Monday, September 1, 2014

Over the River

A friend saw a photo that had been repeatedly popping into my newsfeed as well, of a hooded cowl that was full of cables, ribs and button detailing. She tagged me and asked if I could make it for her. When I clicked over, it was a kit on craftsy that had been sold out, but reading through the comments the pattern for Through the Woods was available on ravelry for only four dollars.

The construction was intriguing to me, and it was knit with Cascade Eco+, which I'd been wanting to try for some time. At $26 a skein for bulky yarn, I wasn't expecting to get so much yardage (478!); definitely a great value for 100% wool.

After finishing I can say this; the construction is a little fussy (and it's not a quick one to two evening knit like most cowls) because you're seaming the cast-on edge together, then picking up stitches along the new top and bottom to create the ribbed bands. The plackets are then knit separately and seamed onto the sides of the hood. Have I ever mentioned that I hate seaming? Most knitters do, but this project certainly reminded me of that fact. However, I have learned to embrace it, because most garments will require at least an underarm seam and, well, practice makes perfect. Also, it's kind of like doing dishes or folding laundry; you waste more time dreading it and thinking about it than the two minutes it actually takes to sit down and do it.

seaming the cast on edge from the inside changes the direction of the cables

stitches picked up and knit along the inside of the hood to make the ribbed band that will fold over

stitches picked up and knit along the bottom for the ribbed edge

awaiting the button and flat plackets.
Now that it's on the blocking mat I can say it was worth the tedium because it's really pretty. After it dries, I just need to affix the buttons and it's ready to go!

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

100 Days of Real Food: A Review

Fold massive pile of scrubs or peruse new cookbook? Tough Choice
I first saw Lisa Leake's blog 100 Days of Real Food, probably via pinterest, when I stumbled across a post that addressed packing healthful and varied school lunches for your kids. The topic of school lunches is one that I feel pretty strongly about, but that's for another post.

Leake's blog was full of great recipes, meal plans, product reviews and videos and had a very accessible tone so I added it to my blog roll and started following her on facebook. Be warned, though, people on facebook can get downright nasty in their comments to even the most innocent posts. Like the time she candidly showed her kids taking homemade uncrustables to eat at the airport. Holy nut allergy sensitivity!

As soon as I saw she had finished her first cookbook/guidebook, I pre-ordered it. That was back in January and a whole bunch of life happened in between, so I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived on my doorstep a week ago.

My first impression upon taking it out of the box was that this was no amateur job. There was clearly a ton of work and thought put into the content and organization so that it covers all the bases, gives you the tools and confidence to get started in your own journey to more healthful eating and food-prep for your family, yet still provides references to go out and learn more on your own.

Coming in at 339 pages, not including the reference section, this is one hefty tome. Yet, full of beautiful photos and a voice that is not at all condescending or pandering it invites you to bring it to your couch and flip through while you sip your coffee (with grass-fed cream, of course).

Starting at the beginning of her journey and walking you through the changes she made for her family without getting totally bogged down in the details, Leake leaves you with the understanding that this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. By first simply looking at the ingredient lists of the foods in your pantry to better understand what may or may not have been great choices to using her meal planning (even broken down by season so that you can utilize farmer's markets if you desire) and grocery shopping list templates you can start building your own whole food life. The first 123 pages focus on giving you the information you need, while the second half has the promised 100 recipes, broken into the following categories; breakfast, lunchbox, snacks and appetizers, salads and sides, simple dinners, special treats and, finally, homemade staples.

I love that there are examples provided of what she adds to the given lunch box recipe in order to pack a full meal for her kids.
Pizza bites made on mini whole wheat pitas; H will love these.
Breakfast tacos
Eggs in a Basket
These cinnamon apple chips will make a great addition to the rotation of after-school snacks (and sweet treats for me) this fall!
I know I'm sounding like a broken record here, but yet another thing I really like about her approach is that she does not shy away from the fact that committing to a more healthful way of eating definitely involves planning, organization and work, but that it's worth it.

In reading the book, you better understand that this is not an extreme 'diet'. You aren't ordered to immediately open your pantry and pull out the dumpster to rid your house of these dirty, dirty foods that are clearly killing your family right now. There also aren't a ton of rules to follow, calories to count, or food groups to eliminate, it's simply about understanding what you are eating (and feeding your family) and how those foods can either benefit your overall health, or not, then eating controlled portions of those foods (which Leake also addresses).The guiding principle, adopted from Michael Pollan, is that you should eat foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry.

