Fall Fun

This Fall has been full of fun festivities.

To start off, we bought Zach a red wagon in September. This is an ATW red wagon: it’s got big wheels so we can use it out on the property. Zachary loves it.

He enjoys being helpful, collecting sticks for kindling out in the front yard and on the property. Rides back and forth to the mailbox have become part of the daily routine.

As hinted above: we installed a fire burning stove in our family room this past September. Our only source of heat otherwise were electric floor boards which is a little expensive for the size of our place and for how cold it gets in the winter. Plus, if I haven’t share this already, we live on a timber farm, so we have plenty (and I mean plenty) of fuel. Zach has learned quickly to stay away from the stove-it is HOT! (We have also put up a baby gate around it.)

At the beginning of October my mother came to visit and Luke and I got the chance to get away from our 6th wedding anniversary to the coast overnight. We didn’t know it, but it was actually the cranberry festival down in Grayland, so on our way out of town we checked out the festival.

We have also enjoyed a very dry Fall which means beautiful fall foliage. Day after day we have enjoyed wonderful hues of red, yellow, and orange leaves. Perfect for fall outings.

Speaking of which, at the end of October we went to Zach’s first pumpkin patch with my MOPS group! It was a cold foggy morning but that meant we had the patch and farm all to ourselves!

Each kid got their own snack, pumpkin coloring page, a tractor ride through a themed country farmland, and to “pick” their own small pumpkin for the low price of 5$ .

The adults were offered hot coco and cider and a place to warm up by the fire while the kids went on the tractor ride.   My grandmother was here to visit for the week and she loved being of the outing, even if by the time we took pictures Zach was grumpy and cold. But the whole thing was about an hour, perfect for a toddler outing.

The next week was Halloween. Our church does a large Harvest Festival inside with prizes, balloons, games, and inflatables. Zach dressed as a seahawks football player (a hand-me down outfit) and Mom and Dad dressed as his fans in seahawk gear.

Highlights of Zach’s evening included: getting a blue balloon all to himself, playing a game and winning candy (aka one packet of gummy lifesavers), and going down the large inflatable slide with Dad.

November has flown by with work, house projects, and preparing for the holiday season. We are looking forward to spending Thanksgiving weekend with Luke’s parents this year: resting, eating great food, and enjoying quality time with each other.

Hope you have all had a great fall and wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

October review 2017

October was a crazy busy month that needs recapping. At the beginning of the month, my Mom came to stay with us for the week. She blessed us by watched Zach overnight so Luke and I could go away for our 5th year Anniversary. Yes, it’s been five years.

It took several months to pump and save up the milk needed for that one night away, but it was worth it. We drove out to Westport where we visited for Valentine’s day last year (for more see Day-cation) and stayed in a cottage on the jetty with ocean views. We toured Westport Winery, they had good red wines. Then we tried a unique dinner from Aloha Alabama, a Hawaiian/Southern BBQ fusion restaurant.  I had my first Poke bowl and Luke of course had brisket and ribs, it was great. We thoroughly enjoyed the first full night of sleep in more than four months. In the morning we stopped by Granny Hazels for specialty chocolates, and a thank you treat for Mom, then got coffee and headed back home. It was the perfect get-away.

That week Mom and I did fall baking and holiday décor shopping. I treated Mom to the Country Chicks Fall Festival  at the local fair grounds. We loved exploring vendor after vendor or shabby chic and country themed fall décor and goods. The place with abundant with pumpkins, wreaths, and holiday signs. We walked away with a felt green pumpkin and a used very cheap Pendleton wool blanket as well plenty of ideas for home decor.

The next weekend Mom and I drove down to Stevenson WA, along the gorge, where I helped Mom-in-law with a day conference while my Mom, once again watched Zach. The next day we met my Dad for lunch in Woodburn, did a little Christmas shopping, then Zach and I drove back home in time for our small group at church that night.

We had one full week and weekend to re-group, during which we fought seasonal colds. Then we left at the beginning of the next week for Luke’s parent’s place. Luke and John left early Tuesday morning for a week of hunting at their “elk camp”. Mom-in-law and I had the week together with Zach. During the week, I got a few Christmas cookies made (yes I have to start this early to get them all done; at least this year). We also did Christmas shopping, went to a few meetings, and Zach did a great photo shoot. Zach’s great-grandmother visited on the weekend, then the men came back on Sunday afternoon.

