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Back next week!

So sorry I’ve been AWOL this week. I picked up a nasty summer cold before we left for the Azores and I’ve been basically sleeping and blowing my nose since we returned. I promise to get back to blogging ASAP.

 

In the meantime, what’s in store for you this weekend? We’re having a yard sale tomorrow and I’m hoping to lay low on Sunday.

Home from Paradise!

We got home from our magical trip to the Azores late Tuesday night and we’re still in that hazy, sleepy zone that accompanies traveling thousands of miles across multiple times zones.  Forgive me if this post is a little muddled.

 

The Azores is made up of nine volcanic islands that were settled by Portugal back in the colonial era. The islands were uninhabited before the Portuguese arrived, so the language and culture of the Azores is pure Portuguese. The owner of the company Mike works for immigrated to the U.S. from the Azores as a child, and this trip was a strategic planning meeting for the directors of the company. Spouses got to tag along, which is how I got so incredibly lucky.

 

I had wanted to visit the Azores for years, ever since reading Sailing Alone Around the World: a Personal Account of the First Solo Circumnavigation of the Globe by Sail by Joshua Slocum. Mike and I had talked about it as a potential vacation destination when we first met (along with Iceland) and then weeks later we found out we would be going. It was almost surreal.

This post is mostly going to be a great photo dump (I’m buried under a mountain of work that built up while I was away). These are just the pictures from my iPhone– I haven’t had a chance to download the ones from my camera yet. IMG_8877

The beauty of this island can’t be overstated. There are several main volcanic craters with lovely little lakes in them. This one was positively fairy-tale like.

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Oh the hydrangeas! You have never seen so many hydrangeas in your life. The ones on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket can’t even hold a candle to these. They are absolutely everywhere.

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We hiked along the coast where the lava formations meet the sea and form all kinds of tidal pools. There were sea urchins, an abundance of purple jellyfish and all manner of other sea creatures.IMG_8898

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The volcanos produce heat that warms thermal baths all over the island. Some of them aren’t open for swimming because the temperature is double the temp it takes to boil water.

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This was my very favorite spot on the island. The cliffs are impossibly green.IMG_8933

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One afternoon we visited a tea plantation, the only one in Europe. After seeing how tea is harvested and sorted, I’m surprised it isn’t much, much more expensive.IMG_8959

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In the village of Furnas, the geothermal heat is so great that it is traditional to cook picnic lunches with it!

 

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Holes are pre-dug in the ground at the hottest spots. Families bring a pot layered with meats and vegetables to the men attending the area. The pot is covered with a wooden lid and buried under dirt for 6 hours.IMG_8965

When the family returns 6 hours later, their pot is dug up.IMG_8967

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Our pot contained chicken, pork ribs, chorizo, blood sausage, pork belly, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, cabbage and kale. Everything steams together and the results were delicious and so tender.IMG_8977

Furnas is also home to the most incredible botanical gardens! Our hotel was situated in the gardens, and we had access to the thermal baths as well.IMG_8993

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I’m leaving so much out but I don’t want to bore you. Suffice to say, if you ever have the chance to visit the Azores, GO! It was a once in a lifetime trip, although we would go back in heartbeat.

Today In Sheep

The lambs have gotten HUGE!  Their tails have all fallen off, and they are more and more independent every day.  They are still nursing, but it’s becoming rather comical as they have gotten a bit big to be under their mamas!

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Oona has been learning how to handle taking care of feeding; she has the advantage of being fast enough to outrun them to the troughs, but the disadvantage of still being small enough to get a bit trampled.  She gets smarter about how she manages it every day, though.

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Paddington and Piccadilly nursing.

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This is Darby, if you can believe it!  He looks enormous to me now!  Luckily he is still just as sweet as ever.

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Wembley.

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Wimbledon.

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Esmont.

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Snacking on the go.

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Keswick.

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The fabulous Knightsbridge.

Everybody is doing well and growing like weeds!  So far even our very hottest days have not been too awful; hopefully that will remain the case and we won’t have to administer too much heat tonic this summer!

Some Thoughts on Whole 30

Salad

Greetings from Day 30 + 2!

 

Mike and I spent the last month following the Whole 30 plan. Basically, on Whole 30, you eat all the vegetables, proteins and fruits that you want, but cut out all grains, sugar, alcohol, white potatoes and legumes.

Strange as it sounds, Whole 30 was both way easier and much more difficult than I had anticipated. The first few days were rough! I didn’t realize quiet how addicted to sugar and grains we were. Giving up bread was also pretty rough. I can’t tell you how often I wanted to reach for toast or a peanut butter sandwich over the last month.

For the first week or so of Whole 30, I was exhausted and cranky. My body was so used to getting some kind of sweet treat to get me through the afternoon, not to mention two or three Coke Zeros throughout the day. But at about Day 10, my energy level normalized and, I can honestly, say, I’ve never felt better in my life.

The hardest part by far, though, was the cooking. I’m a pretty good cook and cooking is something I really enjoy, but Whole 30 required a whole lot more time than I am used to spending in the kitchen. We usually eat out two or three nights a week, but on Whole 30, eating out is nearly impossible.

Besides the fact that nearly everything we ate had to be cooked by me, when you eliminate grains from your diet, you eat a lot of vegetables. Like, a staggering amount of vegetables. One book I read said you should plan on 6 cups of vegetables per person per day. We didn’t always eat that much, but there were definitely some days that we did. Truly, I have never eaten so many vegetables in my whole life.

I found that it was much easier to prep a bunch of meals at one time. For example, if we were having steak for dinner, I would grill tomorrow nights chicken at the same time. Chopping vegetables for two or three meals similarly seemed to save time and kept me from washing a mountain of dishes every night. (You will need a lot more food storage containers than you think!)

Another lesson I learned was that, when you’re cutting out the sugar and grain, you have to find ways to amp up the flavor in your meals. I used a lot more spices and rubs in my cooking than I normally do.  Since soy sauce and store bought condiments and salad dressings are out, you really have to think out your marinades and sauces, too.

I think that the main thing I learned was that, while eating a whole, clean diet, you can’t just wing it. Having a fridge full of pre-chopped vegetables at least gives you options of throwing together a salad or a stir fry at the last minute.

I do have to admit here that I was wrong about something. I few weeks ago, I did a blog post about the documentary Fed Up. In the comments, reader Susan S. posited that eating a whole food diet was something that only rich people can afford and I disagreed with her. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this issue and I have to concede that Susan S. has a point. While buying fresh, whole vegetables and, say, a whole chicken, might be cheaper than even a fast food meal out for a family of four, it takes a whole lot more time and effort to turn that fresh food into dinner. And for people living at or below the poverty line, that may be time that they just don’t have to devote to food prep.

Of course, you can spend more money to buy pre-cut veggies and boneless skinless chicken breast, but then you do get into a situation where dinner from the drive through probably does cost the same or even less, without all the work.

(Susan S., I apologize for dismissing what you said about this without giving it some serious thought. I generally hold myself to a higher standard than that, and I am sorry. While I may disagree with on the science, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have been open to hearing you out. I hope you can accept my sincere apology.)

The big question is, will be be adopting Whole 30 full time? Probably not in it’s hardcore form. Our eating habits have definitely changed dramatically over the last 30 days, and we will absolutely be keeping a lot of these changes. I don’t see us going back to regularly eating bread or pasta at home– it will be something for special occasions or dinners out. I also plan to continue replacing starches with vegetables, vegetable and more vegetables.

And we will not be going back to eating sugar the way we did before. Mike and I have both started reading labels and astonishing each other with the amount of sugar in food (almost 10 teaspoons in a can of Coke!). For the past month, we’ve finished meals with fruit and I expect that to continue. Mike and I each lost about 10 pounds in the last month, and I think that is nearly all due to cutting out the sugar.

Going forward, we will be shooting for an 80/20 balance, eating mostly clean, whole foods. And I’m planning to repeat the hardcore Whole 30 three or four times a year to make sure we stay on track.

Sorry for the super wordy post! I would love to hear your experiences with this kind of diet.

 

 

Tell Me Something Good Tuesday!

Tell Something GoodTuesdays

It’s Tuesday! Time to share all the good things going on in our lives with each other!

I’ll go first:

  1. 1.My sister had two out of three spot of skin cancer successfully removed and none of them were too deep.
  2. Darwin survived his surgery and is now longer trying to have sex with my leg all day long.
  3. Mike is going on a business trip to the Azores this week and I get to tag along! I have wanted to go the Azores for many, many year, and Mike and I had talked about going before we found out about this trip. I’m going to spend the next week exploring, taking pictures and taking in the culture. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.

Your turn! Tell me something good, y’all!

This Week in Darwin

Thanks so much to those of you who asked after Darwin last week! I posted on Tuesday that Darwin was under-going his second attempt at neutering on Wednesday, after having bad reaction to a pre-anesthia sedative his was giving the first time and having to be resuscitated. Then I completely forgot to post again letting you all know that everything went perfectly fine with his surgery.

The hard part since then has been keeping Darwin calm so he doesn’t rip out his stitches. This dog is 30 pounds of muscle and play! (Someone who saw us walking Sunday morning called him “a cinder block with feet” and it’s an apt description.) Walking him twice a day has helped to wear him out and keep him from being completely bored while he is separated from our other dogs.

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We celebrated Darwin’s successful operation with watermelon– his favorite!

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Then, Saturday evening, we found out that that sedative wasn’t the only thing he is allergic to. Darwin got stung by a bee and his entire head swelled up!

