A LA MODE: topped with ice cream

It looked and smelled good.  It tasted great.  It was a miracle.

Yesterday was the first time I’ve made a pie without crying or cursing.

I can bake cookies:


I can preserve fruits and vegetables:

Pantry 1

I can make a birthday cake:

 Cake outside  Cake inside

But, until twenty-four hours ago, I had never successfully made a pie.

When my mother-in-law told me she was taking me to a pie making class with her mom and sisters as part of my birthday present, I was nervous.  I wasn’t nervous about being the worst pie pupil; I just didn’t want Granny to hear me use the F-word.

Pie crust and profanity go together for me:

Flour, butter, sugar, water.  Mix.  Attempt to roll.  Pull sticky chunks off rolling-pin.  Curse.  Sprinkle counter and rolling-pin with flour.  Try again.  Make amoeba shape that fails to properly fill pie plate.  Curse.  Try again.  Sprinkle everything liberally with flour and F-word.  Discover I have added too much flour and dried out crust.  Add moisture from tears.  Piece together mix of dry and soggy lumps in pie pan.  Curse.  Tell Husband we need to swing by the store for a dessert before the dinner party.

But, last night I made this:


No swearing.  No tears.

Thank you Chris Porter at A La Mode Pies!  Your pies were delicious and your teaching engaging.  Your snickerdoodle ice-cream recommendation rocked my world.  In just a couple of hours you transformed me from pie-phobic to pie-curious.

Most of all, I’m just so incredibly relieved that I didn’t swear in front of Granny.

For the Highest Bidder

AUCTION: a sale of property to the highest bidder

Next weekend is the auction at Son’s school.  Each class contributes something.  I volunteered to coordinate the project for Son’s kindergarten class.  My goal was to find a project that really could be done by the kids and capture the charm of kindergarten art.  I put the pieces of the project together in the frame this weekend.  I’m pleased with the results:

 auction project

The inspiration for the project came from THIS post.  I loved the idea of making a project where all the kids collaborated on a single image but could still identify their individual contributions.  I tweaked the idea a little by having the kids sign their names on the matting of the frame.  I think the kindergarten handwriting is the best part!  I love the backward letters and the way kids signed in all different sizes and directions.   I also added lyrics in the background from a song the kids sing on Friday mornings: 

We are children of peace.

We are the children of the world.

Listen people everywhere.

Hear our song.

Come and take somebody’s hand.

Sing along.

The choice is ours.

What will we do?

It’s up to me.

It’s up to you.

[We are children of love, hope, friendship, compassion, justice…]

Pinterest: A fit of insanity or a bright idea?

BRAINSTORM: a violent transient fit of insanity; a sudden bright idea

I have come around on Facebook.   For me, the joy of seeing friend’s children grow even though we are in different cities and states, reading witty observations and commentary on happenings both big and little, and receiving birthday reminders outweighs the downside of oversimplified political opinions, updates on internet game accomplishments, more information than I wanted about my friend’s personal soundtrack selections, and suspicious claims that my friends all like the same brand of cowboy boot. 

I have come around on smartphones.  The ability to catch up on email and listen to NPR on my early morning bus rides and answer “what time is it” for myself instead of relying on strangers outweighs the misunderstandings caused by my chubby thumbs.

So, I tried to be open-minded when friends told me I just HAD to check out Pinterest.  I approached it cautiously optimistic.  And, we’ve had some good moments.  With the help of Pinterest, I executed a charming Wild Kratts party for Son where I plagiarized the creativity of other mothers and passed it off as my own.  And, Pinterest gave me several ideas for the Valentine’s themed lunch I sent to school with Son today:


But, on balance, I find Pinterest to be less of a supportive brainstorming partner and more of a nagging voice telling me that my children should be playing with homemade play-dough while I create original subway art with encouraging platitudes to hang on the earth tone walls of my spotless home filled with the smell of no-knead bread and roasted root vegetables from my tidy organic garden.  

What’s your verdict on Pinterest?  More pleasure than pain? 


Who wore it best?

COSTUME: an outfit worn to create the appearance characteristic of a particular period, person, place, or thing

Daughter’s Halloween costume this year was all the things I think make a costume great.

Child directed.  Daughter’s favorite color is orange.  I’m embracing orange because it gets us beyond the pepto-bismol color palette all too common in girl toys and clothes.  Combine her love of all things orange with her love of Dr. Suess and she had a costume idea.   Well, the original costume request was technically for a Lorax mustache, barbaloot legs, and once-ler arms.  So, her costume was child-directed with a side of parent re-direction.

