Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving! Now with more cookies!

I went to two different craft stores, three different kitchen stores, three grocery stores and then finally found what I was looking for in a hardware store. Then again, it's the hardware store in Boulder, so maybe it's not such a big surprise that they carried turkey cookie cutters.

Among about a million billion other items as well. However, that's neither here nor there. (Mostly it's there.)

Instead, I went on a wild bender and bought turkey, bear, maple leaf (Oh, Canada!),  airplane (For Logan at Eric's insistence. I'm sure that it's just for Logan. Uh huh.), kitten and flower shaped cutters. Hey, they were 69¢ each! How could I resist? Clearly I couldn't.

First, I baked a set of just leaves and turkeys for Thanksgiving down at Grammy and Grampy's house. I figured it could be both dessert and a craft to keep the kids busy. Then, since we invited a handful of friends over on Friday, I clearly needed to make a second batch of assorted critters for them to decorate.

Decorating is the best part! I don't care how old you are, last time I threw a birthday party for Caitlin where we had cupcakes and cookies to decorate, it was the adults that went nuts with it.

I was going to need a lot of different colors for the cookies, so it's a good thing I messed up the amount of icing I prepared. I had only meant to make 1 lb, but wound up putting almost 3x the amount of reconstituted egg whites into the bowl than I should have. Whoops! Almost 3 lbs of confectioners sugar later:

Finally, at 10 pm last night, it was time to make the doughnuts ice a sample cookie. After I finished the first one, I remembered that Bridget had created a tutorial on the design I wanted to do. So I started over again on a second cookie.

There! That's more like it! Feathers!

Eric watched me as I outlined, flooded and detailed the cookie and was very impressed.

Now that I've done it, I find it's actually pretty easy, but like everything else will get better with more practice. Good thing I've got a lot of icing!

It's also a good thing that I have plenty of volunteers to eat the cookies, too.

Just in case you're worried I'm not bringing anything else to the table but cookies, I've also made Heavenly Potatoes, cranberry-apple chutney, and multi-grain whole wheat sourdough bread for dinner. I didn't want to slack off. Heh!

Here's wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving, with all the trimmings!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Is This What Normal Feels Like?

As some of you may have's fall outside.

Yet I am still running around and doing stuff, both in the garden and in the house. I have not yet succumbed to my annual Dying of the Light doldrums.

I'm amazed and thankful. I blame the Vitamin D I'm taking.

Holy moly! This stuff actually seems to work! I've been taking it since May 24th, so it isn't a fast fix, but it does seem to work. Getting my thyroid level adjusted probably helped, too.

Normally, I'm tired and grumpy and sad when the days get shorter. I haven't felt that way. In fact, I've enjoyed this fall. Having beautiful weather way into November is probably a big part of that, but I am grateful. So grateful! I watched the trees change color throughout the neighborhood without even a wisp of sadness. I was so busy rushing in the garden to get my work done before the first frost that I didn't have time to feel sad.

Since then, however, I still haven't slowed down. I'm turning out a frightful number of sugared confections in the kitchen, too. Marshmallows and caramels and cookies! Oh my! Mostly I'm recipe testing for Xmas presents, but even so!

Just yesterday I was mucking about in the yard and finally covered my raised beds in a 4"-6" layer of lightly chopped leaves. I whipped out the leaf blower and sucked up the enormous pile my lawn guy left for me. Then, when I ran out (Amazing, considering the size of the pile I was working with in the yard!), I blew the leaves in my back yard into nice, fluffy piles and then sucked them up, too. It took a few hours, but now my beds are covered (I'm certain the mice will be happy in the cozy beds.) and all I'm missing from my sheet composting experiment is a few bales of straw.

Just for grins, let's revisit my 2010 Garden Goals, shall we?

