autumn to-do list

Now it really is starting to feel like autumn up here in the mountains, and the cottonwoods have the barest tinge of yellow. Something about the change of seasons makes me want to get some things done. I made a list, and I’ve already started working on it:

  • Wash and re-block hand knits.
    I pulled out a couple scarves, and they’re not dirty, just a bit crumpled from being shoved in a drawer all summer. A good blocking will do them all some good.
  • Take a crochet class.
    I went on Saturday for a class, and it was so helpful! I’ve done a little crochet on my own, but was never sure if I was doing it right. I especially never felt very comfortable juggling the hook and the yarn. In my class I learned a good way to hold them both, and I can single and double crochet quite well now. I even found a pattern for a ripple blanket and started on the first stripe. I actually had tried to do a similar pattern years ago, but I was never happy with the way it looked. I thought it would be a great project to use up leftover bits of worsted weight yarns. I’ll be working on it for a long time, but it will be a nice break to do a stripe here and there. 

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  • Make roast goose.
    So, I’ll be brief on this one. We had two mean geese. They were noisy and unpleasant and I found someone who was willing to “process” them for me. And now they are in the freezer. I’m still working myself up to it, but I found a good tutorial for when I am ready.
  • Get some more chickens.
    My girls aren’t laying much, and two of the six hens are now six years old, so it’s time for some fresh young hens. I’ll let my old ladies enjoy the rest of their days in our yard, though. They don’t try to nip at me when I feed them.
  • Finish website re-design/cleanup.
    I want to keep things clean and simple around here. I’ll probably do  a little here and there on this one, but I’m still not in a mood to spend my evenings in front of the computer.
  • Learn to use Lightroom, and organize my photos.
    I’ve started doing this too. In fact, I’ve even switched to shooting in RAW. I’m not totally sure what that even means, but I’m doing it! 
  • Bake a cake (flourless, of course).
    Done, and it was good, but I’m still searching for a really good grain-free cake recipe. I used this recipe, and it was dense and moist, which I expected. It was just a little too sweet for me (which might have been the pears I used, they were very ripe and sweet), and a little heavy. But it was so fun to bake again. I won’t be making it a regular habit, just a now and then treat.  

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  • Make a scarf from a piece of Liberty fabric I’ve been hoarding.
    This should take about ten minutes, I’ve got a yard, so I think I’ll just cut it in half and sew it end-to-end for length. 
  • Make a sweater for Pulley
    He doesn’t have fur like the other dogs, I think he’s going to need some warm clothes for the winter. 
  • Start making soup.
    I need to find some new soup recipes. Do you have any good ones? 
  • Knit the perfect cabled sweater.
    I want something cozy and slouchy. This might be just the thing. I have to decide what kind of yarn to use. 
  • Buy a lot of pumpkins and decorate the porch.
    I’ve got two so far, but I’m going to need some more.

Bonus items:

The Autumn pin board.
I also just needed to share the fact that you can follow an astronaut on pinterest.

pinterest for dinner

I didn’t really ‘get’ pinterest at first. I have a tumblr blog where I’ve always just posted little inspirations as I come across them, and didn’t think I needed yet another social website to keep track of. In fact, I deleted my account after a few weeks. Then I tried it again, and now I totally get it. It’s the first place I look when I want to find out how to do something. It’s always great when I need a little shot of inspiration. Especially when I need inspiration for dinner.

