It’s That Pumpkin Time of Year!

Fall happens to be my favorite time of year. Amongst all of the stress and emotions, I have tried really hard to stop and breathe and look at the colors, even though they were fairly muted this year. These are cell phone pics. I did get the new camera about 2 weeks ago, and I’ve been reading the manual, but haven’t gotten the guts up to use it yet.

We even got some pumpkins and mums and attempted to decorate.

I hadn’t really had a chance to do too much pumpkin baking, but made time last week to try something new. Sally’s Baking Addiction Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake was the winner.

Unfortunately, we didn’t grow any type of pumpkins or pumpkin-like baking squash this year, so had to settle for canned. It is what it is. Here are just a few pics.

I have a pretty narrow bundt pan with a wide circumference, so I knew it wouldn’t turn out quite the same as Sally’s.

I should have thought to cut some of the pointier peaks off because once I turned it upside down and cut individual pieces, they toppled over. Next time.

So so soooooooo good!!!!

It really has continued to be unusual times in our household. We have been trying so hard to catch up. I have been trying hard to get back to moving the body, though it’s in the form of walking, and only a mile or two at a time. In the few moments when I do stop and relax, I sometimes have company.

Sauerkraut

It was about a year ago that a friend and I got to talking about sauerkraut, of all things. She had made some and then was nice enough to bring a jar in for me. It was awesome! Being the wild and crazy empty nester that I am, I decided right then that I wanted to add cabbage to our garden this year, specifically to make sauerkraut. Hubby was totally on board.

I opted for Gunma from Fedco Seeds after reading all of the descriptions. The resulting cabbages were HUGE!!! We had four of these suckers!

My friend loaned us her Ball Canning book when it was time to shred. Sounded pretty simple, but it was a LOT of shredding.

As I shredded each batch, hubby salted it. I guess I didn’t realize that sauerkraut is simply cabbage and salt left on its own to do its thing.

There are quite a few ways to ferment the cabbage into sauerkraut, we opted for jars. Thanks to my friend, Beth, who gave me many jars of grain to grind, there were a few large ones in the house. Hubby smashed the cabbage down into the jars while I still continued to shred.

Once we filled four jars, we used cheesecloth to cover the cabbage and sewing weights in sandwich bags to hold the cheesecloth down.

 

Time to stink up the house! Every few days we removed the scum that formed, but otherwise, it was low maintenance. Fast forward to five weeks later. We used the smaller three jars this morning for the first batch of canning. We need to get some more small jars in order to do the rest.

We tried the “raw” sauerkraut, but it definitely has a different taste, neither of us was super excited about it. We again followed the directions from the Ball Canning book and cooked the cabbage until simmering.

Ta-da! And I can tell you, as we dropped sauerkraut everywhere and ate the dropped blops trying to get it into the smaller jars, that it is crazy delicious.

As soon as we have time, we’ll do the rest. It will be interesting to see if a few days more of fermentation makes any difference in the taste. It’s definitely going to be an every year thing!

Special note: As an early anniversary/holiday gift, we picked out a fancy camera for beginners. Hopefully it will improve the pictures on the blog…once I actually learn to use it.

 

Appreciating Our Homestead

I love our house/property, and I have since we moved here more than 10 years ago. In the last year or two though, I am trying to more purposefully take time to observe and notice. I am using the day-to-day beauty of the flowers and the veggies and the fruits, and the hard work that goes along with it, to help me with missing the kiddos every day. It seems to help me stay (at least slightly more) centered.

The blog and my newer enjoyment of taking pictures also helps. So, while I’m waiting for us to make more progress on the pergola, I thought I’d share a few flowers with you.

The bee balm was beautiful again this year, though it gets a powdery mildew pretty quickly.

And the echinacea did really well.

Daylilies with larkspur and bee balm make a pretty color palette.

Of course, having Fargo The Terrible around helps (most of the time).

Veggie garden, blueberry and pergola updates coming soon!

May (2017) Reflections

How is it the last day of May already? This month was a whirlwind, for sure. I feel grateful that we were able to travel to graduation and that the kiddos were able to spend a week with us here. I have truly marveled at the beauty of Spring every day (as well as at the number of grey days this month).

You can see how much the front bed has filled in!

My Hobby Adventures this month have been limited to current pursuits (garden, baking, yard, Fargo The Terrible, blogging) vs trying new things, but that’s fine. The veggie garden is planted and mulched.

Planters and hanging baskets are done, with the flowers we picked out as a family. I am anxious to see how they all fill out over the summer months, assuming Fargo doesn’t pull off all of the flowers when I’m not looking.

Strawberries are ripening and, though it’s early yet, I’m hopeful we may have enough for some jam.

And there’s so much more. Upcoming will be a post about our step project, and hopefully one or two about the pergola project (hopefully, because I’m hoping we’ll get to it), and of course, more Fargo picture posts.

 

Spring ’17 Continued

I have been having fun taking flower and Fargo pictures.

Tulips in the morning.

Same tulips in the afternoon.

Fargo loves being out in the sun, but I’m not sure he’s really able to relax.

With a ton of help from Fargo…

The first round of veggie garden weeding is DONE! Unfortunately, there will be many more rounds because the only thing we don’t have to work hard to grow is weeds.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies

I baked over the weekend. I baked using refined sugar. I baked something I saw on Instagram, something that called out to me. I baked Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies!!! It has almost all of my favorite components (missing pumpkin/squash). After so many weeks of trying to avoid sugar, I figured go big or go home. Or so I thought, but really, this recipe only has 1/2 cup of white sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar, which is way less than a lot of recipes I’ve made.

