September 27, 2012

Laying Low

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I've run into a couple unexpected quiet days here at home, which is something I really appreciate right now while I'm feeling under the weather. I woke up today with a stuffy nose, watery eyes, and a sore throat, so I promptly rolled over and fell back asleep with my kitties for another three hours. I feel a little better now, but either I'm getting sick, or I'm dealing with some nasty allergies.

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Hopefully it's the latter because I have a big weekend coming up. After installing and painting baseboards in our bedroom, we decided to go to Ikea for some final odds and ends that complete the first floor. "Complete" for now anyway, which is why we're having our first official house guests over this weekend. There is nothing like having guests to motivate me into getting things in order.

Pumpkins

Matt and I found a few tiny pumpkins that I've placed on top of the hutch along with our Devil's Ivy plant, and I quite liked the looks of it, so now I want to decorate everything with fall colors, including some new pillow cases for our couch and armchair. That is, after I organize my office, and locate my sewing machine.

September 25, 2012

Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

Handheld Pies

After one final jam spree, I was finally able to retire my canning equipment to the basement this weekend, which means my kitchen is looking a lot more organized and inviting. The timing couldn't be more perfect because it's apple season right now, and I'm in the mood for pie.

I've heard many good things about the combination of apple pie and cheddar cheese, so I thought I'd give it a whirl myself. I made handpies with half the recipe, and used the other half for a cast-iron skillet tart. I like it both ways, but the handpies are particularly fun 'cause they're easy to decorate. And the cheese in the crust? Subtle and enjoyable.

For the Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 stick butter, chilled and sliced
4 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 - 1/2 cup ice water

The Filling
3 or 4 tart apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Juice from half a lemon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Other ingredients
1 tablespoon cold butter, diced into small pieces
1 egg yolk

Pour the flour, sugar, salt, butter and cheese into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse crumb. Add ice water slowly, one tablespoon at a time while pulsing, until the dough begins to tear away from the edges of the food processor. Press dough together and divide in half. Form each half into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and press into a disc. Refrigerate for an hour.

While the dough is refrigerating, prepare your apples, and mix in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients for the filling. Stir until well combined, cover, and set aside.

Handheld Pies

For Handheld Pies:
Remove one half of the dough from the refrigerator and roll out until 1/4-inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Using a bowl, punch out holes in the dough and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Re-roll the dough and continue punching out circles until there is no dough left. Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator, and repeat the process with the last disc of dough.

Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the filling into the center of each dough circle. Using your index finger, seal the edges of the dough circles with water and press together. Using a fork, create a decorative edging over the sealed portion of the dough. Repeat this process until all of your pies are sealed and arranged on the cookie sheet with at least 1/2 an inch space between them.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Using a knife, score each pie two or three times on top. Place your cookie sheets back in the refrigerator until the oven has preheated.

To bake, place cookie sheet on middle rack and bake at 450°F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F, and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Remove from oven, and allow to cool on a wire rack until room temperature.

Apple Pie Handheld Pies

Note: 
If you want to use half of the recipe for handheld tarts, and the other half for a small rustic apple tart like I did, follow the above instructions for handheld apple pies using only one disc of dough. For the other disc, roll it out on a lightly floured surface in a large, circular shape until 1/4-inch thick. Place dough over a small cast iron skillet, making sure there is plenty of dough overhanging on the sides. Pour remaining filling into the shell and top with pats of butter (I added a few raisins here as well). Cover with foil and bake in a 450°F oven for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350°F, and bake for another 40 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for another 20-30 minutes until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven, and let cool for 2-3 hours before serving.
 
Apple Pie Apple Pie

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart via Alexandra's Kitchen and Reclaiming Provincial.

September 20, 2012

Making Progress

Dining Room

I know it's been awhile since I've posted anything about our home, so I wanted to give you a progress report. Matt and I, after weeks of staring at unfinished clutter in the dining room, were finally able to wrap things up this week. The floors are done, the walls are painted, and the curtains are up. And now it's probably my favorite room in the house. I even brought my laptop out from storage so I could get some work done at the table yesterday. The big space, and light, airy feel are a sharp contrast from my office upstairs, which is currently bogged down with boxes, and I have no plans to unpack them anytime soon.

Dining Room

The dark paint you see here is gray chalkboard paint. I had a hard time choosing between the gray and black tints, especially because I was afraid the gray might have too much green in it, but I really love how it looks, especially against our houseplants. For those of you who are wondering, I didn't choose chalkboard paint because I wanted to write on it. I just really like the slate effect, and I thought this particular room was bright enough to handle it. I also chose to paint it dark because it separates this room from the tan walls in the adjacent living room.

Matt and I will eventually replace my little old table (sniff, sniff) with something larger. I'm thinking a big reclaimed wood table with a bench on one side, and mismatched chairs painted in bold, crazy colors like turquoise, mustard yellow, brick red, and blue on the other.

Those of you who are familiar with Ikea will note the two Lack tables by the window. Those will eventually be replaced with a console table or an old piano, and that window will be completely surrounded with houseplants. I want lots and lots of plants inside. I'm sure the kitties are excited about that.

