Monday, February 27, 2012

Illustration Friday: capable

This week's theme is "capable," which reminded me of a trip of DH and Little One going kite-flying. I wasn't able to go with them, but this is what I imagine it was like.

Raising a child

Here are a few guidelines for raising a child in the modern world from a great child-raiser (my mother). Thought I'd share if anyone can benefit from this!

1. Your child should be your first priority. Give him/her unconditional love.

2. Protect the child against normal hazards, but also insidious things

- never make your child feel guilty
- don't threaten them or use fear
- don't make promises you can't keep

3. Be age-appropriate with your child. Don't expect them to understand things only older children would..

4. Decide what your limits will be on the most important issues and don't compromise on them

- For example, stick to a bedtime and have a routine before it
- Don't change those limits just because you are at a party or have people over, unless it's really a special occasion

5. Give your child rituals, festivals, and traditions. They need a routine and consistency.

- Teach them slokams and songs, take them to church/temple, give them a cultural context
- Do what was important to you as a child - share your beliefs
- Do things you can show and in which the child can participate

6. Make sure kids play with others at their friends' houses

- Realize that your friends' kids may not be your kids' best friends
- Besides relatives and outside friends, make sure kids have friends from school
- Organize play dates
- Try to expose them to different backgrounds, not just other Indians or people from your economic class

7. Spend at least 1/2 hr three times a week with your child to teach them something

- Try your traditional language or music or some other activity
- Share something you know and love that you want them to learn

8. Hug and kiss your child at least once a day

9. Don't put each other down in front of the child. Show a united front.

- The person who is good with discipline should communicate the decision
- Don't back down or send mixed messages!

10. Be laid back about your kids' growth and achievements.

- Don't go by books or what society expects. Each child has different capabilities and interests.
- Skip all the charts and recommended goals and millions of activities.

11. Give your children some unstructured alone time.

- This is time for creativity and imagination
- No tv, no video games
- Really, leave them alone for it and don't interfere or stifle.

(I should note: if I could follow all these all the time, I'd consider myself a perfect parent, which I am most definitely not!)

Seven things

Even more - went through part of my bookshelf and more kids' stuff:

  1. More stacking blocks - tiny holes. Wonder what they went with?
  2. a couple of trains (extras)
  3. extra train parts - bridges, telephone poles
  4. old notebooks with music in them, don't need them anymore
  5. extra music books - not sure why I have 3 copies of the same book!
  6. a velvet dress - this dress was worn at my 8th grade formal. It was loose back then. Oddly after taking out all the darts I can just barely squeeze into it (it's super tight and would rip if I sat down, I'm sure, plus not at all flattering anymore...)
  7. a wireless router - we had to upgrade (gotta blog!)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Seven things

Little One just inherited a whole pile of wooden and other toys from his cousins, which means I have to double up the emptying to make room for the new. Starting with the toys and kiddie stuff:

  1. mattress pad - not to say potty training is over
  2. 3 little cars a friend gave
  3. 2 little soccer balls from the above - letting him keep one
  4. toy fire station - untouched these days
  5. wooden blocks - donated all the ones that wouldn't fit in his block box
  6. lots of toy stacking pieces (sans poles)
  7. misc toy bits

Friday, February 24, 2012

Seven things

A little more digging. I'm trying to find a different place around the house each day - a corner, a drawer, etc to go through. Sometimes two. It's amazing what I was clinging to until just now.

  1. cosmetics accessories - brushes, a sharpener, little container, that sort of thing
  2. a little eyeglass bag - unused
  3. a lumpy candle holder i made in my pottery days - was being used to hold bangles (see previous!)
  4. face-blotting tissues - remember those?
  5. 3 pairs of toddler shoes, worn and outgrown
  6. Little One's jacket - aww, too small
  7. crib sheet - yes, he still uses those

Seven things

Still more...

  1. chopsticks - about 10 saved for a project like this, which is totally cool, but i really don't have the wherewithal to do it now :)
  2. some labels - for bottles, gifts, have too many. anyone want them?
  3. 3 jars of food things: salt-cured lemons, orange marmalade, salty-ginger pieces (just can't eat those)
  4. 2 shot glasses - not even mine, and outgrown
  5. a few fabric pieces - i was using them as placemats but now i have way too many
  6. bangles - i went through, and all i managed to relinquish was a set of orange sparkly ones that poke a bit. a start.
  7. hair accessories - extra rubberbands, a scrunchie (who wears those?), headband, hair clips

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Seven things

More. I may be obsessed with clutter now. It appears the nesting phase is gone!

