Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chore Chart for the Moderately Scheduled Household

By moderately scheduled, I mean that we eat supper at about the same time every day and try to have the kids in bed by 8 o'clock.  And that I clean the house on Fridays and pay the bills on Mondays.  But everything else gets shoehorned in. 

The first few chore charts I made did not work.  They were based on days of the week or month and there was not enough parental readiness for another layer of schedule in our days.  We have been feebly attempting to follow various chore charts since January.

Then I saw my friend Sharon's brilliant chore chart:  just a column for each job, with a sticker awarded when the job was done!  Simple to follow, with no shame for missed days, yet a growing body of stickers to feel proud about.  And I can modify it any time I want to, instead of waiting for a month to end.  I told my kids that when they get 10 stars, they can have a piece of candy. ("What kind?" Genevieve wanted to know. Good heavens, is she old enough to start driving a bargain?!)

I started with a chore chart because the children wanted a rag, wanted to vacuum, wanted to help put sheets on the bed, heck, wanted to help with anything I was doing.  I think children are initially attracted to adult work because of the novelty, but then they need to be taught how to actually do the job and then keep on doing it, even if they don't feel like it. 

Genevieve habitually carries her dishes out to the kitchen after a meal without prompting, so I didn't put that on her job chart.  She is working on jobs that challenge her skills a little.  Ben, on the other hand, has a column for "clear place setting."

They have each earned a piece of candy so far.  Sometimes they remind me of the chart, and sometimes we don't talk about "shiny stars" for a few days.  I like how this is working for our children.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

First Strawberries on Dessert Biscuit

I almost titled this post "finally" because it feels like we've been waiting for strawberries for ages with worries that the excessive rain was rotting them, but here they are, only a few days later than last year

We had our first strawberry shortcake on Tuesday, by which I mean strawberries, whipped cream, and some kind of cake-ish thing.  When I grew up, it was "cottage pudding" from Mennonite Community which was really a short cake.  I sometimes make Carla's Hot Milk Sponge Cake from More with Less, but here it was dessert biscuit following Rebecca's instructions.

To my whole wheat biscuit recipe, I add an egg and a little sugar.  I pat it into an 8x8 pan and bake it about 10 minutes longer.  Cut into squares, break open, top with lightly sugared, sliced strawberries and freshly whipped cream.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What I Did With a Ripped-Up Bedspread

The bedspread came into A's creative reuse shop ripped in half - useless, right?  but there were pretty parts to it.

I pieced together three hanging hand towels (oven towels) out of it.

Towel one went to PunkRizz. The topper is made of genuine feedsack.

Towel two went to a church lady at a fun church bazaar.

And towel three is the only one left, looking pretty in a bathroom or a kitchen.  It's in my shop!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Introvert - pretty, happy, funny, real

I just realized, thanks to this post, that I am an introvert.  I really thought that because I'm not shy and quiet, I'm an extrovert.  But it's more a question of what energizes me and what drains my energy - introverts are drained by people and energized by solitude and yes, socializing slowly drains away my energy. 
(Ben after playing in the rain - we've had so much rain!)

Suddenly my marriage came into focus:  all the times my husband eagerly accepts social invitations while I pluck at his elbow wondering if we can go home yet.  An hour at parties is enough for me, but my husband is just getting going.

I still recall the endless stream of visitors after Ben was born when I started to panic because I just couldn't bear to socialize anymore and that sent me into a guilty tizzy because these were dear friends and family!  But, duh, if I had only realized then that I am an introvert, I would have been kinder to myself and firmer to the visitors that I would see them another day. Or handed Ben to them and gone off for a little solitude.

Now it wonders me if all homemakers are introverts. . . energized by nesting, solitary puttering, and domestic projects.  Do extroverts like being at home if they can entertain a lot?

Chime in and tell me:  are you an introvert or an extrovert?  How does it affect your homemaking?

(linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter's collection today - go check it out!  I picked photos of my children to illustrate the pretty, happy, funny, and real aspects of our life together.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Play Foam is Cool (for kids)

Punch it.

Roll it.
Make it into play food.

It doesn't dry out.

It sticks to itself. . . and everywhere.  Yes, I am still stepping on tiny foam balls days after we "put away" the foam.

It does seem less messy than play dough, so thanks, Aunt Mel, for the cool foam.  The children love it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bagels are Easy

I recently scored a two pound block of triple-cream Danish blue cheese for $5 from my favorite discount grocer.  Wow! It's so silky soft, not crumbly like the lesser blues I've had before, that we've been spreading it on homemade bagels.  With a cup of black coffee and a few crisp apple slices, this is a wonderful breakfast.

