Sunday, May 31, 2009

Antigonon leptopus

Antigonon leptopus is the Latin, but common names include Mexican Creeper, Confederate Vine, Corallita, Mexican Coral Vine, and Coral Vine. I've also heard it called Queen's Wreath, but not to be confused with a distinctly different, purple-flowered plant with the same name.

I love this plant. Photographs don't do it justice; it is too difficult to capture both the cascading abundance of bright, green leaves as well as the detail of the dainty, delicate flowers and curlicues of the vine. I have seen the flowers in pink too, which is also very pretty. My research tells me that it's native to Mexico and Central America, and I know it grows well here in Austin, but I am wondering how well this plant would do in Portland. Both Austin and Portland are in the same USDA hardiness zones (8-9), so that's promising.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Crazy Delicious & Callanetics

The other day a friend of mine came over and surprised me with peach ice cream she'd just made. It was sweetened just right with only honey, perfectly creamy, and delicious. After she explained how simple making it was, I had to try it for myself. Three times in two days. So now, in my freezer, I have...


vanilla caramel,

and lemon ice cream.

I was pretty experimental with the recipes, and the results varied, but the lemon turned out really really good. So you'll find that recipe below. Other flavors I'd like to try making are: cinnamon, ginger, pineapple, chocolate, cardamom (or something that somehow incorporates cardamom), coconut, almond, other nut flavors, coffee, lemon blueberry, lime, orange...I could go on and on. And I want to experiment with different sweeteners. And raw cream, if I can get it (I already regularly have raw milk on hand), that would be ideal.

Lemon Ice Cream

1 cup half and half
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs
Juice of 4 medium lemons (about 1/2 cup)
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon zest (*optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whisk together all ingredients in a large bowl until blended. Transfer to ice cream maker.
This recipe contains raw egg, so if that freaks you out, you can skip the bowl and use a sauce pan instead, and, over moderate heat and stirring frequently, bring ingredients just to a simmer. Then remove from heat and let cool before transferring to ice cream maker.
*Wanting maximum lemon-ness, I used 2 tablespoons of lemon zest when I made this. But the little bits caught and accumulated on the mixer piece of the ice cream maker, resulting in clumps of zest in the ice cream. So in the future I might try making the zest smaller (it could have been smaller) or just skipping it altogether. I think it will still be plenty lemony without it.

Luckily, helping to counter all this ice cream madness, I've been exercising pretty regularly the past few weeks.

I've been using (and liking) this 1-hour workout, which I have on dvd. It's an oldie but a goodie. My mom use to do it a lot when I was little. The exercises are gentle and slow paced but you can really feel your muscles working. And I have a feeling, if I keep at it, it could be just the thing to really improve my posture, which I am so tired of being crummy. There's also a more advanced version, Super Callanetics, that I've got my eye on. I've also been regularly taking the babe in a jogging stroller and walking to a nearby track and circling it four times (1 mile), alternating running and walking (baby permitting--lately she is not particularly fond of being in a stroller, so sometimes my running is interrupted by taking her out and carrying her).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Family Jewels

Both of these beauties were given to my mom by her mom, and recently they were passed on to me.
I got this little gold owl pin for Mother's Day. It was totally unexpected and I'm so happy to have it!
And this was actually originally one of a pair of earrings that my mom had altered by a jeweler to create two matching pendants, one for each of us (it was the simplest adjustment, just removing the hook and adding a bail, but he also replaced some missing stones). The center stone is an opal and it is surrounded by a diamond, an emerald, and six tiny pearls. I love it so much.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fried Chicken

I made this fried chicken a few weeks ago, but instead of using the called for 2 quarts of vegetable oil, I substituted 1 pint of coconut oil. I chose that amount because it seemed like the least I could get away with, and coconut oil is precious (and expensive). It turns out this amount worked fine, and I was relieved that I could reduce the oil by that much and still be successful. I strained and saved the leftover oil, which amounted to a little over half of what I started with, and have since used it for stir fry (it's kind of murky and chickeny but fine for certain things). As far as the fried chicken went, it was pretty good. The coconut oil imparts very little, if any, coconut flavor. I might try out a different frying/cooking method in the future, just to experiment. Enrique says that finishing off the chicken in the oven results in a crispier, less greasy fried chicken.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Black Apple-esque Doll

I made this back in February for a little niece of Enrique's. The design evolved from the Black Apple Doll pattern on Martha Stewart's website.

I've tried making a number of variations of this doll and I consistently make the legs and/or arms too skinny, which makes them really hard to work with. This one turned out pretty good though, faring much better than some (there is a doll parts graveyard on my shelf for the ones that weren't so lucky). I did a simple embroidered face and added a few fun details, like functional pockets, which I thought a little girl would appreciate. I would like to get a hold of some wool felt at some point, for projects like this (I used synthetic here because it was all I could find at the craft store).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Old Couch + Lace Table Cloths Curtains

I found this couch at an estate sale last Friday. One of my friends described it as "grandma chic," which sounds about right. I also got a big stack of table cloths there, including several large lace ones that I put up as makeshift curtains in our front room that desperately needed something covering the many windows.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mother's Day Paper Cut (#1)

