The holiday season always send me into cooking and crafting overdrive. In some ways having kids has amplified that (so many things I want to share with them) but at the same time it's also slowed me way down in terms of what I actually have time to accomplish. Pre-kids, by this time of year I would have already had a small assembly line of homemade food gifts–chutneys, preserves, pasta sauces plus whatever crafts I was currently into–soap, bath salts, etched glassware…the list goes on. Now post-kids, I usually try to focus on just one main project for the season plus doing some smaller craft and baking projects with the kids. But every once in awhile I break down and just have to squeeze in an extra impulsive project.
Ever since the fall chill (finally!) was in the air, I've been wanting to felt some wool and make slippers for the boys. So yesterday I went to the local Goodwill and picked up a cute olive green wool snowflake sweater for a couple dollars. Came home and tossed it in the washer on hot. It didn't quite felt up as well as I'd hoped, so I boiled it on the stovetop for a few minutes, washed again and then tossed it in the dryer for good measure. Finally it was small and stiff as a board. Perfect!
I used a cute Burda pattern which you can download for free and printed it at 75% which was perfect for the boys' small feet. A friend and her son joined us and we were able to cut three small pairs out of the one sweater, including double thicknesses for the soles (which I would definitely recommend – one layer of felt is way too floppy).
The top of the slippers is actually the wrong side of the snowflake pattern that ran across the top of the sweater. I actually liked the abstract graphic look of the backside better and it also makes the slippers less seasonal.
The boys love their new slippers so much they asked if they could wear them to bed. As if making them hadn't been satisfying enough!
Started my day today by making homemade almond milk. So much nuttier and tastier than the usual stuff in the box. It made a satisfying (if non-traditional) Latte Macchiato to accompany my scrambled eggs and flax seed toast.
Then a friend and I took our kids on a great bike ride through Golden Gate Park with a picnic lunch at Stow Lake. It was such a perfect fall day in the city–sunny, blue skies, but quite crisp and breezy too.
After many hours of biking and being in the fresh air, I was in the mood for a hearty autumn meal. This week a friend sent us samples of the special lard-type Mangalitsa pork from his company Wooly Pigs in Seattle. Perfect. When I started thinking about what to serve with it, I got an idea from the audio CD we were listening to in the car on our way home.
For the last few months we’ve been reading (and listening to) the whole Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” series of books. I really love all the detailed descriptions of the pioneer lifestyle (though that sometimes includes delicate topics like “Injuns” that have to be talked through!).
We’re currently in the middle of “Farmer Boy”(about Almanzo Wilder) which has lots of wonderful details about food and cooking. One of Almanzo’s favorite things to eat was fried apples and onions. That sounded like an ideal compliment to pork. (BTW, I recently learned there is also a “Little House Cookbook” with recipes for all the frontier foods described in the books. I’m very curious to check that out soon.)
Then looking through my pantry, my eyes focused right in on the box of hominy grits. After searing the pork chops I braised them in a bottle of Hefeweizen, and grits would be the ideal absorption medium for that yummy pork-wheat beer reduction!
I’m surprised I even have the energy to be writing this post after such a hearty meal. It was unbearably good. If you can get your hands on some Mangalitsa pork, I definitely recommend it. The meat has a rich, woodsy flavor and the fat–ah, the fat–is frankly, a reason for living.
The last few weeks have been all about the Halloween costumes. Of course the kids' first requests were for all the horrible commercial characters I can't seem to screen out of their radar no matter how hard I try–Spiderman etc. But once we got past that I was happy that both of them came up with fun, imaginative costume ideas–a king cobra and a jellyfish. I'm pretty sure the jellyfish idea came from the crazy jellyfish invasion we had at our local beach a few months ago, and king cobras, well I guess they're just cool and mean!
The cobra costume was definitely the more challenging project to figure out (the conceptual design always comes easily but then I really struggle with the "engineering" and pattern-making). The illuminated jellyfish was a lot of fun and came together better than I expected. At the last minute (literally, this afternoon) I decided to also give the cobra a little more 'wow" by giving him light-up eyes (LEDs that I wired to a small battery pack). Also a nice safety bonus when trick-or-treating!
The boys and their best friend had fun making soft pretzels today. We followed a recipe from The Frantic Home Cook and they came out great!
The kids love spotting animals in the yard so I made them "animal logs"–notebooks with photos and names of all the animals we regularly see out the window of our house. My initial idea was just to encourage their interest and curiosity about nature and the environment but an educational side bonus was teaching them to count by tallying (the background of tally marks is also really interesting.)
Took the kids to our local SF Bay beach and was shocked to find a jellyfish invasion along the shore. We've seen the occasional one there before, but never anything like the hundreds (thousands?) we saw today. I did a quick Google search to see if there was any kind of seasonal or ecological reason for it but couldn't find anything. Any marine biologists out there who can tell me what's going on?
Slept outside in the garden with the kids last night. They've slept in tents when camping but this was the first time in the open air for them. They were so thrilled and surprised (and a bit dubious!) when I suggested it. It was a really still, warm evening with an almost full moon (hard to sleep it was so bright.) After the kids fell asleep I lay there staring at the sky for a long time, thinking about all the other people staring up at the same sky. And all the other places in the world where I'd like to be staring up at the sky. Romantic thoughts…