a view from the laundry pile…

…it's all about perspective.

Happy Halloween!

Well, here it is, Halloween. And this is the first time, in a few years, that I’m not running around like a crazy woman….well, not more than usual, anyway. Fred and I have taken the year off and are not doing our annual week-long haunted house at the local fairgrounds. I won’t bore you with the details as to why we’re not doing it, I’ll just leave it at  “it was a difficult, but necessary, decision” and move on to the fun part — the photos!

I’ve had a blast making some of the props for the haunt. We don’t do “blood and guts” but, rather, “psychological scares” (gore is okay but if we can mess with your mind…mwah ha ha!). Each show we do is based on a 1930’s “dark ride” with different themes each year.  One year we did a “side show” in one of the buildings, to give people something to do and look at while waiting to get into the “real” haunt. Among  the 14, or so, other “attractions” (that did things they weren’t “supposed to” in order to warm up the unsuspecting victims, I mean patrons, for the actual haunt), I created my interpretation of the “Fiji Mermaid,” the “Lilliputians Dig Site” (complete with archeological dig photos!), and “The Magic Hand of Badu Ramla” (the severed hand of a high priestess that was said to have magical powers).

You’d be surprised how many people really, really don’t like clowns. So, one year, our theme was clowns…lots and lots of evil clowns. I even made the entry to the haunt a giant clown (I know, he doesn’t look too bad…it’s his friends you have to watch out for). We even had clowns in the Vortex tunnel (a 20′ spinning tunnel that you have to walk through – aka “the barf tunnel,” for obvious reasons).

I know it’s the people who make the scare work but you have to set the stage – and it’s also been great fun decorating the different rooms. Two of my favorites (and most time-consuming!) were the “underground cave” and “mausoleum.”

Each year we get about 1,500 people through our little 15-room haunt. Of those 1,500 people, we have about 12 a year that get so scared they pee their pants and another dozen, or so, that either can’t make it through the front door or have to leave shortly after arriving. I know I shouldn’t gauge our success on these stats, alone — after all, we have donated over 300 lbs of food to the local food bank and several hundred dollars to local charities, including the local animal shelter, — but it does make me smile!

Leave a comment »

Cookie Balls

I thought, by now, everyone had heard of “cookie balls.” I stand corrected. I made a comment about them and had, at least, a half dozen people ask “what are those?” So I thought I should post the recipe for the others out there that have never heard of these little morsels of chocolatey delight.

Cookie Balls

Ingredients

  • 1-8oz. package of Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 36 Sandwich Cookies (like Oreos), finely crushed (about 3 cups)
  • 16 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted (I added a bit of canola oil, about 1/2 tsp. to thin the chocolate and give it a nice shine when it re-hardened).

Directions

  • Mix the cookie crumbs and cream cheese until well mixed.
  • Shape into appx. 36 balls (you can do this with a melon baller or roll them by hand to get them round).
  • Either on wax papered or on a non-stick sprayed plate, freeze the balls about 10 minutes (or in the fridge for about 30 minutes) until they’re very cold and hard.
  • Melt the chocolate (double boiler, stove top, microwave, whatever method you prefer).
  • Dip the balls into the chocolate and return to the wax papered or non-stick sprayed plate (I find this part to be a bit messy. However, you also get to lick the chocolate off your fingers so it’s worth the risk…).
  • Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.

I’ve also done these with Peanut Butter sandwich cookies, have used white chocolate instead of semi-sweet. Before the coating hardens, you can add sprinkles, coconut, chopped nuts, small candies, dust with powdered sugar — be creative!

Recipe courtesy of Kraft Foods

Leave a comment »

Garden Center Photography

I’ve found one of the best places to practice my photography is at garden centers. Many of them, here, are open year round and are especially beautiful around the holidays when they put up all the lights and decorations. But, there’s always something interesting to take pictures of with so many different shapes, colors, and size, regardless of the time of year, so I try to make several treks to the various shops in our area throughout the seasons.

 

 

     

(And, of course, I always ask before I start lurking around behind the bushes and trees with a camera. They seem to appreciate this…)

Leave a comment »

Home Fries Casserole

Okay, I know I just posted a potato recipe but I made this one tonight and, well, let’s just say we were fighting over the last crumbs in the dish! (Okay, we weren’t really fighting…I beat Fred to the pan…).

Home Fries Casserole  

Ingredients:

  • 3 large Potatoes
  • 1 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 2 Tbs. Bacon Bits (real or imitation)

Dressing:

Mix and set aside:

  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 2 Tbs. Ranch Dressing
  • 2-3 Tbs. Milk (use enough to make a thick but creamy dressing)

Optional Toppings:

  • Herbs or your favorite seasonings
  • Vegetables such as onions, sweet peppers, sun-dried or fresh tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, avocado, or grilled corn. 
  • To make this a full meal, use different cooked meats, such as taco meat or fajita beef or chicken, chopped ham or pepperoni — and I think this would be delicious topped with chili (sort of “baked chili cheese fries” – gotta love it!).

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 425F
  • Peel the potatoes and cut into large wedges
  • Toss them in 1 Tbs. olive oil and place them on a cookie sheet
  • Sprinkle with salt & pepper (start with a little – you can always add more later)
  • Roast for 25-30 minutes or until fork tender

When the potatoes are done:

  • Place 1/2 of the potato wedges a single layer in a smaller dish (I used a glass pie pan, ungreased)
  • Sprinkle over 1/2 of the cheeses and bacon bits over the potatoes
  • Repeat the layer and bake until the cheese has melted

To serve:

  • Drizzle the sour cream/ranch/milk “dressing” over the top
  • Add any other optional toppings

(I adapted this from a recipe found on “Oh SO Delicioso” that was posted by a friend of mine on Facebook! Thanks, Jenn!)

5 Comments »

Potatoes Anna (or Pommes Anna)

Even though a lot of the garden didn’t pan out for us this year we have managed to get enough potatoes that should last us until next spring. Time to dig out some favorite recipes!

Potatoes Anna (or Pommes Anna) is a simple French potato dish that is, absolutely, delish. According to Julia Child, “it was created during the era of Napoleon III and named, as were many culinary triumphs in those days, after one of the grandes cocottes of the period. Whether it was an Anna Deslions, an Anna Judic, or simply Anna Untel, she has also immortalized the special double baking dish itself, la cocotte a pommes Anna, which is still made and which you can still buy at a fancy price.”

Fancy prices are not necessary for this dish. All you need is potatoes, butter, salt and pepper!

Potatoes Anna

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium-sized Potatoes (you can peel them if you want. Ours have thin skins and I left them on).
  • 6 Tbs. Butter, melted (don’t skimp here and use margarine or some icky substitute).
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.

Directions:

1). Preheat the oven to 450F. Cut the potatoes, either using a food processor or knife, 1/4″ or thinner, lengthwise (to form circles).

2). Brush the bottom of a round pan (preferred is cast iron, but I’m a rebel and used a square glass baking dish) with 1-1/2 Tbs. butter and, starting at the center of the pan, arrange the potato slices, slightly overlapping each, in a circular pattern going out toward the edge of the pan until the whole bottom is covered. Then brush the potatoes with another 1-1/2 Tbs. butter and season with Salt & Pepper. Repeat the potato, butter, salt & pepper for another 2 layers.

3). Cover the pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake another 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Remove from the oven & let the potatoes sit a few minutes.

4). At this point, if you want a fancier presentation, you can loosen the edges and invert the whole thing onto a plate and cut into wedges. If “homestyle” is okay (or you use square dishes), just serve them right from the pan.

 

2 Comments »

The road to Mt. Rainier

There are some beautiful sights between here and Mt. Rainier. I’m so glad Fred and I had an opportunity to see some of them on this beautiful day.

Oyster farm at Hama Hama

Crossing one of many rivers

At the state capital

Mt. Rainier

2 Comments »

Wheat-Free Dog Biscuits

After a recent rash of doggie health issues (yes, all three are currently present and accounted for, thank you), I thought I should, at least, start by changing their diets. They don’t eat people food, with the exception of a piece of cheese now and then or a potato chip when Fred misses his mouth (though, sometimes, I think he does this on purpose just to get on their good side when I’m telling them “no, they can’t have it”…hmm).  

The dog food they eat isn’t 5-star but, the main/first ingredient is chicken, so I’m okay with this, for now. Then I got to the biscuits (the main source of their “treats”) and wasn’t too happy with a couple of the things I found and decided to check out some options. The health food store had a decent selection. However, everything had whole wheat in it — a known allergen to many breeds and, with all three of ours being rescues, we can’t guarantee what they are, so I opted against that. But, I kept searching and I did find information on substitutions, went that direction, and came up with my own recipe, based on another I found online.

Wheat-Free Dog Biscuits

  • 2-1/2 cup Rice Flour
  • 1 cup Cornmeal*
  • 3/4 cup Chicken Stock
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Green Beans, pureed (measure after pureeing or use baby food green beans instead)

(*I know corn can be an allergen for dogs too but it’s in the food that they’ve been eating for 7 years  so I’m pretty sure this is okay. There are substitutes for corn meal out there but haven’t researched them).

Directions

Mix all the ingredients together until it makes a stiff dough. With some of the rice flour, flour your surface (countertop or other flat surface), turn the dough out onto it and roll out (or press if you don’t have a rolling pin) the dough to about 1/2″ all over (you may have to dust the top of the dough/rolling pin to keep it from sticking).

This is where the recipe made me laugh; “use cookie cutters to cut out fun shapes.” Seriously? Like the DOG isn’t going to eat them if they don’t look pretty? I used a knife and cut them into boring, ugly squares.

Place them on an UNgreased cookie sheet and bake, 350F, for about 20-30 minutes or until the edges get brown (some ovens run hotter than others — check them after 20 minutes).

I must say, even our finicky Doberman mix (aka “cat/dog”) loved these – BIG hit! I think I’m going to experiment with some other flavors, too, besides the green beans, like peanut butter or carrot (both okay for dogs in moderation).

Leave a comment »

Art abandonment

The banana bread is cooling, the potatoes are roasting in the oven, and the laundry is drying (Fred can do the dishes…) so I think I’ll work on my “art abandonment” project. Though it’s not a new concept, it was new to me when a friend of mine first approached me about doing it with her. It’s, definitely, one of the cooler things I’ve heard of. 

“Art Abandonment is a group designed to encourage random acts of art, left in various locations around the globe. The idea is that folks can make something and leave it for a lucky unsuspecting person to find. Artists can then post locations and photos of abandoned goodies…and finders can let everyone know that they are the lucky finder! O’ sweet abandon!”  
 
People leave everything from fabric art to paintings & drawings to sculpture. My friend paints on rocks, which just sounded like great fun to me, so that’s what I started doing.   
 
I probably won’t be posting pictures on their website of what I’m abandoning but I like the idea of sharing artwork with people — and love the idea of doing it anonymously for people who might not be expecting it! (And, who knows? It might be the only gift  they’ve received in a while, y’know?). Rather, I’m leaving a permanent little note on the back of each rock, simply stating “to you, from me.”
 
Here are some of my painted rocks, ready to be abandoned! (I thought they’d be fun for Halloween). I’m excited to do more!
 
 
 
 
I’m sure there are other groups out there but the one my friend is attached to is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ArtAbandonment/. The idea was born from Michael deMeng (his website is here http://michaeldemeng.typepad.com/art_abandonment/)
Leave a comment »

Fall sunrise

With Fred having to get up at 5 am to do the film, we’ve all been getting up a little earlier these last few days. I finally took advantage of the extra time (and the beautiful and perfect morning) to go photograph the sunrise. Though I do have a few *cough* (hundred) sunrise pictures in my collection, it’s not often I have the time to get there before it comes up. I usually arrive after its found its way into my morning.

It was a crisp, cool 48F when I arrived at the water and there was a stiff breeze coming from the southeast (it’s, actually, more uncommon for the wind not to be blowing here…). Though I know I was a huge fashion faux pax, even by my standards, I’m glad I wore the extra layer — and, being able to see that fantastic sunrise, was worth the risk of being caught by the fashion police…

Leave a comment »

Fred and the Indie Film

In addition to his fire job, Fred also has a part-time light & grip business and was hired for an independent film being shot here in town. It’s set in the late 1890’s and they’re using some of our buildings for their scenes. About a month ago, the films directors had a walk-through with Fred and I was able to go along and get inside one of the older buildings to take some photos. It’s a glorious old gal who must have a lot of stories to tell.

Today they started filming. Day one of five. It started out a bit cloudy (not that anyone noticed at 6 am) but almost everything burned off by early afternoon, revealing another glorious fall day in the Pacific Northwest.

It was interesting to learn that it takes about 1 hour to produce 1 minute of film (crazy, huh?). Each shot was rehearsed and then filmed about 6 or 7 times before they moved on to the next one. I didn’t stay the whole (12-hour!) day but I love that I got a tiny glimpse of how the film biz works and, moreover, I got to see Fred in action! I was quite impressed.

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: