Cooking with apples

Even with our ridiculous weather (today’s forecast: “abundant sunshine”), you can still feel a chill in the air as it turns to fall. I love this time of year. It reminds me of new school years and football games and pumpkins. Don’t even get me started on the idea of putting Harper in an adorable costume for the first time…

But one of fall’s greatest gifts is the apple harvest, and I’m excited to get cooking with mine. If you’re lucky enough to pick your own at an orchard, you’re guaranteed to have way more than you know what to do with. So here are some ideas for ya:

Recipes: apple tart / stuffed turkey tenderloins / mini apple crisp / caramel apples / homemade applesauce

Buttermilk skillet cornbread

The other night when I was making Shipwreck Stew, I remembered that we always used to make it with cornbread. So I decided to whip up a batch in one of our cast-iron skillets. I combined a couple recipes I had saved in my recipe book, and I thought it turned out really well.

My skillet was 8 inches in diameter instead of 9, so it made a really tall cornbread, but that’s OK. Next time I would actually use frozen corn instead of fresh off the cob. The fresh stuff was so watery it didn’t have much flavor when it baked.

So here’s what I came up with:

Buttermilk skillet cornbread
Serves 6
Soft and slightly sweet cornbread that pairs well with comforting stews.
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Cook Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
  1. 2 cups AP flour
  2. 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  3. 3/4 cup sugar
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  8. 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  9. 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  10. 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch skillet and place it in the oven to preheat.
  2. In one bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and oil.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add the melted butter and corn and stir it all together.
  4. Remove the hot pan from the oven (carefully) and pour the batter in. Return to the oven and bake for one hour, or until the top is browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  1. I found that frozen corn worked better than fresh in this recipe.
Adapted from The New York Times Magazine
Cara Corey

On being a work-at-home mom

I think I knew going in that being a work-at-home mom was going to be more “mom” than “work.” But seven months in, I can totally confirm that it is a really tough thing to combine the two and feel good about both of them. 

Initially I was in survival mode, just trying to get through each day’s parenting challenges with a few orders thrown in here and there. After three months I had added most of my products back to my shop and had started contributing occasional posts to Goodsmiths, and it felt good to work again. Now Harper is able to occupy herself more during the day, so I’m able to squeeze in more orders and more writing while watching her, in addition to those night and weekend hours (and Fridays when Mike’s home too). 

Now work feels vital. And it’s getting harder to view the days as mom first, work second. Eventually she will need more socialization, and hopefully I’ll have enough demand for my work that I can justify sending her to some daycare/preschool for a few hours a week. Having totally uninterrupted work time seems absolutely blissful at this point. She is a sweet and happy baby most of the time, but her naps never last more than 1/2 an hour, and she can pitch one heck of a fit during teething days. So it is hard to find a good balance when you never know what each day will bring.

I’m finding certain routines to be really helpful in this lifestyle. Morning is the best time for me to work out — Mike’s around to watch Harper and then I get that off my list for the day. Harper is usually awake for 2 hours at a time, then takes a nap. That gives me some idea when I’ll have a little free time throughout the day. She gets jammies at 8, her last meal at 8:30 and then down for bed at 9. That consistency really seems to help her sleep routine. 

Though it seems like a baby’s life is pretty simple, they do get bored pretty easily. So I find the best days are when Harper gets out of the house for some stimulation. Even just a trip to Target is better than nothing. I’m getting more relaxed about taking her various places. It’s so nice to have her able to sit up in a cart without dragging in all these contraptions!

It’s funny, I think I used to have some unfair judgment about people who went straight back to full-time work after having a baby. Sort of a – why have kids if you are just going to have someone else raise them? type of attitude. But now that I’m here, I can totally see why staying home isn’t for everyone. There’s no one else in my life that I would spend that much time with without it affecting our relationship. It’s intense sometimes. Especially since this little person is also whining, crying, peeing, pooping, and spitting up on you with regularity. I’ve never had a job this hard. It challenges me at every level. I think that’s part of why I want to do it. I live for challenges. Like say, starting a handmade business with no actual business experience…

What I love about this arrangement is that even on the hardest days I get to do what I love AND watch my baby grow up. She sees that her mom got to live her passion and be there for her at the same time. It certainly saves us money on childcare. In the bay area childcare is so expensive it would almost not be worth it for me to work a 9-5 job. I have the freedom to take trips and spend time with people who come to visit. I can take advantage of business opportunities in this area that I definitely didn’t have before. 