So this past weekend, while we were still nursing our colds, and any exertion required a 30 minute nap afterward, I wanted something easy, healthy, and delicious for dinner. As usual, pinterest was the solution. I mean really, bacon-wrapped king prawns on rosemary skewers, what could go wrong? Nothing, that’s what. We have a few enormous, overgrown rosemary bushes, so any time I can use some of it, I’m happy. Everything about the prawn recipe sounded good since we haven’t actually felt like eating much lately, and it was really easy and quick. Avocados are at their peak right now, so we are eating them nearly every day, and a simple salad was a nice change from the usual guacamole. I just used some homemade shallot mustard vinaigrette, because I had some in the fridge, but the salad dressing explanation at the link is worth a read if you don’t yet make your own. It’s so easy and so worth it. Have you looked at the ingredients on a bottle of salad dressing these days? It’s a chemistry experiment in a jar.

dinner

Corn has started making an appearance at the farm stand, so I cooked up a couple ears, and it was so good with everything else. How do you like your corn-on-the-cob? I think butter/salt/lime/Cholula hot sauce is pretty much a perfect combination.

dinner2

Do you use pinterest for cooking? I find that I am much more likely to make a recipe that I pin to my food board than when I would stumble across a recipe on a website and just think that I’d remember it and make it someday. I’ve already made quite a few things that I’ve pinned, some of which have made it into the regular rotation around here.

this and that

I never even turned on my computer yesterday. I was so scattered, and I kept meaning to get to it and then I just never did. Do you have days like that? I did a lot of things, but in the end I didn't feel like I really accomplished much at all. I'm going to try and do better today, so first thing I'm doing is getting on my computer and writing this post, which will probably be random and scattered like my day was.

image from www.flickr.com

The acorns on the California oaks around here are long and skinny. I have an app called FingerFace and now I think I will put little faces on everything. 

I shared the above photo on Instagram the other day. I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I've limited my Twitter use to blog posts and Instagram these days, I feel like tweeting is like walking into a big party and just shouting out something witty and hoping someone hears (and then RTs it). I don't really love big parties. I think I will stick to Instagram for now, I like looking at everyone's pretty pictures and it's making me be more creative with photography. 

I didn't mention in my book post that I listened to the Song of Ice and Fire series audiobooks recently as well. I came across this Tumblr blog and this re-imagined cover for A Game of Thrones made me laugh really hard. 

Have you seen this? Works of art, re-made. Some are literal, like this beautiful painting and photograph: 

Remake1

And some are more interpretive. I especially liked this one (the pillow case tacked to the wall is an especially nice touch): 

 

Remake2

I've been making a lot of soup lately, albondigas, this hot & sour cabbage soup, sausage and kale soup. I tried this green soup, but it came out kind of thin and watery, with not a lot of flavor. I need to expand my soup repertoire, does anyone have a favorite recipe to share? Preferably without grains or beans. Lots of vegetables are welcome, and I am not afraid to make my own broth. When I'm ready for a break from soup I think I'll try this artichoke, kale & ricotta pie, it looks so good.

I told you I was all scattered! 

absolute beginner

I briefly mentioned a recent book purchase, Plate to Pixel, in a post earlier this month. I'm not done reading and absorbing, but I've been skimming through and one of the things I've really loved about Helene's styling is the rustic table top backgrounds she uses. I didn't see any explicit directions in the book or on her blog (although there is a brief scene of her painting some wood in this promo video), but I've got piles of old fence boards, so I made up my own version. I finally finished it this weekend, and when the skies went dark and a freak thunderstorm rolled through this afternoon, I decided to set it up on the porch and try it out. 

image from www.flickr.com
I painted one side a robin's egg blue that I had laying around (someday it will be an accent wall in my laundry room), and sanded the other side, so it's two backgrounds in one! I still need to work on adjusting my camera settings, I think these might be a bit too bright and over-exposed, despite the grey skies. I even started playing around with this reflector set I recently bought, it was quite a bargain! I used the diffuser disc on the photo above and directly below, but there's still some glare. I think I better go read some more, and learn how to adjust my camera better. 

