Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Homemade Face Scrub

This is the second time I've made this face scrub. It's just sugar, coconut oil, and ground coffee (all organic). I've been interested in making my own body care products for awhile now and even have a book on it, but right now it's stowed away in storage in Portland. I first came up with this scrub after trying a few samples of Myka products (made and sold locally) and seeing how simple their ingredients are. When selecting the ingredients I just went by what I've seen in other body care products and what I had on hand, and I almost always have these three things in the kitchen. I didn't measure anything, just mixed and added ingredients until I had the desired consistency (very moist but just dry enough to be a bit crumbly). When I was almost finished I realized I could probably be using sucanat instead of regular sugar, so I sprinkled in a little bit, but next time I'll try replacing all the sugar and see how that goes. I'm just thinking since sucanat retains the sugar cane's nutrient content, whereas white sugar refines it out, maybe it will be better for the skin?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sprucing Things Up (Virtual) + Random Updates

I have been fiddling with ye olde blog quite a bit these past few days. Subtle changes, but some of them took awhile. I went through my older posts and responded to comments (for some reason I didn't realize until now how much sense that makes...I guess I was just used to MySpace comment style or something and I thought it would be weird to comment on my own blog). And you may have noticed the new little mushroom up top in the address bar replacing the Blogger "B" (a "favicon," I've learned that little thing is called). It took me quite a few tries to do this, and I was getting increasingly frustrated with each failure, but I finally figured it out and was so thrilled with my success. The mushroom was just a little picture I came up with on the spot, but I'm not sure that's what I want to have there ultimately. These are some other ideas I drew in the paint program on my computer.

I meant for the text to be readable, whoops. Oh well, it is nothing very exciting, just some thoughts about the drawings. Another idea that just occured to me is a simple fleur-de-lis, something like one of these.

Image from www.thetreemaker.com/images/1331-fleur-de-lis.jpeg

Another change I made was removing the Blogger navigation bar that used to be at the top of the page. I'm very happy with these changes, they just make things feel more mine.

Sewing Update: I've been stuck on my first buttonhole for weeks and can't find my sewing machine manual. I bought my machine less than a year ago! Arg! Where the fig is it?!

Rag Rug Update: I did the center circle but then ran into trouble. I can't figure out exactly what holes I should be crocheting the next round into. It just looks like a knotted little mess to me. So that project has been on hold for awhile. Update (6.26.10): Original post updated here.

Gardening Update: The tomatoes and morning glories look to be doing great. And I went a little crazy and planted a ton more of the latter, all around the front room (Sun Room, in fancy talk) which is basically all windows, and then some outside our bathroom window too. I'm picturing the inside of our house as this cool, greenery-shaded cocoon come summer. Hopefully the air conditioner won't break again and foil my plans. I also started some basil plants from seed in two big pots.

Babe Update: Zoë is giving us grey hairs with her daring physical feats of moving from one piece of furniture to the next, all clinging fingers and wobbly legs. After spending a few days very interested in the kitchen plumbing, she's moved on to the trash can, where she happily pounds away at her own reflection.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Small Hooked Rectangle

