Monday, February 12, 2018

Do you have flour?

What about water, salt and yeast?  Then BOOM!  You've got bread!  
It is still very cold outside and sometimes you just need something comforting like fresh bread.  I was on call Friday and Saturday night which really took a toll on me this weekend.  David had the flu so I was taking care of him and yet trying to avoid him like the plague at the same time.  I felt like Sunday was my only true day off and spent much of it in the kitchen. 
Fresh French loaves are very easy and always welcome around here.  I mixed the dough and let it rise while I did the shopping.  I usually save time by making one fat loaf on a sheet pan but I got out my baguette pan for yesterday's bread.  When I backpacked years ago, I ate so much fabulous bread all over Europe and couldn't wait to get home and try to recreate those loaves.  I hunted for a perforated baguette pan as a trip souvenir but never found one over there so I ordered this one from somewhere when I got back.  I love the look of the late afternoon sun dappling the shaped dough and later the baked loaves.  Skinny loaves like this take only 15 minutes to bake in the oven and the upstairs was so wonderfully warmed by it's heat. 
I was digging in my cupboards earlier in the week and found some old Lipton Soup mixes with a website on them for recipes and decided to take a look.  They had a recipe for White Pizza Fondue and my interest was immediately piqued.  And it couldn't be easier!  I saw some sort of bacon soup/dip mix at Aldi which would also be good in this recipe.  I was even thinking that some cooked crumbled bacon might have been tastier than the pepperoni.  I always think pre-packaged dry mixes or sauces tend to under salt or season so I think this could have used a little salt to make it pop.
This is what we ate as a late lunch/afternoon snack yesterday.  It wasn't very colorful but it was carb heavy and warming and comforting.  Dave usually watches his sports TV in the downstairs living room but we sat together in the warmed upstairs yesterday and I put up with golf on my TV.  We don't see much of each other during the week and we avoided each other as much as we could on Friday and Saturday because Marek and I do not need to catch the flu. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

New Kinder for Kinder!

Are you familiar with these?  They are little German made egg shaped chocolates that encase a small plastic capsule containing a small toy.  They're awesome and sold all over the world.  They're also illegal only in the United States.  Apparently it is unlawful to place a toy inside a consumable. 
I look for these in the airports on every overseas trip I take and was worried I was breaking the law by bringing them back into the States.  They are clearly labeled a choking hazard but as I understand the law, it is illegal to re-sell or redistribute them to strangers in the United States, but if I want to endanger the small children in my life by giving these as gifts, that is perfectly legal.  I have always found these delightful and the small toys require some assembly and are intricate and detailed.  We just don't have anything like this here so I think they are fun little unusual treats that are always given and enjoyed under adult supervision.  I brought back 8 from Oslo's airport and the cashier even warned me that I wouldn't be able to bring them into the country.  I corrected her with my understanding of the law and I'm sure I sounded snooty.
I was in my HyVee yesterday and found these!  This must be the US approved version of the treat.  They were 4/$5 so of course I bought 4.  One for me and one for each of my sister's kids!
I think they skirted the law by keeping the toy outside the consumable.
The egg separates into two sections.  One side holds a white and hazelnut chocolate cream and wafer candy and the other holds the toy components.  
I got a little robot in this one and built it while enjoying my treat.  Hooray for this new and improved and approved Kinder Egg!

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Serge!

