Saturday, September 20, 2014

Down on the Farm With Ruthy!

Ya gotta love fall on the farm! This year, a long, cool, rainy summer that wasn't one bit normal for the long, hot, cloudless days of a normal upstate summer on the shores of Lake Ontario challenged our veggies.... and kept the weeds relentless in their quest to take over the world as we know it!

But hard work by Seth and Dave prevailed.... and that was despite bouts of illness and equipment breakdowns and water in the gas and blight, and bugs and did I mention blight????

Despite all that, the fall harvest is a medley of color!

Pie pumpkins and mini-boos, and gourds!!!!!



And little gourds and eggplant and green peppers!!!!!

And Chickens!!!!!!

And here is my borrowed Pumpkin Sign, how cute is that???

Bushels of squash:

Note that I'm not showing you THE HOUSE because my scarecrows that have been living in the closet for years are.... sigh.... still there. I've been busy writing on weekends and while I know I should get those bad boys out and put them on the porch, I'm afraid cowboys in Washington have taken precedence.... DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD THOSE RANCHERS WORK?????

I am lazy by comparison!!!!

And I'm selling cornstalks for folks, but I have none on my porch... First I'd have to clean the porch.

Always somethin'..... ;)

We've been roasting squash regularly, we've tried new eggplant recipes that were as simple as dipped in egg and cracker crumbs and roast.... and that was awesome! Right now the garage has been TAKEN OVER BY SQUASH!!!!!!  There is no room for cars, so we must sell squash because I know the rain and snow are coming!

But it's so cool to see boxes and boxes of God-given food.... and know that folks will be bringing their boxes around and buying bushels of squash to keep for the winter.

I love that. I love preparing for winter, knowing it will come and knowing I'm ready.

I think I'd be a little lost without winter prep. I don't swim, I don't golf, I don't play well with others, so I can do my writing sweet book lifestyle ANYWHERE.... but I love being cozied up for the winter.

Am I weird?

That feeling of preparedness, of work to be done, of laying the groundwork for the future. I love that. Too much time on my hands makes me RESTLESS.... and then I cause trouble. Clearly this summer there's been no chance of that, LOL!

And I got my confirmation of being in "Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness" in December, this week...... SO PSYCHED!!!!  We have a LINK HERE.... but no picture yet. But in three months, it comes out! #happy!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Kitchen Tour -The Scary History of the Fresh Pioneer Kitchen

