Friday, January 30, 2015

4/52: Collection and Friday Flashback

This is my grandmother's button box.  She kept it in her bedroom.  I remember taking it out of its place on the shelf, sitting on the floor, and spending many minutes, perhaps hours, enjoying the sensation of sifting through the buttons with my hands and letting them fall between the cracks in my fingers.  I would sort through them, picking out those that were more interesting: glittery, flower-shaped, leather-tooled, wooden-carved.  Some, I tried to rig onto bobby pins and or attached to strings so that I could accessorize the outfits of the equally antique dolls she had.

When my grandmother passed away, I went with my mother to help decide what should be done regarding her belongings.  There were a number of pieces I wanted to keep so they would stay in the family: cedar chests, the cherry wood bedroom set complete with vanity, the barrister bookcases, and the family photographs.  However, there was one thing I wanted just for myself: her button box.  My memories of visiting my grandmother were inexorably linked to that humble, practical item.

The button box was stored for many years in my parents' basement along with a number of my childhood artifacts.  Due to a great cleansing and moving, I was re-gifted all of these long-forgotten items a little over a year ago.  When I cracked open the button box after not seeing it's contents for a decade or more, I was greeted by friends.  There were so many buttons that I remembered with such fondness.  It was a joy to rediscover them again.

The box symbolizes my grandmother's personality.  My grandmother reached adulthood just as the depression was starting. (She graduated college in 1929).  The saying, "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" was emblazoned on every action she performed.  Frugality and thrift weren't "good ideas" but a way of life.  The box is a gentle reminder to me to choose a different path: Mending vs. tossing.  Creating vs. buying.  Simplifying vs. cluttering.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Chocolate chip cookies: gluten-free, reduced sugar

I just typed that title and had to chuckle, because who would find that appealing?  Yes, some people might need to eat gluten-free, but reduced sugar?  What, pray tell, is the point of eating cookies?  The truth of the matter?  Cookies are just too sweet for me these days.  The sugar goes straight to my brain, and I get a headache.  So, yeah, I am looking for something sweet, but not "make me ill" sort of sweet.  I reduced the sugar by a third.  I would like to do it by a half, but then you start changing the cookie texture--the cookies start to end up looking like round little cakes.  Somedays I don't mind that, but other days I do.

If you want the unadulterated version of this cookie, you can find it two places: Smitten Kitchen and Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  Both have named it one of their favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes.  They are almost identical except for slightly more flour in Mel's version and slightly more vanilla in Smitten's.  I bastardized this version even more by reducing the number of chocolate chips by half.  Two cups seems obscene to me, like, how is there even enough dough to hold that many?

Now that I have disinterested everyone, here is my version.

Chocolate Chip Cookies, gluten-free and reduced sugar

9.6 ounces all-purpose gluten-free flour (I use this one).
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
12 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
7 ounces of sucanat
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Make sure an oven rack is in the center of the oven.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and xanthan gum. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sucanat together until well mixed. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla. Mix well until the batter has lightened slightly in color, about 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and chocolate chips at the same time. Mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Form dough into tablespoonful-sized balls and place on parchment or silpat-lined cookie sheets. 

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until the edges are set and just lightly browned. Don't overbake. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sewing: Finn's quilt

I made this goal to learn how to sew clothes, and then I go and start a massive project like sewing a quilt.  I guess I have a bit of ADD when it comes to sewing; I am easily swayed by new, shiny things or ideas.  It took me just over a year to make this--with long periods of inactivity.  Finn kept asking, "when are you going to work on my quilt?" And, "when will my quilt be finished?"  You know, just to add to my guilt at taking so long.  Initially, I thought I would have someone else quilt it, so that it would actually get finished.  But I just couldn't stomach to price tag, especially as I wanted the quilting to be simple, straight lines to complement the top.  That decision meant I had to pin the blasted thing together (with some help), and quilt it on my machine.  It is a twin size, which is about the largest size I would want to quilt on my machine.  It was awkward to handle that much fabric.

