Monday, June 29, 2009

The Best Rags, Ever!

Yesterday I made the Best Rags Ever!

I cut up an old, thrift-store towel...

and then quickly finished the edges (I serged them, you can zig-zag too). Lastly add a big letter "R" (for Rag) with a permanent marker.

Now enjoy. Frank was delighted when he found these new towels (he didn't see me make them) this morning. He thought they were "awesome because they have a happy, smiley face on them."

Friday, June 26, 2009


Saturday (June 13th) I played around and made two delightful and "oh-so-cute!" Ladybug items.

I planned to make another Baby Shower Minkie-Taggie-Lovey-Blankie-Thingy. While looking for ideas, I found this cake. I really liked the angle of the photograph and wound up creating this ADORABLE item:

One of the fun things about this applique is that all the fabric for the background and bug is super-soft Minky... except for the antenna. They are made from an old (clean) shoelace, couched down. I really appreciate the texture difference (both visual and tactile) that the shoelace creates.

In addition, the gift was for a Baby Shower. The lady hosting the shower has had a downfall of bad luck this month, and when I saw her the day before, I could see the poor gal was seriously overloaded. So, I offered to make the Party Cake. I found this website with amazing cake ideas and photos ( I looked through dozens of ideas before basing my shape on this.

My whole life I've made birthday cakes. Actually, I cried on Jack's last birthday (on the phone, with my Mom, at the store) because I was BUYING him a store-bought cake. Frank was sick. I was exhausted. Still. Crying over a store-bought cake. It goes to show you HOW IMPORTANT it is to me that I make birthday cakes for my family and friends! In all my years of playing with decorating tips and looking through Wilton Year Books, somehow, I never picked up a magnificent tip.

When finishing the frosting, dip the blade in hot water, smooth frosting, wipe off excess and repeat.

I've never taken a cake decorating class, just looked at books and came up with ideas. Mostly, I want a cake that tastes amazing, and looks fun, but isn't "too much" work. I enjoyed the because it was full of Non-Threatening creative ideas by the common cooks like you and I.

Still, with that one little tip (plus freezing the cake between steps), I was able to create this very nice looking cake. By the way. If you are wondering. Jack helped me with the process of creating both these items... thus the "lined up on one side and zig-zaggy on the other" spots. Jack and I made the eye whites and mouth out of taffy, warmed slightly in the microwave, and then hand shaped, like Silly Putty. Putting the decorations on was Jack's big part of this cake. :D

I would love to hear the music to go along with this fun song:

Hello Ladybug

Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1972 Schroder Music Company, renewed 2000. a.k.a. "Ladybug."

Hello ladybug, little lady, ladybug
Hello ladybug, my little friend
Eating up the crawlers that eat up my roses
Fly around ladybug, come back again.

Hello, wiggleworm, little wiggle, giggleworm
Hello, wiggleworm, my little friend
Churning up the ground so the roots can go down
Wiggle, wig, wiggleworm, come back again.

Hello buzzy bee, little buzzy, fuzzy bee
Hello buzzy bee, my little friend
Carrying the pollen that makes food and flowers grow
Buzz around, buzzy bee, come back again.

Hello ladybug, little lady ladybug
Hello ladybug, my little friend
Eating up the crawlers that eat up my roses
Fly around ladybug, come back again.

Now. One more fun Ladybug thing for you. I found this poem that reminds me of how content we all can be in our lot in life:

Happy to Be Me- a Ladybug

I'm a ladybug
nothing more
but I'm happy to be me,
so free,
with so much beauty to see...

I'm red with black spot
found in field,
or flower pot...
on blade of grass,
tree limb
shrub or flower,
perhaps even on the Eiffel Tower!
hill or dell,
by a stream
in wood serene-

I've been to so many places
it's hard to tell...
I'm very little
but please do not belittle,
just content to be a creature of this earth,
isn't that a measure of worth?

-Marie Lawrence

I hope you're having a great weekend! This creative break was wonderful, but now it's time to hit the books again! :D

Saturday, June 13, 2009

School Numbers

I feel so much better about myself going back to school! Already, I feel like I'm getting a grip on the work load (though I do have to stay right on top of it!)

What's interesting to me is that since people are hearing that I've gone back to school, strangers, acquaintances, and friends alike are all asking if I'm going to be a teacher. It's odd because my original major was Elementary Education, though few people now know that.

Right now, I was just intending to get an Associates and see what happened next, but maybe I will finish my Bachelors... it seems like someone/thing is trying to tell me something because I am hearing "are you going to be a teacher" all.the.time!

