Monday, September 29, 2008

Nannie's Fresh Apple Cake

This recipe is for Katie, my long time and dear friend. My mother's mother (Nannie) left it with her other recipes when she died. That is one of the few things I took when we cleaned out her apartment. Along with a wedding ring quilt Nannie made and boxes of old photographs, Nannie's recipes make me feel like she is still here. If my memory serves, I was actually at Katie's mom's house when my mom called to tell me Nannie's funeral was scheduled and that we needed to go to Mississippi-right away. Katie and I worked together. I thought I shouldn't leave work. It was Katie who encouraged me to go to Nannie's funeral and I am grateful she did. My mother really needed me that week and though it was a very somber occasion, it gave my sister and I a rare glimpse into our mother's childhood, her Southern roots and her past. We grew up in Maine and both my sister and I live here as adults now, we weren't really exposed to the South and the stories and memories of my mother's childhood. I think the thing I love the most about this recipe is that it is written in Nannie's handwriting. There is even a mis -spelling in it- a little imperfection that makes me smile. Nannie was quite a put together gal and keeping up appearances was an important duty. I keep it in a little plastic pouch for safety in my recipe box. I am happy to share this simple recipe with all of you out there. When you bake it, a little bit of Nannie will live on. Thank you Katie for reminding me of this apple recipe and of Nannie. Enjoy! Nannie's Fresh Apple Cake 1 2/3 cups flour 2 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 2 eggs 1/2 Cup sugar (white) 1/2 Cup firmly packed brown sugar 2 tsp vanilla 2 1/2 Cups finely chopped, peeled and cored apples (tart are best, Granny Smith) 3/4 Cups chopped walnuts (optional) Mix flour, baking powder and salt, set aside Beat eggs, sugars and vanilla in a separate bowl until fluffy Add flour mixture to egg and sugar mixture, mix Add apples and 1/4 cup of nuts if using these Pour batter into lightly greased loaf pan, 8" round or small glass baking dish Bake in 350 degree oven 30-35 minutes or until cake peels away from side of pan and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean Cool 25 minutes, cut into large squares and serve on desert dish (Southern belle!) with ice cream.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fools Rush In

What was I thinking?!? I rushed into making hats for Ava, because I needed some confidence, you tackle the cardigan I keep avoiding. Some confidence. We know what happened with the first hat. So I tried again. This is the second hat. I even modified this one, reduced the number of cast on stitches to make it smaller. Fat chance. Our biggest pumpkin swims in this one. It may have to be pulled out and started anew. I really loathe having to pull out knitting...I even got all fancy- like and figured out how to use two different colored yarns...It figures. So I tried again. This is the third hat. This one was supposed to be for an adult man. Yeah, right. Our smallest green pumpkin thinks this hat is just right. It actually fits Ava-wasn't that what I started out to do here- knit a hat for a baby!?! This one will find it's permanent home on my friend's new son's head this Christmas. At least this hat won't end up back on the ball of yarn. I think I need a break-I am going to make a Halloween head piece for an undisclosed family member's costume. I'll take my time with this one-no rushing in.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Apple of My Eye

We took the apple of our eyes to pick apples at the orchard for the first time at Willow Pond Farm-one of our favorite places.
Here, you ride a horse drawn wagon out to the orchard followed by a tongue -wagging black dog and then visit the pigs, sheep and turkeys.
On the way out, they have yarn, pumpkins and cider for sale at the little farm stand by the road.
It is like Disney World-only the Maine version!
Ava loved every minute, and so did we-she ate an apple with her Dad for the first time-he didn't even have to show her how. This baby loves to eat. I wonder where she gets that?!?
I picked several bushels of apples for pies, applesauce and crisp while those 2 gorged themselves on apples and played in the trees. Ava's sweater was soaked with apple juice and her chin and hands were all sticky, but that is what being little is all about, isn't it?!?
Another gorgeous, crisp day with warm sun, this really is my favorite season. We will soon be picking a night for the big pumpkin carving, but first I have to go make a pie. Or three..

Friday, September 19, 2008

At Last!

