Tag Archives: autumn

Something warm and tasty

Autumn brings with it a whole new menu. Out are the grilled veggies and burgers and in come roasted root vegetables, soups and stews. In the summer, the thought of turning on the oven or even stove-top can be exhausting. The heat of summer means you don’t want to make your house any more uncomfortable. Everything changes though in September and October, suddenly cooking is appealing, baking cookies a joy.

Looking for something tasty to welcome autumn? Here is a recipe for one of my favorites, beans and greens. This dish can be used as a main meal or as a side to braised short-ribs, pork chops or a perfectly baked chicken.

Beans and Greens

1 medium onion, chopped
1 t. thyme
1 t. red pepper flakes
1 bunch greens (kale or chard) sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 can white beans (small white beans or cannellini beans)
2 c. diced tomatoes
1/2 shredded Romano cheese
  1. In a large saute pan, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add onions and cook for about three to four minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Stir in kale stems and cook for another three minutes or until the onions begin to look translucent. Mix in the kale leaves and add the thyme and red pepper. Set on a medium-low heat and let cook for fifteen minutes or until the greens are soft.
  3. When kale is tender, stir in the drained can of beans. Once warmed through, mix in the diced tomatoes and let cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat and sprinkle the Romano cheese on top. Serve.

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Things kind of happen

So, it started out as a small break. I was switching jobs and needed to take the time to really focus on all my new roles and responsibilities. And it was summer, so ‘what-the-heck?’ And then July came and I put an offer in on a house back in Montgomery County and ‘holy crap!’ My brain was filled with the anxiety not only of a new job but a new house and all the layers of emotion, fear and joy and confusion that go along with both those things. September came and I finally closed on the house, moving into my sweet little cottage along the Mohawk River just up the street from an actual fort. And with it came new responsibilities like buying a lawn mower and painting the sun-porch and taking out the trash every Thursday night.

And writing somehow never came into the picture. I mean, I’ve thought about it a lot, but things just kind of happened and I didn’t.

So now it’s October and there really aren’t any more excuses. I’m settled into my job and my home and the pattern of my day and I have a gorgeous view of the river from my sunny office window. I can’t complain and I can’t procrastinate anymore. It’s time to write about the things that happen and not get swept away by them.

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Hide and seek

I was amazingly, ridiculously, unabashedly obnoxious to a friend this past week. For this I am very sorry…but not exactly repentant. I’ve apologized to him but haven’t gotten a response so, well, I’m pretty sure he’s pissed at me. Why was I such a brat? What set me off? What hidden anger was revealed for me to act out so childishly?

He was hiding. He was afraid of something and instead of standing in the line of fire – a torrent of ‘how are you’s,’ ‘how have things been,’ and ‘we missed you’s’ – he chose to hide. And to me hiding was unacceptable. I got so frustrated and angry at him because he does this all the time. He shows the world a confident, cocky, capable, and accomplished face and whenever you get close enough to see anything else he pushes you away. Actually, he pushes me away…again and again. So this week’s act of failing to show for an event he’d cautiously accepted kind of sent me over the edge. I was disappointed that he didn’t have the strength to be vulnerable.

I’ll admit that I had a bit of a tantrum. No, I didn’t stomp my feet or cry – Instead I organized the near-constant bombardment of text messages to his phone for an hour by three or four people.

We will likely not speak for several months.

But here is where I’m not repentant: As obnoxious as my behaviour may have been, each one of those messages let him know how much he was missed – and that I do not regret.

Strength in vulnerability is a phrase I’ve had rolling around and around in my head lately. Men have it all wrong. They think that being tough and indifferent and cocky shows a woman how strong they are. Actually, at some point men started to work on the premise that indifference was an acceptable approach to women…It isn’t.

You know what shows real strength? Being vulnerable. And you know the most vulnerable things a man could do? To be kind, courteous and well mannered to a woman. Asking to buy a drink, holding a door, offering to carry a box or bag for a woman. It is basic, gentlemanly behavior that is so rarely practiced because we, as women, have been taught to decline. Today when a man offers any of those things he’s more likely to be brushed off and rejected – no matter how unintentionally – than accepted.

