Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Week 2008

It's been a really busy, fulfilling, happy and sometimes stressful Christmas week around here. So busy and rushed that I have fallen behind in my blog writing. I still don't have a lot of words to post right now, so I will share some of our Christmas experiences through the following photos. These only show a small portion of our Christmas holidays, but it does give you the highlights.

I also plan to share our Winter Solstice celebration with you too, but I will write about that some other time. First my Christmas week 2008, which was enjoyed in my favorite way, right here in my warm home in our beautiful and peaceful mountains, with my closest family and friends and my beloved pets all around me.

Cards from friends and family

Our Stockings hung with care ~ on the stereo cabinet, I have no mantle

Kitties and Chickens Stockings too...

Pinecone Decorations inspected & approved by Jessie

Cranberry Bread baked for gift baskets and snacking

Packages wrapped beautifully ~ Jack does great ribbon work. Bob does great bows.

And placed beneath the Christmas tree...

And quality inspected by Jessie

Christmas Morning ~ my Jessie is my Baby, and sooo cute...

Christmas Goodies ~ all homemade & delicious!

Dinner Table Setting ~ nothing very fancy, just colorful

Christmas Dinner ~ Beef Tri-Tip Roast, Green Salad, Roasted Potatoes, Fresh Cranberry Sauce

And homemade Cherry Pie with ice cream for dessert

Boys play with their trains

All is calm and all is bright...

We did have a White Christmas after all. Snow fell late on Christmas Eve and during Christmas Day to leave us with just a couple of inches on the ground and on our cars. Most of it melted away the next day, but it was beautiful to watch the fluffy flakes fall on Christmas. So peaceful. I love watching Mother Nature's artistry. Today was sunny, crisp and cold. We gathered together again last night to feast on leftovers, eat cookies and fudge, drink hot toddies and play with our new toys. We have all had colds these past few days (The hot toddies were medicinal) and have been doing our best to keep our energy up and remain in good spirits for each other. It's been a little stressful at times, but we are a close family and work everything out eventually.

This was another good Christmas around here, and it's really not over yet. Later today, Jack's son arrives to visit & celebrate with us for a few days, and we will be visiting Bob's daughter and son-in-law tonight too. All in all, a busy and full week for us here at Mountain Harvest Basket.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Still Cold Here

Yard Art Hen & Chick in the Snow~ where are the other 3 chicks?

It is still very cold here today. Much snow is still on the ground, at least in the shady places. No new snow for a few days, but very cold temps have kept the snow around and made the roads and driveways icy.

It's been so cold in fact, that I moved my remaining two old hens into my living room a couple of nights ago.

Hens in the House

I think they were getting a little frostbite happening on their combs and wattles. I brought them inside to warm them up and to observe them. They seemed fine the next day, so I moved them back outside after adding more straw to their nest boxes and replacing their light bulb (used for warmth) with a higher wattage one.

I heard a strange sound a few nights ago, and wondered if it was a bobcat or coyote. Then I found these tracks on the snow.

Animal Tracks

They look more like dog tracks than a bobcat or even coyote. I did also see a stray dog running around by my driveway that same day.

I have been staying mostly inside and keeping warm with my electric heaters or with a fire in my woodstove. Of course, these beautiful red roses helped to keep my heart warm.

Thank you for my roses, Bob.

With the cold weather, and me being more housebound, I've been baking more often this week too. I find that using the oven to bake something really helps to heat the cold house and also makes some delicious food too. I love that it serves two useful purposes at the same time.

More Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread ~ this time with whole wheat flour added

I also baked a nice apricot crisp last night. No photos. No crisp left either. Between me and the guys, it is long gone already!

Happy Winter to you! Winter Solstice is tomorrow. Celebrate by lighting a candle and thanking our Universe for the light, the warmth of the sun, and the seasons.

I am thankful for all of you.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Monday, December 15, 2008

Let it Snow!

It started last night...around 7pm

and snow fell off and on, mostly on, all through the night. So far, it has accumulated to about 6 inches deep at my 3000 ft elevation. This is what it looked like around my place this morning:

Porch Railing doubles as "Snow Measurement Device"

Frosted California Redbud Tree

I probably won't be driving anywhere today...

Or sunbathing in my lounge chair either...Bbbrrrrr...

Not much sun present today to melt the snow off of the solar pathway lights

Oh well, it needed refilling anyway...

Won't be gardening today...too cold for that

Might watch some TV...this dish works even with the snow on it

Of course, I won't be doing much of anything if the electricity goes out as it frequently does this time of year. So I wanted to get this quick blog post up so that my faithful readers will know what's going on here in my world and know that I am still alive and kicking even if I haven't been posting much lately.

Almost time for Winter Solstice, but not quite.

Is it snowing where you are?

