Threads of the Pattern

 

I have to tell you, I went about this whole thing completely backward. I started with the decoration, and then decided what kind of cupcake and frosting I wanted to go with it.

I stumbled upon a recipe for candied orange peels that seemed pretty simple. It also happened that I had an orange in the fridge that needed to be eaten fairly soonish.

It was fate, I tell you. Three ladies in the sky spinning the thread of my life had a nice long discussion and came up with “Rosie should make candied orange peels today.” Seriously, could you imagine that conversation? I bet it was INTENSE.

Anyhoo…So I had some delicious sugary citrus treats. Then I found out I was going to be able to attend my local SCA meeting that week thanks to the kind souls who made room for me to carpool.

This meant I’d have an excuse to make cupcakes. (The excuse being that I wouldn’t have to eat a whole batch of cupcakes by myself. ‘Cause…I so would.)

The cake itself was a pretty easy choice. I tend to like my cupcake decorations to let people know what flavors they’re eating, so orange cake it was.

A couple weeks before, I had gotten some orange cake mix from the clearance shelf at the supermarket. While the fudge marble I made with Alyx turned out alright, the orange supreme kind of tasted like I was pouring Tang directly into my mouth.

So I altered a box of yellow cake mix by adding more eggs, orange juice, and orange extract. (The Ariel fruit snacks had nothing to with the cupcakes. I just like them, ok?) I normally would have subbed melted butter for the vegetable oil, but for some reason my mind kept telling me that if I use butter it’s not vegetarian anymore. Yeah, yeah. I’m straight now on where butter comes from.

To decide what flavor buttercream I wanted (which  made with vegetable shortening, because I was still stuck on that making it vegetarian thing) I rummaged through my extracts and decided on almond. I also had some sliced almonds in the cupboard, so that was quite perfect.

Look! The batter was super thick, which made it really easy to dish into the cups. No clean up!

In the end, if I did anything different, I would use real butter, and I’d toast the almond slices.

No one at the meeting seemed to mind though.

Things I learned:

1. Butter comes from milk fat, not meat fat. (I promise I knew this before, but apparently I needed a refresher.)

2. Candied orange peel is amazing!

 

~Rosie

Recently, I came to a dismaying realization: my cabinets were gross!

We are currently living in a large household with 3 generations…one of which likes to put their dirty kid fingers all over the kitchen cabinets! After coming to the aforementioned realization, I tried to clean them with dish soap and water….but they laughed at me.

So…next was the magic eraser. They called Mr.Clean a sissy girl.

I realized I was going to have to bust out the big guns…so I took to the Internet. I needed a good, strong cleaner that wouldn’t poison my dogs, my kids or my manicure (yeah,right). Something that would be ok to use on painted wood cabinets, since we all know I was not going to repaint them just to get them clean! Though in retrospect, that might have been easier…

Several websites suggested the use of equal parts white vinegar and hot water. Two suggested adding Dawn dish soap to further the grease cutting contents. So, I gathered up my vinegar and soap and reached under the counter for my cleaning bucket…and there was a huge bottle of animal friendly, orange oil containing cleaner my aunt had bought some time ago!

Instantly, I was sucked into indecision land. Should I use the cleaner? Try the Internet suggested method? Put them together to see if they’ll cause a nuclear reaction, thereby eliminating my need to clean the cabinets?

Nah….but what about a Clean Off?!

In THIS corner: The Internet Method!
2cups white vinegar
1cup hot water
A healthy splash of dish soap

And in the OTHER corner: Stuff I found under the kitchen sink!


It said for cleaning counters to use 1 part soap to 10 parts warm water. I enjoy both burning the skin off my hands and ignoring directions, so I used more like equal parts cleaner and water and turned up the temperature from warm to ‘Omg what is wrong with me?!’

Then, I gathered up a cleaning rag and a sponge with an abrasive side and got down to it.
Literally.
My first cabinet was at ground level.

I blame that bit of ew on the molasses jar…that stuff gets everywhere!

First I used the cleaner mixture. Mostly because it’s the second most touched cabinet in the house and wasn’t so sure plain old vinegar was going to cut it. There were these weird water streaks on the cabinet, but since I was making kind of a bubbly mess, I didn’t mind. I just figured it was because I was dripping water down the cabinet. I used the cleaning rag to wipe the cabinets, figuring it would give the best idea of just how good the cleaner was working. After all, if I didn’t have to move on to the blow torch method it must be pretty good right?

It worked pretty well. Took all the accumulated dirt off the cabinet and left it with a nice shine even after I wiped them down with a wet rag to make sure there was no residual cleaner left on them for the dogs to lick.

