Fall in Color if Nothing Else

summer in Seattle
orange iris
Tile backsplash

I’m in one of those happy, giddy, goofy moods today. Everything is making me smile. Finding Fall shades around the house and garden, for example; thinking of my brother today, as he turns 24; planning recipes and ingredients for this weekend’s baking session; dreaming of Thanksgiving.

I hope your Friday is as cheery.

Fall Sewing

Zipper, ribbon
Pink pin

My favorite colors change with time. While I was once a turquoise and purple girl, much influenced by my mother, I find orange and pink drawing my eye more these days. I simply love these colors paired with the dark, chocolate brown. This mystery project is a surprise gift for a friend. More details in a few weeks when it’s posted and received.


Tea, a Drink with Jam and Scone!

Claudia of Chestofdrawers has generously shared her favorite Fall recipe — pumpkin scones. Claudia is Australian, but now lives in Austria. Her blog is a treat of art, craft and travel photography. She also has this incredible Sound of Music-esq view from her kitchen, where she whips up such sugary goodness. I am going to bake these this weekend. Yum!

Preheat oven to 200° celsius
You need:
1 Tblsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup cooked mashed pumpkin (cold)
2 cups Self raising flour (or 2 cups plain flour plus 1 teaspoon baking powder)
Beat together butter, sugar and salt with electric mixer.
Add egg, then pumpkin and stir in the flour with a spoon.
Turn on to floured board, knead lightly until the dough comes together, roll out to a thickness of 3cm and cut rounds with a cookie cutter. Place scones right next to each other on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper
Place tray on top shelf of hot oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve warm or cold with butter and jam.

Ultimate, You Kicked My Butt

A flash of frisbee fun

Anyone who thinks frisbee is for dogs and weenies, beware. Ultimate frisbee is for people who love to run around like maniacs for two hours and then drink like fish afterward. I skipped the drinking and instead got up to meet my running partner this morning for a few miles on the canals. Oh, what a silly, silly move. My legs still haven’t recovered. Thankfully, she was understanding and we trotted slowly through a couple of miles with me promising a Kenyan performance on Friday’s run. I’m ever the optimist.

While I am more tired today than I have been in a very long time, I can’t wait until next week’s game. Apparently I’ve been bitten by the frisbee bug. My team has a ratio of 3 men to every woman, so we get to play a ton. And the men seem sincerely interested in letting the women play, which is very nice. Week one was a success.

Pistachio sugar cookies

Although my athletic performance left a bit to be desired, the pistachio cookies were a big hit. One guy even noticed they matched our team colors. Next week I’m thinking dark chocolate cupcakes with a splash of cream cheese pistachio frosting on top.


Pumpkin Ravioli and Pistachio Sugar Cookies

My all-call for pumpkin recipes and Fall customs rang true to many of you. Have you seen the lovely pumpkins Catrina painted? Or the beautiful topiaries Autum created for her dreamy porch? (Yes, I guess I’m officially old. I just called a porch dreamy.) Everyone in this hemisphere seems to truly be on the Fall train, with the next stop being Pumpkinland. For my Aussie and South American friends, we are envious of you celebrating Spring!

Today’s recipe, from my favorite penpal Shelley, comes from Italy. Pumpkin ravioli. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I mastered a homemade ravioli recipe in college, but would stuff them with mushrooms and pesto. This sounds much more seasonal and healthy — although if you cover it in a cream or butter sauce you’re doomed nutritionally.

If I were going to make pumpkin ravioli tonight, I’d serve it without sauce and instead add just the lightest drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and pepper. I’d complement it with a spinach (e-coli free, mind you) salad, with cherry tomatoes and pears.

Tonight I begin my latest foray into the crazy world of team sports. A friend has long played on Ultimate Frisbee leagues. After two seasons of pushy men on co-ed softball teams, I decided a new sport was in order. (There are only so many times I’ll allow a man I’ve just met to boss me around on the field and cover my position when he thinks I can’t do it. Men who cannot control their competitive edge in co-ed sports are such a turn off. Let the girls play already!)
So, frisbee starts tonight. In the recent practices, I’ve run around like a sweaty idiot without a clue, but had fun. My team’s color is pistachio and we should be getting our shirts tonight before the game. What to do when you know no one on a new team sport? Bribe them with sweets, of course. I’m whipping up a batch of pistachio sugar cookies after work to bring to the field. I’ll win them over with my baked goods far faster than my athletic prowess. The pistachio sugar cookie recipe is fairly simple: take your favorite sugar cookie recipe and add one package of pistachio instant pudding to the mix. Bake accordingly and serve with a sprinkle of sugar on top. Photos tomorrow, perhaps even of my continued attempts to play frisbee without looking like a golden retriever, tongue wagging and all.


