Tag Archives: homemaking

2018 Goals, Mail & More…

feed your mailbox, sending mail, new years cards, vintage postage stamps

Is the year flying by, or is it just me? I sent out some New Year’s cards last week and some snow-themed letters this week. I feel like I was a terrible pen pal for most of 2017, so one of my goals is to do better this year. feed your mailbox, sending mail, new years cards, snow postage stamps

Some of my other goals for 2018 are:

  • apply to 10 craft shows
  • list regularly in my Etsy shop
  • add vintage postage to my Etsy shop
  • take another screen printing class
  • start a podcast with Naoto
  • get the apartment organized once and for all
  • paint our bedroom
  • post here at least twice a week, maybe even on a regular schedule!
  • as usual, spend out my stationery and paper stash
  • host Hasegawa Happy Hours again
  • host more dinner parties
  • cook more with Naoto, especially Japanese recipes
  • turn off the TV more often

What are your goals for the year?

 

 

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Cherry Almond Angel Cake

cherry almond cakeLast week I had a couple of friends over for “Christmas” lunch. I made an orange pomegranate prosecco cocktail, Ina Garten’s split pea soup, a salad, and this cake. Isn’t it cheerful?

It’s a Cherry Almond Angel Cake and it’s basically a doctored box mix cake. I read about this cake many years ago on a blog I can’t find anymore*. She made the cake based off a Betty Crocker recipe and she made hers in two loaf pans. I wrote down the recipe and all these years later, I finally tried it. It’s so fun. My cherry “glaze” was more of a frosting, but it was really delicious so I’m not complaining.

Cherry Almond Angel Cake

1 box angel food cake mix (Betty Crocker gets my mom’s stamp of approval, so that’s what I used.)

1 1/4 cups cold water

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries (One tiny 10 ounce jar will be plenty for this recipe, with a few leftovers for a Manhattan or two!)

 

Make sure your oven rack is at the lowest level possible and preheat your oven to 350.

In a large bowl, beat cake mix, water, and almond extract on low for 30 seconds. Raise speed to medium and beat for 1 minute.

Fold in cherries.

Pour into an tube cake pan. DO NOT GREASE YOUR PAN! (Also, do not use a non-stick pan!)

Bake for 37-47 minutes until the top is very dry, cracking, and dark golden brown. If the top is still sticky, the cake is not done.

When done, remove from oven and turn over onto a glass bottle. (If you don’t have a glass bottle on hand–this isn’t 1950–you can set your pan on top of 2-3 cans. The important thing is that the cake cools upside down.) Let the cake cool completely. When the cake is cooled, run a knife along the edges of the pan to remove it.

Cherry Glaze

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups powdered sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons (or more) of maraschino cherry juice

Full disclosure, I broke my hand mixer making this glaze. The hand mixer was pretty old, but also, apparently 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 cups of powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of juice were more like wall putty than a nice, glossy glaze. I finished the glaze by hand, with a spoon and ended up using 5 tablespoons of juice and still, my glaze was pretty thick. Start with 2 1/2 tablespoons and add as you go, 1/2 tablespoon at a time to be safe. When it’s the right consistency, drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake

Decorate the cake with extra maraschino cherries and beam at your work like a 1950s housewife.

Three things: Wouldn’t this cake be so cute for Valentine’s Day? I’m going to make it again for a Valentine karaoke party we’re going to next month. And, if you aren’t a frosting person, I always think angel food cakes are delicious on their own. Maybe slightly less cute, but delicious still. Lastly, if you’re interested, the box mix has instructions for making your angel food in two loaf pans. One for yourself, and one for a gift.

 

*Maybe you’ve read this blog? The woman lived in Champaign, Illinois. She was married, had a corgi, and she made quilts and doilies to show at fairs. She also had an etsy shop where she sold a pattern for aprons made of pillow cases.

 

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Christmas Dinner with Julia Child

Christmas tree 2017, Costco tree, colored lights. I didn’t get a good shot of the tree this year with the presents all around it, but here it is, dropping some needles due to dryness and Presley’s hourly visits to drink from the tree stand. (I know, I know…it’s not good for her but seriously, she’s been drinking tree water for all of her years…)winter sun cocktail, breakfast cocktailThis year, we didn’t make our Christmas voyage to Mitsuwa. I was tired of having to shower and get ready and battle weird weather and traffic on Christmas Day. So this year we stayed home in our pajamas and opened presents and made breakfast and a morning cocktail. We made the Winter Sun, and it is seriously the perfect breakfast cocktail. So citrusy and tart, perfect for a winter morning. Don’t skip the citrus sugared rim or the rosemary. Julia Child's beef bourguignon, Mastering the art of french cooking, Julia Child, beef stewThen we spent most of the afternoon and evening making Julia Child’s beef bourguignon. We wanted to try a new recipe and something kind of complicated, so we picked beef bourguignon. We watched the original episode of The French Chef where Julia makes the dish and we were enchanted with her easygoing personality and cooking flair. Her show really highlights the tips about browning the meat and sautéing the mushrooms. We felt like we learned more in that thirty minutes than we have in all our years of watching the Food Network! (We don’t really watch anymore, but we used to watch a lot in the early 2000s.)

