Tuesday, September 8, 2009

So there you have it!

I read a post the other day on one of my favorite sites, Walk Slowly, Live Wildly. Sara is the one selling that amazing renovated Minnie Winnie that I’m longing for, remember? So anyway, I wanted to post something similar here and I finally have a few minutes when I’m not baking bread, making jewelry, or trying unsuccessfully to sew a skirt for my little niece.  From The Simple Woman’s Daybook:

Outside my window... the bright sun is heating my pool.
I am thinking... that I need to try that recipe for Vietnamese coffee ice cream.
I am thankful for... my family.
From the kitchen... leftovers from “pantry night” last night – cheesy quinoa casserole with broccoli and spinach, and chocolate banana bread pudding.
I am wearing... my only pair of shorts and a cotton tank top, both purchased in Sweden.
I am creating... more pieces for my jewelry store.
I am going... to Sam’s swimming lessons today.
I am reading... Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld.
I am hoping... that Sara is happy in high school.
I am hearing... my Roomba is it “vacuums” my kitchen.
Around the house...everything’s in its place after a Saturday of organizing.
One of my favorite things...is cooking for my family. 
A few plans for the rest of the week:
make more jewelry, work on my skirt pattern, and figure out how to turn my artisan boule bread into a sandwich loaf.

Friday, September 4, 2009

My jewelry store is now open!

Family_redblue Me_Meadow

As most of you know, I’ve been working on selling my jewelry online. I’ve been making jewelry for about five years but this is the first time that I’ve decided to sell it on Etsy, so I am eager to see what kind of results I get.  I’m still trying to get all of my pieces photographed and listed on the site, but there are plenty to see with lots of photographs of each one, and something for every budget.

Head over to www.nexusjewelry.com to check out the store, and don’t forget to follow Nexus Jewelry on Facebook for 15% off your first order!

Grandmother_seaglass3 Me_FireRoasted

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What a bad time to be without $8k


I’ve been following the blog Walk Slowly, Live Wildly for a long time since I discovered their amazing RV restorations. Not only have these people renovated 3 diesel RVs to run on veggie oil, but the work is very well done and the interior decor is fantastic. So I almost fell down today when I saw that they are actually selling their latest RV, a 21 foot Minnie Winnie. You’ve got to see this thing – it’s great. Click here for more information and tons of pictures of this amazing RV and for more about Sara and her family.

Pizza with Noprah balls, zucchini, and plums – what?!

So as I was sitting down to write this post about pizza, I had lofty plans to follow it with the beautiful pictures we shot last night as we were cooking. I didn’t realize at the time that pizza, especially rustic homemade pizza, pretty much looks like the dog’s dinner when photographed without a food stylist, lights, and lots of re-shoots. Oh, and then there’s the whole using-something-else-that-looks-good-on-camera-as-a-substitute-for-the-actual-food thing, which, although it’s fun to think about (is that really milk on that cereal or did they use glue again??), isn’t my thing. 

What I did accomplish, though, is making a very good homemade pizza entirely from scratch. We used the bread dough that we call the Plan B dough (a faster and less exciting white dough than our favorite one) and instead of using a pizza stone (who has one?!) I inverted my largest cast iron skillet and let it heat up for 30 minutes in a 450 degree oven. This is the same principle as baking bread in a pre-heated dutch oven, although not as effective because the skillet doesn’t have a lid. Neither does a pizza stone, so it must be the only way to go – still working on how to get that one to work. Anyway, as the skillet was heating up I mixed up a quick batch of pizza sauce from a can of ground tomatoes, some garlic, some fresh basil, salt, pepper, and a little bit of sugar to balance the acidity. I rolled and hand stretched the dough to form hideous excuses for circles, dusted the skillet with corn meal to prevent sticking, and precariously positioned the dough “round” onto the pan. I couldn’t figure out how to move a pre-dressed crust from the counter to the pan, so on went the naked crust and I quickly assembled the pizza with the rack pulled out halfway, doing a little acrobatic thing so I didn’t burn my legs on the open oven door.

Success! We had a plain cheese pizza for the kids (I used an Asiago and cheddar blend which Sara called the most delicious cheese blend ever) and a meatball and red onion pizza for us, using some of the Noprah** meatballs we made last week and froze.  Overall I’d give the pizza an A- as we still need to perfect the thickness of the dough so our tastes, but not at all bad for a dinner for four that cost about $1.50 in total.


