Monday, June 28, 2010

Silk Placemats

Good morning! I have a totally quiet house right now. DH is off at camp. Baby G stayed up way late with the babysitter last night and is down for the count now. Perfect time to plan out my week and post my newest sewing tutorial. Yay!

I've been stitching like a mad women recently, but no projects that would post well. For instance, do you want to read about the 15 cloth diapers I've sewn?! Probably not. This weekend was different.

If you got married, say last night, then skip this post until you've opened your gifts. Otherwise... I needed a wedding gift for a neat couple who've traveled, particularly in southeast Asia. I wanted to make something Asian inspired but not shamelessly copied. I settled on silk placemats.

The placemats were fun from beginning to end. I got to buy bright colored fabric; I didn't have to use any funky stitching; as an added bonus, my sewing machine tension behaved itself. And the result was a gift I could be proud to put our name on.

How to Sew a Placemat:

Note - This tutorial is specific to working with a light weight fabric such as silk. If you want to use a heavier fabric, like broadcloth, I would follow this tutorial at SewMamaSew.

1. Start with a trip to the fabric store (yay!). To make 4 placemats at 14"x17", I bought 3/4 yard of backing and single-sided fusible webbing and 1/4 yard of each of the front panel fabrics (3 total fabrics for 3/4 yard total). Also, you will need double fold bias tape and corresponding thread.

2. Cut the pieces for your front panel. Before you cut, decide how big you want the placemat. As I said, these were 14"x17" which will comfortably house a large dinner plate. The front panel can be as complicated or simple as you like. Regardless, consider your seam allowance when you calculate the front pieces. In this case, I had two seams at 1/2" per piece of fabric for a total of 2" seam allowance. The center strip was 7"x17", the thin strip was 3.5"x17", and the wider top strip was 5.5"x17".

3. Piece and sew your front panel. You can skip this step if you chose a solid piece for the front. To piece, simply pin the fabric right side to right side and sew a straight seam along the pinned edge at your designated seam allowance.

4. Iron the pieced seams. The seams must lay flat, otherwise you will have odd ridges in your placemat.




5. Cut and iron fusible webbing. The webbing gives the placemats structure without adding a lot of bulk. The webbing should wrinkle slightly when it's warm enough to bond. If the webbing isn't sticking, turn up the heat on the iron.

6. Trim the placemat. With the webbing in place, straight cuts become much easier. This is the time to square things up and ensure that all of your front pieces reach the edge of the placemat.

7. Attach backing and and bias. Pin the backing on first. At this point, you can trim the backing to ensure a good fit with the front of the placemat. Then pin the double fold bias tap around the outside edge, making sure to fold and pin the corners as you go. When sewing, use a straight stitch positioned as close to the inside edge of the bias tape as possible. This will ensure that you get a big bite of all three layers of fabric and that your bias tape doesn't fold up or roll later.

Ta Da. You're done. 

I really enjoyed making these. Throughout the process, I kept thinking about what I wanted to do when I made some for us. I think I have a pretty cute idea coming up. Can't wait to show you. In the mean time, try sewing some silk placemats. They can really spruce up your table setting or make an excellent shower/wedding present.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pancakes

My mom started a tradition (many moons ago) making pancakes for breakfast every Saturday. It stuck, although each daughter has adjusted it slightly. Emily's a waffle woman, Sarah is a biscuit maker, and I make on Friday, the start of the weekend if you're a pastor's family.

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and pancakes are one of my specialities. This morning, we had buttermilk buckwheat pancakes with blueberries. They were fabulous. As you might imagine, I make them from scratch. I'm not opposed to Bisquick; I just prefer the flexibility of flour, sugar and baking soda.

The Recipe:

4 T butter, melted
1 1/2 c milk
2 eggs
Beat together.

2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
2 T sugar
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
Mix together with a fork, beating as little as possible. Cook on a greased skillet over medium heat, turning once. Keep warm and serve hot.

In general, people make two common mistakes with pancakes. 1. They over mix the batter and try to remove all the lumps. This makes the pancakes tough/rubbery. Even pressing pancakes with a spatula increases toughness. 2. They set the stove too high, overcooking the outside and leaving the inside runny. You wouldn't crank the oven up to 425 to bake bread faster. The pancakes are baking just like any other quick bread, and they deserve the correct temperature.

