Monday, March 25, 2013

These Boots

...are made for walking, stomping, clomping, leaving in the middle of the floor when we're done with them.

Bert managed to put the boots on by himself back in the mudroom and get up the step into the kitchen while I was washing dishes. I think my red gardening boots are a particularly stylish choice, especially paired with Keith's glove.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Hot Seat

As we were sitting finishing up supper the other night, I could see a fire engine parked around the corner. No sirens, no flashing lights, just the truck and two casually dressed men. I wondered aloud to Keith what was going on but we didn't have any idea. Just a bit later, as we were clearing the table, the truck was slowly making its way up our street and I could see one of the men going door to door. Bert was watching out the window, fascinated, when the man came to our door. The explanation is that the fire department was selling tickets for their barbecue chicken dinner. Bert stood at the front door as Keith bought two tickets, and the man said, "He can go sit in the truck if he wants." Oh boy, did he ever.

I took him out, and Keith grabbed the camera. First he got to sit in the front seat, then we all climbed into the jump seats in the rear of the cab.

Lucky for us, our neighbor had come out to see what Bert thought of the truck and snapped a picture of the three of us.

Fire engines were the hot topic for the rest of the evening.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Holla! (Challah!)

If you aren't into hearing me pat my own back for a moment, skip this post.

Last week, I decided I wanted to make the bacon breading pudding we had on Christmas morning again. But when I went to the grocery store, they didn't have any challah bread, or anything remotely similar. I briefly considered trying another grocery store, then I thought, Why not make my own challah?

I dug out a Williams-Sonoma baking book my mom had passed on to me, and read over the challah recipe. It seemed pretty straight forward and I had all the ingredients on hand so why not go for it? The dough came together really easily, and I debated for a moment whether I wanted to bother braiding it or not, since it would just be cut up for the bread pudding. In the end I braided it because I figured I had already put the time into it, what were a few more minutes? I'm so glad I did.

Because I may be more proud of this than anything that has ever come out of my oven.

Besides, you know, the bun that came out nearly two years ago.

Close-ups, anyone?

It tastes as wonderful as it looks. I must have just enough of my Jewish great-grandmother and my always-baking grammy to pull this one off.

As for the recipe, Williams-Sonoma had done me (and my fingers) the great favor of having it posted on their website, so click here if you are interested.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dirt Ball

With the gorgeous weather we had last weekend, we were all antsy to get outside. Keith worked on turning over the garden, I cleaned up leaves and twigs that had accumulated in the yard over the winter and thinned out the strawberry bed, and Bert worked on getting dirty. Very dirty.

This is what we call full-contact gardening.

At one point, I turned around and wasn't sure where he had gotten to. Can you find him?

Keith had dug out the dead apple trees in anticipation of our replacements arriving (they have arrived and I'll fill you in on that soon) and Bert decided the hole suited him pretty well.

Watching him climb out kind of reminds me of tunneling past the fences in the movie The Great Escape.

Now our little Steve McQueen just needs a motorcycle to roar off on.

Funny how you don't have to teach a kid to get dirty; it's just instinct.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Maple Me

If you have some maple syrup around, you probably do the usual things with it. Put it on pancakes and waffles, drizzle it on your oatmeal, maybe even use it in baking or pour it over ice cream. Here are two more ideas that are a hit around here lately.

Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts
from Cook's Country

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved through core
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (I used about a 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons cider vinegar
salt and pepper

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add brussels sprouts and cook until browned, 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir in broth, 1 tablespoon syrup, thyme, and cayenne and cook over medium-low heat, covered, until brussels sprouts are nearly tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Uncover and increase heat to medium-high. Cook until liquid in nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in remaining butter, remaining syrup, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

I was a little worried they would be too mushy for me, but they were fine. The flavor was great. We couldn't get Bert to eat any, but Keith and I enjoyed them.

If brussels sprouts don't do it for you, this recipe might.

Maple Bourbon Sour
from Cooking Light

Combine 6 tablespoons bourbon, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice, stirring well. Pour into shaker with 1/2 cup ice. Cover and shake. Strain. Enjoy.

This has been Keith's drink of choice since my mom mixed it up the evening after the maple sugaring demonstration.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Littlest Cattleman

As good as Bert was about our outing to the maple sugaring demonstration, it wasn't the thing he loved best about that weekend. So what has he been talking about for the past week?


In any order. Randomly and frequently. And all he wants to do is, in his words, "play farm." Every morning he drags out his cardboard farm we drew several weeks ago (and keep adding to) along with all his little farm animals and his tractor.

All that because if you take a little calf like this,

and your Popper brings it this close,

it makes quite an impression. (Though I do think Bert was a little wary off those crazy eyes.)

And then to have some big cows eat hay right from your little hand, well, that is just the icing on the cake.

Popper is just luring him in early. Keith will tell you a morning in the barn isn't as fun when you are one of the big boys and it involves making bulls into steers.

Friday, March 8, 2013

How Sweet It Is

Last weekend, we headed up to my parents' house. Sometimes we go just to hang out and visit, but this time we had a plan: we wanted to go see the maple sugaring demonstration at a nearby nature preserve. I had been a few times, but Keith had never gone. We had attempted it several years, only to have it cancelled because of bad weather or because the sap wasn't running. This time, everything went as planned.

The presentation in the visitors centers was being given every hour, on the hour, and we arrived shortly after 1:00 so we decided to head out to the "sugar bush," the group of sugar maples being tapped, first. Bert and Memere took the lead, but the path was kind of muddy so Bert ended up being carried for part of it. But not before he tripped in a pile of wet leaves and got muddy, of course.

In the photo above, you can see the sugar shack on the left where they were cooking down the sap into syrup. And giving samples. Bert approves.

Here's the vessel they cooked the sap down in. I'm trying to remember if they referred to it as a kettle but I'm not sure. (Update: I've just been informed that it is called an evaporator.) It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.

We watched a woman tap into a tree and insert a spile, hanging the bucket from it to catch the sap as it ran out. There were lots of kids crowded around the tree, taking turns with the tap and hitting the spile so I wasn't able to get any good photos. Here is Bert checking out another bucket. He seemed pretty mesmerized by the dripping of the sap.

They also had a dug-out log to show how the Native Americans collected sap, before settlers brought over buckets and pails.

I think Bert would have taken a bath in it if we had let him.

A man was demonstrating how spiles used to be made out of sumac, a really soft wood, by heating a rod and pushing it through a short branch, and then tapering one end to go into the tree and cutting the other into a spout. We even got to bring one of those home and put it in Bert's keepsake box.

Then we head back out of the woods to hear the presentation on the history of maple sugaring.

Keith and I sat through the presentation, which was very interesting. (Did you know that Canada has a maple syrup reserve to keep the price of syrup steady and last year there was a maple syrup heist? I think the presenter said it was $18 million worth of syrup. Talk about some sticky fingers.) Bert and Memere headed over to the wildlife exhibits in another part of the building and checked out displays about coyotes, fish, and other animals.

We were so glad to finally get to see the demonstration, and bought some maple syrup while we were there. I think Bert will like doing this again in years to come when he is big enough to help tap into the tree and taste the sap right as it runs out like the other bigger kids were doing.
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