Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Favorite Thing

Mr. Hunting Creek gave me a needle felting machine for my birthday, after I had expressed a desire for one after seeing an article about them in one of my magazines. He ordered it ahead of time, which should go down in some kind of husband present-giving hall of fame. He’s come so far from the bicycle pump of our first year of marriage! (When I asked, somewhat pointedly, why he had given me a bicycle pump out of the world of gift giving opportunities, he replied, simply, “Yours was broken, so I thought you needed one.” He can be a bit pragmatic)
After playing with it last week, I had one of those epiphanies that has to be followed: Needle felted Christmas stockings. Needle Felting is my new Favorite Thing. Felt is awesome, and my machine is even awesomer.
There are handheld felting needles, but the machine makes it easy enough for a complete neophyte to use. I bought some wool-blend felt and started messing around.
I happened to see a ball of yarn on top of my Wall o’ Fabric. (I had hidden it there to keep the cats away from it. It’s true, they do love to unroll yarn. Unroll all of it. Down, down the stairs and around the chair legs...but I digress.) I needle-felted the yarn on top of the denim blue felt. See top picture. It looked awesome. I then decided to do a Dr Seuessian inspired dots and shapes for the other side.

Felt will stick to felt, so it is easy to lightly tack the appliques where I want them, then go back and really felt them down. Here's the back, so you can see the fibers have meshed and attached the applique firmly. 

Here are both finished sides:

Here is the finished stocking:

This felting is fun, and easy and nothing is a mistake. My favorite kind of art. Hardly any learning curve, and the results are amazing. This weekend I’ll go looking at the thrift store for some wool sweaters to felt. Then I have plans for it. Serious plans.
Have you needle-felted anything yet?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Secret Ingredients

When we were first dating, I remember being served this birthday cake at Mr. Hunting Creek’s house, When I asked for the recipe, his mom said, “oh it’s on the back of the Galliano bottle.” So I dutifully asked my dad to buy some Galliano, not being 21 at the time and made the cake. It was really good, but not as good as Mr. Hunting Creek’s mom’s cake. I grilled her about her recipe and technique. She claimed she “followed the recipe”.
Years passed. Mr. Hunting Creek continued to request the Harvey Wallbanger Cake for his birthday.I continued to make it, tweaking the recipe, adding freshly squeezed orange juice and freshly grated peel,  more glaze, less glaze,  but still Mr. hunting Creek claimed it wasn’t the same as his mother’s. This annoyed me. It would annoy a saint. I am a better cook than his mother, and a better baker. so I was nettled by this. so much so that when he brought home her recipes after he closed her kitchen, the first thing I looked for was that recipe. :
You know those cooks who pass on recipes but who leave out that secret ingredient or technique so that your version is never quite what their version is? Mr. Hunting Creek’s mom was one of those cooks. Her recipe for Harvey Wallbanger Cake was , in her own writing, different from the standard one in only one way, but the difference was huge. Instead of half a cup of oil, she used one cup. No other recipe for this cake that I have seen uses one cup of oil, but it makes an indecently moist cake.

Harvey Wallbanger Cake
1 box Duncan Hines Orange Cake mix (you can use yellow in a pinch, but it’s not the same)
1 packages Instant vanilla Pudding mix, 3 ¾ oz size
4 eggs
½ cup oil for Galliano’s version, 1 Cup for Mr. Hunting Creek’s Mom’s Version
½ cup galliano
1 oz vodka
½ cup orange juice

Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, cooking oil, Galliano, vodka, orange joice Mix until smooth, about two minutes if using a hand beater.
I use my Cuisinart and it takes a few pulses
Pour into greased and floured 10” tube pan or bundt pan Bake 45-50 minutesat 350 degrees
Cool and glaze.

Glaze recipe
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 oz Galliano
1 oz vodka
1 oz orange juice in a bowl, blend, drizzle over cake

We won’t even mention that eating this cake as a child just shows how highly unusual Mr. Hunting Creek’s childhood was. When we were first married we used to argue about whose family was , shall we say., the most dysfunctional. When I learned that he had been eating this booze monster of a cake since early childhood, I proclaimed him the winner.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mother-in-law Recipe Box Project

When my mother-in-law closed her kitchen , the one thing Mr.Hunting Creek wanted was her recipe card file. My sister grabbed the same thing when her mother-in-law closed her kitchen. But what to do with all these recipes? We  decided that we needed to write a cookbook, so they would not be lost. Some of them are quite charming, and all have that special mid-century certain American calories and fat be damned attitude. (Also, what was all the margarine love about?)We didn't want them to be lost forever. Of course, that means we will actually have to scan them in and then write it.
As we all know, the best way to tackle a project like this is just to START.
Here's the first recipe installment:

Banana Nut Pancakes
This one was cut from newspaper - probably the Los Angeles Times Food Section.  And then taped to a 3x5 note card. There is another, hand-written recipe on the back for muffins that we'll get to another time.

These are moist and delicious and an excellent use for a ripe banana.

I cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium banana, chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Combine flour sugar, baking powder and salt, set aside. In large bowl, stir milk, egg and oil until well blended. Add flour mixture., blend well. Stir in banana and walnuts. Scoop by scant 1/4 cup cupfuls on to hot, lightly greased griddle. Cook, turning once, until golden. Serve with margarine and syrup. Makes 12

What I do differently in my kitchen: for one thing, I never let margarine so much as darken my fridge. It would be a nice touch to toast the walnuts first, but that is unlikely to happen in my kitchen on a  Sunday morning. But maybe if I were feeling OCD about it, I'd toast them the night before.
I use melted butter in them instead of oil, just because I like that extra layer of buttery flavor. And sometimes   add a dash of vanilla, if I remember. And I serve these with applesauce or other fruit, bacon and Real. Maple Syrup. That fake stuff is just flavored Corn syrup.

