Friday, April 23, 2010

Five new squares and a big apology.

OK, first things first...the unveiling of squares 30-34:

Square 30:
This, clearly, is a cupcake, because I love to bake.  Or, I love to eat treats.  Take your pick.

Square 31:
A pile of brightly colored leaves (which we don't really have where I live), for my favorite season, which is autumn.  I know you got that, but just for clarity....

Square 32:
Ask my kids what my favorite weather is, and all 6 of them will tell you RAIN.  Give me a rainy day, a blanket, and a cup of cocoa, and all is right with the world.  (They'll also tell you that if I'm lucky enough to get thunder and lightening, I will open the windows.)

Square 33:

My favorite flowers are tulips, and I don't have a favorite color.  But I do love to arrange them in my blue vase.

Square 34:

A coffee cup.  I'm not a javaholic...sure I have a cup or 2 a day, but I really can do without it.  This is for the "date mornings" that Don and I have.  Sundays, after church and while the girls are in Sunday School, he and I go to the coffee shop to wait for them.  Some weeks, it's the only 45 minutes we get alone together.

Stay tuned....only 6 squares left to do!  I was going to do a progress shot, but don't want to take the picture out of the hoop.  I will show you the whole thing before I start the border, though.

And now, for the apology.  Ms. Pioneer Woman, I underestimated you.  When I first saw your cookbook, I was NOT going to get it.  I've bought dozens of cookbooks that have, if not exactly disappointed me, not lived up to the hopes I had for them.  I was certain that your cookbook would fall into this category.  The only reason I got your book was to fulfill a requirement for a book club order.  I was so very, very wrong, and am so very, very sorry.

Wednesday night, I made your lasagna.  While I've followed the other recipes I've tried faithfully, fate (and rain) would not allow that this time.  You called for hot breakfast sausage to be cooked with the ground beef.  I don't have hot anything here, as I have tender mouths to cook for, so I substituted bulk beef breakfast sausage.

You also called for fresh basil, which I don't have in my garden yet, and I forgot to put it on the list.  You asked for fresh parsley, but it was raining out, and I didn't want to get wet.  I defrosted a cup of pesto sauce, made from last year's harvest.  Half went into the meat sauce, and half went into the cheese mixture.

The rest of the recipe was followed exactly.  I'm sure yours is very, very good, and I intend to make it your way too.  But mine was a big hit.  Possibly the best lasagna I've ever made.  I'm willing to share the credit if you are.

Last night, I made your fried chicken and biscuits, plus we had some of your mashed potatoes left over from Monday night. (I've made them twice so wonderful!)  Since I don't have to feed people who've been roping cattle all day, your recipes go a little farther for us.  So, of the 12 pieces of fried chicken I made last night, 6 are going into the freezer, partially cooked, for another night.  It was oh so good...and I don't have fried chicken often!

I put four of my kids to work making your biscuits.  Also wonderful, especially with home made butter and honey butter.  Here they are at work:

The biscuits, ready for the oven.

The baby, wishing she was old enough to help:

As we put food out for serving, I said, "Oh, Pioneer Woman, how I love you."  As I filled my plate, I said, "Oh Pioneer Woman, how I love you."  As I sat down and began eating, I said, "Oh Pioneer Woman, how I LOVE you."  I'm so sorry I doubted you.  I'll never do it again.  And, I will probably wear out my cookbook.  The kids gave the chicken a two-thumbs up.  The baby loved her biscuit.  My non-foodie husband likes your food.  And my teenagers sat down to eat with us.  Any food that can accomplish that must be good!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Baby gifts and butter...

...don't sound like they have anything in common, but that's what I've been doing since I left you last week.

