January 30, 2008

Something for me

I actually made something for myself! It's not as fun as making for Lara.

I took this huge red tee that Misha didn't want any more (made out of super-soft jersey!):

Red long sleeve tee recon (before)

And pinned and sewed my way to (just the red part - I'm wearing it over a black shirt):

Red long sleeve tee recon 2

What do you think? I'm kind of really into it. It looks better in person than I could capture on camera. It's got kind of a Anthropologie sale rack feel to it. I might add some beads or something else to pile on the details. Here are some closeups:

The waist:

Red long sleeve tee recon 4

The top:

Red long sleeve tee recon 3

In the making of this I realized two things:

1. Sleeves are hard. That's why this has none.

2. I really could benefit from one of those duct tape dressmaker's forms, since it would mean not having to constantly keep putting on and taking off a shirt covered with pins. Plus of course, I could actually pin fabric without having to do it on myself backwards in the mirror.

January 28, 2008

For a friend

Lace, metal, and coral earrings

Earrings made out of pieces of lace, curved metal, and coral beads for a very close, very lovely friend's birthday.

These were much more finicky to make than it would seem, mostly because the lace was hard to manipulate. But still, I'm liking the fabric effect.

January 27, 2008

New Things

New thing #1: A new hat - or rather, an old sweater that was reworked into a hat that was too small, now again reworked into a new and better hat!

Purple button hat

Lara loves the braids on the ear flaps and just continuously plays with them unless they are tied together. When in action, the new hat is kind of bonnet-like. I love it.

Purple button hat

New thing #2: this one was quite tricky to put together, even with Lara's help.

January 27 - 1

Did you guess what it was? Lara was quite excited to ride her very own new...

January 27 - 2

...tricycle! We took it into the hallway, and Misha tried to teach her to pedal. "No, Daddy, need shoes to pedal!"

January 26, 2008



In the mall, pointing at people walking by:

"That's not Daddy, that's a man. That's not Mommy, that's a man. That's not Lara, that's a man."


In a restaurant, after Misha and I can't decide on a dessert to get:

Misha: Let's ask Lara! Do you want chocolate cake or strawberry cake?

Lara: Stawberry cake!

Anna: Oh, good, good answer.

Misha: Hmm... Let's reformulate the questions. Do you want strawberry cake or chocolate cake?

Lara: Big piece of chocolate cake pweeze!


Marker fingers:


In the car on the way back from the mall:

Misha: Let's sing the ABC song!

Lara: (singing) A, B, C... No, sing rhinosus song!

Misha: Oh, I don't know the rhinoceros song - why don't you sing it?

Lara: (singing) Rhinosus, rhinosus. Lion, lion. Rhinosus, lion, rhinosus, lion.


Pulling Misha's pants along by the belt while saying, "Come! Come!" Do you think she wants a dog?

January 25, 2008

Quilt Progress and Napoleon Recipe

first three rows

The first three rows are done - and they even match up! Well, ok, that's cheating a little since the top row is just one continuous piece of fabric. But still - look, math! The eventual layout will be like this beginning - random squares. The idea is that the background color will just all melt together visually and all you'll be able to see is the squares of different sizes.

The "poyon cake" continues to be a big hit, though she eats too fast for us to capture it on film... or on pixels, I guess.

In my waxing poetic about the wonders of Napoleon, I forgot to actually include a recipe! Warning: this is not one for the dieters out there. Remember the Simpsons episode where a French chef wants to murder Homer so he makes an eclair with 12 pounds of butter per square inch? It's kind of like that.