Bon Hiver & Happy Winter (a bit early) to you all!

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Winter Green & Cornbread

Green Pumpkin & Parsley

It has been warm for several days and then cold at night, and now it is finally getting colder during the day and very cold at night. My porch thermometer reads 44 degrees F as I type this.

I plucked this last sweet little pie pumpkin from my garden about a week ago. I kept waiting for it to turn orange first, but I couldn't let it sit out there in the cold weather any longer. I brought it inside in the hopes that it would ripen indoors. It is doing just that, although very slowly. There are some flecks of orange on it and I placed him with his orange colored sisters hoping their ripeness would "rub off" a little on his green little self. There below is my whole pumpkin family for this season.

Small, sweet & tender pie pumpkins

So with the weather getting much colder now, I figured I'd better harvest the last little green bell pepper from my garden. I had left the plant in the ground due to the extended warm weather and because it had a pepper growing on it. It was fairly protected in my raised bed garden, blocked from cold north winds by the back wall of my house. The nights have been getting far too cold for a hot summer crop like bell peppers! Reports of temps in the 30's made me concerned that this little green pepper gem would shrivel up and be culinarily useless, so today I plucked it right off the plant and brought it inside with a brief stop on my porch for a photo op with her neighboring parsley plant.

Green Bell Pepper & Parsley Harvest

My parsley plants are still growing strong, and I bet if I protect them with a cold frame for the winter, they will last right through until spring and keep on producing for me. I use parsley in so many things, not just as a pretty garnish. I like to put a healthy handful in my green salads and I love to cook with it. It is very nutritious.

To change the subject slightly from green garden things to warm food for cold days, take a look at the nice cornbread I baked in my cast iron skillet a couple of weeks ago. I had never used this skillet for baking before, and I am very pleased with the results. The cornbread was delicious!

Delicious hot homemade cornbread

I just had to show it to you. Now I made myself hungry. I guess I should go make myself dinner now. No cornbread in the house though. Guess I'll make a sandwich...

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Red Flowers to Cheer Me

Two weeks ago I was grumbling about how the cold, rainy, grey weather was adversely affecting my mood and that my pretty red petunias had died after living through 2 summers and last winter. I wrote that I really missed their colorful red faces that greeted me when I went out to my front porch.

Well right after I published that post, Bob visited our nearest big city and brought back a beautiful red flowering plant for me. It is a cyclamen. I've never had one of those before. Look how beautiful and bright red it is!

Bright Red Cyclamen

Since receiving this cyclamen it has really blossomed out. It has 3 times as many flowers on it right now than it had when it first got here.

Then, a few days later, I was over at Jack's and was admiring his potted rose bush by the front door. So he gave me a full deep pink bloom to take home with me. It is so deep pink that it's almost red. See it there next to my pink wine:

Beautiful Rose Bloom

This cut rose bloom still looks just like this and it is almost 1 week old today. It's really lasted a long time for a rose.

Both of these flower gifts have made my life and my home a little cheerier. I am grateful to have such wonderful partners who love me and give me little reminders of their love all the time.

I love flowers. I love to receive them, and I love to grow them, but I have been so busy growing vegetables & fruit for the past 10 years, that I really haven't grown many flowers. Sure my red petunias lasted in a pot on my porch for awhile, until they died recently. My roses struggle along never quite blooming enough to suit me. Something ate my daisies. The gophers eat my tulip bulbs and the deer scarf down the blooms. My irises grow, but don't bloom that much anymore. I guess my lavender plants flower pretty well all year. They have sort of taken over my herb garden. And the amaryllis bulbs that my Mom gave me years and years ago, called Naked Ladies, a light pink showy blossom, do pretty well each summer, although I think the gophers may get to them too. The only flowers that do really well each year are my spring daffodils. Nothing eats them and they poke their bright yellow heads up to face the warm spring sun only to get rained and snowed on for their bravery. I love how brave they are. I want to be like them. Sunny, bright, delicate, yet strong and brave.

Be a flower. Brighten someone's day.

Thanks Bob and Jack for my beautiful red flowers. I love them, and I love you.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Friday, November 21, 2008

Harvest Dinner 2008

Harvest Dinner 2008

For the past decade or so, at least since my Mom passed away, Jack and I usually travel to the LA area to attend Thanksgiving dinner at the home of one his relatives, usually one of his sisters. This means that for several years I did not have the pleasure of preparing and hosting a big Thanksgiving dinner celebration in my own home with my family and friends. It also meant that I did not get to make the traditional foods for Thanksgiving the way my own family did or the foods that I had learned to make as a young woman when I was married (both long ago).

So a few years ago I started the tradition of having what I call our annual Harvest Dinner celebration in the comfort and relaxation of my own home, with my friends and family, with my traditional foods, served on my favorite plates, with my festive tablecloth, using my serving dishes, my decorations etc etc. In other words, Harvest Dinner is Thanksgiving my way.

