Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Berry Good Idea

What, oh, what to do with all these raspberries???

Let's make some yummy, shall we?

Making your own summer hooch is amazingly easy. The hardest part is patiently waiting.

 Last summer we froze our raspberry harvest to make up Homemade Framboise to give away as Christmas gifts. Problem was, we wanted to hoard it, and keep it for ourselves, so this time, we are making a summer batch, and freezing some berries for a winter batch, and I think when the blackberries come, I will make a fall batch, as well. : )

 This little liqueur is very easy to make, and drink, which makes it a little dangerous, too. I follow the guidelines from a cookbook called " Food For Friends," by Sally Vargas, and add or subtract as I go.

                                Homemade Framboise

                 4 Cups fresh or frozen raspberries (organic, if you can)
                       7-8 Cups of the good quality Vodka
                       2 Cup sugar
                       1 Cup Water

                   Pick over your washed raspberries, and discard any soft or bruised fruit. If freezing the berries to use for later, spread the dry berries out on a cookie sheet in a single layer, and freeze them that way first, before bagging them up to store. That way, they will stay single berries, and not a huge lump of frozen mush.

 Put the berries into a glass container big enough to fit the berries and the vodka, that has a lid. I use a half gallon glass jug that housed some cider we bought last year. Add the vodka to the berries, put the lid on, and store in a dark cool spot, like in the back of your pantry. Here's the hard part: Wait for two months, stirring it every couple weeks or so. Yes, TWO MONTHS!!! ugh, but worth the wait. Patience, young grasshopper, patience.

Make sure and write it on your calendar so you don't forget, and once the two months is up, you are ready to make your Framboise!

On Framboise day, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan to make a simple syrup. Bring it to a boil over medium heat and boil stirring, until the sugar is all dissolved, about two minutes. Take off of heat and cool completely. Set aside.

Line a strainer with a couple layers of cheesecloth, and set it over a large bowl. Slowly strain the Vodka/Raspberry mixture, and discard the pulp. If it seems cloudy, or if there is any sediment, strain again until it is clear.

Once it is clear, slowly add your cooled simple syrup to the bowl of strained liqueur, a little at a time, tasting until you get your desired sweetness. The amount you add will depend on how sweet you want it to end up.

Pour the liqueur into clean bottles, and give it away as gifts, or keep it for yourself. Store in a cool dark place, and drink it within a year (uh, no problem) before the color starts to fade.

Jeremy and I like to make  an "Adult Shirley Temple" with it, and add it over ice with some sprite, 7-up, or ginger ale, and add a cherry on top. Or, add it to champagne, club soda, or just sip, but remember, a little goes a long way.

Enjoy your hooch, and but of course, don't drink and drive. (you already know that, but, just sayin' )

: )

          All packaged up, ready to give as gifts last year, pried, from my cold, strong, fingers.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stealing Summer

Here I sit, on the last day of our vacation, letting out a deep, satisfying sigh.

It is full of gratitude for a safe trip, thankfulness for our healthy able bodies, and blessed with our full, happy bellies.

Our trip away was mind cleansing and wonderful. We didn't take any computers. There was no cell service during much of the vacation. It felt so freeing to disconnect and truly embrace the quietude of our surroundings. In the quiet, my mind comes alive, as does my soul, which yells much louder than anything else in my body. It demanded to do some sifting, like panning for gold, letting the things that don't matter fall through the holes to allow the things that truly matter bared for me to see. What do I want in this life? Am I living it how I think I should, or how I know I should? What are the dreams for my family, and how can we make them happen? There are no guarantees about tomorrow, am I doing my best to honor this life? In the now?

The answer is no. I am not. I spend too much time on the mundane and stuck in past grief, and not enough time living. And living, doesn't mean going all out and doing something crazy, it can mean doing a whole lot of nothing, which can make you feel renewed and empowered that you are the boss of your own time. You are the master of it, and you have final say.

