Wednesday, October 31, 2012


With all of the storm action, we totally forgot about Halloween.  It's on a Wednesday this year.  Last year we had no trick or treaters.  This year we didn't even give it a second thought - until our pup started barking like someone was at the door while I was making dinner.  (Still no trains - loving my 10 second commute!)

My DH went to check on it.  One of the neighborhood children - the cutest little princess fairy you've ever seen! - was trick or treating.  "Honey, we've got a trick or treater!"  Uh oh!

I quickly scanned the pantry - surely there was something to give this child!  Oatmeal ... flour ... saltine crackers ... tomatoes.

Things were looking grim.  Then I spotted the apples leftover from my pie-a-thon. (Picture courtesy of

I polished one up, handed it my DH and wished him luck.

Fortunately, the princess-fairies' mom was near.  Fortunately she knows us.

My DH apologized for the healthy treat and the princess-fairy was slightly mollified.  (It was a really big apple.)  He chatted with the mom for a few minutes and then waited as they made their way back to the street, then quickly doused the front porch light.  Oops!

It wasn't until later that I remembered that old tale about the razor blade that someone supposedly stuck into an apple - an article in the New York Times that turned out to be a hoax.  And yet, after almost 40 years of repetition, the hoax part is forgotten and the only thing that remains is the tale - believed by many.  The end result - pretty much the worst thing you can give a kid on Halloween is an apple.

Tootsie Rolls - most often on the worst candy to give on Halloween lists - would have been a much better choice.  Any packaged candy.  Any packaged chocolate.  But an apple?  Oh dear!  (For the record, I love Tootsie Rolls - especially the mini ones you get a Halloween!)

I guess the even worse thing was that our house is known for having a cooler full of chocolate candy on Halloween.  Every year when it falls on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, we fill a huge cooler to the brim and any child brave enough to get to the porch is welcome to dig in with both hands and take as much as they want.  I say "brave enough" because our driveway is dark and lined with arborvitae - and frequently my DH hides in the arborvitae with a scarecrow and then pops it out just as the kids are passing by.  Not the little kids - that wouldn't be nice!  You can hear the kids as they approach daring each other to be the first to go down the drive - boasting how they aren't afraid - then laughing and screaming when my DH surprises them.

But all the little princess-fairy got was an apple.  I felt like the Wicked Witch of the West - or the Evil Queen in Snow White.

It'll be 2 years before Halloween falls on a Friday again, but next year I think I'll have to put aside a special little bag of really yummy candies for a little princess-fairy.  It's only fair, right?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Storm Aftermath

No picture, because there's nothing to see.  We lost power for about 2 hours - just at to the point where we were thinking about getting up and doing something about it.

No damage.  No flooding.  Nothing bad at all.

It was a first for us.  We usually get hammered - trees down, water everywhere, debris everywhere.

But this time?  Nothing.

Of course the trains aren't running - so working from home.  And some of my friends and family got hit - but nothing too bad.

So thankful.  So lucky.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Practice Pies

There's something about an impending storm that makes me want to bake.  So I baked a pie - okay, so I baked 4 pies.

My DH had gotten a bunch of apples from our local cooperative extension - they were doing taste tests for macintosh apples - and he promised to return them in the form of pie.  It was a great opportunity for me to practice my apple pie baking skills.

I'm pretty good at baking special "fancy" apple pies.  I've even won a few ribbons for them.  But the basic 2-crust apple pie still strikes fear into my baking heart!  Will the apples cook to the right bite or will they be mushy?  Will the bottom crust cook?  Will it set up after it bakes or turn into a runny mess?

All of these baking fears crowd into my head whenever I even think about making a basic 2-crust apple pie.  What makes if even more humorous is that the apple pie was the first pie I ever baked!  I should be ever so confident about it.  But I'm not.  So practice time!

