Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Wishing everyone lots of candy and warmer weather than we had in Chicago!

Friday, October 30, 2009

all hallows' eve eve

Say that fast a bunch of times.

Not that anyone is dying to do a craft right now, but there's always next year...we did this at Alex's Halloween party today and I thought it was about the cleverest thing I'd ever seen.  I also really liked it because it appealed to my mess-hating craft-indifferent kiddo.  I cannot take one ounce of credit for it--it's the brainchild of the wonderful Miss Lisa at school.

Basically, cut three sheets of scrapbook paper like so: one triangle (the roof), one intact square (the "inside"), one square (the fa├žade) into which you also cut doors and windows, using, I'm guessing, an x-acto knife and an angled ruler.  Precision was not the key, and the result was some serious wonk--all the better when kiddos are doing the gluing and the final product is a haunted house.  Some kids used regular Elmer's (including one who made a glue pond while my head was turned--they're so fast!), others glue sticks, and spider confetti was available.  You must make one!

 In the background, a moment.

And off topic, I really love the second life of a bouquet of flowers.  The original arrangement in this case was beautiful (and, alas, unphotographed--a surprise from my husband, just because!), but once the rest of them started to wilt these few were rescued, I re-vased...and I think I like this one even a little bit better.  Nobody's going to confuse me with Eddie Ross, but I sure smile when I see them--like I cheated flower death and eked out another couple of days of walk-by happiness.

 Trick or treat!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

moments I

So the official title is “Moments”—and since yesterday’s photos were of clean things (though I bared my imperfections in the text!), today I’ll share some of our life in its uncropped glory.  A disclaimer: I did edit these a bit—just to improve the composition & color (though it’s official—we’re in the market for a new camera).  And another one: I did clean up the table a little bit before we started, realizing that if we had a tidy place to work, I would feel more relaxed as we carved.  But worry not--you’ll still see our house living life.

Another kind of blog perfection that sometimes pokes at me a little bit is how much kiddos seem to love doing all the activities suggested and hosted by their moms.  Oftentimes, mine doesn’t.  I love crafting (obviously!) and Alex would rather do a lot of other things than crafts, or really, than whatever I want him to do at any particular moment—though of course, I’m never allowed to go to another room (that’s how I know he loves me!). 

Anyway, I imagine that in the perfect pumpkin carving post, the kids would be helping to trace the face onto the pumpkin, and then watching in awe as mom or dad deftly brought the jack-o-lantern to life.  Mine thinks pumpkin guts are gross and wanted to push buttons instead.

So we came up with bringing the keyboard over to the table, so he was with us, and it was fine.  We were together.

My real "moment" of the day?  Alex wanted to put the “hat” on the pumpkin.

So he did.

Monday, October 26, 2009

a peek into my fridge

Because I love it.  There are a few other inanimate objects around here that I really love, but in the kitchen, it's my fridge.  I love it because it's a really nice fridge, much nicer than any fridge I've ever had before, but also because it's clean.

When we got the fridge a few years ago, I promised myself that I would keep it clean by taking everything out once a month, pitching the junk, and wiping down all the shelves and drawers.  I actually do this process with the entire kitchen on the last Sunday of the month.  We get takeout for dinner so I don't have to mess up my entire kitchen after scrubbing it down, and now I even get some help from Alex, who takes all the condiments and then hands them back to me once I'm ready to replace them.  His price?  A maraschino cherry.

I share this not because I think you'll care so much about the inside of my fridge, but in light of this post by Amy at A Commonplace Life.  Actually, there was another related post this morning at Small Notebook--and I remember reading some others recently (maybe here?)--so the theme is running through the minds of a lot of bloggers (kind of like the field posts from earlier in the fall).  In short, the post discussed perfection (or its appearance)--Amy put it, "posting only the lovely"--in the blog world.

Besides the pressure to share posts (and in great part, the photos that go with them) that show something prettytidy, and extra-interesting, she also mentions that blogging has helped her to become more mindful about her life and her days, about noticing "the lovely"--and I've also experienced this in the short time I've been blogging.  I am more likely to stop and photograph--or at least think about--events that might seem mundane.  But my reality is that though my life never looks like this, which is OK with me (and the author would agree, I'd guess), so I do find myself styling photos I take for the blog.  For every breadboard with a homemade loaf, there were fabric scraps, index cars, and trains--and maybe even some crumbs--to be moved out of the way for the picture.