Now I had a dilemma. Go on with the cleaner or give the vinegar a try? Mostly because the children had sensed that mommy was in crazy cleaning mood and had wisely vacated the area, I chose to go on with the experiment. So I chose a cabinet of equal grubbiness and applied the vinegar mixture.

Don’t judge. Apparently Clean the Dishes is code for Slop Liquid Food All Over the Place.

Instantly, I could tell the difference. Beside the fact that it splashed into my eye about 42 times, it dripped off it the cabinet without actually cleaning anything. I put aside the rag and picked up the sponge and even then, it seemed like I was mostly wiping them down not actually doing any heavy cleaning. When it dried, I was even more disappointed because it left a Matte finish, and that was not very flattering to my kitchen.

So…back to the cleaner/hot water mixture. I rewashed the cabinet I had applied the vinegar to, and was excited to see the remnants come off with little elbow grease. I applied it um…liberally…to the next cabinet and before I could wipe it down, my phone rang. Five minutes later, I went back to the cabinet, dipped my sponge into it and wiped off the top of the cabinet…and a healthy swipe of paint, too!

Let’s just say there was a liberal application of cuss words then…and I moved on, after I put my cell phone far away to prevent future distractions and after I prepared another bowl, this one of just straight water, to rinse the cabinets with.

Who would have thought that a cleaner labeled nontoxic would take the paint right off my cabinets??

Anyway, the cleaning went superbly, and my cabinets looked shiny and fantastic after that…and very chic with their new ‘distressed’ look.

Ta-da! So much better!

Hey…I live in a farmhouse built in the 1800s, it’s supposed to look like that!

…right?

Things I learned:

1. Vinegar is a very nice cleaner, but not for heavy duty jobs.

2. Don’t leave the cleaner on painted surfaces. Even if it says nontoxic. Or natural. Or safe for all materials.

3. It wouldn’t hurt to take the words ‘test on hidden surface’ seriously.

 

 

This fabric, a deep red silk, is going to become a lovely formal 13th century Mongolian noblewoman’s robe. (del, as they’re called natively)

I’m basing my choice off this image and (many) others like it:

 

Red seems to be the most common color for the formal overrobes the women wore, and as you can see above, they were big on embroidery, but not always. I have not yet decided if I will embroider mine or not. I think that will depend on how the winter goes, project-wise.

 I’m basing the cutting on a couple of different pieces.

©Gold, Silk, White and Blue Porcelain; p58-59

 and this diagram for cutting a Han Chinese Banbi: http://torguqin.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/shangyigencutting.png

I’m using the linked image as a sort of pattern. Obviously, the actual Mongolian piece has cuffs attached, which I will be adding. I was largely looking for direction in shaping the sleeves.  the rest of the del (the body) I’ve done before, and is pretty much the same no matter who was wearing it, so it should be pretty straight forward.

When I am finished, there will also be a pair of slippers and that fantastic hat with the feather sticking up out of the top!

 

~Rosie

Back to school days are for me, filled with conflicting emotions. In just one day I can go from ‘Yay! Back to school!’ to ‘Ugh! 35 glue sticks?! seriously?’ to ‘I think homeschooling in the answer. I’ll miss them too much otherwise!’ and usually back to some form of ‘Yay! Back to school!’ by the end of it.

With one exception. My inner monologue is almost -always- stuck on ’35 glue sticks? What are they going to do…feed them as snacks?’

You see, in my state, as is in many others I’m sure, we buy our children’s school supplies. Not just the cool bookbags or special pens or ninjago notebooks, but everything they need for school. I do not blame my school district or our teachers for this, because I understand about taxes and budgets and all, but I reserve the right to complain about it, once a year, at length. I have four kids, after all. I have to feel like I’m getting my money’s worth out of these supplies.

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So after the first year we moved here, I began to gather school supplies throughout the year and stock them in a shoebox. And then, everyone was going to school. So it graduated into a tote.

And then, I started working from home. So…office supplies got added to the tote, and trickled over only my desk.

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And the we started doing a lot of arts and crafts at home. So, that large shoebox turned into a small nation of containers, including a large tote, an art box, my desk and…a few shoeboxes of varying sizes.

Ok…I admit it…my school/office supplies are out of control!

Do I have a hoarding problem? Not usually…but I will admit to a crazy obsession with office supplies. And…you know…I’m a little..urm…frugal…so I hate the idea of spending an enormous amount of money on school supplies because I thumbed my nose at all the good sales all year.

So, this is me, sharing my mess with you, and asking, no begging for help!

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Readers: help me organize this hot mess into something useful! The tote was a great idea, but everytime I need to get one thing out of it, I end up dumping half of it on the floor and then throwing it all back in all wily-nily.

I often have to take notes on the fly when I work (as few and far between as that is) and my desk is upstairs, the supply box downstairs. So what started as two notebooks and some post it’s at the desk turned into that stuff. Please ignore the World of Warcraft books..they too are very necessary sometimes.