  1. two golden bangles - I just have too many, but I'm loath to toss them (yet)
  2. bag of pretty glass pieces - got them free. they were intended for the garden. Just can't find a place to use them.
  3. a couple pairs of earrings, a necklace, a bracelet (to my sister, and a silver pair back to my mom, to be repurposed)
  4. two pretty jewelry boxes - now that I have a little less jewelry to store
  5. paper punch - makes pretty flowers, but sticks a little. used for what i need, time's up.
  6. extra envelopes - saved from mailings and junk mail. even i, a letter-writer, have too many. plus, it's more fun to make your own.
  7. small ball of twine - i have another large one

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Illustration Friday: fluid

This week's Illustration Friday topic: fluid. It's been a while since I did any monochromatic work aside from pen/pencil, but the topic inspired it. I like to draw like this, without too much forethought and let the drawing take itself where it wants to go. Sometimes it's an object, sometimes just a fluid design, like water swirling into the corners.

Birthday banner

A little craftiness. After the last craft exchange, I picked up a series of little strips of paper in various designs and color (reversible). I cut them into rectangles and added letters from some recycled raffle tickets. Sewn together, then folded up, they make a gift that's small enough to put in an envelope and send in the mail in time for a special day.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Seven things

Another set from the purge.

  1. more containers - some old ones I'd been saving for making more lotion, but really, I have enough
  2. henna powder - i fear i will never do this. plus i had way too much
  3. pretty papers that I was saving for cards and scrapbooking. again, just too much.
  4. some more fabric bits - time for them to be free
  5. extra stickers - clipped from those "free" address labels - off to some worthy children
  6. the little velvet over-robe or stole from my graduation - wow, and it's been years!
  7. bag of colorful pompoms - after being fed to plastic dinosaurs, they are gone.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Seven things

I'm in decluttering mode again, really rethinking things in terms of a "use it or lose it" mode. It's been helpful to look at what another person may use and what really has just been taking up space.

  1. various boxes and containers - I was saving these up for a project but they are going to Little One's school for a play store, what a great idea!
  2. recipes - I have a folder full of clipped recipes. These are the ones I'll never make. I hope they make someone else's stomach happy.
  3. kid clothes - outgrown ones, to Little One's younger cousin
  4. flower hair clip - as a gift to a little girl who promptly put it on herself and looked adorable in it
  5. a bag of things my sister left
  6. more old calendars
  7. a stack of kids' activity papers

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Seven things

Seven more - mostly to various people who want to do arts and crafts, or to schools looking for supplies

  1. plastic containers - some I just don't need anymore
  2. extra pair of knitting needles (to a little girl learning to knit!)
  3. tiny fabric scraps - to a crafter
  4. some fabric samples - to another crafter
  5. black boots that are peeling (ahh vinyl)
  6. blackberry case (DH's, was lying around, he now owns an iPhone)
  7. cloth bag - as part of a gift

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Homemade ravioli

Now that I have a bit of pasta-making under my belt, I decided to try my hand at ravioli.

Little One LOVES ravioli. There was a time he would ask for it for breakfast. He loves that it can be finger-food. I like that there are veggies built in!

Another from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, though the pasta recipe is a standard vegan one (repeated below for clarity). I made a double-batch for about 50 ravioli - enough to last quite a while. You can find a pasta maker at a thrift store cheap.

Vegan pasta
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
dash salt
1T olive or vegetable oil
1/2-1 cup water

Mix flours and salt. Add oil and 1/2 cup water and mix. Add water by teaspoons until all the pieces come together without being sticky. Knead very briefly. Cover with a damp towel and rest for 20 minutes. Divide into 3 balls and rest another 15 minutes.

For ravioli:
Flatten a ball to 1/2 inch and then press through the pasta maker.until you get to the thinnest setting, or the thinness you want. Cut into strips 2-2 1/2 inches wide (I used 2 1/4 inches) and then into rectangles double the length (eg 2 1/2 inches by 5 inches). Dot each with a teaspoonful of filling. Dip your finger in water and rub around the edge of each piece, then fold in half and press with fingers (you may also wish to use the edge of a blunt fork for a pretty edge).

You can store these in the fridge for a couple of hours, but it's better just to freeze them if you want to wait any longer. Because they are fresh, they should cook in about 4 minutes in boiling water. Serve with any sauce, such as a vegan-butter or white sauce or marinara, or even just with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

The filling I made:

Butternut squash filling
1 butternut squash
2T Earth Balance
salt and pepper
1/2 cup vegan parmesan/white miso (I used a combination, but you can use all parmesan)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, brush cut edges with oil, and bake cut side down in a dish with a little water at 375oF for 30-40 minutes. Scoop out flesh and mash with Earth Balance until smooth. Season well with salt and pepper, then add parmesan and breadcrumbs until smooth. Chill until you need to use it. You can also make this the day before.

