Friday, October 30, 2009

Fickle October Weather

My journal/writer's notebook is a continual work in progress. It is a keeper of my thoughts, new ideas to think about, recording of memorable events and even some sad times. I have written down hopes, dreams and even my To Do List. I usually have several journals going at a time. Recently I was rereading some pages and came across a poem I had written, rather appropriate for today. I borrowed the first line I sit by the window from a poem called Wind Song by Mimi Brodsky for inspiration. This is my poem...
I sit by the window
and watch the raindrops fall.
Across my window pane.

I sit by the window
and wish the rain would stop.
Grey skies
rumbles of thunder
flashes of light
move across the sky.

Rain, rain
pools and puddles
I think I'll finish my book
and enjoy my inside day.

How true this is for me since I am reading furiously to finish the book Driftless by David Rhodes with book group meeting tomorrow.
The following recipe I make every year to serve on November 1.
Tombstone Brownies
1 package brownie mix
1 6 oz. package chocolate chips
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup margarine or butter
1 package candy orange mini pumpkins
3/4 cup coconut tinted green
black and grey sprinkles (baking section-look little pebbles)
plastic grave markers that say RIP Over The hill (baking section @Joan Etc. or Michaels
  • Line a 13x9 baking pan with foil, extending foil beyond edges of the pan, grease foil
  • Prepare brownie according to direction, spread in pan and bake at 350 about 25 minutes
  • Cool pan on wire rack
  • Frost with prepared chocolate frosting or try this homemade frosting which is really yummy at end of this recipe
  • Starting at shorter end of pan space RIP markers three across and work way down pan making about 12-15 total rows
  • Sprinkle a little tinted green coconut in front of plastic marker
  • On top of coconut place a little pumpkin
  • Sprinkle grey/black sprinkles over whole pan
Fudge Frosting
  • In a medium saucepan combine butter or margarine with chocolate chips, sugar, milk and salt
  • Bring to a boil stirring constantly and simmer 3 minutes
  • Remove from heat and add powdered sugar and vanilla
  • Beat in saucepan till smooth may have to add a few TB of milk as needed
  • An added 3 TB. of Kahlua really heats up the flavor

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Showy Piece

Tonight the moon was a showy piece. Its half moon shape gleamed porcelain white against the deep blue sky. It certainly was a lovely night to take a walk around the neighborhood. The crisp cool air was invigorating and I enjoyed looking at all my neighbors' autumn decorations. This time of year is one of my favorite times. I have had fun decorating inside and out plus adding a bit of entertaining to the month. I am posting a picture I took over the weekend. Through the lens I was able to capture a lake view as well as Halloween decorations on the table. Perhaps some of these recipes will put you in a festive mood as you approach the bewitching night. Later in the week I will post Tombstone Brownies just in time for Day of The Dead, November 1.
Carrot Cake
this recipe can also be baked as cupcakes
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 TB. cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple drained
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • Beat all ingredients till mixed well
  • Pour into a greased 9 x9 pan. I find a glass one works the best
  • Bake 350 for 30 minutes-check: make sure toothpick comes clean from the center
  • 3-4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 3 oz. cream cheese softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • start out with 1/4 cup of milk beat and keep adding milk till right consistency for spreading
  • use black sprinkles on top of white cream cheese frosting
Warning: Guard this dessert carefully since fairies have been known to leave their footprints behind in the frosting. It is one of their favorites!
Pecan Appetizer
  • 1 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1 1/2 cup grated swiss cheese
  • 1/3 cup Miracle Whip
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 to 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • Beat all ingredients
  • Grease a glass pie pan with PAM
  • Spread mixture in glass pan
  • Sprinkle parsley flakes on top
  • Add chopped pecans
  • Bake uncovered at 350 about 15 minutes
  • Stir after 8 minutes
Serve warm with assorted crackers