Not Surge like the 90's pop of the same name, but SERGE as in the sewing machine!  I bought this almost 6 months ago, right after we learned we were pregnant, with the last of my plasma money.  It then sat in a box in the living room all that time until I finally worked up the courage to use it.  I LOVE it. 
I had 2 pairs of loungewear pants cut out and sitting in the sewing room and thought that would be a good first project.  It came already threaded and you can't use pins because of the knife on the machine so I put my quilt clips to good use.  I used a serger 20 years ago in home ec class and haven't been near once since.  I couldn't believe how quiet and FAST it was.  It sucked up the fabric and of course you don't have to trim your seams...I made those pants in record time!
I not brave enough to change the thread yet but I already slowly purchased 4 serger spools of 8 basic colors while I was busy not using the serger.  Every time I went to the grocery store, I stopped at Joann's armed with coupons and bought a few spools.  My sewing table is too cramped with two machines on it so when it's not in use, it sleeps in my cubby shelf and fits perfectly!
I've used it to make a bunch of quick baby items like these shoulder/burp rags.  They are just 2 pieces of critter flannel serged together.  They have double thickness and finished edges that did not involve turning inside out and top stitching.  Record time sewing.  I used a bread plate to round the corners versus fighting with right angles.
I made a couple pee pads too.  This is PVC coated fabric used for making cloth diapers topped with critter flannel and the edges serged and again I rounded the corners.  I made a few crib sized pads for major blowouts so the pad can be taken out and laundered and the rest of the bed clothes are spared.  I also made a few smaller ones for the diaper bag to be layed out as a surface to change on.  These were nice early projects to get to know my machine because I feel like I'm still "learning how to drive" with it.
This is my other favorite appliance in the house at the moment!  Best Christmas ever because Dave bought me a fake fire!  I've been asking for one for years and this year he came through.  You can run it with or without heat and I very rarely turn the heat on.  I'm a tightwad when it comes to the energy bill but also I'm hot blooded and like to just look at it.  This is the view from my knitting chair!
He really outdid himself this year!  Here he is putting it together for me.  We enjoyed our first pregnant Christmas together.  Next year we'll have a 9 month old trying to get into everything so this might be the last year of full decorations for a while!  And of course my family will get together for Christmas next weekend so I kind of don't feel like we've had Christmas yet.  Happy Late Christmas!

Flannel Blankies

Dave gives me a hard time because I make a lot of blankets.  A lot of blankets.  But I never hear him complain about it when the weather is our current -20 degrees and we have 8 blankets on our bed and blankets on the couch.  Our son will have no shortage of blankets either because I've been busy making satin bound flannel blankies.
I'll admit that for the nanosecond after finding out we're having a boy, my heart sank simply because of my opinion that it is always harder to sew and knit for little boys.  I always thought there were more fun prints and patterns geared towards girls.  It turns out there are boy prints and patterns out there if you look carefully for them.  This first one has llamas on a Martha blue background!  I finished it with a manly gray binding.  Love it!
Foxes are everywhere!  I have some quilting cotton in this same print--I don't know what I'm going to make with it but it will eventually come to me.  This blankie was made out of the flannel cut I had.  I debated whether to bind it with orange because that is Dave's favorite color, but I liked the more subtle cornflower blue. 
And finally more critters!  I got this cut as an impulse and then decided to make a blankie out of it.  I already happened to have a package of pale blue binding in the sewing room.  I got to come home early from work last night and whipped this up while I waited for Dave to get home from bowling.  I have to say I'm thrilled with my baby boy blankies.  They are colors I love and patterned with my favorite critters and will keep this little boy warm and protected.  They'll probably keep my lap warm on the couch every now and then too!

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Hosenmatz!

I just finished a knitted pair of baby pants from this Hosenmatz pattern!  With the sub-zero weather we've had all week, I wouldn't mind having a pair of these myself!  I used the remaining Zauberball wool I'd used to make a sideways baby jacket.  I think the jacket is too feminine for our son (29 weeks yesterday!) and I had enough to make a 4-7 month size pair of pants.  They are so roomy and have ample front and back gussets for fat diaper butts!
The zauberball yarn is a very fine sock/fingering weight.  I want to make a few more of these and I feel they'll be a little more substantial when knit out of more traditional sock yarn.  I have lots and lots of sock yarn in my stash and I'm loving using it for things other than socks!  To that end, I bought this skein of manly/neutral tones this spring at the fiber festival.  I think it will coordinate nicely with some Gopher items we got on sale.  This boy is going to be a Gopher fan if my husband has anything to do with it!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Secret


