TheFreckledFox, my unknown neighbor, and all the others

I know I’m posting a little more often right now, but I don’t feel like I can put this one off, and scheduling it for later just doesn’t seem like the thing to do.

I have been living the last couple weeks in growing solemness.

A little over a week ago, I learned about TheFreckledFox, her husband’s losing fight with cancer, and their 5 young children. Today I learned he passed away, and even though I’m a complete stranger, I’m feeling it in ways I didn’t expect. I’ve heard other cancer stories, and I’ve prayed for the people in them, but for some reason I really felt this one.

Perhaps it’s in part due to the neighbor of ours I don’t know. Three evenings ago I braved the rain to harvest snap peas from the garden, thinking something casual like, “What a nice addition to the dinner salad.” I heard voices coming over the fence, and I saw the grandfather talking to who I think was the granddaughter (maybe high school age?). Another young woman was there, and she seemed tense, steeling herself for something.

A moment later the granddaughter erupted into the most forlorn wails of utter anguish, and I nearly dropped all my snap peas in the wave of agony I felt from her. Something had happened to her mother, and all my mind could manage was, “Pain that stark can only come from death.”

I don’t know that for sure, but as I walked back to the house I sent up prayers for the family, because whatever happened, they needed comfort.

I want to hold my children tighter. I want to keep the Dearliest in sight. I want to tell my dear friends and family all the things I love about them before “I’ll do it tomorrow” becomes “Sorry, too late.”

Life is precious, and when I think about friends who have recently (or even not so recently) lost their loved ones, my heart aches a little differently now. I know I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a spouse, a child, or a parent, but I do understand a little about emotional grief. As I grow older, no doubt I will grow in understanding too.

And, even though this post is mostly about the pain of losing, I cannot end it without mentioning the amazing strength I see in TheFreckledFox. It’s a strength not her own, and I see the way God has held her hand and is providing consolation and the courage to carry on. I see it in the blogs of other women who have lost their husbands, children, in the faces of men who’ve lost their wives, and I rest a little easier. There is a hope, and a faith, and a belief, and we know death is but a physical thing. Our lost loved ones are with our Heavenly Father, free from the pain, and one day we will see them again.

Rhubarb, cherries, brain food, berries

This post is, you might guess, gonna be about food.

And also Squeaky, because she took the Dearliest’s commentary on almonds very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that she doesn’t ask for almonds by name anymore. She regularly reminds me now that almonds are good for your brain, and because of that, she would love some more. “May I have some brain food?”

One of my neighbors is an older woman who loves gardening, but life has left her in a place where she’s unable to do much of what she used to. She has been incredibly generous to us in sharing the fruits of her garden this year, including rhubarb (she had 8 plants 4′ high and at least as wide…she took what she wanted and said we could have the rest), cherries (2 gallons in the freezer, 2 boxes waiting to be dealt with, and tons more still on the tree), and a delightful little berry called a Saskatoon.

IMG_2845Strawberry rhubarb pie is generally the go-to rhubarb recipe around here, but I didn’t have strawberries when the rhubarb started coming in, so I looked for something else to try. I landed on a recipe for Rhubarb Bread, which I’ve now made twice. It’s like a coffee cake, but with rhubarb. I can recommend it.

The cherries have the little white worms in them, as just about every organic cherry around here does. Most of our little family doesn’t seem to care about them. Extra protein, or somesuch. (If you are also one of those people, more power to you.) Squeaky and I, however, take a particular objection to eating worms, so we very carefully go to the trouble of removing them. After trying a couple different methods (cutting/ scraping, soaking, etc.), Squeaky landed on one that is pretty quick.IMG_2874

Pit, dunk, swish.

Pit the cherry (sometimes the worm comes out with the pit!), hold 1-2 seconds in a bowl of lukewarm water, swish gently until worm washes out.

If the pitting isn’t a clear tunnel, I found it easier to cut the cherry to completely open up the inside, then dunk and swish. I lost a little more juice that way, but it’s so relieving to me knowing there ARE NO WORMS.

I’ve mentioned Saskatoon berries before on the blog, having made their discovery back when we lived on the mountain. My one regret is that I never made the time to do anything with them. Our neighbor has a few baby shrubs and invited us to pick, and so while the harvest will be pints instead of gallons, they are still delicious.

IMG_2876IMG_2878

They are smaller than a blueberry, with a milder, mellower flavor, but still yummily sweet. I like them better than blueberries, but then I’m extremely particular about blueberries to begin with.

Squeaky, who is not particular about anything berry-related, snitched all but 1/4 cup of these berries shortly after I took the photos. She’s now on a Saskatoon ban for an indeterminate amount of time.

IMG_2885_resize

I don’t think she cares, though, because both our red and white raspberries are ripening up, and the blackberries aren’t too far behind.

Then there are the 2 dozen snap pea bushes in the garden, and daily picking yields about a quart right now. That will at least double in the next few days. The carrots are almost ready, and the beets, and soon our green tomatoes will be red, and…well, all the fresh food is really the only thing I love about summer, if I’m honest!😀

Save

Save

Trying to I.D. a vine!

ETA: Mystery solved! The plant is white bryony. Thank you Jessica!

Today I bring you a mystery that I feel very close to solving, but I’m just not positive I’ve got it right. I’m hoping one (or more) of you can help me!

IMG_2867

This is growing in our grapes, and our neighbor warned us its poisonous. We’re taking measures to keep it under control, but it’s FAST and I want to know what we’re dealing with.