Here is our Harvest Dinner invitation that we gave to our family and friends:

The 3 of us invite you to share in our annual Harvest Dinner. It’s our way of celebrating our abundance and to give thanks to the earth, our loved ones and our universe (spirit). Sort of like traditional Thanksgiving, but not on Thanksgiving Day.

I like to include a moment or two before we begin eating the feast of food to express our thankfulness for all of the abundance that we have. Some would call this moment of thanks a prayer or the traditonal grace that is said to give thanks for our meal, but I mean it to be much more than mere gratitude for the food. This moment of acknowledgement for our great abundance, is meant to bring into our consciousness how fortunate we are to have not only an abundance of food on our table, but also our great abundance in many other areas of lives. We have homes, health, safety, freedom, friends, family, and most of all we have love. So as we raised our wine glasses to toast a Happy Harvest, we thanked each other for being being here, Mother Earth for our abundant harvest, and Spirit for guiding us each day. Then we dug into the mounds of food on our plates.

Some years I have printed out this grace that I found in one of my Mom's books long ago, and we have made it a part of our Harvest Dinner thankfulness moment. I do not know who the author is:

This is a time for giving thanks
This is a time for remembrance

Let us remember our past and
Give thanks for what we have become

Let us be present in the present and
Give thanks for the here and now

Let us remember our future and
Give thanks for all that is to happen to us

Let us give thanks for the whole universe
Especially for our creation
And the life that is in us

Let us give thanks for that consummation of all things
Which Spirit is working out in us

May light and love surround us
And guide us to right action

I think it is a lovely, although lengthy sentiment.

Anyway, I wanted to share our most recent Harvest Dinner with you. We usually have it on a Sunday afternoon about two weeks before Thanksgiving. We had our 2008 dinner last Sunday, November 16th.

Here's the menu:

2008 Harvest Dinner Menu

Baby Carrots & Celery
Mixed Nuts
Goat Cheese & Crackers

Main Course
Free Range Turkey
Greek Stuffing
Bread Stuffing Casserole
Cornbread Pudding
Mashed Potatoes
Turkey Gravy
Pineapple-Orange Sweet Potatoes
Fresh Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Apple Pie & Sugarless Apple Pie– both by Bob
Pecan Pie – by Jen
Pumpkin Pie – by Jack
Whipped Cream

I got lots of photos of the food, but absolutely none of us or our guests! We invited Bob's parents and a close friend of the family to make us 6 for dinner. Just the right amount of people to fit around my dining table.

So what follows here are the photos of our food feast with no pictures of any people or pets! Oh well, I guess I was totally focused on getting the food prepared and on the table for everyone.

Harvest Dinner Dining Table

That tablecloth was made by me 15 years ago for a Thanksgiving dinner I hosted in my little condo in Southern California, long before I moved to the mountains and my rural life. I still love the tablecloth and its rich colors.

Buffet Table set up in my kitchen

We served the food buffet style on a portable table set up in my kitchen. Everyone filled their own plate with whatever they desired from the buffet setup. I find this is the easiest way to serve the food because all of that food would never fit on my dining room table. This also eliminates the need for everyone passing heavy hot serving dishes around the table. It limits spillage and other dining "disasters".

The roasted turkey before being carved

I try to buy naturally raised hormone and antibiotic free turkeys when I cook turkey. I find that I like the way they taste better, and I feel better about buying a turkey that was raised without chemicals. This one was a Diestel Farms brand turkey. That's the brand I usually buy.

On our buffet table there was:

Roasted Turkey ~ light and dark meat

Pineapple Orange Fresh Sweet Potatoes

Bob's Famous Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Turkey Gravy ~ photo taken while gravy was cooking

My Mom's Greek Chestnut Stuffing

Cornbread Pudding ~ made this year by Jack

Bread Stuffing ~ Mrs. Cubbison's with my "doctoring up"

Fresh Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

Bob's parents brought some flaky dinner biscuits that were wonderful, but I failed to get a picture of them. Trust me, they were good.

And then after dinner we had pie! Errr...make that pies. Plural.

Jack's creamy Pumpkin Pie

Jack tried a new filling recipe this year that used real cream instead of evaporated milk. It was a richer pumpkin than I have had before.

Bob's Sugarless Apple on the left, and regular Apple on the right

Both apple pies were great. I couldn't even tell the difference between the sugarless and the one with sugar in it.

My Pecan Pie ~ tasted great even if the crust is ugly

Well, that's it for this year. The turkey and all the leftovers are long gone by the time I am writing this post. Maybe next year I'll get a photo or two of the people as well as the food!

Happy Harvest everyone! And Happy Thanksgiving!

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket