Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The to-do list has at this point been whittled down to the done and the can't-possibly-do list. Guess which one is bigger...

There are still cookies to bake, and presents to finish, etc. And I will be in a knitting backlog through February, if I keep to my current timetable. Sorry to everyone who is getting a wrapped ball of yarn still on the needles this year.

However, the major project today was accomplished! This morning's advent calendar activity was "make a gingerbread house with Nana" and Nana got here just in time. Nothing says 'Christmas' like treating the second degree burns inflicted by the boiling strands of dangling caramel syrup that hold this house together. Welcome to town, Mom! Sorry about the burns!

Once we had some structural integrity, the girls took over and really went to town. They had a blast and ended up very very sticky, which was okay, because my mom's puppy Pete is here too, and he was happy to lick them clean.

Overall it was a very successful project, and it's a pretty great looking house, if I do say so myself. In the absence of actual finished gifts for my loved ones this Christmas, maybe I can just carry the house around with me and show everyone. See?! Isn't it great?! C'mere Mom! Show them your arm scars!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

feel free to call me Master...

I graduated!

There's Jane helping me celebrate. She and Wren are both actually surprisingly great at playing the bugle.

My dad and his girlfriend Shawn made the long drive up from Beaumont and it was really wonderful to have them there. They took us out to lunch after, where I forgot (like I always do) that about 80% of the time I really do not like fish. Oh well. Thanks for lunch dad!

Chase was a champion of patience and kindness, keeping the girls entertained for the long ceremony right in the middle of naptime. They ran off some craziness on the pretty campus before getting back in the car. We went from Denton to Beaumont, to do early Christmas there, and we had a really great time.

In related news, I am also a master at keeping Jane from jumping out of the canoe and into the swamp, even though she wants to be in that water SO SO BAD. I told her it was full of alligators but she didn't listen.

Friday, December 18, 2009

School's Out

And we have been pretty busy here. We're packing for our trip to Denton this weekend for my graduation (HURRAY!) but that means that we have to have Christmas more or less locked up by the time we leave (at 5AM in Saturday morning).

So there has been a lot of this:

Fueled by a lot of this:

I've been having occasional (okay, frequent) freakouts about not having enough time to tackle all of our slow-life-simplified-handmade-oh-my-god-if-I-have-to-go-to-the-craft-store-one-more-time-I'm-going-to-ram-someone Christmas. Last night, after I had thrown a roll of butcher paper across the room and stomped to the kitchen to make a gin and tonic (THANK YOU TIM) Chase pitched in (If you're my Aunt Franny, stop reading now):

If you don't stop reading, Merry Christmas! It's Chloe! The warbling basenji. I took a sneaky photo of her on our last visit to Beaumont, and Chase did everything else:

There he is proudly displaying his masterpiece. Actually that expression is more like "My God I am so tired. When are you going to stop taking pictures and let me go to sleep?" Merry Christmas Hon! Only one more week of living with a crazy person to go!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Notes on the Girls

I wanted to make a few notes on things the girls are doing now, that I will possibly forget. So this is long and it's really more for me and my crappy memory than anything else.

On the way to our car, from our front door, we have to walk over a little storm drain type thing in the pavement. Wren has called this the "star pross" since we first moved in, and there's actually a pretty involved mythology around how you deal with it.

You can walk around it, if you're very deliberate about it. You can jump it, (preferred method) or if you step on it, either accidentally or on purpose, you must "bear walk" (hands and feet on the ground, butt in the air). You have to go really fast though, because touching the Star Pross unleashes the lions (or tigers, or in yesterday's case the "bat tiger"), and they will "get ya" if you don't get to the edge of the parking lot before they do.

Keep in mind that these are Star Pross lions, totally different from the cheetah who lives down another row of condos next to the pool. The only way to survive that pathway is to run full out as fast as you can (or if you happen to be on a tricyle, pedal really fast). This has caused more falls for Wren and Jane than I want to remember, but happily neither has yet been devoured or even seriously mauled by the cheetah.

