Monday, July 31, 2006


My girls and I are off to Colorado this morning! Back around August 15.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Solo Saturday Pleasures

As the Composer had the older children with him all day at an out-of-town film festival, Daisy and I were all on our own today, and I enjoyed:

• Not sharing the avocado on my sandwich at lunch.
• A pedicure.
• Painting Daisy's toenails pink.
• A blissfully long baby nap.
• Fitting a new pattern. Sorting my beautiful fabrics.
• Starting a new watercolor with lots of intense color straight from the tube.
• Nothing but buttered corn on the cob for dinner.
• Stacking Daisy's sweet outfits on my bed, ready to pack for vacation.
• Weeding a flowerbed after dinner, and watching her carry each weed to a big pile in the middle of the lawn, shouting each time, "Mine happy birthday!"
• Smelling her little baby-sweaty head before bath.

Friday, July 28, 2006


We had sunny skies after all for Bella's party which was attended en masse by her lovely friends. We ate three pizzas, a big bowl of cheese puffs, a platter of pretzels, a pitcher of lemonade, and the piece de resistance, the Jello Cake. A ring mold of raspberry jello, covered with whipped cream and dotted with raspberries. Perfect for a mother who has already made several birthday cakes this month!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sturm und Drang

It seems like I am caught in a Perfect Storm of household projects and plans, between the following:

•Birthday swimming party for Bella and twelve friends here tomorrow; 80% chance of heavy rains!
•The girls and I are flying to Colorado Monday to take Clara to this fantastic music camp. We must Fed Ex her cello there tomorrow since we don't have a cello case strong enough to withstand the baggage hold of the airplane. To do that we had to order a special box big enough to ship a cello in. Fortunately it did arrive today.
•The Composer and the boys will drive out to meet us in Denver, CO after four days. Too bad they still need to eat after I leave! Today I shopped and cooked for the freezer so they won't starve here alone.
•When they meet up with us in Colorado we'll camp at Rocky Mountain National Park for a week. I must organize camping supplies, especially cooking equipment, since only I know what I need!
•While we're gone family friends will be staying in the house. It must be picked up and cleaned!
•Lots of clients and files to get in order before I leave for two weeks!
•Could the Composer be under any more deadlines, including music for a film which plays at a festival in two days? That's a no!

But in the middle of this Perfect Storm I am looking forward to the Perfect Peace of sitting in the Rockies with a cocoa in my hand and Daisy in my lap. Mmmm.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Recent Sewing Projects

I know it's July but I just made this apron because the Christmas fabric was cute and marked down and at the front of the store. I used one of Simplicity's retro-style patterns:

And remember the Vintage Pattern Lending Library purchases from awhile back? I finished the 1930's frock you see here in a pink cotton print. It is the girliest dress I've ever had on and feels deliciously frilly. I consider it a house dress and not a town dress. The pattern dates from 1930 and so was very loose and unfitted at the waist. I wanted more definition so put darts in the bodice and added a couple of stitched-down pleats to the skirt. The pattern was very simple--just four pieces not counting the basically appliqued-on collar.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Daisy Up Close

Sweet Rolls

Today being a day to putter in the kitchen, I baked four loaves of bread, two pans of cherry buns (see above), made a pot of chicken broth, and lastly, tackled the refrigerator freezer which has been a wasteland for months. In the summer I have to keep almost all my grains and flours in the freezer because of pantry moths, and lately every time I opened the door a ziplock bag of cornmeal would come slithering out.

Oh, but now! Cornmeal, whole wheat flour, pecans, almonds, ginger, oats, barley, and bran are all in newly-purchased and labelled *freezer boxes*!! Black bananas have been thrown away. Chicken carcasses have been stewed. Things look good.

