Monday, September 30, 2019

A nightime visitor, a book read!

Last night while closing up the birds there was an unusual sound coming from a tree right behind the trampoline.  Sort of a like a higher pitched whinny of a horse but obviously there wasn't a horse stuck up the tree.  I couldn't see anything with my flashlight but after Googling "nightime noise sounds like horse whinny " have determined we have a Screech Owl. It was back again 8 tonight, from the sounds of it farther off at the neighbors place.  We haven't heard an owl here for a very long time so it is fun to hear.

This treat was picked up at the book sale last week. I had badly wanted to see the film when it came out, but didn't,  and am glad that I ended up reading the book instead of seeing the film. For one, a book is always better and 2) watching this as a film would have been too much for me to stomach.  The book takes place over just a few days. The main character is Ree, a 16 year old girl taking care of her small brothers and mentally ill mother in an extremely poor part of the Ozarks. There's little wood, little food, dad is in jail for making meth again and things get complicated when the bail bondsman shows up say that, oh hey, dad posted the house as part of his bond, thought you should know.

Dad's basically a decent guy and we later find out that he made some poor choices post-arrest to try to help his kids.  When he misses his court hearing Ree tries to track him down. It quickly becomes apparent that her father is dead. Luckily,  I guess, the law doesn't require dead people to keep court hearings so there's a chance she can keep her family home afterall.

The area is a mess of a place where meth making is the primary occupation and rocking the boat leads to her getting beaten to near death towards the end of the book but eventually the same group of women that beat the hell out of her for asking questions lead her to her murdered father's body sunk in a pond, hand her a chainsaw and explain that "the law" will require both hands for proof of death, so get to it. This all sounds horrible and ridiculous to those of us better blessed.  But.  I dated a man in college whose kin came from an area of NE PA where this story wouldn't have raised an eyebrow.  No running water, trailer bathtub used to butcher roadkill, drugs everywhere.  His sister thought people like Paris Hilton (this was the early 2000's) shopped at Macy's and what the hell did my parents do for a living that they could afford a dishwasher (um, not cocaine?)  Anyway. Some people do rise out of that kind of life by their bootstraps.

 Ree carries her trials as matter-of-fact with all the dignity and pride she can keep.  The gently sort-of -maybe-sexual-mostly-safehaven relationship she has with her best friend Sweet Pea (who is 16, married, with a baby and her own burden husband) takes some of the sting off the whole mess. It's a trial. The whole plot is a trial but so beautifully written that I was hooked on the first page, read 150 pages of it last night when the kids were in bed and finished it this morning while making breakfast.

Loved it.  It's going to take the honor of a seasonal winter read for the first snowfalls, right up there with The Shining.

The next post will be lighter, about the garden and I don't know, maybe some random internet picture of a kitten to wash away the heaviness of that book post.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Fluffing the fall nest.

It must be the changing of the seasons getting to me but today I decided that I could not stand our home the way it was for a second longer.  My husband and I (when we renovated the house)  had always gone for a sort of minimal adult look but after having kids the house just looks like an Ikea trip married with the explosion of a dumpster full of toys.  Today I just couldn't take it anymore.

I'm a woman.  It's Fall.  Someone please hand me a pillow sham with a leaf on it. 

I got this pumpkin cookie jar at at Wal-Mart today for $10.

This morning I threw all of the toys into a corner and re-arranged the whole living room piece by piece. We now have an entryway of sorts.  It looks refreshing after having the sofa in the same place for 8 years. 

I would really like this $10 outdoor rug at the bottom of the photo.  It makes my heart go pitter-patter.  There is a new home store in town and I didn't quite want to settle on it (the rug) so took a picture and may go back on Sunday.  The things that I'm finding myself attracted to are not necessarily what the other half would pick and so we need to strike a balance. 

Planning on ordering this set of pillow shams off Amazon.  I only really want 3 out of the 4.

There needs to be more "fall" here; more pumpkins, more orange, more things to get excited about.

We went to a pumpkin farm today; the kids, my mother-in-law and me.  The place nearest us is not selling this year so we decided on a small Amish farm advertised in the local paper.  Google maps took us waaaay out into the middle of nowhere and eventually tried to guide us down an unmarked dirt tractor path.  Um, no.  I parked the car in the middle of the road and called my father who was out with an Amish friend up in Erie today.  "Ok." I said "You know the area.  Where in the hell were we? Because we're lost... We're kind of by Atlantic, or were half an hour ago anyway and are looking for a Byler pumpkin farm."  I asked.  I could hear his friend talking in the background 'Oh, the Byler pumpkin farm in Atlantic? It's on the corner of such-and-such roads".  Which is hilarious because the Amish family names around here are Byler and Miller.  There are are 1,000s  of Bylers.  It could have been anyone, really. But he was right, we turned a corner up the road and there it was, the pumpkin farm.