Semi Homemade.  I love the idea of homemade costumes but they are a lot of work.  I find that I excel at semi homemade.  I like costumes that are a bit cobbled together with an item or two made by hand.  It is more fun than a straight-from-the-box costume package and results in something unique without the need for late nights at the sewing machine.  This costume was the perfect blend of easy store purchases and homemade accents.

Cheap.  Orange shirt and pants – straight from the dresser drawer.  Orange hoodie – online purchase that will be worn until she outgrows it.  Rave boot covers the size of preschooler legs: $8 at Goodwill.  Mustache – Cheap craft store feather boa glued onto popsicle sick from Son’s invention box and adhered with elastic from same box.

Face-Obscuring.  Admittedly, not a feature I thought about until I had a blog but the fact that the costume is face-obscuring enough that I feel like I can share it on the internet with strangers is a bonus.




Feeling Saucy

SAUCY: served with or having the consistency of sauce; impertinently bold and impudent; amusingly forward and flippant; smart, trim

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away then the doctor should be far, far away from me!

Today, I canned approximately eighty pounds of applesauce.  Unfortunately for my tired feet, that was only half of the apples I purchased.  Fortunately for my hectic week, apples are relatively forgiving as far as timing goes.  They should stay fresh on our porch until I have time to get to the remaining four boxes.

Inspired by my friend Lesley’s post, I tried two of the top-rated sauce apples according to an America’s Test Kitchen article I cut out years ago: Jonagolds and Jonathans.  I’m doing several batches (solo Jonagolds, solo Jonathans, and a mixture of both) to determine a taste-test winner.

I like doing my own applesauce for several reasons.  I like that I can make it without any added sugar to maintain some of the fun tart flavor from the apples.  I like that I can select the food mill disk with larger holes to get a rustic textured sauce rather than the super fine consistency of store-bought sauce.  I like that it is a simple process.  Not fast, but simple:  Peel and core apples, put in pot, add a little water and lemon juice, turn on heat, stir and wait, crank through food mill, put in jars, and boil.

One of the bright spots in my day today was a visit from my canning friend.  Having company in the kitchen that makes everything better.  There are the obvious benefits of a speedier process when there are four hands instead of two. But in addition to appealing to my love of all things efficient, communal cooking also appeals to my inner pioneer woman.  I like working with another woman to put up stores for our families.  Knowing that some of our applesauce would be consumed by my friend’s soon-to-arrive baby made the whole process even more meaningful.

Another bright spot in my day was the dinner invite we received from the parents of one of Son’s new school friends.  After spending all day in the kitchen, I was relieved to get out of cooking dinner.  It was especially delightful to discover that we were about to be treated to the most delicious food we’d had in quite some time: Crab cakes, beet salad with nut butter, orzo with lemon, kale salad, etc.  Great food and even better company made for a perfect end to the weekend.

Finally, there are the little bright spots that keep coming from the kitchen in the form of “pops.”  There are few sounds I like more than the sound of a canning jar sealing properly.

It is auditory confirmation of a job well done.

“Crafty” in the glue and scissors sense of the word (I think)

CRAFTY: skillful, clever, adept in the use of subtlety and cunning, marked by subtlety and guile

Some friends jokingly call me “Martha.”  I think it’s because I’m crafty in the glue and scissors sense of the word, not the insider trading sense of the word…but perhaps I should ask them to clarify.

For my part, I think my “Martha” reputation is a bit overblown.  I go to excess a couple of times a year and those memories seem to stick with people.

For example, each December I make cookies.  LOTS of cookies:

We deliver those cookies to special people in our lives.  Coworkers, preschool families, neighbors, our children’s librarian, and our favorite grocery store checker (Son likes the one with the magenta hair and nose piercing).  But, it’s not as if I whip up thousands of cookies each week.  It’s an annual affair; two days out of 365.  Less than 1% of the year.

Each fall, I can hundreds of pounds of produce:

But, it only takes about seven days (roughly 2%) of the year.

Sometimes I get carried away making school lunches.  I like to make my own cards because I can’t justify spending $3.50 on a Hallmark card that doesn’t say what I want it to.  I think baked goods make just about any meeting better.  And, if given my choice I’d rather make a Halloween costume than buy it.

Based on my calculations, baking and crafts make up about 5% of my year.  It’s funny to me that 5% is enough to get a reputation.  I spend more than 5% of my time looking for my car keys.  But, nobody has ever introduced me as their “friend who can’t keep track of her keys.”

