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Thursday, August 31, 2006

More Quilts!

The bug's grandma and her aunt Elizabeth made the most beautiful, fun quilt for her, and I wanted to show it around. It's really pieced and quilted, with very intricate and neat appliqué pictures. I especially like the car made out of flowery pink calico, covering all the gendered bases.

And here's a detail of the little stuffed dog tucked into his dog bed. The bug likes to gum it.

Meanwhile, my mom sent me the quilt that she made for me when I was a baby. I recognized the yellow daisy print—I think they might have been bed sheets at one time too.

And here it is in action.

My kid is so lucky to have grandmothers and aunts who know how to quilt. Maybe they'll teach her one day. For my part, I long ago decided I'd never make a quilt or knit a sock. I may never make my own fillo dough, either. She'll have to turn to others if she wants to do any of those things.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I suspect that the bug is in the early stages of teething: she puts everything she can reach straight in her mouth, and bites down hard (rather than just sucking and drooling, as she's been doing for months), using the front of her mouth as well as the back, where the molars will be. And she's been unusually fussy the last couple days. (Just in time for a road trip to Cincinnati this weekend.) She really does seem to be annoyed by her whole face right now. She chomps down on a plastic ring we gave her, then gets frustrated that she can't fit the entire thing in her mouth. I'm ready to go get one of those rings that you fill with water and freeze—a lot more advanced than what I supposedly teethed on, a palm-sized eye bolt.

Mr. Chalmers and I made taralli last night to use as teething biscuits. I served them at a party once, and my friend Tara, from New Jersey, was so excited to see them—her mom, she said, had given them to her and her sisters to gnaw on because they're hard and crunchy, relatively crumbless, and the fennel seeds have a slight numbing effect. I looked up dozens of recipes for regular teething biscuits, and decided to go ahead and make real taralli instead, as most of the other biscuits were loaded with unhealthy stuff like sweeteners, and one used shortening—I figure the bug'll have enough sweet shortening-based foods when she's older, she sure as heck doesn't need them now. So here's the recipe, adapted from Michele Scicolone's quite excellent The Antipasto Table.
Taralli: In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon dry yeast. Stir in 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (a bit more if using White Lily), some fennel seeds (recipe says 2 tablespoons, but I used half that because of the baby—?), 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil. I also added about 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal. Knead for 10 minutes, let rise till doubled, then cut dough into 4 dozen little pieces. Roll each piece into a thin rope, shape into a circle, and bake on lightly greased cookie sheets at 375°F. for 45 minutes, or until browned and crisp. Usually, instead of fennel I use lots and lots of cracked black pepper.

We started rolling these out late, so I just left them in for half an hour, then turned off the oven and went to bed. They were nice and hard the next morning. Next time I'll use part whole-wheat flour if I can remember to buy some, and will cut back on the salt (for the baby).

The bug loved the one I gave her, but this picture can't even begin to capture the mess that damn taralli made. I had to put her in the sink to wash her down, then change all her clothes. Teething biscuits will be a once-in-a-while thing for her, I think. Overall, though, I think it works well: they are very hard, they don't break apart until she's really soaked it through, and they don't disintegrate into crumbs like stale bread does.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hard Work, Relaxing

Last night the bug went to bed at eight after enjoying a warm, deep bath and dancing with her mom and dad to "Strawberry Fields Forever," and she slept until five thirty this morning. Of course, I kept waking up and listening for her, but I think it still counts as a full night's sleep.

Today I have nothing that I absolutely have to do, so first thing this morning I loaded the bug into the car and took her to Watson Mill Bridge State Park, a couple miles down the road. Why I thought leaving the house was a good idea I don't know. We hiked around a little, and dipped our feet in the cool water. Suddenly it got very, very hot and insanely humid, we were both sweating and for some reason covered with grass clippings that stuck to our sunscreened skin, and when I picked up the bug, our blanket, our backpack, and my knitting to head back to the car everything went wrong at once: the bug spit up, dropped her pacifier (which wasn't doing any good anyway), ate some grass she'd secreted away somewhere, started crying, and the guy who's supposed to be making our table walked by on his bum leg and said good morning.

