Happy November everyone! It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through autumn, and the month of Thanksgiving (and Gilmore Girls!) is upon us. Before you know it, it will be Christmas which I can’t wait for, because it means P will have two weeks off of work and my sister will be home from college. December also happens to be Bisou’s birthday month! Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to the next several weeks. For now though, I’m still making the most of fall – even if it is an extra gray and rainy one in Portland – before all the leaves fall and it’s too cold out to go on strolls around the neighborhood. Speaking of leaves, how about this laurel wreath? The leaves aren’t technically from a laurel bush, but once they’re layered into wreath form, they look pretty darn festive anyway. Don’t you love how the wreath looks like it’s magically floating on the front door!?
I’m not usually one for seasonal decorating; I think it’s because I don’t like the idea of storing a bunch of objects that only see the light of day a month or two out of the year. I’m happy to make an exception for this wreath though, since it’s seasonally appropriate for fall and winter, and afterwards I don’t have to worry about finding a place to store it. All you need to make your own wreath is a bit of floral wire, hot glue, fishing line and any thick, glossy leaves you can find. I couldn’t decide whether to make a natural green wreath or a fancy gold one so I tried it both ways, and I still can’t choose a favorite. Either way, hanging a laurel wreath on your front door or somewhere in the house adds some natural looking autumnal vibes and holiday cheer, depending on the month. It complements our pumpkins now, and I really hope we get some snowfall this winter so I get to see it in the snow, too. Read on for the tutorial, and a look at Bisou wondering what the heck I was doing standing outside. Continue Reading
Despite growing up in the cold, damp Pacific Northwest and spending a few years in the Midwest for college, I’ve never gotten used to the cold that hits every year around this time. While other people are leaving the house in light sweaters, I’m in triple layers with a scarf and wool socks and I’m still shivering. We’re spending our first cold season in our new place, which happens to be older and thus full of drafts, and now I can’t seem to stay warm inside, either. So what to do all winter long, when it’s so cold you can’t get cozy no matter how many chunky knits you’ve piled on? You warm yourself from the inside out, my friends. I’m convinced that nothing will thaw a freezing person more efficiently than imbibing a steaming mug of seasonal spice with a splash of liquor. You might be already be familiar with this drink’s official name: the hot toddy.
Traditionally made with hot water, lemon, honey and spices mixed with some of that liquor I mentioned before, the hot toddy is a drink made for chilly, rainy days. It will even help you nurse a cold; when you’re under the weather, what could be more soothing than warm liquids, honey and, of course, that bit of alcohol to dull your aches and pains? This hot toddy is a seasonal twist on the original recipe thanks to my current favorite Stash tea, maple apple cider. Substituting tea for plain old hot water gives a hot toddy loads more flavor – in this case, apple, cinnamon, caramel, maple and a hint of hibiscus – so I highly recommend this particular blend. Stash has been a family favorite for as long as I can remember. When I was very young I’d spend holidays at my grandma’s house sorting her vast assortment of Stash teas by color, and when I was old enough to appreciate the tea for its flavor I’d regularly deplete my mom’s Stash reserves of everything minty. With the holidays approaching I’m looking forward to serving this hot toddy to my family and making more memories to reflect on whenever I sip my morning Stash. Read on for the recipe! Continue Reading
Sometimes I envy Bisou. When the alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and it’s time for P and me to wake up and face all the meetings, deadlines and responsibilities adult life brings, my jealously shows. Bisou rises and shines for a quick breakfast and then, because she can, she goes to sleep for as many hours as she pleases. It’s not just about sleep though. Someone makes dinner for her every night and does the dishes. She wakes up looking more gorgeous than I do after getting ready for 40 minutes, with perfect eyeliner and everything. She never has a bad hair day! Of course, being a human has its advantages too, I remind myself. I get to see the world beyond the front door, socialize with other members of my species and enjoy the little things in life that Bisou isn’t able to appreciate. Seasonal eating used to be on the that list of little things. But a while back I started to wonder if Bisou is ever envious of me. She rarely tries to take food off my plate, but she does like to sniff what I’m eating. She eats the same meals day after day, so it would be understandable if she wanted a little variety. Why should people be the only ones to enjoy fresh fruit in the summer, or pumpkins in the fall?
I made Bisou these tiny, cat-friendly doughnut holes so she can get in on the fall pumpkin frenzy we humans are enjoying. I was only able to get a couple pictures of her sitting patiently by her plate of doughnuts before she chowed down on them in a rather unladylike and not very photogenic way, so I think it’s safe to say she’s just as crazy about pumpkin spice as the rest of us. So let’s talk about these doughnuts. The “dough” is a mix of homemade pumpkin purée, chicken and potato starch (a grain-free flour substitute). Instead of the cinnamon and nutmeg you’d find in pumpkin spice doughnuts for people, these are “spiced” with fresh catnip. They’re shaped into a scaled down, doughnut hole shape, rolled in more catnip instead of powdered sugar, and gently baked at a low temperature just until they hold together. Hit the “read more” button for the recipe!
Earlier this year P and I took a trip to the Oregon desert. Neither of us had ever been out to central Oregon and as we drove east, we were blown away to see a landscape unfolding before us that was a total contrast to the evergreen forests of the northwestern part of the state. Central Oregon was beautiful – if you can make it to the Painted Hills, it’s like stepping into another bizarre, breathtaking dimension – but for a homebody like me, the best part of traveling is heading back home. Do you ever get that feeling when you’re nearing home after a trip, a mix of comfort and something like nostalgia? That feeling began to sink in when the pale flats of the desert began to turn back to hills of lush greens around Hood River, a small town known for its many breweries, not far from Mt. Hood. The many rolling orchards in the region were barren in early spring but promised to be beautiful when flush with fruit, so we vowed to go back in the fall.
Last weekend we made good on that promise and drove out to Mt. Hood at the peak of apple picking season. We came home with boxes full of heirloom apples and Asian pears I’d never seen before, including the Mt. Rose apples I used in this baked oatmeal. They are, without question, my favorite of all those we brought home; they have a light green peel with a stunning bright pink flesh I didn’t know existed in nature. Could an apple be any more gorgeous? Most importantly (since not even apples can get by on looks alone!), they are super crisp and have a lovely sweet-tart flavor that was nice and fruity even when baked. Baked oatmeal is a perfect make-ahead breakfast if you’re like me and have trouble making time for breakfast on busy weekday mornings. I made it Sunday and it’s come in handy this particularly hectic week (a roof replacement + getting Bisou out of the house before the roofers start work + also getting P to work on time + sharing one car = eeeeuuuuggghh!), but it would also make a cozy and not-too-messy breakfast in bed on a weekend.
This baked oatmeal is decidedly non-fussy; everything is mixed together in one big bowl before going into the oven, so you get a satisfying breakfast without creating a whole day’s worth of clean up in the kitchen. It’s sweetened with a combination of brown sugar and honey, so it’s just sweet enough without being sugary. An egg gently binds it all together, while a splash of a milk of your choice makes it moist and chewy. It’s tasty right out of the oven but I’ve also been eating it cold throughout the week and can say that either way, it’s hearty, flavorful and satisfies the butter and sugar cravings I get when the weather turns cold without being too unhealthy. It’s hard to go wrong with apples, cinnamon and roasted pecan bits, but you could switch up those flavors with whatever fruit and nuts you have on hand and I’m betting it will turn out just as tasty. Read on for the recipe!
As I write this, early autumn rain is pouring and the wind is whipping around, making tree branches rattle against our windows. It’s hard to believe just two weeks ago it was 100º out and instead of the thick wool sweater I’m wearing today I was still enjoying sandals and sunglasses. But instead of mourning the passing of another short summer, I’m deciding this year to embrace fall and all its coziness with open arms. Bring on the soggy leaves, mud puddles and constant gray drizzle! I’m going to be curled up on the couch with my pumpkin bread, hot tea and a book, and when you have comforts like those, you hardly notice the new chill in the air.
The past week has been unusually hectic with multiple work deadlines for me, the first week of school for P and another health scare for Bisou. I didn’t think I’d find the time for a post this week, but yesterday all of my scrambling during the week paid off and I was able to start the long weekend by mid-afternoon. The first thing I did was whip up this (relatively) healthy pumpkin loaf. I’m not usually much of a baker; as much as I love sweets, a glance through most dessert recipes is enough to put me off actually making them. All that refined sugar and saturated fat! So I’m happy to share this pumpkin olive oil loaf with you which is incredibly moist, sweet and all around tasty and completely free of refined sugar and animal fats. Who knew it could be done? If you add the optional rosemary buttercream, you’ll be getting a good dose of all that sugar and butter stuff, but the pumpkin bread is rich and flavorful enough to stand on its own if you’re looking for a truly healthy and wholesome dessert. Continue Reading