January 27, 2010

Home sweet home.

It's early, still dark, and quiet in my little house. My boys are still sleeping but the jet lag got me up early this morning. I've got a cup of tea and the quiet night noises to keep me company: clock ticking like a heartbeat, water rushing by outside the window, fingers tapping on the keyboard. It's good to be home.

Our trip was a whirlwind, here are the highlights:

We saw old friends

And met new friends.

We soaked up the culture

And gobbled up the food.

But mostly this trip was about Family
photo by: Tante Tinie

And it was a big trip for Finn. He saw his other homeland (the Netherlands) for the first time in all its snowy, wintry glory.

He started eating

And grew his first little teeth.

He went skiing with Papa

And sledding too.

And now we're home with our sweet memories and joyful photos. And blessed internet access! Oh, how I missed you!

January 3, 2010

Christmas Wrap-Up

So it turns out I was a bit over ambitious in my Christmas plans. Apparently I was too busy sunbathing in Baja to knit much. Who knew that working with wool while covered with sunblock, sand and baby slobber would be rather unappealing and tricky? I did get a few projects done, however, and now that we've finished up our third and final gift-giving session, I'm finally at liberty to divulge what ended up getting made.

Among the little knit projects that made it onto (and off!) my needles (Toasty, Thermis, Turn a Square, Star Crossed Slouchy Beret, Fetching, Plum Blossom Mittens, and a seed stitch eternity scarf of my own devising) there was one stand-out pattern. A pattern so quick, simple, and fun that I ended up making seven (!) pairs, two of them finished Christmas morning.  And only one pair was for me. They're the felted slippers from French Press Knits, and they are a little bit of magic.

They start with a few pieces of oddly-shaped knit work

Which, after a little seaming, become grossly over-sized slipper-shaped oddities

Which, after felting

and finishing become adorable house slippers!

From start to finish, I can make a pair of these in under two hours, including seaming (and there is a lot of seaming but it's of the "just sew those two pieces together any which way" variety that can be done while your baby is chewing the other end of your work.)  So after making my own pair, I whipped up six more pairs for gift giving.  I gave them out pre-felted with the idea that we'd have a felting party after opening presents on Christmas morning.  


Another lovely feature of this pattern is that they travel well.  They were made in Mexico, finished in California and I'm now wearing them in my sister-in-law's house in Pau, in the southwest of France. They pack well and stand up to getting shoved into a suitcase. And they look great with my new skinny jeans which is handy because, despite being told that all the cool kids are wearing skinny jeans, I've yet to be brave enough to wear them out of the house.


January 1, 2010

Champagne Truffles

Happy 2010!

We rang in the New Years in Pau, in the southwest of France, visiting Arnoud's little sister and her boyfriend, and I have a couple of recommendations for you if you ever come to Pau: eat all the cheese and chocolate you can get your hands on and make sure you're breastfeeding because you are going to need that additional caloric allowance.


Marianne and Seb, our hosts, like to cook even more than we do and made us a spectacular New Years Eve feast of Jerusalem artichoke and arugula soup followed by spinach and roasted tomato cannelloni with homemade (swoon!) noodles. The finish was these beautifully simple chocolate and champagne truffles with a heavy dusting of cocoa. The recipes are from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook and I'm having some serious cookbook envy for this one.


The truffles are rich and decadent but still have a delicate flavor from the addition of champagne. They have a soft center surrounded by a thin layer of chocolate that offers a slight crunch when you bite into them. If you have some leftover champagne from last night, whip these up today and relish the beginning of 2010.


Champagne Truffles

adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook
Feel free to use inexpensive champagne here but splurge on the chocolate, at least 60% cacao for the dark chocolate.

for the truffles
2 ounces milk chocolate, chopped into small pieces
7 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup champagne
2 1/2 Tablespoons brandy

to finish

5 ounces dark chocolate, for coating
cocoa powder for dusting


1. Cover an 8x8 inch square pan with plastic wrap.
2. Place first two ingredients into a heatproof bowl large enough to accommodate all ingredients. Warm the chocolate in a microwave or over a pan of simmering water, stirring periodically with a rubber spatula, until it is semi-melted. Be careful not to burn the chocolate.
3. Pour the champagne and brandy into a small saucepan and heat until hot but not boiling, about 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Add the champagne mixture to the chocolate and stir until it melts completely.
5. Stir in the butter in a few additions and continue stirring until the mixture is smooth.
6. Pour into the prepared pan and chill until it has set, at least 3 hours.

To finish
1. Melt the chocolate for coating in the microwave or over a pan of simmering water. Dump the cocoa onto a flat plate.
2. Turn the chilled chocolate out of the pan onto a sheet of parchment paper on your workspace, remove the plastic wrap. Cut the chocolate into squares (1 to 2 inches per side) using a sharp, long knife. Clean the knife in hot water after every cut.
3. Use a skewer or fork to pick up one chocolate square and dip it into the melted chocolate. Wipe off any excess on the edge of the bowl, quickly roll the square in the cocoa powder, and place on a clean tray. Repeat with remaining squares.
4. Allow the chocolates to set in the fridge but bring them to room temperature before serving.