Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Eatin' Fresh

The garden is exploding!
Cheese Zucchini Lasagna
2 cups shredded zucchini
2 cups shredded mozarella cheese, plus 1/2 cup more
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 jar (or 3 cups) of your favorite spaghetti sauce
12 (or more) uncooked lasagna noodles
Mix cheese and zucchini together (reserving 1/2 cup of mozarella for later).
On the bottom of a 9x13 pan, spread a thin layer of spaghetti sauce.
Top with 4 uncooked lasagna noodles.
Spread half of the zucchini mix on top of the noodles, then top that with about 2/3 cup of sauce.
Press 4 more noodles into the pan.
Spread the other half of the zucchini mix onto the noodles.
Top with about 2/3 cup more of sauce.
Press 4 more noodles into the pan, then top with the rest of the sauce, making sure that the noodles are completely covered. Add a little bit of water to the top if needed.
Cover the pan with foil and bake in a preheated 350 F oven for one hour. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the reserved shredded mozarella cheese.
*I find that the noodles aren't long enough for the length of the pan, so I use broken pieces to fill in the noodle layers completely. This requires almost 5 noodles per layer instead of the 4 that the recipe calls for.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Near-Perfect Book for Me

I have been waiting to get my hands on a copy of this book: The cover says it all. It encompasses many of my favorite things. Not only is it a picture book (which is my favorite kind of literature), but it's also an ABC book (which I collect), with illustrations of embroidery (which I love to do), based on a quilt (which I enjoy making) that was inspired by one of my favorite picture books. Whew!

Mother Earth's ABC, isn't an A is for apple, B is for bear type of ABC book. Rather, the letters of the alphabet start each line of the poem that tell the story. It begins "A seedling sleeps Beneath frozen trees, Cradled snug against their roots." Thankfully, there is no forced rhyme. The story of the seedling unfolds elegantly through the story, until at the end we discover the seedling has become a Zinnia.

The illustrations are drawings of applique and embroidery, rather than photos of the actual thing, but they are charming and inspiring nonetheless. The back section of the book encourages the reader to try his/her own hand at embroidery and applique, and gives some suggestions on how to get started. This is by no means an introductory or instructional book to the needle arts, though. It serves only as inspiration. But it's a very lovely inspiration!

As far as I can tell, the book Mother Earth and Her Children, which is the original story upon which all these other books are based, was later published as The Story of the Root-Children:

In the story, winter is ending, so Mother Earth awakens her children to prepare the world for spring. They march out onto the earth
and work busily and joyfully through spring, summer, and fall, until winter comes again and Mother Earth calls them back inside to rest.

If anyone knows if Mother Earth and Her Children is actually a different story than The Story of the Root-Children, please let me know.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Paint Situation Resolved!

Thank you very much for your painting suggestions. I had a tense couple of days there, and was seriously wishing I'd never started this project. Part of the stress/anxiety about the situation stemmed from the fact that I am not going to be home much for the next few weeks, so I wanted to get it all DONE by today.

I have found my solution, and I am very pleased with the results. Even as I cringed from how the color clashed with the white coved ceiling, I was admiring how lovely it looked next to our stained wood trim. The whole room glows. This particular paint is formulated to work well with stained wood trims. It's part of a special series from Sherwin Williams, and as far as I can tell, the colors in this series don't have varying shades from light to dark, so trying a different shade of the same color wasn't an option.

I had the brainstorm of trying to find a paint that would match the color of our stain. I know stains are nuanced and paints are monotone, but I thought it was worth a try. I called the nearest paint store and asked if they did color matching. They did, so my husband found a piece of scrap wood in the basement stained the same color as our living room trim (there's a reason to keep odd piles of things squirreled away!), and off I went. For some reason, and I don't know where I got this idea, I had the expectation that "color matching" involved high tech equipment, and I was eager to see how all that worked. Imagine my surprise when the guy simply grabbed a book of color chips and started flipping through it! I was disappointed, not to mention dubious.

However, the first match he showed me was right on the money. I bought a quart in a semi-gloss finish to best match how stain looks. The first coat went on kind of streaky, but amazingly enough, the streakiness makes it mimic wood grain pretty well. And the best part is, the color is the perfect buffer between Hubbard Squash and Flat White!

