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Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Dinner

My sister made this lovely pie. I love pie. And here is the second bread. A little salty. I have to work with that. But ohhh, the texture was good, and isn't it lovely. Fresh bread.

I wonder how many blogs will be written today about Christmas dinner. Hum.. Brings a smile to my heart. This is mine. A small humble dinner for my sister and me. I am shy to say that in my 60 years, I have never cooked a ham. So here it is. I didn't have a wire rack to set it on, but I did have this pot trivet made of some sort of aluminum iron or something. And it did the trick. This is the ham more than half way through its cooking. I will be placing in the cloves and the pineapple slices now.

These are the sweet potatoes which I have cooked in butter, brown sugar and orange slices in a cast iron skillet. Not exactly your calorie - counting dish. Oh - so - good.

I thought I might cook asparagus, but it was really thin, and Denise eats a lot of asparagus. So I, upon her encouragement, decided to cook green beans and huge pieces of garlic in olive oil and butter with parsley, sage and chives and a little salt. I tried not to over cook them so there would still be a little snap to them. I don't like mushy green vegetables.

The finished ham. It's a seven and a half pound ham, so there is lots left for soup, sandwiches, and just munching on. Love that.

Of course, there is rarely a cooking day without a mishap. Today it was opening the can of pineapple slices. Dole pineapple slices. It was one of those pull top types where you pull on the ring. I was struggling with it. I was almost finished when I let go. My hand got caught between the cover and the can and I got cut. A pretty sizable one too. It's 10:30 at night and it still hurts and bleeds. I'm a winner. Kids do better at these things than I do. I can be so inept in the kitchen at times. But~~~~

We had a peaceful day. The wind has been howling all day gusting to almost 40 miles an hour. But it doesn't touch us in here. The smells from the kitchen are the most comforting smells of the year. This is how to end a year. Great simple food, Champagne, my sister and a good home. I hope everyone had a great day. A loving day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

More on Baking Bread

I wanted to create a bread cloth instead of using towels for rising the dough before it goes into the oven. So I found a really good light weight canvas in my stash of fabrics, trimmed it, washed and dried it and it softened beautifully. So Now I will be using this all the time. i will shake it out between bakes, but it won't get washed. It will simply get stored carefully, so that it ages and lends itself to the taste of the bread, much like the traditional old bakers have used for generations.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On Baking Bread

This is the raw dough in its first for ready to go into the 18 hour rising.

This is the dough after it has risen 18 hours. That saran wrap dome is very tight and isn't it beautiful!

The dough gets turned out onto the work surface and dusted with flour and coarse bran, then folded six times with a rising in between. The oven gets pre-heated for 2 hours at 500 degrees and the cast iron dutch oven goes in after the first hour. So when the boule is ready to be cooked, the cover of the dutch oven is removed and the dough is carefully put in and re-covered. Then the cooking is begun.

This is the result. I am pleased. But the next loaf, I will cook it for another ten minutes. The crust was not quite hard enough. Looks great though!

I am baking bread. A whole new method. Very interesting. The first rising is 18 hours in a glass bowl which I just happen to have. Then I created a bread canvas which will not be washed but re-used over and over if this technique works. It calls for coarse bran which I had but is a little old and I have to get some new bran. It is now baking in the oven in my cast iron dutch oven. totally fascinating. I tried to take pictures but the process of getting it from its third rising into the pot, covered and into the oven was a little awkward and I didn't get a picture. Next time. If it comes out well tonight, I will be making it again on Christmas Eve and will take pictures again.

I have made thousands of loaves of bread in my life. I have failed her in the West. Totally different atmosphere. I am going to master Portland bread this new year.

OK. The timer just went off. The loaf is out of the dutch oven. It is a beautiful color and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Can't cut into it. Too hot.

Will post later. Pray for success ~~~~~~~

Monday, December 21, 2009

Learning to walk

I realized earlier this year that my shoes are really scuffed in some very odd places. I have never seen this wear in my shoes in the past. When did my walk change? It had to be in the past few years because I have never seen this before. And the heels are terribly worn on the outside. And these are not old shoes. When did my walk turn into a shuffle?

So I have become very mindful of my walk. Especially when it is outdoors to any distance. I can tell I have been successful as I can feel it. I can feel the flat of my shoes. I need to have them re-soled. They rarely scrape each other, and when they do, I notice it and become mindful again as it is a sign that I have returned to shuffling. Is it old age do you think? I watch the women at work who are over weight and I see how they walk and I really don't want to be like that. I want to be graceful. I want to glide on the ground not push the dirt I walk on. Know what I mean.

