Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"Give it to Laura"

Recently, a friend's mom, Ruth, contacted me to see if I would like some boxes of vintage fabric that her mother Laura had saved over the years in a farmhouse in a northern valley. Ruth told me that when people had a scrap they didn't know what to do with, they said, "give it to Laura!"  Some of it was from Laura's mother, even. 

Laura's things were sorted through when her son took over the farmhouse, and some of the relatives wanted to throw the scraps away, but Ruth, Laura's daughter, saved the boxes. Laura considered this fabric like money in the bank, a valuable resource for making things. 

Ruth kept the boxes for years and now gave them to me because she looked at my work and thought I could appreciate the beauty and utility of vintage scraps.  I am so honored.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Breakfast Mushrooms

My family and I have parted ways over breakfast, and it's great! I had been still making breakfast for everyone every morning, a default mode left from the days when the big kids were too little to make their own.  They had started to grumble because different morning temperaments have different breakfast requirements, can I get an amen? 

It was one of these situations that happens often with growing kids where I forgot to step back and reevaluate the routine, and once I did, it seemed so obvious that we needed some tweaks! I still set Phoebe up with breakfast, but first and foremost, I please myself at breakfast time and provision everybody else.

Sometimes they want ideas, or I coax them to eat a perishable that needs to be used; sometimes I even make muffins or something and then they eat them . . . or not (I make sure the leftovers can be frozen so that food is not being wasted). The big kids and my husband really appreciate making their own choices, and I appreciate the break.

I'm on a savory breakfast kick, so I'm often making mushrooms. Simple, delicious mushrooms that make me feel like a hobbit at home eating breakfast (certainly not out on the lonesome, dangerous trail to destroy the ring - oh no, but at home in Bag End with the sun shining and the kettle humming).  

I chop a number of creminis, usually more than I think because they shrink as they fry, then I fry them in a little bacon grease over medium heat.  The trick to frying mushrooms is not to stir them too much at the beginning, but let them release their water and start to brown. 

I sprinkle them with some dried thyme, fresh pepper, and truffle salt.  I keep a small jar of truffle salt to really amplify mushroom flavor when mushrooms star in a recipe. 

When the mushrooms look nicely browned and the kitchen smells like a hobbit-hole, I turn the heat down to low and splash in a tablespoon or two of heavy cream as I stir.  The cream will sizzle and then disappear as it clings to the mushrooms. If you want creamed mushrooms, then sprinkle the mushrooms with a bit of flour before you add the cream, and add more cream to make a sauce that will thicken as you stir.  So so so so so good.  

How do you do breakfast at your house?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Cloche and a Cowl

I tried again with a navy hat for myself; the previous one just couldn't hug my ears the way I wanted it to. Was it too big? Too small and thus sliding up?  It's a mystery to me.  There's stretch in the yarn, stretch in the stitches, and I'm baffled.  So I switched to a different pattern.

The Nola Cloche has a dramatic twist that appealed to me.  I struggled with understanding the twist (done like a cable), and got help from Christy and the hat designer herself.  Finally, I got the cloche done and the band was too loose for me while the top was too shallow!  But the hat itself was fine, so I chucked it over to the thrift store and started again.  This time, the hat fits perfectly, but I messed up my decreases at the top so it's a little lumpy.  I swan.  I might have to do it again, but not until next winter.

I taught my sister to knit back in December because she wanted to knit her boyfriend a scarf for Christmas.  I gave her some chunky yarn and needles to practice with, and when she knitted her practice square, I admired the yarn so much that I made it into a cowl when she was done with it (she made a great scarf, by the way!). 

The yarn was passed on to me by a neighbor who moved, so I don't know what its content is or anything.  I do really like the cowl (which I made up) and I especially like that I knit it in one day while I went with my parents to Virginia for a great-aunt's funeral.  Knitting is so slow, at least the way I do it.

Hopefully I will now jinx winter by posting this.  It's been an unusually cold spring; in fact, it snowed for several hours yesterday afternoon.  Even the kids were disgusted! We're all ready for warm weather.

Friday, April 6, 2018

What's Your Domestic Super-Power?

We've all got a domestic super-power, something that we enjoy doing in our homekeeping or feel really proud of our efforts and results.  Decorating? Open-house hospitality? Beautiful photo-worthy bedrooms? Fantastic flower beds or garden? Shrewd e-Bayer who keeps the household supplied and profits by selling the extras? What? Do tell!

I'm really on top of food at my house - I even usually enjoy it! I cannot stand bad food or boring food, so I'm cooking and stocking to please my palate and my family comes along for the ride.

I'm also pretty good with laundry - at keeping it eco-friendly, getting it done, getting stains out.

However, the areas I am not great at are cleaning and our social calendar. I am usually content to live in tidy filth; inviting people over usually motivates me to clean a bit. Visible dirt can also motivate me to clean, but I'm way more interested in food and sewing projects than cleaning. So boring!

I'm also not great at planning social things or deciding what to do with invitations to social things - I'm a homebody until I get housebound and then it's usually too late for my organized self to just, you know, add something to the calendar. Fortunately I live with social people who propel me out.

So tell us what your domestic super-power is.  Pat yourself on the back and feel the love!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Red Hammer Soup

The inspiration for this soup comes directly from Rebecca, who served me a hot virgin bloody mary this winter.  It was fantastic, sipped directly out of pretty china cups, with chicken-salad sandwiches and chips.

 I have never liked this name for a drink, even though I do really love the drink (tomato juice anything, really), so I did a little sleuthing.  Back in 1942, a bloody mary was called a red hammer.  So that's what I'm renaming this splendidly versatile soup.

Red hammer soup brightens up a winter menu as a soup, yes, or an appetizer cup, or even just a vegetable to go next to pesto and pasta and green salad, as we had it here.

 Essentially, make any virgin bloody mary and heat it up: now it's a red hammer, ok?  This is how I make mine, although the measurements are guesses.  I add the seasonings, taste, and adjust.

Red Hammers
Heat together:
1 quart tomato-soup base* (see recipe here)
2 tsp. Worcestershire
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/4 tsp. Tabasco (or add individually if you have spice-adverse eaters)

Serve hot to sip in mugs, or in bowls garnished with chilled, diced shrimp or chopped celery and onion.
Other ideas of add-ins or garnishes: squeeze of fresh lime juice, minced parsley, Old Bay seasoning, oyster crackers

*I think you could absolutely start with something other than homemade tomato-soup base.  I'm using what I have.  Try pureeing fresh or canned tomatoes, or use tomato juice or V8.