Like most doughs/batters, once you've made this recipe a few times, you should get a feel for the consistency and how to adjust or add to it. My favorite adjustments:

  • Whole wheat and/or buckwheat flour instead of all-purpose - requires an extra 1/4 - 1/2 c milk. This makes very filling pancakes.
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1-2 c fruit - bananas, shredded apples, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc...
  • 1/2-1 t cinnamon - I really like cinnamon, so I use a lot
  • 1 c chocolate chips or chopped nuts
  • 1/4 c wheat bran or 1/4 c rolled oats - again, you must increase the liquid
  • Buttermilk instead of milk - this makes your pancakes fluffier. You can make buttermilk by adding 1 T of lemon juice per 1 c of milk. 
  • 1 c mashed sweet potatoes - remove 1 c of flour, add cinnamon and nutmeg. These are delicious!
Feel free to be creative. I'm considering adding cheese and layering them for a dinner dish, in the spirit of crepes. I made crepes a little while back from The Art of French Cooking. Tim was nuts about them, but they were a little intense to make. Adding extra liquid to pancake batter would achieve roughly the same thing. Hmm...


Bon App├ętit!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Recovering from my laundry Faux Pas

I was going to report on this yesterday as a follow up to my laundry gripe, but my dress was just too exciting, so I postponed.

We really piled on the stressors in our life this year: baby, move, new job, new church, selling a house. Usually I can shove my problems to a dark recess of my mind and focus on daily life stuff. Nevertheless, they creep forward at times, reminding me that our house still hasn't sold, isn't even showing in fact, that we're still living in a borrowed house that really needs to be sold. Ugh! That's why I try to bury these nagging thoughts under piles of baby giggles and craft ideas.

Whenever I start stewing over the glacial housing market, I try to distract myself. First, I sat down and read the Bible. However, I'm in a section right now that's mostly genealogies. All of those weird interesting names pass in front of me, and my worrying shifts from the house to the baby. This baby had better be a girl if it wants a name. I am totally uninspired by boys' names this go around.

I needed to find something else to distract me, so I pulled out the stained tees and the Rit. One pot led to 3 with 1 burp cloth, 2 tees and 4 onesies - cobalt blue, tangerine orange and grass green. Rit offers formulas for creating different shades. The website is useful, if you have all of the base colors you need.

Speaking of what colors you "need," the Color Kittens are deceiving! You cannot make any color of paint/dye out of a combination of red, yellow and blue. On the color wheel, it works, but in practice, it's a mess. You need brown and black to fine tune colors (For instance, gold = yellow and brown, burgundy = red and black, maroon = red and brown). If you are going to buy a set of basic primary colors and hope to mix the shades you want, make sure you buy a brown and a black also. I forgot this rule when I bought my dye, so picking exact colors was difficult.

All the same, I really enjoyed seeing Baby G in a bright hugh. Her wardrobe is drowning in pink and brown with flowers. Time for a change.

After dress sewing yesterday, I'm not up for a huge project today. Still, I think I could find some cute shapes (not flowers or ducks) to add to these onesies. I now have three green ones so it might be time for a fruit/veggie theme. And the orange one is begging for a tree. Hmm... looks like I found today's project.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Dress

This weekend, I'm attending a wedding. It's the kind of wedding I really look forward to: family I love, sweet bride, I'm not part of the bridal party/family. Best of all, they're a Godly couple, so the imagery of Christ and the church really stands out.

While I'm excited to go, I had one major hiccup. It's been over a year since any of my formal clothes fit. I have one "maternity" dress, and it looks like a sack, an awkward mauve tent. Not exactly the statement I want to make at this beautiful evening wedding.

After a vision of sixteen outfit changes only to give up and where jeans, I started looking for something new. I found this dress. It's beautiful, sexy, slimming - everything a maternity dress should be. Did you check the price? Yeah, a hundred dollars. I think Tim could take me to small claims court if I spent that on a dress right now. After all, we have a new baby to pay for.

So, I did what any crafty momma does when she can't buy the dress she wants. I headed to the store for fabric to make my version of the dress. To hide pregnant awkwardness and cope with summer heat, I picked a rayon/lycra blend. Unable to find a pattern, I drew out a ridiculous sketch, scrutinized a couple dresses in my closet and started cutting.