I made enough basic pie dough for a 2-crust pie, rolled it and popped it into the fridge.  I sliced up enough apples for 6 cups of apple per pie.  I tossed the apples in lemon water and then sprinkled the apples with 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup flour, 1 Tablespoon of corn starch and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and gave it a really good stir.  Then I put the pie dough in the pie tin, spooned out the apples and put them in the pie tin, dotted the top of the apple filling with 1 Tablespoon of butter...

Then - and I swear I couldn't stop myself! - I drizzled a couple of Tablespoons of caramel over the top of the filling.  It's the fancy pie raising its' head.

Then I brushed the edge of the bottom crust with water, set the top crust on ... top and pressed the edge together.  I used a simple spiral roll to seal the edges together and then went back and did the pinch between the index finger and thumb thing all the way around for a traditional look.  Finally I put in 6 1-inch slits in the middle of the pie and 6 2-inch slits around the edge of the pie (about an inch in from the edge).

Finally, I brushed it with milk, sprinkled it will sugar, and put it on a 1/4-tray baking sheet and popped it into an over at 350-degrees to bake for an hour.

I had all sorts of internal debates about whether to start the oven on a higher temp, bake for 10-minutes, lower the temp, bake for 45 minutes.  But at the end of the day, I wanted this to be a really simple and straightforward pie.

Well, except for the caramel.  Because it just tastes so good in apple pie.  Especially if you don't use a lot.  Then it's there, but it's not "in your face" there.

My Dh delivered the pies.  They were very well received and disappeared out of the tins as fast as he could cut them.

You have to love that!

Of course, now he wants me to bake another one so he can get a piece.  Maybe for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Running Errands

Dashing around today taking care of those last minute little details that always seem to crop up right before a major storm comes knocking on our door.

Is there enough wood cut and ready?  Do we have the coolers set up in case the electricity goes out for days on end like last year?  Are all of the batteries on the cellphones, smartphones, laptops, and flashlights charged and ready to go?

Is there food to eat that won't spoil without a refrigerator?  Is there enough gas for the camp stove and grill to cook with for a week or so?  Is there water for drinking - and other water needs?  Gas for the blow torch in case the pipes start to freeze up?

Is the truck gassed up?  Are the chain saws tuned and gassed up?

Where the heck are the playing cards!?  (My DH and I have marathon card playing sessions when the electricity goes out.  This time I *know* I'll win!)

Fortunately our emergency kit is stocked with all of the essential strange things we only use for this type of emergency - like flame starters for the fireplace, Dura-flame logs, sterno.

I'm still not convinced we are going to get as hammered as the weatherman says, but I've learned that caution is a good thing.

In the meanwhile, just a few more errands to run.  Enjoying the foliage.  Happy that most of the leaves are down already - less weight for any unanticipated snow to cling to.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Coloring Colors

I tried to make this photo really show the colors that were popping on the mountainside today.  I adjusted the hue, saturation, balance, levels.  But still, the colors I saw today were so much more vibrant!

Today was the day that the deep bronzes and burgundies were just plain showing off.  The hazy trees have already lost their leaves, I think those were the red ones, so the color palette has changed to these toasted colors.

It really makes me think of a Thanksgiving table.  Cranberry sauce, roasted turkey.

Maybe I should have had lunch before I went out today!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Plying Singles

Okay, so it took a little bit of trial and error - and a few videos on You Tube - and watching them a few times, but I finally figured out what an Andean bracelet is.  (If you want to know, find the video because I don't think that I could explain it in 1,000 words or less other than to say when you're done, you can pull from both ends of the ball of yarn at once.)

Anywho.  So I got the yarn wound into a pull from the center and pull from the outside ball, then I spun it together, making sure to wind it in the opposite direction of the way that I spun the singles.  Basically doubling the yarn and twisting it.

Got that?

It's okay - it took me awhile.

So here it is, my almost ready to knit with grey yarn.  I'm going to spin up the cream leftover roving from last year's thrummed mitten extravaganza and once that's all done, I'll wash both the grey and cream, hang them to dry, and then get to knitting.

