Saturday, November 28, 2015

Styling The Seasons - November

hydrangea wreath, hydrangea flowers, dried hydrangea flowers, dried hydrangea flower wreath
With November nearly gone, it's time to reflect on some of the recent events that have had the most significance for me. As a memory keeper, it makes me happy to be able to slow down and share some of these cherished 'kitchen table' moments with you.       

On Thanksgiving morning, I made the hydrangea wreath shown in the above photo for my mom who lives in a nursing home nearby. My daughter Audrey and I brought it to her that same day, along with a small colorful autumn-themed oil painting (shown above, already gift wrapped), and a Thanksgiving greeting card. Mom loves greeting cards, and our visit and the gifts mean a great deal to her.
roast turkey, cranberry relish, Autumn Mini Pumpkin Table Centerpiece

Thanksgiving dinner with my family: this year, we had the traditional roast turkey 'with all the trimmings', as the saying goes. True comfort food! Also shown is my favorite holiday relish, a Martha Stewart recipe that is made with fresh cranberries, apple, orange, and walnuts. I also made the festive seasonal table decoration sitting to the right of the turkey. This year was the first time I've ever purchased the cute mini pumpkins, and I've thoroughly enjoyed playing with them, both as a decoration, and as photo props on Instagram.
A Beautiful Mess, Happy Handmade Home, Elsie Larson, Emma Chapman, black coffee, pumpkin pie, hydrangea petals

In the early morning on the day after Thanksgiving, I spent over an hour photographing mother nature's handy work in my garden - soon to become another blogpost featuring my garden in various seasons. Although it was incredibly cold, I very much enjoyed walking around with my camera looking for interesting compositions. Afterward, I gave myself some time to rest, reflect, and enjoy a warming cup of coffee and a slice of homemade pumpkin pie. Currently, I've been reading Happy Handmade Home by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman, as well as some other interesting books found at the local library. The remainder of my holiday time will be spent doing chores like raking leaves, organizing my work space, and cleaning up after the holiday. So, all the more reason to enjoy the now...

Styling The Seasons is a monthly photography challenge hosted by Katy of Apartment Apothecary and Charlotte of Lotts & lots. To participate, just style any surface in your home and share it on your blog and/or on Instagram using the hashtag #stylingtheseasons.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

DIY: Autumn Mini Pumpkin Table Centerpiece

mini pumpkins, moss, leaves, seeds, berries
Ornamental pumpkins are a new favorite decorative element of mine. I discovered that their segmented circular shapes and attractive bright colors are the perfect complement to the natural decorative materials I like to gather, and serve as an interesting main attraction in an easy to make festive display. And, well - they are just so darn cute!

To make this table centerpiece you'll need the following:

• 5 mini pumpkins (found at many grocery stores during autumn)
• a variety of leaves, moss, seeds, berries - whatever you can find
• one paper doily
• a gold charger plate (I found mine at a local thrift shop)

I really enjoyed getting outside and gathering up the bits of nature that were later used to fill in the gaps in and around the pumpkins. It's fortunate having an abundance of natural choices right here in my own yard, and it didn't take long to collect several handfuls of interesting materials:
gatherings, moss, seeds, berries,arborvitae

After coming back indoors, it was fun just laying everything out and looking over this wonderful variety of mosses, lichens, berries, seed pods and arborvitae sprigs:
mini pumpkins, gold charge, doily, moss, seeds, berries, Japanese maple leaves, blueberry bush leaves, arborvitae springs

I had saved a few autumn colored leaves from a Japanese maple and my blueberry bushes, and added those to the mix as well.  

