Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday

Sandy brought more than wind and rain; overnight, it seems like the weather has changed. Cold up to now has been more of a novelty, but today when I went outside at 6 AM I honestly felt like I was going to freeze. Tonight I pulled out my favorite fleecy gloves and a scarf, and my outfit for tomorrow includes leggings, boots, and sweater, cuz while I love the cold weather, I don't actually like being cold! :)

The sudden cold has confirmed what I've already been sensing: Autumn is almost over. I don't care what the calendar says - for me, "winter" starts the moment I start needing extra clothing to go outside. I've been adding things to my Winter bucket list for a few weeks now, and I'm thisclose to posting it. There are about a dozen things left on my Fall bucket list still undone, but whatever - that just gives me something to look forward to next year! :)

Tonight I celebrated the last vestiges of Fall by making yummy cold-weather food: barbecued beef sammies that were a total flop (which may have been because our crockpot is so old, the settings labels are worn off, so Liz had it on "warm" most of the day instead of "low" - grr! Gonna work some more on that and get back to you), but followed by the most amazing, incredible, vegan pumpkin-chocolate pie. And it couldn't be easier. I rule. :)

Marvelous Pumpkin-Chocolate Pie (Vegan)
Serves 8
1 package Mimicreme
1 package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 package instant pumpkin pudding mix (or substitute cherry, peppermint, etc - I can't wait to try mixing up some fun combos!)
1 pie crust (either off the shelf, or your favorite recipe)

1. Place package of Mimicreme in mixer bowl with whisk attachment and put the whole bowl in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
2. Open packages of pudding mix and mix with a whisk.
3. When bowl, whisk, and Mimicreme are thoroughly chilled, squeeze Mimicreme into mixer bowl and beat with whisk attachment on high for 3 minutes (or until light and fluffy). Turn mixer to "low" and add the pudding mix by the 1/4 cupfuls until thoroughly mixed, pausing to scrape sides of bowl.
4. Turn pie filling out in to piecrust, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with additional Mimicreme or a dusting of cocoa powder, if desired. :)


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Long Weekends, A Wedding, And Sandy

It's been a crazy, crazy weekend. And by weekend, I mean it's Tuesday (I actually had to check what day it was, lol) and I have yet to go back to work. Sandy rolled in Sunday night - Monday night? - ok, I'm not actually sure when she got here, since I was pretty much sick for the whole thing and only knew that the weather was bad all the time. We weathered it fine, didn't lose electricity even once (yay!) and only lost one (big) tree limb on our driveway, and none on the actual road. This is a record for us.

Before the weather got bad, however, there was my friend Becka's wedding. :) (All pictures taken by my mom)

 The beautiful bride!

Me! In my orange dress, with a groomsman who kept trying to run me into the tent pole. :) Sadly, I think I looked as fried as I felt by that point LOL.
It was great getting to see all my friends who are living far away now...

My friend Drew (and brother Allen) who used to be a nerdy kid and is now a high-powered attorney. Okay, so not quite yet :) but I'm pretty sure he'll be there soon!

My friend Zachary (and my dad).

My friend Matthew and his wife (and my friend :)) Jessica. (Aren't they adorable?)

My friend John Patrick and his equally adorable girlfriend, Emily. :)
The wedding turned out beautifully, and bride and groom are off on their honeymoon far away from Sandy. :)
I have to admit, even though I felt terrible for those who lost electricity and suffered other inconveniences, after such a crazy weekend it was kind of a relief to have a few days of downtime. I spent the majority of the time drugged with Nyquil, sleeping it off, and generally recovering from a massive allergy attack (this is why I will never, ever get married outdoors on a grassy field lol!). When I was awake, I got in on some games of Hearts and my family's newest gaming obsession, Bananagrams. I've only been wanting it for years, but my family never thought it looked interesting before... turns out, I'm very good at it! :) Now I'm seriously lusting after Pairsinpears and Appletters.
I felt so much better today and got one Christmas present almost finished, started another one, and organized some of my other gift ideas on my pinterest boards.
I also took Allen with me to go get more chicken feed and fresh bedding (since the hurricane made everything a bit soggy), and he helped me "muck out" their pen and coop (since it had 4-6" of standing water). Despite the atrocious storm, my chickens didn't miss an egg and laid normally over the last few days. Good hens! :) Allen was really impressed with them today as he was helping me work around them - we kept the pen door open since we were going in and out with wheelbarrowfuls of soiled hay, and they never even once tried to escape. Plus, they were completely unfazed by our presence... in fact we were kind of tripping over them at one point, and had to keep shooing them away cuz they wanted to know what were doing.
I was just pleased to see that 1) my coop didn't fly away in the wind, 2) it kept my ladies snug and dry, and 3) my hens came through unscathed. That was pretty much all I was worried about during the storm - that a tree didn't fall on my coop or my truck. :)
I'm so looking foward to going back to work tomorrow and seeing my girlie! She has a class party at school, which means I get to go, too! :) And then tomorrow night we're gonna have a special "Not Halloween!" dinner with Banjo Man - pulled beef BBQ sammies, coleslaw, and maybe a special dessert. :)
I hope you all came through the storm okay! What sort of things do you like to do when you're stuck indoors?

