Friday, September 30, 2011

A Nightdress Case

Does anybody really use dresser scarves anymore?  I remember my mother teaching me how to dust, and how annoyed I was that I had to take everything off that thing, take it outside and shake it, dust off all my little girl sundries, and set it all back up again.  I have dispensed with the dresser scarves in my home. . . .but!  they are so pretty!

I have made some into nightdress cases, a lovely idea I found in Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.  (I should start calling what I wear to bed "my nightdress" to add more elegance to my life).

The latest one is in the shop.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Ruffled Blue Blouse for Genevieve

She needed one more short-sleeved shirt for school.  I had the requisite blue fabric from Kim's parents' moving clean out.  I got a $.99 pattern at JoAnn's - I wanted a simple blouse with several variations. 

Most of the modern girl patterns were for costumes, pajamas, and fancy dresses.  Very telling about what people are willing to sew for little girls!

And it turns out, I made a princess-seamed blouse with a ruffled placket, neckband and set-in sleeves. 

In my naivete, I thought I had a simple pattern!  I doggedly followed the directions and the tailoring came out just fine.

 I think I'll make her a long sleeved one while it's still fresh in my mind.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Genevieve's Favorite Breakfast

Raisin cinnamon scones and lemon curd.

I realized as I made them twice last week that scones are basically biscuits with extras.  Huh.  I've been making scones for several years without making that connection. 

Biscuits are the fastest quick bread I know.  I like to have a little race by turning on the oven first and seeing if I can get the biscuits ready to pop in before the oven reaches 425. 

But my point is that biscuits/scones are not out of reach for breakfast, if you're awake enough and the children aren't up yet.  How lovely to wake to baking breakfast wafting up the steps. . .

My neighbor Kim gave me a somewhat cheater version of lemon curd.  Classic lemon curd is just lemon, egg yolks, sugar, and butter.  This uses whole eggs and cornstarch, too - less fussy and maybe easier to make?  I don't know - we like it so much I never made the classic stuff.

Kim's Lemon Curd

Beat in a small heatproof bowl and set aside:
2 eggs

In a medium saucepan, combine:
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. fine lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
1/4 c. lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)

Cut into chunks:
1/4 cup butter

Add the butter to the saucepan and stir over low heat until thickened and bubbly.

Stir some of the hot lemon mixture into the beat eggs, stirring the eggs continuously.  This tempers the eggs.  Now pour the egg/lemon mixture very slowly into the hot lemon stuff in the saucepan, stirring continuously.

Cook and stir for 2 minutes - no longer or the egg could curdle.
Pour into a glass bowl or jar and refrigerate for several hours before using.  It thickens as it cools.  Will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge if there are no double dippers adding germs to it!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ben's Owls

I just thought the utilitarian denim knee patches needed a little whimsy, so I appliqued the flannel scraps of owls on top.  Ben says they're playing peek-a-boo.  I'm so glad I got a picture when he put his shoes on by himself, bless him.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

That Cozy Feeling

the delicious weight of blankets at night. . .good warm breakfast smells from a hot oven in the morning. . .jackets and sweaters and lovely leather boots. . .cold noses and red cheeks. . .smoky air. . .warm home, chilly air and the desire to be at home with a mug of hot tea and the umbrella dripping in the corner, drawing the curtains against the winter that's coming on.  Home is such a cozy place in autumn. 
I love how the sudden brisk air prioritizes our house projects.  Suddenly there's a flurry of outdoor painting, quick, or we'll have to look at that helplessly until next summer. . .

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Iced Tea for My Mother

Because my parents and sister came over for Sunday night "supper" (read: popcorn and whatever else we find in the fridge).  I had just straightened my tea cupboard and realized I hadn't made black tea all summer, just backyard mint

And then I liked the little cap of teabag papers on top of the jar. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mr. Thrift and the Seam Ripper

Genevieve's school uniforms aren't supposed to have any logos on them.  And my friend Maria told me her clever method of buying incorrectly monogrammed backpacks for cheap, and then picking out the monogram.  I got this little polo for a few bucks at the thrift store.

