making my own napkins and loving it

puzzles and patbingsu
November 12, 2009, 1:26 am
Filed under: food, miscellany | Tags: , , , ,

once upon a time, we were all going about our lives as usual when a strange little envelope arrived in the mail.  or, in my case, arrived in my brother’s mail and had to be forwarded on to me.  anyway, the envelope came, and in it were cryptic instructions and puzzle pieces.  they were from this girl.  or was it this girl?  each set of instructions was slightly different, but mostly the same.


so we gathered, on a rainy night in west philly, to assemble puzzles and crush ice.


the puzzle was a wee bit challenging…



but we prevailed in the end.


after a bit of a flipping-over-fiasco, we were able to decode the message on the back:


(we thought that e had kept three of the pieces for herself, to remind us all of her absence, but it turned out that we had left them in kara’s envelope the whole time.  oops.)

kara tackled the lock…


and liberated the prize:


which was dried squid.



even the cat was sketched out…


in addition to the dried squid, there were cute little gifts, like keychains and tassles and funny shirts, as well as instructions to navigate ourselves to a website, where we were given instructions as to how to concoct a most delicious korean dessert known as patbingsu.

never ones to turn down a challenge, we headed to the kitchen, unpacked our previously-purchased grocery items, and got to work.






i’m not sure our patbingsu turned out exactly as it should have, but it sure was delicious.


then we watched this:

all in all, a most excellent night.


chez dewitt
September 16, 2009, 6:39 pm
Filed under: crafts, food

one day, jonny had a birthday.  so he planned (planned?) a delicious menu, then ordered us around as we prepared it in his honor.  and i must say, he looked quite dashing as he did it.


appetizers consisted of grilled, peanut butter-marinated chicken (yes, that’s right) with a creamy avocado cilantro dip.  mmmmmm.  really, it was delicious.  no joke.


then came pizzas.  toppings galore!


IMG_6863that’s just how we roll.

of course, a party with my friends isn’t a party unless there’s fire.


so jon requested a creme brulee, which he brulee’d himself.

IMG_6872 deliciousness.  of which i did not partake, because i had to catch a train back home in order to lie in bed awake and be nervous about my first day of student teaching.

on a final note, some pre-party shots:





housewarming, america-style
August 12, 2009, 10:08 pm
Filed under: food, miscellany

as july 1st marked my return to grownuphood through independent living, i decided to host a housewarming barbecue, july 4th style.

honored guests included high school friends, college friends, nicaragua friends, cherished family members, their friends, and this guy:

IMG_6633when this picture was taken, he had just received a firm yet gentle massage with a tandoori rub.  he was feeling good: relaxed yet alert, eager to see where the night’s festivities would lead.

little did he know he was about to get thrown on the grill with a beer can shoved up his boy-badonkadonk.  ouch.

here’s what he looked like when he came out:IMG_6639


here’s what the beer looked like:



that’s grease floating on top.  chicken butt grease.  for a minute it looked as if colin might actually drink the chicken beer, because that’s just how much he likes beer, and just how much more of a man he is than you.  certainly more of a man than greg, anyway.  but, in the end, he sniffed the beer and made a wise choice not to drink it.  a shame, perhaps, but probably better for everyone in the end.

so, to lighten the mood, we ate firecracker cake!


trevor was the genius behind this one, with a little help from mom, and the sheer brilliance of the cake made us highly impatient to get some real firecrackers going.  atraeu, however, was of the opinion that firecrackers were a bad idea.  to let us know just how opposed he was, he spent the entire afternoon and evening hiding in my shower, to the surprise (and chagrin) of my guests when they tried to use the bathroom.


when it finally got dark enough, we initiated fun with sparklers, which of course led to many boyish spark-related feats of whimsy and immaturity.  i’ll allow the video to speak for itself.

on that note, a few more pretty pictures of sparklers in the night:



IMG_6675yeah, that one’s my favorite too.

when the sparklers ran out, there was fun with candles to be had.


leave it to jon to spend long periods of time dipping things into flames and measuring the rate at which they melt. but don’t think he’s the only one:


IMG_6688with liberty, and justice for all.


the candle never saw it coming.

jam packed
June 29, 2009, 8:45 pm
Filed under: crafts, food | Tags: ,

it’s been a really long time.  color me ashamed.

the sad truth is that there has been little crafting going on lately.  plenty of reading, and apartment searching, and trips with friends, but precious little sewing and knitting.  weighing it all out, i can’t say i’m all that upset.

