Scarves

I'm on a quest.  For scarves.  I recently had thyroid surgery and am not comfortable with the idea of being out there with my battle wound just yet.  My daughter let me borrow one of hers (thanks, Anne!) and I've found a few at Walmart but they're not great.  I'm looking for colorful, lightweight and inexpensive.





I'm not extremely fashion oriented, so this is a challenge for me.  My idea of dressing up is to wear a newly washed pair of my favorite jeans and a sweater.  A friend of mine always looks very nice - I noticed her shoes.  I don't know why I look at people's shoes.  I've always been jealous of women with average feet.  You know the ones that wear size 7 and can find racks and racks of shoes in their size.  Me, I'm an 11.  Maybe a 10 1/2 on a good day with my toenails clipped short.  Payless Shoes doesn't like me.  Shoe Carnival is much better.  At Payless all the cute styles stop at 10.  Oh sure, I can find some of the same styles in an 11, but I don't want three inch heels!  And seriously, some of those size 11 and 12 shoes are actually three and four inches high.  Who makes these shoes?  Don't they know that most women who wear big shoes are generally taller than most?  I'm 5'10" and I'm not thrilled about walking around being 6'1".  If my husband was 6'3" I might, but he's 5'11".

Anyway, about my friend's shoes...I asked her how she kept them so neat and polished.  She just shrugged.  I said, "I'll bet you don't garden in them."  I do.  And then I wonder why they look the way they do.  I have a hard time finding shoes that are comfortable so when I do, I live in them.

Wait, this post is about scarves!  What am I doing?  Where was I?  Oh yeah, fashion.  So I went looking around for scarf ideas and came across this youtube video showing how to tie scarves.




This really helps.  But finding scarves that I like is hard because I'm cheap.  So I had this brilliant idea to go to the fabric store and make some.  I'll let you know how that goes.  Tomorrow is New Years Eve.  Maybe there will be a great sale.  And I have a coupon.  Yessssss.

Eggnog cake...mmmm.

Gary and I were walking the aisles of Costco and wandered past this beautiful eggnog cake. "No, we can't." "It's too much money and too fattening." "But, it's Christmas after all." "And we could use it as a comparison for my eggnog bread..." "That's right - let's consider it research!"





Well we've researched the heck out of it.  The eggnog cake is almost gone and now I know what I want my bread to taste like. Only problem is, I'm making bread and this is cake. It's like comparing apples to oranges.

So I went ahead and made another batch of eggnog bread but this time I completely left out the baking soda.  I used only 3 cups of flour, and 1 teaspoon of nutmeg. And yes, it was really nutmeg. And yes, I remembered the butter.

I think it turned out pretty well. The flavor isn't as strong as the cake and the texture is more like a muffin. So for those of you who might taste it, feel free to take this quiz:

A. I'd crawl a mile for another bite
B. It was pretty good
C. Um, thanks?
D. Don't ever try a stunt like that again!

Merry Christmas!

:-)

Eggnog Bread Experiment #2

So I tried the eggnog bread again.  This time, I used 1/2 cup of melted low fat spread, which I know isn't great for baking, but hey, its all I had.  You know me, I like to improvise.  I also increased the nutmeg to 2 teaspoons.

It was more moist, probably not as much if I had used butter or oil, but it wasn't dry.  It had an interesting flavor.  I took a piece up to my husband and asked him what he thought.  He said it was a little salty but he wanted another piece.  That's a good sign I guess.

I gave my daughter, Erica, a piece and she wanted to know what new spice I used.  Just a little more nutmeg...

She said, "Well, something is different.  Let me smell the nutmeg".

We went to the spice cabinet and pulled out the "nutmeg".  Oh crap.  Cumin looks a lot like nutmeg if you think you have the right spice bottle.  No wonder it tastes different.  Not bad, its actually pretty good, but it doesn't taste like eggnog.

Several years ago I was making zucchini bread and reached for the oil.  Did you know that back then, the pine sol bottle was the same shape and color as vegetable oil?  Well, I do now.  I realized what was happening as I was pouring the pine sol into the batter.  I gasped in horror, grabbed both bottles and stared at them for what seemed like an eternity and then threw out the pine-scented batter.

You think I'd learn!  I'm having my thyroid removed and will be out of commission for a while so attempt number three will be hopefully next week.  I want to get this right before Christmas is over!

Eggnog Bread

I don't know about you but I love eggnog.  Its probably a good thing its only sold during the holidays, otherwise it would be a staple in my fridge.  I've had really good eggnog bread, but finding a good recipe is tricky.  And I'm a hostage to food.com.  When the Internet goes down like it did today, and all my favorite recipes are online, I'm lost.  Here's to writing them down and keeping a copy somewhere.

