Simple Autumn Decor

I absolutely adore this time of year. Autumn is my favorite season, and September is the sweet spot of the whole calendar. The cool desert mornings and starlit nights, warm days, hints of wood smoke, changing leaves, and the colorful harvest all culminate into a beautiful time of year that inspires and settles my spirit. I want to infuse the colors and the feeling of Fall into my wardrobe, my meals, and throughout my house.

The colors of Autumn trees inspire my color palette most of the year, with rich golds, reds, and bright oranges. Mums and throw pillows add these easily to any room.

A simple, faux leaf garland added to each room- over the bed frame, or across the piano- adds a touch of autumn whimsy.

A simple Pyrex bowl of found goodies becomes a charming still life. Here I used pine cones, cedar, and faux leaves. (If you have more deciduous trees than I, feel free to add in real leaves!)

A black cat always adds a nice touch to autumn decor!

Of course, being Pumpkin Hollow Farm, it is probably obvious that we love pumpkins in this family! Jack be little, Princess, Lumina, or Warty, they all make a lovely display. I hope the new owners of my last house are enjoying their pumpkins, this year we buy, but next year the front of the house will be swarming with many types of pumpkins.

Admiring colorful mums, picking up beautiful leaves, decorating with pumpkins, enjoying a glass of wine, making an apple pie; however you celebrate the season, may it bring you great joy and inspiration!

Queen Creek Olive Mill Tour

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The day was dusty and blustery, actually cool.  We passed a screened in garden filled with Five Color Silverbeat Swiss Chard, already two feet tall and rows of kale and flowers.  We looked out on the expansive grassy area dotted with olive trees then ducked into the store to avoid the wind.  The shop is charming with everything beautiful.  Every item they sell has a lovely label.  Each shelf meticulously designed and each product mouthwateringly tempting.  A large café serves easy fare like paninis and appetizers.  The smells of the coffee shop waft about the shop mingling with the aromas of wood fired pizza and olive oil.

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Rows of fresh olive oil are available to sample, all made there on the property.  They infuse balsamic vinegars there as well and they line the shelves with arrays of colors. Before we sample anything, we get in line for the tour.  We pass a hedge of olive trees and an ancient stone mill.

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Our tour guide has a staccato German accent and a charming demeanor.  He tells us the health benefits and caloric content of olive oil and the many uses.  He debunks the myth about olive oil’s smoke point (I knew it!  Grandmas in Italy know it as well.)  You can roast veggies, sauté, and do all of your cooking with olive oil without fear of it becoming a carcinogen.  (With that I must add that deep frying anything in itself is a carcinogen!)  I was pleased that I knew most all of what he told the crowd and I had to bite my lip to not answer questions and remind myself that I was not the tour guide!  It was interesting hearing about the IOG and their rigorous standards for purity and taste.  One must always purchase extra virgin olive oil, or second best, virgin olive oil.  Anything beyond that is lamp oil.

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As we munched on a cheese platter of pickled veggies and a Chardonnay Herbed Mascarpone and sipped wine, I reviewed the story of the founders.  A family leaving Detroit with a dream to grow olives in Arizona, raising their children on land, building a company, and succeeding.  Queen Creek Olive Mill is the only olive oil company in Arizona.

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We sampled olive oil and filled a shopping basket.  (We have hardly purchased any souvenirs at all on this trip, but we now have two big bags of food stuffs to take home now!  Our souvenirs are always food orientated.  We meandered through a great Indian grocery yesterday too, filling a basket as we perused rows of delicious and ridiculously low priced teas and spices.)  We would have enjoyed walking the grounds but the weather was not cooperative, but if we go back we shall walk around the beer garden and converse with the trees and enjoy the fresh food and olive oil.

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Queen Creek Olive Mill, 25062 S. Meridian Rd, Queen Creek, Arizona

Your Complete Guide to Holiday Food and Wine Pairing and Gifts

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Perhaps you are entertaining this season, or maybe you entertain all year.  A glass of wine at dinner is better when paired appropriately.  A glass of wine with friends is even better.  Maybe you want to give a bottle of something as a gift.  Or perhaps you are curious about great wine.  Great wine doesn’t mean expensive.  The terroir and nuances and enjoyment of wine and the way it plays with food pairings can be found in a bottle of twelve dollar wine.  You just have to know what to look for.