I was definitely in a chocolate mood, so lots of melted chocolate was a good way to start. Add in some cocoa powder and instant coffee and mmmmmmmm….

choc cocoa powder

choc mmmmm

Once the brownie half is done, it’s on to the oatmeal cookie half. The recipe gives the option to use a more flavorless oil, or to use coconut oil. I opted to try coconut oil, especially as we’ve been enjoying it so much on popcorn. It was a good choice.

oatmeal batter

As with the brussels sprout latkes, I was concerned as I put the two batters together, that they wouldn’t meld/mix/combine or that they’d combine too much, etc.

choc dollops

choc and oat

Ready to bake, crossing fingers.

choc oat pb

I think I may have left it in a minute or two long because I was unsure if the brownie part was really done, but overall, looked pretty decent.

choc oat pb done

This was a really great choice for the baking comeback. It was not in any way too sweet. Using all dark chocolate and unsweetened peanut butter helped. I really liked the little bit of coffee flavor that came through in the brownie bites. Definitely a winner!

choc oat swirl

Fargo watched me trying to get a good picture of the finished product. I didn’t really get a good picture, but it was funny watching him watching me.

fargo plate

I took all of the pictures with the fancy camera. I definitely have lighting issues, as there are lots of yellow tones. I don’t have picture editing skills yet. I am still also failing on indoor vs outdoor light settings.

pic failure

It’s obviously going to be a long learning curve for me.

 

Playing With The Fancy Camera

One of these days, I’ll understand the light issues/adjustments. But otherwise, I’ve been having some fun. A few turned out pretty neat. I could literally take sunrise and sunset pictures every darn day and never get bored. Of course, I never seem to get bored or tired of taking Fargo pictures either.

Three of the many balls in the yard.

Poor attempt at fixing color issues due to incorrect light settings.

More playing with color adjustments.

February Hobby Update

When I had the brilliant idea to include a “monthly hobby update” on the blog, I certainly thought I’d have more on which to update. Sigh. I have definitely spent way more time following current events than I used to. Maybe that needs to count as a new hobby?

I am on the last of the four cross stitch projects I started before the holidays. This is the third one I completed.

If I cross list my gardening adventures category with my hobby adventures category, I can include that hubby and I spent a good bit of time planning out this year’s garden crops and choosing which varieties of seeds to order.

We ordered through our favorite seed cooperative

And the seeds have already arrived!

A new and exciting aspect to our gardening this year will be participation by a wonderful co-worker and her boyfriend. Given some of the physical challenges we’ve dealt with this year, the help will be very welcomed. In return, we will happily share what will hopefully be a lot of produce.

I am alternating between reading the bread book mentioned in a previous post:

And a book the eldest got me for the holidays:

 

There are some very yummy looking recipes in here and I’m gathering ingredients to try some.

It’s been too cold to work much more on the garage in an attempt to make space for a work bench/work shop. I am pretty sure I have a knitting project picked out, though I’ll need to recruit help getting it started. The master bathroom project we thought would be scrapped, may be back up to the top of the “to do” list as we’re starting to research supplies.

This about sums up the past month. The no sugar thing has definitely put a cramp in my baking…

 

 

Monthly Hobby Update

I just decided this morning, as I started typing, that I would include a Monthly Hobby Update this year. I’m hoping to be working on a few hobbies at any given time, though life has definitely gotten in the way the past few weeks. Mostly good derailment, some I could do without.

Anyway, I’m working with the youngest on a furniture project. Given that the girls are heading out way too soon, I’m reminded that I need some things from her before she leaves so that I can get moving on it without her.

This leads me to the garage project. Although it’s been slow going, there has been enough progress so that the car once again fits inside.

car garage

I think the next steps on the garage will likely need to wait a few months for Spring, but I am actually really pleased and I owe hubby a huge thank you for the time he has put in.

The main hobby I have been spending time on is cross stitch. I decided to make gifts for both girls and two of their close friends. I finished two, this is the third, in progress.

love is

If I were to do it again, I would do at least one thing differently. I have never before used pre-framed canvas, and, unless it is for a VERY small design, I will not use it again. Stitching, and pulling thread through at the end is incredibly difficult near the edges. I have inadvertently stretched the canvas in a few small areas. It seemed like a great idea when I saw them at the store, but not so much in reality.

I keep looking at the bags full of yarn every time I walk by them, so I think I will attempt a knitting project next after the cross stitches are finished. I ground more flour yesterday for the loaf of bread which is in the oven as I type. I am still enjoying watching the flour fall into the measuring cup.

Still trying to figure out the camera, especially the lighting.

dark pic

light pic

In the meantime, the usual chores are still happening. Fargo continues to be quite helpful, especially when it’s time to make the beds.

fargo helping bed

Also, yay me, I logged a whopping two miles on the treadmill Monday! Hopefully I’m going to get a little more back on track with that. Must I register for an event to keep myself motivated?

Social Media

I am not well versed in social media. I get by with Facebook and I’m still learning Snapchat a year later. Hubby and I only finally agreed to let the girls put Snapchat on our phones because it would mean hearing more frequently from them (though I do admit it’s been fun). Although I understand that the idea of Snapchat is that the pictures disappear and, therefore, don’t take up room on phones…I may or may not screenshot some…or a lot.

As I try to figure out what my goals are for this blog, expanding into more social media platforms seems to be a good step. Having an empty nest is different for everyone and it would be nice to draw in others who are figuring out how to approach their new normal. Creating a space to mutually support each other as we try new hobbies, or second careers, or travel more, or deal with crazy puppies, etc. would be fantastic.

So, with the help of my girls, this blog now has an Instagram:

instagram

And a Twitter:

twitter

Fargo is pretty pumped to be the star of all of my social media pages.

fargo paws

I’m thinking that the next step will be a Facebook page. Oh, and figuring out how to best use it all. Suggestions are more than welcome.