The closest thing that I’ve found in my internet searches is porcelain berry (belonging to the genus Amelopsis), but almost all the photos online have mature berries, not young ones, and I couldn’t find ANY photos of the blossoms. If anyone knows for sure what this is, kindly let me know!

IMG_2873          IMG_2869

IMG_2870

Save

Enter the Heat Wave

According to noaa.gov, we’re supposed to hit 101 °F today. How about you?

For us, it’s definitely time to make sure we’re up on our water.

IMG_2813_resize

And resting during the hottest hours (a down comforter is acceptable when over the A/C vent).

IMG_2831_resize

Here are two roses that bloomed later than the others:

The orange one mellowed out to a pinker salmon color, while the red one was dubbed “the ketchup rose” by Pokado because, yup, it smells like ketchup.

I wish more of these had tags! At least I’m being faithful with pictures, and once I acquire a catalogue or two, I shouldn’t have too much trouble with identification. That’s the hope, anyway.

Sadly, at least 4 of the roses have gone to root stock, so they will be coming out. Happily, this means space for more! Well, eventually.😀

In Fogling news, the Princess still isn’t walking, although she stands and bounces without support easily enough. She discovered playing peek-a-boo with herself in my curio cabinet mirror last week, and just the other day she decided potato salad is the greatest thing since sliced avocado.

IMG_2804_resize

The other Foglings carry on in usual fashion, which means I continually find them doing unusual things.

IMG_2836_resize

Not so unusual at first glance, perhaps, but then they informed me they were playing Cutthroat Kitchen…

…well alrighty then! I would hate to be stuck with the pillow, that’s all I’m saying.

Lastly, for those who have been following my occasional frustrations with my eyes, I’m pleased to report immense improvement. I’ve been getting more sleep, but that was only part of the issue. Turns out both the Dearliest and I have been deficient in zinc for quite a while! I had no idea zinc did so much in a body.

After a week of supplements, I can see (haha) vast improvement in my eyes, in my energy levels, and in my mental focus. There are a few other things that have cleared up too, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to be feeling better!

Remember, kids.

The next time you complain about washing dishes by hand in the sink, consider this: It could be worse.

IMG_2806

It is but the current adventure here (a new kitchen faucet arrives tomorrow!). There have been several others over the last few weeks, including the times I deliberately filled the house with smoke.

IMG_2602_resizeIMG_2610_resize

And the Battle of Wheelbarrow, in which several ships sank on account of the submarine.

IMG_2647_resize

Then there was the race to pick every dandelion ever.

IMG_2595_resize

Scrat’s adventure even carried over into our reality!

(They are in our kitchen, so future visitors can have fun hunting for them. Teehee!)

There have also been moments of discovery, like finding oneself on the dark side.

IMG_2607_resize

Or behind the couch.

IMG_2694_resize

Realizing that you have a natural talent for writing music.

IMG_2789_resize

Learning that you want to be a professional swing tester when you grow up. (She’s sure someone has to do it!)

IMG_2648_resize

Watching all the lovely spring flowers emerge.

 

IMG_2799_resize - Copy

IMG_2782_resize - CopyIMG_2800_resize

And finding the pun in life. (The Dearliest is responsible for this one.)

IMG_2684_resize

And lastly, looking out the window one day, seeing the Dearliest working with his youngest brother, and realizing they look nothing alike.

IMG_2794_resize

Just kidding.

More words coming soon.

Loaded Baked Potato Pizza

IMG_2511_resizeToday I’m going to share with you the weirdly addicting thing known as loaded baked potato pizza. When I first heard of this, I shook my head. ‘The locals will put potatoes on anything here,’ I thought. Generally, I love potatoes. I can’t get enough of them, honestly. But on a pizza?

I squinted at it sideways for months. <_<

When I finally tried my first piece, I was extremely surprised at how well I liked it. I liked it so much, in fact, that I took note of all the components and set about backwards engineering it.

I started with my go-to pizza crust recipe. It yields consistent flavor and texture. I’ve never had a bad run with it.

The “sauce” is a ranch type sauce. This is where the garlic and sour cream elements of a baked potato come in, so I took my ranch dressing recipe (see below), upped the ratio of sour cream, and added extra garlic.

Both of the local pizza joints used red russets on their pizzas, so that’s what I used too. They are precooked before going on the pizza. I’ve tried precooking via microwave and baking in the oven; both work equally well.

What are other classic elements of a loaded baked potato? Cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon (I used turkey bacon), and green onions. (One of these days I will also add olives, because I love olives on baked potatoes, and on a pizza it’s as natural as marshmallows in rice krispie treats to begin with!)

In the end, this is one of the simpler “more involved” pizzas I’ve made!

Loaded Baked Potato Pizza

  • 1 batch pizza dough (or whatever you prefer for your crust)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups ranch dressing
  • 6 red russet potatoes, cooked and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup cooked and crumbled bacon (more or less to taste)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 °F.
  2. Spread sauce evenly over prepared pizza dough.
  3. Layer potatoes, cheese, bacon, and green onions evenly over the sauce.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is bubbling and crust is golden brown.

 

Fogwood’s House Ranch Dressing

  • ¾ cup mayonnaise (reduce to 2/3 cup for pizza sauce)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream (increase to 2/3 cup for pizza sauce)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (increase to 1/2 teaspoon for pizza sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon dry parsley flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • milk to thin (omit for pizza sauce)
  1. Combine all ingredients in small bowl.
  2. Thin with milk to desired consistency.
  3. For best flavor, allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour.