Saturday, March 31, 2012

Easter dish towels

I had some leftover fabric from making the pillowcases the other day, and I thought they would be perfect to dress up some plain flour sack towels that I had lurking about.

To make this very easy and fast, I added the boarder the same way I do for the pillowcases (tutorial here), just making sure that the boarders are wider than the towel - the final product should be about 1/2 in wider.  Then I tucked the boarder edges inside and ironed firmly so they would keep their shape. Lastly, I top stitched all the way around the boarder which closed up the ends and added a decorative touch.

Friday, March 30, 2012

lime marmalade

I am head over heals about lime marmalade.  The first time I had it was when my mom purchased it for me from the Pomeroy House while I was in college. This tea house and gift shop was the to go to place for my next fix on this wonderful stuff.  It is unfortunately no longer around, which left me longing fruitlessly for it.  I figured the only way I could ensure a steady supply was by making my own.

Once again Blue Ribbon Preserves came to the rescue with the perfect lime marmalade recipe.  Seriously, the marmalade section of her book rocks.  I keep hearing about how other don't like marmalades.  I do understand this, as I didn't like them either until I tried the lime version.  This is still a marmalade and has that unique flavor, but it isn't bitter, and the lime is so tart and refreshing!  I started wading in making batches of different types and by learning how to keep the bitterness at bay, I have become a true marmalade-holic.  Still, the lime marmalade remains my all time favorite, and like any junkie, I am relieved to know that I can keep the supply coming.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Easter pillowcases

When I made St. Patty's pillowcases for the kids, I was surprised at how excited they were over them, and A. asked if I could make them for every holiday.  The sounded like a fun idea, and for two such appreciative connoisseurs, how could I say no?  I let them pick out their own pillowcase combinations and here are the results:

J.'s pillowcase

A.'s pillowcase

Of course, I wanted to try out my own combination after their's turned out so well.

I never get tired of making these.  They whip up so fast, don't take much fabric, and it is so fun choosing the colors and patterns.  J. asked if there are any other holidays before the 4th that would need pillowcases.  I can't think of any, but I'm sure we could come up with some reason or another to make one or two more before then.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

marshmallow yummm

The other day, Mom found a marshmallow recipe and wanted to try it out.  I'm not sure, but I think a shopping trip in Portland might have prompted her in this direction.  We had gone to a few boutiques, and found bags of marshmallows at $10 each.  Yikes!

With recipe in hand, we went to work.  Our first batch was coconut flavored - they are the white ones below.  These are wonderful!  We messed up the directions a wee bit - you can see that they are half the fluffiness of the yellow guys.  Still, they taste most excellent.

The second round are the yellow vanilla ones.  These taste like a typical marshmallow, only they melt in your mouth.  We cut them into chick shapes - still need a final dusting in the picture.

The last batch made is strawberry flavored.  They became bunnies like the coconut ones, and eggs as well.
Think they'll make it to Easter?

The favorites depend on who you are asking:
Me - coconut
J. - strawberry
A. - vanilla   update - strawberry is his favorite now
Big J. - undecided
Mom - coconut, but she hasn't tried the strawberry yet, so that may change

I can't believe how easy, and how fast marshmallows are to make.  I'm now thinking peppermint ones for cocoa.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

easter necklaces

I ran across a most fantastic egg necklace craft on Etcetorize, and knew I had to make it.  Mom came up, and we went to work.  I followed her tutorial with only a few minor differences.  The first was I didn't have styrofoam to stick the pinned eggs into for painting, glittering, and varnishing.  While lamenting on this obstacle, Mom suggested using marshmallows.  This saved the day.  The second difference was I decided to use varnish from my tole paints instead of Modge Podge.  Mainly because I am impatient and the varnish dries faster.
We couldn't decide which colors we liked best.  When one of us painted, the other wanted that color too!  But now, we are covered - no matter what Easter outfit we choose, we have the matching egg!  Then, we made more to give away to friends/family.  I think they will be delighted to have one of these, don't you?

