To Amuse and Delight

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pumpkin Lattes and things like that

Pumpkin Latte. Just the name itself conjures up images of all that is good about fall. Autumn perfection.  Many of my lady friends have a very serious relationship with the Pumpkin latte. They just love it, some say it's an addiction. In the company of a lovely friend or two I have too succumbed to it's charms. The first sip almost delivers the happy feeling that the name conveys. But, sadly when taking tepid gulps from the bottom half of the cup I feel kind of let down. Maybe it has something to do with that fake pumpkin, too sweet syrupy stuff that sinks to the bottom. After just such a moment I determined not to drink another. Unless I made it myself. I did it, and it has all the promises of an autumn day. Without the lousy feeling afterward. If you too are interested in a healthier Pumpkin latte here is what I did:

Made a cup of my favorite coffee. I use a hand drip funnel or coffee press.
Heated up some milk with pumpkin puree (whisk together). About one tablespoon pumpkin per cup.
Sweeten coffee with sweetener of choice. I use stevia and maple syrup combination.
Pour the milk/pumpkin mixture over the sweetened coffee, the whisking froths up the milk nicely.
Grate or sprinkle on some cinnamon.

There you have it. Aside from the obvious benefits of it being natural, you can customize it for your own taste. Your coffee, your sugars, your milk (almond is good too), you can add on cardamon, vanilla, get the idea.
I have been putting pumpkin into anything I can get away with it lately. Here is the pumpkin smoothy, which is a big hit. My girls love it. Actually they really like all of my pumpkin concoctions. I don't know of any other healthy vegetable type that is so easily accepted in their sweets. The smoothies were made from almond milk, banana, pumpkin puree, vanilla extract and again that stevia/maple syrup combo.
Little pumpkin cakes for tea with milk chocolate icing. Sure they have chocolate on top, but I consider them a fairly healthy sweet. They are made with whole wheat and no fat (oil). They get all their moistness from the pumpkin puree. Another winner all around.
Have you noticed how as you scroll down the foods are progressing toward the more decadent? Being home bound for days after Hurricane Sandy was all the excuse I needed to make pumpkin donuts. Maybe not the healthiest thing on the planet, but compared to store bought donuts they're not so bad. The benefits of whole wheat flour and pumpkin again. A spoonful of a maple syrup and sugar glaze goes a long way in flavor so you only need a small amount of sugar in the dough. Yes, they are fried. That's because I like them better than baked and donuts don't just happen every day.

Monday, November 5, 2012

I cook

I found something out about myself as hurricane Sandy blew. I realized that when something scary or unknown happens, I cook. As the hurricane started to really kick in, I began making soup. As I was cooking it brought back a strong memory of 9/11. That day was scary, I had absolutely no idea what was happening. I starting making soup. My thinking was that if my husband did make it home he might bring people with him. People who can't get to their homes, or whose homes are now gone. A big pot of soup can sit patiently for a very long time, waiting to be a comfort. On 9/11, it was lentil. For Sandy it was split pea.
 I am not one who sits around fretting. I have to keep things moving forward, trying in any small way to aid the situation. It was interesting that during Sandy one thing that gave me peace was knowing that I had a pretty good store of food. If we lost power (amazingly we didn't this time) I was set for a while to feed my family and whoever else may need a place to stay. I do love my gas stove, when we lose power I can cook. The kettle is always ready for tea! I have these jars of ginger peach jam that I made a couple of months ago after a day of peach picking. Friends of mine who just got their power back today were able to have a warm bed and do some laundry at my house. I was low on maple syrup for breakfast pancakes, so I opened up one of my jams.  It gave me a tiny glimpse into how the pioneer women and the Native American women must have felt as winter approached. Sure things would get tough, the cold winds would blow, but knowing that they at least could provide food to their families would make the unknown much less frightening. There is a certain peace that comes with being prepared and it allows you to be a help to others.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hanging the Cheese

My family thinks it quite comical when I say, "It's time to hang the cheese". My husband is the first one to enter the kitchen in the morning and when he sees the cheese he says it makes him laugh. He says it reminds him of me and it is funny. The cheese in this case is cheese made from goat yogurt. I started doing this a few months ago and now it has become a staple food around here. Especially for breakfast.  I stopped buying goat cheese and cream cheese. Instead a 32 oz. tub of goat yogurt makes a whole lot of cheese for the money. Just plop the whole container out on a tea towel lined with paper towel, gather it tightly and hang it. I hang mine overnight. If you find it's too wet, just hang it some more. You can flavor it with any herbs and spices you like. I can't really say I make cheese, it makes itself.
This is my everyday breakfast. I eat the cheese with olives and arugula. When I run out of breakfast cheese, it's time to hang more. Of course this is accompanied by a strong cup (or pot) of English tea.
I fancied up the lowly cheese when I had my friend, Dierdre over for tea recently. I made a sandwich of rosemary/grape foccacia with beets and the cheese. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Snippets: Learning with Loki

