Tuesday, October 16, 2012

it's here, my dear!

I had so much to tell you this week...about how the zinnias, which languished all summer, are beautiful and vibrant now...

...and how the cosmos are all going to seed...

...and how the cleomes have formed long, green seed pods, ripening slowly...

I also wanted to mention some of the little creatures I'd seen hiding outside, like this earwig:

 Or how beautiful the hydrangea blossoms are as their color deepens in the cooler weather:

I wanted to tell you those things and more, but while I've been slowly packing, and the cats napping...

...the days were flying by more quickly than I realized.  But it hit home today...in ONE WEEK, I'll be en route to South Carolina with Todd and the pets. 

One week!

Suddenly, I have a thousand things to do.  Mocking stacks of flattened cardboard boxes are leaning against the wall, and they need to be filled.  Things have to be transferred...bank accounts, IRAs, magazine subscriptions, insurance...and I have to find a place to live for a week or so before we close on the South Carolina house. 

At least I remembered to file for an absentee ballot.  Everyone, PLEASE vote!

So, unless I'm stuck in a hotel room in a strange city with a suitcase, two cats, a dog, and my laptop for a week (gulp), I probably won't be posting until we're officially relocated. 

But I'll eventually be back.  Until then!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

these boxelders have mustered a cluster!

The recent rains have really perked things up in the yard.  My nasturtiums have finally filled in around the base of my bird bath, a feat I was unable to accomplish all summer long despite frequent desperate soakings with the hose.

They're even climbing up the fence.  I think I'm in love!

As I've mentioned before, the rain settles beautifully on nasturtium leaves.

My all-time favorite for raindrop beauty is, of course, the columbine.

I think the leaves looked like they're edged with diamonds.  The tiny droplets of water outline each and every leaf.

Of course, I found more little creatures hiding and waiting out the rain, like this carpenter bee... 

...and this grasshopper.

But the rains passed, the sun came out, and Todd was finally able to work on some roof issues during a (much too brief!) visit home.

The squirrels, fat and round as can be, came out in force.

The weather was so nice - sunny, but crisp, too nice to be inside - so I decided to take Borga to the park.

I love to see the trees as they're starting to turn.

Most trees are just tipped with color...

...but some, like this maple, has completely transformed.

What a beauty!

I'm going to get to have two falls this year...the Indiana one, and then the one in South Carolina, which runs a bit later than ours here.  Yay!

We saw other signs of fall.  Acorns are dropping...

...mushrooms are popping up as a result of the recent rains...

...and there are squirrels, squirrels, and more squirrels!

 Here's another interesting sign of fall:  a cluster of boxelder bugs.

Boxelder bugs are mainly seen in spring and fall, clustered and warming themselves in a sunny spot.  These boxelders must have been living in a nearby tree, but as the weather cools, they will start looking for a warm place to overwinter...including inside houses.

They're a bit of a nuisance in that respect.  However, they don't bite and don't seem to cause any real damage.  It's interesting to see their unusual behavior! 

Hope you're seeing signs of fall all around, too.  Have a great week!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"do-nut" doubt the virility of the grasshopper

At long last, it's October...my favorite month.  Right on schedule came the chilly temperatures and the steady rain.  I'm happily padding around the house in a sweater and slippers, sleeping in my warm flannel pajamas, within warm flannel sheets, but with all the windows open to let the cold breeze shiver down my spine.  Especially after the long, hot, dry summer, I'm delighting in every cool rain drop.

I love fall in the garden.  The rain pools on the spider webs...

...and collects on my nasturtium leaves, which look like miniature lily pads.

It glistens on the lilac blossoms...

...and weighs down the delicate, graceful stems of the cosmos.

The little wet-weather creatures are out in force, like this slug.

Others, not so fond of the rain, hide where they can.  Beneath the arching stems of the Russian Sage bush, like this carpenter bee...

...under the leaves on the lilac bushes, like this fly...

...or under the protective lip of my bird bath, like this grasshopper.

Grasshoppers seem especially prolific this year, and that was never more in evidence than this past week.  Fall is grasshopper mating time, and, well, they've really hopped to it.

Grasshoppers prefer to mate in the protection of bushes or other similar covering, because their preoccupied, immobile state makes them particularly vulnerable to birds and other predators.

Grasshoppers have a fascinating courtship.  Many species sing to each other, or emit pleasing pheromones, or drum on their thoraxes to attract a mate. 

One species of American grasshopper can perform up to 18 elaborate poses to draw in an admiring female!

Not all the grasshoppers I saw in the yard were mating pairs.  Several were singles, either pre- or post-mating.  Eating...

 ... or resting.

Soon their jobs will be done, they'll die with the coming cold weather, and we'll have to wait for the life cycle to begin anew in the spring.

There's no easy segue between grasshoppers and donuts, unless you acknowledge the obvious fact that both life cycles and donuts are circular.   If you can accept that air-tight logic with the knowledge that donuts are a delicious treat and that this is a recipe you'll want to try, we can move on!

I have a particular aversion to stale pastries, so I rarely buy donuts.  I also have an aversion to gaining more weight, so I've avoided learning how to deep-fry foods.  But when I saw a donut pan at Jo Ann Fabrics on clearance, I couldn't resist.  Fresh donuts with no deep frying?

Now, of course, frying does something remarkable to donut batter that baking just cannot replicate, such as provide the firm exterior and additional flavor.  But these baked donuts are nothing to sneeze at.  They have a nice, chewy texture and a really soft, flavorful interior.   And I'll take any excuse to incorporate more "fall" into my fall.  Pumpkins?  Spices?  Bring it on!

Pumpkin Spice Donuts
Adapted from Blue-Eyed Bakers
Makes 16 - 18 large donuts

1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the spices and flour together with the salt and baking powder; set aside.  In your mixer, combine the oil, sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin, and milk.  Slowly add dry ingredients and combine. 

Spoon into your greased donut pan and bake about 10 minutes.  

Cool on rack.

Now, how do you want to top your donuts? Chocolate?  Vanilla?  Melted candy melts?  Powdered sugar?  It's up to you.  I chose a mixture of turbinado sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  I melted 3 tablespoons of butter into another bowl...

  ...and dipped the donut tops...first in the butter, and then in the sugar mixture.  That's all there is to it!

They were really good and I was only twenty minutes from I ought to try out those new donut pans to the finished product. 

I hope you'll give them a try this week.  They're perfect for good-book-and-flannel-pajama evenings.

Have a great week!