Ta da!

The white ceiling no longer bothers me. Today I can put my room back together, and when I'm settled back home in a few weeks, I won't have this project still hanging over my head.

Technically, though, the project will still be hanging at my feet, because you know a home improvement project cannot really be THAT easy. I mentioned before that the previous home owners were sloppy painters. Even though they moved out over a decade ago, their footprints linger in our home (quite literally in one room, but we put a throw rug over that!).

See that white strip between the baseboard and the wall? Doesn't it look like I stopped short with my painting? That white strip is the very top of the baseboard. When the previous homeowners painted, they didn't take time to tape the baseboards first. They just painted it the same color as the wall. Eeeesh. I will tackle this problem later. For now, my furniture is going back in place, and I'm packing up the kids to go visit my parents for a few days. I won't be able to post while I'm there, but I am going to try to set up some auto posts while I'm away to see how that blog feature works.
Thanks again for your suggestions! They helped me think through to my eventual solution.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Uh oh

The painting is not going well. I think I've made a terrible mistake.

I like the color on the wall. I like the new molding. I like the white ceiling. What I do not like is the way they are all coming together. Specifically, I do not like how the wall color looks next to white.

What do I do with that molding? If I paint it the color of the wall (which would be easiest), it looks awful against the flat white of the ceiling. If I paint the molding a glossy white, I have the same problem of white clashing with the color. (see both examples in the photo above: glossy white to the left, wall color to the right)

I should have stained the molding. All the other trim in the room is stained. But it's too late, because it's already been primed for painting.

To put it politely: drat!

I need to come up with a trim color. Sherwin Williams suggests Twilight Gray or Library Pewter as accent and trim colors with this wall color. That wouldn't really work with my furniture. Maybe I need to paint it a shade darker than the walls? But then I still have that problem with how it looks against white.


Or maybe I need to paint the ceiling a color other than white.


That's how it's going here...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Another WIP, and a great book

Here is my latest WIP:
My living room. We have had ivory linen walls and ceiling for 14 years. I am so sick of ivory linen walls and ceiling that I could scream. We had no choice but to use a color like ivory linen because the ceilings are coved, and we had no line of demarcation between the walls and ceiling. I didn't want a dark ceiling, so ivory linen it was.
For 14 years.
On the walls and the ceiling.
My ivory linen cave.
In mid-June we made a trip to the lumber store, and after a scary ride home with 19-foot long pieces of picture rail molding sticking out the front window of our van, we were almost ready to begin the living room transformation. Except, of course, my husband couldn't get around to installing the molding because he's a busy guy, so the molding sat on the living room floor for a couple weeks where the kids tripped over it, and I tripped over it, and the cats pawed at it. When my birthday neared a few weeks ago, I begged: Please, the ONLY thing I want for my birthday is for that molding to be installed! And, bless him, he did it, in time for my birthday.
So now it's my turn to paint. Turns out I'm as slow at getting to painting as he was to getting the molding installed. But it's been hot and I haven't been too motivated, and we have been really busy. Anyway. By next week I should have photos of a finished living room to share. It would be embarrassing not to now that I've told you about this, so this is my motivation. The new color will be Sherwin Williams Hubbard Squash, which you can see in the swatch. My sister has walls this color in her house, and I shamelessly stole the idea from her. That beats looking at a bazillion paint chips at home and feeling dizzy with the choices.
One of the things I've been doing instead of painting is reading. I finished Mortal Engines, by Phillip Reeve, yesterday. Wow! I loved it! As I read it I had that same awestruck feeling I had when I read the first Harry Potter book in 1999. The author so deftly creates another world that the reader immediately falls right in and understands it. How can you not be pulled into a book which begins "It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the Old North Sea." Don't you want to find out more?
Our library put Mortal Engines in the teen section, but I think a mature tween can handle it. There is death (sometimes graphic), and there are moral issues to grapple with, as well as having to worry about the fate of mankind, but when I finished it yesterday, I turned the book right over to my son (who will be 11 in August). He has had his nose buried in it most of the day today!
I've read three of Reeve's books: Larklight, it's sequel Starcross, and now Mortal Engines, which is the first book in the Hungry City Chronicles. Reeve's books have a Jules Vern/steampunk feel to them. Those of you with sons, take note. Find some Philip Reeve to read!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dollhouse Book

