Sunday, October 30, 2011


Happy Halloween!
Today, our pumpkin became a jack-o'-lantern. Paul is the designated pumpkin carver in our house. Here he is flexing his artistic talent (and muscle) while tackling a very thick pumpkin that was a bit tough to carve. I think he did a very fine job. And he didn't cut himself!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tomato Soup

This delicious and simple tomato soup is adapted slightly from Everyday Food. I've made it vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. Because this recipe uses canned tomatoes, it's a year-round favorite. I was getting over a cold last week when I made a batch, and it sure did make me feel better!

Tomato Soup

1) In a soup pot or Dutch oven, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 medium onion, chopped. Season with course salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup of flour and 3 tablespoons tomato paste and cook 1 minute.

2) Add broth (I use one 32 oz. carton vegetable broth, but the recipe calls for two 14.5 ounce cans low-sodium chicken broth) and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 sprigs fresh thyme). Add two 28 ounce cans of whole, peeled tomatoes in juice, breaking up the tomatoes with your fingers (wear an apron because they squirt!). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

3) If using fresh thyme sprigs, remove them from soup before blending. Using an immersion blender, puree soup in pot, leaving some tomatoes in chunks if desired. Or use a regular blender, working in small batches, and puree until smooth. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

To freeze, let it cool to room temp, divide between airtight containers, leaving 1 inch of space at the top, and stash in the freezer. How great is it to have something homemade to heat up for supper after a busy day at work. I love recipes that freeze well!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Weck Canning Jars

On a recent trip to Crate & Barrel, I stocked up on various sizes of Weck canning jars. I love the shapes they come in and the simple way they're sealed with a metal clip on either side. They'll be perfect for packaging homemade Christmas gifts such as sweet-spicy almonds and fudge sauce. In my kitchen, I'll use some of them to store lentils and beans, flax seed, dried fruits. Here I'm using an 18 oz. jar to store crystallized ginger -- it looks much prettier than the plastic container the ginger came in!  

I transferred some store-bought cherry preserves into another jar, below, which gives it a homey feel. The spoon is vintage Bakelite, and I love how its color matches the mug. 

In the mug is lemon-ginger herbal tea by Stash. In the colder months, I rely on Stash teas to help keep the chill away. My favorite blends are Lemon-Ginger, Christmas Eve (cinnamon, orange peel, spearmint, vanilla, clove), Mellow Moments (peppermint, chamomile, spearmint, organic tulsi, lemongrass, guava, cinnamon, grapefruit), and Licorice Spice (licorice root, cinnamon, orange peel, star anise, orange, clove, cardamom).

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Fair at Night

Back to the fair! This time we went mid-week, in the evening. We watched a sheep herding demonstration starring a dog named Mabel. We splurged on deep-fried green beans, an apple strudel (for me) and a candy apple (for hubby). And the evening ended with a dramatic fireworks display.

Once again, we passed on the rides and the deep-fried Kool-Aid (when I asked how they fry Kool-Aid, I was told it's top secret). But in the end, we had fun experiencing the lights and sounds of the fair under the night sky.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Fair

Rides, carnival games, deep-fried candy bars. These are the things many people go to the fair for. But what I love most about the fair are the animals. Maybe it's because I'm a city girl, but I'm fascinated by farming and the country life. I admire farmers for their hard work and contributions, and I think they are largely underappreciated. One of the highlights of this year's fair was an enlightening conversation my husband and I had with a friendly dairy farmer. We asked many questions about his Jersey cows and milk production, all of which he graciously answered. Cows are such sweet looking creatures, aren't they? Look at this girl's big, dark eyes -- and that nose! I could kiss it.

The poultry exhibit was undoubtedly my favorite! I'm fascinated by the amazing number of roosters and chickens with their beautifully colored feathers, varying shapes and sizes, and unique range of crowing sounds (which made me giggle nearly every time). These birds are so jerky and camera shy that it was quite a challenge to get good, clear photos of them, but here are some that turned out well.

Buff Orpington
Golden Sebright bantam hen

Silver Sebright bantam rooster

A beautiful Komorner pigeon. See how she's keeping an eye on me?
Lovely purple feathers on this Komorner pigeon.
An elegant Modena pigeon. Isn't he a beauty?
More sweet cows ... they were a bit easier to photograph than the birds!

In the end, we didn't indulge in cotton candy, giant turkey legs or deep-fried Oreos. But the roasted corn on the cob was delicious! We passed on the wild rides, but enjoyed the exhibit hall where canned goods, cakes and photos were displayed. We saw giant pumpkins, oddly shaped root vegetables, jars of honey and prize-winning bales of hay. We walked through dusty cattle barns, and watched as young farm children showed their lambs in the ring. Call me old-fashioned, but that's how I like to experience the fair on a crisp fall day.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Home Tour 2011

There is a neighborhood in a nearby city that has the most adorable homes dating from the 1910's, '20s, '30s and '40s, as well as many new homes that have been built in the classic bungalow style. This neighborhood holds one of the best home tours ever. This year's tour featured eight houses. I didn't take pictures of all eight featured on the tour, but I did capture a few of them, plus several other very charming bungalows and cottages in the neighborhood. Which is your favorite?

Number one
This house was not on the tour, but it's my favorite, exterior-wise.

Number two (not on the tour)

Number three (not on the tour)
This is the side view of number three. Great stonework.

Number four
This was on the tour and very cute inside.

Number five (not on the tour)

Number six
This house was on the tour, and was very contemporary inside, which we loved.
The kitchen was amazing: white subway tile, white open shelving and a black AGA range.
I think the interior of this house was my favorite on the tour.

Number seven
This house, which is new construction, was on the tour and was also very contemporary.

So which one is your favorite?
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