end of summer

4

September 1, 2015

Oh my friends! I have not abandoned you! Oh how I miss my blog! And OH how I'll return to more frequent updates o' nonsense once school schedules get sorted and summer (this endless summer) winds down. I've had several photo sessions that I had promised to deliver by the end of August, which I did. Good golly I'm slow.

I'll definitely be here more in the fall, but I'm already daunted by the autumn schedule. I've got an online photo workshop in October, some newborn sessions, and most intimidating.....we're going to finally try and clean out our garage. There's a myriad of home projects that Andrew and I have just left on the back burner, and we now want to finally do something about them. And the point at which all of the projects converge is the GARAGE. Once we clean it out, I'll probably win the lottery or something, the feng shui will be so off the charts awesome. You guys are totally with me on the feng shui right? It's Chinese cosmic interior design basically. All interior design should be cosmic, I think.

In other news, we're getting rid of our white Ikea docksta table. I won't even link to it, because the Docksta table is something you can't go 2 feet online without seeing. It's everywhere. Including my house. But now it's leaving my house because Nomi the puppy steps on the pedestal style base, fifty times a day and I JUST CAN'T EVEN anymore with the white base perpetually, every day, multiple times a day, looking dirty with little paw prints. So we're going to get a table that's BROWN WOOD, with 4 legs, that the dog can't walk on.

I love how posts take on a life of their own. This post is about interior design stuff apparently. I'm also redesigning our guest room into more of a playroom/hangout area for Julia. And by playroom, I mean, there will be a TV in it. Our exercise machine in that room is leaving and going into the garage. After I clean out the garage. And then I can exercise in the garage. With the spiders. I've found 3 giant house spiders in the past week, and one bit my child on the leg and guess who's coming this week? The exterminators. We cancelled exterminating service last year and now we're signing up again because I just CAN'T EVEN with the spiders either.

Also, I'm growing out my hair.

So that totally covers it. I'll have a book post for you next week.





cool stuff i like

7

August 28, 2015

Happy Friday! This is from our last night in California - a trip we took a couple of weeks ago. Was it really just a couple of weeks ago? Seems like two months ago already. Julia and her pal had a glorious time running around, in their twirly dresses. I am going to miss miss miss my little girl when she goes back to school. I'm going to miss going to the grocery store with my shopping companion (wait, am I??) and stopping for hugs in the milk aisle. But before I cry about it, I'm remembering that I already have TWO pumpkin treat products in my pantry, and that fall/autumn/thebesttimeoftheyear is coming.


I have a lot of number-themed items for you today. Except not every link, because I ran out of number themed links. 

2 million pounds of turkey? Um, that's a lot of turkey.

11 YA novels not just for kids.

10 Festive Fall art projects for kids.

6 tips for cleaning naturally.

10 wall-mounted shelving systems.

Oh Terrain! Oh autumn! I'm dreaming of this cordial, this candle, and this book. (that's 3 items, in case you're now obsessed like I am with whatever I was trying to accomplish with this list.)

Masterpiece Theatre's fall schedule. (we've abandoned the numbers now. carry on.)

Tips for happier weeknight dinners. (no idea how many tips.)

Chalkboard gift wrap.

Why yes. I would indeed like a Through-the-Forest Willow Basket. (just one basket.)

You need this information.


Cool Book of the Week: 'The Water and The Wild' by K.E. Ormsbee and Elsa Mora. Gah, I don't really know quite what to say about this one, except I must have it. I am going to have it. I think a Christmas present for Julia has just presented itself to me. (this IS the year I shop early.) Magic, magic, magic. Alternative world a la Narnia, a mysterious letter writer and wish fulfiller, a little girl trying to save her sick friend, magical beings, an apple tree that somehow is tied to granting birthday wishes....go check out the link to read more about this spectacular-sounding plot! Suggested as an independent reading story for grades 5-7 or earlier as a read-aloud.

Have a lovely weekend! The end of our summer break will be days and days of rain, which is actually quite fine by me. We're finally going to have our blanket-cozy-pile-movie-and-cookie-making-day, which has eluded us all summer long. It's been too dastardly hot this summer for cozy piles and hot cookies. That's right. DASTARDLY.

~Melissa




nigel slater's peach pie

7

August 24, 2015

 So here's a funny thing. I took all these pix of my pretty peach pie and then I had A Weird Experience and thought, oh well, there goes the blog post. But then I thought, no it's ok because I'm just a home cook and this is not a A Real Food Blog and I might as well share what happened and we can muddle through together.

I made Nigel Slater's Peach Pie with Lemon Pastry last week; the recipe is from his book 'Notes From the Larder', which I love and adore. I also love and adore Nigel Slater. But....I love his writing a teensy bit more than I love his recipes, which are a bit hit or miss for me. (I'm sorry Nigel. I really think you're amazing.) The hits are BIG HITS (like his chocolate banana bread) and the misses are...well, sometimes things are just less than perfect in this world and that's ok.



Nigel likes to make several of his pies with a cookie dough crust. Sort of fruit and shortbread type of biz. I made a blueberry pie of his like that, which turned out really well. This one though, had a few mishaps, which I will share. I believe that he does not call for enough thickening in with his peach slices. I DON'T LIKE MESSY PIE and in this case, all the juice served to make the bottom crust a tad too soggy in places. Also, my oven is a bit slow, meaning I have to cook things longer amounts of time, so if yours is slow as well, cook this pie A GOOD 10 MINUTES more than the recipe says.

So the problem was that I thought the crust was too soggy in certain places, like the very middle and some of the bottom. Some of it was just right. The flavor was amazing! My husband and I were like, hmmm. Maybe best to go with a traditional pie dough crust? My daughter ate this for breakfast, ENORMOUS slices, for two days in a row. She absolutely LOVED it and said, MOM. YOU MUST MAKE THIS AGAIN. (I'm looking at the photos for the blueberry pie and am realizing how uniform the crust was compared to my lumpy peach slices. Maybe this crust needs to be flatter, so it cooks evenly??)

 So here's what I think. I think the baking technique needs tinkering. Because, really, the idea is sound and the flavor is really outstanding. The cookie crust is indeed yummy. I have some thoughts, which include 1) Cook the pie, regardless of how hot your oven is, for another 10 minutes than the original recipe calls for, and make it REALLY golden brown. Or......BROIL it at the end, to get that top crust really crisp. And 2) Add at least 3 tablespoons of thickener when using peaches. He called for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. ADD MORE. Me, I like to use flour as my thickener, I just do. And 3) I would give heavy consideration to making this into a cobbler, and just adding ALL the crust to the top, instead of doing top and bottom. Some of the bottom crust came out perfectly, but the parts where too much juice ran out - this made the cookie dough crust too soggy.

But do give it a whirl, because seriously, my daughter just couldn't get enough and was utterly delighted with it, and these days, any time I manage to pull off really delighting my daughter, as opposed to mortifying her or embarrassing her or annoying her - that's a good day.

Nigel Slater's Peach Pie with Lemon Pastry - via 'Notes From the Larder'

Ingredients for pastry:

2/3 cups butter (10 and a half tablespoons)
3/4 cup golden brown sugar
1 egg
the grated zest of a small lemon
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
a little milk and sugar to finish

Ingredients for filling:

6 medium-sized, ripe peaches
2 tbsp white sugar, superfine if you have it
the grated zest of a small to medium orange (I omitted this)
1 heaping tbsp cornstarch (SEE MY NOTES ABOVE PLEASE)
(You will also need a 9 inch metal pie plate)

Directions from the book: 

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Lightly butter the pie plate. Mix in the egg, continue creaming, then add the grated lemon zest. Sift together the flour and the baking powder, then fold tenderly into the butter and sugar mixture. Form the dough into a ball and place on a floured work surface. Knead very lightly for a minute or so, then cut in half. You will use one half of the dough to line the pie plate. Place this, and the remaining half, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

(Nigel says that for the bottom crust, it works best to form the dough into a log before chilling. Then cut into 1/8th inch thick slices, and line the bottom of the pie plate with the slices. Press out the dough slices into the pan with your hands and pat it into the pan, making a uniform layer of dough. This was very easy to do! Much easier than rolling it out. You gotta roll out the top crust though.)

Halve the peaches and remove their pits. Cut each peach half into large pieces and put in a bowl with the sugar, orange zest and cornstarch. Toss together gently, then spoon into the pie plate. Roll out the reserved pastry to generously fit the top of the pie. Brush the rim of the pastry in the pie plate with a little milk, then lower the second piece of pastry on top. Press the edges to seal, pressing or pinching them together as you wish, then brush the pie lightly with milk and dust lightly with sugar. Pierce a small hole or cut in the center of the crust to let the steam out.

Bake for 40 minutes (MORE. SEE NOTES ABOVE.) or so until the crust is pale gold (DARK GOLD). Leave to settle for 10-15 minutes or more before serving.

