Monday, October 17, 2016

Fall Flowers and Cookie Powers

The weather cooled off to the mid-70s last week, and I wondered if anything would be in bloom at the Botanical Gardens in Clemson.

My sister-in-law was in town, so she helped us "saddle up" Borga before hitting the trail.

It's still amazing to this Midwesterner to see, at the end of October, ferns unfurling their new growth.

So many flowers are still in bloom!  Mainly shades of purple...

...but also bright yellows and reds.

Still lots of bees at work.

Still ducks and geese in the pond.

For all my moaning and groaning about the continued warm weather (and yes, it's supposed to be 88 by Wednesday), I love these particular benefits!  The cats love the extra sunshine, too.

One more thing - I've been holding out on you.  For years I've been searching for the perfect oatmeal chocolate chip cookie (my favorite variety).  I've tried coconut oil.  Melted butter.  Browned butter.  Various combinations of brown and white sugar.  Various cooking temperatures and times.  All completely unsuccessful.  I'm terribly picky about it...I can't stand a flat cookie.  I can't stand a crispy cookie.  My perfect oatmeal chocolate chip cookie must be soft in the middle, firm around the middle, and fairly hefty.  The chocolate to oatmeal ratio has to be perfect - an overabundance of chocolate can easily overwhelm the latter.  Recipe after recipe has failed to live up to my exacting standards.

Until now.  I give you:  the perfect oatmeal chocolate chip recipe

Now, this recipe is heavily modified.  Based upon recommendations from other bakers and my own preferences, I increased the baking soda to 1 teaspoon and the flour to 1 3/4 cup.  I reduced the chocolate chips to 1/2 cup and the salt to 1/2 teaspoon.  I added 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes.  I swapped out old-fashioned oats for the quick-cooking variety recommended.  I increased the baking temperature to 335 degrees.  And...perfection.

They don't look fancy, but I will never try another recipe.  I have achieved oatmeal chocolate chip perfection.  Give them a try!

Have a great week! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Festivals, Hikes, & Temperatures I Like

Road trip weekend!  Of course, I continue to be a terrible traveler.  Carsick?  Absolutely (thankfully, no picture exists of me hunched over Todd's rain jacket in lieu of a plastic vomit bag).  Insomnia?  Check.  General queasiness?  Absolutely.  But we still managed to have a good time. 

We went to North Carolina to visit family, hike, and attend the John Campbell Folk School annual festival.  Wow, what a crowd!

Over 200 vendors were selling pottery, fiber goods, plants, food, metal ware, wooden furniture (and lots of birdhouses!), and many other things.  I loved the intricate work in the coin carving booth...

...loved seeing all the cool things created out of wood and metal...

...and all the fiber arts exhibits - knitting, weaving, and quilting.

Live music, too!

I love this image.  It is scarcely different from what we would've seen 150 years ago - a woman bent over a roasting chicken, a quilt over the vehicle entrance to keep the dust out.  Replace the old pick-up with a covered wagon and it's suddenly 1860!

North Carolina is beautiful.

And, might I add, much cooler than where we live.  Nighttime temperatures were in the mid-40s (!!!!) and we had amazing 55 degree weather while we hiked.  The perfect hiking temperature, I think! 

Borga was raring to go.

She slept in my lap the whole way home!

Here in SC, we're finally experiencing cool mornings and nights, although days are still in the mid-80s and expected to reach 86 again by the weekend.  But there are more signs of impending cooler weather.  Our turkeys are back! 

I've seen them several times, and I hear them gobbling noisily every morning. 

Our window screens are covered by shield bugs, just like every autumn. 

They're harmless, but they're trying to get inside so they can over-winter in our walls.  We see them inside sometimes, especially in the spring when the warmer weather wakes them from their winter stupor. 

Meanwhile, the cats are just taking it easy, regardless of the temperature.

Have a great week!

Monday, September 26, 2016

100 Years of Summer-tude

Some encouraging signs of fall this week! A few changing leaves.

The green acorn favorite!

The sudden reappearance of white-tailed deer in the yard, every single afternoon.

They've been sleeping in my iris beds...I've found deer-sized depressions among the greenery.

Despite these signs of fall, we're still waiting for the temperatures to drop.  How can it be so close to October and still 90 degrees every day?!?!?  It's so quiet birds singing, few visible insects since the last of the summer flowers have gone to seed...

It's like everything is laying low and holding its breath, just waiting, waiting, waiting for fall.  Oh, I still see the occasional lizard running across my office window screen...

...a few isolated spider webs...

(Here is the owner of that web!)

...and a few late-season grasshoppers, lethargic in the heat.  But mostly it's just quiet. 

The cats are fed up with the weather too.  They've been protesting by staying asleep most of the time...

...with occasional bouts of naughtiness.

(Bosewichte sneaking out, then complaining about the heat)

So I'm staying inside, knitting, and trying to be patient.  I just knitted these quick fingerless gloves.  I went down 2 needle sizes because I have really small hands, but they still aren't quite as snug as I'd prefer.  Still, they fit pretty well, and will be put to use if winter ever comes!  The pattern is Pawkies by Kate Davies on Ravelry, knitted with Rowan Felted Tweed. 

I've also thrown myself into fall baking, making batches of cookies and cupcakes for Todd's office every week.  I try out new recipes on them, and in this way I discovered a new favorite cookie recipe.  Repeat after me:  Iced Browned Butter Pumpkin Oatmeal cookies.  Recipe here.  By pressing the excess moisture from the pumpkin, you get an amazingly chewy cookie.  I added cinnamon chips (of course) and extra spices, and they were so good. 

See those brown flecks?

Those are from the browned butter.  It adds a richness and nuttiness to recipes and is the absolute star of this cookie.

So those of you who have weather in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, enjoy!  I really hope to be joining you soon. 

Have a great week!