Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

The witch is in!

And we're almost ready to go. I even got the freezer defrosted.

In fact (hope I'm not jinxing myself) I think I'm far enough ahead that I'll have time to carve a Jack O'Lantern.

This is a big deal, as I've been planning to carve one for the last four years but have not. (I've even bought the pumpkin a few times.)

We'll see what happens.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

All Hallow's Eve Eve


That's the (ha!) Deadline. (Sorry, I'm easily amused by puns.)

We're doing pretty well. DH put on the last of the cabinet doors. They look wonderful.

Tonight is going to be a mad scramble of shopping, decorating, organizing, and husband-wrangling (did I say that? *grin*).

We'll be fine, though.

I am armed with a sheaf of Lists.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Still managing

I made the chili and the pumpkin bread last night. And all the rest on my list.

November 1st is for full collapse!

There were a few alterations. For the bread, I used half regular unbleached flour, and half whole wheat pastry flour (+ 2 tbl.).

For the chili, I used mushroom stock. And two onions...I should have done the three. Another thing--vermouth instead of beer, as I was afraid the beer would have gluten in it.

I roasted the peppers under the broiler, and was quite conservative, for me, in adding the hot ones. Couldn't find decent fresh tomatoes, so I added a scant 1/4 cup of chopped sun dried tomatoes. Used two cans of tomato, 2 boxes of stock (organic, GF) and 4 cloves of garlic.

Everything turned out well, but I'll be cooking the chili for another few hours to deepen the flavor. The beans will be added in the last half hour or so.

I brought some into work for a few people, so we'll have a taste test at lunch.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On Target

Last night I actually accomplished everything on my "list". Made a pert little pin-up style witch's hat for my Halloween costumes. It took some trial & error, but I had all the materials already, and I'm pleased with the end result. There will be pictures eventually.

I picked up the ingredients for the chili and the pumpkin bread, and also got wine and rum and a bottle of dark beer to be used for the chili.

Forgot the eggs, and the local place I like is out of black vodka and it's need to make up a new punch recipe.

Tonight is making chili and baking rum raisin pumpkin bread, and a few other things. Tomorrow the hairdresser! (It's been a long time!)

p.s. I've opened up the Comments to all.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ode to My Knitting

(For the Blogstalkers....even if I don't have the code up yet.)

I looked up the forms of the ode, and at the moment don't care to wrap (h'mm..almost wrote warp. Hello, Dr. Freud!) my mind around them.


Gleaming tangles of string. Wool, silk, linen and more,
Ready to become every sort of draped or fulled dream.
Knitter's dreams, looped and shaped
with pointy sticks of rosewood and casein and ebony and Bakelite.

Food for Thought

As it were.

I haven't made this yet, but here are my plans....

Pumpkin Chili

1. Make a chili paste with cayenne & vinegar. Cook until it turns the color of burnt sienna.

2. Caramelize 3 yellow onions. Roast a couple of tomatoes in the oven. Roast bell peppers.

Ingredients list:

pureed pumpkin
vegetable stock
yellow onions
pureed tomatoes
tomato paste
small white onion
bell peppers: red, yellow, orange
hot peppers (fresh & pickled)
crimini mushrooms
chili powder
dark beer
olive oil

After caramelizing the onions, add in chopped mushrooms. When they're browned, deglaze the pan with dark beer (probably porter or stout). Mix in a tsp. of tomato paste, pureed tomatoes and the pureed pumpkin.

Saute chopped white onion, chopped garlic, chopped carrots, roasted tomatoes & bell peppers till they sweat. Add to the onions and mushrooms.

Mince hot peppers. Add those, the corn, herbs, spices, a tsp. of chili paste, dash of Tabasco. Add stock and simmer for at least 3 hours.

Season to taste with sea salt, vinegar or lime juice, etc.

Tonight I'll get the ingredients, and tomorrow I'll make it. A few people in the office have requested samples! (They'll get them.)

It's going to be a very, very busy week. We got quite a bit done over the weekend, but of course it was a little less than we'd have liked. DH got the front lights up. They look terrific, if not exactly what we'll put up eventually. They are in the style, and don't look plastic and drunken. A good start.

Yesterday I sewed (by hand) all day long, and we have curtains for the cabinets. If I say so myself, they turned out very well. Next the windows. I'm going to use sheers to make hourglass curtains, and tie them in the center with the material I used for the cabinets. All of the cabinet doors in the kitchen are up, too.

