Thursday, October 22, 2009

Re-use Tip #1

You know those tubs of caramel corn that the Boy Scouts sell? What are you left with once you've eaten it all? A perfectly good tub, that's what. In fact, that tub just so happens to be the perfect size for 96 crayons (that's a Crayola Big Box, to you).


Yes, I do realize that crayons usually come with their own box. But a flimsy cardboard box does not last long around a two year old.

How do you re-use your left-over tubs?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I awoke to this beauty this morning:


(click for a larger version - it will do it better justice)

It reminded me of the Little Einstein's episode where the kids help a spider find some treasure, which turns out to be a dew-covered web, where the dew sparkles like tiny jewels. This web truly had that quality.

Speaking of jewels, I also found this little gem today:
Chez Beeper Bebe - It's a blog with all kinds of cute sewing and craft projects (and recipes, but I haven't gotten that far yet), including things you can make for little kids. I've already cut out the letter templates for the Plush Alphabet Magnets, and I've downloaded two other tutorials as well. The magnets will go in Owen's stocking this year, if I don't get impatient and give them to him early. Knowing me, that's probably what will happen.

I started my next pair of socks last night as well. I'm making the Cirque socks from Knitty.com, using Lion Brand Sock-Ease in Rock Candy. Looking forward to seeing how they turn out!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fall!


The clouds are back and so is cooler weather. When Fall comes along, it becomes my favorite season (the same could be said for Spring - I love watching nature transform). Here in the Pacific Northwest, we may not get the huge, brilliant swathes of color that you get in the Northeast, but we do get a little of it here and there. I have some bright orangey-yellow cherry trees lining the street in front of my house, and down the street and around the corner is a fantastic, almost neon, orange maple in someone's front yard. The contrast of the bright leaves against the dark, dark branches is amazing. Love it!

The cooler Fall weather, of course, also stirs up my need to knit stuff. Lots of stuff. I started off with these beautiful Embossed Leaves socks from my go-to sock book, Interweave's "Favorite Socks."


I've been eyeing this pattern ever since I received the book for Christmas one year, but have never really had the right yarn for it. A little over a month ago I picked up some Sockotta Yarn from the Plymouth Yarn Co. It's a cotton-wool blend - something I had not knit with yet - and I thought it would be perfect for Fall or Spring, when the weather is cool enough for hand-knit socks, but still maybe a little too warm for pure wool. After bringing it home and flipping through my sock book, I realized that it would be the perfect yarn for that pattern. The cotton creates great stitch definition, and the wool brings some softness and a little give to the party. All in all, it makes for some very pretty, and very comfy socks.


The only problem is that, even after doing a gauge swatch, the socks came out a little loose. I was worried they would be too snug (but that didn't stop me from knitting them anyway) because the pattern was written for feet that are about a half an inch smaller than mine, both around and long. But it seems that I knit lace a little looser than I knit stockinette. Oops! They are only a little loose though, and perfectly wearable. I'm thinking that after washing they may tighten up a bit. I hope so!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!



Now that the kitchen is painted, Jon and I have started thinking about the living/dining room. I didn't think I'd be ready to paint again so soon, but with the dark, gray, gloomy days of Fall and Winter fast approaching, I'm going to be needing some color around here - as much color as I can get!

Fortunately, Jon and I are on the same page about doing some warm colors in the (what will be) more formal living room and dining room, after having done cool colors in the kitchen and family room.

Now we just need to decide between:


Orange? Never thought I'd want to paint the walls orange, but my tastes have become much bolder as of late (and so have Jon's - so proud of him). I'm actually really excited about the idea! The only question is, is the fact that it's so close to the color of the moldings going to be a problem?


Yellowish-Tan? Classic, neutral. Boring? Not if we brighten the room up with colorful curtains and furniture. Hmmmm. Maybe save this for the transition area between the cool-toned family room and the warm-toned living room?


Red? Another classic dining room color, but maybe kind of dark? Maybe too classic? Very pretty though.


