Saturday, July 26, 2014

Making fruit leathers on a hot day...

I really hadn't planned this blog to be a cooking one, but I have been having so much fun with my new dehydrator that I wanted to catalog the results here. Today after the extreme heat (100s these days) has made all my apricots ripen and start to fall of the tree, I picked a bunch more and decided to try out apricot fruit leather for roll-ups. Yesterday we took the dehydrator outside so it wouldn't keep heating up the kitchen. I was working on a makeshift outdoor area for these today.

So I took a bunch of ripe apricots...

soaked them in a citric acid/water solution for 5 minutes then blended them up the best I could in my old funky blender...

spread it out on the mats  (which look just like my silicon baking and crafts mats) that are for fruit leathers...

and put them in to dry.

They should take around 4 hours so I will know later this evening if it worked. Seemed it was not as smooth as it should have been AND it was very hard to spread out evenly so that might affect how it dries. We shall see.

Friday, July 25, 2014

First batch results...

Here are the delicious results from the first batch of dehydrating.

Tasty beef jerky (not spicy enough for Andy but I like it just fine!):

And here is the first batch of fruits:  apriots (from our tree), apple, and pineapple:

Today we moved the dehydrator outside because it really does heat up the kitchen/house and it is already hot enough (today is day 1 of 5 days promised to be over 100 degrees!). So it is outside the kitchen door and now I am drying more apricots, another apple and trying an orange.

The trick to not having the fruit brown up is to soak them for 10 minutes or so in a solution made with water and citric acid. Andy got a package of citric acid from the Coop for me a few months ago when I told him I wanted to look out for it. I am eager to get more peaches and nectarines now at the Farmer's Market so I can dry those too! And then in the fall, pears! I think dried pears are my all-time favorites!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

IKEA and the dehydrator...

Yay! My dehydrator came yesterday so today we went out to IKEA to get another one of these to put it on:

The dehydrator fits perfectly on top and this little table fit perfectly into a small space by our back door where there was also an outlet. And the amazing part is that we tested out if we could have the dehydrator and the microwave on at the same time and we could! Doesn't work with the toaster and microwave-- old circuits don't like that combo!

THIS  is the dehydrator I got from Amazon:  (Excalibur)
I wanted to be able to make my own beef jerkey from good (grass-fed) beef and without preservatives and soy sauce. That way I could limit the amount of sugars and salts in it as well and just be able to make smaller batches as needed. So I am experimenting today. 

I got a lovely 2 pound London Broil from Winterport Farms at the Farmer's Market last weekend. I am only using half of it to start with as my first experiment. So I sliced it very thin, then made my marinade, got the meat all juicy with marinade... (easy peasy: coconut aminos, maple syrup, salt, pepper, a little garlic and onion powders based on THIS recipe.)

then into a ziploc bag and into the fridge overnight. I will start the dehydrating part in the morning.

Meanwhile I started in on the apricots from our tree. I soaked them in a citric acid-water bath (so they hopefully won't get too brown) before putting them into the dehydrator...

On the dehydrator rack. Just making one rack to start with so I can see how they do overnight... lots more apricots to follow!

Tomorrow I will be adding the some pineapple and maybe an apple to the fruit trays, then when they are done, up the temp to 165 for the beef jerky. The nice thing about this dehydrator is that there are two controls: one for temperature and one a timer. AND it is square with top air flow from the back so all rows dry evenly. My funky old one was on-off and air from the bottom so you constantly had to change the rows around and there wasn't as much surface area since it had a big hole in the center. This one has already won me over!

Now that I am retired I have plans to do a lot more homemade foods and really focus on healthy eating. I usually eat pretty well anyway but now I have no excuses! And it's fun anyway... sort of Little House on the Prairie meets City Life. Without the dresses!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Home and the farmer's market...

Got home from my month-long Nova Scotia journey late Monday (well really for me it was 4 am on Tuesday) so spent most of Tuesday jetlagged. Amazingly the rest of the week FLEW by and here it is Sunday already!

And Sundays are always good for the Farmer's Market:

Today we found a stall with carnivorous plants! Beautiful ones too -- Pitcher Plants, Venus Flytraps, and more! Pricey but pretty!

