Monthly Archives: September 2012

Vinnie has arrived!

How cute am I?

Meet our new little bundle of love. Vinnie, our latest guide dog puppy, arrived on our doorstep and threw our lives, once again, into happy disarray. Now eight weeks old, he’s into absolutely everything.

Vinnie was the last born of a litter of eight: six sisters, two brothers. His mum, Anna, is a black Labrador and his dad is a golden retriever called Spike, who was on loan from the US. We like to think he has dual nationality 🙂 The poor little guy had a difficult birth and had to be helped to breathe for the first ten minutes of his life. It hasn’t held him back! This little battler is tenacious and seemingly fearless. He gets a little nervous of new things for about a minute, then wades in to investigate and explore.

For the first few nights he wasn’t particularly keen on using his crate and howled his protest into the wee small hours. He might be small but he has one very healthy set of lungs! Thankfully, he settled eventually and all the Jones family managed to get a decent night’s sleep.

Vinnie loves his cuddles, he also loves his teddy (which is currently bigger than he is) and enjoys a game of tug. Housetraining is a bit hit and miss at the moment and more often than not he doesn’t quite make it out to the yard.

He seems to recognise his name but we’ve decided he has selective hearing and will only respond when we call him for something good, like his dinner. Whoever is preparing his kibble gets Vinnie’s undivided attention and he will not budge from that person’s feet until he gets his dinner. He makes little whiney noises, as if to make sure we still know he’s there waiting. Our supervisor advised us to put his feeding bowl in his crate, so he can start to associate the crate with really good things and this seems to be doing the trick.

We took him for his first walk in our arms to the local park and he was desperate to get down and play with the other dogs. He seems to love children and is undaunted by loud noises, as evidenced by yesterday’s thunderstorm when he didn’t even flinch when the thunder clapped and the lightning flashed.

He’s one cool customer and already we love him with a passion.

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To Everything, There is a Season

Well, September is just about over and Fall is officially here. And, as always, I’m ready for the change in seasons. I love them all, but I think I gravitate most toward the seasons of change, Spring and Fall. There’s a crispness to the air now, cooler days, and less sun.

One of the things I find a natural instinct in the fall is stocking up for bad weather. It must be instinctual because I still feel the need to do this even though the kids are all grown and out on their own. So my husband cleans the freezer right before this time generally, as it’s the emptiest it will be all year. Now is when I start looking for great sales on meat and such to fill it back up.

Last Spring, I posted this picture of my husband’s garden, all primed and ready to go. I should have taken some pictures a month ago to show you the garden in it’s prime. Here’s some I took mid-September on a nice, sunny, warm day. Everything looks a touch deflated as they get watered in the evening, not the morning. 

Most things are done (peas, raspberries, broccoli), but we’re still getting produce from a lot of it (onions, tomatoes, cabbage, and the last of the cucumbers.) This year we canned 14 quarts of peaches and 6 quarts of pears. We’re hoping enough tomatoes ripen to can tomatoes. As well, we’ll have lettuce until the first freeze and Mark’s got a system for wintering it over so it’s the first thing we get produce from in the Spring.

Of course, I’m also still hoping these little guys grow big and orange by Halloween. 🙂

So in spite of all the gray days we’ve had in the Pacific Northwest this summer, we have also gotten enough sunshine to harvest most of my husband’s “crops”. In addition, we got to spend time with friends and family and take some small trips…riding a steam train in Canada, shopping in the Bavarian village of Leavenworth, wine tasting in the warmth of Eastern Washington.

Yep. It’s been a good summer. Now, I’m ready to hunker down. I tend to look at the changing seasons as a good time to set goals. On a professional front, this Autumn needs to be all about writing. I need to get more stories out there.  On a personal one, I hope for continued time to spend with my mother and my father, along with quiet nights with my husband beside the warmth of our wood stove.

I hope your own look back is full of smiles and happiness. And how about the future? What will be your goals for the next three months as we settle into an indoor weather pattern? Whatever they are, I hope your days are filled with peace and warmth.

