Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snow: Just in Time for Halloween?

If you live anywhere near the Tri-state area then you heard the forecasters talking snow this entire last week.  I'd be lying if I said that I didn't automatically think, eh there is no way there will be any kind of snow this weekend.

Well, yesterday proved me to be wrong!  While my area of NJ got minimal snow, Northern Jersey got hit with about 4 inches during the day and so did parts of PA.  It's quite interesting to wake up the morning before Halloween to a thin (extremely thin here) layer of snow and frost on the ground.  Now I don't mind the snow, in fact, Fall and Winter are my two favorite seasons, but I'd really prefer to not skip over Fall and go straight into Winter.

Another reason the weather stunk yesterday was because we had a home football game to attend and I decided that since I'd been fighting off a cold all week (I've been sick since Tuesday), sitting for 3+ hours in the rain/sleet/snow and cold was probably not a smart idea.  My mom also stayed home with me, but my dad and J made their way up to the game and sat through the entire thing.  Unfortunately our team did not win and it was a really infuriating game to watch (but I won't bore you with my thoughts on football).  However, I think mom and I made the best decision to stay home as we watched the game in our sweats under a nice warm blanket.  Although I can't tell you how irritated we were that we had to watch the game on my computer on ESPN3 because ABC went regional with its coverage of college games and even though we live in NJ we could only get the Penn State game, not RU.

If you want to see pictures of what the stadium looked like during yesterday's game, check out SB Nation: New York for a couple of pictures of the snow filled stadium.

Yesterday's weather made me not want to do any of the chores I needed to get done so I decided to work on the blanket I've been knitting for a while and it is almost done!  One more block to go before I can start sewing it all together (it is a blanket made out of knitted blocks).  Can't wait to share it with all of you, hopefully by the end of the week or early the following week.  I don't want to rush it and with my birthday festivities this upcoming weekend, who knows what I'll get to.

Now it is time to go finish all of those chores....Enjoy your Sunday!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sewing Project: Complete!

This summer I decided that I wanted to do a sewing project since I’d be living at home and I could use my mom’s sewing machine.  I am by no means a pro at sewing, so I wanted to pick a project I knew I could do and one that wouldn’t take me forever to finish because I know that I get bored and not finish.  As all of you know I did not get to a sewing project over the summer, but I did manage to pick something out.  Now that J and I both have jobs we’ve been apartment hunting and think we’ve found something, so I decided I needed to make this project a reality and quickly!

I decided in the end that a duvet cover would be my project.  Over the summer I’ve been following so many home decorating blogs and I feel so inspired.  Unfortunately for us, most apartments we’ve looked at do not allow you to paint the walls.  What you end up with is a cold feeling white (or really a yellowish-white) room.  Our current comforter is black and white, which just adds to the bleakness of the room.  Here is what our old apartment bedroom looked like (please ignore the disarray of the room in this picture, I think we were starting to pack things up for moving:

See the comforter does nothing for our room at all.  What I really would like is a way to add a punch of color in the room through the room d├ęcor.   The easiest thing would be to buy a new bedding set that has the colors I want, but the bedding in the picture above is only a year old, so I can’t really justify buying a new set, nor do I really want to.  Thus the project idea came up of making a duvet, this way I can update the colors but keep the same comforter.

In my searching I found two ideas that I absolutely loved.  The first can be found here and the second can be found here.  After thinking about it for a while I decided to make the first duvet cover, but using the colors from the second one. 
Color Palette

I decided to compromise and create the first duvet idea with the colors from the second.   It took me a while and trips to a few stores before I found enough fabric that I liked together (19 different patterns is hard to find when you limit your colors) and still I feel my end result could have been more cohesive but I’m content with how it turned out.

I followed the pattern exactly for the front part of the duvet so if you are interested in making this yourself then check out the link above.  I definitely recommend rearranging your pieces multiple times until you find your favorite combination.

Now here is where what I did differs from the pattern above.  The backside above calls for you to make additional strips, but my mom recommending simplifying the project by purchasing a king size sheet (my bed is a queen) and sewing my panel to the sheet.  Well, in my search for sheets I found a clearance duvet that I loved and I had 20% off (Sweet!).  Now you’re probably thinking, Wait did she get rid of all of the work she already put into the duvet? Nope, I decided to make a double-sided duvet!  Why not get double the use out of it?