1/2 lb frozen butter
3 cups flour
1 egg
a little less than 1/2 cup sour cream
a little less than 1/2 cup water
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

- grate the frozen butter on a large-holed grater
- add flour, chopping it into butter with a knife
- make a hole in the middle of the butter-flour mixture and add in egg, sour cream, water, baking powder, vanilla extract
- mix together, chopping together with a knife until the liquid absorbs, then kneading with your hand
- divide into 11 equal parts and roll these parts into balls
- leave ball in fridge for several hours
- roll the dough out into very thin squares, put on very lightly buttered cookie sheets
- preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and bake until golden brown


4 egg yolks
1.5 cups sugar
5.5 cups milk
a little less than 1/2 cup flour
11 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

- mix egg yolks and sugar
- slowly add in flour, mixing it in
- add 1 cup milk, stir, then add the rest of the milk
- put on medium heat and stir mixture continuously without stopping (seriously - this is the most important part)
- when mixture starts to boil, turn off stove, quickly add butter and vanilla extract, stir well until butter has melted
- allow to cool (it's ready to go after 20 minutes of or)

Putting it together:

- crumble one of the pastry squares into crumbs to go on top of finished Napoleon.
- for the rest, create two Napoleons of 5 pastry squares each
- alternate layers of pastry and custard, making sure to cover each layer of pastry with custard entirely, letting it run off the edge
- spread crumbs over the top layer of custard
- refrigerate overnight to allow custard to seep into pastry

Whew. It's really quite an ordeal. But worth it.

January 24, 2008


A slice of Napoleon

Sometimes I will get one of those email questionnaires from my friends - you know, the ones asking you to fill out a bunch of trivia about yourself. I never know what to answer. "What's your favorite movie?" That one varies depending on my mood and the intensity of my desire to impress whomever sent me the email. "What's your favorite place?" Always something vague. I guess a beach? My couch when the house is warm? The park?

There is only one question I can ever actually answer. "What's your favorite food?" Hands down, bar none, no ifs, and, or buts about it, it's my grandma Lena's Napoleon. I only have one bone to pick with the question - Napoleon is not food. It is ambrosia from the gods. Eating it with a cup of tea in her kitchen (sadly all too infrequently since she lives in San Francisco) is so deeply comforting and relaxing that I can't even fully imagine or remember what it feels like unless I'm actually doing it.

Do you know what Napoleon is? It's layers of initially flaky pastry mixed with layers of custard. The custard soaks into the pastry, moistening it just enough to no longer crumble. It is served chilled, and as you bite into it, the sweet creaminess of the custard coats your tongue in a feeling of safety and contentment. It is the quintessential dessert - less demanding on the palate than chocolate, less flamboyant than cake, edible in far greater quantities than cookies.

And yesterday I got to make some for myself for the first time. My amazing grandmother baked and sent me the pastry pieces. Sorry, folks, get your own super awesome grandma. This one's taken. I nervously made the custard, put the layers together, and today got to enjoy my bliss. Totally amazing. Even better, I got to share it with Misha and Lara. He loves it. Her verdict? "Poyon cake is yummy yummy yummy! More poyon cake pweeze!"

January 23, 2008

Catching Up

January 23 - 4

I was wearing sunglasses to grate an onion and Lara decided that was the coolest way to cook ever.

January 23 - 3

There is this surprisingly ferocious statue of a lion battling a snake in a local park (other statues there include a mild goat tied to a post, a somewhat abstract but still peaceful frog, and two cherubs holding up a sunflower). Why is it there? No plaque, no explanation on the statue itself. Lara came up and started to pet the snake. "Lion fighting. Snake is coming out! The snake no like the lion. Lion is angwy like Yertle the Turtle is angwy! Lion is angwy again! Snake do not like the lion. Run away!"

January 23 - 2

"Get cookie fom Sahbucks! Cookie wif waisins! Yummy yummy yummy cookie."

And finally, Lara presents tonight's mystery veggies:

January 23 - 1

"Oh, yook at this cwazy ca-et [carrot]! Oh yook at that! Cwazy ca-et has a hat on it. Ya vacuuming the plate. Ya vaccuuming the gwee cheese!"

With that in mind, what are these? My mom guessed that the crazy carot is horseradish. If she is right, am I supposed to make horseradish condiment from it? Thanks, everyone!

mystery - radish-like things

January 20, 2008

The Long View

You know what's not conducive to blogging? A sick, miserable toddler. Bleh around here the last few days...