We packed up and left the next morning headed back home then took the CRV in for work. The next day was of course Halloween. On Halloween Zach turned 5 months (more on this to come)! I drove Luke back and forth to work and used the car to run errands and take Zach to a doctor’s appointment.

Because of the crazy-busy month we did not have time to work out any creative or special family costumes like you see all over facebook or pinterest. But Zach and Luke were able to show-case what I got Luke for father’s day: coordinating star wars shirts. I was also wearing a black and grey shirt with yellow words “star wars” on it (although no pics of me).

We ate my homemade pumpkin sausage sauce over gnocchi, our Halloween/Fall Fest special dinner. Then we got in the car (for the fifth time that day) and drove over to the church’s Fall Fest. We toured the games and activities checking them out for future years. Since we live on a country road, we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters but think the church’s fall fest will be a fun alternative in future years.

So, that is our October, and why I was too busy to be blogging. How has your fall been going?

 

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Fondue Holidays

So what do you do when you live thousands of miles from family during most holidays? Our answer is fondue.

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It just does not make sense to make a whole turkey and all the sides for the two of us for one day. So we have tried to go out to eat for Thanksgiving the past few years.

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Last year we went to a more upscale buffet with carving stations, but it was beyond crowded and even with a reservation we were seated 2 hours late. On top of that, the restaurant was completely decked-out for Christmas. It’s little hard to enjoy turkey and the harvest season when your staring as a mechanical santa pops in and out of a chimney.

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So this year we have decided to stay in and make fondue. We have done fondue as our annual new years tradition since our first year of marriage. That first year we did fondue in a double broiler on a camp stove.

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The cheese was pasty (more flour than cheese) and the chocolate runny. For more on this see my blog post “a cheesy new years tradition”.

Since then we have done a major upgrade, learned about our ingredients, and bought ourselves a fondue pot.

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For Halloween we decided to have a grown-up Halloween party by having pumpkin gluten free beer cheddar fondue served with green apples, celery, grapes, salami, and bread. Then we made dark chocolate with orange liquor dip for bananas, marshmallows, graham crackers and strawberries. Since we live out in the country, no children come to us to get candy so we took the time to enjoy old Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes. It was fun.

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For Thanksgiving we plan to make a white wine artichoke and spinach cheese fondue with green olives, apples, bread, salami, and mushrooms for dipping. And for dessert we will make a dark chocolate fondue with dark rum and similar fruits and treats as Halloween.

So no turkey for us, but don’t worry we will be full, happy, and thankful for our warm fall, our dog, and cheese.

Hope you all have a wonderful thanksgiving!

The Great Pumpkin

Sorry for my clear hiatus from blogging this past week. I instead spent the time catching up with friends and family (whom I haven’t spoken to in months) via skype and phone calls. I also want to apologize for  any “ghost posts”. Apparently  I had chosen to date some blog posts months down the road so I had time to either complete them or  be sure they were ready to post. That obviously did not work out. Live and learn. Anyways changing the subject: The Great Pumpkin!

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In the last few weeks the temperature has dropped  10-15 degrees and now that the sun is going down around 5pm, it is clear our wonderful fall is fading quickly. For more proof of this our creative Halloween pumpkin art headed for the dumpster last weekend and my pumpkin candle is down to it’s last bit of wax.

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But fall is not over yet, we still have a few colored leaves on the trees and plenty more on the ground. And I’m pretty sure I’m not done experimenting with cans of pumpkin puree. As we transition into these late fall days I thought I’d review the wonderful pumpkin goodies of the season so far:

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1. Pumpkin spice latte mix and Pumpkin spice creamer.  I mentioned this once before in Glimpses of Fall.  These two items are the easy and cheap way to keep me out of the Starbucks line. If you want some helpful hints on how to make your own Pumpkin spice creamer see Coffee Creamer Simplified.

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2. Roasted Pumpkin seeds: sweet and salty. This was my first year attempting to roast pumpkin seeds. And yes I used the pile of seeds you saw in our carving pictures (why go and buy them when they come with the pumpkin?). I split the seeds in half and tried two different recipes: one sweet and one salty. For both I used foxinthepine.com as a baseline.

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I found that after melting butter in with the mixture you can pretty much add any seasonings and stick them in the oven to roast. For the sweet seeds I used honey instead of white sugar and for the salty/savory I added Siracha to the mix of spices they listed. Both seed recipes turned out as great snack for Halloween and to throw in packed lunches.

