Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Peach jam that you don't want to miss

I AM going to post the white bean soup recipe, promise. But first, because summer is waning and peaches won't be with us much longer, I think you need to know about this jam. I made it two weeks ago and I wasn't expecting anything special. It's just peach jam after all. JUST PEACH JAM!? HA! How foolish I was.

It's so deceptively simple that you're not going to believe me until you make it yourself. The key is in how you cook it, so pay attention to that part.

Old Fashioned Peach Jam

4 c sliced peaches (I left the skin on)
4 c sugar
1 T lemon juice

Obviously you could use more peaches and sugar to make more jam, as long as you follow the same ratio. And actually, I think you could skimp on the sugar. It is a particularly sweet jam. Or preserves. Can someone please explain the difference between jam and preserves? To me they are one in the same.

Okay, now. To prepare:

In a heavy bottomed pan/pot (I used my short all clad stock pot), bring all ingredients to a simmer and cook over low heat until peach slices are translucent. This is the key. It seems like they are never going to turn, but they will. It took at least an hour when I made my first batch. Then, and only then, turn the heat up and boil the jam (stirring v. frequently to avoid burning) until both peaches and syrup fall off your wooden spoon as one unit. And then you're done! You can process jam in small jars for gifts or dump it all into a big jar and stick in the fridge so you don't have to share one drop.

I've been enjoying ours on pretty much everything, including spoons. But it seems to be particularly delicious on leftover toasted ciabatta. Note: you must be sure that every square cm is first covered in butter BEFORE applying jam. This will guarantee maximum enjoyment.

Recipe was the fruit of a quick google search that lead me to Cooks.com. I chose it because it seemed the least fussy (no peeling and mashing and marinating the peaches), and it turned out to be revelatory.

Monday, August 30, 2010

blabla kids

I am so in love with these little guys from blabla kids. Dashiell has one (clearly it's Dashiell's, not mine), and I wish we had ten. (you can see our lion in the crib). Prompted by a shout out on twitter from @blablakids, I remembered that I've been meaning to do a post on them for so long. Here it is.

They make dolls and mobiles and puppets and rattles and even a cute little line of clothes. Next time I'm in Atlanta, I will be stopping by their shop. Hopefully in November when Dashiell and I are planning to visit Judah and Laura in Athens. With a pit stop at Farm Burger, of course. They are rumored to make a mean quinoa burger.

Here are some of my favorites, very boy themed of course:

And I thought I was obsessed with their mobiles, but actually it turns out that I desire equally their entire line of birdie rattles. WE BADLY NEED A KNIT FRENCH SPARROW RATTLE AND ALSO A BLUE JAY WEARING A SCARFFFFFF.

I nearly didn't post my favorite mobiles, but then I could not resist. They are too excellent.

That was dangerous, spending so much time on their site, salivating over their wares. I had to close it quickly because I was about to start adding things to my cart, all willy-nilly like. Perhaps when we go to Atlanta I will deserve a treat.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Months 3 - 6, on the iphone

It's amazing seeing how fast and how much our little guy has changed since February. And I mistakenly thought he was cute when he was born! NOW he's cute. (for comparison, you can see the first three months here.)

He celebrated his 6 month birthday on Tuesday with a momentous feat. He slept, for the very first time, from 7 pm all the way through until 6 am. It was wild. And we woke up like 5 times anyway because we couldn't figure out what was going on. Now he's back to his old tricks... waking up once, sometime between 1 and 4 to have a little snack. But at least we know he can do it. I cannot tell you how drastically my quality of life improved once he started sleeping better. I am like a real, functioning human all of a sudden. Hallelujah.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Crib bumpers 2.0

So the first set of crib bumpers I made were sad. So sad that I had to make a second set. I used the wrong kind of batting, I cut some of the fabric BEFORE washing it, I improvised on dimensions.

Note to self: sewing is not like cooking in that you can't just get the gist of the project from the instructions and then do whatever you like. Especially when one's sewing skills are barely competent.

But this new set turned out great. Or at least good enough. The sad part is that I didn't have enough of my extraordinarily cool vintage Marimekko triangle fabric for the whole set of bumpers. But I did have a different vintage Marimekko pattern to use for the long sides and do you know what? I kind of like the new combo better. I love it when that happens. And I love that these are nice and neutral, but still patterned enough to be interesting. And the neon ties are pretty fun too. (Though they make taking a good photo really hard!)

It's so satisfying to have such cute little pillows lining Dashiell's crib. But I will not be starting an Etsy business making custom crib bumpers, like I thought for a fleeting second whilst in the middle of the first failed set. Wrangling 170+ inches of fabric and batting and pins is not something I want to be doing on a regular basis.

I used the instructions in Lotta's Simple Sewing for Baby, in case any of you feel like taking this project on yourself. The hilarious part about this whole adventure is that in like a month, I'll have to take them out anyway so the little monkey doesn't use them to climb out of his crib. But for the next baby they'll be all ready to go.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

project update: week one

So things are going relatively well. We've had a few oops moments for sure, but overall it's been pretty smooth. Mostly we're trying to work out what the "rules" are. If the goal is to skip commercially packaged stuff, then can we buy things like cheese and bread from the farmer's market? As long as the people selling said items are actually the ones making them?

The reality is that unless I want to spend literally every spare second in the kitchen with the stand mixer and food processor on high alert, we probably will need to supplement our homemade things a bit. Especially because I have work that needs to be tended too and projects other than our urban pioneer life experiment.

But I have been giving it a fair go! In the last week and a half I've made bread 3 times, see?

(Ends stored in these glass containers from Crate & Barrel. Highly recommend them as an alternative to ziplock bags.)

The sandwich bread was good, but the loaves too small for the pans I have. Next time, same recipe but only one loaf so they're not so short. The rustic Italian peasant bread... left something to be desired. BUT I did make croutons using some of it and they were delish. The ciabatta was a wild success. Definitely making it again tomorrow (but must start the sponge today) for leftover soup.

I spent pretty much all day in the kitchen on Sunday making... ready?

Hummus (I will share my recipe eventually because I think I've honed in on a perfect version)

Tuscan white bean soup with kale (Should also share this recipe, because it is delicious)

Peach jam (We have a giant jar in the fridge and a few processed jars on the shelf for later)
Baby food (Pluots!)

Cesaer salad with charmoula tofu (tofu is NOT on the list, but it was a legacy block in the fridge and we couldn't very well let it go bad. But I did make the croutons and the dressing)

Ciabatta sponge

And that's just enough for two dinners and some miscellany. Those pioneer ladies, they really worked hard. So yeah, we're in the process of evaluating our rules. And then last night we had 7 people for dinner. So we ordered pizza. Oops. But we don't have a dishwasher! And while making quinoa burgers sounded good, the amount of clean up sounded bad. I did make a big chopped salad to go along with our pies. So, you know, we split the difference.

Some of you asked what we're using instead of disposables in the kitchen. I will definitely do a post on our alternatives soon.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

milka loom

I've died and gone to tea towel heaven.

Joslyn posted a little peek of these beauties from MilkaLOOM this morn and I had to pass them along. AFTER I've ordered mine own, of course. (Sorry hubs! But I could not resist.)

I mean really? Hand woven little triangles in all sorts of perfect color combinations? This towel will most certainly be reserved for petting only. No dish drying at all.

I do have an update on the project, but I don't have time to post it this morn. Too much work at the moment and only so many hours of babysitting! Tomorrow. Definitely tomorrow. But this is appropriate isn't it? Since it's a non-paper kitchen item? I will say that the quitting of paper has been the easiest part of the project so far. You think it's going to be a pain, but it's seriously a breeze. If I can wash diapers, I can most certainly wash teeny towels for the kitchen.

More soon.

Friday, August 20, 2010

weekend brunch

...To inspire you for the weekend. If you're in LA, you should most definitely consider Gjelina for brunch this weekend. We were there last Sunday and it was so delicious I could barely breathe. I know I've posted on their foods before, but nobody ever tires of delicious food shots, do they?

Lemon ricotta pancakes with chestnut flour. OMG.

Beet salad with avo and orange. I don't know what they do to their beets, but they are amazing.

Poached eggs with polenta and tuscan kale.

And a mostly devoured okra masterpiece that I'm planning to recreate this weekend if all goes well.

Oh, and then there's the cutest baby in the whole world. He was there too.

Hope your weekend includes a delicious meal. I'll be back next week with an update on our project.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

the best way to display children's art

This is from the September Martha:

Pretty much perfect when it comes to decorating your child's room... especially when it happens to have 15 foot ceilings. Not that I'm envious of the house or anything. But even with normal person ceilings, this is one of the best ideas I've seen in a while. Definitely filing this away for a future must-do project.

(PS. isn't it scary when you start getting September magazines? Am not ready for apple bobbing and talk of turkey.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

made by joel

Jamie posted some of his amazing little toys yesterday and I'm shamelessly reposting them because I'm kind of in awe of his parenting prowess. He comes up with the cutest little projects to keep his kiddos entertained. If I am ever half as creative with playtime, I will feel like a crafty queen.

little, repurposed wood scraps

a cereal box marble ramp

mix and match wood animals (I would buy these, btw. Pls sell, Joel).

zipline toy

and toddler stilts. Perhaps the best idea ever.

How apropos, considering our new project. Recycled kids toys. They feel so much better than the new exersaucer we just bought. BUT BABIES LIKE EXERSAUCERS!!! And I don't think Dashiell would be quite as entertained if I stuck him in a cardboard box. Though I could be wrong. He does love a good magazine-ripping session.

My question is... once your kids are old enough are you just flooded with inspiration to make things like these? I hope so.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

a less impact project

Perhaps experiment is a better word for what's coming up around our house starting this week. But it's definitely a project too.

