pennsylvania good-times…

I know, I know, I’m behind! So sorry. I don’t really think I’ve been TOO busy since returning from PA, but between laundry loads, catching up on odds and ends, and unloading boxes… let’s say I’ve kept myself occupied.DSC_0912

DSC_0958As some of you may know, I left over a week ago for Pennsylvania, to meet up with some old friends and old stomping grounds, as well as to sort through my storage unit. The original plan had been to go rent a U-haul and get my storage unit stuff, but that’s been delayed for a few weeks, because of a better option. So, I’ll have it all soon, but not quite yet.DSC_0048

DSC_0060This visit allowed me to not be so pressured for time, while visiting people, and to leisurely do some sorting, in order to help out with the future move.DSC_0063

DSC_0107So, after my usual 9-10 hour drive to Chambersburg, I arrived at GWH. I lived there for almost five years, working as the full-time housekeeper, and occupied two different houses while there. My summers were spent chasing summer staffers and cleaning up between large groups of campers, while the off-season was spent doing all that on my own, during the weeks… but for smaller groups, usually. I knew all the camp buildings from top to bottom, and got to drive a golf cart year-round. What could be better?DSC_0924

DSC_0915Arriving right before a session of family camp allowed me get in some good local food with friends, at Benny’s Italian Restaurant, before seeing more friends. I love Benny’s, and I always have to get a calzone when I’m there. Not that there’s anything wrong with pizza or pasta… I just love all that ham, mozzarella, and ricotta cheese, packed into fresh baked bread.DSC_0963

DSC_0015Also, I tried bruschetta for the second time. I really do not like raw tomatoes, and I’m not a big fan of excessive amounts of tomato sauce, either, but I still eat that. 🙂  But in recent years, I’ve discovered a liking for fish tacos, which include raw onions and tomatoes, mixed into the fresh salsa. So, with that in mind, I chowed down on bruschetta… and liked it. Soaking those tomatoes in oil and spices really did them good.DSC_0941

DSC_0949And for the record, when we were at Olive Garden, the next day (we really weren’t intending to binge on Italian!), I ate a tomato in my salad. So there. But not the olives. I have a vivid memory of trying an olive, again, at a Greek restaurant, a few year ago. That didn’t go down well.DSC_0007

DSC_0990Enough with the food, for the moment. One of my first stops on Saturday morning was to go check out the new swings that they built during Boys Camp. The circle of swings was supposed to be a new hangout area for people, especially during family camps. Just a nice place to get cozy and catch up with old friends. I think it was a great idea, whoever came up with it.DSC_0974

DSC_0982Ok, we couldn’t really completely escape from food. I had Moose Tracks at the Chatterbox (snack shop) almost every evening, after the evening meetings. Usually while catching up with friends, or enjoying their kids’ gyrations on the table top. This particular charmer had just gotten her second wind, and I still think that photo is perfect for adding some hilarious captions.DSC_0202

DSC_0073One afternoon, I got in an awesome game of Ultimate Frisbee, though that game also proved that I needed to completely retire my old sneakers in favor of the ones that just arrived in the mail, this week. Aren’t they fantastic? And I couldn’t resist the urge to wander around and take a look at some of the main buildings on the grounds.DSC_0090

DSC_0100When my time with the friends and kiddos was finally done, it was Wednesday morning, and I got up at the crack of early to a very cool Pennsylvania morning. Which was great, because it had been pretty hot, for most of the week. I had planned to try and get some photos of the local views, so I made a stop at Norlo Park to check out the barn and the surrounding area. As always, I wished I could get up higher in the air, in order to show off the rolling hills of PA, in a much better form.DSC_0116

DSC_0125Then, at the storage unit, I loaded my car to the brim, and made one last short stop at the Goodwill store. These scary mannequins are what greets you at the back door. Don’t let the kids see them, they might have nightmares.DSC_0187

DSC_0155I drove over a couple more hills to arrive at Windy Knoll Creamery, but well before they were open. Besides, I was still going out to breakfast with someone, so it wasn’t really time for ice cream, yet. But that area is full of rolling hills to walk up, as well as a spot for me to park my car. The trick is that for all the beautiful views, you can’t always find a shoulder of the road to park on. So, a friendly neighborhood dog followed me up the hill, while I took some pics.DSC_0157

DSC_0166Then, I got back in the car, and proceeded to drive somewhat slowly, and take pictures through the windshield or out the open window (with my camera strapped wrapped around my wrist). Don’t worry, I made sure no one was behind me, so I wouldn’t hold up traffic. Some pics came out well, and some did not. But it’s truly beautiful countryside.DSC_0167

After that, I had some coffee at Starbucks, and a great breakfast at Perkins, and then hit the road for South Carolina. It was a great way to finish out the summer, right before starting school. Which starts in several days, by the way. We’ll see what happens on the blog, after things get going. 🙂DSC_0175

the berries are in…

The berries are in season, at The Happy Berry! Located in Six Mile, South Carolina, our family goes to this location for our blackberries and blueberries, every year. I remember berrying there when I was a child… probably on Saturday mornings when I didn’t want to be up.DSC_0618

Wait a minute, I still don’t want to be up, if I go there on a Saturday morning, now. But I still go, now and then.DSC_0620

My dad and brother found some free time to go out there during the week, and so my mom and I came home to a counter covered in blackberries. They got a few blueberries, too, but not so many because they’re not quite out in force, yet. Or they’d been picked over. In another week or so, there’ll be millions and billions for everyone.DSC_0621

If I remember correctly, The Happy Berry also grows grapes, figs, raspberries, and some other kinds of fruit, but they don’t have as many bushes as they do blueberries. My brother came back completely scratched up from fighting his way into the blackberry bushes.DSC_0622

And, of course, they taste scrumptious! I hope you have a local berry farm to visit during the summer, or if you’re local, we can direct you to Six Mile, or bring you with us to go picking. Enjoy the wonderfulness of the berries, while they last! Or do as we do, and pick tons in order to freeze and eat all year long.DSC_0624

a bit of a hodge-podge…

Who’s up for a bit of randomness? Me, that’s for sure. None of these items seem to be enough for an entire post, but if I turn on the faucet of hodge-podgey rambling, then I can get some of it out of my system. Ready?

You may remember that I recently moved out of my old bedroom, into the basement. Since then, I’ve settled in nicely, and it doesn’t even seem odd to me. I think that may have something to do with the joy of not sleeping in a bunk bed anymore. I don’t know about you, but I almost managed to bash my knuckles on the upper bunk’s springs, ever night or so. And for someone that loves to spend a Saturday afternoon, curled up on her comforter, propped against the pillows, reading a book… you can’t do that from the bottom bunk! You can read a Kindle, but it’s too dark for reading an actual book. And don’t talk to me about those clip-on bed lamps, I’ve never liked ’em.DSC_0663

Now, my tropical comforter (or duvet, if you prefer) shows up nicely against the white walls and dresser, and I have a carpet again! Wooden floors are all well and good, but I’ve always thought that a bedroom should have a carpet, to feel all soft and cozy against my bare feet. Who needs socks in winter, if your floor isn’t cold?

