Monday, October 25, 2010

Miscellany Monday

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters

1.  Do you shop online? Do you like to save money? Do you know about this website? If not, you should bookmark it right now. Before you make your next online purchase, check this site to see if there's a coupon code you can use for a discount or free shipping. I did a little early Christmas shopping this morning and saved 50% with a coupon code from I'd tell you where and on what, but some of my readers will be receiving what I purchased, and I'd hate to ruin the surprise. :)

2. Squash Season Continues  I'm still cooking my way through my collection of autumn squash. Tonight I'm trying a recipe for Sugar & Spice Acorn Squash that comes courtesy of Emeril & Food Network.

3. Urban Belly  After church on Sunday Travis & I went out to lunch with three couples from our small group at Harvest Chicago North. We enjoyed conversation and laughter over Urban Belly's delicious noodle bowls, rice, and dumplings (which we'd been wanting to try since seeing the restaurant on Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate). Travis and I shared an order of Asian Squash & Bacon dumplings and the Soba Noodle Bowl with Bay Scallops, Oyster Mushrooms, and Thai Basil Broth. If you live in Chicago, check out Urban Belly. Your belly--and your tastebuds--will thank you.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Autumn Day in the Garden

Beautiful day. Picturesque setting. Pleasant companions. What more could a girl ask for? Today I had the privilege of taking a "field trip" to the Chicago Botanic Garden. Here are a few pics from the excursion:

I don't know if it's the unusually warm autumn we've had so far, or my own ignorance (most likely the latter!), but I've never seen or known so many flowers to be in bloom during a Midwest autumn. What an artistic, creative, generous God we have!

Speaking of autumn's splendor...have you visited Kristin's Fall Festival yet over at Windy Poplars? Click on over and check it out - something new every day this week!

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Year of Deer, Episode 20: Slow Cooker Harvest Stew

It's harvest time, and that means lots of yummy ingredients are in season. Ideally, we would have enjoyed the warmth and heartiness of this stew after coming in from a chilly autumn stroll, our cheeks flushed from the brisk wind. Instead, we ate this stew while sweating in our 84 degree apartment at the end of another unseasonably warm day here in Chicagoland, our faces red from the heat. Oh well. It didn't feel like fall yesterday, but I did get to wear one of my cute summer skirts to church, so I really shouldn't complain.

For this meal I branched off a recipe from my slow-cooker cookbook and then made the rest of it up. Two peeled & chopped sweet potatoes, two peeled & chopped red potatoes, one peeled & chopped acorn squash, one can of red kidney beans, about two pounds of cubed venison steak, 4 cups of beef broth, 4 cloves of minced garlic, some black pepper, thyme and rosemary went into my slow cooker. This came out:
Pictured with a popover, which is my new favorite thing to bake. They're easy, magical, and oh-so-good! I will have to blog about them some other time.

Guaranteed Smile

Monday mornings can be rough. Here's a video guaranteed to make you smile.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Autumn, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Pic taken at Devil's Lake in 2008
1. Pumpkin spice lattes
2. Scarves
3. Sweaters
4. The rustle of leaves
5. Maple trees in deep red and yellow
6. Apple picking (followed by apple cooking & eating!)
7. Hay rides
8. Corn mazes
9. Hot chocolate
10. Squash
11. Pumpkins & gourds
12. Spiced apple cider
13. Blue skies & brisk breezes
14. Caramel apples
15. Cinnamon & cloves
16. Candy corn
17. Acorns
18. Corn stalks
19. Sweet potatoes
20. My anniversary

And that's just the short list! Though it might not feel like autumn outside today (where'd these 80 degree days come from?!) I am reveling in autumn with all of my senses...the tastes, sounds, scents, views, and textures of the season never fail to delight and inspire.

Next week I'll be celebrating autumn online with my blogging friend Kristin at Windy Poplars. Visit her blog Monday through Friday for her Fall Festival featuring autumn-themed posts and giveaways!
Windy Poplars

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Squash Season

Last fall I had my first kitchen encounter with a squash. I came away from that side dish injured and wary. However, I'm determined not to be intimidated by squash and to have another go at it this season. Multiple varieties. Various preparations. All potentially yummy. And this time, hopefully no Band-Aids required.
Caputos had squash on sale for 29 cents/pound this week, so I stocked up! First attempt: butternut squash soup in my slow cooker.

UPDATE: The soup was DELICIOUS! Here's the Butternut Squash Soup recipe from Stephanie at A Year of Slow Cooking.

Additionally, I came away from this encounter unscathed. Hooray! Here's a Helpful Tip for prepping butternut squash: microwave the squash for 3-5 minutes on high. This softens the skin a bit so that it's easier to cut through. Then, carefully use your biggest, sturdiest knife!  