So here is what I did:

1.     On the purchased duvet I ripped apart the seams and kept the side that I wanted to be on the other face of my duvet to the side.
2.     I then used the other part of the purchased duvet and pinned my sewed duvet panel on top of it (Front to back).  I did this as to make sure that it was big enough, straight and it helped to make some of my fabric less see-through.  This turned out to be a good idea for me because I ended up having to add some length and width to the panel I created.
3.     Next I sewed the two pinned panels together using the spots where I could see the seam ripped out as a guide for how much of an edge to give the two pieces.  I also made sure to not sew over the buttons/button holes so I could just use the ones from the purchased panel instead of having to do it on my own.

4.     Then I sewed my two final two panels together (face to face) and made sure to NOT sew the end with the buttons/button holes shut.
5.     Next I sewed ribbon to the corners. This is so I could tie the corners of comforter in place (and the comforter would not shift around inside the duvet). This is Step 8 if you need further instructions.

     Now you can turn the duvet so the correct sides are outside and the comforter is inside.  Once you’ve done this button the end and you are done!

Here are what my two different finished looks are:


I hope that wasn’t too incredibly confusing.  Feel free to ask if you have any questions on how to do any part of the duvet!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pumpkin Granola

This week seems to be starting out as a 180 from last week, especially in school.  Something about knowing there is a day off from school makes students overexcited all week, so last week definitely felt hectic.  This week students are mostly unaware of our delayed opening at the end of the week so I'm not expecting any craziness until Thursday at the earliest.  Even though it is early in the week it has been a relaxing and productive week.  I've made a lot of progress on my seing project, but I'm not going to share and pictures until it is complete, which I'm hoping will be by the end of the week! Although with football this weekend and the apple festival it might be early next week before I post anything about my project.

So since I'm having a nice relaxing week I thought I'd share a recipe that is so easy and fills the room with a great aroma for you to smell as it bakes in the oven.  I found the recipe here on The Pastry Affair's blog.  I made my own adjustments to this recipe so if you want to see the original recipe  (and nicer pictures) go to the above link.

The first time I made this recipe I used the ingredients below and my mom and I finished the first batch so fast that I doubled the recipe this time around. (I apologize for the ingredients that are cut in half).
The fist time I made this I only have table syrup, not maple syrup and could not find pumpkin seeds or unsweetened coconut.  The second time I used the below recipe and it is even better than the first.

First time batch(adapted from The Pastry Affair:)
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup table syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup craisins
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/8 cup ground flaxseed

Second Batch:
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 1/4 cups craisins
1 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

Preheat your oven to 350.

It is this easy, toss everything but the oats, almonds, seeds, and craisins in a bowl.  Stir until mixed then add the remaining ingredients and mix.  Line a cookie sheet (preferably with edges) with parchment paper.  Spread the granola mixture evenly in the pan.  Place in you oven for 20 min. then mix it around and place back in the oven for 20 min. As the granola cools it will crisp up.

This smells so good while it bakes, the pumpkin and spices are the perfect fall scent.  Make sure to store the granola in an airtight container.

My favorite way to enjoy this delicious granola is in a bowl with almond milk...mmm! (Although I would like to try making this recipe into granola bars)  Hopefully this batch will last longer than a week!  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Soup Sunday

A couple of weeks ago I was in the mood for soup even though it was still pretty warm out.  I think that the instant someone mentions the word 'Fall' I instantly crave thick, creamy soups.  Thus I decided to designate Sundays as "Soup Sunday", whether we eat soup for dinner that night or I just make soup on Sunday to have for lunch the rest of the week or even make it to freeze to have for dinner another night of the week, it doesn't matter.

On this particular Sunday I decided to make a recipe I fell in love with last Fall and I decided to also try a new recipe.  This was partially to help me from being sick of one particular soup by the end of the week.

First I made Butternut Squash Soup from one of last year's Food Network Magazines.  You can find the recipe here. I will say that I really find putting the soup in an actual pumpkin unnecessary unless you are entertaining guests, plus it seems like such a waste to not use the center of the pumpkins.

