A Bewitching Window!

Other than decorating our mantel, my Halloween preparations have been totally stalled, but with Halloween so close I really wanted to do something at the front of our house. We have a small porch area and a single window that faces the sidewalk. I was extra motivated to make this happen because we’re also close to the mailbox cluster, so a lot of neighbors pass by, and I wanted them to see something fun. I haven’t made any progress on the ghosts I mentioned, but while walking the Halloween isles I came up with an idea for the window : create a fabric panel with a witch silhouette! 

 

I know that they sell window silhouettes, and some look like they’re great (a full-window design with a translucent background), but others are just the silhouette, so if you don’t have translucent shades or a curtain, the silhouette won’t have as much of an impact because peepers will be distracted by everything else in your window (know what I mean?). Plus, I thought it would be a creative challenge, and if it worked I would be able to re-use it for years!

I’m going to share my general how-to and materials, but not a specific pattern. This is such a simple project that you should be able to easily tailor it to your window and decoration theme (bats! ghosts! ghouls!).

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Materials & Tools

  • thin white or creme colored fabric measured an inch wider and at least two to three inches longer than your window. It will be enough to cover your window with a half inch seam along the two sides and bottom and a to sew a wider “hem” in the top for a tension rod.
  • black fabric large enough for your design
  • Heat’n'Bond large enough for your design. I accidentally bought the thin version that you can sew through, but you should buy the thicker stuff that doesn’t require sewing (note, I still didn’t sew mine, but I’m worried that it might not bond as well over the long run).
  • pencil
  • ruler (optional)
  • scissors
  • sewing machine and thread

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How-to

  • pre-wash and iron all fabrics
  • Sew the seams around your white panel.
  • Iron the Heat’n'Bond to one side of your black fabric (it comes with instructions for iron temp and timing).
  • Draw your design on the paper of the Heat’n'Bond (This panel works when turned either way, so you don’t have to worry about your design coming out backwards – you just flip the curtain, but if you include words, then one side of your window will always read them backwards).
  • Cut out your design – cutting through the Heat’n'Bond paper and your black fabric.
  • Remove the paper backing from the Heat’n'Bond, place your silhouettes on your white panel. Iron the silhouettes following the Heat’n'Bond instructions.
  • Hang your curtain and settle in for a spooky night!

Tips & Tricks

  • I Googled “witch silhouette” and found the image that I very closely followed for this project. If you’re looking for ideas just search for “halloween silhouette” and you’re sure to find something perfect.
  • Once I had my image, I free-handed the drawing. To help with this process, I began by putting references points on the paper (for example, points where I wanted the top and brim of the hat to be, others for the hands and face, etc.). You can see them in the image above to the left. I then stood back and looked at those points to make sure that I liked the proportion and placement of my witch.
  • With those points in place I sketched a witch. I did this relatively quickly (5-10 minutes max), I didn’t go back and erase lines, and I didn’t aim for perfection. I always believe that if you give people the impression of an image they can fill in the details and overlook slight imperfections (our brother will whole-heartedly disagree with me). For example, is the bump at the back of her head a bun (my intention) or a wonky ear? You decide, but either way, you may not have focused on it until I brought it to your attention.
  • Finally, as well as giving you a paper to draw on, having the Heat’n'Bond stiffens your fabric so it also makes cutting and placing your silhouette so easy!

For being a random idea, I really love how this project turned out! It looks great in our window during both day and night. We hung the side with the silhouette facing out. So during the day, we get to see a shadowy silhouette image inside the house as the sunlight shines through, while everyone outside still sees the witch (I don’t think their view would be as good during the day if we hung it the other way around). You’ll get the same shadowy effect at night if there’s a street or porch light outside of your window. And one last hanging tip – Alex loves looking out of this window during the day, so I just use a couple of binder clips to secure the bottom of the panel to the top; it’s folded in half and we can see out of the bottom half of the window.

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**Costume update: C and I felt the costume pressure when we realized that the little guy has no less than 3 costume parties to attend! So we had a brainstorming session tonight and came up with some fun ideas!

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Easiest Caramel Dip

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As you know, apples are our ingredient of the season and with that in mind, I decided to make a childhood favorite of mine, caramel dip.  Over the years, my tastes for sweets has drastically decreased.  I’m now a dark chocolate lover and I tend to gravitate towards salty snacks, but when October rolls around I always think of my mom’s caramel dip.  She used to whip up a batch for friendly gatherings, holiday dessert tables and if my memory serves me correctly, the soccer concession stand.

This recipe is dubbed ‘the easiest caramel dip’ because you’re not actually making the caramels, you’re simply melting them and adding a couple other ingredients to achieve the right taste and consistency.  Its simple preparation (no knives involved!) makes it a great recipe for the kiddos to help with.  It can also be made a day or two ahead if you have a big party approaching and in my opinion, those are the best types of party foods.

