Thursday, April 30, 2009
I used the pattern found here, and also found some good information at this site.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
For a baby gift for our first child, a friend gave us a hooded towel made with a bath towel. It was, by far, my favorite towel! Unlike most hooded baby towel, this one was actually large, thick, and thirsty enough to easily dry a wiggly youngster! We continued to use that towel for five years as it worked just as well for toddlers and pre-schoolers.
I've seen several patterns for these hooded towels. Some even had ideas on making the heads resemble animals. I decided to keep it simple and used the pattern found here. I did add a little ribbon for accent. I used a large bath towel and hand towel. One hand towel gets cut in half so if you decide to do this project, buy two bath towels and one hand towel to make two projects. Use one and save the other for a gift!
My children are loving their new towels! Guess I need to make a fourth one now! (By the way, one of the best things we did in our bathroom was add low towel hooks for the children. I love that they all know where their towel goes!)
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I planted marigold seeds with our children earlier this month. We planted them in egg cartons filled with potting soil. I have no photos of the event, and if you've ever tried planting seeds with three youngsters, you'll understand why! We covered the seeds with a piece of plastic wrap and set it on the refrigerator as a warm place to germinate. Once they popped through the ground, I took of the plastic and placed them on the window sill. The marigolds were growing well, until our baby was born and I forgot all about them. Once I remembered, they were quite a sorry sight! Only about one fourth of the seedlings survived the neglect!
By now, you probably know that I love sharing nature related projects with my children. The marigolds are only the first of my plans for the summer! Even if you are not a gardener, if you have children in your life, hopefully I can encourage you to get a few seeds for them to watch grow!
Here is a few ideas! All these seeds are super simple to grow! Marigolds can be started indoors and all the others should be planted directly into the garden in May.
Marigolds - Perfect for starting indoors in a paper cup
Nasturtium - Very large seeds great for small hands. The flowers can even be eaten! Add some color to your salad!
Sunflower - Everyone loves sunflowers! They come in many different sizes. Plant a tall variety and take a photo each week of your child with their sunflower!
Cosmos - A tall flower with satiny soft petals.
Zinnias - I don't think a garden is complete without a row of zinnias! A great cutting flower!
Flowers are not the only option! Many vegetables are fun to plant as well! If your child is helping to plant, make sure the seeds have not been treated with poisons.
Pumpkins - Fun to plant, fun to watch, fun to pick!
Zucchini - Let one zucchini grow to baseball bat size just for fun!
Vines - Pole beans, pole lima, or flowering vines such as moon vine, or hyacinth bean vine are fun to grow if you have a fence, pole or trellis for them to climb up! Our children spent hours last summer, picking and shelling the beans on our hyacinth bean vine just for fun!
You can find a seed rack at about any grocery store this time of year! Next time you walk by, think of the fun your children could have this summer watching "their" plants grow!
Saturday, April 25, 2009
For some time now I have been interested in solar cooking and alternative energy of all sorts. I knew it was probably very simple and inexpensive but I just never got around to trying it for myself. On Tuesday, I got the idea that it would be very fun to try solar cooking on Earth Day and looked at the calendar and discovered that Earth Day was the next day! After downloading and printing out a free book here, (58 page PDF), I got a piece of cardboard from work and headed home.
Of course Gina is always game to try something new and she said " If you make a solar oven for earth day, you need to write a guest post on my blog about it!" I went ahead with my experiment and now am paying the price for it! If you want to stop reading now, I really don't blame you!
After putting the children to bed, (Note this important step!) I laid out the cardboard and marked out the measurements from the manual that I downloaded. I know several people that have made the box cooker type, but wanting to be different and able to easily transport mine, I made the "Cookit" style which is basically just an angled reflector.
