Monday, September 29, 2008

Of apple butter and autumn-colored yarn

As September draws to a crisp, cool close, I’m happily overwhelmed by the rich colors of the season. From the pale green and red painted leaves—just starting to turn—to the glossy, deep brown of my apple butter, neatly contained in timeless glass jars with brassy-colored rims . . . these are my comfort colors.

Rich reddish-brown chestnuts with blackened ends scattered across a grey sidewalk—

The deep, vibrant coppers, teals, and browns of the chunky, hand-painted yarn I’m using to knit a baby blanket—

The quilted brown of my bedspread, next to the creams and whites of our bedroom carpet and curtains, against the dusky green of our walls—

The glossy, almost waxy orange of my solitary $1 pumpkin against the creamy tan of butternuts ready to be roasted and eaten—

These are a few of my favorite [fall] things.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Knitting my way to December

I went to bed last night feeling like I was mid-race; I had come a long way through my pregnancy, but still had a long way to go. Today I awoke solidly in my third trimester and energized by how little time there is left to a) get ready and b) enjoy this time of 24/7 intimacy with my little one.

Last night I also finished the sort of Gryffindor-inspired scarf I’ve been knitting for Mr. Incredible for the past 10 months or so . . . it was supposed to be a Christmas present last year. At least he’ll have it as soon as it gets cold in the next few weeks. He likes it, I think, with its CMU burgundy and grey stripes and homey fringe. I hope it’s not too big or bulky for him. But then, it was only my second knitting project ever, so if he doesn’t like it I’m sure I can make him a better one later.

With that project finished, I think it’s time to start one for the baby. So today at lunchtime I’m going to see if I can hunt down the perfect pattern and yarn blend for Brubaby. Will it be a blanket? A hat? A sweater? Blankets are tempting, partly because I know I’ll use them, but also because they’re rectangular (the only shape I know how to knit so far). On the other hand, a hat might fit better into my budget; yarn ain’t cheap, friends, and blankets use thousands of yards of it.

Either way, I think knitting is the perfect way to start off the third trimester – hopefully, it will get me to slow down a bit, but also help me channel the nesting impulse. Besides, there’s nothing cuter to old ladies than pregnant women sitting around knitting, and I wouldn’t want to deprive old ladies of their rare moments of joy.

Off to the yarn store, then! And on with the last 12 weeks.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nesting

I’m making apple butter this weekend. The apples – an entire paper grocery bag’s worth of Macintoshes – are sitting by the window in the dining room, filling the air with their crisp sweetness.

It feels good to be making apple butter again. Last year we couldn’t get ourselves and our ramshackle house together in time to make it happen, and as a result, it felt like we had cheated ourselves (and all the friends and family who enjoy our apple butter) out of the enjoyment of autumn. If I have energy, I may end up making a second batch this year; I can already see the jars flying off the shelf for gifts, leaving none for me!

I’ll return with an update on the aroma and the general apple butter-making experience later this week or next.

In other food news, Mr. Incredible and I have decided that jasmine rice is the only acceptable rice for Thai food. After getting a little tired of the super-cheap Goya white rice we’ve had in our pantry for eons and the brown basmati – which is great, but doesn’t go with everything – I sprang for a bag of jasmine rice the other day. We’ve been making a lot of Thai food recently – more often than Indian, which has been a staple in the past – so I thought it was fitting. Well, fitting is not the word. It’s sticky, but it holds its shape. Moist but not mooshy. Slightly translucent, but a rice of substance nonetheless. In other words, it’s perfect to receive that coconutty gravy with its range of meats and vegetables and aromatic basil garnish that we all know and love so well: Thai curry.

I’m still stocking the freezer and finding ways to cook the randomness it contains. Last night I added cottage pie to the growing premade meal section, and also discovered I have a few challenging items to use up: a pound of phyllo dough, a large bag of accumulated chicken bits intended for stock, a small tub of what I think is last fall’s tomato sauce, and several bags of pitted plums.

My last attempt at spanakopita was delicious but time-consuming and only used up half a pound of phyllo. I do, however, remember a recipe for modified baklava with pistachios, as well as one for a Greek spinach pie, which both call for the phyllo to be cut up and piled loosely on the top of the dish – not authentic, but a definite time-saver. And since I do most of my cooking after 8 p.m. now – the time of day when I feel most pregnant – that’s pretty appealing.

I guess I probably need to make some chicken stock, too, and I have a new way of dealing with the plums: coffeecake! It’s an unexpected combination, but the cooked, gooey tartness of the plums actually works well in this context. I foisted my first plum coffeecake experiment on our church sometime in August, and although no one had any idea what they were eating, it was a definite hit.

This obsession with canning and stocking is fairly typical for me at this time of year. Yet I can’t help but think that the impulse to stock up for the cold winter has been intensified this year, both by the realization that, as the semester goes on, our finances will likely get tighter and tighter, and that by the end of the semester, there’ll be another mouth to feed. So am I nesting? Perhaps . . . although I’d hate to admit that I am participating in a clich├ęd, hormone-induced rite of pregnancy. I’ve generally thought of nesting as a flurry of wallpapering and painting and rearranging the nursery, but I suppose it’s possible that nesting could take other forms, such as stocking up on food.

Pregnancy aside, this is definitely the time of year for squirreling away nuts for the long winter. What are you preserving, stocking, freezing, or saving for the cold months?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Stocking the freezer

Wow, it's been a long time -- and I still feel like I don't have a lot to say. What have I been up to these past weeks? Mostly just eating, sleeping, working, and cooking. No, seriously, that's about it.

But then, it is that time of year to gather all the ripe fruits and veggies and find some way to store them for the otherwise bland, hungry winter ahead. Here's what I've been stocking the freezer and the basement shelves with recently:
  • 21 jars of peaches (together, my mom and I canned 42 jars on a very hot Saturday in Pittsburgh)
  • Aromatic basil-tomato pasta sauce
  • Pureed pear baby food (the only thing I could think of to use up the abundance of pears that were ripening in our backyard)
  • Curried carrot soup
  • Creamy carrot soup (we like carrot soup, okay?)
  • Cheeseburger pie
  • Deep dish tacos
  • Several bags of corn, fresh off the cob
I'm hoping to make a nice batch of apple butter this year, and I may make some baby food with some of the exceedingly cheap and good-looking squash that's beginning to dominate the farmer's market. I'll probably continue to stock the freezer with a few more meals for those cold winter nights soon after the baby arrives. But other than that, I think I'm just about done making my winter provisions.

So even though my blog has been going through somewhat of a famine, it looks like the Brubakers won't starve this winter. :)