Thursday, April 30, 2009

maternity leave

this week i am thankful:

1. that i am FINALLY out on maternity leave!! don't get me wrong, i love my job. i'm thankful that i have one and that it is a job that i really enjoy. and they were so sweet today, bringing me balloons and a plant and cake for my birthday. but - being pregnant is HARD WORK. it is exhausting. and then to go to work full-time on top of that? i don't know how those women do it, the ones who work right up until their due date. i have been counting the minutes until i went out on leave and finally i am OUT!

2. for time to get kiddo stuff done, at last. even though i am not working for a paycheck, unfortunately i am still working. there is just so much crap to do to get ready for the kid. her room is still not done but will hopefully be finished this weekend. i have a ton of cooking i want to get done to fill up our freezer also, since brian is completely clueless in the kitchen and has not desire to learn. if i have the time and energy, there is cleaning that i would like to get done too. do you know how long it has been since i cleaned my refrigerator? you don't want to know. it's embarassing, and my mother is coming. oy.

3. that so many people were so generous in giving us gift cards. last night we purchased the necessary baby things that we did not have yet (changing pad, diaper pail, valves for the breast pump, nail clippers, et cetera) and DAMN that stuff is expensive. i know the amount of money it takes to raise a baby to adulthood is obscene, somewhere on the order of $1 million or something? still. she is not even here yet.

Monday, April 27, 2009

random things i am learning lately

don't forget to enter my green birthday giveaway! you have until 8pm pdt on wednesday, april 29, 2009. it's awesome, and who doesn't like free?

- cats have no eyebrows, which is why they seem so inscrutable sometimes.

- the "bcbg" (as in bcbgmaxazria) stands for bon chic, bon genre, how yuppies were referred to in france back in the 1980s. bon chic, bon genre means "good style, good class."

- king abdullah of jordan likes riding motorcycles!

- there is no universally agreed-upon plural for the word platypus. scientists use platypuses or just platypus. platypi is often used colloquially though it is considered "psuedo-latin" and the word is actually from the greek; the greek plural would be platypodes.

- compote is very similar to jam, but it is cooked with less sugar and the fruit generally retains it's texture and consistency.

- about mortise and tenon joints in particular and joinery in general. in a completely academic manner, of course.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

it's 3:30 am, do you know where your cat is?

don't forget to enter my green birthday giveaway! you have until 8pm pdt on wednesday, april 29, 2009. it's awesome, and who doesn't like free?

i know where mine was:

this, of course, was about 20 minutes after he had decided to vomit in the middle of the carpet.

on the one hand, i guess it's good practice for having kids. and that spathophyllum was slowly dying so needed to be replaced soon anyway. on the other hand, the [human] toddler that would generally get into this kind of trouble would also usually sleep through the night, right?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

vanilla crème with fresh berry jam

don't forget to enter my green birthday giveaway! you have until 8pm pdt on wednesday, april 29, 2009. it's awesome, and who doesn't like free?

this week i am thankful for:

1. my husband, who is not only completely awesome but also totally random. he makes my life happy.

2. a break from the heat we've been having.

3. this awesome deliciousness:

what are those beautiful things, you ask? only A LITTLE PIECE OF HEAVEN especially on a hot day. it's vanilla crème with fresh berry jam, so insanely easy to make and so fabulous. i know, i'm such a foodie. did i mention how good it is?

i had leftover rhubarb and strawberries (how do i always end up overbuying produce?) so i made a compote, fully intending to freeze it for spooning on ice cream later in the summer. instead it got spooned over the crème. to make the compote i just mixed about 4 cups of chopped rhubarb and strawberries (total) with about ½ cup of sugar and let it stand about 15 minutes, until the juices started to run out of the rhubarb. i brought it to a boil and simmered it on the stove for about 10-15 minutes, then let it cool and chilled it in the fridge. yum.

this dessert (or lunch, or dinner, or midnight snack, or, or, or) is delicious with any kind of berries. last summer i made it with mixed berries. SO GOOD. why do i not make this more often? brian is not hugely into fruit desserts so i get to eat all of these. HECK YEAH BABY.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

green birthday/earth day giveaway!

