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Friday, October 29, 2010

Pumpkin Carving Party

Last weekend our friends invited us over for drinks, snacks, and pumpkin carving!! What a blast:)
The weather was just right... a bit of chill in the air to get us in the halloween spirit but still warm enough to be outside for a few hours.

We brought Pierre and he got plenty of attention...

Here are all the pumpkins in the light... scroll down to see them individually (mine is at the very bottom)

How great is this pacman pumpkin!?!

mustache pumpkin

And someone even managed to carve Stephen Colbert - how fun!

This was our community pumpkin, everyone got to carve one thing and then pass it on.

Here is my cat! It was so much fun, makes me want to plan something to carve for next year.

The cat all lit up. Sadly, only 4 days later it was mostly caved in and yucky so we had to throw it away.

Next on my Halloween list for this year is a Hallo-wedding that my sister and I are going to on Saturday. We get to wear costumes to the ceremony and reception - can't wait!
What are you doing for Halloween this year??

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blueberry Cake

One last summery treat before the long, long winter: Blueberry cake!

I got the recipe from my favorite, the Hummingbird Cookbook. I did modify it just a bit. I omitted 1/2 a cup of sugar and an entire stick of butter!

I love using my "Heritage Bunt" from Williams Sonoma. It makes the final product look so fancy!
The recipe calls for fresh blueberries but they weren't in season here and I couldn't find them anywhere. Sadly, I had to use frozen blueberries but they got the job done.

I was very happy with the final product, definitely did NOT need three sticks of butter! I do prefer my sweets a bit less sweet and creamy though.
I am getting forward to more fall cooking (I've already made 4 pumpkin pies)!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Art Space

I have been LOVING my fashion illustration class and when I came home to this little mini studio set up by my fiance, I was overjoyed!

Nothing huge, an art table and and little space to keep my things but it was so thoughtful and just perfect. I love that it is facing the solarium and looking directly outside.

Here are some of my books that I turn to for ideas and inspiration.

Jacket sets from the 1940s

A few of my in-class sketches. My drawing has improved exponentially so far! Every time the teacher shows me what to work on you can see a visible jump in skill on my sketch book! He is such a wonderful instructor and can really key in on what your drawings are lacking.

Where do you go or what do you look at for inspirations??

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hot Cocoa

There is a slight nip in the air and it seems the time has come for snuggling up in favorite sweaters, curling by the fireplace, and yes - hot cocoa!

I got a simple little recipe from Gale Gand's cook book and I really wanted to try it out. Very simple, only 4 ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 cups whole milk (I used skim... 2% might be your best bet)

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat milk to a simmer in a saucepan. Stir cocoa powder and brown sugar together. A few teaspoons at at time, add the hot milk to the cocoa mixture to make a smooth paste. This will smell AMAZING! Add the paste to the hot milk and simmer for 2 minutes but DO NOT let boil. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

Top with whipped cream (of course). Chocolate shavings would be nice but I just used a bit of the cocoa powder on top.

This was easy and fun to make. It had a richer taste than regular hot cocoa mix.

What are your favorite chilly day treats?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Knitted Dog Sweater

A few times a year, I have to get my poodle groomed and this is what happens:

(Before grooming)
(After grooming)

He looks like a different dog! Well since the weather is starting to get chilly, I thought that I would try out a knitted sweater for him that would take the place of his missing coat of fur.
I got the pattern from here: Dog Sweater Pattern

This is my first dog sweater and I was surprised by how easy and quickly it was completed. The nice thing about this pattern is that you knit it all in the round as one big peice and then knit on the sleeves so there is no sewing pieces together.

I stuck with the same colors as the pattern but there are so many wonderful combinations! This finally gave me an excuse to use up some old yarn scraps that wouldn't be enough to complete a larger project.

The collar and sleeves were done using double pointed needles (I finally bit the bullet and learned how to use them). Pierre is modeling the finished project.

I tried a size medium but a small would have fit a bit better. However, when his fur grows back in a few months he will still be able to fit into this cozy sweater. Doesn't he look ready for the chilly months ahead??
For future patterns, I have found that the neck and sleeves of this pattern fit him perfectly but the lower body could be just a bit smaller. Also, I may try to modify the patter so that there is a shorter panel under his belly so that he can (ahem) "go potty" without having to pull the sweater up.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Autumn Delights and LaPoste

This weekend was so lovely! It was perfect weather plus a touch of fall was in the air. After work on Friday, the fiance and I took Pierre for a walk and enjoyed the sights:

We then stopped into our favorite shop, Ludlow Wines. Whenever we can, we love to do either the beer or wine tasting. Friday was wine and quite a delicious line up! I bought a petite verdot from Kinkade Ridge (the only one in the shop!)

Then we headed to our main event... dinner at La Poste. This is a brand new restaurant right on Ludlow and it has been packed since its opening this past Monday. We had reservations but I was still nervous there would be quite a wait.

Well we didn't have to wait at all! Our entire experience there was absolutely fantastic. The staff paid us so much attention, we felt like royalty. They even have a sommelier (wine expert) who helped us choose the perfect bottle of wine. The meal starts with a COMPLIMENTARY artichoke tempenade with crustini. Yum. Then the waitress brought us a warm and fresh 1/2 baguette. For the entree I got grilled salmon and Brent got the lambshank. It was so good that I actually cleared the plate! I even used the bread to soak up the last bits. Delicious.

I am so excited that we have such a classy establishment right on our street. It even has a wine room for small parties and a full bar if you would fancy stopping by just for a drink. Great atmosphere, great food, great staff. What more could you ask for??

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekends. I am off to run errands - whew the weekend goes by too fast!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pumpkin Pie

Nothin' says autumn like pumpkin pie!

I am flying out ot New Mexico to visit my parents for Thanksgiving this year and I get to make the pie! That being said, I really want it to be delicious so I've been trying out different recipes until I get it just right...

Here is my favorite so far, this is my variation on the Hummingbird Cookbook recipe:
To make the crust:
  • 7 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Tip for measuring flour: Always sift flour BEFORE you measure!
Make sure the butter is room temperature. Put flour, butter, and salt in mixer and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Add one tablespoon ice water and beat until well mixed. Add a second tablespoon of ice water and beat until you have a smooth, even dough. If the dough is still a little dry, add another tablespoon of ice water but BE CAREFUL NOT TO ADD TOO MUCH WATER!
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest for one hour in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Line the prepared pie dish with the dough and fold the edges in, shaping with your fingers.
Lay a sheet of parchment paper over the dough crust and pour in the baking beans (I use plain old lima beans... you can reuse over and over again).
Dry ingredients/spices:
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon of sugar (this seemed to be the right amount of sweetness)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon flour
Always sift all dry ingredient together at least once, especially when the recipe is centered around spices.

Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients:
  • 1 egg
  • 14-oz can pumpkin puree
  • 8-oz can evaporated milk
Mix together until just blender, you don't want to over mix.
My thoughts on using a real pumpkin: I did make one pie with a real pie pumpkin and although it was very delicious, it was also very labor intensive. You have to carve open the pumpin and scoop out all seeds. Then bake the pumpkin pieces for about an hour, scrape out the insides, let cool, then puree. This makes A LOT of dirty dishes, takes a long time, and honestly doesn't taste any different than pumpkin puree from a can. I actually think the canned puree made a smoother, prettier pie. But, if you're looking for a more rustic pie, you may want to try the roasted pumpkin, you could lightly puree to enjoy little pumpkin chunks in every bite!

Cook for about 30-40 minutes at 325 degrees or until the filling is set firm and doesn't wobble when shaken.
Let cool completely (if you can), then serve with a dollop of whipped cream, garnish with cinnamon.
Other ideas for pumpkin pie that I'd like to try include pecan pumpkin pie and apple pumpkin pie.
What are you baking up or enjoying for autumn??