Autumnal hodgepodge

October 09 042You knew we lived in the midst of a forest.  You knew that there are mostly evergreen trees in the forest up here.  But did you know that some evergreen trees lose bits and pieces of their needles/branches?  Here’s a snap of a nearby Cedar tree… each fall, all the cedar trees have sections that turn a rust color and eventually drop off – normally during the wind and rain storms that come in November.   There.  An autumnal bit of etcetera.

Hey, it’s great living in a forest!  You get to see lots of wildlife… like these very tame and laid back deer, lounging in our next door neighbor’s back yard a few days back.  Some days I think the deer are cute.  Some days I’d like to make them all into deer jerky.  lounging deer

This happy little photo is of the mommy deer and twins that have spent the entire summer going from home to home, devouring every edible flower, tree, and plant  in the vicinity.  They look so content, don’t they?

Last week, on one of our truly glorious autumn days, we took a drive with our neighbors Irv & Elaine over to Anacortes, WA.  They took us to the top of a large hill where Cap Sante Park is located.  We’d never been there – and on a nice day (like we had) the view is stunning.  Here is a photo of our good friends with Fidalgo Bay in the background.  October 09 006

Irv and Elaine are now back in Florida, where they live most of the year.  You may remember we went to see them last March and had a fantastic visit!   Today we woke to 32 degrees and saw that it’s in the 70’s in Florida.  I’m going to try not to think too hard about that.

Here are a couple of shots of our cat, Jinx.  He wanted to show off his Halloween “Beastie Bands” collar so I told him, “just turn your head the other way so we can see it, Jinx”.  And he did.   By the way, in my humble opinion, “Beastie Bands” are simply the nicest (but definitely NOT the most expensive) cat collars.  Jinx likes to change his neckwear as the seasons change 🙂  October 09 034

October 09 035

I absolutely love Autumn.  It means I can start making more homemade soups and stews, roasts in the oven, and baked goods.  So far, I’ve made a pot of chili and an apple crisp.  I’m thinking tonight might be a great night for my homemade potato soup.  Lots of evenings in the fall and winter, we’ll make our dinner on soup and bread.  I still am intimidated at the thought of making my own bread… not so much in the technique exactly, but in the time it takes.  Ok, I’ll admit it, the technique scares me a bit also.   At any rate, I love to buy (at Costco in a pack of six) the small sourdough baguettes that are not completely baked.  They need about 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven to finish them off to perfection.  This time of year I keep them in the freezer to go along with the soups and stews.

Here is a snap shot of an open-faced sandwich I made for lunch a few days ago.  I got the idea out of my favorite “Everyday Food” magazine – I think it was in an issue about 5 years ago.  October 09 001

They are cheese, apple, and bacon on a nice whole grain brown bread.  I cooked the bacon first, then assembled the sandwiches and baked them in the oven at 350 for approx 12-14 minutes.  Long enough for the bread to get sort of crispy and the cheese to melt.  I used extra sharp cheddar and golden delicious apples.  You could use any cheese that you like and even change the fruit to thinly sliced pears.  Yep, that would be soooo good too!

On the subject of food, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of The Pioneer Woman and her website, and all the great food she makes.  Well, she’s started another website, the Tasty Kitchen– described as: “Favorite Recipes from Real Kitchens Everywhere!”  – where anyone can submit recipes that are tried and true family favorites.  It’s a great website and if you enjoy cooking like I do, you may discover a great recipe or two there!

The final subject for todays “Autumnal hodgepodge” is painting. An eight-letter word that describes perseverance and determination.  We moved in to our new home (yes, it was actually new when we moved in) in 2003.  The builder, bless his heart, painted (with a spray gun I am sure) every wall and ceiling in this house the famous off-white color.  Five years ago we ventured into the world of color and painted the guest room a sort of ‘whole-grain-mustard’ gold.  Sounds horrible doesn’t it?  Well, it looks okay and goes well with the “African” theme we sort of have in there.  It took two coats of color to cover the off-white walls.  Fast forward to 2009.  Finally, hubby and I agree that we absolutely must update the walls in our “great room” – which encompasses the living room, dining room, and kitchen.  I kid you not, we made FIVE trips to Home Depot and Lowe’s before deciding upon the two colors.  The painting has been in process for much of this past week.  It is not yet done.  But here are a few shots of the prep and beginning of the debacle!

