Iron Grace


A storage building fashioned into an overlook, just off South Pulteney Road, Routh 76, as the road climbs the hillside. This cast iron decoration graces the fence around the roof. The building is built into the hillside, one edge level with the ground.

As far back as I can remember, over thirty years, yet unmarked on maps, this building and view has been part of the experience of Keuka Lake.  During that time, the fence was erected to protect us.  The place symbolizes the gracious hospitality of the Finger Lakes Region.

I caught this feature during our last outing to Dr. Frank Winery, just a ways up the road, one day of an unusually cold early December.

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Pam’s Holiday Cranberry Pecan Salad

Our holiday tradition

You will be well-remembered for years when Pam’s salad is part of your holiday celebration. We hosted 2017 Thanksgiving and Pam’s salad was requested by her son and daughter’s families. When we went around the table to give thanks, our six year old grandson offered, “I am thankful for the jello”, meaning Pam’s salad.

My wife, Pamela Wills, perfected this recipe over the years as a nutritious and tasty dish she could make in advance.

Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or Anytime

Holiday Cranberry-Pecan Salad travels well and is a visually appealing dish to share at parties.

Holiday Cranberry-Pecan Salad

Ingredients:

1 12 oz. bag of raw cranberries

1 6 oz. box of raspberry gelatin

1 6 oz. box of orange gelatin

3 cups orange juice

3 cups boiling water

1 large orange

2 large apples of your choice (I use sweet/tart/firm apples)

1 tablespoon orange rind

½ cup chopped pecans

Curly leaf parsley

3-4 small bunches of green grapes. I dip the grapes in water, then in sugar and let dry. Or you can use raw cranberries.

Directions:

  1. Boil water. In large mixing bowl pour water over raspberry and orange gelatin and stir until dissolved. Wait a few minutes until the gelatin cools down (keep stirring). Add orange juice and stir again. Place in refrigerator until gelatin is the consistency of raw egg whites. This is tricky step since, if you don’t let it set up enough, the fruit will sink to the bottom.  When set too much the fruit mixture won’t blend with the gelatin.
  2. In food processor finely chopped cranberries. By hand cut orange and apples into small bit-size pieces. Combine chopped cranberries, apples and orange. Fold in grated orange rind and pecans. Set this aside while waiting for the gelatin (see above).
  3. Fold fruit mixture into the gelatin. With a large spoon scoop up mixture and transfer it to a Bundt pan. Cover with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator for several hours or until set.

To serve:

Dip bottom of mold into a sink of a few inches of luke warm water (not too warm or the gelatin will melt). Turn upside down on a large round platter or plate and garnish around the edges with parsley and the sugar-coated grapes or raw cranberries.

This is a great dish to share at a holiday party since you can make it in advance. My family prefers it over cooked cranberry relish and it is even good enough to serve as a dessert. It is easy to make, it’s festive and has always been a big hit. Enjoy!

Note: EAT the parsley garnish. Parsely is packed with vitamins and minerals.  Just 7.5 grams (a fraction of an ounce) contains 150+% of most people’s Vitamin K requirement and about 15% for Vitamin A and C.

Birthday Card

capturing a personality

Last year, you read about our grandson’s 6th birthday celebration in “Volcano Cake.”

 A year has passed and we were amused at the changes and what did not. He makes his own clothing choices and the shark shirt reappeared, surprisingly it still fits. GMa combed his hair and he refashioned it, messy and spikey is the look as in these photographs of opening the furry birthday card (“The Grinch” was the cake theme).

I used a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens, tilted the flash to bounce off the ceiling to gently brighten his face. For the memories we left the kitchen “as is” in the midst of cake baking, decoration.

View a larger version of each photograph by clicking twice. First to open a page, a second click on the image will yield the larger version.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

The Haw in Hawthorn

I originally published these blossoms as “wild  rose”.  It was my Facebook friends who pointed  out these are hawthorn flowers.  The key to identification was the shape of the leaves.

Hawthorne Blossoms on the former McArdle Home
Blossoms of Hawthorne taken on the site of the former McCardle Home, Proleek Townland, County Louth, Ireland.

In correcting my mistake, I learned the young leaves of Hawthorn are excellent for salads.  Wonder how the fairy folk, associated with single hawthorns (as in the following photograph from the Hill of Tara), react to picking leaves from their trees?  I didn’t hear of the practice during our time in Ireland.

Click Link for my Online Ireland Photography gallery

Speaking Stone Hill of Tara
View northwest from Hill of Tara looking across County Meath with views of Counties Westmeath and Cavan. On the horizon, right, is Hag’s Mountain, (Irish: Sliabh na Caillí) , site of the Loughcrew Cairns. The standing stone is the “Stone of Destiny: (Irish: Lia Fáil), which served in coronation the coronation of the High Kings of Ireland. It stands on the Inauguration Mound (Irish: an Forrad) of Tara. This photograph was taken the morning of May 27, 2014 hours before the stone was vandalized, doused with green and red paint.