Extra filling can be frozen or used to make a great pasta sauce.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Udon with 5-spice tofu and stir fry

This is a recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I love five-spice tofu. Hodo Soybeanery makes an amazing one that costs about $5. But I made my own because I am cheap (with their medium tofu):

Five spice tofu
1/2 package/block medium or firm tofu, cubed
fennel powder
clove powder
anise powder (or star anise, powdered - be sure it really is star anise!)
peppercorn (I never have Scezhuan, so I use regular) powder
ground cinnamon
soy sauce
sugar/brown sugar
sesame oil (or veg oil/peanut oil)

If you don't have the dry spice powders, mix the whole spices together and grind together. You can also do some and not the others, it's fine!
Put the tofu (sans any water) in a container that has a tight-fitting lid (a reused yogurt container or tupperware will do). Add a few tablespoons soy sauce and about 1/2-1 tsp of each of the dry spices plus 1 tablespoon of sugar. Close the lid and give it a good shake. Stick it in the fridge for 1/2hr up to 1 day.

Remove and spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle with sesame oil. Bake at 350oF for about 30 minutes until golden brown and firm outside.

As you can see, I was able to get the noodles in a straight line to dry on a kitchen towel this time (look, ma, one hand!):

Here are the vegetables (they might be good with rice on their own):

And the complete dish:

Finally, the wildly modified recipe. Shocking, but I had an unopened jar of hoisin sauce in the house. The original used peanut oil, red peppers and mushrooms for the veggies, and there was an additional 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste in the sauce, which I omitted because Little One is mildly allergic. You can add them back :) but they were pretty amazingly good without. It took me about an hour to make the noodles, bake the tofu, and make the veggies and toss with noodles, all together (without Little One underfoot, however!). After 2 adults and a child ate, there was enough leftover for lunch the next day.

Udon with Stir-fry and five-spice tofu

1/3 cup water or vegetable stock
3 T hoisin sauce
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped finely (add more if your kid can handle the spice)
1 T grated lemon zest (or lemongrass)

1 7-8oz package udon, or a batch of vegan noodles
2 T oil (sesame, peanut, veg)
1/2 package five spice tofu, or your own
2 medium leeks, white or light green parts only, julienned
2 carrots, sliced diagonally
1/2 bunch collards, sliced thinly into strips
coarsely chopped cilantro for garnish

Mix all the sauce ingredients together and set aside.

Cook noodles in plenty of boiling water 5-7 minutes (fresh noodles will cook faster).

Meanwhile, heat wok with oil until hot. If using store-bought tofu, stir fry in the oil until it sizzles then set aside and leave oil for veggies. Stir fry leeks, carrots and collards for 1-2 minutes until leeks are softened and add a few pinches salt. Add tofu (if homemade) and sauce. Stir fry another minute and then turn off. Taste for salt.

When noodles are done, pick them up out of the water and let them drip briefly. Add them to the veggies and stir. (This way, you can add more or less according to how saucy you like your noodles!) Garnish with cilantro.

Drain and save any remaining noodles, of course, and save the pasta water for a soup!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Vegan Pierogies

I have previously waxed ebullient about Post Punk Kitchen, one of my fave places to find vegan recipes. It has it all - sweets, remakes of non-vegan things, and dishes I've never even considered making, even in my pre-vegan days.

So it is with these vegan pierogies (sorry, pierogi). I only looked into it because my friend Lisa suggested that it would be a good quick, frozen lunch option for Little One.

Little did I know what I was getting into. It's not complicated to make, but does take various steps, such as:
  • making the potato stuffing
  • caramelizing the onions
  • making the dough and cutting circles
  • filling the circles and boiling them
I did steps 1 and 2 in advance, and 3 and 4 together, though in retrospect I wish I had made the dough in advance. Step 4 is by far the most fun for me, though Little One had fun with step 3, making circles with the glass and eating raw dough (thank goodness for no raw eggs, or yeast!).

I changed the recipe in a couple of ways: I used probably less onions in the filling than called for, and more importantly, I substituted rutabaga for potato, because it's rutabaga season at my CSA. It gave it a slightly sweeter taste. The caramelized onions are also red onions (Little One says purple, and that they taste like raisins). I served several of them with those on top and a spoonful of leftover filling.

I only wish I had used some whole wheat flour. Perhaps next time. There will definitely be a next time, because these somehow inexplicably make a simple, satisfying but phenomenal meal. Oohs and mms went around the table.

