homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A thousand words

It’s been a busy week, and so much of it has been worthy of gorgeous photo documentation. Which, naturally, means that I was sans camera for most of it. Try to imagine the following scenes, if you will. These descriptions will have to stand in for the pictures that were apparently not meant to be.

A family: Mom, Dad, two small children, digging potatoes in the garden. Dad turns over the loose, dark dirt with a shovel and the children scramble for the buried treasure. Some of the spuds are freakishly big; others are tiny and adorable. The children are filthy and happy. Later, witness the home-grown potatoes in a creamy chicken stew, along with Italian beans and stewed tomatoes from the same patch of earth.

Same family: at a casual lunch at the Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh. Stained glass, aged wood, vaulted ceilings. Giant steel vats standing where an altar once did. Wood fired, brick oven baked pizza, butter-drenched pierogies, dark and fruity beer. Dad helps the younger child solve the word-search on his placemat as Mom and the older child discuss religious art and whether it’s time to enjoy the chocolate Mom stashed in her purse earlier.

Black raspberry pie, warm from the oven. Steam vents cut in the shape of a heart.

A small boy in intense concentration over arrangements of building toys. He patiently explains the creations to his mother: carnival swing ride, CD player, animal hospital, pizza oven. His brother joins in and the two of them transform the living room into two neighboring kingdoms, populated by plastic animals. They each boast heavy armament but are apparently allies. They team up to defeat an enemy from the sea.

A trip to a yarn shop. A wall of Cascade 220 arranged in a rainbow spectrum. Ladies of various ages relaxing on comfy couches, working and chatting. Steaming mugs of tea on a gray and rainy day. Two children laughing as they watch the yarn transformed from a loose hank to a tight ball. They play-fight over who gets to crank the winder and who gets to keep the swift from spinning too fast.

A box of Halloween costumes, emptied of contents. The living room covered ankle-deep in wigs, hats, robes, accessories. The children fight over the horse costume, and gallop around, teasing the dog. Later, the youngest accompanies his parents on a shopping trip in full Sonic the Hedgehog regalia, much to the delight of a friendly clerk.

I’m not even halfway to those fabled “thousand words” that these images should inspire, but the memories have already filled my heart and mind. <3

Monday, September 27, 2010

Apron Monday: Faded Beauty

This lovely lady has seen better days. She's stained. And faded. And there's a little tear at the pocket that is patiently awaiting repair. I've never worn her (she came to me via an estate sale lot), but I can't bear to part with her because she's simple and pretty all at once.

If I *were* to wear this apron, it of course would be relegated to "hostess" the thin fabric and small coverage make it impractical for Messy Me. But that's beside the point. She's for lookin' at, not for workin' hard. And though she's past her prime, I still appreciate her. <3

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumn is here!

It's here! It's finally here! It's officially Fall!

Well, on the calendar anyway. You'd hardly know otherwise. The trees aren't any less green than they were last week. And it's actually a little bit hotter than last week as well. But it's finally, officially FALL!

Unlike all of those people who bemoaned the "end of summer" way back on Labor Day weekend, I look forward to the vernal equinox like most people look forward to Christmas. Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. There are aesthetic reasons of course...the beauty of the brilliant foliage, the warm days flanked by crisp nights, crackling bonfires and sweet apples and pick-your-own-pumpkin farms. It's all charming enough. But it's more than that. Something within me resonates with Autumn. I feel more alive, more peaceful, and more centered this time of year. Some people "rush the season" by donning shorts on the first day of above-50 temps in the spring, regardless of whether there is still snow on the ground. Me? I pack away the shorts and sandals and ignore the fact that for a few more weeks, I'll likely be sweating in my "fall" wardrobe. Autumn comes and I want to run outside and sing a joyful welcome song with the rest of the Whos down in Whoville.

Welcome Autumn
Fah who rah-moose
Welcome Autumn
Dah who dah-moose
Welcome Autumn
While we stand
Heart to heart
And hand in hand...

(Yeah. I'm a first-rate nerd. I'm okay with that.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In Which I Find My Optimism Inexplicably Restored

I decided to sew this week.

