Fall Snapshots

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Apple harvesting time came a little early this year in Adams County, Pennsylvania, but that could never deter the Apple Harvest Festival, held annually the first two full weekends in October. I volunteer at the candy and caramel apple stand every year as a fundraiser for my softball team. It was a cold one this year; 29 degrees when I arrived at 8am and we would gather around the kettles to keep warm in between wrapping up batches of apples to sell. Candy apples are a little messy and hard to eat for my taste, but man, are those caramel ones to die for.

 

 

National Geographic named the Apple Harvest Festival on it’s Top 10 Fall Trips for 2012. Save the date for next year’s festival; it’s not to be missed! October 5 & 6 and October 12 & 13, 2013.

Cheers,

Christine

 

Harvest before the first frost & fall garden goings on

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If you’re a gardener, you may know the feeling. You check the weather and realize-eek! All my plants are going to die tonight! (At least this is what usually happens to me.) So it never fails- I’ll be found digging up herb plants and picking green tomatoes and peppers in sub forty degree weather, in the dark.

If you’re wondering what the purple peppers are, those (and the yellow, orange, red ones) are a spicy Chinese 5 Color Pepper. When growing, the plant looks like it’s covered with Christmas bulbs, it’s pretty comical. I bought these and my other heirloom seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Not one to break tradition, that’s exactly what happened this year…I gathered up all the green tomatoes and peppers and brought in the herb plants (which were in pots this year) just in the nick of time.

Other fall garden goings on: I purchased and planted a 1/2 pound of Extra Select Garlic (from Burpee). This is the first time I’ve done garlic. Garlic is planted in the fall and harvested about July or so. You separate the cloves, plant them individually, and each clove makes it’s own bulb. The bigger the clove, the larger the bulb it will make. I was pleased when about 2 weeks after I sowed the garlic there are shoots!

I also planted a few bulbs and perennials out front in my embarrassingly barren front yard. The Russian Sage and Salvia I bought were 75% off at Lowe’s, so I’m just taking a chance they’ll make it though the winter. I mulched them with some leaves for protection. They aren’t much to look at now so I’ll spare you the before photo until there’s an after. Wes planted some beautiful orange and white mums out front also and I’m hoping they’re hardy enough to come back next year. This article about over wintering mums suggests to leave the foliage on fall planted mums and mulch them for protection. Easy enough-we’ve still got plenty of leaves!

Any tips for overwintering newly planted perennials that have worked for you?

Cheers,

Christine

Perfectly Packaged: hostess gift

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I was visiting my BFF Kathleen at her new apartment in Baltimore for dinner and an overnight stay and I wanted to bring her a little something. I stopped in at Lark in Downtown Gettysburg and found the most adorable mini box of cupcake recipes. (p.s. love this store-I want to decorate my entire house with the accessories they carry-I might need to do a little window shopping post there sometime like Sherry does on Young House Love).

Each cupcake recipe card is beautifully illustrated and unfolds to reveal the ingredients and instructions.

I just wrapped this bad boy up simply in mint green scrapbook paper and tied with a pink baker’s twine bow. I bought the baker’s twine on Pick Your Plum-they seem to bring it back in their daily sale every now again, so sign up for their email if you’re interested in deals on craft stuff.

Done and done. Nothing better than a pretty gift, prettily wrapped for a lovely hostess.

Cheers,

Christine

Canning peaches and a cooking challenge

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I’m taking a sight departure from my Irish Travels posts, but don’t worry, I’ll finish telling you about the rest of our trip soon.

I realized there have been things I’ve been wanting to try in the kitchen for a while but just haven’t got around to, so I decided it was time to make something happen. Behold!

