Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween preparations in light of Hurricane Sandy

The rain is POURING here now and fortunately the winds haven't started up (yet). So, I'll leave you with some Halloween photos that I have taken from the past week. We're hoping to go trick-or-treating Wednesday but the big storm may prevent that. In that case, I picked up some small treat bags for Dylan and the neighbors and maybe we'll play some Halloween games in our costumes. I'm sure the potential power outage will add to the spooky mood.


Dylan enjoyed gutting the pumpkin.

The finished masterpiece!

Bob's riding this storm out. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall recipe: Sausage stuffed acorn squash

I never thought of myself as a 'seasonal eater' but I seem to crave certain foods during their featured season, and relatedly have been eating up all the squash I can get my hands on this fall. I tried spaghetti squash and found it to be delicious sauteed with some garlic and olive oil.

A tried-and-true recipe I make each autumn is this sausage stuffed acorn squash. The recipe came from my mother's good childhood friend, and my photo-copy of the original hand-typed recipe card is already tattered from use. The combination of the slightly sweet acorn squash with savory sausage and stuffing results in a comforting and delicious meal that even my picky eaters will devour.

You will start with preparing the squash in the oven, and meanwhile prepare the sausage and stuffing stove-top. The filling will be added to the cooked squash and baked together for about 30 minutes.

If you're unfamiliar, an acorn squash looks like this:

Start off by preheating your oven to 400 degrees (fahrenheit). Cut your squash in half and remove the seeds. I found an ice cream scoop to be helpful in getting all the seeds out.

Fill a rimmed baking pan with 1/2 inch of water and place the cut squash, face down, into the water. Bake in the heated oven for about 30 minutes or until the squash is fork-tender. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees once the squash are removed.

Meanwhile, mash 1/2 pound bulk pork sausage (or in my case, chicken sausage) in a frying pan with some olive oil. When using chicken sausage, I removed the casings and then mashed with a spatula.
The chicken sausage I used.

Fry until the sausage is cooked but not yet brown. Drain off the fat (there was none with chicken sausage), and then add 1/2 small onion, diced, 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs, 1/4 cup water, a 1/2 teaspoon salt and dash of pepper to the mix.

Before filling, I slice off the stems or ends of the squash to create a flat surface, then flip over to create the 'bowl.' Fill the centers of each squash half with the sausage and stuffing mixture. Bake the stuffed squash in the 375 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes.


Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
Recipe adapted from original by: Sarah Jo
Serves: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

2 acorn squash
1/2 pound bulk pork sausage or chicken sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
3/4 cup soft bread crumbs (I used dried)
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 dash pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Place face-down in 1/2 inch of water and bake for 30 minutes or until the squash is fork-tender. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Mash sausage with fork. Fry in olive oil until cooked but not yet brown. Drain off fat. Add onion, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper to pan. Fill centers of squash with sausage and stuffing mixture.

Bake at 375 degrees uncovered for 30 minutes.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Carlton. sigh.

This is my cat kitten Carlton. When we adopted him, he was teeny-tiny, weighed one pound and was super-cute but managed to procure worms which resulted in frequent use of the carpet extractor and lots of swearing on my part. He is now 1 1/2 years old (and totally worm-free after a bajillion dollars in vet bills) but continues with the same curiosity and playfulness inherent in a toddler kitten. 

Carlton. drives. me. crazy. 

His favorite activities include sleeping in various locations around our home:

It's very startling to walk into a room, feel like something is watching you, and then look up to find this. 

That's the dirty laundry hamper. 
... which is creepy cute, and mostly harmless. However, he also enjoys:

  • jumping on to my printer and mashing all the buttons with his paws until it is broken and/or spewing out sheets of paper with random digits on it.
  • chasing red laser beams.
  • jumping onto Dylan's aquarium and knocking off the lid to the filter behind the dresser where we can never retrieve it so that in the future he may....
  • removing the carbon filter from the aquarium and dumping it in various locations around our home.
  • randomly attacking my leg with his claws.
  • probably destroying various other things which I am not aware of, yet.
  • and this:
He's very talented. Note the end of the roll deposited INTO the toilet.

"Do you like?"
 Here, he is showing his pal Monty his 'art.'
Per usual, Monty is not amused.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Playlist of the week- 10/22/12

Justin's back for this week's theme: songs that I hate, by the artists I love.

Even the greats have bad days.. or decades.  Here are the top three songs I can't stand by artists I love.

The Long And Winding Road by The Beatles

I know Paul McCartney is well known for being more mannered and sentimental than John Lennon, but this song takes it to levels unfit for The Beatles legacy.  This was recorded during the tense 'Let It Be' sessions where the band seemed tired of each other.  'Road' had a string section added by Phil Spector in the original release.  The version featured on 'Let It Be.. Naked' stripped away much of the arrangement and somehow made the song even less compelling.