We cut out the cardboard and glued tin foil to the one side and left to dry overnight. The next day (Earth Day) was forecasted to be rainy all day. Not a good cooking day with this method! But Thursday looked promising, so I had an extra day to pull it all together. I took two foil 9 x 13 pans and spray painted them a flat black and also picked up some turkey sized oven bags.Thursday morning, Gina mixed up a batch of brownies and put it in the one foil pan. The other pan we turned upside down on top and fastened them together with paper binder clips. We put our oven thermometer into the pan as well and all this all went into the oven bag and was sealed up.
Since I normally have to work during daylight hours, I took it with me, knowing that even if it was a totally flop, I would have plenty of help to eat raw brownie batter!
I set up the cooker toward the morning sun and set the thermometer where I could watch it out the window. The day turned out to be partly cloudy, at least for the first few hours. Finally around 11:00 it was pretty much full sun and the pans had heated up to around 200 degrees.
At 11:30 my lovely family stopped in to see me and I was anxious to see how the brownies were doing anyway, so we opened them up. They were just starting to set up around the edge. Of course the children wanted to stay until they were done, but I had figured out by this time that it would be several more hours. We set the pan back in the cooker and it took nearly 45 minutes to come back up to 200. Solar cooking takes patience! Already co-workers were wondering if we couldn't finish them in the microwave! Americans!
Finally around 2:30 we took them out of the cooker and the pan was empty soon afterwards!
I learned several things from this experiment:
- This style of cooker probably needs more direct sunlight then we had that day. As soon as the sun would go behind a cloud the temperature would drop in the pan 10-20 degrees.
- Not much cooking happens below 200 degrees. At least it is a slow process!
- Solar cooking doesn't need much looking after. One of my other many hobbies is cooking in a cast iron dutch oven. These need almost constant attention as coals need started then arranged on the pot, then the pot need turned so that there are not burnt places. Dutch oven cooking is very fast compared to solar, but requires more work.
-11:00-3:00 is probably prime cooking time which makes it hard to have brownies for lunch especially since I like to eat at 11:00!
I'd love to hear if any of you have experimented with solar cooking!
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I've been thinking of sending you a bit about what a friend and I did for our freezer meal exchange. It was really informal, but that time I made the chicken things (and she did the beef because we didn't have any in the freezer at that time.) We figured out how much onion, etc. we need chopped and did it all at once.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Before our baby was born, I asked my newsletter readers if they'd share some of their hints and recipes. Here is a few of their responses! Thanks, ladies!
Italian Salad - Linette
6 heads Romaine lettuce
1/2 c. purple onion rings
1 can black olives, drained
1 can salad peppers, drained
1 bag Caesar salad croûtons
1 bag Italian cheese, shredded
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 bottle Zesty Italian salad dressing
1 dry pack Zesty Italian dressing mix
Mix all ingredients together. Enjoy!
Spinach Balls - Martha Ann
10 cups chopped spinach, cooked and drained
2 cups herb stuffing mix
4 eggs, beaten
1 onion, chopped
1/2 lb. melted butter
1/2 cup cheese
1/2 teas. salt
1/4 teas. pepper
1 cup cream of chicken soup
Combine. Chill. Shape into balls. Bake at 350, 20 minutes. May be frozen.
Golden Parmesan Potatoes - Martha Ann
6 large potatoes
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 teas. salt
1/8 teas. pepper
1 teas. chives (optional)
Melt 1/2 stick butter in 9x13 baking dish. Cut potatoes into wedges. Mix remaining ingredients in bag or covered container. Shake potatoes in mixture and place in single layer in butter in baking dish. Bake at 375, 30 min. Turn potatoes and bake 30 min. more.
French Rhubarb Pie - Kendra 1 egg 1c. sugar 1 tsp. vanilla 3c. diced Rhubarb 2 Tbsp. flour Mix together, dump in unbaked pie shell. Top with: 3/4 c. flour 1/2 c. brown sugar 1/3 c. butter Bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Continue baking at 325 for 30 minutes.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
We used some of the methods found in Square Foot Gardening book, including tacking in grids to help with plant spacing. In a one foot square, we planted one broccoli plant, four lettuce or kale plants, nine spinach plants or about twelve onions. Loose leaf lettuce seed was just sprinkled in. I'm amazed at how much a box this size produces. This method would be perfect for someone with minimal space who wanted maximum yield.
