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I have to be honest; I haven’t really been enjoying fall this year. The weather has been fairly nasty – most days have felt more like winter than fall – and although the leaves have been beautiful, I haven’t felt like getting out to enjoy them much. Which makes me kinda sad, ’cause fall has always been my favorite season.

But all that changed today. Today was perfect. The weather was gorgeous, and I spent the entire morning in my cozy sweater and favorite boots with a pumpkin spice latte from the local coffee shop in my hand perusing my favorite thrift stores. Perfect.

And I made a serious haul. I mean SERIOUS haul. There were so many good finds and excellent deals that I actually had to leave some of them behind. Unheard of. I wish I had pictures to show you, but the sun has hidden itself behind a cloud and has refused to come out, so the goody pics will have to wait. But fear not, I do have some photos to share. I actually took these a week or so ago, during the only other truly fall-like day we’ve had so far this year.

Big-Maple

Big Maple was spectacularly colorful this year. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I see out the bedroom window is Big Maple’s gorgeous foliage. Awesome. And there have been plenty of leaves to play in – it’s one of Abi’s favorite things. Even when she was a puppy and we would take her for walks, she would stop at every pile of leaves and play in them.

Abi-in-leaves-1

Abi-in-leaves-2

Abi-in-leaves-3

I hope you’re enjoying the season, wherever you are!

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Earlier this summer, I purchased this amazing book by Karen Solomon:

jamitpickleitcureitI bought it for one, very specific reason. I was scared to death of canning. Seriously. I thought I was going to blow up our kitchen. I had read internet article after internet article and the only result was a list of dangers to add to my fears (like poisoning my family with poorly preserved food). So I essentially bought Solomon’s book for the four page inner section on canning in order to overcome my fear. I had no idea it would do that and so much more. I haven’t tried all of the recipes from this book that I’d like to, but based on the ones I have tried I can honestly say this book is worth every penny. The instructions are so easy to follow, and Solomon’s writing makes even the directions fun to read.

The first recipe I tried were the Super-Duper Garlic Pickles (a variation on her Pickled Green Beans recipe). I was hesitant, not only because we tend to be “pickle snobs” around here, but also because I felt that I was in some way betraying my dear grandmother in not using her recipe for my first attempt at pickle-making. Well, sorry Grams, but I don’t know if I’ll every waste my time with another pickle recipe again. J and I both agreed that these pickles were better than the $6/jar gourmet version we’d been buying and friends said they were the best pickles they’d ever had. And I didn’t even process them! They were refrigerator pickles! They were so good, my mouth is watering for more as I write this.

The next recipe I tried was the Basic Pasta Dough, using it to make ravioli (though I altered the filling to suit what I had on hand). Despite not being able to cook them immediately and lugging them on vacation with us all the way to Michigan, they were delicious. It’s a recipe I will go back to regularly.

Finally, my most recent experiment was with the Limoncello recipe. I had never had limoncello before making it myself, but my love of all things lemony compulsed me to give it a try. I started the recipe well over a month ago, letting each phase rest for the suggested amount of time and finally pouring the first glass last night. Let me tell you, it was lemon heaven. It made me want to round up as many lemons as I can find and make batch after batch. It’s good – dangerously good.

Limoncello

And I have overcome my fear of canning. So far I’ve made salsa and the pear plum jam I mentioned in my last post. The book gave me the confidence boost I needed to give it a try, and of course, everything turned out beautifully (still more to come on the jam). So thank you Karen Solomon for writing this book! It’s one I strongly recommend to anyone who loves food. You can get your own copy here.

On Saturday, J and I had some friends of ours over for dinner. I made my standard herb roasted chicken recipe and added some veggies to the pan for a convenient one-dish meal. Despite some cook-time issues (due to a generous supply of this), the meal turned out great – perfect for a chilly fall night. Since our friends also spent the night (a wise choice considering the aforementioned generous supply), I made us all breakfast in the morning. I had recently come into possession of a Delicata squash, a vegetable I had never dealt with before, and in my search for ways to prepare the squash, I found this recipe for bacon squash browns. It seemed too interesting not to try, so I served it with scrambled eggs, biscuits and pear plum jam (homemade! but more on that later), and more bacon. The verdict: it was surprisingly good, though I was disappointed in the yield (maybe I had an unusually small squash?). I’m not sure if I’ll ever try it again, but it certainly inspired me to think creatively about squash in the future.