Janey is "Jane Puppy" for at least 30% of the time currently. This involves talking in a super high pitched voice, lots of high pitched barking, and, depending on how filthy the ground is in any given place, walking on her hands and knees like a dog. Obviously the more filthy = the higher the likelihood of hands on the ground.

Right now Janey likes to enter any room by declaring herself "Here comes Super Jane!" Or if she's been jumping, "Here comes Jumping Jane!" Or if she's been running, "Here comes Running Jane!" You get the idea.

One nice thing about having a big sister is they'll usually tell you the truth about important things, and you can trust them. Jane tends to take Wren's word for it when she says things like "Monsters aren't real Jane, it's okay." It's nice to have someone to "reason" with Jane. Wren can talk her into doing all kinds of things that I can't. Like finding her shoes, putting her clothes in the laundry basket, etc.

However the reverse is true too. No one can bother you like a sister.

Wren really likes to be quiet in the car. I mean REALLY likes to be quiet. She will ask us to turn down the music, and to stop talking. Anytime we're in the car for more than 5 minutes close to the end of the day, Wren decides to fall asleep. Unfortunately for Wren, the car is some kind of talking machine for Jane, and she seriously cannot go more than 20 seconds without yelling/shouting/expostulating if she's in the car (or honestly really ever).

Wren has yet to figure out that asking/pleading/demanding for Jane to stop yelling in her face only makes the situation worse. Usually, if we're in the car for more than 30 minutes, Wren has degenerated into a weeping puddle, alternately begging and screaming for Jane to stop talking, while Jane continues to babble happily, echoing Wren in tone and content between returning to her own observations: "That's a big puppy Daddy! Daddy! DADDY THAT'S A BIG PUPPY DADDY DADDY DADDY THAT'S A BIG PUPPY" This continues until Chase says "Yes Jane. That's a big puppy." And then she'll see the next billboard.

After a car trip I sometimes wonder that if it's okay to market leashes to parents, perhaps it would be okay to market muzzles to them too. I mean Jane likes being a dog more than anything, right?

The adorable world of mispronunciations at the moment:

Jane says:
candy cans for candy canes
tummy cake for stomach ache

Also she is inconsistent in her use of "s". She has it down when she tells us to look on the "other side" of her drawing, but not when she draws a "NAKE" (snake).

Wren says:

And my favorite, I will be so sad when this finally disappears, and I know it's on its way out - shirtles- shoulders. Shirtle rhymes with turtle. I love it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Baking Days

I've sort of been waiting to post until I found the charger for the camera, but it's been a while now, and I've been taking all the pictures of note with Chase's phone anyway, so we're just going to have a round up of blurry/poorly lit pictures commemorating recent goings on in our family.

So mostly we've been baking. Wren somehow managed to unwrap a whole bag of peanut butter cups without eating a single one.

Chase crushed 100 candy canes on the kitchen floor with a mallet, and despite his best efforts, there was a very sticky spot on the floor when he was done. Ramona has been working constantly to fix this problem, though. We're a real team over here, folks. Everyone pitches in.

Here are the finished peanut butter cookies. I don't have any pictures of the finished peppermint chipsters, because we ate them too fast. That recipe is so insanely good, but it's a once-a-year deal for a reason. The process of making them involves a greased glass bottomed cup, a tray of ice water, a food processor on a setting that makes the lights flicker, and, as previously mentioned, a bag of peppermints and a mallet. So... once a year. Except this year my mom and sister are coming for Christmas, and they will need chipsters too.

So I should probably save the rest of those crushed peppermints.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

first layer cake

I love Smitten Kitchen, and I've made a lot of her everyday recipes, but her special occasion recipes really can't be beat. She has a whole page on tackling and assembling layer cakes that is an awesome resource, if you are interested. So when Chase asked for the sort of birthday cake that you'd expect a man who always specifies gray yarn for his hats to choose, (plain yellow, with chocolate icing, like from the box) I was ready.