I even noticed a poster for a distance program from University of Wyoming to spread the two year program out over three! This is a special program UofW is doing to help people get their teaching degree while balancing life. Seeing the poster and thinking of doing the program just "feels right" inside. The timing coincides with how long we were planning to stay in this town, so, perhaps next Fall, after getting use to school, and suddenly having both my babies being school age, I can put myself to the task of finishing that long-ago dream. :D


By the way... this is my 365th Post. Of course, it took two years nine months to get here... I guess that means I've posted about once every three days.

Okay. I LOVE numbers and math. I just went and checked. I started the blog September 16, 2006, which means this is day 1,001 for the blog. Kinda funny... exactly a year's worth of posts on the freaky number like 1001. That also happens to be Frank's birthday written out... October 1st... or 10-01.

Little things like this literally make me smile.

I know. I'm weird about numbers. But you should know that too, because I've told you about it before!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Things I Have Remembered

Slow and steady wins the race.
While my pant size has been changing, my weight has remained about the same. Now though, I've noticed a definite difference in my endurance, quality of sleep, and general overall feeling.

Exercise makes me feel good.
Yesterday I ran. Actual running. Just down and up my street, but as I spontaneously did it, it felt so great! I remembered that I use to "Run for Fun" all the time. I think I'll start again.

Following my body's natural sleep rhythm helps me be more productive.
Even if everyone around me thinks I'm nuts to start getting up at five in the morning again!!!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Where Did All My Free Time Go?

I don't think I really realized how much Free Time I've had. It's like that with most things in life, isn't it? You don't really appreciate what you've got until it's gone.

In case you ever think of returning to College after more than a Decade's Hiatus, I can now tell you that, while I encourage the endeavor, I would recommend you start on a different term than the Summer one. Here I thought I could "ease" back into school, nice-n-easy, by taking a "low-pressure" summer class. I also thought it would be a "good idea" to take a class that I wasn't really fond of, to "get it out of the way". What was I thinking?!?!

What I've now learned is that I'm spending ALL of my time - not just my "free" time - ALL of my time with my nose in a book or my eyes blurring over a computer screen. Cramming a whole semester's work into eight weeks. Those same eight weeks, which happen to be the only "nice" weather here in Wyoming. So, instead of enjoying the beautiful days, I'm reading and studying and going bleary-eyed. I now question the sanity of my decision to start back to school during a Summer Term as a way of "easing" into it.

Since I want to enjoy the summer, I've now started getting up at 5:00 am again.


You caught me.

Not really on the getting up at 5:00 am.

Yesterday was the first day the radio turned on at 5. I got up at 5:45 and
literally dragged myself to the gym. Today I woke at 5:45, but instead of studying, I cuddled with Jack and baked bread. Give me a couple more days to get my body use to the early rising again and I'll start doing the following:
Monday - 5-7am - Study
Tuesday - 5-7am - Gym; 9-noon - Study on Campus (with boys in Children's Center)
Wednesday - 5-7am - Study
Thursday - 5-7am - Gym; 9-noon - Study on Campus (with boys in Children's Center)
Friday - 5-7am - Yoga at Gym; 10:00-11:30 - Playgroup
Weekends - Hike, Fish, Camp with Family
So. That's my plan and my goal, hopefully, by next week I'll be fully implementing it, so that with ten dedicated hours of study time I can enjoy the days, nights, and weekends with my family.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Hero Factory - Incredible or Fancy?

I just took a break between reading my College Text Book and taking my first online quiz. I was catching up on Celise's Blog and saw this "Coolio" link to create a Super Hero. Here I am:

Which character do you prefer?

Okay. Enough playing all ready! Back to the books / tests / net for this online Political Science Class I'm taking. Just like Celise predicted, you can spend WAY too much time goofin'!

Monday, June 01, 2009

We Make Homemade Bread


It's true.

If Tom comes home with a bag of store-bought bread, he gets (at least) a glare, and usually Some Words. I think it's happened only three or four times since last Fall.

I'd have to say it all started with Jakob and Karin Herrman... German friends of mine from my early 20's. Karin was a full-time, stay-at-home-wife. They didn't have kids; didn't want them. She was an amazing homemaker. I was awestruck at how she made fresh bread, everyday,
without a recipe, just "by feel".

Then, about five years ago, Becky showed me to a website about frugality in the kitchen (Hillbilly Housewife). There was a list of Store Bought Convenience Foods that got me thinking. Store bought bread was listed as a "Convenience Food"?!? This idea shocked me. I thought Karin was an anomaly. I thought you HAD to buy bread and those who always made it were simply, NUTS!

