Monday, September 28, 2009

Right Before Your Eyes

The crazy winds that we have had over the past few days have knocked most of the leaves off of the trees in my yard, but most of the trees in this area haven't turned quite yet. This is one of my favorite trees because it is so perfectly shaped and I never have to do anything with it. I always get sad when the leaves fall off of this tree:

The creek was covered in leaves on Saturday:

In other news, I made a delicious brisket with a side dish of roasted buttercup squash and some fresh French bread over the weekend:

Kenna has a new trick, which she demonstrates in the video below. She is going after all of the brisket remains in the dishwasher:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Reminiscing: Good Housekeeping's Party Book

Before I get to my latest victim, I want to share a story with you gentle readers. This evening, I had a visitor. A young man from the local middle school who was hawking that horrible school fundraising crap (overpriced and cheaply made candles, picture frames, candy, popcorn, etc.). Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, what's up?

Kid (speaking rapidly as though on speed): HelloIamdoingafundraiserformyschoolfieldtripdoyouwanttobuysomething?

Me: Well, I don't really need anything (at this point, he is dragging the catalogs out of an envelope), but I would be happy to give you a donation.

Kid: You'retheladywhodidthatlastyeartooaren'tyou?

Me: Probably--let me get my checkbook.

Kid: Okaybutyoushouldordersomething. Iorderedgummybears. They'reonly$9.18withtax.

Me: Oh, wow.

Kid: Canyoufilloutthisformandsayyoumadeadonation? IgetaprizeifIget25people! Idon'treallycareabouttheprize. It'sprobablystupid. ButifIget25peopleIgetaprize.

Me: Sure. (I fill out the form and give him a check for $10.)


Me: No, I don't need any gummy bears. I just had some cavities filled and I don't think that my dentist would be very happy if I ate gummy bears.

Kid: Ohokay. (Looking disappointed.) I'lljustputyoudownforsomegummybearsanywaysincetheyareonly$9.18withtax.

Me: That's fine. Why don't you just keep the gummy bears and eat them at your house?

Kid: (His eyes growing wide.) Yeahokay!

He hopped on his scooter and rode off into the sunset, thrilled with his free gummy bears. I am thrilled that I do not have to expect a delivery of crap in the near future. It's a win-win situation ;-)

Now, onto Good Housekeeping's Party Book, published in 1949.

Wow how things have changed in the last 60 years. First of all, no one would be caught dead with this hairstyle, but I kind of like the dress.

This book takes you step by step through the party planning process. No wonder many women didn't work outside of the home in 1949. Following this process takes a Master's degree and substantial overtime. Part of the initial planning process is, of course, the sending of the invitations. I particularly love the Scrabble party example below:

I know that I always love to be commanded to "come for dessert and coffee." Also, doesn't that sound like a fun party? Does the coffee include Bailey's?

This is the section that gives advice about how to set the scene. The authors make it a point to remind you to make sure that "cigarettes and matches are in evidence with plenty of ashtrays--big ones, please!" At most parties today if people are smoking, you will find them huddled on a porch or sidewalk somewhere near the house where everyone else is enjoying the party.

The next part of the book has to do with the various kinds of parties you can consider hosting. One of the most popular of the modern day is the buffet. "It is the answer to our servantless age..."

...and then there are the color photos. I guess they made the kids go outside for this party since they are visible through the frosted windows. This is not an unfamiliar scenario to me. In fact, my Grambi (who gave me this book), once made the "kids" (four of whom were over the age of 13) sit at a table outside by the golf course for Easter dinner. The golf course was a good quarter mile through my grandparents' backyard and it was early April. When one of us went back to the house for salt, we took orders from the others because it was so far. Grambi, of course, has conveniently forgotten this incident.

Anyway, this looks like some good eatin'. Punch with lumps of something floating around, cookies in a closed jar, and fuzzy napkins--yummy! The decor is also quite nice--fake frosted pine cones and cheap garland. Also, what's with the spoons? I don't see anything that requires a spoon.

