The farm where we get our raw milk also sells grass-fed beef so we picked up a top round on our last milk run. For whatever reason, cooking roast beef has been intimidating to me but with some advice from Andy I went for it and it came out so yummy. We really bought it for the roast beef sandwich potential but I knew that we were out of mayonnaise which is an essential element. I have wanted to make my own because I am concerned, with store-bought mayo, about the quality of the eggs used - they are are no doubt from factory farmed birds - and the oil used is one I try to avoid. I figured that if I made it at home with pastured eggs and olive oil that it would be a health food. Nutritionally dense, right? Right? But it seemed like it might be a pain in the bum so it never became a top priority. But now I was out of mayo and needing it in a big way to properly appreciate my well cared for roast.
I set to work using Alton Brown's Recipe but instead of doing it in a glass bowl I did it in a jar with the whisk attachment on my immersion blender. It was genius even if I am saying so myself. Next time I'll do it in the wide mouth pint jar - I think that will be perfect. I only had the narrow mouth quart at hand and it worked fine but it was tricky to get the oil to trickle while still whisking continuously.
The all-olive oil option is quite a bit grassier than if you use canola or a mixture. I quite like it though it is a bit different if you are used to store-bought mayo. I heard the recommendation of starting with a small amount of Olive Oil and mostly safflower or canola oil and then slowly work to a higher Olive Oil amount. We tried it with some of the meat and handful of tomatoes in what might be one of the last picnic lunches of the year. Success. I'm pleased to have another pantry staple that feel completely do-able to make on my own but I'm still holding out on Ketchup for now.
This summer was difficult. Andy's mom, who had been ill with cancer, was in hospice care and there was lots of travelling back and forth from Massachusetts to Maryland. Sometimes the whole family but mostly Andy going back-and-forth, back-and-forth all summer long. It was difficult for us to find any sort of a workable rhythm and the children were showing the effects of the disruption. There was a lot to deal with both practically and emotionally and it was a challenge to meet everyone's needs. More truthfully, it was a challenge to attempt to meet everyone's needs. In the middle of this we took our family vacation to Cape Cod. The beach usually acts like a salve to help heal us and smooth out the rough bits but after so much upheaval the children were out of sorts and we all just wanted to be at home.
Even though we were graced with beautiful weather we had a bit of a "Summer That Wasn't". There was far to little swimming and picnics and absolutely no camping, canoeing or fishing. We managed to pick strawberries on the last possible day and then just gobbled them up out of hand. We'll have to beg some jam from friends for the winter. The summer just went by too quickly.
Andy's mom passed peacefully in her daughter's home surrounded by family and friends. The beauty of Jewish funeral traditions helped us all to process her death while being supported by friends and family. We miss her so much and often forget that she is not with us in body but only in spirit. I know our sadness is only for us - because we want to spend more time with her, because we wanted another 20 years at least; but she had a beautiful and fulfilled life. She was a hub of community and family, raised two amazing children and was happily married for almost 40 years. She loved and was loved and will be so dearly missed.
I sit here in mid September wondering were my Summer went. Here in New England we really need to make Summer count in a big way if we are going to get through the cold season. I didn't store up enough sunshine this year but I am going to have to make it last. This summer was hard but it was important. It taught us more about love and life and death and family then we knew before. It showed me what an amazing Man, Son, Brother, Husband and Father Andy is and reminded me countless times how proud I am of him and how blessed I am to have him as my partner in life. It brought family closer together and reminded us that a thick slathering of Love helps a lot no matter the problem. And that often Love is all we have to offer and that it is enough.
This was an important summer even if it looked different from most summers and so if there isn't enough jam in the pantry or berries in the freezer we'll deal with in. Right now I am letting Summer go. I've got wool on my needles that is starting to look like a scarf and the wood is stacked. I'm opening my heart to slippers and soup and books by the fire. And tea. I'm going to need a lot of tea.
