Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Just thought I'd stop in to wish you a happy Halloween!

I hope you have a good one. I think we'll be curling up with some mulled apple cider and taking it easy.

Here are a couple of Halloween images I wanted to share with you.

This calendar from ilee has a fabulous October image. I've been enjoying it all month long.

This is the jack-o-lantern K carved last weekend. The deal was that he'd carve and I'd handle the messy innards. I think it was a pretty good trade off.

Occasionally I go around the house taking snapshots of our everyday life. You know, not just the house after it's been cleaned and snazzied up, but our real life house with all of our projects and messes revealed. This is one of those photos.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Goldenrod Wrist Warmers

I showed these wrist warmers here before as a work in progress.* The pattern calls for crocheting a little tube for each thumb, and I began with every intention of doing that. Then things got hectic, a threw myself into finishing Julie's crochet block blanket, and we had an unseasonably frigid spell. So I asked myself, When's the last time your thumbs got really cold? And I can't remember ever thinking that my thumbs were cold. They're tough. If my fingers are hanging out, exposed to the elements, surely my thumbs can handle it, too. That's when I called these wrist warmers done and have been wearing them ever since.**

I love the goldenrod color because it's bright but still feels autumnal. They're made of leftover worsted-weight wool yarn from a scarf I made last year. It doesn't take much yarn, so it's a good way to use up scraps. Plus, I don't think the pattern could get any easier. Crochet a rectangle, then sew it up into a tube shape, skipping a few stitches so your thumbs can poke through. Want to give it a go? Here's the pattern on ravelry and on the original website.

Of course I recently came across another pattern for crocheted wrist warmers that I absolutely love, and I just must make them sometime. Check out Alicia's version, inspired by the ones Lucy made.

I hope you're staying warm and cozy on this last Friday of October. I can't believe October is nearly over! Soak it up while you can.

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*Oh wow, that works in progress post was in August. Time is flying right by. Please don't ask about those other WiPs. They're languishing in my craft basket, waiting for Christmas break.

**Well almost. Lately we've been having some lovely warm weather and I've been prancing around with no wrist warmers or jacket.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CSA Day: Going Green

When Mom stopped by with our CSA vegetables yesterday, I couldn't help but smile at all of this green. It was an ol' rainy day and these vegetables brought me some sunshine.

The eggs are from Misty Meadows Farm and the vegetables are from Finger Pickin' Farms.
This week we'll be eating tatsoi, lettuce, mixed salad greens, turnips, hot peppers, green peppers, and sorrel. I'm most excited about those salad greens! Mom called to report that hers were delicious.

You might have noticed that things around here seem to be all about food lately. No matter how busy I get with school, I still have to eat. K and I try to eat at home most of the time and take turns making meals. When we get the chance, we love cooking together (and our current kitchen is big enough to allow for two cooks, as opposed to our Japanese apartment where one person had to chop food in the living room).

On Sunday K made a really lovely sweet potato soup.
He used this recipe, but left out the leeks and celery because we didn't have any. We thought it might be too sweet without those extra savory vegetables, but it turned out to be a good balance of sweet and savory. He substituted milk for the half and half, and the soup was still plenty creamy.

It's the perfect soup to warm you up on a cool fall day.

What are you eating this week?

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Oh, and do you ever use Food Blog Search? I use it all the time when I'm looking for recipes. It's easier to sift through than just doing a google search. Plus there are lots of tips and ideas for recipes that you can play around with.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Apple Pie

Saturday night I granted myself free time, as a way to relax after all of the researching (and stressing about researching) that I've been doing. Of course, I filled my free time with making an apple pie because with a peck of apples on my counter, it's all I daydream about. I decided on an old-fashioned apple pie using this recipe. The big draw to this recipe was that the filling is flavored with vanilla and brandy in addition to the traditional cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

I tweaked the recipe to fit what ingredients I had on hand, which means that I used red delicious apples, cut out the almonds in the crust, and instead of an egg wash I simply brushed the crust with milk. Oh, and I added extra cinnamon to the filling because if you can't use ridiculous amounts of cinnamon in autumnal baking, when can you?