So I went to my Joy of Cooking cookbook that I've had since time began and searched for a recipe.  Nothing for eggnog.  I can improvise.  I found a poppy seed bread recipe.  That's sort of close.  It wants me to use the Irish American Soda Bread recipe, but use a little more buttermilk and sugar.  I can use eggnog instead of buttermilk...

3 1/3 cup flour
1/2 c sugar (instead of 1/4 cup)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg (instead of the caraway seeds)
1 cup chopped candied cherries (instead of the raisins)

Blend the dry ingredients and in a separate bowl whisk together:
2 large eggs
2 cups eggnog (instead of the buttermilk)
1 teaspoon rum extract (because I wanted to)
1/2 cup melted butter (Crap!  I left out the butter.  No wonder its a little dry.  I'll bet its awesome with butter)


Add to the dry ingredients and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Spoon into greased pans - either 2 loaf pans or 5 small foil pans (the kind you use to give as Christmas gifts) and bake 30-40 minutes.  The small pans took 30 minutes.


They're really good!  Except for the fact that there isn't any butter..........................grrr.
I would add a little more sugar next time.  I think I'd like the loafs a little sweeter.

I'm excited to make more treats for Christmas.  I've got an Apple Ladder Loaf from Taste of Home thats wonderful.  And I'll try cinnamon rolls from thepioneerwoman.com.  My friend Rebecca Taylor gave it to me and I'm dying to try it.

Ode to peanut butter

I'm not sure what it is about a PBJ that I love so much.  A lot of it is the bread its on.  I have very fond memories of my mom's homemade wheat bread that was sometimes pretty crumbly, but with peanut butter to glue it together, it was awesome.




Elementary school sack lunches with a PBJ on Wonder white bread with grape jelly is another story.  The jelly would sit for hours soaking into the bread.  Then when you finally got to take it out of the fold-over plastic bag, it was smooshed and slightly dried out, but it was a bite of happiness.

And honey!  When honey soaks into white bread it gets crunchy.  Mmmmmm.

My very favorite store bought bread is Oroweat Multi-grain.  But its expensive so I settle for the Farm Bread at Lin's.  I like making bread when I have time, and homemade wheat bread with peanut butter is delightful.  Have you ever needed a peanut butter fix, but all you had in the house were hot dog buns?  Or tortillas?  Hot dog buns are better than tortillas.  I'll leave it at that.

I used to buy Jif because, well, choosy mothers choose Jif.  And it was yummy.  But I like Western Family just fine.  I cleaned out the last jar with a rubber spatula to get it ALL and went to get my backup jar but couldn't find it!  Gasp.....Panic attack!  I checked the closet and all the cupboards and almost ran to the store when I remembered the twirly cupboard...Yessssss!  I think I'd better have a few more in my storage closet.

When the kids were small and my husband came home for lunch unexpectedly, I offered him a peanut butter sandwich.  He replied that he wished he could have peanut butter more often.  I said he needed to come home for lunch more often.

This is a haiku I wrote to express my joy for peanut butter.

Creamy nutty spread -
delight with apricot jam...
peanut butter

Early Thanksgiving

We had our family (minus two) over for an early Thanksgiving dinner yesterday.  Since four of our kids and their families were here this last weekend, we decided to go all out and have a full blown feast with those who were here.  It was so much fun to have Dan, Debbie and Jordan, Erica and Nate, Stephanie and her boyfriend, Rodney, Anne and my niece Katie over for dinner.

While I was making gravy, I heard a high pitched scream and thought in a split second panic, "Where's Jordan?!?"  Debbie calmly said, "She's just excited.  Welcome to my world!"  What an exuberant way to show joy - scream at the top of your lungs.



I tried a new brine recipe for my turkey that turned out really well.  I usually just use salt and water but this looked interesting.  Its a citrus turkey brine I found at allrecipes.com.  I didn't have any lemon wedges so I used RealLemon instead.  It was delicious!  The white meat was a little dry, but its usually drier than the dark meat.  Next time I'll turn the turkey upside down and roast it with the breast sitting in the juices.  I've done that a few times before and it sure comes out moist.

And I love homemade country-style mashed potatoes, with the skins left on.  One year I made mashed potatoes for a family Thanksgiving dinner that turned out beautifully.  I heard from my sister-in-law that her daughter commented on them.  "Mom, these potatoes are heaven!"  :-)  Yay!  That made my day.