Dairy, gluten and legumes are all whole foods and the elimination of them from a lot of trending food plans has been a real turn-off to me. Seeing great whole wheat bread recipes, the use of home made corn tortillas and real cheese made my heart sing.

That said, she also has several recipes that would accommodate people who need/want to eliminate those foods and there is even an index in the back that organizes the recipes by dietary need so they're easy to find.

Don't you just want to sit down at the table with her?
I especially appreciate that she candidly addresses the issue of budget. Her family's second round of the 100 Days of Real Food Pledge, involved her doing so on a budget that was voted on by her readership. For a family of four, she had $125 a week to spend on groceries. In her state, a full food stamp allotment for her family size would have been $167/week, so it was definitely a challenge, but they achieved it! You can read her posts about how she did that in the hyperlink above. A huge, and very real, barrier in a lot of people's minds when they think about making the change. Bottom line: eating whole foods certainly doesn't mean you have to/should shop there.

The only sections I skimmed (and they were small) were the ones addressing strategies for eating at friends' houses or when you're on vacation, or how to share the whole foods love. I'm just never gonna be the girl who eats before she goes out to eat, or offers to bring something to a friend's house as a guise, or is the huge party buzz kill talking only about Monsanto and GMO's. While these things are important topics to explore and research for your own personal benefit, it's a huge turn-off to me when people are trying to overhaul their eating habits and it's all they can talk about. Blech.

Overall, Leake's book is a great addition to any collection of resources on the whole foods movement, especially because it provides the specific help of meal plans and recipes to add to your rotation so you have not just the research, but the practical application. If you haven't already, definitely read Michael Pollan's books including The Omnivores Dilemma, In Defense of Food and Food Rules. There are additionally some really great documentaries available, most of which you can stream on netflix, such as Food, Inc., King Corn and Food Matters.

Now go forth and meal plan; school starts in two days!

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain

The perfect pool-side project to while away the swim lesson hours.
I had so much fun creating a nursery for Jack, that I couldn't just let the new babe slide into the room I'd created for him (which they'll be sharing) that would be way to efficient and practical. Since it's the first girl, I wanted it to inject some femininity, while still being conscious of the fact that it was a boy/girl shared room.

I love the combination of navy and coral and it's a color scheme that seems to be in vogue right now because Pinterest is full of ideas. Since I wanted it to have some nautical undertones, I've found several fun things to add to the gallery wall that's already there for Jack's room, I'll be repainting his 'J' navy and ditching the aqua and yellow that are currently in the room.

 I finally properly framed the ABC sampler that I embroidered when I was pregnant with Jack, so it'll go up on the wall as well after I paint the frame with my favorite satin spray paint; Rustoleum's Heirloom White.

I had a lot of fun stitching that up, so I searched on etsy for other embroidery patterns and found several that I'll be adding to the wall. Some simple, some with a ton of detail, but still easy for a beginner, like this one from Cozy Blue. At just around four inches in diameter, I stitched on this for about a week in my down time and it was done.

In order to get the most detail possible in the transfer from PDF to fabric, I invested in Sulky's Sticky Fabri-Solvy stabilizer that comes on printable 8.5x11 sheets. After running it through your home printer, you just peel off the backing and stick it on your fabric. I am terrible at applying any of those static cling stickers to phone fronts and I had no problem getting this onto my fabric wrinkle-free.  After you're done stitching, you just peel up the corners and snip off the excess and then soak your whole piece and the extra dissolves. It's not inexpensive, but it was worth it for the amount of detail you get. I would use for sure if I do the alphabet sampler again.

You can see the bumpy texture of the stabilizer. I love how crisply all of the detail prints onto it.

Now to decide between a traditional frame and an embroidery hoop.
Anyhow, this is just a sneak peek of a few of the projects going into the new nursery. I'm forcing myself to get our bonus room in order first because it will be a painful project as it serves the triple duty of office, guest and craft room and none of them very well right now, then I can move onto the fun of the nursery, so stay tuned! Pin It

Friday, August 29, 2014

Make You Banana Pancakes...

I recently took part in a five-day clean eating challenge, and had to share one of the breakfast recipes.

During my first trimester of this pregnancy, my established eating patterns of salads for lunch and egg-heavy breakfasts with reasonable dinners went out the window for the stomach-soothing caaaaaarbs. I heart gluten, that's certainly no secret, but I knew that if I stayed on the path I'd started down, they'd have to roll me to the hospital by month nine. 

