May 2020 Recap

Ahem Ahem!, Newsletters, Thumbs Up

At the end of the month, Massachusetts moved into the first stage of gradual opening. Accordingly, I’m happy to announce that Playfully Grownup Home on Etsy is open!

2019 Nov Dec Green Blue Collage

Please note: Due to the difficulties and delays in shipping internationally, at this point I will only deliver orders to the USA.

(I’m very sorry to have to do this, but as long as it’s impossible to tell how long shipping will take – or whether an order is going to reach its destination at all! – I can’t in good conscience inflict that kind of stress on my customers.)

From May 25, the first non-essential businesses were allowed to open, as long as certain precautions were in place. I have to say that, of all the business-related paperwork I ever expected to have to fill out, this wasn’t on the list: Massachusetts state Covid-19 Control Plan template form.

Covid-19 Control Plan Form

Fortunately for me, since I operate a one-person microbusiness, the procedures were really easy. I did write an outline of how I work during the covid-19 pandemic. If you’re so inclined, please have a look and let me know if you have any concerns.

Also during May, the Massachusetts confirmed cases finally, FINALLY, leveled! It took about 2 months, a month later than originally predicted. The hospitalizations graph had been trending down for longer than that, though. We’re not out of it yet, but I’m so happy and relieved we’re seeing definite signs of improvement!

The mild symptoms I mentioned in the April recap are unfortunately still with me, plus my eyes have started to itch. As far as I can tell this means they’re allergy- or asthma-based, so I’m not too worried, only inconvenienced. Other people are also reporting a bad allergy year, so it’s not just our neck of the continent.

May is also when the nature here absolutely, definitively moved on to spring: we’ve seen so many critters and birds come out to enjoy the sun, including this wild bunny hiding amongst tall grass:

Bunny Hiding in Tall Grass

We’ve puttered around the garden since it warmed up and finished some long-running outdoor projects. (And mowed for the first time.) My latest one is trying to transplant some wild violets into what I hope will become a natural bed by the backyard flagstone landing.

Violets Transplanted

I love our violets. You can’t really see it in this photo, but there are both white and purple ones. They’ve been especially welcome this spring, as are the other flowers. The best thing about them, though, is that the violets came along for a ride with some raspberry canes we got from Husband’s grandmother, who is no longer with us.

Foodwise, we’re managing with 2-week grocery runs, although at times it means ex tempore solutions and trial and error. Husband experimented with store-bought puff pastry and unsweetened apple sauce. Voila – an apple puff pastry loaf with pearl sugar on top.

Apple Puff Pastry Loaf

It was as delicious as it looks – instead of just sugar, you could taste the ingredients. This will be a keeper.

Stay safe. I know it’s more difficult now, 2 months into our new covid-19 world. My urge to go out to eat, go see a movie or visit the library like in the Before Times comes and goes. Mostly I’m okay being at home. I’m missing the ease of getting physical media from the library most of all. Maybe soon! ❤

November 2019 Recap

Newsletters

First, here’s the obligatory seasonal self-promo tidbit:

This year I tried a different approach to the holidays sales: the earlier you shop, the bigger your discount. Shoppers have just today and tomorrow left to save 25% on orders of $29 value!

Starting the day after tomorrow, December 01, shoppers can receive 15 % off their orders (same $29 minimum).

Click here to shop: Playfully Grownup Home on Etsy!

2019 Nov Dec Green Blue Collage

Remember, the December sale runs only through December 10, and I’ll close the shop for the season at 9 p.m. EST on Wednesday, December 11, 2019.

That’s so soon, yikes!

In my personal life, too, things are a bit busy, so the Thanksgiving break was very welcome. Each year, never mind how early I try to start my Christmas prep, December always sneaks up on me. 🙂

Xmas Cards

Although perhaps I shouldn’t say “always”, for I do have a rather respectable start already. It’s just that the staff at the Finnish post office threw everyone a curveball this November and went on strike. Even having my cards and packages wrapped and ready doesn’t guarantee that they’ll make it there this year; they might arrive as late as early January 2020.