The dish wasn’t hard. There were a lot of steps and some techniques that we’ve never tried before, but dinner was worth it!! There was so much flavor packed into this dish! And it fed us for three days. Naoto makes a really delicious beef stew, but the flavors here are totally different. We want to make it again this winter, and add more carrots and leave out the pearl onions just because they weren’t our favorite thing. (Don’t get me wrong, they’re good, but we prefer carrots and Julia only uses one which had us arm wrestling for the few bits in the dish.) We also served it over pappardelle on the second day and it was sooooo good. Naoto eating Christmas dinner, Julia Child's beef bourguignon

One thing I would recommend, and I’m feeling this way about almost all recipes lately: get the cookbook! Whether you buy it or borrow it from the library, cooking from cookbooks has been so much easier for me than constantly running to the computer or waking up my phone. (I know you can change your phone settings but, I don’t.) The beef bourguignon recipe is in three separate places in Mastering the Art of French Cooking and we were constantly clicking on different links and it just would have been better to have the cookbook.

I’d love to know some “complicated” dishes you’ve made that are worth the time and effort. Naoto is going to be around more in 2018 and our goal is to cook together more often.

Cheers to the last post of 2017 and hopefully more blogging in 2018!

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My Putz House Settlement

vintage Putz housesLast year, I told Naoto about vintage Putz houses, the tiny Mid-Century glittered paper houses. I’ve always wanted a Christmas village but the newer ones never struck my fancy the way these old beat up ones did. They’re almost impossible to find with the glitter still shining and it’s a rare gem that still has its vellum windows and doors in tact. (Mid-century children must have loved to punch those things out!)

He surprised me at Christmas with two Putz houses–BOTH with all of their vellum in pristine condition! The green one has sweet little details like the curtained window and green door and the red one is so glittery and also has a really special door. He also got me a cast iron Santa riding a sled. I was so excited to pull the village (more like settlement) out this year!    Putz houses, vintage paper houses, christmas villageThen, during the Forest Park Holiday Walk, Karen and I found this blue gem. The windows, as you can see, have been repaired, but its color and two-toned glitter roof really sold me. plastic nativity, christmas villageI also picked up this teeny plastic nativity for the village, because every town needs one. ceramic christmas tree ceramic christmas tree, after Every settlement also needs a town Christmas tree, so I painted one at Creativita. Have you noticed ceramic Christmas trees are making a comeback? I highly recommend painting your own! It was such a fun activity!   Putz houses, vintage paper houses, christmas village

The flocked deer are especially fond of the new tree. Putz houses, vintage paper houses, christmas villageI had to put the village on the sideboard this year because Presley has been napping on the wine cabinet lately. I like it better on the sideboard because the wine cabinet was too high to appreciate the village anyway. Putz houses, vintage paper houses, christmas village, putz churchThis year, Naoto added to my collection with a tiny Putz church!! And again, he struck gold with intact windows and doors!! It has some faded trees, but I love the little gate and the blue walkway! This one hardly has any glitter left so I may add some…but I hesitate to mess with its worn charm too much.

Here’s a little video of the complete village…

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The Last Plot 6 Post of 2017

plot 6, forest park community garden, community gardening, hunter boots, herb garden, raised bedThere’s a blanket of snow on the ground this morning, so what better time to talk about…gardening!

We put Plot 6 to bed right after Thanksgiving. It was kind of a sad year in the garden. Our tomato plants became infested with white flies so we barely had a harvest. To say I was devastated is an understatement since really, the only reason to garden is so you can enjoy deliciously ripe, home-grown tomatoes. Our kabocha squash, however, grew like gangbusters and delivered a dozen kabocha by fall. It was crazy and we’ll never grow one in our plot again, but it was a fun experiment and I’m glad we tried it. (Besides tomatoes, experiments are my other favorite part of the garden.) Our basil, parsley, lavender, and rosemary did really well, too and made great additions to cocktails and dinners over the summer. I’m 100% growing more herbs next summer. Herbs and tomatoes. That’s it. Except maybe some carrots at the beginning and end of the season. (Clearly I need to ponder on this all winter.)

morning glories, balcony garden, vining flowers morning glories, balcony garden, vining flowers morning glories, balcony garden, vining flowersOn the balcony, I was able to save lots of seeds from my various morning glories so I’m excited to plant those next spring. Sometimes I feel like such a dummy about seed saving. It never occurred to me to save them from my morning glories until my dad mentioned how easy it is. Hopefully these flowers will be making a comeback next summer! Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening

I got this book at the library this fall and I am looking forward to experimenting with micro-greens this winter (probably after Christmas when the doldrums of winter set in.) I promised myself I’d get through the holidays before making a mess of the kitchen with more plants. (The kitchen window is the only place safe from Presley’s teeth.)