First I sent him a few links, just to be sure he was totally sold on yellow cake, and then I got to work.

I used the "best birthday cake" recipe, and although mine didn't look like hers (possibly because the bottom layer fell out of the fridge sideways) it was still pretty great. Icing covers a multitude of sins. (For those of you who ate it and are having second thoughts, it landed folded in half, with parchment paper on one side and shattered plate on the other. And no one ate any plate shards, as far as I know).

Anyway, it was fun and I feel more confident about layer cakes in the future. Although I might want to buy another cake pan. Having just one cake pan is kind of hassle when making layer cake, it turns out.

Happy birthday hon! Hurray for a fourth decade! Maybe next year we can try the stout cake?

And I will expect that cappuccino fudge cake for my 30th, so you and the girls should probably start prepping. Wren will be 6 by then, right? That's old enough to read a recipe.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


So I finally did it. After years of looking at all the lovely and beautiful advent calendars out there, I closed the computer and started making one.

The trick, it turns out, was not leaving the house. (I wish that was the trick for more of life- I would have be shutting it down). I just committed to making it with stuff I had, and that made it possible.

Instead of the perfect handmade heirloom for generations of my family, constructed from perfectly chosen high quality materials, I just jumped into the bag of scrap felt and got to work. The backing is some heavy canvas, from a pair of old curtains. Some of the pockets have candy, some have little tiny toys from a very secret trip to Terra Toys, and some have scraps of paper with all the traditional activities- Christmas movie before bed, go look at lights in our pajamas, make a gingerbread house with Nana (thanks mom, by the way).

And then yesterday, the card said...

Christmas tree! We were planning to drive out to Elgin to get a tree, but waited too long to get started and ended up staying local. Wren's comment: "I'm pretty sure this is the best Christmas tree EVER!"
Jane's comment: "I love my alien robot shirt! I love my alien robot shirt!"

Maybe she'll get more into the spirit of the season when she realizes how much eating is involved.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Lost Weekend

No, not like on Gossip Girl. This one was lost to stomach flu. Bluuuuuuh.

We are resurfacing here, Monday morning, and looking around the wreckage of our home. Towels on every bed instead of sheets, piled up laundry and dishes and trash, sticky half eaten jello containers and watered down orange juice glasses on every table...

Also, the girls have become strangely territorial about their bowls. You know, the bowls we've insisted they take to their beds and sleep next to for the last few nights. Janey will cry and scream if you try to take the bowl out of her bed: "NO don't take my trow-up bowl! NOOO!" Um... okay kid you can keep it. Just let me give it a good rinse...

And since, in one of the mysteries of the universe, kids seem to kick this shit faster than grown ups, Chase and I were still debating suicide pacts in bed on Sunday morning when the kids were both up and raring to go- bouncing around the house, screaming, demanding to eat food that Chase and I, had we the strength the get out of bed, would surely not have been able to smell without dragging ourselves to the bathroom. I'm pretty sure Wren played about 7 hours of games on the computer yesterday. Parenting FAIL. On the upside, I'm pretty sure I now know where my kidneys are. Thanks dehydration!

Anyway, before we descended into hell, we had some industrious plans for this weekend. The girls and I found some pretty leaves and made some prints.

This is part of a Christmas present for someone who made read the blog, so I'm being cryptic, but I think they came out really beautifully. This is from the Betz White book, and it was a great project to do with little helpers. Wren is really proud of her work.

And in other adorable news, before food became the most disgusting thing imaginable, Chase made this egg heart for Wren.

He's a pretty great dad.

