Sunday, July 29, 2012

DIY: Stamped Curtain

We have one giant kitchen window.  It happens to face our neighbor's yard.  It also happens to be across from the bathroom door and thus makes running through the house in our underwear, well, a little too public.  

Friday Adam came home from work early, and while my two little ones were asleep, I took the opportunity to run to our local YWCA thrift shop Secret Seconds.  I scored! I found a brand new curtain rod and a dark green, sheer curtain for $16.  

But, after hanging the curtain, it was a little to dark and bland. 

I took it back down and headed into the garage to see if I could find the left over kitchen paint (light yellow and orange).  I found it and decided I was going to use it to spruce up the curtain.

So, here is what you need if you want to sponge paint a curtain:

1 large sponge (or more)
latex paint 
a plastic plate
big sheets of paper (to protect the surface you are working on)
a curtain 

I cut my large sponge turning one third into a circle stamp and the other two thirds into a rough oval shape.  I poured the yellow and orange paint onto a plastic plate and then pressed the stamps into their designated colors.  I blotted the stamps onto paper to make sure that the paint was evenly distributed. 

I pressed the orange circle onto the fabric and then used the oval stamp to form flowers with either six or seven petals.  The first stamp was saturated with paint, and I just continued stamping the petals without reloading, allowing for a gradation of yellow petals.  

The final flower count was seven yellow flowers (two of which had six petals) and three orange flowers with yellow centers.  I just washed out the sponges, squeezed them out well, and switched colors. 

Adam helped me carry the curtain panel out side, and we laid it across the chicken coop roof to dry.  

And there it is:  hanging up..  the mess all cleaned up.  The entire thing took less than an hour and this curtain is definitely more lively. 

This was a fun and easy DIY project and the possibilities are endless.
Now I just need to make a curtain tieback to match.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Camp Deep Creek - July 27 - Week 6

"Yesterday there was lightning. It started a tiny fire.  This big."
Ivory pauses to squeeze her pointer finger and thumb together to show Adam the size of the fire.
"On the other side of the mountain.  And then there was a helicopter that brings fire.  No.  Gets all the water from the pond and takes it to the fire.  ALL the water from the pond (big gesture).  And then the water fills up again."
She pauses for a breath, stabbing at her leftover macaroni and cheese, looking critically across the table at her father.
"But, we didn't see the helicopter land.  Mama really wanted to see it land".
She turns to me: "You REALLY wanted to see it land, didn't you Mama?"

Sometimes the things that don't happen are even more exciting than the things that do.

There was no mention of the life jackets, the canoes, the water bugs with funny flippers, the fish we saw while paddling around the lake or the water snail she proudly carried around for a little while.

Sylvan, I learned, loves to ride around in a canoe.  He sat ever so quietly, every now and then peering over the edge into the water, and made it loudly known, that even though others were ready for the canoeing to end, he was not.  If only he could talk. But then, if he could talk, he would probably be gushing about the helicopter as well.

We did see the helicopter - once, early in the morning - with the water bucket dangling below it.  We heard it put-put-putter in the distance, as we snacked and paddled and ate our lunch and reluctantly, but quickly, left. (The man from the forest service thought it was too much of a liability for us to stay around and watch the water fetching operation.)

A few hours later, the sky turned black and torrent wind and rain and hail battered our little house.  It stopped just as suddenly as it started and the sky turned bright and blue. Ivory rushed out into to the yard to pick up the pieces of ice and pop them in her mouth.

She looks up at me: "Tell me about the lighting, Mama, and how it started a tiny fire."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Roasted Beets and Greens Salad

This recipe utilized the ENTIRE beet plant: the leaves as well as the roots! 

3 medium sized beets with greens
2 tablespoons coconut oil
peppered goat cheese
salted and roasted sunflower seeds

  • Roast the beets ahead of time (directions here) and let cool.  Peel the beets and cut into cubes.
  • Wash and chop greens. 
  • Heat the coconut oil until hot and drop the greens into the pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leaves are dark, dark green in color and a little crispy.
  • Remove from heat. 
  • Layer the greens, the cubed beets, crumbled goat cheese, and sunflower seeds.  
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.  
There are no exact quantities.  Just add all the ingredients in the proportions that look and taste good to you.  Enjoy. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Camp Deep Creek - July 20 - Week 5

"Can I have the pink one Mama?"

Ivory snatches a pink pick out of my hand and starts to strum the strings on a red guitar.  I watch her play around on the instrument and am transported back into the narrow hallways of the music shop in Newfoundland, Canada where I bought my guitar and where I got the random assortment of picks that lives in the pocket of my guitar case.  A whole row of beginners guitars hung from the wall: red, blue, black, white... I almost bought the blue guitar, but then opted instead, for the beautiful warm toned wood body of the guitar I have now.  It wants to be touched.  It deserves to be touched, and I am embarrassed to admit that I can play it as well as when I bought it (which is not at all).  
I don't play guitar (yet.. at least I keep telling myself that.)

 Ivory doesn't play guitar either.

She plays an upright bass. 

She plays an upright bass in an orchestra of children pounding on drums, blowing into flutes, shaking maracas, trying out kazoos and harmonicas.  The result a cacophony of which Gershwin might have been proud.

The orchestra transforms and becomes a marching band..  marching up hill with saxophones blowing, drums drumming...  and then:

It becomes a band of mothers marching, carrying children and their instruments up hill. 

The band disbands.

The older children, Ivory among them, having reached the top of the trail, formed their own group, still carrying instruments and are rushing back down hill.

I am left standing just shy of the top of the trail with Sylvan, who had nursed the entire way so far, at my feet screaming: " I'm not going to take it anymore! Walk?!??! You want me to walk?!?!" (This is what I imagine he must be saying to me at this moment.) 

 "Oh, look rocks."

We walk back down.  The children's instruments are strewn about.  Guitars are stashed away and the shade of the tree draws everyone in close.

I gather up our flute, maracas, harmonica and drum.
I zip my neglected guitar into it's case and track down my pink pick.  

The air hums with humming birds, and Sylvan and I pause for a moment to watch them hover at the feeders.   He shrieks with delight, but I can't help but note how many fewer humming birds there are this week, how quickly the summer is rushing by and how very long ago it was that I bought my guitar.

Maybe, eight years after having bought my guitar, I can master a C chord...  and a G? ( I can do that, right?)

Ivory can have the pink pick.
I will use the white.
She will play upright bass
and I will play guitar.

Friday, July 20, 2012

No Prices!

I am trying something new, something daring and reckless.

I am going to pack all my hand sewn bags, backpacks, aprons and other crafted odds and ends into my car and take it down to the Missoula People's Market tomorrow.

 And, assuming that I get past that nerve wracking raffle to get a spot, I will set up my temporary little shop and peddle my wares with no price.

Each and every person can purchase any item of mine for any price.

CRAZY? maybe.

Items available:

Girls Dresses
Adult and Child Aprons
Toddler Backpacks
Tote Bags
Cute Stuffed Puppy Dogs
Baby Blankets...

come by and be a part of my daring social experiment,


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Red Currant Cream Cheese Danish

In a forgotten corner of our yard four currant bushes are tucked between a windowless corner of our house, the dog house and the neighbors fence.  A few days ago,  I checked the status of the berries, and they were not quite ripe.  Yesterday, they suddenly were more than ready to pick.  While Sylvan napped and Ivory played in water buckets in the shade under our big tree, I walked around the house and teased hundreds of tinny tart red berries off of the branches.

Ivory stood by me at the edge of our porch, sneaking the largest, juciest berries into her mouth, while helping me sort the good from the bad, and in the end we had a solid cup of currents.  What do you do with fresh currents?  Jam?  Of course.  But, the thought of standing over a pot in a hot steaming kitchen for a few small jars of jam...   no, not jam.  

I scrolled through recipe ideas on the internet, and none of them seemed quite right to me..  until I found a recipe and tutorial for Cream Cheese Danish on Little House on the Prairie Living.  Perfect.  This is something I can work with. A Currant Cream Cheese Danish sounds like a perfect treat for breakfast. 
I made a simple adjustment to the filling to compensate for the tartness of the currents:

Red Current Cream Cheese Danish Filling

8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of red currents

  • soften cream cheese and mix with sugar and red currents, follow all other directions for the Cream Cheese Danish 

I pulled it out of the oven and set it on the counter to cool and crawled into bed with my husband.

Too few hours later, Adam came back up the stairs saying:  "I looked everywhere, but I just can't find any powered sugar to make the glaze."
He was right - no powered sugar anywhere.  So here is the alternative I came up with:

Red Current Danish Glaze

4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • combine butter, sugar and sour cream in sauce pan and heat until they are melted together
  • turn off the burner and add the vanilla
  • pour over pastry

The result was rich and creamy and tart.  Adam deemed it delicious and I still have to see if it passes the scrutiny of the children.

I might just spend my morning in the forgotten corner of our yard, picking what currents I can, and make a few more personal size Red Currant Cream Cheese Danish that I can freeze and pull out later to taste a bit of summer.

Update 07.24.2012
The Red Currant Cream Cheese Danishes are a hit with my family, so I have made and additional double batch of Danishes. I added some whole wheat flour to the pastry recipe  and also  decided to make these personal size.  The two pastries in the back are made from 8 inch squares.  A little too large for a single person.  Adam and I split these...  the pastries in the front were folded from 6 inch squares.  This size is perfect.

