I’d Rather Be Here

I'll be here.. in my dreams

I’ll be here.. in my dreams

Seattle doesn’t transition well.

When that sports-ball team won the Superbowl, there was celebratory chaos! Roads were shut down and I stayed-home like the chicken little I am. One drop of rain and people divide into two driver categories: Miss Daisy or Bat out of Hell. It is hilarious. Not. Sunshine? Oh, Lord – where did I put those sunglasses from the time it was sunny three weeks ago? Guess I’ll just squint and drive erratically.

Weather-wise, however, Seattle and the greater Pacific Northwest is beginning it’s awkward transition to fall. Schools are opening their doors and stretching the halls to welcome the masses of young and old learners alike. Trees are debating if they want to change colors or just ditch those pesky leaves without much fuss. And the clouds cannot make up their minds: do we stay or do we go.

The weather’s transition to fall in Seattle is like a teenage girl trying on an outfit in the morning. It starts out with one idea… holds for a few moments and then pulls a complete 180 and tries something entirely different. It’s why we are the Masters of Layering. Not because we are cool, but because we are smart. No one wants to be that idiot still in a hoodie and jeans when it suddenly is 75 at 3pm. No, sir.

I would love to live in a place someday where Fall just happens. Not this month-long saga of will it/won’t it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still loving the final harvest in my garden and sunny evenings with Ellie in the backyard. But… the colors boasted by other regions just seem magical! To wake up one day and go “woah! when did that happen!?”.

My only consolation to this finicky weather pattern, the clothes.

I am a sucker for a scarf paired with a comfy sweater and boots. Pinterest doesn’t disappoint in fueling this love of mine and I swear my board is full of that combination in every color and season possible. I am on the hunt for a few good Seattle-worthy sweaters and a few more scarves. But first, I think I will day-dream a bit more of a perfect Fall day.

I also love any excuse for anything apple cider (adult or otherwise) and the smell of stews and bread coming from the kitchen. Thankfully, Mr. Plaid is the chef he is and can whip up an amazing stew and fresh bread to rival a restaurant.

What is your favorite part of the transition to Fall? The colors? The foods? The excuse to wear chunky clothes and cover up those extra cookies?? I’d love to know!

-Jenn

 

(photo credit to Scenes of Vermont)

Cottage. Pie. Cottage pie.

Apparently all my tomatoes were waiting for was a little public shaming:

matoes

YEAH! So naturally, now that I’ve got the tomatoes I’ve been waiting for, and what with the days hot and sunny and the nights warm and balmy, dinner around these parts this week has been slow-cooked, piping-hot tomato-devoid cottage pie.

What? It TOTALLLY makes sense.

Cottage pie, for the uninitiated, is shepherds pie made with not-lamb. Shepherds pie, if you’ve lived under the saddest culinary rock in the quarry, is basically lamb-based meat pie filling poured sans-crust into a pan, and then topped with mashed potatoes before baking. It’s warm, comforting, cozy goodness, and, admittedly, probably much more appropriate to nippy early spring weather or the first brisk days of fall.

Except, every summer, I get dragged to local Highland games with my mom. This is a decades-long tradition, something we’ve been doing since the distant dark ages when she danced competitively at these events. Now, we mostly go out of habit and nostalgia, and to have one guaranteed day out of the year where I am not the pastiest person in the room.

Oh, and for the food. And the beer. And ALL the food. It’s the perfect meeting place of fair foods and UK staples, including heavenly meat pies that we sometimes buy an extra case of, frozen, before we leave, and have for dinners the rest of the week.

Net result, cottage pies are a summer staple for me, common sense and contrary weather be damned. And really, when one batch makes 6 hearty servings, a little slaving over the stove goes a long way. What’s one night’s cooking for three night’s dinners, right? Assuming, that is, you don’t have little fridge elves that eat pie for breakfast and lunch while your back is turned:

just one day later!

just one day later!

The recipe here is my own, and because it’s made to suit my preferences, heavy on the vegetable and light on the meat. If you want a denser, meatier pie, definitely use more meat – all the rest of the quantities can stay about the same.

Start with:

4 ribs of celery, chopped
1/2 lb pearl onions
1/2 lb carrots – Parisian globes if you can find them (Trader Joe’s obligingly has them in the freezer section!)

Sautee vegetables in a large pan in 2 T butter, ghee, or olive oil, cooking until everything is just starting to get tender.

aromatic

Add:

1.5 lbs ground turkey
2 t Penzey’s Lamb seasoning (you can sub in an equivalent amount of a combo of parsley, thyme, marjoram, and savory, but if you have access to Penzey’s, just get the blend. It’s got a little kick of spearmint that makes it magical)
1/2 t garlic powder

Stir together with the vegetables, and keep it moving occasionally until the meat is thoroughly browned and things are starting to want to stick to your pan. Pour in:

1 12oz can beef or chicken broth

Simmer about 30 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced about 50%. Stir in:

1 6oz can tomato paste

Transfer the whole mess to a 4 quart baking dish with high sides if you have one, or a 9×13″ baking dish if not. Top generously with mashed potatoes. Like really generously. Like two or three inches deep, if you have the space.

fluff

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden and little bits of filling start to bubble up at the edges.

