Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cranberry Scones

With their tart red berries and sparkling sugar on top, to me these look like Christmas as much as they taste like it. We like that these are just sweet enough.

Cranberry Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
5 tablespoons sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for topping
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup (plus 1 tablespoon) lowfat buttermilk
1/2 cup halved cranberries, drained on paper towels

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together flour, 5 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 2/3 cup buttermilk until just moistened. Gently fold in cranberries.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough gently, 5 to 10 times. Pat into a 1-inch-thick round. Cut into 8 wedges; place on a baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Brush tops with remaining tablespoon half-and-half; sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Delicious Reads

Cooking was not my highest priority in 2008. I do make most meals from scratch but, working more, this year my motto has been "the meal that makes itself." We've stuck to what's simple and old favorites.

Now I'm sick of eating the same things and craving something new. So lately I've been thumbing my way through old cookbooks and some new ones too. I have these two checked out from the library and am reluctant to return them, they're so good.
I'm finding the Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper a reading pleasure, as much as a culinary one. It's chock full of facts and quotes. The book's typography is a treat, too.
Grow It Cook It is deceptively in the children's section of the library. Ha––this is one I want for myself. Each recipe shows how to grow something in the garden and then make something from it. The recipes are amazing. We tried the carrot muffins. They were fairly time-intensive but may have been the best muffins I have ever eaten. The book's illustrations and photography is well-done, with easy-to-understand recipes for kids (and grownups, too).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Middle Street

In Chicago we complained about living next to a crazy lady who had 50-some lawn ornaments at Christmas. My years as a Hoosier must've changed me––I now seek out such low-brow delights. One place we visit each year is "Middle Street." Several farm houses go crazy with literally hundreds of glowing pieces. Tonight Santa was even present. All of it was tasty, even the candy canes we took home with us.

This girl believes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Go See

I am taking a break from the blog for a while. This should tide you over until I return. Have fun exploring!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Cafe´ Aprons

I love how Christmas gives me a good excuse to thank people who mean so much to me––especially the folks who have no idea that they do. These cafe´ aprons are on their way to three who have enriched our family in ways they can't imagine. I love the way the aprons look bundled up. I hope they will, too.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

First Day of Christmas

For my husband, who rekindles Christmas joy in me each and every year. Thank you.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Sometimes family conversation sounds bizarre, even in context. Here's a sampling (out of context) from the last few days. [Don't ask...]

"Did a monster fall in the toilet?"

"Peeing is good, but pooping is better."

"Do not poop in your bed."

"Don't yell at my poop!"

"I've seen bigger nipples on a cat."

"Is it Christmastime? Now? Now? Now?"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Pears have recently become the kids' favorite fruit (no small feat). These beauties are spending their days ripening, waiting for the moment I bake them into a pear crisp with spiced struedel.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Going to Kansas City

Actually we've come and gone.

I fared better on the killer drive this time, sandwiched between a Julia Glass novel and issues of the New Yorker. We put Sarah on dramamine this time––without going into details, that worked out much better, too.

Each time we visit Kansas City, we think of moving back. After living in Chicago and Indianapolis, we discuss whether we still consider KC "home." What would it be like to move back? Would we feel like we'd gone "full circle"? Or, would it feel like a completely different place, like an awkward meeting with an old friend who had changed?

Anyway...here are pics from one of my favorite places in KC, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. My mom, sister and I took the kids Friday.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Unsung Heroes

Every working mother treasures them. They are the unsung heroes, humble in their mission, elegant in their execution. We rarely speak of them––for they are sacred.

Like a crockpot, they do one thing while we do another. They are the underwire of the bra of our lives. The Zamboni of our journey. They are different for every mom, but we salute all of them.

Here are 5 things I could not do without:

Laundry Room Cubbies - Every single day this room is worth what I paid California Closets. It created a beautiful absolute––shoes? backpack? school papers? gloves? They all reside here and nowhere else. No excuses. Because Mr. Rogers taught us all so much about hanging our sweaters and removing our sneakers.

Quicken - Take my food and water, my clean underwear and put me in a Turkish prison. But don't delete my Quicken file.