image from www.flickr.com
Obviously, my styling and composing skills are rather lacking still, but I am going to keep practicing. In the meantime, I've got some raspberries and cream to eat. Oh, I thought you might like to see the whole background thingie: 

image from www.flickr.com
Here are the very technical instructions (wherein I probably don't use any of the proper woodworking terminology): I took three 6' fence boards, and sawed each in half. Then I cut a couple pieces of 1×2 boards that I also had laying around to the width of the three boards together. I sanded everything and laid three boards down, wrong side up. I put wood glue along one side of one of the 1×2 boards, and positioned it across the three boards. I tried to just nail the 1×2 to the fence boards, but the nails just wouldn't go in, so I used my smallest drill bit (1/16") to drill through them (two holes for each fence board) and then pounded the nails in. After doing this four times, my drill bit broke, so I went up to the next one, and hoped it wasn't too big. Luckily, it wasn't so I continued to add the second 1×2 to the other end. Then I placed the remaining three fence boards on top of the 1×2's, and did the same thing again, except instead of the nails going from the 1×2's into the fence boards, I went through the fence boards into the 1×2's. the nails I used had flat heads, and this is the side that I painted, so they show a little through the paint. I was going for rustic, so this doesn't bother me, but I probably could have used finishing nails and counter-sunk them and used a little wood filler to hide them. Then I painted and sanded the one side. I've left the other side naked so far, but I may stain or wax it eventually. This is so much nicer than my ugly green counter tops for taking pictures of food (and maybe other things too!). 

summer, a list

A list (this post is brought to you by Instagram (and Magic Hour)):

1.Summer hair. I'm growing mine out, but when it's hot I hate it on my neck. I've been doing this a lot, although I obviously need to work on my bobby pin placement:

image from www.flickr.com

2.Summer nail color. I'm pretending I'm trendy and wearing this lavendar on my fingers and toes. I've only just discovered Essie, so obviously I'm not really up on any trends. It's formaldahyde-free (as well as missing some other yucky chemicals found in most nail polish), and there are so many great colors. You can get some at Target.

3. Summer reading. What are you reading? I've got a stack of books to enjoy, but I'm re-reading Harry Potter just for the fun of it, and I just finished listening to A Game of Thrones, which was epic and brutal, and kept me entertained on my drive to and from work for nearly three weeks (it was 34 hours long!). I'm not quite up for the second book in the series yet, so I took a break and listened to a Stephanie Plum novel, which is definitely a guilty pleasure. In the stack on my nightstand I've got a copy of Centuries of June, which the publisher sent, so I need to get on that soon. It sounds highly entertaining, so I'm looking forward to that one. Also there is a gift from my sister-in-law, called Enslaved by Ducks, which I suspect will hit very close to home, as it is the story of a couple who adopt various animals and the hijinks that ensue. I can't tell you how many times I've watched all the little creatures in our yard, and thought about the comedies (and tragedies) I see and what great stories they would make. 

4. Summer farm. My garden has not materialized as I hoped, as we have had some crazy weather (frost, in June, triple-digit tempuratures earlier this month, followed by another frosty night last weekend), so I have to be content with nurturing the two new little hens I brought home last week. They are month-old Buff Orpingtons. My buffs were all stolen in the Great Chicken Robbery of 2009, and I've missed having some in my flock. These two are sweet as can be, with that same mellow buff personality that I love. 

image from www.flickr.com
5. Summer crafts. I have been cleaning out our disaster area of a shed in the hopes of doing some more wood-working type projects, but until that gargantuan task is finished, I am contenting myself with some smaller crafts. I may even put a few things in my etsy shop again soon, who knows! Last weekend I made some tiny mushrooms for some tiny terrariums, because what could be better than a terrarium? A teeny, tiny terrarium, of course! I've got some moss to add to these, and hopefully enough chain to make them into necklaces. 

image from www.flickr.com

6a. Summer food. Do you know what season it is right now? Fig season! They are one of my favorites. This is a good way to make them: slice in half, and wrap each half with prosciutto. Then drizzle with good olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Grind a little pepper on top, and enjoy!

image from www.flickr.com6b. More summer food. There was also some yellowtail tuna caught by some co-workers who went on a three-day fishing trip and graciously shared their haul. I sliced up a piece and coated the slices in olive oil and herbs and just seared the outside. Served with agrodolce relish (tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, minced garlic, all sauteéd in olive oil and finished with a spoonful of red wine vinegar and a spoonful of sugar), coconut basmati rice, and arugula. 
image from www.flickr.com
What's on your summer list? 

an iphone photo a day::number three (x3)

image from www.flickr.com

Taken with GorillaCam, edited with PS Express, Tiltshift Generator, and Lo-Mob

image from www.flickr.com

Taken with GorillaCam, edited with PS Express, Tiltshift Generator, and Lo-Mob

image from www.flickr.com Taken with GorillaCam, edited with PS Express, Tiltshift Generator, and Lo-Mob

Oh, all right Spring, I guess you are welcome to come now, you and your pretty, pink, blossoms. 

I'm not sure which version I like best, I think the first one is my favorite. What do you think? 

Tonight is knitting group, so I'll show you some knitting in the next post. I've joined the Knit Knit Café Westknits KAL, which is fun, since I haven't really done a knit-along before. 

Here are some links I've been collecting recently:

I'd like this camera case for my iPhone.

Brooklyn Tweed is going to take us on a tour of the mill where Shelter yarn is made. The series starts here. I think this will be fascinating. 

Doesn't orange-vanilla marmalade sound delicious? 

I would love one of Ann Wood's ships, but maybe I can make do with my own teacup instead. She very generously shares the how-to

I'm currently cooking a lot of quinoa. These recipes look delicious, and this one is for sure. I know, because I've made it about three times in the last two weeks. 

I like brownies, but they are so rich, I don't have them often. These seem like a really good idea. White chocolate?! Raspberries?! Yes, a very good idea.

success and failure

I just had a four and a half day weekend, and not much happened and it was fantastic. In fact, I barely left the house, and when I did, it was purely on foot, with Winston, to walk through the frosty meadow in the middle of our little valley. I didn't drive anywhere once I got home Friday afternoon. I made sure to run all my errands, and did lots of grocery shopping on Friday so we were well provisioned. Saturday was an official pajama day, so I made a hearty breakfast of bacon, potatoes, and eggs, and then a good, warm pot of soup for dinner (sausage and kale, a favorite around here). There was a nap and a lot of knitting while sitting on the couch watching Netflix. I might have accidentally cast on three new projects, as well as working on that one existing one, but I will save all that for another post. They are all pretty quick projects and one is almost done, so I don't feel bad.  

Sunday morning, we woke up to the sound of the snow plows scraping the street. Finally, we had our first snow storm of the season! It came down heavily all morning, so we decided it would be wise to stay put, and there was still soup to eat, and I also discovered that Downton Abbey was available to watch instantly on Netflix. Have you seen it? Why did they leave us hanging like that? I was happy to read that there will be a second season. If you love a good BBC costume drama, and you haven't seen it, watch it soon, so good! 

So, with all this free time, I spent a lot of Monday and Tuesday in my little house studio doing some general cleaning up, but also a little sewing. I've been keeping all my DPNs collected together in a little ceramic pot, which looks really cute, but is super annoying when I actually want to use a set, and have to shuffle through and find a whole set in the same size. So I made a case that I can easily tuck into my knitting bag, and now I will always have the right size needles as soon as I need them. 

image from www.flickr.com

The new case is the one on the left. On the right is my much-loved case for regular needles from Yvonne from one of our annual Christmas swaps ages ago. And underneath is a binder with page protectors where I keep all of my recently-organized circular needles. Cute, right? Let me tell you about all the things I did wrong with my cute, new case. I should have made some sort of flap to go over the needles, because now, if you turn it upside down, they all fall out. I sewed a piece of ribbon on both short edges, which means that when it's rolled up, one is uselessly rolled up inside.

image from www.flickr.com

I didn't do the best job on my little labels. They're just scrap fabric, with the numbers stamped on. I cut them out rather unevenly, but they are just tacked in place with a tiny bit of fabric glue, so I'm thinking I might remove them and stamp the numbers directly onto the polka dot fabric. Ah well, I can just make sure to store it upright, and the one ribbon is long enough to wrap all the way around to keep it closed, and the number labels are still kind of appealing in their wonkiness. Not every project can come out perfect, and sometimes I can just be happy with 'good enough,' and I really like my new little case, despite it's shortcomings resulting from my inability to think it all through before I sewed it. And it turns out that I have four sets of size 7 needles and no eights or nines. 