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3. Pumpkin Cheesecake popsicles. It may seem odd to some of you but they honestly taste like mini frozen creamy pumpkin pies. The ingredients and instructions are simple. I used one box of sugar free cheesecake pudding mix, a little pumpkin puree, milk, and fall spices. For more on my pudding pop/homemade popsicles and ingredients check out cookies n cream pudding pop; or  Tropical Banana creamsicles .

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4.Pumpkin snicker doodle cookies. These turned out amazing. I made them for our Tuesday night small group and had Luke take the leftovers to work. When he brought the cookie bin home that night there was nothing but crumbs left. I’ll take that as a compliment. I got the base recipe from highheelsandgrills.com.

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I made three small changes to this recipe: One I added a pack of dry pumpkin pie pudding mix. Two I didn’t flatten out the cookies before baking. And three I used brown sugar to coat the outside instead of white. This made these snicker doodles crispy on the outside and just the right chewy softness on the inside. (If you can’t find the pumpkin pie pudding mix you can alway use vanilla.)

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5. Pumpkin brittle. This was also my first year to try pumpkin brittle and to be honest my experiment didn’t work out the way I had hoped. My candied brittle mixture had great flavor but I ended up with a green pumpkin seed filled blob instead of crunchy brittle. But this will not discourage me from trying again next year. Speaking of next year when I do make it I will probably be using eatsybitsydaisy.com‘s recipe which is an amazing mock See’s candy peanut brittle recipe.

What about you?  Do you have more fall pumpkin flavors headed your way? Anyone out there anticipating pumpkin pie for  Thanksgiving ?

Happy Halloween!!!

Today I am at home making some pumpkin brittle and sneaking (barley and tree-nut free) halloween candy before the trick-or-treators come by tonight. On that note if you haven’t yet seen my post on 2013’s allergy free candy check in out here: Good to know: Gluten and tree-nut free candy.

This will be the first year to give out candy from our front door. Considering the out-door haunted house our neighbor constructed across the street, I think it’s fair to assume will get some visitors.

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All of our carved pumpkins are set out on the front porch. Tonight we will light them up with blue, red, and yellow glow sticks. And although I don’t have a true costume this year, I will be wearing my Old Navy star wars shirt. Depending on what mood Luke is in he may pull out his old Jedi costume (and toy light-saber) too we will see.

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This week I also roasted the pumpkin seeds from pumpkin carving and made cupcake size brownies with decorative candy corn on them for Luke to take to work today. Confession: of course I snuck a few pieces of candy corn as I baked.

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And it has been a year since I started using my ex-wedding decoration: the manzanita tree for  holidays decorations. This month each mini-mason jar is filled with Indian corn with a votive pumpkin spice candle at the center. The base if filled with pine cones and mini-pumpkin shapes and atop sits a perfect mini plastic pumpkin. This is all wrapped up in a black and white striped bow.

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Whether you are dressing up for a party, taking little ones trick-or-treating, or enjoying a night-in watching movies and snacking on sugar hope you have a safe and happy halloween!

Good to know: 2013’s Gluten and Tree-nut free Candy Lists

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Some of you have probably already bought (and eaten) bags of Halloween candy to give away or use for your harvest season festivities. But with Halloween approaching it is good to be aware of what candies are allergy-free and which could be harmful or deadly.

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Growing up, this time of the year I knew what candies generally had tree-nuts in them and which did not (for more on this see Why I am tree-nut free). Plus when we came home we would sort out the candy and those I couldn’t eat were thrown  away.

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Now as I think about bite-sized chocolatey snacks to both give-out to kids and to sneak a few for myself, I look at a new list of ingredients including: barley, malt extract/flavoring, or contains wheat (for more on this see Why I am barley-free Part One). It amazes me what candy items have flour or similar in them to give the candy the right texture. For example: a regular shaped reese’s peanut butter cup is safe but any fun-shaped butter cups are not. They are flour in them!

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So whether you have children with gluten/nut allergies, you want to be a conscientious giver of treats, or have allergies yourself and are wanting to enjoy some sugary snacks. I hope you find this information helpful:

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1. Here’s a blog-site called :The Nut-Free Mom Blog where she lists nut-free candy

2. Here’s another blog-site for gluten free halloween candy list from stockpilingmoms.com

3. Click on this link from Celiac Disease Foundation to see their 2013 Halloween Gluten-free candy list

4. Last of all a page from a PDF guide from safe-snack updated earlier this month with candy information that is free of tree-nuts, eggs, and peanuts.

a page from the snacksafely.com PDF on halloween candy

I hope this all helps you have a happy and safe candy-filled day.