Pom poms!

I am so excited to share that two friends from college, Sarah Goldschadt and Lexi Walters, wrote this super fun book about pom-pom crafts.

I couldn’t wait to dig into it and make some poms. The back of the book shows you how to make templates for different sized poms.

I started out by making a giant one for the top of a knit hat in Green Bay Packers colors. I’m thinking I might be making a lot of these for family members!

I also made this fun Christmas ornament out of stripey cupcake liners.

I wish I had some minis. They would be adorable next to the big one.

I also tried making the tiniest of poms out of bakers twine.

I have a whole jar of bakers twine in different colors, so I am excited to make more. And those hedgehogs… as soon as I get more free time.

Pom-Poms: 25 Awesomely Fluffy Projects is available now, and you will definitely want a copy in your stocking this year!

Cooking through Super Natural Every Day

A few weeks ago I was feeling like I was in a cooking rut. I was looking through my cookbooks for inspiration, and when I got to Super Natural Every Day, I realized that I hadn’t just marked a couple of things to try one day. I had pretty much marked the whole thing.

So I thought that instead of taking years to get to all those, I would commit myself to making all of them in the coming weeks. I ended up making all but I think two of the ones I had marked. I feel pretty good about that, and sure that I’ll get to the rest of them soon.

Along the way I added some items to my pantry that I hadn’t used before. I think I will keep them on hand regularly now. First, whole wheat pastry flour. Not only is it healthier than white flour, it makes your baked goods light and fluffy. The batters I made with it were downright silky.

The other item is natural cane sugar.

It’s somewhere in between fine white sugar and turbinado sugar. Since sugar seems to really affect my diet, I appreciate any ways I can take it back to its more natural form.

Both of these (and the copious amounts of maple syrup in her recipes) are more expensive than traditional baking ingredients. But not terribly so, and I think they’re worth the extra dollar or two.

One of the first recipes I made was a blackberry compote.

It’s pretty easy to make, and nice to have around since you can use it as a topping for pancakes, ice cream, and the like.

I went ahead and made the multigrain pancakes to go with the compote. They were awesome!

I think I liked them even better than my whole wheat pancakes, so they might become my go-to pancakes now.

The book is packed with great breakfast recipes, so I continued making those. I had never cooked with millet before so I was excited to try the millet muffins.

They came out a little crunchy on the outside, sort of like a cornbread muffin (but a healthier one). Again, the whole wheat pastry flour seemed to help a lot.

I also tried the bran muffins.

They were good, but I think if I’m looking to make a “healthy” muffin, I’d probably rather have my carrot muffins.

I can’t say the same for the granola, though. It turned out so much better than any granola I’ve made before.

I’m not sure why I’ve struggled (and burned) so many pans of granola before. But I think using the thicker shreds of coconut makes a big difference. I will definitely start making this instead of getting the storebought stuff.

It couldn’t be easier. The only thing I might change is halving the recipe because it makes a ton.

One week I was craving biscuits and gravy, so I thought it would be a good time to make the yogurt biscuits.

I don’t get too excited about baked goods that I have to roll out, but these were pretty easy to assemble. And the layering of dough produced exactly the stacked look I was hoping for.

They’re good by themselves, but they also make a perfect base for sausage gravy.

Though it’s in the dessert section, I ended up having the buttermilk cake for breakfast a few times.

It’s not overly sweet at all. I put apricots on top instead of plums, and used about 1/3 the amount it called for.

These apricots were really tart raw, but that made them perfect for baking. I can’t believe I’ve never baked with them before.

Another dessert we loved was the sweet panzanella. It calls for golden raspberries, which I haven’t been able to find yet at the store. So I used regular raspberries, and I thought they worked well.

The only thing I would change is the bread. I used a big loaf of white bread, but it called for an artisan loaf of wheat bread.

We’ve since discovered La Farine’s wheat levain, which would be perfect. Next time!

You top the sweetened crisped bread cubes with the mushed raspberries and there you have your bread salad. It could not be easier.