Just add lots of butter and sour cream!  If you're a wimp like me, use reduced-fat butter spread and fat-free sour cream.  At least that way I don't have to feel too guilty about over-indulging.

I hope you all have a delicious and fun Thanksgiving, surrounded by people you love.

Ginger wins!

So I added powdered ginger to my wheat bread recipe and made the best bread ever.  I picked up a magazine (LDS Living) that had baking tips from the head baker at the Lion House in Salt Lake City.   I guess waiting an hour and a half for a new muffler wasn't a complete drag.

Her name is Brenda Hopkin and she said that by adding 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ginger to your wheat bread you could increase the volume of your yeast.  She wasn't specific, but I think she meant "per loaf".  I thought I'd give it a try.

This recipe came from my sister, Valerie, who makes it for her husband and five very active boys.  Its a great recipe - hot wheat bread in an hour and a half.  I had a hard time getting the hang of it (think bricks) until I asked her what I was doing wrong.  The recipe wants you to let it rest for 15 minutes, not rise until doubled like most bread recipes do.  I'd go off and get distracted by something shiny and forget I was making bread, and come back to find dough oozing over the side of the bowl.  More bricks.

So here's the recipe for 100% Whole Wheat Bread

5 cups hot tap water
1/3 cup vital wheat gluten
2/3 cup oil
2/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons salt
3 heaping tablespoons yeast
12-14 cups wheat flour (I used 13 cups)
1/2-1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger


I grind my own wheat.  I believe this is hard white wheat - its a good way to rotate our home storage supply, and cheaper that store-bought wheat flour.




Mix everything together.  I have never bothered with dissolving yeast in water before adding it.  The only time I do is when I'm not sure if the yeast is still active.  I only use enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the sides.  Mix it on high for six minutes.




It will be sticky and very soft!  Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover it and set the timer for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, get your pans ready.  




I used to have eight nice bread pans, but who knows where they are now.  Probably in the backyard with all those plastic containers we used to call Tupperware.  I have two left.  Bread pans, not Tupperware.  I have some 8" foil bread pans that I keep reusing and they're so cute!  This recipe made two regular loaves and four smaller loaves.  If you're using regular pans, it will make five.




Divide the dough into six separate lumps and don't worry, the counter has been disinfected...Shape them into loaves and place them in the greased pans.  




Cover them and set the timer for 25-30 minutes, just enough time to watch a few of Mater's Tall Tales.  Yes, the kids are all grown, but my husband and I are kids at heart.  
(A few minutes before the timer goes off, preheat your oven to 350 degrees)




The recipe says to bake for 30 minutes, but that's a little too long for me so I baked them for 25 minutes instead and they were perfect.




Light and fluffy and delicious with butter and honey.  



If you have a favorite bread recipe, I'd love to try it!

I love poached eggs.

Making them the "right" way always seemed so intimidating though.  My idea of poaching was to use a little metal custard-like cup sprayed with Pam that was placed in simmering water.  It was good, but I've always been intrigued by poaching an egg by plopping it right into the water.

But you know what?  It's not that hard.  I looked around for a few websites that explained it and always came away scratching my head, until I found one that made sense.  I wish I knew which one it was so I could give him credit.

The trick is using a little vinegar.  Something about vinegar holds the protein together so the egg doesn't turn into egg drop soup.  I'm not a chemist so I couldn't even start to explain why it works.  I personally can't taste the vinegar, but two of my daughters said they didn't care for it.  I guess it's like my mom trying to convince me that I really couldn't taste the difference between real milk and powdered milk.  (Like I'm so sure.  Powdered milk was gross when I was 15.  Now that I'm older its not that bad).

But I digress...I made poached eggs this morning and thought it would be interesting to take some pictures.

Start with a medium sauce pan and about 3" of water, 1-3 teaspoons white vinegar (I used cider vinegar) and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Crack your egg into a custard cup or small bowl and set it aside.



Bring the water to a boil and then turn the heat off but don't remove the pan.




Dip the cup with the egg into the water just enough to let a little of the hot water in with the egg then gently tip the egg into the water.




Please ignore the old pot.  I've been using this thing for 28 years and its been burned and boiled dry but its still one of my favorites.




Cover the pot and set the timer for three minutes, unless you don't like runny eggs.  Leave it in a few minutes longer if you want them firmer.




This is my egg at three minutes.




Remove it with a slotted spoon and drain it as much as you can.




Serve on toast or an english muffin.




Cut up with pepper...




Yummy!




I love to cook.



