And for once I was SuperMom

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cinnamon Rolls

I made Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls today.
I haven't made cinnamon rolls in a long time.  I used to work at a small coffee shop in rural Colorado and I was a baker there.  Cinnamon rolls were a part of the day.  I mixed the yeast with water and sugar, let it sit on top of the oven, while I made scones and muffins, then I kneaded, beat, rolled, cut, baked, and frosted.  Just part of the day.

I haven't made them in forever, because they are a lot of work.  I was wondering if I would remember how to do it.  But as I rolled my arms and hands remembered all the motions.  As I spread butter, by eyes remembered how much looked right.  As I sprinkled cinnamon sugar I thought, 'looks a little light on the cinnamon.'  When I tasted, indeed it was a little light, but that allowed the flavor of the sweet potato to shine through.  As I turned the dough over into itself to make the 'roll,' my hands found that rhythm, as I cut each bun out of the dough, I remembered the pressure and give in the knife of each slice.

I mopped the kitchen floor when all the dishes were done, when all the buns were frosted.  My muscle memory reminded me that at the end of a long day I had to clean, everything, down to the floor.  I wiped hands on my apron, and turned and spun in the kitchen and remembered the work of a long day.  Lower back told me it was time to sit, time to stop buying cheap shoes, time to be 'all done.'  The rolls and clean kitchen gave me that memory of a job well done.  Money earned.  Customers satisfied.

I haven't felt like that in a long time.  I realized that I am glad for all those hours making coffee, bustling in restaurants, and trying to help people.  The pay was poor.  The treatment abysmal.  But a the end of the day I seemed to accomplish at least something.

Sure I didn't produce anything beautiful or inspirational in those days.  But it was work.

These days are so hard to measure.  Sitting on bedroom floors, just being present so my children don't destroy themselves, cooking food I don't get thanked for, cleaning floors that are dirty moments later, not bothering to dress because no one sees me anyhow....

I hope that one day I can look back and remember these cinnamon rolls and know that all the days I spent wiping boogers, and bottoms added up to something.  I hope that someday when my 32 year old daughter calls me just to talk, that I know that hugging and kissing sad little faces these days will pay off in those days.

Here's the recipe, just in case you were wondering:
Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 TB yeast
1 tsp salt
1tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
Combine in mixing bowl.
1 cup sweet potatoes (cooked and mashed)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter (melted)
Combine a separate bowl.  Mix together.  Add to the dry mixture. Beat until moistened.
1 large egg
Add to mixture, beat at medium speed until incorporated.
2 1/2 cups flour
Add until dough is no longer sticky.  Remove and knead for 7-9 minutes, until smooth and elastic.  Put in greased bowl until doubled in size.  (Couple of hours.)  Punch down and split in half.  Roll into the largest rectangle you can (18x12 - ish).  Melt about half a stick of butter, pour about half of that butter on to the rolled out dough and spread with a pastry brush.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (1/2 cup sugar to about 1TB of cinnamon).  Roll the dough up, either way, depending on if you want big rolls or little ones.  Cut down the roll and bake for about 15 minutes at 375.  Repeat process with the other half of the dough.
Frost with cream cheese frosting.
Adapted from 'Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls' in Simply in Season.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Name this Mess

On a regular basis I go into my children's room and I see this.
Then I see this.
I personally like that the baby is all sprawled out.

Like she just woke up from a bender.  Notice that she is naked...the other day after we had a bunch of children over I went into the room to find all the baby dolls lined up and stripped down.  I thought, 'who's perverted child did that?'  So I asked, "Emma who took all the baby's clothes off?"
"Me, they needed a bath."
Oh, my little pervert did that.

Then I see this.

Then I see this.

Like the basket of dress up clothes is Mount Vesuvius, spewing it's contents onto poor hapless Pompeii below.

Then I see this.

I like how all the toy baskets are completely empty.

It's like my children woke up from a night in Vegas, you almost expect to see a tiger in there....well there is, but he's made by Playschool.  I am waiting for the day when Carys turns to me and says, 'Dude, where's my car?'

