Monthly Archives: September 2014

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Goodbye, summer …

While those of us up north bid summer a fond farewell with a tear or two (goodbye, swimming; goodbye, picnics; goodbye, sleeveless dresses and summer sandals), we’ll have to try to switch our focus to the fun of fall … autumn leaves, snuggly sweaters, Halloween, pumpkin pie.

Or how about a pumpkin cow??

But, first off, why do we have two names for this season? Is it autumn or is it fall? As far as I know, there’s only one way to have spring fever or celebrate summer solstice.

Did you know that fall (or autumn, if you prefer) and spring are relatively new seasons? In ancient times, there was only one season: winter. People referred to the passing of the year as so many winters (think Beowulf, the oldest surviving epic poem in the English language, where Beowulf rescues a kingdom terrorized by a monster for “12 winters”). Over time, the year became two seasons: winter and “sumer,” an ancient Germanic term for “half” (denoting half the year).

It’s interesting to note that the more poetic Chinese also had only two seasons, but theirs were spring (regeneration) and autumn (adversity).

By the 12th century, Middle English had added “lenten” for springtime and “haerfest” (harvest) for fall. Two centuries later, “lenten” had become “spring” and “haerfest” was replaced by “autumn,” a Latin term meaning the season of abundance. “Fall” came into use much later, in the 17th century, as a poetic complement to “spring.” (It looks like poetry really does have more historical significance than you might think.) But, did you know that “fall” is primarily used only by Americans? The Brits have always tended to look down their noses at the term (think Downton Abbey’s Mr. Carson imperiously observing a tipsy dinner guest), preferring the more proper term, “autumn.”

Now that we know we can call it “fall” unless Great-aunt Beatrice has come to visit from Derbyshire, let’s think of all the fun we can have during this bountiful, beautiful season …

  • Leaves. Take a rambling, fall drive to experience the beauty of the season. Back home, rake them up and jump in them! Find a one-week, 700-mile fall foliage tour at DiscoverNewEngland.org.
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Photo by aiko99ann via Wilimedia Commons

  • Pumpkins. Horse-drawn wagons meander through acres of pumpkins at Vermont Farms. Visit them or find a pumpkin patch in your area. Take ’em home, bake ’em up, carve ’em, decorate with them! (Did you know the smell of pumpkin pie is a natural aphrodisiac??)
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Photo, Vermont Farms

  • Aurora Borealis. Fall is the official season to see the spectacular “northern lights.” Visit “A Guide for Watching Earth’s Auroras” to see if you can get a glimpse of these unbelievable beauties.
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Photo by Polarlicht 2 via Wikimedia Commons

  • Apple Cider. Did you know it takes about 36 apples to make a gallon of cider? If you’re feeling frisky, ferment that a little and you get a heady concoction known as “hard cider.” (Here’s one you won’t find in the history books: President John Adams drank a glass of cider every morning (the hard kind) as a “health tonic.” And it might have worked—even with the stress of being the very first Vice-President for two terms and our second President for one term, Adams lived until 90, in an age when the average lifespan was around 40.)
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Photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

So take a drive, pick some pumpkins, and look up in the night sky while drinking a large glass of old John Adams’ cider—you might just chase away those goodbye-to-summer blues.

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Dishing (slightly) Dirty Fun

Abe’s Market, an online organic and natural products retailer, has come out with a new ad campaign that’s raising eyebrows … and getting them noticed. The new campaign, called “Dishing Dirty: The Filthy Truths of the Modern Woman,” pairs a photo of a woman, often in ’50s fashion, with a witty headline like “Toxins … I’m saving those for my cocktail,” and a factoid/commentary like “Women are exposed to an average of 128 unique chemicals daily through use of approximately 12 skin-care products. Isn’t it almost better to go out naked?”

Here are a few samples to tickle your funny bone:

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Abe’s plans to upload a new ad weekly. Get your weekly dose of fun and facts here.

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Scrapbooking Merit Badge, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,035 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—8,663 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Stitching and Crafting/Scrapbooking Intermediate Level Merit Badge, I lovingly lined up my collection of glue sticks and a stack of scrapbooking paper that was only slightly higher than my head. (Hey now. Don’t judge. I’m a doll. And a short one, at that.)

Now scrapbooking is a recent art form. At least I think it is. Has anyone ever written the historical history of the scrapbook? I didn’t think so. Don’t fret: there’s probably a merit badge for writing one, and it’s got my name all over it.