Monday, November 16, 2009


There's something special that separates the average F, or even BF from the true BFF. In the case of me and my BFF Kelly, that something has frequently been thousands of miles, since we haven't lived in the same city (and often not in the same state) since high school. We met up at the Renaissance Festival, walked around, ate things on sticks, admired each others' children and briefly considered getting our hands dipped in wax. And then... just as I was mourning the absence of any pictures to document it, she came through again with this lovely gem:

Yes I'm truly a lucky woman. Lucky in love and lucky in friends. I am never going to Plantersville without my BFF again.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Ah! No Halloween Pictures! I am THE WORST.

Actually, to really secure the title, it would help for you to know that we went to the AWESOME and wonderful Texas Renaissance Festival in Plantersvile last weekend and forgot to bring the camera. Dozens and potentially hundreds of hilarious photos were lost, including documentation of various knights, moors, pirates, wenches, and other people you would not, the rest of the year, trust within a 20 ft. anti-molestation radius of your children.

Hey guys remember that cold I had? The really awful one? The kids have that now. And the immunization police have chosen sick week for their crack down, so I am having to decide whether to immunize sick (GRUMPY) kids or not be allowed to send them to school. Which is pretty moot, since they can't go to school anyway, because they're SICK.

Anyway, over the cacophony of whines in my house right now, I can't tell if I'm being coherent at all. I did find one picture from Halloween:

Perfectly representative of the evening as a whole. Imagine Chase in a big red gnome hat, and it's like you were there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

feeling better

I'm finally kicking the cold, thank goodness. Every time I'm sick I remember that not being sick alone is one of the chief comforts of the family unit. So even though it can be annoying for the un-sick one, and even though one might have been woken intermittently for several days by snorting and piteous moaning, and even though caretaking might not come naturally to some people, I still am REALLY GRATEFUL for all the patience and kindness from my loved ones. Moving on...

Hey that looks familiar! Just like that header up there! Only more of it! And all together.

I decided not to machine quilt this one, mainly because I've been cold at night and I want a new blanket. I'm tying it with what I sincerely hope are square knots. I guess I'll find out the first time I wash it.

And getting back to work on this has also made me come to terms with the fact that I really hate my bed. And I'm not going to be able to buy a new bed for a long time.

I love my quilt and I want to put it on a bed I love, so I need to find a cheap fix. I'm thinking sandpaper and paint, probably. If anyone has some inspiration, please give me advice.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Since I've Been Gone

Among other things, we made pear butter. It went well, although Chase maybe got slightly too into the whole canning process. I had to leave at one point, and there were repeated texts on the aspects of vacuum seals and jar tongs.

We made pumpkin bread which was great. I also made two loaves of banana bread, which will give you an idea of what the fruit fly situation in our kitchen was prior to baking/pear butter day...

We did this -

Before we came home and did this-

I like that you can see Wren directing the action there. She's pointing out the eyelashes on the jack-o-lantern schematics she had drawn up.

I made a red gnome hat for Chase's costume, which I sadly took not one single picture of, apparently. I made this, and if you are looking for a huge fattening new favorite dish of comfort food, it's a good bet.

I finished up the pressing school work, and now I just have to get a jump on the next big school thing. Chase and I went on a date, and saw Where the Wild Things Are. Which FAILED as a date movie. FAILED. I had to drink a few glasses of water to rehydrate myself after all the weeping. Sorry hon. I think it was the double punch of reliving the worst of childhood, and then looking at my beloved Wren, right on the cusp of encountering all that in her own world.

I mean, you know, except for the part where her parents divorce and her mom starts dating new dudes. Anyway, thanks to the Ruperts for babysitting. You guys might be the only people I know with a tumbling mat in the living room.

In other news, Jane ate my lipstick.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

eyes on the prize

I've dropped out of this space lately- real life is taking all my concentration.

Well, you know, real life with regular breaks for escapist reading. At least I have my priorities. Thanks, Tim, for recommending new Sci-fi. Or should I say Syfy?

We had an awesome time camping with friends last weekend, and I will talk more about that soon. In addition, as you might have guessed, the cold weather has brought on a yarn explosion at our house, and right now my lap is full of this incredible cranberry silk/merino blend that I just cannot stop picking up and squishing. I'll eventually take some pictures of the instant gratification knits I'm working on.