Ready to go!  Simply slip a silver chain thru the egg hoop, and you are glammed up for Easter!

Monday, March 26, 2012

lavender lemonade

At the beach, there is a place that serves lavender lemonade, and it's a favorite of ours.  I've been jonesing for this lately, and decided to see if I can find how to make it on the web.  Boy, I've been behind the times!!  There are innumerable sites for how to make the syrup.  After reading all the variations, I tried a combination of the two most common recipes (and I'm sure mine is probably already out there as well).   It turned out so incredibly good! So while this is nothing new, I decided to post my discovery.

One thing I did learn was to cut the sugar in half in my lemonade recipe, otherwise the combination is too sweet.
Even better than it looks!
Lavender Syrup:

1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup dried lavender flowers

1) Mix all ingredients in a saucepan, and dissolve sugar over medium-low heat
2) Once sugar is dissolved, bring to a boil, and then simmer 10 minutes
3) Strain and serve

If you want a nice dark color, steep your mixture with the lavender in overnight, or you can add food coloring.
If you want to purchase it and not fuss, Monin makes a fabulous lavender syrup (this is the brand we had at the beach), along with many other flavors that I am now dying to try out.

Lemonade - on the tart side:
1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
5 cups water

Lavender Lemonade:
add 3 TBSP lavender syrup to your glass of lemonade.  Can add less or more to taste.

While perusing sites, I found people are using the syrup for soda (just add sparkling water), cocktails, over ice cream and pancakes, and in recipes.  I'm sure that I am going to have to try some of these great ideas out!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

finally, a worthy platform on which to stand

 Until today, I was stuck standing on an everyday table cloth, amongst the other chicks.  Life was a dull, humdrum experience with nothing to look forward to besides the occasional toast crumbs that fell nearby.

Then today, a lovely exotic saucer appeared.  After eyeing the hand-painted details, the gilded edge, and the fineness of the porcelain, I took it for a test drive.  I found it suited me and the quality I demand to a T.   The flower colors even matched the one in my hat.

As pretty as it looked, I had to assure myself that it was up to  my standards, so I checked the bottom.  This brand will do nicely, yes indeedy.  At long last, I have a place to rest that compliments my refined tastes. No longer must I endure the embarrassment of sharing crumbs with the common clucks.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

place mats

This week, Washington Grange invited us to join in their community service project where they decorated disposable place mats for nursing homes.  We did Mother's Day and Father's Day mats totaling to 400+. Many hands made it a quick project, and we were fed lunch to boot!

The grange did this project before and had positive feedback about how much the residents liked looking at the photo-decorated place mats while they had their meal.  

The boys really enjoyed participating and I was asked several variations of "Do you think she/he will like this?" as they picked pictures to use on the mats. 

The boys and I chit chatted about what community service projects they would be interested in volunteering for.  J. is very insistent about working with the Loaves and Fishes group - and in particular wants to be assigned a time to deliver meals.  Both have decided to grow a special garden this year and deliver the produce to the local food bank. I like their ideas, and I'm just as excited as they are to see what we can do about meeting these goals.

Friday, March 23, 2012

tired of snow pics yet?

 This is what I woke up to yesterday morning.  Measured at about 3 inches.  The land was so pretty with the blanket of snow.  While I was out snapping these photos, I heard a hummingbird whiz by.  It went straight to my feeder for a morning snack.  He was such a bright splash of color with this background, but he was gone before I thought of trying to take a picture.

Today, all the snow is gone, and the sun is shining brightly in a robin egg sky.  
I love spring.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

pizza making field trip

Vancouver Pizza opened it's doors early this week to host a great homeschooling field trip.  Once the kids were all assembled, the workers had each one wash their hands and don on aprons for a tour of the kitchen.  There they learned how the business makes pizzas and all the steps that go into it.  They saw a pizza being made, the ovens to cook pizza, the giant dough mixer and can opener, and the walk in refrigerator.  Through all the steps, the workers explained the process and answered questions.