This time around I'm determined to gain very little weight. Or none. (and unless you are my OB, please save the admonitions, this is not an unsafe thing to do if you're chubby to start with, are eating nutrient-dense foods, exercising sensibly, and your baby is growing at the normal rate)  As I've learned the hard way, the novelty of gaining 800 pounds over the course of a pregnancy wears off pretty quickly when you have to then work off said half-ton with a newborn. And older kids. And a life. On limited sleep.

That said, I was happy to find this protein-rich breakfast that honestly gave me all of the satisfaction of eating actual pancakes. I promise. They're good! I quadrupled the original recipe to feed myself and my three kids, with a few leftover for the next which point they weren't very good. This is definitely a recipe that is better on the day it's fresh and hot. They were super fast, and if you make them small and let them cook long enough on the first side, they flip as easily as traditional pancakes. If you don't, they're an ugly mess, because they're just a smidge thicker than crepes. You've been warned. 

I love using a blender with a lip, because it eliminates the mess going from bowl to griddle with a ladle.

I chose to cook mine in coconut oil, but they would likely be even mo' bettah in a straight-up butter coated pan. Or, if you're boring, a naked non-stick pan. So bust out your blender and heat up your griddle; these babies are even quick enough for school mornings!

Banana Protein Pancakes (quadrupled)

8 eggs
2 bananas
1 c. dry oats
2 t. vanilla
2 t. ground cinnamon

In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until smooth.  Coat pan with ½ t. coconut (or olive oil or nonstick cooking spray...or grassfed butter) and cook just like pancakes.  

Spread with 1 T. almond butter or peanut butter. (make sure it's not straight from the fridge or you'll rip the pancakes). I also added a mix of fresh berries and you can add pure maple syrup or whatever your favorite pancake toppings are-get crazy.

Makes about 32 silver-dollar sized, thin, pancakes.  

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Brick House Party

It's been a long time since I've taken time to post, but life, blah blah, you don't care; it's boring. Pregnant again, some more. This time it's a girl. Anywho. I'm back. This summer we were gone for H's birthday and between friends' vacation schedules and other availability I'm having his party a month late. Sooo...I thought I'd finally post about his last birthday.

I had a lot of fun planning a simple Lego-themed party. Pinterest is awash with crazy complex cakes and ideas, but I just don't have the time or patience to work with fondant so the cake I made (following this tutorial) ended up looking really, really sad but the kids thought it was fun. That's what matters, right? RIGHT?!

The Lego Candles really take the cake, right? Punny.

The cupcakes were the Best White Cake {Ever} recipe (and it really is) with simple buttercream frosting, and I made yellow mini-figures using candy melts and these molds, plus pure candy melt bricks out of the second mold in the set. They're silicone so they clean up really easily, which is always a plus for me.

Instead of filling the pinata with candy, I bought the big box of Lego Bricks and filled it with that...which was kind of a disaster when the legos flew everywhere on my patio but, again, the kids loved it and they got them all, so it was fine. It wasn't until the moment right before it busted open, however, that I realized what I'd done by filling it with tiny pieces. Ah well, live and learn.

After gathering their legos with lightning speed and playing outside for a bit, they brought their sweaty selves in for some cake, presents and lego-building with the leftover time. 

The one thing I didn't take a picture of, was the gift bag; it was cheap and easy. Just the way I like it. Instead of buying a bunch of colored handle bags, I busted out my package of 4,000 count brown paper lunch sacks, went through my paper stash and found primary colored card stock (which you could buy and it'd still be cheaper than buying colored bags) and cut a rectangle the same size as the front of the bag and affixed it with glue. Then punch out six to eight 1-or 2-inch circles with a large circle punch like this one, which you can usually find at a craft store with a coupon, and affix them to the front with 3-d foam squares so that they look like the studs on the Lego bricks. Boom, cheapo goody bags. In the bags I put a couple of the candy bricks in a melamine bag and they got to put their pinata haul in it for the rest of the goody. I'm not big on doing a huge gift bag for each person, but it's nice to have the bag for them to put candy or treats in if you're doing a pinata.
My bags were based on this idea...but cheaper ;)
That's really all I did. It doesn't have to be fancy to be fun!

This year Henry has request a Red Velvet Cake with Ice Cream filling for his birthday party. Thank the lord for Pinterest. 
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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Buy You a Penny Lick

For my fellow Downton Abbey fans, the Penny Lick shawl gets its name from one of the last lines of season four when Bates offers to buy Anna a penny lick as a peace offering after a season of tension and brooding between them. Plus, I'm like a twelve year old and it sounded kind of dirty, so...