The Liebster Award

RECOGNITION: special notice or attention

Random Dorkness (code name: Psychicquill) nominated me for The Liebster Award.  Thanks Psychicquill!

Like all blog awards, it comes with some homework.  I followed the rules where I could and ignored them where I couldn’t:

  • post 11 things about yourself
  • answer the 11 questions from the person who gave you the award
  • list 11 questions
  • pass the award to 11 others

11 things about me: 

11 questions from Psychicquill:

  1. Do you like hot wings?  Not unless they are made of tofu.
  2. Do you like vodka?  Not particularly.
  3. What do you think about moonwalks?  I liked it when Michael Jackson did it.
  4. What do you think about combining a moonwalk with hot wings and vodka?   Sounds like a frat party.
  5. Who would clean up the mess?  The nearest mommy, I suppose. 
  6. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?  Wood is not for throwing.  If the woodchuck needed something to throw, I would get him a ball.
  7. What if the woodchuck wouldn’t chuck wood, but he *would* chuck vodka? See #6
  8. Or hot wings?  See #6.
  9. Or both vodka and hot wings?  See #6.
  10. On a moonwalk?   I feel reasonably confident that  NASA would not hire a      drunk, carnivorous woodchuck with impulse control issues. 
  11. Who would clean up *that* mess?  The nearest mommy.  It’s always the nearest mommy.

11 questions for my nominees:

  1. Do you still have your tonsils?
  2. Would you bungee jump?
  3. What was the last book you read?
  4. What is stashed under your bed?
  5. What is the kindest thing someone has done for you this week?
  6. Is there a movie you have watched more than a dozen times?
  7. When you have an hour to yourself, how do you spend it?
  8. What is your least favorite chore around the house?
  9. Saturday or Sunday?
  10. What was your favorite children’s book?
  11. Was the recognition worth this hassle?

11 7 nominees:

Eleven was too many nominees for me.  It’s not because I don’t enjoy lots of wordpress blogs, but because there aren’t enough blogs that I read consistently enough to vouch for as a whole.  I also tried to limit my nominations to blogs that are focused on similar topics to mine (in hopes that if you read my blog I can introduce you to another writer or two you might enjoy).  The envelope, please…and the Liebster Award goes to:

Not Quite Old: She’s witty and she draws.

Parenting is Funny: A compilation of hilarious things kids say and do.

Nonsense to Momsense: She can make a colonoscopy funny.

Poole Party of 5: Crafty mama extraordinaire.  Prepare to be inspired.

All that makes you…: Some moms have all the luck.  This lady’s life provides endless blogging fodder.

Feisty Red Hair: I like the mix of musings, recipes, and book reviews.  And, I’m trying to suck up so that she’ll invite me to dinner some day!

But Mostly Mommy: I find her writing charming, honest, and engaging.  She’s the kind of person I would want to have over for tea.

Canning Season is Here!

JAM: a food made by boiling fruit and sugar to a thick consistency

I bought a couple of flats of strawberries and blueberries at our neighborhood farmer’s market Sunday with grand plans of whipping out a few batches of jam that afternoon.  A birthday party for Son’s friend and dinner invite provided pleasant – but significant – distraction and delay.  The canner was finally stocked and boiling with the first batch at 10 p.m. last night.

A late night and early morning combined to yield the following before I left for work this morning:

Sunshine juice concentrate (made with rhubarb from our garden)

Strawberry lemonade concentrate

Strawberry rhubarb jam

Strawberry jam

Blueberry apple jam

Our corner produce market has a special running on local raspberries.  I hope to pick some up on my way home to mix with my remaining blueberries for a mixed berry jam and a raspberry-orange jam.

With two kids in the house, we use a LOT of jam.  We ran out this year and I don’t want to make the same mistake again.

My favorite jam is Martha’s (she’s first name only like Madonna, right?) Blackberry Bay Leaf.  I pick my berries on an abandoned property near the railroad tracks that run from downtown Seattle to our neighborhood.  I’m reasonably certain that at least one dead body is lurking in the brambles, but that is the reality of urban foraging.  Alas, the blackberries aren’t ready yet.  So, I’ll continue to amuse myself with preserving the earlier berries until the precious free-for-the-fearless fruit is ready.



YEAST: a yellowish surface froth or sediment that occurs especially in saccharine liquids in which it promotes alcoholic fermentation, consists largely of cells of a fungus, and is used especially in the making of alcoholic liquors and as a leaven in baking

Bread and wine.  I like them both.  In fact, I’ve made them both – bread with more success than wine.

