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My friend Lynn tweeted about verrines the other day and I had no idea what the word meant but I used to make them fairly often—B.C. that is (before children). So since the boy who does not eat fresh fruit was off at his grandparents’ house I decided this would be a good dessert for the girl and I to make together.

Sliced strawberries, made-from-scratch vanilla pudding, wild Maine blueberries, whipped cream and a few blackberries from our yard. Layered in a tall glass. Divine. Devoured.

fruit and pudding verrine parfait dessert


Eating . . .

strawberry chocolate s’mores.

As the weather got warmer we’ve enjoyed getting out to grill and one night I had the idea to do s’mores over the grill. Poking through the cupboard I found pink marshmallows and chocolate graham crackers. Rich sharpened a stick and we were soon enjoying a new variation on an old favorite.

strawberry marshmallow and chocolate graham cracker s'mores

This works just as well in the microwave.

As I alluded to in the previous post, this past week has been rather a haze. And unfortunately not all of us completely well yet. But it would seem that if I don’t share these now, they’ll lose their newsworthiness.

I love to carve pumpkins with out of the ordinary designs. Over the years we’ve done the Bat signal (Batman), maybe more than once, spiders and Jiji the cat from Kiki’s Delivery Service. This was the first year the kids were really into actually helping with the design. The girl was quite particular about her pumpkin having a “bumpy” smile. So we split up into teams and this is what we came up with. The carving on the girl’s pumpkin is a combination of me following what she actually drew on the pumpkin and copying from her earlier drawing on paper. The boys were much more scientific and drew their pattern on the computer first.

bumpy smile jack-o-lantern traditional jack-o-lantern pumpkin

One day this week I managed to make pancakes with a seasonal twist. I used tiny alphabet cookie cutters given to me by my friend Jan to quickly shape the eyes and mouth. Homemade apple syrup from Grandmom drizzled on top for a yummy treat.

jack-o-lantern cut out pumpkin

I didn’t realize this until we moved up here but New Englanders really get into Halloween in a big way. Maybe that’s because it actually feels and looks like Halloween in the movies or maybe because it’s a lot easier to decorate your house for a holiday that isn’t covered in snow and ice! In any case, people go all out and we thought we’d join in to this neighborly occasion with some sort of big decoration. We tossed around a few things and I came up with this idea of painting a big cat to fit the opening in the screen door. I looked online for tall silhouettes of black cats and chose one as reference. I unrolled paper and cut it to size and then sketched the cat on the paper. The kids did a lot of the painting. I had intended to do an all black cat but they wanted it to look like Lila, our tuxedo cat so I modified to accomodate. Not quite as scaring but still mysterious. On Halloween night we turned out all the interior house lights and strung a bulb up behind the cat’s face which illuminated the whole painting well. The large brushstrokes reminded Rich of Van Gogh’s style. An unexpected benefit. The kids were awed by their creation and I really enjoyed working together with them. It was difficult to photograph so here is my attempt at a Photoshop combination that simulates what it looks like in real life.

backlit painted Halloween cat

with flash: painted cat

And I did finish sewing those costumes despite my foggy head. But because the camera batteries were dying I only have this one photo of Mr. Mario and the leopard. We took a quick trip around the neighborhood and were rewarded with treats from the neighbors and a surprise scare from Mr. R. across the street sporting a scary ghost mask that made the girl cry.
Mr. R’s wife scolded him and he couldn’t take that mask off fast enough!


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I think I had to go out at least once every day last week, no picnic for a hermit like me. But I made it through the “princess” a.k.a. Royal Banquet on the Greene birthday party yesterday. It was a little chilly but sunny. The girl and her brother and six little friends enjoyed croquet and crafting bejeweled felt crowns as well as munchies, chocolate cake and pink lemonade. The girl has been planning this party for months. She’s quite opinionated but I figure she’s only 4 once so I would try to accommodate. I think everyone had a good time. Even the boys. The stage was set with a borrowed canopy, an old jewel toned backdrop of a court jester, and a fabric draped throne.

Here she is, the princess holding court, in the dress I made from two colors of stretch pink velveteen I bought months ago from I ended up making my own pattern but the fabric turned out to be quite easy to sew once I finally started.