Mind you, this wasn't a new venture. I've sewn before. Quite a lot, actually. But in recent years, that hobby has fallen by the wayside. There are so many reasons; foremost amongst them being the double whammy of the fact that (for me, at least) sewing tends to require a lot of both time and space. For "time", see my children (and, ahem, the housework which I habitually ignore until it becomes overwhelming). For "space", see my "studio", aka The Dining Room Table.

No, Crafty-Blog snobs, I do not have the standard fancy self-healing cutting mat.
I use an old-fashioned cardboard jobby. It's second-hand and it's covered in scribbles. And I love it to pieces.
It's difficult to really get into a project when one is interrupted by countless requests, questions, needs, and minor emergencies and then, whaddyaknow, it's time for another meal and the space must be evacuated. I swear, I spend more time setting things up and packing it all away than I do actually sewing.

Between the birth of my first and second children, I used to sew "after bedtime". Then we welcomed C into our lives. This child has (and has always had) the lowest sleep requirements of anyone I've ever met. Rare is the night that I get him to sleep before 11 pm. Rarer still is the phenomenon of me having any ability to remain conscious beyond his final surrender to slumber.

But this week, I threw caution to the wind. The kids were happily Otherwise Engaged, so I pulled out some stuff and got to work.

A sane person might have picked up a pre-cut project from the "in progress" bin. But a less sane person knows that New Projects are always far more exciting. And what better to get back into a favorite craft than by using a notoriously tricky raw material?

Oh yes, I am talking about the dreaded Stretchy Fabric.

I've worked with this a number of times before. Almost all...okay, ALL...of these adventures involved some crying and a fair amount of swearing. Stretchy Fabric is evil stuff. Plain old cotton knits are tricky enough, but throw a four-way stretch Lycra onto your feed dogs and you'll question everything from your skill level to your mental capacity. And you may even hear your 6-year-old saying helpful things like, "Just walk away and calm down!" Good advice, and yes...I took it.

There are tricks. I know them all. As I worked on this project, I realized that I'd forgotten a few. I spent a lot of time readjusting everything imaginable and taking picture after picture of skipped stitches and looped threads because, frankly, disasters are FAR more entertaining to blog.

But I slogged through. And although I'm disappointed on the microscopic level, as long as you're standing at a great enough distance to not inspect the topstitching (in fact, if you are that close, you are engaging in a major violation of my personal space!), I think it turned out pretty darn well.

Before I present the final product, I'll follow at least some of the sewing blog conventions by showing you the inspiration piece:
Not my typical style At. All. I bought this on clearance, without even trying it on.
 It looks fabulous on me. You'll have to take my word on that. ;)
the pattern I used:

and discuss how I modified it. That is, I shortened it to make it into a blouse rather than a dress, and I cut the sleeves to 3/4 length because, well, that's my favorite.

Okay, enough chitchat. Look what I made!

As you well know from my recent over-analysis of a certain pair of knit hats, I am beyond my own worst critic. I'm also aggressive in my sharing of this criticism, whether you want to hear it or not. So the fact that I am ignoring an entire set of photos documenting the errors of this piece speaks volumes. Despite all of the aggravation, I can't even muster up the energy to complain because I love the final product that much.

And that's saying a lot.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Apron Monday: Irony Optional

Hm. I almost subtitled this post "without irony", to echo Craftster's tagline: No tea cozies without irony, but then I got my mind all tangled trying to determine what that literally means as opposed to what it sarcastically (and ironically) means and then...oh, forget it. This IS ironic, but in ways other than the maker most likely intended.

This apron was a gift from a friend and neighbor. I like its full coverage, and the kitschy quality of both the saying and, yes, the font. It screams early 80s. And "Women's Lib".

And that's where the irony starts to enter. My feelings are so conflicted that I hate to even use the "F" word. No, not that one. If it has four letters and rhymes with duck, I use it like a sailor. Ahem. No. I mean that -ism word. It's too fraught with emotion that seems to make people all attack-y, regardless of their stance. My own views are, as with most important life issues, constantly evolving. The best I can offer at this point is to say--at the risk of sounding like an Empowered Stripper--that while I do not believe that my life options should be limited to Kinder, Kuche, etc...I also think that this role, and my choice to fulfill it, is valuable.


