Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We're ready for Halloween!

Our porch is now totally ready for trick-or-treaters. The forecast is for great (kinda warmish) weather -- and we bought about 10 bags of candy -- let the madness begin!

Our porch from the street -- the black & white cat on the railing is real -- Clyde is ready to scare some kiddies.

Here's our scarecrow -- he looks spookier by the day as his pumpkin head ages.

The giant webs and spiders. I can barely stand this, and can't wait to take it down on Nov. 1.

Here's a close-up of Clyde and his friend the plastic rat.

Hey kids! We've got candddyyyyyy!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pinecone wreath

I haven't made a pinecone wreath in years -- it's very messy (pine sap is impossible to get rid of), and pinecones aren't plentiful in the District like they are in New Hampshire.

A few weeks ago I spotted a tree dropping pinecones on our street, so I started collecting them as they fell on my way home from work each day. Finally I had a full box, so I headed to Michaels for a wire form, floral wire and a spool of ribbon.

I didn't start with a plan, I just started wiring, and this is how it looked after the first row. (Unfortunetly I forgot to take a photo of the second row.)

I finished it outside on the grass because the sap was out of control. The third inner row was pretty tricky -- I went through almost a whole spool of wire.

And here it is on our front door -- I was really happy with the way it turned out. All I have to do is switch up the ribbon and I'll be ready for Christmas!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Making & canning applesauce

We bought 4 bags of apples at Homestead because I've always wanted to make homemade applesauce, and Ricardo has always wanted to EAT homemade applesauce.

This is what I started with -- 12 pounds of apples.

Peeling, coring and slicing seemed to take forever. They're soaking in a lemon juice and water mixture to keep them from browning.

The cooking process is really quite easy -- I just added a little water and boiled until the apples were fork-tender. I had to use two pots because they didn't all fit in one.

Here's what the apples look like while cooking.

After they're cooked, I processed half of the apples in my Cuisinart, and mashed half by hand (because I wanted a chunky sauce). Then I added sugar & spices.

Voila! A big pot of yummy spiced chunky applesauce, ready for canning.

And here's the final result. Of course I didn't can it all so that my official taster could enjoy fresh hot applesauce. I believe his official quote was something like "Damn, that's good!".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm published!

Well, if you consider a blog post "published."

Check out my first guest contributor post on the Prince of Petworth blog.

To celebrate, I hiked up to Borders (on 18 & L) on my lunch break to buy Martha's new book, Cooking School. Now, I need this book like I need a hole in the head, especially since I bought myself a similar book for my birthday, but I couldn't resist. (It didn't hurt that Borders has the book 40% off, so I got the book for $27, instead of the $45 list price.) The photographs and design are beautiful and clean, and I love the way the book is organized. I googled the book's art director, and was thrilled to see Martha is continuing her habit of hiring RISD graphic designers.

The first recipe I'll make from this book is the butternut squash ravioli (sorry, hon', but wait till you taste it), since I'm now making my own pasta (more on this later).

Leaves are turning in Brightwood

Our color doesn't compare to my old stomping grounds in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, but our neighborhood has a few nice sugar maples.

The colors are just starting to pop.

Taken on my walk home from the bus stop -- love to walk in the dry leaves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Roasted pumpkin seeds

One of the best benefits about carving a jack-o-lantern is the pumpkin seeds. And I love me some roasted pumpkin seeds.

It's really quite simple -- all you need is fresh pumpkin seeds (rinsed of all the pumpkin goo), olive oil and salt.

Combine the seeds, oil, and salt on a cookie sheet. Go ahead and get messsy.

After combing the ingredients, spread the seeds evenly on the pan, and put them in a 350 degree oven for 10 to "whenever-they-smell-done" minutes. Keep an eye on them, because they can burn quickly. I recommend popping them in your mouth every few minutes to taste.

I like my seeds roasted until their golden brown, and until they sound hollow on the tray. Store them in a tupperware-esque container, and keep them out on your coffee table. They'll be gone in no time.

More fall decorating

Here's what I did with some of the stuff I got at Homestead Farm...

I pulled out the dying flowers in my planters and replaced them with pumpkins and gourds. To secure everything, I stuck wooden skewers into the bottom of the squash, and then stuck the other end into the dirt.

Thanks to Bonnie cat for modeling!

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

Last weekend Ricardo and I headed out to the country for an ol' fashioned hayride to a pumpkin patch.

Jen on the hayride with our pumpkins.

The pumpkin patch is huge, with lots of different squash growing everywhere.

Ricardo and his pumpkin, as inspired by the Dada movement.

Our hiking boots in the hay. Finally, it's cold enough to wear flannel shirts and boots!

Our car was packed with apples, cider, indian corn, gourds, pumpkins and corn stalks. I had to hang out the window -- those corn stalks are huge! But look at that beautiful caramel apple waiting for me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fall planters

I decorated my planters with a autumn theme for our spooky porch. Here's how I did it...

My impatiens did great this summer, but they're starting to look a little tired. Time for a change!

I planted gourds in my garden this year, and this is what I got. Have you ever seen anything like them? I know I haven't. Anyway, I couldn't resist using them in my planters.

All my supples spread out on the porch: indian corn, gourds, mini pumpkins, birds, mice, creepy crawlers, spanish moss, ribbon, rafia and wire.

I added some ribbon and rafia to my indian corn.

Using the spanish moss and rafia as a bed, I placed the gourds and pumkins, and wired on a bird and a mouse. Voila!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Freezing beans, a step-by-step guide

Our green beans have hit their stride and are really growing going like crazy in the indian summer we've been having.

This is my wall of beans. The thing I've learned about beans, is that they're really hard to find. You have to pull back the leaves and shake the plant to see them.

And here they are --- they're the same color and size of the vines making them tricky to spot.

Here's my one day harvest -- I've harvested this many beans (enough for a dinner for 2) for the past 3 days.

After washing them, I cut the stems off.

Then I cooked them in boiling water, blanching them for 3 minutes,

and plunged them in an ice bath for 1-2 minutes to stop the cooking process.

The beans are bright green and I let them dry off a bit,

then I double-bagged them, and labeled them. Looks like I aready got one of Thanksgiving sides finished!

More fun with grass

Last weekend we tackled the main grassy area of our backyard, and this weekend we worked on the side yard, which for some reason was more difficult.

I forgot to take a "before" shot, but here's what it looked like earlier in the year.

We pulled up all the old grass, and then I cut back all the bushes and put down a new border.

The next day Ricardo put down top soil and planted the seed. Thank gawd this project is over.

The mighty beast has fallen

We accomplished a major project this weekend -- the beast is finally dead.

This is the ugliest tree ever. It's covered in thorns and berries that make a mess -- and worst of all, it's grown to be about 20 feet tall.

Wearing leather gloves to protect him from the nasty thorns, Ricardo starts sawing.

A short time later, the beast is down, and in pieces. Now for the fun part -- cutting it up and bagging it.

We both worked all afternoon, and many expletives, cuts & scratches later, it's finally bagged and tagged.

And me, being wife of the year, whipped a roast beef dinner for her woodsman.