My mistake was understandable, in botany the hawthorn is in the same family as the rose.  The flowers are similar, having five petals.  The “haw” in hawthorn is from the Old English word for hedge, as is this linear standoff the tree lining the way up to the Loughcrew Cairns.

Path on Hag's Mountain, Loughcrew
Reaching highest point of County Meath, Ireland means a steep path, not too long, to glorious views on all points plus Lough Craobh (Lake of the Branches).

I read these votive offerings are made at Beltane, in which case these are fresh from placement May 1.

Hawthorn Tree with Offerings
A hawthorn tree in bloom on May 27, 2016. Growing on the slope of Hag’s Mountain

The following year Pam underwent double total knee replacements, never the less, she was great company for all our adventures on the island.  Even this steep climb.

Click Link for my Online Ireland Photography gallery

Pam and the Offering Hawthorn
The steep path to Loughcrew passes a hawthorn covered with flowers and May offerings.

These views were our reward for reaching the top.

Loughcrew View, North by Northwest
View from Loughcrew Cairns, “Hags Mountain”

The Emerald Isle, we fully understood this name.

Standing Stone, Loughcrew
Loughcrew Megalithic Site, County Meath, Ireland. A solitary standing stone below the trail to the Loughcrew site surrounded by whin bush (gorse) and hawthorn hedge rows. A fieldstone fence, farmhouses, a patchwork quilt of fields completes the view.

The Greek name for the Hawthorn species is formed from two words meaning “strength” and “sharp”, referring to the thorny branches.

Click Link for my Online Ireland Photography gallery

Charlemagne of County Cork
For County Cork we stayed with Marantha House B&B.   Our day of arrival, that evening, I visited Charlemagne and fed him an apple, saved from dinner. We learned from our hosts, Olwen and Douglas Venn, he is a retired show horse they rescued. The following morning I visited Charlemagne again with an apple and my camera. As I walked up, starting from the far end of his field, Charlemagne rewarded me with a series of astounding poses, trotting toward me in fine form. The morning mists, hawthorn in bloom, distant hills came together for this memory.

We marveled at the hawthorn hedges in field after field.  I first notice them from the World Heritage Site, Newgrange (Brú na Bóinne, “Palace of the Boyne”).  Here is one on the Dingle Peninsula, on the other side of the island.

Field of Yellow Iris Flowers, Dingle Peninsula
A roadside field of yellow Iris flowers with flowering Hawthorn and Whin Bush in the windbreaks. Looking northwest toward Killeenagh and Caherpierce on the R561 between Lack West and Inch. Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland.

Another Ireland post of interest, “Proleek, Grandfather McCardle’s home.”

Long Island Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)

Clouds of Blossoms

We have a selection of teas at home for brewing afternoons as a pick-me-up. Some brought back from travels, most from a local supermarket. This Japanese green tea brings to mind my childhood and our trips to Long Island to visit my Mom until she passed away June 2013.

As you can see from this photograph of the tea in a white lotus bowl, there are pieces of pink and white stuff mixed in. These are called by the Japanese “sakura”, cherry blossoms.

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Japanese Sakura Sencha Green Tea – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

In Japan, since the 8th century, “Hanami” is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakura or ume tree. Here in the United States, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is celebrated commemorating the 1912 gift of Prunus serrulata Japanese cherry trees from Tokyo to the city of Washington.

Traditionally cherry blossoms remind the Japanese of clouds, the blooms come out en mass, the tree changes shape with the breeze.  Viewing sakura brings to mind thoughts of the transience of existence, the fragility and transience of the exquisite blooms leads one to appreciate the moment.  The following photograph of Pam was taken a month before my Mother’s sudden decline and passing in 2013.  We’d travel to Long Island several times a year to visit her, then take in familiar sights.

The tree over Pam is called a Shirofugen (Scientific name: Prunus serrulata, of the Rosaceae family) and is one species planted around National Tidal Basin, Washington D.C. Shirofugen blossoms are described “Flowers double, deep pink at first, fading to pale pink.”

 

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Pam with a Shirofugen Flowering Cherry in bloom – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

Growing up, our family visited the Planting Fields, a state park, several times in the spring and summer. As an adult with a growing family in Glen Cove, right around the corner, the Planting Fields were a welcome outing and visited several time times a year. The following photograph, taken that same May 2013 day, was a favorite park scene.