While I put more of my stuff away, bit by bit, my parents get the fun of deciding what color to paint the walls of my old room. I was working away on that baby blanket, promising to help strip wallpaper, when it was finished. But they were finished before it was complete. So, I’ll be in on the painting, eventually.

My week began with getting my new Kindle Fire in the mail, as the last one suddenly stopped charging. Having had it for just over a year, if I’d only had the warranty it came with, I’d be sunk. But when my first Kindle was busted, on the way home from Australia, I was so annoyed over it that I bought a TWO year warranty on the new one. And so, my replacement Kindle was still covered. Now, it’s loaded up with all my favorite apps and books. The only “problem” is my favorite game wants me to start over, rather than allow me to sign into my old game. So, I’m waiting for the company to get it sent over to my new Kindle. Yes, it’s a VERY silly game, but when you’ve been playing it for a year, who wants to have to start over? Not me.DSC_0662

My mom’s week began with starting her new job at the university, and while she got to deal with the nerves and learning the ropes, I got to enjoy the exciting side of it. Because I heard about this job through a friend of mind, and from there, she’s now working in a building where I have a lot of friends! So, I have a good reason to go visit them, in the department right across the street from where I work. For now, I’ll continue to enjoy dropping in on my mom, every day after work, until she either tells me to go away because she’s busy, or because I suddenly get busy in the fall.

But the fun stuff also bleeds over to where I work, because I can bother the grad students, asking if they met her yet, and learning even more of their names. I’ve finally begun to learn the names of the professors and staff, rather than just sticking with calling them Sir and Ma’am. You see, when the “grown-ups” come over, I never know what to call them! I’m not a student, so do I call them Doctor, Professor, or by their first name? A few of them have given me permission to use their first names, but otherwise, I’m as polite as can be, with “Yes-Sir-Ma’am-Sir-Ma’am!”.

Of course, I totally surprised her with the photos on her desk, and having her co-workers tell me about her reaction was very fun. I still do my mental victory dance, when I think about it. But I think that having those pictures will not only make her feel at home, but it surely gives people something to talk about, if they didn’t already!

As for me, and my job, nothing much has changed, aside from having even more to talk to the regulars about. Summer is very slow, so some days can be pretty dull, and we work at finding things to clean and organize. Eating lunch at 10:30am is very odd, and it usually leaves me starving, when I get home at 2:30pm. So, I’ve been experimenting not only with eating better in general, but making myself a salad after work, instead of eating dinner early.

If I eat dinner early, I’ll end up having four meals in one day… which is fine, if they’re small. But since I’ve found that I like cucumbers in salad (no one in my family likes cucumbers, except me) and I also like avocados (only 2 people in our house like those), I’ve been playing around with different salad combinations.DSC_0627

I’ve started trying a lettuce and spinach mixture, with shredded sharp cheese, avocado, cucumber, and then a bit of ranch dressing on top. I’ve never been a big fan of ranch, but I’m starting to like it with certain things, and since I’m eating a little more on the low-carb side, I can have it (everything in moderation!). I even planned to put some mini shrimps on top of it, tonight, until I realized we were out of greens. So, I’ll try it out tomorrow, and let you know if I come up with any other marvelous combinations.

Another thing that usually occurs when I get home from work is that I’m really tired and sleepy. Those two don’t always go hand-in-hand, because I know you can be tired, but not be sleepy. But lately, they just smack me upside the head, when I get home from work. That’s one reason I hadn’t been going to the gym so much lately, which I told myself wasn’t a bad thing, because I needed to rest up my foot. Which is better, by the way!

But whenever I start getting extra tired, with no good excuse, I get a little worried. I say no good excuse, because I know grad students and full-time employees that work from morning until night and they aren’t exhausted. I’m working from 8-2, and I shouldn’t be. Even with the hot weather, I should be living in the air-conditioning, and not bothered by it.

When I start getting tired like this, I worry that I’m having one of my mini mono relapses. I’m not complaining, because I’ve never had a bout with mono like some others do, where they’re flat on their back and unable to do anything. I’ve always been able to work and get about, it just makes me too tired to think or do anything, when I get home from work. Which can be frustrating, if you already think you have no life. However, I’m probably just being paranoid, and I’m not going to the doctor just to have them say I’m not sleeping enough. This too shall pass.

Bored already? I’ll skip to something else, much more interesting than me begin tired, shall I?

If you haven’t been checking my Books ’13 page lately, I’ve still been keeping up the reading pace. After readingDSC_1017-001 the entire Pellinor series, by Alison Croggon, I abandoned the fantasy books in order to read Glenn Beck’s Control: Exposing the Truth About Guns. Short and to-the-point, I had never heard of that book (and I’m not buying them this year, remember?), until my dad bought me a copy. It’s a great book, and as I’m a big fan of the 2nd amendment and have no interest in gun control, whatsoever, I think everyone should read it. But one of my co-workers DID almost have a heart attack when he saw me reading it.  : )

From there, I began to re-read one of my favorite books by L. M. Montgomery, Pat of Silver Bush. If you ever read my book posts, I won’t go onto a rant over it this time, I’ll just tell you that you NEED to read it. You may love thepat-of-silver-bush Anne series, but Judy Plum of the Pat books is probably one of the best characters that Montgomery ever wrote. She is REAL and she’s wonderful.

For some reason, when I had finished that one, rather than read the sequel, I started an e-book that had been sitting on my Kindle for forever. It was Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line, by Abby Johnson. And then my Kindle Fire began to act up, and I had to stop mid-book, and wait for my new one to arrive in the mail. So, I read the sequel to my previous read, Mistress Pat, until my new Kindle arrived in the mail. Then I finished Unplanned.

I’ll admit it, once I started, I wasn’t looking forward to reading the part of the story that involved Abby Johnson’s time with Planned Parenthood. But you become caught up in all the good motives and reasons behind her joining them, and how she really wanted to help women. You could see it and feel it, on every page of the book. But more and more, she began to get her eyes opened, and realize some hard truths. However, I especially liked reading about her husband, Doug, who cared for her as a friend while she was in college, and whom she later married. Even when they disagreed on the subject of abortion, he continued to love her and stand by her, until the Lord brought her around. It’s a beautiful story.unplanned-cover1

On the musical side of things, I’ve still held to my intent of not buying any music, either. So, when I want to listen to some new music, I enjoy it on YouTube. I continue to listen to my favorite new artists from this year’s The Voice Australia, as well as a few from last year. I never get tired of hearing Karise Eden’s version of “Stay With Me Baby”, or her newest hit, “Threads of Silence”. And when I’m not listening to Kiyomi Vella or Celia Pavey, I admit to loving Robin Thicke’s performance of “Blurred Lines”, at the Voice Australia finale. He’s a bit full of himself, so I prefer to listen, rather than watch.