Glittery Pumpkins and Cooler Weather

Happy pumpkins

Have I mentioned in the last 20 minutes how much I love Fall? Autumn + me = one happy Phoenician. This is the season that has been dangling like a carrot before us for the last five months of pure, utterly hot stickiness.
Last night my AC did not come on once. Sweet, cool weather joy.
While reading the October issue of MSL, I couldn’t help but laugh. So much of her magazine is inappropriate for Arizonans, and Phoenicians especially. I don’t need to clean my gutters, or gather supplies for the squirrels. I don’t have any colorful leaves to gather — alas, cactus spines don’t change hue — or wreaths to decorate. My winter garden cannot be planted until January and bulbs do me no good in clay soil. So, if you can’t trust Martha, how does one know that Fall has arrived in our basin of heat?
The pumpkin latte shows up at Starbucks, and the pumpkin bagel at Einstein’s. JoAnn’s starts sending me reminders on how to sew my Halloween costume. (Sure, right after I clean those gutters, or professional eavestrough cleaning services make it simple so I may hire them to save me the hassle. Or I may be wise next year and invest in some gutter guards from a company like Mastershieldatl for example, so I won’t have to take as much time cleaning my gutters, as well as not having to do it as frequently.) And the weather cools off below 100 degrees.
I’ve tucked my favorite white pants and skirts away in the back of the closet and been shopping for a new pair of black saucy boots. My pedicure routine will more than likely fall away for the next few months and I’m going to dust off my hot tea mug. I love the changing weather, even if we don’t have a true changing of seasons in Arizona.
I’m going to start posting many of my favorite pumpkin recipes and Fall traditions. If you’ve got one you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about it!


A Day of Thanks

pretty flowers

My grandfather told me yesterday that he doesn’t think people stop to be thankful for what they have often enough. He and my grandmother sat on their patio and listed off the many reasons they are in love today, and how they wouldn’t accept $1 million for their kitchen table — a table they sat around when courting many years ago, learning the basics about each other. He went on about how thankful he was for his children, his grandchildren and his love for my grandmother.
I’d never heard them speak so frankly about each other. At one point, my grandma admitted it was my grandpa’s “cute ass” that got her attention. He just smiled and said, “What? I loved my 501s back then.” It was a beautiful afternoon.

A few things I’m thankful for this happy Sunday morning:

~ Cooling weather. Fall is my favorite season. I love all things pumpkin, including pumpkin bagels and lattes. Thanksgiving will be here before we know it.

~ My girlfriends. I know I say this often and loudly, but I am a girl without biological sisters. So, I’ve got my Ya Ya sisters — a cluster that’s surrounded me since high school (some since elementary, actually), who understand my faults and love me anyway. They are so important to me and I simply love them.

~ A job I look forward to going to each day.

~ A desire to be creative in the kitchen, at the sewing table and in the garden.

~ Great books. I’ve just finished reading, “Winterdance,” a gift from Finny. This is the memoir of a man training and running his first Iditarod. I was freezing when reading it, especially when the author writes, “It wasn’t cold, just 20 below.” Oy. Funny, sweet read. I highly recommend it. Four out of five bananas, absoloodle. I’m now inhaling, “Moloka’i” and loving it too.

~ My faith.

~ And certainly, my family.

Happy Sunday to you!

The Joy of Baking

With travel and work consuming September, there hasn’t been much domesticity in Casa de Kelli as of late. Last weekend, one of my most favorite people in the world came to visit and I barely got the sheets washed in time. I’m still playing a bit of catchup, although thankfully after two weeks of excessive exercise and lots of water and fresh vegetables, I’m starting to feel like my old self again.
What to do when your pants just start to fit? Why bake, of course.
I had several hours yesterday to play, so I took the opportunity to read the September issue of Martha Stewart Living, which includes a wonderful recipe for polenta quicktime lemon thyme bread. Usually I find Martha’s recipes unnecessarily difficult and tedious. Not so with this one. I give it a five out of five bananas, absoloodle.

my copy of MSL, september

The recipe is quick, simple and the results are delicious. I passed them out last night after dinner with friends, and am taking a few others to my grandparent’s house today. Like all bread recipes, I find it easier to bake them in the individual loaf pans, rather than one large pan. This makes controlling serving sizes easier for everyone.

my polenta quick time bread with lemon and thyme

If I were making these for myself, I would not include pine nuts. They are not my favorite.