With the fantastic example of decorations in the photo above, who wouldn't want more advice from these people about what has come to be known as "tablescapes"? Sandra Lee could learn a lot from these ladies. A few of my favorites include:

1. Lots of ivy in a copper skillet, with shiny pennies scattered here and there.
2. Phonograph records laid overlapping in center of table, with a flower in each center hole. Circle with candles.
3. Cake festooned with tiny flags; from either side of it, soldiers march to table edge.
4. Plants, in clay flowerpots on which you have made gay designs with crayons.
5. A clock made from a mirror, with short candles for hours, fork and spoon for hands. Set it on pine.
6. A Madonna standing in a graceful arrangement of carnations.

This page might include my favorite sentence in the entire book: "Then the world turned over; there were virtually no more servants, and formal serving suddenly became almost impossible." It sounds like the Apocalypse.

I really don't know what to say about this illustration. That poor bird. And you know that I rarely feel sorry for birds.

I know you've been pining for some new recipes (by the way, someone actually requested
Sunday Night Suppers from me on Well, wait no longer:

Honestly, how hard is it to make bread sticks? Who thinks of these ideas?

Another fantastic illustration to accompany a delicious menu:

Wow, that is a lot of kidney beans. I guess this is supposed to take place on a beach, but I think this might be a case of ancient photoshopping gone wrong.

More tablescaping ideas:

Sadly, the scariest part of this photo is not the food, but the demonic salt and pepper shakers.

Very clever illustration, Good Housekeeping:

The creepy kids finally get to come inside. I sure hope that Tommy and Katie watch out for the fire next to those asbestos paneled walls. That is a disaster waiting to happen.

Now this looks like a fun party!

I am so going to make this for Mother and Father of Ken and Grambi when they come to visit:

Oh, my.

There are no words--look at those "flowers" and the hearts--did a five year old decorate this cake?

Here's a good idea: the Paul Bunyan Promenade. Click on the image to read all of the details for yourself:

I do hope that you'll consider throwing your own Paul Bunyan Promenade sometime soon.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cool Change

I think that fall arrived at about 11:43 a.m. yesterday. I was walking to my office when the direction of the wind changed abruptly and the temperature dropped significantly. So, in honor of fall, I decided to try a new recipe for apple bread that came in my new Penzey's catalog.

Here's the recipe, courtesy of Penzey's:

4 c. apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (I used Paula Reds)
4 large eggs, beaten
1 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon (I used Penzey's Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon)
3 c. flour
2 c. sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease two standard loaf pans. Peel, core, and slice apples, cut into large chunks (about 1 inch in size)--I also squeezed lemon juice over the apples while I made the batter.

Beat the eggs until fluffy, add oil and vanilla extract and beat thoroughly. Then, add baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and beat until the mixture is smooth. Next, add the flour and sugar and beat thoroughly. The batter will be thick. Fold the apples in by hand so that they don't get broken up.

Divide the mixture between the two pans and prepare the topping.


3/4 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. butter at room temperature

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until moist and crumbly. Sprinkle equal amounts on each loaf.

Bake for about one hour or until it is firm in the middle. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Cool for five minutes before removing them from the pans.

Here I am peeling, coring, and slicing my apples with my special apparatus that Grambi gave me:
Chopped apples going into the batter:

Batter in the pans:

Topping on, ready for the oven:

While the bread baked, Kenna was outside doing some investigating. We believe that there is a killer in our neighborhood--more on that later.

Here she is sticking her head through the dog door to check on the progress of the bacon:

All done!

See all of the big pieces of apple?

The complete breakfast:

This was fantastic--I think the key is using large pieces of apple and putting some lemon on the apples. Love, love, love this bread.

Later in the day, I made roast beef and rolls:

Yummy dinner:

Kenna shows her appreciation for her portion of the feast:

Remember when I reorganized my baking cabinets this summer and I said I would do something with the top shelf? I finally got around to taking care of that shelf--isn't it pretty now?

