Thursday, April 27, 2017

Eating Chickweed

My back yard is pretty scrappy, largely the domain of the children, but I do try to weed the flower beds.

  And over the years, I have noticed a particular weed ransack the beds in a damp, stringy way.  Last year, I suspected it was chick weed and actually edible.  This year, I got enough courage to properly identify it and now we are eating it!  

I pull it out by the roots (because it's still rather unattractive so I don't really want it in the flower beds), snip off the roots, chop it up, and saute it with some olive oil and garlic.  Add a squeeze of lemon and some salt and pepper.  It really tastes like spinach!  However, it looks so twiggy and stringy that I didn't take a photo of the chickweed-as-food, but I think I will pull the leaves off and discard the stems next time.  

I've heard chickweed is very healthy, but I'm also in love with the convenience of greens from the back yard. 

Any other chickweed eaters with tips to share?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"Kitchen Gaiety" Aprons

When the museum store manager asked me if I was sewing anything new, I wondered about aprons.  I showed her the Kitchen Gaiety apron I made for Aunt Maggie and she was charmed.

I made three for the shop.  They really are so pretty and that name! I must make one for myself.  But up next for the machine is a pink dress for Genevieve, another antimacassar for Dad, and items for the etsy shop.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Chewy Granola or Skillet Oatmeal

We eat a lot of oats at our house for breakfast, between baked oatmeal, muffins, and granola.  And now I have another iteration of oats for breakfast!  

This recipe is from Fountain Avenue Kitchen, where Ann also calls this "chewy granola" and "not-mushy oatmeal."  But since the "mushiness" of cooked oatmeal doesn't bother me, I ignored that name to call this "chew granola" or "skillet oatmeal."

I love how quick this recipe is, and like a granola, it is endlessly customizable.  The texture reminds me of baked oatmeal, but without the need of an oven and eggs. Furthermore, sometimes in the morning, I want a soft chewy thing to eat instead of the serious crunch of granola.  Granola is too crunchy for Phoebe, but she can eat this oatmeal and loves it.

I'm sorry I only have one strange photo of the skillet oatmeal; breakfast time is a blur around here.  That's traditional crunchy granola in the big jar and and the leftover skillet oatmeal in the small jar, just to give you an idea of its appearance. 

People are busy around here, let me tell you!  Their projects overtake them at any time of day.

Skillet Oatmeal - serves 4

Heat to steaming and set aside (I do this in the microwave):
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk

In large skillet, melt:
2 Tbsp. coconut oil or butter

Add and saute together, stirring frequently:
2 cups rolled oats
1-2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. coconut, optional

Cook and stir until the oats are toasted and the sugar is starting to caramelize, a few minutes.  Pour the hot milk/water over the oats mixture and stand back - it will steam intensely.  Stir.  Cover pan and reduce heat to low for a few minutes until oats have absorbed the liquid.
Serve hot or room temperature with a dollop of yogurt, fruit, toasted nuts, etc.  Keeps in the fridge and reheats nicely in the microwave.

1.I use my 14" shallow pan for this recipe because as Ann explains, you want the liquid to barely cover the bottom of the pan and moisten the oats.
2. Quick oats would turn to mush in this recipe!
3. Ann uses just water for the liquid, but I like the creaminess of the milk and the protein match between milk and grain.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

At Last, Ben Wears His Green Pants

First of all, today is Ben's birthday, and he is nine years old.  Wow!  He got out of his bed early this morning to a birthday phone call from Great-Grandpa.  And then he ate scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast and carried his bucket of monster cookies to school to treat his class. Later today, we will go shopping for gerbils because he did the research and his daddy and I agreed (in fact, in January, when he did the research, we told him he could buy himself a gerbil or he could wait until his birthday and we would buy them for him as his present; he chose delayed gratification and I'm so pleased!).

I sewed these green pants for Ben when he loved dressing up; he wore bow ties, appreciated nice caps, and begged for suits.  I can't even remember what year I sewed these, because as far as I was concerned, they didn't exist because he didn't wear them.  He didn't like their fit, even though they are his favorite color.

I was pretty sick about the situation because the cotton yarn-dyed plaid is just gorgeous - heavy and smooth and sturdy, and if you have ever installed a fly in pants, you will know that it is complicated and fiddly (and actually, in true boy fashion, he doesn't have the fly zipped entirely in these photos so it looks crooked; it's perfect, I assure you).  I don't invest the time in sewing something unless I'm pretty sure it's going to be used, but there was a lot of my time in those pants and they were hanging, forgotten, in a closet.

