Monday, May 5, 2014

Soft Pretzels

There's nothing better than a soft pretzel! Every time I make these, they are gone right away! They are very easy to make with little effort.  Serve with a cheese sauce or even cream cheese.

Soft Pretzels 
Yield 16 pretzels

2 cups warm water
3 Tbl sugar
1 pkg dry active yeast
4-5 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 baking soda
3-4 cups water
Egg wash (1 egg + 2 tbl water)
Sea Salt
1. Turn oven light on and keep door closed.  This will keep the oven at 85* and will give you a warm place to allow pretzels to rise.
2. In a non-metal bowl, whisk yeast, sugar, and warm water.
3. Place in oven and allow to sit 5 minutes until the yeast is bubbly.
4. In your stand mixer with the dough hook, add the flour and the salt.  Mix together.
5. Add yeast and mix until until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
6. Place dough in a large bowl and lightly cover with a towel or plastic wrap.  Place in oven and allow to rise until doubled in size, approx. 1 hour.
7. Bring baking soda and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer.
8. Divide dough into 16 pieces.
9. Roll each piece of dough into an 16" rope and form into pretzel shape.
10. Using a large slotted spoon, dip each pretzel into the baking soda water.
11. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and allow to rise for 15 minutes in oven.
12. Remove from oven and preheat oven to 450*
13.  Brush each pretzel with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt
14. Bake pretzels for 13 minutes, until lightly browned.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Wild Violet Jelly

Did you know you could make jelly from wild violets,  the pretty little purple "weeds" that grow in your yard every spring?  You can!  And let me tell you, it's good!  It has a very unique taste that is hard to describe.  It doesn't have a floral taste like you might think.



Wild violets also have numerous health benefits! They are high in vitamins A, C, bioflavonoids, calcium, and magnesium.  The leaves can be used for skin rashes, sore and swollen joints, eczema, digestive problems, bruises, made into a cough syrup, used as a laxative, sore throats, arthritis, and they are a natural diuretic with cleansing properties!  You can read more about that HERE. I'm going to post an old recipe from my great grandmother on how to make a salve from the leaves sometime later next week, so be sure to check back!

In addition to the health benefits of wild violets, you can also use the flowers to be visually appealing in different food dishes.  Toss a few flowers into a green leafy salad with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing for a pop of color.  You can also put the flowers in ice cube trays, fill with water, and freeze to have ice cubes with little violets inside every cube.  Or, fill the trays with white wine and freeze to enjoy in a glass of wine!  Put a few of the flowers on top of a cake to add a touch of elegance.  The possibilities are just endless!!

To make the jelly, you only use the purple flowers.  Look how pretty they all look in a bowl!

Violet Jelly
3 cups violet flowers
3 cups water
approx 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 cups sugar
1 box pectin
6 half pint jars

1. Collect and rinse violet flowers
2. Bring water to a boil and add violets.
3. Allow violets to steep overnight in water.
4. Strain liquid through a sieve, discard flowers.  It will be a blueish liquid like this:
5. Add enough apple cider to bring the liquid back up to 3 cups.  It will turn from the blueish color to a pretty purple color:
6. In a medium sized pot, add liquid and stir in pectin
7. Bring the liquid to a boil.
8. Add the sugar.
9. Return to a full boil and boil for 2 minutes.  Make sure to continuously be stirring to prevent scorching.
10. Ladle hot jelly into half pint jars.
11. Process in a water canner for 10 minutes.
12. Allow jelly to sit so it will set up, do not move or disturb.
Yield 6 half pint jars



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Canning Pineapples

I recently found pineapples on sale for $1.50 each at the local grocery store, so I decided to can them! They are very simple to do if you have basic canning knowledge and the basic equipment. The home canned pineapples taste so much better than the ones you buy in the store!!

10 pineapples gave me 24 pints of chunked pineapples. You first need to decide what kind of liquid you wish to can the pineapples in: water, unsweetened pineapple juice, light syrup, medium syrup, or a heavy syrup. I chose to do mine in a medium syrup which is a 2:1 ratio of water to sugar. It took 18 cups of water and 9 cups of sugar to make my 24 pints.

First, you want to take the rind off the pineapples, the top, core out the center and cut into chunks. I bought a pineapple corer, but decided it was a lot of work twisting the corer down to the bottom, plus I feel it left a lot of fruit behind. Here's a photo:
If you were ever going to have a party and wanted to serve drinks out of real pineapples, then this would be a great tool to have!
I just ended up using a sharp, serrated knife.

Next, bring your liquid of choice to a boil (plus sugar if using). Allow it to simmer while putting the pineapples in jars. You want to pack them in, but don't stuff them. Taking a ladle, ladle the liquid into the jars, leaving 1/2" head space. Put the lids on the jars and process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes.

It's really just that easy! Stored in a cool, dry place, the pineapples should last 12-18 months.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Checking In!

