About The Country Wife Blog

Monday, April 28, 2014

Travel Today: Cape Cod, Massachusetts

We were sucked into buying a timeshare five or six years ago.  We did it because we had only had one vacation in the first 35 years of our married life. We felt if we had the timeshare that we would take a vacation each year.  WELL....it has worked most years...

So we now have vacations.  The timeshare we purchased is in Mexico but we cannot always take care of the timeshare costs PLUS buy airplane tickets so we have been going to vacations where we can drive.  This spring we are using a week "leftover" from last year.

We are in West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, on the Mid-Cape area of Cape Cod.  We have a little cottage which has two small bedrooms, two small bathrooms, a kitchen/dining room/living room, a front door and a back door, plus parking spot, barbecue grill, and lawn chairs.  Nice.

This cottage is listed as sleeping 6.  Dear One had his "stuff" (luggage, etc) on one of the twin beds in the second bedroom.  My stuff is in the tiny closet, on top of the TV cabinet/bureau drawer unit, and all over the kitchen and living room!  (I brought the Plus Sign quilt to put together this year.  Last year the sewing machine needle broke on the first stitch so I packed everything up and put it back in my luggage.  This time there have been other issues, but I am determined to carry on...!)  We think this cottage is just about right for two friendly people!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Knitting Today: Two Washcloths/Dishcloths

Once upon a time, many years ago, someone told me about a knitting website that I just HAD to visit.  I did visit that website and my knitting life was changed forever!  The website was the KnitPicks website. 

When I first went to KnitPicks I was thrilled to find beautiful yarns at apparently great prices.  Because I prefer natural fibers, this was the yarn store for me!  I purchased lots of different yarns for multiple projects, not all of which have been yet knit up even all these years later!

Soon I noticed there was a podcast by Kelley Petkun.  These were so very informative, interesting, and enjoyable.  I learned many things from Kelley which improved my knitting. I listened avidly to her podcasts week after week.   Later there was a blog developed and independent knitting designer pattern pages made available.  All good things.

Recently I discovered their 52 Weeks of Dishcloths pattern project!  That was such a great thought since I have a fair amount of cotton yarn which is just the ticket for washcloths and dishcloths.  The first two of these dishcloth patterns was a diagonal increase cloth. I loved this pattern but it took a while to get it right.  Don't get me wrong: this is not a difficult pattern!  The problem is almost always "user error" when I have a problem with a pattern.  Well, with just about everything, come to think of it!!!  Reading and re-reading the pattern when  an error seems to be taking place is the way to go.  In this case, after the decrease you MUST remove the stitch marker, knit 1, replace the marker, and then continue on.  Without that happening, the pattern very quickly devolves into a nasty-shaped cloth.

This cloth eventually came out well, though in the picture you can see I had yet to block the cloth when I took the picture.

The second cloth I made was a crocheted cloth.  This was another enjoyable project which taught me several things.  The most quickly learned thing is that crocheting is really painful for me.  I could only work half a dozen stitches before I had to put down the crochet hook.  With this little glitch, it took me quite a while to crochet this round cloth.  Since I am not quite as enamored of the look of some crochet, I have decided that probably the only crochet project I will still work is the Granny Square afghan that M started many years ago then returned the project to me.  (One of my many unfinished projects...but one which will come to the top of the "finish box" for this year.)

Not my favorite cloth, but...it is for washing dishes, so...!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Food Today: Homemade French Fries

Recently we came into a few large potatoes.  They could have been used for baking, which would have been a great idea.  Instead, because Dear One is a French fries fan, they were cut into fine strips and used for French fries.

Some years ago--just before I decided to work more seriously on getting physically fit, so the timing could not have been worse, we purchased a deep frier.  I don't know what I was thinking, since NOBODY needs French fries or other deep-fried foods.  (After the fact it occurred to me that fried foods are definitely "Kings' Food" as opposed to "pulse".  Pulse being the appropriate food for people who really want to be strong and healthy--and in the case of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshak, and Abednego, obedient.)

Well, on to today's story.

Because so many of my cooking projects are either "guinea pig" projects (first-time recipe trials which I serve to guests or take to potluck events where my family does not take the full brunt of the potential cooking disaster) or just straight out experiments, I went to the internet to see what someone else might have suggested as a plan for French fries.  There were PLENTY of suggested methods of preparing these large potatoes...which did happen to be russets, the suggested best potatoes for French fries.