The List of Stuff I Want to Cook:

  • Can something
  • Make a soufflé
  • Poach something in olive oil
  • Bake fish wrapped in parchment
  • Make crepes
  • Make homemade vegetable stock
  • Make a cupcake with a filling
  • Make panna cotta
  • Cook something Indian
  • Make risotto with saffron
  • Bake focaccia
  • Make ice cream with vanilla beans
  • Make mousse
  • Make homemade ravioli
  • Bake French macarons

You might have noticed that “can something” is crossed out. That’s because I have actually canned three somethings! I’m going to share about canning peaches in this post but I’ll be back soon with details on canning applesauce and tomato sauce.

I like buying produce locally. I like knowing the farmer who grew it and I like knowing that it didn’t spend days on a truck coming from God knows where wasting countless gallons of fuel to get to me. Locally grown food is fresher, tastier, and better for the local economy (and the environment in a lot of ways.) Just because you can buy peaches in January at the grocery store doesn’t mean that they’ll be any good. Canning is a way to preserve seasonal deliciousness for times of the year when these types of produce aren’t available locally.

I like to buy my fruit from Bill of Mickley’s Orchard and Farm Market in Biglerville, PA at the Farm Fresh Market. If you are looking for a market near you, check out local harvest. When you buy from a local farmer you can ask if they have any “seconds” available which might have bruises or be oddly shaped. When you’re canning you can always cut soft spots off, no problem, so buying seconds can save you a few bucks.

Now that you’ve got some yummy, ripe peaches, you’ve got to get those babies peeled. Cut an x on the top and bottom of each peach then blanch before peeling.

Keep organized-I had my peaches blanching on the front left burner, my syrup cooking on the back left, canner ready to go on the front right, and (can’t see it but) lids going on back right).

Pack the peaches in the jars tightly, and fill with syrup leaving 1/2″ headspace.

Wipe off the rims, put the lids on and tighten the bands and you’re ready to process!

Canning is a little time consuming, but not difficult and the fruits of your labor will look great in your pantry, ready to make winter feel like summer!

Canned Peaches in Light Syrup

Materials:

  • Ripe peaches (half a bushel will yield about 10 quarts of canned peaches, but you can certainly start small if you’d rather)
  • Canning jars, lids, and bands
  • Boiling water canner with rack or large stock pot and canning rack
  • Jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter

Method:

  • Take the peaches out of the fridge and keep them at room temperature.
  • Prepare the canning jars-either boil them, filled with water, in your canner for 10 minutes to sterilize or run through your dishwasher to sterilize and pull them out (still warm) as you need them. (The dishwasher method is much less time consuming.)
  • Blanch the peaches in boiling water for about 2 minutes.
  • When cool enough to handle, peel and slice the peaches. Cut off any bruised spots.
  • Prepare the syrup-in a medium saucepan combine 1 C of sugar for every 3 C of water (doubling this will yield a dozen pint jars)-heat and stir until dissolved and then keep warm.
  • Heat flat lids in hot water in a small saucepan to sterilize, leave in hot water as you use.
  • Put on water to boil in a big pot or canner to process the jars in.
  • Pack peaches in jar tightly (cut side down if you can), they shrink up a lot when you process them.
  • Using a funnel, ladle syrup into the packed jars leaving ½ inch headspace.
  • Wipe jar rims with a clean paper towel before putting lids on.
  • Put flat lids on and tighten screw top bands hand tight.
  • Put canning rack in bottom of stock pot or canner. The jars sit on rack (they can’t be on bottom-I actually used a folded up tea towel when processing quart jars that didn’t fit in my pint jar rack so theoretically this work if you didn’t have a canning rack.)
  • Carefully lower prepared jars into boiling water, covering by an inch.
  • Bring the water back to a boil, covered.
  • Boil pints for 15 mins or quarts for 20 mins to process.
  • Turn off heat. Let jars sit in water for 5 mins.
  • Remove jars from boiling water bath and set on counter on tea towels for 24 hours, undisturbed. You may hear the jars make pinging sounds when the lids seal. If you’re like me you want to push on the lids right away to make sure the canning worked. Don’t. After all this work, you don’t want to blow it at the last minute.
  • After 24 hours, press on the lids to make sure they are sealed down. Any jars that didn’t seal should be refrigerated and the contents eaten within a couple of days.
  • You can remove the bands at this point. Wash the outsides of the jars off before storing, as they may be sticky.

