28 August 2011
We're back! Phew. We had a wonderfully fun, Summery time in San Diego... we visited great friends, road on a boat, drove a surrey, ate more tacos than you want to know about, experienced the marvels of I-5... etc. I have a proper vacay post brewing, with lots of photos. But, to tide you over... let us speak more of photos.
My new antsy-passenger activity for road-trips: iPhone photography with the nifty Camera+ app. Miss Jora found out about it from the lovely and talented Kim, and clued myself and Desi right in. Was I bored on I-5? A little, but then I just started snapping. I tell you: Camera+ makes random clouds and desolate landscapes look verrry sexy.
22 August 2011
Isn't that a funny term? And, you know exactly what I mean, right? There are products like car tires and spatulas... and then there are products. Like the kind I will special-trip it over to Sephora for or order specially online. The stuff I won't go on vacation without.
I used to be super nutty for all this stuff (right, Nance?) then I cooled it a bit. There is such a thing as too obsessed. Now, I think I've found a somewhat principled middle-ground. I stick with what works and try to avoid junky/harmful ingredients. I also just wear less make-up than I used to.
Since I do love these posts from all of you, I'll go. Here's a short list of what I'm into right now.
Best serious moisturizer | Rose Cream by Martina Gebhardt. And, by "serious" you know what I mean. This is definitely a post-30 moisturizer. It smells pretty, is luxuriously thick, works like crazy and is super safe. I've been using it for years, mostly at night.
Best exfoliation | Glycolic Acid 10% Hydrating Gel by Peter Thomas Roth. It has one or two "bad" ingredients, so I feel a little conflicted, but damn this stuff really works. It's like an overnight freshening-up peel. Don't make me give it up.
Best daytime combo | Argan Oil Daily Moisturizer with SPF 40+ and Argan Matchmaker Serum Foundation from Josie Maran. I tried the straight-up argan oil a while back and was a little underwhelmed. But, after the lovely Sara mentioned the foundation, I've been all about these other Josie Maran products. They all have that argan oil in them, which is currently popular, awesome, naturally beautifying, etc.--and they work great. All I know is that if I mix the SPF 40 with the "matchmaker" foundation (I'm not really a foundation person either, but this stuff is very clever), I have an excellent replacement for the tinted moisturizer I had to stop using b/c of all those parabens.
Best face wash | Skin Brightening Facial Cleanser by 100% Pure. Another post-30 item! And it came from our natural foods co-op (aka the grocery story). Score. This stuff is all-natural and it really, really works. Leaves the skin super clean and bright.
Best shampoo/conditioner | Organic Lemongrass line by Label M. This stuff is hard to find unless your salon carries it. If you see it, grab some. Though it's incredibly expensive, I've rationalized it by going French and not washing my hair too often. Ha. Seriously though, this is a line I can support: no sulfates, parabens, etc. And, aside from all that, it's really the very best shampoo/conditioner I've ever used. Eva.
Anything you're particularly into these days? I might have to have it.
20 August 2011
So, tonight is my 20th high school reunion in San Diego. We're going. Have you gone to any of your reunions? Oh, I'm so ambivalent about them. I kind of don't care--this is going to sound pretty jerky but college was way more me than high school--but then I get nervous before these things (why, I don't know).
We went to my 10th and it was kinda meh. And that was before people were saying meh. I naively thought it would be like the day after graduation. Not as if people hadn't changed--because everyone had, in wildly different ways--but that the whole graduating class would be there. It was a kind of random turn-out, which was unexpected. I think lots of other people were nervous, too.
I decided I'd probably give it one more go, with the 20th.
Now, however, there is the Facebook. I already know who's going. I know how many kids they have and what they had for lunch yesterday. Mystery, what mystery. But, the turn-out looks better this time. And, I get to hang out with this lovely lady. Nice.
So, even though I'm more of a college-nostagia person, certain songs take me back to high school. Driving home from the beach listening to 91X, thinking about life, the future, and maybe certain boys. Just driving around a lot mainly. Ah, southern California.
Here we come.