I like to make our bread.  Some weeks I slack and buy it at the store, but I prefer to make my own.  Homemade bread is one of those things that seems more impressive than it is.  It’s actually the perfect mommy activity.  It takes hours from start to finish, but the amount of time you need to pay attention to it is relatively small.  There are small burst of hands-on activity – generally one to five minutes worth – separated by hours of time where the yeast is doing the work for you.  And, the result is a delicious loaf that makes the house smell incredible.  I understand bread.  I’ve had relatively good success with it.

Wine is another story.  I tried making my own wine once.  In fact, I had Son help me.  I’m not sure where teaching a 3-year-old to cork wine ranks on the “bad mommy” scale:


I read about dandelion wine in one of my urban homesteading books and thought it sounded interesting.  I found an abandoned house and collected a gallon of dandelion blossoms from the yard.  For the record, it takes a long time to pick a gallon of dandelion blossoms. 

I followed the directions, but the results were terrible.  The wine turned out chewably sweet.  I think the recipe may have overcompensated for the bitterness of the blossoms.  We gave a few bottles to friends and family with an “it’s the thought that counts” disclaimer.  I keep a few bottles on our pantry shelf to remind me of the failed experiment. 

Can you see them mocking me from the second shelf on the right?

Sometimes I get cocky about my canning skills.  Those bottles of dandelion wine remind me that I still have lots to learn.  For now, I’ll make my bread and buy my wine.  But someday, I hope to master both.


SUNSHINE: something (as a person, condition, or influence) that radiates warmth, cheer, or happiness

What do I do when I need inspiration?  Procrastinate, of course! I was doing just that this afternoon instead of picking a topic to write about. Surely, something would come to me as I drafted invitations for our upcoming party.  Strike one.  Perhaps an idea would percolate up while I perused chick-flick titles at the video store.  Strike Two.

Just in the nick of time, I discovered a note in my email inbox letting me know that Stacy Dymalski nominated me for a Sunshine Award.  I extend to her my gratitude for the kindness, the affirmation, and the post topic…

Here goes my attempt to fulfill the award requirements:

First, the gratitude:

Stacy, you rock!  For those who have not had the pleasure of reading her blog, you are in for a treat!

Second, the visual:

Third, the Q&A:

Favorite color?  

For me it’s less about an affinity for a particular color and more about liking items to be the color they were intended to be.  Too many of my things have crayon marks, oil spots, mysterious goo, or the grungy not-quite-right hues that come from years of imprecise laundry sorting.

Favorite animal?

Favorite animal a decoration – a cow.  I have a cow collection that spans nearly 30 years.  Favorite animal in my backyard – a goat.  It took me seven years of marriage for Husband to agree to backyard chickens.  I will know that I have become completely irresistible when he agrees to a goat.

Favorite number?

Four – the number of people required to make our family complete.

Favorite non-alcoholic drink?

Coffee.  I like it black, with milk, mixed with chocolate, from a barista, from a diner pot, topped with whipping cream, through an IV…really I just like it flowing through my veins.  I don’t care how it gets there.

Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook.  Birds and birds alone should “tweet.”

My passion?

Shouldn’t this be plural?

Getting or giving presents?

Giving – especially when I’ve come up with an idea that is unique or homemade.

Favorite pattern?

Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Rock, Paper Scissors.  That pattern has helped me survive the time between ordering and food delivery at many a restaurant with small children.

Favorite day of the week?

Wednesday.  It is our one “un-programmed” weekday.  It’s the day we have time for a hot breakfast.  It’s the day we can schedule special outings or playdates with far away friends.

Favorite flower?

Star-gazer lilies mixed with roses reminds me of the first bouquet I received from Husband.  Sunflowers, tulips and daffodils make me feel cheerful.  Any flower that arrives at my house for no reason is a hit in my book.

Finally, here are a few* WordPress blogs I think deserve sunshine of their own:

Slow Food Seattle

Wandering Mary

One Great Mom

Fuzz and Sunshine

The Year of What If

* I’m new to WordPress (both as a reader and a writer); please accept my apologies for only offering 5 rather than the 10 nominees requested.  What do you say we pretend it is double-coupon Sunday?

UPDATE (May 2012): Turn Around and Swim kindly nominated me for the Sunshine Award too.  Since I’ve done the work already, I kindly say “Thank you.”   You can never have too much sunshine.