A Wave of Windswept Roses

Thursday, June 28, 2018

One of my favorite stories that I've ever shared with you, Dear Reader, was the Roses blog post posted two years ago. This blog functions almost like a scrapbook for me - its so fun and interesting to look back through the last couple of years and see the changes that have taken place, and the things that still remain the same. One thing that will always stand the test of time is my love for wildflowers, and this last week the Sitka roses were in bloom...

Oh, but to tell the story that happened just several days ago I must start all the way back in January. Yes: Cold, miserable, dark and snowy January - when there's nothing better to do (for Christmas is now past) than to sit inside and wait for Spring to come...and maybe do some sewing. 

A new pattern had come out that I was very excited to try, an apron pattern with big, cozy pockets. Several years before hand I had found an old, stained table cloth for a bargain at a second-hand store and this would be the perfect project to let that amazing floral pattern shine! There was only one problem...Greta didn't like the idea of me being on the floor and not giving her attention (the attention she so rightly deserves - I might add!). 
 ...So of course the most appropriate spot for her was to sit on the nice linen fabric that was so taking all my attention! Oh well, perhaps I could do both? Love on Greta and pin those pockets down at the same time?
That would be a definite no!

(Small note: My goodness! I am so happy I don't have to wear layers and hats like that right now! Oh summer, you have been so terribly missed!)

By some miracle I was eventually able to get the apron all sewed up - despite Greta's 'help'. What do you think of the floral tablecloth pockets? Didn't they turn out fantastic! Well, back to the present day, and it seems like the perfect occasion to wear my treasured apron! Before we traveled off to Russia I wanted to make Rose Water from my favorite wild roses for baking. One of my favorite recipes calls for it, and it's so easy to make!

With my trusty trug in hand, and Greta (now a bit bigger than she was in January) quick on my heels, we went for a walk in the summer sunshine. Over our heads, a bald eagle watched us as we skipped on by, with the calls of the salmon fisherman echoing off of the trees.

Here in this photo you can see the back of the apron. It can tie in the back or in the front - if you don't have need of the pockets. 

This is the same spot we picked rose petals two years ago, and Greta's favorite place to take long walks. Unfortunately for us, the Indian Rhubarb has really taken off this year - making it quite perilous to walk the trails. Indian Rhubarb causes burns on your skin if the juices from the plant get on you and then are exposed to sunlight. I had never experienced it till last week, when Quinn and I went on one of our normal trails only to find it overrun with the stuff! We both got several small burns on our legs, not fun at all! We didn't want a similar experience, so we stayed as far away from the plants as we could, making it even harder to harvest the rose petals.

The wind off of the summer sea whipped about us, and my hair (which I had worn down that day) was flying everywhere! The only one who seemed unbothered by the mighty gusts was Greta, who was often hidden among the dense foliage, no doubt finding fairies and gnomes!
The wind may have been howling, but the sun felt nice on our skin and the view simply took our breath away...

Dodging the windblown Indian Rhubarb and rose thorns, Quinn and I gathered as many rose petals as we could reach.

I had grabbed a dish towel for the bottom of the basket before leaving the Barn and I'm so glad I did! It helped to keep the rose petals in the trug while the wind was blowing - wanting to send all my hard work to hither and yon! 
Thankfully we didn't need too many rose petals for the recipe I was hoping to make, which left time for picking other flowers as well! After all, you can never have too many bouquets in your home, right? 

The lupin is almost all bloomed out now, and because of the harsh gails had been mostly blown away. I was still able to find a few flowers still holding on to all their buds, though. They would make the perfect centerpiece for my bouquet! Irises, sweet pea, and yarrow also made it in, and a pocket full of buttercups should never be passed by.

 The deep blues and purples made this the loveliest bouquet of the summer in my book. I now have it sitting upstairs in the Barn, perfectly placed in my Blue Willow tea pot.

