Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hand-Printed Tablecloth

I've been looking for a new modern tablecloth (currently using a $4 vinyl "Happy Hanukkah" one). I haven't found anything to fall in love with so I bought some fabric and decided to come up with a few of my own (cause I don't have anything better to do?). This was my first attempt. I bought Lotta Jansdotter's book Lotta Prints and decided to try my hand printing one. I created some simple potato stamps and used fabric paint on muslin. So far it's already getting trashed (little kids will do that but I have also spilled on it!) but I bought some nice dark brown fabric as well and might try printing that one too. I also have some modern spring-y fabric that I need to sew up. I think the best thing would be to find some sort of coated fabric or maybe even top something with vinyl or similar because I can't be washing tablecloths every day!
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Pillow Update

The pillow on the left is the (very expensive!) one I bought for our new couch. The one on the right is the pillow I sewed to coordinate. The one I bought cost about 10 times more than the homemade one-- and the homemade one is actually more comfortable and useable. I have lots of other ideas and great fabrics in mind to add to the collection. We'll just see if I have any time to make them before this baby gets here...
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cloth Napkin Bonanza

In my nesting efforts I have been finishing little projects that have been on my list for, oh let's say, the last two or three years. Today I moved some books from one shelf to another. I pass this shelf of books at least 10 times per day and every time I think it looks messy and needs to be moved or straightened. It took me all of 4 minutes to do today.

We've been doing a lot of home decorating as well. Talia got a bunk bed and Alex got Talia's old bed. I bought bedding and lamps and curtains for both. We ordered an entirely new living room from the nicest furniture store in Madison. Yesterday I bought a pillow for the new couch for $150. I could have totally made it myself-- if I didn't mind stealing a local artist's ideas. Today I bought coordinating fabrics and pillow forms so hopefully I can make a bunch of pillows to match. I also have been looking for an awesome tablecloth (for our new dining room table, gifted to us by my in-laws as they have recently downsized) and haven't found one I loved so I bought some fabric and fabric paint and am hoping to hand print one a la Lotta Jansdotter. I know, a lot of projects with a baby coming in less than a month-- especially considering I have totally stalled on her quilt...

Another thing I did today was sew up 22 cloth napkins. I've been wanting to use cloth exclusively for a long time but you really need a lot of napkins to make it work. I decided to take an entire collection of fat quarters and serge the edges. This is a collection I got at Joann's and I totally love it but... it's not the highest quality fabric. I made one or two quilts using this type of collection before and I think the fabric is too thin and slightly see-through so I don't want to go through all that work again and be disappointed with the final result. Now I get to look at this fabric collection every day anyway so I'll get to enjoy it! Truthfully, all I did was serge the edges of the fat quarters so if I change my mind and need a quilt, the fabric is still completely intact. Hopefully the serged edges will hold up to repeated washings.

Most importantly, I threaded my own serger today! Originally, a friend did it for me (by tying on new thread to the old thread's ends- I got a used and therefore previously threaded serger) and that worked fine. Then when I had a problem with it I took it to the repair shop. They didn't charge me but they did keep it for two weeks. A few days ago one of the needles came unthreaded. I tried to re-thread it but it kept coming undone. It worked fine as a three-thread serge, especially since I was just finishing edges-- not using it for actual construction. Today it just messed up completely in the middle of the cloth napkin project so... I got out my manual and re-threaded the whole thing. It took about 30 minutes and Alex was really trying to "help" me but I did it and I can DO IT AGAIN! I pride myself in being skilled at following written and pictoral directions. I think that's why I was able to teach myself to sew, cook, put furniture together and I'm great at reading maps. Taking on the serger, however, always scared me. Now I know I can do it. I love having a serger and would be lost without it. Imagine double hemming 22 napkins = that's 88 edges (meaning you would have to press them each twice for 176 edges). Even if the serged edges do not hold up after repeated washings I should still only have to single hem them. Isn't that great?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lazy Sunday?

