October 31, 2009

october snapshot

It was a strange October for us.

1. I cheated on this one - this photo is from October 2007. We had absolutely no. fall. color. at all. The deep freeze ruined every single tree. Yes, I'm bitter.
2. A family friend fly fishing on the pond. 3. Early snow on a rosebud. 4. I love gourds. I'm going to grow some next year. 5. A pretty, warm day at the end of the month.

October 30, 2009

the pumpkin princess

My nephew's daughter.

That makes her my great niece.

Which makes me a great aunt.

And that makes me sound very old.

That's okay though, as long as I get to take pictures like this of her adorableness. A sweet little princess in the pumpkin patch. I'm so glad her mom and dad are willing to share her with me. She wasn't totally buying into the photo op on this day, but I got a few shots that I absolutely love.

Like this one.....

And the hair....love the hair.

Dear Pumpkin Princess,
I know you consider me the scary lady with the big black thing in front of her face, who chases you everywhere you go. Hopefully, you get used to being my photography guinea pig, because I have a million more ideas in my brain for awesome pictures, and they all involve you!
Crazy Old Great Aunt Tessie

October 26, 2009

breakfast casserole

With the exception of cold cereal, breakfast doesn't get any easier than this. A quick prep the night before, and pop it in the oven in the morning. Done. My kind of meal.

This recipe, like many of my recipes, comes from my sister. She is responsible for most of the keepers in my recipe box. She is also responsible for several emotional childhood traumas, but we'll talk about that another time.

Breakfast Casserole
1 6oz box croutons, any flavor
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
10 slices crumbled bacon
4 eggs
2 C milk
1/2 t salt
1/2 t dry mustard
1/4 t onion salt
1/8 t pepper

Place croutons in a greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle cheese and bacon over the top of croutons. Whisk the eggs, milk and spices together and pour over croutons, bacon and cheese. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, set the casserole out thirty minutes before baking.
Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

If you're like me in the morning, your body arrives in the kitchen a couple of cups of coffee before your brain makes an appearance. This is a great way to have a hot and hearty breakfast without any thinking involved.

October 22, 2009

flemish beauty pear

As I have said before, one of my goals with this blog is to find a way to inspire and challenge myself to improve my photo skills. In the past, something would have to be pretty impressive in order for me to get my camera out. Now, I'm trying to see beauty in everyday things. My dear friend was kind enough to share some pears off of her tree. As I was putting them in the fruit bowl, this one stood out because of it's pretty coloring and perfect leaf.

By the way, these pears are particularly delicious - very crisp and sweet. I want to plant a tree of my own soon!

October 21, 2009

vintage loot

This past weekend, I traveled to my old stomping ground for the wedding of my best friend's son. It was a great trip. I saw many old friends, and had a wonderful visit with my parents and family.

However, the aforementioned best friend has apparently had a break with reality. I will chalk it up to the stress of the wedding, because there is no other logical explanation.

We have been friends for about fifteen years. We have a lot of similar interests, but the one that has provided us with the most fun over the years is our love of antiques. We like the same things, but our tastes are just different enough that we have been able to avoid all-out smack downs on our shopping excursions, at least on most occasions.

Our kitchen decor is similar, but she tended toward fifties style and pastel colors, and I toward forties and primary colors. She, a little more sophisticated, and I, a little more country cottage.

Now, back to the crazy train she is currently taking a trip on.

A couple days before my trip, I got a call in which she told me she was purging her house of all antiques. With the exception of three or four large items, everything must go. I know - crazy. She and her husband are in a transition time of life, and though for now, they are staying in their current house, they ultimately will be looking for a very small, simple home.

So, even though I need more stuff like I need a hole in the head, I went shopping at her house. I had been with her when she bought ninety eight percent of her stuff, and it felt like I was pilfering family heirlooms. I couldn't bear to see it end up on Ebay, though I may end up putting some of it there myself! I took the things that I love, and packed two boxes of awesome vintage goodies to bring home. Now I just have to find a place to put it all.

October 10, 2009

the junk house

Ten years ago, when we decided to move from the burbs to the country, we were planning to buy a bit of acreage and build a home. We ended up buying the second place we looked at. It had it all. A great view of the mountains, a pond with fish, and green fields. It was a peaceful, rural setting - just what we wanted to start our new way of life. It was the perfect piece of land. With just one exception. Actually several exceptions. Rather large exceptions. It came with this......

The Junk House

Notice the lovely bright blue astro turf? It's covering up the gaping holes in the porch flooring. And who doesn't enjoy a nice refrigerator on their front porch. A lovely way to offer guests a beverage before they even knock on the door. "Hi there, guests - welcome to Montucky! Grab a brewski and watch your step!" Not exactly the picture I was hoping to paint for our beautiful country life.

Back view.

Note the hot tub on the back porch that, until today, I hadn't thought about for about nine years. The nightmares will return tonight. The "garage" on the end was an obvious add on, the peak of the roof covered part of the upstairs bedroom window, and the living room window downstairs looked into the garage. Charming.

