Monday, February 23, 2015

Still Sally

I'm just going to pretend like there hasn't been a four month break in posting and pick up where I am today.
Miss Stella June just one week old. Photo by Gigi Hickman Photography

The fam just before Stella joined the ranks. Photo by Gigi Hickman Photography
Adding baby girl on November 30th made me mom to four, she is a fantastic baby but I had a much harder time with my recovery this time around both emotionally and physically (especially in hindsight).

After that first six whirlwind weeks, I slipped back into my old shoes pretty comfortably; feeding my brood, driving a monster SUV, wearing uggs and leggings (and not just in the privacy of my own home), reading a great book here and there, working on shedding those pesky lbs once and forever, pretending like there'll be a day when I run long distances again, knitting some really fun new things...and finally drinking wine again. Oh vino, how I missed you.
My first day as the mama of a baby girl.
One of my favorite projects was this Pine Bough Cowl knit with Pepperberry Cashmere and Spincycle Dyed in the Wool which was a KAL that started the day after Christmas and was my first real colorwork project. You already know I'm a huge fan of Heidi's cashmere, but it was even more beautiful when worked with the changing colors of the spincycle. That vibrant green just popped as the background to the motif worked in rusted rainbow. After being super intimidated by it for too long, I am now a huge fan of stranded color work! You can bet I've added quite a few projects to my queue.

Last month, I was chosen by Melanie Berg as one of the test knitters for her new shawl pattern The Joker and the Thief using a gradient of our choice. The pattern was knit with Sunshine Yarns, so we had the chance to work with Dani of Sunshine Yarns to pick our own. I love Melanie's aesthetic. I never thought I'd be a shawl knitter, but she has absolutely changed that for me.

This yarn was so wonderful to work with and it was dyed just for me! I said I wanted the finished piece to feel like a day at the beach and she worked her magic-it's gorgeous.

All of Melanie's patterns have great lines, are clean, and can be styled in a number of ways with a million color combinations that somehow all end up looking absolutely stunning. Now that I've knit one, I want to knit them all. She recently released a knew set of patterns, Five Shawls, which are all knit in Owl by Quince & Co.
I finished The Joker and the Thief late last night. The two things I like least about knitting are seaming and weaving in ends but, alas, they are necessary evils if you want pieces that are actually finished. So for the next hour or so, I'll be tangled up in blue, and then it's off to soak and block and I'll photograph the finished shawl.

Speaking of tangles, my mom came two weeks ago and helped me corral my crazy yarn hoard stash once and for all (or for now). I can't wait to show you my bonus room because it's gone from the dumping grounds of which we did not speak to an organized guest room/office/crafting wonderland. All of my yarn is now sorted, labeled and contained so that it's easily accessible and I can actually see what I have. Which is a lot. And that is a very good thing. Have you tackled any big projects in your organizational life lately?

The weekend of March 6-8 I'm headed to the Rose City Yarn Crawl with a girlfriend and I'm trying to go with a short list of projects for which I can buy yarn so I don't succumb to the swoon-worthy displays and buy all of the things. Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Saturday Sweet Tooth

Most weekend mornings, I take time to make a hot breakfast ranging from pancakes to egg dishes. This week, H's writing prompt was to wax poetic about his favorite breakfast and he chose pancakes, saying he 'mostly ate them at his granny's' -um, okay, we'll just forget about the 30+ weekends a year that I make them at our house. Not that I'm keeping score, because in the contest of mom vs granny when it comes to who's more awesome, mom will usually lose.

Childish feelings aside, Friday night I got these oatmeal pancakes started. It had been a long time since I'd made them-maybe even since we lived in Massachusetts, but I remembered them as being a super hearty breakfast option passed to me from my sister. Oats and buttermilk (or a buttermilk substitute-this is a great resource and I always use either the vinegar or greek yogurt method) are left to comingle in the fridge overnight. The addition of a scant amount of flour, some eggs and oil the next morning make for a fairly liquid batter, so let the edges set completely before you flip them.