After the tour, all the kids got the opportunity to make their own individual pizzas in the kitchen, and then munch them in the dining area.

This was a fun, hands on field trip.  A's favorite parts were making the pizza and the giant can opener.  J liked the walk in refrigerator. After trying the tasty pizzas out, we agreed that we need to come here for dinner soon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

We have had our fifth snow for the month this past week.  Crazy, huh! Over the weekend, the fourth snowfall came, but it didn't stick.  I did get a photo of A. catching flakes in his mouth on that snow.

Monday, we woke up to this landscape greeting up.  The official, and sticking fifth snowfall.  It has all melted away now, but according to the weather report, there is the potential of more this evening. 

Both photos taken outside my kitchen door.  The top is the grounds, and the bottom is of the trees directly above.

I love snow, but it sure is making gardening difficult!  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

movie goers

The boys have not been big on going to the movie theater.  In fact, we have received quite a bit of resistance when suggesting such an outing.  When we have taken them to a children's show, and have been sure of the success due to their reaction to the show, the act of going to the theater itself was still eschewed.  Comments of uncomfortable chairs, sticky floors, not being able to pause the show to get a snack or go to the restroom, and no blankets to snuggle under have abounded.

With the history standing as such, I was very surprised when the boys directly asked to be taken to the movies so that they could see The Lorax.  With a quick call to James about his work schedule,  the event was arranged.  We met for an evening show, and it was wonderful.   Everyone enjoyed it - sticky floors and everything!

Maybe the kids are now at the age where they will start to enjoy the movie theater experience.  Or maybe, Dr. Suess's magic is irresistible as always.

Monday, March 19, 2012

skirt in green

perfect for twirly days

You might have remembered from a previous post that I have been playing around with Indygo's skirt pattern.    Once again, the skirt design is simple, which leaves you to enjoy the fun of combining colors.  This one is very bright, and it seems to fit springtime.  Next combination - blue!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

a fun packed weekend

St. Patty's weekend was happening down here in a big way.  We had Grandma and Grandpa Zimmerman come and spend the weekend at our house, as well as a friend of the kids.  With our inflated numbers, we were a force to be reckoned with as we descended on my mom's to celebrate the holiday.
At her house, we had tons of good food, drink, and company, and like all good parties, it went on until bedtime (which for me is considerably earlier than others, so it might be more clear to say we left around 9ish). Once home the entire gang pretty much crashed within the hour.

Who knew so much fun could tire a body out?  But the rest was good, as Sunday, we were fully recharged to hit the town after a relaxing breakfast.  Off to Portland we went for a dim sum lunch in Chinatown, and spent the afternoon shopping, where among other things, I got the cutest bunny plates from Pottery Barn, or more to point, Mom picked them up for me as a birthday present. Of course, I couldn't resist getting some matching bowls.

To end such a perfect weekend, on the way home we enjoyed a stunning view of mist in the trees.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day favors

My mom is hosting a big St. Patrick's Day celebration at her place today, so I decided to add the the festivities by making some party favors.  First, I thought I'd make them for the kids only, but then changed my mind and went ahead and made them for everybody.  Most of us are big kids anyways (at least I am!), and everyone like chocolate, right?

I used the great printable from One Charming Party for the bag topper.  These were so fun and fast to make and I love how they turned out.  I can see many other treat bag possibilities that I just know I will have to try some of them out on other holidays.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Arthur was relieved that there were leftover chocolates to sample.

Friday, March 16, 2012

St. Patrick's Day pillowcases

The kids have been getting into the spirit of St. Patty's day.  There has been decorations made and hung, lucky bugs made, green attire purchased, and green menu items planned.  With them all abuzz for everything green and Irish, I made these pillowcases to add to the holiday cheer.  And just in the nick of time!  Hopefully it will add luck to their dreams.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

chocolate wine?

The other day, a friend was talking about some Chocolate Wine she and her daughter had tried.  I was revolted at the entire concept of it, but she talked about how good it was, and how she doesn't even like wine, etc.

