Thursday, May 29, 2008

At Odds

Wow, it's been so long since I posted that my blogger sign in didn't even remember me.

I've been having lots of fun with my parents and my sister. We showed them around the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows on Monday, and on Tuesday we checked out the Argosy casino. I'm not a gambler, but I did win ten dollars on a penny slot machine, and then promptly cashed out. Yesterday we hung around and baked, and then in the evening we went to Stitch and Pitch at the Cardinals game! It was super fun. Today we drove to Arthur and checked out the Amish bulk foods store.

They're planning to leave tonight and drive through the night, so everyone is sleeping now. My dad likes driving at night best of all.

I think I might have a dr's appt for my pelvic exam tomorrow, but I feel at odds and kind of emotional today. I think I may just be overtired from so much activity, and also a little homesick with my company heading out. I don't remember for sure if I have an appt, because I'm pretty sure I rescheduled, but even if I do, I don't think I'll go. I'm planning to reschedule it for next week.

Guess I'm just feeling down tonight, so I'll try to post more cheerfully tomorrow. Maybe I can get myself excited about a project to use my new stitch n pitch yarn. Or maybe I'll feel better if I get some exercise mowing the lawn in the morning. What solutions do you all use for the blues?

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Quick Hello

Well, our company arrived safely yesterday afternoon. It's been very fun having them. Ben has been enjoying having lots of people to play Wii with, I think. His parents brought their controllers with them, and so they're having four person games of everything. I do think he's a tad competitive though. It's okay for parents to beat you at video games, Ben. :)

We did pizza night last night, and Ben chopped tons of veggies like he usually does, but instead of mixing them, he put each one in a little bowl, and we had decorate your own pizza buffet bar. That was a lot of fun, and he gives me tons of help when it's pizza night, so it wasn't too hard on me to feed three extra people. Well, it's never hard on me to feed extra people, I love feeding people, but the help keeps me organized.

Today I've got muffins thawed and watermelon cut for breakfast, and we're planning boxed lunches for a picnic at Cahokia Mounds. I'm making tortillas when we get home from church and we'll use them for wraps with turkey and ham and cheese and veggies. I baked some of the cookies from the freezer, and we each have a cookie, with cheez-its and carrot and celery sticks on the side. For dinner, we'll have bean soup in the crockpot, so it can cook while we're out, and I've set up the 18 hour bread to go with that.

My blog is fast becoming a food blog, I seem to be low on projects lately. I'll snap a picture later of what I've been up too embroidery and knitting - wise and post that. I'm pretty sure I never blogged my finished Spring banner.

Time to get ready for Mass, and I hear my company up and moving too. I'd better go offer them breakfast, since they don't have to wait till after Mass!

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Washing the Couch

Our couch has removable cushions on the back and the seat, so all the covers on the couch but the frame its self can come off. Usually I vacuum the couch to clean it, but the cat fur mostly refuses to be removed and I just get the top layer. Today, in honor of our company (because what better time would there be to get the couch ultimately clean than when other people will be sitting on it?), I'm going to take all the covers off all the cushions and wash and dry them, vacuum the frame, and replace all the covers. I do know that the covers are washable, because the cats very helpfully made it mandatory that I try it a few months back when there was a unfortunately placed hairball incident. The covers actually wash and dry beautifully.

I would post before and after pictures, but I can't seem to take pictures that do justice to the huge amount of cat hair on my couch, so you just wouldn't be able to appreciate it.

Other than mad couch cleaning experiments, I'm also planning to make cupcakes this afternoon. I made a batch of buttercream icing yesterday, and I'd like to get the cupcakes baked and frosted today, because with the cake recipe I'm using, (No Egg Cake, I'll post it later with pics), they are always a million times better the next day. So they'll be great just in time for our visitors.

I detailed the bathrooms (just like a car, lol) yesterday, and today I'm going to try polishing my floors and see if I can get them shiny again. We have laminate flooring in every room, and I can't find any care instructions in the paperwork the previous owners left. I'm going to try a damp microfiber mop. I have try furniture polish on a dust mop, but that hasn't worked so well. Anyway, that's why I usually just sweep them, but they're looking fairly dusty even when they're clean lately.

