Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head

It's been raining here-a lot, and almost every day for a week. It seems the April rains we should have gotten are not missing, but only delayed until June. So, I guess we're catching up.

I like the rain, but it's just odd for this time of year. Yesterday, we got downpours. So much so that (get this) the school held the AM kindergartners until the rain stopped. I'm voting overcautious on this one, personally. This school called for snow days this Winter when it didn't snow, and now didn't send home the kindergartners because it was raining. I did not know this, so I stood outside in the rain, waiting for my daughter. When I had been outside quite a while, I figured something was up. I came back in, and discovered that the school had left a message that they were holding the AM kindergartners until the rain cleared. This is something I could understand if there were say, major lightning, thunder and wind, but this was a fairly garden variety thunderstorm, so I don't really understand the issue. I'm guessing they sided with over caution because of the litigious society we've become. Who knows, but that's my guess.

It is the end of the year. My daughter has 2 days left, and she's out for the summer. I am still making the plans as to what I'm going to do with my two while there's no school to occupy the one of them. We'll have to find things. The end of the year also brings about that dilemma of dilemmas--what to do for teachers and bus drivers and such. Does anyone else get hung up about this? I can never decide what's enough and what's too much? Do you give a gift to a bus driver? What if the bus driver has only been the driver for half the year? What do you get them? Do people give the teachers gifts anymore? What do they give? Does the teacher really need any more items with apples on them? Do they like items with apples on them? My vote would be no, and that teachers, if they are going to get a gift, would probably prefer something more personal or useful. But what? Does anyone actually know their kid's teacher well enough to get them the perfect gift? I don't think that's possible, is it?

I'm not going to say I'm losing sleep over this whole thing, because I'm not. But it is something for me to think about yet again. For the bus drivers, I think I will bake something (so I'd better get on it). But for the teacher, well, that's a whole other kettle of fish.

My daughter LOVES her teacher. And, though I've only met her a handful of times, and spoken to her little more than that, I really like her too. But more importantly, I like the WAY she taught. And not so much in the curriculum sense, though my daughter learned a lot during the year, it was more in the way she delivered the information. She has a very straightforward, honest approach to teaching. If she thought something was off, she told the students. She challenged them to think. In the day and age of "memorize and spit back at test time" teaching, that's not common. One time, my daughter brought home a little story they had read in class. It was basically a conglomeration of words in form of a very loose "story" to teach the words to the kids. My daughter read through part of the story and then stopped. She looked at me and said "My teacher said this story is weird". She then finished the story. And yeah, it was weird. It made no real sense. But I found it completely refreshing that her teacher would call that to the kids' attention. That makes them think. It makes them look at things that are written and challenge the ideas within. It's totally something I would have done. So I appreciated it immensely.

As I wanted to do something nice for this woman who has meant so much to my daughter, I made her this:

What do you think? Good? Too much? I hope it'll do. I think it's pretty. I don't know if it's my daughter's teacher's taste, but I hope so. That's a hard thing to judge. I thought to personalize it, my daughter could write the quilt label for the back. This is what she wrote:

I hope that will be nice for her teacher. I hope it's not too much. I never know what's appropriate in this situation, or if people give teachers gifts anymore at all. Ugh. I hope it's all right.

On Thursday, I am going to the Vermont Quilt Festival. Woo hoo! Vacation! I'm off with my mom for 3 days of fabric, fabric, and more fabric. I am looking forward to it. it'll be the start of my summer, and I'm hoping that when I come back, I'll have ideas for how to manage the couple of months my kids are off, so that we don't go insane altogether. Or at least I'll have a fresh outlook on things. I need the break, I really do.

So, until I return friends, enjoy your days! I will bring home pictures, that's a promise. I am packing my camera as I type!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Cookies

Happy Summer, friends!

We here in Orange County, NY are enjoying a lovely summer day with 64 degree weather! Yep, 64. Last night it was in the 50's. May was a warmer month, for the most part. Bizarre-o.

Well, in hopes that summer will arrive here eventually, and because it is the first day of summer after all, I made summer cookies. That's because I really like cookies. Have you noticed? It's not something I keep a secret. These cookies were in the recipe book for Christmas, but they used herbs, and what's more summery than that? To make them more summery, I used fresh herbs instead of dry and the strawberry jam I made earlier this week. Wow! They are so good! I think you will enjoy them. They are like little bites of freshness in a sweet/savory cookie. If you have some sage growing in your garden, and some jam in your fridge (homemade or not), try them! They do not disappoint.