As with any job, you get better over time. I’m still new at this. I’m not always good at it and I don’t always enjoy it. But I think it was the right choice for our family. As our family grows I may want to make some changes, but for now we’re in a good place. We’ll see how it goes once the holiday shopping season heats up!

I’ve read so many articles lately about women struggling to find work/life balance with a family, and it seems like SO many people are grappling with this issue. There just aren’t a lot of easy answers. I think families need more support generally — more paid leave, more affordable daycare, more vacation days, better healthcare — so that both moms and dads wouldn’t have to feel like they had to make such hard choices. I also read a ton of articles kind of making light of parenthood, basically saying “hey, let yourself off the hook for feeling this way.” It seems we are carrying around a lot of guilt and we need to give ourselves a break sometimes. You can’t try every idea on Pinterest and make dinner and clean the house and stay sane. Sometimes you just have to put your feet up and laugh at how the day went.

Check out my mom’s new shop!

I’m so proud of my mom for embarking on her next journey as a businesswoman. She just opened her new shop, Sale Away Vintage, and it is already filling up with cool finds.

I love these Art Deco shoes from the ’40s.

And everyone needs a Burberry style scarf.

This designer leather purse was quite a find.

I hope you will support her like you’ve supported me. Check out her shop on Facebook, Etsy, and Twitter. And you can always see her finds in person at the Lawrence Antique Mall.

Go, mom!

7 months

The seventh month has definitely been our best one so far with Harper. The other day we ran into this couple at the UPS store who had a 2-month-old baby and I was reminded of how different Harper is now than she was at that age, and how much easier our lives are now that she’s a little older.

She is so curious and interactive. She has a smile for everyone, so we are constantly stopping everywhere we go so she can make eyes at someone at the next table, behind us in line, etc. She has completely taken down the invisible walls that go up between strangers here.

She is an instant conversation starter. I never realized how many other people had babies! We always used to joke that it seemed like more people had dogs. Actually, I think that is a recordable fact in SF, but still.

People always say, “oh she is such a happy baby!” and I love that. Sure, we have our dramatic moments, but mostly she is a pudgy, giggly, adorable little goofball.

We started feeding her more solid foods this month. She hasn’t had a reaction to anything so far, so we just keep introducing new things. She loves getting pieces of fruit in a mesh baggie because she gets to feed herself. She likes carrots, avocados and bananas.

We’ve started giving her bits of our food at restaurants, so she’s already had Chinese and Indian (the non-spicy stuff). It’s nice that she can sit on our laps or in a high chair at restaurants so we can at least attempt to eat at the same time.

She still doesn’t show much interest in crawling, but she can sit up really well and lean over to reach for things. She is super grabby — for my hair, my glasses, whatever is on the table in front of her, or her favorite thing, paper. She’s not allowed to chew on napkins because she eats them!

Her legs are super strong and she loves to stand with our help. I don’t think she’s far from standing by herself with something to balance on.

The big change this month is that she got her first teeth. One bottom tooth popped through and then the other. Pretty soon she will have that ridiculously adorable two-bottom-teeth grin.

We had a couple rough nights when the teething seemed to really bother her, but generally it has not been too bad. I picked up some homeopathic remedies at Pharmaca, and the teething tablets seem to help a lot.

After feeling stretched super thin and longing for some family help and closeness the past few months, I’ve finally started to feel a little more comfortable on our own. The gloomy summer days (weird, I know) have passed and now each day when the fog clears it feels like we have our little piece of paradise here.

We’ve starting putting Harper in the stroller and exploring our neighborhood more — we’re always bumping into our neighbors strolling their kids around. It feels more like home than it ever has. And when we look around at our beautiful bay views dotted with sailboats, the cute park down the street, our neighborhood food truck gathering, the pool where she’ll probably take her first swimming lessons, it seems like not such a bad place for her to grow up. At least for a while.

One step at a time

So far my plan to lose the baby weight has not been a smashing success. I thought I was ready, but in hindsight I wasn’t quite there yet. I improved on the exercise front, but not so much on the diet part. (Uneven sleep has been a big roadblock.)

