Monday, May 24, 2010

All things Strawberry

Life has been busy with Strawberries and such. We have been picking berries, making jam, picking more berries and making more jam. This time of May I always fret of the ending of strawberry season and feel that we have not picked enough not made enough.

I truly love picking all berries but Strawberries are probably my favorite. I know, picking strawberries requires you to bend close to the ground and its a little dirty but Strawberries are the Ruby of them all. They are sweet, beautiful are abundant in our area and make WONDERFUL Jam.

I was recently asked to be a Taste Tester for an special our local news paper runs on judging three restaurant specializing in various foods. This time it's the Best Strawberry Desert. Because of my vast Strawberry knowledge and love for all things Strawberry, I was invited to join as a judge. Wow - I was super excited and ready for the challenge to help determine the BEST STRAWBERRY DESERT in Hampton Roads. It would be a tough task but I would dutifully accept this huge responsibility. The feature article has not been published yet (this Sunday) but I can give you a little snap shot of the three contenders.

First on our list was a classic Strawberry Pie. Oh my, it was beautiful and everything was homemade! The original creator, an 82 year-old grandmother is even in the kitchen daily to help roll out the pie crusts. You could definitely taste the love in this pie. I loved that it was packed full of freshly picked berries and just enough jell. In many of the commercial Strawberry Pies, its mostly jelly with a few berries thrown in. And topping it all was homemade whipped cream -- YUMMY!

I was kind of embarrassed that I wolfed it down in a few seconds flat but It was scrumptious.

Next we had Strawberry Cupcakes. My sister-in-law is a cupcake queen and has spoiled me with wonderful cupcakes (many filled with our jam). Now, truth be told, I love cupcakes but I am not one to seek out a Cupcake Shop and buy a fancy-pants cupcake so I was still thinking the pie would be my fav. (I am an old fashioned gal).

The Cupcake was wonderful and looked so sweet. They use local berries chopped up and their icing was YUMMY. Although I must admit it was too much for me. I know many of you would disagree that you can never have too much icing - but I thought it was. The shop was modern and crisp. It was a nice spot to have a cupcake!

Our third stop was on the other side of the earth - or at least it felt that way. About a 40 minute drive later we were at a sushi restaurant. It was actually a blessing that we had such a long drive as we were all getting full on sweetness! I was a little surprised that a sushi place was nominated for a good strawberry desert but ready for our final stop.

The restaurant itself was a cool little place in a very unlikely spot. It was a funky yet traditional and it everything looked amazing. As we waited for our Strawberry Deserts we were all eager to have the final taste. We were all served the most beautiful Strawberry Wonton Napoleons. Everyone in the restaurant turned to look as they were truly beautiful!

Each desert was very good and I truly enjoyed them in a different way. The thing that struck me most was that each one of these locally owned restaurants all commented on exactly where their strawberries were from. I love them for that. They were making every effort to use the best and freshest berries available and helping a farmer along the way -- just as we strive to do with our jam!

Of course I don’t want to spoil the article by telling you who won the official taste test but it was a close one. I can tell you that I will return for a homemade Strawberry Pie, stop in the cupcake store for a little sweet treat and return for sushi and wonton napoleons before strawberry season comes to an end.

Now get out there and enjoy some local strawberries before they are gone for another year!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A New Year

Many people love the marking of a new year. They look forward to what’s a head, make resolutions on how they will rid themselves of bad habits and make plans to acquire new healthily habits: To leave all the bad behind and make room for all the good life has to offer. I too love the New Year. I love its new possibilities and a “fresh start”. Like the new year, I also love the fall. It’s a time when kids return to school with new books, crisp white paper to soon hold all the teaching and stories. However, my favorite fresh start comes in the Spring. I love watching the ground come alive. First the, Daffodils, the Forsythia, and Cherry Blossoms. It’s a time to enjoy but mostly a time to ready for the harvest to come.

After a little requesting on my part, my Husband took my compost bin and poured my new dirt over the beds, getting them ready for their new growth. I use to feel sorry that I was excited by something as simple as dirt but now I feel it should be celebrated. I made this dirt! Who knew I could make dirt? All my scraps, yard waste and peelings from the hundreds of apples, pears, peaches we used for our jams this past summer and fall have worked themselves down to perfect dirt; “Black gold” as it’s called.

Sorry I got off on a tangent….

Like a new book promising to hold knowledge for a student in the fall. Our beds hold promise of the possibilities of abundance of fruit and veggies. The hardest part of it all? It’s not the weeding, not the watering or remembering to water, it’s the waiting. Recently, I had someone tell me they did not garden as it took to long to grown veggies. Yes, you must care, tend and wait 50-72 days before the picking is good but it IS worth the wait!

