Melancholy? Bubble & Squeak

I wanted to share this piece that Sophie Dahl read a bit from one of her episodes of The Delicious Miss Dahl, a piece by Sydney Smith to Lady Georgiana (Duchess of Devonshire) in 1820.  I find it particularly useful this time of year especially as the clouds and cold take over for a bit.

Sydney Smith to Lady Georgiana Morpeth. 1820.

Dear Lady Georgiana, …nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done – so I feel for you.

1st. Live as well as you dare.

2nd. Go into the showerbath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75º or 80º.

3rd. Amusing books.

4th. Short views of human life – not further than dinner or tea.

5th. Be as busy as you can.

6th. See as much as you can of those friends who like and respect you.

7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.

8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely – they are always worse for dignified concealment.

9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.

10th. Don’t expect too much from human life – a sorry business at the best.

11th. Compare your lot with that of other people.

12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, everything likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence.

13th. DO GOOD, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.

14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.

15th. Make the room where you commonly sit gay and pleasant.

16th. Struggle little by little against idleness.

17th. Don’t be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.

18th. Keep good blazing fires.

19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.

20th. Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana, Very truly yours, – SYDNEY SMITH.”

from: Hesketh Pearson, The Smith of Smiths, Hogarth Press, London, 1984. p.164.

Oh and those bubble and squeak cakes on this episode look so enticing, no?

Pie

I love pie. Remember that sweet potato pie declaration that I made in my last post? Well, I haven’t had the chance to make that pie yet. I did, however, make a lemon custard pie. The recipe I used is from America’s Test Kitchen book, Baking Illustrated. One of my favorites, none of the recipes I have tried from it have ever failed me.

We celebrated my brother’s and dad’s birthday early today. So, we also had a scrummy chocolate cake from Whole Foods. They make really good tasty cakes there. My favorite is their Chantilly cake. The vanilla girl in me cannot refuse that golden vanilla cake, mixed berries and Chantilly frosting. Yum…but this chocolate one is a close second!

I’m on the lookout for a good baby sling. I have read many good things about babywearing and even though we have a BabyBjorn, I want something easier to put on and that I can use around the house. I figured that he won’t be this size for long and I would love to hold him close as much as possible. Snuggly time with mummy means happy baby. And happy mummy too, of course! I’ve read great things about the Balboa Sling.

Look what I made Sagan – a mobile with an old embroidery hoop and some color dots sewn together. These are the colors of his nursery.

I recently updated to OS5 on my trusty iPhone 3GS. It seems to be working pretty well. I am sure there are some obvious lags but I guess I am used to it. I am thinking about getting the new 4S but I don’t really need Siri and I can always surf with my iPad.

Nursing a new baby also gives me a lot of time to check out YouTube videos. I have been watching Nigel Slater‘s Simple Suppers as well as the Delicious Miss Dahl – Sophie Dahl. I find myself attracted by the kitchen set-ups and English accent of both the cooks.

Oh My

All the sleep deprivation in the world is made better when I see this face.  I do miss my sleep. Before Sagan, I was the type of person who needed her 8 hours.  You see, I have a really active dream life (read: a lot happens, many people show up in them and I remember them clearly) and if I don’t get my 8 hours, I will feel utterly unrested.  Now, even though I only get a couple of hours here and there, I still have the same vivid dreams.  Thus, on most mornings at 6.30am, you’ll find me quite a zombie.  But how can you get frustrated with a face like this one?

He is growing like a weed.  Two weeks ago at his 2-month well-baby check, he weighed in at almost 13lb. I’m willing to bet that he is almost 15lb right now.  I really hope my arm strength will catch up with his growth rate.  I don’t know how folks can pick up their toddlers but if they can, I probably should be able to, eventually.

It’s almost time to think about going back to work. Most mothers go back to work after 12-16 weeks. I am, however, in a unique position where I have to find a new job.  The last one was only a contract position.  I know that it’s going to be difficult for me to go back to a full-time work schedule or to keep the schedule I had before.  I am going to want to have time for the boy because I would hate to miss those milestones.  I feel lucky that we can afford for me to spend the rest of the year at home, I am truly  grateful for this time off. I hope the new year brings new opportunities that will allow me to work fewer hours.