I can't wait!  Okay, I can wait because there's supposedly this storm coming this weekend so we have to prep for it - but right after that I am *so* going to be finishing this.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

It's Over

What to do?  It's over.  No more bad styling choices.  No more color palettes from - well, they're from Mood, but what *was* the designer thinking!?

Season 10 of Project Runway has finished.   Every Thursday, my friends and I would Skype during the show, add our catty comments to the contestant's catty comments.  And now it's all over.

I hardly know what to do.

I've got it!  Sleep.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Marsh Grass

I can't say that I really enjoy looking at the grasses in the marsh during the summer when they are all bright and filled with green.  I believe it has to do with the fact that they are also filled with mosquitos.

I can really do without mosquitos.  And black flies.  And mosquitos.

Where was I?  Oh, right...

But I really love the marsh grasses in the Fall when they turn spectacular shades of gold and their seed heads wave in the wind.

So lovely.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spin It

I've started spinning on my drop spindle.  I started with the leftover roving that I had from some thrummed mittens that I made last year.  This way I can get some experience under my belt before I use the pretty cream and chocolate roving that I picked up at Rhinebeck this year.

It's a little rough, but I think it came out okay so far.  This is a "single".  Now that it's done, I'll wind it up into an Andean bracelet and then double it up, spinning the opposite way to ply it.

All I have to do is figure out what an Andean bracelet is...

Monday, October 22, 2012

One At a Time

First there were two...

And then...

There was one.

Magic, right!?

Okay - I'm just so bored waiting for the train that I couldn't help myself.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall Foliage

After spending the day curled up with a heating pad on my back, I finally gave in to reality and headed out to do my weekend errands.  Once I got going and saw the colors of Fall everywhere - I was really glad that I did.

I wasn't sure if it was the color of the leaves or the colors in the sky that were more amazing.  Either way - it was worth the trip.

Besides, the heating pad would be waiting for me when I got home.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival 2012

It's finally here!  The Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival!!!  I may have gotten a little excited about it. Well, at least this guy seems to be giving me a look that says - Chill!  Haven't you ever seen a sheep before!?

(I have seen sheep before - close up and personal, mind you.  Still not touching them though.)

As planned, we left super early so we could get a good parking spot right near the gate.  I know some folks like to park in the back so they can get out quickly, but we like to be right up front.  L- brought a fantastic breakfast.  So we put out the tea table and china and sat, enjoying the morning.  Spinach quiche, fresh fruit, greek yogurt and croissants were the perfect start to the day along with piping hot coffee.

We sat enjoying our breakfast and watched people who watched us.  It was really friendly, everyone so excited about the festival, groups of friends chatting about the classes and the yarns.  Some of the more distant travelers came in groups on buses.

Before we knew it, it was time to go in.  L- off to her class and I, off to ... well just stopping in the first building before heading over to see the sheep.

The farmer's were still clipping and fluffing the sheep to prepare them for the judging and auctions.  I still can't understand how they convince the sheep to stand on those tables for their haircuts (fleece-cuts?), but they just pop them up there and start trimming away.  Of course there's plenty of kibitzing about the trimming.  This guy needs a bit more off the left.

My first stop was to see the color on these beauties.   Sun bleached gold tips with a creamy base.  The picture doesn't do it justice.

The pens were filled to the brim.  Usually 2 large or 4 smaller sheep per pen.  They just hang out and eat while they wait for their turn to be fluffed.

I really enjoy seeing all of the different breeds each year.  I'm not sure just what they are, but I understand that a lot of them are rare and endangered breeds from smaller farms.

Some of them were pretty curious about the folks who were curious about them.

Some of them might have thought we were a little nuts...

Or maybe disturbing their grazing a bit...

I loved these guys though.  They had the whole pen-grazing thing down to a "T".

