Sunday

Have Eid, Will Travel ...

The Eid countdown has officially begun at our house.  The calendar is covered in stars, suhur is starting to get very sketchy (Cinnamon Toast Crunch anyone), and the Quran recitations are drawing to a close.  It sounds trite, but it surprises me every year how fast the month flies by.

In our continuing mission to infuse Eid with our own blend of the unique and traditional, a group of us is doing something that I think will make the day after Eid super special.  A very creative friend used the inspiration of the "back-home" tradition of visitations to come up with the idea of a Traveling Eid Party.  In many places in the Muslim world, particularly on the greater Eid, the three days of celebration are divided up with the first day's visits going to family (above and below ground), the next day to friends, and the third ... I can't remember.  Everyone opens up their homes and you end up staying for a short time at a number of different places.  I used to think there was some sort of magical quantam physics that made it all work without planning or coordinating, but apparently, it does happen that you go to visit someone and they are out visiting someone else.  So... NEXT!
What Zakia (see creative friend above) did through the marvels of modern communication was to send out feelers to see who and how many were interested about two weeks before Eid.  From there, everyone volunteered their homes (or a park nearby) where the revelers would all come during a designated time: around 30 minute intervals.  The host is only asked to provide one small item or treat for the gift bag and some small snacks for the kids to munch on while there.  Then, hasta luego; onwards to the next house for more of the same.  As it's our first time doing it, I'm sure there'll be some kinks to work out.  I also envision a lot of vehicular musical chairs which should be fun in itself.  One of the neatest parts is that the travel time will count as part of the party (I hope).  Also, no one family has the burden of hosting all day all by themselves.  In typical me fashion, I chose to be the first house so that once my slot is over, I can just enjoy the rest of the day.  (Any participants reading this: of course it is also because I live the furthest away - that is a totally legit reason for me to call FIRST)
Would love to know if anyone else is doing anything like this and hear about any variations, improvements, or suggestions.  Will let you know how it goes for us.
In the meantime, please keep my family and community in your prayers during these next blessed nights.



Tuesday

Painless Cafe Awnings

No, the chickens have not pecked me to pieces (though Regina George *see below* would like nothing more than to make me into chicken feed) - but this new life is more time consuming than I would have expected. We're still trying to make our house "fit" us a little better and every weekend seems consumed with the endless to-do lists I swore I'd never let into my adult home.
But not all to-dos are created equal.  Some - namely dormer window related ones - just need to be shared with the world.  I've never lived in a house with dormer windows, and though I don't love the corresponding sloped ceilings that have concussed me more times than I care to admit, I have not yet tired of the charm of dormers.
Because of the close walls, the interiors of the dormers give you the opportunity to fulfill your lifelong desire to make cafe awnings (Don't even pretend - I can hear you humming La Vie en Rose).  Did I mention it only took ONE afternoon and the sewing skills of a Chihuahua? 
I'll let the pictures do (most of) the talking:

After measuring the width and adding enough for side hems and estimating the length, fold the bottom edge up, right sides together.

You don't necessarily have to use a Tinkertoy's lid to trace your scallops, unless you too want to appear casually hipster


This is still the wrong side of the fabric

Flip your scalloped pockets right side out and iron them flat.  I am not a fan of ironing while sewing.  I adhere to the Friedrich vonLazypants school of sewing.  But even Freddy would agree here that ironing makes a HUGE difference.

Make a pocket on the top to fit your tension rod and then sew some ribbons to hold the second rod in place.

Yup, that's just two tension rods!

Et voila!
And though I have very ambivalent feelings towards France these days years (apparently liberté only extends so far), this awning has made me feel like opening a very Frenchy baguette stand in the girls' room - only here, all religious symbols would be more than welcome...

And with no further ado, introducing: Regina George...



Saturday

Glitter Memo Boards


Remember last post when I told you my seven-year-old turned nine?  I just want to clarify that we didn't skip eight.  It'd just been that long since I posted!  Good transition to the party we threw for said nine-year-old.  Theme?: Crafts, what else?
The Invitations
Thinking up party crafts for nine-year-old girls is a bit of an ancient Greek riddle.  They had to be challenging enough (so they wouldn't get bored), easy enough (ibid), and be completable in about 30 minutes/each.
I had planned three different crafts but starting with the sewing project was a horrible idea slowed us down a bit.  And by sewing project I mean making three lines of simple running stitches that were supposed to make a little drawstring pouch. Somehow, after trying to teach the running stitch while threading 800 needles after 45 grueling minutes each guest did in fact have something resembling a pouch to use as their first sewing kit.
While I set up the next activity, I sent the girls upstairs to decorate their own cupcakes.  Luckily, they counted this as one of their crafts so I was still pretty smugly on schedule after all.

