Friday, October 16, 2020

Into the orchard

At the end of September, I took myself on a date to an apple orchard. 

Our little WA house sits in valley full of u-pick farms, with everything from beans and pumpkins to dahlias and lavender, and I spent some very happy hours in berry patches when we lived there. I've not done anything like that since we moved away six years ago, and I've missed it, so finding the orchard was a treat.

There were five or six different varieties ready for picking the morning I was there, and I brought home a gigantic bag of two I'd not heard of before: Senshu and Snow Sweet. Both are delicious; I know this because I've managed to eat almost all of them. 

Besides the experience of winding my way through the trees and picking the apples with my own two hands, I had very specific plans: applesauce and apple crisp. 
I thought I might share my applesauce recipe, which is the easiest, least precise thing on the planet:

I chopped seven or eight apples and tossed them into the Instant Pot (without peeling; I enjoy chopping but I do not enjoy peeling.) I added the juice and zest of a lemon, the juice of an orange, and about a cup of water. I let it all cook for a few minutes until the apples began to soften, and then came the spices: cinnamon and nutmeg, both without measuring (but in hindsight I should have paid more attention to the nutmeg). I stirred in half a can of pumpkin and then two large handfuls of raisins (jumbo-sized; those are my favorite) and then set the lid loosely on top just long enough to put some dishes in the dishwasher. 

Jan Michael is not a huge of applesauce to begin with, but the fact that this is more like an apple stew with his arch enemy the pumpkin means he will not touch it, so I have it all to myself. I like to eat it both warm and cold, and if we had walnuts lying around, I would sprinkle them on the top. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

A new leaf

Welcome back to me! And let's hope this time there will be some semblance of consistency. 

I took my weekend walk along a new trail this morning, and it was lovely. This is a beautiful time of year in northern Illinois, and I've enjoyed the transition from summer to fall so much these last weeks. 

It was cool enough while I was motoring along for a sweatshirt, but warm enough for shorts, and the breeze meant that leaves were fluttering through the air from the trees to the ground, which we all know is magical. 

I walked long enough that I now have an enormous blister on my left foot, and my right knee is complaining loudly, but it was worth every wince and hobble, and I plan to do it again next Saturday. 

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Joy and sorrow interwoven

Toward the end of July, we flew back to WA to remember and honor and celebrate the life of our dear Uncle Ted. It was a whirlwind of a trip, not nearly long enough - we arrived late Thursday night and by Saturday morning, were back on a plane bound for Illinois - but our time there was precious and full. I have long felt that if I could design the perfect summer, it would involve an enormous amount of time in tents and on lakes with that side of our family; we love them and are connected to them in ways that make us thankful.

These pictures were taken after Uncle Ted's service at the home he shared with our Aunt Barb. The view is glorious and I like to think being surrounded by such creation and considering who is responsible for it is a comfort to her.

And then there's this: Our cousins have 13 kids between them, all of whom have quite an appreciation for their cousin-uncle Jan. Story time in the grass while the sun sets over north-central WA is not a bad way to spend an evening, and was a sweet thing for the rest of us to witness. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Hannibal, MO

Sometime last year, we were zipping through Missouri and made a pit stop in Hannibal, hometown of Mr. Mark Twain. There are so many things to see and do there; it's really a magical little town for anyone with an appreciation for American literature. We wandered through his boyhood home, the Becky Thatcher house, the Huckleberry Finn house, the J.M. Clemens Justice of the Peace office, and the Museum Gallery and Interpretive Center, which really only scratched the surface.

We also bought  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on CD to listen to on the road, as well as a bag of huckleberry coffee. The coffee was dreadful; please avoid it at all costs should you ever visit yourself. 

Anyway, fast forward to the beginning of this month, when we were sent to Hannibal to test at General Mills and were there for a week and a half. I assumed we would explore some of the places we missed the first time around - the Mark Twain cave complex or the Mark Twain Riverboat - but no. Our hotel was in the heart of downtown, which meant we could roll out the door and walk here, there, and everywhere. This is rarely ever the case, and we took full advantage of it. 

The Tom and Huck Statue is found at the foot of Cardiff Hill (a favorite play area of Tom, Huck and co in the books) with the boys looking out over Main Street. It was erected in 1926 and is one of the earliest known statues honoring fictional characters. 

