Thursday, January 15, 2009

getting crafty

There are so many amazing women online who I swear knit in their sleep and can homeschool their nine children while simultaneously kneading a loaf of whole wheat bread, planting their three-acre garden and writing/photographing a book to be released this year. It's enough to make one go white as a sheet and decide to never ever get out of bed.

Really, I am in awe of the amazing, creative, inspiring work being done by mamas and other artists everywhere. What an ecclectic bunch humanity is. (Oh, the grammar!) So rather than succumbing to enui in the face of such shining examples of true beauty, I will, instead, throw my hands in the air and honor the few lovely things I do manage to accomplish despite rarely getting out of my pajama's these days.

I'm discovering through mostly trial and error what level of complexity a two-year-old will tolerate in a craft project.

Thumbs down: Making an alphabet paper chain. Twenty-six piece of paper to be cut, labeled and taped? What was I thinking?

Thumbs up: Making birdseed treats with overripe fruit. A total homerun.

I'm also learning my personal crafting limitations. This is, apparently, an ongoing lesson as I have amassed quite a collection of half-done, quarter-done and even not-yet-started projects. Including, but not limited to, three or four cross-stitch patterns; fabric, buttons and thread for two art smocks I designed in my head; all the bits and pieces for a doll, a beany frog and some little felt monsters; feathers and beads for a butterfly mobile. Ugh!

So what exactly have I learned you ask? not just cut my losses when things are starting to go sour, but to salvage the work I've done so far. My latest scarf attempt is now a cozy ear-warming headband. (Modeled after a bunch I was admiring on Etsy.)

Kitchen projects have turned out to be the sweet spot, literally, for both Rowan and Mama. They don't require too much time and there's always something new to measure, mix, taste or rub all over one's face. Perfecto!

This sweet-tart apple-berry pie was born of the dregs of a few of our fruity supplies and turned out to be quite a success. The last, almost-too-soft apples from the bushel we bought in December and the berry-licious crumbs from a freezer bag of raspberries and blackberries. I threw in a few blueberries, too, to make sure the pie was plump.

Despite all the warnings about tough dough, I always make an all-butter crust. It makes such a difference when it comes to flavor and I actually like the texture better than most crusts that rely on shortening.

Time to dust off that rolling pin and get baking. There are no hard and fast rules with this recipe. Change up the fruit, use a store-bought crust, add more or less sugar. Just be sure to share it with someone you love.

Rowan's Apple-Berry Pie

4-6 cups apples
1-2 cups mixed frozen berries
squeeze lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2-4 tablespoons flour
pinch fresh-grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 all-butter crusts
2 tablespoons milk
Coarse sugar

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F. Peel and slice apples. Toss in bowl with lemon juice as you slice to prevent browning. (Note: I actually don't mind brown apples in a pie, but I do like the little bit of sour sunshine the lemon adds to the fruit!). Add berries and sugar to the apples, and sprinkle with flour (more for juicy apples, less for dry apples), nutmeg, and salt. Toss with your hands until well combined.

Roll out one crust and lay into pie plate. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Roll out the second crust. Grab first crust in plate from the fridge and fill with fruit. Cover with second crust, trim and crimp the edges, and cut one large and two small slits in the top. Brush with milk and sprinkle coarse sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes and then reduce temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake for another 15-30 minutes until the fruit is tender and the crust is dark golden brown.

All Butter Crust (adapted from Joy of Cooking)

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter
1/3 cup + 1-3 tablespoons ice water

Combine and mix flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Break butter into chunks and cut into the flour mixture until it resembles mostly corn meal with some pea-sized pieces, too. Drizzle 1/3 cut + 1 tablespoon ice water and mix. If the dough sticks together when you press it against the side of the bowl, you're done. If not, add 1-2 additional tablespoons ice water until you can easily form your dough into a ball. Divid the dough in half, press each into a flat, round disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


So much goodness has taken place in the last month. Our winter solstice was spent feasting and quietly getting ready to be immersed in family for Christmas. We played in the snow and lit our bayberry candle to keep vigil through the longest night.

Then Saint Rowan arrived...

Rowan found his infant Santa outfit when I cleaned out his closet. While I lovingly folded each little sweater and pair of tiny pants too small for his quickly growing frame, he demanded to wear his "Santa suit" despite it being suited for a 3-6 month-old. With a "Ho, ho, ho and a bottle of juice" (apparently Santa has some pirate in his ancestry) he marched downstairs and told me to sit on his lap.

The remaining holi-days were filled to the brim with family warmth. Cookie baking at Meme and Grampy's house...

Hanging with Great-grampa Evans. The youngest first son of the first son of the first son with the eldest...

Papa acting holi-silly...

Then all was quiet again. Rowan enjoyed some of his new games and we settled into the pace of a new year that will hopefully pass a little slower. I won't hold my breath for that one.

I've got a new year's gift for you all next entry--a tasty recipe and a simple project to share with the munchkins in your life--so stop back soon.