Monday, August 31, 2009

Looking Back, Looking forward

We pulled it off. The surprise 40th anniversary party for my parents was a success. The secret was even kept by 2 small girls who love to drop hints. The celebration had it all—roughly 40 guests, 3 courses of food galore, and a tropical storm (which we welcomed, after being downgraded from hurricane).

A kind friend loaned a very large tent to the cause, which filled our entire yard and gave the guests a dry place to get a little elbow room. Our backyard big top was a comforting refuge from the wind and rain, and twinkling lights and candles gave it a cozy ambiance.

Would you like to see photos of this celebration? Yes, me too. But somehow, between keeping up with the food, catching up with family members, and peeking out back to make sure the tent hadn't blown over, I forgot to take pictures. Shame, I know. But I get comfort in my memories of the day, and know that I will get a glimpse of photos from family members to look back on.

For now, I have these images to share—the remnants of the celebration that linger in our home.

Two weeks of home and yard preparation and 3 solid days of cooking may explain why our crafting and cooking for fun came to a screeching halt.
Today, we look our last two days of care-free summer pleasure, to eating all those party leftovers, to the start of a new soccer season, and to the gears of my metals shop cranking once again.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Alas, today brings the last of the blueberry recipes—and it only seems fitting, as we experience a break in the heat and wake to a crisp, dry 60-degree morning. It's as if, just like that, the summer weather has set its sights on back to school and apple-picking season.

We have eaten the majority of our blueberry glut frozen, like little hard candies. The remainder of those berries went into yogurt and scones, were served up with homemade whipped cream, or as an icy treat.

Today's recipe is the result of setting the girls free in the kitchen to do what they wished with a bowl of berries. They raided the drawers choosing a cheese grater, meat tenderizer, and wire whisk, among other tools, to transform bananas and blueberries into, well, mush.

The final product was surprisingly delicious, with a pudding-like consistency and a rich flavor. This is a snack to be eaten immediately, as the mashed banana will soon turn brown.

Those little chefs have thought up a healthy snack—one they plan to put on the menu at the restaurant they are going to have when they grow up (it's a perfect plan, since one girl aspires to be a chef and the other longs to be a waitress). They have generously given me permission to share the recipe with you. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blueberry Granita

An icy blueberry treat...the perfect berry recipe for these hot muggy days. You may have noticed that since the scones, we have not baked any other blueberry recipes. No thanks. In fact, I don't think we have turned on the oven at all. It's been sandwiches and grilled fare for meals all week. So enjoy another blueberry recipe that involves very little cooking:

Blueberry Granita
1 cup blueberries
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 granulated sugar

Combine blueberries, brown sugar and water in medium pan. Heat over low flame, stirring often and using back of spoon to break up berries, cook for about 10 minutes. You want the consistency to be syrupy-mush.

Dissolve 1/2 cup granulated sugar into 1 cup boiling water. Combine with blueberry mixture and pour into shallow pan and put in freezer. Use a fork to scrape the freezing mixture every 15 minutes or so, to make ice shavings. Once the mixture is completely frozen, scoop out into small dishes. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

They're SUCH Hippies, They...

Another Blueberry Idea
A friend of mine once described a family he knows as follows: "they are such hippies they make their own yogurt." To which I whole-heartedly agreed, "wow, total hippies."

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when we made yogurt for the first time. Or maybe "grew" is a better word than "made". In any case, it was a cinch and the yogurt was delicious. We sweetened the plain yogurt with honey and vanilla—so yummy.

I found the recipe in Kathy Farrell-Kingsley's book The Home Creamery, a gorgeous book that has inspired me to even try making cheese again. (I tried my hand at making mozzarella once—I put it on a pizza and, long story short, we had takeout for dinner that night. )

The blueberry recipe? Blueberry yogurt, of course (it's not so much a recipe as a suggestion, I suppose). Processing fresh blueberries into this yogurt gave it a seasonal zing, tangy and sweet. I should mention that the blueberries did make the yogurt a bit thinner.