The first step is to arrange the mini pumpkins on your platter. This is where you want to pay attention to color, size and shape, as these elements determine the dynamics of the arrangement:
mini pumpkins, gold charge plate, doily, moss, Japanese maple leaves, arborvitae sprigs

Make sure to leave space around some of the pumpkins; this will be where you will want to fill in those gaps with some of your gathered materials. I started with the arborvitae sprigs, adding in just a few around the perimeter of the charger plate:
mini pumpkins, gold charger plate, doily, moss, Japanese maple leaves, sweet gum seed pods, holly berries

Next, I added three sweet gum seed pods:
mini pumpkins, gold charge plate, doily, arborvitae springs, moss, Japanese maple leaves, holly berries

Then, I filled in the gaps between the pumpkins with moss, as well as adding some around the outsides:
mini pumpkins, gold charger plate, doily, arborvitae springs, sweet gum seed pods, moss, Japanese maple leaves, holly berries

A few leaves:
mini pumpkins, gold charger plate, doily, arborvitae springs, blueberry leaves, Japanese maple leaves, moss

Some alder seed cones:
mini pumpkins, gold charger plate, doily, arborvitae sprigs, sweet gum seed pods, blueberry leaves, Japanese maple leaves, moss, alder seed cones

And lastly, some holly berries:
mini pumpkins, gold charge plate, doily, arborvitae sprigs, moss, sweet gum seed pods, alder seed cones, holly berries

And that's it! I plan on using my new centerpiece as part of the table decor for our Thanksgiving Day celebration on Thursday, but of course this display is a great centerpiece for an autumn Sunday dinner, too. 

Thanks for reading, and I hope you will consider creating an Autumn Mini Pumpkin Table Centerpiece of your very own.  

See you next time!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

pumpkin soup, roasted pumpkin soup, soup, autumn soup, pumpkin pie spice, Fiestaware, Fiestaware peacock, Fiestaware shamrock, vintage bowl

Hi friends! Is it getting chilly in your part of the world? The cold weather is beginning to sink in here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. I shouldn't complain, though - up until now the days have been sunny and pleasant.

But now that the rain is back and the temperatures are no longer mild, it's time to get out the soup pot and make some homemade soup.  I enjoy sitting at the kitchen table, watching the birds flit in and out of my garden while I linger over a hot bowl of soup. There are sparrows, wrens, towhees, blue jays, finches, bushtits, flickers, downy woodpeckers, and starlings. But that is a story for another day. Soup is on the menu today.

And the taste of pumpkin soup, in my mind, must include pumpkin pie spice. As everyone knows, pumpkins and spice go together. Traditional pumpkin pie spice mixture is a blend of powdered cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. Considered a warming spice, pumpkin pie spice is often found not only in pumpkin pie, but also soups, stews, curries, vegetable dishes, breads, and even ice cream! 'Pumpkin everything', as the saying goes!

I pondered over several recipes both in my collection of cookbooks and on the internet, and found that I prefer a savory, rather than a sweet pumpkin soup, so there is no sugar in this recipe. I think that onions, and a pumpkin that I roasted myself, also contribute to that savory flavor I was looking for. Here is my version of this classic soup:

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

1/2 of a medium onion, diced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds roasted pumpkin, mashed
4 cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
salt and pepper to taste
2-4 cups water

In a soup pot, heat olive oil and sauté the diced onions until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted pumpkin and the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Combine the butter and flour, and stir it into the boiling soup. Add salt, pepper, and the pumpkin pie spice. Turn the heat down and simmer the soup for 30 minutes with a lid on half way to retain liquid, and add water as necessary, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings to your preference. Once your soup has your desired taste and consistency, remove from the heat and take off the lid. Let cool for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to release the steam. When cool, pureé in a blender or food processor, and return to the soup pot. Reheat the soup, and serve garnished with a pinch of pumpkin pie spice. Enjoy!

Yield: about 8-10 cups
Cooking time: about 2 hours


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Ode To A Summer Garden, Through The Lens

The summer garden brings so much joy; it's hard to let go...
Echinacea, I will miss your sturdy colorful petals bobbing in the warm gentle breeze...

And blueberry, I am already anticipating next summer when I can taste your sweetness in my cereal again...

And hosta, your broad, ribbed leaves and delicate purple flowers are a sight to behold. See you next year, my friend...

Maple - you are the brightest star in my garden galaxy! With each passing day, your long branches are becoming more visible, reminding me that this past summer is now just a memory...

I will never forget you, dear lily. Your sweet scent on a warm summer night is wrapped up in my mind's eye, and shall live there forever...

All photos taken with my iPhone.

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