Bribes for Beantown

Any minute now my friends Kim & Cliff will be here from Virginia. They’re contemplating a move and Boston is on the short list, so this visit is part Thanksgiving get together and part scouting mission. In an effort to sway them, I’ve prepared a series of bribes.

First – HANDKNIT SOCKS. Kim’s birthday was last week so I’ll be able to cleverly disguise this bribe as a birthday present (muwahhahah). The pattern was given to me by a former colleague…it’s very good and was reportedly used by the colleague’s friend to knit socks for soldiers in WWII (?? I know…sounds like some knitting lore. But hey you never know). One of these days I’ll type it up and put it on ravelry.

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I de-stashed Noro sockyarn and a nice bamboo/cotton blend

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Hopefully an unfinished sock doesn't diminish the bribe's power

Next – PIES. Who doesn’t love pies? I trashed the kitchen this morning making two of them – my gramma’s prized butterscotch and a double-layer blueberry cheesecake that’s excellent.

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I am very blessed to have married someone who likes doing the dishes

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Topping the butterscotch filling with meringue

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Butterscotch Pie ingredients

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Butterscotch Pie instructions

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 And if neither of these work, I’ll throw in THE RETURN OF THE FICUS. When Kim and Cliff left Oregon, all of their possessions stuffed into a VW bug, they lovingly left me with their baby ficus tree. I somehow managed to not only keep it alive, but keep it growing (!!!). I’ve kept the cats out by covering the soil with river rocks, and I re-potted it a couple times. The ficus and I are buddies, but if he’ll sweeten the deal…

New cat-prevention strategy: rocks

A reader suggested this river-rock-pile for keeping out cats - so smart!

Sunday afternoon

Teddy's search for litterbox alternatives is thwarted

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!


The Ballad of Sam’s Coats

The First Coat: It was burgundy wool with a mock turtleneck. Very distinguished. The yarn came from a thrift store sweater that I unwound. On a hike up Spencer’s Butte in Oregon Sam ran off. I heard him howling and tracking something for a while…then nothing. Forty five minutes later he stumbled into the dark parking lot. Shivering. Soaking wet. NO SWEATER. He told a big story about how a raccoon accosted him in the woods, stole the sweater, and pushed him into a creek. Every time he tells it the raccoon gets bigger and the creek deeper.

The Second Coat: This one was a beauty. Cream-colored wool with dark blue and red stripes. Very collegiate. One morning Sam walked out into the yard with the sweater on his back, and when I called him to come back in, NO SWEATER. He played dumb this time, trying to make me believe that he never had it on in the first place. A month later I found it…snagged on the compost pile fence ala Peter Rabbit. I can only guess that Sam was elbow-deep in compost when he heard me calling him. The sweater was stuck so he had to wriggle out and leave it hanging.  Sadly, a month of Oregon rain had ruined it beyond repair and I swore I wouldn’t knit Sam another.

sam in bed

No really...and it wasn't just one raccoon. It was a gang of them.

The Third Coat: Just finished it today. Felted handspun on one side and black fleece on the other. Very warm and washable. The style reminds me of those blankets horses wear in the winter. I was inspired to use up the first few skeins of yarn I ever spun – they’re lumpy and inconsistent and too weird for anything you’d wear in public. This coat is basically a big rectangle of garter stitch (sz 10.5 needles) tapered at the hindquarters. The neckband extends into a 6 inch tab and in the middle there’s a wide fleece belly tab. I sewed a piece of black fleece to the felted wool, then trimmed all the edges. For now safety pins will do as closures, but I put velcro on my shopping list.

velcro will replace the safety pins

the warmth of wool and the wind-blocking-power of fleece!

sam's new dog coat

the coat's colorful underside

wool lining of sam's coat

close-up of the felted garter stitch

sam finds our apt too chilly

I know Sam, I think we should turn up the thermostat too

Crockpot Apple Butter

Sam begs for Crockpot Apple Butter

Nu-uh, I'm not sharing this time Sam

My extended family has a long love affair with apple butter. Making it is a semi-annual tradition that requires a full day’s work and results in a LOT of final product.  Read and I currently lack the friends, firewood pile, and pantry space to make the recipe I grew up with, so here’s a lazy-apartment-dweller’s variation that I tried last week. It’s quick, easy, and tastes pretty much like the stuff we slow cook over an open fire. Try it!!

Before: Crockpot Apple Butter

Fill your crockpot 3/4 full of peeled, sliced apples. Add 2.5 cups of white sugar, 1 cup of cider, and 1 tsp of cinammon.

Before: Crockpot Apple Butter

Set the crockpot on medium/low, sit back, and relax! This photo was taken after 6 hrs of cooking.

After: Crockpot apple butter

Okay okay, so I understand that this doesn't look incredibly appetizing. But I swear to you, it tastes SO GOOD. After taking the above photo, I cooked the apple butter for about 6 more hours, just to make sure the apples were all broken down and the spread would be nice and thick.

Teddy's new perch

Teddy, newly self-appointed Recycling Bin Captain, watches from his post

Processing the jars of apple butter

To prolong the shelf life of your apple butter, process the jars in a boiling water bath for about 20 minutes. Make sure the jars are hot when you fill them with apple butter from the crockpot.


Windsor chairs for cheap

Last month I bought some magazines for a plane flight and read a Real Simple article about Windsor chairs. They were all adorable, especially a mismatched shiny black group (see below). And then I mentally gave myself a high-five and had to  resist the urge to turn to the stranger next to me and say, “See THIS?! I was on to this whole chair-trend like a month ago!! So silly how much a magazine can validate your choice of furniture and fashion, but there’s no denying the fun of seeing your choice in print. I’d meant to post a couple apartment projects, and now that they’re Real-Simple-approved, I think it’s time. 🙂

(c) Real Simple - Best Windsor Chair

(c) Real Simple - Best Windsor Chair

When we first arrived we tried using Craigslist to locate some much-needed furniture. But after two failed attempts at finding the seller (why do so many Boston intersections lack signage?) we gave up.  I went to a very hip used furniture store run by a slick salesman who knows what he’s doing (plain pieces painted bright colors, given glass knobs, and reupholstered in vintage prints) but he wanted $125 PER kitchen chair and…they just didn’t seem worth it.

At an antique store between home and work I found a set of four windsor chairs. They were dusty, rickety, and some of the bars were taped to keep the wood from splitting. BUT they were $35 for the whole set. I bought woodglue, sandpaper and paint and had myself a big project for the next few days.

Sanding the chairs

Sanding the chairs and securing all the joints with wood glue

Wrong color

Two coats of "saffron", which was later covered by two coats of "merlot"

The first color – “saffron” – was great in theory but looked awful next to the kitchen hutch. The second – a deep wine color – was just right. A pint was plenty. Martha Stewart paints had the prettiest colors so I gave them a try, but we weren’t impressed with the paint quality. I bought a discard gallon of Behr that we used to repaint the hutch, and the quality of that paint was much better.

So here you go…a glimpse of the new kitchen set-up. The troll picture atop the hutch is our favorite part – we stole it from Read’s mom’s house and I just don’t think it’s coming back (sorry Sally!).

new kitchen in Boston

And here they are in the kitchen!