Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Trip to the Plant Nursery . . .

Today the thermometer read eighty-seven. 
Only a week ago the morning kept us shivering with rain and a sharp breeze. 
As the Sun's brightness actually over heated my just emerging from winter skin, 
my hands itched to touch plants and soil.
 I dragged the kids to the nursery . . .
Not planning to buy anything . . .
 Just to scour the rows and rows of cheery plants awaiting their moment to join the earth. 
Well heck, I'd  be a little dotting to bring three reluctant pioneers to this plant haven, without expecting to leave the premises with a small token to remember it by.
 The colors connected with my camera as only colors do . . . And I left, not sure if I felt more full from the click, clicking of my finger, 
or the actual plants themselves.
                                                                          ~Marica

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

At Late Breakfast . . .

I have found the addition of cornmeal to blueberry muffins kicks them in the right direction just enough to qualify them not just as good, but delicious. I baked this batch of muffins this morning and was not disappointed with the outcome in the least. Hot out of the oven with a cup of tea or coffee is a wonderful way to start the morning.
Blueberry Orange Corn Muffins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a large bowl mix:
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1 cup orange juice

In a separate bowl combine:
1+1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup sweet rice flour make sure to use very finely ground flour
1 tablespoon tapioca flour
1 teaspoon guar gum
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add to dry ingredients and mix gently:
1 cup frozen blueberries of course fresh berries work wonderfully.

Pour into an oiled muffin tin. Fill each to the top.

Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes
or until knife inserted comes out clean.
                                                                 ~Marica

Sunday, March 27, 2011

For the Love of Mistakes . . .


I often love when I make a mistake. It usually adds an unusual twist or pleasant surprise to a project that would have otherwise been simple ~ perhaps even dull. When a mistake is made, it has to be fixed, and it is during that fixing that some of the best ideas come out.
Just recently, in making a skirt for my daughter, I had a simple three-piece triangle image in my mind. Once executed it was boring. I decided the key would be to run a ruffle around the bottom to give it more flare. I quickly trotted down to the store to find some eyelet, but once there, was much inspired by some creamy, crocheted like edging. Due to its pricy-ness, I only bought a yard thinking the bottom of the skirt couldn’t possibly be wider then thirty-six inches. Upon returning home, I indeed found the skirt’s bottom hem was several inches wider. I moved the edging up a bit, where the circumference wasn’t as wide, and began to stitch. Being who I am, I didn’t measure first, and found upon completing the round, my stitching had to stop within just one inch’s distance from the other end of the crocheted edging. How unfortunate and bothersome. But my luck was that I still had a small scrap left of the skirt fabric. I gathered and stitched this last scrap into a flower . . .attached it where the gap was gaping, and stood back to check my handiwork.

 Surprise!!! What would have been an adequate skirt was now a tasteful indulgence of pleasant décor.
Hooray for the mistake and the chance to make more out of something than I had 
set out to do. This is just one example of my many experiences where I ended up 
praising the error that guided me to success.  

                                                                                                             ~ Marica

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Simple Dinner . . .

Tonight's dinner struck me perfect . . . Baked salmon, sushi rice, Brussels sprouts and wakame seaweed. I had never prepared wakame before. It's extraordinarily simple, all you have to do is soak the dried pieces of wakame for five minutes in cold water and it turns into silky, salty . . . mmm . . . what could you call it? I guess, a taste of the sea.
The salmon was just as simple. I rinsed it, placed it in a oiled glass baking dish, cut a few scours in the surface, and baked it at a strong 500 degrees for about 15 minutes. I drizzled a bit of rice vinegar over the salmon once served up on the plates. 

The Brussels sprouts were braised in a bit of simmering water, covered, until they became a perfect spring green, 3-5 minutes.

Sometimes simple is so much more satisfying than hours of dedicated mixing and stirring. This dinner had a remarkably clean finish about it. 