I think I’ll stop there for now. What have you been reading or listening to, lately? Any new changes in your life? Perhaps you have some hodge-podgey bits of your own happening? I hope everyone is well and happy in all that they’re doing! Thanks for reading along.

vanilla bean doings…

Beans. They’re good for your heart… or so the old song says. But I suppose that doesn’t really apply here, since I’m going to be talking about vanilla beans. But I’ll admit, the song keeps cropping up in my head, whenever I thought about writing this post.DSC_0297

DSC_0300For some time, my parents have been talking about making their own vanilla, doing their research, and discussing it with some relatives, who made their own. I think there are plenty of online explanations of how to go about it. DSC_0298

DSC_0301Actually, we started one bottle, back in 1998, and it’s been in our cupboard ever since, though only used for the first time, recently. A very pale color, with an almost floral smell, they wanted to have another go, and see if they could do better this time. Without taking 15 years to do it.DSC_0302 DSC_0303 DSC_0304

After doing some research, they bought 1 pound of Grade B vanilla beans, online, because the Grade B ones are supposed to be drier, and have more flavor in them. One bottle of rum and one bottle of vodka were bought, and each had a small amount poured out, in order to make room for the beans. DSC_0305

DSC_0306When I came upon the scene, my mom was taking each bean, cutting it down the middle, and scraping out the “caviar” that’s inside of it. Using her knife, she would take all that vanilla goodness and scrape it off on the lip of the bottle, where it would eventually fall inside. Then, she would take the long pieces and cut them up, adding them to the mixture, as well.DSC_0307

DSC_0312 DSC_0313Starting off with twenty-five beans per bottle, the containers weren’t remotely full when they had finished that round, and there were still many more beans to go. So, they did another twenty-five each, and filled them to the brim. Now, they’re supposed to sit for… was it six weeks? I’ll have to ask. You just give them a good shake, once in a while.DSC_0315 DSC_0331

DSC_0333After finishing the rum and vodka varieties, they took out the old bottle (I think that one was made with vodka, also), and added another 10 beans to it. Then, all three bottles went into our large cereal cupboard, making it smell overwhelmingly of delicious vanilla.   DSC_0335

DSC_0338DSC_0343Eventually, we’ll be able to strain out the vanilla (if we want to strain it), and put into nice little labeled bottles, just like the ones my aunt gave us, after they had made their own vanilla. DSC_0308

DSC_0352DSC_0355If I could, I would weave the wonderful scent that emanates from our cupboard, right into this post. But you’ll have to use your imaginations instead, and perhaps, consider making your own.DSC_03566-8 Vanilla Beans & Vegemite

of publix, soup, & chocolate…

We had a new Publix grocery store open, recently. Everyone in Clemson knew it was coming, of course, because they ripped up and reformed a whole section of land in a hole-in-the-wall section of Tiger Boulevard. Some were aware because of the construction traffic, others because their bank informed them they would be moving to the new plaza. And then, eventually, the ads came in the paper for the Opening Day.

The last time I was at a Grand Opening for a grocery store, I was in Australia, and took my kiddos there twice in one day, and they got balloons and were oh-so-excited about it. I tried to block out this memory enough that it wouldn’t bother me much, when I got to the new Publix. If you break down in tears, in the middle of a store, people will think you’re nuts!DSC_0475

I waited a few days, and then went to see what it looked like. Fortunately, I remembered in time that they were probably still going overboard with their “We’ve Just Opened!” friendliness, so I braced myself. Sure enough, a line of managers were greeting everyone at the door, along with someone dressed up in a dinosaur costume. If I was a little kid, I would’ve been horrified by the costumed greeter, instead of enthralled. As it was, I hurried past the greeting committee, hoping to stay unnoticed while I wandered.

Fat chance. It seemed that in every aisle I went down, someone in a dress shirt and tie would greet me and ask to help me, and I managed to smile and say “no”, when I wanted to tell them to go away. Come on, I just want to wander and think and be left alone! I’ll ask you if I need help! You may think I’m a crank, but seriously, the cheerfulness can be taken too far, and how can you ever see anything if people are constantly stopping you? No, I can’t find anything, because you won’t let me look!DSC_0483

And then, I came to a halt in the International Food section, staring at a small section of shelves, loaded with what was mostly British treats and sweets. But among other things, I found Mars bars and chocolate-covered Turkish Delight. I became excited, and even hoped to find Vegemite, but no, all they had was a small container of Marmite (British version of Vegemite).

I waffled over what to get, after wandering the whole store, and eventually came back for the chocolate candy. That was after I had ascertained that they had every imaginable thing in the frozen food section, like pot pies and pizzas, but not a meat pie to be seen. It was a sad sight. After getting the chocolate, I remembered one other thing that I had run across earlier.

My shopping expeditions do not usually have me looking closely at anything that’s labeled “organic”, but I accidentally came across the organic soups. And after staring for a moment, the butternut squash soup finally caught my attention. Once the wheels began to turn, I realized that this was probably the only “pumpkin” soup that I would ever find in an American grocery store. Because our squash is Aussie pumpkin, and I still haven’t figured out what their green pumpkin is, in the United States. But butternut “pumpkin” soup? I had to take it home and try it, even if it was organic and more expensive than it should be.DSC_0480

Once I got home, I tried out the candy, cutting up the Turkish Delight so that my brother could try it. I saved some pieces for my parents, too. It isn’t that I loved Turkish Delight, whether covered in chocolate or not, but I remembered it especially. When I first found it in Australia, I had always wondered what it was like, after reading about it in the Narnia books (and then seeing it in the movie). My first try of plain Turkish Delight was dreadful (it tasted like floral soap), but for some reason, Aussies really like Turkish Delight in their chocolate. Cadbury puts it in some of their chocolate bars.

Mostly, my family wasn’t a big fan of it, but I hadn’t really expected them to be. I just wanted them to have a chance at trying it. It’s not something I could bring home in my suitcase, because it would have melted. And the texture of “jelly” is different than many of our gummy or jelly candies. It’s a bit thicker than a gum drop but softer than a gummy bear. I wanted them to have one small experience that I had, while I was away.

The Mars bar… I’ve never been sure, but I think it’s somewhere between a 3 Musketeers bar and a Milky Way. No, I didn’t look it up online, so I’m exactly sure of the difference. But it was just something that I had pretty often, when I was overseas. A memory triggered by taste.DSC_0485

The soup was wonderful. It doesn’t really look like much in the pictures, but to someone who got to eat it regularly for an entire year in AUS, this tasted fantastic. When there was a variety of brands to choose from, in Emerald, I eventually figured out which were the best-tasting of the canned ones, though the best type was really homemade. I should probably get a recipe from my Aussie friends and make it myself. Americans don’t know what they’re missing. I think they’re just put off at the idea of eating squash, because it’s a vegetable that not everyone is a fan of.

