We continue to have critter sitings. The raccoons and mice are rarely seen these days, but the deer, turkeys and other lovely birds have been abundant. Just the other day, JP noticed this Little Brown Bat hanging from the soffit on the porch.

Today I must tackle the pantry. Everything is organized well enough for me, but the rest of the family has trouble finding certain things, and items have mysteriously vanished after recent grocery shopping trips. My parents will also be here soon and need room for their own canned and dry goods. We have a trip to Morgantown planned for later today to resume J's violin lessons after a 2 month break.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Spider in the Basement

The builder spent some full days on the hill in the past 2 weeks. Our list of things that remain to be finished has been whittled down from 2 pages to about a dozen things. Unfortunately, he got injured several days ago, so he really needs to take a couple of days off. This conveniently comes at a time when we are expecting guests. JP's sister and family, along with his mother are coming this afternoon from Virginia to spend a long weekend with us. JP's mother will stay an additional week here.

This morning we were finally able to use our beautiful shower again! I had noticed that the grout just under the lip of the bench was cracked open, and the whole bench seemed to be bowed up in the center. They had to remove some of the tile in order to discover that the bench seat (which was made of plywood) had gotten wet at some point, consequently swelled up and caused the problem. Of course, by this time, the grout was no longer in stock at the building supply place and had to be special ordered. This morning, however, it was dry and ready to use!

Yesterday evening the "Always Hot" hot water heat was finally finished being installed. It was a frustrating project for our builder, who was working with one of these for the first time. This one supplies hot water to the kitchen, master bathroom, kids' bathroom, and will power the radiant heating in the floors downstairs. It is run by propane, so hopefully it will still be usable in a power outage. It looks something like a spider or octopus (or some sort of maze) with all of the pipes and tubes coming out all over. The blue pipes are for the radiant heating. It looked more like a bird's nest inside while he was working on it, but I'm not brave enough to open it up to photograph!

The girls and I cleaned all the pictures and brought them in from the garage this week. Hooray! We are finally at the hanging pictures stage! We hung a few in their room, but are waiting for JP's opinion and assistance on the rest.

Some of our next projects include cleaning the garage floor and painting some kind of epoxy floor covering down, and putting things away in there, setting up the big screen projector downstairs, covering the walls of the girl's hiding place with panelling, installing the weathervane, and building a composter.

The landscaper came out to look things over on Tuesday. They won't be able to get started until the end of August/beginning of grass this year!

In the meantime, we have guests coming, summer is winding down, and we still have an Idlewild trip to fit in! All of J's school supplies came by UPS about 2 weeks ago. Everything is stashed away in her school area downstairs. The first day of classes is September 1st.