Posts filed in: June 2010

Bread and Jam

comments: 88

Jam5

I made eight jars of strawberry freezer jam to use as hostess gifts this summer. I'm not super big on jelly or cooked jam, but I do love freezer jam because it's crazy red (because it's uncooked) and tastes so fresh. I used these pretty jars instead of plastic containers. (I'm no expert, but I freeze my glass jars and leftover containers regularly and have never had a problem; you need to leave room for things to expand a bit when they freeze.) I actually think I'll make more, because the jam keeps for a year in the freezer and it's a nice present.

Bread1

Especially if you bake some bread to go with. Ever since my big day a year or so ago when I baked bread from scratch for the first time in my whole entire life, I have been baking bread (or making homemade pizza dough) about every week or so. I use my Kitchen Aid now, I must confess. If you have one, bread is SO EASY. So easy. Try it. It kneads the whole thing for you. I use the recipe for A Loaf of Fresh White Bread (except I substitute 1 cup of whole-wheat flour for 1 of the cups of all-purpose flour [sometimes I use bread flour if I remember to buy it] ) from the glorious River Cottage Family Cookbook. I love that thing. I have made a few other breads but this one is my favorite. I follow the recipe exactly, except that I also turn down my oven a little bit, to 450 degrees F for the first ten minutes, then 400 for the last ten or so minutes. I also don't take it out of the pan and turn it upside down for another five minutes because I find that at that point the bread is still a bit soft and it always flops over to one side and squishes. I use a very good dose of olive oil on my bread pans and that seems to crisp up the bottom crust quite nicely.

Jam1

I made two loaves yesterday and wrapped one up for my next-door neighbors, who are having a beautiful fence built along the property border that we share. I used one of my precious crazy-expensive but seriously adorable chef medallions on top of the jar, because they are cool people (and, er, they are paying for the fence, so I figured it was the least I could do).

Jam6

I bought these little labels for myself with my birthday money from Andy's grandpa this past year. I probably would've gotten them sooner but it took me about three years to pick out which drawing I wanted (there are about a million) as they are all so stinkin cute I couldn't decide.

Jam3

I walked the bread and jam next door to the cacophony of saws, drills, nail guns, air compressors and all sorts of other tools I try not to have to know how to use. It's been pretty amazing watching how the fence comes together. I came back to my house and made myself a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, and then made two more, one for each of the worker guys, who have been about five feet away from my kitchen window all week and who I could hear (I'm not making this up) talking to each other about peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches just moments before they even saw me walk outside the first time. Voila. Your wish is my command. The shock on their faces, when I came back out and handed them each a little still-warm parchment-wrapped red-and-white-striped-string-tied sammy? Martha Stewart must get that look all the time. They're all, "For reals?" I'm all, playing it cool, "Yah, no prob." Inside: [Giggling]. It was pretty cute.

I didn't have any brothers growing up, so whenever I hear guy conversations I about fall over laughing. Then again, I myself have, without a shred of embarrassment, written entire blog posts about pancakes. And cats. And the pleater. So I probably shouldn't laugh.

Sunshine Colors

comments: 37

Farm1

It was so pretty at the farm this weekend. I love the colors there.

Farm2

It was so nice to get outside in the sunshine. Several neighbors have outdoor remodeling projects going on in our neighborhood right now so it was also nice to get away from the sound of jackhammers, diesel trucks, piles of gravel, backhoe thingies, nail pounding, saws, guys with toolbelts and wheelbarrows, and the general buzz of change.

Farm3

We (and our other neighbor) have to have our party sewer disconnected and reconnected to the public sewer this summer, too, so it's about to get a lot worse. Agh. [Pool pass pool pass pool pass.]

Farm4

Reds and blues. Summer colors.

Sleepover4

When we got home, Andy barbecued and I made a raspberry clafoutis. It was finally quiet by dinnertime. Yay.

Summer Finally Arrives

comments: 57

Sleepover1

Oh, finally it's here. Happy happy happy. We went to the pool. Had a pizza party and niece sleepover. Went to the farm. Ate an entire pint of cherries by myself. Made freezer jam. Read and read and read and read. Worked on the book list. Kept the windows open every minute. Barbecued. Ate every meal outside. Switched the winter clothes out for the summer clothes. Got a pool pass. Watched Wimbledon. Mowed the lawn. Started a summer quilt.

Sleepover3

[Massive sigh/sob of relief.]

Change of Shift

comments: 84

Hammock2

"Somebody was here, but then they got up."

Hammock9

"But I'm not allowed to stay on the hammock by myself [worry worry worry]. . . ."

Hammock7

"Oh phew. Someone Else came. He's reading. He'll be here a while."

Hammock8

"I am such a good dog."

Hammock5

"Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz."

My Go-To Birthday Cake

comments: 136

Picnic24

For many, many years, one of both parts of this cake have made their ways into almost every birthday cake I've baked for someone else or requested for my own birthday. I am super picky about cake. The one I made for Keels on MondayHershey's Deep Dark Chocolate Cake and my mom's Cloudburst Frosting — is probably the only way I really, really like it; chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is way too much chocolate, yellow cake is good, I cannot stand cream-cheese frosting, buttercream is okay but Cloudburst is lighter and better, etc., etc., etc., etc. I'll drive you crazy if you let me. I've tried a couple of variations on this chocolate/white frosting combo (adding pastry cream layer, using a different cake recipe), but to me the cake you see above and the recipe I'll give you below are just about perfect together. The cake is so heavy and so dark and so moist, the frosting is light as a cloud. If you put it in the fridge for about an hour before you serve it? Oh. Do that.

Normally I wouldn't reprint a recipe as-is like this, but I live in fear that Hershey's will change their link or delete their web site or somehow I won't be able to find it again. The only thing I do differently from their recipe is switch out 1/2 of their 1 cup of boiling water with 1/2 cup of very hot coffee (you don't taste the coffee, but, as Ina taught me, a little bit of coffee brings out the flavor of the chocolate). So, with apologies to Hershey (and a link for high-altitude directions and more info):

Hershey's Deep Dark Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa (I use either the regular or the Special Dark, whatever I happen to have)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup steaming hot (brewed) coffee

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9" round cake pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed of electric mixer for 2 minutes. Carefully stir in boiling water and coffee (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks and cool completely.

Now, the frosting for this cake is my mom's old recipe for something we in our family called "the milk and flour frosting." When I was growing up, she always made it for chocolate cake, too. We have never been able to find an official recipe for frosting like this, probably because we don't know what its official name is. When I first put it on the blog several years ago (and if you hang around here you'll remember me talking about several times since), I renamed it more romantically and called it Cloudburst Frosting. This frosting had a long history in our house of being very temperamental but it is totally worth it. We think we have it down now, but you have to do it exactly this way. You just do. Don't ask me why. We really do not know.

Cloudburst Frosting

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup WHOLE (it has to be whole) milk
1 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sifted confectioners sugar

In a small pan, gradually add the milk to the flour, whisking them together into a totally smooth mixture — you don't want any lumps here. Simmer (barely) until thick over low/medium heat, whisking constantly so you don't get any lumps. (Do not walk away from the stove for even a minute — trust me. If you do get lumps, just push it all through a sieve.) You want it to be the consistency of pudding. Remove from heat and let it cool completely but NOT in the refrigerator (Mom says if you put it in the fridge it won't work). Let it cool for a few minutes, and then push a piece of plastic wrap down on the surface of the mixture (so a skin doesn't form) and let it sit on the counter for an hour or two or three until it's completely cool. Cream together the butter and almond; add the confectioner's sugar and beat on high for several minutes until it is very fluffy. Add the milk/flour mixture and beat until it is super fluffy. The frosting will sometimes appear to separate when you add the milk/flour mixture, but just keep beating it on high until it whips up into smooth, fluffy clouds.

To frost the cake, trim off the top of one round so it is flat, and mound half of the frosting on it. Put the other round on and mound the other half of the frosting on it. I never frost the sides because 1) I'm lazy and 2) I think it looks a lot prettier with bare sides. Top with accessories. Chill before serving for maximum deliciousness.

*Update: Sounds like this is called "Butter Roux Frosting" and is a traditional red velvet cake topping. Yay! Thanks guys!

Riverside Silverlight

comments: 72

Picnic2

I made my go-to birthday cake

Picnic4

and baked some bread for turkey sandwiches

Picnic5

and we headed out to the woods.

Picnic21

The light was silver, it didn't rain (miracle), and was actually quite warm (warm relative to the freezing downpour that is our new normal here in P-town) down by the water. There was even a touch of humidity which felt absolutely wonderful. (That's something I never, ever thought I'd say in my life. But there it is.)

Picnic15

It was so beautiful. It smelled like pine trees and river. I love the sound of the water gurgling by.

Picnic19

Picnic22

Picnic11

Picnic17

Happy, happy birthday, dearest Keely.

Picnic12

Oh how I love days like this.

Riverside Midsummer

comments: 42

Picnic1

Going on a picnic. Hoping it doesn't start to pour!

Strawberry Shortcakes

comments: 44

Shortcake2

We had friends for dinner last night and I made strawberry shortcakes for dessert. Just in case you wind up with some beautiful strawberries this weekend, I wanted to pop in here and give you my recipe because this is so easy and so good. If you can time it so that the shortcakes are still a bit warmish when served, oh man.

Shortcake3

Strawberry Shortcakes
Serves four

Strawberries:

Slice 2 pints of (hulled) strawberries into a mixing bowl, and add up to 3/4 c. of light brown sugar, depending on how sweet your berries are (mine were incredibly sour!). Fold in sugar, cover bowl, and let sit in the refrigerator for an hour or so, while you make the shortcakes.

