Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Oh My, That's Good Stuff!

Well, even if I haven't had much time for knitting in the past couple of days, I have been able to fulfill a little craving here and there. Yesterday's craving was for a yeasted coffee cake, which they don't really make here. They've got some sort of danish they often sell in bakeries, not to mention other pastries, but it's not quite like having a coffee cake. So, I made one myself. Actually, I made two, because the recipe made tons of dough. I guess if you're going through that trouble, you might as well go all out, right? They're huge, too. You could easily feed 10-12 people off of each of them, I think. Maybe not, though, since they're really good. Anyway, you could certainly stuff a family of four really well, that's for sure.

The first picture you see is the lattice type and this second one is the twirl or whatever it was called. I went with the lattice first, because that's what I'm used to them looking like. Turned out to be more complicated than I was in the mood for and left some scraps (which I used to make a mini one for tasting right out of the oven), though. Having decided I wasn't really in the mood to mess with all the trimming and folding necessary to make a second lattice cake, I went for the swirly one next. A lot easier, but maybe not as pretty.

For anyone interested in the details, the recipe comes from the Nov/Dec '98 issue of Cook's Illustrated. It's a litte time-consuming, because you have to refrigerate it after the first rising. That's not too complicated, though, since you can refrigerate from 4-24 hours. I just left it in the fridge overnight and finished up the process this morning. And, I can definitely say that it's well worth the extra time it might take to make it. As for the filling I used, in case anyone wants to know, it's blueberry. I actually had to throw in a few extra mixed berries to make enough filling for the recipe, but it's mostly blueberries.

My rating for this recipe would be 1 out of 1, as my husband told me last night about dinner. Not a zero, and since 1 is the best, that's really great. Didn't sound too good to me, though, till he explained that they're would have to be 0.1, 0.2, 0.3... in between. Strange rating system, I'd say. He just likes messing with me. Anyway, this was most definitely the best coffee cake I've ever had, but considering the fact that I've only ever had those industrially made ones, they may not be saying much. All I can say is that it's worth the effort to make one homemade when you bite into it fresh from the oven.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I'm just going to ignore the fact that I haven't posted in a whole week and just dive right in here.

For those of you who've been worried or at least concerned (and, thanks for your concern, by the way), Lambchop #1 seems to now be fully over her flu. It was not fun while it lasted, and it lasted a while, but she seems to be doing better. Maybe she tires a bit more easily than usual, but otherwise, she's back to her old self.

No knitting has been going on around here. In fact nothing really worth telling has happened since the kids got sick. The constant whine really dug into my knitting time and my cleaning time. So, as usual, the house appears to be falling apart. We're back working on that bit by bit now.

Since I don't really have any fun news to share, I'll slip in a few fun pictures, instead. We recently celebrated Carnaval (Mardi Gras carnival) at playgroup. Lambchop #2 really enjoyed playing the pirate. We borrowed the costume and couldn't rip it off him when it was time to go. I guess I need to get to sewing on one for him, right?

I must say that that boy is mighty dangerous with a sword, though, no matter how cute he may appear. The eye patch was a bit of a hinderance, but he refused to remove it or any other part of the costume. I guess we were just lucky there wasn't a wooden leg included in the whole get-up.

Then, there's the softer side of our pirate. Isn't he sweet? This is his typical sleep position. A little like a froggy. How appropriate, since he's half French, right?

And, the last picture I'm really excited to share. There's actual work going on around here. Mind you, I'm absolutely no part of that work stuff. Well, unless you want to count me as the official cheering squad. And, that much I am. I'm pretty easy to please, really, since we've not been able to do much of anything for so long. I was getting pretty giddy watching them slam the nails into the wood floor. This is my brother hard at work. I'm sure his wife will appreciate seeing him in action. It's not easy for them to be so far from each other, so any little glimpse of him (even if his head's not showing much) is probably great for her.

Well, motherly duties call. Hopefully, I will soon have some more exciting pictures to share.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Oh, What A Week!

I know it's been a while since I've last posted. I've even wanted to respond privately to some of the nice comments I've received. Didn't happen, though, thanks to the flu virus. Lambchop #1 seems to have brought it home from school, and we've had quite a dramatic week. It all started with her complaining of being tired on Saturday evening. We fed her and sent her off to bed, but the damage was apparently already done. The virus was just waiting for the right moment to pop up and show its real strength. That moment came on Sunday. Things have been quite ugly around here since.

Her fever has reached as high as 103.3 F. Too high for my tastes, though I know a low one can help fight off infection. So, we decided to medicate for her comfort. That's how we learned that she's allergic to children's Advil. Here, doctors often recommend alternating between a Tylenol-like product and Advil so as not to cause liver damage by accidentally overdoing it on the Tylenol. So, we followed that advice, and she broke out in hives. Since I had given her American Tylenol and not the French equivalent, the doctor asked me to switch, thinking that some ingredient unknown to him in the American version was causing the trouble. So, it was Advil's turn late Monday evening before bed. I dutifully examined her to see how the previous rash was doing. Almost gone. Good deal. So, I administered her meds. Within minutes she was broken out again. That pretty much ruled out the Tylenol. And, seeing that the reaction was worse than the previous ones, I called the medical emergency line to see which doctor was on call in our area.

This is how we came to have our very first house call. They still do that here in France. Not a bad deal, really. The doctor gets paid more for it (almost 3 times as much), and you don't have to run around town at night with a sick child (or adult, I guess). Everybody's happy, except maybe the daddy you had to wake from a comfy slumber to go down our long dirt road in the rain at 11 pm to guide the doctor here. He's was pretty irked at what, in his groggy state, seemed to be my motherly overreaction. When he got back with the doc, though, and saw his daughter's swollen lips, eyes and nose, he seemed alright with the idea, afterall.

After all that drama, we haven't had any more allergic reactions, though the flu has a pretty good hold on her. She's been pretty much knocked out since Sunday, voluntarily taking naps and suffering through hard-to-control fevers. Surprisingly, she's been a pretty good sport. She just wants a little more comfort than usual. Her brother, on the other hand, isn't liking it one bit. He's been whiny for days, not understanding what's makes her so special. Why does she get to take all the yummy fake-strawberry meds? So, he's been pretty demanding and generally hard to deal with. The past couple of days, I think it went from being a bad case of jealousy to illness, though, so we're in for a bit more fun. So far, he's only had the crankiness and a slight fever. I'm hoping it'll stay that way, but it's made for a rough first week for my brother's visit. Not having kids of his own has not prepared him for the constant whine around the house. I can't say that I blame him for hating it. I'm more immune after years of dealing with them, but it has been especially difficult these past few days. He's even having trouble believing me when I tell him they aren't usually like this. That's what they all say, right?

So, as a result of all the fun, I have neither knit nor cleaned like I'd like for days. The Dyson was a wonderful help in preparing the house for my brother's visit, though I didn't get the whole place done. My plan to continue on this week was pretty well thwarted by that nasty flu. I've barely even found the time to cook and maintain some semblance of dishwashing. Hopefully Lambchop #1 will soon feel better, and I'll be able to get back on things a bit more.

I'm now realizing what an extremely long post this is, when the entire point seems to be just to say that I've gotten no knitting done. That's pretty sad, really. Maybe I could have skipped all the drama and gotten right to the point. Nah. That just wouldn't be like me, would it?

Friday, March 17, 2006


For the past few days, I've spent most of my waking hours cleaning, vacuuming and organizing the bedroom and livingroom. I must say the difference is obvious. I just don't know how long I can continue. I have this strange problem that when I'm doing such a large task, some time not too far from the end, I give up. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's some kind of boredom. Maybe it's exhaustion. Or, then again, maybe it's something as ridiculous as me thinking that's good enough. The problem with this is that if I quit, I'm not likely to get back to it and finish the job entirely.

I've got to push on, though, this time. It's got to get done for once. My brother is due to arrive this evening, and we've got a party at playgroup that we just can't miss. So, it has to get finished this morning or not at all. I just can't seem to get myself to work that extra 30 minutes I'm sure is needed to clear the floor of our bedroom. I think if I were able to do that, it'd spur me on for the rest, but somehow, I'm ready to quit now.

Please, somebody, give me some momentum. You'd think I'd have some already, considering the fact that I've been at this for the past couple of hours (well, chores in general, at least). As a compromise, we'll have a little snack to appease the baby and then get back to work.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Just Because...

A Very Happy Boy
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
I think Lambchop #1 looked great in the picture on that last post. I know for sure her grandmother will greatly appreciate the chance to print it out. And, not to leave her disappointed to not see her other little devil-angel, I thought I'd share this one, as well. Doesn't he just look mischievous? In a cute way, of course.

This is one happy little boy, wouldn't you say? He's just starting to get the hang of this whole picture thing, and he's loving it. He's not nearly as shy as his sister in front of the camera. Loves it, as you can see. I get the feeling he's going to be a bit of a clown as he gets older.

And, we have a new member of our family that I must talk about. No, I haven't gone and given birth way too early. I've purchased a new baby. Remember the Dyson vacuum I talked about earlier? Well, according to the email they sent to confirm shipment, it shouldn't have come till the middle of next week. Luckily for me, they didn't ship it the way they said they would, and it arrived today. And, it's a beauty.

I never thought I'd call a vacuum cleaner a toy, but that's what it feels like. I read all kinds of things about this vacuum when searching for info on it online. Some people raved. Others weren't as excited. So far, though, I'm a happy girl. Of course, going from sweeping and getting allergic rhinitis to having the most high-tech vacuum on the market (okay, well, almost) will do that to a woman. Especially a housewife with a dusty home. I am in housewife heaven.

And, for those of you wondering if I've abandoned the cleaning/organizing efforts - not on your life! Remember, I'm nesting. Nothing is going to stop me. Certainly not a pesky little thing like not being able to breathe through my nose (that's improving, by the way - I can now breathe through it, even if it's still a bit runny and occasionally stuffy).

