29 May 2013

Everyday help

I've been paying closer attention to the everyday things in our lives lately.  It takes a bit of effort since, ordinarily, I hurry and, yes, sometimes even avoid the routine and mundane tasks. But now that I have a 2.4-year-old wanna-be helper around, I've had to slow down and notice what we do and how we do it.  Then teach him how.  And then, sometimes, assist his assisting. 

Having such a helper is time consuming, but, honestly, kind of fun.  I've never laughed so much doing boring stuff like filling the washing machine or trying to put sheets on the bed (notice I said trying . . . ).

I've been advised to embrace my preschooler's desire to help.  Otherwise, by the time he is capable enough to do chores he won't know how or have interest in helping out. I hope that all the helping and "doing it Wyatt's self" is building his self confidence and expanding his understanding of how things work. He juices, digs, helps with the trash, does laundry, fills the bird feeders, sweeps, knows how to use a wrench, measures things, and can properly use an egg beater. Truth is, this curious and capable little boy is becoming a contributing member of our household.  He loves it and so do we.

14 May 2013

The upside of down time

We just can't seem to kick the cold and allergy season around here.  If you chose any day on the calendar since the middle of March, at least one person (if not more) in our house was sick on that day. It's been a bummer. This past week we had another round, so Mother's Day was spent just with ourselves.  It involved some naps, low-key activities around the yard, a trip to the drug store for antihistamines, and lots of Kleenex.

I'm not really complaining, mind you.  It was a super nice day.  Byron sent me flowers.  We had a great breakfast of fruit, herb-scrambled eggs, and my favorite twist from a local bakery.   I spent some quality time using my camera and even got a few hours to plant and dig and play in the dirt.   I had lunch made for me, and I didn't handle nap time.  As a bonus, Byron managed to muster the energy to schlep two big pots of plants from the front to the back yard for me, stain a chair, and work in the yard with me.  It was a terrific Mother's Day, illnesses notwithstanding.

One up side to all our down time over the past many weeks is all the reading we've been doing together or sometimes just in close proximity.  Of course, it also means that I'm now ready to burn all the "Curious George" books in our home.  Good news is that I think maybe Wyatt is too.  We've now gone two days without reading a George book.

We've also gotten creative and dug out new toys and fun activities to keep our minds off the sniffles.  Wyatt's new favorite toys happen to be a set of tinker toy building blocks that were Byron's as a boy.

Soon enough we'll be back to being our healthy selves.   I'm really looking forward to that, but I also can't complain with all the cozy family time we've had in the past many weeks.  Maybe the slowing down has been good for us.

Growing purple

One of the things I had time for on Mother's Day was taking my camera out to the garden.  I've had a particularly nice looking spring veggie garden this year, given all the overwintering spinach and cauliflower, broccoli, and herbs that I had going.  Now that spring is truly here, everything has turned that brilliant, living green color -- or the color purple.  For whatever reason, my garden is sporting dozens of shades of purple and burgundy right now.  Take a look.


07 May 2013

A birthday tart

I have some good excuses for not posting here lately, but most of them involve Kleenex and Musinex so I will spare you the details.  Suffice it to say we've had our share of sickness over the past couple months and I am super ready to be over it all.

There has been some fun mixed in with the misery though.  I must tell you about the eating at Byron's birthday mid April. It was a simple celebration with a couple folks to share dinner and cake and ice cream with us on a warm April evening.  First came a layered chopped salad and a chevre and chive savory tart in a yeasted crust.

Let me pause the story here briefly to tell you how much I like this yeasted tart crust. Since finding this crust recipe in the Everyday Greens cookbook (thank you, Jill, I love this book!) for me there is no going back to the hassle of pate brisee when making a quiche.  This crust is fast (takes an hour start to finish) and the dough is easy to work with and tender and tasty and best of all, no prebaking.

Annie Somerville's Yeasted Tart Dough and a basic custard
adapted a bit from Everyday Greens cookbook

1 tsp active dry yeast
pinch of sugar
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water and set in a sunny window for 10 minutes.  Combine the flour and salt in a bowl, make a well in the middle and add the whisked egg, softened butter, and yeast mixture.  Stir with a rubber spatula until it becomes a smooth, soft dough.  Dust it lightly with flour and gather into a ball.  Place it in a bowl (can be the one you mixed it in if it's fairly clean) and cover it with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour.

To make a tart crust, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface (with plenty of flour on hand for dusting as you go) into a 10-inch circle.  Place the dough in a 9-inch or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and press it evenly against the sides.  It should be about a 1/2 inch higher than the pan (although it won't be quite that much with the larger pan).  Fold the edges over and press again so the dough sows a little above the rim of the pan all around.  Allow it to rest for 5 minutes, then place it on a large baking sheet, and fill it with your savory fillings and custard.

I like to use a thin layer of flavorful cheese on the bottom of the crust (something like Guyere), then add my veggies and other any other cheeses (like goat cheese, asparagus pieces, potato chunks, sauteed mushrooms, etc.), and finish by pouring the egg-based custard over the fillings to fill the crust.  I like to use 3 eggs with a cup and a half of combined milk/cream/half and half (whatever combo I have on hand).

 Oh, and now back to the birthday part of the story . . .

For his birthday dinner, Wyatt and I made Byron a "dad's happy birthday cake," as it became known.  I had quite a lot of help in making it -- from assistance in cutting out the parchment circles to cracking eggs and sprinkling the coconut (and tasting it) and finally, stabbing the cake with candles.

In spite of all the attention given to it by a toddler, the little tower of cake managed to stay upright long enough to for us to ohh and ahhh, take a few pictures, and sing "Happy Birthday" to Byron before devouring it alongside ice cream.  Not a bad way to celebrate his 43rd year.