And there was the usual wonderful flowers, fruit and veggies... we didn't need much today but it is always fun walking though the market and taking in all the scents (basil was strong in the air today). And there were amazing sunflowers!

Yesterday I bought myself an early birthday present of a very nice dehydrator and am looking forward to making my own beef jerkey as well as a lot of dried fruits and vegetables. It is supposed to arrive on Thursday so I imagine next weekend might be a busy one for drying things! 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

More Cape Breton...

With more to follow. I sort of gave up trying to post on the blog this time. My thoughts on all this in a later post when I get home next week.
Visit to a coal mine, more beaches, nice drives...
Had a wonderful time visiting with Leah... more on that too when I can figure out how to link her page on mobile-blogger (I miss my normal computer!) *** EDITED: Here is Leah's wonderful BLOG!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A few Cape Breton images...

Here is what I have learned about myself when I travel: I can post photos to Facebook or I can blog. Apparently I am not good about doing both.

So here are a few more Nova Scotia photos while I figure out what I want to do about the way too many social media options available now.

I will be home in 9 days. More on this wonderful trip then!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hiking the Skyline Trail...

I have learned a couple of things from today's hike... I like to hike alone, I am still in horrid shape for hiking uphill and in the sun, and that I am starting to get over my fear of heights but it still stops me in the end. Just things I pondered today in this beautiful place.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

More greetings from Canada...but no WiFi...

Having lovely (rainy) days on the coast of Cape Breton the last few days... and no WiFi around. Managed to get a few moments on a public computer in the Info center to post a note... I am hoping soon I will be somewhere where the WiFi is working and I can post photos...

If not, then later...

It is beautiful here, lovely winding roads through forests and along beaches... just my recipe for a relaxing start of my retirement!

Photos soon!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Greetings from Nova Scotia, Canada!

A silly selfie from Peggy's Cove lighthouse. Got to Halifax and have been exploring. Went to this lighthouse and to Lunenburg yesterday...

Monday, June 16, 2014

Querencia and other thoughts about writing...

I have been thinking about writing lately...

From Writing Towards Home by Georgia Heard:
 Querencia: a place where one feels safe; a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn; a place where one feels at home. From the Spanish querer to want, to desire.

          {Where is my querencia?}

This makes me ask other questions:

Where do I feel most at home?
Where do I feel most happy and relaxed?
What is my ideal writing environment?
Where can I write with all my full powers?

I like quiet places.

Places without a lot of distractions.

That is why often writing in public places like coffee houses is difficult for me, unless I can find an out of the way table or a booth.

The quietest place for me is really a time – very early morning before the world seems awake. This has  worked well in the past then I got distracted with work and stopped writing for long time. Now I am retired so I can reclaim my mornings.

Another thought, taken from an art workshop years ago, maybe Julianna Coles? She asked, "Where does your art hide for you?"  So I am taking a side step for today...

          {Where does writing hide for me?}

Where in nature? Where in art? Music? Colors? Tastes? Textures? What memories hold hidden writings? People? Places? Things? I know there are many tidbits of life that are keeping secret writings – it is my job {task?} now to find them and draw them out. Another question might be, WHY does writing hide for/from me?

Another theme: Find my own truth. Seems to be a recurring theme. What is my own truth? Who am I now? What is the path with the heart (Castenada)? What is my bliss? The same question in different forms.

These are some of the things I might be thinking about as I travel this coming month...

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, June 13, 2014

Hanging out...

It might just be easier to post from my phone...

Trial run...

Oh heavens no... not me actually running!

This is a trial run using the equipment I plan on bringing on my trip next week:  my little Lumix camera, tablet and connector so I can plug it and my SD card into the tablet.

Notes To Self:
So ok, for this to work on the Tablet I need to upload to Piassa then to Blogger. For some reason I cannot load directly from Flickr or Instagram on the tablet.

I am probably making this way too difficult!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Getting up early on purpose...

Setting the alarm in fact. Early. 6 AM. Or maybe 5:30.

          One word says it all:  HEAT!

The last two days have been over 100 degrees here by early afternoon and I have missed out on the cooler early mornings by letting myself sleep in. My normal annoying kitty alarm has not been going off at 6 like it did for school so I have slept until 8 or 8:30. Normally I wouldn't mind but when it is this hot, I want to be up early so I can have a couple of cooler hours to get things done before I start to melt. I think even Persephone has wanted to sleep in lately.