Monday, October 22, 2012


Today was amazing. :)

I woke up feeling rested - which is great, because frankly my energy hasn't been all that amazing in the mornings lately (I blame the delayed sunrise).

I had an amazing breakfast (sourdough french toast with blueberry syrup that I totally stole from my buddy) with an amazing friend.

Said amazing friend also contributed some absolutely amazing shower/bachelorette party ideas for my BFF's wedding. In fact, I was most productive today in that department: I think I have the venue picked out for sure for the bachelorette party, and I started a new pinboard on Pinterest for shower/bachelorette party and already have it full of favors, decorating ideas, games, etc. We're on a roll!

And tonight, since dinner was more or less DIY, I learned to make Pasta Carbonara tonight. I've been looking at carbonara recipes now for awhile wondering what all the fuss is about, and now I know. Amazing. (I had to substitute goat cheese for parmesan, but oh well).

I hope you're having an amazing day, too! Hopefully the rest of the week will continue on like this. :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I love...
  • Driving when it's fall - all the stunningly beautiful colors all around me make even long drives feel like a mini vacation (although I have to admit, I get easily distracted admiring the foliage LOL).
  • Clip-on earrings. I think I sense an impending addiction...
  • Orange crockpots!
I'm looking forward to...
  • Breakfast with a friend tomorrow at Cracker Barrel while Abby is at school.
  • Girl time at the nail salon later this week with the bride-to-be and another bridesmaid.
  • The wedding on Saturday! And all that it entails (namely, wearing my orange dress and going barefoot!).
  • November! And Nanowrimo!
I'm so over/dreading...
  • Halloween. I hate halloween. :( I can't wait til all the nasty Halloween decor is clearanced away and replaced by beautiful Christmas stuff!
I want...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Weekend

... In Which Apples Take Over, Orange Makes An Appearance, And I Stamp 150 Toilet Paper Rolls

Actually, that title pretty much sums it up.

I woke up early today, way, way earlier than I normally ever do on my day off. But I guess it's offset by the fact that I didn't wake up until 1 PM yesterday (in all fairness, I've been feeling like crap ever since Abby and I took a hayride on her school field trip - allergies gone completely, completely haywire - and I'd dosed myself with the maximum allowable amount of Nyquil the night before). Bouncing awake early just set the tone for the entire day; I put on an episode of Castle and watched it while eating breakfast in bed, got my room tidied up, and then meandered downstairs and jumped into a long to-do list.

Which involved: cleaning out my truck (more on this later), checking on my hens (I have eggs again! Yay! I have no idea why but they stopped laying for a few days), and starting a massive craft project: finishing the "favors" for my friend Becka's wedding on Saturday. She began it several weeks ago, but with the death of her mother :( and all the last minute wedding prep, she realized she wasn't going to be able to finish them, so I took over. The project involves flattening 150 toilet paper rolls - you heard right, toilet paper rolls - stamping them with rubber stamps, writing their names and the wedding date on each roll, then stuffing them with rice and sealing the ends.

So far I'm about 100 rolls flattened and stamped, with 50 still needing stamping, and I haven't labeled any of them yet or begun stuffing. Hopefully I can enlist some help tomorrow at Sunday School; if not, well... I'll be stuffing toilet paper rolls in all my spare time this week. :)

Now, on to apples...

