Gnomes

We have gnomes in our house, again.

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Between hunting Gnomes and having a gnome infestation in our Christmas tree, it was only a matter of time before the boys got gnome “costumes” — in this case, reversible gnome hats and vests. The hats are very gnome-inspired (although they could also be for a wizard), the vests could go pretty much any direction their imagination takes them — pin a star to it, they can be a sheriff; add boots, they can be cowboys; add a fire helmet, they’re firemen; at Christmas, they can be elves; I’m a fan of open-ended multi-purpose costume options.

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The other reason for the costumes is O’s friend E is having a “fairy” themed birthday party (she’s very into fairies at the moment) and everyone has been invited to come in costume. After some an initial encouragement for “fairy costumes!” (do yourself a favor and don’t google search for boy/male fairies or costumes), the suggestion was made that boys could come as gnomes. We also have Sprites Night coming up (the school’s Fall Festival/alternative to Halloween), and adorable, non-licensed costumes are preferred (last year they were dragon/knights).

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The the gnome hat is almost exactly like the one from tikkido.com, except I made it reversible — I made two, put wrong-sides together and stitched a few inches up the back seam. I thought about a blanket stitch to finish the bottom, but the hats are almost the same size and the under hat peeks out a bit and I like the color contrast. I am also worried sewing up the bottom would limit the stretch of the felt over their heads.

The vest is from Disney Family, originally for Woody’s Faux Cowhide Vest. I liked the rounded feel and shape of the vest, it is for gnomes (and other creative play), so a slightly whimsical shape (instead of boxy and confining) felt like a better fit. The vest, like the hat, is double sided. I used spray adhesive to put the pieces together, and then tucked the front into the back and sewed up the seams (I feel like I should’ve taken photos of this process, but I didn’t). I finished the vests off with a blanket stitch in white embroidery thread — it made up for lazy and slightly uneven cutting and I like the contrasting color.

I used two yards of 72″ felt, and I still have some leftovers, not a huge amount, but enough to make red and blue felt ornaments.

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I think they make pretty cute gnomes.

13 lbs of vintage 80s Legos

The boys love playing with Duplos, but they love playing with Legos even more. They want to go beyond the farm and boat to launch satellites and race fire engines. I love my boys, but I’m not quite ready to share my Legos with them — what can I say, it took me seven years before I was ready to irrevocably combine my collection with Gavin’s.

The boys are still exploring how blocks go together and getting familiar with the shapes, functions and mechanics of the blocks. While we probably could throw together a starter set from our vast collection, a burst of inspiration and a lucky Craig’s List search turned up thirteen pounds of vintage 1980s-90s Legos for a very reasonable price.
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They a very mixed box, some plates, some pirates, a police station, some seriously vintage Fabuland, a few knights, some BASIC sets, a smattering of instructions and the occasional PlayMobil figure.
IMG_1806We mostly assembled the Fabuland town hall, police station, and one of the random castle mini-sets on the play-tray that Gavin built for the boys to use on the table (2×2 plywood with 1.5x.25 trim with felt feet). I improvised a bit from the original instructions with the pieces I had on hand — some are missing, some were found after much deeper digging.
IMG_1810After bath time the play-tray was not enough to contain the boy’s vision. They expanded, under the condition that everything get collapsed back onto the play-tray before bedtime.

I think this is going to be the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship, I just hope everyone remembers to pick up all the pieces off the floor every night.

bonding & sanding

It recently became abundantly clear that it was time to refinish the little maple table from Gavin’s childhood. I really wish I had some good “before” photos of the condition of the table top — you can leave it to your imagination, and my description of “well loved and well used” by Gavin, his sister, and our two little boys.

Sunday afternoons are the perfect time for father-son bonding time and projects like this are perfect: everyone gets to take a turn with the power sander and ear protection.
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The boys helped Daddy sand the table with the power sander (using ear protection!) and with sanding blocks.
IMG_1775We decided to sand and refinish the legs as well, so the helping tower came out.
IMG_1783When the sanding was done, it was wiped down with tack-cloth and coated with two coats of polyurethane. The table has been reassembled and is back in action.

Savory Pear Tart – Bartlett Pears

We got some surprise pears in this weeks CSA box. The boys have the nasty habit of taking one or two bites out of fruit and put it back, so I decided to preempt them and use the pears for something.

I found a Savory Pear Tart on O&O Eats (via foodgawker) that looked great. I swapped out the panacetta for bacon, the blue cheese for goat, and I didn’t really bother to arrange my pears in any particularly pretty pattern. I used a pre-made pie crust, I can make pie crusts, but it really isn’t my thing. The boys complained bitterly that I was using “their” pears until I gave them some chopped up pear to eat, and then some diced bacon pieces. After that, they wanted more bacon.

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Thankfully our toaster oven is large enough to hold the tart pan, otherwise I would’ve needed to heat the big oven, and that’s really no fun in August.

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I was a little worried about the consistency, but the mascarpone and egg custard filling held nicely, not too rubbery, not too watery — “Not at all like a quiche!” Patrick said it was “yummy” and his high praise was quickly followed by “want some more!”  The remaining wedge of tart is in the fridge for later. Patrick has already claimed it as his own.

We enjoyed it with a modified version of Martha Stewart’s Roasted Eggplant Dip and slightly warmed pita bread. This wasn’t really a planned dinner. It was what we had in the fridge, and it was very good.

Given the high praise from two out of three of the boys (Oliver abstained under protest and only ate dry pita), I’m keeping the recipe, and will make it again. I might even try it with Asian Pears, although I worry they may flood the tart with their excess water and ruin the consistency. We’ll see.


Savory Pear Tartmodified from O&O Eats

For the crust: use Pillsbury pre-made

For the filling:

  • 3.5 oz cooked bacon, diced (approximately 6 pieces)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 oz mascarpone
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 ripe pears we used barlett (the boys ate the other 1 1/2)
  • 2 oz herb goat cheese crumbled

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

  1. Place eggs, mascarpone, whole milk nutmeg, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk!
  2. Place pie crust in tart pan, pat down, pinch off edges as necessary
  3. Peel pears and cut into neat little slices. Arrange in a pattern that appeals to you, or chuck them all in at random, or do a little bit of both. Carefully pour the mascarpone custard filling around the pears. Sprinkle the bacon and goat cheese on top.
  4. Place on the lowest rack of your oven and bake 40 to 45 minutes until golden on top. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing. I made it in the toaster oven.

Roasted Eggplant Dipmodified from Martha Stewart

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 8 ounces creme sour cream
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Cut eggplant in half length-wise. Pierce eggplant several times with a fork, and place cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes, until flesh is very soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and let stand until cool enough to handle.
  2. Peel off and discard skin; place flesh and garlic  in the bowl of a food processor, and puree until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl. Stir in creme fraiche and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Serve cold or at room temperature with pita or toast.

Asian Pears 2014

It is that time of year again, the Asian Pear tree is laden with fruit and I am torn between chucking it all in the green bin and doing something useful with it. There are already mounds of decaying pears laying in the jasmine, so I should probably start doing something about that, and with the loads of fruit on the tree.

So far I have learned Asian pears make lousy sauce, the consistency is grainy and the flavor is nothing special. I tried making pear sauce muffins, but the effort of making mediocre sauce just to make mediocre muffins seems silly. In previous years I’ve given them away by the bagful at the boys’ school, but they’re rather hit-and-miss, some people love them, others love to hate them (they often have a tree of their own).

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This year I have started an Asian Pears board on Pintrest, and I have several ideas of what to do with them. Most of what I’ve pinned uses one, maybe two pears, but I’m hopefully I’ll come across something that calls for one or two pounds of them that’s worth repeating. I’m also considering saving my laundry pennies and getting a food dehydrator (and some accessories) to turn them into easy snacks.

I’m going to try a few of my pins and see how they work out, I have several more pinned, so we will see where this goes.

I suspect some of these may end up as Pintrest Fails, but I’m hopeful. There are now far more uses for Asian Pears than there were a few years ago when I first started looking, and they’re appearing more regularly at the grocery store — the grocery store ones are individually wrapped in little cushy mesh to keep them from getting damaged, and are about twice the size of mine –  they probably get regularly watered and properly tended.

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Snoopy Museum

We went to the Charles M. Schultz museum on Monday — or to be more accurate, the Charles M. Schultz museum gift shop, the museum didn’t open until 11:00 am!

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We also posed with some of the fiberglass statues. I took about a dozen variations of this one, the boys refused to cooperate and look at the camera.

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