Sunday, September 25

Apple Butterin' Day 'n' Stuff

Apple Butter Abounds!
I spent the day last Saturday making apple butter with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law (I know, I'm getting behind on my posts!) and we made quite a bit with two bushels of apples.  I have canned apple butter once before, five years ago, when my mother-in-law first showed me how to can.  We use a favorite recipe of hers, complete with a secret ingredient (and if I told you what it was, it wouldn't be a secret anymore, would it??).  What I thought would be an all-day event, though, turned into a half-day event, and I was done with my last jar and cleaning up at 3 pm.  Not bad!  Although it had been five years since I'd done it, it seemed to come back fairly quickly.  Now my husband is stocked with 29 quarts and two partial pints of apple butter--probably enough for another five years.  And enough to give away for Christmas presents as well. :)  Below are a few photos of the process and progress.
Phone pic--cooking the apple butter
Phone pic--sterilizing the jar and lids
Phone pic--just what we used for canning
Phone pic--some of the finished jars
At home--the final results!

So Much To Do!
We have been very busy lately.  Things are not going to slow down, either!  We have been gone or busy every weekend in September so far.  We are going to be home next weekend, so we are planning to have a late-season garage sale to get rid of some unnecessary stuff from the stuffmart.  But after that, craft shows abound for The Sunflower Tree.  Plus, the holidays are quickly approaching, and there are several fall birthdays in my family.  There will be no time for rest!  But that's okay, I always love this time of year: the trees changing, the different smell and feel of the air, the apple cider and other apple treats, and just enjoying the new season that God has given us.  With the changes in temperature, though, seems to come sinus problems and allergies for both me and my husband.  Such is life!  It is still my favorite season.  I took the time to try a few new recipes last week, and boy were they good!  One was Chicken Vegetable Turnovers, and the other was Blueberry Turnovers.  I have posted them on The Recipe Swap, so feel free to check them out.  I think you'll like them!  Great for a chilly day!

I don't know about you, but I have an easy time getting wrapped up and run down with things that go on, and more so when I'm overly busy, like what I've been experiencing lately.  It's times like these that I need to remember that God is more important than anything I could be doing or planning for in my life, because God is so much bigger than my little world.  If I focus too much on this world and not enough on the next, then I get discouraged and frustrated.  "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (Proverbs 17:22)  The enemy goes to great lengths to keep our focus off of God by using so many types of distractions.  Keep in constant conversation with God, no matter what your circumstances.  He gives us strength to get through anything!

Sunday, September 18

Our Trip and B&B

We left after work Thursday night, and in customary man style, we didn’t stop except for gas & bathroom.  We were expected at the Ivy House Bed and Breakfast at 7:30, though, and made it just in time.  It was almost dark when we pulled in due to the rainy weather, but we could see that it was a nice place.  Innkeeper Linda met us at the door, and was quite friendly.  We exchanged pleasantries and then we were offered a tour of the tastefully decorated home and rooms.  We talked a while longer, and Linda told us about a tornado that hit back in February, doing damage to a part of the house and uprooting several large trees in the yard.  Such strange weather this year!  We brought our items into the room and headed out to Pizza King, which was very close and very small—it was actually located in a house.  (If you are not familiar with Pizza King, that’s so sad!  It’s an Indiana pizza chain that has great pizza.)  After dinner, we came back to the room and relaxed before going to bed.  Our room was very nice!  Each guest room has an antique restored door that has a large piece of slate where a window might have been.  On the slate is written “Welcome __________” (the names of the guests staying there that night).  It was a nice-sized room, not extremely large but certainly not small.  Just the right size to be comfortable.  Speaking of comfortable, the bed was very comfy!  Either a pillowtop or a memory foam top.  The room was tastefully decorated with antique furniture and luxury bedding and window treatments, and there was an Ivy House Bed and Breakfast robe for each of us in the closet.  Nice!  A good choice, for sure.
The door to our room

The former door to our private bath-restored and illuminated from behind
Our room, from the doorway-so cozy!
    The next morning, we went downstairs to breakfast at 9 am and met the other couple that stayed that night. We talked over an amazing breakfast—the first course was sliced apples, strawberries and bananas with a sweet yogurt for dipping, coffee, mango-orange juice, and water.  Our main course was stuffed French toast with a strawberry glaze and bacon.  The French toast was perfectly cooked-not soggy at all, with a mild sweet cream cheese stuffing and a just-right strawberry glaze, and the bacon was crisp and delicious.  A fantastic breakfast! (I wish I had taken photos of the food.  You would see what I mean!)  We conversed with the other couple for a while longer after breakfast was finished, then we left for Conner Prairie.
The dining room, ready for us to eat breakfast (2nd morning)
     Our trip to Conner Prairie was wonderful.  The weather, forecast to rain the whole time we were in town, was just cool and cloudy until quite literally the moment we left, and there were few people there, other than four school buses of children.  It was perfect.  We started at the back where the new Civil War exhibit was located, formerly the 1880s section of the village.  It was quite an exhibit, but my husband and I both agree that it didn't fit well into the village.  We spent a lot of time going through the exhibit before moving on to the 1836 section, where we enjoyed interacting with the interpreters (interpreters want to be asked questions!) and strolling through the buildings.  To avoid the groups of school children that were running amok, we went down the end of the lane to the potter’s shop, where we found a family friend of my husband's working.  Since it was a slow day at the potter’s shop, we were able to stay and talk for quite a while before finally moving on.  It was nice to see a familiar face.  Eventually, we wandered through the section and made our way to the Conner house (the namesake of the entire site), where we took our time and enjoyed the peaceful tour of the house, because by this time the school groups had left.  Then we moseyed on to the petting barn, and finally back to the visitor’s entrance and gift shop.  We purchased two pieces of pottery, both made by our potter friend, and headed for the Apple Store for apple cider slushies, apple cinnamon donuts, and hot apple cider.  I love this time of year!  Just as we were leaving the Apple Store, the rain began again and lasted into the night.  But, thank the Lord, it held off all day!  We were quite tired after a long day of walking, so we stopped at Olive Garden and then went back to the B&B for some r&r.  A wonderful relaxing night—just what we needed!
A scene from the new Civil War exhibit.  A wax figure stands "playing" the violin, while a "movie" describing the house and story play on a screen in the doorway.  Many actors filmed small vignettes like this and they play in various buildings as people walk through.
The Conner House
   Saturday morning, we awoke and readied for breakfast again at 9 am.  We were the only ones there that night, so we were the only breakfasters on Saturday morning.  We had warm cinnamon apples and orange juice for our first course, then a homemade blueberry turnover and ham, cheese and basil egg soufflĂ© for our main course.  Incredible!  I think this was some of the best food I’ve had at the many b&b that we’ve stayed at over the years (we count seven now, to date).  Beautiful home, tasteful rooms, comfortable beds, a house with a unique history, and a gracious innkeeper made this one of my favorite B&Bs to stay at, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a weekend away.  You won’t be disappointed!
   After checking out, we headed to Noblesville to check out the outdoor mall and the Borders that was closing.  We walked around, but were still a bit tired from our day yesterday, so we headed back north to the Heritage festival in Pendleton that we’d heard about from the innkeeper.  We drove through, but it was so busy and crowded that we decided to forgo the festival and just make our way home.  On the way, we stopped at Pizza King again, this time in Albany, and enjoyed our last Pizza King experience in Indiana for a while.  After a stop at Sam’s Club in Lima, Ohio, to enjoy the free samples, we headed back home for a relaxing evening.  It was a great time, and felt good to get away, leave the computer and internet behind, and just enjoy spending time with my husband.  I'm including more photos for your enjoyment:
Hand-painted claw foot bathtub in our bathroom-converted into a shower
The entrance to the Civil War exhibit.  The focus of the exhibit is on Morgan's Raid, the only battle of the Civil War to take place in Indiana.
The partially burned depot (actually a new building, with a gift shop and restrooms inside)
A house in the 1836 village.
This kitty was taking advantage of the milking that was going on in the barn!
More free advertising for the Ivy House.  A great place to stay!

Sunday, September 11

Busy--Where Did That Come From?

My husband and I have been quite busy lately.  It's been hard to keep up, and the coming days don't appear to be any less busy.  Let me tell you about our adventures lately!

That was the reason for heading up to Michigan to visit my sister Labor Day weekend--a surprise 30th birthday party.  We headed up the day of the party and stealthily avoided my sister all day.  When arriving at the restaurant where the party was being held, we helped decorate and waited for all of her friends to arrive, then waited for her to arrive.  She was so surprised when she walked in and saw so many of her family and friends waiting to celebrate her birthday!  What made it even more of a surprise was that it wasn't actually her birthday--it was a week ahead of time.  She was appropriately surprised, and we had fun surprising her!

Fall Is Coming...
I'm sure of it.  We had some teasingly cool temps last week, and it's beginning to trigger the color change in a few trees in the area.  I'm looking forward to getting my fall decor out--I already have the tote box down, but haven't had the time yet to get things out.  I will need to make time for decorating, because fall will have to come once I have the house set up that way!

Gotta Get Away!
I have been so busy, and it has been resulting in a lot of extra stress lately.  I think I was stressing my husband out too, because he agreed to a long weekend away from home and all of the trials therein.  We booked a room at a beautiful bed and breakfast (more about that in another post) and spent two and a half days in the Indianapolis area, just relaxing and enjoying a very low-tech trip.  We got back Saturday early evening, had a living history program Sunday, and have Monday off as a rest day.  I feel much better, and a bit more clear-headed.  It was a desperately-needed trip that was a great time.  Like I said, I will have a separate post solely devoted to our trip and the b&b we stayed in.  Check back soon!

Christmas Trees
Do you remember in a recent post the Christmas trees I saw in another blog?  Well, I made them, and they turned out so cute!  Below are a few pictures and simple instructions.  I hope you give these a won't be disappointed!
Start with two fabrics of your choice, a quarter of a yard of each.  Also purchase the round bases, half stars, dowel rod and paint of your choice (I got all of this at Hobby Lobby for around $7.50).
Measure and cut each fabric piece into strips about 3/4" wide.  After the strips are cut, cut each strip into lengths that get smaller--I cut them into 9", 8" & 7" lengths.  Divide each length into two equal piles.  Now you have cut enough strips for two trees!
Now, it's time for a little assembly: Cut the dowel rod into 12" lengths (you should get three out of one rod), and take a sharp knife or box cutter and make a few slices into one end of the dowel rod to create a taper.  Then, take an awl or similar tool and punch a small hole, carefully, through one part of the star. 
Insert the tapered end carefully into the hole just made in the star.  It will be snug, but that's okay--you want it that way!

Now paint--I used a copper shimmer color with fine green glitter.  Also paint the bases now, and if you want, add glitter to those as well.  Then take a power drill with a bit the size of the dowel rod and drill a hole into the base.  Insert the other end of the dowel rod into the base, and if slightly loose, spread a little wood glue around the dowel rod.  If you used glue, allow it to dry overnight.
Now, begin tying the strips onto the dowel rod, starting with the 9" strips and eventually getting down to the 7" strips at the top.  Don't worry about looks yet; you'll rearrange them once all of the strips are tied on.
Do this to both dowel rods, then rearrange the strips so that they are evenly spaced and don't have any visible gaps.  And voila, you have two finished trees, ready to be set out and enjoyed!