Sombrero Spread
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 TB. chili powder
  • 1/2 can vegetarian refried beans
  • 1 jar chunky salsa mild or medium
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 lb. hamburger cooked and drained
  • Brown meat with onion and drain
  • In a medium saucepan on low heat add all ingredients and cook till smooth and warm for 10 minutes (uncovered)
Serve in a bowl with chips

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gone Missing...The Sun

Do you ever feel like we are living in Seattle or Portland with these relentless days of clouds and no sun? I decided to find a picture of one of my favorite sunny places and post it as another day brightener for you to enjoy.
Awhile back I wrote a blog:Why Fairies Do Not Like Rainy Days. One of the readers brought to my attention that just because fairies do not like to get wet doesn't mean they can't enjoy some indoor time being productive. Perhaps they use their skills to mend socks to take to the sock bank or create leg warmers, arm warmers, headbands and other sock accessories. This way any coins they earn from the sock bank can be saved up so they can go to Bureau of Missing Socks. It is here that anyone can buy, trade and sell on the sock exchange. If you go to click on one of the drawers that says: Rare and Strange Socks. Also just for fun click on drawer Dr Coconuts. You can listen to new hit single I Lost My Sock.
I had expected that the trip back to Northwoods would be disappointing in terms of lack of color and leaves on the trees. But the Tamaracks were at their showy best in vibrant golden yellows. Many trees are trying their best to hold on to their colored leaves despite the rain and wind. The road though caked in mud, provided some leaf fossil surprises. I am posting some of my recent snapshots.
For any readers out there who like to write children's books I came across two interesting websites filled with helpful information.
The Purple Crayon website
Write4Kids website
This past weekend I made chili and homemade caramel sauce with apples. The chili recipe can be found on one of my earlier blogs.
Caramel Sauce
Bring to a simmer and boil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
Whisk in and cool
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Stir in
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Bring sugar, water, lemon juice and salt to a simmer in saucepan.
  • When bubbles form, cover and boil 3 minutes. Uncover and boil until mixture turns the color of iced tea, 5-6 minutes
  • Whisk in cream, brown sugar, cinnamon, reduce heat to low simmer 2 minutes
  • Cool to room temperature
  • Serve with apple chunks that are more on the tart side such as Haralson
adapted from Cuisine at Home magazine October 2005

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Needed Support System

I wrote a blog awhile back Determination and Hard Work: Pay-Off (September 16th) on the work ethic of the sock fairies. I noted that these fairies are constantly busy and can be mischievous snatching socks from laundry baskets, clotheslines, inside boots, under the covers and many other numerous places. They are desperate to collect socks hurrying off to the Sock Bank for their big pay-off. Now, I know many readers out there are still hanging on to those lone socks hoping the other sock will magically appear. I figured that help must be out there somewhere so I have been doing online research. I am happy to report some success. There is an organization solely devoted to solving the question what happens to missing single socks. It is called Bureau of Missing Socks. This bureau explores all aspects of the missing sock phenomena and the best part they offer a support system for those sock deprived individuals who just have to have their socks match. Check out the photo I posted with their website for more information. My research also bought me to a store called Sock Dreams in Portland, Oregon. After reading their list of sock accessories, I suspect some of these mischievous fairies are one of their main suppliers!
Another gray rainy day in the cities motivated me to find a photo of something fun to brighten up our day. This scarecrow sits in my backyard and always has a smile on his face. Guess he doesn't mind all the rain!!
Dinner tonight was so easy to prepare. I know many of you are looking for something quick so try this and let me know what you think.
Butternut Squash Ravioli
  • 1 bag of frozen butter squash ravioli (can be purchased from Buon Giornio Market-two locations: Downtown St. Paul corner of University and Misssisssippi St. and Sibley Memorial Highway Lilydale next I Nonni Restaurant
  • 2 TB. butter
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 5 TB. heavy cream
  • 4 TB. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. sage
  • 1 TB. chopped parsley flakes
  • Saute shallots in butter for 1 minute (medium heat)
  • Stir in cream and cook for 2 more minutes adding sage and parsley
  • Turn heat to low add cheese and stir till melts
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Set aside to cool
  • Boil ravioli according to directions on package
  • Drain and drizzle sauce over the ravioli to serve