If you can rename this mess in a way that makes me laugh out loud, literally, laughter must burst forth from my lips, I will knit you a hat or a scarf of your choosing.

You cannot say 'Toypocalypse,' or 'Toymageddon.'  I have already thought of those and adding '-mageddon' and 'pocalypse' to things is getting old enough to make me not laugh at it anymore.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fruit Crisp

Recently my mother in law gave me a copy of Shauna Niequist's 'Bread & Wine.'  The book is a compilation of stories about the value and role of food in our lives.

For someone who is constantly tugged around by nutrition news this was a rough gift.  I love food.  I revel in making and eating good food.  I also know way too much.  About calorie counts.  About what foods are 'bad' for you.  About what foods are 'good' for you.  If you read one treatise on nutrition you should never eat corn, because it will make you fat and give you cancer.  If you read another treatise on nutrition you should never eat wheat, because it will make you fat and give you cancer.  If you read another treatise on nutrition you should never eat meat, because it will make you fat and give you cancer.  But you shouldn't eat soy, because it will give you cancer.

Makes me want to pull my hair out.

I eat everything, absolutely everything.  Except dill.  I hate dill.

I can't jump on anyone's wagon and say 'that food, that one right there, it will make you fat and give you cancer.'  There's too much conflicting knowledge and evidence.  I can't give any one food up either.  I like them all.

Except dill.  I hate dill.

And quinoa.  I don't like quinoa.  Stop trying to feed it to me.  It tastes like bugs.

My conclusion is that food is good.  Moderation is a good idea.  I love the phrase 'plant based diet.'  That sounds good to me.  That sounds doable.  I have come to focusing on getting as many whole, unprocessed plants into my mouth as possible.  Lots of beans, brown rice, vegetables, and fruits.
I eat a lot of kale.  A lot of kale.

So when someone gave me 'Bread & Wine,' I internally shuddered.  I figured it would be full of brie, brisket, and chocolate.  I felt pulled.  I love food.  I have a sweet tooth. (I've never understood that phrase, doesn't your tongue do the tasting of the sweet?)  I have only read the first chapter, the recipe at the end of the chapter is a blueberry crisp.  The crisp has no white sugar, butter, or flour.  It is gluten free, sugar free, and vegan.  And it is delicious.  I find myself standing in front of the cooked crisp shoveling the crust into my mouth.  I make myself stop, the voice in my head says it will better if I do this in a civilized manner.

Here are the ingredients, did I mention it is incredibly simple?

Wait, Lara, those are apples.

I know, I messed with the recipe.

Of course you did.

Of course I did.

The original recipe calls for:
4 cups blueberries
Crisp topping:
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2/ cup raw, unsalted pecans, chopped
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

For this particular iteration I used coconut oil instead of olive oil.  The topping seemed to cook up crispier and have a delightful light taste of coconut.  I used wheat germ instead of almond meal.  I have used almond meal in the past and it's great.  I used wheat germ because that is what I had and needed to use up.  I used apples because it's February and the only blueberries around are shipped up from Chile and cooking them seems unethical.  I have used frozen blueberries and it's delightful.  I also used walnuts instead of pecans because they have more nutritional punch than pecans...and that is what I had in my pantry.  (I always keep walnuts around.)
I am sorry I didn't include salt in the picture, I figure you know what that looks like.

Chopped and peeled apples in a greased 8x8 pan.

The crisp topping all mashed up with a fork.  I microwaved the coconut oil for 30 seconds to soften it, that way it mixed up easier.

Mixing this takes less than a minute.

I added some ground ginger this time, because I thought it would taste good with apples and coconut.

Does it?

It does.

Baked at 350 (180 Celsius) for 35 minutes.

Already taste tested.

I have been eating this for breakfast with greek yogurt.  A suggestion that Niequist makes as well.  I like to think it's just like granola and fruit.  Because, well, it is.  Except when I usually eat granola, fruit, and yogurt it is mostly granola, while this is mostly fruit.