A little distance helps....a little.

The farther you get, the better it looks.

I loved the property, but despised the house and it's hideous group of outbuildings (a post all their own, coming soon.) I suggested to my husband that we see if we could potentially buy the property, minus the five acres or so that the house occupied. He pointed out that if we didn't buy it and fix it up, we'd be living next to it forever. Good point.

We ended up buying the whole property, and thus began the biggest project of our lives. A total gutting, almost ten years, and many changes of plans later we still have two doorknobs to put on and a couple pieces of baseboard trim to install, but we're pretty much there.

*My youngest just walked in and saw the old house pictures laying about. He said "I remember those days! Those ugly days." He was the one who coined the phrase "Junk House." He was five when we moved here and absolutely couldn't comprehend that the house would ever be livable. He would tear up and ask why we bought a junk house instead of a real house. It took a long time, but we finally got it up to his standards.

Here's an after shot.

Dear Meadowbrook Cottage,
Thank you for hanging in there for 97 years before we found you. Your potential shined (shone?) through the dead mouse bodies and the chicken manure on the floor, and it didn't take long before I had every room color picked and every piece of furniture placed. In my mind anyway. In reality, it took a very, very long time to get you where you are today. You're a good, fine house.

p.s. Here's a photo of our place in days gone by. Our neighbor's grandma had lived in our house at one time, and they found this photo among her things.

October 9, 2009

kind of like winter, but with flowers

Usually, you know your conversation is in trouble when all you have to talk about is the weather. Last night, talking to my middle son, the weather was definitely the number one topic. I had just come in from knocking snow off the tree branches so they wouldn't break from the weight. He is in Alabama for Army AIT (advanced individual training - I love google!) and is dying for a break from the humid heat. Neither one of us was happy with Mother Nature. We are used to crazy weather here in Montana, but snow this early is pretty rare for us. Usually when we get so cold so quick - it's supposed to be 7 degrees this weekend - we skip fall colors and go straight to brown crispy leaves. So sad. Hopefully that won't be the case this time.

I grabbed my camera and took a couple pictures of my poor little flowers and their last hurrah.

Then, this morning, the sun on the mountains was so pretty I had to run out again.

Please disregard the scum/slime/algae on the pond. Pretend it's not there.
In this next photo, the mountains remind me of a Thomas Kinkade painting.

Thank you Lord for this beautiful world.

October 8, 2009

soup's on

Well, much like we always seem to skip spring here in Montana, it seems we may be skipping fall this year as well. The weather has been absolutely beautiful. Only a few trees have started to get their fall color, and everything is green and beautiful. That will all change starting tonight. A low of 18 degrees is predicted. By the weekend, our lows will be in the single digits.

In honor of the change in weather, I broke out one of my favorite soup recipes, Wild Rice and Ham Chowder. I found it many years ago in one of those mini Pillsbury recipe books you see at the grocery checkout. It is hearty and satisfying on a cozy night.
I have been obsessed lately with these chicken sausages I found at Costco and decided to try them instead of ham. They are so good!

Break for a random ode to Costco. I love Costco. It is one of my favorite places to go. As soon as I walk in the door, I get that happy feeling that only buying in bulk can bring. I could go on and on, and in future posts I will rave much more, but for now, back to the sausage.
I usually find sausage to be a rather scary food. Somehow, the ingredient list for these seems to be pretty harmless. Chicken, Gouda and apples. And a few spices. No body parts that shouldn't be in food. Unless you count the casing, and yes, I did just google sausage casing and I will spare you the details. Lets just not think about that.

Wild Rice and Ham Chowder
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup wild rice
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves minced garlic - I skipped this
1/4 cup butter
4 cups water
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 1/2 cups peeled, diced potatoes
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg - skipped
1/8 tsp ground pepper
1 bay leaf - a must have for this recipe
1-15oz can corn
2 cups half and half or milk - go for the half and half!
1 pound cubed, cooked ham - I used the cooked, sliced sausage
Parsley for garnish

In a small saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups water and the rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 35 to 40 minutes. I ended up using only about half the rice, since some members of my family are suspicious of black foods, and it is a rather large amount of rice.
In your soup pot, cook onion and garlic in butter until crisp-tender. Add the flour, and cook and stir for a minute or so. Gradually stir in 4 cups of water and bouillon. Add potatoes and carrots, thyme, nutmeg, pepper and bay leaf. Simmer until potatoes and carrots are tender, anywhere from 15-25 minutes. Because you have already thickened the soup with the flour, it will want to stick to the bottom of your pan, so I stir it frequently. When the vegetables are done, stir in the corn, half and half and ham or sausage. Heat through but don't boil. Garnish with parsley. I usually skip the garnish, but I rescued a handful of parsley from the garden and it does make it pretty.
We had the soup with Costco's Asiago Cheese Sourdough Bread. Toasted and buttered. Perfection.
Ha! I just looked out the window and it's snowing. Bring it on, Winter. My soup and I are ready!