March 28, 2010

Maple Weekend

Today we went to some maple farms to see how maple syrup is made. This weekend and last were NYS "Maple Weekend", sponsored by the Maple Growers of NY. The first farm where we stopped was a small family farm that has about 600 trees that they tap. They have a conventional method of boiling the sap.
The evaporator.

Apparently sap is only 2% syrup and it needs to be boiled down excessively to get to the product. It takes 40 gal of sap to make one gal of maple syrup.
This is a stack of two 40 gallon drums. In order to boil the sap down, you need to keep the fire going for a long time. This farm uses wood to keep that fire burning.

It was very warm in the sugar house. All that sugar steam goes out the chimney to the outside. You can spot a sugar house from far away because of the thick white steam coming out of the buildings.

At this particular farm we bought syrup, maple granulated sugar, and maple popcorn.
The samples were delicious! My girl couldn't help herself!
The next farm was a lot bigger and more commercialized. They have 16,000 trees tapped. There are tubes that run all over the woods and bring the sap down the hill to the sugar house.

They have a pumping system that brings the sap down. In the old days, people would tap trees and hang galvanized buckets from the taps (some people probably still do that, but as we drove home, I noticed a lot of these tubes in wooded areas along the road). Then they would dump the buckets into a vat and haul that to the sugar house.

Here is the pump room.
All the white pipes on the floor are the main lines that the tubes out in the woods pour into. You can look into them and see if any sap is coming in. That's my big brother on the left there. He and his daughter are in town from Portland, OR. People were impressed that they came from that far to see how maple syrup is made!

This is the "reverse osmosis" equipment.
This farm is lucky enough to have this equipment which takes some or most of the water out of the sap. They then boil it like the first farm, but they use oil to fuel the fire. A man told us it takes 15 gal of oil an hour to keep their fire burning. Its expensive, but since the farm is so large, using wood would be extremely labor intensive.

We went on a wagon ride. Actually two, because the horses didn't go up into the woods so we hopped on the next ride with the tractor pulling the wagon.

Out in the woods we saw the original sugar house that they stopped using in 1930.

From this farm we purchased syrup, strawberry maple cream (to die for), hot maple pepper jelly, maple tea and maple cotton candy. We also ate lunch, as they had concessions. We ate maple hot dogs and maple barbeque pulled pork sandwiches. They also had enormous baked sweet potatoes that they cut open and put maple sugar and hot maple syrup over. We had a fun day.

Then we went to my Dad's house to have a family get-together so everyone could see my bro and my niece.
The kids and Brian were outside playing spud.

The rest of us stayed inside and ate, visited, and my niece Linnea taught me how to crochet. I need to learn this for a purse I want to make, so I'm excited.
Oh, and one more thing, out in maple farm country are loads of wind turbines. These fascinate me for some reason.

On a trip to Nashville a couple of years ago, we saw one of the blades for these on a flatbed. I never saw a part for something that was so huge.

On this particular day I am thankful for all things maple and for my huge family. It sure was nice to get almost everyone together for a fun evening.
Enjoy your day!

March 27, 2010

Busy March

 Last weekend was the play at my girl's school. My older daughter decided to be in the play since it was her last year in her school. This year's production was "Beauty and the Beast". It was a wonderful production.

She's on the left there. An egg seller in the village. Also,

She was a wolf!
They had so much fun doing this play. I'm so glad she did it.

In between all of this, we had some dance shows. It's hard to take good motion pictures without flash. They come out blurry. But I think the pictures look cool and you can still get the gist of how beautiful the dresses are.

She switched into her solo dress and hard shoes after that...

She's in the back in the orange dress.

Lovely turned-out toes. :)

I am so thankful that my girl is involved in things that keep her busy and happy (even though the night of this dance show was down pouring rain and we wanted to stay home). I'm glad she has opportunities that others may not have.
Have a great day!!

March 16, 2010

The Wearin' O' The Green

This past Sunday was the St Patrick's Day parade here in Buffalo. Last year the weather was 57 degrees and sunny. This, never happens. So, we knew we would pay for it this year.

