A couple of weekends ago, I had my first experience making pickles; it was a total success! We had quite a few cucumbers on hand from our CSA. First, I have to say that getting involved with community supported agriculture (CSA) is one of the best things Chris and I have done regarding trying to establish ongoing healthy eating habits (french fry-eating binges not withstanding . . . it happens). Most nights we enjoy farm-to-table dinners, which has completely altered our relationship with food, the weather, and our community. If you don’t have the space, time, or energy to devote to your own garden, I encourage you to look into finding a CSA in your area.

Okay, getting off the soapbox now, and back to pickles! In the August issue of Bon Appetit, there was an article about canning, complete with some delish looking recipes, like the one I used here for Bread and Butter Pickles.

While we don’t generally love sweet pickles, these particular ones promised to be both sweet, sour, and spicy, but not too sweet. I figured, well, we’d only have three quarts, so if we didn’t really care for them, we could easily give away three quarts and never use the recipe again.

You start by chopping up a ton of cucumbers and onions and covering the whole thing with salt and ice. Then you walk away for two hours.

Then it’s all about getting the vinegar, spices, and sugar boiling, then adding the cold veggies. Cook them for a bit, and then bottle them up. Place the bottles in a big stock pot filled with boiling water.

Make sure the water fully covers your bottles, but make sure you don’t have too much water either. Once the bottles were in, I had to scoop out a bunch of the water because I knew that when it got boiling again, I’d have water everywhere. Yikes! So out came about two cups of hot, hot water. I’m so glad Chris didn’t see me doing this. (Shhhhh!!)

Okay! Crisis averted. And now to bring the water to a rolling boil. Remember: do not start your timer until the water is rapidly boiling again. And if you’re in Utah, you have to adjust your time for altitude (i.e., add 5 minutes). Then you wait, and nervously hope that your bottles don’t crash into each other and shatter.

Pro tip: Next time, add a clean dish cloth to the bottom of the pot to help keep everything stable. Yup.

Ding! Pickles are done! I turned off the burner and waited another five minutes for all the boiling to stop and for the contents of the jars to chill out. Lifting them out was a bit of a challenge because I didn’t have cool jar-lifting tongs. Again, I’m glad Chris didn’t see me screwing around with dish towels and regular tongs. But not burning myself for the win, right?

Pro tip: Get jar-lifting tongs.

And there you have it. Pickles! For the record: They’re spectacular. Bon Appetit comes through for us again! We’ve almost polished off a full quart of these babies.

Last weekend, I made dill pickles from our mountain of CSA zucchini. These dill pickles had to sit a week before you can taste them, to give them time to pickle and soak up the dilly goodness. They should be ready for a taste test tonight! Hooray!

In which I confess my love of coleslaw

I can’t help it. There’s just something about the combination of crisp veggies and vinegar-based sauce that does it for my tastebuds every time. Yesterday, I had the day off, so I went to town and made Bon Appetit’s delicious Yogurt-marinated Grilled Chicken and classic coleslaw from their grilling issue (July 2011).

The Yogurt-marinated Grilled Chicken was featured in Bon Appetit’s The Providers column and comes from the ultra-cool Jenny Rosentrach and Andy Ward of Dinner: A Love Story. I prepped the chicken during the day, and it marinated for five hours until Chris got home and we tossed it on the grill. It was, as promised, juicy and full of flavor. The garam masala and cilantro added just a little bite of Indian spice. Wonderful.

One of the fab things in the July issue is this article on different slaws. Yum! We’ve made the beet and carrot slaw in addition to last night’s traditional cabbage slaw, and they were both fantastic.

Side note: Adam Rapoport is doing a brilliant job as Bon Appetit’s Editor-in-Chief. The articles are engaging, and the recipes are down-to-earth and consistently delicious. If you haven’t picked up a copy of this magazine lately, do it. Bringing Adam over from GQ was an inspired move.

The Sky’s the Limit

I’m so excited for the weekend–I’m taking Monday and Tuesday off, so I’ll get to enjoy a four-day weekend. Hooray! I have lots of projects that I want to get to: creating a chalkboard for our kitchen, making another batch of chicken noodle soup to pop in the freezer for those nights when I just can’t cook, and making more marinara from the last of our CSA tomatoes. (Both from my mom’s recipes. Yum!) Lots to do! Plus, it’s Chris’s birthday this weekend. He’s taking time off too, so we’re going to spend some time together just hanging out and maybe exploring the canyons a little bit before it starts to snow.

But first, I thought I’d share this happy little card that I made a few nights ago. I love the festive, carnival vibe that the Sassafras cards and My Mind’s Eye papers bring to the Practicing Creativity stamp set. I added a little gauze (a folded flower from K&Company’s Handmade line), and a brad from Stampin’ Up! for a subtle bit of texture. Love how this turned out!

