Friday, July 30, 2010

Step One...part one

Step one down my sustainable living path was to a) learn how to put up food (AKA-Canning) and then b) use local &/or in season produce to start to build up a store house of home-canned foods. Well last week I took my fist baby step towards that goal. I put up 6 pounds of clementines! It was so much fun!

I sat in front of the TV and peeled and de-pithed all those clementines and I only ate the ones that I ripped up.

I bought a bunch of jars from Weis & Walmart. I really loved the sticker on the packaging. I'll hop on and off this soapbox quickly-but we MUST buy local when we can and give all the support and dollars we can to American factories!

After that I boiled some water with a little bit of sugar in the bottom to make a light syrup. The stuff that the clementines will swim in until we eat them! I stuffed those clementine segements into the clean & sterilized jars and poured the syrup into the jars using the handy-dandy Bell funnel.

Then I used the air-bubble remover to get out all the bubbles I could. Now, are there any experts here? Cause I thought I got all those bubbles out, but when the jars were boiling bubbles were still appearing. What's up with that?

Then all the jars went into the jacuzzi pot and got boiled and boiled! I pulled them out when they were done, set them on dish towels on the counter and there they sit! A bit after their bath, I could here these little "pops" coming from the kitchen. I liked the sound of that! They look so pretty. Pretty enough to eat! But those are our winter treats when we cannot get cheap clementines around here. So, this weekend I'm gonna make a spot in the unfinished basement and start to store the jars down there.

I think this weekend we are finally gonna go to that blueberry farm. I found one that lets you pick blueberries FOR FREE. You pick a pint for yourself, you pick a pint for them and yours is free. You pick a bucket for yourself, you pick a bucket for them and your bucket is free. How cool is that? Do you think I could train chihuahuas to pick blueberries?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tourist Season!

Oh, yeah, it's tourist season here in my neck of the woods. I think that last year I was too engrossed in learning my way around town and enjoying the newness of it all to notice that some folks just didn't seem to be from around here. Now that I've been up here a year I can spot the visitors. "Just what," you might be wondering, "does Mansfield, PA have there to bring in the tourists?" Well, besides the many chicken BBQ suppers, the farmer's markets & blueberry farms, Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon and the lumber museum there is plenty to do to and see! In fact just last weekend the NRA hosted their International Youth Hunters Education Challenge in Mansfield!
With just a little over a year of small town living under my belt I can tell you that I am in no ways an expert-heck I don't even own a pair of Muck books yet! But I am assimilating. I've met folks. Made friends. I know where to get a burn barrel and I can give directions to both of the funeral homes in town. One thing that I think I've gotten pretty good at over the last few months is spotting people who are not local. Being that my job puts me front and center in the busiest place in town-The Mansfield Mall (AKA-The Walmart!) I get to see 'em all coming in! Also, being that my job lets me do one of my very favorite things, chat with people, I get to ask where they are from and what brings them to our area. I absolutely do NOT have one teeny problem being nosey!
Well the other day I was giving out samples of Odwall's Mango Limeade drink and I got to meet two people that were, for me, most excellent to chat with. The first lady commented that she grows mangos in her yard at home. "Home" being Pompano Beach, Florida! Ooh! I talked her ear off about my old stompin' ground. Told her about my dad, the lighthouse and Cap's Place. She told me stories about her kids growing up in Pompano. It was awesome talking to her. A bit later in the day a family came up and tried my drink and when they spoke, I have say that like my Aunt A used to say, "it was like a salve for the soul." They were from a small town near Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The way they spoke, the words they used...oh it made me realize how much I miss hearing a good 'ole Southern accent. In talking to them I learned where "their people" come from, heard the word "y'all" a few times and they drawled "thank you, ma'am." Such lovely people and I loved chatting with them.
Now I don't know about the rest of Mansfield...but I am not sick of our tourists! Yep, there are more folks around and we don't normally have to wait for the stop light to cycle through three times before we make it through. We don't normally see cars lined up 4 deep at the gas pumps. We never have to wait for a table at a restaurant. But I surely don't think we are about to hang up a sign over Main Street that says, "Benny Go Home"!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Project Life