Waiting for a pattern

So I've decided to make the Sweet Harmony bag, but no one in town has the pattern.  I could order it online, but I don't want to pay $6-$8 in shipping.  I'm cheap.  I'll most likely pay more than I need to for nice fabric, and with the pattern costing between $8 to $12, that's going to make one expensive bag.  So I've asked Quilted Works to order the pattern.  At least that way I can avoid the shipping costs.

In the meantime, I'll make some wheat bread.  My sister, Valerie, gave me an awesome recipe for 100% whole wheat bread that is ready to eat in an hour and a half.  I've really enjoyed the recipe, but lately the loaves are coming out a little heavy.

I picked up a magazine at the mechanic while I was waiting for a new muffler and read an interesting article.  The head baker at the Lion House in Salt Lake City was being interviewed and she said that by adding 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of powdered ginger, you would get more volume from your yeast.  Who would have thought that?  How do people figure these things out?  I'm going to try it and see what happens.

No shows

I was all set to teach the makeup class for the Bellanca Bag, ready to put my new-found knowledge to work, but no one came.  So I went shopping instead.  I found some new shoes, a pair of jeans and some khaki pants.

I think what I'll do instead is go get some more fabric and make another bag.  I'll take photos as I go and post them here with instructions.  Maybe I'll try a different bag.

Here are few ideas:






My Favorite Bag Pattern






They're all pretty neat for different reasons.  I would choose a bold fabric from a quilt shop.  I like adding my own flair to projects.  Some people want their project to look exactly like the model they're copying, which is fine.  But I can't conform...must rebel...

Teaching

So I was really nervous before the first class I taught.  It was for a little girl's dress called the Gracie Dress.  It was for the tiered top (view C).



I've never been to a class like this, so to teach one was unnerving.  I didn't know what protocol or procedure was so I was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants.  Only two women attended the class so it was up close and personal.  By the end of the three hours though, I realized it wasn't as scary as I had thought.

The last class I taught though was the hardest one.  It was for the Bellanca Bag.


It was a complicated class to teach and still not having a lot of experience under my belt, the class didn't go very well.  Only one woman out of seven came close to finishing it, and she came with it halfway done!  I've arranged for a makeup class next week for those who didn't finish it, but one woman can't attend and she had the most trouble.

I invited her over to the alteration shop yesterday so I could go over a few things with her and she gave me the most helpful advice I've ever received.  She's attended a lot of classes over the years, mostly quilting classes, and told me what has been the most helpful for her.  She was so understanding that I'm a new teacher and was so willing to give me constructive criticism.

Her pointers:

  • Introduce the whole pattern and then explain the steps they'll be doing.
  • Start with the first step and explain in detail what they should do, demonstrating if necessary.  Then move through each step doing the same thing.
  • Stop the whole group for pointers at certain places, even if not everyone is to that step yet and explain what's needed.
  • Don't assume anyone understands the pattern.  If I had difficulty with certain steps, others certainly will.
It all seems so logical now that she's pointed them out, but at the time it didn't occur to me.  So next Wednesday for the makeup class, I'll be armed with a newfound knowledge.  I could feel silly that I didn't do a good job and didn't know how to teach, but I'd rather chalk it up to experience and move forward, grateful for the advice.

I like to sew

This has been my most recent passion.  I've always sewn.  From the time I was ten and attending 4-H in Moab, Utah.  I made a skirt out of yellow fabric with big pink flowers on it.  I was very proud of it because I put a zipper in, and it looked good!  At least from a ten year old's perspective.

I sewed as a teenager and made myself jeans, shirts, a swimming suit and a lined wool jacket and skirt.  But I felt like a fool in Home Economics in high school.  I knew what I was doing, even if Mrs. Marsden didn't approve of my methods.  But I'm sure everyone has issues with high school.

I sewed as a young mother and made jammies, blankets, dresses and dolls, and shirts for my husband. And Halloween costumes. And curtains. And pillows. And Christmas decorations. If it could be sewn, I probably made it.

And now I sew professionally. I worked at the costume shop at the Tuacahn Center for the Arts where I met Morelia Diaz. She's an incredible seamstress with a Master's degree in costume design. She found herself in need of help at her alteration shop and through a series of inspired events, she hired me. What a wonderful job this has been. I have learned so many things from Morelia that I wouldn't have otherwise learned.

I also was asked recently if I would like to teach a few apparel classes at a local quilt shop in town called The Quilted Works. And you know what? I had a really good time. I wasn't quite sure I was up to the challenge, but I'm glad I took that leap. I enjoy sharing my skills and knowledge with others.

So parts of this blog will be me showing you how to make something nifty I've found. And I'm looking forward to that too.

- Marcie
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