Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New Life as Bench for Salvaged Coffee Table

I have been keeping my eyes glued to the curb and garage sales in search of a coffee table I could transform into a bench for the tent for a long time. I want something that will mainly operate as a bench with a custom cushion (to be sewn later), but could easily do double duty as an art table or Japanese style seating table for casual eating for kids and game adults. Something sturdy and decent looking, but not too nice, so it still makes sense for the kids to paint on it & use it roughly as necessary.

Driving to school one day, I saw this inlayed wood table along the side of the road and felt it would do. I pulled over & popped her into the wagon. I quickly sanded it and not so quickly finished it. I used a couple of coats of Watco teak oil. I have yet to sew a cushion for it, although I acquired a piece of salvaged foam from the local upholstery shop. I've never sewn a big cushion with a zipper before & I'm a bit intimidated. But I know I will. Often the urge will whip down like a tidal wave of ambition dwarfing the fear and I find myself just pushing through the project and learning as I go.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Preserving Lemons

Our little lemon tree is full of beautiful ripe lemons right now. I took advantage of the harvest and made a batch of preserved salty lemons. I love this stuff. Again I used Hunter Angler Gardner Cook as a guide and added a cinnamon stick and a couple of cloves before I sealed it up to let it cure for three weeks.

The basic protocol is: wash & dry the lemons thoroughly (more emphasis on the wash). Slice the lemons in quarters, stopping before slicing all the way through. Put in a quart jar and mash down releasing the juice. Add just under a tablespoon of salt (I used Redmond's & yes, that is tablespoon not teaspoon) on top of each lemon. Repeat until you fill the jar. I added the juice of about two lemons to cover the preserves, but it's not necessary. I also took some time to remove the seeds this time, gently pulling open the lemons careful not to break the wedges off.

At a winter bake sale/fundraiser for my oldest son's school, I had a revelation that I should donate a few batches of preserved lemons and/or cultured vegetables. Although I'm not one to put aside an opportunity for baked goods gluttony (witness my weekend baking spree), I realized both these items would be great for the some of the foodie families at the school and offer a bit of diversity at the table.

My mind is flashing forward to the upcoming preschool Carnival in May. The preschool has some seriously talented bakers, both professional and amateur, and the bake sale table is not to be missed. Last year, one of the pros made an almond macaroon-esque cookie with a chocolate coconut milk ganache filling. I bought one to give me a bit of a sugar boost to fill my sails. As I sat down on the grass with loud bouncy houses all around and a dunk tank directly behind me, I took a bite. The creaminess of the ganache melted slowly in my mouth, the taste of a subtle rich almond met the chocolate and feel madly in love. Bouncy houses slipped away, overly tired kids teetering on cranky seemed silent. I returned to the bake sale and bought the entire box. I really truly hope she makes more. Note to self: begin campaign of fandom requesting those cookies.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Silent But Busy

Although these pages have been silent, Camp Ramshackle kept a steady buzz of activity. The small, the fantastic (for the young ones doing the creating), the mundane. This weekend, I dealt with a Halloween fairytale pumpkin. I bought it from my youngest son's preschool fundraiser with the intent of eventually baking it. Two weeks ago, I stuck the whole thing in the oven after cutting the top & removing the seeds for roasting.

I've never baked an entire pumpkin by shoving it in the oven like an uncarved jack-o-lantern before. Usually, I use smaller pumpkins and cut them in halves or smaller. But the method worked well although it took hours to cook. After it cooled, I pulled off the skin and stored it.

This weekend, I pureed the bejezus out of a mountain of pumpkin and scoured recipes.

I made a variation of Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie Bread, which received a thumbs up rating from Eric and my oldest son. I am recuperating from a noxious cold that stole my taste buds, so I couldn't tell, although it baked beautifully. I used a conventional oven (the linked recipe is for a bread machine) and baked it for 55 minutes. All worked well. I will make again and again and again until the pumpkin supply runs out or everyone in the house screams "NO MORE".

And another loaf of the fantastic Flying Apron Bakery house bread. I was happy to see Jennifer Katzinger has a new cookbook. Evidently, it's been out since August, but I've been living under a rock since then. Two loaves of bread did nothing to my mountain of pumpkin puree (as expected), so I froze them in 1/3 cup measured scoops, since my favorite recipe with pumpkin (see above) uses 1/3 cup portions.

The delicious carrots keep growing.

As do my boys, both very interested in sculptures small...

...and large. Built quite spontaneously by my youngest son. I love his design and style. He has been building sculptures since he could move. Watching his work change as he grows older is such a treat. I make an effort to photograph them, although it is hard to keep up.

And I have been sewing shelters. This one is for a silent auction at my youngest son's preschool. Eric has been tackling some much-appreciated work around the house too. I plan to share some projects of home improvement in the upcoming days...not weeks.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Kid Goes Electric

My youngest has been hit with guitar fever. My greatest hope is this current obsession lasts. He's so careful with the guitar, awed by it really, and thrilled to turn it up and sample effects.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Comfortable Window to Read By

The days and nights have been mild, even for a southern California winter. When the sun is shining and so much can be done in the garden, I remind myself that ten minutes inside by the window with a book, my own selection or one gently pushed into my hands by a four year old, is time well spent.