October 30, 2012

Multiple WIPs

 willow catkin hood

Suddenly it's almost November, and I find myself worried that I won't finish all of my Christmas projects in time. Where has October gone?

In an effort to speed things up and get more organized, I finally went upstairs to my office this weekend and unpacked almost all of my many boxes. Before then, I simply ignored the room as if it didn't exist. Except when I needed a pair of scissors or a ball of twine, in which case I'd sift through box after identical box until I found what I was looking for. Not a speedy endeavor, nor an efficient use of time.

Wristees

Aside from getting more organized, I've also put some of my own half-finished projects on hold for awhile while I tackle gifts for my friends and family this year. This means instead of my usual one-project-at-a-time rule, I'm entering the world of multiple WIPs. I don't usually operate this way because I get a lot of gratification out of finishing things, and if I start too many projects at once, I'm in danger of never following through with any of them. But this is different! I'm on a mission.

Wish me luck!

October 26, 2012

Signs of Fall

Acorns
Apple Harvest Leaves
Tea & Cookies

I really do love this time of year, rain and all. This weekend, I'm planning to:

-Make quince paste.
-Eat lots of squash and sweet potatoes.
-And maybe these muffins.
-Knit Christmas presents.
-Finish watching the LOTR trilogy.
-And finish reading The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

October 19, 2012

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

On Sunday, Matt brought home a trunkload of squash from the garden. Most were pumpkins and buttercup (or possibly kobucha) squash, one or two hubbard squash, and only a handful of acorn squash. Acorn squash is generally my favorite, but unfortunately there weren't many this year to harvest. I saw them running at 5 for $5 at the market recently, and was tempted to pick up a few just to even things out, but Matt brought me back to my senses, reminding me that we're up to our ears in squash, and we don't need more. That's part of the joy of gardening, really. You take what comes and make the best of it.

Roasting Spices Pumpkin Pie

As for the pumpkins, I began roasting one of the smaller fruits right away for pie. I don't know if slow roasting at a low heat works the same for pumpkins as it does for sweet potatoes, breaking down the sugars more thoroughly for a sweeter flavor, but I'm inclined to think it does because this one came out of the oven more delicious than any other pumpkin I've tasted. It was sweet enough to eat plain.

While I was waiting for the roasted pumpkin to cool enough for me to make into puree, I set about the task of preparing this year's batch of pumpkin pie spice by first roasting the spices whole, and then grinding them into a fine powder to use in all my pumpkin and apple treats this fall.

Pumpkin Pie

And to mix things up, I decided to make one larger pumpkin pie in a small cast-iron skillet, as well as several miniature pies in jars. Both methods turned out really well, so I've written out directions for you to make them either way.

The Filling (Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes)
2 cups pumpkin puree (store bought or freshly roasted)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, plus the yolk of a third
2-3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

To Make a Regular Pumpkin Pie
Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix filling ingredients in a large bowl, and whisk until combined. Make pie dough (I use Pate Brisee), and press into a pie pan or cast iron skillet. Trim excess dough and set aside. Pour filling into pie shell. Optional: Roll out excess dough, and use cookies cutters to stamp out shapes. Place shapes delicately on top of filling to decorate.

Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F. Bake for another 45-50 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

To Make Pumpkin Pie-in-a-Jar:
The Crust:
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 stick (3/4 cup) cold butter
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons sugar

Mix all of the ingredients for the filling together in a bowl and set aside.

Place the ingredients for the crust into the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until combined. The butter should be evenly distributed throughout the flour mixture in a coarse crumb.

Press the mixture into the sides and bottoms of your clean and dry jars. (You can use 4 oz regular mouth jelly jars, or half-pint wide mouth jars) The mixture should stick to itself once pressed. If not, add another tablespoon or two of cold butter and pulse until you've reached desired consistency.

Once all your jars are coated with crust, spoon in the filling, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Bake pies for 15 minutes at 425°F, then reduce heat to 350°F. Bake for another 20-30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool before serving. Alternatively, you can place lids and bands over jars and store in freezer until ready to bake.

October 10, 2012

Indoor Activities

Wren

So yesterday was Matt's 28th birthday. To celebrate, we invited a few close friends over for a combined birthday/housewarming party. It was so nice to have our first small gathering here at The Nest, and I'm looking forward to many more. One thing we hadn't anticipated, though, was our lack of seating, which is something we're going to have to remedy as soon as possible. 

We're also going to need a much bigger dining table, so Matt has been gathering inspiration in order to draw up plans to build it himself. So far, my favorite tables come from Pottery Barn. For instance, we like this one because of the painted farmhouse legs and the bare wood top. And this one we like because of its simplicity. The second one is probably cheaper to build, but I think we're leaning toward the farmhouse style. We just need to figure out where to find those oversized decorative legs and we'll be all set.

For mitts.

Another Autumn

Since Monday was Columbus Day, I decided to take advantage of my local craft store's promotional discounts by bringing home a huge sack full of yarn. I managed to buy $100 dollars worth of yarn for only $50 - it was a deal I couldn't pass up. So, I'll be home with my crochet hook, knitting needles, and yarn for the next two days straight, making as many things as I possibly can. Can you tell I'm excited? I've been planning this yarny marathon for awhile now.

If only I could read and knit at the same time. I've started a new book, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, and I'm hooked!

October 5, 2012

Canucks

Canucks Canucks

Happy Friday! I finished knitting my first pair of socks yesterday, and I love them. They're more like slippers, really, 'cause they're made with worsted yarn, but they're very cozy. Click here for my project notes if you're interested and have a Ravelry account.

This weekend, I'm planning to finish our Harry Potter movie marathon (Matt and I started The Sorcerer's Stone last night), knit more socks, and celebrate a few family birthdays. You?

I see myself holding a pair of thick, woolen socks. One can never have enough socks.
-Albus Dumbledore

October 1, 2012

Finished

Rag Rug

Well, I'm still feeling a little under the weather, but I tried my best to not let it deter me over the weekend. I think I must have a mild cold, which is surprising because anytime I get sick, my asthma flares right up. This usually means that any "minor" virus is blown way out of proportion, and it takes weeks for me to recover. But this? Not so bad.

Rag Rug

The good news is that I finished my rag rug, and it's sitting happily under my coffee table, doing its rag rug thing. I like it, Matt likes it, and the cats like it. So much, in fact, that I think I'll probably crochet them a kitty bed with the leftovers.

It really didn't take that long to make. I could've finished it in just a day or two, but I kept waffling about the dimension. Finally I settled on a rug that was just big enough to stick out 4 or 5 inches from every edge of the coffee table. Once I had it crocheted, I added a row of single crochet to both ends to tidy things up, and then the fringe.

I'm really, really happy with this thing. Projects like this make the creative process so addictive, so I'm in full on make-mode. I'm even tackling socks, finally, which I've been wanting to do for a long time. All of my old socks have holes in them, and I've refrained from buying more because I wanted to force myself to learn how to knit them this year. Preferably before it gets too cold.

Wool Leaves

I also finished this baby blanket awhile ago, and sent it off to its new owner last week. I think the pattern is really beautiful, and it gave me a lot of joy to knit. It's also one of the prettiest things I've had the pleasure to make, which is such a nice break from my usual tendency towards simplicity. I'll be using this pattern again someday, for sure.

Anyway, happy first day of October! I've got pumpkin butter and spiced chai bubbling away on the stove as we speak. I love this time of year.