Archive for January, 2009

paper purses

look how colorful!

look how colorful!

My kids are so creative! They have been making paper purses lately.  I don’t know where they get their ideas, but it seems you can carry a lot of stuff around in these little pouches.  I’ve been finding them all over the house, filled with all sorts of trinkets/cards/chapsticks/pennies/snacks.  All you need is paper (recycle by placing words facing in) and staples, a hole punch and string, and markers.  They even make little front pockets!  Look closely at this next one, and you will even see a little paper ipod peeking out of the front pocket.  They even make little paper earbuds attached with string.  Who needs the real thing when you can put little bits of paper in your ears and sing out loud!

do you see the little ipod peeking out?! Ry even raided the drawer where we keep recycled wrapping paper and ribbons and glued on some bling.

do you see the little ipod peeking out?! Ry even raided the drawer where we keep recycled wrapping paper and ribbons and glued on some bling.

you also have to love this next one…my little activists!!

yes we did!

yes we did!

It just goes to show that they don’t always need fancy stuff or my guidance.  When I just step away and give them space, they usually surprise me.  Sometimes, they even clean up their mess! (ok, not usually, but it has happened).

Advertisements

pretty darn good gluten free brownies

I forgot to take a photo to show you, so maybe tomorrow I’ll have to make another batch! But, I have been searching for a good brownie recipe for years that is gluten free, doesn’t fall apart, and tastes like a real brownie.  So yesterday I spent (too much) time on line searching for recipes, and none of them seemed perfect to me.  Then it occured to me, why dont I just make one up using the best ideas from everything I read, and that’s when I remembered the brownie recipe that we used growing up.  Now, this was my sister’s specialty, these and jello.  She made these a lot, quickly, after dinner.  Of course they were full of wheat, but I remember that they were simple and perfect.  So, I dug around and found my little folder where I keep old recipes, and what do you know? there the recipe was written on a pink piece of scrap paper from who knows how long ago! When my husband was in grad school, and we lived in Colorado, I remember teaching him how to make these so he could satisfy his daily chocolate cravings, and I would watch longingly as he ate the whole pan full of wheat and chocolate.

So, back to 2009, and the recipe… I tweaked it a bit to make it gluten free, but it really tastes like the ones I remember.  Here it is…

Brownies

6 Tablespoons butter

2 Squares (oz.) unsweetened chocolate

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup white rice flour

3 Tablespoons potato starch flour

1 Tablespoon tapioca flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

preheat oven to 350 degrees.

melt the butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan on low heat.  Once it is melted, take off the heat and stir in the sugar, then the egg, then the vanilla.  stir the dry ing. together, then stir into the choc. mixture.  then, stir in the walnuts and ch.chips (these 2 were not in the recipe I remember as a kid, but are so yummy I had to add them).  pour into an 8×8 pan coated with cooking spray.  bake for 20 minutes.

now, here’s a little trick – when you take the pan out of the oven, put it into a tray that you’ve put ice and water in, and let the bottom of the pan rest on that for a bit until the brownies are cooled down.  this makes the brownies really fudgy.  If you just cool them on the counter, they’ll be a bit more cakey.

yes, I’ll definitely have to try these again tomorrow just to make sure this recipe is perfect 🙂  You should try them, too!

peanut butter cookies

Look at these 7 year old hands!  my kids feel so great when they have made the treats themselves!

Look at these 7 year old hands! my kids feel so great when they have made the treats themselves!

one of my favorite things to do is to bake.  It’s such a comfort thing for me – I loved it when I was a kid, too.  My parents taught us early to make the things that we wanted, and there were always plenty of ingredients around.  I remember glass jars of sugar and flour, and huge bags of walnuts and sesame seeds.  So, when I was diagnosed with Celiac disease when I was 20, we just re-outfitted the kitchen with gluten free ingredients, and continued baking.  (Ok, it wasn’t quite that easy, but it was the only choice!)  The first experiments where disastrously funny.  I’ll never forget the ginger snaps my dad made with brown rice flour that had to be slammed down onto the tile counter to break them into pieces small enough to bite!  They were hard as rocks, and required a long soak in a cup of tea.

Over the years, my gluten free baking has gotten significantly better, and I have experimented with many wonderful flours that give great results, but here, I’m going to share a simple recipe that contains no flour at all.  My sister gave me this recipe last summer when we were on vacation with our families at a lake side cottage, and we had very little baking ingredients with us, but the late night craving for something sweet was kicking in.

The kids made them (mostly) themselves yesterday during our snow day, when we were taking a break from the inauguration festivities on the radio and TV.

Peanut butter cookies:

1 cup peanut butter (I use the natural kind, creamy)

1cup sugar

1egg

mix it all together, then if you want, stir in some mini chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup), or scatter a few bigger chocolate chips on top.

shape the dough into little balls (walnut sized – they hold together better if they are on the small side), then using the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar, flatten the cookies just a little bit.  keep dipping the glass into the sugar in between flattening each cookie so they are all dusted with pretty sugar crystals.

bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, cool on wire racks.

10 year old hands flattening the cookies with a sugared glass

10 year old hands flattening the cookies with a sugared glass

Hmmm, I think I’d go better get a couple from the kitchen right now! Hopefully there are still some left in the cookie tin…..

Making books, and MLK

No school today – what to do? We watched the neighbors for a couple of hours this morning, and so a project was called for.  I went to one of my favorite websites, Makingbooks.com.  This woman is brilliant, and so generous! She is a fantastic artist and bookmaker, who gives so many of her ideas away for free.  Check out her site and sign up to subscribe, you’ll get an email once a month about a new idea for how to make little books.  We make them a lot, and todays choice was the “stick and elastic” book.  Basically, you fold paper, punch holes, get a stick from your yard, and attach it all with an elastic.  Then you have a sweet book to write in.  The kids this morning wrote stories about their dogs, playing soccer, and fruit!

working hard

working hard

trying to make little fingers do big jobs

trying to make little fingers do big jobs

threading the elastic through the holes and onto the stick, which becomes the binding.  I love free projects!

threading the elastic through the holes and onto the stick, which becomes the binding. I love free projects!

After the books were done, it was time to head downtown to the annual peace march on Martin Luther King day.  It always makes me feel good to recognize the importance of this day, and to show the kids why they have the day off!  They like the festivities, being with new people, and meeting up with friends.  Today it even snowed a bit which added to the special feeling.  Here are a few photos:

marching down the road to MLK park

marching down the road to MLK park

the girls with our friend Amelia

the girls with our friend Amelia

I love MLK day! And tomorrow – a fabulous, historic inauguration.

a walk in the woods

It was only about 10 degrees this morning, but beautifully sunny and clear.  It seemed to take forever to get bundled up in long underwear, mittens, scarves, etc, but bundle up we did, and out we went on a mission.  The kids complained bitterly, but the minute we started down the road, they forgot their troubles and perked up.  Our mission was to gather kindling for our little fireplace! We had 2 cardboard boxes gathered from the attic from our last move, and we headed out to the huge brush pile that is near where we live.  Here we are…

Heading down the road - The water at the horse pasture was frozen solid!

Heading down the road - The water at the horse pasture was frozen solid!

climbing up the brush pile to start filling the boxes

climbing up the brush pile to start filling the boxes

happy to be outside!

happy to be outside!

boxes are filled, and hats and mittens are shed

boxes are filled, and hats and mittens are shed

Me! the hat is one I made for my dad for christmas but it came out too small, and I'm all wrapped up in the pretty wool scarf my folks brought me from Ireland years ago.

Me! the hat is one I made for my dad for christmas but it came out too small, and I'm all wrapped up in the pretty wool scarf my folks brought me from Ireland years ago.

the brush pile morphed into a palace.  this is the throne room, which is next to the ball room!

the brush pile morphed into a palace. this is the throne room, which is next to the ball room!

We ended up spending 2 hours out at this old brush pile! Declan became the squirrel king, Ryland was the squirrel princess, and Holt was some other form of princess who just so happened to have an Australian accent!  There was a ball in the ball room which I was lucky enough to be invited to, and the 4 of us danced out in the woods to imaginary music.   This is my kids at their best – cooperative, enthusiastic, creative.  I love this…

it worked!

yesterday’s blue tissue paper disasters turned into todays fruit! Somehow, getting nowhere yesterday turned into 2 workable patterns today, without much fuss.  Acute short sleeved blouse that will work with lots of light cottons for spring or layered for fall, and a basic pattern for a shift dress.  That doesnt sound like it would be hard, but getting a shift dress to be flattering is no small feat… So now that I have some decent shapes to work with I can play around with design details and fabrics.

Also, getting closer to having a working web page…

On the home front, it is cold today! Our home is drafty, and while the upstairs is perfectly pleasant, the downstairs is not faring so well.  We solved that with everyone running outside after dinner in their slippers to get 3 pieces of wood each from the pile under the blue tarp, then racing back in to give them to dad, who started a lovely, lively little fire!  Then we all worked on some christmas puzzles and paper machine kits until we noticed how tired the kids looked, and put them to bed.  So now I’m stuck right here in my green chair.  I want to get up to get tea and rifle around for some chocolate, but it’s cold in that kitchen!  Wish I could take the fire upstairs for the night…

drafting patterns

This morning I spent a few hours working on patterns for spring and summer dresses.  It is such a fun thought to imagine fourth of July parties and lemonade and the perfect little cotton dress.  I have so many ideas, it’s hard sometimes to know where to start, so this morning I just dove in and started measuring and drawing on my robin’s egg blue tissue paper that I use for making patterns.  It’s a very spring-y color, and on some level, it must add to the summery feel that I need to get to, even when it is 24 degrees and I’m in my wool sweater!  My ideas still hadn’t gelled by the time I had to go pick up the kids, so I’m left with a studio covered in bits of blue paper and pencils.  It’s hard to feel progress on these days, but I know they are neccessary.  We’ll see what tomorow brings….