If you're not up for making your own yogurt, simply blending (or food-processing) the berries into plain or vanilla yogurt would work just as well. Store-bought blueberry yogurt does not compare to the freshness of adding your own berries.

Homemade yogurt has now made its way into our regular kitchen routine. So this begs the question, does that make us "hippies"?

{note: the recipe for making yogurt is available if you follow the link above to, then click on the "search inside this book" link on the left}

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

If Your Children Play with Legos...

I think we can officially name this school vacation the "Summer of Legos" at our home. The girls start off each day by dumping the Lego bin onto the floor and building the day away. A parent couldn't be happier about that, right? Right. But the challenge lies in the fact that they leave and come back to them throughout the day (the reason I don't make them clean up right away). This means way too many opportunities to step on them (ouch!), or kick them under the bookshelf, or send them sliding into the next room. We have been finding those minuscule pieces everywhere, and it is a major project getting them all cleaned up at the end of the day.

Enter "A", who recalled his little-boy Lego storage—a "parachute" bag, he called it. He described it in detail, and it sounded like the perfect solution. I got to work, with my adviser close at hand for some grommet work.

The idea is simple—a circle of nylon (though any fabric would do), grommets around the edge, and a cord. It lies completely flat, so the girls can work from the pile of pieces in the center, eliminating the likelihood of having them scattered about the house. When it's clean-up time, they simply pull the strings and they're done!

The girls are thrilled to have their new bag, "A" is happy to have re-created this bit of his childhood, and the soles of my feet are thanking me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Berries and Beating the Heat

Blueberry Recipe of the Day:
Blueberry Scones
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 6-oz vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup melted butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp lemon zest
1 cup blueberries

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine wet ingredients. Stir wet ingredients into dry until just moistened. Fold in berries. Drop onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes. This recipe yields from 8-30 scones, depending on preferred size. We made 24 smaller ones.

In this near-record heat, we will not be turning the oven on to 400 degrees again today. Look for another no-cook blueberry recipe soon. Until then, we'll be here:

Happy summer days of berries and beating the heat!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Desk Job

This weekend brought new life to an old desk. The husband made this desk and stool set for our oldest daughter when she was one. Another child and countless craft projects later, this desk was in serious need of a makeover—and a new owner. Yes, sadly, our girls no longer fit at it. But the set, handcrafted by "A", is a quality family heirloom, not something I'm willing to Freecycle or yard sale away.

So we scrubbed, sanded, scraped, and washed (believe it or not, this photo was taken after it was cleaned). Orange and olive green paint were the chosen to revitalize this tiny work station.

The finished product is headed to the nephews' home today, for many more years of use and abuse.

As for the blueberry overload—I will be featuring blueberry recipes for the next few days (however many days it takes us to eat them all).

Today's recipe: Simple Blueberries and Cream


Heavy Cream

Maple Syrup


Instructions: Beat heavy cream with an electric mixer until it is the consistency of whipped cream. Add a bit of maple syrup to sweeten the cream to desired taste. Continue to beat for another minute. Add blueberries and enjoy!
note: we froze some blueberries and used those in our cream, for a yummy cooling treat.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Not a Dull Moment

The Peruvian wool I splurged on a few weeks back is starting to take shape. As you can see, I am running out of room on the pattern to make note of my sets and rows. What am I knitting? I'll bet most anyone who is a fan of could guess. I do believe it is, by far, their most downloaded pattern...

Our pick-your-own blueberry excursion today yielded 5 pounds (five POUNDS!) of berries, for exactly $10. I call that a bargain, if there ever was one. But wait, speaking of bargains...

I scored all this booty at a local church yard sale this evening. Fabric, ribbon, rick rack, bias tape, string, a bread pan, and a pair of knitting needles of every size from 1 to 7 (!!!), and more (read: various random animal statues the girls chose, beads, a mug, leather gloves, felt squares...) for, once again, exactly $10.

