inspiration

Stir Crazy!

Our weather has been making me stir crazy.  Either that, or perhaps I am suffering from cabin fever! Seriously. It has been chilly, wet, dark, dreary, and just not the kind of weather one wants to venture forth in!

When I get like this, I need adventure! I love looking at seed catalogs and such, but I need something more hands on! I belong to Instagram, where folks post photos they take and others can comment on them. I love this, as I have people commenting from all over the world.  Most of my Instagram friends have Scotties, so it is cool seeing photos of these little dogs in their various environments.  Whenever I have some spare time, I take a look at photos from all over and one thing kept coming up over and over again.

French Macarons. No, not Macaroons. Macarons!

Naturally, I needed to do some further research….I found lots of information and recipes online for these cookies, but everywhere I read, I found discouraging reports. Things like, even professional chefs fail at making these “delicate” cookies.  You must go out and buy a silicone baking mat for these cookies; otherwise, they stick to parchment paper and fall apart. The first attempt at making these cookies is usually a failure. You must use only gel food colors in these delicate cookies, or they won’t turn out.

Determination became my companion. I will make French Macaroons. And, I *will* succeed!

Having made this proclamation, I went to Canandaigua in search for what I needed! I looked in WalMart, Michael’s, And JoAnn’s for a silicone baking mat. Since each of these stores sells Wilton products, I was confident I would find the said mat. Fail. I left the stores feeling deflated. How could I possible make these cookies with a silmat? I was about to leave Canandaigua when Mark wanted me to run into the Dollar Tree for him. I wandered the aisles and I found a small roll of parchment paper in there. Some of the recipes for French Macarons called for parchment.

Yesterday morning, I woke up determined to succeed at cookies! I watched a video on making them and read every tip I could find. Then I went to work. My eggs were left out for a couple of hours since they were to be room temperature.  To make sure they were, I placed them in some warm water for five minutes. I decided that since I had no superfine sugar, I would place my granulated sugar in the food processor and make it more fine.  After that,  I took the Bob’s Almond Meal/Flour I had purchased and ran that through the food processor as well. I mixed my powdered sugar and almond flour together and sifted them, making sure there were no “lumps”. I was now ready to begin. And, more importantly, succeed!

French Macarons are actually a “meringue” cookie, described as very light. Since I had never actually tried one, I wanted to! I made up my batter, making sure it remained light and airy. One thing I did that was not advised was to add a couple of drops of blue food color.After the batter was made, one is instructed to use a pastry bag with a tip on it to form little circular cookies. I have no pastry bag, so I grabbed a ziplock bag, placed the batter inside and snipped a tiny hole in the corner.  I was delighted as I piped out my delicate little cookies.  After they are piped onto the parchment paper, one is instructed to slam the cookie sheet down to release any bubbles! I did this, then placed the cookies on the table where they remained for forty-five minutes.  After they form a dry surface, they are ready to bake!

I placed my Macarons in the oven….I saw on a video not to bake more than one tray at a time. I set the timer and held my breath.  A while through the process, I stopped washing dishes and decided to look inside the oven door through the glass front. YES!  My little cookies were rising up just as they should!  They are supposed to form a ridge, called “feet”. Yes!!! My cookies were doing just what they were supposed to!  However, there was a comment to add extra food coloring as the cookies fade…my two drops of blue coloring turned my sweet treats a pastel green.

I made up a batch of Swiss Buttercream to fill my cookies. In the end, the family advised me these cookies are delicious!  Wow! They kind of melt in your mouth.

Sweet, sweet success!!! Now I wonder if I will be able to repeat it?!

An Extreme Birthday!

The day before yesterday,  Mark heard a story on the news that a family in Geneva, New York,  was getting an Extreme Home Makeover! I was so excited and when Mark asked what I would like to do for my birthday, I said I would love to see where this was being done. Geneva is only about thirty miles from our home,  so we decided it would be a fun adventure!

The family receiving the makeover is a husband, wife, and four children.  The husband was training to be a boxer several years ago, when an accident left him with a broken back, ending his boxing career.  He attended college and went to work as a  high school counselor where he met many kids with lots of problems.  He then decided to teach boxing as an encourgement for some of these kids.  From there, he has trained many kids, including some olympic hopefuls! In an effort to help repay this family who has given to their community, their 150 year old house was completely leveled, and will now be replaced with a brand-spanking new one, complete with a small boxing gym in the backyard!

This bus was evidence I was “in the neigborhood”!

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Trucks were lined up everywhere with building materials ready to go!

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This fancy restroom was located a short distance from the home site……

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And of course, the restroom was “decorated” complete with white lights on artificial plants.

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I was unable to get very good pictures,  as there were so many people watching! Hate to say it, but as an extremely short person,  it seemed (as usual) all the tall people were in the front, blocking those of us who are height-challenged (please realize I am teasing here!) making it really hard to see much of anything!

