Tuesday, October 31, 2006

One Year and Future Hope

The last day of October; the month of pumpkins! Tomorrow starts November and in our family we'll be busy with several birthday's and our most celebrated extended family holiday, Thanksgiving. November also marks the first anniversary of Gracious Hospitality blog. This morning I've enjoyed looking through some of the previous posts, remembering events, a recipe tried, a walk along the river or mountain ridge, and journey's with the family to places far away. Year two begins my quest of honing up on rusty writing skills and learning more about the art photography. Although we do not know what the coming year brings, we do know Him who holds the future. And life is good.

"Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance." Psalm 42.5

[His countenance is the assurance of His face; the guarantee of His personal presence in our lives. What a gift!]

Saying Good-bye to the Flowers

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, I'm sure you have discovered that I love flowers! In early spring I start looking for the first little buds; those buds turn to blossoms and provide color and fragrance after the barrenness of winter. Each autumn I dread the night of the first hard frost. And all the next day I mourn the loss of bud and blossom. Last night was our first hard frost. Even after the sun was up for an hour or so this morning, the thermometer on the back porch read 25 degrees F. So, today in memory of the flowers, I am posting pictures that I've taken during the past week or so --- appreciating the last of the summer blossoms. Winter will soon be here.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Remaking Left-Overs

Last week I posted a recipe for roasted vegetables. We enjoyed them so much that I made them again yesterday at the cabin. This time I added fresh mushrooms and served them on basmati brown rice rather than pasta. It is recommended that you make a full batch, as roasted vegetables are so versatile for remaking into other savory foods. Since Rylan is home with a sore throat and cold today, I thought some un-chicken broth would be good for him. This savory soup is made with Imagine's organic No-Chicken Broth, left-over basmati brown rice, and the left-over roasted vegetables. It was simple to prepare and delicious to boot! A wonderful soup for an autumn day.

Today is Happy Comment Day!

Blogging friends, are you still there? Today I'm officially declaring "Happy Comment Day"! I would love to hear from you. Please let me know what's going on in your life. Busy with autumn? Bored with the sameness of blogging? Benefitting from a few new ideas? Bogged down with life? Traveling and enjoying adventures? I'd enjoy feedback and some two-way communication with you. I hope your day is happy and blessed!

The Very Short Independent Film

Brandon's been enjoying life at the university and his studies are going well. One of his favorite classes is in film-making. For a recent assignment, he created a one-minute movie. The story, plot, theme --- everything --- tied up in one short minute! The actors are Rylan and their cousin, Jared. Would you like to see it? It's posted on YouTube at this URL:


Near Autumn's End --- The Vegetable Garden

Near autumn's end, the vegetable garden takes on a new look. Instead of abundant fresh green and vegetable growing to a large size, the foliage is sparse and the vegetable small. But, until the first hard freeze, they still provide food for family meals. Tomato sandwiches, salsa, cucumber salad, and eggplant dip can still all be made from the vegetables found in Janet's container garden. If Janet is like me, and I think she is, then she'll mourn the first hard frost and will adjust her menu's to winter fare. And she'll await the first signs of spring and eagerly plant tiny seeds and tender plants for another season of fresh veggies for her family. It's the cycle of the seasons which influences the cycle of the foods cooked in northern kitchens during the winter months! Root vegetables, here we come!

Herbal Bouquets

Years ago I started reading the series of books, "More Hours in My Day" by Emilie Barnes. Her style of home management appealed to me, as it was within the boundries of my temperament and personality. All home management books I had read previously were quite cut and dried, very scheduled, and didn't allow for deviation from routine. But Emilie Barne's was different. She allowed for special touches, creativity, and the development of a beautiful home that was not only organized, but pretty and filled with homey things. A perfect meld of organization and attractiveness is described in her books. By now, I think my library contains all of the books she's ever written! What an inspiration she's been to me! It was also Emilie Barnes that started me on my passion for all things tea, but that story's for another day.