My main goal (aside from having an at least semi-clean house when my brother arrives TOMORROW!!!) is to clean the bedroom in the next few days so that vacuuming and dust control in there will be a smaller chore. There was way too much clutter, most of which has been removed.

In the end, I'd like to have enough room to fit a bassinette in one corner if we were to have to squeeze a new baby in there. I don't want to count on the new house being done and be caught with our pants down when the baby comes. That wouldn't be pretty for anyone.

Well, blogging/snack break is over, kids. Back to work. And, you can surely look forward to some photos with me and my new friend (the Dyson) soon. Long live Mr. Dyson. Inventor, extraordinaire.

An Actual Finished Object

See. I still knit. Apparently what I don't do is take pictures and blog about it in a timely fashion. Better late than never, though.

So, this is Lambchop #1's new favorite piece of clothing. For that reason, I have to say it's my most successful knit thus far. It has become that part of her wardrobe that she refuses to remove unless threatened or coerced in some other way. It is now a bit stained - another sign of how much she loves it. I had trouble convincing her to take it off so that I could wash it for her. Eventually, we made a deal, and she removed it. Bad mother that I am, I still haven't washed it yet, though. It's only been half a day since I got it off her, though, so don't hate me.

The shot you see here is pre-wash/pre-block. She was so excited about it that she didn't give me the time to get that done. I'm not 100% satisfied with the arm seaming and the shoulders but that may improve in blocking, and since she doesn't care, I'm learning not to care.

For those who will ask, the info on this one is as follows:

Pattern: I did the math and made it up. Funnily enough, I realized later that it looks remarkably like a sweater on the cover of an issue of IK knits. I don't even remember liking that sweater when I originally saw it. Could it have been subliminal? Does IK do that read between the lines stuff - "you will knit this sweater... and you will like it... and you will resubscribe..."

The yarn: Knit Picks Merino Style
Colorway: Petal

My overall thoughts on this yarn are that it seems like a really nice deal for the price. I enjoyed knitting with it, and after a week of almost constant wear, it hasn't begun to pill very badly (I wish I could say the same for the cashmere/wool blend sweater I have yet to show you). I guess I'd give it two thumbs up, as they say.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Darn Allergies!

If you think back a bit, you'll remember that I cleaned the livingroom the other day. The dust really did a number on my allergies, and because I'm pregnant and can't take anything for it, I haven't been able to breathe through my nose since (almost a week, for those who are counting). Part of the problem is that we live in a very dry area. No lush, green grass for the kids to roll in beside our house. Just lots of rock and dirt. To make matters worse, it's very windy here. So, all the dirt gets brought inside, of course. When you've got kids who won't put their toys away and who throw clothes on the floor, the dust pretty much just gets mixed in with it all. This is all part of the motivation to get the house more organized. I figure that if I don't have toys and clothes to sort through on the floor, I'll get less contact with all that dust. That should help things, but it's not the only solution.

See, we don't even have a working vacuum cleaner, so I have to actually sweep all that dust up with a broom and dust pan (not ideal for the allergy thing). A while back, my mother-in-law let us borrow hers. Unbeknownst to her, I was researching exactly what I did want to buy at the time. Apparently, to save me the time and money, she generously gave us the one we had borrowed and bought herself a new one. It was a kind thing to do, but since it's not equipped with the allergy-essential HEPA filter, I was a little annoyed. She had just taken away my reason for buying a nicer one. So, I was stuck with a functional, yet mediocre vacuum cleaner that I could feel the dust mite-filled air seeping out of when I used it. A little while back, though, it broke. I was annoyed at the time, because it was, afterall, the only vacuum cleaner in the house. That meant I was back to sweeping.

So, the other day when I cleaned the livingroom, I was pretty much bathing in all that dust that I kicked up with the broom. After a week of not breathing through my nose (and I am not exaggerating), because of a bad case of allergic rhinitis, I cried my eyes out yesterday and begged my husband for a nice vacuum cleaner. We really can't afford it, what with the house we're trying to build, but just think of the money we'll save on Kleenex alone. At least, that's what I told him. He was sold on it. Most likely the pitifulness of my constant allergy attacks have gotten to him - finally. So, yesterday after lunch we all hopped in the car and headed for the store to hunt for a vacuum cleaner. I had already done quite a bit of research on the net before going, so I sort of knew what I wanted. After seeing the different models at the store, my decision was made. We (err, I perhaps, but he agreed with me) went with the pricey yet fancy (and supposedly effective) Dyson. This one, to be exact. It feels a little like you're weilding some kind of weapon from a science fiction film when you hold it, but it's said to be the best in bagless technology, and it has great suction. Hopefully, now that the house is getting more organized, and I'll be able to vacuum more often and more easily, I think this will help keep the allergy fits to a minimum.

Oh, and by the way, there was a small catch in all this planning that meant that I didn't actually come home with the vacuum. Like I said, it was pricey. And, I really mean that. And, we just can't spend 500 smackeroos on a vacuum cleaner, so I found it online for a heck of a lot cheaper and will be ordering today. With supposed 48-hour shipping service, I should be sucking up those evil dust mites in no time.

In other, perhaps more interesting news, I have almost finished with that little pink sweater for Lambchop #1. I've only got another mile of i-cord to knit and then some edges to finish with a crochet hook. Good timing, too, because we've apparently got a little cold front on the way for tomorrow. If I'm lucky, I'll actually have it done for school tomorrow. That'll make her day.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Eat My Dust

They say that you should learn from your mistakes, but it's not always as easy as one would hope. I am trying, though, to improve in this matter, and today is quite possibly a success. The other day, I mentioned cleaning the livingroom. I got about 3/4 finished before being too exhausted to go on. I went to bed and woke up the next morning with a stuffy nose and a nice, big headache. With my allergy problems, I really should know better, but somebody's got to clean the mess, and if not me, then who? Sure, no one else in the family has my allergies, but I repeat, who would do it if not me? So, I've been suffering through the symptoms of an allergy attack for the past few days. I'll spare you the details of the steps I'm taking to rid myself of it (since I can't take traditional allergy meds while pregnant). You don't really want to read about the nasal cleaning fluids I bought at the pharmacy today, do you? Oops. No details. Right. Obviously, this is not fun, but, that darn 1/4 of a livingroom that I left unclean has been calling to me. Taunting me, really. And, who wants to be beaten by inanimate objects that way? So, I had to attack. But how?

What to do? What to do? No way I'm diving into the dust bunnies again, right? Well, wrong, but this time I armed myself with a dust mask (like carpenters use). I forget why we even had one around, but I'm happy to have found it pretty quickly when I searched (who says I'm not organized?). And, despite the discomfort involved in breathing in your own hot air while working, I think it's better than the other option. So far, no sneezing fits have occurred like the other day, so that's a good sign. We'll proceed with a good usage of the nasal cleansing stuff that I didn't mention before afterwards. Hopefully I'll have a clean livingroom AND clean nasal passages when all is said and done. Once again, too much information. What can I say? I'm a sharing kind of person.

There's been other excitement around here, too. I'm catching up on the laundry, which you don't care about. I have also caught up on some long lost knitting projects, though, which I believe some of you may actually want to hear about. It's been so long since I've done much posting about knitting that I think I lost some readers (woops), but I've got stuff to show soon.

First, there's the cashmere/wool blend cardigan I was making for myself. It took a slight detour back in January, when I realized the neck was too loose. I was so annoyed I didn't want to even look at it for months. Now that it'll soon be too hot to wear it, though, I was strangely motivated to try it on again. I decided to sit down with it and a bit of elastic thread and got to work. In about 10 minutes, I had a perfectly acceptable collar, and now I'm kicking myself for not having done it sooner. Oh well. I still can't quite get away with wearing it yet, anyway, because I need to reinforce parts of the zipper with my sewing machine. It's all sewn down except the part that has the plasticky coating down at the bottom of the zipper. That part was too hard to sew by hand. The needle just refused to go through, so I gave up. That'll have to be fixed before I can really wear it much.

The other project that's nearing completion is the petal pink ballerina style sweater I'm making Lambchop #1. I need to make two long i-cord strings to wrap around her and then sew it all together. I'm pleased, because, despite the length of time it took me to knit it (or get around to it, rather), she hasn't outgrown it yet. Yay! I'm really hoping to finish it by tomorrow. Can it be done, though? Who knows? Certainly not if I sit here at the computer. So, back to work on those chores. Be on the lookout for pictures. Who knows? If the livingroom looks good enough, you may even get a glimpse of it (I know that's a picture only a mom would love).

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Lazy Man's Winter Garden

We are at the point of tilling/plowing in our garden for the coming season. My husband has been procrastinating on this one, much to my dismay. It just doesn't seem to be at the top of his list of priorities the way it is on mine. He has, however, looked the site over for planning his plowing strategy (I suppose it was for that reason). After having done so, he came back and told me there was some fennel to harvest.

Last year, I planted fennel in our garden. Maybe due to lack of water or the type of soil we have, they didn't grow very quickly. I used a few sprigs here and there to season baked or grilled fish, but the bulbs were too tiny to do anything with. The entire winter has passed, and I had forgotten all about them. I had pretty much figured they'd never grow to a useful size. I was wrong, though. They have wintered quite well (at least in appearance), so I harvested some this evening.

As I turned to come back to the house, I spotted a lone, tiny kale. I love kale, and they don't sell it here in France. I can't even find any seeds for it, so I'm pretty much out of luck for having it. I had planted some American seeds last year and with all the weeds that grew up during the summer, I apparently missed a plant. Having seen this, I decided to snoop around a bit here and there. I was, again pleasantly surprised to find two healthy-looking bok choy plants, another of my favorites. All of these delightful surprises really made my pregnant belly happy, because just the other day, I was thinking how nice it would be to have a simple meal I once had in a tiny vegetarian restaurant in the New Orleans area. Just brown rice, black beans and steamed kale. This meal is wonderful with some Japanese Nihaizu sauce (which I happen to have in the fridge - one of those many bottles) and sprinkled with chopped green onions and sesame seeds. Mmm.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Woah! No way!

Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Yes! Some actual knitting content. See, I told you this was a knitting blog. Remember a while back when I mentioned that I was making Lambchop #1 a ballerina style wrap-around sweater in Knit Picks Merino in the Petal colorway? Yeah, you probably don't. It's been long enough that I barely remember it. I think I started this thing just after Christmas. It didn't get very far fast.

While we were on our trip in the snow last month, I finished the front right section (the arms were already done). Then, I just put it away while I got all freakishly obsessed with cleaning and organizing our house. A couple of weeks ago, though, Lambchop started asking about it. She's pretty cute when she talks about it, because she doesn't really know what to call it. She just says her sweater and does this funky wrapping motion around her torso. I always get her point. So, I vowed not to disappoint my first-born on this occasion and pulled it back out.

I had gotten partway up the left front when I realized that I couldn't find the right front to measure against (this is a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of sweater - no pattern involved). So, I put it down again till the other half appeared after having fallen out of my bag at playgroup (you can't imagine how happy I was to see it). Then, I quickly got back to work, and the fronts are both done. I'm about halfway through the back and hope to be set up for sewing and blocking later this week (that is if she hasn't outgrown the thing by now). I'm not looking forward to the enormously long i-cord wrapping thingamabob I'm going to have to make when I finish the rest of the knitting, but we aim to please the little ones, and this is really what she wants.

In other news, I conquered about 3/4 of the livingroom. Seeing that it may not stay that way long if drastic measures weren't taken to make my little ones put their toys away, we headed off to Ikea today for more kid-friendly storage devices. I usually just get plain ole transparent plastic bins, but that doesn't seem to do the trick. Last night, I remembered reading in Organizing From the Inside Out that it's important to have storage units that are aesthetically pleasing to you, othewise you won't use them. So, working on that assumption, we loaded up on all sorts of cute, gayly colored goodies at Ikea. The overall damage wasn't bad for the quantity we got, but I certainly hadn't intended to spend so much.

On the bright side, though, the kids had a great time picking out things at the store (I thought it would be important that they pick them out, not just that I get stuff that I think is cute) and came home very excited about them all. Plus, our livingroom looks a lot more fun and happy with all the bright colors.

We got some cheapo treats for Mommy and Daddy, too, because no trip to the store would be fully satisfying without them. Though I would like to have set up camp in one of the bedroom displays and called it home, I just got a couple of inexpensive CD and DVD holders, instead. I did realize something about Ikea, though. It's great for dreaming. They've got a whole bedroom/bathroom/office/kitchen/livingroom scenario set up for you to dream about. Pretty clever selling tactic, I assume, but when you don't have the money for it, you walk from bedroom to bedroom sighing and wishing it were yours. Oddly enough, I even saw this in Lambchop #1. She spotted a really cute girl's room and fell instantly in love. A few minutes later, she said she wanted to go back to see HER room. Much like her mother, her imagination was vivid enough to transport her from her real life into a dream one where she'd go to bed each night in that cute little bed with all those cute little shelves and decorations around. *SIGH* Sucks being poor sometimes, but at least our livingroom is looking cuter.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Renaming Myself...

When I was little, I hated my name. Of course, maybe some of you don't know what my name actually is. Those of you who've received comments or corresponded in email with me know what it is. Let's just say, for those of you who don't, it's not exactly run-of-the-mill. I have often had it incorrectly spelled or mispronounced for me. Then, there were those who would ask me if it was short for some longer, more common name. I always had to correct people. Set them straight on my name. And, it bugged me. I wanted to have the name of a friend in kindergarten. Her name was Kelly. It sounded good to me at the time - all perky and easy to say. Over the years, I've grown to love my name. I guess all the "hardships" we endured drew us closer together. And, hey, now that I've moved to a foreign country, people are going to massacre my name no matter what it is, if it's English. So, at least I've had years to get used to the idea. I can't imagine having had a really common name like Jennifer all these years. I would have gotten used to people just knowing how to spell and say it. Then, I would have flown on over here to France only to hear their odd pronunciation of it all the time (Jennifer is actually becoming a well-known name here, and along with Keith and Brian, people are starting to name their kids such American sounding names - yes, I'm aware they aren't just American, but they were imported from there).

So, I no longer have any desire to change my name. I guess 30 years with a name will get you used to it. I was thinking, though, that if the current trend of food blogging around here continues, I may have to change the name of my blog. You know something like the Cooking Cuckoo (in keeping with the animal theme). And, surely that name would fit with the craziness of my nature. I don't even want to know how many days I've gone without posting a photo of my knitting (I swear that'll come soon enough). Maybe I'll have to change the blog description under the title. It seems pretty misleading these days, doesn't it? Will I have to unsubscribe from all the knitting rings, or will they just dump me from their systems for leading people on? Oh, the pressure!

