Thursday, September 30, 2010

in my kitchen

I like to cook. (maybe you knew this about me already) I enjoy planning, shopping, preparing, creating, and presenting delicious meals to my family. I love finding new dishes that my family raves over, which can be difficult with a family of 6. Another thing I appreciate is slow food. Thirty minute meals aren't really my forte. Give me a two hour chunk of time and a kitchen stocked with quality ingredients, and I'm golden. I relish taking a pile of staples, a few simple veggies, grains or legumes and making a delightful dish. One thing I don't like, help.

Oh, I don't mind helping the kids making cookies, breads, muffins or anything that I plan ahead to make with them. But, they need to be invited. Making the meals, creating the territory. The kitchen is my domain, often my only solitude in the course of a busy day, and anyone who dares enter is likely to be greeted with an offer to let them sweep under the table, wipe the table or set the table. These offers do a fairly good job at keeping my kitchen quiet.

{sun-dried tomato & garlic frittata from Once Upon A Tart}

Except Finn, of course, who thinks it's fun to do those things. He also enjoys being my kitchen DJ. His seat on the counter affords him access to the cd player. Tonight he chose this.

I want to let them help me with dinner. I even occasionally try to delegate tasks which I think would keep them largely occupied without much mess or need for precision. But really, I appreciate the process so much more when I'm in the kitchen alone, juggling the various pots, bowls, and skillets in solitude.

Maybe one day I'll start scheduling a day of the week when they can help me, but until then, I want them O-U-T of my kitchen.

I hope you won't think less of me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy Michaelmas & WIP Wed

Although we celebrated Michaelmas over the weekend with friends, we couldn't let the actual feast day pass without at least mentioning that Michaelmas actually falls today. The kids were greeted by a Michaelmas dragon on our board this morning.

And we spent a few minutes reading about and talking about the archangel Michael during breakfast this morning. I actually think it's kind of nice to have the festival on a different day because it seems to allow for more discussion without the distraction of anticipatory excitement.

As for my WIPs, I completed Finn's socks a few nights ago. Socks and slippers seem to thrill him so his excitement over the socks completion was so cute to watch.

You can see a better picture of the actual color of the socks here. I really like the white flecking in this colorway. I made these socks a 1/2 inch bigger each in the leg and foot to accomodate for growth so they're a little bigger than the last pair.

Doesn't he look sweetly proud of his new mama-made socks?

And I started another pair of socks, for the hubby this time. I really to finish up a few things and stop starting new projects for now!

What are you working on right now?

Monday, September 27, 2010

autumn rainy day meal

Another day of chilly rain around here, although you won't here any complaints from me. Anything is better than the 90s right now. The weather actually feels pretty autumnal, and I'm enjoying the slight change in the color of the leaves. The anticipation is building for a full array of yellows, reds and oranges in the next few weeks.

To celebrate our meteorological changes, I decided to make potato soup and chapatti for dinner. The chapatti recipe I used came from Baking Bread with Children. (If you haven't figured it out, I love this book...go buy it already!) The soup was born of the ingredients I happened to have on hand and what I thought might make a good potato soup. It really came together nicely and was even more delicious with a bit of nutritional yeast sprinkled on top after serving.

Potato (and hidden veggies) Soup

3 lbs of potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and diced
4 carrots, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 summer squash, sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
4 cups veggie broth
3 cups water
1 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour (I used spelt)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
2 tsp liquid aminos
salt & pepper to taste

Saute carrots, onion, pepper and squash in 2 tbsp olive oil until moderately soft. Blend until smooth, then set aside. Boil potatoes in remaining olive oil, veggie broth and water in a dutch oven or stock pot until potatoes are soft. Mash some, leaving chunks but not huge pieces of potato. While potatoes are cooking, heat butter in sauce pan over medium heat. When butter is melted, add flour and stir until bubbly and smooth. Stir in milk, cream, mustard, liquid aminos and stir occasionally until mixture bubbles and becomes uniform and smooth. Pour blended veggies into potatoes and then pour sauce into soup and stir until evenly mixed. Serve with fresh bread.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

caramel apples on a rainy day

After the heat wave that feels like it's lasted for months, we finally received some autumnal weather today. It was, of course, accompanied by rain so we were mostly stuck inside, but the open windows and cool damp breeze were heavenly after the upper 90s of the last week.

Since we had some time on our hands this afternoon, we decided to make some caramel apples with part of the bounty from our apple picking. We pounded some craft sticks in the bottom of a dozen apples (using the bottom of a coffee mug as our hammer).

Then we made the caramel using this recipe. (FYI: This was my first experience using a candy thermometer. I've always shied away from using them, without my grandmother nearby, after hearing all her advice about fudge, like "wait for a cold, clear day". The whole thing seems very specific which, in my mind, translates to "you're definitely going to mess up since you don't follow recipes or directions very well". I have to say it wasn't nearly as scary an experience as I had made it out to be in my head.)

Also, about that recipe, letting the caramel cool to 180° was too much I think. I ended up having to reheat the caramel a bit because it became a big lump that we couldn't roll the apples in. I think next time, I'll pull the pot off the burner and let it cool to 200° then put it on the burner turned as low as the burner will go to keep the caramel from cooling too quickly while we're rolling the apples. The kids were thrilled though so all was well. :)

While their apples cooled enough to eat, they decided to ignore the dripping sky and frolic in the cool, autumn day. They looked so silly in shorts and raincoats and a combination of water shoes, rain boots and snow boots. Whatever works, I guess!