In order for me to do this:

I had to let them do this: (Check out that wall art installation in the upper left of the collage. It consists of a red feather and rainbow thread -among other things- taped to a post in the basement.) There was a lot of great collaboration between the kids and they really did play well together, unsupervised, for most of the day. There is a LOT for me to clean up. Alex is really handy with a pair of scissors and leaves huge piles of teeny tiny pieces everywhere. I'll probably spend as much time cleaning up after them as I did on the quilt, which thankfully, is almost finished (more on that when the intended receives it). Obviously, Ron was working today. I did plan on taking the kids out of the house at some point- maybe to get dinner? but we ordered pizza instead. Then, unexplicably, the kids demanded jelly sandwiches afterward. (See, it's not all gourmet food around here...)
In addition to the art-fest, there was also a major jet crash into the playmobil airport, a dumptruck full of pompoms and a jump start on the kids' Valentines. With the new baby due around Valentine's Day I feel like I'm just simply going to forget things, like my niece's third birthday and Valentines for school, plus Talia insists on an annual scavenger hunt; why I started that tradition is beyond me.
In other news, I cut the tip of my finger off two nights ago. I was using a very sharp 10 inch Chef's Knife to cut up some butternut squash. I know people say that using dull knives is a hazard but I always cut myself with the freshly sharpened ones. I rarely use that knife, as I prefer a slightly smaller one so it was still extremely sharp from my semi-annual trip to the knife guy in September. Ron and I debated going to Urgent Care to get it treated but decided there wasn't much to do, considering the skin there wouldn't really stretch well for stitches and the piece that got cut off was too small to reattach. We got a good look at it for the first time this morning (prior to that, every time I unwrapped it blood would start pouring out) and it looks like healthy tissue. I did bang it on something today and it started bleeding again. I can't imagine how long it will take to heal and I wonder if my thumb will ever look normal again. I'm guessing not. I will spare you the pictures of it. Unfortunately we ate the butternut squash dish (roasted, with arugula pesto) last night and it was NOT worth losing a finger over.
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

What We're Eating: Warm Farro Salad with Roasted Mushrooms, Feta and Truffle Oil

Oh, this was delicious! Original recipe from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop, modified by me-- I added more vegetables and truffle oil.

Warm Farro Salad with Roasted Mushrooms, Feta and Truffle Oil

1 1/2 cups farro or spelt
water, salt

extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, halved or quartered (I used cremini; would like to have added some shiitake)
1 1/2 c cherry tomatoes, halved
6 shallots, sliced thinly

feta (the original recipe suggests feta, goat or pecorino. I would stick with feta or use parmesan)
truffle oil

1. Cook the farro in salted water for 30-40 minutes until tender/chewy, then drain and mix with a little oil
2. Toss the vegetables with oil, salt and pepper and then roast at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes. MAKE SURE you give them enough room on the roasting sheet or they will steam and not roast
3. Toss everything together, serve on top of a bed of arugula and top with feta, parsley, salt and pepper and do NOT forget the truffle oil!
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Alphabet quilt for baby Jack

I made this quilt quite a long time ago but waited to give it to baby Jack in person during our trip to San Diego. I thought I took actual photos of it but I can't seem to find them. I sewed squares with his name into the backing fabric in the same font as the front fabric, which is from the Maisy collection. It came out really cute-- I wish I could find those pictures. Enjoy baby Jack!
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Monday, January 11, 2010

What We're Eating: Israeli Cauliflower with Panko

Not sure what is "Israeli" about this dish but it was damn good. I've made it several times. The best part is that you cook the cauliflower in the microwave and then sear it on the stove in the same pan you toasted the panko (but remove the panko first). No steaming or roasting so it's quite quick. Sorry this picture is a little lacking... it keeps getting eaten too quickly! Here's the recipe from the website-- I highlighted my changes in yellow.

Israeli Cauliflower with Panko from Cooking Light

6 cups cauliflower florets (I just used one whole head)
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (I think I didn't use any because I didn't have any...)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine cauliflower and 2 tablespoons water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain.
2. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko to pan; cook 3 minutes or until toasted, stirring constantly. Remove panko from pan.
3. Heat remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and garlic in pan over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower; sauté 5 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Add panko, parsley, salt, and pepper; toss to combine.
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Friday, January 08, 2010

What We're Eating: Coconut Crusted Tofu with Thai Red Curry Sauce

I've been cooking a lot but haven't been posting about it because, frankly, I'm too lazy to carry the recipe upstairs to the computer. I also feel guilty about posting published recipes without permission so unless I can link to it I'm not too keen on reproducing it here. The dinner I made last night though, was a mix and match of different parts of recipes put together and a decent amount of effort so I'll share...

