Best Pickles Ever.

July 6, 2010

I am officially kicking off the summer pickling season today.  Making “kid pickles”.  My kids have dubbed them as such because they want to eat the whole jar and not let any grownups have any.  Good luck with that, kids.

The following is from Gogol Gastronomy:

What you will need: organic cherry tomatoes or gherkins. No, supermarket oversized cucumbers just wouldn’t do..even if you cut them up. Try getting gherkins at a farmers market when they are in season. Another thing you will need is a big glass preserving jar (make sure the glass is thick) and a large pot. And of course put any spices you like. Cardamom gives it an extra kick.

Ingredients:

  • Water – 1 litre
  • Coarse sea salt – 4 full tbs
  • Sugar – 2 full tbs
  • White vinegar(6%) – 2 tbs
  • Garlic cloves (peeled,whole) – 4
  • Bay leaves – 2
  • Black pepper corns – 4
  • Corriander seeds – 2tsp
  • Dried dill – a bunch
  • Celery leaves – a few
  1. Wash your gherkins or cherry tomatoes (choose how many you want to pickle yourself).
  2. Put cold water, salt, sugar and vinegar into a large pot and bring to a boil.
  3. Put the gherkins (or tomatoes) into the jar together with the herbs and pepper; pour the hot brine over them and close the jar (not too tightly).
  4. Put the jar in a warm place for 3/4 days (the longer you leave them out, the stronger they will taste), transfer it into your fridge after that.

They are ready! Enjoy them after taking a shot of the best quality vodka (preferably out of a slender crystal liqueur glass, with some salmon and rye bread on the table, so you look and feel like a decadent intellectual from the 1920s, not an alky)

knitting for kids

January 31, 2010

The thing about knitting for kids is, I always hesitate because I know they will grow out of the thing in a couple of years.  As much as my daughter really does appreciate the things I make her, and she even has a little sister to carrythe torch, it still smarts to put all that into something that will be too small in the near future.

So I was very happy with these little wrist warmers I came up with.

The 5 year old wanted me to knit her a pair of mittens, since the ones I made for her 2 years ago are now too small. I thought it would be a good idea to try a pair of ribbed wrist warmers. I knit them just a tad too big for her but the ribbing makes them fit perfectly. And now she can wear them for years before she grows out of them. WIN, WIN.

I made a little nap blanket for the 5-year old to bring to preschool with her.  I found some great lavender chenille that I planned to back with a printed flannel.

When I started sewing I always used to skip pre-washing.  I didn’t really think it made that much of a difference.  But it really does.  Especially when you are working with 2 fabrics that behave very differently.  I had the fabric store cut both of these fabrics to be the same size.  I washed and dried them before stitching them together because I knew that one would shrink more than the other.  I really didn’t realize how much more, but take a look for yourself.  (Sorry for the terrible photography.  My camera doesn’t like night time)

The picture above is the crazy amount of lint that the piece of chenille released in the dryer.  It was rather beastly.

So after all that, it was quite easy to stitch the 2 pieces together to make a very nice, cozy nap blanket for school.  Check it out…

Rainbow cake

January 16, 2010

The older daughter had her birthday this month, she turned 5!  She had been telling me for MONTHS that she wanted a cake with roses made of frosting.  So I had been watching the youtube cake ladies show me how to make roses, and getting up my courage to attempt one myself, when I was SAVED at the last minute!  I started showing her cakes on the internet, to get her reaction, and she saw some cakes with rainbows on them that really got her excited.  So we looked at more cakes and she decided she wanted hers to look like this one over at the Spicy Skillet.  Looked do-able!  And the little flowers would serve as a reasonable substitute for roses!  Hooray!

On our journey through the land of rainbow cakes we also spotted this one at Whatever.  Looked very good!  Kind of intimidating…. all that baking, all those bowls…. all the food coloring.  Oy.  Looked very fun but I was concerned about handing a 5 year old a slice of cake 7 inches tall.

THEN… My husband told me about this video from the New York Times.  A very inspiring glimpse into some old school baking.  These ladies and their pancake-thin layers of cake just about blew my mind.

So.   Here is the cake I came up with.  Overall, it was a big hit.  She told me “mommy, I want you to make me the exact same cake next year!”  So I guess she liked it!

