Food and stuff

Happy Halloween! It’s not widely celebrated by people in my life, but I can’t help but get a little festive about most holidays that have fun memories attached. Halloween night was always kind of special growing up, whether I went trick-or-treating or stayed home and handed out candy while playing Scrabble and eating junk food with the family. It’s a fun night to go for walks, watch scary movies or bake something fallish. I like holidays!

Today I took a few fallish pictures while it was sunny. I’ll post those later on. For now, here are some photos from yesterday when I made dinner for a couple of friends.

BUT FIRST: I completely forgot to reward Jennifer for winning my little “guess the fruit” contest (see the end of that entry). Congratulations, Smarty Smart! How vast is your mind! How diverse your knowledge! And now you’re calling me at this moment so I’ll stop. 😛


I bought some flowers for the table, because it’s one of those little extras in life that I am allowing myself more often. Especially when I have company!


I baked some shortbread cookies for our dessert. These are so easy and so good. I used this recipe, since it’s similar to the one my mom always used, and just added some vanilla extract and sprinkled the top with sugar.


I ended up making up a recipe based on others I’ve seen. Call it Italian Braid if you must call it anything. 😀 I think it needs more tweaking to be perfect, but I’ll give you the general idea of how I made it.


I made up the filling with a package of browned Italian sausage, a small amount of spaghetti sauce, some garlic, olives and chopped raw zucchini.

The dough is Pillsbury Garlic Breadsticks. What you see in that picture is two cans worth laid out side by side. I pinched the centers together a bit more under where the filling would be placed, and tore the perforated dough on the sides to form strips. Then, obviously, I added some shredded Italian cheese.


“Braiding” it is very easy. Just pull up the strips and overlap them at an angle to make it look kind of braidy. Pull up the ends to hold everything in nice and snugly, then brush with some egg whites (it takes less than one egg’s worth, and make sure to beat with whisk first).

I also sprinkled additional cheese on top, which you can see in the finished product photos.


Looking lovely after some time in the oven! I used the temperature suggested on the dough container and just kept an eye on it. I suppose the total time was at least 20 minutes, and it could’ve probably used more time. So maybe 22-25 minutes, depending on your filling and any other factors you feel like considering.


Another photo of the finished product? Certainly!

The reason my recipe needs tweaking is that the end result was a little too greasy. I think next time I’ll just go with ground turkey and a bit more sauce and some seasoning. I was trying to make it more flavorful with the sausage, but the grease actually leaked out of one side of the braid (strategically not shown in the photo).

Have you been cooking anything new lately? I have lots of recipes I want to try, and thankfully I have friends who enjoy tasting my cooking projects. I hope to post more recipes here during the winter since it’s harder to get nature photos.

Nieces

I just got back from a quick trip to California. While there, I took several photos of my nieces. My youngest, in particular, since I haven’t had as many opportunities to photograph her. These were all candid and not set up with perfect backgrounds or poses, but I thought some of them turned out very cute. It helps that I have the most gorgeous nieces in all the land.


The many expressions of N.


Yeah, these are all very similar, and yet here I am posting them anyway!


Those are her sisters’ hands.


Speaking of sisters, here’s one of them by my parents’ koi pond. The other was inside the house during this time.


Oh did you miss N? Here she is again!


She likes sitting on this fish.


K watered the plants and suggested I take some pictures.


Of course N wants to see what her sister is up to.


We were at a memorial service earlier in the day, hence the nice dresses. The girls love wearing dresses and didn’t want to change.

Aren’t I a lucky aunt? 🙂

Oregon Garden 2

Welcome to part two of my Oregon Garden photos. Make yourself at home.


More K!


And more, though she’s sliding out of the photo. The lighting was bad but I wanted to try something with those weedy things in the background. I didn’t really succeed, but it kind of goes with the other one so I’m posting it anyway.


I think these are called “hardy” oranges.


They had a ton of these peppers.


And check out these purple ones!


I’m not very talkative about today’s set of photos. I just got back from the pumpkin farm, so I’m tired.


Hi, K!


Okay, this last one is a guessing game. Do you know this fruit? I had never heard of it before. The person to correctly guess the fruit name wins a free shout out in my next blog post (if I remember)!

Oregon Garden 1

I went to the Oregon Garden with my friend K today, so of course I have a bunch of photos to show you. The weather was perfect and the garden was pretty, as usual, but I’m not crazy about my photos. The lighting wasn’t ideal and maybe I just wasn’t ideal. Still, I have enough to show you that I’ll divide them into two posts.

I tried to hold back from taking the same old photos I’ve taken there before and try some different ideas.


Okay, so how did this one make the cut?


K graciously agreed to let me practice some more portraits on her. I haven’t done any portraits in awhile! Isn’t she so cute with her vibrant scarf? R, doesn’t her face/smile resemble our friend M.S. (de Brazil) in this photo?


K likes purple, so I like to pose her near purple stuff sometimes. (And Sunny D at other times.)


