Saturday, July 31

Furry Flight Engineer

Today was definitely a fun day, because my wonderful canine companion had his first flight ever! Upon approaching my instructor's Cessna Skyhawk, Arthas noticed it had wheels, which meant this mechanical construct moved, and he was more than eager to jump into the back seat. Jamie was ready and happy to be my co-pilot, and after a thorough inspection of the best geared 172 I have ever seen, we were off to play in the pattern so that my skills in my next training craft could be enhanced.

What a plane! That recently overhauled engine was pulling that craft into the sky. Full fuel in long range tanks, all kinds of gear in the cargo hold, two adults, and a 40 pound border collie, and that plane was still light as a feather.

Arthas didn't know what to think upon that first take-off as the ground shrank and fell away beneath his padfeet, but he quickly realized that he could herd every sheep on the planet from this vantage point. Whenever I could spare a second to turn around, my eyes beheld a very happy puppy.
Nice picture here, where he was looking back at the airport . . . probably spotted the Jeep!
It was a good day to fly. Not a cloud below 25,000 feet, a slight breeze to tease you on touchdown, and good people to chat with at the local General Aviation airstrip.

Monday, July 26

Unbelievable Find

Once upon a time, before Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, Ms. Manners, and Dear Abby, there was Isabella Beeton. Mrs. Beeton was the ultimate domestic goddess of the victorian era. For decades, women were given two books when they married: a Bible, and Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management. It was commonly assumed that they would encounter nothing in married life for which they would not find instruction in one of those two texts.

Understandbly, I was fascinated and wanted to get my hands on a copy. That's when I discovered something very disheartening; the "updated version" popularly available has had everything of use and interest edited out and the original version runs in the $300+ range. While it baffles me how a book so frequently printed and purchased could be so hard to find, all the bookstore owners and antique store proprietors I spoke to agreed: my only chance of finding such a book would be finding someone who didn't know what they had.

So while I continued to search, and my mom generously agreed to look while she was out and about, I didn't hold out much hope. So when she said she had a suprise for me and handed me a real original copy of Mrs. Beeton's I was stunned!! And delighted. And amazed. Even more so when she told me what a steal it was! She definitely found someone who didn't know what they had!

Yes, that is a complete calf's head in the illustration on the right. Some of the recipes in the book are wild! It's going to take a while to read, but the sheer breadth of information covered is incredible. Besides a comprehensive cookbook, it contains a primer on legal documents, a broad medical reference section, a handbook on managing household staff and a full guide to manners and hostessing for any social occasion you can think of. I am so excited to have my own copy!

I'll hold off on bubbling any more, since I'm sure they'll be lots more bubbling as I work my way through. In the meantime, lest everyone think I've nothing to do but leisure reading, I confess I've spent most of yesterday and today in the kitchen.

On the left is the beginnings of all natural vanilla extract. (Yes, I know. Bad picture makes it look like an alien in a bottle, but I promise it's not.) When it's done steeping, I will have 100% authentic vanilla extract at 1/10th the cost of the commercial equivalent. Whoo hoo!On the right is canned eggplant. At 75c a piece, the eggplant I picked up at the farmer's market on Saturday was unbeatable. Now it's safely canned up, ready to go into pasta, bruchetta, veggie lasagne or any number of other goodies this winter. Still waiting to be canned are peaches, strawberries, plums, onions and green beans. Thank goodness I'm married to a patient man who doesn't mind my playing in the kitchen!

Friday, July 23

Pears, Anyone?

I don't suppose anyone has an extra peck of pears lying around... but if you do, send them to me!! Wednesday marked the end of the official marinating period for pickled pears I canned last month, so last night we cracked open the first jar.

It was heavenly. And sinful.

And the scant three jars I have remaining in the pantry are certainly not going to last, so now I'm on the hunt for more pears!

After the delectable pears, I thought I'd try my hand at madness. If you've ever wondered what madness looks like, I must tell you that it's both beautiful and addicting. And it comes in the form of Flying Geese quilt blocks. Like this one. Fortunately, there are only four such blocks in the quilt I'm making. While part of me thinks it would be incredible to make an entire quilt of them, my brain seizes in terrified panic at the thought. So, for now, it's enough to appreciate them as a small part of my quilt.