So, floors, couch and cupcakes. That's what I have on tap for the day.

And for fun? I'm going to throw some wildflower seeds in the non-grassy way back of the back yard. It stormed most of the night last night, so it's probably pretty wet and muddy out there, which seems like a great time to scatter seeds.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mobile Hospitality

Our neighbor to the east is having outpatient surgery on her back tomorrow morning, so I wanted to drop some goodies off for her recovery and for her husband and mother to share.

I tied the ribbon around the basket to make it look a bit less bare. After I wrote the note and noticed that my notepaper clashed with the ribbon, I was tempted to change the ribbon. I did not, as I'm not quite so particular just yet.
I put in some banana muffins, some blueberry muffins, some chocolate chip cookies, and a few different packets of indivually wrapped tea (courtesy of the Marriott we lived in when we first moved to St. Louis.) I separated everything and made it all look classy by putting each separate snack into a coffee filter. I blatantly stole this idea from Meredith at Like Merchant Ships.
My neighbor, Dagmar, more than returned my kindness by clipping me this lovely bouquet of irises...
... and sharing these pussy willows that she had trimmed and rooted, for me to plant by our drainage ditch.
Here is Smudge, as though seen through foliage.

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Busy Week - Also, Please Advise!

We've got lots of company coming at the end of the week. Ben's parents and his brother will be here on Saturday afternoon, and as they leave on Monday, they'll be passing my parents and my sister on their way to visit till Thursday. I've been getting ready for lots of visitors this week.

I've been working on cleaning the small things that you don't usually notice, like corners and such. And also some big things that I have a tendency to skip, like polishing the floors instead of just sweeping them. I'm not too house proud, I tend to focus on just plain clean, rather than impressive, but I do think I should be able to offer guests a place to sit that won't cover them in cat hair.

I'm also getting lots of baking and cooking out of the way now and freezing things, so I don't feel like I have to spend lots of time in the kitchen when people are here. On Monday I put together an apple pie to thaw and bake, and I also baked banana muffins for our breakfasts this week, and for the freezer to pull out for breakfast this weekend. I mixed up a batch of chocolate chip cookies and froze the dough balls for a quick dessert. Yesterday I made a batch of blueberry muffins to have in the freezer for next week, and I made lasagnas for the freezer.

I ran into a problem with my lasagna though. I boiled a whole box of noodles, which gave me enough for a big lasagna, a square lasagna, and four little pyrex custard bowl sized lasagnas made with the leftover ends. Anyway, I ate one of the little personal ones for lunch yesterday, and it was way too salty! I don't know if I salted the water too much, or if there was too much salt in the cheese or tomato sauce. Probably a combination of the three. But now I have a huge amount of prepared lasagna that's just way way too salty. Anyone have any ideas of what I could do, or how I could serve it to make it more palatable? I guess I'm glad I tasted it before baking a big one for guests, but I can't let it all go to waste, so I'd love it if anyone has any thoughts at all on fixing it somehow.

I'm planning more food preparation for today, and I also am putting a basket together to run over to the neighbors so I'll check in later and post some pictures (and check your advice! lol).

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Lovely Rosaries

I have been included in a special blog fair about rosaries and how they and the devotional its self touch Catholic lives. Visit here to learn more, and to find all the other beautiful, thought provoking links.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Shepherd's Pie (using leftover steak)

Shepherd's Pie is a very easy dish to make, and it lends it's self very well to lots of variations. It's pretty much a method, more than it is a recipe. The method is generally: mix up some cooked meat with cooked veggies and gravy, put them in a dish and top them with mashed potatoes, then bake till everything is warm, and if you're into that kind of thing, broil to make the potatoes crusty.

Now, the meat can be browned hamburger, leftover roast, leftover steak or even broken up leftover cooked burgers. I suppose it doesn't even have to be beef, but I have a mental block that beef = Shepherd's Pie and poultry = Pot Pie.

The gravy can be homemade, it can be from a jar, it can be leftovers from the yummy roast you made the night before.

The veggies are pretty much left to taste. Frozen or canned corned, peas, carrots, green beans. Heck, I've even put in Lima Beans. (Yes, I was trying to trick myself. Sadly, it pretty much worked.) Leftover side dishes from your fantastic roast dinner will do nicely as well.

