Thursday, October 18, 2007


Because I just couldn't bring myself to use an expletive stronger than "crap" in a post title. But indeed, I've done a great deal of jack s#!t over the last few days...or at least, jack s#!t that I can show you. No knitting whatsoever, and no cooking either.

Well, the "no cooking" is only true if you don't count our third anniversary dinner on Tuesday. Those three years have been longer and shorter than I could have imagined...mostly in the good ways. :) But aside from a lovely fondue dinner (stop snickering, I guarantee you it's awesome), we didn't do a whole lot anniversary-wise except take the day off and schlep around a lot. Oh, and we saw Michael Clayton (well-acted, intriguing story, slightly thin on development).

The "no knitting" is an absolute, but it's for a good cause. Over the weekend, my generous best friend made the first of three (count 'em) trips down to help me get my s#!t together - the right way - for our move at the end of November. (I may have mentioned this before.) I can't show you that either, but suffice it to say - when TechieBK returned from a trip with his dad and best friend, having caught me several delicious bass, he was utterly stunned at the altered state of our living room. I'd be jazzed too, if I wasn't still so overwhelmed by the enormity of the rest of the task.

But so it goes. Despite the rather high level of jack s#!t being done on my Monday and Tuesday off, they did go a long way to helping my work fatigue. There's been a lot of Raveling, quite a bit of cheezburgering (despite the fact that the Buddy Cat was denied - DENIED! - even a place on the voting page), and a whole hell of a lot of Rhinebeck attendee-based envy.

(I *will* by God go next year, even though I'll probably have to keep my hands in my pockets the entire time.)

Yep, four days off and this was the best I could do. I even skipped SnB *again* trying to get a handle on this moving thing. I am so going next week, since clearly the Red Shawl Dammit isn't knitting itself.

Perhaps the best news I have from all this (well, aside from the three years married to the lovely husband, and the unbelievably generous best friend) is that I found my own personal pair of these, which I'd thought lost for nearly a year. I may not be sewing again anytime soon, but it's nice to know that I won't have to drop another $25 for the best.shears.ever.

That's as crafty as it gets tonight. Time to put the smaller of my Very Own LOLcats to bed and try not to pass out before I make it there myself.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A little peek

My first package arrived from my SP11 pal yesterday! She (I'm just guessing) provided an adorable summer fun theme, complete with a loofah crab, pretty papers, bath stuff, and best of all, two balls of Panda Cotton! It's officially my first sock yarn!

Sadly, I opened the package last night in a semi-exhausted state just before bed...and I write this post in almost exactly the same way, minus the "semi" part. Last night I spent a couple of hours at my folks' house; tonight, it was late home from work, bake a batch of oatmeal cranberry pecan for a baby shower tomorrow (note to self: trust the cookies), and try not to collapse before I finish this. That is: no photos of my lovely haul for now.

I will do my best to catch up, at least briefly, as I make way in my messy, messy place for Caety's arrival midday on Friday. Key to peaceful moving: pack early and often.

This incoherent post brought to you by Plum Texan: Backing herself into corners for 34 years and counting.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Squash for dessert

That's essentially what you get with pumpkin sweets. And while I can't say I love squash across the board (grilled zucchini being a notable exception), pumpkin makes me indescribably happy. For one thing, it's a sure sign that - no matter what the thermometer says - it's autumn, and autumn is my favorite season.

For another thing, pumpkin is damn tasty, almost no matter what you do with it. A lot of folks are all about pumpkin pie; I admit that this most classic of applications is a great one, but not my favorite by far - I'm just not as much of a pie person. Culinarily speaking, the big orange gourd is a fantastic chameleon (witness Central Market's pumpkin polenta)...but what's more wholesome, and more satisfying, than a dense, spicy quick bread?

Very little, I can tell you. Especially when you take this purist recipe and use it to make autumn magic. At some point in the last 5-7 years (Caety, do you remember if that's right? It's at least 5, anyway...), I went digging for something simple; much as I love Alton Brown, shredded fresh pumpkin was a bit too much work for me,* so I went with something more basic.

I confess that mine isn't drastically different from the original, but over time and (much) repetition, plus a few disasters and several near misses, I've gotten it down to a science. Or brass tacks. Or something like that.

