Sunday, November 28, 2010

Little mitten troubles

Well! Forty-six of you voted "no-belt" for my last "Boots Project" outfit, so no-belt it is!  I moved the shirring down a few inches, and I'm really enjoying the fit now.  Plus, it's a heck of a lot more comfortable with just the gentle shaping in the back than a tight restriction around my middle.  Sorry, no pictures, because I'm already in my lounge pants for the night, and I don't intend to get back into any sort of Outfit.  Speaking of which, here's my Boots Project outfit that I was wearing earlier today:


Currently on the needles:

I was working on matching mittens for my nephew...


And ran out just before the tips and thumbs.  And wasn't able to get to the yarn shop right away.  Grr.  Since I couldn't work on that, I started a hat for my dad (Christmas gift).


Good mindless knitting for catching up on Grey's Anatomy.  I need to start remembering to NOT eat while watching that show.  SERIOUSLY.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Now that I've cooked  few Thanksgiving dinner's myself, I've learned a few important things.  For me, the very most important step in a complicated multi-dish dinner, is the backwards-planning-list.  I write out all of the dishes to be made, and then determine the order that they need to be made through the day, so that there are no surprises when dinner time draws near.  ("Oh no!  I still need to get ___ in the oven, but ___ is still in there for another 45 minutes and needs to be baked at a completely different temperature!  Agghh!!"  etc.)

On Wednesday night I created that all important list, and also set up a crock pot with Irish oats (also known as steel-cut oats) so that the children would have something wholesome to start their day with (might not sound all that exciting, but they LOVE it).

I have made it a family tradition for Thanksgiving and Christmas to have something very special for a late breakfast/brunch, and we all eat it together.  While the children ate their 1st breakfast, I took the pan of Brandy Vanilla Bread Pudding out of the refrigerator that had been soaking overnight, and got it in the oven.  I also started a pan of sauteed caramel apple slices going on the stove.


While waiting for all of that to finish up, I put together the dough for a loaf of my Honey Whole Wheat bread, as well as a batch of Parker House Rolls. Since the oven was already on, I put some sweet potatoes in the oven to get that started, and made a pie crust so that it would have time to chill.
 Once the bread pudding and apples were done, we all sat down together -- by then, the children were ready to eat again -- and had a leisurely break in the action.


I love eating breakfast with Greg. It only happens about twice a year (Thanksgiving and Christmas), so I don't take for granted that little bit of extra time spent together at the beginning of a day.


It was much more fun to work together on dinner throughout the day (and doing dishes as they happen), rather than trying to do it all myself, as I have some other years.  Pre-planning pays off!




"Twofer Pie" (pumpkin-pecan).


Clockwise from mid-left: canned cranberry sauce (I can't help it -- I just love it), Roast-Garlic Smashed Potatoes (Greg riffed off of this recipe), Broiled Quail with rosemary from the neighbor's hedge, Parker House Rolls (brushed with butter and sprinkled with Fleur de Sel), Aunt Nancy's Sausage Apple Stuffing, Cranberry Jalapeno Salsa (this was Greg's plate, and he didn't have any of the Twice Baked Chipotle Sweet Potatoes, but they were OHSOGOOD.)  We had a Cesar Salad as well -- I followed this recipe with just a few changes -- I'll post it soon.


We had a new idea for our dinner this year.  I consistently make rolls for Thanksgiving, so at the start of our meal, as each person took their roll, that person would say what they were thankful for.  The children were excited about doing it, and it was a special family moment.  A new idea + something our family already does = a tradition is born.


I hope this Thanksgiving -- whether spent with family, friends, or in solitude -- that you were able to take a moment to reflect on the things, great and small, that you have to be thankful for in your life.


Happy Thanksgiving!

As usual, we have way more pictures than belong in a blog post, so if you're the sort of person who needs OHMYGOSHMOREPICTURES click through to the Flickr set here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A pompom hat, and another way to wear The Boots

I was looking for the perfect hat pattern for my 2-year-old nephew.  It's already cold in upstate NY, so even though this is actually his Christmas gift, I've decided that it would be nicer to give him his wooly warmers early.  Because no nephew of mine is going to be walking about with a cold head -- or worse still -- with a STOREBOUGHT HAT.  (Hannah, if you choose to put a storebought hat on him, I'll try not to hold it against you.  But it won't be easy.)  :-)  Knowing how surly 2-year-olds can be, I decided that both earflaps (to block out the cold wind), and ties (to keep surly toddler from yanking hat off), were both in order.  'Cause ear infections brought on by cold winds are no joke, and toddlers seem to possess no reason.  But we love them anyway!  MAN, it's a good thing that tiny people are so cute.

Chazz's head is rather larger than Billy's (as is the rest of him), so I knit this to be just a little large on Daisy, so he'll have something to grow into.


She was kind of unhappy about modeling a "boy's" hat, but by the time I was done taking pictures, she didn't want to take it off.  Success!  Hopefully Chazz feels the same way.




The pattern is the frighteningly named "Cabled and Fringed Hat" (thus the nearly complete lack of interest on Ravelry), but once the fringe has been taken away, and a giant pom-pom put in it's place, I'm pretty crazy about it!

The pattern was well written, although I found a tiny bit of errata.  Check my project notes.  Stitch counts are included on any rows where the count changes, so using common sense will get you far.

Day 4 of boots inspired wear, and my favorite outfit yet:


The shirt-dress and jean-print leggings are from Old Navy. (OK, I know what that kind of leggings are called, but I REFUSE to use the word.  It feels vile in my mouth.)  (Woah, sometimes I come on a bit strong, even for me!)  (Haha.)

I shortened the dress to a tunic length (my legs are so short, so this sort of drowned me), and put a little bit of elastic shirring into the back.


Hmm, maybe the shirring should be moved a bit lower.


I'm not sure if I like it better with belt or without.  What do you think?  (If you're reading this from a blog feed aggregator, click through for a silly pole to vote your answer!)


Monday, November 22, 2010

A roller coaster sort of day

Today, there has been much fussing and whining, a lot of hair-pulling and slap-fights, and it seems that my little ones have literally snacked their way through their waking hours.   Every time that I start to accomplish something....THEY'RE HUNGRY AGAIN.  And again.


However, today has also included peaceful moments of newmade playdough (top recipe -- cook slowly on med/low heat for until it comes together for a smooth dough), books, coloring, bike rides with neighbors, and a refreshing morningtime playdate with good friends.


Without the bitter, how could I truly appreciate the sweet?


This afternoon, I finished an adorable, "manly" little earflap ski-hat with a giant pompom on top for my nephew.  I'll get Billy to model it tomorrow; he's just been tucked into bed for the night.

Tonight, I made Smitten Kitchen's Mushroom Lasagna for dinner, and oh my, it was good.  This is the second time I've made it this month, and it certainly won't be the last.  I highly recommend it!  Sadly though, all 4 of my children are convinced that mushrooms are among the greatest evils. I figure that if I just keep putting it on their plates from time to time, they'll just adapt.  I'll let you know how that works out for me.  (Not even a glimmer of hope at the moment.)

Day 3 of the Boots Project.


Handmade dress (Mendocino pattern), and handknit Black Friday sweater.  Yes, I realize that the boots and black sweater don't really work together in this outfit, but...YAY I'M WEARING IT ANYWAY!  I seriously need some black boots.  Or I need to knit a cream colored sweater.  Probably both.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 2 of the Cowboy boots

Day number two of outfits styled around my new Frye boots.


Blousey tunic-top and Jeans ("Flirt" leggings -- even though they're actually jeans), both from Old Navy.  I actually wore this today with a thick, handspun purple shawl, because the FREAKING AIR CONDITIONING was on full blast at the stage in our church building.  And I nearly froze.  But thankfully I had that shawl.  Lesson learned: IT PAYS TO KNIT, PEOPLE. I will always be the most warmly dressed girl in Texas.  Except for when I wear shorts with my sweater.  But besides that.

A few weeks ago, I had tons of egg whites left over from my bread pudding with vanilla custard sauce situation, so I decided to make some meringue cookies with some of it (the last 6 egg whites are sitting in my freezer until I come up with another use for them.  Perhaps a winterfruit pavlova...).


