Thursday, August 26, 2010

ironing bliss

As a way of helping me kick off my new business, my parents gave me this amazing iron
as an early birthday gift. The base is a steam generator, which holds about two cups of water.
It has a trigger and a setting for constant steam so you don't have to hold it down all the time.
Also, the iron and the steam generator have separate controls, so it's possible to have one
on without the other: great for working with fancy fabrics (no water spots, please)
or for producing steam w/o heat (curtains, here I come!). 

What I'm loving most about it is that it works. 
Our previous iron would get hot, but leaked like 
crazy if filled with water. Also, being cordless, it
had to be recharged regularly in the middle of any
ironing project. This one just presses on, so to speak.

The more I read about sewing, the more I discover the importance of good and constant
ironing. So this is a splendid gift for the start of all the sewing that's to come. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Monday, August 23, 2010

birthday cookies: the final product

Here's what came of all the cookie testing.
I decided to use a modified royal icing once I realized
that it wasn't the food poisoning that scared me -- I
just hate the idea of eating raw egg whites in any form!
I could, of course, get over this whole aversion if the
icing tasted amazing. But it didn't. So I moved on.

Here's the icing recipe I ended up using:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp corn syrup
  • 1 squeeze fresh lime
  • 1 tsp vanilla (leave out for white icing... or use brandy)
  • half & half  [added gradually to correct consistency]
  • gel paste food coloring*
[Note: My favorite sugar cookie recipe thus far is Martha Stewart's Ideal Sugar Cookies
using brandy rather than milk, rolled out to 1/4" instead of 1/8" and baked 12 minutes, just
until any edge turns golden.]

This piped on well, flooded great, and tasted fine.
Also didn't get as crunchy as the real royal icing,
which was nice. Yesterday's reviews were lots of
thumbs-up. Now to face the hardcore critics --
the kindergarteners! Anyway, Happy Birthday,
my little buddy. I love you!

*As I mentioned last year, icing can be colored
naturally, with turmeric (yellow) or berry juice
(pink or purple). There's also a natural line of
food coloring that's available. Haven't found it
locally, though, and it's pricey online.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

at a crossroads

This week my youngest child started kindergarten, and for the first time in nine years,
I'm home without kids for several hours a day. I started reading  
Finding Our Way Again, by Brian McLaren, last week.
I walked by it yesterday and noticed the quote on the back cover:

"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls."
Jeremiah 6:16

I find that is exactly what I want to do as I head into this new phase. I am taking
this week to not start into new things. Trying to stop and listen, to consider the
next leg of the journey. I hope to make the most of the time that is opening up.
I want to use it wisely and lovingly, and also to fully enjoy it!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

royal icing test run

I can't recall what I used for icing last time around on the ol'
sugar cookies. I gave royal icing a spin today, though, as it's
well known for setting up to a lovely finish.The reason I 
hadn't made it before is that it is based on raw egg whites. 
While whites are not the worrisome part of the egg as far as 
salmonella goes (salmonella thrives on yolk), I feel uncomfortable 
with it for mere lack of experience. But I gave it a try. 
It is the "industry standard" for cookie icing, after all.
I have tried the meringue powder version in the past, and it works
well enough. But doesn't turn out as shiny or smooth as the real thing.

I found the royal icing to be easy to color and pipe. It set to a
nice shine and tastes great. At first it had a distinctly eggy smell,
but that seems to have cleared now that the icing has dried.
Honestly, I still feel a bit dubious about the whole raw egg bit.
I mean, am I just being paranoid?
People use this stuff all the time, right?!?

Maybe I'll just see if I can find some pasteurized egg whites in town.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

cookie fun is on its way

Elliott's birthday is fast approaching! I figured I'd better get
a leg up on it, since I'll be sponsoring a school celebration
for him this year, one week after class starts.

He is WAY into Mario Brothers right now, so I started with 
a little internet research on Mario desserts. I considered
trying to copy these amazing cupcakes, but decided I'd best
stick with something I'm good at: sugar cookies!

So I ordered this mushroom cookie cutter from a few days ago. It came today, packed 
in a sturdy box and wrapped up in bright yellow tissue paper, 
like a little gift! They even threw in the little baggy of cookie 
decorating sprinkles you see in the photo. Now, how fun is that?
I'll keep you posted as the cookie process continues!

Monday, August 9, 2010

1974 powder blue schwinn

This is me on what may have been my first bicycle ride ever.
I appear to have slept through the whole experience.
That's my mom in the trendy sunglasses and smart green, 
flowered tunic. So cute! June, 1974.

My parents gave Eric & I their matching vintage powder blue 
Schwinns several years ago, but they were in a sad state of disrepair.
A friend of ours who is a fabulous cyclist fixed this one up, 
and I am "gearing up" to look as cute as my mom as I head out into the 
big, wide world. Once Eric's is up and running, we may very well 
become the most adorable couple on the block.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

help for the restless brain

As I mentioned recently, I am a horrible multi-tasker.
Well, it turns out that I'm not so great at single-tasking either.
If I multi-task, I turn into a lousy cook with empty tubs
of soapy water running through the wash and scattered
projects taking over the house. But when I try to focus
on just one task at a time, I drive myself crazy considering
what else I could be doing instead of the item at hand: "What
will I do next?" "How will I do it?" "Is this the highest priority,
or should I skip what I'm doing and move on?" "If I moved
to Valladolid, who would teach me to make poc chuc?" etc.

Now, in Leo Bautista's world, I would enjoy the sudsy water
on my hands while washing pots and pans, find great pleasure in
the aroma of (slowly... arrgh! so slowly) rising bread, and delight in the
colors and textures of the laundry I am folding. However, my brain
may just not be that disciplined yet. Or ever. So in the meantime, I have this
thing that helps me not obsessively think about what's coming
next. And this is it: scripture memory.

Last year, my friend Hannah and I led a study on a section of the Bible
called Ephesians. At the end, we decided to put it to memory. We
would work together on this by checking in with each other's progress
and helping each other review on a semi-regular basis. It seemed like a
reasonable thing to do, as we had just finished learning a bunch
that we didn't want to lose.

I'll post soon on some helpful techniques I've picked up this time around,
and other reasons that memorizing the Bible is a great idea.
But in the meanwhile suffice it to say that this is the handiest crutch 
I've found for focusing my mind in a way that allows sustained mundane
activity. And isn't there plenty of that to be had on any given day?

Monday, August 2, 2010

undersea thingy

Uh, I have no idea what this is. 
It's rather spiny looking, but incredibly
bright and colorful. Any guesses?