Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kids: Cutey-pie Knit Hats

I can sew just about anything (gown? done it. leather jacket? check. stuffed animals? and how), often sans pattern, and I have even dyed and painted my own fabric. Shockingly (to me, at least,) I have never, ever attempted to learn how to knit or crochet.
I feel like I am somehow incomplete while lacking this skill, so I have promised myself that I will tackle the mastery (okay, competence) of knitting and crocheting this year. I figure that I have time before next winter to whip up at least one of these adorable patterns for our little (soon to be) toddler -- so cute!

From Bex at Chile Con Yarne:

From Half-Assed Patterns:

From Bellana at Craftster:

From Allison MacAlister at Knitting Ninja:
All of these links contain either directions on how to knit these cute hats, or link directly to them.
Anybody out there have pointers on the best way to get started, or books and websites that are tried and true?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Kids: Demitasse for Your Demi-Humain

It's sadly ironic that the time in my life when I most need a good espresso (new motherhood), I don't have the time to pull a single shot. Being the coffee geek/design fiend/lover of all things diminutive that I am, I acquired a bit of a demitasse collection in the past.
Instead of letting my collection languish in the back of a cupboard, I discovered that these little cups are the perfect size for portioning out a single serving of baby food, and several will fit in a shallow bowl of hot water (the preferred method of warming our baby's food around here). Plus, the sight of the perfect little ounce and a half of superior houseware design never fails to make my heart glad. Even if the baby is throwing the sweet potatoes.

All above demitasse are illy (still my favorite espresso, after all these years...*sigh*)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fashion: For the Accomplished Wife *smirk*

While I still find myself disturbed that women's shirts button backwards from men's and children's with the subtle (sinister?) pre-woman's lib intent to teach us to dress those of the opposite sex and prepare be the sole stylist of the younger set, I do wish I had paid better attention when my father tried to teach me to knot a tie.
I think it's rather romantic to be able to do that for your man. This goes right along with my romantic, probably dated, ideals of being able to pick out a cigar or the proper Scotch that ones mate would prefer. Maybe it's that I saw 'Gigi' at too young an age (and reading Collette later, realizing that she was really a high class prostitue - the shock!).
That aside, I found this handy dandy diagram on a Dutch website, and thought it quite useful. Enjoy tying one on (hardee-har)!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Recipes: Red Beans and Rice Didn't Miss Her!

Today is a landmark day for us: we got our very first washer and dryer. It's not that we have never done laundry before, but our current house (alas, rented) did not come with a washer and dryer. There is a laundromat a block away, but, after about a month of two adults and a baby relying on an inconvenient laundering resource, our pile of less-important dirty laundry began to grow out of control.
The above picture is not an accurate representation of what our laundry room really looks like... oh, but what I'd give for it to be!

Now that I am a stay at home mom and budding entrepreneur, I idealize my new found laundry freedom with thoughts of house wife history. My maternal grandmother's family is from New Orleans (she was born there, her mother's ashes [in her classic irreverent style] were Fed Exed to the family crypt [one of two] there, and one of my uncles founded the Picayune, etc. Suffice it to say: they've got some roots there), and she has often told me bits of lore that have stuck with me like fairy tales. For instance, I remember this normal housewife schedule:

Monday: Wash Day
Tuesday: Ironing Day
Wednesday: Sewing Day
Thursday: Market Day
Friday: Cleaning Day
Saturday: Baking Day
Sunday: Day of Rest

With a few variations (some folks had a gardening day instead of a separate ironing day, or the days were not quite in this order), this is the way everyone kept house for more than a hundred years. There was logic behind this. Laundry was far and away the heaviest task a housewife faced, requiring a great deal of strength and fortitude to hand-wring clothes and carry big baskets of wet laundry to the clothesline from the basement washtubs. Monday was the day to do it, when you were still fresh and rested from Sunday. Tuesday's ironing followed Monday's wash. Mending and sewing on Wednesday made sense when you'd just been through the clothes and noticed what needed a button or a patch. And so on.

The children's song Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush outlines the chore system too, though there's no market day and two cleaning days in this scheme.

My grandmother also told me, and this seemed to be true for just about every socioeconomic group in New Orleans: Sunday you have ham for dinner, and Monday is always Red Beans and Rice, using Sunday's hambone.