This recipe made about 40 pierogi, plenty for all of us (though we ate about 10 each, including Little One, unheard of!) plus a few leftover to be frozen for a future delightful lunch to which I am already looking forward.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Illustration Friday: popularity

After a long and interesting discussion about social media today, I tuned in to Illustration Friday to find today's topic: popularity. The definition seems to have changed!

Here's my take.

Sprouted bread

I have loved the sprouted bread that is sold in the refrigerated section at the store - it's rich and dense, like European bread,  almost always vegan, and tastes fresh and crunchy.

So I thought I'd make my own, following this recipe. Simple enough. I had some wheat berries from Full Belly Farm, soaked them and sprouted them until they were delightful little wheat sprouts (pretty tasty on their own). I ground it into some sort of paste with some added water, shaped it into a sticky, messy loaf, and baked it.

The results were not sufficient even to call a JOT. This was a disaster. It looked great outside, but there were still whole pieces of wheat, and the inside was still sticky and gooey. It was crunchy and gooey and chewy all at once - not bread.

In the future, I may need a real grinder, not my supposedly-powerful blender. Surprisingly, Little One liked the taste at first - quite surprisingly sweet despite not adding any yeast or sweetener! I will put this on hold as a future project when I have the right tools. Has anyone else tried this? Any tips?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

JOT #35: Homemade noodles

Once a week, we have noodles for lunch or dinner. Not pasta, but noodles. The distinction is in the seasonings - usually asian-inspired, with vegetables and some spiciness and most often some soy or similar sauce, with or without tofu.

But many of the noodles (Top Ramen, Maggie) not only contain MSG but are not very healthy. Add that to their excessive packaging (plastic packet, plus little foil packets of seasoning), and this is not a sustainable meal.

I decided to try my hand at making noodles. I followed a simple vegan pasta noodle recipe: 1 cup semolina flour, 1 cup all-purpose, a dash of salt, then mix in 1 T olive oil (I used the good stuff). Add water (recipe said 1/2 cup but I ended up with more like 3/4) and knead briefly.

Then it goes in the pasta machine. This is where the real trick is. I could have chickened out and tried it by hand but that would be dangerous and potentially disastrous.

I found a system that finally worked, and cut some fine noodles on the machine. They came out somewhere between ramen and angel-hair pasta - square rather than smooth, with edges that would catch some sauce. No smell of plastic. I let it dry for half an hour (or more) before cooking. Since I didn't have extra hands to help me hang up the pasta, it sort of melded into a big ball, which later separated when cooking. With some broccoli, carrots, and black bean garlic sauce (yes, purchased and leftover), it was fantastic and leftovers disappeared the next day. Well worth the effort.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Embroidery cards

I saw somewhere (I think here, which I love!) a set of embroidery cards - little cards with hand-drawn designs onto which you can wind your embroidery floss or extra bits of thread. My new favorite gift to get/give for the crafty among us! They even have a little slit in the corner to tuck the end in so it doesn't get lost.

How to make: fold a 2 x 3" piece of paper in half and round the corners, then cut curved pies out of the two corners to make the u-shaped parts for the thread. Unfold and use as your template on cardstock (or better, recycled parts of cards - I used old scrapbook paper). Draw your designs along the edges. Cut a short slit (1/2 inch at most) in one corner of each card.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

JOT #34: Amazing reusables

I've talked a bit about cool reusable things, like handkerchiefs and baby wipes and napkins, but here are some even more inspired things that can reduce your use of disposable products even further:

  • tea bags - Loose-leaf tea is the most eco-friendly, or herbs from your garden. A strainer often works, but when it doesn't, consider a little muslin or cotton bag you can dangle from a chopstick. You can also sew your own tea into a fine cloth teabag with a drawstring - just empty and rinse out.
  • coffee filters - sew your own from a bit of muslin or cheesecloth. Yse a double-width, using a paper filter as a template - just wash and use. Or you can get a gold filter that's reusable as well.
  • produce bags - reuse an old orange or onioin bag, buy a mesh bag, or make your own out of an old tshirt! (see here)
  • bulk bin bags - for flour and other fine bulk-bin dry goods, you need a bag that won't let powder through - these are made of ripstop nylon that is food safe. You can get some nylon and sew your own, or use any really tightly woven fabric (then transfer your foodstuff to a reusable jar)
  • scrubbies - reuse bits of orange and other bags or plastic loofahs along with some yarn to crochet up a good kitchen scrubbie. You can also just cover a sponge with the material for good scrubbin'.
  • cotton face pads - forget the throwaways with a bit of flannel blanket-stitched around the edges, or knit or crochet a circle with cotton yarn.
  • wicks - if you use wicks for candles or lamps, save bits of string and twine, then just dip them in oil or melted wax
  • tape - make your own tape from bits of paper or plastic and glue, or just use glue. save all those tiny bits of plastic and paper altogether by using ribbon or wrapping your gift in cloth or putting it in a bag.
  • ziplock bags - give up the plastic bag habit by switching to small snack bags made out of wipeable fabric or cloth you can throw in the wash. Sandwiches can be wrapped, dry snacks in cloth bags, fruit in nylon bags, or just use reusable containers!
  • juice boxes - turn the old juice boxes in to Terracycle, then get a small stainless steel water bottle or thermos or glass bottle to fill with (diluted) juice.
  • garbage bin liners - reuse your old plastic bags until you run out, then start lining your bin with paper. You can skip the whole step by just using the trash as usual and rinsing it out when needed as well.

