Monday, July 25, 2011

Flower Fairy Princess

Last week Ally's classroom had a "castle" theme, complete with dragon coloring pages, make your own crown, and playing a version of tags where the boys were dragons and the girls were damsels in distress. One day the kids were told to dress up as a prince or princess. Ally thought this was the most exciting thing ever and was in heaven the whole day.


Ally's costume had all of her favorite motifs rolled into one big pouf here. It's a pink, purple, sparkly, glittery fancy that's the epitome of a Flower Fairy Princess. While Ally declined to wear her fairy wings to school, she insisted on taking her motion activated magic fairy wand that lights up and makes "spell casting" noises. (I bet Ally's teacher just loved that by 10:00 am.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blackberry Summer

It's been a banner year for blackberries. When we bought the house during the winter of 2009 I was excited to see lots of wild canes growing on our property, all along the driveway and around the edge of the woods. However, we went to Las Vegas in July 2010 and when we got home I was disappointed by the quality and quantity of berries on the canes. There had been a hot dry spell while we were gone and most of the berries were either hard and sour or dried up to mummification.

Not so this year.


The berries have been abundant to say the least. Not all of them are very sweet and some of them are seedier than others, but they're wild plants that we don't maintain other than hacking them back when they threaten to block the driveway. I'm glad to get whatever fruit they offer me. Based on the number of thorns that have pierced my skin while picking berries, clearly all the plants want in return is a blood sacrifice from me.


But I'm not going to complain about a few thorns. Not when I've been able to pick a few handfuls like this from my car window while driving down the driveway. That sounds like the ultimate in pick-your-own, but my friend Kathy simply drives her golf cart into her blackberry patch and picks them that way. Now that's the way to do it.

We also have wineberries that have done well this summer, too.


I think the little nipples left when the fruits are picked look funny.


Ally likes the wineberries best. She prefers to hold the bowl while standing in the grass while I pick them for her in the middle of the patch. (I suppose having someone pick the berries for you is even better than getting to drive a golf cart into the patch.) Ally will help me pick blackberries from the driveway and she might eat a few of them, but mostly she'll put them in the bowl. The wineberries are sweeter, so she eats most of the ones I give her. However, she'll even leave some of the wineberries in the bowl if she knows I'm going to make a dessert with them. I don't know where Ally gets this self restraint as I would have gleefully eaten the whole bowl by myself at her age if my mother wasn't looking.

Last week we picked blackberries and wineberries for a birthday cake for my paternal grandmother, who turned 90 last Sunday. My parents came in on Friday and helped pick, too.



I made my favorite yellow cake recipe and added two heaping cups of blackberries to the batter. When it came out of the oven I spread melted blackberry jelly over the top, then frosted it with caramel icing when it cooled. When I make it again (and oh yes, this will be made many, many times as long as there are blackberries in the freezer), I'll skip the jelly and just use the icing. The jelly make the icing slide off and it's really just gilding the lily.

I should have taken a picture of the cake but you'll just have to take my word that it's good. Really good. And it's even better after a day in the fridge. At least try this yellow cake and that caramel icing even if you don't have any blackberries. I make the icing with buttermilk so it has more of a praline flavor. (FYI, I don't care for the chocolate frosting included with the yellow cake recipe and I haven't made the spice cake with the caramel icing recipe. No need to when you can have this yellow cake and that caramel icing together.)

So instead of a picture of a cake, I leave you with a picture of four generations of Dellingers together. My grandmother did like the cake, but not so much as the idea that her son, grand daughter, and great grand daughter all picked the berries together just for her cake.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Middle of Summer, July 2011

You know it's the middle of summer when sitting in a galvanized washtub full of water seems like a neat thing to do.

You know you live in southwest Virginia when your parents consider this "bath time."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Nearly Wordless Wednesday, July 6, 2011





These are feral horses on Shackleford Banks, off the coast of North Carolina. There are several small herds of "banker ponies" along the Outer Banks, some of which were thought to have arrived on the islands from shipwrecked Spanish galleons. Recent DNA testing indicates that the horses on Shackleford Banks are indeed Spanish mustangs, just like the legends say. Interestingly, the other herds of banker ponies appear to be a mixture of various horse breeds.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Here kitty, kitty, kitty....

Last night our miniature dachshund Oscar practically exploded in a flurry of barking and whining in front of the door to the back deck. We've had deer out back for the past couple of weeks so I just assumed some were passing through to and from the woods and the neighbor's cow pasture again. But we didn't want Oscar's barking to wake up our daughter Ally, so I picked the dog up and walked out on the back deck. Oscar continued to bark and struggle in my arms in a way that made me think there might be something more than just another deer out there. There was quite a bit of rustling down below the deck so Steve got the flashlight and we swept the yard, looking for an animal. We didn't see anything other than some fireflies and the eyeshine of the cows.

Figuring it must have just been the cows next door, we came back inside where Oscar launched herself at the front door with another explosive volley of barking and whining. Whatever it was out back was now in the front yard. Oscar was practically vibrating with excitement and I'm surprised she didn't shatter into a dozen mini-mini dachshunds, all wheeling around our legs and barking their tiny little heads off. Steve scooped her up again and we stepped out on the front porch with the lights on and the flashlight in hand. We didn't see anything but Oscar struggled so much to get free that Steve had to take her back inside so she didn't get loose and spend the night running around the woods after the elusive intruder.

And a good thing, too. I walked out to the driveway with the flashlight just in time to see three fluffy, inky black tails held high scurry after a bigger, fluffier, inkier black tail held high. The three kits followed mama skunk to the edge of the embankment and down into our ravine, where they made a surprisingly loud ruckus for a long time as they crashed through the underbrush.

Back inside, it took a long time to console Oscar about not being able to chase off the kitties and she's still not speaking to me this morning.