Sunday, September 26, 2010

Escape to the lake

I made my hubby take a vacation day with me so we could take the boat out to Saylorville Lake north of Des Moines.  Saylorville has been flooded most of the summer due to heavy rains, but now the lake levels are back to normal and all the boat ramps are open.

I took the necessary boating gear:  sunscreen, a paperback and Austrailian licorce.

The skies were blue and the weather was 80 degrees.  But, boy, was it windy out on the lake!  We had to cut through quite a few waves to make it to the other side of the Mile Long Bridge.

 I seriously didn't know that there were seagulls in Iowa until I moved to central Iowa.  Saylorville is a stop-over for many species of migratory birds, including pelicans and these gulls.

Once we cut across the lake, my hubby parked our boat near the Big Creek Spillway.  To be honest, I thought he parked us a little too close.  But I tried not to complain and make him nervous.  (He's always a little jumpy when he takes me on the boat with him.)

My hubby didn't have much luck catching any fish.  I still haven't bought a fishing license this year (hard to fish when the river/lakes are flooded), so I just watched him while I snacked on a bag of Doritos -- a rare treat for me nowadays.

Ahh -- a day at the lake!

You can see on the shore where the waterline was during the floods this summer.  See all the trees pushed up in the grass by the flood waters.  Quite a bit of the shoreline washed away.

Our ride back to the lake was very splashy.  We both got soaking wet from the waves crashing against the boat.  It probably was a bit windy for a boat ride.  But it was great to spend a day outside with my hubby.

What's your favorite way to unwind on a day off?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Keeping the vampires away: Fall garlic

 This is what happens when I ask my farm-boy hubby to take pictures while I'm planting garlic.  He picks me flowers to wear in my hair, and then proceeds to take a close up of me instead of the garlic.

 Trust me, I do have garlic in my hands, ready to plant.  Last year was my first attempt at planting garlic in the fall.  I found a "seed" bulb at a local Earl May store.  From what I've read, you can try to plant regular garlic from the grocery store, but you'll have more success with bulbs that are specifically for garden planting.

I was thrilled when the garlic shoots popped up from the ground in early spring, adding a bit of green to my garden.  I was looking forward to harvesting the garlic this summer; that is, before my husband decided to Roundup the back half of my garden, where I planted the garlic, to combat the creeping Charlie that literally is creeping in from my neighbor's yard.  The few bulbs I did save where pretty big, however.

So I wanted to give garlic another try this fall.  I ordered garlic bulbs online from an Iowa garlic farm, 2 Sisters Organic, which was recommended to me by, of all people, a glass blower who I interviewed for a story.  He plants garlic in his front yard every fall; so much garlic, in fact, that his wife says their yard looks like "Medussa's hair" in the spring.  Now that's a garden!

Planting garlic is a lot like planting tulips.  You break the bulb up into cloves, then plant the cloves -- root side down, pointy end up -- in the soil, then cover with a layer of soil.  My hubby took a few photos, but it was a little too sunny to get the full effect.

Not sure if you can tell, but we are blessed with amazing black soil in Iowa.  That's why the corn grows so good here. (It grows so good, in fact, that we send 25 percent of our Iowa corn to hungry people overseas.  We're not just America's bread basket, we're the world's bread basket. But I digress.)

While my hands were already dirty, I planted a few radishes.  I love this variety from Renee's Gardens.  They grew beautifully this spring.

And I'm pleased to report that the buttercruch lettuce I planted in mid-July is a delightful success.  I think the fall lettuce looks better than the spring crop.  This lettuce was partially shadded by my climbing cucumber vine during the heat of the summer, so I think that helped its growth.

 Oh, and my goofy husband lined up the last of my cucumbers on the deck.  I'm so proud of this crop.  I can't believe how good the Mrs. Pickler cucumbers performed this summer.

How did your garden grow this year?  Have you planted any veggies for a fall garden crop?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rollin' through Fairfield

I've been fortunate this past month to travel through southeast Iowa for my job.  Don't tell my boss, but I took an extra long lunch break in Fairfield to check out the town's new trail system.

The trails, which are a combination of limestone paths and shared roadways, circle the town of Fairfield.  The easiest access point for me was to visit Chautaugua Park on the east side of town along Highway 34.

I parked my truck next to a cute little rose garden, which was still in bloom despite the changing seasons.

I have to admit, I'm terrible at reading maps.  I rode my bike around the park twice before I found the entrance to the trail.  For some reason, I missed the big sign leading to the entrance.  (I would never survive long in the woods with my sense of direction.)

I crossed the wooden bridge and decided to follow the trail north.

I was immediately struck by all the natural beauty.  I felt like I was riding my bike in a wide-open Iowa prairie.  It was so peaceful.  And there were birds, butterflies and wildflowers in every direction.

A few hundred yards into my ride, I noticed a bridge pop from the horizon.

I discovered the restored Burlington-Northern Santa Fe railroad bridge.

The bridge was decorated with engraving-style artwork along its length.  It looks like the artwork depicts the history of the railroad track and its impact on the town.  My favorite, of course, was the ag-related art.

Unfortunately at this point, my camera batteries went dead.  Bummer.  So I rode my bike a few miles, then managed to sneak in two more pictures when the batteries "charged" enough for me to turn on the camera.

I have to tell you, this was such an amazing journey for me.  I still can't believe that I was able to spend a few mintues surrounded in such a peaceful prairie setting.  It was definitely worth a few mintues of "playing hookie" on a work day.

If you would like to venture on the Fairfield bike trails, check out the Jefferson County Trail System website for a map and more information.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cookie Friday: Multi-chip cookies

Happy Cookie Friday, everyone!  I was in the mood to bake cookies the other day (but really, aren't I always?), and good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies sounded great to me.  Unfortunately, I didn't have any semi-sweet chocolate chips in the freezer.  And I was too lazy to drive the 5 blocks to the grocery store (pathetic, I know).  So I just grabbed whatever flavored chips I had leftover in my freezer.  I was surprised to see the collection I've accumulated over the last year from all my baking adventures.

I just used a plain chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Of course, these cookies weren't anything revolutionary.  But I did like the mix of white, butterscotch and dark chocolate chips.  So I'm marking these down as a success.

Hope you enjoy a sweet weekend!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dixie Pie

My hubby found a few recipes in my stack of magazines that he really wanted me to try.  With a permanant marker, he put an "X" next to an unusual dessert called Dixie Pie.  Admittedly, I was skeptical about this one.  From the picture in the magazine, it just looks like a coconut version of pecan pie.  Don't get me wrong, I love pecan pie.  But it's so decadently sweet (and calorie-laden) that I only make it for the holidays.

We were both surprised to discover that Dixie Pie is an all together different creation than pecan pie.  My hubby exclaimed, "It tastes like coffee cake -- in a pie crust."  It wasn't nearly as sweet-tasting as pecan pie.  In fact, my husband actually suggested that I sweeten it up a little, either by adding chocolate chips (which are optional in this recipe) or sweetened whipped cream.  I would agree that whipped cream is a must with this pie.

This is a great "weeknight" pie, if you're looking to make something a little sweet with just a few ingredients you probably already have in your cupboard.  Try it for yourself and let me know what you think.



Dixie Pie
Adapted from Taste of Home

  • Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)
  • 3/4 C. raisins
  • 1/2 C. butter, softened
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/2 C. packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tsp. ground cinnnamon
  • 1/2 C. chopped nuts (I used pecans)
  • 1/2 C. flaked coconut

1) Line 9-inch pie plate with pastry. Trim pastry to 1/2-inch beyond edge of plate; flute edges. Line crusts with a double thickness of heavy-duty foil. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Discard foil. Cool on wire racks.

2) Place raisins in a saucepan and cover with water; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and cinnamon until blended.

3) Drain raisins. Stir the raisins, nuts and coconut into creamed mixture (mixture will appear curdled). Pour into the crusts.

4) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until set. Cool on wire racks. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Iowa road trip: Mount Pleasant

I'm on the road again.  And this time, I ended up in Mount Pleasant.  It's a pretty little town in southeast Iowa, with a charming town square and beautifully restored downtown buildings.

I stopped for lunch at de Bitro, a cute little restaurant on the corner of Main Street.  I ordered the special of the day -- a BLT with steak fries and a side of peas.

Oh, how I love steak fries.  It was a great treat.
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