The two flowering cherry trees in the foreground are a type of Japanese sakura called Yoshino, one the most popular flowering cherries in temperate climates worldwide. All Yoshinos are clones from a single grafting and propagated throughout the world. The scientific name outlines the cross breeding of this variety, Prunus X Yeaoensis. Behind the cherries is an Oak tree, new leaves a bright green, and a pink child’s playhouse cottage.

A changing scene of the park is the now frequent visits by wedding parties and photographers, groups of Asian people, the bride and groom posing under the clouds of blossoms. By frequent I mean a steady stream, one after the other, when the blossoms are full.

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Playhouse with Flowering Cherry and Oak trees – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

In 2007 I spent hours framing and capturing the following photograph on a Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, during a visit to my Mother, who was widowed December, 1995. I used an inexpensive tripod, a Kodak DCS Pro slr/c camera body with the Canon 50mm f 1.4 USM lens, a UV filter and lots of time. There were no interruptions that day, at 5:30 pm I had the area to myself.

This child’s garden playhouse, framed by an ancient oak, pink Japanese cherry blossoms and gracious lawn was awarded a Photographic Society of American, Pictorial Print Division, Print of the Month award, published in the society magazine for that month.

My online gallery (see link below) “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”, has this print available for sale on high quality photographic stock with optional framing.

This week, I submitted the photograph for my Getty portfolio.  As of today, I have not received their decision.

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Playhouse – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

Please browse my reasonably priced stock photography.  License a photograph, download and use it for your website or blog.  Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link to purchase a print of “Playhouse” with optional custom framing from my Fine Art Gallery.

Pam’s Holiday Cranberry Pecan Salad

Easy to make, nutritious, a favorite with our family

You will be well-remembered for years, honestly, when you include Pam’s salad in a holiday celebration. We hosted 2017 Thanksgiving and Pam’s salad was requested by her son and daughter’s families. When we went around the table to give thanks, our six year old grandson offered, “I am thankful for the jello”, meaning Pam’s salad.

My wife, Pamela Wills, perfected this recipe over the years as a nutritious and tasty dish she could make in advance.

Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or Anytime

Holiday Cranberry-Pecan Salad travels well and is a visually appealing dish to share at parties.

Click the pic for my Online Gallery

Holiday Cranberry-Pecan Salad

Ingredients:

1 12 oz. bag of raw cranberries

1 6 oz. box of raspberry gelatin

1 6 oz. box of orange gelatin

3 cups orange juice

3 cups boiling water

1 large orange

2 large apples of your choice (I use sweet/tart/firm apples)

1 tablespoon orange rind

½ cup chopped pecans

Curly leaf parsley

3-4 small bunches of green grapes. I dip the grapes in water, then in sugar and let dry. Or you can use raw cranberries.

Directions:

  1. Boil water. In large mixing bowl pour water over raspberry and orange gelatin and stir until dissolved. Wait a few minutes until the gelatin cools down (keep stirring). Add orange juice and stir again. Place in refrigerator until gelatin is the consistency of raw egg whites. This is tricky step since, if you don’t let it set up enough, the fruit will sink to the bottom.  When set too much the fruit mixture won’t blend with the gelatin.
  2. In food processor finely chopped cranberries. By hand cut orange and apples into small bit-size pieces. Combine chopped cranberries, apples and orange. Fold in grated orange rind and pecans. Set this aside while waiting for the gelatin (see above).
  3. Fold fruit mixture into the gelatin. With a large spoon scoop up mixture and transfer it to a Bundt pan. Cover with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator for several hours or until set.

To serve:

Dip bottom of mold into a sink of a few inches of luke warm water (not too warm or the gelatin will melt). Turn upside down on a large round platter or plate and garnish around the edges with parsley and the sugar-coated grapes or raw cranberries.

This is a great dish to share at a holiday party since you can make it in advance. My family prefers it over cooked cranberry relish and it is even good enough to serve as a dessert. It is easy to make, it’s festive and has always been a big hit. Enjoy!

Note: EAT the parsley garnish. Parsely is packed with vitamins and minerals.  Just 7.5 grams (a fraction of an ounce) contains 150+% of most people’s Vitamin K requirement and about 15% for Vitamin A and C.

Volcano Cake

a birthday adventure

Birthday celebrations are part of Pam’s special relationship with those of our twelve grandchildren who live close by.  Preparations begin with design discussions months before the event, commonly around a sibling’s earlier birthday.  Daryoush is fascinated by dinosaurs, exotic animals and….volcanoes, “Make me a volcano cake, grandmother”, he told Pam just after his fifth birthday one year ago.

We started design discussions and experimentation late September 2017 for Daryoush’s late November sixth birthday party.  Years ago, for grandson Taj, we did a Galapagos cake with a volcano powered by “pop rocks.”  It gave us a powerful, boiling eruption.  Pam called around and found it available, brought home a few packs and “pop rocks” flopped.  The formulation was changed and now fizzles.  Pam also came up empty for Galapagos themed figures, “Rain Forest” is now the thing.

