I am very fond of a certain Japanese hot cake mix. It is easily found in most Japanese groceries, but I’ve yet to see it for sale in Minnesota.
This cute article from Japan Today describes the difference between “hot cakes” and “pancakes.” For me, one of the biggest differences is thickness – see the picture on the box above, each cake is easily a half-inch tall. They also have a lot more sugar and a lot less salt (I never understand why Bisquick mix is so darn salty!), and while you could eat them with syrup, you don’t really need to because they’re already quite sweet.
Because I no longer have easy access to the Morinaga mix, I thought I’d start making hot cakes from scratch. Curiously, I had a hard time finding a recipe. I’m going out on a limb here, but I speculate that just as we Americans like our convenient mixes, so too do the Japanese. I eventually came across this Japanese recipe and used Google translate to understand what it said.
I love automatic translation, partially for its convenience but also because of the weird phrases it produces. Exactly how much is “11 milk 0g”? And I love to add “those little vanilla oil.”
Here is my revised recipe. Bowing a little to American pancake preferences (or else Matt will deem them “Weird” and will not eat any), I make the pancakes a little less sweet (so we can still use syrup) and a little flatter (so we can eat more than 1 before feeling full).
scant 1/3 c sugar
2 1/4 c milk
1/4 c plain yogurt
5 T butter, melted
1 T vanilla
3 c all-purpose flour
1.5 T baking powder
pinch of salt
Heat a griddle before you start preparing the batter. I use an electric tabletop griddle, and the temp that works for me is 325 F. (Whether it really is that temperature is debatable, but that’s what the dial says when the pancakes cook nicely.)
Mix together the eggs, sugar, milk, yogurt, butter, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet, stir until homogeneous, and begin cooking pancakes immediately.
I pour hot cakes using a large cookie scoop. It makes a 4″-diameter pancake, a size that makes us all happy. This recipe makes about 30 pancakes, which is enough to feed everyone breakfast and have a few left over for pseudo-dorayaki.
Hot cakes! Eat ‘em up, yum.
PS. It’s also my birthday today! Go eat some cake!
The house closing that almost wasn’t
Saturday June 01st 2013, 1:37 pm
Filed under: Misc
I got a funny call from Matt 1 day before we were scheduled to make settlement on the house. The title company had notified him that the closing was cancelled – apparently, the seller’s signed and notarized papers were lost in transit from Canada and had been missing for ~4 days. The seller’s secretary, who had prepared the mailing, accidentally wrote “Rochester, NY” on the packing label, and the courier ignored the correctly indicated zip code and sent the package to no particular place on the East Coast.
But all’s well that ends well, our realtor managed to identify someone at the shipping company who located the package on the last possible day and sent it back to MN. The papers arrived at the title office ~3 hours before we came to sign everything. Hooray for happy endings!
For the past month-plus, we’ve been unpacking… and unpacking… and unpacking. We have a lot of… stuff, that’s for sure. I feel like I’m totally over stashing, or at least buying without a definitive plan.
Girls making “snow angels” on packing paper
We’ve been meeting neighbors. Seeing what perennials are popping up (rhubarb!). We’ve also had deer and wild turkeys amble across the backyard. It’s idyllic, in many senses. (Other than, y’know, that aspect of my life in which I am driven totally insane by 3 young children…)
Riding impromptu witch broomsticks or hobby horses
We are so glad that our 2.5-year house hunt is over. With the huge weight lifted off my shoulders, I’m ready to claim that brainspace back for more creative endeavors.
Fun things are afoot
When you buy a ball of yarn that has this picture on the label:
Don’t you sort of expect that the actual sock will look something like the one in the image?
Um… wow, it didn’t look anything even remotely like that zigzag pattern!
But that’s OK. I use the same sock recipe as before (this pattern, this cast on, this bind off), and I love the finished socks no matter what.