I knew I was going to make some sort of Tofu with Thai Red Curry Sauce and I needed an Asian salad to go with it. I threw together some leftover greens with thinly sliced red peppers and cucumbers. I took my dressing recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which is a cookbook I don't use that often. It's too big; it has too many recipes in it. I can't read it like a book so I just use it as a reference guide:

Soy Ginger Dressing:

salt and pepper

2 tbl rice vinegar

1 tbl grated fresh ginger

1 tsp sugar

2 tbl soy sauce

The kids were having "Sushi and Edamame" for dinner. This after my house was cleaned yesterday; always a mistake as I ended up on my hands and knees picking up rice from the floor and carpet. For the side dish I just mixed the kids dinner ingredients and ended up with basmati rice with edamame and crumbled bits of Korean seaweed.

The Thai Red Curry Sauce was the inspiration for the dish and that came from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop. It's a great cookbook but often involves a lot of steps and too many (unnecessary, in my opinion) dirty prep dishes. I like it because it's organized seasonally. The actual recipe I was going to make was very simple and involved searing the tofu and simmering it in the sauce-- very quick and easy for this particular cookbook. Alas, I had also recently seen a recipe for Coconut Crusted Shrimp in my Cooking Light Magazine this month and that just looked yummy so I decided to try it on tofu and combine the two recipes.

Coconut Panko Crusted Tofu:

1 block of extra firm tofu

cornstarch, salt and pepper, dash of cayenne

3 egg whites

1/3 c shredded unsweetened coconut

1/3 c panko

canola or peanut oil

Slice the tofu into 1/4 inch slabs. Dredge in cornstarch mixed with salt and peppers, then into the egg white and then into the coconut panko mixture which you have pulsed together (I'm loving the Magic Bullet these days) to a powder. Coat the bottom of your pan with oil and heat to medium-high. Lightly fry the tofu a few minutes on each side and then drain on paper towels or a rack. Sprinkle with a little salt.

For the Thai Red Curry Sauce:

1/4 c unsweetened coconut milk

1/4 c vegetable broth

1 tbl soy sauce

1 tbl fresh lime juice

1 tsp thai red curry paste

1 tsp sugar

I just put it on the stove and heated it gently and let it thicken. Then I put it in a gravy container (actually I think it was a creamer...) and served it alongside the tofu. That way you can add some just before eating so the crusty tofu doesn't get soggy. The sauce was delicious and really easy. It was barely enough for two. Ron and I were fighting over it so next time I would definitely double it; especially since you have almost an entire can of coconut milk leftover anyway. It tasted great on the rice with edamame too. Just yummy yummy yummy.

All in all it was a really delicious meal. A little stressful for me with the tofu frying (I wasn't sure it was going to work!) but Ron and I each ended up eating a half a block of tofu and wanting more more more. Not too bad for you-- just a little coconut milk and some oil, most of which isn't REALLY absorbed during the cooking process (is it?). Remember the salad dressing didn't even have any oil in it. Ron really liked the salad, by the way. Alex, my little 2 1/2 year old chef, made the dressing and the red curry sauce. He's obsessed with cooking.

So that's all for now. I have a new cooking plan that seems to be working and I'll elaborate some other time (nothing shocking, just picking out a month's worth of recipes and actually cooking them). We've been eating healthily and home cooked around here-- trying to eat seasonally as well. That's the hardest part. Hope you're eating well too!

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

San Diego Vacation

We had a great time in San Diego over the winter break. I'm sure this is the last trip that will have seemed "easy" to us for quite some time. We finally have the whole process down pat and we had to go and have another kid. What were we thinking? The kids were extremely well behaved-- the flights were a cinch. We've stopped bringing the clunky DVD player. Instead we brought a movie or two on the ipod but they didn't really watch it. Alex played with his cars the whole time and Talia colored, played with her playmobils and played some ipod games. The key is to sit two and two, across the aisle. That way the kids don't fight over anything, the parents can switch or the kids can switch when someone needs a break and the parents can hand each other things across the aisle. The other key is have healthy meals and snacks plus a few special goodies. I think eating crap while traveling leads to a poor attitude in general. Also, a packing list really helps me stay sane and stress-free in the days leading up to a trip. It has everything my kids need from sunhats to snowsuits and I just print it out each trip and cross off what I don't need while gathering what I do. It helps when packing to go home too-- you won't forget your booklight under the bed if you see it on the list. And I'm not the most "list-y" person.

