Sunday: More Leaves, More Cooking

It was another very busy Sunday in our house.

More leaves to haul away.

leaves and wheelbarrow

Stowaway in the wheelbarrow!


Uh on – preschooler among the leaves!

Our “helper.”

preschooler and leaves

I’ve got this!


The rake wasn’t nearly as close to his eye as it appears

Big pot of collard greens to go with the leg of lamb I’m roasting tomorrow!

Greens simmered w/ red onions...yum

Greens simmered w/ red onions…yum

Homemade nut-free granola bars for Daniel’s school lunches. Here’s the recipe. Very easy and he LOVES them!

nut-free granola bars

Smells SO good!

We’re exhausted now. Tomorrow is another teacher workday for Daniel, so he’ll be going to grandma’s and I think it will make for a lower-stress Monday, which is good since I have several meetings tomorrow.

How was your weekend?

The Dark Side of Fall

I usually wax ecstatic about Fall and my love for it: the glorious color, the holidays, the takeover of pumpkin. Today, though, I discovered the dark side of the season. You see, those gorgeous leaves? They have an irritating tendency to fall (hence the name of the season) off trees and blanket your yard.

But those leaves become the stuff memories are made of as you and your children throw armfuls of leaves and jump in them! You relish the crunch of them under your feet. You delight in helping your son find the maple leaves that resemble starfish so he can construct a family tree out of leaves on the porch!


Our family tree in leaves

Beautiful, beautiful Fall. Until the day your husband comes to you and tells you he borrowed his friend’s leaf blower so he could clean up the yard. It turns out that the grass doesn’t like to be covered by leaves, and the leaves choke the soil; this year, Jimmy decided that our normal policy of benign neglect for our yard had come to an end. We needed to save the grass.

So, Jimmy spent a few hours blowing the leaves into piles that snaked around our yard. Daniel and I filled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow with leaves to dump way out in our backyard. Seeing that it would take us days to dispose of the leaves this way, Jimmy bought a huge tarp for us to rake the leaves on and then drag to the backyard.  Three times we filled the tarp and took it to the spot in the backyard where Jimmy composted it with the mower. After that third trip, we called it quits for the day. We still have at least two more tarps worth tomorrow.

I could focus on the quality family time we had outside, the priceless time to bond over rakes, giant tarps and brown leaves. I am, but I’m also beginning to wonder what our yard would be like without trees.

leaves on the tarp

Third time filling the tarp

We Should Have Called it BaconFest

Today was “Fall Feast” with my Triangle Fight Club (not what you think. Ha!).  I’ve posted before about our annual cookie exchange, but we also try to get together sometime in October or November for a seasonal meal.  I think we chose to have it in Fall because everyone is so busy in summer, making it impossible to schedule something but mostly because we all love the Fall and its flavors.

We don’t always manage to get around to the Fall Feast before the demands of the holidays are upon us, but this year, somehow we managed to pick a date and stick to it.  We had a small group this year with only 4 of us able to attend, but as usual, the table was groaning with a variety of yummy things.  We have stellar cooks in the group and apparently we were craving bacon since three of the dishes featured bacon.

Gnocchi, pumpkin-sausage manicotti, Mediterranean quinoa, spinach-bacon quiche, spiced apples, fruit, hummus, crackers and bread along with sangria.  We filled our plates and sat outside to enjoy the beautiful, slightly chilly Fall day.


Too soon it was time to bring the meal to an end. It was Sunday, after all, and we all had various school and work days to prepare for.

I don’t see these ladies often enough; they’ve been with me through wedding planning, the wedding, infertility and finally parenthood. Twenty pounds lighter and much less gray in my hair.  We all look different, yet the same in all the ways that matter.

We have tentatively set the date for our annual cookie exchange and are researching how to make it revolve around our master, bacon, from cocktails to cookies.

Oh, and I volunteered to host 🙂

Thanks for a wonderful day, ladies!