I cannot believe it's been 3 years since I have posted on here! I've been thinking for a while of getting back into the habit. I know it's hard to believe, but Jaiden is 9 and Arya will be 7 in May! Time has gone by so fast!
Arya is on the left and Jaiden is on the right. They recently took part in a local craft fair selling Rainbow Loom bracelets.

I have completely quit doing any crafts and haven't sewn anything in a long time. I kinda got burnt out with it and haven't had a desire to begin again. I got rid of all my crafting supplies, but have held onto a lot of my fabric and sewing machine. I have become really interested in photography and have been working to better my skills.


We're still working on the never ending saga of remodeling our house! I am happy to report that we are almost finished! We have had a hard time trying to find someone to do the work for us. We have 8 different people come over to work and never show back up. It's almost impossible to find a dependable person in construction who is dependable and doesn't charge a fortune!

I hope to post again on a somewhat regular basis. I've got recipes, canning tips, upcycling projects, and general items I want to share. I canned 24 pints of pineapples yesterday and I plan on sharing the recipe and tips next week. So....Until then!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen


This is another favorite book of mine so far in 2011!! I have been seeing the movie trailers on TV, so I thought I'd give the book a try! It was so good, I started reading it yesterday afternoon and couldn't put it down until I finished it!

The book is about the main character, Jacob and his youth with the circus. In the beginning, we are introduced to 90, or 93, year old Jacob that is living in an "old age" home due to a broken hip. When going to lunch one day, he notices a circus has come to town and causing great excitement in the home. Jacob goes to his usual table for lunch and is greeted by a new patient that claims to have carried water for the elephants while working at a circus. Jacob is outraged by his out right lie and is immediately returned to his room. Jacob begins to flash back to when he was 23 years old.

It's during the Great Depression and Jacob is enrolled at Cornell University getting ready to take his final exam for a veterinary license when the dean pulls him out of class. The dean tells Jacob there has been a horrible accident and both of his parents are dead. Between his parents death and finding out they are broke because all of their money went to pay for his Ivy League education, Jacob takes off. He just starts running and doesn't stop until his feet cannot take it anymore. Jacob then realizes he is lost and happened to hear a train coming. He hops aboard the train to find out it is a circus train.

He makes friends with a guy on the train, Camel, and Camel is able to get him on working for the circus. The owner of the circus, Uncle Al, appoints Jacob as the official circus vet.

As soon as Jacob sees Marlena, the wife of the head animal trainer, August, he falls in love. August is a strange man and violent man. He is out right cruel to the animals and anyone that gets in his way, yet is he married to a beautiful and compassionate performer. Jacob is determined to have Marlena, but August stands in his way.

The book describes the horrid condition of the animals and their treatment while being apart of a circus. And, circus life in general for the workers and performers. It's just a really good book about how the circus was ran in the 1930's and the impact it had on peoples lives.

(photo from Amazon.com)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Baby Log Cabin Variation Quilt Top



These are the 2 quilt tops I made for my new niece and nephew. Very simple to make, you just have to know how to sew a straight line. Yes, it's that easy! I didn't have to buy any fabric to make these, I had everything in my fabric stash! Approx size of finished quilt top is 45"x36".

I went with pinks and purples for Alexa and blues and greens for Braiden. You could make this with 2 different colors, or make each row something different. I am sure there are several different ways to pick a theme.



I am going to use the pink and purple color theme for the tutorial.

Material Needed:

Pinks
2- 4.5 x 4.5 squares
2- 12.5 x 4.5 strips
2- 20.5 x 4.5 strips
2- 28.5 x 4.5 strips
2- 36.5 x 4.5 strips

Purples
1- 4.5 x 4.5 square
2- 12.5 x 4.5 strips
2- 20.5 x 4.5 strips
2- 28.5 x 4.5 strips
2- 36.5 x 4.5 strips

1. Using a 1/4 inch seam allowance, sew pink squares to purple to form the center of the quilt. Press seams to one side.

2.Sew 12.5 x 4.5 purple strips to center strip.

3. Sew 12.5 x 4.5 pink strips to bottom and top of block.

4. Continue sewing strips in size order, starting with purple until quilt top is finished.

With several distractions, it only took me about 3 hours to cut the pieces and sew them together to make 1 quilt top. They go together pretty fast! This would probably make a easy quilt to finish for the Linus Project!

This up coming week, I will be finishing the quilts and I will post another tutorial on how to finish them.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"The Pact: A Love Story" by Jodi Picoult


It was a very nice day yesterday and the girls wanted to play outside, so I brought out a new book from the library. It is called "The Pact: A Love Story" by Jodi Picoult. Once I started reading, I just could not put it down! As of right now, it's the best book I've year this year! And, that is saying a lot because I read about a book a week, sometimes 2!

