Happy Halloween

It’s done. We did it. Three circus-themed costumes in less than two hours of work. Thank you scissors, duct tape, and glue guns!

Circus Parade

These are not the best photos, but I just couldn’t resist getting something up tonight!

Back Home

Have a Happy Halloween! From our home to yours, wherever you may be!

Batten Down the Hatches

What are hatches? Why do we need to batten them? Enquiring mind want to know.

We are all hunkered down—safe, dry, cozy, and warm—while Ms. Sandy blows her hardest. Although my husband and my two middles experienced Irene in all of her six-days-without-power glory, this is my first full-blown hurricane here on the coast. I had vacation plans for later in the week, but it’s not clear how that’s going to shake out.

I had run out to take pictures of our shore and flooded salt marshes, but while out fighting the elements for a few perfect shots, I somehow failed to notice there was no card in my camera. It was a wee bit too scary to go back out.

the canon raincoat

All levity aside, it was truly frightening to see waves come in and cover and the entire row of homes that sits between us and the sea. I surely hope those folks evacuated safely and that their homes managed to avoid any damage.

Tea Time Gets an Upgrade

It’s been nearly eight weeks since the kids started school, and I think I can finally say that we’re back into the swing of things. I believed it was going to take a few more weeks before I could say that we all had adjusted, but minus a few hiccups here and there, I’m willing to concede that we’re back on schedule, we’ve regained our rhythm.

I think I have tea time to thank for that.

New Cups and Saucers

During the break, tea time fell by the wayside as we visited family, swam at the shore, collected rays of sunshine, dug in our garden, and drank in all that sweet summer had to offer. No one wanted to sit and sip while there were butterflies to catch, and I wasn’t about to stand over the stove supervising kettles to boil.

All About the Sugar

Come September, tea time rolled gently back into our schedule along with drop-offs and pick-ups and homework and earlier bedtimes in the shortening days. This year we’ve added a few upgrades; we now use the fancy cups and saucers as well as the silver-leafed plates for our cookies. I was surprised at the small number of times I’ve had to remind them to be gentle and careful; so far we’ve avoided any casualty-inducing catastrophes.

Fancy Plates

The Whole Family

Although we’re never 100% successful maintaining the schedule over the weekend, it has been fun introducing other family members and friends to our little ritual. Sometimes having company means a trip to the local cupcake hotspot for a special treat, baking being an activity that still remains a bit beyond my abilities.

Cupcakes

Who needs to fret and slave away over ingredients and the oven when you could help such awesome local businesses!

German Cake Server

I still try occasionally though. And even if I forget an ingredient or two (or maybe even three), sometimes the results are still edible.

Mamas Cup

And now that there are a few boxes of cookies stashed in the pantry, even those regular baking disasters haven’t been so catastrophic.

Sure wish it was as easy to upgrade the baking skills as it’s been to add a little flair to the tea time table. But I guess you really can’t have it all.

Food on Friday :: Fresh Caught Squid

We had in our possession a gift certificate that was burning the proverbial hole in my pocket. Luckily, I noticed that my cookbook shelves had a few empty spots in need of filling, so fill them I did.

New Cookbooks

I have to admit that there are times that I have purchased a few new highly blogged recipe books that didn’t quite measure up to the hype. However, none of these book suffer from that particular malady; they have all lit that flame of inspiration I was missing for a while and I’m itching to get into the kitchen and give a few new recipes the old college try.

I started with a saffron chicken & herb salad from Ottolenghi’s new book Jerusalem, which did not disappoint.

Saffron Chicken and Herb Salad

I did, however, make a substitution…

Fresh Local Squid

Fresh, local-caught squid, right off of our very own coast.

A few weeks ago we found out about a local Seafood Exchange, similar to a CSA but  supporting our local fisheries and folk. It has been incredible, and we’re going to do it again come November when our current share expires. The selections this particular day were :: squid, flounder, whiting, cod, and something else I can’t remember. I think it’s obvious what I chose.

Saffron Squid Ingredients

One of the more interesting techniques in this particular recipe was taking an orange, removing the top and bottom, simmering the slices in honey, vinegar, saffron, and water for an hour, then pulsing it in the processor to make a paste. Although an hour seemed a bit long, by the time I shaved the fennel, washed, picked, and tore the herbs, as well as prepared and cooked the squid, it was done and ready to be thrown in the food processor.

