Thursday, October 30, 2008

Making Napkins

Few things make me feel quite as lame and untalented as a sewing machine.

Falling up stairs comes in a close second, as does falling down in public. Neither, however, is as frustrating to me as sewing.

It turns out that while I may have plenty of other talents (I make a nice baby!), I can neither draw a straight line, nor cut a straight line, nor sew a straight line - even with a guide.

But that's okay! Know why? These are just napkins. We're going to use them to wipe our messy faces, throw them in the wash and use them again. And again. And a few thousand more times before we start to wear holes in them. No one is going to be checking my hemlines for straightness or width and even if they do, I'm sure they won't heckle me. Not if they expect any more food at my table, they won't!

If you're like me and you want to cut down on your paper towel and paper napkin use, cloth napkins are the way to go. Buying them can be a little expensive, though. Often, you can't find a pattern you like, either. This is where a quick trip to the fabric store comes in. Be careful, though: those stores are filled to the brim with really pretty fabrics and it may be hard to choose just one.

Take a friend. One that won't be swayed by pretty, pretty fabrics.

The last time I made napkins was two years ago. The sewing machine has sat gathering dust all the while. It doesn't like me much.

You know what? Making napkins isn't very hard at all. I have to say it: if I can do it, with my straight line issues, you can do it. If you want to!


First, determine how many napkins you'd like. You can get about 4 per yard (assuming 45" wide fabric) if they are between 17" and 22". A 17" square will leave you with a fair amount of scrap, while a 17" x 22" rectangle won't, but will give you a napkin that nicely covers your lap. While 12" squares will get you more napkins per square yard, it will leave you with...handkerchiefs. Or napkins that only cover the laps of children. You decide!

Since I was making napkins for the set of reusable party dishes I have, I was going to need 20. However, since I went to the store in a sleep deprived state, I only got enough for 16 napkins. This necessitated a second trip to the store and upon discovering that they were out of the fabric I had started with, meant that I had to buy another pattern and make another 16 napkins because I'm crazy that way.

It also meant that I bought a rotary cutter and a cutting mat because I figured I'd try to make the cutting part go faster, even if it wouldn't be straighter. Also, I might just be making some Christmas gifts this year.

Wash the cloth first, according to the directions on the bolt of fabric and then iron it out before cutting.

After cutting out my napkins, I ironed the hem down. It was supposed to be 1/4", but I'm not so good with the visual measurements since I have no depth perception (No, I'm not kidding.). This was to avoid having to pin down the hem. Who wants to waste time with pins? Not me!

Then fold the hem down again so that the raw cut edge is folded away from sight and iron it flat, again.

Flip to the opposite side and repeat. Then turn 90 degrees and iron the remaining two sides down as well. Now you're ready to start sewing.

After spending an hour loading your bobbin and then trying to get your bobbin tension correct (I told you I'm not good at this!), download the manual for your 12 year old sewing machine and figure out how to do it according to the manufacturer's directions. Then, once that's all worked out, place your nascent napkin under the needle and start your first sorta straight line. When you get to the corner, pause, turn the napkin 90 degrees and make the turn.

Someone actually skilled can probably just whip that sucker right around the corner, but not me. By the time you've reached that last corner, you can heave a sigh of relief.

You've successfully sewed your first napkin!

Only 31 more to go!

Eventually, you will be done and you will be a happier person for it.

And a more napkin-ed person, too.

And if you have any scraps left over that are big enough, you could make a drawstring bag for your daughter. You know, if you weren't tired of sewing straight lines by that point. It's worth major Mommy Points, so it's worth it.

As a matter of fact, sewing that bag might give you ideas about sewing a bag to trick or treat with, using holiday fabric instead of using plastic pumpkins.

You know, in case you were that kind of mom.

Not that I...uh...hey look! Napkins!

[Shifty eyed look.]

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A is for Apple

Now that peach season is officially over and I have frozen the last of my peaches before they deliquesced, I've moved on.

Know what season it is now?

Granny Smith apples.

That's right. Apple season.

You're in for it now! I've got two boxes and I'm not afraid to use them!

Apple pie, here I come!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thirteen Months

We've entered the teen months, over here at Chez Hatchet and the Hatchet Twins are up to no good.

Drunk and disorderly.
Drinkin' and about to drive trashcans around the room.