On Saturday, April 17th, there was a baby shower held at our church for one of the pastor's wives.  It is their first baby, and I figured it would be a large-ish shower, so I didn't want to just run to the baby store and buy off of their registry.  So, on Sunday, I broke out some baby yarn and baby patterns that I've been wanting to try, and got busy.  Here are the results:
It was so much fun, knitting in blue for a change!  I know the items don't show up very well on that tablecloth, but we'll work with it.  The item on the left is a blanket buddy.  I had made one for Madison using Lion Brand Yarn Velvetspun yarn, and this pattern.  I  found a fleece yarn at Herrschners, which I love for this project!  (The one in the picture is actually the 2nd one I made this week, as I made a mistake in the first one, so I think Maddie will have second one.)  I had a little fleece left over, so there is a little stuffed bunny on my needles now.  Next to that, we have a baby wash cloth, that says A-B-C, and a matching hat and bootie set.  I really wanted to round out my gift, and was running out of time, so I made a run to my mom's house, to loot the boutique stock. 
From the boutique bin, I got a pair of "Converse" booties and the blue wash mitt.  I had made both of these for our craft fairs this fall, but will have time to replace them.  From Mom's craft fair items, I got the yellow washcloth, 2 burb cloths, one of the BEST bibs in the world, a rubber duck, some baby wash, a rattle, and a travel pack of wipes.  Added to that was a pair of green terry pajamas, and I was ready to wrap it all up.
I thought a bin might come in handy in the baby's room, rather than a gift bag for the garbage can.
I had a 9" stuffed teddy bear in the works as well, and really could've finished it on time, if I'd pushed, but the basket was quite full enough.  I'm going to finish the bear, though, and can give it to them for their christening, or some other occasion.

And now, a butter explanation.  On Sunday, Emma asked me if some cows make milk, and some cows make butter.  Since I traditionally make home made butter for Thanksgiving, and it is really easy, I decided to show her how butter is made.  I also thought we would do it both the easy way, and the hands on way.  After all, it's not all that fun or magical to watch Mom push a button!

So, armed with a quart and a half of heavy cream, a glass jar, a food processor, and various strainers and containers, we got to work.  I poured about half a pint of cream into the jar and had the girls sit in a circle.  I explained that cream has little bits of solids mixed in with the liquid that is milk, and that by shaking it, the little bits of fat would all stick together. 
This is Katie, taking a turn.
And now Emma.  Abby took turns too.

While they were doing that, I made 2 batches in the food processor.  That's right, I finished off 5 cups of cream, in 2 separate batches, in the food processor, while they made theirs.  But theirs didn't take that long, really.  Not as long as I thought it would, anyway.

People sometimes ask me, "WHY? Why make your own butter?  You live across the street from the grocery store, and it's not that expensive.  Did you fall on your head?"  The answer is, because it's fun.  Or, because it's easy.  Or how about, because I needed something to do with the kids.  All of those apply and more.  Now, would I do it if I had to use a Laura Ingalls Wilder style churn? Uh, no, probably not.  But, I have a food processor, and electricity, so I have no reason not to.
Here's how easy it is:

1.  Pour heavy cream into the food processor, and make sure everything is properly closed.
2.  Push the "on" button.  Stand back and watch 'er work.  You will know it is time to push the "off" button when the butter is a solid mass and there is a thin, white liquid surrounding it.  This is the butter the kids made.
3.  Pour off the buttermilk and save it for other uses.  We used ours in corn bread last night. (More on that in a minute.)
4.  Place the butter in a bowl, and add cold water.  Rinse the butter, working it with a wooden spoon or spatula, and changing the water periodically.  You want to repeat this until the water runs clear, working as much liquid out of the butter as possible.

5.  After rinsing the butter, salt to taste.  You can also leave it unsalted for sweet butter, used in baking.  I had the kids taste it both ways.  This was unsalted....
...then we added some honey.
Here is the salted batch:


Remember the buttermilk I mentioned?  Here it is:

For dinner last night, I made chili and cornbread.  There was enough buttermilk for the cornbread, and enough left for biscuits in a few days.  Topped with fresh butter or honey butter, it was a big hit!  And on that note, I have a new favorite cook book:  The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  This woman, who also blogs here, knows her food.  I've had this book for about 2 weeks, and so far, I've made thirteen of her recipes, and they've all been great...simple, easy, and delicious!  I've got 3 more on the menu for this week, and another several bookmarked.  (I've made some of them twice, actually...her mashed potatoes are the best!)  The chili and cornbread recipes were both hers.  Just a word of warning if you get her can't be scared of butter!

