Friday, June 3, 2016

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

 This year, during the last week of April, Dave and I spent a week visiting Myrtle Beach.  It was the first time either of us had ever been to Myrtle Beach.  It was a great time of year to go, (the crowds hadn't flocked to the area yet, and the weather was perfect).  It was a nice relaxing way to see the area.
We spent the first day visiting Fort Sumter National Park, (this is where the first shot that started the Civil War was fired).  The museum was very interesting, (it sits right on the ocean front with a fantastic view of what little remains of the original fort).  We also made our way over to the annual "Blessing of the Fleet and Seafood Festival".  This was the start of the summer shrimp season, and the fisherman's boats are all blessed for a bountiful harvest.  There were many vendor tents with variety of foods, (which we had to indulge in), and crafts of all kinds in which to purchase.
Just down the road from our condo, Dave and I found a produce stand that we got some of our fresh dinner supplies from - perhaps you may recognize the name?  Dave asked me when I had time to not only garden at home, but also run a stand in South Carolina?  He asked the owner, if we were entitled to a discount, since my name was Barbara, but sadly the owner, only gave us a hearty chuckle.
 One of Dave's favorite activities during the week, was a helicopter ride over the area.  We flew over the ocean and beach front.  It gave a whole new perspective of things from the air.  Dave now wants to do a helicopter ride when we go to Maui this fall.
We did a little side trip to Charleston, and spent a couple of hours downtown at the flea market.  I found the mule pulled wagon tourist attractions interesting.  There wasn't an empty seat on any of the wagons.  It was such a hot day, (mid 80's).  The buildings were packed with people, but everyone kept moving along nicely, no one seems to mind the heat.  There was food vendors with just about anything you could think of, and crafts of every kind.  Some of the most beautiful pieces of art and jewelry.
 The Carolina area is particularly know for "sweet grass weaving".  I sort of got in trouble for taking a photo, (but I was pretty quick).  Each artist has their own handwoven unique design.  And as you are driving along the roads, you will see a stand set up with sweet grass weaving for sale.  Very small pieces will sell for $25 - $100.  And larger pieces will sell for up to $10,000.  It is a technique that dates back to the slavery days, brought over from Africa, and passed down through the generations.  The work is beautiful
And of course everywhere you go there are seafood buffets galore.  I think Dave finally got his fill of shrimp, crabs, and mussels.  We had seafood every day during our vacation.  And every place you go, they sit a basket of hush puppies on the table.  Most of the dishes are prepared using a method called "calabash", which is a fried method, (no breading is used).  It's actually very good.

We certainly had a good time.  Southern hospitality was wonderful to us.

Friday, August 14, 2015

2015 Fair - One entry = TWO ribbons

This year, I decided to try entering my bread in the 2015 county fair.  I researched all the rules and regulations, and decided that I would enter my white yeast bread, my wheat bread, and maybe one of my artisans bread.  But, 3 days before I needed to start baking my breads I became very sick with the worst summer head cold.  I hadn't had a summer cold in over 5 years, and this one really knocked me out.  Finally the day before entry day, I finally was able to make 1 turn of dough for my wheat bread, (enough for 2 loafs of bread).  I chose what I though would be my best chance for at least 2nd place.  The next day, I filled out all the paperwork, placed my bread on the required plating, and drove over to the fair grounds and entered my bread,  I was so nervous and my hands were shaking.  That evening Dave and I cut into the second loaf of bread and each had a slice for dinner.  It was so delicious, and inside was perfect, (no holes).  I was very proud of the the 2nd loaf, and hoped the loaf I turned in was just as nice.  That's the thing about bread making, you never know what lays inside, until you cut off the end piece and then remove that first slice.  Does it have a large hole?  Did I get all the carbon dioxide out when I rolled my loaf for the baking pan?  And when you take a bite - will it have that wonderful slight nutty flavor from the wheat, that all good homemade bread should have?  All part of the criteria that judges are looking for, besides the exterior color, shape, and size of the loaf.  And the worse part was, I wouldn't know the results for at least 2 more days.  The judges all do their work in secrecy, with no outsiders allowed, (not even the fair supervisors).  And how do you know what the results are?  You have to go the the fair and look for your entry.  So three days later, Dave and I drove over to the fair, walked through all the exhibits to find the baked goods, then finally found mine!  And what do you know!
There was my bread, on the top of it's own pedestal, with a FIRST PLACE, BLUE RIBBON !!  I was stunned.

But then my heart sank when I saw the hole inside the bread.  Especially when the loaf we ate at home had no holes.  Why didn't I turn in the other loaf?  Then Dave reminded me that I still won 1st Place.  I looked over some of the other exhibits, and thought quietly to myself, "if I hadn't been so sick, I think I could have won the artisans bread division, (there was NO 1st place, and the 2nd place entry had a burnt top and was kind of sloppy), and I might even have won with my white bread, (it took 2nd place at the STATE FAIR last year).  But I was so happy with the blue ribbon hanging off my loaf of wheat bread.
The supervisor saw me hanging over the chain, (used to keep fair goers away from the entries), looking at my entry, so she walked over and asked, "do you have an entry here?".  I said "yes, and I won 1st place", (smiling big).  She smiled and said, "we're not supposed to do this, but if you want to stand by your entry, I'll take a photo for you".  Boy do I !!  She then said, if you want, you can flip over the entry tag and read the judges notes. Yes  I did, and the notes on the back said, "good taste, well made, crust just a little too brown, but overall a well made loaf of bread".

So I guess, the judge also liked my bread as much as my family and friends.  Dave laughed and said, now you can hang that ribbon up with all the other fair ribbons you've won.  Then the BIG surprise came when I went back after the fair to pick up my ribbon...
I found out that I had also won the "Mayor's Choice Home Arts" award, out of ALL then entries in all of the Home Arts entries, (i.e.:  cross stitching, baking, canning, etc.).  When they told me, I started to cry.  They said the mayor turned to the supervisor and said, "what do you think?".  She said that she replied, "What do you think, Mr. Mayor?".  And he said, "this is just like my mom's bread!, It get's my ribbon."  AND, asked the fair supervisor for my information, and said they are going to contact me to do an interview about my bread baking!.  I was so overcome with emotion.

And to think, I almost didn't enter the bread, because I wasn't feeling well.  I'm so glad I at least had one entry this year.

Friday, May 15, 2015

GREAT NEW Gardening Tip - starting tomatoes

For years, I have always planted my tomatoes from seed starts.  I would start the end of March, (using egg cartons), then move the little seedlings from the egg cartons to larger  pots in April.  By May, my tomato plants would be ready to set out in the garden.

I saved so much over buying plants from the garden and big box stores.  But I also took a chance on losing the seedlings from not enough water to too much water, and I had to harden the plants off before setting them out.  Then one day I read an article about cutting 2 months off of the amount of time needed for starting tomato plants.  I decided - hey! this is something I'm going to give a try and let everyone know if it works or not.

 First you need to find the kind of tomato plant that you want in your garden. You can go to a garden center, (here I went out to my garden), and gently pick off  a shoot stem.  NOT the main stem, (we always call these shoots the sucker plants - as the plant would mature, we would pinch them off to let the plant's energy go directly into setting fruit).
 So, here is a side shoot.
 Now place the side shoot in some water in a sunny window.  Change the water every couple of days, as needed.
 As you can see, after a couple of weeks, I now have a nice healthy tomato transplant ready to place in dirt.  That little side shoot had grown nice healthy roots.
 I've planted the seedling in some potting soil and it is looking very nice after only three weeks.  Normally, I would only have a tiny, tiny little sprout with 2 or 3 leaves still sitting in the egg carton.  But I already have a transplant sitting out in the sun.
Here is a seedling that I started THREE MONTHS ago, and as you can see - it is out in the sun, but still very spindly, and does NOT have the nice bushy shape as the side shoot I started 3 weeks ago.

NOTE:  I will still continue to start my Heirloom tomatoes from seeds, since I don't want to lose those varieties.  But for the average tomatoes this is my new method.

OH - and how will I continue this - I have decided that this fall when I pull up my plants for the year, I will pick a couple of side shoots that are the best looking and start my transplants indoors.  By January I will have very nice looking plants in pots ready to go, and by Spring I can set them outside with hot caps over them.  A much FASTER way to get earlier tomatoes than anything I've every seen.

I guess you can teach a "old gardener" new tricks after all these years.

Monday, March 16, 2015

My sister, Lorena

Saturday afternoon, I received a call from my aunt informing me that my youngest sister, (Lorena Elizabeth), had died.  She was only 53 years old.  The 5th child of 7 and the youngest girl in the family, (she was born on May 20th, and named after our great-aunt).  Out of all 7 of us siblings, she and I looked the most alike.  Most people who saw her would say that she was my reincarnation, just a few years younger.  She found out early that she didn't like the formal education system, and dropped out of school when she was 16.  So she had a pretty hard life.  She also found out at a very young age that she had a inherited the family gene for alcoholism and also took up smoking in her very early teens.  She loved her beer!  These 2 things did not help make her early life very easy.  But in the last few years she was doing good conquering the demons.  Some thought she was a hard person, and had a foul mouth, (from the years of bar hangouts).  But in spite of her faults, I saw her good side.  She was truthful, (I never found any story she told to be a lie), she didn't steal, (she would ask you if she could have something),  Although many of my family members were quick to blame her when things came up missing, she would call me and tell me how they found out that someone else took the item and no one ever apologized to her.  I know that helped to harden her a little more.  Even though there was almost 7 years age difference, she was the sister I was closest to.  We never lost touch, always talked every couple of months.  I always thought of her as the "family newsletter".  She kept everyone informed of what needed to be told about the goings on in the family.  And she was quick to tell me many times that I needed to come home for a visit before it was too late, (now it's too late).  We always ended our conversations with "I love you and miss you".  And we both really did mean it.  Sometimes I would get frustrated when the phone would ring at 1 AM, and it would be Lorena, (drunk, calling to see how I was doing).  But I always took her call and spent however much time she wanted to talk, talking about whatever she wanted to talk about.  I am grateful that I spent that time with her, I got to know my little sister so well.  I got to see things through her eyes.  She had 2 children, (a girl, Lisa and a boy, Steven).  She was a grandmother to 2.  I remember how she laughed over the phone at being a grandma and finally catching up with me.  She was divorced for the last 15 years, and about 5 years ago moved into my mom and dad's house to help out.  She was there to help my dad when my mom passed away, and for the last 2 1/12 years was taking care of everything in the house for my dad, (all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.).  She once remarked, "she felt more like his unpaid maid than his daughter".  On Friday evening she went to bed, (just fine), and passed way in her sleep, (the same way my mom did).  On Saturday, my Dad felt like she was sleeping in too long, so at noon he went to wake her and found her cold.

They say that death will strike you three times in a row.  Last month I lost an aunt who was like my mom, and this month I lost the sister I am closest to.  My heart can not take another lost right now, even though I know they are both in a better place, (and I rejoice in that thought).

 I love you sis, and I miss you.  Take care, say hi to mom.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Aunt Mae

Yesterday afternoon I received a call that my Aunt Mae had passed away.  She was one of 2 living children, of the 13 children born to James and Emma Hosey, in Sutton WV.  She was born on April 4, 1923 and would have turned 92 this year.  She came from a hard life, being the oldest girl in the family.  And while some, (myself included), could tell stories about how she had a way of putting you in your place and cutting you quick with her fast tongue, she was also the most loving and caring woman I would ever come to know in my lifetime.  From the time I was a small toddler until I was a teenager, I spent every summer, (starting the day after school let out until labor day weekend), in WV with my Aunt Mae and Uncle Minter.  She was more my mother than my own mother.  Even though she never physically bore children of her own, she had many, many children in all her nieces and nephews, and in their children.  And she loved everyone of us as if we were her own children.  When I got my first car at 18, it was no surprise that my first road trip was to Aunt Mae and Uncle Minter's.  And every month, I made at least one trip, (no matter what the weather conditions), to see my family.  And when money was tight, they always told me "if you can get down here, we'll make sure you have the gas to get home".  And no matter when you arrived, you could be sure that you would have good food, a nice clean bed, and your car was loaded up with good homemade food to take back home to "tide you over and help you out".  Aunt Mae never forgot your birthday.  Every year, (until I got married), I always got a card with a new $5.00 bill inside.  She would write for me to "buy myself lunch, on her".  Little did she know, (or maybe she did!), that during the very lean times that $5 was what bought the groceries to feed my son and I, and the car full of her canned goods was what we needed to survive until my next trip, when I returned with her empty jars. And when she met Dave - oh she fell in love with him immediately!  He was suddenly one of her "youngons'", (as she called all of us).   When her nieces and nephews all grew up and got busy with their lives, she opened her home to foster boys.  The state worker would show up with one or two, and they would stay for 6 months to a year.  Then one day the state worker showed up with two ragged, dog-eared boys named Russell and Danny.  These two stayed from the time they were 8 years old until they were grown men.  Russell never left!  He live with his "maw" right up until today.  After Uncle Minter died, Russell saw that Maw got to town to do her shopping, got to her doctor appointments, and as her health declined got her medications when she needed them.  Russell was her son!  Today many of us of all ages across the country are mourning for our Aunt Mae, and grieving along with Russell for the woman who helped feed, clothed and loved us when we all needed it the most.  Rest in peace Aunt Mae, you were very much loved by all of us also.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Goodnight Garden, See you next Spring...

This last week has been the coldest weather we've experienced for over 2 years.  It snowed all day Christmas Day, and again all day Monday.  I looked out the window today and noticed that the snow has blanketed our garden area and the beds are now peacefully sleeping under the fluffy covering that helps protect them from these single digit freezing nights.  And the earth is gently resting and gaining new strength for next year's bounty.

