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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Charity Knitting: Seamen's Church Institute

If you have yarn, and if you have needles, and if you have patterns, and if you have time, you will be able to do a lot of good knitting for good causes.  One of my recent favorite charities is the Seamen's Church Institute.  It warms my own heart to make items for these men and women who serve on the seas.  My own brother was on the sea for several years which is why I became interested in the first place.

Here is a picture of a box of slippers (Nola's Slippers) and a hat (the 1898 hat) that I put in the mail today.  It makes me happy to serve in this way.  When I get my house in order I will have more time for knitting. I think.  I hope.  So many good causes.  So much yarn ready to go!

Three pairs of Nola's Slippers, one other pair of slippers, and one 1898 hat.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Munchie Monday: Apples in a Bowl

In an effort to improve the health-giving qualities of the food we put out for the early morning visitors, and because I was very very tired last night/did not wake up early this morning,  today we had leftover brownies (not too many of them) and some luscious apples in a bowl.  The apples were Cripps Pink apples.  Nice.  Crisp. Juicy.  How can you go wrong?!

And don't you just love the bowl?!  I do.  I have been giving away kitchen stuff lately.  This bowl has a permanent home here....

Friday, February 24, 2017

Food Friday: Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

Is there anyone who does not like chocolate chip cookies? 

Dear One loves chocolate chip cookies.  However!  They need to be soft.  Crisp is not good.  Hard is not good.  Chewy is just barely good.  Soft is really good.  I found a new recipe at I Am Baker. 

This is the way I made them:

In a stand mixer mixing bowl I combined:
1 cup soft butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Beat these ingredients until they are soft and creamy....probably 2-3 minutes.  Scrape down the side of the bowl  every minute or so.

Add in:
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whip again until very smooth.

In a large bowl mix together:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

When these are well combined and you are sure you have no lumps of baking soda left in the flour, add in:
2 cups chocolate chips  (I used semi-sweet.)

Mix well with a wooden spoon then stir into the "wet ingredients".  Don't overwork the batter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a portion scoop, scoop out batter and place 12 blobs on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Lightly press down the tops of the cookie mounds then bake for 10-12 minutes.  You may need slightly longer.  You only want to cook these cookies until they are barely lightly browned around the bottoms of the cookies on the parchment paper.

Remove from oven and let cool five minutes then remove from baking sheet and let cool completely.  If you can.  Well, YOU can but if there is anyone else in the house when you take these out of the oven it may be impossible to let them cool completely.

NOTE:  If you go to the website above, you will see that I did not make these cookies exactly as Amanda, the lady at I Am Baker, makes them.  Dear One LOVED these cookies.  Tonight I was speaking with our daughter on the telephone and noticed Dear One going to the refrigerator for a glass of cold milk to go with some cookies he had in his hand.  I told our daughter that he had found the cookies in the freezer.  He said there was a problem:  there were very few cookies left in the freezer....  He does not know that I took half of the cookie dough and wrapped it into a log on plastic wrap then covered it with foil and froze it so I can make cookies at some later time.  That time may be coming sooner rather than later.

This batch of dough makes about 4 dozen cookies, I think.  Based on baking 24 cookies at the time I made the dough and putting half the dough in the freezer.  These were LARGE cookies.  You might want to be more reasonable in sizing your cookies.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

First Attempt: Floral Arranging

Michaels Stores have free classes.  (Just go to their website to see what class is at your closest Michaels Store.)   This week there were classes on finger crochet and floral arrangement.  I was there for both of them.

This is the arrangement I made:

Not stunning, but fun to do with two other ladies.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Charity Knitting: Easy Premie Hats

Here are two premie hats I made recently to go along with a newborn hat.

Ribbed Hat

Cast on 48 stitches with soft worsted weight yarn and using US size 7 double pointed needles.

Knit 2, purl 2 ribbing for 4 inches.

Begin decrease rounds. 

Dec. Round 1: Knit 2, knit 2 together.  Repeat around.
Dec. Round 2:  Knit
Dec. Round 3: K1, k2tog around
Dec. Round 4:  Knit
Dec. Round 5:  K2tog around.

I think you need to do a second K2tog round to get to 6 stitches left. 