I made this little hooked rectangle years ago and it now belongs to my mother. It measures about 5"x7" and is made of hooked wool on burlap, with a sewn on felt backing (the edges are not really quite this lumpy, I just did a sloppy photo-cropping job). This type of craft, called "traditional rug hooking" per Wikipedia, was introduced to me by my dad and grandmother. I wish I had a photo of the hooked rug (actual rug, not mini like mine) my dad made around the time I did this one; it is really nice. This flower is the only venture into hooking I ever made but it's something I've since wanted to do more of. I'm wondering how easy it would be to find hooking supplies locally, I've never noticed any at the craft stores I frequent. I will have to look into that at some point.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Many Mini Carrot Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes for a friend's baby shower, but Enrique actually frosted most of them because he is quicker than me. I based the recipe off this cake recipe, but I changed it quite a bit and they turned out really good. Here is the recipe I followed as best as I can provide it, as I made quite a few estimations along the way.
Ingredients
Cupcakes
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups coconut oil (or butter)
4 large eggs
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
3 cups finely grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 fresh pineapple, peeled & cored & blended into a pulp
zest of 1/2 lemon
Frosting
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
pineapple juice drained off blended pulp of one pineapple (roughly 1 cup)
sugar to taste (roughly 1 cup)
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preparation
For cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 325° F.
Line mini cupcake pan with paper liners.
Using electric mixer, blend sugar and coconut oil (if needed, melt coconut oil over very low heat beforehand). Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg ending with the carrots, walnuts, and zest. Spoon batter into cupcake pan, filling cupcake liners about three quarters of the way. Bake 30 minutes or until they seem done. Cool a bit then remove cupcakes from pan. Frost when completely cool.
For frosting:
In a small saucepan, slowly heat pineapple juice over very low heat, stirring every once in awhile. Cook down quite a bit, until juice is darker and sweeter and reduced by about half (this will take a long time, I'd start this part of the recipe first). Add sugar and cook until dissolved, stirring frequently (This part gets a little funky because I say to add sugar to taste, but you can't very well taste it until it's with the cream cheese and butter. So just use your good judgement and if it doesn't turn out sweet enough you can always add an additional sweetener such as powdered sugar or maple syrup). Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, pineapple reduction, and vanilla until well blended. You can also add the juice of the lemon half you zested but I forgot to do this and the frosting was still very good. Use a pastry tip to apply the frosting to the cupcakes (or just spread a layer on with a spatula) and serve! Or refrigerate for later!

Umm, uh oh, I forgot to explain how I processed the pineapple...Ok, I cut it into chunks and blended it into a pulp in a food processor, then I transferred the pulp to a screen strainer (or sifter? It strains and sifts, I'm not sure what it's proper name is). I placed the strainer over a large bowl and left it there while I was working on the rest of the recipe, giving it a stir every once in awhile to help drain more juice. When I was ready for it, I added the pulp to the batter and used the drained juice to make the reduction. Canned pineapple would have been a much simpler way to go. Ok, I hope I didn't forget anything else, if anyone actually tries to make this sorry the recipe is so sketchy.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Gloomy ♥

This is the view right now out the window of what I'll call, to be fancy, The Study. Gloomy, yes, but I really like it. As long as they're not unrelenting, I enjoy dark skies and rain. Oh, and thunder and lightning too! Love thunder and lightning. That's what Portland (Oregon) was missing, despite being overcast more than half the year. We are still planning on moving back up there eventually (I say within a year). Today is Enrique's last day of work before he is officially resigned from The Doubletree, and I'm eagerly awaiting his arrival home. He won't be starting his next job until May, so we'll have the next couple weeks together.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

'Tis the Season

For yard sales, that is. I've been meaning to carefully plan and map out a whole Saturday or Sunday of yard sale shopping but these are just a few of the things I've stumbled upon without really even trying--all within blocks of home and very cheap. Like, practically free.
old handkerchiefs

vintage wool coats

sweet bunny hanging hooks

and delicate lace gauzy stuff

Yard sales are so great. You find things you often can't even get new, and for way less money. You get to have the fun of being a consumer, acquiring items that you love, but without the burden of guilt for supporting the, in most cases socially and environmentally irresponsible, production of crap that, let's face it, you don't really need (whoa there, commas). So, it's like having your crap and eating it too! Ha ha!

Monday, April 13, 2009

In the Ground (and Pots)

After soaking them in water overnight (per the planting instructions), I planted these morning glory seeds this weekend.

I set up trellises and planted them in the ground below three adjacent windows along the same wall, hoping they will climb up and shade the windows with their foliage. I'm a little worried the area might not be sunny enough, it only gets afternoon sun, but we'll see. I wasn't planning on planting anything this spring, but after a trip to a nursery last week it seemed like a good idea. The friends I was with were picking out tomato plants so I grabbed a couple too, and now they each have their own big pot by the front porch.

This one is a Cherokee Purple and the other is called Brandywine, both heirloom varieties.