There are five glasses of wine in each bottle.  A standard pour is five to six ounces.  This will help you plan how much to provide at a party.  Serve whites at 55 degrees.  Reds at 65-75 degrees.  Look for wine between ten and twenty dollars.

For appetizers– a sweeter wine that holds up on its own and is quite delightful is RieslingPinot Noir can be paired with anything.  It is the most versatile.  Look for the cherries and chocolate flavors in this milder wine.

If you are serving something with butter or cream- Mushrooms with butter sauce and Parmesan or Linguine Alfredo, let’s say, or a nice salmon with a creamy herb sauce will pair perfect with Chardonnay.  Chardonnay carries the crisp tropical and fresh fruit flavors of white grapes with the toasty cream finish thanks to the oak it matures in.

If you are serving seafood or salad– Shrimp Cocktail, a beautiful main-dish salad with chicken, or pork roast with apples and cabbage.  Anything that has crisp flavors-apples, lettuce, briny seafood- goes best with a Sauvignon Blanc.  It has crisp fruit and mineral flavors, is dry, and is made in stainless steel.  It goes really nicely with food.  If you want to go a tad sweeter with this type of menu, choose a Pinot Grigio.

If you are serving tomato based dishes or beans- Rich chili, thick pastas and savory sauces, olives, or bean soups all go beautifully with Cabernet Sauvignon.  Anything Italian naturally pairs with Sangiovese, Chianti, or Barbera.

If you are serving red meat or barbeque- You just can’t go wrong with a Merlot or a Malbec with a smoky steak or buffalo burgers.

If you are serving dessert- a thick Port with fudge is divine, a glass of Moscato or Ice wine is a sweet way to end the meal.

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A gift to a wine club is a great present to the wine lover on your list.  Some of the smaller wineries offer wine clubs which gives the oenophile on your list some new and exciting small batch wines to enjoy.  Some of the larger wine clubs offer treats from around the world.

Enjoy your festivities this season, my friends.  Cheers!

 

 

Travels, Friends, Dark, and Light, and the Breathing Ocean

We walked the beach on that last day.  We alternately dreamed of our future farm in California and the kisses we would receive from Maryjane when we got home.  The air was heady with fresh soil and sea and the birds actively flew overhead.  My skin feels so good in the humidity.  I can breathe better too.  My breath caught though as I recognized a form in the sand behind a rock.  An infant seal clubbed, his spirit and his head missing, decomposing into the soft layers of sand that cradled its small body.  Mankind’s darkness found everywhere.  Glimpses of ugliness scattered vaguely in all the light.  But thank goodness for the light.

We had an amazing time with our beloved friends.  We miss them terribly as the years lapse between visits.  We traversed the back roads and highways, from beach to farm to mountain to sunsets, tasting, drinking wine or waters with lemon from Marigold the Lemon tree who resides sweetly on their fourth floor balcony.  Nourishment in every moment.

We came home to one of our cats, Zuzu’s Petals, missing.  Like losing a penny down the drain.  She is most immersely lost in this wilderness of apartment hell.

And as I sat on that beach in the sand looking out into the widest expanse of water that just graced the sky, and listened to the birds dancing on the rocks, and watched my husband recline and read, I noted the waves as they tumbled forth near my feet and then pulled back into the vastness.  Up and stretched in turquoise waves, then exhaled.  Came forth, pulled back.  I watched the ocean breathe for hours.  She gave, she pulled back, she grew in ferocity, she rested, she was beautiful in all her simplicity of ebb and flow.  She wrote out a poem, a script of life, a beautiful tale.

 

The Forest Feast and the Underground Supper Club

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I have found the most beautiful cookbook.  It is called “The Forest Feast” by Erin Gleeson.  You can taste the food and smell the forest and celebrate with friends as you flip the pages.  Cool cocktails and interesting takes on vegetables wooed me into the check out line with it.  I have spent hours lost in its pages.

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I bought it to challenge me.  Sometimes I make the same vegetables in many of the same ways as I always have.  Corn with butter and salt.  Broccoli with  uh…butter and salt.  How about broccoli roasted then tossed with blue cheese and pine nuts?  I served this dish with curried salmon and salad when friends came to dinner and the dish positively melts in your mouth and screams for great red wine.  Cauliflower steaks with cheddar and chives.  Cucumber and strawberry salad.  Paprika and cinnamon crispy carrot slices.  Sangria.

