Saturday, September 30, 2017

I Love Grape Pies and I Can Not Lie

Part of this post was originally written in September of 2013.

So far this year, I haven't been able to find a grape pie, because I live outside the area of upstate New York where they are a specialty.

Grape season has come upon us here in upstate New York once again.  On the roadsides along the Finger Lakes (a little more than an hour from where I live), signs advertise grapes or grape juice for sale.  The wineries prepare for an onslaught of tourists for harvest season.

And then there is a regional favorite - grape pie.

I love to eat Concord grapes and, I have to admit, they do make a wonderful pie. I also put them on my breakfast cereal. 

You've heard of apple pie, strawberry/rhubarb pie, peach pie, pecan pie, and blueberry pie. Everyone has their favorite recipe for pie and many regions of our country have a pie that represents them.

For parts of upstate New York, our local pie of pride is grape pie, made with Concord grapes.

Yes, Concord Grapes.  Those grapes, the grapes you find in concord grape jelly and grape juice and yes, certain types of very sweet wine.  But, commercial varieties of those products don't always reveal the true taste of the concord grape.  (I never tasted "true" grape jelly until I was about 14 years old - and then, never went back to the commercial type.)

For that, and a grape pie, you need fresh Concord grapes, which are available in many farmers markets here in the Binghamton, New York area at this time of year.  These grapes can be more expensive than supermarket grapes but they are a native heirloom. 

Concord grapes were developed, in 1849, from a wild, North American grape.  I am not any kind of grape expert, but I do know there were problems with disease affecting European grapes that the early settlers tried to grow.  The Concord grape, developed in Concord, Massachusetts escaped those problems because of their native American heritage, plus they matured relatively early, perfect for escaping the first frosts.

In 1869, a New Jersey dentist, Dr.Welch, developed a bottled unfermented grape juice, using the then new process of pasteurization.

Some people do not enjoy eating these grapes fresh, because they have a very tart skin, but I love them. I find the texture of the grape inside to be something like muscadine, but more bursting in flavor (and smaller, too). If I start eating a bunch, I can't stop.

I don't worry too much, because Concord grapes are high in nutrition and low in calories.  They are high in polyphenol, an antioxidant.  They contain vitamin C, calcium and phosphorus. One cup of concord grapes, according to online sources, contains 62 calories. As they are a good natural source of oxalates, these sources warn that people prone to kidney stones should watch intake of Concord grapes. (Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional.)

In fact, I love fresh Concord grapes so much I never get around to making grape pie.  I'm not that good of a pie baker, anyway.

Oh yes, the grape pie of my title.

I would not dare to try to bake a grape pie - if you read this recipe, you'll see how much work it is.

But I would love to eat a piece of grape pie this year.

And, with this post, September ends.  Tomorrow is October 1, and I will be participating in two blogging challenges.  First, the Ultimate Blog Challenge, which demands daily blogging and interacting with other bloggers.  And second, the Write Tribe Problogging Challenge, which will be running every Monday and Friday.

I look forward to participating in both challenges, and wish all my readers a good and productive October.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Wetlands - #SkywatchFriday

Taken September 16 on the Marsh Trail at Binghamton University wetlands, Binghamton, New York.
I love the reflection which, somehow, ended up in the lower right hand corner of the photo.  I have no idea how that happened.

I shifted my iPhone a few feet and look what happened.

I love these kinds of photographic surprises.

Join Yogi and other bloggers each Friday on #SkywatchFriday, where, all over the world, we do just that - watch the sky.  Come link up with us!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Early Fall Color #ThursdayTreeLove

Now, sleep time awaits
Trees showing their true colors
As winter draws close

I took these pictures, where I live in upstate New York, on September 17.
Then, a record heat wave hit.  Not much new color since then.  But, as they said in the old days, "stay tuned".  Today, weather will become a lot more seasonable.


Please join me and other bloggers in celebrating trees at #ThursdayTreeLove, hosted by Parul Thakur.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Butterfly

Taken by my guest photographer yesterday.
Late season butterfly on zinnias.

I know little about butterflies, so I hope one of my readers can ID her (or him).

Enjoying the last of our unseasonably hot weather.

Not knowing it will all end by tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Words Have Power

It is said that the Chinese symbol for "crisis" combines their symbols for "danger" and "opportunity".  It's not true, but it sounds good.

It seems we live in a state of constant crisis, which is why I try to keep world events out of my blog.  But it's hard.  Disaster in Puerto Rico, in Texas, in Mexico, in Florida, in the Virgin Islands, in other parts of the world.  Political crisis, with our world edging closer to possible destruction.

