Ode to Bonnie, and Labrador Love

 

On January 3rd 2011 I had to put my dog Bonnie to sleep. She had been my companion for almost 14 years, from the time she was 5 months old. Considering a friend of mine gave her to me only a couple of months after I arrived in this country in 1998, she was a constant presence for most of what I know to be my “adult” life. It happen very suddenly, she went from normal to slowing down in about a week. The irony is that I had a doctor’s appointment for her that same fateful day. I thought she was developing arthritis, and wanted to see if the vet could prescribe something to ease her pain. When I got home from work with my then 3 year old son, and she could barely breathe, I know something was terribly, terribly wrong.

I had vowed to myself not to get another animal ever. Besides the pain and the life changes after her death I have to consider the reality of both my husband and I working full time, having a young child, and a pretty crazy routine. For a very long time I could “hear” the sound of nails in the hardwood floor, and I would jump out of my bed in a very specific way so not to step on her. After almost 14 years I realized I was as conditioned to her as she had been to me. I’m not the kind of person that compares dog companionship with human companionship. Dogs (thanks be to God for that one) are NOT humans. That’s to me is the beauty of a relationship with a canine friend. Bonnie was not my “child”, but she stuck with me through the worst times and the best ones in the 14 years I had been in this country. There is no way to deny the connection of affection, and the bond between a human and a dog, and she knew when I was in distress and never left my side. If that’s not friendship, I don’t know what is.

After one year I now find myself dog sitting for a friend.

 

So gorgeous!

Out of the blue. I overheard him in need of finding her a place to stay because he was leaving in a couple of days, and because my son talks about Bonnie a lot I thought it would be good for him to have a dog around. I realized how much my son misses, and remembers, Bonnie. Small details, like the color of her favorite bone, which for the life of me I cannot understand how could he remember. The impact Bree (the name of the gentle Yellow Lab girl we’re hosting) has had in Kaiden, and in me, has left me wondering if I’ll be able to keep my vow… My son has shown a wonderful ability to handle a relatively large dog, and is completely in love with her. As you can see from the pictures, it’s not very hard to fall in love with her. Add to her great looks one of the best personalities I’ve ever seen in a dog and voila, I find myself looking at Lab Rescue websites… Must pray about this one!

Really good friends!

Crabapple Jelly Experiments

Last year my FIL took a tiny crabapple from my neighbor’s tree and ate it. I had no idea what that was, so I went online to make sure he would not be poisoned by it. I “discovered” that not only crabapples are not poisonous, but they also make delicious jelly! I was able to make about 4 half pint jars, which were eaten so quickly it did not even get to the end of the summer. My little one loved it so much he wanted to eat out of the jar with a spoon… so this year I eagerly waited for the little pretties to be ready.

My mom, my son and I got our first batch about 4 weeks ago. I found several recipes online, and they typically call for a 3 to 4 ratio of sugar to “juice” (4 cups of prepared juice to 3 cups of sugar.) Although I still think it’s delicious, my husband had I good point saying it is too sweet, and that the fresh tart flavor of the crabapple disappears. The other thing that got me thinking was the correct proportion of cut up fruit to water. You see it’s a ton of work to cup up each and every one of the little apples, so I was trying to get the most out of a batch. Up to then I was using a little over 1 to 1 ratio, or just enough water to cover the cut up fruit. One important thing I feel strongly about is that you really need to cut up the fruit to expose the seeds. Crabapple jelly does not require pectin because the fruit has enough of it to gel, and the source of pectin is the seeds. You need to expose them so that when the fruit boils it releases enough of it. I’ve read about some people that let the thing boil so much that the fruit literally disintegrates (so they don’t have to cut up the fruit), but I prefer to cut it because 90% of the time when they look bad on the outside there’s nothing wrong inside and I can use it. But the only way to know is cutting it in half. Personally, despite being a pain, I find it worth the effort.

So for my first batch I did use the “traditional” recipe, but for my second try I made a small batch with 4 cups of  prepared juice, and only one and a half cup of sugar. I added double of the amount of fruit of water to prepare the juice, and boiled the fruit for about 45 minutes. The juice was strained in cheese cloth overnight. The following day the juice went back on the pot until boiling, I added the sugar and let it simmer until the mix reached the 220 degrees called for in the original recipe and the jelly came out perfect!

So from now on I will use the 4 to 1 ratio. The last thing I found out is that the biggest batch I will make from now on is 12 cups of juice. More than that it take forever for the temperature to reach 220 degrees, and by the time it does the jelly becomes really dark. My final recipe is 12 cups of juice, 4 cups of granulated sugar, the juice and peel of one lemon. Let it boil until the thermometer reads 220 degrees. Fill the prepared jars, give them a good bath, let it cool completely, and voila! Enjoy the best jelly you’ll ever taste!

Living on a Prayer…

I have been out for a very good reason.  A few weeks ago my Pastor casually mentioned that she was thinking about reviving the Prayer Shawl Ministry in our church. Immediately my mom and started working on shawls to fit that purpose… When I was around 5 years old a neighbor started to teach my mom how to crochet. She taught her the very basic chain stitch, single and double crochets and how to apply it to a very simple triangular shawl. That winter I recall my mom crocheting 3 of them. I have very fond memories of my mom working on the shawl, while at the same time I worked on attaching the fringes. I’ve always been very interested in crafts, and my mom always found a way to allow me to participate and help her. She never let me feel that my participation was an interruption of her crafting moments. Rather I’ve always felt that she appreciated my interest in what she was doing, and in doing so my love of crafts only grew with time. So at 5 she also taught me the very basics she had learned.

 I really did not take to the craft tough, and knitting quickly became my main activity about a year after the crochet episode. But the shawls gave me enough knowledge that I could use it to add small details to finish my knitted pieces. Crochet always bought back the happy memories of me working at my mother’s feet, and the wonderful sense of accomplishment a child gets “helping’ her parents. So when the idea of a Prayer Shawl was put in front of me crochet, not knitting, was my first choice. I pulled my crochet hooks and both mom and I started trying to remember the pattern. As I started to chain and create what I call “little bricks” of double crochet and spaces it felt like time had not passed at all.

The shawls were displayed to the congregation

We have completed 7 so far. Mom has made 5… She is one of the most prolific crafters I know once she becomes interested in something. I will write the pattern, which will be offered on the blog and at my church’s webiste.

The blue one has found a home with a wonderful lady It is a privilege to make them...

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

It is a privilege to make them...

What a weekend!

Oh my what a busy, and blessed weekend that was! I’m glad I was able to Saturday morning for myself, even though it was due to my time faux pas! After my son woke up we all had breakfast and my mom and I headed to the Common to meet a friend and her two boys so that they could play with Kaiden in the Carnival. It always amazes me the amount of rides they are able to have in one relatively small place. We got Kaiden a wrist band that allowed him to go in all the rides as many times as he wanted. The kid is fearless… His favorite ones are the “extreme” ones with lots of twists and turns. He still has the height limitation in the more potentially dangerous ones (thanks be to God for that), but in general there was plenty for him to do. The “Dragon” ride, a kids version of a roller coaster, was one of his favorites!

 

His face says it all...

 I went back at 7 (the PM seven this time) to help in the church booth and I had a blast. I could never imagine how popular pretzels are. I was in charge of stocking the pretzel machine, and I did not have more than a minute of idle time while there. The night went by so fast, and I had so much fun that I signed up to work on Monday also, from 11 to 2. In general I was able to do a little bit of everything, including a lot of work for the store. I have been working on a line of custom bases for a long time, something I could make from repurposed materials, but that the engineering could be reproduced over and over in different scenarios since I’m never sure I will find the same piece again. I’m finally there, and should be listing my new creations soon! I hope you guys also had a wonderful long weekend!

Early morning and getting the time right…

I’ve a had super productive day so far, and it’s only 8:30 am. I signed up to volunteer at my church’s booth at our city Commons for the 4th of July celebrations. I picked the time from 7 to 10… Being Brazilian, I was raised on the 24 hour system, and it absolutely baffles me that 13 years later I still mess up the am/pm thing. I got up at 6:20, got dressed, ate something and left. Everything in the Common and at my church was quiet. Then it hit me that I probably signed up for the 7-10 PM spot… Oh well, can’t waste a quiet morning when everyone else in the house, including the little man, is still asleep!

