Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Anika!

My adorable niece, all curls and screams, turned two yesterday. And in celebration of that two-ness, I knit her the cutest dress ever designed in seasonally appropriate colors.

This pattern is called Fiona's Top and is available for online purchase and download (sometimes) here (or on The best part? I made it an extra few inches long and now it's not Fiona's Top, but Anika's Dress.

Also, since the shoulders are so roomy, she should be able to wear it for the next two it becomes first a tunic and then a top! Three cheers for clothes you can grow into/with.

The pattern is an easy enough thing to work with, once you get the lace pattern down (which took me about four frogs. But then it's smooth sailing).

Also, a big shout-out to Knit Picks and their stroll glimmer yarn. It has silver stuff in it, which makes it festive and girly and all around awesome. And it's washable wool. Perfect.

Happy birthday, Sweet One who is Two! Here's to skirt-twirling fun.

Friday, December 9, 2011


If my face was an ornament.

I was in St. Petersburg, Florida last week on business. I would highly recommend flying (for free) to Florida in December. Case in point: It was forty degrees and raining in Seattle when I left, and almost 75 and sunny in Florida when I arrived.

I might add that at a certain point during my stay I did start to complain about the pore-filling, brain-sweating humidity, but that Joe (who had just walked two dogs through the wind and rain and cold) wasn't very sympathetic.

Apparently the North Pole is in St. Petes, Florida

A little back story: I grew up in Minneapolis, where Christmas (and Thanksgiving, and often Halloween too) were accompanied by snow and finger-numbing, thigh-burning cold.  Christmas is a time for hot buttered rum, brisk walks in long underwear, and snow forts.

In fact, I would be so bold as to put forth this simple equation: Snow = winter. (As my friend Sam Cook would say: "That's math.")

So imagine my surprise when I arrive in St. Pete's to find a winter wonderland scene made up of wooden cutout figures and sparkly lights.

Don't worry my dear Jewish readership--the park was not all pagan tree and Santa-themed: there was a light-up Hanukkah section in the park too--complete with menorah and dreidel.

(Also, for those of us who associate Christmas with baseball(?), there was a large light-up Santa batting at a pitch from an elf.)

But no snow.

Except for the next day: there was snow. The city carted in 7 tons of snow, packed it on top of sand (for insulation) in the park, and let the children play in it/slide on it. This sounds awesome, yes? Yes. But I don't have any pictures of it because I was in a ballroom learning stuff.

Scratch that. My father (who serendipitously was also in St. Pete's at the same time) has photos. Here is one:
photo of crazy metal, sand, tarp sledding hill courtesy of my father

But on to my next point: ice. In Minneapolis, the lakes (there are 10,000 of them) freeze in the winter and we all go skating. People play ice hockey. They play broom ball (which actually requires boots, not skates, but still--ice).

And when we're not using the outdoor ice, well, there's indoor ice.

Not so in Florida.

No shoes on glice. We will provide free socks to wear though, cuz it's 77 degrees out and you're in flip flops.

In Florida we (they) have Glice. Glice is apparently plywood sprayed with silicone. Which makes it slippery, not unlike real ice.

Glice, unlike ice, doesn't melt. (Which is good when it's December and 77 degrees and super super humid.)

Glice in action. It's shiny.
For a few measly dollars (please note that santa and sledding were free, but Glice is not.) you can either a) put on the provided white tube socks or b) strap on ice skates (not sure if they were rentable or if you had to bring your own) and slide/skate around on the plywood the size of my living room. (For those of you who haven't been in my house: I live in a condo, and my living room isn't very big.)

For the seventeen minutes I stood at the Glice fence and watched the skaters with my mouth open wide in stupefied amazement, I noted that those on the Glice were having a very difficult time negotiating any sort of gliding or sliding or skating on the Glice.

This appeared to be user error, and not the fault of the Glice, since during the seventeen minutes said skaters were getting microscopically better in their glicing.

This is all to say: wow. I just had no idea.

And good work, Florida. Good work to bring snow and (gl)ice to your citizenry lest they have a warm, sad holiday season.

Also, I now continue this post with additional photos of me in the "photo area" with the cutout holiday scene.

What I would look like as a Christmas tree.

The Christmas Penguin of Cheer.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Butter. Cream.

You're probably getting tired of me telling you that every thing I make with the daring bakers was better than the last thing.  But, I'm sorry, it's just true.

Blog-checking lines: Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.

the almond dacquoise all ready to go
Take for example this month's challenge: the Sans Rival. Apparently this is a Filipino dessert, and to the Philippines, I say thank you.  (And a big thank you to the Filipinos who studied abroad in France, where they learned to make this cake.)

Also, I should note that this dessert is traditionally made (by Filipinos) with cashews, but I don't love a cashew, so I used almonds and flavored my buttercream with almond extract too. (You can never have too much almond.) (Turns out, many people make this dessert with almonds. So I was right on.)

the first layer of dacquoise all baked and ready to be enrobed in butter. cream.

For the first time, I got to make dacquoise and the most ridiculous buttercream frosting ever. Dacquoise is whipped egg whites with nuts, which you bake into four crunchy layers, and the butter cream is...well...butter that is creamed with egg yolks and hot melted sugar.  Fair enough?

The best part? (Well, besides the butter cream and the almond dacquoise, of course.)

The whole thing is gluten free!  And not just the "let's use a medley of weird flours instead of wheat flour to make a cake that our gluten-free friends can eat" but just naturally gluten-free!

This turned out to be the best challenge of all for Thanksgiving week, since my Thanksgiving family is gluten-free. (But, thankfully, not butter-free.)  This meant I got to bring dessert, which I usually leave to my more-experienced gluten-free bakers in the group.  And bringing dessert is what this girl is all about.


frosted and stacked. not that pretty yet.
I had one minor screw up with this recipe, and it goes like this: the cake has four layers. (4!) I only have two round cake pans. No worries, the recipe says, just make sure the pans are re-buttered and floured and not too hot when you make the second round of cake layers.


When I went to pour my batter into the second round of cake pans, my stiffed-peaked whipped goodness was a soggy mess.

Stupidly (I soon learned), I put the mixer back to work on it to fluff it up some more. (This sort of works with whipped cream, but apparently NOT with dacquoise. The more I mixed, the soupier it got. Soon, I had a watery, almond-y, mess.)

Long story short: I had to send Joe out for more eggs and more almonds (On Thanksgiving morning, no less). And I had to make a half recipe of the cake to get two more layers.
an inside look at the layers
Also, the buttercream recipe makes just enough to frost this puppy. It's really okay, because you don't need any more than provided, but you have to use it sparingly between the layers. Trust me, it will all work out if you keep a clear head (and your husband's fingers out of the bowl).

Lastly, after you assemble this puppy, put her in the refrigerator. She'll cut a lot easier when she's cold.

All this to say: oh my. This is an amazing cake. The dacquoise has a bit of crunch but, after sitting in the frosting for some time, it ends up a bit noughat-y. And soft and wonderful. But mostly you're so busy enjoying the butter cream that you don't even care what it's wrapped around.

The cake making might be a bit finicky, and it uses 10 eggs (15 if you screw it up like I did) but SO SO SO good. It's worth it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Christmas List

In case you're looking for things to get me. Or things to get other cool cats.

1. Tiny, tiny earrings.

2. Bubble calendar. Um, hello? A bubble to pop for each day? Sign me up.

3. Long arm-warmers. Colors? You know, brown, green, whatever.

4. Tiny instant-photo camera. Because Polaroid is no more.

5. Paper mache animal head. Because we can.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Things I forgot...

I've been looking through old photos and found a few gems I forgot to show you...

This pillow is cute, but may not be so comfortable to lean on...

shameless detail close up shot

t-shirt scrap rose! how fabulous is that?

tiny fish button, thus the discomfort


birthday card, celebrating a monumental year

namely, my mother's 60th birthday present and its corresponding card!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


don't use roasted almonds. they're not white.

Did you know you can blanch your own almonds? And that it's so easy?

Thank you Marcella Hazan, who has taught me to make her grandmother's pastry ring (which is then dipped in vin santo and makes me melt), my husband to make the most amazing meatballs, and now me to blanch almonds.