Ready to Eat

The husband does not really care for squid, which is too bad because it only took seconds to cook, but he did finish his entire bowl.

Almost All Gone

As did I.

And although I was sad that he mostly doesn’t really love squid, I was more than happy to demolish the leftovers the next day.

Wonder how it tastes with chicken…

A Sideboard Journey

A few years ago, my mom and my step-dad decided to downsize their home significantly, which was lucky for me because there were quite a few pieces I was able to “inherit” because there wouldn’t be any space for them in their new digs.

One of them was this sideboard.

Brown Sideboard

I have this rather awkward spot in my kitchen—you can it a bit better in this post—where the countertop ends abruptly and leaves an empty space where cabinets would normally go. We could use those extra cabinets, or more specifically, we could really use the extra counter space. One of my main frustrations with this kitchen is the lack of space between the sink, the stove, and the end of the counter. The layout is just strange, and if I could figure out how to get more space between the stove and sink, make the sink a double-well, and somehow balance it all perfectly with that gorgeous window, then I would probably love my kitchen. Right now my kitchen and I have a mostly working relationship, but we don’t like hanging out after hours.

When we originally bought the house, the previous owners left us two desks that fit side-by-side in this space, but we decided to put those in the living room so the kids could use them for their homework, without being in the middle of the kitchen fray. As a temporary stop-gap measure, we decided to throw in my Mom’s sideboard. But that dark brown just wasn’t doing anything for me. So even though I promised myself I wouldn’t start another piece of furniture until that blasted hutch was finished, I ordered some Annie Sloan chalk paint in Provence and dove right on in.

Here it is after the first coat…
First Coat

First Coat Art Shot

And here’s What happened when I got to the second coat…
Second Coat Drawer Fronts

And here’s the beginnings of the third coat, that yellowish tinge…
Third Coat Top

Fourth Coat

And that brown-ish awfulness in this shot… that’s the beginning of the fourth coat… or what would’ve been the fourth coat if I wasn’t extremely unhappy with how it looked.Fourth Coat Begun

So this is what the fourth/fifth coat actually ended up being… (at this point I stopped counting individual layers)The Fifth Coat

Detail of Fifth Coat

And just in case you thought that I managed to finish all this in one sitting because my kids are busy sitting quietly in their playroom, building the next innovation in robotic technology while implementing their newly formed Middle East peace plan and eating their self-prepared PB&J sandwiches leaving me in my solitude to paint, wax, and clean-up the kitchen, this work happened over seven days, and caused all other work (excepting the laundry… there is always laundry…) to stop. Here’s the Keepin’ It Real shot.Keepin It Real

After seven more days, and several more coats of wax and paint, this is what I came up with…All Done

Another Angle of Done

Still All Done

The Top Is All Done Too

The cabinet has become the lunch box prep station with snacks on the top…
Snacks On Top

Painted drawers full of containers and sandwich sleeves…
Steel Container Drawer

A thermos cabinet that also hold the baby’s snack cups…
Thermos Cabinet

A drawer full of boxes and bags…
Lunch Bag Drawer

The other drawer contains loose change for lunch money on pizza day, and the other cabinet is full of snacks. I have to say, it’s been working very well for us!

Because I invested so much time refinishing this beast, I’m going to share a few more details of the paint and wax. You think you’re bored? Imagine how I felt after the ninth coat…
Surface Deet

Surface Corner

Left Face Deet

Scroll Cabinet Deet

Shes Got Legs

Paint Deet A

Knobs

Paint Deet B

Paint Deet C

Paint Deet D

Paint Deet E

So there she is… a modern colored wax and distressed Annie Sloan chalk paint furniture refinish. Hours and hours of work, building and buffing, painting and sanding…

And here’s the rub… I think I hate it.

Yeah. I’m going to live with it for quite a bit longer before I make a decision, but I’m thinking I might start pushing the hubster to invest in those base cabinets and new countertop.

I guess I should insert something here about destination vs. journey, but mostly I’m considering this a live and learn type of thing.

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:: Linking to These Fabulous Sites ::
Today’s Creative Blog, Miss Mustard SeedUnder the Table and Dreaming,

The Playroom Project

Raise your hand if your house is dustless, clutter-free, organized to a T, and scrubbed ’til it shines… anyone? any single one of you? If you have your hand raised and are waving it madly, you might want to look away from this post and come back in a few days.