recently, however, my crafting has experienced a rebirth.  this is partly due to the fact that my sister-in-law is out of work for the summer, and horribly bored.  even more exciting, however, is the fact that i’m moving into my new apartment in approximately 40 hours, and things like placemats and curtains don’t just make themselves anymore.

so, in an attempt to make up for months of not posting, i will be posting several projects at once.  be forewarned.

first of all, jam.  what can i say about jam?  not much, really.  i don’t eat that much of it, nor had i ever been super inspired to make it myself.  but alli needed some company, and i bought all of those cute jars in canada, so i figured, what the hell.  let’s make some jam. so on wednesday alli and i headed out to new jersey, to a farm much praised by local canners, only to find that their berry season was long over.  blerg.  so we bought some corn and peaches, and headed to linvilla orchards.  i think the last time i went there i was 12 and picking pumpkins with a friend’s family, so it was a little weird, but fun to return.  we spent an hour and a half in the beautiful june sunshine, picking strawberries and rhubarb, trying not to think of the pesticides as we popped a few choice berries into our mouths.  live a little.

with two full boxes of strawberries and rhubarb, and after checking out the farm store, of course, we headed back to philly for the jammin’ action.  i don’t have the patience to go into all of the details here, so enjoy this short summary:

– we washed and cut over 8 pounds of strawberries, preparing some of them with sugar and vanilla to be stored, and leaving the rest out to make jam the next day.

– on thursday, the jamming commenced.  we decided to start out with the rhubarb, because neither of us had any real idea what we were doing, and we figured that we’d rather waste rhubarb than berries.

– the rhubarb was cooked down, pectin was added, and we ended up with some delicious, yet quite sweet, rhubarb vanilla jam.  too sugary for me, but a beautiful purply-red color.

– rhubarb was combined with strawberries to make a strawberry-rhubarb compote, which will no doubt be sinfully delicious on ice cream or pancakes.

– strawberries were cooked down into strawberry jam, which is delicious but also too sweet for me.  i’ve been giving away jars of it as ice cream topping.

in the end, it only took us about 3 hours to make 3 separate batches of goodies, and there was only one significant skin burn (mine) and one significant stove explosion (see pics).  and, despite my general lack of love for jam, i’m totally sold on canning now, and want to can anything and everything i see.  the jars are just so damn cute.

here are the pictures:

alli always knows how to dress for the occasion

alli always knows how to dress for the occasion


how tart is your rhubarb?

how tart is your rhubarb?

rhubarb vanilla jam in the making

rhubarb vanilla jam in the making

luscious berry murder

luscious berry murder

balls to the wall

balls to the wall

the final products

the final products

you better like it

you better like it

big black dog seal of approval

big black dog seal of approval

ethyl loves to jam

ethyl loves to jam

so that’s the story of the “no, we’re not sisters” jam company’s debut line of jams.  more pics are available here.

in less exciting crafting news, but way more exciting personal news, i’m moving into my new apartment on wednesday, and there are many many things to be done.  instead of doing those things, i’ve been making placemats.


the fabric is from ikea, and i added some fun little kicks of color.


if i have time tomorrow, bird-themed napkins will follow.  who am i kidding?  i’ll totally make time.

finally, since i am at long last moving out of the family domicile and into my own place, it occurs to me that i’ll need a new theme for this blog.  i’ll stick with apt2b, but the whole “just mom and pops and me” doesn’t work anymore.  not that i ever wrote about living with them.  you didn’t want to hear it anyway.  but if you have any ideas for a new tagline, send ’em my way.

May 1, 2009, 1:38 pm
Filed under: food, miscellany | Tags:

angry chicken‘s most recent post has alerted me to the fact that my birthday flower, i.e. the flower associated with my specific date of birth, is amaranth.  so of course i checked it out, because i had only heard of amaranth as a crazy healthy grain, and i had not encountered it since my days in the co-op.  the first thing i learned, unfortunately, is that amaranth is commonly known as pigweed.  blerg.  however, further reading left me enlightened and quite pleased with my little flower:

-in greek, “amaranth” means the “one that does not wither,” or the never-fading (flower).

– a traditional food plant in africa, this vegetable has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.  it is often referred to as “the crop of the future.”   (as it turns out, i also have that potential.  boo yah.)

-amaranth seeds, like buckwheat and quinoa, contain protein that is unusually complete for plant sources; regular consumption reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while improving antioxidant status and some immune parameters. (also true of me)

enya refers to the everlasting amaranth in her song “amarantine“.

yeah, that last one is my favorite, too.

now everything smells like pumpkin
October 28, 2008, 3:09 pm
Filed under: food | Tags:

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!