Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mt. Baker or Bust

Hubby had it on his bucket list that he wanted to ride his bike to the top of Mt. Baker.  Last Sunday he got 'er done!  Mommy and little G were the sag wagon for daddy's trip.  Big sis had a stomach bug and stayed at Grandma's while we trooped up to Bellingham, hit up a friend's garden party, got up bright and early, and drove to the town of Glacier as the jumping off point.  Big G jumped on his bike and got an hour's head start while Little G and I sat in a diner sharing biscuits and gravy at Graham's - yum!

This was my first time driving Hwy 542 East, first time to Glacier, and the first time up Mt. Baker.  After all our fab summer weather, we ended up at the top in view-obscuring fog.  Bummer.  Little G and I did take in some of the brilliantly-colored wildflowers and ghostly looking pines.

What did I do while we waited at the top???  I finished my 2nd Powder River Cowl (pics and post later) and I started knitting the 7 feet of I-cord that starts the Telltale Heart Shawl, a shop pattern from NW Handspun Yarns in Bellingham that I picked up on Saturday before the garden party.  I am knitting it in some Mad Tosh Light, a pinky-brown colorway.  Btw, that was my 2nd visit to that shop and they were fantastically nice and helpful.  It's a small shop, but it's packed with a great selection of yards.  Absolutely visit if you're in town!

Oh, I also bought my first pair of SQUARE wooden needles...verdict?  I like them!  I like how easy they are to hold onto.  I don't plan on changing out all my needles, but when I see them and I need a new set I'll probably choose them over round needles from now on.  Anybody else like square needles?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Blackberry/Apple Sauce - Yum!!

I've always made plain sauce before, but never a mixed-fruit sauce...why not I wonder?  Last week I was up at Grandma's house to deal with some of the apple abundance (because of the actual summer weather in the Pacific NW the apple's are a few weeks ahead of schedule) and I noticed that the first of the blackberries were also ready. to deal with both fruits at once, I thought.   I asked Grandma if she had ever sauced the two together.

Apple + blackberries = heaven!

Nope, but why not give it a try.  It is AMAZING!!!!  I used transparent apples, cut into quarters (with stems/seeds/skins on), threw it into the stock pot with 1 gallon of blackberries and 3 cups of water.  Cooked over medium heat stirring like the dickens.  When everything was nice and soft (20 min.-ish) I put it through a food mill and into jars.  I use a steam canner (not boiling water bath) and processed for 20 minutes after it was up to temperature.  This steam canner is new this year and boy is it awesome!  It is SO much more efficient than a boiling water canner and much faster to heat up.  Uses lots less water as well.

The color it turned out was fantastically bright.  Much redder in the above pictures, and a lot more purple once it was in the jars and processed.  A side benefit of using the food mill was that it eliminated about 90% of the blackberry seeds.  I have come across a few seeds here and there in the sauce, but not actually that many.  

On Saturday we drove up to Bellingham so Big G could bike to the top of Mount Baker on Sunday morning (more on that later).  We were invited to a annual potluck garden party at a friend's parents house...what to take???  You guessed it - the new sauce.  Angel food cake, blackberry sauce, and whipped cream.  Ah, summer.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer Vacation

We have been reveling in the glory of Sunriver, OR for the last week and a half!  Being from the PNW summer is always a crapshoot, although this summer (post-4th of July anyways) is quite nice.  This hit and miss summers are why we almost always choose Sunriver for our family get-togethers.  My grandparents started the tradition 23 years ago (!) and once they were gone my dad and his brothers continued the tradition.  Sunriver is almost always guaranteed to be dry, hot during the day, and cool at night.  It's high-desert country in Central Oregon, just to the south of Bend.  This year was much cooler than average (high 70s to mid 80s during the day) and we actually had 2 days of rain and thunderstorms!

Why do we go back to Sunriver year after year?  Besides the sun, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

At the High Desert Observatory just after we looked at sunspots through a telescope.

Playing train conductor with daddy and  cousin on the back deck.
 The lava tube cave was probably our favorite excursion of this year.  It's been at least 6 years since I last walked to the end of the cave and none of the kids were around at that time.  It was Big G's first time as well.  He toted Little G through the cave in a backpack... Apparently the caves weren't all that interesting to Little G because he conked right out.  We're all wearing as many warm clothes as we brought because it was 85 degrees above ground, and 43 degrees down in the cave.

Hiking 2 miles roundtrip in an underground lava tube!  C walked the whole way by herself.

The dark hole-in-the-ground that's the entrance to the lava tube.
Snoozing through the lava caves.

Playing putt-putt on real golf greens after a breakfast at the Main Lodge.

Ready for the annual float/raft trip down the Deschutes River.
All in all, an amazing year.  Big G got to bike close to 300 miles while we were there, we spend several afternoons at the pool, we played tennis, and finally did a little shopping in Bend.  Now it's back home and back to thinking about getting ready for another school year.  I am teaching 2nd grade again, 3 days a week and I have no idea who I will be job sharing with.  A situation I am trying hard not to think or worry about yet.

What crafts did I actually attempt to finish while I was away?  I took 3 different knitting projects and spent time working on all of them, but not as much as I anticipated.  During the 8 hour drive south I knit on a hat for Little G for next winter.  Discovered that I did not have enough yarn to finish it in the blue color, so it's on hold until I stash dive for some more Cascade 220 in a coordinating color.  I am making up the pattern as I go along.  I think it's going to turn out on the big side which might mean that I need to knit him another hat for next winter and either gift this one to someone else, give it to big sis, or just save it until he grows.  Not a biggie.

Cascade 220, boys hat, making up that pattern as I go along.
Once my hat knitting was stymied I moved onto another Birthday Cowl.  I think this is my 6th or 7th??  It usually take me just a day or two to knit making it one of my go-to gift patterns. This is for my new teaching partner.  She'll be teaching the other class of 2nd graders this year.  She doesn't wear animal fibers, so this is a silk/bamboo combination.  I usually use Manos silk blend and it takes just one skein.  See that purple tail of yarn at the top?  That's the end of road, so to speak.  This project is also on hold until I go buy another ball of yarn.

Last, but not least, I am trying to finish up my 2nd Powder River Cowl.  The first was for my dad's wife, this one's for me.  It's Tosh Merino Light in the Vulga colorway (purpley-gray).  This cowl has great texture and I know I'll love it! Um yeah, because I knit one already and had to give it away.