Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Nonnie's Pumpkin Pie

My pumpkin pie is based on the recipe that came from my paternal grandmother.  We called her Nonnie.  

Gotta have a generous helping of whipped cream with pumpkin pie.

Seems fitting, with pumpkin puree on hand (made with the instructions in THIS post) that we whip up a pumpkin pie using Nonnie's recipe (which is the best that I have ever tasted ... even folks who say that they don't like pumpkin pie have admitted that this one is delicious.)

Nonnie and me, in 2004, when she was 103.

Nonnie's Pumpkin Pie

1 lb. of fresh pumpkin puree (or one 15-oz. can of pumpkin)
3 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt (can reduce this, if you want, to as little as 1/2 tsp)
1/4 tsp. ginger
1-1/2 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk the pumpkin, eggs, sugar, and spices till blended.  Add the milk and stir.  Pour into a 10" pie shell.  Bake for 90 minutes or more, until center of pie is set.  I err on the side of allowing more oven time when I'm not sure if the pie is done.  

(Can also be baked in a 9" pie shell for about an hour, but you'll have a bit of leftover filling.)

Serve with whipped cream.  Refrigerate any leftovers.


Jessie Louise Toalson Stamp Stevens.  Born November 14, 1901.  Only child of Elmer Thomas and Pearl Mettie (Crowley) Toalson.

Nonnie gave me this locket, with photos of her parents, and her mother's wedding ring.

Nonnie lived a very long life.  She married twice, had four children (my dad is the youngest).  She lived many places as a young girl, then as an Army wife, finally settling in California, where she died in 2007 at the age of 105.  She is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Long Beach, California.

Nonnie as a young girl, with her mother and grandmother (Susan Todd Crowley)

The American celebration of Thanksgiving is upon us.  It is a time to be grateful for what we have, whether it's a bountiful harvest or the faces of our loved ones around the table sharing together as a family.  Let's all take a minute to reflect on our blessings ... and eat pie!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Last month, I bought a cool-looking pumpkin and plopped it into the center of our dining table to act as the only bit of fall decoration in our house.  (I don't do much to change up decor for the seasons or holidays other than Christmas.)  

The pumpkin spent a few weeks there on the table, and I even dusted it a couple of times.  Yesterday, I decided that I was tired of it and that it would be better as a batch of pumpkin puree.

Roasting a pumpkin and turning it into pumpkin puree for recipes is really easy!

Normally, I cut the pumpkin in half along its imaginary equator to roast it.  This was a really big pumpkin, though, so I cut it into quarters.

Scoop out the seeds and guts and place the pieces rind-side up on a baking dish.  

Bake at 350 degrees in the center of the oven ...

... till the pumpkin pieces are fork tender and begin to slump.  This took an hour and fifteen minutes with my pumpkin.

When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the pulp from the rind.  I put the pulp into a large bowl and used my immersion blender to whirl it smooth.

I misjudged the amount of pulp at first, and put it into a bowl that was too small.

Extra dirty dishes aren't a problem with Ruby and Petal around.  Besides, pumpkin is good for them.

The results:  six one-pound containers of pumpkin puree.

Pumpkin pies for next week and afterward are a certainty ... and the other day I saw someone on TV making pumpkin bread pudding that sounded really good.  For now, these containers of puree are safely stored in the freezer till they're needed.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Flowers on Friday: Roses and Camellias, Straight Out of the Camera

I don't use my Nikon D70 DSLR very often anymore.  I like the in-the-moment convenience of my iPhone, which is always in my pocket when I'm outside.  Earlier this week, the light was lovely, and I took my trusty Nikon outside to see what I could capture.  Photos in this post are almost exactly as they were when they downloaded from the camera .... all I did to them was reduce the size, sharpen them a tad, and apply the watermark.  

'Paul Ecke, Jr.'  This color is SO difficult to photograph accurately.

'Tagalong'  Miniature rose.

Today is November 3, and most of the garden is feeling the autumn chill and preparing for its winter sleep.  Still, there are a LOT of flowers out there.  Many of the repeat-blooming roses have flowers.  Even a few of the spring-blooming roses have a produced surprise out-of-season flowers.  

'Morey's Pink'  Shrub rose.

'Perle d'Or'  Polyantha.  One of my favorites.

'Irish Elegance'  Three perfect flowers, all in a line.

As the roses put out their final flowers of the year, the Camellias are just getting started.

Camellia oliefera

'Winter's Star'

'Autumn Moon'

I love camellias!  They are a perfect evergreen transition from sunny to shady areas of the garden.  For me, the fall/winter blooming Sasanqua camellias perform better than the spring-blooming Japonicas, whose buds are eaten by squirrels and flowers are usually damaged by spring freezes. 

'Winter's Interlude'

Lost the tag on this one.


I found a wonderful surprise in the garden by the pavilion ... a little clump of Saffron Crocus flowers!

I brought these home from my 2015 visit to the Antique Rose Emporium in Texas.  The little bulbs grew leaves but didn't flower in 2016.  Last winter, voles tunneled through this garden and ate every single bulb in it, or so I thought.  This clump was spared ... probably because it is slightly away from where the others were and surrounded by Hellebores.

I had already harvested the Saffron threads from the flowers before I took these photos.  They're drying now.  There's not many of them, three threads per flower.  I will have to carefully decide what I want to cook to use them.

Today is a beautiful, sunny day here in Virginia, and I will be outside soon.  How is it where you are?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Day of the Dead

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, in English) is a Mexican celebration of one's ancestors on November 1 and 2.  It is believed "that the gates of Heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all deceased children are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours.  On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities..."  source

I bought this little figure at Target last month.