Kiwi watches and waits for "Daddy" to come to bed every night.
A very cool lightning show over the tops of the mountain. Sadly we never saw a drop of rain from it and we badly need it!
The Wellsboro Town Band baby! It is one of my all-time favorite things to do. This night Miss Morgan came with us and I packed a fantastic picnic supper for us all. The dogs came tonight too, and were pretty much on their best behavior.
Another favorite of ours is to go to Crazy Bob's Harvest Moon Drive-In Theater. I cannot say enough good things about this place. First of all for $6 you can watch two first-run movies. That's two for the price of one. Second everybody brings chairs, blankets, etc. to watch the show picnic style. Hardly anyone stays in the car. Thirdly if you arrive early enough you can join in on a game of volley ball, soccer, Frisbee, etc. In front of the giant screen there are always kids and adults playing something. Fourth, they have a "car-feteria" where you can get all kinds of yummy food! It is simply a great evening!
Shhh! This is the very rare "Husband Yard-Workorous". I'm afraid if we talk too loud we'll scare it away and it won't come back for another year!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Go ahead and laugh!

OK, here is another one of those "Feel Free to Laugh at Jen" moments!

Today is beautiful. Slightly overcast and nice and breezy. It is 79 and just a nice day to be outside. Since I've been working in my basement studio and doing laundry for most of the day we have not been outside too much so on an afternoon potty break I am standing at the top of our hill looking down towards the mailbox. I'm thinking, "There might be more registration forms in there and I want those! But that is where that stupid bear cub was hanging out last Saturday. Is mail worth it?" I look down at the dogs and I can tell that Kiwi really wants to take a stroll, so after I stand there thinking about what I would do if I had a close bear neighbors at home now, not a lot of cars on the road right now, who would help? Nobody-that's who. But I decided to hike up my big girl pants and walk down the drive. Loud noise. That will let the bears know that we are coming and to move along, right? If you know me, you know that although I love to sing, I am really quite bad at it. But that never stops me! I chose the Pennsylvania Polka to sing as my "scare the bears" song and I was working it! I was telling anyone/thing who was listening that "everybody has the mania, to do the polka from Pennsylvania" when both Kiwi and I not only heard a loud rustling in the tree line ahead, but SAW a bear moving away! Yep! There was a bear exactly where I thought it would be. Yep! It heard me singing and knew enough to move along-out of earshot, I imagine. But did my big girl panties and brave girl song carry me all the way to the mail box? NOT ON YOUR LIFE!!! I did a very quick, backwards shuffle almost all the way up the hill. See, I did it backwards because I've heard tell that you do not want to actually run away from a bear, just move away slowly while keeping an eye on it! I got the "keep an eye on it" part ok, but the "slowly" needs a bit more work. I moved as fast as my legs could move me backwards and uphill while corralling two barking Chihuahuas! But, lemme tell you this...I kept right on singing! Not even a stinky 'ole bear can stop me when I get a polka tune in my head!

New current score for "on property" bear sightings:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thanks Rachel!

I signed up to get email blasts from the Rachel Ray magazine that are daily and weekly menu suggestions. I love her magazine and I love her website...her? Not so much!! This recipe came across titled "Spicy Beef Pitas". I do look at recipes that contain meat, because, thanks to Morningstar Farms, I can substitute just about any meat with their stuff. This recipe looked great and best of all, super easy! You might be able to tell from my photo below, that Tops was out of Pitas so I substituted the new whole wheat hot dog "thin" buns. Still excellent! So with a few of my own modifications, here is the recipe:

Spicy Vegetarian Crumbles Pitas:

1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped habanero chile (or regular diced chilies with a dash of hot sauce)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (or if you have a good friend who can get it, dried Moroccan cumin!! Thanks Roxane!)
1 bag veggie crumbles
4 pitas

Preheat the oven to 500°. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt and two-thirds of the garlic; season with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining garlic, the habanero chile and cumin; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
On a baking sheet, top each pita with a quarter of the beef mixture and bake until crisp, about 8 minutes. Serve with the garlic yogurt.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A funny John Waters story

Last night I was watching a documentary on the Ovation channel about the director, John Waters. This show was a behind-the-scenes documentary about filming Pink Flamingos. (Which if you haven't seen, you must!) This movie is described in the ads as "The most vile, stupid & repulsive film ever made." Pretty much sums it up!

