Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Great Texas Tradition

We jumped into the month of October with a few hours at the Texas State Fair. It begins at the end of September and I think tomorrow is the last day. For a couple of WA kids, it seems strange to hold a fair so late in the season, but I know this is meant to keep everyone from succumbing to heat stroke in the middle of the cow barn. I appreciate this; I really do. However. On October 1st it was 92 degrees. Thank goodness for air conditioned buildings full of prize-winning quilts and fancy car displays and samples of root beer floats, is all I will say about that.

We spent no money on rides but spent a ton on food. For brunch we each ate a corn dog, and then 45 minutes later, after exhausting ourselves by watching a dog show, we shared a gigantic plate of nachos (with Texas-shaped chips!) and I drank an iced coffee. Following several bottles of water, and as we were on our way out, Jan Michael ate an ice cream bar & I made a mess of myself with a caramel apple. Then, after we took the train home, we ate cheeseburgers and french fries and possibly a chicken strip or two for dinner. Moderation is hard sometimes.

The very best part of the whole day was the petting zoo. In terms of animal exhibits, Texas wins. Of course there were the usual barnyard animals, including the two which must always be present or a fair just isn't a fair - tiny goats & a huge mama pig with her itty bitty babies - but there were also animals we'd only ever seen at a zoo. A camel! Some zebras! A  huge tortoise! We were too cheap for this, but someone at the entrance was selling bags of feed; next year I'll spend less time feeding me and more time feeding the animals :)

We don't know what kind of cow this is, but she must have awful headaches :)

Fun giraffe trivia: They have the same number of vertebrae as we do (7) and their tongues are 18-20 inches long (!!) 

And then, something I'd never seen in real life before, zoo or not: 
Not long after I took the picture, he/she twisted all around and pretty soon the only thing sticking out were feet :) And this guy made us laugh with his beefcake poses in the sawdust :)
I could have stayed for ages admiring these three, but the corn dogs were calling ;)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

This & that

I cannot reconcile the fact that it's almost October; autumn in Texas is toastier than in WA, and so I forget. Last weekend I shoved all of my tank tops into the back of the closet and pulled out my cardigan collection, but I don't think this is going to spur the weather on quite like I'd wish.

I've gussied up the inside of the house for fall, though - orange candles & fake leaves everywhere; you know the drill :) - and have been drinking pumpkin spice coffee since the end of August. Our mantle here is much fancier than our old one, and I think I'll have fun bedazzling it for each season.

On Tuesday I'll dig out our Halloween decorations, but this has been hanging on the pantry door for the past month:
The Pinterest projects I choose seem to turn out only half the time, but this wreath was a smashing success, and I plan to make one for every single holiday I can think of. This is about two packages of cupcake liners (covered in tiny skulls which are SO CUTE, can you tell?!), all with the centers cut out, and pinned around a foam wreath. It's cheap & fairly mindless & turned out just exactly like the picture I pinned in the first place, so two thumbs up! 


As far as kitchen adventures are concerned, I've been baking our bread for a few weeks now. I read a horrifying article recently about ice cream sandwiches that wouldn't melt, even after hours in the sun, because of whatever awful thing they're made with, and for a few minutes I washed my hands of messing with anything store-bought ever again. Then I calmed down and decided bread was at least a good place to start. We had a very near disaster with the last batch when I overloaded the poor mixer and it kneaded itself right off the counter and crashed loudly to the floor:
I thought it was lost and gone forever, which would have been a terrible & expensive loss, but Jan Michael tinkered around and, ta da!, it works! 

On Friday I made applesauce with about 5 lbs worth of ginger golds.
I tossed in a can of pumpkin, which ensured that I would be the only one in this house interested in it, and then... I ate it. All 5 lbs worth. It took me a day and a half. I suppose it's better than 10 caramel apples in one fell swoop, but still. But..yum! I will do it again, maybe this week :)

The sunsets continue to be a balm to my heart, and since it's cooling off a little now, I've been in the middle of a few these last couple of weeks. Jeannie, we share these especially for you :) 
Oops, this last one is a sunrise - still lovely, and besides, I like the bird in middle of the pond :)

Friday, August 01, 2014

Rise & shine

My friend Heather and I have been switching between her neighborhood and ours for walking & jogging, but this week we found the loveliest trail, just down the road, that winds around two small lakes. It's the closest thing I've found to the PNW, and being there helps make my heart happy.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Hot time, summer in the city

The irony is that I think it's not even 70 degrees outside, and yesterday it rained a good bit of the time, but for the most part, goodness gracious, does that title apply... Except that I keep hearing things like "Oh, honey, this isn't hot! Just you wait!" and someone told me recently that I'll know it's hot when people start wearing iced-filled turbans all over the place. Oh, dear.

Anyway, here's the summer so far:
There's a long list of things I miss about WA and the Pacific Northwest in general, but I will say this for Texas: the sky is very often beautiful, and the sunsets and sunrises are lovely. 

The town we've landed in is right on the water, and has a little harbor; when the temperature dips slightly lower than the surface of the sun, I bet it it will be a nice place for walks :)

The 4th of July was fun because we spent it at a lake house with a mish-mash of new and old friends..
Caleb and Jen, who are still Washingtonians (and used their vacation to visit us, hooray!) but would like to be Texans...and we would like them to be, too!
Shannon and Heather, who are brand new Texans via Kansas City, and who have two charming boys, who respectfully declined having their picture taken. I let this slide because there will be a billion more photo opportunities in the future and they don't yet know how persistent I can be :)
Have I mentioned before that I have a handsome husband? 
Somehow I missed snapping a picture of Ken & Lisa, who actually own the lake house and the dock from which we were able to watch the sunset. This makes me feel crummy; I'll pay better attention next time. Also, they are originally from Texas, but lived in WA for a couple of years, and then moved back here a little less than a year before we did. Texas is a magnet that just keeps pulling people in! :)

We spent a day in Fort Worth, wide-eyed at the long horns; they're pretty amazing!
Hey, it's the elusive Kansas City boys!

