Movies for >> Hallo-Weenies

images via 1 // 2 // 3 // 4

True story: I don't like scary movies. As a natural worry-wart with an active imagination, I don't need new stimuli introduced. However, I do like fun+creepy movies. Since most parties were last weekend or are this weekend, a lot of us will be home tonight passing out candy. Here are four of my favorites to suggest! 

shanti >> sondra



Warm Soup >> For Cold Days

Top three reasons why soup is awesome:

> It is a vehicle for the wonder of all wonders - a loaf of good, crusty bread.
> You can hide endless amounts of vegetables in it and be none the wiser.

I love soup all-the-year-round, but when it gets colder and drearier, I definitely ramp up both production and consumption. This Fall and Winter, I'm going to try and make a big pot of soup once a week-ish. It's just such an easy way to warm up and enjoy a big bowl of comfort during the darker days we have coming. I'll share the good ones here with you all. :) First up: this delicata squash and pear version. 
I made this a few times last winter, and when a couple of delicata squash came in our last CSA box, I remembered this recipe from last year. I think I had gotten some delicata squash last year about this time, and I just googled recipes and came across this one. I am not a huge lover of squash in its plain form, but I LOVE it in soups. The best part about this recipe is that it's super simple - two cups of each of the main ingredients.
Here's how you do it >

Delicata Squash and Pear Soup (from Saveur)

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups delicata squash (about 1lb, or 1 medium sized squash. Peeled, seeded, and diced)
2 cups shallots (about 4 medium, peeled and sliced)
2 cups pears (about 1lb; I used 3. Cored and diced. Pick firm ones.)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
4 cups veggie or chicken stock
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
crème fraîche (I subbed sour cream)
maple syrup (you know, the real kind)
s+p to taste

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots, cook 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the squash and pears and cook until they start to soften, about 7 minutes. Add the thyme and let cook another minute or so for the thyme to get fragrant. Then, add the stock and vinegar. Let simmer until everything is nice and soft, 15-20 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender, taste, and add salt and pepper to your liking. DONE!

To serve: drizzle a spoonful of crème fraîche and a bit of maple syrup on each. It will look fancy and will impress people for no good reason, but also tastes good, so win-win.

// This does not make a huge pot of soup, probably about 4 good sized bowls.
// Have everything chopped and ready to go before you even start heating the oil. I am terrible at taking this advice, and think I am a faster chopper than I am and always inevitably almost burn things. Don't be like me.
// If like me you cannot find crème fraîche at your grocery store (really Safeway? This is 'MERICA!), do not fret, you can sub in sour cream. It will not swirl as prettily (compare my photo to Saveur's), but it will still taste pretty good. A bit of heavy cream or greek yogurt would work, too.

In related news, does this photo gross you out? You're not alone.
Happy eating!

shanti >> sondra



If the Path be Beautiful >>

The other morning in my yoga class, my teacher was talking about finding that place of calm that exists in all of us. Granted, for some us it might be harder to find than for others, but I do believe that it is always there. She then went on to talk about "strengthening the neural pathways" to those calm places, rather than beating down the same old pathways that are tried to true and are often the paths to obsessing, listing, and letting your thoughts jump all over wildly. This concept has really stuck with me the last couple of days, I think because it's something proactive that we can all do to make actual, physical changes in our brains and thought-patterns.

Allow me put on my Modern Jackass hat for a moment.

When we have thoughts, there is actually something happening in our brains at a chemical and biological level. Neurons communicate with other neurons - each has about 10,000 connections with its neighbors- and when you have the same old thoughts the same connections happen over and over again, making it easier to have those same thoughts over and over again, often putting us into a cycle of thinking that's hard to get out of. But when we try to change those patterns, and make a point of repeating the new patterns, we actually create new pathways. And the more we explore the new pathways, the easier those become. Here is a nice analogy if you'd like to explore this more.

Last night I woke up around 3am and found myself trying to get back to sleep, and this thought about neural pathways crept into my brain. I realized that even by just literally imaging and focusing on these pathways changing and leading me to a place of calm, that I was making new pathways. Focusing on a single thought is also known as dharana in yoga, and is one of the 8 limbs and a precursor to meditation. So, as I see it....win win! Building new pathways, finding that calm center, and using single-pointed focus to get there. Trippy. Oh, and I only had to think about all of this for about 60 seconds, because soon I was fast asleep and not obsessively trying to think of all the emails I needed to send or the things I should do when I get to work.

Something to think about at least. :)

shanti >> sondra



Happiest Place on Earth >>

These pictures are all from the beginning of last week when we took a little trip out to the Olympic Peninsula. A friend of mine is house sitting the most perfect cabin with two adorable kitties for the Fall and Winter, and she was generous enough to have us out. Guys, this place was all of my daydreams come to life. It's perched on a steep hill overlooking a bay off of Puget Sound. It is bright, and light, and cozy all at once. It has a guest cottage that my friend decorated in Moonrise Kingdom theme, which is where we slept. I could sleep all the rest of my sleeps there and be happy, methinks.

Oh, did I mention my friend loves to cook? She spent the summer as a personal cook (she prefers that term, since she's not a professional chef) for a family in Seattle. Fresh baked cookies, homemade pizzas, and roasted chicken with foraged mushrooms. Good company, good food, good place. :) Sorry, there is no way for this to not sound braggy, but seriously, the 30 hours we spent there as an overnight where some of my favorite in the last year.

