Life on the creative side

Archive for October, 2012

Life on the Creative Side: A South American Travel Adventure

Nate's US bike trip 2009

Living life on the creative side takes as many different paths as there are creative people traveling them. At Blue Antler Studio creativity is celebrated  in everything from food and gardening to art, crafting and sewing; from woodworking to up-cycling old things: and  from gatherings to  travel  – and now I am excited to share a great new  travel blog – from a seat with a view – a South American travel adventure.

Meet Nate, my baby boy…

nate rock climbing

OK he’s really an independent twenty-two year old man, but to me he will always be my sweet baby bean (born several weeks premature and under 4 lbs, he was no bigger than a bean).

Although still a young man, Nate and his buddy Caleb have inspired me to expand my perspective of  life on the creative side and now you can be inspired by them as well.

nate and caleb in california

After graduating from high school these two childhood friends decided to shake things up, to challenge themselves to live outside the common place, to seek out and live more creative, rewarding lives. Travel would be the vehicle; but  with limited finances they had to get creative: the solution – a journey across the country, unsupported, on their bicycles. Along the way they made new friends,  great memories and the promise to live their best lives.

Nate's US bike trip 2009, prelude to south american travel adventure 2012

Sleeping under the stars, an occasional bridge, in hammocks, tents and now and then the home of someone willing to take them in, they spent three months exploring the US and its diverse and generous people; they were hooked. So after graduating from Auburn University, Nate headed off to Alaska where he worked as a naturalist and guide,

nate in alaska 2012 earning money for south american travel

while Caleb took a job as a bike courier and parks employee to earn money for the next adventure – biking through South America! Their adventure, and my anxiety (I can’t help it, I’m a mom), begins November 8, 2012 when they fly to Quito Ecuador. Click over to their blog from a seat with a view where you can see some great pics of their first trip and follow them  as they embark on their great South American travel adventure.


Wonderful, Lemony Limoncello to Make and Share

making limoncello, peeling the lemons

During my first trip to Italy I spent a short time on the stunning Amalfi Coast where I was introduced to a wonderful, lemony concoction – limoncello, an Italian digestivo.

me on the amalfi coast

In every village I visited along that breathtaking coast, I came across the lemony after dinner liquor. I was fortunate and had a contact in the area who arranged  a tour of a small limoncello producer.  The tour concluded with a tasting; as it turned out, nearly everyone  in the region brews their own version of the elixir so, fortunately for me,  my first tasting was not my last.

amalfi coast

All these years later,  I still enjoy an occasional after dinner sip of the Italian liquor; but now I also enjoy making my own version  and sharing it with family and friends.

The process for making limoncello is very simple…

Making limoncello with everclear

12-15 large lemons (you want the lemons to have bright yellow skins)
2 – 750ml bottles of Everclear (I have also used 100-proof vodka)
3-4  cups sugar
5 cups water

 

 

making limoncello, zesting the lemon peel

Carefully wash and gently grade, into long strips or strings, the peels of the lemons (You can use a veggie peeler, being careful to avoid the white pithy rind as it will make for a bitter batch) .

 

 

 

 

making limoncello, peels in everclearPut the peels and the alcohol  in a lidded glass jar (plastic wrap can be used instead of a lid) – place in a dark place for at least 7 days (I steep mine  for up to 3 months).

The alcohol will gradually take on a lovely yellow color

 

 

 

making limoncello, boiling simple syrupAfter steeping for the desired time –

Mix together sugar and water – bring to a gentle boil and boil for 5-7 minutes – making a simple syrup

Completely cool the simple syrup

Once cooled pour the simple syrup  into the lemon/alcohol mixture  – continue to steep for another 5-7 days

 

home made limoncello

Finally strain the mixture using a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth or coffee filters (dampen coffee filter first)

Store in tightly lidded glass bottles in the freezer

Finally, invite over friends and share the sweetness of your limoncello and some dolce vita – sweet life.

 


Drying Apples

Since our trip to the orchard, Hubby and I have been busy drying  apples  and in this post I want to  share the simple process.

collection of apples for drying

Clean and cut away bruises and blemishes, peel (optional), core and thinly slice the apples; an apple peeler/corer  works great here. The peeler cuts the apple into a long spiral which  I then cut in half to create half moon shaped pieces – it is important to keep the slices consistently thin 1/4″ or thinner is best.

using apple peeler/corer for drying apples

I dipped the slices into a lemon/water bath to prevent the slices from browning; ½ cup lemon juice+1 cup water; this step is optional but it keeps the apples from browning  and I like the hint of tartness the lemon imparts.

peeled, cored and sliced apples in lemon bath

I used a dehydrator, with the apples spread out in a single layer over the dehydrator screen; the temperature set to 150 for around twelve hours (depending on the conditions it can take anywhere from 10 to 24 hours for drying apples).

drying apples in dehydrator

You want the apples to be dry but still pliable (they must be at least dried to the state of raisins to keep well). From this state the dried apples can be stored and used later by re-hydrating them for use in hand pies, apple pies, chutney etc.  (a future post). If I had wanted to make apple chips I would simply have dehydrated them until they were crispy – yum.

For a variation I tossed two cups of the slices into a Ziploc bag along with ½ cup of sugar and a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon also works great) and shook to thoroughly coat the slices. The seasoned apples took an additional five hours to cure but what yummy munchies they make.

The slices will shrink and pull away from each other as they dry.

apples drying in dehydrator

If you don’t have a dehydrator an oven set on as low as possible should work fine. If you’re using a cookie sheet, the fruit should be turned over once during the drying process, but cooling racks provide more exposure which aids in the drying.

The dried fruit should be at room temperature before being stored in air-tight containers. I refrigerate or freeze any that I don’t plan on using right away.

dried apples sealed in freezer bags

I am by no means an expert on food preservation,  but the folks over at the following site are, so check out their recommendations and start drying apples. http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/uga_dry_fruit.pdf

 


A Trip To The Orchard: one of our favorite fall activities

apples at reed valley orchard

With a new crispness in the air and leaves blushing hints of colors to come, it’s time for one of our favorite fall activities.

apples at reed valley orchard

This is the season of pumpkin patches, fall festivals and, for hubby and I, a trip to Reed Valley Orchard. The family run orchard is situated at the end of a gravel road that meanders along a lovely little creek and through gently rolling hills and pastures of bluegrass. On the scenic road to reed valley orchard, one of our favorite fall activities

Nestled between Paris and Cynthiana Kentucky in a particularly scenic region of the bluegrass state populated by magnificent horse farms and historic stone fences,  Reed Valley Orchard boasts 3000 trees of numerous varieties including apples, peaches, pears as well as various berries. Scenic drive along Kentucky's bluegrass region back-roads reed valley orchard one of our favorite fall activities

They sell their produce along with baked goods, canned goods and gifts in the country store. store at reed valley orchard

You can purchase bags of fruit…

large bag of mixed apples purchased at reed valley orchard

apples at reed valley orchard

or grab a wagon and wander through the groves picking the fruit yourself.

Apple picking wagons for you pick at Reed Valley Orchard fall activities picking apples at reed apple orchard one of our favorite fall activities

Hubby and I purchased apple cider, peach nectar and a bag of mixed apples we’ll be drying; minus of course the ones that ended up in yesterday’s apple pie. For more information about Reed Valley Orchard check out their website http://www.reedvalleyorchard.com/ or find an orchard, pumpkin patch or corn maze near you; it may just become one of your favorite fall activities.

more resources: http://www.pickyourown.org/index.htm#states  http://www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org/index.php


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