All that will be in the future though, because right this minute I'm trying to power through my final portfolio for grad school. I am so so so close to done and I can't pick my head up from the work (distressingly often - busy work), or even really say anything about the experience, until I'm DONE. Which will be soon, please God.

After this Friday, I can get back to enjoying wonderful fall because seriously Austinites, have you looked outside? Isn't it incredible?! I know our fall might not measure up to Smokey Mountain fall, or Vancouver fall, or whatever, but it is absolutely wonderful, nonetheless. The girls and I took a blanket to Ramsey park this morning and stayed waaaaaay past the usual everyone-is-melting-down-Jane's-arm-is-stuck-in-the-swing-get-to-the-car-before-someone-calls-cps point. So like an hour and a half. Still, though. It's really nice outside.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Having never actually been a subscriber, and also having never to my knowledge faithfully followed a Gourmet recipe ONCE all the way through (there's always just one change you have to make, without that stash of agave nectar in the pantry, or Brazilian Cachaca, or, you know, octopus meat...) it seems silly to be so sad about Gourmet Magazine closing down.

I am not the target audience, but I still love Gourmet. I love the idea that people, not just chefs, actually cook like this (minus the octopus). Gourmet was taking insanely beautiful and inspiring COLOR pictures of food when the rest of the culinary landscape looked more or less like this -

Only in black and white...which actually might do that particular example (pulled from this Flickr pool) some favors.

Gourmet started in 1941, that's twenty years before The French Chef went on the air. Now, when food porn and celebrity chefs are so 2005, and everyone is taking insanely beautiful pictures of their lovingly prepared, locally sourced dinners, it's easy to forget we're standing on the shoulders of giants. FOOD GIANTS!!!


ANYWAY, I have always bought the October and November issues, and I'm bummed that this year I'll just be buying the October issue. I'm sad to see Gourmet go.

So, in honor of the closing of Gourmet Magazine, here is the most insane recipe (sans octopus) that was immediately apparent on their site:

Why yes, Rachel. That IS a frozen peanut butter pie with candied bacon!
Recipe here. And if that's not to your taste, at least take a minute to scroll through the fall favorites, and mourn the passing of this awesome source of unrealistic but still wonderful inspiration.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


What to do on a rainy Saturday morning with two grumpy kids and no money? Last weekend we drove out to Callahan's. They get their chick shipment on Thursdays, apparently, so they still had quite a bunch of adorable babies cheeping away in the back room.

As much as I would love to take home a few ducklings, or some guinuea fowl, or even a couple of buff orpingtons, we had to resist the temptation. Eventually we wandered out of the back room and looked around.

Wren was pretty interested in the horse section- rows and rows of saddles and bridles and little velcro braces and blankets. Jane was interested in the deadly pesticides at ground level area, the sharp objects for hurting babies area, and the "this is where we balance various mallets and hammers precariously on their heads, for easier child crushing" area. I love Callahan's partly because it is so far removed from the concerns of the rest of my world.

Speaking of the rest of the world though, when we wandered over the western wear section, we saw a couple of guys with ACL artist wrist bands. Chase and I are kind of thinking about talking to them, but we don't recognize them, other than just by general uniform- "first pair of skinny jeans Callahan's has ever seen on a dude not in the rodeo." Then later we see them at the register, and they're all buying washboards.

I actually ended up in the canning section, and was seduced by adorable packaging-

I'm not sure how many of those gadgets I'll actually need. We were going to the farmer's market for our apples afterwards, but then skipped because of the rain. Maybe next weekend. To tell the truth I'm pretty intimidated by the whole apple butter making process, and do not mind procrastinating a bit longer. If anyone else has ever done this, please advise me?

