10 Week Pumpkin-Palooza: Week 1

Pumpkin, Apple, Bacon Soup

Pumpin Apple Bacon Soup

Welcome to the first week of pumpkin purée madness!  To me, there’s nothing that says fall more than the pumpkin.  Pumpkin pie is my favorite pie.  And, yes, I do like me a Pumpkin Spice Latte…I won’t pretend otherwise.  Don’t even get me started on pumpkin cheesecake!  After seeing a couple of recipes online and elsewhere regarding this humble gourd, I decided I would play around with it this fall.  This is leading up to Thanksgiving, and our pumpkin pie…if anyone has any pie recipes they recommend, I’m all for it!

I’m a big fan of vegetable soups.  I make one nearly every week.  My freezer is full of them.  In the summer I will make Vichyssoise, and Gazpacho.  So, it seemed like a no-brainer that my first pumpkin-themed recipe would be pumpkin soup.

*Disclaimer: I am not a cook, I don’t take credit for any of these recipes.  I’m only blogging to share the recipes I’ve found, and the experience I had in making them. *

Today’s recipe is modified from a Food Magazine insert, entitled, “50 Thing to Make with Canned Pumpkin”.  The modifications were small, really.  Mainly, substituting coconut milk for the cream, and using homemade pumpkin pie spice mix instead of a store-bought mixture, which I worried might have sugar in it. (I just found a simple mixture here at Stupid, Easy Paleo).  The recipe also used the apple as a topping along with the bacon, but I choose to incorporate mine into the soup directly; I also left in some of the bacon grease when I cooked my apple (I mean, if butter is better, then bacon and butter is best, right?).  The parsley is my own touch, as I like to add a pop of green to my soup, and I have parsley to use up.

The Ingredients:

  • 15oz Can of Pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie stuff, the actual pumpkin puree)
  • 2 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 Cup Canned Coconut Milk (don’t use the drink stuff…blech!)
  • 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 4 Strips of Bacon, diced (or, if you’re me, cut up with the scissors)
  • 1 Tbsp Butter – I like Kerrygold’s Irish Butter ( if you prefer ghee, knock yourself out, but it’s too rich for my system, so butter is better!)
  • 1 Apple, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup (I prefer organic, but if not, make sure it’s actually maple syrup, and not the watered-down-breakfast-“carb-wheel” knock-off)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 C Parsley, minced


  1. Mix together your pumpkin pie spice if necessary
  2. Mix together pumpkin, broth, and coconut milk in a small stock pot.  Add spice mix.  Sir to combine, and set aside.
  3. Add diced bacon to a small pan, and cook until crispy – about 5 minutes.  Remove from pan, and drain on a paper towel.
  4. Drain off all but a tablespoon of the bacon grease, add the butter and melt .
  5. Add diced apple to the pan, and cook until soft and beginning to brown.  About 5 minutes.
  6. Add apple to the pumpkin mix in the stock pot..
  7. Bring the pot to a simmer, add the maple syrup, and whisk for 5 minutes until heated through.
  8. Add salt and pepper if you’d like – I just added a pinch of salt to bring out the flavor.
  9. Ladle into bowls.  Crumble bacon, and sprinkle parsley on top to garnish.

This was a simple recipe, that’s well worth the small amount of effort.  The soup has a mild sweet/tang to it.  It’s rich, but not too heavy.  I enjoyed mine with some cold chicken from earlier in the week and yummy zucchini bread that a neighbor brought over.  Tastes like fall to me!


Alaska 2013

Matanuska River 2

In June of 2013 I spent a week in Alaska, visiting with family, some of whom I hadn’t seen in nearly 20 years (It’s the first vacation I’d taken since 2003).  My previous visit to “The Last Frontier” was in 1993, during Christmas of my senior year of high school. I have two sisters, one brother, four nieces, one nephew, three grand-nieces, and four grand-nephews who call this state home.  I stayed with my sister, Sue, in Palmer.

PhotoGrrl Pictures

PhotoGrrl Pictures

90 degree days greeted us in the Valley, while the cooler temperatures of upper 60’s provided pleasant weather closer to the mountains.  The Midnight Sun, our constant companion, kept any bad weather at bay.


