Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fig jam

My parents recently spent a weekend at my grandmother's house, and they brought me back two bags full of ripe figs from grandma's majestic old fig tree. Grandma believes the variety is "Celeste".  The figs were purple-red, plump, sweet, and perfect.

 I love fig preserves, and decided to try my hand at making some. Rather than go to the trouble of doing the boiling-water bath for such a small batch, I found a recipe for refrigerator jam. It was so easy, just chopped figs, sugar (I used raw turbinado sugar), lemon juice, and a bit of water. The mixture gets cooked way down. The resulting jam is rich and honey-flavored and delicious.

I only ended up with three jelly-jars worth of jam, so it's just as well that I didn't bother with the water bath. I would like to know how long refrigerator jam will keep, since the recipes I found didn't mention it. I'd love to serve some of this jam along with a big piece of  brie and crackers at my annual Mid-Autumn Moon party in September. Anyone have any idea if they will be safe to eat in 6 weeks? If not, I suppose we'll have to eat them all up before then!

I wish grandma lived closer. Dad told me that her tree is so loaded with figs right now that the branches are drooping from the weight of them.  I would love to put up some whole figs in syrup, as well as more of the basic jam.  I'm grateful for the three jars I have, though. Figs are among the most luscious of summer fruits!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summertime beach day!

This past Monday a friend and I went and spent the day at Huntington Beach state park. It had been literally years since I'd been to the beach (which is a shame considering it only takes a little over an hour to drive there) and I was really excited. We were a bit unsure about the weather, as the early morning skies were overcast, but once we arrived the sun began peeking out from behind the clouds. By midday, it was quite my sunburned legs and upper back can attest! We used sunscreen, but walking in the surf apparently washed most of it off my legs, and I couldn't reach my own back very well to apply it! The trip was definitely worth a few sore spots, though.

I love Huntington Beach. It's located in Murrell's Inlet, SC, which incidentally is where my dad grew up. The beaches are clean and beautiful, and the surrounding woods and salt marsh are a naturalist's dream. I'm convinced that salt water, ocean air, and beach combing are good for the soul. We're planning to go back next month to get another dose.

Here are some pictures I took to share.


The big find of the day. Two perfect sand dollars, one for me
and one for my friend to take home as a souvenir.

The jetty. A good 2-3 mile walk
down the beach from where we started.


Sea oats and sand dunes.

Wooded nature trail running parallel to the beach.

Quick photo taken from the car window
of the salt marshes as we drove away.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Long weekend!!

Today is the start of a four-day weekend for me! I'm almost beside myself with joy. I never, ever get even a "normal" weekend off, but this was time off I requested a couple of months ago. Written requests are the only way to get weekends off at our store, unless you're one of the favored, "popular" employees (and I'm certainly not one of those!). So I am very happy to have a little stretch of days to do as I please.

The first order of business today is housework. We've fallen behind on it, and the house is too messy for me to enjoy myself unless I do something about it. Also, Ginger the dog needs a good bath, and her bedding needs to be laundered. She's kind of smelly! Hee hee. But after I spend a few hours today catching up on cleaning and pet care, I'll have the next three days to do whatever I like!

Tomorrow I plan to go to the farmer's market early in the day, and then in the afternoon a friend and her fiancee will be coming over for margaritas and hot dogs cooked on the grill. Sunday will be a quiet day spent at home, reading and relaxing by myself, and then on Monday my friend and I are taking a girl's day trip to Huntington Beach state park for beach combing and bird watching!

Huntington Beach is one of my favorite spots in our whole state. There are miles of clean beach, a saltwater marsh, a long jetty stretching out into the ocean, the remains of a nineteenth century "castle" called Atalaya on the beach that was built by a sculptress and her husband as their summer home, and across the highway there is one of the Southeast's great little-known treasures...Brookgreen Gardens. Brookgreen is a huge sculpture garden/wildlife preserve that is absolutely beautiful. I'm not sure if we'll be going there, since we're mostly planning a beach day, but if we do I'll take lots of pictures to share. Meanwhile, here are some links with nice pictures.