i really liked doing my blogiversary giveaway last month, so this month i'm doing a birthday giveaway! (and it's earth day today!) (and it rhymes!) (my birthday is on friday, may 1, the day the giveaway winner will be announced. just in case you want to send me one of these nifty new paddles for my mixer. i have a 4.5 quart kitchenaid stand mixer. i'm just saying.) this is a fabulous prize, if i do say so myself. i would love to win it, so i hope you love it too:

the green baby giveaway includes two bars of handmade soap (lavender & tea tree and lavender buttermilk castile), two push sticks of bum (diaper) cream, a pot of nipple cream, five cloth baby wipes with wipe solution, dusting powder, lavender ooh lotion, and a lavender oatmeal milk bath for mom to soak those long days away. (see how naive i am still, to think mom will have time for a bath?) if you don't have a baby or don't want the baby giveaway, that's okay, you can still enter for a green mommy giveaway. i'll substitute a stick of massage cream for the bum cream, lip balm for the nipple cream, a gentle face scrub for the wipes, and a gentle face toner for the wipe solution. see below for a full list of ingredients in case you're concerned.

to enter, please leave me a comment letting me know which giveaway prize you would like (mommy or baby) as well as a random interesting factoid about yourself. for example: my random interesting factoid is that i make soap! if you don't leave a factoid, you won't be entered, so please don't forget that part. please also leave me your email address (feel free to munge it) so i can get in touch with you about sending you your prize. you have until 8pm pdt on wednesday, april 29, 2009. i'll plug the results into and post the winner on my birthday, may 1. i'll mail anywhere in the good ole us of a or canada so if you're out of the country (besides canada), i'm sorry, but you can still have the satisfaction of having won and i'll choose another winner. there will be only one giveaway prize.

here are the ingredient lists for the giveaway items. please note that you do use these at your own risk; i have tested everything on myself, my husband, friends and family (but not my cat) and found it to be safe to us; the ingredients in the nipple balm are all food-grade and were approved by a lactation consultant. however, i can't be liable for your health or safety. i make every effort to create a safe, gentle, reliable product, but i can't be responsible for any allergic or otherwise adverse reactions you may have. by entering the giveaway and accepting the prize you agree that i am not responsible for the use or misuse of these products or any illness or injury caused by them, however unintentional.

lavender & tea tree soap: olive oil infused with lavender buds, slippery elm bark, and yarrow; coconut oil, corn oil, water, sodium hydroxide, shea butter, lavender essential oil, and tea tree essential oil.
lavender buttermilk castile soap: olive oil infused with lavender buds; buttermilk, water, sodium hydroxide, stearic acid, lavender essential oil, and pink oxide.
bum cream: soybean oil with vitamin e, calendula oil, shea butter, coconut oil, zinc oxide, beeswax, lavender essential oil, and tea tree essential oil.
massage cream: soybean oil with vitamin e, calendula oil, shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, sandalwood essential oil, and lavender essential oil.
nipple cream: grapeseed oil, coconut oil, and beeswax.
lip balm: soybean oil with vitamin e, calendula oil, shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, lavender essential oil, tea tree essential oil, and peppermint essential oil.
cloth wipe solution: water, aloe vera gel, calendula oil, distilled white vinegar, germaben ii (propylene glycol, diazolidinyl urea, methylparaben, and propylparaben), lavender essential oil, and tea tree essential oil.
face scrub: baking soda, kaolin clay, water, phenonip (phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, and propylparaben), lavender essential oil, and tea tree essential oil.
face toner: water, aloe vera gel, witch hazel, distilled white vinegar, phenonip (phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, and propylparaben), lavender essential oil, bergamot essential oil, and tea tree essential oil.
dusting powder: cornstarch, arrowroot, kaolin clay, lavender buds, and calendula petals.
lavender ooh lotion: water, olive oil, honey, emulsifying wax, stearic acid, soybean oil with vitamin e, calendula oil, shea butter, germaben ii (propylene glycol, diazolidinyl urea, methylparaben, and propylparaben), citric acid, and lavender essential oil.
lavender oatmeal milk bath: nonfat milk powder, rolled oats, lavender buds, chamomile, baking soda, sandalwood essential oil, and lavender essential oil.
cloth baby wipes are 100% cotton.