Without coordination, my brother Bill who also lives here in Washington, came to visit at the same time.  His kids surprised him with it at Christmas.  Sue hosted a large family get-together, which included her husband’s family.  I met my niece Brittany and my nephew Jeff for the first time.

Both of my sisters, and my sister Joy’s daughter, Brittany, and I spent a day visiting the Portage Glacier, Whittier, and shared an amazing dinner at The Double Musky.


I’ve never spent a day with my sisters.  We laughed until we cried, we teased each other, and on the drive home Sue took us to places where she and Joy grew up.  It was such a special day for me.  Even now, a years later, I tear-up thinking about that time together.  My brothers are great, and I’m glad for my time together with them, but there’s something special about sisters.

Portage Glacier02

Portage Glacier07

Portage Glacier08

I didn’t know it until we went there that I’d been to the Portage Glacier outside of Anchorage once before, when I spent a summer with my brother Marty in 1990.  I didn’t remember much, except watching a movie about the glacier in a nearby observatory; the movie talked a lot about ice worms.





Whittier09                   Whittier07

Despite the constant beauty, I’d been smack dab in the middle of a creative funk that summer, and didn’t really find a zone, but visiting the little town of Whittier woke me up a bit.  The local fishing boats tethered in rows along the docks charmed me; it’s well worth the half hour drive, down a one lane road, one way tunnel, THROUGH A MOUNTAIN!

Cruise ships make this town a port of call, and one was in port while we were there.

Time didn’t permit us the opportunity to check out the creepy, abandoned mental hospital in town, but the image of the dandelions in a beer bottle made up for it.

Matanuska River

That week last June filled me with so much peace.  Allowed me to relax completely.  And, filled me with a lot of love for my crazy family.

*recently I was reviewing a draft to post, and came across this little gem.  I didn’t realize I’d never gotten it on my blog!

Sunday Morning Sit Down


Fall seems like it might finally be showing up here in Washington.  It’s been an incredible warm, and rain-free, summer, which started in spring.  The humidity is hanging in here, though now that the rain is showing up.  I’m looking forward to those crisp sunny days that make this time of year my favorite.

A year ago May I went to a friend’s wedding in Nebraska, and it reignited my love of photography, but honed it in the direction of “travel photography”.  (Whatever that really truly means, but for me it’s photos and journaled thoughts of my personal excursions).  It inspired an aborted attempt at a 365 project – my work schedule wasn’t conducive to keeping up that pace.  It also bore in me a desire to travel the American Highway System, and see what there is to be seen.  July 9th-11th was my first step towards that adventure.

Thanks to a co-worker who shared her family’s beach house, and a friend who loaned me a camera without the sensor problems that my old Nikon D40 is facing, I set out to begin an exploration of Highway 101.

So, 101 in Washington makes a loop around the Olympic Mountain Range, known as the Olympic Peninsula.  My first day was a trip up to the Makah Indian Reservation with stops in Neah Bay, Cape Flattery, and Toos-Yess Beach.  Day two went south through the sloughs, and Willapa Bay, and over the Columbia River into Astoria.  On day three of the whirlwind drive, I headed north again, still on the western side of the Olympics to see Lake Quinault, Crescent Lake, and catch the sunset at Sequim Bay.  Looking forward to sharing this trip with everyone.

There are many other photos sitting in my To Process folder.  Including a Dill-Fisch shoot with ponies, and some older trips I never found the time to get out.  I missed posting my Long Beach trip over the 4th to the blog, but you can see the photos on my Facebook Page. I still have one more photo to clean up (see previously mentioned sensor problems *sigh*).

In non photo-related news, I’m going to begin another Whole30, in order to get back on track with a healthy eating plan.  I’m also going to explore cooking with pumpkin this fall, which I’m calling my 10 Weeks of Pumpkin Fun.  I’ve already found a few recipes I’m excited to try.  Finally, I plan on catching everyone up on The Grand Idiocy.


