Words To Live By:

"The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won't wait while you finish the work."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Creative Comforts

I think that everyone of us has something inside just itching to get out.  I don't necessarily mean talents or gifts, but just a part of us that when left untouched, tends to keep us feeling unfulfilled or antsy.  For me, one of these itches is the need to create - to do something with my hands and see a finished product as a result of my efforts.  Depending on the day, my mood, the activity, I'm left feeling relaxed, satisfied, energized, etc.

It is my goal, now that we're back into a semblance of routine, to try something new every week to give vent to this monster.  More importantly, I'm starting to realise that for everyone's well-being, I need to grab some "important-to-mommy-let's-keep-her-sane" time - without feeling guilty.  So far, I'm off to a decent start.

Michael's (I love Michael's!) offers some crafty courses in a wide variety of interests, catering to various skill-levels.  Per chance, one day I saw while browsing, that they were offering a beginners scrapbooking course.  I've scrapbooked before, but even with my amazing & organized scraproom, (thanks, baby!) I need a kick in the butt to do something with the supplies at hand.   I signed up for the course (less than $30 for 4 weeks) and the last 2 Wednesday evenings have spent a couple hours with some other ladies who like to scrap. 

My first session, and even through part of yesterday's session, I wondered if perhaps the course was too beginner-oriented... but then again, I just wanted some motivation, inspiration and a night to myself.  Last night I started and completed one of the first scrap pages I've done in a looooong time - and I enjoyed it, even though it meant I was doing groceries at 10 pm and maybe the final product isn't quite perfect (I forgot half my tools - whoops!)

The Finished Product

Back to my goals.... As I said, I want to explore a little more while creating.   I want to delve into new recipes, sit down and scrap or cardmake, maybe write a chapter or two of that book floating around in the recesses of my mind.   I don't always get the chance to do a big complicated dinner like I did pre-daycare but it's my ambition to try a new recipe or two each week.  

I made my first batch of slider (mini-burger) buns last week and they were a keeper for sure!  The recipe was so yummy, I can improvise and use them as dinner rolls.   I'm thrilled about this - most of my yeast-based recipes tend to be a no-go.   Here's the link from CHOW:  Slider Buns.  

Honestly, I improvised a little - I didn't have shortening, so I used Tenderflake.  I didn't have kosher salt, but I did have course salt and used that instead.  To make them a little more savoury, I added a couple shakes of Epicure's Pesto Herb Mix.  (I swear, Epicure makes my life just a wee bit simpler... if you're interested in any products, I can give you contact info for two fabulous reps who just happen to be close friends of mine!)  The buns were delicious, the daycare kids enjoyed them as an afternoon snack, warm from the oven.  The boys didn't care for the turkey sliders I made but loved the bun - the whole 1 1/2 dozen disappeared the same day I made them.

This afternoon, the kids wanted food to play grocery store. While rifling through the pantry to see what non-glass items I could lend to their imaginative pursuits, I found a can of pumpkin puree tucked in the back corner.  When I was tidying up after dinner, I saw the can again and was struck with a craving for pumpkin muffins.  And after a somewhat stressful day, the need to create overruled the desire to take a bubble bath and soooo pumpkin muffins I made.  I flipped through my binder full of clippings and couldn't find a pumpkin muffin recipe but I found an apple spice muffin recipe and used it as a base.

My batch just came out of the oven just before bedtime and once they cooled enough to eat without burning the tongue, the boys (all 3!) sampled and approved.  I still think they're missing "something" that would make them perfect, but I'm pretty sure they'll be gone by tomorrow.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs (gasp!)
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp allspice
2 tsp ginger
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 can (756 ml) pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350°F.  I'm sure there's a proper method to adding the ingredients, but using my stand mixer I just dump it all in and mix until smooth.  Spoon into prepared muffin tins.  (I use standard tins with silicone muffin cups.)  Bake for 15-17 minutes - do the toothpick test.  Cool on wire racks and voila, yummy fall eats!  I'm sure they'd be good with frosting if you wanted a sweeter cupcake treat.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lucky Linds Is Loved

I love alliteration (a la the title of this post.)  That's just a side note for free....

You must be pretty lucky - not often you get two posts in a week, let alone in one day!

On the 21st of August, I celebrated my 29th birthday.  Shocked?!?  I know, I don't look a day over 25.  :)  I spent the day packing, cleaning, and driving home from the cottage.  No worries though - I did celebrate!  The 'boys' took me for dinner, informed me while I was doing groceries that I could buy a Kobo eReader (I have mixed feelings about it!) for my birthday and I planned a girls night out with my friends.