Well, what was I to do?  I took my revolted self straight to the store and bought a bottle.

The verdict - not for me.  It tasted like chocolate, and wine (go figure), but the combination didn't strike right.  As I had it at room temperature, I decided to stick it in the fridge and see if that helped.  Nope, still like chocolate milk gone bad.

Maybe this needs to accompany something specific, instead of alone like I tried.  I don't think my taste-buds are up for the challenge of pairing it with different fruits/chocolates/cheeses/whatever.  But, if any of you are adventurous enough to do so and come up with a good combination, I'd love to hear about it.

Next question, how tacky is it to give my friend who loves this wine my partially used bottle?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

egg hunting comes early

I have some very prim and proper ladies that habitually lay eggs in the coop, in the exact same spot without fail.  I also have some wild ladies that prefer the great outdoors for their favorite sporting event - hide the egg.  Let me tell you - these players are good, and are racking up points in their favor.  I know some of the favorite hiding spots (point for me!), but others are all too elusive (point for them!)

This batch was recently found on top of our North bank, very close to the base of a fir.  The boys found the clutch while trying to extract a Frisbee from said conifer.  I can just hear the ladies talking among  themselves:  "Let's see how many eggs we can lay here before our feeder notices!".  Yep, major points for them with this pile.

Doesn't this area look innocent?  Nothing here to see, right?

A bit of weed whacking from Big Jamey reveled another hiding place.  Again, score for the clucks!

And today while gardening outside, Miss. Buff ran by me making lots of noise letting me know that she laid an egg...somewhere on the hillside.  The hunt is on.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

rosemary olive oil buns

perks up any ordinary day

There is a huge rosemary bush in my mom's flower bed at the beach, and it continually grows out over the lawn where the mower needs to go.  When I go visit, I trim these branches and bring home bunches of fresh, fragrant rosemary that I can't wait to put to use.  These buns are a perfect example.  Very light and savory, and so enjoyed that I always double the batch to keep up with the grabbing hands.

Rosemary Olive Oil Buns - makes 6 good sized buns

1 cup warm water
1 TBSP sugar
2 1/4 tsp. yeast (or .25 oz package)
1 tsp. salt
2 TBSP. rosemary, chopped up
2 TSP butter, melted
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 TBSP olive oil, plus more for coating the bowl and brushing on the buns
Vegetable oil spray
Kosher salt

1) Add the warm water, sugar, and yeast in a mixing bowl and stir
2) When the above mixture is foamy, add the salt, butter, and rosemary, stir
3) Add flours and mix well (use dough hook if using stand alone mixer)
4) While the dough is mixing, add the olive oil - this should cause the dough to pull away from bowl
5) Let dough mix about 1-2 minutes if using mixer, otherwise knead well
6) Pour more olive oil in a bowl, place dough in bowl and then flip so both sides are coated
7) Cover until doubled in size
8) Divide dough into 6 pieces and tuck ends underneath twice to make a ball shape, place on greased, or Silpat covered baking sheets
9) Spray buns with vegetable spray and slash an X through the tops with a sharp knife, let sit 15-20 minutes
10) Preheat oven to 375 F, and bake buns until golden brown
11) Immediately, brush the buns with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt

Monday, March 12, 2012

potato planting

This past Sunday, we planted some potatoes that were saved from last year's harvest.  We used an area that we burned  branches on.  Using this trick on potatoes last year with much success.  With the weeds burned away and a good layer of ash, the ground is easy to work with, and ready to give nutrients to the plants.
Of course, no garden project can slide past the vigorous inspections led by our farm managers, Flower and Snow Bear.

Snow Bear guarding the freshly planted Red Norlands, Pontiacs, and Yukons.

After some deep thought, both the farmer and the manager agreed: Mulch was needed to protect from upcoming frosts.  And fencing was needed, too.  Can't trust those chickens to stay out (or possibly, an over-eager doggy digger, but we won't mention that!).