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There seemed to be a “sea” of blue Extreme Home Makeover tee shirts, waiting to spring forth into action!

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I was told by one spectator that the green walls below are part of the boxing gym….

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I only watched for a few minutes,  as Mark and the kids were waiting in the truck. It was amazing, though….there was such an air of excitement and anticipation!

This morning, while looking for information about this makeover, I came across a site where information was given and people were allowed to comment.  As I read through the comments,  I couldn’t believe the things people were saying. Some of the comments were downright shameful. 

I have such a hard time watching the show on ABC, as every show, I break down and cry. I guess that is one of the reasons why I don’t watch television. I get so emotionally involved…too much so for my own good, I am afraid. I also have a hard time, as I wish there was someone doing “mini-makeovers” for a small cost. We have so many issues with our own home,  which Mark built about seventeen years ago with some help from my brother, Randy, and my dad.  Unfortunately, a family of four living on a meager income cannot afford many repairs and “fixes”. But, that is another story!!! I am pretty able-bodied, and am grateful I can do much of the work and that the kids can help!

Congratulations to the Hill family in Geneva. They have been sent to Cancun, Mexico, for a week while their new home progresses. I cannot wait to see the completed new home!

The Getaway…

We left our home on Sunday to meet up with my parents and brother, Randy.  We hitched up the little house on wheels and packed our bags for a couple of days’ worth of adventure. I took both of my cameras along, but in all honesty, I was too busy to stop and take many pictures!

On Sunday evening, I made up “hamburger packets” like the ones I remembered making so many years ago as a Girl Scout.  These were made from hamburger,  potatoes, carrots, onion, and some seasoning. (the veggies were all cut into bite-size pieces)  We made a fire, then allowed it to burn down to embers. We then placed the tightly-sealed foil packets containing the goodies listed above on the embers for about 25 or 30 minutes. At first, I was beginning to wonder if the packets were going to cook, but we could soon hear the sound of simmering food…..then, a while later, the scent of the packets began to permeate the air! As the packets cooked, Michelle assembled a blueberry crisp she had made ahead and then baked it in the camper oven. (yeah, we really rough it…) Everything was amazing! (and we even pulled the vanilla ice cream out of the freezer to put on the crisp!)

My parents left, and then came back the next day. We had so much fun just talking and laughing! Mark and I aren’t big fans of all the campfires that sometimes cause the heavy smoke-filled air to nearly gag one, but this time, we burned our own little fire. The temperature dropped quite a bit when the sun sunk in the sky, so the fires were so cozy and the air wasn’t bad at all.

On Tuesday morning, I went off to take photos by the beach area, as I had no photos at all! We were going to be coming home later in the day, so……

I was at the lake shortly after seven, with both cameras in hand.

How could I resist taking a photo like this? The water was reflecting everything so beautifully!

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As soon as I stepped onto the dock to take some photos, a gorgeous blue dragonfly caught my attention…

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There was a haziness in the air. It had been quite humid, but the lake was so beautiful. I was surrounded by lots of geese and not much else….Notice how the lake reflecting the sky was crystal clear….no haziness there!

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I was nearly mesmerized by a beaver, slowly moving back and forth across the water. Try as I might, it was nearly impossible to get a clear shot. The fact that the beaver coming up for air was sporadic and the mist lingered in the air, made for some fancy photographic footwork!  Add to that, the beaver was a great distance away! I was able to catch some part of the busy little fellow! You can see him just above the water in the lower center of the photo….

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And, of course, everybeaver has to have a place to call home…..

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What could be more serene than water, distant hills, and only the little “splashing” sound of fish jumping up to catch an unsuspecting insect hovering overhead?

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Later in the day, these rowboats would be getting a workout as guests rented them for a little fishing or explore….

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As I walked across the sandy beach, I spotted a little one’s treasures he or she left behind the day before.  I couldn’t help but think back to my own childhood days when my grandparents would go with us to the beach and we would linger there until well into the night. I remember one time specifically, when I tagged along after my uncle Gerry, picking up driftwood that had been beached. Later in the night, we built a bonfire and roasted hotdogs and marshmallows…..all in such good company. Those days are long gone….now, no public beach would allow fires like that!

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Sure, you would never consider that a goose….a silly goose!….would be doing yoga on the beach early in the morning!  But, I witnessed it, firsthand! Okay, so…let’s see YOU stand on one foot and stretch your wing! er, I mean arm!

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This was the “sleepy segment” that apparently had not yet taken in their morning java!

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While  the early birds were out grazing and taking advantage of the early morning sun!

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I also came across Cinderella’s wee little slipper……..

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And the beauty of nature seemed almost to envelope and swallow me….lost in thought…

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King of the Beach’s throne………….

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And the boats standing ready if needed for an emergency run out for a rescue!

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I called out Adieu to my little early morning friends as they wandered away….

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I relied upon my cameras to accurately record this splendid morning.  Ah, the scents, the tranquility…these cannot be captured by any camera.  But the beauty seemed just so awesome in the quiet and peaceful setting…..