So, a quick post before I go back to relaxing while she naps.

I think I might have crossed some kind of handmade threshold last week when I gave myself a haircut. In my own bathroom. With only my bathroom mirror and some regular Fiskars scissors (of course not my fabric ones!) for assistance. It helps hugely that curly hair is extremely forgiving of unevenness, but I think I might have actually given myself the elusive haircut that I for some reason cannot get the people in the salon to give me. (I admit that working with curly hair is hard - but since it is hard, and since I've been living with my hair for my whole life and know how it works, why can't the stylist just listen to me as I describe what to do?)


I might keep up cutting my own hair from now on....

Also, I started another project, which is where the title of this post comes from.

quilt - blue squares cut pieces

That's right, my first quilt, intended to eventually cover our bed. All I've done is cut the pieces and put together a few of the squares, and oh my gosh it's going to be a long LONG project. Wow, quilters, a newfound respect for all of you.

January 15, 2008


January 15 - 1January 15 - 2

Lara channels Hendrix.

I sewed a couple of headbands for my mom, who has trouble finding cloth ones in stores. And let's be honest, the plastic ones are so headache-inducing - I really can't believe people stand for them. Take to the streets, people! Protest the needless poking and mushing of your heads!

Headbands for mom

The checked one is from a would-be sewing machine cover, and the flowered one is from some freecycled fabric I scored a couple of months ago. I read, combined, and altered the patterns for headbands collected by the Sew Mama Sew! blog (have you checked it out? Pretty great place for all the good free patterns strewn about the web. Plus, they have a great fabric shop attached.)

January 15 - 3

January 14, 2008

More Portrait-y Goodness

Amy's two sons:

Stencil Portrait - Amy's two sons

I'm loving this one, mostly because of the original photo and the poses of the two boys. Don't they look like you'd want to hang out with them?

January 13, 2008

"Mushoom soup!"

Cream of mushroom soup

So when my mom was here, she, Lara, and I ate at California Cafe a couple of days, and discovered that Lara loves - nay, LOVES - their cream of mushroom soup. This was pretty shocking. She has become pretty picky about what she will eat, and has gone from a baby who would eagerly try anything, and like to eat most things, to categorically refusing to try anything new at all. But this soup? "Res'tant! More mushoom soup, pweeze! Yummy mushoom soup! Yay mushoom soup!" accompanied by fierce clapping. Seriously, this was above and beyond the cream of wheat video. So of course, I think to myself, I should make some at home! How hard can it be? Um. Yes. Famous last words. It takes an hour and a half hands-on time, and you have to saute everything before you put it in the soup. Still, there it is, my homemade cream of mushroom soup. Lara's response? "I am not like it! I am not like it! It's yucky yucky yucky!" Oh well.

(I quite like it by the way, but then again, I do tend to like my own cooking :)

The Zoo

Here's a story about something Anna's never around for -- the Zoo! Anna's really not an animal person, but Lara and I love the zoo. Here's a shot of Lara strolling in through the entrance.

She's definitely strutting around as if she owns the place; she already knows where most of the animals are - in the car on the way there she said, "Want the sakes! Want the tuh-tos [turtles]! Weptie-os [reptiles]!" (the house of reptiles is the first indoor building in the zoo, and thus our first stop when we've gone in the winter). Of course, when we got there, Lara announced, "Want to see the piggy! Want a doggie!" I guess everything's still equally exotic. Since we got there late, most animals "had to take a nap" (it's no longer as fun to try to type things phonetically in Lara-speak, because she speaks so well!). We did see these amazingly colored male Mandarin mallards, which our tiny slow outdated camera didn't quite capture. They're apparently in mating season; there were 2 colorful guys chasing a dull-brown girl.

One of the animals becoming a favorite is the peacock; at the Philly Zoo, they have a bunch of peacocks that just stroll around the grounds. Last time we saw one flutter up into the black bear grounds. (The black bear is another favorite, partially, I think, because Lara could relate to it. When we last saw it, it was covered in dirt, leaves, and hay. Lara announced, "The back bear has to take a baff! Black bear is duh-ty!") Here's the peacock posing in a puddle:

And now something that has become as frequently demanded as the parade dancing: playing with Lara's favorite Hannukah present - a giant canvas tote bag (thanks, Amy! Bet this isn't what you thought we'd do with it!). "Daddy swing you! Daddy swing you! Dance in the bag!"

January 12, 2008

Mystery Veggies 2

You guys are the best! Thanks so much for all of you who cleared away the cobwebs of my ignorance about bok choi. We didn't actually get to make it this time around - by the time I got the post up, it had already wilted. But next time! Anyway, now that I've revealed exactly how little I know, I'm feeling pretty shameless about revealing more of my uninformed self. To wit: what are these? What can I do with them?

January 9, 2008

Two goodies from Soho

Last Saturday, when my mom was here, we drove up to New York, left Lara with her other grandma, and bummed around Soho in the unseasonably delicious sunshine. Have you ever been there on a Saturday? I highly recommend. Lots and lots of independent artists and craftspeople come and set up stands all along East Broadway and on the side streets that cross it. You can find unbelievably talented people selling beautiful, unique things. For instance, we found this necklace:

Porcelain and Glass Necklace from Soho

Isn't it amazing? The artist, whose name I didn't catch and who didn't have cards sadly, told us that she makes these pendants by baking porcelain and glass together in her kiln. We had a hard time picking what to get - she has so many different, beautiful pieces of jewelry. Go catch her - she was right on Spring Street, just off of East Broadway.

Also, I bought this giclee print, called "Complete Family":

"Complete Family" by Olegi Osepaishvili (Osepa)

Ostensibly this is Misha's birthday present, but let's face it - it's really a present for me as well. The print is by artist Olegi Osepaishvili, a Georgian painter who told us that he used to show in a gallery but now mostly sells giclee prints of his work (lucky me!). Incidentally, Lara loves this painting. She came up to it when I hung it up and said, "that's a mommy and a daddy", then pointing to the girl in a white shift, "that's a kid!" and then to the boy in the gray wool sweater, "and that's Yawee!"


Also, thanks you so much everyone who wrote back to educate me on what bok choi is! You know what always amazes me? All the food that I don't recognize? I've actually eaten most of it. I've just never actually seen what it looks like raw. Anyway, to keep sharpening those veggie skills I'm going to post a few more mystery vegetables tomorrow. You guys are the best!


And also, I just saw that my friend Jay tagged me with a little blessing of community and connection. I have loved my online life, in its various incarnations, particularly because of the "I'm not alone!" feeling it frequently brings. Thank you Jay, and thank you everyone out there for the bonds we forge daily despite distance and difference.

January 8, 2008

I hope your flight was good, Mommy!

January 8 - 1

It was a really wonderful visit, and I am so happy my mom was here for as long as she was - almost three weeks.

January 8 - 3

It's extraordinary how much Lara can change in that time, and I think for my mom, just watching her suddenly have a new grasp of complex, preposition clause-laden sentences was really a gift, since she doesn't get to see it often in real life.

January 8 - 4

The evolution of speech from short bursts of syllabic noise to long convoluted descriptions of everyday life are a miraculous, precious, living experiment. I am so grateful that I have spent so much of my life in the minutia of language - enough to not only clap with wonderment at each new tiny step of Lara's learning, but to also be able to name what she has learned. Look, the present perfect! - and of course it makes sense that this would be the tense easiest to learn since she exists to herself solely in the moment. Look, an instinctive ability to determine parts of speech! - and can anyone explain how she would come to instantly realize the first time hearing it, that in the phrase "Oh, that's interesting!," the word "interesting" is an adjective and instantly create her own version of the exclamation - "Oh, that's an in-testing wall!"; while at the same time knowing that in the sentence "Oh, look at that hippo!" the "hippo" is a noun that can be replaced only with any other noun? I marvel at the brain's ability to make such exacting sense of the miscellany that surrounds it.

