"Things won are done,
Joy's Soul lies in the Doing."
- William Shakespeare

Thursday, December 20, 2012


'Twas mere days before Christmas, and all through this world of mine
Much isn't finished or wrapped - because I don't manage my time.
The stockings finally just got hung, but my tree may soon be bare,
For I think the tree guy screwed me, those needles fall with the slightest breath of air.
The children are getting much older, and don't get tucked in bed til near nine...

And I'm far too exhausted to knit or wrap presents...I just want my wine.
I've managed some knit gifts, though I swear gauge often lies,
Because the one for my baby nephew, is a freaking huge size.
I'll rip that off the needles, and maybe start again...
Provided I don't have a shocker at Costco, and start on the gin.
Looking out our windows, I'm proud to say,
I hung up Christmas lights, they sparkle and sway...

For the weather is stormy, and the wind, she's a blowing,
But Santa is coming, those kids are well knowing.
Or so I nag and remind them, every few hours,
In hopes that we'll breeze through, peacefully, this Christmas of ours.

Each year it comes faster, this holiday season,
And each year my lack of cards sent out has some crappy reason...
But moving house seems to count for much of my slack, just a bit,
Although my lack of blogging these days...could be more lack of wit.
Perhaps this year I'll be like everyone else...
And wait for New Year's to better myself.
Or maybe, just maybe, I'll receive a gift from jolly Mr. C,
In the form of a very got-it-together ME.
I won't hold my breath, though, because I've got a fair hunch,
That my cursing and sarcasm put me with the naughty bunch.
So, I'll have to rely on my own poise and grace
To push through to the end of this holiday race.
For despite all the chaos, and crazies, and stressing,
It truly is a  magical time, filled with many a blessing.
(Never mind that I have nothing to wear that fits over my rump...
I know Santa appreciates a girl who's a teeny bit plump.)
So bring on the guests, the gifts, and the cheer...
Because after all, I'm prepared, with a magnum of Champers, and a case full of beer.
The beer's for the Mister, the Champers for me...
For he and I both must put up with the antics - of little old me.
Now to those of you who fear that my Christmas is cheer-free,
I say to you now, don't worry for me.
'Tis simply that, while a sweet little Rhyme
Is suited to many at Christmastime,
I'll take my rhyme with a bit of a twist
And a dash of the cynic - ah, that is bliss.
I'll exclaim to you all, 'ere I sign off this post...

Happy Christmas to everyone, may it be better than most!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Eight is Great

My Girl is eight today.  Eight.

We kicked off the birthday festivities this morning with a little idea I found on Pinterest:

A balloon avalanche to greet her, when she awoke.  I'm sure her:  "What the?!" as she opened the door can be translated into an expression of delight.  Obviously.

This girl of mine is an utter miracle of a child.  While I know that it's a fairly common motherly thing, to see our children as miraculous - truly, she is.  Even from her birth, she has been a precious gift.  My experience with her older brother's birth was challenging, to say the least.  Miraculous, in that he came rather too near to not being in our world for long.  My girl...her birth was another kind of miracle, one that bestowed the grace of a beautiful, healthy, natural birth.  And one gorgeous chub of a baby.

This Girl is just the right kind of girl, I must say.  Her sweet generosity...her artistic beauty...the rapture with which she greets the very simplest of pleasures (a newly discovered pile of fabric scraps, a treasure trove of rocks and shells, a forgotten stash of glitter...) is balanced out perfectly by just the right amount of cheekiness.  Because we wouldn't want a child to be too good, now would we? 

As part of tradition around here, the birthday girl (or boy, as the case may be), gets to choose a special breakfast to start the day.  (And lunch, and dinner, and dessert...but we're doing breakfast just now.)  She requested chocolate muffins.  And I must admit, I was not wholly on board with this one.  I do love some chocolate, don't get me wrong.  But starting the day on what is quite nearly dessert feels even a little too naughty for me.  But she is the Birthday Girl today, and chocolate muffins it shall be.

I found a recipe here, on King Arthur Flour.  And boy were they tasty.  Definitely sweet, but not cupcake sweet.  Rich, moist, dense, with chunks of bittersweet chocolate...a very festive beginning to a day of celebration.

I hope you enjoy them...

Chocolate Muffins - adapted from King Arthur Flour
 - It is said to make 12 muffins, but my muffin tins are slightly on the small side, and I ended up with 21!


