Today Was…

Walking outside barefoot without hurrying back in to warm my feet back up. Although they are pretty soft after the long winter.

Taking advantage of the 5am wake-up time mandated by my youngest to get an early start on bread, granola, chores, and a chocolate cream pie (part of my ongoing chocolate pie experiment).

Re-potting my tomatoes to give their robust little roots more growing room.

Mostly failing to thin my Hybrid Broccoli Blend seedlings, and instead re-potting most of them. Every family needs fourteen broccoli plants, right?

Noticing tiny pea and onion starts in one of my garden beds.

Picking tender young sage, oregano and garlic chives leaves to add to our rice pilaf for dinner.

Opening every window in the house, and because of that, smelling fresh bread while out in the sunny driveway with my kids.

Staying outside until dusk, without coats or shoes.

Watching Nathan pulling Ryan in the red wagon. “Sit down, Ryan,” he said sternly, as though he himself hadn’t been doing a pretty good Downward-Facing Dog in the moving wagon earlier in the day.

Future Fruit

I know that it will be a few years before we’ll get fruit from our trees. At this point any blossoms they do produce should probably be picked off, to encourage the tree to work on root and branch development.

But it was still a thrill when our peach and nectarine trees started to bloom this spring. I haven’t managed to strip the blossoms off yet. I’m tempted to see if they actually set fruit… and then maybe pick those off. Or maybe leave just a couple. Just to see…

Mom’s Fish

This has been my quilting project lately — a small wall-hanging, just under 22 inches square. This piece is all about Mom. It started when I unpacked the fabrics that I’d inherited from her, and began to envision doing a small quilt entirely from her fabrics. Over the course of its construction, I began to have fun using everything of Mom’s that I could. Mom’s thread (for piecing) and scissors were obvious choices, and I used her sewing machine for the free-motion quilting.

Working with Mom’s fabrics was an interesting experience. Unlike me, Mom did not build up an enormous stash of yardage bought solely for the purpose of quilting. All of her fabrics are true scraps, the shapes showing quite clearly where a sleeve or a yoke had been cut out. This meant that doing a pieced border was not a design choice — it was the only way I was going to get a border, and I used absolutely every scrap of the fabrics involved to do it. There were some pretty tight moments while piecing the fish, especially, which I did using a P-free technique that works best when you have yardage to spare. Hmm…. in retrospect a more traditional design might have been a surer thing.

But I love this piece. I love that it’s a somewhat whimsical and free-form design in the middle, and that I used up her scraps rather than buying new fabric, and that, contrary to all reasonable caution on a quilt I intended to auction off, I experimented with a brand-new (for me) machine trapunto technique on the fish and inner frame. All of these things remind me of Mom. And I also think that it turned out really well. So, apparently, do the kids. (Tip: Never try to do hand-stitching on an almost-complete quilt when your small children are running around with traces of sticky bun on their hands. Thank goodness I still needed to wash it anyway.)

As a bonus, I found some sewing labels among Mom’s notions, similar to the ones that she gave me for putting into my creations. It seemed appropriate to attach one of each of ours to the back of the quilt.

Posted in Making. 1 Comment »

Breakfast Inspiration

For some reason, I have the hardest time bringing creativity to bear on breakfast. I could probably eat oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins every day for the rest of my life and be fine with it.

My kids, on the other hand, get done with oatmeal by the time they’re about nine months old. Ryan is now old enough that, like Nathan, if not offered something acceptable for breakfast, he’ll just go hungry. Hungry kids are considerably less fun than fed ones.

So I’ve been forced to be slightly less predictable with my breakfast menu. I started by branching out into other hot cereals, which were considered slightly more interesting (sometimes) by my children. Lately my big winners have been smoothies, muffins and pancakes. I’ve been working on expanding my repertoire in these three categories. Still, breakfast often feels like a bit of a struggle.

But some mornings, inspiration strikes. In this particular case, inspiration struck while I was snuggling Nathan back down to sleep at six in the morning. I’d recently discovered a few frozen raspberries that had languished forgotten in a corner of my freezer, and a vision presented itself to me: warm muffins, the crumb a rich chocolate from cocoa powder but without the overload of sugar that so often characterizes chocolate muffins, studded throughout with tangy raspberry gems.

Now, I admit that chocolate and raspberry is not exactly a new idea in the culinary world; I could probably have googled for “chocolate raspberry muffin recipe” and found a thousand of them out there. (Actually, I just tried it: 161,000 results.) But I chose instead to ride with the visceral sense that my brain had conjured, and use my Basic Muffin Recipe. I keep space on the recipe to add new variations as they suggest themselves; this one made the cut. (The kids might have liked a little more sugar and perhaps some chocolate chips mixed in. Perhaps another time.)

And yes, my children do sometimes eat breakfast naked. What can I say — it’s a casual household we run here.

Basic Muffin Recipe

The full recipe makes a dozen muffins, but I usually halve it, since the muffins are best fresh. I forget what recipes I worked from to make this formula, but I got the original idea from The Complete Tightwad Gazette.

Mix:

    2 1/2 c white whole wheat flour
    1/2 c brown sugar or honey
    2 t baking powder
    1/4 t baking soda
    1/4 t salt

Add:

    1/4 c butter or coconut oil
    1 c plain yogurt or sour cream
    1/2 c milk
    2 eggs
    1 t vanilla
    1 c mashed fruit or vegetable

Mix just to combine. Bake about 25 minutes at 400 degrees.

Our Favorite Variations:

banana or squash with chocolate chips
applesauce with apple chunks, cinnamon and nutmeg
squash with molasses, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and touch of cloves
banana with about 1/4 c cocoa powder and raspberries

Wildflowers

Nathan brought me wildflowers yesterday for the first time this spring.

When I was young I used to bring these, along with other common, tiny, unimpressive wildflowers, to Mom every spring. She had a few small vases that we could tuck them into. At the time I wasn’t allowed to pick the “real” flowers from the garden, so these fulfilled my flower-gathering needs. They died quickly, but I didn’t mind. I would just go pick some more. Mom used to say that having little bouquets of wildflowers around the house was one of the signs of spring.

Nathan brought me these one stem at a time, and insisted that I smell each one. And I tucked them into water to put on my desk. Last fall he gifted me with a pine cone, which is still on my desk, and I discovered that gifts from my son, no matter how tiny, settle right into my heart.

Today’s Best Toy

Four empty light bulb boxes, hooked together with string and tape. Voila! Instant train.

My Minions

Last year I wrote about my difficulties with starting vegetables from seed. Two things have made me more confident this year: my success with my tomato starts last summer (which out-performed the plants I’d ordered) and the excellent advice that Linda offered last year. All year I’ve been pondering her advice, plotting my new seed-starting setup. With a husband as adept at hanging lights as mine is, it seemed that I ought to have an excellent seed-starting area without too much trouble.

And with his help, I now have a spacious shelf, high above the reach of small children, flooded with overhead light. I’m very excited about this. I’ve already started my tomatoes, celery, thirty pepper plants, and twenty-four brassicas. (A third of those are brussel sprouts — I’m absolutely determined to have my own brussel sprouts this year.) Since my shelf is right by the back door, I have plenty of opportunities during the day to stop by and hover over my little ones. “Grow, my minions!” I tell them. This is what my lab partner used to say to his yeast cultures.

The kids are not hugely interested in the baby plants, since I won’t allow them to poke at them. But they did help me fill my pots with potting soil — almost every single pot I own. Once they got started, there was significant momentum to keep digging. The remainder of the potting soil has been sitting out in our wheelbarrow ever since, getting occasional visits from one or both kids.