The pattern was this free one I found online.  I was looking for something that was visually appealing to me and dead easy.  The pattern fabric was the "Friendly Seas" line by Robert Kaufman which I fell in love with and scoured the internet for.  It is backed in green flannel.  I love having flannel as the backing.  It makes it just so comfy to cuddle up in.

I plan on making up the same quilt for Enna, but with different fabrics--one with cute Russian dolls and churches on it.  I have all the fabric (except for the flannel backing which will be yellow), however, I am going to give myself at least a year if not more, before I tackle another quilt.  I have a number of smaller sewing projects that I want to finish--many of them clothing.  Here is hoping to a year of sewing accomplishments!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

3/52: Shallow depth of field

We had a wonderful, long 4-day weekend.  We have been enjoying having dad around more these past few weeks since he worked so much the second half of last year.  I was able to finish Finn's quilt (a separate post), and we enjoyed playing the new games given us at Christmas.  The penguin game is Pengoloo--a fun take on memory where you roll a die with colors on it and try to find the matching egg underneath the penguins.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2/52: Nature

This week was not conducive to beautiful nature shots in the outdoors because 1) it was super cold all week and 2) I am a mother of small kids.  I don't necessarily have the luxury of taking drives looking for photographic inspiration.  I feel that this challenge will be learning to use what is immediately available.

The first set of photos I took on a wet drizzly day in the morning before rushing to get everyone dressed and out the door.  I awkwardly held an umbrella over my head and tried to wrangle the camera.  The kids were left indoors with instructions to watch out the window and not freak out.  However, a couple of days later, it snowed.  This provided a new white backdrop to get some nice shots.  I ultimately used the first one, but which one would you have picked?

Also this week:

  • So close to finishing Finn's quilt.
  • First snow of the year.
  • Caused Finn's primary teacher to quit because I asked (politely I thought!) if she could not give the kids snacks. Oh, the drama this caused!
  • Planning some homemade gifts for Enna's 2nd birthday which may or may not actually be completed in time.

Friday, January 9, 2015

2014 in review: Favorite Posts we come to the most underwhelming of categories: favorite posts.  My writing was at an all time low this year with a total of 39 posts.  I am not surprised given the year and it's challenges, but that doesn't mean I wish it were different.  I find blogging is a great way to record the year's events as well as to provide an artistic outlet for me in the form of writing.  I can only hope that 2015 provides more space and time for me to do both.  My favorite posts by far on the ones I wrote for my Friday Flashbacks.  That format serves as a great starting point in attempting to craft a good story.

A week solo parenting.  I chose this because it gave a realistic snap shot of my life earlier this year.  It was no wonder that I was depressed.  I was not getting any sleep, even when you considered just one child vs. two.  Also, what a difference a year makes!  A little bit of night-weening will do that.

My kids: side by side.  I enjoy seeing the differences between my two children.

Candies.  My first Friday Flashback, and one of my favorite memories.  My poor Grandmother.

The no nap.  This is such a constant occurrence at my house.  I can't tell you how many times I have been frustrated with Enna's not napping only to discover the reason within minutes of giving up.  Only now that we have potty trained, the surprise isn't in the diaper, but what ends up in the potty mere minutes upon giving up.

This should have been in the manual.  In memory of Robin Williams and my awkward teenage years.  My sister told me she was crying with laughter at reading this.  "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors?"  Why yes, let my most embarrassing moments be your comic relief for the day.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

1/52: Good Intentions

Well, I bit the bullet and joined a 52 weeks challenge on Flickr, despite the fact that the majority of the photographers are more seasoned and advanced than I.  This week's (January 1-7) challenge was "Good Intentions."

0.4, f/3.2, ISO 100
My "good intention" for this shot is to get enough sleep.  Since I have early risers, and I still get woken up at night, I need to be in bed by 9:00 pm.   Ironically, to get this shot, I stayed up later than I should have.

1/125, f/3.2, ISO 800
Mr. F. actually took this shot, and I edited it.  It fit into another "good intention" of mine: to write more.  


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