Sunday, November 30, 2008

Candymaking: homemade caramels and candies

This week is reserved for candymaking. I'll be making caramels, chocolatey covered candy honeycomb, and maybe fudge, but that's a big maybe. It'll all go out with holiday gifts (well most of it will).

I've sold my candy at the local farmer's market before, which is a lot of fun. I'd love to open a candy store, but my nice little town already has three of them.

Maybe I can take some pictures as my candymaking week progresses. If I do I'll post them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Septimus Heap

I went to the library to get some things for the holiday weekend and saw that book four in the Septimus Heap series, Queste, by Angie Sage, was in the 'New' section. I checked it out and started reading it last night. I was reminded immediately how charming this series is. If you know a child (I would say 9 and up) who enjoys fantasy along the lines of Harry Potter, you may want to consider these books as holiday gifts.

In these books there is a family of seven brothers. As Queste opens, one is lost somewhere in Time and is trying to get back; one (Septimus, who is the seventh son of a seventh son) is the apprentice to the ExtraOrdinary Wizard; one has turned bad and has run off to the badlands and is occupying the home of the late Dom Daniel (who was a very dark wizard and gave them all a lot of trouble in the earlier books); and the other four have chosen to leave home and set up camp in a very dangerous forest next to the home of a coven of witches (causing their mother no end of worry). And did I mention that the girl who was raised with them as a sister is really - well I won't say in case you haven't read the other books in the series.

But I will say that one of my favorite characters is Marsha Overstrand, the ExtraOrdinary Wizard. She's bossy and head strong, and often doesn't listen when someone is trying to tell her something important - but she knows who she is and what she wants and I often laugh when she's on the page.

The series starts with Magyk, which introduces us to Septimus, the seventh son of a seventh son in a magical family, and his wonderful world. This is a story of two boys switched at birth, a hidden princess, and a host of other characters who all come alive in this well-told tale of getting identities sorted out under difficult situations.

Flyte continues the story and we learn much more about Septimus and his world, and there's even a dragon!

Physik adds to the characters we already know and loses two of them somewhere in Time - which is where Queste begins.

I would highly recommend these books to those who like the world of Harry Potter, whether they're young, or old (like me).

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Pink Sari Gang

There is a gang of women in India who have taken matters into their own hands.

Tired of officials turning a blind eye to crimes against women, corruption, and caste prejudice, these women have banded together under the leadership of Sampat Pal Devi in order to shame wrongdoers and, at times, beat sense into bad husbands and corrupt officials.

They number in the hundreds, carry big sticks, and are earning the grudging respect of officials in Bundelkhand, a desperately poor region in Uttar Pradesh.

You can read about the Gulabi (which means "pink") Gang in these two articles:

India's 'pink' vigilante women from the BBC News and,

The pink vigilantes: The Indian women fighting for women's rights from the Daily Mail online (and from which article the above picture comes).

I wish this would happen all over the world. One cowering woman is easy to make submit, 700 women with big sticks is another thing altogether. And when they come knocking on your door to ask why you've just beaten your wife, things may not go your way.

Personally, I think the Amazons of myth were real and that they began in a similar manner - a group of women who banded together, tired of being treated poorly.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Still snowing....

It snowed all night and we're supposed to get several more inches today:

No more barbeques:

Our growing kitten is discovering what that white stuff is:

I thought this was supposed to wait for winter - isn't that a month from now?

And there's more to come.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A quick change of seasons

Here is a picture of some cattails. They are in the park next to my house. I took the picture on July 15th for my July Bloom Day post:

Here are the same cattails as of yesterday, November 20th:

I've lived here in northeast Ohio for seven years now. In that time we've never had snow like this, this early. Several years ago we had a year in which snow fell on Thanksgiving and never stopped and never melted until late spring. We didn't see the ground from Thanksgiving dinner until well after Easter. I'm wondering if this year will be comparable.

I need new boots.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Icicles and Snow

We've gotten some snow over the past couple of days:

The old farm buildings I walk by everyday look nice in the snow:

My dog likes to nose around in it. Here he's smelling where one of the deer trails comes out of the wild parts and enters the tame environs of the park:

Here's what he looks like after he's been nosing:

Icicles and snow... argh! It isn't even Thanksgiving yet! :

I saw some bluebirds on our walk. I've never seen them in my neighborhood before. I tried to get some pictures, but they're flighty little things and I couldn't get close enough.
Hope you're warm and cozy, wherever you are!

Monday, November 17, 2008

November Snow and Doggie Ice Cream

It's snowing today. Every day this week there's a chance of snow.

This picture is a little blurry - probably because of me, but also because the falling snow makes it look a little blurry:

My doggie and I just got got back from a walk in the snow and he rushed outside with his after-walkie treat:

What is his treat, you ask? Ice cream. Doggie ice cream. It's not real ice cream, it's made just for dogs. He likes to have one after the big walk of the day - every day. No matter the temperature or weather. He loooves it:

Nom, nom, nom!

When the weather's really bad, I make him eat it inside. He likes outside better, though.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Making infused oils for salves

I'm planning on sending out some small tins and jars of salve with Christmas gifts this year. I'm making goldenrod salve and calendula salve. I started the process today with making goldenrod infused oil using dried goldenrod.

I gathered the goldenrod from a field in September and hung it to dry in my garage. I had to find a big jar to store it in:

Here's 3/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil becoming infused with goldenrod:

I made some goldenrod oil toward the end of summer using fresh goldenrod. You can read how I did it here. This time I'm using dried instead of fresh.