I still need to put the lower doors on to the china cupboard, but the top is done for now.

The rest of the week will be cleaning and cooking and all that. I really hope I have time to carve even a simple Jack O'Lantern. At least I know where my carving tools are. That's promising...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Halloween, 1930s Style

The 1930s Halloween was still a time of pranks rather than a lot of treats, and big parties were for grown-ups. Elegant masquerades with corny decorations and elaborate menus were the order of the socialite Halloween.

To that end, I've been collecting Deco style Halloween decor. Luckily, this year the 30s style designs are making a come-back. I'm getting all I can now! Last night I even found some paddle games with "carved pumpkin" paddles. Plastic, of course, rather than crepe or cardboard, but they look wonderful. Last weekend DH found some crepe reproduction jack o'lantern bowls, and I picked up a few creepy details at Archie McPhee, including three 30s reproduction Halloween masks.

Our guests have been given a choice between black tie (we'll provide the masks) or their own costumes. I'm going to make as much autumn themed food as I can, and it will be served on china and crystal and silver.

Last month I found a 30s punchbowl at my favorite thrift shop. It was only $8.00, and there were 9 cups as well as the bowl. I'll also have hot cider (booze on the side for spiking) and seltzer water. We'll provide wine, too.

I have a book of old radio scripts for "The Shadow", and we're thinking of copying some out to stage our own radio play. A few of us in the crowd have been on stage and I think it will be wonderful.

For music I have "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", the Verdi "Requiem", Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" and a CD full of spooky jazz tracks from the 20s, 30s and 40s. We even have a stack of OTR recordings from the "Suspense!" show.

I love to give parties, and it's been a long time since I've been able to indulge myself. We're going to have a swell time.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rum Raisin Pumpkin Bread

No blogstalking yet (haven't been able to figure out how to put the code in to link to the ring. Techie I'm not).

I haven't made any yet this year, but the following is my recipe for Rum Raisin Pumpkin Bread.

It's based on the Fannie Farmer Cookbook pumpkin bread. I don't use nuts, and add extra cinnamon, and the raisins, and...well. You know how it is in the lab, Dr. Frankenstein.

(Cooking Time: 60 minutes at 350 F)

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree [1/2 can of pumpkin puree]
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup rum-soaked raisins*
1/2 tsp. rum

*Measure out one cup of raisins. Pour about 1/2 a cup of heated rum over them. Let the raisins soak for at least 30 minutes, stirring a few times. They can soak for days, if you prefer!

Strain; strain the rum through cheesecloth and use for cocktails or put into hot cider.

To bake:

Stir together all dry ingredients except the sugar. Mix in the raisins.

Beat the eggs until they start to thicken. Add in the sugar; beat until it's incorporated. Next mix in the oil, then the water and rum.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until fairly well mixed. Don't mix too long; there should still be dry areas visible. I like to use a spatula to do the mixing, cutting the wet ingredients into the dry.

Fill a greased and floured loaf pan, mounding the mixture slightly in the middle. Tap the pan a few times on the counter to get rid of air bubbles. Turn the pan once about half-way through the cooking time.

It's easy to double this recipe (use the whole can of pumpkin). This bread freezes very well. (It's amazing with cream cheese frosting. Just beat cream cheese and honey together. Add a touch of vanilla or rum. )

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Food for Fall

I love autumn. It's my favorite time of year. Brilliant foliage, crisp weather, pumpkins and a lighted fireplace, and stews and soups. Oh, my.

So for a change from The House and knitting, I want to talk about food.

This kind of weather has me dreaming about making chili and beef stew, or beef vegetable soup. Or cheese soup with plenty of potatoes and carrots and green beans. Biscuits. Cornbread in the skillet. Apple pie. Cranberry-apple crisp. Handmade cream cheese pastry crackers in the shape of leaves.

I don't know where to begin! But...DH brought home a can of pumpkin last night. Yes, fresh from a local sugar pumpkin would be better, but it's a handy start.

We talked about it last night, and I think I'm going to try a pumpkin veggie chili. Normally it would be beef or venison, but I want to create something I can serve at our Halloween party. If I make a small batch I'll still have half a can left. That's enough to make a loaf of pumpkin bread. I usually make it with rum-soaked raisins. Time to make a shopping list!