So in that respect, I don't share the sentiment expressed on my torso, above. I don't see my college degree as being "wasted" simply because I'm in the kitchen, or home with my children instead of spending the bulk of my time with other adults with higher education backgrounds. (yawn)

On the other hand, I'm also an unschooling parent, who has many criticisms of the mass-production educational system. So I'm battling the question over whether I'd "do" my college years again. Do I think that college prepared me for life? Not really. Did I learn some neat stuff and have good experiences? Sure. Do I think that college prepared me for my career? Eh, somewhat...but not to the extent that I'd call it worth the tuition (which I am STILL paying off and probably will continue to well beyond my 40th birthday). So in a way, I'd be expressing that sentiment whether I was standing in my kitchen, or sitting in a cubicle.

So I mean it. And I don't mean it. And isn't that ironic?

Incidentally, is it just me or does the French braid make me look like Mrs. Goodkind?

Mmmmm. Mannish.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Poke-Head Redux: Redemption!

Yup. Second hat turned out much better.

The changes? First, I changed the manner in which I did the increases. I don't really dislike the way I did the first hat (which was as written out for top-down, no-swatch hat knitting as "Knitty Kat's Ponytail Pi Hat")...

X marks the spot.
but I thought a spiral might be fun too, so I spaced out my increase points and changed the clunky KFB to a more graceful LRINC.
(See, right now the knitters in the crowd are nodding and the non-knitters are all "What?" because of my super knowledgeable-looking abbreviations. Don't worry about it. It's really not important unless you suddenly feel inspired to try to recreate my experience, okay? I'm just making conversation.)

Next mod over the previous project: I extended the red section lower. When the hat is just lying around not decorating a head, it doesn't look quite right. But on someone?

Much better. A head isn't spherical, and a hat doesn't cover all of it. You have to fudge things to make the visual look a little less wonky and a lot more Poke-Ball-like.

Final two mods were finishing. I did a better job on the join of the i-cord, but neglected to take a picture. You'll have to take my word for it. Essentially, I did a mock kitchener...which is harder than it sounds, as half of my stitches were not "live". (Again...non-knitting friends, it's okay to tune out.)

The other finishing mod was that I gave up on trying to keep my duplicate stitches "fat" to try to cover the yarn underneath. Results?

A much-improved look. Less sloppy, certainly. Still not foolproof, alas, but if I wanted it to look perfect I would have thrown all caution to the wind and done it in intarsia. Not that the thought didn't cross my mind...

The hat-that-was-a-gift was a hit. The hat-that-was-for-solidarity was even more delightful. Here are T and his cousin, all matchy-matchy.

This is at least the fourth item I've made for them to match (I've sewn another hat and two pairs of jammies), and no one seems to be tiring of it. :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Food Friday: Yogurt Chicken

What? Chicken? I know, try not to fall over from shock. I realize that most of my cooking adventures involve baked goodies, but even I prepare a real meal every now and again. Although for the sake of fairness, this was baked too. It just didn't involve sugar or cinnamon or fresh fruit. Oh man, anyone else hungry for dessert?


We eat a lot of chicken around here, and frankly it can get pretty damn boring. I needed something beyond my typical repertoire, and I was sick to death of frying. (Dear Hubby takes major offense to the methods of boil/broil/bake, alas.) Surely there has to be some way to bake some skinless breasts without drying them out.

I found the recipe for Yogurt Chicken on SparkRecipes, although you really should go view the original post and tutorial at the site of the author, Ree Drummond (of PioneerWoman fame). Her visual and verbal storytelling make me giddy with delight. No, really. They do.

My version of the same:

First I prepared the yogurt. Garlic, check. Parsley, go. Lemon? Oh damn. No lemons. Oh well, that leaves room for extra garlic, right? Plus I was using homemade yogurt from local raw milk so I surely get some self-righteous points there, to balance out my incomplete ingredient list.

