Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ghosts of Halloween Party Pasts

Happy Halloween!

First of all here's a classic Monster Mash. C'mon you know you love it.

I will separate all my Halloween memories here. I will leave the childhood memories....of simple costumes, school parties, pillow case candy sacks, running around the neighborhood in San Francisco (up and down stairs!), popcorn balls, donuts on a string, "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" - on tv, and four coffee cans full of candy...and focus on the Colorado Halloweens.  Living in the country is not conducive to trick-or-treating. Houses too far apart, dirt roads, so...we had to make our own fun. I started hosting Halloween parties for a few neighbors the first couple of years we were here and it kind of ballooned from there. Gone were the garish pumpkin sweatshirts, as I required costumes, and amped things up a bit every year. We would first decide on a theme, then I would make all our costumes (hubby, girls and me), prepare theme appropriate food and decorations, and! create a haunted house in the garage. We had a blast and at times had 35 adults and kids of varying ages, but I'm glad those days are in the past (I'm sure my husband is too since is was a joint effort and I was always in a panic the few days before our parties) Phew! Here's a glimpse at 3 of our parties past.
The pirate party was our favorite. My husband basically built a shell of a pirate ship. Complete with a plank and a rope for kids to swing off onto a little island. A haunted hallway on the way with buried treasure, and pirates everywhere. Our friends were stellar that year. So many pirate costumes.

Haunted Bollywood one year. I painted the Taj Mahal on a tarp on the garage door (hey, I never claimed to be an artist), and we had a Bollywood ghost filmaker with camera, and Bollywood music. I had the most fun making our costumes and the Indian food. I think everyone got a bit of an education that year.

The Haunted Ball. Can't believe I made these costumes. We created a haunted ballroom since the kids were into dancing at this point. Actually we all danced. It was a "ball"!

We've also done a Medieval theme complete with King Arthur, Guinevere, and little princesses, and  English faire food...and mead - so much fun, and the Adams Family can guess those costumes. (I loved wearing that long black hair and slinky black dress!) 

Tonight calls for something simple. Carving pumpkins, a Halloween movie....and I might just delve in to my pirate past and go haunt a place or two downtown.

BOO! Have fun!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Random Thoughts Wednesday - Highlights and Lowlights

Thinking about the good and bad in things. In a funny sort of way. I was going to get all serious and then I decided against it. 

Sick of fall colors yet? Not me. Making the most of them. Highlight: We sat in the forest for a bit on Saturday and shared a bottle of wine. 

Lowlight: It was Colorado wine. Oops. Sorry Colorado. 

The chickens joined us.

We went for a quietly beautiful walk in town on Sunday morning crunching through fall leaves and noting pumpkins and autumn shadows.

Highlight: Warm weather, picture perfect autumn colors, alleys (a favorite of mine).
Lowlight: I lost my glasses - somewhere. We retraced our steps for a total of two hours, but apparently looking for a pair of glasses among streets and alleys filled with fall leaves is fruitless.

Highlight: While we were walking I found "my house in town". And it's for sale!! It's on the most beautiful street downtown. It has a front porch, large back yard with a carriage house in back, and it borders a back alley....crucial! (I love Colorado town alleys) And, most importantly, it qualifies as a "witchy" house. Don't ask. There's just something a little magical about old houses with character that look like this.
Turns out it's an historic landmark! 
It's original form. So cute. ..
Lowlight: WAY out of our budget. 

After two hours of walking and searching for my glasses (It's a good thing my vision is pretty much 20/25 without glasses due to a previous laser surgery), we were famished and thirsty and weary. So we headed to our Bike-beer-coffee shop. Highlight: We shared a scrumptious pastrami sandwich with spicy mustard and the best potato salad. They make it with mustard and lots of sweet pickles and balsamic vinegar. yum. And an amber ale. And my favorite coffee, a Gibralter, which is a double shot of espresso and a touch of steamed milk in a shot glass. Lowlight: hmm. We had to leave?

However, our next stop was at our local football watching hangout to watch the Bronco game. Highlight: They have a local crowd, yet so many out of state football fans, which makes it kind of fun and rowdy - and a good variety of Colorado beer and food and always someone fun to meet. I had an Arrogant Bastard - that was the name of the beer - on tap, and a really tasty grilled chicken salad after half time, and we had a bronco win... Lowlight: I had to stare at this clown the entire time.

Highlight: Halloween is tomorrow! Lowlight: Halloween is almost over!