I’ll leave you with an Irish Blessing I found on a great site called islandireland.com:

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

Book Review – The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

The cover is from the movie and isn’t the original one. But it’s the one I picked up at Costco. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I like the casting from reading the book. Zac Efron will be perfect for Logan and Taylor Schilling will look great playing opposite him.

I had thought this story might have more war scenes but it doesn’t. And, the ones that are in the story are from Logan’s view and are more a ‘tell’ than a ‘show’. Instead it is a Love story with a capital L.

Mr. Sparks is a skilled writer and has a great team in his publisher and editors. The Lucky One is exceptionally well written. While I appreciate the quality, I go for a storyteller and I love the ‘story’.

It’s predictable though. I don’t want to give too much away but you can see the traumatic event at the end coming. It’s like when the woman goes down those cellar steps and you’re setting there saying “Don’t go, don’t go.”

The heroine is more than a bit naïve. But the grandmother, Nana, makes up for it. She’s sharp as a tack. And Logan —- if I had to have one word for him it would be ‘honorable.’ He’s went through a lot and the story gave me a fuller sense of the non-physical wounds our service men and women endure.

The back of the book says, “ Filled with tender romance and terrific suspense, The Lucky One is an unforgettable story about the surprising paths our lives often take and the power of fate to guide us to true and everlasting love”. I agree with everything but the suspense. It was too predictable for me to describe it as suspense.

I read it while recovering from eye surgery and it was a page-turner for me. Now I’m ready for the movie.

Outdoor Food Simply by Valerie J. Patterson

I’m late!  I’m late!  I guess I thought this blog was going to write itself!  It’s been a very hectic week, and I have not been here to visit, to read, or to comment.  Nor have I been here to write my blog.  So, unfortunately, I need to write this one right off the top of my head and hope I don’t bore anyone.  I had minor laser surgery today as well, so this is *really* late.  Please accept my apologies!

From the time I was a toddler my parents took my siblings and me camping.  I loved the clean mountain air, the cool, crisps nights, the bright and early mornings, and THE FOOD!  Meals cooked over an open fire just have a certain flavor one cannot achieve indoors no matter how it’s prepared.

As an adult, I have spent countless summers out in the woods with either my Girl Scout troop or my Preteen Sunday school class.  Everything was cooked over a fire, over a coffee can, inside a coffee can, or inside a whiskey box covered entirely with foil!

There were a couple mishaps along with way–like the time the fire shifted and our spaghetti toppled over, or the time the brown paper bag with our eggs and bacon caught fire and became a massive torch, or the time the sun was not nearly as hot as we would have liked and our chocolate chip cookies took an entire day to bake in the whiskey box!

But mostly, it’s been wonderful eating in a gorgeous setting with loads of laughter, tons of thanks, and many great adult friends to work beside.  Some of my fondest memories are from trust hikes, but that’s another blog!

My friends Sharon and Amy reminded me of some of my favorite recipes the other day so I thought I’d share them here for you to try as you will!

Here are a couple you can try at home–outdoors of course!

Tacos in a Bag:

You will need small individual size bags of Doritos (regular flavor), lean ground beef cooked perfectly over your wood fire, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and hot sauce to suit.  Open your bag of Doritos and then crunch them up while they are still inside the bag.  Add two tablespoons of beef, lettuce and tomato and hot sauce, hold the bag closed and shake, shake, shake!  Open bag and eat!  These are excellent tacos plus clean up is the pot you cooked the beef in and the utensils.  Snap!

Omelets in a Bag (seeing a pattern here):

You’ll need heavy duty freezer zipper bags (1 quart size), eggs, crumbled, precooked sausage, salt and pepper to taste, and shredded cheese.  Open your zipper bag and crack two eggs into it, add crumbled sausage, shredded cheese, salt and pepper to taste.  Close zipper bag–making certain it is sealed perfectly–then shake, shake, shake until eggs are scrambled.  Place the zipper bag in a pot of boiling water for 12 minutes.  Remove bag from water, open, and toss omelet onto plate.  Eat and enjoy!  In a large group, this fast and easy breakfast insures that everyone eats together instead of waiting for each omelet to cook.