I finally hopped back onto the sewing train. I had been going through a serious sewing blackout with no known cause, though I think it might have had something to do with my inability to make buttonholes on my machine... For whatever reason I just couldn't get started on any project even with all of the fabric, notions and pattern ready. I needed something that was quick and with almost instant gratification to sort of "pop the clutch" on my sewing so I decided in a late night second wind to try to Oliver + S popover sundress.
I have made the O+S PJs and sailor pants in the past and so I knew that this would be a well rewarded choice. Oliver + S is one of those companies that you thank your lucky stars for when you find them because you know that anything that you purchase from them will be a reliable winner. The popover had the added benefits of being a free PDF pattern that I could print out right away and the right amount of yardage that I had some cottons to choose from in my stash. In these creative slumps you need to strike while the iron is hot. Or in my case - start sewing at 11 pm when the children are in bed, you just drank and iced americano, you have a new album ready to be enjoyed and a random burst of motivation. This was not a start-to-finish crazy sewing spree but I did do much of it that first night and finished the next day during nap time. And I love it. So much.
The length is just below the knee which I really love on children. It is still modest but doesn't get in the way of tree climbing. The A-line cut is loose so it will be cool in the summer and can be played in easily. The straps tie in bows to be completely adjustable which solves the straps-falling-off-constantly issue. I also bought a covered button kit (I really caught on to these late) and made some matching hair ties which was giddily satisfying.
When Miryam was a year and a half I made her a handful of sundresses all with the same pattern and she was able to wear them for two summers. That's the great thing about sun dresses, the girls grow more in length then in width so if you start with the dresses long and a little loose you can get lots of use from them. And is is wonderfully easy for summer dressing - grab some panties, a dress and your sandals. Run a brush through your hair, brush you teeth and you are free.
This dress was just the push I needed to get out of my sewing slump. I have cut out and pinned a huge pile of cloth napkins (because mine walk away when I am not looking) and have them ready to stitch up as soon as I get the children tucked in tonight. Thank goodness because my great ideas have been far outpacing my actual production.
Last year we were in the morning path of a flock of turkeys* who would walk down our hill and then work really hard to propel themselves into flight into the woods across the road. They were very adorably noisy. Gobble gobble gobble - they each sounded like they were mumbling it under their breath but there were around 15 any given day and that makes for some serious gobbling.
This year they seem to have found another place to take their morning jaunt but we did see this handsome fellow nosing around the garden very early in the morning. He was so loud that Andy had a moment of wondering how we managed to have Loons in our backyard but when we peeked out the window it was this guy. A very nice surprise and the early wake-up gave the added benefit of extra time to read in bed before being prodded by smallfolk to cook some breakfast.
* additional collective noun options for turkey's include "a raffle of turkeys" and "a rafter of turkeys". I'm assuming that is from the sound their feathers make when they pop out? I would like to humbly submit the option "a gobble of turkeys". What do you think?
This is such a common issue that is is boring to even type the sentence but here it is - I have a hard time asking for things for myself. I really adore being taken care of and appreciated, but I also get embarrassed when a fuss is made about me. Confusing, even for me.
So when my birthday rolls around Andy's mama always asks what she can get for me, could I give her some hints please. On one hand and then the other I feel pleased that she wants to get me something that I would really enjoy and happy that I might be getting something from my mental wish list, but also that I feel a bit greedy giving a list of specific gifts that I would like. I end up being a bit evasive like "oh yes, I'll think about that and write you an email with some ideas when I get a moment" but I don't.
I have this ingrained belief, even though I have intellectually discarded it, that I should be happy that I am getting any gift at all, and count my blessings. That it is somehow impolite to have specific desires for presents. It's so strange, but I know exactly where, in my family, that feeling comes from. As I said, when I think about it head-on it is so silly. What I actually believe is that it is best to give small, wonderful presents of real quality that the person would appreciate and want to keep forever. Or, baring that, something they can eat.