What else? Oh, yes - the Truck Yard, which is a bunch of food trucks all circled up together. It was closed when we went, so we'll try again. 

And then please meet Bessie, who is our first nod, art-wise, to the South. I loved her on sight, and Jan Michael gives her the thumbs-up, too. I feel like I'm blazing a trail in the arena of home decorating, what with trying to mix WA and TX, but I'll make it happen! ;) 

Monday, June 02, 2014

In which we flew the coop

Please pardon our long absence; we've moved to Texas.

Jan Michael has officially been here for 2 months and I for 1; I still can't quite believe it. Everyone knows that getting old is not for sissies, and let me tell you: NEITHER IS MOVING.

But it's ok; we'll do our best to bloom where we're planted. Jan Michael is doing a bang-up job of this already and I'll get there eventually :)

Here's a snapshot of our speedy road trip at the end of March from the Pacific Northwest to the land of cowboy boots and barbeque:


We live very near this lake now..
in this very lovely house..
so I suppose we aren't doing too badly :)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sugar & spice

I've thought of another thing that made January the pits: no baking. No baking! No wonder I was wallowing around in the dumps.

How I love to have a good reason to bake (beyond just the two of us stuffing ourselves silly), and within the last couple of weeks, excuses have been popping up all over.

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I may have shared this recipe before, but it's so fantastic, it deserves a second appearance. Muffins are my favorites to bake (at least right now); they're such tidy little packages of comfort, they usually require only one bowl, and they freeze so well. I've used this recipe for ages, and I can't remember where I found it, although I do think it was originally meant for a loaf of bread.

Banana Cinnamon Swirl Muffins
3 over-ripe bananas
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
Dash salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat to 350 and grease a muffin tin (that non-stick cooking spray with flour is great for muffins). Mix together the bananas, butter, sugar, egg & vanilla. Sprinkle soda & salt over banana mixture. Add flour & gently stir, being careful not to over-mix. Spoon a bit of batter into each cup & sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Top with more batter & more cinnamon sugar. Bake about 20 minutes (18 for me because our oven runs on the hot side.) 

*Add chopped walnuts for extra yum! Be generous with the cinnamon sugar!

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And now prepare to have your socks knocked off. As far as I'm concerned, this is the Pioneer Woman's greatest culinary triumph. (Her recipe is intended as a layer cake, but I use it for cupcakes, and it makes a pile. Around 22, I think.)

Coffee Cream Cupcakes 
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks butter
3 Tbsp instant coffee crystals
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 and line two muffins tins with cupcake papers. Mix together the flour, sugar & salt. Melt butter over medium-low heat. While melting, add coffee crystals to 1 cup boiling water; set aside. When butter has melted, add the coffee & let come to a boil about 10 seconds; set aside for just a minute. In a separate bowl, mix together buttermilk, eggs, soda & vanilla. Pour the butter/coffee mixture into the flour & stir gently. Add in the egg mixture & stir gently until combined. Fill papers 3/4 full. Bake about 18 minutes. 

I made these yesterday for a friend's birthday and you can see that I very thoughtfully ate one to make sure they weren't poisonous:

Coffee Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, at room temp
2 Tbsp milk or cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar
4 tsp instant coffee crystals

Beat cream cheese & milk until smooth. Beat in vanilla, salt, powdered sugar & coffee crystals.

*This isn't the Pioneer Woman's creation; I found it on the internet, but again, can't remember exactly where. The consistency ends up being fairly thin; the batch I made this morning was definitely much too runny for piping & actually seemed more like a glaze. Adding more cream cheese and powdered sugar would bulk it up enough for piping, I think. 

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This has nothing to do with baking, but I've been awfully hard on winter, so here's some evidence that it hasn't been all gloom & doom:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Color splash

Whew, January was tough. It was gray and gray and GRAY and totally stole my thunder in the be-happy-and-productive department. I felt like I was teetering on the edge of a serious problem, so in February I decided to make a concerted effort to snap myself out of the dumps.

First, I would feed my creative side, which had been lethargic for too long. And, if the outside world was one enormous iron curtain, I would fill the inside of our house with color - pink and red specifically, because what else in there in February? :) So...

I took 500 trips to craft store (pigs will fly before I can organize myself enough to get everything I need in one shot); this pile of goodies is now a sweet little pendant banner that hangs across the doors to our deck:
And this is just a piece of scrapbook paper in a picture frame-turned-tray that sits on the coffee table:
I woke up one morning in a fit of ridiculous & decided our candles were unacceptable and needed replacing right now. After running all over looking for new ones, I had a flash of common sense & decided to wrap the old ones in paper left over from the pendant project. The white tray is filled with clear gems from the dollar store; I punched out circles from different scrapbook paper I had lying around & modge-podge'd them to the bottoms. (Easy-peasy & cheap, yahoo!) 
More framed scrapbook paper:

I also sent out Valentines; doing something small for someone else is a wonderful way to cheer our own hearts, and I had great fun shopping for pink tea :)

And then the flowers! I love the grocery store on Valentine's Day; roses & tulips & carnations everywhere, just begging to be brought home:

Our juicer is getting a ton of use lately, and in keeping with the pink explosion, I used a Gala apple, an orange, a carrot, a little bit of pineapple & two beets to make this:
It's just as delicious as it looks, although if you're not a fan of beets to begin with, this may not be your favorite...but you should try it anyway; really, I mean it!

And that's the story of how I fought the big, bad winter blahs & won :) Now, COME ON spring!