Monday, February 8, 2016

Repairing my son's blanket

My sons baby quilt, repaired today after 14 years of love.
Today I spent some time repairing my oldest son's baby blanket. After 14 years, this blanket is really holding up well. My sister-in-law made this adorable quilt for my son when he was born. She was a new sewer back then, and I'm pretty sure this quilt was one of her first big projects. When I got it, I suggested hanging it on the wall in his bedroom. Stephanie was insistent that we was use the blanket; she made it for him to enjoy. Well, she got her wish. My dear son sleeps with this blanket every night, even now as a teenager. Yesterday I washed the blanket along with his sheets which prompted a conversation about how it doesn't smell "right" after I wash it. We all had a snow day today, so he asked if I could take a look at his blanket. It looks like one of the fabrics that she used in the bottom portion of the quilt wore out faster than the rest of the blanket. There were regularly spaced worn squares all through the bottom part. I did not attempt to replace the fabric with some thing new; I thought this would give the blanket a "Frankenstein" look. Instead, I used a zig-zag stitch around the missing squares to secure the rest of the blanket.

A closer look at what's left of the bear face. I secured what's there with zig-zag stitching.
The brown fabric from the sleeping bear was worn away in large patches. I trimmed back the straggly spots and used a dark brown thread to zig-zag around the outline of the bear, which secured any brown fabric that was left. The pink ears and paws have held up really well, so I stitched around them to tack down these areas. As I was working on the blanket, I though about all the history this blanket has in our family. I remember tucking him into bed with the blanket near his face to help him sleep. When we took a trip across the world to India, Yves chose this blanket as his "comfort item" from home. This blanket traveled all around this exotic country with us, and made it back home without getting lost! And what mother can forget those days when her child has fever from the flu. This blanket was always there with him to help him feel better. I hope that my repairs today will help give us many more years with this sweet blanket.

Our cat Adam enjoys the blanket just as much as Yves does.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Pumpkin Pie

I decided to make pumpkin pie early this year because we aren't hosting Thankgiving dinner. A little fall flavor never hurt anyone, right? I'll confess that I used to hate pumpkin pie. It was only on my baking list at Thanksgiving because my family requested it loudly. But, all that has changed now that I've started making it from a fresh sugar pumpkin from Devon Point Farm. 

I learned from the wonderful folks at Devon Point Farm that I can bake the pumpkin whole! No more hacking it up into chunks and slimy seeds. All I you have to do is poke several holes in the pumpkin and bake it until it's soft. Once it's baked, the pumpkin meat falls away from the skin and the seeds are easy to scoop out. This method minimizes waste and makes the whole process very easy. I got enough cooked pumpkin to bake a 9" deep dish pie and make pumpkin and chorizo soup. 

As for the pie recipe, I adapted the recipe from my Mom's Betty Crocker cookbook. I scaled it up for the deep dish pie plate and I added two extra eggs because the fresh pumpkin seemed a bit watery. I bought sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk by accident (I always get the two mixed up when I'm looking at them on the store shelf). I decided to go for it with the sweetened condensed milk substitution. I added cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon as called for in the recipe. The result was a delicious pie with nice pumpkin flavor. I enjoyed eating it while it was still warm with fresh whipped cream. 

Sometimes I'll make a double recipe of the pie filling and bake the extra in small dishes as a custard (no crust). I like this streamlined version of the pie heated up in the microwave, a nice treat on a cold November evening. 

Even with the ease of baking the pumpkin, this pie is a once-a-year event in my kitchen. It is also the last of the fresh fruit pies of the year.

I forgot to get a photo of the whole pie. But here you can see a bit of my favorite pie plate. 
Here's the pumpkin just before it went into the oven. Notice the multiple holes. Without holes the pumpkin will explode in the oven. 

Looking very sad after baking, but loaded with wonderful pumpkin meat. The pan filled up with water as it baked and even more when it was cooking. I'm so glad I put it in a pan! Interestingly, the water did not have any flavor. I thought it might be salty or taste like pumpkin, but it was just plain water. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Strawberry Ice Cream

Garrett enjoying his strawberry ice cream.
Garrett decided to make strawberry ice cream using our Cuisinart ice cream maker, the kind with the frozen ring that comes out of the freezer to churn the ice cream mixture. He wanted smooth ice cream (no chunks of fruit), and he was looking for serious strawberry flavor. This job called for fresh strawberries and our food mill. I know, it's not strawberry season, but we made due with a package of fresh strawberries from Stop 'n Shop that looked pretty good. Imagine if we thought of this back in June when Buells had pick-you-own strawberries for sale?
Here's the ice cream in one of my new favorite bowls.
Anyway, we chopped the strawberries into big chunks and ran them through our food mill. The result was strawberry pulp without any seeds. All of this strawberry goodness went right into the ice cream mixture, giving it a bright pink color and great fruity flavor. Adding lemon juice in the mixture really brightened the flavor of the ice cream. We churned it in the ice cream maker for about thirty minutes. Unfortunately we filled it a little too full so we had to scrape off the outside and top of the ice ring right into our bowls. At this point the ice cream was a think soft-serve consistency. We transferred it to a tupperware dish and let it cool in the freezer for about two more hours to make it more of a scoop-able ice cream. The strawberry ice cream was so refreshing on a hot August afternoon.
The flavor was wonderful and the color was really appealing.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Boston Cream Donuts

Boston Cream Donuts on the first day of school. A new Geyer tradition?
In a moment of weakness I asked my boys "Would you like me to make homemade donuts on the first day of school?" What middle schooler would possibly say no to that question?!  I was feeling bad for Gabe and Garrett because they had to go back to school nearly two weeks before their older brother.  Yves, the new freshman at Pomfret School, just smiled because he knew that meant donuts for him too, and then another day of summer vacation.
A plate full of delicious donuts.

