For when you want to eat your cake and have it, too: the Nibble Cake Pan.
Luke's bean plant, the source of much tribulation the last term of school, during which everyone else's bean plant sprouted and his did not, is now blooming and growing leetle tiny beans! Oh jubilation! (This is, in fact,the second bean he planted. The first never did grow, presumably as the result of much anxious over-watering.)
I know this sounds crazy, but I do believe those leetle tiny beans appeared overnight. Now I understand why it was Jack and the beanstalk and not, say, Jack and some other stalkish vegetable.
(By the way, we bought these personalized invitations from Lisa Kay on Etsy. I love how Sylvie's face appears on the little flower in the corner of the invitation and on a set of stickers we used on the favours and on her thank y0u notes.)
My new favourite treat. Lillet and pink grapefruit juice on ice, accompanied by a slice of leftover rose birthday cake. Spent the afternoon painting a bookcase grey and two old seatless chairs, one in bright red, the other in turquoise, in preparation for a project similar to this one. I can barely type now but I can certainly shovel that cake into my mouth. And the drink has disappeared in the time it's taken to type this. Perhaps I should have another one...
Mama really loves the cake, which was made by the lovely and talented Yumi of Sweetie Pie Cupcake Boutique. Yumi also made us a dozen chocolate cupcakes, half topped by white roses, half by red, in honour of the Red Queen, of course.
Vivi really loves the cake, too. That's Chelsea, apparently Barbie's daughter, who is holding a rabbit on the top of the cake and playing the role of Alice. We had a blast. Tons of pictures to come.
So Sylvie's having a vaguely Alice in Wonderland themed tea party for her third birthday this week, and I have been having a lot of fun planning it. Perhaps too much fun. One of the things I was most excited about was making (or ideally, having someone else make) this pink cake iced with roses (found here). I just showed Vivi the photo and she smiled and said she liked it but that she wanted a Barbie cake. Horrors. First of all just ugh and secondly I am not a big fan of Barbies. But it is her birthday, after all, not my own personal fantasy extravaganza tea party day. Do you think I could get away with cramming a Barbie doll into the top of that thing?
Give a boy a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a boy to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Give your sister a fish and freak her out with the glare of its glassy dead eyes. Somebody better teach your mother how to prepare and cook a fish from scratch if you keep this up, kid. (I am quite impressed -- I do not think I have ever caught a fish.)
I had a pretty rotten day and so I have thrown my diet under the bus and made this delicious cake from Laurie Colwin's excellent More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen:
Karen Edwards’s Version of Buttermilk Cocoa Cake 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and butter and flour a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan. It is hard to encapsulate the virtuosities of this cake. It is fast, easy, and scrumptious. It has a velvety, powdery feel – the result of all that cocoa. It is not so horribly bad for you, because you use buttermilk, which is relatively low in fat, and cocoa powder is defatted anyway. Furthermore, it keeps like a dream and tastes even better after a few days. Recipe found typed out here, along with the two other recipes for chocolate cake Colwin recommended. I can smell the cake baking in the oven right now.
2. Mix together 1 3/4 cups flour, 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
3. To these ingredients add 1 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted butter, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix.
4. Turn the batter into the pan, bake the cake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean, and let it cool for 5 minutes before turning it out of the pan.
If you want to be lavish you can dress this cake up by serving it with ice cream or crème fraîche. This mitigates its purist, minimalist virtues, but that is the way of chocolate cakes. They are good in themselves but sometimes call out for window dressing. You can eat them gussied up with all sorts of rich and fattening things or you can leave them quite alone and serve them in pristine, solitary splendor on a nice white plate.
Karen Edwards’s Version of Buttermilk Cocoa Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and butter and flour a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan.
It is hard to encapsulate the virtuosities of this cake. It is fast, easy, and scrumptious. It has a velvety, powdery feel – the result of all that cocoa. It is not so horribly bad for you, because you use buttermilk, which is relatively low in fat, and cocoa powder is defatted anyway. Furthermore, it keeps like a dream and tastes even better after a few days.
Recipe found typed out here, along with the two other recipes for chocolate cake Colwin recommended. I can smell the cake baking in the oven right now.
This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone is a memoir by Melissa Coleman that got a lot of attention last year when it first came out. Coleman's parents, Eliot and Sue, were among the first back-to-the-landers of the late 60s and 70s. They moved to a plot of land in rural Maine that adjoined the farm of Helen and Scott Nearing, the couple who wrote Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, which is the book credited with inspiring the movement. Eliot and Sue built their own home, grew their own food, and Sue gave birth to two little girls while they did it. It sounds Edenic, particularly for children, and partly, it was. (This NYT review of the book does a good job of describing the basic events of This Life is In Your Hands and also the sort of see-sawing the book does between the poetry of the family's life, rooted as it was in nature, and an increasing sense of ominousness.)
It's easy for people who have never attempted to be self-sufficient through farming to romanticize the idea (witness the current resurgence of what Emily Matchar calls the New Domesticity, which admittedly doesn't seem as hard-core a movement) but the fact is that it makes for a very hard life. (I am guilty of romanticizing it myself -- in high school I gave a speech on my version of "the good life" in which I would retreat with my little family to a cabin in the woods, where I would homeschool my children and we would all survive, I guess, on nuts and berries.) Coleman, who is now a nationally recognized expert on organic gardening, actually had a thyroid disorder, largely untreated, that spurred him on to ceaseless physical labour. And if I were going to try to accomplish what he did, I think I'd want one, too. From Melissa Coleman's descriptions of her mother, Sue, it seems to me that she suffered terribly from post-partum depression and that this was horribly compounded by the relentless, back-breaking work that homesteading actually entailed, not to mention possible malnutrition.
Now here is where the spoiler comes in. Consider yourself warned. One day, busy preparing a feast for some visitors (as if she doesn't have enough to do), Sue shoos Melissa's little sister Heidi, who is around three at the time I think, out of the cabin, telling her to go float her toy boat on the pond. Heidi actually comes back once or twice, begging for attention, and Sue turns her away. You can guess what happened to Heidi down at the pond. She drowned.
Melissa Coleman doesn't blame her mother for this in the book, but she doesn't exactly absolve her, either. After reading it I was left feeling absolutely bereft for the poor woman, whom I was unable to track down via google, hoping to learn she has found some sort of peace. And I must admit I was also left feeling a bit pissed off about Eliot Coleman's (and the Nearings') subsequent success as folk heroes.
Now of course children die. They die in car accidents in suburbia and of childhood cancers and all kinds of things. But all it takes is a short stroll through a pioneer-era graveyard to see how many children died when there was no choice for anyone but a "lifestyle" of relentless physical labour in order to put food on the table. A lot of those deaths were from childhood diseases we can now vaccinate against (if we aren't against vaccinating) but many of them were from accidents that happened when parents didn't have the time and the energy to hover over their kids.
Posted by Stephany Aulenback on March 16, 2012 at 01:27 PM in Books, Childhood, Compendium of Terrible Parenting Advice, Culture, Family, Food and Drink, Gardening, Health, History, Memoirs and Biography, Nature, Nesting, Parenting, Parents in Literature | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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