Thursday, October 31, 2013

Helen Jane

(A collection of moments, pretty/happy/funny/real, for Leila and Rosie's round up)

Helen Jane is pretty. 

Genevieve chose her, under the direction of my mother-in-law, as a birthday present.  Genevieve chose her name because she's deeply interested in Helen Keller just now.  For a week before Helen Jane was officially adopted on her birthday, Genevieve talked non-stop dolly and names and happy plans.

Genevieve is very happy with her doll.  Almost everyone who meets Helen Jane for the first time asks if she's an American Girl doll.  She's not.  Apparently there is a whole world here, much bigger than my sister's doll Molly, that I'm clueless about.

The funny part of Genevieve's birthday are the cupcakes.  I made 22 chocolate cupcakes to take to school.  I thought Pinterest might help me transport them with ease.  Yes:  I made a grid of masking tape on my biggest pan that also has a lid (my policy is to only buy bakeware with lids).


It worked well, but as I described the whole episode to Rebecca, she informed me that she has dedicated cupcake carriers!  So, next birthday, I will borrow the special boxes.

The real part is the cupcakes and napkins themselves themselves.  I filled the cupcake papers too full like a novice and the cupcakes rose up and overflowed into a big mess.  I cut them out of the mess while Genevieve watched dubiously.  They looked better with a simple buttercream and the sky-blue crystal sprinkles that Genevieve had chosen.

For her at-home birthday, I used the same cupcakes and frosted them with peanut butter icing (from homemade peanut butter - not totally smooth, but delicious) which I attempted to make pink with red food coloring.  It was salmon colored.

a leftover iced cupcake on the glass cake plate

And those dumb napkins.  The morning before we carried the cupcakes to school, I realized I had no paper napkins to send with the cupcakes.  We stopped at the nearest drugstore on the way to school and I shelled out $7 for birthday paper napkins.  I was not pleased, but hey, it was poor planning on my part.  So my plan is to find birthday fabric, cut it into napkins with a pinking shears, and have a class set of cloth napkins to offer with our cupcakes or to anyone else who wants to borrow them (free laundering by me!).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Last of the Summer Garden

I did, in steps, put the summer garden away.  I picked the last of the green tomatoes and two (total yield) green peppers and we had them in green tomato curry tonight. I made a final huge batch of pesto from the basil in the front pot and back yard.  I took the whole oregano plant and made a Greek slurry/pesto with it, which we ate over baked potatoes. I dug the rosemary pot out of the bed and brought it inside, sending the big ancestral jade plant over to my sister to make space.  I chopped a pile of summer savory and fermented it to use in soups and salad dressings this winter.

And in what I imagine to be French farmhouse style, I dried the entire thyme plant.  It was a happy note in my kitchen for a week.

Then I roughly stripped most of the leaves off the twigs and bottled it up to store.  Home thyme.

There seems to be no fall garden.  I planted spinach, beets, carrots, and parsnips in August and September - how proud I was to accomplish staggered plantings! and out of all that, 1 beet and 2 spinach clumps came up.  Humph. 

I have noticed more experienced garden bloggers mention casually that such-and-such did not come up as if it is no big deal, but to me, this is still a big deal.  Perhaps I am just playing little-house-on-the-prairie where there's no money or food if the seeds don't grow. 

I should probably just focus on the garden success and count the rest as a learning experience, except I'm not sure I know anything else about how to make beets, carrots, and spinach grow next time. 

In related news, my houseplants are all looking gorgeous right now.  Too bad we can't eat them.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

War Sneakers

These are the ankle boots that I got for Genevieve at the consignment store for a few bucks (that's the thrifty part of this post - the rest is sass).  Genevieve wore her boots to school on the wrong day and had to miss gym class.  When she got home and we had loudly expressed our disappointment over the missed gym class, she wrote a note so we would remember gym days.

gim on thursty and Wensday
War sneackers!

Guys.  It's Thursday.  Do you have your war sneakers on?

Get out there and stomp that work!  Make it surrender!  War sneakers forever!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Anything Galette

I made my first galette.  Galettes were trendy a while ago:  a rustic kind of pie without a pan, savory or sweet.  It was easy and delicious - I'm a fan!

I used tomatoes, pesto, and feta, and I did follow a recipe, but afterwards, I realized that I probably don't need a recipe.  It's practically like making pizza:  I know what tastes good together, I know about how long to bake it and when to start checking it.  I think this tomato galette baked at 400F for 20 minutes.  The crust was brushed with beaten egg, and I baked it on parchment paper for easy clean up - and then realized it looks like fancy food blogging on the cutting board.  Actually, it was supper with a green salad.

So I would like to try:

**peaches with pistachios and nutmeg - maybe a thin layer of cream cheese in there
**apples with cinnamon and a little streusel or walnuts
**broccoli with sharp cheddar and thyme
**mushrooms with caramelized onions, walnuts, and blue cheese

Truly, I'm just making these up.  Maybe my first galette was beginner's luck and future ones will not live up to ease and deliciousness I remember.  I'll report back.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cabin Style

I made a new item in my etsy shop:  kitchen gift sets.  They have a hanging hand towel, 2 hotpads, and a knitted dishcloth.  I thought they might be good for the Christmas season, and I've really enjoyed playing with the yarn colors in the dishcloths.

