Cat gets bird

One morning, I heard a bit of a commotion downstairs early. This isn't unusual: my kids wake up before me nearly every morning lately, especially Red Chief, who enjoys setting his alarm.

This commotion was a bit different, though, and soon Red Chief came up to tell me that he had accidentally let the cat in the house with a dead bird.

That woke me up pretty fast.

The story is that she wanted in, and he could see that she had a bird. He didn't mean to let her in; he was just trying to take pictures of her through the window, but he couldn't see her properly, so he opened the door to go out, and in she came.

In any case, all I have to say is that I'm glad the bird was really 100% dead. Sometimes they aren't.

Photo courtesy of Red Chief, of course.


Doll clothes

This is the second doll outfit I've sewn this summer—and ever, unless you count the crazy things I attempted to make as a child. I made it to match a dress I made for Tiger Lily a long time ago. 

The book I used is called Sew in Style: Make Your Own Doll Clothes (22 Projects for 18" Dolls) by Erin Hentzel. The patterns and instructions are clear, encouraging, and easy to follow, and I think this would be a great book for a girl to sew from.


Red Chief turns eight

Red Chief turned eight. I can't believe my little boy is eight.

He requested marble chiffon cake: rather a specific request for an eight-year-old, but I'd far rather make a marble chiffon cake than a cake shaped like a hippo or something.

Turning eight has meant a lot of changes for Red Chief. He's a cub scout now (and he's read the whole book and practically has it memorized). He started piano lessons this summer. He will be baptized into our church soon.


Small-batch vanilla cupcakes

I made these cupcakes on a whim one night when I wanted a little something sweet. They were just what I wanted, especially when I spread them with some excellent homemade jam from a friend. I love that I wasn't stuck with two dozen cupcakes at the end of the day, too. The recipe is adapted from Baking Day.


Small-batch vanilla cupcakes

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk
1 cup flour

Heat oven to 375°F.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and salt. Add flour and buttermilk.

Batter will be thick. Divide into prepared cupcake pans and bake 15-20 minutes, until beginning to brown.

Makes 10–12 cupcakes.


Too much squash

Our garden has been making tons of squash! I can hardly keep up with it. We froze my biggest pot full of chopped zucchini and summer squash, plus lots and lots of grated zucchini (I paid my kids to do the grating and they were practically fighting over who got to help).

On the same day we harvested the beets, and I cooked them and the greens to freeze too. We also picked two cucumbers and ate them for lunch (no problems keeping up with eating those so far). There is lots of chard and kale to harvest, but that will have to wait for another day. I'm exhausted!


Printable pretend plane tickets


Did you know you can print out very real-looking plane tickets? We do this every six months or so and they generally keep my kids occupied all afternoon. And we certainly needed occupation one afternoon this week.

Here's the website.


Recently tried recipes

Dark chocolate pistachio butter cookie bars. I made these within ten minutes of seeing the recipe. Except I used 1 cup peanut butter instead of the pistachio butter, and I used whole wheat flour, and skipped the sea salt. They are very good and very crumbly. If I make them again, I might add an egg.

Quick crusty bread. Pretty good for such a fast recipe! I'll make this again, and I'm going to try it with whole wheat using the increased amount of water mentioned in the comments.

Summer vegetable soup. We all enjoyed this, although I can't say I followed the recipe exactly. I put in lots of zucchini and Swiss chard, since that's what our garden is producing right now.

Chicken Parmesan meatloaf. I was excited about this recipe, but it was kind of gross and the texture was weird. Oh well.

Cupcake mold pizzas. Red Chief successfully made these by himself with minimal supervision. They were better than I thought they would be (meaning mostly that I was scared of the refrigerated pizza dough but it wasn't that bad). We used normal-sized muffin tins and got eight pizzas.

Thick-cut steaks. I have been meaning to try this steak-cooking method for the longest time, but we just don't eat that much steak. However, Red Chief requested it for his birthday dinner, so I finally gave it a go.  I used the pan method and it worked perfectly. It was probably my first time getting a tender steak that was not overcooked.

Zucchini brownies. We all liked these. I halved the recipe, used less sugar, and added an egg because the batter was very dry. Tiger Lily, who didn't want to try them because I told her the secret ingredient, ended up asking me to make them again.


A new hairbrush for a screaming daughter


Tiger Lily hates having her hair brushed. Hates it. If you walk through our house while I'm doing her hair, you might think she's being tortured or murdered, but really we're just trying to do a ponytail—and I do try to be gentle.

Recently I saw a new sort of hairbrush recommended on a blog. And since I was assured it would work on a variety of hair types without pain, I bought one.

Tiger Lily is in love. There has been no screaming since we got it. She will sit around and brush her hair for fun.  The only problem is that she keeps undoing her hair after I do it so she can brush some more.

I'm still keeping the old brush for styling, but there has been no more screaming since we first remove the tangles with the new brush. My other caveats are: (1) it is contoured for a right hand (and I use both hands when I brush my hair or Tiger Lily's) (it does work fine in the left hand), and (2) I have no idea how well it will last over the long run (my last hairbrush has been going strong for ten years).

If you're having screaming issues with your daughter when you try to do her hair, I would definitely recommend this brush. You can read more about it here if you want more information.


Something to do with their brains

My husband decided to give five-year-old Tiger Lily her first programming lessons this week. It didn't take her long to figure out how to direct a ladybug to hide under a leaf.

Red Chief wanted a go, too, and quickly moved on to guiding the ladybug through a maze.

I'm so glad my husband is willing to spend time to teach my children good things.

Here are the programs we used:
Ladybug leaf
Ladybug mazes


Dilly summer squash refrigerator pickles

Every summer that I plant zucchini or summer squash (and this year I've planted both!), it's a race to keep up with the overly productive plants. I've tried all sorts of things in the past, but this year I'm mostly resorting to sending the extras to work with my husband and hoping they disappear (so far, so good).

Red Chief has been complaining about the sautéed squash with Italian spices that I've been serving lately. He says he prefers his squash raw. He also loves pickles, so I gave this recipe a try.

I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn't sure about pickled zucchini and summer squash, but it's really good, and nice and crunchy. We all loved them and downed nearly an entire quart in one meal.

I've adapted this recipe slightly from here.


Summer squash refrigerator pickles

Sliced summer squash and zucchini to fill a quart jar
1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seed
4 peppercorns
2 cloves garlic
A big sprig of fresh dill, or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed

1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon salt (table salt will make your brine cloudy but that's fine with me)
1/8 teaspoon turmeric

Place the peppercorns, garlic, and dill in the bottom of a quart jar. Pack with squash slices.

Heat remaining ingredients together until they come to a boil. Pour over zucchini. Let sit in refrigerator about 8 hours before serving.