After escaping any number of Publix employees and managers, I took my few items to the register, and the bagger ( who had to be ten years younger than me) called me “hon”, several times. I’m not a fan of being called pet names, unless you’re close to me, or you’re a waitress in a diner (then, I put up with it). But then he offered to carry my bags out to the car for me, which told me that the managers had INSISTED that they offer this service to everyone. “Don’t take no for an answer!”, is what I can just imagine them saying.DSC_0484

Now, remember, I had two bags that probably weighed less than my Nikon camera. I told him I’d be fine, I could take them out myself. And then he tried again, a little more insistently. I almost got snappish with him (almost), and practically had to snatch my grocery bags from him.

And before anyone decides to be silly and suggest he was being sexist, don’t think it. I’ve met managers like those that were probably drilling the “Don’t take no for an answer!” into their heads. He probably had it written into his contract to do that with everyone. I hope that if ANY person with a huge load of groceries came through, he would offer to help THEM, and not waste his time with my bags. My grocery bags had “heavy” things in them, like tweezers, cards, and soup. It took some muscles, but I managed.  : )

So, there you have it. The new Publix is open, everyone in there is excessively friendly and helpful, and they have some soup that I will have to go back and try again. I’ll avoid the chocolate, after this, because buying them is not good for my waistline or for my wallet.DSC_0487

yep, they got me…

My boss is probably still shuddering, knowing how close his employees came to giving the game away. But since I wasn’t really paying attention (though I should’ve been), everything worked out. It was a really slow Friday, and the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend, so you’ll understand that customers were coming in at a snail’s pace.

About an two hours before closing time, my co-worker came over to me and said, “What’s he got there?”, referring to something my boss had on his person. I looked around, but hadn’t noticed anything. Then he asked, “He usually only gets those when someone has a birthday! Do you know who has a birthday?”.

This time, I thought to myself that my birthday was a few weeks ago, so it wasn’t mine. And he must’ve been suggesting my boss had come in with some kind of dessert. But again, I hadn’t seen anything, and I wasn’t really paying close attention. My co-worker does get hyped up about random things, sometimes. My ears should have perked up, though.

An hour before closing time, I had a minute to wipe some tables, so I picked up my spray bottle and towel, and headed for the front room. At the same time I sensed people behind me, I heard my boss say, “Ready?”, and turned to see him with a funny grin on his face, and a huge pizza-sized cookie in his hands. Oh.DSC_0891

So, they sang me Happy Birthday, and no, I didn’t freak out on them. Thankfully, there were only one or two customers in the room and I only have a couple of co-workers, during the summer. If they had done this to me while there was a crowd there, a few weeks ago, I would have been really embarrassed. As it was, I had an odd smile on my face, because I had connected the dots over Napoleon had asked me, earlier, and now I was trying to keep from laughing.DSC_0893

When I related how Pol had almost given it away, my boss told me how when he entered the building, our deli guy said “Cookie!”, really loudly, at the sight of him. He face-palmed himself, mentally, at how everyone was trying to give away the surprise. But with a molasses-slow day on our hands, I was paying more attention to whether the front sitting area was clean and were all the coffee pots full?

Now, even though my co-workers all had some of the cookie, there was a lot left, and I really wished that most of the grad students weren’t away for the day. There’s a certain group that comes in regularly, near closing time, and if they’d been in their lab today, I would have taken them most of that cookie. Well, after I got off work. Unfortunately, they were either away, or I didn’t know the right phone numbers, so I had to take most of the cookie home with me. I know, you’re thinking that’s a great thing, but it isn’t when you’re trying to eat right. But at least I tried.  : )DSC_0894

a seabrook sunday…

For the first time ever, on a Seabrook weekend, I didn’t wear my Sunday clothes to breakfast. I know, you’re stunned. Since I don’t like being rushed after I eat, I usually dress up first, and then go to the dining hall. But this year, I had a brand-new dress, bought as part of my birthday present, and I was terrified that I would spill something on it. Yes, pessimism came to the fore, and I went to breakfast in shorts and a t-shirt. But hey, I was in good company.DSC_0483

But the dress survived the trip to chapel, and the sun was out, making for some beautiful photo sessions, afterwards. Last conference, I happened to bring my tripod along for the group picture, but this year, I forgot. So, we made do, like we did a year ago, when it rained, and we took the group pic INSIDE the chapel. One of the guys carried the recycling bin outside, we set several hymn books on top, and I used that to prop my camera on, while setting the timer.DSC_0490

DSC_0493If you see me standing awkwardly in that picture, it’s because I ran to my spot and found myself with a part of a step to stand on, for one foot, and some soft mulch for the other. I was trying to keep my balance, not wanting a colossal fall captured on camera, when the timer went off.5-19 Sunday

DSC_0511After the group shot is over, lots of people run back to their cabins change, but some of us meander back slowly, taking other smaller group pictures, on the way. Halfway to my cabin, we stopped for some, with Court and I goofing off a bit, as she took advantage of the height difference. Then we dragged some of the guys into the fun.DSC_0521

DSC_0524At lunch, Tom passed off his hat to Skip (our fearless leader), who never passes up an opportunity for a good pose. Especially when the goofy pictures always make it into the Sunday evening slideshow. Then the hat got passed around for more photo opportunities. Speaking of the slideshow, I still remember when Bob brought the first digital camera to Seabrook, and we began to make a regular thing of it. Sunday afternoon is the time to hand off the photos to Tom, and we girls make sure that the worst photos on our OWN cameras don’t make it onto his computer. But we have no control over the crazy pictures that come off the other cameras.DSC_0527

Lunch was taco soup, which some of us thought was ALL, and then realized they had the turkey sandwich fixings back in the kitchen, and not on the buffet line. After we ate, I think Dave’s presence was really missed, because not only is he our resident “pyro”, he also usually leads a hike on Sunday afternoon, for those who like walking the Seabrook trails. Instead, and even better, we had a baptism, in the ocean, for one of our dear girls.DSC_0534

DSC_0536Afterwards, I watched some of my friends pick up a dead jellyfish, to look at it closely, and then take it back into the water TWICE, to wash more sand out of it. I think they couldn’t see the guts very well, or something. It was funny to listen to them cheerfully point out “there’s its nose, eyes, and mouth…”. Sillies.DSC_0549

DSC_0551On the way to uploading pictures to Tom’s computer, in the dining hall, I had to show him how to turn the water on, to wash off his sandy feet and shoes. I think they keep adjusting how they use those beach “showers”. But at least it made me feel smart.  : )DSC_0557

DSC_0559When we reached the dining hall for dinner, one of the chefs came out to tell us all about the roast beef, gravy, mixed vegetables, and mashed potatoes we would be having for dinner. Those potatoes are amazing, I’m not sure I want to know what they add to make them taste so good. There are probably lots of calories in the ingredients. We did miss having the famous camp mac’n’cheese, though. They make a triple cheese macaroni and cheese dish that’s to die for, and you’ve never had anything like it, anywhere. Too bad, maybe in November.DSC_0561