Taping in the kitchen

Taping in the kitchen

The big wall in living room area

The big wall in living room area

Let the painting and 'cutting in' begin~

Let the painting and 'cutting in' begin~

Obviously, I’ll post some “after” pictures once we are done.  Having the house in total chaos is a yucky feeling, but it was definitely a must.  All I’ll say is we are very happy with the outcome — so far!

This time, a photo post

Today, photos instead of a lot of words!  We are currently living in a winter wonderland here in the great Northwest… we have had record setting low temps, and now quite a bit of snow.  Before the snow flew, I snapped this first picture.  Yes, taken on December 11th.

I call it the "Christmas Rose".  Yes this was BLOOMING in my yard on December 11th!

I call it the "Christmas Rose". Yes this was BLOOMING in my yard on December 11th!

Then we had the renegade Geranium!  Yup, till this past week our climate had lived up to it’s reputation – MILD. 

A geranium dares to bloom in December!

A geranium dares to bloom in December!

We’ve had some furry friends visiting the bird feeder on a regular basis.

A brown squirrel and a larger gray squirrel, having a snack

A brown squirrel and a larger gray squirrel, having a snack

Some fine feathered friends visit each morning, begging for peanuts!

One of many Stellar Jays who love our peanuts

One of many Stellar Jays who love our peanuts

I’ve been doing a bit of holiday baking too.  I tried out my new silicone “bundt” cake pan for the first time the other day.  I love it!  Here’s what I made…

Orange-Cranberry cake

Orange-Cranberry cake

I’m particularly fond of Starbucks Orange-Cranberry scones, and while this is not quite the same, it sure was good!

Orange-cranberry cake with orange glaze

Orange-cranberry cake with orange glaze

Next I made one of hubby’s all time favorites… and folks, this turned out good enough to win a blue ribbon at your local fair!  It’s unfortunately all gone already….  Thank you Martha Stewart for the fool-proof recipe!

Peanut Brittle! And isn't that the cutest plate EVER?! (thanks to dear DIL!)

Peanut Brittle! And isn't that the cutest plate EVER?! (thanks to dear DIL!)

Now for a couple snowy shots.  Oh how I love the way the holly berries turn red, right on time, just before Christmas.

Christmas Holly

Christmas Holly

 The snow has been falling nearly all day today.  Here is a view of our back deck.

A beautiful snowy day in the Northwest

A beautiful snowy day in the Northwest

Since I took the above picture, we’ve received another several inches of snow.  I am so thankful there is no where I need to be today, except right here at home!  🙂

The fall baking bug

Yup, it’s that time of year again.  The time when the fall baking “bug” nibbles on me just a little bit.  I used to bake a lot a few years back when I had two kids at home who enjoyed desserts.  Nowadays I rarely bake anything – but when the rainy days of Autumn set in, I usually get the urge to put something delicious in my oven and wait for the aroma to fill my home.  Today it was the All-American Apple Pie!  I used a recipe from a new book I got (real cheap) online by Dorie Greenspan, “Baking from my home to yours”.  Believe it or not, there are dedicated bakers out there who have committed to baking up to four of her recipes a month until they have made them all!  Yep, you can find these dedicated bakers at Tuesdays With Dorie – a blog here on WordPress.  I was SO tempted to join in the fun!  I even bought the book (which is a requirement) but then my better sense took over.  I knew there was no way I would be able to make all the goodies… and after preparing them, just WHO would have to eat them?  So, I didn’t sign up to join the Tuesday Bakers.  But here are some pictures of today’s accomplishment — the All American Apple Pie.

Mixing the apple filling

Mixing the apple filling

 

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

 

Cooling on the counter ... YUM!

