Friday, October 05, 2012

Fall Color ~ A Tour

In Southern California enjoying the traditional aspects of the season we call fall is a state of mind. Our reality... it's a hot, dry time of year. We call this fire season and the only thing blowing leaves down, tends to be intense winds known as Santa Anas. They parch the air, whistle through door frames, and put people on edge. Cooler days are coming. Soon? I hope. It cannot be soon enough for me. It is simply not really, truly fall, here.

And from books, movies, fellow bloggers... I know this is supposed to be sweater weather, knitting time. I read words like crisp, brisk, frost, harvest, insulating, firewood, yarn, baking, chowder, socks, and I feel a disconnect, and a longing. I see images of fluffyness, cuddling, snuggling, damp fallen leaves, fireside gatherings, deep pillows, baked temptations, layers of comfort and homemade love, and I want to step right in, join the movement.

I will make hot cider the first day we dip below seventy degrees.

I am ready to add a quilt to our bed.

Everyone wants to sleep in the barn during the first rainfall!

I need only the slightest push to convince me to buy Maria new boots.

Max and I cannot wait to have tea and a roaring fire, while someone reads aloud... another reading of The Hobbit, before the big event!

Do you love fall, the traditions of the season, the anticipation of the happy and home-themed string of holidays? Are you decorating, insulating, winding down, perking up? Do you feel a snuggly hibernation coming on? I live vicariously through all the beautiful accounts of fall I find while visiting blogs. So, if you cannot get enough, if you want to see some seasonal loveliness, I have some links to share with you.

Make some tea, pull up your socks, turn on a fan if you have to achieve a brisk sensation... let's tour the fall color!

I'm not sure whether it's fair to start with this particular Tumblr page. It gathers such a tremendous visual treasure, that you may not ever leave. If you like a step back in time, something careworn, anything rustic, the gentleness of homemade, the marvel of natural wonders, then do enjoy The Murmuring Cottage. And thank you, Lady Cordelia, for sharing the link.

The Murmuring Cottage collects and gathers gorgeous images from all over the Internet. It is a feast for the eyes. Alicia Paulson gathers gorgeous images from all over her home and neighborhood, and together with her recipes and reflections, Posie Gets Cozy is an autumnal feast for the eyes and soul. She stays Busy, and she keeps things Bright. And even for just a peek of dear Clover Meadow's ears, I never miss a post.

So, what do you think of these fall colors I found? Not exactly the golds and reds, the toasted hues we come to expect. But a riot, just the same! I found another riot of beautiful fall colors over at Turkey Feathers, where there is never a shortage of inspiration and clever ideas.

Maya*Made just posted a classic scene. I cannot wait to go to the one park I know of, where we will find a grove of trees in full color. Let's see... as I recall, last year, that day came sometime in November!

Serena, the always busy Farm Chick found fall in her yard, she's gathered it up, filled her wagon, and now her home is dressed for the season. Pop over! She's ready for visitors.

I love to pop over to visit the ladies and boy goats at The HenCam, and today there's a popover recipe! The first cold day... I am going to give this new-to-me recipe a try. Be sure and peek in at any of the four webcams she has on the farm. It's fun seeing who's busy in the barnyard.

Trick or Treat? The Owl Barn has some vintage Halloween images that could make a good crafting treat.

How about a glance at October from Audrey~Finch? Jenny has some lovely fall images, and an October poem posted on her blog.

Good for your Soule? How about gardening! Amanda Soule, and her family, are harvesting and reflecting on the bounty and shortcomings of an October garden. Anyone who gardens knows it's not always easy to "calculate" the cost benefits, but we also know the pleasures and worth in gardening cannot be reflected only in terms of numbers. Amanda, the SouleMama, is a homesteading inspiration, and I love seeing what a classic autumn looks like from her lovely farm.

Something extra! Just had a peek at Posie Gets Cozy. There is a brand new, lovely, funny, sweet Octobery post... just in time for this Octobery post. And best of all... dear Clover Meadow is peeking in, too! What a cutie, that puppers is.

There is more out there... so much loveliness. Have you seen some fall you would like to share? Please, leave a link. Take us on a fall color tour.

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Simply Herb Butter

We are rolling through the four sauces, in our book~cook club for The Art of Simple Food! This morning I pulled out some butter, to soften, for making herb butter.

Let's talk about the weather, shall we?

It's oh-so much cooler, by ten degrees, which makes me very happy about cooking and eating. I was sort of stalling on this particular recipe, because it sounds so rich and savory, something for a real fall meal. Okay. Thank you. Weather talk is over.

Since Alice Waters encourages us to eat locally, fresh, organic, sustainable... sensibly, I was particularly inspired when it came time to replant our garden beds. Besides looking for cool season crops, I added more herbs, in anticipation of the four sauces Alice Waters calls essential.