Anyway...I have heard a few lectures given by John Waters and to me, he is an amazing storyteller. I could listen to him all day long. I love a good verbal storyteller. I think I enjoy it so much because my dad was an excellent storyteller! So John was telling stories about his childhood and teen years and how he just knew he was meant to be a director. He talked about how he would beg his mom to take him to see crashed cars in junk yards because he loved to imagine what happened. He told how his grandmother gave him his first movie camera and he and his friends would shoot movies in and around his parent's house. But my favorite story from the documentary was from the days he would put on puppet shows for the neighborhood. His mom and dad said that everyone knew his puppet shows were a bit macabre but that they held everyone's attention and that the kids loved them. I may not get this next bit perfectly the way he told it, but I re-watched it three times, 'cause I thought it was so true & funny!

So John recalls this..."I would come out from behind the wall with a puppet on my hand. That was so taboo 'cause you were never supposed to see the person behind the scenes. But here comes this man with a dragon puppet on his hand! I would walk around and make all the little kids put their fingers in the mouth of that dragon and make the dragon bite them. I told them it was for good luck. Now, about 90% of the kids LOVED this! The other 10% were having a coronary. They were cowards. They are the ones that still live up the street from their parents, have a boring job and peaked in high school."

So funny and true!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

1/4 acre of land and no mule

"Sustainable living." This phrase, notion, idea, has been going around in my head for a few months now. It could be a response to a call from nature or it could be that my paranoid husband has finally rubbed off on me and I'm preparing us for "off grid" living. Either way, the notion is awesome! I am excited about it and wish that I really could do as much as I'd like. I have these "steps" in my mind of what I can be doing now and I have officially started. One of the first steps is education. I do not know a thing about living off the land, but I do know how to order books from Amazon and ask anyone who is doing this for advice. Two books that I am currently waiting for are, The Backyard Homestead and Made From Scratch:Discovering the Pleasures of a Homemade Life. The notion of the "homestead" book is that you can sustain a family (of 4?) on just 1/4 acre of land. Sounds cool, huh? Once I get the book, I'm gonna be learning about raising animals, planting crops, harvesting and preparing food for storage. Well, being that we don't own 1/4 acre of land to plant and add animals to, I'm gonna start where I can...canning, preserving, learning how to make soap and cheese from goat's milk. And, I'm gonna try planting a few berry bushes in the planting bed and see what happens!
SO! I've decided to start with canning. I've been doing some research, reading some blogs and reviews on products and today I had decided to go get a starter kit. I found the one that I liked at Agway and it included a cook book, tongs, funnel, jars and the all-important pot with the base inside. I was headed to the Agway when I remembered our Sunday lesson at church. We talked about buying less, recycling more...lessening our footprint in the world. So when I am in the mood to go shopping my first place ALWAYS to check out are the local "junk-tique" stores. I thought, "They are never gonna have canning supplies." But what the heck, I had an hour to kill so I went into my favorite store. Not a dozen steps inside the door, in the second "booth" I peeped into, there it was! A beautiful, black, enamel canning pot. I lifted the lid and saw the stand inside. Sure, it didn't have all the other bells and whistles as the "kit" at Agway had, but it also wasn't $65! This was only $10 and I didn't buy new, so...go me! I stopped off at the Mansfield Mall (AKA-WalMart) on the way home and picked up a funnel, the Blue Bell cookbook and of course, some jars!
Tomorrow I am headed to the blueberry farm just outside of town to do some U-pick blueberries and head home to start making blueberry butter & blueberry preserves. Isn't this exciting?!!
So...if you live near me and find that you have some excess of any fruits or veggies, just give me a holler and let me see what I can turn them into! Wish me luck and I'll let y'all know how it turns out.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bear Sighting Score-UPDATE

As of today (just a few moments ago, actually) the current bear sighting (on our property) stands at:


He is up one! Here's the story...