The original recipe, which was dictated to me by my mom earlier this afternoon calls for Cool Whip.  My mom mentioned that she didn’t really know why the Cool Whip was added (since it’s mainly just oil) and that I could probably find a substitution for it, but that she never bothered.  Raising four kids, working full time, and constantly cooking for us, I can understand why she didn’t want to mess with a hit like her simple caramel dip.  Can you imagine the moans and groans we would have attacked her with if the dip didn’t taste right?  Anyway, after I went grocery shopping and snapped the first shot of the ingredients I realized I don’t have four kids and thus I could manage to experiment without any repercussions and such, this recipe contains Cool Whip no more! I opted to use a couple spoonfuls of coconut oil instead and to my delight, it turned out perfectly and you can’t taste the coconut one single bit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of Kraft caramel
  • 1 package of cream cheese
  • 2 TBSP coconut oil (or more to achieve desired consistency)

Easiest Instructions:

  • Unwrap all the caramels and put them in a small sauce pot along with the cream cheese.
  • Stir continuously on medium low heat until the caramels and cream cheese are completely melted and combined.
  • Stir in two tablespoons of coconut oil.  If you like a thinner dip, add a bit more coconut oil until the desired consistency is reached.
  • Remove from heat. Transfer to a small bowl and serve with sliced apples.

Along with sliced apples, I also dripped some of the caramel dip onto plain, unsalted popcorn and roasted, unsalted peanuts. It made for a sweet and crunchy treat.

Just so you know…

  • I’m moving in a few days and I had already packed up my kitchen so finding utensils, bowls and serving pieces for this post was the most challenging part!
  • The handle of my pot broke off (the screw came loose and slipped out) when I picked up the pot to transfer the caramel to a bowl. It slammed down on the stove and hot caramel splattered everywhere..
  • I almost spelled caramel, carmel for the entire post because I grew up next to Mount Carmel so naturally that’s how I’ve been spelling the sweet treat my entire life.  I never understood why some people pronounced caramel with three syllables, but now I get it.
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Colorado Hike: Flatirons 1 & 2

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About a month ago, Katie, Jeff (our brother) and I hiked the Flatirons 1 & 2 trail.  I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time since it was one of the most scenic hikes in Boulder, Co, so here goes!

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The hike starts at the Chautauqua Park trailhead.  Parking in the lot can be pretty tricky, especially on the weekends, but you can find additional parking on Baseline Road.  That being said, the trail is extremely crowded.  You won’t have the views to yourself, but hey, at least there is no chance of getting lost! After you find a parking spot, continue to the Chautauqua Park trailhead where the trail takes you through a lovely green meadow.  (Note that if you’re hiking right after a rainstorm, it will be pretty muddy since the trail is basically a path for runoff water. ) The Chautauqua trail connects with the Flatirons 1&2 trail and the signage is very clear as is the flow of people flocking to the Flatirons ;)

Over the course of this relatively short hike (about 2.5 miles) you will climb 1,400 feet in elevation.  Flatiron 1 is approximately 7,100 ft high, which makes for stunning views.  As you hike up the trail, there are plenty of outcroppings that are perfect for taking a break and enjoying the vistas.  The Flatiron trail is mainly switchbacks through thick forests of ponderosa pine that cut around enormous boulders.  Along the way, there are also several rock climbing access points.  Speaking of climbing, there is a very short section of the trail (about 15 feet) where you have to climb up a boulder.  There are footholds and handholds worn into the rock making it easy for adults, but I wouldn’t recommend taking children on this hike.  I would also turn back immediately if it starts to rain because the rocks will become slippery making a large portion of this trail fairly dangerous.

Once you finally wind up, up and up, the views are spectacular.  There are clear views of Boulder as well as amazing views of Flatiron 3, which is sure to have rock climbers scrambling up it.  The top of the trail is a perfect spot to stop and have a snack or a picnic, but remember to hike all your waste out with you, even banana peels!  The top if the trail is like an adult jungle gym.  You’ll see folks in all different nooks and crannies.  It goes without saying that you should be careful when you’re climbing from boulder to boulder, don’t knock into any rocks that may fall and injure someone at a lower elevation.  After you’ve climbed your heart out and took a bajillion pictures, it’s time to make your way down the ridge.  Be mindful of other hikers who are still making their way up and if they look like they need encouraging remind them that they’re almost there!

Geology Rocks! I say that far too often, but I just can’t resist.  Here’s a quick rundown of some geological properties of the flatirons.  I’m going to give some definitions in case you slept through your geology lab class.