It was time to hurry home, but not before the wind caused more laughter with hair flying all over the place! Quinn can now sympathize with me for he has been growing out his hair as well, and he's now able to put in into a bun (you've heard of 'man buns' right? Haha!).  As I'm sure you can imagine, he is very proud of this (the only unfortunate occurrence so far has been a friend's young child asking him why his voice was so low and then remarking that they thought he was a girl! We were all rather surprised...).
Sorry for the bunny trail - lets move forward!
Upon arriving home I spent quite a long time on the porch sorting through the petals and getting rid of bugs (there were so many!) and other bits that weren't supposed to be there. Then after a quick rinse, I put the petals in a pot, covered them with water and set it on the stove to bubble away.
After the pot had been boiling for a bit (and the petals had turned from bright pink to a very light shade of peach) I turned off the heat and let the water cool for a while. Once it was only slightly warm I lined a sieve with paper towels and poured the rose water through, squeezing every last drop out of the paper towel once that had been done.

What was left was a lovely pink rose water, ready to be used in baking! Since we'll be leaving for Russia, I wanted to make sure it lasted, so I tried something I hadn't done before: freezing! I poured a teaspoon of the rose water into ice cube trays and put them in the freezer for an hour. What came out were perfect little pink colored rose water ice cubes! I put them all in a baggie and now I'll have rose water whenever I want to use it! Do you have any favorite recipes using rose water? Let me know down in the comments! I would love to have other recipes to try!

But of course I couldn't make fresh rose water without making one of my favorite recipes, Earl Gray Scones with Rose Water Icing! I found this particular recipe while searching through Pinterest for something unrelated (isn't that how searching through Pinterest always works?), but I am so happy I found it! I'll share the recipe with you here - and please do tell me if you try it out!

Earl Gray Scones
Adapted from Pinch Me I'm Eating

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced
3 bags of earl gray tea (or about 1 tbsp)

1.) Set oven to 400 degrees F.

2.) Open tea bags and empty them into a food processor (or mortar and pestle if you're old school) and crush them till the tea leaves are a powder.

3.) In a medium sized bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

4.) Add diced butter to dry ingredients, using a pastry cutter to incorporate butter until the mixture resembles sand.

5.) Beat together the egg, heavy cream and vanilla in a small bowl. Add to dry ingredients and mix only until combined.

6.) Pat dough into a ball, flattening it out on counter to be a 9-inch circle, using extra flour for dusting if necessary. Cut into 8 triangles, arrange on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

7.) Bake for 12-17 minutes, or until scones start to turn a golden brown.

Rose Water Icing

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1tsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp rose water
1-2 drops red food coloring

1.) Mix all ingredients till smooth, be careful to add a little food coloring at a time to achieve the desired shade of pink.

2.) While scones are still warm from the oven, carefully dip tops into bowl of icing - let excess drip off - and place them on to parchment paper to set.

3.) Once completely cool, store in air tight container. Do not stack scones on top of each other. 

I simply can't tell you how much I love these scones. I usually make a double batch and have them with tea once or twice (or three or four times...) a day. As I'm sure you can imagine, they don't last very long! The scones have such a delicate earl gray flavor, it simply pairs so nicely with the floral taste of the rose water icing. And yes, I promise they taste just as amazing as they look in these photos!

I hope you've enjoyed this walk with me, as well as a peak inside my kitchen! Please let me know if you're in the area and you can stop on by for a scone - or two - and some tea. Until next time Dear Reader! I hope you have a wonderful week!

An Early Independence Day

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Early you ask? Yes, an early Independence Day. You see I have some exciting news to share with you! The Alaska String Band has been invited to play at the US Consulate in Vladivostok Russia for their 4th of July celebration. As I'm sure you can all imagine, we were very surprised and excited to find out this amazing news. And even though it's only a few days till we leave I am still reeling at the thought of visiting Russia! What an exciting adventure.

Since we'll all be quite busy performing over the coming holiday I thought it might be fun to throw a little picnic to celebrate the 4th while we were still on US soil. It was going to be a small picnic, just Quinn and myself, but then I decided to invite everyone (because everyone seemed to be free - yippee!).