Charles is weeding the planting bed up near the side of the house. He had Kiwi tied off on a double-long leash to keep him company. She is laying on the bottom step, sunning herself and watching Daddy. Unbeknownst to either of them, a bear cub is making it's way from the back yard/woods to the front of our yard. What we don't know is just how close the bear crossed where Charles and Kiwi were because their backs were to the bear's path. But finally Charles noticed the bear cub walking away from him down the yard, paralleling the driveway. It stopped at the tree line and was just sniffing around. Kiwi, the mighty hunter, finally notices the cub and barks. The bear looks at them, and takes off loping the rest of the way down the drive and runs out into the dirt road and up towards Forrest's house. Charles said that with the IPod on, he never noticed that a bear was passing behind him! Pretty funny!


As I was sitting here blogging, Charles whispers from the yard, "Get your camera. He's back!" I did, and I got some great photos of the little dude! He was just walking around in the front part of our yard for about 5 minutes!!!

So now the count is:


(Oh, and in case you are wondering...I spent the entire 5 minutes out on the front porch.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sleepover Crop Question...

I know this will be kind-of a weird question, but here goes the set up.

Imagine you are coming to the crop with one of your friends. This crop is being held in a Florida State Park. At night there are no street lamps or outdoor lights. Each cabin has it's own lights inside but if you go to and from buildings in the evening, you'll need a light source 'cause it's dark! Each cabin sleeps 8 people in 4 sets of bunk beds. I do not think I'm gonna be so full that I'll need all the top bunks so the average amount of people in each cabin will be 4. SO. If you and one of your friends are traveling together would you prefer to have a cabin for just the two of you, or would you prefer to have another couple of people in there? Ya know? Would it be too creepy being alone in the cabin in the woods while your buddy is still cropping or taking a potty break?

So, the informal poll is this: 2 to a cabin or 4?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


It is HOT! The last few days we've hit the lower 90's! That may not seem too bad to an ex-Florida girl, but we do not have air conditioning in the houses up here. I heard that WalMart doesn't have an AC unit, just a recycled air thingey. SO, when it gets hot, we know it! On Monday it was so bad that the dogs looked miserable so I went on an emergency fan run. I hooked it up and once the girls got used to the noise, it quickly became their new favorite spot in the house-right in front of the fan!

The Wellsboro Town Band is back and I couldn't be happier! They only preform three times a year and last year we only got to see them once. Not this year! We'll be there for all three! Bring a lawn chair and join us next time.

Mansfield celebrates the 4th of July on the 3rd with an entire day of fun starting with a parade down Main Street. I was working until 4, so Charles took Kiwi and his camera. This is the group that I had really been wanting to see-The Roseville Rinkydinks. They are a group of synchronized lawn chair performers. They also have a band that plays music. Charles said that they were really funny. Dang! I guess I'll have to wait until the next parade.

These purple things started showing up in the trees months ago and Charles was convinced they were toxin detectors put up as an alert if the gas companies leaked toxins into the air. Nah! Turns out they are bug collectors. There are some pretty destructive beetles that PA is monitoring.

These are the back doors to the barn/garage/workshop building. I spent a few days in there finishing the picnic table that we got at Lowe's. It turned out great and we have been using it quite a bit this summer.

These are some photos from a wedding I helped Ruth with a couple of weekends ago. This place is just beautiful! It is an old home that has been remodeled and added on to to create a lovely B&B. They also do "retreats" here...I'm thinking of another scrapbooking weekend in PA!?

Dinner at The Frog Hut in Wellsboro. A vanilla malt and "Yankee Nachos"! Seasoned waffle fries, melted cheese and sweet/hot peppers. Good, "bad" food on a fork! Yum!

Ginger and I watch the fireworks display from the car. Ginger had been having seizures, so I thought it best if we stay in the car and avoid too much noise. Weird, but it seemed like she enjoyed them.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Classic Target

Today I headed to Big Flats to do some "big city shopping" and Target was on my list of places to visit. To me Target is both a time and a dollar suck. I could spend hours just roaming the aisles of that store and not be unhappy for one moment. Today I was going for three things. Three. Dog treats, toilet paper and to check out the "camping" chairs and possibly get two if they were nice. Here is some of my inner monologue as I walk around.