Work I-cord for 2 inches.  Bind off the 3 stitches and weave in ends.  Tie a knot in the I-cord.

Beanie Hat

Cast on 48 stitches with soft worsted weight yarn and using US size 7 double pointed needles.

Knit 1, purl 1 ribbing for 1 inch.

Knit every round until 4 inches from cast on edge.

Begin decrease rounds. 

Dec. Round 1: Knit 2, knit 2 together.  Repeat around.
Dec. Round 2:  Knit
Dec. Round 3: K1, k2tog around
Dec. Round 4:  Knit
Dec. Round 5:  K2tog around.

You may need to K2tog again to get to 6 stitches remaining.  Cut yarn with a long tail.  Thread a needle and run yarn through 6 stitches and pull tight.  Fasten off.

Make a small pompom and sew to top of hat.  Turn up brim.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Munchie Monday: Homemade Balsamic Mayonnaise

Years ago I was very interested in Julia Child and her cooking show.  We watched many episodes.  I seem to remember her making her own mayonnaise.  What a great idea that seemed to me.  After a long time I acquired one of her cookbooks.  Then another.  And another!  There I found her mayonnaise recipe.  I tried it. It was very good.  It was very mild.  I wanted to try mayonnaise of a different flavor.  The result is this Balsamic Mayonnaise.

You can make this with a metal whisk but I do not recommend that.  Use either a food processor or a blender.  I usually use a blender.

1 large egg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, or your favorite prepared mustard
1-4 cloves garlic, depending on you enjoyment of garlic.  You can chop the garlic if you want or just leave it whole.
 1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper--or ground black or white pepper if you don't have a pepper mill
1/4 cup olive oil

Put the above ingredients in your blender jar and blend well for 1-2 minutes until everything is creamy and there are no garlic chunks visible.  Scrape down the sides of the jar so that all the goodness is incorporated.

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

Blend for a few seconds then add in a very thin stream while the blender runs constantly:

1 cup vegetable or canola oil

 After less than a minute you should have a lovely thick very tasty mayonnaise. Scrape down the sides again so everything is together.  Remove from the blender jar and store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator.  Use it up in a week, or two at the most.

This is a wonderful sauce on steamed vegetables.  It is great on toast with thinly sliced sweet onion and a sprinkle of sauerkraut.  It adds a terrific zip to egg salad or tuna salad or potato salad.  Especially if you went heavy on the garlic!

If you are on a lower fat eating plan for a few weeks,  you might want to share some of this with a friend then make more when you can wholeheartedly indulge again.

You know, I think I will try this on a baked potato soon.  No need for butter or sour cream at all!

If you are less adventuresome or prefer a more bland mayonnaise, you can make the same sauce but change the vinegar from balsamic to plain white vinegar, and drop to 1 clove garlic, or none at all.  For the mustard, choose a milder mustard.  It will still be good mayonnaise.  There is nothing like fresh mayonnaise.  You know what is in it. 

This makes about 1 1/2 cups delicious flavor-filled mayonnaise.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Food Friday: Simple Montreal Steak Seasoning Pan-seared Tofu

After making the Instant Pot Meatless Loaf there was about half a box of firm tofu left over.  I had already drained it, didn't want to re-wet it and store it, so I decided to pan sear/fry it.

Son number four had just made some bacon in the large cast iron skillet and had left a tiny amount of greasiness in the bottom of the pan. I started heating that up over medium heat.

The chunk of tofu was easily sliced into quarter-inch "steaks".  I got out a plate and dumped on about 3 Tablespoons of cornstarch then added almost 1 teaspoon of Montreal Steak Seasoning.    I mixed them together well then dredged each side of the tofu in the cornstarch mixture then placed the slices carefully in the heated pan. I let them sear/cook for about 5 minutes per side then removed them to a plate.

We ate them with some Sweet Chili Sauce from the Asian market. The pan frying/searing made a nice chewy crust on both sides and a little bit of softness in the middle.  We had this as an adjunct to the failed Meatless Loaf dinner.  These also were not popular.  Well, again, I liked this and will eat slices on a sandwich during the next week.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Watercolor Painting: Loose Floral Bouquet

A dear sweet friend painted me a lovely picture of cute animals. AND she made it into a greeting card and sent it to me!  I was so happy.  I thought I might try to do the same.  This is the painting I made.  Very loose and simple.  I may try some more along this line.

