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Archive for the ‘domestic bliss’ Category

A Rainy Sunday Project: Alien “Uglydoll”

lpq

Saturday morning we had breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien, where I tried the Oatmeal with Stone Fruits and Granola to see if it held a candle to my beloved Harvest Porridge. (It was tasty, but it’s no farro porridge.) After a trip to Hecksher Playground, via the most strange entrance to any public playground ever, we found ourselves at the mecca of all things toys, FAO Schwartz.

We followed an unfortunate employee sporting a giant life-size Uglydoll costume to the cars and trucks department. Apparently Jr was fascinated by the Uglydoll. I reminded him that he has one – it’s “out of rotation” in his closet. When we arrived home he was insistent that we immediately find the little green plushie, who was given a place of honor on his pillow.

Yesterday Mr A and I were informed that the Uglydoll was lonely and needed a friend. Because apparently the stuffed dinosaur, crayfish, dog, manatee, gnome, Totoro and robot plus the three plastic bugs that live on his bed are not enough? Regardless, supplies were gathered. Jr was very specific as to the number of eyes (3) and their location, as well as the number of legs (also 3). Mr Apparently made sketches. I was dispatched to the sewing machine, where an old pair of wool pants was dissected and emerged as the alien’s body.

garblidge

Meet the newest member of the menagerie, Garblidge. He eats bug sandwiches.

Remember the Marshmallow?

Some months ago I posted the beautiful little thing that is a single marshmallow roasted over your gas stove burner, resulting in 25 sticky, gooey calories of pure deliciousness.

Last month we were at the ginormous behemoth of fresh grocery retail, Stew Leonards, where we came across this magnificent thing.

You can’t tell from the photo how big these marshmallows are, but here’s a blog post that shows a “giant roaster” next to your garden-variety regular specimen.

Now, my post was supposed to be about how Mr Apparently roasted one of these beauties last week and it was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever eaten. The extra mass means more of those delicious melty internal sugars. At 90 calories this is more of an actual dessert commitment than a guilt-free snack, but since it’s about all one needs to eat post-dinner for an entire evening, it seemed completely worth it.

But tonight I had another one, and I’ve felt ill ever since. Clearly these supersized sugar bombs should not be eaten straight, but rather tempered with some chocolate and graham crackers.

Button, Button

In the center of each of my pincushions is a lovely little button. I’ve been working my way through my grandmother’s stash of vintage and mother of pearl specimens, but I needed to expand my button options. The usual venues, Etsy and eBay, weren’t providing much in the way of interesting lots. One eBay listing I coveted, a pound of buttons from a now-closed Italian button factory, ended when I wasn’t looking. So I was both delighted and dismayed to discover that they had been relisted…but also expanded to five pounds. FIVE. Who needs five pounds of buttons?

Apparently, I do. Reader, I purchased them.

Would you like to see what five pounds of Italian buttons looks like?

five pounds of Italian buttons

I should mention at this point that I love to sort things. I find making order out of chaos very pleasing. And the first thing I did when the buttons arrived was to dump them all out onto the living room rug and begin to sort.

When I had several piles, divided loosely by material, color and appeal, each with myriad subsets based on the actual designs, I realized that I had no way to store the buttons while keeping them sorted. So I sifted the three main piles into zip-top bags and stashed them all away for a few days, during which time I pondered what to do with the buttons. Sell them off? By the pound or in small lots by type? There are some lovely buttons in there that I will never use. Others I will absolutely use, and yet others I may or may not use but I like them enough to keep them around.

Last Friday, Apparently Jr and I sorted the buttons again. I was fascinated to watch him choose those buttons he liked best and search for matches within the giant pile. All the buttons were laid out on a tablecloth on the kitchen table, and at one point we nearly pulled the entire operation onto the floor, but we caught the tablecloth just in time. His delight with this project increased with each match, and then he reached his button-sorting limit. (I’d found a few more little plastic bags in the interim, so our work was not for naught.)

On Tuesday I sat down with some ring blanks and E-6000 adhesive to experiment with the “craft” pile. The results:

button rings

 

Here are two pincushions I’d made that were too small for dishes. Voila! Pincushion rings:

liberty pincushion ring

blossom ring pincushion

Now, what should I do with the remaining 4.75 pounds?

What I Made This Week: Food Edition

I was a vegetarian for twelve years. Even once I started eating meat again, I was not entirely confident about cooking it myself. But the past few years have been full of experiments just leading up to the two giantic-piece-of-meat recipes I made this week. Be sure to read to the end for dessert!

The first recipe was Martha Stewart’s Inside Out “Stuffed” Chicken with Mushroom Dressing from the January (or perhaps February) issue of Living. The stuffing is prepared in an ovenproof skillet, and the chicken sits on top while the whole thing roasts in a 450 degree oven. I couldn’t find any kitchen twine, and all our dental floss is minty and waxed, so I pulled out my precious spool of silk buttonhole twist and tied up that chicken’s legs like a delicate little sewing project.

I’ll confess that while I found rubbing the chicken with softened butter fairly unpleasant, it was nowhere near as distasteful as skinning a whole chicken was for one of my first forays with the slow cooker. And I certainly preferred not having to shove any stuffing into the cavity. Despite being the same brand as my first whole chicken, this one did come with a little bag of parts inside. I considered freezing them for later use, but decided that handling a whole raw chicken was enough bravery for one day. The heart, or whatever dark organ lay limp in that plastic bag, went into the trash.

The chicken turned out delicious, and the stuffing was even better, despite the outer edges coming extremely close to burnt. If you make this recipe, I’d advise letting your stuffing mixture soak thoroughly in the broth so that no dry bread remains before the skillet goes into the oven. Also, you may wish to remove the chicken from the skillet and roast it in a separate pan for the last few minutes, allowing the center portion of stuffing to toast up nicely.

pulled pork

Yesterday I took the slow cooker on its sixth voyage, pulled pork. Overwhelmed by the hundreds of pulled pork recipes available online, I employed the basic recipe from the Crock-Pot manual along with some modifications from the recipes I’d browsed to come up with this simple plan (apologies to the three or four of you who may have read this elsewhere):

  • 1 6-lb. pork butt (which is actually a shoulder, who knew?)
  • 1 bottle of bbq sauce, divided
  • 2 onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 orange, quartered

Scatter one onion on the bottom of the pot, then set the pork on top and cover it with the rest of the onions, orange quarters and half of the bbq sauce. Cook on high for 6 hours, then discard the orange, remove nearly all the bbq/pork juice from the bottom of the crock and shred the meat. Add more bbq sauce until the pork is your desired level of saucy, and keep warm until serving. In our case, this meant with arugula and my favorite Ba-Tampte Bread & Butter pickles on crusty rolls.

The only downside? I had no idea there would be so much connective tissue to remove, but I measure my meat prowess progress by the fact that I was only marginally squicked out. Now, what can I do with the four cups of quasi-broth (minus a disc of congealed fat that Mr Apparently removed this morning) from the pot? It must be good for something.

The pork itself was delicious, and some back-of-the-envelope math – along with a giant pan of leftovers in the fridge – indicates that slow cooking a six-pound pork shoulder at home is radically more cost-efficient than purchasing a 12-ounce package at Trader Joe’s. We’re going to be eating pulled pork for a week. No one is complaining.

a homemade life, by molly wizenberg

What do you do with three over-ripe bananas? We make banana bread. All the time. (Again, do you hear any complaining? Not in my house, where we eat it for breakfast, snacks and dessert.) After reading Molly Wizenberg’s charming memoir, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, I was determined to set aside my trusty old recipe to give her Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger a shot. I’d advise you to do the same. And if you have two helpers – one who knows how to measure and one who likes to pour – it takes only a few minutes to assemble the batter and pop it into the oven. You can get the little one ready for bed while the bread bakes and then have a bedtime snack. I’m not saying that a very full stomach is the reason why my preschooler slept until 8am this morning, but it’s certainly worth a try, no?