               Best Wishes ~ Marica

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Extremely Moist Cake au Chocolat

So this cake is moist . . . I mean very moist. Tasty, simple, and easy to make, minus the fact I added brandy sauce that I had sitting in the refrigerator since bread pudding heaven. If you don't happen to have brandy sauce awaiting its fate in your cold box, either skip it or, heck, make the stuff . . .
Moist Cake  au Chocolat
Preheat oven to 325 degrees

In a bowl mix:
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil grapeseed or canola
1 cup sugar 

In a separate bowl mix than add to egg mixture:
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate melted
2/3 cup coffee room temperature

Add:
1 cup unbleached white flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt

Pour into an oiled 8" round cake pan.
If you use brandy sauce, pour in a swirl around the top.

Bake 325 degree for 30 minutes.

Brandy Sauce:
Mix and then simmered until the sugar is devolved:
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
zest from 1 orange


Hope it all comes out delectably ~ Marica

Monday, March 21, 2011

Perfect Salad . . .

Last night I made the yummiest salad. It was very late summer-esk I have to admit, but it still was really nice for the first day of spring. I found these plums in the grocery store and although I know plums aren't supposes to be around for months I couldn't resist how delicious they looked. So to cut to the chase, the salad contained: Mixed baby greens, goat cheese, avocado, chopped plums, pecans, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Seriously so yummy!!
                    Happy Spring ~ Marica

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Making Puppets

So this project started over a week ago . . .
I had this desire to make really large puppets with paper mache heads. We all were excited, and the kids decided using an entire dowel was the way to go. I think they were right. The heads came out larger than grapefruits and the whole puppets themselves definitely have a presence to them. We started by taping crunched up news paper to the ends of the dowels. We then paper mached over to make smooth, hard heads. We added noses by taping cardboard or small balls of newspaper  to the faces. We than paper mached again to finish the effect. After drying overnight the puppets were ready to paint. 
We used acrylic paints and had to wait between the coats. Once the paint was dry we hot-glued yarn for the hair. 
I added clothes. Everybody else is still at the head stage, but I'm not sure when they will actually finish so I am posting this as is.
 
All in all, it was a very fun project. My favorite part was how everyone's puppets came out so different.
 
                                                             ~ Marica

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Diaper Article . . . for those interested . . .

I am posting this due to a question I came across from someone planning to use cloth diapers for the first time. I wrote it probably close to four years ago and sent it to Mothering Magazine. I was so excited when they first reported they were saving it to see if it would fit in an up coming issue. Unfortunately they ended up publishing someone else's cloth diaper article, and mine just stayed in the file. The article published was just a bit more in depth, and perhaps a fair amount more professional. Oh well, here it is now for anyone who is considering cloth diapering:
Cloth Diapers, Don't Be Scared
                                  Marica Natali Thompson

It all began when I was pregnant with my first baby. As a concerned person about the environment I wanted to use cloth diapers, but the idea of dipping my baby's poopy diapers into the toilet bowl before washing and rewashing them just seemed a little too much. So we got diaper service. How perfect, environmentally friendly, no work diapering! But as it turned out I never seemed to have enough diapers, and since we couldn’t really afford it anyway, after about four months we stopped.
So straight onto plastic wrapped plastic diapering we went. I felt really guilty, but as a new mother, new to baby care and house keeping ~ I was only eighteen ~ I just felt I couldn’t handle the alternative. Three years passed, my son was finally toilet trained and I was pregnant with my second child. This time I felt a peaceful calm about cloth diapering and knew I could undertake the work involved. I searched far and wide through all sorts of catalogues eyeing everything from all-in-one fancy shmancy to pre-folds and flat diapers. I ended up with twelve pre-folds and about three Polar Baby covers. We were living in Eugene, Oregon at the time and I was so excited when I came across the guy who owned the Polar Baby business selling covers at Saturday Market. I eventually made a lot of polar fleece covers of my own, because it was so much more economical. I was a big advocate of cloth diapering by the time my second child was potty trained, which was around eighteen months. I couldn’t believe she had stopped so nonchalantly all on her own, and in some ways almost missed the diapers ~ Sort of. 
As I waited for baby number three to be born, I had no questions as to whether or not I was going to cloth diaper. I couldn’t wait. It was with great care that I folded the beautiful cream flannel diapers with rainbow stitching a friend of mine had made. What a pleasant feeling it was to pin each diaper on; the soft texture on my hands, knowing this was what would be against my baby’s bottom.

