June, 2008

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Mountian Laurel Sanctuary

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Today I needed to drive to Woodstock, CT to buy some containers to package more of our maple syrup for the Farmer’s Markets coming up. On the way back, I stopped at a goat farm in Union and bought some goat cheese…very fresh as the owner had just finished making it! Then I decided to stop at the Mountain Laurel Sanctuary, part of Nipmuck State Forest. The Mountain Laurel is the state’s flower and is in full-bloom right now. A couple of bushes have already spent their flowers, but most are in their prime or still have buds to open.

From afar the Mountain Laurel looks like clumpy flowers all over a bush, but get up close and you can see spectacular little flowers with a unique shape. Most of the flowers in the sanctuary are either pink or white. It is just a beautiful, quiet drive along a mile of dirt forest road. Dave enjoys seeing the Mountain Laurel so many we can both go this weekend.

Today is a long, busy day for Dave at work, he’s got to stay until 8. It is kind of rainy and overcast again today. The temp is okay, but the humidity seems to be rising. There have been so many overcast days this summer, my poor tomatoes just aren’t being given an opportunity to grow.

Poor Tomato Plants

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Because it has been rainy and cloudy here for what seems like weeks, my poor tomato plants just aren’t happy. Mostly, they are still leggy and small. A few seem to have shrunk. The bean plants, onions, sunflowers and potatoes are doing wonderfully. Our ag news said that tomato plants are “fruiting” in CT…hmmm, mine aren’t even flowering yet.

So unless it gets sunny and warm here soon, I might not have much of a tomato crop. I like the cool (cold) we’ve had, but I also really like fresh grown tomatoes.

Fabulous Weekend!

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

We had a really awesome visit with my parents over the weekend. We left on Friday at around noon and drove 7 hours to Erie, PA. I called my parents a few times while we were driving and they encountered a few stumbling blocks along the way…more traffic and more construction than us. So they did not arrive until midnight. We quickly said hello and then went to our rooms for some much needed sleep.

We all stayed somewhere new for us and for the area. It was called the Towne Place Suites which had just opened the week before. It was a really nice place. It had an ultra modern interior design that is not my cup of tea though. The fabrics on the sofas, chairs and throw pillow were strange and in colors that are totally going to be dated quickly. But each hotel has to design their stuff to cater to different kinds of folks. The accommodations were really excellent.

On Saturday morning (my birthday), we went to a place called Eat n Park for breakfast and had an excellent buffet. My mom was funny because she kept using the word Erie as the word eerie. So to humor my mother, my dad and Dave navigated us past the Erie (eerie) Cemetery. After that, we found Presque Isle State Park (www.presqueisle.org) and drove through. We visited two lighthouses, the Perry Monument and then purchased tickets to take the Lady Kate for a boat tour around Presque Isle.

The boat tour was really nice. We floated slowly through the bay where there were lots of folks fishing from piers and from small boats. Then we went out into Lake Erie then back along the long side of Presque Isle and back into the bay. After that we went to the visitor center, where we were told by a wonderful lady that we just had to eat a hot dog at Sara’s (www.sarasandsallys.com) and then later get a dinner of fresh perch at Joe Root’s. So we did get the hot dog and some fabulous onion rings. Drove around some more of Erie. My father was driving and suddenly did a U-turn and stopped in front of a place called Stefanelli’s Candies. YUMMY! We all got a couple of chocolates to snack on.

After driving around a bit more and visiting another lighthouse, we went back to the hotel for a quick nap before dinner. As instructed, we went to Joe Root’s for dinner. If a local ever tells you to eat somewhere…go there, we’ve never been disappointed. I did not however follow instructions to order the freshly pan-fried perch and ordered prime rib instead. It was good, but it’s prominence on the menu made me think it must be really awesome. The shyly hidden perch entry should have been far more prominent on the menu. Dave and my mom ordered it and it was beyond fabulous. Dad had a steak that was also excellent. The bread with this garlic butter sauce over the top was melt-in-your-mouth wonderful.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and sat in my parent’s room talking until midnight. We had such a great visit. It was so nice to see them!! And what a treat for my birthday!

