Cozy Imaginings

I suppose the fact that I have a vivid and active imagination isn’t a big surprise. Most fictions writers do.

One of the ways my imagination works often results in a kind of fun game. It’s something I’ve done since I was a little kid, and I’d have to amuse myself as we drove back and forth from shopping or one of the many activities I or my six sisters participated in.

0_6730f_ddb9f7d9_origIt can be triggered by something as simple as seeing a charming house like this one on the left, with its windows lit warmly from within…

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Or driving by an historic and lovely library…

pg304-6543Hill-304Or spotting a cozy home when I’m driving in the around town or in the country…

Without much effort, I can create an entire story in my mind about the people who live or work there.

Sometimes even a bend in the road makes a scene blossom, shifting my thoughts to a more personal connection. At those times, I often feel a sense of longing or nostalgia and a vision of what my own life might be like in the imagined setting.

Almost like an alternative reality daydream.

This happened to me a couple weeks ago, on my drive to work. I saw a road curving off to the left , the leaves of the trees on either side brilliant and lit with the morning sun, and the farmer’s fields all around warm in the glow.

It’s a road I’ve seen many times before, but the angle when I looked at it, or perhaps the way the sun dappled the leaves, set off the imaginative machine inside me.  I didn’t stop to snap a photo that day, because (as is usual) I had no extra time to spare in getting to work.

imageBut I stopped to take this picture on the left a day later.

The atmosphere had changed…it was misty that morning, and far less golden as the sun slowly rose, but it inspired me nonetheless.

I could suddenly picture a cozy home499b724fb9ca8231ab5f5765ef4366e1 (like this one on the right, perhaps)  just out of sight down the road and imagine living in it – only not the real me, but a fictional me, from the alternate reality, where I live out in the country, like when I was young. In this world, I am a homebody, gardening, baking, and wandering around outdoors, rather than going to work every day and busy with a multitude of tasks, chores, and responsibilities I have to accomplish.

It’s a pleasant fiction, and it makes my heart pang for a second.

Okay…so I’m ready to hear from you – am I odd to have imaginings like this, or can any of you relate (whether or not you’re a writer)? Please let me know in the comments. I promise I can handle it if you think I’m just odd, LOL. 🙂

Happy Friday – and Happy Night Before Halloween!

Red Sky in the Morning, Sailors Take Warning…

imageIt was a gorgeous sky as the sun came up, while I was pulling out of the driveway this morning.

imageAt a stop sign a little farther along the road to work, the sky was still beautiful.

It’s gray and rainy now and is supposed to be so for several days – so it looks like the old adage was true!

Perfect for reading and a nice cup of tea. I can’t indulge now, but hopefully I’ll be able to grab 20 minutes sometime later today.

I hope you, too, have a great day wherever you are and in whatever weather. Happy Wednesday!

Remembering 1970’s Halloween

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A selection of little treat bags, circa 1970s

I’ve been traveling down Memory Lane lately. My Trick-or-Treating heyday was in the 1970’s…from ages four – 11. By the time I got to junior high, it wasn’t cool to trick-or-treat anymore, and we shifted to house Halloween parties or dances.

Not that we didn’t have house parties in those days, too. As I wrote about in a Halloween post last year, my mother made tons of homemade pizza and offered bowls of chips, candy, and cups of soda for some of our famed parties and haunted house in the camp each year.

AlcProfHalloween1Here are a couple recipes posted in an pamphlet, circa 1975. I might have to try making that cake!

brachs_12Candies like these were common, as were unwrapped sorts, like mallow pumpkins and candy corn, tossed in our trick-or-treat plastic pumpkins by the handful.

Ad from 1975I saw ads like this all the time. It’s amazing how prices have changed in just a few decades!

d0b361383f73f911b1b2002699b548b529795b7b54425e850af721b4394892e5cadb4969df31abfdb959395fc54d48c49080e724f2cf044bf66d75d25448221eThere was an abundance of Witch and other Halloween decorations that had a definite 70’s flair, though it was a favorite activity each autumn to pull out the colored construction paper and fashion jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, black cats in front of yellow moons, witches flying, and spooky trees – all of which were hung on the windows or walls in the house…

IMG_2596I had this exact decoration hanging in my home and probably another one just like it hanging in our classroom, on one of the windows.

witchBecause my mother hand-sewed all of our dance costumes, bedspreads, and curtains, as well as some of our clothes (which is a feat in and of itself, considering the time constraints in a household of nine, with three meals a days and loads of laundry that had to be spaced out because of the well water issues), some years we got to select a box-packaged, store-bought costume come Halloween.

830ee5b332a2f04d42b638374b695067On those special occasions, choosing our costumes at the local 5 and Dime was a trip much anticipated!

We’d get to wear our purchase, once for the school party and once for trick-or-treating. Then they were packed carefully away, since often, we’d have to go back to the old costumes and choose from them in future years; as an adult, I know that it must have been because money was especially tight on those Halloweens, but when I was a kid, it was just something that needed to happen periodically. We never complained.

BWx20x7ex202505_3LI had this “gypsy” one, one year.

ae3d182e66ce5a13357e59e893526f34My sister, who was always more “princess-like” than I was – beautiful, fine-boned, and blond – wore one very much like this.

I can still smell the plastic scent of the mask and feel the slight condensation from breathing through the always-too-narrow nose holes as we participated in the classroom party or  ran door to door Trick-or-Treating on a crisp Halloween night.

It was an innocent time, especially in my earlier years. The whole scare about razor blades in apples and medication or drugs tainting candy didn’t get started until nearer to the time I was getting too old to participate in candy-gathering…and of course home-baked goods were still always allowed to be brought into school for classroom parties and treats.

beistle-halloween-decoration-black-cat-moonAs the day approaches this year, I’m hanging some decorations and getting into the spirit, hoping to give some children the same happiness when they trick-or-treat at my door that I felt on those Halloween nights long ago. 🙂

Do you have any treasured Halloween memories to share? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Autumn Sunrise

imageIt was a gorgeous morning coming into work today.

I took a slightly different route than usual, and so I was on a stretch of road that allowed me to see the sun peeping over the edge of the horizon like a panoramic postcard.

imageThe rest of the ride was filled with similarly gorgeous sights, as the golden rays lit up the orange, russet, and yellow leaves of the trees across the field…

imageOr next to the road…

imageI love the dark line, showing that the sun hasn’t quite gotten high enough to clear the edge of the hill and beam its light on the entire vista.

imageAnd then as I pulled into the school’s parking lot, I was greeted with even more beauty. These trees and the playing field are also visible from my classroom windows, up on the third floor of the building.

Today was one of those days reminding me how blessed I am to live where I do.

Have a great Friday, everyone!

Weekend Enjoyments

imageIt was a great weekend, weather-wise, in Upstate New York (at least for me, since I enjoy chilly, sunny weather…add the colors of the foliage, and I’m a happy gal).

Some of the enjoyments included…

imageSpending some outdoor time with our English shepherd, Cassie. Because we live in “city” limits (and there is no dog park), she has to be on a leash, but when I can I try to bring her to places where she can run without it and play with some other dog “friends”.

imageWhen we’re inside, she’s partial to lounging on her dog bed, in a nice, cozy corner of the kitchen. She keeps me company and is often my “shadow” around the house when I’m there.

imageShe’s a loveable girl, five years old, and if there is a stick in the vicinity, she’ll find it and try to run with it (even if it’s larger than she is!) 🙂

imageAnother enjoyment this weekend was the rare opportunity (because of time constraints) to go to our local market co-op for an hour with my younger daughter. It has all sorts of organic goods, fresh produce – even an art gallery and handmade wares. And there is a coffee shop, featuring their own roasted coffee beans, teas, and a selection of baked goods. My daughter got a hot chocolate, but I opted for the house specialty – an “Adirondack” latte, with the shop-roasted coffee and a splash of real maple syrup. It was delicious! Our snacks were a scone and a croissant (which was still warm).

We did some autumn decorating around the house…but I’ll do a separate post about that. ❤

How was your weekend?

Apple Picking at the Homestead

imageI went home to visit my mother at the old Homestead the first weekend in October, picking her up to come to a concert with us near where we live, and then bringing her home two nights later. I bought her some mums on an earlier visit, and this time we added a pumpkin to the old well cover for a little more autumn flair. 🙂image

Before I had to leave to go home myself this time, we decided to pick some apples from the two trees my father and she had planted more than two decades ago. We both love to bake/make pies, and several of my sisters still live in the area and might use some of the apples too.

imageWhen we drove up the driveway, several deer had made their way out of the woods in the back to sample the fruits as well. It was a beautiful sight, watching them. imageAll the wildlife that makes its way through the yard – deer, turkey, rabbits, the crows…even skunks (the babies are adorable) and a few times a fox – is one of the reasons my father loved this home he made for us all.

imageThe tree he planted in the back yard, where the deer were sampling, is a Macintosh , but the one in the front is a mystery. Based on the color, crispness, and flavor of the apples, we’re thinking Cortland or something similar. They’re never sprayed, which is great as far as I’m concerned. I’d rather deal with a few spots than to have pesticides all over the apples.

imageThe trees were loaded with apples this year, so 30 minutes of picking (some with the trusty apple picker on a pole) yielded multiple bags of apples.

It was a beautiful day, crisp and sunny, made all the more wonderful for sharing it with my beloved Ma and having the fun of apple-picking with her too!

imageThe end result was a pan of salted caramel apple bars…and a nice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown-sugar laced apple pie! 🙂

In An Autumn Mood…

imageThis post is a mish-mash of several different images and topics, all related to autumn.

First (and not surprisingly, considering my last two posts, I suppose!) is the food. As the weather cools down a bit, the “hibernating” instinct kicks in, and all ideas for all sorts of hearty foods and meals start to nag at me (in a very pleasant way).

imageHere is last night’s homemade creation: Boneless pork loin chops seasoned with garlic and thyme and smothered in apples and onion, scalloped potatoes (no cheese in mine…I prefer the classic onion, butter, and cream, with plenty of salt and pepper and a little garlic), and sweet peas.

imageDessert was homemade apple pie, from the apples yielded by the two apple trees in my parent’s yard at the old Homestead (another post on that soon).

imageSecond, is the scenery. It’s getting to peak color here in Upstate New York. Every day is a new treat for the senses.

