Eclairs

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We (I) made éclairs yesterday — 10% because I wanted them, 20% because I thought M would like them, and 70% because I thought it would be funny to see how messy M would get while eating them. (She got a little messy, but mostly she didn’t want to waste the chocolate by putting it anywhere besides her mouth.)

I had to make two batches of choux pastry, because when I put the first tray in the oven, I managed to turn the oven off. So they were… not éclairs. But it turns out that chickens like half-baked choux pastry! Luckily, it’s easy to make, but I don’t like wasting ingredients, especially eggs and butter. So it’s a good thing the chickens pitched in to make that first batch count. The second batch came out perfectly, so I filled them with fresh whipped cream and topped them with ganache. M thinks they’re pretty good!

Our Weekend

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1. When I went through M’s baby clothes, I found that a LOT of them had yellow stains around the collar. She wasn’t a spitty baby, but she was happy to let milk dribble out the sides of her mouth as she ate. I knew the clothes were a little discolored, but the stains got even darker while everything was stored away. I tried this method for getting them clean, and it worked! I let the mixture sit on the clothes for an hour, as instructed, but then I rinsed them in a hot bath before putting them in the wash — I didn’t think our washing machine would appreciate having to deal with almost a cup of dish soap! The plain white Gerber and Carter’s onesies didn’t come totally clean, and the mixture left discolored spots on two solid-colored items, but otherwise everything looks as good as new! Those milk stains came out, as did some red marks on a pair of pants (something they were washed with bled on them ages ago). But the mixture was less effective on people-food stains, sadly. Still! That’s a lot of clothes ‘saved’, including that Oilily romper on the top, which I thrifted for less than $1 before M was born.

2. An egg.

3. Which I thought looked like a car after I cracked it. M agreed.

4. Cheese ‘straws’ — like we really need another vehicle for cheese in this house. But M and I agree that they’re delicious!

5. Some of my homemade cleaners, with the ‘fancy’ labels I made for them. I finally have everything I need to make everything I want. Except essential oils — but then I think to myself, Do I care if this smells like oranges/lavender/whatever? Nope.

6. The Fortnum’s hamper this year came with a huge jar of honey, honeycomb included. It’s really cool, but I can’t figure out exactly how to get the honey out without winding up with beeswax in my food. I guess I could fish out the comb now and just try to let as much of the honey drain back into the jar as possible. I do want to try to clean and melt the comb, to save the beeswax for other things.

7. Homemade (home-laid) egg salad on a homemade croissant. So good!

8. It never got above 0˚F (-18˚C) this weekend, but at least it was beautifully sunny! The indoor pets loved it, and even though neither of the chicken coops (the hens’ or the rooster’s) is heated, at least the sun can come in through the windows.

9. These two (Bear and Nova) still wrestle all the time. Don’t let their positions fool you — Bear is definitely in charge. I mean, she weighs a LOT more than Nova! But the dogs used to let her be the ‘dominant’ one when she was just a little cotton ball, so now she returns the favor. Beany doesn’t have time for the kids’ antics.

Weekend Stuff

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We started the new year off right and went screen-free this weekend. We’ve done this three times since the beginning of December (obviously not all in a row), and the first time I had to turn down M’s request for ‘puppy show’ quite a lot. This weekend, though, she didn’t ask for the TV once! And I found it really easy to leave my computer tucked away and ignore my phone. In fact, we had so much fun just doing stuff that I wish the weekend could have gone on forever.

I cooked more. We had French toast for breakfast on Saturday, and since we’re out of maple syrup, I made a blueberry sauce/syrup with some wild blueberries that had gotten all icy in the freezer. Sooo good. Nothing was super out of the ordinary, but I definitely spent more time prepping and cooking rather than grabbing whatever would be quickest.

M and I ran errands both mornings, but otherwise we just stayed tucked in at home, playing together and working on our own projects. It’s not something I’ve only recently noticed, but M is so much happier to do her own thing if I’m actually DOING something, too, rather than staring at my laptop. If I’m in the kitchen, she usually likes to stand in her Learning Tower, either helping out or playing. Her Paw Patrol figures go everywhere with her these days (which maybe explains why she wasn’t so desperate to watch them on TV), and you’d be surprised by how long she can entertain herself with those little dogs.

During M’s nap on Saturday, I moved some furniture around (just sliding it on the carpet, since I can’t really lift tables right now!). To make a long story short (it begins with a room shuffle a couple of months ago), I put my sewing table in my bedroom and moved the old teacher’s desk out to the family room, where our Christmas tree had been. I knew M would love being allowed to use the desk (since she always tried to steal things from the drawers when it was in my bedroom), and I realized it would be the perfect place to store and use her art supplies. It has been a HUGE hit! The art stuff was in the kitchen before, and I didn’t like taking it out and then trying to hide it away again. M colored on Sunday morning, then painted a couple of sun-catchers in the afternoon, followed by a very happy watercolor session. (I need to take/post a photo of one of the watercolor hand prints she made — they look really cool!)

Before M’s nap on Sunday, I traced her old sleep sack (a large Baby Deedee Sleep Nest) onto a big piece of paper. She was very interested to hear that I was going to make a new blanket for her, and she was disappointed that it wasn’t ready for her nap a few minutes later! The old blanket served us well, but she still sleeps in her hip brace, so it was getting too small — and it was literally coming apart at the seams! I made her new blanket (in the last photo) wider and bigger, and I can’t believe that A) I didn’t make any mistakes as I was winging it and B) it fits perfectly. It’s two layers of fleece, totally finished inside (in theory reversible, except that the zipper works only from one side!). Two clearance fleece blankets were just (JUST!) big enough, and I already had the zip, so the grand total for her fancy new sleep sack was less than $6. And M really loves it. I washed it up so she could wear it last night, and I asked her this morning how her new blanket had been. ‘Sooo nice!’ she said, ‘It’s so soft.’ Then, as an afterthought, ‘Silly OLD blankie.’ So I guess she’s a convert.

What else? (This is a long post!) The house stayed a lot cleaner over the weekend, which was only partly because I did more cleaning. Since I was paying more attention to M, even when she was playing on her own, I was able to remind her to tidy away her things when she was done (and set a good example by doing the same!). She’s actually very good at putting her toys away when asked, but she doesn’t remember to do it by herself.

I also started and finished Forrest Pritchard’s Gaining Ground. Rob got it for me a while ago (last Christmas?), and I don’t know why it took me so long to get to it, but it’s fantastically written and SO interesting. Although now I’m thinking that a couple of pet piggies would do such a good job of clearing and turning over the weedy fields… unintended consequences to buying me gifts!

Birthday Day

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I had a very lovely birthday, spent with M and my mom. M was quite excited about it this morning and kept saying, ‘Mommy’s birthday!’ At first, she guessed I was two (since that’s how old she turned on her birthday, of course), and when we told her I was older than that, she decided I must be three. So happy third birthday to me!

I made myself this chocolate angel food cake, although we just had plain (but fresh) whipped cream on the ‘side’ (top) instead of icing it with cocoa whipped cream. It was PERFECT! Lighter than a normal chocolate cake, but somehow more substantial than the usual angel food. I liked that the recipe called for a measurement of egg whites instead of a number of them, especially since I was using eggs my hens laid — I couldn’t really tell you what size they are. Medium, maybe? Some large? At any rate, it took TWELVE eggs to get the right measurement, but luckily I had EIGHTEEN eggs in the fridge. I do like having chickens!

Eggs

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My spoiled chickens are doing pretty well in the egg department! When they hadn’t started laying by November, I was sure there wouldn’t be anything until the spring — our days are already pretty short, and they don’t have any electricity in their coop for a light. But I’ve been getting at least an egg a day lately, usually two or three. And five, once! So I guess we know that they’re all laying (and all in their coop, which is a relief). When I let them out this morning, Aster was hunkered in the corner of the coop, keeping her egg warm, but she didn’t seem to care when I stole it away.

I don’t know how late into winter they’ll keep up the egg laying, but at least for now, if we don’t eat eggs every day, I don’t have to buy any. And I was able to make brownies the other day with their eggs (the recipe called for two whole eggs and two extra yolks, so that’s not nothing). I hard-boiled them for the first time last night. You know the thing about older eggs being easy to peel? Well, the opposite is definitely true. The outsides weren’t so pretty to look at once I finally got the shells off, but they sure were delicious!

Now that there’s almost nothing for them to eat outside, I’ve started growing sprouts for them. They like their treats!

Croissants!

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I made croissants! Well, my bread machine and I made croissants. I used the recipe that was in the book that came with my Zojirushi machine, and the ‘dough’ setting did all the kneading and the first two rises. Then I had to do the rolling, buttering, folding, repeat, repeat. I had it in my head that croissants were really difficult to make from scratch, but even with all that buttering, etc, my part didn’t take very long. The recipe is supposed to make twenty-four rolls (and you just throw away the scrap bits of dough at the edges!), but I made nine big ones and a few smaller ones with the leftover pieces of dough. I mean, I wasn’t making Pillsbury Crescent Rolls! I wanted real croissant-sized croissants.

The verdict? Croissants are totally doable! They came out perfectly flaky and layered. M stole one off the counter and gave rave reviews.