Garlic yogurt. Actually, quite *yum*.
Next, I had to contend with my pantry's lack of Panko breadcrumbs. Enter modification #2. For lack of a better name, we'll call these "Leftover bread heels pulverized in the blender". Sounds appetizing, no??

Then, the assembly! And here is why, although I cook several meals a day every day (I swear, I do!), I rarely blog meal food. When I'm involved, baking can be messy. But cooking can be a downright disaster. Tongs? Who the hell can get good coverage with tongs?

My hands are clean and besides, my family has a natural immunity to Mom-cooties just by virtue of prolonged exposure.

And this is what my kitchen looked like partway through the process.

Not exactly a showcase. You can see not only all of the stuff from the current experiment, but WTH is that canola oil bottle doing there? That's not even in the recipe! I'll tell you...I left it on the counter the night before and never bothered moving it. There. Now you know my dirty little secret. I'm lazy. Are you happy? I admitted it!! LAZY!!

(Shut. Up.)

So, my little soldiers were all dressed and ready to bake.

And they came out looking like this:

It's the BLOB! Um. Some of the topping melted off.
The dog was very happy to help me clean the baking dish later. ;)
Which looked even more appetizing when presented with side dishes, like so:

But not as nice as the professional quality photos I've seen on many other blogs. Which is why I am a mere bumbling wannabe and they are the Goddesses of Blogdom.

By the way, this recipe was freakishly easy (albeit messy, but see above: that may just be a personality thing, LOL) and was universally enjoyed by all. Definitely one for the "make it again" files. Although for the record, mine was not at all *crispy*, as Ms. Drummond's title suggests, but tender with a softish coating. Maybe it was the fact that I used skinless cuts, but I suspect the true culprit was my cheap-ass breadcrumbs.

And lest you think I've gotten all crazy and put the kibosh on the sweets, I also finally tried my hand at Oopsey Daisy's Snickerdoodle Muffins.

No process story with this one; just a photo of the final product.

Mine look decidedly less cinnamon-y than the originals for a reason. I only used like 1/3 of the topping. What can I say...I covered the tops of the muffins. Then I covered them again. Then I decided that the measurements must be off, because the called-for ratio was practically as much topping per cup as batter. So I stopped topping. Then when I pulled them out of the oven, I had that "Oh!" moment when I realized how she got hers so dang crunchy-coating and sweet-looking.

Oh well. Subtle is good too, and they tasted just fine.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

FO: Poke-Head

Ah, Pokemon. Is it me, or is this the Fad that Would Not Die? When I first met my darling husband, his eldest son and many nieces/nephews were into Pokemon. Now, more than a decade later, there are still kids in the family who have fallen under the spell.

So I present, for our 7yo nephew...the PokeBall hat! (The pattern is free at Ravelry, courtesy of Sasha Stavsky.)

modeled by T
Now that it's done, I'm going to do my usual overly self-critical review. Sigh. First, I need to extend the red section down lower...don'tchyathink? Next, the black stripe was far too narrow for my "jogless stripe" trick to work invisibly. It's better than the jogs, but you can see where the K2tog's at the round join kind of pull.

Also, despite the fact that I recently told a friend that I no longer have problems with ladders when knitting in the round with DPNs...lookie here.

LADDERS! Okay, small ones. But they bug me.
The two things that bug me most, however, were the duplicate stitching (the circle/button on the black band) and the brim. The duplicate stitching was kind of a mess. Trying to put white on top of bold/dark colors is an invitation to frustration. If your tension matches the stitches beneath, you don't get full color coverage. If you loosen your tension, you get better coverage (but look below--still pretty shoddy!) plus an uneven, sloppy look. Blah.

What's wrong with the brim, you ask? Nothing at all...if you like a rolled brim. I'm not a big fan. Plus, if I had *wanted* a rolled brim, I would have just finished off in stockinette. I knit this hat from the top down, and decided to teach myself a new technique...the applied i-cord bind-off.

With the exception of my messy fudged-on-the-fly join (look directly above my wedding band. Yup. There it is.), I was VERY happy with the results of the i-cord bind-off. And I'll be fair, it *does* stay put if the wearer pulls the hat down, as T did in the first photo. So that's just a style issue.