Next to the statue is a set of stairs that leads up and up and up. I climbed it a few times during our stay, but the first was especially fun because I didn't know where I was going :)
There are 244 steps altogether from the bottom to the top, which is good for the lungs and... the bottom, ha! The payoff for so much climbing is the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse. The original lighthouse was built in 1935 on his 100th birthday, but was leveled in 1960 by a windstorm and then rebuilt in 1963.

On one of my trips up, I met a sweet kitty; he very politely ignored my invitation to come along to the top :) 

Once past the lighthouse, there are neighborhoods to walk through and beautiful views of the Mississippi. That's the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge in the distance; you see that there is a very pervasive theme in Hannibal :) 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Ledgestone Insurance Open

Two and a half years ago, at a Sunday morning fellowship meeting in the middle of Michigan, we met a family with whom we've kept in touch ever since. Last month, we were all within a stone's throw of each other in Illinois, and spent the day together at the Ledgestone Insurance Open, watching our friend Carlin compete.

Jan Michael and I remember disc golf from our college days (20 years ago, what?!) but I don't think either of us were aware that one can be a professional player until we met Carlin and his parents. I will also say that both of us find it pretty cool to be able to say we have a friend who plays disc golf professionally.

Of all the things we've experienced the last couple of months, there are three that stand out in my mind as quintessentially summer, and the hours we spent trailing Carlin around the course at Lake Eureka is absolutely one of them. I can't remember the last time we spent so much time outside, surrounded by water and trees and fresh air. Also, and this is very irresponsible of me, summer never feels quite like summer unless a decent sunburn is involved, and we were certainly able to check that off the list. There was even a stand selling snow cones near one of the holes, be still my summer loving heart.

And then, as the cherry on top of what was already a sundae of a day, Jan Michael was able to act as caddie for Carlin, which was an unexpected and enormous treat. He had so much fun doing it, and I had so much fun watching him.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Up and running

My dear friend Heather (hi, friend!) and I have made a pact to wake up our respective blogs again, in part so we have something fun to read while drinking our coffee. If we were still living in Texas, I'm sure we would be together, sitting in the sun near her pool and drinking our coffee. Instead, we're separated by 500 miles (I miss you, friend!), and I'm certainly not beside any pool, although I am trying to decide if I want to take a bath. Also, the coffee I'm currently drinking is absolutely sub-par; I drink a lot of sub-par coffee out here on the road. 

Anyway, as I've not shared anything here in almost a year, I have lots of pictures and experiences from which to choose. I think I'll start with events surrounding our anniversary and birthdays in May. We were in Atlanta for our anniversary, and celebrated with a trip to the botanical garden, a trip to an Indian buffet, and a nap.

As a post-anniversary/pre-birthday outing, we spent a little bit of time at the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge near Marion, IL, not too far from the Kentucky border. We saw no evidence of crabs, or any other wildlife really, but read that it hosts a very large number (up to 200,000) of Canadian geese in the winter. Seeing and hearing even a fraction of those birds would be something to behold, I think. 

By the time our birthdays rolled around, we were in northern Illinois. Jan Michael took me to breakfast where I ate a large quantity of Swedish pancakes, after which we took a trip to Rock Cut State Park for a walk. The weather was so pleasant and the colors everywhere were so pretty; the pictures we took there are some of my favorites of the year. And then, later that evening, while the sun was setting, we ate ice cream with two co-workers-turned-friends under a tree strung with twinkly lights. From start to finish, it was a lovely way to welcome 43.
As a general rule, Jan Michael requires far less fanfare on his birthday than I, and as such we have no pictures, but he did spend it just as he wanted (lots of quiet time with a break in the middle to watch Avengers: Endgame; we both cried into our Sour Patch Kids.) 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Madison, WI

We're in Minnesota these days, and fall has officially arrived. The leaves are beginning to change and it's been positively cold in the mornings; I've decided it's time to stash my flip flops once and for all until next year. 

About three weeks ago, when we were in Wisconsin and it still felt like late summer with the slightest twinge of fall in the air, we spent a Saturday morning at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison. I've carried on at length in previous posts about the arboretum in Dallas, that it is my favorite place in the metroplex and the very best botanical garden we've ever visited, and this is still true. Olbrich, however, has earned second place. It's the sort of place that one could visit over and over and not feel as though she's seen it all before. 

And then just a few pictures of the capitol building: 
One thing we've noticed as we've toured several capitol buildings is this: there are lots of differences in materials and architectural design, but the commonality is all of the care and attention to detail that's been put into each one, and that is a neat thing to see.