Highlight: Last night we saw The Pacific Mambo Orchestra. This, for me, was a piece of heaven on earth. It was a Mambo orchestra (big band Latin music!!) - hello Miami! - from San Francisco - need I say more? - playing in Fort Collins. Combine a stellar Mambo Orchestra with a Grammy award winning producer and pianist, and Tito Puente Jr, with other special guests, and the music was almost too much to take in at once. In a really, really good way.   Lowlight: none. Oh wait. My neck and upper back are in spasm today. I think that was from doing salsa dancing in my seat for an hour an a half. I couldn't sit still. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sweet Dreams

Got pumpkins last evening. Soon to be Pumpkin Moonshines. Aka jack-o-lanterns 

"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion."   Henry David Thoreau

Afternoon Pick Me Up - Friday Happy Hour!

My favorite Japanese restaurant downtown has expanded to include - what else? A bar. This bar is  called Hachi - a late night sushi and sake bar. For those of you who have never had the opportunity to try sake, it is made from fermented rice. The brewing process is more similar to a beer brewing process even though most people call it rice wine. Growing up in San Francisco with special upstairs neighbors of Japanese descent I have been familiar with sake for a long while. It can be sipped cold, room temperature, or heated up. It depends on the type.

It is traditionally served in little sake cups poured from a flask called a tokkuri. For heated sake, the tokkuri is supposed to be set in hot water to heat. I love hot sake. On a cold evening or anytime with Japanese food it is delicious.

So on a side note! I was just looking up the name of a sake flask and there were images of different styles of sake cups. One of the styles it showed was a little wooden box. When I saw the box I immediately jumped up and went to my sewing room and found a little box that sits on my shelf which, at present, has business cards in it. I obtained this box from the above described neighbors many moons ago.
How could I not know this was a sake cup??? (I guess the clue would be the name of the sake brand on the back - duh) Or maybe I did know at one point and forgot. With me that's totally possible. But no matter. What a real - time special discovery! A true afternoon pick me up. 

Back to Hachi. It is nicely decorated bar with some Japanese touches. Of course, being in Fort Collins we must incorporate local. I love the glass racks.

Along with a variety of sakes, are some fun specialty cocktails, of course.

And beer on tap - local New Belgium and Japanese. Perfect. Look at the samurai sword shaped tap handles. I love it!

I had a "Canton Dreamin" which was a delightful concoction of Domaine de Canton ginger liquer, Citron vodka, lemon, and sake. Delicious!

I can't seem to have wine or cocktails with just nuts and pretzels. Do bars even serve those freebies anymore? No, I get hungry. Like entree style hungry. In this case, my absolute favorite miso soup and a cucumber salad. So so so good. Of course, that was just the starter. The main course was teriyaki beef and rice. So much for bar nuts.

 Speaking of bars and cocktails, this is a sample of my my new Demi - utility apron. In this case, the bartender's apron. For men and women. Short and simple with two big asymmetrical pockets and a pop of color. For the men the pop comes from up-cycled suit fabric and tie fabric. I've made some black ones as well. Fun for hosting a cocktail party or dinner when you want something practical and unimposing.

Lunch Break

My lunch break these days usually consists of well - lunch - and reading.

Some of my latest finds. The The Kinfolk Table is a beautiful book with stories about a variety of home cooks everywhere from Oregon to Brooklyn, to the English countryside, to Denmark, and shares some of their favorite recipes. I can't wait to try some out. Speaking of food, Plate To Pixel is about food photography and explains the details of your camera's settings and how to use them. I desperately need this book. She also has an amazing blog with the most beautiful food photos - sigh. Maybe some day. The other book which you can't see (It's a good thing I love him muddy paws and all) is A fine Romance by Susan Branch. If you love England and whimsical art work this is the ticket. I love whatever Susan does. She is a breath of fresh air, inspirational, a talented artist. I have many of her cookbooks and calenders as well. She is also a cat lover - which is a good thing - otherwise she might be offended knowing muddy cat paws are standing on her pretty book.

Morning Wake Up Call - A walk down the road

My cat does this every time one of us walks down the road.

A few calves at the dairy farmer's down the road

The last remnants of snow on the shady part of a field

 The dairy farmer's corn has been harvested

And now it's time for the sugar beet harvest

Waiting to finish up in the cornfield

  The trees around the reservoir on our road are in varying shades of yellow and gold.