  • A flatiron is a steeply sloping triangular landform created by the differential erosion of a steeply dipping, erosion resistant layer of rock overlying softer strata. Differential erosion is erosion that occurs at varying rates, caused by the differences in the hardness and resistance of surface materials so softer and weaker rocks erode rapidly, while harder rocks remain to form ridges, mountains, or ding, ding, ding, flatirons!  Strata is simply sedimentary rock. Sedimentary rocks are those formed by the deposition of material either on the earth’s surface or in water.   And wouldn’t you know it, the flatirons of Boulder coined this term, flatiron, in general geology.
  • Now you may be wondering how the flatirons first got their name, which then coined the geography term. Well, there are two theories: the rock faces close resemblance to old fashioned clothing irons or their resemblance to the Flatiron building in NYC, which was completed in 1902. (It’s a pretty sweet building, but personally I think it’s more likely they were named after the clothes iron, an object which many more folks were familiar with during the early 1900s)
  • The flatirons are made up of conglomerate sandstone of the Fountain Formation. Conglomerate sandstone basically means there are little clasts (bits of rock particles) mixed into the sandstone (rock comprised mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains). I don’t want to wind way down into a geological rabbit hole (for your benefit), but the Fountain Formation is a Pennsylvanian (the subsystem, not the state) bedrock unit found in Colorado and Utah that consists mostly of conglomerate sandstone or arkose.
  • The flatirons are estimated to be 290-296 million years old and they were tilted to their current orientation (the steep dip I referenced earlier) about 35-80 million years ago during the Laramide orogeny. The Laramide orogeny was a period of mountain building in western North America, which created the Rocky Mountains along with many other formations. I won’t go into right now, but it’s definitely interesting; if you like geology and want to learn more, read this.

What to expect:

  • Lots of hikers on the weekend.
  • Dogs both on and off leash.
  • Plenty of wildflowers, various vegetation and trees and beautiful views.
  • Two hours (or more) of hiking.
  • A couple tough climbs over boulders, but mainly a moderately steep and well maintained trail.

 

Before of after your hike, be sure to stop by the historic ranger cottage near the parking lot – you can’t miss it.  It has a wealth of information, free maps and dozens of stuffed birds and mammals.  I really enjoyed the station because I gained a better sense of what animals were sharing the forest with me.  It’s especially cool to see the animals you have very little chance of seeing in the wild like mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats.  If you want a little snack, continue past the ranger station for about a block and you’ll see a little refreshment cottage with homemade hard ice cream and just about everything else.

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After the hike and the ice cream you should probably treat yourself to an afternoon snooze! Happy hiking!

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Two Bits

Instead of the usual links posts, each Friday we’re going to start sharing some tidbits from our week.  We want to break down these internet barriers and invite you into our lives and we’re hoping you’ll do the same.  You are welcome to share your a bit of your week or day in the comments, or if they’re better represented by a photo, tag us on instagram @liveseasoned

Sarah here:

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This week I had two firsts!  Last night I went to the North Carolina State Fair and the night before I successfully canned a batch of caramelized onions. Simple pleasures, right?  The canning was actually easier than I expected.  I helped with a few canning projects in the past, but this was the first time doing it all by myself, with no instruction and in my own ill-prepared kitchen.  Cutting nine pounds of yellow onions by hand was a bit of a challenge tear fest.  Besides a food processor, my kitchen is also lacking large pots.  This made the whole process a little more time consuming, but nonetheless I ended up with ten half pints of delicious caramelized onions!  If you have a seasonal recipe I should try, please let me know :)

The NC State Fair was an equally awesome first.  I’m a big fan of fairs and festivals and this one didn’t disappoint.  It was much bigger than past fairs I’ve frequented, which meant more livestock, crafts, food and games.  I love winding my way through the exhibit halls and seeing the largest pumpkin or most prettiest cross-stitch.  I was a little disappointed in my appetite though.  I only had room for one order of mozzarella sticks! I replaced my time allotted for eating towards playing games.  I couldn’t find the bingo tent (it wasn’t listed on the map-can you believe that?!), but I did throw a few darts and toss a couple ping pong balls.  K even won three gold fish!  We named them Peppy, Grumpy & Stooge.

Katie here:

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Late for the second week in a row, I know! For me this week seems to have been all about food and moments of startitis.

On the food front, I can’t help but talk about our CSA yet again, because it’s so amazing how getting a box of vegetables delivered to you each week influences your eating, cooking, and recipe searches (and I know we’ve had a CSA before, but when you take a break and then start again, it’s BAM! vegetables in your face, fridge, and dreams). I could spend my whole day looking up new recipes and experimenting, but I don’t have that time at the moment, so I squeeze it in between moments of work and trips to the playground. This weekend I have plans to make a salsa verde with tomatillos that arrived last night and a cabbage-filled savory hand pie with a recipe from the original Moosewood Cookbook. The photo above is from my night of experimenting with new toppings for my favorite roasted veggie soup – more on that soon!