I started out by just making a regular cake batter.  I used the white cake recipe I found on epicurious.

Then separate the batter into 5 bowls.

Add food coloring.  I used gel food coloring from Wilton to get really vibrant color.

Spread the cake batter really thin, about the thickness of a pancake.  I sprayed the pans with non-stick spray and lined them with parchment, and then sprayed that too.  This is critical to making such thin layers that will release from the pan without tearing.

Each layer only needs to bake about 10 minutes.  I only had 3 pans so I had to bake them in 2 batches.

Apply a crumb coat, let it cool, then go back in with more icing.  I used a buttercream.

I used the leftover batter to make a batch of cupcakes for school.  I used one spoonful of each color batter per cup.  It made a nice layered effect, too.

Wowls

July 19, 2009

Recently we paid a visit to the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, Maine.  The park is set up to permanently house animals that can not survive in the wild due to injury or human intervention of some sort or another.  It’s a pretty interesting place.  Not exactly a zoo, but close.  It is greeat to see the wild animals that co-exist with us up there in the Maine woods when we are there for the summer.

The girls both had a great time, but the main attraction for the 1 year old were the big birds.  There were haws and eagles and owls, and she called them all “wowls”.  I taught her the baby sign for owls which she enthusiastically showed back.  And for the following week, she was constantly saying “wowl!” and putting her hands up next to her head in her version of the sign. We all just about died form the cuteness.

When we got home to RI I realized I didn’t have any owl toys.  NOT ONE.  I had a copy of owl babies, which frightens the 4 year old to this day.  Which is probably why we have no other owls around.  This situation had to be remedied quickly as the 1 year old was desperate to point at owls and tell me about them.

I recruited the 4 year old to make me a couple of drawings of owls.  She did a great job, and I was able to make a sewing pattern from the drawing to create a pair of “sister wowls” in under an hour.  Basically I just added an extra inch to the drawing that she made.  (1″ for seam allowance, 1″ for depth) and cut approximations of the shapes she drew for the eyes and feet.  For the main fabric I used an old wool shirt of my husbands that had been shrunk and felted from too many accidental trips through the washer.  The four year old picked out the fabric for the eyes, beak, and legs.  For the legs I used a double thickness of decorator canvas from my scrap box.  The legs need a fabric with a bit of body.  If I were to do it again I might use stitch witchery to attach the eyes to the body before top-stitching them down. But at the time I couldn’t be bothered to drive down the street to fetch it from my studio.  So the eyes are a little wiggly.  But the girls don’t care.  The sister Wowls are very popular and seeing a Original wowl artworkWowls eye and beak shapestracing the wowl footwowl legStitching wowl eyes

lot of play time.

zigzag the wowls legs edges.

pin the legs before stitching togetherWowl - unstuffed.Sister Wowls

Water Painting

June 29, 2009

Water paintingThe weather is finally cleared up enough for us to be outside, and yesterday I had a lot of gardening to catch up on, so I needed the girls to self-entertain for a while.   I set them up with a bucket of water and some paintbrushes.  It was terrific!  I painted a cat and a smiley face on the cement, to show them how it worked.  It only took a few moments before they grasped the idea and set off “painting” the house, the terra cotta pots, the wooden benches, the dog, and each other.  That was the only moment that I had to intervene and change the little one’s dress.  But, it was just water, it cleans up pretty easily.  Maybe when the weather gets hot they can paint each other on purpose.

Reel Mower

10: Exercise!

No need to go to the gym after mowing the lawn with  reel mower.  Truth be told, they are only a little bit harder to use than a powered mower.  I also have a plug-in electric mower which I use when the grass gets too tall for the reel.  I get just as much of a workout using that one.

9: Cheap!

You will spend is hundreds of dollars less on the purchase of a high-quality reel mower than a high quality power mower.  In addition, you don’t have to buy gasoline, or oil, or take the thing in for repairs anywhere near as often.

8: Kid-friendly!

I can mow while my little girls are playing in the yard.  There is no loud scary noise, nor danger of them being whacked by fast-flying sticks or rocks that get caught in the mower.  It’s also less frightening to dogs.

7: It’s actually kind of relaxing!

