Happy Birthday Skooch!

Our puppy Ella turned one today! She celebrated by chewing on the rug in our bedroom, and getting some special birthday applesauce (this dog LOVES her fruits and veggies!)

To see how far we’ve come with the Puppy of a Thousand Nicknames (Ella-Bella, Skooch, crackpuppy…), here’s a pic taken right after we got her:

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Nom nom nom

And a couple weeks later:

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Oh hai. I haz a stik.

On her first playdate, with a fellow doxie named Rascal:

 

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Whee!

 

 

Hanging on the back porch:

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Luvs the sunshines.

No comment:

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Definitely. Not. Spoiled.

And really, I’m cutting this short, I promise. One last one, from our beach trip in October:

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Happy puppy

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With no particular place to go

On the 24th, Phil and I participated in a Pumpkin Run Road Rally, which is basically an excuse to drive with a bunch of friends and look at the leaves. The organizer also takes donations for Toys for Tots, so if you think about it, this is really our kick-off to the holiday season. This year’s route took us out Route 60, up 151, over the mountain on the VERY curvy 56 (where Ella got queazy, poor thing!), over to 81 to 64, jumped off onto 250 to route 6, and then back up 29 to return to 64. We were gone for about 6 hours, all-told. When we left Richmond, it was overcast and we hit patches of rain. By the time we made it to the mountains, the clouds had broken up, a beautiful blue sky revealed itself, and the leaves shown in all their autumnal glory. (That’s right, I said “autumnal.” It’s my second favorite seasonal/meteorological term, after “tornadic”. So there.)

Along the ride, to keep it interesting, we had to fill out trivia questions (the post number of the VFW hall we passed, ┬áthe name of a particular intersection, etc…) Correct answers were worth 10 points, with one point deducted for each mile we were over/under the official mileage tally. We came in second, which was slightly disappointing since we had wanted to keep up our previous streak: we took last year off to attend a friend’s wedding, but had taken first place the three previous years. Oh well, we only lost by a point, and we’ll kill ’em next year. Here are some of my fave photos of the drive:

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Punkins!

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Blue skies!

Road!

Road!

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Colors!

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Mountains!

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Ella tries to make a new best friend

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We're not so different, you and I

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Storybook view of the valley

Punkin

I made punkin’ bread from a real-live pumpkin! Because he is a God in our kitchen, I went with the Alton Brown recipe on the Food Network’s website, with a couple of modifications.

The finished product:

 

The finished product

Homemade luscious pumpkin bread

I’d never used a pumpkin without roasting it first and making my own puree similar to Ye Olde Canned Variety. Alton’s recipe calls for raw pumpkin, grated. If you have a food processor, I would HIGHLY recommend that you use that to grate your pumpkin, unfortunately, we’re missing a critical piece necessary to use the grate blade. Bummer.

We DO have a mandolin slicer though, with a julienne blade. So first I peeled the pumpkin, using a standard ol’ veggie peeler. (Another first!) Then I quartered the pumpkin, and ran it across the mandolin. Amazingly, I still have all of my digits attached, even though pumpkins are pretty darn firm, and that finger protector thing isn’t very effective. It’s SOO much easier to just grip the pumpkin with your hands and push it across the slicer, but then, it’s also SOO much easier to julienne your hand (and I’ve been there, done that, thankyouverymuch.) I was a little worried that julienning the pumpkin into long strips would cause problems with the cooking, but it was fine.

I peeled a small sugar pumpkin, and ended up with enough grated material for 2 loaves of AB’s bread. (The second of which I’ll be making tonight! Yum!) The only other change that I made was to switch out the toasted pumpkin seeds in his recipe for chopped walnuts and pecans, based on some of the comments I’d read to the original recipe, which claimed the seeds became a gummy inedible mass in the bread. I already had nuts on hand (for making emergency batches of AB’s granola, as luck would have it) so it was an easy-peezy switch.

The key to making the bread is to FOLD the ingredients together, and to use as few strokes to mix everything together as possible. Once the flour pockets are all gone, and the whole bowl is one consistent mess, you’re done. Put the spatula down. Do not use a mixer for this recipe – you’ll end up with a gluteny, gluey mess. When it’s done, it’s best warm, and if you have a spare scoop of vanilla ice cream looking for a place to call home, it’ll be very cozy on top of your punkin bread.

And to save you from scrolling ALL the way back up to the top of the post, here’s the link again for AB’s punkin bread.