Often I like paintings that go off the edge of the paper.  In retrospect, I don't like this as much.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fun Food: Pretzel Mini Peanut Butter Cup Hearts

Another effort to make a fun (and very easy) treat for the early morning visitors.  This time I took our plastic barrel of small pretzels, put 30 of the pretzels onto a parchment covered cookie sheet, topped the pretzels with an upside-down mini peanut butter cup, and put into the preheated 350 degree F. oven for 4 minutes.

Mini peanut butter cups on bottom pretzel ready for oven.

When the 4 minutes  had passed,  I pulled out the cookie sheet and topped each softened peanut butter cup with many-colored sprinkles.  Finally I smushed one more mini pretzel on top (lined up in the same direction as the bottom pretzel) so that the chocolate more or less came through the holes in the tops of the pretzels.  After setting them in the refrigerator for fifteen minutes they were ready to eat.  Very cute, I thought.

Pretzel hearts with sprinkles, ready to eat

As it happens, though I thought these were adorable but they did not appeal.  Oh, well.  Another day.  Another food failure. 

Well, maybe chocolate at 6 AM is not what is needed.  I will try apples and bananas and see what happens then.  Or muffins again.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Papercrafting: Birthday Card Bound Journal

Years ago when I was working at Dartmouth College I used to attend bookbinding classes at the library before teaching our church youth in the evening. It was so enjoyable to learn many different structures that you can make with very few tools.  Recently I have become acquainted with Sea Lemon on YouTube (don't you just LOVE YouTube?!!) who has a wonderful bookbinding series.  I used her saddle stitch tutorial for this little journal.

Our granddaughter has a birthday coming up.  When I was her age my parents gave me a journal to
write in.  In fact, they gave me a journal every Christmas for years.  I wrote in those journals from time to time.  Looking at them now I am rather appalled at the stuff a young teen girl writes....

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to make a birthday card for this wonderful grandchild who lives too far away.  And then I thought:  why not make her a tiny journal in eight colors.  So I did.

Heavy card stock was printed with a line to make writing easier. (I used the second template on the website that was called "Wide Ruled Lined Paper 8.7 mm"). I then cut the paper in half horizontally and used an awl to punch holes along the spine.  I had previously used binder's clips to hold the pieces of paper tightly and evenly together. I used four sheets twice to make two signatures to bind.  When punching the holes with the awl, I placed the pages face down on a thick telephone book and then punched out the five holes for each signature, and then  I measured the width of the two signatures and then made a spine on the heavy blue dot embossed cover stock.  I used baker's twine to bind with.

It turned out okay.  Not fabulous, but okay.  It is certainly use-able.

Below the two signatures and the lined pages are clearly visible.

 Here you can see the spine of the journal.  One thing I learned when doing the spine is that I should have scored it rather deeply first.  That way there would have been a more firm line rather than ripple-y as it is here.  Next time.

It was also fun to make the envelope. I have decided to make envelopes with the envelope punch board  for all cards in the future.  We R Memory Keepers blog is a good one to visit... The postmistress is very agreeable to pretty envelopes as long as the address is clearly seen.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Munchie Monday: Frugality Again--Cabbage and Onions

We had half a cabbage that was beginning to look less than lovely. Well, it was drying out.  I could not bear to throw it out.  This is what I did:

Sliced the cabbage into fine shreds.

Slice two large onions, also finely, but since I knew I was the only person who would eat this food, I did not trouble too much about the size of the onions.

Melted 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the cast iron skillet then put in the cabbage and onions.  Stirred them well to coat with the lovely oil.  Sautéed the vegetables over medium heat until the cabbage was tender and the onions nicely caramelized.  Sprinkled with Montreal Steak Seasoning. Yes, I love that stuff.

This cabbage and onion conglomeration was very very good.  It took me three days to eat it all but I enjoyed every single bite.  No one else bit when offered...

 You can see the lovely caramelized onions.  So good.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Food Friday: Candy Melts for Valentine's Day--Almost a Disaster

We seem to have a lot of Wilton Candy Melts at our house.  I cannot fathom why we have so many.  I do not want to eat them all myself so I am giving them away.  The ladies at our Church have an annual chocolate dipping party just before Valentine's Day so this is the perfect time to unload the melts.

Before letting them all go, however, I decided to use a bag that was unopened plus a bag that was half gone.  The reason this came to mind was that as I was working at organizing the pantry I found a silicon mold I purchased a couple of years ago in the shape of bunnies.  It is the Wilton Bunny Peeps Mold.  You can find it at Amazon and also probably at Michaels or Joann or other craft store.

So I melted the dark chocolate melts which fit almost perfectly into the 12 bunny cavities.  I then took the half bag of pink melts and melted them in the microwave also.  They did not come to the same runny consistency as the unopened bag. The melts were soft and pliable, just not pour-able.  I used them anyway.

This is what they looked like before going into the freezer to chill:

Here they are out of the freezer after 15 minutes of chilling time:

As you can see, they are pretty much a disaster. I am not confident our early morning friends will eat them.  If those kids don't, perhaps I can get the grandchildren to eat them, though I have been trying to lay off giving the kids bad (but fun) stuff to eat.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Papercrafting: Love You Bunches Card

Recently I became a Michaels arts and crafts store teacher.  Last night was my first time to teach at a brand new store.  The project was to make a greeting card with a bunch of roses.  The roses were created from a circle of  colored card stock which were cut in a spiral design then rolled up.  This was new to me.

Here is a video on how to do it.

The one thing I did when rolling the paper to make the roses was to begin rolling the paper from the outside (which you need to do) but wrapping it around a cotton swab to help it roll tightly.  I would have used a knitting needle except I did not have one handy, if you can believe that!!

On the card  I used small adhesive circles to keep the brown paper cone together, then used  larger adhesive circles to attach the roses to the cone.

This was a fun project, and pretty quickly done.  If you live near a Michaels store, check out their classes. I am going to attend a painting class myself next week!

This card could use some more decoration.  At least it seems pretty stark to me.  When I make another one I think I will use an embossing folder to add texture to the card.  Well, probably will cut a card, run it through an embossing folder, then attach the rose bundle to the embossed card and finally  attach THAT to the card base.  Also, I think I will make five roses next time...

In case you cannot read the little tag that has been tied to the bunch of roses, it says "Love you bunches".  I did not think that up myself...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Frugality: Using What You Have--Salsa Guac

We had four small tomatoes sitting on the table and one beautiful-looking avocado.  We had lime juice and red onions.  We did not have any jalapeños or fresh cilantro.  We did have dried cilantro, granulated garlic, white pepper, and sriracha sauce.  Because the tomatoes were beginning to speak to me about using them up pretty soon, I decided to make some salsa guac.  When I opened the avocado, it was in perfect ripeness.  That does not happen often here in the northern climes.

This is what I did:

Chopped the tomatoes finely.  Put them in a large bowl.
Diced the two small red onions.  Put them in the same bowl.
Harvested the avocado meat, diced it, and put that into the bowl.
3 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon dried cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons dried ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce

Stirred it all together.  Tasted it and liked it.  I added a little more sriracha.

This salsa guac will do in a pinch. It is not remotely as good as all-fresh-ingredients salsa guac, but it worked when I wanted to use up the tomatoes before they went beyond happily using them.

 For eating, I mixed equal parts leftover refried beans and salsa guac and added twice as much steamed broccoli, also leftover, stirred it all together and called it breakfast.  It looks nasty (thus: no picture!) , but tastes really fine.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Knitting: Little Gnome Hat

A dear friend sent me the link to a darling-looking hat earlier this week.  It is called the Little Gnome Knitted Peaked Hat.  Since I was at a rather low spot I spent five hours the next day and knitted up the hat.  The next morning I was awake at 3 AM (the cinnamon bun day) so I spent another hour doing the finishing-up work.  The hat is cute but I do not see lots more of them in my future.

Here is the hat with the beginning knitting done and cast off the needles.

