Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Hooplah

 This past weekend we had a small Halloween get-together complete with karaoke, pumpkin painting, snacks, and decorations. I think we had as much fun preparing for the party as we did with our friends- stringing lights and fake cobwebs, making up funny names for the snacks, finding the amazing goth tablecloth pictured above at Target. I recycled an old high school formal and dressed as a flapper, Joe was a Classified Document. Our guests included Mrs. Mia Wallace (a la Pulp Fiction), Tobias and Lindsay Funke (a la Arrested Development), Rosie the Riveter, and Minerva, as well as some non-costumed pals.
 The buffet included Waldo Witches Brew (white wine sangria punch), Mummies Toes (cheese puffs), Dried Bat Wings (preztel flats), Witches Fingers (dried peas), Troll Toenails (peppitas), and a Bloody Mary Bar, which included Vampire's Kiss (the Bloody Mary base), Frankenstein Fingers (celery sticks), Goblin's Eyeballs (olives), Cat's Tongue (peppers), and Owl's Brains (mini pickles).
 We also had Beware Brownies and Reese's Pieces. Some of the mini-pumpkins we painted are below. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Baby Brancusi

 The ways we project onto our children are fascinating.

Above is one of little man's latest drawings- he called it a face. The composition instantly reminded me of Constantin Brancusi's sculpture The Newborn from 1915 (below). Although my pre-schooler likely knows more about art history than most Americans, I am realistic enough to know that he doesn't *really* know early twentieth century art well enough to be referencing Brancusi. I should also say that I'm not comparing his drawings to the fully developed work of a modernist master. I am left wondering, what does my projection say about me?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Pumpkins from patch to porch.

Much like our apple excursion a few weeks ago resulted in apple cakes and snacks, our pumpkin patch outing took the veggies from farm to home. We visited Shaake's Pumpkin Patch near Lawrence on a chilly day a few weeks ago- perfect fall weather- overcast and cold enough to warrant hot apple cider. Each year we go here for our pumpkins and enjoy the hay rides, farm animals, and pumpkin picking. Sadly, we've had a warm front this week, so when we carved our pumpkins on Sunday it was humid and not even cool enough for sweatshirts. Today was even hot (in the 80s, more gross climate change weather), so I'm worried about the jack-o-lanterns rotting in the heat. Hopefully the weather forecast is correct, and tomorrow will be the last day of this icky weather. In any case, we had a great time out at the farm, and an even better time carving our jack-o-lanterns.
 This is an annual tradition for us. Joe and I have been carving pumpkins for over a decade, and we always get into the spirit- Halloween music, hot apple cider (with a shot of rum, of course), snacks, it's truly an event. This year I went for a witchy Hello Kitty, and he went for Jack Skellington. We collaborated on little man's with a traditional face that he helped design with the assistance of the Disney Junior pumpkin decorating game. In addition to the jack-o-lanterns that will grace our front porch for the next week, we also have roasted pumpkin seeds to snack on for the next few days. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Apples from tree to table

 A few weeks ago we spent a Sunday afternoon out in the country, apple picking with a group of friends at the Pome on the Range Orchard. The half peck of apples we gathered didn't seem like much while we were out among the trees, but back in our kitchen it seemed like a ton. In the week after we went apple picking we had apples for snacks and Apple-Walnut Cake with Caramel Glaze. This past weekend we made Apple Sauce, which was really easy and surprisingly tasty, and which made a great ingredient in the Apple Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting which graced our table this evening.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall foliage hiking

We wanted to go camping this weekend, but the weather wasn't with us. Saturday brought heavy thunderstorms and rain to the area, so we passed on our hopes of a fall camping excursion. Instead, on Sunday we took a day trip up to the beautiful Weston Bend State Park, about an hour from KC. The leaves are gorgeous this week, and the park has a system of hiking trails that can be connected for varying lengths. We went about three miles, not far, but far enough when climbing hills with a thirty pound kiddo on your back, or controlling a rambunctious dog. Interestingly, this is the same area through which Louis and Clark traveled over two hundred years ago. After hiking along the Missouri River bluffs and through the forest, we had a cookout in the lovely day use area, prolonging our time outdoors. I can't imagine a better way to spend a cool autumn afternoon.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Green tomatoes

 Last weekend brought the first frost to KC, and therefore a huge harvest of summer veggies from our garden.