Wren Wren

I can't help but sneak in a few photos of Wren. She's so fun, and so photogenic! She has that over Berger, who is beautiful up close, but doesn't generally photograph very well. Not for me anyway.

Living Room

And last but not least, the new coffee table I've been talking about. We spotted this thing last week on the sales floor with a huge discount tag stuck on top of it. Being thrifty folks, we called the manager over and had him explain what was wrong with it. Can you see the problem?

Neither can we. 

And of course, on top of the coffee table is that rag rug I've been working on. I've just ripped it out for the third time last night because I keep changing my mind about its dimensions. Luckily crochet goes fairly quickly, so I can handle redoing it until it's perfect. Still, I'm hoping that the next time I write about it, I'll have photos of a completed rug, fringe and all, under the coffee table instead of on top of it.

Side note:
It's been two months now, and aside from the week and a half we were out of town, we've been working on this place nonstop. I've had to learn to be patient with this process, and to take it day-by-day, because each project has its setbacks, and inevitably turns into something bigger than we thought. But I can safely say that working on this house has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever experienced. Especially as the house becomes more and more familiar to us as we make each room completely our own.

September 17, 2012

Wren

Wren

Meet the newest addition to The Nest.
She's very small, with pretty brown eyes.
And she loves Berger. 
(He's warming up to her.)

September 14, 2012

Weekend Project

Orchids and Fairy Lights Hat

I finished my Orchids & Fairy Lights hat a couple days ago, and guess what. It fits! Perfectly. I went up two needle sizes from what was suggested, but otherwise followed the pattern exactly, and I love it.

Orchids and Fairy Lights Hat

The color of the yarn is difficult to photograph. There are lots of subtle purples and pinks within the blue (which is a tinge greener than what you see here). You can see why I wanted to use it for something whimsical, yes?

Rag Rug Rag Rug
Rag Rug

After I finished my hat, I decided to go ahead and start on my crocheted rag rug. I'm making up the design as I go along, using old muslin that served as tablecloths at our wedding last year. I'm tearing it all into 1.5 inch strips, and crocheting it paired with white acrylic yarn that I've had in my stash forever. The combination of the two together creates a  nice subtle depth.

I'm hoping to finish this rug over the weekend because I think it'll look neat with this coffee table we found at World Market a couple days ago. We weren't exactly looking for a coffee table, but they had a floor model on sale at a discounted price because of a minor defect that nobody will ever notice, so we jumped on it right then and there.

I love it when that happens.

Have a good weekend!

September 10, 2012

Homeward Bound

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Dad and Tricia are coming back from their vacation tomorrow, so Matt and I will be heading back to the nest. I have to say, spending time here this past week has been like a mini-vacation for us. I hadn't realized how much we needed a break, especially because we've been working super hard all summer long on house and garden projects.

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I think I can say that we're both feeling refreshed. Matt has had his nose stuck in The Kingkiller Chronicles ever since we got here (I haven't seen him read like this since college), and I've been knitting and playing outside with Jake the Dog as much as possible. Dad and Tricia live in a secluded foresty area that's right next to the river, so I always try to get as much fresh air as I can while I'm here. And up until today, the weather has been gorgeous. Actually, today's weather has its charm, too. It's a little nippy, and it definitely rained this morning.

Bobbles and Cables

My latest knitting project is this Orchids and Fairy Lights hat from Tiny Owl Knits. I've been wanting to try one of her patterns for ages 'cause they're all so cute. I chose this pattern because I had two balls of opal heather yarn (KP Wool of the Andes), which was just enough yardage. Plus, this bluish-purplish yarn screams for something a little more whimsical.

I'm not totally sure this hat is for me though. I mean, if it works out, it works out. That would be awesome. But I've come to understand that not all hats have my name on them. There's something about my giant noggin and super curly hair that rejects most headgear, so we'll have to wait and see.

September 6, 2012

One of my favorite things...

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I love blackberry season. I know blackberry bushes are nothing new around here in Oregon, and that most people take great pains to keep them from growing out their ears, but I think these little black gems might be my favorite berry of them all.

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Maybe it's because when I was a kid, I would build myself forts inside the blackberry bushes at my old house where the adults couldn't find me, and then I'd dig holes in the ground to collect the fruit so I could live outside and remain well fed all year long. Obviously it never rained in this magical world I'd created for myself. And there was no such thing as mold. Or thieving critters... I had an active imagination back then.

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Anyway, I didn't get many blackberries last year (Matt and I were too busy gettin' hitched). Certainly not enough to make jam, so I've been trying to make up for lost time. Luckily, my dad and step-mom have tons of berries on their property, and I just so happen to be house-sitting for them this week, so Matt and I spent all afternoon yesterday picking berries down by the river.

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Jake the dog came along with us to provide entertainment. I was a little surprised to discover that he likes blackberries almost as much as I do, but not surprised that his tummy is a little sad for it today. Poor dog.