Thursday, October 27, 2011

Apple Walnut Bread


This bread is so very good, and is versatile using tart or sweet apples.  I chose 2 tart green ones and one sweet-tart red one, and it turned out great.  So great in fact, it was one of the only times that the loaf was gone before James came home and got to try it.  Arthur was moaning in delight as he had it hot from the oven with his cup of tea.  Jamey didn't say much about it, he just wolfed down three slices in a row.  I was only going to have one slice, but couldn't say no to a second slice, and later on in the afternoon, (ahem) a third slice.  We gave the second loaf away and it's a good thing we did, else we might have spent the entire day eating nothing but apple bread.  Last night Arthur said he wanted me to make it again for today.  Probably not today, little fella, but soon for sure.



Apple Walnut Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

3 cups flour (I used half unbleached, half whole wheat)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unpacked brown sugar
2 tsp. apple pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil, or applesauce if cutting fat
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups apples,  peeled, cored, and chopped (I use 3 medium apples - sometimes I get more, sometimes less than this amount - don't worry, it always turns out)
1 cup walnuts

Directions

1) Combine the first 7 ingredients
2) Add the remaining ingredients and mix well (this batter is very, very thick when done)
3) Pour into two greased loaf pans
4) Bake at 350 for 40 - 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
5) Enjoy

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

apple harvest

On Sunday, I picked apples from our trees, and look at what I got!!


The red apples are called Liberty and this tree was given to us by Kendra, after our Wolf River tree died (thanks Kendra!).  These apples are sweet - tart, firm, and very juicy.  They are quickly becoming my favorite apple of all time.


I don't know what variety these green ones are.  We received this tree from Mary Ann, who wanted it removed from her property, so James dug it up and brought it home a few years ago.  It is a very tart apple, and seems good for baking, which I will test out today.  I plan on bringing some apples to Mary Ann tomorrow, as her fruit trees were limbed this spring and she didn't get any fruit.  I think she'll be tickled to receive a bucket of apples from her old tree.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Blue Man Group plus

Saturday was an event packed day for us!

Months ago, I was able to get some discount  tickets to see the Blue Man Group in Portland.  The boys love this group and still talk about seeing them live in Vegas two summers ago.  So, this was an opportunity we couldn't pass up.  And it was as fantastic as the first time we saw them.  The boys were absolutely buzzed from the show and I am so glad that we were able to go.   One thing that really tickled Jamey was a skit where they got the audience up to "Shake our Booty" along with the music, and they flashed about a bazillion synonyms for that booty on the screen.  He cracked up so hard at all the names and has been studiously trying to remember as many as possible.   Arthur really loved the giant balls they released into the audience to be tossed about, and would like one "just like that" at our home.

Things have a tendency to bunch up though, don't they?  Turns out that Saturday was also the annual Harvest Dinner (or lunch, as we call it), so we trooped off to that before the show and enjoyed a yummy meal and good company.

Lest that be all for the day, our  friend Georgia won free tickets to Fright Land which is located on a farm in La Center, and gave them to us.  When we looked at the possible days, we realized that Saturday evening after the Blue Man Show was our only option - so off we went to have a good fright.  They have a great outdoor movie screen that was playing when we showed up, and further along we found the Haunted Woods.  The woods had a path to follow through a field of Christmas trees and all along the path monsters lurked.  I was doing pretty well at first - James was in the front and most the monsters jumped out at him, while I was the caboose.  But then a creepy gauze wrapped guy started walking behind me, and randomly would disappear and jump out at me behind some tree or another.  Man, I screamed my fool head off.  It was definitely great!

