Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Red, White, and Blueberry


I hope you had a terrific July 4th holiday! I haven't accomplished much more than I recounted in my last post. Life has a way of piling up on me, especially this time of year. On the evening of the 3rd my parents called to tell me they were planning to visit the next day, instead of this coming weekend as planned. So, we had to really rush to get everything cleaned and linens ready and things. It's also my mother's birthday over the holiday, so I wanted to plan a homemade dessert.

On the 2nd we went to check my new blackberry spot and found it even better than I'd hoped. We picked about a gallon wild berries, some of which were enormous, and I think we could go back every day for weeks to get more, if only time allowed. We are finishing up swim team, and now my son's Driver's Ed class has started as band will soon. All require a lot of driving from me.

This new blackberry spot is much less wooded than my old spot, so stepping on snakes is less of a worry. We did see a huge corn snake, but they're harmless. I made a homemade cobbler called "sonker" when we got home with our berries and froze the rest. 

Sonker is one of my favorite recipes because it's really fast to make and the fruit, especially wild fruit, packs a strong nutritional punch. I use my friend Kristen's recipe, because her home town holds a sonker festival every year. I don't think she'll mind my sharing it with you.

Kristen's Berry Sonker
Serves 8-10
 
5 Tbsp. butter
1 cup milk
1 cup self-rising flour
1 1/2 cup sugar or sweetener (I use coconut sugar or monk fruit sweetener. If I am making wild blackberry sonker I add at least 1/2 cup more sweetener because wild berries aren't as sweet as cultivated).
1 lb. berries
 
Cut up larger berries like strawberries. Heat oven to 350. Place butter cut up in the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan in the oven until the butter is melted. Remove butter from oven but leave the oven on. Meanwhile, cook berries in a sauce pan over medium high heat with 1/2 cup sugar or sweetener (or to taste; wild berries need extra sweetener) until juicy. Mix milk, remaining sugar, and flour in a bowl. Pour the flour mixture over the melted butter. Layer fruit and juice on top of the flour mixture but don't stir or mix it in. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. The dough will puff up all around the berries to create a spongy crust. Serve hot topped with cream, ice cream, or whipped cream.

Since we'd just eaten sonker, I didn't want to make that or use blackberries just two days later, so I made a homemade peach pie for my mom's celebration. I really miss my peach tree from our old house, but I got some great local peaches for the pie and even found non-hydrogenated lard to use in the crust, so it was delicious.


We still do have a couple bags of frozen peaches from our old house, and I just used the last of our tomatoes from the old garden. That's pretty impressive, since our last harvest was in 2011. We moved out just as the fruit was ripening in 2012. It's always funny to me how you end up with an overage of one or two things and the rest of your produce lags. At the old house we always had loads of tomatoes and peaches and one memorable year so many peppers we ate them weekly and still froze a two-year supply.

Here, it's rhubarb we're harvesting in droves. I thought the tomatoes were going to take off early in the season, but we got too much rain and they picked up a fungus and sort of petered out, as did our peppers and squash and cucumbers. But we are pulling in several cups of rhubarb most weeks. We've eaten Spring Tonic, a rhubarb and strawberry side dish, many times and I've still frozen six cups so far. That's interesting to me, since rhubarb never did a thing at our old house, which is three and a half hours away. We are supposed to be in the same zone, and we are further south, but our elevation is higher so cold weather plants seem to favor it.


Rhubarb is like really tart celery, and it's super-healthy. Nutritionists often say, "Bitter is Better", because foods like rhubarb, tart wild berries, and Swiss chard contain many phytochemicals not found in sweeter produce.

I find my store is rather like the garden in that one thing or another will take off. A few months ago small toddler dolls, like Ginger, were selling as fast as I could get them listed. I even had people begging to purchase dolls I'd already sold. So I bought several lots of small dolls and got them ready... and the small doll sales just ground to a halt!

Instead, my large dolls started selling again. In fact, I have only two dolls above 10 inches in the store right now: my Sleeping Beauty and Good Fairy Alexander dolls. So I guess I should get to work finishing some larger dolls. I have a couple nearly finished, but mainly my dolls in progress are small dolls I'm making into trunk sets. I don't like stopping in the middle of things, so I'd like to finish them first. Since I don't really have time to work right now anyway I guess it doesn't matter though!

I picked up a big lot of new, modern toys for my store recently, but I have so many I haven't been able to finish listing them. I hope to have those all for sale by the end of the week. These are mainly action figures and television and movie characters, like Spider-Man, Disney Princesses, Sofia the First, Planes, and more. Make sure to check my store: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline.
 
A tow boat, pulling us in.

I want to take a moment to thank all my wonderful customers. Last week was the best in my store's history in terms of sales volume and amount. You can't even know what it means to me to be able to make a little money and keep my skills sharp while still being able to take care of my children. I've been taking a child to therapy or special school several times a week for the past nine years, on top of driving to all the regular kids' activities like sports. I never would have been able to work around an office job with my schedule, and I'm so grateful to all of you and to eBay for allowing me the fulfillment of work as well as motherhood. I'm happy to be able to provide a little extra money to my family too. We may need it; our boat broke down again and stranded us on an island Saturday night so we had to pay a fortune to get towed in!
 

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