I volunteered to bring cookies for our hospital volunteer appreciation coffee and baked peanut butter blossoms this morning.  I haven't made these since last Christmas season I think.  The secret to these cookies is to not freeze them once they are baked.  If you look at the photo, the kisses in the bowl are dull but the kisses on the cookies are glossy and shiny.  If you took a knife to the kisses on the cookies, that chocolate would spread like soft butter.  The candies are placed on the hot cookies once they are taken out of the oven and they soften up and almost melt.  Once the chocolate firms up again, they remain a little glossy and softer to the teeth than they'd be right out of the bag.  Essentially you are tempering the chocolate and if you freeze these to store them, the chocolate loses it's temper and becomes dull and hard again.  The same thing happens with chocolate chip cookies.  I love a soft cookie and there's nothing worse than a soft cookie with a hard wad of chocolate that you have to gnaw and shave with your teeth.  The only trouble though...I started baking a little late this morning and now I'm worried they won't be firm/set enough to stack in a container.  I might have to bring them all spread out in my covered sheet pan.  I'll keep the ones for the volunteers looking nice, but if the extras I baked to fortify myself and my coworkers get a little smeared, they'll taste just as good!  ;)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Homemade Granola

I've been eating a lot of granola lately for the health benefits of oatmeal.  I have a glucose tolerance test coming up and I'm trying to watch my weight in general so I don't have a ginormous baby.  I find granola to be tasty and filling and I get the fibery goodness of the oats.  Martin Luther was always talking about his bowels and the gruel and oats he'd eat so I think of him when I make this!
I can't take credit for this recipe.  It came from the weekly American Profile insert Dad included in his local newspaper.  I don't remember the name of the reader who submitted it but I thank her every time I make this.

8 c. rolled oats (Old Fashioned--not instant or quick oats)
1/2c. + 1 Tbsp. honey
1/2c. + 1 Tbsp. oil  (I use walnut oil from Spectrum Organics but any vegetable oil is fine)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. pecan halves
1 c. slivered almonds
1 c. sliced almonds
2 c. dried fruit (I use a bag of dried cherries and a bag of dried berries from Aldi)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place oats in a large bowl.  Mix together oil, honey and vanilla and pour over oats.  Toss mixture together thoroughly to coat oats.  Pour into a large oiled pan and bake 40 minutes, stopping to stir every 10.  Add nuts after the first 10 minutes.  Add dried fruit after baking but when oats are still warm.  Store in an airtight container up to a month.

You can adjust this recipe however you want as far as nuts and fruit.  I've cleaned out my freezer before using up all kinds of nuts I had in there and I have a big bag of Craisins downstairs I need to get used up.   I use walnut oil because I got a super great deal on it between Cartwheel and coupons and nut oils are supposed to be very good for you.  I like using it this way versus sauteing something in it.  I also use walnut oil in my salad dressings.  Spectrum Organics makes a non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening which I am enjoying baking with.  I questioned how that would even work if it is non-hydrogenated but I am very pleased and impressed with it.

I made a batch of this and vacuum sealed it with my FoodSaver and took it in my suitcase to Norway this trip and to England two years ago.  It traveled well and filled me up for breakfast every morning.  Also, it is DELICIOUS and is a treat.  You can eat it with milk as a cereal, with yogurt as a muesli, or my favorite...
...with kefir!  I like to think the high fiber in the oats and fruit and the probiotics and high protein in the kefir as well as the nuts is sticking to my ribs and is good for me.  Num num!  This smells so good baking in the oven and warms up the house on these cold winter days!  Also, Aldi is now producing their own store brand of kefir which is the best news I've heard in a while.  Hitherto I've always bought Lifeway Kefir at Aldi.

Tree Finally Trimmed

I finally put the tree up last weekend.  Once again my family will not be able to get together for our Christmas until January so I had plenty of time to put up decorations, but I just LOVE having all the trimmings up during this cold and snowy season.  I love picking up tree ornaments on travels and trips because they are a small souvenir that will be showcased and treasured every Christmas and carefully kept the rest of the year.


These first two olive wood ornaments were brought from The Holy Land by my parents this spring.  They also brought home water from the Jordan River and our baby will be baptized with it.  :)
This domestic ornament came from The Neon Museum in Las Vegas when Dave and I were in town for his bowling tournament.  You can't see it very well in the picture but there are dangling chains of stars hanging from it.  I just love it!  Dave scoffed at the price at the time.  I told him I'd paid way more for ornaments in London and quickly made my way to the check out before he could stop me.
My sister bought me this one in Stillwater at the German Christmas Shop.  It is a German carousel like the carousel she bought me at a garage sale when we moved into the house.  My mother has the same carousel that my Grandpa Maynerd bought for her and is a favorite decoration.  This was given as kind of a pregnancy gift and I love it.
She also got this squirrel ornament more for the baby because we love squirrels and bunnies and critters for the kids in the family.  He is sitting next to a pewter viking ship ornament purchased and the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo in October.


















