Tuesday, November 27, 2007

She's Back!

My cold has finally passed and I'm slowly beginning to feel myself again. I swear, the older I get, the more difficult it is to get over these things!

Anyway, I've been sorely neglecting my gardening chores due to this virus and today, I finally got out to do a few quick things before the bitter cold sets in later this week. I usually have my barrel planters decorated for the winter long before this, but I just got around to it today. Good thing, too, as the temperatures are forecast to drop into the 20's and I don't think I'd be able to get anything stuck into the frozen soil. Soooo, off I went into the woods to cut a bunch of spruce, cedar and juniper boughs to stick into the barrels. I also pruned the red twig dogwood and gold leaf cypress to add a bit of color.

This is the wreath I purchased last January for 75% off. I do dearly love a bargain!

The basket of light on the front porch greets any visitors.

The window box on the fence greets visitors , as well.

The snowman is actually a bird feeder.

It wouldn't be Christmas without Mom's ceramic tree!

The little, white one on the counter was made by Mom , as well.

This hawk was our Thanksgiving day visitor.

And so ends another very busy day. The sunset shining through the glass doors caste such a beautiful, warm glow throughout the living room and kitchen.

Sluggo has nestled himself into the recliner with me and dares for the snow to begin. Hah! He doesn't have to get out and shovel the deck!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fun Quizzes

You Belong in 1951

You're fun loving, romantic, and more than a little innocent. See you at the drive in!

Zoey, at Perennial Passion had a cute quiz on her blog this morning. As you can see from above, I am stuck way back in time! LOL

Late yesterday afternoon, H looked out the glass doors and said, "There's a whole flock of birds at the feeder and I don't know what they are". I looked out as well, and darned if knew what they were either. So, I got out the trusty camera and shot a few pics so I could go back to my bird book and identify them.

Turns out they were Evening Grosbeaks! They had beautiful plumage in vibrant colors of gold, black and white. Unfortunately, I had to take the photos through the glass and the light was waning, so I apologize for the poor quality. What a thrill it was to have these feathered friends at our feeder, even though they just ate and left without so much as a "fare thee well"! I hope they come back.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Winter Garden

It's now day 4 of the nasty cold and here I sit with a cup of chicken soup and a box of tissues for my ever running nose. Since venturing outside in the cold and wind is absolutely out of the question today, I've decided to blog about my winter garden.

Generally, about the end of October, I begin bringing in any plants I want to over winter. I'm a pretty frugal person and I try to save as much for next year as possible. In the spring, I'll take cuttings from the plants around March or April and begin getting them ready to go outside in June.

Our mechanical room downstairs is unheated with the exception of the hot water heater and it does have a small window for sunlight, but I supplement the light with a fluorescent shop light and in the coldest days of winter, I plug in an oil heater. About once a week, I'll check on things for bugs or if they need water, but other than that, they are pretty much on their own and if they don't make it over the winter, then so be it.

The only way I've been able to over winter the rosemary has been to keep it in a very cool room and keep it just on the dry side, but not dried out completely

The geraniums and ivy in the hanging baskets will look pretty ragged by late winter, but it's amazing how quickly they recuperate with a bit of fresh soil and Miracle Gro

The banana my son sent me three years ago is almost too big for the winter garden this year, but we'll see how he fares. I'll just have to make sure the temps in the room don't drop below 50 degrees.

I dug the dahlia bulbs earlier in the week and they will also overwinter in the winter garden. I usually pot them up in April as they sprout fairly quickly.

Outside this morning, I found one lone blossom on the William Baffin Rose! Talk about one last "Hurrah"

The Joe Pye Weed which was the beautiful, tall centerpiece of the garden is now toast after a few hard freezes. He will be one of the last to emerge from the long winter sleep next spring.

Every year, about this time, I take a picture of the arborvitae to measure how big it's gotten. When I first planted it 4 years ago, it only reached up to three of the clapboards of the house. This year, I counted 17 clapboards. It doesn't seem to be growing terribly fast, but that's a good thing since it's planted close to the house and is blocking the view of the trash cans .

We celebrated H's Italian heritage a few days ago with the Italian Sausage, and this week, I celebrate my German heritage with Pork Schnitzl, cole slaw and steamed veggies. Yum!

I finally finished my North Seas Shawl and am in the process of blocking it here. The pattern will show beautifully when it's all blocked. It was a lot of work, but I learned a few new patterns and had to concentrate on what I was doing. All things good for the old brain. Gotta keep those synapses firing!

The turkey is defrosting in the fridge and I need to get going on other preparations, but not today. I'm still not feeling all that perky!

Hope everyone has a wonderful, warm Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Under the Weather

Here I sit. It's a really crappy day outside; rain, wind, just generally yucky and I feel about how the weather looks. I awoke this morning with a sore throat, headache and general malaise, so I plan on doing as little as possible. Right.

So far, I have put a chicken soup on the stove to simmer, cleaned out the bathroom sink drain, cleaned the litter boxes, almost finished the shawl I've been knitting and had a bit of play time with the kitties. Now, I'm really pooped.

So, I fixed myself a hot cup of tea and decided to sit here and blog about what? Can't think of a thing; I guess my Muse must be sick too, so I'll just post a few photos I've been taking in the last week.

Last Friday, H and I hiked up Brown Mountain in Acadia. The bridges and waterfalls are just spectacular.