One recipe card down,about a hundred more to go.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Scary Patterns:Dog Version

Dog mommies, don't dress up your babies like this, It just embarrasses them and makes them sad
If you have no shame  find the pattern here.
Look, the little Bumblebee dog is begging you not to!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake

Several people told me that I had teased my readers with mention of an old recipe for Mayonnaise
Chocolate Cake, but had not revealed it to you. Of course the problem this cake solves is an excess of homemade mayo. Nothing better on a BLT, but how many BLTs can we eat in one week? Not as many as we'd like, but that's a separate issue. In the olden days people frequently made their own, as I do from time to time, as does my daughter. But how to use it up?
This recipe comes from an old cookbook that I have had since I was first married,. What Shall I Cook Today, by Nika Hazelton. 
This book has recipes and menus for every day of the year, and is quite charming in a retro way. Of course we all cook our families lunches from scratch every day! My sister always tried to steal it from me.

In the book it's called:
Thrifty Waldorf Chocolate Cake

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup water ( I always use cold coffee with a little rum or liqueur, like Amaretto or Hazelnut)
2 teaspoons vanilla (I make  my own and you should too)
2/3 cup mayonnaise

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x9x2 pan, or two 8 inch layer pans or a small bundt pan. I normally make a square one.

Mix the dry ingredients. The book says to sift, but I never do. I just dump them all in my Cuisinart and pulse it a couple times. Or put them in a bowl and whisk. If you want to sift, be my guest.
Add the water, vanilla and mayonnaise and mix thoroughly. A few pulses of the processor or beat by hand until smooth. Add to pan or pans, bake 30-35 minutes, or until cake pulls away from the sides and is not gooey inside. Frost when cool, or not. My family doesn't love frosting, so I never do. 

This is a super easy cake that you can whip up on a weeknight, and no one will ever know what's in it. Sometimes I add chocolate chips.(the mini ones work best).
Everyone will think you are amazing and in fact, anyone who bakes a cake for their family and friends IS amazing. I like mine with vanilla ice cream and berries.
Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Career Counseling

  Sometimes my job is super tedious like 90% of the time. Like the airline pilot joke says, it’s hours of boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror. During those hours of boredom I try to imagine what my Perfect Job would be.  The job that uses my considerable natural talents and pays Big Bucks so that I can have plenty of free time,  Greek Yogurt and fancy Cat Food for the kittens. Plus extra left over from that to use to buy patterns that I might never make but need, just in case.

And Extra Money, which is a concept I explain to my children is like Unicorns or the wendigo.

Remember when your High School Career Counselor told you to list your favorite hobbies and classes and they handed out this sheet where you filled in the little bubbles with a number two pencil and then got back a printout that told you that you were divinely chosen to be a dental hygienist or a plumber or a nurse?
Mine said (not making this up, I even saved the paper somewhere) that I was best suited for Military Intelligence. OK... now that you’ve had a good laugh and are making that lame old joke about how that’s an oxymoron, just think about this. What if my high school counselor was right?
I ponder this while waiting for software upgrades to upload.
Do you suppose the Intelligence Community looking for these skills?

1. Baking bread – I guess I could hide secret messages in it. Or feed other, hungry spies.
2. Fixing failed mayonnaise – this skill came in handy just yesterday, when my daughter called saying that her mayonnaise was a giant puddle of eggy oil and I gave her the magic solution and it totally worked and mayo’d but then she had the horrible problem of two cups of fresh mayonnaise to use up after eating her BLT, which I also deftly solved with an awesome Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake recipe, baby, which uses 2/3 cup of mayonnaise. Plus also Crab Cakes, Chicken salad in Heirloom tomatoes and Garlic Cheese Bread. Leave it to a child of the seventies to know her way out of a mayonnaise glut.
3. Sewing: I could make awesome disguises. I once made my son a Darth Maul costume so awesome that he won our neighborhood Halloween contest. Plus, Star Wars! Knowing the star Wars canon has to be good for spying. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” I could totally say that with a straight face.
4. Painting. See disguises, above.
5. Trivia.  A person who reads all the time necessarily knows lots of previously useless information
6. Never been beaten at Chinese checkers. An unbroken streak lasting 30 plus years.
7. being able to fold those elastic bottom sheets has to be good for something.
8. Never forgetting passwords
9. Know every bridge on the George Washington parkway, thus enabling me to leave bundles of spy stuff hidden where no one but us spies will find it.
10. Tracing Burda Patterns. Anyone who has done this knows that no Cold War expert could do better at solving these Undecipherable Puzzles

Mr. Hunting Creek offers that I am really good at predicting how mysteries will end, either in book or movie form, and also remembering the plots of old movies.
Do you sit and Fantasize about other, more Glamorous lines of work? What’s your Fantasy Job?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Saturday, September 1, 2012

From Here To Tulle-ternity

The tulle lives on the top left cubbie in the Great Wall 'O fabric. Or it did. But recently, it has been found in some odd places, like in the middle of the hallway and under the ironing board. Very mysterious. Until someone was surprised in the act of tulle adoration, rolling around on the floor with it in a passionate  embrace  like Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the beach in Hawaii.
He climbs the wall of fabric as if it were a rock climbing wall, seizing the tulle bundle in triumph, taking it away for his entertainment. It is so scratchy and tullicious, he can't stay away from it. He Must Have It.
Tulle Addiction.

It's a strange love, but Love can be Strange. Who knows what will strike someone's fancy. He could say the same about some people and their charmeuse habit.