Friday, September 12, 2014

Pumpkiny goodness

Four of the pumpkins grown in my garden last year
I grew 17 pumpkins last year and one of them got nibbled on by a squirrel before I got a chance to get it inside. Rather than letting the furry rodent get more of it, and start to develop a taste for the things, I chopped it up and gave it to the chickens.

I have never heard them so quiet for so long. They LOVED it. While there are actually no controlled studies providing evidence for pumpkin being a natural dewormer in chickens, it certainly doesn't hurt!

In the spirit of pumpkin noms, and my enduring and illogical fantasy that the weather forecast for this weekend (over 100 degrees F.) is wrong, I give you my favorite recipe for pumpkin bread. This recipe is adapted slightly from the one over at Northwest Edible Life (who I just ADORE), but I like my version better - it's spicier.  Try hers though; you might like that one better and she uses chocolate chips!

Spiced Pumpkin Bread


Wet Stuff

  • 15 ounces (1 can) pumpkin puree or 15 ounces of home roasted and pureed pumpkin (home roasted, while more time consuming, is SO much better - you get that slightly caramelized taste of the pumpkin)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbsp. bourbon or whiskey. I use anything that's in the liquor cabinet  (Optional – substitute water or apple juice if you prefer not to use liquor)
  • 2-1/2 cups sugar

  • Dry Stuff

  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon allspice

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans and line them with parchment paper. If making muffins, grease and flour or use muffin liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the wet stuff and sugar. Mix pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, bourbon and sugar until well blended. Sift the dry stuff (minus the sugar which you've already added to the wet stuff) directly into the wet stuff : Mix the dry and wet stuff together until just blended.

    Pour batter evenly between the prepared pans or portion into muffin tins.

    Bake for about 60-70 minutes in the preheated oven for 9×5 loaf pans or about 25-35 minutes for muffins. Because baking time will vary based on your oven calibration, oven size, pan, etc., it’s really best to rely on the the toothpick test to determine when your pumpkin bread is done. Loaves or muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let your bread cool in pan until firmed up, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cake rack and let cool completely before slicing. This is harder than it should be, but the texture of the bread is better if allowed to fully cool before you cut it open.

    This bread freezes well if well wrapped. I wrap in tinfoil and then put in a gallon ziploc bag.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2014

    Hallowe'en is spendy.

    My home-made lighting box!
    So, while I'm not buying pre-made props this year, I am on a bit of a home-built kick.

    You can add $8.38 to my total for the lighting, since I had to go buy more speaker wire. All in all, still not bad at about $123.

    Now I've started swiping the card for our fencing.  In the past I've done various makeshift fencing to keep kids off the props. I've used teeny tiny garden fencing from the 99 cent store (pictured below - nope), I've used broomsticks pounded into the ground in a diagonal to 'suggest' keeping out of the yard (did NOT work at all) and I've used more expensive Home Depot wooden fencing painted black that worked moderately well for 2 years but was a huge pain in the ass and kept falling down/getting kicked/looked like shit/didn't actually keep anyone out. 
    This is the 99 cent store fencing with my home-made columns.

    This is going to be long term fencing and keep-people-out fencing, so I'm kind of making this on the more permanent side of things. I hope to keep these fences for the next 5 to 7 years with some occasional touch-ups, which I think is totally doable.

    The 4th dimension makes this car get 110 mpg!!!
    Since getting my new car (a beautiful and massively fuel efficient Ford C-Max Energi) I have lost a good bit of hauling capacity; therefore, this weekend I'll be renting a Home Depot pickup truck and hauling all of the supplies back to the homestead for work. There is just no way I'm getting 4 bags of sand, 55 furring strips and 120 pvc pipes in my car.

    All of my cars seem to have a 4th dimension, but I think this car's extra dimension is in the gas tank, which I have only filled twice since May, so I'm really OK with the trade-off.

    I'll bring home a total on the fencing and let you in on the costs. I know it's something I'm always curious about. 

    A lot of the little props ingredients are being sourced from recycled materials though. A lot of cardboard, soda bottles, crates/baskets, wire coat hangers, twigs, and some things found at yard sales in the "FREE" bins.

    One of the best things about being in a Haunter's group is how generous everyone is with their skills and knowledge. It's also the thing I've loved so much about Stitch n' Bitch all these years. There isn't a person I've come across that says, "I'm going to keep this knowledge or this skill a secret so no one else can learn." Everyone is willing to help everyone else out. It's pretty awesome. So, this year, I'm going to hopefully be able to post the step by step on my fence building to share with y'all.  Hopefully it won't be a total disaster.

    Friday, September 5, 2014

    Seriously? September?

    Happy September everyone!!!

    You know what that means, of course.  It means funkins and pumpkins in Michael's and Joann's. It means pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks and pumpkin pie Pop Tarts.

    It also means I'm way freaking behind on my Hallowe'en planning.

    This year, of course, I've kicked it up a notch. In the past year or so, I've become involved in a group called So.Cal. Valley Haunters. While I thought I had some skillz, they have taught me about 100% more. I have learned new tombstone carving skills, lighting and all kinds of prop building.