I dropped off a couple orders in the mail, came back home and took a lot of pictures of the latest items I’ve drilled, and some of the vintage china I plan on listing on the Etsy shop. I was also able to redo a the photographs for a couple of items that I was not happy with. AND I included some of the cutest crocheted cupcakes Jean from QuiltedCupcake made for me as a custom order. I’ve also done a lot of work organizing the store, my files and now I write this post. Can’t wait for the rest of the day! Have a wonderful day yourself!

Just adorable!I just love the 50's vibe of this one!

I love the off center hole, you can place a big cupcake!

The Orchard…The Lost Post!

While doing some cleaning up on the posts I noticed I had two on the orchard… this is the one I started writing and thought I had lost… it ended up as a draft! So here it goes with the links for the info I’m using to build the orchard. The picture of the cherry trees is really damaged… I will take some some over the weekend.

 

Well, what will hopefully be one in the future… This is one of my columnar apples full of what could have been baby apples:

My columnar apple tree

This is one of two I bought at the end of fall last year. I am very lucky to live about 15 minutes from one of the best nurseries in New England, Weston Nurseries. All of the fruit trees were 50% off, so I got my two columnars and hoped for the best that they would survive the winter. They were in a corner of my backyard. We had so much snow that I could only see the tip of the taller one (about 6 feet tall), while the littel one about 5 feet) was completely buried…

To my relief not only they both survived, but they are thriving! I will not allow fruit to develop, as I want them to use all of their energy into establishing themselves.

I also got a series of bare root trees from Raintree Nursery online. They were supposed to be dormant, bu I got them full of leaves, and the cherries and Centennial Crabapple flowered! I am doing the high density planting experiment, carefully explained in the Dave Wilson Nursery.  I have 3 tart cherry trees in one hole! I need to clean up the growth on the rootstock portion of one of the trees, but in general they look amazing!

The Weekend Party (and drama!)

I have not posted the results of my freezer jam experiment because my Friday and weekend were completely absorbed by something really important, my son’s 4th birthday party! This was the first real party he’s had, so he was beyond excited. Last year we were under piles of boxes because of the move, and had no energy (and no money) to have anything but a small cake and only family. But of course Murphy’s law being one true fact of life,  displayed itself in all its glory this time around… The party had already been reschedule due to the weather. New England, as most of the country, has been hit hard with heavy rain. Thank God nothing as serious as in many parts of the country, but certainly enough to dampen, no pun intended, any plans for a backyard party. We had lost about half of our guests with the rescheduling, but as the days grew closer to the new date the weather just kept getting worse. The really annoying thing is that it’s almost the end of June, and we’re talking about not only rain, but also really chilly weather. We’ve been having lows 50’s at night!

What says "PARTY" better than a 15' moonwalk?

It poured all night long on Friday, and until around 7:30 Saturday morning. My husband, my mom, my MIL and I were beyond panicking at that point. I went off to get the cake and the food, and they stayed home waiting for the moonwalk and the food machines. When I get to the bakery I realized the woman put the wrong order, so we got the wrong cake… Of course my son loved it anyway, he has no idea about the original plan. But I paid for a Thomas 3D cake, made with fondant, and got a buttercream, plain sheet cake style with some, pardon my language here, stupid decor. What breaks my heart and makes me angry is knowing that the bakery was equipped to make the cake I wanted, and (even bitter to me) I could have made the cake I wanted.

On top of everything the food machines arrived in the filthiest condition possible… The popcorn machine looked like the glass was yellow and not clear. The hot dog steamer was even worse, and I dare not describe it. The shaved ice was OK, but of course it got a major scrubbing from us. It took almost 3 hours to clean everything. Needless to say we will never use this company again.

The big hit with the kids: the chocolate fountain!

 In the end though the weather turned out just perfect. It was not too hot, and we had sunshine and blue sky! All of the kids and their parents enjoyed themselves, and we enjoyed spending time with good friends and family. Despite all, I am looking forward to having another party next year! My friend Diane was talking to my son and she comes to me smiling telling me that he said “My mom made me the perfect party!” What else could I hope for?

 As for the freezer jam, I do want to post a quick, but proper review this week. AND… I was also able to take a bunch of pictures for the Etsy store, and just listed this one this morning!

I love this one... then again, I love them all!