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This picture really doesn’t do it justice. Both of his eyes swelled shut and his lips were completely distended. I was terrified that his windpipe was going to swell shut! I forced two benedryl down his throat immediately and spent the rest of the night monitoring his breathing. Very quickly the swelling went down, but it was very scary nevertheless.

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Sunday morning he was back to his old self again, our adorable Dr. Chubbs. He has two facial expressions: tongue a tiny bit out

 

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and underbite. I guess this is his smile?

Someone told us recently that another name for English Bulldog is “vet bill”.  Good thing we love this little guy so much already!

Whistler Pillow Giveaway

Moonshine Yarn

Thanks so much to everyone who entered our Whistler Pillow pattern and yarn giveaway! It was really nice reading all your comments. I wish I could send yarn to each of you, but, alas there can only be one winner and today’s winner (chosen at random) is:

Contest Winner

Karin, please email me your mailing address at susie at fiber farm .com and I will get your yarn out to you ASAP.

Blueberry Slab Pie with Strawberry Marscarpone Ice Cream

Independence Day is just over a week away so it seemed like a great time to re-post my recipe for Blueberry Slab Pie with Strawberry Marscarpone Ice Cream. Slab pies are a great way to feed dessert to a crowd and blueberries are super cheap right now at the farmer’s market. Enjoy!

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Blueberry Slab Pie

  • For The Crust

    • 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 2 cups (4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
    • 1 to 1 1/2 cups ice water
  • For The Filling

    • 2 1/4 pounds fresh (8 cups)
    • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

  1. Make crust: In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar until combined. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. With machine running, add 1 cup ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Do not overmix. Divide dough into 2 disks; wrap each tightly in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (or up to overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make filling: In a large bowl, toss together blueberries, cornstarch, sugar, and lemon zest and juice. On a floured work surface, roll out 1 disk to a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Place in a 10-by-14-by-1-inch rimmed sheet pan. Pour in blueberry filling, then lightly brush edges of crust with water. On floured surface, roll out second disk to an 11-by-15-inch rectangle, carefully cutting out the star shapes. These will serve as vents to allow steam to escape.  Lay over blueberry filling; press along moistened edges to seal. Fold overhang under, tucking it into pan, and crimp edges.
  3. Place pie in oven, then reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake until crust is golden and juices are bubbling, 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour, preferably two. Allowing the pie to rest will keep the filling from running when you slice it.

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For the ice cream, I modified a recipe from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. I have to say, this book changed the way I make ice cream. I’ve always been in the “frozen custard” camp, making my ice cream with eggs because I found ice creams made with out them to be less creamy and icy. This book turned that thinking on it’s head. Not only is the ice cream amazing, it’s much easier to make because it doesn’t require a custard base, which is always nerve wracking. It’s kind of revolutionary. This particular recipe is- hands down- the best ice cream I have ever made.

Strawberry Marscarpone Ice Cream

  • 8 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 16 ounces marscarpone cheese
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 2  1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup

Directions

1. Place the slice strawberries in a bowl and mix with the balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate for overnight, or for a minimum of 2 hours.

2. Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the marscarpone cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

3. Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

4. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the marscarpone cheese mixture until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly. I usually just put the mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours but if you are in a hurry you can use Jeni’s quick chill method. Pour the mixture into a 2-gallon Ziploc freezer bags and submerge the sealed bags in an ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

5. Strain the strawberries, saving the balsamic vinegar for a salad dressing. Add the strawberries to the ice cream base and pour the base into your ice cream makers’s canister and proceed according to the manufacturer’s directions. Spin until thick and creamy. If you prefer your ice cream more solid, you can pack it into a plastic container and place it in the freezer for a few hours.We like it the way it comes out of the ice cream maker.

Makes two quarts ice cream, which may sound like a lot before you taste it, but it really isn’t.

 

Tell Me Something Good Tuesday!

Tell Something GoodTuesdays

I don’t know if I have ever needed a “Tell Me Something Good Tuesday” as much as I do today! My sister is having not one but THREE spots of skin cancer removed from her face today. Darwin, our pup, is going in to be neutered again tomorrow after nearly dying during the last attempt to neuter him (he had a reaction to the pre-anestisia sedative). And we are in the bi-annual mad rush to get our next season’s patterns to the printer. I. am. stressed.

So, today, more than ever, I need you to tell me something good!

Movin’ To The Country…

…gonna feed the pigs lotsa peaches.

Our awesome friend Trina works for the big local orchard and today brought two big bushels of fallen peaches and apples for the pigs and chickens.

Brace yourselves for lots of pictures, because there’s nothing I like better than pictures of happy pigs!

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Churchill tried to nose into the box as soon as she set it down, but I wanted to keep track of how many peaches (and peach pits) they were eating.

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Even Bertie got in on some apple action.

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As did the chickens.

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Agnes (who we are now fairly certain is actually a male) partook of a few figs.

I just love seeing them all share in summer’s bounty!

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