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Ok, now that youve seen the dark, dismal reality of my mess…

How would You begin? What makes the most sense to you in terms of organization and getting everything in reach? Am i going to be forced to add an addition onto the house in order to keep all this stuff neat? What are your dirty little organizing secrets?

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This summer has been absolutely insane. We launched the blog, I took to babysitting my niece, the kids were home from school, and we had lots of awesome visits from family and friends. As such, I just couldnt find the time to post, and Rosie, bless her heart, jumped in with both feet and rocked it, 100%! I sat down during a particularly terrible day and began to compose an I hate post and then stopped. And really thought about it. Sometimes, I am the biggest, grumpiest ass on the planet. I hate everything, from my stupid hair to my aching back, from the grass in my yard to whatever is on the television at that time. But more often then not, I love my hectic life, my loud family and my crazy kids. So, rather than rant about all things suckish, I made this list instead.

10 Things I love about the Summer!

10. I get to sleep in during the summer. Some days, it may only be til 7:45, but everyday is better when I wake up after 6am. Sometimes I wish I would have appreciated the art of sleeping in when I still could. Getting up with a Middle Schooler sucks. Or multiple Middle Schoolers, as of this year.

9. Mowing my Lawn is rad. Yes…I am one of those freaks that loves to mow. I put on my ipod, blare whatever music I feel like listening to without worrying about the lyrics (Eminem, I’m lookin at you, dude) and enjoy 4 hours of quiet mommy time. Our mower broke no less than 4 times in 2 months, and I was reaaaaally grateful for it once we got the problem worked out. And not just because my lawn was starting to look like the grasslands exhibit at the zoo.

8. I was born to lounge by the pool. I can’t swim. If my plane went down over the Atlantic (or Pacific, or Lake Erie, or the Creek in my town…) I’d be a dead duck, because I never learned to swim. Nevertheless, I very much enjoy taking my kids out to the pool and lounging out on the deck. I read a book or a magazine, soak up some vitamin d and enjoy life. Pool days are good days.

7. I can go to the library every day. We usually keep it to once a week, but the kids have such a great time, playing with the other kids in the children’s section, looking for new books and selecting movies. This year, my oldest has ventured into the young adult section and has devoured about half of it. My youngest has discovered non fiction movies about tornadoes, lightning and everything else that happens to be on his mind that week and my middle child is quickly decimating the comic/ graphic novel section of the children’s library.

6. Cold weather makes me cranky. Even when our air conditioning isn’t working, I would rather be drenched in sweat than huddling under blankets in three layers of sweat pants. Summer gives me warmth! I know…why don’t I live somewhere with perpetual summer? Because my family is -here-. 🙂

5. Impromptu everything! Kids want to have a sleepover? Sure, it’s summer! Swimming til 9? Ok! Disney movie marathon while turning the living room into a blanket covered wonderland? Why not? Its summer!

4.Fairs,Fairs,Fairs! This year our kids participated in 4H for the first time, which made Fair Week in our home county even more crazy,nerve-wracking,annoying,headachey fun! We got to be a part of the whole thing, as well as enjoy other parts of the fair, namely the food, the games and the other events. We also enjoy Farm Days, which is hosted by a tractor club in the neighboring county (please comment if you, too enjoy the thrills of the children’s pedal pull!) and visiting the other fairs in the counties surrounding us. Rose has been trying to get us to the irish festival near her place for the last 3 years, too. Ok, we’re fair junkies. Admittance is the first step in recovery, right?

3.Crafting inspiration! In the winter, I tend to stick to crochet and knitting, mostly because yarn is warm and I don’t have to move too much…but in the summer, I always tend to want to make stuff. Paint, wood, fabric, you name it, I want to use it to make -something-! I currently have a bag full of wine corks waiting for craft time, and a boatload of Pinterest pins to go through.

2. I miss my mother in law during the school year. Yes, I believe Rose and I might be the only two ladies in the world that love their mother-in-law! We moved away from mine 5 years ago, and since then summer has been the highlight of everyone’s year, because it is the time when the Grammy comes to visit! The kids love to take their Grammy to whatever place or restaurant or new store we found since her last visit, their dad loves to spend time with his mom and I love our down and dirty death match Skip-Bo games. This year was especially awesome because my niece came with her!

1. My family is awesome. We went out to dinner a few weeks ago, and as I as looking around the table, I actually got teary! We were hands down the loudest bunch there, and probably 45% of the conversation at any given time was totally inappropriate for public, but there we were, 3 generations from all sides of both my husband’s and my family, throwing fortune cookies at each other, laughing hysterically over everything sharing food and chopsticks and old stories, being a family. In the winter, we are all busy, being students and workers and mommies and whatever. Those things don’t go away in the summer, but it makes it much easier for us to put aside all that stuff and just be us for a while.

