Halloween at our house means putting the pink fairy wings on my darling furry friends and reveling in their adorableness. They love it because they get lots of treats for participating.

Tonight we had our first birth class so we couldn't be around for the dear trick-or-treaters which really bummed me out because I love it. I remember Halloween as a kid and how excited I was to get an entire pillow case full of candy. My mom was a witch every year. We used to have a bunny name Scooter Nookems Budda Boo and she would cackle at the small clowns and goblins that stood on our doorstep while cuddling Boo up near her right cheek and say this used to be my husband. It was awesome.

I left a bowl of Blow Pops on the front steps completely certain some punk would steal them all and smash my pumpkins. But I had to try. When we returned home in the complete fall darkness, I was stunned and pleased to find my suspicions were wrong. Perhaps it was my crafty note. There were seven Blow Pops left.


how nice

The Hip Homemaker gave me the Nice Matters Award. Isn't that nice?

The rules:
This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you’ve been awarded, please pass it on to seven others who you feel are deserving of this award.

My seven in alpha order (I know its anal but sometimes I can be):
  1. from petaluma to london. Chronicles the journey of a brave woman who moved to Petaluma, CA to London to pursue a masters degree in photography. Her photos are amazing. And, keeping in stride with my tardy birthday wishes (I may have to send out one of those tell-me-when-your-birthday-is-cause-I'm-too-lame-to-stay-on-top-of-it emails), HAPPY BIRTHDAY PAIGE.
  2. GARDENPUNKS. This blog is a fun read with good information and a sincere approach to gardening in the climate us gardeners all wish we had--in Cali.
  3. Mile Markers. Kristen Armstrong (ex of famous Lance. think yellow bracelet.) is an incredible writer. I have gleaned much running and life inspiration from her posts.
  4. the reluctant triathlete. The story of a woman with some guts who has jumped in with both feet to train for triathlons. And is totally slaying it.
  5. The Sky is Pink. I always admire people who uninhibitedly throw themselves out there in the blogosphere...I am getting braver and braver. A blog about life from her perspective; and, man, can she sew.
  6. Smitten Kitchen. I salivate over the photos. And the writing. Delicious.
  7. Wisdom of the Moon. This blogger does great things and writes about them. She says, I have 4 kids, only one of which I grew from scratch. And I think that is pretty cool.


I see dead house plants.

So what gives man. I mean, I thought I had a green thumb and then I can't even keep a cactus alive. Succulents are supposed to be easy. I would rather keep orchids.

I have no idea how to diagnose indoor plants. Give a tomato with a cracked stem or an aster with a fungus and I'm all over it. But, this. Seriously. How do I figure out what happened here? Some sort of bacterial or fugal issue. But it didn't show any signs. It just lost its erection for no reason. Maybe it was exhausted with the contemporary pressures of being a phallus.

At first I thought my plants cried because we moved and they didn't like it but now they have had plenty of time to adjust and I don't really want plants that can't tough it out. I am not one of those gardeners that will dig a spider plant out of a college kid's apartment dumpster and bring it home to see if I can nurse it back to health.

About eight years ago, Andy fell in love with this big, beautiful, twenty-year-old jade. He would prune it meticulously and read about succulent care and wouldn't let anyone else water it. I found this to be so hot because he has never been aroused at all by plants and he married a huge garden dork who is turned on by the meristematic region and soil microbial activity.

The jade lived at his mom's house when we were in college and didn't fare so well in the transport to our house. Sadly, this is the once beautiful jade after I cut off anything that could survive:

The other parts aren't worth photographing. The pathetic buds are in a tiny pot struggling to spawn and I am hopeful that by the time bug graduates from high school, the plant will be back in its prime. OK, so maybe there is a little bit of that nurturing, loving, save-a-spider-plant in me.


el holo grande

El holo grande is what my friend, Pam, calls the Big Hole Valley and River in southwestern Montana. And since I didn't post on her birthday because I was too busy celebrating her existence, HAPPY BIRTHDAY PAMCAKE. We left late on Friday and arrived to John making a fire, a pack of excited dogs and our friends pulling in their lines after an afternoon of epic fishing.