My oldest daughter is an Irish dancer. She has been dancing since she was 7. My younger daughter was a dancer as well, but gave it up just recently. Since we are involved in Irish dancing, we are required to be in the parade. Rain, snow, tsunami, whatever.

The day was quite cloudy, rainy and about 40 degrees. But, we made the best of it, as did about half of Buffalo, who turned out to watch. I'm always amazed at the amount of people who show up, no matter what the weather is like.  

Afterwards, we always stop at a lovely little bistro in downtown that is owned by one of the dance families. They close down for the day so our dance school can come in and warm up with hot chocolate and cookies shaped like Irish dance dresses.

I'm just glad it's over. : )

Well, I have to say that I've been very jealous of all the bloggers out there who have spring bursting out in their areas. We still had a lot of snow until this past weekend. Once the rain stopped this week, I went out to look in the gardens to see if anything was showing its face.

I found daylilies (and weeds) popping up, which is always amazing to me because they don't bloom until July.

A primrose.


And the best of all...the beginnings of my peonies!!! Last year I had to move them and they did not produce any flowers. I love them to death. I used the flowers from these plants to decorate my parents 50th wedding anniversary. It was beautiful and smelled heavenly. I wish I could bottle the fragrance and keep it all year. I do hope that I will get loads of flowers this year. The plants are now in a sunnier location in my yard so I hope...

I am thankful that I have healthy kids who can Irish dance, thankful for the beginnings of spring and thankful that the parade is now in the past. Lol!

March 9, 2010

Grandma's old recipe

I was looking through a box of papers that were my Grandma's. Mostly, there were recipes she had clipped from the paper and some she had hand written. There were strips of paper from Gold Medal flour that had recipes on them. She also was saving Betty Crocker coupons for new silverware. I have no idea how old those are, but probably from the late 70's or early 80's. One of our favorite recipes that she had written down was for Blond Brownies. Baby Girl doesn't like chocolate so she loves those brownies. Also, there was a recipe for Peach Upside Down Cake.
I tried to enlarge it so you could read it and maybe make it yourself. It is from an old newspaper, probably from the 50's.
Here is a picture of the back of it.

I started to make it, with Baby Girl's help, but I had to go make dinner so she made the rest of it with my Dad. It came out great and was very delicious. We used the peaches I canned last summer.

It didn't take long for half of it to disappear...

Thanks Grandma, for leaving a little box of your things for me to find. : ) 

March 7, 2010

Fast February

February went so fast and I feel bad that I have not blogged very much. We had a lot of events that transpired. One was my birthday. I turned an age that includes a "4" and a "2". Not necessarily in that order, of course.
My husband set the table and made me breakfast.
After we went to dinner at one of those Japanese restaurants where they cook your dinner with flair on a huge flat iron grill at your table, we stopped at our favorite little bakery/cafe and picked up some goodies for dessert.

After my birthday, came my first baby's birthday.

14? Sheesh!
(We didn't have a #4 candle).

I swear I was just holding her in my arms the other day...

feeding her with a rubber dipped spoon...

Now she has one of her favorite cousins feed her.

Another big development from February was a package my father received from a friend of ours, Susan. Her mum was a great friend of my Auntie Margaret, and when my aunt passed away she helped take care of my aunt's affairs since they were in London and we were so far away.
Well, now both of Susan's parents have passed away and as she was cleaning out their home, she came across some of our family things her mum had saved for us.

One thing was my great grandparents marriage certificate.
It is in remarkable condition for something so old. Poor Gran, to be called a spinster! The horrors!

We also received the receipt for the wedding ring my Grandfather bought my Nana, which is now my wedding ring.

My ring is almost 100 years old! It seems to have been bought at a bargain price, by today's standards anyway.

Today I have to be thankful for a healthy, strong, beautiful 14 year old baby. And that Susan thought enough of us to send our family items. Also thankful to her mum, May, who kept our things packed safely away until they could be reunited with our family.