Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Last Recap Before the World Traveler's Return

Here's a little catch up of the past couple weeks....

We had put aside a couple weekends to work in the yard and prep the garden for the winter months. Everyone pitched in and we got the yard in a fairly good state before the colder weather set in. When the next Saturday finally rolled around, some of us felt like it would be nice to enjoy a relaxing weekend. It was decided that we would have a girl's day out. Of course, those kind of things hold no interest for Austin and Ania who would rather stay back and play around the farm. And for Dad, Saturday was another chance for him to spend time in his workshop making progress on the first of seven hope chests.

The rest of us took off for a day out together. Dad had told mom to treat us girls to breakfast so she took us to Hudson's Bar and Grill for a 1st class meal. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Troutdale outlets browsing the shops at a very female pace. Charae was able to purchase some things that she wanted to get before she leaves for Korea in February.

The weather has been getting chillier and it is already beginning to feel like winter. 
Leisel worked two of the home games at the Hockinson High School selling tickets. A couple of us girls were able to make it to both of those home games. Everyone on the bleachers came fully prepared with warm blankets and winter coats for a chilly night ahead. 

Leisel and I had the opportunity to go hunting with Mr. Bowers again this year. We were too busy to make it for the deer season in October, so we put aside the first two weekends in November for elk season. We hunted up by Indian Heaven somewhere near the base of Mt. Adams. It was biting cold up there, and the snow was falling fast. Already, there was about 4 feet of snow covering the ground. It couldn't have been more perfect weather for hunting though as the elk tracks were very easy to follow. 

We woke that morning at quarter to five (not a very long nights sleep as we had gone to bed at midnight the night before :)
Although we never encountered any elk on those two trips to Indian Heaven, we enjoyed a lovely hike on both occasions. I also had the opportunity of seeing a bobcat and Leisel spent two hours hot on the heals of an elusive elk.

...she and Marlene (whose company we had the pleasure of having that day) waded through snow waist deep following a set of rather fresh elk tracks. At one point, Leisel's footing found a stream below and she became thoroughly soaked. Finally, the trail became too difficult to follow and she and Marlene turned back around.

When I encountered my bobcat, it was while tracking another set of fairly fresh elk prints. Mr. Bowers had sent me down a pathway to follow the tracks while he and Leisel went up the hill to see if they could scare anything down. I followed the tracks for a good 15 minutes to a spot where I decided to wait and listen. Immediately, I heard branches snapping and heavy breathing. I was sure it was the elk, and I only had to wait for it to emerge from behind the trees. It was then that I looked up in the trees and discovered a bobcat looking down at me. "That is no elk!" It was a little disconcerting to find that I was the one being traced, but I was thankful it was merely a bobcat.

One fall day, we made it over to Mrs. Kryger's house to enjoy a lovely tea and lunch. What a blessing to share that time with such a dear lady! The weather was ideal for a cozy tea, creamy potato soup and pumpkin pudding. 

When we had finished lunch, Mrs. Kryger had a gift for each one of us waiting at our places. We opened the packages to reveal an oyster shell. We were going to have our own "girl's pearl party", each one of us unearthing our own pearls from the oyster. There was no one pearl that was alike; each one had a unique hue and shape. Along with each of the pearls was a lovely silver encasement and chain to put it on. 

School continues to go well. It is encouraging to see the maturing process of the three littles this year as they take on more responsibility and use their time in a more profitable way without mom and me continually herding them in the right direction ;)

This year seemed like such an ideal time to be studying the reformation in school as we celebrated the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting the 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg Germany.
We recently finished reading through the Spanish Brothers together. The kiddos have also been working on creating a reformation day poster as well as writing their own "Gutenberg newspaper articles".

Charae had the once in a lifetime experience to join Jonathon in Germany for this 500th celebration. She got to be in Wittenberg on the exact day that Martin Luther would have posted the theses. I think more then the sights that they saw, Charae enjoyed the opportunity to see Jonathon again. They planned about one or two big events for each day and then spent the remainder of the day relaxing and visiting at the local gelato shops. For Jonathon,  it was some of the best ice cream and coffee that he has had in four months. 

Dad and Mom took the kiddos to Hood River over the weekend to pick up some more apples (as if 900 pounds had not been enough for one year) Only these apples were not for apple cider pressing...they were for eating and turning into all kinds of other delectable treats like: baked apples, strudel muffins, and apple pie :)

Cosette finally got a job at the Hockinson school as a sub which means that she has job opportunities from the high school, middle school, and elementary. She's been quite a regular there, working about three days a week. She absolutely loves the work and is finding she has a special soft spot in her heart for the little ones at the elementary school. She has found it quite difficult to continually be explaining to people at the school that she is not Leisel.