I planted chives, and flat leaf parsley, and French Tarragon. I've never planted Tarragon. Took a nibble this morning. Guess what... tastes a bit like black licorice. Not a fan. Pretty little herb, though. We also have chiles, still going strong, and we put in lots of basil, and some lettuce varieties.

I digress. First weather, now the garden... or is this really a digression? Food and weather, and gardens they are totally connected. I am actually totally on topic! Excellent.

Hello, Parsley. You don't taste like black licorice, do you?

One more herb. This one dried, and stored in the barn. Maria will be so thrilled to see that the flowers and herbs we collected and prepared for later use, are already coming in handy. She and I spent several happy summer afternoons, collecting the tiny thyme leaves, and I think they will add a nice note to the herb butter recipe.

Have you picked up the book? So far, I think The Art of Simple Food is a worthwhile addition to my kitchen shelf. I mean, even I was able to simply and artfully make real mayonnaise, right from the start. It feels like a field guide. We cook. We know what we like, but Alice Waters is showing us new places, sharing helpful suggestions, inspiring fresh points to view. So, cooking with her cook book feels like touring familiar places, but with a fresh perspective, and being in the cook~book club brings in the companionship and fun of sharing.

Using kitchen sheers, I snipped the chives, and parsley. Crumbled in the dry thyme. I minced a garlic clove. I squeezed lemon juice, and sprinkled salt, black pepper, and a smidge of chili powder. And let's face it... we're talking about butter! How could anything possibly go remotely wrong? Everything was mixed together, and I believe I was humming, contentedly. I know I was thinking about the steaks we are grilling this weekend, when my cousin Rebekah comes to visit... cuz, are you catching this? We shall feast, royally well!

Yes. I mean, seriously. Yes. I ate this. And it was good. And then I was good, and rolled the herb butter into a log, and wrapped it up in waxed paper, then popped it into the freezer. Herb butter weekend. Nice.

Favorite: Remembering the time Maria and I spent together, last summer, collecting thyme and saving it for later.

Regrets: Tomorrow isn't Friday. Honestly, I have no regrets. I just can't wait to share the herb butter with the family.

Discovered: Tarragon and me, we may never become friends. But. I am willing to keep an open mind.

Conclusion: Oh, for goodness sake. What's not to like? It's butter! But the herbs make it something sophisticated, they lend it complexity. The lemon juice adds a fresh zestiness, light, cheery. I was worried about having too strong of an aftertaste, the way some flavors linger too long, but I don't detect anything like that... the only thing lingering is my desire to enjoy some herbed butter on a baked potato!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


The morning, rising and shining, and taking my heart east. East, toward the hills and valleys I love. East, where we find sage and oaks, and all the familiar touchstones that form my memories of a childhood home. And I love this view, this beautiful connection to those places and recollections. Some days I cannot resist the impulse to go there... to travel about and touch those stones. I've got a wanderlust, for familiar things, for a season, for ideas, for experiences I know, and places I want to know.

It's no secret: I have been wishing and pining, and almost near-whining for fall. For autumn, and frost, for a roaring fire, yarn to knit, leaves to drop, wind to whistle.

I am in need of a deep, delicious seasonal change. I feel romantic... wistfully dreamy, willingly tied to improbable notions, achingly desirous of intangible ideals. It comes of sleeping in a barn, perhaps? From a long summer spent with Jane Austen, Helen Hunt Jackson, and Tasha Tudor?

Forward we go, headlong onto the trail, in search of the season, a cool breeze, acorns, bats, the night sky, views, sounds, silence, something.

One night. In a tent. Around a campfire. Laughing, and wandering, listening to the didgeridoo, following the moon to the pond, where the coots called, and the owls joined, and the bats were flitting, flitting, flitting. One day. Following trails. Rounding corners. Making do. And making plans.

I love the plans we made, the notions we pondered, the designs we drew.

When we pitched the tent, I said, Oh, let's not worry about the fly. It's so hot, and besides it will be lovely to look through the oak branches, into the night sky.

And at 9 o'clock, I swooned, The moon! How magical it will be to gaze at this moon, and sleep under the stars.

And at 11:53 pm, when I could not imagine laying on the ground a minute longer, and thought, it must be near dawn, I was stunned to realize it was not nearly dawn, and the moon shone like a street lamp, and my eyeballs were gritty and sore.

And around two, or three, or four, when I asked aloud, to any who would care, "Can we ask the crickets to knock it off, already?!" And the moon, interrogatingly bright, shone on, and on, and on.

And it wasn't really so very hot, any more. And I could clearly hear something walking around the tent. Thank you for that breakfast, it mumbled.

Something came, in the night and ate ten of our dozen eggs. But, left the organic spring greens, and had none of the cheddar cheese.

And you'd think I would wash my hands of camping and tents, and campfire cooking, but I will return! I love our plans to return!

I cannot seem to stop these romantic, wistfully dreamy, improbable notions, this aching desire for intangible ideals.