Stop taking pictures and get me breakfast!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wednesdays Random Thoughts and Happenings - Fleeting moments

I have been trying to make the most of this fleeting autumn season. Just when I think the tides have turned and the colors have peaked and the temperate autumn days are done for, a new day comes and I am pleasantly surprised to get another chance to enjoy this transitory time.

With the exception of the recent snow and a few chilly times, the past several days have been brilliantly sunny, warm with the barest hint of chill days to come, and the colors intensify every day. Sometimes I want to just sit and stare at a shrub and see the change of color as it's happening. The garden and surrounding Cottonwoods and reservoir trees are such a harmony of colors and textures right now. I look out and I think this is what my mind is like some days - just so much going on. 

When all I want it to be is this. I guess that's what meditation is for. 

I try to make the most of - or I suppose - something of every day, because time flies by so fast, and the only way I've found to capture fading time is to embrace and witness and document moments in some way.

 And try to hug close those moments - before they change because they inevitably do.

Whether it's a crispy walk through the leaves, reading a book outdoors in the thinning sunlight, sewing up something in my studio, listening to inspiring music, or even cleaning, this time of year always energizes me. Maybe it's nature's cue to give it your all, finish up the outdoorsy activities and be productive before you hunker down for the winter. Well I suppose that works if you live in a place where there actually is winter weather, and you don't have a job outside of the house, or you were a pioneer back in the 1800's. Anyway.

This transitional time of Autumn usually has me in the kitchen making something comforting. Today it was Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread. There are the outdoor scents of Autumn, and then there are the indoor ones. There is no fragrance I can purchase that can beat the scent of fresh baked bread.

 It starts with the subtle yeasty dough smells. And because we live in a dry climate, I find myself turning up the heat a bit and putting a kettle on to boil just to make it a bit humid and warm. I think the dough likes it. There's something so satisfying seeing bread dough rise.

 Organic white flour, whole wheat flour, whole grain oats and buttermilk. This was the first time I tried this bread and it was so delicious. You can find the recipe here...Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread

Must eat first slice while still warm from the oven. With butter. Real butter. Melting on fresh, warm bread - butter.

And serve with a cup of something. Today it was Ginger Peach tea. Sigh.  

And now I'm ready to share my current favorite poem with you. 
Poetry for me has always been a tricky thing. Frankly I don't always get it. I've read a good many poems over the years by famous poets and many leave me scratching my head. Poetry, among other things shows the beauty of language. I think this poem succeeds. 
I think the most beautiful poems paint an immediate vivid picture with their words. I want a poem to create a visceral response in me. I don't want to have to take a class to dissect it just to understand it. I want to feel it and experience it. But I want it to be complex. And I want it to haunt me. This poem does just that.

                                                     Autumnal by Ray Harvey

Enjoy these Autumn Moments.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Notes From The Country - Autumn Snow and Cookies

We woke up to snow on Friday morning which added to the colorful autumn show outside. Between delicious food and cocktails with new friends, a town full of zombies, brews, pizza, family cookie decorating and football, and the remnants of a brief but imposing snowfall, it was a perfect fall weekend - chilly and full of brilliant color outside, and cozy and comforting inside with the smells and traditions of the approaching holidays.


These cookies have been a yearly tradition for as long as I can remember and now have become the same for my girls. These are a type of refrigerator cookie dough, and the result is a thick cake-like cookie which makes me happy. The frosting is a tinted buttercream. Tastes like Halloween to me!

-Pumpkin Cookies-
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Cream butter, add sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Mix dry ingredients, add to butter mixture. Mix well. Refrigerate dough for at least 20 minutes. Roll out to between 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch. The thicker the cakier. Cut out with pumpkin cookie cutters (traditional!) or other Halloween shapes. Place on silpat lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, until  edges just begin to turn light brown. Don't overbake or they will be crisp instead of cakey!

Frost and decorate with candy corn (Brach's brand is best!) and melted semi-sweet chocolate chips. 

p.s. Tradition dictates that you must eat the first cookie you decorate. Just sayin.
pps. Watch a Halloween movie while decorating. Not a scary Halloween movie - a fun one - like Hocus Pocus or The Ghost and Mr Chicken for a truly retro experience.

-Buttercream Frosting-

Cream 1/3 cup unsalted butter. Add 3/4 tsp of vanilla. Gradually add enough powdered sugar alternately with evaporated milk until perfect cookie spreading consistency....Don't ask me for specific measurements. My Mother never told me so how can I tell you!! ;)  Tint orange with food coloring. Divide frosting and keep half white if you are frosting ghosts and cats - well white cats.