Beg, borrow or steal some mashed potatoes. Sure, they can be leftover roasted potatoes from your famous pot roast dinner all mashed up and buttered and creamed. That's fine.

Okay, now that I've given a long winded explanation, I'll give an even longer winded demonstation in pictures of what precisely I did last night to make Shepherd's Pie from a leftover steak from Ponderosa.

I started by putting some potatoes and a couple of carrots on to boil. The carrots are for my filling, but since I was boiling water, it seemed beneficial to cook them all together. Peel and cut the potatoes and salt the water using whatever method you use for mashed potatoes. If your mashed potatoes come from a box, I won't judge you. I'm all about encouragement.


Here is my leftover steak. This is half of the one I actually had for dinner, plus the whole one that was overcooked that the waitress offered to wrap up for me. I'm a master of cooking with leftover restaurant food. I should do a whole doggie bag gourmet series.

Anyway, I just trimmed the fat and cut the rest into small quarter inch cubes. If it were pot roast, you could cut it or shred it, or if it were burger you'd brown it. But I'm digressing into the variations again!

I didn't have any leftover gravy, or any gravy from a jar, so I made my own from scratch. So this a special treat for you guys, a how to on gravy as well.
You start by melting a couple of tablespoons of butter in your skillet.


When it's melted you sprinkle a equal amount of flour on top and whisk it all around.


This makes what's called a roux. You cook your roux, whisking occasionally till it's a few shades darker brown. You can make it super dark if you want. I'm not that patient. Just cooking the flour will do.

Then you whisk constantly as you gradually pour in your broth (or milk, if you're doing white sauce). You whisk and add until you've incorporated all the broth and it's nice and smooth. I didn't get pictures of this because it's impossible to take pictures of yourself whisking constantly while gradually pouring.


You then let the gravy come to a boil and season it with pepper. I skip salt because there's alway enough in the broth. Even the low sodium broth. You want to keep whisking often to keep it from clumping.

I love making gravy. It's like a mad scientist experiment.

BTW, this is chicken gravy because I didn't have any beef broth. But it just needs to make things moist and tasty, so I didn't hesitate.

To my gravy, I added all the cut up meat, a can of drained corn and a can of drained green beans.

At this point, I wandered off and mixed up a batch of brownies while I waited for the potatoes to finish boiling. (And I've only eaten one so far! I am a pillar of strength and a paragon of will. They'll be going to our friends tomorrow so I won't be tempted anymore either.)


After the potatoes and carrots were cooked, I fished out the carrots, chopped them up, and mixed the filling all up in the pan. Then I made mashed potatoes.


Spread the mashed potatoes over the filling. I just used the skillet to avoid washing another dish, but if you don't make your gravy or don't have stove top to oven cookware, just layer this all into a casserole dish.

Oh yeah. That is a little bit of shredded cheddar sprinkled on top. Because it's really good, that's why.


And here's the first scoop. I like to bake mine just till it's all warm and the cheese is ooey gooey, but lots of people like to broil it and get a real crust going on.



See the yummy layers.

I ended up making a much bigger dish of this than I intended. It's that kind of recipe. You start adding things and it just takes on bigger and bigger proportions. We just had the leftovers for lunch, but if the idea of eating leftovers of a dish meant to use up leftovers bothers you, you could definately layer this into smaller individual dishes and freeze it. I would suggest freezing them on a sheet pan, and then wrapping them well in plastic wrap and tin foil after they're firm.

I now conclude my most comprehensive explanation of Shepherd's Pie ever.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

My week so far

This week I've decided to put into practice the idea of mowing the lawn for an hour or two every day. I figure that doing it in sections will help it to seem less overwhelming and will allow me to keep up on it better. Well, so far, it's working, but it also seems to have become the main event of my day. It's very tiring for me to push the mower for two hours, so I've felt discouraged about getting anything else finished inside the house. That's why I haven't posted for a few days, I'm not doing anything much more interesting than mowing the lawn.