All in all, I think that many of my "problems" were caused by fast work and crappy material. Every time I work with acrylic yarn, I swear Never Again. Then I consider that most gift recipients (especially mothers of small children) will likely not hand-launder and air-dry the final product, and I fear the ruin and heartbreak of unintended felting. And it's a long haul to my favorite LYS and frankly, it's easier to raid the craft cabinet for some crappy leftover acrylic than to drive to the other side of the city and shell out for the nice superwash. All the same, I'm convinced that if I did this project in good yarn, many of these issues would take care of themselves (ladders especially).

Now. Despite all of my bitching, I'm going to do this again. Immediately. No, really...I have the next hat cast on and sitting just to the left of my keyboard, staring me down. It seems that T needs to have a matching hat so he and his favorite cousin can be twins. And how can I refuse that?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Craft begets Craft begets Play

Or...the process of a typical day. ;)

I recently knit a pair of baby booties ("Baby Janes" from Wandering Cat Studio. Super easy and fast!) for a friend to give to her little God-daughter as a gift. I wanted them to look extra-nice (and to properly communicate the care instructions), so despite my lack of an Etsy storefront, I decided to go semi-pro and make a custom hang tag for them. I have some plain oak tag (OMG does that date me? Does anyone say "oak tag" anymore?) tags, but those looked a little too utilitarian. I'm not much of an artist, so how would I come up with something pretty?

Oh yeah! Repurposing!

I got out my handy-dandy cheapo paper cutter

(No hating or snobby scoffing, my scrapbooking friends.
That's not my craft, so this little jobby suits my needs just fine...)
and a hole punch, and turned a lovely birthday card into several even lovelier custom tags.

Naturally, the kids saw me using craft equipment and needed to get in on the act.

The cutter includes blades which make "stamp" edge shapes, perforations, etc. Before you could say "All Aboard", we had a nice collection of train tickets.

Which, naturally, led to the transformation of the living room couch into a passenger train. (We went to the Arctic Circle to see polar bears. Just in case you wondered.)

Oh, and incidentally, the finished booties looked like this. You may oooh and ahhhh now. ;)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lobster Bib

Um. Yeah.

It's a tea towel.

The only reason this qualifies as an apron is that someone sewed some ties to it to enable the wearing as such. But not gracefully. Unless you are shaped like a column. I refused to post a modeling picture of this one, but trust makes one look that way regardless of natural body shape. It's unflattering and uncomfortable.

But it gets the job done, so I guess it counts. Frankly, the only reason this one is in my collection is because it was part of a "lot" that I acquired from an estate sale.


One of the common reactions I've encountered when I say that I homeschool my children is some comment along the lines of "Don't you need a break?" or "I don't think I could be with my kids all day!"

Let's step back for a moment and recognize the assumption at work here. That is, that homeschooling your children means being with your children every minute of every day. This scenario is possible, but not probable. There are breaks; both natural and contrived. But I'm not here to talk about the struggle for balance (although in many areas of my life, that idea weighs heavily on my mind). Rather, I want to discuss the hyperbole of this kind of comment and the matching extremes of quick-judgement it often encourages in response.

Statement: "I don't think I could spend that much time with my kids!!"
Assumption #1: You nevereverever get any time apart from the children.
Assumption #2: This is always an unpleasant situation.
Fallout: If the homeschooling mother dares to express frustration or a desire for a little break, her non-homeschooling acquaintances invariably raise an eyebrow and say--either facetiously (from sarcastic good/supportive friends) or critically (from the negatively-biased)--"Well, you could send them to school..."

Wow, really? Imagine that--an easy solution to an intolerable and permanent problem! (snark)

You know what? That's right about up there with dismissing a stressed-out stepmother with a blithe "You knew what you were getting into." It's the kind of statement that blames someone for having the nerve to complain about a situation that she entered into voluntarily; as though when you make a choice you are contractually obligated to be 100% satisfied with all of the fallout of that choice for every second of the rest of your life. And if you have a stressful moment and--OMG--admit to it, must have made an error in choosing. (And how fortunate that the self-righteous are there to point it out.)