In the United States, everything has become political.  We are all, it seems, in crisis mode, with "breaking news" appearing on our television screens multiple times a day.  We are even questioning some of our core values, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  And then there is reading.

Reading is safe, right?  Not so fast.

One article I read recently, about our local public libraries, point out that libraries are political, some more than others.  This is true, and we should also keep in mind that libraries are in the forefront of fights against censorship.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month (which I have participated in several times), sent its participants an email several months ago.  It reads, in part:
As a creative writing nonprofit, we’re not a political organization. We don’t endorse candidates or support any particular party. In an ideal world, we would focus only on empowering people to write.
Yet we find ourselves in a time where people’s ability to tell their stories—and even to safely exist—is at stake.
NaNoWriMo strives to be a gateway and sanctuary for people’s voices. Our guiding belief is that every person’s story matters, and we celebrate the inclusion of all religions, races, genders, sexualities, and countries of origin. We help people find a safe space to be who they are—creators, storytellers, and world changers.....
So now, an organization devoted to encouraging people to write, and express themselves, finds themselves having to take a political position.

So now, we come to Banned Books Week 2017.  

It's not new, but it's more important than ever.  To quote from their website:

"BBWC Chair Charles Brownstein says, “Our free society depends on the right to access, evaluate, and voice a wide range of ideas. Book bans chill that right, and increase division in the communities where they occur. This Banned Books Week, we’re asking people of all political persuasions to come together and celebrate Our Right to Read.”

You might be surprised to know what books you have read that have been targets of censorship or outright attempts to ban them.  It isn't just this year, or last.  This is the "top 10" list of 2001 (again, quoting from the website:
  1. Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling
    Reasons: anti-family, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, violence
  2. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
    Reasons: offensive language, racism, unsuited to age group, violence
  3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
  4. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit
  5. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Greene
    Reasons: offensive language, racism, sexually explicit
  6. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
    Reasons: offensive language, unsuited to age group
  7. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
    Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
    Reasons: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit
  9. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
    Reason: offensive language
  10. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
    Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

I've read several of these.  Many are considered classics.  How about some others? The Hunger Games?  The Kite Runner?  To Kill a Mockingbird?  Yes, all of them.

If I were an author, I would love nothing better than to be in the company on this list.

How to participate in Banned Books Week?  It takes a visit to a local library, or, better yet, reading a book on the list. It takes resistance -resistance to the banning of books. #WordsHavePower - exactly why people try to ban books.  Because, dear reader, words have power.  Even the words of this blog.

Will you support Banned Books Week and visit your local library?  Or, better yet, start to read a banned book this week?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Music Moves Me - School Tunes

School days.  What memories to they bring to you?

As adults, some of us look upon those days fondly.  For others of us, the memories are not fond.  Either way, songs about school are the prompt today on Music Moves Me.

The very first song that popped into my head was not a modern song, but, rather, a song from 1907, written by Gus Edwards and Will Cobb.  This song is 100 years old, and brings back the feeling of a simpler, perhaps more innocent, time (note the reference to the "hickory stick", however.)
From 1973, My Old School by Steely Dan is not a song about elementary school, but, rather, the college where they met - Bard College, and some less than nostalgic days spent there.

Let's go back to 1963 when I was still in elementary school.  Be True to Your School by the Beach Boys has some wonderful harmonies. Some of us love that school spirit.

Does anyone here remember the 2003 movie "School of Rock"?  I had never heard of it, until one of my spouse's cousins (an elementary school teacher!) gave it to us as a gift.  I loved that movie, and I highly recommend it.  This clip is from the 10th reunion in 2013.

Last but not least...I can't resist this one, because there is a link between this musician and the Binghamton, New York area, where I live.
School's Out - Alice Cooper.  A musician whose tour was once banned from Binghamton.

What are your school memories?

 Join this #MusicMovesMe blog hop every Monday - here are the people responsible for it:
X mas Dolly is the Conductor of this trip, and the other Conductors are her fellow bloggers Callie of JAmerican Spice, ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥  and Cathy from Curious as a Cathy.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Strange Times Ahead

We are having a strange fall.  Today, in upstate New York, it got up to 88F (31 Celsius).  Meanwhile, out west, for some people, it is snowing.

Every winter for the past few winters, here in the Binghamton area, we have said "this is the most incredible winter ever!"  Winters with lots of snow. Winters with record low snow amounts.  Or, this past winter, a winter that started with an incredible snowstorm, ended with an incredible snowstorm, with not much of anything in between.