Quinn and I had left at the beginning of June to attend my sister Bethany's wedding - and I was so nervous we would miss the lupin blooming while we were away! Indeed, it was all spent in Seattle, but once we got back to Juneau I was delighted to find that it was in full bloom! The flowers always remind me of old-time baby prams (it is my deepest wish to own one someday, and to take Sunday strolls with my baby, pushing them happily along!).
I felt like Heidi, up on the peaks of the alps, with the snowy mountains around me. Of course I was really only at sea-level, but with the right camera cropping you can almost believe it!

 Oh Greta, how big the world must seem to such a tiny little corgi...

Speaking of Greta, I tried to get a nice photo with her but she was feeling quite sociable that day and instead I got four! Silly thing. I swear, some days she runs as soon as she sees the camera and other days she's all smiles...which photo do you like the best?

I do hope you don't mind the spam of corgi photos, its just that sometimes I simply can't get over how darling she is. Haha!

Before coming down to pick flowers for the picnic (for what is a picnic without flowers?), Quinn and I had been busy in the kitchen preparing the first couple of picnic treats. I had decided to make Strawberry Shortcake - a recipe I had never tried before (nor had I ever eaten it, if memory serves), and I was pleased to find that it was no harder to make than a standard biscuit recipe!

Upon hearing that morning that I would try this recipe, Abigail exclaimed "Oh! Mom makes great Strawberry Shortcake!" Oh dear...I would have to live up to Melissa's wonderful baking skills! 

Lupin freshly cut, and with a very wet corgi in tow, we started back up to the Barn. Not long now until the picnic would begin!
The way back up to the road is steep to say the least! It only gets more dangerous with clunky rain boots, a basket of flowers, and a darting corgi underfoot!
Very quickly, and with the flying of apron strings, we finished up the food (thankfully there would be enough for everyone - I had been worried!) and I laid out the picnic blankets in a nice shady spot in the backyard. 

In case you hadn't noticed in the above photos, I was quite sunburned! And not just me, but every single person in the family except for mom (who very smartly didn't spend the whole summer solstice in the sunshine). When I expressed worry about this to Quinn (I believe my exact words were, "I'm going to look like a bright red strawberry in the pictures!") he kindly replied, "You must remember that everyone else is just as red as you, we'll look normal when we're all together!" Dear Reader, you will have to be the judge of that! Haha!

Another one of my dreams (besides owning an old fashioned pram) is to ride in a hot air balloon! This one here I found at a Goodwill store while we were in Seattle, and it now hangs above our stairs in the barn. It flew over for the picnic though, with a cheery greeting sailing along behind it!
Red, white and blue blankets for an Independence Day picnic! What could be more perfect? 
The menu for the 4th of July picnic included:

White Rosehip Tea
Tea Biscuits & Pim's Orange Cookies
Sub-Style Sandwiches
A Meat & Cheese board with Crackers
A Selection of Pickles & Olives

Though our sunburns were still smarting, it felt amazing to be out in the nice weather. Mom commented that it didn't smell anything at all like Juneau, and we all agreed. It smelled like sunshine and warmth, fresh-cut grass and something else none of us could define. Juneau is so seldom like this, we hardly know what to do with ourselves (which explains the sunburn I think)!

This tea tray I also found at a second-hand store while in Seattle. It's decorated with strawberries and has a removable sugar dish and milk pitcher! I just thought it was the cutest thing, and it's gilded with gold on the edges, just like my white and gold tea set! It was so much fun to use it for the picnic.

The little sandwiches I wrapped in brown paper and tied with ribbon and twine. I thought it made them look extra fancy!

When everyone was done snacking, Quinn and I fetched the individual servings of Strawberry Shortcake, piling them high with fresh-made whipped cream and strawberries - of course! Everyone was properly awed by them as we brought them out on trays - it was so wonderful to hear them "Oooo!" and "Awww!" over our creations!

And the best part? They tasted amazing! In fact we only got one picture, for they were eaten up so quickly!

I think everyone enjoyed the picnic, and I am so happy everyone came! It will certainly be an adventure to visit Russia, and I know I will treasure this memory of a picnic in the sun for years to come. I hope you're 4th of July is a splendid one, Dear Reader! Do tell me what you plan to do in the comment section below! I would love to hear! Until next time, Friend.
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