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and she's ready to show you her kitchen! (I'm popping in a day early because Missy is feeling under the weather. Praying for a quick recovery, Missy!)
Anyway, my tour is some scary stuff, so hold on to your hats. This tour made me face some hard facts about my kitchen. Number one: I've always thought those bright white kitchens with pale cabinets were pretty... but when I get a chance, I go for the COLOR. I will never have a white or cream or even tan kitchen. It's not in me. 
 First of all... some pretty flowers. Try to keep this in mind on the journey. It will relieve the psychological stress.
When we first moved to this house in the year 2001, for some reason there was a blue outdoor carpet in the kitchen. Don't ask me why. I have no idea. The cabinets were also dark green. The kitchen was small. Maybe (I'm too lazy to get up and find a measuring tape) 16X12. So, imagine stained weird carpet, dark green cabinets. Long winter. But, I was a (relative) newlywed and life was grand so it only depressed me a little! This is Jacob, born in 2003. I thought I had ripped out that carpet right away, but apparently having three kids under 3 made this not a very high priority!  (Oh, this is also my dear friend Eleanor's cat. Pumpkin had been ordered on a diet and she couldn't figure out why he wasn't shedding the weight. Uh huh. I caught Jacob sharing his snacks with Pumpkin.)
OK, next shot that I could find: Sammy just learning to walk, clutching the cabinets for dear life. Sammy was born in 2005, so I know that the new floor was in.  One summer day, I ripped out the carpet, bought some industrial tile at a yard sale, painted half of it bright red, and laid a checkerboard floor. Don't ask me why. I had four kids under five and it had to be better than blue carpet. In the background is a drop-in stove my dad gave us when they did a custom remodel on their kitchen. The cabinet Sammy is clutching is also a donation from their house. We only had one counter before, at this point we had three. Heaven!
 This is a newer shot of the counter (Hi, Edna!), but this is relevant, I promise. Originally the counters were a chipped formica. I retiled them in white. I really didn't know what I was doing (even though I checked out several books at the library) so they've got some issues. Mostly the front edges. That was tough. Some day I'll replace them... when I think of it and don't have anything else I'm doing, hahaha.
 A closer look at the tile. Looking back, I wanted something charming, but I should have just picked more formica or stone or something. Tile is a lot of work. I think mainly I just wanted a project and buying a slab of counter wasn't really a project. (This was pre-writing days and I needed to do something.)
Oh, side note. When we built on, our kitchen ceiling fell in and had to be replaced. (They took off the roofing and then it rained for three days and soaked the insulation and... BAM. Fun times.)
 So, here's our second stove. The drop in stove died, so we had to tear our that part of the counter. At the same time, we redid the floor in wood. I still miss my checkerboard floor! We also did the rest of the floors in the house since we had about 5 different kinds of linoleum. This isn't a whole house tour so I won't go there. (Let me just say there was also green carpet in the BATHROOM when we moved in. I can promise you it didn't take me 5 years to rip that stuff out.) By this point, I've painted the cabinets white several times but then decide to go with teal.
This is my friend Lili's baker's rack/ It was green but I painted it red.I love this rack so much!
I found this random piece of a picture and zoomed in... the rack has doodads and pictures and things on it now. Oh, the picture behind the photos of friends... Our honeymoon site. Let me find a better picture.
This was my last deadline and I was standing at the kitchen counter because I couldn't SIT IN THAT CHAIR ONE MORE MINUTE. I felt very Mrs. Gaskell-ish, writing at the kitchen counter while kids rampaged through my workspace.
Oh, right. The map in the background. I saw on Pinterest where you take a map of a special place and cut out a heart. I love this little picture because we honeymooned on the coast so our map looks like a broken heart! This is so us. We can't ever do anything the normal way and it shows.
Oh, I found an old picture of the sink. I did the blue tile in the background. This was before I knew the kitchen would be red. So, then I had a red, white, and blue kitchen. My Mexican husband was not amused. Haha! It's a little less noticeable when I went to teal for the walls and cabinets, but you still feel rather patriotic in that space. I love the old farmhouse sink. There was another in the laundry room when we moved in but we took out it for pantry space.
I tried to find a picture to show how long the opposite counter/cabinet is. Close to six feet, which is great for our fruit bowls. We eat a lot of fruit. This is the winter edition, but in the summer this is all home grown peaches, plums, grapes and cherries. Soon, it will be fall and we'll have boxes of apples!
 Side note: this came from our peach trees this year! Almost two hundred pounds... but both trees split in a storm. I'm trying not to mourn, but be thankful for what we've been given. Next year I will cry over this picture!
And our grapes are ripe! Our friend Noe the cellar rat turned vintner says they're Himrod variety.
I love my kitchen because when I look around I see how very blessed we are. So much fresh food, healthy and ready to eat. Some of our blueberries this year, washed and drying, ready to be frozen for wintertime treats.
 Also, our sunflowers are blooming. This is my kitchen table. (I know we're drifting from the kitchen. I'll head back over there.)
  Random shot of a teacup my friend Christalee sent me for my birthday. And a pepper from the garden. That was my husband's addition.
 I have a collection of old ink bottle vases. I line them up on the counters...
 The fridge is covered with kid art. You actually can't see the fridge. Here's my marriage proposal from a few months ago. Made by my five year old. I love the top hat but am suspicious of the frowny face.
 Every day I get love notes and flower bouquets. I can't save them all but I but a rotating display on the fridge.
 I have plates on the wall from the dollar store. They have no particular meaning but for some reason I liked them... maybe the fruit? Or the red? Or the polka dots? I got these at the same time I did the red tile floor. I know, I know. What can I say? A white show kitchen would drive me batty.
 Apple pie made by my 13 year old. This is what happens in my kitchen. Art, pies, fruit, kids.
 This was a batch of peaches from a few days ago. I had to can a LOT this weekend. I made dark vanilla bean syrup for the sliced peaches. YUM. They won't make it to winter, but I tried.
I love the light in my kitchen. Bright, sunny, welcoming. (More food.)
 Every now and then I find a piece of fruit and decide it needs to be showcased. A freckled pear. It was my dish washing company for several days. Loveliness.
 A freckled green apple. Doesn't this look like it should be a painting?
 In the end, I don't think I'd trade my kitchen for any other. I have wonderful memories of our ten years here. We're a colorful bunch (and maybe a bit fruity) so it fits just perfectly. Add in Miss Edna and Mr. Latte, and we have everything we need (now that the blue rug is gone).
One more picture, not in the kitchen. Looking for old pictures, I found this one. The pine tree was lost in a storm. The little toy car has been given away. That old fence has been replaced. The back of the house was rebuilt when we added two rooms, bathroom, laundry room. This little girl towing a wagon of pumpkins is now 13, and the baby in the background is 11. Things change so quickly, but the people are what matter.