2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
1 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp espresso powder*
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk**
2 tsp pure vanilla essence
2 tsp vinegar (I used apple cider)
1/2 cup (one stick) melted butter

* I didn't have espresso powder, but I substituted an ounce of cold-brewed espresso.

**The recipe I used has since been updated, to decrease the milk to 3/4 cup, rather than 1 cup.  The site states that this results in a higher rising muffin.  I was very happy with what we made, although the batter was rather runny.  See site for details, if you wish to try the altered recipe.

To make:

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F.  Line a muffin tin with paper cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients:  cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda, espresso powder (if using), and salt.  Once thoroughly combined, stir in the chocolate chips.

In another bowl, or large measuring jug, mix your wet ingredients:  eggs, milk, vanilla, vinegar, shot of espresso (if using), and butter.  Pour the wets into the drys, and gently mix to combine.  

Ladle out the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling about 2/3 full.  Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on your muffin tin size, checking after about 15 minutes, with a sharp knife inserted into the center.  If it comes out nearly clean, they're done.  A few bits clinging to the knife is admirable, I think, because you don't want a dry muffin.

Serve the muffins with candles, of course, to a special birthday someone.

And to my special birthday someone...

Happy Eighth Birthday, Devin Isabella.
You are utterly and completely, a Joy to all of us.

Eight is rather great, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The siren song of home does lead one into some tricky spots adventures, don't you think?  Well worth it, but phew!  It has been a rather challenging few weeks (months), beginning with our very drawn out house purchase, endless closing delays, and The Move.  Given that we are fairly experienced movers - after all, we've shifted countries several times - I rather figured we had this one in the bag.  As it just so happens, packing up a pallet's worth of boxes to ship overseas and organizing immigration papers is nothing compared to moving house with ferries involved, much bigger kiddos missing friends and school, and so much more stuff to load and unload.  But we're here.  And it's not a bad place to be.

Not bad at all.

This new space we have been looking forward to, and are just starting to get used to calling home is somewhat overwhelming, to say the least.  I keep looking around at a house that is exactly triple the size of our last home, with an acre of very un-landscaped land, thinking:  "Are we ready for this?!"  Along with the sheer gratitude and excitement to have this place, at long last, comes a helluva list of Things to Do.  Water heater to replace (check!), propane tank to fill (check!), firewood to buy, one of two ovens kaput (two ovens, though, not complaining!), waiting on a washer and dryer to be delivered (exactly how much laundry does a move incur?!  A lot.), and an ancient curmudgeon of a furnace that has reached retirement age and then some (a mere two years younger than me...so, 24, right?  Um, yeah...), a garden to plan, trees to learn how to care for...  All these teething issues are beautifully balanced out by the lovely welcome the Island is giving to our family.  The view of the water, a gorgeous space for kids to run and play, a morning cup of coffee while taking in a stunner of a sunrise, the kind teachers at our new school, every friendly Islander we've interacted with, has been more than enough to convince us that we chose well.

Cooking will begin again soon, along with recipes to share, now that we've got hot water in the kitchen...knitting warm gear needs to happen, as we've got a huge space to heat and are a little fearful of that first bill...remodeling and redecorating stories to share once we settle in a little bit more...This Oddysey is happening, my friends.

Have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Before We Go

We're down to the wire here, and still uncertain when we'll be closing on our new home.  And while it is absolutely the most trying time I can remember experiencing, while my rather limited patience has been tested and pushed to its very limits, there is a bright side.  (However dim that brightness may seem...)  For we are at least able to squeeze in one more thing, before we go.

 One more glimpse of Mt Si on a sunny day...

 One more gathering with dear friends, with the knowledge that it's going to require a bit more planning for future gatherings, making it all the more precious...

One more dance party...

One more race through the fallen leaves...

One more visit to our most amazing local cheesemaker, River Valley Cheese, enjoying their gorgeous chevre paired with Mim's World Famous Tomato Relish (and wishing I'd known of them sooner, to have one of their cheese making classes under my belt)...

One more loaf of bread baked in this oven, and the excitement of seeing how the island air will affect the flavor of my homemade levain...

And so, I'll do my very best to focus on these very real blessings, while we await the final word that it is time to begin our new adventure.  

In the meantime...

...there's always one more mind-blowing sunrise.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Don't Sweat It

Hello?  Is anyone there?

I've been a bit silent around here lately.  Our pre-moving world is looking a bit like this:

Boxes, boxes, and more boxes.  Again.

This is a new one:  Boys in Boxes.

With the Big Move planned for this weekend, I am once again packing, planning, and hoping that the house closes on time.  We're five months into this purchase, and it has been one heck of a roller coaster ride.  News on approvals, permits, installations - it changes almost daily.  (Sometimes hourly.)  And with the ups and downs, I do try to keep reasonably calm, aware that this will all be worth it in the end.

Thank goodness for my rock of a Mister, who alternates between a stoic "It will be just fine" attitude, and a "I don't need to stress...you've got that covered."  Either way, he keeps me from sweating it.  Mostly.

As does this stuff:

Okay, we're entering into possible too-much-information territory here, people.  Fair warning.

Does anyone else have issues, like I do, with deoderant/anti-perspirant?  For years, I've struggled with using the hard stuff, worrying about the chemicals, and the possible future health issues associated with them.  I've used the natural stuff too, but the thing is:  None of them, natural or chemical, really worked for me.  And it kind of sucks to be going about your day, worrying that you smell, or that your shirt may be getting just a wee bit damp.  Ew.  Gross, I know.  I did warn you.

So, a few months ago, I happened upon a recipe for homemade deoderant, in The Urban Farm Handbook.  While this reeked of the ultimate hippie-dom (excuse the pun), I decided to try making some.  I really didn't have anything to lose.  I mean, it's deoderant, after all.  And my usual bag of tricks wasn't cutting it.

Guess what?  This works.  It's a mere two ingredients, that many of you probably have around your house right this very moment.  It takes all of two minutes to mix up a batch.  And in the midst of crazy-busy life, you won't sweat it.

That's good enough for me.  Here you go:

Homemade Coconut Oil Deoderant - adapted from The Urban Farm Handbook


2 tsp coconut oil
2 tsp baking soda

If your coconut oil is solidified, set the jar in a bowl of hot water to liquify it.  Mix the oil and baking soda, and store in a container with a snug-fitting lid.  (I use an old glass lotion jar.)

In colder weather, the deoderant tends to solidify, because of the coconut oil.  Simply rest it in a sink of hot water for a minute, or bring it in the shower with you.  It will be ready to apply by the time you're towelling dry.

To apply, scoop a pea-sized amount on your fingertips, and rub it in.  It feels a little gritty when you first start using it, I will admit.  But given that it works so well, it's worth it.  Also, coconut oil is crazy good for your skin, and it smells absolutely lovely.  When I switched to making my own, it took about 2 weeks for my body to adjust, and I've been using it for about four months now.  

This batch lasts for about two weeks.  I don't make more than that, because I figure the baking soda might lose its effectiveness.  (That's just a theory.)

Don't sweat it.  Make your own.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Embracing Old Time-y

So.  I've been doing some interesting reading lately.  A bit of chatting.  And some thinking.  Here's what's going through my brain these days, spawned by books, conversations, and well, life.
There is an ever-growing "trend" these days, of returning to what many view as old-fashioned values.  I'm sure you've noticed the rising number of CSA's, farm stands, and farmer's markets.  You may have heard about the rising popularity of upscale restaurants delving into recipes from the past, sourcing local foods,  and adopting a less wasteful stance on food.  I know many people who make their own yogurt, soaps, lip balms, and brew beer and cider.  More and more people are gardening and keeping chickens.  I bake bread, as do many.  Canning is huge, and hip.  You've surely heard about the popularity of knitting - even movie stars are sporting needles and yarn these days.

I have a theory, though, about this resurgence of the ways of the past, that are generally viewed as trendy.

Perhaps, and call me crazy if you like, but just perhaps, it isn't a trend at all.  Perhaps, looking at the big picture, and the scope of human existence, we may more accurately view the past half-century or so, as the trend.  An anomaly.  Maybe we lost our way a bit, got a little excited by the supposed "freedom" offered to us by technology.  Less time spent "slaving" away in the kitchen...microwaved dinners...pre-packaged meals... cheap, store-bought, imported goods... These all seemed such a great idea, initially.  (And they still are, to many people.  I'm not slating convenience.)  But it seems to me that this gradual, and ever-growing movement to return to more traditional methods of supporting our families, and ourselves, is simply a way of seeking a more fulfilling way to live.  People are finding a great deal of satisfaction in growing their own food, knitting a sweater, collecting eggs.  There is a tremendous sense of pride to be had when we spend time thoughtfully creating something, or supporting a local business to do it for us, rather than rushing into the omnipresent, and ever-easy, Target or Safeway to pick it up.  It would be ridiculous to suggest that everyone move out to the country, and start a homestead.  But picking up a more traditional skill or two, one that we can share with and pass down to our children, our grandchildren, our friends and neighbors, makes sense.  It grounds us somehow.