Then a couple of weeks ago, having finally recovered from a sore neck that I think was the result of stress, I realized that I now walk hunched over. This is a difficult one. Walking flat with my shoulders back is a stretch on my mindfulness. But I am determined. Bone deterioration begins by poor posture and bending them out of shape. You open the pores of the bones and subject them to all sorts of problems. So I am now working diligently on the posture. Very important. I will talk more as I go along. We all have to check this out. My sister seems to have a good hold on this. It seems natural for her. It always has. But she has always been so pretty. So natural. She doesn't think so, of course. So humble she is.

The breath of Christmas is in the air. My husband George has not received the box I sent him over two weeks ago. I am disappointed. In the news, they said one out of every 10 packages will be lost in the mail this season. Goog god!!!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Microwaves and leftovers

OK, so, I finally broke down and bought a microwave. There was a cute little red number that was the perfect size and color. However, it was the same make as the one that I had for 14 months that died. So why would I buy but another made by the same company? And it is not like I use the microwave every day, several times a day and that I cook everything I eat in the damn thing. I am not a frozen dinner person. I don't thaw foods in the microwave. Maybe I will put the heat on ice cream for a few seconds. Mostly heat up a cup of coffee. Heat up left overs. I love left overs. When I cook, I always cook a lot so that I can have leftovers for work and for meals.

About size, this one is big. Very big. Look at how it dwarfs my coffee pot! I had to completely rearrange the kitchen which is tiny to begin with. I thought it would never work. But, there it is, looking like it was made for that counter. What I like about this one and what I will always consider in the future, is that it has a door handle instead of a push button for opening the door. On the unit that broke after 14 months it had a button that you had to push that was so difficult to push that I ended up having to put the microwave on a rubber mat so that it would stay in place every time I opened it. It was ridiculous. Why do designers design components that are so people-unfriendly?

There are so many things that I handle and I wonder to myself - This is so stupid! It doesn't work. It doesn't make sense! What were they thinking when they designed this? There was a sewing machine I recently bought and ended up bringing it back. If you put your arm in the wrong place, you would change the entire stitch lineup of what you were working on. The button hole maker was not even primitive. It was simply inadequate. I have seen $100 sewing machines that made better button holes. And this was a Pfaff machine - supposedly well respected! What~~~~ I ended up being so frustrated with this thing that I got a friend to pick me up and I marched into the store that sold it to me and plunked it down and I said "I can't believe you sold me this knowing me as well as you do!" They asked me who sold it to me and when I told them Bill, they just looked at each other and brought the machine to the fixer-man.

So, I went back to the brand that I have had for a couple of decades and there it sits on my sewing table with everything in place and its simplicity. I know. Pfaff. Well known, well respected, a great following. But even greatness can breed errors. Denying it is the worse tragedy.

And that is that for today

Friday, December 11, 2009


My sister Denise sent me this picture. Probably taken in the 90's when I was with my husband George. George was a great man. We are still married. Still a great good friend.

How many women did I hug today? People are frazzled. People are rude and the victims are taking it personally and the world, I feel is a mess. I myself am having to take many moments to breathe and separate from what is in front of me so that I can remember that what I am witnessing is not belonging to me. It is not real. This is supposed to be a time of love and family and friendship and yet, people a rushing around and demanding, and I don't even think they know what they are doing! They throw their money at you as though yo9u don't count as a human being!

How many times today did I imagine myself sitting in my chair working on my Christmas pears. I finished Jody's Christmas present tonight. I was thinking today on how I would wrap it to send it to her. I was working with a customer when in the middle of the conversation it just came to me. The customer gave me this look like - are you OK? I just smiled and apologized and told her the light just went on. I am sure she thought i was crazy, but just for a second. She had, after all, been sent to me because I am the store's seamstress and I was going to give her the answers to her dilemma with the dress she was making and she was told that I was the expert. So, this is absolutely brilliant. I am going to do this will all the gifts. It was a wonderful little vacation during the stress of the day.

I am usually pretty calm at the store. I will stand in front of a customer, very still, just smiling, and it is always the same - you'll be fine. It is a lot simpler than you think. Or I will take a customer to my sewing room and show them how to do what they need to do. I teach. I reassure. I advise. I de-stress. I can take a customer who is totally wired and have her leaving as though she has just had a massage. Fellow employees are always giving me the difficult customers.