The countdown for Jonathon is now less then a week away! The menu has already been planned for the day of his return. We are all ready to see him again after 4 months away!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Annual Apple Cider Pressing Report

In which I relay to you the events of the Spafford's 7th annual apple cider pressing :)

It is during the time of year when the crisp autumn morning carries with it a thick veil of fog; when the covering of the trees fall down to make a colorful blanket on the ground. It is the time when apples and pumpkins are the flavors of the season and spiced apple cider and chimney smoke are the scents that fill the air. 

The month is October, and you never know exactly what kind of weather you will be getting for this seasonal event of apple cider pressing. Saturday was cold and the surrounding field was blanketed in fog. 

Mom and Dad had driven up to Hood River the night before to pick up 900 pounds of apples...a bit of a reduction from last year's 1,800 pounds ;)

Inside, mom had the kitchen counters covered with 160 jars in preparation for the pitchers of cider that would be rotating inside. Outside, the production had begun: tables were set up and cutting boards laid out. A large white cooler and several crates were filled with apples.

It was 10:30 in the morning and Dad made sure to impress upon us the urgency of returning the press by 5:00 P.M. when our rental time was up.

We stopped our work only half an hour into the morning to fuel up with some hot spiced cider, egg casserole, and coffee cake.

Dad acted as the much needed manager that day, assessing our hourly progress. With that, he also took on the full responsibility as the main photographer and pest control expert.

Austin filled Jonathon's traditional position at the juicing station turning buckets of ground apples into apple juice. Kyle joined our family that day for cider pressing and was an immense help in leading the whole process along! With the extra help, we got done in record timing setting the new standard for next year ;) 

By 3:30, the last of the apples had been juiced and were ready for mom to can them.

7:30 that night, mom had a final count of approximately 30 gallons of canned apple cider ready for a cold winter :)

Eleven tired workers spent the rest of the evening relaxing and enjoying fellowship together. That night, everyone was treated to some well deserved brownies and ice cream :)

Mom, the kiddos and I have been working on a short little production for Jonathon. This is his favorite time of year when he gets to enjoy all of the fall festivities and the anticipation leading up to Christmas. Jonathon always looks forward to the first time Costco carries their Christmas decor, or when sweet potato fries and pumpkin milkshakes are in season at Burgerville. Some of his favorite traditions are building the gingerbread house with the kiddos and watching Charlie Brown movies around Thanksgiving and Christmas time. Since he is not here to be a part of all of the October festivities, we combined a list of his favorite traditions and put it to music :) 
 The season will not have officially begun for all of us till Jonathon gets home ;)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

An 11th Birthday Celebration

Birthdays in our household are a big family affair. It takes several special things to make the day official: A dinner of their choice, their favorite cake, the opening of many presents, and breakfast out with mom at a restaurant of their choice :)
Although our celebrations are usually rather elaborate with birthday decorations and multiple course meals, it does not usually mean an automatic day off school. This year was the exception. 

Ania was having an especially hard time thinking of her big brother being gone on her birthday. That alone was hard enough, but then Charae left on a two week trip to Redding to visit Grandparents five days before Ania's birthday. There was only one thing to do: the teachers needed to come together and come up with a plan to make this birthday unforgettable. 

And they did! They came up with a birthday plan that would take all day to execute...and there were far to many things to fit in to include school into the day's schedule. Mom and I entered Ania's room that morning and awoke her to the sound of Happy Birthday. A red head peeked up from underneath the covers and groggily read through the brochure she was handed. 

The morning began with the perfect fall breakfast: pumpkin pancakes and maple syrup.

There was no time to lose because soon after breakfast, we were heading off to Costco to do some grocery shopping for her birthday dinner. Then there was a necessary stop at Burgerville to sample the long awaited-for seasonal fries and pumpkin milkshakes.

There was also a little something to plan that day for Jonathon's next blog post. Of course, without giving it away, it involved a video camera and three of his favorite actors and actresses ;)

Last on the list of big events was an hour at the Skyzone Jump House, the perfect way to utilize the last little ounces of energy left in the kiddos. 

Her meal was fairly simple considering the average birthday dinner: Lasagna, Asian Salad, Blackberry Lemonade, and a double layer Ice Cream Cake to top it off :)
We ate our fill and settled in the living room to open gifts and watch a movie together.