Okay, I admit, I have put down the cardigan for a bit. I really just felt like I needed to complete something first. Yes, complete something before I complete the cardigan. To build my confidence. Then, I promise, I will finish the sweater. Right after I finish the hat I just started. Yes, the second hat...But it was really cold here last night. Winter is really coming-haven't you heard?!? And my daughter does not have a suitable winter hat. Not one that meets her high style requirments and my airtight requirments anyway.
I spent a luxurious afternoon nap time outside, knitting, for one last warm autumn afternoon. These are the last hours of the flip flop days for 2008.
Ava slept for 3 hours-which gave me some really good headway.
I was fueled by the delight and pride of finishing my first knit garment. I stayed up until 1 a.m. last night to finish it. Well I only had 18 rows left-how could I have fallen asleep when I was so close to finally completing a knit item? My first-after months of trying!
At 1:20 a.m. I woke my husband. "Can you stand it!?!" I hissed in a whisper, so as not to wake the baby. "Look! It is done-my first hat!" At that time I was actually wearing the hat myself, still blissfully unaware that this meant it clearly would not be the right fit for my 10 month old daugher, for whom it is intended. I was kneeling by Chris' side of the bed, shaking him to awaken.
"What is wrong with you-are you crazy? I have to get up in 4 hours!" he mumbled at me. Then he squinted one eye open. "Great. Pretty. Real pretty" he mumbled and promptly fell back asleep. I could barely wait for the baby to wake up so I could have her try it on.
That is when the trouble started.
And the disappointment.
Mine, not hers. She obviously thought this was a great hat. I stewed.
Would I be able to wear this precious first hat? As a beret perhaps?!?
Would Mr. Rabbit?
Would anyone's head see the inside of this hat?!?
Then a creative and useful solution came to me-which has left me feeling better about the hat than I did when I first completed it. Simply add a fleece lining and some ear flaps! It still needs a chin strap, but I am confident it will work.
False confidence, perhaps, but I need it as I just started another hat in an organic strawberry pink cotton.
Maybe I will finish the cardigan by my November 7th deadline...Just maybe.

Maiden Pumpkin Patch Voyage

Well, it certainly wasn't the maiden voyage for my husband and I, we are veterans of the autumn harvest for decoration pilgrimage. But as a family and for little Ava, it was our first time to the pumpkin patch. The air was perfect- cool & crisp, warm sun and the smell of apples, pumpkin molasses doughnuts and cider in the air.

Clearly a small someone wasn't so sure about being plopped down in a sea of orange creatures equal in size to herself, but once we got in there with her, she warmed up a bit. She kept looking apprehensively all around her-how small and vulnerable a child is in this world. It made me feel bad for her so I quickly got in there and held her. How much longer before I can't just jump in and hold her when she is scared... Not long enough I am sure.

We enjoyed swinging on the swing in the barn, though Ava would not let the tiny pumpkin she hand selected, out of her sight.

Not even to ride the vintage toy tractor.

I can't believe that she is sitting up and that she has obvious preferences. She looked over several pumpkins and gourds before carefully selecting this little specimen and she was clearly pleased with her choice. She held it up to show us as if to say, "can you believe what I found!?! It is just what I was looking for!" We have a small shopper on our hands. A savvy shopper at that. I wonder where she gets that?!? The tiny pumpkin now has to sit on the table next to her high chair during meals so that she may enjoy it's beauty. She asks for it-well sort of. She points and grunts and squeals at the poor little tooth marked pumpkin until we move it over to her. Then she is satisfied.

After a doughnut (or two!), a cup of lemonade, a loaf of homemade bread to take home and an autumn morning spent with two of my favorite people, I was quite satisfied too.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Halloween:From Stash to Treasure

