Sunday, June 20, 2010

Too Hot

Well, gentle readers, this has been one exciting weekend full of trips to the library to obtain massive quantities of books, reading inventories of medieval Dominican libraries, and working in the yard.  Oh, and it was over 95 degrees here on Saturday and I have no air conditioning.

So, for your viewing pleasure, the petunias in front of my mailbox that went crazy while I was gone:

Unfortunately, the rest of the plants did not fare so well and were pretty much toast by the time I got back.  So, I got some petunias half off to plant in the window boxes:

The  flower bed with huge volunteer viola plants:

Another window box:

I stopped to see "Mr. Little Old Man," as Mother of Ken calls the old guy who sells fruit on the corner near my house.  Among other things, he had one pound bags of shelled peas for $2 that he got from the Amish.  I love peas, so I brought them home, steamed them for a few minutes, and then froze most of them for later.

Fresh peas are delicious--I've got plans to make Ina Garten's Pasta, Pesto, and Peas later this week.

Mr. Little Old Man also had Amish strawberries:

In an attempt to use some of the stuff that has been languishing in my freezer, I made up a new strawberry dessert.  I took a sheet of puff pastry, cut it into four smaller pieces, and scored each piece about one inch around the entire rectangle before baking them.

Then, I used a spatula to press down the center part, leaving the one inch edge to hold my filling.  For the filling, I made some lemon curd (the Fannie Merritt Farmer recipe) to spread inside each sheet of puff pastry and I topped the lemon curd with fresh sliced strawberries.  Some whipped cream would be good, too.

I kept the other three pieces of puff pastry in the refrigerator until I was ready to use them.  Tonight's version of the dessert includes blueberries, too:

This is really good--light, refreshing, and flavorful.  You could make all different variations of this just using the puff pastry base.  I especially liked the addition of the blueberries.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Just when you start to think that a lot of people in this world really suck, you see something that gives you hope.  This team disproves my theory that life is a never ending, horrible group project like the ones you were stuck in throughout middle and high school, always playing the role of the "The Responsible One."  Now, I can amend my theory to include a large portion of society with a few exceptions, including the young women of Kings Firecrackers.  Here is a video of one of their incredible performances (be sure to watch the whole thing).  

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Rain

Well, gentle readers, I'm finally back.  I have had extremely limited internet access for the past week or so because of the events of last Tuesday night.

You may recall that last Tuesday, I went to visit Grambi and Aunt of Ken.  When I got home, I decided to jump in the pool for a while.  I had only been in the pool for about 15 minutes when Mother of Ken came out to tell me that we were under a tornado warning.  Since the sky was blue with just a few puffy clouds, we thought that was strange, but the weather can change quickly around there.

Anyway, we spent the evening as we usually do and I took a picture outside after the sun went down just in case a bad storm came so that I would have a "before" picture for my blog.

At about 1:00 in the morning, a relentless noise woke me up.  I thought that it might have been a tornado siren, but it didn't seem loud enough, so I rolled over and went back to sleep.  Thirty minutes later, I decided that I should get up and see what was going on and I ran into Mother of Ken in the hallway, coming to tell me to "get my robe and slippers" because we needed to go to the basement to take shelter.

I put on my robe and my OKAbs (better than slippers in this situation since they are skidproof and waterproof), grabbed my purse, phone, and computer, and herded the dogs downstairs to the mudroom.  The power had gone out, the house was pitch black, a storm was raging outside with strong winds and lightening, and the siren kept stopping and then coming back on, but it still didn't seem very loud.  It also shouldn't stop when the power goes out, which I found suspicious.

Anyway, we gathered on the steps going down into the basement, Piper freaked out and ran out the dog door and we couldn't get her to come back, and Boomer plastered his 80+ pound self between me and Mother of Ken.  Pretty soon, we noticed that the dog door, which is on the north side of the house, was blowing steadily straight into the mudroom and then the ceiling began to leak.  I don't know how long we stood there, listening to the rain and wind with the tornado siren going off and on, but we eventually went back into the house to wait the storm out in more comfortable surroundings since it seemed less and less likely that it was a tornado.

