Saturday, December 28, 2013

Beautiful winter day

Enjoyed a beautiful walk in the forest preserve today. On the one hand, I hate the starkness of winter. But on the other hand, a walk in the woods on a day like today reminds me of what is left behind when the trees and bushes have lost their summer foliage. The delicate stems, the twists of yellowed grass, the red berries. It's also fun to examine the shapes of trees--their skeletons stark against the chilly skies.

...and even a stag! The photo is not great because I didn't take my good camera, but actually two stags were just hanging out, rooting around for a snack. I didn't really want to stop for a walk, since I had other errands to run, but I'm sure glad I did.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Experiment

I grew up in the generation that loved jello, canned goods, and frozen foods, and while my mom was a great cookie baker, she didn't spend a lot of time on pie baking. So when one of my college professors asked if I had made a pumpkin pie from scratch, I sort of said, "Huh?" All that is changing now.

Since we've had a farm share and gotten fresh local vegetables the last two years, I've become somewhat adept at cooking squash. I love making turkey sausage and squash skillets.

Today I had a nice sized pumpkin, and since I had the time, I decided to cook it up to make a fresh-from-the-farm pumpkin pie. I'm trying two different recipes. A traditional, full fat, full sugar recipe, and one South Beach no-crust option. Pumpkin pie without the sugar, crust, and heavy evaporated milk is actually quite healthy--just pumpkin, spices, and eggs.

Roasting pumpkin is quite easy, and then you can roast those delicious pumpkin seeds. I simply cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds (with an ice cream scoop), and then place the halves meat-size down on a cookie sheet with a little water in the bottom. Roast for about an hour at 375 or 400 degrees. When I can jab the side with a fork and the fork goes in easily, it's ready. I let the halves cool, meat-side up, and then with my hands, scrape the pumpkin away from the skin into a bowl. Then I used my mixer to puree it. Here's how it looked:

I followed this recipe for South Beach pumpkin pie, and opted to not use the whole wheat tortilla. I think I'd rather just savor the delicious pumpkiny flavor instead of having the fake crust in my mouth. Here it is baking in a greased casserole dish (since I'll save my pie pan for the "normal" pumpkin pie):

Delicious, healthy, and easy! And here's a link to an interesting recipe / information page--all about pumpkins and pumpkin pie.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A great storytime

Storytime at Elmhurst Public Library yesterday was wonderful! Lori Lorenz was a wonderful host and provided a great setting for our turkey-themed set of songs, books, and rhymes. We shared these books and stories, great for any Thanksgiving, turkey-themed group of youngsters.

Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes, ill. by Doris Barrette
All for Pie, Pie for All by David Martin, ill. by Valeri Gorbachev
Gobble Gobble Crash: A Barnyard Counting Bash, by Julie Stiegemeyer, ill. by Valeri Gorbachev

"Have You Ever Seen a Turkey"
Have you ever seen a turkey, a turkey, a turkey (repeat)
...with feathers so bright. 
With (colors) red ones, and yellow ones, and orange ones, and brown ones.
Have you ever seen a turkey with feathers so bright. 
(from this blog--thank you!)

"If You're Thankful and You Know It"

Flannel board:
Turkey Urkey
Our turkey craft: a turkey body glued onto fall leaves

Before turkey

Lori Lorenz reading a story to the crew

Craft time!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Coming soon!

And as the year winds down, I'm looking forward to two upcoming holidays: Thanksgiving and St. Nicholas Day!

Thanksgiving - Need a book for that? 

Gobble Gobble Crash! A Barnyard Counting Bash
Turkeys are on my mind these days as I'm preparing to share my book at Elmhurst Public Library on Nov. 23 with the kiddos coming to Saturday Family Storytime. 
Today I made turkey feathers!

You can find my book at your local independent bookseller, or here

St. Nicholas Day

Then, on the heels of Thanksgiving is St. Nicholas Day, on Dec. 6. You can find some interesting resources here.  

And of course, you can also read my book, Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend to the kids in your life. 
St. Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend

Friday, November 08, 2013

Maple Day

The morning light slants golden into my yard today as the maples leaves are drifting to the frost-tipped grass. One of those perfect autumn days when the whole world looks alive with fall colors. I had spotted some gorgeous ginkgo trees on a drive and they were my destination. So instead of taking a hum drum exercise class this morning, I hopped on my bike, wound a scarf around my face, and went leaf peeping. Here's what I found.

Hard to capture on film, but these were frost-covered

Reminds me of my son's room with his clothes lying all over the floor

Beautiful blue sky this morning

Red maple

Love this one. The blanket of golden leaves looks like a reflection

Surpringly, on the Prairie Path there were fewer pretty leaves. 

3 beautiful ginkgo trees outside Ahlgrim's Funeral Home. 

I wonder why they chose to plant ginkgo?

A pile of ginkgo leaves

The morning son perfectly illuminated these beautiful red maple leaves

Love this book. Need one for central North America.
Also found a great that helps identify leaves
Amazing blanket of ginkgo leaves.
Another admirer and I decided we didn't want to walk through them. Gorgeous!

Love these ginkgo

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Why rewrite it when it's said so perfectly?


  by William Cullen Bryant

Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun!
One mellow smile through the soft vapory air,
Ere, o'er the frozen earth, the loud winds run,
Or snows are sifted o'er the meadows bare.
One smile on the brown hills and naked trees,
And the dark rocks whose summer wreaths are cast,
And the blue gentian flower, that, in the breeze,
Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
Yet a few sunny days, in which the bee
Shall murmur by the hedge that skirts the way,
The cricket chirp upon the russet lea,
And man delight to linger in thy ray.
Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear
The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air.

- See more at:

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Bulb Planting Time

It's Bulb Planting Time!

I finally got out to my garden today--something I've been trying to do for weeks--to plant my daffodil and tulip bulbs. This year I decided to plant deeper and to layer some mulch over the top so that (hopefully!) the squirrels won't get to them. As I was digging, I didn't find a single bulb leftover from a previous year. I don't know how many I've planted--not too many, but at least 20-25. But none were to be found. 

Here are some photos of my and Lucy's adventure: 
Lucy, my faithful companion for 12 years

I think my iPhone camera is dying because all of these look blurry

Bulbs cozied together

Finished bed - it looks redder than in real life, but all they had left at the store was red mulch
In honor of bulb planting time, here are a couple of poems:

Bulb Planting Time by Edgar Guest

The Daffodils by William Wordsworth--my all-time favorite flower poem