It started yesterday, when I finally got around to taking my 20% off coupon to Bath and Body Works to get #2 checked off my bucket list. Maggie and I had gone last week to check out the new seasonal scents, and I knew I wanted either Cashmere Glow or Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin. When I got there, though, they were sold out of Pumpkin body wash, and I didn't like Cashmere as much as I remembered. Right next to the gaping hole where the Pumpkin was supposed to be, however, was a scent that hadn't been there last week - Honey Autumn Apple. I took one whiff, and I was in love.

Several weeks ago, while walking through Target, I spotted a bright orange crockpot, and I knew I had to have it. It was limited edition, however, so in order to get it for me for Christmas, my parents had to special-order it from Target right now (rather than waiting for Christmas). :) My mom finally asked me if I'd be offended if we unpacked it right now and made something in it to make sure it worked (as Christmas would be long past the return date). Naturally, I squealed with delight and began thinking about what I could make. It didn't take long for me to decide: apple butter! I guess those amazing winesap apples I bought at the farm on Wednesday were still on my mind. :) Maggie and I ran back to the farm for a 1/2 bushel of assorted apples, fresh off the trees.

There are quite a few slow-cooker apple butter recipes out there, but I decided to use this one, mostly because she shares my name. :) Everyone on the blogosphere was whining about the time it takes to peel, core, and chop the amount of apples you need, but honestly, I found it relaxing. I sat and got my apples ready and listened to the kids and mom playing Hearts. :)

As of right now, my beautiful, insanely orange crockpot is filled with slowly softening apples, and in a little bit I will dump in the spices, turn it down to low, and go to bed, only to awaken in the morning to full finished, divine apple butter. This, people, is why crockpots are magic.

So let's see, did I cover everything I promised? Apples, orange, toilet paper rolls... check.

I got quite a few things knocked off my bucket list this week! #3, #11, #16, #18, #31, and #35 are all checked off now, leaving me only 19 things left, and roughly 28 days to do them in (I'm not exactly sure when my Winter list will kick in yet. I'm thinking the week of Thanksgiving :)).

I was just thinking today how much more successful my Fall Bucket List has been than my Summer Bucket List. I have some thoughts on this that hopefully I'll have time to put in a post for you guys later this week - just in case you're thinking about making your own bucket list! :)

I hope you're having a great weekend. :)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Human Nature, Part II

Remember my stolen debit card?

Well, the story might have ended right there, except that Tuesday morning when Abby and I pulled up to my house, and Ruth opened the front door, an envelope was sitting on our doorstep. Inside was, get this, my card, along with several hundred dollars in cash (I don't exactly know how much since as soon as I realized what was going on, I plastic-bagged it without touching it, to preserve any kind of evidence... what can I say? I'm a Bones/SVU/Castle fan :)), and a note that essentially said "Sorry for the inconvenience, here's enough money to cover the charges." I'm thinking a parent found my card in a kid's possession and was trying to make good.

However, I was a bit unhappy to know that whoever stole my card knew where I lived; after calling our police officer neighbor for advice, I went ahead and called the State Police and filed a report. An officer came over and collected the bag containing note, card, and money, as well as all the information I had been able to collect from my bank, and told me that they would be sending it to the crime lab as well as retracing the thief's route and collecting surveillance film, etc.

Two hours later, I got a call from the officer handling my case - he'd collected the surveillance tapes, reviewed them, and had identified a silver Toyota Sequoia as the thief's car.

The next day, almost exactly twenty-four hours after I filed the initial report, he called to let me know they'd found the suspect, questioned them, and just needed my permission to go ahead and press charges (which I gave).

I have to admit, I'm kind of surprised - half of me thought that because the charges were so relatively little, they'd dismiss it outright, but apparently not. I'm incredibly impressed with their fast work!

In the meantime, I was able to file the fraud claim with my credit card company on Thursday after the final charge finalized, and later that day the amount was credited back to my account. The next day the bank overdraft charges were reimbursed, and I was back in business.

I'm so thankful for everything coming together so well - for the protection of God (in that of all the things to steal, my debit card is one of the least painless things), for the protection of the police, and last but definitely not least, for the protection of Visa, who covered all the charges promptly and without question. :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Human Nature

Once, a year ago, I got out of my truck, set my wallet on the roof so I could grab some stuff from the cab, and walked away, completely forgetting about my wallet. Maggie and I went inside and had a fun time leisurely window shopping through Target as we filled our cart with the things we'd actually come for (lol).