It was a fun visit.  A ton of pumpkins piled out in the yard, Amish kiddos playing with the oldest, pumpkin rolls for sale fresh out of the oven.   I talked to the woman collecting the money about the pumpkins and asked how in the world they managed to grow such crops while avoiding squash bugs " Have you tried spraying?" she asked.  Well, no, we have not.  

The youngest slept and the oldest was barely respectable.  He did indeed throw a pumpkin, which I purchased.  While we were there a school bus pulled up, lots of Amish kids piled out and he yelled "LOOK! MORE FARMERS!!!"  It was so embarrassing.

We brought home about 12 various pumpkins and squash to decorate the porch.  The cobwebs need to come down and the dead plants pulled but I think we are well on our way to having a porch that looks more like Fall and less like crap when people visit. 

And for that, and a slightly less horrible interior, I am grateful. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Dalhias or sea anemones?

The oldest and I picked a big armload of dalhias today. They are just about the only thing still blooming.

Too big for a vase I had him cut all of the stems very short and we floated them in water.  They look like sea anemones and he really wanted to float them all upside down in his aquarium.  Maybe tomorrow. 

Here they are with dinner.  I made walleye with a lemon and mustard cream sauce and mashed potatoes.  The fact that dinner looked like penises when plated is purely accidental.  I thought dinner was just ok but the husband really liked it.  The kids had those tuna salad packs from Aldi which are really quite good.  After dinner we all did a 2 mile walk on the rails to trail trail.  Coupled with the 2 miles the baby and I did this morning I am beat and ready for early bedtime.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Weaving a basket & Fall films

Our new egg basket.

The little public library in town has started hosting craft classes once a month and September was basket making.  A dear friend signed up with me and today we spent 3 hours learning how to weave a small basket.  10 minutes into the project, I was in love.  30 minutes in, I wanted to flush it down the toilet.  But we persevered.  We had a great visit.  We wove.  We unwove mistakes and wove some more.  

The weaving was supposed to be tight.  I went "rustic".

Here it is, done!  It was also supposed to be square.  Oh well, it is a project finished!  It's so cute and will replace the plastic sand bucket we currently gather eggs in.

Speaking of which, the colors on this are horrible but our little Leghorn hen has started laying and for the first time we have white eggs in our tray! Yay!

Fall is here.  Yesterday I got out the cast iron corn bread pan that belonged to my great-grandmother in Alabama.  We baked a batch of pumpkin scones that did not come from scratch but rather a pre-mix bag bought at T.J. Maxx.  The kids think they are the best treat ever.

After dinner my father stopped by to visit with my uncle from out of town.  It was a good visit, with the oldest acting crazy excited.  Later I took the baby on a "please go to sleep" ride around Greenville.  Stopped at a red light downtown and one of my favorite Fall songs came on the radio: Head over Heels by Tears for Fears  I love it because it's from one of my favorite Halloween movies, Donnie Darko, a big ol' dream sequence, which for some reason I find to be a comforting film.  So there I was at the red light, singing loudly, dancing in my seat, literally waving my hands around all Sparkle Motion style when I happened to look to the left of me... to see that a group of men leaving Paxton's dinor were standing right next to me by their motorcycles.  Staring. It was mortifying. And kinda funny.

The other favorite fall movies around here are the 1962 film Carnival of Souls (so creepy) and the 1955 film Night of the Hunter (pretty but also creepy).

Fall is here.  And not a moment too soon.  I am so ready for a change of season.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Tiny water pond

Today I dismantled the little water pond out on the porch.  This was such a fun project that brought me a lot of joy over the summer.  The big pink waterlilly and the variegated cattail will go to a friend with a pond, along with the goldfish.  They are too large to bring back inside with the little fish tank we have.  Also goldfish are so much more work, dirty-ness wise, than other fish.  But they are pretty.

Mickaroo the Beta is moving back indoors. It's getting too cold for him outside at night.

Both the little catfish apparently died over the summer as they were nowhere to be found.  I did pot up the miniature waterlilly and am going to try to keep it alive in the aquarium over the winter.  We'll do this project again in the spring. It was so much fun to have a little "pond" to look at.

Here is what the cattail look like.

