Saturday, September 29, 2018

No-Bake Key Lime Cheesecake Pie

I posted a recipe for Key Lime Pie a while back. It was actually seven years ago, which I can hardly believe! Anyhow, it it here, if you haven't seen it. I have made this pie quite a few times, but there was always something about it that didn't quite make me happy. Well, recently I read
Using the more common Persian limes in this dessert (instead of Key limes) would be no crime. :) However using bottled juice for this recipe absolutely would be. For best results, use freshly squeezed lime juice. Do not use bottled, even bottled "Key lime" juice, which will impart a sourness to your pie. Freshly squeezed juice is what you want. 
This came from Alice Alfonsi who is one half of the writing team (with her husband) that writes the excellent Coffeehouse Mysteries. I thought, yes, that's it! The pie was indeed sour! There was an aftertaste which I didn't like.

Her recipe is here, but I'll write it out, as well.

Key Lime Pie

1 (14-ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup freshly squeezed (and strained) lime juice - my limes were just ordinary limes
2 (8 ounce packages) of softened cream cheese

1 graham cracker pie crust 

I mixed up the first three ingredients in the electric mixer until very creamy and smooth. I poured the mix into the pie crust, and put it in the refrigerator overnight.

This is out-of-this-world delicious. I'll never make the other kind again! 

This is the pie crust I used.

The suggestion was to place the foiled crust in a regular pie plate "for stability" and I did. 

I didn't top it with whipped cream. It was perfect without!

I'll share this at Weekend Cooking

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Today's picture/man-dad outfit

Michael sent this to us yesterday morning. This is what Campbell wanted to wear to school - his "man-dad" outfit. The glasses aren't real. The tie is Michael's. I can hardly bear how cute he is.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Jacob's Room is Full of Books - September

Susan Hill's September entry was only 11 pages, the shortest yet, but somehow it didn't seem short. Perhaps because there were fewer "subjects" with more information on each? September finds her in a rental cottage in France. Doesn't that sound nice? I would like to say, "September finds me in a cottage in the French countryside." The weather however was very hot for some of it, and she, like me, wilts in the heat and humidity. 34º C. which is about 93º F. Yuck. Thank goodness my September has been cooler. We've even had a couple frosts, though they haven't been the "killer" frosts when even covering the tomatoes doesn't help. So we continue to eat tomatoes right off the vine.

Of course what Susan Hill does on such a vacation is to read. She's brought books from home, but also is interested in the books that other renters have left-behind. I love that idea of leaving books you are done with, and picking up some that others have left. It's like those little free libraries that have sprouted up in the US (and other places?).

If you were hoping for a list of authors, as I was, she doesn't disappoint.
They fascinate me, those holiday reads, and I have studied a good many in my time. Indeed, I have compiled a list of the authors whose books - always in paperback - are most often found in rented properties, both at home and in France. I start going through them as soon as I have unpacked and I rarely score fewer than five.
The list does change every few years.
This year the bookcases have contained, in no particular order: Joanna Trollope, Dan Brown, Jenny Colgan, Stephen King, Daphne du Maurier, Victoria Hislop, Ian McEwan, Val McDermid, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Jojo Moyes. And Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Captain Corelli's Mandolin has not been found for a while. 
 Several authors dropped off the bottom a couple years ago - Catherine Cookson, Dean Koontz, Gerald Durrell, Peter Mayle. John le Carré comes and goes.
This year there are a few surprises. Olivia Manning's Balkan Trilogy is here. So are books by Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, Elizabeth Bowen, Patricia Highsmith, Jeanette Winterson - and Jane Austen, Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Hemingway and Raymond Carver. An upmarket bookcase then.
Would you be tickled to find such authors in your rental house?

Susan Hill goes on to discuss Olivia Manning in quite some detail, which pleased me because last year I bought both The Balkan Trilogy and The Levant Trilogy. Of course, I haven't read them yet, but they wait patiently on my shelf.

I am struck in this month's passage, as I am every month, at what a reader Susan Hill is. Writing of the two trilogies, she says
This summer's re-reading must be my fourth, and each time the books yield something new, perhaps because as I grow older I understand more.
FOUR re-readings!!

You know how in late spring the buzz is always about what the upcoming "summer reads" will be? I've never quite understood because my reading doesn't change with the seasons. And I don't go to the beach. If I did, I'd be swimming or walking, not reading.
... beach reads. I was slightly mortified when a friend on holiday in Turkey reported seeing three people reading one of my crime novels on a beach - I have never taken them too seriously, but for a split second I thought, 'I didn't realise they were as bad as that.' 
What a delight this woman is to me. She is scholarly, interesting, informative, witty, and funny. Reading this book is a bit like taking a course from her, and I am loving it.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Another milestone - this one about milk

You might wonder at the title of this blog post, how in the world can milk be a milestone in a life? Well here is the answer, at least in the life I have lived for nearly fifty years.

As you probably know by now if you are a long-time reader of Letters from a Hill Farm, Tom and I are older hippies. We became aware of "real" food in the late 1960s, and have never let it go. We became vegetarians in 1971 due pretty much to a photograph of some words someone said about why he (Donovan or Paul McCartney, methinks) became a vegetarian. He saw a cattle truck, and looked into the eyes of a cow on the way to its death. I can't recall if there was a photo of the cow or not, but I know just where it hung in our first apartment in Boston.

At this point in our lives, we don't know a single person who is a vegetarian or a vegan. Meat is huge now. Somehow it isn't unhealthy to eat the carcinogenic nitrates or nitrites in bacon anymore. People put bacon in everything, and it is rather a food favorite in the world.

Along with giving up meat, we also began to eat whole grains instead of white bread and rice. We learned about foods that are now common in the US but then were as rare as hens' teeth, such as hummus and tabouli. And we learned about raw milk, the milk our parents would have grown up on. When I was a kid, there was still un-homogenized milk and I remember having to shake the milk carton at school. On the occasion when I drink from a carton now, I have to remind my muscle memory that I don't have to do that anymore.

There was a health food store, and a big Erewhon store (the first) just down the street from our second apartment in Boston, and we did all our food shopping there. When my mother died and we moved back home in 1973, it wasn't easy finding the food we were used to. There was a mail order catalogue called Walnut Acres where we bought a lot of items. We made occasional day trips to Boston to pick up other things. And we grew and froze as much as we could. But raw milk we could get right here! There was a farm in town that sold to the big dairy cooperatives, but locals could go right to the farm and get their own raw milk. We brought our own bottles, and filled them usually twice a week. We have done this for all these years, but now the original owners have died, and though their son took over for many years, now it is his time to "give up the cows". He is 63, and said it would be nice to go to a family get-together or an autumn fair without having to get back to milk the cows. He is definitely conflicted though, and the last time Tom talked with him, the last time we got milk, he said he didn't know how he would react when the last ones were taken away. His son is taking over the farm and raising meat (see what I mean - meat is way popular while milk isn't so much) for local markets.

The last of our local farm milk, and yogurt made from that milk, in the fridge.

This change, this milestone hit us harder than we imagined, and not only emotionally. Our milk from the farm cost us $2/gallon! We would keep track of how much we owed and after a while would bring him out some cash, which he preferred because he would put a check in his pocket and forget about it.

When I first went shopping for milk when our last farm milk was gone, I was pretty shocked to see the difference in cost! And I was happily surprised at the variety of milk that is available now. I don't mean the variety of percentages of fat, but in the opportunity to buy raw milk, organic raw milk, organic homogenized and pasteurized milk. As I've written before, we can get just about anything we want right in our Co-op store - a real miracle when we think back on what was available when we first came home.

So now there was a decision to make. Which did we want? I've tried a couple so far.

We haven't made a definite decision but we are leaning toward the Organic Valley. It is organic, but not raw. It says it is from a New England farm, and has the name of the farmer on it. The company must have farms all over the country now. I've been buying their butter and cream cheese for years. This milk is cheaper than the previous picture, but it isn't raw. There is a local farm that offers raw, organic milk in gallon containers, but when I've shopped the date has been too close and I knew we wouldn't drink it all in that short time. I will try that one when I catch it having a later sell-by date. It is more expensive than OV but less expensive than the Kimball Brook.

Before we started making our own yogurt (blog post about it here), I used to buy either Brown Cow or Stonyfield. Now I see that Brown Cow is distributed by Stonyfield. They are both great, and are the same price, but the Brown Cow has more cream at the top.

So there it is. We are lucky, lucky that we are, as they say, spoilt for choice in available products. But there is a sadness in the reason we must make those choices.

Addendum: the money we now spend on milk and yogurt is countered somewhat by  not making a 30 mile round trip twice a week for milk. I also don't have to use the longer wash time in the dishwasher for milk bottles to get them very, very clean. I only use it now when I've got the bread baking bowl in there.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Today's song and video/The Cottager's Reply - Chris Wood

I was just listening to this song on my iTunes, and came to the blog to check if it was here because I thought I remembered posting it. I found it from five years ago, but the video was gone, as sometimes happens. So, here it is again.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Up and down the road - 2018

On May 7, 2013 I wrote a post titled "Up and down the road 2013." I expected this would become a little series of writings with the title changing only with the year. Well, we all know what happened in 2013, 2014, and 2015! Not only have I not done any posts about my walks, I haven't really done any walking. I did walk in 2014 with Hazel in the front pack up in the woods where we logged, but really hardly any since then. I thought today that this would be a good activity to begin now that I have a little more time. I need to build up my endurance and my breath. I don't have to go to a gym or a walking path. I can just go out the door, and I really mean to do so unless the weather is terrible. And I am going to use the blog to keep me honest! Maybe I'll write once a week with photos from each day.

I walked today for 30 minutes. 12:08-12:38 pm. (Just 'cause I thought it would be fun to see when I walk)

This is Maybelline, one of the Shetland sheep we got in 2014. 

And Nebby. Her story is here

What I call fall dandelions.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A milestone

According to the dictionary, a milestone is an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development. Well, that's what yesterday was for Nana.

We've been taking care of Hazel Nina while Margaret worked for over four years. For a year she was here for four days a week, and the other three years she has been here every Tuesday and Friday. We see her at other times but those days it has been just Pop, Hazel, and me.

This is a picture from the spring of 2014 when we began taking care of her. So tiny, so precious.

This year of Pre-K, Margaret had her go three full days, and one half day, and has now decided to make the half day a full day. Hazel's doing well and loving school. Yesterday was our first Tuesday without her and it was so strange. You might expect that Nana had quite a good cry. It just doesn't seem possible that the time has passed so quickly. She has grown into the dearest little girl.

I put this picture of my desk

 on Instagram last Friday with these words:
What my desk was like when Hazel went home today. Her imagination is remarkable. She takes totally unrelated items and builds a whole world. hashtag lucky grandparents.
Here is a little movie of her playing.

I am thankful beyond words that I have had the honor, the privilege, the gift of taking care of this little girl. There isn't a day goes by when I don't think about how very different it could have been. If you don't know Margaret and Hazel's story, you may find it here - I just re-read the post and all the wonderful comments. I never replied but they meant the world to me.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Today's pictures/Weeks ten and eleven CSA flowers - 2018

Last week's flowers were again in my mother's vase, and that Wednesday would have been her 105th birthday.

This week, it was too hot for me to carry the flowers outdoors and take a picture.

I'm wild about the love-lies-bleeding (amaranth). Basil this week!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Today's picture - The granddaughter's first day of preschool

Margaret took this photo. I'm fond of the black and white.

This is really Hazel's second year of preschool. Our town elementary school offers free pre-Kindergarten, which is wonderful. Hazel's teacher went to this same school, as did Margaret and Matthew. They are all great friends, and the teacher, Ms Abbie, sent this photo to Margaret on the first day.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Stillmeadow - August

Gladys Taber begins the month in her wonderful philosophical way. She remembers a covered bridge when they first moved to Stillmeadow. It was in quite bad shape.
It was narrow and rickety and set at right angles to the road on either side, so that getting across safely and into Seymour to shop was a delirious adventure. You just never knew. Maybe this time someone would be coming in as you turned out. The old boards rattled, the bridge shook slightly. But how I grieved when the bridge was torn down! ... Even crossing it in a car, you could imagine driving over behind a pair of horses, clop-clop-clop-clop. You could imagine all the people who had crossed this river in long-gone days. It was like opening an old book for a moment and looking into yesterday.
Are there covered bridges all over the US (the world?)? Around here they are kept up quite well, and are still used. They are so special. The wood, the darkness, the sound. When I was a kid, I made a wish whenever I went through one, and actually still do!

Some writers would leave the subject right there, but not Gladys. She goes on to say
There is always something sad about change, even a change for the better. On the other hand, things must change, for there is no vitality in what is static. When I look at people around me, I sometimes think that when people reach the day in which they can see no good in anything different and new, on that day they begin to die. The will to live and the will to grow are the two foundation stones on which humanity is built. During all difficult days, I am determined to keep new interests going, lest I bog down in worry and anxiety. 
She then goes on to talk about the weather, as most of us do, much of the time. Especially this summer. I didn't have one conversation that didn't mention the awful heat, and then the relief when cooler weather came back. Never have I thought seriously of getting an air-conditioner. But I feel I wasted about ten days of my life being miserably hot and unable to do much at all. We'll see if it comes back next year, and if so, we will look into one. The weeds have grown exponentially. They have crept in amongst every flower plant and vegetable plant. I probably should show you. I will be brave and do so. I'll warn you - not a pretty sight.

The tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, and chives have done well, but boy, it looks awful. I feel like if maybe the inside had been cool, I might have been able to spend a few minutes weeding, and then gone in to cool off. Done over and over again, this mess might not have happened. So, as I said, we'll see.

Gladys has a very humorous passage on the perfection of houses and gardens juxtaposed with real life (see pictures above).
Sometimes I am irritated by the decoration experts. The last article I read was about a woman whose house was full of whimsey, said the writer. It was. It was simply bursting with whimsey, if by whimsey she meant a lot of impossible colors slung together and toned down with gilt and red velvet and dark green. When I reached the room where "the dresser had been whimseyed up with white and gold," I uttered a frightful sound and rushed away. Passing rapidly through the living room, which has no whimsey at all, I entered the kitchen and proceeded to whimsey up the stove by cooking plain golden wax beans and a panful of beets with no humor in them. I afterwards scrambled eggs with chicken livers, and whimseyed up the table by putting on the knives, forks, and plates
I just loved this passage!

Gladys talks about a summer pastime.
What I like is berrying. Up the hill to the old pasture land on a summer day, with an old lard pail hooked to my belt - that is something. The pasture is full of blackberries and nobody takes care of them but God. There they are, rich and purple-black, and smelling of sun and summer. They fall in the pail with soft plops, each one a perfect little nugget of goodness.
When I was a girl, women used to talk about "going berrying." I wonder if anyone does this now. We are fortunate to have blackberries growing up the hill, ready for the picking anytime anyone goes up. They are a result of the logging we had done four years ago. The trees are cut allowing in the sunshine. The first thing that appears is grass, and then brush and berry bushes. Tom took a picture when they were first coming.

Here is a batch that Matthew, Margaret, and Hazel picked on a wheeler ride.

I haven't been up because I don't like riding on the wheeler, and I haven't walked because at first it was too hot, and now we have loggers again. They are doing a small cut this time, and as Tom said, the next cut will be done by our kids in 25 years!

I'll end this month with Gladys writing about those early morning fears we all have. She is woken up by her dogs barking.
If it is around two o'clock, I can't get back to sleep. All the assorted worries that any woman acquires wait to pounce on me. I worry about the world situation. I go into anguish over the possibility of not being able to pay next year's income tax. I feel perfectly sure Cicely will marry some no-account man who will be an albatross around all our necks. Dorothy will be misled by some charmer who dances well and has the brain of a hubbard squash. My sinus and arthritis and a lot of unknown diseases will do me in within a week or so. ... These and other two-in-the-morning thoughts keep me occupied for some while. All those dandy little articles on not worrying run through my head, to no avail. I know I should think of pleasant things and relax, but I can't think of any pleasant things to think of. I relax so hard that both pillows fall under the bed and I have to get up and fish them out. My mind goes like an electric mixer on high.