Favorite spot: I like to stand near my coffee cup, which is usually set next to the stove. I think I stand here because there's an odd little cut out area that leads to the living room and I've had 14 years of trying to keep an eye on littles while drinking coffee.

Favorite thing about my kitchen: the people in it!

Favorite kitchen tip: I don't know what to offer as kitchen advice... Maybe use your kitchen to cook. Don't let it hold your junk. Don't make it the mailbox, the library, or the entertainment center. I have to fight to keep mail from creeping into the kitchen. Bring in friends, family, make food, create memories. Also, don't be afraid to make bold decorating choices (unless you're moving and then the next tenants may not enjoy your mural of Paris at night time).

 I hope you enjoyed this tour of my kitchen and are inspired to go make some memories!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

One-Star Lemon Sponge Cake and Abbreviated Kitchen Tour, Ruthy-style



No, this amazing bit of Ruthy-devised deliciousness is to invite all o' youse to a one-star party.

One of my books just received a one-star rating from a reader.

(Yes, here is the link to click if you must go see it for yourself!!!)

Now lest you furrow your brow and say "How could this happen????" OR...

(and more likely!)

"Why on earth did it take this long to happen????"

Let me say this to that:


I raised six kids, worked multiple jobs (at the same time) dealt with all kinds of folks, and I'm going to guaran-darn-tee you, it's not the first time I've been found lacking, LOL! But it's the first "In print, In public" smackdown, so we're going to celebrate with cake because now I've officially joined the ranks of very esteemed authors who've achieved the One-Star Rating!!!  Go me!!!!

I came up with this recipe based on ideas posted on a blog, and then my experience with sponge cakes which I love.... So give this a try, it's just wonderfully delicious.

Easy-Peasy Lemon Sponge Cake Using White Cake Mix:

1 White cake mix
2/3 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup water
6 eggs, separated
8 ounces white chocolate, melted

In large mixing bowl mix cake mix, lemon juice, water, egg yolks and the melted chocolate. Beat at low speed until blended, scrape sides thoroughly, and then increase speed to medium and blend for about two minutes.

Beat egg whites in separate bowl at top speed until stiff peaks form.

Fold egg whites into cake mix until thoroughly blended, or almost thoroughly blended if you're a little bit impatient and think a little white and yellow mix never hurt anyone.

Bake cake in pans that are lined with parchment paper. (I used three 9" round pans)

Bake at 325° for about twenty minutes. Cake doesn't need to get golden to be done...

While waiting, you can play with these two:

How stinkin' cute are they????? Love them!!! Joslyn and Mary Ruthy!!! Okay, back to business here!

Cake will FREEZE BEAUTIFULLY so if you don't need all three, tuck one or two away in freezer. Wrap securely with freezer paper so it keeps that fresh-baked flavor!

Strawberry Cake Filling:

3 cups frozen strawberries
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons corn starch

Heat berries to thaw in medium saucepan on stove over low heat. Add water. Mix sugar and cornstarch together, stir into hot berries. When thickened (usually within a minute), remove from heat and chill.

Whipped cream:

1 quart whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar

Whip cream until thick, add sugar, continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Use as frosting and filling...

But first, you know that whole kitchen tour thing????  (Ruthy falls down laughing, thinking of all you CAN'T SEE!!!!!  Oh my stars, I have to know you personally for like EIGHT YEARS before I let you in my kitche!!!!)

Okay, that's not exactly true, but here are a few sneak peeks at my dining room shelves, remember the ones I painted last year? Honestly, they may not have been dusted since then, but if you don't move things, no one knows!!!!

See, that's cute right? Eclectic, fun, Clint Eastwood (I told ol' Dave I bought that for HIM at an airport last year.  :))

And then this:

Dolls and stoneware. Sweet. Normal. Not too dirty. YES!!!!

And then there's this book that I found for Emma, my granddaughter....