Last Fall we finally started making my own bread. Now, Tom is often better at it than I am. Here's our Honey Oat Bread recipe.

Honey Oatmeal Bread
by Suzy Sholar
September 2008

½ cup butter
¾ cup honey
2 ¼ cups water

2 cups oatmeal
2T + ¾ tea yeast (3 packets)
1 T salt
5 ½ cups flour

3 eggs
½ to 2 cups MORE flour

1. In small saucepan, combine butter, honey, and water. Heat over low-medium heat until mixture is very warm (120F -130F).
2. Place a pan of water on bottom oven rack. Turn oven on very low (170F).
3. Meanwhile, place oatmeal, yeast, salt, and 5 ½ cups flour into mixing bowl. Attach dough hook to mixer. Mix dry ingredients together.
4. Turn mixer to speed 2. Gradually add warm mixture to flour and mix about 1 minute.
5. Add eggs and mix 1 more minute.
6. Continuing on speed 2, add remaining flour ½ cup at a time, mixing about 2 minutes, or until dough clings to hook and cleans side of bowl. Knead on speed 2 about 2 minutes longer*.
7. Butter two bowls.
8. Split dough into two balls, about 1/3 and 2/3 of dough. Put dough into each bowl.
9. TURN OFF THE OVEN. Place each bowl on the top rack of oven.
10. Wet a flour sack towel with hot tap water. Squeeze out excess water. Cover the bowls, in the oven, with the damp towel.
11. Prop a wooden spoon in the door of the oven. Set a timer for one hour. Check the dough. It should have doubled in size. Remove from oven.
12. Reset the oven (with the water still in it) to a low temperature (170F).
13. Punch down dough. Use smaller portion as four mini-loaves OR 32 rolls OR one artisan loaf OR pretzels OR another regular loaf of bread. Divide larger portion in half. On lightly floured surface; roll each half into rectangle (about 9” x 14”). Starting at a short end, roll dough tightly. Pinch dough as you go. Pinch to seal seam. Pinch ends and turn under. Place in loaf pan, seam side down. (When using seasoned stoneware, there is no need to grease the pan, if using other types of pans, you will need to butter / grease the loaf pans first).
14. TURN OFF THE OVEN. Place pans on the top rack of oven. Rewet and wring towel. Cover dough. Prop wooden spoon in door of oven. Set timer for an hour.
15. When dough has doubled in size (finger pressed in leaves a dent) remove all pans from oven (including water pan). Turn oven on to 375F (385F high altitude).
16. Once oven has preheated, cook rolls / mini loaves for about 20-25 minutes and regular size loaves about 45 minutes. Pretzels should cook about 50F higher for 12 minutes.

Yield: 48 servings (16 slices per loaf).

Per serving: About 134 calories, 4 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrates, 3 gram fat, 13 mg cholesterol, 162 mg sodium.

* You can remove this from the mixer at any point, and work the dough by hand! :D

This is the recipe as we use it in Wyoming (high altitude), but we didn't really "adjust" it for High Altitude, we just have a "feel" for the dough now and
know what we need to do. Anyway, we like it a lot. We make dough for three loaves twice a week. We make two full size loaves and the third piece we do different things with: rolls, mini-loaves, pretzels, pizza dough, artisan-style loaves, baguettes, etc. By changing the shape or brushing with oil and herbs, you can really change the way the third loaf looks.

Here's a link to the crockery method of bread that I tried a few weeks back. We liked it, but I've only made it once (just because I'm so familiar with my Honey Oat Recipe).

One of my biggest obstacles to making regular bread was how to keep it fresh without wasting lots of plastic bags or wraps (plastic/aluminum/etc). I finally found a suitable container in the Lock'N'Lock 38 cup Rectangle. It's just the right size to hold a whole, uncut loaf (although I prefer to let the loaves cool to room-temperature and then cut before they are cold and hard). I can fit two of these on one of my fridge shelves, and put all three loaves (when cut up) in both tubs. I picked my tubs up for $9.99 at a Bed Bath & Beyond, so, if you are close to one, you probably can save a few dollars getting it in a store versus online.

At the beginning, every batch seemed a chore. Now, Tom and I have the recipe memorized. One of us can start the recipe and the other pick-up and finish it seamlessly.

We have been very pleased at how filling and satisfying it is to always have fresh, hardy bread on hand... for about $1.50 a loaf (including electricity and such). It tastes better. It's better for us. And we just plain enjoy it. :D

Let me know if you too give switching to your own homemade bread a try.