Double batch of Whole Wheat Danish Pastry Dough

1/2 c. warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 egg
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups white flour

  • Follow directions from the Little House on the Prairie Living Blog 
  • Be sure to chill the dough a minimum of 2 hours.  
  • The dough will make approximately 14  - 16 6 inch squares.  
  • Distribute the filling evenly between the squares. 

Double Batch - Red Current Cream Cheese Danish Filling

2 8oz pk cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups currants

Double Batch - Red Current Danish Glaze

8 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoon vanilla

Monday, July 16, 2012

Boats, Boats, Boats (Camp Deep Creek - July 13 - Week 4)

They rushed down stream, swept away by the icy current of the creek.
Bright paint, feathers and flowers, a central mast and fabric sail making each unique, belonging to a specific child.

The younger children reaching after them, whimpering, not quite understanding: "Hey, Boat, where are you going.  I can't follow." 

The older children kids scampering after them, laughing and screetching, bending and reaching, trying to grab a hold of them before they crash and capsize in the stick jam at the bend.

And we wade in, toes numbing, to reach down and retrieve the doomed vessels.
The boats first loosing their color, then their adornments, and then their sails and masts.
The bright sun is dappled by the trees.  We relish the cool, the shade, the breeze.

Clusters of bruised boats are resting on the bank.
The younger children are gingerly stepping closer to the edge of the water, bending down reaching with one hand and holding on tightly with the other, to pick up rocks and toss them - spash - into the stream.

The older children, now undressed, are splashing in the wide calm pool of water.
And I yelp when a small wet body wraps itself around my legs.

I want time to stand still.
I want the sun, the shade, the breeze, the stream and the trees that our cradling our children in this moment to just - stay.

But we are all rushed down stream and I feel like that boat rushing along, getting caught by sticks and stones, just to be pluck up and sent on the same course again - over and over - loosing color and sail and mast.  On rare occasion, reaching that big, wide, cool pool beyond the deep and treacherous stream jam.  

Two boats ride home with us.
One colorless, but still with mast and sail.  The other a flat piece of wood cradled in my daughters arms.  It no longer has a sail, it has no mast, the colors washed a way a long time ago and all that remains of the lavender fronds that embellished it, is a neat round hole.  She knows that it will sail again.  That we will build it a new mast, a new sail, find new colors, new flowers and let it set sail in different waters.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Finally! Recipes!

I have been slacking.  There are a few recipes that I have been asked for and I just have not been able to remember to write them down when I am sitting at the computer.  Instead, I have been stricken with extreme guilt at random moments of my day.
I am writing them down NOW!

for Ellen: GRANOLA!  I have made granola... and I have a super easy and cheap recipe that is my favorite.  It is from the More-with-Less Cookbook compiled by Doris Janzen Longacre

Simple Granola

preheat your oven to 250*
combine in a large mixing bowl:
2 cups whole wheat flour
6 cups rolled oats
1 cup coconut (I use unsweetened, but I'm sure sweetened would work just as well) 
1 cup wheat germ

in a separate bowl combine
1/2 cup water
1 cup honey
1 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp salt 
  • combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix thoroughly
  • spread out on two greased cookie sheets and bake about 1 hour or until the crumbles are dried and golden
  • store in an air tight container
  • when cool you can add raisins, chopped dates, dried apples, apricots etc..
  • you can also reduce the amount of rolled oats to 5 cups and add 1 cups of nuts instead  

for Carol: Whole Wheat Risen Waffles, Puff Pancakes, the fried chicken and pizza dough.

Whole Wheat Risen Waffles
         From The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook compiled by Jean Hewitt

1/2 cup luke warm water
1 1/2 tbsp dry active yeast
2 cups warm milk
1/4 cup melted butter or oil
1/8 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 eggs lightly beaten
  • (use a LARGE bowl.  I have had this batter overflow smaller bowls.)
  • dissolve the yeast in water, let stand while you warm the milk and melt the butter
  • add the milk, butter (or oil) and salt
  • beat in the flour and eggs, but do not over beat.  The batter is very thin.  Set the mixture aside for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • cook the mixture in a preheated waffle iron.  

Puff Pancakes 

(My personal breakfast favorite.  I throw this together, put it in the oven, and then get the kids ready...  or whatever it is I need to do.)
          from the Betty Crocker's Cookbook (Bridal Edition) 
preheat the oven to 400*
melt 2 tbsp of salted butter in a glass pie pan, pull out to let cool a little 

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
  • combine the milk, eggs and flour and mix, do not over mix, just give it a few whirls 
  • pour into the pie plate with melted butter
  • bake for 20 minutes
  • these are best served with fruit, and if feeling extra decadent, with whipped cream on top
My favorite topping for my favorite breakfast is Rhubarb Sauce!  I love harvesting the stalks first thing in the morning, while sipping my cup of coffee, and serving it for breakfast just a little time later. 

