Sunday, September 30, 2012

Darn Those Squirrels

Adam and I had planned to spend part of Saturday afternoon working in the pumpkin patch: weeding around pumpkins, turning pumpkins so they sit up and are facing the sun and picking the ones that were ready. 

Well that plan changed really quickly when we got out there and started really looking around. For every good pumpkin there was at least 2 ruined ones. We are guessing that it is the squirrels because they have been running rampant around the area lately. They chew into the pumpkins and completely clean out the inside. Better than I have ever done!

It is so disappointing because they, of course, go for the ripest and best pumpkins. Well hey there squirrels! Those are our most profitable pumpkins!

Because of the danger of squirrels, we decided to pick ALL of the viable pumpkins, even the still green ones, because they have a better chance of ripening where they are safe than staying where they are and getting eaten. If they are mature, pumpkins can still turn orange in the sun after being picked. 

Last year we sold about 30 pumpkins and donated another 40 really good ones. That doesn't include all the green ones that never ripened. Yesterday we picked 90 pumpkins. Only 15 were orange. 

And the gourds!? SO sad! None of the "mini pumpkin" looking ones grew and only a few of the "mini pumpkin" whites ones grew. Last year we sold about 15 gourds at regular price and a bunch cheap to my co-workers for their kids to "pick" in the field. Last year we had several crates FULL of gourds. This year? 1 crate. 

But, we did our best and picked what we had. We also washed them in a bleach solution to protect them like we always do. We want to sell the best pumpkins we can! If you buy a pumpkin from a pumpkin patch or the store, I recommend wiping it in a 1 part bleach to 10 parts water solution to keep bacteria from growing and making a squishy squashy pumpkin on your front stoop. You can do it on the inside too if you cut it open. 

Sad eaten pumpkins

Adam snuck a picture of me in the field holding little white novelty pumpkins.

Our crop for this year

Washing them:
We wipe them down in the blue bin with the bleach solution and then rinse them them off in water. Then they sit out to dry.

After that, we set them out on our hay wagon in the sun. We are covering them with a tarp at night to protect them and uncovering it during the day to allow sun to get to them. 

We still do have hope because a lot of them are partly orange and will definitely ripen up over the next couple weeks. But too many of them are still pretty green. Oh you want to help?! Great! Cross your fingers for sun and an unseasonably warm Chicago October! Thanks!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Indiana Jones Boulder Cake

I have been making cakes for our nephew's (Adam's youngest brother's son) birthday for the last several years. I have posts about a guitar cake and football helmet here and ninja turtles here and here

This year I was driving with him home from Vacation Bible School one day in early August and asked what (his birthday is tomorrow) kind of cake he wanted this year. At first he said ninja turtles again and I told him he could pick something else if he wanted. Then he said, "Wait! No! I saw an Indiana Jones cake on the internet that I want! It is Indiana Jones running from a huge boulder!" I thought, "How does a 7 year old see a picture of a cake on the internet?? Is he pinterest-ing??"

But I looked it up and saw this cake and then this one and decided I could do it!

I baked a total of 3 cakes. I used about 3/4 of a cake mix for each side of the boulder and a whole cake for the base. I baked the sides of the boulder in a 1.5 quart Pyrex bowl and the base in a 8x14 inch rectangle pan. 

I used the flower nail (for the first time) to bake it to help it heat through the core since it was so deep. I lowered the temp by 25 degrees. I don't even know the total baking time because I set it for the original time and kept adding 5 minutes at a time. It was probably at least 45-50 minutes for each cake. 

The first time I forgot to use cake release on the nail, oops, so that one became the base. The other one I remembered and it came right out. If you don't use cake release, it is THE BEST. It is grease and flour in one and cakes come right problem!

one cake

second in the oven

I baked the cakes Saturday and did the decorating today. First, I put the 2 pieces of the boulder together with frosting and then dirty iced the whole thing. I also dirty iced the base. I put them in the fridge for 20 minutes before continuing and icing them both completely with chocolate buttercream (Wilton recipe).

