Late-Winter/Early Spring Makes

My list of makes for late-winter/early spring:

*rhubarb fool, rhubarb compote, + something new with rhubarb (maybe roasted over tapioca or rice pudding...)
*oven-roasted asparagus

*homemade marshmallows (I'll probably have to make the French hot chocolate too, then)
*fleece hat with ears for baby girl
*shift dress for baby girl
*gnome art with lulu

*fabric pom poms for baby girl's nursery
*freezer paper stenciled tees/onesies for all three children

What's on your to-do list for these next couple unpredictable months?


Comfort Food: Granola

I felt a strong determination the other day to make something. I pulled out my sketchbook, my box of fabric, my folder of inspiration (yes, I have a file folder called "Design Inspiration/Make it"), and the Lotta Jansdotter book I have from the library. Maybe I was tired from the day, or being a human incubator, but I couldn't focus on anything. Everything seemed just over my head. I ended up staying up way too late watching the Olympics instead. It was not encouraging.
Craft projects, sewing, drawing and I do not have long relationships. Sometimes it's easier to defer to my artistically inclined (and experienced) husband. I'm trying to get away from that habit, though--at least a little bit.
Yesterday, I knew I had to make something to try to step out of the rut. And we had to eat food. I strapped on my apron and made a slightly improvised honey chicken stir-fry. Improvised in that I didn't measure anything--I just tasted as I went. It came out pretty good considering the key ingredients I was missing to make it great.
Next I tried my hand at this granola recipe. I have been trying different granola recipes lately, trying to find the perfect formula. I'm really seeking a gluten-free version that can become a standby for our pantry. You can guess which ingredients are not gluten-free in the aforementioned recipe--wheat flour, wheat germ, even most oats--but I think we successfully adapted it. It felt really good to create something--especially when I saw the look on Brad's face as he enjoyed a bowl of granola warm from the oven.
I had a good laugh with Brad about my creative rut the night before and what I turned to to get out of my rut. Food. I am much more comfortable with my apron and the oven than I am with craft paint or scrapbook paper. At least for now.
Here is the recipe I made last night, in all its granola glory. It was wonderful still warm with milk on it last night. It was still wonderful this morning over Stoneyfield farm French Vanilla yogurt. Any way you eat it, I hope it brings comfort to you.

Gluten-free Granola
2-1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats (We love Bob's Red Mill)
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup flaxseed meal
1/3-1/2 cup unsweeted coconut (I used large flake coconut from a local Health food store)
1/3-1/2 cup chopped almonds

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl mix together:

1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/8 cup water
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup (or less*) vegetable/canola oil

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well.
Spread in a shallow pan (this amount filled one jelly roll) and bake at 250, stirring gently every 15 minutes. Bake until deep golden brown and almost dry. This might take about 2 hours. Remove from the oven, cool, and store in airtight containers in the refrigerator.
*I used less oil, which might be part of the reason our granola was done in about an hour. Be sure you are checking on it often.


presidents day--maybe next year

We don't mean to skim over President's Day. Nor do we mean to ignore the presidents by spending the holiday gallivanting around Seattle and Ballard with our new fun toys. I would love to take advantage of the day and teach the kids about the presidents, maybe make little Abraham Lincoln beards and hats. But yesterday was sunny and 55. Not exactly weather that makes you want to stay indoors and bake something.
So here's my resolution for next year: at some point during the weekend, we will make little Abraham beards or cherry tree pictures or pretzel cabins or something else equally artistic and presidential. And we might give this cake a shot, too.
End resolution.

Birthday Cakes

Between the two kids we have celebrated 6 birthdays now, as well as several of our own. We will enjoy the sixth birthday cake tonight or tomorrow, depending on how things shake out this afternoon. A look back on birthday cakes past seems like a good way to psych myself up (as if the thought of rich, chocolatey cake isn't enough? haha).
For some reason, I have it in my mind that birthday cakes should be round, and layered if possible. I haven't had a matching pair of round cake pans, though--which has led to somewhat creative use of my corningware and springform pans. This time I am excited to try my fancy removable bottom pan. I also take advantage of birthdays to try new things. Risky, it's true, but I guess I learn better under pressure.
Jane's first. Carrot cake with homemade cream cheese frosting. Brad made lovely tissue paper flowers. We decorated the top together. My cake writing makes me laugh.
Jane's third. A timely date for her birthday (8-8-08, opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics) + returning from a huge camping trip and still in California with extended family =extra fun for the birthday girl. Chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. M&M's make excellent decorations, especially in Brad's hands.

Grey's first. I fell in love with the miniature birthday cake seen here and decided to do it for Grey. I took another tip from a friend and we made a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting so the mess on Grey's face would be more photographic. It worked.
Jane's fourth. Jane's fourth birthday involved a lot of baking. Per Jane's request, for our family celebration we had a chocolate cake with berries (the blessings of a summer birthday). I was pretty happy with how everything turned out, especially the berry flower on top of all that delicious chocolate.
For her tea party, we had cupcakes and petit fours, three-fourths of which I made from scratch. (I used a mix for the cupcakes, and they were not gluten-free.)
For Brad's birthday last year, I made a two-layer lemon cake (homemade) with fluffy white frosting and strawberries. You can tell I was tired because I stubbornly didn't change the candle arrangement.
And now for Grey's second. I have an idea I'm excited about. I have homemade chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream frosting waiting in the fridge. Chocolate cake will be the best way to wrap up over a week of birthday celebrations for our little guy.


a little love poem

It seems fitting to share this poem by Ted Kooser on Valentine's Day, and I just love the imagery of the shoes, and a timid poet standing outside his love's door. Poor poet.
Here's hoping all of us have someone who can pick us up from the dentist if we have oral surgery. I'm glad I do.


Using a cobbler's shoe last
I found one summer at a yard sale,
and the heavy leather uppers
from cast-off boots, a jigsaw,
some wood, an awl and thread,
and a few evenings sitting alone
thinking of you, I have fashioned
a pair of red valentine shoes
with heart-shaped wooden heels.
Look for my tracks on your doorstep
where I stood with sore feet
through the evening, too timid do knock.


little valentines

Thank you, inchmark, for this fun valentine idea. Lulu and I have had an excellent time making them.


Film of the Week: My Neighbor Totoro

For our next film of the week, I am going to stick with this Japanese theme and talk about another one of our favorites. This one is an anime, by the Japanese film master Hayao Miyazaki. It is My Neighbor Totoro. My Neighbor Totoro is the story of two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move to the country with their professor father to be closer to the hospital where their mother is recovering from an illness. It does not take long before the girls discover that their new house and surroundings are filled with magical creatures. The creatures are friendly, and seem to be there as protectors and friends for the children. When their mother has recovered, the creatures watch happily as Satsuki and Mei play with other children.
You can find this film dubbed into English--probably a good idea since there is a fair amount of dialogue. If you are feeling adventurous or watching with a child who can read, I highly recommend the original Japanese version with subtitles.
This film is best for children at least 4, and probably better for kids at least 6 or 7.


Collection: Wheels.

Since my childhood I have had various collections. The most prominent example I can think of, besides rocks and pretty paper, is my collection of pill boxes. This is also one collection I have not pared down or decluttered away. The little boxes come from all over: a family cruise to Mexico, a high school trip to Disneyland, a friend's trip to Italy (she brought me back two!) and the origins, little European boxes from my mom and grandma. I have nowhere to display them, for now, so they sit in a box. Hopefully they won't be hidden for much longer.
Tonight I was looking through some pictures I took in college. It seems timely after relating to inchmark's "Collections of Nothing" (security envelopes, fruit stickers, and playing card backs are among her collections) and seeing these stunning collections from artist Lisa Congdon, to find these pictures I took of wheels. It's hard to call four a collection, but what is a collection if it's not being added to, right? So stayed tuned.


Film of the Week: Komaneko (A True Friend)

I am always on the lookout for beautiful, simple films that children and adults can enjoy together. These tend to be quiet films, with a strong story and strong characters, and plenty of visual interest. My adoration of film comes partly from my upbringing and partly from my college studies.
I stumbled on this delightful stop-motion film by Tsuneo Goda when I was investigating the origins of Domo. (the original Domo Japanese ads, also stop-motions by Goda, are also worth seeking.) A True Friend is broken into parts on Youtube. I watched it in these parts with Lulu for bedtime a while back, and we both found it highly enjoyable. There is little dialogue and the soundtrack is sparse--it's a quiet film, which helps to draw the viewer into the magical world Goda has created.
I have posted all four parts here. I recommend showing it in parts and discussing each part with your child as you watch. Watching films at home with children is ideal--you're in a familiar, controlled setting, and you have control over the film. Stopping for discussion or to take breaks during a long film should be part of the process for a young viewer.
This film is suitable for ages 3 up. If you watch tv/films with your two-year-old, this one should be fine once you get past the first Yeti sightings. Of course, I recommend you preview it and any film first since you know your child best.