The home management tip I'm sharing today is one that I've adopted from Emilie Barnes. Certain fresh herbs are always in my fridge, summer or winter. They are parsley and cilantro. Other herbs are added when the menu calls for them; for example, fresh dill for potato soup. Sometimes, when I'm in a hurry, I place the herbs in the produce bags right into my fruit and vegetable crisper, but if I don't use them fast enough, they mush together and spoil. Emilie's idea works better. Wash and then cut the stems off the base of fresh herbs that are bundled in the store (this fresh cut allows for the uptake of water into the stems) and then place in a glass of water on a refrigerater shelf. The herbs are handy and ready for using, one sprig at a time. In addition, you get the added bonus of a fresh green bouquet each time you open the fridge door. How much better can it get than that!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Cold and Crisp on Mountain Ridge

It was breezy and cold on the mountain today.
Tari, our friend who's wiring our cabin, arrived before we did this morning and had a warm fire blazing in the stove when we arrived. The canyons and ridges are difficult to see in the distance, as fog and clouds nestled in the ridges and took away from the crisp autumn air of last week-end. It was definitely coat weather today!

Rain, Hail, & Snow

Today's weather was a mix of rain, hail, and snow. By the time we left the cabin this evening, there was a skiff of snow covering the ground, creating a slippery drive down the mountain roads. I will admit, though, that it was nice being in snow again. Maybe winter won't be so bad after all.

Tari Gave Us Light Today!

Today Tari completed installation of all the in-cabin fixtures and outlets, and then added floodlights and outside door lights on the outside. We were all eager to have her turn on the master switch and give us bright lights! What a joy! Now, the candles and lanterns are only for mood and effect, leaving the electric lights the real task of helping us see at night and creating a cozy and warm atmosphere.

From Woodshed to Cozy Kitchen

Last year this room was an unfinished lean-to at the end of the cabin that had been used by the previous residence for storage and a wood shed. With much hard work and elbow grease, it is being transformed into a useful kitchen. Although no microwave will grace it's
cabinetry, a gas range and ample storage space and counter tops now make it a pleasant place to cook meals. A double sink has been installed and is ready for Brent to install faucets and a water system (we haul water from the valley, although we have two springs that eventually can be harnessed for cabin water). A space has been reserved for a gas refrigerator and freezer which we hope to have in place by next spring. You can see from these pictures that there are still tasks to get done; switch covers to install, rope lighting to fastened down, and more.

The Great Room --- A Work In Progress

With lighting in place, this space is now ready for decorating. Headers and window coverings, a wall quilt and photographs, and accessories with a touch of barn red color come next. Then the touches that will give a taste of home: a sewing basket, coasters, dried flower arrangements, and splashes of accent color. Working with these walls have been a challenge for me. Brent loves the knotty, chisled wood look of the real wood paneling. I would prefer to break it up with wallpaper below chair-railing on the bottom, or something else that would detract from so much wood! But, it's all about compromise, and we have decided to leave the walls in their original state and add some color and accent to it through accessories. It's a big job, but it comes next and really should be challenging and fun. It's cozy, but plain right now. I'm looking forward to the finishing touches.

Musical Praise

And David and all the house of Isreal played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.

2 Samuel 6:5

It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.

2 Chronicles 5:13

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Cake 'o' Roses

We spent a lovely afternoon at Marty's and Janet's house. Cousins from Arizona are visiting and we enjoyed an afternoon of conversation together. For lunch we had haystacks and chocolate cake. It seems like everyone enjoys my gluten-free chcolate cake, even though all but Brent are allowed gluten in their diet. I was fortunate to be able to still find miniature roses in my garden for cake decorating, even though we had a pretty heavy frost last night. It won't be long until all my roses die off and are gone until next spring. I guess I'll have to start baking lemon poppy seed cakes instead and find other, more seasonal items for cake decor.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Walnuts Galore

After Brent's father retired, he planted a small grove of walnut trees that grew and thrived. Except that the squirrels love them so, he had no problems growing an abundant crop. Each autumn he spends time drying, cracking, and packaging his walnuts. And they are delicious! A store-bought walnut could never hold a candle in flavor and texture to the ones he grows in his back yard.

