Monday, April 30, 2012

Hot off the press!

Actually it's still on the press.  I'm hopeful for Wednesday, when the printer is promising me a stack of glossy, freshly bound copies of a little something I've been working on lately.

A children's book.

A children's book!

Little did I know that when I became a parent over eight years ago, I would slowly, undeniably fall in love with children's literature.  It started with Sandra Boynton; then grew to Dr. Seuss; included Russell Hoban; then Laura Ingalls Wilder, E. B. White, Mo Willems, Tomie de Paola, Christopher Paul Curtis and a host of others soon followed.

Then I developed a heart for Detroit and all its gardening potential.  Over 100,000 vacant lots!  That's a lot of tomatoes.

Combine that with a Food And Farm Tour of the city, a blog referral, and a sharp pencil, and the result is a sweet little picture book about a little girl who moves to Detroit, misses her garden back home, gets some help planting in a nearby vacant lot, and finds joy in urban gardening.   And it even slips in a definition of compost.

That was about a year ago.  It was only recently that I came upon an all-Michigan publishing house, that seeks to connect Michigan authors and illustrators, and employs a unique (and healthy!) business model to put more profits in the hands of the authors.  (I have learned that typically the author only receives 10% of the cover price of most books.)  A talented illustrator has really transformed this little book into something special.

If you'd like to see it in person, come on over to either of the Book Launch Events that I've got planned.  One will be the Lunasa Open House Market at the Washtenaw Food Hub on Tuesday, May 8th.  The other will be the Mix Marketplace in downtown Ypsilanti on Saturday, May 12.

The book will also be available online through my publisher in the next week or so.  In the meantime, check out my author bio.

So, I think that officially makes 2 goals met, of the 3 for this year.  I'm still putting the 3rd into motion and hope to have news about that by summer.  It's also around that time that I'm hoping to discover our first egg, proof of goal number 1.

I hope you are as charmed by this book and its topic as I am.  And I hope to see you at the upcoming events!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

my chalkboard

For several years, I had wanted a chalkboard.  Not for my (then) classroom, but for my kitchen.  I had visions of weekly menus or trendy coffeehouse lettering.  About 3 years ago, I found an old, heavy chalkboard at a yard sale, unpriced.  I handed the lady a twenty and went skipping to my car, carrying my chalky dream-come-true.

The menus and coffeehouse lettering never made it up there because it quickly became clear what the chalkboard was meant for.  It's my cheerleader, my reminder, my curb, my tally, my logo.  As a Chief Home Officer (hey, we active stay-at-homes need a better title than one that begins with something as inactive as "stay"), I needed somewhere to post my mission statement, my goals, my verse of the week.  Parenting and running a home is sometimes so intangible, that I needed something visual.  Something concrete.  Something chalky.

A while back I compiled a list of accomplishments of the past year.  It was only after this review that I was able to set some measurable, attainable goals for this year.  May is just a few days away and I'm pleased to report that one goal for this year has been clearly met.


If all goes as planned, I'll have more news tomorrow about a second goal.  I'm practically  bursting with the excitement of it, but I'll just have to leave you with these pictures from earlier today.

The Music Mans oversees interaction between the canine and fowl members of our household.  

Until tomorrow,

Saturday, April 21, 2012

They have names!

"So, how are the chicks?"

Everyone from the neighbor to the pastor, from my colleagues to my mother is asking me this lately.

"They're big, and they are turning into pullets."

Pullet is the chicken name for teenager and, while I'm not exactly sure when chicks are considered pullets, my birds are no longer cute and not yet productive. So, yes, I think I have pullets.

And they have names!

This is Black Star, the friendliest of the bunch.  She's a Barred Rock.

She's bigger than the neighbor's house!

Here is Sarah, Plain and Tall, another Barred Rock

This is Madeye, a Salmon Faverolle.

Here is Pippi Longstocking, another Salmon Faverolle.

And finally, this is Clementine, a Buckeye.

You might have picked up a theme with the names.  Yes, they are all children's book characters, suggested by various members of the family.  Can anyone name all 5 books that they come from?  Leave your answer in the comments below, and we will be impressed!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rich in Eggs, Chiffon Cake

In my quest to find recipes and projects that use lots and lots of eggs, I came across the idea of a foam cake.  Apparently some use just the egg whites (angel food cake), some use the whole egg but no added oil (jelly rolls), and some use both eggs and oil (chiffon cakes).  Preferring not to waste the yolks, and not brave enough to attempt to roll up a cake, I opted for the chiffon cake.

The original recipe is from the old fashioned Betty Crocker Cookbook that I received as a wedding gift almost 14 years ago.  It calls for lemon zest to make it a Lemon Chiffon Cake, but I'm not a big fan of lemons outside of lemonade, so I simply omitted it.  What's left is a wonderfully fluffy, slightly vanilla-y cake that is amazing with a chocolate glaze, and has had me dreaming of dipping it in a chocolate fondue.  And it's oh-so-simple.