 

So, that’s my list. And I gotta tell you, I felt loads better after writing it! I guess there’s something to be said after all for turning negative energy into positive! What are some of your favorite things about summer? Or is winter your favorite season?

 

 

So last Friday, I didn’t post because I was up at Ayshia’s, baking with my nieces. The eldest of that set just had a birthday, and this time she thought it would be fun to make things together.

 Their mother isn’t really a baker, so this was kind of a novel experience for them. As in, they’ve never taken a pan out of the oven on their own before kind of novel. Don’t worry, this was quickly remedied with supervision.

 I really didn’t do anything. In the morning I instructed Kyra (the second eldest) in following the package directions for some Betty Crocker Molasses cookies that I’d gotten on clearance for 75¢.

 

 

She had a blast.

Can you tell these kids get their picture taken a lot?

Molasses cookies were delicious, and even bought me a haircut. Aunt Jo is the bomb, y’all. That’s all I’m saying.

 

 

After dinner, I supervised Alyx while she made a batch of modified boxed fudge marble cupcakes. They didn’t rise as much as I’d like, but she was thrilled. Also, all two dozen were gone in about 15 minutes.

Honestly, I think they were in it for the experience. They made things! And they did all the work! And Auntie Rosie is super awesome! (I inferred that last part.)

 

 

Ayshia and I thought this picture was super-hilarious. We may have been drinking.

Sometimes, I forget that the kids don’t care as much about the big fancy cakes I try to make for them as much as they care for our company. This was actually a far less stressful and fun-filled birthday than the last few have been.

 Way to teach Auntie a lesson, girls.

~Rosie

As I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother (maternal) had this amazing green thumb. Possibly, it wasn’t a green thumb, but more of a green…aura? essence? Something like that, anyway, because I never once saw her actually -gardening-. When I knew her, she lived in a trailer with three of my cousins, whom she was caring for. She had a bit of a back yard, but not a whole lot of one. mostly just a path around the trailer with enough space for some patio furniture on the far side. The back wall was entirely covered in plants. Potted plants, that is.

Everything was growing in profusion. I think people just gave her plants because they knew she would keep them alive, but there were also some that were what I like to consider purposeful: herbs and vegetables. In amongst the spider plants, aloe plants and ferns, there were also tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, parsley, etc. I didn’t know most of the herbs at the time, but it’s pretty hard not to spot a tomato.

I never even saw her pick anything, though I’m sure she must have, when I was busy being a lazy teenager and sleeping until 10am and fighting with my cousins. My grandmother was not a woman to remain idle long, and there were always vegetables in the fridge (with the cup of bacon grease, and other homemade items that I couldn’t name at the time) and there were never rotten vegetables on the ground outside.

I wish I’d inherited her knack for keeping things alive so easily. Or at least learned her secrets! Maybe it’s been bad luck, but I’ve been struggling to get a garden going at all. Last year, we bought all these containers and tried to grow some root vegetables (onions, carrots, beets) and we got exactly zero result. Even the four tomato plants only yielded one tiny cherry tomato. It was a pitiful harvest.

 

This year, I had some scallions, basil, and dill. Now I only have the basil left, and it’s just barely hanging on by a thread. For the scallions, I blame the heat. These were scallions I bought from the store, used the greens and then put the whites in a jar of water. For a while they were growing like crazy, and all I had to do was change the water every once in a while. Then the heat hit and they just shriveled up and died. Not sure what happened to the dill. Possibly also the heat, but it wasn’t around long enough for me to tell.

 

So, I don’t really have much in the way of gardening tools, but what I do have was in a cut off paper bag. It worked fine at first, but that is not a long term solution. It also meant that things weren’t really very visible. So when this week’s challenge came around, I grabbed a basket that wasn’t being used for anything else, and started transferring everything useful. It turns out, we had some seeds and onion bulbs that were no good in that bag. I had completely forgotten about them. Poor things. 
I should get a baggie for the twist ties, but I didn’t think of it at the time. 

 

 

Is it just me, or do they seem to be getting greener already? I think it’s weird that the cuttings (far left) are growing so much more nicely than the original stalks with roots.

As in previous weeks, I’m following Home Storage Solution’s 52 weeks to an organized home challenge. Feel free to jump in any time! The next two weeks are basement and attic focused. My basement is already organized, thanks to a crack in the foundation that we had to pack up and move everything for, and I don’t have an attic to speak of, so we’ll see how the next two weeks go.
I’m open to any gardening advice anyone is willing to share, as well! Note: dipping your thumb in acrylic paint has absolutely no effect.

 

~Rosie


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