It's that kind of thinking that makes me want to bitch-slap someone. Few people would express this sort of sentiment to a parent of traditionally-schooled children who's feeling a little overstimulated on her kids' day off.

Or would they? Oh yes...there is an equal and opposite unfair criticism-missile commonly hurled from the homeschooling side of the fence.

Scenario: A mother of traditionally-schooled children who are on break expresses a desire for the school session to begin again. (My Facebook feed is full of these sentiments every August.)
Subtext (sometimes explicitly stated): I need some space and want my kids to go away!
Assumption: Your poor children; you find them annoying and unpleasant. You are a bad parent.
Reaction: The homeschooling mothers invariably respond--whether sotto voce amongst themselves, or directly (and rudely, btw) to the speaker--"Why did you even have children, if you don't want to be with them?"

Incidentally, this is the same refrain often echoed by attachment parents when we hear the word daycare. And yes, I just said "we". I'm guilty, too. And when I hear myself say it, I stop and think. I'm thinking enough now to admit to it, and that has to be a step toward a more enlightened path, right?

What I'm getting at here is a call to rational thought, and a plea for a little live-and-let-live. I'm going to make a few very honest statements now. Ready?

Parents of homeschooled children are not ALWAYS with their children. Stop pitying the parents.

Parents of traditionally-schooled children are not NEVER with their children. Stop pitying the children.

Being with your children for most of the day, every day, can be extremely rewarding.

Being with your children for most of the day, every day, can be extremely stressful.

Both of these feelings are natural, and it should be okay to admit to either of them without fearing attack.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tea. Earl Grey. Crispy.

I adore Earl Grey tea, and I'm not too proud to admit that it became a beloved treat precisely because of Patrick Stewart Jean-Luc Picard. I don't know enough about tea to be snobby about it; I just know what I like. And I like me some Earl Grey.

I recently stumbled across an old Real Simple magazine, and a recipe for Earl Grey Tea Cookies. These just had to be good. So I made 'em.

Yup. Decaf. And yup...teabags. Told you I wasn't a tea snob.

The recipe assumes that you'll be using a food processor. We tend to kill food processors around these parts, so I did it the old-fashioned way, with my beloved pastry blender.
I just want to note how difficult it is to take an action shot with your non-dominant hand.

 I will also note that the dough works up much like piecrust (dry ingredients, cold butter, small amount of liquid), and that I found it necessary to increase the amount of liquid (by almost a Tablespoon more water) in order to get a workable dough. I was concerned that the dough would not set up right in the fridge, or would produce a too-soft cookie, but everything turned out okay. ;)

The resulting dough looked kind of gray and dirty. Like a big lump of sidewalk.
Mmmmm. Appetizing.

The final product had a wonderful texture. I varied the baking time to produce one batch of chewy and one of crispy. Both were flaky and light, and incredibly tasty. I wasn't sure the children would appreciate the flavor, but they gobbled them up. The bergamot gives just a hint of citrus aftertaste without being overpowering. 

This recipe is definitely going in the "keeper" file.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A child after my own heart

Sometimes I upload my photos from the SD card and get a little "oh, the kids took my camera" surprise. Note this recent series.

This was the work of T (6). His explanation? "I was going to wear my new shoes in the woods and I wanted to remember what they looked like before they got dirty."

Okay, you know what? I totally get that. Yeah, maybe he's a bit neurotic. But I find it sweetly charming; and in no small part because in some ways he's so much like me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Nutcracker

Sigh. I love Christmas. And I love Tchaikovsky's music. But do you know what I love more?

Handmade gifts from loved ones. Like this holiday apron that my mother made for me a few years ago.

I also love small children poking me with sticks
while I try to strike a flattering pose in my not-flattering yoga pants.
It's no-frills; a simple butcher apron with a wide, deep pocket (love!) and a bias tape edging. Easy peasy. Probably a last-minute gift. But she made it just for me, not only for my infatuation with aprons but also so I'd have something festive to wear when I play hostess at our annual Christmas morning brunch.