And I need to water the garden. Poor little plants just don't like the heat and Andy wakes up too late to give them any watery comfort in the mornings so that job has fallen to me.

 I don't mind of course... it gives me some time to be out there and take garden photos (and play with Instagram) and muse over what else I want to plant when I get back from my vacation.

And to issue a great big sigh when I realize I will be gone for the next month when these lovely apricots will no doubt ripen and be delicious!  Maybe some of them will hold off until mid-July when I get back... just enough to let me savor their golden goodness and give me dreams of apricot cobbler.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday morning thoughts...

My mother died on Thursday. I am not saying that to elicit any comments of how sorry people might be for my loss. Please don't. She and I had a very adversarial relationship especially these past 20 or so years.

I am just thinking about it today and how some losses affect me differently than others.

Those of you who know me know I was not close to my real mother and that she was often vicious and verbally mean/rude to me and most people in any adult encounters, but still it is a strange emptiness. I am eternally thankful I did not grow up with her past my 10th year so that I at least turned out pretty "normal" and have had a pretty happy life. She was always bitter and unhappy.  It took me a long time to figure out all her unhappiness was her problem and to learn how to not get dragged down into her well of acrimonious despair.

The more I ponder it, I am coming to the realization that I had always hoped things would improve and that we might have a decent relationship in her old age. I think I am mourning the loss of that possibility rather than the actual person.

On another note I am enjoying my new retirement, although it still feels like summer vacation to me. I am sure the reality of it will hit when I don't have to go back to school in late August. In a way that is another loss, albeit not a bad one, just a transition that I will need to go through.  For a change I will have the time to do all those other things that interest me: making art, traveling, writing, doing more yoga, getting outside more and certainly lunching with my other retired teacher (and librarian) friends!

The roses have a drip system in place but the lawn is suffering. I need to get out there and water on our select days (Tuesdays and Saturdays) for our address.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hiking on Monday...

One of my intentions for my retirement is to get into better physical shape and what better way to start than a visit with another retired teacher friend Marilyne and a nice hike in the Auburn area.

Location: Hidden Falls
Google Map

She had a couple of choices for me and I chose the waterfall one, which it turned out was a LOT of uphill in the sun so I will know better next time! But it was beautiful and I want to go there again maybe on a slightly cooler day (and start earlier in the morning) and once my legs have a little more strength for all that uphill!

At least it was a wake-up call for me to let me know what sort of physical shape I was (not) in. It wasn't a long hike (3 or so miles) and it wasn't until the end with all the uphill in the sun that my weaknesses showed up. Hello jello legs! Hello no stamina! At least I brought a hat and sun screen!

Friday, May 30, 2014

It's Official!

Last day of school was today! It is officially summer vacation and more official for me, my last day at work. Officially starting tomorrow, I now join the ranks of the happily retired!

Crank up your speakers!

Now for the next chapter in my life... a couple of weeks here then off to Nova Scotia for a month. I will definitely blog from that trip and post photos here. After that, the world is my oyster. Hmmm, maybe I need to start liking oysters!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

It's a lovely Thursday in the neighborhood...

 Today I am...
  • Appreciating that I had an extra personal leave day I could take off to get a boatload of errands taken care of, including getting a new vacuum cleaner!
  • Excited to see the progress of our little straw bale vegetable garden and thankful that my husband put in the hard work to get it started.
  • Realizing that I need to clean out the fridge so I can plan my meals better.
  • Giddy at the prospect of being retired by the end of next week.
  • Getting excited about my upcoming trip to Nova Scotia.
  • Thinking how much I love the bedroom being so free of clutter and getting excited about decluttering the rest of the house.
  • Thinking about what I want this blog to become as my time is freed up in retirement.
  • Excited to go to Leslie's this weekend and do more art!
I saw this "Today I am... " idea on THIS blog and liked it so decided to make my own list! I look forward to having time when I retire to catch up on all the blogs I have added to Feedly and bookmarked... lots of interesting stuff happening out in the blogosphere that I have not been reading.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The heat is on!

It is going to be 100 degrees today... yikes! And it is only the middle of May!