Just out of the oven with my shadow hovering above it, desperately trying not to cut into it until it had cooled its allotted hour.

All the while I kept thinking that the apples would be the center of this dessert, but I have to say that the crust has made quite a name for itself in our house. It's an all-butter crust with lots of flavor and--get this--tender flakiness. I think the key is using gobs of butter, which is fine by me if the crust turns out this delicious.

Apple pie craving if I could only stop thinking about this apple cake...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weekend snippets that made me smile

This salad incorporated lots of fall flavors--it's lettuce and spinach topped with roasted sweet potatoes (all from our CSA), toasted pecans, and cheese.

This pizza (+ a beer) made Friday night feel like a celebration. Lately we've been using this dough recipe.

Dark chocolate non-pareils from Nuts-n-Stuff, our local spice store.
The original store was downtown at the haymarket, and my mom used to stop there to get my sister's favorite muffin mix. She'd always pick up some non-pareils or chocolate stars for us to snack on. The shop made such an impression on me, that when my childhood friend and I would play "store" we'd make up signs that read "Nuts-n-Stuff." Then we'd steal food from her kitchen and try to get her parents to pay us for it. Such good memories in this little bag of chocolate!

What my sister recently termed "the most anticipated blanket of all time."
This weekend the crochet block blanket really started coming together. It actually looks like a blanket now instead of a bunch of individual squares. I've finished the border because the actual crocheting is my favorite part, but I'm still sewing up seams. It feels really good to finally be nearing the end. I've loved making this blanket, but I'm ready for it to be in my sister's hands. My hands need to start working on Christmas presents!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Apple Delight

Caramel apple from the farm

Last weekend when we visited the pumpkin farm, we also picked up a peck of apples. I'm so happy to have an abundance of apples to play around with. My big plan for this weekend (besides studying until my eyes dry out) is to make an apple pie. Here are some versions I'm considering: Old-fashioned apple pie, lattice-topped apple pie, and apple pie with pecan crumb topping. Shoot, they all sound good. There's a bakery down the street that makes a wonderful Dutch Apple pie with caramel, which is apple pie slathered in their signature caramel frosting. It's the most decadent apple pie I've ever eaten. If I could make a version of that I would seriously impress myself.

I did do some simple baking with apples earlier this week using a family recipe that's been around for as long as I can remember. It's my Grandma Alice's Apple Delight, and it was included in the recipe book that my aunts, cousins, and grandma compiled as a wedding present for me. Apple Delight is baked apples with a crispy cinnamon-sugar topping that we used to eat during our Sunday dinners at Grandma's house and especially on Thanksgiving. As a child, I would try to skim off the candy-like topping, getting as little of the apples as I could. It was the same principle I used when scooping the marshmallows off of the sweet potato dish. Luckily, I now appreciate the flavor of baked apples, but I still can't get enough of the sweet, crunchy topping!

Sorry for the lack of pictures. I took some, but this humble dish is not the most photogenic. It is, however, delicious and quick enough to whip up on a weeknight when you're craving apple pie. I should note that while Apple Delight is sweet enough to count as dessert, my family has always classified it as a side dish, so that we can also eat some pumpkin pie!

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Apple Delight

3 lbs apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

1 tsp cinnamon (or more to taste)

Pile apples in a baking dish. In a separate bowl, soften butter. Add sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Mix with your hands. Take a handful of mixture and pat it between your hands. Lay over apples. Continue with the rest of the mixture until apples are completely covered. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

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Ask and you shall receive: Last week I posted a link to an apple peeler that I was eyeing because I knew it would make apple dishes a snap. A little while after that I got an email from my mother-in-law, saying that she had one of those peelers, and I'd be welcome to use it. Well, it's been amazing and I would like to say thank you! It peels, cores, and slices the apple (like magic!), and I've been carrying it around as my new party trick.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CSA Day: Squash, roots, and greens