My husband nicely offered to take a go at the seam ripper.  Well.  Polo has no intention of removing its branding claws from that shirt.  We got so far, and then I appliqued a white heart over the mess and the hole. 

A little puckery, but at least we can still use the shirt.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Forgotten Cookies

Otherwise known as meringues.  Popped into the hot oven just after it's turned off and then "forgotten" while the oven cools. 

I always have a few egg whites in my freezer from pasta making or pouring custard.  I used to use them solely for cheater Italian meringue, but I don't make cakes often so I built up a little store of odd egg whites.  Now I have options!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What I Found at the Hardware Store (updated with recipe)

I adore the housewares sections of hardware stores.  A really good hardware store, preferably one in the country, has the most practical, heavy-duty tools for housekeepers.  I normally do not "shop," by which I mean I don't browse through a store to see if there's something I want to buy (because there always is because those marketing people know what they're doing - this is a terrible way to keep spending down!).

However, I do like a quick run through the housewares section of an old-fashioned hardware store.  And that's how I found these great little glass dessert dishes for $1.59 each.

I have had small dessert dishes on my list for a month or two, so I was thrilled to finally cross it off and bring these cuties home.  Mr. Thrift likes them, too, which is no small feat when I'm trying to combine my thrift and his taste (and my taste! I have taste too!).

Here they hold nice little servings of Graham Cracker Pudding.  This winter, it will be home-canned peaches with a crisp cookie on the side for a company dessert.

Updated with recipe for Rebecca:

Graham Cracker Pudding - recipe from my mother with a few tweaks by me

In a medium saucepan, bring to boil, stirring constantly (get a book!):
1 quart milk
1 cup crushed graham crackers (I used cinnamon graham crackers this time - that was nice)
2 beaten eggs
1/2 -2/3 cup brown sugar
pinch salt

When the glop comes to a definite boil, remove from heat.  Refrigerate overnight - it will solidify.  The next day, beat the heck out of it with an electric mixer.  Fold in 3/4-1 cup whipped cream - too much whipped cream will dilute the graham taste.  If you plan to use a sweetened commercial whipped cream, then use the lesser amount of sugar in the pudding.  Gently transfer to a glass serving dish.  My mom always made a little fluffy disc of whipped cream on top and sprinkled on some graham cracker crumbs for pretty.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Morning in My Kitchen

The weather is cooler, and I find myself in the kitchen more.  Last week, one morning, I snapped photos of what I was doing.
I roasted tomatoes, per Jennifer Jo's instructions and inspiration.

Mine were not paste tomatoes, so I think I should have roasted them longer. . . but the house did smell like a Tuscan granny's, so I was happy.

The first butternuts are in market!  We make a big deal out of making Genevieve her first pumpkin pie.  I baked the butternut with the tomatoes.

Carrot tops waiting for a run down to the freezer - I'll save them to make stock.

I made the pudding I was raised with: Graham Cracker Pudding.  Probably the final pudding of the summer.

And chopped cheap bell peppers to freeze.  Three for $1 at market (but they HAD been four for a dollar a few weeks ago!)  First they freeze on a cookie sheet, then I scoop them into bags.  They are loose, so I can just take out the amount I want instead of defrosting a whole bag.

Sometimes I wonder what to blog about because I've got most of my activities On the Record.  Look at all those links above - I've written about this stuff already.  My default blog posts are the new things, the improved stuff. . . but that is not representative of my quotidian work!  Really, as I think here, I see that this blog does add another layer of purpose to the work I love.  I reflect more because I'm writing about how I keep house and care for my family. And you are part of the richness too - thank you for your comments and conversation.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Sobbing is Over

The first day of kindergarten was the lovely stereotype of crisp sweater-weather and cheer.
Over the next few days, Genevieve began to sob and beg not to go to school ("I weeped," she told me).  This was not our independent girl.

We talked about adjusting, making friends, focusing on the good things, learning to read, etc. etc.  We prayed with her (and very hard for her).  Finally, I talked to the harried teacher who assured me that the crying disappearing 10 minutes into the day.

But the crying was starting the night before at our house and continuing in the morning, on the walk to school, and at goodbye.  This is our first kindergartner - my husband and I began to question ourselves.