Shortcakes:

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 c. cold butter
1 beaten egg
2/3 c. half-and-half

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In mixing bowl, stir together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter in small cubes and work it into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter thing until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat the egg and add the half-and-half to it, stir; add milk/egg all at once to flour mixture and stir it up with a fork just until moistened. Drop dough in four big blobs onto a sheet pan covered with parchment paper or Silpat and sprinkle with a bit of sugar on top. Bake 15-18 minutes or until just golden. Remove from pan and cool slightly.

Topping:

To serve, whip 1 cup of heavy cream with a hand mixer, and add a few tablespoons of sugar to taste. Place a shortcake into a bowl, top it with strawberries, and add a big blob of whipped cream.

Shortcake7

I recommend making a double batch and saving some shortcakes to munch on the next morning, while you're cleaning up.

Shortcake10

More Blue Gingham Buttons

comments: 85

NorwaySweater1

PATTERN: Baby's Raglan Sweater No Seams by Carol Barenys
SIZE: 6-9 months
YARN: Garnstudio DROPS Merino Extra Fine

Thank you for all the nice comments on the navy! So nice! Here is my finished snuggly spring sweater sort of like Baby Alma's that I started a few weeks ago. This is made out of the same yarn as the navy. I really enjoyed making this one. It's so rare that I ever make something that is plain white! But there was something so soothing about using this color, honestly. It was like knitting up a bowl of vanilla ice cream or something.

NorwaySweater2

I made a few changes to the pattern, including doing the neck, bottom edge, and sleeve edges in moss stitch instead of garter. I also increased a bit through the body at each side to make it slightly A-lined. I made it longer, so it would be like a little coat. And I made two little pockets that I patched on. All of this was fairly easy and didn't make me too nervous. I really don't like going off-trail like that, but, you know, it's life on the edge here at Paulson Place!

NorwaySweater3

A few weeks ago Andy and I had a conversation that went something like this:

Me [looking at a picture that I posted of something complicated that I made — I don't remember what it was — that should've taken me a month and instead took me a week]: "Oh great, now everyone will know that I have no life."
Him: "Oh, they already know that."
Me: "They do?"
Him: "Honey! Yes!"
Me [sheepish]: " . . . "
Him [sheepish]: "I mean . . . yeah. They know that."
Me [smiling/knitting]: "Oh. Oh well!!!"

NorwaySweater4

I love weensy pockets! I stitched them on by hand with regular sewing thread. Not sure if that was the right thing to do, but I couldn't see any other way to do it? These blue plastic gingham buttons came from a lady who had a button booth at Sew Expo this winter. I thought I kept the business cards for everyone I bought stuff from but now I can't find the cards. Drat! Sorry! If anyone might know what the name of that booth was (it was on a corner, and for some reason I think the lady might have been from Seattle?), let me know and I'll add it here. I'd like to get more of them myself!

Sweet Navy Sweater

comments: 85

SweetNavySweater3

PATTERN: B18-10 jacket by DROPS design
SIZE: 6-9 months
YARN: Garnstudio DROPS Merino Extra Fine

So, the lace is going well. After I did the one sleeve, I took some of the advice of other Ravelers who had made that same sweater and started working on the body (the pattern tells you to work the sleeves first), which is done flat, so that I could really get used to how the lace was working, and that has turned out to be great advice. That really helped me understand how the stitches I was purling or slipping or passing over or whatever were "making" the lace itself. I really couldn't see it when I started. I just tried to keep following the pattern diligently, even if I didn't understand it, and eventually (after lots of starting over and ripping out) I started to feel more comfortable, and to see the design of the leaves, and that was neat. There's a metaphor here. I think it's reminding me to have faith. To keep moving forward, with faith.

What inspired this newfound optimism that I could learn to knit lace were a few knitting projects I finished entirely without drama last week, one of which is this sweet little navy sweater. When I was looking at my grandma's navy-and-white blanket a few weeks ago, I thought about maybe trying to do another blanket like it, but settled on a bitty sweater instead (because my attention span is only baby-sweater sized these days). While browsing Ravelry (by the way, the details for all of the things I am knitting or crocheting will be on my Ravelry project pages, so if you would like more information about the things I am working on, please sign up for Ravelry, and then you can see those details), I came across this version of the b18-10 sweater, which I already had in my favorites and planned to make in pale blue or gray. But seeing it in navy sealed the deal. The buttons had me at hello.

SweetNavySweater2

I made it exactly as the pattern was written, except that I added a row of single crochet in white all the way around the outer edge, as Licear did. Someone asked me how I like the DROPS Merino Extra Fine yarn, and I love it. I have used it on three projects now, and it just feels good — plump and not too floppy but still soft. I think it's my new favorite yarn. Now that we're breaking rain and cold records in Portland this "summer," I'd like to say this is a winter sweater but I can't. It's a pure-wool Oregon summer sweater.

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.