In other news, we are thisclose to making settlement on a house. We’re still about 2 weeks away from the big day, but I guess I’m not worried about jinxing the deal by talking about it here. We’ve been eyeing the Rochester real estate market ever since Matt accepted his job at Mayo 2.5 years ago, and house hunting began in earnest around May or June of last year, when we had finalized a purchase agreement to sell our Northfield home. We’d made a few offers and had come pretty close to buying late last summer, but they never went through for one reason or another (other wealthier bidders, inspection-identified issues, etc). Finally, it’s our turn.
I am thrilled about this place, and I don’t say that lightly (uh, as fussy as I am, it takes a lot to thrill me). Our house-to-be is big enough for all the girls to have some privacy as they get older, enough bathrooms and a water heater sufficient for a family with 4 girl-women (poor Matt!), a sweet kitchen with a ton of storage and prep space (really designed for someone who COOKS, as opposed to someone who mostly heats up food), a finished walkout basement. It’s in a great school district and is <10 minutes' drive from the Mayo campus. Not a ton of yard to mow, but it's enough to maybe put up a small garden and compost bin. Judging from the number of snowmen I'm seeing in the neighboring yards, there are younger children in the area.
Pinch me, I must be dreaming.
We don’t have a lot of furniture (I mean, why buy a bedroom set when you can buy an artisan spinning wheel instead, ha), and I’ve never really tried to decorate a home before, so there’s a lot to think about and learn. Maybe I will blog about some of that. But we’re in no hurry. I can’t wait to move, though!
I apologize for the picture quality. We are living in a rental townhome that has – quite literally – no natural light whatsoever. It stinks, especially in the winter. I tried taking photos without the flash, but you couldn’t see a darn detail, so flash it is, complete with nasty shadows from the mirror to my right.
I haven’t given up on sewing yet and made the skirt and the belt in this outfit. I know it doesn’t look like much, but it’s good enough to wear to work, which is saying something. This skirt is made of some mystery fabric that is probably at least partially polyester and rayon. It has an elastic waist (yay comfort) and is cut on the bias and even has a lining!
The skirt was drafted following the instructions at Angry Chicken. She calls it a “5-minute Skirt,” so shhh… don’t tell her it took me about 8 hours from taking my measurements to finishing the crocheted thread chains that hold the lining in place. I drafted the back to be about a half inch longer than the front, figuring it needed extra length to go over my rear, but the hemline actually is slightly slanted when you look from the side. Guess the curves of my belly and my rear cancel each other out?
My weight is kind of a moving target these days, so the fit currently is a little large (as evidenced by the puckers in the center back). Still, I’m pleased with how it turned out.
The belt (obi, sash, whatever you want to call it) was made using Mimi G’s free pattern and tutorial. I made this from 2 layers of lycra cotton jersey, doubled so it won’t curl. Great little tutorial, very easy to follow. The sash is very flattering (even for my rectangular figure), although Matt makes pirate jokes when he sees it.
I also sewed a cowl-neck top. I am a big fan of draped necklines, they seem indescribably elegant. The pattern I used is called Day-to-Night Drape Top. (Interestingly, when I was dictating notes into my Android phone, it recorded the pattern name as “Stay Tonight Grape Top.”) To make the shirt more Minnesota friendly, I put the sleeves from her Birgitte t shirt pattern on it per the designer’s suggestion. The fabric is an ITY jersey (poly-lycra stretchy knit).
Not bad, right? I wear this to work sometimes, too.
Again, the designer says something like it’ll take you an hour from cutting fabric to a wearable shirt, and it took me… Omg, a month or more, working a couple hours a week. I made mistake after mistake – first measured myself wrong and made the wrong size, cut the front piece so that there was a flower blossoming right at the apex of my bust, misread the instructions and had to sew the back neck about 3 times before it looked right…
The whole process of sewing continues to be part satisfying, part irritating. Measuring, cutting, sewing, pressing – the whole process still seems so alien to me. Nothing turns out quite as I imagined, but I’m nevertheless putting together clothes that can be seen in public. Call it a tentative win? I don’t know. I just keep plugging away and hoping I improve.
In other random thoughts, I took about 1244 pictures (with my tripod and remote) to get 4 that I felt were OK to post. I used to never hate being photographed, but now I feel kind of weird having my picture taken. I don’t have any real “body issues” – that is to say, I know how I look, and I’m OK with it – but what is with this middle-aged awkwardness? I deleted the forced smiles, stiff expressions, jazz hands – you can thank me later.
Are you a young person?
Friday January 25th 2013, 1:08 pm
Filed under: Misc
If I call you, a customer service representative, and ask for information, do you make everything sound like question? Even statements of fact?
“Our mortgage officer isn’t here right now?”
“His name is Darrin?”
Are you aware of your absurd voice inflection? Do you realize it makes you sound unprofessional at best (and clueless at worst)?
(PS. I’m also equally irritated by e-mail salutations of “Hey,” from people I barely know.)
Tuesday January 08th 2013, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Family
I made blankets! When this project idea was born, I thought I’d just serge 2 pieces of cotton jersey together and be done. (We have receiving blankets that are just like this, and the girls love ‘em.)
But we all know I can’t leave a simple project alone. This turned into an interesting undertaking (x3) because I learned a lot of stuff. But before we go into that, here’s the fabric, a cotton-lycra blend (purchased at GirlCharlee; NAYY).
I washed and dried the yardage several times and cut 3 blankets that were 38″x58-ish” (smidge over 1 yard x full width), following recommendations that I’d seen online that toddler quilts be about 36×50 inches.
Ruffles – I learned how to make a rolled edge on my serger following this tutorial. I decided to make it a lettuce edge and set my serger’s differential feed to maximal stretch and also yanked the heck out of the edge to make it super-duper wavy.
I tried the gathering foot on my sewing machine but couldn’t get it to perform consistently well. You can see that on the same strip, sometimes it would make terrific ruffles (bottom part) and then have a “dead zone” of mostly flat fabric (top part).
So I used a ruffler foot and followed this tutorial to determine my desired ruffle settings. (Excellent tutorial, btw. I intend to go back and make all the samples suggested so that I have a standard chart to refer to the next time I need to make a gazillion miles of ruffles.)
One thing that I don’t think was addressed in the tutorial was that stitching speed can affect the degree of ruffling. I tend to sew very slowly at first and then speed up as I gain confidence, except – oops.
Not a camera trick
If I’m remembering right, stitching faster made the ruffles deeper and the strip shorter.
Attaching the ruffle was simple – just draw a border on the main fabric and attach the ruffle with straight stitches. I decided to curve the corners (slap a dinner plate down and draw around the curve) because I didn’t want to deal with trying to fit the ruffle around a sharp corner. When 1 ruffle strip ended and the other began, I just curved one piece down and overlapped it with another piece curving up.
Applique – I had little pieces of quilting cotton with the girls’ drawings on them that I thought to use as appliques. (I got them via a school fundraiser, the kids draw stuff, it’s digitized and printed onto mugs, t-shirts, pillowcases, etc, and I chose to get quilt squares.)
Here’s one that didn’t make it onto the blankets
Having never appliqued anything before, let alone a stiff woven onto a stretchy knit, I wanted a tutorial. I followed this one and also the instructions on the package of Steam-A-Seam Lite (SASL; like a fusible double-sided sticky sheet).
Basically, peel off 1 cover of the SASL and stick it on the back of the applique, cut the applique and SASL together, then peel off the other cover, position, fuse onto the blanket fabric, and zig-zag stitch around the edge. Before fusing the first one, I stabilized the knit on the wrong side with iron-on/tear-away paper, but it turned out that the applique fabric was so freaking stiff from the digitized image printing, further stabilization wasn’t necessary.
Quilting – When I finally put the 2 layers together, I thought the blanket felt wimpy-thin and belatedly remembered that the receiving blankets that I’d first modeled this project on always seem kind of off-grain and rumpled… so I decided to add a quilt batting. The Warm and Natural cotton batting (available at Joann’s, wait for a sale or coupon) had good reviews. I used June Tailor washable spray adhesive (OMG, stinky) to stick 1 side of the blanket to the batting. I then sewed the 2 halves right sides together, left a hole for turning, turned and closed the hole, and topstitched around the edge
I couldn’t imagine machine quilting (I have no idea how to do it, especially on unstable cotton-lycra jersey), nor could I imaging fudging my way through machine quilting 3 blankets, so I decided to sew these really crooked eyelets to pseudo-tie the quilt together.