please note that both germaben ii and phenonip are both paraben preservatives. parabens have a very long history of safe use in all kinds of cosmetic products and are approved by the fda in usage rates up to 25% of total weight. preservatives are needed in any water-based "concoction" to prevent microbial growth and other nasties. my usage rate is approximately 1% of total weight. i cannot make lotions, scrubs, or toners without preservatives, so if you oppose the use of parabens or preservatives in your care products, please do not enter the giveaway. if you would like more information about germaben ii and phenonip, please click here. for more information about the safety of parabens, please click here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

black panther style

6 years ago this month, brian asked me to marry him. 6 years! wow. obviously i said yes. it was a really beautiful proposal and looking back on it now, it would not be complete without a bit of signature brian weirdness.

we were both living in san francisco at the time and i was just finishing school - 8 weeks left until graduation. we had decided we wanted to wait to get married until i got my degree, and since i was so close i guess he decided the time was right. "we" had picked out a ring - "we" because i was somewhat concerned about what brian would choose for me. seeing as how i would be wearing that particular piece of jewelry for the rest of my life, i felt somewhat justified in my concern. besides, brian really likes yellow gold and i pretty much do not, and if he had his way i would be wearing yellow gold instead of the beautiful white gold ring i have. in my defense, i absolutely adore my engagement and wedding rings just as much now as when he gave them to me. i also did not want to ever see a ring that i might have chosen for myself and think "if only..." and i can honestly say i have never seen another ring set that is more beautiful than mine, if i do say so myself.

we went out to dinner kind of on the spur of the moment. it was a thursday night. apparently he had gotten the rings (the engagement ring he chose came as a set with the band) the previous weekend and was going to propose later in the month but just couldn't wait. we had dinner on pier 39 and then walked down fisherman's wharf to the acquatic park. it was a crisp night, a bit cool (but when in san francisco is it not cool?) and we did get sprinkled on once or twice, but i was out with my boyfriend and i had a couple martinis at dinner, what did i care? then we were on top of a "lookout" at the acquatic park and the lights were beautiful and i was saying something lame, and i turned around and he was opening a box with a sparkly ring in it. he didn't even have time to get down on one knee, just stumbled out will you marry me? before i threw my arms around his neck and kissed him and said YES!!

and here is the brian craziness: there were two rings in the box, both the engagement ring and the wedding band. he proposed to me with both rings because he didn't know what to do with the band if he left it out of the box. i took the engagement ring out of the box and slid it onto my finger; it was a tiny bit big and would need to be sized down a little more than half a size, but it was gorgeous. i couldn't believe it.

brian apparently also could not believe it, because he told me in no uncertain terms before we walked back to the truck to take the ring off and put it back in the box, and he would put the box in his jacket for safekeeping until we could get the ring sized. EXCUSE ME? you just asked me to be your wife and gave me a ring and now YOU ARE TAKING IT AWAY?? I DON'T THINK SO. i am the happiest girl on earth right now and i am going to WEAR MY RING. he finally conceded on the condition that i keep my hand clenched in a fist so it would not fall off my finger. and i also had to keep my fist raised so the diamond would not fall out of the setting. it was cold so i could humor him with the fist (and after all, how could he tell under my jacket sleeves) but i drew the line at walking around with my fist raised high in the air.

i thought of this all today because we have been having unseasonable heat this past weekend and it isn't supposed to break until the weekend, and though my hands really are not swollen (not like my feet) i can't get my wedding rings on anymore. i put them on a chain around my neck, much to brian's horror. the chain is not thick enough for his comfort nor made of unbreakable titanium and i was going to lose my wedding rings if i wore them like that and if i lost them by God he is going to divorce me, I SWEAR TO YOU WOMAN I AM NOT KIDDING I WILL LEAVE YOU IF YOU LOSE MY RINGS. this morning at the doctor's office, i kid you not, he checked the ring around my neck to be sure the diamond had not fallen out.

because if he could somehow make it so, i would be walking around with a raised clenched fist, just in case.