A close-up of this most awesome cake.  All icing! And all edible!  The buttons are cookies, 
the pincusion a cupcake, and the tape measure? Fruit roll!  I so wish I could say I made this, but alas...
The most successful project of the day had to be these glittered memo-boards.  I am now of the opinion that glitter is like shredded cheese, it just makes everything better.

Aside from glitter and a glue gun, the other (dollar-store) supplies you need are:
Wood plaque or scrap wood
Straight wooden clothespins
Pretty paper

Spread some glue on the front flat side of the clothespin and then cover them with glitter.  Leave them to dry for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, trace your plaque onto the paper and cut it just slightly bigger (or exactly on the line - I like to sand the edges)
Spread some glue or mod-podge on the plaque and put the paper on.  While this is drying put a heavy book or two on top so it dries flat.
Glue gun the non-glittered flat side of the clothespins and place them on your board (I recommend a dress rehearsal prior to the glue gun getting involved).
That's it, your memo board awaits.  The plaque I picked up already had a hanging chain, but if you're using scrap wood, just loop a ribbon on the backside and staple gun away.



Somewhere there is a little girl who cannot use two of her clips.  Be sure to have your clips all 
pointing in the same direction. No refunds for human error.

We never did make it to card-making, but I promised them I'd post the instructions for them soon.  There were a lot of requests for the accordian card on the left, so I'll start with that.



Friday

Home-made Play-dough


Knock, knock!  Hello everyone. For those of you still here, I just had to share something I made today.  No need for long precursors or apologies, right?  What's a few months between bloggy friends? (Granted, the seven-year-old mentioned in the profile is now NINE! but whatevs.  Not whatevs that my little girl is growing up, whatevs that, oh never mind ...)

Okay, so this morning we ran out of Play-doh.
No, we didn't run out. We had lots.
But every tub lid opened to reveal gross, dry, crumbly (moldy?) former Play-doh.
Here's the thing though.  Even if you have a good supply of the commercial stuff (because your children actually cover their stuff instead of letting it air-dry) do try this recipe.  It will DAZZLE your family.  Not just the two-year-old you made it for.  The five of us were standing at the counter playing with the stuff.  They kept looking at me in utter awe ... like they just found out I had graduated from Hogwarts - with honors!

Home-made Play-doh*

1 cup flour
1 cup water
3T salt
1T oil
2t Cream of Tartar

1. Mix all the ingredients in a medium saucepan until it's smooth
2. Once smooth, heat on low and keep mixing until it forms a jagged clump
3. Slap it on the counter and start to knead it. Don't worry if it sticks to the counter, as it cools and you keep kneading it will start to stick together
4. In a few minutes, prepare for ...

Each batch makes a big ball.  This is a chubby toddler hand that cannot quite pick up the whole thing.  But lest you think this stuff is for babies...
Snail races!
I don't know how long it will keep, but it's super moist.  I'm just going to wrap it in kitchen wrap and stick it in a ziploc bag.  However, I am looking forward to making some more.  The oohs and aahs never get old!


*(this is not my invention, it's a mix of a bunch of different recipes from online)

Thursday

Eastern Toybox Sale




   



This is not me being too lazy to post something of my own, this is me doing you a favor by sharing a lovely new(ish) company whose products I have seen firsthand - everything is very well done.  In addition, their customer service is fantastic.
They are currently having a sale for Ramadan, so take a look and see if you're not tempted to buy that sliding camel toy :D

Happy Ramadan, all!