And here I will post the bagel recipe for my cousin who agrees with me that good commercial bagels are expensive.

Bagels (from Recipes from the Old Mill)

Mix together and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes:
1.5 c. warm water
2 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. dry yeast

2 c. unbleached flour
2 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp. salt

Knead dough for 5-8 minutes.  Grease bowl and dough, cover, and allow to rise until double (about 45 minutes).

Bring to boil 4 quarts water.  If you want to flavor the bagels, add sesame seeds, cinnamon/raisins, or sauteed onion, etc. now and knead it in.  Punch down and divide dough into 8 equal pieces.  Shape each into a ball, poke a hole in the center and gently pull and work into a bagel shape.  Allow to rest for a few minutes.  Drop 3 bagels in boiling water for 2 minutes; turn the bagels and boil for 2 more minutes.  Place them on a well-greased cookie sheet.  Repeat process for the rest of the bagels.  At some point, turn the oven on to 400.  When all the bagels are boiled, (optional:  brush them with one beaten egg) bake them at 400 for 20 minutes.  Cool on racks. 

Genevieve has peach jam on her other slice - peach jam made by my canning pal, Rachel, who got tired of the tedious small batches of jam.  She tripled the jam recipe and further shortened that tiresome canning by bunging the jam in quart jars.  I LOVE HER STYLE.  Let's can again this summer, ok, Rachel?

("Peach Jam: yup, a whole quart")

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Trio of Vintage Roller Towels

I found an old roller towel - a long loop of toweling that hung over a roller and then you rolled it until you found a dry spot for your wet hands.  This one still had sweet little hand stitching on it, but had two rectangles heartlessly, needlessly cut out.  This is the kind of thing that I love to rescue and restore to function.

I measured and cut the roller towel into three hanging hand towels, oven towels. I patched the sorry rectangles with little scraps of old feedsack from my stash. Check them out in my shop!

Next up, a ripped-in-half vintage bedspread. . .

Friday, May 20, 2011

An Alternative to Patching Holey Knees

Cut out the section with the holes and sew the bottom legs back on.  Capris!  These jeans were also ragged at the back hem, so I cut off the old hem and made a new shirttail hem. 

Of course, these revamped jeans are more practical than cute, but if you want more cute, you could add a few inches of great fabric to the bottom of the cut-off jeans, making long denim shorts with a pretty band (or ruffle!) at the hem.  (And is there a name for those trendy, close-fitting knee length shorts?)  Last summer, when I cut off holey-knee jeans, I elevated them by adding nice trims.

It seems, however, that practical capris can make you grouchy. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Enchiladas the Fast and Easy Way

Just don't bother to roll the tortillas around the filling. My corn tortillas would always unroll or ooze filling or some other annoying thing.  Layer the tortillas with the filling and put the sauce (or not) on the top and call it an "enchilada bake" to be proper.  Almost like a Latino lasagne.  You've got all the delicious flavors and textures, just not the humps of the rolls. 

And while we're on the subject of tortillas, thanks to friends Marlisa and Daryl for this tip:  buy a big pack of corn tortillas at the Latino grocery and just put that bag in the freezer.  Anytime you want tortillas, you just wiggle some off or drive a table knife down inbetween a chunk, warm them up, and hey presto, tortillas.  Much better than the times I've tried to make them myself or the measly grocery store 10-packs I would often forget to buy anyway.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Genevieve's Quilt

First she was a sweet, sweet dream for my husband and me. . .then she was a real baby (6 months old here, with me).

Then she had a little brother and moved from her crib to a twin bed.  She needed a twin blanket of some kind, and I thought, I'm going to make her a quilt (I had just gotten tremendous sewing confidence with a new Bernina and super-sewer best friend). 

It was the first quilt I ever made.

It is a simple Nine Patch, made using a vintage sheet as the light color and then pink, blue, and yellow scraps from Rebecca's stash.  I didn't buy any fabric for this quilt - too overwhelming to me to throw open the fabric store floodgates.  I got a walking foot for my Bernina, and machine quilted in simple diamonds, making an X across each patch.  I didn't mark any quilting lines and the wonkiness here and there does not bother me.

The back is another vintage sheet.  When I took a photo of the quilt For the Record and for the online quilt show, it was the first time I actually stepped back and studied the design.  I love the little pathways made by the dark and light patches.  I also like the darker blue in the middle, with a few random patches close to the middle so it's got an unstudied charm (to my eye).

Genevieve loves it almost as much as her "pinky," the pink and yellow crib comforter I made her (folded at the foot of her first bed, here; now she's got the top bunk).

