Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween at Our House

Let me begin by saying that I have mixed feelings about Halloween.  Neither The Mailman nor I grew up with trick-or-treating and costumes and parties and all of that...and we don't have children of our own...so Halloween is not something we "celebrate."  That said, we have some very cute neighborhood kids that think we're pretty cool (imagine that!)...and so I try to make their annual extortion outing a pleasant experience for them and their parents.  Plus...Bonnie and Clyde love all the excitement!





Halloween at our house tends to harvest-themed, with pumpkins and chrysanthemums...and lots of dry leaves scattered about because I'm too lazy to rake them for atmosphere. 






I'm not into scary Jack O'Lanterns, but I do like carved pumpkins...so I usually do something seasonal.  This is a simplified version of a technique I learned from Sunset Magazine years ago.  I hollowed out the pumpkin...cut out three Maple leaf shapes...and pushed them halfway out.  I inserted a string of outdoor mini lights...cut a smallish hole in the back (bottom)...threaded the plug through...and cut another small hole (top) to let the heat escape.  Et Voila!  Adult pumpkin! 






And here's our little Butternut Squash Weenie Dog!  I bought the metal cutouts several years ago...and he's become a Halloween tradition on our porch.









I have a tiered plant stand on the porch that stays out 9 months a year.  In the Fall, I dress up the Summer planting with colorful gourds and these grapevine mini lights that I found a couple of years ago on clearance at Menard's.







Of course, with all the goblins banging on the door, there's not much time to cook.  So...we'll have something simple like these Bratwurst packets.  Simply fill a foil pouch with Bratwurst, sauerkraut, sliced onion, sliced apple and a sprinkling of brown sugar.  Place in a 350 degree oven and bake for 1 1/4 hours.  Easy-peasy!  And you don't need anything else with it...unless...




...it's a pumpkin cookie!  My friend, Kimberly blogged about these yesterday...and I just HAD to try them.  I especially had fun with the icing.  It's drizzled from a fork...which I had never done before.  At first, I tried to be careful and perfect...and it wasn't working...so I just decided to go all Jackson Pollock and I think they look great!  They're fabuloso...so much so that the kids will be getting these instead.  (Guiltily wipes cookie crumbs from face.) 



Now...bring on those little hooligans!  We're ready.  I just hope there isn't too much chocolate left over...know what I'm sayin'?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Immortality

If you've been following me since last Spring, you know that my favorite flowers are the tall German Irises.  I have lots of them in my garden...and last June, I blogged about them here.  Well, a couple of them are re-bloomers...and have been blessing us with some beautiful blossoms in the cool Fall weather.  This variety is called "Immortality"...and this is it's third bloom...with two more buds that will open if the weather doesn't get too terribly cold.  Isn't it beautiful?  I love the contrast between these delicate white petals and the faded foliage of the surrounding plants.  One last bit of loveliness before the garden goes to sleep for the Winter.   

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bernice's Danish Apple Bars

I suppose most of us...when we remember our Mothers in the kitchen...think of one special culinary creation that stands out from the others.  See this recipe?  This is mine.  Danish Apple Bars.  This was my Mother's specialty...the dish everyone requested...for birthdays...potlucks...you name it.  I treasure this recipe,  preserved in her own delicate handwriting...and whenever I make them, I think of her...and miss her.  She was an amazing woman.  Someday...when I have the time to do her justice...I'll introduce her to you.  For now, I'll share her recipe with you.


DANISH APPLE BARS


Pastry:


2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (aka Crisco)
1 egg, separated
milk
4 or 5 large cooking apples, cored, peeled and sliced extremely thin (you may want to use a mandolin-thingy)
1 cup crushed cornflakes
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon


Icing:


1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla





Sift together the flour and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter and shortening until it resembles coarse cornmeal.  (I never get it that fine, but that's OK.  This dough is very forgiving.)


Combine the egg yolk with enough milk to make 2/3 cup liquid.  Add to the flour-shortening mixture and stir until moistened.




Roll out half the dough into a rectangle about 17" X 12".  Place in a 15 1/2" X 10 1/2" jelly roll pan...letting excess dough hang over edges.


Sprinkle crushed cornflakes over dough.








Arrange apple slices evenly over cornflakes.