 Project number two was to make a batch of marmalade, which is one of Mr. Heylucy's favorite things ever, apparently. I didn't realize he liked it so much, but when I brought home a bag full of citrus on Friday, and told him my plan, he asked me multiple times every day when I was going to make the marmalade. I was greatly inspired by this post from Putting up with the Turnbulls. Heart-shaped bits of peel? Yes, please! I had some organic Meyer Lemons and some mandarins, so I went to work. My heart cutter wasn't quite as cute, but it was just as tiny and blister-inducing, but totally worth the effort.

image from www.flickr.com

So I set to cutting and cooking. I didn't add the cinnamon hearts, I just wanted to do a simple marmalade for my first time. I cooked and cooked and tested to see if it was set. I checked the internet and read that it would set once it reached 220 degrees, so I got out my candy thermometer and watched the tempurature carefully. The recommended 30 minutes passed. I waited another 15 minutes, and still, we were only at 210 degrees. Another ten minutes, and it crept up to 216. Then it started looking a little too golden, and then it was sticking to the pan. Oh no! I stopped immediately, and got it into the jars, and then I processed them to seal. I had been licking spoons and tasting regularly and it was really, really delicious. I made myself some toast this morning, and eagerly opened a jar. Not only had it set, it was set more than any other jam or marmalade I had ever had. I could scoop it out with my knife, but it was kind of hard to spread so I just made due with a few evenly spaced chunks. So, another not-quite-a-success. It does taste delicious, but I obviously need more preserving practice. I think my thermometer is not quite accurate, it's the same one I used to make three batches of caramel, and the first two batches didn't work either. I also wonder if the tempurature thing has to do with our altitude at all. I know water boils at a lower tempurature, so maybe I'll try cooking it to 210 or so next time. I will keep experimenting and figure this out! So it was another failure, but a delicious one, and I will keep trying. 

it’s the little things

I've had a couple three-day weekends in a row, so this measly little two-day weekend felt far too short. I had all sorts of grand ideas for Projects-with-a-capital-P, but ultimately I only ended up doing a couple very small things (besides laundry, grocery shopping and other miscellaneous errands). So this is probably the most exciting blog post you will read all week, I'm sure. 

image from www.flickr.com

First of all, I am overwhelmed with the state of our cupboards and closets. So I'm tackling them one at a time and doing some thorough cleaning out, scrubbing down and tossing of junk. I started with the spice/tea & warm drinks/sweeteners and small baking items cupboard. I like all my mis-matched, hand-labeled spice jars, but I also have a spice addiction, and am regularly bringing home new spices. I had organized them pretty well last summer, but the addition of two-tiered lazy susan makes it much easier to find what I'm looking for and fit them neatly into a fairly small space. I actually found a box of chamomile tea with a best before date of 1995. How is that even possible? I don't know, but yuck! Now that I thinned our tea collection down to just a half dozen or so, it's much nicer to make a cup or pot and know that it's relatively fresh and it's a flavor we like. 1995! Yeesh! 