So, I had a little talk with myself and when my birthday rolled around again this year and I was asked for some gift ideas I created a list. And emailed it. Big sigh of relief here. It was a short list - about 6 items - and I tried to spread out the options - 2 books, 2 art prints, 1 kitchen thingy and 1 wearable and a clause that I would, of course, be happy with anything she thought I would like. And, low and behold, a couple of days after my birthday I received a gift in the mail, from my list, and I loved it.
These are the Blossom Measuring Spoons from Beehive Kitchenware. I have been eyeing their goods for over a year and when these new spoons were added I just wanted them so much. I don't usually covet goods like this so I had to take the urge seriously. They are handmade of Pewter and have such a great feel in my hand. I know they will be the last measuring spoons I'll ever need. The first time I used them I just though "someday these are going to be Grandma Gillian's measuring spoons" and I can't tell you how happy that thought made me.
I realize that I never shared these photos from our Valentine Day crafting. Miryam and I have been doing most of our projects together during Éamonn's nap because he is just so enthusiastic about helping that it's difficult for us to concentrate and feel relaxed while creating. When we sit together during the nap we are trying to be quite so he get a good rest and so the stillness is already there for us to settle into and focus on our own work.
But I also know that getting messy and crafting with some joyful chaos is also important so when we were making our Valentine Garland we made sure to include our boy as well. We got 5 or 6 colors of paints in reds, pinks and cream and covered card stock with lots of paint until it looked, in Miryam's words, "just absolutely perfect". Then we used a heart-shaped cookie cutter to trace hearts on the back of the cardstock which we then cut out, punched a whole in each side and threaded with some cream wool yarn.
little hint about the paint - at a tag sale this past summer I spent about a dollar and went home with about a million of these small terra cotta flower pot saucers that are glazed on the inside with no whole at the bottom. We use them for sorting and such but I've also discovered that they work well as paint dishes. They are very shallow but the diameter is small so the paint doesn't spread around too much and they clean up quite well. Plus, they look really sweet which, to me, is very important when I am attempting to convince myself that taking out the painting supplies is, again in Miryam's words, "an extremely good idea."
unrelated photo of the children bring the kitchen scraps out to the compost
This not-really-winter-or-spring business is a bit hard on me.I've lived in New England for my whole life and I still feel that March really should be spring but, truly, it isn't. March is on the verge - I'm pretty much done with winter but spring isn't quite here yet. I'm done thinking about mittens and hats but not quite ready to start in on dresses and hunting down sandals. I'm not quite sure where I am. I feel like I should be starting the spring cleaning so that as soon as the weather turns, even the slightest bit, we can spend as much time as possible out of doors and because the house is (in this vision...) so organized and tidy. But, the motivation to get that going just isn't there. I am feeling a bit sluggish and out of sorts. I can see what's coming ahead but we're not there yet.
I've been feeling a bit distracted mentally. I've been having a hard time being present and in the moment. I have been generally unmotivated in this liminal space and blogging, and creating in general, has suffered for it. I've been in the mind of "getting stuff done" rather than paying attention to the process. Rushing through chores instead of letting the children help. There doesn't appear to be too much to report but I am sure that is because I am seeing too much forest and not enough trees.
I'm going to try to follow the sunshine a bit and get some photos of what is happening around here, and to share them in this blog, in an attempt to bring my focus to now. I intend to be around more often, using this space to draw my attention in a more vibrant direction.
Andy's family down in Maryland is getting hit over and over with more snow that they have seen in decades and up here I can see grass in parts of my yard. They are quite grumpy about it but we are jealous! Snow makes winter worthwhile. Snow is why we have winter. If not for snow, winter would only be naked trees, frigid winds and frozen ground. No romance there. Snow, on the other hand, makes everything seem quiet, tastes good with maple syrup, and convinces hobbit-mama that there is a good reason to bundle the children in layer upon layer of wool knowing full well that she will undo all that work soon enough. (full disclosure here - Miryam puts all her winter clothes on herself though I still help with the zipper)
Thankfully we are expecting a storm coming our way later this afternoon and the schools have closed in anticipation - that is always a good sign. We're off to the art store to stock up on some supplies - some people stock up on toilet paper a milk before a storm - we do an emergency run for paints, glue and stamp-carving pads...