My quiche recipe is Paula Deen’s (I was only slightly embarrassed to say that before; now I’m mortified). The major change I made was to sauté everything. I sautéed red onion and spinach (I also needed to use about 5 cups of fresh spinach) in the bacon grease. I also added gruyere cheese to the swiss cheese (I forgot we had thrown out my broken grater, so I had to use a zester, which worked OK).  I’m not a fan of swiss cheese, so I’d like to find a milder cheese.  I did NOT make my own crust because I’m a slacker like that.


November Hodge Podge

Today is a hodge podge post.  It was a gorgeous weekend in North Carolina.  Warm and colorful. We spent some time outside, and I love seeing how our neighborhood looks in the Fall now that the leaves have changed.

View from our driveway

Our house from the street, hidden behind trees


View from our mailbox

Some little boy also loves to collect leaves.

Gorgeous tree and beautiful boy


Sweet Pea with leaf

We went to the grocery store today, and we found Christmas sprinkles that Daniel demanded we buy.  He didn’t have to twist our arms too much because I am a sucker for Christmas cookies.

We have a deal going right now that if he naps, he gets a naptime surprise.  Typically that involves ice cream, whipped cream and sprinkles (I know, I know).  Today, Daniel wanted his Christmas sprinkles.  I watched him shake them onto his ice cream with bemusement because I am sooooo excited and ready to prepare for the holidays with him.

Hmmm which sprinkle to choose?

I’m not the only one I know participating in NaBloPoMO.  Here are a few other awesome bloggers who would welcome a hello:

I hope you had a great weekend and may your week be wonderful.  I’m in the office all week, which makes me feel happy.  Very few meetings!!!!!


Sunday Wistfulness

Here it is Sunday night.  The clock says 8:30 PM, but my body tells me with greater authority that it is 9:30 PM darn it!   Our first day dealing with the time change was mostly uneventful.  I habitually wake up at 5 AM (not something I like), but this morning it was 4 AM.  The cats wanted to eat earlier and let us know it, but our kitties will use any excuse to eat as soon as possible.  Daniel woke up at a reasonable time, which really is all that matters since we have been practically been doing calculus to figure out how to handle the time change with the minimum amount of disruption to our routine.  Isn’t it funny how something like a time change has morphed from minor annoyance (oops, I showed up to work early!) to a major obstacle? Ah, parenthood.

My major complaint with the weekend is how short it felt.  If we can legislate when we turn our clocks back, why can’t we legislate that weekends need to be long enough for you to a) actually enjoy them b) get some rest and c) accomplish even a fraction of what you need to accomplish?

Jimmy and I both feel like we lost more than an hour today; we lost the entire day.  Jimmy has been suffering from a Frankencold (partly sinus, partly congestion) all week that makes him sleepy, yet prevents him from getting sleep.  As I did last Sunday, I awoke with a migraine.  The migraine itself is brutal enough, but once it’s over, I feel like my brain has been scooped out.  I’m weak.  I can’t find words (I called an onion an orange).  It’s like being hungover.  And to have two in a week sucks.  I don’t know if it’s the weather or stress or what, but they are amazingly debilitating.

And I medicate them with caffeine.  I don’t know if any of you suffer from migraines, but medication doesn’t work (maybe some good drugs would, but I don’t have any), so if I can’t sleep it off, then the next best thing is caffeine.  I drank a lot of coffee this morning.  The only problem with the coffee (other than non-stop peeing) is the jitters.  Happily, the jitters left me with so much excess energy that I swept the entire house.  Sweeping and laundry (washed and dried but not folded!) is the sum of our accomplishments this weekend.

That’s OK, though.  What’s important is the great weekend we had with Daniel.  He amazes us every day with his sweetness, his thoughts, his sense of humor and whatever catches his fancy.

When we went outside this morning, Daniel thought my flowers could be put to better use by decorating the jack-o-lanterns on the porch.

The artist at work

The artist at work

Beautified Pumpkin Family

Later on, he found a wreath-making kit I had intended for a craft for us to do and decided he would rather play with the leaves than make wreaths.

We all love Fall in our house

It turns out that trains like to travel through leaves as well.

The Island of Sodor in Fall?