It’s partly my passion as I love nature. Watching things grow and produce food for my family, but mainly as I know it’s the right thing to do. We need to be connected to our food. Either by growing food ourselves or buying directly from a grower. How sad is it that our kids today don’t know the basics of where the food comes from that they eat. Not even that apples come from a tree and potatoes come from the ground! I have held in my hart for some time that I want a farm and get our own chickens, grow more of our food but mostly to want to slow down and teach my children how to love the planet by being good to our Mother Earth. But for now, I will be happy growing our families own food and putting up all I can for the winter.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nicene Creed and the Birds and the Bees'

Our family is Catholic and Jake is at the wonderful age of preparing for his his first communion. I am so excited for him and we have lots to prepare before he actually receives his first communion.

Our family goes to classes where we all learn different aspects to our religion and the scripture.

In Jake's class, they learn the structure of mass, about Saints, prayers, etc. In the adult class we learn how to be better parents by incorporating our faith into our child rearing, we read scripture and discuss how it affects our daily lives (especially dealing with raising children).

However, we have not discussed anything in our class to help me with this...

In preparation for our class this week, Jake and I were working on memorizing the Nicene Creed (the Catholics confession of faith that is recited by memory at each mass). We started working through it together. The first paragraph was no problem.

Second paragraph was getting a little hazy so to make it easier for Jake to understand, I was was explaining what each paragraph meant. ...."we believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father..." I was able to explain how Jesus was begotten and is part of God.

All was going well and Jake was really getting into how I was explaning how Jesus came from God to be with us and teach us.

Until ...three lines down.

"by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man".

I was still naive enough to think I could skirt over this one but Jake stopped and asked "What is a Virgin?".

My mouth turned to cotton and I could not think of how to answer his question while keeping the meaning of how (and more importantly why) Jesus became man. I should of been prepared but I was NOT. Not-the-least-bit-prepared. I failed with my "uh, uh, well...ummm".

Mitch, standing behind Jake, was giving me the "OK Mom, what do you have to say to that!" look. I can't even remember what I said to answer his question. (And I use answer loosely) but I know Mitch had to jump in and try and save me!

Why did we not cover this in class? There had to be so many parents before us who were asked this question as Virgin is not in our normal conversation with our 8 year-old child. Anytime the news comes on I mute or turn off the TV so I don't have to answer these questions yet. I relish this time on innocence. I am trying to find my "life remote" to hit a pause button!

I know theses conversations are coming. I will be ready to answer these questions and be honest with my children when they are 10, or 15, or better yet 30. But not yet. I am not ready! And I did not think these questions would come from learing about Jesus for goodness sakes!

So, one more thing to add to the to do list...research answers to give to your child when asked about the birds and the bees.

Pray for me as I am so not ready for this!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year

Well, its been some time since I have sat down to jot a few things that are going on in our lives. Why? I am not really sure why I did not stop to "journal" before now. Maybe its I could not find a spare minute or two to formulate my thoughts, maybe I could not stand to work about if my grammar was correct, or maybe I could not think of anything witty to share with you or who knows why.....

Any way on to the update, we had such a busy fall and winter I don't know where to begin! Between back to school, harvest time, making as much jam as I could fit in my days and nights, and trying to fill in some family memories in between all of this - things were crazy! My favorite time of the year is fall and it seems that in a blink of an eye fall had come and gone. We packed our weeks full of festivals and craft shows and met some great people along the way!

Then before we knew it, the holidays were knocking on our door. Again, we filled our days with shows.

Now, it seems, I can finally take a needed breath. In fact, I have slept in all weekend and enjoyed extra time in my jammies playing with the boys with all their new toys.

January and February will be a nice reprieve and a slow time for us were I will be filling my time scheduling our upcoming show/market dates, coming up with new flavor ideas, and improving our web site. New things are soon to come.

Thank you to each of our new (and old) customers who have believed in our cottage business and have supported us along the way. We hope to have new items for you to fall in love with in the coming year!

Wishing you all the best for 2010!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Shortcomings As a Proper Mother

Last night, I realized I am the worst Mom ever - at least in Kyland’s view of the world. My three year-old child, who did not take a nap but still REQUIRES a 3-hour nap daily, wanted ice cream for his after bath snack. Kyland always requests ice cream for his snack and since he is skinny as a string bean I am happy to scoop it out. Kyland’s number one favorite ice cream flavor - Vanilla with chocolate syrup. I held my breath as we did not have boring ole’ - I mean plain vanilla. We only had sherbet (Jake’s fav) and cookie dough (my fav). But with little effort, I was able to sway him away from a total melt down by offering a banana split.