But this week, I’m doing better. Tuesday morning, after a good night’s sleep, I put on my running shoes and decided to jog a little bit. I felt like I had bricks strapped to my shoes, but I managed to get in about 10 minutes of actual running.

Wednesday I went again, and was up to 12+ minutes. This morning I rode the bike trainer downstairs. I’m thinking that if I keep changing up my routine I will stay interested in it. It sure is nice to have a half hour to myself in the mornings, and I know Mike likes to get in some extra time with Harper. With the incredible weather we have, I certainly can’t use that as an excuse.

As has happened in the past, the exercise seems to have helped me eat better. I’ve been able to skip a lot of temptations this week and focus on other things. I think it really helps in this process to give yourself something to lose, as in progress made with exercise.

Homemade vanilla extract

Have you ever tried making your own vanilla extract? I am going to try it and see how it turns out. I just put a split vanilla bean pod in a jar with a cup of white rum. The recipe I have says to leave it in a cool, dark place for 8 weeks. Then you can keep feeding it, kind of like a sourdough starter, indefinitely.

I will report back in a few weeks.

Blue Bottle waffles, first attempt

After we got the waffle maker, I was wondering if I could recreate the amazing hand-held waffles at Blue Bottle Coffee.

They have this nice crunch of caramelized sugar on the outside, so you don’t need any toppings. After a bit of online research I found this recipe for Belgian liege waffles that seemed like it would work great.

They made it clear that you need to have pearl sugar to get the authentic crunchy sugar bits within the waffle. I looked everywhere, but could not find it (there is something the Berkeley Bowl doesn’t have?!). So eventually I just ordered it online.

The morning I decided to make the waffles I realized too late that I didn’t have enough time to make the yeast batter. So I thought I would just go ahead and use my go-to waffle recipe with the Belgian waffle technique. You mix some pearl sugar into the batter.

Then after you put the batter in the waffle maker, you sprinkle on some granulated sugar that will caramelize the outside.

We realized that the best waffles had tons of sugar on the outside and were nice and crispy.

Our waffles were really tasty, but they didn’t really resemble the Blue Bottle ones. So I went back to the Internet for more advice and discovered that I bought the wrong kind of sugar! I bought the Swedish pearl sugar, but I should have bought the Belgian pearl sugar, which comes in much bigger chunks.

So I guess it’s back to the drawing board, and we will just have to make waffles again.

Angel Island and Tiburon

Though the night before Labor Day was a rough one in the Corey household (Miss Harper is teething), we decided, post-nap, to make the most of the rest of our holiday weekend. We drove to Tiburon in Marin County to catch the ferry to Angel Island.

Harper’s first boat ride!

Though I can’t say it was high on my California to-do list, exploring Angel Island did seem like the perfect affordable day trip for a family with a baby. The Bay Bridge closure made traffic out there worse, but by Monday it was similar to a normal weekend day.

We ended up loving the island and wondering why no one had suggested it before. The views are incredible! And now that I know you can camp there, I definitely want to come back with friends and family (Brianne – adventure club reunion?)

Historically, the island was used to quarantine Asian immigrants and for military purposes several decades ago. So there are some museums and lots of old buildings and housing to check out.

It struck me as the kind of place where haunted souls reside. Kind of fascinating and creepy at the same time.

It is a little sad that the state is so broke it can’t afford to maintain those old buildings. Some of them seem really cool and worth saving. They could certainly use them for tourism.

But there are a lot of nice hiking and biking trails throughout the island. We did a good job of getting lost but eventually found our way.

And man, the payoff is huge. The views are the best I’ve seen anywhere. From one part of the island you get this whole panoramic view of San Francisco and the bridges.

That’s Alcatraz in the middle.

You can just make out the new Bay Bridge in front of the old (ugly) span.

And, the Golden Gate.

I can’t imagine how pretty it is to watch the sun go down while you camp there. I guess that’s why they also do sunset cruises.

I didn’t want to leave, but we caught the last ferry back.

She does this thing now that looks like a wave.

When we got back to Tiburon we got some gelato and admired the views, which are pretty darn good there, too.

Most of our Marin exploration has been of the state park variety, but I’m thinking we need to spend some time in the towns, too. The quirky houseboats in Sausalito are so much fun to check out. So I think we have more adventures ahead.

*And speaking of islands, you should definitely check out my post on Goodsmiths about shopping at the Treasure Island Flea Market. It was amazing and we found so many cool things.