graveyard walk

i really enjoy people watching...watching their expressions when talking, observing their interactions when they don't know i'm watching - and esp when they do.........wondering why that person is alone or if that couple is on a first date - happily married - or going through the motions. i'm too chicken to actually take pictures of them....afraid they'll catch me and ask me why i am taking their picture......what would i tell them? you are just so fascinating at this moment that i want to capture your posture or your face or your feeling? i only have regular old digital camera too - so i can't even take shots of people too far away to notice me. besides - i think people are more likely to cut a person with a fancier - high tech camera more seriously as a photographer and not assume they are a stalker!

graveyards fascinate me. not the big perfectly manicured ones....but the old, rundown forgotten ones next to buildings that may or may not be still in use. i am not obsessed with death or dying....but at times i find myself obsessing on my role on this earth. i remember once being asked to write my own epithet. i thought long and hard about it and wrote something along the lines of wonderful wife and mother to 2 amazing sons..........yadda yadda. after proudly sharing my writing brilliance - our leader looked at me right in the eye and asked why did i want to be remembered as someone else's something or other? where was *i* in that epithet?
up until that point i really never considered that i could leave my own legacy - and not latch on to those around me. i stammered and really thought about it - and at that time i could not figure out how i wanted to be remembered.

walking though the graveyards today i read the first word on the gravestones. some had the person's name. others started with daughter or father or beloved mother.....

i wondered if these people had any say in how their gravestone would read. did they want to be remembered as a person first? or were they happy to be remembered first by their role?

and what about their spot in the cemetery? some areas were filled with rows of markers. other areas had them scattered here and there. there were clusters under trees and along the stone walls and/or by gates - were they the prized spots.....offering shade to those underneath or a quick peek to drivers or walkers passing by?

for some - like my parents - where they are buried is of the utmost importance. they want to be in a mausoleum surrounded by their family....and by family i don't mean with my brother and myself - which i thought was funny.....but instead with their siblings and cousins (their parents are buried in italy) right now they visit their deceased family members - comforted by having a place to go to spend time with them. it is a beautiful thing to have such a place to visit - however it is your loved one is remembered....but then what happens 200 years from now?

who will come to your grave? how will you be remembered? will you even be remembered?

i don't have the answers to these questions and quite frankly i really don't think too much about it. i will admit that the gloomy autumn days and the celebration of all hallows eve lend themselves perfectly to thinking more about it. but i do think about my epithet once in awhile - usually when i am on the cusp of yet another level of self awareness. i still don't know would say - but one thing i do know is that i am important enough to have it be about me and not my role. i think that is hard for many women to admit or believe. maybe it comes with wisdom - the wisdom of living life. and sometimes you get that wisdom by visiting the dead.


caramel apples and pumpkin carving

this weekend was my sil's annual pumpkin carving party. we look forward to it every year and the competition has become quite fierce.

this year i wanted to bring caramel apples. i didn't want to just melt kraft caramels - i wanted to make my own caramel. there are only a few ingredients (and wow are the ingredients not for the faint of heart) so i figured how hard could it be. plus i had a candy thermometer sitting in my drawer for years just waiting to be used for something like this. so if you are interested in trying this follow these simple steps.............

step 1:
brave the rain and make a special trip to your local-ish farmers market to buy the sweetest - most delicious apples you could find.

step 2:
find the cutest kid you can find to help cut the twigs for the stems.
luckily i found this 6 year old looking for work.

step 3:
dump 3 different kinds of sugar and some cream into a pot. clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pot. if you notice i don't have my candy thermometer clipped to the side of the pot. that is because when i pulled it out (after years of having it in my drawer) it was broken!!!!! so i quickly googled "how to make caramel without a candy thermometer" (this is why everyone should have a computer in the kitchen) and set about trying to make caramel the old fashioned way.

step 4:

set your heat to medium high and wait until your caramel reaches around 270 degrees. here is where there was some confusion. 270 degrees is hard ball stage yet caramel is supposed to be in the firm ball stage........so basically i had to wing it and decide that when the caramel looked like this - it was done...........

step 5:

once you have caramel (or in my case *think* you have caramel) gather some really bad for you items to roll your apples in......

and get your little helper to start dipping.

step 6:

cleverly arrange your apples on a bed of leaves and pat yourself on the back for just how darn good they look!

BUT how did they taste????

its hard to say - mainly b/c the caramel had hardened so much that it was impossible to take a bite out of the apple. they had to be thrown into the microwave just to soften the caramel enough to cut the apple! but - i do know that once you stuck that piece of caramel into your mouth - where it softened into the gooey caramel it was supposed to be - it was good........

moral of the story? make sure you have a candy thermometer

then it was on to pumpkin carving............pumpkins were everywhere, seeds and strings were everywhere...and there was plenty of trash talk. where were the kids? they haven't developed the level of competiton the adults have - so they made themselves scarce......

here is my pumpkin. believe me it looks better in the picture then it did in real life. i combined 2 ideas without thinking it through and wish i would have made the windows more intricate b/c as it stands they were just 2 big holes show casing a too small vulture.

here are the other ones. the winner was the mummy on the bottom row - last one. this year was the first time we had a really hard time choosing a winner. we have already begun planning our pumpkin entries for next year.

it was such a great time shared with family and friends. this year we added another family and they brought a friend who will be going to college next year. she said she is coming again next year. i don't blame her.


outside my windshield

some days i feel like i am always in the car

driving here or there

following the same route

over and over again

country roads are hypnotic

most of the time i am driving on auto pilot

aware only enough to notice the squirrel darting out in front of me

or the beginning notes of a favorite song on the radio

main roads surround our country ones

and daily i find myself driving on them too

welcome to suburbia

while driving yesterday i realized that along my usual routes

are points of interest

places i always find myself looking

seeking out the beauty in the mundane

the break in the routine

some of the images aren't necessarily pretty

like this refrigerator in the middle of a yard

this is where i get my eggs

when my mom chicken's aren't producing as much

but i do love driving into this yard

i have no idea who lives here

i just leave money in a can and drive away

or this overpass

its a very dangerous curve

and everytime i go under it

i wonder who wisely wrote SLOW!

and how did they do it?

i look forward to these quick images
the ones i see through my windshield
its comforting to know they are there
waiting to greet me as i pass


Weekend wrap up

friday and saturday were as miserable as was predicted - sunless, cold and rainy. sunday looked to be a wash out too. the morning started out the same way as the other two days - but by the afternoon the rain had cleared and the temperature started to rise....

just in time for an evening cubscout hayride at a local farm....

and a bonfire complete with smores made from the yummiest local chocolate wafers
provided by a scout family from their very own chocolate shop.
sadly, i don't think i can use plain old hershey's bars ever again......

while we didn't get to enjoy the entire weekend...i am thankful for the part of it that we did.


working the pantry

i have a large beautifully organized pantry filled with food. grains are together on one shelf. beans are together are another. cereals are separated from baking items. it is very easy to find something i need. organization is not my problem. the problem is that a lot of that food has been there a very long time.

some of of my pantry items have been bought on whim - like the slew of coconut items (flour, milk powder, unsweetened chunks) purchased from a co-op i once ran from wilderness family naturals. some items i bought b/c i remember seeing that particular ingredient in a recipe - like garam masala - and swore i'd need one day. the others - well i just never got around to using them.

i also love cookbooks. every trip to our local library isn't complete without at least one cookbook or book about food coming home with me.....and food magazines? forget about it - i made myself swear to...well myself.......that i would not buy another food magazine unless i started actually MAKING the recipes i rip out.

but its not just the pantry that has become the land of misfit ingredients - so has my freezer - and parts of my fridge. speaking of misfits - the one blog that i read that doesn't seem to fit in with the others is the simple dollar. for the most part its a blog about money and finances (and its a great one i think). but a lot of the info pertains to everyday life too. one particular article (and i tried hard to find the one) states (and i am heavily paraphrasing) that simply watching the cooking show or an exercise tape stimulates the same part of the brain that gets stimulated if we actually do the cooking or the exercising. so one can actually feel like they've done the activity simply watching it being done. the challenge comes in actually breaking that cycle and doing the activity (and that is another post!)
so i decided enough is enough. instead of reading all the delicious recipes and watching all the cooking shows - i am going to dig out the lonely forgotten items from the back of the pantry or freezer shelves and use them - at least once a week - in a new recipe.

this is what i cooked last nite and man oh man was it good........i mean downright delicious. i ate 2 bowls without taking a breather in between. since my husband and boys won't touch it - i'll be eating it all day tomorrow too.

there is just one minor problem. i didn't follow a recipe - i just kinda winged it. but i will try my best to give the best measurements i can. since i always get asked about miso soup i figured i'd use some in this recipe to show how i use it.....and also b/c i absolutely love miso.


combine the following into a pot or large saucepan:

  • 32 oz carton of veggie stock
  • 1/2 a bag of frozen shelled edamame (about 8oz)
  • head of napa cabbage roughly chopped
  • kernels cut off about 2 1/2 ears of left over corn
  • huge handful of dried shitake mushrooms
  • salt and pepper to taste
you might need to add more hot water depending on how much *stuff* you have in the pot. i had to add about 2 cups more once i finished adding all the veggies.

