Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Picture Story...The Perfect Day in Pennsylvania

Color abounds in Pennsylvania on this beautiful autumn day. I start the day outside my front door.

Not frost, but dew on the pumpkins in the morning!

Emma, our cat, demands attention...often.

Off to The Springhouse...pumpkins everywhere. I got milk and cookies! (More on The Springhouse later!)

Off to the farm and the blueberries have turned red~ gorgeous!

The gorgeous fall color is coming to life out at the farm. There are hundreds of blackbirds in the trees right now.

Hundreds. They look great against the pink and reds.

Odd mushrooms growing at the farm under some pines. I have no idea if they are safe, I'm guessing not, since no critters have munched on them. If in doubt...don't touch!

This toby tree is in the front yard by the house. It's huge! You can see the corner roof of the house on the left amongst the leaves. I can't get the whole tree in the frame of this picture!

Corn or beans can be found in just about any open nook and cranny around here. It's quite a pretty sight.

Leaving the farm to head to Mingo Park, one of my other favorite places. The black angus cattle are enjoying this gorgeous day too.

Maybe my favorite picture. Going down Epler's Hill towards the Truck Stop, this bend in the road is very inviting.

Ahh, I arrived at Mingo Park to find some more color! Imagine a wooded park running through a valley with a wide and shallow creekbed running through it, the kind with great rock jumping and skipping rocks and crayfish and toads...and you have Mingo Park. Beautiful.

Some gorgeous color on the hill next to the creek at Mingo.

The shallow and wide creekbed.

Look here. I'm standing by the creek, the road above. Look above the guard rail at the rocks jutting out...and the rather large tree growing on those rocks! Now who ever said Pennsylvania is boring and sleepy!

This is the retaining wall under the roadway that has the tree growing above the rocks! This wall has been here for as long as I can remember, and we've come to this park since I was a very little girl.

The Henry Bridge. One of the anchor's of the park, the other being The Ebenizer Bridge on the other side of the park.

Haha...and the day ends with soccer. They usually end with soccer! She's gotten quite good at her corner kicks!

Well really, the day ended with the milk and cookies I got at The Springhouse.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Could They Really be Eating...Stinkbugs?!?

 I'm in the kitchen this afternoon, actually just a few minutes ago, making starter for Amish Friendship Bread, when I hear this scratching racket outside the window.  We have a metal awning over one of them, so I knew there was a bird up there...I also heard quite a bit of chatter.  I took a look outside, and saw numerous blackbirds in my neighbors driveway hopping around and looking up at their house.  Now we have a stinkbug problem here, and they are desperately trying to get into any house they can before it gets too cold, so they'll converge on the sunny side of any house and get in through the windows...sneaky little buggers they are.  Anyway, I observe the blackbirds flying up onto the brick of their house and one definately comes down with something.  The other birds scurry towards the bird with 'food', trying to snatch it away, but the bird with the bug won't have it and gobbles it down.  I wonder, with much hope, did he just eat a stinkbug?  Then I smell the familiar pungent stink bug defensive smell and figure...yes!  Nature is taking a hold against these non-native menaces!  The birds are mostly flying near the windows, so I'm pretty sure they are after stinkbugs, so I check my own backyard.  I hear many,many blackbirds in our silver maple tree out back, and actually see blurs of black flying past the windows...and I smell the 'smell' of angry stinkbugs. And I feel joy.  Not over killing bugs, I'm not usually like that, I figure nature will take it's course, but these bugs are 'introduced' to the northeast, by some sort of mystery, and originally had no natural enemy.  Not only are they a menace in the house, but they love sappy plants: sugar maples (of which mine have several brown spots where they were eaten) and sunflowers in which they basically destroy the flower and they compete with birds, bees, and butterflies for nectar...bad stinkbugs.



So, as these guys stop at my bird bath for a drink, I'm happy!  They can stay as long as necessary...good blackbirds!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Clear Blue October Day

This title kind of sounds like a country song...

As hard as it is to believe, it's October 6th, and southwest Pennsylvania is beautiful. Bright blue sky, mid 70's temps, light breeze, dry ~ no rain! Last week here felt more like late November, with 4 or 5 days of straight cold and misty rain, but not today...this kind of day is the reward for making it through that kind of weather! Anyway, pictured above are some fresh herbs I snipped for dinner, parsley, basil, and oregano ( my Mom started this oregano from seed not too long before she passed away. It's a pretty tough perennial, so I'm glad it's still going strong!) I keep them in water until it's time to use them, and they not only look pretty, but they make the kitchen smell wonderful.

I can't say enough about these chrysanthemums, the color is vibrant. I bought 6 of these last fall at Walmart of all places ~ they were very small, and $1.00 each. They were so tiny last year, and looked a bit out of place in the flowerbed, I planted them pretty close so they could be seen and they were only a buck! Four of them survived the winter, two of each color. I think they look fantastic together, and the color really brightens up the fall!