It is so hard to think of winter right now, but it will come, just as surely as the New York asters are blooming. 
The asters speak to us.  This is what they say:

Soon, the growing season will be over and snow will blanket the ground. 

Or, will it?

Take these pictures of the Susquehanna River in Binghamton, taken on March 4, as just one example.  Look carefully.  There is something there you should see, but you don't.
Here's another view of the river.

Give up?

No ice.  Not this winter.
No, it's no ice, as in THE RIVER NEVER FROZE.

I've lived here over 30 years, and I'm certain that has never happened before.

And it wasn't just us.  Nearby, the annual crappie ice fishing derby was cancelled for this year.  It's not the first time in recent years.

Our spring wasn't quite like the winter of 2011-2012, when the forsythias and Bradford Pears were blooming by the third week of March.

And the summer was rainy.  By the last week of August, I was wearing a jacket in the morning.

And then summer returned.  We may hit a record high tomorrow.

Then what?  I'm almost afraid to ask.

Climate change isn't for sissies. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Local Saturday - A Pumpkin Day

The first day of fall in upstate New York.  If you looked at the thermometer, you may have thought it was August.

But, all around us, fall was showing itself.
Russell Farms tent, Vestal, New York
Russell Farms tent, Vestal, New York
More gourds.
rest of pictures: Stoughton Farms, Newark Valley, New York
Massive pumpkins.

Pumpkin checkers with mini-pumpkins.

Pumpkin and corn games. 

The corn maze, which I did not take advantage of, has a different picture theme each year.  This year's maze theme?  Local animal celebrities April the Giraffe and her son Tajiri.

Like it or not - fall is here.

More fall pictures in the coming weeks.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Equinox Minus One - #SkywatchFriday

Today, in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the first day of fall.

Last night, I took pictures of the sunset from near Johnson City, New York.
The last sunset of summer.

Alas.  Goodbye, summer.

Visit bloggers from all over the world on #SkywatchFriday, to see what the sky looks like from other places, all over the world.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Shadows on a Sidewalk #ThursdayTreeLove

Last night was Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year (but so much more is involved).

"Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of the world and marks the beginning of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of introspection and repentance that culminates in the Yom Kippur holiday, also known as the Day of Atonement."

These next 10 days (The Days of Awe) end a period of self reflection for practicing Jews, including deep thought on what each and everyone of us can do to make the world a better place to live in.  It is a time for renewal and for spiritual connection.

These next 10 days also require us to face what we fear the most, and require us to examine how we can repair relationships, and reach out to others we may have hurt or not done enough to maintain a relationship.

A number of people I know were impacted by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  I also have friends who are connected to friends or family in Puerto Rico,damaged so heavily by Hurricane Maria.  Mexico City has suffered a major earthquake. Meanwhile, I sit here dry, with a roof over my head, and no major health issues. 

The other week, I read a quote by Thomas Jefferson on a blog:

But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.

For many right now, there is no sunshine, only shade, only suffering.  What I can do to make the world better after these natural events?  What can I do to move us back into the sunshine?  That will be one of my challenges.

For now, I want to thank all of you for spending a few minutes reading today's post. 

You, my readers, are part of my sunshine.  You encourage me, you comfort me, you listen to what I write about. 

Today, on our last full day of summer, I would like to thank you for this past year of your readership.  I thought of this quote the other day, as I saw sunshine on a sidewalk and the shadow of a tree losing its leaves.

May the coming year have less shade for you, and much more sunshine, friendship, and good times.

Now, all of us - yes, all of us, now have to work our way through the shade next few weeks and months.

One day the sun will come out again.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Summer Ramblings - The First Touches of Fall

It's the last post of summer 2017.

The weather, after a wet summer, has suddenly turned sunny and warm this September.  We bask in a late summer "warm wave" while the author of a blog I read often, who lives in Alberta, experiences snow showers.
The goldenrod is winding down (complete with my shadow).

A daylily in my yard that is suddenly reblooming (it did last year, too).

Some random pink flowers in a Binghamton, New York front yard.  I should know what these are, but I don't.

And yet...fall looms.  Some trees are already turning color, their leaves falling and coloring the sidewalks.

Mums are everywhere.

Goodbye, summer.  Goodbye (almost) to eating lunch outside.
Goodbye to butterflies.

On Friday, we will welcome fall, and next Wednesday, new seasonal features intermixed, perhaps with more "fall prevention" (as in humans falling) features.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Last Summer Tuesday - Honey Apple Cake

Tomorrow, besides being the last summer Wednesday of 2017 for us in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the start (at sundown) of the Jewish New Year.