I had to fake-hoop the fabric in my hands to make the eyelets. Essentially, I squooshed extra fabric in the general vicinity of the feed dogs so that nothing was under tension from the rest of the blanket pulling downward off the table. This theoretically allowed the feed dogs to move the heavy blanket around in the circle, but as you can see, it didn’t always work. Mmm, crookedness is part of the charm, OK?
They were washed and dried and presented to the children. They were a hit! My heart sings when I see how much they love their blankets.
Jordan, Casey, Meredith
Play dress and leggings
Meredith’s favorite clothes are still the play dress and leggings. I made an outfit for her last year and thought I’d try my hand at a different pattern this winter. These are both “wearable muslins” made with fabric that I’d originally bought with the intention of sewing cloth diapers. Now that I know the patterns work (and how I’d like to tweak the top a little), I’m ready to use up some of the more expensive fabrics that I’ve been purchasing for the girls.
Striking her pose (click here for a back view)
The dress is the Hopscotch top by oliver+s. The pattern also includes a skirt, which I did not make this time. It is very similar to a t-shirt but with an extra style boost via the crossover neckline. There’s a little bit of gathering at the front center, too. To make the dress from the top, the pattern is simply extended (A-line) to dress length, with no changes to the bodice.
Sorry about the picture quality, I have no daylight hours for photography, and the wall color is a pretty awful background for a mostly-white dress. You might be able to see the crossover detail a little better in the photo below.
The pattern directions were nicely written and well illustrated, so the construction was pretty straightforward. The pattern was drafted well, all the pieces came together and seams matched up. I used Lastin (clear swimsuit elastic) instead of the recommended interfacing or twill tape to stabilize the shoulders and front seam. I added elastic to the sleeve cuffs at the last minute, but it was probably unnecessary. I deepened the hem to 1 inch because I dislike how narrow jersey hems curl and flip upward after a few washes, and I am not about to pull out an iron every time I wash a kid’s play dress. I constructed it using a sewing machine, serger, and coverstitch machine. (Hey, if I have the machines, I want to use them!)
Meredith prefers her tops and dresses to be very loose fitting, with the sleeves extra long (covering her wrists). Even though her measurements indicated she should be a size 5, I cut a size 7 to give her the extra ease. What’s a bit weird is that the neck opening is still somewhat tight and we have to force a little to pop her head through it every time (crowning, ha ha). I did double-check to make sure I had traced the right size. She may have her mama’s giant noggin. Next time I sew this, I will lengthen the upper bodice piece to give her more head room.
All in all, I’m not sure that I really like this as a dress – the crossover is very near the top, and the rest of the dress just hangs from that seam (sort of boring and reminds me of a nightgown). I guess that’s why the pattern is pictured as a shirt and separate skirt with an interesting pocket detail and a row of buttons!
The leggings are made using Jalie 2920. This is a very simple pattern – 1 piece. No side seams, just the inseam and center seam, and a foldover waistband. I had a sizing problem with this pattern, too. By her measurements, Meredith should be a size I, and that’s the size I dutifully traced out. It seemed short, but that was consistent with this review, so I just lengthened the legs substantially. I sewed the 2 seams and had her try it on. Uh oh, it was skin-tight (no pictures, it was positively indecent).
Attempt #2, I measured some of her favorite Hanna Andersson leggings at the high thigh (just under the crotch seam) and the inseam, and I picked a corresponding pattern size (now size M). I made the new pair with no changes, and these leggings were comfortable and the proper length. Go figure.
I do like this simple pattern, and given that it has a range that that goes from toddler to plus-size adults, I can see myself in a pair of these leggings someday, too. Just have to remember to measure the pattern and compare it against something that fits (not just blindly follow the size chart).
The fabric for the dress is a medium-weight cotton jersey without much stretch (which might explain why the neck seems small). The leggings are a thinner cotton-lycra jersey. Both are from Fresh Produce (but purchased via Girl Charlee). If you’re interested in technical details, the review of the dress is here and the review of the leggings is here.
Wednesday December 26th 2012, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Misc
Hey, it’s navel-gazing time again!
1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
I sold a house!
That was hard. Tears were shed, people.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I had no resolutions to keep or fail, but about a month or so ago, I started making a daily “date” with myself. From 9-10 PM, my time is mine to spend as I please. Kids are in bed by then (albeit often awake and protesting [yelling]) and there will always be more housework whether I spend that hour cleaning or not, so for 60 minutes, I pursue my own pleasure. I’d like to continue this into the next year.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, my SIL had a beautiful baby girl, Ivy, in October.
We hope to meet her next summer.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Sadly, yes. This spring, we lost Kiff, Matt’s closest friend of several decades. He was our best man when Matt and I married in 2004.
In the late summer, my Uncle Larry died. Just before Thanksgiving, my BIL’s mother passed away.
5. What countries did you visit?
We stayed in the good old US of A.
6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Last year, I said, “I would like to buy a house in Rochester.” Funny, that is STILL my goal. We are in a rental townhome that I loathe. (Drafty! Dysfunctional stove! Rodents! But a great location. Ah well.)
7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
August 15. House closing date. I was so glad and yet so sad to sell that house.
August 25. We had a family medical emergency that ended up with 2 daughters in the ER (and 1 later transferred to the ICU). Horrible, horrible weekend. We had to make drastic changes in our lifestyle afterward. The girls are OK now.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Uhm… I made a million meals, washed 10 tons of laundry, tied a thousand ponytails, and read the same 92 children’s books until my eyes bled. I have no single trailblazing achievement of awesomeness but tried do my best at home and at work every day.
9. What was your biggest failure?
God help me, when my girls say crap like “I don’t LIKE YOU” and “I’m MAD at MOMMY, go AWAY” (shove, shove) I still find it so hard not to take it personally. I know I shouldn’t. I know their moods change at the drop of a hat (“Mommy, I not mad anymore. I a happy girl!”). But when all 3 of them can’t stand me, even momentarily, because I want to put socks on their feet or because I give them dreadful spaghetti dinner, I just get tears in my eyes.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nah. Everything wrong with my body can be directly traced back to 1) chronic sleep deprivation or 2) daycare germs. Handwashing, shmandwashing.
11. Where did most of your money go?
1) Daycare. 2) Housing (mortgage, moving expenses, rent). 3) Taxes. 4) Biggest single expense of the year – a new laptop after my old one bricked suddenly.
12. What was the best thing you bought?
With our housing hullabaloo and the unexpected family medical concerns/expenses, it’s been hard to get excited about “stuff” this year. However, after resisting the New York Times paywall for >1 yr, I finally succumbed to the siren call and bought myself a subscription (with an education discount, yes!). NPR no longer dictates what I learn about current events. (Too much political coverage, sheesh!)
13. What did you get really excited about?
I was glad that we finally moved to Rochester. Two years had passed since we decided to leave Northfield, it was a long time to hold my breath (so to speak). I guess it is more relief than excitement.
14. Compared with this time last year, are you:
– happier or sadder? Hm, sadder, I think. This year was very stressful. In addition to family stuff, we had a very tough year at work, too (double the workload due to changes in intradepartmental billing policy but no allowances to increase staff).
– thinner or fatter? Fatter! I’ve had an unusual weight gain this year, 10 lbs in ~6 mo. It is a little annoying/puzzling. Not carrying the children around as much anymore? Stress eating?
– richer or poorer? Poooooorer. We sold our house at a sizable loss. We weren’t underwater with our mortgage, but having purchased the house in 2005, we were pretty much guaranteed to lose a chunk of change when it finally sold.
15. What do you wish you’d done more of?
16. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Commuting. (Ha – check that off my list!)