Bricks/terracotta/stone? We did that in the dining room in our old house. It was nice though, and we really liked it. But do we want to do it again?


Aaaaargh! This is going to take a lot of thought! Feel free to post a comment and tell me what you think.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Oh the joys...


...of homemade play dough on a quiet Sunday afternoon.


We cooked dumpling-like things,


we practiced our cutting skills,


and we made flower cookies. It was great fun!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Meal Planning


We have been eating out too often again. Yes, we have been busy, and tired, and then this last week we were sick and our kitchen was out of commission for 2 days while we were painting it. HOWEVER, if we had planned our meals ahead of time, it would not have been such a problem. We could have at least frozen something that could then be popped in the oven on the days that we were painting. On the sick days, only one of us was sick at a time, so the other one could have cooked if we had planned ahead and had the supplies on hand. And, to tell you the truth, we have been eating out often for several weeks now, way before we were alternately sick and painting.

So, I am going to make a real effort to plan out meals for the week again. Now, Jon is actually the one that does most of the cooking around here. He enjoys it, and it helps him decompress from work. I'm not real in to cooking, especially after chasing after a toddler all day. I'm more of a baker than a cook. However, Jon's hours have changed so that he's getting home a lot closer to dinner time than he used to, and is often in need of a chance to sit and relax for a few minutes before getting started in the kitchen. I should really make an effort to cook more. So I'm also going to try and cook dinner for part of the week as well, if Jon doesn't mind, that is. ;)

Today, when I had finished my lunch and Owen was still munching on his, I grabbed a pad of paper and a pen, and planned out the meals for the week. Earlier I took a quick glance in the freezer to see what was waiting for us in there and found, among other things, hamburger patties and chicken thighs. So here is what I have planned out for the week:

Monday:
hamburgers, salad, and fruit

Tuesday:
chicken curry with rice and peas, and maybe naan if I'm up to making it

Wednesday:
leftover chicken curry et. al.

Thursday:
the Moroccan meal that I've been wanting to try from Melissa D'Arabia's new show, "10 Dollar Dinners." - This will be my cooking night.

Friday:
leftover Moroccan

Saturday:
eat out

Sunday:
TBD, depending on whether or not we have leftovers from Saturday.

Notice I still allowed one day for going out. Or carrying out, depending on what we feel like that day. I have no problem with taking a break once a week and indulging in a restaurant craving. We might also switch it up - maybe we'll eat out as a Friday treat, and eat Thursday's leftovers on Saturday. The point is, we will be making most of our own meals, and that will be a vast improvement. I think that once we get through our frozen meat stash, it will be nice to incorporate 1 or 2 vegetarian meals into the week as well. But, one step at a time.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Painting and Other Things



It has been way too long since my last post, and I have done so many things that I think the easiest way to share them all would be to just post some pictures. But before I do that, let me first share the one thing that Jon and I were able to get done on his week off, despite everyone in the house taking turns getting sick with various colds and flus (it's my turn right now - yucky sore throat).

We wanted to gather items for a future garage sale, install a garage door opener, and paint the kitchen and the rest of the family room. We did manage to paint the kitchen and breakfast nook:





I wasn't sure about it at first, but now that all the tape is off I love it! That blue especially gives me warm fuzzies every time I look at it - and it looks different as the light changes all throughout the day. My blog background color throws it off a bit - you will need to click on the picture to get it by itself and get a more accurate representation.

We used a technique that was new to us since the last time we painted. When taping up the mouldings (and the ceiling), we left a very small gap between the edge of the tape and the wall, about 1/16". Then, we applied paintable caulk and wiped the excess off with our pinky fingers, leaving just a tissue-paper thin layer behind. This seals up the tape and keeps the paint from leaking underneath. When you peel the tape back off, you have a perfect edge. It was amazing. I wish I had known about it before. In case you are interested, I read about it here. I've always been so frustrated when I've peeled up the painters tape that is supposed to prevent paint from getting onto my molding, only to find that it has still seeped under in spots - many spots. Now I just wish I could turn back time and do that with the one painted wall in our family room. Boy, is it sloppy looking in comparison.

Okay, sorry for going on and on about that. Here are pictures of some of the other things I've been doing in the last month or so:


I finished the pin cushion caddy from Anna Maria Horner's "Seams to Me: 24 New Reasons to Love Sewing."



I've been making jam. Lots of jam. Strawberry and Rasberry, and I have blackberries and plums in the freezer waiting to become jam as well.


This is a "nursing apron." I've actually finished it, but I don't have a picture of the completed project yet. No, I'm not pregnant, but I do plan to have a second, and I thought I should make an experimental one before making any for friends.

I have also been knitting a lot, but I can't put any pictures up because they are gifts and the recipients might visit the blog. I'll try and remember to show you once the gifts have been received.

Okay, that's it. I'll try not to let so much time go by between blogs next time!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hello, Old Friend



It's gray, windy, and drizzly outside; quite a change from the intense heat and sun that we had the last couple of days. This is the kind of day where I wish I could sit near a window and sew or knit all day long. I can only do it during nap and bedtime these days. Fortunately, Owen took a nice long early nap today, so I hauled my sewing machine down to the kitchen table and pulled out the bed quilt that I started, oh, six years ago. It's a pinwheel design in cranberries and chocolate browns, with one beige fabric stuck in there to add a little lightness to it. It's a huge quilt, and slow going, but someday I will finish it. Someday!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Project!

I know I've been MIA for a while. I've been playing computer games instead of blogging. But the novelty of the game is wearing off a little and I'm more willing to skip it for several days in a row.

A friend and I walked down to the little quilt store that we have here in town. I've been living here since the end of September, and would you believe that this was my first time in that store? I liked a lot of things in there. It's a dangerous place to have withing walking distance.



Anyway, I bought bits of 5 different fabrics. Here's a sneak peak at the beginnings of my project. What am I making, do you think? (No fair cheating for those of you I've already told in person).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Carnation Farmers' Market

We finally had a Tuesday this May where it wasn't pouring down rain in the afternoon - and that means that we also finally got to go to the Carnation Farmer's Market! Neither Jon nor I had been to it before, but now that we are living in the area, we thought we would start going to it and the Duvall one (which opens this Thursday, and is within walking distance from our house! Squeeee!) to buy our weekly summer produce.

The Carnation market is not a very large affair, but oh, what nice goodies can be found there. This is what we walked out with today in the way of produce:





We didn't buy a lot this time around because we didn't have a real plan for what we wanted and would use this week. We were mostly going to see what was there and get a feel for it.

There are also some plant vendors there. I knew going in that I wanted to buy a tomato plant if anyone was selling any. There were several varieties and it was difficult to choose. I finally decided on Better Boy tomatoes. I don't know much about them, but the seller claimed that they are a fairly sweet paste tomato that's a good all around, use any way you like it, tomato. That sounded like a good kind to start out with.



We also bought a Japanese lace leaf maple. We have wanted one for years, but have been reluctant to shell out for one. We were dumbfounded to find a really healthy looking, not too tiny one for much less than what we have seen anywhere else. We couldn't pass it up.



At home with our spoils, Jon set up the barbeque and I washed the portion of greens that we were planning on consuming with dinner. We halved the largest baby bok choy in the bundle, drizzled it with olive oil and sprinkled it with kosher salt and cracked pepper. Then, after grilling up his famous marinated flank steak, Jon lightly grilled the seasoned bok choy. It was very tasty. We also made a salad with some of the mesclune salad mix and spinach, and a sprinkling of my home grown arugula, which is finally getting large enough to start thinning it a bit. I tossed it with my own recipe for a creamy dill vinaigrette that I made up one day while trying to imitate the dressing on a spinach salad that I had at Anthony's Home Port one day.

Here is the recipe, if you would like it:

Creamy Dill Vinaigrette

1 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Stone Ground Dijon Mustard
3-4 tsp milk (to desired consistency
1/2 tsp dried dill
approx 1/2 tsp sugar (taste test as you go)
salt and pepper to taste
a few drops of lemon juice to taste

Wisk all of the ingredients together until you have a nice emulsification. Toss with a salad of baby spinach, sliced raw mushrooms, and chopped cooked bacon. (Or just toss with some mixed greens, if you prefer)

Tip - if you are cooking bacon to put in your salad, put a little of the leftover bacon fat in the vinaigrette as well. It doesn't take much. Mmmmmm. Bacon fat.

You may have to fudge some of the ingredients to find your own preferable tartness/sweetness balance. Mine turns out slightly different every time, depending on what my taste buds are telling me that day.

Enjoy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

I Must Remind Myself...

...my house does not have to be perfect. I just need to do what I can, and that is good enough.

I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to make my house perfect because we are having my son's second birthday party tomorrow. All the guests are family. They all know that I am not a perfect housekeeper, and not a single one of them has ever commented on it, because they don't care. That's exactly how it should be. And yet, here I am, stressing about it all when I should be enjoying the fact that my son is 2! Granted, a few of the guests haven't seen the new house yet, so they will be getting the grand tour. That means the upstairs will be viewed, including the master bathroom (which is really awful right now - and that would even be thought by someone with lower standards than mine), and the office and the sewing room, which are filled with boxes and weird random objects that we haven't created homes for yet. Why exactly do I think anyone will care?

So tomorrow, I will get done what I can, and I will stop worrying about the things that I can't get to (although I will at least get the bathroom tidied up). I will enjoy the day and the company. I will laugh away the fact that there are still random unpacked boxes in odd corners of the house. I will make cupcakes. I will joke about the one small picture hanging forlornly in the middle of the largest wall in the family room (hung there in a panic before hosting Christmas to cover up a square of green paint that we were sampling). Most of the guests have been over several times since then anyway. You just think I would have done something about these things by now.

But I haven't. I will get to them when I get to them, and I will stop feeling guilty about not having done so as of yet.

Yeah.

So there.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Actually, I shouldn't say that - rain is good for the garden. Well, some rain is, anyway. We sure have been getting a lot of it the last few days. I've had to take my herb pots out of their saucers so they don't sit in too much water and drown.

Since it has been so gloomy and gray around here, I thought I might cheer myself up and post some pictures of how the garden is progressing. I actually took these pictures about a week and a half ago, intending to post them here, but I got busy working on title graphics and colors and never got around to it (I'm still working on all that stuff, just not very quickly).

This first pic is of Jon digging out a vegetable bed with, yes, a miner's pick.



The builders did not leave us with much in the way of top soil - everything is hard clay and rock - so this is what it took. Ultimately, this will end up being a semi-raised, semi-sunken bed, due to the fact that it's on a slope. This spot gets the most hours of sun though, so we're going with it. The second bed is yet to be dug-out. I'm kind of wondering if we will be able to get to it in time for spring plantings this year. I've already started the pumpkins indoors, so those have priority if we only get one vegetable bed ready. Does anyone know if carrots and beets can be grown in deep pots?

That's what I have decided to do with my Arugula this year:



This is the first batch that I blogged about a while ago. The second batch is in the hardening off stage, and will probably be ready for planting in a second tub in a week or two. I'm a little concerned - the first batch is not growing as fast as I expected it to. Maybe I just have high expectations. I really have no idea what I'm doing. Each cluster sprouted from 2 or 3 seeds. Am I supposed to thin them down to one? (See, I'm a total newb).

Here are my pumpkin sprouts:



I'm a little concerned about the pots that they are in. For a few days, I had to keep the door to the sewing room (where they are currently residing) closed because one of the cats finally figured out that it could jump the baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs (the other two have yet to realize their ability to do this). The peat pots developed a bit of white powder on the exposed surfaces that Jon and I suspect is mildew, probably because the room was not getting enough air circulation. However, now that I have solved the gate problem (big foam tube and cable ties to extend the height - eh, you use what you have), I have been able to leave the door open again and it appears that the mildew is disappearing, which is now leading me to question whether it was mildew at all, or just some strange property of peat pots.