DSC_0564The camp provides an assortment of coffee mugs, and when I took notice of Harold’s, I had to get a picture of him with it. Besides, he’s a born model.DSC_0563

DSC_0565Before the evening meeting, Courtney had some fun with Rachel’s (different Rachel, not me) hair. That’s what happens when  you room with a hairdresser, eventually, she will do something with your hair. It’s good fun.DSC_0567

The final meeting of the weekend was excellent, and before it started, we tried to bring the roof down, with the singing. Harold put in our usual ending numbers, with a few extras, so the girls able to hit the high notes were really having to work. I’m always grateful that “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” gives us a momentary breather, in the chorus.DSC_0569

Sunday ended with a hilarious slideshow, complete with random quotes from the weekend. We’re always good for a few of those. After a few snacks (because you know, we’ve barely eaten anything, all weekend), we had a rousing game of Signs, which I think I won. That’s what happens when you play for an hour or more, and you never get called into the middle, right? I was the only one to manage it, this time. Of course, we have almost as many spectators as players, because it’s a hoot to watch the game.DSC_0572

Finally, with the clouds beginning to clear off, we hit the beach and walked down to the point. Several people had their phones out, loading their constellation and star apps, in order to see what constellations we were looking at. Once I spotted Orion, I commented on the fact that it was the only constellation I could see in Australia, that I recognized. Even though he always looked like he was upside down (or something), it was comforting to see something familiar. One of the guys shot down this remark, insisting that no constellations from the Northern Hemisphere were visible in the Southern Hemisphere. He said I must have seen Cygnus.

Well, I insisted that I ought to know what Orion looks like, and his belt is distinctive, but I had no proof. But I have remembered to look it up, at last, and guess what? I was right! Orion is located on the celestial equator and is visible in BOTH hemispheres! So there! Sorry, when you’re in a totally different place, far from all you know, you will latch onto the few things that are familiar. And I didn’t want that taken away from me, even a year after the fact.

Stay with me! I’m including a picture of Monday’s delicious breakfast, because I have so many things to talk about and show from our time spent in Charleston. We’re getting there, slowly but surely!DSC_0574

a seabrook saturday…

I’m trying to condense the weekend, really I am, but I definitely got into picture taking mode. It’s been a conference or two since I took so many. Sometimes, I don’t get going until Sunday, and then you’ve missed your opportunity. But I took a page from Susie’s way of doing things, and included as many food pictures as possible. I did get into the habit of that, while in Australia, but I don’t always remember to take them, when I’m here in the U.S.DSC_0340

Thankfully, we didn’t stay up too late (meaning we were in bed by midnight, I think), so most of us were able to get some sleep that night. We arrived at the dining hall for our first breakfast of the weekend, and were thrilled to find that we had “graduated” to the “grown-up dining room”. Do you remember the tables you sat at, in elementary school? With the colorful mushroom seats that are very close to the floor, because of your short legs? Well, when the conference center is full, we often get to sit on that side of the dining rooms, for at least the first part of the weekend. Usually, on Sunday evening, we’ll graduate to the side with the real chairs. But this weekend, we started off there! It was great.DSC_0343

DSC_0344Since I started going to Seabrook, when I was eighteen years old, I have continued to have an argument with some of my Southern friends, about the subject of grits. For 10-12 years, I wouldn’t touch them, while at the conference, because I’ve always preferred oatmeal. Grits were on par with a bowl of wet sand, flavored with cheese.DSC_0347

DSC_0349Of course, my dear Dana, southern girl that she is, hates oatmeal and loves grits. So, it’s made for some interesting arguments. But a few years back, I gave in, and discovered that some people (like my aunt) are capable of making grits that taste okay. So, I’ve started to eat them at Seabrook, too. And here they are, for your perusal. Funny thing is, on Sunday, I didn’t eat oatmeal, even when it was served at the buffet.DSC_0354

DSC_0355As you can see, we had to test out some of the emergency exits, just to make sure they were working. Actually, that cabin has the only one facing the boardwalk, so it’s great for talking to people before heading outside. My cabin faces the bushes and the alligator pond (don’t worry, we’re up off the ground), so no reason to look out that little door.DSC_0356

DSC_0359Arriving at our little Chapel of the Palms, you can get a tantalizing glimpse of the ocean, over the sea oats (don’t pull them, you’ll get charged a couple hundred bucks). Inside, Skip waited in anticipation for all of us to arrive for the morning meeting. And we were off! DSC_0360

While I’ll talk more about the meetings, later, in another post, this weekend of meetings was amazing. They’re always awesome, of course, because our speakers are never dull, and always bringing forth the Word of God. But hearing about absolute truth (truth is NOT relative, people!) and scientific evidence for the reliability of the Bible? Right up my alley. Couldn’t get enough, and I plan to read Rob’s website, back to front (or top to bottom, as the case may be).DSC_0362

I don’t have a video of any of our song sessions, but I hope to get my hands on one. I wish every church and chapel out there could hear us sing. So many assemblies and churches don’t seem to know the meaning of “make a joyful noise”. And I don’t mean we sound anything like noise. But singing is meant to be joyful, and you should sing out, if you’re capable! I’ve been in churches where I was afraid to sing louder, because no one else was, and it would sound like I was singing a solo. Not here. Someday, we’re going to blow the roof off. Probably on a Sunday evening, when Harold has us sing “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”, “And Can It Be”, and “My Anchor Holds”, all in a row. My voice is usually about gone, by the end of the weekend.DSC_0378

DSC_0387On the way to lunch, I stopped to take a look at the alligator pond. I never actually saw him, but I knew he was there. The camp manager told us that he was, and explained how he was “safe” (not to pet, but look at), if we kept our distance. Apparently, they have weekly tests to see whether he continues to be safe around people. Someone just had to ask how they tested that. Jack told us that they have a “crazy Brit” employed there, who has degrees to prove how much he knows about animals and stuff (don’t ask me which ones, I’ve forgotten). Every week, when the alligator is hanging out on the grass, he’ll run at it… and if the gator runs into the water, he’s safe to be there.DSC_0388

DSC_0389The explosion of laughter that greeted this explanation was deafening. We were told that a year or so ago, their British employee ran at their last gator… and the alligator didn’t run. So, they had that one removed, as he had lost his fear of humans. We joked that actually, the previous employee had run at it, and that was the last seen of him, until the Brit came along.  : )DSC_0398

As I continued meandering to the dining hall, I enjoyed looking at the young live oaks, twisting and turning, all over the place. And then there’s the “monster tree”. It’s funny, it took me over ten years to notice that tree’s existence, but I wasn’t photographing nature so much, then, so I wasn’t looking closely at individual trees.DSC_0336

