Monday, December 31, 2012

End of the Year List!!!!

There are thirty minutes on the kitchen timer and a warm cup of coffee sitting on the table next to me.  I am allowing my self that much time, no more, no less to come up with the 10 best things that happened to me in 2012.  (Only ten things?  This might be hard.)

1. House.  We bought a house, (with a lot of help). That is pretty amazing right?
2. The Clay Studio of Missoula.  I finally talked my self into taking a ceramics class and leaving bedtime to Adam.
3. Joined the YMCA.  Why, oh why did I wait until September to finally get all the paper work together to join the Y?  It has been one of the most liberating, fun and affordable things I have done this year.  This morning on my way to yoga class Ivory gave me a hug and a kiss and Sylvan opened the gate into the drop off center by himself, turned to me and waved me good bye with a big smile on his face.  It made my heart melt. I had to take a moment to proudly observe just how big and independent they are both getting.  Best of all, I could walk away with out the least bit of guilt - knowing they are both having a blast while I am upstairs, upside down, breathing myself into a better mama.
4. Family Visits.  My dad and step mom came to visit, we got to travel to Pennsylvania for my brother's wedding and Adam's folks came to visit us....  there are many other family members dear to me that I would have loved to see and touch, but I am thankful for the visits that happened and for skype, facebook and phones that keep every one in touch.
5. A bike trailer for two. So much faster than walking. Enough said.
6. MADE fair. rocked.  Hopefully Adam and I can figure out all the little details and come up with a legitimate business plan and business in 2013.  I am excited.  More great things to come from Sticks and Stones Workshop!!
7. Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes.  While I and everyone else in our house was sick a friend replied to a facebook post in which I lamented not having anything to read by bringing me a few books.  This one being one of them.  It was perfect: just what I needed.  I recommend it to every person out there not quite willing to buy into the usual 9-5 grind and looking for an alternative existence.
8. I applied for a job. I got rejected. It was perfect.   I applied for a full time job at a company I believe is doing good, nay, great things, for our future.  As soon as I submitted my application I knew I just wasn't ready to go to work.  All I could think about was what was going to happen with the kids, the garden, the chickens, the laundry... and who was going to bake all the bread?  It seems like I just figured out how to rock at being a happy, content, stay at home mom... and now I was going to switch everything up???  Sure more money would be great, but would be need another car? would I need to buy new clothes? where would we be able to find childcare at this time of the year?  While I was waiting on a reply I read the a fore mentioned book, and decided that maybe we were on track after all...  our own track, that happens to make sense for us at the moment.  Sure, maybe we don't buy new things often, go out to eat or travel much, but I get to cuddle up with Sylvan ever afternoon at nap time, Ivory and I get to work on projects and we can make anything an adventure because even the mundane tasks of grocery store runs are allowed to last all day.
9. Walks in the woods.  Any of them.  and we need more of them.  It should be a family new year's resolution.
10.  Meal planning.  I always try to have an idea at least the weeks meals in my mind before I go to the grocery store... but towards the end of the month we always still ran low on our food stamps.  (Yup. We have food stamps.)  A few months ago I got serious about planning our meals.  Really serious.  I plan about three weeks ahead of time and have almost the entire months grocery list compiled in advance.  It requires me to use more recipes, which is a bit new for us, we were pretty good at concocting our own dishes..  but this way I can divide up the shopping in the most affordable way and we manage to eat mostly organic, fresh and home cooked meals.  Another perk is that if Adam ever needs to cook dinner he can just flip open my calender, find the days listing and get started.

The timer just went off..  there: the top ten I came up with in thirty minutes.
I feel blessed to lead a rich, fulfilling life surrounded by a loving family,  inspiring friends and neighbors in one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived...  The only down side is that the rest of our families are so far away, but hey, they get to come visit us here...  in one of the most beautiful places we have ever lived.

On to the new year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

We spent our Holiday Baking (my Mother's Ginger Bread House Recipe)

Throughout the holiday season our oven is turned on, the house smells like cinnamon, and cooling racks line the little counter space we have.
We baked and iced eight different kinds of cookies and piled up tins filled with dozens of holiday treats. Anyone lucky enough to stop by our house went home with a plate of goodies.


We made cardamon braids and delivered them to friends and neighbors.



We made a ginger bread house.


Last year's gingerbread house was made from a recipe I found on the internet, but the final dough was disappointing at best, and this year I wanted to use the recipe that my mom used when I was a little girl.  I can picture the green clad, almost square cook book of German Christmas baking recipes sitting on her shelf in the living room, but that book is hundreds of miles away.
I finally remembered to ask her for the recipe.

