making my own napkins and loving it

Presidential Dance-off
October 31, 2008, 6:24 pm
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this is awesome.  thanks  pablo!  your google chat status links are always the best!


this is just sad
October 30, 2008, 12:55 pm
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it doesn’t surprise me that there are people in this country who buy so easily into bigoted bullshit.  it just makes me really sad.  and why does it seem like it’s always republicans spewing it forth and eating it up?  i mean, i’m no fan of republican ideology, but i’m not about to throw a parade for the democrats either.  but i can’t ever remember a time when the democrats have spread such ridiculous lies so brazenly.  i’m all about being tolerant and accepting the validity of both parties’ views, even if i totally disagree with them, but this is just ridiculous and offensive and rage-inducing.  how are people so hateful and willfully ignorant of reality?  do they just not realize that what they’re being fed is lies, or do they choose to believe it even though they know it’s not really true?  aaaaaarrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh!!!!  it makes me want to pull my hair out.

and now i’ll stop, because i doubt you’re tuning into this blog to hear my political rantings.  i better go craft something to deal with this anger.  yay for art therapy!

the very definition of progress
October 28, 2008, 10:54 pm
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my feathers mcgraw costume is well under way!  here are the rubber glove/chicken hat, the penguin beak, and the yellow penguin feet/flippers that will be attached on top of my shoes.  all that’s missing is my big white belly, and my props (still debating that one).

i’m going to sew the chicken hat onto the hood of a black hoodie, and i’ll attach the white belly to the front.  i pondered trying to make a large, penguin shaped sack to wear, but that seemed totally over the top and ridiculous, so i’m just going to wear a black skirt, black leggings and black sneakers.  penguins can be sexy too!

now everything smells like pumpkin
October 28, 2008, 3:09 pm
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all last week, i had pumpkins on the brain.  somehow, i got the idea to make pumpkin pie and pumpkin soup from scratch, using fresh pumpkin.  not sure what inspired me to do this, but i spent the entire week planning and searching for recipes and anticipating the deliciousness.

i was hoping to devote saturday to the task, but then halloween-related errands arose, so i had to push everything back until sunday.  i began around noon, with a plump, gorgeous pumpkin that i was almost sad to cut into.

but it had to be done, so the knife came out and the pumpkin was halved, then quartered, then eighth-d and sixteenth-d.  before long i had a mountain of pumpkin rinds and a huge bowl of guts.if you try this on your own, make sure you have feline supervision.

the next step, cooking the pumpkin, was definitely the longest.  some of the recipes i found called for the pumpkin to be boiled for approximately 30 minutes, others recommended baking.  i didn’t have a baking tray large enough for all of the pieces, so i decided to boil them.  however, after filling a large soup tureen with water and trying to fit as much pumpkin in as possible, i realized that boiling wasn’t the best solution either.  in the end, i managed to cook 5 or 6 of the chunks on the stove top (approximately 30 minutes once the water boiled), and I cooked the rest in the microwave, in a corningware casserole with 2-3 inches of water in the bottom.  of course i had to microwave the pumpkin in several sessions, since i had so freakin’ much of it.  each session was between 25-30 minutes (15 minutes, then i rearranged the chunks and gave them 10-15 minutes more, until the pumpkin was tender).

so after about two hours, my pumpkin was cooked and tender.  while it drained and cooled, i assembled a pie crust using my mom’s recipe for apple pie:

2 c. unsifted all-purpose flour (i substituted whole wheat flour for half of it)

1 tsp. salt

2/3 c. solid vegetable shortening (or butter – my choice!)

5-7 Tb. ice water

in a large bowl, stir flour and salt together.  using a pastry cutter, cut shortening/butter into flour mixture until mealy.  mix in ice water a little at a time until dough forms a ball.  cut in half and make two balls.  on a lightly breaded surface, roll out into a circle and place in pie tins.

it was at this point in the process that i realized i was using a recipe for a pie with both a top and bottom crust.  pumpkin pie, however, only has a bottom crust, which means i had twice as much crust as needed.  so i decided to make two pies!!!  note, however, that the recipe gave me just enough to fill two pie pans (one 8″, one 9″), so be careful if you try to stretch the recipe into two pies.  it would probably just be easier to halve the recipe.

once my crusts were made, annoying part #2 of the whole process began, which was to puree the god-only-knows-how-many-pounds of pumpkin.  first you peel the rind off of the chunks of cooked pumpkin and chop them into smaller pieces.  then you’ve got to mash/puree them.  a food processor is probably best for this, but my mother only has a teeny-tiny processor, so i ended up using an old osterizer blender that was probably purchased by my grandmother in 1748.  this meant that i had to puree the pumpkin in approximately 12,000 small batches.  but after much hard work, lots of orange gunk on my fingers, and a near death experience with a fork that got too close to the spinning blade, i had this:

i think it’s important to point out that the puree seemed quite watery after a couple of rounds in the blender, so i started squeezing most of the water out of the pumpkin chunks before i tossed them in.  this made blending a little slower, but gave me a puree that was much thicker, which helped when it came time to pour it into the pie crust.

