Friday, October 19, 2012

Adventures in Baking

It's Fall Frenzy time again so I spent most of the day creating these little darlings. Mini pumpkin Jack-O'-Lantern tarts from Martha's newest pie book and two devil's food graveyard cakes with chocolate mousse frosting from good old Joy.

The pumpkin pie recipe asked for evaporated milk and not having any on the shelf, I sat down next to stove to simmer 2 and 1/4 cups of milk down to one. Took over half an hour of constant stirring; next time I'll just go to the damn store.

I used pate sucree for the dough - it has more sugar than regular pie crust, yum, but makes the dough softer and a little more challenging to work with. Martha sez cut six inch rounds to fit in the tartlet pans - I just used muffin tins - but I discovered you need to take out big 1/4 cut of the circle to fit into the pan. Just wet the edges of the cut and press them together before you fit the little cup of dough into the tin.

The cakes were baked in the two small cake pans that I bought at the Ferry Building when we were in San Fran this summer - they makes treats that are a perfect size for a small family. Four cute pieces.

Tons of frosting recipes in The Joy of Cooking and few of them are easy - except for the quick butter and powdered sugar ones that make my teeth ache with the sweet. But I had the time so I made this crazy egg-yolk chocolate mousse that required constant stirring (again with the stove stir duty) over barely simmering water until the mixture reached 160 degrees with an instant-read thermometer. Say what again? A bit of a pain the ass, trying to stir with one hand and hold the thermometer with the other. And then during the next step (I don't read the recipes ahead of time so complications can be fun, ha ha), I was using the hand mixer with the bowl in an ice bath when the phone rang and I accidentally splashed ice water into the icing that was already too drippy by half.

F word, F word.

"Hello?" It was the vet making a follow up call to check on Little Prince. Aw, how can you stay stressed over some drips when someone cares about your rodent?

I fixed the watery icing by whipping in a big dollop of butter (Butter fixes everything! Time is flying!) and jumped on my bike to get the girls at school. They helped with the final decorations - a Peeps ghost, Milano cookie-headstones with RIP in black frosting from a tube, tiny strips of fruit roll-ups for grass and crumbled gingersnaps for the overturned earth on the graves. Spooky fun!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

We Call Him The Little Prince

Hello! Are you my forever family? I am your new poop machine! 

His white face markings are what sold me. Spiky white eyebrows, like J.R. Ewing's, that we like to call his crown. Surprisingly soft fur. So sweet a demeanor that it's easy to forget he's a wild animal. Once you pick him up, he stops scurrying and relaxes in your lap, often making sweet squeaks or purrs that melt our hearts.

His job is the stress reliever of the family. Nora came home sad yesterday because some Northwestern fans at school had teased her for her Nebraska cheerleader outfit (shows you how clueless I am about football - the possibility of riling up hometown fans never occurred to me) and a few minutes with Princey on her chest, she was all better. By bedtime she was a mess again after Sister spilled fluoride rinse all over the front of her red and white uniform so I sent to her take a bath, showed her 23 Easy Ways to Instantly Make Your Day Better and gave her the guinea pig to hold. L'il Prince saved the day. (And the little bruiser went to school today wearing red again. "Only if you smile," I told her, followed by a primer on "Don't dish it out if you can't take it.")

We're making plans for a photo shoot with a paper-mache planet complete with volcanoes and rose. Mia has already cut him out a felt vest and posed him riding an American Girl scooter. I've got to admit I'm looking forward to shopping at my friend's Lincolnwood pet shop, The Animal Store, for little accessories and goodies and supplies for the little guy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Fashion

Daddy got us new hats for the Nebraska game at Northwestern Saturday!

GO BIG RED!! Nora dressed herself this morning.

Nora's jacket is from Hand Me Downs, our favorite resale shop in Evanston. Stella McCartney for GapKids. Squeee!!

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Mia in the bathtub. "Mom, we should put a bookshelf right here." She points to the tile wall next to her head. A girl after my own heart.

Planning a Brownie meeting. The Hiker patch. The Making Friends badge. The Investiture ceremony. An oval mirror on the ground surrounded by tiny ferns into which the girls will peek after spinning three times and reciting, "Twist me and turn me and show me the elf! I look in the water and see myself!"

This video is very close, spooky close to how my children sound when I eavesdrop as they play.

The campy, crazy art of Ferdinand Hodler. Thanks, Martina!

Forty things to say before you die. "Damn, I look good." "This is who I am."  "Isn't this beautiful?" Thanks, Kristen!  How liberating a thing "I don't care" can be!

The colors of the trees this week.

Zadie Smith's ten rules for writing.

Reading Homer Price to the girls at bedtime.

Vintage children's paperbacks. Oh the memories! Oh the nostalgia!

Jack Gilbert: "We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless/ Furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil./If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,/We should give thanks that the end had magnitude./We must admit there will be music despite everything."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"I Am A Princess"

Randy cut this. I'm so proud of him. The beautiful footage was shot in South Africa.

The piece may more aspirational than reflective of Disney's actual films and products (I mean, why is it so hard for Disney to write scenarios showing female friendship? In the 75 years since Snow White, I count ONE single princess with a non-animal friend - Tiana from The Frog Prince has flibbertigibbet Charlotte La Bouff) but the images of strong and capable young women and the inspiring narration are still very moving.

And of course the editing is brilliant.