Where the Watermelons Grow

Hi friends!

Been a lower key week, except for work, but I’ve been working on a big feature launch so longer hours are required for now. Luckily it came about after the busyness of Labor Day, so the few weeks on long days are slightly more tolerable. I just get antsy sitting in one place for too long, but the work is fun for the most part.

The garden is in full swing! We have the last of the okra, a ton of beans, lots of pumpkins, and finally some eggplant are starting to grow! I am so excited! I think we planted the pumpkins a little too early, I really don’t think we have a good chance of having Halloween pumpkins, however that’s no real bother because pumpkins can be enjoyed at any time. The eggplant are just starting to come together, so now it’s time to find some good recipes! Let me know if you have any yummy ways to cook eggplant! I personally like it roasted, with a little seasoning, and in baba ghanoush! I want to try homemade baba ghanoush this year, so fingers crossed I get some good eggplant for it.

The animals have been pretty good lately. Scooby has developed a concentrated apathy towards the rules and a disdain for any correction, but that really shouldn’t surprise me. Joe had a birthday earlier in the month and while the calendar says five years old, the energy says puppy dog. He’s been a little touchy as a lot of the wildlife have come back down from the hills with the colder temperatures, and right back onto the farm. Watson is slowly but surely becoming more comfortable with being the smallest dog, he will always be mama’s shadow though, I think.

Ro has been fighting an intermittent injury, I think I have it pinned down to some weaker muscles in her topline, so we are trying to find our best solution to that. She’s also been testing the waters a little to see how much she can push her mom before she gets in trouble. Turns out it’s cantering away from the mounting block uninvited. That’s my breaking point haha, and we practiced calmly standing for mounting and dismounting as the remainder of our ride. Here’s hoping she got the hint, because a bareback canter before you’ve settled is very much not ideal. Miss Nel is coming up on her Gotcha Day, which we are very excited about! Three Years an Aldrich as it turns out, and what a busy three years it’s been. We had a guest this week who hadn’t seen her in a couple years and was absolutely shocked at the outgoing, sweet, bubbly little personality she was, considering she hid for his entire last visit. Her leg is looking worlds better too, and I am now starting to feel more comfortable putting her back into some work. Seems like it’s mostly a product of the heat, but very annoying nonetheless, so I’m glad it’s solving itself.

One of the workers from the local research post stopped by while we were out in the garden a couple days ago and gave us three huge watermelon! The station has a little community garden for its workers, and they grew more produce this year than they could eat! Honestly, those watermelon were so big I ended up giving one to my grandma and one to my uncle, so they could enjoy as well. I made a watermelon feta salad one night and it was so good! I think I’m going to grill some tomorrow, and maybe make watermelon slushies.  Going to be soooo tasty! I also want to try the salad again but with different methods. I sort of made it up as I went along and it was tasty, but the finesse wasn’t there, my chives were too big, and my mint probably should have been muddled. But hey, that’s learning for ya.

It’s getting colder around here now. I saw my breath for the first time this morning, and I don’t imagine I have many warm afternoons left, it’s always a little melancholy to lose the last of summer, even though the holidays are fun. This summer baby always needs a couple days to mourn the sunshine and endless sunsets. I have officially pulled out my little space heater to set up by my desk, it is in fact running as we speak. It’s not even that it’s so cold yet outside, but I live with one of those confounding humans that feels the need to live in the frostbitten north all year and when the temperatures drop and the AC is still running, it’s no longer Amanda friendly in the house. So, workspace is now a doors-closed, heater-on, warmth-capturing space, and you better come in and stay awhile, because standing in the doorway letting out my heat is a grievous crime.

I think it’s work-from-under-the-comforter time, so I’ll leave this here. I hope you are all warm and cozy, with sweaters and ciders and all the warm, bright trappings of the early fall.

(When the leaves start changing around here, I’ll update the site banner again, sticking with our seasonal changes)

Until we chat again my friends!

A Day in a Small Town

Hi friends!

I wanna chat some more about my fun Labor Day weekend, so please have some patience with me. This post will be more about the fun things we did around the local area. Maybe it’ll inspire you to hunt down cool experiences in your neighborhoods too!

So, the big thing we did: Fruit picking! We specifically we picked peaches, but we also came home with pluots, tomatoes, jams, grapes and some assorted berries! Plus, apple chips! We had so much fun picking from the trees, and our intention had been to just pick enough to eat and turn into a cobbler the next day (spoiler alert, we went overboard).

