Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Charlotte's Web

Yes - I am alive. But I didn't blog much while on vacation last week and then post-vacation has been the usual hectic craziness and I have so much to actually blog about and pictures to post and what not but just don't quite have the time so please be patient with me...

But -

We have a spider. He/She (I think it's a she so I'll call her Charlotte cause I am feeling oh so original) lives outside our parlor window. She's been there a while and over time she spun a massive web. While normally spiders freak me out, she's on the outside and so I have been more in awe of her than anything as she's quite large actually and rather magnificent.

Anyways, I checked this afternoon and Charlotte and her web were gone. Not surprsing given the intense rain we've had over the last few days. But then a few hours later I caught sight out of the window and there she was - back in her spot, rebuilding her home. Have you ever seen a spider spin a web? It is the coolest thing ever. I wanted to videotape it on my camera but the picture quality through the window wasn't that great and while I am in awe of Charlotte and all, I didn't have the guts to actually go outside and get all close and personal.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sweet Sweet Caroline

The hair is thinning. There are no sequins. And the 67-year old face appears to have had some work done (and I only say that because no one looks that good at 67). But the pants are tight. The lights are bright. And the voice....the voice is as good as it ever was, maybe even better having softened and mellowed with age. There is no question that Neil Diamond is a star. A Superstar!

Despite the older age of the audience (as dad said think Metamucil and prune juice), the crowd was on its feet, singing, screaming, hollering, cheering, dancing, and in general getting their groove on as Neil worked his way through a 2-hour set of many of his most cherished and greatest hits. Of course, when your career spans 40+ years and 35+ albums, how do you narrow it down? This was a topic we debated before the show. What exactly would he sing? How many songs off the new album which he is out there trying to promote? How many old favorites? And which old favorites?

I think in the end, no matter what he sang, it would have been hard for Neil to disappoint. But as it was - he sang many of my favorites including Love on the Rocks, I'm a Believer, Solitary Man, Kentucky Woman, You Don't Bring Me Flowers, America, Crackling Rosie, I Am...I Said, Hello Again, Cherry Cherry, Play Me, Beautiful Noise, Song Sung Blue, Forever in Blue Jeans, and Crunchy Granola Suite. He also sang 3 songs off his new album, including the title track, Home Before Dark; the first single, Pretty Amazing Grace; and Don't Go There (I think - I haven't listened to the album all that much). He closed with 2 songs off his 2005 album, 12 Songs (which is one of my favorites): Man of God and Hell Yeah - which is the perfect song for Neil at this stage in his life (just check out the lyrics here.)

And in answer to the most important question - does Neil Diamond still sing Sweet Caroline? The answer is Yes. Yes, he does. Twice.

And if that ain't a 67-year old Superstar who still knows how to get a crowd of 20,000 geriatrics on their feet, I'll kiss your...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Apples on the Brain

It wasn't enough for me to bake 3 apple pies last weekend...I have serious apples on the brain. Why? Because the Lincoln County Apple Festival is coming up in 5 weeks and part of the Festival is a recipe contest.

There are 6 categories:

Main Dish (must contain meat or a meat substitute)
Cakes, Breads & Cookies
Pies, Pastries, & Tarts
Apple Jelly
Butter & Jams
Miscellaneous (includes beverages, appetizers and low-calorie)

Since I read about the contest on Thursday, my mind has been whirring with apple recipe ideas for at least 4 of the categories (jellies, jams & butters just aren't my thing). With last week's pies fresh on the brain - I had no trouble coming up with a recipe for the Pies, Pastries & Tarts category. Actually - it turned out to be a tart - but it's a variation on one of the pies I made last weekend and I was so excited to test the recipe I was up at 6:30am this morning and in the kitchen baking by 7:00am. It looks and smells delicious. I am holding off on posting photos or describing in detail until AFTER I submit the recipe and find out if it qualifies but let me just say - I might be an apple tart genius!