Huntington beach state park

Brookgreen Gardens

Atalaya Castle

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

This and that

I haven't been online as much as I would like lately. I feel the urge to sit down and write, but private time to do so seems to be hard to find right now.

I'm working on finding a new job these days. I've been tweaking my resume, doing some volunteer work (more on that later!) and gathering references. I'm excited to be taking small steps towards my goal of finding a better situation for myself.

The summer is going by quickly, and before I get too deep into the job hunt, I plan to enjoy the next couple of weeks. I have a four-day weekend coming up, and I've planned several fun things to do, including a day trip to the beach. I can't let a whole summer slip by without taking at least one dip into salt water!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Easy-Peasy Pie

As promised, here is a recipe for the easiest blueberry pie ever. It's pretty darn tasty, too!

Easy-Peasy Blueberry Pie

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine 4 cups of fresh blueberries, 1 cup of sugar (more or less depending on how sweet or tart your berries happen to be), 3 heaping tbsp. of cornstarch, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and the juice of half a lemon.

Pour the blueberry/sugar mixture into a prepared deep dish pie crust (I like Pillsbury's).  Dot the top of the berries with pats of butter. I like to cut a 2nd crust into long strips and then weave a lattice on top, but you could just put the whole thing on there (with small slashes cut in to let steam escape).

Pop that baby into the oven and let it bake for about 50 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bubbling. Make sure you have something underneath to catch any errant juices that escape! Let the pie cool, then enjoy.

I tried this recipe with peaches instead of blueberries the other day, and it was great, too! I did decrease the sugar a bit, since the peaches were sweeter than the berries. I got a picture of that one to share:

The lattice is far from perfect, but the pie was delicious anyway!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bright spots

In a week filled with rainy days, work angst, and onerous household/personal obligations, there were a few bright spots for me this first week of July.

A newly fledged house sparrow flew in to our garage yesterday, and couldn't figure out how to get back out. He kept fluttering up against a window pane instead of just flying back out through the open door. I walked up to him very slowly, and gently cupped my hands around him, and carried him outside.  He didn't protest at all. Although I've rescued and released a lot of orphaned wild baby birds, there's still nothing like holding a tiny little scrap of trusting, warm fluff in your hands. This happened before I left for work yesterday, and brightened my morning.

Speaking of work, readers that I connect with that shop at my bookstore are rare. When they do show up, it's always wonderful to trade recommendations with them. The other day I met a woman about my age with excellent taste in books (well, my taste, anyway!). We had a great conversation, and she is British, so she had the most wonderful accent! When she was leaving, she pointed to the stack of books she was about to purchase and said, "This is brilliant! Thank you so much!"  Meeting her (and her "this is brilliant" line) made my day!

Third bright spot: homemade blueberry pies! I've discovered a great easy pie recipe to use the berries we're currently picking in our backyard. I've made two so far, and will post the recipe later in the week.

What sorts of things are brightening up your week, dear readers?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

Today is yet another holiday that I won't get to celebrate thanks to my job. I work today from 1pm until 10, so there will be no cookouts and fireworks for me.

I'm not bitter. Much.

For those celebrating, please eat a hotdog and drink a beer for me! And be safe while enjoying the festivities!

Happy birthday America!

Monday, July 1, 2013

O Canada!

We are very thankful to be living in this beautiful country! Happy Canada Day everyone!

Although I'm in a hurry, heading out to a long day at work, I wanted to take a moment to wish my Canadian friends and readers a very happy Canada Day!

I just love Canadians. Every one I've ever met (either in person or online) has been friendly, polite, and decent. There's just something special about you folks north of the border! So enjoy your day, dear friends, and please be safe while celebrating. You all rock!