Runnin' and screamin'.
Check it! Toofies!

Flashing attitude.
I nakeez! You godda problem wid dat?

Yup. It's all downhill from here. Those...those...hooligans!

They've gone back to sleeping and only waking once at night. They seem to have stopped teething for a bit and are less grumpy as a result. Logan has one tooth in, Emma has three. Always ahead, that one.

We were trying to figure out what they would be for Halloween and rediscovered the outfit Caitlin wore for her first Halloween: a dragon suit. Given the choice between them, we've chosen Emma to be the dragon because she's a growler. At any given point during the day, if the twins are hanging out together in their room, you can hear Emma Rarrring at Logan and Logan cracking up and squealing. I thought it would be fun to find a tiny knight outfit, but no luck. Instead we picked up a tiny tiger outfit that will probably still fit him next year if he stays on his current growth curve! Hey, reuse! He's not very happy about the hood part of the outfit, but we'll see if we can't distract him at least for one photograph!

Logan has really picked up on his walking and now toddles all around. He still falls a lot and then does his speedy crawl to catch up to Emma, but he's getting a lot of practice every day and is clearly transitioning from a crawler to a walker. Emma is attempting to transition to a runner and uses the trashcans to zip around the room. Logan just discovered for himself what fun that was and now makes laps at full speed around my chair and squeals in delight.

After waking and nursing I have them trained to call for Eric to get him to come and change their diapers. So early in the morning you can hear two tiny voices saying, "Daaaa-deeee!" over and over again. Score for me!

Both are pretty good about waving hello and goodbye, although it can be somewhat delayed. Today, for instance, Emma waved goodbye to Heather after Heather left the house, shut the door and we were up in the twins room. Too slow!

The cats are intimidated by the now walking twins and haven't quite figured out what to do with themselves whenever the twins are up and active. Domino seems to think that they won't dare to grab him (Shows how little he knows!), while Kaboom isn't taking any chances and doesn't get within "petting" range.

Caitlin is still their favorite person (After me, of course.), and can be counted on to make them scream with laughter.

I'm really enjoying this stage, except for the occasional biting and sleeplessness. They are snuggly and sweet, funny and silly, smoochable and squishable. They sparkle with laughter and gleam with happiness. The roaring is hilarious.

I think I'm in love!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Racism + Politics + Children = Awkward Conversations

Little pitchers still have big ears.

Bed time conversation tonight:

"Daddy can I tell you something?"
"Sure, honey."
"My friend said we should only vote for white people, because if we vote for the black people, they'll get rich and we'll be nothing."

Stunned silence


Well, well, well.

Eric then had a long conversation with Caitlin about how that would be just as stupid as discriminating against blue eyed people, or blondes, or short people. Oh, and he also pointed out the fact that half of my family is black.

Wow. I'm just stunned.

You know, it's the 21st century, folks. The parents of this child aren't those of my parent's or grandparent's generation. Personally, I don't feel there's any excuse for this kind of talk anymore (Especially for theoretically "educated" people such as these are supposed to be.). Is this really what rich people are concerned about during this election? Don't vote for the black guy because we wouldn't want to let those people get rich and ruin being rich for the white people? Is that it? Really?! Wealth, health insurance, love, etc. can't be shared by all or you somehow lessen the value of those things for other people?

I think bloody well NOT.

People! Come ON! Are gay/black/hispanic/female/short people really that threatening to you that this is what you're teaching your children? Because if that's the case, I don't think we can be friends.

And I'm certainly not going to be interested in letting your kid be friends with my kid.

Moral of the story, as usual: don't say anything in front of your kids that you don't want them repeating to their friends. Gaaaaah!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Twins on the loose!

Once may have been a fluke, but twice means actual intent.

The twins have figured out how to get out of the corral we made for them in the living room. Mind you it's not a high tech corral, it's a series of appropriately places boxes, gates, a toy oven and big pieces of furniture, but it worked until today.

We were in the dining room, eating. I remember having heard the scraping of something across the floor, but considering that the twins like to push everything around in there it wasn't a noise that concerned me.

Until the twins came toddling into the room, happy as could be.

Fortunately for us, they didn't decide to investigate the stairs going either up or down. Whew!