Even the man made waterfalls were pretty

The Brown Mountain route on the park's carriage roads has three beautiful bridges. This one was built in 1925.

The detail and craftsmanship on these curved bridges is amazing.The pine needles caught my eye on this part of the bridge.

I wish I could have caught the beauty of this waterfall, however, pictures never seem to do them justice.

After a nice 4 mile hike, we headed for home to an aromatic feast of Italian sausage and onions in Mama's Homemade Marina Sauce. Yum!

First, I cut the sausage into coins and sauteed them in a bit of olive oil with sliced onion and garlic.

Next, I added some marinara sauce that I had made last month and frozen, plopped the whole thing on the wood stove to simmer.......

And voila! As Rachel Ray often says "How easy is that"?

Another fine dining experience at Giddy's!

This is my old standby recipe for marinara sauce:

Mama's Marinara

¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 large onion, diced

1 large carrot, peeled and grated

5 or 6 garlic cloves

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

3 bay leaves

½ Cup chopped fresh Italian Parsley

1 TBSP dried basil or ½ Cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 TBSP dried oregano or ½ Cup fresh

½ Cup brewed coffee

1 Cup dry red wine (Approximate measure only. Look away and keep pouring if you like!)

1 can chicken or vegetable broth

½ tsp red pepper flakes (add more if you like it spicier)

salt & pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, sautee onions and carrot in olive oil til glassy, but not brown. Add garlic and sautee for a couple more minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, turn heat to low and simmer for about 2-3 hours. Marinara will be very thick and chunky at this point. If you like a smoother sauce, blend with an immersion blender or chop in blender (take out the bay leaves first). If you like the sauce thinner, add more chicken or veggie broth. This recipe doubles easily.

Be sure you save plenty of the red wine for the chef!

This makes plenty of sauce and it freezes beautifully. Precook and freeze your meatballs and you’ve got supper on the stove in no time flat!


Thursday, November 08, 2007

What's for Suppah?

This time of year finds me settling into comfort; a crackling fire in the wood stove, savory soup bubbling in a heavy pot on the stove, soft, cuddly yarn for knitting, purring kitties and the aromas of something wonderful baking in the oven. Does life get any better?

Today was one of those days. I awoke with the need to bake something that would fill every crevice of the house with lingering, spicy aromas. After a brief internet search for a recipe, I decided on Pumpkin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies. Can we say "YUM"?

The recipe called for the addition of raisins, but hey, I was in a chocolate mood, so I substituted chocolate chips - great choice, I might add.

The results of the recipe were grand! Not only did the house smell WONDERFUL!, but the recipe itself was easy. I doubled the recipe, making enough to take in to the ladies at work, some to a next door neighbor and froze several batches more for a later date.

The recipe:

Oatmeal Pumpkin Pecan Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter — softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin (from can)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
1 cup raisins ( I used chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease baking sheets.
Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl.
Beat butter, brown sugar and sugar in large mixer bowl until light and
fluffy. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract. Mix well.
Add flour mixture. Mix well.
Stir in nuts and raisins.
Drop large tablespoons of dough onto greased baking sheet. Spread into
circle or oval. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until cookies are firm and lightly browned.
Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool
Makes about 32 cookies

While the cookies were baking, I turned my attention to the beautiful bunch of fresh kale H brought home from the grocery yesterday.

H spent 21 years in the Air Force as a Meteorologist and our favorite assignment was three years on the island of Terceira in the Azores, an island archipelago about 1000 miles off the coast of Portugal. We had lovely Portuguese neighbors who farmed the land and often invited us for dinner.

One of our favorites was a savory soup called Caldo Verde, or roughly translated "hot green". This lovely soup consists of onions, garlic, chopped fresh kale, potatoes, chicken broth and Linguica, a spicy smoked sausage.

This delightful suppah is bubbling away on the stove as I blog.

Oh my, but it's gonna be a lovely evening!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Oh, How the Winds Did Howl!

Last night gave us our first taste of what is yet to come. The first nor'easter of the season hit the coast with frightening ferocity. The house was buffeted with gusts up to 70 miles per hour and how she did creak and groan.

Early in the day, the weather was rainy and windy, so we stoked the wood stove and hunkered down for the long haul. I had the "cookies", so I spent much of the day in the kitchen baking 3 loaves of Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal bread and a cooking down a huge batch of my annual apple butter.
I started another knitting project since I had finally finished H's long awaited Aran sweater.

The cats spent the day watching the birds flit to and from the feeder, but they eventually tired of that sport and pooped out for the remainder of the day.

Sluggo loves laying on his back in my reading chair

Spike had taken over my recliner, so I was relegated to the love seat.

By 1:30 a.m., H and I were both awakened by the howling wind and rain pelting viciously against the window panes, our thoughts wandering to the nearby trees and praying they were holding on to their precarious ledges with all their might. The generator was going full blast, which meant the power was out (there's a surprise). It was a long night. There are some really strange infomercials on TV in the middle of the night, but we won't go there. We read our latest novels from the library, trying to distract our minds from the occasional really good blast of wind hitting the house, while waiting for the local news to come on TV so we could assess what damage there might have been in the region. Daylight could not come soon enough.

Upon first pass of the driveway after the long awaited first glimmer of dawn, we only noticed one dead spruce down. Gratefully, everything seems to be in order

In addition to everything else, we had the time change to deal with. It is now 8 a.m. and I'm ready to take my first nap of the day. It's gonna be a looonnnnnggggggg day.