On my terrible case of startitis, this week has been a particularly slow work week, which is fantastic, but I realized that I should be taking advantage of the lull and working on every idea I’ve ever had. Which leads to finishing almost nothing! I started a new sweater for Alex, picked out a pattern for a sweater for me, dug into my fabric stash for a new halloween decoration idea (will share the details next week if it works), cheesecloth is sitting in the middle of the floor because I wanted to make ghosts for the front porch, and that’s next to a pile of yarn tagged for new winter hats for Calder and me. Let’s hope I accomplish one or two of those projects before my motivation wanes!

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Pumpkin Brew Roundup

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I’m not sure any other flavor has captured everyone’s hearts like pumpkin has.  As each autumn rolls around I see more and more pumpkin products popping up on shelves and appearing on menus.  We wanted to do some type of pumpkin taste test, but since running around to six different restaurants seemed time-consuming and a little bit expensive, we settled on a mixed six pack of pumpkin brews.  I love trying seasonal beers, especially Oktoberfest, so I figured a roundup of pumpkin beers and ciders would be just as enjoyable.  There are also a ton of pumpkin beers out there so finding six was easy peezy. I actually ended up picking four pumpkin beers and two pumpkin ciders, because come on, apples are our ingredient of the season and I just couldn’t resist. Spoiler alert: I actually enjoyed the ciders more than the beers!

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While I would like to pretend that I know a ton about beer, the truth is, I drink a lot and I know a little.  I’m pretty adventurous in that I will almost always try a ‘new to me’ beer when I’m at a restaurant or brewery.  If the brewery has a tasting flight, you can bet I’ll order one as long as I’m not driving.  That being said, I would love to give you apt descriptions of each of the beers I tried, but I can only give you my opinions (S for Sarah) and those of my tasting partner (K for Kevin). The descriptions of each brew are taken from the respective brewer’s websites (B for brewer) so that you have a bit more information.

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Harpoon Pumpkin Cider 4.8%*

  • S: Smooth, crisp and drinkable with no carbonation.  Strong apple flavor and a hint of clove. Reminds me of kombucha.
  • K: Light and watery with a sweet finish.
  • B: ”Real pumpkin and freshly pressed apples are combined with seasonal spices to craft this pure and natural craft cider. Apple forward taste with all the traditional Autumn flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, clove and nutmeg, and a touch of sweetness for balance.”

Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider 5 %

  • S: Sweet with a bit of fizz, but not much.  Almost tastes like sparkling apple cider, without the sparkle.
  • K: Apple taste, thick, fizzy and sweet.
  • B: “We add cinnamon, cloves, and allspice to fermented apple juice to produce a 5% ABV cider which tastes just like pumpkin pie!  It is light orange in color with a full, rich taste. We carbonate the cider and cold- filter it 4 times before we bottle and keg it.”

Harpoon UFO Pumpkin Ale 5.9%

  • S: Full bodied and smooth.  Overwhelming malt and spice flavor. A little too heavy for my taste.
  • K: Dry and bland, but crisp feeling.
  • B: “Imagine a pumpkin vine wound its way in a field of barley, and a brewer harvested it all to make a beer.  The malt combination provides a smooth body and slightly sweet flavor, which balances perfectly with the earthy notes derived from the pure pumpkin. The taste is a solid malt backbone highlighting German Vienna and Munich malts with a nice dose of pumpkin and spice, reminiscent of pumpkin pie.”

 

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Shipyard Pumpkinhead 4.5%

  • S: Old apple pie, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • K: Garbage, sweet beer (?), yuck, lingering bad aftertaste. (Can you tell this was K’s least favorite?)
  • B: “Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale is a crisp and refreshing wheat ale with delightful aromatics and subtle spiced flavor.”

Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale 5%

  • S: Heavy, full, rich and aromatic.
  • K: Dark, rich, phosphorescent and pumpkin flavored.
  • B: “Hundreds of pounds of pumpkins are blended into the mash of each batch, creating a beer with an orange amber color, warm pumpkin aroma, biscuity malt center, and crisp finish.”

Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale 6.35%

  • S: Full, heavy and bitter.
  • K: Bitter, fizzy, IPA like.
  • B: “We brew our ale with the addition of pumpkin to the mash, along with traditional spices to create a delicious American original.”

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Tasting six pumpkin beers and ciders at once was enlightening.  I realized that most of them actually don’t taste like pumpkin.  To their credit, they taste more like pumpkin pie or apple pie.  The spice combination and aroma is there, but an overwhelmingly pumpkin taste is not.  K and I thought that the Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale had the most pumpkin flavor and after reading all the brewers’ descriptions, it sounds like Brooklyn adds the most pumpkin mash to the mix.  I didn’t expect the beers to taste exactly like pumpkin, but sometimes I order a blueberry beer and I’m like, ‘holy sh!t, that tastes like blueberry!’ Know what I mean?  I definitely didn’t have any of those moments, but I did realize a few things about my tastes during the pumpkin brew tasting session. Pumpkin beers are consistent in that they’re full-bodied and spicy, making them a heavier beer to drink.  I probably wouldn’t order more than one or two.  Pumpkin ciders are much easier to drink because they have the flavor without the carbonation.  They’re a bit sweet and only slightly fizzy, which actually reminds me of kombucha.  I was never a fan of hard apple cider because I thought it was too sweet, but with the added nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and ginger spices, pumpkin ciders are less sweet, which I love.

