Celebrating the Snow

Sierra snowpack levels and rain are way above normal here in Northern California this year and that’s cause for celebration in my book. Evidently, many others were celebrating all of the recent storms right along with us by taking a trip to snow country during the holiday weekend! A drive to Tahoe usually takes us an hour. Today it was a v-e-r-y slow two and a half hour drive.

We have a few usual spots where we like to go snowshoeing, but we got a later start on the road than usual and we found those to be too crowded. Continuing on and feeling up for an adventure, we came to Camp Richardson on the southwest side of the lake and found parking spaces available! In no time at all we were layered up and had our gear strapped on.What a sight to behold! Just look at this incredibly beautiful winter wonderland!
It felt so good to be out exploring in all of nature’s winter beauty after being cooped up from our rainy weather for so long.Through the branches is our dog, Gemma, prancing around in the snow where there’s usually sand, with Lake Tahoe just beyond.  Ahhh! Here’s a little snow heart along our pathand another amidst the tree branches! There’s so much to celebrate in life. Hope you’re finding cause to celebrate this winter as well.

Tamale Pot Pies

It’s wet out there! And the forecast includes more wild, windy and wet weather each day all week. I’m quite happy to have the time indoors to work on some projects that have been neglected for the last month or two, though, and make some comfort food recipes as well.

This afternoon I made Tamale Potpies. I didn’t have all of the ingredients called for in this recipe from Cooking Light, and so I’ve made due with what I have in my kitchen. There’s no way I’m heading to the grocery store this afternoon!

Tamale Pot Pies

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 cup chopped onion

12 oz. ground chicken (I used ground pork)

1 Tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup chopped zucchini (this was an ingredient I didn’t have)

3/4 cup corn

1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained

1 (8 ounce) can unsalted tomato sauce

cooking spray

1/2 cup coarsely ground yellow cornmeal

1 1/2 cups water, divided

3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded and divided (about 3/4 cup)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; saute 3 minutes. Add pork (or chicken); cook 3 minutes, stirring to crumble. Stir in cumin, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook one minute.
  3. Add zucchini, corn, tomatoes, and tomato sauce, bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Divide meat mixture evenly among 4 (10 ounce) ramekins (or in my case, 8, 5 ounce) ramekins coated with cooking spray. Place ramekins on a jelly roll pan.
  5. Place remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cornmeal, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl, stirring to combine. Bring remaining 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually add cornmeal mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Stir in 2 oz of cheese.
  6. Divide cornmeal mixture evenly among ramekins. Sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until light golden brown.Along with a green salad and black beans, this is dinner. Just perfect for a cold, rainy evening at home.

The Story of our Lives

As I’ve been putting away the Christmas decorations over the last few days I’ve come  to realize how perfectly our decorated tree tells the story of our family each year.

If I remember correctly we bought ornaments for our very first Christmas tree at Payless. Yep, it was a rainy Sunday in 1982. When my husband got off from work we went together and picked out just a few ornaments and a tree. This is one from that first year so long ago.By the next Christmas we were blessed with our first baby.And three years later, another precious baby boy joined our family.A good amount of our ornaments are family photos in mini frames and hung with ribbon.Throughout the years ornaments have been bought that represent a move to a new home, careers, interests, and now, grand babies. We’ve saved the child-made treasures from way back when, along with the ones the children would get to choose each year to commemorate a new sport or hobby they were interested in. They don’t all go up on the tree each year, but we look through them all, carefully unwrapping each and every treasure, smiling and feeling overcome with nostalgia.

A friend made this felted heart for me a few years ago,and a sweet daughter in law made this one.Gently tucked into luggage, special keepsakes are collected from our travels. This celtic cross came from a trip to Ireland.And this streetlamp with the hanging baskets of flowers was brought home from Victoria.Each one tells a story.Each one, a memory of our blessings. Each one, a snippet from our lives. My cup runneth over.

I wish you hope, health, peace and mad love in 2017. Happy New Year!

“Here’s to the end of this chapter. To all the late nights, early mornings, learnings gained and experiences shared, Here’s to love. Here’s to loss. Here’s to honoring, letting go, and transcending. Here’s to growth. Here’s to expanding. Here’s to a life with other heartbeats that would stop their world to celebrate your magic. Here’s to you, and your blank canvas. Here’s to filling it with nothing less than vibrant aliveness.”

~Nancy Alder

 

Making Merry

The last few weeks have flown by with all of the flurry of activities that December brings. There have been parties and gatherings, shopping and making, sending cards, wrapping, baking, and the decorating. Oh, the decorating!