The weather wasn't as warm as we had hoped it would be but compared to Wisconsin and snow, it was just fine. Never warm enough to sit by a pool though, much less get into water. That's ok-- I'm not looking so great in my maternity bathing suit these days! We met up with my family (staying 75 minutes north in a resort while we stayed in my in-laws' condo) 4 times. Two of those days, unfortunately, were the colder, rainier days of the trip. We explored a little bit of the coast with them, went to Disneyland (my favorite part of the trip!) and hung out at the condo on one rainy day (played poker too and I won $40). My sister and her family came down to SD and we went to Seaworld. Without my extended family we went to Balboa Park and the Science museum and explored the cactus and rose gardens which was something we hadn't done before. We also went to the La Jolla farmer's market, which we love, and when my in-laws came at the end of our stay we went to the Wild Animal Park.

All in all, a lot of activities but I think that's another key to our trip's success. Make a plan and get out. We did all of our activities early and therefore were able to be home by 3 or 4 and give Alex a little bit of a nap. We ate many meals in the condo and packed lunches for each trip so we could eat healthy but save room for a treat. It just feels better that way. I actually lost a pound over the holidays despite being 34 weeks pregnant! Must have been all that walking. The kids actually slept together in a bed, in their own room, for the first time ever and it worked out great. I wish now that we had gotten the twin-over-full bunk bed so they could continue, if they wanted. Then again, they seem to be doing ok now that we're home so that's better. PUTTING them to bed together was nice but Alex is a kicker for sure. Ron and I were able to have our own room too, although sharing a queen is NOT the same as a king. Plus I need lots of room these days.

Now we're home, it's snowing again and it's time to settle in for our long winter's nap. 6 more weeks until the baby is due. It doesn't seem like a very long time. I have been on a spending frenzy, trying to control some anxiety through shopping for baby essentials. I bought ONE bottle and ONE pacifier and ONE box of diapers, a few outfits, a Moby Wrap carrier and one of those car seat cover things so your baby doesn't freeze when you take her outside (never needed one before). That may not sound like a spending frenzy but I also bought new bedding for the big kids (new beds = new bedding) and lots of other bigger ticket items that I can't seem to think of right now. I'm giving myself a break and signing up for the cloth diaper service for a few months-- I didn't use cloth for Alex when he was a newborn and he was never a pooper so I don't even know HOW to clean newborn poopy diapers. I'm excited about all the cute cloth diapers I've been seeing around.

I still don't know how I'll ever be able to take the kids to school in this weather with a new one but other people do it so I can do it too. Today Talia walked into school by herself for the second time (the first time a friend was walking in at the same time) and I was able to attach her snowsuit to her backpack so hopefully it worked out ok. I think I see a lot of that happening from now on. The parking lot is really small and messy and filled with snow. Often I can't even get to both sides of the car to open the doors. Enough procrastination for now-- I have a lot to do today!
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Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Big Boy Bed

Apparently not going as well as I had hoped. I put Alex down for his nap and found him here, an hour later. He is sleeping on the floor at the top of the stairs. He even brought out the toy he had asked to sleep with (a little orange digger). It's not like he couldn't have come downstairs-- I don't know why he chose to just sleep on the floor in the hallway. I was cleaning the house and listening to my ipod- but only with one earbud in so I could hear him! Actually, since this was taken things have improved. There are some protests but he goes to sleep ok at night and at naptime. He has been waking in the middle of the night and coming into my room and standing next to my bed and scaring the shit out of me but not every night. He certainly doesn't want to sleep in his crib. What he wants is to sleep with Sissy-- but on her top bunk, which is obviously unacceptable. Technically SHE'S not even old enough to sleep on a top bunk (you're supposed to be 6 which she won't be until March). Since she got her bunk bed (the same day he got her old bed) she's been sleeping better. I think she's just too lazy to come down the ladder and therefore just goes back to sleep on her own. We've only had this new bed arrangement for two weeks-- one week of which we were on vacation so it's only been a short while. The plan is for them to maybe sleep together but I think we'll wait for summer.
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