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It inspires me, as so many things out there do.  Shyanne and I have long dreamed of a supper club.  Wildflower and Fawn, after our respective Native names, would be its moniker.  Supper clubs are frowned upon when serving wines and food in a non-commercial kitchen and charging.  But, yet we dreamed.  Four courses, from scratch, organic, local ingredients, wine pairings, my creative take on main and side dishes, and Shyanne’s extraordinary flair for desserts.  A multi-star experience of fresh flowers, laughter, fine china, and delicious food and drinks.  A quarterly event.  A way to express our inner chef/sommelier/baker/entertainer without the restaurant.

The first one filled up in a matter of days.  The next is Memorial Weekend.  The ideas and inspiration keeps gathering force like stardust, and enchantment is all around.

 

Dinner and Movie Night-Spice and Herb Fish, Artichokes, and Spiced Cocktails

Dinner and a movie at home is one of our favorite “dates”.  Today we will make spice and herb stuffed fish with artichokes and a gingery, fruity cocktail.  The movie is “Burnt” with Bradley Cooper.  We loved it.  We love all foodie movies though.  This one was fast and fun and made our mouths water.

The Cocktail- This cocktail began a year and a half ago as my intern, Ethan, and I loaded a two quart jar with fresh peppermint, apple halves, and good rum as a Christmas present for Doug.  It is sweet and syrupy and delicious but certainly regular rum, or alcohol omitted all together, would be fine.

The base is delicious alone, really.  Load a pot with slices of ginger, turmeric, oranges, and fresh mint.  Drizzle in a generous amount of honey.  Pour over about four cups of water and simmer for one hour.  This mixture can sit in the refrigerator after it is done.

Rodney and Pat gave us a Soda Stream machine which carbonates water.  It makes fun “pop” and cocktails.

Fill a high ball with ice, pour in one or two ounces of rum, then half and half carbonated water and base.

The Artichokes- I do hope you indulge in artichokes.  They are completely delicious and nutritious and fun to eat!  Clip off any sharp points on the outer leaves as well as the top quarter inch.  Trip stem to one inch.  Place in boiling water with half a sliced lemon, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, and two cloves of garlic and simmer for 40 minutes.  Drain and cool.

To eat, peel off leaves and pull bottom part through teeth to get meat off.  As you get closer to the center the leaves get more tender and you will eat the lower third of them.  When you get to the center spoon out the fuzzy part and enjoy the whole heart and stem.

To make dip, place a quarter cup of mayonnaise and sprinkle with your favorite season salt.  I love the Market All Purpose seasoning from Savory.  It is full of smoky paprika.

The Fish- I used trout.  I love trout but any good fish will work.  Sprinkle inside of fish with garlic salt and lemon pepper.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder and grate 1/2 teaspoon of ginger and 1/4 teaspoon of grated turmeric and spread on inside of fish.  Stuff with sprigs of Thai basil, green onion, and peppermint (or whatever you have on hand).

Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter and 2 Tablespoons of oil (I used a flavorful orange and chili oil from Germany) in a frying pan.  Add fish and cook covered for 8 minutes.  Flip and cook another 5 minutes or until fish is cooked through.

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From my kitchen window, the snow is over a foot high and it is still blowing and snowing.  Another movie and foodie night might be in order!  Happy Eating, Friends.

 

 

 

 

Results of Making Chokecherry Wine

Drum roll please…..

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Well, it’s been about a year since I brewed the chokecherry wine. It needed to sit for a year and I have patiently waited for the final product.  I was nervous because choke cherries are named that for a reason, they are puckeringly sour and a smidge bitter without two tons of sugar.

Friends, those old timers that wrote that recipe knew a thing or two about turning ordinary wild berries into wine to keep the spirits warm for winter.

The initial scent was of yeast and fruit, sweet berries, and summer.  A taste proved similar to meade with a hint of bitter on the end.  Not too shabby, Folks.  Not too shabby.

For the recipe, see my initial blog post here for making Chokecherry Wine.