I discovered this book several years ago and fell in love with it. This is the kind of book I would have pored over as a child, even though the story is rather thin. A peg doll named Peggy is homeless, and as cold weather sets in, she sets out to find a place to live. She is turned away from several occupied homes before she finds an unoccupied (but furnished!) cottage to make her own. I worry that the cottage must belong to someone else, and that Peggy will eventually get kicked out, but the story ends before that happens, so maybe Peggy really does get to live in the cottage all comfy and cozy, happily ever after.

The illustrations are what draw me into this book:

especially the fold-out cut-away views of the interiors of the doll houses. When I was little I loved to draw cut-away views of houses with fully furnished rooms. I liked to imagine tidy attics with sloped ceilings and braided rugs on the floor.
The attention to detail gives this book its charm.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Treasure Hunt

Our first stop on our trip to northern Michigan last week was the C & M Rock Shop, just outside Honor, MI, and not far from the Sleeping Bear Dunes lake shore. A couple years ago on our trip to the dunes I found Lake Michigan Rock Picker's Guide at a book store, and since my son was always picking up rocks on the beach, I bought the book for him. Turns out he is not so much a budding geologist as he is keenly interested in finding projectiles. The book sat unread in his bookcase for the past two years.

My daughter, however, has become quite fascinated with rocks, and fortunately I remembered Lake Michigan Rock Picker's Guide. I hunted for it in my son's room, picked it off his shelf, and gave it to my daughter. She and I both thumbed through it before she packed it in her rock collecting bag. Turns out one of the authors is the owner of the C & M Rock Shop, so we put his store on our list of places to visit this trip.

The store was exactly what I expected: a no-frills building along the main highway, filled with rocks and minerals and crystals, and other interesting things:
The dinosaur manure was not for sale. We found other things to buy, though, and the owner/author was on hand to autograph the book for my daughter.

It is interesting and educational to see all those different rocks, minerals, and fossils from all over the world in one place and displayed together, but it is far more rewarding to go on your own rock hunt on the beach.

These were awesome finds.

They don't look like much dry, do they? They are Petoskey Stones, a favorite for amateur rock hunters on northern Michigan beaches. Petoskey stones are fossilized pieces of a coral reef from a shallow sea that once covered northern Michigan. They are difficult to find, I think mainly because everyone knows what they are and takes them when they see them (which is perfectly permissible). We had very good luck finding them this trip, probably because we were there earlier in the season, so fewer rock hunters were there before us. Also, this year we were much more intent on rock hunting than we've ever been before. Last year my daughter wasn't into rocks yet.
When Petoskey stones get wet, they look like this:
The honeycomb design really comes out. There's nothing like looking down at the pebbles on a shallow lake bed and seeing one of these glimmer back up at you. It's quite unmistakable that you're looking at a Petoskey stone! It's harder to find them when they're dry, because the lines are so faint.
Polished Petoskey stones are a common souvenir in shops in northern Michigan. My daughter bought one at C & M.
It's also common to see them carved into paperweights, refrigerator magnets, and jewelry.
I found most of the Petoskey stones on this trip, which had my daughter feeling kind of frustrated. She really wanted to find one for herself. She did eventually find one of the smaller ones, on dry land no less, so that was a cool feat for her. She also was excited about her other fossil finds.
I honestly don't know much about rocks, but with my daughter's interest, I'm slowly learning a little bit.

I mainly collect heart-shaped rocks. We found a lot of those this time, too.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My Favorite Place

Every summer we head to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Leelanau County, Michigan, for four days of pure summer bliss. Imagine a place with no traffic lights, chain stores, or fast food restaurants. Imagine a place with crystal blue lakes, inland seas, and towering sand dunes; fossilized rocks, sandy creek beds, and cherry orchards; vineyards, harbors, and historic lighthouses; a place where the vacationer's only recreation comes from embracing sand, surf, dunes, and cherries. That place is Leelanau County.