19 August 2011
I'm a bit of a shy person. I know, I know, aren't all blog-minders supposed to be the extroverted, over-sharing, Dooce type? Some, perhaps. And aren't there plenty. Me, I'm pretty much your textbook introvert who has learned to "extro" herself when it counts. I can mix it up with (almost) the best of them, but then I need my retreat of quiet and contemplation. Sometimes I know this comes off as aloof or non-share-y... but eventually I come around.
Like this new work stuff. I've been asked by everyone from my acupuncturist to my mother-in-law, "Blake it's great you're super happy in your new work sitch or whatever it is... but, so... what is it?" Yep, I might keep things pretty tight against my chest. Until the right time.
So, I think we're just about there. But, true to form, I'm lobbing this little preview over the fence right as I step out the door for a little vacay. (There will be posts while I'm relaxificating, so do stop back!)
Here's a tiny taste of what I've been sketching, cutting, designing, printing, sewing and making. So far, it's a line of earthy, 60s/70s-ish 100% linen homewares that I hand-blockprint and sew. They'll be listed on etsy very shortly. And there are many other plans, too. Aren't there always?
So, now you know ;)
18 August 2011
Snifffffff. My nose is a little runny this morning.
Nope, it's not a cold or hot sauce overindulgence (which is always plausible with me). I just sat down to finish up this recipe post, and ended up reading Melanie's INCREDIBLE birth story instead (via Kristina). Isn't that always the way? Darn you internet. I feel like every time I check in with my favorite ladies (and the occasional dude) out there in blogland, I end up with a very wet face. Sighhhhhhh. I love it. Birth stories are addictive and, don't know about you, but I never read or heard too many prior to the era of the blog. A happy evolution, I think.
Anyway, gear change. I'm in a seriously different mindset finishing this post as I was starting it. But, let's get it out there. This is some good spicy, fruity business here. And, since I know you'll ask... ("how spicy is it?")... that's a super relative question, of course. For a spice-lover, this is satisfyingly hot, but it isn't the craziest stuff. The sweet fruit balances out the fiery chiles. Hot but not painful. On the other hand, if you don't like spice, this one isn't for you. But you should still make some and give it away at the holidays!
This recipe calls for making a pot of hot sauce and then water-bath canning it. If you haven't canned stuff before, try it now! I've given the basics below, but if you want to read more, check out what the Ball people say (there are some useful PDFs), or consult a trustworthy book. Really, I used to be scared of canning, but it's pretty easy. You just need to be organized and confident (the first time is the most nerve-wracking). Of course, you could always just store the sauce in the fridge in lieu of canning, but I'm not sure you could go through it quickly enough. Yes, that might be a challenge. ;)
Oh, and this is totally the time to make this stuff. Actually, this is the YEAR to make this stuff. What with the crazy heat-pocalypses out there and everything. At least that's what this fog-ensconced person hears. Hot peppers are ready for the taking. I scored all these chiles for $1 a bunch at our farmers market.
Let me know if you try! This is delicious, pretty stuff, great on tacos, crackers and goat cheese, a dip for grilled cheese sandwiches, atop grilled fish, etc etc.
Thai Chile, Mango and Peach Hot Sauce
Adapted from--yep--Canning for a New Generation
makes about 5 half-pint jars. (It doubles well; I made a huge batch.)
4 oz red or orange thai chiles (or other fresh very hot peppers, like habaneros)*
1 lb, 6 oz mangoes, chopped (about 3 cups)
6 oz peaches, diced (about 1 cup)
1 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 c cider vinegar (5% acidity)
4 t pure kosher salt
1 T honey
*Don't be tempted to increase the ratio of peppers to acid ingredients. You need the right acidity to prevent spoilage.
You'll need: 5 half-pint canning jars with new lids and a canning pot (or pasta pot) large enough to hold your jars plus water to cover by at least 1". As for tools: a ladle, either a jar-lifter (or long tongs with rubber bands wrapped around the tip), plus a canning funnel for neat jar-filling. Also, this is a puréed hot sauce, so you'll need a blender.