This was the plan:
1.  Wash potatoes well, removing any sprouts or bad spots.  These were present in our russets.
2.  Cut into evenly-sized strips.
3.  Place cut potatoes in a large bowl of cold water for 30 minutes.

4.  Drain and completely dry the potato strips.

5. In the meantime, preheat the frier to 275 degrees F.

6.  Carefully place a layer of potato sticks into basket of frier and dip into the hot oil--peanut oil being suggested, but be cautious...if someone with a peanut allergy is coming to eat French fries DO NOT use peanut oil!
7.  Let cook for about 5 minutes, shaking the basket every minute or so to keep fries separated.
8.  Remove basket from oil and drain briefly then spread out on paper towel lined pan.
9.  Let sit until completely cooled.
10.  Preheat frier to 350 degrees F.
11.  Returned cooled, pre-cooked fries to the basket and very carefully lower into hot oil.
12.  Cook, shaking frequently, until a lovely brown and crispy.  When you shake them you will hear that they are crispy.

13.  Remove basket from oil, spread fries on absorbent paper, let cool briefly, eat!

If you are really a cool mother, you will make a batch of fry sauce for dipping the fresh French fries. 

Fry Sauce as We Make It

In a medium bowl, spoon in some good quality mayonnaise (I have never used homemade mayonnaise for this, but may do it if I ever make French fries again...since I like the mayo I make with lots of garlic in it.  That can only be good....!) then squirt in about an equal amount, or somewhat more, of catsup.  Stir well.  Dip in hot French fries.  Yummy.  Another tasty way to fill your body with fat...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Barbara Walker Learn to Knit Afghan Square 31

Square 31 is called Twisted Panels.  There are panels of 5, 6, and 10 stitches across the block.  Because this is a mock-cable design in twisted stitches, both left and right twists, it is best to knit this block in a light plain color.

There are multiple ways to knit the left twist and the right twist  For the left twist, I chose to skip one stitch, insert the right hand needle into the back of the second stitch to knit it, then come forward and knit into the skipped stitch then dropped both off the needle at once.  For the right twist, I skipped the first stitch, knitted regularly into the second stitch (keeping that one on the needle) then knitted the skipped stitch and dropped them both off the needle and carried on knitting.  The first few times this was a little awkward but very soon it became automatic and easy.

There were 48 stitches cast on to make this panel of twisted stitch designs.  It took me about twenty-five minutes to knit each pattern repeat.  There were six and three-quarters pattern repeats ( total of 54 rows of knitting).

This pattern is one where I would have appreciated a chart, too.  Having become a chart reader, I find them much easier to knit with fewer errors than a dense line of knit 1, purl one, left twist, right twist verbiage!  Having said that, it was not hard to follow the pattern and it makes a pretty nice block.

Square 31-Twisted Panels...unblocked.

This was a pretty enjoyable square to knit...easily finished in two days since last night was another wake-up-at-2 AM-and-no-going-back-to-sleep-for-hours night.  I was able to do well over half the block to get it finished before trying to sleep again.

Now:  on to the the cables!  I love cable patterns.  I love the feel of them. I love the spectacle of them.  I love how gorgeous they can be when finished.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Barbara Walker Learn To Knit Afghan Square 24

Square 24 is called  the Cottage Check block.

Two colors are used for this square, one light, one dark.  There are a  multiple of 4 stitches plus 3.

Cast on 43 stitches.

This square was knit differently from other squares as sometimes the work needed to be turned and knit back and sometimes the work needed to be slid to the other end of the needle.  Because of this a circular needle, preferably a 24-inch circular needle, needed to be used.  A long double-pointed needle could have been used but I did not have one long enough in the correct size for this block so it was a circular needle for me.
Square 24 on the blocking board...bottom side up!
 The square was a little (but ONLY a little...) challenging to knit in that there was no chart and I had to keep my eyes on the book.  Eventually I photocopied the page and held it on my music stand with magnetic strips.

There are twelve rows in each pattern repeat.  Each one took me about thirty minutes to knit.  There were five and a half pattern repeats to make the square.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Crafting Today: Flowers for hair clips

This month we wanted to give a gift to each of the ladies at Church who visit other ladies at Church to bring messages of comfort and spiritual uplift in these times of trials and sometimes grueling mundanity.   In the Relief Society in our Church we call the ladies who visit other ladies Visiting Teachers. 

Sometimes the visiting teachers present a lesson. 

Sometimes the visiting teachers wash dishes or sweep a floor or run a load of laundry. 

Sometimes the visiting teachers hold a child to relieve a weary mom. 

Sometimes the visiting teachers just listen. 

Always the visiting teachers share love with their sisters.

Sometimes their own lives are so hectic and demanding they do not get to visit at all.  In that case,  they at least contact their sisters by phoning, emailing, texting, or sending a note.  Any way they can share their love for, and bless, their sisters.

This month to give a little encouragement I made a little card which said, "Let LOVE blossom in your heart for your sisters this month".  On this card was clipped a hand-made flower crafted from  either fabric, yarn, or ribbon.  They were VERY hand-made and pretty awful really....if you compare them to the flowers made by the fabulous YouTube ladies,  Alina and Emmie,  who showed us how, however they were MADE with love, and hope to CONVEY love to the recipients.

A variety of flowers in a variety of media...

Several things were learned during this project:

1.  Things may not be as easy as they look when an experienced person does them!

2.  Hot glue guns produce VERY HOT glue!

3.  Cool glue guns ALSO produce pretty hot glue!

4.  Wood-burning tools create instant flesh destruction when inadvertently touching a finger!!!


Here is a photo of the basket of handouts ready to go:

A basket of "flower clip cards" ready to hand out...some of which are rather smushed.
This project was enjoyable (except for the burns) and made me happy as I thought of the possible pleasure the floral clips might give each visiting teacher and the hoped-for end result of each visiting teaching contacting her assigned sisters this month.  Sharing the love is such a sweet thing.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Food Today: Bunny Baking Powder Biscuits

It was time to make food for the Seminary kids today.  Since I awoke shortly before 4 AM I decided to do better than cheese and crackers...so I tried to be a little creative.

Since baking powder biscuits are quick and easy and taste really great with butter and jam, I thought that would be a winner.  We had some sourdough starter and some buttermilk so I made some very nice biscuits if I do say so myself! 

After more thought, I decided to make them bunny-shaped sweet biscuits.
Bunny biscuits baked on parchment paper
To make these biscuits I added about one-half cup granulated sugar to the recipe that uses 4 cups of flour.  That amount of sugar takes these biscuits to a new level!  They were even better because I brushed them with melted butter and sprinkled them with cinnamon-sugar before baking.  That had its pluses and minuses!

The main minus to these bunny biscuits was that the biscuits I baked without the parchment paper had an issue with the cinnamon-sugar burning where it had drifted to the bed of the pan.  It was a very sad thing.  The bottoms also became a tad too brown (or as we used to say when the kids were little:  too chocolate-y!

Bunny biscuits baked without parchment paper....

These biscuits are ready to eat!  They did entirely disappear within a very few minutes.  That is always satisfying to provide something the kids find edible...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Food Today: Blueberry Ice Cream

After making the quick strawberry ice cream, I wondered how blueberry ice cream might work.  Today I made one quick batch of blueberry ice cream.

Blueberry ice cream is DELICIOUS!! I used a little more lemon juice than with the strawberry ice cream.  It really was good.  The visitors who were here (and who were guinea pigs) really enjoyed it.

Give it a try!  If you do not have a heavy-duty blender like a Blendtec or Vitamix, give it a try with your traditional ice cream maker.  Make a slurry with the blueberries first before adding the heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and lemon juice then follow whatever directions your ice cream maker gives you.

Good luck!  Just fresh delicious treats.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Food Today: Homemade Croutons/Munchies

Do you ever have a nice loaf of bread in your kitchen for which you have very honorable intentions, but then time goes by and that loaf of bread dries out and begins to be less fun to eat "as bread"?  This does happen in our home from time to time.  Today I decided that the birds did not need this loaf of sesame-seed-covered French bread, especially since some short people will be here for supper (the tallest of these particular short people is a Cub Scout and needs to cook a meal outside.  We have just the situation for that to take place.  A giant plus to me is that someone else will be cooking supper!  I am thrilled it will be our oldest grandson doing it!).