I think we're very fortunate to have the choices that we have, and the modern conveniences that allow us a larger world view.  There is something rather important, however, in occasionally taking the time to shrink that world view down, and look around at our immediate surroundings:  our homes, our neighbors, and our local businesses.  It's peaceful, and gratifying, I think.

I was at a baby shower over the weekend, and chatting with friends that I've known for nearly twenty years.  I noticed a tendency to sort of poke fun at ourselves for embracing various old time-y activities.  Don't get me wrong, a little self-disparagement has a time and a place...and usually makes for a good laugh if you do it right.  I joke about my inner Laura (Ingalls, of course); my inherent geekiness.  Other friends laugh at how ironic it is that they're into these "hippie" habits.  Really, though, I think we're all rather proud that we've picked up a skill or two, often without the benefit, as in bygone days, of having our parents or grandparents teach it to us.  The sheepishness must come from this very fact.  We are children of a technological, time-is-money, era.  It hasn't been "normal" for quite some time, to bake bread from scratch, to knit our own socks, or to keep animals for food.  We should be proud of ourselves, I believe, whatever our motivations for embracing old timey traditions.  Some of us do it as a way of saving money.  Some of us desire to create meaningful traditions.  Some of us are just looking for a way of peacefully keeping our hands busy.  It's all valid, and significant.  And kind of awesome.

I'll start us off, on the shouting from the rooftops...I made my own yeast starter, a levain, in bread making terms.  And I am super stoked, and super proud of it.

About two months ago, I showed you this:

I cajoled the Mister into climbing some wild apple trees for me.  And some wild plum trees.  Free food, after all.  Just sitting there, ripe for the picking.  And nobody was picking.  It was a little too tart for eating, but great for applesauce.  And for making yeast.

I learned the technique in 52 Loaves, by William Alexander.  (Love this book, by the way.  I felt personally invested in his self-proclaimed "pursuit of truth, meaning, and the perfect crust.")  If you are just crazy enough to try it, like me, you will be well rewarded.  I am turning out some profoundly amazing loaves of bread these days.  I know I've said it before of other breads I've made, but Alexander's recipe for Pain de Campagne, is the end-all, be-all for me.  And because this post is getting mind-blowingly verbose, I'll share the recipe soon.  Bread recipes take some words, after all.

I will, however, share the recipe for making your own levain, to get things moving.  It takes a little time, and wild fruit, which contains wild yeast.  (Don't wash off the hazy coating on your fruit, that's the yeast!)  It's a pretty cool science experiment, too, if you have kids in school in need of a project.

Away we go:

Building a Levain - adapted from 52 Loaves

To begin, you will need:

2 apples, wild or organic, unsprayed*
1 cup water**
A large mason jar, or covered container, preferably glass

*I, in all my excitement, realized on Day 2 of my levain making, that I'd rinsed the apples.  I had a mini panic, until I remembered having read about yeast on wild plums.  Which I happened to possess.  So, I halved one, and removed the pit, and threw it into the mix.

**Leave your water out overnight, if it's chlorinated.  The chlorine, which will inhibit the growth of yeast, will evaporate.

Peel one of the apples (discard the flesh or use it in something else), and cut the other, unpeeled, into 1 inch chunks.  (If you're using plums, halve and pit them.)  Put the peel, and cut up fruit, into the container, with one cup of water.

Let the fruit and water sit, covered, at room temperature, for 3 or 4 days, shaking or stirring daily.  The mixture will be fizzing a bit, and should smell somewhat like cider by the third or fourth day.

Next, you'll need:

350 grams bread flour - preferably organic, definitely unbleached
50 grams whole wheat flour

*Note* Mr. Alexander prefers metric measurements, for their precision.  A kitchen scale is a cheap and super handy investment.  I highly recommend using one.