Prepare for canning: wash your jars and all tools and heat them up to a boil, then keep them in simmering water (should cover jars by at least 1") while you prepare the recipe. Place the flat lids in a heat-proof dish. Set rings aside.
Make the sauce: Stem the chiles, then slice in half and remove seeds if you want (I didn't do either), and place them in a wide, stainless steel pan with all other ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the chiles are softened. Remove the center stopper from your blender lid and have a kitchen towel on hand to cover the opening. Working in batches (important: only fill the blender half-full each time), puree the sauce in a blender (with open-top lid and kitchen towel on top--be careful, this is hot stuff) until very smooth. When the entire recipe has been blended, return the sauce to the pan and bring back to a simmer. Beware of sticky, sputtering sauce--it's kind of like very spicy lava at this stage. A lid perched on top of the pan helps.
Canning: Ladle hot water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. This softens the sealing compound on the underside of the lids. Remove the hot jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the hot water back into the pot. Place the hot jars upright on a kitchen towel and drain the water off the lids.
Remove the sauce from the heat and ladle it through your canning funnel into the hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace at the top. Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel (any sauce there will compromise the seal), place a lid on top, and gently screw on a ring until it's just finger tight. Air needs to escape during the water bath processing, so don't tighten any further at this stage.
Return the jars to the canning pot, ensuring that the water covers the jars by 1". Bring to a boil and, once boiling, maintain this state for 10 full minutes. Afterward, turn off the heat and carefully remove hot jars to a kitchen towel and leave undisturbed for 12 hours. After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed (you shouldn't be able to press them down). If any haven't, refrigerate them immediately. For successfully processed jars, either re-tighten the rings or remove them completely (not necessary for storage). Then label your jars for keeping and gift-giving!
And, just a few more canning safety notes: during storage, if you ever notice a bulging lid (or one that's not firmly "sucked down" onto the jar, a funky color or any fuzz/yucky bits when you open the jar, don't ever taste the contents (yeck and very dangerous). Dispose them in a sealed bag, in a place that no person or animal could possibly consume it. Read more here.
But, don't be scared! It's easy to learn the right way, and super addictive. Like hot sauce. And birth stories.
16 August 2011
When Jacky gets older, will he read this blog? Chances are, with the indelible nature of anything released into the interwebs, the answer is Oh Yes. Sometimes I think about that. I try not to publish too many embarrassing photos or descriptions, as I just *know* kids are being taunted at school this very moment for parental oversharing.
Anyway, part of the reason I keep writing this blog is that it's simply a record. Where we're at. I cherish my simpler, less self-aware 1970s upbringing, but part of me wishes my parents had created this type of artifact. It's so easy to forget... but, like an elephant, the internet never forgets.
Here's a little sampling from Jacky's land.
:: hello terrible two's? ::
First, I don't love this term. Yep, the screaming and frantic yes/no/yes/no business is quite terrible to be on the receiving end of... but, really. There must be a better term for this stage which I feel is, at its heart, all about a transition. Because, like the teen years, isn't toddlering a stage of intense change and in-between-ness? Not that the rest of life isn't. Well, it hit us FULL FORCE last week. Yep, last week. Jacky has been two for a long while, and while he has been going through the usual amount of stubbornness and boundary-testing, last week was a completely different animal. A startling wave of frantic crying, longer tantrums, really tough transitions between activities, just weariness for everyone. It was pretty sad to see him so agitated but wanting help. Picture screaming in protest, but burying himself in me for comfort. Push, pull.
Toby and I said, Oh. So, this is the two's. Crap. Here's my take though: he's not trying to make everything crazy. He wants to be happy and is most happy when he's feeling helpful and harmonious. He's obviously going through an intense wave of change and needs calm & constancy. (Can I recommend this wonderful book again??) We've been trying little tactics we know work for him (happy wake-up routines, zero sugar (some had crept in), more relaxed schedules, "previewing" upcoming activities and events, lots of naked time!). It seems to be working for Jacky, and this week is going much better. Fingers crossed.
