Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ghosties and Ghoulies and Long-Legged Beasties . . .

(Yes, this is my front yard -- sick, I know, but the neighbor kids love it.)

I love Halloween! I've always enjoyed decorating my yard with spooky decorations and creating elaborate pumpkin carvings. Dressing up on Halloween (even at work) was something that we've always done. Last year, my law firm had at least 130 children who came "trick-or-treating" through the office and we'll probably have even more this year. (These are the children of employees of the company, or former employee's children, some kids that wander in from other offices in the building . . . and some we just aren't sure where they come from.)

It's a safe alternative to going door-to-door at night and all of the employees bring in candy and toys to give out to the little goblins, princesses and little Sharpays and Gabriellas (characters in the Disney Movie - High School Musical, for those of you without grade-school age children.)

Because this kind of celebration is often the norm in the area, I've never given too much thought to how others in the rest of the country (or world) might observe this kind of activity. However, my sister and her family recently returned from living in a geographically opposite part of the U.S. and told me of the shock and horror her neighbors expressed when she cluelessly pulled out her inflatable Scooby Doo and Ghosts (although, perhaps their dismay was at the lack of taste this kind of lawn ornamentation showed, rather than the subject matter) and the endlessly-repeating musical theme songs of Halloween V and The Exorcist playing in the background.

It took more than a few months for the furor to die down in her neighborhood after "The Halloween Exhibition". So the following year she toned down her ornamentation and limited her celebration to lots of carved, lighted pumpkins. (Her neighbors were kind, however, and she made many good friends and it was with real regret that she left the beautiful area she'd come to love.)

So, I hope that those of you who prefer not to celebrate Halloween will not be offended, but I wanted to share some of my photos of my spooky decorations.

(Pumpkins from last year -- I haven't gotten around to carving any yet this year, but am planning on starting tomorrow night.)

Allie and Rusty wish you a HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

On another note, this is what I made this weekend from the 150 green tomatoes saved from the early frost (and ripened in brown paper bags on my kitchen table) -- 34 pints of hot, spicy salsa!

This weekend I'll be roasting pumpkin seeds!

Monday, October 20, 2008

And Now, For a Very Brief Political Announcement . . .

As election day approaches in the U.S., both major political parties are campaigning endlessly. Rusty and Allie have gotten into the spirit of things and have been trying to decide which candidate they should endorse.

Hmmmm. Which one should we choose???

Allie and Rusty both decide to try out the elephant - seems tough and sturdy. They knock him around a bit, gnaw on him and the stuffing doesn't fall out. That's a good thing!

Allie, however, kind of likes the look of the donkey, so she keeps checking him out.

"Hey, Rusty, have you made up your mind yet?"

Well . . . . . no, not yet.

Both candidates seem fairly well put together and the dogs are impressed at how well both sides are holding up under relentless attack and tugging. Both have pretty good squeakers, too!!

Rusty seems to favor the sturdy elephant. He has a long, continuous squawk which Rusty loves.

Allie, on the other hand, decided that the donkey was her favorite (note the drool spots).

As for me -- I'm just glad there are only a few more weeks of campaigning left.
This is not a political endorsement for either party -- just Allie and Rusty's take on things political.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oh No! It's Too Early for Snow!

My hopes for a bumper crop of tomatoes this year have been crushed. The weather prediction for last weekend was for unseasonably cold weather and I came home from work on Friday evening ready to wrestle Audrey III into the garage and to cover the plant with a water sheet to protect the fruit from the freezing temperatures. Sometime during the day, however, Audrey had fallen/been knocked over and a lot of the heavily laden arms had broken off.

(This is all that's left of poor Audrey III . . . . )

So, my kid and I plucked all of the tomatoes off the shattered plant (which were all still quite green and hard) and brought them into the house.

I now have 10 large brown paper bags filled with green tomatoes sitting on my kitchen table. I'm hoping to ripen them up a bit before making a massive batch of Green Tomato Salsa on Friday night. I guess all of my friends and family will be getting a jar of salsa, along with their Western Border Collie Rescue Calendar for Christmas.

Green Tomato Salsa is actually quite tasty and my spouse is anxiously awaiting the first taste, so I guess it will be okay, but I was really looking forward to a few more tomato sandwiches and pico de gallo.

We woke up Sunday morning to about an inch of snow, which the dogs enjoyed. My mother-in-law called to tell us that they got a foot and a half at their place (about 30 miles or so from us), so I guess we got off easy. I'm not ready for snow, so I hope we don't get any more until at least Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Fall Morning Walk

Our typical weekday morning routine is to frantically pry the teenager out of bed, run him through the shower, shovel some breakfast in his mouth and then hop in the car and drop him at the high school several miles away. The dogs LOVE the morning routine and get really excited about the time we grab the leashes and poop bags out of the closet, and they eagerly jump into the car for the ride - Rusty prefers the far back of our ancient Trooper, but Allie always sits in the middle seat and wraps herself around her boy for the entire 10 minute ride (and the boy loves that part, too and it gets his day off to a good start.)

Once we've gotten the kid out of the car, we turn around and try to remember whose turn it is for morning walkies (my spouse and I alternate mornings, but I usually do the evening walk). We have several different places we start the walk from and as it was my turn this morning, I decided to be dropped off at a point we call the "Emigration Route" (very originally named, as we walk past the small local market which is called . . . . . you guessed it, Emigration Market). It's about a 2 miles walk back home.

It was really beautiful this morning and I was looking foward to the walk. Fall has definitely arrived and the leaves are starting to turn and I love the slanted autumn light. As a bonus, it wasn't "Garbage Day" -- walking Allie on "Garbage Day" is really a nightmare, as she is very sound reactive to the noisy, lumbering waste management and recycling trucks and a simple walk turns into 30 minutes of frantically trying to hold onto Allie, who insists on acting like a 30 lb. sled dog. She has the best commando crawl I've ever seen. Ugh!
We started off on our walk.

Stopping to pose for a picture in front of one of the better done "zero-scaping" yards.
Our path soon crosses the breakfast cafe "Eggs in the City". The pups like to say hello to a nice Weirmariner pup who apparently comes with his owner every morning for breakfast, but he we must have missed him this morning.

Waiting to cross at the corner.

Drat! I'd forgotten that the city is in process of replacing all of the old sidewalks and Allie is not all that fond of dumptrucks, either.
Yikes, let's get going!!!!!
Saying "hello" to some friends. (Rusty is walking to my other side at this point, as he is a little intimidated by these dogs, although they usually don't bark or growl -- until we're down the sidewalk).

"I'm tired of posing for pictures!"

The end is in sight. The dogs are waiting for permission to cross.
Home at last! (Geez, you'd think I'd have at least taken the time to photoshop the glaring security company sign out of the picture. Oh well.)
It was a nice walk!
The dogs like this route, but I think their favorite one is the "Bagel Run", so maybe that's where we'll go next time. :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

It's been kind of a funny growing season here in Utah this year. I'm not that into a big vegetable garden (not a whole lot of space, lots of clay soil and if you plant pumpkins or zucchini they make themselves at home across the entire back yard), so I usually only do a few vegetables in big terra cotta pots and place them in strategic spots around my yard.

Because this spring was so cool, I didn't plant my little garden until well after Memorial Day, which is kind of late for this area - we have a short growing season. I have 6 tomato plants, along with a few green and red peppers - my salsa garden. This entire summer I have only had 7 measly ripe tomatoes, including the 3 lousy cherry tomatoes that showed up on what was supposed to be an "Early Girl" plant. (I really hate cherry tomatoes -- what the heck are you supposed to do with them?!) I also got two tiny, one-inch green peppers, that I hid from my spouse so I wouldn't have to share.

Well, even though they haven't produced many ripe tomatoes, my tomato plants are veeeeeerrrryy healthy and thriving. In fact, one of my plants is so opulent and lush, it's downright scary -- I call her Audrey III.
Yes, folks -- this is ONE tomato plant!
Yesterday, when I was hopefully digging through Audrey's tentacle-like stems looking for just one ripe tomato, I was shocked and amazed to put my hands on this . . . .
. . . . .
. . . . .

*Note the look of terror in Allie's eyes.

This incredible example of tomato-dom is called a "Mortgage Lifter". The Mortgage Lifter was developed in the 1940's by an auto repair mechanic, who was called Radiator Charlie. He crossed German Johnson Pink, Red Beefsteak, an unknown Italian variety and an unknown English variety of tomatoes together and the Mortgage Lifter was the result. Radiator Charlie Byles sold so many tomato plants over the next five or six years that he was able to pay off the mortgage of his home (hence the name).

They're not real pretty, being squatty and broad. They are also a funny color which is very pinkish and dull, but they are BIG and they taste great! This beauty weighed in at close to 3 lbs.!

I've greedily counted at least another 30 of these giant delicacies lurking beneath Audrey's thick foliage. Now, I just have to cross my fingers and hope that the weather will hold (despite the ominous prediction of snow down to 6000 ft. this weekend - we're at 4500 ft., but a big cold front is coming.)

I often end up canning several dozen bottles of green tomato salsa in the fall because I have to rush to pick the unripe tomatoes from the vines to save them from the frost in mid-to-late September. This year I'll say a quick prayer to the weather gods and hope that I'll be making fresh tomato salsa, fresh tomato sandwiches and eating sliced tomatoes with our Sunday dinner, instead of having to try to find room for 100+ jars of green tomato salsa.
There is one other force of nature I'll have to keep at bay, to keep my infant Mortgage Lifter's safe . . . . .

The voracious "Rusty Dog"!!! He stands accused of consuming 1 or 2 of my tomatoes straight from the vine -- all that was left were a few stems and a smear of juice on his lips. The little devil was certainly eyeing this tomato and even tried to take a big bite. (Seriously, I do have to watch Rusty around the tomatoes because they aren't too good for dogs and can cause heart irregularities, dilated pupils and other problems.)
This tomato, however, is now safely in my refrigerator marinating in a lovely pico de gallo to serve with tomorrow night's dinner. Ummmm. . . . .