5 minute card

28 04 2010

Happy Birthday, honey!

Today was my wonderful husband’s birthday, and being a procrastinator, I did not have a card for the occasion.  Making a simple card is about the easiest craft there is, so that’s what we did.  To say that either child helped in making this is a bit of a lie.  It’s a grownup craft, but a nice way to incorporate that precious artwork that is colorful and pretty but, you know, doesn’t actually look like anything.

While LB was napping, BB and I did some painting.  I painted flowers, while he just painted paper.  With colors.  If it was supposed to be something, neither one of us could tell.  To him, more colors = better, and I have to stop him before his page is uniformly brown.  Then during afternoon nap time, when both children are (theoretically) sleeping, I took a blank card, wrote Happy Birthday on it, cut out the letters with an exacto knife, then glued a piece of BB’s artwork (now dry) behind the open letters.  It’s a pretty effect, I think, and a nice way to make a card that’s “from” a child who is still too young to make a card on their own.  Watch out; if you are related to me, you will probably be receiving something like this for an occasion in the near future!

Happy Earth Day!

22 04 2010

Now, I have to start out by saying we didn’t do anything special for Earth Day.  If you haven’t figured it out already, we are definitely an “Earth Day is Everyday” kind of household.  We recycle, compost, drive fuel-efficient cars, etc.  The amount of trash we produce is so small I seriously toyed with the idea last year of stopping our garbage pick-up altogether, but it would have required a lot more composting on my part, which is hard to do in the winter here.  And winter here is most of the year.  Anyway, what I really wanted to do is just share this great article from the New York Times.

The Dandelion King (read it; really, it’s good.)

Yeah, I know, it’s just an opinion piece, but that’s what it’s about–changing people’s opinions.  Who says a monochromatic green lawn is the ultimate ideal?  We have a neighbor who has dandelions, grape hyacinths, and several other plants I can’t identify in her lawn.  And you know what?  It’s really pretty.  We have a healthy amount of clover in our lawn, and it’s a nitrogen-fixing plant, which reduces the amount of fertilizer your lawn needs.  That, in turn, reduces the amount of fertilizer that runs off into our water supply.  Plus, it provides food for bees!  (And bees could use the help!)

Like the author of that article, I once thought a “perfect” lawn was great.  But I didn’t know how much effort went into keeping it that way.  I think a lawn with grass and flowers would be lovely and low maintenance, and much more earth-friendly.  If everyone agreed, think of the time, energy, and chemicals we could save, without having to worry about offending the neighbors!

Here is a craft we made with flowers we picked, mostly out of the yard.

Dandelions, clover, forsythia, other unnamed flowers... a pretty assortment!

The more time I spend outside (now that the snow is gone), the more I like our biodiverse lawn.  I am hoping to keep it chemical-free (we will have a crawler this summer, after all!), but with our concern over resale value of the house, it might not be possible.  If only we could all embrace the “mountain meadow” look instead of the golf course aesthetic!

(I can’t find any nice pictures not subject to copyright, so I refer you to google.)

Library score — Cook’s Illustrated!

20 04 2010

I was peacefully whiling away the morning while BB was in preschool last week, and I stopped by the library.  Outside, they have a shelf of books for sale, and to my utter delight, they had a stack of Cook’s Illustrated magazines too!  If you’re not familiar with this magazine, it’s like the print form of America’s Test Kitchen, my very favorite cooking show.  And if you’re not familiar with ATK, you probably have cable.  ATK is on PBS and I admit I didn’t watch it when I had cable because the Food Network was on 24 hours a day!  ATK reminds me a lot of Good Eats without the theatrics.  They test umpteen variations of a recipe and then show the one that worked the best.  They review kitchen equipment and taste test products.  It’s a super fun show.  I haven’t seen it in ages, so I was thrilled to find a stack of Cook’s Illustrated magazines for dirt cheap.  Yeah, they’re 6 years old, but you know what?  The lemon cake featured on their website RIGHT NOW is in one of my 6 year old magazines.  Good recipes are timeless!  I was so excited, I started with blueberry muffins.  If you know me, you know I like muffins.  A lot.

Of course, I only got to eat one of these, and no strawberries.