:: family dinner ::
So important, I think, and someday we'll be up to seven nights a week. Right now, we're doing this once a week, which is about right for us, right now. I think the other important thing to protect in family life is parents getting a chance to talk, have a glass of wine, cook together, put down the Goodnight Moon and focus on each other. That's the routine Monday through Saturday.
But on Sundays, lately: family pizza night! First we tried getting Jacky involved in the pizza making.... which can probably wait a little longer. Basically, he had a tough time relinquishing his "creation" so it could be cooked. You know what I mean. Tears topped the pizza. We'll try that again later. Right now, we're just working on the sitting and peacefully eating part.
:: his baby ::
This boy loves to nurture, hoo boy. Sometimes it's his softy-frog tucked up in his shirt like he's wearing a baby carrier (awwwww), sometimes he's the one getting "big boy swaddled" again. But this boy is nutty for babies... when we're out and he sees one, he gets all squirrelly, silly and shy, all at once. It's hilarious. And, this morning, he was mumbling something about a little sister. Gulp. I said, "Um, do you want a little brother or sister, Jacky?" He said, "Yeah, think a sister. Because they really like hugs." !!!!!!!
:: straddling potty land ::
The potty work continues. We're in that in-between land of only sleeping with diapers, and diaper-free all day. So, it's cool! Getting there.
:: imaginary, actual friends ::
Overheard recently: [pretend phone to ear] "Hello, Woo-Seal? Think you and Timmy can come over to my house today. OK?"
Me: "Did you just call some friends?"
J: "Yeah. Woo-Seal is going to come over. But Timmy said no he's busy."
:: actually, sometimes... not always ::
Current favorite words. Don't you love those kids that use "actually" in long explanatory sentences?... so cute and slightly nerdly. Love, love, love.
And, say you ask J a question like this: "Hey, Jacky. Do you like to shovel sand at the beach?" J: "Um, yeah. Sometimes... not always." I die.
Well, that's where we are. Where you at?
09 August 2011
I used to not be a pancakes person. Sweet, bready stuff for breakfast? Ugh, no thanks. Make mine salty bacon and starchy hash browns, plus hot sauce. Full stop.
But then, what happened? Who knows. Maybe Toby suggested pancakes. Maybe we stopped going out for brunch (see: Offspring). But, somehow, Saturdays became Pancake Day. And this designation became cemented when a little guy grew up a little and dropped his morning nap. He joined us at the table for Saturday breaky and Pancakes became an Event. Like, I tuck him in on Friday night and we say "see you for Pancake Day in the morning!"
We used to make whole grain pancakes from a store-bought mix, with blueberries dropped in. Good enough. Then I tried using my bread starter for some overnight-rested sourdough pancakes (based on a Joy of Cooking recipe). Pretty OK. But my eye kept roving.
Over the last couple of Saturdays I've tried Smitten Kitchen's hearty lemon/vanilla-infused pancakes, which were thick and more like griddle cakes. Deb's pancakes were delicious and oh-so fragrant, if... ooof, so filling. Then I made, like many of you(!), GOOP's Dad's "world-famous" pancakes, which are buttermilk tangy and benefit from an overnight rest (makes the batter tender). Delicious, but all AP flour? And, I think the baking powder does more if it's added the day you cook them. Oh, and half the recipe was more than enough.
Enter my mash-up of the two, which we gobbled up last Saturday. (And will this coming Saturday.) Not bad at all: tangy, lemon/vanilla-y, multi-grainy, blueberry-y, thin and delicate.
I thought they were pretty solid. Maybe you'll like them too?
Multigrain Blueberry Pancakes, Smitten-Paltrow Mash-up Style
yield: ~18 5-inch pancakes
based on Smitten Kitchen's Blueberry Yogurt Multigrain Pancakes & "Bruce Paltrow's World-Famous Pancakes" from My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow
.5 c all-purpose flour
.5 c whole grain pastry flour
.5 c dark rye flour
1/8 c + 1 T raw sugar
1 t fine salt
1.75 t baking powder
1.5 c yogurt (I used regular, not Greek. If you have Greek yogurt, use more milk to thin the morning you cook the pancakes.)