Honestly, I highly advise finding a “U-Pick” orchard and/or farm near you, especially if you have kids, because it’s such a fun, wholesome experience, it can be socially distanced, it can be educational, and then you get to eat the evidence! 110% recommend, I’ve been to the fruit stand a bunch before, but had never indulged in picking my own fruit! I wanna plant all sorts of fruit trees now! Somebody block the plant-start sites from the router please, I have no self-control!

We also stopped by so many of the little shops around my town and snuck into our closer mid-sized city for a little Bargain Center hunting too! I found a couple nostalgic games, had a ton fun hunting through everything, and made a friend of the cashier. I love second-hand stores in general, but I highly advise stopping by them when on vacation, because the “junk” is always different than the treasures you can find at home. We were briefly worried my friends finds wouldn’t fit in their carry-ons.

I think I’ve mentioned before that there was a magical little bookstore in town with a shop owner that knew every item in stock and shelves and piles so tightly packed you had to shimmy between them? I think I probably also mentioned that this last year he, unfortunately, passed away, and we all thought that was the end of that magic little store. BUT! Good news prevails! As we were having lunch at the candy shoppe (they sell… real food… there as well, don’t worry, we ate a lot of candy, but we also had substance), we noticed the open sign on the door, and it turns out his friend had taken up the reins! I was so happy! She hasn’t learned the stock yet, and the shelves meet safety codes now, but she has for sure added her own magic with some happy upbeat tunes playing and three cats who alternate between posing in their various cat trees for pets and hopping along the tops of the shelves judging your book choices. It’s a different cozy, but very effective. And we all know I am a big fan of cozy reading nooks. The new layout allowed for a couple little nooks that I will definitely be trying out in the near future.

I also bought two books, because I have legitimately no self-control. One was a Nancy Drew flashlight cover, because I have been slowly collecting antique Nancy Drew books since the plucky detective radically changed my life in the second grade (that’s a topic for another day, remind me), and one was a total impulse, Jimmy Buffett’s “Where is Joe Merchant?”, mostly because I didn’t know he wrote a book. Guys, I don’t even know. I wanna suggest this book, because I enjoyed it, but it’s so unlike anything I’ve read that I don’t know if anyone would love it like I did.

 It’s a slightly older book, and definitely a product of its time, that is, be prepared for some political incorrectness, outright cringe moments, and if you are about my age, you’ll have to google at least two political conflicts that I don’t remember being covered in GenEd History. You should also be prepared for the craziness of a 90s action film mixed with a 60s acid trip (or at least what I would guess it’s like, since I am entirely referencing popular media for that opinion). It’s a ride. I’m a casual parrothead, and even Fruitcakes didn’t prepare me for the ride that is this book. Although some of the characters make appearances in both which was delightful.

After a full day of thrift hunting, we stayed in and chilled on Sunday, which allowed us to make some cobbler! It was so fun being in the kitchen with my friends again, we used to have monthly dinner and game nights where we’d cook and play boardgames, and we sorta got to re-create that. So much fun! We ate so much candy and cobbler and had a huge Sunday lunch and ended up crashed on the couches in the den by 7 pm, playing video games together while fighting off food comas. I’ll try to find the original cobbler recipe I used, although I’ll admit, it’s more of a guideline now because cobbler always has its own mind and plans. (Editing Amanda’s Note: Found it! https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/easy-peach-cobbler)

(Side note here to say, remember how I said we went way overboard picking peaches? I just made three more cobblers and after I finish writing this up and they have cooled, I’ll be taking off to deliver those to family members who need surprise cobbler. Always gotta have a plan B for leftovers haha)

Overall, it was a jam-packed, super fun, crazy weekend and I started missing my friends before the plane even left. But that just sounds like a good excuse to go visit them and have them come back here! I’m so blessed to live in a place where I can have a little guest space, and there’s fun experiences to be had.

I better head out on my cobbler-based journeys now, but I hope you are all having a lovely day!

Until we chat again my friends!

A Day In Boy-See

Hi friends!

I had the best Labor Day weekend with my visiting friends! So much fun, that the whole first day I forgot to take any pictures! So, I’ll trade you, on this post, some photos for some links and I’ll have some cute photos for next time.