Things For Which I Am Thankful

upside down

photo by John Frisbie

Family

Friends, near and far

Washable glue

My Kenmore sewing machine

Shoes with rubber heels that look like wood

Cheese

Facebook (c.f., Friends, far)

The collected works of Jonathan Franzen

The collected works of Richard Scarry

Corrective lenses

Linen

Public transportation

Having a roof over my head

Wool slippers

The taco truck at 40th & QB

Successful communication

Croissants

Decaffeinated coffee

Health insurance

Steam heat

Flea markets

A liberal arts education

The internet

All I Ever Wanted

Mr. Apparently has taken on quite a bit of responsibility at his office lately, and because of deadlines and whatnot it was starting to look like the Apparently family might not take a vacation this year. But a day’s worth of correspondence on the excellent site VRBO.com landed us a charming little vacation house just outside of Woodstock, NY for six days of rest and recuperation.

Outside of cruising down the Canal du Midi on an 8-passenger Dutch barge, this may be the most delightful vacation I’ve ever had.

The house we’ve rented sits in a clearing with plenty of land for nature walks and hide-and-seek. The yard features a swingset and slide for the little one, and out back there’s a wood-fired sauna (where I thought I’d be spending copious amounts of time, but it turns out that I’m impatient and would rather sit by the indoor woodstove with my family than alone in the sauna waiting for it to heat). In the yard we’ve seen chipmunks, mule deer and bats. The sky at night is deep with stars. There’s a washing machine and dryer. City people are easy to please in the country.

The little town of Woodstock, famous for not being the site of any number of concerts, is about two miles away. We haven’t spent much time there, just a couple of brief trips for provisions. I expected to drive into town for a haircut or a massage, or to browse the shops, or just to have some time to myself. Once here, none of that felt necessary.

sunprints

The toy shop sells all sorts of diversions, including such old-fashioned toys as balsa wood gliders and whirligigs. After hours in the yard perfecting our flying skills, it was necessary to bake brownies. We’ve made sunprints and glued leaves to construction paper. In the cupboards of the house we’ve discovered a pasta roller and a popcorn popper. The nearest farm stand sells organic popcorn, and so we spent an afternoon consuming an enormous bowl while teaching the kid to play Go Fish. A huge drawer of VHS tapes meant that he’s learned about (more) deep sea turtles and discovered Fantasia (2000).

Lest you think we’ve become the Little House on the mountain, after our son is asleep we turn on HGTV and watch our guilty pleasure: home-buying shows. We don’t have a tv at home, and lately access to one means hours glued to the screen while couples in L.A. and Ontario decide which to purchase among three homes. I wish they’d shoot one of these shows in New York. Perhaps we just haven’t seen enough episodes.

Our house also offers stacks of literature about sites in the area. You’d think we’d have visited the world’s largest kaleidoscope, the old-fashioned train, the game farm, the farmer’s market, the largest artisan craft shop in the Catskills, FDR’s estate, or the Culinary Institute of America. Not this time. This trip was about roasting marshmallows over the fire pit and tasting local cheeses while lounging barefoot in front of the woodstove.

FDR’s house isn’t going anywhere.

Whip Up: how to grow a crafter

I need to post over my sewing machine Kirsty‘s ways to foster a love of making stuff. And perhaps move the machine into the living room.

Also, this little artist doll with the beret is precious!

2010 guest blogger series: how to grow a crafter with Kirsty » whip up.

Ten Years Ago, I Fell in Love

(with thanks to Woodmouse, who inspired me with her similar post.)

Ten years ago I was living in Boston, two years into sharing a smallish apartment on Beacon Hill with an old friend when he decided to move in with a bunch of guys. (A few months later he was engaged, so I’ve always thought of this as his last hurrah, no?) I was working for a progressive company that bought and managed commercial real estate, and this being 2000, we needed to build a web portal. We hired (the now-defunct firm) BigBad to strategize and build it.

I made several friends while working on this project, and I also discovered that I enjoyed the strategy end of web work more than the client services side of commercial real estate. And I was better at it, too. The leadership at BigBad seemed to realize this as well, and we quietly, subtly began discussing the possibility that I defect. While BigBad was truly the more appropriate place for me to be (albeit briefly), I felt just terrible about leaving Paradigm. This is not a story about my work life, but I must say here that the principal of the real estate company had been most kind and generous to me, first giving me a break as a young woman changing careers and then offering me a great deal of trust and freedom to both succeed and fail, in addition to devoting much time teaching me how to think wisely in a business setting. I still feel badly about leaving.