There it is 'plant based diet.'  Adding fruit to breakfast.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bathroom Art

If you're like me you've got a pile of kid's art that looks like this:

Or you're a grandmother who has art from a grandchild, or you're a teacher who has art from a student.  You get the idea.

If you're like me you've got a few blank walls to decorate.

I dug through this stack of art and found three paintings that all matched.  Emma was apparently going through a blue and green phase.  Or she had just used all the other colors and that is what we had left.

You can always orchestrate this as well.  Have a day of a certain color, Blue Day; eat blue food, paint a blue painting, wear a blue shirt, find blue things on the way to the store, etc.  Then frame the blue painting to match Mommy's blue living room.

You could also give your child the two predominant colors in a room.  Be careful if your living room is decorated in yellow and grey, combining yellow and grey will end up looking like muck.  Complementary colors when mixed turn into brown.  So if you have a guest room decorated in orange and blue, and you give your children orange and blue paint, you will end up with brown paintings.  A solution to this is to give them a color and white, then ask them what happens when you combine the two.  Instant art lesson and, hopefully, a frameable art work.

Here are the three paintings I picked:
 All three laid out together.

A progression from blues to greens.

A closer shot of one.  Ignore my thumb in the corner.

Of course now that I have pointed it out you're looking at it.

I picked up this frame from A.C. Moore.  They were having a 40% off sale on this line of frames.  Craft stores seem to put their  table frames on sale quite often.  It is worth buzzing through them every once and awhile if you have something in mind.

 I moved the mat around on each painting to find which composition I liked best.

I looked for places where she had left some of the paper showing through but had mostly covered the whole space with paint.  I also looked to see if there were any particular brush strokes that I liked.

Once I had all the paintings in the mat and taped down I went upstairs right away to hang it.

I soon realized that this is one of those frames with two hangers. Getting the nails in the walls at the exact place has driven me to profanity on more than one occasion.  Since that room has horse hair plaster and horse hair plaster is difficult to hang paintings on (it crumbles and is really hard to put a nail through, once I swear it rejected the nail)  I didn't want to have a lot of mistake holes.
Here is my solution, I put lip gloss on the hangers and then when I tapped them to the wall they lift a mark.

You can just barely see the mark in the picture to the right.  Much clearer in real life.  Using something goopy that was sure to stick to the wall and that will eventually wipe off seemed to be the best solution to me; fingerpaint, tempera paint, etc.

Then I just sunk the nails right above the dots of lip gloss, and there it is; art in my bathroom!

I wanted something I wasn't too worried about getting ruined.

I have seen tons of pictures of kids in the bath tub or at the beach in the bathroom.  Decorating bathrooms in a beach theme always kind of makes me laugh, like, well we get wet at the beach and we get wet here....

(Now that I think about it, I know so many people that have beach themed bathrooms...I'm the worst.)

If you have pictures of your children in the bath in your bathroom, don't be offended, it's still super cute.  I just need to be different.

Or difficult....

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hiding Junk

"A goal without a plan is just a wish."

I know what you're gonna think about this next post...I can hear the thoughts.  'She's posting this?' 'I can do that.'  'Why is this blog material?'  But hey, I have made some goals, and being more of a divergent thinker rather than a convergent thinker the goal went kind of like this...'I'm just gonna post every little silly crafty thing I do.'

So here it is.
If you're like me you've got a pile of kid's art in your house that looks like this:

And if you're also like me you've kept it in a shoe box that looks like this:

Notice the small piece of masking of masking tape labelled 'ART.'  I am awesomely organized.

Anyway...if you're also like me you're cheap.  So instead of buying some adorable box to hide it in I gift wrapped that box with gift wrap. I keep some wrapping paper on hand in patterns that I like, if I see some in a store I just snag it.  I have used cute wrapping paper in more projects.  I also save wrapping paper from gift people give me.  Yes, just like your depression era Grandma.  I have turned into 'that person' that opens gifts like 'that.'
It's also green.  At least that is what I tell myself in my head.

 This is called a 'museum fold.'  This is also how you fold canvas around a frame to stretch it.

You start like this:

Then you fold like that.