 Here are two more pewter viking ship ornaments.
Here is a simple little Father Christmas ornament from the Audhild Viken shop behind Oslo's City Hall.  It was a large gift shop with knitwear, housewares and souvenirs and a Christmas shop in the basement.  We found some nice souvenir places/tourist traps in that neighborhood that were a little cheaper than shopping on Karl Johans Gate. It seemed very familiar and I was pretty sure I'd been there with my host family years ago.

















Here are two different Scandinavian heart ornaments.  The wooden one was kind of a modern stylized version and reminded me of Louet spinning wheels!  The one on the right is a pewter traditional version of the heart.  I've always known these as Danish hearts but they are so Christmas-y!
This was just a cute wooden gingerbread-y/German carousel-y ornament.  The wooden figure just reminded me of decorations we had growing up.
This last one is probably my favorite.  If you want a symbol of Norway it is this building--a stabbur.  It is the winter storehouse of peasants and was basically rodent-proof.  The house itself is built on stilts with large slate discs between the stilt and the building which made jumping around/over the disc impossible for rodents--think of  squirrel-proof bird feeder technology.  The steps were also built a distance away and lower from the door so rodents couldn't jump from the stairs.  They are wooden rustic buildings with grass roofs and absolutely charming.  Every year we add a few more ornaments to the collection and each one comes from somewhere special or has a story.  Enjoy the season!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Complete Radio Silence

I've been busy.  This is my latest knitting project which was a bit of a black hole.  The yarn is a gorgeous hand dyed superwash sock yarn from Knitting Notions.  I bought it at the fiber festival last year with this project in mind.

This pattern came from the little book, "Kelbourne Woolens Baby Collection," that was purchased on our last trip to Reno.  It was knit on size 3 needles from the center out and features mitered corners, a picot border and a knit hem finish.  If I'd been thinking, I would have taken pictures of the hemming process.  I was so daunted by the instructions but when it came down to it, it was quite simple and made such a neat and finished edge.
I swear the colors are a yuck yellow and and gray/slate blue but under yellow light bulbs, it looks purple.  Several people have remarked it is a Viking blanket which I don't like because I detest football.
It knits up into a lump and required blocking.  I hadn't gotten the blocking bucket out in a long time.
This was the was the first time I'd used my blocking wires that Dave gave me for Christmas last year.  They made for slick and quick blocking.  My entire knitting career, people have remarked about a baby item and the hours that go into it and how one puke or poop will do a major number on that knitting.  This is all brought into sharp relief lately because...
...Dave and I are 21 weeks pregnant with a little boy!  We've been counting the days and weeks and saving our pennies and watching the fliers for baby items on sale.  We're blessed to have such wonderful families and they are joyfully giving us their used baby stuff left and right.  The prospect of the next 18 years is terrifying but thrilling too.  My theoretical baby stash has finally become a real baby stash.  I've hoarded Peter Rabbit fabric since I was in high school and it will be made into curtains and bedding for the baby's room.  So much to do!  I've been very lucky in that I have never been sick or "felt" pregnant--other than being very tired all the time.  I'm trying to eat healthy and nutritious foods and have lost 8 pounds since finding out.  If it hadn't been for seeing the baby on the ultrasound with my own eyes, I'd have said this was all an elaborate hoax.  This week I have felt the first baby movements, or rather I've realized that is what they were because hitherto I was convinced it was gas!  My only real complaint is that I can't take two of my migraine meds but things haven't been too bad.  We are both just marveling at the miracle of new life.
And since all roads lead to knitting...this is my pathetic Socktober progress!  I went to Norway with my Dad and sister for a week at the end of October and brought this with and didn't knit a single stitch.  My traveling days are officially over for the next 18 years and I think it was so fitting that my last trip was a trip back home to Norway and I got to bring my son along!  :)  I'll share more about my trip soon.  We had a wonderful time together and a fabulous trip.