Friday, October 14, 2011

Sweet Cider

If it would only stop raining, we'd be having a gorgeous autumn. I miss the smells of dry leaves and woodsmoke that usually weave their way into every strand of hair this time of year. We haven't yet made it to our favorite orchard (Ritter's Cider Mill), but I did have the opportunity to actually work behind-the-scenes pressing organic apples at Bauman's earlier this fall.

Lovely organic apples were ground, pressed, bottled, capped and labeled by hand, and sent off to quench the thirst of children and adults alike at the third annual Apple Festival at the Rodale Institute. There might not be woodsmoke in the air, but there is enough sweet, crisp apple cider flowing in these parts to make us all woozy with the essence of autumn.
For how many years has humanity celebrated the harvest? Releasing that last torrent of wild energy before bedding down for the winter. Rituals of plenty, gratitude, and mischief. I once showed Rowan the pentagram in the center of an apple and he asked if that's where stars are born--inside of apples. I hope his future science teachers will forgive me, but I couldn't help myself. I said "yes."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A chorus of swallows

There is a huge pine tree in our neighbors' yard. Both the current owners and the former owner have talked about cutting it down. But its toes are tickled by sweet lilies of the valley in the late spring and all summer long (if you look closely) you can see dozens of hummingbirds alighting on the thinnest of branches.

As autumn brushes our skin and raises the hairs on our arms, there is a new daily happening around the gentle giant. The sun hangs ripe and low and guilds the trees, the grass, and our hair with gold leaf. A chorus of bird song erupts from the top of the dark pine. The raucous, ecstatic laughter emerges from what seems like total silence--as if Mother Nature tapped her baton , raised her arms, and let loose the orchestra with a forte arrangement. Chattering and giggling layered over broad, operatic vocalizations. The concerto lasts for about 10 minutes and then ends as abruptly as it all began. Then the birds depart in pairs and triplets, and in solitary flight. Swallows. Hundreds of swallows pouring from the pine and cartwheeling across the sky.

I'm reminded of the dance of the bees, giving directions to a good cache of nectar. Are they working out their migration schedule? Talking up the all-inclusive bug bar at the Sandals for Swallows South? Or might they simply be singing a singular farwell to their summer home? Welcoming the autumn equinox and the opportunity for us all to turn within--to consider our trajectories for the coming year. Thank you, dear swallows, whatever the reason. Your nightly chorus reminds me to stretch my voice and sing with wild abandon and the pleasure of speaking with love and joy in my heart.

Why do you think the sparrows sing?

Saturday, September 3, 2011


I apparently took the summer off from the blog-o-sphere and I think I needed it. Sorry for the lack of warning! To jumpstart my rusty self, I'm finally getting around to a little bloggy game in which I was tagged about a month ago. Here it goes...

What do you think of when you the hear the word tag?
Playing hours of flashlight tag with my best childhood friend and all her neighbors on the shores of Lake Ariel. Nothing like playing outside after dark!

Do you think you're hot?
I am in fact sweating right now, so, yes!

Upload a picture or wallpaper that you're using at the moment.

When was the last time you ate chicken?
It has actually be quite a while. I'm thinking July?

The song(s) you listened to recently.
Singing in My Sleep, Semisonic
Moves Like Jagger, Maroon 5
Camel Walk, Southern Culture on the Skids
If I Die Young, The Band Perry

What were you thinking as you were doing this?
That I should really be doing work!

Do you have nicknames? What are they?
Honey, Mommy, Pumpkin

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Absence and Fondness

Hello, stranger. It has been a while. Don't you look incredibly striking today!

So many adventures, so little time to write. (That is Mr. I. M. Vainrooster from Klein Farms, our favorite dairy.) I do wonder how long a blog can languish before no on reads it any longer. Like the proverbial tree falling in the woods......Helloooo? Anybody reading this but me, myself and I? Life has been rolling by, much of it experienced out of doors. In the street...

in the river...

by the lake...