First off, if you want them to be pretty and pale, don't used toasted almonds, like I did. (But that's what I had.)

textured cloth. cool water. rub.

Second, boil them for 2 minutes.

Strain.  Using a cool, wet cloth, rub the almonds a bit.

(Or, if you're me and you like the fun of it, squeeze the almonds from their wet shells one by one like so many shrimp.)

Ta Da! The shells come right off.


Genius. Pure. Genius.

(As I was doing this, I kept exclaiming at the wonders of old-timey cookery. How many things do we buy in the grocery store that our grandmothers used to do/make/create on their own? I would like to start a list.)

1. Pre-sifted flour.
2. Blanched almonds.


Monday, October 31, 2011


Happy Halloween!

I'm happy to report that this year I celebrated all-hallows-eve in style.

look at that mud!
To wit: I visited my first ever corn maze. I even got lost.  There were 22 trolls to find, and I only found 17. I gave up early because it was super muddy and I was over it; I had definitely had my $5 worth of fun.  (The best part about being an adult? Getting to admit you're over it.)

that middle pumpkin is a pirate. arrrrrrrgh says the middle pumpkin.

Then I got to pick my own pumpkins. This year's poor pumpkins were never given the sunshine to turn all the way orange...because, dear readers, Seattle never saw summer this year.

Then, for the actual Halloween festivity (ridiculous house party anyone?), I just couldn't get into the spirit costume-wise. I mean, I sewed a skirt for my friend's Daphne costume (think Scooby Doo) but just didn't want to spend time that I could be knitting or stitching or baking (or sleeping) making a costume that I would only wear...for about 3 hours.

Three days before the big party, I had an idea: wouldn't it be funny (in an ironic kind of way) to be old-school ghosts?

Full disclosure: this was after a couple of beers and a long day. But that night it sounded like the best idea ever.

In the morning it seemed a bit less funny, but not so bad as to not carry out the idea.

Joe and I went to Goodwill, bought two white flat sheets, and then promptly bleached them. (They were, in a word, icky.)

We put them on our heads, marked eye holes, cut eye holes and...done. Costumed.

(We then practiced being spooky.) (And we took two grainy and dark pictures...that are nevertheless awesome because you can't see our legs and we thusly look like...ghosts!)

horrible lighting makes it look like my sheet was dipped dyed. I assure you that it was not.
Note: although being old-school ghosts is fun and funny, it has the following drawbacks:

  1. It's hot in there. Really hot.
  2. It's hard to see where you're going. And if you're at a house party with narrow stairs and too many people, that makes things tricky.
  3. That stupid sheet doesn't stay where you want it to. It slips around and you end up walking on your sheet and constantly trying to find the sweet spot where those holes are lined up with your eyes.
  4. Already-drunk people will holler out: the Klansmen are here! when you walk in the room. It won't make you feel good, and you'll spend the evening explaining that you're GHOSTS. You'll even wave your sheet-covered ghosty hands and moan out your best boooooos. 
  5. It's hard to drink your beer with a sheet on and no mouth hole. I tried drinking through my eye-hole (yes, I did) and by holding my requisite red cup underneath the sheet. Mostly, I just spilled beer on myself and thusly ended my beer-drinking. It was Jell-O shots for the rest of the evening. (Or, to be more specific: one Jell-O shot, two bites of molded Jell-O brain.)

Sunday, October 30, 2011


boiling tongue

Sometime last year, a group of us went in and bought a quarter of a cow (affectionally named Happy Cow) while it was still a calf (and alive).

Happy Cow spent a year wandering around rural Washington, eating grass and breathing clean (rainy) air, and then, as things go in that whole circle of life metaphor, Happy Cow was slaughtered on our behalf.

boiled tongue. look at all that muscle! that is one strong tongue.

Around slaughtering time, the butcher called to ask how we wanted our quarter cow butchered. Joe spent hours looking at cuts of meat, trying to figure out how to cut things apart so that we could split a quarter cow five ways and all get some good stuff, and then at the end of the list of cuts and requests, he asked for the tongue.

I mean, it's not like anyone else wanted it, right?

skinning the tongue.