"princess" dress for a four year old, my own pattern

Her brother, wearing the felt crown he decorated for himself and choosing his croquet mallet with care. He takes this game very seriously.

boy wearing felt crown with stick on jewels

The cake. Three tiers of fluffy German chocolate cake baked in borrowed heart shaped pans. Too late I realized that I had never made any other frosting than chocolate! I am not much of a baker. So I just picked a recipe out of the Betty Crocker cookbook which I had to retrieve from a box in the basement despite the fact it’s been a year since we moved in. Pink frosting did not behave as I was used to! But it tasted fine.

three layer heart shaped pink icing chocolate cake with strawberries and blueberries

Face painting by my friend Jan. This was quite popular with the boys and the girls.

face painting at birthday party

Our sweet little neighbor.

toddler in ruffly skirt holding a pink crown

Opening presents. In the background is the banner I designed for a fund-raising party with a royal theme quite a few years ago. Thankfully I did not have to sew these 5′ x 8′ monsters myself. All I did was cut and iron on the gold lamé appliques which was quite a job in and of itself. There were actually several of them made and I kept them afterwards knowing that eventually another occasion for their use would present itself. Voila, a princess birthday party.

princess birthday party with jester banner in background

I’m pleased that by borrowing a few things, reusing things we already had and making the refreshments myself, I was able to create the royal party my daughter wanted without spending much actual cash. However, I may have to hire a maid to help me clean up the mess I made!

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cream of broccoli and cauliflower soup

I love making soup. Too bad neither of my kids will eat soup of any kind. I have no idea why. Soup is so comfortable. I also find it to be a wonderful creative cooking outlet. I enjoy the layering of flavors, choosing the consistency, deciding on simple accompaniments. And I love that I can make a satisfying soup regardless of what is in my fridge or pantry.

Tonight I made cream of cauliflower and broccoli with swiss cheese and cream cheese, a little garlic salt, a spoonful of sour cream and a few dices of red and green bell pepper for garnish. Can you tell I just watched Disney/Pixar’s movie, Ratatouille, with my kids again?

dye, dry,
spin, ply,
knit, block,
click, clock!

handspun and knit swatch dyed with kool-aid, blocking

Just a bit of superwash merino/tencel fiber that I dyed with black cherry Kool-Aid and then spun, knit up into a swatch and blocked last night. Pretty but not really what I want. That’s what swatches are for!

And a pumpkin-shaped grape for your amusement.
pumpkin shaped grape

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The kids are at Nana and Granddad’s house so it was just the two of us on the way home from church yesterday trying to decide what we wanted to have for lunch. We considered grabbing take-out and going to the beach or going out to a restaurant on the water but . . . given the lovely weather and the noon rush we decided against.

Instead we stopped at our local grocery store and had them steam some lobsters for us while we meandered around and picked up some fixings, asparagus, potato salad, deli rolls. A few minutes later we were sitting down to a feast! Two lobster dinners for about $20 including the fixings—a great bargain, fast, a nice quiet lunch in our own sunny, breezy kitchen—definitely a good choice.

lobster dinner

the Yarmouth Clam Festival! This is our first year to attend as residents of the town although we’ve been quite a few times. The parade is a big event and people were putting out chairs on Main Street early in the week. Nice chairs too. It was nice to see that we live in a town with well-behaved chairs that stay where you put them.

Wednesday evening we took the kids to the carnival before the crowds showed up. We saw lots of the boy’s schoolmates and the kids had a great time enjoying the rides with friends.

carnival ride with friends

Friday night we walked down the street with our little red wagon to watch the parade with friends from church. Some highlights included a giant lobster, the LL Bean boot (standard issue footwear up here), and the boy’s fave—a monster wheeled fire truck!

waiting for the parade

Rockland Maine Lobster Festival giant lobster float

giant LL Bean Boot on wheels

monster wheeled fire engine

Saturday we walked the food circle and sampled fried clam strips (yummm), onion rings, refreshing Lime Rickeys and a decadent blueberry cobbler while listening to live music from local musicians. Then we did a speed walk through the arts and crafts booths stopping to run through the sprinkler at Hotcopper Garden Art, admire Robert Fishman‘s stunning pottery, and listen to Werner John’s unique flute music. Sorry, no pictures, I figured the kids were being patient enough!