To be honest, I surprised myself. The dress is a faux wrap (I don't need G untying my dress) accented with cap sleeves and a ruffled neck line. The belt actually ties at the side. The hanger is lame, I know. I promise to take a picture when I wear it Saturday. Also, I will try to make a digital pattern available.

Trying this dress on, I felt prettier than I have in months. Now, I really can't wait for this wedding.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wanted: One Laundry Fairy

A laundry fairy lives in our house. Sporadically, she sweeps up all the dirty laundry, sniffs the armpits of all the shirts left on the floor in the "unsure" pile, washes, folds and carefully places them in the right drawer or shelf. At least, that is how G and DH see things.

In reality, laundry falls under my job description. I'm not going to argue that I shouldn't do family laundry, but that doesn't mean I'm fond of it either. Today was a really annoying laundry day. A play silk found its way into G's laundry hamper. I know, I know. I could have avoided the whole mess by sorting her clothes by color. Be reasonable. They're all the same color - little girl pink. Except for the bright blue play silk.

As I was hanging the laundry, I began to notice the odd blue splotches on her white undershirts. My mind started tracking through the last two weeks, thinking did I buy her something? In blue?!

Then I spotted the culprit, tangled in a sheet looking confused, bleeding on everything it touched. Shoot! I have borrowed baby clothes in here. Please Lord, no blue splotches on Beth's clothes. Please! You haven't sold our house. You owe me this one.

God doesn't really owe me one, but He was gracious enough to protect the borrowed clothes. Beth breathes a sigh of relief.

To add insult to injury, the holly tree has grown again. It repeatedly stabbed me in the back while I was hanging my stained baby shirts. I don't know which came first: the holly tree or the clothes line. But they are planted within two feet of each other. As you can see, the holly branches grow around the clothes line, making laundry a more painful process than it needs to be.

Does anyone have suggestions for removing food coloring from a sheet??? At this point, I think I will just dye the t-shirts another color and cover the blue. Any better ideas???




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Monday, June 21, 2010

Everyone's Growing!

Time for another self-indulgent post where I tell you how cute my daughter is and how much she's grown.

Last night, G fell asleep before she could finish her last bottle, so I enjoyed the now rare pleasure of creeping in her room at 10 o'clock to let her finish. (Funny how excited I was to cut out this feeding a few months ago)

Our girl is not a cuddler - she might be  pint size, but she acts like a 1 year old, pushing away from you, sitting up on your lap but never leaning against you. The only time we get to snuggle with her is when she's asleep.

That's why last night was so special. She slept through the feeding and nestled into my chest when the bottle was empty. Hmmm... So nice.

She's grown recently. Like every baby, she grows wide then tall, gains a little pooch then lengthens out. Between needing extra naps, acting extra grumpy and eating like a horse, I thought she might be adding the inches again. Turns out, she's a little over 26 inches long - a full inch from her 6 month check up (contrary to the picture - I didn't measure to her toes). I think we might be back on the growth chart! You might remember that at her last check up, G had all but shrunk.

Gwennan's not the only one who's growing. This baby is making his/her presence known to the world much faster than G did! People aren't asking when I'm due yet, but that could be because I have a 7 month old on my hip, and they're thinking, "She'd be crazy to have babies that close together." Yep, I'm crazy, not plump.

Being pregnant this time is a very different experience. Feeling like crap is the same, but my attitude is different. With G, nothing could move fast enough. If you asked me how far along I was, I could tell you to the day while tapping my foot that I wasn't farther along. This go around, my iPod is keeping track because I can't keep up. This morning, my mom asked, so the number is fresh: 16 weeks and 3 days (I'm tempted to double check that).

Last year, I remember thinking I would never find out if she was a boy or girl. We tried stupid home tests, like adding drano crystals to your pee (turns out no one interprets the results the same way), suspending a needle above your arm to see how it swings, the baby's heart rate, how I was carrying, all of it. We saw "boy" in everything (except the heart rate, but I just ignored that). This time, I'm not even tempted. My ultrasound is in three weeks. That's no time at all, at least this pregnancy.