Our littlest cat Lucy has discovered that the smallest human in the house is very aware of her, and they are fascinated with each other.  Today she had us in hysterics when she shoe-horned herself into one of Daniel’s shoe boxes that he was using for leaf storage.

They love each other

Tomorrow it is back to work and what will undoubtedly be a stressful week.  I’ll think back to the weekend and the giggles and cuddles shared with my wee family and hopefully that will insulate me from any sturm and drang. And hopefully the next weekend will come swiftly.

Magic Fall: The Blathering

There’s a lot of crap swirling in my head, but when I woke up this morning, I felt cheeky and staccato, so I thought maybe another blathering post was in order.  Brain dump, commence!

  • I took 10 minutes and brought out my Fall decorations last week.  OK, let’s talk capitalization.  I know that technically, you are not supposed to capitalize the seasons, but I think that rule is asinine.  You can get away with not capitalizing spring, summer and winter (even though I bet the majority of the world will think you are making a mistake by NOT capitalizing them) and be fairly certain that readers will understand you are referring to the seasons even though they might think you are a moron.  Fall, however, could very easily be confused with usage other than the season.  Plus, it offends me on some level not to capitalize the seasons.  Let’s agree that on this blog, seasons will be capitalized, rules be damned.  Where was I?  Oh yes.  My Fall decorations.  They are on display, and it makes me happy to see them.  It also makes Daniel happy because he can climb on a chair and grab one of the pumpkin lanterns.  Like his mother, he’s a sucker for Fall and Halloween decorations, especially pumpkins.
  • Speaking of Fall (I rather like my new rule of capitalization), it’s like the trees finally got the message and are starting to change colors en masse.  I love it.  I love pointing out the colors to Daniel on our way to and from daycare.  My campus is really beautiful this time of year too.  Trees in front of buildings are turning flaming red.  The trees around the lake are changing too.  Right now, it’s just a hint of what’s to come, but in a week or two, it will be a stunning backdrop to the water.  I don’t really think I can explain it, but Fall thrills me.  The way the intensity of the sun has dimmed, giving a slight sepia cast to the days; the way the blue sky is so intensely blue but golden as well.  The vivid leaves.  I can feel my body respond and almost hum.  Some energy that courses through the changing environment calls to me.  I feel it and I welcome it.  I feel alive, which is interesting since in a way Fall is the last gasp of a dying year.  I know.  That’s weird.  I’m weird.  I guess Fall makes me feel connected to the environment.  It’s elemental.
  • We bought pumpkins.  We have Daddy, Mommy and Daniel pumpkins as well as a bunch of little pumpkins.  We’ll likely carve the Mommy and Daddy pumpkins and call it a day.  Despite our best efforts, we’re always carving at practically the last minute.  As for the rest of the pumpkins, Daniel has claimed 4 as his; I still maintain hopes of creating something decorative with the rest.  Don’t hold your breath.

    Interesting use of baby pumpkins

  • I had a lot of meetings this week.  I realized that the rest of October and quite a bit of November will be full of meetings as well.  When I told my staff that I’ll likely be in and out due to meetings, my newest staff member asked, “Why do you have to go to so many meetings?”  I wanted to tell her, “because I’m a masochist,” but I didn’t want to scare her off.  I get through the meetings by doodling copiously and irreverently:

    My doodles tend to be seasonal

  • This week I discovered that the construction area along my commute to work is going to be a new Sheetz.  I am thrilled by this because I love Sheetz.  Sheetz is like the anti-gas station.  It’s clean.  It has great coffee and genuine food options.  It’s colorful.  It’s mecca.  I’ve gone from hardly ever encountering a Sheetz to passing TWO on my commute to work.  Someone is throwing me a bone.
  • I started and finished Tana French’s Broken Harbor this week.  This is the 4th book in her…Ireland detective series?  The characters are loosely connected from novel to novel; she often has a minor character in one mystery who goes on to become the main character in the next.  I love her books because they are moody, lyrical and dark; the story grim and gripping.  Ireland is as much of a character as any person.  That said, I didn’t like Broken Harbor as much as the previous three.  It’s definitely worth a read, but it just didn’t work as well as all the elements in the previous three.   If you like UK mysteries, I also highly recommend Elizabeth George’s mysteries.  Very, very good.
  • The State Fair is in Raleigh this week, and we haven’t gone and probably won’t go.  I thought that maybe this was the year to take Daniel to see the animals and eat some fun fair food but then I decided against it because of the crowds and logistical nightmare of getting there and parking.  I also that he doesn’t know the fair exists, so maybe I shouldn’t borrow trouble before I need to.  There’s also the 40+ pesky cases of E.coli that have been reported. Then I felt guilty and decided I was denying him some vital experience but realized that due to schedules, I may have missed our window of opportunity to go.  Now I’m back to trying to convince myself that he doesn’t know what he’s missing and it’s OK.  Also, E.coli.
  • Along with the rest of the world (so it seemed), we watched Felix Baumgartner’s jump last weekend.  Jimmy and I were riveted, and we told Daniel that Felix was making history.  Daniel’s response? “Skip!” he commanded, the same command he utters when he wants us to skip a section in a movie.  The world?  Seriously awed by Felix.  My three-year-old?  Not so much.  Tough audience.

    What’s so special about him, Mommy?

  • The governor of North Carolina was the keynote speaker at one of the meetings I attended this week.  I happened to be sitting on the aisle, and as she passed by, greeting people, she clasped my shoulder and said, “hi.”  That’s my brush with greatness this week.
  • We may have quit soccer due to life.  By that I mean, car trouble, rain, hacking coughs, etc.  There is one more session and then the “skills showcase” next weekend.  My guilt says, “GO!”  My brain says, “Just stop and don’t worry about it.  Life is too crazy right now and Daniel won’t really care.”  Talk me down, people.  Please.
  • We have 3 elderly, increasingly crotchety felines whom we adore.  All I can say is that I hope Daniel takes as good care of us when we’re that old.  Lucky pusses!

How was your week?  Am I insane?

Capture the Everyday: Sign of Fall

The leaves may have begun to change dramatically only in the last few weeks, but in our house, Fall begins as soon as we see this in the grocery store:

Pumpkin spice coffee

Yes, there are 5 bags of pumpkin spice coffee in my freezer, and we’ve probably gone through 4 or 5 bags already.  We stalk it.  Usually we find the Millstone brand at Kroger but were only able to find a few bags early in the season this year.  Walmart used to carry it, but we didn’t see it this year.  However, I did find the Dunkin brand of pumpkin spice there, and it’s pretty good.  It seems to have more cinnamon than the Millstone.  I bought two bags and then bought 3 more.  In years past, we’ve bought ridiculous amounts and hoarded it in the freezer, even grinding some for our espresso machine.  Mmmmm pumpkin spice lattes!

We may not finish our stock of pumpkin spice before it’s time to turn to peppermint (we already have one bag in the freezer), but we’ll tuck it deep in the freezer so it will be there for us next year to tide us over until we can find a new stash.

Capture the Everyday from Adventuroo
Capture the Everyday is about getting you to capture those everyday moments in your life! Each Tuesday, Melissa at Adventuroo will issue a simple challenge to capture something that’s a part of your daily life. You can post just a picture or add some words to go along with it. You’ll have a week to get it done and then she’ll issue another. It’s a quick, easy way to start capturing those little parts of life we sometimes take for granted


It’s not a secret that having a child changes your life. After all, there is a small person (not a dwarf) in your house and he or she is kind of hard to miss. And it’s kind of hard to miss the toys underfoot; the cartoons interspersed with episodes of The F Word, Doctor Who, and Top Gear on the DVR; the prehistoric-quality art on the refrigerator; and the massive quantities of whole milk in the refrigerator (I can’t remember the last time I had a glass of milk, let alone whole milk!).

Sometimes the signs of change are obvious (like the constant smell of poo that somehow permeates the house no matter how much you clean). Other times they are subtle.

In the last few weeks, the trees outside of my office building have begun to turn gorgeously red. I love those trees and have contemplated digging up one of them and taking it to my house. Because no one would notice that!