No new stitched squares this time, my focus has been on baby gifts, but I'll get back to them, hopefully tonight.  Eleven to go, and I'm done! 

See you soon!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A very productive weekend, and 5 new squares!

So, it's been a few days since I posted, and last time I mentioned that my husband has started reading my blog.  I also mentioned that I needed a bigger garden.  Put those two sentences together, and you will know what my husband did this weekend!  I think I'm on to something...a high tech, low nag way of getting things done!  Let's here it for progress!!

Anyway, here is a picture of our garden as it existed Saturday morning:
It was my present last year, after the baby was born.  You can see the remains of our winter garden:  some chard, some cabbage, leeks, and herbs.  We also had lettuces and broccoli.

On Saturday, Don more than doubled the size.  Here is a picture of the extension:
As you can see, there is no dirt in it yet.  It rained all day Sunday, and it is raining again today.  The hope is to fill it with dirt next Saturday, while there is a break in the weather.  Until then, my seedlings are still living in our downstairs shower!

Now, for the next 5 squares in the 40 squares project.  For square 25, I had originally planned just a simple cottage type house.  However, Don was teasing me about how tiny that house looked for our size family.  I took him up on the challenge, and this is the result:

This is my rendition, in DMC floss, of our house, bought 3 years ago.

Here is the picture I took of our actual house, so I had something to work from:

All things considered, I don't think I'm too far off!

Square 26:

This is a time card.  The circle/slash (is that redundant???) signifies that I don't fill these out any more.  Thus, this square represents my stay-at-home mom-ness.  (I've had to explain that several times!)

Square 27:

This is our garden, as it was last year.  I asked the 3 little girls what I should put in this square, and they decided on eggplant, tomatoes, and broccoli.  So, here they are.

Square 28:

Cooking, another thing I like to do!

Square 29:

Between our garden, and the orchards we are surrounded by, I spend a lot of time canning and preserving.  (We have LOTS of jelly in our garage!)  I decided to try stitching in script for a change, and am VERY happy with how it came out.

Originally, I sketched pictures in each of the boxes to follow.  Now, my squares are 100% freehand, so I've a little more room to improvise.  That, and the needle is feeling more familiar in my hand now.  Only eleven more squares to go, and then I'm done.  I think I'm going to do a border around the whole thing, to unify it a little bit more.  I'm also going to type a sheet for the back of the frame, describing the significance of each square, as well as the origin of the project. 

I am going to a baby shower for one of the pastors of our church and his wife this Saturday.  True to form, I hadn't started knitting their baby gifts yet, as of 2 days ago.  Also true to form, as soon as the kids saw me sit down with my knitting, they wanted a project to do.  So, I went out to the "craft room" (garage) and dug around until I found this:

I can remember playing with this as a kid, only mine was plastic, and this one is metal. 

Over the years, my mom and I have found 4 of them at various thrift stores.  I don't know how old it is, but one of the looms came in the original box, with all of the accessories, including the instruction book.  Look at the girls in this picture:

How fun is that?

Anyway, I thought it might be a little beyond the girls, but decided to give it a try.

Abby and Emma did fairly well with it, and only needed a little help.

"Come on, Mom, let me work on my project, please!"

"Katie's" project, abandoned on the couch. (She needed quite a bit of help.)

Emma and Katie's finished potholders, and Abby's work in progress.  (She restarted hers 3 times, or she'd be done too.)