Along with decorating the inside of our home, I do enjoy decking out our porch and other areas of our yard. The arbors and the little foot bridge across our seasonal creek gets adorned with garland or swags. I buy yards of fresh cedar garland at the nursery, but the rest of the fresh greens I use for decorating have been collected either from the yard or out on the trails with my trusty pruners and a bag for collecting. In my book, nature’s treasures make the best decorations!

A little of this,and a little of that,added to window boxes, window sills, baskets, garden pots, watering cans, and vases makes everything so festive and merry. Wishing you the warmth of home, the love of family and friends, and all the deepest joys this Christmas season.

 

Sacramento’s Capitol Park

An edifice should be constructed…satisfactory of the grandeur of the coming time … surrounded by grounds … with a beauty and luxuriousness that no other capitol can boast.”

~Governor Leland Stanford, 1863img_1899img_1890img_1848img_1878On a recent November day I spent a delightful morning with my love strolling around the grounds of the Capitol admiring the memorials, gardens, statues, fountains and trees.

Covering forty acres and spanning twelve city blocks, Capitol Park began life in 1860 as just four blocks, and from then to 1917 the remaining blocks became part of the park’s expansion projects. Since 1869 eight hundred flowering trees and shrubs have been planted, representing over two hundred native and exotic varieties.

Here’s just a glimpse of the World Peace Rose Garden in Capitol Park, still bursting with blooms in November and displaying 650 roses in over 140 varieties of colors and fragrances.img_1866img_1865img_1864In honor of Veteran’s Day two harpists played gentle melodies in front of war memorials.img_1863Many of the trees planted are dedicated to former members of staff of the California State Legislature, or to mark special anniversaries. There’s also the Moon Tree, a Coastal Redwood that began life as one seed among hundreds which orbited the moon aboard the command module of the Apollo 14 mission.

Just look at all of this tree magic.img_1855img_1856img_1860img_1873img_1869img_1868img_1867img_1880img_1877img_1891img_1893Beautiful and luxurious grounds, indeed. What a great way to spend a few hours. I think Governor Leland Stanford would be quite proud.

 

Celebrating Fall

“Autumn, the year’s last loveliest smile.” ~William Cullen Bryantimg_6534“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all” ~Stanley Horowitzimg_6443“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ~Albert Camusimg_1905“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” ~Lauren DeStefano, Witherimg_1902“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.” ~John Donne
img_1811“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves. We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves.” ~Humbert Wolfe
img_1799“There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the annual cascade of autumn leaves.”~Joe L. Wheelerimg_1750“And I rose in rainy autumn and walked abroad in a shower of all my days…” ~Dylan Thomasimg_1731“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.” ~Anonymousimg_1727“I am rich today with autumn’s gold.” ~Gladys Harpimg_1657“I loved autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it.” ~Lee Maynardimg_1718“Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.” ~Samuel Butlerimg_1721“Or maybe spring is the season of love and fall the season of mad lust. Spring for flirting but fall for the untamed delicious wild thing.”~Elizabeth Cohenimg_1796“There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood- Such of manner, hint of mood; And my heart is like a rhyme, With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.” ~Bliss Carmen
img_1803“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.” ~Jim Bishopimg_1903Wishes to all for a lovely autumn season.

Sunflower Cottage

“…But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye. For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall, you’ll find the tool and potting sheds which are the heart of all…”~Rudyard Kiplingimg_1827Here it is!img_1472Remember a few weeks ago I promised a post about my new garden shed? Welcome to Sunflower Cottage!

Wanting the paint and the style to match our home, but also wanting a bright pop of color for the door, I really don’t think it could have turned out any more perfectly.

Last fall I began looking in books, magazines and on pinterest for ideas for potting sheds. It was a bit overwhelming, but when our friend who built the structure for us started asking questions about how it would be used and what was most important to me, why then it all came together easily. Inside is a roomy potting bench, lots of shelving, and a pole to hang baskets and dry herbs from, and with the light from the two windows (three counting the window in the door) and a water source right outside the shed, I didn’t feel a need to have electricity or plumbing installed.

Here’s a bit of a peek inside.img_1526 img_1410I’m still organizing and finding the best places for everything, but I’m already so happy to be working in this charming and cozy little storybook cottage, just as I knew I would! A gardener’s dream come true, for certain!

Skunk Harbor

No, I can’t answer why this particularly gorgeous hike to a secluded beach with crystal clear waters is called Skunk Harbor.img_1373All I know is that just two weekends ago, my brothers, my husband, and I hiked this winding trail, located on Highway 28, just two miles north of Highway 50, down to this dazzling, yet serene beach.

Hike about a mile and a half down the trail and you’ll come to a fork in the road. Going left leads you to Prey Meadows and veering right takes you to Skunk Harbor.

