Photo A Day – September Challenge

Come for the challenge…stay for the blog

Wow!  It’s already September.  The kids are back in school, the weather is starting change and the stores are getting ready pull the Christmas decorations out.

It also means it’s time for you to find your September Photo A Day Challenge.  I hope that you enjoy this version brought to you by Between the Shutters.  I decided a weekly theme might be a fun change.

September

Day 1: Your Tree – This is the only one you need to keep pretty basic since we’re going to be watching the leaves change from summer into fall.

Day 2: Close up – Pick an object, a facial feature, a fabric and get up close and personal with it.

Day 3: Far away – Zoom out from you Day 2 photo, take a long distance shot from your window or a place you wish you were.

Day 4: Black – I’m thinking the color, but do with this what you wish.

Day 5: White – Again, I’m thinking color, but it should be the opposite of Day 4

Day 6: Morning – Your morning ritual, your coffee cup, the sunrise

Day 7: Night – your evening night cap, your dinner, the sunset

Day 8: Your Tree – back to the same tree and the same spot

Day 9: Your Favorite Spot – the place you would hang out all the time if life wasn’t so rude and made you do something else

Day 10: Table – the kitchen table, a side table, the milk box used as a table

Day 11: Door Knob – from the front door, from the back door, from the bedroom

Day 12: Pillow – from your bed, from your couch, the dog’s pillow

Day 13: Shelf – inside the kitchen cabinet, on the wall holding something

Day 14: Entry Way – what people see when they come in to your house

Day 15: Your Tree – back to the same tree and the same spot

Day 16: Pretty – something you find beautiful

Day 17: Unusual – something you find funky

Day 18: Organized – something you organized, an organized store shelf, a book on organizing

Day 19: Happy – a happy person, something that made you happy, Happy the dwarf

Day 20: Symmetrical – something symmetrical

Day 21: Lucky – your lucky penny, your dog Lucky, something your lucky to have

Day 22: Your Tree – back to the same tree and the same spot

Day 23: Something Orange – fall colors are all around us, pick one

Day 24: Apples/Pumpkins – pick the fruit or pick the vegetable

Day 25: Sweet Treat – what’s your favorite fall sweet treat?

Day 26: Something Brown – fall colors are all around us, pick one

Day 27: Fall Foliage – go outside and take another tree picture, take a picture of your fall decorations

Day 28: A Warm Drink – hot toddy anyone?

Day 29: Your Tree – back to the same tree and the same spot

Day 30: Something Red – fall colors are all around us, pick one

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Eleven Winery

Here in the Rocky Mountain region, we are all a buzz with the USA Pro Challenge.  We were thrilled to host for the event for the second year in a row and welcomed over 100 cyclists to climb 683 grueling miles and visit 12 of some of our most beautiful Colorado cities and towns. Of course, I use “we” loosely as I honestly don’t follow the sport myself.  But I have made it a habit to watch the five minute special on the days events following the ten o’clock news.  Does that count for anything?  And congratulations to Christian Vande Velde for being the overall winner!  USA…USA…USA!!!

To pay a little tribute, I thought now was as a good as time as any to share with you our experience with Eleven Winery.

Why you ask?  Eleven Winery was started by Matt Albee, a former cyclist himself, and his wife Sarah.  Named after a bicycle racing term, The Eleven, Matt was determined to give it his all and use all eleven teeth of his smallest cog as he switched gears from cycling to wine-making.

Now while cycling isn’t my sport of choice, wine is my drink of choice. Preferably a nice blended white wine, Conundrum and Evolution being some favorites, or a Pinot Grigio.

Washington State is becoming increasingly known for its excellent wineries and their produced wines.  In fact, the small community of Bainbridge Island has eight local wineries alone.  Unfortunately, there are only select weekends that visitors are welcomed to tour the wineries themselves, but they do have tasting rooms that offer samples to passerbys.

We found ourselves in front of the Eleven Winery while walking through Poulsbo.  I particularly enjoyed the modified sign of Kids Welcome “with parents“.  [Apparently some of the local teenagers thought this was an invitation for free booze.  Sorry kids.  Go drink your parents liquor like the rest of us did.]  If this isn’t enough of a welcome for free wine,  I don’t know what is.  

Turns out, kids really are welcome.  There is a whole corner devoted to the young’ins with train tracks and other toys.  This buys parents at least a few minutes to learn about the wines and take a few sips before the kids realize there is other merchandize in the store that is more interesting that Thomas the Tank Engine.

Their white wine selections including everything from the Dolce Grigio, the sweet dessert port, to a roussanne for those who prefer a full body flavor.  Although I did sample their Pinot Grigio and enjoyed it, I fell in love with the La Donella.  This is their current blended vintage, which changes every year to select only the best of the best of grapes.  Three bottles were shipped to my house that day.  I won’t tell you how many are left…

The Banker prefers a red wine and generally sticks with a Shiraz when ordering at a restaurant.  This makes sharing a bottle of wine over dinner impossible.    You see, my palate cannot stand the dry, bitterness of red.  And yes, I have tried many to confirm this.  He too opted for the blend.  And as we presented this to my father as his birthday gift, I realized that Balance is an Oregon wine rather than a Washington wine.  Ooops.  Oh well, I’m told it’s delicious.

It is such a treat to step out of your tasting comfort zone and try something different.  Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a whole new love of your life.  In wines of course.  I don’t recommend turning to wine for love or friendship.

Thank you Eleven Winery for a nice visit.

sam

Ko Olina Surf

Ko Olina, Honolulu, Hawaii

Naughty Bars

Back in June, I spent a nice weekend with my Great Aunt in Minneapolis and came across her Penzeys Spice magazine and catalog.  There I was, mindlessly flipping through the pages when…BAMNaughty Bars appear on the page.  In between pages of spices are cute little stories from their readers and a recipe they like to make.  Well, Monica likes it naughty.

So what do you do when you come across a Midwestern gem like this?  You snap a picture of the recipe with your phone.

Yes, I’m the freak who takes a picture of just about everything.  Pictures aren’t just for cute kids any more.  I take photos of items and price tags at stores.  I capture the plate of food before I eat it.  I send snapshots of a potential outfit to my best friend for approval.  And anything else I need to remember, but know I will forget without photographic evidence.  Which is increasing in frequency.

My mom says one of the joys of getting old is having the benefit of learning something twice.  Skimming my pictures last week, I came across this recipe and got excited all over again.  But this time…I was at home and was able to do something about it.

The great thing about these Naughty Bars (or brown sugar bars as my mom remembers them), is the simple ingredient list.  No running to the store for some obscure ingredient that none of the sales clerks no what isle it might be in.  Just your basics:  butter, eggs, flour and brown sugar.

Also, it takes just a few minutes to pull all the ingredients out, mix them together an get them in the oven.

Morale of this story:  make some Naughty Bars to have a quick, simple, and comforting dessert.

Eat.  And enjoy every bite.

sam

Naughty Bars

Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 15

Recipe from Penzeys 

2 sticks butter (1 cup)
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tps vanilla
2 cups flour
2 large eggs

  • Preheat over to 350° F
  • Grease a 9×13 pan with butter
  • In glass bowl, melt butter on high for 30 seconds or until almost completely melted
  • Using a wooden spoon, mix in brown sugar until completed mixed
  • Add baking powder, salt and vanilla and mix well
  • Gradually add the flour and mix well – the batter will be stiff
  • Whisk the eggs well in a small bowl and add them to the batter, mixing well one last time
  • Spread the batter into prepared pan and bake until golden around the edges and the center is still soft, about 30 minutes
  • DO NOT OVER BAKE!
  • Let cool completely before cutting into small squares.

They go together quickly and there are NEVER any left over!

BTS Tip:

Serve a la mode.  Because everything is better with ice cream.

Cell Phone Pic

Summer Sunset

Photo A Day – August 10th through August 19th

August 10th: Drink

A perfect drink day or night…and BONUS…treat receipt!

August 11th: Love

BabyFace loves cool cars…and this race car was definitely cool!

August 12th: Bag

Perhaps one of my favorite bags of all times…

August 13th: Mail

Monday mail at the office…the slow day.

August 14th: Dark

My favorite kind of dark…dark chocolate.

August 15th: Sky

An evening sky…the sun trying to push through the clouds.

August 16th: Breakfast

I know, I know…breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Well, this day, all I had was coffee.

August 17th: Water

The water feature at the spa…great way to get me in the mood for my massage.

August 18th: Sweet

Sweet…free hot dog topped with SaSo.  The best damn hot sauce around!

August 19th: Radio

Sorry…I lacked creativity today.  The radio button in the car.  Out of focus at that.

Honey Apple Brie Bites

There are occasions where little smokies and beer cheese dips are the perfect pairing. Like a football party. [Have you looked at the calendar lately?  Football season is upon us.  Keep those recipes on the top of the pile.]

But a bridal shower deserves an appetizer with more class.  More sophistication.  More elegance.  And there enters my Easy and Impressive Appetizers cookbook recently purchased from Pampered Chef.

Want to make your guests think you’re a genius in the kitchen?  Pick up this book, open to any page and make it.

I opted for the Honey Apple Brie Bites. There’s something about brie that makes me think high class.

The official recipe lists two steps.  But that’s assuming you’ve zested your lemon, toasted your walnuts, diced your apples and cubed your cheese.  But even with adding those steps in, it’s a pretty simple thing to throw together.