We promised our fellow cow-buyers that we would host a party where we cooked up the tongue (and the brisket too).

It finally happened, dear readers. Joe soaked Happy Cow's tongue, skinned it, and braised it in red wine with a medley of fall vegetables and spices. He reduced the braising liquid until it was strong and flavorful, purreed the vegetables from the braise, and then added the puree to the liquid to make a delicious sauce.

He then chopped up the tongue, pulled apart the brisket, and doused it all in the amazing sauce.

We toasted sourdough hoagie rolls and made dripping, delicious sandwiches.

We invited twelve people into our tiny condo, who all brought sides and booze, and we dined and dined and dined.

And it was good.

after braising. (that's the tongue in the foreground and the brisket behind it.)

But, as it would always seem to go...I did not take a single picture of the delicious tongue sandwiches. I did not take a picture of the delicious tongue and brisket beautifully laid out as a festive spread on the countertop.

In short, I did not get any "after" photos. And for that, I am deeply regretful.


But, alas, the lights were dimmed and the candles lit, and anyhow, it's October now so the sun was long set by the time we sat down to dine. Clearly, there wouldn't have been enough light to take photos anyhow...and one wouldn't want to ruin the mood by sliding the light dimmer switch up to the top and making my guests squint while I photographed their food.

So you'll have to put on your imagination caps and think about toasted, buttered mini-hoagies and dripping, beautiful braised meat.

OR, you'll have to make your own tongue. (Not your OWN tongue, but your own cow's tongue.)

Friday, October 28, 2011


What is there to say about beautifully filled and rolled bread that hasn't already been said?

Shall I wax poetic about the gorgeously thin, almost transparent lofty layers of bread, enrobed in sweet walnut paste?

Shall I go on and on about the delicate crumb or the toothsome texture?

Shall I admire its ability to both satiate and provide warm-your-soul comfort with just one bite?

Or shall I just leave it at: this is delicous.

De. Lish. Us.  (<---click there for the recipe)

Blog-checking lines: The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

all rolled out bed sheet.

De. Lish. Us.

delicious filling.

rolled up! look how long it is!

two tubes of goodness nestled in their loaf pans

Full disclosure: this recipe makes four loaves. Four. You'll say to yourself, "Self, there's no way my partner and I can (or should) eat four loaves. I'll make a half-recipe."

And then, dear reader, you'll take one loaf to a party, and keep one for yourself, and that one lonely loaf will be gone and while you're still licking the sticky filling off your fingertips you'll be saying to yourself, "Dang it, Self. You should have made all four."

Because we all know, dear readers, bread is like lasagna. Just as easy to make more as it is to make one.

Finished product

Let this be a lesson to you: make. all. four.

Mouth-watering close up

Monday, October 10, 2011

two things

Thing One:

Joe and I were walking around South Lake Union yesterday and stumbled upon a tiny Sunday gem: the model boat pond at the SLU park.  On Sundays, the fabulous people at the Center for Wooden Boats are there with model sail boats that you can take out on the pond. (And it's free! Although they like donations.)

We took out the Posideon. She has adjustable sails (real sails!), and she is quite sea-worthy.  In fact, once we got her trimmed just right, she even keeled beautifully.

Also, the pond was in high use by families with small children, and their delight at this simple, air-powered toy was pretty contagious.

Moral of the story: Get thee to the SLU park on a Sunday afternoon. Wear your captain's hat.

Thing Two:

There is a new whiskey and bitters emporium (read: bar) in town called Canon. If you live in Seattle and you like either a) whiskey or b) bitters or c) clever comfy bars you should get yourself there.

First off, they have a drink called the hanky panky that comes in a flask. (Your very own flask!)

(my very own flask!)
Secondly, they have a drink called the vermouth experiment, wherein you get three (yes, three!) manhattans, each expertly made with a different vermouth. (Each, too, with a happy booze-soaked sour cherry waiting for you at the bottom of the glass.)

Thirdly, and not the least of which, your bill comes in an old school tobacco can. If you are lucky enough to get the Prince Albert can, you'll learn all about the benefits of Prince Albert tobacco.

(amazing old-timey advertising copy)
 Moral of the story: Get thee to canon. Bring your bootleg.