Taste testing aside, sitting around a table full of pumpkin beer and cider was a great way to kick off the fall feeling in my neck of the woods.  It’s still pretty warm in North Carolina, but the leaves are starting to change and fall.  Sometimes I need an excuse to sit outside and simply enjoy the weather and that’s what this taste testing provided me with.  If you’re like me and need an excuse, invite your friends over and have them all bring a pumpkin beer or a seasonal ale.  If they’re lucky like me, they might see a rafter of turkeys crossing the road on the way home from the bottle shop.

*The absolute winner! K and I both loved, loved, loved the Harpoon Pumpkin Cider.
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Little A’s New Winter Hat

Two months ago I shared some of the projects sitting in my knitting basket. Since then there’s been a bit of progress made on almost everything in that post. The socks have doubled in length. I’ve repaired a few of the moth-eaten hats (going to share some of that soon!). I gave you a detailed update about the sweater and am working on a second post in that series. Today, I’m sharing the pattern for Alex’s little hat, which doesn’t look anything like it did in the previous post. All in all not bad work considering those long winter knitting and TV evenings are just getting started!

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I tried Alex’s hat on his big head before the last post, and thought it was a bit snug, but didn’t want to admit it to myself. Trying it on him again last week, which involved wrestling that little 18 month old to the ground for a tickle-fest, confirmed my worries that he would quickly outgrow it. Over the weekend I finally ripped out the original hat and started again. A small sacrifice for that little cutie.

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In the process I scrapped the tire track pattern for something that was more detailed, would cover the whole hat, and that included at least one traditional motif.  This hat is knit from the bottom up, and I developed the patterns as I went, completing one row of color before thinking about what to do next. A quick Google image search for “fair isle knitting” turned up this sample (shown below) and I decided to use the bottom snowflake for the lowest band on Alex’s hat. I knew I wanted to incorporate a heart somewhere (because how many more years do I have to knit hearts into his clothes), so why not a whole band of hearts? Then I finished the top with a red circle to keep the color repeats going.

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I’m sharing the pattern here for the exact hat that I knit. I haven’t put any work into up- or downsizing this pattern, but I do think that it would be a fun experiment to knit it with bright chunky yarn and big needles to create an adult-sized hat (just a different version of the simple fair isle hat I knit for our sister Kristin a few Christmases ago).

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Pattern

Yarn : Malabrigo worsted in two colors, I will refer to the color that you use for the patterns as the contrast color

Needles : US 7, 4.5 mm

Pattern Chart : Charts are  below, but you can also download a PDF of the charts by clicking here.

  • Using your contrast color cast on 96 stitches. Use your preferred stretchy cast-on method (I like the long-tail method).
  • Row 1: Begin a K2 P2 rib using the contrast color.
  • Rows 2-9: Switch to your primary color and continue the K2 P2 ribbing for 8 more rounds.
  • Rows 10-15 : Using the primary color, knit in stockinette for 5 rounds (knit all stitches).
  • Rows 16-29 : Snowflake pattern. Repeat Chart 1 six times around each row (you should read the chart from right to left and bottom to top, with the dark squares representing stitches knit with the contrast yarn).
  • Rows 30-35 : Using the primary color, knit in stockinette for 5 rounds.
  • Rows  36-43 : Heart pattern. Repeat Chart 2 six times around each row.
  • Rows 44-51 : Using the primary color, knit in stockinette.
  • Row 52 : Decrease row. *K2 K2tog*, repeat ** for the entire row. 72 stitches remaining.
  • Row 53 : Knit all stitches.
  • Row 54 : Switch to the contrast color. Knit all stitches.
  • Row 55 : Decrease row. *K1 K2tog*, repeat ** for the entire row. 48 stitches remaining.
  • Row 56 : Knit all stitches.
  • Rows 57 & 58 : Decrease rows. *K2tog*, repeat ** for both rows. 12 stitches remain.
  • Finish off the hat by cutting your working yarn, weaving it through the active loops, tightening and weaving in all ends.

charts2
 All in all it’s a super simple hat that will keep any Colorado kid’s head warm with its double layering of yarn from the fair isle knitting. I love it, but I think if I were to knit another one, I might add more little color flourishes between the rows of pattern. Who knows. I do know that I still have yarn left on both of these balls – possibly enough to knit a baby hat for Little A’s little bro!

 

 

 

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Crockpot Apple Butter

Apples are our ingredient of the season, so far we’ve covered a variety of baking and drinking recipes. Today it’s all about the condiment!