And green beans in October! This past spring was really wet here, my beans didn't like it at all, and I had trouble getting them to grow. In the end, I had two surviving plants, which I planted in my 'secret garden' in our backyard. These two plants finally took hold, and gave me enough beans to snack on daily in September. They all of the sudden have produced alot of beans, enough for dinner tonight...which I forgot about until I was about to put dinner on the table. As I was putting out the salad, I said "Oh no, I forgot to cook the beans!" Luckily, my girls like to snack on them raw too, so that's what we did! Yummy! And even better on October 6th. In Pennsylvania.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sunflowers...does a Body, Mind and Spirit Good!!

I can't help thinking that sunflowers might be the most versatile plant out there. Not only are they beautiful, and make just about anything brighter in their presence, but they are great providers for us (humans) and critters alike. Bees get pollen for their hives, squirrels and chipmunks and birds for their nests. Such a wonderful plant!

My dog kept barking today, at what must've been the wind, because everytime I looked out there was nothing...or nobody. After she barked again, I looked out and this time I saw something...these gorgeous sunflowers outside my window just waiting for me to appreciate their sunny, carefree smiles. So it became clear, sort of, what the dog had been making all the noise about.

This cute fella (the honeybee on the sunflower) doesn't have a care in the world...he's 'nectar drunk' gathering all the pollen his body will carry for his queen.

I kind of look at this picture as two old time sisters on a breezy summer day saying 'Let you hair down Mary...it's gorgeous out here today. Race you to the swimming hole!' Okay, I'm thinking 'Little House on the Prarie" here. These girls actually sit atop the tallest sunflower that has ever grown in my yard (I think)...about 14 ft. tall!

A 'mutant' flower? One central flower bud with two distinct 'halves'. The twin flower? Or is it saying: 'Hey baby...want to hang out?' Sorry, I have a weird sense of humor. Sometimes I just can't help myself, but hey, I enjoy my flowers!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Homemade Lasagna...Noodles and All


I'm learning, that the fresher the food, the better it tastes.

This is a picture of homemade lasagna noodles I made for dinner last night. Whole wheat noodles at that! I thought my hubby would sneer at that thought, but he had seconds and thirds, and said it was good! That's when I told him it was whole wheat flour, he still didn't mind.

Awhile ago, I got a great, very good quality pasta maker from Goodwill for $5.00...actually $4.99. Every time I pull it out, I thank the bride and groom who decided they didn't want the great gift that their Aunt Lucia gave them! (It's great, and I also thank my Mom for introducing me to homemade pasta when I was a kid, otherwise, I would've never known what a pasta maker looked like.) Homemade pasta is easy and fun to make, a great thing to do with the kids. Not too messy, but just messy enough for them to have fun! And it's definately worth the effort.


Every year, we grow and can tomatoes and sauce. It's so good! Nothing I've bought in the grocery store has ever come close. These are fresh 'Long Tom' heirloom sauce tomatoes...their like Roma's that had seconds and thirds at dinnertime! A great sauce tomato.

Oh, and the basil, parley, oregano, and chives are from my herb garden too. Fresh herbs right from the garden to the table...yum.


Add a salad and a glass of ice cold milk, and dinner is served, and it was good!

I'm also learning that cooking a tasty and fresh meal has more to do with desire than natural cooking ability. Keep trying and it will turn out!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

For the Love of Zucchini




Great zucchini cornbread I made tonight: Super easy, sweet, with a surprising taste of cinnamon. Here's the recipe:

1 box Jiffy Cornbread Mix
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 small or medium zucchini ~ about 2 cups. (you can remove seeds if you prefer)
2 T butter

Cinnamon/Brown Sugar topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter ~ cubed (keep cold)
1 t cinnamon
1/4 cup rolled oats ~ uncooked (optional)

I like to cook this (or any cornbread) in a cast iron skillet.

Chop zucchini, do not peel, and remove seeds if desired. Cut into about 1 inch pieces and place into baking pan with 2 T butter. Place in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 5 minutes. (Just enough to melt the butter and start to soften the zucchini). Mix cornbread mixture according to package directions, set aside. Mix cinnamon/brown sugar topping ingredients with a fork until crumbly, set aside. Remove zucchini from oven and pour cornbread mixture over top. Sprinkle with cinnamon/brown sugar topping and bake for approximately 15- 20 minutes or until golden brown and top does not give upon touching center. Let cool about 5 minutes and serve.

My hubby took a bite not knowing it had zucchini in it...he thought it was apples. This tastes surprisingly good. Yum.


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I really like zucchini. These are hybrids... 'Ball Mix' and 'Camoflauge Hybrid' from Burpee Seeds, a bit more pricey than other varieties, but the secret here is longevity ~ if not bruised and stored properly, they'll keep for months, no refrigeration needed. Last year, I grew 'Green Tiger' also, and had great tasting zucchini until December! I'm pretty sure they cross pollinate them with pumpkins to get the nice shapes and stripes...the longevity is a plus!