While there are wonderful things to see and do in Maine at any time of the year, the third weekend in July is a great time to be in Yarmouth . . . just sayin’.

The girl wanted a fried egg sandwich for lunch and I remembered having seen these several places so I decided to give it a try. One egg, scrambled, fried in a hole cut out of a piece of bread.

scrambled eggs cooked in a hole in toast

Big hit, so then I got silly with a chicken cookie cutter:

egg cooked in chicken shaped cut out in bread

$1 mesh bath puff

Take one mesh bath puff, a pair of scissors, 2′ of bias tape or wide ribbon, 2′ of cotton string, about 10 minutes at the sewing machine and voila! a reusable mesh bag for fruits and veggies. The bath puff is held together by a short length of cord, once you cut it you get a really long tube of soft mesh, diameter about 10″. I cut it into 15″ lengths. I sewed leftover bias trim from another project to close off the bottom and then as a casing around the top. I threaded cotton string through the top as a drawstring.

It’s actually about the same size as the plastic grocery store bags and would hold about 8 apples I guess, maybe 2 crowns of broccoli, etc. I don’t think this mesh is as strong as I would like it to be but we’ll see how it works out in practice. I have another source for some heavier duty mesh but I figured I’d try out my idea with something cheap and readily available first.

I hate coming home from the grocery store with ten of those clingy plastic bags. They aren’t really good for keeping your veggies in once you get home or for storing anything else for that matter, too flimsy. They are recyclable but still, they have a useful life of about 30 minutes. What a waste. So I thought I’d try out some mesh bags and see how I like them. My big problem will be remembering to take them with me to the grocery store.

reusable mesh fruit or vegetable bag

And for anyone who wants to try this themselves, there is enough mesh in one of those bath puffs to make 10 bags! You could probably use foldover elastic on the top edge instead. Might be easier to make and use than the drawstring casing. The fabric trim just looks pretty!

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I’m a look-in-the-fridge-and-throw-it-all-together kind of cook. Partly because I don’t plan well and partly because I don’t care to use recipes much. I do have favorite dishes that I make, some of them learned from other people or books, but for the most part, I can often be found sautéing chopped onion in a skillet without the slightest clue what I’m going to do next! Cue our friend Chad to walk in the door, say it smells delicious and ask what we are having for dinner. :)

So, the 5 essential ingredients in my kitchen, in no particular order:
Oh look that’s only four! Alright, eggs. I’d be lost if I had none of these.

So what’s on your top 5? I’ll give you salt and one flour/grain as freebies.

We spent July 4th with part of my husband’s family. One of his cousins lives in a 200+ year old house that they saved from demolition and have restored in a gentle fashion. By that I mean they repaired a giant hole that ran through the roof and down through the floors to the basement, swept the leaves and animals out of the corners, etc. and generally took the entire house apart and put it back together, but left the marks of the years on floorboards, window frames, doorways, etc. in a lovely way. They opened up the house and grounds to extended family and friends for a feast, water fun for the kids and dogs, watching the town parade together and enjoying the gardens and the waterfall view.

The boy’s favorite part of the parade—Revolutionary War re-enactors gun salute.

Revolutionary re-enactors in a parade

The girl enjoyed the music thoroughly.


Cousin Heather, emcee of the fun!

family gathering

lilies in the garden

old mill stonework and waterfall

bright pink lily

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. . . but since I neglected to take any pictures, you get a picture of homemade jambalaya in the pot instead. Hope you like that, it was delicious if I did make it myself.

jambalaya in a dutch oven

But about Fiber Frolic . . . it was held at the Windsor Fairgrounds, about an hour north of me. My good friend and fellow artist, Jan, went with me. We left all the kids at her house with their dads (thanks guys!) They had fun, we had fun. We figured out the most obvious difference between llamas and alpacas, alpacas are a lot smaller. We oohed and aahed over the baby goats and the bunnies, and the sheep too. For the kids, we brought home some brightly coloreed handpainted silk cocoons, complete with the dried rattling worm inside! And we sampled some of the local handmade goodies including kettle corn and slightly sweetened, dried salmon, yum.

There was an overwhelming amount of fiber and yarn in a riot of colors from natural, right-off-the-sheep-dried-grass-and-all fleeces, to gorgeously dyed braids of shiny, soft roving, and beautifully colored skeins of handspun yarn hanging in the sun. It was a great opportunity to feel all kinds of different wool and other animal fibers and put a feel and look to some of the sheep names I’ve only read about. I only wish there was a book available that held actual samples. Maybe there is and I just don’t know about it yet. Since I’ve been working through spinning the five variety sampler bag I bought from Spunky Eclectic, I am appreciating how the differences that are only somewhat perceptive to the touch and eye can cause significant differences when spinning, and I’m sure to the knitted or crocheted project.

One of the most interesting things we saw was primitive rugs being made with narrow strips of wool hooked through an even weave canvas. Lots of felting, some really beautifully done felt paintings, lots of knitted and crocheted items of course, beautiful handmade spindles and lampwork glass stitch markers and other tools of the needle arts. Amy of Spunky Eclectic was in the last building we came too. Shame on her she had no sign, but I recognized her space immediately from the racks of distinctively dyed wools. I’ll save what I bought from her for my next post since I can at least take pictures of that!

Next year I promise to take cute pictures of the animals, especially the shaved angora bunnies, surely the funniest thing I’ve seen all week.

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eggs benedict made with smoked salmon

Why did I find myself poaching eggs for dinner? I don’t even like poached eggs. I like my eggs over hard or completely raw (for sukiyaki) but not in between. Not too long ago we had brunch at a great local hole in the wall and I ordered eggs benedict. Okay, this is the only way I will eat a poached egg. I think the hollandaise sauce disguises it enough that I don’t mind, considering the rest of it is so good. Anyway it was so good that apparently I didn’t get enough of it and it was still on my mind. And there’s the fact that Annie is always posting about poached eggs, I think she and Jim have a fixation about them.

So I made eggs benedict with toast because the girl and I finished off the English muffins yesterday. Rather than use ham I substituted smoked salmon, delish, and topped the whole thing off with a dash of dill. I also made spinach as a side and it was such a good match that I ended up sliding it in between the layers for the second plate. No picture of that, sorry.

The recipe I used (with the above changes) came from which also has a detailed guide on how to poach eggs.

spring cookiescookies for Easter

Children like to bake cookies. Mine are no exception. Now me, I don’t really like to bake cookies, especially with my children. Why? Because the girl cannot seem to stay away from the oven, and both of the kids get incredibly wound up with all the steps of what is the most horrible hurry-up-and-wait activity I can think of. Maybe it’ll be more fun for me when they can do the whole thing by themselves and I just get to eat the results.

I’m not particularly a baker because you have to either bake often or follow the recipe. There’s all that science involved you know, which I actually find quite interesting but not when I have two anxious children asking me every second how can they help and it is it ready yet and why can’t they open the oven, etc. But Saturday Rich went grocery shopping (isn’t he wonderful?) and brought home some ready made cookie dough (I know, never thought I’d be doing that!) and some icing so the kids could make Easter cookies. Of course they wanted to do it right away but I knew that there would be no dinner eaten if I didn’t insist on dinner first.

So after much badgering every five minutes it was finally time. I followed the directions on the package despite my misgivings that the dough looked too soft. I put them twice as far apart as directed and they still spread into each other like rabid pancakes. Oh well. I should have added flour but I was feeling lazy so I just cut the slices smaller. It worked out okay.

Anyway, we finally managed to get cookies out of the oven and cooled to decorate. I think most of the actual decorating was done by the adults under the strict supervision of the kids. They can get pretty autocratic when dictating icing colors! The boy did do a few on his own and the girl just could not wait to “do the sprinkles”. They each picked one to eat and then carefully set several aside to take to our neighbor, the nicest grandmotherly sort that the kids love to visit. She laughs sincerely at their jokes and stories even when they don’t make any sense. And they just had to go see her right away even though it was almost bedtime. Graciously funny as ever, she welcomed us in wearing her bathrobe and pin curls and we sat around her kitchen table talking and laughing for a few minutes. I suppose that made it all worth while.

Easter cookies in a Valentine's box

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