I have been asked why spend the effort planting a crop that is so cheap to buy at the store.  The answer is simple - the flavor is so much better than what you will find at the store.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

a great visit

This weekend we had Northerners appear.  Grandpa Ward and his longtime friend Margaret Mitchell came down to visit us.  Of course, this gave us the perfect excuse to whip up a great meal and enjoy it with even better company.  And, a meal wouldn't be complete without dessert - specifically Grandma Elynor's famous Lemon Meringue Pie.  A couple of years ago, Arthur requested this recipe from her, and she mailed it to him, with plenty of hints and tips to ensure that it turned out.  When Arthur found out about the upcoming visit, he insisted that we make the pie to celebrate the occasion.

A great meal, some pie, wonderful conversation, a card game (Grandpa won!), and spending the day with such fine company made us regret it ending so soon.  But luckily for us, we have made plans for a future get together, and of course, some more pie.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Young People's Concert

For this week's field trip, we went and saw a concert specially designed for children put on by the Oregon Symphony.  They talked about how composers come up with pieces using various tools to help express moods and create images in the mind.  

They played Beethoven's 5th Symphony and highlighted how the piece was created around the famous four notes.  Then, they talked about what makes a fugue piece, and how Hayden added humor to his 93rd symphony (near the end of a very light and delicate piece, one of the wind instruments made a very loud, deep sound that closely resembled a fart).  At the end of the performance, they showed how a composer even took the common folk song When Johnny Comes Marching and made an entire piece around it.

It was such a highlight to get to go to the performance.  We learned so much and enjoyed the wonderful melodies.  During the performance, Arthur leaned over and whispered "This is amazing!".  That's exactly how I felt.

Friday, March 9, 2012

tangerine marmalade

The next marmalade I decided to make was tangerine marmalade.  This is so very good.  One surprise is so far, it hasn't really set.  I'll give it another day and see if it does.  This same thing happened to me with my sour cherry jam - it was runny for a few days so I wrote "Cherry Sauce" on the jars, only to have it set later into a nice, thick jam.

If this doesn't set, then I have a really wonderful sauce for my brioche style french toast.  If it does, I might just have to make another "saucy" batch, now that I can't quit thinking about french toast.

Tangerine is great, but the Lemon is winning the campaign at Fort Bale.

Still on my marmalade to do list - Lime Marmalade (my personal favorite), and Sour Cherry Marmalade.  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

lemon marmalade and farm style scones

This week I decided to take advantage of the great citrus prices and make some marmalade.  This marmalade is made from Meyer Lemons, and is tart and tangy, and delicious.  I followed the recipe in Blue Ribbon Preserves which has a wonderful marmalade section.  

The trick to getting a great marmalade that isn't so bitter, is to make sure there is no pith.  Use the zest only, and remove fruit from the membranes completely.  Time consuming, but worth the effort.

We decided that we needed some scones to try out the marmalade on.

Lemony Goodness

Scones - Farm Style

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 & 3/4 tsp. baking powder
6 TBSP. butter
3/4 cup buttermilk (or regular milk)

1) Preheat oven to 450 F
2) Mix the flours and baking powder.  Cut in the butter
3) Add milk all at once and stir until mixture leaves the sides of the bowl
4) Roll out on lightly floured surface and cut into scones (I used a water glass)
5) Bake about 15 minutes, until lightly browned

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

tea time

I want to share another great find from my weekend at the beach with Mom. This is a sweet ceramic tea set that I think any little girl would love to have, and I have a particular one in mind with an upcoming birthday.  It has 5 teacups and saucers, 5 dessert plates, a teapot, sugar and cream, a covered casserole-like dish, a platter, and what appears to be a gravy boat, but I'm not certain.

I can imagine many happy hours having tea with dolls and stuffed animals.  Mom came up with the cutest idea to  bake some tiny little cookies for the platter!  I can't wait to try that out.  Really, I think I'm more excited about the set than anyone!