Canning Resources:

Ball Canning has a nice printable pdf that lays out basic steps for boiling water bath canning for high acid foods (like peaches) here.

They also have yummy looking recipe for honey spiced peaches here.

Here’s to trying new things. I’m looking forward to tackling some of the other items on The List of Stuff I Want to Cook. Anyone else try anything new they’ve been meaning to try for a while?

Cheers,

Christine

Irish Travels: Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and Galway

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After a restful night at Glenomra House where we enjoyed a lovely spacious bedroom, we set out through the rain for the Cliffs of Moher. On our way out of town we waited a while for some kind of foot race to pass by. You can do it, guy in last place!

This was the only day of our entire trip where we were rained on in any quantity. The weather did lessen our enjoyment of the cliffs, but they were still pretty amazing. I did feel like the wow factor of the cliffs was lessened having already seen so many pictures of them beforehand. We were under the impression that you sort of drove along the cliffs and stopped at various look out points, but actually they herd you into a parking lot, collect 6 euro per person and you see the cliffs from the walking path near the visitor center.

Before we even went out to the cliffs we explored the “Atlantic Edge” exhibit in the visitor center. It was crowded (everyone else was waiting to see if the rain let up too) and a little steamy inside. A lot of the exhibits were geared toward children, but there were some interesting artifacts and stuff about how people used to hunt birds by lowering each other over the edge of the cliffs using special nets. (That sounds like the worst idea ever-didn’t they read the signs?)

Ok, so it was really freaking windy. We somehow thought it was a good idea to take our nice camera with us. I took precisely 6 pictures with it before the umbrella blew inside out. This was an optimal time for us to employ our backup (and waterproof!) camera-we should have left the good one in the car entirely. We pretty much looked like this while checking out the cliffs.

The view was great, but we were put off by having to share it with hundreds of other tourists. I felt suffocated surrounded by hoards of tour bus groups. Up until this point, just about every other natural wonder we had visited was essentially deserted. (Especially the Dingle Peninsula, views from the Conor Pass, Garnish Island, the Beara Peninsula, and Killarney National Park)

I felt like I could breathe again once we departed from the Cliffs leaving the tour groups behind. We dried off ourselves and the camera and made our way toward the Burren passing some random ruins enroute (of course!)

Apparently, these biker dudes were also into the Burren, because there were literally hundreds of them biking along the 10 mile stretch. Every time we thought we had passed them all, there were always more around the next corner, so we resolved ourselves for a leisurely pace.

The Burren is a 10 square mile limestone plateau with a unique ecosystem. It was actually a seabed 250 million years ago. At glance, we wondered what the big deal was. Ok, there’s a bunch of flat rocks that sort of look like the moon with green stuff growing out of it. But with closer examination, you start to notice some of the teeny but beautiful native plants.

I just want you to know that I mushed my sunglasses laying on the ground to photograph the teeny plants for you. I know, it was thoughtful of me to sacrifice my favorite $3 pair for your sake.

The Burren is also known for having an excessive amount of prehistoric sites, including the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a 4,000 year old portal tomb. They excavated the remains of 30 something men, women and children in this area. It was sort of interesting and mysterious to see the tomb smack in the middle of this barren landscape and impressive to think just how the ancient people even managed to lift the huge stone on top of the tomb (it’s 6 feet off the ground!)

We continued our drive past idyllic pastures, avoiding some sheep in the roadway.

Maybe we should have run this one over when we had the chance. He looks sort of like a zombie. Check out those crazy eyes.

It looks like low tide as we approach a small fishing village.

I’ll leave you with one last lovely view, this is across from Joyce’s Craft Shop where I purchased my favorite souvenir  a lovely wool throw. I’ll tell you all about our purchases in a later post.