People who know us, know. They know that Halloween is a big deal in our house. It always has been. My husband and I approach this ghostly holiday with as much, (if not more) vigor and delight as Christmas. Some years the preparations begin as early as April to be ready for the big night. We have hosted parties under circus tents in our backyard, built cemeteries, creatures of the animatronic species: (an·i·ma·tron·ic Pronunciation: \ˌa-nə-mə-ˈträ-nik\ Function: adjective Etymology: short for audio-animatronic -of, relating to, or being a puppet or similar figure that is animated by means of electromechanical devices ) and walk- through frights. Our costumes usually take more than 20 hours to complete. We don't subscribe to the store bought Halloween here, no Sir. Homemade or not at all is the house Halloween policy. We make costumes for countless other people and work in the winter on full facial appliances made with liquid latex, plaster and wax to alter our appearances come October. Stay tuned for some recaps from Hallows past around this year's night of October 31st. Ahh, the pressure to out do our selves! When we found out we were going to have a baby, we both started thinking about what type of a costume would be best. I wanted to wait until we at least knew if it was a girl or a boy. My husband wanted to wait to meet the baby, to let it's personality guide him on the costume choice. A big deal indeed. As we approach this first Halloween, we are a bit divided, but have conceded to each other. Or my husband has conceded to me, rather. (Smart idea). My costume idea has (reluctantly by one on the board of Halloween) been voted in as the winner, due to comfort, ease of construction and time constraints. (We are still on the fire wood assignment of course) His costume idea is great and would have been a treat, but also would have required about 20 more hours to complete, without any assurance that it would actually work on an 11 month old baby. Along with a long recipe list of craft materials and mold making ingredients that is just too long to assemble in time. I know I will win him over, even though he feels a little slighted. Halloween is a bit like his version of childbirth I think. He wanted to go through this, and do the work and try hard, you know, to bring Ava into Halloween, like I brought her into the world. Cosmic, yes. Crazy. I know. In the ever pressing task of coming up with a first Halloween costume for Ava, I turned to my fabric stash for inspiration. Of course, the costume has to fit into certain logistical guidelines: it has to be comfortable, reasonable and functional. Read: warm. We are in Maine you know. I love it when a castoff scrap calls you from the stash and whispers to you the real purpose it should fulfill. These little polka dot flannel and red fleece scraps whispered their purposes as booties for Old Hallows Eve. I certainly wish I could now share the rest of the (yes, warm, soft and comfortable) costume I toiled into the night completing, but alas, we must save something for the big reveal on the big night. So here is a little preview. I am off to work on knitting. Oh yeah, and 2 more costumes, for us "adults".

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wild Life Sighting

Okay, those who have visited likely have left with a feeling of sadness, and even a touch of depression...But Ava loves animals so we packed her up and headed to the Maine Wildlife Park for a visit. The fisher was the most popular with her, and her dad and I enjoyed just being outside in the early fall air. Together.
The groundhogs were a delight (especially since these 2 were not living under our porch!) and the turtles basked in the autumn sun...
We got a bit of exercise, a bit of fresh air and Ava enjoyed a stroller picnic outside. Who wouldn't love to eat Cheerios and cheddar cheese, wearing only one sock, with your feet up?!? Ahh, childhood...
We drove home with a sleeper in the backseat, and Chris made baby and parent sized turkey burgers on the grill for dinner-how cute!
A delicious close to a scrumptious family day.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Hornet Takes Flight

My husband has been working all summer on a custom bicycle for our neighbor's daughter. Well, "working" and "all" may not be the right words... "Tinkering" and "as often as he can" are more in line with reality.
But finally, finally, as the start of the school year loomed, the bike came to be-the last bend of metal welded and buffed, sanded and ground, painted and clear coated. From scratch. From metal delivered to our house on a semi truck in the beginning of the summer. How my husband strained his brain to figure out how to get an 18 wheeler on our little street. He just had to have this metal tubing delivered.
I think our neighbor's daughter had either given up, or gotten over the idea, by the time the bike was finished. I don't think she believed she would ever really get to ride the finished bike. Waiting all summer when you are 8 years old, might as well be waiting until you are 25. I mean really. Where is my husband's sense of time?!?
But here it is. In all it's glory. So cute, so just right.
The Hornet takes flight!

And So It Begins...