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As I looped back around from where I had begun, I could not help but bring to mind the verses of Scripture where God was creating….and I looked at the hills and proclaimed that “God said it is good”!

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And, back to the reality of life here on planet Earth…Every evening, after dinner, we drove the few miles to deliver our trash to the park dump. I never saw such elaborate raccoon/bear deterrents!

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Yes, stockade fencing complete with electrification!!!!

It was only a short time after my morning outing that we were hitching up once again to go to one more destination before returning home!

Refreshment and Inspiration

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As I walked around outside this afternoon, contemplating today’s entry here, I passed my kind of skimpy-looking peonies.  Every year,  I always think about digging them up and replanting them in a sunnier area, but as the summer progresses, and the activities increase, I forget all about them.  By the time autumn arrives, the poor peonies are but a memory….a forgotten one!  And each spring, as they faithfully reemerge, in spite of my mistreatment,  I smile when I see them, as the plants originally belonged to my paternal grandmother, who passed away in 1972.

One of the high-on-my-list of priorities this morning was to call a person who had ordered some supplies from me.  Shirley is a teacher who also makes soap and candles, which she and her husband sell at craft fairs. She has been a customer for several years….she and her husband raise Golden Retreivers to be used by the disabled for helping dogs.

I called Shirley and she answered the phone. I explained what I needed, and she asked me to repeat one of the things I had said.  She then went on to tell me the horror she and her family had endured….

One morning, she had been feeling badly. She explained that she never takes sick days, but the previous two days, she had taken off. Her husband left for work, but after getting to work, he sensed soomething might be wrong, and returned home to find Shirley in a weakened state, and “garbling” instead of speaking.  Her husband called for an ambulance and she was rushed to the hospital where she remained for three months.

It seems Shirley had the flu,  of which she was unaware. After getting to the hospital, she went into a coma for three weeks.  She was then semi-conscious for two more weeks. This illness left some nasty scars….the hearing in one of her ears is totally gone, and she will be fitted with a hearing aid for the other.  She said she also experiences “eye flutters” and her balance is somewhat unsteady.

As Shirley disclosed the events she had endured, it became obvious I was talking to a very strong woman! I told her this, and she said that is what the doctors had told her as well! The doctors had initially explained to her parents that Shirley’s life was hanging by a thread, and if she were to pull through, her life would be spent as a vegetable.  Shirley confided she had a secret desire to pull through for one particular reason…..one of their Golden Retreivers has cancer. Moca was given about 6 months to live……but, that was 2 years and 3 months ago! Shirley had to make it back home to her special boy!

What an amazing woman Shirley is….and, she told me that although she anticipates being in a wheelchair because of the unstable balance, she plans to return to teaching this September.  I was so inspired by her story, and what an incredible person to know!

It was only after I uploaded the peonie picture and began writing about Shirley that I realized Shirley resides in the little town where my grandparents settled and raised their eight children!

I began looking through the photos I hadn’t removed from my cameras and I found this one….I took the photo from the kitchen of our neighbors’ house. At first, I was disappointed that the hummingbird was black against the trees, but as I looked at it, I really began to like the silhouette appearance of the bird!

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We have been having such a heat wave, it has been grueling just doing things like cooking and laundry and household chores. Add the frustration of a sick dog, and I thought I was going over “the edge”. After the vet visit yesterday, both Scots are fine and fit as fiddles.

When we got up today, the clock on the kitchen stove was flashing “12:00”.  I set the proper time on it, and off went the electricity! It popped back on again, but this was repeated about 20 more times throughout the day!  It was totally impossible to work on the desktop computer! We are in awe that none of the appliances blew up with all the surges on and off! Mark called the power company and they sent two fellows out a little after 5. After talking with them, the power remained on! They had explained that with the weather as it was today, a limb might be bouncing on a line, causing the power to go into the limb and causing shorts.

Our weather? Well, the forecast was for strong, damaging winds. Thunderstorms with heavy downpours and lightening. We were also under a tornado watch until 6 this evening. As it worked out, none of the above happened in the Bristolwood. We did receive about an inch of rain and the wind blew, but not vigorously!

I went out with the Scotties early in the evening, and the air was fantastic! Not only had the temperatures plummeted to much more comfortable levels, but the humidity was gone! 

As Iwalked the boys, I spotted a deer standing on the crest of a hill by the road. I was so excited…it was such a perfect photo op….but, my cameras were in the house, and my hands were gripping two rambunctious Scotties. They had not picked up the scent frm the deer, so I quickly took them back to the house and grabbed my camera.  As I walked down the driveway towards the road, a large truck was making its way (very noisily) up the hill. The deer became frightened, and hid in a small growth of bushes. I watched and the last photo is the deer in its hiding place. Not a good photo, but the poor little thing was so disturbed as the truck roared by.

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It was not a busy day by any means, but a rather strange one as it turned out!