The Pumpkin Package

Grandpa David sent a fantastic package again for Halloween! The boys were delighted with everything! I think you can see it on their faces pretty clearly!

So this is why the box was cackling

A rainbow!

I managed to stash some of the candy and pops. They are coming in very handy this stormy week…

As a thank you for David I turned my hand to crochet. It was really fun and a nice challenge and I feel a lot more confident with single crochet, half-double crochet and double crochet now. I made him a coaster:

Though it could just be for decoration of course!

The boys decorated a lovely card my friend Teresa made with a photograph of hers (she’s not just a knitter – she takes great photos and makes cards with them – I hope to buy some more at the Reading Craft Fair this weekend yay!)

Surprise from Toronto

You may remember I participated in a yarn swap between my fellow April 2012 Babies buddies. I sent my package to Toronto, and I received a package back from someone ELSE in Toronto! How cool!

It must be hard to pick something out for someone who can’t tolerate wool! SCORE!

Needless to say I love the yarn. It will keep me in warm and sunny thoughts in the dead of winter. The boys demolished the Kinder Eggs (you know you can’t get them in the States because of the choking hazard!) Very cool little drawing toys inside – and a teeny monster truck for Eoin – how perfect!

The other chocolate will be stashed away for when I am in need of some extra help this week with Papa away – yay!

Storywalk in the Fall

We enjoyed another Storywalk in the Fells. This one was more technically written, with explanations about how leaves change color etc. The boys weren’t as interested in the story but had a blast finding leaves on their leaf “map”. We asked them what they thought about all the colors, shapes, and sizes of leaves that we collected.

And then they found the perfect stick “swords”…

Selfies

I have a new-found love for selfies… I got two this week from my sisters-in-law! You know what it is that I love about them? Somebody is wearing something I made them!!! And sending me a photo! High up on my list of things I love.

Why all the selfies? I caught up on some headbands like the ones I made my mother-in-law and Bronwen so now all of Papa’s sisters and sister-in-law have them!

The first one I made was for Lovisa. She asked for black, but my friend Teresa gave me help with some buttons and the knit night ladies all convinced me some sparkle would really set it off! However, what really sets all of them off just right is their intended recipients…

Boring

BLING!

Clemson Tedium

Clemson CUTEDOM!

The one I made for Lena was my favorite yarn by far. It was Classic Elite Yarns Chateau with Alpaca and Bamboo. Smush heaven. I don’t have a selfie for that yet!

Eggplant was the color choice

Pretzels with Prototypes

My friend and neighbor Tara was planning a sports party for her son’s birthday. She asked me if I had ever cooked soft pretzels and I was inspired. I always get nostalgic when October 3 comes around (Day of German Unity, and also the day I moved to Germany to start my MA and the day we left Germany for Arizona)

My friend Cara gave me a cool German baking book when she visited us one time in Heidelberg. It had three different kinds of pretzels! Savory, sweet, and donut style! Donuts were impractical for the party so I went with salty and sweet!

Pretzel dough and pizza dough (for dinner!)

The recipe said to roll it out to thumb thickness – too thick:

Before baking

After baking

I learned a lot from these prototypes. My dough was too wet, I didn’t really knead it, I didn’t follow the directions and just put one batch at a time in the middle of the oven… They were still pretty good! I made them into yum breadcrumbs for chicken fingers.

Next up to try was the sweet pretzel. This dough seemed very forgiving and didn’t need time to rise etc. It si also tastes different – kind of crunchy. Pretty yummy!

Sparkly

So today I went ahead with the final product and they were a hit at the party! People were leery of the unknown sweet pretzel and didn’t even try it, but they loved the salty. Here’s a before and after shot of the soft pretzel today. As you can see I put many of my lessons into practice. I rolled it out thinner and I cooked only one batch at a time.

Good memories of Brezel

New Pictures

A while back a colleague of my husband’s posted a link to his brother’s photographs on Facebook. Some of Dominic Moriarty’s photographs really struck a chord with both of us and we ordered them from Ireland. They came rolled up in a tube in amazing time with a lovely handwritten note and instructions from Dominic. He recommended not cutting corners with framing so we didn’t.

I tried out a local framing store that I had a feeling would be worth the extra expense and managed to wrangle the boys sufficiently to make decisions on frames and backing etc. Well, it turns out it must not have been quite so sufficiently because they took my order down wrong and instead of two of the same frames, the alternate choice frame was used for one piece.

But, as they say, everything happens for a reason. That frame suits the piece perfectly. It is now my favorite corner of our house.

The picture is where the clock used to be, so every time I try to look at the time I get a wonderful surprise and happy feeling.

Do you notice the curtains, and the tie back? Papa also put up the hooks for my tie backs so I can show those off too! Merete curtains from Ikea.