Finally, on a random note, I called a friend of mine in New Hampshire to chat. Guess where she was? The Night of 1,000 Cupcakes!! How fun is it than an entire town (Jaffrey, NH) picks one night a year to do a cupcake festival? Free to everyone, with literally thousands of cupcakes to enjoy, contests for professionally decorated cupcakes and artwork raffles on a warm summer night among friends. Why does New England have all the good festivals? Seriously. New York needs to get on the stick - skip the state fair, and let's get some real fun going like First Night and Cupcakes!

Tuesday, July 20

Antique Aeroplane Education

Today is a wonderful day, because I have received my Tailwheel Endorsement on my pilot's license!

Tailwheel aircraft are a different beast compared to tricycle geared airplanes, mainly due to center of gravity, though many other differences abound. In tricycle geared airplanes, the center of gravity is forward of the main gear, and therefore momentum will force the airplane straight if you're not lined up on a runway at touchdown. Tailwheel airplanes require that you "dance" with the rudder pedals to make sure you stay in line with your track of motion, lest the tail of the airplane swings around in front, and many people laugh at you. It's quite an experience, and shows how a lot of piloting skills are lost, due to the tricycle gear's design that uses the laws of physics to make an aircraft more stable on the ground at the cost of more weight, more aerodynamic drag, and more maintenance.

I decided to get this training and endorsement, mainly because I knew my landings could use some refinement that only a taildragger could offer, and also, I love the taildragger design, especially that of the Piper Cub, Helio Courier, and the workhorse of WWII, the DC-3.

It took me forever to find a school that could offer me such a curriculum, but with the help of a fellow neighbor pilot, I stumbled across the Ullman Flight School in Fulton County. One email later, Dave, my Instructor, introduced me to his 1940 Luscombe 8A. 70 years old, no radio, covered with dead bugs that were wandering near an airstrip at the wrong time, and just enough horsepower to get off the ground when at full gross weight. What a fun plane! And after three weeks of sneaking in flight time between the endless barrage of thunderstorms we've had all summer, I got signed off. It took less than I thought, but I found a really good instructor that was more out to mentor me than place a few hundred bucks in his wallet. And the picture is no joke. It was preferred that I fly barefooted, so that I could have a better feel for the rudder's control. Sometimes less is more.

I really enjoyed this training, and will definitely be flying "Luscombe 734" again soon! Preferably with clearer skies.

Monday, July 19

Ren Faire Fun

So, we forgot to take the camera into the Faire with us, but managed to get a picture snapped at the end of the day still in our garb. If you have never been to the Ren Faire, you must go! So much fun. Really, how can you not love a place whose motto is "If you can't enjoy yourself, enjoy someone else"?! As usual, Eric indulgently allowed me to get my hair braided by the miracle workers at the Faire who can do all the amazing braids you see in the likes of Braveheart and Robin Hood.

On the homefront, I finally have pictures of my quilting! We've finished enough blocks that we can start to lay them out and see what the quilt will look like when it's done. The very bright colors I picked compliment each other well, and are not nearly as overwhelming together as I was afraid they might be. As you can see from the gaps this isn't sewn together, just laid out and with the blocks we haven't done yet missing. It's a pattern my instructor wrote just for our class to cover all the basics, and I love it!

From the Kitchen: We cracked open the watermelon pickles for the first time today and they're very yummy! So if you eat watermelon this summer, take the extra couple minutes to pickle the rind! Whether you usually like oatmeal or not, check out Creme Brulee Style Oatmeal on It was super easy, really good and a nice change for breakfast. Also, when it gets to the point in the summer where people are trying to give away zucchini, take all you can get! Then turn it into Zucchini Cobbler. You will never, ever be able to tell it isn't apple crisp! (Hint: if you have more freezer space than I do, you can also shred the zucchini and freeze it for use during the holidays when it's crisp and pie season and the cost of apples is at a premium!)

Preparedness: There's a fascinating debate going on right now on the blog of the amazing Patrice Lewis about whether stocking up and being prepared for potential disasters is a tenant of the Christian doctrine or a sin within it. Some of us, with Katrina and other disasters still in mind, feel it's both our right and our responsibility to stock up on basic supplies (and self defense) and be prepared to weather out whatever happens as much as it lies within our power to do so. (There are some eloquent and informed arguments for such a mindset on Patrice's blog if you aren't familiar with the subject.) It seems there are some *ahem* - people - and I use that word loosely, who feel it violates Christian priciples to prepare for more than just the next season of the year that you're in. Doing any more asserts your lack of faith and failure to trust in God's provision. If you're looking for some interesting material or good debate points for the foolish and "holier-than-though-hineys" in your life, check it out! :0)

$400 in shoes

Quick point of advice. I never bothered to change my paypal login password since I first opened the account nearly ten years ago. That password was hacked yesterday, and I checked my email this morning to see that my account had added a mailing address, and purchased over 400 bucks in shoes from an internet store! After a tense morning, I was able to resolve this issue, and my accounts are safe again.

Lesson learned: Change your internet passwords more often than once every ten years!

And to the delinquent in Richmond, Virginia: BUSTED!

Friday, July 16

Preparing the Day

The Passionate Homemaking blog recently posted a short but poignent article on How To Prepare the Day. Although it was prompted by the idea of preparing the day for our children, I believe it applies equally well to preparing the day for ourselves. Worth reading and taking to heart for all of us.

Thursday, July 15

Time Flies

Somehow, much more time has slipped by without me updating this blog than intended. What can I say, summer is a busy time!

Eric and I have made a couple of our annual treks recently, which I'm sure has something to do with it. First up, we headed to Lake Champlain for more wheat. I distressingly ran out of hard red wheat (the kind that grinds up into bread flour) and spent about a week and a half trying to figure out how you write a menu that doesn't contain bread before we finally got out there! Now I am happy to report that we're stocked back up and bread has returned to our menu in some delicious new ways! Incidentally, starting from scratch meant lots of time spent grinding flour... and not blogging. *sigh* (The picture, incidentally, is Champ. He's the Lake Champlain monster and shows up on the wheat bags. So adorable!)

Secondly, we did our annual Finger Lakes Winery Tour. As usual, it was self-guided. As it has been a long time since we hit the Seneca Lake shores (a long time since we've been wine-ing at all, actually), we decided to head there. I am pleased to report that we discovered several pleasant places we hadn't been before and came home with a handful of crisp, fruity new vintages. As a reference for anyone else looking to head for the wine trails, we found one of our longstanding opinions to still be holding true: Seneca Lake wineries have some of the most casual and least attentive or professional staff of all the lakes. The quality restaurant experiences are also vastly reduced. Those don't have to be problems, but it helps to know ahead of time! Also a word to those looking to spend a day relaxing on the lake - many wineries are dog friendly! They may not advertise it, but if you ask many will allow you to bring well behaved furry companions inside or to walk along the lush vineyard edges.

We also headed to Giant Mountain for a hike. We'd hoped to do more hiking this summer, but the weather has not been cooperative to say the least. Giant Mt. is out past Lake George and, like most NYS hiking trails, does not particularly feel the need to conform to the distances or formation marked out on trail maps - lol! We had a good time anyway until I decided that I'd had my fill of sheer rock faces that turn 90* angles with nothing to hold on to. Seriously, if you slip on one of those you're going head first down the mountain with no way to catch yourself until it's way too late. Who considers that a trail? Oh wait... border collies with four pad feet firmly planted on the rock face and their invincible daddies... *sigh* My boys were all set to keep going, but apocolypse boots or not I decided I was done. They were very nice about it and we agreed to try the other trail up the mountain next time in hopes of better luck. That or I'll just up my insurance policy and rewrite my will before we try again!

My quilting class is turning out to be phenominal! They have fabric covered walls in the classroom so you can put your finished squares on the wall and see what your quilt will look like when it's finished. We put mine up last class and it looks amazing! So excited! More pictures on that after I finish my "homework" for this week - nine block patches. They warned us that this can turn into an addictive hobby, and I absolutely agree. I'm hooked!

Most of the rest of this non-blogging time has been spent in the kitchen. I learned how to make whole wheat tortillas from scratch; it's so easy I wish I'd learned ages ago! You can find the recipe I used here. I made limoncello (lemon liquor) from scratch; vastly cheaper than buying it and quite delicious. An excellent hostess gift and convenient because the recipe makes a generous amount and a little goes a long way. Other new recipes we liked were Soaked Dutch Babies, Stuffed Zucchini and homemade mayo! Seriously, stop buying mayo stuffed with preservatives. It's super fast, cheap and easy to
make your own! I also made homemade lasagna noodles and fettucine. Yum! The bounty coming in from the CSA has been impressive, and we have to do very little grocery shopping. I could never have anticipated how fiscally rewarding this CSA adveture would be - there's no way we could have gotten the equivalent amount of product a la carte from farmer's markets for what we paid up front. I got adventurous with the beans they sent and canned up a batch of spicy green beans. I love my canner!

Incidentally, I'm systematically reviewing all the canning/dehydrating/preserving resources I can get my hands on. I've begun constructing a chart of their relative usefulness, content and helpful notes that I"ll publish here in the fall (end of the canning season). If you have any resources you recommend, please pass them on! If you would like a sneak peak at the chart for your own reference, drop me a line and I'll send you what I have. Kudos to my parents who succumbed to our bad influence and bought a dehydrator! If you don't own one yet, hurry up! This is the best time of year to stock up on produce and preserve it for the winter!

If anyone else is spending lots of time in the kitchen, check out Raising Homemakers' Kitchen Secrets. There was some great stuff in there I didn't know but I'm glad I do now!

Have you ever wondered why Amelia Earheart or Charles Lindbergh was considered an aviator but modern flyers are called pilots? I recently learned that it has to do with how they fly - aviators actively fly until until their plane has reached a complete stop. That's a necessity with tail-dragger airplanes, which were the standard in pre-WWII planes. Post WWII, tricycle gear (the modern standard) became prevalent and landing and taxi-ing became easier. People flying the newer model generated the nomenclature "pilots". Why does this matter? Because my handsome husband has begun earning his aviator endorsement! This beautiful plane, while not the exact one he's flying, is the same model - a Luscombe A8. They haven't been manufactured since the 40's, but are still flying! Amazingly, they have no electrical systems! No built in radios, GPS, or anything else electrically regulated. Eric is having a fantastic time and has been blessed to find a wonderful flight instructor willing to teach him the art of flying tail-draggers.

Any other random info from the homefront. From the reading pile: "Waste: Uncovering The Global Food Scandal" had great promise and a good concept, but got lost under the ponderous weight of it's facts, figures and caveats. I didn't finish it. "Last Child In The Woods" was also well intentioned, and intially interesting, but belabored it's point long past a reasonable conclusion, meandering into unneccessary and fruitless territory. Skim it or skip it. I watched three food documentaries and they were all vast disappointments: "Good Food, Good Business", "Food Beware" and "King Corn". My politely scathing reviews are available on amazon if you would like details. :0p

I keep reminding myself I need to be gentle with my reviews because I'm writing my first book. It's on long distance relationships, which I think I'm pretty qualified to expound upon... ;0) I've got a good start, but if you have experience with long distance or know someone who does, please send your thoughts or their contact info my way!
I think that pretty much covers everything that's new here. Sorry for the long post!

Saturday, July 3

Hodge Podge

First up: book reviews! Two phenominal books that need to be on everyone's reading list - Diabetes Rising and The Unhealthy Truth. They will rock your mind. Lower on the priority list, but also an excellent read is Hunting Eichman, about the search and capture operation that brought Nazi Holocaust engineer Adolf Eichman to justice years after he escaped postwar Germany and resettled under a new identity in Argentina.

Also, if your library doesn't offer NetLibrary start petitioning for it now! A free online service you can sign up for with a valid library card, NetLibary offers hundreds of ebook titles downloadable to your computer or portable device (iPod). The titles auto-return themselves at the end of the set period (21 days), so there's no waiting for titles to come in from other libraries or racking up overdue fees! I usually have something playing in the background while I'm cooking (and now while I'm quilting) and it's a great way to keep both hands and mind productive!

Next up: recipes! For a couple years now I've sworn by Bolthouse Farms' "Green Goodness" drink. Despite several people's gagging at the sight of it (yes, I know it looks like liquified seaweed), it tastes fantastic and is madly good for you. Unfortunately, it is also expensive. So imagine my joy when I discovered the make-your-own recipe on the Passionate Homemaking Blog (where I borrowed this nifty picture from, incidentally)! After getting kale in our CSA bag on Thursday, I whipped up a Green Smoothie this morning and it was delicious! So now I share the recipe with you - enjoy! (Also, if you like Uno's Rattlesnake Pasta, hop over to Recipezaar and pick up the recipe - it's a perfect copycat!)

More good news: if you like to can, check out these reusable canning lids! Unlike the standard lids which can usually be reused a couple times, but are really designed to be disposable, these lids are designed to be reused up to 20 times! Reviewed here by the amazing Patrice Lewis, they are worth passing along to anyone you know who's serious about putting up the summer's bounty.

For anyone who uses Mary Kay products, make sure your consultant tells you about the newest updates to our corporate recycling program! We're now taking flip tops (from hand cream, cleansers, moisturizers, etc.) and the plastic shells (that eyeshadow or blush comes in) for recycling! More on that as the program rolls out further.

Last but not least, HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY! Have a picnic, watch some fireworks, and be very, very thankful that you are an American!