The great thing about this one, is I think it cross pollinated with a nearby pumpkin, (on top of what they do at Burpee) and is almost totally orange...except the cute dark green collar. It kind of reminds me of Batman.



All shapes and sizes helps keep zucchini from getting boring to quick!



Hybrids Can Be So Good !

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Ugly Heirloom...


This is my ugly tomato.

It's an heirloom, but I don't know what kind. I think it's a 'lucky cross'. 'Lucky' because it tasted delicious with dinner tonight, and 'cross', because I'm not growing anything that should look like this! Pretty interesting...my daughter wants to save the seeds!



We had deli turkey, ham, and tomato with nice italian bread along with this delicious homemade soup my girls and I made. It turned out to be wedding soup with barley...delicious and filling ( I think it was filling due to the barley...I love barley!) All in all, we used quite a bit from our garden for this dinner. Zucchini, basil, oregano, onion, and parsley in the soup, and of course, the tomato and romaine lettuce on the sandwiches. The chicken and ground beef were local, so all in all, a pretty fresh meal!



Here's my daughter slicing our little piece of heaven! So good! Even the kids liked it. Eating the first tomato of the season is like...well, it's really nice!



We entered our ugly tomato into Relish Magazine's Ugly Tomato Contest!! Check it out at www.facebook.com/relishmagazine. Enter your ugly tomato picture there too. It's fun! I hope to have a few more entries to submit.

It's time to rest after eating our delicious dinner. Till next time, be happy!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lemonade Stand

Lemonade Stand

The following is brought to you by Summertime.

And the recipe for this golden deliciousness from the back pages of Woman's Day. Here's the recipe:

For 8 servings: in a small saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer until the sugar dissolves. Let cool.

Cut about 10 lemons in half and squeeze juice using an old fashioned juicer, about 1 1/2 cups, (or just use the same amount of bottled lemon juice, but it looks nice to add a sliced lemon to the pitcher).

In large pitcher, combine lemon juice, cooled sugar syrup and about 4 cups of cold water (we just filled the pitcher with ice ~ the bagged kind you can buy at the store). Taste for tartness and adjust accordingly. Enjoy.

And thanks Woman's Day magazine. I love the 'ends well' section of the magazine. It gives little old fashioned tidbits to make things nice. Whether it's how to sew a hem on trousers, or making the best ever lemonade, it's nice.


The girls had a system going since we live on a sleepy street. For the suburbs, it's very quiet down here. One manned the stand in the driveway...

One at the top of the street holding the lemonade sign, and one runner to fill customer orders at the top of the hill. They were very psyched when the UPS driver stopped for some. And when 2 Russian speaking guys bought lemonade at the top of the hill, then drove down and bought 2 more at the driveway. They were harder working guys, some sort of construction, and looked tired and thirsty. With their heavy accents they thanked the girls for the delicious lemonade.


Our neighbor's were great to the girls too. I think they felt bad, knowing that not many people drive down our street, so they gave them very generous tips! Summertime is just awesome!!


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Best in Show

Sometimes beauty doesn't come in the the usual packages. Sometimes it comes in a kind neighbor who makes the best pizzelles around! This is my neighbor Loretta. She's Italian, and knows her pizzelles. She makes the best, and always makes us some when she's baking. They are light and vanilla-ey. Very delicious. They never last long. My hubby is like a kid on Christmas when she walks out her door with that box of cookies.

My daughter loves them too. In fact, she just snagged an old pizzelle maker at our church flea market last week. She had to find the electrical cord that went to it though. She looked through boxes and tables and finally found it's match! She only needed to get Mrs. Loretta's recipe!


These are Loretta's pizzelles, and they are definatley 'Best in Show'. Half the box is gone by now, and they have only been in the house for about two hours. I wasn't kidding when I said they are good! She was kind enough to share the recipe and gave a quick baking lesson to my daughter, with the offer to help when she makes her first batch. See beauty, can be found in anything, anywhere.

Part of the baking lesson / advise is in the video below. Enjoy. It's nice to have nice neighbors who are good bakers!

video

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dinnertime...

I'm lucky to have this behind my backyard ~ woods. It not only gives privacy to the suburbs, but is the perfect habitat for some of my favorite things ~ birds.
It might look gross to some, but this American Robin has snagged dinner for some little baby waiting back at the nest. This guy kept this worm in it's beak for some time before finally flying off into the trees.
I finally caught a Northern Flicker, high in a dead locust tree. It was late afternoon, so the lighting wasn't right from where I was, but I got it! Eventually, I'll catch one in good lighting ~ their hard buggers to photograph because they hide well and seem to feed late in the day.

Pointing my hammock towards the west!