The leaves are starting to fall from those vibrant trees, and they line the walkway to the building. I study them each morning as I walk in, absorbing and marveling at their perfection. This Fall, however, my study of the leaves has changed. My little boy loves nature & loves leaves. Every time we take him outside, he grabs a flower or picks up a leaf. Eventually he will declare that he is “happy.”.

Happy. He doesn’t say “Daniel is happy” or “I am happy.”. He utters that one word: “happy.” But we know exactly what he means.

So now, as I admire the leaves, I find myself thinking, “Daniel would love that leaf.”

Always thinking of him.

Seasonal Reads: Fall and Halloween Books

I’ve mentioned several times how much I love Halloween and how much J and I love Fall, and I hope to instill that love in Daniel as well.  This year I went a little crazy and bought him several books to introduce him to the season – hey, no child was ever spoiled by having too many books, right?  Here are a few thoughts on them:

Apples and Pumpkins (Anne Rockwell) is about a family’s visit to a farm, and the little girl’s experience picking apples and choosing the perfect pumpkin for Halloween.  It’s a very simple book with a sentence on each page, and the illustrations are beautiful. Daniel loves this book and grabs it out of my hands to turn the pages himself when we read it.  It is an older book that has been re-issued, but it doesn’t feel dated at all. The only downside to this book is that it’s not a board book, so the pages can be difficult for toddler fingers to manage.

Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin (Mary Serfozo) is about a young tiger named Peter’s search for the most perfect pumpkin to carve (with the assistance of his father) into a jack-o-lantern. The book is darling, the story sweet and the illustrations excellent, but I don’t like it as much as the others.  I wanted to like it a lot since we are cat people (not this  kind of cat people), but I don’t because of the writing.   It rhymes, awkwardly, and it makes the story difficult to read.  I can’t get the words to flow when I read it as if I were stumbling.  Daniel likes the book, though.

Ghosts in the House! (Kazuno Kohara) is about a little girl and her cat (notice a trend?) who discover that their new house is haunted.   The story is very simple and easy to read, but it’s the illustrations that make the book stand out.  The pages are a bold dark orange, while the little girl and her cat are black and the ghosts white.  The characters leap from the page and while the book has a modern feel, its message is simple and old-fashioned.  It is definitely not your typical Halloween book. This is another book that Daniel grabs from my hands and tries to turn the pages himself.

Mouse’s First Fall (Lauren Thompson) is about a little mouse and her sister’s enjoyment of a beautiful fall day.  They study leaves, noting their color and shape, pile them up, jump in them and play hide and seek.  This book is completely about the season with no mention of Halloween.  It’s illustrated in bright, beautiful fall colors and while the story is very simple, it’s a great book to use to point out the different shapes of leaves and work on colors.

Corduroy’s Halloween (Don Freeman). Who doesn’t love Corduroy?  This Lift-A-Flap book takes Corduroy and his assorted friends through typical fall activities such as raking leaves and visiting a pumpkin patch to getting ready for Halloween.  Daniel loves this book because of the interactivity with the flaps, and it was a great book to use to introduce him to Halloween without any worries of it scaring him.  I also like that it’s a book with which he can interact on his own and doesn’t require me to read it to him for him to enjoy it.

For older readers looking for a novel Halloween treat, I suggest my friend Katie’s spooky three-part series “Buyer’s Remorse“: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

What are your favorite fall or Halloween reads?

Welcome, October

J and I are big lovers of Fall, and I especially love October.  September holds the promise of Autumn after the heat of summer while by November, the leaves have yellowed and browned, and our thoughts are turning to the holidays.  October holds the promise of changing leaves, cooler temperatures and Halloween, one of my very favorite holidays.

October is perfect. Here are a few of our favorite things:

Potent Potables.

Pumpkin Beer!

Red, red wine. Can't go wrong with Bordeaux & Cote du Rhone.

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere.

Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin Muffins

A new book about Fall

Leaves collected during a walk outside.

Changing colors already

Cookies baked and decorated (though maybe not Food Network quality).

Sugar cookies decorated by Daniel

Sweet Boy and a cookie he decorated.

Welcome, October.  We can’t wait to enjoy you more.

What do you love about October?