Archive for March, 2008


cleaning products

Lately I’ve been re-examining my house cleaning methods, or more particularly my house cleaning products. I’ve known for a while that I’ve probably been going a little overboard with my ‘bleach everything’ policy, and so I’ve slowly been warming up the ‘vinegar and baking soda method’ of cleaning. After doing some reading this morning, I’ve decided to launch into it and do away with my many bottles of specialized cleaning products and try to simplify it down to a few products that are easier to store and safer to use. One thing I’m wondering about though is a good all purpose cleaner. I’ve looked at that new line of Clorox Green Works products, and I’m considering their all purpose cleaner. I’m wondering, has anyone used that? Do you have any other suggestions for ‘safer’ cleaning products?


National Cherry Blossom Festival

If you live near DC, today would be the day to pack a lunch and take the Metro down to the National Mall. Today is the opening ceremony & family day for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. It’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in beauty, history and culture.  Click here for details, hours and how to get there.


soil conditioner

I know that some of you are starting to work in your gardens, and so I thought that I’d tell you about this wonderful product (do I sound like an infomercial?). This is Whitney Farms Soil Conditioner, and I can personally vouch for its effectiveness. Whitney Farms is a small division of the Scott’s company (think Miracle-Gro, Osmocote, and lots of other garden products) that deals exclusively in organic soil ammendments, fertilizers, and potting mixes. Their products are available locally at Crossroads Nursery, and probably some other places that I don’t know about yet.

But back to the soil conditioner. Back when I worked at Crossroads, I did a little experiment. I had two identical planting beds that I was going to fill with our left-over gladiolus bulbs so that we could maybe have some cut flowers. I used the Whitney Farms Soil Conditioner in one bed, and then a bagged compost in the other bed (each mixed in with the existing soil). The bulbs in the Soil Conditioner bed came up markedly sooner, brighter, and fuller than those in the other bed. Now, I don’t know if it is only our Palouse soil that benefits so greatly from this product or what, but I was very impressed with it. So, if you’re starting to dress your beds for springtime planting, I highly recommend picking up a couple of bags of this stuff!


snow in march

Last night we had a bit of a freak snowstorm that left us with about 3″ on our cars this morning. There was a break in the clouds last night after the first bit of snow fell, and I couldn’t resist using the five second exposure on my camera to get these shots. Special thanks to a number of Harry Potter volumes that served as a makeshift tripod (as you can imagine, at a 5 second exposure time, the camera had to be pretty still).


jam thumbprints

Here are some cookies that I made back before our Seattle trip that I just haven’t gotten around to posting yet. They’re absolutely fabulous, and a tangy berry jam gives the sweet shortbread just the right amount of balance.

Jam Thumbprints
compliments of the Barefoot Contessa

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
Raspberry and/or apricot jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until just combined, and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. (If you have a scale, they should each weigh 1-ounce.) Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut.
Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown. Cool and serve.

A variation (useful if you’re out of jam, like I found myself to be the other day), is to not put an indentation in the top or use jam, but just bake the little balls of shortbread and coconut. When they come out of the oven, drizzle them with melted chocolate mixed with a little butter and heavy cream (and maybe a touch of coconut rum to round out that coconut flavor). If you find that your chocolate mixture is difficult to drizzle, put it in a ziploc bag and cut the tiniest hole out of one of the corners and use it like a pastry bag to ‘write’ fun designs on the tops of the cookies.


baby blanket

I find it very difficult to resist those super soft and fluffy skeins of yarn at the craft store. I just want to carry them around with me and squish them between my fingers. I succumbed a few weeks ago and bough four skeins of fluffy white yarn and decided that it should be made into a baby blanket, because no-one needs that kind of soft fluffiness like a newborn does. I used an arcade stitch that I’ve used before, and am fairly pleased with the results. The only drawback is that it’s a synthetic yarn, so it will not stay nice and fluffy forever but will get kind of stringy and lumpy after a while, but like I said, I find it difficult to resist.


easter gifts

I picked up this darling little doll bed for $19 at Ikea last week while we were in Seattle. I have a bunch of scraps left over from piecing together this quilt, so I thought I’d throw together a little doll blanket to go with B’s new little doll bed for Easter. It was incredibly simple, since I wasn’t following a pattern. I just sewed together some scraps, evened up the edges, sewed those together, evened up the edges again, put a border on, machine quilted it (a new experiment for me) and bound it! The piecing and machine quilting took me about an hour and a half to two hours, and then it took me a half-hour or so to hand stitch the binding to the back. I’m quite pleased with it, and I really enjoy the idea of being able to make a new little doll quilt for B in one day (great for emergency gifts!!).
The picture was taken on our bed because that’s where I had to hide the thing after I put it together on Thursday night. Unfortunately, I came down with the 24-hour flu early Saturday morning and so we pulled out the new doll bed and every other interesting toy and kids’ movie we owned to entertain B while I languished on the couch and Andrew went off to work (he works afternoons and nights on some Saturdays). So her Easter gift came a little early, but she still appreciated it muchly. Now we are all back to normal, and B loves tucking in her dolls and kissing them ‘night night’ in their new little bed.

I hope you all had a lovely Easter!