You can serve them, as the recipe dictates, with warm chunky applesauce or drizzle with maple syrup. I had some applesauce I'd made and frozen last year, but served it on the side and the kids loved them. There is no added sugar in the actual batter, so you have complete control over that aspect with the amount of syrup you use.

I love that these are really filling with just one good luncheon-plate sized pancake, but still also very satisfying for that Saturday morning sweet tooth. (Someday I'll remember to photograph the pancakes either as I'm drizzling on the syrup, or just before. That day was not yesterday.)

Overnight Oats Buttermilk Pancakes

2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats
3 Cups of Buttermilk
1/2 c. flour (I used whole wheat-I love Prairie Gold by Wheat Montana, which is non-GMO and a light color, for things like pancakes because it lends to a lighter-colored end result.)
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/4 c. vegetable oil (or coconut or olive oil to make whole-food friendly-depending on the brand, you will taste both of these oils, so consider that in your end result wishes)

Mix oats and buttermilk together in a bowl and store covered in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, mix the dry ingredients together and then add the egg/oil mixture. Finally, stir in the oats and buttermilk until a uniform consistency.

Cook pancakes in a heated griddle over medium heat, waiting until the edges are set before flipping, and serve with applesauce for a fall treat, or alternate toppings of your choice. With oatmeal as the base, the flavor combinations are endless!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Child's Play

Last week I was doing my daily cleaning out of the backpacks and I flipped through the stack in Charlie's folder to see if there was anything that would make the cut into the 'I may keep this forever' stack instead of being recycled immediately.

First, I saw this photo:

Super cute, right? A new little kinder drawing about his experiences on the school playground, lots of detail and appropriate colors; all the hallmarks of a maturing artiste.

I continued to flip through the stack and physically startled when I happened upon this gem:

What the french?! What in the world is going through his mind?! Is he a budding psychopath? Just...what?! I took a moment and paused. 'Hey, Char-what's this picture about?'

Here's his explanation (I made him re-explain for me to record it):

A giant grizzly bear (that I didn't have time to color in all the way) who he's fighting with his brother and dad in order to protect his baby brother in the tree is so much better than what I'd been thinking. It's what happens when we apply adult thinking and experiences to what we see little kids doing. Still probably a little more gory that is optimal, but more indicative of a healthy imagination than a Dexter-esque future. Save your worries for another day, mama. Simmer down.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ladies Who Brunch

Last night, before leaving the house, I gave my kids a choice for dinner-one of them involved using a neglected loaf of french bread to make french toast. I had made a large crock o' soup for teacher conferences as part of the meal the PTA provided and also as dinner for a new mama. I love doing both of those things, and generally I just make enough that the same meal feeds my family as well. Last night the stars just didn't align so my poor little cobbler's children were shoeless. Feel very bad for them.

I got home from delivering dinner to find that J had already re-heated leftovers and the kids were just sitting down to dinner, hooray! Charlie was immediately incensed that I hadn't made the promised french toast so I blurted that we'd have it for breakfast the next morning before really thinking about the fact that I would never get my act together to make french toast on a school morning. Scrambled eggs and toast? Sure. French toast? Never gonna happen, way too high-maintenance.  Our Best Bites to the rescue; their Overnight Baked French Toast is so insanely good, and it takes almost no time the morning of because all of the prep is done the night before (hence the overnight in the title, in case you didn't catch that piece). 

Eggs, milk, half and half, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla soak into a crusty loaf of bread all night creating the most perfect custardy middle and crispy top after spending a little less than an hour in your oven the next morning. Were it not a school day, I'd have added the streusel topping that normally accompanies it, but I figured that the drizzle of melted butter and maple syrup were more than their teachers wanted already. See? Always thinking of the teachers.

Before I went to bed I set, and obsessively re-checked, my alarm for six so there was no chance of oversleeping (silly me, I didn't need that alarm). This morning I pre-heated the oven to 350, put the pan in the oven, set a timer and laid back down pretending that my kids were not already up and playing with legos in the pre-dawn light.