Here's the recipe. It's from Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine 2007

Blackberry-Sage Thumbprints

2 c flour
2/3 c yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. dried sage, or if you have fresh, 2 tbsp fresh sage
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 c butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 c packed brown sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsps finely shredded lemon peel
1 1/2 tsps vanilla
1/3 c blackberry preserves ( I used strawberry for this, and it was very good!)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, cornmeal, sage, and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.
*** If you use dried sage, just crumble it up really well. If you use fresh, snip the leaves as small as you can. It just makes sure the sage goes throughout the dough instead of leaving big chunks in just a few cookies.

2. Beat butter in a bowl with a mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg yolks, lemon peel, and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining by hand.

3. Shape dough into 3/4 inch balls. Place balls 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Lightly press the tip of your thumb into the center of each ball. Fill the center with 1/4 tsp of the preserves.

4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to wire racks and cool completely. Makes 60.

To Store: Place cookies on layers separated by pieces of waxed paper in an airtight container, and cover. Store at room temp for 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.

Enjoy enjoy! They are REALLY good!
Until next time, my friends! Have a wonderful day!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Putting Up Strawberries

I made some strawberry jam this morning. We had gone strawberry picking Saturday morning, and brought home 6 quarts. I hadn't realized how fast they go bad, and we lost 3/4 of a quart by this morning, so I knew it was time to make the jam, lest I lose all the rest of the crop.
Glub glub goes the jam

I like to make jam. It's work, but since the strawberries and sugar "jam" themselves, a lot of it is watching and checking to see if it jelled and tasting--that's the best part.

Smooshed strawberries, anyone??

With the 5-odd quarts of strawberries we had today, I made two kinds of jam. One just plain strawberry without pectin, and one strawberry-rhubarb.

Rhubarb is a pretty color

I got 3 pints of plain strawberry and 2 1/2 pints of the strawberry-rhubarb. The funny thing was, that I was expecting to LOVE the plain strawberry jam, and only like the strawberry-rhubarb. I wasn't really sure about it. I have had strawberry-rhubarb pie before, and I like it, but don't love it. So I figured the jam would be the same.

Well, I was wrong! The strawberry jam was good but sugary and didn't seem as "strawberryish" as it could be, but the strawberry-rhubarb jam was out of this world. Holy cow! Love it love it!! As you can see, my daughter agrees with me. She gave the strawberry-rhubarb first prize!! I could eat it all day. I think next time I do this, I'll try the pectin-version of the strawberry jam. Maybe all the cooking is what made it not as strawberry-ee. I dunno. But I will repeat the strawberry-rhubarb recipe. I think my mind's been changed. WOW!!
After I was done, I had a nice lunch of strawberry shortcake. (It's very nutritious, you know) MMMMMMMMM!! So good!!

Have a fabulously sweet day!!


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Quick Project, Long Coupla Weeks

It's been a long couple of weeks. Not in a bad way, but in a really busy way. Last week, my dad broke his ankle. Because my mother works, he needed someone to take him to the Orthopedic Surgeon and then help out a little. So last week, we did. Of course, I still had home things to do, so it was busier than normal.

This week, he doesn't need our help (or doesn't want to put us out and won't ask--I can't tell the difference), and so we've been home. We were bombarded with 100+ degree weather yesterday and Monday, so not much has gotten done around the house--it was just too hot to function. Then last night we lost the electric for a few hours, and I couldn't get home (Literally, but that's a story for another day).

So, busy, busy. Tomorrow my daughter has field day at her school, and Friday we have an assembly there--where she will get an award (SHHH!! Big secret, I am told--the principal called me directly to tell me--I wonder what it will be)! It's very exciting.

In the midst of all the busy-ness, I did manage to get back into my studio. It was nice, because I haven't set foot in it for-um-2 months. I've been outside. But as it was 100-odd degrees, I wasn't going outside, so I went to my studio instead. And I did a cute project. Here they are:

They are the pleated tote pattern from Artsy-Crafty Babe. The link for the tutorial is here, you just have to scroll down the page a little. This is a super-quick project that is really like instant gratification, and they come out so well! I really enjoyed making them.

Well, that's it for me. I think I'll go back into my studio today. Have a great one, everybody!