Monday, October 31, 2016

About That Cake

I told you that Genevieve made her own birthday cake, and I'm reporting back to say it was delicious and beautiful.

She made the cake by her very own self.  I just pointed her towards some good recipes and helped her to get the cakes out of the pans.

She had her heart set on a layer cake, even though I cautioned her that layer cakes require some extra skills and patience and that I didn't even attempt a layer cake until I was about 25.  I offered to ice the cake to spare her some frustration, but no, she was firm and confident. There's a section in Mennonite Country-Style about icing a layer cake, so I suggested she read that first. If you are not familiar with this cookbook, a Virginia mother wrote it for her daughters when they left home, to pass on all the cooking hints and helps she thought they would want as they started up their own kitchens.  

Then Genevieve chose an icing recipe and got up on a stool for the icing syringe my aunt got in South Africa (what a great reason for a trip:  I need more tips for the icing syringe!).  She tinted the icing, and used two different tips to pipe words and a border.  The icing had picked up chocolate crumbs as she iced the cake:  she shrugged and called it "cookies-and-cream icing."  She scattered candy pearls on top and used the last of the rice paper butterflies. I truly was not in the kitchen while this was going on and she cleaned up everything when she was done.  

And when we sliced into it that evening, it was perfectly moist and delicious on top of being pretty.  I am so impressed. Amazed.  Excited to watch her continue to grow and bloom.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

At This Time Eleven Years Ago

At this time eleven years ago, I was holding a very new little baby girl and feeling like a rock star.  The labor had been long and difficult, and there was a rough transition into motherhood ahead, but those early hours with our new baby sweetie were so precious and hallowed.

And now she is eleven.  Baking her own chocolate birthday cake, icing her own birthday cupcakes for school in a style all her own, and embarking on adventures with a ukulele.  I can hardly take it in.  I love her so.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Squeezo Makes It Fast

I got a bushel of drops and seconds apples for $10 to turn into applesauce and apple butter.  My friend Danene said let's help each other, but when she entered my kitchen and saw my Foley food mills sitting on the counter, she said, "you're old-school!"  And it turns out she has this big old Squeezo that clamps to the countertop and pushes out apple sauce in jig time.

So I got my 17 quarts of applesauce in a morning and then, after it cooked down, I had 3 pints of apple butter the next day.

And Phoebe wanted to be tucked up on the sofa with a blanket so she could read. It was an unseasonably hot October day, not good for blankets or boiling canners, but the applesauce says autumn and we all breathe in crisp cold air.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Late Night Limas

My dad invited me to pick limas with him at ye olde family farm a few weeks ago and since I could drop Phoebe off with my mom, I gladly went.

I was less glad that night at 10pm when I finally finished shelling the buggers and had to blanch and freeze them.  The big kids and my husband all sat around shelling with me after supper.  We took turns picking songs to play on Youtube - that was fun!

I picked a 5-gallon bucket (my uncle charged me only $10) and ended up with 13 pints in the freezer.  We'll enjoy succotash and lima bean chowder this winter, and maybe I'll look around for some new lima recipes, too.

Now, a word about freezing in glass jars from a reader request a few weeks ago: I use glass jars because I'm trying to use less plastic overall.  I prefer to use wide-mouth canning jars for freezing because they seem to break less frequently than regular-mouth jars, possibly because the shoulders of the regular-mouth jars are too constraining to the food expanding as it freezes.

I only put glass jars in the freezer if the contents are room temperature or chilled - putting a jar with hot food in it into the freeze stresses the glass and frequently leads to cracks. I always throw away the contents of jars with cracked glass - so frustrating to waste that food, but much less frustrating and scary than injuring my people with a shard of glass.

Another reason I like to use wide-mouth jars is because they stack better and stay stacked; when a stack of jars topples in the freezer, they crash into each other and crack.  Sometimes, if a jar has been rapped too many times by a hard object (metal serving spoon, another jar, the granite counter top), the glass is weakened in spots and then it cracks from a change in temperature, whether in the canning pot or the freezer.