Once we arrived at our BnB near Galway, a little earlier than usual, we had time to take the bus into the center of town and explore this bustling town with it’s variety of shops and splendid architecture to admire.

Next up, we explore the coastline north of Galway up to Clifden, with plenty more scenic views, so check back soon!

Cheers,

Christine

You might also like:  Pack your suitcase: IrelandIrish Travels: a castle, monastic ruins, and winding roadsIrish Travels: Waterford Crystal and spectacular Rock of Cashel cathedral ruinsIrish Travels: a star shaped fort, garden island, mountain pass, and a true Irish pub experienceIrish Travels: a castle, farmers’ market finds, the beautiful Dingle peninsula, and a harrowing mountain pass

Irish Travels: a castle, farmers’ market finds, the beautiful Dingle peninsula, and a harrowing mountain pass

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This day was one of our favorites and I can’t wait to share the photos of all the amazing things we saw.

But let’s start with the most important meal of the day. Breakfast at The Last Cottage was awesome. I had eggs benedict and Wes had porridge (oatmeal) with Bailey’s. Mine was good, but I have to tell you, I had major breakfast envy over this porridge. It was served in a big wide bowl with a teeny mug of Bailey’s to pour on top. The Bailey’s sweetened the porridge perfectly. It was just divine. Then we thought to ourselves, hmmm, we have Bailey’s and oatmeal at home. Why don’t we do this every weekend?

After breakfast we wanted to check out some of the shops in Dingle but they mostly didn’t open until 10, so we doubled back on our path from yesterday to visit Minnard Castle. The ruins themselves were not that spectacular, but the setting on the beach was not to be beat. On the horizon is the Iveragh Penninsula (Ring of Kerry.) The beach was protected by a large ring of stones. (These photos didn’t stitch together quite perfectly, still getting the hang of using photostitch to do these panoramas.)

Once back into town we lucked out and came across the farmers’ market (open Fridays.) The bread! The cheese! The handmade chocolates!

I would thoroughly enjoy another (dozen or so) of those lemon mint truffles. Mmmm. We picked up provisions including some apples for snacking in the car later.

We explored the shops in Dingle and I think the shopping here and in Kenmare was the best of any town we visited. (As I mentioned in my Day 3 post, good shopping=good quality, handcrafted stuff made locally, using local materials if possible.) We even purchased a couple of art prints which I’ll reveal in a future post.

We also popped back to take a photo of Dick Mack’s pub in the daylight, where we enjoyed spending much of our evening in Dingle.

Satisfied with our purchases in Dingle town, we headed out towards the peninsula loop.

The weather was perfect. Clear and sunny with a little breeze. The water all around the peninsula was a dreamy Carribean-esque blue. I never expected the coast to be so dazzling.

Pastures, livestock, and stone walls abounded. In the photo below you can see some of the tropical-ish flora native to Ireland due to the mild weather.

It was just beautiful coastal view after beautiful coastal view.

There were few tourists and no tour buses.

We stopped to see the ancient beehive huts. They were so tall you could actually stand up inside.

We came to a spot in the road designed as an “upside down bridge.”

Should we ford the river or caulk the Hyundai and float it across? Obviously, there wasn’t really a choice here but it still felt very Oregon Trail. I hope you’re forever grateful that I actually got out the car to photodocument this for you.

Some more beautiful views as we near the tip of the peninsula.

Off the tip of the peninsula are the Great Blasket Islands. As many as 160 Irish lived out on these islands until 1953.

Life on the Great Blaskets was no picnic. Irish who grew crops here would row boats to the mainland and then hike 12 miles into Dingle carrying their wares to sell. There was no priest, pub or doctor on the island, not to mention lights, phones, or cars. There were harsh storms to contend with, but the sea provided food and residents were able to survive the Great Famine because they were not entirely dependent on the potato. The population dwindled as young people emmigrated, often to America, until eventually the Irish government evacuated the remaining residents in 1953. All that remains on the islands to date are ruined cottages.

