Wednesday, October 23, 2013

the iron blanket

I acquired a lovely duvet with two pillow shams from my former boss. An odd gift, but wait, it wasn't a gift. She was having a yard sale before they moved out of their house and this set was in it. It's a beautiful shade of ice blue with a diamond quilting sewn into it. I negotiated a price and stuffed it into my suitcase and brought it home.

It's thicker than any quilt, down comforter, or blanket. It's perfect for cold, Michigan winters.

Last time it was clean sheet day and flip the mattress day (double bonus!) AND switch summer sheets for winter sheets.

What? Doesn't everyone have summer sheets that they change out for winter sheets?

When I switch summer sheets for winter, I also switch duvets. This is to (hopefully) lengthen their life span. Between three cats (the roomie brought his orange ball of fur), all those claws and hairballs, the duvets get a lot of washing.

I used the ice blue one this time.

We were laying in bed the other night and Bill commented on how the duvet is heavy.

It's heavy like the lead apron they use at the dentist when you're getting x-rays.

It's as if a mattress were on top of you.

It feels like a small village camped out there.

He kept going (I don't remember anymore, I'm sure he could come up with a few new ones). He had me laughing. Mostly because the dentist reference is the most accurate.

A few years ago I went as far as removing the down comforter and just used the duvet. It kept us warm all on its own.

Winter is coming, there's snow in the forecast... Do you know what that means?

Check back, I'll tell you.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Look what the cat...

Atticus is known for his hunting skills.

Bill and I understand, he is a somewhat feral cat.

As long as the critters he kill stay outside.

He had a streak of carrying dead catches to the back door. His chest puffed with pride. Almost as if he was trying to tell me that he could take care of me while Bill was away.

It was almost cute, except for the dead bird lying by the back door.

I wonder if he goes through spurts.

It's been quite awhile since there's been obvious carnage in our backyard.

That changed as I was walking to my car the other day.

Poor bird.

Survival of the fittest, we say.

Then, he watched him chase a mouse.

And then, on another night, another mouse.

Then, last night as I finished washing dishes, I decided to sweep the kitchen floor. I walked into the hallway to grab the Swiffer. That's when I saw it.

The pile of cat puke.

Complete with the body of an undigested mouse.

Not just parts of the mouse (like Heather W.'s cats, they're smart, they only eat the parts that won't make them puke... maybe we should let Atticus hang out with them and learn a few things), no. This was the entire mouse.

Dead. In a pile of puke. In the hallway. All cards point to Atticus.

That would make a fun version of Clue... excuse me while I go write a letter to Parker Brothers, or whichever company owns the game.

Editor's note: this is one of those times I'm almost certain you are happy that I don't post pictures in every blog...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

a list of one thousand

I'm currently reading a book, "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. It is deeply spiritual and intense. But it's also inspiring. So inspiring that I bought each of the ladies in the book club their own journal (me included) so we can make our own lists. A list of one thousand things that we're thankful for.

Remember when I blogged every day for two years? I think it's going to be like that.

Before I started reading the book, Bill and I had started making intentional date-nights. A little background, our friend has moved in with us. Bill and I have always continued dating, but with this change in our normal lives, we made it more intentional. And then the stars aligned and parties, weddings and movies all gave us more reason to have date-night.

That's one of the gifts. Awe, so sappy.

We could have had date-night last night, if Bill would have gone to Temple with me.

Yes, Temple. It's part of Confirmation, we'll take several field trips to other houses of worship (and a funeral home); we took the Jr. High youth to Temple last night. It was a wonderful service. The kids (from the synagogue) took part in the service. It was about an hour long. But for some reason, Bill didn't want to come along.

So date-night is tonight.

Unfortunately, I'm suffering from fall allergies and while I can still smell, I don't want to go sit in a restaurant and not fully enjoy it.

Instead, we're having date-night at home. The menu? Good ol' macaroni and cheese and a smoked sausage. Possibly a wedge salad for, you know, greens.

Here's to being thankful.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

fall flavors

I've mentioned before that growing up I was a picky eater. It has become the family joke. Apparently I ate nothing more than macaroni & cheese and hot dogs.

That is mostly true.