I'm not sure how much the water jugs are helping. The idea is that they will absorb heat during the day and release it at night. They are certainly warm in the evening. Before fall, I want to paint the bottles black to help in heat absorption.
With the box located right outside our garage door, it is easy to care for. Tonight after a heavy rain shower, I ran outside for some fresh greens for an evening salad. I would have hated to wallow through the mud into the garden just to pick lettuce!
And when the result is a luscious salad like this, no wonder we like our hoop house! I'm always amazed at how tender and sweet home grown spring greens are compared to what we've been buying at the store all winter!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Our chicks, which are now six weeks old and half grown chickens, are enjoying their outdoor run on sunny days! I so love watching them scratch in the dirt!
Every summer my dad brings over a steer or heifer to keep the grass in our pasture mowed down. The children named this one Seven!
The greens in our hoop house are growing well! We now have broccoli, onions, kale, spinach and several kinds of lettuce. In the garden, the peas and onions are growing and I just found the first tiny spears of asparagus!
And our little daughter grows more endearing every day! With no cooking, cleaning or laundry to do this week (thanks to help from husband, sisters, and friends) I felt like all I did was "play baby"! Besides getting little sleep at night, it has been a very good week!
Monday, April 13, 2009
Brooke Serene was born at 8:32 on Sunday, April 12, 2009.
Brooke weighed 7 lb 9 oz at birth.
We were able to come home later the same day and we are all doing well. Of course, we think she is the sweetest, cutest, dearest baby ever!
The children are thrilled with their little sister!
Four healthy children! We are overwhelmed by the Lord's goodness to our family!
O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Psalm 136:1
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Many states have a fish for free day. On this day, residents and non-residents can fish without buying a license. This year, Pennsylvania's free day is May 23. Maryland's is the first two Saturday's in June and July 4.
In PA, an adult can help a child fish without buying a license, as long as the child is actively involved in the process. Other states may have similar laws.
Fishing in certainly in the frugal fun category! Do have more ideas for fun activities to do with your family that are free, or nearly so?
Friday, April 10, 2009
I wanted her to have somewhere to keep her sewing and made her this tote bag! I just used some fabric scraps, and was so happy with the results! I love any excuse to make a new tote bag!
I used the pattern I found here to make this adorable little pouch! These were so fun that I'll be making more for sure!!!
I also designed this little case for holding her needles safely.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I have long admired the beautiful garden journals, available for purchase, which contain room to record five or ten years of garden information. I love the idea of seeing at a glance what was happening in my garden at that time each year. The lovely water color paintings and quotes just add to the charm of these books. But I know that I would never keep up with writing in it, despite my best intentions. Plus it would probably get left outside in the rain and be destroyed long before five or ten years were recorded in it!
Since we were married, I've kept a small notebook with my cookbooks where I record our harvest each year. Knowing how many quarts of beans or jars of applesauce we preserved, and noticing what is left a year later, is helpful for planning the next year. I also usually add a quick sketch of our garden showing what we planted where in order to plan next year's garden rotation.
I've seen other great ideas for garden journals. One person hangs a calendar in their garden shed where they record planting and harvesting dates as well as any other interesting garden information like last frost dates and insect problems.
I use my weekly planner for my garden reminders. If I want to fertilize the dogwoods in May or spray the roses in June, I have no hope of remembering unless it is written on my list of "to do" on the calendar! This year, I've kept a green pen next to the planner and every time I have planted seeds, transplanted seedlings, or done another garden project, I've attempted to make a note with the green pen. Hopefully, it will make the garden notes easier to find.
My other garden journaling is done on lined notebook paper. I can easily carry a clip board with paper into the garden to note good perennial combinations, plants that need moved in the spring, additions that are needed or any other notes I wish to remember.
A three ring binder becomes the home of these jottings. They are joined by articles torn from magazines, an envelope of plant tags, information from the extension office, notes jotted down when reading books, plant wish lists to take to a nursery, and any other information that I may need in the future. My notebook is badly in need of some organization. Some simple subject dividers would help significantly. But for now, that simple binder is a valuable resource that I'd hate to lose!
I recently found a website that contains many helpful printable forms is you also want a garden binder. Or want something prettier, check here!
Do you have some sort of garden journal? I'd love to hear about it!
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Several months back I shared a granola bar recipe. Though our family really enjoyed the bars (and I've heard that some of you enjoy it as well) I was not totally satisfied. I wanted a healthier version of a store bought bar that would still have some of the same chewy crunch that we love in the bought versions! I tried numerous recipes - and all were delicious! But some had more sugar then I wished and I was hoping to find one that contained no processed ingredients, such as Rice Krispies.
I think I finally found it! This recipe (and it is not original with me) is our favorite yet! Very simple to make, some sugar but less then some others, and with lots of options of ingredients! I've made it four times now and never the same way twice! Give it a try!
2 1/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
Toast oats, seeds, and nuts in 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Check every few minutes and stir them around. You don't want them to burn, only to slightly brown.
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T butter
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
Melt honey, sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in pan over medium heat. Simmer for about five minutes.
1 cup raisins
Pour sugar syrup over toasted ingredients and raisins. Stir well. Press into greased 9 x 13 glass pan. Carefully press mixture tightly. Cut into bars while still warm.
Instead of the sunflower seeds, peanuts, and raisins, you may substitute from this list.
chocolate chips (allow to cool slightly before mixing in, or will melt, which tastes good anyway!)
Monday, April 6, 2009
I haven't shared any new bread recipes recently, and not because I haven't been bread baking! I've probably baked more bread this winter then any previously! I've tried many new recipes and found some really great recipes! (And am trying to forget the disasters!) I want to share some more recipes, such as a bagel recipe, but I want to continue experimenting first!
Meanwhile, I thought I'd share some of my favorite bread books. Everything I know about bread baking has come from others, either through personal contact, books or web sites! Most of my favorite recipes were either given to me by my mom or shared by friends, but I've also found some real winners in books. Books have been a real source of information on digging deeper into the bread baking process and understanding a little clearer the different aspects.
I'm not saying that these books are the best on the topic of bread baking. Our library contains two shelves full of bread baking books, and I'm sure they are all excellent! These are just the few books which I'm familiar with and use. As with any topic, if you want to learn more about it, find someone who is passionate about the subject, has spent years studying the topic, and you will learn much from their knowledge!
Bread Basket Cookbook by Martha Greene
I love this cookbook because it is written with the assumption that you have a Bosch mixer and a grain mill. While the recipes could be adjusted to commercial flour and hand kneading, I enjoy having recipes written just as I plan to use them. Many of our favorite recipes have come from this book including the Russian Black Bread and Sandwich Buns.
Recipes from the Old Mill by Sarah E. Myers and Mary Beth Lind
These two sisters grew up with an old water powered grist mill on their property where their uncle turned grain into flour. Their cookbook is full of recipes using whole grains. It has particularly good sections on using alternate grains such as corn, rye, and buckwheat. They sprinkle helpful tips throughout the book.They even have a section on cultural breads such as tortillas, pitas, and injera. I haven't nearly tried all the recipes in the book but have numerous favorites!
The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
I found this book in the library several years ago. It was the first time I was exposed to extraordinary bread baking. I never knew that some people weigh their ingredients to get a more accurate result then cup measuring! I learned much through this book about why and how yeast works and how ingredients affect the final outcome. It is also through this book that I first became interested in artisan bread. Though it has been several years since I've perused this book, a few of these recipes became well known favorites in our home.