Forty-five minutes later - forty five minutes later!!! - I got to the register and discovered that my wallet was missing. I instantly remembered where I'd left it. In a panic, I ran out the door and across the parking lot to my truck.

There was a man leaning against my truck. I was kind of nervous as I approached, but he immediately asked me if I owned the truck, and when I said yes, he handed me my wallet.

Get this:

This man had pulled up just after me, seen Maggie and I gathering our things and walking away, and as he got out, he noticed my wallet sitting atop my truck. He grabbed it and ran through the parking lot after us, but we were too far ahead and didn't notice him, and he was afraid that if he went inside and searched for us, I would realize I was missing my wallet, run back, and miss him. He'd just lost his wallet a few months before, and knew how stressful it was.

So, rather than turn it in to the Target lost and found - or, you know, just walking away with it!!! - he stood there and waited for 45 minutes for me to realize that I'd lost my wallet, and retrace my steps.

I was blown away, and incredibly, incredibly grateful. I happened to have some cash in my wallet - rare for me, lol - and I tried to give him some money, seeing as he had just lost 45 minutes of his time waiting for me. He wouldn't take it. I thanked him profusely and we parted ways.

I can also remember another time once when my dad and I were running errands and we had two large bags of Kinex (that we had just picked up from Freecycle) in the back of the truck. We realized we had to go in, and my dad considered taking a moment to untie the bags and throw them in the cab. I laughed and said I thought they'd be just fine sitting where they were. We went inside, came back out, and there was a note stuck under my windshield from a lady who had seen the bags and wanted to know, if we were going to take them to the dump (they were in garbage bags), if she could have them instead? She left her phone number. We got a good laugh out of it, and I called her to let her know that we were definitely not throwing them away, and to thank her for not just taking them.

I guess I used up my "good samaritan" points, because today turned out a little differently.

I dropped Abby off at school and immediately headed to the bank so I could cash my check. I drove straight to the gas station right across the street, filled up my tank, and drove to Old Navy. Thirty minutes later, as I'm checking out, I realize that my debit card (that I just used to get gas) is missing. I drove back to Wawa, thinking that maybe I'd left it behind. I couldn't find it at the pump, so I went inside and asked if anyone had seen it. No one had. I wondered if maybe I had stopped someplace else and just forgotten, so I signed on to my bank account using my phone. Lo and behold, my checking account is overdrawn and none of the transactions are mine. :(

Since I was right across the street from my bank, I immediately went in and got their help. They canceled the card, gave me all the information they could for the police report, and helped me file fraud claims against the transactions.

Luckily, I'm not liable for the fraudulent transactions - whew! especially seeing as they totaled more than $300 :( - but it's a big inconvenience since I'm now without a debit card, which I usually use 90% of the time, and I have to go through the hassle of filing a police report, monitoring the fraud claims, etc.


My girlie is back! :) I loved listening to her chatter all morning as she told me all about her vacation. I missed her, and I'm glad "real life" has resumed. :)

Sunday, October 14, 2012


I figured with a whole week off I'd be blogging left and right. WRONG! In fact, except for my "What's For Dinner Wednesday" post last week, I didn't post at all! Luckily, this is because I was too busy being on staycation. :)

I did way, waaay too much to recount moment by moment, but my week included:
  • A trip to my fav nail salon to get my nails done :)
  • Buying new fall candles
  • A marathon all-day thrift shopping trip with my mom and sisters
  • Taking the kids to the corn maze
  • Perfecting my PJ&J cookie-making technique
  • Picking out a wall color for the upstairs bathroom makeover, and finding the perfect shower curtain on clearance!
  • Staying up way, way late every night... like, after 1 AM late
  • Sleeping in almost every day :)
  • Epic Hearts tournaments with various members of my family
  • Pinning, like, 500 things (ok, slight exaggeration) to do with Abby when she gets back
  • Making a new wreath for my door
  • A belated birthday lunch with my mom
  • Starting my first-ever crocheted afghan pattern
So... that was my week. It was amazing, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm SO GLAD you're going back to work. I love having you around... except at night." Lol, I know EXACLTY what she means - I don't think I could survive another week of late nights and craziness. It was fun while it lasted. Now I can't wait to go back to work. :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday

It's been a long time since I've cooked on Wednesday! And I didn't think I was going to be cooking tonight, since I'm supposed to be at the beach eating crab and sticking my feet in the sand. However, a friend's mom passed away early Monday morning :( so Maggie and I postponed our trip so we could be at the funeral to support her.