It is rare for the little bear to take a nap these days and there are times when he seems ages older than 4-1/2. It is unnerving sometimes to think he is only a pre-schooler. It will be another year yet before he goes to Kindergarden--he'll be one of the eldest in his class.

Yet as often as he shocks and thrills me with his wise insight and mature vocabulary, he is still such a young child. Half-way between baby and boy. Anyone who has been patient enough to have read my blog for long, will certainly remember that my little Peter Pan has struggled with that "in between" for a while now. Balancing the raw needs of the still new and still wild creature with the blossoming emotional sagacity and independent intelligence of a developing human unfurling himself.

What curiousities, wonders, treasures are nestled inside this little man? Sharp edges and sparkley bits, soft-as-down tenderness and sticky gooeyness, stinky cheese and sweet-as-strawberry jam....

...all the gorgeous, terrifying and exhilerating things that boys are made of.

What have you been pondering on these days?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fear and lemons

When does it start exactly--your fearless child starts seeing spooks in the dark and eyes under the bed and creepy things in the closet? Like shyness or embarrassment, fear sneaks up on your when you're least expecting it. Things that were once fun and exciting suddenly strike terror into your little darkling child's heart. And there is often little rhyme or reason to what inspires the fear.

My mother was concerned the art we chose to hang in his room would be "way too scary," but he loves it and finds something new going on in the scene nearly every week.

And while he adores fairly dark movies like Labyrinth, Pirates of the Carribean, and Jim Henson's The Storyteller, he was terrified by a seemingly innocuous picture book retelling of little red riding hood entitled Little Red Cowboy Hat.

His imagination is like wandering through a wild wood--full of shadow and light. The question is how to nuture the infinite possibilities of that mind without letting all the boogeymen slip in? Apparently there are rules to follow. Like a red cotton ribbon can actually keep the scaries from sneaking out of the closet when it is draped over both door handles. Who knew?

Since it seems we’ve had 40 days and 40 nights of rain already this spring and endless grey, foggy days, I decided to welcome in the sunshine to clear away the cobwebs with a scrumptious lemon meringue pie.

Instead of the bordering-on-jello lemon filling thickened with liberal amounts of corn starch, I did a smooth and juicy lemon curd. This really is how all lemon meringues should be. The little bear ate a huge slice and asked for seconds. It went so fast, in fact, I didn’t get any pictures of the lovely lemon curd center.

Lucious Lemon Meringue Pie (adapted from the Joy of Baking)

1 disk of your favorite pie crust (I do an all butter version)

Lemon Curd:
3 large eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temp)
1 tablespoons lemon zest

4 large eggs whites
1/2 cup plus 2 tabelspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out your pie crust and line your pie plate with the dough trimming and crimping the sides. Line the pie shell with aluminum foil and fill to top with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 25 or 30 minutes until the crust is dry and lightly golden brown.

While the crust is baking, make the lemon curd. Place a stainless steel bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon juice. Cook, whisking constantly until the mixture becomes light, thick, and frothly (about 10 minutes). Remove from the heat, cut the butter into chunks, and whisk inot the mixture until it has melted. Add the lemon zest, immediately pour the curd into the baked crust, and smooth the top.

Reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees F and bake the tart for 10 minutes until the curd is firm but still wobbly in the center.

Meanwhile, in a very clean bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks are formed. Gradually add the sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.

Starting at the outside edge of the tart, dollop the meringue over the entire surface of the hot lemon curd. Make sure the meringue comes right up to the curst and there are no gaps between the crust and the lemon curd. With your spoon, gently press down on the meringue to get rid of air pockets and smooth the meringue over the curd. Swirl the meringue and make some decorative peaks. Return to the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes until the meringue has lightly browned.

Remove from the oven and cool completely on a rack before devouring. Serves 6-8.