I want more men to realize that taking a chance, showing their vulnerability, keeping their promises (no matter how loosely offered), and just plain being nice to a woman shows so much more strength than anything else. And don’t hide – ever. Don’t ever hide from things you fear most. Be strong enough to face the hurt, the embarrassment, the pity and the awkward moments. Nothing changes if you hide. Life doesn’t get easier, just more isolated. Problems don’t get solved, only bigger. Fear doesn’t fade, it magnifies.

Or you may come face to face with a tantrum.

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Many questions and a few uncooked thoughts

This week I did an awful lot of people watching. I mixed and mingled. I laughed and flirted. And all the while I took in how other people did the same. I truly enjoy the education exercise that is the male/female interaction (said in my best social scientist voice). It was New York Farm Bureau’s State Annual Meeting and the event is always ripe with observation opportunities.

Some men lavish women with attention while others sit nearby and just kind of hover. Some men use cool indifference as a tactic to get women to follow them. Some women are able to draw men in with a knowing laugh and a coy smile. Some women stand on the edges and pine for a particular man who isn’t even aware of them.

Why is it that you can always see other people so much more clearly than you see yourself?

I honestly don’t know where I fit in the mix. I tend to have interesting, funny men around – but they never make a move. I’ve had a tendency to fall for the men that will never give me what I need or deserve. The ones that are indifferent and kind of rude but draw me in and drag me along for long periods of time. The combination causes me to honestly wonder if I even register as a woman – or am I “just Jen?” But then, in fleeting moments, I notice a sweet man looking across the room at me.

And then I’m truly confused.

It happened the other night. I looked up a few times and saw someone that I like but don’t really know looking at me. So I smiled and he smiled back. I even went over and asked a question, giving the opportunity to start a conversation. In return I received a sentance-long answer as he turned back to the card game he was playing. Huh. So maybe I was wrong. Or maybe he’s shy…Or maybe I was wrong…I keep going back and forth on this one.

Instead, I ended up being propositioned by a very drunk friend. At least I think he was propositioning me – I couldn’t actually understand him. There was drunk hugging and drunk “you’re amazings.” There may have even been a proposal in there…Let’s just say there was an awful lot of drunk on his part. It was kind of sweet, but totally not going to happen. I gave him a kiss on the cheek and went to bed alone and wondered. Not about him, but about men in general.

I wondered about how I approach men, about who I show them I am. Do they think I’m just a flirt? Am I unapproachable? Am I strong and independent and terrifying? Am I someone they pine for or am I someone that doesn’t even register as a woman? Am I a combination of these things? I’m a natural hostess so I move from group to group, laughing and chatting, asking how people are and what’s going on in their lives. I’m a flirt, I guess, because I smile and tease and joke, making sure that everyone is having a good time.

But men don’t know what to do with that do they? And when I work the room all the man who may be interested in me sees is me paying attention to everyone else but him.

I have other thoughts from this week and my scientifically minded observations. I have theories developing on vulnerability and strength and how they are actually not what you think they are. I’ve got a few lines on how hiding from things only keeps you hiding. And a call to action for men to actually offer to help a woman out  – lift heavy boxes, hold the door, be gentlemanly and well mannered…especially if you are interested in the woman!

None of these thoughts are fully cooked yet, but be sure there will be more from me soon enough.

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This is happy with pie on the side

I do not know how to express completely the pure happy that a sunshiney weekend brings. Bright and warm, full of fresh breezes. After the cold snap this past week, the long and exhausting work that made up my Monday thru Friday, the chance to sit out in the sunshine and recharge was beyond bliss.

This weekend has to go down as one of the best I’ve had in a while – but then again it could have had more to do with the company I kept than the weather we enjoyed. I spent Saturday and Sunday afternoons with a friend’s three sons – 3, 7 and 9 – three of my most favorite people in the world. We drove through fields, checked out cows, explored creeks and gravel pits on Saturday. We giggled and ate freshly baked “pumpkin” pie on Sunday. I don’t know if there is anything better than having those little boys sing out “you can’t leave yet” every time I made a move to do just that.

Below is the recipe for the “pumpkin” pie…There quote marks because I didn’t use pumpkin but sweet dumpling squash instead. I don’t know if there is a simpler thing to make. It took all of three minutes to combine everything…

Sweet dumpling squash look like decorative gourds but are too tasty to just use for decorations.

To cook the squash, take off the stems and split in two. Scoop out the seeds and set on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes or until the squash is soft. Scoop out the meat of the squash and freeze in 1 1/2 c. servings.

Winter Squash Pie

1 1/2 c. cooked squash (sweet dumpling is best but if you use pumpkin or butternut, drain the squash before measuring and using in this recipe)

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 eggs

1 1/4 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. ginger

1/8 t. nutmeg

1 t. vanilla

1 9-inch pie crust

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F

1. Mix all the wet ingredients fully. Stir spices in completely.

2. Pour filling into pie crust.

3. Bake for 10 min at 425 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 35 – 45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean when poked into pie.

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The music man

I wonder if my listening habits are different than other people’s? I wonder if my eclectic mix of music, a mix that weaves in and out of genres and up and down rhythmic patterns is out of the ordinary? I wonder this because in the past few weeks I’ve been sampling bits and pieces throughout my workday all to create the constant background soundtrack of my life that is Pandora.

Chris Thile helps me type. Seasick Steve helps me read. Robbie Williams helps me clean. Lou Reed helps me escape. All of those are last week’s favorite artists. I’ve also run the gambit from Common to Blake Shelton to Tom Jones in a matter of four hours. God, I love Tom Jones and I’m not afraid to admit it. Who can’t help but move to “Sexbomb” or “What’s new pussy cat?” Tom Jones becomes a problem though because I bop around in my chair and look like I’m having a bit of a fit.

Am I alone in wondering about people who only listen to one genre? Or people who rule out entire segments of the music industry? I mean, I don’t really like SlipKnot but I’ll dip my toe in the water every once in a while just because. I like country but I can’t listen to it 24/7 nor can I keep my Foo Fighters on an endless loop. The variety I am able to sample is like an endlessly delicious buffet for my soul.

Music just makes me happy; it gives me energy, it gives me peace. Music helps me get through my day and the tasks on hand. Music fuels my daydreams and desires, my goals and wishes.

Who are your favorite performers? Or, who are your favorites right?

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Harvest season in Upstate…

Upstate New York shines in September and October. The air gets crisp, the sunlight becomes pale and the leaves burst with color. Cool nights signal the end of the growing season and the start of harvest. Around the state, yellowed corn stalks are chopped by tractors and packed away for the winter. Combines travel through fields of soy beans doing the same. Both crops will feed dairy cows for the next year.

 The hot, dry summer has caused many farmers a great deal of worry not only in New York but across the country. Articles and news broadcasts have highlighted the concerns throughout the past few months warning about shortages and increases in food costs. Crops like corn and soy don’t germinate, grow, pollinate or produce when the rain fails to fall and the sun bakes down. For example, at my family’s farm the soy beans are about three weeks behind schedule. That means a lot of praying for the autumn weather to hold off a little while longer.

 But, despite all these concerns, autumn brings a renewed energy to the countryside. Pumpkin stands open, apple pies bake and cider doughnuts are enjoyed with renewed pleasure. Autumn is pure pleasure and farmers know how to share the experience with their neighbors. Many County Farm Bureaus across the state are hosting events that introduce families to farm life. Montgomery and Fulton County Farm Bureaus held Sundae on the Farm events in September. These events welcomed nearly 5,000 people to working farms in the counties for a day of educational tours, displays, crafts and wagon rides. Herkimer County will be hosting a similar event on October 6th in the town of Maheim.

 We all know that the pleasure that is autumn won’t last very long – maybe that’s why so many of us spend all the time we can soaking in the season. Soon, crisp will turn to cold and pale sunshine will be in short supply. Our attention will turn inward, focusing on our homes and our hearths and the plan-making that is winter’s rest. But, while the spectacle of autumn is still in full swing, I encourage you to head to a local farm event, a corn maze, or other local event that celebrates all the wonders agriculture can offer not only at this time of year, but year round.

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