Simple Gift Wrapping

Fortunately almost everyone is now online or has a phone with texting, so I can at least send holiday wishes electronically, although the packages cannot be helped.

For Thanksgiving – which for us this year was a delightful friendsgiving – I refreshed my rose hip bouquet and added red apples into the bowl as well. Husband made spiced, mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potato this year, and it was good. We might adopt it as a staple.

Thx Rose Hip Bouquet

And even if there’s less light, November definitely has its share of natural beauty, especially around sunset.

Red November Sunset

Blue November Evening

I just love the moment when everything looks blue (sininen hetki in Finnish, literally ‘blue moment’).

How was your November?

October 2019 Recap

Newsletters

This October, I’ve continued the gift bag project I started last month. In addition to roughly book-sized baggies I’ve tried a larger size for sweaters or other clothes. My thinking is that they could also be used as off-season storage bags or organizers for travel wear, for instance, and not just gift bags.

Personally I’ve really come to like stuffing my underwear and socks into small fabric bags when packing for a trip; they’re so much easier to handle in a larger bunch. Confinement into a baggie also prevents them from being scattered all over in the luggage should the ride be bumpy.

Here are three of the small prototypes:

Gift Bag Prototypes 3 Small Ones

October is undeniably a fall month here in New England. It’s time to start putting the garden to bed, although every year I am re-astonished of how long the growing season continues. Husband and I’ve enjoyed the season. We visited a farmstand to get some bulk supplies…

Farmstand Fall Pumpkin Display

Farmstand Apple Selection

…and pickled our own cukes:

Pickles Done

Although early October was cloudy, we have also had sunny days. The bees are still out, but chipmunks seem to have retired for their winter hibernation.

October Wild Flowers

And Thursday is Halloween! Are you ready for trick-or-treaters?

April 2019 Recap

Newsletters

Like last month, I’ve done some prototype work this April. For a while I’ve wondered about using felt as interfacing in various projects. We’ve already been using my two placemat prototypes for over six months; they seem to be holding well.

This time I started a purse. Here are the fabrics during the color test / fabric selection phase:

Purse Prototype Fabrics

I had two golden ribbons to choose between; if you look carefully, the one on the right has tone-on-tone striping. In the end, I decided on the plainer ribbon. I may have regrets, though…

A major roadblock for this project has been an 8-point applique star. I started that already in March by making a pattern. As this was to be a prototype, I wanted to use up some scraps from my remnants bin. In hindsight that wasn’t a very good decision; I had an inordinate amount of trouble with the star, since I foolishly selected two very slippery, knit-based fabrics: crushed velvet and faux chamois.

I did finish the star eventually, after much cursing and procrastination.

Applique Star WiP Pieced

Now I just can’t decide whether it’s good enough to apply on the purse. I guess that means not.

Well. You win some, you lose some. That’s just the nature of the creative process.

But: Having finished my taxes earlier than usual, I also had ample time to rearrange my workroom. That invariably meant flinging the smaller bookcases around. In addition, I took the opportunity to death clean some of my possessions, and all that lead to restyling my shelves. I made a curtain to hide some of the less than handsome binders and folders:

Bookcase Curtain Finished

The rest of the shelves aren’t quite there yet, but the curtain is looking great, don’t you think? 🙂

Since I moved my desk, my office phone handset was displaced. I made it a tiny end table out of two upcycled oatmeal containers, posterboard and a round tablecloth:

DIY Phone Table Finished

Here’s a secret: the tablecloth is actually one of my SCA veils, naturally well-washed and pressed. (SCA here means Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc., i.e., a group of medieval re-enactors.)

In early April, we finally lost the last of the snow and got to enjoy the first leaf buds and flowers, albeit a little late. Spring is my favorite time of the year! 🙂

2019 First Dandelions2

Flowering Pear First Flower

We continue to experiment with new foods due to dietary restrictions. Here’s a dessert that happened to be all vegan: poached pears, roasted & salted cashews and almondmilk vanilla ice cream.

