Thursday, June 27, 2013

Vacation in the Boonies

Following is a re-cap of our vacation last week when my side of the family stayed at a cabin in the woods.  I'm feeding it through Like Mother, Like Daughter's Thursday collection of links.   
We were in driving distance of Chautauqua, NY, so we went.  It was a perfect day, a perfect tiny town.  My husband wants to live there.

I snapped these photos to study those canvas porch hangings.  I think my Victorian porch could benefit from them.

The Chatauqua library was having a $5 bag sale.  I kid you not.  I am lugging a sack of gorgeous old books.
My children were so thrilled with this vacation.  So much water!  So many creatures (too many in the lodge for the adults' liking).  So much dirt!  So many sweets and eating all the time!

Can you guess what she's doing?  My poor little deprived city kid is fishing. She is the daughter of non-fishers and apparently, non-borrowers because I'm sure we know somebody who would have loaned us a fishing rod.
She did eventually catch a wiggly little salamander. Which my husband helped her google later (no cell service in the boonies) and discovered it was a newt.


This was a hunting camp cabin down the road.  Apparently I fit right in.  (In fairness, I think I was pretty even-keel on this vacation).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cooking Lesson: Pizza Dough

Without the pressures and furor of daily life, a cooking lesson was practically fun on vacation last week.  In fact, when I told my extended family that Genevieve and I were having cooking lessons this summer, my sister and sister-in-law wanted in, too.

So we made pizza dough together.

Following is the handout I gave them (blue text) and photos from the session. Everyone was very pleased with themselves.

Pizza Dough From Scratch

Serves 4-6

1.  In a large mixing bowl, place:

                1 cup warm water, a little warmer than room temperature

                1 Tbsp. (1 pkg.) dry instant yeast

2.  Add:

                1 Tbsp. sugar

                1 ½ tsp. salt

                2 Tbsp. oil, any kind, plus have a little more for later

                1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

3.  Use a sturdy whisk to beat everything together until there are no lumps.  This is helpful to get the yeast started and make a smooth dough.  Shake the batter off the whisk – you’re done with it.

4.  Pour on top of the batter:

                1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

                (keep a ½ cup whole wheat flour nearby – you will probably need it)

5.  With clean hands or a wooden spoon, stir the whole wheat flour into the liquidy batter.  It will be messy.  Persist.

6. Begin to knead the dough.  Fold it firmly on itself, turn the bowl or the dough slightly, and fold firmly again.  Use the heel of your hand to push down as you fold.  Do this over and over and the dough will get smoother.  If it is still pretty wet, sprinkle some of the reserved ½ cup of whole wheat flour over it.  Knead the flour in.  You can do this again, but do not exceed the extra ½ cup or you may need to add more water. The goal is for the dough to be a uniform ball that isn’t too sticky or dry/crumbly.  It could be described as satiny, shiny, smooth, and elastic.


7.  When you have kneaded the dough for 3-5 minutes, lift it up out of the bowl.  Pour a little oil in the bowl (the bowl is still a little messy and crusty – this is fine).  Put the smooth side of the dough ball down in the oil and rub the oil around the bowl and over the dough ball; the goal is to grease the bowl and the dough.  Flip over the dough ball so the smooth side is up and any pinchy ends are underneath.

8.  Make a dishtowel wet and wring it out.  Cover the bowl/dough while you assemble toppings.  The dough can rest like this for 10-20 minutes.

9.  Roll dough out with a rolling pin so that it is a ¼ or ½” thick – you can use a sprinkle of flour if you’re worried about sticking.  Fit it into baking pans (I usually lightly grease the pan).  Add a thin layer of sauce, a little grated mozzarella, some toppings, more mozzarella, and the final toppings that would like a little caramelization in the oven. 