Have you tried apple butter yet? Apple butter is a more concentrated form of apple sauce, taking all of fall’s best flavors and turning them into the perfect little condiment. It was originally developed as a form of preserved apples that would last longer than apple sauce because of its higher sugar content. If you’ve never had it, it may be because it’s more of a regional food. Apple butter was developed in Germany and the Netherlands, making it a more popular condiment in regions of the US that were settled by people from those countries, particularly the Amish. If you haven’t had it, I encourage you to seek out a jar (or jump in with both feet and make our version below) ~ it’s soooooo good! Stumped on how to eat it? The spread is often eaten with bread, but I’ll share a few more fun ideas below.

I have to admit, two weeks ago when I was making this batch of apple butter, I was exhausted and little A was squawking because he wanted to go outside, making me question why I wasn’t just running to the store to pick up a commercial jar. But I quickly had a change of heart. Other than the hour of peeling and chopping, this butter required so little work, that I’m solidly convinced it’s worth the effort, especially since I can tailor the recipe to my wants, being sure to buy organic apples, lowering the sugar, and upping the spices. Plus, the concentrated apple and spice flavor is such a perfect condiment for the season, and that’s what we’re all about!

I have made apple butter many times, and never the exact same way, but every time it turns out delicious. I’ve made batches that started with 40 lbs of apples all the way down to this measly batch that started with 4.5 lbs. I’ve also made it in an electric roaster, an electric frying pan, and a crockpot. I’ve found the crockpot to be the easiest, but use what you have! That’s all to say – this particular condiment is so forgiving. As long as you start with a big pile of apples and allow them to cook down slowly with a touch of spices, liquid, and sugar, you’ll end up with something delicious. I promise.

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 Ingredients

Recipe makes approximately 5 cups of apple butter.
  • 4.5 pounds of McIntosh Apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups water (or you could substitute apple cider for half or all of the water)
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How-to

  • Mix all ingredients together in your slow cooker and put the lid on, but leave it slightly ajar to allow steam to escape.
  • Turn it on high for 3 hours, at the end of three hours give it a good stir and assess the pot. If there’s a lot of liquid, you could keep it on high for another couple of hours before turning it to low. If the apple butter is more concentrated, you can turn it to low immediately and let it cook for an additional 4-5 hours (or longer) until you reach your desired apple butter consistency. You can even remove the lid in the last few hours of cooking if you want to let more steam out, but as your butter nears the end, be careful to stir it and watch for any signs of burning (this is less of an issue if the lid is partially on, slowing the evaporation).
  • When your butter is done cooking, let it cool. I do this with the lid off to allow for that final dose of evaporation and concentration. Transfer it to a container and refrigerate.

Tips and Tricks

  • Use a wire whisk for all of your stirring. It’s a great way to break up the apples and get a smoother consistency than if you use a spoon.
  • If you have to leave the pot for while at work, just start with the crockpot on low for that time. Similarly, some people will start their butter at night and let it cook on low while they sleep. After 8 or so hours, give it a good stir and then you can always turn it up to high for a few hours if there’s still a bit of liquid in the pot (I’ve made apple butter while at work and it’s always turned out fine).
  • If you’re unsure about when it’s finished, you can scoop out a bit on a spoon and pour it onto a plate – if it holds its shape and doesn’t become a pool of liquid, then it may be done.
  • If you feel like the liquid is evaporating too fast and your apples aren’t cooking down and creating that caramelized brown color, then you can always add more liquid! This was the case for me when I was making big batches in the electric roaster, with such a large opening, it would let out a lot of steam (unless I had the lid positioned just right). Just add a cup at a time, stir it in well, and let the mixture continue to cook.
  • As I said, I’m prone to using less sugar and more spices than other recipes may call for. Feel free to adjust those levels as you see fit. There really is so much wiggle room ~ I’ve really never had a bad batch!
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Serving Suggestions

This batch made 5 cups of apple butter. We’re currently down to about 2.5 cups, so yes, we have plenty of serving suggestions!

  • As I mentioned, it’s common to spread apple butter on bread. As with my jam, I like to spread on a layer of butter first and then the apple butter. It’s particularly good on bagels.
  • A very common way to serve apple butter in Amish communities is with cottage cheese. This is one of my favorite ways to eat it (and Alex’s too!). If you’ve ever eaten at a salad bar in the area around Lancaster, PA, it’s very common to see cottage cheese and apple butter next to each other in the salad bar (and now you know why!).
  • Similar to cottage cheese, I like to stir some into plain yogurt.
  • Last weekend we added a spread of apple butter to our Saturday morning crepes with ham and cheddar cheese (Calder’s figured out a super easy way to use Bisquick for crepe-making, we’ll have to share the recipe soon!).
  • When we had some dinner guests last week, I added a ramekin of apple butter to the cheese plate. It was delicious spread on baguette with either brie or cheddar!
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Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Discussion

Fair warning, this discussion (and probably many of the comments) will have *SPOILERS* so please don’t read this post if you haven’t finished the book yet.  After you’re done, feel free to revisit this post and share your thoughts with us.