*Schoolhouse Sweet Rolls*

So easy: use any made or purchased yeast dough. For a two-loaf size batch of dough, divide into halves. Roll out into 9 x 12 rectangle. Brush with melted butter or canola oil. Sprinkle generously with sugar, cinnamon, and either raisins, dried cherries, chopped dried apricots, or orange peel, and nuts if desired. Roll up and slice into 12 slices. Set slices in greased 13 x 9 pan. If you want, before putting rolls in, drizzle lots of butter and brown sugar or corn syrup in the pan (you'll have Sticky Buns). Let rise til soft and puffy, then bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Clear Air

Elegance for Girls

"The more simply a little girl is dressed--sweaters and skirts in the winter, Empire-style cotton dresses in the summer--the more chic she is. . . In the summer she would be charming in high-waisted cotton dresses of flowered Liberty prints, and of white eyelet embroidery for party dresses. For the beach she would need a white pique sun-bonnet, one-piece bathing suit, white sandals, and always a wool cardigan within hand's reach in the same colour as the bathing suit."

--Genevieve Antoine Dariaux in A Guide to Elegance: For Every Woman Who Wants to Be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions.

With this wise advice from 1964 in mind, I am helping Clara pack for camp. Simple cotton dresses, yes. Solid color knit shirts in pastels, and cute capri pants, yes. I don't think she's going to take the sun-bonnet though.

Despite the fact that she's leaving in a week, she has begun a new sewing project: her first independently-sewn garment. It's a charming loose-woven linen in cream and peach stripes and tiny flowers, and she is doing marvellously well. The pattern calls for facing around the neckline, but she has decided to line the bodice due to the sheer nature of the fabric. She cut it out yesterday and has the (pleated) skirt constructed, the bodice constructed and lined, and one sleeve set in perfectly! One more sleeve, the zipper, and the hem, and she is done. Her precise and thorough nature stand her in good stead when it comes to sewing, so that she is perfectly willing to hand-baste all the tricky parts, carefully finish all the seams, and the foundation of the project, the cutting out, is done very, very carefully. It's so much fun to watch her take off on her own!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

July 22, 1989

That's a very happy girl, who's only gotten happier the last seventeen years!

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Week of Summer Menus

Summer menus should get you through the week without turning the oven on, except for Sunday's biscuits; take advantage of all the goodies at Farmer's Market; and still fill all the hollow legs in the house. But far be it from me to be dogmatic! We're having:

Grilled salmon; butter lettuce salad; fried okra; corn on the cob.

Lettuce wraps filled with stir-fried pork, julienned carrots and cucumbers, and a ginger dipping sauce; brown rice; sauteed yellow squash, fruit cups with strawberries and raspberries.

Cold angel-hair pasta with shredded chicken breasts, carrots, and an orange-vinaigrette dressing; sauteed broccolini; watermelon.

Salade Nicoise (giant platters of salad with tuna, steamed new potatoes, steamed green beans, tomatoes, cucumber, olives); corn on the cob; French bread.

Stir-fried Japanese noodles with pork and Napa cabbage; fried okra (I know: we're Southern and it's okra season!); romaine salad.

Grilled bratwurst; grilled mixed vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, and more); crusty bread; green salad; sliced peaches.

Pot roast; mashed potatoes; stir-fried asparagus; green salad; raspberry jello with raspberries; biscuits.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Geranium Watercolor Collage

(detail of painting)

My cousin Sally asked me *months* ago to do a painting for her and I am ashamed to say that I didn't finish until today!

