My first finished knitting in more than four years

July 31, 2009

Well, my recent dive back into knitting has produced its first finished object: a scarf made out of Patons Pooch.

It’s pretty fuzzy and cuddly. Zuzu picks it up and holds it while sucking her thumb if her blankie is unavailable. Henry has been wearing it as a belt. I started this scarf years ago, and I remember buying the yarn, but I’m not sure what exactly my mindset was. I mean, it’s nice, I guess, but it kind of looks like Muppet vomit. Were scarves like this trendy a few years ago? I’m having a vague memory of a fuzzy scarf craze a few winters ago when I started this scarf. Patons Pooch is now discontinued, which says: a) I started knitting this scarf in 1843, and b) no one liked this yarn so they stopped making it.

So there’s the scarf. I’m sorry, what? Why is Eli wearing a dress? Because they were playing castle and someone needed to be queen. Sheesh, do you even need to ask?

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CATEGORIES: crafts

Multicolored crayon blocks

July 30, 2009

Another summer jar activity: make multicolored crayon blocks out of runty crayon remnants. I saw it in Scholastic magazine. You all should do this today; it took no time at all and the kids thought it was magic.

First take all your little stupid crayon bits, and put them in a muffin tin. Oh, no wait, first preheat your oven to 350. Then put the crayons into the muffin tin. The crayon bits should all be about the same size.

Put the muffin tin in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes, until the crayons are melted. Put the muffin tin on the counter to cool for half an hour, then stick it in the freezer for half an hour. The crayons will shrink in the freezer, plus will get properly hard, and will just pop right out of the muffin tin. Magic!

Emily will note that Eli is pantsless.

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CATEGORIES: activities, crafts

Gra! No! La!

July 29, 2009

There was a recipe in the New York Times a week or so ago for granola, and the whole pre-recipe descriptor was so drool-worthy that I’m surprised it took me this long to try it. Recipe author Melissa Clark went to some fancy little shop where people were forming an unruly mob around the granola samples, and hording them, because they were so crazy good. And then she tries some and buys it and eats the whole bag on the short walk home because it’s so spectacular. She had me as soon as I got to the part about it having olive oil and salt in it.

So I finally got around to making it, and it is, indeed, insanely good. Of course I had neglected to get any of the ingredients. You can see the original recipe here, and below I’ll give you my what-I-had-on-hand recipe. The original recipe has nuts and dried fruit in it, and I ended up adding those sometimes (almonds and cranberries), and sometimes not. That seemed better because then everyone in the World of Julie can adjust to taste. I tried making it again later with the almonds, and I actually like it better with them added right before you eat them. They got a little soft when they were mixed in with everything in the oven.

You will be shovelling this in by the handful, and then you will feel virtuous for putting it on yogurt for breakfast. The thought of it on good vanilla ice cream actually makes me a little lightheaded. I don’t think I could do it because I’d eat it all.

This is a make-in-the-background kind of recipe. It takes five minutes to throw together, and then you just occasionally have to wander back into the kitchen to stir it. It doesn’t demand a lot from you, and gives you back a hell of a lot in return.

Olive Oil Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds (or a mix of both)

1 cup coconut (orig. recipe calls for coconut “chips” but I had shredded coconut so that’s what I used)

3/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

3/4 cup dried fruit…I’d try it with anything from raisins to cherries to blueberries to cranberries. Orig. recipe uses apricots.

1 1/2 cup nuts (original recipe uses pistachios, I’ve been putting almonds in)

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine everything but dried fruit. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet [I used a roasting pan] in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.

2. You can add the dried fruit and nuts now, or later.

Melissa Clark actually calls this “health-conscious crack.” I think that’s all you need to know.

CATEGORIES: baking, Food

Summer Jar: Popsicles

July 28, 2009

Another recent Summer Jar task was making popsicles. I got a popsicle mold years ago, before I had kids even, I think (maybe in an attempt to make a healthier dessert?). We don’t bring it out nearly often enough. First we made a simple syrup (heat equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan, boil, dissolve sugar…put a half-cup of it into the popsicles, save the rest for cocktails). We had two overripe nectarines, so we threw those into the blender with the simple syrup. Then we added the dregs of a bag of frozen tropical fruit (two pineapple chunks, a bit of kiwi, and maybe some mango). And finally some frozen blueberries, since we add frozen blueberries to pretty much everything. A whirl or two in the blender, and it looked…well, odd. But I didn’t say a word. I wasn’t going to be the one to cast a pall on the popsicling.

Here they are about to go into the freezer, and looking, frankly, like some kind of medical byproduct. But again, I was mum on the aesthetics.

And good thing! Because they were actually pretty amazing. They were more nectariney than anything else.

When I took the above photo, I was all concerned with making sure it looked like the children were enjoying the popsicles. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that they were dressed like crazy people.

By the time we got outside, they were all on their third popsicles, and Henry’s pirate bandanna had started to take on a life of its own.

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CATEGORIES: Food

Children’s Book of the Week: Wool Gathering

July 27, 2009

Wool Gathering: A Sheep Family Reunion by Lisa Wheeler, pictures by Frank Ansley

Good grief, I’ve been completely neglectful of poetry books here, haven’t I? I think maybe it’s because — and this is a little hard for me to admit — I’m kind of all over the map on poetry. Some days I want to read aloud barely understandable poems for an hour, letting the words wash over us, blah blah blah, and some days (most, really) I won’t touch a poem that doesn’t rhyme and isn’t a snappy little ditty. And some days I think poems are a private little present that are only for me to read in my closet upstairs when I am pretending to fold laundry.

But! But! I am always in the mood for Wool Gathering. It’s got everything. Fun pictures, a variety of poetry structures, and, heaven help us, a PLOT, even. It’s a group of poems about a sheep family reunion (ok, if that alone doesn’t sell you on this, I don’t know what will), so there are poems in the beginning about the sheep arriving, and the general logistics of a sheep family reunion. And then the middle poems are about individual sheep (and these are where the best ones are, I think). The final poems are about everyone going home. There are plenty of sheep-related puns (the last poem ends “So long…farewool… good-baaa”) but somehow it’s not at all annoying or forced. There’s Cousin Lambert who is a secret superhero and has “steel wool,” and Woolverton who is kind of dumb and doesn’t realize that the love of his life is a cow. There’s Old Ramses, who is ancient but has an eye on the young lady sheep (this poem is a good example of what I like about this book, because Old Ramses checking out the hot young sheepies is done in such a way that I’m not sure the kids will really get it, or maybe they will, but it’s kind of subtle and not clear what’s going on) (which is how Real Adult Poetry is anyway, so maybe it’s a good intro).

The illustrations are fun and a perfect companion to the poems, and you and your kids will quickly memorize a bunch of these and spout lines at random (Henry particularly likes the one where the sheep can’t play baseball because they ate the infield). My favorite one is “Felice” which is probably un-P.C. but it’s awfully fun to read: “Round Felice/has heavy fleece./Her wool is big and puffy./Says Felice,/’I’m not obese!/Don’t call me fat. I’m fluffy!'”

And I promise to recommend more of our favorite poetry books in the future.

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Appropriate Attire

July 26, 2009

Does the middle of July say “snowpants” to anyone but Eli?

CATEGORIES: Eli

Your Weekly Zuzu

July 25, 2009

She just gets more delectable every day.

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CATEGORIES: Zuzu
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Decluttering Mom Psychologically Damages Preschool Son

July 24, 2009

Two-year-old Neighbor Boy: Look what I have! [shows off stuffed animal]
Eli: Yeah, I used to have something like that. I once had something like that, but then my mom threw it in the garbage.

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Recent Goodwill Scores

July 23, 2009

A few weeks ago I went into Goodwill looking for capri pants, since my only capri pants were sad and stained (well, ok, one pair was sad and stained, and the other pair fits fine if I’m standing but if I do something as daring as sitting or, heaven forbid, squatting, I show the entire state my butt crack). I didn’t find any capri pants, but I did get two awesome pairs of corduroys. (more…)

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CATEGORIES: Julie

Summer Jar: Try a New Food

July 22, 2009

Last week the Summer Jar told us to try a new food (the Jar told us this the day after we’d gone to the farmers’ market and eaten sour cherries and Italian broccoli greens for the first time, but apparently the Jar thinks we still weren’t being adventurous enough). So we went to the store and finally decided on a pepino melon, because we’re generally melon fans, and the sign next to the pepinos said they taste like a combination of pears and bananas. When we got home we checked into pepinos a bit, learned that they are grown in Peru, and that they can also taste like a combination of honeydew and cantaloupe. Sounded good!

So we peeled it and sliced it up. Henry grabbed the first piece, took a big bite, ate it, and enthusiastically exclaimed, “I don’t like it!” We all took bites, and really, none of us liked it. There really wasn’t anything there to like. It didn’t taste of anything. Or maybe it tasted like disappointment. Or, possibly, relief, since now I didn’t have to worry about us getting addicted to expensive small imported melons. But now we know! Back to cantaloupe!

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CATEGORIES: Food
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