Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Road Testing

Here it is not even Halloween and I find myself busying myself in the kitchen humming Christmas carols. I'm getting ready for the holidays already, testing some holiday cookie recipes, just to expand my repertoire, and looking for that perfect cookie for our cookie exchange party. (yes, I am THAT ridiculous) I want something quintessentially holiday-ish, and I have been thinking of maybe a double chocolate candy cane biscotti, a pumpkin cream sandwiched between two perfect gingersnaps, classic gingerbread men, and today, the newest endeavor, fruitcake cookies. Which one will win??? Who knows... but the house sure does smell good.

Update: So the reviews for these cookies were mixed. Jen literally spit hers out, and described them as "tasting like poison". . .and while everyone seemed to like them, no one seemed blown away by them. I myself, thought they were quite good. They do actually taste like fruitcake (which could be part of the problem, seeing as most people do not actually care for fruitcake). I would therefore give this test three out of five stars. So the search continues. . .

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Preserving a piece of the magic. . .

I learned this morning just how easy it is to preserve your own autumn leaves. The leaves in our yard have just been so beautiful, and I would love to incorporate some of them into my floral arrangements and center pieces at thanksgiving, but know that the leaves themselves will not last that long without some sort of preservation. There are several methods you can use, each of which will result in slightly different outcomes. I chose to use glycerin, as it produces a much more pliable end result (not dry and crunchy) and the preserved leaves themselves will last for years (rather than weeks). Now liquid glycerin is not as easy to come by these days as it once was, so it may involve some searching, and you will have much better luck scouring pharmacies (near the band-aids or hand lotion) rather than craft stores (though they often have small containers in the cake decorating section).

All you do then is cut some branches off of your trees (I chose Japanese Maple, and I especially like the variegated branches that still have some green leaves mixed in with the yellow, orange and red) and put them into a large vase of warm water, and let them drink up for a couple of hours. In the mean time bring one part liquid glycerin to two parts water to a boil on your stove top, and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Take your branches and hammer the ends to break them up, which will allow for greater absorption, and then transfer them into vases filled with the cooled glycerin/water solution. Now the only thing left to do is wait. It will take between two and five days for the leaves to drink in enough glycerin to preserve themselves. You will know when they are done when the water begins to bead on the leaves. You then need only take them out of the vases and hang them upside down for a day or two to dry. And voila! Beautiful, natural, inexpensive seasonal home decor. It's as simple as that.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Jacob's Flavors of Fall

Anyone who knows me knows that Autumn is my favorite time of year. And on days like this, when the leaves have begun to turn and there is a nip in the air, my heart longs for a certain kind of comfort food. Food that is warm and rich, and satisfying. Flavors and aromas that wrap themselves around you like a fuzzy blanket for your soul.

I took some apples off of our tree in the back yard, some deliciously fragrant bosk pears, the zest and juice of a couple of lemons and oranges, a handful of dried cranberries, sugar, flour, and a dash of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg and mixed them all up and tossed them into a buttered baking dish.

I then mixed up some cold butter, flour, white and brown sugar, old fashioned oats, a dash of salt, and a pinch of cinnamon in my stand mixer until crumbly, and topped the fruit with it. I put it on a baking sheet, popped it in a preheated 350 degree oven and baked until golden brown and bubbly (about an hour). It is THE BEST air freshener in the world. It smells like happiness, mixed with joy, with just a drop of sunshine. And in no time at all you have Jacob's Flavors of Fall: Pear-Apple-Cranberry Crumble. All it needs now is a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a spoon.

Weekend Warriors

For the last couple of weeks we have been remodeling our bathroom, which is to say, stripping it down to its studs and starting from scratch. The state of the bathroom before (the biggest area which made this house a "fixer upper") is best left un-described, needless to say it was a shamefully, wretched, cesspool of misery. But you know, whatever.

We, being simple and naive, believed that this task could actually be accomplished in a long weekend, knowing that this would render us without a functional shower (as the master bath is also in shambles and came unfinished). It, of course, has taken quite a bit longer than that, and is still not finished (though thankfully we now have a working shower, toilet, and sink, just like the queen of england). I was prepared for some hard work and long days, but what I had somehow not prepared myself for was the filth and the utter chaos it would bring into our lives. I awoke on the third morning of the remodel, for example, to our entire house having been blanketed in a thick layer of white silica dust, from the drywall/mud sanding. And unless you have ever had to deal with this kind of dust specifically, you cannot know the sheer magnitude of the cleanup required, when every single surface, in every single room, from floor to ceiling has been coated. Needless to say, it has been like a small sanitarium around here. Population: me.

Luckily the mess has been cleaned up and our lives have returned to normal(though, like glitter after Halloween, I have a feeling that this dust will mysteriously never really be gone, that we will in fact be cleaning it up for years to come). My thanks to my friends who extended their hearts and their showering facilities to me during this trying and smelly time. And to both of my readers who suffered during my radio silence.