DSC_0400You may have noticed the occasional hibiscus pics, by now. Several trees, in pots, were put by the dining hall, and since it was the first year they had them, I couldn’t stop myself from taking pictures. They were so colorful, and reminded me of Hawaii.DSC_0404

DSC_0410After our yummy lunch of burgers, we visited the gift shop, in order to peruse the gifts AND most especially, enjoy the funny cards they sell there. The truth is, they’re not really meant to be funny, some of them being rather serious and poetic… until Susie or Harold reads them aloud. The Dump Truck of Love is still a winner, but the pics that have Harold listening “angelically” are of a far different card.DSC_0422

The cactus flowers were in bloom, so I hopped off the boardwalk for a few minutes to look at them closely. Also, you can see a lovely picture of one of the caterpillars hanging out around our cabin. They were on the ceiling, on the railing, and who knows where else. I was quite alarmed, when I arrived, but since none of them ever fell on my head, I got over it. If a caterpillar had landed on my head, though, I probably would’ve freaked. I can deal with most bugs and critters, at a distance, but not in my hair. I still haven’t forgotten the year a LARGE spider built a web in our doorway, while we were at meeting. It was at head level, and I got it all in my hair. Yuck.DSC_0423

DSC_0424During our free time, after lunch, I walked on the beach, threw a frisbee, watched my friend pick up a dead crab, and then joined the volleyball game. Of course, I can’t play volleyball AND take pictures, so I don’t have any to show you. The sand was hot and our skills were rusty, but we eventually got it together. Strangely enough, the winning team was always on the same side of the court, even when we traded sides. The other side couldn’t seem to get it together. And there were no spur injuries, which was nice.DSC_0433

DSC_0441Yes, I’m showing off my shoes. I’ve actually had them for more than ten years, though I’m not sure of the exact year I bought them. They used to be a more brilliant coral pink, and my friends expect me to wear them at Seabrook, like they expect the sun to come up in the morning. Running on that hot sand is NOT fun, and the sand spurs are painful, if you step on one. I also need foot support, for play frisbee on the hard-packed sand, when the tide is out. But since I only ever wear them at Seabrook, they’ve only seen about 20 wearings. And I run them through the washing machine, every time, when I get home.DSC_0445

DSC_0452Dinner is when our chef really pulls out the stops for us. Back in the day, we probably had 5 star meals for every meal, but the troubles with the economy affected them, too. Now, they give us delicious meals for breakfast and lunch, but save the crab, mahi-mahi, and the rest of the ultimate deliciousness for dinnertime. This time, it was braised chicken (I think), which a mushroom sauce and veggies galore. And where would we be without Mississippi Mud Pie for dessert?DSC_0446

DSC_0449Saturday is campfire night, so I had to practice. Mike and I broke out our guitars in the chapel, where the wondrous acoustics reign. There’s so much more to it, but I could love that chapel for the acoustics, alone. Unfortunately, our resident “pyro” wasn’t there, so we didn’t have all the equipment for fire-building, and the meeting ran late. A few years ago, the town of Seabrook Island instituted a curfew for campfires, so it has to be put out by 10pm. Unable to find the right materials, and having very little time left, we had to skip the campfire. But I was glad I had practiced ahead of time, even if my fingers didn’t agree. And playing guitar with Mike is always good fun.DSC_0455

DSC_0460After another snack or two in the Snack Shack (to keep from starving, after dinner, you know), most of us hit the beach, but the clouds had come out. This gives the beach a very claustrophobic feel, even though you’re outside with the breeze blowing in your face. Besides, I think you’re supposed to go to the beach at night to look at stars, and what fun is it if you can’t see them?DSC_0463

DSC_0468With a tight schedule for Sunday morning, most of us tried to go to bed at a decent time, which means not much later than 1 am. And with that, I’ll wrap this up for now. Many more pictures to get through, and I don’t know what I’ll do when I get to Monday’s expeditions. I may have taken as many that day, as I took for the rest of the weekend.DSC_0471

converging on each other…

It was about six or seven years ago, during one memorable Charleston trip, that we christened our friend Drew with the title, The Lurker. One of the original photo-bombers, somehow, he would just end up in the background of most of our photos. Eventually, we had him “lurk” there on purpose. Over the years, the nickname has lingered, and he still has a talent for silently walking up behind people, or appearing in pictures he wasn’t intended for. It’s a talent that most of us don’t have.DSC_0257

Of course, I wasn’t thinking about this, when I left Clemson. I hit the road at 8 am, and was half an hour past Greenville, enjoying my music, when I noticed a truck starting to pass me. Well, I thought it was. I glanced to my left, looked away, and then looked back again, slightly startled. Sure enough, Drew was looking determinedly at me, from the passenger seat of that truck. I promptly grabbed my phone, to tell my two best friends that “Drew’s lurking at me… from Tom’s truck!”. They thought that was funny, because he had come up in conversation, so technically, he was lurking in the conversation, too. Such talent.DSC_0258

DSC_0260Yes, my girls from Pennsylvania were on their way south. When I lived there, we would drive to Seabrook Island, together, all 10-13 hours of it, depending on traffic. Now, they have to make it on their own. This time, they drove down early, stayed overnight in Charlotte, and were on target to meet me in Summerville at noon. From there, we would leave my car at a friend’s, and travel to Charleston and Seabrook, together. After a year in Australia, I still don’t think we’ve caught up on talking, in our handful of visits, since I returned.DSC_0265

Within half an hour of my destination, I was entertained to see “The Ark” go rolling down the highway, next to me. That was the first time I pulled out my camera and I took it with me everywhere, for the rest of the weekend.DSC_0275

We stopped for lunch at Tbonz, near the Market. Just now, when I finally looked at my picture of the menu again, I thought the menu had been misspelled. Turns out, I never knew that Tbonz’ full name was Tbonz Gill & Grill. For a minute there, I was worried. Spelling mistakes should NOT be in your menu, that’s for sure. Their sweet potato fries were awesome, but don’t order the she-crab soup. Not a winner.DSC_0277

After wandering the whole Market, we crossed the street to look inside of Charleston’s Candy Kitchen. Located on the corner of North Market Street and East Bay, I had never noticed it there, before. Usually, when we cross the streets, outside the Market, we’re further down, and don’t notice what’s up on the corner. As you can see, this is one of the places where you gain weight by looking…. or breathing in the scent of chocolate.DSC_0278

DSC_0283My only purchase was a stick of rock candy. Ah, the memories that come with those treats. Not all good, of course. The main one was from going to Charleston on a school trip, and staying overnight on the U.S.S. Yorktown. We also did the Fort Sumter tour, and I bought some rock candy for that trip. Promptly chipped a tooth that I had just had fixed. Or maybe that was the first chip. I had to have that tooth fixed three times within two weeks, because it just wouldn’t stay fixed. But at the age of 10 or 11, I was horrified by the mishap.DSC_0285

While walking past the U.S. Custom House, on the way to the parking garage, I took another look, and really liked the design on the top of the columns. Don’t you?DSC_0289