Grocery List - Recipe for sanity: Mix one "what's out" list to one menu and one shopping list (arranged in shopping order). Stir, bake overnight ("did I forget anything?") and, voila, all week meals unfold like magic (except that Mexican pizza last week that refused to bake...). After all, isn't the holy grail of motherhood the meal that makes itself?

Franklin Planner, Classic - My head might write web 2.0 code all day but my heart is written in my Planner (on paper). I have kept one for fifteen years. Do you know where you were on November 15, 1997? I do––I was hiking in snowy woods (lost, actually, but that is a story for another time).

Dyson Vacuum - Don't tell Mr. Dyson, but I would've paid twice as much for this handsome hulking hunk of purple suction. If I do nothing else, a quick vacuum saves the house from evil and doom. Fur, fabric, lint, erasers, dirty socks, Polly Pocket dolls, leaves, raisins, small whiney neighbor kids? What more can I say?

I want to know, what is the wind beneath YOUR wings?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

More Fun with Blocks

Freelancing is great when you want to work barefoot; it's terrible when you need to turn off work. Even when I shut the office doors, it's still here, at home with me. And when I'm swamped, on the weekends it whispers, "Don't you need to invoice So-And-So? How can you be doing That when you need to be doing This? Wouldn't you love to jump into that new project?"

Yesterday I drowned out the noise by cracking open the stash box, and starting the Bento Box quilt. This one promises to be a treat--it's small, simple, and the fabric––oh my. Gratification through and through. I can recommend this popular pattern–it's flexible for both novice/expert and it is well-written. It's also perfect for fat quarters. Yes, I am planning future projects with it.

I completed two blocks before the kids found me. This is the fabric I got in Cincy. I tell you––once you start using rich, beautiful fabric, there is no going back. The delight for me with these Japanese fabrics is not only the design and color (which is exquisite), but the texture. Each fabric has a different weave and texture. I admit to being a true junkie.

My little colorful corner of the world, as it looks tonight.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Playing with Blocks

I am making Very Slow Progress on my bedroom quilt. I figure I am now halfway through the piecing. Not finding much time to quilt or sew––I've been working long hours and have had strep throat this week. Making Christmas gifts will become a priority soon. No matter. I am happy when I can do little bits here and there. On Saturday I completed two blocks and was trying to figure out whether I wanted sashing or not between the blocks (still undecided, welcome opinions). I wanted to go willy nilly scrappy-crazy, with each block very different but decided to go for more consistency and faster completion. Blocks are 15 inches square which I hope makes a bold statement in a large room.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's a long day, a long way into your arms...

I've enjoyed The Innocence Mission since 1989. This video, of 5th graders singing "There," is beautiful and touching.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Going Boating

Today I told Matt that we were going to go vote together.

"Boating?" he asked.

"Voting," I said.

"I can't wait to get in the water!" he said.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

New Bag

I practically threw myself on Cami last week, so happy to be in the store and see fantastic new fabrics. I haven't sewn for weeks (months?). Friday night I made this bag for a certain someone's 35th birthday. She says she never reads my blog (we'll see if this is true). It's in the same colorway as my quilt so now I'm psyched about doing more quilt blocks. I also have quite a few ideas for Christmas, if I can fit them in. Coming your way, Sis.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pumpkin Carving

Days of Grace

"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem..." - Walt Whitman, Preface to Leaves of Grass

This week we have colds and it is cold outside. My thoughts go to last week when we spent warmer days outside, in the leaves. Sarah and I cut plants back for winter. Matt jumped in the leaves or dug in the dirt. Sam, who is becoming achy and arthritic, barked and ran in circles. Readying the garden for winter - can we call it work? 

Even on cool fall days, there is a sense of endings, of needing to things finish up. Like a squirrel with nuts, I become obsessed with completing my projects. Of needing to live life fully, and eat up, before winter comes.

Matt now seems to understand the concept of seasons. Waiting for the bus this morning, he crouched down to touch the grass, coated with crystals of our first hard frost. He tilted his head, "Is it winter now?" Last week, he stood in utter amazement, realizing the leaves were falling from the trees.