It seems that most people are pretty down on February but I have to say that I quite like the month.
My birthday starts it out on the 1st, which doesn't hurt, and this year Miryam made me a necklace and wrapped it in her own decorated paper and Andy and I were able to sneak away for some Indian food. A great day.
As well as being my birthday the first, or second, of February is the Irish festival of Imbolg. We consider this the very very beginning of spring - optimistic I know - and try to find activities that remind us of the warm weather to come and to tell the sun how much we want it to return to us. We've been looking at seed catalogs and talking about what we learned from our garden last year and what we want to do differently this year. We also make candles to remind us of the sun's light and warmth.
Our local garden shop sells sheets of pressed wax and wicks to roll your own beeswax candles. Miryam was a bit frustrated with the first one - getting them going is tough - but after a couple with my help she was able to the rest on her own while I gave Éamonn his nap. We've been using them for our dinner candles and they are burning quite well. You really have to roll them tightly - too much air in the middle and they'll burn too quickly. You also want the wick to be nice and taught so we start by pushing the wick straight down into the wax and then folding the wax over the wick and pushing that down before the rolling begins.
We also bought one-pound blocks of beeswax from the apiary a few towns over but I think we'll wait until a day when we have papa around before we do anything that includes hot wax!
Of course, candle-making is hungry work so we made some oatcakes and ate them with marmalade. Not a bad start to the month, I'd say.
We haven't quite gotten to the point of eating breakfast, second breakfast and elevenses, but we are spending most of our days inside and planning our activities based on their proximity to the fireplace. Here are some of the things that have kept us occupied...
I finally got my horribly-jammed machine back from the repair man
and am getting my sewing muscles back into shape.
Miryam was given modeling beeswax for hanukkah and worked on this "Pippi Longstocking" for a nice quite half hour. Pippi lived on the ledge proudly for quite a while before she was dismantled for other projects.
Finger paint makes a big come-back
and when in doubt - we take a nice hot bath, preferably with California Baby bubble bath and many many cups
On a side note, Andy's mama just left from a week of visiting with us and in a few hours our friends from France are coming for the week. In the midst of all this I was called to two births in 24 hours so we are filled with some joyous chaos around here. I'm blogging while taking a break from putting new sheets on the beds and washing towels. Luckily all of our guests are looking for a shire-like visit so we can all eat big breakfasts and then lounge around waiting for spring so we can grow things.
If today portends what 2010 will bring, I'll welcome it.
We had friends over for brunch and, because the day so was beautiful, we went out for a run around and some sledding. I have been very hobbit-like this winter - preferring to stay cozy indoors while the wind blows - but I know this isn't very good for my mind or my body. I am not someone who make resolutions but I am resolving to be mindful about getting outside as close to everyday as possible for some play. It's the bundling that takes the effort - once I am out I am quite happy and always try to remind myself how good it feels. Then I bring everyone in for "The Great Unbundling" and I forget.
Today the sun was shining, there was no wind and we had a couple of inches of snow the night before to cover up the hard-packed under layer. These were perfect sledding conditions and we took many runs down the tiny hill that comes down from the garden. Éamonn was given a sled for Solstice and Miryam brought out her kicksled. Éamonn was able to keep his feet up on the footrest so he was able to take many trips down the hill and back and forth across the yard. The seemed to be enjoying himself but had a pretty serious look on his face. Taking it all in, I guess.
Éamonn and Auntie on the kicksled
I'm still dreaming of some adult sized kicksleds so we can take the littles out for a long ride. They make them with little seat belts and even pram-attachments for the littlest of riders. Maybe next year...