Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Backward

The internet right now is full of wrap-ups and resolutions. But the truth is, taking stock of either 2011 or 2012 fills me with a mild sense of panic.

I've been mending today, which seems like about the right way to close out the year.

So since I'm no good at this holiday, I think I'll just put on my 1970s pants (literally--the funky culottes my mom made back then and that I just fixed up this morning) and take a plate of stuffed mushrooms over to my brother-in-law's house, and pretend that tonight's fancy nibbles are just a retro cocktail party like any other. You won't mind if I do that, will you?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Outing, Friday

The winter beach. She said she wanted to go so we did. We didn't stay long but I'm glad we went.

"I'll build a sand castle and you look for pretty stones to take home with us." There's a division of labor I can get behind!

The light at the very edge of the sea was so beautiful.

And so were the wild black branches and the dim winter sun.

Everyone stopped what they were doing to watch the train go by.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday at Home

Getting ready for the new year with stacks of neatly folded fabric and experiments towards a better school-day breakfast.

No outing today. I needed a day at home. Either that or I had too much fun last night with some girlfriends (potluck and word games being "too much fun," apparently...I am old). Big plans tomorrow, though, I hope.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Outing, Wednesday

Drawing at the Volunteer Park Conservatory. (A good outing for littles, only $3 to get in, and that's a suggested donation. There were fewer benches to sit on than I'd remembered though.)


I'm genuinely blown away by much of my girl's recent artwork, though I did notice that sometimes she would dash off a drawing and then look at me expectantly for praise. (Though, really, I'm not so sure her behavior is all that different from keeping a blog... Hm...) I'm generally skeptical of the attitude that praise is bad, but still, it did give me pause. Where is the line, you know? How do you express genuine joy at your kid's accomplishments while making sure that they pursue those accomplishments for their own sake?

Anyway, the conservatory is conveniently located near a park/playground for getting out the wiggles.


And a few blocks from a cafe for treats after. (Highly effective motivation for good behavior!)


Morning at Home

Lots and lots of painting. Messy table. Me hanging frames in the kid's room. (Finally! Pictures to come.) Beans and rice for lunch while pretending to be sharks who live in an underwater cave. "Hey, look at those underwater plants out there, moving in the waves." "I see some coral that looks like a flower." "I see a BIG coral that looks like a tree." "Use your napkin, please, just because we live in a cave is no excuse for making a big mess."

I feel a bit silly blogging these minutiae, but I was scrolling through some old posts the other night and found that I really valued having some of those memories documented albeit in brief format. So, apologies in advance, you (all three of you, dear readers) may be treated to some diary entries scattered amongst the posts about actual things to make.

The kid can't get enough of art these days and her work keeps making these great leaps. Suddenly, this morning, faces with dots for eyes and nose are SO yesterday--now faces need eyebrows and she wants to figure out how to make "a good nose."

Next up: an afternoon outing. She keeps asking when we are going to the wedding. "You mean the outing?" 'Yeah." The cutest.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Outing, Tuesday

We went to the aquarium. It was a zoo! (har)

Then we were very tired and so we went home to rest.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bad Elf

Christmas crafting always comes down to the wire, and I'm okay with that. But whose idea was velveteen?

Oh, right. I have only myself to blame.

My husband came in a little while ago while I was sitting at my sewing machine and plunked down a bottle with a few swigs of white wine in it. I took a swallow and told him to put it back in the refrigerator, and he said, "Don't you know how to have fun anymore?" Fun? FUN? This is it, buddy!

Also, for dessert tonight I made a giant reindeer turd. My husband said I should write a blog post about it.

You're welcome!

Okay, my work here is done. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas flowers

For some of the little girls in my life.

The templates for the poinsettias are one of several flowers from the Purl Bee's felt flower wreath project. Go download the templates now--you'll find about a million different ways to use them, I know I have.

Make the leaves by tracing around a hair clip. Use French knots to attach the flower pieces to the leaves or to the headband (my headbands came in a pack of six from Target).

You still have time to make these, I promise. Sit on the couch and make a few French knots while you watch Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas after homemade pizza tomorrow night--that's what I'll be doing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cranberry Brownies

You know how sometimes you go to the trouble of making cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, and it's totally delicious but you have a bunch left over, and it sits around in a Tupperware container for quite a while, and every time you open the refrigerator you look at it and think: "crap, how are we ever going to use up that cranberry sauce? I mean, we're vegetarians, so it's not like we're making a lot of leftover-turkey-and-cranberry-sauce sandwiches up in here or anything." You know how that happens?

Yeah. I hate that too.

And I'm here to rescue you. With cranberry sauce brownies.

They are fantastic. Fudgy, chewy, and tart--a lot like eating chocolate covered cherries, but you get to feel virtuous as you eat them, because you, you frugal and resourceful thing you, have repurposed your cranberry sauce. Upcycled it, one might even say.

The recipe is from The Ultimate Brownie Book, by Bruce Weinstein. I've never heard of the book before but Larry Page and Sergey Brin recommended the recipe and I have to say they did not lead me astray in this case. It calls for a full 16 oz. of cranberry sauce, not like 1/4 or 1/3 of a cup like those other b.s. recipes out there.

And the cranberry sauce that was so good I didn't want it to go to waste is Stephanie Dietz's Fresh Cranberry Bourbon Sauce via Design*Sponge. Simple and classic, with bonus points for bourbon.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Here is something else you can do with all those solid-color paintings your preschooler brings home: make collage-y adornments for your holiday presents.

