February 28, 2024

Baby Spice

We're in the throes of teething or something else troublesome for Jude this week. His disposition has been cranky, which is so unusual for him.  I find myself carrying him around the house to console him, since he's unwilling to nap this morning, even though he's tired.

One of his favorite corners of our home is the pantry.  All of those spices, jars and boxes are irresistible to him.
Just a simple visit to the pantry door brings smiles to my little guy's face, which is especially comforting knowing that just moments before, he was shedding tears.
He loves pulling out the jars, boxes and containers, and even trying to gum the metal rack, doing "pull-ups" while trying to pull himself closer to the chrome bars.  Anything to give his little gums some relief.

Teethies, please hurry and break through and bring back my happy babe!

February 27, 2024

Simple Meal: Mushroom Crostini

Some days when my mind is fried, it's nice to throw some stuff in a pan and call it dinner.  Amazingly, this often becomes some of my most inspired cooking.  Such was the case last week when I bought some locally-grown shitake mushrooms and a loaf of homemade bread at our local co-op.

I sauteed a slivered onion and a red pepper,  in olive oil, added a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and cooked until soft.  Then I added a minced clove of garlic, the mushroom, and baby spinach and sauteed until soft.
While waiting for the mushrooms to cook down, I sliced the bread, stuck it under the broiler, and rubbed with a clove of garlic after it was toasted.
I then topped it with the mushroom mixture and some cheddar cheese
 and stuck it under the broiler again until the cheese was bubbly.
Simple and yummy! I imagine it would be just as good with zucchini or other types of mushrooms.

February 24, 2024

For the Love of Wrapping Paper {this moment}

The remnants of a belated Christmas present plus a baby who loved every minute of crinkling this baby-contraband.

I'm linking up to Soule Mama's "this moment" today.  Happy weekend friends!
({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.) 

February 23, 2024

Just in Time for Spring, My Winter Wreath

Scheduled to make its debut on our front door, uh, last month, is my winter wool flower wreath.
After many evenings spent with tiny bits of scrap wool scattered over the carpets, tangled embroidery floss, and needle-poked fingers, I finally finished my wool wreath, which I based on this gorgeous one (which includes a tutorial).
The flowers were fun to make, just free form cut-outs from wool felt decorated with free form embroidery.   I love that kind of needlework, which is very much like drawing to me (albeit sloooow drawing).
I also spliced in some of my hand-felted beads for some color.
To assemble the wreath, I first wrapped a Styrofoam form in white wool yarn, then pinned the flowers onto it.
It will most likely hang here until spring, since I don't really go all "Erin go Bragh" next month, despite my Irish blood.

I'm so pleased that I turned this:
into this.
Finally, something started and finished in this house.  Now on to tackling my basket of half-completed knitting projects.  Or laundry, which is never, never finished.

February 22, 2024

Vegetable Dreaming

All this uncharacteristicly warm winter weather has emboldened me; I've decided to get my hands dirty and work out in the garden.
While I am probably foolish to think of planting so early, I have a hunch that those $1.86 packets of seeds will pay off.  And if they don't, well I'm just out ten bucks.
Of course I'm not talking corn or tomatoes here, but hardy crops like spinach, arugula, Swiss chard and radishes.
After a little sweat and toil--which felt really good--I prepped the soil, added some Bumper Crop (good stuff!) and planted a few rows.  Oh, I relish the hopeful thought of some backyard greens in a month or two.  Wish them luck!

February 21, 2024

Cardamom-Cinnamon Buns

It's Murphy's Law that the weekend when I finally decide to make my first homemade cinnamon buns, Chris and I get a stomach bug.  That didn't stop us from sampling these yummy delights right from the oven.
I found the recipe in Scandinavian designer Lotta Jansdotter's book, Handmade Living, and thought it would be fun to make it last Saturday.
While it does take a time commitment (mostly for rising of the dough), the process is pretty easy.  Having a stand mixer helps significantly for making the dough, although I do enjoy the process of kneading by hand, but was feeling too lazy to do so this time.

