Thursday, July 7, 2011

Our first harvest

OK, so the title is a bit excessive, given the size of our "harvest" - but we have a strawberry!  I mean, a real, actual, honest-to-goodness strawberry!

It was tiny, but red, peeking out from under the leaves of our strawberry plant.  Unfortunately, Brendan just had his wisdom teeth out today, so he couldn't share it with me - but I most definitely brought it in, washed it, and ate it.

And it was delicious - made even sweeter by the fact that I grew it myself.  So, so wonderful - can't wait to have more this summer!

Hiking adventure

Recently, Brendan and I went on a little hiking adventure.  It was a few weekends ago now, but I'm just catching up with a backlog of things to write about, so cut me some slack :)

We are total hiking novices, but wanted to do something a bit difficult and not just go for a regular walk outside.  We went to the Wachusett Mountain State Reservation, which is a ski area during the winter, but has some really neat hiking trails during the summer.  We hiked from the visitor's center, and took what seemed like a relatively easy trail around the side of the mountain for a bit.  The map is here, and we started out at the little house icon at the right and continued down the Bicentennial Trail.

And then things took a turn for the interesting.  Somehow, we decided that the Loop Trail sounded like a great idea.  Here's me, looking optimistic towards the beginning of the trail:

You'll notice that even at this spot, there's not so much a trail as a bunch of rocks.  That's how it was the whole time, but it got progressively more difficult.  I don't have any pictures of the harder parts of the trail, but we took quite a few breaks along the way to just breathe.  It did pay off with a good view somewhere along the way, though:

The trail was REALLY hard after this, and I don't have any pictures, but it looked something like this, with more green foliage  - it doesn't quite do the steepest parts justice, but it's all I can find (source):

We struggled upward for a while, and had a bit of a meltdown when we started to worry that we weren't coming upon the trail we expected to - did we miss the trail sign?  Nope, we were just going that slow.  The whole trail was only about 1.5 to 2 miles total, but the terrain was so strenuous that it took forever to climb to the top.  We eventually did make it up to the Mountain House trail, and discovered with delight that we could take an actual road down for a bit and reach Pine Hill trail, which is substantially easier.  Instead of random boulders, Pine Hill has rocks stacked in a bit of a staircase formation, which is a lot easier to climb (up and down).  Here's Brendan looking accomplished near the end of our journey:

As we finally reached the bottom, exhausted, we weren't sure that we'd do much more hiking - but both of us realized that we really did have a lot of fun.  I have been begging Brendan to go back since we got home, and we might just go next weekend.  Now that we know how long the trail is and what to expect, we'll have a lot more fun!

Anyone have any ideas for hiking trips?  Next time we'll bring a water pack instead of water bottles, but if anyone has any ideas for making hiking trips more fun, or anything important to bring, I'd appreciate it!

P.S. For you crazy people out there doing ridiculously long trail races - I don't know how you do it!  I can't imagine running up even the easiest part of the trail we did!  Major kudos.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy (belated) 4th! Have some pie!

I hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July!  I spent the long weekend enjoying the company of family and friends - mostly Brendan's family and friends, to be precise, but I had a really nice time.  We got to see our niece (I say our although she's obviously not my niece yet, we're not married) - I hadn't had the pleasure of meeting her yet, so that was really great!  Isn't she adorable?

We had a partay at Brendan's parents' house, had yummy delectable food, spent some time gardening (more on that in a future post), and watched the fireworks on TV (don't worry, we'll see some in person next weekend).  Overall, a super relaxing weekend.  Which is good, because this week has started out a bit rough - it's a good thing I got some rest!

On the food front - I made pie!  Well, pies, actually.   I made strawberry pie following this recipe, cherry-blueberry pie following this recipe, and pecan pie following my Great Aunt Myrtie's famous recipe.  The pies were all for the party, and most of each pie was gobbled up before I could even snap a picture.  I did manage to get one of the leftover pecan pie:

Delicious, right?  I know it's more typical to see pecan pie at Thanksgiving time, but it was a really nice treat for summertime too.  This recipe is FULL of sugar, so it's not good for you - but it sure is yummy!  You should all make some for your next summer getogether - or, well, for any occasion, really.  When is there not a good time for pie?

Aunt Myrtie's Famous Pecan Pie
Serves 8 (less if you're hungry!)

Preheat oven to 350.
Use unbaked 9-inch pie crust.
1 cup corn syrup (Aunt Myrtie used Karo)
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix all of above ingredients together thoroughly.
Stir in 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans or pecan pieces of the size you like. 
Pecan halves can be put on top of mixture if you desire.
Pour into unbaked pie crust;  Place on cookie sheet to catch any drips.
Bake on center rack of 350 degree oven for approximately 60 to 70 minutes.
Foil can be placed over the crust (not filling) to prevent crust from burning.
The foil should be removed about 15 minutes before end of cooking time to
allow crust to brown.