Cooling on the counter ... YUM!

Lookin’ pretty tasty, huh?  Personally, I can’t wait till I can dive in and give it a try 🙂  

One of my favorite Food Network stars is Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.  I am thrilled that she has new episodes starting this coming weekend 🙂  Believe it or not, there are a group of Ina Garten fans online also!  They have committed to making two of Ina’s recipes (from any of her cookbooks) every month and then showing the results in their blogs.  They’re called the Barefoot Bloggers!  Again, I was soooo tempted to sign up with their group as well.  I have all of her cookbooks and LOVE her food… but I just knew that keeping up with it would be difficult – so I fought off the temptation. 

Now it’s time to think up something nice for dinner… something that goes with Apple Pie!!!

This post is about food!

Well, not entirely, but it did get your attention didn’t it?? 🙂  I’m just starting to catch my breath after the whirlwind of activities the past few days!  On Saturday, we attended the college graduation of dear DIL at Western Washington University.  Summer graduation is normally not as big as the traditional spring one, but it was still pretty packed in the auditorium.  As luck would have it, the day was gorgeous and sunny.  Here’s a pic of the happy graduate and her proud husband!

 

 

After graduation, we all went out to lunch at Anthony’s – a fantastic fresh seafood restaurant.  The halibut and chips were ohhh so good!   Unfortunately we couldn’t stay as long as we would have liked, as we had an afternoon wedding to attend!  I took some photos at the wedding but they didn’t come out at all… I think it may be time for a new camera – one that can actually zoom in and still take a clear picture!   There’s something to be said for weddings, I think.  I mean, every time we go to one, I listen to the words of those wedding vows and silently make them my own -again.  It’s easy to forget what all we promised to, years ago… in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer… and all that.  Ok, I’m a softie – I love weddings!   The reception was a lot of fun too – great food, music, and lots of friends from dear hubby’s workplace.  We ended up staying much longer than we thought we would. 

The next day it rained.  Actually, it poured.  Evidendce: 

Puddles accumulating on the deck~

Puddles accumulating on the deck~

Mist through the trees

Mist through the trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the rain inspired me to cook up a batch of my home made veggie soup!  Since August is one of the best months for local produce, I had oodles of fresh veggies in the fridge, waiting to be turned into a delightful rainy-day treat!  I grabbed a little of this and a little of that – and voila~  SOUP!  I will admit it was REALLY tasty… and, it ended up being our dinner more than once, there was so much of it.  I think what made the soup so yummy may have been the addition of the CHEESE MUFFINS I made to go along with it!!!  While the soup was really good (and oh-so-healthy), the CHEESE MUFFINS were “to die for”!  Of course that is being said by a self proclaimed cheese freak (AKA-me!). 

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Mizsuzee's homemade veggie soup. The black thing is a ladle 🙂

CHEESE MUFFINS!  ooh-la-la

CHEESE MUFFINS! ooh-la-la

This was my first (but certainly NOT the last) time making the delectable CHEESE MUFFINS 🙂  I have to give credit where credit is due– I got this recipe from the “Pioneer Woman’s” website.  I love her blog, her photography, and her recipes.  Here’s the link if you would like to make some CHEESE MUFFINS of your very own! One thing that makes the recipe section of her website so neat is that she takes snapshots of every step of preparation.  She makes it all look so easy, and honestly, the CHEESE MUFFINS were super easy!  Ohhhhh, which one of her recipes shall I attempt next???? 

Cookies and other meanderings

Wow, what a string of great weather we’ve been having of late.  Seeing sunshine and BLUE skies has done me (and I’m sure a wealth of other westsiders) a world of good this week!  Spring is actually coming!  My roses are sprouting little leaves!  The daffodils are poking their green necks up – actually about six inches or so already.  DH and I spent some time outside today cleaning up the back decks and generally preparing for what is really on it’s way – Spring! 🙂  Yay!  Next thing you know, I will get the “bug” for spring cleaning, although it hasn’t hit quite yet.  I don’t go crazy with spring cleaning, but I do love the windows sparkling and I take down what curtains I have and wash them.  This year I might be a bit more thorough and get a bag or two going of stuff I no longer need and want to donate – OR – stuff that flat out belongs in the garbage.  I really *do* love to de-clutter.

