Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spooky Door Decor

I finally took my patriotic wreath off my front door a few weeks ago, and it has been bare (gasp!) until now.  I had big plans for a Fall wreath idea that haven't quite materialized yet.  Since there are just a few days left in September, I figured that I could get away with putting up a Halloween wreath now, and buy myself another month to work on my other idea!  

This wreath was so easy to put together, although it was a bit time-consuming.  The materials I used were a straw wreath form (left in the plastic), some Lion Brand Fun Fur in black, a thick, black satin ribbon, and these cute little spiders and bats that I found at Hobby Lobby.

I started off with a coat of black spray paint on the wreath form.  This helped to conceal any missed spots with the Fun Fur.  It actually looked like it was wrapped in a black garbage bag!  To affix the Fun Fur, I wrapped and wrapped and wrapped and wrapped and wrapped...

You get the picture.  I'm not going to lie; using the Fun Fur turned out to be a bit hairy (pun intended).  It tangles very easily.  If you are planning to do a project with Fun Fur or a similar type of yarn, I highly recommend wrapping it around something to keep it from tangling.  I used a small piece of cardboard, about 1 1/2 x 6 inches, using it as a paddle.  This really made the tedious chore of wrapping the yarn around the wreath form go much more smoothly.

I ended up using a little over 2 skeins of the Fun Fur to completely cover the wreath.  If I were to do this again, I would probably wrap the yarn a little tighter, as I had plenty of yarn left over.

Once the wreath was completely covered, I was so pleased with how it turned out.  In fact, I considered hanging it on my door right then.  But my little Halloween creatures were too cute to leave behind.  I wrapped the satin ribbon around the top and tied the bow when I attached it to my door.  For the creatures, I trimmed the wires they were attached to, bent them and stuck them into the wreath at various places.  Easy peasy.

I just love the finished product.

The little creatures are so whimsical and cute.

I think that my new Halloween wreath will be very welcoming to all of the cute little ghouls and goblins who come around on October 31st.  


Monday, September 26, 2011

Fall Mantel

I decided to participate in the Fall Mantel party over at The Lettered Cottage.  I have a really pretty mantel and would love to put up some fantastic decorative items, but because my television niche is above it, I have to keep my decor low profile.

So I decided to go with pumpkins.

Many pumpkins.

Pumpkins of different shapes, sizes and colors.

Fabric pumpkins, to be more specific.  I had the felt off-white pumpkins already.  I bought them years ago at a fun little store called the Old House in Hog Hollow in Chesterfield, Missouri.  But I knew that three pumpkins were simply not enough, and I wanted to add in some nice Fall colors.

A trip to Joann's was in order.  It was a lot of fun picking out fabrics.  I found some crushed velour-ish fabric in a gold, olive green and crimson first.

Then I added in some suiting plaids.

The plaids remind me of the sport coats with leather patches on the elbows, popular professorial attire of the 80s.  And what is more iconic in the Fall than Back-to-School?  

I rounded out my mantel with  these music candles.

I'm really happy with how everything turned out.  And the best part is that my mantel represents some of the things that I love the most:  Fall, school, and music!

I'm looking forward to spreading more and more bits of Fall decor around my house.


*I apologize for the poor picture quality.  I took these at night, and had to use the flash for some.  I love my point & shoot camera but I'm dreaming of a digital SLR!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

Fall is officially upon us.  This is, by far, my favorite time of year.  The leaves start turning, the nights are cooler and I start craving delicious Autumn dishes.  I have been making Butternut Squash Soup every Fall for years, and this one is no exception.  Although our days have still been warm, my head was turned by a display of butternut squash at the entrance of Whole Foods the other day.  So, of course, I had to buy one, and then went straight to the produce section to buy some ginger and leeks.

The recipe I use comes out of The Joy of Cooking.  My book practically falls open to this recipe - that is how much I love it!

1 medium to large butternut squash
3 T unsalted butter or vegetable oil
2 large leeks, chopped (white part only)
4 tsp minced, peeled fresh ginger
6 C chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds.  You can save the seeds for roasting, if you'd like.  Drizzle a little oil on a baking sheet and bake the squash, face down, for an hour.

Mmm...your kitchen will be filled with the delicious aroma of roasted squash!  Look at the beautiful color of the squash.  It starts to caramelize, just a bit, adding a nice sweetness to the soup.

In a large pot, melt the butter or oil over medium to low heat.  I usually use olive oil and I like to use my Staub Coq au Vin pot because it heats so evenly and can accommodate all of the ingredients nicely.
Now it is time to add the leeks and ginger.  Cook for about 5 minutes until they are tender, but not browned.  If you thought your kitchen smelled good when the squash was roasting, you are in for a real treat now.

Scoop the squash out of the skin and add it to the leeks and ginger.  Add 4 cups of stock and stir well, breaking up the pieces of squash as you go.  I like to use a low sodium vegetable stock.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Now it is time to puree your soup mixture.  I remove the pot from the heat, and use an immersion blender to do this.  I think this is the easiest way to go.  However, if you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender and then return the pureed soup to the pot when you're done.
I'm not sure about the rules for using a traditional blender with hot liquids, so be careful!

Add the remaining 2 cups of stock and the salt, and stir well.  The soup is now smooth and luxurious.

You can garnish your soup with chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, croutons or toasted squash seeds.  I like to go with homemade croutons.

To make the croutons, cube some french bread, into pieces of approximately the same size.  Drizzle with just a bit of olive oil, add some salt and fresh ground pepper and toss to coat.  Spread the bread cubes onto a baking sheet.  Pop them into a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.

They come out gold brown and deliciously crunchy.

 I like to add a bit of fresh cracked pepper to my soup before topping with croutons.

Bon App├ętit!

This soup is so incredibly flavorful, largely due to the leeks and ginger.  Butternut squash soup makes a great meal on a crisp Fall night.  Aside from tasting great, it's pretty darn healthy, with the bulk of the soup coming from veggies, so second helpings are encouraged and guilt-free!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Day of Remembrance and Reflection

Pausing to remember all those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001
in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

Keeping in mind all of the service men and women who have
sacrificed their lives to protect our freedom.

Never Forget

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pretty Dry Erase Calendar

We can all use a little help to stay organized.  I've discovered that even with everything that technology has to offer, I still like to have a calendar that I can write on in my kitchen.  Until now, I've had a dry erase calendar from an office supply store hanging on my refrigerator.  It's been quite functional and easy to access, although not very attractive.

One night, while browsing through Pinterest, I came across this super cute idea of making a white board out of a picture frame.

I decided that with a little tweaking, I could make my own calendar that would look prettier in my kitchen.

I found a frame at a thrift store for $1.99.  It was just a plain, wood frame, but the right size, and not too heavy.

I had some left over spray paint from another project, so I gave it a couple of coats of black paint.

I used a scrap of burlap that I had left over from my island skirt project to cover the back of the frame.
After cutting it a little larger than the size of the frame, I ironed it, and attached it to the cardboard backing piece with packing tape.

I created a blank calendar template and printed it onto a piece of scrapbook paper.  I attached it to the burlap backing with double stick tape.

After putting the frame back together, I attached adhesive magnets to the back of the frame.

And voila - an pretty calendar for my fridge!

I like how the burlap and the black frame are harken back to the island skirt.

So all in all, a simple and inexpensive way to keep track of important dates.