Fried Chicken (for Asian inspired stir fry dishes)
          modified from the More-with-Less Cookbook

1/2 lb to 1 lb of chicken, cut into inch sized pieces
5 eggs
flour for dusting
oil for frying
  • beat the eggs in a bowl
  • pour flour onto a plate
  • dust the chicken in flour and dip into the eggs
  • fry on medium heat, turning all pieces once until thoroughly cooked
  • add left over beaten eggs to the sauce of whatever stir fry you are making as a thickening agent
  • add the fried chicken to your dish at the end and toss

Pizza Dough
          from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

3 tsp yeast
1 1/2 cups WARM water (120*)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
  • stir the yeast into the warm water and add the oil and salt
  • mix the flours and them to the mixture 
  • let dough rise for 30 to 40 minutes 
  • while the dough is rising prepare toppings
  • dust pizza stone or pan with cornmeal
  • shape into two 12 inch pizza's (or a bunch of personal sized pizzas)
  • top with toppings 
  • bake 425* for about 20 minutes
These are a few of the things we would be likely to serve you if you were a guest at our house!
I hope you enjoy making them as much as I do!


Monday, July 9, 2012

Keeping Cool

It finally got hot here.  Which is a perfect reason to go splash around in the water and play with an underwater camera!  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Camp Deep Creek - July 6 - Week 3

We were late.  REALLY late.

I started out the day with best intentions.  I made banana pancakes while the children still slept, woke them and got them fed in plenty of time to leave the house by 9:30am.  We really were going to leave the house at 9:30, and then I got stuck.  Stuck on my want for Ivory to have her bug cage for the Bug Bash day at camp.
For her birthday, Ivory received a bug cage, and Sylvan, in little brother fashion, promptly stepped on it and tore a giant hole into one side.  So, while the children were eating, I pulled it and a thread and needle out and attempted to patch it.  I wove my needle through the mesh while Sylvan desperately tried to wrench it from my hands.

Photo credit:  Ivory West - I had no idea she was playing with the camera..
and yes, there is Sylvan's sneaky hand trying to grab the box away from me. 
Sewing it was much slower and much more difficult than I imagined it would be.  When I got to the bottom edge no amount of coaxing would make the stitches hold.  The nylon mesh just tore. Frustrated I put Sylvan and Ivory, our picnic lunch, the half mended bug box in the car and finally drove off at - argh - almost 10.

We were late.  REALLY late.

I really, really hoped that my obsession with fixing Ivory's damn little bug box had not resulted in her missing all the real live bugs. There I was beating myself up about: one - not being able to fix her box and two - making us late for, well, no good reason.  I didn't even manage to fix the stupid thing.
To my immense relief we had missed nothing.
We didn't miss the singing.

And most importantly we didn't miss any of the bugs.
A guy and gal from the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium unveiled the first terrarium.  It contained a male and female Madagascar hissing cockroach!

Did you know the males can be distinguished from the females by  little bumps on their heads?
That their 'noses' are on their abdomen? That they hiss through those "noses"? Ivory was riveted.

Sylvan, well, he was more interested in climbing than bugs. 

When Adam came home from work Ivory was bubbling with excitement, attempting to describe the 'bugs' she had seen and finally succumbing to simply saying: "I touched a round thing." (confusion from Adam.) "Mama tell him about the round thing I touched."
"You touched a millipede."
And she continued to spill out little bits of information about the scorpion (not an insect) that was going to eat a fly (an insect) and the green bug (a praying mantis) and the walking dead leaf (a ghost mantis).

After the presentation, the kids (and adults) were set loose to find their own flying and creepy crawling insects.  Swallow tails, little blue butterflies, beetles were netted, admired and let go.

A little later, we were all sprawled out eating our lunches and delightfully clever insect related snacks were passes around (thank you Linda!): Ants on a log and dragonflies.  

The dragonflies were a hit. Sweet and salty and, in Sylvan's hands, more than just a little messy. 
This was about when, the children took the day's activities into their own hands.  One by one they stripped off their clothing, lined up and took turns sliding into the kiddie pool. (Sylvan tried it once and went on to do other things.)

Ivory splashed into the water and out just as quickly, time after time...  

Sylvan fell asleep almost immediately on the drive home, Ivory chatted the whole way, and in the very back of the car, tucked next to a pile of wet clothing, our blanket and what was left of our lunch was a bug box that, in spite of a giant hole I just couldn't fix, contained a little blue butterfly.