Saturday, 18 May 2013
My garden is slow going this year. Which is still, sadly, an improvement on last year.
I’ve turned over four and 1/2 beds, down below the barn conveniently next door to the manure pile. This is a first time garden, in rocky Virginia clay, so the digging was not an easy task. The full beds are about 3×4 feet, with paths between so nothing will be out of reach. It may have made sense to make the paths large enough to mow, but that seemed a waste of the smallish space so I’ve laid scrapwood down over parts to try to kill the grass off, we’ll see if that works.
The actual planting part of the garden is not progressing as well as hoped. I started what seemed a very optimistically large number of plants in egg cartons several weeks ago, but very few are looking promising at this point. Some very nice little watermelons mysteriously died off last week, and only about half the tomatoes germinated at all. One bed was planted directly and there are swiss chard and collard seedlings sprouted up, but they may not be long for this world unless I can convince someone to help me with the deer fence building in the very near future.
I’ve decided that having turned over and composted the beds should be satisfaction enough for this year, if it comes down to that. Small victories, I am learning, must be savored even more in these baby-turning-into-toddler days.
Monday, 29 April 2013
On Saturday and Sunday mornings I sneak out of the house before everyone else awakes and drive into town to cook breakfast for the guests at The Inn at 400 West High. This gorgeous B & B right in the heart of beautiful Charlottesville is owned by my mother-in-law and we get some of the nicest guests!
I have been enjoying creating beautiful and tasty breakfasts and I thought it would be fun to share a few here.
To no one’s surprise, crepes are usually a hit. While it takes a bit of practice to cook a beautiful thin crepe and they usually impress the guests, they are not actually so very difficult. Here are a few things I have found to help:
Amanda’s Crepe Tips
- Butter in the batter! I melt a good chunk of butter into the batter and then cook on a non-stick frying pan. This is one of very few times I endorse the use of non-stick, but in this case it is very helpful. Putting butter on a non-stick pan is pointless, but butter is essential to a good crepe!
- Add some milk and then add some more. My method of cooking the crepes in a frying pan is to pour a cup of batter and then swirl the pan around to coat the bottom. Having a thin batter makes all the difference.
- A hot pan. Heat up the pan before cooking. Not smoking hot – don’t harm the pan. But if you start too soon before the pan warms up the first few crepes will be sub-standard.
My favorite way to eat crepes is with apples, particularly apple sauce or apple butter. So that is how I often serve them as well. The ones above have apple slices that were baked with cinnamon and then lightly fried in butter (butter just makes things delicious, what can I say?!), along with real maple syrup for the inside, with an apple butter topping and a caramel drizzle. A shake of powdered sugar adds the finishing touch.
Wednesday, 24 April 2013
Do you know the Graphics Fairy? Her site is a treasure trove of delightful illustrations, photographs, and ephemera, scanned at a high resolution and given away for free! I found this smart Gentleman Bunny there and used him for Baby Willow’s one year birthday party invitations.
We call the Baby our little Rabbit because she loves to jump and bounce, so I am going with a loose bunny theme for her party. It won’t be anything too fancy, and to be honest invitations were not at all necessary as most of the people coming were intending to be here anyway. But we must have documentation of these Big Life Events for the Baby Book if nothing else, no? So invitations were made.
I used my silhouette cutter for this project, cutting the printed bunny card, a lining on bright yellow paper with the party details, a coordinating red envelope to mail them out in style, and a butterfly sticker (graphic also from the Graphics Fairy website) to seal it all up. He’s a dapper Gentleman Bunny and I think he will deliver the news in fine style.
Here are the files I used, in case you might like to make your own little Bunny cards! These are PDF files, so you can print them and cut them out with scissors or a knife. The cards are about 4.5″ x 2.5″ when folded, and the envelopes are 5.25″ x 3.5″ (the smallest size allowed by the USPS). To assemble the envelope, fold the larger petal sides in along the gray fold lines. Dot glue on the glue mark to hold the sides together. Dot glue on the bottom end glue marks and fold it up. Fold the top side to crease. You can close the top with a pretty sticker or glue it shut as well once your card is inside.
Monday, 22 April 2013
I’m back, with a plan and a schedule and the motivation that only comes from lots of late nights and early mornings and sitting up at all hours with a teething baby/fussy baby/only-wanting-to-play baby. I have some creative projects in the works, some little garden plots with big dreams, some kitchen plans and dilemmas, and some opinions I’d like to share… We’ll see how it all works out.
Friday, 8 February 2013
I made these block prints last night. I worry sometimes that all my time spent at the computer is sucking away my creativity. Certainly, the computer is a strong magnet and often it is difficult to pull away and get started on a messy real-art project.
These blocks are nothing special. But working with the materials and squishing the ink and then deciding with my hands in real space where each print went felt so natural. It was gratifying, and reassuring that yes, much of my time may be spent in the digital world, but my hands are still capable.
Thursday, 7 February 2013
He rides a unicycle everywhere, because flying is just so… common.
Saturday, 2 February 2013
So you know how every time you move, things are mysteriously lost? For instance, my pink stuffed pig never showed up after a move my family made when I was 6 (I still miss you, Pinky Pig!).
This past move, I lost some very specific and necessary items: my scissors and my exacto knives. And I just cannot figure out what could have happened. We moved very slowly, with me packing during baby naps and the short times a 4 month old will happily amuse herself, and then my husband driving carloads out to the new house a couple times a day. At the end we used a borrowed pickup truck for the furniture. But there were no movers involved, no rented vehicles, no helpful friends who may have unsuspectingly hidden my cutting tools.
None of these things are expensive or hard to come by, so I suppose next chance I have to stop by a craft store replacements will be purchased. That’s not really the point though. It’s more just the mystery of it all: I’ve searched through art supply boxes, bins and drawers over and over to no avail. I’ve searched all the other boxes I can find. I’ve dug through the trunks of our cars. Where are my blades?!
The mugs of mostly worn out markers arrived fine, though. Naturally.
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
I love food. My family – immediate and extended as far as I have known – also loves food. I was lucky to grow up in a family that cooked, though of course I never realized as a child how much work that really means. My parents, typically my mom (though dad is no slouch in the kitchen either), presented full meals most evenings in addition to working outside the home and keeping a small farm generally together. Organic food was (still is) extremely important, so we regularly drove 45 minutes to a bigger city to do our grocery shopping at the Food Co-op. My mother cannot enter a grocery store without going down each aisle, so grocery expeditions were an afternoon affair. To be honest, I enjoy a good stroll through the supermarket myself on occasion.
This week’s List it Tuesday topic from Artsyville is Culinary Traditions. Here are a few of ours…
- Whenever we went to visit my grandmother, she would have a pot of soup waiting for us. It was usually (maybe always?) tomato with meatballs and made all the more memorable as we never arrived at her door before 1 or 2 in the morning. I can picture my sleepy family sitting in her dining room, eating soup in the small hours of the dawn.
- My dad makes, according to himself, the World’s Best Mac-n-cheese. As a kid, my friends and I would down an alarming quantity in one sitting, bowl after delicious bowl. Actually, who am I kidding: we still pack it in pretty good. Dad still calls his the World’s Best, but I’m vying for the title these days…
- My other grandmother, on the Southern side, traditionally whipped up a batch of fried chicken at least once per visit. Accompanied by the ubiquitous biscuits, “southern style” green beans (cooked with bacon to within an inch of their lives), and sundry other tasty and artery clogging items, this meal was always greeted with enthusiasm.
- Christmas is full of culinary traditions. One of our most constant is rice pudding on Christmas morning.
- For some unknown reason, one Christmas at around the ages of 7 & 10, my sister and I decided that the perfect gift for our mother would be a new spatula. Only problem was that the spatula she owned was perfectly decent. So, the concept of multiple spatula ownership apparently unknown to us, we set on a course of destroying the current model by vigorously chewing on it whenever the occasion presented itself (whilst cleaning it of cookie dough and cake batter, ideally). I don’t remember if by Christmas we felt we had succeeded enough to warrant the purchase, or if we actually purchased a new one at all in the end. I can’t wait to see what baby Willow selects as the perfect gifts in the years to come! – edited to add: I forgot to write why this fits under traditions! Nowadays, we like to give spatulas at Christmas time, as a reminder of the random whims of childhood…
See more culinary traditions at artsyville…
Monday, 14 January 2013
I spent a good part of Sunday playing on my tablet, drawing cool birds. It was a random idea generated from a conversation with my brother in law. More on that later as I am still working on the main part of the project.
This guy didn’t quite fit in the mix with the others, but I like him. He’s a real Cool Bird. What do you think he’s listening to?
Thursday, 10 January 2013
Looks delicious, no? No? …well, I guess not. But it was! I just got the replacement parts for my blender and we are back in smoothie-making business.
I’m a big fan of fruit smoothies, especially using the variety frozen fruit packages with mango and pineapple, but lately I’ve enjoyed making more veggie concoctions. This one is 6-8 baby carrots, 4 clementines, several handfuls of raw spinach, and maybe 1 cup of orange juice. It made two nearly full 8oz glasses. And while it totally looks like Nessie might emerge at any moment, I assure you it tasted fresh and delightful.