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking
You may have heard of this book as it has been immensely popular recently. I had to get on a waiting list at the library. The idea behind this book is not that you can walk into your kitchen and enjoy fresh homemade bread five minutes later! Instead, the recipes in this book are mixed up and placed in the refrigerator overnight for up to two weeks. When you desire a loaf of fresh bread, you cut off a piece of dough, form it into a loaf, allow to rise, and bake. The bread needs no kneading, the refrigeration allows the flavors to develop, and all total, you are spending only a few minutes a day to have a loaf of freshly baked bread for several days! I was not able to use this book extensively (library books need returned unfortunately) but I did like the concepts described. Not every recipe I tried was a winner but a few were absolutely incredible!
The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
Maybe I've saved the best for last! I can't talk about bread books without mentioning Peter Reinhart. He has written a number of books on bread baking but I've only read Bread Baker's Apprentice. Obviously anyone who can write numerous books on the subject of bread baking - is passionate about bread and Peter is a real fanatic as well as gifted teacher! His books are incredibly detailed and explain every aspect of the process well. He includes great photographs showing his techniques, which to me, immensely add to the value of a book.
In one of the wonders of the internet, I found out this winter that Peter Reinhart was looking for recipe testers for the new book he is writing and, of course, I jumped at the chance! His new book builds on the techniques and recipes he has been perfecting the past twenty years and also incorporating some of the newer techniques for artisan quality breads. I have had so much fun trying out the recipes and gained some great experience. The recipes were not difficult, the directions detailed and none of the recipes I've tried have flopped, which I can't say for any other bread book I've used! The recipes span a large range of bread baking from baguettes to biscuits to bagels. These are not the fastest recipes ever, as most of Peter's recipes require overnight fermentation to develop the flavors. I highly recommend this new book, which should be out in the fall, especially if you are ready for your bread to rise (no pun intended) to a new level of awesome!!!
Edit to add: Here is the link to Peter's newest book.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
I've mentioned how much I think dough conditioners improve the results of whole wheat bread. I wrote about it here. You can buy a product called “Dough Enhancer” that I've never used but know others who like it. I found this recipe for dough enhancer that appeared quite simple to make and use. I only use the first three ingredients and haven't actually tried this recipe but thought I'd share it for those who would like to try it.
Homemade Dough Enhancer
1 cup wheat gluten
2 tablespoons lecithin granules
1 teaspoon ascorbic acid crystals (Vitamin C)
2 tablespoons powdered pectin
2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
(Double or triple if you want to store up more at one time.)
Mix together and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I used an old jelly jar. For 100% whole grain breads, use 3 tablespoons per loaf. You can even add a tablespoon per loaf in white bread recipes. Add to your recipe along with the flour.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
April -The month when spring calls loudly and it really becomes hard to stay indoors! The month when we relish the first luscious mouthful of spring vegetables - asparagus! I have to think of the pioneer families who, before the days of super markets, glass canning jars and deep freezers, have been subsisting on the wrinkled root crops from the cellar for the past few months. Can you imagine the joy in finding that first spear of asparagus and know that you have survived another hard winter!
Looking over the March garden list, most projects could be continued into April. Clearing out the flower beds, planting early seeds (peas, onions, potatoes) and vegetable plants (brocolli, cabbage, lettuce) continue this month if not already accomplished! I'm quite pleased with what we were able to do last month. (Mostly thanks to my dear husband!) I think this newsletter has been a good way to look ahead at what needs done and provide some accountability for myself!
These are the tasks I plan to do this month in my zone 6 garden. (But a newborn in our family could cause a halt in any of these plans, in which case, it will all wait until May!)
1. Finish cleaning up the perennial beds and top-dress with compost.
2. Divide any crowded perennials and replant in bare areas.
3. Plant beet, carrot and Swiss chard seeds in the garden.
4. Purchase some more floating row cover at a garden center in order to do a side by side comparison with the Mikroclima.
5. Set out broccoli plants in the garden and cover with row cover.
6. Uncover the strawberries from their winter mulch.
7. Plant the six blueberry plants we purchased earlier last month. We've been holding the plants in pots until the temperatures warmed.
8. Relish fresh asparagus! And maybe, the first fresh spinach salad!
Plants growing in the hoop house!