They really enjoyed it, but now I have to try to find more of the loops, as I think we are almost out.  Hopefully I can find a source online.  Coming soon, more squares, pics of the baby gifts, and, hopefully, a progress shot of the sampler.  Until then, take care!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

40 Squares, part 4

Here are my most recent completed squares.  I last posted an update on April 1st, and I did take the 3rd and 4th off from stitching, so these are from the 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 7th.  And yes, I have done other things with my life besides!

I'm going to list them slightly out of order, but will explain why at the end, when I show you the progress shot.  I have 24 squares done so far, so I'm over halfway done!  Not bad for 11 days of stitching.  I still hope to fit in another 1 or 2 before bed tonight.

Here is square 14:

This commemorates our first date, which happened, quite accidentally, to be on Valentine's Day.  It's a funny story, and I'd tell it, but my husband has started reading this blog! (I was getting bored with plain ol' satin stitch, but haven't found a good substitute for large filled areas.  I was playing around, and came up with this woven effect.  It's not perfectly rendered, but overall, I like it.  And my blanket stitch border is better left unmentioned, but it is at least a change of pace!)

Square 15:

Our wedding date....

Square 16:
...which took place overlooking the golf course at Redhill Country Club.  (I was so nervous stitching the grass!  I used the Turkey Work stitch, and 5 strands of floss, which I haven't tried in YEARS.  But, I'm quite happy with how it came out.)

Square 20:

Marking our honeymoon, which the older girls went on with us.  I'm not crazy with how the ears came out, but I am really pleased with the lettering.

Square 21:

A pink and white baby carriage, in honor of each of my 5 pregnancies, which gave me 6 daughters.  This carriage is slightly larger than it should be, but at various times, I've pushed umbrella strollers, single strollers, a double stroller, and even a triple stroller for a while.  This represents each of them.  (Again, slight variation on satin stitch: overlaid with a lattice type stitching.)

Square 17:

This is Brianna, my oldest girl.  She likes to get dressed up to go out.  Notice her earrings, bracelet, necklace, and sparkly shoes....the girl likes her "bling".

Square 22:

This is Brittany, my second daughter.  She's in her favorite outfit:  jeans with ripped knees, a red tank top, red and white tennis shoes, and her ever present belt.  Her eyes are hazel, and I've given her one of my favorite hairstyles, which is when she leaves it curly and wears a headband.  Look closely:  do you see the cell phone?

Square 18:
Abigail (Abby), one of my twins.  Her favorite color is purple, and she is wearing her favorite hairstyle, which is a "bunny town".  I don't know why it is called that, it is just her word for that messy, ponytail/bun thing that is so easy to do.  Her hands are raised, because frequently, when she is asked a question, her first response is, "I don't know."

Square 23:
Meet Emma, the other twin, aka "the pink baby".  Pink is her favorite color, and she likes "beautiful hair" (she told me that's how she wanted it today, while she watched me stitch!), which usually means an "Alice" (think Disney's Alice in Wonderland...headband.  Yeah, took me a while to get the connection too.)  Her hands are in front of her, just waiting to be able to help with something.

Square 19:
This is Katie.  Her favorite color is blue, her favorite hairstyle is braids, and since she is going to marry Goofy, she's quite happy to be next to the Disneyland square.  Her hand is raised because one of her most common phrases is "Pick me!  Oh, pick me!", even when she doesn't have a clue what she is volunteering for!

Square 24:
And, finally, Madison.  Her sisters told me that her favorite color is orange, and they told me that since she is one, she is walking now.  She tried, but after a few toddles, she sat down.  Now, she's raising her hands in the air to be picked up.  Her eyes are blue, and her hair is the only style it will go in right now:  the classic sprig-on-the-top-of-the-head, ala Pebbles Flintstone.

Why did I show them to you all out of order?  When I sketched my squares, I put the girls' squares right in the middle of the fabric, and arranged everything else around them, as my world revolves around them.  Here is the progress shot, so you can see how they all fit together:

I am so enjoying this project!  I never thought I'd like it as much as I am.  Well, time to get back to the rest of the family.  Talk to you soon.