***let me just point out that by this point in the afternoon (approximately 3.5 hours after starting time), i was exactly where i would have been if i’d just gone out and bought a can of pumpkin puree.  just putting it out there.***

but i was not getting frustrated at all.  on the contrary, i was quite excited, because this is where the fun starts!!!

next comes…pie assembly!

Scoop out 2 delightfully gooey cups of  the puree and plop them into a large mixing bowl.  Add:

12 oz. of evaporated milk

2 eggs

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (more, if you ask me)

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

a pinch of ground cloves

1/2 tsp. salt

(1-2 Tb. corn starch, if your mixture seems very watery, which mine did)

mix well with a mixer, then pour into pie shell.

here’s where i realized that while i now had two pie shells, i only had one can of evaporated milk, which meant only one pie.  trust me, the day was full of lots of surprises.  but all is not yet lost….

bake the pie in a 400 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean.


wait, you ask, what about the second pie shell?  easy.  just chop up a few small baking apples, toss them in a little lemon juice, throw then in the pie shell and cover with a mixture of oats, flour, brown sugar and butter (i honestly never measure this, just eye it).  bake at about 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until apples are tender and the topping is nicely browned.  take it out, and you’ve got a delicious, impromptu apple crisp!!!

in the end, both the pie and the crisp turned out delicious!!!  the pie was just the right consistency, and had a wonderful fresh pumpkin taste.  it also wasn’t too sweet, which i loved!  if i made this recipe again, i would probably add a little more spice to it, since i love the taste of cinnamon!!!  the crisp was also delicious, so i was quite pleased with the results of the day’s efforts.

was it all worth it?  well, i still have about 87 gallons of pumpkin puree, so i’m gonna make a soup and probably another pie out of it, so i’ll definitely have gotten a lot of bang for my buck in the end.  plus, i was in it all for the experience, not the pie.  i probably would have enjoyed a pie made from canned pumpkin as well, but i never would have made one, so what’s the point of comparing?  i would definitely go through it all again, especially now that i have a better idea of how to do it right the first time around.  but next time i’ll freeze all the extra puree, so that i can make lots of fresh pumpkin pies throughout the year.  because really, there’s no bad time to eat a pumpkin pie.

in the end, the only downside is that my kitchen and all of the clothes i wore came out smelling like pumpkin, so i had to do a load of laundry afterwards.  but it was totally worth it, especially after i roasted the pumpkin seeds.

tasty treats all around!

halloween genius
October 25, 2008, 9:24 pm
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so last night i experienced a little bit of panic when i realized that halloween was sneaking up on me and everyone had amazing costume ideas but me.  wait a minute kate, you say, aren’t you a little old for halloween?  there are two answers to this question:  a) yes, but i don’t care; b) no, shut up, never never never.  choose whichever answer you like the best, because it’s official…i’m feathers mcgraw.

today elaine and i went to joann’s to get all the essentials, so there’s now a pile of felt in the corner of my room that will soon become a belly, feet, a beak, and a red chicken hat.  the only question left is which props i will use to complete the costume.  option a would be the super high tech remote control used to operate the techno trousers.  option b would be the burlap sack and pistol seen here.

suggestions?  several people have pointed out to me that carrying a fake gun around the streets of philly could get me into trouble, but the burlap sack would be oh so convenient for carrying money and my phone (and candy, of course!).

so the plans are made, and i think tomorrow i’ll get started.  i’m excited to make something that i can actually wear, even if it is only one night a year, and i’ll probably look ridiculous.  alli says i should immediately ask out any guy who correctly identifies my costume and is even remotely attractive.  i say that any guy who correctly identifies my costume and is even remotely attractive needs to immediately ask me out.  but how many guys do you know that would ask out a penguin?

obsession of the day
October 24, 2008, 1:49 pm
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so today is friday, and i decided rather early on to do absolutely nothing productive with my day.  this means that even though i put on my gym clothes when i got up, i am not in fact going to go to the gym.

instead, i’ve been checking out some of my favorite crafting blogs to get ideas for new projects, and voila, i found it: fusing together old plastic bags in order to make…wait for it…new plastic bags! there’s a great tutorial here.  i have no intention of making a messenger bag, but the fusing part of the tutorial is really helpful.

so my day might end up being productive after all!  huzzah!  plus, i’ve been trying really hard to be more “green” lately, so hopefully i’ll feel all warm and fuzzy when this is over.  double huzzah!

pictures will be uploaded soon, but in the meantime you can check out these.

UPDATE: my first few attempts at fusing actually turned out pretty well, as you can see below.  if you look carefully you can even see some funky stitching in the first one.  now that i’ve got the method down i just have to start collecting bags in order to make a real project.  it’s good to have goals.

the best thing ever
October 24, 2008, 12:52 pm
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so kara posted this link as her google chat status, and i’m officially in love with it.  i heart these kids.  reminds me of the musical some of my 7th graders wrote last year about colonial latin america, although this one has a way catchier melody.