Ok, enough awe. I have to tell you about January 1st. On every New Year's Day here in Philly, we have the Mummers Parade, which... well, just click the link because you kind of just have to see the pictures of these guys. We took Lara to Broad Street to check out the action, but it was cold and full of drunken frat types, so we
opted to watch most of it at home on TV. When I tell you that Lara was absolutely consumed by the costumes, the music, and the dancing, I am underrepresenting the level of fascination. For a while she just looked, but quickly she began to also dance - and not just dance, but dance with her back right against the screen so that she would be leading the brigades. Then she grabbed her colorful place mat and danced holding it behind her head to make herself a mumming costume! We were dying, as you can imagine. The place mat was kind of a weak costume so I busted out her Jessie Cowgirl Hat (always the full title, the way Lara identifies it), and every single day since she has demanded to wear this hat while we sing either "Frosty the Snowman" or "Old MacDonald" and she prances around the living room saying "yike
parade! yike parade! you in the movie! you in the movie!" She's still working out which is "you" and which is "I". Oh, and hey - while doing all this daily dancing-prancing, she has figured out how to jump with both feet at the same time.

January 8 - 2

(No, that's not our house - Lara is just obsessed with sitting on every stoop we pass. Although, if we were Christian, wouldn't this make a great Christmas card? We'll have to find a blue door next year.)

January 3, 2008

Puttin' on the Ritz

december 30

How cute are we? Yes, supercute, I know. Misha and I were able to go out to an extremely rare actual adult dinner since my mommy is visiting. We decided to get fancy, and to don our matching newsboy caps. I think I might have heard a giggle in the restaurant when we walked in. Eh, I love it and care not for the spoil-sporting of others.

The next morning I woke up to find this on the desk:

Magna-Doodle art by Misha

Misha created Magna-Doodle art! I think he was using some fridge magnets as well as the built-in pen, hovering them over the magnetic surface rather than directly drawing on it to create the grayish shadows. You know how everyone has a specific thing that they doodle when on the phone or listening to the radio? This face is one of Misha's standard doodles, most of which are fantasy fiction-inspired faces or little figures in heroic poses. I really really love them. I try to save as many as I can whenever I spy one on a corner of his notebook or to-do list scrap. It amazes me that he can with a couple of strokes capture exact, anatomically accurate movement - his drawings remind me of the sketched figure studies of old masters that you sometimes see in a museum next to a full-scale painting.

Anyway. Our familial love affair with the farmers continues. Every week a box of delectables, and every week something fun and new to cook with it. But of course, fun and new doesn't have to mean complex - yesterday I made some applesauce with the delicious organic apples we got. I bet you could throw a pear in there as well, or some cranberries, or anything else yummy.

Homemade applesauce

Take some ripe apples, halved and cored, and throw them into a pot with about an inch of water at the bottom. Simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the water boils off (about a half-hour). Run through the blender. No sugar necessary - it is supersweet as is.

Also, we get a lot of freshly picked herbs, which I cannot possibly use up from week to week. I've started to dry them in the kitchen, and now I have these beauties to use in my cooking:

Freshly dried herbs

Mmmmm.... nothing like the smell of fresh rosemary.

And finally, a question for all of you astute readers out there. Sometimes the box of farm delights contains a mystery veggie. Well, mystery to me anyway - I'm guessing it's more that I'm ignorant than that this is a extremely rare delicacy. So I'm asking you all for help - what is this? How do I prepare it?

mystery - leafy vegetable

January 2, 2008

Another Super-Awesome Kitchen

Keep 'em coming, people! I love seeing the finished results.

Here is one from Heather and Adam of Decatur, Georgia. Check out the matching apron and pot holder! So so cute!

January 1, 2008