So here I am—with an interesting knitting pattern to concentrate on, more blueberries than I know what to do with, and crafting supplies to last me far into the future. I don't imagine a dull moment any time soon.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Wet Ocean Air

Enjoy these snapshots from our past few days. It was such a good getaway—and a nice distraction for the girls, as we all get used to the idea of life without our beloved family pet.

Taking in the wet ocean air...
Sandkindgoms, not sandcastles...
historic landmarks...
...and this view—a bluff overlooking the Atlantic.
I only wish you could all take a deep breath and be in this moment. The sea, the brush, the breeze, the sound. Life's chatter dissolves into the thick, damp air, leaving behind only what matters.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Time and Time Again

I just read this article about time banks and had to share. This concept really resonated in me—just seems right, so obvious, so easy.

Time banking is basically good ol' bartering—trading goods or services. It is something I have fantasized about, but I never knew there were organized groups of time traders. We have so much to offer, and could benefit from so many of the folks in our area. What better way to build community, save money, support local businesses and organizations?

So I'm off! look into these time-based currencies a little more. I'm also off to the beach for a few days away. I'll be back!

In the mean time, check out the Onion River Exchange and visit to learn more.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Only This One Moment, and a Nap

We recently had the pleasure of a much-anticipated hike with friends, complete with four bounding-up-the-mountain girls who stopped, quite possibly, only this one moment...

an impromptu trailside art installation (done completely independent of any adults)...

...and this little cherub, who found her first hike less than thrilling.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Table Talk

A few months ago, my husband (I'll call him "A" from now on) completed our new dining room table and, aahhhh, is it a beauty!

It brings so much to our home. Because we live in a small house, he crafted a table that would have a lightness to it—I'm not talking about color, but structure. He designed a trestle table, that has thinner lines below, so as not to appear too heavy in the room. And it is beautiful in it's spot, letting the light from the adjacent windows flood the room.

Working out of his cramped workshop in our basement (a room over from mine), "A" had to address his first, most obvious challenge—how to fit a finished table out of the basement and through the narrow stairway to our dining room. The solution? This table completely disassembles (as many trestle tables do). Made with keyed through tenons, the trestle can be removed from the legs, the legs detached from the top, making moving and assembly a cinch.

But the best part of this table is the secret it keeps.

This carving is in the center of the underside of the table top, visible only if you crawl underneath it (which might explain why we frequently find the girls under there). The texture of this carving is irresistible, and it is a crime you can't all run your fingers across it.

Our family spends so much time seated at this table which, aside from meals, is host to homework, craft projects, blog and jewelry photography shoots, sewing endeavors, and so much more.

What's next for our resident woodworker? He's making a bench to go with the table. I can hardly wait, and will surely be keeping you posted on the progress.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

That Stack of Fabric

Remember that gorgeous stack of fabric I was making plans for? Well, I made it into, uh, a gorgeous stack of fabric...

I got one of Anna Maria Horner's "palette piles," excited for a project worthy of such stunning material. I thought of making napkins, but quickly shelved the idea, thinking napkins we not a good enough end product for these pretty prints. They would just get stained and otherwise defaced. Then it dawned on me—what better thing to make with the fabric? They are out on our table, in plain sight all day, every day. They get used at three meals a day, plus whenever snacking requires them. And, as an added bonus, they are an attractive addition to the the kaleidoscope of colors hanging on the clothesline.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Robots and Kings

The finished product (see previous post). I crocheted this adorable set for my nephew's birthday, and he has been blasting off ever since. The pattern, from Amy Gaines, is simple and quick. I have written before about Amigurumi crocheted toys here. They are fun to make and even better to give. My girls have lots of handmade friends now, and count them among their most special toys.

...and this little arrangement was on our table the other day. A snack, that the girls gathered from the garden when I was remiss in getting them something to eat. They were referring to their assortment of tiny carrots, nasturtium, and mint as "the king's snack," a name we will most definitely be using from now on. I am thinking I will delay in getting them snacks more often—just to see what they come up with on their own. This snack, fit for a king, is much better than what I would have served up to my little queens.