Once I had the dough mixed and risen, you simply roll it out, coat it with softened butter and cinnamon-sugar, and roll it up.
Once it's rolled into a 12" log, you cut it into 1" pieces (about 12 in a roll)
then spread them on a baking sheet and let them rise for another hour.  Mine are a little sloppy, though my mind is often sloppy of late, with two children underfoot.
Here they are below after an hour of rising.  Nice and plump and cozied up against each other.
I coated them with egg wash (1 egg mixed with a tablespoon of water), then dusted them with more sugar.  Not exactly health food...
After baking for 15 minutes at 400 degrees, here's what you get.
So yummy!  And no we actually haven't eaten them all.  I froze most of them for when we're feeling better.  They should be easy to warm in the microwave oven.
If you'd like to make your own, here's the fatty (as opposed to skinny):

4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

For the dough, sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk and allow to "bloom" for 5 minutes or until foamy.  Add the sugar, egg, butter, and cardamom and mix well.  Combine the salt and flour, then add the mixture into the dough one cup at a time, incorporating it until smooth.   Knead for 8-10 minutes, then transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp warm towel for 1 hour.  My trick is to put the bowl in your oven with a pan of boiling water below the bowl to make a perfect temperature for rising yeasted dough.

Cut dough in half, roll into 2 balls, then roll out into a 12"x12" rectangle.  Coat with half of the softened butter, then sprinkle with half of the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Roll it up (as in the photos above), cut into 1" slices, place on a baking sheet.  Rise for another hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Glaze the buns with the egg wash, and sprinkle with fine sugar.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Enjoy warm.

February 13, 2024

Valentine's Treat: Chocolate Chip Yogurt Scones

It must be some latent British genes that have caused Chris to be so enamored of scones.  I probably make this version a few times a month, and it's rare that they last beyond a few days.  They're great for breakfast (often I use frozen blueberries in place of chocolate) and are especially tasty with coffee or tea.
I'm forgoing the chocolates boxed in hearts and rich, fudgey cakes in liue of these not-so-sweet sweets for my sweetheart.  Easy to make, and too easy to eat!

Chocolate Chip Yogurt Scones (makes 8 scones)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar (plus a tsp extra for sprinkling)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla (omit if using vanilla flavored yogurt)
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet are fine)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat the egg, oil, sugar, vanilla until smooth.  Add the yogurt and stir until thoroughly combined.

In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to the wet mixture and fold together until flour is incorporated.  Add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.  If the mixture seems really dry, add a tsp of milk or two.

Flour your work surface, then turn the dough out onto it.  Knead a few times (flour your hands to help), then pat into roughly an 8" circle.  Sprinkle with remaining sugar and cut into 8 wedges (cut in half, then half, then half, then half) and transfer onto baking sheets.   For my Valentine ones, I made a little indentation with my floured finger at the top to create a heart-like shape.
Bake for 20 minutes or until brown on top.  Cool on a wire rack, and devour!

Dial "M" for Manual

This weekend I made a huge step in fulfilling my New Year's Resolution of learning to really use my DSLR camera; I learned to shoot photos using the Manual mode.
It's incredibly easy, despite being initially intimidated by that "M" on my Canon's dial.  Earlier this month, I was frustrated when noticing that photos taken with my point-and-shoot were looking so much brighter and more vibrant than the DSLR.  {Those of you who already have great photography skills  (I'm looking at you, Sheena), just bear with me here.}

While I don't think I have a problem with composition of photos, I am often disappointed about the quality of lighting in my shots, particularly indoor ones, since we live in a house with mostly North-facing windows.  I did have some understanding of exposure, however it often confused me, especially ISO (which still does).

I picked up a copy of Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure at the library, which has been a great resource, as is this tutorial, which is a little more colloquial in its explanation of exposure.
On Sunday, I started fooling around with the camera using the tips I had read about.  What a mighty leap this has been for me, understanding what the former-jibberish on the camera's LCD panel means.  Understanding the light meter alone has been huge.
You might not be able to tell in the photo above, but I can.  It's so much brighter than my prior photos taken in the living room, though shooting two moving boys is challenging with slower shutter speed and a larger aperture (ie. plenty of blurred shots). I'm still learning though.
It's such an incredible feeling when you finally "get" something that you've wanted to understand for some time now, especially when you make a huge leap in that understanding. It's rare for that to happen; it seems like things like this usually take lots of time.  I'm even more eager to share my photos here in the upcoming weeks and months!

February 10, 2024

Juice Box Robot Valentines {Tutorial}

Finally, my son is interested in something cool like robots.  Naturally, I'm going to exploit it as much as I can, first with Valentine's Day, then with his birthday party.  More on that to come, of course.
Since this is officially his first Valentine's party at a school, I wanted to make something fun to give to his friends.

I found some robot tattoo Valentines at the Dollar Tree, some robot bags in Target's Dollar zone, and thought I'd package them with something else.  Hmmm, what could it be?
Affirmative! It's a juice box robot.

Here's what you need:
Juice box | Candy (I used Hershey nuggets, smarties, starburst) | Googly eyes | Glue Dots or clear tape | Robot Valentine cards or tattoos | Red paper | Sharpie marker

Adhere the Hershey nuggets together to make the head.  Alternatively, you could use any other square candies.  Then stick them to the top of the box.
Add the googly eyes (mine thankfully were sticker ones, which made it easier).
Add some Smarties for arms (or any other long-ish candy, like Laffy Taffy) and stick on your card (in my case, the tattoos).
We added some Starburst candies for the feet, but you could also use them for the neck.

On the back, I added a little construction paper heart that said "I'm nuts and bolts about you!"
If you can't find robot-themed Valentine cards, you could always put the heart on the front with your child's name on it.

Here's the final result, a thirst-quenching friendly robot.
Cute, huh?  Definitely worth the extra time it took me to assemble 14 of these for the class.  I then stuck them in the cellophane bags, just in case any candy pieces came off.
I kinda wish adults did these sorts of exchanges.  Though I guess that's what husbands are for.  But moms are so much more creative!

Lazy Morning {this moment}

Still in pajamas, even at 11am.

I'm linking up to Soule Mama's "this moment" today.  Happy weekend friends!
({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.) 

February 8, 2024

Jude at Seven Months

Another month with Jude has flown by, and though this baby is a tiny guy, he's so filled with happiness and some killer kicks!
Seriously, this baby has some strong legs, and loves stomp-kicking the floor when on his back.  He's also quite fond of standing when supported by one of his parents, like on our laps.

As I wrote, Jude is small for his age, which tends to make an over-analyzing mama like me worry.  Between his last two well visits, he gained only a few ounces, which makes me compulsively check out every baby we come across, comparing body types and ages.  His little friend (whose had you see in the photo above), is 3 months younger than him yet 3-4 pounds heavier.  We've actually gotten some hand-me-downs from him.  Oy!

But Jude is quite healthy and happy, and is growing longer, despite his lean-ness.  He's still a pretty good eater, eager to devour most anything we feed him (sweet potatoes excepting). I can't figure out why he doesn't gain more weight.  I wonder if he'll just be a small kid.  Isn't it just like a doting mom to worry about everything?  Too chubby, too skinny, too picky, too sleepy.  Just go with it, Kathleen.
Ounce for ounce, Jude is such a sweet and pleasant little guy, and has started clapping and really hamming it up for his parents and brother.  He loves to laugh, especially when I tickle his belly with my nose.  He grabs at everything and really enjoys toys and objects of all kinds.  He's so curious!
He's also sitting up more on his own, though still needs a little support.  He's delighted by the feeling and sound of air moving through his lips when he practices "ppffft" and "bbbrr" sounds.  I sometimes even hear him doing it at night, mid-sleep cycle.

I adore my two boys, and at seven months, I think we've finally settled into a comfort zone.
Though I still find it hard to fathom where the last seven months went! I've actually started pondering first birthday plans and have been stalking Pinterest for ideas.  July's One Year "Jude Update" is really going to blow my mind.
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