The guy on the right would pick up some hay and toss it back, the one on the right waited for his pen mate to toss it onto its' head, and then he plucked it off.  Much more efficient than stretching all the way to the pile on the ground.  Clever boy.

I stopped in at the Ulster County Handspinners Guild where they were giving free lessons in drop spindle spinning.  I gave it a try - it was fun!  Very calming.  Mine is the skinny piece of yarn at the top there.  I wasn't too terribly lame at it.  The beginner's drop spindle stays on the list!

Next I was off to the border collie trials.  4 sheep, 1 dog and 1 human keeping the choreographed ballet from turning into a bloodbath.

This 5-year old border collie was fast, responsive and did I mention she was fast?

She would turn on a dime, run a huge circle around the sheep and turn back again before the sheep even had a chance to take 5 steps.

Once she got them walking nicely behind the shepherd, she kept her distance and zig-zagged back and forth to keep them moving where she was told to move them.  I just can't help but think that our little pup would love playing with the sheep like this.  She's almost old enough...

After picking up L- from her class, we headed out to the shops.  First we went through the big shops.  We don't buy there, just look and occasionally touch.  But you have to be careful about touching because some of those yarns are so soft and silky it makes you want to buy then and there.  And these guys all have web sites - and sales.  Even though it's a festival, you won't find a lot on sale at these displays.

Of course they have fantastic displays.  This simple little shawl had the cutest stitch pattern.  I'll have to look it up when I get home.

It looks like little leaves all in a row.

This lady is from Wales and her booth has examples of all types of wool fun - from knitting to weaving.  I had heard that the wool from across the pond wasn't as silky soft as American wool - and after fingering some of the samples, I have to agree.  That delicate grey lace shawl in the foreground looked so lovely, but it felt like it was made from itchy twigs.  Of course, that also gave it more body to hold open the lacework patterns.  But still...too scratchy.

I had to go and look at mohair just to recover.  These were the color of the fall leaves and sunset combined.  Lovely.  Expensive!  But lovely.

This angora bunny also helped me get over the Welsh wool.  Hey - maybe our pup would like...on second thought, she would probably see this as dinner.  Nevermind.

Of course it would not be a festival without judging.  And these goats were ready for it.

This guy, however, seemed a little ticked off at his handlers holding methodology.  Since he didn't have any horns, she was forced to hang on tightly to his beard.  There was a look in his eye that said - let go.  just one second, let go.  I dare you.

We headed on home with one last look at the sheep.  Love this chocolate fleece.

And the llamas.  I think I'm allergic to these guys.  I started sneezing the minute we got near them.  That's okay though.  They spit and I'm not sure if our pup would herd them - or run far away, really fast from them.

So all in all, I got my drop spindle, roving, a hand-dyed sock yarn, a contribution to cancer research sock yarn, border collie rescue contribution and a very wonderful time with L-.  We looked, bought, got jostled, looked some more walked until we dropped.

I can't wait until next year!  Maybe after a little heating pad action on my back, but still - very excited!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Stay On Target

I have to admit that I might have been a bit distracted today.  There's something happening this weekend that may have taken up a small bit of my attention.


Yes, tomorrow is the Sheep and Wool Festival over in Rhinebeck and I am ever so excited about it.  My friend, L-, and I have been planning since - well, since last year's trip.

All day my mind was wandering while I tried to get through the commute, the work, the evening commute, making dinner.  All I could think about was the wool.  I'm clearly obsessed.

We start the day early, have breakfast in the parking lot and then she'll head off to a class while I head off to see all of the sheep.  The afternoon is all about the shopping.  Fiber direct from the farmer, yarns I only get to see on the internet, and all of the sweaters and shawls that everyone has knit just to wear to the festival.

I'll be wearing my Jared Flood Guernsey Shawl.  I was thinking about the Citron - such a pretty carrot color.  Then I thought about the Line Break shawl - all the blues and browns.  But I've finally decided on the Guernsey.  The cocoa color with the rich textured stitches.  Perfect!