The most interesting thing to happen to me this week has been a slightly sad event. On Monday I found a killdeer nest right outside our front steps in the landscaping pebbles. I enjoyed watching the mama and daddy and was looking forward to seeing the babies, but yesterday morning, when we woke up, the eggs and grown up birds were gone. There weren't any shells or feathers or any kind of mess, so I can't think of what happened. I don't know what animal might eat all four eggs whole or carry them off without breaking them right there. Ben suggested a snake, and that seems the most likely explanation. I was dismayed that I won't get to see the babies running around now. But at least my baby robins are still safe and thriving in their nest in the tree right outside our door.

Yesterday, after I'd mowed the lawn for two hours and then vegetated in a sore mass of lawn mowing fatigue, I made bread and bean soup for dinner. Ben ended up coming home early because he is sick, and he was feeling too ill to be at the office. He's got a cold or flu, with a lot of coughing and not a little grumpiness. So we watched movies for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

I've gotten a late start today, because I had to go in and have blood drawn for my new dr. They wanted me to fast for that, and they don't draw blood till nine. So I slept in, so I wouldn't feel too hungry. (tricky, right?) Anyway, by the time we came back home, and I ate breakfast, then mowed the lawn for two hours, I've suddenly hit the middle of the afternoon. I did visit with our neighbor, who came over to say hello when she saw me outside working. She showed me around her yard. She knows a ton about plants and trees and things. She also has seven cats, so that makes her alright in my book.

I'm planning Shepherd's Pie for dinner tonight, and I'll take pictures of the steps as I go. I'm going to go get it all put together soon, so then it'll just have to be warmed in the oven when it's dinner time. I'll probably post about it later this afternoon, or maybe tomorrow morning.

I guess my mowing two acres with a push mower is making for a very blog. I'll try to do much better balancing the lawn work with my regular indoor work. I'm sure I'll get more used to it as the summer goes on. Plus, I'm pretty sure that I'm bound to lose weight pushing the lawn mower for two hours a day. And then I'll market it as a great health trend to Hollywood. I'll get J-Lo to come mow my lawn for me, and she'll pay for the privledge. Or maybe not.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Menu for 5-11 to 5-17

Sunday
Brunch: Bed and Breakfast
D: Ponderosa

Monday
B: Toast with Peanut Butter and Banana
L: Nachos
D: Leftover Pot Pie

Tuesday
B: Baked Oatmeal
L: Chili (From the Freezer)
D: Eggs with Sausage and Toast (Sausage from freezer and toast with the last of last week's bread)

Wednesday
B: Baked Oatmeal
L: Turkey and Veggie Rollups on Homemade Tortillas
D: Bean Soup and Homemade Bread (made with dried beans, onion, garlic, carrots, crushed tomatoes, and pork neck from freezer. The pork neck was a mistake purchase, turns out they flavor things, but they look super super gross, so I'm planning to wrap it in cheese cloth and use it only to flavor the soup.)

Thursday
B: Baked Oatmeal
L: Bean Soup
D: Shepherd's Pie with Leftover Ponderosa Steak (On Sunday at Ponderosa, my steak came way over done, so I asked for another one, and the waitress offered to let me take the first one home with me. I'll detail how it becomes Shepherd's Pie later in the week.)

Friday
B: Baked Oatmeal
L: Peanut Butter and Banana Rollups on Homemade Tortillas
D: Pizza Night!

Saturday
B: Cereal
L: Leftover Pizza
D: Nachos

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Beachy's Bulk Foods

We visited Beachy's Bulk Foods in Arthur, IL while we were on our weekend trip. It's an Amish run bulk foods store that draws in tons of customers, both Amish and "English".

It was really great. Very large, with lots and lots of selection and some really good prices.

Here is the aisle of baking items and flours. I picked up some evaporated cane juice crystals, and some graham flour and some dutch processed cocoa powder and some sucanat sweetener. I was very tempted by the bulk brown sugar and yeast, but couldn't justify the purchases since I'm stocked up on those.


Here is some very pretty Star Anise in the spice aisle. I didn't get any, because I don't care for the taste. But I was tempted, just because it was so big and pretty.
The spice aisle was amazing. I wish I could have one of everything, just to line up and look at. All the colors and scents were just so cool to experience.