My mom emailed me the recipe.
Adam made the dough.
I cut and baked the shapes.
While Sylvan napped we glued it together and decorated it, breaking open the many (way to many) bags of candy I brought home from the store days earlier. Making a ginger bread house was on my to do list for weeks, but admittedly, it did not actually happen until the day after Christmas.


When Sylvan walked into the kitchen he squealed in delight at the colorful little house that still  adorns our kitchen table.  Little bits of it's decoration are slowly disappearing, but for now it still is a miniature winter wonderland. 

I tucked the house and tree templates I cut from a cereal box into the front of my recipe binder.
The recipe is jotted down on the back of a scrap booking paper partially over run by an Ivory art project.  I better jot down the recipe now, so I can find it next year and maybe succeed in getting the gingerbread house built before Christmas.  

Ginger Bread House

This recipe is weighed out..  all measurement are in grams.  It comes from a German cook book.  This is half of the original recipe and the spice blend is what was recommended by my mom.  The fresh baked cookies initially taste a little bland - hold off - don't eat them right away.  Let them sit for a day or two (or longer) and the ginger bread develops great flavor. 

125 g Sugar
375 g Honey
50 g Butter
563 g Flour 
125 g Almond Flour
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
1 egg
10 g baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamon
a dash of white pepper
  • combine the sugar, honey and butter in a sauce pan and stir over medium heat until melted
  • combine flour, almond flour, baking powder and spices in a bowl add the egg and honey mixture
  • stir and then knead by hand
  • the dough should be firm and slightly sticky, let sit for 30 minutes
  • roll out on a well floured surface and cut into the desired shapes ( we made two roof pieces, two wall pieces, two gable pieces, three trees and had plenty left over for other shapes)
  • bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes
  • let cool on a baking rack (it is better to let them sit overnight and build the house the next day)

Icing

2 egg whites
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
powdered sugar
  • whisk the egg whites until they are very foamy and white
  • add the lemon juice
  • add powdered sugar until you have a think mixture that does not run off of the spoon or whisk
  • use this to glue the house and trees together, to affix the candy and to glaze any other shapes you may have
 Happy Holiday Baking!!!  (even if it is next year) 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Family Flower Pillow

Many, many months ago I ran across this image on Pinterest:

i'm going to make these pillows as Christmas gifts for the grandparents!
Keepsake Hug Pillow
"This is a great gift idea for grandparents", I thought to myself and I dutifully pinned it onto my craft ideas board. Perfect, because it can involve our entire family, because I have a giant stash of fabric and perfect because the final gift folds in a small envelope I can ship across the country. I don't however have a fancy sewing machine that would make nice neat letters and numbers, and as time went by I kept coming up with new ways to design our hand print pillows.  
 
We traced our hands onto a thick cardboard folder.  I cut them out and then traced them onto Wunder Under.  Ivory pealed he paper backing off of the fabric hand prints and I ironed them into place.  While I sewed one, Sylvan paraded the other two around the house. 


Each of our hands a single petal of a flower.


Red, orange and yellow thread added a little detail. 


And there they are: three 14" square pillowcases ready to folded and slipped into envelopes.  


This Family Flower Pillow stayed with us.  

It was my prototype, so some of the stitched details are a little off and the corduroys has a little less luster than the fabric I chose for the grandparents.  Sylvan kneels next to it on the couch, shouts: "Five!", and slaps the hand prints.

With each time the fabric passed under my sewing needle, each spin the hand prints took as first red, then orange and yellow lines wove across the palms I couldn't help but think of flowers and families, and families and flowers..  and then that families are a little bit like flowers... we all bloom and grow together. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bright Purple Overalls

Ivory has been asking for a pair of overalls.  My little girl, who I have to wrestle into anything but leggings, skirts and dresses, or dress up clothes, wants a pair of overalls.  Not just any overalls: She wants purple overalls.
Sure, I could probably google purple overalls and buy a pair.  I could walk into a clothing store. But the truth is, I haven't even tried.  I try to avoid shopping as much as possible.  I try to avoid it so much that I just put the button holes and slip stitched the leg cuffs on the brightest, most purple overalls at one in the morning.  Here they are.  Done.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tying up Loose Ends

I finished knitting Adam's present yesterday morning, but didn't manage to tie up all the loose ends until just now.  In between icing the Almond Star Cookies and pulling tonight's pot pie out of the oven, I sat down for a few minutes and now the gift is completely done! FINALLY!

I based the hat on a free pattern that I found online.
I made a few changes.  The most obvious is that I added the curled edge to the hat to make it more hat like.  I also permanently attached this mustache rather than making a few different exchangeable staches.