It turns out both photos were from Clifden, in Galway. We hope to travel there next summer as Papa has a meeting in Galway city (with Dominic’s brother!) Papa hasn’t seen Connemara so a bit of exploration is on the itinerary.

The second piece looks fantastic over our fireplace. I can’t wait to enjoy it once the temperatures decrease and we veer towards our cosy fireplace room instead of the TV room!

Of course, when Papa gets on a roll with a project many languishing projects tend to get done. Conor got Star Wars pictures:

Eoin got Tow Mater and Monsters University:

and THIS is how we got it all done:

Battle of the B’s – Bowser and Batman

Understanding Grape Flavor

So, if there is one thing I have had a major gripe about since coming to this country 7 years ago, it’s Grape-Flavored Candy. Blackcurrant was always my favorite Starburst/Skittle/You Name It at home in Ireland, so I could not understand what this horrible substitute GRAPE was?! It didn’t even taste like grape!

Well, cue this week’s co-op share (we have switched to the co-op finally from our previous CSA and are enjoying the last weeks of their summer share). There were warnings on Facebook and by email – “There will be seeds! Do not fear the seeds!” Recipes were flying about for jam and juice… Jam, you say? Yay!
Well, we got 1.4lbs of grapes at the share pickup, and I tasted a grape and I finally understood! That essence, that flavor, is perhaps the most AUTHENTIC of all candy flavors!!! An American Concord grape. The grapes were so tasty, but the seeds were certainly a hurdle. They also had a weird gooey texture inside. It would definitely be a jam moment.

Of course, is it worth making a micro batch with 1 pound of grapes? Never fear – I had been following Facebook, and every week there had been an offer from the co-op for grapes going cheap because not enough people took them. I was ready for the post that evening and secured myself another 10 lbs.

The juice-extracting process looked laborious to me so I decided to follow my Ball Book of Home Preserving to make old-fashioned grape jam. This involves separating the grape flesh from the skins and then cooking them separately, before joining them together for the jam after cooking and removing the seeds.

8lbs grapes still left, 8 cups of grapes separated into skins and flesh

Separating the skins was a delightfully zen, squishy, relaxing experience that I completed while watching a complete 1.5 hour episode of Project Runway. Time-consuming for sure! Hmm, maybe I should research that juice for jelly process some more???

Indeed, juice for jelly is just pop everything in a pot with a little water, cook for ten minutes, mashing a bit sometimes, then set over a sieve with cheesecloth for a couple of hours – LONG, for sure, but not labor-intensive!

Preparing jars on the left, top right is preparing grapes for juice, bottom right is the two cooked jam components before adding the sugar and lemon

The jelly was easy, except the cooking took longer (35 minutes in my case) and when I forgot to watch the pot sometimes it boiled over and made an unholy mess. I got three jars of jelly out of that, (as compared to seven 8oz jars of jam) and processed the rest of the grapes to make more juice while I was at it. I think I will make some more jelly with that refrigerated juice, but I’ve run out of jars!!!

Looking forward to the winter

I had a taste this morning and I am absolutely won over. I will never complain about grape flavor again. (Hmm. Maybe. I still miss blackcurrant.)

Although I will probably be a complete snob, since those grapes were spectacular, so the flavor will be hard to beat!

Getting Ready for Halloween

Conor was convinced that he needed to be Batman for Halloween so I went against my better judgement and got the costume. So far it is working out! He wouldn’t let me sew it, so I scratched my crafting itch my making him a foam Batarang.

Kapow!

Eoin is convinced he does not want to be the AWESOME Bowser costume I made and instead wants to be Darth Vader, so we have had very interesting battles.

The boys picked out their pumpkins at Moraine Farm last weekend.

Angry Bird Batman (??? I wanted to do the bat signal!!!) amd soon-to-be Darth Vader

Red Sox Luck

So, I entered a raffle for Red Sox tickets for one of the final games of the season against the Yankees – a big deal! We didn’t win, BUT we won the consolation prize of two tickets to see them against the Rays. We already had tickets for the next day too as part of our mini-package, so we decided to make the Wednesday a family day and if Conor could manage it he would go again on Thursday with Papa!

Well, Eoin had a screamathon on the walk in about being in the carrier, so we split up so I could calm him down. Since Papa was walking in alone with Conor on his shoulders a Boston policeman stopped him and asked him were they on their own. He was in full throes of a migraine so he answered yes, and the policeman gave him two Pavilion Club tickets!!! Awesome tickets!

We met up in the end and tried to get all four of us in – success!

Great view

There were a lot of foul balls coming up our way, so we got our closest ever chance to catch one! Here is a screen grab of us on TV trying to get the ball! (It should have been ours…)

The next night Papa brought the Pavilion stubs and managed to get up in the great seats again with Conor. Heaven!

It pays to support the Sox in good times and in bad! A quiet, cold night against the Rays isn’t the Yankees, but it IS a great family experience!