With regards to potatoes: at the moment, my favorite mash starts with a 3lb bag of Yukon Golds. I peel half of them and let the other half donate their peels in the name of rustic goodness. Quarter the potatoes, boil til fork tender (about 25 minutes) in salted water, drain, and then mash together with one 14oz can of full-fat coconut milk. Add salt and white pepper to taste, and revel in the fact that you’ve now made twice the potato you actually need for this recipe, and are now blessed with a bounty of mashed happiness you can shovel right into your face. And yes, I understand coconut milk sounds odd, but it brings all the buttery goodness of butter, and doesn’t loose its texture or taste with subsequent reheating.

House Broken

My fondness for the four-legged creatures in my home has been severely tested the last few weeks. The short of it is, I started a crazy hobby…. gardening. Yup, I built boxes with my birthday drill, added dirt and seeds and just let nature do its thing. What I didn’t count on? Gunnar thinking he’s a rabbit and Ellie… well, I should have seen that coming to be honest.

Catching some sun... in the dirt

Catching some sun… in the dirt

Gunnar is not a destructive dog by nature. He’s more of a lazy, ambling type of guy. Unless you mention the P-A-R-K, in which case he tilts his head, perks up his ears and looks at you like “is this a trick? Did you say PARK!?”. It’s really cute. He learned that water is fun at the park, and the Mister even had to wade out and force Gunnar back to shore he was having so much fun.

Ready to go back in!!!

Ready to go back in!!!

Gunnar has been Mr. Plaid’s since he was 10 months old and I came into his world in the last few years. Now at seven, Gunnar is slowing down a bit. He used to run for miles with us, but we don’t take him more than a couple of miles a few times a week now. We got lost near Cougar Mountain in Issaquah, WA  once and ended up going nearly 18 miles. Gunnar? Took it like a champ. He would chase bunnies if given the chance, but probably to only love and snuggle them. He’s a gentle dog and was a great mommy to little Ellie when she first arrived. He really is one of a kind, and despite his recent foraging for greens in my garden, I couldn’t imagine a day without him.

All you need is a few treats and he won't move!

All you need is a few treats and he won’t move!

Gunnar and Ellie roam about the house together, she being his shadow and he probably trying to have some alone time and nap. But every now and again you’ll see them outside playing chase and wrestling.

SNOW!!!!!!

SNOW!!!!!!

Ellie antagonizing Gunnar into play by running full steam into him with a toy. Ya, I don’t think he enjoys that. Ellie doesn’t seem to care.

Gunnar put up with a lot when Ellie first came home

Gunnar put up with a lot when Ellie first came home

Best of Friends?

So many moments for these two

So many moments for these two

Ellie. What is there to say about her. She is…. unique. Ellie holds a special place in my heart, but that girl is Cray-Cray!!! I don’t even know how to explain it. I can’t really. Come spend a day with her. Well, you’d know what I mean in your first five minutes of her barking a greeting at you to know what I mean. Oh, Ellie. Chews on everything and destroyed, to some variable degree, every throw rug and runner in the house. Every single one has her mark. Why? What did they do to her?? No clue.

She is leary of me and the camera sometimes...

She is leery of me and the camera sometimes…

As I demonstrated earlier, sometimes a little crafting goes a long way. As I was trying to force positive feelings towards my animals the last few weeks, I decided what better way than with art, right?

Since Ellie and Gunnar are the closest things to children in our home I thought I would do something you see parents do all the time.

Final Look, Framed and ready

Final Look, Framed and ready

Commemorative hand/foot prints!!! This was actually the most simple thing to do, I have a mini arsenal of empty frames on hand as well as several canvas and heavy-duty paper stock. All that was missing was the paints and the paws.

Supplies:
– Water-based paint (I used something non-toxic… think “could this go in a toddler’s mouth??)
– Art Boards or Heavy Paper (like seen HERE or HERE)
– Baby Wipes (for quick clean-up)
– Willing dog paws (this was the trickiest – bring treats!)

It really is a quick process, I only used one paw and made the print in four places, giving the  impression of all four paws. Set everything up before allowing your first subject to come into the room, being careful they don’t walk through the paint before you’re ready.

Supplies

Supplies

I simply brushed a quick thick coat of the paint on the paw while the dogs were enjoying a few long-chew treats (dried mango or sweet potato are favorites in my house). I then did a quick dab on a scrap piece of paper to remove any blobs or uneven paint areas. I found it easiest working with a harder surface (like the art board) since I had Gunnar and Ellie lay on their sides and I pressed their paw against the surface rather than have them step on it. This way I also had better control of the pressure, making sure they didn’t smoosh or smudge their print. Trial and Error. Have that extra paper on hand and test it out.

Then press. Re-apply the paint after the second impression, blot again, give another treat, and press. Ta-Da!! Seriously, it took longer to set up and pick colors for each then it was to actually do the prints.

Wipe off their paws with baby wipes and then dry them with a clean paper towel. This is the best measure to ensure they won’t track paint elsewhere in the house on accident.

Prep is Key

Prep is Key

I thought Ellie would be the toughest to work with, but she actually was easy. She just let whatever happen as long as she had a treat. Gunnar was a bit squirmy and you can see his prints aren’t as clean.

DSC02667

Gunnar 2014

 

Ellie 2014

Ellie 2014

 

They now have a place of honor on my semi-accomplished “gallery wall” on our stair landing.

"Gallery Wall"

“Gallery Wall”

Everything is in a various form of progress, and I’m ok with it. This was such a success I’m considering using this technique for Christmas Cards this year. How cute would little red and green paw prints be?

Either way, these pups have stolen my heart and I would do anything for them. Even build a higher fence so they can’t ruin my garden. Yes, I did that… for them!

-Jenn