Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Adam's pan roasted mussels

I love it when he makes this - always yummy and so quick and easy. We just had it last night - the two of us can handle 3 pounds of mussels and most of a baguette, without difficulty =) There really isn't any juice to dip the bread in with this recipe though, as you cook it off.

2-3 pounds of mussels
1 cup chopped parsley
freshly ground pepper

Wash the mussels - discard any broken or open ones. Heat a heavy bottomed pan or cast iron skillet until it is very hot. Add the mussels and stir occasionally to evenly distribute heat. The mussels will release their juices and begin to open. Keep stirring and cook until juices have cooked off. This almost smokes them in their own juices. Total cooking time is 6-8 minutes, give or take. Dump into a large bowl. Sprinkle with parsley and pepper. Serve immediately.

Monday, March 30, 2009

This got me thinking...

Sometimes I get too busy and too comfortable and need to read things like this to remind myself to make more informed choices...

body scrub

I made chocolate body scrub for gifts a month or so ago. I've also made this recipe without the cocoa. Both are nice. The chocolate has distinct pros and cons - very yummy smelling, but makes your shower look very muddy! I felt like I had to clean the walls after. When I made the recipe without cocoa I added a few drops of lavender essential oil which was nice. Make sure to use a nut based oil (almond, apricot, walnut, etc). Once again, not doing research first is not the best strategy... I decided to concoct a batch of body scrub out of olive oil, sugar and salt (very first attempt - before the cocoa batch). Olive oil... not the best choice! Your skin will be nice and soft, but hold on tightly - your shower and tub will be VERY slippery!
Here's the chocolate recipe...

1/2 cup sugar ( I used the sugar in the raw brown crystals)
1/4 salt (I used kosher because it is coarser)
1/4 cup baking cocoa powder
avocado oil (or other light oil per above)

Mix the first three ingredients together, then gradually add the oil until you get a paste-like consistency. I find after a few days you may need to add a bit more oil, or add a little water to moisten the mix again. As mentioned above, if you don't want a chocolate scrub, just leave it out, and add whatever essential oils you like - 2-3 drops will likely be plenty.

When I gave the scrub as gifts I wanted a nicer container than the tupperware I had in my shower. I went to an art supply store and bought small double walled plastic jars, which worked nicely.

baby wipes

In the weeks leading up to Charlie's birth, I decided to make my own baby wipes. Disposable wipes are expensive!!.. especailly considering how long you need to use them. I started by buying lightweight flannel fabric and cutting it into 10' x 10" squares. I had them nicely stacked and ready to be zig-zagged around the edges when Charlie decided to make his debut 2 weeks early. Fast forward to this scene - the new family is home - 16 hours after Charlie was born - Adam is at the sewing machine and I'm talking him through his first sewing effort. He did a great job! We began with about 30 wipes, but soon realized that life would be easier if we doubled it. Adam finished up that batch, too. Now the recipe... I modified this from a few I found to make it my own. I really like it - smells really clean and very gentle on little bums....

2 cups water (I used distilled in the beginning - very nervous mom wanting everything to be perfect - Charlie now has his bum washed with water from the tap, poor guy)
2 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP Dr Bronner's baby mild liquid soap
2 TBSP aloe vera gel
2-3 drops of essential oils (I use tea tree most of the time - I use lavendar occasionally - you really only need 2-3 drops - especially tea tree, as it can be quite astringent)

I usually make a batch and put it in a big squeeze bottle and use it to fill a smaller spray bottle. When Charlie was really little, we would fold the wipes in half and put a dampened stack of them in a wipe warmer, then when we needed one spray it down with the wipe solution. These days we just douse a wipe with the solution and try to wipe him down as he runs away. Things change a lot in a year. We do use disposable wipes on occasion, but I find these to be almost as easy to bring with you on the go if you're prepared (with small bag for laundry, etc). I find that the flannel wipes do a much better job cleaning though. Many 3 wipe situations (paper) can be 1-2 wipe siuations (flannel). =)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Homemade butter - 2 methods