Red Beans and Rice is a low maintenance, one pot recipe that is hard to screw up once you get the hang of it. Thus, it was (and is) a perfect dish for laundry day.
Here's a good recipe, but it's one of those things that you can play with, and cook to your taste.

Red Beans and Rice
  • 1 pound red kidney beans, dry
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 5 ribs celery, chopped
  • As much garlic as you like, minced (I like lots, 5 or 6 cloves)
  • 1 large smoked ham hock, 3/4 pound of Creole-style pickle meat (pickled pork), or 3/4 lb. smoked ham, diced, for seasoning
  • 1 to 1-1/2 pounds mild or hot smoked sausage or andouille, sliced on the bias
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves, crushed
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  • As many dashes Crystal hot sauce or Tabasco as you like, to taste
  • A few dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Creole seasoning blend, to taste; OR,
    • red pepper and black pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh Creole hot sausage or chaurice, links or patties, grilled or pan-fried, one link or patty per person (optional)
  • Pickled onions (optional)
Soak the beans overnight, if possible. The next day, drain and put fresh water in the pot. (This helps reduce the, um, flatulence factor.) Bring the beans to a rolling boil. Make sure the beans are always covered by water, or they will discolor and get hard. Boil the beans for about 45 - 60 minutes, until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Drain.

While the beans are boiling, sauté the Trinity (onions, celery, bell pepper) until the onions turn translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally. After the beans are boiled and drained, add the sautéed vegetables to the beans, then add the ham hock (or ham or pickle meat), smoked sausage, seasonings, and just enough water to cover.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 2 hours at least, preferably 3, until the whole thing gets nice and creamy. Adjust seasonings as you go along. Stir occasionally, making sure that it doesn't burn and/or stick to the bottom of the pot. (If the beans are old -- say, older than six months to a year -- they won't get creamy. Make sure the beans are reasonably fresh. If it's still not getting creamy, take 1 or 2 cups of beans out and mash them, then return them to the pot and stir.)

Serve generous scoops over hot white long-grain rice, with good French bread and good beer.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Food: Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls

So I was browsing some blogs, and found this recipe on Big Red Kitchen , and I thought 'How many times have I needed a cinnamon roll recipe that doesn't involve waiting for dough to rise?' (the answer: several, perhaps many times)
Anyway, here it is. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks delish. If anyone else bakes these babies up, let me know how they turn out.

Quick Cinnamon Rolls

Although I am very fond of yeast cinnamon rolls, there are times when I need something quick and easy. This biscuit style roll is quick and fits the bill for easy. These come together quickly and bake up in about 18 minutes. You can make a simple icing of milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract (remember quick) or go as far as making a thick and satisfying cream cheese icing. Either way this roll is tops. I filled mine with the usual brown sugar cinnamon mixture as well as cinnamon chips and some caramel bits which were fun and chewy and definitely kept the kids guessing. I imagine you could even put chocolate in there if you wanted.

You may want to double and triple the recipe to keep some on hand in the freezer for a quick heat up and continued instant gratification.

Quick Cinnamon Rolls
4 cups unbleached AP flour
4 T. white sugar
2 1/2 T. baking powder
1 1/2 t. Kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups buttermilk*

In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients then cut in butter and mix until the dough is crumbly. Add buttermilk and mix until a nice dough forms. Place dough on a floured surface, knead a little, and roll into a big, big rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.

1/2 cup butter very soft
2 cups brown sugar- yes!
2 T. cinnamon- I just sprinkle
1 cup cinnamon chips, optional
1 cup caramel chips, optional
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Spread the dough with the butter and then sprinkle with the remaining topper ingredients. Roll the dough length-wise away from you and slice into 14 evenly sized buns. Place 7 buns each in two greased 8 inch cake pans. Bake for 16-18 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Top with icing of your choice such as a simple powdered sugar icing or Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon to make them look even prettier. The middle bun may still be a little under done but someone has to take one for the team. Me me me!

* Maven Mama's note: If you don't have buttermilk sitting around (really, who does?), you can create some faux buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup of milk, and allowing it to sit for about 5 minutes

A very special thanks to Big Red Kitchen!!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Kids: Monster Letters

Designer Joey Ellis came up with a clever way to help his son learn the alphabet: Letter Monsters. They are delightful, and made me giggle. Plus, I began thinking of all the designs I could come up with to help my daughter with her ABC's.


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