Comic Con and Superheros

comic-con-logo-la-7-19-13Not sure about the rest of you geeks out there, but I spent the weekend binge watching everything I could get my hands on related to Comic Con that You Tube would offer up.

I’ve become more of a TV watcher in the past few years than a movie geek, so those TV panels were always the ones I most looked forward to.  And, with Orphan Black only showing up as a 5 minute highlight video, The X-Files inexplicably not having a panel, and The Vampire Diaries having just finished their panel this morning, I spent most of my time watching the movie panels.

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten excited about superhero movies.  My disenchantment probably started with Spider-Man 3, and a couple years later X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  After that I had a hard time getting excited for the total gluttony of the summer superhero movie take-over.  Preferring to retreat into the actual comic books instead. Joss Whedon couldn’t really re-invest me, which shows you how deep my apathy ran.  And, yet…

…DC and Marvel have me amped up in way that I haven’t been in years.  Even Batfleck didn’t make me want to punch things.  (Though the teaser was far more tantalizing that the trailer).  I’m easily most excited about Suicide Squad and Deadpool.  There’s the fact that we finally get to see Wonder Woman on screen…finally! Oh, and a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

So in an effort to set aside my comic book disillusionment, I’m going to spend the next few Saturdays revisiting the DC and Marvel Universes, picking up franchises I never bothered to watch (Captain America, Thor), and re-watching the others.  (I did just rewatch Nolan’s Batman Trilogy not too long ago, so I’ll probably glide past that one).


A Level Two Killer: The Rules and the Reviews

tumblr_llrmnuseOJ1qzb5wzo1_1280For a month and a half I toiled away at Level 1 of The Grand Idiocy, traipsing through various galaxies, times, and parallel universes with Arthur Dent, occasionally heading off the Avonlea, Fairyland, and hanging out with alien teenagers on our own planet.  I got lost on a road to Middlemarch, but pulled back halfway through.  The thing is…it took some time.  Level 2 took a week!

The reason for the differences?  Points!

The Rules

The goal is to get to 100 points and to have killed a series.  A total of six Hitchhiker’s books were read to complete the series.  (I had read the first book before, but decided to re-read it to start off the series).  You get 5 points for each book you’ve read plus 10 x however many books are in a series that is killed.  (Thus: 85 points for Hitchhiker’s; 5 points for the remaining books; a total of 105, because somewhere along the way, I forgot how to add). For level 2, I read the 9th book in The Black Jewels collection to kill that mofo.  95 points off the bat.  Only 1 book additional to read in order to move to level 3.

The Reviews


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Books 1 – 5 by Douglas Adams

In a word…excellent.  Wickedly quippy.  Effortlessly flippant.  Laugh-out-loud funny.  Surprisingly biting.  Offhandedly irreverent.  One hell of a ride.  Read these books!

“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.” – Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Book 6 by Eoin Colfer

In a word…gawd-awful.  In all the ways that Adams’ stories are brilliant, Colfer’s story is forced, unfunny, and taxing.  Too much time spent on people we don’t care about, and won’t care about.  The asides, which always delightful, were distracting.  The characters not entirely recognizable, most specifically, Arthur Dent.  It felt like someone trying to be someone else, which it was.  In the end, it felt like a commercial venture, and not a creative one.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

This story of an alien boy is something I picked up to read the last month of December, before jumping into the serial killer challenge in January.  However, an exhausting work schedule prevented me from reading much of it, so it became the first book I read for the serial killer challenge.  It’s a straight-forward, three-star read.  A good enough book to pass the time, but not a series I have to read RIGHT NOW! I’m interested enough in seeing all those numbers come together.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Similar in tone to Douglas Adam’s, actually.  It’s unromantic in its approach to children, which I found surprisingly refreshing.  It’s fun, and it’s great to see a girl featured in an adventure story.  Also, I found the ending surprising and satisfying.  A well-told story, and I’m looking forward to the remainder of the series.