Yesterday, the fridge really did look like this; I didn't change anything.  But I would certainly hesitate to show you the scene behind me as I shot that photo (my husband is breathing a sigh of relief right now, I'm sure).  Because though we don't want to hold ourselves or our readers to an impossibly-high standard, let's face it, nobody wants to look at a picture of someone's dirty kitchen for its own sake.  And I suppose I could wonder, too, whether the contents of my fridge will be up for scrutiny (our brand of beer?  Store-bought bread?  Pop?  A fast-food product?  Non-organic eggs?).

I'm looking forward to the series Amy is thinking of starting, working title: "less-than-perfect" because I'm hoping it will help me focus some on what I guess my eventual goal is: to have just a couple of pairs of darling shoes on my stairs, and a hall that's clear of stuff when my little guy runs through.  I'm guessing Amy didn't share the photo to inspire any feelings of inadequacy--that'd be counter to her point?  What I mean is that it (and my fridge, clean but imperfect) represents to me the balance I'm trying to find: posting interesting things but showing them the way that they really are, keeping my house organized because I'm more relaxed and we live a better life when I do, dealing with the clutter made by making, putting aside the making and the cleaning to enjoy these wee years with my son, sharing with the outside world without worrying about judgment, and being glad (as Rachel reminds us) that my life is full enough to generate fabric scraps, index cards, and trains.

Friday, October 23, 2009

in the wee hours...

not quite, but it sure feels late to me. 

Just have to finish that O and I'm off to bed.  First thing tomorrow: sewing some keys. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I'm sure there are "official" names out there for the photo memes and things to love & be grateful for right now and lists of links to cool stuff, etc., but this is what I'm calling mine.


::  this from rebekah
::  relief
::  an adorable tutorial--must make some today!
::  a new blog for the old google reader
::  and another one
::  a couple of great ideas of my own
::  statistics fun
::  a salad (croutons from this!)
::  the perfect Halloween accessory (and already owning the yarn to make it!)
::  a happier-today child who let me measure his head (don't ask!) and even tried a new food:

::  finishing a blog post before naptime is over

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

more bread and more bubbles

Just when I thought things couldn't get any easier...

they did.  I've been making no-knead bread for a while, and while I really enjoy baking and have tried and enjoyed lots and lots of recipes from some really excellent books since I got this beauty (thanks Mom & Dad!), it's nice to have a really delicious bakery-quality bread recipe to make when the rest of the meal is a little involved.  The crust is awesome, and it only needs one bowl--very appealing to the dishwasher in our family (me!).

I'm a person who loses the recipe the minute I finish making it, so basically, I have to reprint every time.  So last time we got a craving for top-of-the-fridge bread (that's where we let it rise), I came across this recipe...unbelievable, but then again, I didn't really believe that the original no-knead would work either.  The very appealing part of this version is that the final "rise" (if one can call it that) happens in the bowl, and even though I love baking I really don't love flour and oozy dough all over the counter (try to explain that one!).  So I tried it, and it was similarly awesome.  I didn't think I would ever bother looking for something even shorter/simpler/neater.

Yesterday, however, laziness overcame, which for me meant that baking bread seemed more appealing than going out to the grocery store to buy it...but time was short, too short even for the lighting-speed version that I'd just discovered.  Enter this recipe.  I'm sure that any artisan baker would shudder at the thought of putting bread dough in the microwave, but it worked.  The finished product was delicious, the crust was crisp, and though the interior was definitely not as "developed" (and I might try taking out the balsamic vinegar just to see what happens), I'll definitely make this one again.   Start to finish: 75 minutes.

My one mod was to sub 1 T of instant yeast for the active dry.  Next time, I'm going to try this to see if I can make it even a little bit easier, though that might be asking too much.

We ate it along with spaghetti and (the best turkey) meatballs:

per pound of ground turkey: 1/3 cup each: dried seasoned breadcrumbs, grated (from the can!) parmesan, chopped onion, and minced veggies (I use red pepper, zucchini, and carrot) an egg and salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to taste.

Mix it all up, form into meatballs, and bake on greased cookie sheets at 350° for about half an hour or until cooked through.  Freeze them, first in a single layer and then in a storage bag, and then brown in olive oil before adding sauce and heating through.  I usually do three pounds at a time and that minimizes the raw-meat touching that I really despise. 

Another excitement: a bee sting (yes, in October!) for my husband led to the baking soda being out on the counter, which led us to a science experiment:

Excuse the blur, but the bubbles don't last forever!

Monday, October 19, 2009

popping bubbles

The UPS man walked up my driveway, thumped something down on the back stoop, did his knock-knock, and was gone...all before I could remember what I had ordered.  Nothing.  Ugh, a trip to the UPS store with a kid who hates errands, the weather's so rainy, complain complain.

But though I hadn't ordered the package, turns out it was for me us...from this little guy and his mom. 

Turns out ripping tape off of a box is really, really fun.

So much fun, in fact, that wiggling ensues when the process isn't going quite fast enough.

Turns out that inside were these (for me):

and some so-cute Halloween cookies (for everyone!), which we had to start eating right now

Turns out there's something even cooler than cookies.

Thanks Jen!  We miss you.  Come back soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

on food "styling"

I love food photography,--not that I'm so great at it myself, just that I think it's really interesting to see how the same recipe can look so different when made by different people and for different purposes.  There was once a fascinating article in Cooking Light (not in their archives, unfortunately, but this fun post shares a lot of the same info) about what food endures before it can be photographed for publication.  I'm not so much talking about that as I am about how we present food for eating at home.

All that is a leadup to this: Do you choose which dishes to use based on the food you're serving?

Maybe I'm the only one who does this.  It kind of hit me today when I was cutting up some cantaloupe ('loupe around here) for lunch.  I pulled out the bowl on top of the stack and it was--gasp!--orange.  And when I put the cantaloupe in there, it looked kind of pallid and odd.  Which made me realize that I often choose serving pieces especially (but dishes for eating too) based on what the food looks like.  Is this weird?


The middle one should probably actually be my favorite considering where we went to school, but the last one turned out to be most appetizing to me.  Yes, I did dirty three bowls do do this "experiment"--but it's OK since I'm the one who does the dishes.

Further proof that this concept is somehow very important to me is this shot, which I took weeks ago for no other reason than that the sight made me smile:

More food display weirdness that I now realize I'm carrying around with me:  I really don't like most patterned serving pieces and most of my collection is plain, I really like food to fill up the plate or bowl (and consequently end up spilling a lot when I over-estimate the size of the piece), and I don't like using two foods of the same color in the same dish (like red tomatoes and red peppers in a salad--one of 'em has to be yellow).

Thank you for letting me get this off my chest.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

anyone up for a vacation?

Really, who isn't?  Before your next trip, think about making one (or a few!) of these--just so you don't forget where home is while you're skiing or relaxing on the beach or roaming the Louvre...and so you can find your luggage when you get off the plane!

Tutorial in the sidebar.  

And don't forget to check out all the terrific scrappy entries in the Scrap Buster Contest over at Sew, Mama, Sew.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

sure wish I'd thought of that...

Muffin Tin Monday, that is.  I suppose it doesn't matter who thought of it, just that I found it...and I wish I'd done that sooner.  The host blog, Her Cup Overfloweth (which inherited it from the originator, I believe), is darling, and there are all sorts of fun things to jazz things up--themes!--but I kept things simple for starters.

I bought a silicone 6-muffin "tin" at Joann (50% off!), and brainstormed.

Week one (last Monday), I came up with this:

And was received like this:

Carrots, apple slices, raisins & cashews, homemade tortilla chips, hot dog chunks (his favorite!), and a sliced string cheese.  He liked it, though that could have had something to do with this:

Today--I know, it's Tuesday!--I did this:

Happier still!  And no chocolate this week.  I already love how this forces me to think of foods I wouldn't otherwise have cooked, and since the focus is on the muffin tin and the novelty, it's off the "new" foods--which leads to some adventurousness I don't often see at mealtime. 