I managed to find the car keys and get us home, only to discover that the dogs had eaten our beloved road atlas, and just now as I was writing this Wagner came over and deposited everything he'd consumed this morning—including Georgia and Florida and the U.S. driving-times map—on the floor next to me. The atlas was outdated.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Pie Fatigue

Over the weekend, we had cream tea, peach pie, country ham, chanterelles with scrambled eggs, roast chicken (spatchcocked and flattened out on top of lemon slices and roasted quickly at 450 degrees), salad, red risotto with bitter radicchio, fried okra (we got young okra from the Comer farmers' market on Saturday), and scuppernong cobbler (the fellow who's making our dining room table gave me a bagful of golden and darker purple scuppernongs and muscadines). By far the best thing I made was the cobbler, but it was also the ugliest, so I didn't take a picture—the mix of yellow and purple resulted in gray fruit when cooked. I made it just like a regular Concord grape cobbler or pie: Squeeze the grape pulp out of the hulls, putting the pulp in one saucepan and the hulls in another. Simmer the pulp until the seeds are released, breaking the grapes up a bit with a spoon, then strain them through a medium-mesh sieve into the saucepan with the hulls. Add sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a few good pinches of ground cloves. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the hulls are tender. Use a measuring cup to scoop out some of the liquid, let it cool slightly, then add a teaspoon or so of cornstarch; stir the mixture back into the hulls and bring to a boil. Scrape the hulls out into a baking dish, top with a sweet biscuit dough (I use the old Betty Crocker recipe), and bake until the filling is bubbly and the topping is browned.

I told Mr. Chalmers that I might not make many more peach pies, as I'm finding them a little insipid. I guess I prefer berries, more sour-sweet pie and cobbler fillings, or at least more interesting ones like buttermilk or grape. I might try the green tomato pie from Damon Fowler's New Southern Baking next. Or go back to the basics with a good old apple pie. Actually, what I really want to make is a fresh currant pie—I did it once, in Virginia, with currants from the neighbor's garden, and it was still the best pie I've ever made. And I need to find good leaf lard for the crust. My shortening crust is great, but I want something a little different now.

Under the heading "Does Anybody Want a Dog?": I went out to check on the jasmine vines I planted two months ago, only to find that Wagner and/or Cooper (I'm guessing the former had more to do with this) had dug them all out of the ground and scattered the pieces throughout the yard.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


I left about half of them out there, along with some nice-looking puffballs.


It looks like we have chanterelles in our yard! Not many, but enough to flash-fry in a little butter, with maybe some thyme, salt, and pepper, if anything at all, and just eat standing in front of the stove while supper cooks.

I found them under pecan trees, next to a wet ditch where there's a lot of moss. If anybody has reason to believe these are not chanterelles, please let me know as soon as possible, because I just now ate some. And if anybody knows how to keep them going (letting a couple get old, then breaking them up to distribute the spores—does this work?), I'd love some tips.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Another One for the Grandparents

"Clotted Tea"

I don't know how I decide to do things like this, but, well, the mother-in-law's coming to visit this weekend and I figure there's no better excuse to have cream tea—plain scones (no currants or other impurities, please!), slathered with Devonshire clotted cream and topped with strawberry jam—or "clotted tea," as Mr. Chalmers charmingly calls it. With tea, of course. Maybe cucumber sandwiches, too. I just love the combination of tangy, rich clotted cream, sweet jam, and biscuit, and it's true that it's best with tea.

