Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving impressions

Over the river and through the woods we went yesterday.  But first, darling husband wanted to stop at the drive thru and get a cup of coffee.  Look who was ordering ahead of us!
The pain in our hearts over our missing loved one mixed with the joy of seeing the rest of the family.  A prayer of thanks to God was made for His blessings and presence. 
There was an abundance of food, good conversation, tears and laughter.  I had my brothers pinpoint on a contour map the woodland destinations we haunted as kids.  We were fortunate to have US Forest Land to roam when we were kids.  There were lots of good memories there.
After sitting for a long drive and sitting for a big meal, I wanted to get outside and walk. 
Saw a bearded fellow with a big knife.
I saw a gorgeous red oak with the sun shining on it, but when I fetched my camera, the clouds had rolled in.  The effect is not nearly the same.  But you can see the handsome form of the tree nonetheless.
Most of the trees except the oaks have shed their leaves.  Here, near the edge of Mom's garden, is a willow oak with yellow leaves that are a remarkably clear color.
Mom has a row of blueberries that can be counted on to be colorful at Thanksgiving.  I took a couple of shots of mine today as I was clearing out some of the underbrush.

After a good day and a long ride, we were about a half hour from home when someone called asking Caleb to help fill in at open mic night at Johnny's on Main.  Instead of going home, we went to Johnny's.  As if we had not eaten enough sweets, we had a piece of ice cream cake to celebrate the birthday of one of the band members. 
I was one tired woman when I got home last night.
It was a good day with lots to be thankful for.


Hickory nuts

To me, one of the sweetest tasting nuts is the hickory nut (pronounced hicker nut in these parts).  It is also one of the most tedious to "pick out."  I engaged in a little tedium this week and picked the tiny meats out of the small hickory nuts that were gathered from the woods several weeks ago.  I probably picked out less than a fourth of a cup. 
I wanted to do something for Thanksgiving with the nut meats, so I modified a recipe and made cheddar, hickory nut, and sage medallions.  With hickory nuts, it is easy to overlook tiny shell fragments.  I wondered if I should make a written warning.  DS said shell fragments are shrapnel.  Hmmm, "Warning: these cheese wafers may contain shrapnel"?  I decided to stick with a little card listing some of the intentional ingredients.  I did find a tiny shell fragment in one of mine.  I hope no one else did.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Indoor foliage

I used to have a job maintaining indoor foliage plants in banks, restaurants, hotels, and even a major university president's office.  One of the plants I would occasionally tend was a bird nest fern.  My sister recently gave me one, the first one I have taken care of for myself.  After spending several weeks outside, it is now occupying a basket on the tray ceiling.  (It's ultra cool to have a tall guy around to help me water the plants up there!)

Fire and ice

One morning last week when we had a heavy frost, the morning sun shone on the red foliage of the blueberry bushes.  Blueberries are a great choice for late fall color.

As I get time, I will try to weed around the bushes through the fall and winter.  The briars, poison ivy, and little saplings have gotten out of control in that area.  I was able to get some of the briars and poison ivy out this summer.  Hopefully, I can finish up the job before next spring.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Some showiness

There is a time for showiness, some pizzazz, some flamboyance.  So I submit to you a picture of my Thanksgiving cactus.  It was given to me a couple of years ago as a gift from my neighbor.  Isn't it pretty?

Oil soap to the rescue (and another domestic triumph)

Housekeeping is definitely not my strong suit, so indulge me while a share what might seem to some a rather mundane entry.  To me it was a triumph.  Our fridge is relatively old and has a textured finish which has collected some grease and grime over the years.  I assumed the little brown flecks on the front were bits of rust showing through.  I also thought the blackness on the handle was permanent since my occasional swipes with a rag or paper towel and dish detergent or cleaner had not changed it.  However, a toothbrush and some original formula Murphy's Oil Soap concentrate poured straight on the brush brought back a new appearance.  I was pleasantly surprised that the brown flecks, whatever they were, also came off.  I will add here, in case it is helpful to anyone, that oil soap also works wonders on the vinyl straps of patio furniture where regular sudsy water just doesn't make a difference.
The other domestic triumph was getting some paint out of a good pair of darling son's jeans.  Bless his heart, he is so like his mother.  Was he painting?  No.  Was he salvaging paint?  No.  He spilled all the paint on his jeans just trying to salvage the little wire handle of the bucket.  I guess the paint was fresh enough that it was softened with the first wash.  Rather than hang the jeans out to dry, I took a toothbrush and some liquid detergent and scrubbed the paint stains vigorously.  I left them wet for a while (few hours), then scrubbed some laundry powder into the stains.  Again, I left that for a while before laundering.  I was pleasantly surprised that the stains came out.
In a world of futility, it's nice to experience a couple of triumphs.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Vestiges of the season

We have a mass of polar air coming in, and I'm desperately clinging to the last vestiges of Indian summer.
I cut some cilantro yesterday that had self seeded from last year's plant.
I took a picture in the backyard a couple of days ago of the final glory of the fall colors (crepe myrtle, dogwood, and sweetgum).

