Augustina Finch

Our ex-nanny (who was awesome!) and her husband have started an Etsy shop called augustina finch, selling hand-sewn envelopes made out of vintage papers, along with cards. I love the ones with pictures of bottles on them! These are the same talented people who comprise The Woodlands band. They have a music video for Can We Stay that is well worth watching.

Full Up

I have now officially used every single canning jar in the house.

Granted, much of this is tied up in various jam experiments. We could probably stop making jam now and not have to worry about it for the next four years. But it was our recent apple adventures that finally finished up our jar supply.

We went up to Dad’s house this weekend to do apple cider making. Dad had warned us that he didn’t have enough of a crop this year to justify getting out the equipment, so we did a serious picking in the neglected orchard near us the night before and went up with perhaps 30+ gallons of apples. That was a fun evening; Dave and I picked, Nathan contended with us constantly about who got to climb the ladder, and Ryan, convinced that he was unable to walk since we’d put him in (gasp!) shoes, collected every apple within his reach into a little apple-kleptomaniac hoard between his legs. I completely neglected to bring the camera.

I also forgot it when we did the apple crush and press up in Grapeview. Not that I had much opportunity to take pictures, since I was holding a child half the time and the other half of the time was inside, while Ryan napped and Nathan searched out toys for us to play with. Neither kid was fond of the noise of the crusher, and while Nathan was briefly excited about juice coming out from the press, he drank his fill and then wanted to move on. My memories, mostly formed when I was considerably older than Nathan, have apple cider making as one of the best events of the fall. I even remember liking the picking, which involved holding a corner of a sheet and leaning way back to avoid being hit by the apples being shaken down from above.

In any case, it’s a good thing that we picked the neglected orchard, because Dad wasn’t kidding about the state of his crop. And it’s actually a good thing that we waited so late in October to do it, because the apples were stupendous. The apple juice that we got out of it — 14 gallons just for us — is magnificent. Dave took half of that for a wine experiment, which, considering the starting material, could be really, really good. The other half went into 27 quart jars, a pitcher, some mugs of hot spiced cider, and Apple-Glazed BBQ Chicken. Curried Cider-Braised Pork Cutlets is next week.

Along with our juice we brought a crate of the biggest and nicest apples for another batch of applesauce. This I managed to almost fit into our remaining pint jars, with the leftovers stuffed directly into people, particularly kids. Miracle of miracles, Ryan has done an about-face and decided that he likes applesauce after all. I had to sneak the first taste into his mouth, but once he got a good smear onto his tongue he paused for several seconds and then became a convert.

And The Garden Comes Through

After all the head-shaking and discussing and outright complaining that I’ve done over the poor performance of our hot-weather crops this year, they have put me to shame. It hasn’t exactly been warm this October, but it has been remarkably (marvelously) sunny, and apparently that’s been enough. The corn, despite much of it being only about three feet tall, has set ears all over the place. Sure they’re only three to five inches long, but enough of them have ripened that we’ve been able to feast on sweet corn several times. I’ve had to apologize to the plants for my earlier mockery. (“Oh, they’re trying to set ears! That’s so cute!” I said when I first saw little tassels appear.)

Even the tomatoes managed to ripen enough fruit for a couple batches of Roasted Tomato Sauce. This last was the easiest thing ever to do — I didn’t even bother to can it, but just froze it in jars with extra headroom. It’s fantastic on our mini pizzas without any additions. So I owe an apology to the tomato plants too, which I will be thinking of each time I open up a jar of roasted tomato goodness this winter. It isn’t exactly the tomato bounty that I was envisioning last winter, but I find myself very grateful for what we did get.

Three

Nathan is now three years old. I’ve been looking forward to his birthday for a while, because at this age I think he finally has some inkling of his birthday being a special day. We managed to avoid gifts again this year — he isn’t that aware of what birthdays are “supposed” to be. Instead Dave and I spent a little time the night before blowing up balloons, so that when he came out in the morning he found the living room floor littered with small balloons. That was a big hit. The kids found several ways to entertain themselves with the balloons:

  1. Popping them. I would think that, especially for someone Ryan’s age, popping a balloon with one’s teeth would be a slightly worrisome experience. But both of our little guys think that popping balloons is the thing, and teeth are a great way to do it. This is not to say that nails, rosebushes, or sharp rocks aren’t also viable options.
  2. Static electricity. This was mostly me, to be honest, although both kids found it very entertaining when I would stick a balloon to myself, them, the wall, etc. But they also found it to be an Afront Against Nature, and would immediately knock it down again.
  3. Stretching the un-filled balloons. We didn’t have the stamina to blow up all 100 in the bag, so there were a bunch of extras hanging around which (somehow) got into general play. Nathan liked to chew on these, and Ryan to pull on them. At one point Nathan had two hanging out of his mouth, which Ryan promptly pulled on with all his might. This ended about like you would expect, although oddly Nathan didn’t complain about rubber snapping back in his face. Strange.

We had other fun as well, including a trip to the park, and then did an excellent dinner with brownies for dessert. Nathan really, really liked the ritual of the candle in his brownie, and had us light it several times so that he could blow it out. And I learned a valuable lesson about what happens to a candle when inserted into a hot brownie. We now have one fewer candles.