Wednesday, July 9, 2014

El mosquito no esta bonito.

I'm not going outside again for a long time.

Since we had a big group of friends coming into town to stay with us this weekend, I wanted to spend a day in the yard, tidying things up.  I know that I'm a mosquito magnet, and that the gentle "natural" repellents don't work on me.  Those containing pure DEET help, but I hate spraying those chemicals on.  I decided to forgo the repellents.  In another brilliant move, I also decided to work in a tank top and shorts. 

I trimmed bushes, weeded, used the leaf blower on the driveways and flower beds, and got to finish a project I've been wanting to do for a long time - removing the ivy from the rock wall by our outdoor fireplace.  It isn't done yet...but it's a start.

I noticed a snake clinging to one of the low-hanging tree branches there.

I think it's a juvenile brown snake and totally harmless.  I used a rake to carefully move him to the neighboring woods.

Almost immediately after finishing my work, my leg broke out in quarter-size itchy blotches.

Over the course of the next few days, my ankles and calves swelled with bites big and small, and I had poison ivy rash on both wrists and my right upper arms.  I slathered on the hydrocortisone and decided to take an "outdoors break".

So, I've been enjoying the outdoors...from inside, like my safe view of this squirrel handily besting one of our squirrel-proof feeders down by the pond:

I started a new knitting project (a cardigan):

I made a card for a friend who was getting married:

And, I finally finished the front living room.  The back living room has been done for a while:

But the front living room, for the past year and a half, has been completely empty, other than a couch, a couple of beat-up chairs (future projects), and our board game cabinet.  I've been really motivated to finish it, because it's the first thing I see when I walk in the door.

Front and back views (I believe you can click on the pictures for a larger view):

I've got my puzzle table (IKEA) set up right by the big windows, to catch all the available light. 

We have some wingback chairs for cozy reading spots:

And, I refinished this table that Todd found at an auction for $20...

...and it makes a perfect sturdy table for assembling model kits.  I'm so glad to have this room done!

Even though I have done an extraordinary amount of cooking/baking this past week (16 pounds of hamburger with caramelized onions, 10 pounds of chicken, 7 pounds of rice, 3 different types of cookies, cookie bars, 2 batches of blueberry muffins, 2 batches of cupcakes, and cinnamon rolls), it wasn't long before I felt like baking again.  We had some fresh local peaches, so I made peach crisp.  Todd made himself a plate, and asked if we had vanilla ice cream to go with it.  We didn't, of course, because an ice cream addict like myself *never* keeps a readily-available stash of it.  But I started thinking.  There's a local orchard that keeps a permanent summer stand at my gym, and they have the most beautiful blackberries I've ever seen.  What if I bought some and made a sort of blackberry reduction sauce for vanilla ice cream? 

So I did.

I cobbled together a recipe from multiple sites, boiled my berries down...

...and made the most delicious ice cream topping I've ever had.

Plenty of seeds...just like I like it!

Blackberry Reduction Sauce

3 cups fresh blackberries
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vinegar (or lemon juice)
1 tablespoon cornstarch (and a bit of water to dissolve it)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine blackberries, sugar, and water in a pot and bring to a boil.  Mash some of your blackberries (I wanted mine chunky, so mine was "lightly mashed"), and add your cornstarch (dissolved in a bit of water).  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add vinegar and vanilla.  You can strain out the seeds at this point if you'd like.  Stir, cover, and store in refrigerator until ready to eat. 

This is a quick 15-minute recipe, and yields delicious results.  I think it's a nice summer treat, and if you're inside making blackberry sauce, you are probably safe from the evils of mosquitoes and poison ivy.  Win - win!

Have a great week! 

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