Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Poll

Interesting fact, I am posting from my iPhone while sitting at McDonald's. Let's see if this works!

Okay, so here's my question. Do you pronounce "Halloween" like hallow rhymes with shallow, or like hall rhymes with wall? Whatever your answer, where are you from (to determine if pronunciation is regional)? And, were you aware that other people pronounced it the other way? (I never noticed.) I'll be interested to see what everyone says. I'll also be interested to see if this works from an iPhone. And now for the windy walk home.... Happy winds-day (Amabel told me that on the way here- yes, we know it's Tuesday :) ).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pretty Plates

So I guess no one cares about story books... I can dig it. But perhaps someone among you is looking for a really special wedding or anniversary gift? My dear and talented sister-in-law has an Etsy shop that I have been meaning to plug for quite some time. She makes really lovely hand painted, personalized plates with her clients' wedding invitations (or wedding announcement, baby announcement, etc.). It's the idea of the old cross-stitched or decoupage invitation plaque (you know, the one with the burnt edges...) with a little less cheese and a lot more class. It's updated, to say the least. It's also functional rather than merely decorative, and it is likely to suit any bride's taste (after all, she picked her invitation). It's a modern, elegant, and unique way to display a keepsake from a treasured day.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Half Price Bookstore Trip, the Second

The second trip to the Half Price Bookstore gave me a lot of time to look through the holiday shelves. I am a sucker for holiday paraphernalia. But I got other books too.

I went right before Elspeth's birthday and was able to nab these paperback Angelina Ballerina storybooks for $1 a piece. So Amabel gave her sister a stack of seven books for her birthday and it has been a very loved collection from the time the wrapping paper was torn off. The hardcover copy of the original Angelina Ballerina was sent to my brand new baby niece. My younger sister and I share a love for children's books and when she has a new baby, I always send four or five special books to start the little one's personal library off. Little Peyton Olivia was Sarah's first little girl and I felt that she had to have a copy of Angelina Ballerina as soon as possible. What luck to find a brand new hardcover copy for $7!

On to the holiday books, I found a great Jack Prelutsky Thanksgiving poetry book for about $1 and another great little Halloween hunt book for around the same price. The Halloween book was one I chose for August- a hidden picture, Where's Waldo? type book that I know he'll really love. Between those two books in the picture is a Margaret Wise Brown book that I had never seen before. Imagine how many of her books are lost to our generation! Anyway, the book is called The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin and it is charming. I was hesitant when I saw the $3 price sticker, but it was in like new condition, and I am glad that I went ahead and snatched it up. In the end, I also figured August would really like this one the best too. To even things out, I ordered Elspeth a copy of Tasha Tudor's Pumpkin Moonshine on Amazon and found her a copy of Angelina's Halloween on ebay (9 like new Hardcover Angelina Ballerina books for $9.95! Can you believe it?! My Christmas shopping for her is practically done!) for her halloween book treat and Amabel gets Halloween Madlibs and a trip to the theater to see Guardians of Ga'hoole. So everyone gets two things, but I spent the least on August first! Oh well, isn't that always how it goes?

The right side of the picture has all of my Christmas finds. The Cookie Store Cat is a Cynthia Rylant title I had never come across before. It is out of print now, but if you should ever come across one, grab it up because it is adorable. It could use some updated illustrations, but the story itself is delightful. It is, as the title suggests, about a cat who lives in a bakery which sells all kinds of delicious cookies to all different kinds of people, all of whom love the cat. And at the end of the book, there are recipes for all the cookies described throughout the story. This one is for Amabel. I feel I have cheated her out of storybooks too early. Just because she can read chapter books doesn't mean she can't also appreciate a good storybook- look at me!

Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear! got cut off in the picture, but you are likely familiar with The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood. Well, who knew there was a Christmas book too? This is sort of the same idea as the Harold book from the last trip- if there's a Christmas book involving a favorite character, we should probably have it. August has the original Big Hungry Bear book so I bought the Christmastime sequel with him in mind.