Monday, April 20, 2009

wherein we work our butts off but have a lot to show for it

i must be seriously nesting because i've been quite productive lately. for starters, we got knobs for the dresser, YAY FINALLY OMG IT'S ABOUT TIME. brian drove me up a wall with these stupid knobs as he hated every single option i presented him with. in the end we decided to get plain wooden ones and paint them ourselves:

i love them so much. i love them even more on the dresser, which we hauled upstairs into her room. thank heavens it was very light with the drawers removed because we are quite a pair right now, me pregnant and brian with his bad back (he re-injured it last week).

it's the hemnes dresser from ikea, only custom-made shorter for us. the ikea one would be fine for brian but is too tall for me to use as a changing table. these are the things you have to think about when your husband is twelve inches taller than you are.

i also made a delicious easy dinner and dessert sunday evening. i try to make something a little special at least once on the weekend because i have the extra time. i am always trying to come up with something interesting to do with chicken breasts as they are usually pretty inexpensive, easy to freeze for later, and easy to bake on a weeknight. this weekend i found an easy baked chicken recipe, and it was quite delicious with roasted potato wedges:

there really is a chicken breast under all those onions, i promise.

baked chicken with onions, garlic, and rosemary

chicken breasts or parts
salt and pepper to taste
1½ onions per breast half (or equivalent weight in parts), sliced into rings
6 cloves garlic per breast half, thinly sliced
olive oil
2 tsp. fresh minced rosemary or 2 T. crumbled dried rosemary per breast half

preheat oven to 400°. rinse chicken and pat dry; season liberally with salt and pepper. toss together onions, garlic, and rosemary with a few drizzles of olive oil. spread half the onions across the bottom of a shallow baking pan large enough to fit all the chicken pieces in one layer. arrange chicken pieces on top of the onions and then cover chicken with the remaining onions. bake 45-55 minutes or until chicken tests done.

roasted potato wedges

red potatoes
olive oil
kosher salt
chopped fresh garlic
ground cumin

preheat oven to 400°. scrub potatoes and slice into wedges. toss together with olive oil and spices to taste. arrange on a baking sheet and bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.

and then we had strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert. !!! i love springtime and i love rhubarb and i love pie, so when i saw rhubarb at the store on friday i HAD to get some.

according to joy of cooking, the juices are supposed to bubble through the lattice like that. i had never made a lattice top before and now i know why: because i am just as lazy of a cook as i am a seamstress. it looks pretty but that was more work than i care to do. i like pie so much because it is easy and delicious, and lattice on top just is not so easy. or maybe i am missing something? i made extra crust dough to freeze, because it is always nice to have homemade pie dough on hand for quiche or when i get the hankering for pie, and pie crust is so easy. and brian actually liked this pie! he is not very big on fruit desserts (if it doesn't have chocolate, what's the point?) so this was huge to me.

basic pie crust (makes 2 crusts)

2½ c. flour
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ c. (½ stick) frozen shortening
½ c. (1 stick) cold butter
ice water

mix together dry ingredients. cut in shortening and butter with a pastry cutter, two knives, or short pulses in a food processor. continue cutting/pulsing while drizzling in a small amount of ice water, until dough just begins to stick together. gather into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill at least ½ hour before rolling out.

strawberry-rhubarb filling

2½ c. chopped rhubarb (pink or red stalks only)
2½ c. sliced strawberries
1 c. sugar
¼ c. cornstarch
¼ tsp. salt
2 T. butter

preheat oven to 450°. combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl until fruit is well coated; let stand 15 minutes. pour into prepared pie crust and dot with butter; cover and vent. bake 30 minutes, then turn oven down to 350°, place a cookie tray under pie dish, and bake another 25-30 minutes or until top is golden brown and thick juices bubble up through vents.

oh, and i did this all on what was quite possibly the hottest day of the year thus far. what was i thinking? that pie was worth it, but.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

a week in the life

this week i am thankful for:

1. a really fun, satisfying, addictive hobby obsession that might even be able to eventually bring a couple extra dollars into our household (thereby justifying my insatiable need to purchase toys supplies).