Actually, as I was googling pictures just now, I found this one and discovered the boulder should have been white. AGH! Oops. I am sad. I should have done my research better. I assumed the boulder was brown. One of the cakes I saw was brown, but the other WAS white. 

First layer of icing

Finished cake!

I sprinkled cocoa powder on the base and the boulder to look like dirt. I used the tip for making grass (233) to make it look cave-y. I thought of it after Lisa posted about making cookie monster cakes on Twitter and it inspired me to use it to make cave "stuff". I got cheap plastic spiders, bat rings, and snakes to put around the cake. We used one of Chase's Indiana Jones lego guys to be Indiana himself! 

Chase was super excited about it!

Sorry for the following pictures...I am just super excited with how it turned out!

Chase REALLY wanted to roll the boulder over, so we let him push it with a fork!

I was busy taking pictures and the boulder almost rolled off the base and onto the table and floor! Austin, noticed in time and said something so I caught it in a plate with one hand while still holding the camera in the other!

Poor Indiana!

Yummy cake!

This cake was overall pretty easy to make! The frosting didn't have to be perfect since it is supposed to be a boulder and cave, so the decorating took a lot less time than a lot of other cakes I've made! I'm super excited about how it all came together too! The only thing I would do differently if I could do it over again? Make the boulder white. This is bothering me way too much. Let's blame Adam, he's a boy, shouldn't he have known it was supposed to be white and warned me? Ok...I'm getting over it. Right a minute maybe.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pumpkin Update

Overall our pumpkin patch has been sadly neglected this year. We planted ALL kinds of varieties that I was very excited about. But with the INSANE heat and the drought we just didn't water enough. We also didn't weed really at all. I spent a lot of time in the vegetable garden weeding and caring for it. But the pumpkin patch didn't get the same amount of love. 

Adam and I did hit it today to try to get some of the hugest weeds away from the the pumpkins. Overall, our yield is smaller than in years past. And I am super sad that none of the jack-be-littles grew. But there is still a pretty good number of pumpkins and we look foward to having another Pumpkin Day this year.

The area of the pumpkin patch with "regular" type pumpkins

Some good looking pumpkins!
They will finish turning orange in the next month, as long as there is sun!

Some neat little striped pumpkin looking gourds

I majorly heart funky gourds and there are some very cool ones this year.

The field of weeds. Or pumpkin patch. Whatever.

After playing in the pumpkin patch, we planted some mums by the pump house and dug these up. They are really soft and spongy. The outside layer comes off and there's a shiny ball inside. I thought they might be spider eggs or a bulb of some sort, but they are really spongy. I cut one in half to see and it looks like an egg! Does anyone know what they are eggs of??

We do also have a few Cinderella pumpkins and one-too-manys (different colors) but I didn't drag my camera too far into the pumpkin patch. I was hot and sweaty!

The vegetable garden is mostly done for the season. The cherry tomatoes are still producing and I am going to be SO SAD when they die. I have been eating cherry tomatoes like candy this year. The spaghetti squash and butternut squash are ripe now. I made spaghetti squash for dinner last night and it was REALLY yummy. Even Adam liked it!

Let's cross our fingers for good weather and sunshine so the green pumpkins turn orange by Pumpkin Day 2012!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chalkboard Wine Glasses

Monday I posted about my sister's rehearsal/wine tasting welcome dinner. When she decided on the wine tasting theme, I got all kinds of excited and started pinning all the wine ideas ever. Then I decided that she just had to incorporate chalkboard ideas into the theme as well because they seemed to go SO well together. One of the ideas we saw was to make chalkboard wine glasses and I said I really wanted to make them. 

I read all the tutorials about dipping versus spraying and all the methods for drying and avoiding dripage such as here (dipping), here (spraying), and here (spraying). 

I took all the information I learned and decided to try my hand at chalkboard wine glasses. We found wine glasses at IKEA that were pretty sturdy (none broke during chalkboarding them or all night!) and bought 60 of them! They are an even better deal than the Dollar Tree, though you need to buy 6 at a time. 