Above those two books in the picture was a really exciting find, Snowball Fight by none other than Jimmy Fallon! I had no idea Jimmy had written a children's book. I have spared y'all many a post praising my new favorite late night host (though I am eager for Conan to be back- November 8th!), but the book definitely needs to be mentioned. It's really well done, a book about exactly what it the title suggests, a snowball fight. It really captures the excitement of a snow day off from school and the exciting events of such a day. I wish Jimmy would write more children's books, but I'm pretty happy with Late Night.

Letters from Father Christmas was a really cool find, and I splurged and spent $10 on it for George! If you have never been to our house during the Christmas season, you may not know about the letters from Father Christmas that George paints and writes to our children each year. They are really lovely and, honestly, awesome. George got his inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien who penned and illustrated letters to his own children each year from Father Christmas. I was so thrilled to find a nicely bound collection of these for him. I think they will be handy for reference but also fun for the kids to look through once they figure out that Father Christmas is actually Daddy. (It's currently hidden from them so as not to ruin the "magic." And please don't ever let on, should you find yourself conversing with my children about the matter, that Father Christmas isn't anything but 100% real- also, he's NOT Santa.) More on all of this around Christmastime, I think.

Last but not least, a brand new copy of Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms. We discovered Fletcher and the Falling Leaves in preschool last year. It was a delightful fall treat, and I went ahead and purchased it for Elspeth because I loved it so much. I was thrilled to find a spring sequel, but I am saving it for the appropriate time of year. With that in mind, it may interest you to know that Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas has just come out in the last couple of weeks.

Okay, so all of these books were pretty inexpensive, but, as you can imagine, it added up! Can you tell that books are what I spend any amount of undesignated money on? I made this trip back at the beginning of September and haven't let myself buy anything since (well, nothing except a hardcover fairytale collection that I needed for school for $5). But I think November might be good time to go back and see if there's anything new in the holiday section and peruse titles for some potential Christmas presents. I'll let you know if I find anything. The accountability will be good for me :)

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Impromptu Pumpkin Pajama Party

Well, the weekend is turning out to be pretty nice. I am somewhat annoyed with the 85 degree heat (okay, really annoyed) but posting about pumpkins last night put me in the holiday spirit anyway. I went on a walk by myself today that ended up running about two hours so that helped too! I was this dorky lady walking around the neighborhood with an ever increasing handful of leaves. But no one threw a coke bottle at me today- which is more than we can say for other days (have I told this story? I totally felt like Nicholas Cage in The Weather Man)!

George is out for a youth group meeting tonight and I am trying to stretch the groceries in the fridge for another few days so I was sort of at a loss for what to make for dinner. And then I just got festive and silly all at once and made everyone a banana split, complete with orange Halloween Oreos, warm caramel, and a garnish of Halloween M&M's, for a special Daddy's out/Saturday night/it's almost Halloween supper. Hey, there were at least three food groups represented (too bad I didn't have peanut M&M's)! Gymboree had a special on PJs a few weeks ago, $10 a pair! I couldn't resist these matching happy pumpkin pajamas for my girls. Tonight became their debut, warm from the dryer after Saturday night baths. And to round off the evening, we all watched It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

Friday, October 08, 2010

A Pair of Pumpkiny Possibilities

Sorry, y'all! My reasons for not posting are three-fold. Fold number one, I have lost the free wireless internet connection that used to waft freely through my walls from an unknown source. An intern's compensation is not as adequate as one might guess for a family of five (wink, wink) so the call in to the internet people for a legitimate subscription has been delayed. We can currently poach, ahem, borrow a faint signal which I am using for this post and use briefly to check my empty inbox every day from one place in the house- our bed. Fold number two, everyone liked the pictures so much that now I feel I must post pictures or not post at all. Do you know how much organization posting pictures requires? Not that much really, but too much for me. I'm hopeless! So it would seem I have raised the bar too high for myself. Yes, I do I realize I am doing this to myself. It's quite silly and I am determined to stop. But there is still fold one and fold three. Speaking of fold number three, we have had more family in town and only just enough time after the first round of family and the two September birthdays to feel like we have a sort of homeschool groove. All semblance of the groove was thrown out in readying for and regrouping after the second visit (during which Elspeth was up all night with 104 degree fever three nights in a row), so I am sort of half crazy and half exhausted... well, pretty much completely crazy and half exhausted and hoping that this weekend will offer some rest and peace for us as we head into what I hope will be a very normal, uneventful next week (but who are we kidding? there are already three weird and unusual things on the calendar for next week, on top of the usual lesson/meeting/homeschool schedule. Yours too I'll bet!)