2. good job-related news from a friend!

3. the dresser, which finally (!) arrived at my house this past week and is PERFECT and BEAUTIFUL and i love it. except that it still smells like acrylic paint and so is curing in my garage, which prevents me from filling it with sweet little kiddo things, which is driving me nuts. oh, and that other minor detail, drawer pulls... still have not found any we're in love with yet, so i can't open the drawers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

swirling and briefly about milk soaps (long, sorry)

as i mentioned before, swirling is pretty easy. doing it well takes a lot of practice, but i personally think the concept in and of itself is pretty simplistic. in that previous post, i swirled lavender into my white base soap with pretty nice results. however i am not an excellent swirler which is why the color did not get all the way through the soap. i am not sure how to remedy this except more practice. i also swirled yellow, red-orange, and brown into tan soap with beautiful results.

you want to have your colorant(s) mixed up ahead of time. i use powdered oxides and ultramarines; they are very inexpensive and very stable in soap. they don't bleed, and you can mix them together to make interesting colors. oxides and ultramarines are oil-soluble only so they do need to be mixed ahead of time with a little bit of superfatting oil. they do have the drawback of sometimes clumping in soap so you have to be sure to mix them very well with the oil before stirring into your soap. almost all oxides and ultramarines are manufactured synthetically.

fd&c colorants are also available and come in liquid form. they are safe for soaping but do have a tendency to bleed. they're also pretty cheap. they are water-based, so you can't use them in a lotion bar or lip balm. micas are a kind of hybrid; they are powdered and usually work best in clear soaps or cosmetics. if you make your own cosmetics you need to be sure you use cosmetic-grade micas or those safe for lips (depending on what you are coloring). labcolors are another liquid colorant you can use; i've heard good things about them but i think they're kind of pricey.

you can also color with natural colorants. turmeric makes a great yellow color and is what i used for the yellow in the cedar & saffron soap. chlorophyll, kelp, and spirulina make great greens. alkanet root is wonderful for a dusty purply color.

the basic concept is: stir your soap to trace, usually a somewhat lighter trace than you might normally get to. this is partly so you can cut the color through, partly because it takes a bit of time to swirl and you need the soap to still be liquidy enough to be workable. you can add any fragrances or additives now or later, depending on whether you want them in the swirly part or not.

remove part of the soap from the original batch to a new (non-reactive) container. how much you remove depends on how you want your swirl to look. i generally prefer thin ribbons of color so i don't take out very much. because i don't like to deal with a lot of cleanup when coloring soaps, i pour my "to be colored" soap into a plastic cup and color it in the cup.

mix your additives and fragrances into the base soap, if you haven't already, and pour the base soap into the mold. in the lavender buttermilk castile soap, i added the lavender before removing the "to be colored" soap but added the buttermilk afterwards. in the cedar & saffron swirl, i removed three different cups of soap to be colored and then added in the fragrance and almond meal. the almond meal was not a huge issue, but i added the fragrance (and buttermilk in the other batch) separately because i was not sure how they would affect the coloration of the soap, and i did not want that to affect the soap i had added the colorant to. the cedar & saffron fragrance discolors to light tan; milks in general can cause browning and discoloration. you can also color the base soap if you want to; for example, if you were making a mint chocolate soap with cocoa butter, you could remove soap to be colored dark brown, color the base soap minty green, and swirl the brown into the minty green.

pour your colorant into your reserved soap and stir until well blended. then drizzle slowly into and all through your base soap in the mold. i think if you drizzle slowly and kind of thickly, more colored soap will get to the bottom, but i can't prove this. then get a knife or fork - or use the fork you stirred your colored soap with - and cut the colored soap through the base soap. you don't want to mix it uniformly but you do want it spread throughout. that's it! cover and insulate.

another very easy way to swirl is "in the pot." this doesn't produce a uniform swirl and you do have less control over the swirl but i still like it. to swirl in the pot, remove your "to be colored" soap but don't pour your base soap into the mold yet. color the reserved soap and then pour it back into the pot. i find this worked best when you dump the whole colored bit right into the center of the pot. do not mix the soap anymore. pour your soap into the mold, kind of moving the soap "pour" around the mold as you pour. the movement of the liquid soap from the pot to the mold will swirl the colors together. then cover and insulate.

a note on milk soaps: milk raises the temperature of soap, which is why milk soaps generally do not need to be insulated. this is also why milk soaps tend to discolor brown. personally i don't really mind this as i usually put milk in soaps with other stuff in it, like oatmeal and honey, almond meal, flax seeds, or other natural things. however sometimes a beautiful white soap is just what you want for a milk-based soap, like i wanted for my lavender buttermilk castile soap. the key is to use enough water (no discount) and to make sure your temperatures stay low. remember, it's nice but not crucial for your soap to gel.

with the lavender buttermilk castile soap, the mms lye calculator recommended 8-14 ounces of water (liquid). in my recipe, i used the full 14 ounces of liquid; normally i take a full discount (i'd use 8 ounces of water). i replaced 8 of those ounces with buttermilk, so i only used 6 ounces of water. i mixed my NaOH with the 6 ounces of water and then let it cool completely, i think i left it for 3-4 hours. i let my oils cool completely as well. i also let the buttermilk come to room temperature. i mixed the lye solution with the oils and added the buttermilk at trace, so there was less free NaOH floating around in the raw soap to react with the buttermilk. also, i usually put my soap into a warm (170º) oven for about an hour to conserve heat; this time i just left it on the counter. if you are careful in the way you manage your temperatures, you can make a beautiful white milk soap.

Monday, April 13, 2009

even more soap pictures

here is the omh soap all cut into bars:

it smells delicious, i told you the cat pee smell would go away. it's sweet and homey and heavenly. this was an overlarge batch (3 full lb. of oils) compared to what i usually make (2 lb. 8 oz.) which is why the bars are extra fat.

this is a lavender buttermilk castile soap i made last week. i love swirling color into soap. imho it is so much prettier and more interesting than just a plain solid color. here it is in the mold:

and cut into bars:

i guess i'm not great at swirling, because the swirl did not go all the way through to the backside. castile soap is simply olive oil soap. traditionally it is made with 100% olive oil, but that also makes a relatively soft soap without a very good lather. this is because olive oil is largely composed of oleic acid which is very moisturizing but doesn't contribute hardness or lather to the bar. lauric, myristic, palmitic, and stearic acid do contribute hardness and fluffy lather so often soapers will add some coconut oil (up to 25%) to their castile bars to make a nicer bar. i'm a bit of a purist on this issue so i prefer not to though i did add in a little stearic acid to make the bars a little harder. literally a little - the stearic is only 2% of the oils. stearic is a fatty acid, not the kind of acid that burns your skin.

this one, i have no idea what to call it. the scent is bramble berry's cedar & saffron fo, a warm, slightly spicy, woodsy, somewhat masculine fragrance. i stirred in almond meal to make it scrubby (i love a scrubby soap) and did those swirls. swirling is pretty easy, i'll discuss in another post. in the mold:

and cut into bars:

i don't know why it looks a bit "bubbly" on top. maybe because i poured at such a thin trace. the beveling is a bit wonky because i was so insanely impatient and turned it out after only 24 hours in the mold and it was quite soft. i love love LOVE the way the swirl came out and it smells amazing. this could be my new favorite scent. name suggestions, please?

this sunshine soap is one of my favorites. the scent is bramble berry's energy fo and is to die for, and the yellow "rays" are calendula petals. i love calendula because it is so pretty in soap and really holds up. lots of botanicals don't; lavender buds look like dead bugs in soap. in the mold:

and cut into bars:

this is also a favorite of my sister's so i have a feeling it will not last long. i usually hold back a couple bars for myself anyways!

by the way, if you bevel the edges of your soap with a potato peeler, like i do? don't throw away those little curlies! i bevel into a generously-sized tupperware and save the curlies until i have a good amount of them and then make confetti soap. confetti soap is just a basic plain white (or lightly colored, if you have a lot of white shavings) soap, lightly scented if you like, with curlies and shavings stirred into it at trace. it's a great way to keep all those leftovers from going to waste and pretty to boot.

speaking of keeping things from going to waste, if your soap batch doesn't turn out, it can almost always be saved. see here or here or any of the sites i mentioned for troubleshooting help before you give up and throw it out.

if you're interested, you can purchase any of the soaps i've made. Lord knows we don't need this much soap at my house, but i'm somewhat obsessed in case you haven't noticed. send me an email to estensler (at) comcast (dot) net and we can discuss.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

i thought, this will either be really good, or really awful.

and it turned out pretty darn good. we (okay, i) often have two breakfasts at my house on at least one weekend day. cold cereal and coffee when i get up, because i get up earlier than brian, and then usually something yummy a bit later after he summons the will to live and comes downstairs to steal the paper from me. this weekend we had some extra bananas lying around that were starting to turn brown so of course i thought, banana bread! i was quite surprised that none of my recipes for banana bread had any kind of spices in them. and then i discovered that i didn't have any walnuts. what?! banana bread with no walnuts? sacrilege. so i improvised and souped up my recipe.

while looking for walnuts i discovered some crystallized ginger. i love crystallized ginger. i also added slivered almonds instead of the walnuts because that's what was in the pantry. it came out very good albeit a bit gingery. i think in the future i would go a little lighter on the ginger (i put in about 1/3 cup) and put in another banana (i used 1 cup mashed). and of course, a little bit of spice never hurt anyone.

i also squeezed some fresh orange juice from some oranges we had sitting around that needed to be dealt with. i don't really like eating oranges but i love orange juice. how come fresh-squeezed tastes so much better than from a carton? these were not even from a tree, just from the store. if anyone has a surplus of oranges that they would like to share, a good home for them can be found in my kitchen.

happy easter, everyone!

spiced banana bread (the way i would make it, not the actual way i did it)

¼ c. softened butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1¼ c. mashed bananas (about 4)
½ c. milk
2 T. orange or lemon zest
2¼ c. flour
¼ c. whole wheat flour
3 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ c. chopped crystallized ginger
½ c. slivered almonds
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cinnamon

preheat oven to 350º. cream together butter, sugar, and egg. add mashed bananas, milk, and zest and mix well. add flours, baking powder, salt, ginger, almonds, and spices and mix well. pour into a greased 9x5x3 loaf pan and bake for one hour or until done. cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.

Friday, April 10, 2009

just so totally rocked my own world

because i made lotion. like for real. like you could buy at the store. like feels really nice on dry skin. i remember i felt like this when i made soap for the first time - like: WHOA, awesome, i can do this cool thing!

lotion was insanely easy. oh my heaven was it easy. unlike soap, lotion does not use any "scary" ingredients like NaOH. but also unlike soap, lotion does use some specialty ingredients that i doubt would be available at your local health food store.

my recipe was based on bandicoot's ooh lotion with a couple little tweaks. i subbed in citric acid for the vinegar (to cut the smell) and subbed in shea butter, calendula oil, and soybean oil with vitamin e for some of the olive oil. otherwise everything else was the same. my batch was approximately 8 ounces (230 grams) and was as follows:

oil phase:
10g soybean oil with vitamin e
10g calendula oil
10g shea butter
16g olive oil
11g emulsifying wax
11g stearic acid

water phase:
14g honey
2g citric acid
143g water

3g germaben ii

8 drops lavender eo

lotion is just an emulsion of water and oils, like mayonnaise or salad dressing. apparently the key is the right proportion of oils to water to make the emulsion hold. germaben ii is a paraben-based preservative, necessary because the water is a nice breeding ground for germs and other nasties that might feed off the oils. i've heard you can make lotion without a preservative, but you have to keep it in the fridge and use it within a week, which says to me: what's the point?

to make the lotion, you heat the oil phase and the water phase separately to about 170º, then allow to cool to approximately 140º. add germaben ii. pour the oil phase into the water phase and blend with a stick blender until cool. i think i blended for about 10 minutes straight. almost immediately, the mixture turned thick and white and creamy and smelled lotion-y. i think it is the e-wax that gives it that lotion-y smell, because the oils and germaben ii smelled like nothing at all. i dropped in 8 drops of lavender eo (since this is for the kiddo, i didn't want to put too much - 8 drops in 8 ounces is hardly anything) and continued to blend.

i then scraped the lotion into a plastic baggie, sealed the top, and cut off the corner so i could squeeze it into lotion bottles. in the future i think i would use a slightly stiffer bag because lotion does not have much body. (to make more of a cream, you would sub in more stearic acid and less water, maybe 3% more stearic.) i used a fold-over-type sandwich bag because i didn't want to waste a ziploc but in the future i think it would be worth it. another way to get lotion into tubes is to pipe it in with a syringe, but in my previous experience that takes forever. so i did the baggie method. the idea was to be like piping frosting. i also cut the corner of the bag too big so it was a bit problematic but i think those issues are easily remedied.

lotion ingredients should be available online at pretty much any soaping website; i got mine from bramble berry and camden grey. i think i got all the bottles at bramble berry also though it was a really long time ago so i'm not 100% sure, but both sites carry nice packaging options.

i. am. AWESOME.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

easter thankfulness

this week i am thankful:

1. for a supportive, encouraging husband, even and especially when he is having a rough time himself.

2. that i am forgiven.

3. that as a society we have access to and encourage all kinds of education and knowledge. we have had pregnancy classes out the kazoo the past two months and more support scheduled for after the kiddo. my health insurance plan encourages it. a lot is "review" from stuff we have learned in from reading all the pregnancy books, but since we've never done this parenting thing before, we figure on getting all the help we can get.

Monday, April 6, 2009

maybe not such a bad plant mommy after all

i've been noticing my roses lately, the ones i don't know how to manage and as of yet have not really learned. i know you're supposed to hack them back prune them down in the winter, but my understanding is there is a particular way to do it so they will grow back healthy and beautiful. heck if i know what that particular way is, i just hacked away with the loppers. not that i ever remember to water them either. and yet the bushes in the backyard are suddenly thriving - one in particular is suddenly covered with lovely white flowers. the ones in the front yard have shot out tons of new growth and it seems like overnight they have become covered with buds. pictures to follow in a day or so when they explode, photographic proof that apparently even i can grow a rose without knowing what i'm doing.

the dianthus on the front porch, now that's another story.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

one is silver and the other gold

this week i am thankful for:

1. my best girl alice. we've been friends for almost 17 years now which just blows my mind. i mean, 17 years! that's more than half my life. she is so wonderful and generous and fabulous and threw me (and the kiddo) the nicest baby shower this past weekend. AND, she's getting married this summer! so i cannot wait to return the favor.

2. the fabulous ladies who came to my baby shower. not only were they more than generous (oh my heaven) but they are all SO MUCH FUN and i love each and every one to pieces. most of them i don't get to see that often, so it was AWESOME to get to see everyone and just have a nice afternoon together. (that was the best part, really.)

update: photos posted here if you're interested.

3. this "community" of blogging/internet ladies that i have gotten to know over the past year that i've been blogging. i never in my wildest dreams expected to get to know such interesting people. i know i have a very minute readership. it's a good day when i get 3-4 comments on a post. i have no desire to be as huge as dooce or anything, but i'm thankful for the little bit that i have. some of you i know or have connections to in real life, others i hope i get to meet sometime for a cup of coffee or lunch. so thank you to jessika, kelly, jaimey, nancy, tabitha, jenna, sarah, jenny, elizabeth, and jaye. my sister has been rather absent lately but is a riot. anyone else i might be forgetting, i'm sorry if i did but i still appreciate you. you ladies encourage me and make me laugh and make me think and i appreciate it.