I started working in watercolor about ten years ago, with no art experience whatsoever, and became enchanted with it. What I found I liked the most was taking a painting and cutting the best parts out and reconstructing them in a collage. So that's what I have here, and I will be packing and shipping it in a day or two, Sally!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook

I have never been very interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder's adult life, since The First Four Years is so profoundly painful to read. But Clara picked up The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook at the library last week (see it here), and I am so relieved to know that Laura and Almanzo had a long and truly *happy* life together once they settled in Mansfield, Missouri. This book is a delightful compendium of the recipes Laura cooked with as an adult, quotes from her non-Little House writing, and biographical information. And best of all, the book is loaded with pictures of her kitchen which is fascinating not because Laura was a famous writer, but because it is a shining, perfectly-preserved study of a classic 30's kitchen. Now I must go to Mansfield!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Peach Pie

This morning's baking project was a peach pie, made with some of the *many* peaches we buy at Farmer's Market every week. It has a bottom crust, then a thin layer of cream, fat peach quarters, streusel, and a little more cream and cream cheese dabbed on. I always use my grandmother's pie crust recipe because it is reliable and good, and lately I have made it even easier by simply patting my disc of crust into the pan and skipping the rolling-out completely.

*Schoolhouse Pie Crust*

Lightly blend:

3 c. flour
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1 T. sugar

Cut in 1 1/4 c. shortening with a pastry blender.

In a small bowl, stir well with a fork:

1 egg
1 T. vinegar
5 T. water

Pour over flour mixture and lightly toss together with fork until it starts to come together in a clump. Gather with fingers and very lightly knead until it forms a cohesive ball of pastry, handling as sparingly as possible. Cut in half and flatten each half into a round disc. Use immediately or wrap nicely in wax paper and pop into Ziploc bag to store in fridge or freezer.

Makes 2 *generous* crusts. Plenty left over for little girls to make play pies with.

Monday, July 17, 2006


It was a big day for the back yard. The huge pile of cement rubble by the pool fence, the one I quit noticing a few years ago, has gone to live in the country. Well, this is the country. A different part of the country.

And the same earth-moving contractor, with his fantastic alliterative country name, brought in several loads of gravel for the driveway and grated it until it begged for mercy.

My thanks to the Composer for footing the bill. I am content.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Fruit Cups with Dinner

I don't know if I enjoy eating the fruit more or looking at it . . .

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bella Making Music

Daisy's Cupcake

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Day at the Lake

In celebration of Daisy's birthday and enjoyment of summer in general, we headed for the lake today. The Composer was out of town, so we met up with my friend Carol and picked up some more children (for a total of thirteen!). A basket of egg salad sandwiches, a jug of lemonade, and a bunch of wacky noodles did for provisions.

Incredibly we had the lake to ourselves all morning and early afternoon and it was so beautiful. It's a little gem, on a tiny mountain, spring-fed, and adorned with CCC creations like stone pavilions and diving platforms.

We drove home in the afternoon heat and the children spent the rest of the day reading and playing Clue. We have my ten-year old nephew McKinley for the week, so the board game dynamics are new and exciting. McKinley has done nothing but swim and lose teeth since he arrived on Sunday. Two teeth fell out his first day, and tonight he looked down and said accusingly that there was a tooth in his salad. I sent him to the mirror to see if he was missing one and sure enough it was his (*I* was not surprised as I knew I had *not* put any teeth in the salad).

We ended a lovely day with tiny chocolate cupcakes in Daisy's honor (full-size cake to follow tomorrow with presents, pending the Composer's arrival home). She showed us how useful it is to be two, because when you're two, you can put the whole cupcake in your mouth at once.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"The Primary Duty"

". . . the primary duty of a woman in a home is to see that her family is well-fed. . ."

-- Grace Livingston Hill, The Honor Girl

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Children and Music Lessons

Here is what I have learned about children and music lessons. I'm sure other mothers can handle them in different ways, but this is what works for me and my children.

1. Music should not be a source of bad feeling (for any length of time longer than a few minutes). In our family, no one is going to take lessons or practice against their will. Generally. There are times when a child, though committed to her instrument in general, is not quite in the mood to practice. We generally push on through this, reschedule our practice, or resort to bribery! However, if this disinclination is recurrent or entrenched, we quit lessons. There's enough in life to fight over without fighting over music!