While in the kitchen, I whipped up a batch of Queenscliff-Sorrento chocolate hedgehogs. One of my friends from the bagel shop, AJ, generously gave me an extra computer printer he had. (I’d purchased a computer for my grandparents, but no printer. His generosity made the gift that much more complete.) In turn, I asked for his favorite baked good and without hesitation, he said, “HEDGEHOGS!”
He and his wife discovered the chocolate bar cookies on a recent trip to Australia and he was tickled pink when I showed up at the bagel shop this morning with an entire casserole dish of them.

Happy AJ, hedgehogs

They are fairly simple to make, but I warn you, they are as close to a heart attack in a dish as I’ve ever created — with some six sticks of butter and six eggs included. Can you imagine? AY! But of the small bite I had, they are truly a treat.

Recipe: Queenscliff-Sorrento Chocolate Hedgehogs

4 packages Marie cookies

(Gamesa’s version is called Marias)

(They can be found in the Mexican food isle of major grocery store chains)

2 cups walnut pieces

21 ounces butter

1 ¬Ω cups cocoa powder

2 ¬Ω cups superfine granulated sugar

6 large eggs beaten


21 ounces dark chocolate chips

(Milk chocolate chips can be substituted)

(Hershey’s versions are called Special Dark Chips or Milk Chocolate Chips)

4 ¬Ω ounces vegetable oil


In a large bowl, break cookies and walnuts into pieces (not too finely).

In a bowl over a simmering pan of water, melt the butter. Stir in sugar and cocoa and then take off the heat and add the beaten eggs stirring briskly.

Pour over cookie and walnut pieces and mix thoroughly all together.

Line a large, deep tray (20 inches x 12 inches x 4 inches deep) or four 9 inch x 5 inch loaf pans with plastic wrap. Put mixture into pan(s), pressing very firmly and cool over night in refrigerator.

To make the topping, melt the chocolate chips and oil in a bowl over simmering water until smooth, then pour over the cold mixture in the pan(s). Spread topping evenly and refrigerate.

When thoroughly chilled and set, use the plastic wrap to lift the molded mixture out of the pan(s). Place it topping side up and cut into 1 inch wide pieces with large, sharp knife wiping blade between each slice.


Rendering Him Infertile

I’m officially adding a new category as of today: TRIATHLON. In one year, I am going to be competing in a 1/2 Ironman (Ironwoman?). This is a race that, to my basic understanding, tests your mental fortitude as much as your physical strength. It includes a 1.2 mile lake swim, a 56 mile bike and then a 13 mile run. (To think that people do twice this much is amazing to me.) It is going to take 12 months of obsessive training to get me to the finish line.

Training began last week. While I’ve been swimming and running a fair bit, I haven’t been cycling. Friday, I purchased a road bike — which cost no less than my first car, mind you — along with all the gear. Helmet, tire tool kit, front and rear lights, water bottles and holders, tire pump, padded shorts, new sunglasses (because you’ve got to accessorize baby!), etc. I threatened to buy the streamers, but alas, money was already flying out of my wallet so fast, I thought I should put on the brakes a bit.

Saturday was my first ride. I woke early, got on the road by 6 am and realized quickly the road I had selected had no bike lane. With the sun just coming up, there were few cars on the road and no pedestrian traffic. I thought it would be okay to cruise along this street for a bit until I found a good turn off and could head south for a couple of miles before looping back home. The idea was to test Ruby, the bike, out for an hour and see how badly my rear end hurt the next day. I have a tendency to over do things, and knew I’d better be careful or I’d be limping for the rest of the week.

Ruby and I cruised along the road and I started feeling a bit confident. Her 30 gears were no longer intimidating. My feet in the cages weren’t so scary. Even the helmet strap around my throat wasn’t bothering me too much. Everything was going swimmingly until I got stuck behind a city bus. It kept stopping and I kept waiting behind it, unwilling to go on the sidewalk and too scared to pass in the next lane of traffic. Finally, after a couple of miles, I became exasperated and decided indeed to pass the bus on the sidewalk.