After climbing all the stairs to the roof of the parking garage, and making our way back to the car, I was in the driver’s seat again. Charleston isn’t my favorite place to drive, but I am much more used to city driving than my friends, so I always volunteer for this part of things. If my directional sense goes wrong, we get the GPS out. But that always ends interestingly, because I don’t always listen properly to that little voice.DSC_0296

So, last time we used it in Charleston, we almost got seriously lost, trying to follow the directions “Jane” gave us. I’m much better off using my own judgment, and not worrying too much. Charleston is on a peninsula, and sooner or later, you reach the waterfront, and/or come to a bridge. I generally know which direction I should be going, even if I don’t remember the street names.DSC_0301

Having eaten lunch rather late, we skipped the dinner get-together, and went straight to Freshfields Village, at the roundabout in front of Kioway and Seabrook Islands. Goodness, I still remember back before they built that place. And before they built the big bridge on Main Rd. There used to be a “spinning bridge”, instead of a regular draw bridge, and it was a pain, if you got stuck on the road, when the bridge was being “spun” to let boats through.DSC_0303DSC_0304

Instead of dinner, we went to the Marble Slab Creamery, and hemmed and hawed over our choices. I finally decided on Amaretto ice cream, with chocolate chip cookie dough mixed in. The guy working there thought this sounded wonderful, and said he’d have to try it. From there, while I was paying for my ice cream, he asked where we were from, and when I told him Clemson, he said “That’s where I go to school!”.DSC_0306

Turns out, not only that, he’s an engineering student and comes into my cafe regularly. When I informed him that I was the cashier, he KNEW that I had looked familiar. But who really would have thought you’d find your Clemson cashier at an ice cream join, near Seabrook Island? He never “woulda-thunk-it”. He wouldn’t know that I’m at Seabrook, twice a year, every year since 1998.DSC_0308

After all the ice cream was devoured, we headed onto the island, driving “gently” as we went. Yes, the signs really do tell you to drive gently. And after the gatehouse, you HAVE to follow the speed limit (25 mph), or risk getting pulled over by a golf cart, if you go more than 3 miles over the limit. I kid you not. It happened to a friend, about ten years ago, and he still hasn’t lived it down. Most of our group have forgotten how Kelvin drove his motorcycle to Seabrook, only to find that motorcycles weren’t allowed on the island. So, he had to wait for someone to give him a ride to camp. But Gary has never lived down getting a ticket from a golf cart.DSC_0310

Arrival involves much unloading of cars, running and hugging all the arrivals, and lots of general excitement. For me, it used to involve running up and down the boardwalk in my flip-flops (I only fell once), but a foot injury wasn’t allowing that, this time. It was a beautiful evening, with a gorgeous sunset. And even the deer are somewhat friendly. Or at least, unafraid of humans. I got quite close to this one, to take these pictures. But I didn’t go too close, I was afraid the deer would panic and run me over. That’s something that I would never live down.DSC_0315

People still don’t quite believe the story about Kelvin and I finding a deer head washed up on the beach, so many years ago. Aside from us, there were no witnesses to the event. Unlike when the plane landed on the beach, or the large turtle washed up after a boat collision. But if I got run over by a deer, there would have been multiple witnesses, as everyone was on the boardwalk, in the snack shack, or in the gazebo. So, I behaved myself, and so did the deer.DSC_0326

I know, I know, I’m just getting started. But I took a lot of pictures, so this will get things going. Stay with me, I’m catching up!DSC_0327

come on, make that pav!

The Australian pavlova… the one dessert I never got enough of, while overseas, and never had a lesson in, until the very end of my time there. As a result, when I try to make it here in the U.S., I start consulting multiple recipes and quizzing all my friends for their opinions on how to make it. Remember, Aussies have slightly different ingredients AND measurements than Americans, so nothing I do here will be exactly like we did there.DSC_1005

DSC_0005My impression, after multiple discussions with friends, is that every Aussie has their own perfect way of making one… or they admit defeat, and don’t make it at all. Maybe it always falls flat (though I don’t even know how that works, yet), or maybe they’re half American, so they were raised on a different combination of desserts. But another friend insists that there is no wrong way to make a pav. So, obviously, it takes all types to make a world. Even in Oz.DSC_0009

For my birthday, I decided it was time to make another attempt at pavlova. Not that anything was wrong with the last one, except technically, it wasn’t pavlova. They do say that it has to have cornstarch (cornflour, if you’re an Aussie) in it, to make it a pav. But as I’ve done more reading on the subject of the ins and outs of pavlovas, maybe it really was one, after all. The difference between a meringue and a pavlova is supposed to be that a pav is hard and crunchy on the outside and marshmallow-y soft on the inside, while meringue is hard throughout. So, last time, I thought I did, and then I thought I didn’t… and now I think I did make one, after all.  : )DSC_0013

DSC_0015If you are already looking for the recipe, I haven’t written it yet, so I think I’ll include it at the very end. So, if that’s all you want, scroll straight to the bottom of this page. You see, as I said, I was working from two recipes, tons of online advice, suggestions from my mom, and a little intuition thrown in. In addition, I had to translate the temperatures and measurements, too.DSC_0017

My original recipe, which my friend Imogen sent home with me, was printed off of taste.com.au, and is listed as a “Traditional Pavlova Recipe”. It doesn’t call for cornflour. For my second recipe, she e-mailed me the link to aussie.info.com. I did lots of flipping back and forth from one to the other, trying to decide what to do.DSC_0019

One problem is that Aussies use caster sugar (Americans don’t have this, except perhaps in a specialty store), which seems to be like granulated sugar that’s been blended slightly finer, but not as fine as icing sugar. In the end, we picked up a box of 4x confectioner’s sugar, which is probably too fine, but who cares? It’ll blend nicely into the egg whites, and it’s sugar. Adapt to the ingredients you have, especially if you’re too lazy to blend the sugar in the food processor.DSC_0021

When I began to dig out the ingredients, I practically had to climb into the cupboard, trying to find the cream of tartar, which was hiding in a small container,behind everything else. One recipe calls for it, and the other does not. One recipe explains that cream of tartar helps increase the volume of the egg whites, and gives the pavlova a crunchier crust. So, I thought, it’ll probably help, so I included it.DSC_0022

DSC_0023Remembering that I hadn’t messed it up the first time, so I couldn’t really ruin it this time, unless I did something completely ridiculous, I began my pavlova. I’ve never had any trouble with separating egg whites from egg yolks, so I quickly did that, and threw them in the mixing bowl. By the way, one recipe called for 6 egg whites, the other for 4-6. I think the 4-6 one was tailored more towards 4, so the measurements were a bit different. I went with six, and decided I’d swing with it. One recipe called for a pinch of salt, the other for a pinch of cream of tartar, so I used both.DSC_0025