Tomorrow I'll make calendula infused oil. I grew the calendula in my garden over the summer and harvested and dried the blooms. Here's a jar of what I haven't used already:

Calendula is so colorful:

It's hardy too. I collected a few flowers just yesterday, and there are several about to bloom. I'm not sure they made it through last night though, it got down into the twenties. I haven't checked them yet.

I've got my labels printed up and ready to go and my 1/2 ounce tins and jars came in the mail yesterday, so as soon as I've got my oils, I'm all set to make salve:

Instructions for making goldenrod salve can be found here, just substitute whatever type of infused oil you'd like for whatever type of salve you have in mind.

Friday, November 7, 2008

In which I get lots of quality help with my leaf raking efforts

I began raking leaves in the backyard today. I had lots of help. Mostly of the, "I'll watch over this pile while you make another one," kind:

Leaf sentinels. I has dem:

The rest of the help had a little more energy. Maybe too much - you decide, I managed to film some of the hi-jinks. Here's a little clip:

At least someone had more dignity than to participate in all of that silly, knee-bent running around business:

The little gray cat in the video clip is the little kitten that my daughter brought home. She is about 5 months old now. In December she'll be old enough to be spayed. She already has an appointment.

Writing rules: Suspension of Disbelief. An exerpt from Tolkien's "On Fairy-stories."

For any writers out there, here's an interesting remark I came across while reading J.R.R. Tolkien's essay, On Fairy-stories:

"Children are capable, of course, of literary belief, when the story-maker's art is good enough to produce it. That state of mind has been called "willing suspension of disbelief." But this does not seem to me a good description of what happens. What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful "sub-creator." He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is "true": it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside. If you are obliged, by kindliness or circumstance, to stay, then disbelief must be suspended (or stifled), otherwise listening and looking would become intolerable. But this suspension of disbelief is a substitute for the genuine thing, a subterfuge we use when condescending to games or make-believe, or when trying ... to find what virtue we can in the work of an art that has for us failed."

We've all heard it before - don't mess with the reader. Don't break the rules of the world you're creating, and don't arbitrarily add new rules late in the game in order to try and make sense of what your characters are doing. We are not artists when we do that. We are merely finger-painters slopping colors without regard onto slick paper.

Tolkien knew the difference between belief and suspension of disbelief, and that's why he has such a legion of fans - they all believe.

Here's hoping that, as writers, we can become artful sub-creators and cast that unbreakable spell of belief in our reader's minds.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Colorful Crab Apple Jelly

Yesterday my daughter and I went on a hike to harvest crab apples from a couple of wild crab apple trees my husband and I had come across a few days earlier. You can read about our adventure here.

Today I turned the crab apples into jelly. Here is a large bowl of crab apples, sorted, washed, and ready for chopping:

The blossom and stem ends were cut off and the apples chopped up. The pieces were boiled with water to extract the juice. The juice was strained, sugar was added, the mixture was boiled and magically turned into jelly:

This picture is a little blurry, but it shows the beautiful color of the jelly:

One jar didn't fill all the way, so that's in the fridge. (I've already had some toast & jelly =^..^= Crab apple jelly is my favorite!). The rest will become holiday gifts.

A link to NPR and the transcript of Barack Obama's victory speech

"And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight, we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope."

A full transcript of Barack Obama's victory speech can be found on the NPR website here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I am SO Proud of my Country!

I am so proud of the great state of Ohio, and for the first time in eight years I am proud of my country.

Barack Obama
President Elect
of the
United States

We can all breath a sigh of relief and look to the future with HOPE!

Crab Apple Adventure

On a hike the other day, hubby and I found two crab apple trees which were still loaded with fruit. I couldn't resist. My daughter and I hiked back to them today to harvest some and make them into crab apple jelly. Crab apple is my favorite jelly to make, the color is so vibrant and the flavor is sooo good!

Our hike was colorful:

We found a hollow tree. I don't think cookies were being made there:

My daughter sat in the tree, and then discovered that there was something else in there with her. She couldn't see it, but she heard it (maybe there were elves in there?). Notice that she's sporting an I Voted sticker! :

At times the path was straight and narrow:
The crab apples were pretty against the sky:

And close up:

Most of them were high up. My daughter climbed up to reach them ~ notice the bare feet:

Our path on the way back was just as colorful:

Long stretches of the forest were golden-orange:

And the canopy was brilliant:

I'll 'leaf' you with this picture, and a little video:

This small video clip is of an owl being chased by some crows. The crows were very mad at the owl and were harassing it terribly - pulling out its tail feathers when they could. I'm pretty sure it was a barred owl, although I only got quick glimpses of it. The video is very quick and the action takes place in the upper to mid right and only in the first split second (don't blink):

The crows sound angry, don't they?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Fortune Teller

For anyone interested, here are some pictures from Halloween. We had a gypsy camp in our front yard. My daughter and her boyfriend dressed like gypsies and sat by the 'campfire' while my daughter played the violin. I told fortunes in the tent and gave out candy.

The gypsy camp seemed like it was back in the woods, but it was just between some trees in our front yard; off to the left a pot hangs on a tripod and cooks over the 'campfire':

A gypsy fortune teller:

Fortunes being told:

Hubby wasn't able to get a picture of the gypsies enjoying music around the campfire - they had retreated indoors by the time the camera came out in order to do some baking for a family event the next day.

Hope you had a nice Halloween!

Saturday, November 1, 2008