Build the levain:

Day One:

Combine 50 grams whole wheat flour with 350 grams bread flour.

Measure out 150 grams of the apple water through a fine strainer, and add 150 grams of the flour mixture.  (You'll use the rest soon.)  Whip vigorously with a whisk, scrape down the sides, and cover with cheesecloth.

Leave the levain at room temperature, whipping every few hours to incorporate air.  It's vital to keep it aerated the first few days.

Day 2:

Add 75 grams of water (treated as above, to remove chlorine), and 75 grams of the flour mixture.  Whip, and leave at room temperature for another 24 hours, again whisking occasionally.  You should see bubbles starting to form and the mixture slightly increasing in bulk.

Day 3:

Transfer the levain to a clean, 2-quart container.  Avoid transferring the dried bits from the sides of the old container.

Add 75 grams each of the flour mixture, and water, and cover, as before. 

If at any point in this process the levain starts to smell a bit funky, discard half, replace with equal parts (by weight) flour and water, and whip more frequently.  If the levain seems limpid and doesn't bubble or rise, increase the frequency of feedings.  (I didn't have an issue with either of these.)

Day 4:

Feed the levain once again with the remaining 100 grams of flour and 100 grams water, and let it sit at room temperature for two to three hours, then it will be ready for use.  It will continue to develop flavor over the next few weeks.

Care and feeding of your levain:

Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

For the first few weeks, feed twice a week, or whenever you bake bread.  After that, it's only necessary to feed once a week.  I bake a few times a week, so I haven't actually needed to do this, since I feed it at baking time, as follows.

Feeding is simply part of preparing the levain for the bread.  You should always feed the levain several hours (I usually do it two to four hours before), or the night before making bread.  Remove the amount of levain the recipe calls for, then replenish it with the same amount.  (For example, you need 260 grams levain for Alexander's recipe.  I remove this amount, using my scale, then replenish with 130 grams each all purpose flour and water.  You no longer need to use bread flour for your levain at this point.)  This way, you will have a constant supply of levain.

Occasionally, usually once a week or so, I swap out the container for a clean (not soapy, or detergent-y) one.

To encourage a stronger, more sour levain (think sourdough!), leave out your container overnight, or for an afternoon, once in a while, and feed with smaller "meals."

You may see liquid forming on the top, a product of fermentation.  You can stir it back in, or if it's too much, you can pour it off.  Weigh the levain before pouring it off, then replace with the same weight of water and flour (in a ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part flour.)  Then feed as usual.  (I've never done this.  I just stir it in, since it's never been much, I suppose because I bake so regularly.)

That's how it's done, my friends.  Mine looks like this these days:

The cool thing about it is that this can last years.  I hear about starters that are 80 or more years old.  Can you imagine?

And the bread?  Oh, baby...the bread...

...it's insanely good.  And it gets better - lighter, more hole-y, a little bit more sour - every time I make it.

I am definitely embracing old time-y around here.

Have a wonderful day.  I'll be back with the full bread recipe soon, for you.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Yikes, two weeks since the last post?  Shocker.  And this one, my friends, does not contain a recipe, I'm afraid to say.  For you see, these days, not much in the way of innovative cooking has been going on around here.  That's not to say it's not good cooking...just perhaps a few repeat recipes, and so simple it's maybe not blog-worthy.  But...I do have a little bit of sweetness to share...

Apparently that shout out of mine to breeders a while back hit the mark.  (The one in which I beseeched you all to get on with the making of babies, to give us knitters someone for whom to knit.)  And, people, you are really coming through.  You guys are making babies galore.  Well done. 

So, I've got the knits going on.  Here's a little piece of sweetness:

And the wee buttons on the back:

The pattern is the Rio Dress, by Taiga Hilliard.  Ravelry notes here.  I loved knitting this wee dress.  It's somewhat traditional, I think, but with that seed stitch panel, it's got a little special something.  And I would not mind knitting it again, just so you know.

And a long overdue gift for far-away friends:

That's right, another stuffed animal.  With good reason though, as our friends live in England, so I've not met their little one, and have no idea her size.  So, a teddy it is.

And finally, a nearly finished work in progress, which I can't show you just yet, as it's a surprise for a little one.

I can tell you that they're pretty darn cute.

So, thank you, my fine fertile friends, for getting to work on the baby-making, and keeping my hands busy.

Have a blissful day.