Time is something you will never get back. Moments, years, youth. Each minute counts, and should never be taken for granted. It is a gift. I thought of all this as I lay on my pink and silver lounge floatie on Lake Pearrygin, face to the 82 degree sun, hearing the water gently lap at the sides of the plastic. A hawk was above me eyeing the water, scouting for food as I mind texted him not to poop on me. My hands slowly propelled me to deeper waters as I dipped them in the warm, bath-like water. I could hear Grace giggling as Jeremy picked her up and threw her into the water, and she would scream, "again!"

You could have offered me a new Mercedes, and I wouldn't have gotten out of that lake for it. Having nothing to do, and doing nothing was exactly what I wanted at that moment, and much of the vacation was spent napping, zoning out, lake drifting, and having lots of fun as we all fell more in love with Lavern. She is our ticket to fun in the sun.

Seattle summers are beautiful when they happen, but on this third consecutive year of playing hide and seek, we decided to seek, and steal some summer away from Eastern Washington.

We decided to spend the first chunk on Lake Pearrygin, and explore Winthrop, then head to our beloved town of Leavenworth, then finally home, just in time to go see Florence + The Machine in concert to round out our vacation.

After packing up Lavern, we headed up the North Cascades highway for the first time, and took a very scenic drive.

Snow? On the side of the road?

Nope. Snow is definitely not what I am looking for.

Ice cream? Yup. I could go for ice cream.

It seems like new drives on routes you've never been on before make the road trip go faster. Ask Grace though, and she would argue that point. She did good, and we made pit stops which helped, and soon, we rolled down the window and marveled at the warm air blasting through as we pulled into the campground.

Summer, found.

We spent the first two days on the Lake, doing a whole lot of this:

                         Jeremy, doing a whole lot of nothin', but about to be ambushed by Grace.

I called this "Home Tree." It was in the center of the campground, and all the kids would gather at it and play tag.

                                             Oh, the dangers of fishing. An unexpected haircut.

                  Caught by yours truly. Jeremy made them into trout omelets in the morning.

"What kind of mosquitoes are these?!?" she asked, "Eastern Washington mosquitoes," I answered.

After that, it was time to get our western on, and visit the town Winthrop.

As we were in town, this blew in. Every night there were crazy electrical storms and sudden torrential downpours, but this big cloud was coming straight for us in the middle of the day.

The sky opened up right in the middle of our putt-putt game, so we headed for higher ground and found an answer to our sweet tooth. Putt Putt burns so many calories, you know, so we had to replenish.

We loved Lake Pearrygin, and will return for sure. We reluctantly left after extending our stay one more night than we planned, but more adventures were calling, so we headed out to the Leavenworth K.O.A.

The K.O.A was cute, clean, and pretty busy. We rolled in in the early evening and played cards and ate, and got ready for the movie by the river that they show on Tuesday nights.

We gathered our chairs and blankets and headed to the grassy knoll by the river, but the guys setting it up kept glancing at the sky, and at the first huge clap of thunder, they were on their walkies and looked at us and shook their heads. No movie. Then the sky turned this ominous peachy pinky purple, and the clouds pushed out the evening blue.

So, we watched a show of a different kind, as the sky growled, and sideways lightning moved in with the dusk.

The next morning, the sky forgave us with loads of sunshine, and 85+ degree temps as we perused Leavenworth and went for a bike ride on Blackbird Island.

                                                Wine tasting and air conditioning? Yes, please.

  Bored stiff as we tasted. I slipped her my candied walnuts that were supposed to go with my Port which made it worth her while.

                                     I bet Grace would be the only kid in school with this lunchbox.

                                               I love Kris Kringl. All Christmas, all the time.

                                Pizza or burger? Pizza or burger? Yep. Order both. : )

We only stayed two nights in Leavenworth, and wish we could have stayed longer. It was so hard to leave the summer behind, but at least we got to steal some away. Smallwoods has always been a favorite stop on the way out. A touch of harvest, before leaving.

           Millions of peaches, peaches for me. Millions of peaches, and no they weren't free. : )

We had a good great vacation. So good, I actually feel my chest tighten and a tear prick my eye that it is over. Lavern has brought us together, helped us nurture what is important, and has given us a very rich memory.

I am ready for more.