Here are whole nutmegs. I've been on my last one from the Mexican food store back in AZ for about a month, and it's practically gone, so I'm really glad to have stocked up on some more. I got one of the small containers, on the left. I'll have to count how many are in it when I put everything away later.

Other than the baking supplies, I also got some canning jar lids, some bulk low sugar sure gel for making jam and jelly, some borax and washing soda to make laundry detergent, and 200 muffin papers. Ben picked out millet, quinoa, bean soup mix, some dried fruit and a gallon sized jug of popcorn.

If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend you check out Beachy's. It was so much fun, and I'm already looking forward to going back!

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Our 6th Anniversary

Our anniversary was yesterday and we celebrated by taking a little weekend trip. We left on Friday evening and drove a couple of hours to Arcola, IL to stay at a Bed and Breakfast. On Saturday we enjoyed Arcola and went driving to see all the surrounding Amish farms. We shopped and shopped at the Amish stores and went to Arthur, IL to stroll around their downtown. Yesterday, after the huge breakfast at the bed and breakfast, we headed back home. We stopped at the Rural King in Matoon because Ben wanted to see it, and we stopped for lunch at Ponderosa, because I had to celebrate my anniversary with a steak. That's a must.

I just wanted to post and let you all know that I haven't disappeared and I've got lots to share with you. I took pictures and I've got lots of plans for all my cool bulk groceries. But I've got to start out with the lawn since it seems like I've got the first sunny day in a couple of weeks. Make hay while the sun shines, right? Even if mowing the lawn is far from making hay. Anyway, I'll be back this afternoon with lots of pics of bulk foods and maybe a baking project.

Hope everyone else had a nice weekend and I can't wait to share all my fun plans!

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Yesterday was a gray and drizzly day, but today is starting out as a windy, rainy day! It must have rained most of the night, as our ditches are pretty full right now. I wonder if it'll go over the road? I'm pretty sure the lawn sides are much lower, so it's more likely to flood the yards than the road, I guess.

Yesterday I stitched up some small tokens for Mother's Day cards. Since we'll be seeing both our mom's this month, we're planning to save presents for giving in person, but I wanted to tuck a little something into the cards.

I also starting knitting some dishcloths to stock my new etsy store! I've gotten two finished, and plan to finish two more today. A movie and knitting on a rainy day seems appropriate, doesn't it?

I've been thinking about exercise lately, since not going to Curves and spending so much time in doors all winter has resulted in some very unwanted weight gain. I'm sure that mowing the lawn for an hour or two every day will be a good start, but I wonder, what are some other good fun ways to get some exercise? Especially on a rainy or cold day? It's time for me to stop hibernating and lose my winter coat, but the weather isn't cooperating. What are your favorite ways to exercise indoors? And can an uncoordinated, completely unfit person like me do them too?

Other plans for today include unpacking some of the books upstairs. Those are the only boxes left to unpack! Setting up my stereo upstairs for Ben to listen to while he works, putting the GameCube on Craigslist (is $30 a fair price?), and possibly a nap. I got up at four this morning cause I couldn't sleep, and I'm feeling downright tired already.

I'd also like to make some snacks, because we're going on a road trip this weekend to celebrate our anniversary. Anyone have any good homemade car snacks? I'm hoping to avoid gas station stuff because I had a some Doritos a few weeks ago and craved and craved them afterward. I'm hoping not to open up that can of worms again. I have no will power when it comes to snacks like that.

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Embroidering on Small or Narrow Fabric

The banners I've been making are from a couple of kits by Jack Dempsey Designs, and because they're ready-made the manufacturers have left a minimal amount of fabric (1/4 inch seam allowance) on the sides to conserve fabric and keep costs down.

The first two banners had designs mainly in the center of the banner, so I used my smallest four inch hoop or an oval hoop. But the next one in the series, the American flag themed one, has stitching planned to the very edges of the banner. Impossible to hoop the fabric without covering the stitching area with so little extra fabric on the edges!

Here is the solution to that problem. Overlap the working fabric with some strips of scrap fabric and baste them together with the widest/longest zigzag on your machine. You want to overlap, not sew a conventional seam, so it'll be less bulk to fit in the hoop. This also gives the advantage of a temporary edge finish to minimize ravelling.