Sweets, savories, and anything in-between benefit from the taste, texture, and nutritional value of walnuts. Heart-studies show that walnuts are beneficial for the health of the heart, as they have no cholesterol and are rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These good fats result in a lower level of low-density lipoprotein (the bad fats) and a higher level of high-density lpoprotein (the good fats). HDL's are known to reduce bad cholestrol levels in the body. Walnuts also contain iron, minerals, fiber and a lack of sugar. Even the skins of a walnut are good for you! Called the pellicle, the thin brown skin covering the meat of the walnut contains tannins. The darker the skin, the more tannins there are. These compounds are the same as are found in red wine and are associated with promoting a healthy heart.

Eating fresh walnuts out of hand is delicious, but there are also other ways to enjoy them. Here are just a few simple ideas:

Maple Glazed Walnuts: In a saucepan, melt together 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook until mixture becomes thick and brown and starts to thicken. Add 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla and 2 cups of walnuts and stir until glazed. Then, place on wax paper to cool.

Pesto: In a food processor, combine 1 1/2 cups fresh basil, 1/2 cup parsley, 1/2 cup walnuts, 2 large cloves garlic, and 3/4 cup olive oil. Whiz until smooth. Then, stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (vegan parmesan cheese alternatives work well for this). Serve as a sauce for pasta or brown rice. Top with additional toasted walnuts.

Sandwich Filling: Mash together equal portions of chopped walnuts and chopped black or green olives. Blend with softened cream cheese (Tofutti soy cream cheese is delicious for this). Spread on a cracker or whole grain bread for a snack or open-faced sandwich.

Savory Sidedish: Saute sliced or chopped mushrooms in olive oil with a little grated orange peel and chopped walnuts. Serve as a topping for baked potatoes or as a side for a leafy green salad.

Crunchy Rice: Cook 3/4 cup basmati brown rice in 1 1/2 cups water until tender. Then add 1/4 cup toasted, chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup fresh dill, 1/4 cup golden raisins, 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Toss and season with mineral salt to taste.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Of Red-wings and Sunflowers

Recently I picked up Rylan from class and was intrigued by a field of dried sunflowers in the field next to the student agricultural lab. Red-winged blackbirds were feasting on the seeds and were flying en mass in a flock of black. All the sunflower heads were bowing, heavy with the weight of seeds. It was beautiful in an autumnal way and I was glad I have my camera with me so I could take a few pictures.

On a side note, my camera has been returned and I am so glad to have it again! I think the 'Geek Squad' got it right the second time around. A new focus unit was installed and I'm set to go again.

Tea, True Womanhood and Uppity Women

I received a brochure in the mail today that advertises the local 2006 - 2007 lecture series schedule for the upcoming year. There are so many interesting subjects to learn more about, but one that really caught my eye made me smile. It sounds so interesting! It's called "Tea, True Womanhood and Uppity Women". I'll have to be sure to place it on my calendar. Here's a description of this lecture:

"Watch out for tea parties! That's where many women have started thinking about their lives, their on freedom, and other radical notions. Women launched the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York over tea. And, according to legend, it was at a tea party where women's suffrage began in Wyoming, the first state or territory to allow women to vote. Through stories, journals, songs, and readings, author Susan Butruille explores the dynamics designed to keep women in their places, and tells about some women of the Old West who defied convention and turned toward freedom. Hear tales of women, both uppity and refined, who explored a wider world for themselves and for their sisters. Learn, enjoy, listen, and you may recognize echoes of your own life and times. Tea, anyone?"

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Favorite Things

Favorite things are the topic on Shareen's blog. I just thought I'd join in with a favorite thing of my own. I am choosing 'scented candles' as my favorite item of the day! My all-time favorite candle is made by Yankee and is their Hazelnut Coffee fragrance, but it's been discontinued and I am looking for another fragrance that I enjoy. Today I bought a Home Interiors Cinnamon Spice candle and it does smell very good. Candles, either lit or set on a mug warmer add atmosphere, fragrance, and comfort to a cozy home.

*Read Shareen's blog by clicking on the "Waiting For Him" link on the right.