Friday, April 15, 2011


It took us forever to get ourselves to Journey's End Farm this year, but we made it. They were boiling late into the night which was a new experience for us. Usually we manage to get there during the daylight hours when we can wander around the sugarbush, chase the chickens and watch the fragrant steam rise from the roof of the sugar shack. Instead, we were wrapped in the dark warmth--dry, smokey and sticky sweet. They're all wood powered and the family has been making syrup since 1934.

Oh, yes, that is a maple candy frog. Kristin, the owner, makes sure to have quite a few of those on hand for our little bear. They are his favorites! When we climbed back into our car, Rowan was out in about 3.3 seconds (probably a sugar-induced coma from the six maple candies his father kept handing out), but the smell of maple steam and wood smoke was woven in my hair and followed us all the way home.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Old Stuff

Everything old really is new again. As a child of the late 70's/early 80's, I spent an inordinate amout of time listening to records. There are times when I wonder why my mother keeps so much old stuff. But this time, when she presented the Little Bear and I with a box full of my old albums, I was tickled. Peter and the Wolf, Urban Chipmunk, Peter Pan, On Top of Spaghetti, The Magic Garden, Puff the Magic Dragon, Free to Be You and Me. The list goes on and on. The Little Bear has been having a great time singing, dancing and partying hard to all the kids classics I knew and loved.

Of course, the kids classics aren't the only hits he loves. In fact, his taste in music is just as ecelctic as his mom and dad's. Topping the list are:

We Will Rock You, Queen

Thriller, Michael Jackson

Low, Flo Rider

Bad Romance, Lady Gaga

You Spin Me Round, Dead or Alive

Hey Soul Sister, Train

Magic Dance, David Bowie

Thank God I'm a Country Boy, John Denver

Ghostbusters, Ray Parker

Firework, Katy Perry

anything by Harry Belafonte

He actually asked if he could be Harry Belafonte for Halloween this year. I'm not quite sure how we'll pull that one off without having him wear a sign, or carry a bunch of bananas, but we'll see what we can do. Of course, as soon as I located a number of adorable calypso-type button up shirts online (apparently called a gauyabera shirt), he told me he wanted to be Peter Pan. So I'm thinking we'll wait until at least September before I go any buy anything for Halloween.

The Mama Bear also landed a number of lovely new-old things (much to the Papa Bear's chagrin). An enchanting unicorn mug one of our librarians had since college (she's a few years removed from college now!)...

Two silver butter spats with incredible detail. This one has the welcoming pineapple...

And two new kitchen chairs. These are used primarily for standing upon either when I need to reach something on an upper cabinet or when the Little Bear helps me cook, bake or do dishes--something he's been asking to take part in recently. Our former chairs, though high-quality and antique were just not up to the job and I feared for our safety. These oldies are much sturdier...

Speaking of baking...we whipped up a few loaves of Irish soda bread earlier this month for St. Paddy's Day and I must admit I've found myself day-dreaming of them almost every day this past week. Time to make a few more loaves to celebrate winters end me thinks. If you'd like to join me in a warm slice slathered with sweet cream butter and accompanied by a mug of strong black tea, here is the recipe I always use.

Irish American Soda Bread (adapted from the Joy of Cooking)

Apparently, "real" Irish soda bread contains neither raisins nor egg, sugar nor butter. Sites that promote traditional soda bread suggest our version should be called a cake, but I don't think "cake" really captures this barely sweet quick bread either. Whatever you call it, this raisin studded loaf is best served warm or, better yet, toasted.

1-2/3 cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup raisins

1 large egg

2/3 cup buttermilk

4 tablespoons warm melted unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375-degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together in a large bowl the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in the raisins. In another bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk and butter. Add the liquids to the dry and stir just until the ingredients are moistened. The batter will be thick but sticky. Form into a round mound and place on the baking sheet. Slash the top with a large "x" about 1/2 inch deep and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (for about 25 to 30 minutes). Let cook on rack before slicing. Scarf!

p.s. I don't know what is up with the crazy formatting, but I will attempt to fix it as soon as Blogger lets me!