K spotted this goldfinch that some other people pointed out was sickly, which is the only reason I could get such close photos. Yes, I took advantage of an ill bird.


I like this gazebo. It’s gazebo-y.


More gazebo. I want a gazebo someday.


I liked the “polka dots” on this bush.


Sooooo…I took quite a few photos of it. BONUS SUBJECT: Bee.


I have no idea what bush this is.


The clouds were cool.


Did you hear me say they were cool? Because they were. Cool, that is.

Mas to come!

Fourteen

I wish I had something really great to say, but I don’t. Life is difficult, lately, but there are the good things mixed in, like:

1. Making dinner for friends, and having it turn out well.
2. Great weather.
3. A clean home.
4. Pretty sunrises.

5. Good sermons.
6. A super-comfortable bed.
7. God’s provision for a last-minute plane ticket.
8. Coworkers who take some of my jobs off my hands, so I’m not as stressed.
9. Friends who ask me how I’m doing, give me gifts, write me notes/texts/comments, make me a birthday dinner, compliment me, invite me places, listen to me talk through the same things over and over, pray for me, and even interoffice me tea bags.
10. Comforting Bible verses.
11. Steller’s Jays. Because even though they don’t have a pretty song, they are nicely-colored.

12. Chocolate milk.
13. Pride and Prejudice, of course.
14. Blue Wii remotes.

Happy birthday to my dad today!

Bosque

EDIT: I just noticed that Google Reader translates the subject line! Funny.

Monday we went to the bosque, as I mentioned in my “creatures” post. Two of my nephews and one niece joined my sister and me. It was perfect weather and very green there for being the desert.

Falalala…


A little bit of fall.


Eventually I’ll show you that it was green.


This little guy somehow missed my creatures post. Sorry, Blue!


I loved these cute orange flowers. Hi, Mom!


Here we go. See? Green.


My nephews. Z is sniffing something–I think that’s his favorite sense.


My niece with her tat. She’s a rebel.


Lovely trees – there is my sister with three of her kids. Notice C trying to climb the tree.


These are all out of order! This is from the entrance to the trail we took.


I liked these delicate little whatevers.

The end!

Now, an unrelated confession: I am so hooked on Pride and Prejudice lately. Have I already said that? I just keep starting it over again and letting it play in the background while I’m home. It’s comforting and happy.

And if you have already seen it or don’t mind spoiled endings, here is one of my favorite parts. 🙂 🙂 Yes, I’m a girl.

Right at about 1:31 or 1:32 starts one of the happiest scenes in any movie. 🙂 *sigh*

Some evening balloons

I debated whether I should do two balloon posts in a row or divide them with some other scenery, but I’m going with more balloons.

Sunday evening we attended the festival. It’s kind of like a fair with booths, food and a stage. The evening event is the Balloon Glow, where the balloons are inflated and then turn up their flames on countdowns after dark. There was a storm coming, which provided really nice lighting and backdrops for the photos, but it cut the balloon glow event short. They only did two countdowns until announcing that all the balloons had to be deflated for safety reasons. It was fine, though, because I got the photos I wanted and then we enjoyed a lightning storm. At the end of the night was an amazing fireworks show that I think is the best I’ve ever seen, but I don’t have any decent photos to show you. Just trust me.

On with the balloons…


This was the scene as balloons were being inflated. I loved the dark gray clouds.


The balloon laying down in front is a rooster that we watched slowly inflate. It took quite awhile, and it only stayed up for what seemed like five minutes before they took it down again.


Here it is all inflated.


It feels really cool to walk around surrounded by these huge balloons.


Some glowy action.


Most of the balloons hand out collector cards (the size of baseball cards) to the kids. My sister took my niece to collect some while I took pictures. Anyway, that’s why you see people surrounding the baskets in some of these.


The sunset was pretty cool as it got darker.


These bees were the last up and last down. I guess since it took them so long to get inflated, they were hesitant to deflate.

Okay, that’s all where balloons are concerned! Next I’ll post photos from the walk around the bosque.

Some morning balloons

Greetings, earthlings. These are photos from last Sunday morning in the Albuquerque area.


Near my sister’s house is a lookout area that faces the balloon park. We started there, but obviously it’s quite a distance from the park, so the balloons are just like dots. Still, it was cool to see so many at once. This is during mass ascension, when many balloons go up in the same general area and hang out for awhile.


I guess this is lavender? I don’t know, but obviously I thought it was pretty.


Here’s my niece at the lookout, just to give you an idea of the scene.


The structure on the lookout.. I guess it’s just for looks? Anyway, there are walls and benches, and R said that the day before there were several people there to watch mass ascension.


Zoomed in a little. You’re might see some similar photos, and I won’t apologize. Okay, I’ll apologize just once, and not with my whole heart. Sorry.


We drove out to another location to take more pictures. The sky was nice, but the lighting was such that it was hard not to just get balloon silhouettes at first.