bring to a boil and cook about 10 minutes.

turn off the heat and wait until the soup stops boiling. ladle out about 1 1/2 cups of liquid and put in a bowl. dissolve a generous tablespoon of miso (i just scooped out a bunch with a wooden spoon) to the liquid (you don't want to add miso to boiling water b/c it tastes bitter. you can add it right into the soup but i like to add it to liquid to help it dissolve better)

now serve yourself some in your favorite bowl and use your favorite spoon to enjoy it. that is my favorite bowl in the picture. i won it in a raffle. i absolutely refuse to eat my soup in anything else. i bought that spoon at a local asian market. regular soup spoons just can't handle the huge hunks of mushroom or tofu that i love to throw into my miso soups.

well that's it!


the calm before the storm

today is a picture perfect autumn day. the sun is shining. the baby blue sky is dotted with bundles of cottony white clouds. there is a not too bad sweater chilly breeze blowing....................
but tomorrow - all that will change.
we are expecting our first nor'easter of the year. no snow - but heavy rain and temperatures in the high 40s....and its supposed to stay that way until next week.
what can i say - it happens.
i just wish it didn't happen this early in the season.


N is for New Experiences................

joining cub scouts is new for us this year. my oldest never had the desire to join so i was happy when my youngest wanted to try it out. i never joined girl scouts as a child so i really didn't know too much about it. yet - from what i had heard about scouts - its seemed like it would fit into our lifestyle quite nicely. i was right. my oldest is having so much fun tagging along to events that he wants to join boy scouts next year. i'm enjoying it too and have volunteered to be a den leader.

we had our first cub-o-ree this past weekend and even though it was chilly and dreary the boys had a great time. they learned about firestarting, rope making, using slingshots and compass skills to name a few.

this event also was the setting for another new experience.......my son's first meat hot dog. i had packed sandwiches for everyone knowing that there would only be hot dogs served. being "different" never seemed to bother my oldest....and for the most part my youngest doesn't mind either - until he saw the other cubs all eating hot dogs. i thought about bringing veggie hot dogs but didn't think it would matter that much - well it did..........so once he saw everyone eating a hot dog - and he had a cheese sandwich in front of him - he asked for one. after i told him it was meat he still didn't care - so i took a deep breathe and casually went in and got him one. while we are raising our boys as vegetarians we aren't making them be vegetarians. if they want to try meat they can....and if they chose to become meat eaters than that is fine too. but we'll cross that bridge when and if we get to it. so for now - a meat hotdog it is.....

while carving pumpkins is not new to us - it was to this little boy. he is in town from california visiting a friend of mine. he wanted to experience autumn like we do - including carving pumpkins...so my friend very kindly set up a pumpkin carving playdate. we all enjoyed ourselves tremendously.
you know - i think it is sad that so many people - including children - don't bother to carve pumpkins anymore. you can buy fake pumpkins at craft stores to carve - or avoid the mess completely and just paint them. i don't know - i think there is something magical in the whole process of choosing the perfect pumpkin - then picking a pattern - cutting off the top - scooping out all the slimy but oh so tasty pumpkin seeds - using all those cool little tools to carve and finally putting in the candle and stepping back to see your image come alive! my sil recently started holding a pumpkin carving party every year and it is definitely a highlight of our season.


M is for multitude of color..............

in southeastern pa our leaves are just now starting to change and have yet to explode into the amazing display of seasonal color that is autumn. but - there is no need to wait a few weeks to see the beauty of the fall. if you look below the canopy you'll find that there is plenty of color to see.

i love how some colors seem to pop against the not so vibrant backdrop of dead, brown leaves and overcast days. colors that were almost bleached out by the sunny glorious days of summer appear to have been repainted and refreshed........

just when the last of our summer flowers are fading - mums appear for one last hurrah before the winter puts them all to rest.

we have had an explosion of berries this year - all ripe and ready to be enjoyed by the many birds that will visit our yard this winter.

what colors have you seen today?...........


U is for unpredictable...........and utterances

i generally find it quite hard to plan my days in autumn. there are so many things i want to fit into the season - apple picking, fall festivals, hayrides, corn mazes, decorating for halloween. then comes the struggle of trying to squeeze those wants into a schedule already full of soccer, cub scouts and back to school nites. at times it can be quite frustrating......a planned trip to the orchard is cancelled b/c of storms or the desire to take a hayride on the boardwalk has to be left as a desire b/c of a cub scout event you just can't avoid.....
but sometimes the unpredictability is a good thing. for whatever reason we have our saturdays free of scheduled activities this season. all of our sports commitments fall on sunday - jam packing our already busy sundays. but that is fine - i prefer to pack in one day then ruin two. anyway - last saturday found us alone and without something to do. the predicted rain was over quicker than expected and the rest of the day was turning into a beautiful autumn one....perfect for a last minute trip to the pa renaissance faire

our family loves going to the renaissance faire. my husband loves the shows and for whatever reason seems to be the one always dragged out of the audience to participate. my oldest son got a huge kick out of the human chess match this year. i love the crafts and vendors......(aren't those head horns to die for? i can't wait to try and make my own pair for halloween this year!) we all love the costumes and of course all the bad for you but yummy faire food.
now while my family loves the faire - we have no friends who do! we've tried to bring other families along with us in the past and it wasn't the greatest experience. we ended up leaving after only a few hours b/c everyone was bored! BORED! i can't even imagine!
so this year we did it alone..........and it was a perfect day! even though we got there alittle later than expected (around 2pm) and left at closing we still have plenty of time to do at least something that each of us wanted to do........and we each left - predictably - happy.......
now some autumn utterances and sounds you'll hear in our home........
  • "mom, can i please have some hot cocoa now!" (asked by my 6 year old around 9pm right before bedtime)
  • "can i just try on my costume - i promise i won't ruin it for halloween" (spoken by my 6 year old starting oct 4th)
  • "OMG i love warm apple cider - can we buy some for home?" (spoken by my 10 year old who won't touch an apple all year but drinks enough cinder in oct to clean out an orchard)
  • the sound of the whistle (heard all day sunday, and monday nite, and any other nite football is on and my husband is home)
  • "i'll have a pumpkin spice latte - pumpkin pancakes - pumpkin muffin - pumpkin ice cream......ANYTHING pumpkin (oh this is all me..........)


T is for trees and turkeys

ok - i know trees in autumn are an obvious choice - but i really really love trees. just as a birdwatcher will stop in the middle of a road to watch a red tailed hawk soar across the sky - i have been known to stop dead in my tracks - the breathe suddenly taken from me - as i round a corner and spot a lone perfect tree smack dab in the middle of a field.....or come to a clearing on a trail to find myself surrounded by the most beautiful blanket of red, yellow and orange leaves - stretched before me and on both sides in a seemingly unending quilt of marvelous color.........sigh.....
trees are always beautiful to me - one of my favorite gifts from God - but in autumn.......breathtaking.
every year around this time we get wild turkeys walking around our property. not one or two - or even 5 or 6.............the highest number we've counted was 17...........17 turkeys walking up our driveway and through our backyard - and on to their next adventure. we joke that we see them around this time b/c we are vegetarians and what safer place is there for them to hang out during this season. sometimes they mingle with the deer that live here too........and the groundhog. what a delightful sight that is! we've only seen them once this season so far.......and we always get nervous when we don't see them for awhile.......i think we are going to get some corn for them to entice them to come around more often...and so i can snap a picture of them...now that i have this blog i tend to think in pictures first - words later.........anyone else do this?


U is for under the covers.................

as i am sure i'm not the only one - this time of the year makes it really hard to get out of bed. during spring its the sound of the birds outside my window that makes me linger in bed just alittle longer - eager to catch the crescendo of their collective songs - followed by silence...my signal that its now ok to wake up and get out of bed...
in autumn its the cocoon.......i get into bed fully clothed - including wearing my favorite wool slippers. the morning finds me fully stripped down to just undies and a tissue weight tee (it used to be stripped down completely but i got tired of answering my older boy's question of "mommy, why are always naked in bed?").
i'm buried completely under the covers - windows usually open - hoping that i have a good 1/2 hour before i need to actually get out of bed. if i am blessed with that 1/2 hour - i curl myself into as tight a ball as possible - and just listen to the quiet......
i almost have my perfect bed. i have a wool mattress cover - my flannel sheets.......and an old boring comforter. my mission this autumn is to find the fluffiest - warmest comforter i can find. the problem is i have no idea what kind to get. i want non-down, preferably wool and organic wool at that. i don't want it shifting all over the place - and of course it needs to be fluffy - 5 star hotel kinda fluffy........and not expensive.......then i'll have the perfect bed.....
then i hope to find some for the boys too.
i hope to start researching later today. its all i've been thinking about lately. of course the fear is that i will find something so perfect that i won't be able to leave my cocoon at all! that's not so bad is it? its the chance i'll have to take.