It was only about a month into diapering my new baby that a friend of mine gave me a wool cover she had made. She swore by them, but I was a little skeptical of the itchiness of wool and couldn’t quite bring myself to use it. Then one afternoon when I was at her house, in her bedroom, where she was changing her baby boy, I couldn’t help but look at the beautiful cover she was pulling on him. I said maybe it was time I make my own son one.  And to my new, desiring, lucky, surprise she said she had actually made one for me. So I went home with this beautiful cover and an excited feeling inside. One night was all it took, I was hooked. Never before had a whole night been so dry, the soft wool so cozy, the baby so cute. I quickly went out and bought my own wool yarn and lanolin wash. The simple pattern to knit was so tangible even I could knit this cover without fear.

As for washing, I throw the diapers into the washing machine with no pre-washing or scraping*. I do one warm soapy wash, and then rewash on a hot cycle. After line drying them, they are so fresh you feel the sun’s clean warmth kissing your baby’s bottom. I remember rationalizing when I used to use throwaway diapers that the waste of water must be equally bad for the plant as tossing a diaper in the trash. But deep down I new I was wishful thinking.
It wasn’t until my third baby that I started religiously line drying, but it makes such a difference. With cloth, wool and line drying, there is no diaper rash, no garbage, and no guilt. Only soft, cuddly, cozy baby and something soft and cozy for him to wear.
*Once they are older I do scrape solids into the toilet.

Here is the link to the knitted wool diaper patter:
Down under diaper cover pattern: http://www.borntolove.com/pattern.html
Polar babies link: diapercovers.com
I also highly recommend fuzzybunz: fuzzibunz.com
For all of these, pinning the diaper first helps with leaks. During summer, just a pinned on flat diaper is great, so long as you're prepared for leaks.

Here is how I made my own polar fleece covers:

Diaper Pattern

  1. Start with cutting a rectangle out of soft polar fleece.

                             C
 A



          

     B






                            D

  1. Measure your baby’s waist, add 8 inches, this will be the length of A and B.
  2. For the length of C and D, divide your baby’s waist length and add 8 inches.
  3. Cut 2 pieces of 3/4-inch elastic, half the length of your baby’s waist plus 1-inch. Remember not to stretch it when you measure. Fold the edge of C over to sew a tunnel a little wider than the elastic. Slip the elastic through and sew up the ends. Do the same for side D. (This will be the waist)
  4. Cut two pieces of 1/4 inch elastic that are the circumference of your baby’s thy plus 1-inch.
  5. Sew these elastic pieces into tunnels on both the sides A and B, leaving 2 – 3 inches at each end of the fabric. Make sure the elastic is tacked at each end so it doesn’t get loose in the tunnel, but keep the rest of the elastic free from the stitching so it can stretch easily.
  6. Turn the diaper cover inside out folding it in half so it looks finished. Sew your last seams up the sides. I usually sew a regular straight stitch and than go over it as close to the edge as possible with zigzag stitch to make the seams durable and pretty.

 Making tunnels . . . 
 Waist done . . . 
All elastic in . . . 
 Finished . . . 
                                                                                                  ~ Marica

Monday, March 14, 2011

This is my "I love you camera" post . . .

To make no understatement, I looove my camera! Having a real camera that is meant to take quality pictures has in many ways changed my life. I am not over embellishing the difference between a top notch camera and a standard snap-shot-mobile. It's like diner syrup v.s. maple syrup. Don't put them in the same tool box because they are working at totally different sites. Point being, its worth every bit that you can squeeze out to get one. 
I always thought I would like to take pictures, and I'd try, but the outcome discouraged me due to the fact that the pictures were never very great. After my dad more than generously gave me my "baby" for christmas a little over a year ago, I am compelled and propelled to take pictures on and on until the break of dawn baby . . . Just being silly . . . I am working on a project where less then fabulous photos won't due and with this camera I find I can enter a zone where I start to take pictures that I actually like. Now that feels as satisfying as making a perfect batch of biscuits (for the cooks out there), or when you run two fabrics under the foot of your sewing machine, and when you open them out, the colors tightly stitched together make your heart melt (that is for those who sew)
All in all, I am just stating to the general world out there that I love my camera and  you can't know the difference until you try it. 
On a more serious note, the whole Japan deal is heavy as heavy can be. Keeping good thoughts in their direction. My heart is so full for them . . .