On the up side... only 11 more working days until retirement! Yay!

And in the garden...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Today is where your book begins...

Sometimes just the right song comes along at just the right moment , and even if it is an old song, it may be one you have never heard or never thought about before. Then suddenly... BAM! It is there in your ear, in your brain, and it is saying exactly what you need to hear at exactly that moment.

Such was what happened to me the other day when I heard the Natasha Bedingfield song  "Unwritten". Even though it had been out for many many years and came out before her other song I always liked, "Pocketful of Sunshine", I do not think I had ever heard it before last week.

It spoke to me about my coming retirement and all the thinking I have been doing about it lately:
"Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten"
I especially like the lines:
"Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

Full lyrics here

Here is the video from You Tube:

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sometimes you need to change your methods...

I have been a Sudoku fan for a long time, and always carry a small puzzle book in my purse for those unavoidable waiting in line times, and I always have a puzzle magazine in the bathroom (easy ones that get done quickly). I admit I do not like the hard ones -- no patience for the long time they take to solve, but I enjoy the medium difficulty ones a lot.

Last summer when I was in Alaska I taught my friend Evie how to do Sudoku puzzles. I showed her my way of going through the numbers one at a time like I show my students when they want to learn how to do the puzzles I have in my "Spare Time" box in the classroom.

... and recently I realized my own solving method had morfed into something different from how I taught other people how to play. I find there is a combination method to solving the puzzles that takes them a box at a time rather than just by numbers in order that works better for me -- no earth shattering news but it seemed like a metaphor for other things in my life that maybe needed to change.

Why? Well as I look around at my messy art room and messy house I see that my old ideas of how to keep things in order no longer work for me.

Time to do something else.

I have had to change how I work with my kids at school lately because a lot of the old methods we could use when the kids actually followed directions don't work anymore. Short attention spans maybe, lack of manners definitely (group work turns into gossip or yelling fests), and so I have had to change my methods.
And I am realizing with a great epiphany this morning that how I approach so many things are going to need a revamp.
Time to do something else.

Maybe it is because in 9 short weeks I will be retired, or maybe I am just tired of my old ways of not cooperating with myself (it is all me of course, I am my worst critic and worst plan derailer)...

No other answers here really, just the call out to myself to start rethinking my methods of living my life and being happy about it...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fitbit free and lots of flowers...

Today was Day 1 Fitbit free. I decided to take a break from counting my steps because I found it was holding me hostage... I would check it all the time and be bothered when it wasn't registering right, and finally it was creating way more stress than I need right now. I already know my patterns: I walk more when I am at school in the course of a day and need to purposefully walk or move more on the weekends. Doesn't take an electronic gadget to tell me that. One less thing to keep track of in my life. I like that.

And lately I have been feeling very stressed enough from other things. I noticed that when I was on my yoga mat before class this morning. I had a hard time stilling my thoughts -- they were all over the map! I am glad at least I got myself out of the house for yoga because at the end of it I did feel less stressed, and a slight bit taller. I love how all the stretching makes me feel and for a while I think I walk taller and more aligned. Of course then I went home and got on the computer and hunch up and probably ruined it all but it was nice while it lasted!

And finally all the bulbs and flowers Andy has been planting in the garden are really exploding with color! Oddly however, we have a ton of yellow poppies coming up. Lovely but he thought he planted red ones! Too bad we don't still have the bag they came in, but anyway they are very pretty.

The freesias just smell divine! They are definitely in my top 3 of favorite spring flowers! And the poppies are going wild! Wish we had a larger area of them planted (like the whole front lawn?) I have never liked grassy areas in gardens although I know we need some for when our dog goes outside, but if I could have what I really wanted I would go for the unkempt English cottage garden look any day!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A different crocus...

Lately every day I go outside a new crocus has come up! Andy planted them this time and I am loving all the color variations. There are some white ones too but I love this variegated purple one!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Same crocus...

Photo app.

Later thoughts...

Whoa! WAAAAYYYYY to big here!

Ok I like this app, it is fun and a little different for me but... just like the phone pic, there is no way to regulate the size of the photo and that I don't like. Ok, now I know to just save the photo and post it the way I usually do from Flickr or my computer.

By the way, the app is from A Beautiful Mess.