You see, my father's house is the home of the southern branch of the family Wood Headquarters, (WHQ) this is just how it has always been. For years. No one tries to suggest that we do it elsewhere. Of course if you want to drive 4 hours northeast, you will find my Grandfather's Northern wood lot headquarters, and this it the true original home of the wood lot. Dad's pales a little in comparison to the front end loaders, Bobcats, skidders and mountainous piles of wood at Grandpa's, but in his defense there is a wood business run from that branch of the wood lot. Dad's is a smaller family operation, supplying just the wood for his house and a few select friends. This year, much to my father's sweet delight, my husband, daughter and I will be joining the ranks in the wood lot, as we will be heating with wood as well. What have we started!?! For the last 9 years, my husband and I have blissfully, easily and ignorantly heated our house with oil alone. Well, we didn't have a wood stove you see. Me? Not have a wood stove in my house-in this family? Sacrilege. No one has really given us a hard time about it, we worked a lot, didn't have time for all that wood business. But now, I am home with Ava and there is no real reason that we can't make time for the wood business now, and with the cost of oil these days... So we lost the fight. Or have we just begun? Long time friends of my father's offered us their wood stove recently. A gift- they were upgrading to a pellet stove and didn't need the wood stove anymore. It seems they no longer wanted to fuss with all that wood business either. Or had my father intervened? We all know he played a part in the scheme to get the wood stove to be handed down, but to what extent, no one will really admit to. I did receive a call from my father's friend and his wife. They asked if we really did want the wood stove-they weren't sure if my dad was up to something. Well, as I have mentioned before, when it comes to fire wood, my father is always up to something. And so it begins. With great passion, my father was in our basement, with my husband's brother, (who helpfully got the thing down the basement stairs) discussing the exciting chimney liner options and high temperature flues, and even instructed me to go outside and measure the shadow of the chimney on the ground so he could mathematically- somehow, magically perhaps, estimate the height of the chimney from outside the house. There was fire in his eyes. I know that fire. The fire of fire wood. It is my father's "pressciouss". With one of my grandfathers recently retiring from the wood lot due to health issues, my father was in need of a wood lot laborer, and fast. Winter is only weeks away. He isn't ready yet-there is no stacked wood outside, only long logs, piled high, awaiting the "crew" (which apparently now consists of my dad, and alternately, my husband and I. One of us splitting wood, one of us on baby duty) to cut, split, move and stack the endless stream of firewood that arrives at the wood lot throughout the year. And so the team has been assembled. Just in time for winter. Sinister? Calculated? Perhaps. But really, Dad is quite smart. Our free labor for free firewood. A deal we can't pass up. So we have been trying to squeeze every last hour of daylight out of the days, splitting Dad's wood in exchange for "all the wood you can burn" for our house. "I'll go." has become the catch phrase in our house. Go- to the wood lot of course, when Dad calls. One of us puts the baby to bed, and one goes to split wood after work, until it gets dark at least. At least we can look forward to nightfall to save us from our toil. Until Dad rigs up the shop lights with an extension cord. Winter is coming. It is getting dark earlier now. I think of something my Grandfather, now 87, my own father's father, says to us when we complain: " It's good experience." Being outside with your father, watching the summer turn to autumn to winter-the warm hum of the wood splitter, the fresh air, the exercise, it is good experience. And yes, I am aware that you can buy firewood already split. Delivered that way even. But don't even suggest that to my father. "Free is better" he will tell you. Now, I think he is right. But I do reserve the right to change my mind about that after spending the upcoming countless hours at the wood lot...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

Isn't this weekend supposed to be about not laboring?!? With the impending heating season upon us, we spent Sunday splitting wood. Lots and lots of wood. But not nearly enough. There is something unjust about splitting wood in the 80 degree heat, in the beating sun, sweating and swatting away bugs. It is hard to force yourself to remember that in 4 short weeks, we will need the wood for heat here. Our neighbor, again came to our rescue with his hydraulic truck so we could load the split wood right into the truck for transport to our house. We spent Monday hiking Morse Mountain to Sewall Beach, the same route we took on Mother's Day, at the beginning of the summer. Now we close out summer with one last trip to this special place. This time it was hot and buggy-poor little Ava (along with the rest of us) succumbed to a few mosquito bites, but the swimming in the icy cold water and the huge (for Maine!) waves made it worthwhile. Our neighbors invited us along on their "last day of summer" picnic, their daughters are starting the new school year tomorrow. Ava was delighted to have her pals with her, and we think she understands that this neighboring family is part of our tribe now. She sees them quite often, but never fails to be totally enamored to see them. She looks at me as if to say, "Can you believe it?!? They are here again! What fun!" We had a picnic, during which Ava didn't want to eat, the ocean was calling her. Our neighbor and their oldest daughter went way out in the depths and enjoyed the waves, while his wife, their younger daughter, Ava and I frolicked in the shallows on the shore. My husband ate his lunch, "being attacked by biting insects" while we enjoyed the last, succulent day of Maine summer. The hike back out to the car seemed long and the mosquitoes were "thick as molasses". We were all salty and tired, what a day, what a great close to summer.