2010 Garden Chores List (Not necessarily in order)
  1. Move big elderberry to corner. DONE
  2. Dig up 6 agastache and relocate to front yard. DONE
  3. Remove and relocate 2 Chinese grasses to front yard. DONE
  4. Relocate caryopteris. DONE
  5. Move "Dawn" viburnum down to the left ~3'. DONE
  6. Fill with Russian sedum as ground cover. Covered with mulch instead.
  7. Feed crab apple tree on monthly basis through summer. DONE
  8. Order and spread mulch. DONE
  9. Take cuttings of sempervivums for new pathway. DONE
  10. Install 2 kinds of thyme (Woolly and variegated) in new pathway to help with roof runoff issues. DONE
  11. Relocate butterfly bush to front yard. DONE
  12. Move compact burning bush somewhere else. DONE
  13. Relocate plants from future pathway to side gate somewhere else in the xeric yard. DONE
  14. Clear out plants from around sprinkler heads. DONE
  15. Fix broken sprinklers. Repeat ad nauseum during entire length of summer. DONE
  16. Replace all old fashioned sprinklers. Only when they break.
  17. Move asters from back to front yard. DONE
  18. Weed sidewalk garden. DONE
  19. Weed xeric garden. DONE
  20. Relocate plants around xeric garden to fill empty spots. DONE
  21. Ditch irises from the front yard. Yes, all of them. Offer them for free to neighbors and meet new people. Neighbors LOVE free plants! DONE
  22. Move blue fescue to sidewalk (SW) garden. DONE
  23. Plant 3 new grasses in SW garden. DONE
  24. Order 6 shrubs and 3 grasses for part shade garden in back yard. DONE
  25. Rip out and relocate 3 peonies, Autumn Joy sedum, Blue Hills sage, large catmint, and 2 kinds of garden phlox. DONE
  26. Rip out Keys of Heaven, bindweed, bee balm, clematis tanguica, lamb's ear and other assorted weeds. DONE
  27. Sift wheelbarrows full of compost. DONE
  28. Install Java Red weigela, 3 Miscanthus 'Morninglight' in newly weeded sunny part of back yard. Maybe this will keep me weeding that section more frequently? DONE
  29. Move bronze sedge from shady part to sunny part. DONE
  30. Finally plant new scented penstemon purchased at DBG plant sale. DONE
  31. Rip out weeds and morning glories volunteering all over raised beds. DONE
  32. Plant cool weather seeds for "fall" veggies (e.g. spinach, peas, beans, zukes [45 and 50 day varieties, just to see if it's possible], lettuce, pak choi, cilantro, dill [very old seeds, will they work?], green onions, and carrots,) by Aug. 2nd. Realize that I probably should have started this in mid-July, but hope for the best. DONE
  33. Install new sprinkler line down to cover sunny corner of yard and keep new plantings happy. DONE
  34. Remove potting bench and its mess off deck. DONE
  35. Sort out pots and stuff, send bad pots to McGuckin's for recycling (Check with your local garden center - they may take all of your old pots for recycling, too!). Sorted, but not accepted at gardening center. I missed the drop off date by two weeks! Argh! I'm going to hold onto the pots until next year. Maybe they'll offer the program again in the spring?
  36. Clean deck and organize potted plants on deck. DONE
  37. Begin making mental list of plants to live on deck next summer. DONE
  38. Install bronze/purple ajuga as ground cover in part shade garden. DONE
  39. Install 6 new shrubs (Pictured at bottom) and 3 new grasses. DONE
  40. Learned a new mulching/sheet composting method I plan on trialing this winter. Must steal bags and bags of leaves and get a few bales of straw. DONE except for the straw.
  41. Begin planning 2 more raised beds for raspberries and rhubarb. Wonder if I can sucker husband into making two more beds? He likes raspberries.... Vetoed by He Who Has To Do The Building
  42. Determine that only crazy people garden like this. DONE
  43. Lounge in hammock and drink lemonade. DONE
  44. Wait three years for new garden to mature. Tic, tic, tic!
  45. Begin making 2011 garden chore list. In progress!