Combine sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle over apples.






Roll out second half of dough to approximately the same size as the pan.  Place over apples.  Moisten edges with water.  Bring the bottom dough up and over the top, press edges to seal (I stroke the edges with a moistened butter knife).


Beat the egg white until frothy and brush over the top of pastry.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, with oven rack about 4 1/2" from the bottom of oven.  Cool on rack.





Here's a little peeky-peek at my kitchen, with the freshly baked bars cooling on the bake center.  You'll notice that the bake center's top is granite...and a bit lower than the adjacent tile counter-top.  We remodeled our kitchen several years ago...and I designed the bake center this way...just so I would have a comfortable place to make these.  That's how much this recipe means to me. 










When the bars are cool, combine the powdered sugar, water and vanilla.  Spread over top of pastry.


Makes 25 absolutely deliciously decadent bars.




Now...put a couple of these on a pretty Fiestaware plate...grab a glass of ice-cold milk...and go watch "Dancing with the Stars."  That's what I'm gonna do!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Prince(ss) and the Pea

A nonstop flurry of activity around here during the past week or so, my friends.  Tulip-planting, garage-cleaning, landscaping at the in-laws new condo...and leaves, leaves, LEAVES!  And, of course...all these projects need supervision...which makes for one tired supervisor!  

Here's "The Boogie," after a long, hard day.  We had piled up the dogger's pillows and blankets in front of the door...and this is where I found him.  He has always had the uncanny ability to find the most comfortable place in the house...and stake his claim.  I don't care who you are...THAT'S cute! 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Circle Skirt Sew-Along - Ready for the Party

Hello Circle-Skirter's!  Are you ready for the party?  A great big "Thank You" to Casey at Casey's Elegant Musings for organizing and leading this sew-along.  If you haven't visited Casey's blog, I encourage you to do so.  It's such a lovely place for inspiration...and if you're into vintage (even a little bit), you'll absolutely love it!

Here in Indiana, we're enjoying a bit of a heat wave...sort of a Pre-Indian-Summer-Summer, if you will.  So...posing in a wool skirt and sweater made for quite a toasty experience, let me tell you!  Add to that a bit of photography drama* (rant to follow, for those interested)...and, well...I hope I don't look too grouchy! 

My KatyDidStitches Circle Skirt is made from a heavy brown herringbone tweed (garage sale find...4 yards for six dollars!)...and features a flower and vine motif in black velveteen applique...with beaded accents.  You can read about it's construction here, herehear and heeya.






The obligatory hand-on-hip pose...makes one look slimmer, you know.  Is it working?  

I purchased this black sweater to go with my new skirt.  I think I may be the only woman in America that didn't have one in her closet.  Now I have exactly TWO black items in my wardrobe...my new sweater and my black boots...and I'm wearing them BOTH in this picture!









A pretty lining is a must for me...and I love this paisley silk...nice and swishy! 










I'm looking forward to wearing my skirt this Winter.  The Mailman and I don't attend a lot of sparkly Holiday parties (actually, NONE)...but I think this will be perfect for Christmas carols at the Honeywell Center, potluck suppers and Midnight Mass.  And I hope it snows...a lot!  So's I can twirl in the snow with my new Circle Skirt!

 

*And now for the rant.  I've come to the conclusion that if I'm going to do very much of this (blogging about garment sewing)...I'd better learn how to take my own pictures.  After struggling for HOURS with a tripod and timer...and not one usable photo to show for it...I enlisted TM's most unenthusiastic help.  And got a total of FIVE shots. FIVE.  And two of those because I asked for a retake.  This from the man who has taken THOUSANDS of pictures of me.  I'm serious.  Thousands.  Of course, I wasn't posing with a stuffed cowboy or holding up a bottle of snake oil or some other foolishness...and this photo op was not HIS idea...so it was a complete waste of his time.  Evidently.  Couldn't even manage a "You look nice."  So...pressing out that little crease in the front and retaking the picture was out of the question.  Same goes for changing my position so that the sun doesn't make my skirt appear to be tie-dyed.  Perhaps I need to find a way to make this process enjoyable for him.  More spandex, maybe?

There.  I feel better now.  And yes...he does read this blog.  You may call me passive-aggressive.