I'm still working on the scone recipe—my mom's is great, but who keeps extra-large eggs? Also, the flour amount does not take the fineness of White Lily into account. Basically, though, just make tender, slightly sweet biscuits with flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter, egg, and milk. Pat the dough out and cut into circles (not those crazy triangles you might see in bakeries).
Devonshire clotted cream: In a wide metal bowl, combine 1 quart whole milk with 1 pint heavy cream. Cover loosely with a clean towel or paper towel and set aside in a cool place (an air-conditioned house is fine), undisturbed, for 48 hours. Set the bowl over a pan of boiling water and heat to 175° to 190°F. and hold it at that temperature for 30 minutes (it will take a long time to come to temperature over the water, but that's okay)—do not stir or jostle it. The surface of the cream will crinkle.
Remove the bowl from the pan and set it in a larger bowl of ice water to cool. Skim the cooled thickened cream into a fine-mesh sieve (or two, if you have them; otherwise, strain the clotted cream in two batches) set over another bowl. Put in the refrigerator and let drain for several hours or overnight to thicken it some more.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge. I don't know how long it keeps. The draining makes a nice, thick clotted cream, but I remember having runnier clotted cream in England when I was a kid, so maybe the extended draining isn't entirely necessary.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I didn't make it to town yesterday for provisions, so I made a very simple risotto for supper (and Mr. Chalmers brought a chicken home from the store). I made something like this for lunch nearly every day while I was in Italy a couple years ago; at the last minute I'd fold in a handful of gorgeous Treviso radicchio. This time I just used red onion and red wine, and it was still great, an excellent meal to make with things from the cupboard.

Red risotto: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a pan over high heat and add 1/2 sliced red onion and about 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, then pour in a glass or so of red wine. Cook, stirring, until the wine is almost evaporated, then pour in 1 cup chicken stock. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently and adding more stock as it evaporates and is absorbed by the rice, for about 30 minutes, until the rice is soft but still holds its shape and the risotto is creamy-looking; stir in a touch more wine, then let the risotto thicken a bit at the end of the cooking. Here's where you'd fold in the radicchio and a little grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, right before you serve it. Season with salt and pepper.

Quick stock: Lest you think I used real chicken stock, here's a trick: put a boullion cube, a bay leaf, and some peppercorns in a Pyrex measuring cup with some water and heat it in the microwave oven for a couple minutes. (It's better, though, if you do this in a pan on the stove and let it simmer for 10 or 20 minutes.)
What the bug has been eating: winter squash; summer squash with basil, garlic (just a bit), and a tiny bit of olive oil (her favorite so far); stewed prunes with rice cereal; green beans; zucchini. She's had tastes of just about everything we've eaten, too, including, god help her, raw ginger (which she didn't hate, though it made her drool even more than usual) and braunschweiger. This is a bad picture, but representative of what happens: she grabs the spoon and tries to shove it in her mouth herself, then gets frustrated that there's no longer anything on it, and I have to yank it out of her hand in order to fill it up again.

Further on the subject, I laid out the outline of a dining room table on the floor, then walked into "town" to ask the man who owns the junk store slash "old wood warehouse" if he'd make one for us. He said he would, and is going to use thick old pine wall boards for the top and refinished porch columns for the legs (he usually does beautiful, delicate tapered legs, but I thought those would look too fancy for us). His price was good, and he said he could finish in six weeks. It'll be seven feet long. We're going to try to lower the light fixture that's in the ceiling so it hangs right over the table.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Collards, Lilies, and Baptists

The bug wanted to go outside, perhaps to be with more of her own kind, so I put her on a blanket out in the yard while I finished planting the bed of collards next to the kitchen window.

It was starting to sprinkle, and the bug had just managed to roll off the blanket, pull up a large tuft of grass, muddy roots and all, and stuff the whole mess into her mouth when the lady across the road came over to meet her and say thanks for the pie we left at her house yesterday. Such a precious little angel, long blades of grass hanging out the sides of her mouth and mud all up and down her arms and, somehow, on the top of her head.

Cecilia, the neighbor, a somewhat older, very sweet Southerner who says she "upgraded" to Madison County from Oglethorpe, confirmed that there are antique spider lily (or surprise lily) bulbs in our front yard, and said that if we were concerned about the magnolia's health we could probably get someone from the county to come out and take a look at it for us. She also said that she'd been warned about two old ladies who come by and try to get newcomers to come to the Baptist church—"Have you been asked yet?" She said, "I mean, I assume you folks aren't Baptists either." (A bold assumption in this part of the country!) I said that Thalia comes from a long line of secular Jews, atheists, and geologists. She liked it. I think she'll make a fine neighbor. The good news, she said, is that the Baptist ladies love to swap plants.

These sprouted up in the last week or so in the space where the bug and I
are going to plant a secret garden.

The magnolia, which might be a hundred years old or more,
has spots on the leaves; the leaves on the interior branches are
kind of withered.