Do you have any winter gardening plans?

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Plot 6 in 2017 

forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkWe’re back in the garden again!

I’m a little late in my gardening season posts…a little behind on posting in general. But here’s what is going on in Plot 6 so far this season:forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkLast year when we closed the garden, a woman who lives in the neighborhood gave a bunch of us garlic from her garden. I’ve never planted garlic before so I was excited to plant a few bulbs and even more delighted to be welcomed this spring with several garlic plants! It’s always fun to come back to something growing instead of just plain dirt, right? And unlike my chive and walking onions, they aren’t taking up too much space…that chive plant gets bigger and bigger every year. forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkUgh, and I really like the walking onions because they are tasty and grow into crazy alien-like beasts, but man…they are shading a whole corner of my plot! forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest park forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest park, lavender plantSo far we’ve planted a few herbs (lavender and rosemary from seedlings and thyme and basil from seed,) edamame, beets, daikon, kabocha, kale, and four types of tomatoes: Brandywine, Rutgers, Better Boy, and Green Zebra. I have at least two more tomatoes on my wishlist…which just goes to show I haven’t learned from my tomato jungle disasters of the past. #YOLO forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkHere’s the plot so far. It’s in its neat and tidy stage before things start growing out of control and the rabbits eat the tops of my edamame again. The joys of gardening!

 

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Tuna & Watercress with Wasabi Ponzu Dressing 

tuna and watercress with wasabi ponzu dressingAs promised, I’m going to share some of the food we made for the hanami party. The first is this spicy salad that we found on Cookpad. (Thanks to Jess for all of the hanami tips!) It is so fresh and delicious and I even think it would be tasty without the fresh fish. The wasabi-ponzu dressing is the highlight.

Tuna & Watercress with Wasabi Ponzu Dressing

Salad:

1 bunch of watercress

3-4 radishes, sliced paper-thin, cut into half-moons (A mandolin is handy here.)

1/4 red onion, sliced paper thin (The mandolin is already out. Use it again.)

6oz fresh sushi grade tuna or salmon, sliced into bite sized pieces (You can also use smoked salmon, but fresh is best!)

Dressing:

1 tablespoon ponzu sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons wasabi paste

Whisk the ponzu, oil, and wasabi together until smooth. Toss the vegetables, fish, and dressing together. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, if needed. Serve immediately. Feel the burn.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

vintage valentine, typewriterHappy Valentine’s Day! I just mailed out round 1 of my Valentines today. I spent a few days last week at my parents’ house and forgot to work on them! I took the easy way out with a Paper Source kit, so hopefully I can finish the rest this week.

Do you have any Valentine plans? Naoto and I usually don’t celebrate, but I am cooking dinner tonight and trying my hand at chocolate mousse (from this Smitten Kitchen recipe) so I guess that’s kind of celebrating?

 

P.S. Up above is another vintage Valentine from my collection. I wish I looked that cute while I’m typing out my cards, but I’m usually standing at my desk and fighting off the cat while she tries to climb up my leg.

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Recipes and Cookbooks in a Pinterest World

Better Homes and Gardens NEW COOK BOOK , 1989 editionFor the past few years, I’ve been going to Pinterest more and more for recipes. On Pinterest there’s an endless variety of choices, instant access to reviews, and of course that bottomless rabbit hole of internet clicks. A search for a quick supper recipe quickly unravels into a hunt for table setting ideas, crafts, and other nonsense. Basically, what should be a five minute search for something to eat becomes a thirty minute internet time-suck.

So lately, I’ve been craving the comfort of my own cookbooks. First of all, curling up with the iPad and falling into a net of random blogs and untested recipes is not the same as paging through an old cookbook of tested, tried and true recipes. I love sticking page flags on the top contenders and building a meal from several cookbooks. 
And–more importantly here for me–constant searching and making Pinterest recipes doesn’t leave a paper trail.

My mom has a metal box packed with delicious recipes that we’ve eaten through the years. It’s like a little family time capsule of yellowed 3-by-5 cards in her own handwriting, my great-grandmother’s handwriting, my grandma’s handwriting, my aunts’ handwritings… It’s so fun to poke through the box and see who brought each recipe into our mix of regular meals and family gatherings. She also has her Better Homes & Gardens cookbook from the 70s that is so well-used, the pages are falling out of it. 