Roasted Vegetables with Brown Rice Penne

Dinner tonight was 'winter roasted vegetables' served with brown rice penne pasta. Colorful, high in antioxidant quality, and a great source of Vitamin A, this was a meal enjoyed by all. Here's the recipe:

Winter Roasted Vegetables with Brown Rice Penne

In a large casserole dish, place:

1/2 head cauliflower, cut into pieces
1 head broccoli, cut into pieces
1 small sweet potato, cut into sticks
1/4 butternut squash, peeled and cut into small squares
2 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise and then cut into half moon shapes
1 green pepper, sliced
1 sweet onion, cut into strips
6 or 8 cloves garlic
1/2 cup small grape tomatoes

Mix together gently. Add mineral salt, olive oil, and a dash of lemon juice. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Place in oven and bake at 400 degrees F. for 45 minutes, stirring twice during the roasting process.

Cook brown rice penne. Drain and place in bowl with olive oil and salt. Serve topped with roasted vegetables.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006


A Quiet Place

"A cup of tea in a quiet place
Brings joy to the heart
And a smile to the face."

Miss Madeline

Spicy Chai Tea

2 cups boiling water
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
3 peppercorns (optional)
8 cardamom pods
4 cloves
optional-- shaved orange or lemon rind, fennel or licorice
1/2 cup almond or soy milk
125 ml nutmeg powder
honey or stevia to taste

Pour boiling water over spices in a saucepan, simmer 5-10 minutes. Add milk, simmer another 10 minutes. Pour through a strainer into cups. Sweeten with honey or stevia and sprinkle on a little nutmeg, to taste.

*Teapot ~ on display at Puddle Ducks Herbs

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Mountain Autumn

The mountain in October is crisp with vibrant colors, cold nights, and sunny days. Mud puddles are forming in shady spots on mountain roads and ruts from tires of vehicles are making the trip up the mountain bumpy and more difficult for anything other than a four-wheel drive. Since hunting season has opened, there are more trucks on the road and people we don't recognize or know traverse the roads in hopes of finding their prey. What they don't know is that I am praying that they won't find the deer, elk, cougar, and bear that we've lived peacefully with during the other parts of the year. The non-hunting status of our family puzzles our mountain neighbors and my husband's friends. Any hunting we do takes place with camera or binoculars. Peaceful cohabitation is our desire.

The journey up the mountain can only be described as one of exquisite beauty, as the fall colors are intense --- red, orange, yellow, purple, and green.

The Changing Seasons on Mountain Ridge

The mountain ridge is becoming drier and more colorful as night-time frosts turn plants to their dormant state. Shady patches of woods were still covered with frost mid-morning yesterday and some puddles in the road had chunks of ice in them yet. Winter isn't far away!

Hints of Green

Hints of green still paint this leaf, with golds and reds to dominate soon.

Autumn's Sparseness

The green, lush growth of mountain terrain has been replaced by a bareness that is lacking in softness and abundance. But the sparseness of autumn's season gives a different perspective and helps us see the forest floor as it really is. During spare moments, Brent enjoys cleaning up the woods around the cabin --- and with autumn's bare bones approach, sees many twigs, branches, and fallen logs that he still wants to clean up so that hiking through the woods is easier. The work never ends and provides endless exercise for those who desire it!

Teacher, Home Economist, and Electrician

I'm proud of my friend, Tari, who is so talented in many things. We've been friends since high school, having met because we shared the same piano teacher. In college we took education and home economics majors together. She married a friend of my husband's. Therefore, our lives have crossed paths these many years. Tari's professional life is spent working as a journeyman electrician and she travels the construction circuit for the company she works for. For the past few week Sunday's, she's been helping us wire our cabin for electricity (from a generator). Yesterday she installed outlets, switches, and new light fixtures. It will be wonderful to have soft, cozy lighting. Although the lanterns, kerosene lamps, and candlelight are mood-setting, it's not comfortable or convenient to sew or cook with during the night-time hours.

Activity All Around!

I love this photo because it looks so funny! It makes me think of an action photo where something different is happening in every corner! Here Tari is bending pipe by heating it so that it can go around and be buried by a cement pad at the front door. Brent is chipping cement from a place where it's in the way of the pipe that's to be buried, and has dug a trench to bury the pipe in. Scarlett, Tari's dog, is observing and it looks like he's wishing Tari would let her back into the Tracker so she could sleep!