Since I'm home, I'm cooking! Tonight we're making my version of Cabbage Stew, which I promise is a lot better than it sounds! :) I found this recipe idea on the blog Celebrating Life, which is one of my favorite places to go for a pick-me-up. :) The original recipe calls for 1 head of cabbage and 1 onion, chopped, along with 2 cups tomato sauce and 2 cups V8 tomato juice, to be cooked in the crockpot on high for 4 hours.

Well, that sounded like a great idea, but a little - no offense, I swear! - boring. :) A few months ago I decided to try it with my own twist, and the family liked it enough that they said it was a "repeat."

Here's my version:

Asian Cabbage Stew

1 head of cabbage, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 48 oz bottle of V8 tomato juice
1/4-1/2 cup soy sauce (to taste)
2 TBS toasted sesame oil
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBS powdered ginger
Salt & pepper, to taste

Throw everything in the crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours (I prefer low and slow, but in a pinch 4 hours works too!). Serve over rice.

Yummy, filling, cheap, and vegetarian! :) What are you making for dinner tonight?

Friday, October 5, 2012

On Vacay

My ten days off of work started today; I already miss my girlie, but so far it hasn't really hit home that I won't see her on Monday like normal, so I've been enjoying the weekend so far.

I started off the day in the coffeeshop in the historic square about twenty minutes away, drinking a peach smoothie (which, sadly, wasn't very good), listening to music, and making use of their free wifi, all while snuggled in an amazingly soft chair. :) Then I came home, threw dinner in the crockpot (beef vegetable soup with salad and dairy-free faux blue cheese dressing), spearheaded the cleaning of the house - sort of lol - took a nap, had dinner with the family, and made cookies (more on this later). Played in an extremely competitive Hearts game with Allen, Maggie, and Mom. I do so love my weekends. :)

Now, on to cookies: I was upstairs pining for cookies but, since I had no motivation to de-allergy-ize a traditional recipe and couldn't see eating cookies that the kids couldn't eat in front of them, I had sort of given up on the idea. Then while I was idly scrolling through Simply Scratch and ran across her Peanut Butter & Jam cookie recipe - no gluten and no dairy already!!! Amazing! I ran downstairs, pulled out the ingredients, and started mixing up cookies. :)

Of course, seeing as this is my family (remember the story of trying to make cake that everybody could eat?) I actually mixed up two batches: one with cashew/almond butter (for the peanut allergic peeps) and duck eggs (for those who couldn't eat chicken eggs), and one with peanut butter and chicken eggs. Both turned out well, surprisingly - I guess nut butters are pretty much the same when you come right down to it. I didn't alter the recipe at all, and did half with raspberry jam, which ended up being my favorite, and half with grape, which was actually surprisingly popular.

I actually understate the amazing-ness of these cookies. They were to die for. I could have eaten them all myself. Luckily, I had seven other people competing for them, too. :)

I have so much I want to get done this weekend - deep clean my room, get those last two boxes unpacked, decorate for fall, put together a couple of craft projects that are piling up, etc - and then next week I can't wait to go to the beach with Maggie! I feel like I haven't gotten to see Mags in so long, between both of us having busy schedules and then having overnight guests for a few days... I miss my Maggie! Can't wait for three days of swimming, hot tub soaking, TV watching, night-time beach walks, etc. :)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bucket List Update

Time for another bucket list update! I feel like I've gotten so much done, but in reality I only knocked three things off my list!