These are so good and so easy, I have made them on a Saturday morning on the stove.  No mess, no fuss, no left overs, either!

Milkshake in a Bag (definitely see that pattern, now, don’t ya):

You’ll need (per milkshake) one cup cold milk, 1/2 cup cream, 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract, and flavoring to suit–like chocolate sauce–2 zipper bags (1 one-gallon and 1 half-gallon).  Mix milk, cream, vanilla, and chocolate sauce in the 1/2 gallon zipper bag and seal shut–making certain it’s sealed perfectly–place inside gallon bag and surround with ice.  Add a dash of salt over the ice and seal shut.  Next, shake, shake, shake the bags until mixture is thick and frothy.  Pour into a glass and enjoy!  This tasty treat is especially fun as kids find creative ways to shake their bags!

Foil Dinners (nope, no bag for this one, just a pouch):

Per dinner you’ll need two sheets of heavy duty foil, one section of the weekly newspaper dipped in water, but not dripping wet.  Place wet newspaper between two sheets of heavy duty foil.  In center of foil place 8-10 cubes stewing beef or chunks of fresh chicken, 10-15 chunks cut raw potato, some onion, carrots, celery, and season salt, salt and pepper.  Gather two ends of the foil together above the center and roll down to seal top , forming a pouch.  roll each side in toward the center and scrunch tightly together to seal pouch.  Place each pouch inside hot coals from campfire checking after 15 minutes to see if veggies and beef or chicken are cooked to perfection.  Eat right out of foil pouch.  Only cleanup are the utensils!  This meal was such a hit with my Girl Scouts they took it home to their parents who made it on the grill, placing the pouches beneath the charcoal.

And finally–Breakfast Muffins:

You’ll need whole oranges and Jiffy muffin mix.  Cut the top off of each orange and scoop out until orange peel is clean and without any holes.  Save scooped orange to eat with muffin later.  Prepare Jiffy muffin mix and fill each orange 3/4 full.  Replace orange top.  Carefully wrap with foil and set oranges on hot coals.  “Bake” for 10 minutes and check muffin with toothpick.  Replace on coals if not quite done.  Eat muffin right out of orange peel.  Only cleanup are the utensils!  These muffins are incredible and packed with natural flavor, but feel free to add cranberries or blueberries or whatever fruit you’ll like and enjoy!

I wish I had photos of each to share, but I hope you’ll be adventurous enough to try the recipes out!

Until next time…happy eating!

Take care,

Valerie

Wow!

WOW—is summer ever lasting a long time here. We have been in the high 80’s low 90’s for almost all of September. I’d love to be outside working really hard on the yard but wouldn’t you know, this is the year the house decided to “spring a leak” and we have some major repairs.

That was after I had decided I’d paint the house this year and the barn!! Of course, this happened while we were on vacation, the hot water pipe no less, and we came home to a “dip” in the floor. Needless to say we have been busy fixing the floor. Decided to do the utility and bathroom while we were at it (just one more little project). They will be here to put the floor down in those two rooms Friday and do the counter top, but the carpet—now that’s another story.

I picked carpet that isn’t even on the production line yet so I have to wait until mid-to-late October for it to get here. I fell in love with the carpet when I saw it and I just couldn’t find anything I liked better. Oh well, bare floors are “different”.

Meanwhile, we are in the middle of fall softball and we have a, just turned 8-year-old granddaughter, playing U10. Really fun and a little slow after watching her sister play high school and tournament ball but we are adjusting. Sunday she got to pitch her very first game, so of course I had to show you a picture. She was so excited and told us she thought she did pretty good for her first time, we had to agree.

Just got a call from my son reminding me that I am going to Disneyland with them in November. Pretty exciting but I think Jamie thinks Grandma will go on all the rides with her—not sure about that. First I have to get on the airplane—for me that’s major!! But my granddaughter has been planning this trip for the last two years so too late to back out now. I’m sure I’ll have a great time once I get down there, Jim refuses to go, but then I have to get back on that plane and come home. I have a couple of months to get my nerves in gear so I’ll be ok—right now all I can say is YIKES!!!