I am hoping for a few more warm days. Plants in the front yard need cutting back. Each year I hope for an Indian Summer, warm days I can open the doors and hear the leaves rustle.

Even with all the busy-ness, the colds, and my current bag of worries, these days feel like a poem.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cheese Bread

It's dark, rainy and cold. The kids are doing puzzles, reading, and coloring. I made cheese bread. Nothing in the world smells and tastes as good as this bread. Nothing.

Cheese Bread

2 packages dry yeast
1 cup water (105-115 degrees)
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
6 to 7 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Combine milk, sugar, shortening, and salt in a saucepan; heat until shortening melts. Cool mixture to 105-115 degrees. Add milk mixture, egg, and 2 cups flour to yeast mixture; stir until smooth. Stir in cheese; gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface; cover and let rest 10-15 minutes. Knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 8 to 10 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down, and divide in half; shape each portion into a loaf. Place in two greased 9 x 5 x 3 inch loafpans. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans and let cool. Yield: 2 loaves

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Turned Brain

"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain."
- Louisa May Alcott

It's great fun to see your kids take flight. This one may have inherited her father's penchant for reading for long stretches. Tonight she read
Marvin Redpost for an hour and a half, not moving. I have never seen her still (and quiet) for that long. She got her own library card this week and is very, very proud. Her teacher said Sarah told her about the card 4 separate times.

Sarah's library card was a result of us hitting the limit the last few times we've gone. The kids and I are marauders, shrieking and flailing our way to the stacks (some hyberbole here). Books! CDs! Magazines! Learning kits! It's all too exciting. In the summer we visit at least twice a week. Hitting the limit is a little embarrassing, like we've overdrawn an account. The librarians (do I imagine this?) snivvle, like they sense our gimme-the-goods attitude. Aren't we supposed to do this? The library plies its patrons with "Support Your Library" swag. Aren't we just obeying? They are firm: we can't check everything out. We stagger out with our bags. At home we shiver, delighted with all the choices. 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Walk in the Woods

The day started innocently enough. The promise: a fall family hike in beautiful Brown County State Park.

We started on the trail at 11:30. "Let's make the kids exercise a little before lunch," Erik said. Sure, why not--we'd had a late breakfast. "Are you happy?" asked Matt. Yes, we were all happy.
Matt was rearing to go. Right away he found a walking stick.
"Sacajawea" on the trail. She was both a fast walker and a curious collector. By the end of the hike her pockets bulged with acorns. Her braids bounced with her.
While the trees are still in the process of turning, there was stunning color in surprising places.
Most of the time these two were way ahead of Matt and me.  
We looked for deer and other animals but only saw a bunny. We were probably too noisy. We clattered through leaves. We heard leaves falling to the ground.
After one hour we found our trail was correctly labeled "rugged" on the map. The map? Who left the map in the car? The same person who said we didn't need a map? Where was the trail? Matt was starting to cry. Apparently he thought we were only taking a short hike to a picnic table (he had seen me packing the lunch). There were steep ravines. Large logs to go over and under, thickets, thorny thrashing branches...
It was beautiful, though. We hadn't yet panicked. That happened after we walked back and forth three times along the horse path (according to one rider, "waaaay far away from the road and any trail"). Either we had gone off the trail or the trail was missmarked. A 2.2 mile trail shouldn't take two hours. Right?
Or three hours. Thankfully lunch can be where you make it. Matt perked up. Here, Sarah is still traumatized from seeing her mother squat behind a tree. It didn't seem to hamper her appetite, however. Erik's thinking hard: do we continue on the horse path? Or turn around, again? We see more people on horses who keep saying to us, "we never see people walking in these parts." Where are we?
I am carrying Matt who is so tired he doesn't try to hang on. This view makes me almost glad we are lost, though.
Finally, we hear voices. Cars. Erik leaves me and the kids at a playground, then literally runs up up up a steep ridge road--for an hour and 15 minutes--to find the car.

The kids play but tire after an hour. Sarah: "What if Dad never returns?" I remember the book I have at home on edible forest plants. 

At almost 4:00 we see Erik in the car, happily listening to the Colts. We are happy to be together. Going home. The fall color in my own backyard has never looked so lovely.