Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pedrick's Garden and Falls Park finished

It’s wonderful to see the last portion of Falls Park finished! The southwest portion now includes Pedrick's Garden and the Carolina Foothills Garden Club Sanctuary, a wild(er) section of woods along the Vardry Creek ravine. The more formal Pedrick's Garden is named for Pedrick Lowrey, one of the principal fundraisers for Falls Park, and is located behind the shops on Augusta Street in the West End. Connected to the Sanctuary and Furman Way by a new bridge, the Garden is a series of raised beds designed to resemble sunflowers, including a fountain that looks like the seed head.

The three-acre sanctuary is named for the club that was instrumental in bringing the possibility of Falls Park to the attention of civic leaders. Including a small waterfall, rock staircases built into the hillside and a spring house used by Furman University botany students to grow moss and ferns, the entire acreage was once owned by Furman University. The Furman Arboretum was the first in the state, starting out with 266 trees and rock-lined steps and trails throughout built by the Works Progress Administration.

We descended to Vardry Creek from Furman Way, hauling the stroller down a series of stairs and maneuvering it across the uneven dirt path. We don’t mind off-roading with the stroller as it is light enough to carry for short distances; however the trails are not stroller-friendly and I recommend sticking to Furman Way and taking the bridge at the giant beech tree across the creek to those looking for an easier stroll.

The Sanctuary can be accessed from Falls Park by following the walkway behind the stage. A small bridge crosses Vardry Creek, named for Vardry McBee who is considered a father of Greenville and at one point owned much of the land that is now downtown Greenville.

When Furman moved to its current-day location after WWII, they took some of the plants from the Arboretum with it, and when the side closest to the shops was filled in for a parking lot, creating a steep slope, the Arboretum was all but forgotten.

In clearing the thicket for what was to be the Sanctuary workers found a stone bench and an arch near University Street that are now accessible from the trail. Next to the small waterfall is the springhouse which is closed to visitors but is surrounded by a wall with moss and ferns already growing on it. A dozen beech trees are clearly visible along the ravine, their autumn foliage carpeting the understory.

With cooler temperatures and rain in the forecast the next few days, we’ll be giving thanks for the company of grandparents in from Michigan indoors – which makes me all the more grateful for a few more beautiful fall days spent outdoors here in the Upstate. Wishing all my readers blessings of health and happiness on Thanksgiving!   

Monday, November 24, 2014

Upside-down apple pecan pie

Still don’t have a dessert picked out for your Thanksgiving dinner? How about this upside-down apple pecan pie?

The recipe appeared several weeks ago in the Greenville Journal in an article on “Blue Ribbon Baking From a Redneck Kitchen.” Now I’m not quite a redneck, despite having lived in the backwoods of Georgia for several years, but I found this to be the perfect fall recipe. More exciting than an apple pie, and not as sweet as a pecan pie, it has a show-off factor that will have people asking for the recipe. The pecans end up topping an apple pie, if you are lucky forming a dome in the shape of your pie dish. (And if you aren't so lucky, it's OK! It'll still taste just as great!!!) Here’s my take on the recipe …

Upside-down apple pecan pie

1 stick unsalted butter
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 pie crusts rolled out to 11in diameters
1 ½ cups pecan halves
1 ½ cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 cups sliced peeled apples

1. Preheat oven to 450˚
2. Use entire stick of butter to grease a deep-dish pie pan.
3. Arrange pecans in pan, round side down, starting from center and working your way out up along the sides of the dish. The nuts should cover the pan without any gaps.
4. Cover the pecans with the brown sugar and then press one pie crust firmly into the pan, then set aside.
5. Stir together the flour, granulated sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract and spices in a large bowl. Add the apples and coat with mixture, then pour into the pie crust. It is important to try and pack them in tightly so that the beautiful crust doesn’t collapse while cooking.
6. Place the second pie crust over the apples and crimp edges with the first. Using a fork make vents in the crust. Remember, this will be the bottom of the pie.
7. Bake 10 minutes at 450˚, then reduce heat to 350˚ and continue baking another 45 minutes, until browned. Remove from oven and let sit a few minutes, then very carefully flip onto serving dish. CAUTION: the juices may be extremely hot, I suggest doing the flipping in an easy to clean area and taking care not to splash any on yourself. Serve warm, possibly with some vanilla ice cream.

Bon appétit! Or should I say, bon appétit y’all?

Friday, November 21, 2014

We found Treasure! at the Upcountry History Museum

We finally got organized and scheduled a group program at the Upcountry History Museum that corresponds with their exhibit “Treasure!” Having opened in October we really should have visited earlier, as it was the perfect thrill for these pirate-loving, geocaching, treasure-hunting kids.