I might be a bit preoccupied going over and over my little list of planned purchases.  I won't be getting a ton of stuff, that's for sure, so I'll need to stay focused.  I'm going to try to get a drop spindle lesson and if I like it, I'll get a beginners drop spindle.  And some roving to spin from one of the farmers.  Then some pretty sock yarn that isn't scratchy - because even though I've only made 1 pair of socks, I still believe that I will make more of them.  And give to the Border Collie Rescue - because they always have a booth there - and people continually see the border collies on tv ads, then they adopt them, then they find out that these dogs really need a lot of attention, exercise and interaction or they become destructive little creatures driven to madness through boredom, so they dump the dogs.

It's not that the dogs did anything outside of their nature.  This is how they are.  Just like our little pup - just a step down from a border collie.  But not everyone does their research before they get a dog.  Then the people aren't happy, the dog gets abused - it's just a bad situation all around.  So the Border Collie Rescue comes in and saves the dog, finds it a good home and all around does good things.  (Stepping off of soap box now...)

And sadly, no, I won't be bringing home a little sheep for our pup to play with this year.  Once again my DH has pointed out that it really wouldn't be fair to the sheep - or our gardens - or him since I'll be at work and he'll be the one having to take care of it.

Maybe next year!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Quiet Time

I'm not sure why there weren't a lot of people heading home from the city today.  Just one person on the  Hudson tracks.  Just me on the Harlem tracks.

Maybe I left work too early or too late and didn't notice it?

Maybe it's Saturday?

Naw - it can't be Saturday because there aren't any sheep around.  Saturday is Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival day.  Yup.  Only 31 hours from now I'll be on my way.   And this year I won't lose my camera.

Anyway.  Quiet commute tonight.  Very refreshing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Midnight Muffin Madness VI

The madness continues with Nutty Pumpkin Muffins.  Even knowing that the next 2 weeks are muffin free didn't take the pressure off of making muffins for "Other People".  But since it's Fall, and the pumpkins are coming in, Nutty Pumpkin Muffins are just the ticket for Midnight Muffin Madness VI.

So - onto the muffins!

The wet: 1 3/4 cup pumpkin puree, 1 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 1/2 cup brown sugar, 4 eggs, 2/3 cup orange juice and 1 cup butter (melted and cooled).

The dry:  3 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup pecans (toasted), 1 cup raisins.

Okay, first things first.  Put the raisins in a little bowl and pour the orange juice on top of them so they get all plumped up with the orange juice (instead of turning into those little dried out nuggets of cement).  Set that aside.

Measure out the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, allspice, ginger and salt.

Whisk that all together so the spices are mixed in with the flour.  Even though the baking powder and baking soda aren't spices - they're chemical leaveners - but "chemical leavener" sounds so ... icky, even though it's just bicarbonate - a salt.  Let's just call them a spice and mix them about as well.


Strain the raisins out of the orange juice.  Hang on to the orange juice.  We'll add it to the wet ingredients.  Toss the raisins into the dry ingredients.

Chop up the pecans a bit to make them more bite sized and toss those in to the dry ingredients as well.

Give that a stir so the raisins and pecans get all coated with the flour mixture.  This way they will float in the muffin, not sink to the bottom.

Measure out all of the wet ingredients into a different bowl - adding the butter last.

Give it a good stir - and keep stirring - then stir it some more until all of the butter is mixed in.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture.  Give it a quick stir - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - done.

It's okay for bits of flour to be peeking out here and there.  It will all work out in the oven.

Scoop out the mixture into lined muffin tins.  Fill them until they're about 1/4-inch from the top of the tin.

Bake at 350-degrees for 25-30 minutes, then take them out of the muffin tin and put them on a rack to cool.

Make sure you put them towards the back of the counter or your little 4-pawed friend might just think that it's a treat for her!  (But none for her because they have raisins in them - very toxic - causes kidney failure.)