Monday, April 30, 2012

There's Been a Move

Over the weekend, we switched rooms.  The children are now in the former pale green workroom.  I am in the former pink and yellow nursery as I type, in a room of my very own.  It's going to be lovely when it's all done, but in the meantime, oh man, I hate the moving chaos and the way it spreads to all corners of the house.  I even skipped Sunday school to whisk around at it.

This move involved drywalling and its attendant dust. Then we pushed all the furniture to the middle of the rooms and painted them with the help, in various forms, of both our families.

 There were numerous trips to Home Depot and even a midnight trip to Walmart.

That's Benjamin Moore's Eccentric Lime in the children's room.

My room is plain, pure white.  With a paper lantern and bamboo shades.  It's so absolutely lovely to not share this space with anyone.  Don't worry - I'll share it with you via photos.  Soon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Real Sushi for a Birthday

Ben just turned four!  First he requested a "Dodger meal" again, same as last year.  Then, a few days before his birthday, I made some quick fake sushi to go with leftover hot & sour soup at lunch.  I grabbed some leftover salad to put in the middle of the sushi, it was that quick and dirty.

But Ben was transfixed.  He changed his mind.  He wanted sushi and miso soup for his birthday meal.

So, in his honor, I finally made real sushi.  I did the rice the right way.  I did not, however, attempt  raw fish.

We had California rolls, avocado rolls, cucumber rolls, and an experimental sweet potato roll which wasn't bad.

Ben has been requesting an "M&M cake like Aunt Shelley made at Thanksgiving" since Thanksgiving.  He wanted to help make it, too.  And then he made a smiley face on top with M&Ms and I totally failed to get a final photo. (It was an Oreo crust, cream cheese layer, chocolate pudding, whipped cream top)

It was a happy birthday. . . . .my sweet little boy who now tells us all the things he can do because he's four, including walking across town to pick up his older sister from kindergarten - by himself.  Dear Ben.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Recent Sewing Flops

1.  The Lego Circle was a brilliant concept.  A large circle bound with extra wide bias tape and a double drawstring:  spread it out flat to play, draw it up tight into a bag to store.  Brilliant.  I didn't do any research first and my design was flawed - the drawstring couldn't draw up.  Here is the tutorial I should have used.  (You're welcome). The circle of shame went to Goodwill because I couldn't bear to look at it and the Lego is dumped in a plastic tub for now.
2.  The peach sun dress.  It's made from the pinafore pattern.  I cleverly cut it from the front of an adult dress so it has pockets already.  But.  Something bunchy is happening under the arms and yet the armholes are too revealing.  I finished it anyway (used the orange sphere buttons) and hung it in Genevieve's closet.  I'd like to cut it into rags.

3.  The dress that is so bad I didn't take a picture.  This is a long story (you can surf away now, I understand; I mainly need to tell this because if I can't be the Good Example, maybe I can be the Terrible Warning).

My sister and my sister-in-law were my bridesmaids 13 years ago.  I chose pale blue faux linen made into long dresses with surplice bodices.  Pretty and simple.  A few years ago I came across several leftover yards of the stuff and the dress pattern.  So I thought it would be kind of funny if I made myself the dress, albeit sleeveless and knee length. 

I made the asinine decision to line the bodice by lining each piece of the bodice with pale blue satin before sewing it together (the real way to line something is to make a whole second something and then slip it into the first).  This made for some very strange seams and puffiness.  I discovered that the faux linen could not hold a crease, nor could it be ironed on the right side due to the raised flowers trailing all over it. (Wow, the things they discreetly keep from the bride; what else don't I know about my wedding?)

Furthermore, I did not realize that a sleeveless dress has a different armscye than a short-sleeved dress.  I recut the armscye and tried to make new facings which were essentially strips of fabric, not the convex shape they need to be. Straining fabric in odd places - uncomfortable and very homemade looking.

To top it off, I put an invisible zipper down the back without using an invisible zipper foot.  In all of this I was pretty much gloriously oblivious. 

I told my shameful story to my mother-in-law, a sympathetic listener who also happens to be an excellent seamstress and caretaker of history.  I didn't realize that she had saved my sister-in-law's dress! 

She offered me the bridesmaid dress she had laid away in storage which she was thinking of cutting up to make a dress for Genevieve.  I gave her the botched dress to cut up instead.  Now I have a historic bridesmaid dress and I am not going to screw this one up.  So it might be a couple years before you see it, until I know a little bit more about dress making.

Care to share any of your sewing flops?  Just think of all the Terrible Warnings we could profit from.

Monday, April 23, 2012

"It was a big kitchen. . ."