Wow, I'm long winded today. Okay, so to wrap up, we also bought some things at Flower World, and planted them in the front.

Jasmine:


A type of flowering Spirea that I suddenly forgot the name of:


Purple Pasque Flower:


and Bleeding Heart (my favorite):

We staked them because they were a bit droopy after transplanting and looked like they needed a little help. Whether it was really necessary, I don't know. But it can't hurt.

These are what remained of my tulips a couple of weeks ago. They have since opened up and are just gorgeous:


I say "remained" because the larger blooms opened earlier, and I picked them to enjoy inside (same tulips - one large and several small sprout from each bulb):

I'll have to get back to you on what variety they are.

Oh, and I can't forget the crazy two-headed tulip:



So, if that isn't cheerful on a dull dreary day, I don't know what is!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Still Tweeking

Ah - I like this title graphic much better. I have to mess with the size a bit still, and change text colors again to match better, but that will have to wait for another day.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hmmm...

You know, although I think the blog's new look is pretty - the more I look at it, the more I realize it isn't really me. Yup - I like it, but it's not my usual style. Not sure in what way I'm going to change it yet though, so it's staying until I come up with something better.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Beautifying

As you may have noticed, I have added a title graphic to my blog. I changed the background color too. These are just some of several changes that I intend to bring about in the process of beautifying the blog's layout. Please bear with me, as it is possible that you may walk in on the blog while I am in the process of experimenting. If you have been on anytime within the last two hours, you could have seen any number of versions of the current title graphic as I posted, adjusted, reposted, etc. I think I'm happy with it for now - but you never know. I may hate it tomorrow and start tweeking it again.

Please feel free to give me any input you may have. Anything hard on the eyes, too contrasty, etc.

Thanks much!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spring Cleaning

I'm sorry I haven't felt much like writing lately. Probably because I've been so tired at the end of each day from all of the housework and gardening.

I started Spring Cleaning last week - mostly concentrating on the kitchen. I emptied out the fridge and scrubbed it down. What a repulsive task. I will never let it get that bad again. NEVER. How it happened in the first place is beyond me - but I will definitely be keeping an eagle eye out for anything that may have been forgotten and pushed to the back and I will get it out of there before it developes its own eco system. My husband and I have developed a new system and we are both going to follow it: brand new leftovers go on the top shelf on the right. The next day, they get moved to the second shelf and anything new replaces it on the top. The next day, they get moved to the bottom, and the day after that, if they still have not been eaten, they are tossed. That's it. End of story. Should be easy enough to follow, right? Also, every night or two, one of us will poke our head in there and check the non-leftovers (lunch meat, fruits and veggies, etc) for expiration dates and any signs of going bad, and anything that doesn't make the cut is history.

Also, all dishes will be washed (unless they absolutely need to soak overnight) before bedtime. If they don't fit in the dishwaser, they will be handwashed. Otherwise, I'm finding that the kitchen explodes rather quickly. This is especially bad in our house, because the kitchen is all open to the rest of the main floor, so if it's a disaster, it feels like the entire downstairs is a disaster - and then I stress over trying to catch it all back up again. From now on, I will simply not let it get to the point where it will need to be caught up.

Next week: Laundry room. I don't know what happened, but I can barely get in there. And that makes me put off doing laundry until somebody complains that they are out of underwear, because shuffling everything around to get the washer or dryer door open is such a pain in the patoot. Now, the laundry room is really tiny, and we have a two year old, and this tiny laundry room is a convenient place to shove things too keep them out of reach and/or sight of the two year old, as well as last minute guests. But, when we do that, we need to go back later and take those things back out of there and put them where they belong.