I’d never say that about a power mower.  But the simplicity of the reel, the spinning blades, it’s sort of meditative.

6: Quiet!

I can have a conversation while mowing the lawn.  And I can hear when the kids get into trouble.

5: Easy start up!

For so many years as a teenager, I wrestled with my dad’s pull-start gas mower.  I am glad to be rid of that struggle. VERY glad.  In addition, for some reason it feels easier to just pick up the mower and work for 15 minutes if I only have a little time available to go out and mow 1/3 of the lawn when using the reel.  I think it is because I don’t have to deal with the production of start up that the power mowers require.

4: Low Maintenance!

No spark plugs, no oil, no extension cords (as is the case with our plug-in electric push mower), no air filters, no gas cans spilling in your car on the way home from the gas station.  You may need to adjust your blades periodically, but it is easy to do yourself.  And you may need to have the blades sharpened every few years.

3: Lightweight!

Those engines are heavy things to push around.  And to haul in and out of the basement.

2: Clean Air!

It’s not stinky to walk behind a reel mower.  Most gas mowers do not have catlytic converters, and belch out nasty smoke at you and your family and all your neighbors.  Yuck.

1: Reduces your carbon footprint!

I think we all understand the importance of weaning ourselves off of Petroleum products now, right?  I don’t need to explain this one.

clean air gardening has some good info on reel mowers.  You could buy one from them, or get a used one for cheap.  I think we paid $50 for ours on craigslist.

I haven’t yet figured out how to embed vidoe files, but here’s a link to a video I made of the reel mower.  You can see it slicing the grass and sending the little bits flying through the air.  ( I love that)  And you can hear how quiet it is.

The dress-up drawer.

June 13, 2009

princessesI have to say… I’m really not so into the princess thing. I chafe against all the commercial images of perfect little Disney princesses that are crammed into my daughter’s brain by the power of mass marketing. (We don’t even own a TV but it still gets through) However, I do remember how magical pretty froofy dresses were to me as a child.

Recently my older daughter has started showing interest in the pretty dress-up stuff that she has found at friends’ houses. So I decided she needed a dress-up drawer. We designated a drawer that had previously contained baby blankets and I set to work collecting froofy things. We went to our local Savers and stocked up on stuff, but I was surprised at how expensive things were, even second hand. A bridal veil for $15 seems a little too much to pay for a plaything.

Then I remembered that I still owned my old prom dress. I bought it at a vintage shop in Boston and wore it to the 1986 prom. It was still hanging in a closet at my mother’s house. It was strapless, so I removed all the vertical boning from the bodice and stitched in 3 bands of elastic around it horizontally. I re-purposed the hanging straps (intended to hang the dress on a hanger) as spaghetti straps and cut about 12 inches off the bottom. I used the excess to make “arm puffs” to go with the dress, plus a smaller little shift dress for the baby sister.

It has been a huuuuuge success. They want to wear them every day. What fun.  I’m on the lookout for more stuff hanging in my mother’s closets to add to the dress-up drawer.  All those bridesmaid dresses will finally get worn a second time!

Letting go.

June 10, 2009

It has been raining a lot here in Rhode Island this summer. So I’ve had to come up with lots of fun things for 2 kids to do indoors. Today, despite my initial desire to maintain clean floors today at all costs, I decided to let them play with a couple of measuring cups, a handful of steel bowls, and a pile of cornmeal. So far the mess is mostly contained to the paper they are playing on. We’ll see how long that lasts. Kids love scooping loose stuff in and out of bowls. It never fails.

Update: It was a success! I rolled out brown paper first, and the rest was easy to sweep up. (I used coarse meal, so there was no powder.) I should try to let go of my hangups more and just let the kids have fun.Playing with cornmeal

Got an empty box of cereal?  Or pasta? Or crackers? Or butter?  Or mac and cheese?  Sure you do.  Got some scissors?  A herd.bunnies

Well then, you and your kids can have a grand old time on a rainy day making finger puppets out of the boxes.  Most of these boxes have some little animal or person printed on them.  All you need to do is cut out the figure, adding a little bit of extra material at the bottom for a strap to go around the finger (as shown).  Cut a tab on either side and connect.
template for finger puppets

It’s kind of surprising how much fun this is for kids.  At least for my kids.  Your results may vary.