Because of the large amount of bacon involved in the meal, the meat played a big part in our table conversation. There was a short discussion of turkey v. pork, and then we began pointing out the numerous bacon-inspired products on the market these days. It seems to be some kind of trend which our friends seemed largely ignorant of. So in honor of our fun, friend-filled bacony weekend, and in order to dissolve any doubt on the issue, I’ve decided to highlight a few of the products I’ve seen popping up here and there. Here’s to bacon-lovers everywhere!

Bacon Bandages

Bacon Wallet

Bacon Floss

Bacon Soap

Bacon Jelly Beans

Bacon Air Freshener

Bacon Mints

Bacon Lip Balm

Still craving more bacon? Try bacon gumballs, gummy bacon, bacon toothpicks, bacon chocolate, bacon vodka, and even a bacon board game. There are so, so many more, but I can feel my arteries hardening just looking at this stuff, so I’m going to leave the rest to your imagination (or googling skills).

Maybe it’s the cold weather, or maybe it’s the fact that Christmas decorations are already all over the stores, but I’m already starting to get in the holiday mood. It’s shaping up to be a pretty low-key holiday year around here, which is definitely a good thing. As of right now, we’re not planning any major trips to visit family and we’re not doing our semi-annual Thanksmas feast this year. We are thinking of doing a small dinner with some friends, but that should be the only party we host. So instead of being occupied with menus and decorations, my mind is full of other fun things, like crafty projects and presents. I’m planning on opening up the Shoppe for the holiday season. Last year went pretty well, and I was happy with the results of my efforts. I have some new products in the works, and I’m excited to get them finished so that I can share them with you.

As for the presents, J and I already purchased our big gifts. J’s big project for the winter is to re-do our basement. There are some structural issues that need to be taken care, and since we’ll have to rip out part of the existing floor and ceiling to do so, we decided to just go ahead with the major overhaul we’d been dreaming of. It’s not something that will get finished quickly. We’re basically stripping the basement down to nothing and starting over – new floors, new ceiling, new drywall, new built-ins, everything. It’s exciting, but pretty scary at the same time. Large renovations always make me a little nervous since you never know exactly what you’re going to find under what’s already there.

Anyway…with the basement out of commission for a while we needed to make our long-neglected living room more inviting and comfortable since we’ll be spending most of our time in there. So last week we emptied the room and got to work. The plan is to paint and have the carpet cleaned, then move everything back in along with the big screen TV from the basement. The drapes and rods I bought over a year ago will finally go up, and we may even hang a few things on the walls – crazy, right? So part of our Christmas gift to each other was to get a couple chairs for the room. We looked around for quite a while and kept going back and forth between a few different styles. J insisted on leather and I insisted on something that didn’t look like it belonged in a bachelor’s apartment, so ultimately we chose two of these:

living room chairs

They’re fairly small in size which is perfect for the scale of the room, and they’re comfortable enough the J will willingly sit in one without complaining. I’ll share pics of the room once it’s all put together – right now everything is wrapped in plastic or in boxes.

The rest of our gifts to each other were slightly more frivolous, but the deal was just too good to pass up. We’d been looking at home theater systems for the basement for a while. We love our TV (a 57″ Mitsubishi DLP for anyone who cares about that sort of thing), but the sound from it tends to buzz a little at times. We hooked up three speakers from a 5.1 system that actually belonged to one of our computers to avoid this annoyance, but it was clearly meant to be a short-term fix. After nearly two years of having to get up to adjust the volume (no remote on a computer system) and still not being able to understand some dialogue, we finally decided to get a new system. I thought it would be an easy, fairly straight-forward purchase. Boy was I wrong! The world of audiophiles is strange and confusing, and I sincerely hope never to return. After way too much time talking about watts, inputs and outputs, and obscure functionalities that I can’t imagine anyone having a need for, I was ready to go to Walmart and buy the first home-theater-in-a-box I saw. Ultimately we realized that we have no need for such a high tech system and for about the same price we were going to spend we found a 7.1 system and a plasma TV (both Panasonic, a package deal on a huge sale), which will replace the old, fat TV in the living room after the basement is finished. Like I said, not a necessary purchase by any means, but it really was a good deal, and not an impulse buy as we’d been considering both items for well over a year. So there are our (early) Christmas gifts to each other.