Obviously I have veered away from accomplishing my New Year's Resolution to keep the house in order. I'm trying really hard to get back on track. I think that some aspects of my housecleaning schedule need to be tweeked. For instance, I'm finding that trying to do all of the laundry twice a week just isn't realistic for me. I think I'm more of a one or two loads every day kind of a girl. One load of laundry is much more likely to get done than six. I can do lights and darks one day, jeans the next, towels the day after that, etc.

Anyway, it's getting late, and I feel like I'm beginning to ramble. So that's it for now.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sourdough Cinnamon Buns and Easter Eggs for Grownups

I've caught a yucky bug that's been going around, and I'm feeling pretty crummy, so this will be brief. I've had a very busy week trying to catch up on housework (only to get sick and have it all go back downhill again) and get ready for Easter, which is why I haven't posted in a while.

One of Jon's coworkers gave us some of his sourdough starter this week, which was very awesome of him. It was given to his wife's aunt fifty years ago when she moved to Alaska and her neighbors found out somehow that she didn't have any bread starter. So, they gave her some of theirs. We have no idea how long it had been around then, so we don't know how old it really is, but we do know that it is old. Jon and I made these with it yesterday for Easter dessert.

All I can say is WOW.

Best cinnamon buns EVER.

Well, okay, they were a little too gooey for Jon, but he's weird. He's not huge on Cinnabons(R) either. Weirdo. (He says he does like our rolls - he just thinks we should go lighter on the filling next time. Whatever).

We left out the nuts and raisins because we were serving them to Jon's dad, who is Picky, with a capital "P." (He approved, by the way. Said they were delicious.) However, we did freeze a section of uncooked rolls that had the pecans in them. Jon thinks nuts will help. Well, duh. Nuts make everything better.


Also, I made these:

I like to call them Easter Eggs for Grownups.
Instructions are here. I used cheesecloth to hold my plants in place instead of the nylons that the instructions called for because, oddly, I happened to have cheesecloth (which I never have) and I did not have any old nylons (which I always seem to have, although I rarely wear them). I must have purged them when we moved. The cheesecloth made a little check design in places, but I rather like it.

(Please note: these are hollow eggshells. If you are going to make these with boiled eggs instead of blown eggs, please DO NOT EAT THEM - especially if you don't know if the plants that you used for the designs are safe to eat. The juices could seep through micro-fissures in the eggshell, and if the plants that you used are poisonous, that would be VERY BAD. Also, I found a turkey baster works quite well for blowing eggs if, like me, you are squeemish about using your mouth for it.)

Okay, so post not so brief after all. I guess I had more to say than I thought I did.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

This Week's Projects

A quick update on what I've been working on this week:

I finished one of the Absinthe socks. I'm not thrilled with the bind-off that I used. Fortunately, I left a long tail, so I think I can take it out and redo it using a stretchier method.


(The color is a little off in the picture)

I'm taking a little break before I start the second sock, as I usually end up doing. I get one sock done, and well, I've been there, done that, and I'm anxious to get started on something else. I'll get to it eventually. The first sock was a fun knit, so I'm sure the second one won't be in limbo for long.

In the meantime, I've started on the Two Tone Ribbed Shrug from Stephanie Japel's "Fitted Knits." When I first went through the book, I really wasn't "in" to that pattern, probably because I had a hard time seeing past the colors. However, while looking for a shrug pattern on Ravelry, I came across it again. Most people did it in a single color, or used colors that are more to my liking, and I realized that it actually is quite a nice little shrug. I'm going very simple and inexpensive with the yarns - Lion Brand Wool-Ease Solids and Heathers in Grey Heather and Oxford Grey.



Also, I have finally begun to blind-stitch the border of Jon's Husky-colors quilt to the quilt-backing. The picture below is obviously one that I took before cutting the batting and borders down to size and pinning them in place.


(Again, I'm having trouble getting true colors - that should be more purple, less navy blue)

I also ought to update you on the bread experiment. The first loaves of bread that I made lasted only through the weekend, so Monday, I made two more. I was out of whole wheat flour though, so I decided to try the basic White Bread recipe from the same cookbook.



This one has milk in it, and I think that made a nice difference to the texture. It rose better too, and that probably had to do with a combination of things:
A.) I used a candy thermometer while heating up the liquid this time, to make sure I got it warm enough to make the yeast happy, without getting it hot enough to kill it.
B.) I used the bread-proof setting on my oven. This sets the oven at 100 degrees. Last time, I just filled a bowl full of warm water and set it underneath the bowl with the dough in it.
C.) There was no whole wheat in the dough. Whole wheat bread (from what I've heard, anyway) doesn't always rise as well as white bread.

These loaves lasted through the week. Yesterday they seemed to be getting pretty stale, so Jon turned what was left into french toast.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Bread Experiment

I'm going to have a little experiment. I'm going to see if I can make bread for the family every week instead of buying a loaf each week at the grocery store. Why go to the trouble? Well, there are lots of good reasons, actually. For one thing, when you make your own bread, you get to control what goes into it. The other day, Jon happened to take a closer look at the ingredients on our current favorite bread, and discovered it had high fructose corn syrup in it - among other things. Well, just look for a brand that doesn't have that, you say? Sure! If you can find one. (Yes, I am sure there are some, but that's not my point).

Also, it's a little cheaper to make your own bread. But, the main reasons for me are that it tastes better, and it's fun! There's nothing like the feel of warm dough as you knead it and shape it - and the smell of baking bread wafting through the house is heavenly! Of course there's one other bonus - if you do it right, it just tastes better than store bought bread. And just think - Owen will be growing up on homemade bread! How many kids can say that these days?

Now, I have never made just plain old, everyday bread before. I have made rustic breads, pizza doughs, and quick breads (although those don't really count because they are a completely different process). So I will need to experiment with different recipes for a while until I find some family favorites.

Today, I chose to go with the Wheat Bread recipe in the "New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook". You can't go wrong with Better Homes and Gardens when you want something basic. There's a reason why that book is in everybody's kitchen.

The recipe said you could either shape the dough into a loaf, or roll it jelly roll style before putting it in the loaf pan. Since it makes two loaves, I decided to roll one and shape the other, to see if it made any difference.



Then, after letting them have their second rise in the pans, I baked them and cooled them on racks. Jon got home just as they were cool enough to slice. As you can see, several slices were consumed before I had the presence of mind to take a picture of my finished bread.



It turned out very tasty. A bit small. I don't know if maybe I didn't get the temperature of the water quite right before adding it to the yeast/flour mixture, or if it's just because it has some whole wheat flour in it, which has a tendency not to fluff up as well. Next time I will use the candy thermometer instead of eyeballing it and testing the temp with my finger, just to make sure. As for rolling vs. shaping, the only thing I can tell you right now is that the shaped one seemed to conform to the pan better. The rolled one rose upwards, but didn't expand outwards enough to touch the sides of the pan. I haven't cut into both yet, so I can't tell you if there is any difference on the inside.

Despite being a little smaller than I expected, the bread sure is good! Dense, but not heavy. Moist, but not soggy. Very nice flavor overall.



I made Owen some grilled cheese with it for dinner. He enjoyed it until his teething pain got the better of him. Poor little guy! (I ate the rest.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cables and Sprouts

I am happy to say that I've finished the instep cable pattern (as well as the heel) on the first of the pair of Absinthe socks. I messed up on one row -- I twisted my cables the wrong way and didn't notice for about 20 rows -- but you can't tell unless you're looking for it, so I decided to bite back my perfectionist tendencies and leave it alone.



I love how the heel was done. It is a toe-up sock (my first toe-up sock, fyi), and I thought you could only do short-row heels with those. But this one actually incorporates a short-row/heel flap combination. I think it's the easiest and nicest looking heel I've ever done. For that matter, the toe has also got to be the nicest looking toe I've ever done - but not the easiest. The pain may be worth the gain with those, though, and they will probably get easier with practice.


Also, before I go, I have to show off my Arugula sprouts. Aren't they the cutest wittle teeny weeny t'ings? I could just eat them all up! And I will too - some day soon. Muwahahahaha!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Gardening Bug

I'm going to try my hand at vegetable gardening. I've never grown anything edible, and frankly, I'm a bit of a novice at growing non-edible things as well. But darnit, I live out in farm country, and although I don't have a farm, I feel like I should still be growing stuff. Besides, I have a yard in which to grow them now. Well, actually, I had a yard in the last house too, but it was about the size of a postage stamp and hopelessly overgrown with weeds to the point where, when it came time to sell, we had it professionally landscaped in the most low maintenance plan ever; lots of bark and rocks, plants in pots, and NO GRASS.

Now we have grass that Jon is delighting in mowing (although it took quite a beating with the heavy snows this winter), and plenty of space for bushes and flowers, and yes, a small victory garden. Yesterday I bought some seed packets for carrots, pumpkins, arugula, and beets (which I don't like, but Jon says is good practice because they are difficult to screw up). Yes, I know that it is not yet time to plant some of those, and I found out after getting home that it is not recommended to start carrots and beets indoors. Those will have to wait a few months. In a few weeks though, I can do some seed starts for the pumpkins and lettuce. I have seed starter containers and these interesting coconut plugs that you put in the containers, add water, and push the seeds into. I've never seen them before, but then again, I've never done indoor seed starting before. In fact, I think the only experience I really have with planting seeds are some marigolds that my mom and I planted when I was about 4 years old. When we moved later that year, we forgot them, and I was sad. Ah well.

Anyway, you will be hearing more about my bumbling adventures as a beginner gardener, no doubt. Any tips will be most welcome!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Needs Pepper

Last night, I finished the Patchwork Ball from Anna Maria Horner's book "Seams to Me: 24 New Reasons to Love Sewing". I love how it turned out. I hand-stitched the entire thing, as I think I may have mentioned in an earlier post, so I'm pretty darn proud of myself.



I gave it to Owen this morning. He grabbed it and said "Bah!" (ball). He seemed to really like it, but he thought it needed a little pepper:



Wednesday, I broke down and bought Moda's Hello Betty charm pack, which I have been eyeing at the local Ben Franklin every time I go in there. I'm going to use peices from it to make the pincushion/caddy from the same book. Squeeeee!

Monday, March 16, 2009

New on the Needles...

I did tell you that, given a little time, I would be knitting something again. Maybe it was the little bit of snow that came through my neighborhood again, or maybe it was just the fact that I can't seem to go very long without the feel of soft yarn wrapped around my fingers and smooth bamboo needles on my fingertips. Or, perhaps it was because the Spring issue of Knitty came out! I found a few things there that I would like to knit, but I was most excited about this!

I have always loved Art Nouveau, so I was thrilled to find a sock pattern that was inspired by it. I love the combination of cables and lace on the leg of the sock, which turn into an intricate cable panel along the instep. Gorgeous!

Here's what I have so far:



The yarn that I'm using is Berocco Comfort Sock in Southland (1813), which I happened to have laying around unused in my stash. Now, normally I prefer some natural fiber content in my yarns. It doesn't have to be 100% - I'm not a total yarn snob, just a little bit of one. But I do like the larger percentage to be wool or cotton or whatever. This yarn, however, is 50% nylon, 50% acrylic. It felt very nice in the store though. I also loved the colorway, and, best of all, it was cheap and therefore allowed me to justify buying just one more skein of sock yarn along with the two other more expensive skeins that I already had in my cart. A little extra convincing from my mom, who happened to be with me, and I went ahead and bought it. So far, I think I'm glad I did. I saw some mixed reviews on Ravelry about this yarn - some people loved it, some hated it. I will agree that it is a little splitty, but so is a lot of higher quality wool yarn out there. I'm actually finding it quite nice to work with. I'm also liking how the yarn is fairly smooth - I think it will cause the cables on this sock to stand out nicely. Another bonus: as it is not wool, it might be cool enough to wear in the Spring!