On the day of his party, Daryoush’s father dropped him off three hours before the event to be part of his cake’s creation.  We started with opening his Rain Forest themed presents.

Click on an image to enlarge.

There were three wrapped gifts in jungle themed paper:

  • Palm Trees
  • Rain Forest animal figures
  • A Rain Forest book.  Luckily, many of the animal figures were featured in the book we had fun making the matches.

ArchinDaryoushBirthday620171118-4

Daryoush organized his materials, the trees, animals, candy sharks, chocolate candy coated rocks.  He sorted the rocks into red/orange/yellow flaming boulders and the simply delicious ones.  He sampled quite a few after we washed his hands and rewashed after putting fingers in his mouth, not more than 25% of the time, enough to make the point.

Just off frame, to the right, are a yellow sheet cake, to support the rain forest tableau, and the Rice Krispy treat volcano cone.

Daryoush wore an apron, just like GMa.

ArchinDaryoushBirthday620171118-5

Pam settled on her standby Rice Krispy treat recipe, from the box, for the volcano cone structure wrapped around two equally sized tall plastic tumblers one inside the other to form the volcanic chamber where the magic happens.  We used two green tumblers at hand, red is a better color.

Pam favors a “killer” chocolate, mocha butter cream icing.  To start she applied it with a pastry bag and smallish star tip, forming the volcano surface.  The effect was not quite right and took too much time.  She then regrouped with the largest star tip and formed parallel strips, top to bottom, with empty triangles along the bottom margin.  The triangles were then filled in with strips.

The effect is similar to the “Devils Tower” model Roy Neary made from mashed potatoes in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

ArchinDaryoushBirthday620171118-10

Next came dramatic red and yellow lava streams.  Pam used white chocolate “melting” discs, melting them in the microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring in between.  It took three rounds for a smooth melt.  Daryoush participated with a toothpick to make finished touches to enhance a realistic effect.  He had a habit of popping the stick in his mouth, each time I supplied him with a fresh toothpick.

One mistake we made was to tweak the melted white chocolate with food coloring.  We had orange discs, intending to make a more red we added the color.  Immediately, the melt consistency congealed into a mass.  We recovered by forming orange lava bombs for the base.

A long time favorite material for Pam are “brownie bits.”  Here Daryoush is crumbling the cakes and applying volcanic ash to the base.  The whole brownies made perfect boulders for the Rain Forest tableau.

Our cake modeled the Arenal Volcano of Costa Rica with that country’s Lake Arenal and rain forest.  To form the lake Pam outlined the form in blue buttercream icing, covered with dark blue cake decorating gel.  Here is Daryoush applying the gel.  Using a spatula, Pam formed the glistening water effect by artfully spreading the gel.

Pam finished the tableau base with green and white buttercream frosting, the white coated with a mixture of brown and palm sugars to simulate earth/sand.

Daryoush’s imagination flourished when he applied his figures and candy.  Sharks populate the fresh water lake, animals wander the rain forest.  Boulders and rock abound.

Pam also made a set of chocolate gluten free cupcakes with chocolate mocha buttercream icing.  Daryoush decorated each cupcake with a large “cherry” and smaller multicolored sprinkles.  You can see the cupcakes in the birthday party shots.

For these photographs I used a Canon EOS1 Mark  III camera body fitted with the 50mm EF 1:1.2 L USM lens, and 600EX-RT Speedlite flash.  Here I tamped the f-stop down to 1.2 for the beautiful bokh possible with this lens.  Most shots were at f5.6 to keep the shooting simple.

ArchinDaryoushBirthday620171118-26

The effect of Daryoush arriving to greet his assembled friends with a volcano was electic. What fun. Here is the group wishing their friend a happy birthday.

ArchinDaryoushBirthday620171118-33

Pam came up with the magic volcano eruption by visiting the business of my former coworker, Bruce Lane’s Purity Ice Cream. Bruce graciously demonstrated to Pam how to make the effect using dry ice and hot water.  I purchased two pounds of dry ice an hour before the party, transported it in a cooler and open car windows to the party and kept it in the car until just before the cake cutting/birthday song.  For the cake we only needed a handful of dry ice and some water. You can see the effect and reactions of children in the photos.

Later, Pam and I experimented with the full drama possible using the leftover dry ice and boiling water. This will NOT work for small children and an enclosed space, since dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide that sublimates to the gaseous form. The small quantity used for the party amazed the children.

ArchinDaryoushBirthday620171118-38

ArchinDaryoushBirthday620171118-39