In happy time, I finished the latest gift set just before we went to the cabin, and its shabby vintage look matched entirely the charm of the cabin.  I photographed the gift set on the front porch of the cabin.

I admire my aunt's light touch in this cabin.  There are lots of old things, but none of them are precious and I never worry about my children rampaging through the place (they do rampage).  She allowed the cabin to grow organically - there are some truly ugly pieces of furniture, some worn things that I remember from my cousins' bedrooms when they were small, some mall-ish knick knacks, and the occasional Williamsburg-blue-with-stencilled-hearts piece. 

at the top of the steps

And I wonder if the cabin is special to my family because we have loved it and lived in it over the years, or if it was always a special spot, even before we got there, and we just happened to enter its force field and recognize it.

Mom setting the clock she bought decades ago with S&H Green Stamps

My parents are moving, so the cabin was a tiny spot of do-nothing in the whirlwind.  My mom gave me a hotpad that I immediately took up to my sewing room to replicate because I love it.  I took it along to the cabin to stitch on - I'll share it when I'm done.
A willow crown.  Overalls.  Perfect.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Rest of the Summer Preserving

Here are the final summer preserving projects I did.  I did not blog about them at the time (for various boring reasons), but I want them on The Record.

All summer long, I made and froze batches of pesto.  I mostly used my happy, huge purple basil plant in the front porch pot.  Today, I pulled the whole plant out in preparation for winter and the children picked all the leaves off the stems - the stems were thick and strong like twigs! I made 4 more batches of pesto.  I freeze it in ice cube trays and then we can put hot pasta on a cube of frozen pesto and presto (ha), there's a meal!  I also use pesto on pizza instead of tomato sauce.

And speaking of pizza, here's one of several more batches of pizza sauce I made in September.  I couldn't bear the idea of using my home-canned jars of pizza sauce when there were still tomatoes on market, so I simply made more sauce when I made baked ziti, spaghetti, and pizza.
I also made several trays of roasted tomatoes, following Jennifer's directions.  I didn't take any photos -this may have been over the time that I was struggling with a virus.  In my defense, it was an elusive virus and I would feel hale and hearty for hours at a time and then, boom, weak and achey and wishing I had not hung up 4 loads of laundry and started a vat of pizza sauce.

I chopped and froze a lot of bell peppers.  I could get them 3 or 4 for a dollar at market. 

Several times this summer I made fermented dill pickles, following directions in Sandor Katz's book.  They were tricky to get right.  The first batch was crisp and sour and my husband could not stop eating them.  The final batch, shown here at the beginning of its fermentation, was only fine in my opinion, but my husband still stood in front of the fridge with the jar and a fork.
I got a half bushel of Concord grapes and made grape juice - only because I borrowed Rebecca's fantastic steamer that made it easy.  This will be great with popcorn on Sunday nights.

And finally, here is chicken stock seen from my kitchen window as it cools.  I included it here in the preserving round up because I needed to get that chicken out of the freezer to make way for the local beef that we're getting soon.
I think I preserved more this summer than I ever have before.  Wow! That was not really my plan, but I just kept finding projects I could not resist.  How did your summer preserving go?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fixing Up Sleep Clothes

My husband looked over at the t-shirt I was wearing at breakfast one morning and laughed. Yes, it was his old t-shirt with a streak of yellow paint (house trim) on it. I filched it out of his stack because I thought he wouldn't notice, and I am scrambling between summer and winter pajamas these days with several layers.  He told me I could have it.  And I suddenly needed to cover up that paint.

So I took some tiny scraps and sewed them right on the shirt - no interfacing, no finished edges.  I also covered up the Hanes logo because it didn't look dreamy enough.  I used 2 blue and white flannel clouds, one on the inside, one on the outside.

Related, the elastic was shot on a pair of my pajama pants.  Sometimes I just sew new elastic on top (like this mend), but this time, I had a better idea:  I cut off the elastic and attached a new waistband entirely, using fabric from a yellowed, vintage pillowcase.  The drawstring has a section of elastic in the back - so much more comfortable than a total drawstring and so much better looking than a total elastic waistband.

To play with fabric like this was so fun and easy - I encourage you to go patch up your pajamas!  Apparently, my sleepy look is shabby chic.  Who knew?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Messengers To Us From the Hallows

hydrangeas from friends
"Somehow we have gotten swept into a millrace, and it's nonstop flailing and thrashing just to keep ourselves from drowning.  The sheer necessities of modern life sweep us farther and farther from any sense that it is all hallowed, really. What are we to do?

There are various things we could do no doubt.  We could resign ourselves to the millrace and abandon any thought of anything but the flailing.  Or we could take some drastic step like moving to a farm in Vermont or an island in the Aegean, hoping thereby to find some peace and quiet where we would be able to recollect ourselves and do things right.  A third possibility would be to accept the fact that life comes tumbling at us nowadays but that it is nonetheless possible for us to see our ordinary daily routines as proceeding among the hallows, so to speak; and by stirring up in our minds the things that we vaguely acknowledge anyway, to begin to hallow those routines by doing once more what men have always done with things to hallow them; namely, offering them up in oblation to God, as literally as Abel offered up sacrifices from his ordinary routine of work.

I would like to suggest that at least one place (among others) which may be hallowed anew as the place where the celebration of all the mysteries may occur, and where all of life may be offered up in oblation to the Most High, is the family household.  Within these four walls, under this roof, the lamps are lighted.  The offering is here, the vigil is here, the feast is here, the faithful are here.  All the eating and drinking, and the working and playing, and the discipline and serving and loving that go on here - they are all holy.  For these common routines of ordinary life are not only necessities and functions:  they are also messengers to us from the hallows.  Nay, more than messengers, they are those hallows, set hourly before us in visible, touchable, light-of-day forms."

from Hallowed Be This House by Thomas Howard, quoted in Disciplines for the Inner Life by Bob Benson Sr. and Michael W. Benson
a backyard bouquet from Ben

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Week in Packed Lunches

I packed gado gado for myself, husband, and both children.  It was left from Sunday, so there was no additional prep to do. Gado gado is meant to be eaten at room temperature - perfect packed lunch!  I put a layer of brown rice, roasted carrots, green beans with sesame salt, diced cucumbers, chopped red bell pepper, and bean sprouts with a dollop of peanut sauce on top.  Dessert was a black bean brownie.  Pretty, travels well, and nutritious.

Packed my husband's in a quart jar with the peanut sauce on top.  By lunchtime, the peanut sauce has gone nicely throughout, and he ate it from the jar.  I only had a very cutesy jar cozy for a quart-size jar, so I whipped up a plainer felt one that evening.  I put a handle on it because the felt/jar combo was quite slippery.

Gado gado for the kids again:  rice, broccoli, red peppers, bean sprouts, cilantro, peanut sauce.  Wasabi peas on the side (the kids are currently in love with them).  I rarely pack the same lunch in a row because we usually don't have that many leftovers - curious to see what they say.

Last week's shepherd's pie and an apple for my husband.  In the tiffin. I picked this up at a local discount store for $11 a while back.  It's great: doesn't leak, no plastic, and travels well.

I'm not telling you what I ate at home - I eat weird scraps and read novels, very happily, when I'm alone.

What happened with the same lunch for Genevieve on Tuesday is that she didn't eat it. So I gave her the choice of eating her gado gado for supper or Wednesday school lunch.  She chose today. I'm not saying this is the ideal way to handle this, but we talk about how we don't waste food.  Also, carrot cake muffin for her.
For Ben, hummus sandwich, grape tomatoes from the back yard, carrot cake muffin.

Kids:  red beet egg, hummus sandwich, applesauce
Adults: red beet egg, sourdough bread, Swiss cheese, apple (and someone bought ice cream during her work day)

Children want to get school lunch pizza on Fridays.  That's cool.  For one day a week, I don't mind a break and the school-lunch crap.

Husband: leftover taco beans from taco salad supper; rest of rice from gado gado. Green salad with 1000 island (down the side!). Blueberry muffin from freezer.  Apple.

Thanks to Carrie for the original idea of the week in meals!  I thought a real snapshot of packed lunches would be helpful to us all.  I'm going to try to write more about packed lunches on the blog - they're a big part of our week and we could all use ideas and tips.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Navy Dress

At a bargain fabric store, I spied this polka-dotted navy cotton.  It has a gorgeous weight and feel.  It was $2.50 a yard.  I bought everything they had - a little over 2 yards, I think - and much less than most of my dress patterns required.  I could not find any more of the fabric online and I had no interest in a skirt, a blouse, or another navy dress for Genevieve.  No, I must have a sleeveless dress, and I must have it now, even though I'm getting my cold-weather clothes out.

I love his sandals and socks - like a little vintage boy.

So I cut a dress on the fabric width, instead of length, and sewed on a few inches to make the dress long enough.  The vision I had in mind was a simple, almost elegant dress, that could be dressed up or down.  However, the panel did not lay right with the dress (I knew it was going to be a challenge), so I squeezed out a few more inches of the scraps and turned the bottom panel into a ruffle.  Sure, it's cute, but it's not my original vision and I'm still disappointed.

My favorite detail of the dress is the button.  I could only easily get a 22" zipper instead of the 24" zipper that the pattern specified, so I kept the extra 2" and turned it into a keyhole and put in a tiny elastic loop and a sweet vintage button.

The dress can be worn unbelted because it doesn't have belt loops, but I much prefer the waist definition from a belt.  Rebecca gave me the idea to use nice ribbon, but then I couldn't decide between two in my stash, so I sewed them together!  A reversible belt on D-rings.  My husband also helped me drill holes in some other belt options (fuschia! mustard! red!), because most of the time, my belted waistlines are not at my true waist, so my belts were too big.

But I think this dress will be a real workhorse in my wardrobe. I wore it Sunday like a summer dress, and put tights and a cardi with it Monday to the office.

Thanks to my husband for most of the photos on this post.