Wow! Except for where I was thwarted by Himself and the gardening center, I nailed it this year! Woo!

I think I've turned over a new leaf. How's by you this fall?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm: Bubble Gum = Plastic

Did you know that bubble gum is made from plastic and rubber? It used to be tree resins (which sounds odd enough, but then again, aspirin came from tree bark, and that's worked out well), but in order to save money, it's now made from plastic.

No kidding.

So, if you spend a lot of time making sure your kid is drinking from BPA free water bottles and carries a waste free, metal lunch box, why would you let them chew plastic?

Because you didn't know, of course. But now you do.

Beth Terry mentioned this in her blog, Fake Plastic Fish, but I missed that article. Give it a read. It's eye opening.

Knowledge is power. Be powerful.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hatchet in the Kitchen

Now that it's chilly outside and my gardening is severely curtailed (When did it actually become autumn?!), all of my excess creative energy is being devoted to baking.

We're in deep, deep trouble at Chez Hatchet, folks.

In one day, I had Swiss cream cheese setting up on the counter, apple butter cooking down in the crockpot and panettone-inspired muffins baking in the oven. I also have lovely iced sugar cookies on the counter and homemade marshmallows awaiting hot chocolate to swim in. Fresh bread is always readily at hand and I now have cranberry-apple chutney ready for Thanksgiving dinner (The flavors will meld together in the fridge this week.). I've picked up a handful more icing decorating tips, icing colors and came really close to buying 50 animal cookie cutters, but they were plastic, so I didn't. All I really wanted was a turkey, but I can make do without it.

I'm also testing out recipes for Xmas gifts, so some of the madness is just that: testing. The rest is just an outlet for creativity. And KA Flour (Now I feel a burning need to make pumpkin scones, just because I followed my own link. Ack!) keeps sending me their version of kitchen porn: their catalog. I'm so weak! So many of their items are terribly, terribly tempting! Also, there are recipes on every 3rd page! I...I have to try out those recipes!

Good thing I don't feel the burning need to eat all that I'm making! I keep giving it away. For my own safety, of course.

I made a yummy thing for dinner that I'd been wanting to try for awhile: Mark Bittman's recipe for Sweet Potatoes with Brown Butter and Sage. I hate sweet potatoes and marshmallows (Sorry Mom!) and really loved this. Now to get Eric to try it!

Stir-Fried Sweet Potatoes With Brown Butter and Sage
Recipe adapted from The New York Times, from 2008

3-4 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and grated, 4 to 6 cups (I used a single large sweet potato, for about half the recipe)
Salt and pepper
1/2 stick butter, more to taste
4 cloves garlic, crushed
20 sage leaves (Good thing the frost didn't kill the sage plant out front! If you're allergic to sage like my friend Sierra, you could probably substitute basil, rosemary or thyme here.)
1. Put oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add sweet potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring only occasionally, until they change color and begin to brown, then stir more frequently until they are tender but not at all mushy.
2. Meanwhile, heat butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and sage; shake pan occasionally. When butter turns brown, turn off heat.
3. Use tongs to remove sage and garlic from butter. Serve potatoes drizzled with butter and garnished with a few sage leaves. Garlic can be served alongside, though it will not be super-soft.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

I ditched the garlic instead of trying to eat it since it was all chewy/crisp, which isn't how I like my garlic. I must admit that I really liked the buttery, crispy sage leaves! Mmmm! I'll definitely make this one again!

Well, I guess I'd better go check the chicken parts that are simmering in the crockpot. I'm making some broth for chicken soup. Should be yummy!

So...what are you cooking up this fall?

Updated to add: He liked it! He liked it! He never likes sweet potatoes! We have a winner!

Friday, November 12, 2010

My First Foray Into Cookie Decorating!

My first* attempt at cookie decorating was a resounding success! Plus, the kids had fun, too!