Ania's birthday was far from over though. The next day, Cosette was bringing Ania along with her for her horseback riding lessons. Ania was going to get to ride a pony and work with the horses the entire day. I think that made it close to the top of favorite birthday events :D

Monday, October 2, 2017

A Summary of September

The house was in order, and everybody was going about with their daily routines, and yet, something didn't feel quite right. The laundry got washed everyday and dinner was always on time. Each evening, Dad came home from work around the same hour, and yet, he seemed a little less enthusiastic about his day than normal.

Something was out of place in the home: the homemaker was gone.

Mom left for Michigan on Saturday the 23rd to surprise her mom for her 80th birthday. Even though there were plenty of us to take on the extra jobs around the house, things just didn't feel the same.

...and we all agreed that the picture of Dad without Mom was a sorry sight indeed :D

That Saturday, we decided to take a trip to the Oregon Zoo. HP was holding an event for their employees and we agreed that it might be a good distraction for all of us :) 
Along with our entrance ticket to the zoo, HP provided an amazing lunch and free ice cream and elephant ears.

We kept ourselves busy the rest of the week, carrying on with our normal responsibilities and the time passed rather quickly.

Kyle organized a hike for the following weekend to Mt. Saint Helens. Six of us met at the Winco parking lot and carpooled it. We enjoyed a one hour scenic drive to the Mountain, taking in the beauty of the open country lands with country music serenading us in the background. Twenty minutes from our destination, we rode down some rather winding back roads. Although most of the passengers enjoyed the ride, there was one particular passenger that did not take such delight in it :)

We began our trek in a wooded area. Along the way, we came upon several openings in the forest that gave us a sneak peak of the view ahead.
At the end of the trail, the snow peaked mountain stood majestically before us providing a lovely spot to stop for lunch. On the adjoining hill, we spotted three white mountain goats. We climbed the hill to see how close we could get to them and were able to get relatively near.
The total length of the hike was eleven miles (or 33,000 steps) and we made it in just under five hours :)

We rewarded ourselves at the end of the hike with a dinner at Burgerville  :)

Mom finally returned from her trip that Tuesday and the house settled back to it's original state. Dad seemed unusually cheerful once again and the home stood at attention.

Mom and Dad sometimes feel the lack of time that they have to spend with the three littles, Annalise, Austin and Ania. Life is very different for the littles than it was for us when we were growing up. They have tried to right this by putting aside some weekends to take the kiddos on special outings. Before Mom left on her trip, they announced that the three littles would be spending a night at the Hilton with them. The events of that evening would include a special dinner at Jorges, swimming at the hotel, and games in the evening. 

Meanwhile, back at the house, the older kids were taking advantage of the empty home and had planned a karaoke night with a couple friends. Some people took the karaoke very seriously and had made YouTube playlists weeks in advance, practicing their songs before their big debut. Others came to the event with no songs in the planning, coming up with the titles at the moment. There was a variety of genres preformed that night, from Disney movie themes to Kpop, some traditional Japanese enka to some honky-tonk country. The fun ended a little after midnight when the group of performers lost their original enthusiasm.

The next morning, Dad called us up on his way home from the Hilton to let us know that he had decided to make a spontaneous field trip to the Cedar Creek Grist Mill that day. They were giving tours of the mill, showing visitors the inside workings of a grist mill from the 1870s.

The Cedar Creek Grist Mill was built back in 1876. Families from North Clark County brought their grain there to be ground into flour. In 1980, after many years of neglect, some locals decided to restore the historical building. Women held bazaars and raffles to help raise money for the massive restoration process as well as keeping the men at the "work parties" fed. Through the process of restoration, they used broad axes and adzes to make the rebuilding process authentic.

The project was completed on November 11, 1989 when they ground wheat in celebration of the Washington State Centennial. The Cedar Creek Grist Mill is the oldest building in the state of Washington that is still doing the job that it was built to do 126 years ago.

The mill is run by volunteers, all of whom have poured a lot of time and energy into keeping the Cedar Creek Grist Mill operating. That day, they were demonstrating the process they go through to grind grain into flour and corn into cornmeal. Fresh cornbread muffins were served on the deck.

Some would say that the drive there to the mill and back home again was their favorite part of the afternoon! It was an overcast day with bursts of sunlight appearing from behind the clouds. Earlier, it had poured bucketfuls and there was a fresh scent of rain in the air. 

That night, we brought home our bags of freshly ground flour and cornmeal and Austin and I set to work making dinner. A proper fall dinner was in order: chili, apple cider, and some pumpkin cornbread made from our fresh supply of cornmeal and flour. We set the table in the dining nook and brought out the fall candles, because this meal required that cozy touch. A little Kevin Kern music playing in the background completed the picture.

...I finally found the time to complete the Family Camp slideshow for those of you interested in seeing more pictures :)