November 30, 2011

Berries






Berries, berries everywhere!  It's a genetic thing, always being on the lookout for them.  It runs in the family.

It should also be mentioned that I managed to snap these pictures with a wild, dancing puppy at the end of a leash.  I'm learning an entirely new set of skills.

November 29, 2011

Advent Is Here!




Something new for advent!  There's still time to count down the weeks until Christmas, so here's a 15 minute project.  You can make it as fancy as you want, but I chose to use things around the house.  (OK, I had to buy the Epsom salts!)
  • 5 wide mouth pint canning jars
  • Epsom salts for "snow"
  • 5 votive candles - the kind that come in packs of 100...I took the foil off 
  • Ribbon - I had silver in my recycled ribbon bag
  • Wooden container - this came from the garage, but anything will do.  You can also just line these up on a table.
  • Greenery - come on over if you need some. We've got lots!  I really like the idea of laying it around the candles, because you can always keep it fresh.  Wreaths are all wired together and they get pretty crispy by the 24th.
Each night this week during dinner we are lighting the first candle representing HOPE.  It's beautiful.

November 28, 2011

Frolic in the Pits? Really?

I finally used a book store gift card and bought Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door 2012.  It's a fascinating book with all kinds of instructions and tips for travel! Among the travel skills, itineraries, and recommendations, he addresses the concept of attitude adjustment.

"Of course, travel, like the world, is a series of hills and valleys.  Be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic.  If something's not to your liking, change your liking."

"Expect problems, then tackle them creatively."

"Make an art out of taking the unexpected in stride....Be a good sport, enjoy the uncertainty, and frolic in the pits."

Wouldn't it be great to be so skilled in the attitude department that we could do this not just in travel, but in life?  Every day? (Or how about most days?) In spite of xx, xx, and xx?  It really is an art.  And I really do want to be an artist.

November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks 2011



A very happy Thanksgiving to all of you, my family, friends, and friendly readers.  May we all be "voicing our love and rejoicing"!

Nancy

November 22, 2011

A Pleasing Day of Art

You know it's going to be a good day when you get to sleep in and then there's a warm fire waiting for you downstairs.  The kitchen's clean, the dog's sleepy, the calendar is full of only pleasurable things, and there's a new book on the couch.  That's the kind of day that inspires art.

And so I have completed my Thanksgiving card, learned how to draw bittersweet (the plant) and curved pumpkin stems, and written a first draft for a new children's book.

Another pheasant is roasting in the Dutch oven on the wood stove.

It doesn't get much better than this.  Even in France.

November 21, 2011

Sunshine


Morning sun makes everything more beautiful, don't you think?

I love how all of the raindrops ran down to the end of the pine needles.  I tried calculating how long it would take for that to happen, to figure out when it had rained.

4 a.m.

It's not often we get the privilege of thinking through these things.  Because usually (just like now) it's raining nonstop. =)

November 18, 2011

House or Travel?


And then we passed this lovely house.  Wouldn't it be a beautiful one to live in?

On second thought, I'll take a cute little hut and save the money for traveling.  =)

November 17, 2011

Free Fish?


Went for a walk while we were in Newberg and saw this boat through the trees.  Wonder how much free meat that fisherman brings home.  Assuming he's a man, and assuming he's got a wife, I wonder what she does with all that fish.

Right now in our neck of the woods, "free" pheasant is running about $98/lb.  This wife is wondering what she will cook when all the pheasants start pouring in.

November 16, 2011

We Walk On Moss



Here in the Great Rain Forest, otherwise known as the Pacific Northwest, it rains so much that moss grows on stones, paths, roads, buildings, sidewalks, and rooftops.  Fortunately, that's not our roof.

The top picture lets you get up close and personal.  And it's not only a fabulous example of what we walk on here, but of what I'm learning about photography.  The small area in focus has a very shallow depth of field and can be adjusted with things like light and shutter speed.  Someday I'll figure it all out, but for now, I'm enjoying the journey.  =)

November 15, 2011

A Happy Daughter


And lucky us, we got to see both our kids in the same week.  You have to be thankful when your daughter loves school and friends and is happily moving towards a life of her own.  She is full of laughter and love. That's her on the right (otherwise seen on this blog as The Giraffe), headed out on Sunday morning to church.

Couldn't be more blessed.

November 12, 2011

Bright Minds in the Photo Studio


It's not every parent that gets to see their son at work in a photography studio.  There was more expensive equipment in that place than I have ever seen. This day was the beginning of an art project on ties, and Sir Bradley modeled nine of them.

It is always a privilege to be around people who are experts at what they do.  It fascinates me to watch them, be around them, and learn their manner of thinking.  This day was no exception. Well done, son.  We couldn't be prouder.

November 11, 2011

Veterans Day 2011


To our veterans and military personnel, we thank you and salute you.