However, I would put a border around the Nine Patch quilt next time instead of doing the nine-patch right up to the binding.  I like how a plain border frames a quilt. (Kim's quilt was the next quilt, and that did, you can see, have a border).

This is a church directory photo of our family around the time that Genevieve's quilt was done when she was 3 and Ben 6 months old.

And today, she is still my very sweet girl and she loves her quilt.  We wash and use it hard. . . maybe there will be a little scrap left for her in her adult life, something to treasure and remember a childhood by.

Now for a quilt for my sweet boy. . .

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Husband Thinks These Earrings are HOT, yo

Can you tell what they are?

I wanted green earrings, not goofiness.

But my husband was so tickled by these that I got them.  And I really like them too - and most people don't even notice that they're Lego.

My husband and I both grew up with mounds of Lego, although I stopped playing with them before I hit middle school.  He, however, still has a precious collection and still on occasion makes things with a pal and, of course, our children.  Probably that's why he's an architect and I'm not.

p.s.  I'm the first blogger on a Handmade Blog Tour, hosted by Amanda at Itchin' Stitchin'.  Check it out!

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Admit It: Eclair Dessert is My Favorite Dessert

I adore Eclair Dessert.  It started in my childhood at all the Mennonite potlucks, which may be why it's so rooted in my subconscious that I can't exactly explain why I love it (graham crackers, vanilla pudding, whipped cream, and chocolate icing - I guess that's understandable!). 

As an adult, I finally figured out what genre it is:  an icebox cake, which sounds so charmingly retro I love it even more.  An icebox (or refrigerator) cake is layers of cookies and cream or pudding, allowed to soak into something transcendent in the fridge.  I only know about two:  Eclair Dessert, the topic of this blog post, and Christian's chocolate cake.  Can you tell me about more?

Here you see my sister's birthday dinner and her requested desserts, Eclair Dessert and graham cracker pudding (I had Eclair Dessert on my birthday this year too).  Good times.  My camera was passed around so much that I think my whole family gets credit for the photos here.

I tried to find a recipe online to link to, but they are all different from what I make.  Rebecca told me that Cook's Country had a recent article on Eclair Dessert made with whole foods (not packaged or processed) and called it all the rage.  Well, it's been all the rage with me since I was a little girl.  Try it - you'll see why!

Chocolate Eclair Cake - - from Mennonite Country Style
You will need a whole box of graham crackers.

Grease the bottom of a 9x13 cake pan.
Line with whole graham crackers (and fill in around the edges with smaller pieces).

Beat together:
2 packages instant French vanilla pudding (3.5 oz. packages)
3 c. milk

Fold in:
1 tub whipped cream or 1 c. heavy cream, whipped

Spread half of pudding mixture over crackers.  Add another layer of crackers.  Spread the rest of the pudding.  Add a final layer of crackers.  Cover and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.  Then make the frosting.

Beat together until smooth:
5 Tbs. cocoa
2 Tbs. oil
2 Tbs. corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbs. soft butter
1.5 c. powdered sugar
3 Tbs. milk or cream

Spread frosting on top of dessert. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours before serving.

Ben, just before he burst into tears over his dropped dessert.. . .

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Shoestring Chic #7: Capris, Two Ways

1.  At home, but feeling chic because I like the fit of my tee and it makes my eyes look blue. . .and I chopped the legs off  brown chinos to make these capris!  With my favorite tiny turquoise earrings, I felt good.  But is this really an "outfit?"  I debated even photographing this because it looks so ordinary.  But spare and simple is what I lean towards, so this outfit is true to my taste; plus, the clothes fit me well and I feel good in them - also one of my closet principles.

pale blue tee, thrifted:  $4
earrings -older than my marriage: free
brown chinos passed to me by my aunt Nancy: free
brown slides:  $30
total:  $34

2.  So here are the brown capris on a day I was teaching an ESL class.  It was also a bit chilly, so the boots were cozier than sandals.  I've seen the young things around town wearing boots with cropped pants and I thought hey! what a useful way to get more wear out of capris!  Do you wear this look?


brown chino capris:  free
green shirt, pass-on from my cousin:  free
classic Eddie Bauer denim jacket bought at the mall with my sister when I actually shopped at the mall - so more than 10 years ago! free
brown belt from my college days:  free
Ten Thousand Villages bead bracelet:  $7
earrings, gift from my friend Maria
my dearly loved Aldo boots:  $40

total:  $47

Below is the unedited photo that I used for my new profile pic.

Your turn!