Happy Birthday To My Blog, Tom and I

We’ve had a bunch of birthdays this week!  No, the baby isn’t here yet.  I turned 30 yesterday and my blog turned 2.  Today Tom is turning 35.  Our birthdays have been somewhat overshadowed by lots of pre labor and a broken truck that cost almost $1000 to fix, not including the three days of missed pay.  Its been a very expensive, but celebratory week.

Chaser and I took a very peaceful contraction inducing walk in the orchard and picked apples.  These are destined to become applesauce.  My second attempt this year.  All our apples ripened a few weeks early this year and I’ve been too tired to pick since the last time when I ended up burning all my applesauce.  There are only a few trees with apples left so I felt like it was now or next fall.  Thank god there were no wasps this time.  Last year Brae and I were picking apples on my birthday and were attacked by wasps.  I did find Brae’s missing shoe.  While we ran from the wasps Brae lost her shoe and even though we all searched and searched for it we never found it until yesterday, exactly one year later.  Weird.

For my birthday I had my favorites.  Top sirloin steaks fried up in my cast iron pan with carrots and baked potatoes.  I am notorious for overcooking meat, but luck was on my side and my steaks came out perfectly.  Ice cream cake has been my personal birthday tradition for almost 20 years.  This year Brae and I made our own ice cream cake.  The bottom layer was made of my favorite brownies, next was a thin layer of Nutella, followed by a layer of Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream and topped with caramel sauce.  It was messy, but so delicious!  For some reason the camera burped and all our pictures vanished so I am bummed I don’t have any photos of the cake.

Tonight Tom has requested Venison Backstrap with mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes and broccoli with cheese sauce.  A friend gave us a large amount of venison and wild boar meat.  I’ve never cooked either meat, but I am learning a lot from Hank Shaw’s blog about cooking with wild plants and game.  I know backstrap is the best part of the deer and I hope I do it justice.

Anyway, I need to go rest a bit.  I feel like the baby will be making his debut soon.  Maybe even this weekend, so please keep us in your thoughts and pray for a happy safe labor and delivery!  Thank you!

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Apples, Anniversaries and Birthdays

I feel completely unprepared for this post, moving boxes are on every surface and pizza boxes cover the stove, but its been too long since my last one and I feel you deserve an update.

We are all moved in to our new home now and we are slowly learning our way around.  If you have been following my twitter stream then you have heard me rave about Andy’s Market in Sebastopol, Ca.  I can not explain how happy the little chef inside me was while walking through that store.  Childish glee… maybe.  I bought lots of obscure ingredients that I don’t need now, I but DID need at some point in the last year and couldn’t find.  All of a sudden there they were and there I was with a debit card in hand.

Carob chips, tapioca pearls that have to be soaked overnight, unsweetened shredded coconut and sprouting seeds the list goes on.  They have every flour, nut, seed, bean, pasta or spice sold in bags by weight.  If you are gluten-free then you want to visit this place.  They have the best selection of gluten-free ingredients I have ever seen.

Anyway, I will tell you more about Andy’s in another post.  Back to our house.  It’s a two bedroom, 1 bath on a property with a couple other houses and an old apple orchard.  The house is a perfect fit for us with a freestanding wood stove and a large kitchen.  I have spent a happy last couple weeks learning its quirks.  For example, where all those sounds were coming from at night.  Ghosts were mentioned several times, but it ended up being the fridge.

Celebrations have been happening all month.  First Tom came home from the vineyard, we got our house, then it was my birthday and this blog’s 1 yr anniversary, then Tom’s birthday, then our wedding anniversary, then Halloween, which is big in our house.  Its been crazy!

We learned where the local yellow jacket hive was on my birthday and blog anniversary, October 11th.  There we were, joyfully picking apples in “the Snow White Apple Orchard” next to our house (Brae renamed it for the red apples).  I was posting photos to twitter about how I was in paradise.  The next minute my little one runs toward me screaming hysterically.  I see a wasp on her shirt and swipe it off her only to see another and another land on her and now me.  Suddenly I have flashbacks of the movie My Girl.  I dropped my bag and screamed RUN!  I grab her hand and we fled through the orchard, wasps hot on our tail.  I stopped halfway to the house to swipe more wasps off Brae, then realized they were still landing on us.  I grabbed her and ran for my life back to the house.  In the front room we stopped and swiped the ones that were on our clothes.  Several lifted off and started flying around the room.  Brae had been stung already and was freaking out.  There were still wasps on her.  We ran to the bedroom and shut the door.  Stripped off our clothes and I frantically beat the crap out of anything that moved until I was sure all the wasps in the room were dead.

We took stock of the damage.  She got 5 first stings and a couple secondary stings.  Yellow jackets can sting repeatedly without dying or losing their stinger.  I got stung twice with about 7 secondary stings.  Brae was freaked out, I was freaked out.  She had never been stung before so I was worried about allergies & the amount of stings.  I waited a few minutes to make sure her breathing was normal and she was calm before heading back out to war with the rest of the wasps.  I killed about eight around the house before calling it safe.  Then it took another ten minutes to convince Brae to leave the house and go next door for help.  That was how I met my very sweet neighbors who have become our fast friends.

In two days I turned 29, Tom turned 34 and this blog turned 1.  We were finally together, I have many pounds of free apples and found out that I was the one who had a mild allergy to bee stings.  Brae is apparently immune to their venom.  Her stings had disappeared completely by the next day.  Since that day however, she has developed an uneasy relationship with bugs that fly.  Outright panic and growing agoraphobia thankfully changed into extreme caution, which has, in the last couple days, changed again to a calm distrust of tiny flying things.  We have learned a lot about wasps and how to avoid a hive if you find one.  It’s a work in progress.  A couple of days later my neighbor and I were discussing what had happened, she laughed and said, “Welcome to the country.”  I laughed with her and said, “Actually, its welcome back.”

Those apples were retrieved by a brave husband at dusk and were turned into apple butter a few nights later.

Elise’s Apple Butter recipe

More apple recipes to come.