In my crazed party mode, I completely forgot about the walnuts.  But it turns out phyllo shells are really, really small.  So small, that I had to go back and cut my brie cubes in halves and quarters just to fit.

Now I’ll admit, I’m not one who likes nuts in my baked goods. I find that walnuts seem to take over in a perfectly fine brownie or in moist banana bread.  So perhaps it was my subconscious overlooking this particular ingredient.  But I honestly don’t think this recipe needed anything more than the brie and apples.  Did I mention how small those shells are?  Nuts would have just taken up space better used on apples.

Eat.  And enjoy every bite.

sam

Honey-Apple Brie Bites

1 tsp lemon zest
1 cup toasted walnuts (optional)
2 medium red apples, finely diced
1/4 cup honey
1 4-inch Brie cheese, cut into small cubes

  • Preheat over to 400°F
  • Combine lemon zest, walnuts (if using), diced apples and honey in a bowl and gently mix.
  • Arrange phyllo cups on a large cookie sheet and place one Brie cube into each cup.  Top with a scoop of apple mixture.
  • Bake 6-8 minutes or until cheese is melted.

BTS Tips:

  • Phyllo shells don’t give you much room.  Dice those apples into very fine pieces.   Same goes for the Brie.
  • I had a hard time getting much apple chutney on top of the brie cube, so I filled the cup with the apple mixture first and then placed the cheese on top.  This helped with monitoring the cheese melting as well.
  • These little suckers were gobbled up by the ladies.  I would recommend getting 3 packages of phyllo shells.  There should still be plenty of Brie and apple mixture to use as filling.

Makes 30 cups

Recipe from Pampered Chef

Photo A Day – August 1st through August 9th

August 1st: Street

A cheery street to welcome me to the gym.  Some days I need that encouragement!

August 2nd: Book

Not to get all Chick-Fil-A on you, but I could resit.  The Book was literally on display when I arrived home.

August 3rd: Phone

The phone that sits on my desk.  I was tempted to leave it off the hook.  I resisted.

August 4th: Tree

The perfect sun spotlight on a beautiful tree.

August 5th: Left

Ah, the left overs of a wonderful bridal shower.

August 6th: Light

The newest light added to our house.

August 7th: Line

20120807-165224.jpg

A perfect line down my Dove Dark Chocolate bar.

August 8th: Change

I honestly had change in my pocket at the end of the day…shocking since I hardly pay with cash.  I’m more of a plastic girl myself.

August 9th: Fence

Decorative white picket fence.

Midnight

Photo Credit: The Banker

Grand Central Station, New York City

Lavender Shortbread

I was treated to not one, but two different lavender desserts while in the lush state of Washington.  The first was a devine lavender cookie from Blackbird Bakery located on Winslow Way of Bainbridge Island.  It was enjoyed outside sitting at an old fashioned concrete chess table under a shade tree.  The second was from Three Girls Bakery in the Post Aly of Pikes Place Market while watching the world walk by. 

Knowing I was making lavender lemonaide for an upcoming bridal shower, I immediately decided another layer was going toadded to the menu.  After all, I already had lavender flowers in the house.  A few internet searches later, I found the one I was ready to try.

Look a the beauty of the lavender flowers with the bright yellow lemon zest.  Love.

This was my first attempt in shortbread.  I was suprised at the lack of ingredients and the look of simplicity reading the instrustions.  Then I was taken by surprise by how few cookies it made and quickly decided that another double batch was in oder. 

They were so yummy, I decided that they were going to be part of my take-home treats for our guests.

Thank God for good neighbors…I was two eggs short for the last batch.  To reward her for  her generosity, she was presented with the final product.  She came back to thank me!Let me tell you why you need to make these for your next party: Rolling out the dough to make the cut outs is like playing with stress releiving playdough.  No joke.  In the midst of party planning, food prep and house cleaning, the scent of lavender and the slow, intentional motions forming perfect hearts and flowers was so calming.  And if it can calm my craziness, just imagine what it can do for you.

Eat.  And enjoy every bite.

sam

Lavender Shortbread

¾ cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp dried lavender
10 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 tsp lemon zest
1¾ cup  flour
3 large egg yolks
1 cup  sugar, for coating

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Gently mix the powdered sugar and lavender together in a bowl
  • In a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, lemon zest and lavender/sugar until smooth
  • Add the flour and mix until well combined
  • Add the egg yolks and mix just until the eggs are fully incorporated
  • Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, not letting the dough get too firm
  • Roll the dough out to 1.5cm thickness
  • Pick your favorite cookie cutter and go to town
  • Dip each cut out into the granulated sugar, coating all sides
  • Bake on the parchment lined pan for 15-20 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges

Makes about 12-15  small cookies.

Recipe adapted from this blog post from Milk and Cookies.