Then you fold like that:

Then you tape the heck out of it.  I just used scotch tape, if I was feeling more hard core I would have used packing tape.  But I was not, and I could not find packing tape.  I'm sure have it...somewhere in my house...

My eldest 'writing a book' next to the completed box.  She was right next to me the whole time I was doing this.  Like, literally, touching me.  Which is why I put their art supplies in my studio and leave the door open.

(Yes, that is her pile of art behind it, on the floor.)

So now I have a cute shoe box to put their art in, instead of an ugly shoe box.

Like I said before, it's not about 'not having junk, just putting your junk in cute boxes.'

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's for Preschool

"Emma, do you want to go pick out Valentine's for your preschool class?"  I ask, having just received notice that I am expected to provide Valentine's for her entire class in two days.
"No," she answers, I hold my mild shock in my mouth.
"Because I don't love everyone," she has a point there.
I wasn't sure that I was going to make it to a store with Valentine's in the next few days, and didn't want to make a special trip for little cards I knew were going to end up in the trash.  Now knowing that my child was not excited about the prospect of selecting or making Valentines'....
What's a Mom to do?

If you're like me you've got a pile of kid's art that looks like this.
                            I picked out a few paintings that were in Valentine's appropriate.

And by that I mean obnoxiously red and pink.

(A quick explanation; Emma loves to paint.  She prefers it to drawing.  She is four, I don't know if you ever let a four year old paint before, but if you give them all the colors they turn the whole palette into a brown mucky mess.  I, myself, remember turning palettes into brown mucky messes.  So whenever she paints I let her choose two colors, so she ends up with clearer more enjoyable paintings, and a more enjoyable experience.  I remember getting frustrated by my own brown mucky messes.  She made these painting on her own, I did not force her to choose red and pink.  Although I could have...)

I flipped the 'painting' over and grabbed a little wooden heart that was sitting about in my studio, and traced them onto the 'painting.'  I put the hearts in the spots were there was the most paint.

Cookie cutters also work great for tracing.

I glued the cut out hearts down to card stock.  I try to keep a pack of inexpensive around the house.  I'm always surprised how often it comes in handy.

(I am now going to mention that I did this all with kid's safety scissors, because I couldn't find my real scissors.)

The I just cut out each heart leaving a wide-ish border.  I just free hand it, but I suppose you could draw the border if you were not comfortable with free handing.  I just wrote a simple message on the back of each card.  (If I had better handwriting that would have been more awesome.  But I don't.)  Had I been feeling more ambitious I could have written messages on the front.  But I was not ambitious.

There you go, I saved myself a bit of money by using what I already had on hand, and recycled some of my daughter's art.

In case you're wondering, Emma was not upset when I showed the cards to her, she was pretty neutral.  If you were afraid that she would get upset that I had cut up her artwork.  I have never framed it that way, so I'm not sure she even knows she should get upset at that. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Almost There

"A goal without a plan is just a wish."

I finished the first part of my master plan....I 'finished' my studio.

Two attempts at painting and one frantic morning of work and it was done.

This was the first color that I started with:

 The photo on the left doesn't look so bad, but the one on the right does (I took a shot to compare it to the color in my dining room).  Neon green frog boogers.  I can't work in a space like that.

       So I took the paint back to Home Depot and had them add more black and brown, until I was pretty sure that the clerk was going to shank me so I gave up.  At home I added about half a gallon of white and ended up with this relaxing shade of green:

 So Glidden's Celery Sticks went from 'neon green frog boogers,' to a relaxing green tea shade.  I want to take a moment to thank my friend Abby, who was totally encouraging while we painted it, and did not tell me that we were painting my studio 'neon green frog boogers.'

Left: my easel and a painting that I started....I don't know, a long time ago.  That box of supplies will be eventually be broken down and put into the organization cubes you see below.  'But that won't fit in there Lara,' you say.  Oh, I will make it.

