Monday, July 30, 2012

Vacation Souvenirs

What do you bring back from vacations?  Are you immune to souvenir buying?  When Best Loved Hubbs and I went to Switzerland and Italy a few years ago the kids commented that we only brought home edibles. It was true.  I bought hot coco mix that we loved when we were in the alps.  We even tried to find a way to duplicate the way they heated the milk with the foamer on the espresso machines that seemed to be in every restaurant.  I also bought Parmesan cheese - in Parma, Italy!  It changed my cheese buying life.  No more dusty stuff in a green container that smells slightly like vomit for us.  The BL MIL and one of the BL Girls and Husband like to find a fridge magnet for each place they visit.  I've  heard of folks who collect sand from each place they visit.  All fun. 

I usually don't look for a specific type of memento and I hate the t-shirt and junk stores that are so common in popular tourist areas.  When we went to Yellowstone Park  I found the perfect item to carry home.  I even got to  meet the artist.

Under the Boardwalk, by James Reed, Artist in Residence, Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park
BL Baby Boy brought the art display in the Old Faithful Lodge to my attention. He liked a print showing some buck deer in velvet titled "Bachelor Pad". I fell in love with this print showing a unique view of Old Faithful geyser.  The artist was a firefighter with the Casper, WY fire department for 25 years and on retirement devoted himself to full time art.  He became an Artist in Residence at Old Faithful Inn in 2003 and has lived and worked there in that capacity every summer since.  Fun gig, huh!  Since I have the ability to do framing I was happy to buy an unframed print.  It traveled home in my suitcase perfectly.  It was not a numbered edition, though Mr. Reed told me he would never do open editions again but it was signed and he then personalized it to me.  I don't know if that is good or not, but it was fun.  Now to find a frame.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Real Live Moose

When I was in my teens my family had a cattle ranch in Montana.  It was high and remote and we saw a lot of wildlife.  Coyotes, porcupine, marmots, golden eagles and deer were commonplace. Sometimes we saw bear and wolves. Each summer we usually saw some moose.  A moose is big. They stand over six feet tall at the shoulder.  Females are as big as the males.  Momma moose with their babies are fiercely protective and will kick, stomp and otherwise take care of any creature that gets too near their baby.   My Noah's Ark Moose are based on the ones I remember.

While in Yellowstone Park and even in Island Park at the cabins and while floating the Henry's Fork we saw lots of moose.  All were mommas with babies. 

Try floating your raft full of kids right by a momma moose and baby without upsetting her. Thankfully they were so busy eating yummy leaves and plants that grew right by the water that they let tolerated us.  I was pleased to see that my Noah's Ark Moose were true to the moose I saw.  Oh, and baby moose are maybe my current favorite animal.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


As a child, summer was when you got to see the cousins.  Either they traveled to us or we visited them.  Visiting relatives was the only real vacation my family took.  Summer still sometimes means seeing those same cousins.  On my mother's side I have 22 first cousins.  Every three years Mom's sibs and their descendants get together somewhere.  This year it was Island Park, Idaho.  Why? Where? It's beautiful and just down the road from West Yellowstone, MT and Yellowstone Park's West Entrance.

100 descendants of my Grandparents - My cousins

 I haven't been to the reunion for a few years and I rarely see most of the family any other time but it's really great to visit with them.  I'm the oldest cousin, and only two others are close to my age, still, I know a lot about these people's childhood.  I remember when Oscar put the cat in the dryer.  Margie was who I wanted for a bridesmaid. I remember Angie being potty trained. I know which Carlson sister was a TV child star (Romper Room).  I remember how proud David was when he took the bus by himself to see Grandpa and Grandma. Now we are parents and some are  grandparents and we throw our kids together and tell them to "go play with your cousins". 
What we really have in common is that our Grandparents, Wayne and Evelyn, fiercely loved each of us and I believe still do.  The BestLoved DIL comes from a large extended family and has so many girl cousins near her age that it's like she is a member of an exclusive sorority that meets every so often.  In the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" she had dozens of first cousins that lived near by and he had only 2.  Lucky is the child who has cousins and gets to visit them in the summer.

Monday, July 2, 2012

My Cup Runneth Over, and My Bowls, and Freezer. .

BLHubby and I had been looking for some land to purchase.  We need a smaller house and would like to build another rental house.  We hit the jackpot and finalized the purchase of over 2 acres near our current home.  The property came with a happy extra. No, not the never used septic system which will save us a bunch.  The Blueberry Bushes!  The property has some fruit trees and a line of 8 mature blueberry plants.  When we first looked at the land, the berries were in full bloom.  It was early evening and they were covered with butterflies and bees.  Now they are covered with marble sized goodness.  I''ve been picking every other day or so and we're about half way through.  What to do with all those blueberries? 
We have 34 bags of frozen blueberry deliciousness.  Each is at least a quart and most are bigger. (I'm not very consistent.) The bottom drawer of the big upright freezer is full so I've changed tactics.
I made a great sauce/topping for a Sam's cheesecake we took to a birthday party and it was so yummy I decided to make so more and can it.  I've got 18 pints and it will be delish over ice cream, pancakes and cheesecake.  I also made a batch of Blueberry Butter.  This idea came from Marisa McClellen of the incomparable Food In Jars blog.  She makes hers in a crock pot but does say that you need an older model because new model slow cookers heat a lot hotter on the lowest setting than they used to.  Someone somewhere determined that you might get sick if the slow cooker didn't bring the food to a higher temp.  I did try this last year and my cooker must not be low temp enough cause my butter burnt.  This time I used my pretty red dutch oven.  I also cut back the sugar (I used half of what Marisa did) and I added a little lemon juice.  I added a little corn syrup to the sauce/topping and while doing so I accidently added a "glug" to the butter. Success!  I ended up with a whole bunch of 1/2 pints. 

With about 4 cups of berries left (after I put about 3 pints in the fridge so we can snack on them fresh) I bought four bottles of white wine vinegar, brought it to a boil and poured it over the berries. I'm making Blueberry Vinegar.  Three months of macerating and hopefully I will have goodness.  I don't know if the white wine vinegar is going to be any better than just plane white vinegar.

The last berries have been hurt a bit by our horrendous hot weather.  Even watered the berries are soft and not plump.  I whirled them in the food processor, brought them to a boil and then strained them through a sieve to make some syrup.  I sweeted it with Splenda so I've got some No Sugar Added syrup to add to lemonade and other stuff.  8 pints. 

The dear man who's been these blueberries founder says that he loves for blueberry season to start and he gets glad that it's over.  Amen.