Two of the traditional foods for this happy occasion are apples and honey.

Both apples and honey are produced locally in my area of upstate New York.  So, I like to combine the two every year.  I have a favorite apple honey cake recipe I'd like to share with you.

It isn't my recipe but I have adopted it as "mine". Sort of.

I made it slightly differently from last year.  Here is this year's recipe.

AM's 2017 Version of Tori Avey's Apple Honey Cake

3 large eggs (I was fortunate enough to use free range brown eggs from a local farm)
3/4 cup honey (local buckwheat honey from the Finger Lakes, which is quite dark, and is a good fall honey)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup unrefined coconut oil melted gently in microwave (this is solid at room temperature) mixed with 1/4 cup canola oil.
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups King Arthur's White Whole Wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon, freshly ground
3/4 tsp Penzey's pie spice
4 apples, peeled, cored and shredded (you will also want to use the resulting liquid)

Here, you get an idea of how dark buckwheat honey is
 I had local ginger gold apples in the house, and also a pippin apple I had never eaten from the local farmers market called Saint Edmund's Pippin.  This is actually more of a cider and fresh eating apple, but it's what I had.

You will bake this in a 9 inch Bundt cake pan.

Method (sorry, not metric)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

While oven heats, mix the wet ingredients:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until frothy.
Whisk in honey, white and brown sugar, melted coconut oil, and vanilla

Then mix the dry ingredients:
In a smaller bowl, sift together flour, baking power, baking soda, spices.

Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stir to blend.  You don't want any dry ingredients, but you also don't want to over beat.

Fold in your shredded apples and liquid from the apples.

Spray your bundt pan with cooking spray, coating the inside evenly.

Now, pour your batter into the pan.  You don't want to overfill (Tory Avery, who wrote the original recipe, warns you not to fill more than 3/4 full.)  Smooth the batter on the top so that it is flat and even.  You do not want any air pockets.  I press down on the filling gently with a spoonula.

Bake for approximately 75-90 minutes.  When the edges darken and pull fully away from the sides of the pan, and the cake is browned, test with a toothpick.  This is a moist cake, so you don't want to under cook.  But, you don't want to overcook it, either.
All done - wonderfully dark (not burned)

I don't put a frosting on this although the original recipe calls for one.

In the mood for more apple recipes? Check this blog out.

Do you have a favorite apple recipe?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Music Moves Me - Harvest Time

Welcome to the early harvest edition of Music Moves Me, a blog hop I participate in every Monday.  Some weeks, we have a theme.  Other weeks, we can blog about whatever music theme we want.  This is one of our "freebie" weeks, so:

Today, I celebrate the harvest coming in here in upstate New York.

I live in apple country, and thought, why not find some songs mentioning apples, or harvests, or even the harvest moon.

First up, is a song from my early teenaged years - Apple Peaches Pumpkin Pie by Jay and the Techniques, a singing group from Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Next, we are going to go into the past.  Way into the past.  Shine On Harvest Moon, here, was debuted in the 1908 Ziegfeld Follies.  This version is from the 1931 Ziegfeld Follies, as sung by Ruth Etting.  Writing this blog post allowed me to learn more about the Ziegfeld Follies.  I know there is some connection between the Follies and the city I work in, Binghamton, but I couldn't find much on it in the limited time I had to write this.

But the song goes even further back than that.  How about a version from 1909, as sung by Ada Jones and Bill Murray?

From 1972 - Dancing in the Moonlight, by King Harvest, a band that originated in Paris, France.  The song is still with us, being incorporated into the soundtrack of a current movie called "Hitman's Bodyguard".

Neil Young - Harvest Moon.  Doesn't this song make you want to dance in the light of the harvest moon with someone you love?

I will end with a 1962 song from Judy Collins which was an adaptation of a Yeats poem - Golden Apples of the Sun, here sung live in 1976. It begins "I went out to the hazelwood..." The imagery of the poem is amazing, especially if you read it approaching your senior years.

Come join this blog hop and do some dancing and apple eating.  Tomorrow, follow along while I make an apple cake for Wednesday evening.

Join this #MusicMovesMe blog hop every Monday - here are the people responsible for it:
X mas Dolly is the Conductor of this trip, and the other Conductors are her fellow bloggers Callie of JAmerican Spice, ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥  and Cathy from Curious as a Cathy.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Binghamton University Nature Preserve

You can live in an area for over 30 years, and yet, barely spend any time in a prominent part that thousands live and work in.

