It’s that time of the year again! Fall is here, the weather is glorious, the leaves are changing, and my usual anal retentive, box checking self takes a chill pill and allows my inner domestic goddess to have her moment.

Last weekend was not nearly so glorious as today, but nevertheless I took Little M to the local Fall Festival and then to the “pumpkin patch” where we picked up two nice sized pumpkins and four mums for planting in the pots around the house. Last night (finally!) I planted the mums, hung the jack-o-lantern flag, and set out the pumpkins along with a scarecrow girl on a stick.

I’ve already gotten most of my interior decorations up, just a little tweaking to do here and there. Once I’ve done that, I just need to get the wreath up and some fall fabric on the pillows for the front porch, then I can turn my attention to…food.

An email exchange I had with my brother this week has me desperate to get in the kitchen and get busy. His description of the mashed potato volcanoes he made had my stomach at attention, but when I got to this:

            Yesterday while just tinkering around the yard, I decided to make some homemade potato soup.  Used 10 pounds of red potatoes, so it was a small batch.  Did I mention I love real food? We took some ciabatta rolls and hollowed them out to use for bowls. Topped with cheese, chives and fresh crumbled bacon… mmmm…”

I LOVE potato soup so naturally I’m reading his email and mentally inventorying my pantry at the same time, wondering if I have everything I need to make potato soup. Which led me to think that I haven’t roasted a pork shoulder for carnitas in while, and if I picked up some more apples (or pears) I could make Granny’s dumplings as well. And while I’m thinking of it, where is that Lentil Soup recipe I wanted to try, and oh wait, I forgot about this one…Brazilian Feijoada – gotta try that.

Next thing you know, a menu plan for the week and a (very long) grocery list was born. All of the labor intensive or slow cooking items I can do over the weekend and serve throughout the week interspersed with easier to prepare fare. Menu the for week, not necessarily to be served in this order:

Saturday – Burgers on the grill (its going to be a great day for grilling), dumplings

Sunday – Ham and Potato Soup, homemade bread

Monday – Shrimp and Fettuccine Alfredo

Tuesday – Carnitas

Wednesday – Italian Chicken

Thursday – Brazilian Feijoada

Friday – Roast (Beef)

Saturday – Meatloaf (Mexican Style)

(The Lentil Soup isn’t officially on the menu, but I still hope to make it to pack in my lunch for the coming workweek.)

Can’t wait to hit the grocery store and get cooking!

On my way to work yesterday morning I passed a tree. As a conservative estimate I would say I have passed this tree roughly 4,680 times, but this time it was different because I really noticed it. When the tree first caught my eye in the distance, it somehow looked odd. My initial thought was, “Why on earth is someone hanging Easter eggs on a dead tree in the middle of September?” Then, as I got closer, I realized that the tree wasn’t dead, it was just devoid of leaves, and it wasn’t full of Easter eggs, it was full of pears – ripe, round pears and lots of them.

That’s when it happened. 

Suddenly I was young again and back in my grandmother’s kitchen in North Carolina. Granny, as I always called her, was an incredible cook and one of her specialties was dumplings. Usually she made her dumplings with apples, but occasionally she did them with pears. As a child and young adult I was never fond of pears, but my Granny convinced me to love them through her dumplings. They were sublime. It was impossible to dislike pears after tasting her dumplings. In fact, I eventually I grew to love the pear dumplings more than the apple ones because she made them less often, and thereby they became a rare treat.

As I drove along and thought about Granny and remembered how she made those dumplings – peeling and coring the fruit, stuffing the core with sugar and cinnamon, wrapping the fruit in pastry and nestling them six to a pan to bake until they were tender and golden – made me think for the millionth time how much I loved her and now miss her. 

Granny passed way in the spring of 1998, but after all this time, there isn’t a day that passes that I don’t think of her in some way. Often it’s a fleeting thought or memory. Sometimes it’s a wish that my daughter Little M could have known her, or that I could sit at her table and talk (and eat) with her again. Usually the memories are sweet with a gentle tug at the heart, but sometimes – like yesterday, they come when I most vulnerable to them and rake across my soul like a thousand razorblades leaving me raw and exposed.

I spent the better part of the morning yesterday pondering why the pear tree and the memory of those dumplings cut me to the core. I realized that it wasn’t the tree or the dumplings that caused the pain, it’s in missing what my Granny put into those dumplings – all the warmth and unconditional love that defined her character and our relationship – that is gone forever and can never be replaced.

 

I am convinced that magazines have a secret life, and that when we’re not looking they multiple like bunnies. Maybe it’s their way of getting back at us for going digital.

My husband reads a ton of magazines, and with the exception of his beloved High Performance Pontiac and Auto Restorer, they all eventually make their way (with help from me) to the recycling bin.

My Mother-in-Law used to save all her old magazines for me to read because she knew that I would enjoy looking through them, and I did – up until the point I became a Mom and the magazines started piling up unread. Between the magazines she was sending my way and the ones to which I subscribed, (not to mention my husband’s collection) my house was becoming a glossy paper nightmare.

Finally I asked my Mother-in-Law to pass her magazines on to someone else, and I cancelled my subscriptions. Now I’m left with the carnage of my past sins – a stack of Parents partially read, a stack of Taste of Home (and a few other cooking magazines) barely flipped thru, and worst of all, a stack of Bead Style that I haven’t even given the time of day.

In a weaker moment I considered throwing them all in the recycle bin to be done with it, but that’s taking the easy way out and is wasteful on so many levels. Instead, I’ve decided to tackle the magazine monster like any other project – one step at a time (or in this case, one magazine at a time). I’ll work my way thru each one of them, scanning any recipes or articles that I want to save for later.

My BFF and I are already whispering about the possibility of a yard sale in the Spring, so as I go thru the stacks of magazines I’ll add them to the yard sale pile. Anything related to cooking and crafting tends to sell well. (In the event they don’t sell, there is always Craigslist or Freecycle.) In the meantime, I’ve got about nine months and a lot of reading to do before the yard sale – I better get busy.