As an adult, as I've learned and experienced cooking, I have found many foods that Mom always tried to get me to eat, but usually ended up with me still sitting at the dining room table, the food cold, tears streaming down my face. I would choke down whatever vegetable it was (hello, had I even tried them when they were still warm I would have probably liked them, or at least disliked them less) with a second glass of milk. Swallowing them whole like prescribed pills. (I think I'm recalling most specifically lima beans and peas in this description.)

Now I like vegetables, mostly because I eat them while they're still warm. What a difference temperature makes!

One of the things I remember Mom making was acorn squash. She roasted the squash, buttered it, and sprinkled brown sugar on it.

She did the same thing with carrots.

Had we known then what we know now, she would have gone the simple route of olive oil, salt and pepper. Now, that is my favorite way to eat root vegetables.

Just like I don't enjoy carrots in cake (seriously, I'll lick the icing off of a carrot cake or refuse dessert), I don't enjoy brown sugar on vegetables.

I had my first un-brown sugared acorn squash at a friend's house recently. They baked them in a pan of water, essentially steaming the squash. Then, at the table, butter, salt and pepper were provided so each of us could garnish as we wished.

I liked it that way, but wondered if I could roast it with olive oil. That is how I cook butternut squash. Except that it's cut up into cubes.

I Googled it.

Sure enough, eventually I found a recipe where you cut the acorn squash in half around the equator, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper and drop in a clove of peeled (and slightly crushed) garlic. Roast it cut side up at 350 for an hour.


But, what's the best part about a squash? Or carving a pumpkin? To me, it's the seeds. I have always enjoyed eating roasted seeds.

Recently, I discovered something about these seeds.

I have been roasting pumpkin seeds since Bill and I carved our first pumpkins.

When I made that acorn squash the first time, I saved the seeds and the next day roasted them.

Acorn squash seeds have way more flavor than pumpkin seeds.

If you haven't ever given acorn squash seeds a chance, I highly recommend that you do.

Thanks to Heather W., the best way to prepare the seeds is: soak them overnight in salt water. The next day, drain the seeds, toss with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, garlic & onion powder and bake in a 300 oven for 20 minutes. You don't have to eat them right away. They'll keep in a sealed container.

Excuse me, I have to go eat my acorn squash seeds, they're ready.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Soup's on!

Fall is here. It seems as though overnight the leaves changed color, bursting into their golds, oranges and reds. Artprize is almost over in downtown Grand Rapids. I still haven't looked at the top ten list, but I know I did get to see a couple of them.

I've also been to Meijer Gardens to see their Chrysanthemums and More! exhibit. Here are a few pictures:

Fall is also my favorite time to start making soups. I was just telling someone that the other day, and they asked why I don't make soup in the summer. I enjoy most cream based soups and while some of them can be served cold, I like my soup hot. Fall is the perfect time to enjoy a bowl of hot soup.

I found a new cheesy potato soup recipe, so I decided to try it on Monday. It is very good, but I already modified it. It's pretty basic; a carrot, herbs, frozen mashed potatoes (to make it simple), milk and cheese.

I started out by making my own mashed potatoes. That's just as easy. Plus I had potatoes, why would I buy a bag of frozen mashed potatoes? (Again, the recipe is to make life easier, but I have nothing but time, so I don't mind complicating the recipe.)

Oh, and it called for ham.

No onion? Of course I added an onion. What's a soup with carrot but no onion?

The recipe suggested cheddar or gouda. I had some gouda, so I decided I would try that.

While I was shredded the gouda, that's when I got in trouble. The cheese, at one point while I was grating it, stopped moving. My hand, specifically my thumb, did not.

I looked down. Yes. Yes, I had just grated my thumb. I think I said, "oh. This is bad." Bill has learned to listen for these quiet, more subtle cues that something has just gone wrong. When the injury is not serious, I tend to shout and make a bigger deal about it. Because I has chosen the quieter route, Bill looked up from his chair in the living room, where he has a direct line of site to the stove and more importantly to where I was standing, looking a little pale.

Then I think I said, "I'm gonna need a band aid".

Fortunately there was no skin in the cheese, because it was still attached to the "grater" shaped cut on my thumb.

The soup was good. Very good. My thumb is healing. Slowly.

There will be more soup. Fall Harvest soup; it has butternut squash, a potato, carrots, a granny smith apple, it's all the flavors of fall in one soup. Chicken Tortilla soup, chili, ribolita, broccoli and cheese, French Onion soup and more. Oh my!

Happy Fall!