 I try to leave plenty of headspace - about 2" - although you wouldn't know it from the lima photo on this post, but let's blame that on a late night and an unwillingness to wash more jars.  The next time I went to the freezer, I nervously examined each jar of frozen limas to see if any had cracked.  Thanks to my canning fairy, they were all fine.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cabin Sweet Cabin

I was going to let the photos speak for themselves but I realized I wanted to explain this sink.  My aunt and uncle are redoing the cabin rooms, gradually, to erase the wear and tear that started when they bought the cabin when I was about 10.  Seeing my own 10-year-old love this cabin makes me nostalgic.  I don't want to forget the old stuff.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

"What DO You Do all Day, Mommy?" (warning: long)

Well, Genevieve, it's not easy to explain, so I thought I'd try to record a typical day.

 I'm the homemaker, the housekeeper, the calendar-keeper, the cook.  If I'm keeping up with my work, you probably don't notice it because a well-run house is a background of comfort and stability with the possibility for hobbies, projects, and hospitality.  This is hidden work; I'm not bitter about it - I understand because I can't really sum up my homemaking in a quick sentence and I understand why people don't know how to start a conversation with a homemaker at a social hour over drinks (we stick to editing - more straightforward).  But nevertheless, let's not forget what it takes to care for a house and a family.  Of course, this is my version and other people have different styles and goals.

Wake up 6am to alarm.  Make coffee, bring paper in, clear stuff off dining room table (I usually do this the evening before). Turn washing machine on (there was a load soaking in there; one load is already clean and wet from the night before).  Go to the basement freezer for English muffins for breakfast.  Set out eggs.  Put away clean dishes in the dish drainer to clear the counter.  Pack Ben's lunch - realize I need to refill the peanut jar and go down to the basement freezer to do that and get a brownie for his lunch. Cast my eye over the 30-lb. bag of potatoes I bought last week to see if I can store potatoes successfully in the basement - feel a rotten potato and quickly dig it out for the compost pile. Get dressed, folding the laundry from the drying rack in our  bedroom. Fry eggs, toast English muffins, slice peaches. Get a cup of coffee and read paper for about 4 minutes.

At 7am, wake everybody except Phoebe.  Help everyone assemble breakfasts. Read paper some more.  Dump the bag of peanuts I picked up from my parents' freezer into two trays - put them in hte oven to roast. My husband volunteers to walk the kids to school - he's working from home today, hooray! - and I water the houseplants. Put the next load of laundry in (I sorted out 4 loads yesterday). Make the bed. Phoebe wakes up and starts calling for us - I get her up and change her diaper.  Fry her egg and get her breakfast set up. Keep stirring peanuts and setting timer to remind myself to stir.

At 8am, I quickly rush down to the basement to haul up the peanut butter maker - I can't run to the basement with Phoebe unless I put her in the baby carrier and we're going to be on our own the rest of the morning.  At 8:13, the school crew leaves and because Ben was the one who was 3 minutes late, he will do an extra job of 3 minutes in the afternoon.  I write the note to remind myself.  Help Phoebe with her breakfast. Put the final load of laundry in the washer.

Phoebe is playing on the kitchen floor, so I set up the peanut butter machine, pour in the still-warm peanuts, and make 2 1/2 quarts of peanut butter.  I get out cookie ingredients to warm up, using the empty peanut butter bowl.

Somewhere around 9am, I suit Phoebe up in her rain suit and rain boots (it's muddy) and Phoebe and I head out to the yard.  First I pick up all the black walnuts so Phoebe doesn't get them and stain her clothes.  Then I hang up 4 loads of laundry, working until a squirrel in the tree eats a black walnut directly over my clothesline.  Arghhh!  I dash for a sheet to throw over the wet clothes, but a few things are sprinkled with indelible black walnut dots already. I notice that my husband's white dress shirt has not whitened from its soak in Oxiclean, so I put it in a bucket in the sink with bleach (with a note! so no one splashes bleach around until I get back to it).

At 9:50, Phoebe and I repair to the kitchen where I make cookies and she fusses and plays.  While the cookies bake, I clean up the peanut butter machine.  My husband comes down for a snack, and I get to take the machine down to the basement again while he hangs out with Phoebe.  I give Phoebe a banana and a cookie for a snack - a big one because then we get in the car for some errands.  I added my list, return receipts, and a few entertainment options for Phoebe to my purse.  Oh - and before we leave, I change Phoebe's diaper and dress her.