Come November, you guys can remind me of this post and how "fast" things are moving. I'll be having dreams in which I'm pregnant forever and whining that the baby will never come. Feel free to point out that the second pregnancy goes by so much faster, and it's swelling with a purpose. On the other hand, maybe you should just send some ice cream and pray for Tim and G.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

First of all, Happy Father's Day! Tim enjoyed his first Father's Day as a dad, not just a son today. We aren't big Hallmark Holiday fans, so we didn't plan anything specific. Still, a restful day with a  sweet baby is plenty!

Tim becomes a dad, October 31, 2009

I was watching Tim play with G this afternoon. He was bench pressing her while she beamed down at him. Maybe I was reacting to the day, but I began thinking of my dad. He was the strongest, smartest, best dad in the whole world to me.

When you're little, dad seems like a superhero (sorry moms, myself included, but dad's are special that way). My sister would only ride a roller coaster buckled in with my dad. Every Sunday afternoon, we would each take a side and snuggle into my dad to watch "Sleeping Beauty" (yes, same movie every Sunday for what seemed like years. We were in a typical elementary rut). It was great when Mom watched us ride or skate or swim, but when Daddy came, that was something else. Daddy's time and attention were so special, probably because we didn't have it all the time and probably because we were only our "whole" family when he was home.

My dad and I "fixing" the car - this sort of help runs in the family

Sometimes I'm jealous of Tim's role. It seems like he's always playing while I'm preparing food or changing diapers. When I'm honest, I know that he has a tremendous job, a job I wouldn't want to take on. We try not to operate based off culture, but by following the Bible's plan (As G and I learned from VeggieTales this afternoon, "God's way is always better.") That makes Dad the Priest, Prophet, Protector and Provider for our family. That's not to say that I never engage in those roles, but Tim is chiefly responsible. What a job description!

Being raised after the feminist movement, I really don't know the life of separated genders, the Cleaver lifestyle. I've always heard that men and women aren't just equal; we're the same. And that Mom should be able to do all of mom's jobs and all of dad's. Obviously, this is a necessity for single moms, but what about married moms? Should we really do both jobs? What does that leave Dad with? If Mom does everything, is Dad extraneous? How would Moms feel if Dads took over all rolls? Maybe you're thinking, gosh, I wish my husband would take over. I'm sure it would be nice for a little while. But eventually, we might start to feel lost in our own house.

I don't want to turn this into a rant against feminism or how modern families are set up. Nor am I capable of laying out the theology of gender roles (I'll leave that to John Piper). Rather, I want to puzzle what feminism means in my relationship with my husband and as a mom, not just accept it thoughtlessly. I want to study what God says about men and women, moms and dads rather than assuming that I'm already living it. A holiday derived by a greeting card company is as good a time as any for some introspection.

All that being said, I'm very grateful for my dad, and I'm excited to come beside Tim as he enjoys fatherhood. Hope your families enjoyed your dads today!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wild China

I just watched one of the most fascinating documentaries (yes, I'm nerdy - I adore nature/travel documentaries): Wild China



I'm wowed. The scenery is spectacular, especially the rice patties.  The Chinese have carved entire mountains into elaborate terraces of rice paddies. The paddies have been in place so long that the wildlife has adjusted around them. Egrets have colonized the area because the wetlands are home to so many frogs, fish and insects.

Ever since we visited DC two years ago and viewed an art exhibit of Chinese landscape photography, China became a top member of my travel list. Of course, almost every where I want to go is dangerous and crazy expensive, but I don't care. Where do I want to visit? India (yes, the whole country - there's a lot to see!), Turkey, Morocco, China (especially Southern China), Mongolia (I was in the process of applying for a veterinary externship in Mongolia before I left vet school), Afghanistan and New Zealand (might as well throw in one safe one). I'm really attracted to harsh mountainous climates with a lot of poverty and political turmoil. To my parents: Aren't you glad I married someone who wants to stay stateside?

I think my favorite part (so far - there are 6 episodes) is the 70 year old fisherman who have trained cormorants to fish for them. The fishermen tie a string around the birds' necks to keep them from swallowing the fish. Then they let the birds do their thing. The cormorants swim underwater and catch fish and bring them back to the fisherman on the boats. So neat. Every trained bird I've ever seen speaks a couple of useless phrases and poops all over everything!

If you have netflix, you can watch it online. If not, it's well worth the rental, especially if you're fans of Planet Earth or Blue Planet.