After I made the tart, I had some leftover apples and some other stuff and so I threw that in a pie crust and it's baking right now. Could be delicious too (smells mighty good) but I could in no way duplicate the recipe as I didn't take any measurements so I hope it's not that good...

As for the other categories, my mind is going 100 miles per hour. Would love to share all of my millions of ideas but I am a little protective of my apple intellectual capital and so I will hold off. All I can say is I hope that Marty likes apples because we are going to be in apple country for a while. Meanwhile, would love to hear about your favorite apple recipes.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

As for the other categories, I will hold off

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Keeping Me on My Toes

So, it has been awhile since one or more of the goats has escaped.

You would think, that with all of the goats being at least 6 months old (Lucky & her brothers turned 6 months last week, Prisey turned 6 months on Tuesday) they would be too big/old/jaded/uninterested in venturing outside of the pasture.

But today at ~ 5:30pm I heard that once all too familiar cry - the cry that says - something is not right in the world. I pressed my nose up against the door and sure enough there was Buster, running back and forth on the wrong side of the fence.

It was almost easy enough to get him back in. I mean, he wanted to get back in. But as soon as I got to the gate I was swarmed by Lucky & Dixie both of whom seemed more interested in joining Buster on the wrong side of the fence then they were in stepping back from the gate and letting him in.

It took a little head holding and prodding and evenutally I got Buster back where he needed to be. Nothing like a little excitement on a Thursday afternoon.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

An Abundance of Apples

So I have told you about our friend and neighbor Steve – he who brings me blackberries and peaches so I can bake pies. Well – the delivery of bounty continued all this week. It started when Steve showed up with probably close to 10 lbs. of tomatoes fresh from his garden a few days ago.

I happily took them because I can always put fresh tomatoes to work. My favorite thing to do is to make tomato smoosh – I chop up fresh tomatoes and toss them with lots of garlic and olive oil and then I season with salt and pepper and herbs and roast at 450° until they are nice and smooshed. Then I drain the oil/tomato water and use it to make a delicious salad dressing.

It’s a very good system for using up fresh tomatoes but even after making a big batch of tomato smoosh on Friday morning, I still had pounds and pounds of tomatoes to use up so I decided to make a tomato pie. Using Diane Mott Davidson’s recipe for tomato brie pie from The Main Corpse, I came up with the following:

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Place 2 ounces of cubed Emmentaler cheese in a Pillsbury Pet-Ritz deep dish pie crust.

Slice, quarter and drain 6 ripe tomatoes (I used 3 red, 3 yellow). Distribute over the Emmentaler. Season with salt, pepper and herbs (I am a fan of Penzy’s Fox Point seasoning). Sprinkle with ¾ cup shredded cheese. I used Sargento’s Bistro Blends which was a blend of 2 cheddar cheeses and bacon.

Beat together 3 eggs, 1/3 cup milk and 1/3 cup heavy cream and pour over the tomatoes/cheese in the pie crust. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. of grated Parmesan cheese and bake for 45 – 50 minute or until the center is set. Let cool for 10 minutes and then serve.

The result is both gorgeous and delicious:

After making tomato pie, I tackled the pounds and pounds of apples we picked this morning at Steve’s.

I baked 2 whole pies (i.e. peeling & chopping 18 cups of apples) and I still have an entire bowl of apples still to contend with.


I should also add that while I was at Steve’s, I got to take pictures of his peeps born just a few weeks ago and drive his lawn mower.

And if that ain’t country I’ll kiss your…

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Cooler Up There

What does one do when it is 97 degrees out and oppressively hot and unbearable for the umpteenth day in a row? Well, Marty & I escaped up to the mountains yesterday and it was heavenly. It was - and I am not kidding - a full 32 degrees cooler up at Julian Price Park. We did the 2.5 mile trail around the lake and it was gorgeous.

With Blowing Rock only an hour or so away, there's no reason why we won't be doing this more often.

Of course, the day started off divinely too. My neighbor brought over a basket of fresh peaches and I baked a homemade peach pie.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...