By the way, it is my favorite time of the year – fall.  I love all the smells, colors and tastes.  I’ve baked 3 pumpkin pies in the last week and I have to say that adding 2 tbsp of brandy to your pumpkin pie filling makes your pie taste deeeeeee-leeeee-cious!  I blind-bake store-bought crusts, follow the recipe on the Libby’s can except for the brandy and an extra pinch of nutmeg.  Next on my list, sweet potato pie.

I’ve also been enjoying some cocktails lately but nothing says colder weather like a Dark & Stormy. Spicy ginger beer with spicy dark rum. Ooh la la!

Other exploits in the kitchen – Buffalo Wings and Yong Tau Foo.  The latter is tofu/tofu puffs stuffed with a fish meat paste and steamed.  You can it in a clear broth that contains soy beans or you can have it with hoisin sauce and chili sauce on rice vermicelli (bee hoon).

I’m looking forward to making more stews and definitely try my hand at braising.

On the creative front, I’m trying to find some time to sew more burp cloths and maybe a pair of pants for the boy. We’ll see. Right now, I’m having fun checking out patterns and selecting cute fabric here, here and of course, on Etsy.

8 weeks

My darling little boy is 8 weeks old now. I cannot believe that so much time has passed. It felt like a really long time when I waited for his arrival in those last few weeks and suddenly, he is all of 2 months old.

Those of you who are friends with me on FB have been bombarded with constant updates and pictures but I realized that I haven’t had the chance to update my blog for over a month.

We’ve had visits from friends and family. We’ve ventured out as a little family to the farmer’s market. We’ve taken some fairly long drives to the East side. We’ve changed hundreds of diapers. We’ve shared as many tickles, cuddles and kisses, maybe even more. We’ve had many firsts with Sagan and are anticipating so many more wonderful times.

He is such a sweet kid. Always a trooper. He does have a little bit of a temper but it only shows up when he does not get to his food fast enough. Other than that, we have no complaints. He is low maintenance.

As for me, I’m tired. Not as tired as those early weeks. I’d like to think that I’m getting the hang of this but it’s just as likely that the little one is starting to sleep more hours. In other news, I am slowly finding my way back to the kitchen. All thanks to Nigella Kitchen episodes! While nursing, I turned to my trusty new iPad and caught all the Nigella Kitchen episodes on YouTube. So far, I’ve made her Spanish Chicken recipe as well as the Pantry Paella. The Spanish Chicken was delicious but the paella recipe needed a little bit more liquid (half a cup or so) for the rice to cook thoroughly. Also, cooking it with the lid on helped. Tonight, I’m planning to make her Chicken and Forty Cloves (of garlic).

I wanted to leave you with a couple of interesting links I’ve encountered lately:

Black Muscat Jelly with Blueberries

Supper Club - Aug 2010 - Summer Italian

One of my favorite things is a bi-monthly supper club that my close friends and I formed a few years ago. Even though life and schedules take us in many different directions, we try to make it a point to find some time to cook and eat together. The most recent supper club was a summer Italian theme. I picked this adult jelly recipe that is chock full of blueberries because to me, berries are all about summer time.

I referenced an old recipe for a Riesling fruit salad from Delicious! Delicious! and decided to simplify it. I used Black Muscat blush wine (from Piety Flats here in Yakima, WA) and only blueberries, instead of peaches, pears and apricots.  The Black Muscat gave it a really pretty color.

Black Muscat Jelly with Blueberries

1 pint blueberries
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 TB sugar
3 cups white grape juice
2 cups Black Muscat wine (or any dessert wine)

1. In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin powder over 1 cup grape juice. It is important to sprinkle so you don’t get clumps. Let it stand for 2-3 minutes. Stir in sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often until granules are completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour into a large bowl. Add remaining grape juice and wine.

2. Place bowl over a larger bowl half-filled with ice water. Let it stand for about 20 minutes or until gelatin starts to slightly thicken, stirring occasionally. Whisk gelatin to form bubbles throughout. Stir in fruit. Remove from ice bath and pour into an 8-10 cup mold. Refrigerate at least 8 hours until firm.

3. When ready to serve, place a plate upside down on top of mold. Invert onto plate. If gelatin does not release, dip mold up to rim in warm water for 5 seconds before inverting.

Serves 12.