So much fun in one day.  Arthur said that Saturdays should be called Partydays.  I agree.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

volunteering



This week, Jamey and Arthur found out that Fargher Lake Grange was going to hand out dictionaries to the third graders at Green Mountain School, and asked if they could join in this activity.  Of course we weren't about to turn down free help.  The boys jumped right in and did a great job.  I'd like to say that volunteering to help out the community was the main motivating factor, but in reality, it may have had something to do with getting out of a bit of school work.  :)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

patty pans galore

It never ceases to amaze me how one little squash plant (or, in my case, two) can produce so much produce!  We have patty pans coming out of our ears.  I have been using them as a substitute for zucchini in  recipes to much success.  We have had patty pan savory pancakes, soups and stews with patty pan added, patty pan sweet muffins, and just the other night I added it to my spaghetti sauce.  I have also been giving them away to friends and neighbors, and I still haven't kept up with the harvest.

Luckily, they make darn cute decorations while I try to figure out another way to incorporate them into our meals.  I have laid them out across the table, tucked them around the piano and TV tables, and right now they are snuggled up with a plethora of winter squash varieties on the coffee table.




We have had our first cold nights which have killed tomato and potato plants, but the squash plants in our raised bed are still hanging in there - and they have another half a dozen or so little patty pans growing!

Friday, October 21, 2011

a dahlia bloomed


Earlier this spring, my aunt Connie shared a bunch of dahlia tubers that she received from a neighbor. I have been anxiously waiting to see what color and style they would end up being. My first dahlia has bloomed and it is gorgeous. It is putting on a whole show of these wonderful large purplish-pink blooms.   My other plants have buds on them, but haven't bloomed yet.  With the cold weather coming, they may not open this year, which isn't surprising considering how late I planted them.  I guess I will just have to wait until next summer to see what they look like - unless I'm lucky and they somehow bloom before the frosts get them.  If they do, I'll share pics with you guys.

Now, I am enjoying the extended feel of summer and am ignoring the dark, grey, and rainy day.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

our soccer champ

Arthur is loving soccer.  I have been remiss on posting pictures of his games and wanted to get this documented before the season ends.

Here is my speed demon hamming it up for Mom.



He defended the goal for the first half of the game.  In this photo, Arthur just threw the ball out towards a team member not in the picture.



During the second half, he played center, and then forward.  I love how happy he looks in the photo below while playing!


I like how his hair is flipping upwards here.

The team won this game, and Arthur is already asking about Winter soccer.  I was hoping for a break between Fall Soccer and Spring Baseball (and year round gymnastics), but if he really wants to, we probably will end up looking into it.

This was my first time editing photos to protect the identity of others on my blog.  The pixel blurring was easy, but I am rather enjoying the masks and facial hair in the 3rd pic.  I am going to have to play around with this more - just for the fun of it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

meet Belle

Last Saturday when my mom was getting hay from a neighbor, she found a wee kitten among the bales. The neighbor told her that it had been abandoned by it's mother and would die. Mom couldn't let that happen and promptly adopted the sweet thing.

She has been bottle feeding it formula and taking it everywhere with her - even to work!  The boys have fallen in love with the little fluff - especially Jamey - and are delighted to see it show up at soccer games, and at our house.


Isn't it tiny?!  Belle sleeps a lot, but seems to be getting more active as the days go by.


Belle seems to love Jamey as much as he loves her and snuggles right up to him.  When I hold her - she meows a lot, but is usually quiet when Jamey has her.


Argh!!!  This much cuteness is really hard to take!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Oklahoma

Last Thursday the boys and I took a field trip to Portland and watched the musical Oklahoma put on by Portland Center Stage and it was fantastic!  The humor, music, songs and plot kept me enthralled all the way through.  It was longer than I expected and I worried that the boys would grow restless, but they did great.  They laughed a lot, enjoyed the dancing, and got mighty worried when the plot thickened.

During the intermission, we read some background that came in the booklet handed out at the play.  We learned that after the civil war, African Americans tired of Jim Crow laws took up the government's offer of free land in Oklahoma and started all black communities where they didn't have to worry about oppression and fair trade.  In fact, according to the article, there was a movement to make Oklahoma an all African American state.

The play took place in one of these historical towns and touched on the excitement of the territory being on the brink of statehood.  I enjoyed learning all of this, and it prompted some really good conversations between the boys and I.

It's so wonderful to go to a show excited about it, and have it end up being so much more than you hoped for!