Here's the very quick backstory. On the way up to Yosemite, my parents and I (Brock came up a few days later), listened to No Impact Man. Have you heard of it? I saw an article about him in The New York Times a while back, but we just now got around to the book. On iPod. The only way to road trip, really. Anyway, he and his family spent a year making virtually no ecological footprint. In New York City. Which means, among many things, no paper products (toilet paper included), no non-human powered travel (including subways and buses), a worm composting bin in their apartment, and all sorts of other things that you have to be a real champ to endure. But it had me thinking about something that I've always wanted to try, but never do because, well, I don't know why. I've just never gotten around to committing to it. So here's the project:

We're going to spend the next month with no disposable things in the kitchen, and no commercially packaged food. Of course we'll be buying flour and essential ingredients... I haven't found a way around that. We're not milling our own wheat, after all.

But it means no store-bought bread, crackers, tortillas, canned beans, hummus from whole foods. I can only buy whole ingredients. Everything else we will be making at home. Exceptions include booze, coffee, and perhaps a bit of aged cheese if the meal REQUIRES it.

It sounds sort of silly when I see it written down, but it's an extension of that Deborah Madison quote I posted a few weeks ago. It's an effort to slow down when it comes to the kitchen. To only buy what we mean to consume and to really appreciate what it is we're having for dinner. And to waste less. So much waste happens in the kitchen, doesn't it? Paper napkins and towels, plastic baggies, shopping bags, uneaten food. It's like No Impact Kitchen. Ish. Okay, LOW Impact Kitchen. Plus I'm secretly hoping it will make me magically lose the rest of my pregnancy weight (no chips and crackers, after all), and it might even save some monies. (No filling the cart at Whole Foods with all sorts of delicious pre-made treats.)

Plus it's a fun way to force myself to try making things I rarely, if ever, do. Like baking bread, making crackers, maybe even making cheese? I hear fresh mozzarella isn't that hard. And butter. Shoot. I forgot about butter. For baking and cooking I think we're going to make an exception, but perhaps for eating on bread I will try making my own.

Doesn't it sound like fun? I will be reporting in throughout the month with our progress.

Hope you all had a glorious weekend. We were prepping food for the week. AND someone got to leave for most of the day on Saturday to have lunch with her girlfriends. For the first time since February. Pretty big things happening around here. It only took six months, but my baby will finally take a bottle on occasion. Hallelujah.

the XX

I never post about music. Mostly because I don't consider myself to be someone who's on the cutting edge of new material. I love music, but I love other people to find it for me. But the XX needs a post because I've been listening to their album non-stop.

Wait, maybe I will just post one of their videos. Wow! So technological of me.

Take a listen here, on their site, or their myspace page, or on itunes or amazon or wherever you like to buy your music. And buy the whole album because it's meant to be listened to as a whole, if you ask me.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sunset mag

Every month when I open the new Sunset I think, I seriously need to do a post on how much I love this magazine. And then I promptly forget once I've read through the pages and dog-eared half of them. I had to email myself last week to remind me to do this post.

In a few words, it's pretty much a perfect magazine. And now that Gourmet is gone (though perhaps making a comeback?), it's even better. It has most everything I love about life: food, gardening, backyard patios, home decor, living in California, little trips around the west, and a smattering of trendy ideas, like airstream trailers and gourmet ice cream shops. It doesn't have any fashion or make up tips or relationship advice, thank god. It's so relevant to my life at this moment, which is exactly what the perfect magazine should be. Yay Sunset! You've seriously stepped it up in the last year.

Let me show you around the latest issue:

It's the national park issue, which couldn't have been more perfect timing considering when I picked it out the mailbox we were just packing for Yosemite.

Best river float: the Merced, through Yosemite Valley. It IS pretty awesome, though we couldn't partake this year with the babe. Here's a little secret, the Merced is actually more beautiful up the in Yosemite backcountry, about a day's hike out of the valley. But you can only enjoy it if you're backpacking. One day we'll backpack again.

Glacier... one day we'll go there too.

An awesome little spread on repurposing found objects: a shutter succulent garden,

Sewer pipe planters,

And a gate made from old oars. Pretty genius.

A pretty, wine-racked kitchen.

A rustic cabin modern remodel. Yum.

A family of pioneer caretakers in Montana.

I love a good set of raised beds.

Gastrique. A balsamic vinegar, fig cocktail mixer. I will be making this at some point this summer.

Peak season recipes.

And party ideas.

Plus the Sunset website has all sorts of great stuff too. Like a summer canning guide (we all know how much I love to can), growing and eating tomatillos (yay! I have tomatillos growing out back), and a photo gallery of modern cabins.

I could go on, but I will let you explore a bit on your own.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Yosemite and back

So much for posting while we were away. We had no phone service and shoddy internet abilities and to be honest, it was nice not to be stuck on the computer for a week.

We hiked, ate, read, ate, jumped off rocks into the river, played dice, celebrated my grandparents' 60th anniversary, ate some more... you get the picture. I read an entire book (so luxurious to be lost in a good long story), made quinoa burgers and peach pie, and mostly just loved seeing my family and Dashiell's great grandparents get to spend time with him.

Now we are back, exhausted (oh the irony), and someone has their first little tooth coming in. He won't share it with anyone though. It's his big secret.