Poached Pears w Pecans

Will I sound too childish if I say OM NOM NOM!?! 🙂

And, of course, at the end of the month we saw Avengers: Endgame. I’m still mulling it over, but it definitely is a one-of-a-kind ending to a one-of-a-kind series of independent but interlinked movies.

Cake Toppers That Look Like Flowers, Embroidery, Geodes and More

Design & Designers, Food & Drink, Thumbs Up

My Modern Met shared some amazing buttercream cake toppers in an article. They are the work of Leslie Vigil, California-based artist and cake maker. And they are. So. Beautiful! All of them!

Among the most interesting to me were these three toppers that include embroidery-like elements:

Instagram Leslie Vigil Cake Collage Embroidery

Leslie Vigil on Instagram; collage by Eppu Jensen.

Her geode cakes would make great treats for theme parties for N.K. Jemisin The Broken Earth trilogy:

Instagram Leslie Vigil Cake Collage Geodes

Leslie Vigil on Instagram; collage by Eppu Jensen.

There are also a few explicitly geeky ones, like this Groot cake:

Instagram Leslie Vigil Groot

Leslie Vigil on Instagram.

Visit the My Modern Met article and Vigil’s Instagram for more – there are so many designs to love! Almost makes me wish I were in California, too. Then again, I’m sure my doctor would be much happier if I were to stay away, far away, from cakes. 🙂

Found via Good Stuff Happened Today on Tumblr.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Finnish Prune Pinwheel Tartlets for Christmas

Food & Drink

I’ve talked about Finnish foods a bit before, for instance sour cream pie, liver sausage and blueberry soup. I don’t think I’ve done more than mention the joulutorttu, though, the baked Christmas dessert filled with plum jam.

Joulutorttu

Back in the day when you had to make the puff pastry from scratch they must’ve taken a good while to produce. These days, with store-bought puff pastry, they really are a cinch to make:

  • cut thawed puff pastry sheets into 9 evenly-sized squares
  • separately for each square, cut every corner in half as if you’re cutting a line diagonally from each corner to the center BUT leave about 1” in the center intact
  • fill centers with about a teaspoon of plum jam
  • make a pinwheel shapes by bringing every other half-corner together in the center
  • if desired, brush beaten egg on exposed puff pastry surfaces
  • bake about 10 minutes in a preheated oven (400 degrees F / 200 C or according to package) or until golden brown
  • let cool and dust with confectioners sugar

(These instructions fit U.S pastry sheets and measurements.)

Since I haven’t found plum jam in stores here, I’ve developed a super-duper easy way: I soak prunes in hot water until soft (approx. as long as the pastry takes to thaw) and use them to fill the tartlet, one prune per square. I also use toothpicks to skewer through both the pinwheel corners and prune in the center so that the tartlet won’t open while baking (the tips will burn easily if they do). And since I’m not terribly fond of confectioners sugar, I usually skip it.

While flipping through a back issue of Country Living magazine, I spotted the very same pastries except with a summery filling: jam and cream cheese.

Country Living 7-8-2016 Jam Pinwheels

Country Living July/August 2016, p. 20.

Country Living magazine gives credit for these jam and cream cheese versions to Kayley McCabe; visit the post at Handmade Charlotte for her writeup and tips.

They sound absolutely delicious – I’ll have to try some time!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

 

Experimental Cooking: Popcorn Nachos

DIY, Food & Drink

Due to various dietary restrictions (some old, some new), we’re trying out different versions of old favorites and recipes completely new to us. This means food experiments! Here’s Husband’s latest: popcorn nachos.

Experimental Cooking Popcorn Nachos

It works surprisingly well, even if the result is a bit crumbly. As long as you’re using a fork, it’s fine.

You don’t need a recipe as such, but here’s the how-to:

  • Pop a batch of corn and pick out the unpopped kernels. Spread in the bottom of a baking dish.
  • Top with a light layer of salsa, chopped peppers, olives, mozzarella, etc. – whatever you’d put on regular nachos.
  • Bake in the oven at 350 Fahrenheit / 175 Celcius until the cheese melts.

Did you try it? What did you think?