Getting to some of the savory dishes, I tried the frittata one night for dinner. My expectations weren’t too high since baked egg dishes aren’t usually my favorites. But this one really surprised me.

The golden potatoes and salty feta cheese with the fresh asparagus made for an excellent combination. And again, a pretty easy dish to throw together. I finally found some better quality eggs at the grocery store that don’t cost a fortune, and I think those made a difference too.

I had high hopes for the vegetable curry, but it was just OK.

I think the vegetables and tofu produced a lot of water, which thinned out the sauce. Then you were supposed to add broth, which thinned it out even more. I think I will try it again, though, because I love the overall concept.

I got excited about the cauliflower soup because I finally had an excuse to buy orange cauliflower. I always notice the interesting varieties of cauliflower at the Berkeley Bowl, and this time I got to buy one!

I also loved the idea of the Dijon flavored croutons that go on top of the soup.

The soup itself came together well with some help from my immersion blender. It doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but it’s definitely the kind of soothing dinner that sounds good on dreary days.

So, after all that I have some recipes that will become staples and some that won’t. I got to try new ingredients: millet, apricots, orange cauliflower. I found a new way to make croutons and a technique for rolling biscuits. And I certainly feel like I have accomplished something!

I think the only thing to do now is buy her other cookbook.

A book about 30

A few months ago I contributed an essay to a book project about turning 30, and now it has been published.

The contributors are all lovely and talented women around the age of 30 who wrote about how that birthday affected them. My friend Sarah designed it. We published it ourselves, and you can buy it here on blurb.

We also decided that $5 from every sale would go to The Girl Effect, a great nonprofit that helps adolescent girls living in poverty.

It’s so exciting to see a project like this come together, and I can’t wait to read everyone’s work. As I said at the time, turning 30 did not produce the major anxiety attack I thought it might, mostly because things were going so well for me and I was too busy to be worried about it. But it’s definitely a point of reflection, and I think we all felt it was significant.

My favorite passage from ‘On the Road’

It was about food, so of course it spoke to me.

And oh, that pan-fried chow mein flavored air that blew into my room from Chinatown, vying with the spaghetti sauces of North Beach, the soft-shell crab of Fisherman’s Wharf — nay, the ribs of Fillmore turning on spits! Throw in the Market Street chili beans, redhot, and french-fried potatoes of the Embarcadero wino night, and steamed clams from Sausalito across the bay, and that’s my ah-dream of San Francisco. Add fog, hunger-making raw fog, and the throb of neons in the soft night, the clack of high-heeled beauties, white doves in a Chinese grocery window…

Online reads

Speaking of reading, have you checked out Byliner yet? It’s a cool site that aggregates long-form journalism stories from past and present, including some original pieces like the one I bought, “Three Cups of Deceit” by Jon Krakauer.

I love that sites like Byliner and Longform.org make it easy for you to find good writing. It’s one of the rare things that makes me feel good about my profession lately!

I don’t have an iPad or a Kindle yet, but I discovered that you can download a free Kindle app for your Mac and read stories that way.

There are also a bunch of new magazines that can be read online or on a portable device, and it seems like this is the first time that change has started gaining some traction. Check out Sweet Paul and Lonny. (Also check out Grace’s response to the NY Times craptastic article about these mags).

I certainly want to believe magazines have a future both in print and online. It seems like it’s become normal to read a digital book, but magazines and newspapers are still struggling to find their footing. I appreciate good writing in all forms and I’ll keep seeking it out.

Loving: minty drinks and bike trips

A couple weeks ago I bought a whole watermelon at the grocery store. I couldn’t help myself — it was only about $2.50. But since Mike doesn’t like watermelon I had to get creative with how to eat it all.

So I juiced it! It’s so funny — when you juice a watermelon there is basically no pulp. The water part is no lie. I just added a little fresh mint, and it was super refreshing.

Of course then I realized how much mint we had to use up, so I made us some mint juleps. (Used Joy’s recipe).