Mid August

Space Needle

Looking forward to Kim O’Donnel’s book The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook. I am such a meat lover myself so these recipes will help me enjoy delicious meals and eat less meat.

Last month, I made a really delicious butter mochi from Reid’s recipe. Now I’m craving it again. I might try this matcha version. I just have to make sure to make it matcha-y enough. I always don’t use enough matcha powder in my baked goods.

I love parties. Here’s a great idea for one – a Favorite Things party. (via A Chow Life) I can’t wait to have one with my girlfriends.

I love Mad Men. Look what folks behind Helvetica documentary remade – a 1960s poster promoting Helvetica.

This double sconce from Roll and Hill has caught my eye and I have just the spot for it.

Wondering what to do with all the zucchini showing up this time of the season? Here is some inspiration.

Simply summer

I have been enjoying these long days of late. I try not to fill my days with too many things but somehow it all goes so fast. I spend most of the day reading, checking blogs, keeping up with emails and thinking about new recipes but cooking familiar ones that I have neglected.

Around Scarlett, there has been a lot of cleaning and organizing going on. I think you have heard me mention this a couple of posts before. It has been a slow but really rewarding process. My new workspace is almost done. I just need a rug to tie the whole space together. I have also been living vicariously through the custom building process of my folks’ house. I am learning quite a bit in the process and look forward to seeing the house come together. So excited for my folks.

I made spaghetti tonight. Ripe tomatoes are just the epitome of summer. Marcella Hazan’s sauce is so easy and so delicious. If you haven’t tried it, what are you waiting for?

Today’s bits:

We painted our bathroom a while ago with a dark blue-grey and added a lot of industrial accents. I think these vintage-style pool locker baskets will make a really good accessory. You can find vintage ones on Etsy too.

Summers remind me of deviled eggs but these olive eggs look really tempting.

In Asia, it’s common to find a spray hose right by the side of the toilet bowl. It’s a hand-held bidet. While I was home this time, I got used to using one after going to the potty. I could get one of these diaper sprayers or I could make my own like in this video.

This weekend, we’re having a garage sale but what I’m really looking forward to are BBQ chicken wings. I plan to marinate my chicken wings with coke, honey and soy sauce. Then we throw them on the grill. Perfect for this weather. Scrummy.

Oh and the tacos in the picture are my favorite quick meal – tacos al pastor (spicy pork), tacos de lengua (tongue) and tacos de tripa (crispy spicy bits of fried tripe). So damn good.

Warm Breeze

Dusty Miller & Portulaca (Moss Rose)

There was a beautiful warm summer breeze that blew through the house most of the weekend. It was a busy one but very productive. I am in the process of converting the tea nook into a more usable workspace and will post pictures once that is done. Most of the elements of the tea nook will still be present but it will be more usable. I guess I am missing the use of desk/workspace since I left work.

Today’s bits:

If you are looking for new grilling recipes like I have been, how about this mustardy one or maybe this Asian Sichuan peppercorn one?

This weekend, we bought bacon dogs from The Swinery. Simply delicious! Check out their inner sanctum for grilled goodies for brunch (weekends) and lunch.

There are lots of things to do here in the summer – for e.g. the Washington Brewers Festival. Or perhaps garden tours are more your thing – here is a calendar to see which tours are going on.

And run, don’t walk, to Bluebird Homemade Ice Cream – peanut butter or oatmeal cookies n cream!

Lens

Puttanesca sauce

All it took was one photography workshop to inspire me to learn more about my camera and to play around more with my Rebel. I got this camera more than 2 years ago but I still know so little about it. Thanks to the food photography workshop that was presented by Aran of Cannelle et Vanille fame. I have to spend more time with my camera, get acquainted with it and learn as much as I can about it.

Other things that have caught my eye lately:

This super cute Orla Kiely bag from the 2010 spring/summer collection.

The Giving Tree is one of my favorite stories. That is probably why I swooned when I saw this iPad decal.

I know that I am not alone when I say that I drool over Anthropologie’s pretties. I wish I had this beautiful platter. The texture is just lovely. And how adorable are these cute elephant shakers?

An inspiring blog that Aran shared with us during the workshop – What Katie Ate. I love how she photographed these cheeses, especially. Somehow the greys and blues in the veins of the cheeses are emphasized by the gray and shadowy backdrop. So many other beautiful pictures are shared in her blog, do check it out.