Until one day, I happened upon Genevieve and Ben laughing their heads off and dancing in full make-up and crazy dress-up regalia.  And Ben was wearing the green pants.

I pounced:  "Buddy, they look great!  If I get you a white shirt, will you wear the pants?"  He agreed, but on Easter morning, he waffled and looked wary, so I quietly bribed him with a chocolate peanut butter egg before breakfast and he wore the pants.

Now the pants exist!  But will he wear them again?

I try to save bribery for urgent situations and not probe too deeply into what it's teaching my kids because, dang, bribery is a handy tool in a tight spot.  And I don't want to give it up.  (Do you bribe your kids or, uh, anybody?  What for?)

Happy birthday, dear Ben!  I hope you wear the green pants again, but I'll always love you entirely no matter what.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Million Nightingales

I've got a million nightingales on the branches of my heart. . .

singing "freedom, freedom, freedom!"

But to get the real power and beauty of the song, you must listen to the 4-part round.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Little Tip for Better Yogurt

Truly, such a little tip that really has made a difference to my homemade yogurt: don't stir the yogurt starter into the warm milk. Don't stir!  Just pour the warm milk over the yogurt and let it incubate.

I can't recall where I picked this method up or even if it was promised as a tip, but I like it because my yogurt has a sweeter, milder flavor and a lovely jell. Plus, it's one less step!

 Maybe I should just give you the run-down for how I currently make yogurt?  It's a little different from my 2010 instructional post and subsequent posts (using glass jars, wild starter).

1. Plug in yogurt incubator to warm up with glass jars in it.
2. Use another glass half-pint to measure the (pasteurized) milk into a saucepan.
3. Heat the milk to 180F using a candy thermometer to check.
4. Set aside milk in its pan to cool to 100-110F.
5. When milk has cooled to that temperature range, dollop a teaspoon-ful of plain yogurt from the last batch of yogurt into the bottom of each glass jar in the yogurt incubator.  I don't measure precisely!
6. Pour the milk into the jars.
7. Don't stir!!
8. Loose cover.
9. Incubate for 1-2 hours until jelled.
10. Refrigerate, making sure to put the "Belgian yogurt - save this starter" label on one of the new jar lids.

More fun to look at Granny and Phoebe than it is to look at cups of white stuff which don't change their looks over the years, unlike these cuties.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Phoebe's Apron

It was super-simple to make, and as soon as it came off my sewing machine, she put it on.  I used fabric left from Mom's quilt and some pink bias tape that is very stiff from whatever starch the factory put on it.  

The apron hasn't been washed yet, because I was careful to use a fabric that would hide dirt.  Phoebe uses it hard, and as these photos illustrate, she is very intent on getting into kitchen work, even taking a precarious perch on a rocking chair and pulling out serving spoons.  

She's gotten herself dumped off that chair more than once and doesn't care one little bit if it means she can stick her nose in everything.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

New Tags

I did set a few goals around the beginning of the year - perhaps we could call them New Year's resolutions - and I'm making slow progress.

 One of my goals is to get my Etsy shop up and and running again - I miss that sewing outlet and income. In that same vein, I made another batch of goodies for the museum store and this time, I braved the internets to order Thrift at Home tags to affix to my handmades.  I like them, but I need to get better at sewing them on straight.

My photos are not very great; I had a narrow window of time between completion of the order and delivery and it was dark and rainy outside.  But it's On the Record, so I'm satisfied.

 Another goal was to blog at least twice a week.  I've done pretty well with that so far, but yikes, this week is sort of getting away from me.

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Little Helper in Need of an Apron

There's a kids' apron on the hook in the kitchen, but it's clearly too big for Phoebe at this point.

No matter.  I will sew her an apron, right after I get a big project off my sewing machine (more on that in another post).
helping Mommy make sesame bagels

Phoebe has entered the classic toddler rage-stage of wanting to do adult things without help and without making mistakes.  Oh, how she bellows in rage as she tries to do everything!  And she has also been walking around saying, "Don't laugh!  Don't laugh, Mom!"  By which I take it to mean that she wants to be treated seriously as a contributing member of this household even though her efforts are adorably hilarious.  (And in my defense, I don't laugh at her; I think she actually picked up the phrase from Ben and Genevieve's spats and their sensitivity to anyone making fun of them. She likes to repeat what we say these days, too, which is irresistible to her siblings).

My precious little girl.  You're a pretty good kitchen chum already and you're not even two years old.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Simple Green Shirt for Genevieve

I made this shirt for Genevieve last year and never got around to photographing it.

I object on principle to those "dummies" books and now, sewing patterns. I'm not a dummy! But this was a really straightforward, pretty shirt to sew up.

Genevieve came home from school with this fancy braid.

And remarkably I got a nice picture of all three kids looking peaceful and happy and making eye-contact with the camera. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ben Bakes Cookies

It's a long story, but it's a good illustration of how children learn and how adults can contribute, so I'll tell it.

Ben likes to earn money, so he often asks for extra jobs that I am willing to pay for and then squirrels his cash away.  He's been learning how to count and roll coins and how to keep a ledger recording money in and money out.

Ben set up and took this photo.  I think it means the minifigure is going to work.

When the school hosted a Scholastic book fair, he asked if he could buy a book.  I said sure, because it was his money; I prefer to shop for used books or use the library.

He picked out two books and never said a word when the volunteer told him his total was $19.  But when we got home, he was very quiet.  And later, he burst into tears:  he didn't know the prices of the books and regretted spending that much money.  He didn't know where to look on the books for the prices, nor did he ask any questions.  Poor buddy.  He was distraught.

So we made a special trip back across town the next day with one of the books and the receipt to return it, although I cautioned him that I wasn't sure if book fairs can do returns.  While we were waiting in line, the principal bopped by and started chatting up Ben.  I could see Mr. S. was impressed with Ben's depth of feeling, so he offered Ben a job to earn some money if Ben couldn't get his money back for the book.

Well, Ben did get his money back for one book and kept one book, and he was happy.  And he was overjoyed when Mr. S. said the job offer would still stand, but that Ben needed to send him a proposal and pay schedule for his services.

Ben was delighted to be treated like a wage-earning adult, and dictated an email through me to Mr. S. suggesting what he could help with (uh, that was a hard one: what can an 8-year-old help a principal with?).  I suggested "bake cookies" since Mr. S. has a legendary sweet tooth and Mr. S. said yes, indeedy, he would like a dozen cookies but to be sure Ben paid for his ingredients.

So Ben took a pencil and paper and went with me when I went grocery shopping so he could write down prices.  Then, later, I helped him break down those prices for the amounts in his Snickerdoodle recipe, and then, further, for the dozen cookies he was taking to Mr. S.

So Ben baked cookies on one of the snow days last week.  He had never baked cookies before, so we talked through the recipe, and I stayed nearby while he worked.

I took these photos to illustrate how epic the baking process was.

 I'm really not even sure how I had the tolerance and patience for this project.  Maybe it was his pride and grit that impressed me?  He's something special, that Ben.

I never took photos of the cookies!  They were good, but very dense:  we think he forgot the baking soda in all that chaos.

And then he forgot the cookies on the porch the morning he was supposed to deliver them to Mr. S., and only remembered when we were halfway to school; yes, we turned around.  I love that Ben!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Winter Yet

It's not technically spring until Monday, even though February was so mild that I put away some woolens and my kids asked why the pool wasn't open yet.  Kids.

I was knitting them some warm things because it takes me most of a season to figure out what clothes we really need and I'm not a fast knitter.

So my silver lining in this winter storm is that Ben and Genevieve actually got to wear the things I made for them.  But otherwise, winter, I am done with you.  Go away.

This is Genevieve's ear warmer.  I used the last of this pretty yarn from Phoebe's vest and Phoebe's mittens - not sure what size it is or what the fiber content is.  I made up a pattern and it worked!  I just knitted a rectangle and then sewed the ends together.

And this is Ben's scarf.  I made him a striped one years ago when I didn't understand yarn and needle size; it was a very amateurish scarf with shrunken patches and stretched out stitches. His favorite color is green.  I used the seeded-rib stitch and I love the cushy ribs.  I was close to being done early in the morning of the first snow day, so Ben stood over me dressed in his puffy coat, snow pants, and boots while I knit furiously and cast off.  He said I could put the fringe on later.  Thanks, bud.  He loves the scarf, but when he gets to seriously hogging around in the snow, it comes off.

Phoebe wasn't totally thrilled about being out in the snow.  But I wanted to say that her snowsuit and hat are hand-me-downs from her big sister.  It gives me a strange jolt to see a little Genevieve walking around again:  it's fun to see the cute clothes in action after 10 years, but it's bittersweet to think how quickly time moves on.


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