I like this shelf a lot:

image from www.flickr.com

Second of all, I don't know if I should even admit this, but I've never made oatmeal from scratch, and had no idea how to do it. I guess I must have known that there were directions on the can, but for some reason I thought it was really complicated and time-consuming. I don't know why, but I guess because I think of oatmeal as weekday breakfast, I was fine with a little packet of gummy, instant oatmeal, dressed up with some brown sugar and dried fruit. In the cleaning of the aforementioned cupboard, I unearthed no less than three containers of oatmeal, two steel-cut and one regular old-fashioned oats. I'll save the old-fashioned for cookies, but decided to try my hand at cooking the steel-cut. Just in case there are other oatmeal novices out there, the ratio is 4:1, boiling water to oatmeal. Just sprinkle in the oats when the water is at a rolling boil and heat to a simmer. Let it cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. I added a dash of salt to the water to get it boiling faster and for flavor. And now, I don't think I can eat those little packets of instant oatmeal ever again. I had a nice warm bowl with a little golden syrup and dried cranberries and almonds and cashews. I never thought I'd get cravings for oatmeal, but I think I might have some for dinner tonight, it was so delicious.

image from www.flickr.com
Does anyone else not know how to make something that everyone else probably knows how to make? Am I ridiculous for writing about cleaning a cupboard and making oatmeal? I think I might be, but darn it, opening that cupboard door makes me pretty happy right now. 

And my Shelter yarn from Brooklyn Tweed arrived today, so I will be spending the rest of the evening winding it into balls and starting a new project! 

Oh, and the book of the week (on audio) is Leviathan , which I am really enjoying. It's imaginative and original and a rollicking adventure. 

parfaits

Parfaits3
I bought a giant cantaloupe this past weekend. It was one of the sweetest I have ever had, and it was only 50 cents. So I made some parfaits. One melon ball in the blender and one for me is about how it went while I was making them.  

Parfaits2
 If you find yourself with a super sweet cantaloupe, I suggest you do the same.

Parfaits1
In addition to my dessert of the week, I should probably also do a pizza of the week. For this week: drizzle the crust with olive oil, layer thinly sliced potatoes in concentric circles, top with gorgonzola crumbles, pile on some baby spinach, and crack an egg right in the middle. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until egg is set. I don't have a picture, I pulled it out of the oven and ate it straightaway.

Speaking of no pictures, Winston spent six hours at the groomer yesterday, getting his summer haircut and clean up. He was exhausted last night, and Bear didn't recognize him at first. He kept growling at him. Winston slept like a log last night, and is back to his chipper self this morning. I think he feels much better now. I'll try to take photos soon. 

plum upside-down cake

I made up a cake recipe. Well, I started with a recipe and tweaked it so that it now bears little resemblance to the original. I have a fruit dessert thing going on this summer, I think I'm on dessert four for four consecutive weekends. 

Plumcake
This week at the grocery store the plums looked especially nice. I love upside-down cakes. You don't have to frost them, and I love the caramel-ly, fruity goodness on top. I had some almond meal that needed using, and I figured that this is the kind of cake that could benefit from the dense, moist texture. I made two cakes, one for Independence Day and the second for a potluck at work. The first one (above) I made in a springform pan, which resulted in a big, sticky mess on the bottom of my oven despite the fact that I wrapped foil around the bottom and outside. Oops. The second time I made it in my cast iron skillet, and it was a tight fit, there was still a little bit of overflow. Luckily, I put a big roasting pan underneath to catch any drips. 

Plum Upside-down Cake

12 T. Butter (a stick and a half)

1 c. packed brown sugar

5 plums, cut in half, pit removed, and each half cut into wedges

1/2 c. all purpose flour

1/2 c. white whole wheat flour

1/2 c. almond flour

2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. salt

1 c. sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 t. vanilla extract

1/2 c. cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a 9" cast iron skillet. Add the brown sugar, and stir until sugar is melted and syrupy. Arrange the plum wedges in concentric circles in the bottom of the pan (or transfer the butter/sugar mixture to a 9" cake pan). Set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, beat the remaining 6 tablespoon butter with the sugar, until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until smooth and fluffy. In a smaller bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Whisk to combine. 

Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, alternating with the cream. Stir just to combine after each addition. Spread batter over plums, and bake for 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes or so, then place an inverted plate on top and quickly flip it over. It should come out nice and cleanly. It's good slightly warm or at room temperature. Top with dollop of whipped cream, if you like, although we had it plain, and it was delicious!

Let me know if you try it, and what you think!