We drive to a consignment store where I look for a stroller - I can see in 2 minutes that they don't have what I need.  We drive to Target so I can show them that the online price for Ben's Lego set was $5 less than the in-store price that he paid.  This errand has been on my list for several weeks - feels good to get it down.  Phoebe and I go quickly through the store, shopping for rain boots for Genevieve (too expensive, but cute), hiking boots for the husband (too unsure of his taste), bathroom shelves (a nice one in the right size, but at $129, I can wait and hope for a sale), cloth diapers (not toddler size), and then, yes!  a $3 clock for the big kids' room so they can keep track of time better.

We get home at noon, for lunch (leftovers).  At 12:30, as Phoebe plays, I quickly check email and respond to my sister's text about an upcoming vacation.  I shop for cloth diapers online - very confusing.  I put the cookies away.  I answer the door for the Fed-Ex guy. Phoebe and I go back to the yard to pick green beans, jalapenos, and bell peppers.  I also take down the two clean, dry tablecloths which I figure are big targets for the walnut-eaters.  Already there are spots on the one tablecloth! Drat.  I daydream about how to cover the spots.

Phoebe lays down on the floor and sucks her thumb - I ask her if she wants to take her nap and she says "da" (yes).  I fold the tablecloths, and suddenly, Phoebe trips and falls near the laundry room and roars in pain.  A big goose-egg jumps out on her forehead, turning black and blue immediately.  I call the pediatrician for help, and am reassured that the bump means the skull is not injured, but the black-and-blue could migrate down to her eye in a day or so.  Phoebe lets me put an ice-pack on the bump a little bit.  I change her diaper, read her a story, and plunk her in bed.

I return to my computer to edit -  I have a deadline in a few days - and I'm tired, so I drink a cup of oolong tea because it's faster than taking a nap. I work until the big kids come home from school, 3:30, and then it's time to juggle.  I supervise homework, snacks, changing clothes, putting school things away.  Ben does his extra job. I take down the rest of the laundry.  I start making supper.  Phoebe wakes up.  I change her diaper and give her a snack.  I wash the dishes. I keep making supper and drag Genevieve from somewhere to set the table.  After supper at 5:30, Ben washes the dishes (but this is not a linear process - oh no, it takes check-ins and reminders and some help).  My husband has to return to his desk to work. I give Genevieve her piano lesson (not much drama tonight, whew).

I run errands to Rite-Aid and the library with Phoebe and Genevieve; Ben wants to go, too, but he is still washing dishes so he has to stay home. When we get home at 7:30, it's time to clean up the toys and give Phoebe a bath.  I put on her pajamas, help her brush her teeth, and read her a story.  When she's in bed at 8pm, the big kids are basically ready for their story, too (Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech - none of us have read it and we're all enjoying it so far).  Then Ben realizes that he forgot to finish his homework and we have a tense round of tears and natural consequences; he finally agrees that he will try to finish it in the morning (he's usually up early - a morning person).

They are finally in bed by 8:45.  I return to my computer to knock out a little more editing.  At 9:30, I watch an episode of Lilies while I work on a freelance sewing project that I am itching to get off my plate.  My husband joins me, and we end up in bed at 11pm.

That was long and a little boring to write.  But let it stand on the record!

Related posts:  job description for a homemaker, the details of one morning 8 months ago

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Cinderella and Her Socks

Genevieve is currently a huge fan of Lily James and her Cinderella movie.  Let me tell you about her Cinderella get-up.  That's a thrift store bedspread I found for her for a dollar that has gone through several incarnations.  She loves it for its volume (look at it twirl!) and ruffle.  She begged me to trim the holes she cut for head and arms, which I did in pink bias tape.  She begged to go to the thrift store with me to look for Cinderella shoes.  All the heels were black and such except for this sparkly silver acrylic pair, which also happened to be on sale for $2.  We were thrilled together.

 My big beautiful girl.  We've had some good talks about style and "pretty" and makeup.  It's such a balancing act!

But Cinderella can also keep her feet warm when she's not dressed for a ball.

I finished these socks for Genevieve on a drive home from the beach, when the air conditioning in the car was making her cold and she was beyond happy to have toasty feet.

 I'm embarrassed to say that my Kitchener stitch at the toes was faulty on one sock, because it unraveled somehow after only a few wears.  I darned the toe.  I wish I had made the socks taller, but my lack of experience limits me to following the pattern.  Oh well - I think I have enough yarn left to make a wee pair of socks for Phoebe.  The sisters can go on matching!