I like being clam, being silent. On my days off, I can go the entire day without saying a word out loud. Like my friend Jody, I like being with myself. I am never bored. There is always a yarn, an embroidery thread, a fabric to be manipulated. My whole life is filled with color and texture. When I want to write, I take out my books, And the words just flow. I have a wealth of contemplations upon which to draw thought, food for my beautiful pens and inks, my beautiful unlined books.

To have a way of thinking that expands your way of thinking is very exciting. Anything that I do brings me farther than expected. Every day, no matter where I am, or what I am doing, I am being carried farther than I expected. This is the specialty of my life. I would not be who I am without this. And the value of my relationshipseven with strangers would not be as it is without this specialty. I did not go to any special school. No formal teachers, no formal role models. "Picked up here and there." "Born with it." Angels guiding me every step. And I share it at every opportunity I have. How lucky am I!~~~~~

I have to keep this forefront in my thought when I standing in front of a customer who is dressed to the hilt with too much makeup while I am checking her driver's liscence and she is telling me that it is illegal for me to ask for ID and she is giving me all of this loud mumbo jumbo about the law and I am just doing my job and I don't care about what she is saying because all I know is that her signature on the charge slip does not match the signature on her credit card and so I am going to check her driver's license whether she likes it or not and I think she just doesn't want me to know that she is 60 years old as old as me and she looks 75 years old and I just want her to go away because in this day and age of identity fraud and theft I am just protecting her card please go away...........................................

Peace. Give me peace. Help me to give you peace. Let my whole being promote peace. Comfort to an ailing soul. Tranquility to a soul in turmoil. Let my life mean something.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Carpet Bag

This is a wonderful bag. It is huge and would carry some great projects around for needling while attending an event that would allow you the time to ply the needles. It is time consuming to make because there are a lot of pieces to the pattern, a lot of steps. I have made this bag before for display in the store but the fabrics are no longer available. So we decided, since it is a good seller, to re-make it using Moda Home fabric which is very heavy and a bit difficult to work with. I used the iron on batting in the outer fabric instead of the lining because I wanted the outer fabric to be really heavy in this application. There is no information on how to handle the bottom of the bag as far as making it sturdy, so I went into the warehouse and had the boys cut me a piece of board that the fabrics are wound around, the same dimention as the bottom of the bag. Then I made a sleeve for it the same as the lining. This makes the bottom of the bag totally solid so that you can put anything into it. If I were to change anything in the pattern it would be the strap. There is only one. When you put this over your shoulder, it causes the two sticks to distort. What was the pattern maker thinking?

Copy Cat - Copy Owl

This is the picture I was given, taken in NY on a buyer's trip. I think this was a display item at Lord & Taylor's and selling for $50. Julie thought we could make it for less.

I love creating fringe. I could have pressed the yarn so that it was flat, straight, but I kind of liked the way it was rather wavy. It increased the detail of the knotting, which is not too visible in this picture, but quite lovely in real life.

The picture didn't show the detail of how the owl was stitched on to the scarf so I blanket stitched it. As small as I could get it, making sure to catch the yarn of the scarf. I cocked the ear of the owl a little to make it unique. never good to copy something exactly, although anyone could see that this is a copy of the original.

Julie and Georgia went to NY on another buying/expo trip. Of course they shopped too and came back with lots of pictures and ideas of things to make and sell. This scarf is knitted as a tube on circular needles. It took 4 skeins of yarn to include the fringing. I simply made a template for the owl and now everything will be turned into a free hand out with a list of materials. I think it would be great if it was kitted up. Maybe I will suggest that. That would be a great addition to the notebook I should be carrying around in the fabulous cover I made for it in the next post....

From a Book

This is another "four bolt project". There is no piecing involved. It is just a printed fabric. I was browsing our book section when I came across "Skinny Quilts & Table Runners" and saw the quilt on the cover with the swirls. It is a very complicated piece. And way beyond my abilities. Of course everyone would tell me I am mistaken. But I was inspired by the swirls on the table runner. You make very narrow bias and apply it to the finished quilt. So I am thinking, I can cut a yard and a third of this bolt fabric, layer batting very carefully matching the print top and bottom and then apply a binding. Then, using the Clover bias tape which already has the iron on fusible web, I first marked the spirals then applied the tape. There are 11 yards of tape to each package of Clover tape. And it comes in a varied range of colors. The one I chose for this runner was in earth tones which exactly matched the colors of the fabric and it came out really wonderful. I think it took me maybe four hours to make. I didn't have to match a backing because the cut piece provided its own backing. I cut 3/8'ths of a yard for binding. The only real cost was the Clover tape which was $17. It's a beautiful runner for the money and time.