Basically, you mix a few things in one bowl, mix a few other things in a second bowl, mix them together, and bake.  The hardest part is waiting the two hours for the thing to completely cool.

Simple Chiffon Cake

First mix 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 cups sugar, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.  Beat in 3/4 cup cold water, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and 7 egg yolks (reserve those whites!) until the mixture is smooth.

In another large bowl, beat 7 egg whites (about 1 cup of egg whites) and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.  Gently pour the egg yolk mixture over the beaten egg whites and fold with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.

Pour all this lovely batter into an ungreased tube pan (normally for angel food cake), that is about 10 x 4 inches.  I'm grateful for Gram Lois for passing hers along to me, as this is something I wouldn't normally have in my kitchen.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes on the lower oven rack, or until the top springs back when you touch it lightly.  The top should be an inviting golden brown.  Cool this right away by flipping it upside down and creatively suspending it over a jar or funnel.  I realized afterward that the pan has little feet for this, and I needn't have gone through all the engineering theatrics to build a perfect cooling station.

Cool completely, about 2 hours, before running a knife along the inside of the pan to loosen the sides of the cake.  Tap out onto a plate.  

Prepare a simple glaze by melting about 1 cup of chocolate chips with a couple of tablespoons of cream.  Stir until it's creamy-smooth and drizzle over individual slices.  If you choose to glaze the whole cake, you'll need a whole lot more glaze; try twice or even three times as much.

This cake was so simple and snazzy that I can't wait till I have an extra 7 eggs laying around again!

Note: if you like lemony cakes, go crazy and add the 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel along with the egg yolks.  As for me, I'll have my vanilla cake with a side of lemonade.

Friday, April 13, 2012

What I've been doing on Thursday nights.

It's not that I'm trying to be secretive about how I've been spending my Thursdays from 7 - 9pm.  It's just that the Artist Way Group that I've been attending is so hard to describe.  At its simplest, it's a small group affiliated with my church that works through The Artist's Way book one chapter at a time.  At its most complex/interesting/beautiful, it's a collection of people that comes together to support, encourage, and challenge one another as we integrate art into our lives, doing our best to honor God along the way.

God is the Ultimate Creator after all, and we are created in his image, so there's a healthy bit of his creativity in us.

And we celebrate it.

Yes, we discuss the chapters in the book.  We also do projects.  Oh, the projects.

We cover journals.

We make collages about our lives.

We learn painting and weaving techniques.

We write poetry.

We go on Artist Dates.

We listen to each other.

We inquire.

We pray.

We are.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Rich in Eggs, Deviled Eggs

I like assignments.  Clear, measurable goals with a specific outcome.  So when my mother assigned me Deviled Eggs for our family's Easter dinner, I was good.  Really good.

I'm not sure I've ever made deviled eggs for just our small family, but I'm convinced they are just about the perfect party food.  Kinda fancy.  Low carb.  Not too messy.  Even pretty (if you can be sure to keep them level on the car ride to the party).

I usually make two different kinds of deviled eggs at once.  Not because I'm super particular about what I like.  Just the opposite - I can never decide, so I make both!

First, boil 12 eggs (submerge in water in a large pot, bring to a boil, start the timer for 10 minutes, after 10 minutes remove from heat, allow to cool, rinse in cold water, and do your best to peel them neatly).

Then slice them all in half lengthwise and pop out half of the yolks into one medium bowl, half in another medium bowl.

In one bowl, combine the yolks with 5 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, and a dash or two of salt.  (Add more or less of the curry and salt to taste.) Mash with a fork until creamy.  Spoon this into a plastic sandwich bag and snip a 1/2 inch piece of the corner off.  (If you want to step up the fanciness, you can spoon this mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large-ish star frosting tip.) Pipe the yolk mixture into 12 egg whites using a spiral motion (as a throwback to your summers making soft serve cones at the Dairy Queen.)

These are the Curry Deviled Eggs.

In the other bowl, combine the yolks with 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon prepared dijon mustard, and a dash or two of salt.  (As above, use more or less to taste.)  Mash with a fork until creamy.  As above, pipe into the remaining 12 eggs whites, then top with a caper.

These are the Mustard Deviled Eggs.

One fun thing about deviled eggs is that there is always a bit of yolk filling left over, perfect for piping onto crackers and doing several "quality controls."

Now don't you feel rich in eggs?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Our chickens get friendly

For the first 14 days of their lives, our chicks have been busy getting bigger and mostly ignoring us.   Yes, we handle them to change the litter.  Yes, they scurry and take cover when we sneeze within 5 feet of the brooder.

But starting, oh, around, yesterday, the chicks have been hopping up on our hands when we reach in the brooder.  They are fun to carry around, perched on our bodies.

They are getting sturdy enough now that we're not afraid they're going to keel over without warning, so we all got brave and took them outside.  It was fun to see them in more or less a natural habitat.  And they seemed to really like the grass and sun.

I think this is going to be a fun, feathery summer!