Recipe: Cardstock: Bazzill Basics Paper; Patterned paper: My Mind's Eye; Die cuts: Sassafras; Stamp: Practicing Creativity Designs; Fabric: K&Company; Brad, ink, and punch: Stampin' Up!

Busy, Busy Bees

cupcake card

Wow — it feels like forever since I’ve had a chance to really post. Things have been hectic, but good. We had our countertop installed last week, and it is gorgeous! I’m so excited to almost be to the point where we can cook again: I’ve been rather obsessed with food over the last few weeks. We’ll be hooking up our faucet and disposal this week, and then I’m going to town with the Crockpot, my friends!

Tomorrow night, we’re venturing to IKEA to get organizers for our drawers and then, oh yes, we’re unpacking the kitchen boxes!

Also, I made this cupcake card.

recipe: cardstock and ribbon: american crafts; patterned paper: fancy pants designs; felt accent: sassafras; tag: creative imaginations -- from studio calico baker's dozen kit. punches: stampin' up!

a little shimmer

This crazy card is based on the last 2 Sketches 4 You challenge (Kazan’s Sketch #37), but I didn’t get it done in time for the actual challenge. I turned the sketch on its side and used an oval rather than a circle for the center “framed” portion of the sketch. I’m pretty happy with it and have been brainstorming appropriate occasions for giving it to someone.

My little sister, Tine, just recently bought her first home with her husband, Matt. She’d appreciate the purple shimmer! And, since she doesn’t follow crafting at all, I feel sneaky yet okay about putting this up here on my blog before giving it to her. Ha! While Tine doesn’t follow crafting, she’s an amazing baker of cakes. She said she’s going to put up a baking blog and I can’t wait to share that with you all once she gets going. Mmmm.

recipe: all supplies Stampin' Up! unless otherwise noted. stamps: sweet season; cardstock: very vanilla; patterned paper: cottage wall; chipboard: lovebirds (sei); ink: baja breeze; fibers: ocean tides topnotch twill (pti); tools: scallop edge punch

my first scrapbook page

Oh yes, kids, that’s right. It’s a scrapbook page! My first ever, in fact. I can’t believe how much something so easy freaked me out! Why did I put off scrapbooking? Fear, plain and simple. But sharing so many cards has made me brave — the online crafting community is so incredibly supportive! Besides, as long as I like the page, who cares what anyone else thinks, right?

So, anyway, a little bit about this page. In 2003, my parents and I took a road trip from Utah to Oregon, down the coast and then up through the Willamette Valley. We visited lighthouses, ate amazing seafood, and met so many cool people. All the Willamette Valley wineries were definite highlights of the trip — it’s all about that Oregon Pinot.

This is one of my favorite pics of my mom and me from that awesome trip — we’re at one of the incredible waterfalls over by Astoria. I absolutely adore Oregon and would live there in a heartbeat.

recipe: all products stampin' up! unless otherwise noted. stamps: things I love; cardstock: whisper white; patterned paper: Summer home simply scrappin' kit + june bug (basicgrey); chipboard: on board loads of letters; ink: night of navy + old olive; fibers: real red polka-dot grosgrain ribbon; tools: scallop edge punch + small corner rounder punch + stapler and staples

traveler’s inspiration challenge 4

Isn’t Savitri’s photo stunning? I’ve been dying all weekend to make something using those colors! Thanks to Tina for giving us such a wonderful challenge to participate in and (of course!) to Savitri for providing this week’s photo!

Now, when I sat down to make this, I immediately reached for Crushed Curry, Baja Breeze, and Certainly Celery. But I knew that I also wanted to dig a little bit deeper (yes, the contemplative mood continues).

When I was a kid, my parents had a nectarine tree in our front yard. It grew right outside my bedroom window. To me, springtime will always mean blossoms on that tree, and the smell of the ripening nectarines will always evoke memories of summer. Of running through the sprinkler with my sisters and cousins, our ears sharp for the sound of the ice cream truck. Of laying on my bed reading Rose in Bloom or A Girl of the Limberlost with the window open. There are so many memories woven through with that tree, that scent.

Is it any wonder that Savitri’s image–which has made many of us think of the home–had me creating a Welcome Home Card, with a little nectarine on it? Okay, it could be a peach. {shrugs shoulders and laughs} I’ll let you all make that call.

Here’s hoping that you’re all having a fabulous summer, making lots of memories.

chicago adventures 2009

mom at eno

mom at eno

This year, I attended the American Library Association’s annual conference in Chicago. What an amazing experience! Being a fellow book nerd, my mom came with me, and we had a great time attending events and playing around the city!

Our first stop Thursday evening after checking into the hotel was a fun restaurant, Eno, which specializes in cheese, wine, and chocolate. Yum! Mom and I each ordered a selection of goat cheeses, which were served with two types of bread, a fruit spread, olives, and nuts. We were too full to even consider ordering chocolate. Sacrilege, I know!

Friday was set aside for playing. First on the list? The American Girls store! We picked up some fun Molly and Bitty Baby Twins gear for my nieces, Cali and Jordan. And I couldn’t resist buying a little dress and boots for the Kirsten doll that I’ve had for ages and ages. {Into the trunk they go!} After that it was a quick jaunt to H&M, a must on any big-city trip. We don’t have one in Salt Lake. At this point we had to hurry so we could make our train to Wrigley Field! Two adorable new shirts for me!

The Cubbies got creamed. I’m thrilled to have been at that game though! And so happy that it didn’t get rained out like we thought it would — it was iffy there for a moment. Hot dogs, beer, and the rush of screaming at the Cubbies pitcher when he loaded the bases not once but twice in one inning! The agony! Cards win 8 to 3.

game on

game on

Because of the game delay, we missed the YALSA mixer and fashion show, but that was okay — we were wiped out after the game!

Saturday was an early morning for me — first session on storytimes at 8 am. While my focus is teens, I need to keep up to speed on the latest research in early childhood development and literacy. We don’t have young adult specialists at the county, so . . . off I went to learn about storytime innovations. What a fascinating and fun class!

However, in hind sight, I would have ditched it to mob the Scholastic booth for an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games. More agony! I threw myself on the mercy of the Scholastic publishers and begged for a copy. But they’d printed such a select few of them that there is no possible way I can get one unless someone puts it up for auction on eBay. In which case, I’ll suck it up and wait ‘til September.

judy blume signs mom's book

judy blume signs mom's book

There is, however, a huge bright side. I met Arthur Levine — one of the premiere children’s book editors in the United States and editor of Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books imprint. Go look at the spine of your copy of any US version of Harry Potter. Yes! That Arthur Levine! He was ever so gracious while I begged him for a book.

In the exhibit hall, there were so many free ARCs of books coming out this fall. I, of course, focused on collecting upcoming teen books so that I can read and get my reviews posted on Good Reads before the books actually come out. I didn’t quite make it through all of my ARCs from Mid-Winter conference {sigh}. Bad Kim. They also had seriously discounted copies of books that are already out for sale. Nice! I had a chance to meet and talk with Judy Blume (Blubber; Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; Forever; Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing). Wow — what an inspiration she is! Her books have been challenged, banned, and loved by kids and teens all over the world for at least three decades. Meeting this children’s publishing icon was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll never forget. I also met Debbie Macomber, Cathie Linz, Eloisa James, and Laura Caldwell. Toss out any preconceived notions you might have about romance writers — these women are brilliant! Where else could you find a professor with a PhD in Shakespeare from Yale and a law professor from Loyola who aren’t afraid of some seriously bright pink book covers? {laughs} I’ve got Laura’s contact info, and I need to shoot her an e-mail once I’ve finished her latest book.

clowning around with libba bray

clowning around with libba bray

Other highlights of the trip? The Margaret Edwards award luncheon in which we watched Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak, Catalyst, Wintergirls) receive a lifetime achievement award. The YA Coffee Klatch and Morris Award for a first time YA author — this year’s winner was Elizabeth Bunce for A Curse as Dark as Gold. We were able to meet so many authors at this event! Libba Bray (A Great and Terrible Beauty) was so incredibly funny and energetic! We also met James Kennedy (who my mom swears looks like Hugh Grant), Christopher Meyers (Walter Dean Meyers’ son and a fabulous artist), and Andrew Smith (Ghost Medicine), just to name a few.

We also attended a wonderful gala and film preview at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Look for an outstanding American Masters documentary on Louisa May Alcott airing on your local PBS channel at the end of December. The flimmakers put an extraordinary amount of work into the research and the production. I learned a lot just from the sneak peek!

I went to some amazing sessions as well; notably, the Comics and Censorship panel with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund team and comic book authors Neil Gaiman (also this year’s Newbery award winner for The Graveyard Book), Craig Thompson (Blankets), and Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise). What a wonderful, talented, and funny group of people! They’re so smart and passionate, not to mention so dedicated to promoting literacy and defending first amendment rights. I walked out of that room practically floating.

neil gaiman (right) and the comic book legal defense fund team

neil gaiman (right) and the comic book legal defense fund team

The trip finished with the Michael Printz award and reception, where we heard this year’s honor and prize winners speak. The Printz award is like the Newbery for teen literature. I need to read Jellicoe Road, this year’s winner. I’m happy that I’ve already read some of the honor winners (whew!).

It’s times like this that I’m so unbelievably grateful for my life and the experiences I’ve had. And being able to share all of this with my mom made it even better! I missed Chris terribly, but we kept in touch through instant messaging on our iPhones. Gotta love technology! And I had so much fun sharing the conference with all of you via Twitter!

Later today, I hope to participate in some design challenges — need to get my stamping on! {laughs and shakes head}