My house is in a town that Harriet Tubman used to ride through as she escorted slaves to freedom. A mile up the road is an Underground Railroad stop at a former one-room schoolhouse. And diagonally across the street from that is an old church. A tunnel leading from the schoolhouse to the church was an escape hatch for runaway slaves.... And the people who built my house 160 years ago were the first signers of the local petition to ban slavery. Harriet Tubman has been a hero of mine from the time I was old enough to read, and I hope I've passed that love her courage on to my kids... Amazing woman!

So here's a look at my 160 year old red cedar floor in the kitchen.... We pulled off two layers of linoleum (cracking and o-l-d) and subflooring to find this floor underneath. I love it:

See the gaps between the boards? They collect everything! Some are wider than others, and it's almost impossible (especially when you sweep like once/month) to keep them clean. I consider it extra nuggets of food for the babies!!!  :)

Okay, this is how lovely and delicate this cake comes out. I was afraid it would puff too much for two pans so I used a third, but I'd have been fine with two 9" pans.

And here is building the cake: First layer of cake, and then I spread a thick layer of whipped cream across the layer, and I build up the edges. Then I spooned on the strawberry filling.... and then the top layer of the cake. I repeated this for the final layer. The built-up edge holds the strawberry filling in place so no slip-sliding away!

And the finished cake!!!! Without the one-star candle!  :)  It was amazingly delicious!
 And this is a shot of my kitchen table, so that's part of the kitchen, right????  :)

You see this all the time, and it's so much easier keeping THIS SQUARE clean than a whole room! That's just crazy pressure on a busy gal!!!!
 I made fresh bread yesterday morning because one of my cute afternoon kids loves homemade bread and herbed oil to dip it in... so while she did her homework, a loaf of cut-up bread made her... and others!!!.... happy.

And that's what it's all about in my crazy old kitchen: making folks happy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fall Kitchen Tour: Surrounded By Ancestors And Cottage Style

I blame the cover of an old Country Living magazine. Nothing less than seeing my dream kitchen come to life would've made me go through a couple months of remodeling hell. Cooking with a microwave, the refrigerator taking over the family room, and dealing with the dust from refinishing and laying down wood flooring. At least we did it after ManO and I became empty nesters.

I wish I could show you a before picture of my kitchen. Didn't take any. My bad. When we broke down and redid our two decades old house, worn white linoleum, cheap, splattered cabinet fronts, and counters with stains of meals gone wrong made the room an eyesore. Every single room had a different dark wall color. The Duke blue dining room led to a Robin Hood green kitchen. And then there was the built in desk no one liked to use.

But all that inconvenience was worth it. After adding wood floors, lightening the wall color to a nice Tuscan beige, putting on beadboard doors, new hardware, tile back splash and a lovely gray Corian type counter, it looks like this:

Well, I might be fibbing a little. The counters are never this clean or uncluttered.  I'm always chopping or staging or using them for a project with the grandkidlets.

When we originally built the house, we made sure one piece of furniture had a special place in the kitchen, the pie safe that ManO and his father built back the year my son was born. What I always remember is being exhausted all the time and not hearing ManO punch the copper panels in the next room. Pregnancy takes it out of a girl. 

My kitchen is decorated with family heirlooms from both sides of the family. The clock? It's from our newlywed days and reminds us where we came from!  

Everything has a purpose or is repurposed or has memories attached.

We have a regular old counter top microwave after having to repair or remove THREE over the stove appliances in the course of our thirty year marriage. The desk counter no one used has converted into deep drawers and cabinets to hold the turkey roaster, turkey platter and small appliances. All the items above are heirlooms from my grandparents, pictures of my grandparents or paintings of the family farm I visited every summer.   

Favorite spot in the kitchen:  I love standing at my sink and checking out the bird feeder and the squirrels' antics.

Favorite thing about my kitchen:We managed to create a cottage style kitchen with lots of storage, something a real centuries old cottage probably wouldn't have! And it's pretty close to that cover of Country Living I found years ago.

Favorite kitchen organizing tip: You don't see the huge pantry to the right of the cabinets and can barely see the little spice cabinet on the wall (another newlywed purchase). I make sure to keep all my spices, baking items, cereals and canned goods as far away from the heat of the stove as possible to keep them lasting longer.

So, have you ever remodeled a kitchen? What do you like best about your cooking space? What do you wish you could change?