"It was a big kitchen, old-fashioned but well enough planned, and after the vicarage kitchen, a delight.  Instead of our vast black Eagle range there was a cream-coloured Aga, nestling under the old mantelpiece as if it had been built with the house. . .Opposite the fireplace was a tall dresser with rows of pretty plates in white and powder-blue, with cups to match hanging along the fronts of the shelves.  The new fashion for built-in kitchen units and 'worktops' had not reached so far into the wilds, it appeared.  The big table in the middle of the room gave all the working space necessary, and there was another long table under the window, cluttered now. . .
Thornyhold, Mary Stewart

I was so far inside the box when we planned our kitchen that I thought the standard $30,000 kitchens with built-in cupboards and granite counters were the only way to go.  My. 

When I have a kitchen to do again, I will think of my space in a more elemental way.  My style is not really hodge-podge old-fashioned, but I would like to see what a dresser, wall shelves, and a big wooden table would be like for a kitchen.

Pictures from a book I love:  The Family Home by Joanne Copestick

Saturday, April 21, 2012


This morning I cleared out a little corner of the yard and edged it with broken bits of brick and stone.  Then I filed the nasturtium seeds a little (forgot to soak them overnight) and planted them.  I want to have pretty flower salads this summer!  And decorate desserts!

The children and their friends were in the background.  Yarn, binoculars, sidewalk chalk, and construction cones were involved.  And pirates.

I also managed to fill a planter with soil for a front-porch planting of nasturtiums.  However, the bike lock I purchased to chain it to the porch was broken.  In the afternoon, I walked back to the bike shop to get another one and wrassled the big container to the porch.  Over dinner, my husband pointed out that I had planted climbing nasturtiums and I thought I had planted bush variety.  Oh.

And dinner.  Genevieve wanted to go on a picnic in the park, but I told her a back yard picnic was what I could manage.

It was lovely.  We watched the black clouds build while we were eating.  (Salmon cakes with tartar sauce, orange asparagus pasta salad with mint)  Now it's raining on the seeds, on the cracked dusty gardens, on the thirsty new trees down the street and I am so grateful. 

Orange Asparagus Pasta Salad with Mint (from a magazine clipping I've had for several years in my file - also mentioned here)

Cook half-pound chunky pasta in boiling salted water in a large pot for 5 minutes.  Add 2-3 cups chopped asparagus.  Boil 2 more minutes.  Pour into a strainer in sink.  Run cold water over pasta and asparagus until cool.  Allow to drain.

In salad bowl, combine:

juice and zest of one orange
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Add and stir:
1/3 cup chopped spring onions
handful of fresh mint, chopped
2 oranges, peeled and chopped
1 cup minced or crumbled cheese - feta is lovely, so is Swiss or a mild cheddar

Add the drained, cooled pasta and asparagus.  Stir gently to combine.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.  As the salad sits, the pasta soaks up the dressing - I like to have a little dressing reserved to put on it at this point, but you may like your pasta salad on the dry side.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins - Easy and Healthy Enough for Breakfast

Remember when I was looking for a recipe for lemon poppyseed muffins?  Oh my word, it was exactly a year ago! (What is going on? Help me analyze this).

I didn't find one (then!) that was easy or healthy enough for breakfast. I guess I'm picky about muffins. I like to eat them for breakfast or snacks. I like them healthy (why? I'm not sure - "muffin" just says "not indulgent" to me). I like them to be straightforward; if I want fancy, I'll make scones or a yeast-raised treat.

I made the millet muffins in Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day.  They were much too rich, and used butter.  I maintain that oil works best in quick breads and muffins (but quick breads are tricky to bake without the middle being goopy and the edges too dark).  However, I loved the texture of the millet in the muffins.

And I got serious and fiddled with recipes until I got one I like.  Straightforward.  Healthy. Easy enough for breakfast (no lemon glaze, which seems to be the popular approach to lemon poppyseed muffins).

Thrift at Home Lemon Poppyseed Muffins - makes 12-16

Mix together dry ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup dry uncooked millet
3 tsp. poppy seeds
grated zest from one large lemon
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Separately, mix together the wet ingredients and whisk well:
1 cup plain yogurt (if you're using Greek yogurt or very thick yogurt, dilute with milk to make the consistency of thick buttermilk)
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
juice of one lemon

Gently combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring just until mostly mixed - lumps and floury bits are fine (tough muffins from overmixing are not fine).

Fill paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full.
Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, until muffin tops spring back when gently touched.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to finish cooling.