This was made for Enrique's mom for Mother's Day. I am not sure how soon I will attempt something this intricate again, it was so darn tedious, all those little holes. You can whip out something simpler that still looks very nice in a tenth of the time it took me to do this one. But I pictured the recipient liking something pretty and lacy looking, so I chose this design, which I sort of made up (I modified an existing pattern I'd seen in a book). It turned out looking more like a Valentine's doily than I realized it would, but I also think it looks grandmotherly, which is good. There are actually three layers of paper here -- the cream background, followed by a layer of tracing paper (which the quote is written on), and then the paper cut itself. I was having such a hard time getting my handwriting to look how I wanted but I was set on having the quote handwritten and not typed. After many failed attempts at writing it out in the best handwriting I could muster, I finally had the idea to type it, print it, and trace it. Genius! It worked fabulously, looks perfect but still has the handwritten charm I wanted, and I really like the effect the layer of tracing paper adds (not that I couldn't have traced the type directly onto the background paper, it just wouldn't have been quite as easy). My mom received a very different one but it was decided that hers needs a few more finishing touches. I had trouble coming up with an appropriate quote for hers so I didn't use one at all, but now I know what to put. And it may need a few more cut details too, so I'll wait to show that one.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Peanut Butter Cups

I've had homemade chocolate peanut butter cups on my mind for awhile now and I finally made some. It was Enrique's birthday and he really likes Reese's so it was a perfect oppurtunity. This post is where I first got the idea and I used the recipe there to form my own (very similar) recipe. They were very easy to make and turned out pretty well. They didn't taste exactly like Reese's, but that's okay. I was kind of expecting them to but at the same time it wasn't necessarily the goal and they were still good.
1 11.5 oz. bag of milk chocolate chips (about 1 3/4 cups)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter*
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 tspn salt
Additional Supplies
24 mini cupcake liners
24 capacity mini cupcake pan (you could probably do without this but it makes things easier)
Fill the cupcake pan with liners. Melt chocolate chips in sauce pan over very low heat, stirring frequently. Spoon about a teaspoon of melted chocolate into each cupcake liner and spread out if needed to cover the bottom of each cup. Refrigerate in the pan. In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt and mix thoroughly. Once the chocolate in the fridge has hardened (about an hour) remove and add a bit of the peanut butter mixture, about 1 heaping teaspoon per cup, evenly distributing all of it. The peanut butter should be pressed down enough to give room for a final chocolate layer on top. Add the remaining chocolate layer (re-heat chocolate if needed). Refrigerate again until firm, about an hour.
*A note about the peanut butter: The amount of maple syrup and salt added to the PB depends on how sweet/salty it is to begin with, so more or less of these ingredients may be needed depending on the peanut butter used. For this recipe, I used organic MaraNatha "No Stir" creamy peanut butter, which is salted and just lightly sweetened.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Is that egg on your shirt?

I gave this shirt to Enrique on Friday for his birthday. There is no particular significance to it, in fact I eat more eggs than he does. I was originally going to also do two strips of bacon (in red gingham) and stitch the outline of a pan, but after sewing on the eggs first I decided I liked it just like that. More quirky and interesting I think (also, as cute I thought gingham bacon would be, I was kind of questioning the manliness of it). The T-shirt is from a thrift store and the eggs are made from fabric scraps (well, the white is anyway, the yellow I actually bought a tiny piece of new fabric just for this project).

They are a bit lumpy, which I could have avoided had I used some kind of iron-on stuff to fuse the fabrics together before sewing, but I'm still happy enough with how it turned out. More realistic this way, ya know?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dad's Hooked Rug + Nest (For Reals)

My dad sent me some photos of his hooked rug I mentioned recently. Very exciting!

I love the hodgepodginess of it, so cool and interesting to look at. He also had this information to share:
"Much of the wool flannel to make this rug came from a barn sale. I got a whole box of wool pieces for $5 dollars. The rest I bought from The Dorr Mill Store in New Hampshire,, a great source for all supplies for rug hooking. I cut all the strips of wool by hand with scissors to about 1/4" wide. I call this a "sampler" because I was experimenting with different patterns and color combinations and made it up as I went along. The basic geometric I saw in Joan Moshimer's "The Complete Book of Rug Hooking."Another good book is "American Hooked and Sewn Rugs" by Joel and Kate Kopp. This is filled with great photos of antique hooked rugs, very inspirational. I think there is a magazine too on rug hooking."
Thanks so much, Dad, for the info and photos.

In other, unrelated news, we've been monitoring a bird's nest in our yard for awhile now and just the other day we finally got a glimpse all of its inhabitants.

See them? Two chicks! Sadly Enrique spotted a third baby dead on the ground below the nest. But these two look just fine, almost already grown up. And today's check on the nest found it completely deserted, so I imagine they are out in the world now. I have no idea what kind of birds they are--you can't tell so much in these pics, but they're eyes are red-orange rimmed and then outlined in bright blue.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Dollar Well Spent

These glasses are such a hoot!
Really it kind of freaks me out what you can get (new) for a dollar these days. I just don't get how something can cost so little, just thinking of the cost of packaging and shipping (overseas, at that) alone. And these glasses aren't even the best example, as anyone who has been to a dollar store knows. Not that I don't take advantage myself, but something just doesn't feel right about those bargains...
But I digress, I feel like Debbie Downer in the SNL skit, really I just wanted to show how hilarious these specs are!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sewn (Not by Me) Gifts

Both of these gifts were given to Zoë awhile back and are extra special because they were made by the giver.

A good friend and fellow (newish) mom made this adorable little outfit.
I love the fabric (which is from Japan, I think) and the little gusseted legs. The top is actually reversible and there's also a matching hat.

And this amazing quilt was made by another good friend, and very talented designer of fabulous jewelry. The edging of the quilt top and the entire other side is a minty green flannel. And she used a natural fiber batting (bamboo, I think).

Thanks so much y'all, for such very thoughtful and wonderful gifts! Oh, and speaking of sewing, I opened a desk drawer the other day looking for something and what did I find peeking out from the bottom of the drawer? My sewing machine manual! I don't know how I missed it before.