And away we go...sorry, no photos - I got ahead of myself and forgot to take any this time. Maybe later this week, when I'm at it again.

Plum Texan's Legendary Pumpkin Bread
(with credit to Cathy Lowe for the basis)

- 3 loaf pans, 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches. NEVER, never use dark non-stick; I've had perfect results from disposable aluminum pans, and those are cheap, if you need them.
- If you're using silicone or disposable aluminum pans, you'll want a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan to stabilize them.
- 1 large mixing bowl, 4 quarts minimum, for the mixing. My favorite is an IKEA stainless steel, but porcelain and Pyrex are completely respectable.
- 1 medium bowl, 2 quarts minimum, for the dry ingredients.
- 1 medium bowl, for lightly beating eggs before adding.
- Measuring cups and spoons as needed. A gradiated one-cup, handled half-cup, and a teaspoon will cover you in a pinch.
- Rubber or silicone spatula for scraping down sides of mixing bowl.
- Mixer of your choice. Your KitchenAid is perfect for this, but I personally love using my electric hand mixer.
- Wire cooling racks.
- Enough butter/Pam/shortening and flour to get the pans ready.

2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs (large or extra-large)
16 ounces canned unsweetened pumpkin
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (preferably King Arthur)
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-fine salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 to 4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
2/3 cup 2% milk

Place oven rack at center level and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour loaf pans. Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl.

Stir together sugar and oil in large mixing bowl. Beat eggs lightly in separate bowl, then stir in eggs and pumpkin. When first four ingredients are combined, blend dry ingredients and milk into wet mixture, alternating. Scrape down bowl sides occasionally.

Divide batter evenly between the three loaf pans (if you're measuring, it's about 2 1/2 cups each). Spread lightly to make sure the tops are even and no large bubbles have formed.

Set a timer for 30 minutes to start. After 30 minutes, rotate pans 180 degrees, and rearrange. Continue baking until cake tester comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven to cooling rack and let stand 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool loaves on rack.

And, of course, enjoy thoroughly. My stepdad loves to put slices in the toaster oven and then butter them; I've added sweetened cream cheese a few times, which I must say is my personal favorite. And this is one of those creations that's even better the second day...dense, moist, and full of warm autumn flavor.

Yep, I know it's cheesy. It's also true.

I'd love to hear how the Legendary Pumpkin Bread goes for you, should you try it. Give me a shout anytime. And stay tuned for more baked goodies. Coming up next, baking-post-wise: MomDK's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and a remembrance. (Bring Kleenex. I know I will.)

Also, if anyone was still wondering, the Forest Canopy is definitely going to Grandma. I can always make myself another, and it just seems right.

*Perhaps not forever, though; I may actually try adorable AB's recipe at some point this year.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Amethyst shift

I'm posting this as I wait for Amy's birthday present to finish baking so that I can rush it over to Stitch 'n' Bitch. Nothing will be spoken of the kitchen catastrophe that caused her pumpkin bread not to have been finished last night.

At any rate, I have found myself with a dilemma. Suddenly, now that I have finished the Forest Canopy and had a few days to think about it, it occurs to me that I have a very deserving recipient...and it's not me.

Biologically speaking, I don't have any living grandparents. TechieBK's maternal GPs are still around (and gladly so - I adore them and vice versa), but I have only one personal known-me-all-my-life grandparent left. Grandma C is my stepmom's mother, a lovely, strong-willed, practical, able person who began treating me like her own granddaughter the day I met her, when I was seven. And so, I *am* her granddaughter.

And while I'll have to tell you all about her another time, here's to the business at hand: Should I give her the Forest Canopy that I thought I was making for myself? To some point, I've wondered all along if this shawl was really mine; much as I loved making it, and adore the color, it felt like I was making it for someone else.

I think I already know the answer, but of course I need affirmation. So if you have thoughts on whether the Amethyst Forest Canopy should become one of Grandma C's Christmas presents, please feel free to share. I know the Red Shawl Dammit is definitely mine, so it's not like I'd be deprived...

And now, to cool the pumpkin bread. Pictures, recipe, and story this weekend.