Beany has been going outside a lot lately. Our cats are indoor cats, but a while back I was threatening to make them all live outside (they were peeing on the carpet — I’ve managed to stop that, though!). I speculated that, after a week of being on their own outside, Bear would have wandered off and found a new family to live with; Birdy would have withered away out of confusion; and we’d have to go looking for Beany — eventually we’d come across her in her new den in the woods, and she’d have a nice fire going to keep her warm. I don’t worry about Beany being outside. She comes back to the door when she’s ready to come in, and she’d never wander so far as to get anywhere near the road. She’s still an indoor cat 95% of the time, but she looks quite natural in the out-of-doors.
Make this cake! I mean, if you have a jar of marmalade going spare. There’s always one in the Fortnum’s hamper that Rob gets, but while I like marmalade, I don’t love it enough to get through a jar in the four weeks recommended on the label. So I went searching for a cake recipe to use it in. This one wound up being just right. I liked that it used a substantial amount of marmalade, instead of just a few tablespoons. And I just happen to have a 6″ wide, 3″ tall cake pan — convenient!
I was worried that the cake was going to be really overdone and dry around the edges, since it takes so long to bake through in the middle, but — at least today, when it was super fresh — it wasn’t at all. I covered the top with foil after 45min, and I turned the oven down to 325˚F for the last 10min (I was getting nervous!), but I did keep it in there for exactly the recommended 75min. The edges turned fairly dark and are crunchy (in a good way), but the interior stayed light and tender.
I don’t use self-rising flour, so I used cake flour (to keep it a bit lighter) and three-and-a-bit teaspoons of baking powder, plus a teaspoon of salt. That seemed like a ton of baking powder, but it was actually less than the recommended substitute for self-rising flour — at any rate, the cake rose nicely and doesn’t taste bitter! It’s basically a pound cake (lots of butter), but I thought the method was interesting: you cut the butter into the flour (I used a food processor), add the sugar, then add the wet ingredients.
I could see a sprinkle of powdered sugar being a nice touch, but I don’t think the cake really needs anything extra. There’s a lot of flavor from the butter and the marmalade, and it’s sweet-but-not-too-sweet. A perfect cake for eating with tea (or for breakfast, ’cause that’s definitely going to happen!).
Sometime last year, I started making this sweater for M. I’d had the skeins of dark blue yarn (Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino) since my London days, and the lighter color (same brand/kind) came from my friend Em and was left over from a sweater I made M when she was ~6mos. I found this vintage pattern and thought it would be a good use for all that wool. And while the elephants on the original cardigan are cute, well, they’re not chickens, are they? I hunted down some appropriately-size charts for a hen and chicks and used those instead.
My only real change to the pattern was to make the collar and bottom band seed stitch instead of ribbing. (The button band on the original was already seed stitch.) I knit the back and right side and then did about a third of the left side whenever it was that I started this sweater, and then I didn’t pick it up again until last week. Even though it’s a “size 3”, whatever that means when it comes to vintage patterns, I was worried that it wouldn’t fit M if I didn’t finish it NOW. I was down to my last skein and a bit when I got to the sleeves, and the first one used over half of what I had remaining! I made the other sleeve two stitches narrower, and I don’t know if that actually made a huge difference (you can’t tell it’s narrower now that it’s finished), but when I cobbled together all the scraps and everything, I had enough for both sleeves, the collar, and the seaming. Whew!
I still haven’t sewn on any buttons, but at least the cardigan fits M! She was really excited to wear her “chicken sweater” today. We love our chickens!
I’m pretty sure there’s a box of spaghetti in the pantry that’s been there for a year or two. Same goes for whatever other dried pasta is in there. I almost never cook it. Yet, since I started making fresh pasta, we’ve gone through THAT at an astonishing pace. It’s not even the same kind of food, somehow. (“Somehow” probably = eggs.) I’ll make a batch or two of noodles, freeze them, and then they’re gone before I know it.
I let M help make spaghetti today. I’ve always made pasta while she’s distracted by something else — when I make macaroni noodles, for example, it always feels just a little stressful, making sure to cut them at the right point and then trying to stop them all sticking together. And forget about letting a child near a motorized pasta ROLLER. It makes me a little light-headed just to think of tiny fingers near that thing. But the extruder is safe enough, with adult supervision, and the spaghetti always comes out perfectly.
M was so excited to help! She had some real flair when it came to pitching the dough balls into the hopper — for some reason, I’d just been dropping them in, like a boring person. And watching the noodles come out is good entertainment if you’re two and a half. (Or, let’s be honest, if you’re a grown adult.) We wound up with plenty of spaghetti for the freezer, and I cooked some up — with pesto and broccoli — for our dinner. She loves those noodles!
I took M to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum yesterday. I almost didn’t, because, blah, we spend enough time in the car. But then I slept until 6:45am (the first time I could say that since M was born — we changed our clocks but otherwise didn’t adjust anything for DST) and felt like, hey, why not! And we had a lovely day!
M said she wanted to see trains, but I wasn’t sure what she’d actually think when we saw REAL trains up close. But she didn’t seem fazed by how big they were, and she was totally into climbing up the steps to look in each train. I had to ‘Mommy carry you’ down every time because we WERE quite high up, and she’d get nervous, but then she’d look for the next one with steps to climb up. I was proud of her! We found an area with toy train tables, and I thought we’d get sidelined there for a long time, but the call of REAL trains lured her away. It’s so fun that she can be actively interested in our outings now instead of just being passively along for the ride.