Starting on the left we have spinach, sweet potatoes, squash, tatsoi greens, turnips, lettuce, and kale, all from Finger Pickin' Farms.
I think I'll make a big salad with the lettuce and spinach. I made one last week with lettuce, arugula, broccoli, tomato, egg, and cheese. The leftovers were a wonderful, filling lunch. I also made some homemade thousand island dressing--a riff on my Grandma Alice's recipe--and it's the kind of dressing that makes me want to eat salad every day. Seriously, I wanted to dive right into the bowl.
We've got quite a few sweet potatoes, so I'd like to make some soup. I usually make sweet potato, cabbage, and peanut butter soup, but I'd like to try something different. Any ideas?
The end of our CSA subscription is coming up fast. We've still got two more weeks left, but I don't want it to end!
I hope you're eating well this week.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Pumpkin Patch

I remember many a childhood trek through the pumpkin patch, searching for the perfect pumpkin to make a Jack-o-lantern. It's such a fun tradition.

Neither K nor I had been out to the pumpkin patch in years.
So, since K's parents were in town over the weekend, we took them to look at pumpkins and bask in the chilly autumn winds. We're great entertainers.

To say that the farm was crowded is an understatement. It was mobbed, but we looped our way through throngs of people to catch glimpses of the harvest. And those glimpses were glorious.

I've always had a soft spot for miniature pumpkins. They're so darn cute!

This year I've been seeing white pumpkins everywhere. What's up with that? Have they always been around and I just haven't noticed? I must admit they do look appropriately ghostly.

Lately our days have been veritably filled with pumpkins. Yesterday's breakfast was pumpkin muffins, which K helped me to whip up late Saturday night. The muffins turned out rich, moist and tasting just like fall. I thought I might make some more with the leftover canned pumpkin, except then I had this conversation with K:

Me: Hey, did you put that half-can of pumpkin in the fridge?

K: What half-can of pumpkin?

Me: You know, the leftover pumpkin from the muffins we made.

K: What?

Me: Well, the recipe only called for 1 cup of pumpkin, so what happened to the rest of the can?

K: Oh, I thought it said 1 can of pumpkin.

Me: No wonder they were so pumpkin-y.

Anyway, they tasted good!

Tonight we're having roasted pumpkin soup made from the Long Island Cheese pumpkin from our CSA. It's a recipe we made lots in Japan using kabocha pumpkins. It's a pretty flexible recipe, but if I can hammer out some details, I'll share it here.

I hope your weekend was full of autumn fun!

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Thanks to Phyllis and David for braving the crowds with us. And also, to Julia--I hope you enjoy these pictures! Your presence was sorely missed (the pumpkins said hello).

Friday, October 16, 2009

Weekend Links: The Hungry Version

I can never have too much fall flavor in my life. These pumpkin muffins and pumpkin waffles (via Heart of Light) are at the top of my to-make list.

Our counter is piled high with garden fresh jalapenos. I'm thinking these scones or this dip, which has long been on my radar. Perhaps a spicy vegetable soup? If you've got any ideas, shoot them my way please!

This applesauce looks like a delicious whole-family project, but mostly I just wish I had an apple peeler like that! I'm going to start scouring thrift stores for one because it would make apple pies so much easier.

I'm impressed--I've never even made regular yogurt, and here Liesl and her grandma made soy yogurt. The combination of yogurt, onions, parsley, and chives sounds so good!

Stovetop popcorn looks so wonderful! It would definitely make movie nights cozier.

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Sometimes it's the little things that make my day, like laughing at the stuff that this guy's dad says.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What I've been up to...


And when I finish reading, I read some more. It's pretty much what I signed up for when I decided to go to grad school for literature, but I have to admit I'm surprised by just how much reading has been required.*

Luckily I have been reading some really great books and interesting essays to accompany them.

And I'm super geeked-out excited about one of the research papers I'll be writing.

Below are some of my sources:

Those top two have great titles: Cheap Amusements and Villains Galore

I've also found a fascinating website and am looking forward to combing through my university's collection of dime novels. Fun (and busy) times ahead!

What are you reading these days? I'd love to hear what you're reading for pleasure (or work/school/whatever).

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*This stack only contains the nice-looking books I've been reading. I'll spare you the scads of photocopied essays and giant theory book. Blah.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

CSA Day: Our first pumpkin of the season

Luke of Finger Pickin' Farms loaded up our CSA box with all kinds of good things this week.

Starting at 12 o'clock and continuing clockwise we have: broccoli, spaghetti squash, a type of acorn squash, arugula, Long Island Cheese pumpkin (I love that name!), mustard greens, sweet potatoes, lettuces, butternut squash, and turnips.

I used to like salad, but I never loved salad until we started getting lettuce through our CSA.
It's so crisp and fresh, and I love those gorgeous curly leaves.

The mustard greens are beautiful! The fronts of the leaves are deep purple and the backs are green.

I picked up some eggs and apples from Misty Meadows Farm. Don't they look pretty together?

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Our farmers' market festival was this week, and of course I forgot my camera. Mom and I couldn't stay long, but we managed to sip some sweet apple cider fresh out of an antique cider press and listen to some live music. Also, we sampled a delicious dish of orzo, shiitake mushrooms, beets, cilantro, granola, and olive oil. It sounds like the strangest combination, but all the flavors played so well together. I saw quite a few people go back for seconds (and I might have been one of them).

I hope you're eating lots of fresh fall food this week!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Still in progress: Crochet Block Blanket

Brrr...October is much colder than I remember! We haven't yet fired up our gas heaters, but we will soon. What we have been doing is pulling out quilts, fleece blankets, and our winter clothes. We've also been hovering over candle flames and mugs of hot tea. I've brought in my potted plants and taken up crochet again.

First on my crochet agenda was weaving in the ends on my wrist warmers and leg warmers. I definitely needed to keep the goosebumps at bay! And now that I am warm I can finally turn back to my sister's very belated birthday blanket. It's been languishing in my yarn basket, and she's been requesting ever-so-nicely for me to please finish before the weather turns cold. Well guess what, there's a chill in the air and I'm still plodding away on this blanket. I do think the end is in sight--most all of the blocks are sewn together and I'm crocheting a border around it.

The picture above is from March. Yikes, I've been working on this for a long time. In my defense I have come a long way since March. The finished blanket (oh, the optimism!) will be 5 by 6 crochet blocks with border around them. It will be big enough for snuggling and napping under. If you're interested, the crochet patterns come from this book.

I hope you're staying warm and well!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rose hips

Familiar days are stored whole

in bottles. There's a wet morning

orchard in the dandelion wine;

a white spring distilled

in elderflower's clarity;

and a loving, late, sunburning

day of October in syrups

of rose hip and the beautiful

black sloes that stained the gin to rose.

--Gillian Clarke
excerpted from "Letter from a Far Country"

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

CSA Day: Fall's Bounty

We got such a great array of vegetables this week from Finger Pickin' Farms.

There are butternut squash, tatsoi greens, potatoes, carrots, a variety of hot peppers, shunkyo radishes, and turnips. I'm really excited about this week's produce! I'm eager to make a spicy butternut squash soup, and I already used some of the carrots in last night's Brazilian Black Bean soup.* I'd never heard of tatsoi greens before, but Nick (the farmer who runs our CSA) recommended using them in salads or stir-frying them. I'm leaning towards a big stir fry, perhaps with garlic mirin sauce and rice.

The eggs are from Misty Meadows Farm. I also picked up some apples from them, which I can't wait to eat with tomorrow's lunch.

What are you eating this week?

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*This is seriously a soup to fortify your immune system for flu system. In addition to the requisite black beans, it has onions, carrots, green peppers, garlic, a jalapeno, and orange juice. Don't you feel healthier just thinking about it?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lace tote bag

This is my new favorite tote bag. I've had the idea in my head for ages and the other day while I was reading for class, I had to stop and write it down just so I could concentrate on my school work. I finally sat down on Friday afternoon and whipped this out. It's my first tote, so I didn't expect it to be perfect. I mostly wanted to just make it so the idea would stop haunting me. I needed to clear my head.

It felt so good to be back at the sewing machine--cutting, winding, stitching. It's a magical process that I'm definitely not afraid of anymore. Remember this? My sewing machine used to scare the crap out of me!

When I showed this bag to my sister, she instantly declared it her favorite of all the things I've made and requested one in black for Christmas. Too bad I've already bought supplies to make her something else!

I love the way this bag came together. The outer fabric is vintage, given to me by my mom from her stash. The lace is from the flea market. I found the coolest booth where I scooped up tons of tiny vintage crochet hooks and uncovered a couple of pieces of lace marked "free." I asked the lady running the booth about the lace, and she said she always likes to mark a few items free, just to see if anybody will find them. Needless to say, I'll definitely be stopping by her booth at the New Year's flea market! The inner fabric is a soft sage green with multi-colored polka dots that I fell in love with at the craft store. It's whimsical, but pairs well with the wheat-colored cotton and white lace.

Plans are already in the works for more tote bags. I definitely learned a few things in making this one and want to put my new knowledge to use.

I hope you are having a lovely week--being creative, learnings lots, and trying new things!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Wow-oh-wow, what a rich, decadent, completely over-the-top cake! Find the recipe here.

K loved it (and so did everyone else lucky enough to get a piece). This cake totally made up for me being MIA on his actual birthday.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A crocheted stone, a CD, and some giveaway links

A few weeks ago I won a giveaway on Resurrection Fern. I was thrilled to win two wonderful prizes--a crocheted stone and a Lines of Latitude CD. Thank you so much for the giveaway, Margie!

The CD accompanied K and me on our road trip last weekend and the crocheted stone came with me to the library for a study break photo shoot. Luckily it was a quiet day in the stacks so no one was bothered by the girl toting a stone around and taking photographs of it. (Actually, pretty much every day is a quiet day in the stacks...)

How amazing would it be walk down an aisle of books and spot a stone like this? It's so unexpected.

I thought this was a happy coincidence and I had to share it with you. I plopped the stone down randomly and took a few pictures before I realized that the titles pair well with the stone. I especially like the Pattern of Circles with the concentric crochet design, and also the book on the bottom, Peace at the Center.

Last are some very old books. I think the crocheted stone looks right at home here, nestled with books that are over 100 years old. Also, the colors of these books are just fabulous.

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There are a couple of really great giveaways going on right now, but they're ending soon, so you'd better go comment now!

**Liesl of Liesl Made is giving away one of her gorgeous make-up bags. I've got one that I use for my school supplies, and I love it so much because it's pretty, well-made, and durable enough to be pulled in and out of my backpack about a million times a day. Comment on this post to win. Giveaway ends tonight!**

**Chelsea of A lovely, little blog has some beautiful fall photos that she's giving away. I won one of her photos a while back and it's now prettying up my kitchen. (Thanks, Chelsea!) She's extended the giveaway until this weekend, so head on over and comment here to win.**

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I spy pumpkins

Such a welcoming doorway

Oh, it's October already! September really sailed past, and now my very favorite month is upon us. I'm so ready for autumn strolls, the smell of woodsmoke in the air, and wrapping up in quilts with cups of hot tea for company. I'm also ready for lots of apple cider, pumpkin bread, and my annual apple dumpling from the Harvest Homecoming festival. October is going to be a very good month. I can feel it!

I snapped these pictures in Maysville over the weekend. There was a chill in the air, and the fall colors looked quite spectacular.

Care for a hayride? Limited seating available.

The leaves aren't changing colors just yet, but pumpkins and mums are popping up everywhere.
They're adorning porches, doorways, sidewalks and courtyards.

Peeking into a courtyard

I hope October treats you well! What are your plans for fall? Have you planned things you want to do or foods you want to eat? Do you have autumn traditions?


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