I was so pleased when my wrapping from the teacher gifts was tacked up on the bulletin board at my daughter's daycare holiday party yesterday. Right next to her masterpieces!

You could greatly reduce the PITA factor here (I cut out the bulbs by hand and the only thing in the house that would show up on the dark paper was white paint, and the only instrument small enough to get it on them was a toothpick) by using one of those scrapbooking punches to cut out the shapes and getting yourself a white or silver Sharpie. I definitely recommend doing it the easy way.

The wrapping paper is from Target. (I have a big roll of silver paper, too, and I'm not afraid to use it.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011


These are going to totally freak my mom out. I can hardly contain my glee.

They spread a little bit more than I expected during baking, but I've decided that just makes them more slug-like.

The recipe is Walnut Slugs via Dollop of Cream. The antennae are candy-covered sunflower seeds from Trader Joe's. Viva la holiday baking!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

And, just like that,

...I'm so behind.

I guess I should just feel grateful that I'm not a 19th-century Swede, or I would have been kept very busy in the days leading up to Christmas. A different project each day! Also, my weekend would have involved slaughtering the Christmas pig.

We did manage to make saffron buns to celebrate Lucia today. I haven't perfected them yet, but I'm getting closer.

And I just filed what I think is the last copy I'll write before the holidays, so I'm optimistic that I'll get back on schedule. At least, there will be lots of making over the next week and a half. I can't wait.

But can I just say? I'm really, really hoping my husband has food poisoning right now.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Um, no

Serious ornament-making fail:

Anyone have any tips for getting better results with shrink plastic?

The good news is the kid is totally happy with how they turned out. But this is the same kid who wept when we were picking out a Christmas tree last night because she wanted to buy the ugliest Christmas tree on the lot (I am not exaggerating) and Mama and Daddy wouldn't go for it.

(Tip, in case this ever happens to you: Suggest that you all "just look around a little more and see if we can find a tree that we can all agree on," then lead kid in circles for a bit and wind up back at the perfectly symmetrical tree that she said s/he didn't like five minutes ago, which may now be deemed acceptable.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Felt Houses Advent Calendar

Now you know why I needed all that rickrack.

I made the kid an advent calendar out of gray felt, with pockets shaped like little houses. It's a pretty shameless copy of this lovely project by Minna of Time of the Aquarius.

Except, since I am American instead of a stylishly sober Finn, my version is a lot more garish, what with the red rickrack and red stitching on some of the houses (I would have gone crazy and done all of them in red, too, had I not run out of red thread one-third of the way through.)
For Christmas Eve's pocket I decided to try my hand at a Danish woven heart, using this tutorial. It didn't actually work so well as a basket--it was just floppy and fell way open (maybe I did something wrong, does anyone know?) so I sewed up the sides a bit.

(Yeah, I don't know what's wrong with that picture. Still figuring out the new camera. Update: Apparently the white shelf threw off the metering. No, I don't know what that means either.)

Here it is all together. It's attached to the bookcases with earthquake tack, washi tape, and hope. I'm a little worried about how it's going to hold once the pockets are full.

And on that note, better run--I have some goodies to dole out among the houses. Happy December.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday Spirit

A dozen sheets of graph paper, a million and a half insanely detailed lists, and six yards of red velvet rickrack: I think I'm ready to rumble. You?

I'm even a day ahead of schedule, for now.

(The bad news is, my desk currently looks exactly like the "before" picture from my previous post.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

La Rentrée

No, I haven't dealt with it all yet, but somehow moving it out of the way makes me feel more able to do so. Here's to a fresh start.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What I did on my summer vacation

Okay, first things first: I know I still owe a post about the quilt I made last month. That's coming--second week of August, second week of September, potayto, potahto, you know?

For now, an update on what I've been up to more recently.

Every year at this time, my daughter's daycare closes for two weeks. I take off work, my parents come up from Arizona, and together we work and play. I've been unplugged almost completely, and quite honestly it's been really nice. Here is some of what we did this year.






(Refrigerator Pickles via These are truly "quick 'n' easy" and the results are great.
They're spicy and pungent, but without the strong aftertaste of commercial dill pickles. My tip: instead of trying to dissolve sugar and salt in cold water, heat the water, dissolve the sugar and salt in it, and then cool the brine in the refrigerator.)



(David Lebovitz's Herb Rub via The Wednesday Chef.)


(Top: Sage-Walnut Pesto via Not Without Salt. Bottom: Hazelnut-Mixed Herb Pesto. Based on the sage-walnut recipe, but sub hazelnuts for walnuts, and an unscientific mixture of thyme, oregano, and winter savory for the herbs in the first recipe.)

And thus getting the herb garden under some semblance of control:

(Yeah, that's the "After" picture. You shoulda seen the "Before"!)

Making long-lost recipes:

 (Blackberry pudding, from a 1938 cookbook. This one deserves its own post.)

Conducting experiments towards new cleaning products:

(More to come, if it works.)

Prep work:

Discovering new treasures:

(Thank you to the lovely woman who sat next to us at Cafe Presse one day, and not only put up with preschooler antics all through lunch but also told us how wonderful Lincoln Park is. Dear mystery woman: you were so very right.)

And new-to-me treasures:

(Thrifting with my mom: my once-a-year treat!)

Getting ready to welcome Fall: