Monday, April 28, 2008

Nigella Lawson — Banana Bread
from How to be a Domestic Goddess

What to do when you have overripe bananas lying around?
Make banana bread, of course.

I wanted to share some comfort food since the weather outside is so dreary. There is no better way to warm up a damp, rainy day than with homey aromas and sumptuous flavors. And Nigella does homey and sumptuous so well!

Nigella soaks golden raisins (also known as Sultanas) in bourbon or dark rum for this recipe. Apple or orange juice may be substituted if you’re looking for a non-alcoholic alternative. However, Nigella writes:

How to be a Domestic Goddess Cookbook by Nigella Lawson

If you’re thinking about giving this cake to children, don’t worry, the alcohol doesn’t pervade: you just end up with stickily, aromatically swollen fruit.
– Nigella Lawson, from
How to be a Domestic Goddess

I can personally attest to the aromatic qualities of this sweet bread and must confess that the plump, juicy raisins were my favorite part. It tasted delectably rich and oh, so satisfying.

Don’t you just want to carve off a slice, slather on some butter and take a bite? Click on the Banana Bread Bake-Off event link below for the recipe, plus photos of Lorraine's loaf. (Loaves, actually. She baked four different ones!)

I found this Banana Bread Bake-Off event on the Not Quite Nigella website.

Click on the links to see how Nigella’s recipe fared against three competitors or send in your own banana bread entry.

This cupcake-lovin' blogger even has a recipe for Meatloaf and Mash Cupcakes!

Not Quote Nigella is my kind of creative baker! You go, girl!

Another Scrapbook Layout

I finished another digital layout the other day for Little Sprout's First Year Album. It was created for the heart-shaped photo challenge over at Sunshine Studio Scraps.

This challenge gave me a new goal: to start and finish a layout in three days. That's a whole lot better than the last layout I did for a challenge...the one where I missed the deadline and then took nearly 90 days to complete the layout makeover. I'm so excited that I achieved my goal!

Sneaky Success!

There has been a breakthrough in the messy mealtime saga. A growth spurt seems to have kicked off an eating binge for Little Sprout. He gobbled up his first sneaky meal! Baked chicken tenders with a veggie puree built into the crunchy coating to be precise. AND he ate a few bites of broccoli.

I almost fainted.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Messy Mealtimes & Trouble With Veggies

Mealtimes are getting messy at Silly Hat Central.

Oh, ha, ha, ha! See that grain of rice that is climbing into Little Sprout's nose? It is not doing that. No, of course not! That's just silly.

It all looks adorable on film, but the boy's messy phase is starting to unravel my last stitch of calm. Yes, he is learning to self-feed. And yes, encouraging him to explore food, to discover the fascinating tapestry of textures and tastes, may be my parental duty. But I don't have to be happy about the incredible, kitchen-swallowing mess, do I?

And over the side it goes!

Lately Little Sprout has been getting obstinate at the table, refusing anything resembling baby food.

So we gave him more "big boy" finger foods. Then he decided that he would only eat if he used a fork. You can see him below exploring the nuances of noodles.

Lately he refuses to eat anything fed to him on a spoon. If I give him his very own spoon with the same food on it, he will take it and feed himself. About 50% of the time the food falls off the spoon before it gets to his mouth, but I figure that's all a part of the learning process.

In the case of vegetables, however, the food comes back out and is handed back with a "bah" sound. (Haven't yet snapped a photo of that face yet. Sorry.)

Time to get sneaky! A's Mom recommended a cookbook (There are more than one on the market and I can't recall exactly which one she uses.) where they puree vegetables and add them to all sorts of foods so kids eat their vegetables without realizing.

The first sneaky meal wasn't so much a success as it was a smear and splatter campaign. The main course was turkey meatloaf to which I added a leftover jar of Stage 3 Pasta Primavera baby food, plus finely diced green beans.

Why did I add jarred baby food? The cookbook states that pureed foods from the baby aisle of the grocery store may be substituted in a pinch. And I saw no reason to waste what we had on hand if I had an opportunity to use it, especially for sneaky purposes.

Big Daddy and I agreed that you couldn't taste the vegetables, they were completely camouflaged in the meat loaf. So far, so good, right?

My child flung (tossed, hurled, gave-the-old-heave-ho) everything from his tray that had even a hint of a vegetable in it. Does Little Sprout possess veggie radar? Or a hypersensitive veggie detector? I will say no, but with a tone of deep suspicion. Is there a chance that one day he might eat vegetables? Dare I hope that one day he might even like them? Only time will tell.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I've been RAKed!

I know, I know...

Everyone ELSE writes (and apparently speaks) Ooh, ha ha! A pun. Get it? (Psst, look at the title of this blog.)

Everyone ELSE writes, "I got RAKed!" It is the same faux pas we all blindly accepted when America Online (AOL) first came into being and e-mail in-boxes started singing, "You've got mail!" No matter how many people say it or how long it goes on, it's still wrong. So I write it the way it should correctly appear in print (with the exception of contracting the "I" and "have," because I'm not a complete tyrant.) Here ends the grammar lecture.

What are RAKs? RAKs are Random Acts of Kindness. This acronym had popped up a few times on other people's blogs before I timidly asked Mr. Sunshine about it when it appeared on his blog.

He was terrific about explaining and even sent me The Obsession Kit as an Easter present. Honestly, chivalry may be hog-tied and stuffed in the back of a closet somewhere in this country, but Mr. Sunshine proves that it is not yet dead in his corner of the world. Here is a link where you can find out more about The Obsession Kit: where to buy it.
Obsession: The Kit. Designs by mgl Scraps
Can you believe that Ellie Lash RAKed me a few weeks before Mr. Sunshine did? I did remark about Ellie's wonderful kindness and generosity in Kindness Is Never Wasted, I just didn't know such things had their own Internet acronyms back then, ha ha! I can be slow on the uptake sometimes.

And here are images of the two delicious kits Ellie sent me just for sharing the recipe for Chocolate Coconut Balls! (For the record, the recipe really is that good. Try it, you'll see.)

With all this digital scrapbooking goodness waiting to be utilized, there is only one thing to say.

Better start scrappin'!

Friday, April 11, 2008

April, April

Out for a stroll with Little Sprout and the two hounds this morning I was enjoying the breeze and the bright sunshine when I realized that nature is celebrating right along with me.

British Poet Sir William Watson (1858–1935) described it best:

April, April,
Laugh thy girlish laughter;
Then, the moment after,
Weep thy girlish tears!

- Sir William Watson (1858–1935), British Poet

Today April was laughing, gently shaking delicate, spring petals from the trees in mirthful confetti. Tomorrow will April weep her girlish tears? I think there are thunderstorms in the forecast later tonight and tomorrow. Funny how some things play out.

Threats of rain aren't deterring hungry ladybugs from eating up aphids. Petals wafting down around this lucky "lady" feast add to the fortunate air of the morning.

And here is Little Sprout delighting in being outside in a romper and bare feet instead of sweat pants, socks and shoes. Petal-fetti falls down around him.

All in all, a fine start to the day!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Tortoise Approach to Scrapbooking

Or how to finish a layout in no less than 90 days.

That's not even my longest lag. I kid you not. There is a traditional paper-and-glue page that sits unfinished, waiting for . . . oh, who am I kidding? Waiting for me to get over the fear of doing it wrong and ruining the expensive, coordinated supplies.

Be that as it may, I finished a digital layout for Little Sprout's First Year Album yesterday. And I cranked out a digital section divider page today! That's progress, baby. Yeah!

It's a good feeling to complete a scrapbook layout that was particularly frustrating and look back at the creative transformations along the way. It shows me that I am getting better. Even if I still scrap at a snail's pace. Or a tortoise's, if the tortoise and hare analogy works better for you.

Here is the first incarnation of the Budgie Boy layout. I originally created it for my first ever scrap challenge. The goal was to scrap an endearment or pet name. The journaling needed to reflect why the name held special meaning. An amazing designer named Michelle Sparano complimented how I laid out the crossword-style title and got me thinking. So I decided to rework the page to play up the crosswords.

Quite a bit of time passed as the idea germinated in the back of my mind. Then I half-hazardly searched for crossword elements online. A few more weeks passed.

Then Caelie Haine's very wise words whacked me back into action. She used to say, "It's not brain surgery!" (She's a doer. That's one of the many things I admire about her.) Over-thinking was getting in the way of doing, I decided, and it was time to get to work.

Without further ado, here is yesterday's finished layout:
[drum roll, please]

Last but not least is the digital section divider page I cranked out today during Little Sprout's morning nap. (Hey, hey hey! I may actually be getting back some me time.)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Great Book Review

I was just about to shut down my computer and stumble off to bed when a Google Alert landed in my inbox. It included this link to blogger Kirk L. Shaw's review of the book Storm Front by Jim Butcher.

Jim Butcher is the incredible mind (and pen) behind The Dresden Files series. I've been wanting to read this series ever since the TV show first aired.

And let the record show that I'm still royally cheesed about The Dresden Files vanishing from the airwaves without a trace (like every other brilliant Sci-Fi TV show in the past decade). It will no doubt end up being labeled a one-season wonder, but that one season was enough to sear a wizard's mark on my heart.

Sutragirl enthusiastically endorsed the novels and I have greatly enjoyed every book she or snolan (her husband) have recommended. I need to read it. Mother's Day is coming up soon. I think Storm Front would make a terrific gift. (Hint, hint)

I'm too busy chasing after my almost-14-month-old to delve into inspired debate, but I'd love to hear from folks who read the book(s) and want to share why they liked or disliked it (them).

And while I'm dreaming impossible dreams, wouldn't it be awesome if Jim Butcher left a comment about writing the books? *sigh* That would be incredible.

Jim, if you're out there, I invite you to share your thoughts on the TV show and/or the books!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Stunned and Amazed

My Baby Bearcub mugging for the camera.Bwah-zghleee-buhbull-pppwwweee-nah-BAH?
[Translation: Ha ha! Mommy is so silly. Do you see any TRUCKS?]

NEWSFLASH! Today Little Sprout took a three-hour nap.

This may not sound surprising. But if you know my cuddly, lil' bear cub, you know that he is the KING of the 30-minute nap. And he didn't fuss, scream or cry about going down without nursing first. He just picked out a teddy bear to take with him to bed, hugged/played with the bear for a few minutes, then laid down and drifted off to dream land.

Several hours later I was still, quite frankly, astonished! After finishing a fairly extensive chore list, (tidying up around the house, vacuuming, throwing in a load of laundry, planning the evening meal, preparing lunch, etc.) I literally didn't know what to do with myself during the remaining hour or so of down time.

It was 45 - 60 minutes of heaven and hell. Heaven to have a few moments to myself. Hell because wandering back and forth looking for selfless tasks to perform led to idle thoughts, which led to crazy death scenarios in my overactive imagination.

(Something has got to be wrong. Little Sprout never sleeps this long! Quick, check to see if he's still breathing. Maybe he slipped into a freak coma? . . .Oh, whew . . . he just twitched/turned his head. He's not in a coma! Silent thanks to all the powers in heaven . . .)

Cross your fingers that this liberating development lasts. How sweet it would be to have a bit of downtime during the day and not spend it in sudden, but inevitable worry.

Curse your sudden, but inevitable betrayal!
Next time, I'll take a cue from Alan Tudyk, whose character in the prematurely cancelled sci-fi TV show Firefly made playing with toy dinosaurs seem like a reasonable thing to do.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

No Foolin' — International Tatting Day

For many, April 1st is a day for tomfoolery, pranks and hoaxes. But for tatters it is a day devoted to furthering a lacemaking art.

[Photo reprinted with kind permission from Emma]

April Fool's Day has always seemed (to me) to be the perfect choice for International Tatting Day.

Why? Everything sounds better en francais, n'est-ce pas?

Tatting is called frivolité in French. (See what I mean?)

The French call April Fool's Day Poisson d'Avril or "April Fish" Day. On this day, French children sometimes tape a picture of a fish on the back of their schoolmates, crying “Poisson d'Avril” when the prank is discovered. It is also customary to indulge in delicious chocolates in the shape of fishes.

Tatters love a good laugh almost as much as they love chocolate! So choosing a day wherein chocolate and lighthearted fun are de rigeur (I'm having way too much fun with this...) is la meilleure chose à faire, bien sûr.

I do think I shall send my local tatting friend a small tatting gift of chocolate fishes and well-wishes in honor of International Tatting Day. No foolin'!

UPDATE: I have not been successful in finding a Celtic fish pattern to tat today. So I am contenting myself with working on an older project I started but put away. It is a lovely little two-shuttle oval medallion pattern I found at This 'n'Tat website. I'm guessing from the copyright dates that I printed this pattern out in the year 2000. The pattern itself was listed as a Pattern of the Month - April 1998. There is a tiny copyright notice at the bottom of the diagram: copyright 1998 Lisa C. Trumble

This'n'Tat is still a great site for tatting patterns and instruction, even though it hasn't been updated since 2007. (Hey, I can relate. My own tatting website Ambitatterous hasn't been updated since April, 2004.)

Happy International Tatting Day!