In calligraphy, with a sweet border, a strategically placed sticker, and a maybe a bow. See what I did there? Snort. I kill myself.

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Anyway, scrapbooking can be an excellent way to de-stress oneself at the end of a long day, especially if you are the sentimental type (moi) and can’t find your knitting needles to finish that long overdue scarf (also moi). And at the end of your de-stressing period, you’ll have a lovely momento or gift (but you won’t be able to wrap it around your cold neck during blizzard season, so you might want to find those needles eventually).

I decided to make my latest and greatest creation a Recipe Scrapbook. My Gramma Barbie had bombarded me lately with handwritten recipe cards and they were starting to invade every nook and cranny in my kitchen. An organized book was the way to solve all my problems! Well, not every problem: she was also mailing me, a few at a time, her collection of Beanie Babies. Sigh. They don’t fit well on construction paper and they make the scrapbook really lumpy. I’ve tried.

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Mounting them on the walls, a pseudo kind of wildlife trophy art? With purple bears and sparkly cats? No? Too gruesome? Double sigh.

I sorted out my pile of recipe cards. One pile for the scrapbook, and one to … er, file away for later use. Or accidentally misplace. I mean, really, Gramma: hot dog weiner and jello mold? The ’50s were a scary time, my peeps. Some of these recipes gave me more chills than the latest Steven King novel.

I am fairly certain that housewives, chefs, young homemakers, stay-at-home dads, and your Great Aunt Betty’s first cousin twice removed would love to have this collection sitting in their kitchen. Weiner jello mold notwithstanding, of course.

What follows is something tastier, I assure you. And just in time for Halloween!

Apple Cider Halloween Popcorn Balls

2/3 cup popcorn kernels
2-4 T canola oil (leave out if using an air popper)
4 cups fresh local apple cider
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup organic honey
3/4 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
melted white chocolate, for drizzling (optional)

Pop corn however you like to pop it.

In a small saucepan, bring the apple cider to a boil. Lower the heat and cook until the cider is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 40 minutes. Pour into a glass measuring cup to see if it’s reduced enough. When it’s completely reduced to 1/2 cup, it will be a bit syrupy. Pour it into a larger, 3-4 quart pan with a tight-fitting lid, and add the brown sugar, cream, butter, honey, and salt. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cover tightly with a lid. Cook for 3 minutes without removing the lid. Remove the lid, being careful not to drop any water back into the pot. Clip a candy thermometer to the inside of the pan and cook until soft-ball stage (236°F to 238°F). Add the vanilla after the caramel comes to the correct temperature. It will bubble up and splatter, so be careful! Stir and pour over the popcorn, stirring with a large wooden spoon. Stir in the white chocolate, if using.

Eat out of the bowl, or using buttered hands, form into balls and add a stick for easier eating.

 

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Calling All California Farmgirls …

Zan Media is looking for female farmers, female ranchers, and contributors for a new documentary film, Golden Girls: Cultivating an Amazing Life.

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In the U.S., there are currently more than 300,000 female farmers. The film will unfold through the narratives of some of these women. “Their stories will convey the universal themes of the contemporary farmer/rancher. It is through their eyes that we frame the message: It is a rewarding life, a life worth celebrating in complete harmony with all living things,” say producers.

Watch the trailer:

The goal of the movie is to showcase the special relationship women share with the land and its bounty as they forge a prominent role in the locally grown food movement. The film is hosted by author, environmental activist, and vegetarian cattle rancher (see more about that here) Nicolette Hahn Niman (author of Righteous Porkchop and Defending Beef).

Says Producer Christine Scioli, “By contributing to the production of the film and sharing individual stories of a diverse group of women, we can further understand and embrace the most basic and human female instinct: to nourish, with respect and appreciation.”

Ultimately, producers plan a similar film highlighting each state in the country.

Are you a California farmgirl with something to say? Find out more and learn how you can participate at their Kickstarter site.

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Today Is International Day of Peace

Yesterday morning I enjoyed a leisurely morning with three of my grandgirls in the heart of our town in what is called Friendship Square—overflowing on Saturdays with the hustle and bustle of our Farmers’ Market.

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There’s a water fountain in the middle where people make wishes and toss pennies. My daughter handed a penny to each of the girls but when she handed one to me, I was caught off guard. As I tried to think of a meaningful wish, I said, “You know, I think all my wishes have come true.” That’s when I remembered about my post earlier this week, so I wished for more peace in the world and tossed my penny into the water.

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