10. Bake at 450 F for 13-20 minutes, until crust is nicely brown, cheese is melted and browning, and any toppings in view look cooked.  A smaller pizza pan will take less time than a larger one; start checking at 13 minutes and check every 2 minutes after that.  If you cut into the pizza and it is still doughy in the center, it can be put back in the oven and baked for a decent outcome.  Any leftovers reheat best in an oven.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sunday Afternoon Frozen Yogurt

My husband went for a bike ride, the children were deposited at a birthday party.  I sat down with my new old book, bought at a dreamy used-book store on vacation, and a treat.  This is Baked Rhubarb Frozen Yogurt from yes, Jeni Britton Bauer.  I made it a few weeks ago when rhubarb was plentiful.
my mother got me this bookmark in Portugal when I was in middle school - just found it again recently

It's a very pretty frozen yogurt, with flecks of mauve and chartreuse. Honestly, the children don't like it and that really irritates me, but my husband and I think it's wonderful. 

Jeni says it pairs well with "champagne, a sprinkling of cinnamon, cardamom, or black pepper."  Instead, yesterday, I paired mine with black coffee and a fudgy brownie that my sister made on vacation.  Glorious. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Shorts Out of Thin Air

Well, hello.  We have been away, and I will tell you more about that later this week.

In the meantime, let's talk about kids' shorts.  Ben has plenty of hand-me-downs.  Genevieve has plenty of sundresses, but she now, suddenly, prefers shorts and pants.

I scrabbled around and put together some shorts for her.  When we were away in the woods, I realized just how uniquely makeshift the shorts are.

 1.  Knit shorts for school field day. 

These are the most successful pair, maybe because I used an actual sewing pattern.  It was a generic shorts pattern written for woven fabric, not knit, but I just used the mock serger stitch on my machine and hoped for the best.  You do need to know which way the knit stretches before you cut and sew!  This fabric was in my stash from who-knows-where and it suits Genevieve's eye-screeching combinations perfectly. 

2.  Cut-offs with bias tape. 

I had a slew of hand-me-down jeans for Ben in Genevieve's size.  I found the pair with the most ripped-out knees and made them into these shorts.  They are too baggy.  They look funny.  The bias tape is not evenly sewed down.  She wears them and likes them.  Oh well.

3.  The balloon shorts.

 I searched around on Pinterest for an idea here.  Then I stumbled across a beloved old pair of my pajama pants in my stash and poof, made the elastic waist smaller and gathered the legs into a band.  I think they look fabulously Frenchy, but Genevieve is less fond of them because she says they inhibit her movement. I told her to consider them her least-favorite shorts and wear them when the other 2 pairs are in the wash.  Which they always are.

She is clothed most of the time, I tell you.  Maybe I should scrounge another pair of shorts for her?  Like, at a store?  But so far I have not spent a dime on summer shorts and I was planning to keep it that way.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cooking Lesson: Tapioca Pudding

Genevieve is seven-and-a-half years old and she is ready. We are taking a bit more formal approach to cooking this summer. Every Wednesday, we will have a cooking lesson and then I will share it with you!

Our second lesson involved reading a recipe and using measuring cups, spoons, and a liquid measure.  I talked about reading the recipe first before beginning and then often throughout.  We spread out the measuring spoons, cups, and glass measure to talk about them; Genevieve whirled around to get a paper and pen and show me what she knew about fractions from school - I was so pleased and impressed that she instantly made that connection! 

She learned to look at the milk in the glass measuring cup by bending down on the same plane as the red lines on the side.  She learned that vanilla extract rushes fast out of the bottle and that tapioca is cassava root from South America (although I thought it was from Africa too, and called manioc there).

She got more comfortable with the stove and what a medium flame looks like; her arm got tired of stirring the pudding, so we talked about different stirring patterns and switching hands and we made silly jokes while she stirred.  My husband asked her at lunch what she learned and she explained boiling to him.  We talked about stove safety and how to scrape out every little bit of the pudding using a silicone spatula; I told her Granny is the queen of scraping bowls clean.

"tired-of-stirring" face

This was a very successful lesson, even if I forgot to instruct Geneveive in the art of slicing and macerating strawberries to eat on top of the pudding.  She was quite proud to serve us dessert!  The recipe for the pudding that we used is here.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Hankie as Bandage

We went on a hike and Ben ran down the trail so hard he fell.  This is typical.  My sister the nurse just looks at him and shakes her head and wishes he would wear a helmet all the time. 


