Tag Archives: autumn

Pumpkin Season Begins

We began our official Pumpkin Season ’09 last night. Krista baked pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (not vegan) for dessert. It was three star recipe in our household, but the reviewers on the food network love it (five stars!). It is kind of puffy and a little too cake-y for our tastes, but that’s a common side effect of baking with pumpkin puree. Near the end, our oven hit its stride & the final few batches were a little under done & more delicious. However, even mediocre pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are awesome. Pumpkin & chocolate are a terribly underrated combination.

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Lately, we’ve been trying to squeeze in as much time as possible in the outdoors. You can tell summer is over & fall is settling in with crisp nights. Leaves are changing colors, and pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks. It’s getting dark so early, it’s like the whole day is gone before dinner. I almost can’t bear it. Soon, it will be too cold to play tennis at all & we’ll be in serious need of pumpkins and apple cider.

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Weird Food & Rickety Rides

We got free tickets to the Puyallup Fair at our respective workplaces & schools, and decided to spend an evening there. I, for one, have never been to the Puyallup Fair, and I don’t think Krista & Levi have gone in ages, so we were all overdue for strange food & rickety rides. We grabbed Levi & his friend and headed off through rush hour traffic.

Our first stop was at the stand for Elephant Ears. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I were a 13 year old boy about to ride a bunch of crazy gravity-defying rides, I would want to eat the elephant ears later, but not these boys. They wanted the ears now.

With the sweet, greasy, fried bread safely tucked away in our bellies, we sent the boys off to ride all the crazy rides that just don’t seem safe to me anymore (that’s how you know I’m getting old) and we wandered off to see prize-winning pumpkins & alpacas shaved like poodles. We saw goats, donkeys, yaks, lambs, goats (including la mancha goats and fainting goats, which are so adorable), several varieties of miniature ponies, llamas, and tiny cows. I mean, like, miniature cows. It begs the question, could we fit miniature cows in our backyard? Our friend, Emma, is right. The Fair is a rough place for people with little city lots & big homesteader ambitions. We saw scare crows and raised beds, and all the made-for-tv hawkers you can possibly dream of.

We saw the Grange displays, and took some photos of our favorites.

City Gardens

Yellow Brick Road

Rainbow Grange

Krista & I had some delicious roasted corn. The boys couldn’t get out of line for the Tornado or Giant Slide, so they missed out on the corn. It’s probably for the best, anyway. I heard they had a root beer float instead. The corn was delicious – perfectly roasted, dipped in a giant vat of melted butter (I will admit this is a little gross, but it’s fair food! come on!), and then there was a whole table of condiments, including a spicy cajun seasoning. I could have eaten this corn for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if there was a modicum of nutrition.

We even saw an elusive, rare creature: a rainbow unicorn!

Finally, we peeled the boys away from the “test your strength” game, where they won 2 giant inflatable swords, which they dueled with all the way to the parking lot. Both swords got holes & deflated just in time for us to drive home safely, with that satisfying, gritty feeling you get from a day at the fair.


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Not a Garden

This is our backyard, with a pole for the clothesline & the apple tree. This is a “before” picture. Let’s check back in 1 year. I had high hopes that we could put in a fall/winter garden when we moved, and not miss a whole season of growing stuff. I was naive and ambitious. It’s not going to happen. We’d be lucky if I mowed the lawn or cut back the ivy before the rains start. I did trim the hedges yesterday, though (electric hedge trimmers = not very much work). There’s still a chance I might put in sets of garlic, but that will probably be the extent of my fall/winter gardening efforts here. I want to spend the winter researching, planning, and getting ready so that we can start the garden 110% as soon as March rolls around. It seems far more likely to happen if I give myself 6 months to plan.

I have a lot of guilt about tearing out plants that are currently in the yard. They aren’t doing well. The soil isn’t great and they’ve been neglected for too long, as the former owners were not big garden people. But still, they are alive and doing their best, and I feel guilty just tearing them up. So then, finding new homes for all the rosebushes, butterfly bushes, azaleas, coniferous border plants, bulbs, hedges etc. becomes its own project. I am not sure how other people handle this when they get a new house & hate the yardscaping. Maybe I’m just soft?

