cool stuff i like


February 5, 2016

Happy Friday! Go check out this week's 5 Hours 'til Bedtime, the shots this week are so fun! The Lunar New Year is on Monday February 8, and I feel woefully unprepared. I guess I'll be cleaning cleaning cleaning all weekend long, trying to get all the bad luck out before the new year. You guys know this about me right, that I'm much more keen on Happy Chinese New Year than December 31 new year's eve? I think I might actually try this year to make my own dumplings (see below link). And I think I'll wash my hair late on Sunday night so I don't have to wash it the next day. I typically wash most every day otherwise I'm just kind of greasy looking. You're not supposed to wash, cut your nails or your hair, or sweep or do any kind cleaning on the day of the new year. (you can read about more Lunar New Year customs here.)

Things to look at this weekend:

A whole lot of Superbowl recipes.

Seriously. How excited are you for this movie?? I know, I keep squawking about it.

Now's the time to be checking out my Valentine's Day Pinterest board.

A picture book about dumplings.

Tea party in a box. (found via the dumplings link above)

Pudding Chomeur. My darling friend Shannon raved about it, sent me the recipe, and says it is AMAZING.

And my pal Christina clued me into the fact that this exists. Look at the narrators!!!!

Oh my word. If I had all the $ in the world, I think I'd want a mega apartment pretty close to just like this.

Trail mix oatmeal.

9 books to read in February.

Cool Book of the Week: 'Be Mine : 25 Paper Projects to Share the Love', by Sally J. Shim, looks like a fun thing to assist you in getting your Valentine's Day craft party on. It's supposed to be good for kids and grown ups - but what I find most intriguing is that the photography in the book was done by one of my photo heroes, Max Wanger - the king of California cool and negative space compositions. So I'm fairly certain that every photo inside will be visually stunning.

Have a lovely weekend! The Superbowl is this weekend right? I have no idea who's playing. I've watched maybe 2 or 3 Superbowls in my life. I'll be cleaning my toilets instead.


here's a chocolate cake


February 3, 2016

It's Wednesday and here is a chocolate cake. More specifically, this was my birthday cake. Do you hear fairies or angels singing?? I do, because I'm going to be posting three times this week! It's a February miracle. Am I right in thinking we're at that point in winter where we're all kind of ready for it to be over, and it's just not over, and things are blah (no? just me?) and wouldn't life just be better with some cake on a plate? Life is always better with some cake on a plate.

(my plate was also a birthday present. my sweet daughter chose it herself and I'm utterly delighted with it. here it is, it's not the dinner sized one, it's a side plate.)

I usually always a chocolate cake for my birthday. And I usually always make this particular cake, because it's easy, not too big, and now it's my special little cake. It's a chocolate almond cake. It's very nearly flourless, and it has almond flour (which is finely finely ground almonds basically) and it has whipped egg whites folded in, which gives it a lightness that you wouldn't expect from a nearly flourless chocolate cake. You'd expect that to be as heavy as lead, right? Nope.

The recipe comes from 'Tamasin's Kitchen Bible' by Tamasin Day Lewis, which is the BEST book for true British recipes and such fun to read. (only available used, but so worth seeking out) Nigel Slater loves her too, he says so right on the cover. (fun fact - Tamasin is sister to Daniel Day Lewis.)

She calls for baking the cake in either two 7 inch cake pans, which must be a Brit thing, because I've looked all over for that size and I can't find it. I think I'll have to special order from a cake supply place if I really want that size. OR she says that you can make it in one 8 inch round pan, which is what I always do.

In the book, the cake is called Miranda's Birthday Cake, because it was the first cake her daughter ever made for her. For today's post though, I'm just calling it Chocolate Almond Cake.

CHOCOLATE ALMOND CAKE - 'Tamasin's Kitchen Bible'

Ingredients for the Cake:

6 oz good dark chocolate, chopped (I use Lindt)
1 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (6oz)
3/4 cup white sugar (6 oz)
4 eggs, separated
1/3 cup ground almonds (3 oz) - I use almond flour
1/3 cup all purpose flour (3 oz)

Ingredients for the Icing:

4 oz good dark chocolate, chopped (Lindt again)
3 tablespoons butter - (1 and 1/2 oz)
1/4 cup white sugar  (2 oz)
1/3 cup heavy cream (3 oz)


Preheat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F / Gas 4. Grease and flour two 7 inch sandwich tins or one deeper, 8 inch round tin. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water. (I do mine in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time and checking constantly.) Cream the butter with the sugar (this is easily done in a food processor), then add the egg yolks one by one, then the almonds, flour, and the melted chocolate. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks (DO NOT overbeat), then gently fold them into the mixture, little by little.

Divide the mixture between the tins and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes. If using one deeper tin, cook for slightly longer. (between 25-28 minutes) Tamasin's daughter undercooks hers slightly for a damp, sticky center. Leave to cool slightly in the pan, then turn out on to a wire rack.

For the Icing - put all the ingredients into a bowl over a saucepan of hot water (I don't bother - I just melt it in a small saucepan right over a low flame) - stir gently over the heat. When smooth, leave to cool and then put into the fridge for a few minutes - it thickens as it cools, and becomes much easier to spread. If you have two sponges, sandwich them together with half the icing and spread half on top. If you have one sponge, cover the top and sides copiously with icing.

                                                                            ~ ~ ~
DON'T BE SCARED of beating egg whites! That's what gives the cake its lovely light texture, despite all that chocolate. This cake is so, so, so good you guys. There's a reason I make it year after year! It is rich, but that makes it all the more ok to just keep slicing off the thinnest of slices....FIVE TIMES A DAY. I guess it's good that I only make it on my birthday.....I've just had it but you could make it for someone you love on Valentine's Day, I'm thinking.

the forest feast for kids


February 1, 2016

Loooooooook at this!!!! I am beyond excited. When I saw that 'The Forest Feast for Kids' by Erin Gleeson was coming down the pike (mid February!), I was originally going to put it as the cool book of the week on my Friday Cool Stuff list. But then I realized that I was, in fact, SO excited that I needed to highlight it all on its own, even though it's not out yet, and I don't (yet) have it in my hot little hands.

Do you know what I DO have in my hot little hands? The Forest Feast calendar. I sadly do not have the original 'The Forest Feast' book, which I've seen and it's SO BEAUTIFUL, but that's ok that I don't have it because I realize now that this one for kids is the one that is fated to be mine. See, I like my own food to be child friendly, because I'm like an overgrown aging child, and I'm a big appreciator of childlike food. And Julia has been showing a really keen interest in cooking the past few months, and I'd love for her to have more cooking books aimed at children.

And ALSO, the fact that the recipes are vegetarian is a plus for me, even though I'm not a vegetarian. I've been on a big crusade lately to get more veggies into our life and I wouldn't mind at all being roughly 75% vegetarian.

There are meals, snacks, drinks and party fare in the book, and I took a peek at the index listing and saw such yummies as Butternut Quesadillas, Chard Quiche, Plum Tartlets, Peanut Butter and Avocado Shakes, Rosemary Shortbread cookies, and Sweet Potato pizza. Don't those all sound so nice?

I went ahead and pre-ordered this baby. If you have a favorite cookbook for kids I would LOVE to know about it!

cool stuff i like


January 29, 2016

Happy Friday! It's been a looooong week. Has it been a loooooong week for you? Our backyard is so full of standing water, it's just mud and squelch. Poor Nomi. I remember when we used to be able to throw the ball for her outside! It's right about this time, that I really begin wishing for spring. Or snow. Anything other than the rain and the grey. I've lived here for.....since the early 1990's and I am STILL not used to the rain and the grey in winter. We've been seeing a lot mist and cool clouds, which is fun. But not fun enough! Julia has been having the best reading week - after reading Book 1 from this series a couple of years ago, she's now tearing through the rest of the stories, borrowing the books from school. My word, there's nothing like the thrill of a fabulous book series is there? How your heart quickens when you realize how good the book is, and that there's another one and another one?

Online goodness this week:

5 Hours 'til Bedtime is a new collaborative photography blog created by my pal Darcy, and I'm so thrilled to be a part of it - go check it out! Every week we're documenting the period between after-school and bedtime....

One bowl baking wonders.

Pretty Poloroids notecards. I am obsessed. I got them and promptly sat down and sent five people notes in the mail! #funmail #realmail

The meteorology behind 'The Hard Winter' of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

A Valentine's Day gnome garland.

This baked french toast.

SUCH a fabulous idea.

Staying healthy in winter.

Love love LOVE The Shoemaker's Daughter, a new blog from fabulous Ronnie, who's been blogging for years, but recently switched her focus to writing down stories about her family's history. Her photos and words will stun you with their beauty.

Cool Book of the Week: 'Ninja Baby' by David Zeltser and Diane Goode is a charmer about a little one who is naturally gifted in the crafty and skilled ways of ninjas, mastering all things in her small world domain (she crawls into her crib like smoke and disappears) - until the day her parents bring home the Kung Fu Master - her new sibling.

Have a lovely weekend! I'm going to be planning party favor items for Julia's birthday next month. I'm obsessed with party favor bags. I take them very seriously because I'm in competition with.....myself - trying to outdo the bags that were created last year. I really like the bags I got, can't wait to show - now I just need to find things to go IN them....


moomin's winter follies


January 25, 2016

Hello and happy Monday! Are many of you buried under 30 inches of snow?? Oh how I wish we had just a little of that snow! Instead we had rain. Days and days of rain. Our backyard, which has terrible drainage, is a swampy mess. So since it appears to be winter winter winter for so many of you, here is a Moomin comic, 'Moomin's Winter Follies' by Tove Jansson - all about the silliness of Moomins in the winter. For more Moomins in winter, check out this book.

I shan't explain AGAIN about Moomins. Read here for more about the Moomins. I'm starting to repeat myself when it comes to the Moomintrolls. For the love of all that's cute and fanciful, please get some Moomin in your life!

This comic is adorable, but the whole vibe of it differs a smidge from the books, which can often be drop dead beautiful in their lyrical prose and existentialist musings, all while depicting the sweet fun of the Moomintroll creatures and their friends. This one is more silly and snarky.

I almost didn't feature this book, because parts of it aren't the most politically correct, but the books and the comics were written long before people might have worried about that sort of thing. There's a sort of Bugs Bunny-ish wild west language-y part where one character threatens to "blow the brains" out of another character, and well if that offends, than maybe this book is not for you.

It really is silly, whimsical fun though. Even the part where Moomintroll thinks about pushing a rival off a cliff with a tree trunk. And the part where the same character who almost goes off the cliff gets smothered in snow. (he's ok!) Also one character calls another character an ass. See, what did I tell you? Silly, whimsical fun! Did I mention this book was written a long time ago?

The gist of the story is that Moomin family (who usually hibernate in the winter) awaken one morning and decide to partake in wintertime activities, instead of sleeping through them like they usually do. They're having a grand time until Mr. Brisk (from the Great Outdoors Association) appears and forces everyone to partake in winter sports, whether they're into the idea or not. Moomin's pal, Mymble, falls desperately in love with him. And skiing, avalanches, and general Moomin absurd mayhem ensues.

There are other comics! See here. I myself love the chapter books the best, but this has tons more of the adorable Moomin art, which is always fun. When it comes to Moomins, it really is best to just collect everything. Just get them ALL.

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