Ruby and I were flying past the bus when it came to stop. Just as I went to pass, a man stepped off the bus directly in to my path. I didn’t just mow him down, I may have rendered him infertile.
My handlebars went into his crotch.
His coffee flew in the air and went all over me.
I couldn’t get my feet out of those cages fast enough, so the bike tilted toward the bus and I slid with it. By the time I gathered myself and my balance, I was dripping in Irish cr√®me and apologizing to a man’s groin. Then, beet red with embarrassment, I looked up after realizing perhaps my “I’m sorrys” should be directed toward his eyes and not his genitalia — from which I had just pried my bike. He too was quite shocked, embarrassed and worried he’d burned me with his coffee. We were both fine, thankfully, and we quickly said our goodbyes. Me cycling one way, him limping the other.
It wasn’t until I got about a mile away that the humor of the situation caught up with me. Then I got the giggles and simply couldn’t stop laughing. Every time I caught my breath, I caught a whiff of his coffee — all over my shirt and bike — and started the hysterical laughter again.
Oh, what a show we put on for those on the bus. And what a great first ride!


South America: Ecuador

Last day of photos, I promise. I am starting to annoy myself with all the reminiscing. I feel like you’ve been sitting on my couch for weeks, eating stale popcorn and listening politely as I ramble and sort through slides from my latest vacation. Even I am falling asleep.
Tomorrow: we return to our previously scheduled cooking, crafting and domestic engineering programming, with a new athletic twist.

Today: Quito, the capital of Ecuador; the “middle of the world” — where the equator divides the northern and southern hemispheres; and Mindo, the cloudy forest.

Angel overlooking square

Quito is a pretty city and is warmer than La Paz or Lima. I felt safe wandering around, although we did stumble into a political rally where the police were just pulling out their gas masks. Thankfully, we stumbled away quickly enough. The older architecture in this city is fun to examine. Most buildings are quite detailed! I am fond of the large angel statue that looks over the city.

Indigenous woman, Quito

This indigenous woman was selling gum downtown. Isn’t her bright clothing beautiful?

Quito Basilica, 3

There are an impressive number of churches in Quito, including a basilica with amazing stained glass. I spent about 30 minutes going from window to window, admiring the stories told in this colorful medium.

Me, middle of the world

Thirty minutes south of Quito lies the “middle of the world,” or where the world is literally divided at 0 degrees latitude and 0 degrees longitude. There is an actual line that you can walk down (for a $4 entrance fee) and you wouldn’t believe how cool this line is. Did you know your natural balance is totally thrown off at the equator? This is where the force from the north and south poles collide and your natural equilibrium takes the toll. When trying to walk down the line, you get all wobbly, like you’ve had a couple gin and tonics for breakfast. We did several interesting science experiments on the line, discussing the earth’s natural pull. (balancing an egg on a nail, draining water without a whirlpool, etc.) It made me miss learning about science regularly.

Mindo, Ecuador

Mindo is a two-hour drive from Quito and is considered “cloudy forest.” It isn’t quite rainforest, but I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. We arrived at the national park and paid $3 to be shuttled across the tree tops to a neighboring mountain peak. Speaking of gin and tonics, now would be the perfect time. Not only would they help keep away the swarms of bugs, but you wouldn’t notice that you were performing a trapeze act above the rainforest canopy.

Us in the carrier

I’m smiling in this photo because I’m scared out of my mind. I’m about 500 feet in the air, in a tiny metal box on a cable that is being pushed across a giant valley below. The views were inspiring, but I wouldn’t do it again.

Lizard in the jungle

Some people see monkeys. I see little lizards and a pair of toucans. The birds were elegant, and strangely made me hungry for sugary cereal. I didn’t know what I had seen until they flew by. Alas, no photo. This guy, however, didn’t mind when I got my camera right in his face as he wolfed down a small bug.


More pretty flora and fauna.

Cacti on the equator

This beautiful cactus didn’t do anything to help my homesickness. I was ready to come back by the time we reached Ecuador. It is a lovely country, but not one I plan to visit again.
Next time I hit South America for work, I’m planning a week in Chile and a few days in Buenos Aires. I’ve always wanted to have an Eva Peron moment while actually in Argentina. Don’t cry for me…