Oh. Oopsie. I forgot to make a list for what I needed to get today. Toilet paper and dog treats. Not too hard to remember. TP and DTs. Got it. Oh! The Dollar Spot. Lady, if you are gonna have four kids all in the Dollar Spot area, at least tell them they need to keep a path clear for others to get through. No? Well, I'll just wait here for your kids to move. Ooohh! Bandannas. $1? Perfect for decorations for the January crop. How many? 4s' good. I love that hat. I'm not a hat person, I'd look like a total dork. Lemme just try it on to see. Yep. Dork. But those sandals are cute. But my feet aren't. Oh. I LOVE that dress. If I was skinny, that is exactly the kind of stuff I'd be wearing. Too cute. Is this plus sized or maternity? Liz Lange. Maternity. Wonder what happened to the plus size buyer at Target? Did they give the job to monkeys? This stuff is terrible. Honestly. There are three racks here for plus size. OK, those t-shirts are cute. But that is IT. No shorts. No regular jeans. Only super stone washed and low riders. Gross. Just plain 'ole Lee jeans. Where did they go?!! Well, I'll get this pink t-shirt. I should write to someone. Humm... Should I get Charles another pair of shorts? He wont wear those plaid ones. I like 'em, but he wont. Nevermind. Don't look at the shoes. You always complain that they aren't comfortable. Ignore their cuteness. Books! Wasn't there a book on my list? Nope. Toilet paper and dog treats. Oh and those chairs. But I know I've been thinking of getting The Bucolic Plague. Target has to have it. Sam's didn't. Target's got to. Nope. Nope. Not here. Geesh. Oh, but there is the book Suze said she read and was good. I'll get that instead. Better yet-in paperback. I'll start this this weekend. Where are the magazines? Shouldn't they be right here? Oh well. Ipod stuff. I could see if they have that little cube thing. Really? You've never heard of something like that? I'm really not an idiot-I HAVE seen it. In fact I got one from Michael's as an impulse purchase and it worked for all of one hour. OK, maybe it was only $9, but still... I'll try Best Buy. Yep. Yep. There is where the chairs will be. ON SALE! Yeah baby. Rats. Only in pink and blue? I am not into either of those colors, so I'll keep looking. The Eddie Bauer ones are nice and in orange or green, but $23 vs. $9...not today. Is that a "clearance" sign in the garden & patio stuff? Wait? What was I supposed to be looking for? Dog treats and toilet paper? Oh, I'm good. Haven't gotten there yet. Look at that furniture! I am really wanting a love seat sized bench on my front porch in case company comes over and we all want to sit out there. $187? Nah. But those outdoor lights are just too cool. Charles can put them up for me tomorrow. Orange pillows? Do they have two? And they are on clearance? AND they are outdoor pillows? Perfect for the chaise lounge chairs. They are mine! Look at all this picnic stuff they have! Good thing that they are all hot colors this year. I do not need any more-plus I am into enamelware now and vintage stuff. So... But those carafes are cool. They would be good for picnics or if I pick up more catering jobs. Two should be good. Don't need food. Just went food shopping. Will need to pick up something for the 4th. Don't know what I'm making yet, so I'll just hit Tops when I pick up Ginger's medicine. Oh! Yeah right-dog treats! And toilet paper. Here is some toilet paper on special, but it looks yucky. I'll stick to my Northern. Rugs. I do need a new one for the kitchen since Charles dyed the ivory one pink the last time he did some laundry. Pink! Dork! Oh, man! Someone hooted up this aisle. Move along quickly. I love their organizational stuff. I need a new calendar to track my Whim So hours. Last year's was too big. This one looks good. Pink or red or yellow? No green? Nope. Red. Oops. I've passed dog treats. Toilet paper is right over there. But scrapbooking stuff is one aisle over. Check there first and then go back. What happened here too? Did this buyer change? They used to have such cool things. Stacey and I would ooh and aah in this aisle. There is the new MM travel stuff. Kristen said it was cute. I like this. And this. And this. Nah. I like this one better. That's good. There is still stuff at home from the Doodle that hasn't been put away. That album is adorable. Don't have a use, but it's adorable. Not for me, but for someone else. Batteries? Did I get those at Walmart the other day? Oh, yeah. I did. Look. I could get a Starbucks for the ride home. Yeah. Iced not frozen though. $112? $112? Good golly! How is it EVERY time I come into a Target I spend just about $100? Oh well. At least I didn't have a bunch of stuff to get on my list! D'oh! I forgot the dog treats and toilet paper! Oh, well...I'm working at Wally World tomorrow...