Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Eric's been on a quest for the absolute perfect turkey.  He's come close on many occasions, but this year he had unadulterated success.  He's deep friend turkey before (great moisture, good flavor), and he's smoked turkey (excellent flavor, a bit dry)... so this year, he smoked the turkey fr about 3 hours and then deep fried it for about 45 minutes.


It actually ended up not quite as pretty as some birds, because while it had an amazing smoky flavor, it was so moist it was falling apart!

And then after the turkey came out of the oil, he put in the stuffing balls to be deep fried also.  Holy crow.

And he made butternut squash soup with squash we grew in the backyard.

I was in charge of the sweet potatoes, which I did for the first time, and got 'em right using my mother's very vague and mostly unwritten recipe!

And then the pie.  My coup, the French apple pie.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The End of Pumpkin Season

I love pumpkin, and I love people who love pumpkin.  This year, I had the opportunity to try a bunch of pumpkin desserts, and I was in heaven.

First, for book club, I tried this chocolate pumpkin pie (except I make my own pie crust).

Then, for film club, I tried this pumpkin spice cheesecake.

Then, for the office, I made these pumpkin cupcakes with whipped cinnamon icing.  Turns out my office loves pumpkin as much as I do!  They were devoured by lunchtime.

So for Thanksgiving, I decided to do the pumpkin spice cheesecake again, this time to bring into the office the day before the holiday (Wednesday).

Fortuitously, on Tuesday before I baked the cheesecake, I heard to of the women in my office talking about ordering pie for the birthday of one of the attorneys... which was the next day.  So I told them about the cheesecake I had planned, and instead of ordering something, I made fresh, homemade whipped cream and accosted my cheesecake with my less-than-stellar but well-meaning handwriting.

Yes, my piping skills need work.  But that ended up irrelevant.

It snowed on Wednesday, and so when I left my car to go into the office, I was wearing my down jacket, which makes my naturally graceless self even more so, plus carrying my pocketbook, my lunch, the container of whipped cream, the cheesecake in a carrier, and my snow brush for the car.

Too much.

The cake carrier went off balance, slid, and hit the ground upside-down.  My good plate broke in half.  The cheesecake landed, thankfully still inside the top lid of the carrier, upside-down.

Still edible, but no more handwriting.  I was glad I'd gotten photos, so I could show everyone, especially Jonathan.   It made him smile, and everyone loved the cheesecake & whipped cream anyway.  It got devoured like the cupcakes, the best compliment a baker can get.

And that was it for my pumpkin adventures this season.  Today, Thanksgiving, marked the start of the next thing.  Apples.

Three pounds of granny smiths, to be exact.

And the result?  Yum.


My first ever time doing a solo stint replicating my mother's award-winning French apple pie.  Nailed it!

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Holidays Are Approaching ... So I've Been Knitting

I'm one of those people who hates the expansion of the holiday season.  I am.  I hate that Halloween - my favorite holiday - is practically ignored, that Thanksgiving is raced past, and that the malls have Christmas music playing in October.  I hate that people and stores put up their decorations earlier every year.  I hate that other holidays, just as important to many people, even more important to some, play second, third, heck 14th fiddle to the winter holidays, mostly Christmas.  I like to enjoy them all.

That said, for those of us who make gifts, we definitely need to start before Thanksgiving.  Especially if you're a knitter but not a speed knitter, which I'm not.  Especially if you've got pre-holiday gift giving events, which I do.

I've got a few gift exchanges this year, so I'm already planning my baking and my gifts.

The first is a good, old fashioned Yankee Swap, in some circles known as a White Elephant exchange.  It'll be all women, so I know I can go feminine, but I have no idea who's getting my gift.

So I went with a scarf.  Who can't use more scarves?  I found this gorgeous wool/acrylic blend yarn in colors that'll go with anything but fire engine red, and got to work on a nice cable knit.

And I did my first-ever fringe, too!

Folded it nicely, wrapped it with ribbon, and then I just needed a pretty gift bag and some tissue paper.


Hope it's a hit!

Then there's the gift exchange at work (the day job).  I will be getting a name to gift to in advance of our office party, but waiting for that would slow me down too much.  So I've gone with a neutral fisherman's wool for this one, in the same cableknit pattern.

Catimus felt inclined to assist.  By sleeping.

Still working on this one, and I'll post when it's done.  If it turns out it's for one of the women in the office, I'll add fringe.  If not, it'll be all done.

Then for a third gift exchange, I'm not knitting.  I bought some fun things for my recipient, but I do have one handmade item planned for her also ... not telling what yet, though!  Stay tuned, and you'll see.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Blast from the Past: A Mishap

I follow a lot of blogs.  A lot of blogs.  One of them is called Lindsay Sews, and in yesterday's post, she asked about crafting fails.  Well, that called to mind a major fail I perpetrated back in December of 2012.

A friend of mine was looking for a stuffed animal version of a frog in a cartoon.  It looked like this.

Cute, right?  Her daughter was completely obsessed with that character, so she was trying to be a good mom.

Ever reaching for new heights, I offered to make it for her myself!  I developed an idea, then a pattern, and went to cutting and sewing.


Here was the result.

Um... right.  I obviously couldn't sell my friend that travesty, so we scrapped the idea, and thankfully she was OK with not getting it.  Instead, I decided it was an alien octopus with measles, and kept it for kids to play with at my house when they come over.

Go ahead.  Laugh.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Putting the Bees to Bed

A lot of people ask us where the bees stay during the cold, winter months.  I love that they're so concerned, as so are we!  Some have asked us if we bring them inside, put the hive in the garage, close up the openings, or what actually do we do with our girls?

The answer?  Pretty much nothing.

Crazy, right?

Well, it's not 100% nothing.  We did treat them for varroa mites for a month before it got too cold.  Varroa mites are the bane of a bee's existence.  And a beekeeper's too.  The mites are these horrendous tiny parasites (tinier than bees, obviously), with which all hives in the US are afflicted, but if the population gets too high, they'll kill an entire colony!  So we treated for mites, and then this past weekend went into the hive to remove the strips we used.

While in there, we got to see that our girls had a nice population going, and a bunch of full frames of honey in the top hive box.  We gave them some pollen and fondant to eat anyway, wished them well, and closed 'er back up.

That's it 'til spring, folks!  Now we just keep our fingers crossed that they make it through the winter, which here in NJ promises to be another brutally cold one, and see in the spring how they've fared.

In the meantime, the bees take care of themselves.  They've already kicked out their drones (the males, which are useless to them through the winter months when queens aren't mating and food - honey - is limited).  As it gets colder, the workers huddle in a ball around their queen, moving around the hive in sync to maintain body heat while they eat all the honey they've made throughout the spring and summer.  As long as there's enough honey to sustain them (plus the bit of fondant and pollen we provided), they should be ok when we check on them in the spring.  Through this whole time, they don't leave the hive.  Believe it or not, that also means that they don't go to the bathroom!  Bees are exceptionally clean critters and will not go to the bathroom in the hive.  Imagine all those little crossed legs!

If we do have an unseasonally warm day, one of those weird. sunny, 66 degree February days, the girls may come on out to relieve themselves and forage a bit.  If we can, we'll take the opportunity to get them some more fondant before spring.  If not, they're on their own.

Wish our girls luck!  Fingers crossed that they'll come through well and be all ready for the forsythia and dandelion blooms!

'Cause if they're healthy then?  It means honey for us in July!
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