And then I caught them all jumping in the same puddle!

Finn couldn't let them have all the fun in his beloved puddle.

The apples ended up being the perfect after-playing-in-the-rain treat.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

our Michaelmas festival

Earlier today, our little festival group that has formed over the last year celebrated Michaelmas. We celebrated our God-given gift of inner strength in defeating our own personal dragons. All of our activities centered around the idea of inner strength as traditionally Michaelmas was considered the beginning of fall and much strength would be required to sustain life through the winter.

We jousted on balance logs,

balanced on planks across rolling logs,

walked across the balance logs,

and threw javelins through grapevine wreaths. What mighty warriors we have in our group!

My contribution to the festival was to help the kids make two loaves of dragon bread. Before the festival, I mixed 1 1/2 recipes of the dragon bread from the book, Baking Bread with Children. I divided the kids into two groups, one for each dragon. Each of the kids shaped the body part of their choosing. Then we added pumpkin seeds as spikes down the body and tail of the dragon.

We also had a crown making station for all of our royal/knight folk to dress up.

And, as usual, the backyard creek was quite a draw for the older kids.

The little ones stuck close to the bean bag toss. Watching those beanbags disappear into the clown is quite amusing!

After some snacks, including this dragon made from sliced veggies,

and a bit more sword-fighting,

we debuted the finished dragon bread. This really is such a lovely recipe for shaping bread. My kids are already asking if we can make other things from another batch of this bread.

Look at that fierce loaf of bread!

After an organized game of Jennie serenading us with her violin,

while the rest of the folks paired off and walked in a circle, one of each pair in each circle,

Jennie would stop playing and say something like riding a horse, and the pairs had to find each other then one had to be a horse and the other a rider as quickly as possible.

When the game was finished, we enjoyed the fruit of our bread-making labors. The pumpkin in the bread paired nicely with both honey butter and apple butter. Delicious!

What a wonderful treat it was to spend an amazing afternoon with friends celebrating Michaelmas!

Friday, September 24, 2010

{this moment} - caught red handed

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. See Soulemama to play along.

*new books up at The Book Children*

Thursday, September 23, 2010

welcoming autumn

In celebration of autumn's arrival, we've done some sprucing up in our family room area including restocking our seasonal book basket. Finn was thrilled to see old favorites return to the basket. This might be the first season he remembers and was excited to see books from the previous year. We also had a few thrifted books join the pile during the year, so there were a couple of new autumn books in the basket as well. I'm sure I'll be sharing some of them over at The Book Children in the coming weeks. :)

We also did a bit of rearranging to our nature table. Finn is convinced the apple picking card has overstayed it's welcome since apple picking is old news. I love that card though so I convinced him to let it stay another week or two.

Since 3 of our kids are elementary school aged, we decided to try something new on the nature table by adding a verse or poetry card pertaining to a celebration or event during the month. Since we'll be celebrating Michaelmas in the next week, I made a verse card using Rev. 12:7 and a painting of St. Michael slaying the dragon from the Bardini Museum in Florence. (You can print a copy of the card here if you'd like one for yourself.)

Since we are now keeping 2 cards at the nature table, we needed another card-holding option. I found these lovely birch branch holders on etsy, and they fit the bill perfectly.

Of course they came as a pair so I'll have to find the perfect use for the second birch card holder.

Finn's acorn and pinecone bits rounded out our autumnal changes. A perfect reflection of late September, I think.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WIP Wed & happy autumn!

My new autumn socks were completed just in time for autumn's (90 degree) arrival. Ok, so I may not actually wear them for another few weeks until the temperatures cool down around these parts, but I'm happy to have them done anyway. Besides, you can see the slightest hint of color in the foliage in my backyard, right? Well, if you squint and cock your head just right, maybe...

You may remember that this has been sort of a WIP that has lasted many months, but I'm working on making each of the boys a pair of felted slippers. Finn's and Paulie's were finished a while ago, but I had yet to make Philip a pair. Felting can be such a tricky thing. They never turn out exactly how I think they will, which is part of the charm, I guess. I made these gray slippers just a bit smaller than Paulie's since, despite the fact they are 3 years apart in age, Philip is only slightly smaller in size than Paulie. Well, somehow they turned out a bit bigger than Paulie's pair; they actually fit me! So...I think I may switch the buttons/decoration on their pairs and give them each a little bit of growing room.

Philip's obsession with Legos in mind, I decided to find a way to make him a pair of Lego slippers. I realize the contradiction in attaching a little plastic decoration to a nice pair of felted wool slippers, but I'm willing to overlook a wee bit of contradiction for a pair of slippers that will be well-loved and hopefully well-worn.

Enter the button shanks, left over from Elizabeth's rainbow bag. I glued those little suckers on the back of 2 Lego men and now we have Lego buttons. The best part of this fabulous idea, in my humble opinion, is that the button shanks are only attached to the torso on the men which means that Philip can switch out heads, glasses, hats, pants, or anything else he desires when he wants to give his slippers a bit of a new look.

Since my socks came off the needles, I decided to start a new pair of socks for Finn using Panda Wool yarn (which has been discontinued since I purchased it). I love the slight blue/white varigation and think these will be sturdy, warm socks for the fall and winter. Have I mentioned how much more quickly I can knit his small socks?

New posts up at The Book Children!