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Autumn Reflections

Several years ago one of my co-workers gave me a beautiful poetry book called Caroline Kennedy A Family of Poems My Favorite Poetry for Children. The book is such a treasure that over the years I have given copies to friends and family members. Caroline is quite a gifted writer who has created this anthology of more than 100 poems cherished by her own family over the years. She has divided the book into different sections and written an introduction for each part. I was intrigued by the section: Seasons where she included an original poem by her mother Jacqueline Bouvier. Caroline wrote that she always liked her mother's poem Thoughts because it captures the feeling of sitting in school daydreaming about a life of adventure. I thought I'd share the poem since it seems rather fitting for this time of the year.
I love the Autumn
And yet I cannot say
All the thoughts and things
That make me feel this way.

I love walking on the angry shore,
To watch the angry sea;
Where summer people were before,
But now there's only me.

I love wood fires at night
That have a ruddy glow.
I stare at the flames
And think of long ago.

I love the feeling down inside me
That says to run away
To come and be a gypsy
And laugh the gypsy way.

The tangy taste of apples,
The snowy mist at morn,
The wanderlust inside you
When you hear the huntsman's horn.

Nostalgia-that's the Autumn,
Dreaming through September
Just a million lovely things
I will always remember.
Jacqueline Bouvier

I have posted a picture called Autumn Reflections taken from the boat while out on Baby Lake.
Today I was out shopping at an antique store and the owner had the best crispy peanut butter cookies to sample for customers and she won me's a keeper! here is her recipe.
Peanut Butter Cookies
Bake 375

  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter plain or chunky
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup sifted flour
  • 3/4 tsp. soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Cream butter, peanut butter and both sugars
  • Add vanilla and egg blend till smooth
  • Sift flour, salt, baking soda
  • Add to creamed mixture and blend well
  • Chill bowl in freezer for one hour
  • Roll dough into 1 inch balls and then roll in white sugar
  • With a fork that has been dredged in flour flatten each ball with a Coriss cross pattern
  • Bake 10-12 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Snow Treasure

Recently I hosted a girl's weekend Up North at the cabin. Despite the interruption of fall with wintry weather our time together was a lot of fun. One of the best parts was an unexpected discovery near the fairy cottage. I am posting a photo for you to see. If you look very carefully on the right side of the picture you will see something truly amazing. Suspended on a stick like a flagpole was my white-yellow ducky sock. This is the mate to one of my many missing ones. I have been holding out not throwing the other one away thinking some day perhaps it would magically appear. This discovery has totally confirmed the presence of a fairy home on our property. The other exciting thing that happened was a friend gave me this exquisite book on how to find fairies in our world. The author wrote about some of her mysterious encounters which have led her to believe fairies really do exist. Cicely Mary Barker has done a lot of painstaking searching for fairies and shares her wisdom on five special places where these creatures might make their homes. Her notes in the book affirm my discoveries that it is possible to capture glimpses of fairies as they explore our world. One of the five places she suggested to look for fairies is the forest floor. Of course I already confirmed the fairies existence with the recent discovery of the fairy cottage down near the lake at the foot of an old oak tree. Some signs that might indicate the presences of fairies include: looking for hidden entrances such as a hollow in an old tree stump, the foot of an ancient oak, any unusual tiny patterns carved in a tree trunk, ripped leaves (fairies often use arrangements of torn leaves to pass on messages on to fairy friends), and mossy trails that might have been sprinkled with a bit of fairy dust to guide others to their homes.
BoldI am also including some photos taken on a recent fall walk.
Good conversations with friends need good food and drink to nourish the soul. Try this one!
Lasagna Rolls
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis: Italian Fast Food
(Food Network
Show) Makes about 12 rolls
White Sauce:
2TB. butter
2tsp. flour
1 1/4 cup half and half
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp pepper
pinch ground nutmeg