The Great Blasket Centre is worth a stop. (It’s on the mainland, 4 euro entry. Though we didn’t, you can travel to the the islands themselves-several local tour companies offer daily crossings, weather-permitting.) There are tons of photos, artifacts. and it really gives you a sense of the storytelling nature of this isolated Irish subculture. There were a number of renowned Irish writers from the Blaskets who had a knack for sharing about the people’s closeness to nature.

“I sat down on the bank above the beach where I had a splendid view all around me. Dead indeed is the heart from which the balmy air of the sea cannot banish sorrow and grief.” -Peig Sayers

The Dingle Peninsula loop road was just like you see below-cliffside, curvy, and narrow. Passing the little oncoming traffic there was was interesting but not stressful because it was so uncrowded.

More beautiful views.

In the village of Dunquin there were many ruined homes that were abandoned in the famine. In the pastures off to the right of the road you could see faint ridges of potato beds remaining from 1845-the fields have been untouched since this failed famine crop.

That about rounds out the highlights of the Dingle Peninsula drive.  The guidebook had a great kilometer by kilometer self guided tour which added a lot of context to some of the things we saw. This peninsula drive was my favorite thing we did on our trip. The entire drive including stopping everywhere and spending an hour at the Great Blasket Centre was about half a day.

Once we finished the peninsula loop, we took the Conor Pass enroute to Ennis, our final destination for the day. The Conor Pass is not for the faint of heart, but we were old pros by this point. Not only had Wes perfected his “keep left” driving ability, he has also somehow picked up a slight Irish accent. I practiced the only Gaelic phrase I know, “Go Mall”  (“Slow.”)

At the apex of the pass were stunning views of two different bays in opposite directions.

See the sheepie in the photo below? How did he get there? He’s on top of a 500 foot tall steep mountain.

There was a pulloff by a small waterfall.

The guidebook promised a “fun five minute scramble” would lead us to a “dramatic glacier created lake.” Indeed it did.

Not to mention, the breathtaking view over the Conor pass itself.

Once back in the car some more of these guys made an appearance in the roadway.

Next, we passed through Tralee and took a drive by windmill photo.

Then it was smooth sailing to Tarbert where we took the car ferry over the River Shannon to Killimer. I think this was the best 18 euro we ever spent because it saved us about 80 miles of driving.

A little bit of rain here, but Wes captured this photo of the sun peeking through the clouds.

Once across the Shannon, we were upon Ennis, our destination for the evening and our 4th stop on the map below.

Next up: we visit the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren on our way to Galway, so check back soon!

Cheers,

Christine

You might also like:  Pack your suitcase: IrelandIrish Travels: a castle, monastic ruins, and winding roadsIrish Travels: Waterford Crystal and spectacular Rock of Cashel cathedral ruinsIrish Travels: a star shaped fort, garden island, mountain pass, and a true Irish pub experience

Irish Travels: a star shaped fort, garden island, mountain pass, and a true Irish pub experience

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We started the morning with a lovely breakfast at The Olde Bakery. Breakfast was served at a big table in the cozy eat-in kitchen.  The innkeepers, Chrissie and Tom, introduced us to the other two couples staying at the BnB and we chatted over a spread over fresh fruit, local cheeses, and freshly baked brown bread.  (The cheese was to die for!) After a few minutes spent in the homey living room petting the house dogs, we set out to check out Charles Fort.

Kinsale Harbor was gorgeous in the daylight. We stopped to look out over the harbor. The small pair of binoculars I brought along to keep in the car were perfect for such occasions.

We parked near Charles Fort around 9, but the Fort technically didn’t open until 10. But technically  the gate wasn’t locked. So we sauntered on in to check it out. Ruins of the Fort were well preserved and there were beautiful harbor views on three sides.

I liked these moss covered tunnels.

After a little while, some construction guys seemed to be on to us so we jetted out of there. On the bright side, we saved eight euro. Perhaps if we had had the tour we would know what the heck these things are? Anyone?