The above photo shows the bounty of produce that we brought in from the yard on Saturday afternoon- green tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, Anaheim peppers, jalapeno peppers, green beans, chard, and basil. This led to a good deal of processing. We made juice with the melons, and froze three huge batches of pesto with the basil, as well as one batch of just basil. I can't wait for the bright flavor of summer basil to come out of the freezer in the depths of winter.

The one thing I wasn't sure what to do with were the green tomatoes. I have had Fried Green Tomatoes once, and enjoyed them, but wasn't really ready to jump into this myself. A few ripened in a box with shredded newspaper, but most were still green. So, we found a soup recipe that sounded interesting, and which we made tonight. The soup tasted like a BLT in a bowl- fresh and like the flavor of a warm summer day, an especially nice meal on a rainy fall day. It's worth seeking out green tomatoes at the farmers market just for this fantastic soup!

Green Tomato Soup:

Heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large, heavy stock pot.

Saute one and a half cups of scallions, two cloves of garlic, five ounces of ham (we used veggie "ham" slices) and one bay leaf for about five minutes.

Add two pounds of chopped green tomatoes (keep seeds and skins on), two cups of water, one cup of vegetable broth, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 25 minutes.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a side of fresh bread.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Fall leaves

My favorite season is here.

The weather has been beautiful this week, cool and crisp, chilly in the morning and evenings, just enough so to wear a light jacket. Yesterday's drive home was filled with beautiful fall scenery, and as I drove through my neighborhood in the early evening, I was struck by the color on all the beautiful old trees. Happy fall!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Hot sauce

 Of all the crops I grew in the garden this year, the jalapenos were the most prolific. We used them in various dishes throughout the late summer and into early fall. I made baked poppers for the first Sunday of NFL games. I gave some away to a friend. We've dried some for later. But, there are still a few pounds of peppers left. So, I decided to try to make my own hot sauce. I took about one pound of peppers (above) and blended them with about a teaspoon of freshly ground salt in the food processor, what you see below. When I processed the peppers they were so spicy that just breathing the air made my nose tingle and my eyes water a bit.
 The pepper blend sat in a mason jar on the counter for 24 hours. The next evening, I added about a cup of vinegar to the jar, and allowed this bright green mixture to sit for two days, letting the flavor deepen.
 The final step was to re-process the blend and put it through a sieve, thus making hot sauce- success! It should have a fridge life of about four months- spicing up our lives well into the cold winter months.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Nothing like a good book

Somewhere in the midst of my written comps, I hit a bit of a wall. It was a hot weekday afternoon in August, I had been writing and gathering sources for days straight, and felt completely blank and drained. After being in the house for many days with little human contact other than talking to my husband for a few minutes late in the evening and a brief daily skype with our son and my parents, I had to get out for something other than a two block walk-to-the-coffee-shop, or my daily spin around the block with the dog.

I went to the bookstore.

This seems a bit ironic, doesn't it? Drowning in a sea of books, reading, and writing, I decide to go to a bookstore. But, for a long time (years, actually) I wanted to stop into the adorable Rainy Day Books, a local, independent bookstore nestled among the idyllic shops in Fairway, KS. Somehow, in the middle of being tortured by books, the smell of a small bookshop, the discussion about recent reads with the friendly employees, and the hum of people doing normal things (read: not comps), was completely comforting.

After talking with one of the knowledgeable clerks, I selected Rules of Civility, which became my nightstand book for about two months. As much as I love to curl up in our over-sized armchair with a hot beverage and a good book on a cool day, I rarely have time for such indulgences, so instead it is an evening ritual in our house to retreat to bed with a cup of herbal tea and a few minutes of reading. This was a great book to end each day with- a Gatsby-esque story of youth and chance, wit and wealth, set against 1930s Manhattan. The book was filled with literary and artistic references, and provided the perfect escape to a stressful few weeks.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Fall tomato harvest

It's hard to believe that I can harvest tomatoes on October 2, but I'm not going to complain.

The garden is still producing really well- we had chard yesterday, carrots tonight, cantaloupe, Anaheim chilies, jalapenos, basil, and eggplant last week, and lots of tomatoes on salads. If the weather stays warm enough in the next few days, I should have a watermelon and some green beans before this weekends cold front. Then it'll be on to the cold crops that are currently seedlings- radishes, snow peas, India greens, kale, and bok choi.