Thursday, October 30, 2014

Favorite Places

Over the weekend, T and I made a trip to Jockey Hollow, the place where we had our first date.  Things are lovely there this time of year.

We took a walk in the colonial garden planted at the farm and T reminded me that the first time we visited this garden, I sampled a gooseberry.  I’d never eaten one before and all those years of reading about gooseberries in English cozy novels tempted me to try.  Let’s just say that I now know why gooseberries need a lot of sugar.  Let’s further note that T requested a second date after she knew I was the sort of woman to eat strange items growing in someone else’s garden.  

This time around, the gooseberries are well past season, but we saw plants that thrive in the cooler weather.  There was mint, still abundant in the cooler fall weather.

And parsley.

The pumpkins had mostly been picked.

There was charming broom corn, which I’ve never seen before.  

Then we made the walk to the apple orchard.  This time, I got a kiss under one of those trees.

That’s happy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Your Weekly Dogwood: October 29

As predicted, it took just one windy storm to clear most of the red leaves off of the dogwood tree.  Now the morning view of my dogwood from the back window doesn’t offer much color.  Outside, it’s clear that just a few more leaves remain.

Old man tree has also gotten in on the fall action in a big way.

The forecast calls for a cold snap this weekend but the rest of the week promises a few more days of the pleasant fall we have been enjoying for the last few weeks.  I love these days of blue sky and the light in the sunrises and sunsets.  I'm embracing them before the cold arrives to stay.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


This past weekend, T and I made trip to one of our favorite places in New Jersey.  On the way home, we stopped by the madness that is a New Jersey apple and pumpkin farm on the weekend before Halloween.  Amongst the chaos, the pile of pumpkins charmed me.

That’s happy!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tricks and Treats

Halloween decorations at Sassafras House made their appearance soon after the lights went up on the porch.  It’s not really scary,  though visitors are warned.

There is ghost by the front steps.

And another by the front door.

On the table are pumpkins and mums with a ghost and a Halloween cat.  I may carve the pumpkins before the trick-or-treaters arrive on Friday evening or I might just set out lights.  Either way, we've laid in a supply of candy and little ghosts and goblins are welcome at our door.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Finding Hope

The other night as I was moving laundry from the washer to the dryer, I had the idol thought that the third laundry basket I bought a few weeks ago makes this process easier.  After I carried the laundry upstairs, I went to my journal and made note of that basket.  That seems like a small thing and I guess it is, but it reflects a very big deal for me.

Eight years ago my world blew up and I started life as a single mama.  Happiness seemed like it was in painfully short supply.  In the midst of the sadness and the heartache that followed I decided that I had better be on the look out for the small blessings in my life.  My plan was simple: each day I would find one blessing and honor it.  Some days, that blessing seemed damned hard to find.  But find it I did.  One of things that grew out of my search for blessings was the monthly “About Me” notation to the right on this blog.  Regular readers may know that “About Me” changes at the start of every month.  The things that I note that “I love” are a list of some of the blessings that make up my life and my world in the last month.  They aren’t the only blessings in my life; some are small while others are big.  Some are shared, others are mine alone.

What they have in common is the fact that they are things that help me to find and embrace happiness.  There are no rules for these blessings; they simply are.  While I try not to list the same blessings each month, there are some repeats.  Some are silly and some are serious.  All of them help remind me to look for hope in my world.  And when hope seems hard to locate, I have a look at my list and feel just a bit better.

In my mind, happiness is a journey, not a destination.  Like other valuable things in this world, it must be cultivated and sustained.  There are certainly times in life when happiness feels like it is in short supply.  When that happens, I have my little list of blessings.  They bring me hope and remind me to take hold of it and keep trying.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Leaf Collection Curve

The past few weeks have brought a lot of leaves down in my yard and though plenty remain, I started collection operations last weekend.

Raking leaves is not a native sport to me, having grown up in California.  There, my dealings with leaves were fairly rare and included one time in the 5th grade when a reporter from the local weekly newspaper came to our school and made a picture of girls throwing leaves at the camera.   I thought of that this past weekend and had a good laugh because we actually struggled to get that many leaves together to make the picture.  In New Jersey, we’d have no trouble finding leaves.

I enjoy the seasons here in New Jersey and they exact their price in the form of leaf-raking in the fall and snow-shoveling in the winter.  I am not that neighbor with a powerful leaf-blower and the willingness to remove every leaf from the lawn.  But practicality and the desire not to shovel snow and leaves when winter arrives mean that some leaf removal is necessary.

This weekend’s shoveling started in the driveway, basically an effort to clear a path for the snowblower when that day comes.  This is the after-picture and clearly I’m not done.  But it’s a start.

The backyard leaves will be raked into the garden when I put it to bed for the season.   When I do set out to rake, I organize a goal (this weekend was 6 bigs) so I don’t grow to dislike the task.  Last weekend, I even rewarded my raking efforts by planting some tulip bulbs when I was done.  I’ll probably fill another two dozen bags before it’s over, but at least I made a dent in the task.  And really, given the fact that the first 21 years of my life were spent with no leaf-raking responsibility at all, I’m still well ahead of the leaf-collection curve.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Your Weekly Dogwood: October 22

We had a frost warning on Sunday evening and the mornings this week have been cool.  There are plenty of leaves to be raked in the backyard and given all the green that remains, plenty more will still come down.

The dogwood has begun to drop its leaves.  Those that remain are most lovely.

This part of fall, before the very early nights set in and while there is still some warmth in the days, they feel like a lucky break and I am determined to enjoy them before winter takes its hold of us.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Last Call

Last night’s weather forecast included a frost alert.  I turned on the furnace, poured myself a drink, and then took a walk outside to cut all the flowers that remained.  The result was a riot of colors on my countertop.

Vases were readied and this week the dining room table will feature a rather garish display as we say a final goodbye to the summer of 2014.

Naturally, I'm already thinking about what I will plant next spring.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Food Friday: Caramel Pie

Back in my misspent youth, I lived in Nashville where there was a chain of restaurants known as O’Charley’s.  Among other things, they made something called caramel pie.  It was delicious and this week I tried my hand at making it myself.  It’s easy enough to do but it takes time, so this is a plan-ahead sort of treat to be made the day before you intend to serve it.

2 cans of sweetened condensed milk, wrappers removed
1 graham crack pie crust (you could make your own or just get the Keebler elves to hook you up)
whip cream
chocolate chips
chopped pecans

Fill a large pot of water and drop in both cans of sweetened condensed milk —— unopened —— bring the water to a boil and boil the cans for 3 hours.  You will need to check regularly and add water.  After three hours, let the cans cool off completely before you open them.  This will take 2-3 additional hours (and now you know what I mean by plan-ahead).

Once the caramel is done, the pie comes together easily.  Open the cans and pour the thick caramel into the graham cracker crust.  Though it looks like a small can, it is quite densely packed with caramel goodness.

Spread the caramel around the graham crust so that the crust is filled.  Then refrigerate, preferably overnight.  The day you plan to serve the pie, whip the cream.  My whip cream formula is to add 2 tablespoons of sugar to each cup of whipped cream I intend to make.  I whip the cream for about 2 minutes on high…..but keep a close watch, as this process can go awry.

Cut the pie into slices and plate them.  Sprinkle some pecans and chocolate chips on top of each slice.  Place a generous dollop of whip cream on the slice of pie.