How To Throw A Party Like A Pro

What happens when two talented cooks/restauranteurs throw a 5th birthday bash for their son?

A fantastic party with amazing food on a beautiful fall Sunday.

My friend Lisa and Will had us (plus many, many, many) other people to celebrate Alston’s big day.  Oona fairly wore herself out playing in the leaves and chasing ducks and dogs and other kids around while Maddie acted as official baby-watcher for darling little Marie.


Just look at that baby!




Tree stump chairs by the fire and food.



Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  I know, you’re jealous.  Yes, they were every bit as amazing as they sound.




I mentioned the food, right?  Aside from the fall-themed appetizer spread there was pulled pork and coleslaw.  And it was YUM.

Maddie and Emily and I drank gallons of the hot apple cider (and I may have sampled some of the hard cider as well……)




The little man of the hour!





Will by the fire, which was perfect: not too hot for such a sunny day, but just warm enough for the chill in the air.

Fall parties like this are my favorite kind.  The bugs are mostly gone, the leaves are stunning, the campfire isn’t sweltering, the food is warming.

It’s one of the best ways to turn 5!


Happy Temperatures

It’s been downright chilly here for October in Virginia.  We had a frost last night and are expecting another tonight!

The fireplace is in use full time now, the handknits are out, the apple cider is being consumed hot.  There’s a lovely nip in the air, which is heavily scented with woodsmoke lately.

The flock is in weather nirvana!







Georgia and Nanny McPhee


Alabama thinks I have food, so he is willing to let me take his picture.


Willoughby and Bennett, making a rare appearance (they are pretty wary of people).







I’m going to curl up by the fire with some spicy gingerale and work on my Shepherd Sweater now.  Stay cozy!

Apple Cider Doughnuts

You all know how much I love King Arthur Flour, right?  They have some of the best recipes on their site, and the best ingredients with which to make them (no I am not getting paid to say that!).

So it’s no surprise that I am on their website frequently.   While browsing last week I came across a recipe for Apple Cider Doughnuts.

Well, of course I had to try them!  And though generally I am a food purist and would prefer my doughnuts as nature intended them – fried – I was willing to try them out baked.  After all, less fat, right?


These two ingredients are this recipes secret weapons of flavor.  Boiled Cider and applesauce (I used my own, made with the ninety billion pounds of apples we picked).


The batter worked up very quickly, and gets plopped into the doughnut pan (it was like $10 at Bed Bath & Beyond).


After baking, I slid them all out of the pan and then they had a bath in cinnamon and sugar.


The sugar mixture sticks best if they’re put it in directly from the oven.


I made about 18 doughnuts in all.  Though it was hard to keep an accurate count because they kept getting eaten!

In all, the only real disappointment wasn’t taste – related.  I adore the smell of cider donuts wafting on the breeze at the orchard while they’re being fried.  Sadly, my house did not smell that way while baking these.  But the flavor was right and even though they’re not *quite* as delectable as fried doughnuts, they are a super, serious, amazingly close second.

We’ll be making these again.

So Much Fun It’s Scary

Halloween has always been one of our favorite holidays.  All the beautiful leaves and weather, the fun and spooky decorations, dressing up, eating candy!

Luckily we have friends who enjoy it just as much as we do, and welcome us all to their home every year for an evening of spooky festivity!


Conjoined twin cookies!


Neve as Sally.


Spicy taco dip skull.


Maddie and Gabi.


Our friend Keith as Jack Skellington.


Neve with Jessie: our two Sallys.


I went with a Dia de los Muertos theme.


Book Club ladies.





Cute littles!


Neve and Sarah.



Emily went as Prince Zuko from Avatar, The Last Airbender.


Elizabeth’s husband Kevin led us all in a rousing game of Mad Scientists vs. Villagers.  The villagers had to discover who the scientists were before they killed off the whole village!

As always we had a great time and the kids wore themselves out (always a good thing!).

It’s sad that October is flying by so quickly, but at least we still have more Halloween fun to come!

Halloween Socks!


After casting these on a year ago, putting them down to finish other projects and waiting for substitute yarn to arrive, I finished them!


The sock on the left was finished last October.  The one on the right……….

The pattern is Little Pumpkins, which was a joy to work.  The yarn is Socks That Rock, mostly in colorway “Rocky Horror”.  Mostly.  Until I’d gotten halfway through the foot on the right sock and realized all that cabling meant I wasn’t going to have enough yarn to finish.  After I died a little inside I checked the website to find that that colorway was on hiatus.  BUT there was another colorway, “Go Beavs” that was pretty similar.  Since it was only going to be the toe, really, I figured it would have to do, so I ordered it.