**Noprah meatballs – About 4 years ago I read an article about a restaurant in Montecito, California that made turkey meatballs that Oprah feel in love with and ate every day for lunch for the entire summer. The key to the meatballs was raisins. I adapted the recipe and ended up with a turkey and pork meatball that includes 3 key ingredients: fennel seed, grated zucchini, and a puree of dried plums. The fennel balances spicy red pepper flakes, and the zucchini and plums provide lots of moisture and a touch of sweetness.  Try adding these key ingredients to your current meatball recipe to see what I’m talking about, and don’t forget lots of hot red pepper flakes! (OK, OK, they’re prunes. Yes, prunes…which are the same thing as dried plums you know, and just sound so much more appealing…and yes, they’re in a jar…and yes, it’s in an un usual section of the grocery store. OK, fine, they’re baby food prunes. So shoot me.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Waiting to exhale…

So just when you thought you’ve finally gotten rid of me, I’m here to say no such luck. I am actually very busy right now getting ready for the re-launch of my jewelry business, so I haven’t had much time to check in and let you all know what it’s like to be home. In a word – great. The most amazing part of our trip is that the adventures didn’t stop once we got home. Every day we’re changing and adding to our routine to incorporate some of the European ways of life. Yes, we’re riding our bikes much more these days (that is a saga in itself for another day!) but my favorite new skill is bread making. We actually make 100% of our bread from scratch now. Yes, 100%. That means all of it.  My favorite is the artisan boule, but we also have a honey wheat recipe that’s quite good as well and even easier than the white. So I guess what I’m saying is that I haven’t been here as much as I’ve wanted to, but in between baking bread like a maniac and the jewelry business I don’t have much time. I will try hard, though. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gotta love this…

So I’ve been a tiny bit worried that this year Sara could get into some trouble at camp this year, especially now that she’s 14. The kids in her group are as old as 17, and I was no angel when I was that age. When I checked the camp pictures this morning, I had quite a shock. Look!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why all the way to Bemidji, Minnesota?

Ok, so here’s the whole deal. Sara became interested in studying Swedish when she was 12, relatively out of the blue. We’re not of Swedish descent, and although my great-grandmother had a Swedish-themed room in her home, we didn’t really know anything about Sweden except for Ikea. Nor did we care, to be honest. So when Sara suddenly decides that Sweden is the new utopia and starts to teach herself the language and study the culture, we were just waiting for her to grow out of her latest phase. Pretty soon, though, when Sam started picking up a few phrases of Swedish from Sara’s constant Swedish enthusiasm, we realized that Sara wasn’t just kidding around. Jon found Concordia Language Villages, a summer camp in Minnesota that offers foreign language immersion programs for kids. The camp is part of Concordia College, a well-respected liberal arts school known for its language programs, and the camp had a Swedish program! The camp had an excellent reputation, and my mother was quick to point out that Chelsea Clinton was a graduate, so it couldn’t be too crappy, right? So off she went.

My Mom and I flew out to Minnesota last year to attend Family Day at the camp and to see just what all the fuss was about. I was actually speechless at the end of the presentation (which as you know almost never, ever happens) in which the counselors and students demonstrated what they’d been doing by singing, dancing, and even acting out a little skit. The energy of the staff was infectious and the kids were totally caught up in it. It was really remarkable. I would have been happy with that, but wait, there’s more! Each language program (there are 15) has its own self-contained area that is designed to look like that country. The kids sleep in little cabins that are very typical to Sweden (yep, we know this now) and eat authentic Swedish food (Sara said that last year’s food was the best food she’s ever eaten in her life). Lots of the counselors are native speakers, and many other counselors and staff are former campers themselves. This is big time. This is not your old Camp Sunrise or Camp Moon River or wherever it was that you got sent when you were a kid. There’s no archery, no bug juice, and certainly no shitty arts and crafts out of popsicle sticks. These kids have language lessons, learn about cultural traditions like Midsommar, and find out why traditionally yellow pea soup and pancakes were eaten on Thursday night. As they eat them on Thursday night. They have sailing lessons after which many kids can sail their own boat but can’t tell you any of the terms in English, and the kids use real Swedish currency at the camp store.

OK, so I sort of like it there, you’re getting that by now. After Sara’s experience last summer, we decided to try home exchange so that she could see what Sweden is really like, and put into practice some of what she learned. It truly was her camp experience that set our home exchange plans into motion, and for that we’re all grateful. I can’t say enough (obviously) about the quality of Concordia Language Villages, and neither can Sara. Before she left, she told us that she will get an after school job when she’s 16 so that she can save up enough money to send Sam to camp when he’s 7. If that generosity of spirit were the only thing to have come out of Sara’s experience at camp, it would be cheap at twice the price, as my father would say.

If you’re still reading this (congratulations on staying with it) and want to see what I’m talking about, click here to see the camp and learn about Sara’s first day!