'Nuff of that! Can you believe I said all that stuff just as an intro into yet more food chatter? I mean, really. Is that all I think of these days? Actually, yes. It pretty much is. Pregnancy will do that to you. I'm constantly planning meals in advance. So, come along, let's take a little culinary adventure together. Today's is really interesting. Last night, I decided I'd soak some dried beans for today's lunch. I couldn't decide which ones to use, but finally settled on some long-neglected green mung beans. I can't even tell you 100% that they were mung beans, because I've had them long enough and rarely used them that I've forgotten what they were called. I've not used them much, because I didn't really know what to do with them. I soaked them anyway, though, thinking I'd look up a recipe on the net today. So, that's what I did. Before driving Lambchop #1 off to school this morning, I looked around. I got lots of hits for vegetarian dishes, but I was hoping for something more Eastern. When I got around to cooking at noon, I decided to look for something Vietnamese. That's when I stumbled across this recipe for Vietnamese crepes. I had all the main ingredients, believe it or not. I told you I like exotic meals. I cook them pretty frequently, so it's not odd for me to have rice flour and coconut milk in the house. I didn't have some of the filling ingredients, but I improvised for substitutions.

And, here's was the result. Beautiful. And, oh, the flavors were amazing. It wasn't really even all that complicated, though the recipe seems long. The fish sauce plus the coconut milk and seafood (I replaced the pork with some bacon junks since that's all I had). That's why I'm really excited that the kids didn't find it so great, and there's enough filling and crepe batter leftover for two for tonight's dinner. I'll gladly make the little ones something else if it means I get some more of that yummy stuff.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Ambitious (with pictures)

Now, I know that ambitious is not usuallly a word used to describe housewives. We are generally thought have few goals aside from raising our children right. If you ask me, that's being kind of ambitious, but I guess if it doesn't involve a career...

Today, though, I believe that most people would agree with me when I say that this particular housewife is very ambitious. I've decided to tackle cleaning and organizing the refrigerator. Our fridge is huge. It's what the French call an "American Refrigerator". That pretty much just means a side-by-side, but this one is particularly bulky. Or, at least is seems so when sat next to the normal French fridge. Somehow, though, even with all that space, it seems there's never room in there. I've long known it's because of the sauces.

Cooking exotic meals from places far away from here means you have to have the right ingredients. So, we've got quite a few little jars and bottles of sauces from far-off lands. This means that there's little space for things like veggies and other necessities. Today, I decided to remedy that. Of course, how does one do such a thing without just throwing them all out? Well, I stole some plastic bins from elsewhere in the house and was able to stack the smaller bottles on top of each other instead of having a million of them in a single layer. The other plus to all this is that now there's a bin for things to be spread on bread (mostly jellies) and another for Asian sauces. This will make it easier to find things when I need them. Right now I'm taking a little break for my back. Too much standing and bending gives me psiatic nerve pain these days. One of the perks of pregnancy. But, I am about 3/4 finished, and the part that's left is a couple of drawers I already cleaned a couple of weeks ago. Yay for me!

Also, because you asked for it (well, Liz did), I've got photos of my recent cooking experiments. The cherry pie turned out to be delicious. It even helped me learn a little something about the hubbie. I've long known that he doesn't like artificially-flavored cherry stuff. You don't really think about the huge quantities of American over-the-counter drugs have that flavors till you kiss someone who doesn't like them. He can't even stand the smell of that stuff. Apparently, this dislike for cherries carries over slightly into cooked cherries (though he likes the fresh ones). So, his opinion of the pie was that the crust was good and the filling was nice and thick, but he'd have prefered another flavor. I, on the other hand, felt it was the tastiest cherry pie I've ever had (this may not be saying much since those I've tasted had always been made from cherry pie filling from a can). Good stuff. And, because a picture was requested, here's a little slice for Liz.

I also mentioned that I had been cooking a lot of Chinese food lately. Well, this is all thanks to the fact that my mother doesn't really like cookbooks without pictures. She likes to see in advance what she's going to be eating. Makes sense, since eating is a very visual activity for many people. Anyway, so, long, long ago, she and my dad bought an electric wok (like in the 70's or 80's, I assume). As far back as I can remember, I've never seen them use it for a Chinese stir-fry (that's not to say it doesn't get used, but not for Chinese food). With it, came a cookbook written by an older Chinese woman who really seemed to know her way around the kitchen. When I moved out of the house, this cookbook became mine, and I must say that lately I've gotten quite a bit of use out of it.

Almost every time I go out for Chinese food, I have difficulty resisting the Lo Mein dish on the menu. Every Chinese restaurant seems to have one, and I almost always get it. Well, today, even though I was somewhat short on the ingredients for the recipe, I threw together my own Lo Mein (mein means noodles in Chinese). One very important ingredient that I was missing was the noodles themselves. Not good when you're making a noodle dish. So, I got online (where else would I go?) to search for a recipe to make my own from scratch. I found one on a food blog. It was actually a recipe for Japanese Udon noodles, and I modified it slightly by adding whole wheat flour along with the white flour (2/3 white to 1/3 wheat, plus a little extra water), but it really served my purposes well. So, I'm throwing in a little picture of that one too, along with a shot of my little helper who came in while I was rolling out the dough.