Last Wednesday, my friends and I had a lovely dinner at Jack Astors, followed by dessert at Demetres in Whitby.  Let me tell you - spending a night with these hot mommas always makes me laugh and feel loved!  We can complain, joke around, share our stories, our joys, are dramas, our concerns and always end the night feeling better than we started.

As we were celebrating my birthday, I was genuinely spoiled.  Seriously, they go over and above and I felt oh-so loved - I would have been happy with the fine company but no, they bore gifts as well - many a much appreciated gift card included.

Last weekend, I hit Chapters to enjoy the spoils.   Just having got the eReader from Kev & the boys, and also being an ardent patron of the local library system, I didn't want to just load up on paperbacks.  Mom & Dad had the boys, Kev trailed along to bear my purchases and I decided to invest in some crafting inspiration in addition to some cheap reads.

I had an anniversary card to make today and a craftroom filled with supplies (and junk!  Sheesh I need to reorganize again so I can find the floor... and the desk... and the desk chair.)  One of the books that made it home with me after my shopping spree on Saturday was Joy of Card Making,  (Leisure Arts, available at Chapters, $20.46). I basked in perusing it earlier this week and thumbed through this afternoon for inspiration:

This is the layout I opted to follow:

With some variations on the opposing page:

And my final project, a simple anniversary card, blank inside, and a coordinating envelope with scalloped flap:

I'd say I'm having a productive day but as I look at the laundry and other chores to be done, I'm not sure productive is the right word!  I guess I'm chanelling my creative or should-do-something energy into more frivolous pursuits and leaving the mundane for another day.

Baking Makes Me Happy

I will be the first to 'fess up to the fact that I am NOT a domestic diva.   I am nowhere near close to being crowned the next Martha Stewart or being monikered June Cleaver (although for some odd reason, I like the idea of serving dinner in heels and pearls).  Dinner is often a fast food affair and when I do cook, it's often with disasterous results (or decent results and then a 2 hour battle to get everyone to eat their meal without complaining!)   All that being said, however, I do enjoy my time in the kitchen when inspiration strikes, I'm not feeling rushed or pressured and all things go as planned.

I often find baking a great pick-me up.  I'm sure there's a scientific explanation that has to do with the smells triggering emotional responses, blah, blah, blah... but really, it just comes down to having fun and putting a smile on my face.  I tend to achieve better results (or at least better customer satisfaction - and my monkeys are two tough customers!) when I roll up my sleeves, don an apron, and facedown the mixing bowl than when I'm faced with having to come up with yet another chicken dish that will keep everyone happy.  I have a huge recipe book collection and an even bigger clipped and/or bookmarked recipe collection amassed from the internet, magazines, friends, tv, etc.

Despite this gargantuan mess of recipes, many of which I am still waiting to try - one day, I have my failproof, fall-back favourites.  One of these is my mom's Banana Bread recipe, which of course I've tweaked a little.  I've probably shared it before, but I have never (okay, rarely ever) had a flop with this family favourite. (So much a favourite, even the in-laws enjoy it and my sister-in-law requested it as the cake to celebrate Mom & Dad Brown's anniversary tonight.)  Originally a zucchini bread recipe, perhaps from an old Unico oil cookbook, it works well for banana cake, loaves, muffins, etc.   

Mom's Banana Bread

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar  (the original recipe calls for 1 3/4 cups but I find it works just as well with a single cup!)
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 or 5 ripe, mashed bananas

Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl.  In separate large bowl, combine eggs, sugar and oil.  Alternately add milk and dry ingredients to egg mixture.  Add bananas and vanilla.     (If using stand mixer, combine dry ingredients, then add wet ingredients all together and mix until well blended, then add bananas and mix some more.) 

Bake in preheated 350°F oven for approximately 40-45 minutes.  (Check at the 35 min mark if you desire.  My oven is slightly warmer so it takes about 35 minutes to do a bundt pan or two loaves.)

As a cake, it's delicious with a fluffy cream cheese frosting, topped with walnuts.  One of these days, I'd like to try it with a maple frosting.   I've also done a streusel topping if baked as loaves.  It's perfectly delicious on it's own and our usual serving method is warm from the oven, sliced and slathered with some butter!  Yum!  \

I also use my garden fresh zucchinis in the recipe but it's more of a feel-it-out type of thing than an exact recipe.   Usually, I'll grate a zucchini and use just 2 bananas;  everything else remains the same.  It makes a slightly denser cake.

Successful baking is like a warm hug from someone you love - comfort from the oven!  No wonder it puts a smile on my face.