3 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled*, plus more for cooking
3 large organic eggs
1 t vanilla extract
zest of 1 organic lemon
~1/2 c milk, for thinning batter
~1 c organic blueberries (or other berries?) (quantity is flexible, obviously, depending on how berry-chocked you want your pancakes)
The night before you want to cook pancakes: Whisk dry ingredients (except for baking powder) together in a large bowl. Whisk yogurt, butter, eggs, vanilla and lemon zest in another bowl. Add wet ingredients to the dry, whisking until just small lumps remain. Cover and refrigerate until morning.
Cooking day: Sprinkle baking powder over the top of the batter and gradually whisk in milk until the batter is as thin/thick as you like.
Heat up a griddle and grease it with butter. Cook the pancakes, dropping blueberries on the batter circles before flipping them--I like to use a 1/4 c scoop to dish out regular doses of batter. Eat with pats of organic butter and warm maple syrup.
*I loved Deb's tip of melting half the butter, then stirring in the other half. Cools the melted better right down, so you can add it in right away.
04 August 2011
Friends, today my brain is as foggy and misty as the weather outside. Perhaps it's a good day to share some progress on Jacky's Farm Quilt for his future big boy bed. (Ah, bed. Let's crawl back in, shall we?)
I started this in Lake Almanor (along with a good book, this is a happy-making type of vacay project) and wrapped up the six blocks of animals on linen the other night. It was kind of bittersweet: progress is good, but it was such a relaxing post-dinner craft, and I really liked learning to embroider. Granted, I'm still learning. If the welfare of the human race depended on my being able to make a French Knot, we'd all be in trouble (but what a great movie plot! ha). But, the stitches I do know how to do, I love.
Remaining: a seventh block with J's name and date (or something like that) on it. I'm researching fonts and layouts... which, if you care about fonts, you know: this can bog a girl down. The rest of the quilt blocks will be other shades of linen, printed with slightly more graphic farm-themed (haystacks, bees, windmill, etc) patterns. I'll show you when they're out of my head and on the fabric :)
For now, meet the menagerie.
If you missed the earlier mention, this farm quilt project is from the super book, Embroidery Companion by Alicia Paulson. Love her blog, too.
Do you guys embroider??
02 August 2011
|walnut & fig multigrain bread|
Meal-planning for the week
I've been thumbing and cooking through Kristen's copy of Gwynnie's cookbook, and this week's eating reflects it. So, are you into her book? To be honest, like many, I initially rolled my eyes all the way around my head when I first read she'd written one. Why? I don't know. Reverse snobbery or something. Or residual, built-up annoyance at some of her GOOP newsletters. All those vegan cleanses, "lifestyle tips" and "everywoman" $1000+ shoes.
But really. If I'm honest... 1) she's cooking real food for her kids; 2) yeah, there are way too many celebrity cookbooks; but 3) one thing I find more annoying than celebrity cookbooks is when famous people perpetuate the myth that cooking is hard or only something you have a personal chef load into your kitchen each week.
So, the book. I like it. Most of the recipes are for basics or fancied-up basics, but they're generally good versions, made with real ingredients and love. My only beef is a tricky visual one: the food is good and interesting, but just as you kind of relate to the idea of Gwyneth as this nurturing earthy mama with genuine ideas about food... smack! a staggeringly sparkly, glamourous, magazine-y photo of the actress reminds you that this is a celebrity cookbook. Which is fine. It is what it is.
Monday | Taco Night with home-cooked black beans
Tuesday | Whole roasted fish* with garden chard and broiled polenta* wedges
Wednesday | Spaghetti Limone Parmeggiano* with garden fava beans
Thursday | Chicken Enchiladas (using shredded chicken from stock-making*)
Friday | Steakhouse Dinner Night
Fridge- & pantry-stocking:
walnut & fig multigrain bread
chicken salad (from stock-making)
* from My Father's Daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow