apple crumble tart

After making batch after batch of berry crumble tarts & bars all summer, I was excited to try out my favorite recipe substituting apples for berries.  The result is not as pretty (dark purple berries bubbling up between a layer of crumble... that's pretty), but it's uncomplicated and delicious.

-- 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour (you could
    probably substitute a portion of whole wheat
    flour or rolled oats if you want to pretend you
    are making something healthy).

-- 1/2 cup turbinado or brown sugar
    (plus an additional 3 TBS set aside)

-- 1/2 tsp baking powder

-- Pinch of salt

--  1 egg

-- 1 tsp vanilla extract

-- 1/2 cup unsalted butter

-- 2 tsp cornstarch

-- 3 medium-ish apples, peeled and sliced
    1/4 in thick

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Butter and dust with flour a 9 in tart pan (with removable bottom) or an 8 in square baking pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup turbinado sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into cubes and then use a fork to cut the butter into the sugar/flour mixture until you have coarse crumbs.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix a few times until you have some larger clumps.  Press approx. half this mixture into the bottom of your prepared baking pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, sprinkle 2 tsp corn starch and 2 TBL turbinado sugar over the peeled, sliced apples.  Mix gently until the apples are coated and then lay the slices in the pan over the bottom crust.  Squeeze the remaining crust dough a few times to make some clumps and then evenly distribute the remaining dough over the apples.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 TBL sugar.

Bake in preheated oven 35-40 minutes until top is lightly brown.  Allow to cool before cutting, and serve with ice cream (or with a cup of tea for breakfast).

Note: I've been cooking for guests who are vegan, and this recipe adapts nicely.  Just substitute 8 TBL Earth Balance for the butter and 1/4 cup cold water for the egg.

Recipe adapted from The Comfort of Cooking.


tutorial :: making beeswax polish

Beeswax polish is almost always listed in my instructions for making peg dolls. But I realized something the other day.  Before I had ever made my first batch of beeswax polish, it seemed intimidating. What kind of wax should I buy?  How should I melt it? What kind of oil and how much should I add?  How should I store the polish once I've made it?

So, here is a tutorial, plus some additional information, which I hope will answer any questions you might have.  If you have more questions after reading this blog post, please feel free to email me.

-- Beeswax (resources for purchase are listed
    with links at the end of this supply list).

-- Oil (olive, sunflower, jojoba, or almond)

-- A small saucepan

-- A set of metal measuring cups (it's best to
    have a dedicated set for making polish)

-- A wooden skewer or something to use for stirring

-- Small storage containers

SOME NOTES ABOUT OILS :: I have tried to do a little research into properties of various oils -- especially the rate at which they go rancid.  As far as I can tell, as long as they are stored properly (i.e. in a cool place, away from light), olive oil, sunflower oil, jojoba oil and almond oil all have the same shelf-life (about a year).  Many people use olive oil when making polish because it's on hand for cooking.  If the olive oil I have on my shelf has a strong smell, I reach for sunflower oil which has no smell, allowing the beeswax aroma to shine through.  Jojoba and almond oil are fine, but most people don't keep them on hand.  I encourage you to use whatever you happen to have at home rather then buying special oil for your beeswax polish.

SOME MORE NOTES ABOUT OTHER SUPPLIES ::  I use these beeswax sheets from Glory Bee for making polish, and you can also find blocks of beeswax from Glory Bee and Mountain Rose Herbs.  For storage, I like the round tins found here and here.

STEP 1 ::  Put approx. 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water in the sauce pan. Add a small amount of beeswax to the 1 cup (240 ml) measuring cup and place the base of the measuring cup into the water. Put the saucepan onto the stove-top over a medium-low flame until the water maintains a low simmer.  As the beeswax melts, add more wax to the measuring cup until it's approx. 1/4 full of melted beeswax (this would amount to 2 liquid ounces or 60 ml).

STEP 2 :: Pour in 1/4 cup (2 liquid ounces/60 ml) oil and use a metal spoon, chopstick or bamboo skewer to gently stir, making sure the oil and wax are combined.

I like my polish to be approx. 50% oil, 50% beeswax so that, once the polish cools and hardens, the consistency is similar to lip balm.  You might prefer a little less wax and a little more oil, or more wax and less oil; my suggestion is to experiment with ratios and see what suits you best.

STEP 3 ::  Pour half the melted polish into the 1/2 cup (120 ml) measuring cup and half the polish into the 1/3 or 1/4 measuring cup and allow to cool.  You can speed up the cooling process by putting the measuring cups containing the beeswax in the refrigerator or freezer.

STEP 4 ::  Once the polish has fully hardened, rap the measuring cup on the kitchen counter and the cake of polish should pop right out (if it doesn't pop out, put it back into the refrigerator for a while).  Store in a small container. Alternatively, you can pour the liquid melted wax polish directly into a small metal storage container or a 4 ounce (60 ml) mason jar. Allow the wax polish to cool and harden in place, then store it in the container where it has hardened.

STEP 5 :: To use the polish, scrape a small amount off the top of your little wax-cake and then, with a paper towel, rub the polish into the wood until there is very little residue left on the surface.  You can also use this polish as a balm for dry hands and feet.

CLEANING UP :: Due to the fact that it's difficult to completely remove waxy residue, I have a dedicated set of measuring cups for making polish. However, it's important to clean everything as thoroughly as possible, because after a period of time, any oil residue will go rancid and can contaminate the next batch of polish (the wax won't go rancid, but the oil will).  I've tried several ways to clean my measuring cups and have found the best way is as follows: boil a pot of water, quickly dip the waxy measuring cups in the very hot water and then wipe off the wax with a paper towel.  Try to avoid getting wax in the sink as it can build up and cause a clog in the drain.


more craft-foam stamps

On Wednesday I had a blog post on making stamps using craft-foam.  And then I got a little carried away.

Peg dolls are perfect for turning into stamps.

And after making the doll-stamps, I took some of these drawer pulls, painted them up like toadstools...

And made some more stamps. Remember I said I got a little carried away?  Yeah.

Cute and fun? Yeah, that, too!


tutorial :: craft-foam stamps

I love the look of hand-carved stamps, but was an utter failure at carving them.  So last week I tried making craft-foam stamps.  Easy and fun!!  They are perfect for children to make and use themselves, perfect for creating gift-wrap paper and perfect for giving away as gifts.  What's not to like about this craft?


-- 1 sheet of craft-foam (this stuff)

-- Wooden discs, 1 1/2 in (4 cm) diameter
    (like these

-- Wooden ball knobs (like these) or

-- Scissors, glue and an ink pad


STEP 1 :: Cut a shape from craft foam.  The shape you cut should be smaller than the diameter of your wooden disc.

STEP 2 :: Glue your foam shape to one side of the wooden disc.

STEP 3 :: Glue your knob to the other side of the wooden disc and allow the glue to dry for at least an hour or two.

STEP 4 :: Have fun using your stamp!

Note: If you use water soluble glue, be careful washing your stamp.  I find it's best to clean these stamps by dampening a paper towel and gently wiping off ink residue.

For more DIY stamp ideas, you can have a look at scrumdilly-do here, Lil Blue Boo here, and Babble Dabble Do here and here

And please come back Friday.  I will have more stamp-making ideas, one of which involves peg dolls (because around here, everything seems to circle back to peg dolls).  I think you will love these crafts, and this might be the perfect way to jump start gift-making for the upcoming winter holiday season.


a peg doll event in sebastapol


Look at this gorgeous flyer they created to publicize the event at Circle of Hands in Sebastapol.  If you happen to be anywhere near Sonoma County/Northern California, I hope you will drop by Circle of Hands on Saturday October 17th between 1:00-4:00 p.m. to make peg dolls with me and Lenka Vodicka, author of Forest Fairy Crafts.

Besides the opportunity to say hello and make a few peg dolls, Circle of Hands is worth a visit. It's an amazing shop, stocked floor-to-ceiling with the most beautiful books and games and toys -- a great place to start looking for a few special holiday surprises for your favorite children.


peg doll making events


Just to let you know, I have three upcoming peg doll making events: two in October and one in December.  If you happen to live in Northern California, mark your calendars and please join me if you're able!

WHEN: Saturday October 3rd, 12:00-2:00 p.m. 
WHERE: Castle in the Air, Berkeley CA
WHAT: Autumnal acorn cap fairies (see photos!)
COST: Free

WHEN: Saturday October 17, 1:00-4:00 p.m.
WHERE: Circle of Hands, Sebastapol, CA
WHAT: Autumnal Acorn cap fairies.  Lenka Vodicka, author of Forest Fairy Crafts will also be there (2 book authors for the price of one -- a great opportunity to have your books signed!) 
COST: $1 supply fee (free with book purchase)

WHEN: Saturday December 19, 11:00-12:00 p.m.
WHERE: San Carlos Library, San Carlos CA
WHAT: Winter angels and fairies.
COST: Free


children's fairyland

Have you ever visited Children's Fairyland in Oakland?

Children's Fairyland opened in 1950, and was visited by Walt Disney during the time he was developing and building Disneyland (which opened five years later, in 1955).  Everything in Children's Fairyland is candy-colored, 1950's retro, and there is so much to see and love.  To view more photos and find information, you can go to the Children's Fairyland website here.

Here is a peculiar little carousel featuring characters from Alice in Wonderland.


A clock-tower

The Jolly-Trolly

And if it all wasn't marvelous enough, there is a puppet show performed three times every day.

We were lucky to see a sweet version of the Wizard of Oz.

Off to Neverland!

Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning...

A certain small someone cried and cried when the park closed at 5:00 and it was time for us to head home. But I've promised him that we will go back soon.


fairy bread

A few months ago, the Australian tradition of fairy bread crossed my radar. White bread, crusts off, slathered with butter and covered with nonpareils. It sounded revolting.  And yet... intriguing.

So, after last week's adventure with Bubble Tea, I determined to continue widening our culinary horizons and subject... I mean... expose... my children to this exotic delicacy.

Of course, what's not to like about bread covered with brightly colored, crunchy, sugary bits? My children took to it immediately with gusto and delight. (Was I surprised? Not in the least.)

My favorite thing about fairy bread (besides the pretty nonpareils) is the origin of the name.  It's said to be called after a poem by Robert Lewis Stevenson.

Fairy Bread
Come up here, O dusty feet!
Here is fairy bread to eat.
Here in my retiring room,
Children, you may dine
On the golden smell of broom
And the shade of pine;
And when you have eaten well,
Fairy stories hear and tell.

My older son preferred a variation of fairy bread which substitutes Nutella for butter, however my little one was happy either way.  If you would like to read a precise (and very funny) recipe for fairy bread, have a look here.  And for an entertaining discussion of this (ahem) scrumptious & nutritious snack click here.

Addendum :: It is implied in the article linked above that, in Australia, fairy bread might be substituted for cake at children's birthday parties, however I have been informed by Australian readers that this would never be the case!  To read further about treats (besides fairy bread) served at children's parties in Australia, you can have a look here and here.


bubble tea

A few years ago, bubble tea shops popped up everywhere around here.  I was dubious.  I was skeptical.  I couldn't wrap my head around the phenomenon.

In order to better understand what all the fuss was about, I did some research and found this recipe here.  Then my little guy and I headed to a local Asian food specialty market where we picked up some tapioca pearls and a packet of fat straws.

Along the way, we admired shelves and shelves of canned bamboo shoots, sliced and diced in every imaginable way.

An aisle devoted to pretty boxes full of tea...

Tapioca pearls for bubble tea.  Got it.

When we got home, we boiled up the bubbles
and made syrup according to these instructions.

A certain someone prefers his 
bubble tea with lots of milk.