I know, I know…

I’ve been horrible lately keeping up with this blog, and for that I apologize. At the moment I’m fighting a cold/allergy attack that’s trying to become something more, so I’ll use that for my excuse (I hate it when my throat feels like it’s been rubbed vigorously with sandpaper!)

So, what’s been going on? Well, Thanksgiving was a success. We had 10 people at the table and once again everyone was impressed with the spread. I did learn, however, that certain things DO make a difference. I made my pumpkin bread pudding, the recipe for which can be found under the recipe tab of this blog. Since the pie pumpkins in the garden weren’t ready (the drought delayed my planting timetable), I bought a couple of pie pumpkins from the store. And as an inventory mistake, I didn’t have any vanilla beans on hand, so I had to use vanilla extract. Granted, the vanilla extract I used was Watkins, considered top-of-the-line. I am here to tell you, NOTHING beats using actual vanilla beans (sorry Watkins!) While the pumpkin bread pudding was good, it was not rave-worthy in my book. The pumpkin flavor was a bit bland, and the vanilla cream sauce was nowhere, and I mean nowhere, near what it was when I used vanilla beans. Homegrown pumpkins and vanilla beans are key to the recipe totally blowing everyone away.

Hence, with our recent cold spell where we had freezing temperatures three nights in a row (no laughing from my buddies/family up North!), we broke out all the old sheets, blankets, towels and pillowcases we had to cover the garden. Yes, I still have a garden going–I don’t know the meaning of stop, lol! We covered the watermelons (one the size of a basketball), pumpkins (half-ripe at this point), winter squash, cucumbers, Anaheim peppers and bell peppers. I managed to harvest 7 bell peppers before the freeze, which was good–something (raccoon or opossum) burrowed into the garden seeking shelter and dislodged the covering I had on the bell peppers–the leaves and little peppers froze, but I think the plants themselves survived. I vacuum sealed and froze the bell peppers for later use, as well as harvested a watermelon–sweeeettttt! Everything seemed to have made it through okay, except for the bell pepper leaves…well that, and the okra plant. It was actually taller than I am, which puts it at about 6 feet tall. No way I could wrap that baby, but it gave excellent okra pods for the stewed okra and tomatoes for Thanksgiving! I will definitely be planting okra again. Oh, and remember I mentioned planting seeds for different colored carrots? Well, they’re–different. The purple ones are purple on the outside, but orange on the inside. The yellow ones are more light yellow outside, but a more intense yellow inside. What turned the kids off to them, though, was the yellow carrot I harvested–it was as big around as my forearm. I took pictures, which I’ll post whenever I get around to sucking them off the camera, but it looked weird enough that the kiddos refused to eat it. Can’t really say I blame them–this thing was HUGE!

Family life has been interesting. MIL is looking into moving into a retirement community. She’s in her 80’s, has been battling metastatic ovarian cancer for years, and the toll of treatments plus keeping up with her house is starting to weigh on her. Plus, she’s looking for the social aspect of being surrounded by people her own age, with similar life experiences. I can understand where she’s coming from, but it doesn’t make it any easier on hubby to see momma making end-of-life decisions. I think wherever she’s happiest, that’s where she should be, and more power to her. We’ll do the best we can to make sure those wishes come true. My adoptive mother has been getting good checkups–her lung cancer, diagnosed around the same time as MIL’s cancer, is in remission. Poor baby is darned near blind from macular degeneration, though, so her independence has been curtailed. She’s still trucking along, so that’s a good thing. I thank God both of them are still in our lives, considering they were diagnosed with “terminal” cancers and given around six to twelve months to live…five years ago.

The boy is looking to move out on his own when he’s done with his 2nd year of college in 6 months. He’ll have his certification by then and will be able to move into a higher paying job as he continues his studies. With luck, the employer will also contribute towards his college tuition since his courses are medical-related (still bouncing between Pharmacy and Nursing). We’ll continue helping him with college costs, but he knows living expenses/rent will fall on him. He’s yearning for independence, though, and I completely understand that. He’s doing plenty of research beforehand, so it looks like he’ll be fully prepared when he does fly the nest. Love him beyond measure and am so proud of him, but it is hard for me as Mom to see him go.

The little one…well, not so little anymore…filled out her elective course selection for 6th grade. Another punch that took my breath away, since I remember filling out my own elective course card for middle school! Even though she took Orchestra (violin) this year and would qualify for Advanced Orchestra next year, she’s more intrigued by Foreign Language and Debate–both of which she signed up for. And she’s 10 years old. Almost as tall as her Aunt, though still has about 8 inches before she matches me, lol! I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if she ends up taller than me, considering how tall her Daddy is.

Last, but not least, I discovered a recipe I absolutely LOVE. Had never tried it before, either. Wouldn’t have even CONSIDERED trying it. What is it?

Fried pickles.

Yes, you read that right. We went to Copeland’s for dinner the other night, and hubby ordered Fried Pickles from the appetizer menu. WTF??? I looked at him like he had grown a third head! That was the most disgusting thing I had ever heard of. Granted, this is the man who got me to try raw oysters when we were dating…and I loved them! Fried pickles? Not so sure about that.

First off, I was picturing pickle spears. You know, like french fries. They bring this plate of thin-sliced pickles, battered and fried, along with homemade ranch dressing and Tiger sauce, which is a spicy horseradish-based sauce. (The homemade ranch dressing was phenomenal–would make you take a bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing and drop-kick it to the curb). These things were AWESOME! Even the little one loved them. They were firm, not limp, and even though they were on the salty side because they’re dill pickle slices, you literally can’t stop eating these things. Of course, now you know what that means–I have to figure out how to recreate these things at home. Hmmmm…grow the cucumbers, turn them into pickles and then batter and fry them…I think I know what my next project will be!

So, here we are, getting ready for Christmas. The trees are up (the 4-foot tall one upstairs is Katherine’s, decorated with penguins, of course), although I have yet to hang any decorations on the one downstairs. Yeah, I know, bad momma! We put the polar bear, snowman and outdoor lighted Christmas tree outside, along with a wreath on the door, wreaths in the two front windows and pine garland over the back door and two adjacent windows. Maybe I’ll find the urge to finish up the decorating in the next couple of days.

Keep your fingers crossed that my pumpkins in the garden are ripe by Christmas–there’s another batch of pumpkin bread pudding on the menu, made with garden pumpkins and vanilla beans. 🙂

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