Right:  Here you see those cubes.  They are yet to complete.  We bought them off Craigslist, so we need to go buy the actual baskets, to cover up the junk I put in there.  (I've realized it's not about not having junk, just putting the junk in cute containers.)  Those green shelves have play dough, blank paper, stickers, and all manner of crayon for the girls to get out and play with on their own.  Which once I showed it to them they immediately pulled out and plopped on the floor and colored.  I felt very victorious.  Hanging above is a drying live for all the girls paintings.
Left: A drafting table that my lovely neighbors are lending me.  Emma drew on it.  It's very clean now.  Eventually there will be birch trees painted behind it on the wall...
Right: A desk that another friend gave us.  I want to paint it peacock blue....we will see if that happens.  I might just change out the pulls and call it a day.  Behind you see my yoga mat, I actually did yoga in my studio this morning.  It was fabulous.  I would also like to point out that my daughter's Cinderella wand is on the desk, I was told to poof fairies...I am still not sure what that means.  Hopefully there will be shelves above the desk for more storage of junk.  I just saw a cool DIY idea in HGTV magazine with crates....

So now I have my little sanctuary.  This morning while doing yoga I found myself daydreaming about all the projects I can do, each pose flew by as I contemplated the color of the walls and what to hang on them.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Side Table

"A goal without a plan is just a wish."

I proudly posted that quote last week hoping to shame myself into getting more work on my house done.  I did...kinda.  I took some of the junk out of the room that will be my studio...and then filled it with more junk!

No, I painted a side table.  I have a few pieces of Craiglist gold that are waiting in my basement, to be painted with a fresh of some color that I love and placed proudly in my home.  The first to go was this side table.

It appears to have started as an oakey color, some parts white, and then someone painted it this brick red color....but only parts of it.  I don't like that look.  I think because I had an Ikea dresser as a child that was half white and this oak color and it was always breaking.  So I associate it with cheap furniture.  I also think it look lazy, just paint the whole thing.
I love the look of old furniture that has been painted and re-painted, chips in the paint reveal all the layers of history that is written on that piece of furniture.
Coat number one
Coat number two
I started by painting the table in a color that was an epic fail in my dining room.  Behr's 'Red Hot.'  The color is on a little chip, and is in their 'saturated' line, I think that means it's not meant for a whole room.  Oops.   I can post pictures of that 'fail' later.  I didn't bother to prime because I want the paint to keep chipping with natural wear and tear, so why would I apply a substance to the table to keep it adhered if eventually I want it to chip off?

Then I painted it Glidden's 'Peacock Blue.'  This looks way more
Azure than it actually is in real life.  The color is more teal in person.

Note the small child already
playing on it.
They went after it the second I set it up,
like flies on rotten fruit.
 The table painted completely blue.  I immediately realised that my
children are going to play on the table.  I sucked down my urges to
chastise them and send them running.  Mostly because I don't want to
be that fussy Mom.  ('Don't slide on that, you'll ruin your socks!')
Then I when I could think it through, don't I want them to play on it?
Won't that bang it up more and add more to it the distressed feel?  In conclusion the 'shaggy chic' look is great for homes with children.
 I took 100 grit sand paper and sanded the table in strategic places.
I went where I thought natural wear would go, on the edges, knobs, etc. I also just randomly chose spots to sand.  The sanding took down some of the gloss finish on the paint.  I debated varnishing it, but then I thought...I want it to be scratched up, why put on a protective coating?
(This could be an excuse for lazy painting...)
The finished product, complete with stacks of hat boxes
that I have been toting around since college, saving them to use
to decorate the house that eventually I would own....
a modern day version of a hope chest...maybe?

Just a few more scratches!

 The only thing that I wish I had done differently was sand the table before I started painting.  I reasoned that I wanted a beat up look, and sanding helps to adhere the paint to the surface of the old finish.  Glossy finishes are non-porous and have a harder time with adherence.  So you rough it up.  I didn't mind some of the old paint and wood showing through, but what I discovered is that it would sand right down to the old polyurethane finish rather than the coat of 'Red Hot' that I had applied.

While this may not look like progress towards becoming a working artist, it is.  This table finished means that there is just one more project banging around in my head that is done.  One step closer to setting up my studio.