Today's selection (he counted them on his fingers as he named them--love that!): cheddar cheese cubes, blueberry yogurt (usually reserved for weekend breakfast with Daddy), cantaloupe, p b & j cut into tiny cubes (isn't it so true that kids love tiny things?), cucumber slices, and--the runaway winner--roasted chick peas.  Which were successful in that he liked them, but moreso in that he tried them--we've got a pretty picky eater here--with only a bit of crunching theatrics from mom.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

we don't really have fields around here.

Of course we do.  I actually kind of live at the edge of them--past the gym: the fields.   But most of the time, if we're outside, we're looking at neighborhood or woods. 

In blogland, there are lots of fields-maybe especially lately because of the season, since there's so much to absorb outdoors right now.  The photos are both stunning and understated--they feel calm and common, as if these views are ways of life.  I'm not trying to say that field pictures are some kind of cliche, more that after I'd seen a few, I started to feel a little bit of envy each time I saw another.  A wonderful peek into a different way of life that's really, really different from my own.  My posts end to be sort of urban, or at least indoor--pizza, banana bread, my pantry.  Reading about fields had kind of left me with a hankering to get to a different outside--not to the fields, because that's just not really where we go--but someplace.

Today, we did.  And of course it was tons of fun to see this:

 and this.

But then I saw this.

It was such a blessing, this exact perspective, this exact spot.  My own personal field--except in the woods.  The sun setting and shining--glowing--through the trees, the quiet, the cold!  But it was a neat experience, because it was empirical proof that blog surfing is time well spent.  It's as if seeing all those fields (and quilts, and sweaters, and everything!) got me there, to this view of this moment.

Otherwise: take a minute to read this post.  A lovely story in its own right, especially fun for me to read because Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr live and work in my howntown, where my parents still live, and because it reminds me of this.  Good luck to everyone running tomorrow.  Maybe again someday.

Friday, October 09, 2009

double, double toil and trouble...

OK, so there's no fire and it's not a cauldron, but that's what it reminds me of after the first rise.  And so it's perfect for the season: we're off to the pumpkin patch tomorrow.  Now if I can just get that costume finished in time...

Monday, October 05, 2009

the elephant bowling team

 Track 12 from this (which plays constantly around here) led to this:

How did your weekend roll?

Friday, October 02, 2009

camera woes

I'm beginning to see the weaknesses in either 1) my camera, or 2) my command of my camera.  It's a pretty new camera, much nicer than our old one, but a point-and-shoot nonetheless.  Having started to care more about getting quality pictures of a particular subject at a particular time (I used to look at a great picture as great luck), I've started to remember more about what I'm reading about photography: no flash, white balance, bokeh.  And I'll admit that I don't really know how to turn off my flash, and I'm still trying to understand the concept of the white balance, and the bokeh--love it, but still great luck when I achieve it.

My (our?) shortcomings have been highlighted twice in the past couple of days.

Case 1: The Moon.

Here, note that I was trying some sort of "night" setting, which apparently required me to hold myself still until the moon had set (does the moon set?).

Then, I tried (I think?) turning off the flash.  I actually really love this one, because the sky is not quite black...the cherry tree's shadow is just discernible.

Next up, gelatinous moon-like blob.  Not sure how I did that, but the colors of the sky & trees are just about right.

And the best one.  The moon has a halo, which it didn't at all--it was so crisp in the sky--but the scale is good, and it's a start.

Case 2: The Quilt.

Remember the cutting?  Well, now, I've sewn all the blocks, like them all, love a few, and am ready to sew the top.  In The Modern Quilt Workshop, which is the best academic craft reading of all time, the authors talk a lot about design intention and having a Big Idea (their term), which has both interested me and sort of put me in a tizzy.  I'll talk about the tizzy in another post, but for now, I share with you the three possible layouts for the top, in all their point-and-shoot glory:

The middle layout was originally my favorite, now, not so much.  Not sure if that's because of the horrible picture quality, which I originally edited but have now decided to leave as is to demonstrate my point.  That one was taken at night, by the glow of a single living room lamp, flash on.  Uck.  The other two I took in natural morning light.  My question?  What do I do if I have to take a picture at night?  Like if I'm taking a picture of dinner and don't want to try this?

Something to think about while I finish my quilt top.