We played tourist both in Boise and a little closer to home and it really made me appreciate where I live again. I was also incredibly grateful that it was not too hot and not smoky for their whole visit! Not exactly something I can say for today, but that’s why we are hiding inside writing a blog post. So, ya know, lemons, lemonade, etc., etc., etc.

We went to a few little shops around Boise that I had never been to. I had to google the names of all of them to share, but one was the “VIPgamestore” (https://www.vipgamestore.com/ )  and the other two were stumble-upons we found around Capitol  Blvd, on 8th street.  VIPGamestore reminded me very much of the old comic book store I used to frequent when I lived in the Puget Sound, just a group of guys making a business out of what they love. They definitely weren’t hurting for customers, and while I didn’t find anything to bring home, that’s only because I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular. I am convinced however, that if I were looking for something obscure, these guys could probably point me in the right direction. If there’s a gamer in your family, especially a retro gamer, I’d say to definitely check it out.

I loved walking through the first stumble-upon, a used bookstore called “Rediscovered Books”, and we found a super cute little boardgame store too (Fantastic Games, like two doors down from the bookstore)! The bookstore (https://www.rdbooks.org/) made me want to sit for hours and scan through everything, especially the cookbooks, and I almost talked myself into buying a super cool horse puzzle, but calmer heads and a bank account that just had to make some house repairs quickly talked me out of it. My sweet friend gifted me Uno Flip from the boardgame store (https://www.fantasticgames.com/ ), in part so we could play over the weekend. I highly suggest it. My family has always been an Uno family, we have the original, the attack version, the spin version, the amped up semi-unplayable attack version (my neighbor put a little external motor on it and now it’s a public danger), and now flip. I can say attack and flip are now tied for favorite version.

Both the little stores on 8th were near the restaurant we stopped at; a place called Tupelo Honey (https://tupelohoneycafe.com/ ). I’ll be honest, it smelled delicious, wafting from the second story balcony, and I think we were all intrigued, but I made some incorrect snap judgements based on the décor. I absolutely assumed the food would be mediocre based on the very trendy styling and buzzwords the restaurant sported and I have never been so squarely put in my place by a restaurant. It was delicious! Fried chicken is never my most favorite thing ever (I know, I can’t believe it either) but I had their Fried Chicken over biscuits and gravy.  I really enjoyed their friend chicken (I had the honey glaze) but absolutely dream about the biscuits and milk gravy. Yours truly will be trying to figure out a make at home option for those very soon.

After a little research, we learned that Tupelo Honey is not a Boise exclusive, however, since it doesn’t exist in their native Seattle, it will be a Boise staple when my friends come to visit for sure.

Our next stop was a cheeky little record shop called the Record Exchange (https://www.therecordexchange.com/ ), which was definitely not my personal vibe, but a very cool one, nonetheless. Much more grunge, hippie, devil-may-care than I’ve ever been, but definitely worth saying we’d seen it. I tried to find some Sinatra records for Christopher, but unfortunately it was busy enough that I wasn’t keen on hunching over boxes and boxes of vinyl. Next time maybe.

Final two stops in Boise included Freak Alley and a little place called JD’s Bodega which promised a “New York” experience. Freak Alley (https://northend.org/freak-alley/ ), for those who haven’t seen the pictures or read the articles, is a street artists exhibit, but also so much more. Under normal circumstances, every few years someone or some people will add, change, or re-imagine parts of the alley with large murals, and it’s given Boise a bit of a reputation as a place where local artists can come and paint whatever they wish in a friendly, art-filled, accepting community. It’s really fascinating to see the range of art and the statements each artist is trying to make. From the silly to the overly serious, you can really see a wide variety of stances in Freak Alley, and it was well worth the trek. It’s in the middle of town, but I admit we walked by it about five times before realizing we had to duck between two pubs. The bodega (https://www.jdsbodega.com/ ) was neat, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a little convenience store that also had basic groceries. I don’t know if my friends cared as much as I did, but I’m pleased to say I have a small idea now of what the New Yorkers in all my novels are going on about now.

Since I-84 was a disaster zone on my way to the airport, we opted to take a historic route home, and while we didn’t give ourselves enough time to stop this trip, we made plans to visit the ghost town and historic drag strip we saw next time they come to visit. There’s so much to explore in southern Idaho.

Well, I’ve rambled on for long enough, I guess our day closer to home will have to wait for the next post. We had just as much fun the second day as the first, so stay tuned for that, next time with a few photos even!