    So, for the last month or so, I have spent nearly all of my free time building my lighting from scratch. In previous years, I have used just about anything I could get my hands on, from flashlights propped up against props to solar lighting, which lasts about an hour. This year I'm doing all LEDs. There are definitely companies that will sell you the set ups, but for what I'm building, I would probably have spent over $1,500. I checked out the set-ups at Scare L.A. this year, just in case I needed to buy something or I just couldn't figure out the workings. I have currently spent about $115 and honestly, I think I overbought a bit, also, I've had a few donations of speaker wire and 12 volt adapters (thanks Derek!) so it probably evens out:

    new soldering unit:  $24 (display model at Fry's - score!)
    project box: $8
    AV connectors: $20
    LEDs: $24
    Jack boards: $25
    Splitters: $14

    I should be nearly finished with the lighting by the end of the week and then I get started on my new fencing. Which, again, could likely be purchased, but for a buttload more money.  So, off I go to the local hardware store. I'll take more photos of the fencing as it's a lot more photogenic than soldering wires, and post them as I go.

    Happy almost we'en, y'all!!!

    Wednesday, May 7, 2014

    Oh, it's May? Already?

    The last 7 months have been a bit of a whirlwind, but things seem to be calming down a bit and once I'm past June 8th, I'm free and clear for the rest of the year.

    Meanwhile, what's been up?

    • Well, I attended Craftcation in April and loved it.
    • I'm getting bees.
    • I'm almost through with loquat season, which, unfortunately this year has not been nearly as productive (entirely my fault)
    • I've planted, but not nearly the spring garden I was hoping for by this point
    Over the next couple of weeks I'm planning on replanting my cucumbers as SOMETHING (I suspect squirrels) ate the plants right out of the ground, roots and all. When I told the owner at the garden shop, he barked; 


    "All of them?" I asked. 


    OK then.  Apparently, I am to encircle the cucumber plants in these spices, which I have now purchased in bulk to sprinkle throughout my garden. I have to replant 2 artichokes as one just died a miserable quick death and another one stuck around looking runty until one of the chickens scratched it right out of the earth. Damn chickens.

    All the chickens are doing well. Gave their coop a nice, thorough scrubbing this weekend after attending the UC Pathology lecture on backyard chicken diseases. Frankly, I'm used to medical slides but the necropsy slides from the pathologist...well, I needed to clean the coop. Thankfully, I'm not going to post any pictures.

    As for the bees, I'm going to be hosting two hives of my very own at a sanctuary up north a bit near Westlake Village. I'll post photos as I put the boxes and frames together and get them painted up all pretty.

    Tuesday, October 8, 2013

    Countdown to Hallowe'en - 23 days

    This year I barely held on until October 1st to start decorating and I had a ton of fun. Here's some proof.

    I had pumpkin oatmeal and pumpkin coffee for breakfast.  Yum.

    I've so far taken down the first two of the bins from the garage and started emptying them out onto the craft room floor to see what surprises are inside.

    This year, especially as I'm completely reworking my theme, I'm getting rid of a lot of props from years past. There are so many props that, maybe I put out, but I don't give much thought to. Also, I have some that are wearing a little thin.  This is also the last year I will use my cemetery columns.  I had a ton of fun building them, but they take up SO much room in my garage and I am on the verge of inheriting a very fun tool called a ShopSmith.

    Those of you who are haunters and know about the Shopsmith are probably insanely jealous. I would be if I wasn't the one inheriting it!!! My in-laws are moving out of their home and my father-in-law has used his for more than 50 years and it is in excellent condition. The Mr. is certain I'm going to take off a finger, but as my father-in-law and my grandfather both lost fingers, I am determined to be the first in the line to die with all fingers firmly attached.

    Anyway, the Shopsmith is coming and props will be built for 2014. I am especially eager for a new fence next year that can be stored against the wall of the garage and will surround the whole yard to keep out eager little hooligans.  I've only had one item broken in the past, but I've also gotten some more expensive props in the last couple of years and am a little more worried.

    Back to Hallowe'en 2013 though, I'm going to work up a quick chain across the columns for this year to keep out the wandering hoardes.

    More to come tomorrow.

    I love Hallowe'en!!!! 

    Friday, October 4, 2013

    Hallowe'en spell check

    Oh Target. Why?  Do you not have spell check?

    Did you not have a dictionary that was from this (or last) century? I mean, if you were going for archaic, then fine, but I don't think you were.

    In this particular century, it's spelled venomous.  With an "O". Just saying.

    Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    The page has turned

    It's officially October and time for the Countdown to Hallowe'en to begin!

    Being born and raised in Los Angeles, I've never been anywhere else for Autumn, but I hear all about bright orange and red leaves and apple cider smell and crisp cool mornings.

    Here's my ode to Autumn in Los Angeles.

    There's nothing like the smell the Santa Ana winds coming in and setting all of the foothills ablaze so that the sky is pumpkin orange and cobweb gray and store-bought tombstones floating down the street with each gust of wind.

    The sight of teenagers wearing their Ugg boots and shorts and a plaid scarf, pretending that the mornings are crisp and cool, but it's actually 88 degrees and they're just desperate.

    Pumpkin "patches" popping up on deserted corner lots with petting zoos and $30 pumpkins because they had to be trucked in from Central California. The lots will shortly turn into Christmas tree fields filled with flocked and bedazzled trees of every sort and then back to dumping spots for torn couches and stained mattresses.

    Trader Joe's shelves emptied of their "This pumpkin walks into a bar" and pumpkin cake mixes. Every denizen ready for the onslaught of pumpkin spice lattes on another warm Hallowe'en night.

    I personally love all of this. It is my favorite, my sacred time of the year.
    I wish you all a very Happy October all!!!