The next recipe revision upped the baking powder a little.  Better puff.
In my experience, adding uncooked millet to baked goods is like adding nuts.  It's not part of the flour chemistry.  If you don't have uncooked millet, I think you can safely leave it out of these muffins.  I keep millet on hand for this casserole and this hot cereal, if you need a gentle push towards buying millet. I like my family to eat more grains than just wheat, rice, and oats.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Daily Contentment

Pretty hotpads. I enjoy this other quilter's patchwork so much.  I wonder about her, back in the 1930s. . . what did she make this quilt for?  It was certainly used hard by. . . whom?

I like to pick out my favorite patch and pretend I have 5 yards to make a dress and what it would look like. I love non-matching patchwork so much. I made the binding on these hotpads out of three different fabrics, but they do kind of match; it's hard to turn off the MATCH button in my brain.

On their way to a customer.

Happy is a visit to my grandparents with my mom and children.  My children are so blessed to have known both maternal and paternal great-grandparents.

Grandma had just finished looking through her recipe box with Mom and me, discussing chiffon cakes.  Cakes make me nervous. 

Grandma is holding the rainbow pictures Genevieve and Ben drew for her birthday.  She turned 90 on St. Patrick's Day and we sent her a card (this year!  I'm not always that thoughtful or organized) - the big party is coming in May so we can celebrate Grandpa's 90th too.

Funny is this picture that Genevieve copied, of her own initiative.  It's the first picture I've seen her do that didn't come from her head.

Real is this 5-Minute Salad I made, thinking how the children would all love it.  I love jello salads, although I consider them dessert.  I served some to the children as an after-school snack instead of the usual apple.  They didn't like it and didn't finish it, even after Genevieve suggested some pecans on top.
I collected these snippets as part of Leila and Rosie's post on everyday contentment.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Sweater for the Wine

What to do with old cotton sweaters which have lost their shape?  I put this one in my fabric stash with plans to try it out as filling for hotpads

Instead, one night in a fit of desperation before we left for a soiree with hostess wine in hand, I cut off the sweater arm, stitched a canvas circle in the cut end, et voila, wine bag!

My mother (the babysitter that evening) held the bag and its wine for me so I could snap a photo and run out the door. 

Other ideas for old cotton sweaters?

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Week in Suppers: mid-April

Monday: my husband heated up leftover Nigerian stew and made rice and a green salad to go with it
notes:  This was a stew recipe recommended by Rebecca, made for a Maundy Thursday meal at church; I made a double batch because I was suddenly worried that I hadn't made my assigned 10-12 servings.  As usual, I had lots of leftovers.  The recipe is from Extending the Table.  Beans, curried tomato sauce, and cabbage.  As Rebecca suggested, I omitted meat.  It was good.

The view on the way to my job one morning last week.

Tuesday: white bean stew with rosemary, garlic, and leg of lamb from the freezer; homemade flatbread (actually, flour tortillas, but this wasn't a Spanish meal, you know?); green salad with my signature vinaigrette, leftover pan eclairs
notes: The lamb was tough, but tasty.

Wednesday: leftover Easter hamballs, buttered noodles, and a green salad
Notes: We all screeched in the door from various directions at 6pm.  Supper from the microwave.  TV-dinners, Thrift-at-Home style!

Thursday:  sesame noodles with first asparagus, blueberry ginger tart

Friday:  Thai rice and beef with cilantro and chopped peanuts as garnishes, cabbage & lime salad, the rest of the blueberry tart
Notes:  This was an excellent combo.  My sister joined us for dinner before she and I went shopping together.

Saturday: black bean sweet potato enchilada bake with salsa, cilantro, and plain  yogurt; green salad with Trisha's French dressing; tapioca pudding with strawberry sauce
Notes:  My in-laws joined us for dinner after my father-in-law and husband were hanging drywall all afternoon.  I wanted to have a hearty dinner that wasn't too much work for me as I was at a fundraising banquet earlier in the day.  The tapioca and sauce was a real hit.  I had the enchilada leftovers in my lunchbox today.

Sunday: roast beef, oven mashed potatoes with garlic, green salad with French, the leftover tapioca pudding with strawberry sauce
Notes:  Trying to use up the garlic - it's starting to sprout.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

First Asparagus (but I'm really talking about the excellent blueberry tart) UPDATED with recipe

My photos are of the first asparagus are very poor (I'm battling a general streak of incompetence right now - or apathy or something).  The blueberry tart outshone everything.  But trust me:  we ate the first asparagus for supper tonight and it was good.

supper tonight:sesame noodles with asparagus, carrots, and cabbage
hot & sour soup
extra-special blueberry tart

Our version of sesame noodles is cold noodles with veggies like cucumber, purple cabbage, shredded carrots, and scallions. Plus a peanut dressing, sesame seeds, and an herb like cilantro or Thai basil. 

Now.  Blueberry Tart. 

My co-worker Tina made this recently for her birthday and very kindly saved a piece especially for me.   I requested the recipe even before I ate a bite, because I am a one-trick pony with my frozen blueberries (these excellent muffins).  That is lame. 

The tart is a standard berry tart, but with fresh ginger, mint, and lime juice added and WOW.  It's a great complement to the blueberries. 

We all loved it.  My husband was sneaking bites off Ben's plate.  I guarded the other half of the tart for supper with my sister tomorrow night (better be prompt, Mel!).

Ok, here's the recipe (I was upstairs and the recipe was downstairs last night).

Blueberry & Ginger Tart
from a page of Taste of Home from Tina (modified by me)

I made this using my shortbread crust recipe and a leftover cup of pie crumbs in my freezer from a pie I can't recall.  My crust has 2 Tbsp. of sugar compared to the 3/4 cup sugar called for here.  We thought the balance of sweetness the way I made it was just right.  Also, I would include a little (maybe 1 tsp.?) lime zest in the filling.

Make a tart crust.  Cut together:
1 3/4 cups flour (I used about half whole wheat pastry flour)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup cold butter
pinch of salt

Remove 1 cup.  Set it aside for topping.  To the remainder, add:
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

Press this mixture into a 10 or 11" tart pan (removable sides are optional).  Set crust aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix:
3 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed
2/3 cup sugar
4 tsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
2 tsp. minced fresh mint leaves

Transfer blueberry mixture to crust.  Spread around evenly.  Sprinkle reserved crumbs on top, leaving a 1" border around edges.  Bake at 400 F for 40-45 minutes, until blueberry filling is bubbling and crust is browned.  Serve warm or cooled, not hot. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cream Puffs in a Pan

This dessert was what I made for Easter dinner (am I the only blogger still rehashing Easter?  we had Easter leftovers for supper tonight).

It's called Chocolate Eclair Dessert.  It's a fabulous crust like a cream puff, with gooey goodness spread on top.  I followed the recipe, but I want to try other combinations, especially when the summer fruit comes in.  Lemon curd, strawberries, and whipped cream would be fantastic.

This recipe is pretty close to what I made, except that I used vanilla pudding and I spread my crust-thing in a 10x15 jelly-roll pan.  I also pressed down the bubbles when I took the crust from the oven.

Now that I know how the recipe works, I can substitute thick homemade pudding and real whipped cream for the commercial stuff.  I would also prefer a real chocolate ganache to the icing.

I think I'm going to rename this Cream Puffs in a Pan or Pan Eclairs - to make it sound fabulous, as well as to distinguish it from my beloved Eclair Dessert.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Easter Bowtie, Among Other Easter Things

I thought I would make Ben a necktie.  But honestly, the pattern I got online just made my eyes cross.  I've had some sewing disasters recently (working on the blog post for those), so I steered in an easier direction:  the bowtie.  I can't get my husband to wear a bowtie, but why not my son?
I chose to sew the real tied bowtie because it took, literally, 20 minutes to make.  And thanks to Youtube, I can now tie a bowtie with ease.

The first bowtie I made was too small.  It fit Bella and Genevieve was delighted.

The next one was too big.  But yes, the third one was just right.  That madras says 1980s-Uncle-Ron-at-IBM in a very good way. 

Ben didn't mind wearing the bowtie at all, just in case you wondered.

Then there was my girl in her new headband from Granny.  And a Sunday dress from Aunt Mel that was mid-calf last year is now slightly above her knee. Oh my.

Between the bowtie sewing and regular Saturday chores, I did whip out Hot Cross Buns for Easter breakfast.  The recipe I used from Recipes from the Old Mill was a little fiddly and made enough for 2-3 breakfasts for us.  They were tasty, however, even if my fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar icing was more like a glaze and didn't make a cross.  My buns had raisins, dried cranberries, and dried apricots in them.

Another breakfast, I think we'll eat them unglazed with cheese on the side.

Then there was a lavish Easter dinner at my parents' house. 

the menu:
hamballs with pineapple sauce
buttered noodles
green beans almondine
sweet potatoes
homegrown sweet corn
creamy coleslaw
ciabatta rolls
Chocolate Eclair Dessert which is not what you think of when I talk about it.  I'll tell you about it in another post.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

"Like Wheat That Springeth Green"

Dawn over the roof next door.

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
wheat that in darkness many days has lain;

Northeast dawn over the city.

love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

John Crum, Oxford Book of Carols, 1928
The ferns next door, coming up. Fiddleheads.

As we love to repeat all day, "He is risen! - He is risen indeed!"