We had lunch at Pizza Lucé (it was a favorite of mine when I lived in Minneapolis — I’m glad I remembered there’s a Duluth location, too!) and then went to the co-op to stock up on tasty groceries. By the time we got in the car to head home, M was so tired that she fell asleep before we made it to the freeway! She woke up when we got home and said, ‘Had fun looking at trains!’ — success!
Baby Sister’s room is… more or less done! There are a few things left to do, like putting up a black-out shade and making/finding better tie-backs for the curtain on the covered window (ideally — we’ll see if that happens). The crib will go into my bedroom before the baby is born, which is why it’s still in M’s sofa mode.
I think the theme of this room, if it had one, would be TOO MANY TOYS. Because, seriously. Why are there so many toys? One bonus to Baby Sister growing up will be being able to get rid of toys as she outgrows them. If anybody buys Baby Sister more toys, [insert threat here]. Pretty much all the furniture was in M’s room when she was younger, before she moved into her full-size bed and got the antique dresser, etc.
I was less concerned with getting everything ‘just right’, the way I did with M’s room before she was born, since now I realize how small a role the baby’s room plays for the first few months. But I did try to get everything sealed up, to keep both drafts and ladybugs (grr, arg.) out. So I think it’s ready-ish to go. Just ten more weeks (give or take) until Baby Sister can check it out herself!
1. We’re settling in for a rainy week now, but we had some spectacular weather the last several days. We cleaned the chicken coop (I say ‘we’, but M only took away the one child-sized wheelbarrow of old bedding — she was very proud of herself for pitching in, though, and so was I), and it was a perfect coop-cleaning temperature outside. I think it’s quite a narrow range where raking out dirty wood shavings feels fun.
2. On Saturday, we took two walks down to the rock pile. With Grandma in the morning, and in the afternoon, we met our new neighbors. They’re also expecting a baby in May! It’s so nice to be able to let M wear herself out outside again. She’s been falling asleep much more quickly at night!
3. I needed something bigger/better to put over the breaker box in Baby Sister’s room, so I made this yesterday. I masked off the letters with painters tape and then just kept painting until I was too bored to keep tweaking it. ‘I Will’ is one of the songs I sing to M most often, when she wants a real song.
4. Trying some furniture reorganization to get M’s clutter under control. There’s still a long way to go (I think it’s just time to box up more stuff that she no longer plays with), but at least this little reading area looks serene.
5. My challah got a little tall — this particular bread flour always rises just a little too high. It’s good, though!
6. I was going to put away M’s wooden blocks and Brio trains for a while, since she rarely plays with them, but then we played with them together this afternoon and had a nice time. I made some ‘garage’ stalls for her cars, but they somehow turned into bathrooms for these wooden animals, instead. Toddlers!
By the time we got outside to play today (after running errands, lunch, and nap time), it was fairly overcast, but we still enjoyed the 50˚F+ weather a lot! So nice to walk around without snow pants (for M) and without most of the SNOW, as well. The chickens are in heaven, finally seeing grass again and digging through leaves to see what’s underneath. I’m not sure if they’re finding much/anything, but it keeps them busy!
Sometimes M asks for a ‘[M] story’ at bedtime, which just means she wants to tell me a story about everything we did that day. When I got to the playing outside part, I asked her what she’d done outside, and she said, ‘Saw chickens! And sticks.’ I asked her what she’d put in her pockets. ‘Rocks! And saw Nova, Henny. I found Nova.’ (I’m always calling for Nova, so she won’t run too far away.) I reminded her that she’d done some running. ‘Yeah. Ready, set, go!’
She also played with her outside toys, which live in the garage. I sat in a chair while she played, and I’d just barely gotten settled when I was mobbed by chickens. I guess they haven’t become any less friendly over the winter! That’s Iris (left) and Laverne (right) in the bottom photo. Laverne loved to lie on my lap and fall asleep last summer/autumn, and it seems she remembers it. After peering at my face (one of the most unnerving things a chicken can do), she hopped down to my lap and settled down for a bit. Chickens are nice.
Rob gets more riled up about some of the questionable craftsmanship in this house than I do (he’s used to houses in the UK being built out of solid materials like stones and brick), but one of the things that annoys me is how drafty a lot of the windows are. I mean, the house is only a bit over a decade old — we’re not talking about hundred-year-old windows here. Oh well.
M’s window stays sealed in the winter with plastic, but in Baby Sister’s room, I was dealing with two problems: a north-facing window that was both drafty and letting in too much light. M has a black-out shade on her window (I don’t know how people trick their babies/toddlers into napping without them), but Baby Sister’s room has two windows, which was really one more than necessary for the time being. So that north-facing one got boarded up! I actually used beadboard paneling that was left over from my bathroom. Put some weather stripping stuff around the edges of the back and nailed it into place. Problems solved (I hope).
You can see that more than enough light still comes in from the other window, which eventually will get a black-out shade. There are mini-blinds on this window (still in place behind the paneling, so the boarded-up-ness isn’t visible from outside the house), but I never had curtains on it before, so it’s actually cuter now than when there was a window there! And this should keep the drafts, light, and ladybugs (fingers crossed) out for a few years — until even Baby Sister is done with naps.
p.s. — The ‘theme’ of Baby Sister’s room is Toysplosion, aka all the toys that M has outgrown, even though they’re suddenly really interesting again, now that she thinks about it.