North Carolina BBQ

Barbeque is one of my favorite summer dinners. Since there might be confusion around the word, "barbeque," I should clarify. Being raised in Tennessee, when I say "barbeque," I don't mean the act of grilling. I'm referring to the delicious dish of pulled (sometimes chopped) pork that has been simmering in vinegar all day then topped with barbeque sauce - whole different ball of wax.

Barbeque comes in many different forms depending on where it's cooked. For instance, Memphis BBQ joints tend to smoke the meat first then smother it in bbq sauce. This method is most popular for ribs and pulled pork. Memphis dry rub ribs are my absolute favorite.

North Carolina BBQ is a different beast, simmered in vinegar then pulled or chopped. Personally, I'm a fan of NC style, especially when accompanied by a load of cole slaw on the bun. You can't beat it on the forth of July with some watermelon and potato salad on the side.

My mom's BBQ is my favorite. It's the whole reason I registered for a crock pot. Enjoy!

3-4# Boston Butt Roast
2 T Sugar
2 c Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt
Pepper
Crushed red pepper
1 - 2 t Liquid Smoke
Barbeque Sauce

Place roast in crock pot. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar. Cover with vinegar. Cook at low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours (can also be cooked in the oven at 200 degrees for 8 hours). Turn meat over 3/4 of the way through if it's not covered by the vinegar.

Pull pork, removing any bones and large pieces of fat. Season with crushed red pepper, liquid smoke and barbeque sauce.

Feeds 8-12.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Homemade Pizza

Confession: For all of my uppityness where food is concerned, I love pizza. Normally, I refuse to combine veggies with cheese, until they're situated on top of a delicious crust and surrounded by tomato sauce.

In Knoxville, mine and Tim's favorite date spot is a restaurant on happening Market Square called The Tomato Head. It serves gourmet pizzas, calzones and sandwiches - some of our favorites. As a sausage connoisseur, Tim always orders a #3: lamb sausage, herbed tomato, black olives, capers and sun dried tomatoes. That's what I mean by gourmet.

Last night I had a hankering for a delicious Sicilian pie and a great suggestion from SmittenKitchen.com: Shaved Asparagus Pizza. (Do you ever see recipes and think, "Now, that's just too beautiful not to make?!") Usually, I bake a traditional supreme pizza, but this time, I wanted to try something different. I made the asparagus pizza and a Ranch Chicken Pizza that I added bacon to. Both were amazing.

Now that I've provoked you to bake a pizza, here's my recipe for pizza dough. I always make it from scratch, and this recipe is very consistent. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Ingredients
1 1/4 c warm water
1 T yeast

2 T Olive Oil
1 T Honey
2 t Salt
2 1/2 c Whole Wheat Flour

Extra flour for counter top and hands while working dough.

Directions
Combine yeast and warm water and allow to sit until foam covers surface (~5 min). In large bowl or stand mixer, combine other ingredients until incorporated. With mixer on medium, add yeast and beat for 5-10 minutes, until dough pulls away from side and forms a ball around the mixer blade. If mixing by hand, roll up your sleeves and knead dough for 5-10 minutes until a slightly springy ball forms.

Place in an oiled bowl and cover. Allow to rise until doubled in size (1-2 hours). Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut ball in equal halves. Stretch crust by pushing your knuckles into the middle of the ball and rolling wrists to encourage dough outward. Or use a floured rolling pin. Bake for 5 min. Remove and add toppings. Bake for 12 min or until cheese is bubbling.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Baby, meet Bunny

After many, "Be gentle. No, don't grab," talks with Gwennan, I thought I'd introduce her, officially, to Paka, our bunny. She's been eyeing him for months, wishing he would come close. She's very interested in fuzzy things that move of their own volition. So this morning, while I scrubbed the high chair and table down after a morning snack of bananas, Gwennan crawled around on the kitchen floor, hoping Paka would decide to make friends.


Being a remarkably good natured bunny, he obliged.




Gwennan was beside herself. She squealed in joy as Paka came close enough for her to touch. Things turned south after a few seconds, however. Apparently, baby fingers look a lot like baby carrots to a very hungry bunny. He ever so carefully nibbled on her finger. There was no malice or frustration, just a simple, "are you my breakfast?"