I take time during Day of the Dead to remember and celebrate the critters that have been part of our family and have passed on.  Each is precious.

Murphy, the gentle giant who taught me to love dogs.

Cindy.  Still my best Christmas present ever.

Amy.  Barn cat, turned house cat, born deaf ... and she never knew that that was supposed to be a handicap.

Emma.  The precious soul who started my journey into the wonderful world of Greyhounds.

Maggie.  My miracle survivor cat.  The friendliest cat ever.

Daniel.  The dog who picked me.  

Kimba.  The Queen of Hartwood.

... and Winnie.  What can I say about this wonderful little dog ... I adored her.

I gathered these photos of some of my precious critters, and each of them made me smile.  Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.  I remember each of them with love, and joy, and I am grateful for their presence in our family.

On this final day of Dia de los Muertos, take a moment to remember your precious loved ones, whether they're human or otherwise.  Be still, and I'll bet you can feel them nearby.
If you'd like to read a lovely, short article about Day of the Dead, click HERE.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Chicken Salsa Soup

Homemade soup is a staple for us.  I make it often, in large batches, and I keep meal-sized portions in the freezer to have for quick suppers.  Here is how I make one of our favorites.

Chicken Salsa Soup

Start with two quarts of homemade or store-bought chicken broth.  (I boil the remains of a rotisserie chicken.)
One pint of salsa.  (I use homemade,  with the spice level set to medium.)
One package of Soup Vegetables.  The mix from Weis Market is perfect, with potatoes, carrots, onions, okra, etc.  (I wanted a little more corn in this batch, so I also added a 12-ounce package of frozen sweet corn.)
Simmer till veggies are tender.
Depending on the flavor of the broth at this point, I have been known to add some chicken bouillon to perk it up.
Stir in some chopped chicken (the breasts from the rotisserie chicken are perfect) and two cans of black beans, drained but not rinsed.
Simmer for about ten minutes, and your soup is ready to serve.

These are the soup-mix vegetables.  I keep at least one package in the freezer at all times, to have them handy when we get the urge for soup.

We had our first frost a few nights ago, and there is a definite autumn chill in the air ... it's soup season!


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday Snapshot: Making It Official

Our dogs wear ID on their collars at all times.  It's a happy occasion when a new dog's tag comes in the mail ... Petal's arrived yesterday afternoon.

Till now, Petal has been wearing a blue collar with my cell phone number written on it in Sharpie marker.  It is from the stash of collars that I have on hand to use whenever we volunteer to help transport dogs.  It did the job, but blue isn't really Petal's color.

Now, Petal has her own collar ... bought especially for her, in a lovely shade of rose pink.  See her new tag?

The noise of jingling tags on collars makes me nuts, but I am mindful of the importance of keeping ID on my dogs in addition to their microchips, so we use flat tags from Boomerang Tags.  For $11.95, they provide up to five lines of information, super fast service, total peace of mind, and no jingling!  (even Winnie had a Boomerang Tag on her tiny kitten-sized collar.)  I received no compensation for this ... I'm just a very satisfied customer.

Today is Day 18 with Petal.  Dorothy is finally becoming more comfortable with Petal and isn't spending her days hiding upstairs anymore. 

Our routine is well on its way to being normal again.  I am very happy!

Sunday Snapshots are posts devoted to moments in time that represent glimpses into everyday life in Hartwood, or wherever else I happen to be at the time. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Settling In

Today is Day 12 with our new dog Petal.  She is settling into our family as if she has always been here.  All of our greyhounds have been like this, so I'm not surprised.

She is such a mellow dog, and I love it!  I have no idea what her bark sounds like because she hasn't barked yet.  (Ruby does that enough for both of them.)  Petal can generally be found sleeping or quietly playing with toys.

The antler chew is a favorite.

There's the antler again.

"Hi, Ruby."

Dog stuff has taken over our family room, in a wonderful way.  Three dog beds for two dogs ... seems perfectly normal to me.

... and, of course, there's a hoard of toys.

The cats are becoming accustomed to Petal's presence.  Alice came around quickly, resuming her normal habits and attitude within two days.  It is taking longer for Dorothy.  She's an anxious little thing anyway ... having a big new dog is something that's gonna take her a while to completely accept.  For now, she spends her days on our bed, instead of under it like she did for the first four days, and she does come downstairs from time to time.  It's great progress for her!

Hanging out on the bed.

That's Dorothy sitting on the bottom step, checking Petal out from a safe distance.

Some evenings she gets very brave and comes downstairs and sits in my lap!

Our only issue with Petal continues to be teaching her to do stairs.  Our front six stairs are almost mastered at this point, though sometimes she stops and freezes for whatever reason and won't move.  We are patient and positive, and generous with yummy treats, to encourage her to go up and down the steps and walk the yard without fear. 

Petal and Ruby get along perfectly together!  They are both gentle dogs, and they really seem to enjoy each other's company.

Last Friday, we made it official ... changing Petal's status from Foster Dog to Adopted.

Am I overdoing it by taking a photo of the adoption contract envelope before I mailed it?

Earlier today, I took a few minutes and made Petal her first custom collar with a piece of velveteen that I have been saving for something special.  Special fabric ... special dog ... perfect match.

As I sit here in the family room right now, Petal is sleeping peacefully on one of the dog beds.  The little voice in my gut was right on this one ... she is ours, she is perfect for us, and I am thrilled to have her in our family.  

Welcome home, Petal!

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