(Note: Six months after writing this post we served another bottle and it was smoother and more delicious.)

The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey (a field trip)

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Sometimes one needs to run away, to have a change of scenery, and to put the day to day chaos away and perhaps have a glass of wine!  A change of place can create calm in thought and help bring on new ideas.  We haven’t had a field trip to a winery in some time, so Doug and I with our friends, Rodney and Pat, headed up to Canyon City to explore one in our own back yard.

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The Holy Cross Abbey is a beautiful gothic structure that used to house monks and a boarding school, but as it declined the grounds were left to a viticulturist and the abbey now rests while the winery does the work now.

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We enjoyed the VIP tasting (surprisingly affordable) which included eleven pours to taste most of the wines produced there, from a luscious Petit Sirah to a sweet Apple wine made from local apples.  As we walked outside to the place that the tasting would be held we immediately took in the quaint picnic table set for four with wine glasses.  The vineyard directly behind buzzing with life.  The perfect early autumn air and the smell of nearby mountains and flowers made the event seem as if it were written out of a magazine.

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Our delightful hostess, Elise, was a charming addition to the tasting as we compared stories of herbalism, homesteading, and future dreams.  Her aspirations include starting a community organization that brings like minded people together and turning her parents’ property into a lively homestead for them.  We took to her sweet spirit and enthusiasm immediately.

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It was a day of laughter, good weather, friends, and wine.  We sat in the sun, enjoyed a meal together afterwards, and sang karaoke into the night.  The perfect day.

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If you are in the area the Holy Cross Winery is a lovely place to stop. http://abbeywinery.com

Traveling the World by Cookbook (my favorite cookbooks)

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Delicious food and inspiration, something I daily seek.  I like to travel around the world to see what folks are eating.  I like visit farms around the globe.  I like to sit in stranger’s kitchens and see if I can experience a bit of their life by eating what they eat.  Through cookbooks I can do this from my own farm kitchen and so cookbooks have always been a bit of an obsession for me.

Mind you, I never follow a recipe to its exact measure but the blueprints and guidelines for delightful food I wouldn’t have thought of is most welcome to a busy farm wife foodie who doesn’t like to prepare the same thing over and over.

“Grow Your Own, Eat Your Own” by Bob Flowerdew is a great book that I may have told you about before but I find it ever so enchanting as the photographs make the book come to life.  As if I am in England learning from a master.  He takes us through the gardening season, growing, harvesting, preserving, and preparing delicious foods.  It is filled with brilliant ideas and a way to make potato au gratin that will change your life forever.  Decadent.

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“Another Amish cookbook?” my love asks as I purchase another.  I have…ahem…a few.  I love them for their stories.  I love the local ones that are say the recipe was submitted by Mrs. Elmer So and So.  I love the vague amounts in some and the tried in true in books like this one.  “The Amish Cook’s Family Favorite Recipes” by Lovina Eicher is my go-to in the summer when I am rushing around.  Perfect coffee cake to make and pack for the farmer’s markets, interesting recipes like chokecherry tapioca, and casseroles that make the kids want to move home.

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“Love Soup” by Anna Thomas is a book I have read from cover to cover many times.  Her soups are vegetarian and filled with flavor and comfort, sustenance, ease.  I love this book for its endless ideas for soup along with recipes for bread and salads.  Her stories along with the recipes are fun and the book is split up seasonally, which appeals to me more than ever.

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I have checked out “The Tuscan Sun Cookbook” by Frances and Edward Mayes from the library enough that it really ought to be a part of my collection at some point.  If I could go anywhere right now and enjoy a meal it would surely be in Tuscany.  I want to experience the long outdoor wooden table with twenty friends and strangers, water glasses filled, wine glasses raised.  Courses of flavorful foods that I have yet to prepare.  Many things that I have never heard of cooking or tasting in my Colorado raised existence.  I can hear the laughter, the long meal, the joy.  I loved the Under the Tuscan Sun books by Frances Mayes so it is a pleasure stopping by their house via library book for a meal. (Note: if you saw the movie, it is not even remotely the same as the books.  Do pick up the books!)

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Another library find, “Fresh from the Farm” by Susie Middleton is a delightful part memoir part cookbook using seasonal produce.  What to do with mustard greens, delicious ways with arugula, and much more.  I am definitely enjoying borrowing this book!