Update (6.26.10) - Sadly, my tomatoes didn't make it. At one point it looked like one lone tomato might pull through, but it ended up being a sacrifice of our summer vacation, during which time it was without adequate water. The morning glories were successful enough, but didn't create quite as dense a cover as I thought they might (but they also could have used more water, so I'm sure would have thrived more had they had it). We did end up with a bit of nice basil planted from seed.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Turd Piles Nests

Okay, so they are actually pretty cute, but "turd piles" and "cow patties" were my mom's words. A good friend of mine told me about these edible nests and they sounded so cute I decided I had to make some. I made up a simple recipe for the "nest" and the "eggs" I bought at the grocery store (Central Market) in the bulk candy section. They are a combination of different types of candy--mint malt balls, chocolate toffee covered almonds, yogurt covered almonds, and specialty Easter candy. There are a few different ways to make these, but here is what I did:
Ingredients
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut (Whole Foods has it in the bulk section)
2 cups chocolate chips (I used 1 11.5 oz bag milk chocolate chips)
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or butter)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Tiny bit of shredded wheat cereal
"Eggs" (There are lots of possibilities here--Jordan almonds, jelly beans, nuts, malt balls, etc. You could even make your own!)
Preparation
Saute the shredded coconut in the coconut oil until golden brown. Transfer to bowl and combine with salt. Melt chocolate chips and add to bowl, mixing thoroughly. Shape and press mixture into cupcake liners using a spoon and/or your hands. Sprinkle with crushed shredded wheat (for an extra nesty, less turdy look), shaking off excess. Refrigerate until firm, add "eggs." For a cleaner look, once the nests were cold and firm I peeled off the cupcake liners and put the nests in clean, unused ones. Finally, for gifting, I slipped each nest into its own cellophane baggy and twisty-tied closed.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A.M. (Sort of)

I just tried this "instant natural beverage" for the first time and am really liking it. I love coffee but gave it up when I was pregnant and since then I've been breast-feeding so I still avoid it. And decaf just seems too much like regular coffee to me -- very acidic and it still kind of gives me the caffeine jitters. But this stuff, "Pero," is simply malted barley, barley, and chicory (I think that's a root?). It actually doesn't really even taste like coffee, but somehow it still works for me as a substitute. It has a similar richness to coffee, and with a lot of cream and a little sweetener it's my new best friend. Also on the menu this morning was scrambled eggs and buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup apples (I use the term "morning" loosely, by the way....it was actually 1 or so by the time I managed to whip this up).

The apples were good but a little time consuming (I had to cook them way longer than the recipe's 5 minutes), and I think I would've been just as happy with fresh sliced banana or strawberries. But the pancakes were very good and I will use this recipe again. I didn't have yogurt so I just doubled the buttermilk and that seemed to work fine. They came out very thin and somewhat crepe-like, which I really liked. But after devouring two more of these cold out of the fridge at 8 p.m. after I'd already had dinner and dessert it might be awhile before I'm craving pancakes again.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Shoebox Solution

In my continuing efforts to baby-proof I most recently took on the task of handling all the crazy jumbled wires and cables underneath my computer area. Part of my solution was bringing a lot of the jumble up onto my desk, out of baby's reach. This looked hideous of course, so I made a shoe box prettier by covering it with fabric and am using it to hold most of the mess.

The wires go in the box through a hole I cut. Actually there are two holes, one on each end, so that some wires can travel through the box and come out the other side. Of course I also had to cut holes in the fabric, and this part could have been done a bit more neatly, but I was being quick about it and you barely see this part of the box anyway, so I'm fine with it.

I think this project turned out just swell. I'd like to give this treatment (minus the holes) to more shoe boxes I use for storage.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Out in the Yard, Again

The mountain laurels I wrote about a few weeks ago are long gone but they've been replaced by many other spring blooms, most of which I don't know the name. I guess these are just clover flowers? Or do they have a special name?

I love these white flowers. They look so soft and crumply. Like toilet paper. No wait, popcorn. I knew they reminded me of something.

Zoë is sick for the first time and it's putting our household kind of on edge. But she is sleeping peacefully right now, coughing aside.