About forty-five minutes later the house was filled with the smell of warm, sweet cinnamon-y eggs as I pulled out a pan of perfection with golden peaks and let it cool. I have to admit, I was feeling like pretty hot shit as I melted a stick of butter and warmed the syrup. I called the boys out and my heart warmed as they recognized the smell and raced to the table. This is where memories are made.

Are you gagging yet? Don't worry. The very next words out of Charlie's mouth were 'Seriously?! This is the kind of french toast that I don't like!' Sigh.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Place at Our Table

Because decorative gourds are cute
I was innocently looking for some dinner inspiration while meal planning last week when I fell down the pinterest rabbit hole and found the blog Living Well Spending Less. The specific post I found intriguing was this one. I know that several friends have taken on the challenge of foregoing non-essential purchases for a month, but I'd never really considered groceries a non-essential. Until I really thought about the incredible amount of food and meal possibilities I have languishing in my freezer(s) and pantry. Starting this last week through the end of October, I'm making an effort to meal plan based on what I already have. (duh, right?) I'm still going to be buying milk, yogurt, some produce and other fresh foods, but the idea is just to start making a dent. Also, I may have felt incredibly guilty after watching A Place at the Table.

Saturday afternoon I went through the bottom drawer of the stand-up freezer, which was where I'd relegated all of the meat that needs to be used first when I was putting away the half-beef. I pulled stew beef, flank steak, chicken breasts and a package of ground beef and put them in the refrigerator to thaw and be used throughout the week.

Yesterday I thought about poaching the chicken to shred and add to a salad, but then I saw a chicken pot pie on the cover of a magazine in the check-out line when I was buying milk (and candy much for non-essentials) and knew that I already had everything to make a stellar one, so I'd be saving those chicken breasts for later in the week.

When I got home, I still didn't have plans for dinner, J had just gotten home from work, and the clock was striking the ominous four o'clock witching hour. I quickly summoned the powers of pinterest and searched for salads with arugula (to avoid the giant tub of it turning into a green slime wasteland) and quinoa and found this goody; an arugula salad with quinoa, chickpeas (which will always be garbanzos to me), feta and some crunch lent from carrots, celery and almonds. I hate when people say, 'I followed the recipe except...' and then list a novel of changes, but I'll do it anyhow. I used the base of arugula, quinoa, feta and chickpeas, but then got the crunch from a bell pepper and omitted the rest. The lemon dressing was simple, and a big ol' plate was filling without being heavy. I had planned to just make pbj for the kids, but then nixed the idea and served the salad to everyone. Charlie was thrilled it wasn't soup, Henry was excited about the garbanzos (I'd forgotten he loved them at the Farm to Table tasting for them earlier in the year) and Jack ate as much as he would have of anything. Boom. Dinner done. And I'd even forced myself to unload and load the dishwasher while the quinoa was cooking, so clean up was a breeze.

Speaking of freezer clean-out. I feel like every time the fall/holiday baking season comes around I stock up on every variety of chip known to man, only to come home to a freezer full of last year's spoils because one simply cannot make enough Oatmeal Scotchies to validate a purchase of 400 packages of butterscotch chips. After seeing Kate Jones' instagram of cookie dough at 6:30am, I felt compelled to make a batch of Our Best Bites Giant Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. I used half semi-sweet and half butterscotch chips, which eliminated another collection of quart freezer bags filled with half-used packages of chips. They were absolutely as good as they claim-that big douse of vanilla (I used my own, and it's so good) and lack of cinnamon make them perfect.

Then, because I felt just so efficient in my clean out efforts, a couple days later I made these Banana chocolate chip muffins. I had four brown bananas to use, so doubled the batch because the recipe said it only made a dozen. It does not. I easily got three dozen plus out of the double batch. I added diced walnuts because it makes them delicious, and it was another freezer bag emptied. The kids have loved having both treats in their lunches. I may have also let them have oatmeal cookies for breakfast on Sunday because, well, it's oatmeal.
I'm starting to see a little light where there may actually be some room in Mr. Freeze to get some dinners prepped and ready before baby girl's arrival, which is now officially scheduled for December 4th. 

Do you stockpile food to a certain extent and then 'forget' to use it? What are some of your tried and true use-what-we-have inspiration starting points?