Sunday, March 29, 2015

Maple Sugar Festival

Now we know spring is on its way!  We just returned from the Genesee Country Village and Museum's Maple Sugar Festival.  This was by far the best one yet!  We have been attending this event for years.  As you walk from the parking lot you begin to smell the familiar scents we have grown to love.  The smell of smoke coming out of the chimney in the education center.  This was our first stop on our tour.  It was here we had a delicious breakfast of pancakes (or flapjacks as they are often called here) and sausage.  This is the only time of the year I will eat pancakes. 

After a very filling breakfast it was time to head out into the sugar bush! We were ready to learn about the history of maple syrup.  The sun was shining, snow is melting and the village is once again coming to life! 

It was such a beautiful morning to stroll through the woods hearing about sap, syrup and sugar.  Our first stop was "The Science of Maple Sugaring".  Here we learned how exactly they determined how much sugar was in the sap.

The thermometer-like gadget he is holding is how the sugar content is measured.   He would place the measuring device into the metal container filled with sap.

No matter how long we have been attending this event we always learn something new.  You can see here he is placing the stick into the sap.  It showed us that this sap was about 2 percent sugar. 

The next station (which we did not stop at) was the history of tapping tools.  Children could also learn how to tap the trees.  So because of the crowd we decided to skip this one. 

The next stop was to see an 1850's Evaporator.  This was something let me tell you.  Most of the sugaring was done outdoors.  The evaporators were set up right near the maple trees so they didn't have to transport the sap very far.

The men were busy getting the fire going so we did not stop here.  It was pretty interesting though watching how this was done in 1850.  I still want to do more research to see how maple syrup was discovered.  I have heard many stories of an Indian throwing a hatchet into the tree and the sap dripping down onto something hot.  Still not certain of that one yet.  It would have been a great question to ask one of the interpreters. 

The next station we stopped at was "Age of Wood: Early Settlers Learn Maple Sugaring".  Here the man is making his own spiel out of wood.  This was very neat to watch him carve down a piece of wood.  Whenever we are at the museum we cannot help but think of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her books.  In her first book, "Little House in the Big Woods" she has a chapter about maple sap, syrup and sugar.  She also mentions how Pa would spend the winter making the buckets and troughs.

"All winter," Pa said, "Grandpa has been making wooden buckets and little troughs.  He made them of cedar and white ash, for those woods won't give a bad taste to the maple syrup." ~ Little House in the Big Woods

The man behind the woman speaking was making a trough to catch the sap.  The interesting this we learned was that the trough would be buried under the tree so the farmer would no have to store it.  That was pretty ingenious of them.  I think modern day we tend to make things just too complicated. 

Handmade spiels made from a piece of wood.  Hannah thought they looked like big pencils with the hole burnt at the end.

As we continued on the Maple History Trail our next stop was "The Sugar Camp".  This is one of my favorite stops on the trail. 

The largest kettle hold the fresh sap.  After a while of boiling it is then poured into the middle kettle for yet more boiling.  Then finally the smallest kettle will become syrup.  I know when we made syrup last year it took about 10 hours to boil the sap.  I had a much smaller pot then these three.

"He empties the sap into the iron kettle.  There is a big bonfire under the kettle, and the sap boils, and Grandpa watches it carefully.  The fire must be hot enough to keep the sap boiling, but not hot enough to make it boil over." ~ Little House in the Big Woods

It was so nice to see the familiar faces we see all summer.  Always so chipper and eager to interact with visitors.  Here Marie is showing us the sugar molds.

Once the sap becomes syrup, if you continue to boil it down you will have maple sugar.  This is how they would have preserved the syrup.  You need to work quickly with the sugar if you want to place it into molds because it will harden very quickly. 

The sugar was then used in baking and to sweet anything you desired.  Remember, white sugar was not readily available to early settlers.  If you have never tried maple sugar you really should!

Maple Sugar was often stored in a block, then they could shred off or break off what they needed.  The next few pictures there will be no descriptions. 

The last stop on our Maple History Tour was the modern way of boiling sap down into syrup.  This is somewhat like the one my Dad used when we were living on the farm.  I cannot remember if that was heated by wood like this one. 

The wood was fed in through the black door.  The sap is then boiled down much like it was in the 1800's. 

This gentleman was telling us about the different grades of maple syrup.  The different colors in the syrup has to do with how late in spring the sap was collected.

The darker the syrup the stronger the flavor.  It takes close to 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup! 

So after finishing our hike on the Maple History Trail we headed into the village to see what was going on out there. 

Even the trees in the village were tapped.  The familiar smells started rushing back to us.  We could hardly wait to visit the houses that were opened.  Through out the village and nature center there was a hidden "Phineas" doll made out of yarn.  Hannah and Katrina had fun searching for them. 

Something a bit fun for this kids.  At the end of the hunt they were able to get a kit to make their very own "Phineas". 

In the MacKay House we saw Allison making tallow candles.  This was made out of animal fat that was then melted down.  We were told about how difficult it was to store these candles.  Because they were made out of animal fat they would have been pretty appealing to mice and rats.  So it was difficult to keep them.  Also, in the summer the candles would melt because of a low melting point.  In the winter they would freeze and crumble.  Made for some interesting shuffling around of the candles. 