My own recipe box consists of a handful of recipes in my college handwriting and has pretty much been untouched since then. My own cooking history lies in my Pinterest pins and my internet search history. If I don’t change things now, when I’m old, I won’t have that paper trail of my own recipes. I won’t have creased and yellowed cards in my mom’s handwriting. I won’t have little handwritten notes about what worked and what didn’t when I tried a new cookbook recipe. I won’t have stained and wrinkled cookbook pages, tangible evidence of a well-loved meal.

I’m trying to break the Pinterest habit and rely more on my cookbooks and recipe box for meals and desserts. (I mean, why have them if I’m not using them?) And I’m trying to write down some of the favorites I have found online, like Kathy’s grandmother’s cranberries

Naoto and I have a small collection of cookbooks, mostly vintage ones with a few Food Network titles mixed in. (We used to watch tons of Food Network shows together on Saturday and Sunday mornings.) The backbone to our collection is the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. We both brought versions of this cookbook into the marriage. Naoto’s is the 10th Edition (1989, pictured above) and he got it in college when Auntie Judy (his host mother in Hawaii) took him to Waldenbooks and bought it for him. Mine is the 11th Edition (1996) and I, too, got mine in college, as a Christmas gift from my parents. We are emotionally attached to our respective cookbooks so we’ve kept both of them. Plus, even though the editions are only a few years apart, mine has some newer recipes and even the old standards have slight changes to them. We have favorites in each edition. My mom is bringing her edition to Thanksgiving so I can see if we are missing out on some good 1970s standards. I will report back. 

In the meantime, I’m cracking open the cookbooks to get ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow. And cleaning…

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Phantom Flight Night™

wine tasting guests, Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingThis week Naoto and I hosted Phantom Flight Night™, a little wine tasting party featuring a Trader Joe’s fall-favorite wine, Bogle Phantom. We have been accidentally collecting (hoarding?) Phantom since 2012 and we had bottles from 2008, 2011, and 2012 (available this year at your friendly local Trader Joe’s) so we thought it would be fun to compare the different years. Because Phantom is a blend, each year the grapes vary, so they end up being slightly different wines*. I love an intimate party, so we invited a handful of fellow wine-drinkers to help us polish off three bottles of Phantom. Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, Paper Source wrapping paperEven though it was a small gathering, I was determined to decorate a tiny bit. I love making paper table runners for parties. I usually use my kraft paper but I wanted something dark for PFN™ so I used black wrapping paper and wrote on it with a chalk marker. Someday, maybe I’ll learn calligraphy and I will be able to make the runner really fancy! Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom WineI added a big candle nested in old wine corks at the end and labeled the wine bottles in the center. Then I went through all of our wine glasses and found a group of three alike for each person. (I didn’t realize how many wine glasses we have around here. I think we need to have more wine parties and use them more often!) Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingI labeled each glass with a year marker made from black cardstock cut with a 2-inch circle punch and tied on with twine. (This may have been overkill since we stayed at the table for most of the party.)  Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine About a half hour before our guests came, I poured three ounces of wine from each year into our glasses to give the wine a little bit of time to breathe. I figured three ounces was a decent pour for comparison, and then we could fill our glasses with more as needed, and open a new bottle of 2012 if we really wanted to get crazy. (It was a weeknight so no one got crazy, sadly.) Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingWe tasted each wine in order of year and wrote little notes on the paper at our place setting. It was fun talking about the wines even though we were all far from wine experts! Next time, I’ll have copies of tasting notes for everyone–something like this one–to help us express ourselves more, but as it was, we had a fun time laughing about our comments while we tasted. We all loved 2011 the best and we decided that the 2008 was beginning to “turn”. (I guess I won’t be saving our last bottle of ’08 for Phantom Flight Night™ 2016.)simple wine tasting snacks, Phantom Flight Night, Bogle WineIn the kitchen, we served cheeses, dried figs, salami, grapes, fruit, nuts, chocolates, and a Trader Joe’s shrimp appetizer–simple bites to complement the wines. wine tasting toast, Phantom Flight Night, Bogle WinesI’m already dreaming of Phantom Flight Night™ 2016…in October, with a Poe reading by Naoto. Look for that blog post next year!

P.S. Unfortunately, this post was not sponsored by Bogle or Trader Joe’s, even though it kind of sounds that way. Extra special thanks to James for coining the name Phantom Flight Night™!

*Phantom 2008 is made from 51% Zinfandel, 47% Petite Sirah, and 2% Mourvedre and 2011 is made from 46% Petite Sirah, 40% Zinfandel, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Mourvedre. I couldn’t find the grapes used in 2012, but I’ll update the post if I find that information!

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