Monday, October 17, 2011

the working dog

I have found out that Snow Bear is the type of dog that needs a job.  If you don't give him one, he'll make up his own.

He's super great at guarding the chickens, and since he was about 6 or 7 months old, we haven't lost a single chicken.  We have increased their free ranging time to about 5 days a week now and every one has been safely watched, and sometimes herded away from the wooded areas and back to the open field.

But, this job apparently isn't enough for our hard working dog.  Whenever we are outside working, he watches us closely, and then seems to try to do what we are doing - no joke!

It started when he was a puppy.  In the spring he watched as I gathered empty pots up to start up seedlings.  He started bringing me every empty pot he could find - which I was tickled with and praised him for.  Unfortunately, there was an unforeseen consequence.  Whenever I had potted plants out of the green house to put in the beds, he would find them and dump the plant out - and bring me the empty pot.  I had to learn to work very quickly and only bring out what I could do right away.  I also would swipe the portable bunny fences to guard my plants from him.

In the summer to keep the flowers blooming prettily, I would take scissors out and dead head the spent blooms.  To our amazement, James and I watched the dog start carefully biting off the flower heads and spitting them out on the ground.  He can't really tell between a fresh flower and dying one, but he is vigorous in his efforts.

Later this summer, we built a raised bed for Jamey who is enthusiastic about raising medicinal herbs in it.  Both he and Arthur have been weeding it diligently.  One day after watching the boys, Snow Bear climbed into the raised bed and started digging right next to Jamey.  Both boys were delighted with his "help" and petted him profusely for his work.  (I do see this to be problematic once spring comes and Jamey will only want certain plants dug up!).

And just yesterday, James and I harvested our potato crop.  We put the four varieties in different buckets, and I placed a bucket at the end of each row so I could remember what type of potatoes were which.  We got two varieties stored, but didn't finish the other two.  This morning when doing morning chores outside, I saw that Snow Bear brought up one of the buckets of potatoes, and it was standing upright on the lawn.  Sure, he spilled some on his way up from the garden, but I thought he did a mighty fine job.  When I headed down to collect the spilled potatoes, I found him carefully hauling the other bucket up.

He is a working dog, and very proud to be so.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

popovers



We love having popovers for breakfast.  They are surprisingly fast to make too.  We like using a spoon to make a hole in them and putting some jam inside.  Yummmy!

Preheat oven to 400 F

Ingredients:
2 c. flour
1 tsp salt
2 c. soymilk (or regular)
3 eggs (sometimes we use 4 and it turns out great)
butter

To make:
Mix everything but the butter up.
Put a dab of butter (maybe 1/8-1/4th a tsp) in each popover cup, and melt in oven
Pour mixture into the popover cups until 2/3 - 3/4 full
Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown

Serve hot with jam

Variation: For a savory popover, skip the jam and add 1/4 thyme and 1/4 sage to the batter.  Also good is Italian seasoning, or rosemary.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October's bargain

Yesterday the boys and I went to Walmart.  For many various reasons, we rarely shop here.  However, I had run out of flour sack towels and my neighbor told me I could save a bundle if I got them at Walmart instead of JoAnn, so I decided to go check it out.

After picking up the towels, which were indeed a much better price, we were meandering through the store and happened to hit a children's clearance section set right up in the middle of the aisle way.  I continued walking by without thinking much about it, until I saw a section that said $1.  This stopped me cold, and I started looking closer at what they had.  To my surprise they had a large selection and in both my boys sizes as well.  Jamey's closet in particular was looking bare and I let the boys start picking out what they liked.  I still am having a hard time believing that I was able to get brand new clothes at these prices!  

For a dollar each, I picked up 4 polo shirts, 2 tshirts, and 4 cotton shorts.
For two dollars each, I picked up 2 swim trunks and 1 baseball pants (in  larger sizes for next spring/summer usage)

Total cost: $16 before tax.  Can you believe it?!  I feel like doing a little happy dance just writing this!  :)

Here is a chunk of the receipt just so I know I'm not dreaming this:



And here is the loot I brought home: