Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Only Homemade Gift This Christmas

When I asked my sister-in-law if she had a Christmas wish list, she tentatively suggested a traveling silverware roll as one option.  She wanted something for a weekend trip - nothing too big, preferably made with black velvet and bright accents.

I studied some jewelry rolls online.  I nixed the velvet - once I tried to make a ruffle scarf with velvet and it slid and twisted so horribly that I threw it away.  Yes, away.

I was dubious I could get the jewelry roll done for Christmas, but one evening an hour presented itself and in a twinkling, the jewelry roll came together.  I am quite pleased with how it looks.

Fasten necklaces in the loops and let them down into the pocket.

The long ribbons have snaps at one end: slide rings, hoops, or bracelents onto them and snap closed.

I hope my sis-in-law finds it just as functional as it is pretty. 

Did you make some Christmas presents this year?  Happy with the results?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas with My People

I made one Christmas gift this year.  One.  I will show it to you in another post. 
As I scrolled through the photos I took very randomly at Christmas-time, I realized that they were all of my people.  I'm so glad.  Maybe I do have my heart in the right place, focusing on what matters, living in the moment. 
Honestly, this Christmas has stressed me out with work deadlines combined with more socializing than we've had at other Christmases.  But tonight as I post my favorite Christmas photos, I am grateful and peaceful. (linking up with Leila and Rosie's pretty/happy/funny/real)
school Christmas party
Daddy tries to explain how to tell time to Ben; Ben was much more interested in the backlit face on his new watch.

New headlamps for the children and the husband - everybody needs more light in the winter!  Actually, a few days after Christmas, my husband's best friend told me that guys always want lights and knives.  And sure enough, my husband is wanting a new pocketknife and I didn't know it!  Next year.

ohhhhh, we had FUN with the deluxe English crackers and their paper crowns that Aunt Mel brought.

A treat:  ice cream with dear friends who moved to Kansas this summer and came back to visit.

A cousin spontaneously gives Great-Grandma a hug, a sweet moment in a boisterous, joyful gathering.
And you, dear readers, are my people, too.  I hope your Christmas was merry and full of wonder and all your favorite people.  You're one of the big reasons I enjoy this bloggy business. xoxoxo

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Kimchi Report

We tested the kimchi a few times and found it ready 12 days later, Christmas day.  It's fabulous.  Very garlicky, gingery, spicy, and with that delicious fermented flavor.

Here's the recipe as I made it, modified from Sharon Astyk's book, Independence Days.


Combine and stir to dissolve salt:
6 cups water
2 Tbsp. pickling salt (or non-iodized salt)

Mix together in a large bowl:
1 lb. cabbage or other greens, chopped/sliced
2 carrots, grated (I left the skin on)
1 lb. thinly sliced daikon
10 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger (I left the skin on)

Pour the brine over the vegetables in the bowl.  Set a plate on top and weight the plate with a heavy can or jar or canister - something that can get wet.  You want to hold the veggie mixture beneath the brine.

Let that arrangement stand for 24 hours on the counter.

Remove the plate apparatus.  Add and stir in:

1 Tbsp. cayenne (or Korean hot pepper) - this is to taste, so consider how spicy you like things
3 tsp. sugar

Use a slotted spoon or your hands to pack the veggies in a glass half-gallon jar.  Pour in enough brine to cover the veggies.  Really pack the veggies in there firmly.  Then hold them beneath the brine with a smaller, lidded jar filled with water (or something).  Some people even suggest a clean stone.  Set the jar in a shallow plate because as the kimchi ferments, the brine will bubble up and over the rim of the jar a bit.  We set our jar in the basement where there's a dirt floor, so it's cool and humid down there; in a heated house, the fermenting will go faster.  Astyk recommends a week, but at a week, our kimchi just tasted like cabbage salad and I wanted to taste the sharpness of fermentation, so we left it almost another week.  When the kimchi is done, remove the weight, screw on the jar lid, and refrigerate.

Astyk follows the kimchi directions with a recipe for Kimchi Tofu soup:  stock, ginger, dried mushrooms, soy sauce, scallions, tofu, and kimchi.  Oh yes, we are going to make this.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Patching Over a Logo

I pulled this red Staples bag out of the closet last week and said "humph."  I'm not a fan of toting free advertising unless it's for some little place that I love.  Sure, I sometimes buy office supplies from Staples, but I'm not in love, you know?

