Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Berry'd in Oatmeal Cookies

We had a nice rain yesterday, so I took a leisurely walk around the property.  I always love the fresh air after a good downpour, and the lovely light.

Nice to see more signs of fall, like changing leaves and darkening berries.

The beautyberries are completely ripe now...

...and are starting to lose their juicy purple orbs to passing birds.

The ducks are still active...

...and, of course, the monster carp are visible every day in the pond.  I'm glad that you can finally see the scale - no pun intended - by viewing the fish against the tulip tree leaves above it.  They're gigantic!

Of course, our kittens love the fresh air too, any time they can get it!

I always like finding insects after a storm.  This fellow is - I think - Platycheirus manicatus...a type of hover fly.  He's quite large, maybe 1 1/2 inches long.

Here's a common orb weaver spider egg sac that's just released a tumble of very tiny baby spiders.

Here's Mama!

I've been caught up in some new projects lately, but I found time last night to bake a really tasty batch of cookies.  They're tiny oatmeal cookies...

...sandwiched together with a really unique frosting.  It's made with boiled butter and brown sugar, like caramel, but then cooled and whipped with heavy cream and powdered sugar.  It has a kind of indescribable taste.  It's not quite caramel, not quite butterscotch, not quite brown sugar, not quite maple.  Todd and I puzzled over it last night and decided to just call it - extremely good.

The frosting is firm and doesn't weep out of the sandwich, one of my pet sandwich cookie peeves (doesn't everyone have them? Ha!).  

They're good eaten warm, but if you let them cool completely, the flavors deepen and you'll be tempted to eat six or seven of them and then suffer mightily for it in your next-morning workout, but maybe that's just me.  There is a LOT of sugar here, so pace yourself!  If you're interested in making them, the recipe is here.  I used 2% milk instead of cream and they turned out just fine.  Hope you give them a try. 

Have a great week! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Gutter Flutter

It's 65 degrees right now, but with the wind it feels positively chilly.  I'm comfortably wrapped up in a shawl, even as I have all the windows open to flood the house with the wonderful fresh air.  Fall is my favorite season, and I'm loving it - chilly breeze and all.

I've been knitting like crazy in preparation for the Christmas season, but also because nothing feels cozier in the fall than to curl up with a ball of yarn at your side and a project in your lap.  Here's a peek of a few things that I've been working on:


I don't think I've ever had so many knitting projects going at the same time!  I'm already looking ahead to future projects.  I keep saying that I'm going to start knitting for myself, and I'm going to start with a pair of fingerless gloves...something that sounds really good right now!

We're doing our end-of-season yard work, too.  Todd has been up on the roof, cleaning the gutters.

We've both been working in the beds, weeding and pruning, and Todd swept up the paint chips from our recent house painting.

We spent an hour in our little swinging seat this weekend, looking out over the water and enjoying the wonderful weather.  Starting next weekend, our board games will be played down there, with a roaring fire going in the outdoor fireplace.  A double hooray for fall!

We can see the changing seasons in the insects, too.  These brown shield bugs are all over our screens.

They want inside, a warm place where they can overwinter.  They're harmless to us, but destructive to crops.  They're actually native to Asia, but came over here sometime in the 1990s, probably in shipped goods.  They have no natural predators here, so they've been able to spread quickly!

Spiders, of course, are everywhere in the fall.  This beauty is Neoscona crucifera and lives just outside our bedroom patio door.

Lots of spiny-backed orb weavers around...

...and lots of tattered web remains in this late season.

It's fun to be working and observing outside in the fall, but fall baking is a great joy for me too.  Hearty stews and homemade bread, roasted chicken, squash and late-season root vegetables are all nice, but it's the sweets that hold a special place in my heart...starting with pumpkin bread. 

I have a favorite recipe, of course (recipe here), but I kicked it up a notch this week by adding 1/2 teaspoon of cardamon, leaving the ground cinnamon at one teaspoon, and adding a cup of cinnamon chips.  I can't believe how much that improved an already-wonderful recipe.  Letting it sit a day or two makes it even better.

I do decrease the white sugar by one cup now, because 2 cups of sugar plus (or without) frosting is plenty for us.  But if you're feeling indulgent, go for it!  Just don't forget those cinnamon chips...they really take it to the next level. 

Have a great week! 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fawning Over Fall

We've had our first "cold spell" (down into the 70s!), and all of a sudden it seems like there's been a flurry of animal/insect activity!

I spotted a little fawn in our side yard.  Now, whitetail deer usually give birth in early spring, but there are so many of them around here, with no apparent predators and lots of food, that I wonder if it's affected their breeding practices. 

This little ornamental turtle crossed our front steps the other day. 

We discovered a yellow jacket nest at the base of a blooming azalea recently.  They're nasty little things that love to repeat-sting.  Poor Todd checked the nest area and gave the ground one tap, and promptly got stung on his chin.  That did it for yellow jacket eradication - for that day, anyway!

Two weeks ago, a little Carolina Wren began overnighting in our little front porch alcove.  He was somehow able to grip and balance on a tiny ledge there.  He comes every few nights and I really look forward to his visits!  I've named him Percival Wemys (after a character in Lord of the Flies) and he is a very charming character!

With cooler days I've started taking the pets outside in our little fenced side yard.  I don't dare let them loose, with the foxes, owls, and hawks around, but I can keep a sharp eye on them within that small space.  Borga is very alert...

...and Tabitha, our great escape artist, takes just a moment to discover the gap in the gate recently skewered by a falling limb.

The beautyberries are turning deep purple now and they're so lovely.

I've been baking a lot, as usual.  Last week I made some basic chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream, using Sweetapolita's recipe I think they turned out really well, even thought it was almost dark by the time I got around to finishing the pictures.

They're bakery-style, with a very light and soft crumb.  I'm not much of a cupcake person, but it's nice to have a good standard chocolate cupcake recipe in my arsenal. 

Looking forward to cooler days with more exploration and baking.  Have a great week!