Look at these striking views you’ll take in!img_1369img_1368img_1700img_1366img_1392img_1393img_1462Close to the shore we came upon this old stone building built by a wealthy San Francisco family who used it as a secluded picnic pavilion in the roaring twenties! Oh, if these stone walls could speak what stories we might hear!
img_1377img_1382img_1381img_1379Brilliant blues!img_1378Beautiful cove, beach and views!img_1460No skunks!

As I write today I am reminded how quickly the fall season passes. On the recent day of our hike, we enjoyed warm temperatures and didn’t even need the sweatshirts we had packed. Watching the evening news tonight I learned that the high temperature in the Skunk Harbor area today was 38 degrees. It may get a dusting of snow tonight. Back at home it’s pouring rain, and our trees are completely aglow with the costumes of autumn’s finery. Another two weeks and the trees may be bare. I’m making sure to get outside and soak up all of the glory this short season offers. Wishes to you for a lovely autumn season.

Apple Pocket Pies

One of my favorite gems in Autumn’s jewel box is Apple Hill. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump for me to take a meandering drive in the picturesque foothills. Scenic views of rolling hills, apple farms, vineyards and wineries dot the landscape as far as the eye can see.

The apple farms offer a great variety of apples, pumpkins, and produce, but also craft fairs, corn mazes, hay rides, farm animals to pet, and train rides.

I do try to be good, but for those of you with a mad sweet tooth like me, the fritters, apple donuts, cider, pies, and cakes are out of this world! I didn’t indulge (this time) but bought my apples and headed home, eager to try a new recipe.img_1642img_1640img_1657img_1653img_1650img_1646img_1645

Apple Pocket Pies

Ingredients:

Crust

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into half inch dice

6 – 8 Tablespoons ice water

Filling:

1 1/2 lbs. Pink Lady or McIntosh apples, peeled and cored, and cut into half inch dice

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons water

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

pocket pie mold (such as this one)

Directions:

Beat together the flour, salt, and 2 Tablespoons sugar on low speed until combined (about 10 seconds). img_1594Add the butter and beat for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium low and beat until mixture resembles course meal, about one and a half minutes more. Add the 6 Tablespoons ice water, reduce speed to low and beat 20 seconds. Dough should hold together but not be sticky. If crumbly, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, beating for 5 seconds after each addition.img_1595Turn dough out onto a work surface. Divide dough in half. Wrap with plastic wrap and shape each into a disc. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.img_1596In large bowl stir apples, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cornstarch together. img_1604In large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add apple mixture. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender but not mushy, 16 – 18 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and let cool 30 minutes.img_1605Let the dough stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. On a floured surface roll out one dough disc into a round, 3/16 inch thick. Brush off excess flour. Using a pocket pie mold, cut out 8 of each shape. Re-roll if necessary and continue.

Place a solid dough shape into the bottom of the mold cutter and gently place the dough in the mold. Fill the center with 2 T apple filling and brush the edges of the dough with egg wash.img_1606Top with a shape with a decorative cut out. Press the top half of the cutter down to seal and crimp the edges of the pie.img_1608Remove the pie from the mold and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Freeze pies for 30 minutes.img_1610Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush tops of pies with egg wash and sprinkle sugar on tops. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is gently bubbling, 22 – 24 minutes. Transfer pies to a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before serving.
img_1611img_1613For the record, my husband has let me know (more than a few times) how perfect these little hand held pies are. I get the hint; I’m happy to make more!

Hiking Horsetail Falls

As you’re driving on Highway 50 toward South Lake Tahoe, just before you reach Echo Summit, take a look up to your left (way up!) and notice the breath taking sight of Horsetail Falls.

Starting out early in the day with good friends, we arrived when the parking lot was nearly empty, and set out for a day of laughter, adventure, exercise, and enormous doses of the healing only Mother Nature provides.

The hike is a mix of lovely wooded trails and wide open granite rocks, all along refreshing pools, small waterfalls and streams.
img_1240img_1235img_1239img_1246img_1245img_1254Don’t forget to stop every once in awhile just to soak up the stunning views in all directions.
img_1250img_1270img_1268img_1350img_1274img_1276The majority of the hike is not well marked and we found ourselves in search of the trail a number of times. Also, be prepared to do a bit of rock climbing rather than hiking during some parts of the hike.

Ahh, there’s a cairn. We’re on the right path.img_1267Be sure to notice all the love notes from nature along the way!img_1249img_1248Everywhere!
img_1261img_1258Without fail, spending time in nature is consistently the restorative tonic that fills up my soul! Where do you go when you need to refuel?