Dec 23 2013

Simple Infused Syrups, Simple Homemade Gifts

We met our dear pals last night to view insane Christmas lights and eat at Chili’s. Because that, to me, is just about the best holiday tradition ever. These friends gave us some lovely cocktail bitters last year. I wanted to make them a little something as a token of affection and acknowledgement of what a banner year they’ve had.

Flavored simple syrups to add to cocktails and other drinks are so yummy and so easy, and I had everything I needed on hand.

I settled on:

Lavender

Saturday nights were made for culinary lavender.

Rosemary

Saturday nights were made for infusing rosemary.

Ginger & black peppercorn

Sunday afternoon ginger and black peppercorn experimentation.

For each one, it was a matter of simmering some sugar and water and a bit of something lovely. I went with floral, herbal, and zesty options to offer some variety to cocktails. A French 75 with the lavender? Ginger with lemon and bourbon? A rosemary gin fizz?

Each batch makes more than anyone could need, so a jarful can go along to parties and family visits. And, there is even some left for us to play with too.

Three very simple syrups.


Aug 23 2013

Something I Love: Kid O

Oh Kid O, I love you.

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Kids stuff. You feel me?

It’s an f’ing mess. An inherited toy vacuum is now sentient in our living room and sings in Spanish at all hours of the day. There are pieces of things everywhere. And pieces of things missing that are, apparently, critical to the future happiness of the 2 year old. And the moment I swoop in and pack stuff away because the 0-6 months play range is long gone is the moment Lo asks for the wrist rattles. WRIST RATTLES.

Whenever I see or we get a toy that is not rage inducing I get joy weepy. And I want to share. So, here we are.

I’ve been pleasantly put in place several times now by non-kidded friends picking out rad, rad stuff. It’s like they pick what is cool to them and therefore it is just cool. I miss being cool.

So, when an industrial designer friend gave us two puzzles that weren’t ugly or loud I sighed in both relief and in missing coolness. After reading about Kid O, I’m so not surprised their puzzles lured in a cool non-dad guy. Kid O has colorful but not eye-scorching toys. Their hook is toys that are “simple, modern and educational.” Y’all know I love me a serial comma but I can still get behind that sentiment. Simple. Please. More of that.

The site features four collections that are all quite lovely ranging from wooden toys to party favors and including those Bilibo turtle shell type seats from Moluk that I am kind of obsessed with but don’t totally understand but may buy immediately. I also love the blog for the line which focuses on play and learning and creativity. Like, I love it.

But cool toys are only cool if they appeal to the wee ones. A mid-century mock toddler-sized cocktail station or a make-your-own-mini-folksy-music-fest kit isn’t any good if the kid won’t play with it.

These two puzzles, one which has her sort by height and one by width, keep her happy and occupied.

Lo, who is obviously a genius, is not great with subtle size differences right now (nesting is a hot, hot mess of frustration, stacking a bit less so) but is great with following repeated steps we’ve modeled for her. These puzzles have proven a low-risk way to practice and not once has she done the standard frustration response of throwing everything everywhere forever. I figure the Pavlovian puzzle doing will, in turn, foster a better understanding of size differentiation. Maybe.

Maybe even better, I’ve found it’s excellent practice on my part to speak clearly to her. I get wildly confused myself when trying to explain that she needs a smaller piece, and then a MORE smaller piece. Or I’ll say “that one is too big” and she looks at me like I’m an asshole because, really mom, do you mean the piece is too big or the hole is too big?

Thinking about what I can learn from playing with her or watching her play has been pretty great. I always think about metacognition on her part but hadn’t really started thinking about play-based metacognitive stuff on my part. It’s been limited to how I respond to a freak out or how I model civility or compassion for her.

As I sit here and reflect on it, maybe trying to explain how to sort the lovely blue shades of tall to small will make me a better writer while making me a better mom and her a better size difference noticer. Clarity and conciseness are two things toddlers need and they’re two things writers need too.

So cheers to Kid O, a toy company doing it right and getting it right. Hip hip.

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Mar 17 2013

Something I Love

Oh, Bittercube Bitters. I love you.

We have great friends.Two firmly in that great category are Kim & Kyle. They’re great for lots of reasons, they have similar views on wanting to go just about anywhere, they’re wildly talented, and they have killer taste. For the holidays this year they surprised us with a fantastic holiday card and a spot-on perfect gift, a sample of Bittercube Bitters.

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bittercube.com

These small batch bitters are the brainchildren of two midwesterners. One worked at the Violet Hour in our fair Chicago while his partner’s rooted in Minneapolis. They spent a year perfecting and concocting and, while it’s hardly accurate, I love the idea of potions brewing and steam rising as they worked on a batch.

It seems like we’re usually known for our beer, and we do that really well, but it’s nice to see we can make any booze better. There are bitters to make an IPA pop, plenty of interesting things to work into something ginny. The package includes a slew of ideas to make a cocktail party feel like an imperative.

For the purported end of the world on December 12, we hosted a pizza party for our playgroup. And to drink we set up “The Bitter End” cocktail station. To be fair, the 25+ kids running around made for a less-than-cocktail party vibe (yes, the tags I had on hand are offensively large, I know). But we did our best.

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Last night we had Kim & Kyle over to eat & talk, and toasted friendship with a Bittercube-personalized gin & tonic. This morning we were off to a surprise birthday brunch. Our gift? A sampler pack of Bittercube bitters.


Apr 7 2012

Citrus Salt Baby Food Jars

The time had come to make 101Cookbooks’ Citrus Salts as a companion favor to the rosemary salted shortbread for Party 1: Bubble, Bagels, & a Birthday.

I initially planned to outdo myself and make tons of different options for guests to choose. Whole Foods had some crazy fruits that included some new Japanese hybrid of this and that. I was going to IMPRESS. Want nine options? Great, pick from these 12!

Instead, I opted for lemon and lime. Good standards that folks could add to fish or line a margarita glass with easily. The salts last a couple months and I just don’t think anyone would be so excited by them that they’d need seven ounces of citrusy salts! And Brett would not seethe. 

We used Earth’s Best baby food to feed Loie. Pretty little glass jars. Stage 2 jars are 4 ounces. This recipe makes sets of salts, each 3.5 ounces. Yip! Some Goo Gone and some scrubbing and several runs through the dishwasher and they were ready to go. I picked up little kraft paper labels at Paper Source to designate the flavors.

Heidi recommends using Maldon sea salts and I found bulk bins available online. Much more reasonable than buying tons of boxes. AND now we have a home for all our chalkboard chalk and I get one of my beloved mixing bowls back!

After zesting, I mixed half cups of salt with 1 tbs of zest. Smooshed it up real good.

Now, I may have done something wrong but the salts definitely didn’t retain this gorgeous coloring. They have a yellow or green hint but aren’t quite this bright.

And here’s a batch, pulsed with an immersion blender, in the jars!

All those bald fruits with a limited future made me anxious. So I juiced ‘em.

And poured the juice into ice cube trays. I read about doing this so you always have juice for cooking. We now have quite a bit of frozen lemon and lime juice. My dream plan is dropping them in pitchers of water in the summer.

I loved repurposing the jars as a way of signaling the end of her babyhood. And they were lovely little favors.


Apr 2 2012

Something I Love

Oh, pastry cloth. I love you.

This is easily one of the best gifts I’ve received in recent years. A dear friend gifted several of her baking-prone buddies a pastry cloth from Norpro for the holidays. We all looked at the rolling pin condom (?) with confusion until she explained it.

The flip side of this cloth has measurements for dough so you can roll it out to 8 or 9 inches. I’m not sure why I used this side, but I can report that it works splendidly too!

It keeps me from spraying my entire kitchen with flour as I fail miserably at creating a surface “lightly floured”.

I realize many have walked the path of the pastry cloth before. I’m ok being late to convert but now I will proselytize aggressively. Seriously, go get one. Now.