Here is my banner with strips of fabric from a thrift store sheet leftover from another project sewn on either side along the stitching area. The extra blank length of the banner is the backing for finishing it after the embroidery is done.

Here I've hooped the fabric. You can see the zigzag stitching. I'll just snip this out when I've finished the embroidery and I'll be able to re-use the scraps for the next banner (It's much more fun to be able to use a large hoop and see more of the design at once while I'm working). I did trim the scrap fabric on the back close to the machine stitching, so I won't have to worry about accidentally embroidering through both layers.


You can also use a similar technique for fabric that's too delicate to be put into the hoop on it's own. Hoop a piece of plain cotton, and trim out and hem a square hole in the center. Then baste the delicate piece to the hooped cotton over the empty space. You'll be able to hold your working fabric firmly without worrying about damage or hoop marks.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A Confession

Every once in a while I like to put this song on even though, I always cry a little everytime I hear it. I think it's one of the most beautiful things ever. I'm not quite sure how she ever recorded it without breaking down into sobs. When I try to tell people about it, I get choked up.



I hope that doesn't scare any of my readers away, but if you haven't left me for being a giant dork before now, you've definately proven your loyalty.

(Yes, I sometimes re-read the part of Little Women where Beth dies just for the carthartic tears. I've got issues.)

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Apple & Oat & Carrot Muffins

For the muffins I made this afternoon, I used a recipe from Crystal's Simply Centsible Breakfasts ebook. It called for raisins, but I really don't like raisins, so I grated some carrot in to the batter. They also have oatmeal, whole wheat flour and apple chunks. I don't know how they taste yet, they're still cooling, so I'll update on that after I have a couple for breakfast tomorrow.

I really love my dough scooper thing. I think it cost about four dollars from the Amish hardware store my mom likes to take me to in Clare. It's given me priceless moments of muffin paper filling pleasure.


I sprinkled brown sugar on the tops of all the muffins before baking them. I think I'd like to get some of that big crystalled sugar that bakeries use. I usually mix brown sugar and oats to have just a touch of sweetness and make them look fancy, but Ben requested no oats because they fall on him.


Here are all the muffins cooling after they've come out of the oven.

And Ben just got home from his trip, so I'm off to enjoy my husband!

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Scrubbing the Front Porch

So, cleaning up the bird mess on our porch wasn't really any trouble at all. I just sprayed it down with the hose, squirted a little dish soap, and scrubbed with the push broom. After I sprayed the suds off, it was just as good as new. Here are some before and after shots.



This little iron plant stand I got a couple of weeks ago at an auction sale. It was at the end of the day, so no one was bidding, so I got this for just two dollars. I think it'll make a great little end table/plant stand here on the porch. Now I just have to find some rocking chairs. I've been keeping my eyes peeled at the Goodwill and such for wooden rockers. I figure if I can get old rockers and then paint them both black, they'll look cute eve if they don't match each other. And I'm not sure, but I figure if I use rustoleum, that, combined with the fact that the porch is covered should protect them well enough. My goal is to spend less than $40 on them. We'll see if I can find some before the summer is over!

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Making Pepperoni

Last week I made some pepperoni using this recipe from Tammy's Recipes. I used two pounds of the ground beef that we'd gotten such a good deal on ($1.69 a lb.) a couple of weeks ago. We did have to spend a bit to get the ingredients that we didn't have on a hand (tender quick and mustard seed) but cost of the actual amount used was not much. I'd do the math, but Ben picked that stuff up after work one day, and that receipt has disappeared!

Here is the meat mixed up with all the spices after it has rested in the fridge for two and a half days.


Here is my attempt at making two equal logs of the mixture. That was actually the hardest part, because the meat was sticky, so I had a hard time making them uniform and solid.


The pepperoni bakes for most of the day at 200 degrees. I baked mine for seven hours. I think it maybe should have baked only five or six though. Our oven seems to bake quite hot. Here it is all finished as Ben sliced it up.


This is a pretty gross picture, but it seems worth showing. This is the bottom of the broiler pan with all the fat that dripped out of the meat. The two pounds of hamburger produced one pound of pepperoni. I'm sure a lot of the difference was all this fat it lost, and the rest would be moisture weight.