Anyhoo, I promised pumpkin recipes. Now let me say that I spent a good six weeks last fall trying pumpkin recipe after pumpkin recipe hoping to have some good ones to post. And well, I didn't find many. You see, last year I was on a search for savory pumpkin pleasures, which was counterintuitive since I generally subscribe to the belief that cinnamon and pumpkin are a perfect pairing. However, there were a couple of sans cinnamon gems that are worth sharing. First, a list of those not worth sharing, annotated from last year's sticky notes. (See, sometimes I am organized!) Pumpkin biscuits with homemade pumpkin butter (which I apparently made last year on November 9th) were okay, but not very pumpkiny. The biscuits had some cayenne in them which gave them a spicy kick. As I recall, I gave some of the extras to both my mother and sister-in-law, and the consensus was that they were just alright. Exactly one month before, I made a Pumpkin and Chicken Chowder which I noted was a good soup "with hardly any pumpkin flavor (if any at all)." The Pumpkin and Cauliflower Casserole I made was deemed "gross and a total pain in the butt to make (though George liked it)." Baked Stuffed Pumpkin was "like a stuffing and a little dry." Pumpkin Seed Pesto was bitter and too lemon-y. Sorry, I am just listing these because I cut up so many pumpkins last year- a lot of work- with very mediocre results. I just want credit for it somewhere. So hey everybody, look, I made pumpkin recipes in 2009!

This first one that I'm sharing is also not very pumpkiny- I'm starting to wonder what that even means. Is pumpkin even a very distinct flavor? Or is that just cinnamon that we're thinking of? The reason I am posting it is because it is nearly identical to my alfredo sauce recipe, only it substitutes a half cup of pumpkin for a stick of butter and still tastes great. Also, it's just as quick and easy as alfredo sauce, but a little more seasonal. That's something. Both of these recipes came from Country Living magazine.

Pumpkin- Sage Cream Sauce

1c. heavy cream
1/2c. pumpkin puree
1/4c. fresh grated Parmesan
16 leaves of fresh sage, sliced thinly
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly grounded pepper
1T unsalted butter
- combine everything but butter in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Serve over pasta.

Okay, but this one is truly delicious and autumny and hearty and cozy and all around worthy of a much better review than I am giving it. It earned much praise at my birthday party last year, even months after the bash! This is a recipe I have been looking forward to making again all year. I didn't go to the trouble of the almonds, rice, and apples last year, but I think it would be worth trying- but it's fabulous without it too.

Pumpkin Soup with Wild Rice and Apples

2T slivered almonds
3T unsalted butter
1 onion, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 (1 1/2 lb.) pumpkin
1 large turnip, peeled, cut into 4 or 6 pieces and thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large parsnip, peeled and thinly sliced
2 3/4 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3 1/2 to 4 c. homemade or canned low-sodium chicken stock
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/3 c. wild rice
1 apple, cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
pinch of cayenne pepper
- roast almonds on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes, shaking halfway through, at 350 degrees. transfer to a board and chop. set aside.
-heat 2T butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 10 minutes. Add leek and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 5 minutes more. Add pumpkin , turnip, carrots, parsnip, 3 tsp. salt, and pepper; cook, stirring until vegetables are well mixed and coated with butter.
-add 3 1/2c. stock and thyme; bring to a boil over medium heat. Return heat to medium-low and gently simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.
- fill a saucepan with cold water. Add 1/2 tsp. salt and rice. Bring water to boil over high heat. Reduce heat. Summer until rice is tender, about 45 minutes, or according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- remove soup from heat and let cool slightly. Use an immersion blender in the pot or puree in a food processor or blender working in batches. Add stock to thin if necessary. Reheat soup over medium-low heat.
-heat remaining tablespoon of butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add apple and cook until brown and soft, about 3 minutes. Add scallions, remaining salt, and cayenne. Cook until scallions soften, about 1 minute. Add rice and reserved nuts and cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.
- ladle soup into bowls and garnish with apple-rice-nut mixture.

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