Sunday, April 28, 2013

Vintage Ice Cream Tee Shirts (and the Harlem Shake)

No hand-me-down tee shirts for Genevieve
2 packages of vintage ice cream iron-ons from the creative reuse store ($2)
2 tee shirts on sale from A. C. Moore ($5)
2 awesome summer tees for G! ($7)

And then she introduced me to the Harlem Shake.  Wow.  I am tasting what it might be like to have a teenager in the house, educating me on pop culture.  Apparently her gym class uses the Harlem Shake to warm up sometimes and then they also used it in a pep rally.  Okaaaaaaay.  Color me impressed and laughing very hard.

The snow boots, people.  The snow boots are killing me.

And aren't those iron-ons so cool?  Genevieve thinks the coolest part is that they're scratch and sniff!  I  think the coolest part is that it took me about 15 minutes, including the pass through A.C. Moore, to get these shirts finished. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dandelion Greens on Pizza

Yes, really.

I've been picking the backyard dandelion greens (remember:  before it flowers!) and using them to fill out spring meals here and there.

The pizza blueprint:

whole wheat crust
pizza sauce
chopped up dandelion greens (not cooked first - please, I have other things to do!)
grated mozzarella

It was delicious. 

To be clear, I am picking dandelion mostly out of laziness and defiance.  Two blocks away is my beautiful farmer's market with my favorite farmers who grow organic lettuce all winter in their greenhouse and sell it for $1.50 a head.  I am not making this up.  Anytime you want to come visit me, email me and I will introduce you.

So the real problem I have is that I don't have a very strong motivation for figuring out how to grow greens in my backyard.

The other problem is Uncle Brandon.
He's actually crazier than he looks.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Ben was counting the days and now he is five. 

He had clear ideas for his celebration:

1.  No chores.
2.  Presents.
3.  Sushi, shrimp kebabs, pesto and pasta, Oreo dessert, and popcorn.  I also made him beans and weenies (baked beans with hot dogs) for lunch, and chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast because it was fun to see his face light up.

Using M&Ms to make a car shape on his "cake"

punch balloons from Grandpa and Grandma

Last month when I made a purse for Genevieve, Ben requested one, too. I made vague noises and I think he forgot about it.

Isn't it so fun to plan a delightful surprise, keeping the secret and savoring the moment of reveal?

I took a pair of his Sunday corduroys that had worn through at the knees and used them as a basis for a bag.  We did tell Ben that most men carry bags, not purses.  He politely ignored us.

I bought an expensive half-yard of Richard Scarry fabric and used that to line the bag, create the zipper top, and line the strap.  I used a zipper top to keep Ben's precious things secure when he inevitably flings the bag around (why must children fling things?).  I did collect some bag ideas on my Pinterest board and study their methods, but in the end, I just made it up as I went along. 

I'm pleased with the bag itself and so is he, but it looks funny on Ben because it's so big.  I made the bag entirely after he went to bed and I never thought how big it might look with the little boy.  Because he is five now and that's so very big.  And small.  Oh, I have such mixed feelings about my children growing up!

And today, Ben and his daddy are on a special birthday trip.  They left very early to catch a train and the day promises to be full of delight.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Putting Daisies on the Sunflower Tablecloth

I've had this tablecloth for years, bought because we have a gold dining room and it was big enough to cover our table with 2 boards in it.  But I was never fond of the sunflowers.  Too. . . obvious. . . too standard.  Or something.

But I wondered if I could applique something on top to help the print.  I dug through my stash and ended up with these big daisies in a similar colorway.  I simply ran a line of machine stitching close to the edge of each cutout.  It's understated meddling, and I like the whimsical results.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Restocking Flannel

My standard baby gift for new babies is a set of burpcloths that I sew.  I really enjoy thinking of the family, the baby, and putting together soft colors I think they might like.

Recently when I sewed up two burpcloths for a new little boy, I thought my stash of boyish flannel was rather sparse.  I'm on the JoAnn Fabric's mailing list, so I get 40%-off-one-regularly-priced-item coupons every few weeks.  I was intending to use my coupon to get just one yard of flannel, but lo, the flannel was all on sale for 50% off!  I had scooted into JoAnn's 15 minutes before closing time, so it was a fun task to pick a few flannels without time for over-analysis.

I didn't need girly flannels, but those rainbows were too sweet to resist.  I rarely buy new fabric just because I love it.  This was fun.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Water Usage Math for Washing Dishes by Hand

We don't have a dishwasher because we stopped short of putting in our planned kitchen island 7 years ago.  We were tired of renovating and the accompanying drained bank accounts.  Instead, we kept on washing dishes by hand as we had in the years before we were home owners and home renovators.