Anyway, my best to all ~ Marica

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Little Bits of Around Here . . .

Picked up this book yesterday . . . I wanted some light hearted reading. Last book I was getting through contained too much harsh reality. I like to be put in my place, realizing my fortune in having a roof, dinner, water for heaven sakes . . . the things I don't count when I roll out of bed and pull my jeans on. But sometimes it's mellow enjoyment that needs to be attained.
Was given a 1992 copy of Architectural Digest featuring the ultimate David Bowie at his home in a place where, as the article stated, "the rich go to be rich together . . ."
This part of his house was truly awesome though . . . imported from Indonesia none the  less, but hey Bowie deserves the best, right? 
Still holding my breath . . . while breathing of course . . . hoping, not counting, on a plan that will fill my days with work, but such a fun sort of project . . . elbow grease anyone?
Ending the day with yet another tart . . . don't worry I'll stop posting tarts soon . . . it's just that I had extra crust in the freezer begging to be used . . .
                                          Hope all is well ~Marica

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Yesterday . . . tart . . . and a few keys to lentil soup . . .

I started this post yesterday and didn't quite make it over the hump of finishing it . . .
Yesterday:
It's funny, I am actually feeling stumped as what to write today. Usually I like to indulge myself in a short, visually satisfying blip . . . a squeak of a moment . . . a recipe I was happy with. In reference to today though, I feel like my life has been moving so fast, the dust is settling just a bit, yet I haven't quite settled with it. I was excited, I am excited, but I'm not engaged with myself. I feel off track by a fifth of a centimeter. I guess that's enough to make the wheels squeak. 
                                                                     MARICA  NATALI  THOMPSON  2008
On the simple pleasures side, I found some keys factors in making a delicious lentil soup:
A dash of dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, and a squeeze of lemon juice . . .
the following photo is of my visit to Blueberry Lemon Tart Heaven . . .  This amazing tart was made by my mother in law. Superb, perfect, and simply so delicious. 

Hope all is well out in the world all over everywhere ~ Marica


Sunday, March 6, 2011

This lovely Sunday before the clock struck noon . . .

Early morning at the piano . . .
And then breakfast . . .
Well enjoyed . . .
Out the window, hello Augustus . . . my dear doggy . . .
And then, I finally hemmed the bottom of this sweet dress my sister gave me  . . .
Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!
                                                                                     ~Marica

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Good Saturday Morning . . .

Good morning all . . . I am still over coming the tiredness from being sick several weeks ago. Everyone I talk to has gone through the same thing . . . this darn thing lingers and lingers making everyday stuff more effort to complete. Lots has been happening around here . . . LOTS, but I don't want to jinks anything. Cross your fingers, kiss a flower, good things will come, cause now is the hour.The boots below have been one of my prize possessions since I was fifteen. I remember telling my mom, I want brown boots like docks but with no yellow stitching and I want them to have a rounded toe. Well the first store we went to had this pair . . . They were docks but with no yellow stitching and a rounded toe! A couple years after I got them I was living in a garden shed with my boyfriend and a girl actually came to that "room" and stole a few things. I couldn't find my boots for about a week after that.  I was so upset, they were my perfect boots ~ It was the only time in my life that I ever was ready to beat someone up. I told God, "If she stole those boots I am going to beat her up, and if she didn't I'll forgive and forget about the other stuff." I found the boots a couple days later and was entirely satisfied. The funny part is, I barely reach the height of 5' 2" and she was a fair amount bigger than that. Anyway, I don't bring up that story in total random, I recently put another perfect thought out there and found a good piece of what I am looking for. We'll see, as I said: cross your fingers, kiss a flower, good things will come, cause now is the hour. 

P.S. I apologize if this post is weird, I have been is a flurry of lack of sleep, so many things brewing, and not feeling well all at the same time.