The youngest has totally given up crawling and is very fast on his little feet.  A fun thing has happened this week in that he is starting to realize that some things have more "value" than others.  Like playing this game tonight he could not be distracted away from wanting the important playing pieces that everyone else had.  I remember when this happened with the oldest, I had taken us to the park to forage acorns and he quickly caught onto what the trip was about and would toddle around to find the acorns and give them to me, very pleased with himself.  It was adorable. It's like evolution designed these little people to be able to actively help with gathering as soon as they are able to walk.  A fun thing to think about.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Thrift store Wednesday

Because it is simply impossible to drop off a donation without taking a walk around "just to look".

The picture makes it look shiny, but the picnic basket is beautifully woven strips of wood.  I saw it in the donation room while dropping off our box of toys and asked if I could buy it.  They told me it was $3.  I offered them $5* and they told me no, that was too much because it was "old" and had "rust on the hinges".  Sigh. It's almost too beautiful to use and still has the paper manufacturers tag pasted inside. 

The chickens were 10c and 25c. It is impossible to refuse a stray chicken shaker.  I thought the black and white rooster looked like one we already had.


* My husband just told me that I'm terrible at bargaining and that's not how you're supposed to do it. Hahaha.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Favorite dalhia

This is a new one this year.  Of course I didn't save the package so don't know the name.  It probably came from Wal-Mart.

The purple edging is so pretty. 

It's  meduim sized blossom.  Here it is in an old infant formula bottle:

The youngest and I walked/jogged three miles this morning.  The kids and I spent the day cleaning and organizing the living room, the hope being to get it to a point where it looks like adults live in house too.  The toy clutter is driving my husband and I nuts. It's going to be an evening of boring adult stuff. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Shades of blue

I look like some sort of Amish hooker here, sorry.

The Welsh Harlequin ducks are still molting. Their wings have the most wonderful blue jewel toned patches. Why has no one bred an all blue bird? 

We camped in Andover for the weekend. It was somehow both an epic disaster and the best time ever.  I'll post about it tomorrow but today am really, really looking forward to laundry and a shower.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Colorful days

Some pictures taken this week. I will like to look back at them when our days are cold and full of snow.

A tray of tomatoes put in the freezer for lack of time to do any canning.

 An evening painting.  This is an underwater landscape. He's learning to mix colors.  Earlier this week we spent his little brother's nap time at the sink with water and food coloring learning things like red+blue=purple. 

It's fun that the youngest at 14 months has picked up on things like painting and playing with play dough by watching his brother work.

Beautiful dalhias.

The pink cactus one is new along with the white one with purple edging.  The majority of the dalhias are just now starting to bloom.

My favorite. A flower picked for mom when she really needed one.

An  octopus bandaged and cared for. It had been attacked by a sea cucumber,  apparently.  He adores this octopus and talks about our trip to the Cleveland Aquarium almost daily. That $30 stuffed octopus has turned into his version of the Velveteen Rabbit.

A handful of beans, trimmed, seasoned and packed in a baggie for the weekend. 

We are going camping.  Tomorrow should prove to be an interesting day; cleaning, finishing stocking and hitching the camper with the husband at work and with two little helpers here.  My father has upped the camping ante by planning to cook scallops and fish tomorrow so I need to bring a better game than chips and hotdogs. Papa doesn't cook. At all.  So that's an amusing sentence in itself. I am roasting a bag of potatoes that we can warm on the fire for different meals. I've also prepared lots of ingredients for making omelets with the eggs and whatnot put into baggies and cooked in simmering water.  I learned this particular technique from a friend of ours who has turned 93  (94?) this summer.  She hoasted a big brunch this spring where we all did this in her kitchen, it was tons of fun and I'll write her a card talking about it after the weekend.  The weather is going to be all over the place as far as clothing so I need to have everything from bathing suits to jackets at the ready.  In multiples since both children love wet and dirt.  This has gotten a lot more complicated since the days when the husband and I only required a tent, coffee, a pack of hotdogs and beer to be happy.  But both the littles already love camping so whatever the weekend brings is going to be a wonderful thing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

What's this blue flower?

Does anyone know what this flower is? It came in one of those off-brand "cutting flower mixes" that sell in packets 4/$1.

It looks like a forget-me-not but larger, more upright and without the pink and yellow centers.  The blue is also darker.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Making soup, closing the garden

Our front porch.  A marching line of ripening tomatoes, one of the few things the deer didn't eat.

I'm starting to close down the garden. 90% of the kale and all of the chard has been blanched and frozen. Tomatoes are being picked at the first hint of color and set on the porch to ripen, away from the chickens.  We've been having a lot of BLT's and soup.