This is the hat with the back seam sewn up and all the knitting (neck band added after back seaming) done.

This is the completed Little Gnome Knitted Peaked Hat project.  Cute, but I will only be making this for precious babies after this time.  Well, all babies are precious, but because it took me so long, what I mean is that I will most likely not use this pattern for my use-up-the-stash-as-quickly-as-possible projects.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Munchie Monday: Meatless Loaf

A few days ago Jill McKeever had a recipe video on YouTube that I just HAD to try. I always liked meatloaf when my mother made it and when my mother-in-law made it.  I made it a few times, too, and liked it.  Since trying to eat a more plant-based diet, I thought I would try this one.

This one tasted fine to me.  Jill says it is even better the next day because it becomes more solid as opposed to rather soft when you eat it hot out of the oven and is thus great on sandwiches. I am looking forward to a meatloaf sandwich for breakfast...!

Even the gravy tasted wonderful on the real mashed potatoes.

Sadly, this meal did NOT sell well at our house.  I probably will not make it again unless Dear One is away for a few days...something I do not anticipate happening any time soon.  Well, even then, I probably won't make it unless a freezer trial comes out well.

The next day was no more successful than the first time.  It still tasted good but the texture was too soft for me.  Sad. I wanted it to work.  Maybe it is time to make a nut loaf...

Friday, February 3, 2017

Food Friday: The General's Surprise

Always looking for ways to improve our healthy food options, I read a recipe for General Tso's Cauliflower Healthified which somehow showed up in my emailbox.   Since I had recently had a chat with Dear One about our menu choices I decided to give it a try.  Well, what is not to like about General Tso's sauce?!  And cauliflower? You cannot go wrong with cauliflower.

So I made the recipe.  The sauce was delicious.  The oven baked breaded cauliflower was nice and crisp.  The rice was brown.

This is what it looked like on the plate:

When Dear One asked me what it was I told him it was General Tso's Surprise.  He ate several pieces before he asked what it was.  When I told him it was cauliflower his enjoyment in the meal immediately faded.  Funny guy.  I said, "You know you love it."  He said, "I did until I heard I was eating cauliflower!"  Really funny guy.

Well, there was more for me, I guess.

Next time, and there will be a next time, I will not bread the cauliflower. I will just roast it and then douse it in the delicious sauce.   It won't be crispy or look sort of like fried chicken, but it will be healthified by me, and much healthier than breading.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Food Tip: Don't Overload the Oven!

Today this is just a quick food tip:  DON'T OVERLOAD THE OVEN!  It leads to poorly cooked, or burned, food.

Take for example the cinnamon buns I made recently for our early morning guests. 

Since I awoke at 3 AM and did not seem able to drop immediately back to sleep I got up and went through the whole process of making cinnamon buns.  By 5:30 there were two pans ready to go into the oven.  One was a half sheet pan with fifteen buns on it.  The other was a quarter sheet pan with seven buns on it.

Because I was finally beginning to want to go back to bed, I decided I would cook them both at the same time.   I put the half sheet pan on the top rack and the quarter sheet pan on the lower rack.  Bad idea.

The tops were just fine and the buns in the half sheet pan were barely okay.  The quarter sheet pan bun bottoms were just past okay, moving towards burned.  Sugar does go from fine to burned in not time flat, so you have to watch anything with sugar in it.  Lesson learned?  Maybe.  Hopefully.

A second bad idea was to set the oven timer for the amount of time the recipe called for the buns to cook.  I should have set the timer for five minutes LESS and then checked them.  Well, buns are supposed to be nice and brown. I can say that these were brown all right...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Papercrafting: Antiqued Card

Making birthday cards is so enjoyable.  This time I tried to make the antiqued look.  I like the card, mostly.

To make this card,  using heavy card stock, cut the card to nearly the finished size.

Choose an embossing folder you like and run the card through your embossing/die cut machine. I used a Big Shot...one of my favorite tools.

Choose an ink pad color you like and more or less smush the ink pad onto the embossing folder.

With a baby wipe, wipe across the parts of the embossed card you want to be ink-free.

This is how mine turned out:

I would like to have gotten the blue on all of the background, but that did not happen this time....