More surprised than anything, Gwennan was done crying by the time I picked her up. Another, "oops" moment for me in the parenting department. I don't think it's done any permanent damage, however. She still stands up, even though she's bumped her head several times in the process. Something tells me if I sat her down on the kitchen floor this evening, she'd still make a bee line for the bunny.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Amazing Grace

This morning in church, some of the high schoolers played "Amazing Grace" as a solo during communion. After the first verse, a little kid, maybe two or three years old, began belting out the words, "amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me..." He sang the entire song, over and over. I'm not sure if his parents tired to quiet him, but he just kept singing.

At first, I found it really cute and looked forward to a day when Gwennan could simultaneously embarrass me and make me glow with pride. Then my attitude changed. I wanted to be that little kid, so excited about a song praising God that I sang out the words without regard to the silence around me. I want my life to reflect that attitude of worship.

Praise the Lord, O my soul
And all my deepest parts
Give praise to the Lord
Who called you out of darkness

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Wagon

Big announcement  - I have a new car! Well, new to me.

Tim and I have been sharing our Subaru since before G was born - 7+ months. It worked because I'm at home when he's at work then run my errands in the evening or on his days off. Still, Tim is a bit of a boy scout and wants his car to be prepared for any emergency - say a beautiful, unexpected day for fishing or a chance to fly kites or a wood working project at church. He keeps the trunk stocked with tools, gear and bungie chords. I've actually had bag boys ask me if my groceries will fit in the car. I'm really looking forward to some vehicular separation - me with my Volvo and Tim with his Subaru.

Besides the freedom of the open road (provided I'm back in time for G's nap), I love the actual car. I know most people wouldn't get excited about a '94 wagon. You might even be thinking, "that's what I drove in high school," (literally for you, Courtney).  But I love the super utilitarian wagons - the original hideaway back seat, the enormous trunk, the never ending pockets already packed with baby toys. To make matters cooler, this one is actually from Germany, driven on the Autobahn.

Best of all, it's already dinged up. I don't have to worry about making the first scratch or cracking the leather seats or breaking a side view mirror. It's already done for me. Again, that might sound counter intuitive, but new cars stress me out. I'm not meticulous with my car, at least the outside - I don't wash it; I kick doors shut; I park next to cart returns. I don't want the pressure of keeping the body looking pristine. No worries with a 16 year old car that's been through 3 teenage drivers.

The Volvo is a huge blessing to me and Tim. Thank you John and Leslie!!! You guys rock!!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Apple Tart

Today, I almost expected Tim to walk into the kitchen and propose to me all over again. Fresh applesauce was cooling in the fridge, a brand new loaf of sunflower and sesame bread was cooling on the rack, and 7 apple tarts were waiting in their flaky shells for his arrival.

When we met, I didn't believe in baking. I thought it was one of Satan's tools to increase your waist line. Kind of ironic coming from a girl who called a pint of Ben and Jerry's "dinner." Nevertheless, I rarely baked, and when I did, I used recipes out of a twenty year old health book - fiber stuck together with a sparse smattering of chocolate chips.

Something changed for me at Christmas. First, I gained a baby and realized that I still liked myself, even 9 months pregnant. Second, I watched "Julie and Julia," which piqued my curiosity about butter - an ingredient I had stubbornly refused to use for many years that also makes or breaks your baking.

So now, I bake; I use the real ingredients, and I bake. To help with the calories, I plan my baking when I can give away part of the batch. Today, I had a friend visiting who hasn't felt well, so I thought she and her husband could use a pick me up. Also, I pre-portion with a muffin tin. It makes cutting a slightly bigger piece or nibbling on tiny pieces all day much more difficult.

I really wanted to make apple brown betty thanks to the suggestion of smitten kitchen's strawberry variety, but I had no bread. So, I decided to make an apple tart instead. The recipe came from the Joy of Cooking. I adapted these slightly to use a muffin tin - I needed a little extra crust and much less filling.


You can see where I just pressed the dough into the muffin cups with my fingers.  Then layered in the cream cheese filling and topped with apples. They did bake a little faster: 10 mins at 425 degrees then 20 at 400 degrees.

Topped with whip cream, these make a lovely dessert when you host. They can be prepared ahead of time, if you can avoid eating them:). Also, they're a great size to accompany coffee in the afternoon.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Quirky Pillows

I love pillows that resemble stuffed animals. Hence my desire to make the plush owl pillows that I mention on My Craft Ideas page. I know that sounds very specific, but check out the examples:


Top Right: I can't wait to make these from the pattern available from Blissfully Domestic. I'm thinking the crazier the fabric, the more interesting these owls will look. While Tim doesn't care for my other bird project idea, I think he likes these.