I feel bereft because we just got back from our vacation, and I can't believe I have to wait a whole year to go there again. Usually we go later in the summer, but other obligations forced us to take our trip earlier this year. It doesn't seem right to have it behind us already rather than to still be happily anticipating the get away.

I can't be truly melancholy, though, when we had such a wonderful time. The weather cooperated beautifully!
My son spends his days at the beach constructing elaborate sand cities.

My husband likes to help. My daughter has a keen interest in hunting for rocks. (This is worthy of its own post, so more on that later.)

We all enjoy going on hikes to explore scenic land and waterscapes, although this year the mosquitoes were so horrible we went on only one hike. Fortunately I had bug spray in my backpack, so we saved ourselves from the onslaught, but after that we were afraid to try kayaking or tubing or anything else in the woods.

Watch out for mirages in the dunes! All that shifting sand, rolling terrain, and bright sunlight make things appear not as they are.
One of our traditions is a stop (or two, or three) at Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor. They are serious about cherries at Cherry Republic. Everything in the restaurant and gift shop includes cherries somehow. Cherry ketchup, cherry hot dogs, cherry mustard, cherry bread, cherry jam, cherry cookies, cherry pie, cherry chicken salad, cherry chicken chili, cherry salsa, cherry lemonade, even spoons and bowls made of cherry wood. We eat at least one meal at Cherry Republic, go back again another day for pie and ice cream (12 flavors of ice cream, each with cherry as an ingredient), and then make another stop to pick up food items to bring home.
Here is this year's haul, all of it just for us! I know I can always mail order from them online (or sometimes I can even find some of their products in gift shops far, far from Glen Arbor), but it's not the same as buying it at Cherry Republic headquarters.
This year we arrived on the 4th of July. There were no official fireworks scheduled, but individuals put on their own impressive displays over Sleeping Bear Bay.
We were also treated to a bright crescent moon hanging over a sherbet sunset.

Did you know you can reach out and hold the sun at sunset on the beach?
I can't wait to go back again.
Visit my Flickr page for more vacation photos.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

And the winner is...

Due to an unexpected 21 hour power outtage here at House of Hodgepodge, I am late in announcing the winner of my first give away. Better late than never, though, as I'm sure the winner, Ginny, will agree. Congratulations! Your cupcake will be in the mail soon.

Happy 4th of July to my fellow Americans. I will be gone for a few days, but hope to have lots of fun stories and lovely photos to share upon my return.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Thanks for the nice birthday wishes on my give away post. There is still time to enter to win the crochet cupcake. I won't pick the winner until late tonight.

I had a nice, low-key birthday yesterday. It's a little shocking turning 41, more so than turning 40. Last year I had mentally prepared myself for 40 (or perhaps I was just in denial), but turning 41? Oy. Now I really am IN my 40s! Turning 40 was stepping out of my 30s. Turning 41 was stepping more firmly into that next decade.

My kids had a karate class last evening, so my husband and I took that time to go for a walk around town. Then we all went out to dinner at one of the nicer restaurants. We are quite frugal when it comes to eating out, but we had a very generous gift certificate to this place, and my husband and I both ordered the most expensive dish on the menu. I never order the most expensive thing on the menu, especially when it costs as much as a bag of groceries, but it was my birthday and we had a gift certificate, so we lived it up. The food was delicious, and I felt quite decadent.

My son has his father's sense of humor. He made this for me:

I am now a member of the Old Person Club. He put a graduation date 40 years into the future on the certificate. Let's hope I live longer than just 40 more years. My maternal grandmother lived to be 104!

I'm all about the cutesy decorations for birthdays. I embroidered a cupcake (another Sublime Stitching pattern) and made a small quilt with it using gumdrop fabric.

I also managed to finish the Outer Space quilt this week. Here is a rather blurry photo of it:
I followed my friend's technique for mitered bindings, and succesfully made my first-ever mitered binding!
See, you can teach an old dog new tricks! Thanks for the tutorial, Eggmoney!