17. How did you spend Christmas?
At home with Matt and the girls. Santa actually came on Sunday instead of Tuesday, to take advantage of our 4-day weekend. No sense having all those toys under wraps for 3 home days. Actually, Santa would have come on Saturday, if only I’d wrapped the mail-ordered presents ahead of time…
18. What were your favorite books of the year?
I surprised myself by really digging Cutting for Stone. If you like medical drama (written by a physician, this has heavy emphasis on the medical aspects), this book is for you!
19. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I don’t remember what I did on my birthday! Ha. I am 38. And senile, apparently.
20. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I wish the girls didn’t fight so much. Being 2, 2, and 4 years old, they’re not great at sharing yet (although they do have their moments of incredible sisterly kindness). We hear a lot of “That’s MINE!” and “No, it’s NOT!” (back-and-forth yelling), and there’s a fair bit of jealousy that flares up over the dumbest stuff (eg, Mom gave Sister a candy, she must love her more than she loves me, I will therefore wail and freak out). But 30 seconds later, they can be sharing and hugging and laughing like crazy, even as tears are still wet on their cheeks. I wish I could stay a little less involved emotionally when they catfight, it kills me to hear them go at each other.
21. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
This year, I’m really favoring knit dresses, maxi skirts, jersey blouses. I am all about dressing up for work in clothes as comfy as pajamas, except for the mandatory pantyhose.
22. What kept you sane?
Remembering happier times. Thinking about a better future. Despite all the virtues of mindfulness, being in the present often made me feel sad and stressed out this year.
23. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
If you’re alive tomorrow, you get another chance.
Thanks for coming by this year! I wish you the best in 2013.
This just in
Thursday December 20th 2012, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Knitting
New York Times editors appear to not know what Fair Isle looks like! Or, rather, they seem to have confused “Fair Isle” with “color stranding.”
(See slideshow, entries 1, 7, 9-11, and 14. I’m additionally dubious about entries 3 and 5 even being knitted.)
Don’t know the difference? See here or here or here.
Tuesday December 18th 2012, 1:07 pm
Filed under: Family
My family moved to Illinois in the mid 70s. Illinois is tornado country, as is much of the Midwest. I remember practicing tornado drills in my elementary school. The intercom would buzz, we’d hear the announcement from the principal, and class would be suspended for a few minutes. We’d file out in single lines, follow the teachers to an inner corridor without windows, face our lockers, and drop to the floor. We were instructed to “curl up like turtles,” crouch on the floor with our heads touching our knees, hands protecting our heads from imaginary flying debris. We’d stay in this position for 10 or so minutes, occasionally stealing glances upward at our teachers, who solemnly paced the hallways and reminded us to stay silent.
We did have a few severe storms that I can remember, but they always were predicted days in advance and never seemed as bad as the dire forecasts. (But boy, once you see the “pea soup” sky, you never forget it!) In any case, I think my grade-school friends and I felt pretty confident that as long as we were indoors, in a basement, and away from windows when a bad storm hit, we’d be OK. Maybe the roof would be ripped up or something, but we’d be fine, our families would be fine.
The new reality is that children these days practice lockdowns. Last year, a West Coast mommyblogger that I follow talked about her 6-year-old’s drill, during which the teacher turned off lights and locked the door, covered the door window with black paper, and had the children hide silently by their cubbies while the principal walked through the hallways, rattling the doorknobs. I was naively shocked to read about it – and sorry as hell that as a society, we have stooped to the point where these drills must be practiced.
What kind of life are we living, that young children nationwide routinely are being prepared to face a surprise attack by a lunatic with an assault rifle and hundreds of bullets? Is teaching my children how to play dead going to be part of my Mommy-skillz arsenal? And how am I supposed to tell them that there may be no warning for these attacks and no reassurance that if you do what you practiced during the drill, you’ll be OK?
I’ve cried with the news. I’ve hugged my children. I’ve written to my local government representatives (you can, too). I don’t know what else to do in the meantime, so it’s just back to working, making dinner, doing laundry, wiping runny noses. And being sadly grateful for the mundaneness of it all.