Here is a blog with the recipe (I did not dip mine in cinnamon sugar)…although apparently they came out with a “best” blueberry muffins recipe in 2009, so… I guess my recipe is old news.  Anyway, I thought they were delicious!  I may have to try the new one, but it calls for fresh blueberries, so I’ll just have to wait a few more months.

Next up, I decided to try the “Better, Easier, Spinach Lasagna”.  Easier than what, I don’t know!  Granted, the first time going through a recipe can often be a little slow, but seriously, this took 2 hours.  Apparently America’s Test Kitchen does not have 2 small children in it, because they would never have called this easy!  It was amazing though.  But I have already promised my husband I will never, ever, make it again.  Until maybe the kids are in college.  The recipe is out there, and just from reading, I should have known better (OK, can I say it’s a little hilarious I found it on Cooking Light?  This is heavy like a ton of bricks).  It’s only three steps!  Step 1: wash, trim, and cook the spinach, transfer to ice water, then to a towel to wring dry, then chop.  Step 2: Make a Bechamel sauce.  Step 3: Soak noodles in hot water, prepare cottage cheese mixture, assemble lasagna, bake, broil, then let cool.  Easy as pie, right?!?  I make lasagna pretty frequently, so I was all about trying an easier recipe.  Sadly this is not it.  It dirtied pretty much every pot, pan, bowl, knife, and kitchen appliance we own.  In the test kitchen I’m sure they have people who do the dishes, but not here!  My poor family was starving long before it was ready, and I defensively showed my husband, “Look, honey, it says right here it’s “easier”!”  It was easily the best spinach lasagna I’ve ever had, but it’s more of an “impress the boss” dinner than a “Monday night and everyone’s hungry” dinner.  The other taste testers: my husband said it was pretty good (that’s high praise), and BB declared it was DELICIOUS! but only ate about a bite of it.

I may never make you again, but I will see you in my dreams...

So that’s my latest kitchen adventure!  I am super excited to try more recipes from my new collection, though I doubt anyone else in the family is!

Spring has sprouted…

8 04 2010

We live in upstate New York, and every year I have dutifully waited until the last frost date to start planting the garden.  Well, our last frost date is May 20th.  May 20th!  Can you believe it?  In the 3 years we’ve lived here, there has never been a frost that late though, so I’m always kicking myself for not getting an earlier start.  If I’m lucky, I get tomatoes by September and they keep coming till the first frost, which is usually in late September/early October.

Well, not this year.  This year I have an eager garden helper and we have already started broccoli and tomatoes indoors, in the hopes of getting a head start on the growing season.  Cute, aren’t they?  BB would give them kisses all day long if I didn’t move them out of reach.  He’s a very sweet boy.  He helped me with the planting.

We were having such fun with sprouts that I decided to get a sprouting jar and grow sprouts for eating, since BB had expressed interest in eating the little sprouts.  It worked wonderfully!

so many sprouts!

I love sprouts on sandwiches and salads, so this was a fun and economical way to get them.  We watched them grow from just 1.5 tablespoons of seeds into a whole quart of sprouts!  I told BB they were for dessert and he happily ate them.  Hahaha!  (I did too, by the way, lest you think I’m mean.)  I have to say, a quart was a little too much.  I felt like I was eating sprouts non-stop for days, so next time I will probably sprout less.  I guess I didn’t really believe that such a small amount of seed would fill the whole jar!

Mmmmm.... sprouty sandwich...

I can’t wait to get out and start planting the garden.  I will probably throw caution to the wind and get started before May 20th!  However, given our less than stellar garden production in years past (it’s heavily shaded, in addition to being started late), I have joined a CSA this year and I’m super excited to get fresh veggies all summer, and try new ones too.  Plus I think it will be really fun for the boys to go and see the farm where their food is growing… heck, it will be fun for me too!

Happy Easter!

4 04 2010

More Easter crafts to share!  Having just discovered Google reader, I am inundated with Easter craft ideas daily, and BB is always up for a good craft.  The Crafty Crow was the inspiration behind all of these;  seriously, reading over that site will make you dizzy with ideas of things to try.