For me, a thirty plus years resident of the Binghamton area of upstate New York, such a rarely visited area is Binghamton University, better known by many as SUNY Binghamton.  It is considered (by many) to be one of the top universities in the country.   Several cousins of mine who grew up on Long Island/Queens have gone there.

I used to go on campus once a year for an annual event, but, for years, the only time I have gone is when it is Parents Weekend, if I have a cousin in attendence.  This year, I did.

I've seen the campus grow over the years, with more and more buildings lining the campus.  Enrollment increases every year.  In some ways, the university has led the revival of downtown Binghamton, once a bustling city of some 80,000 people and now down to about 47,000.

But does it make me want to go back to college?  I can look at photos, and realize how much I have aged since my college years (in a commuter college in New York City, where there were no dorms and I lived at home).

Yesterday, my spouse and I walked down streets jammed with students, and their visiting families.   Being in crowds is not a favorite for me, one reason, perhaps, I left my native New York City. But I knew there were a couple of places I could find peace.

One was the Memorial Garden at the Fine Arts Building, commemorating the 15 alumni who died on September 11, 2001.

I gazed upon the memorial.
Later that day, with my cousins, I walked the marsh trail, one of several nature trails on the campus' Nature Preserve.  There, I took a couple of pictures of bidens, which are just now coming into bloom.  They are another member of the large aster family.
Bidens and bee.

I will feature a couple of more photos on Skywatch Friday.

Let me tell you something about the Binghamton University Nature Preserve.

In the late 1960's, what is now the Nature Preserve almost became ballfields.  The big word here is "almost", because it was saved for future generations.  Expanded in several stages, the preserve now covers 182 acres of living laboratory, and it's open to the public.  Trees include hemlock and oak. Here's a plant list. Mammals living in the preserve include white-tailed deer, beaver, coyotes, fox, mink, muskrat, bats, and porcupines.  Black bears visit, but do not live in the preserve.

I tend to ignore this wonderful resource of our area except once a year or so.  But Binghamton University has much to be proud of with this preserve - the greatest concentration of bird species in the Southern Tier of New York, and more. (Unfortunately, yesterday, it also seemed to have the greatest concentration of gnats in the Southern Tier.  I knew I should have brought bug spray.  Due to gnats, and the mud (I do have my balance problems), I decided not to complete the entire trail.

Perhaps I should become less of a stranger to Binghamton University, and come better prepared.

It is strange how I ignore the treasures in my area.

Do you?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Local Saturday - Summer into Fall

The transition from summer to fall continues here in upstate New York.

Today, some pictures from a local farmer's market.
Summer squash transition into winter squash.
Eggplants (aubergines) transition into onions.
The last of the peaches.

Welcome, cauliflower.
Soon, the bounty of summer will be no more.  The loudly chirping crickets declare it, as does the sun which rises later each morning and sets earlier last night.  The geese fly overhead.

We will have a brief season of cool weather crops, and then, that will be it until next year.

I can't help but be a little sad.

But summer will end on Friday, regardless of what I think.  The rhythm of the seasons will not be denied.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day September 2017

I write this, in zone 5b upstate New York, as the last remnants of what was once the killer storm Hurricane Irma rain down on us, giving our garden a good soaking.

But no damage sustained, like others I know who live down in Florida.  I didn't lose my power for some 60 hours, like a high school/college friend did.  I am grateful I have a garden to show you, and my heart goes out to all those affected by Harvey and Irma.

Fall is replacing summer in my garden, as the focus shifts to late summer/fall flowers such as turtleheads and sedum. (Carol at May Dreams Gardens says the tall sedum below has been renamed.  To me, it is, and will always be, sedum.)
A collage of flowers in my yard.  The turtlehead is in the center right.
With fall, also comes native asters (I got this from a wildflower nursery in Ithaca, New York).
Japanese anemone.

I actually had several pansies "summer over" this year, and they are perking up.

A recently purchased mum (three plants in one pot) has betrayed my rule of not buying mums before fall.  Well, it will be fall in another week.

Meantime, my summer annual favorites  still bloom, such as this geranium.

Another geranium.
Tall phlox.
A heirloom 4 o clock, its seed purchased from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello last year.  They reseeded and were buried in my asters.
And finally, alyssum.

My flowers get more precious to me each day, as the first frost approaches.

Want to see what is blooming in yards and homes all over the world?  Join up with Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, hosted by Indiana gardener May Dreams Gardens, and see!