These were really good. You should have them more than once a year.

For Memorial Day we decided to take a short road trip to Pescadero. We had a little picnic lunch on the beach, and then we took our bikes out on a cute country road.

It was very pastoral. Lots of horses and sheep.


Unfortunately the ride turned out to be one long, slow hill. Not so fun.

But Pescadero is a cute little town. It has bakeries,

and guys playing guitars,

and VW buses.


If I live here long enough I will end up owning a ’60s VW bus with curtains.

Other things I’m loving this week:

-Homemade wheat bread,

(thank you, Mike).

-A new stripey watch band. My old cheap one broke, so I treated myself.

-“Born to Run.”

I really loved this story, and the writer’s hilarious style. It made me think a lot about my relationship to running, and that I should get some minimalist shoes!

You should definitely read it. Next up, I am taking mom’s recommendation for “Water for Elephants.”

The week in food

I was craving pancakes again, but I thought I would try buckwheat this time.

I just used my whole wheat kefir pancake recipe, but substituted 1/2 cup of buckwheat flour for some of the wheat flour.

Annnnd, I don’t really like these as much. It’s just a personal preference. I think next time I make pancakes I’ll actually put in more oats, too.

Earlier this week I was missing Bandit Burrito (strangely I haven’t found a burrito place that comes close to how good that one was), so I made burrito bowls with black beans, brown/wild rice mix, and grated tofu mixed with taco spice. They were delish. I might have overfilled my bowl just a bit.

The last couple days I’ve been having these mini multi-colored potatoes oven roasted with scrambled eggs.

I love how bright purple the purple ones are inside.

I’ve also been a tea fiend this week. I’ve been buying up my favorite teas, and now that my tea shelf overfloweth, I just want to drink it all the time.

My absolute favorite, though, is Harney & Sons hot cinnamon spice. Thanks to Mike’s parents for having it at their cabin so I could fall in love with it.

Oh, and off topic — I finished “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and watched the Swedish movie. It was one of the first times I could say I loved the movie more than the book. I just needed that visualization to bring the characters to life. I’m reading the second book now, though, and I like it a lot better. I think Larsson must have started to hit his stride as a novelist by book 2.

Also, it makes me want to go to Sweden. As if Swedish design weren’t a compelling enough reason.

*Apologies if you tried to go to my site earlier this week when it was down. Lunarpages decided randomly to just take it down. There was no way for me to fix it when it was down. So Mike and I decided to break up with them. Hopefully the new host will be better!

Hello, April

On this beautiful first week of April I am…

Reading:

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, finally.

I bought the whole trilogy, and I’ve queued the Swedish movies on Netflix so I can watch them as I finish the books. Excited!

I’ve spent the last month tackling “Infinite Jest,” which is a beast of a book.

It has over 100 pages of end notes, some of which have notes within them. I did enjoy it, moreso at the end when the whole story came together. But I still had to read a synopsis online to make sense of everything. I would recommend it, if for no other reason than reading it gives you a great sense of accomplishment. It’s also really funny. Bizarre, excessively tangental, full of words you’ve never seen before. It’s just fascinating. I can’t go as far as others and say it’s genius, but definitely fascinating.

Eating:

Dilly-dijon egg salad
Slice two hard boiled eggs and mix with 2 tablespoons light mayo, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, and a pinch of dill. Serve open-faced on a piece of grainy bread. Call it lunch.

Snacking on:

Cottage cheese with chocolate chips.

I know! It sounds wrong, but it’s a random adaptation of what I’ve always heard is the perfect post-exercise snack: chocolate milk. And it’s really good!

Trying out:

Groove Yoga. It’s a studio across from the CU campus and right by Mike’s office. I bought a Groupon for a really good deal. It sounds like they do Baron Baptiste-style power yoga and have a Bernese mountain dog in residence. Sounds good to me already!

 

2011 resolutions

First of all, apologies for the long absence. Our internet has been down for the last few days and we finally got it working again.