Because, who knows?
Next time, there may be water in the creek, and really cold weather and we'll make hot chocolate. And yes, next time we'll stow all of the food, even the cooler, in the car. We'll bring The Hobbit, again, to read aloud. We may find an owl pellet. There could be frost on the leaves.

We may go further afield, next time.

What if... we brought the cats, and it snowed? What if we stayed a week, and followed all of the trails, and found the other pond? Benjamin and Chango would curl around our feet, and we would listen to Max reading aloud. We would eat potatoes, roasted and good.

A small clearing, beyond the trail, oaks and pines all around. We'd build a modest cabin, with a stone fire place, a loft, a goat shed. There'd be well water to drink, a tree house to construct. The chicas would learn to walk in snow drifts, and nest safely sheltered in the coop built around a live oak. The cats would sleep in the crook of a branch of our tree house tree, and leaping tree to tree follow us as we rode the zip line into the canyon. Friends and family would come, for potlucks and campfires, and we'd canoe around the pond, singing silly songs, and beautiful songs, and forgotten songs.


I wander.

I go places, real, and familiar, and wished for, dreamed of, too. Sometimes, I cannot resist the impulse to vividly imagine romantic, dreamy, improbable occasions. They may be intangible, now. Farfetched. Just beyond reason... but to disconnect from all I dream of, to suppress the wanderlust? I cannot.

"I am a part of all that I have met.
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!"

--Ulysses, by Alfred Tennyson

Monday, October 01, 2012

Simply Aïoli

The last sauce! The first recipes from The Art of Simple Food are sauces. Karen asked us to prepare these four elemental sauces from Alice Water's cook book, in this order:

Week one: a Vinaigrette, & an Herb Butter
Week two: Salsa Verde... no, not tomatillo salsa
Week three: Aïoli... garlic mayonnaise. Holy smokes, all these years I've been calling it man-aze.

Allow me to begin with a confession: I started with the Aïoli recipe, and I made it two weeks ago. My impulse was led by a new gadget, and a tiny egg I found on the porch. Thank you, Penny Hen.

When the cookbook arrived on my doorstep, I had to delve right in. I was anxious about following recipes, being disciplined, having the right ingredients and tools. And I do love cookbooks... I just don't follow instructions very well. At all. Ever.

Okay... so one thing I noticed was that we were going to be using a lot of garlic, so yay! I do that. But then I decided that my usual method of crushing garlic on the cutting board would not achieve the "creamy garlic" texture Alice Waters describes, so I immediately made a mental note: Find a little mortar and pestle, and dedicate it to mashing and smashing and creaming garlic. And that is what I did.

Penny's tiny egg, and the tiny mortar and pestle inspired me to dabble in the magical art of making mayonnaise! Am I the only who thought making mayonnaise is for the fourth year students at Le School of Chefs? Well, I was certainly intimidated. I've seen Julie and Julia, leafed through Ms. Child's classic tome, and my impression was... you better know your way around a sharp knife if you think you can whip up a batch of real life mayonnaise.

But, I was wrong. We are cooking from Alice Waters' book and it is called The Art of Simple Food, and she is not kidding. People! I made garlic mayonnaise. And! It was delicious! And! Simple.

It was as simple as she describes, and there was room to be creative, to adjust to our taste. When the first taste was declared "a bit bland," I recalled her suggestions for variations. I squeezed in fresh lemon juice, added a pinch more salt. After that, the hardest part was getting a photograph without someone's hand in the shot!

All we had for dipping and testing was a loaf of sourdough bread... didn't matter. We loved it! A few days later I tried a second batch, and this time I served it with steamed broccoli! Simply delicious!

Favorite: Alice Waters said to slowly drizzle in the olive oil, and keep whisking until the yolk went from looking translucent and yolkey to being opaque... and suddenly the yellow became more buttery, and the consistency transformed into silky smoothness. I loved the moment this happened!

Regrets: None...

Discovered: It's good on steamed broccoli, and it's also pretty tasty on a bratwurst, with grilled onions.

Confession: I made the aïoli a lot sooner than I was supposed to, and I am unrepentant.

*More Descriptive: Okay, it's the silkiest texture, and not heavy. And I think I was fairly restrained with the salt, so that it was savory, but without making it plainly salty. Because of the garlic, we were reminded of the yumminess of garlic bread, when the topping is buttery rich and the garlic nutty, almost sweet. And I know I am saying "buttery" which describes the color, the texture, even an aspect of the flavor, but even to my own surprise... there is no butter! Adding the lemon enriched the taste, but did not make me think of it as an overly lemony impression... it was more like a catalyst for the other ingredients to reach their optimal flavors.

*Warren, are you and Emily going to whip up some aïoli soon?

And now I have a deeper respect and admiration for good food bloggers. How many interesting ways are there to describe YUMMY?!