I do not have a spotless, dustless, toy-and-clutter-free home. But I surely appreciate all those things and desperately try to wrangle our lives in a close approximation of all those untenable goals in a life filled with small children and big dreams. So I take small steps in between sips of coffee and tip-toe past the ever-present piles of laundry to tackle a few minutes here and there of larger projects that normally overwhelm me. I’m starting to learn how to break down those looming tasks into smaller steps that help me feel like I’m making progress. It’s not my forte, but we all need something to work on, yes?

In the parlance of our time, folks, I’m about to “keep it real.” Here is the state of the kids’ playroom when I realized it was way past time for an intervention.

Play Room 1

Play Room 2

Play Room 3

Play Room 4

Play Room 6

Play Room 5

Play Room 7

Here’s the thing I’ve noticed about my kids and their clutter in particular. When they are unable to keep things cleaned up by themselves in ten minutes or less, there is a steady and rapid slide into chaos. Everyone is unhappy. Two years ago I became so frustrated with the level of mess, that I attacked the toy piles (and piles and piles…) with a handful of trash bags. I was worried about the revolution I would face come the morning when sleepy eyes looked around and saw the Shock and Awe assault levied on their bits and bobs and plastic parts… But here’s the rub. Not only did they not notice, they were better able to focus on what they were playing with and suffered fewer distractions. It was as if a tiny cloud from heaven descended upon us and restored peace and sanity. They never mentioned the toys, I never missed them, and no one every noticed (or said anything if they did) that a few of their gifts had gone missing. I certainly appreciated a break from trying to keep all the tiny little toys together in their sets, the kids found awesome little substitues when needed, everyone was happy.

We have repeated this scenario enough times that I know it wasn’t just a fluke. I also know that the slash and burn is long past due, and it’s one of the projects I’ve been slowly chipping away at for the past three weeks. It’s almost done. I can’t wait. Can. Not. Wait.

And this post is the last little bit of incentive I’m offering up to get me past this last little push I’ll need to get. it. done. Another mark off my to-do list.

Food on Friday :: Apple Cider Soup

Today was a blustery Autumn-y day… absolutely perfect for soup. So soup was had.

Cider Soup Kid Sized

We’ve reached that time of year when it becomes more difficult to take pictures with natural light, since the days are getting shorter (and soon the end of daylight savings… Eek!) but it seems a small price to pay for soup weather. The wind has been blowing quite awesomely tonight so I’m hoping tomorrow we’ll see some big rollers washing over our sea-bound lighthouse, a favorite Fall activity.

Cider Soup Toppings

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes… soup weather.

The thing I love about soup is just how easy it is to make. Throw a few things together in a pot, add some chicken stock, a few herbs, a little time, and a blender, and there ya have it! Soup. It’s a great way to get the kids to eat some vegetables, especially when I haul out the ole Make-It-Yourself trick. A small bowl of soup, a few fun topping (popcorn, home made croutons, apple-celery hash, and bacon!), and there my kids are, eating vegetables they would normally not touch and even calling it delicious. Such is the power of the Make-It-Yourself (and Bacon) Magic.

Cider Soup For Dipping

It also helps that the soup becomes a convenient dip for crackers or bread. It’s taken years of training, but my kids finally see the benefit of dip.

As an added bonus, many soups are quite tasty for lunch the next day, when the light is much better for nice pics!

Cider Soup Gets Grown Up

I don’t have an official recipe for this yet, as I need to work out a few measurments kinks, but this is a close approximation ::

:: A Close Approximation of An Apple Cider Soup Recipe ::

1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds (I used my food processor)
2 fennel bulbs sliced into 1″ cubes (1″-ish… fennel isn’t square)
2 TBS grated ginger
4 TBS olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 c hazelnut meal (or just toast, peel, and grind your own hazelnuts… OK that’s crazy.. also the amount might be closer to a cup… I have to test this out)
4 c chicken stock or water
3 c apple cider
2 TBS lemon juice
Walnut Oil

In the bottom of heavy bottomed pot, heat olive oil over med heat, add carrots, fennel, and ginger, and salt, and gently sweat until the carrots darken, and fennels softens, approximately 15 minutes. A touch of browning is fine. To this mixture add the hazelnut meal and toast for 5 minutes being careful to not allow the meal to scorch, then add the chicken stock and 1 cup of the apple cider. Bring heat to high until soup begins to boil, then lower heat to a slow simmer, covered for at least one hour, although the more time you allow this to slowly cook, the better the results. After an appropriate to your family amount of time (are the children biting your ankles? Time’s up!), transfer contents in small batches to a blender, cover with a towel you don’t really care about, and blend as long as is effective, returning all creamy, dreamy, carroty sludge to the pot for a bit more cooking. Add the remaining 2 c apple cider, and lemon juice, simmer for a few more minutes (or longer if you prefer) and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve in a nice white bowl, with croutons, apple-celery hash, and bacon. Add more bacon if you live with carnivores that complain when there isn’t enough meat. Drizzle a touch of Walnut Oil around the centered garnish. Do a little dance. Pro-tip :: This soup gets better with a nice long rest in the fridge! Pro-tip The Second :: Cut the bacon into small little strips and cook in a cast-iron pan low and slow-like. Pro-tip The Third :: This soup is “rustic” which is a fancy, hoitey-toitey way of saying NOT STRAINED. Strain if you’re fancy, or add more bacon.

Apple-Celery Hash
1 Granny Smith Apple
2 stalks celery

Peel and chop apple into the smallest pieces you can stand. Same with the celery. Take the pan that fried the bacon, dump out the rendered fat, but don’t wipe, throw in the apples and celery with a bit of salt and pepper over med-low heat, let sit for a few minutes to brown up on one side (resist the urge to constantly move it around), toss a bit, repeat until apples are nicely brownish. Then toss it into the middle of your soup.

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:: Linking to These Fabulous Sites ::
Today’s Creative Blog

Pajamas for KCWC

I did it. I did it, I did it, I did it, I DID IT!!

I made PJ’s! Two sets for two kids, and I’ve kept up with the at least one hour a week of sewing everyday for the challenge. Woo HOO!

Two Sets of PJs

OK, fine, I didn’t sew the tops, but I did embellish them and I say that counts.

Orange Top

Blue Square

And look!! Look at the cuffs!! I did something fancy!

Two Cuffs

Too Many Toes

I made them take their socks off because I found the socks too distracting… so I took mine off in solidarity!

Fuschia Top and Bottom

Blue Top and Bottom

I can’t really do much, but it turns out that I can make things (and decorate them!) with what I do know how to do.

Details Details Details

I won’t mention that the blue pants already have a hole in them, because, well, because I just did and I’m still so thrilled that I managed to make PJs, that I don’t really care all that much. I can sew it back together!!

I’m sewing!! Yay!!

In Celebration

Yes, I’m celebrating.

I’m celebrating one successful night (working on my second) of the Kids Clothes Week Challenge session last night. Have to say after looking at some of the other entries, I’m a bit—OK, a lot—intimidated, but I’m going to soldier on anyway. Sure, some people can sew four outfits for their kids in one hour, some of us take an hour to thread our needles. We all start somewhere. I have one new pair of little pants, and three more planned. Also a few embellished shirts that will all coordinate for four pairs of PJs. Pictures coming later.

I’m also celebrating my friend Cosy’s news! Not only has she released pattern, Orsolya, but she now has her own studio back in Pittsburgh where you can go to knit, spin, or buy some of her hand-dyed or hand-spun yarn, or look at smaples from some of her fabulous patterns including a few from her book. Yay Cosy!! I only wish I could be back in the ‘bugh to help you celebrate all your hard work!

You might remember Orsolya as that fabulous little test knit I whipped up super quick this summer. Well, I banged out two more right after I finished the first. This one was knit up with Autumn House Farm Shantung Silk and some Silky Merino from Malabrigo. I’ve been waiting to use that Autumn House Farm yarn for such a long time… I think there was no better way to show it off than this pattern.

Front View O3

Front View Detail

Hemline Detail

Looking Up

Back View

Oroslya and Puppers

Neckline Details

And here’s the other, made with some of Cosy’s hand-dyed yarn and just a touch of Cascade 220.

Oroslya the Second Back View

Orsolya and Drawing

Drawing on the Side

Close Up and Side View

Look at the Eyelets

Neckline Love

Cute Hemline Eyelets

Back Neckline

Heaven is a worsted knit for kids… it goes super super fast, and boy those kids make it look pretty adorable. I’m so thankful they all still like wearing things I make.