I've been wanting to try my hand at this for awhile, and the other day at the farm store I remembered and grabbed a pint of cream. There are 2 modern methods of doing this (meaning no churn!), and we split the batch and tried both. Before starting I let the cream sit out for about 2 hours until it was room temperature for faster processing. I poured half the cream into a jar and the other half into the food processor (using the metal blade). I added 1/2 tsp of sea salt to the jar and started shaking. Shaking, shaking, shaking. I was warned on many of the sites I read that this can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. Luckily it only took 5. This may be because Adam took over after 2 minutes and swears his "technique" is what sped the process along. Within a minute of shaking the sloshing of the cream went away, and I assume there was whipped cream in the jar. After a few more minutes Adam said all of a sudden it started sloshing again - this was the butter separating from the buttermilk. You could see in the jar a lump of butter in the midst of the buttermilk. We poured off the buttermilk and added very cold water and kept shaking, draining and repeating every 30-60 seconds 4-5 times until the water ran clear. This process washes the butter, and because the water is cold it doesn't wash away any of it. Basically, this is to ensure there is no buttermilk remaining, as remaining buttermilk will make the butter go rancid. I then took the butter out of the jar and squeezed it between two sheets of waxed paper - a final effort to remove any liquid from the butter, then shaped it into a stick, wrapped it in fresh waxed paper and voila! Butter! The food processor method produced butter in 2 minutes flat. I dumped off the buttermilk (see the buttermilk in the photos in the jar - we got about 4 oz of buttermilk from a pint of cream) and washed the butter a few times, then sprinkled in 1/2 tsp of sea salt and 2 tablespoons of honey and whipped it again. The product is pictured in the small bowl. This butter is lighter in texture due to the whipping of the food processor, and I think I like it a bit better. Maybe it's the honey. Both butter products smell very fresh and yummy. We used really fresh cream that was lightly pasteurized, so it had a different taste to us than store bought butter - more sour almost. I want to add herbs to the whipped butter next time. Yum. One tip we didn't try was to add a clean (obviously=) ) marble to the jar. It speeds the process a bit and when you stop hearing the marble, the butter is formed. A good idea when making butter with kids. I'm not sure if I saved any money making my own butter.... maybe if I by more cream and make bigger batches. It was fun and easy though!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Save Handmade Toys

Homemade board book

For this project I took 1/4" poster board and using an exacto knife, cut it into squares for the pages. I used scrapbooking glue tape to attach the pictures, then covered them with laminating paper. I punched holes with a skewer and bound it with kitchen twine. My original idea was for this to be a much more polished book, but it is very utilitarian, and if it ever gets destroyed I won't be too upset. I'm glad for this now, as it has been christened with his sippy cup and thrown/dragged all over the place and is still in one piece. He loves it, too. I blew up pictures of family members to really emphasize the faces when I could.

P.S. In typical Erin fashion, I did research after the fact. I really didn't look around online before making this. If you look around you can find some really nice"how-to's" for homemade board books. I'm not taking a dig at mine - I still like it, and it was done in a reasonable amount of time. In case anyone wants to up the ante, browse around and don't stop here. Here are some great examples:
I may go back and look into that when Charlie is older - what a great gift or keepsake - let him make his own book for himself or for relatives/friends....

Friday, March 27, 2009

Charlie's banner

For Charlie's birthday I wanted to make him a banner that he could use for many years, and that would not be disposable. This one serves the purpose, and can even be used year-round in his room if he chooses. It's funny how you stumble upon things at just the right time. I had this idea in my head, but didn't know how to execute it, then I saw the cover of SouleMama's new book http://www.amazon.com/dp/1590305957/?tag=soul01-20
Seeing the banner on that book was enough help to get me going. My version is a bit different, obviously. Mine is made out of really nice wool felt from the shop at the Waldorf school just down the road. I love how the colors are uneven. I chose the felt because I think it's pretty, and honestly I have no interest at this time in applique (why applique when there is such a thing as felt glue??). I just know I'd be terrible at it, and also don't have the time or patience. I picked up fat quarters in nice bright colors at a quilt shop, and a $3.00 clothesline. Fun, easy project!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Inaugural Post

Welcome to my new blog! As I mentioned in my other blog, I don't mind if no one visits this site but me, as it will be a place for me to catalogue my projects, recipes, photos, and favorite things (so I won't forget them). If you are interested in visiting, you are always welcome! Feel free to offer up any of your creative ideas, projects, feedback, suggestions, recipes, random thoughts, etc. I'm all about having too many projects going on at once. It keeps life fun and chaotic. If I ever get to the end of my to-do list, I won't know what to do with myself!
Everyone has a story to tell. I've learned this as a physical therapist, as I have the luxury of getting to know my patients. I've decided that even if my story is boring to others, I'm enjoying it. That's all that matters. On that note, I don't have a project to post today, but will recommend a book....
Listening Is an Act of Love It is a book put out by the StoryCorps project http://www.storycorps.net/book
If you've never heard of StoryCorps, check out the site. It's an oral history project that is featured every Friday morning on NPR. I love it. The radio segment and the book are full of magical stories told by everyday people.