These are Chocolate Chip Pecan Meringue Cookies, recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  I highly recommend tasting your pecans before you add them though.  Mine were kind of fruity tasting, which I did not appreciate.  Also, 1/2 a cup of sugar was still almost too sweet for me, so I'd cut it down to 6 tablespoons next time.  I substituted brown sugar for the white, which added a delicious hint of butterscotch.  They're fun to eat though -- almost like marshmallows, they dissolve on your tongue, and, not counting chocolate (who EVER counts chocolate?!) (that's obviously against the rules) (OBVIOUSLY.), they're entirely fat free.  Yay!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Great Aunt Nancy's Apple Sausage Stuffing

*My apologies for not including a photo with this.  I'll try to take one when I make this on Thursday, but trust me -- you don't want to miss this one!*

Growing up, this stuffing was always my very favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner.  I've since tried to branch out a little and have experimented a bit with some other types of stuffing, but I always come back to this one.  It's savory, a little bit sweet, push-button easy to make, and all around a very satisfactory, delicious addition to the Thanksgiving table.  I never really got to know my Great Aunt Nancy before she died -- she and my grandma were never very close -- but I do very dearly thank her for this recipe that has been passed down to me: her delicious Apple Sausage Stuffing.

Great Aunt Nancy's Apple Sausage Stuffing

Preheat oven to 350.

Soak in a bowl of water:
2 loaves French or Italian bread

Saute until translucent:
2 onions, chopped
pinch of salt

Add and saute until browned and cooked through:
1 lb Italian Sausage (casings removed, or buy bulk sausage)

Squeeze soaked bread of excess water and break into pieces.  Combine broken bread and sausage mixture in large bowl.

Small handful of chopped, flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated (with a microplane or the finer side of your box grater) Romano or Parmesan
2 eggs
1 apple, chopped (any kind -- I've used Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, and they're all great)
Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients well, and place into a large, greased, oven-safe skillet, casserole dish or roasting pan.  Bake at 350 for 1/2 hour until browned all over and crusty at the edges.

A Thanksgiving menu and a pair of new boots

Every November, I am faced with the same dilemma.  Or at least for the past 10 Novembers that I've known Greg.  For both Greg and I, Thanksgiving is our absolute favorite holiday.  It frustrates us to no end that literally the day after Halloween, CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS are already up in stores, and Christmas music has begun to play.  It's like Thanksgiving doesn't even matter!  No wonder why people get burned out from the holidays.  It just...too much holiday!  Christmas is supposed to be a precious, beautiful time with family, listening to special music that ONLY GETS PLAYED AFTER NOVEMBER 30TH.  Period.  (Please take me with a grain of salt -- if you disagree, you can be sure that I WILL JUDGE YOU, but I'll try to quietly, and only behind your back.  Agreed?)  (Haha.)  (I'm actually not kidding.)  But enough about Christmas -- today, we're talking about Thanksgiving.  The dilemma in our family is this: Thanksgiving is special to Greg and I for somewhat opposite reasons.

For him, different-ness equals awesomeness (and yes, "different-ness" IS a word.  BECAUSE I JUST INVENTED IT.  Thanks.)  A holiday is the perfect time to try out SUPERSPECIALCOMPLICATED recipes from our shelves of cookbooks, "show off Faith's cooking skills" (his words not mine), and generally use all sorts of ingredients we usually wouldn't budget for/consider using (unless it was a holiday).  Also wine, plenty of wine.  And possibly after dinner drinks.  (Those last two are things that we can both agree on.)

For me, every holiday has it's own traditional menu guidelines, and if I don't stick to them, it's hard for me to even feel like we're celebrating that particular event.  Ham is for Christmas (sometimes I've subbed in lamb or beef, but it just doesn't feel quite right), lamb is for Easter (although I'm pretty sure I made something rather un-special this past Easter because I was feeling overwhelmed -- but once again, it didn't really feel like the proper "celebration" without it), and Thanksgiving?  Thanksgiving is absolutely, 100%, without-a-doubt: TURKEY.  And stuffing, and cranberry sauce (both out of the can AND homemade -- I can't get enough!), and always some sort of handmade rolls (usually the Cracked Wheat Rolls from Moosewood Celebrates.)  Along with that there are always some sort of greens, and hopefully some version of sweet potatoes.  For dessert, I am a big fan of both pecan AND pumpkin pies.

Now, these differences might not seem like such a big deal at first, but the thing is, not only does Greg not hold all of those foodstuffs dear for that particular holiday, he doesn't like most of it at all.  Tragic.  He doesn't like almost any version of pumpkin or sweet potato, and certainly not pie.  He's not a fan of flaky pie crust, and cooked fruit is a total turn-off, so even an apple crumble is out of the question.  He doesn't like chocolate, and cannot stand pecans or walnuts.  He has never liked turkey.  Autumnal spices (gingerbread, pumpkin pie spice, etc.) are not something he goes for.

Do you see the problem here?  It would seem insurmountable, and I have certainly mourned the loss of my favorite once-a-year lunch: the Thanksgiving Leftovers sandwich (thickly sliced turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing) beautiful.  So unattainable.  However, there is hope!  I have come up with the following menu that I hope will please our whole family.  And I might even be able to have that sandwich after all!

  • Quail (I bought 8 local quail, butterflied for grilling or roasting -- not sure what I will do with them yet)
  • Twice Baked Sweet Potato with Chipotle Pecan Streusel (I will only make a 1/2 recipe of this, because I'll probably be the only one eating it)
  • Smashed Potatoes (this has become Greg's Signature Holiday Dish, and he does it well -- his own recipe)
  • Great Aunt Nancy's Apple and Sausage Stuffing (I'll post the recipe shortly -- it's always been a traditional dish for my family back in NY and NJ)
  • Caesar Salad (a variation on my dad's recipe -- our whole family loves this intense, garlicky salad)
  • I'm also throwing around the idea of an ambrosia-type thing, or some other sweet-spicy chopped salad.
  • Cranberry Sauce straight out of the can (and possibly a homemade sauce/relish too -- undecided)
  • Parker House Rolls (I've never tried this recipe, but I've found that I can trust Joy The Baker.  She has never steered me wrong.)
  • I would consider making a Butterscotch Cream Pie with a graham cracker crust, but I think Greg might be butterscotched-out -- I made a large bowl of Butterscotch Pudding a few days ago and, while delicious, we still haven't finished it.
  • He MIGHT like Pioneer Woman's Pumpkin Cream Pie -- it's got a lot of elements that he likes without a heavy pumpkin flavor, so I'll show the recipe to him and see what he thinks.
  • Thanksgiving Twofer Pie (I just may end up eating this all by myself, but it's a Dorie Greenspan recipe, so how can I go wrong?)
  • I'm going to keep this list of Best Hot Drinks on hand for after we tuck the children in at the end of the day.  Maybe we'll put a little soft jazz on the turntable...(*wink*)
I'd love to hear all of your opinions in the comments.  What (besides family and friends) makes each holiday special to you?  Special foods?  Traditions?  I look forward to hearing how each of you make your holiday special.

In other news, I finally got my first pair of long-anticipated cowboy(girl?) boots, and I am completely in love.


Frye Women's Billy Vintage Boot in Tan.

I want to wear them with everything.  So that's precisely what I'm going to do.  I'll post a picture each day for the next week or so of an outfit I've styled around the boots.


The weather here in Texas is so fickle in November, that it makes perfect sense to pair short-shorts with a thick, tweedy pullover sweater (layered over a t-shirt). Or at least that's what I have decided.  Don't judge.  Handknit sweater (a modified version of Stefanie Japel's pattern: Cozy V-Neck Pullover from her book Fitted Knits), shorts from Old Navy (can't even find them on their site -- that's how out-of-season I am), Frye Boots.

Of course I will also need a Black Pair -- studded this time, but I'll have to wait on that and give our wallet a little more breathing room before I strike again.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Bread pudding.  It's one of those things that I've always imagined that I should like...yet no matter how many times I've tried it, I've always been unimpressed and disappointed.  Gummy, dry, or just plain unflavorful, it seems that most people just can't get it right.  But seriously -- custard soaked challah bread?  People!  There MUST be a way to make this dish rock!  So when I discovered that Dorie Greenspan had a Chocolate Bread Pudding recipe in my Very Favorite Baking Book Ever (Baking: From My Home To Yours), I decided that I would give it a go.

Some friends and I get together once a month for a big potluck brunch, and I felt that it would be the perfect thing to share with a crowd.


I served it as Dorie suggested with a Vanilla Creme Anglaise Sauce.  I also had some dark chocolate ganache left over from something else, and I MAY have placed a bowl of that alongside...although there are no pictures to prove it... (and, just between us...that might have been overkill...)


Oh dear me.


Oh my freaking gosh.  I always knew there was something to love about bread pudding.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Wooly hats for little heads

Looking over my blog posts of the past year, I've realized that I've come to a more holistic approach to crafting.  Rather than JUST KNITTING, or SPINNING OBSESSIVELY, etc., I've begun to craft according to what my family needs/wants at whatever given time -- Daisy needed dresses for the summer, so I sewed a bunch of those over a few weeks.  We needed curtains for our windows, so I just got down to business and sewed up a few sets (supplementing with a few from Ikea -- but I intend to make hand-embroidered tie-backs for those in the future).  Instead of letting Greg cover our walls with band posters again, I have instead been slowly crafting and creating my own decorative touches to our walls (embroidery...papercut....applique...tiny knits...).  It's slow, but it's good.  I love the way that I'm discovering myself as I'm opening myself up to all of these avenues of crafting, rather than locking myself into one mode.  


Of course I still go off on different stints of ONLY WANTING TO SPIN or what have you, but I feel like I'm becoming a little more balanced, and I really love the outcome of it all.  Our house, while probably put together in a factory about 10 years ago and assembled on site with a few staples and a hot-glue gun, is gradually easing into a homey, handmade sort of a place on the inside.  And I love it.


All of the above is why my knits have been slower in coming lately.  I do always have a small handful of projects on the needles, but I work on them as I can, among all of the other home-enriching projects that I have in progress.


Last week I finished up my children's hats for this season, just in time for a cold front that has moved in.

Variation on a Meathead hat pattern.  Shetland wool Spunky Eclectic (vintage!) club fiber in "Celebration".  Handspun, 2-ply, worsted weight.


From left: ONline "Linie 120 Fiorino" in crimson (color # 0021), Spectrum Batt from Purldrop Studo in Graduated Green, "Spring Forward" BFL Southern Cross Fibre Club March 2009.

Here in Texas, we have to enjoy those chilly days while we have them -- even if it just means bundling up in the mornings and evenings.  I'll take any excuse to put on a snuggly hat and a pair of mittens.


Sparky and Max requested ear hats again this year, so I decided to make one for Billy as well.  The only thing better than 2 little boys in Shrek-like ear hats is 3.  Obviously.

I based the pattern on the one in Ann Budd's Knitter's Handy Book Of Patterns.  (I just knit straight up with no shaping until it was long enough to cover the boys' heads, then kitchnered across the top, tying off the corners to make "ears".)



Billy thought that ripping his hat off for his individual shoot was the Best Pose Concept Ever.  Thankfully, everyone encouraged him with hilarious it became impossible.  Ah well.

Daisy's hat is essentially the Meathead hat pattern, but I modified it for a smaller gauge, and ruched up the back so that the point would aim backwards and perfectly contain her ever-present ponytail.  I finished up her mittens (also from Ann Budd's Handy Book Of Patterns), and this weekend I intend to get at least one pair done for the boys as well.  Sparky has requested gloves, but the other two have mittens on order.  I will also be knitting a little winter set for my 2-year-old nephew, which I will start as soon as I'm done with these.




I always end up doing projects like these in batches, and I have to admit that I'm feeling weary already, but seeing these adorable little people decorated with my stitches (and in most cases -- my handspun), never fails to put a smile on my face.


Friday, November 05, 2010

A little bit of this, and a little bit of that

Making dessert for Greg is always a challenging endeavor -- he's not really a "dessert sort of guy", but he does enjoy the occasional just can't involve chocolate, pie crust, nuts, cooked fruit, or dark caramel.  I think he's trying to stretch my creative genius.  For his birthday this year (Oct. 19th -- happy 33rd birthday, my love!), I made the old fashioned and elegant Floating Islands dessert: meringue "islands" poached in milk, "floating" in Creme Anglaise sauce.


(Recipe from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan -- my baking hero)

It was delicious, but we both agreed that the caramel drizzled on top should probably have been caramel sauce and not brittle threads.  I kind of enjoyed the crunch, but it was a little difficult to avoid getting stabbed in the mouth.

I recently came across a recipe for Caramel Macchiato Popcorn Balls and modified it to clusters instead.


Instead of using store bought caramel cubes, as the coating, I made my own caramel (are you surprised?) from this one on  Instead of fussing with forming popcorn balls, I spread the sticky popcorn on baking sheets and baked them as directed in the Allrecipes version.  I wanted the chocolate and caramel to maintain their distinct flavors, so I opted to drizzle the chocolate (shot through with espresso powder and Saigon cinnamon) on top after baking instead of mixing it in to the caramel. 


Two days ago, I went from Fiery Redhead to Plastic Rockstar Blond.


It's the most artificial blond I've probably ever achieved.  I'm totally infatuated with this look.  I'm sure it'll pass quickly and we'll be back to red in no time.  Or purple.



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