DSC_0030My first recipe has my friend’s handwritten note that “Typically, in most Aussie pavs, you would use 1/4 cup caster sugar for every egg white – beat until no longer grainy”. So, it’s likely that their caster sugar is grainier than my powdered sugar, and you have to stir longer. And those cups mentioned are in Aussie measures, so I figured my 1 1/2 cups of sugar would work nicely with my 6 eggs. No, wait, one recipe called for 8 ounces of it… so I may have gone with that. Either works. I gradually added the sugar, vanilla, and white vinegar, though I think I saved the vanilla for the very end. It doesn’t really seem like vinegar and vanilla would go together.DSC_0048

DSC_0049Recipe #2 says to lightly fold in the cornstarch. This is where I needed a lesson on folding, from my mom, because I’ve rarely done any recipe that calls for it. The idea of gently stirring, in order to keep it from deflating, strikes me as very odd, but then, I’m using to stirring cookie dough. So, very carefully, I folded in the cornstarch, wondering what would happen if I stirred it too hard. Would it just evaporate before my eyes? That must be what my friend meant about it “falling”.DSC_0055

Also, in Australia, with no everyone having air-conditioning or insulation in their homes, I’m guessing that some of the issues may come with the fluctuation of temperatures inside the house. Even when our AC isn’t running, the house takes a while to change temp, so there isn’t usually any trouble with cooking projects reacting to heat and humidity.DSC_0056

DSC_0059Once the egg whites were ready, I put parchment paper on my cookie sheet, so that I could easily move it to a decorative plate, later. The first time, I didn’t do very well at getting the mixture in a circle, and hollowing it out to make room for the whipped cream. Of course, that time, I overwhipped the cream, so there wasn’t as much of it. But this time, I kept my circle smaller and piled it higher, in order to make a deeper hollow inside. And wished I knew, in detail (with pics), how my friends do it, and what it looks like when they’re making it.  : )  Recipe #1 also calls for making “furrows” up the sides. I’m still working on that part.DSC_0064

After much debate over the oven temperatures and timing, we put it into our convection oven. If you have a gas oven, the recipes call for starting with 400°F, and then dropping it to 250°F after ten minutes, and then baking for an hour. I see now that my first recipe calls for even lower temps. But if you have an electric oven, you start it at 250°F and bake for 1.5 hours. Final notation says that if you have a fan-forced oven (convection), then you “adjust accordingly”. Great, so we make it up as we go along. Eventually, we settled on preheating to 250°F, then dropping it to 235°, and baked it for an hour.DSC_0065

DSC_0066Though it was completely done, the outside of the pavlova wasn’t as crispy as it should’ve been, and the inside a bit soft, so I think I’ll bake it longer, next time. My brother has volunteered to eat any more than I want to make, for practice.  : )DSC_0069

When it’s baked, you turn off the oven, leave the oven partially ajar, and let the pav cool in the oven. I believe this is because if it gets cool TOO suddenly, it will fall. So, another case of possible “falling” that I have yet to experience, so I’m not quite sure what it would look like, if it did.DSC_0076

After the pav was almost cool, I brought it out of the oven to finish cooling, transferred it to a pretty plate, and cut off the excess parchment paper. It moved very easily, with the paper under it. Then, I prepared to make the whipped cream. The recipe calls for 300 mLs of thickened cream, so I used a pint of heavy whipping cream (which is ~470 mLs, I think). This time, I measured it out, but next time, I’ll just use the whole container, because you can’t have too much whipped cream. Also, I need to mix it slightly less, so it will be a little softer.DSC_0080

Recipe #2 doesn’t have any description of how to make the whipped cream, so I ran with what recipe #1 said. I beat the cream, 1 tbsp of confectioner’s sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla together. Then, I carefully filled my pavlova, spread it evenly, and decorated it with blueberries and strawberries. We forgot to get a kiwi, or we would have added that, too. And I don’t know if you can even get passionfruit, here in the U.S. (it would probably cost a LOT), so that couldn’t be included. But I’ve seen pictures of pavs with pomegranate seeds on top, too. Raspberries would probably be marvelous, as well.DSC_0088

In the end, the pavlova looked beautiful. So, on to the taste test. When I cut the first slice, I found that the outer crust was softer than last time, and gave no resistance to the spatula. It didn’t hold together very well on the plate, either, so I had trouble getting any photos that didn’t look like a pile of white fluff. My family were all surprised at how light it is, like dining on air, and eating more than one piece didn’t feel like overeating. But despite any criticism that I make of it, with the intention of improving the next one, I think it was delicious, too.DSC_0089

I love how the sweetness of the pavlova, which really is almost the consistency of a marshmallow on the inside, contrasts with the whipped cream. You don’t have to put sugar in the whipped cream, but if you do, there’s so very little, that you just taste creamy wonderfulness in it. And the fruit gives it a punch of flavor, unlike the sweetness and cream of the rest. And getting the crunchiness into the outside of the pav is my goal for next time.DSC_0091

But again, six of us polished off the whole thing in a matter of minutes. And as we joked, if you’ve met my brother, he doesn’t eat four slices of any dessert, just to be polite. And though it was suggested that I could make lemon meringue or key lime pie next, I’m afraid I shot down that idea, because I’ve never liked either desserts, particularly. Oh, I try them now and then, but I’m not a big fan of lemon or lime in desserts, I’m not exactly sure why.DSC_0092

So, thanks for staying with me for this whole extended description of my latest baking expedition. This is what my compilation pavlova recipe would end up looking like, though you can feel free to vary it as much as you like. Remember, this is an Aussie traditional dessert, only slightly revamped for Americans.  : )DSC_0093

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Rachel’s Aussie-American Pavlova

6 egg whites

8oz confectioner’s sugar, 4x (or caster sugar)

1 pinch cream of tartar

1 pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp white vinegar

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Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until it forms stiff peaks. Gradually add sugar, beat until sugar is no longer grainy. Add salt, cream of tartar, vinegar, and vanilla, one at a time. Lightly fold in cornstarch.

Pile mixture into a circular shape, on parchment paper, on a cooking sheet. Build up the sides into walls, with a lower, “hollow” center. Make furrows up the sides, if you like. Bake until crunchy on the outside.

Electric oven: Bake at 250°F, for 1.5 hours

Gas oven: Start at 400°F, bake 10 minutes, then lower to 250°, bake for 1 more hour.

Convection: Bake at 235°F for 1 hour, 15 minutes (varies).

Let pavlova cool in the oven, with the door ajar. When cool, fill with whipped cream and decorate with fruit.

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Whipped Cream

1 pint heavy whipping cream

1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar (optional)

1 tsp vanilla

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Beat cream, sugar, & vanilla until soft peaks form.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed going on this pavlova journey with me. My thanks to all the friends that have given me recipes and made suggestions on how to achieve the perfect pavlova. All measurements and temperatures are American, so be careful, if you live anywhere else.  : )  I hope more of my American friends will try out this recipe, and learn to love it as much as I do!DSC_0098