I am linking up with's blog hop "Snippet's from Unschooling". Some people are under the assumption that unschooled means un-educated. This misunderstanding is very far from the truth. "Unschoolers" understand that there is no one right way to learn or to teach. We embrace the freedom to do what is best for our own children. We learn with our children, we do not compartmentalize when and where learning takes place. People outside of this way of thinking find it a bit of a mystery how it "works". I think the Snippet's from Unschooling blog hop is a wonderful way for people to see a glimpse of what unschooling looks like from the inside. 
What I am blogging here just happens to be what is going on at the moment in my home. I have no idea what next month will look like. That is the beauty of unschooling, it is never stagnant. Like our children's minds, It is alive and green with constant growth.
This learning thread started when my husband wanted to take our daughter to see The Avengers movie. He was a comic book fan in his youth and for years made his living drawing comic books. Our daughter wasn't interested in going, but didn't want to squelch her Dad's enthusiasm. When they came back from the movie my daughter was changed. She was Loki obsessed. She wanted a Loki toy, so she made this crocheted Loki (with his little "frost bear"). She read every book she could find about Norse legends. She even asked me to cut her hair to be more Loki-ish. I did. It is more manageable and looks great. She asked me to buy her some styling mousse. I did. This is the first time she has ever cared about grooming her hair. Sure, Loki is a bad guy, but so far this is good.
My girl found out via the internet that there are many other Loki fans out there. She discovered the cosplay craze and spent much of her time studying Loki's costume and accessories and figuring out how to make them. She purchsed the Making of the Avengers book with her own money to get better photos than she could find on the internet. She made Loki's scepter. She trashed Loki's scepter and made a better one. She started a blog and blogged about that process. After much trial and error she got the scepter where she wanted it. She and her Dad are currently working on the Loki helmet. 
After looking at quantities of photos and video clips of Tom Hiddleston, the actor who play Loki, she realizes that it is not actually Loki she adores, but it is Tom. She prints out his bio which includes a list of his acting credits. We look over the list for something suitable for her to watch and settle on Return to Cranford, the BBC drama based on the Cranford books by Elizabeth Gaskell. After watching Return to Cranford multiple times, she and her little sister act out scenes and even assign parts to their friends to play out. There is a very dramatic train crash scene which becomes quite popular and my girls spend the better part of a day setting up their train set, finding just the right cow toy and playing out a particular scene. If you have seen Return to Cranford you know why our little cow is wearing grey pajamas.
So after really enjoying Return to Cranford, my daughter decides that she would like to see the original Cranford. We all watch it (more than once), it is a big hit all around. She then wants to read the Cranford books. She does so and she loves them. As I was busy getting breakfast together the girls came down with their noses in books. You see she's reading Cranford again. She begins reading to me while I cook. Of course I love that. After reading to her for twelve years, I reap the reward of being read to. We have a discussion about why she likes Elizabeth Gaskell's writing style better that Jane Austin's. Tomorrow we are going to the library to pick up Gaskell's novel Wives and Daughters. 
Learning will happen naturally, the tricky part for us parents is allowing it to.

"You may not find a complete and direct cause-and-effect relationship between interest and learning, but we bet you'll find at least a strong correlation. Generally, when we learn due to interest, it's pleasurable, straightforward, and effective. When we learn due to coercion, it's unpleasant, difficult, and useless and we often forget the learned material as soon as we can afford to."
from Guerrilla Learning by Grace Llewellyn

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More Sheet Magic

It started when I bought a backpack to use while on vacation. We would be taking a ferry instead of our car. That put a damper on my usual way of packing. I tend to bring all the comforts of home: my drying rack for all those wet towels and bathing suits, my electric kettle and coffee press, teas, "real" cups for us all. You get the picture. Once I even plotted how to take (smuggle) a sick guinea pig on vacation with me. (My husband put his reasonable foot down on that one.) Now, we each were to have one rolling bag and one back pack. A week before we left I found a back pack I could live with, it's purple and blue and flowery. Blue? Mind mind starts turning. Now I want some blue/purple clothes to go with it. I have one week and no money to use for wardrobe. I head to my trusty fabric stash. I find a blue patterned sheet that I got at a garage sale for pennies and a small piece of purple jersey. With no time to waste I forego using patterns. Sometimes I decide not to sew at all because I dread the nonsense of dealing with patterns. It's happened that after unfolding, folding, cutting, reading, sewing I end up with a garment that doesn't fit me and that I don't even like. So this time I grabbed a couple of garments that fit me well, I layed them right on the fabric and just cut away. This cut my work time drastically and gave me a perfect fit. I made this wrap around tie skirt and a purple shell to wear with it.

  I find a long, loose, cotton dress the best thing to put on my sun drenched body after spending all day at the beach. Of course I don't want to look like I'm wrapped in a old soft sheet, even though I am! For this one I used a favorite 20 year old Cynthia Rowley dress. I'm glad that I've kept it all these years, it's tattered and has pills but the fit is still great.
My vacation book, Wren Bay was wonderful. I devoured it.