Transformer Man (LP Version) by Neil Young

This one is laced with techno lameness (that was bad even for the 1980's) and featured heavily synthesized vocals. The entire album seems to have been a huge misfire for the man better known for his distorted guitar solos and country-tinged acoustic songs.  The thing that made this one stand out as even worse is that I get the sense there is a decent song there.  This was reaffirmed when I heard the Neil Young Unplugged version of the song.

Paradise by Coldplay

Coldplay is a great singles band with one masterpiece (Parachutes).  'Paradise' leaves me cold with the annoying repeating 'P' word hook that seems to come up a lot in pop music right now- case in point: Para para paradise vs. papa papa paparazzi. 

I noticed Justin did not mention any of Bob Dylan's 'born-again'-phase albums, he is wise in that disrespecting Bob Dylan is seen as blasphemy in this household. We just don't mention the 1980's. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Announcing... the Simple Sun Candles Etsy shop!

I am so excited to be able to announce the opening of my new Etsy shop, Simple Sun Candles!

I am a huge candle connoisseur, having spent way too much time in shops like Bath and Body Works, sampling their different scents and spending way too much money on buying them too. One of my favorite things is the ambiance a few lit candles in the evening create. I have candles burning almost every evening in my home. Also, the warm and welcoming scent of a candle burning really means 'home' and also 'comfort' to me.  I decided to look into making my own, which at first seemed daunting but after just taking the leap with my first batch, was fun!

After months of experimenting with different types of soy, different formulas, pouring at different temperatures and so on, I found my groove with the 'perfect' formula for an all-natural soy candle with amazing scent.

I chose to go the soy route as I have read numerous articles on the benefits of using soy, in that it is carcinogen and chemical-free, eco-friendly, and so on- the things I want in my home and would certainly feel better about being in your home too.

I am having a lot of fun with figuring out how to set up an online store with Etsy, marketing, selecting the shop design and even learning about the 'accounting' side of things.

The shop name, 'Simple Sun' is very positive and light to me. I always have seen the sun as a symbol of positivity and better things to come. One of my favorite songs is, 'Here Comes the Sun' by the Beatles and on the scientific end, sun promotes the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel better and happier in general.

'Simple' refers to my desire to live more simply, making my own candles rather than spending $$ on them is one way, and another is using natural, eco-friendly products in my home.

My goal with this store is really to learn from it, and possibly have my little candle-making hobby pay for itself. An added bonus is how great my home smells all the time now! I truly enjoy the process of making candles, it is very 'zen' to me and I hope to have this hobby continue to pay for itself.

I am so amazed at the support from friends and family for this little venture. I was so nervous to announce my shop opening publicly, but was only met with cheers and support, 'likes' on Facebook, and was blown away by the number of purchases that were made! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to my wonderful friends and family!

I am already researching and experimenting with adding soy tart melts and will be adding new fragrances continuously. I hope you'll check out my shop here, and please check back often for new products.

I have added a tab at the top that links directly to my shop, and will be adding a side bar feature to highlight the candles I have in my shop on this blog. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why last weekend was awesome:

Dylan's weekly soccer game was the first one his team won, lifting the spirits of several 8-year-old boys. Dylan was very excited.

Last weekend was also awesome as we continued our annual fall tradition of visiting the 'pumpkin patch.' We visited Cox Farms in Centreville, where although the admission price was shockingly high ($17, seriously?) we got our money's worth with tons to do.

There were a variety of fun slides, where you sit on a seed sack to go down. From here on out, this post is in 'I Spy' format.

Similar to 'Where's Waldo,' we'll be playing "Where's Dylan?" today. Five gold stars to whomever wins.

I spy... a goat

I spy... Justin
I spy... Dylan

Farm animals for petting were also plentiful.

News alert: Giant bunnies have taken over D.C.

My favorite cow!

Dylan's favorite part was the hay ride, which was ACTION-PACKED (re: going through a river and pond, passing under a troll bridge, passing through a grave yard, and so on and so on).

Too soon, Cox Farms, too soon.

We also enjoyed the "Cornundrum" (if you know me, you know I love a cheesy play on words) a.k.a. a corn maze.

Continuing the Michael Jackson theme... Man in the Mirror

Entering the 'bug' house- filled with (fake, thankfully) bugs and critters.

There were also live bands (yes, multiple) playing, which we enjoyed while chowing down on some kettle corn, chili dogs, and deliciously fresh apple cider. 

And of course, playing in hay and picking a pumpkin (not literally from the patch, but rather carefully selecting an already-picked-pumpkin, I guess you could say).

All in all it was a wonderful fall day. I love that this has inadvertently become our family tradition in the fall, visiting the 'farm' to select a pumpkin, enjoy a hay ride and some fresh apple cider. I look back at pictures from when we first started taking Dylan (Justin was there too, even way back when) and think of the excitement Dylan shares each year, as if it was new each time.
Dylan and Justin, Blake's Big Apple 2007

I love when he is happy-giddy over the activity we're doing, taking on a very serious voice with a hint of excitement, carefully weighing pros and cons of eating kettle corn first or taking the hay ride first. He's such a great kid.

I used to LOVE the wax lips as a kid too!