We tried a tomato soup recipe that looked very promising . I got out the kitchen scale and put the oldest in charge of washing, sorting and weighing the tomatoes hoping that being involved in the process would make him more inclined to eat the finished product.  It didn't because the soup ended up being a bit spicy from the chili pepper. Plus I, god forbid,  garnished my own bowl with basil causing him to protest "I'm not eating leaves!" Well, sorry little buddy, Aldi seems to have discontinued your favorite tomato soup so we're going to have to come up with something.

Everything was roasted before being pureed. It was compined with chicken stock, cream and woshishire sauce. My husband did say it was the best tomato soup he'd ever had so that's something.  We'll try it again without the chilli pepper.

Here was tonight's soup: roasted sweet potato, carrots, onions and apple with chicken stock and heavy cream.  The bonus part of the soup making is that there is an entire meal's worth of each in the freezer to be had later.

We went to fair again on Saturday night in part to collect or ribbons.  It was the first closing night of the fair that I can remember where it wasn't pouring rain on Saturday night.  It was a fun night out as a family

The oldest has been back to preschool exactly a week which is just long enough to get the ever-present "preschool runny nose and cough". And give it to his little brother.  Turns out no one sleeps well with two littles in the house with nightime stuffy, runny noses.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Dutch babies and space aliens

I recently subscribed to 3 magazines at a deal for $5 each.  The hope being that if I cooked just one new meal a month we could be trying some new things.  This is from the September issue of Southern Living.

This is what we had this morning. Not wanting to wake the family I did not make it in a blender but mixed it using an archaic kitchen item called a "fork".   I don't understand how this is supposed to be 4 servings as it was very, very thin after it deflated but it was a good size for our family and 3 of us really liked it. It will probably be something made on the weekends often.

Look at this funny little thing in the kitchen window this morning:

Ok, it's just a moth but it also does look like some tiny, fuzzy, space-alien bear creature waiting for the ship to return.  It's adorable. That dirt is on the outside, by the way ;)

Today: cleaning the house, maybe a walk, picking up our stuff from the fair tonight.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Homemade sushi & another fair

Last weekend at my sister's house I had some excellent sushi which *almost* made me wish we lived closer to civilization.  Then it occurred to me that I could try making it at home. Aldi and Walmart had everything needed (including a bamboo mat to roll them) but for the seaweed sheets we had to go to Hermitage which gave me to chance to talk to gentleman at the sushi counter while trying to discreetly watch him make rolls.

Maiden attempts and California rolls and Philadelphia rolls.

It was very fun and very messy. I cut the hole in the piping bag too large for the sauces and there was sushi rice everywhere. But! This is the fun part. It seems like sushi is one of those magical things that was born out of frugality.  Like a good omelet or burrito it only takes the throwing together of tiny bits of this and that to make something delicious. Really, what goes inside the roll besides rice is so small that it could be a garnish.  I only used 3 of the seaweed wraps and a pack of 10 was about $4. So we'll be doing this again, and soon. 

After dinner the my husband watched the baby and oldest and I went to the Jamestown fair just the two of us. We had a blast.  We saw the amimals, he rode a pony, we went down the huge potato sack slides with him sitting on my lap (frighting for me but not, apparently,  for a 2 year old girl we saw riding solo). He played in the corn box and we ran into his former pre-school teacher. 

We hardly entered anything this year, what with the garden doing so poorly. But I'm grateful for what we were able to contribute to the displays.

We found the picnic table that my dad donated in my mom's memory. Nothing spells classy like an adult  quiet weeping at a fair.  That blur is a bag of cotton candy. We got a corndog and fries. It was a wonderful time. I miss spending time alone with my oldest.

The kitchen still has rice on the floor and dishes in the sink but I am off to Downton Abbey and a glass of wine.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Signs around town

I had so much fun with the "Doors Around Town" post  that this week I thought to take pictures of my favorite old advertising signage around town.  The locations of the first two are blindingly obvious.


Exposed by a fire.

Along a rail line.

But the first two were just bait to show off my favorite in the town.  Does anyone else know where it is?  I love that it is SO hidden *in PLAIN sight* that I just saw it last summer and my father, a serious local historian, had no idea what I was talking about.  Honestly, he can identify any location from a 100 yr old photo and didn't know what this was:

That building is smiling.  Let's look closer:

Do any of my local friends know where this is?

Hint #1: You are usually driving past this building at about 45 MPH.
Hint #2:  Located in the old village of Shenango.  Which back in the day had its very own train depot but now has been reduced to a place people speed through on their way to somewhere else that is more important.

Anyone want to play?  Where have I been lately?