As we looked out the front door, the lightening revealed that several limbs had fallen from the trees in the front yard.  We went back to bed around 3:00 with the siren still occasionally sounding, the rain still pounding the house, and extremely strong and loud winds.  As Great Grandmother of Ken used to say, "I didn't shut an eye all night."

I had a feeling that we were going to have a lot to clean up on Wednesday morning and I was right.  I got up at about 6:30 and here's what I saw:

Thankfully, we didn't have any serious damage at our house--some limbs down, lots of small branches and twigs in the yard and in the pool, and some water damage to the ceiling in the mudroom.  Piper was slowly drying out after coming in from the storm soaking wet and we were all walking around like zombies because we hadn't gotten much sleep.

A little later in the morning, the rain finally stopped and I went outside to start cleaning up the yard:

Apparently, the weather antenna was struck by lightening and that's why our weather radio didn't sound.  Only one of the tornado sirens sounded, also set off by a lightening strike, so there wasn't actually a tornado threat after all.  It turned out that it was just a really bad storm with straight line and microburst winds that did major damage to a few buildings in town.

Here's a house up the street from ours with far worse damage than we had:

The lightening also fried the modem at Father and Mother of Ken's house, which we reported to AT&T on Wednesday.  We were told that someone would come to fix it between 8 AM and 8 PM on Thursday.  That did not happen.  To make a long story short, it ended up taking five days, seven separate phone calls with seven different people, and a lot of patience to get it going again.  Needless to say, we aren't very happy with AT&T right now.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Take the Long Way Home

Today, I went to visit Grambi and Aunt of Ken and I took the long way home to show you gentle readers the Kansas countryside.  First, though, check out Grambi's crabapple tree, which is loaded.  Crabapple jelly for everyone!

After a day of shopping and a trip through northeastern Oklahoma to get fresh blueberries, I headed home the long way.  This required me to drive a Chevy Tahoe on dry gravel roads, which requires some skills that I haven't used since I learned to drive in a Ford F-150 extended cab long bed (slightly shorter than a school bus) on gravel roads when I was 14.  For those of you who have never done this, it is like driving on marbles.  Apparently Uncle of Ken used to drive down these roads in excess of 90 mph.  Father of Ken denies involvement in these shenanigans.  

So, I bring you the fields of Kansas in the summer, beginning with "amber waves of grain:"

Also corn:

Probably soybeans:

More corn--I thought it was so pretty with the wind blowing through the fields:

More soybeans, just coming up:

After I got back on the highway and almost back to the town where Mother and Father of Ken live, I got stuck behind a farmer hauling some cattle to the stockyards.  That amounts to 45-50 mph on a 65 mph highway.  So, I spent some quality time with my future dinner:

Finally, home... Piper and Boomer:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cherry Bomb

My apologies, gentle readers, for not posting for a while.  To keep a long story short, I'm visiting Family of Ken right now, so traveling has kept me from posting.

Anyway, I'm back with something great.  Aunt and Uncle of Ken have an orchard next to their house.  I cannot remember a time when it produced more than apples and a few cherries, but this year, the cherries are going crazy.  Aunt of Ken reports that the cherries are hanging in clusters like grapes and they have picked more cherries than any of us has ever seen in our entire lives.  When everyone came for Sunday dinner, they brought us about four quarts of freshly picked beautiful red cherries:

They were a little tart to eat out of the bowl and we needed to use them quickly, so I made cherry juice this morning while it was cool.  Here are the rinsed cherries in the Magnalite pot, ready to go:

I filled the pot with cold water just until the cherries were covered:

I put the pot on the stove between medium and medium high heat:

I brought it up to a simmer and cooked the cherries until the skins split and they released their juices:

Getting close to being done:

There isn't much left of the actual cherries anymore:

Now it's done:

While the cherries finished rendering their juices, I put a clean piece of cheesecloth in a strainer over a large measuring cup:

Using a ladle, I drained the cherry juice a little at a time:

I let each batch drain thoroughly and then I carefully dumped the cherry skins and pits out, put the cheesecloth back into the strainer, and then repeated the process.  We ended up with just under nine cups of cherry juice to freeze so that Mother of Ken can make jelly this fall:

Thanks, Aunt and Uncle of Ken!  We may be getting fresh blueberries tomorrow and I'm so excited--I love summer ;-)