So, back to the whole killer thing. Last night, Kenna and I were innocently sleeping when we were jolted awake by a horrible noise. Although we cannot be certain, we believe that a goose or some other kind of quacking waterfowl was attacked and possibly killed. We heard what can only be described as a horrible choking/quacking noise, loud rasping, and a lot of wing flapping and other sounds of struggle. After about five minutes of this, everything was silent.

If a member of the avian species was indeed killed, that would be the second one in two weeks and I swear that I personally had nothing to do with it. Perhaps there is a serial killer in our midst...who knows...

In any case, there are at least three geese still hanging out in our creek and to celebrate their vibrant lives, I give you this video:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Into the Groove

In my continuing efforts to class this place up, I spent yesterday afternoon rescreening four of my windows. The day that I moved into this house, Mother of Ken had a fit about how dirty the window screens on the living room windows were and she ripped them off and threw them in the bathtub to try to clean them. Unfortunately, twelve years of the Disgustingtons doesn't come off that easily.

So, four years later, I decided that replacing the window screens was my only option and that it couldn't be that difficult. I also had holes in the bathroom window screen and in one of the bedroom window screens.

Here's my set up with one of the living room screens--screening, splining, splining tool, utility knife, screw driver, and the home repair book that Father of Ken gave me so that I would stop calling him every time I needed to replace a shower head:

Kenna "helping:"

So, after you remove the old splining and screen from the frame, you cut a new piece of screen the same size as the outside of the frame:

The next step is to roll the splining into the groove on the frame. Here, I had to use two pieces of splining side by side because the grooves were wider than my splining and Home Depot is 20 minutes away.

Cut off the excess splining with a utility knife:

Trim excess screen with the utility knife (carefully, people--I learned this from bitter experience) and then you have a finished rescreened window:

The screens for the bathroom window and one of the guest room windows are finished and ready to be replaced:

New screen in place in the bathroom:

New screen in the bedroom:

New screen in the living room--see how clean it is now?

While I had everything taken apart, I decided to experiment with the curtains on the picture window. So, what do you think? I usually just use the valances, but I am trying the longer panels to see how I like them. Thoughts? Obviously, if I go with this, I will tie the longer panels back. I thought that the longer panels might help keep things warmer this winter and then I could go back to the valances alone for warmer weather.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hungry Heart

As the leaves on the trees in my yard start to turn and the air gets a little more crisp, I begin to feel the need to hoard food like a squirrel. So, last weekend, I began the process of restocking my freezer with the things that I must have when the weather gets cooler.

First, I made red sauce:

In the middle of making red sauce, I was stung by a yellow jacket, so I ended up taking Benadryl. That knocked me out for most of the rest of the day, so the following day, I continued my work. I started with chicken stock, which took most of the day:

While the chicken stock was cooking, I started some French bread:

Next, I made lasagna. Here is a helpful hint for those of you with gassy dogs: if you drop a piece of lasagna meat, do not, under any circumstances, allow your dog to eat even the smallest piece of it. You will regret it for days.

Several hours later, I had two loaves of French bread:

Another day later, I had chicken stock ready to freeze:

Then, I used the chicken that I had roasted previously (the bones, skin, etc. went into the stock) to make individual chicken pot pies in these super cute pie pans that I bought at the grocery store this week:

For the filling, I just used about two cups of shredded chicken along with potatoes, carrots, onions, peas, chives, and parsley. I made one recipe of pie crust and divided it into eight pieces because I like a double crust on my pot pies.

Lids on, vented, brushed with egg wash, and sprinkled with salt and pepper:

I baked one for dinner and then froze the other three (I dropped this one on the way to the baking sheet, so it isn't very pretty):

Finally, I have everything I need. Frozen strawberries and blueberries from this summer, extra pot pie filling, lasagna, chicken stock, red sauce, pot pies, and plenty of bread.

I thought that I would start making baked goods to freeze for October, when I am expecting a lot of visitors who all want to come "before it snows," but I don't know where I would put any of that right now. I guess I'll have to eat some of this first.