Wordless Wednesday: Indian Creek 

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Blackberry Sweet Tea

I might have a slight obsession with sweet tea. It started when I went to Alabama, because here in California, it’s just not a thing. When one has “sweet tea” here, it is just a glass of ice tea with a packet of sugar added to it. Disappointing and grainy. When I had it in Alabama (or anywhere in the South) it was an ice-cold glass of delicious nectar. Every time I get to go to the South or have a layover at the Atlanta airport,  I’ll bring airport sweat tea back in my Swell bottle. I ration it for a few days and think Southern thoughts.

If you can find Milo’s tea in your area, get that. That is my baseline to judge all other sweet tea. If you can’t find it, you are going to have to make it. But it’s ok, I’m here to help! For me, the secret to a good sweet tea is the simple syrup. You must make a syrup or you don’t get the same mouth feel. The syrup makes the tea just a whisper thicker, and if you get the good ice (you know, like the kind from Sonic’s), you end up with a kinda tea slushy which is heavenly, IMHO.

Sweet nectar of the god's.

Sweet nectar of the god’s.

A basic simple syrup recipe is equal parts water and sugar, heated until dissolved. You add that syrup to your ice tea and you’ve got a pretty good start of a decent sweet tea. However, if you wanna church it up a whisper, add some fruit to your syrup. Since its summer here in beautiful Northern California, we have all the fruits right now (literally and figuratively), pretty much all of my sweet tea is a fruit sweet tea. This week I’ve done peach, blackberry and nectarines. We have wild blackberries growing here right now, so that is why I am doing blackberry for this blog.

Blackberry (0r Fruit) Sweet Tea

Fruit Simple Syrup

  • 4 cups fruit
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar

Tea

  • 8-10 cups of water
  • tea bags  (I prefer cold brew bags)

In a saucepan, add fruit, water and sugar. Bring to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 15 times. Mash up for fruit with a potato masher and simmer for 10 more minutes. Let cool. Run this mixture through a mesh strainer. Discard the solids.

From berry to sauce in just a few short hours.

From berry to sauce in just a few short hours.

Since I don’t have air-conditioning in my house, and I think sun tea is a bad idea, I use cold brew tea bags. I think it tastes the same, especially if you are adding fruit syrup to the mix. It makes making tea easy. I simply add my water to my container, add my tea bags, and stick it in the refrigerator until cool. Then I add my fruit syrup, mix well, and serve over ice.

My favorite tea receptacle.

My favorite tea receptacle.

If I close my eyes and turn my smoker on when I drink this, it almost feels like I am in the South! Mess around with this recipe – some people (who aren’t used to sweet tea), find this too sweet, some people (who are used to it), find it not sweet enough. You’ll find your happy place pretty easily. Add some mint or fruit when you serve it, to up the ‘wow’ factor. Enjoy!

Taaa daaaa! Easy fruit sweet tea!

Taaa daaaa! Easy fruit sweet tea!

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Wordless Wednesday: Baby Duke Mayo 

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Tuscan Ravioli Salad

Recently my Mom was laid up for a few weeks. It was hard on her because she is incredibly active here on the ranch. There really wasn’t much I could do to help her with Dr. ordered rest, but I could make her comfort food. There was a lot of tomato soup, grilled cheese, broccoli bacon salad and this little gem of a recipe. There are about a million versions of this floating around the internet, this one happens to be our favorite. I think next time I might switch it up a little and add some sweet purple onion. It’s always a crowd pleaser so think about making it for your next pot luck.

Yum.

Yum.

Tuscan Ravioli Salad

1 lb. cheese ravioli
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. good balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
Dash of red pepper flakes
salt
ground black pepper
1 cup cooked bacon or pancetta, crumbled
1 cup baby spinach
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

I like this salad because it has lovely colors. Makes me happy.

I like this salad because it has lovely colors. Makes me happy.

 

Cook ravioli according to package directions. Drain and transfer to large serving bowl.
Meanwhile, mix olive oil, vinegar, honey and season with salt and peppers to taste.
In the large serving bowl add bacon, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan and dressing, toss until well combined.

I had to add a picture of bacon. Had to.

I had to add a picture of bacon. Had to.

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Wordless Wednesday: Wall Fire 

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The Saga of Sam Brown’s Wedding Table

When I was a very little girl, I used to ride my horse over to my grandfather’s ranch from our house. At that point our families ranches reached from one end of Indian Valley to the other. It was still a big deal to be allowed to ride alone that far, at least it felt like it to little me. Little did I know I was carefully watched the whole time by my Parents and Grandfather.

Pre-ride over to my Grandpa's ranch. Notice I didn't use stirrups. I didn't like them.

Pre-ride over to my Grandpa’s ranch. Notice I didn’t use stirrups. I didn’t like them.

I was my Grandfather’s favorite grandchild, and he had many. He made sure I knew it. He purchased my first 4-H pig. That was remarkable because he was not known for going out of his way, in this case to a fair, for his grandchildren. He gave me my first bottle calf that ended up being a reserve grand champion. He always kept candy hidden in his unused dishwasher for when I would come over and secretly sneak it to me. He threw a fit when I got my horse Dusty D, said it was too much horse for me. He was right, of course, but I couldn’t be stopped.