2. Sometimes practice is frustrating. When it is, I make a point of sitting beside the child and either offering advice or keeping quiet, as needed. Encouragement is good. Shiny pennies offered as incentives for good tries are good. High fives are good.

3. Plan on learning along with your child. With my cellist, who started lessons at five, I attended every lesson for at least four years. And paid attention. My attention was invaluable in getting Clara through a practice session when she was a very beginner and simply could not remember what she had been told. Same with Bella on the guitar. I will say that they have both far surpassed me in knowledge by now!!

4. Have the teacher write down a complete practice list each week. This eliminates any "confusion" about what is supposed to be practiced, should your child "forget".

5. Most important of all, plan to sit with your child for every practice session. I mean it. Every day. Until they don't want or need you anymore. If music is important enough for your child's time, it is important enough for yours. Make it a special time to pay attention to your child and what she is learning. Be excited. Bring the nursing baby or some handwork, but give her your attention. In my experience, this is the dealmaker on raising a musical child. And don't worry, the day will eventually come when she won't need your seat in that chair. But until then, enjoy!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Birthday Season

The season of birthdays has descended--Clara's was yesterday, and Daisy's is Thursday. Clara had a lovely party for four friends--swimming, pizza, and ice cream cake (of course).

I am blessed in my daughters.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Crazy Good Times

Daisy on the carousel.

We made it back this afternoon from a fun-packed couple of days sponsored by the Composer's ever-generous father. Although he will be seventy this fall we were left gasping in his wake as we blazed through an amusement park, a water park, a variety show, and careened around the lake in peddle-boats. Whew!

It is good to be home, with Sunday ahead of us.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"The Goodness of Thy House"

"How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near to Thee,
To dwell in Thy courts.
We will be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house,
Thy holy temple."

--Psalm 65:4

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Big Batch Maple Ice Cream

Tonight we had a big Fourth of July party here at the house with a potluck dinner, swimming, bocce ball, and fantastic fireworks contributed by a pyromaniacal friend. Along with a chicken pasta salad, I made this new ice cream:

*Big Batch Maple Ice Cream*

In a medium saucepan, heat:

2 c. real maple syrup

Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in:

2 c. milk
2 c. half and half
4 c. whipping cream
1/2 t. salt
1 t. maple extract

Freeze as usual in freezer. When almost done, you can add as many broken pecan or walnut pieces as you wish. I made this this afternoon with pecans. Of course, I spent the first twenty minutes turning the ice cream freezer handle the wrong way so that *nothing was happening*. Fortunately, Clara came along and pointed out my error, then did the cranking for another twenty minutes, and it came out delicious.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Floral Oasis: How and Why

In a better world, all flowers would fall gracefully into jam jars and display themselves with effortless perfection. Alas, I have found that some of my favorite (read: cheap and plentiful) flowers don't make things so easy. Take marigolds, the only thing blooming in my vegetable garden now. I have never quite figured out how to bring them into the house--the stems are only a couple of inches long, and they have so many lateral branches that stuffing them down in a vase or jar truly does not look good.

Enter floral oasis. It's a lightweight, strangely dissolving green brick thing in the floral/wedding section of the discount store, and it costs about a dollar. For this morning's marigolds (see above), I took a kitchen knife and cut off a big cube of it, dropped it in my bowl and ran some water over it, then took literally thirty seconds to stick the ends of the marigold stems in, where they are held both gracefully *and* in water. So nice.

Oasis is wonderful for flowers that have some bushiness in the leaves to provide cover, and for flowers that otherwise would unyieldingly stand stiffly upright in a jar. I may never learn to use the mysterious nonsticky green florist's tape or the fiddly wires, but I will happily depend on oasis.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sultry Saturday Pleasures

• A swim with all my children this morning.
• Clara home from a week-long orchestra camp and visit with grandmother.
• Hanging Clara's pink and yellow dresses on the clothesline.
• Lime soda floats in the middle of the afternoon for no reason!

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