And proceeded to wait nearly a month for it to arrive.

They dye their yarn to order – which is lovely – except that I’ve seen Lauria and Susan and Tanya dye hundreds and hundreds of hanks of yarn and get them shipped out in less than 2 weeks.  And with the clock ticking down towards Halloween I was becoming annoyed that my Halloween socks would yet again not be ready in time.

Then, miracle of miracles, it finally arrived yesterday, and was almost an exact match for color!

I did have some pooling in the foot at the end, but you know what?  They’re done.  And honestly, you can see the pumpkin design much better in the areas where the color is pooled rather than striped.


And did I mention they are DONE???


Now I can focus all of my knitterly attention on my Shepherd sweater.

In other seasonal news, the persimmon tree is fruiting!!!


Isn’t fall grand?

What To Do On Drizzly Fall Days

Cold, rainy days in the fall used to be my favorite weather, but since I’ve got livestock to care for I am less inclined to enjoy rain.  This year especially!  A nice overcast (but DRY) day is still nice, when you can build a fire and drink tea and do some knitting or reading.

This week has been quite a mix of cold and overcast, and cold and downpours.  While going outside to feed the flock and check on everyone has been an exercise in misery and wetness, inside has been nice and cozy.

The fireplace saw its first use of the year, and we’ve been putting the apples to good use.


I’ve been peeling giant bowls full of them every day and throwing them in a giant pot with some fresh cider, plenty of cinnamon, brown sugar and cloves.


I let it cook slowly all day into a nice, dark, spicy applesauce.  I don’t can it, though, because at the very end I throw in a stick of butter.  It ends up tasting like pie.  The kids love it, and I can never keep enough of it ready!  When there does happen to be an excess, I freeze it.


Speaking of pie, there’s plenty of that going on as well.



It’s also the season for roasted chickens and homemade stock.  I like to keep a pot of that simmering all day when it’s crappy out.


And of the house isn’t full enough of wonderful aromas and things to tempt the tastebuds, why not whip up some butter cookies with frosting?

I got the crow cookie cutter from King Arthur Flour, which is, incidentally, where I got the cookie recipe from as well ( I used vanilla instead of the fiori di sicilia).


Add some frosting and sprinkles (black sugar sprinkles!) and they’re festive for Halloween!


I used some mini cookie cutters to make some plain Halloween cookies for snacking as well.

The weather might not be great, but the house smells of chicken stock, cinnamon, apple and butter cookies.  It’s warm by the fire and I’ve got some lovely yarn to play with.  Time to put on Hocus Pocus and settle in.

Yarn Washing

Monday’s weather was exceptionally lovely, so I thought I’d take advantage and wash out my share yarn.

I’m glad I did, too, because it has been rainy and nasty every day since.

Normally I don’t wash my yarn before using it; but since this is share yarn from Juniper Moon sheep, it was milled with a lot of lanolin left in it.  It feels heavenly on your skin (and smells wonderful as well) but you have to account for how much your yarn will change after washing if you don’t do it before you knit.  It’s easier to wash your yarn first, so you know exactly how much the wool will bloom for your finished object.


First I let it soak in a bath of tepid water and Eucalan.  It’s a very mild soap that won’t harm the wool or cause it to felt.  I only very gently squeeze the yarn while it soaks.

I left it there for a little over an hour while I took care of some other things, and then gently and lightly rinsed it with clean water (some people also use a mix of water and vinegar).  Then, on to the laundry spinner!


This uses only centrifugal force to spin out extra water.  It does a phenomenal job of getting the yarn almost completely dry.


A LOT of water came out.


This is what the soak water looked like.  That’s a lot of lanolin!


And just look at that beautiful wool!  This is what all the colored fleeces from the flock look like once they’ve been processed.



Apple Picking 2013!

We had planned to go apple picking yesterday while our friend Trina was working, but the monsoon-like weather kept us away.

Fortunately, today’s weather was absolutely perfect!  The sun was out but it was only about 70 degrees, which is nice when you’re hiking along the mountaintop hauling heavy bags of fruit!


I wonder if anyone reads this before they go out and yank apples off the trees?



We were lucky we went today; for once our timing worked out and we got to pick our favorites: York, Braeburn, Fuji and Winesap.







Oona filled her bag so full she couldn’t carry it.  She wanted to be sure I burned enough calories to earn my apple cider doughnut afterwards.






In the end we hauled home 63 pounds of apples.


That’s a lot of work for me!  Tomorrow I will start up a giant batch of applesauce.  Maybe some apple butter.  Apple pie.  Apple crisp?  Maybe dehydrate some?  All I know for certain is that it’s going to be all apple things, all week!