Hey book worms! Have you finished reading Alexandra Fuller’s Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness? (Don’t feel too bad, Katie hasn’t finished it yet either.) Today we asked our mom to share her thoughts on the book.  We thought it would be fitting because she finished reading the book before both Katie and I and since this book is largely about Fuller’s mum, we thought it’d be interesting to hear our mom’s thoughts on it.  If you missed our discussion of Fuller’s first book, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, you can check it out and participate here.

Before we get to that, I also wanted to introduce our autumn book club pick!  Katie started reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and is absolutely loving it so we decided everyone else (including myself) should join in on the adventure.  I actually saw the movie in theaters last week.  I’m excited to compare notes with Kate and it will be interesting to dissect our thoughts and perceptions of both the book and movie since we’ll be consuming them in the opposite order. If you’d like to join our discussion, go grab a copy and start reading!

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Now onto our mom’s thoughts on Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

The Live Seasoned sisters have asked me to lend a hand on this book discussion, as I finished the read on our 23 hour trek from Raleigh-Durham to Boulder. Let me first give you my perspective on novel reading. We sit down and watch tv and everything is laid out for us, no deep thought involved, just entertainment or trying to solve the puzzle before the end of the show. When I read a novel, I am constantly in the moment thinking about the characters, their situation, and then I am usually carried off thinking about my reactions if I were the character in that their particular situation, or it makes me think of situations related to my own life’s journey.

When the Live Seasoned sisters respond to their book selections, they are looking through the eyes of the child and in the case of the books they have selected thus far, the novels are written from the point of view of the child. This will be a switch since I am viewing the book through the eyes of the mom…the crazy mom, of which I have some experience.

I can’t imagine being Nicola Fuller living with the threat of war around her, losing a child, no less more than one child…I think she has earned the right to be somewhat crazy. She relies on liquor to escape and to keep going…who does she have to turn to, to rely on?  I wonder if she keeps somewhat of a distance between herself and her girls to try to make their loss bearable, in case it would come to that? I wonder about what changed, what went wrong around the 40s and 50s, that women needed to find a coping mechanism…liquor, darvon, Valium, marijuana, heroine, oxycodone? The sweet and funny times in my life are in my memory, at times forgotten, but when we are together, those memories are pulled out like woolen sweaters from a cedar chest. But, the tragic sorrowful times have made scars that constantly pinch me. I think this is what brings about the craziness in me and in someone like Nicole.

While looking through the discussion questions for this book one that is interesting to discuss is the relationship between Nicola and Tim…two opposites that attracted. Isn’t it the opposite, the mysterious, that attracts us? What happens when the novelty wears off? Tim goes off and does his thing while Nicola carries on the best she can at home…no back-up…deal the best you can. It’s interesting how men can do their thing and be so oblivious and disconnected to the goings on and the needs of their families. Isn’t it funny that raising a family, something so important, is a total learn by doing, somehow we are expected to have those instincts.

I read these stories and wonder what goes on in the hearts and heads of the characters, but who really knows what experiences have piled up upon them to steer their thoughts and actions. I am unable to recall specific events in the novels I read! as I constantly relate the moment to my own experience, helping to explain or validate my feelings and reactions, and then I move on…just as Nicola does…you just keep moving on. I must say, though, one moment that really stood out to me, is when she dressed the girls for Halloween, I think it is kind of funny that the novels chosen by my daughters are about crazy mommas. Are they trying to figure out this crazy momma…I can’t even do that. We pick and choose the moments to remember, I have many sweet and tragic and funny that come together to steer me along the way, all the while trying to stay sane.

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Two Bits

Instead of the usual links posts, each Friday we’re going to start sharing some tidbits from our week.  We want to break down these internet barriers and invite you into our lives and we’re hoping you’ll do the same.  You are welcome to share your a bit of your week or day in the comments, or if they’re better represented by a photo, tag us on instagram @liveseasoned

Katie here:

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A bit late, I know!

It’s been one of those nice and mellow weeks around here. A bit of work, a bit of fun, and nothing too hectic on the schedule. Little A and I had to run to Denver for a few errands, so we stopped at the zoo to give him a little bit of time outside the car. Of course he loved it, especially being able to run free on those wide open walkways. He’s also a fan of the giraffes, elephants, and big cats (when they’re awake and walking around, when they’re sleeping he’s not interested). Like many people, I have mixed feelings about zoos, but while there I try to focus on the work they do to bring people close to these wild animals, hopefully forming some bonds that will make little kids grow up to be people who care about conservation.