In the midst of this sea change, I had offered to take in a cat for a BigBad friend who was also moving. As my plans became fuzzy, I suggested that perhaps she look for a different home for the cat.

Stick with me; this is all relevant, and we’re getting to the best part.

One weekend in August, a second BigBad friend and I traipsed all over Cambridge looking at apartments to share. At the end of the weekend, she apologetically told me that she’d decided not to move after all. She handed over the names of various brokers we’d met and promised to be as helpful as she could be. And also, Brian in her office was thinking about moving; maybe we could be roommates. Brian who? I hadn’t met Brian, as he was a programmer, hidden away in the back office far from the steampunky conference room and the blinky retro advertising signs.

She introduced us. He was tall, blonde and reserved. I told him I had a bunch of potential roommate interviews set for that week and would be happy to call him if they didn’t pan out. One did. So I called him anyway, or perhaps I just emailed, and gave him the names of the various brokers we’d met and promised to be as helpful as I could be.

September 1: I hauled my stuff up five flights of crooked stairs to a charming top-floor duplex apartment in the South End. My new roommate worked for an airline and would be away most weekdays. The apartment had a roofdeck and a stunning view. As I was arranging my small roomful of belongings, my new wireless phone rang with an invitation from the BigBad friends to join them for drinks that night. Sure, why not?

Brian and I ended up sitting next to each other. The group of a dozen eventually dwindled to four, and someone suggested going to a bar to listen to live music. The venue was loud, and Brian and I sat on the same side of the table. We had to lean in close just to be heard.  I recall standing at a turnstile in South Station saying, “We should do this again…”

He emailed me funny things. I took two weeks of vacation before switching jobs, during which time I went to my new office for a couple of meetings as my former company became my primary client. One ended with our mutual friend saying, “Let’s all go out for dinner!” But she later bowed out, feeling unwell. A set-up? Perhaps. I was clueless. But Brian and I went to the Good Life. And days later, on September 20, Harvard Gardens. We talked about eyeglasses, strolled through the Public Gardens and kissed on a bench. Five years later he asked me to marry him in the very same spot.

By the time I officially started working at BigBad I was half of a secret couple. (Don’t be shocked: of the forty or so of us who worked there at the time, at least eight of us married each other.) It wasn’t a secret for long.

And the first time I went to Brian’s apartment, he introduced me to Cass, his cat. The same cat I had planned to adopt.

You’ll have to excuse me now; she’s the queen of this house and demands to be fed.

Cass

I Drink Only Decaf Anyway

My friends seem to be in cahoots and think I should open a coffeehouse. Now, it’s true that my neighborhood is devoid of a decent place to get a good cup of coffee, and not one but three coffee spots have closed in the nabe within the past year (two within the past two months).

And it’s true that I have some strong opinions about how a coffeehouse should be run.

But someone’s going to have to give me a very strong argument for why I should hire someone else to raise my child so that I can pull espresso and manage baristas twelve hours a day before I will seriously consider this sort of entrepreneurial career route. Even if – especially if – there is a knitting shop element to this plan. As we say to our son, persuade me. Or, get back to me in five years.

(The state of coffee in NYC is greatly improved of late. Bald and Effective sent me this article from the New York Times that lists 30 places to get a great cup in the city. Not one is in Sunnyside, but one is in Long Island City, a leisurely 25-minute walk away.)

Go ahead, convince me. I’ve suggested to more than one of you that the first step is to find out the rent on the Daco Romano space and/or any of the other empty storefronts in the neighborhood, and no one has presented me with any numbers. If you’re serious, dangle some useful information. Who knows…I might just take the bait.

On the other hand, it took me many, many years to understand that just because you think you can do something better doesn’t mean that you should.

felt coffee cup by me, actually. it’s a prototype. more to come.

From the Mouths of Babes

What’s a blog? There was a huge snowman right next to our building. Our building apartment. A gigantic snowman. One of the trees fell down, maybe its trunk broke or something. It was very windy when I got to Lou Lodati Park. We bought some marshmallows and some cocoa and some hot chocolate. I like my marshmallows plain – not fried, not roasted. We’re having a blog.”

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