I immediately think to myself “Yeah, Your good you successfully diverted that disaster”. However, my praise was quickly interrupted after handing Kyland his bowl. I was mildly attacked when he tearfully declared “That’s not a REAL banana split! Make it like Daddy!”

I spent the next few minutes of trying to figure out how wonderfully Daddy (who was not around at the time) makes said banana split. Evidently this is the only proper way to make a banana split.

I begin thinking What’s wrong with my banana split making abilities? It may not be Baskin Robbins but I thought it looked pretty good: Bananas? Check; Two scoops of ice cream? Check; Syrup? Check; Whipped topping? Check.

But Kyland knew what he wanted and it was not what was in front of him. I on the other hand, did not have a clue what he wanted! Once the tears were flowing, (by Kyland too) I gave up and sent him on to bed thinking to my self “You ungrateful child – your getting a banana split on a Tuesday for crying out loud!” After everyone clamed down and Kyland was getting his much needed sleep, I tried getting over my shortcomings as a proper banana split making mother by eating the rejected banana split and making a mental note that Kyland MUST take a nap tomorrow…..sigh.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Swim Team and Family Time

After such a busy month of end of school and festivals in May and June, we were happy to take time off in July. My oldest son Jake, is on swim team and has had a meet every Saturday since late June. The swim teams schedule is almost over so we are gearing up for a few shows in Aug. (God Bless us wanting to stand in the heat all day!).

During this small jamming hiatus, we have been able to try a few new recipes (Watermelon Rind Preserves is the latest) and pick blueberries and blackberries – although I am panicking that we have not picked enough to hold us through the summer! But mostly we have been spending time with the family.

My dad’s side of the family held a family reunion/memorial for both my grandparents. Unfortunately, I did not attend but spent that weekend making Aebleskiver’s (Danish pancake balls).
This is a Strong Family tradition that we all loved when my Grandma made these. I was ecstatic to learn that I am the proud new owner of my Grandmother’s cast iron Aebleskiver pan. Actually it is handed down from my Great-grandmother. I am honored that out of all her seven children and 25+ grandchildren I am the lucky one to receive this gift (thank you Pat for going to bat for me!) I have such fond memories of my cousins and I waiting for the next batch of Ableskivers to be done. We knew not to sleep in or you would miss out! I hope to bring that tradition to my family and give them the excitement of waiting for the next batch of hot Ableskivers my cousins and I experienced.

Our family just had a family weekend with my husband’s side of the family as well. It was a nice weekend at my brother-in-laws pool. We had good food, games, and lots of time for the little kids to play together.

Kyland Tie-Dying his shirt

Jake and Brianna making their tie-die shirts

Up next, deciding where we should go during my husbands time off? We always wait till the last moment to make any plans. We want to go somewhere close (within 5 hrs. drive) and kid friendly. Any ideas?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Its it really July 4th weekend? Where did June go? Does anyone know? Anyway, we have been super busy. We have done two shows in June - the Ashland Strawberry Faire and Gwyn's Island Festival. Both were fun on different levels. Ashland was crazy busy. Great weather, great crowds, and the biggest strawberries from Ashland Berry Farm I have ever seen. These things were on steroids, I swear. I will have to see if my BIL got a photo of them.

Gwyn's Island was a small county fair. It was different in many ways. There was a good crowd (considering the small town) but everything was on a much slower pace. A bit hard to get use to at first. It was also HOT. But, we got to stay an extra night and really enjoyed the opportunity to rest for a day! The boys went crabbing - caught nothing, Fishing - again nothing and finally resorted to catching minnows for bait. That they did catch. And luckily they are young enough that they were OK with that!

Heading home, we made a delivery of fresh jam to Bena Country Store and after talking to the owner we were told there was a huge blackberry patch not far. So we scoped it out and it is huge. We made an attempt at picking but were ill-prepared in our shorts and flip-flops. We did manage to pick enough for a delish blackberry cobbler that night for dinner. But, we are making plan to go back. Hopefully the beginning of next week!

Our oldest son is on swim team this year and although he is not a strong swimmer yet, I am impressed with his dedication. He is having a good time and getting lots of activity in the water! He actually took 10 seconds off his 25m freestyle at thier meet on Wed. night. That tells you how slow he was at his first meet as its not typical for swimmers to shed 10 second off their time.

Wishing you all a Happy 4th of July! Go eat some watermelon and have a safe weekend!!