Sometimes you find a place where you can feel your whole body relax, and your spirit just sighs. This is one of those places. And in just a little over two weeks, I'll be there again! I have definitely been scanning my calendar for any and all opportunities to sneak across the water and go back.

p.s. Speaking of Wes Anderson films, have you seen the new trailer yet?

shanti >> sondra



Soon it Will Be Cold Enough >>

I thought I'd do a little "currently" post. This photo is almost current, since I took it yesterday while I took the dog out to pee in the morning. The last few posts have been pretty photo-heavy, and I have one more of those to share, but I thought I'd break it up a bit with a little of what the day-to-day has looked like around these parts.

so, without further adieu, currently -->

drinking // This instant, a chai tea latte. BUT.  Not the good stuff. I ruined our last batch by leaving it out on the counter too long and it went bad. So...lesson learned. This time of year, I pretty much drink hot beverages all throughout the day... chai in the mornings, and then mostly herbal tea and mugs of hot apple cider steeped with fresh ginger in the afternoons and evenings.

watching // Definitely the most interesting thing we've been watching lately is Terry Jones' Medieval Lives, which are all up on You Tube. If there are any Monty Python fans out there, you'll definitely recognize some of the same hallmarks of the show's style, but it's actually a really informative and interesting documentary series about what life was like in the Medieval world. There are 8 episodes, all about 30 minutes long; I highly recommend them!

reading // Sadly, nothing. I have a whole stack of books and magazines that I'd like to get to, but it just keeps not happening. WHY AREN'T THERE MORE HOURS IN THE DAY?! First up when I find those missing hours, is a book a friend lent me, Where'd You Go, Bernadette? Have any of you read it?

listening // You know how sometimes you come across an album and you listen to it on repeat, and then forevermore that album will take you back to that time and place in your life? Yeah, I've found that album for this Fall. Emancipator's Soon it Will Be Cold Enough. The title is oh-so-perfect, and the music is just right for snuggling in blankets and woolen socks. I'm especially fond of the haunting vocals on When I Go.

anticipating // This is a big one for me, but I ordered an iPhone. I have been an Android girl since waaaaaaaay back. I even had a G1 back in the day, and in general, I have been totally happy with Android as an OS. HOWEVER. I think I'm just at a point where I'm tired of waiting for app developers to develop at the same speed and at the same quality level for Android as they do for the iPhone. And, after reading Kayla's post a few months ago, I think the seed was planted that it was okay to jump ship; my loyalty is pretty meaningless if it's making me unhappy. So when I got a little bonus check from work, I put it towards ordering a shiny (gold!) new phone. It's backordered, so it'll still be a couple of weeks (hopefully sooner!), but I'm excited to get it and play with it. True story: I have never owned an Apple device (and we use Linux at home). I don't even have an iTunes account. There will definitely be a learning curve. :)

today // Today is for catching up a bit, and doing the things I didn't get a chance to do this week. Like blogging. :) After sleeping in I went to yoga, and then came home and now I'm typing away with a cat on my lap. The sun keeps poking through the clouds momentarily, but then retreating. I hope it comes out properly so we can get out and take Piko on a nice walk this afternoon! After this, I'm going to heat up some leftover pumpkin and kale lasagna from last night, and proofread a grant proposal that Andy's working on. This evening we're heading to a friend's house for a dinner party. Busy!

So that's what my world has looked like this last week. Well, the fun parts of it anyway. There was also going to work, and paying bills, and running errands, and blahblahblahgrownuplifestuff. Have you done a "currently" post lately? Post a link in the comments and we can compare notes!

shanti >> sondra



Impossible to Say >> Even Harder to Feel

Just when you think you're caught up with this blogging thing, you're behind again.

Last week we took a day trip out to see a bit of fall color, stretch our legs a bit, and eat delicious Mexican food. To do these things, we headed up and over the mountains, where it was snowing higher up and the temps were a tad chilly.
We hiked along the Icicle River near Leavenworth, WA. It was an easy walk, but it was nice to get out and see the pops of color. Things were just starting to change, so just tips of red and orange here and there. Since these were taken (only a week ago yesterday), it seems that Fall has exploded here in Western Washington. Seemingly overnight the trees have all burst into color, and it's been downright cold here in the mornings. Seasons changing so suddenly  is one of my very favorite things in the whole world. Magic!
There were tons of mushrooms all along the trail. Mushroom foraging is big here, although I know nothing about wild mushrooms. I know enough to know that I shouldn't do it unless I know what I'm doing! Nonetheless, I find them exotic. All of the color and sizes are so fascinating to me as a Midwestern girl, where such things don't grow.
Afterwards, we headed into the town of Leavenworth, which is built to look like a Bavarian village. It's pretty kitschy, but it's cute. We walked around looking for a place to get a chai, but after striking out wound up stopping for a beer at the Icicle Brewing Co. Well, beer for the mister and a local wine for me. From there, we headed to a place we like for cheap and delicious Mexican food.
Getting out of town for a day trip is so awesome. The formula for a good day trip for us is as follows: drive far enough away that it feels like you "went somewhere;" get out for a hike, a walk, or do something touristy; treat yourself to something you don't do everyday, like a nice dinner or impromptu cocktails; get home just in time for bed. You can really pack a lot into a day and make it feel like a mini vacation! Leavenworth is supposed to be really pretty at Christmastime, and the whole town gets decorated and cutsey. I hope we're able to make it back in December!

shanti >> sondra



A Beautiful Sunset >> That Was Mistaken for a Dawn

I have a few more pictures to share from our whale watching day. On the ferry ride back, we happened to catch a gorgeous sunset over the Sound.  (Title quote from Claude Debussy).

shanti >> sondra