There’s a new magazine called Urban Farm (from the editors of Hobby Farm). There’s only one issue so far, but it’s great. Urban Farm is based on the idea that you don’t need a lot of acres to produce food, with an emphasis sustainability, organic growing, and self-sufficiency. We also subscribe to Mother Earth News, which is I love, but a lot of projects are geared toward people with a little more space than we have. It’s inspirational to read Mother Earth, though, and I like the creative challenge of trying to scale down some of their projects to our 1/5 acres.

Fortunately, our library has a ton of great gardening books. Lately, I’ve been reading Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting, which is full of good ideas for mediocre/difficult spaces. We actually have some really promising garden spaces and I know we are very lucky compared to apartment dwellers, renters, and people with concrete yards, but there is a lot of food for thought in this book. Yesterday, I also picked up Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times, about traditional low-input gardening methods for higher yields. Gardening When It Counts should be an interesting read. The author is opposed to popular intensive vegetable gardening, like crowded raised beds (hi, that’s what I do). If there is really an easier, cheaper, more sustainable way to grow food, I’m probably willing to try it, but the top soil in my yard is not promising. (see above: all the plants in the yard are struggling)

And to round out this conversation, I’ve been watching The Good Life on a recommendation from the new green blog. The Good Life is a comedy from the BBC in the 1970s about a suburban couple that decides to quit the rat race and go self-sufficient. Don’t worry – I’m not getting any crazy ideas; their house is paid off! It takes place in the 70s, but it seems very timely and modern. As we see more and more people turning back to sustainable, locally-produced food and trying to consume less and produce more to meet their own needs, there are inevitably going to be conflicts with Homeowner Associations, local laws and restrictions, neighbors, and the limitations of our own knowledge and abilities. Anyway, it’s a good show, and it gives me something to watch besides Lost, which I have been watching entirely too much of. Have I mentioned lately that we love netflix instant streaming? Instant Streaming & the ROKU are easily my favorite technical innovations of the last year.


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Back to School, etc

Things have been busy around our little house. Levi started eighth grade (gasp!), which so far has included some algebra and some coughing/sneezing/running nose. Yes, he got a back-to-school cold, which he kindly passed on to Krista. Somehow I have escaped with only a little stuffiness.

Krista is working on her final stage of training at work. While I’m glad all of her training will finally be behind us soon, I could do without the schedule & stress of training! Fortunately, she’s doing well and studying and getting enough sleep, which makes it much easier to learn whatever it is they teach you during training.

Levi has been reading a lot lately, including several books about Ronald Reagan, his latest style icon. This makes for fascinating dinner conversations, and he spends a lot of time hassling us to buy him a suit. We have provided a blazer, a vest, ties galore, and a dress shirt. He cleans up nicely & looks very sharp.

Yesterday on our walk around the ‘hood, a tiny off-leash Pomeranian named Sally attacked our chihuahua, Clementine. Clementine has some aggression issues. She often tries to pick fights with large dogs, but they never take her up on it. Sally, however, came out of someone’s front yard, and jumped on Clementine before Clem even had a chance to bark at her and say rude things about her mama. Levi and I were surprised – we just tried to walk away with Clem, but Sally followed, all teeth and snarls. Clementine was in the process of beating her down when Sally’s father, a large burly man (named Levi, coincidentally), scooped Sally up, apologized to us & carried her indoors. Clementine sustained no injuries; I can’t say for sure that Sally escaped entirely unscathed. Leash your dogs, please.

Our beloved herd of pets has been well-behaved lately. (knock on wood) They all seem to have adjusted quickly after the move, and the new house has given them the opportunity to achieve a cat-dog harmony that seemed to always be just out of reach at our old house. Oh, sure, if Elsa takes off tearing across the house like a wild cat, Cash is going to follow her, but mostly he wants to kiss her. Jimmy would rather be napping alone somewhere than dealing with any of our nonsense, but he was never one for parties. Mostly it is quiet and calm these days, with much less hissing and barking. It only took a year. Yes, it’s already been an entire year. Time flies when you’re having fun.