Oh and the cookies even tasted yummy. So this was a win all the way around.

First, there was my lovely assistant, Caitlin. She missed the dough mixing portion of this process, but was happy to show up for the cutting out and decorating parts.

I made Bridget's recipe from Bake at 350 and altered it for our elevation (i.e. added 3 tbsp of AP flour for a total of 16.2 oz, removed 1 tbsp of sugar for a total of 6.6 oz, and increased the oven temperature by 15 degrees from 350 to 365.). It worked like a charm (Although next time I'm going to try the reverse creaming method that Cook's Illustrated recommends. Some of my cookies had air bubbles.). Then, I followed the directions for rolling out the dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper as taught by Cheryl at the University of Cookie. Seriously. It's like I was meant to find these bakers! After rolling the dough out, I popped it into my freezer for about 7 minutes and then called to Caitlin for her assistance in cutting out some cookies.

We baked them off while the twins slept and then it was time to mix up some icing. I admit that I just bought a box of Royal Icing mix from the store. Next time I think I'll buy some powdered egg whites as Gail from One Tough Cookie suggests. I didn't have a lot of icing to begin with, so I kinda faked it and then split it into 3 colors. Little did I realize the sheer amount of complaints I'd have over the 3 colors. Once Logan had the purple, he wasn't happy about relinquishing it to anyone else. Emma was happy as a clam to just squeeze 3/4ths of the pink onto her first cookie. Only Caitlin and I were interested in multi-colored cookies and a little artistic expression.

My decorating team.

Logan works the purple icing with a death grip.

My first cookie didn't look anything like I'd really imagined it would, but as far as a first attempt went, it was pretty yummy! I got the hang of outlining cookies, playing with dots and figured out why round toothpicks would be better than flat toothpicks (Pointier ends!). It also made me understand that having a lot of icing to play with would have been ideal because then I could have messed around with the concept of flooding. Next time!

A peace cookie to celebrate Veteran's Day. Yes, peace can be a little messy and may not look like what you'd envisioned originally, but it's a good thing in the end.
Emma wanted to squeeze out the entire contents of the pink bag all over her cookie. I helped her out by spreading it around with a small palette knife.

Also, her idea of "eating" the cookie is to lick all of the icing off with her fingers. Logan smashed his first cookie, decorated the larger portion of it, and then had to be cut off from the purple icing. He was a sticky purple fiend in the end.

Don't mind my drippy nose. I'm a little sick!

Luckily enough for Eric, he made it home in time to decorate two of his very own cookies.

Caitlin went to town and made some fun cookies.

I found that once I started making my second cookie, that I didn't want to eat anymore. The prettier they became (by my standards), the less I wanted to eat them. Instead I had to nibble on the last bits of broken cookie bits. Slathered with a little icing, of course.

Now I know what I'll be bringing to Thanksgiving dinner at my MIL's: baked cookies and a pile of icing colors for the kids to go nuts with and decorate! (I'll probably also bring a loaf of bread and maybe even a pumpkin pie. I can't totally slack off!)

* I know. You're shocked, aren't you? I've made cookies before, but I've never tried making cookies for actual decorating purposes with Royal Icing and decorating tips. I had to do a bunch of research, search out all of my existing decorating tips and even pick up a few new ones. I was overwhelmed by the talent of Bridget at Bake at 350 and followed piles of links from her site all over the place. It's winter time and I'm trapped indoors. Clearly it's time to obsess over something that isn't plant related!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Potty Training Twins, Act II

I've been remiss and haven't told you about a few significant events that happened here at Chez Hatchet. My big sister, Dawn and her husband Matt, came to visit in October. I've got a few pictures of her pregnant self! Clan Hatchet went to the zoo with Grammy and I have some fun pictures of that visit (Oh, look! The lion is licking the lioness. He likes her! Oh...he really likes her....) and I'll get around to writing those up.

Any day now.