And man… this was the shortest photo session ever, and I actually got a few I could use. So I pushed my luck, and tired to get a shot of both together. Fun times.

Wham

Bam

THANK YOU MAAM

Yoikes

Not Meant To Be

This is the closest I got.

Eating a Sponge

What? You don’t let your kid suck on a sponge to get her to stand still enough to model a dress that you knit ever-so-lovingly for her? Well! You’re missing out!

 

OK, time for me to get back to sewing… or maybe I’ll just go to bed and count the extra hour I put in last night as credit for today.

Kids Clothes Week Challenge

Remember this particular sewing disaster in the not-so-distant past? Well, I’m trying to move beyond it.  So, here goes… I’m going to join the blogging mini-revolution and hop on Elsie Marley’s Kids Clothes Week Challenge wagon. And I’ve invited one more lovely blogging lady to join in on the fun. Alex of the newly redesigned and uberly fabulous North Story blog has agreed to come along for the seven day sew-for-one-hour-a-day challenge. She’s as scared as I am (her sewing machine is still in the box) so we should have a great week of at least one or two disastrous, err, I mean entertaining stories. Alex, no backing out now… I’ve publicly called you out, so you hafta do it! Anyone else want to come along for the ride?

All you need to do is click on the above link and leave a comment on Elsie’s post saying you’re in (although, really, if you don’t want to do that, no one’s going to knock you) and commit to sewing for one hour per day. One hour per day. I can do that! You know why I know that I can do that? Because I know it only take 30 seconds to sew a seam with too tight a gauge that will need at least one hour to remove all the stitches. You wanna know how I know that? Because I finally finished a pair of pants for one of the young-ins. Looky here ::

Holy Pants Batman

Pants! I made PANTS! Pants that fit!! I can’t believe I did it!! And it only took me a week… seven days of sewing for at least one hour a day. At least. Turns out the sewing is the least difficult and the least time-consuming part of sewing. It takes a while to read or draft a pattern, pick the fabric, wash it, iron it, then do crazy things like draw on it with a marker, stick pins in it, and cut it. Also, it could take longer to cut it than you originally thought because you cut four of the same pattern side, hypothetically of course, instead of two each of the two sides (front and back, in case you were wondering). And then after all the correct pieces were cut, you might sew the first seam together and realize that you should really try to align the pattern, which causes you to cut yet another pair of front and backs, after one hour of trying to align and pin the pattern as precisely as possible. Also, once it’s cut and sewn, you might realize you sewed the wrong pieces together, take an hour to remove all the stitches, and sew the exact same incorrect seam again. I could go on, well, if I remembered how many steps I completely botched, but really, you get the picture. So here’s another ::

The Back of the PANTS

And another ::

Another Back of the PANTS

I made pants!! And they’re even lined!

The Pants Are LINED

So here’s a few things I’m realizing about this challenge ::
• One hour a day can equal less than one seam
• It doesn’t matter if you think you’ve cut all the threads everywhere, when you go to take photos, you’ll find a few more
• Sewing takes very little time; the prep is where the money’s at
• Little kids love it when you make them things. They’ll even wear it multiple times before it gets to the wash by grabbing it out of the dirty laundry basket
• All that stuff you do wrong, all the time you spend looking at fabric, turning the iron off and on, heck looking for the iron, that all counts toward your one hour per day
• Sewing is much more forgiving that knitting; it take less time to notice and correct your mistake, even if you’re a complete and total noob and have no idea what you’re doing
• Sewing is way easier than baking
• Putting the box out in the sunlight and staring at it for 59 minutes counts! (Hi Alex!)
• It doesn’t matter if you have man-thumbs… no one will see it when they’re looking at your fabulous pants

So… or should it be… Sew… Why don’t you join in on the fun? I mean, what’s the worst that could possibly happen?

Oh, I should also note that I made these pants from this tutorial on the lovely Made by Dana. You’ll notice the fabric is exactly the same. It wasn’t intentional, but those pants must’ve made quite an impression, because one year after looking up that tutorial, that’s the fabric I came home with. Whaddaya gonna do? Give the lady her props, of course! She’s fab, I love her style, and I’m going with the adage imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Pants. Kids Clothes Week Challenge. Fun time. LET’S DO THIS!