We visit this super secret fishing spot every fall. I am not eight months pregnant every fall, however. My man made a luscious bed in the back of the truck (I whispered that because I feel guilty for driving our non-fuel efficient vehicle). Our resting place involved an air mattress, feather bed, flannel sheets, down comforters, and several scrumptious pillows.

On Saturday morning we woke at 6:07. The boys were anxiously scrambling to be the first ones in *the hole* and at *the tracks*. They were first. They always are but I think the race is part of the fun. I hung out in the darkness, drank dark coffee and waited for the rest of the crew to rise.

The morning was lazy and perfect. Marge, Maggie and Marge's 15-month old, Logan, Maggie's 10-year old, Alex and I headed out to catch some irresistible items at the Patagonia outlet in nearby Dillon. I scored with a coat that zips over my belly that rung up $45 cheaper than the listed price. The day was complete. And it was only noon.

Alex shot beer cans with his new bee bee gun (a gift from his Uncle Mike that his mom was less than thrilled about) and Andy lifted him to swing from the thick aspen branch. Every 20 minutes or so someone would comment on how incredible the sky was. Old pick up trucks stacked with men in hunters orange drove too fast down the washboard dirt road. A crazy lady with a dog named Hitler came through our camp more than once. She only spoke German to her rottweiler-lab mutt.

The fishing gang had a great day. It was the quintessential Montana fall afternoon--perfectly blue sky in blinding contrast to the curry-colored aspen leaves; If you moved around a lot you quickly stripped down to a t shirt and flip flops but as soon as you paused for 1.5 minutes or more, you scrambled to grab a hat, mittens, down coat and ski socks.

I mentioned that the Big Hole is one of my top five runs. Alice and I hiked on Saturday afternoon and it was exceptional. As soon as we left the aspen-and-grass-clad river, we entered the high desert of sage, clay and big bugs. I did run a few times on our walk. Like up to the top of a hill or to the next cattle guard. It makes me laugh out loud to run because I am sure I look hilarious. I was in a sports bra and spandex because of the aforementioned fall weather. When we returned Alice napped for a few hours; the day of frolicking with all of her canine friends (there were nine dogs) and walking with her ma did her in. And that is hard to do.

Saturday night was a more typically freezing Big Hole night. Andy made tenderloin fillets, baked potatoes and a salad with purple cabbage, carrots and cilantro. For dessert we had espresso cheesecake and tiramisu. I am spoiled. Several of the group walked to one of the two restaurants in town for dinner and when they returned it was hard not to notice the kid divide. All the couples with kids or preggers were at one fire and the rest huddled around another. I am sure it was so Logan wouldn't wake to drunken yelps should she fall asleep but it bummed me out that segregation is the answer. Everyone says it is inevitable. There is just more of a tolerance for kids if you have kids. On occasion, I plan to make drunken yelps after my child is born. Just in case you were wondering.


smokin' plum butter

My friend Connie gave me two generous bags of plums. Last year was the first year I made plum butter and it was complete perfection. I didn't even have to add sugar because it was that perfect. So, this year, I had high hopes.

It was taking me awhile to get around to making the butter so I decided to do it in stages which I have always avoided so I don't waste time or heat (from the stove) or something. But I had no choice as the plums were shriveling and I was headed off to camp for the weekend.

I halved and boiled the plums for about two hours until thick like red sauce. I don't peel the plums and the result is an exquisite color. In fact, here is a secret: I don't remove the skin at all. I think this is a canning sin but I refuse to repent. I then let it cool *gasp* (wasted all that heat), placed the pot in the fridge and went camping.

When I returned today, it didn't take long at all to reheat the plums and it all felt very smooth and easy. It is becoming a challenge, however, to not dip my belly in food as I cook.

Then I burned some perfect plums to the bottom of the goddamn pot. It didn't seem like a big deal because I convinced myself that I could stealthfully stir without stirring up the gunk but when I used my immersion blender I snagged the gunk and now I have smoked plum butter. It really does taste smoked and not bad at all. Just different. It will be great with meat and cheese like baked brie...not so much on a pb & j.

Well, admittedly, it definitely isn't as good as last years. And I had to add a few cups of sugar to take the gunk edge off. Sigh, I am bummed about it. I did make several jars without sugar for bug. I am determined to make a foodie out of her--it is a gourmet twist on the boring nutritionally marginal classic.


final blooms. until next year.