Monday, October 5, 2009

blah blah blah

It's been cloudy and rainy here which I love, but is also not so great for taking pictures. Wren is sick, with a terrifying cough. It's the kind of thing where you know that -all- kids have a cough like this, and you coughed like this when you were a kid, and you don't need to bundle her up and take her to the hospital as long as she's taking breaks from hacking to torment her sister and digs holes in the yard. But also there's the part of you that thinks of every movie where the adorable moppet coughs once like that and then the next scene is the Victorian family standing around a grave. THANKS MOVIES.

Whatever Wren has is definitely not swine flu, which sets her apart from the 30% of her school out with that right now. Nonetheless, we still don't want to be the people on the playground with the hacking cough and the runny nose, since Austin is a bit swine flu crazy right now. We're sort of confined to the house. Thank goodness for the Chinese appetite for American childrens' television programming.

That's the Marsan watch cap- from this great pattern, of course knit in Chase's trademark "most boring gray yarn at the store".

And it's sitting next to a pop up pancake, with carmelized apples on the bottom, from everyday food, which was REALLY GOOD. That's one wonderful thing to counterbalance some of the stuck at home craziness- fall baking. So far in the last week I've made an apple pear crumble, this fantastic plum cake, an enormous plate of gingerbread, and these oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Apparently I'm attempting to build up an additional layer of insulation to get me through that ice cold central Texas 30 days or so of coolish weather.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Birthday Crown

Oh charming Jane...

Really of course I do find her completely charming. But I'm not unaware that my aesthetics have been worn down slowly over the past four years of sensory dampening parenting like a rock in the ocean. I'm grateful. That diaper I changed this morning would have felled a lesser (more sensitive) woman.

I understand that some might find that drool slicked cheek, tongue hanging out and neck fold full of chocolate cake somewhat off putting. But not me. It's sort of like being on a plane with a crying baby. Before you have kids you think "Oh NO! THIS IS TERRIBLE STUCK ON THIS PLANE WITH A CRYING BABY GAAAAHHH HOW WILL I CONCENTRATE ON MY AWESOME LEISURE READING?!?"

After you have kids, a baby crying on a plane is like lovely music, a soft schadenfreude whisper in your ear, saying "It's not your problem....someone else's baby...those poor bastards..." or something like that. Maybe that's not universal.

Anyway, the birthday crown. I made it in time, and gave it to Janey on her birthday, among other still unphotographed things. She was not impressed then, but it's slowly grown on her, and now it's an important part of any dress up outfit. So I'm pretty happy about that. It's made from a stack of felt scraps and some buttons, and based very loosely on several more complicated crown tutorials floating around out there. It came together in about 15 minutes, and then I had to cut the elastic and add another inch and a half because I had drastically underestimated the size of Jane's head. You'd think that's a mistake a mother would just make the once...

Anyway, Hurray for birthday crowns! You should make one.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

goat cheese

So I was all excited to tell everyone about our goat cheese making, but actually it turned out to be pretty boring and definitely not cost effective.

At least not cost effective until I get a goat. And actually I need two, because they are social creatures, and you don't want your goat to get lonely and hostile.

Moving on, we got our milk at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market from Swede Farm. We had heard a lot of great things about them before, and the guy was super nice and helpful, and gave us some tips. He invited us down to Waller for a farm tour which I think would be extremely fun but I would probably come home with a goat. Or two. So not this weekend.

Chase was in charge of the actual cheesemaking, and I think he did a great job. He used a bunch of different directions, but relied mostly on Dave's advice, and this video. The whole thing took less than an hour, and there was cheese at the end! Hurray cheese!

We got a whole lot of whey from the cheesemaking, and didn't want to throw it out, so I used it to make this bread which turned out really good- like super tasty communion bread. Mmm....

Anyway, we could buy a similar amount of goat cheese (on sale) for the same amount we spent on the milk, so we probably won't do this a lot, but it was fun to try it out. And we've been eating the cheese on pizzas and pastas and even a salad or two. It's pretty great.