Well, clearly this means that all of their playtime needs to be in their room or supervised in the living room. On the bright side, it means I won't have to sneak past whenever I want to get something to eat in the kitchen. Ahhh!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ten Times a Night

The twins are trying to kill us. Again.

On Tuesday night and well into Wednesday morning, they woke up ten times*.

Ten. 10!

We were a little wrecked yesterday, as you might guess, and then Eric decided he'd forgotten what it was like to go to lunch with the little beasties. So we went out, and he was reminded. Forcibly.

Imagine being at lunch with the Tasmanian Devil, only there are two of them, and they're really happy and they want to share that happiness with everyone within earshot (and possibly some dogs, too). Oh and they want to eat your food, play with your utensils, throw anything you hand them onto the floor and smile gleefully at the waitstaff.


Who could forget that?!

Ah well. Never you mind. There's always next time. Perhaps it was the sleeplessness that drove that memory out of Eric's head?

From today's Baby Blues strip. One of my favorite comics!

* We suspect teething or a full moon or evil fairies were involved.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You Gonna Drink That?

As the twins get older, their nursing habits have been changing quite a bit.

Logan is now far more interested in getting down onto the floor as quickly as possible and playing, while Emma claims the lion's share of milk. Logan is also easily distractable, while Emma latches on like a remora. Nothing and no one can distract her, not even someone trying to change her diaper while she's nursing.

The kid's got focus.

So now, when they nurse together, Emma has been waiting to pounce on Logan's leftovers. So much so that she's not overly interested in waiting anymore. Instead, she lurks; she looms; she hovers; she leans into his nursing space with a pursed mouth and a look in her eye that clearly says:

"You gonna drink dat?"

Meanwhile Logan sips, looks around, sips a little more, checks my teeth, sips, beeps my nose, drink a little more seriously until something goes by in the hallway outside the nursery door. All the while, Emma leans a little farther into his space or makes unhappy noises at him.

"Why aren't you done yet! I'm still hungry! Move! Movemovemove!"

Finally Logan will slide off my lap and go play with books or blocks and Emma will pounce on me. She leans over, throws her hands up in the air and falls onto me and into place.

Happy at last.

Friday, October 17, 2008

When Life Hands You Peaches...

Where Life = Heather, that is.

You make far more than just Peach Lemonade.

You make peach jam. I've never made jam before! I did it in the crock pot and it is wonderful!

Peach puree, blended with skins on and cooked down to remove a lot of water, this is intensely peachy stuff. It's perfect for peach yogurt.

Or peach ice cream!

Chopped and individually frozen peaches can be used later for all sorts of things, including peach cobbler!

Or peach bread.

If you run out of peaches, you can also make Pumpkin Raisin-Date bread.

Tomato soup base (Just add cream and simmer!).

Or tomato sauce.

You know, in case you had a stockpile of them sitting around your kitchen.

So, in case you were wondering what I've been doing the last few days, the answer is cooking.

A lot.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Respect The Thumb!

I lied.

This was not the Final Harvest.

This is.
Veggies to the left.

Veggies to the right.

On Monday, the temperature was supposed to drop down to 27 degrees. Realizing that I didn't have very much hope of being able to save any plants that had to endure temps that low, I spent the final hours of twilight hauling in my remaining produce.

Then I had to stop and soothe the twins.

Then I hauled in more produce.

Then I had to stop soothe them, change them, nurse them and put them to bed.

Then I had to break out the head lamp and a jacket and haul in still more produce!

Nuthin' sez Gardenin' like a harvestin' with a headlamp.

Yes, there I was, outside in the cold, plucking every green tomato and squash I could find. I filled up 6 nursery flats, one 5 gallon bucket and my gardening basket. I roped Eric into helping me by holding a flashlight and a flat while I feverishly tossed veggies into it. He doesn't just think I'm crazy anymore.

He's certain of it.

Then again, since he loves all of the yummy stuff we've pulled out of the garden all summer long, he doesn't regret the time I spent cutting down all of the remaining basil and plucking off all the remaining good leaves. And washing them. And pulverizing them in the food processor. And freezing them (See Kalyn's Kitchen for details.).

Bowl o' Basil.

Of course, that image above is of the pile of basil in the flat. I haven't dealt with the 5 gallon bucket o' basil yet!

So...! Anyone have any great recipes for fried green tomatoes? I'm in the market!

It's funny to surprise yourself with something like gardening. I expected that I'd have some success with veggies this year, but never did I think I'd be hauling in flats and flats of vegetables just prior to the last frost. Clearly, I underestimated the Power of The Thumb! The Thumb that is stained green from the plucking of a thousand tomatoes! The Thumb of pow-ahhh!

The Thumb of Gardening Overkill.


I can hardly wait for next Spring.

I've got Plans!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Butternut Squash Soup

First, get yourself a nice butternut squash, approximately three pounds. This one is 4lbs.
Our victim.

Opening the squash can be the toughest part. I recommend a large chef's knife and a mallet.

No, I'm not kidding.

Tools of the trade.

Every good chef has a rubber mallet on hand!

You'll need some shallots.

Sauteed shallots in butter.

Keep the seeds and strings from the center cavity, you saute them with the shallots to enhance the butternut flavor.


In a bit, you'll add some water and salt. You'll be using this broth to steam the squash.

Steaming liquid.

Put the quartered squash into a steaming basket and lower over the broth. Cover and simmer until tender.

Later, you strain the liquid off and reserve it, scoop out the flesh, puree it with some of the liquid and then put it back into the pot. Add cream.

Lightening the soup.

Finally, season with nutmeg and salt and enjoy!

Put that in your crock and cook it!

I have to tell you, it was lovely, thick and tasty. A crusty bread and a salad would go nicely with it as well.

Butternut Squash Soup
From Cook's Illustrated The Best New Recipe, pp. 50-51.

4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
3 lb butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and widthwise; seeds and strings scraped out and reserved
6 cups water
1/2 c heavy cream
1 tsp dark brown sugar
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Melt butter in large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over med-low heat until foaming. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add seeds and strings from squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter turns a saffron color, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add water and 1 tsp salt to the pot and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to med-low, place squash cut-side down in a steamer basket, and lower the basket into the pot. Cover and steam until the squash is completely tender, about 30 min. Take pot off heat and use tongs to transfer squash to a rimmed baking sheet. When cool enough to handle, use spoon to scrape flesh from skin. Reserve the flesh in a bowl and compost skin.
  3. Strain the steaming liquid through a mesh strainer into a second bowl; compost solids in strainer. You should have ~2 1/2 to 3 cups liquid (I had ~4, so I didn't add all of it back to the soup or else it would have been too thin.). Rinse and dry pot.
  4. Puree the squash in batches in the blender, pulsing on low and adding enough reserved steaming liquid to obtain a smooth consistency. Transfer puree to the clean pot and stir in the remaining liquid, cream, and brown sugar. Warm the soup over med-low heat until hot, about 3 minutes. Stir in nutmeg and adjust seasonings, adding salt to taste. Serve immediately. (Soup can be refrigerated for several days in an air-tight container. When re-heating do not boil.)
Time to get cookin'!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Growing Challenge: Final Harvest

The first frost of the season is coming this weekend. Leaves are dying, changing color, shriveling up and falling off. The hummingbirds are all gone.


My garden is still producing!

The tomato bed looks pretty bad these days. The plants have grown up, over and out of control. Some got so heavy they snapped their stakes, most I just left the way they were and pick the tomatoes out in a vegetal game of hide-and-seek. The Caspian Pink on the end has surprised me by producing the best and largest tomatoes all season long. I'm definitely planting another next year.

I probably won't put 17 in a bed all together again, though. And I definitely won't try and stuff an additional 12 bell peppers in the same bed, either. Maybe just twelve tomato plants in a 5' x 12' bed...six on each side? Hmm....

Crashing and burning, but still makin' 'maters!

This late in the season, while my green beans and basil are just about done, the winter squash are all coming into their own.

Acorn squash.

The acorn squash had a disappointing output, but I suspect that may have had something to do with having to compete with buttercup, spaghetti and pumpkin squash all in the same bed. I probably won't do this again next year. I make no promises, though. Those acorn squash need to buck up!

The bees are still out and about, happily fertilizing everything that is still flowering, even if it's a fruitless endeavor (Hah! Gardening puns!). They worked really hard this year: let's give them all a round of applause! Yay bees!

Ever vigilant bees.

The buttercup squash went crazy at the end of the bed and threw vines up and over the edge, raced around in the grass and are looking for other yards to explore.