November 10, 2011

The Old Table


And so you see another, smaller centerpiece.  But now it gets a bit more personal as you see more of the old table.  It's awfully worn and a tempting source of embarrassment.  The finish is peeling and the leaves are warped just enough so that game pieces go awry. It's seen 25 years of meals, projects, homework, kids, hot dishes, and one superglue experiment.  (It was a babysitting thing. There was also a big green blotch on the couch.  We never did find out how that happened.)  But it's served us well and we figure it all adds up to a lot of character and memories.  Life!

P.S.  Isn't that little acorn marvelous?

November 9, 2011

Centerpiece for the Table


A bare table should be against the rules.  It is in my house, at least.  But my centerpiece creations are never fancy - just simple things I can gather from the yard or around the house to bring a touch of cheer or beauty.  Or both.  Last week I used a couple of, ummm, recipe boxes.

This week pears and a cake stand did the trick.

I'm wondering if people in Greece use centerpieces.

November 8, 2011

Lacamas Lake



This is our neck of the woods (as in, it's in our city, so we claim it).  We enjoyed a peaceful walk here late yesterday afternoon, watching the colors change by the minute as the sun moved lower in the sky.  Walks like that give me time to think, time to sort out the events of the day.  Always good for the soul.

November 5, 2011

Apple Crisp


So here you have it, the world's best apple crisp recipe I copied from my friend, The Other Nancy H. She made it the first year our families were together at the beach, and I begged for it a million times after that.  Good for dessert, breakfast, snacks, and meals.  Amazing.

My own version varies slightly from this, because I get caught on the first item.  4 pounds of apples?  How much is that, really?  So I throw in as many as I can and pray there's still room for the topping. I also use just a sprinkle of sugar in the apples because I never have a lemon in the house.  And I only use one cube of butter (to save the arteries, you know), melted. Sometimes I'll add in some flax meal with the topping.

The difference between hers and mine is over-the-top fabulous vs. just regular, amazing fabulous.

Best eaten with friends by a warm fire.  Sand optional.

November 4, 2011

Lacking Fresh Eggs

This little Wyandotte is the shyest and always at the bottom of the pecking order even though she's our best layer.

Actually, she's our only layer, as the other girls have decided that even though they're young, they're done with the whole egg-laying idea.

Actually, she's molting in this cold weather - nary a fresh egg to be seen.

That means new chicks will be arriving at the end of winter.  (Please read between the lines.) This one will soon be at the top.

November 3, 2011

Cranberry Orange Bread






Oh, my gosh!  This stuff is fabulous!  I can't imagine how the combination of those deep reds and brilliant oranges could turn out any better!

I found Grandma's recipe in the old wooden recipe box and did a little skip in the kitchen!  I admit to making a few changes (which I always seem to do, with moderate success), as I have the advantage of a blender and the desire to make it a touch healthier. I think she would have approved. This is a hearty tea or breakfast bread, rather than a true dessert bread.  It's full of whole wheat, cranberries, and orange, which make it very tangy but not bitter.  Even better the next day, toasted, with a bit of cream cheese spread on top.

Sorry, I can't seem to get any pictures of the final product.  I lose my mind just waiting for the first piece and by the time I remember to get the camera out, there's not much left.  So you'll have to trust me that it's delicious AND beautiful.

Cranberry Orange Bread
2 c whole wheat flour
1 c sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 c nuts (pecans are amazing)
2 c fresh cranberries cut in half
Pulp and juice from 1 orange (leaving the skin stuff behind) and peel of 1/2 the orange (leaving the white part behind) - blenderize until smooth.  Use 3/4 c. of this mixture. (*I started by cutting the orange rinds into strips, intending to chop them into bits as originally instructed.  But I decided to throw it all in the blender.  Beautiful.)
1 egg
2 Tbsp melted butter

Stir all ingredients together just until barely mixed.  Spoon into bread pan.  Bake @ 350° x 1 hr.

November 2, 2011

College Fun

That's my giraffe! (And her amazing roommate.) 

November 1, 2011

Drying Pears - All 40 Pounds




When organic pears are on sale for 78¢ a pound, the Hokes go shopping!  That means millions of pears all over the counters, waiting to ripen.  And ripen they do, in about 4-5 days, and our world then revolves around 12-hour drying cycles.  Our dehydrator runs all day and night, and I'm always surprised that the motor doesn't burn out.  But it's a workhorse and has lasted for more seasons than I can remember.  

The investment in a good food dehydrator is one of the best decisions you can make, so if you're on the fence, get one! This year we had so many pears ripen all at once that I tried a small batch in our convection oven.  In theory, it should have worked - racks, blowing air, 135°.  But it didn't.  

Pears are one of the easiest fruits to dry, right up there with plums.  The trick is knowing when they are ripe.  A farmer once cautioned, "Remember that they're ripe when the green skin between the dots start to turn yellow and the stem end begins to soften.  They ripen from the inside out, so don't wait for the skins to turn all yellow.  If you wait that long, you'll cut them open and find they're all bad. If you get it right, those pears will be dripping sweet and soft as butter."  

Thanks, Farmer Bob.  I can't remember if that's really your name, but we're just going to run with it.