You gotta love those last bits of color that hang on until the very end.

After several frosts, the deep purples and oranges stand out among the shriveled, fragile perennials. In bloom today: snapdragon, hardy zinnia, sweet pea, aster, those little weedy daisy things, calendula, mum, autumn sedum, yarrow.

We are headed to the Big Hole this weekend. It is my favorite place to be in October. We go to a *super secret* fishing hole that is referred to among the boys as the Missouri but it isn't the Missouri at all. As a wife of a fisherman, I am sworn to secrecy. I am a little nervous to camp with a damn near eight month prego tum. We might borrow an air mattress and a dome tent. Can I still call that camping?

Camping in my family involves our tiny, bomb-proof, four-season tent with Alice who pushes us off the thermarest and barks at every stir in the leaves outside. I need sleep. It will probably snow. I'll get to take a day trip to the Patagonia outlet. Maybe I'll buy some booties. I haven't bought one thing for bug.

It will be a bummer to not run. It is one of my top five favorite runs. I haven't run in a few weeks and this time I think I really am done until the kid emerges. Alice and I will hike.


final harvest: root vegetables

Not much else is more satisfying that digging carrots and beets.

I did my final plot clean up today. Years ago when I was a naive gardener ( I am still a naive gardener but just not as naive), I took pride in my tidy, bare, tucked-in beds by the time the snow flew. But I learned in my master gardening class from the amazing Helen Atthowe that I was creating way more work for myself; that leaving all that organic matter to rot and protect the soil from weed seed germination over the winter was key.

So, today I pulled all my soaker hose, garden staples, plant markers and bamboo stakes. I then yanked all the saggy basil, tomato, squash, pepper, carrot and beet plants and just left them sloppily spread among the fertile soil. As I type, tiny microorganisms are settling in to munch on all that luscious, nitrogen-rich material. yum.


last sunflower

The squirrels got the last word. A twitchy creatures destroyed the last bit of summer in my garden.

I hope the gourmet seeds were too rich for his little tum and he is off in his nest somewhere with the rhea. He dined on my cat's fence perch and left the fresh kill for me to find. The nerve.


the end of the sexy, fleshy passion

Get your mind out of the gutter. I am talking about tomatoes. I picked them all last Sunday, the day after the first frost. They were just barely OK.

The texture was all funk but the flavor was great. I made a big batch of sauce with the reds and relish with the greens. The sauce turned out most excellent. Although can someone please tell me why you have to deseed the maters? It seems some odd torture to me. Maybe I just don't know the secret trick. Here's a secret: I left all 4,398 seeds in the sauce and it is great.

The relish I haven't tried yet but I think will be very delicious and versatile. I got the recipe from a trusted source, Farmgirl Fare. One note that is not mentioned in the recipe: do not chop jalapeños and then rub your nose. Holy shit it burns.

I doubled the recipe and ended up with eight pints. For apples, I used some of Bobbie and Shirley's perfect macs from the Bitterroot. I used up the last of my garden peppers and bought one giant, organic pepper that weighed 1 1/2 pounds.

Farmgirl Susan's Green Tomato Relish
Makes about 3-4 pints
Recipe may be doubled; increase cooking time by 10-15 minutes

2 lb. green tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 lb. white or yellow onions, chopped
3/4 lb. sweet red peppers, cored and chopped
1/2 lb. tart cooking apples, cored and chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon kosher or sea salt
4 jalapeño peppers, cored, seeded if desired, and finely chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

Combine the tomatoes, onions, peppers, apples, garlic, vinegar, and salt in a large, nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about an hour.

Stir in the jalapeños, cilantro, and cumin and simmer for 5 more minutes. Carefully puree the mixture using a stick blender or in a traditional countertop blender (in batches if necessary) until still somewhat chunky.

If canning, return the pureed relish to a boil, then ladle the hot mixture into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Store in a cool, dark place.


the golden flower

I severed the thick stalk of the amazing sunflower. Everything that once pulsed is now chilly, limp and lifeless so I figured it was time because I'd get to look at it a lot more in my house over coffee, while kissing my animals or with my man at dinner.

A twitchy squirrel took down one of the blooming three...my theory still stands. I cut about a foot down and there were seven buds. If I had only planted sooner. Next year.
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