Buttercup squash.

There's just something so amazing about plants that go completely nuts and try to take over your yard and produce food for you at the same time. The thrill I get from watching them grow from seed is hard to explain. One small or large seed, a bit of soil, a lot of water, sun and time and in the end: food! We haven't bought any vegetables outside of garlic and onions this entire summer and it's been delicious!

Speaking of which: butternut squash, anyone?

Soup on the vine.

Considering that I had planted these a couple of weeks after everything else, the butternut squash was a resounding success. I made a butternut squash soup that was fan-TAS-tic! I'll give you the recipe on that one in a separate post.

Pumpkin with a pair of spaghetti squashes.

Considering that I'd never grown any winter squashes before the Growing Challenge, they were really easy, prolific and tasty. I'd definitely recommend adding some to your garden next year, if you like them. I've got plans for lots of different recipes for them and have been watching to see which ones Caitlin likes best. So far, she's decided to be picky and not like any of the squash. Good thing for her there are still a few green beans left!

On the other hand, the twins? They love all of the different squash I've offered them. Emma loved the soup and the spaghetti squash dinner, Logan loved the mashed buttercup and both went crazy for the crookneck and zucchini.

By the way, I found a pair that were hiding.

Monster zuke in the middle.


It was an unexpected find, too. I had thought they'd stopped producing, but perhaps they were just on a short hiatus? Now, if they can survive the next few nights outside, the temperature is supposed to bounce back up again.

Unfortunately, that didn't stop me from stripping it, almost bare on Thursday. I couldn't stand the thought of losing any of it to a sudden unpredicted frost. The weather is so funny in Colorado that even when looking at the daily predictions, you never know when it may abruptly drop even lower or shoot higher.

Hatchet picked a peck of perfect pie pumpkins.

Here's what I got for my last minute panic harvest:


That pile? That's 76.65 pounds of squash you're looking at there.

I haven't even added up the tomatoes and tomatillos yet.

Oh and don't forget the last of the peppers.

Purple Beauty.

Wow. It was a great year.

Updated to add: That was 23 lbs of tomatoes and tomatillos. Woo!

Friday, October 10, 2008

12.5 Months

What a difference two weeks makes!

While my sleep is still broken by hungry people in the middle of the night (Emma points accusingly at Logan.), it seems to be getting a little better. I know that developmental changes often result in broken sleep and here at Chez Hatchet, we've been working on some developmental doozies.

We've had some seriously crabby behavior recently because someone is teething. Well, actually two "someones", but one of them is cutting his first tooth!

"I getting toofs! I show you dem: gimme you fingah."

Yes, well past the time other babies have a mouth full of ivory, Logan is finally cutting his very first tooth (Bottom middle, left side.). And it has made him CRAAAAA-BY! It's amazing the amount of crabbiness that can come from such a small person. Of course, it's not helped any when the crabbiness is amplified by his younger sister who is also cutting more teeth (Top middle pair.). They are enjoying chewing on hard crunchy things like crackers, or their fingers, depending on the relief any particular item provides.

The next big change? Emma has decided that she now prefers walking to crawling and walks all over the place.

"Daddy, you so crazy!"

She went pretty quickly from six steps together to full on, up and down the hallway, freestyle, mini-zombie walking. She likes to carry stuff around with her, too. Books, bottles of lotion, shoes; doesn't matter what.

"I am sporting a fine hat, dontchu think?"

Logan, not to be left behind for very long at all, has finally figured out the walking process and has been stringing 6 to 8 steps together without falling. He seems to make it a little farther across the room each day without dropping and crawling, but his crawl is still his preferred locomotion style. It shouldn't surprise you that with his crawl being as fast as it is, it makes it very difficult to get good pictures of him now. As soon as I break out the camera, he lunges for me.

Well, the camera, I suppose. I'm not willing to let go of it to really find out!

Snuggle restraint engaged for photo.

Years from now, when we're all sitting around looking at baby books (Which I haven't produced yet, thanks for asking!), I'm certain the question of why there are so many more pictures of Emma than there are of Logan will be asked. This will be my answer:

Blurry blue-eyed boy.

While she is often in constant motion, at least it's not in a threatening toward-the-camera, sort of way.

Uh oh.

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