Our field trip included storytime and drawing in the classroom, with a discussion on what the children consider their treasures. A map was drawn – it turns out the treasure is buried under the x on an outer space beach island covered with shells and apple-palm trees with scary monkeys hanging from them, protected by shark infested waters. To reach the island you must take a fish rocket ship and follow the path marked…
The kids utilized treasure maps to explore the exhibit, using the clues given to find five different displays and learn about that aspect of treasure.  Subjects ranged from the history of treasures and treasure hunting, the technology employed in hunting treasure, as well as the people and personalities that hunt for treasure, ensuring the adults learned something as well. But since the program was aimed at kindergarteners, emphasis was placed on the interactive portions of the exhibit:  the gold rushes of the Old West, pirate treasure, underwater salvage and family heirlooms in the attic.

Once the official 90 minute lesson was over we were left to our own devices. Lauris settled in at his favorite part, the pirate ship. Complete with cannons for sinking enemy ships, I was informed we “need one at home.” One station on the ship provided the opportunity to smell things often associated with pirates (such as gunpowder), a tad more tame than the similar olfactory display Grossology at the neighboring Children’s Museum.

Mikus preferred the modern underwater submersible, mobile via remote control. Flexible to swim in all directions, the kids quickly found that the camera could be aimed outside the tank for a sort of reality thrill-cam.
My favorite station was panning for gold – it’s not every day that the museum encourages water play indoors!
Modern treasure hunting was represented by a geocaching station, complete with a pretend geocache; to really make the exhibit interactive they should have placed a puzzle cache at the location! (Although if you’re really in a mood to geocache for treasure, “The Hunt for Treasure” cache is very close by!)
The exhibit will be around until February 1st so you still have time to discover this treasure for yourself. Be sure to swing over to the related “Hidden History: The Upcountry’s Underwater Treasures” exhibit for tours of the colonial Fort Prince George and Attakulla Lodge, hidden beneath Lake Jocassee and Keowee. And if you would like more information on scheduling a group program for the exhibit, please visit the Upcountry History Museum’s website here

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

An independence day celebration

The Latvians of the Upstate (and a few from beyond) gathered to celebrate Latvian Independence Day at our house. Having looked forward to the evening for weeks, it passed much too quickly… We listened to the president of Latvia, Andris Bērziņš’s annual address to Latvians living outside of Latvia and sang the national anthem. Lāču rye bread, Riga sprats, medus kūka, pīrāgi, kliņģeris and a table full of delicious food was accompanied by catching up with one another and meeting the newcomers. The kids found hidden reserves of energy and kept the party going until late, and the parents found it hard to leave as they too were having fun. I’m thankful for everyone making the trip to celebrate with us on a weekday evening, and look forward to our next big event – Jāņi

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Greenville autumn

The first half of the month has been the last breath of air before getting sucked into the whirlpool that is the holiday season. Tomorrow we celebrate Latvia’s Independence Day, commemorating the declaration of independence of the Republic of Latvia from German and Russian occupation on November 18, 1918. Not long after we welcome the grandparents to Greenville for Thanksgiving, and soon after that the Christmas season will be in full swing. Not that the last months haven’t been busy, but we’ve had the chance to participate in quite a few activities and spend time with our friends before everyone scatters for the holidays.

my boys! ...wait a minute...

The local grocery store Bi-Lo has a program that one of the mom’s groups we hang out with had signed up for. The goal of “Our Food Detectives” is to teach kids the benefits of nutrition and how to make healthy food choices in the grocery aisle. Although I think they could work on their definition of “healthy food,” the boys enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at the various departments of the grocery store… about as much as the balloons and other goodies they got to take home with them! For more information on how to schedule a Bi-Lo Food Detectives tour visit their website here.

photo credit: Shannon K

We’ve been back to the Greenville Zoo a couple more times for Wild for Reading Wednesdays. On one afternoon we met a resident python, and on another a beautiful sun parakeet. The story read that day was “The Perfect Pet” by Samantha Bell and we were lucky enough to have the author/illustrator herself read it to us!

One rainy morning we drove out to an open play day at Bricks 4 Kidz, the new Lego-themed business in Greenville. The boys had fun building and playing, but most of what they can do there we can do at home, so I’m not sure if we’ll be back again. A structured class might be different, especially if we can get some friends to join us.

The library has hosted a slew of fun events, including a storytime with Greenville firefighters. A demonstration of how a firefighter puts on his/her gear helped the children understand that we don’t have to be scared of firefighters if we ever encounter one, and “stop, drop and roll” was explained and shown. The boys’ favorite portion of the program was clambering around on a real engine.

Fridays in October we returned to the library for their Storyventures program based on the Reggio Emilia learning philosophy. Lauris really opened up by the second half of the month, and both boys have been enthusiastically eating pomegranates since then. Over the four weeks they learned about all the senses, with the series culmination being an exploration of light and vision.

Someone celebrated a birthday. With a kliņģeris that traveled all the way from Chicago! (Thanks mom!)

And we had a visitor, Kristīne. Next time you have to stay a little longer!

It’s been fun, and I think we took full advantage of the warm and colorful autumn in the Upstate. But please, tell me where the time has gone! How have we already been to two Thanksgiving celebrations? Why do I feel a pressing need to attend to Christmas decorations? But most importantly, where did this two-and-a-half month old come from?!!?!

To all my Latvian readers, sveiks svētkos!

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