I instantly regretted my offer.  I have made donuts on special occasions many times. Usually the birthday boy will request donuts for their special day, a tradition that started with my husband and Boston cream donuts. As romantic as homemade donuts sound, it is a very messy and time consuming project. It seems like I use every bowl, spoon, and spatula in the kitchen in the process; and then there's the large pot of vegetable oil to deal with when it's all over. What was I thinking? I offered a trip to We-Lik-It ice cream instead of the morning donuts to honor the last day of summer vacation; no deal. All hearts were set on donuts, and Boston cream was the flavor of choice.

Today was my third attempt at making Boston creme. I used the recipe from the Food Network today. As they say: the third time is a charm.  My approach this time was to do as much as I could the night before. The cream recipe came out very nice with good flavor, much like a vanilla custard. The dough was a sweet yeast dough that had to ferment for an hour before I could roll it out and cut the donuts. I used a three-inch round cutter to make the donuts.  I left the donuts in the refrigerator overnight with the cream. The morning production was very easy, the only thing left to make was the chocolate glaze. My only problem was that the donuts didn't rise enough, even though I got up at 5:00 to take them out of the frig. Next time I'll set the alarm for 4:00, take them out, then go back to sleep for a few hours.

I had to carve out the center to create a space for the filling.
The donuts were delicious, but a little too dense. They didn't puff up enough make a nice big open cavity for the cream. I used a knife to cut out the middle so I could squirt in enough cream to make it a respectable Boston cream. The kids and Brian loved them and enthusiastically ate two each (so did I). I will definitely make them again now that I have figured out the secret to keeping the project manageable.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Another surprise inside cake

I made this surprise inside cake for our advisee Caelan for his 18th birthday. This recipe is called the vintage cake, from Amanda Rettke's book. I was really pleased that the surprise was truly hidden when it was fully frosted.  The bottom layer is a fudge brownie with a chocolate sauce on top. The top two layers are white cake. The whole thing is topped with cream cheese frosting. 

I'm still working through the beginner level cakes. This fun cake was a nice confidence boost. I loved the overall height of the cake. The brownie layer gave the cake just enough height to make it feel more festive. Caelan and the boys really enjoyed it. 

The brownie layer was pretty chewy and the cake was a bit dense, which made for a pretty heavy cake. It was good sliced thin and served with ice cream

Happy Birthday, Caelan!. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

My First Surprise Inside Cake

This is an entry level cake, but I'm really pleased with the effect. It is a variation of the birthday cake surprise from the book Surprise-Inside Cakes by Amanda Rettke.  I was skeptical about the impact of the colored layers when they were cooling. However, I think the effect was very cute and indeed surprising when I served the cake. 

This fun cake book has sparked my imagination and truly inspired me to try something new. Amanda recommends starting with the easy cakes first. For once in my life I decided to start at the beginning with this colored birthday cake. She has so many great ideas in this book. I'm planning my next cake, a brownie and white cake combo. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cats in Hats

Pomfret knitters embraced the cat hats.  Here's part of our cat hat collection.
This is a really fun knitting book.
Yes, you are reading this correctly.  Cats in Hats by Sara Thomas is a wonderful new knitting book with patterns for cat hats.  Laurie, the librarian at the Pomfret library, knows exactly what will be a hit for the knitting group.  We spent an entire Tuesday afternoon laughing over the creative and fun hats in the book that are all modeled by adorable cats.  We decided to make a collection of cat hats for the library so patrons can check them out during the summer.  We are hoping to get a collection of photos of Pomfret cats in these stylish head pieces.

I love this picture from the inside cover of the book.
The top hat cat hat.
A collection of hats with twisty embellishments.  A carrot, a cactus, and a red boa.
Many of our hats feature big pom poms.  Who can resist.
It turns out that my cats really hate wearing the hats that I made for them.  Max was my first hat model.  He was very mad at me, but waited out the hat humiliation with dignity.  Adam was less kind.  He got loose and hid from us so thoroughly that we couldn't find him.  When he emerged, the hat was around his middle with many tears, the pom pom was ripped off.  He brought the pom pom out of hiding for me a week later, so I repaired the hat and gave it over to Laurie for the library collection.   By the way, small dogs can wear these adorable hats too.  I bet they might enjoy them more than the cats.
Max in his new hat.
Adam in the hat, just before he took hid from us in protest.