Tomorrow is a work day for me and I got a phone call from the charge nurse this afternoon.  He informed me that tomorrow is the birthday of one of our co-workers, and asked if I could bring “something, shoot anything” to the potluck.  Ok, we live 15-20 minutes from the nearest grocery store, so my plan was to bring something that I already had here at home.  I considered the bag of Doritos which were left over from “game night” that was here at our house last night…. but thought that would be pretty lame.  So………  I made some cookies.  Coconut Macaroons to be exact.  Thought they would go good with the Chinese themed Dim sum we are apparently going to be having tomorrow.   I love making these cookies!  They are yummy and simple — two very good things! 

Coconut Macaroons I hope they’ll be a hit at the “party” tomorrow.  Because they are soooo good and soooo easy, I thought I’d share the recipe.  I cut it out of either “Taste of Home” magazine or “Country Woman”.  I used to LOVE those magazines, until Reiman publications of Wisconsin decided to sell out to the Readers Digest.  I mean, they are still probably nice magazines, but compared to what they used to be … well I’ll just say that I no longer subscribe.  Anyway, here’s the picture of the recipe.  It’s obviously well-used.  I doubled it to make enough to take to work.  cookie-recipe.jpg Remember to click on the picture to enlarge it. 

I’m also happy to announce that I have started stitching another project which is slated to be a Christmas gift for this coming year.  Unfortunately, I can’t show pics of this one because DDIL has requested a link to my blog – which I will be sharing with her as soon as she and #2 Son come over and see the finished wedding sampler.  Other projects that I start throughout the year will be displayed 🙂   Speaking of being crafty, a huge majority of gals I work with are seriously into knitting!  So far, that’s not my thing, although I am tempted to take a class and give it a try.  It honestly doesn’t look that hard…. maybe I’m dreaming?  Anyway, my Granny used to embroider, do needlepoint, and also ‘regular’ cross stitch, so I guess that’s how I got hooked on the needle and thread type crafts. 

DH and I went to our first garage sale of the year yesterday!!  It was a huge sale held indoors at a church.  I had a ball rooting through piles and piles of books and picked out 4 to bring home.  Ahhhhh… so many books, so little time!  They truly are my one serious weakness!  The “to read” pile can never be too large in my humble opinion.   More later!

Fall Baking

Pumpkin Currant CookiesWhat comes after “nesting”?  Baking, I guess.  We are in the middle of a nasty autumn wind/rain storm and I decided to risk it and make some cookies.  “Risk it” because living where we do, the wind often knocks over trees and power lines, and we end up in the dark for a time!  So far, so good.  The electricity went out just once so far… for about 30 seconds. 

I used to bake quite a lot, when the kids were still at home.  Cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, etc etc.  But in the past few years, baking has taken a back seat to general good cooking.  Neither hubby or I have a huge sweet tooth, although once in a while it hits me.  So today I tried to dream up something that would be sort of sweet, but also at least somewhat good for us.   I found this recipe on a blog I’ve been reading for years, Baking and Books.  It’s for “Pumpkin Currant Cookies” (please check out the recipe on the ‘Baking and Books’ website) and since I had all the ingredients, I dove right in.  Her recipe calls for olive oil, but I used organic canola oil instead.  I also added the chopped walnuts – they come from my dad’s back yard and are also totally organic 🙂  Throw in a bit of Trader Joe’s organic pumpkin, some organic whole wheat flour, and I have to say, these are delicious!  If you like really sweet desserts, then this is not for you.  If you like pumpkin and slightly sweet stuff, then you’ll love ’em!   

Now that the cookies are done, it’s time to pop in a pot roast with potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, and …. my English hubby’s favorite…….. parsnips.  He’ll love the smell as he walks in the door this evening 🙂