"There is something satisfying in taking what one already has and using it in a new way."
from Wren Bay, the story of making a home

Monday, July 23, 2012

summer cup and summer book

Am I the only one who buys myself a birthday present? Well, I do. My birthday is very close to Christmas so it can get overshadowed, and rightly so! Some years ago I started a fun tradition. At some point throughout the year I will buy myself a little something, always something unnecessary. Not expensive, but special to me. I wrap it up and ignore it until it's time to place in under the Christmas tree. That's how I came by this lovely flower teacup and leaf saucer set. Not only did I save it for my birthday, but after I opened it I decided it was a "summer cup". It looked out of place on my holiday/winter table. I would wait for summer to use it. So here I am loving my flower cup. Watching out my window at the bees, hummingbirds and butterflies sipping at the flowers while I sip at mine. I guess I am not one for instant gratification, I like having and doing things in their proper time. I revel in the different seasons and the possibilities they bring. I have wanted to read blogger Clarice-Fox Hughes book 'Wren Bay- the story of making a home' for some time now. I love her blog Storybook Woods. She is a blogger of beauty, always inspiring me. I got it in my head that this book, Wren Bay was to be my vacation book. I always pick a book for my beach read that will be a real treat. I have had this book in my possession for weeks now, do you know how hard it has been not to peek? The time is coming soon though for me to devour it. I have no doubt it will be well worth the wait.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

the birthday sweater

I started this sweater months ago. It was supposed to be my "birthday sweater". My birthday had come and gone, and no sweater. It is finally finished. Why did it take me so long? Because I kept ripping it out. Never quite satisfied with the layout of the flowers. The pattern had flowers on both sides, which was too much for me. So instead, I put flowers on one side and up one arm. I will now tuck it away and pull it out to enjoy next fall.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Making Things

I think it's important to always have a stash of good quality art/craft supplies around for whenever the mood strikes you to make something. Good quality supplies for my children, not just for me. Children are more free with their creativity, so why should they be relegated to the poor quality kid's art supplies? My husband and I met while in art school,  we still have a lot of our "real" art supplies. We are lucky now to only have to replace colors and brushes as they are used up. I have been collecting fabric, buttons and notions for a very long time, so I have a pretty good stash. I am blessed to have all of my grandmother's sewing, knitting and crocheting tools. If you don't have such collections already, it's best to buy decent quality items a little at a time, as you need them. I am not saying the top tier, but not junk. If it's good, it will last and you will not have to replace it quickly. With good materials a little can go a long way. One gorgeous bit of fabric can make more impact that yards of stuff that is not only unattractive, but no fun to work with. The fun of creating is the process. Handling quality supplies, from paints to yarn, not only feels good, but it also gives the finished product more worth.  

My daughter wanted to practice using decorative stitches on my sewing machine. She picked some golden wool felt and vintage pale green thread from my grandma's old stash. She made kind of a square spiral (if there is such a thing) of a delicate leaf pattern. She did it by eye with no guide lines and spaced it so nicely. She had to keep stopping to turn all those corners. I was proud of her and asked if I could have it.  I pinked the edges and now it is my special coaster. If I had only allowed her a junky old scrap to "practice" on, if I had denied her using the "good" thread, I probably wouldn't love the finished product as I do.

"First, the children would not be "employed in making futilities such as pea and stick work, paper mats and the like." In other words, the work must not be accomplished in vain. It was not what we identify as macaroni-and-refrigerator art, but involved hands touching varied mediums in expressions of self. As always, it was "the book, the knowledge, the clay, the bird or blossom he thinks of, not his own place in the class or his own progress." Handwork was to be appreciated and useful, following lines of form, beauty and order."

-From When Children Love to Learn by Elaine Cooper, regarding Charlotte Mason's philosophy.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christmas Doings

Now that the doing is over, I can relax and look back on what was done.  Here is my latest advent wreath, I make a new one each year. Of course I  feel the need to sneak mushrooms and acorns into the  decor whenever possible. Sure the mushrooms are fake but they made it look much nicer, like a walk in the woods.
I was inspired by the The Complete Dickens Christmas issue of The Storybook Home Journal to make this Christmas pie. It is a puff pastry 'package' filled with beef, carrots and gravy. I enlisted my husband's help, an extra pair of hands made the process go smoothly. While he cut out the decorative shapes I worked quickly getting the filling to stay in the dough parcel. He came up with the idea to paint the "berries" before baking with beet juice to make them that pretty red.
My new fish and fungus apron. My friend Andrea, who always knows what I like, gifted me with this mushroom print dish towel. Much too crisp and nice to wipe up slops, I decided to make it into an apron adding an interesting fish print I love but so far have had no use for.
Who is that cutie in my apron pocket? Her name is Mei and she is our new guinea pig. Over the holidays we lost two of our beloved piggies, Penny and Pumpkin. Our remaining girl, Woogie has not been doing well finding herself alone for the first time in her life. She has lived with us and her two cage sisters for the last five years. Yesterday we brought lovable Mei into the family. Woogie has perked up and is acting like her old self again.