Does anyone out there have favorite pumpkin recipes? (I was also thinking of adding some puréed pumpkin to my biscuit recipe.)

Feel free to comment and make recommendations. My reach always exceeds my grasp (in terms of what I get done) but I love to get new recipes and ideas.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Lied

About taking pictures.

But I did get a LOT done. Thanks to a thread on Knitty I listed it all out:

Put the final coat of paint on the pine cupboard doors
Measured for the kitchen curtains (window & cabinet)
Scrubbed the dining room carpet
Stripped all the paint off an Art Deco stand I found this weekend
Organized the linen closet
Cleaned and organized the upstairs bath
Made a batch of apple cinnamon muffins
Started mending the dining room curtains
Went thrifting/antiquing
Washed and used the old canning jars we found (to store dry goods)
Picked up repro wall sconces & ceiling lights in Narragansett
Knit several pattern repeats on the stole for my mother
Took off the label on the side door, and washed some windows
Did some spot priming and painting
Cleaned out the fridge
Washed the Art Deco repro fabric for the kitchen cabinet curtains

DH took up and bagged the rest of the mulch and got his clothes put away (I swear I thought it would never happen).

Next weekend, we'll see. It would be great if we could get the pillars done, and the lights on the front entry. It looks lousy in this half-way stage, and we are having a Halloween party, after all.

I'm having quite a time with the menu. We have guests who are vegetarian (not too hard, really), vegan, and lactose intolerant, as well as gluten intolerant. Any one--not tough. All--really difficult.

None of them are difficult guests, but I would really like to have a menu that allows everyone to have at least a few choices.

The toughest things for me are vegan and gluten intolerant. I am not going to bake with tofu or fake dairy. That stuff I'll have to buy as is. It's a lot of work to prep without a food processor, and besides, the chemical fakes aren't any too good for you. I do have some gluten free "flour". Brownies should be pretty simple, but they won't be vegan.

But...these guests are good people, and I want them to feel comfortable! I have a feeling that Whole Yuppie will provide some of our menu items. And it won't be terribly accurate, historically, but people are more important than effect.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Another double post...

...because DH just called to tell me that he bought $300.00 worth of ivy for $60.00.

Looks like we'll be working on the front garden this weekend!

We've really been lucky in thrifting and hitting sales. Yesterday I found another basket for the kitchen shelves and a small bookshelf to put on top of the dresser in the workroom. The shelves cost $3.99. That's my kind of pricing.

Back to plants, we're really hoping to pick up a couple of holly bushes, too. I would also really like some hydrangeas and peonies. Not only because I like them; they do best (I'm told) if they're planted in the fall.

We're going to fill in the front with annuals; so mums for now, if we find that kind of time.

Blog Stalking

I've never done it, not really. Yes, I'm a fan of the Yarn Harlot (for you non-knitters, if any, she's a knitter with a witty way of dealing with everything life throws at her, knitwise or otherwise), and I make it a habit to read Batty's blog, and ZantiMissKnit's and a few others I know IRL.

But on Knitty there will be a new Blog Stalk soon and I have "signed up" to be part of it. I think the post (topic yet undetermined) is due on October 22.

In other news...I did sort the magazines yesterday, and work on the china cupboard. I even started in on some of the other areas that need paint. In addition to that, I unpacked my last clothing box...I think!

Tonight we'll be heading over to an antiques mall (they're open late on Thursdays) to see what there is to see. We still need bookcases and some kind of furniture for the upstairs bath, as we're going to put in a pedestal sink and a tilt mirror, rather than a vanity and a medicine cabinet. Yes, design matters!!

Oh, we'll also be getting wall sconces for my workroom. Craigslist has come through again.

As far as knitting goes, I managed a few more rows on the wrap. It's at lap throw size now, but so long as I can find the rest of the yarn I'll keep knitting.

I think it would be a good idea to pick a day of the week to display a WIP (Work In Progress). It might not keep me honest, but at least I'll feel guilty enough to do something.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Burnt out

We are both feeling the effects of so much unusual activity. DH hasn't done nearly as much as me (until recently) but he had a very busy few days.

And me? Frazzled.

But I look around, and there is still a lot to do, especially as we're having a Halloween party!

A room shut off, with the rest of the junk in it, that's not too bad. But we're not at that point yet.