A Nice Way

I really enjoyed this project. This is the "One of four bolt - projects given to me. I tried to pick out four projects that were entirely different from anything seen in the store before. This is a journal cover. You know how we are always carrying around notebooks for note-taking even when we are shopping. I do, because I don't often buy. I will take notes for ideas of things I can make. Now that I think of it, I should make one for work. I am always making notes on scraps of paper and then I lose them or I will need to go back to the notes sometimes months later and I no longer have the notes. And you can make them in any size. It is easy to figure out. I kept a copy of the pattern. It makes up on about an hour and a half. Simple. Hummm

Full Bloom

I know this is difficult to see, but this beauty is in full bloom. What a treat to see. My indoor garden is very lush and a beauty to behold when the outside temperatures are in the teens. I have neglected to cover the air conditioner which I finally got to today. I think it will make quite the difference in here. You know how that is. Oh, I have got to get this done and then the next day, you think, I have to do this today, and then the next day, and the next. It is not a big draft coming in as the wind does not penetrate much due to the solid railing on the porch. Never the less, there is a very cold air out there and anything I can do to ward it out...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving dress

I thought I would never get this done. It is really a simple dress. It didn't really take long. But every time I set time aside to make it, something came along and took its place. Finally, Friday before Thanksgiving came and I got it into shipping and Stacy, little Zoey's mom tells me she got it on Monday. Yeah. Now Christmas. It looks like this dress JUST fits her. Maybe I should make the Christmas dress a little bit bigger? Or the arms at least. I want long sleeves. I am thinking a taffeta with some great lace. This was a fun dress as you can see from a previous post. But I want the Christmas dress to be more serious I think.

And do those look like little satin shoes? How adorable. I wish I could hold her. So far away.....

Thanksgiving table

It was a simple table. I love the table cloth. It is my sister Denise's. Embroidered cotton. I still have it on the table. So pretty to look at. Denise made the muffins. Fan tail muffins. So much butter goes in to making these, that you don't need to butter them to eat them. They were spectacular. Behind that, is the beautiful bundt cake that my niece Caroline made. Huge pieces of dates and nuts and Bourbon. Dense and delicious. Paired with it, she brought a salt caramel ice cream which she also made herself. I have wanted to make my own ice cream for years. Now I am determined to save my pennies and get an ice cream maker and do this. She even made the ice cream with some lactaid cream seeing I am lactose intolerant. However, as the story goes, I will gladly suffer the pain if the ice cream is good enough to be worthy of the pain.

As you can see, my kitchen is small. really a one-person kitchen and I had it all under control. Neither Denise nor Caroline have a Television, so they plunked themselves down on the sofa and entertained themselves with remote controls while I cooked, set the table and made sure they were comfortable.

I did serve an appetizer of soup. Two of them served in four little bowls. One was a roasted squash soup with a lovely roast flavor smoothed out with cream and a few herbs. The other was a creamed turnip and parsnip soup which was mild and smoothed with cream and broth.

I cooked the 14 lb turkey in a bag. I made an herbed butter the previous weekend and smeared this under the skin. Denise thought a corn bread stuffing might be nice. I had never had that before. So I added my dried cranberries and raisins and caramelized onions to that with a bit of broth. Not bad really. Leftovers are great.

I found a recipe for basil and parmesan creamed mashed potatoes. Wow. Denise brought the basil having an abundance of it growing on her boat. Delicioso. Different from the plain mashed potatoes I have grown up with forever.

Vegetables were root. Carrots, parsnips, turnip, shallot, sweet potato, maple syrup, brown sugar, olive oil, garam masala. Cooked in my dutch oven, in the oven.

And the gravy. Made entirely from the juices that collected in the bag from the turkey. I know that some people think cooking in the bag is not good or not "cool". But the moistness and the taste. It is all there completely contained. The meat just falls off the bones. I went to cut it and I couldn't help myself. I just had to tear off a piece to taste since it was just hanging there begging to be eaten.

And let's not forget the cranberry sauce straight from the can with those wonderful ridges.

What a soup that carcass will make when I finally cook it up. Yum yum yum.

It was a wonderful day. I worked in the kitchen keeping all the pots and dishes clean as I went along. Listening to the girls talk. It reminded me of the days with my husband George. He would entertain the guests while I cooked. I always loved being in the kitchen. It is very satisfying knowing that your home makes people happy and you don't even have to be in the room. Denise and Caroline were comfortable. The house was peaceful. It was the perfect day. The family to be with.