What other reusable items do you use?

Seven things

A few more items disappeared (though several others came in as well...augh)

- a top (to my mom)
- pair of armwarmers I knitted (to sister)
- various ties (from my dad, then out again!)
- yarn
- fabric scraps
- ribbon
- more rice bags (all these to various crafters)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Illustration Friday: suspense

This is to illustrate "Suspense," this week's word for Illustration Friday. The word made me immediately think of a Buddhist story.

In the story, a monk falls off a cliff (in one version he is chased off the cliff by a tiger) and falls, about to be dashed on the rocks below, only to catch a branch that is sticking out of the rock. Unfortunately, a rat is gnawing off the branch. The monk sees a beautiful strawberry growing in the side of the rock, and plucks it and eats it.

It's a story about really enjoying the moment, wherever you are, and however dire the circumstances.

In my sketch, I drew some fruit on the tree instead (it's only fair to offer him more than one opportunity to eat what could be his last meal!). He is at bliss.

JOT #33: Share the bounty

A group of lovely people I know had the brilliant idea of sharing produce from their gardens! Now they organize a monthly share of produce in our area: people bring in their fruits, vegetables, seedlings, seeds, garden tools, books, even preserves and anything else garden-related (or sometimes not!) for all to share. Each person takes what they need so that everything has a home at the end!

If you don't have a garden share near you, you can start one, or share in other ways. Sometimes when we have extra apples we leave them by the sidewalk for passers-by to take for munching, or give them to neighbors. Occasionally neighbors and friends will share their spices and extra dry goods in exchange for our fresh lettuce, or something else, or just to be friendly.

Sometimes there is a basket of extra fruit at Little One's school for the taking, or holiday gifts made of garden herbs. A friend might bring backyard flowers as a housewarming bouquet, or serve an herbal tea with freshly-picked mint.

We give each other these little gifts and exchanges as tokens of our friendship, and as ways to come together. However small our gardens, I wish that we might all share the bounty.

Seven more things

- 3 drawer fronts - the pulls and boxes reused
- 2 picture frames with the glass gone
- an unused (never will use) address book
- extra recycled notebooks
- broken solar light
- single, holey socks
- tshirt products (bags and yarn made from them)

Friday, February 03, 2012

Seven things

A good garage-top-shelf cleaning:

- book about the Vatican - charming book from a neighbor, but we're done
- a stained rug - overused!
- breadmaker, no longer used
- MovieBeam - I think it doesn't even exist anymore
- sawhorse - some plans to make a cradle out of it, now defunct
- ottoman covers - for an ottoman we never bought
- Mac Photoshop CD - from my dad

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

JOT #32: Re-cycle

I'm back to using the bicycle after a holiday hiatus. I'm taking the Little One to preschool regularly now, and life has changed.

In a bike, you can't be listening to music or snacking on breakfast, making a last-minute phone call. If you want to talk to each other, you have to yell and can't have a real conversation. For all these reasons, it may be unappealing to some. But for me, it's a different kind of easy.

We ride along, mostly in silence, swaying with the road. When there's a bump, I know the trailer will feel it too. We see the same trees and the road. We are watching and humming to ourselves and taking in the neighborhood. We are both day-dreaming and feeling the wind on our faces.

A jolt from a bump in the road. "Sorry!" I yell back behind me. "The road is bumpy," he starts to complain, but the rest of his complaints are drowned out by the breeze. Instead we both watch the leaves scutter by, the dog on the sidewalk, the workers remodeling a house. We turn the corner to home.

The rest of the day will be a flurry of activity, but for ten minutes, we communed in silence.

(If you haven't dusted off your bike, now's the time!)

Seven things

Over the last 2 days

- a top
- a dupatta
- extra decorative papers
- a few stretches of fabric
- small plastic storage bags
- some fabric samples (to mom)
- stickers and trinkets (out in letters)