Friday, September 25, 2009

The Style Post

The luckiest thrift store shopping day of my life occurred not too long after we moved to Madison 4 years ago. I took an evening out for myself and hit up the local Good Will and almost immediately found the coolest top ever. It was utterly fetching with a mock high neck in tightly gathered vertical pleats, the tiniest poof at the shoulders, long sleeves ending in a row of buttons starting 2 inches above the wrist and the loveliest subtly pinstriped brown. It fit incredibly well, and was marked $3.99. Never mind that my co-worker Sascha asked if it was Puritan Day when I wore it to work; he's Australian and clearly doesn't recognize a fashion coup when he sees one.

The top is from Parisian fashion designer Isabel Marant, the it girl of the fashion scene. I love how her clothes project that famous French girl insouciance that so many of the rest of us try to emulate. I have been following her since that serendipitous purchase and was delighted to recognize her Liberty print skirt on Garance Dore (below), the French girlfriend of the Sartorialist. While I could never pull off a skirt that short, I've been oogling her jacket (above) in the same sweet Liberty print. Unfortunately, Marant's pieces are incredibly difficult to come by, especially in the States. Sigh. Perhaps it's time for another trip to the thrift store.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Back to School

School is in full swing and although I was terrified I couldn't be organized enough to pull it off this year, implementing some discipline for myself has made it possible to do a full schedule with Sam and Oliver, as well as some pre-school with Felix. Ryan helped in a big way by setting our reading room to rights. I found two more vintage desks at Savers for $7.99. We are using a smorgasbord of Classics-based curriculum, plus making up our own for things like art history, music, and the kitchen.
My latest issue of Gourmet paid homage to all the back-to-schoolers by doing a clever alphabet of foods and menu ideas. The boys learned to make a spicy barbecue sauce for our Chipotle Chicken, crumbled queso fresco for the Creamed Corn with Cilantro, and toasted cumin seeds for Cumin Vinaigrette Cole Slaw. That's a lot of C's. I was starting to get bored so we went to B for dessert. Bingo. Buttermilk Pudding with fresh fruit. A few of the key ingredients were missing from my shelves so I ended up using lavender in place of the bay leaf and orange zest. I have to say, I might never go back. It was total luck but the lavender was the perfect accompaniment to the strawberries and wine in the puree, balancing out the sweetness of the former and subtly enhancing the latter. It was the perfect dessert to come home to from our after dinner walk. I was pretty excited because it felt like a risk at the time and I wasn't sure it would pay off. My Mom is a wonderful cook, my brother and Dad are amazing make-it-up-as-you-go home chefs and since I've never been as good at tweaking recipes or making things up as I go along, I've always lived in the shadow of their creativity in the kitchen. For my own growth as a cook this felt like a milestone in my culinary adventures.
Buttermilk Pudding w/Sauce & Fresh Fruit
For the Pudding:
1 tsp. unflavored gelatin
1 cup whole milk, divided
6 tblsp. sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup buttermilk

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup of milk and let soften 1 minute. Scrape seeds from vanilla pod into small heavy saucepan, add remaining 3/4 cup milk and sugar and bring just to a boil over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture. Stir until well dissolved. Add buttermilk and then cool in an ice bath for approx. 5 minutes. Strain through fine mess sieve into large glass measuring bowl. Pour into waiting cups, cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours.

Strawberry Sauce:
1/4 cup dry red wine (I used Malbec from Argentina)
1/4 cup water
3 tblsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. dry lavender buds
2 3" strips of lemon peel
about 6 strawberries hulled and cut in half

Place all ingredients except the strawberries in small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Continue to simmer for about 10 minutes until liquid is reduced to 1/3 cup. Add strawberries and simmer for another 5 minutes. Carefully puree in a blender. Strain through fine mesh sieve into a bowl and chill for one hour.

To assemble, spoon some of the strawberry puree over each pudding and top with mixture of fresh berries.

Why I Love Wisconsin #37

Family bike rides through the Wisconsin countryside are becoming a fast tradition.
1857 Cooksville Congregational Church. Thinking about throwing our 10th Wedding Anniversary Party here.
From a bridge going across Badfish Creek.

Baby calf.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lego Jesus

Here in our house, we have been in the throes of Lego mania for quite some time. Our friend Ethan gave Sam two huge rubber maid containers of his old Legos to start out with and the boys have since accumulated numerous sets for birthdays and Christmas. The sets are fine (despite what the New York Times thinks) but I love when the boys make things from their own explosive imaginations. For example, Sam was so excited to show us this after breakfast. "It's from the Bible," he prefaced, so intrigued, we walked into the room to find:
Lego Jesus. On the cross. With the two thieves crucified behind him. And Roman guards standing sentry below, one with an axe, one with a light saber. I didn't know what to say or where to look because I was laughing so hard but I didn't want to hurt Sam's feelings because he really was so proud and sincere. I can only hope Jesus doesn't see it as sacrilege and somehow, I don't think He does.
There was also Moses (as a Clone Commander) leading the Israelites across the Red Sea with Storm Trooper Egyptians in hot pursuit. Oh my.