Friday, October 30, 2009

Have you seen my sheep?

I'm not someone known for brilliant, exciting Halloween costumes. I tend to aim for something instantly recognizable (god forbid someone doesn't "get" my costume), which often lands me on the mundane side of the fence. Also, I don't do ghouls or goblins. I want something comfortable (maybe even flattering) and feminine. Last year I was a country singer. Two years ago I was a girl scout. This year I am Little Bo Peep.

If trends continue, I could see a long procession of fable-y characters beginning.

Another plus: costumes like this tend to be pretty easy to pull together. I had a frilly blouse and a frilly skirt, stockings, and shoes. I made myself a little bonnet, and picked up an old cane at an antique shop for $5 (because what's little bo peep without a shepherd's crook?) What are you or your kids' costumes this season?

This weekend finds me headed to Ithaca tonight for some pre-Halloween mayhem and gal time with one of my favorite people. Saturday I'll be working at the cafe--in costume-- and am eagerly anticipating the creatures and characters I will encounter while I'm there. It promises to be a busy one. What are your Halloween plans?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The new desk, or, getting over wood

It's waiting for me when I get home from work tonight. The new desk, freshly sanded, and also a quart of greenish grayish paint ready for brushing.

I'm trying to get over my love affair with wood. Wood is prissy and high-maintenance. Just when you've found a perfect little desk and hauled it homeward, you're hit with a massive undertaking: the sanding, the stripping, the re-finishing. That is, if you're a die-hard wood lover, like me. There is not one single piece of painted furniture anywhere in our house. Die hard. See?

Helping me in my withdrawal from wood are the following:
1) The fact that I was able to mix a color I love from paint I had on hand
2) Mabel's House
3) The ominous and ever-shortening distance between now and aforementioned impending holidays

Four weeks. It's time to break out the brushes, folks.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thanksgiving update

Thanksgiving progress update: four weeks out.

Some pretty corners beginning to emerge around the house.

Ceramic birds perching on ledges. To-do lists overpopulating on the dining room table. Hours spent laying in bed, eyes squinched shut, trying desperately not to run through every proposed menu item and the work it will require...

Dubious progress on back kitchen.

Last week:
This week:
Dubious. Yes. The nightstand has been painted, and after this evening's touch-ups it will hopefully find a home in our guest room. I've begun to sand the desk. The windows, visible in the earlier picture, have been re-glazed, re-painted, and re-hung.

What's keeping me awake at night is the two copper-colored dupioni silk slipcovers I'm supposed to make, the bedroom floor that's supposed to get redone, and the miles of white window-trim to be scrubbed and shined.
Four weeks to go. Eeep.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Sunday hike

I'd begun to lose hope that we'd get another day like this. October was unusually cold, dark, and rainy in these parts (this seems to be the theme for the year...), and once we got past mid-month, I'd about given up hope for a sunny reprise, a bit of indian summer.

Thank goodness, a bright and warmish fall day. A day for a hike.
Hooray for state parks. And for October sunshine, and wizened witch hazel flowers, and for geese.

And appropriately Halloween-ish fungi.

And fearless determined log-walking terriers.

And peaceful car rides homeward.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Post-Industrial Household Artifacts, with quilt

This was the scene on my dining room table yesterday evening. It isn't always clean and tidy. (Rarely, in fact.) Oftentimes it's the scene of an epic battle between sewing projects and squashes, periodicals and paint cans. All is cleared away for dinner, but in between mealtimes, chaos reigns supreme.

Click on the photo below for an interpretive view:

Oh well, at least it's colorful.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Most excellent mushrooms

So, you know what we haven't had in awhile? A recipe. Remember back when food used to be one of the things this blog was about?

A few things conspired to push me away from kitchen-blogging:
1) I was in the midst of one steamy-windowed canning session after another
2) The light began to ebb out of early evenings (see above) causing all photos to have either a weird fuzzy yellow glow or be sort of washed-out and grayish.
3) I made several extremely-un-photogenic meals. Bread puddings, and casseroles in general, are not blogworthy foods.

But. The light isn't going to get better until, April, say, and meanwhile its autumn, hands-down my favorite time to cook. There's squashes and swarthy root vegetables to contend with, thready carrots and voluptuous onions and the heralded return of soup season. Thus, I bring you the above, a most excellent autumn meal.

The "main course," a roasted portobello cap with black beans and a sprinkling of blue cheese, tastes far more delicious that you would think. The textural contrast between the moist, earthy mushroom and the nutty beans is almost enough on its own. Add cheese and it's otherworldly. This has become one of Patrick's and my special occasion dinners, one to look forward to all week long. If you don't like blue cheese, feta would make a fine substitute.

Black-bean stuffed Portobellos with Blue cheese

6 hefty portobello caps, stems removed
2 cups black beans (preferably home-cooked, though beans from a can will work in a pinch)
4 oz crumbled blue cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange your portobellos gill-side-up on a cookie sheet. Fill each with a generous spoonful of beans, and an equally generous sprinkling of cheese. Bake as close to the top of your oven as you can for about 15-20 minutes, until the mushrooms are adequately cooked and the cheese is slightly melty. If desired, you can finish them under the broiler for a minute, to imbue the cheese with a nice toasty color.

Anything and Everything Roast Vegetables

Assorted vegetables, suitable for roasting:
Sweet potatoes
Yellow onions
Whole garlic cloves

Brussels sprouts

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Cut things into similarly-sized chunks: peel beets and the like beforehand; cut the onions into wedges; halve the brussels sprouts; divide the cauliflower into florets. The vegetables in the top group are firmer and need to roast for 45 minutes. Mix them together with a tablespoon of olive oil and a half-tablespoon of balsamic vinegar per pound of vegetables. Spread them out on a cookie sheet or roasting pan, salt and pepper liberally, and let them roast.

After about twenty minutes, you can add any other, softer vegetables you desire. Toss them with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper, too.

When the vegetables are all soft enough to eat, pull them out of the oven and try to keep your husband from grabbing them right off the tray.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A pause in the action, and a return

Would you like to hear an excuse for where I've been the past three weeks? I could come up with one, I'm sure, but it would sound pretty pathetic. Blah blah blah, family events, blah blah blah, dirty kitchen, blah blah blah, wrapping up canning and freezing and getting sucked in to Christmas present-making, but really? Really I just needed a break. A wee one. I had the past week off from my day job. In that time, I focused a mighty momentum on our little house, and busted out a string of projects that felt good to accomplish.

This is a busy time of year. Everyone knows. Not only are there the preparations for winter, the end-of-harvest food preservation doings, there's Christmas looming large as well, with Thanksgiving tucked in there for good measure.

In the past two weeks, I've taken a very serious look at our house, and appraised the five remaining weeks left in the calendar, and gotten a little queasy. I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time last year. It was a big deal. At the time, I was not working. I was, truth-to-tell, a little bit bored. What better cure for boredom than the excuse to pour heart and soul into a whopper of a meal plan, a menu worthy of Nobel-prize commendation? (They should have a category for that, they really should.) This year, I have two jobs. Things will be different. The next five weeks are going to be very very full.

So in the calm-before-the-storm, I had to step back and ready myself. I went and enjoyed the aesthetics of chickens:

The Farmer's Museum, Cooperstown, NY
I handily beat Patrick at Scrabble.
I did some peaceful cemetery strolling.

I did some shopping.

Quite a lot, actually.

I bought a little cottage-style nightstand, and an antique desk in need of refinishing. As a result, the back of our kitchen now looks like this:

Suffice to say, it's going to be a busy five weeks.
What projects are you undertaking this autumn?

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