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If I make a menu plan and grocery shop regularly for the things we need then I am less likely to want to go out for subpar food.  This book, “The Casual Vineyard Table” by the owner of one of my favorite wines and vineyards, Carolyn Wente, makes me want to hurry home and cook!  I picked it up at the Wente winery when Doug and I were there visiting our friends, Lisa and Steve, in Northern California.  It was one of our best trips and we so enjoyed ourselves and became even bigger wine snobs, I rather fear.  Where do I start?  Potato Crusted Sea Bass with Gingered Blue Lake Beans or Bay Scallops with Rhubarb Puree?  Or one could always head straight to the back of the book and prepare Chocolate Chili Pecan cake with double bourbon whipped cream.  Oh my.

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Then there are lean times, which we are in more often than not.  Not poverty stricken, starving times, thank the Lord we always have food, but no sea bass or single vineyard wine times.  This book is practical, intelligent, and savvy.  Using minimal ingredients, all staples, one can put together hundreds of healthy meals on the cheap. “More-With-Less” by Doris Janzen Longacre is a homesteader’s necessity!

Do share your favorite cookbook titles!

How to Become a Homesteader-Part 4-Thrift, Bartering, Splurge

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Finding balance is one of the things we all strive for in every aspect of our lives.  Becoming a homesteader is about living the life you want, that you dream of.  It’s about taking chances and knowing you can live on less.  It is about spending time in the gardens and with animals and friends and not giving our life to a corporation, who will have you replaced by the time you hit the parking lot, or grave.  This is about relationships; with community, with friends and family, with nature, with God.  This is about freedom.  When we are living on less, we need to know when to be thrifty, when to barter, and when to splurge.

You can find tops for empty wine bottles to turn them into lanterns at Lehman's or kitchen stores.  Just fill with lamp oil and whallah!

You can find tops for empty wine bottles to turn them into lanterns at Lehman’s or kitchen stores. Just fill with lamp oil and whallah!

Being thrifty means that we reuse a lot of things and we don’t produce a lot of waste.  This is helpful on our pocketbooks and the earth.  We find we need less.  We don’t go to an office job so we don’t need really nice clothes, nor do we worry too much about our appearance.  We use our clothes until they are torn.  Our cars have to be practically falling apart while driving before we get a “new” one.  We read books from the library and rarely purchase new.  We reuse rubber bands to fasten stems of greens together to sell.  We save all of our twist ties and use them to stake plants to trellises and tomato cages.  Wine corks can be put in the bottom of pots before filling with soil for drainage.  Boxes that are too small to put in the garden or use to store canning jars get torn up and are used as fire starters.  Wine bottles get turned into oil lamps.

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Bartering is imperative in the homesteading world.  Being able to trade for services that we cannot do ourselves helps us live on a small income and helps connect us to others.  Rod put up a screen door for us and Doug cleaned up his computer.  We are trading one of Elsa’s kids for one of Jenet’s Nubian kids.  Last year Joan and I traded canned goods so we would have a bit of variety.  We barter herbal medicines for a lot of things!

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When to splurge?  Buy good quality feed for your animals.  Buy organics for yourself if you didn’t produce them.  When buying tools, buy the best you can so you don’t have to repurchase.  Buy quality seeds.  Not everything need be cheap.  Sometimes a bargain costs much more in the end.

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Then there are other types of splurges.  We live this way to enjoy life.  My post about boxed wine gave folks a good laugh around town, I’ll tell you.  I received large boxes of wine and funny comments.  I bet knowing my affinity for good wine that you can guess that it wasn’t long before I was darn sick of boxed wine!  If it’s under $15, a bottle is worth it.  One can find a great deal of fabulous wines in that price range.  And if Doug and I aren’t running around wine bars all week like we used to, you can bet your overalls that I am going to enjoy my glass of single vineyard, estate grown wine with dinner!

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This weekend we are taking Emily, Bret, and our sweet Maryjane Rose up to Boulder to celebrate Emily’s birthday a bit early.  I bartered for the rooms at a gorgeous Bed and Breakfast.  We will splurge on great meals and make fond memories with our children.

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Enjoy the good life today folks.  Life is sweet.