In the meantime, with all that time spent in the dishpan, I have been thinking.  And then I did a little research.

I figured out how many gallons of liquid my dishpan holds without messy pouring of water:

Length in inches x width x height = X, then X/231 = volume in gallons

14" x 11" x 6" = 924"  and 924/ 231 = 4 gallons

My dishpan was 3/4 full after washing that full dish-drainer-load, plus a pan on the stovetop (we use the stovetop like an overflow dishdrainer if no one is drying dishes) and the bag-dryer.

I figure I routinely use about 3 gallons of water total to wash a small dishwasher load of dishes. I've been around dishwashers enough to know their general capacity.  In my research, I read that the average Energy Star dishwasher uses 4 gallons of water per cycle and the others use about 6 gallons (although Energy Star says it differently).  And here is another article with food for thought.

The way I use so little water to handwash that many dishes is thus:

1.  squirt dish soap in pan and run in an inch or less of hot water.
2.  Wash a dirty something and turn the water on over the dishpan briefly, rinsing the soapy thing.
3.  Place the clean wet thing in drying rack.

See, I capture the rinse water right in the dishpan and use it to build up my dishwater. One of the things I didn't see addressed in the articles is that if you ideally wait to run the dishwasher until it is full, then you might need to have more dishes than I do.  I can wash a small load, and often do if I'm clearing the decks for a canning or baking project, with the same efficiency as a large load.  I also re-use dishes for several projects rather than getting a clean item every time; for example, tonight during supper prep, I used the same glass measuring cup for milk for biscuits, cream for a pie, boiling water for the same pie, and tomatoes for a soup. 

The hidden problem in my dishwashing scenario is that it takes a long time to get the hot water up to our kitchen faucet, so sometimes we run the water for a while to get hot.  In the right mood, I capture this water in my houseplant watering can.

Actually, I'm not a militant water-saver.  I started researching dishwashers vs. handwashing out of curiosity and it suits my personality to discover how little water I use in contrast to what the bigwigs think I use.  Humph.  I like the intricacies of kitchen life, that's all.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Peanut Butter and Jelly French Toast

Make peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, dip in egg mixture, and fry in butter.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar for pretty and drizzle with maple syrup.  Oh, heavenly.

There are a few keys to making this good, I think:

1.  Use soft bread, not your hearty, homemade wheat bread.  I use commercial potato bread.
2.  Use a strongly flavored jam - I use strawberry freezer jam.
3.  Flavor your egg and milk mixture with a pinch of salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and a splash of vanilla.

It is rare that I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a meal as I prefer more savory sandwiches, but I purposely looked for bread on sale to make this!  I found potato bread for $1.33 a loaf at a local store this week and stocked up.

If we get tired of this French toast, there's always the oven version.

Friday, April 12, 2013

An Infinitesimal Patch

I was sewing along on an oven towel when I realized there was a snip in my vintage plaid fabric.  I was loathe to throw out the topper, so I patched it.  With a teeny tiny little patch. I think it's charming!  The towel is in the shop, along with some other new things.

The plaid was used in this scarf.

The mustard fabric from the patch is also on the back of these curtains, and and I used the copper thread from this skirt.

I have been complaining to Rebecca recently that some of my scraps will not die, that I must be sure I like a fabric a lot before I buy it, because it will be in my scrap bin for years!  Maybe I should initiate a scrap exchange with other people who sew patchwork. . .

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bangkok Peanut Ice Cream and Other Delights

Well.  I have bought another cookbook.  Dear reader, I peruse many cookbooks for my job or reading pleasure via the library, but I rarely buy a cookbook

I bought Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream (for $6 on ebay).

I am deeply impressed with Jeni's flavor knowledge, how she describes flavors and puts them together.  To wit:

1. Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry:  "a sublime summer match - initial hits of milky sweet corn give way to the floral nose of sweet black raspberry."

2.Toasted Brioche Ice Cream with Butter and Jam: "butter ice cream with crumbs of toast and a ribbon of fragrant, sweet-tart jam."

3. Celery Ice Cream with Candied Ginger and Rum-Plumped Golden Raisins: "Celery imparts the aroma of rye; potent candied ginger and rum-soaked raisins, judiciously strewn throughout, add an exotic punch."

(blogging break to go down to the dark kitchen and dig a spoon into Bangkok Peanut - holy cow, it's good; not looking good for my figure and my wardrobe)

So far, I have made vanilla, Black Coffee, and Bangkok Peanut.  The last is a combination of coconut (both milk and toasted flakes), peanut butter, honey, and cayenne.  We had it next to a humble apple cake tonight, which didn't know what hit it.

I think these little boutique-y ice creams will be our dessert of choice this summer as we explore all the flavors.  Possibly up next is Scarlet & Earl Grey Ice Cream: "bergamot-scented black tea and sugar-plumped cherries: sweet and civilized."

Monday, April 8, 2013


I am going to try my hand growing rosemary, my favorite herb.  I bought a little plant in March and just planted it Saturday - and planted the oregano, too, whoops, so I had to protect it at nights. Wish me luck as I keep plugging away at gardening!

 Here is what I know about growing rosemary, from the lady who sold me the plants:

1.  likes well-drained, even sandy, soil
2.  likes to be evenly moist or on the dry side
3.  must come in in my winter
4.  planted in a plastic pot with holes in the bottom, and then buried in the ground, so I can easily retrieve it in late fall for a sunny, indoor windowsill
5.  will grow as large as the pot I put it in
6.  happiest in spring and fall, when days are warm and nights chilly

I love rosemary on roasted beets, in these scones, and mostly recently, in the crust of a lemon tart.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Patchwork Bag for the Silpat

Do you know what a Silpat is?  It's a silicone mat designed to make a surface non-stick.  I had an old non-stick baking sheet that I replaced recently with an aluminum half-sheet pan and a Silpat.  Not a cheap solution, but hopefully a long-lasting one.

The problem is storing that odd creature, the Silpat.  I made a patchwork bag, lined with linen.  I'm trying to beat back my scraps, so everything I'm making right now is patchwork.  But the Silpat sticks to the fabric, so it's not a easy slide in and out like I was thinking. But I like the bag so much that it's staying for now.

Any other storage solutions for a Silpat that you can tell me about?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Chocolate Pots de Creme for the Lunchbox

I was trying to use up cream, so I made these pots de creme from Jennifer.   I tripled the recipe.  I poured our 4 ramekins for a family dessert, and the rest went into little quarter-pint jars with screw-top lids for the kids' lunchboxes (I cut way, way back on the booze).  A major hit with them, but I must say these pots are a bit too rich and sweet for me, probably due to the semi-sweet chocolate I used.  Maybe next time with dark chocolate?  

But I want to make pots de creme again, if only because they were so fall-over easy.  I saw some recipes online that had you baking the ramekins in pans of water as if for custards which puzzled me.  I thought the genius of pots de creme was that they are unbaked.  I mean to make these this summer.

I also wanted to show you how I got around ripping off 4 little squares of plastic wrap for the tops of the ramekins. Clever, no? 

What I should have photographed was the look on my husband's face when he saw what I was taking a picture of.  Tee he.
I still have a few feet of plastic wrap in the house and I'm wavering about whether or not I'm going to buy more. I mean, I still have plastic bags and they're practically just plastic wrap with corners.  Someone gave me this plastic container years ago, and my plan is to just use my plastic containers until they fall apart and then not replace them.  We'll see.  I think everybody has their pet peeves, and plastic is mine.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hotpads on the Train

For my birthday, my husband and I took a little trip.  I wanted to see the Food exhibit at the American History Museum, primarily, and then we took in some other sights.  At the Food exhibit, I was entranced by Julia Child's kitchen, her range of equipment and workstations and random little bits. 

My first plan for any trip is my handwork.  This time, I took along a set of hotpads for the train ride.  I handstitched the binding on the back, and then I quilted their squares with red perle cotton.  At first I felt a little shy being without a screen of some sort. 

But one of the things I was pondering as I stitched was the value of looking at art in a museum.  My husband and I had spent a fair amount of time at the National Gallery.  I love art on my walls at home, where I can get cozy with it and it becomes part of my mental landscape and definition, but what is the value of looking at a painting for 5 seconds in a museum, and repeating this for hours? 

Stereotypically, I think of viewing art as improving my mind, but now I am examing that assumption.  I'd love for you to chime in and tell me what you think!

I think in order for me to extract meaning from viewing art, I need some history and artist biography to place the art in context before I can start gleaning inspiration for my life from its artistry. I mean, there are some pieces of art where I am so in awe that I make a resolution to try harder at my interests to see if there is some excellence in me, too. Then, more commonly for me, there are some pieces of art that give me new color palettes or clothing ideas.  I am, at heart, a pragmatic person.

I think I need a capelet.

And those hotpads? - they're in the shop.