Lambchop #2 came in and asked me what I was doing. I said, "making pasta". He got all excited and said "veut making pasta". Veut means "want" in French, and even though the grammar is way off, you get his point, right? He loves to "help out" in the kitchen, and since rolling out the dough didn't seem to harmful, I let him give it a go. He couldn't really put his weight into it the way you need to, but he sure had fun trying. He didn't really want to give up that rolling pin, though.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Random Thoughts

Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum, yum, yum! Really. I mean it. Yum (or "miam" as they say in France)! I think we've pretty much established that all I think of these days is food. Well, that hasn't changed at all. What has changed is the cravings. I figured out why I was having them, and it seemed to help make them go away. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been sick with the flu. I was pretty miserable there and most likely in need of some good pampering. Anybody knows that doesn't happen once you move out of your own mother's house, though. Worse yet is that when you're a mother yourself, you can't even get the day off to lie in bed to get better. Well, since I didn't get the comfort I needed while sick, I was looking for comfort from foods. That's improved a bit, and though I wouldn't turn down a bunch of powdered donuts, I'm not craving them like before. Instead, I'm in the mood to eat in all sorts of exotic places.

I never have done much traveling. I speak fluent Spanish (or rusty fluent Spanish, anyway), and I've just barely stepped over the southern border of the US into Mexico. That really is something I'll have to remedy one of these days, too, because I am fascinated by their culture and I love their food. I'd also love to take an eating tour of many other places. China's one of them. So, in the past few days, we've eaten in China and Mexico. I've got plenty of non-American cuisine cookbooks, so we can eat just about anywhere on any given day. It's a great way to get variety into an otherwise very routine existence. So, yesterday was some delicious Chinese shrimp with rice, while today was a funky, yet oh-so-tasty Mexican lentil soup and some tacos. Topped with shredded cabbage, lemon juice and avocado slices, the tacos really hit the spot. I figure we'll head on back over to China again tomorrow.

Oh, and I have a pie in the oven. Yeah, you knew about the bun in my oven already. Well, I'm also getting a cherry pie cooked. I figure the bun'll be there a while, so we might as well have something else baked up a little faster. So, while the oven is hot for tonight's batch of bread, I figured I'd take advantage of the heat for some yummy dessert for tomorrow. Lambchop #1 had asked for cherries the other day while at the frozen foods store (yeah, there's actually a store just for frozen foods here). We stocked up on fish, since I really like to have that on hand these days, and some frozen berries, which make tasty pregnant-lady milkshakes late in the evening. So, tonight I decided to make Lambchop #1 her very first American-style cherry pie.

Now, usually, this can be as simple as making a nice crust and opening a can of cherry pie filling. Not so when you live in France. I didn't even know what to put in a cherry pie filling (aside from the cherries and sugar, of course). So, I whipped out my ever-helpful Cook's Illustrated Magazines and found a nice recipe. Today, I am proud to say that I am making my very first totally-from-scratch cherry pie. Who wants to wager on whether it'll be better than the canned version? Can't wait!

In knitting news, I located the missing section of Lambchop #1's pink sweater (once I get those camera batteries back from my husband, you'll see the progress there). It had apparently escaped from my purse/bag at playgroup. The ladies who organize the thing found it and thought immediately of me (it's handy to be known as an obsessive knitting freak sometimes). So, we're back on track with that, and I hope to get it finished in the next few days while it's still cold enough out for her to wear it. Which brings me to bid you farewell so I can go make a bit more progress while the house is quiet.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Somebody, Please Stop Me... Pleeeeease

I've got cravings left and right here. So far in this pregnancy, I've had healthy ones, like wanting fresh veggies and things of that sort. A good, crisp salad was enough before, but now we're wanting powdered donuts and other junk food items of my youth. I've added pepperoni pizza to the list. This is a bad one, since I can't even come close to fulfilling it without stepping outside the French border. I'm not saying you can't get them anywhere in Europe. Who knows? Maybe you can, but you can't get them here in France. First of all, they rarely put mozzarella cheese on pizza here. They use emmenthaler (a type of Swiss cheese, in case you don't know of it) instead. Totally changes the flavor of a pizza. It's not bad, but it doesn't taste like what I know as pizza. Then, there's the fact that pepperoni doesn't even seem to exist here. I have never seen it in a store, and I've never seen it on a pizza menu anywhere in this country. And, of course, it's my favorite.