In the back of my head I remembered that the father of these short people came by once before when I made some croutons.  The crouton level had decreased markedly by the time he left!  It always pleases me when people like the food I make.  This is not an especially common occurrence here, I am sad to say. I almost always like the food I made.  This is not the general reaction.  Oh well.  No one will starve.

So, on to the croutons/munchies.

The first order of the day was to cut the bread into cubes. I did use the very sharp chef's knife and a cutting board to protect our counter...in this case the beautiful marble slab that used to be in my great-aunt and -uncle's hardware store as part of one of the counters.  In case you do not know, marble does break, thus this piece of marble counter-top is about 24 inches by 24 inches.  It is wonderful, and makes me smile when I think of Aunt Lottie and Uncle Leonard.

After cutting the cubes I placed them in a plastic bucket that  local store recycles. I like the clear plastic buckets (well, somewhat clear...) so I can tell what is inside them at a glance without having to open the cover.  At that point I drizzled over the top some good Greek olive oil.  After putting on the cover, I shook the bucket for one to two minutes so the olive oil would cover much of the bread cubes.

With the bread cubes nicely "oiled",  I made a mixture of granulated garlic, onion powder, dill weed, paprika, kosher salt, and finely ground black pepper.  When this was well mixed, I sifted it over the top of the bread cubes and, yes, you guessed it: I covered the bucket and shook again for one to two minutes.

By the time I had finished the above process the oven which I had set pre-heating was ready for the croutons-to-be.  Putting them onto a half-sheet pan, I baked them for 20 minutes then stirred them well and returned to oven for another 10 minutes.

After 30 minutes total baking time, I removed the pan from the oven and let the croutons cool to room temperature then returned them to the bucket which was where they will be stored until the munchers come later today. 

These munchies are quick, easy, inexpensive, and better for munchers than potato chips.  Seasonings can be adjusted to suit your munchers' tastes.  The complete recipe is found on Grammie's Kitchen and Bedtime Stories.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Genealogy Today: Software can be a bear....

In the last few months I have been introduced to several pieces of software that are purported great for use in genealogical and family history research, recording, and sharing.  What a great idea!  Sadly, at least one piece of the software may be beyond my capabilities.

Those new-to-me software packages are Evernote, Camscanner, and Flipboard.

Evernote is an application that I acquired more than a year ago and only used briefly at the time I downloaded and set it up.  I liked the idea but did not do much.  Recently I have found, and begun using, the Evernote Web Clipper.  It is fantastic!  Just a perfect help for all things online.  I love it.

Camscanner is a little app which I use with the iPad Mini that Dear One gave me when he was moving on to something else.  I do like this app.  I have been mostly successful with it, taking photos of documents and doing a bit of cropping, but nothing fancy. I believe there is more to the app for me to learn, and I probably will.

Flipboard is a much more recent find, and so far, totally escapes me.  I have one magazine set up but cannot see how to set up another one on a different subject. I also do not see how to add content to the hopefully-new-magazine.  Watching tutorials on YouTube so far I have not yet mined the information that I need. 

I do hate to have technology get the better of me.  I am not planning to be defeated by it, so will spend more time.  I think it can be a useful tool in gathering online data on a particular subject in one place for easy access.  At least, that is what I understand I should be able to do, but....not so far!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Barbara Walker Learn to Knit Afghan Project: Square 22

Square 22, called Diagonal Weave, is a simple and rather quick knit.  There are seven and a half pattern repeats.  It is possible to have memorized the pattern by the end of the second repeat making the knitting to take on very speedy progress.

Cast on 47 stitches.

There are 59 rows before binding off in purl.

Square 22: Diagonal Weave hot off the needles.  Notice how it rolls up due to the stockinette stitch background.
 There are multiple methods for blocking knitted wool projects.  This time, since the pieces are rather small, I have dampened  a bath towel and rolled the piece to be blocked inside and let it sit quietly by itself for one hour.  The advantage to this method is that the wool fibers soften up, relax, and do not get sodden with water so they dry out/block out faster.  If the piece to be blocked needs some serious blocking, i.e. stretching, then the "really wet" method probably is a better bet.

Wet towel with the square rolled up inside.
Diagonal Weave peaking out the end of the towel....

This is a block that I do not particularly like and do not expect I will ever use it beyond this project, but it is rather striking.

Diagonal Weave after an hour in the "dampening" towel, prior to actual blocking.