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Baking & Cooking

With the weather getting colder, and a nasty cold dragging everyone in our house down, we’ve been doing a lot of soup cooking this week. We made vegan chili sans carne from the Dirty South vegan cookbook. We made tomato soup from the most popular cookbook in our house, Veganomicon, and curry split pea soup from a book by the same author Vegan with a vengeance. I baked dozens of muffins, carrot/apple muffins, lemon poppyseed muffins, and some other kind i can’t even remember now. I mean to make garlic soup almost every day, but it hasn’t happened yet. This morning, we had some delicious heart-shaped vegan apple waffles, since it’s Saturday and Levi slept in.

But the crown jewel of this week in food? Krista’s black-bottom pumpkin pie vegan cupcake. Using fairly traditional recipes for black bottom cupcakes, and vegan pumpkin pie, these little morsels soar to greatness. The chocolate cupcake is dense, moist with deep cacao goodness while Ghirardelli chocolate chips nestle in the pumpkin filling.

Also, this week, the Olympia Film Festival has been keeping us busy. I’ve been volunteering like crazy at the ticket booth, but Krista and I managed to see a few movies throughout the week. Levi’s been saving up his movie-watching abilities for ALL FREAKIN’ NIGHT – a legendary sold-out all-night screening of scary movies. I’ve seen some spectacular movies. It’s so good to support independent cinema.


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Halloween in Olympia

I have had a lot of great Halloween’s in my day, but the weather this year was PERFECT! It was the spookiest, foggiest, scariest Halloween I’ve ever seen. It was only a little chilly; enough to enjoy warm apple cider, but not so cold the trick-or-treating was insufferable. We trick or treated at some houses that were very scary for the normal reasons, you know, like corpses, graveyards, skeletons, scary noises, and unsettling costumes.

And we visited some houses that were scary for totally different reasons!

But in red, blue, or purple states, candy is candy! Halloween helps us reach across the aisle for bipartisan cooperation in getting our kids hyped on sugar for days. Speaking of the children, here’s some pics of Levi. He decided to dress as a bank robber in a suit & a pig mask. It was a really cute and funny costume, and he liked explaining to everyone that it was ironic and also, very clever.

Levi and Governor Christine “dora the explorer” Gregoire!
We trick-or-treated the Governor’s Mansion because she hands out books! Also, we found out that Levi is taller than the governor! Whoa! He made a point of telling the troopers that his gun isn’t real, and they said, “We believe you!” Left to right — the governor’s husband dressed as a purple monkey, the governor, Levi, and his friend, Sebastian, the vampire.

This is the only decent pic I got of Levi & his mom. He did hold us hostage at various points in the night.

And here’s a picture of me & Levi. I hope this picture conveys the horror and terror we were going for. More on krista’s & my costumes in a second.

krista and i went with the very easy “Undead ______” costumes. Recipe: wear your normal clothes. add some unsettling green and blue tones to your face to show that blood flow has ceased. add bruises to your eye sockets to complete the look. In this picture we were “Undead Newlyweds.” We were also “Undead Mom and Undead Stepmom,” “Undead Gays,” and “Undead Hungry-For-Pizza” throughout the night.

Levi & Sebastian trick-or-treated until the porch lights went off, and then watched very spooky and scary movies while they ate approximately 12,000 pounds of candy. Krista and I fell asleep before the opening scene of our scary movie ended. Ha! Krista asked me to mention that she had been awake since 3:30am. I, personally, had no excuse for being so tired.

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Hello from Olympia in October. We’re having a great time this fall. We have been taking the puppies on long (5 mile) walks lately and enjoying the lovely fall weather and colors.

I heard it is snowing in Pittsburgh – it’s hard to miss that! So far we have made pumpkin soup & roasted pumpkin seeds & pumpking sauce for pasta. We went to the apple cider mill & had the most delicious apple fritters you can imagine!

please ignore the sunglasses on my head.

We picked out some pumpkins for our front porch & took a family photo.

How is autumn treating you? What are you going to be for Halloween? What pumpkin recipes are you planning to make? We are going to go trick or treating – don’t worry, we will take a lot of pictures of our costumes!

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