Hope you are all having as marvelous a fall (well almost fall) as we are.

Trees and More Trees- or Should I Say Less Trees?

This past Saturday, we rode over to our river/lake property in Alabama to mark the trees that need to come down so we can start building the cabin our son is designing for us. I’m excited to get started but we have to clear some of the trees before we can get the land ready. I hate to knock them over since many of them have been around longer than me. There are a few that have damage and would have to come down anyway, but there are some that their only sin is that they are in the way of the house. We are going to let the paper mill have the pines so they will at least be repurposed and used. I like that.

I took some pictures while we were out there. A couple of them are trees that had the bark peeling on them. I loved the textures of those and was sure to mark some of them as keepers.

One of them had some lightning damage and sap had oozed out and clumped on the bark. It was nasty-looking but I took a couple of shots of that one as well.

The trees in the water are particular favorites of mine. They are definitely staying as well as the oaks hanging over the water.

Here’s several of the photos. I hope you enjoy them. I hope it’s cooling off for everyone as well. It’s still in the low 90s here but the humidity is lower and I can sense fall is coming.

The Great Train Robbery of 2012

My husband and I just got back from a road trip to Canada. Three things made this trip memorable.

First, we stayed at a wonderful B&B. It had a claw-foot tub in the bathroom. I LOVE claw-foot tubs. They are so comfortable. Heritage House in Canada was beautifully appointed with lovingly collected antiques and family heirlooms. Gabby, the owner, is Irish, friendly, and helpful. And did I mention the claw-foot tub? Ahhh!  For anyone in the vicinity of Summerland, B.C.,  click here to see more information on Gabby’s Heritage House B&B.

Second, the primary reason we went was for a steam train ride aboard engine 3716, which celebrated 100 years of service this year. My husband’s a bit of a steam-freak. To make it even more fun, we signed up for the Great Train Robbery and BBQ. Summerland is a small community where Gabby says “you can see two 85-year-olds walking down the street hand in hand.” It also has a lot of orchards. Apple, cherry, peach, and grapes. So the vistas we saw as we traveled along the rails were amazing.

Then, at the end, they were set to switch the engine (move it from one end of the train to the other) when robbers came screaming up on horseback, shooting (blanks) and hollerin’ about this bein’ a robbery. I’m telling you, it almost felt real. The outfits were period appropriate, the blanks sounded real to my ear, and the hollerin’ sure sounded authentic. They boarded the train and “robbed” us all. We did know in advance about this and that the monies collected go to several local charities. At the end, they all rode off shootin’ into the sunset as the “sheriff” bemoaned his fate…alas, he couldn’t get his gun out of the holster. lol. It was fun times.

The last piece of this trip turned out to be somewhat worrisome. We’d heard there had been thunder and lightening storms two nights earlier and we saw the evidence as we drove through eastern Washington State. Plumes of smoke rose in several places as fires claimed more of the land. It was a bit nerve-wracking, especially when one of the fires was directly in our path. As we drove down the highway, we started to see more of a haze in the air. And blackened earth around us. Then, we saw firefighters working on a blaze near a home. And more firefighters and fire-spotters along the road. We began to wonder if the road would be open all the way through. Mind you, this is a two-lane state highway, not a little back road.

I didn’t get nervous until we saw what I can only describe as a wall of brown smoke in front of us. We drove into a sepia-colored world, but still had enough visibility to keep our speed fairly close to normal. When we got close to the one tunnel we needed to go through, I almost hit the brakes and turned around. There was fire on the hillside immediately above the tunnel and ash in the air. You can’t see it too well in this picture, but it’s there. If you click on the picture, it’ll bring up a larger copy and you’ll see the fire.

As quick as we entered this surreal world, though, we were out of it. On the other side of the tunnel, the air cleared and there was no fire around us. We continued to watch the smoke trails around us for another fifty or so miles before we left them behind and crossed the pass to the western side of the state.

So, we’ve had adventures aplenty, but are home safe and sound and done with trips for a while. Time to focus on the home front for a while. I hope, as this Summer transitions to Fall, you’ve all had a chance to spend time with friends and family in the sunshine.