Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lemon meringue pie




I know, I know.

It's autumn and I should be reveling in all things appley or spicey, gingerbready or molassesey.

But you know what? I really wanted a lemon meringue pie. And since company's coming to dinner, I just went for it.

Maybe it's the peaks. They remind me of the scenery last night from the trailcam retrieval adventure.


See? more peaks!
(I wonder if there are any bears in this shot?!)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trail cam excitement

Remember I wrote that on Sunday we took a drive up into the hills to get away from it all? One of the things we did was set up the trail cam.

You know, just to see what there was to see on this little trail next to the road...

We took another long drive up this evening to retrieve the trailcam. Since dusk was on us, we expected to see lots of animals we could photograph. We only saw three, however. The first was a deer, but he was too quick and ran off before we could even get the camera out. The second were some spawning sockeye, but they were too deep to get a photo. The third was a bat, but he flew away quicker than we could hit the shutter release button.

Returning home, we were further disappointed to find that only three videos had been recorded on the trailcam. Three of our four cats were crowded around the cam, however. The first one sniffed and hissed. The second one sniffed and ran. The third cat took a few licks of the bungee chord, raised the fur on his spine, and dismissed himself as well.

The first clip on the trailcam was Mr. Boom, looking around quickly, thinking he'd heard something nearby.

The third clip was a video of us retrieving the camera.

The second clip--shot a mere hour before our arrival, and the only one that we hoped might contain an image-- is below.

There are three animals in this clip. One is obvious, the another is in the background toward the end, and the third is in the midground at the very end.


video

This was the third time setting up the camera this year. I think we got it *just* right, don't you?!

UPDATED to add: Mr. Boom put the video up on Youtube. The quality seems to be a little bit better on that site than it is in Blogger. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D1FsrybiR0

Weekend recap


This past weekend was by far one of the most productive weekends we've had around here for awhile. 


Saturday morning started out cold and dreary, with me staring at the bathroom floor.  Not only were we STILL not going to Crater Lake (boring old family, anyway!) but the bathroom floor didn't get repainted this summer and now it was cold and wintry and I'd have to stare at this stupid old not-very-well painted floor for another whole winter because I was too lazy to do it this summer and it's all just stupid anyhow, isn't it, and my toes are starting to look kinda old.


Then I had some coffee and the sun came out and the forecast said it would get into the low 80's.  Boo-yah! 


This weekend I cleaned and repainted the bathroom floor, Mr. Boom repainted the house trim I accidentally stripped off, then not-so-accidentally finished stripping a week ago.  We repainted the swinging bench on the back porch, and I even (finally!) got around to finishing up the paint job on the front porch columns, a job started (I kid you not) about six years ago.


Oh, and I also opened the beehive to check on the health of my favorite little hymenopteras, and give them a little bit of a menthol mixture proclaimed to be the best at preventing bees from getting mites or dying off in other mysterious ways.  Also, we managed to mow the lawn and till some straw into a garden bed that needs some serious help with its vegetative content. 

Sunday morning I woke up ridiculously early and persuaded Mr. Boom to get out of bed to go hunting.  And guess what?!! We (he) finally brought home a grouse for supper!  In case you're keeping count, we're up to grouse-6 and humans-1.  I also found a rather nice cep which was served up as the best little side dish to the best little grouse breast and leg ever.  Yummy! 



Oh, and doughnuts.  We also made more doughnuts on Sunday.  Yum.  Oh, and twice-baked potatoes.  Mr. Boom makes a killer twice-baked.  We had those for dessert a few hours after our grouse entree.

Yes, a great weekend here.  The touch-up work on the front porch continues, but the weather is holding up for now, and is expected to stay nice for the rest of the week.  I think we'll get it finished and I won't be fretting it over the winter through.

I love fall!

Monday, September 27, 2010

September Daring Bakers: Fancy sugar cookies!

Mandatory blog-checking lines:
The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

 


Wow, this month's Daring Baker's Challenge was a total blast!

Yeah, I say that almost every month, but this month I really mean it! I reeally do!

It's quite uncanny how each month a new challenge is put forth to us, and so many times the challenge involves something I've seen somewhere that I thought to myself I'd never be able to do at home in my own kitchen, or just never actually tried to do but kind of thought in the back of my head that it would be fun to try---someday.  