The plan for the rest of the day was to take a boat to Garnish Island to explore the gardens and then drive through the Healy Pass through the Beara Peninsula, which was recommended as a nice scenic drive by the guidebook . Enroute we stopped through the town of Macroom, described as a “colorful market town.” Pretty accurate I think.

Despite the creepy candyman vibe in picture, this candy shop we found had pretty apothecary jars stuffed with sweets  surrounding the walls and some yummy gourmet chocolate bars which we, of course, had to sample.

On our way to Garnish Island we stopped to explore some random ruins (they’re everywhere).

Next stop, Garnish Island. We took the Harbor Queen ferry from Glengariff and arrived on the island after a 20 minute ride past a whole bunch of seals.

You know, the guy in the front sort of reminds me of someone.

Definitely a resemblance. Especially in the way he raised his head to look at us as we passed, and then went right back to sleep.

Once on the Island we explored the extensive gardens and Martello tower.

The Martello tower was really neat – 360 degree views and when you stood in the inside, directly in the center, the sound was strangely amplified off the rounded ceiling. This is what the inside of the tower looks like, looking straight up at the ceiling.

The teeny tiny spiral staircase.

Here’s a shot of the Italian garden taken from the porch of the mansion on the island.

Beautiful bay views abound.

Blue boat at low tide.

After a short trip back to the mainland, we were on our way to the Beara Peninsula. The guidebook recommended that on limited time, a drive over the Healy Pass was a good bet. Watch out for sheep.

Looks twisty, yes?

You ain’t seen nothing yet. Check out the view from the top of the pass looking back. It reminds me of a candyland board minus the sugarplums.

From the same vantage point, right behind us was a view of a large lake and bay in the distance.

Our next pass through was Kenmare-an adorable market town with brightly colored shops that I would definitely recommend as a good town to spend a night and half a day in. We were just passing through, but stopped to wander the shops. There was some really good shopping in Kenmare. By good shopping, I mean lots of  locally made, handcrafted stuff. There were beautiful wool scarves, sweaters, textiles, art galleries, cheese shops, bakeries…I could go on. Here we bought a small original watercolor painting and a couple of prints in addition to some delicious mild sheep’s milk cheese and fresh bread. I’ll share all about our Irish purchases in a future post.

Wesley insisted we visit the ancient stone circle. He was actually excited about it. We put our two euro in the honesty box and checked it out. It turned out to be just a bunch of big stones. In a circle. Shocking, right? It’s thought that the stones are oriented to align with certain solar or lunar events.

Next we passed through Killarney, which could have been anytown USA. If you want to stay nearby to do the Ring of Kerry, you don’t want to stay here with the chain hotels and fast food. Stay in Kenmare. Kilarney National Park was nice to drive through, though. We stopped at a waterfall and a handful of other look outs.

There was plenty of mountain scenery to go around, more random ruins, and, of course, plenty of sheep.

We checked in at The Last Cottage, our BnB in Dingle. The room was tiny, but had a great view of Dingle Bay.

Dingle is in the Gaeltacht region of Ireland, which means the government encourages and subsidizes the use of Irish Gaelic. Road signs are in Gaelic and the language is spoken more widespread. We would occasionally walk by people on the streets speaking Gaelic.

After a dinner of pub grub accompanied by some traditional music at a restaurant near the harbor. We visited a couple of other pubs, following our ears for music. At Dick Mack’s we were greeted by Philip, the self appointed welcoming committee. We chatted with Philip and the rest of the regulars and had a most enjoyable evening.

On the map, you can see we’ve made it to our 3rd stop.

Next up: We visit Minnard Castle right on the beach, explore Dingle town, and spend most of the day on the gorgeous Dingle Peninsula, so don’t forget to check back!

Cheers,

Christine

You might also like:  Pack your suitcase: IrelandIrish Travels: a castle, monastic ruins, and winding roadsIrish Travels: Waterford Crystal and spectacular Rock of Cashel cathedral ruins