1 container (15 0z.) ricotta cheese
1/2 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 1/4/ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1-2 TB. olive oil
12 uncooked lasagna noddles
1 jar of prepared marinara sauce
1 (15 oz.) can chunky tomatoes basil/onions/oregano
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese or Mozzarella
1 cup pine nuts
3 oz. chopped prosciutto
  • In a saucepan add marinara sauce and tomatoes and simmer on low heat while making the rest of lasagna recipe
  • Heat oven to 400 and lightly grease a 13x9 pan
  • To make white bechamel sauce: Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk till bubbly, then whisk in half and half turn heat down to simmer adding cheese a few handfuls at a time. Whisk in nutmeg, salt, pepper and stir till smooth. Set aside.
  • In a large pan heat water with olive oil for noodles, when bubbling add noodles criss/crossing pieces as added to water. Turn heat to medium and cook till only al dente (just till tender) then drain.
  • In a bowl mix ricotta, spinach, 1 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, egg, prosciutto, pine nuts.
To assemble:
  • Spread white sauce on bottom of 13x9 pan reserving 1/4 cup
  • On each lasagna noodle place large tablespoon of ricotta cheese mixture in center and roll noodle up and place in pan seam side down. Continue till all cheese mixture used.
  • Spread marinara sauce over top of the rolls and drizzle last 1/4 cup white sauce over red sauce.
  • Then sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the rolls.
  • Bake covered with foil 45 minutes and last 5 minutes or so uncover. Let set a few minutes before serving.
This recipe does have a lot of steps but is well worth it! Can be refrigerated and made a day ahead.
Marietta Old Vine Red Lot # 49 or Cline Cashmere would be good wines to serve with meal.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Something to Think About

Recently I saw this quote in a magazine "Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn." by Elizabeth Lawrence. I loved the quote but did not recognize the author's name. So I did a little sleuthing and uncovered some interesting information. Elizabeth was a pioneer in her field of horticulture. She felt passionate to write about her garden and share these insights with other gardeners. Elizabeth Lawrence has written six books. The first one was published in 1942 called A Southern Garden. I encourage you to google her name and read a bit more about her life.
The cold rainy weather with a possible frost tonight is sure to hasten the color on the trees. This quote inspired me to take my camera as I walked around the neighborhood. I am posting one of the photos I took. Perhaps this might inspire you to take a photo walk in the next few days despite the cool temperatures and note some of nature's changes.
And...after you return from your walk I'd like to suggest a cup of hot tea and a yummy cookie to warm you up.
Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies
makes 12
recipe from
  • 1/2 cup butter note:I used 1/2 stick butter and 1/2 stick margarine softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 Tb. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened Hershey Cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. expresso powder (can be found in grocery baking or coffee aisle)
  • 1 cup finely chopped nuts
  • 12 Hershey kisses unwrapped save rest for snacking
  • Chop nuts finely in blender and set aside
  • Beat butter,egg yolks, milk, vanilla until fluffy.
  • In a separate bowl stir flour, cocoa, salt, expresso powder
  • Combine both butter mixture and dry mixture beating until blended
  • Refrigerate dough in freezer for an hour
  • Heat oven to 350
  • Lightly grease cookie sheet
  • Shape dough into 1 inch balls
  • Roll each ball into chopped nuts
  • Press thumb gently in center of each cookie
  • Bake 10-12 minutes or until set
  • Press Hershey Kiss in center of each cookie and cool

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why Fairies Do Not Like Rainy Days

Fairy houses are cleverly concealed in the woods and built in more sheltered areas. I have heard that fairies prefer to be hidden away from inquisitive human eyes plus they do not like to get wet. I certainly was lucky last week to discover a fairy cottage in the woods by the lake as I was taking fall pictures. With all the rain we have had lately that might explain why I have not even caught a glimpse of a fairy. But I know for a fact they are out and about because I am missing more socks. Actually I now have four pairs of mismatched socks. If you go back to the blog dated: September 6 Determination and Hard Work Pay Off I had written seeing a few sock fairies hurrying along the road carrying bulging leather bags. I suspected those bags held socks. Perhaps these fairies were in a hurry to reach a brick building at the top of a hill. Could this building be some type of sock bank? What do you think this building could be?
I would like to take the time to answer some reader requests. One person would like to know which wines from the first blog I wrote in September would work with some of my recipes.
I would choose a red wine for the Chili recipe (Blog Oct. 2)
Cline Ancient Vine Mourvedie (Italian)
Chianto Classico Riservia (Italian)
Old Vine Red Lot Number 49 (California)
I would choose a white light wine for the Mango-Peach Chicken recipe (Blog Set.16)
Nobilio Sauvigon Blanc 2008 (Australian)
Zeller Schwarze Katz 9 (German)
Pinot Grigio Vento Incanto (Italian)
Another reader was looking for a pumpkin bread recipe. Since today seemed like a good day to bake I experimented with several recipes and will include my final result. But you might be interested to note that I changed a few ingredients from some of the bread recipes I looked at to make it more healthy. Example: Decreased sugar from 3 cups to 2, 3 1/2 cups white flour changed to half white and half whole wheat and cut 1 cup oil back to 3/4 cup and added 3/4 cup chunky cinnamon applesauce. My family really liked the recipe so let me know what you think.
Pumpkin Bread Recipe
Bake at 350 45-50 minutes or when toothpick comes clean from center
1 can (15oz) pumpkin puree
4 eggs
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup chunky cinnamon applesauce
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 3/4 cup white flour
1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice mix
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
2 cups raisins
grated carrots optional
Grease and flour two loaf pans
Beat together puree, eggs, oil, applesauce, sugars, spices till well blended
In a separate bowl whisk flours, salt, baking soda
Stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture just till blended, stir in raisins and walnuts

Friday, October 2, 2009

Harvest Moon

The weather has not been too cooperative for doing any moon watching with all the rain and cloudy skies. But if we should happen to get lucky the Harvest Moon (a full moon) is supposed to make an appearance this weekend October 4th. This is the time of the year when the full moon is nearest the autumnal equinox. I decided to be productive being inside so much and find some moon poems from this wonderful book I have called
As Long as the Moon shall Rise
Reflections on the Full Moon
Eleen Moore Anderson, Editor.
The Harvest Moon
It is the harvest Moon! On gilded vanes
And roofs of villages, in woodland crests
And their aerial neighborhoods of nests
Deserted, on the curtained window-panes
Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes
And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The crimson Moon, uprising from the sea,
With large delight, foretells the harvest near.
Edward Hovell-Thurlow
English writer 1781-1814
From the poem Moonlight 1814

Autumn Night
That there is only one
is unbelievable tonight.

This harvest moon.
Oshima Ryota
Japanese Haiku writer 1718-1787

All night I could not sleep
because of the moonlight on my bed.
I kept on hearing a voice calling:
Out of nowhere, Nothing answered "yes".
Zi Ye

from a collection of popular Chinese folk songs

What better time than a rainy day to try some comfort food
Tastes the best if made 1-2 days ahead of serving
  • 2 lbs of ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 cups of chopped celery
  • 2 Tb lemon juice
  • 2 Tb. brown sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. mustard
  • 2 Tb. chili powder
  • 1 jar of prepared marinara sauce (1lb. 8 oz)
  • 2 cans of light kidney beans drained (15.5 oz0
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes (oregano- garlic-basil)
How to prepare:
  • Brown ground beef, onion and chopped celery and drain
  • In a bowl, mix lemon juice, chili powder, brown sugar, worcestershire sauce, salt, vinegar, mustard, water ketchup
  • In large pan with high sides add browned hamburger mixture, lemon juice chili powder mixture, 2 cans of kidney beans drained , 2 cans diced tomatoes, 1/2 jar of marinara sauce
  • Simmer on low heat for an hour uncovered

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...