Wee Bit Wednesday

{one} grilled or fried?
grilled. fried food rarely appeals to me anymore. 

{two} if you could change one thing about where you live, without worrying about money, what would you change?
I'd hire a professional to clean all of the windows and blinds. better yet, I'd have new windows installed so that we could actually open them. then I'd hire a designer to add some window treatments.

{three} what is your favorite time of day?
cuddle time.

{four} what's your favorite cereal? 
Fiber One Honey Clusters. Usually, they're way too expensive, but last week, thanks to a huge sale and a great coupon, I scored a box for $1.50 at Dominick's. holla. then I came home and patted my frugal self on the back.

{five} do you open your mouth when you put mascara on?
yes. open. and contorted.

{six} if you could make any fictional character come to life, who would it be?
Thursday Next.

{seven} what are your favorite pizza toppings?
pineapple and Canadian bacon. or Gorgonzola and pear.

{eight} are you a heavy or light sleeper?
somewhere in between. lighter than I used to be, but once I'm *really* asleep I can usually sleep through the sirens, trains, buses, and other city sounds outside my window.

{nine} what is your favorite board game? 

{ten} what star/celebrity do most people say you look like? 
the redhead from That 70s Show. I don't see it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Now that I work out of a home office, days where I do not venture out of doors are more plentiful than I'd like to admit. It's far too easy to get comfortable...and lazy...indoors. Now that my favorite season has arrived, I want to be sure I get outside and enjoy it. Yesterday after work I gave myself an "assignment" as an incentive to get some fresh air: go for a walk with my camera, and capture shots that prominently feature each of the colors on the color wheel. Indigo and violet proved hard to find, but I found two blues for extra credit. Here are the things I noticed as I walked around my neighborhood on the lookout for color...

Monday, October 04, 2010

It Just Keeps Getting Better

Yesterday was my one year wedding anniversary. Last week as I looked through our wedding photos again all of the excitement, joy, wonder, and elation of that day came rushing back to me. Our wedding day was glorious, indeed, but it was just one day. That one day, however, launched a lifetime of us, the first year of which has been the best year of my life so far. 
Travis and I celebrated our first year of marriage in a number of different ways all weekend long. Since the traditional 1st anniversary gift is paper, I surprised him Friday evening with a blanket of origami hearts. We enjoyed a low-key, low-budget date night at home (we made pizza together and watched Letters to Juliet) to counter-balance our not-so-low-budget celebration to come on Sunday.

On Saturday we met up with Travis' sister and brother-in-law and our niece at the Apple Festival in Long Grove, followed by dinner at their place. Since my sister-in-law was instrumental in how Travis and I came to meet and fall in love, it seemed very fitting to spend part of our anniversary weekend with them. As we were driving away from Long Grove we were even blessed with the sight of a HUGE rainbow. We pulled over and I managed to get a shot, which captures just a portion of its size and beauty.
 This photo is 70% about my SIL and niece, and 30% about the people in the background who were dancing with their dachshunds.
When we arrived home Saturday night I found surprise number one waiting for me: a beautiful flower arrangement showcasing the colors of autumn that I love so much. Tucked in the arrangement was this sweet note from my thoughtful husband, which constituted his "paper" gift to me.
My love for you is like the colors of autumn:
Deep, Rich, Bright, and Warm.
I offer these flowers of the fall along with my heart.
- Hubby

Surprise number two (my hubby LOVES to surprise me) came Sunday afternoon in the form of where we went for dinner: Art Smith's Table 52 in Chicago, where we indulged in gourmet comfort food, including THE BEST macaroni and cheese EVER. So creamy and rich, however, that even between the two of us we only finished half the portion, and took the rest home. Though I had declared I couldn't possibly eat another bite of mac and cheese, when the dessert menu came, I pored over the options with great interest. Trav asked how could this be, when I had just announced myself stuffed? I explained that "dinner food" requires its own distinct space in the stomach, while dessert (especially chocolate) possesses the ability to simply fill in the cracks and crevices around the rest of the meal, and so there is virtually always room for dessert. He shook his head at me in wonder and bemusement, and then agreed to share a slice of the 12-layer chocolate cake. He's a good man.

Dinner was followed by the Broadway in Chicago production of The Lion King at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. I've wanted to see this show for years and years. It was both familiar (in story and music) and brand new (in amazing costumes and voices and gorgeous set design) and held my rapt attention from start to finish.
 The whole weekend was a wonderful celebration of our first year as husband and wife. And as one of "our songs" (Amazed by Lonestar) rightly says, It just keeps getting better.