On this hike, I had bravely taken nothing with me.  Normally, I like to be prepared for every contingency, but for once I thought, oh, it's just a short hike, I'll leave my water bottle and knitting and bag in the car.  But after the bad fall, Ben's elbow was bleeding and he was under the impression that a band-aid would cure the pain.  I hesitatingly offered to tie my hankie-from-winter that was still lurking in my jeans around his elbow.  He was instantly comforted - why would he care if the hanky was partially used and linty?  I knew I could soak the blood out of the hankie in cold water.  We were all cheerful again. 

I am quite sure a tissue would not have been big enough or sturdy enough to tie around his elbow - let's hear it for cloth hankies in every pocket!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Two Weeks of Collecting Sugar Snaps

Finally, all our little handfuls of sugar snap peas added up to a meal.  I made chicken and dumplings to carry a meal to my in-laws and work at some food in the freezer - surprise! a little cranberry applesauce was in there, too!

Just lightly steamed, with a little salt.  Delicious.

We planted the peas at the end of March and for the first time this year, we used pea fence for them to climb on.  It worked well, and we'll do that again.

I don't know if we'll get more peas or not, but we already planted the beans between their rows, so it's okay if the peas' time is over.  I feel quite clever, starting the beans in there like that.  Next year, I'm going to plant the lettuce around the peas - got that tip from a farmer at market.  How kind of the country farmers to help the urban gardeners manage their tiny space!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cooking Lesson: Eggs and Toast

Genevieve is seven-and-a-half years old and she is ready.  We are taking a bit more formal approach to cooking this summer.  Every Wednesday, we will have a cooking lesson and then I will share it with you!

Genevieve flew down the steps to get the eggs out of the fridge although normally she lolls in bed as long as possible.  What a nice sign of her interest and pleasure in cooking lessons!

I hadn't thought through much of what I was going to say or teach, unusual for me.  I simply talked her through the process of frying eggs and making toast, trying to let her make her own mistakes when possible and offer simple tips when possible.  She was tractable (praise God! - a good sign that the timing is right!) and pretty competent.

Genevieve learned how to turn the stove burner on, how much bacon grease to put in the pan, how to flip eggs over-hard, and how to go back and forth from toaster to stove to get the eggs and toast out at relatively the same time.  She learned how hard it is to tug open the oven door where the skillet is kept.  She swiped the lid of the butter dish to the floor, breaking it in two tidy pieces that have already been glued together (whew - I do like that butter dish).  So we talked about keeping things back from the edge of the counter.

I purposely kept the lesson to once a week to make sure I would follow through and not be overwhelmed.  Yet when I was putting together the lemon chiffon pudding for our first strawberries, she stayed wistfully and insistently at my elbow until I put the mixer in her hand and showed her how to turn it on.  I am deeply gratified by her interest and I hope I can show her what pleasure and creativity I enjoy in the kitchen.  I welcome any advice you have for me!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Goals 2013

This is the structure that we established this summer:

Monday - library with Dad
Tuesday - market with Mom, vacuum, clean kids' room
Wednesday - G cooking lesson with Mom, Mom pay bills/desk/inbox
Thursday - sketching with Dad
Friday - vacuum/dust house, day of reckoning for stuff, G piano lesson with Mom
Saturday - change sheets, clean bathroom

Daily: G feed rabbit, fold laundry, quiet time, help Mom and Dad with other chores, set table, clear table, clean up toys

(Last summer's schedule and some more explanation is here)


The notable changes:
1.  Genevieve and I are doing cooking lessons together.  More on that tomorrow.
2.  I separated cleaning the kids' room from the rest of the house cleaning.  I was getting too frustrated and it was getting short shrift.  I would really like to be more patient and detailed in teaching the children how to sort and organize their desks this summer.
3. My husband wants to teach the children some drawing principles. 
4.  We've always gone to the library randomly, usually when the adults needed something.  But now, we are experimenting with a regular library day because Genevieve has turned into a voracious reader.  It's exciting!  And way more economical to keep her in books by checking them out from the library.

Other than cooking lessons, I didn't make a list of specific tasks I want to teach the children this summer.  It might come to that, but for now, they are both handling the tasks we give them pretty well.  They are also both very grateful for quiet time after the obligatory kick-and-fuss-for-a-few-minutes.

This schedule will probably wiggle around some to accomodate lots of swimming at the pool this summer, but for now, we are really enjoying our relaxed, yet purposeful, days.