Bottom Left: Stuffed monster pillow from A Little Gray blog - BTW that fabric looks hand dyed. She sells them through her etsy shop.

For those of you looking for a more simple pillow idea, I'd try embellishing as seen here. Ottobre Design has great patterns.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Garden Update

I am so excited about my little back porch garden. Everything's growing beautifully, and flowers have appeared on most of my vegetables. I even found a pepper and a tomato growing. 


I'm not a particularly advanced gardener, although I do love growing things. It takes me hours to meander through a big green house. One time, I took our dog along (R.I.P.). He was so bored with my wanderings that he lay down under one of the benches and refused to move. Keep in mind, he was only 3 years old - hardly low on energy.

This summer is my first even moderately successful attempt with veggies. In Tennessee, my entire yard was full shade, even the driveway. I had no chance of growing vegetables with their 6 hours of full sun.  But here, the back deck get plenty of sun, and my plants are eating it up, literally.

Maybe it's the novelty, but I call Tim to the porch every time I find some new sign of growth - a plant newly flowering or an okra tip poking out of a cluster of leaves. In the spirit of self-sustainence, Tim made plant stakes for me. You can see one in the picture below. About half of my vines are responding to my "training." The others are trying to crawl up other plants and the deck railing. 



The garden brings me great joy. I can't wait to grill some homegrown zucchini and squash and experiment with my own salsa. Here's to summer and plants!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Crafting with Kids

For those of you with kiddos coming home soon for the summer, I stumbled upon the Craft Kids Corner. It's a little too advanced for the Ellis household, but I can't wait to use it later.

Low-Fat Vegetarian Fare

A plug for my all time favorite cookbook, "Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites." I don't use cookbooks often, preferring to experiment with the recipe or use the internet to find what I'm looking for. My theory of cooking tends to follow that of Smitten Kitchen's - I rarely make the same dish twice. It does seem a waste of perfectly good recipes, but I always want to try something new. The staple items like bread, applesauce and yoghurt are the exceptions.

However, some of the fare in the Moosewood cookbook is so good that I simply have to repeat it, especially as side dishes. I've found with most vegetarian cookbooks/websites, they anticipate that their readers are vegetarians who are skipping the fat/calories found in meat. The recipes are then loaded with other forms of fat, from avocados to feta cheese. Amazing dishes, but they really must be used as the main course, otherwise your caloric intake approaches 500 for the meal.

The Low-Fat cookbook offers all sorts of, duh, lower fat options - perfect side dishes or lunches or diet fare. Whenever I'm pulling together a large meal with several sides or a covered dish for a church function, I turn to the Moosewood cookbook. And sometimes it comes in handy when I'm scrambling for something to do with an empty fridge and scarce pantry - enter the Hominy and Black Bean Frittata. So good that Tim  went back for seconds. As you can see, I was out of black beans, so I substituted kidney beans. No harm done. It feels like plagiarism to copy the recipe, so I encourage you to buy the cookbook. 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The State of Things

Here I go again.. excusing myself from my blog with a migraine. I hate it for me as much as for you.

Having spent the last two days in bed or hugging the toilet, I'm now super hungry, super hung over and way behind. I was in the middle of dishes, laundry, bills and baby proofing G's room when the torrent hit. The wet clothes and dirty dishes and unpaid bills have all sat, patiently waiting for me to feel better.

Other things unraveled a little faster... for instance, the living room. Here's a phrase I never imagined saying: "Honey, please take your fishing gear out of the living room." Really?!!! What is the tackle box doing there to begin with?! There are no fish in our living room (we moved the aquarium to another room).

Of course, I never expected to ask, "Honey, please take the bike and all its parts out of our bedroom." That was last year right before Gwennan was born. Somehow, garage stuff seems to crawl out of the one room with a cement floor and find its way to the carpeted areas. I think it has something to do with air conditioning and the proximity of the refrigerator. Hey, that gives me an idea.  If I put a fridge stocked with drinks in the garage, maybe it would be a more enticing place to work. It will probably need a tv as well. I should get to work on this if I want to reclaim the house.

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