But their bag was made so nicely with twill tape-bound seams and a little interior pocket.  The cotton canvas was sturdy and soft.

So I got the idea to cover up the logos and the advertising with patchwork!  I did this block of patchwork in high school or college, intending it to be a pillow top, but it mixed around in my stash ever since.  I think I must have rooted through Grandma Weaver's scrap bag for the fabric. 

I handquilted it onto the bag with blue perle cotton.  The vortex of the quilting is the navy patch with the flowers, a scrap from my mom's fabulous 70s dress in this photo on my photo wall.  I'm guessing this was 1977.

"That was easy."  Yes. Yes, it was.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Cookies with the Children - updated with recipe

I really like to have Christmas cookies around; other desserts take second place in December at our house.

We got around to baking Christmas cookies over the weekend.  My goal was to involve the children as much as possible, make specifically Christmas-y cookies, and have a nicely balanced cookie plate when we have guests.

We made Almond-Toffee Bark using saltines that Ben laid out for me.  Jennifer Jo wrote a post comparing this stuff to crack, and she's right (I used my aunt's recipe which is similar).  The ironic thing about my batch is that I used the only crackers I had on hand:  whole wheat saltines.  So this is healthy crack, ok?

I mixed up the gingerbread dough and handed it over to the children.  They did all the rolling, cutting, and placing on cookie sheets.  I was nearby making Russian tea cakes, but I didn't intervene much. 

After supper, we made a cookie-decorating station at the table and all four of us sat around icing and decorating cookies. It was fun!  I made a cream cheese icing because I wanted a little more flavor than the average powdered sugar icing, but it was too goopy, really.  Do you have a good recipe for white frosting that is firm enough for cookie decorating and handles freezing?

I'm still considering making pinwheels, especially this recipe.  But I'm only doing it if it's fun and adds to the merry-making!

updated with recipe:

Russian Tea Cakes - from Mennonite Country-Style Recipes by Esther Shank

Place about 1 cup powdered sugar on a plate and set aside.

Beat together:
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1/2 tsp. almond flavoring
1tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

Separately, stir together:
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Stir walnut/flour mixture into butter mixture. Dough will look crumbly, but then you should be able to squeeze it together into 1" balls.  Roll balls in powdered sugar, and place on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 360 for 9-10 minutes - do not overbake!  Roll again in powdered sugar if you wish.  Allow to cool.  Freezes well.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The 1970s Plaid Blouse

This is what I did for myself when the stress was overwhelming me this Christmas:  I made myself a shirt out of a plaid that I love.  It's a black watch plaid shot with red; I can wear it with any shade of blue or green, and even black, and it makes my eyes look blue.  I want to wear it with a bit of lace at the neck, too.  It looks fab with my skinny jeans.  It is the Shirt of the Year in my wardrobe!

"Loose-fitting top has shaped front yoke, front neckline slith with applied band, full-length sleeves gathered into buttoned cuffs, standing or pointed collar, and topstitch trim." Butterick 4491

The fabric and pattern were both given to me out of peoples' overflowing stashes.  So this blouse cost me the thread, the 2 vintage silver buttons, and my time. 

Creative satisfaction for pennies!
(photos thanks to my husband)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The House Smells Like Fruitcake (and Kimchi)

I suddenly had to make fruitcake.  I've flirted with the idea for several years, but the tipping point was when I bought brandy to make my husband a ginger-brandy cheesecake for his December birthday.  The cheesecake, from Moosewood, did not live up to its delicious name and gingersnap crust.  But I had brandy!  So I speedily acquired the dried fruits, almond paste, and orange extract I needed.

I used Anna's adaptation of Nigella Lawson's recipe.  I'm afraid I may have forgotten to put sugar in the batter while I was yakking on the phone with my mom.  Oh well.  I can dissolve the sugar in the brandy that I spoon over the thing.  I've never had homemade fruitcake.  Will I like it? I'm not fond of distilled things, although my husband keeps coaxing me with different liquors, and apparently brandy is distilled wine, so I'm wondering if I will actually like a cake marinated in the stuff.

And for some kitchen whiplash, I am making kimchi.  We adore it, but it's pricey at the Asian store.  I used a recipe from Sharon Astyk that really needs an editor (I volunteer). 

After the kimchi was assembled to ferment, I slapped my head:  it's just sauerkraut with extras!  Hopefully this means there is lots of homemade kimchi in our future, because I feel pretty comfortable making homemade sauerkraut.

Both these projects need about a week to be finished; I'll report back.  I'll have an edited recipe for the kimchi then, too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fancying up Coffee Cans

I saw on Pinterest directions to use spray adhesive to cover a can with fabric.  My husband had some spray adhesive left from building models in grad school, so I chose a piece of pretty fabric and set to work.

It was quick, but then I had nasty glue on my hands that took a long time to come off.  But the can was pretty enough.

Then I organized my cache of scarves and sorted out the little things like neck bows, fabric flowers, and velvet collars.  I thought of repeating the glue process with another can. . . but no, a serendipitous solution was in my scrap box!  A piece of leftover patchwork from the comforter in that very bedroom, which I had finished and quilted a few years ago as a scarf or table runner or something, which is why it languished in my scrap box.

I simply taped the cut end to the can and wrapped the can, tying the thing on with a nice blue ribbon.  Cute!  Functional!  Much more satisfying than buying a new box from a store.

The wrapped can resides on the new bedroom shelves where it gives the matching white boxes a nice little jolt.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Apple Breakfast Pizza Again

I thought I could improve the apple version I made before and yes, it is even better.


homemade whole wheat pizza dough on bottom
diced apples (some with the skin on) tossed with a smidge of flour, sugar, water and cinnamon
grated sharp cheddar cheese
chopped walnuts
sprinkle of oatmeal streusel (butter, oats, brown sugar, salt)

I prepared the apples first and put them in a covered casserole in the preheating oven.  The idea was to get them a bit softened and juicy from the moist heat, to be the saucy part of the pizza.  It worked a treat. 

I loosely followed my favorite apple crisp recipe for the apples and streusel, keeping the butter on the scant side in the streusel so there wouldn't be too much grease floating around in addition to the cheese.

I'll play with it a few more times and maybe I'll have an actual recipe to give you.  Right now, the only thing I can give you here is inspiration and encouragement to play with the pizza elements.  I do so adore breakfast.  And mornings. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dusting the Houseplants

I really dislike dusting, and I wish houseplants stayed dust-free.  But they don't. 

So I plunk them in the shower and spray them off about once a year (should be more often), which gets off the most obvious dust and gives the plants a treat.  There are some plants that don't like their leaves wet, however, such as jade plants and African violets.

This time, I handed the spray bottle to Ben and he did an excellent job.  Today is sparkle-and-shine cleaning, so we're off to tidy up and get at it.

And then I need to start wrapping my mind around Christmas.  We've got an Advent calendar going in fits and starts, I'm leading Advent songs on Sunday at church, Ben's Christmas program is tonight, but we don't have any decorations or cookies going.  Deep breath.  Focus on meaningful . . .and clean house.  A clean house always helps me.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Daily Life

I'm linking up with Leila's collection of pretty, happy, funny real. A lovely way to tabulate daily life!

Here is the pretty part, another batch of goodies off to local consignment.

The happy part.  A friend from church offered me a little box of unfinished patchwork she found among her mother's things.  This friend is a quilter, too, but she gave them to me.  I now have several of these delicious projects that were given to me that I have no set purpose for, so they keep getting pushed off the list by daily things. 

The funnies.

Ben's dinner, done.

Ben's plate is cleared, leaving a perfect ring of noodles.  That boy.

Then there's the real part. There are so many things to choose from! 
Here is a new recipe I tried: mashed sweet potatoes molded around marshmallows, rolled in crushed cornflakes, and baked. Lots of butter was involved. Now, I'm not really in the camp of those who love marshmallows with their sweet potatoes, but as I had bought marshmallows for an early fall cookout that got rained out and as this recipe was highly recommended, well, I thought I should try.
The kids loved them (anything + marshmallows = great). My husband and I were tepid; these balls were not more than the sum of their parts.   Plus, in trying to get the cornflake coating crispier, I baked the balls longer than the recipe stated, which made the marshmallows puff and pop the encasing potatoes.

I liked them all right with siriacha.