I laid out my spray painting tarp outside and weighted down the corners.
Then I taped off the wine glasses (I did one at a time-taping and spraying so I had to only pick each one up once).
I taped off with blue painter's tape about 1/2 inch from the bottom. 

At first I taped a paper towel around it based on one of the tutorials I read.
I sprayed the first one, but right away realized that the taped down and tucked in paper towel wasn't necessary. 

After that I just kind of held the paper towel around the bottom with my left hand, while I sprayed with my right hand. I sprayed a pretty light coat on, so there was barely any dripping. 

I put them upside down on a piece of hardy board I found that was leftover from our shower project. 

After about 30-45 minutes of drying, I came back and gave them a second coat. Chalkboard spray paint ALWAYS requires two coats. For good measure, I let them dry another 30-45 minutes and came back and gave them a third coat.
For the second and third coats, I did the same thing: lightly hold a paper towel with my left hand around the bottom to protect the glass, and spray with my right.

I sprayed 48 glasses total because that is how many people Erin was expecting!
After the last coat was dry to the touch, I pulled off the painter's tape so that it would come off more easily. Just a few had drips or leakage and it scraped right off with my fingernail since I did it right away. A few also had paint that crackled. I am not 100% sure why and not sure why it happened to only a few of them, but one guess is that it was a VERY hot day outside and it was above the temperature recommended on the can. 

All in all, it went very quickly and only took a couple hours start to finish. Putting the painter's tape on took the most time of anything!

After they dried for 3 days (the can recommends at least 24 hours) I primed them (got tips here) by rubbing a small piece of chalk on its side all around the base in different directions. Then I wiped them down with a damp (not wet) paper towel. This helps ensure that the chalk doesn't leave an impression on the chalkboard that doesn't go away.

After that they were ready to go!

We put the wine glasses on the edge of the bar. Guests were invited to come up, write their name on a glass, and then start the tasting process. Each guest got to bring home their glass as a favor!


Monday, August 27, 2012

Wine Tasting Themed Welcome Dinner

This weekend was my sister's Chicago wedding! On Friday was the rehearsal and then welcome dinner. Because they had so many people from out of town and so many important people they wanted to have involved, they opted for a less formal wine tasting and dinner. We volunteered to have it at our house and I had so much fun pinning all kinds of fun wine ideas!

Practicing at the church

The girls

So cute!

We had tents and tables set up in the backyard. Erin rented round tables and high top tables so it was a great socializing atmosphere. Apparently we have a bar that has been in the barn! Who knew!? Not me. The bar looked great and was perfect for the night. 

Some of the yummy appetizers. 

I cut up carrots and celery and served them in wine glasses with ranch squirted in the bottom based on this pin

My favorite part of the night! The cheese plate!

Tasting and drinking wine!

My sister socializing with friends

Guests went up to the bar, chose a wine glass, and 4 different wines to taste and rate. 

I sprayed wine bottles with chalkboard paint (saw the idea here) and wrote "Welcome" on them. I also insisted on making these salt and pepper shakers I saw here. So easy! We drank the wine (I pushed it on everyone in the last 2 weeks), carefully washed the bottles to protect the labels, and then  punch holes in the top with a nail and hammer. I put 3 holes for the pepper and 5 holes for the salt. The reason it was funny I insisted on making the salt and pepper shakers? They didn't actually have any food that required salt or pepper! But they looked cute!

Writing down notes about the wine. My sister found a grid here that she had for each guest with the info about each wine on the back. 

The happy couple!
I made the sign for them on my Silhouette. It was a fun decoration outside. 

I just had to post this because I have been a huge fan of cucumber mint water lately. I found this "recipe" here and have been making it the last couple weeks. 

It was a fun night of relaxing, drinking wine, eating cheese, socializing with friends and lots of family from out of town and a great way to have fun and relax before the wedding the next day!