Outside the wall, I want to plant four or five dogwoods (and sourwoods if I can find some),
between us and the neighbors to the right. I'll also try to put some bulbs among the
dogwoods, and shape the "beds" in such a way that it's easy for the guy next door to
mow the grass on the opposite side.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Something for the Cook

I made a couple of peach pies today (one for a new neighbor who looks like she could be babysitter material, and one for a famous anthropologist). Just your basic peaches, lemon juice, sugar, a bit of flour, sprinkle of ground cloves, and minced crystallized ginger. I used about half butter and half shortening in the crust—not so great. Yes, it tastes buttery, but it was very difficult to work with, and the finished texture is too crumbly—that is, it doesn't flake into big shards but into little crumbs. I think I should have been working with frozen butter and cold shortening on a day like this, hot and muggy, instead of room-temperature shortening and chilled butter. Oh well; it tastes fine.

I know it tastes fine, because I used the scraps to make my favorite little treat-for-the-cook.
Low-fat snack: Roll the pastry dough scraps into a circle and put it on a cake pan or something. Spread it with soft butter and sprinkle with plenty of sugar. Fold up the edges (see picture). Brush with a little leftover egg wash. Into the center, pour about a capful of brandy and one of Cointreau (or two capfuls of one or the other, or rum, or bourbon; if you don't use Cointreau, sprinkle some cinnamon on it too). Bake with the pies until browned and bubbly and running over.

We now have one piece of furniture (and two guitars and a dog crate) in the dining room:

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Georgia Southern

I told a guy at a party last week that I was concerned about my Celeste fig tree (this was a very grown-up party, despite the free-flowing mojitos). He said, "You put it in the ground, all the leaves dropped off." I said, "Yes!" He said, "Don't worry about it. Water it for two weeks, then let it go. It'll be fine. They all do that." And indeed the little tree appears to be doing just great now, especially since we've had some heavy rains lately—except that those rains have knocked all the unripe figs off.

Star (Confederate) jasmine vines were half off at the garden store, so I got another one—a big one. I'm hoping this new vine and the old one will join up at some point along the fence next to the bedroom window:

In order to fill out the space between them, I took some cuttings, dipped them in rooting hormone, and stuck them in the ground:

We'll see what happens. I don't expect it to look and smell as amazing as the jasmine outside our window in Florida, at least not right away. But give it a few years and it'll probably be close to this:

And in the meantime, for Mr. Chalmers there's this:

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Fiber Arts

This is the right side of the quilt Tobey made for our little Florida girl. There are all kinds of materials here—prints, solids, different textures—even lamé! And the frog's face appears to be painted on? It's so neat. The bug loves fingering it and just staring at it.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

More Stuff My Mom Made

She should have her own crafty-sewing blog! Here's her latest creation, a pair of overalls for the bug. (I might've taken a picture of a pair of pairs of overalls, as she sent both the too-small ones and the right-sized ones, the former apparently meant for a doll or something.) All the topstitching is bright pink.

The blanket is a quilt that Tobey, a family friend, made. The side you can't see here has a
crazy-detailed appliquéd swamp scene that Mr. Chalmers says is like Outsider Art.
Bug's got a lot of color in her life.

I think Gramma may be a little too concerned about the start of
hunting season out here in Carlton.


I finished the fingerless, thumbed gloves, but only after a trip to Watkinsville for more yarn. The pattern was great—easy and clear, even for a dpn beginner—but I ended up with three inches of yarn with which to knit the final thumb. And I'd been very stingy with the tails, too, leaving no more than a couple inches for each. Anyway, now I have some extra pretty pink yarn to do something with. The thumbs, by the way, were much easier than I thought they'd be. I'm ready to make another pair, as backup for when the dogs chew up these.

Here they are in the matching pink bedroom. You can see where
one of the cables is twisting the wrong way. Oh well.

And here they are on, with matching pink bug. She'd just woken up,
which is why her eyes are all movie-star puffy.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Looking for Pixie Hat Pattern

I really want to make a little bonnet for the bug (for winter), but the only pattern I can find that I like a lot is this crochet pattern. Does anybody know of a similar style to knit, or should I just dig out the hooks?