But we hit a major milestone. On October 30th, I declared Emma officially potty trained!

She went to bed in her undies on the 29th and woke up once or twice to pee in the potty in her room and yelled for help to get dressed again. Then she went back to bed and woke up dry. She hasn't worn a diaper since. Woo hoooo! Half my diaper laundry load just went POOF! We were all very happy and celebrated by buying her a big, foofy girl's dress. It's dark green and black with stylized roses all over it - it's one of those Christmas-y dresses. She loves it and wore it for days and days. Hurrah!

Now Logan, on the other hand...

Well, as I said before, he's just not into it. And by "just not into it", I mean he screams like you're trying to set his butt on fire every time we try to get him to sit on the potty. Bribes still don't work. Threatening is pointless. As is begging. We've offered cars, candy, muffins and sleepovers at Grammy and Grampy's house. No dice. Apparently he was attacked by a potty in a former life or something.

I can't figure it out. He knows what to do, but absolutely refuses to do it. He can get his clothes off. He can back up to the potty. We tried the Cheerios in the potty thing; watching Daddy; offered to let him pee standing up and we've just gotten melty, screamy Logan in return.

So we're backing off. According to our pediatrician, we should just leave him entirely alone about the topic. Don't even mention it. Just keep changing diapers and take the pressure off entirely for the next couple of months. Hopefully he'll suddenly want to be potty trained. We're thinking about putting just Emma into a kid's program at the local Y for a few hours, then letting him know that he can go, too, if he uses the potty.

We'll see how that goes.

Any ideas? Any tips you'd like to offer? I can't believe how easy Caitlin was in comparison, but I've been saying that since the twins were born. We had it easy and never knew it!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bread for sale! (For a good cause, of course!)

Today, Caitlin's school is participating in the Great American Bake Sale for its 9th year and I made a few loaves of bread for the cause.

By "few", of course, I mean seven. Mainly because every bake sale needs the Crazy Bread Lady and I got to be that mom this year. A pair of whole wheat loaves, a pair of Vermont Sourdough and 3 loaves of Five-Grain Levain (Chock full of flaxseeds, coarse cornmeal, oats, millet and whole wheat. Yum!).

Then, this morning, Eric and Caitlin dropped off the wrapped and tagged loaves to Caitlin's school. The mom/teacher/woman-with-a-badge who PROBABLY wasn't going to steal the bread made appropriate oohing and ahhing noises and then asked if we "always ate like this"? But of course!

Daily dose of external validation achieved!

Why are we doing this? Well, according to the Share Our Strength website:

  • 14.1 million children in America live in poverty. That’s 5.5% more than a year ago. (For a four-person family, that means getting by on less than $420 a week.)
  • Nearly half (49.2%) of American children will receive SNAP (food stamp) benefits at some point in their life.
  • The weak economy has put millions of previously secure American families at risk.
  • Effective federal nutrition programs that provide nutritious food to families in need are still underutilized. 10 million eligible kids in this country are not receiving school breakfast. Only 1 of every 6 kids eligible for free summer meals actually gets them.  That means 16.3 million kids who qualify for these meals don’t get them.  Millions of Americans who are eligible for SNAP (food stamps) do not use the program.
We often hear about disasters and hunger in foreign lands, but seldom hear that we have these same problems a lot closer at hand. By participating in the bake sale, the Hatchet Family can help fight hunger right here in the States. Now I can bake and save lives. I'm a super hero!

At least for a day.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Time for a Makeover!

OK, it's just a blog makeover, but that's always a good place to start!

What do you think?


After spending many hours on and off, messing about with colors and photos and widgets:

That was fun! Now maybe I should write a little something, huh?

The Story of Electronics

Another good movie from the folks that brought you The Story of Stuff. This is The Story of Electronics. I'd love it if companies would take back our old electronic gear. Ask YOUR rep to co-sponsor the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act. Make your voice heard.

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