Friday

Clearing out the Freezer/ Easy Chicken Recipe

I recently read a great book that I'd highly recommend to anyone: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School.  The basic premise is a Cordon Bleu trained chef who mentors nine "ordinary" women in feeling more comfortable in their kitchens.  Many of the lessons are pretty basic, but the book + our impending move + a random piece on NPR with Mark Hyman about toxicity in foods made me look at my kitchen in a different way.  I've never thought of myself as a hoarder, but nothing will shatter your delusions of minimalism like packing house.   The amount of "just in case" foodstuffs I had stuffed in my freezer and pantry is downright embarassing.  The worst part is those bags of "just in case" appetizers from Costco never lived up to their promise of stress-free entertaining.  "Oh, you're down the street and want to pop in, sure no problem!" Instead of sashaying to the freezer/pantry and grabbing something, this is always followed by a frantic phone call to The Husband asking for a list of brand-new ingredients to try out a brand-new recipe.  Whatever is left over gets put in the freezer/pantry.  Can you picture what happens over the years?  It's as though some part of me is planning for a post-apocalyptical food shortage and is afraid to use those candy wafers, boxed cake mix and  whipped topping ... you know, ... just in case!  Because who wants to face the dissolution of society as we know it without cake pops?
SO, for the last 5 weeks, I have been shopping out of my freezer and have only purchased dairy products (we don't have a cow yet) and a few produce items (tomatoes aren't even in the ground yet).  And somehow, I've managed to put together some pretty great meals.  Stuffed artichokes in a brothy bechamel sauce anyone?  Chicken sumac on a bed of carmelized onions?  There is nothing so satisfying as The Husband and Kids wiping their mouth asking, "When did you have time to go grocery shopping?" and responding with a faux-modest smirk.
The best/worst part is that after 5 weeks, the stores of food are still embarassingly full.  I know we are blessed to live in such plenty and am grateful that an over-stuffed freezer and pantry is my problem.  But I also worry that I will be held accountable as steward of all this .... suff.
One of the recipes that has become a staple is one that I had previously only passed on to family and very close friends and sworn them to secrecy.  It is sometimes known as Gravy Chicken, sometimes as Mmmm Mmmm Chicken, sometimes just mumbling as it is being shoved into the mouth.  I will provide the basic recipe but the best part is that you can replace the chicken with firm fish fillets and the onions with any frozen vegetables you have on hand (though I would still saute the onion first).
This was made with salmon fillets and a bag of rescued frozen vegetables
Mmmmm Mmmmm Gravy Chicken
1/4 cup flour
Salt and Pepper
Chicken pieces
Butter and Oil
Onion (chopped)
Chicken Broth (about 3/4 - 1 cup)
Lemon Juice
Thyme

Mix flour with salt and pepper and dredge chicken pieces in this (easiest way is to put the flour in a ziplock bag and then throw the chicken in  and shake)
Warm pan and put in a pat of butter and olive oil.
Brown chicken on both sides until golden and set aside
Add onion to pan and saute until softened
Add the remaining flour and let onion "absorb" the flour
Slowly add the broth and mix quickly, it will thicken fast
Add lemon juice and thyme to taste
Put chicken back in the pan and cover with sauce
Bring to boil and let simmer until chicken is cooked through
Plate chicken and then pour drizzle the sauce on top.

This is not gourmet, nor is it particularly healthy, but it is something that you can make relatively quickly and be sure that it always turns out.  It's also a good way to use up (blech!  What a horrible thing to say about food) odds and ends of vegetables you have in your fridge/freezer/pantry.

Five weeks of eating out of my freezer and pantry have shown me how bizarre our consumption habits are.  It's something I would encourage everyone to try if for no other reason than to spare the world from me sharing all the insights I've gained from this "project" (i.e. gain them yourselves!)


Tuesday

We're Movin' on Up!

Come on now, you all remember the Jeffersons.  Sing it with me.
Well, except that we're not really moving "up", more east I think.  But the reason it's big news is that we are moving to a house in the country.  As in septic tank country! For realz!  The house also has quite a bit of land so we are - God willing - going to try our hand at some true-blue homesteading.  Chicken coops, bee hives, maybe goats, and of course sustainable agriculture with canning and freezing to maximize sustainability.
Now, stop chewing on your finger nails, I know what your thinking, "But what does this mean for me?"  
It means that though CWI will continue chronicling my attempts at craftiness, I will probably be inundating you with tedious descriptions of how a California-raised city girl is going to try to hew a working farm out of this rugged Canadian landscape.   (You know I'm kidding right?  Niagara is the Napa Valley of Canada)

Not mine ... actually from an American Greetings Card: "The Road Not Taken" (seriously)