"Look Mommy! It's a Y!"
also: detail of kitschy holiday characters. ;)
This apron is full of memories of Eggs Benedict and family togetherness. Actually, it is probably also full of stains from the former. But that just makes me love it more.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Food Friday: The Scones that Ate Pittsburgh

I know. I've been slacking on the Food Friday thing. Well, in my defense it is freaking miserable hot & humid and cooking makes me even hotter. And crankier. Lately I've subscribed to the fast-and-fuss-free method of preparing meals. I've even stopped making bread (a pretty routine chore) because the humid ick weather wreaks havoc with yeasty goodies. Blah.

Nevertheless, I did actually get all crazy stupid one day this week and decided to torment myself next to the oven. I made the aforementioned bread (although I had to pitch the first attempt at dough and start over...curse you, humidity!) and some all-day, from-scratch spaghetti sauce (from garden to table, baby!) and finally tackled the blackberry scone recipe recently featured in Craftzine. I had to make a few modifications (buttermilk for sour cream, black raspberries for blackberries), but when have I ever done things completely by the book?

My previous experience with scones was a drop-biscuit style, so the shaping of the dough was both a new trick for me and a feather in my cap that I was doing it the "right" and more authentic way. Folding the berries into the dough was tricky but do-able, and I managed to make a relatively decent-looking 8-inch (or so) round.

"Ta-da!" hand included for scale. You'll understand why later.
Then I had to cut it. And I refer back to the heat & humidity. This dough started behaving more like a semi-solid
Wet & gooey. That doesn't seem right.
and I barely managed to get the pieces onto the baking tray in any semblance of an intentional shape.

Now. The recipe indicates that the scones "will expand a bit". 

A bit.

How about like a mad scientist's wildest dreams?

Good GOD, man: they're GINORMOUS! Protect the children!
Yeah, they grew a bit.

Next time, I'll be shaping the dough into a nice long rectangle and making much MUCH smaller wedges. Each of these ended up (once cut) as 3-4 servings.

I will be making them again. They were a big (har har) hit with the kids. I thought they were okay...just not what I'd expected. Now, I will be the first to profess ignorance in the field of scones. I've never had one prepared by anyone other than myself, so I wouldn't know a good one from a bad one, unless it was actually unpalatable. However, in my now-vast experience of two styles, I can say that I prefer the drop-biscuit recipe much better. How can I explain this? These scones were soft and tender and fluffy--like buttermilk biscuits. And there's nothing wrong with that. But the others were dense and crummy and sweet--like Bisquick "shortcake" biscuits. And gourmands be damned; I grew up on the Bisquick and that sort of thing resonates with the comfort-food portion of my brain. <3

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hot Dog

This video is from a few weeks ago, but the sentiment is from today. It's hot. And animal videos are nearly always a win.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A child-led day

It's the last week before Labor Day Weekend, and temperatures are threatening to hit the 90s again. Yesterday, I suggested to the kids that we have a last hurrah at the local pool. And they said no!


Well, what do you want to do today?

We have a large local population of turkeys, many of which feed in our back yard and roost in the woods behind our house. T has spent the past few days finding and collecting feathers; especially the prized tail feathers. A few weeks ago (on another educational quest, which I have yet to blog, alas), I had taken him to the Nature Center at nearby South Park to seek some information and we spent some time looking at a small collection of taxidermy exhibits at the main Park Office. T remembered that they had a turkey. So his goal for the day was to go back to that office to investigate their turkey display.

I was so tickled about this.

He was curious, primarily, about how many tail feathers a typical Tom has. But instead of looking in a book or on the Internet (both of which would have geeked me out too), he wanted to get as close to the primary source as possible. I love the enthusiasm with which children naturally embrace scientific investigation. They do not think of it as drudgery or work...they still have that joy of investigating the world around them. This is a huge goal of mine with our unschooled life; to protect him from having that joy sucked right out of him by tests and dry lectures and assignments whose purpose is unclear.

But I didn't come here to proselytize. ;)

Fine. We went to poke the dead animals. And we had a pretty good time, too.

It's a beautiful bird. Lovely plumage!


White-tail deer skull with antler mutation. Freaky!