I gathered some of the few flowers that had managed, under the protection of overhanging branches, to still be in bloom...


...for one very last bouquet.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Time for turnips

I pulled a couple of turnips yesterday.  They were small, but I ate one and it was very tasty.  I planted them two months ago.  We are expecting some very cold weather.  I don't know if they can be left in the ground with the local temperatures expected to be 25 ° (maybe a degree or two colder here).
My favorite way to eat them is raw, but I have cooked them a few different ways.  I have roasted them and also deep fried them as chips.  They are better roasted or fried than boiled, I think.  I have cooked them in a pot roast with some carrots and potatoes, and that is a good way to eat them too.
Do you like turnips? 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A fine day

Yesterday turned out to be an unexpectedly fine day.  We were waiting to see if Caleb would be called in to work, and Roger suggested a walk at the local nature preserve (which is one of my favorite places).  The road there always has some of the prettiest fall foliage.  Caleb shot this pic of the yellow leaves of a maple.  They look so pretty against the dark trunk and branches.
We had an invigorating walk at the nature preserve, and enjoyed the pretty scenery there. 
We found out Caleb wouldn't be going in to work, so it was nice to have his company all day.  We went out for lunch; Roger got his free Veterans Day entrĂ©e, and Caleb and I used a gift card that I had been holding since last December. 
Since we had lunched in Wake Forest, afterward I wanted to go to nearby E. Carroll Joyner Park and see if there were any pecans to be scavenged.
(I will insert a side note here about E. Carroll Joyner, the man who donated the land for the park.  He has been a wonderful philanthropist in our area.  His bio indicates he had modest beginnings--selling vegetables and washing cafeteria dishes to pay for college.  He is also an Army veteran.  He established the North Carolina Cattlemen's Foundation, which supports beef cattle research at his alma mater, N.C. State.  I don't know him personally, but I did encounter him once when I was on a farm tour at Steve and Martha Mobley's Meadow Lane Farm.  Mr. Joyner came across as an intelligent, enthusiastic, and just all-around-nice guy.)
The park is absolutely fantastic.  The clouds had cleared and the afternoon sun was lighting up the fall foliage.  There is a huge sycamore on one of the trails.  (I'm a little worried that one of the informative signs which mentions a huge beech tree might actually be referring to the sycamore.)  I had Caleb to take a picture of it in all its bronze and white glory.

There were other trees that were glowing in the afternoon sun.  Here are an oak and hickory.  (Caleb's pics.)

We did find some pecans that the other visitors and squirrels had left.  Caleb entertained himself by throwing a stick into the tree to knock down some of the nuts while Roger took a break in one of the large swings.  Fortunately, Caleb had left a Squidgie disc in the car, and the three of us enjoyed tossing it awhile.
Lots of folks were having family portraits made at the park, and I imposed upon Caleb to take a shot of Roger and me.  (I have selected one which doesn't have Roger with his tongue out.)
I will also add this one, which shows some of the fall colors in the upper right corner of the picture.
As we drove home about sunset, some dark clouds were covering the eastern sky. The setting sun on the trees with the backdrop of clouds made a surreal landscape which Caleb tried to capture with his phone as we rode along.

It was such a lovely, lovely day.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Key to longevity

My grandparents on Mama's side lived to be 97 and 100.  When someone lives to that age, it makes me stop and ask how they maintained their health.  One of the things that stands out is how much physical labor they did.  Grandpa did a lot of walking, too.  I love to look at the terrain feature on Google Maps.  It shows a range of hills near where my grandparents lived.  Grandpa loved to walk "the hills."  I think that kept his heart in good shape.  They eschewed tobacco and alcohol, and I think they gave up coffee in the Depression (an unnecessary expense--they could teach us all a lesson on what it really means to cut costs).  I think about the pastured beef and milk from pastured cows.  But don't be tempted to imagine it was an organic paradise; why, they used DDT to kill bedbugs!  I think about the minerals they got from the homemade sorghum and especially the nutritious turnip greens which they consumed frequently.  There must be something to those greens.  I got around to washing some I had picked, and I cooked them last night.  They just needed a little cornbread, so when we had some of the leftovers at lunch today, I cooked some hushpuppies to go with them.  They were delicious.
Eat your greens!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fall and Indian summer

Here are some pictures around the yard yesterday and today.  The sugar maple has lost almost all its leaves, the little red maple (which has mostly yellow leaves) has lost maybe less than half.  I enjoy seeing the color of the leaves and a few late roses in the fall landscape as well.


Mountain trails and such

We happened upon a few sections of the Mountains to Sea Trail while we were in the mountains in October.  I don't expect to ever hike the whole thing, but I enjoyed walking bits and pieces of the trail that (as it is currently configured) goes by our subdivision in the flatlands.  One section we walked was on the Parkway south of the intersection with US 25 and the other section was at the Parkway Visitors Center north of the intersection with US 74.  (Pictures are from Caleb's phone.  He took all except the one of him.)  The stuffed bear is in the information center.  The last picture is the information center parking lot.  The time we were in the mountains was rainy, but as we were getting ready to come home, the weather was starting to clear up.