I love driving to and from work, because it’s the equivalent of taking a “country drive” every day!

imageEven on cloudy days, the gray sky  highlights the brilliant leaves, making them almost glow.

imageAs we creep ever closer to Halloween, certain images lend a pensive or even spooky tone to the vistas. While I always love crows, since I associate my father with them, I also think that their appearance in October is perfect for this season in particular. These two handsome fellows were just hanging out in the upper branches when I pulled over on my way to work to take their picture. 🙂

Is it autumn where you live, or another season altogether (like in Australia)? Regardless of where you are, what does it look like around you? Please share in the comments!

Spaghetti Squash Made Easy

So, this is my second recipe post in a row, I know. What can I say? I like to cook, and the cooler autumn months make that even more enticing.

You don’t have to like squash to like spaghetti squash. It has a very, very mild flavor, and is a great way to sneak in more vegetables and avoid some of the simple carbs that can make you feel logey (rhymes with hoagie for those unfamiliar with the word. Logey = sluggish, and is a word derived from Dutch, used in the Northeastern part of the US, particularly in NY and MA! 🙂 )

I made some this weekend. It takes a bit of time (1.5 hours), but it’s well worth it.

imageStart by preheating the oven to 365-370 degrees F (depending on how “hot” your oven is), and washing a large, smooth spaghetti squash. Slice it vertically.image

Scoop out the “guts” (very much like removing seeds and fibers from a pumpkin when Halloween carving time comes along) and discard them. Now it’s ready to season.

imageEither slice up some garlic (I like a lot) or buy it pre-chopped from the store, which is what I did, because I didn’t have other garlic handy.

imageNote: if you use pre-chopped garlic, you may have to dry it a bit if you want it to “roast” and turn into those brown bits that taste so good.

Place the garlic in the cavities of the squash and then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Add a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil (half and half) to the cavity and smear all over the visible parts of the cut squash.

imageRoast in the oven for about an hour. Mine took a little longer. You’ll know it’s done when the flesh pulls back from the skin without too much resistance and begins to “thread” like spaghetti. Use two forks to scrape all the squash from the inside of each half.

imageIt’s ready to serve! Put into a bowl and season with a little more oil, or some butter, and test for whether more salt and pepper is needed.

imageIt’s great as is, but it’s also delicious with your favorite pasta sauce (with or without meat or a sprinkle of parmesan cheese – use the squash just like pasta). If you use a tomato-based sauce, though, let the squash sit for a few minutes first; otherwise, it picks up the liquid from the tomatoes and gets a little watery.

That’s it! Delicious and nutritious.

Has anyone here tried this squash before? Any fans of it with other recipes for using it that you love? Please share in the comments. 🙂

Quick and Easy Meatloaf (like Ma Used to Make)

I have two daughters. One loves meatloaf and the other hates it. So on  nights when the meatloaf-lover is home for supper and her sister isn’t, I like to whip it up for her, which on a work night takes a little planning ahead, since the most difficult part of this recipe is the 45 minutes – an hour it takes to bake.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together:

1 – 2 lbs of ground beef or turkey (or a combination thereof) I tend to use grass-fed beef if I go that route, for less fat and better nutrition.

1 – 2 whole eggs

1 TBSP each of garlic powder and onion powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 – 3/4 cup bread crumbs (I use panko seasoned crumbs)

1/2 cup tomato sauce (I usually open a 15 oz can, seasoned or plain, your choice). Reserve another cup of the sauce for the top of the loaf.

Optional: 2 TBSP of Worcestershire sauce

imageAfter mixing, form into an oblong loaf (sort of an exaggerated egg shape…longer and flatter is best for even cooking) and place into a bread pan, or a meatloaf pan, like the one I have here, with a little “rack” that lifts the finished loaf out when done.

imageMy mother always used green pepper slices for garnish along the top, so that’s what I like to do too. Pour the reserved tomato sauce over the top. This keeps the loaf nice and moist as it’s baking.

Put it in the oven, and in about an hour, you have your main course! I often use that time to make the side dishes – usually peeling and boiling potatoes for mashed potatoes, and some fresh green beans or peas.

imageIt’s a great autumn or winter meal!

Do you have some favorite additions to meatloaf YOU make? I’m always looking for new tastes to try, so please share in the comments! 🙂

Hello October!

It was a pretty ride into school, on this first day of October.

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Signs of the season are all around…like this wild apple tree, loaded with fruit, that I spotted alongside the road I drive to work.

imageSomething must have been going on in the Amish community near my school, because this buggy was one of four I saw in the span of less than 10 minutes this morning.

The sun didn’t stay for long, but I’m looking forward to the cooler days and nights, perfect for tea, the pumpkins and mums on the porch, and the golden and red-burnished leaves of the maples and oaks all around.

How about you – what do you love about October? 🙂

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