Well, dinner is ready and Adam just came inside.
The pot pie smells fantastic!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Snow Day

There are moments when time morphs.   It takes on a different dimension for a minute, an hour, an entire morning.  We awoke Saturday to a bright white world of snow.  I pulled the red currant danishes out of the freezer.  I had been saving them, much to my husband's dismay, for a morning just like this.  They were sweet and tart and the summer sun warmed the back of neck as we gazed out of our dining room windows.



We pulled on wool socks, snow pants, boots, coats, gloves and hats.  The kids and I stepped outside - Where was that sled again?  We stomped around the yard, poking the shovel into snow piles only to find a piece of wood or nothing again and again.  I had seen it not too long ago, when Sylvan was sitting in it, pretending to be in a boat.  I finally discovered it leaning up against a raised garden bed, hidden under the snow.


Now we were finally ready to go.

I ran down the street,
dragging the sled behind,


over curbs,
past the grave yard,


around icy curves,
to the park.

It felt good.

We swung and slid,


romped and rolled,


and desperately tried to pack the snow into something more than a tiny ball.

We walked around the neighborhood, taking a tour of massive giant snow men along the way, and finally back home, where my inability to pack a snow ball, yielded a monster.


Our fingers cold, noses red, thoroughly wet we finally stepped back inside.  As we pealed off our layers and hung them to dry in front of the furnace I glanced at the kitchen clock. 1:00.  No wonder my little man was suddenly a blubbering puddle at my feet.

As I put lunch on the stove, a snow monster glinted through the kitchen window, the only reminder of the hours that turned to minutes and our morning that disappeared into snowy laughter.



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Results of the Soda Fire... and Onions

I posted images of the soda fire results here: at my new Sticks&Stones Workshop site.

In addition to getting ready for the Holiday MADE fair (Dec. 9th from 11am - 6pm), I have been cooking dinner, keeping the house (some what) clean and trying to mark a few of those other nagging projects off of my list.

I finally sewed two fabric baskets that I have been intending to sew for eons.  My sewing machine has been stashed away for months now because Sylvan can not resist climbing onto my lab and turning all the dials and pushing the few buttons while it is in use.
 

That dilapidated little cardboard box held Ivory's shoes and then Sylvan's as well and moved with us not, one, but two times and it is finally being recycled.  In it's place there are now two fabric baskets: one for Ivory's shoes and one for Sylvan's.  They took me only a few hours to make and were absolutely free.  I inherited the fabric when we bought our house

Adam has been spending countless hours out back in the wood shop, cutting and gluing, cutting and sanding, and finally polishing the cutting boards he is making for the MADE fair.  Somewhere amid the hustle and bustle he still manages to come inside, dust off his clothes, wash his hands and help me fix dinner.

Last night he took over making the Naan, while I made an Indian dish called Royal Tomatoes. Having both of us work together cuts down the prep-time dramatically, and best of all, divides the daunting task of cutting up the many onions that are the key ingredient of both dishes.  We dance around each other, in and out of the small space that is in front of our stove.


Ivory was skeptical off the Royal Tomatoes, (she is in an anti-tomato phase, except for ketchup, but agreed the paneer was yummy), and tore into the Naan.  This is a girl that only thinks she doesn't like onions!

Soon dinner is ready and eaten, the dishes are washed, the kids bathed and Adam back in the wood shop and I am putting the finishing stitches on a fabric box.  Life is busy, but as long as we can  share dinner, and share cutting up all those onions, we will be just fine!

Naan (a flat bread from central Asia)

(we double this recipe) from the 1987 edition of Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 to 2 cups flour


  • cook the onions with 1 tablespoon butter unil they are soft but not brown
  • cool to room temperature
  • melt the remaining butter, combine the butter, water, onions, salt and flour (1/2 cup at a time) until the dough forms a ball
  • add flour until it is no longer sticky
  • divide into 8 small balls and roll to be about 6" across.  
  • fry on a dry skillet over high heat, turning once.  Both sides should be browned.

Royal Tomatoes

1/2 cup cubed Paneer (I make my own the day before...  it is super easy)
1 pinch tumeric
  • put in bowl and cover with water and add the tumeric
oil
2 finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon ginger 
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon garam masala (I use
cardamon, cinamon - a nice big sprinkle of each
14 ounces diced tomatoes
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup half and half
  • fry the onions in oil until they start to turn orange, add the spices, add the tomatoes and sugar and cook until it boils and simmer for 5 min
  • blend and add the cream
  • stir in the paneer, let it warm and serve with Naan (or over rice, I just prefer Naan)
Enjoy!!!