I’m not usually a big resolution maker, but I thought that since my life has completely changed in the last year, that it would be a good time to get a fresh start in some ways. My first big goal was to take the box of wedding/honeymoon albums, miscellaneous travel souvenirs and extra photos and put it all together into something that someone could actually view!

It cost me about $100 in prints (for 600+ photos in various sizes) and a few days of putting together albums, but I finally got that project finished.

My helpers were not so helpful.

I am also going to try another cleanse over the next four weeks. The last few months have involved a lot of overindulgence, stress, and adjustment to change. I feel a bit unhealthy and low energy. I read about the book “Clean” in the latest issue of Outside, and it got a pretty ringing endorsement from a skeptical editor.

So I’m going to try it (one week of elimination diet with no wheat, dairy, or highly acidic foods, and three weeks of the Clean diet with two daily liquid meals and one meal from the elimination plan).

After that I am really going to try to work on my relationship with food, which has never been particularly healthy. I want to release myself of the guilt and anxiety I feel about eating certain things, and try to focus on eating what makes me feel good physically rather that emotionally. I have been working on this already, and have been amazed at how less stressed I feel about eating generally.

Hopefully having more energy will lead to more adventures in California. We’re in the middle of a long stretch of great weather (60s and sunny in January!), so we’ve been trying to get out and enjoy it. We went to the dog park again the other day, and it was just gorgeous.

I love the birds out there, and Mike sees something new every time we go.

We spent a long time just watching this pelican dive into the bay.

That’s not something I ever thought I’d spend my weekends doing!

What do you want to do more of this year?

Geek out: historical books

Me (and my book club) have been on a historical kick lately with our readings, so I thought I’d share them with you:

First, “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex” by Nathaniel Philbrick. This was a book club selection, and I really liked it. The book covers the history of whaling, primarily in Nantucket, and the real-life story that inspired “Moby Dick.” It was absolutely fascinating to imagine the lifestyle people led (women left alone for years at a time, while their husbands traveled thousands of miles around the world) and the reliance on whale oil that made people take absolutely insane risks. The story reminded me of that show, “I Shouldn’t Be Alive.” It’s brutal, but worth a read.
Next, I grabbed “Salt: A World History” by Mark Kurlansky off my own book shelf. Mike had read it before, and I had always been curious about it. The book goes back thousands of years and traces the history of salt production and trade all over the world. I liked this book, but didn’t love it. Mainly because it read more like a textbook. I found myself trailing off many times. The best parts described innovations that people had made to mine salt, or strange things that happened because of it (like a town that basically sunk because they took out too much salt underneath).
Staying on my history kick, I decided to read “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles Mann, which Mike had also read before. This book just blew my mind. It’s about so much more than just the year 1491. It’s about new findings related to when people came to the Americas thousands of years ago. It’s about how native Americans had much more advanced civilizations than we used to believe. It’s about how way more people were wiped out by disease than we ever realized. And it’s about countering the idea that native Americans lived on the land but didn’t mess with it. They did a lot to change their environment, but when their populations were decimated by disease, that stopped. Therefore what Europeans saw when they came here was much different. Anyway, though a few parts (mostly dealing with battles) bored me, the rest was so intriguing I couldn’t put this book down. Highly recommend!
And finally, book club decided to go historical two times in a row and we chose “The Lost Cit of Z” by David Grann to read. It’s about an explorer named Percy Fawcett, who disappeared in the Amazon in 1925 while looking for a lost city of riches. Apparently people have become obsessed with finding both what happened to him and the city itself, and many have died or been kidnapped in the process. The author goes on this journey himself, and finds some new details, and ultimately the same kind of conclusion that’s written in “1491” (that advanced civilizations could have existed in the Amazon). Sadly, I was so into “1491” I couldn’t quite appreciate this book as much. I would give it somewhere between a six and seven on our scale. Enjoyed, but would recommend this more as a library check out than a buy.