Tonight, if I do nothing else I need to work on the china cupboard and sort the vintage magazines. I want to work it so that we have the current month (though not year!) plus the following month out, and switch every four weeks or so. Even vintage magazine racks have their spacial limitations. Besides, it looks like hell, and I'm fussy enough to resent it.

We need more bookcases (I'm trying to find a wall mounted white one for the kitchen, and we'd like at least one tall one for the living room or media room). I need to make curtains for the kitchen cupboards and the windows, get mini blinds up in the workroom—DH will probably take care of that—and find some way of transforming the bedroom, which is a disaster area.

The upstairs (full) bath is a whole other can of worms. It's a wreck, but until we have something like order everywhere else, it seems pointless to start demo work and all the rest.

I know we're moving along in good order, but I want it done yesterday. I'm that sort of 5 year old.

I managed to do a little bit of knitting yesterday. What do you know, I still remember how!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Scaring the squirrels out of the trees

Life is starting to find its way into a new routine, including work-outs.

On Saturday I managed not only my stretches (mix of yoga & Pilates) but decided to jump rope in the back yard.

I went out (the cats peering nervously through the glass at me) and started. I heard whirring and rustling in the trees next door and figured it was Sassy Squirrel, with whom I've already had a few encounters.

He was fascinated, and crept closer and closer to the end of a branch to watch this odd human whirling a rope around.

The next thing I heard was a much louder rustle and an almighty crash, followed by some squirrel cussing. I wonder if he'll do it again?

I have a workroom now. Moving everything out, shoving furniture around, organizing and arranging took the better part of 10 hours. (Most of the remaining furniture and packing boxes were in that room.)

No photos yet, but it's in good shape. I need curtains and to really cull my stash, and to take the time to really organize all of my supplies, from cloth to yarn, but it's a cozy space now. Most of my books fit there, too.

Last night the cats and I settled down into the Martha Chair for reading, hot chocolate and the first really restful evening I've had in a couple of months.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Some photographic proof

DH says he'll be finishing the installment of the pillars and painting them this weekend. It could happen!

There's obviously patch painting to do, and it's going to be a while before I can afford the time to do the front door.

Overall though, we're putting our mark on it.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

On to the work room...almost a knitter again

We've slowed down a bit. It's tough to ignore a fireplace and two Siamese cats who want to fight over a lap while you read a book!

However, I just got an unexpected gift: Monday as a day off. With three days to work I should be able to get a lot done.

Once the work room is set up everything else should fall into place; my wardrobe (!), knitting, and all the rest.

I don't know what to cast on for first...I should probably finish some things. I have a lace scarf that needs either a bind-off or a new direction, the Retro Redux shrug from Lace Style, which is about an hour away from final finishing, and at least three orphan socks! Then there's a Christmas present that needs the rest of its yarn...if I can only find it.

Settling in to the work room will be a dream come true; a real retreat of my own, with my favorite old chair (the Martha chair*), which has been in storage for the past four years (DH hates it), but it's wonderful for sitting in with multiple cats. And it's going to be wonderful for knitting, too.

*It got that name as I used it in a production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?" where I played Martha. It's a great chair for the stage!

Thursday, October 02, 2008


We are in.

We picked up the last things and the cats at midnight (how appropriate) on Tuesday/Wednesday, and went to bed in the house at about 2:30 in the morning.

My "day off" yesterday paid off. The kitchen is at 90%, and we even have the dining room set up, though the art isn't hung yet, and I need to repair the door to the china cabinet and hang it. (There's painting to do, too, but that will have to wait a week or two.)

Upstairs is still a disaster area, and the living room looks like a burgled storage facility.

The cats are adjusting well, although Than Chai still has his moments of doubt. Fa Sing, though, is in heaven. He's never seen so much to 'splore, and the square footage delights him.

If I ever find the camera, I'll take some photos to post.

I am very pleased with the kitchen. It looks good, and so far it's easy to work in. I'll need to switch a few things around, no doubt, but for the most part it's been easy to see where things belong.

The "new" stove and fridge are delightful. New appliances, bah. My stove is around 68 years old, and the fridge is 75, and they work like a dream. My orange juice is kept so cold that it gave me an ice cream headache yesterday. Ice cubes take a while, but they'll stay frozen.

Tonight: the first cocktail!