From the cover, "...comes a riveting, timely, heartbreaking, and terrifying novel of family in anguish and friendship ripped apart by inconceivable violence. Until the phone call came on a November morning, the Golds and their neighbors, the Hartes, had been inseparable. It was no surprise to anyone when their teenage children, Chris and Emily, began showing signs that their relationship was moving beyond lifelong friends. But now 17 year old Emily has been shot to death as part of an apparent suicide pact-leaving 2 devastated families stranded in the dark and dense predawn, desperate for answers about an unthinkable act and the children they really never knew."

The book starts in present day when the parents get the call to come down to the hospital. Emily is pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital, but Chis is alive. Chris tells the police it was a suicide pact and he wasn't able to go through with it on his end. The parents are shocked, they had no clue either of of their children was contemplating suicide.

After a short stay, Chis is released from the hospital and that's when the police start to disbelieve his story of the "pact". A case starts to mount up against him, accusing him of shooting Emily in cold blood.

Many times during the book, you are taken back in time to various points to show the strong relationships between Chris' family, the Hartes, and Emily's family, the Golds. Chris and Emily had known each other since birth and they even shared a crib together at one point.

After Chris is arrested on charges of murdering Emily, the Gold's and the Harte's relationship is dramatically changed. Mrs. Gold believes the reports that Chris actually killed Emily, that he was able to put aside the feelings he's always had for Emily and shoot her in the head in cold blood. Mrs. Harte, on the other hand, is defending Chris to the end. She believes her son is incapable of killing his one true love.

Will Chris be found guilty of murder, a crime that means life in prison, or will his story of a suicide pact be proven? What will happen to the 20 year relationship between the Harts and the Golds?

Friday, April 29, 2011

More Babies!!

We had some excitement 2 weeks ago Wednesday!! My sister, who was pregnant with twins, delivered her babies!! She has had a very hard pregnancy, there were several foods she couldn't eat and was still getting sick after eating. Last Wednesday, she called me to tell me she was having severe cramps and didn't know what to do. (She had a scheduled doctor's appointment 30 minutes from then.) I told her the babies were probably laying on her wrong or tumbling around. She went to the doctor and he determined that she was in labor!! We were all in shock!! She was only 25 weeks pregnant (out of 40)!! The doctor told her to drive to the local hospital, about 10 minutes away, and a helicopter would be waiting to take her to the University of Cincinnati Hospital (about 35 minutes away by car). She arrived at the local hospital and the babies decided not to wait!! She was in full blown labor, right there in the emergency room entrance. The helicopter didn't even have time to arrive yet, nor the delivery doctor. The hospital staff had to do an emergency C-Section!

They took the little boy out first and he stopped breathing, we are not sure of how long. They were able to resuscitate him. My mom was in the hall and said it looked like a scene from a movie. They have the boy on the gurney, running down the hall while massaging his heart and pumping the bag ventilator on his face. He was rushed immediately to Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati. (Children's was full, so that's why he went to Good Sam)

The girl was a little better off, but not by much. My sister, Tara, was able too see her and touch her before she was rushed off to Good Sam also.

The babies weighed in a less than 2 pounds (900 grams) each!! Neither one of the babies were expected to make it through the night! Everything was such a flash, we couldn't believe it was happening!!

Tara stayed in the local hospital for 2 days while her babies were in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Good Sam (again about 35 minutes by car). Tara is doing well physically, but not coping well well emotionally. WE are in the process of trying to find a support group for her.

After the babies made it through the night, she gave them names! My nephew is Braiden Asher and my niece is Alexa Kristine. They are currently still struggling in the NICU, but no longer struggling to live! Alexa has fluid on her brain (used to be known as "water on the brain") and is recovering from a collapsed lung. Braiden has some breathing issues and has a turned in leg that will require therapy.

I was sick when the babies were born, so I didn't get to see them until they were a week old. I took lots of pictures of them!


Alexa


Braiden


I have already made them some outfits for micro preemies and their first quilt! I will post the quilts later in the week along with the tutorial. They are going to be the best dressed babies in the NICU as soon as she gets the green light to dress them!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hello Again

Hello again to everyone! I been away for awhile keeping busy! We finally began remodeling our kitchen! I now how a sink, cabinets, and counter tops in my kitchen like normal houses do! We're doing all the work ourselves, so it is a little slow going. Here are a few of our "in progress" photos


We decided to go with purple, yes purple, for the walls! I love it! Our floor is called "lay down vinyl" and it's the best thing ever!! You just unroll the vinyl like a rug and cut off any excess! No glue or anything! I love it!

You can look at the "before" pics under the label "House Remodeling". We've come a long way!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turkey Guest Blogger


Be sure to stop over at Sun Flowers at Home today! Ginny is running a series called 10 Days of Turkey and I am the guest blogger today! I posted the instructions over there to make this super cute turkey with your kids.
Thanks Ginny!!!