But I can’t stand the idea of not having anything for us to open Christmas morning, so we decided to still buy each other a few small things with a maximum budget of $50 each. I already have three things for J and ideas for a couple more. I’m not sure if J has a clue what to get me. I may have to help him out a little. That may be a future post here (though I’m not sure he actually reads this – guess I’ll have to leave a hint about the hint).

I hate to admit it, but the majority of our evenings are spent in front of the TV. J’s not so good at getting to work before 9:00, so by the time he gets home and we have a late supper, there isn’t a whole lot left to the day. And we both usually feel like crashing on the couch and watching something that will take our minds off of our day-to-day worries. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many non-animated television shows that J will watch, and he tends to get pretty bored with most of the shows that interest him in the beginning. One of the shows that’s managed to intrigue him is Mad Men. We started watching the first two seasons on DVD a couple months ago, and we are both hooked. We haven’t caught up to the season that’s currently running yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long till we do. I highly recommend you watch it if you haven’t yet. It’s worth it just to see the fashion and sets if nothing else. And for a little fun, you can Mad Men yourself here or find out which Mad Man you are here.

madmen_standard

When I picked them up, nearly four weeks ago, they were small enough to fit inside the palm of my hand. They told me that they had been abandoned and that they were only five weeks old. Luckily they were healthy, and in order to make sure they stayed that way it was important to have them fostered and kept separate from the other animals at the Humane Society. How could I not help?

At first they were scared of me – and understandably so. I would be scared of anything that much bigger than me too. But eventually they began to trust me and even enjoy being around me. They would play on me like I was a jungle gym, stopping every now and then for a cuddle. It was unexpectedly fun having them around.

Cheetos is the more playful one. He follows my every movement with his adorably buggy little eyes, waiting for the opportunity to pounce.

Pringles is more adventurous and is always the first to figure out how to climb, jump, or otherwise surmount any obstacle. He’s also the more cuddly one and is content to just lay in my arms.

This week they turned eight weeks old, making them finally eligible for adoption. So I returned them to the Humane Society, where hopefully they will each find a loving family to go home with. It was a little sad saying goodbye for the first time, but I know that someone will love them at least as much as I have. My time and energy is better spent taking care of the next little bunch in need of love and attention.

If you live in the Indianapolis area, you can find Pringles and Cheetos, along with many other adorable animals up for adoption at the Hamilton County Humane Society. For other parts of the country, Petfinder is an excellent way to find animals in need of loving homes. And if you’re able, the website also provides a list of shelters in your area, who I’m sure would appreciate any help you can give them, whether through fostering, donations, or volunteering.

  • I’ve had the flu all week. It started Sunday night, and I’ve basically been in bed since then (and by bed I mean the pullout sofa in the basement in front of the big screen TV). I don’t know if my flu is swine related. I didn’t go to the doctor, since there’s not much they can do for you anyway – I mean it’s not like I’m missing work (ha, ha).
  • I’m not the only one who’s been sick. Star (our cat) has been afflicted with some sort of fungal infection for the last several weeks and has been in quarantine. The poor thing has been living in the guest room closet since we found out what was wrong with her and that it was highly contagious for other animals. Before you call PETA on me, I should say that it is a rather large closet with a full-size window. She’s beginning to look better, though I’m not sure how long she’ll have to remain in her little cave.
  • Speaking of animals, we’ve been playing foster parents to two adorable little kittens. They were just five weeks old when I picked them up. So tiny! Now they’re nearly eight weeks and will be up for adoption very soon. I’ll have pictures and details soon. Until then, you can visit this site to get your fill of adorable and available animals.
  • There’s plenty more to say, but I’m afraid it will have to wait until I’m fully recovered and until I’ve caught up on the housework that’s been neglected during my illness. Yay, housework!

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