I picked up downloaded to my phone Gone Girl when we went camping a few weeks ago, not realizing that it was about to come out as a blockbuster movie (we don’t have TV, so we miss many of those movie previews that would have clued me in).  What a great book! I was reading it slowly for the first half, but as things have gotten crazy, I haven’t been able to put it down – staying up extra late to read it and squeezing in a page here and there when I have a free moment. I’ve avoided everything related to the movie so that doesn’t impact the story in my head, but I’ll be excited to see the movie when I’m done.

Sarah here:

I woke up around 5 a.m. every single day this past week! (Katie is probably rolling her eyes since her little one has her up at that time every morning) Waking up early goes against every grain in my body, but I happened to have five days of sunrise shoots all in a row.    Here’s the kicker though, after waking up so early five days in a row, I was so tired come the sixth day that I slept in and missed the lunar eclipse on Wednesday morning! So bummed about that.  Did any of you guys catch it?

Yesterday was another early morning as well. I flew into hot and humid Houston!  It was my first time flying Southwest in a few years.  Did you know that you pick your own seat?! It’s crazy. I checked in way early so I basically had first dibs, but I was feeling bad for couples at the end of the line. Middle seats allllll around.  I didn’t get to see much of Houston today because of work, but I should get a chance to walk around tomorrow. If so, I’ll get on the ball with IG, something I’ve been slacking on.  I did take one photo today, meet my new buddy Fajita!

Photo on 2014-10-09 at 17.20

 

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Brie with Truffle Honey

We plan on eating a whole lot of cheese this fall, and then we’ll talk abut it here. Sarah kicked off the cheese-fest with a nut crusted brie, and while there are many different cheeses in the world, I couldn’t help but share another delicious brie idea. Next time a hard cheese, we promise.

I love the flavor of truffles, and whenever there is a truffled this or that on a menu, I’m going to order it. My last truffle indulgence was the delicious Lamb Bolognese with Truffled Ricotta Gnucchi at The Pullman in Glenwood Springs, CO. So good! And what a great guy Calder is by indulging my truffle love – he hates the flavor (thinks it tastes like gasoline!), but he knew that a jar of truffle honey would be the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.

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The Honey

Truffle honey is made by adding shaved truffles to honey and then heating it to speed up the extraction of the truffle flavor. You should be able to find some at gourmet cheese shops, but it’s also easy to buy online. It’s not cheap, but a single jar goes a long way. The jar I have has an intense flavor, so just like dishes that use truffle oil or real truffles, this may not be for everyone. Of course, if you know a truffle lover, I guarantee you that they will love this!

Until receiving this gift, I never had or heard of truffle honey and wasn’t sure what to do with it, but quickly discovered that it’s commonly paired with cheese and bread. But what cheese? It seems that everyone has their favorite pairing, some swear by a hard and strong cheeses like parmesan or cheddar while others gush over a soft and mild brie. I decided that I didn’t want to pair the honey with a strong flavored cheese, so I went with a relatively mild and rich brie. Once I had my cheese, I knew that the soft cheese/honey combination was calling out for a chewy bread that wouldn’t crumble with each bite. So I threw a baguette into my cart and we had the makings for a perfect appetizer.

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The Cheese

Bries are soft cheeses from France. They’re made from cow’s milk and surrounded by a hard, moldy or “bloomy“, edible rind. The mold will have a white to light yellow color (not the blues of the molds that come to mind when talking about blue cheese). The mold is essential to creating the cheese as it works to break down the fat and proteins of the milk and cream. Bries vary by the amount of cream used to make them, you may see “double” or “triple” on the label signifying increasing amounts of cream. Increasing the cream level increases the richness and buttery-smooth texture of the final cheese.

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When picking a brie you want to look for a “ripe” cut. When brie is perfectly ripe, it won’t be runny or pungent (there are other soft cheeses that are made to be purposefully pungent, brie isn’t one of them). As a brie ripens, you may notice that the wheel of cheese will bulge slightly, especially when cut. You’ll likely buy a wedge from a larger wheel, which makes picking easier. Look for a wedge with a uniform interior consistency that is slowly falling out of the rind. For comparison, an unripe wedge will have a firm interior (or combination firm and soft) that is the same shape as the wedge, i.e. not expanding beyond the original cut.

There are a variety of bries on the market, and I think Supreme is a great, basic example that’s affordable and readily available at many grocers (including Trader Joes if you’re looking for a source).

Serving Suggestion

Once you have your cheese, honey, and bread, serving is easy. We placed everything on a marble board with utensils for self-service. A bread knife for the baguette, a spreader for the cheese, and a small spoon for the honey. That way everyone could personalize their serving. Calder could skip the honey, I could pile it on (and then eat it straight from the spoon), and our civilized guests could take as much or little as they wanted with each slice.

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If you have the opportunity, I hope you’ll give truffle honey a try. And with the upcoming holiday/entertaining season, this makes a fantastic surprise to any cheese plate or gift for your truffle-loving friends!

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