Apple Crisp

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I love a teacher workday.  A break from the hectic schedule is nice every now and then.  When fall arrives each year, Apple Crisp is on the top of my list of things to make although it may take a while before it actually happens.  Thanks to a day of no school, we finally got around to making our fall tradition.  When I mentioned that I was about to make an Apple Crisp my apple lovers came to help.

Making a crisp instead of a pie is really a lazy cooks ways of creating the same yummy dessert without all of the work.  You get the same flavor and don't have to break out the rolling pin, rollings pins make me cry.

Apple Crisp

2 1/2 lb. apples (about 6 medium) peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon all purpose flour

Crisp topping:
1 cup all purpose flour
5 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (pecans are a good choice) my apple lover requested no nuts this time
1 stick butter, cut into small pieces and chilled

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make filling, toss the apples with sugar, cinnamon, and flour.

Add filling to a 9" pie pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

To make topping, in a medium bowl mix together all the topping ingredients with a pastry cutter (a fork works just fine) until small pebbly pieces of butter are distributed throughout mixture.
Sprinkle entire mixture over the apples.  Bake until the topping is golden and the fruit is bubbling and tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Serve with vanilla ice cream while still warm.
I'm pretty sure my apple lovers liked it...there was nothing left.
Yes, I love a teacher workday.

Botanical Prints {Ferns}

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I have always had a thing for ferns.  Retail selections are limited so I decided to explore ClipartClipart has the largest collection of photos, graphics, and illustrations.   Subscriptions are easy, either sign  up by the week, month, 3/6 months, or by the year. By the way, no one paid me to say this.

 To frame the ferns, I purchased ready made mats and frames. Easy!

Family Storage

Monday, October 26, 2009

I used to have this vision of a perfectly organized home ~ a place for everything and everything in its place.  My guess is that none of us have homes that look fit for a photo shoot with House Beautiful.  On the same note, there are things we could do better in order to manage some of the clutter.  Having a busy family, creates many storage challenges, but with strategic planning and ahem, a little reminding, on occasion, everything might land "in its place".  Our front door is constantly opening and closing with people and bags of all shapes and sizes entering and exiting. 
Storage at the most frequently used entrance is essential.  If you have room for a bench or stool, all the better.

Homes that look lived in are so much more beautiful to me now.  When our boys were away for a week last summer, things were neat and tidy.  No flips, no dirty clothes, and sadly, no signs of life other than hubby and self ~ we clean up after ourselves. I love the way this room looks lived in.   Storage that is functional, not perfect.
A row of hooks near the kitchen to hold all of those green shopping bags alongside a clip for the grocery list and coupons is not only functional, but depending on your shopping bags collection, might be charming too.
As the temperatures drop, out come the extra layers of warmth.  Baskets with each family member's name filled with gloves, hats, and other cozy essentials is a simple solution.  All signs that someone lives here.
Don't be too quick to get rid of the armoire now that you have a new wall mount flat screen TV.  Backpacks, cleats, balls, and instruments fit perfectly should unnamed persons remember to put their belongings inside.

Photos: Living Etc.

Troughs *Not For Livestock Only

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

There is something so beautiful about a moss covered container.  Even when the plants inside have seen better days, the container continues to please the eye.  In a few weeks, the violas and kale will fill in.

Especially moss friendly are the troughs made with a mixture of Portland cement, vermiculite, peat moss, and sand.  The earthy ingredients when kept in a moist environment are the perfect growing medium for moss.

1 part vermiculite
1 part sphagnum peat moss
1 part Portland cement (important-Portland cement results in a darker more natural look)
1 part water, approximately
**Plastic bowls, shoe boxes, or a mold of your liking similar in size

Put dry materials in a large container such as a wheelbarrow, in this order: 1 bucket vermiculite, 1 bucket peat moss (remove any large lumps or sticks), 1 bucket of Portland cement, and a small handful of loose reinforcing fibers (these are sold at masonry supply stores). Mix thoroughly. Add water in small increments and mix until the material is the consistency of dry cottage cheese or thick oatmeal. Don’t let the mixture get too wet.

Line the inside of your bowls or shoe boxes with plastic bags or plastic wrap. Using a rubber glove, scoop handfuls of mixture and mold the inside of your containers. Form mixture around edges 3/4″ to 1″ thick. Poke 1-2 drainage holes in the bottom of the mixture with your finger, stick or dowel. Cover the mold well with plastic for 24 hours.

After setting 24 hours, carefully remove the very fragile trough from its mold and peel off the plastic. Use a wire brush or a paint-scraping tool to smooth out any imperfections, and give the exterior a pleasing texture. The edges should be softened, rounded, and somewhat irregular.

Place the trough back under its plastic bag and let it cure for a couple of weeks before planting.

**To make larger troughs like the one in the pictures above, I recommend using medium gauge chicken wire for reinforcement.  Cut the wire slightly smaller than the sides you are reinforcing.  Gently pack the mixture around the wire making sure that no wire is exposed once complete.  Some of my troughs were made as much as eleven years ago and they are still around today.

The Guest Room

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Have you ever visited a friend who went the extra mile to make you feel welcome?  Having a comfortable little space to get away from it all while traveling makes for a relaxing trip.  An ideal guest room should have an attached bathroom and should be located away from children.  Most of us use every room in our houses already and don't have an extra room to designate as a guest room.  Whether you have a special room for your guest or not, the main focus should be to make your visitor feel as welcome and comfortable as possible.

To ensure that your guest has a wonderful sleep experience try the three sheet rule.  One sheet covers a feather top mattress and the other two sandwich a down comforter.  Then top it all off with a heavier down duvet comforter.  If the sheets are new, wash them at least twice to soften.  Also supply the bed with ample pillows, but not so many that your guest is overwhelmed with where to put them all.

Photo: My Home Ideas

Guests often need a place to house belongings during their stay.  Try to clear a drawer or two and make room in the closet with extra hangers.  Mirrors are also a nice touch, especially if the bathroom is down the hall.

Photo: My Home Ideas

 A bedside light for late night reading is essential.  Also on the nightstand include a nice alarm clock and a simple flower.  Consider offering a carafe of water for the night time so that your guest isn't wandering around in the middle of the night looking for a glass.  If you live in an area with streetlights, a blackout shade might be necessary.

Photo: Coastal Living

Lastly, anticipate things your guest might need while visiting.
  • An extra robe and slippers are a nice touch.  
  • Be sure to provide a bath towel, hand towel, and wash cloth.  If the towels are new, I recommend that you wash them a couple of times to eliminate extra lint.
  • Stock toothbrushes, special soaps, lotion, shampoo, etc.
  • Leave an assortment of magazines, a new novel, and local literature in the guest room.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall is upon us and the basil in our garden won't be around once the cold weather arrives.  Pesto is wonderful when it is fresh ~ fresh from frozen is even better than store bought.  Here is my favorite pesto recipe...

large bunch fresh basil
3 medium garlic cloves
small handful raw pine nuts
3/4 cup Parmesan freshly grated
few tablespoons good olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in food chopper/processor.

Scrape and grind until well mixed and cake-like.  Sprinkle in a little bit of Kosher salt.  Grind again.

Remove from processor and shape into a cake in a small bowl.  Cover with a olive oil.  Store in fridge or eat immediately mixing oil in before serving.  Use as a spread on a sandwich, with crackers, soup, or on pasta.