So it was a treat when I was allowed to make the mile trek through the valley, I had to open and close big gates, and jump ditches on my trusty steed, all alone. When I would arrive at my Grandpa’s house he would make a huge deal of it! He would always act like I had just completed a huge day’s work. It would make me pleased as punch to have him be proud and make a big deal over me. When I got off my horse, and put him in the horse pasture, Grandpa would have a big slice of cold watermelon with salt on it waiting for me. We would sit on the porch and visit for a while, waiting for my Dad to come get me. During these visits he would tall me stories about the family.

My Great Uncle Sam, my Great Aunt Ella, my great grandpa (who built the table) Sam, and my Grandpa Fletcher.

My Great Uncle Sam, my Great Aunt Ella, my great grandpa (who built the table) Sam, and my Grandpa Fletcher. Behind them is the big house.

He would talk about his Dad, his Mom, the ranch. These are very cherished memories to me. I felt very connected to people who died years before I was even a thought. One story in particular was my favorite. Probably because there was a gift attached to it. One day he asked me to come on in the big house and look at this table. He told me it was a special table because his Daddy made it long ago, by hand! His Daddy, Sam F. Brown, was born in 1883, right after his parents moved from Tennessee (when I asked my Dad about his grandfather now, he said he talked funny, so I am assuming he had some sort of Southern Drawl left from his parents. This tickles me to no end. Pretty much all I want in life is a southern accent. He also said the Great Grandpa was fond of saying “if you can’t make it, you can’t have it”).

The porch where my Grandpa and I would sit and eat melon. Right inside and to the left was where my table lived.

The porch where my Grandpa and I would sit and eat melon. Right inside and to the left was where my table lived.

My Grandpa showed me this table, it was right against the front door, covered with tools of our trade, buckets, cattle medicine paraphernalia, jackets, etc. He told me that one day this table would be at my wedding, it would be mine. I think he already knew at this point I was going to be the only child and the one that was to be heir to the bulk his estate someday. After my Grandpa died when I was 12, we moved into the big house. The table was left where it was, safe.

We moved out of that home when I was around 20, but that is for another blog. We left some furniture there mainly because at the time we had a travel trailer, then a mini home with no room for a large table. During my mid to late 20’s, I had a falling out with my Dad, and got an off the ranch job. According my to research almost everyone, for generations, have done this, even my Dad! During this time my wedding table was lent out without my knowledge or permission. Since I made it a point not to go into the old home except once in all those years, I didn’t notice until this summer, that my table was gone! The horror!

I immediately asked who had it. I felt relief when I learned a neighbor that watched me grow up had it, mere miles from our ranch! In fact, I can see their house from ours! They borrowed it for their daughter’s birthday party. I wrote a letter explaining I wanted my table back. They responded that as soon as they saw the document that granted me power of attorney over the ranch trust, they would “gladly comply”. The document was sent that day, and I was ecstatic that my table would soon be mine again, as I now have my own home and a place for it! I’m not quite ready for it to be at my wedding, lol. 

If you let your half naked kid ride someone like a horse, you probably trust them with your kid's wedding table.

If you let your half naked kid ride someone like a horse, you probably trust them with your kid’s wedding table.

Family history and heirlooms are incredibly important to me. I live in my Great Aunt’s old home. My coffee table was made by my Great Grandfather. My cast iron pans are from my Grandpa. I traveled back to Tennessee to see the plantation where we came from. I work and live on the same ranches as my ancestors, I’ve spent days and days researching them. This is something I will fight for, because it’s my history.

My Great Grandpa Sam, Great Great Aunt Brydie and Great, Great Uncle Albert, 1892.

My Great Grandpa Sam, Great Great Aunt Brydie and Great, Great Uncle Albert, 1892.


Sadly, despite a polite letter asking for it back, and subsequent daily check in’s, my table is still being held hostage. I think we are on day 10 or 11. I’m heartbroken over this. The worst thing about it is I don’t know why, they are completely ignoring me. I didn’t even get a wave when I drove by them on the road, and everyone in Indian Valley waves when you drive by, it’s good manners!

Here is the thing, instead of being heartbroken and wallowing, I am being proactive. I am going to do my best to get it back or at least find out what happened to it. The people who have it, were considered family at one point, I’m sure that’s why my Dad felt like it was ok to let them borrow my table. They are friends with me on social media. They drive by our ranch everyday. In fact I’m even a partial owner of their ranch. So this makes no sense at all. Even, baby Oprah forbid, if I don’t get my table back, I’m leaving a digital diary for my future ancestors. They will know I tried. Hard.

Hopefully this is just a big misunderstand or miscommunication and my next blog will be me showing off my wedding table! Stay tuned!

 

On a related note.

 

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Wordless Wednesday: Working Hard or Hardly Working? 

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Wordless Wednesday: The Storm

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Wordless Wednesday: Duke 

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Wordless Wednesday: Pasture 

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