 Have you ever been in a bakery and seen the really cute seasonally decorated cookies and thought to yourself that "Wow, somebody's really got an artistic eye--and a lot of time!"?  Well, this month we had to make those cookies.

It turns out that even with only the tiniest dab of creativity, and really not all that much time, anyone can make really cool little cookies.  I had fun, and I definitely want to try again. The flooding technique we used was easy to accomplish.  I actually used little baggies with the tiniest snippet cut away from a bottom corner. By first drawing a line with icing around the perimeter of the cookie and letting that dry, you can then "glop" a bundh of icing in the center of the shape, smoothe it out, and end up with a remarakably professional looking end product. 

Mine aren't quite there yet, but with a bit of practice I think I could be there on my second attempt at these little suckers!


I'm thinking I could get really carried away if I had another baby shower to cater... 

For this challenge, however, we were required to bake cookies our cookies and decorate them in a manner conveying our ideas of autumn.  I therefore humbly submit to you, oh gentle reader:

Turkey hunting...


and 
pumpkin harvesting...



The secret to these cookies lies in creating a tasty but sturdy cookie dough, then cooking the cutouts just until firm (definitely not to the golden state), and then topping with nice basic royal icing.


The recipe with which we were provided proved perfect on both these accounts. 

Here it is, straight from the challenge to you.  I'd love to see what you guys make, should any of you choose to try this out!

Basic Sugar Cookies:

Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4" Cookies
200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming creamy in texture.

Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.

Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.

Tip: I don’t have a stand mixer so I find it easier to switch to dough hooks at this stage to avoid flour flying everywhere.

Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.

Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)

Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.

Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.

Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.

Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.

Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.

Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.

Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.

Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.

Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.

Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in some cookies being baked before others are done.

Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.

Leave to cool on cooling racks.

Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.

Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated cookies can last up to a month.


Royal Icing:

315g – 375g / 11oz – 13oz / 2½ - 3 cups Icing / Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
10ml / 2 tsp Lemon Juice
5ml / 1 tsp Almond Extract, optional

Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.

Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and

grease free.

Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.

Tip: I’ve listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.

Beat on low until combined and smooth.

Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.

Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.
 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Debating a move out onto a limb...


Mr. Boom and I are very conservative when it comes to spending money.

We camp instead of renting hotel rooms, we buy generic tinned food, we drive our vehicles until they're just about dead, we wear t-shirts and jeans, we don't eat out much, and we live in houses that are less than we can afford.

The latter provides me with such a sense of security. Our mortgage could be paid with either of our incomes alone. In fact, all our bills could be paid with one income alone. I like that. That, my friends, is true financial security.

But there's this house, you see. We're looking at it. It's in the country on two acres with a creek and woods and gardens and a hot tub. There might even be a masterbath...

There's a separate kitchen--something I've always wanted for putting up canned goods, making beer, making soap--that would be so nice to use when I don't want the temperature in the house raised about a buhzillion degrees.

But this house, this land, is literally and figuratively expensive. I'm pretty sure we'd more than qualify for a loan, although it will increase our mortgage payment drastically. But the hidden expense, the more dear expense, is the loss of the safety net.

I'm scared to go out on that limb without a safety net....

We'll see what happens. I'll keep you posted.

Oh, BTW, my hand finally healed up enough for me to finish the face cloth for the give-away.

I think it turned out okay. Hopefully, Pollinatrix will think so, too!

Monday, September 20, 2010

And then all hail broke loose!

So, we didn't go to Crater Lake this past weekend.  Nope, none of that adventuresome spirit for us.  Instead, the weekend could be summed up as fungi, snakes, and all hail breaking loose.

Okay, so no Crater Lake, but of course, that doesn't mean we stayed home, either.  On Saturday we took a drive up into the hills to set up a trailcam where we'd been hunting the previous weekend.  For the record, it's grouse 8 and people 0.  As Mr. Boom says, we're having all the excitement of grouse hunting without any of the bother of cleaning the birds!

When we were up there last weekend we saw a lot of scat.  In fact, at one point I smelled something really overwhelming and remarked upon it to Mr. Boom.

"Ewww...smell that?"
"No."
"Something pooped."
"If you say so."
"You can't smell that?"
"Smell what?"
"Something pooped!"

About 50 yards later we came upon a pile of old cat poop, on which there was a new pile of hot and fresh cat poop.

Ah, sweet vindication!

"Your nose, honey..."

I'm taking that as a compliment.  As I should, right?

Besides the cougar scat, we saw weasel poop, badger poop, and coyote, elk, and deer sign, too.

Anyway, this weekend we decided to head back up to the same area to set up a trailcam.  How much fun would it be to see some of these guys on film, just like we saw the elk previously?!

Along the trail we found these cute little mushrooms.

The leaves in the area were just beginning to turn. 
Breathtaking!

Okay, looking back down the road--see anything?

See anything now?


Puffballs! 
Very yummy mushrooms growing more thickly than we'd ever seen them grow before.


And shaggy manes (also known as ink caps).


But, like I said, no grouse.  Oh well, a quick bite to eat at The Brick accompanied by a Snipes Mountain IPA made up for the loss.


So, Sunday took us on another little drive, this time up to Leavenworth.
On the way home, we took a backroad that only adds about an hour to the length of the trip.

Suddenly, right in the middle of the road, I saw a rubber boa.  I stopped the car and we all jumped out, but none of us as fast and Chirp Chirp.  Before I had even made a solid ID, she had the snake in her hands.  It was cold and rainy, so the little snake was simply blissed out to be in her nice warm hands.


It might be a male?



And, it's shedding!
Realizing how warm her hands were, he decided a little searching was in order for an even warmer hangout.


Sorry little fella!  You get to stay here in the woods.
It was while we were finding a more apropos spot to leave the boa than the middle of the road where we found him that we discovered these piles of hail.


We were bummed to have missed the storm that deposited asteroid-sized iceballs.  It must have been fantastic!



But look what we found on our lawn after we arrived back home an hour later!
I tell you, all hail broke loose 'round here!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Winner!

I wanted to come up with some sort of unique method to pick the winner of the our one year anniversary present.

How cute would it be to get a chicken to pick one?!!

I carefully spread the names of the entrants (two pieces for each Google follower!) on the ground in a somewhat random order. 

Chirp chirp went off to find a good chicken candidate.


Cloudy came along in the interim, offering up his services as a random name on a paper picker.


After given the go-ahead, he clearly froze.


"I just can't do it" he said.


Meanwhile, the chicks (hard to call them that anymore, but harder not to!) answered their summons and appeared on the scene.


"Help me out, guys!  This is really tough!"


"I may be wrong, but these aren't either feed nor worms."


"Nope.  Too weird.  You do it, Cloudy!"


Bracing himself...


Contemplating the situation...


He goes for a slip of paper!


Congratulations to the Pollinatrix!  Have you seen her blog, the Whole Blooming World
Please go help her celebrate one year of blogging, too! 


"I need more catnip.  And a nap."

Thanks to everyone who helped us celebrate, and everyone who's been along on this crazy ride with us!

Pollinatrix, send me your address, and I'll send you some homemade pampering!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Glass beads for boring people

Yesterday evening found us sitting around trying to figure out what to do this weekend.  I came up with the great idea to get in the car and drive to Crater Lake.  We could be halfway there before bedtime, spend a couple more hours driving on Saturday, spend the day in the park, and then return home that night.  In 24 hours, I said, we could be sitting right back here with a trip to Crater Lake under our belts.

Nobody else was willing to entertain the thought.  Not even a little bit.  Not even in the teensiest little bit.  IN fact, the idea was shot down before it completely left my mouth.

In return, I pointed out just how annoyingly boring they were.

Mr. Boom said we could do whatever I wanted to do as long as it didn't entail spending the entire weekend in the car driving to a large hole in the ground that the weather service had a 100% chance of rain for the entire  weekend.

It was at that point I remembered seeing something online that I really wanted to try...

Thus, we spent our Friday night learning how to make glass beads from broken bottles.








A few hours later we had these two beads to show for the effort.

I can't wait to try a few things...

I'm thinking icicles for the Christmas tree, maybe little pendants for gifts, maybe enough made that someday I could make a little bracelet or necklace...who knows?

Blogger is giving me grief, even though I'm logged in as the administrator this evening.  I'll try to explain the process of bead-making sometime, but I've spent hours just getting these photos uploaded and this little bit of text inserted into the post. In fact, it has taken me longer to write this post than the entire bead project itself took!

In the meantime, take a look at this Instructable to get a really good feel for the process.

Also, don't forget that sometime tomorrow I'll be posting the winner of our one-year giveaway!

PS Anyone want to go to Crater Lake???! I'll drive!