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

I’m not sure if there is a girl of my generation who didn’t absolutely fall for the Canadian Miniseries staring Megan Follows as Anne Shirley (BTW that “e” is most important!).  A friend gave me this book when I was younger, I think I was 10 or so?  I tried to read it, but my modern-self wasn’t ready for literature, yet.  So, picking it up again, I found the world of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island charming as though enveloped by a handmade quilt.  Coming of age stories are often regulated to boys, and that’s fine, because they’re quite good (see Boyhood for example).  Yet, as a girl, who watched these miniseries and relates to the book from that time frame, I really loved Anne’s story.  Once I complete the book series, I’m buying the whole damn thing on DVD!

number2_zpsa6c2b3d0Twilight’s Dawn by Anne Bishop

This book is the definition of, “meh”. I wrote a more thoughtful review of it here on Goodreads.

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

When I read Dune many years ago it felt like a perfect book to me.  So perfect I made a conscious decision not to read the rest of the series, because I didn’t want it to change how I felt about the first book.  Having read Dune Messiah now, I’m excited to read the rest of the series.  There is something hypnotizing about Herbert’s writing.  I feel as though I’m on spice when I read it.  For those who need a lot of action in their Sci Fi, this isn’t the book for you.  It’s all psychological, philosophical, metaphysical and intrigue.  I friggin’ loved it!

Now…on to level three, but I think I’m going to hop down that bunny trail leading back to Middlemarch first.

About Books

tumblr_llrmnuseOJ1qzb5wzo1_1280So I got it in my head this year, that I would set myself the goal of reading 90 books.  It’s roughly two books a week, and once upon a time I read three to four books a week.  Three to four weighty tombs in fact.  One to two books a week felt like a walk in the park. A pleasant walk in the park, in fact.  A walk in the park where I wouldn’t need suffer the bloviated pontification of insufferable philosophers (unless of course I want to read the bloviated pontification of insufferable philosophers), or the incomprehensible triple/quadruple negatives of one Aristotle (no worries here, I will never voluntarily read Aristotle).

The thing I didn’t take into account?  It’s no longer my “job” to read three to four books a week.  In fact my Job eats up around 50 hours a week of my time, leaving not so much time left for the reading. Therefore, I’ve named this venture …

The Grand Idiocy!

What prompted this flight of fancy?  This delving into the abyss of miss-laid ambition?  Did I purchase a time turner at some out of the way, funky pawn shop?  Trade in my duct-taped together Mazda Protege for a circa 80’s DeLorean?  Nope!  I joined a book club.  An online book club.  Through Goodreads…it’s a thing.

See they have these challenges…monthly and yearly.  This year’s challenge?  To become a serial killer.  At first thinking this meant crime drama, I felt in no way tempted to join when I innocently opened the link in You’ll Love This One’s discussion forum.  Them bastards are quiet tricksy and much more cleaverer than I gave them credit for.  This challenge only deals in mystery and crime if you want it to.  No, it’s a challenge that lets you go through, and close the loop on all those book series you’ve been reading, or thinking about reading, or never knew you wanted to read until you saw someone else’s book series.

Sitting down with pen, paper, computer, bookshelves, and various Amazon and Barnes and Noble “wish lists”, I came up with 23 series I wanted to complete (but really start), which I’m estimating at around 90 or so books.  As you read your books, you progress through levels, based on an elaborate points system (not really elaborate, unless you’re reading it hung over one Sunday morning).  To complete a level you need 100 points and have disemboweled at least one series.

Well, my friends, last night I completed my first level!  Yep, at 105 points, I am an official serial killer (I’m sure my mom always knew I had it in me).

The following titles were the first manuscripts I massacred (pronounced mass-a-creed ™Arlo Guthrie):

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy six book series (this included the sacrilegious 6th book written by most definitely not Douglas Adams – moment of silence).

And rounding out my points:  I Am Number Four; The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making; and Anne of Green Gables.

A summary of my thoughts and feelings on the books of level one is forth coming.

Tonight…it’s enough for me to stand here and proclaim:

Beluga Point 1B“With 14% of the year completed, I have completed 10% of my reading goal!”

Now, if you’ll excuse me?  I’m going to my room, where you will find me reading Dune Messiah.  G’night.