Then, out of the blue, Genevieve said, "I've adjusted to school, Mom.  I wish I was there now."  And there has not been a bad word about school since then.  Thank you, God.  I don't think I've adjusted to her school yet, but I'm working on it - avoiding the cruddy cafeteria food, stocking up on uniforms, dealing with the deluge of paper, getting ready to think about homework. . .

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ben's Job

This was Ben's idea - I think it started because the trash cans have wheels.  He is entranced by wheels.  I would not have thought of this job for a 3 1/2 year old.

He pulls the empty trashcans in from the curb

the whole way back to their hiding place.

Our house is three apartments - we live in one - so he gets to pull two or three trashcans every week, plus heft a few recycling bins.

He loves it.  I love seeing his eager face and his satisfaction at doing a real, helpful job. 

Before Ben, my husband and I would put off bringing in the trashcans, just pulling them into the passageway in front of the gate; sometimes they would stay there until the next trash day, blocking any stray idea to wheel out our bikes.  It's amazing the energy a household gets from doing jobs in a timely manner! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Patch to Make Me Happy

I caught my sleeping shorts on a cabinet pull and punched a hole in them.  Drat.

Then I patched them, with a flower from the vintage sherbet pillowcase.  Happiness.

I just realized there is a sea change in my life:  I get a bigger thrill from fixing my clothes than I do from buying new ones. Wow.

On another note, school is off to a rocky start for Genevieve.  I'll be back to report, with pictures from her cheery first day which rapidly went downhill. Sighhhh.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Semolina Gnocchi

I thought there were only potato gnocchi in the nice restaurants.  Then I stumbled across gnocchi alla Romana - easy, easy discs of cheesy, buttery goodness.

Really good pasta is made from semolina flour (these gnocchi use semolina flour, which isn't cheap), but these are pasta's country cousins. You cook the semolina flour in milk as if making oatmeal or polenta, then add some eggs and dump the whole goo out on a countertop or (playing it safe) cookie sheet. 

When it's stiff, cut or pat it into little circles. Genevieve likened it to play dough.

 Shingle in a baking dish, add some dabs of butter and Parmesan and bake. . . oh delicious.

This time I served them with a beet and dill sauce from Moosewood on the side (pictured in the blue and white striped bowl), and brown-butter green beans from the backyard garden.  And to put it right over the top, there were perfect summer tomatoes too.

(Gnocchi recipe here.  I've read a number of similar recipes, so here are my tweaks to this one: I do not add cheese to the batter; I don't fuss with the buttered parchment paper or refrigeration.  I don't drizzle cream on the top.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Early Sunday Morning

I was finishing my Junior Youth Sunday school lesson, with a cup of tea, and the burpcloths close by so I would remember to take them to the new parents that morning.  We're having a little baby boom at church - so fun.

But I never actually used that lesson because one of Doris Janzen Longacre's daughter came and spoke to an adult Sunday school class, and I just hitched my junior youth onto that class because I wanted to hear her speak. 

Doris Janzen Longacre wrote the More with Less cookbook, and large parts of Living More with Less. . . but she couldn't finish it because she died of cancer in her 30s, leaving behind her girls and husband. We've been reading and discussing the new edition of Living More with Less this summer.

Doris Janzen Longacre had a fair amount of adversity in her life (I learned from her daughter) - she was homeschooled because of her severe asthma, and in fact, her family moved to Arizona and she finally got strong there.  Her asthma came back with a vengeance when she and her husband served the church in Indonesia - she almost died then. 

But a few years later, just as she was about to start a master's degree in nutrition, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and given two years to live.  Her daughter quoted from her journals, how Doris did not want "to leave the party early. . . " how she forced herself to cook on her low days because "the act of creating restores and brightens our spirits - how was God changed when he created our world?"

Doris was in her late 30s when she died. . . my age.  It hurts me to imagine that.

Dear Doris, you always inspire me.  I will not allow pain, worry, or sadness to be in charge of my life.  I can cook, I can sew, I can pray to be led into new life, new hope. 

(photos of that Sunday morning, then of my creative uplifting:  potholder, sewing pattern, and plum and peach tart.)

Linking up with Leila's collection of capturing everyday contentment.