A couple of balloons were coming close, and the one on the left was making what seemed to be an emergency landing (because the landing place wasn’t ideal). Everything in the balloon world seems slow and graceful, so “emergency” is a funny word.


It’s down, and now they have to move it somewhere that isn’t fenced in, so they kind of float/carry it over the fence and settle it down in the parking lot nearby.


Meanwhile, I’m getting some other photos.


But there’s broken glass here, so they laid down some tarps. It was all so intense and dramatic. 😉 They grab a rope that is already attached to the top of the balloon and you can see a couple of guys trying to bring it down.


Balloon paparazzi!


Things are progressing with taking down the balloon.


We then drove nearby to an empty lot that had another view of some balloons. This photos is called Slum Balloon.


Let’s put the black-and-whites together!


I loved this tree, but it was hard to get a good shot with it because of other scenery/wires.


You can kind of see that the lower balloon has an alien on it.


Then we drove to one more location, and saw this Darth Vader balloon on the way. There are some interesting and fun balloon shapes, but I didn’t show you many here. I’ll have more on the next post.

UNRELATED: I was just taking pictures of a nutria that’s below my deck right now. First nutria sighting of the season! You can look totally forward to photos of that. 🙂

Creatures

So, I just got back from New Mexico (visiting my sister) where I went to the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, but this post is not about balloons. I happened to have several photos of various wildlife, so I thought I’d put them together in an entry, and I’ll have a couple/few other entries to show you the rest of my trip. I don’t really like using the word “creatures” (not sure why), but it’s the best way to describe the following set of photos.

If you don’t like photos of bugs, you’ll want to just skip this post, because there are a few. You’ve been warned.


I left the white balance on something crazy when I took this photo, so the realistic color was pretty unrecoverable. The best I could do was get this kind of artsy hue, so I present to you: vintage bunny. This little guy was hopping around the hillside when we went to look at the balloons one morning.


We visited the bosque because I had been last year and wanted to see it again with a better camera. It looked so different this visit because last time it was very dry (since it was February). There were lots of little creatury things running around. Isn’t this grasshopper pretty?


My sister spotted this awesome beetle, so I took way too many photos.


I’m showing you three just so you’ll get a sense of the different colors on its body. Coolness.


We saw a few of these tiny lizards. You can’t tell in the photo, but it was only an inch or maybe 1.5 inches long total. So cute!


Another relatively small lizard (or skink?) that my nephew discovered.


There’s nothing special about this photo, but it fit the category so here it is.


Same here, though I do like wood ducks. They’re always so hard to photograph at home, but both times I’ve seen them in Albuquerque they’ve not been so skittish.


It took me several tries to get a somewhat decent photo of a little butterfly. This is the best I could do.

Okay, that’s it!

October

I love October! It’s my birthday month, but it’s also just a great time of year. Fall is in full swing, but the holiday season is still a little ways off, and things aren’t yet stressful in that respect. Also, Oregon has some really nice weather in October, in my experience. The sun hits everything just right so that the trees are vibrant and things look different than they do rest of the year.

October has brought many exciting changes for me over the years. I can think of important people who came into my life, moves to new homes, and a desired job change, among other things. Perhaps the other months have brought just as much change, but for whatever reason, I remember happy Octobers more clearly.

In honor of this sensational time of year, I will share some Octobery things. First, a poem I’ve always loved. I will link to it to save space and in case any of you are very sensitive. It’s a little like reading Song of Solomon. 😛

And now some pretty memories of Octobers past.


October of 2006 was when my friend T got married, and I was her photographer. That was the first wedding I photographed and my camera was relatively new to me, so now I look back and wish I could take all the photos again and do a better job. T, will you consider a reaffirmation of vows? You know, so I can work on photography.

[I didn’t get permission from the friends I have pictured in this post, so hopefully they don’t mind. And if they do, then for my birthday I’ll request forgiveness.]


The same year, I visited the Japanese Garden and God gave me a present: awesome color and sunlight to photograph.


In 2007, a friend sent me these roses for my birthday. I think that was the last time I had flowers sent (as opposed to brought in person) from a guy. It’s one of those treats in a girl’s life. 🙂


That year I visited the Oregon Garden on an appropriately dark-clouded day that gave my photos a creepy, Halloween feel.


I can’t remember for sure what year this is from (2008?), but it was obviously a beautiful day!


Back to the Oregon Garden in 2008, and another awesome fall day. I loved this visit so much. I even got to photograph a deer running by.


Yeah, I have a lot of garden photos.


During the same year, my friend visited and we went to the coast during my birthday weekend. I remember being all drugged up on Dramamine during the first part of the trip, but I still have good memories.


Last year, I went to the pumpkin patch with a few friends, and we hope to go again this year.

Wow, going through old Octobers was way more fun (and time consuming) than I imagined! I’ve had some good times! I feel so happy with anticipation about this October, because I have some really great plans. Stay tuned for photos, of course.