September 28, 2010

Homemade pumpkin puree.

Homemade pumpkin puree.

I read all about the great pumpkin shortage of 2010 without batting an eye. First, I know I'm a little strange, but I only sort of like pumpkin pie, and only if it's homemade. Once a year will do me just fine (kinda like eggnog), and I'll certainly survive if I have to live without it for there are always apple pies, and sweet potato pies, and pecan pies waiting to be nibbled during the holiday season.

Second, I make my pumpkin puree at home. There is no need to fret over the rain situation in Illinois, or to pay $30 dollars for a can of pumpkin puree on eBay. You just grab a pumpkin (or a butternut squash - that's what most 'pumpkin puree' is made of anyway), wrap it in foil, and pop it on a cookie sheet in a 300°F oven until it's squishy and deflated - 3 or 4 hrs, depending on the size of your pumpkin. Or use any other roasting method you'd like.

Homemade pumpkin puree.

Scoop out the seeds and discard the skin before pulsing in a food processor until smooth, or run the entire pumpkin - seeds and all - through a food mill. Either way, you'll end up with a smooth puree.

At this point, you may notice that your puree is watery. You can strain that excess water out with a cheesecloth and a fine mesh strainer, but I prefer to leave it at is. The excess liquid doesn't seem to affect the outcome of my recipes, so I prefer my lazy ways.

If you aren't going to use your puree immediately, scoop it into a freezer-safe container. It will keep in the freezer for up to one year. Otherwise, cover and store in the refrigerator for up to five days.

September 24, 2010

The kitchen table.

Kitchen table.

I wasn't sure we were going to be able to pull off a clear finish over the natural wood, especially after seeing the condition of the table once the old paint was gone. We had Plan B (a gray stain) ready to go just in case Matt's attempts with the sanding machine went awry, but it all worked out perfectly in the end.

Kitchen table.  Kitchen table.

And now our home improvement projects are officially complete!

For now.

September 23, 2010

Learn to embroider: check.

Although we have officially changed seasons, I managed to complete the last item off my 'summer to-do list' in the nick of time:

Experimenting around.

I'm still trying to teach myself all of the different stitches, but I'm having fun with it so far. I don't think I'll ever buy or follow patterns. Freehand is more my style.

It's like doodling with thread. :)

September 19, 2010

Progress report.

We're finally finishing up the last of our big home-improvement projects this week...

 Dresser - Before Dresser - After.

I love the way the dresser turned out. It was a simple fix, really: a good sanding, three coats of paint, and some new knobs. I wish I could say that our kitchen table project has been as easy to tackle, but we've run into some problems.


I found this table at Goodwill for $30 five years ago. It was covered in black paint - a sin. I promised the thrift store ladies that I'd fix it up someday.

The original plan was to strip and refinish the table with a gray stain and varnish. I thought the color would go well with our kitchen hutch, but after we removed the old black paint, I saw the wood underneath. It's really beautiful, so I think I'd like to give it a clear finish and call it good.

But there's a problem.

As you can see, the bottom was covered in primer before it was painted, so the pores of the wood are white. The top, however, was painted directly with the black paint, leaving stains all over the wood that are difficult to sand out without compromising the integrity of the table itself.

We are working away at it, but it's turning into a much bigger project than we originally anticipated.

Wish us luck!

September 15, 2010

On a granny square roll.

With only a few days left of summer, I have finally decided to check off the remaining 'to-do's' from my summer list. It's not that I'm lazy (there are those who might disagree), but, call me crazy, I could never coax myself to crochet on a 90°F day in the middle of the hottest season of the year.

But now the weather is changing...

Granny squares.

So I finally sat down this weekend, pulled up my sleeves, and found some promising YouTube tutorials regarding granny squares. It took a little digging, but I found one very helpful person in particular who managed to shoot decent quality video while clearly explaining the functions of every stitch. I find it easiest to learn something new if I can figure out the how's and the why's of what I am doing, and considering that my previous crochet experience was limited, clean and concise direction was exactly what I needed.

Still, my first few granny squares were a little off, and they remained as such until I reached my granny square epiphany Monday evening: it is best, when crocheting granny squares (or any other type of crocheted thing I would imagine) if you place your hook in the correct holes.

That is all I have to say on the matter.

After my epiphany, my squares and I became more robust and confident, and soon I was teaching myself to switch colors...

Another 'to-do'

Not always the easiest of feats with my clumsy hands and thrifted yarn, but we're managing just the same. In fact, we're on quite the roll over here. I am thinking that the fluffy feline will have himself a granny square blanket to cuddle with in no time.

September 10, 2010

A few coats of paint.

My man and I have been vigorously sanding (mostly him) and painting (mostly me) various things around the apartment: old end tables, little bookshelves, picture frames and the like. As a result, the place has been a total disaster to navigate, so it was a huge relief when we were finally able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, new and improved, once the paint was dry.

Right. Except we've decided to tear it all up again to finish a few more projects before the weather permanently sours.

Anyway, I wanted to show you my favorite finished project thus far (is anything ever really finished?):

Newly painted kitchen hutch.

Our shiny 'new' kitchen hutch! New to us, anyway.

I have to say, it was in a bit of a sorry state when Matt first found it, but its potential was obvious, even through this blurry phone image...


After four coats of paint and updated hardware, we are very pleased with the results. Although... I'm thinking that after this whole painting excursion is over, I might see how it takes to some of my 'papering.'

Also, now that I'm looking, I think it might be time to re-stain the shelving unit and our kitchen table gray...

September 9, 2010

Little brother has arrived.

My little brother

I've been practicing with it, but we've had our hangups. Specifically, the top thread keeps breaking.

I've gone down my little 'troubleshooting' list - yes, the needle is the right size, and yes, I've threaded it properly, and so on and so forth. I think tension is the culprit. Or crappy thread, because once I switched from polyester to cotton, the threadbreaking ceased.

All-in-all, I'm really enjoying myself. I like the little light that switches on when I power it up, and I like the sound of the hum it makes when I press the foot pedal. I don't usually find myself so giddy over new toys, but this has been an exception.

My first project was a pincushion, of course. It came out a little wonky.

A wonky little pincushion.

I forgot to grab some polyfill, so I stuffed it with fabric scraps.

It'll do for now.

September 8, 2010

Container Gardening: Tomatoes




Well, it is now September and our barely-ripe tomatoes are few and far between. I pruned the excess leaves, stems and *gulp* flowers last week to encourage the green fruits to redden, but the forecast predicts rainy weather. We'll see how it goes.

Despite this year's poor performance, we'll go ahead and try container gardening again next summer. The rain and mild temperatures have prevented almost everyone around here from having a fruitful tomato season. It's a bummer, really. I was looking forward to canning and freezing them for the winter, and trying all sorts of fun recipes like roasted tomato and garlic soup. Mmm...

Roasted tomatoes and garlic...

I still made the soup, obviously, but it wasn't nearly as rewarding as using up our own harvest. We purchased a couple sacks full of Brandywines and Early Girls from the Milwaukie Farmer's Market this weekend, and made a huge pot of the stuff (with grilled cheese sandwiches) for friends. I forgot how much I love this recipe.

I'd give it a try right away if I were you. Before the tomato season is over and we're stuck with the flavorless canned or supermarket varieties. Go, go, go! :)