#8 - Go To The Fair: So much fun! I have tons of pictures, but I've pretty much only uploaded the ones that Abby is in. Maybe this week while I'm on vacation I'll finally get the rest uploaded! :) Maggie and I both bought season passes and went Friday with Natalie and Abigail, and again on Saturday. On Friday we mostly just saw exhibits (although we did eat some cotton candy, lol, and some amazing mango iced tea!) but Natalie very generously gave us some of her leftover ride tickets, so on Saturday we got to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl twice! We're complete idiots when it comes to carnival rides - we shriek and scream and try to figure out how to make the little cab spin faster. :) All in all, it was a ton of fun, and my sisters essentially won all the awards there were to be had (just kidding, but barely). A full recap post to follow. :)
#17 - Host A Fall Craft Party: Okay, so I didn't so much host as cater - lol - but since it looks like this is as close as I'm going to get, I'm gonna say it counts. :) It was fun! Some friends and I, including the bride-to-be, gathered together on Saturday to make the decorations for her wedding. :) Tons of fall colors, good food, good friends. I personally wire-twisted 26 mason jars, turning them into lanterns, and the experience was enough to make me decide that I do not want mason-jar lanterns at my wedding, lol! My poor fingers! I'm collecting quite a list of "things I never want to do again" in response to having done them for friends' wedding: no hand-stitched silk flowers with a gazillion pieces each, no mason jar lanterns, etc. :)
#22 - Drink hot apple cider with cinnamon sticks: Truth be told, the cider wasn't hot, but it sure was yummy! AND we had cinnamon sticks to swirl it with, which just makes it 100 times better. In fact, one of the ladies initially turned down the offer of a glass of cider until she saw us adding cinnamon sticks, at which point she quickly changed her mind. :)

So: I have 29 things left on my bucket list and roughly forty days until I declare it winter. :) So I guess I'm still on track! The good thing is that at least five of these things I've already scheduled with "firm" dates.

How is your bucket-listing coming? What have you been doing?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Fall Menu

Whew, it's been way too long since I've blogged! Life suddenly ramped up and got busy over the last week or so. Plus, my family went out of town for the weekend, and I lost about three night's worth of sleep (I never sleep well in this big house by myself!), so pretty much I've felt like I've just been dragging myself towards the weekend like a marathoner to the finish line. :) That's okay, I'll live! In the meantime, I caught a little catnap when I got home from work, so I can finally keep a coherent thought in my head.

For different reasons, I haven't had to cook dinner on Wednesdays for the last two weeks (and I didn't have to cook tonight, either!), but I didn't want to leave you hanging, so here's an alternative post. :) A friend was hosting a craft party on Saturday, and since it was starting to look like #17 on my bucket list was not going to happen, I volunteered to do the food for the party.

I thought long and hard about what to make; I wanted to do food that spoke of fall, that incorporated as many of the amazing seasonal foods that are available at this time of year as possible, and that was totally comfort food. I ended up making Butternut Squash Soup with Fried Sage, a salad with candied walnuts, cranberries, and Apple Cider Viniagrette, a Turkey, Cheese, and Cilantro-Pesto Sammy Loaf, and (just for fun!) a batch of Buffalo Chicken Dip with Blue Cheese Crisps.

Nothing was very hard, traveled well (since I made everything at home and them heated it at the party house) and was extremely well-received. :) The only thing that made it a little complicated was that my family took our Internet doohickey with them so I had no way to look up recipes online, and I had to create my own recipes based on what I wanted to make. Luckily for me, everything turned out fine (whew!).

Here's the recipes:

First, an appetizer: Buffalo Chicken Dip

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Enough water or chicken broth to cover the breasts
Frank's Red Hot Sauce, to taste (I'm thinking I used a little less than a cup)
10 oz cream cheese
Optional: enough shredded mozzarella to cover the top

Place the chicken breasts in a pot, pour water or broth over them until just covered, and cook on low until cooked through (I kept adding broth to keep them covered). Drain, and shred chicken. Toss with Frank's until evenly coated. Pull out your mixer, and mix chicken mixture with cream cheese until blended. Pour into an ungreased pie plate, cover with mozzarella (if desired - I didn't), and cook on 350 for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Serve with Blue Cheese Crisps or crackers of choice.

Blue Cheese Crisps

1 stick butter, softened.
1 container (I think mine was 6 oz?) blue cheese crumbles
1 baguette, sliced thin

Lay baguette sliced out on a baking sheet and let them "air" a bit - the recipe works best if they're a little stale. In the meantime, in a mixer on high beat butter and blue cheese until fluffy and incorporated. Spread mixture thickly over slices, and broil for 5 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and edges are browned.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash, halved and deseeded
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups milk or cream
4 slices bacon
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 package fresh sage
Dried sage, thyme, garlic, ginger, and salt and pepper to taste
Heavy cream (if desired)

Place butternut squash halves, cut side down, in a baking dish, and pierce skin with a fork several times. Bake at low (I did mine at 250 for several hours) until tender. Remove from oven and scoop out flesh; place in a large pot. Add chicken stock and milk; stir to combine.
In a small skillet, cook bacon until crisp; remove to a plate lined with paper towels, crumble, and add to pot. Sautee onion in bacon grease until tender but not browned; scoop out and add to pot. Fry sage leaves 1-2 minutes, turning halfway through; remove. Puree soup until smooth, and season with additional dried sage, thyme, garlic, ginger, s & p as desired. Top with a few dried sage leaves and a drizzle of cream (if desired).

I made an amazing salad with candied walnuts and dried cranberries, but I candied the walnuts by "feel" and can't remember the amounts if it killed me. Suffice to say, I will be doing it again soon so I can get the proportions right. I did, however, invent an absolutely lovely apple cider viniagrette, and I DID remember the recipe! :)

Apple Cider Viniagrette

2 cups apple cider
1 cup olive oil
4 TBS apple-cider vinegar
1 TSP sage
salt & pepper to taste

In a non-stick skillet, reduce the apple cider until thick - maybe by about half? Mix reduction with oil, vinegar, and seasonings, and shake/blend vigorously. Easy. Peasy. Done. :)

Now, for the most amazing invention ever: Turkey, Pesto, and Provolone Sandwhich Loaf

I have to admit, I honestly felt like this was the biggest gamble of the entire meal. I could see it going both ways - hot melty goodness or stale/soggy with an overdone outside but a cold inside. Lucky for me, it was great! Plus, the smell it gave off as it "cooked"... Mm. So easy it feels like a "cheat," but so amazing that I ate the leftovers for the next couple of days!

1 loaf French bread, unsliced
1 pound turkey lunchmeat
1 package (I believe 12 oz?) of sliced provolone

1 bunch cilantro, washed and stems trimmed
1 cup walnuts
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (I like more, but most people prolly like less lol)
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil (again, I like my pesto fairly "thin," but if you're trying to save calories or prefer a thicker sauce, feel free to use less)
Salt and pepper, to taste

First, the pesto: in a food processor, blend cilantro, walnuts, and garlic until finely, finely chopped. Add olive oil in a stream as the food processor is running, until you achieve the texture/thickness you desire. Season with salt and pepper.

Now for assembly:
Slice the loaf of bread into slices 1/2-3/4" thick, leaving the very bottom of the loaf still attached. Err on the side of "too thick" - this is why you don't use presliced bread, the slices are too thin and the pesto will melt through them, causing the whole thing to be soggy! :) Slice in multiples of two; I discarded the ends because they were uneven.
Spread pesto on the "insides" of the slices - think about it, it's gonna be a sandwhich, and you only want the sauce on the "inside" of the sandwhich! :)
On each sandwich "slice" place one piece of provolone and one piece of turkey (I tore my cheese slices in half and placed each half on each side of bread so that when the cheese melted it covered the turkey).
Wrap entire loaf in aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until loaf is heated through and cheese is melted. :)
I actually left mine unheated in the fridge overnight, and not only did it not become soggy, but you couldn't tell the next day! So amazingly good.

The only thing my menu lacked was some dessert - I had a cranberry dessert in mind, but the recipe was on my mom's blog, and it was tricky enough that I knew I had no hope of replicating it from memory, and when I called my family to ask them to read me the recipe over the phone, it turns out they didn't actually have enough coverage to access the Internet. Oh, well. :)

I hope y'all are thoroughly enjoying Autumn by now. I am totally in the swing of things and enjoying the season! This Thursday marks the beginning of ten days off of work for me; I have mixed feelings about this, I love the fact that I'll have the time to do some things I haven't gotten around to, both fun and practical, but I already miss my girlie. :( But I know she'll have fun being on vacation, so that helps. And while she's gone, I'm looking forward to Maggie's and mine annual trek to the beach! :)