Even though we cut our planting in half this year, we've been very blessed with our weekly harvests.  We were able to fill our freezer and stock our pantry with many jars of bottled vegetables.  In addition to eating all summer and fall from our little garden, we were able to share with many friends, family, and neighbors.

It felt wonderful on Christmas eve when a neighbor knocked on our door and asked if we had one can of green beans he could borrow so his wife could finish her green bean casserole for the family's Christmas eve dinner.  I asked, "do you want frozen green beans or bottled green beans?"  He was surprised that we could provide either.  Dave said "if your making green bean casserole, you want the bottled kind, it's much better."  I walked to the pantry, brought back a quart jar and told him this was equal to 2 cans of green beans.  He was so appreciative, and we were so grateful to be able to help.  Dave asked me, "when was the last time you actually bought canned green beans?"   I had to laugh and say, "not for the last 7 or 8 years now."
 This year I tried some new things.  Turnips, were one of them.  And boy were they big ones !  We tried many different turnip recipes, and Dave and I have decided that we like my mashed potato, carrot, and turnip casserole the best.  We have quite a few turnips to tide us over for the winter.  I shared bags of these with friends, they couldn't believe the size of my turnips.

I also planted more herbs this year - oregano, lots of dill, lots of basil, parsley, garlic, sage.  I dried most of the herbs and froze some.  It's wonderful to use what I've grown in my cooking.
As usual, I planted my carrots.  I harvested 25 pounds the end of November.  I left them in the ground until the very end.  They were the last to be dug up.  And, it really paid off.  They were exceptionally sweet, and very large.  I was almost tempted to sell some of these beauties at the farmer's market.

And of course I did my tomatoes !!  Lots of different varieties this year.  I had some heirloom tomatoes that were bigger than my hands.  And at Christmas time we are still eating tomatoes from our garden.  We have lots of bottled tomatoes and lots of tomato sauce in our freezer.
I did get quite a bit a corn.  I picked it in stages.  At the end of September, I went out to pull up the stalks and found these 17 ears still hiding and ready to be plucked off and cooked.  We ate lots of corn this fall, and have much in our freezer for the winter.
And of course I always have to plant my pie pumpkins.  But it seems the birds have now discovered that the pumpkins are delicious, and they are starting to eat the ones closest to the fence.  So, I have to watch and pick the pumpkins before the birds start eating away at them.  I've been making lots of pies, cookies, and breads with these.
Of course the one thing that Dave is so anxious for each spring is the strawberries.  They have now spread and have taken over 1/2 of the first bed.  And even though I put a netting over them, the birds have discovered that if they stand on the netting, they can push the netting down and still grab the strawberries through the holes in the netting.  I go out early in the morning to harvest the berries and sometimes the birds will sit on the fence and squawk at me very loudly for invading their food source.  I have to laugh at them yelling, "go away, go away".  Sometimes I go out on the deck and chase them out of the garden.  Guess I need a scarecrow.

Well the gardening catalogs are now starting to make their way to our house, and I am picking out what new items I will plant in 2015.  In 2 1/2 months I will be starting my little seeds, and Dave will again have to stop eating at the dining room table for a couple of months until I plant the seedlings out in the garden.  But then he'll plopped the rewards in his mouth and smile and say "that taste wonderful sweetie".

Goodnight Garden - rest up.  See you next spring.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Update on Karlyn's Placement

On Saturday evening, (10/25), we received a phone call from Karlyn's new mom!!  She is a wonderful single lady who lives in Carlsbad, CA, and she works for a foundation that is closely linked with Canine Companions for Independence.  We talked for over an hour that evening, and she even let me face time with Karlyn.  Karlyn has lost a lot of weight from her time in Advanced Training, but I'm sure that she will be gaining it back over the next few months.  When I called Karlyn's name, (over the face time phone link), Karlyn got very excited - She REMEMBERED ME!!!  Karlyn started looking all over her new home for me, and it was so touching, that I started crying.  I didn't mean to confuse Karlyn.  Her new mom and I have emailed and kept in touch almost everyday.  I have received a couple of short videos that have meant the world to me.  It is so bittersweet knowing that my little girl has a wonderful home and also that this is truly means she no longer has any chance of coming home to me.  BUT, I can tell that she and her new mom were truly meant to be together.  If we humans are lucky - we will get to have that one pet who leaves very large paw prints on our heart and soul for the rest of our lives.  Mine was a golden retriever named Gloria, who came into my life in 2000 for 10 1/2 short years.  I believe that Karlyn and her mom have already started forming the same bond.  In the meantime, I am doing my best to give them the space, time, and distance that they need, (only replying to her questions when she contacts me, and reassuring her that she is doing everything right with Karlyn).  But I am so cherishing the photos and videos that she sends me of her new forever companion.