First up, growing grass in eggs… sounds a little strange but was so cute, and mixes dirt and growing things, so I thought this was one to try.  At Rosy~Posy, they used wheatgrass, which I would have known if I had read carefully, but unfortunately I am a little ADD and I just skimmed the pictures and went out and bought grass seed (I had wheat at home!  Note to self: read directions.)  I saved up some carefully cracked eggshells, BB filled them with dirt (that was the fun part), and I added the grass seed after reading that it was coated with fungicide (Note to self: read packages).  Here they are:

They need a haircut already!

Next up: yarn eggs.  Wow, this sounded easy but I don’t know why.  Click this link to Make Monthly to see their beautiful eggs, and the instructions to make them.  I had visions of decorating our house with these lovely eggs.  But, it turns out that string dipped in liquid starch is slippery, and BB just could not wrap it around the balloon.  I made one, and had to cut him off, because he was just making a mess of liquid starch everywhere.  Here’s mine:

Oh look, you can see the grass eggs growing!

True to my word, I did some more egg dyeing after the kids were asleep.  Let’s face it, eggs are fragile craft substrates.  BB broke a few in the process of dyeing, and those were hard-boiled!  And I wanted some I could set out on the table as decoration, so I blew out the remaining half-dozen and set about seeing if I could make not only red, yellow, and blue eggs, but also orange, green, and purple.  Just for fun, because, you know, I’m crazy like that and who really likes to sleep anyway?  I learned something that should have been self-evident.  Blown-out eggs float.  This makes them really hard to immerse in dye.  I was going to leave them overnight to get some darker colors, but I couldn’t get the darn things down in the dye, so I let them float, rotated them, and let them float some more.  The verdict?  I thought the plant-based dyes did a great job of producing the whole spectrum.  Interestingly, the float-and-turn method resulted in uneven colors, sort of overlapping stripes of darker and paler shades, that in the end I thought was even prettier than the solid color.  I took way too many pictures; I am way too excited about my rainbow of eggs. Here they are:

See the bands of color?

The orange and yellow didn't have that effect, but the red did.

Gratuitous egg shots!

I realized after the fact…what’s the point in dyeing blown-out eggs with natural dyes?  There’s nothing inside to worry about like with hard-boiled eggs!  D’oh!  Well, it was a really fun project and I’d just file it away as a proof-of-principle experiment (or should I say egg-speriment, mwahahaha!).  Plant based dyes are clearly all that and a bag of chips, but next year if I am doing blown out eggs I will save myself some time (and lots of beet salad and red cabbage coleslaw) and use food dyes like the rest of the world.  Happy Easter all!

Wardrobe refashion–Stain removal the easy way?

2 04 2010

Do you have kids?  If you answered yes to that, then you have clothing with stains that will never come out.  Give up now and save yourself the trouble!  I found this great idea ages ago for salvaging those hopelessly stained clothes: paint over the stain!  So simple, and yet so brilliant.  I haven’t had time to sew much lately, so this was a quick little project that gave all the satisfaction of creating a new shirt.

The shirt in question?  This nice, simple shirt that fits and matches most of the pants BB has in his wardrobe.  I was heartbroken to learn that the GRANOLA BAR he drooled all over it was apparently something that does not come out in the wash.  (Bangs head in frustration.)

Before: see the granola-drool track?

So, what should have been a super quick project became sort of involved when I couldn’t find my freezer paper.  It’s a giant box, which tells you how out of control my sewing area had become.  After 2 days of organizing, I located the sneaky box of freezer paper and set to work.  I asked BB what animal he would like on his shirt, and he said enthusiastically, “A lobster!”  He loves lobsters and I think it will be a sad day when he learns the fate of the lobsters at Wegmans, who he loves to visit.  Anyway, I was aiming for “giraffe” because a long thin stain needs a long, thin animal to cover it, so this is an example of why you shouldn’t ask questions you already know the answer to.  I printed out a picture of a giraffe, scaled to cover the stain, cut it out, and set to painting.  And voila!

After: Stain? What stain?

Bits of the stain still peek out a little, but it’s not nearly as noticable as it was before.  As the temperatures start to go up here at last, I’m happy to put this shirt back into rotation!  There you have it, stain removal the easy way not-so-easy-but-still-pretty-quick-and-more-fun-than-scrubbing-with-Shout way!