~ So what do you think my lovelies? Fancy a try at this? My blueberry version of this same recipe turned out perfectly. And my kid ADORED it, like I mentioned above. Just need to get that crust to cook evenly enough....




cool stuff i like

11

August 20, 2015

Happy Friday! This is not my yard, or my fence. This is a pretty bit of meadow I saw on Bainbridge Island earlier in July. Doesn't it look very Anne of Green Gables-ish? I'm not sure how this summer keeps marching on. It's the endless summer. And it DID have a thunderstorm in it, but I was visiting friends in California and I missed it! It was devastating. Is your school supply shopping done? Ours in 90% done. I think I'm going to feel extra bereft when the girly goes back to school -- I feel like it's all going to hit me extra hard because she's nine and next year she's ten and I keep thinking that I began this blog when she was five (or was it four???) and that's just a bit too much for my brain to process.


Things I saw online that you should see too, if you haven't already:

 9 recipes from 'Little House on the Prairie' to get you psyched for fall. From my friend Nicki, one of my photography heroes, whose breathtaking work you can see here.

Ginger cheesecake.

Creating a realistic family budget.

Shopkins. Julia has put in a Christmas request for some. Can someone explain to me what these are and why they're a thing??

If you're crafty, you're going to want in on this party hat action.

Loved every inch of this home tour. 

How cute are these?? Mini muffin pancake bites. 

13 one-pot weeknight meals.

Have you heard about this new Tolkien story??

Gifs that will make you laugh.


Cool Book of the Week: 'The Little Secret' by Kate Saunders. A library find that both Julia and I read, one after the other. She pronounced this 'one of the best books I've EVER read!'. Adored it so much, she put it in my hands and said that I HAD to read it, so I did. And I can see why she loved it so. The plot, about a girl whose mysterious new best friend (is she magical? is she good or evil? is she a fairy or something else??) takes her on a journey into a hidden world, races along full tilt, and while an adult will see what the major plot twists are about from a few paces back, this is Very Thrilling Fare Indeed for the 8-10 year old set.

Have a lovely weekend! My sweeties, I have a way out in left field question - I am determined to win the war against my cats and their cat box. Let's assume I don't have a nice big laundry room in which to put my cat box. Because I don't. Let's assume they are using AN ENTIRE ROOM downstairs as their cat room, instead of me using it as an office. This is 100% true. They are not outdoor, indoor cats. I don't know why I'm saying all this. But I think my question is - is there a litter box out there that well and truly TRAPS the litter inside? Is there? Has anyone ever installed a cat door leading to their garage? Please help me.

~Melissa




the secret diaries of charlotte bronte

10

August 17, 2015

HELLO my friends! I'm so sorry I didn't have a Friday Cool Stuff post up for you last week - Julia and I went to California to visit some old family friends. We had a lovely time, but I really don't know how the Californians do it - it was SO HOT. A friend of mine told me on Facebook, that really, we shouldn't consider ourselves heat wimps, but just 'highly advanced people' with an extra refined survival sense. It was so hot. 

I have been busily compiling books for the past couple months, thinking I was going to get a Summer Reading List up and that never happened. Then I was going to write an End of Summer Reading List and that too is seeming unlikely. How about Cozy Books to Read This Fall? Does that sound nice? I think it does. I'll see if my husband will provide some Very Helpful Commentary.

But here's something. I was going to to put it on my list, but I took it on my trip and began reading it, and I was trying to think of a post for today and so here you go. 'The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte' by Syrie James is just FABULOUS and I've been tearing through it at a great pace. It's wonderful! I've had such bad luck finding a book that will really hold my attention and this one is performing that task marvelously well, I'm really delighted with it.

If you're a fan of Brit Lit, or All Things Period English, you will adore. Especially if you're a Bronte fan. (hey Bronte fans, how excited are you about this news??) The book's story is based on a great deal of research gleaned from biographies and communications written by Charlotte Bronte herself to her best friend Ellen Nussey - some five hundred letters that were written over a 24 year period. The entire book written by James is based on historical fact and it's just riveting. I've been reading it every chance I get.

I realized that a lot of the books I'm putting together for my Autumn Reading List have a similar theme somewhat, and this book also definitely fits within the genres of those other books. Once the kiddo is back in school, I'll get that post up I SWEAR. I am so ready for fall. I mean, I'm always ready for fall, but I'm REALLY ready. That California heat scared the tar out of me and I just want to be cold and wear sweaters. Let's revisit this topic again in January, shall we? When it's miserable and grey and depressing?




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