So, what would I do if I were able to spend just 24 hours in the US tomorrow? Most likely, I'd wake up late (jet lag, you know), have some powdered donuts with creamy chocolate milk to accompany them. For lunch, I'd want a whole pepperoni pizza to myself. For dessert I'd probably throw in some more of those donuts. For my afternoon snack (because a pregnant lady's got needs), I'd have a nice, thick chocolate malt (malted milk powder being another non-existent item here in France). Then, for dinner, I'm sure I'd have some high blood pressure, a few vericose veins for my swollen feet, all with a side of gestational diabetes. Because this is what would happen to me if I were living in the US while pregnant. Well, maybe not, because I somehow was able to control myself when pregnant with my first (I spent the first 7 months of my pregnancy in the US), but I can't for the life of me figure out how I did it.

Well, for starters, I wasn't far from home, so any cravings were most likely not related to homesickness. Then, I often crave comfort foods (even if they're not so great for me) during and after an illness. Since I'm getting near the end of this flu, that's probably the reason for all these cravings. Surely when I'm all healthy again, they'll go away. Right? Please tell me that's right!!! On the bright side, though, if this trend continues, I may be able to compete for the World's Fattest Lady Contest next year. Is there any money in that?

Not Half Bad

Well, my husband seems thoroughly impressed with his wife's ability to transform cinnamon raisin bagels into something tasty. That's right. Even with the cinnamon, he has proclaimed them a success. And, he's right, if I do say so myself. I think I'm allowed to say so, too, since the success of the bagels is more related to the recipe than to me. I'm just capable of properly executing instructions in recipes. Very yummy. I'm happy I decided to go for those when I couldn't make the donuts I so longed for. They were certainly a nice breakfast to start the day with. They have to be healthier than the donuts would have been, too. I only wish I could offer you a photo to drool over, because they are quite pretty, but, alas, my batteries have mysteriously not yet made there way back from the charger. Well, actually I do have just one other wish - cream cheese. I'll have to get some later.

Oh, and speaking of mysteries...

Last night I sat down with the pink sweater I've been gradually knitting for Lambchop #1. She's been begging me for it lately, and I've been making some slow progress in the evenings. I was about to the point where I needed to start my decreases for the deep v-neckline. I'm not using a pattern, so I just needed the other half of the front of the sweater. Simple, right? Apparently not. I have searched high and low around here, and it's nowhere to be found. I'm quite baffled, and extremely irritated, since that's the harder part of the sweater to make. I can't continue on without it, but at the same time, I hesitate to start it anew, for fear that the naughty little thing will pop up just when I'm almost finished with the new one. So, for now, I remain baffled. Later on, I'll check the car to see if it may have fallen out of my purse somewhere. I don't really see how it could have, but you just never know, and I did think I had put it in there to work on it at playgroup. So, big frowny face for now.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What Do You Mean, No Eggs!?!

I've got a craving! We can't be out of eggs! It's bad enough that the craving I've got is for something sweet you can't buy here, but that can be found all over the place in the US. I figure I'll try to concoct my own, but I need eggs. And, do we have any? Noooooo.

What's this craving? I'm sure you're wondering. It's for those little mini powdered donuts. Yeah. I know. Really high class food, here. There's no accounting for the taste of a pregnant woman, you know.

Anyway, so I've found myself some suitable recipes to play with, and they all call for eggs. Makes sense, really, but I don't have any after the cornbread I made this afternoon for the kids. So, I've started a batch of bagels instead. Yeah. I know what you're thinking: What's she going to do, dip them in powdered sugar? Mmmm. Nope. Think I'll pass on that option, but I'm going with the idea that they're both round with holes in them. Could that be enough to trick my stomach? Probably not, but what can you do? The bagels sound good, anyway. I've never made cinnamon raisin bagels, because my husband isn't a big fan of cinnamon (typical of people who are from Southern France). I've gradually gotten him used to it. And, today, I'm just making something I absolutely love and always have. I know him. He'll complain, but he'll eat them anyway, because they're there. If I'm really lucky, though, he won't touch many and that'll leave more for little ole me.

And, I'll leave you withe a recipe for the pizza-like dish we're having for dinner tonight. Very tasty, and there's not much cheese, so it's pretty good for you.

Your favorite pizza dough
1 large onion
ground beef or ground sausage (about enough for one hamburger is fine), browned and crumbly
3-4 tbsp grated swiss cheese

Caramelize the onions by doing the following:
Slice a large onion in half, and then thinly slice it.
Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet and add onions when oil is hot.
Sautee onions till they start to brown. Add just enough water to be able to scrape the brownness from the bottom of the pan. Allow the onions to continue to sautee. Repeat the watering process a few more times at 5 minute intervals (approx). Onions are done when they are a nice darkish brown but they shouldn't be dried and crispy (that's what the water does for you).

Roll out your pizza dough. Sprinkle the ground meat evenly over it. Do the same with the caramelized onions. Then, sprinkle cheese over it (there shouldn't be so much cheese that you can't see the other ingredients. The swiss cheese has a stronger flavor than mozzarella, so not much is necessary for a nice flavor. Bake in very hot oven till lightly browne on top.

You can also make this without the meat. It's delicious that way, as well.

Serve with a salad. Yum.