Each candle has about 3-4 hours of burn time.  So you can see they would need many candles. 

Our next stop was the Livingston-Backus house where we were able to try 1-2-3-4 cake with maple frosting.  This was SO good.  I plan on making it soon and sharing it all with you!! 

The tinsmith was out in his shop talking about making the tin items.  I love this lantern.  Someday I would love one like this.

Something new at the museum (at least we have not seen this before today) is the smokehouse.  The hams they were smoking today was from the hogs they butchered in November.  I love how they show the complete circle.  Remember the tallow candles?  I imagine that was also from the butchered hogs.

"Standing on end in the yard was a tall length cut from the trunk of a big hollow tree.  Pa had driven nails inside as far as he could reach from each end.  Then he stood it up, put a little roof over the top, and cut a little door on one side near the bottom.  On the piece that he cut out he fastened leather hinges; then he fitted it into place, and that was the little door, with the bark still on it."~ Little House in the Big Woods

This ham has been in the smokehouse for about 2 days.  This was so interesting!  I am looking forward to seeing more about the smokehouse this year.

This ham has been in the smokehouse a lot longer as you can see from the darker color.  It almost looks burnt.  The hams are first placed into a brine then hung up in the smoker.  The blackened shell is cut away once the hams are completely cured.

The fire is off to the right just inside the door.  I have always wanted to see a smokehouse.

We had the best day just strolling around the museum.  I am so glad we arrived early because when we left there were lines everywhere.  I say this often if you are in the Rochester, NY area you must visit here!  Opening day is in May.  In August there is a Laura Ingalls Wilder days!  This is by far one of our favorite events. 

I hope you enjoyed this tour as much as we did.  I would much rather go here than to Disney any day!  Have a blessed evening!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Life Update

How has life been treating all of you?!  We are still hanging in here in the frozen tundra.  We had a few days of a warm-up but it was right back to the snow.  Oh well that is the joy of living in NY.  Before too long we will hear people complaining about it being too hot!  I for one just love the change of seasons, so I choose to embrace them all.

We have some pretty big and exciting things happening to our family!  After 6 long years of my husband being on the night shift, he will finally be working days.  Starting this Monday he will be working some "normal" hours!  As I've mentioned before, I have started working to help off set our finances.  So since August my husband and I get exactly 30 minutes a day to spend together.  So as you can imagine we are ecstatic about this new shift.  We will once again be able to sit down as a family to eat supper! 

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to get my EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) certification.  When I was younger I rode ambulance as a first responder/driver.  But because of life I have never been able to obtain this dream of mine.  Well I am so excited to say that April 29 I will begin classes to work toward this dream.  I have all my books, stethoscope and uniform.  I met with the ambulance chief and assistant chief last week.  I have been accepted into the ambulance service pending a physical by my doctor. 

If everything goes as planned I will be an EMT by the end of summer!  I am anxious, excited and just plain ready for this next step in life.  It is time for me to do something I have wanted to obtain in life.  My husband and kids have been a huge encouragement to me.  God has opened many doors with this and I plan on walking through them.

This Saturday we will be headed to the Maple Festival at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.  So come back early next week for a post about our visit.  There will be many pictures as I test out my new lens.  I just love walking around the museum...but you all know that.

The kids are doing great.  They are all reaching a milestone birthday this year that I am having a hard time with.  Katrina will be 21, Hannah will be 18 and Andrew will be 16!  They are no longer kids...they are all young adults.  How in the world did this happen? 

So last but not least, we have been clean eating for almost a month now.  We both feel GREAT!  We have stayed away from all processed foods...for the most part.  We did splurge now and then.  I can say .  my doctor has been thrilled with my results.  I have lost close to 20 pounds and my blood pressure is wonderful.  In fact it has been so good that my doctor cut my meds in half.  If I continue doing well she will take me off of it completely!  So that is what we have been up about you?!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Easy Eclair "Cake"

I have to say right off the bat...this is NOT a healthy "cake", nor is it a real food recipe.  Its not even a cake really. But hey, We all need a treat once and a while.  This is my husband's favorite dessert of all time!  My husband request this "cake" all the time.

Easy Éclair "Cake"

1 box of instant vanilla pudding
1 tub of whipped topping
2 sleeves of graham crackers
1 container of milk chocolate frosting

Mix up the box of pudding according to package directions.  Wait for the pudding to firm up a bit then gently fold in the whipped topping until it is well combined.

Now just like a lasagna you will layer the ingredients into an 8x8 pan.  Start with a layer of graham crackers on the bottom of the pan.  You may have to break the graham crackers to get them to fit into the pan.  Next, add the pudding mixture.  Then another layer of graham crackers, make sure you push lightly to compress the layers.  I usually get about 3 layers out of one recipe.  You want to end with the pudding mixture.

Heat the frosting for about 20 seconds and stir.  Do this until the frosting is pourable. Pour the frosting all over the top of the cake, making sure to cover it completely.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.  The longer you have it in the refrigerator the more it will taste like an éclair cake. 

This is defiantly something you would not want to make often.  But once a year is not going to hurt anyone.  I usually make this for my husband's birthday, so since I made it today he will not be getting one in July.  Perhaps I will make a healthier version of his second favorite...carrot cake.  Have a blessed day!