Monday, November 9, 2015

New Stove Love

When we bought this house over a year ago I really wanted to add a gorgeous gas stove to the kitchen. However, it wasn't part of the kitchen redo budget. So I bought an inexpensive used electric stove, since the one that came with the house looked as though it had literally caught on fire at some point. Happily, a year has passed and now a shiny new stove and gas line were in our budget. I spent about six weeks researching varies stoves in my spare time. Did I want strictly gas or dual fuel with a gas cook top and an electric oven? Did I want white or stainless steel? What did Consumer Reports have to say? What about one oven versus two? The spot we have for the stove is 36" wide, so that at least cancelled the 40" wide 6 burner stoves, which I probably would have gotten if I could have!

While I love beautiful things, function usually wins over fashion for me. My original plan was to get a white dual fuel stove with 5 burners. I could only find one that fit that description and it looked kind of plastic-y. I didn't love the look of it. Then I found a lovely dual fuel stove that was perfect except it only came in stainless steel. Everything else in my kitchen is white. I knew a stainless steel stove wouldn't really look bad, but it wasn't what I wanted. Then I found the stove pictured above. It was exactly what I was looking for. It didn't look cheap or like it was made of plastic. The one drawback is that it is only gas, no electric oven. I've ended up really happy with it! I'm not going to start a bread baking company out of my home, so I don't think a gas oven will be a noticeable change for us. I've been cooking and baking a lot with it and have had great results so far! It feel so much bigger, despite taking up the same amount of space as the previous stove. The oven is extra huge, and the lower drawer is a baking/warming drawer. I'm sure I'll put it to the test at Christmas. We all like how big the window is. Watching the pizza or muffins bake has become a main attraction around here. We could only make out basic shapes through the old oven window.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Autumnal Glory

The last few weeks have been glorious autumnal heaven. I'm happiest when I can wear jeans, a sweater, and sandals, and the last few weeks have delivered on that. It has been cool/cold in the morning and sunny in the afternoon. The garden is happily still producing tomatoes and my overwintering starts (kale and broccoli) are doing very well.

A few days ago the rain returned a bit, but I think we'll still get some more nice afternoons before the gloom of winter is here until it lifts in July. I wish I was joking in that last sentence, but I'm not. My old roommate used to refer to the winter sky as a 'mono cloud,' with no specks of blue to be seen. I'm enjoying the return to darker days. Putting the kids to bed is so much easier and dark mornings encourage a bit more sleeping in, although if someone could pass that info along to my almost 3 year old I'd really appreciate it. His (our) morning began at 5:45 today.

Getting up super early means extra knitting time before the run to school. The fox is coming along nicely. I found out that someone else is already knitting a fox for Dean, so I'm this one is for Gianna. If I have extra time I'm going to knit a hat for the fox based on these hats for cats. You should click the link, if for no other reason than to see how uncomfortable that cat looks in his party hat.

I made rice pudding for the first time. Gianna declared that it was good but 'too sweet.' She loves lollipops though, so how is that possible? That pumpkin spice peanut butter is crazy good. I don't go nuts for all things pumpkin spice, in fact I usually steer clear of them. I don't like ginger or chai or anything heavily spiced. This peanut butter is none of those things. It's just sweet and so good. Also pictured is my new favorite cocktail, The French Blonde. It's great, full of all of my favorite things. St-Germain makes everything taste better. From The Drunken Botanist:
"No other spirit tastes quite so much like a meadow in bloom; if one tries to imagine what honeybees taste when they dive between a flower's petals, this drink is surely it."

Lastly, wallpaper! When we bought this house last year I was certain that I was going to put up that Orla Kiely paper (in the center) but then I discovered Josef Frank's amazing designs. My favorite is Paradise, the top right corner. This house tour has some glimpses of it. I love all of the flora and fauna featured in it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Knitting Update

Some things happened last spring that left me in a creative funk. For a couple of months all I was able to do once the kids were asleep was watch Sons of Anarchy. It was exactly what I needed and I'm so glad there were seven seasons of that show to help me get through that time. Now I have finally turned the corner and am back in the land of making things.

Last September I was full of knitting confidence and bought patterns and yarn for three sweaters. I was going to make a cardigan for myself and two fair isle sweaters (Fimma) for the kids. I set my goals somewhat reasonably, hoping to have the kids' sweaters finished by Christmas 2015. Well, I just finished the first of those sweaters for Gianna. I don't think I'm going to attempt to knit another one for Dean by Christmas. While I can see all of the mistakes I made, I am still very happy with it. I was really intimidated by fair isle knitting before I started, but the actual color work isn't complicated.

Here is where I'm at with my sweater, The Katrine. I've knit the cowl (I think I'll end up folding this over itself when I'm wearing it) and now I'm shaping the yoke and have the markers in where the raglan sleeves are going to be. Isn't that seed stitch so pretty? You can't really see them, but there are buttonholes hidden in there too. When it is finished I may line this with flannel. I'm thinking about adding pockets to it too. Looking at these last few photos it is becoming painfully obvious that I really like that shade of blue.

A couple of weeks ago my husband was out of town and I bought this book on impulse at the grocery store. I tend to buy myself little presents when he goes out of town. You know how that goes, right? And then when he comes back to town and I get a horrible cold from all of the missed sleep and stress of solo parenting, I find myself taking advantage of the flash 40% off sale at Swedish Hasbeens. My new clogs arrived today and they are glorious!

Anyway, this little fox stole is crying out for me to make one for each of my kids for Christmas. I was at the knitting store, asking the sale associate/knitting teacher if she thought I could get two made by December, and she said, "You just knit a fair isle sweater, this is will be a piece of cake," totally making my day. I knit the first 10 rows, but then realized I needed longer needles, so I went back to the store to buy them. That night I cast on again, starting over, only to read the pattern again and realize that I bought the wrong size needles. I thought I needed size 7, when I really needed size 10.5 which is 7mm. At this rate I won't even get one done by December. Clearly, I need more sleep.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Height of Summer

Last week a friend and I packed up our kids and went fruit picking. We hadn't picked peaches since Dean was a baby two years ago. The trees were laden with fruit and in just an hour I had picked 70 lbs of fruit! It goes so much faster than picking berries. That afternoon I dug out my canning supplies and we got started. I hadn't canned at all since we moved a year ago. It was a slightly crazy afternoon with three kids, two moms, lots of apple sauce, and one small fire (!!) on the portable propane burner outside. It was also my mom's birthday so once we finished canning I put on a birthday dinner for her complete with a cake. I'm so glad I had decided earlier to buy a cake. There was no way I was feeling up for much of anything else in the kitchen after that busy day.

Two days later I canned three quarts of peaches. Then the kids and I peeled, sliced and froze (and ate) the remaining 20 lbs. They were very enthusiastic and helpful. I was the pitter, Gianna was the slicer and Dean was the eater on our assembly line. We now have 3 gallon bags of sliced peaches in the freezer.

I'm planning on making more applesauce and some pear-apple sauce. I think I might try canning some of the pears too. We'll see how much time I have to devote to it; peeling pears sounds labor intensive. When I was canning the peaches, my first time trying it, I thought that it was too much work and decided I wouldn't do it next year. Then I tasted a bit of the leftover simple syrup that the peaches had been simmering in. Heavenly! They might be worth the work after all. Plus, the leftover syrup is begging to be used in a cocktail.

I remembered this morning that I had planned on making some peach liquor, but had already frozen all of our peaches. Tomorrow is the last day that the farm is open for picking, so we went back this morning to pick some more. I'm hoping all of this canning and freezing will inspire to me do more. There's another farm that has boxes of tomatoes and pickling cucumbers that I'm thinking of diving into. Homemade tomato sauce is pretty amazing...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

One More Month

One more month until Gianna starts kindergarten. One more month of summer. It has been a cooker of a summer here in Portland and I am ready for it to be winding down. Once all of my tomatoes ripen, I'll be completely ready for autumn with it's crisp leaves, winter squash, apples and rain. Until then I'll try my best to enjoy these last few weeks of summer. I've already grated and frozen two gallon bags of zucchini, with much more to come I'm sure. My pickling cucumber is producing cucumbers, but I haven't gotten around to pickling any of them yet. The bean teepee is covered in flowers, so in a week or two I'll be knee-deep in beans. Now, those I really will pickle. They're my favorite. The sunflowers have gotten so heavy that a few have bent over to the ground, where the squirrels deftly chew the flowers off and abscond with them. They've also eaten pretty much all of the hazelnuts on our tree.

My studio/family craft room has gotten a bit more organized, which is wonderful. I'm working on quilts for the kids while listening to audiobooks. The last two I listened to were Between the World and Me which is amazing, and Crazy Rich Asians which is enjoyable and on the other side of the spectrum from the first book. My fantasy of sewing while the kids draw at the table next to me hasn't come true, but maybe someday it will?

I've been preparing for a food change in our house. We are getting ready to do an elimination diet for six weeks that will hopefully clear up some health issues for Dean. His blood test recommended eliminating gluten, eggs, pineapple, peanuts, and chili. Once I stopped celebrating the fact that I don't have to give up dairy, I realized I'll be giving up eggs, my other favorite food group. You know how you start obsessing over something as soon as you know you won't get it anymore? That's me right now. At first I tried taking it all in stride, thinking that we were all going to come out healthier as a family. Our naturopath recommended looking into eating paleo style instead of just replacing gluten with starchy gluten free products. I checked out a bunch of paleo books from the library and was feeling inspired. Then I made paleo pancakes. Setting aside the fact that they have about a million eggs in them (which won't work during the elimination) they were almost impossible to flip and were rejected by half of the family members. I poured the rest of the batter into a muffin tin and baked it. It was slightly better that way, but still roundly rejected.

As if this wasn't bad enough, two nights ago I decided to watch the The Mind of a Chef. The first season follows David Chang who started Momofuku Noodle Bar in NYC. The first episode is all about ramen. I love ramen. Ramen is made out of wheat. More me feeling sad about what I won't be able to eat. The next day, through the magic of technology, I checked out his book, Momofuku, and the book for the companion dessert shop, Milk Bar, on my iPad and have been drooling over the recipes and wonderful writing since. Not only is there a recipe for his ramen broth and his ramen noodles, but also a recipe for eggs poached inside their shells! I love a soft boiled egg in my ramen bowl. So now I'm mourning the loss of ramen and a perfect egg on top of it. And don't even get me started on the recipes in Milk Bar. They're crazy. Check some of them out here. Look for Cereal Milk, Cornflake-Marshmallow-Chocolate-Chip-Cookie, and the Crack Pie. It's just a really different way of thinking about food, at least for me it is. I love it. They use gelatin instead of eggs in their ice cream, so I'll be able to make some ice cream at least, perhaps even Cereal Milk Ice Cream. There's an eggy version of the recipe here. I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, but I intend to.

Ultimately six weeks isn't that long to give up eggs and wheat, especially if it helps my little guy feel better. I am, though, going to try to eat a few bowls of ramen with eggs on them before I have to give them up!