Until we chat again, my Friends!

Farm Visits

Hello friends!

I’ve been thinking a lot about visiting farms. Mostly because I have some guests coming soon, and lots of friends and family who are asking about visiting next summer, but also because my dad came home after a long back porch chat with my great uncle and said, “we need to do that more often, it reminds me of when we used to come visit”.

Every summer during my school years we would spend a few weeks out helping my uncle on the family farm. I loved it so much! It was always warmer than the coast, I would get to play in the dirt all day long, and I loved the house and staying on the farm.

See those two upper windows on the front? That was my room. I loved it. This house is well known in the area for it’s beauty. I’m sure you can see why I loved it.

For most of my growing up, my dad talked longingly about returning to the valley to be a farmer. Don’t get me wrong, he had a strong sense of duty to his community and was a proud LEO, but he always wanted to return to his family roots. My mom and dad moved here my senior year of college. I didn’t realize I would be moving in about 6 months later.

I always knew I wanted to live here as well, I love being outside, playing in the dirt, and the possibility of farm animals. I caught the horse bug on my uncle’s ranch. Little twelve-year-old Amanda fell in love with a BLM mustang that my uncle was housing for a friend of his. I spent hours upon hours out with this horse, I was the first to get pats, and of course, I cried when we had to leave, and I haven’t been away from horses for more than a six month stretch since then. And that’s honestly only happened once or twice.

I called him Sagebrush, for what it’s worth, and my little cousin (who is not so little anymore) called him toothbrush. The horse that started it all. (“Editing Amanda” butting in to say that if I ever find the photos of Sagebrush, I will share, but my archives got put “somewhere safe” and for the life of me I cannot find them)

My uncle also loved to tell ghost stories. I admittedly don’t believe in ghosts, but I definitely think it’s close-minded to assume we know all about our universe, so who am I to say conclusively? I will say, while most of his stories rang of silliness, there were a couple stories where I saw the… weirdness… myself, and I hold those warm nights on the back porch being completely sketched out as very dear memories.

Unsurprisingly, my love of photography (which has been poorly represented on this blog thus far, but I do hope to remedy that) comes from summers wandering around with a camera, usually dragging my little brother or cousins around with me

One such story started when I pointed out a fire down by the river (the house sits on some bluffs above the river, so we could see the shore and stand of trees). I was concerned, as most 9- or 10-year-olds would be, about the farm burning, but my uncle was absolutely not concerned. He told me that happens sometimes, a young man was killed on the banks in the wild days, and that’s his fire. The second time I saw it I made my dad walk down in the dark with me, I don’t have an explanation. I really doubt a ghost needs a fire to stay warm, and I highly doubt… ghost… in general, but that experience lives in my mind, and pops up any time I see a weird light on our farm or out in the valley at night. Although, my uncle also teases that my great-great-grandmother lives in the attic every time the wind blows the doors shut, so maybe take his stories with some skepticism. And also, don’t swear and be sure to mind your manners in the attic… just in case.

I also had my first confrontation with coyotes on that farm. Another creepy nighttime experience to ballast all the lovely farmer’s market days and hay climbing adventures. I walked out to get some water from the garage fridge (Anyone else’s family have garage fridges? For extra water, soda, popsicles, and farm things? Just us? Hmmm) and heard lots of scurrying from the large doors (which are always open short of major storm or snow), but I didn’t think much of it because Simba the Cat and Freckles the Dog liked to sleep on the cold concrete floor at that time. Nothing to worry about, I got my water and turned to see Simba and Freckles staring at me from their respective spots under the workbench. So, what had run out into the yard? I shined my flashlight out (phone flashlight, so not the most powerful) and saw the telltale red eyes shining from the nearby stand of trees.

And then something growled a little closer.

And I made tracks for the house door.

Best part of this tale? I told my aunt what happened, and she sagely said, “The wild animals own the valley at night, stay inside unless you have a companion”, like she just had that quote ready to go. Guess what advice I live by now? I almost never go out after dark alone now. Lessons were learned. Especially now that my little plot of land is smack in the middle of open range and a pretty well-travelled game trail.

I love that house and the land it sits on, and I absolutely adore my great aunt and uncle. I need to take some time this week to stop by and see them again. Marking my calendar right now!

Until we chat again my friends!