I don't eat pepperoni, so I didn't try it, but Ben absolutely loves it. He says it's much better than the normal kind from the store. I'm not sure if it costs less. My guess would be that it's probably about the same as cheap pepperoni, but the cheap kind probably has all sorts of dyes and gross meat and lots of fats, so maybe it's better for you? It was a pretty fun experiment, and I might try it again if he prefers it to store bought. I'd definately do it again if we ever buy a quarter or a side of beef, or if I can talk Wayne into giving me ground venison, and me paying him in pepperoni or summer sausage.

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Plans for Today

Ben was in Nashville for meetings yesterday and today. I'm not very comfortable with being home alone over night, and this was the first time at this new house. (Yes, I'm tricky, and I've managed to avoid it till now.) It wasn't so bad at all, and I managed to get a pretty good night's sleep. But because I always getting a little down knowing that I'll be spending the night alone, yesterday I didn't really get much done. I did water all of my newly planted bushes, but other than that, I spent most of the day embroidering and watching movies on Netflix. I watched Steel Magnolias, which I'd actually never seen before. It was really good. I did get my Spring banner embroidery just about finished.

Anyway, Ben's going to be back in town this afternoon, and I have some things to get in order before he gets home. I'm planning to bake some muffins, since I never got to that last week, and I've got some cleaning up and organizing to do in the kitchen and the dining room.

I also have to get outside and scrub the bird messes off our front porch. The birds think one of our pillars is a great place to roost, which is terrible for look of our porch! I haven't cleaned it yet, so it's pretty bad, but I'm sure that after I do it today, if I make sure to take care of it every week or every other week, it shouldn't be too bad. We'll see how it goes.

Other than muffins and porch scrubbing, I'm planning to finish the Spring banner, I only have one leaf left to do, and get it sewn up and washed and blocked. Well, I say washed and blocked, but really all I have to do is throw it in with a load of laundry, and it'll come out fine. If there's time after that, I might start the next banner or I might work on a project to give to Ben on our wedding anniversary this coming weekend.

Later I'll post some pictures of my progress, and I also have a post about making pepperoni as well. Everyone else is ahead of me, I'm sure, but if anyone else is feeling like this Tuesday is serving for Monday catching up, good luck to you! I know I'm needing it!

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Pickles


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Friday, May 02, 2008

Finished Rosary and Embroidered Pouch

Here is the finished gift for my nephew's First Communion.
The embroidery is done with silk floss and the zippered pouch is lined.
I made the rosary from round hematite beads.
There's info on transferring embroidery designs below, and I'll post more on sewing the pouch later. You can find instructions for the kind of beading I used to make the rosary here.

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Making Your Own Embroidery Design and Transferring to Dark Fabric

Yesterday I planned and embroidered the design for a rosary pouch for my nephew's First Communion present. I took pictures along the way to explain the process for those who may be interested in hand embroidery.

Using your own designs to embroider is actually really easy, whether you draw freehand or find pictures or clipart online. My article here will address this in more depth if you'd like more info. But the basic procedure is to find the shape you're looking for using a google images search, and then trace it.

This design actually came from a picture of someone's tattoo on their ankle. I searched "cross outline" and was lucky to find just the simplified shape I was looking for. I have tracing software called Pre-Design, but it would be simple enough to print out the actual picture and use tracing paper. Or even just hold paper to the screen and trace the shape, with a design this simple.


To transfer to dark colored fabric, you'll need dressmaker's tracing paper. It comes in a pack of lots of colors, and it's crazy useful. It's also not very expensive, and it lasts forever. I've been using this pack since I learned to sew 9 years ago.


Layer the tracing paper on the fabric, chalky side down, then place the design picture on top. After that, simply go over the lines of the design with a pencil, and everywhere you trace will put a line on your fabric, just like carbon paper.


Here is the design after it has been transfered to the fabric. You can also see where my hands rubbed chalk onto the fabric from the transfer paper while I was tracing. That's no big deal because these lines are not permanent and can be rubbed away pretty easily. If you use this method for a complicated design, I'd suggest basting over all your lines first thing to make them more permanent while doing your embroidery.