I gave my mom her very belated, actual mother’s Day gift of the counted-cross stitch sampler I’d finished finally. And we gave them a photo of Dave and I that we’d had taken at Target a few weeks back.

For my birthday, Dave gave me a perfectly wonderful homemade card. I make cards for people, when I have the time…otherwise it’s Hallmark time! So Dave sat at my desk one evening diligently working for quite some time on that card…the result was fantastic. And as a gift he’s taking me to Vermont to a store called Basketville (www.basketville.com). Now, some of you know my affinity for baskets…I love ’em. So he’s rather daring to take me, wallet open and in hand, to a place where they just sell baskets. (I’ll be good…kinda!) I’ve got a wonderful husband!!

So yesterday, after breakfast, we all parted ways. Dave and I got home almost exactly 7 hours later, even though we took a southerly route which was far more scenic. My parents got home about 9 hours after they left, but they did have further to drive.

All in all it was an awesome visit and it was so nice to see them. I got to talk to my brother via phone on Saturday even if I didn’t get to see he, Elizabeth nor the girls. (I got to hear lots about them from my mom though…my parents adore being grandparents!)

I Get to See My Parents!

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

So tomorrow at noon, Dave and I are heading out to PA to meet my parents in Erie. It is kind of the half-way point. I’m very excited. I haven’t seen any family on my side since February. And the added bonus is that I get to see them on my birthday!! Yeah!

So I’ll drive Dave to work in the morning. Spend the morning with my sister-in-law, then pick Dave up at noon. We should hopefully get to Erie by around 8PM.

I’ve never hung out in Erie before…driven through, but never stopped. Oh, yeah, I stopped near Erie once, but it was because I was driving in a bad snow storm and my car was blown off the highway into a ditch. I only stayed as long as it took me to channel enough annoyance into my tires to get me out of the ditch. (hehehehe)

Strawberries

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Yesterday I went to our local strawberry farm and picked zillions of strawberries. Most of them were rather tiny so it took me a long time to take the tops off and get them ready to make strawberry jam. Last night we had strawberries on top of strawberry cake! YUMMY!

So later today I’m going to make 8 pints of strawberry jam! I’m using a traditional sugar included recipe for this first batch. However, I am seriously considering going out again to pick another batch next week so I can try making a no-sugar strawberry jam recipe.

So this will be my first canning venture of the season. Later, I am hoping to can green beans, tomato sauce and possibly potatoes! (Probably with some serious guidance from my dear Aunt A back in IL!!)

Tridentine Mass & Father’s Day

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Yesterday Dave and I took Dave’s father to Moodus for a Tridentine Mass (old Latin style mass Pre-Vatican II). It was a really nice experience. The priest spoke in Latin an absolute “mile-a-minute” so following along in the booklet was impossible. But I’d been instructed before hand that I should just sit back, pray, and participate internally. That was superb advice. I was also given this link to read instructions for the mass, which was also a GREAT help. http://www.fisheaters.com/TLMinstructions.html

The mass seemed more reverent, the attendees dressed very nicely (no shorts, tank tops, flip-flops, etc.), it was very quiet (and there were several little children/babies present) and several of the women attendees wore head-coverings. I’ve never contemplated chapel veils before so I don’t have an opinion on that practice. I just noticed it.

Dave said he’d like to go again. He would like to attend a mass with a priest who maybe doesn’t speak Latin as if it were a race though. Dave also noted that it would be nice if the priest used a microphone, but that isn’t traditional so it probably doesn’t happen.

After mass, we drove down to Old Saybrook and took Dave’s father to Johnny Ad’s, a seafood shack with great clams. I had my usual clam strips and Dave had the whole bellies. I just can’t get my taste buds around those whole belly clams yet. I like the little tiny ones Dave gives me, but those big bellied ones—not my thing. This place also has pretty great Lobster Bisque. They are a little lean with the lobster meat, but that isn’t unusual.