I follow that recipe with the exception of using chicken or vegetable broth instead of water and I absolutely put in the heavy cream (it adds an extra creamy texture and seeing as it is only 3 tablespoons I think I can live with the extra calories).  I think that making this soup with an immersion blender is your best bet (uses the least amount of dishes), but unfortunately I do not currently have one and my parent's blender still did the job!
Pardon the messy looking blender, I'm not the cleanest cook.

I love that this soup is the perfect color for autumn and an even better flavoring.  While it is a great soup on its own, J and I have found our favorite toppings are turkey bacon and sourdough croutons, but I'm dying to try it with pumpernickel croutons.

As a huge fan of Food Network Magazine I wanted to try one of their soup recipes from this season.  Thus I tried their recipe for Broccoli-Cheddar Soup which can be found here.  I was timid to try it because it calls for potatoes and sweet potatoes, but I thought why not for Soup Sunday.
This is everything cooking together, it sure smelled good cooking.  I'm not going to go over the recipe as it is in the link above and I pretty much followed it exactly.

My opinion is that if you are looking for a true broccoli-cheddar soup, this is not the soup for you.  While you can taste both, it is definitely not the bold flavoring that I expect in a broccoli-cheddar soup.  However, the soup is really creamy and still has good flavors.  I think that both potato flavors definitely stand out so the soup tastes more like a baked potato with broccoli and cheddar on top of it (which to me is delicious).  While I have been eating it on its own, it would probably be good with crumbled bacon and a dollop of sour cream on top.

Thats it for Soup Sunday!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Signs of Fall

Today was the first day that has really felt like Fall.  Sure we've had some cooler days and cool mornings, but most of the time its followed by humidity in the afternoon or an almost 90 degree day.  The forecast this week says we won't reach 70 all week.

It is my favorite season despite its unpredictable nature.  Perhaps it is because I've lived in a forested town for most of my life and I love when the leaves start to change, or that I hate 97 degree days that make me feel like I'm melting in the summer.  All I know is I will be happy to go through my boxes of warmer clothes and scarves this weekend (not winter ones yet though!) and begin changing my closet to fit the season change.

Along with the changing season comes the use of some of my favorite foods: squash, pumpkin, etc.  I've already been making Fall recipes the past few weeks so that I've got our favorites tweaked and ready to make for the cooler weather.  Look for recipes and pictures of what I've been making in the following week (hopefully!).

Since I haven't posted anything since June I'm just going to summarize what the rest of the summer was like.  I was asked to fill in as a manager at my summer job, so I was able to get more hours in at work and was able to save some money living at home over the summer.  J worked a lot too and got our trip to Italy all figured out (I'm counting down the days!).  While I stressed out about getting a job all summer, I did manage to get a job at the end of August, but unfortunately not as a teacher.  As a teaching assistant I'm enjoying being in a school and am learning something new each day, but it is definitely not the same as having my own classroom.

Also, we managed to get many of the things on our summer list accomplished and then some:

-Get a job  (Woo!)
-Kayaking (This was a blast!  We went for three hours and we were both EXHAUSTED afterwards!)

-Run a 5k
-Run a 10k
-Beach days!  (We went down for the 4th of July, my mom's birthday and many other days throughout the summer!)

-Start making a serious plan for what J and I will do come September if I don't have a job
 (Now that I have a job we've been spending a lot of time looking for apartments and I think we've found one!)
-Do some sewing   (I started a project, but its not done soon)

-Stay after work to sunbathe or swim  (I did not swim afterwork, but I did lay out and unfortunately I'm still extremely pale, oh well)
-Learn how to jar foods
-Go picking! (Mom and I picked blueberries...mmm. J and I might go apple picking soon)

-Outdoor concert with J (I didn't go to an outdoor concert but the girls and I did go see Katy Perry)
-Trip to NYC
-Post more! 

One of the most exciting things we did this summer, well that J did, is skydiving!  He and one of my best friends, G, are both into things like this so I suggested they should go together since I don't think I will ever be able to jump out of a plane.  My mom and I watched as they jumped and came safely to the ground.  Definitely an unforgettable experience for both of them!