Here I've marked the parimeters of the pouch and hooped the fabric in an embroidery hoop. One tip I have on hooping that seems so simple, but took me forever to figure out (maybe I'm just slow?) is to have the tightening screw on the upper left part of the design. Because I'm right handed, my thread is mostly to the lower or upper right while I embroider. By paying attention to where the screw is, and making sure it'll mostly be out of my way, I get tangled up on it much less.

Later today, I'm planning to update with the finished embroidery and a how to on making the zippered pouch. Any questions or suggestions on transferring designs or making them from clipart?

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Someone's in the kitchen with Beppy

Okay, actually no one was with me, but I was in the kitchen for what seemed like most of the day yesterday. I love that kind of day, since I enjoy cooking and baking so much, though I have to admit, after mowing most of the backyard on Tuesday and then cooking all day yesterday, I'm pretty tired today.

So, yesterday's cooking. I started by cleaning up the roasted chicken disaster from Tuesday night. Not that the chicken was a disaster, it was really tasty. No, it was the kitchen that was a disaster.

I chunked and chopped all the leftover chicken and chopped veggies to make the chicken fried rice with all the leftover rice from Tuesday for today's lunch. While the rice was frying, I started mixing up the chicken pot pie.

Usually, I make pot pie by dumping together all the leftovers and a jar of gravy in a crust. This time, I used a little more planning, since not everything I'd need would be leftover. I was baking potatoes for yesterday's lunch with the chicken Tuesday night anyway, so I baked extra, and chunked those up to go in the pot pie. I forgot to roast carrots too, like I'd meant to, so I had to boil some yesterday while I finished the fried rice. Also, I didn't have any gravy on hand, so I made the gravy with a roux and chicken broth and some milk.

After I finished the rice and put it away in containers for today's lunch and I finished mixing up the pot pie filling, I made the pie crusts. I was pretty happy with the way my crusts turned out yesterday. You'd think, since I've been making pie crust since I was eleven or twelve, that it would turn out the same everytime. But it never does. This time it was flaky, but not as much as other times, but it was super easy to work with, which is usually a trade off I'm willing to make.

Here are the pies all filled up and waiting for their top crusts. My pot pie filling has gravy, chicken, carrots, potatoes, and corn. Sometimes I add green beans. You could also put in peas if that sort of thing is your bag (baby).


Here are the pies after I've prettified them with their top crusts. One of these went right into the freezer till it was hard, then I wrapped it up in a double layer of foil to keep for another time. We usually eat about a forth of the pie each (which might be a lot, but at least we don't finish the whole thing off! lol), so the menu is ammended on Saturday for pot pie for lunch instead of mac and cheese. I'd planned so carefully, and I still forgot about the pot pie leftovers! Anyway, it takes about an hour at 350 to bake, and then it should rest about fifteen minutes before being cut. I forgot to take pictures of it after it baked. I guess we were too hungry. :) To re-heat the leftovers, I usually just microwave them. Sometimes we will re-heat in the oven, or now that we have the toaster oven in that.

I had enough crust trimmings from this pie to roll out another crust, so I peeled apples and made an apple pie. I used a dutch topping so I wouldn't have to make another crust. Since I was making pie filling anyway, I doubled the recipe and froze half in a freezer bag for another day. We didn't cut the apple pie last night, so I don't know how it tastes, but is sure looks delicious!

I just put the apple pie in the fridge with the pot pie to wait till it was time to bake dinner and then baked them together. The apple pie takes about twenty minutes less than the pot pie. This is because the dutch topping browns more quickly and also because I use a smaller, shallower dish for apple pie.

Then I decided to mix up the meatloaf for today's dinner, so all I'd have to do for dinner today is put it and the twice bake potato casserole into the oven and toss the salad. That makes me ahead of the game for today.

So, by the time I finished all of this culinary genius-ness, I was ready to sit down, and I watched Dancing with the Stars on ABC.com till Ben got home. And now that I've got dinner finished already for today, I'm planning to do something a bit less strenuous and more calm today. I've got to design and embroider the rosary pouch that I want to make for my nephew's First Communion, so that is definately the plan for today. And I'm planning to finish that embroidery if I have to sit in one spot all day. ;)

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