We drove a little further to a public beach after dinner. I wore sandals so I got to walk along the beach with no shoes on for the first time in a long time. I even waded a little bit into the freezing cold ocean. There was a little boy out on the sand who ran up to me to inquire about crabs being present before he dipped his toes in the surf. He was cute. He kept saying he didn’t want his toes to be pinched by crabs.

So we had a nice day with Dave’s father. Next year, Dave will hopefully be a dad too. At least we keep praying that will be true.

Success!

Monday, June 16th, 2008

On Saturday, we participated in our first Farmer’s Market of the season. And we had awesome success with our maple syrup sales!! We are participating in two Farmer’s Markets this summer. The second one doesn’t start until further into July though. I am praying that we continue to have the kind of success we had this last Saturday. Dave was really happy with how well things went.

Setting up our area went smoothly too. We were told that the location we pick on the first day is the spot we will have for the whole season. For some reason the folks that arrived before us choose spots out on the lawn under direct sun. And there right next to the parking lot was an enormous maple tree (befitting our product sales too) with fabulous shade. So that is our location for the duration of the summer!

Potential Trip Over my Birthday

Friday, June 13th, 2008

YEAH!! It looks like I will get to see my parents over the weekend of my birthday!!!!! I’m bummed that my brother, sister-in-law and nieces cannot come too, but at least I get to see some contingency of my immediate family. If this coming trip hadn’t worked out, I would not have gotten to see anyone until Thanksgiving….blah.

So it looks like we’ll be meeting kind of half-way in Erie, PA. I’m not sure what Erie, PA has to offer, but I’m sure they’ve got some neat stuff going on. And we’ll only be there for a very quick weekend.

Taking a Look at Home Delivery Produce

Friday, June 13th, 2008

Today I was reading on a forum about how some ladies were trying to reduce their food budgets. One woman with a large family mentioned that she uses a home delivery service for her produce. This intrigued me greatly! So I took a look at the website and by golly, they service all of Connecticut. Everything is organic too. Now normally, I’m not real picky about my produce needing to be organic because it is generally cost prohibitive. So don’t think I’m an organics snob. But the idea of locally grown, seasonally available produce which happens to also be organic and cost effective is making me think.

I could have a small box of produce delivered from this service every week for almost exactly what I pay on a weekly basis for non-organic, typically foreign grown, produce at the grocery store. Hmmm… I’d be helping small farmers/business owners (which I adore the idea of), not using as much gas (which helps the budget) and eating better.

This is fodder for another post, but I’ve got some insulin issues (not diabetic yet, but headed in that direction) which are playing havoc with my body. So I am looking to reduce (eliminate) refined sugars & flours from our diets. I’ll still use healthier, natural sweeteners and whole grain flours so we aren’t exactly doing the Atkins thing. I’ve not become a liberal, a hippie or even “green”. I just would like to have children and be around to enjoy them. Thus the absolute necessity to alter our diets.

Farmer’s Markets

Friday, June 13th, 2008

Tomorrow Dave and I begin selling our maple syrup at a couple of the local Farmer’s Markets. Specifically, we’ll be selling at the Somers and Stafford markets this summer. I am hoping and praying for good sales!!

We bought one of those nice canopy tents (tent top without sides). The material for our tablecloth arrived too late yesterday evening for me to make our tablecloth, but I’ll be able to finish it before the next market. I did make a big sign that says 100% Pure Maple Syrup, which will hopefully catch the eye of people and bring them to our tent.

I’ll take photos of our set-up tomorrow and hopefully Dave will be able to upload them. I’m pretty excited about this because if it goes well, it could really help us toward making farming Dave’s eventual full-time gig. That is the long-term goal anyway. Dave would give anything to be able to provide for us as a farmer. (For the Illinois readers, in New England producing maple syrup is very much a farming operation!)

Lately, I’ve been reading so much about how harmful eating processed foods, white sugar and white flour are too my body that the idea of growing lots of our own produce also sounds like a very good idea. So maybe one day in the not so distant future, Dave and I will have enough land to cultivate our own veggies/fruits and produce gobs of maple syrup!