Jimmy Beans Wool hosted a mystery knitalong for this season of Downton Abbey, the result of which was this beautiful and cozy shawl that I knit from Pepperberry Knits 100% cashmere in a retired colorway Mixed Berries. I've had this particular yarn in my stash for about two years, but because I had significant yardage of a single color (as opposed to enough to make one hat) I wanted to find just the right project and I think I did!

Crescent-shaped with a seashell lace edging, it will wrap around people of all shapes and sizes, swathing you in comfort, with the cashmere adding a touch of luxury. Whether you're going to work or curling up with a book on the weekend, I think this piece fits the bill! I had a lot of fun knitting it, and if you love it as well it can be yours! Just click on over... Pin It

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Meal plan Monday Tuesday

Better late than never, right? This week marks the beginning of Lent, and with it the return if Fish Fridays. Here's what we have on tap for the next two weeks. I'm trying to clear out my freezer of some of the meat that's been there awhile, so I can make way for a partial beef and pig purchase.

Week of March 3rd:

Monday: Fruit, Cheese and Crackers-the first two Mondays of the month are Cub Scout meetings so it's a quick and dirty dinner after homework.

Tuesday: Fat Tusday! I'm trying The Pioneer Woman's new take on pancakes and putting them in mini muffin tins. Use whatever pancake recipe you love and scoop them out into mini tins, bake at 425 for 8 minutes for a crispy edge or 400 for 11 minutes for a softer finish.

Wednesday: rice noodles with tofu and peanut sauce

Thursday: pork chops and applesauce (just try to say it without curling your lip over your top teeth a la Alice.

Friday: salmon burgers and salad

Saturday: Manda's birthday celebration

Sunday: frittata and salad

Week of March 10th:

Monday: Quesadillas and fruit

Tuesday: Taco stuffed pasta shells

Wednesday: Slow cooker Salsa Chicken with brown rice and salad

Thursday: home made pizza: build-your-own

Friday: Grilled Halibut and salad (drill weekend)

Saturday: Spaghetti and Meatballs (drill weekend)

Sunday: Breakfast for dinner; WW English muffin breakfast sandwiches (drill weekend)

For Lent, my kids are giving up Candy! I will be holding them to that. They aren't giving up all sweets, but candy is a biggie because little treats add up over time. Movie night treats will still happen, but they won't be candy. Pin It

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cozy Up to the Oscars

This week's stash-buster is brought to you by my desire for a mindless craft that I could do while watching my favorite awards show. While the stars glammed it up, I slummed it on my couch with a glass of Washington White and a pile o' wool felt.

This craft is ridiculously easy and you can make a handful of them in minutes. Mind you, one side of the stitching is totally janked because I didn't take the time to fix the tension but, hey, I was whipping them out on a commercial break!

All you need is a stack of felt (make sure you get actual wool felt) a cut-out of this template, scissors and some pins.

I cut out the cozies while Pink rocked a tribute to Judy Garland and then stitched them up quickly using the chain piecing method during the next commercial.  These are cute, simple, and would be a great addition to a teacher gift, hostess gift or a simple thank you for a friend. Also, Easter is a'coming.

hmmm...which little xy placed a cup right in the middle of my coffee table?!

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Third Rising: Whole Wheat Bread (Again, Some More)

I've posted about my issues with bread-baking here and here using my mom's recipe, but I never did get it to work out perfectly every time. When I had Jack, my friend Emily brought soup and bread to us one night for dinner. It was so good, and she offered to have me over for a long playdate one day to show me exactly how she does it. She starts, as did my mom, with whole wheat berries that she grinds into flour. I don't have a grain mill (yet) so I go with the same brand of flour, Wheat Montana, which is nonGMO and can be purchased in bulk on amazon. There is only one store locally that sells it, and that's Wal-Mart, though I've requested it at two other grocery stores, so we'll see if they start to carry it. I love the Prairie Gold varietal, because it doesn't produce too dense a bread, but their other varietals are great, along with the all-purpose flour, which is a natural white flour; unbleached and unbromated.

The recipe she uses for her everyday bread is the Fresh Milk Bread from The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, with a lot of' 'you'll know it's ready when it feels like this' and she'd pinch the dough between two fingers looking for the perfect amount of give. It was the best, most generous thing for her to host us for about four hours on a sticky, summer day. She walked me through each step, fed my kids lunch and sent me home with a loaf of fresh bread.

I ordered the book right away and embarked on my quest to replicate. After several months, I've had consistently good bread and am so grateful to her. My kids are brimming with gratitude as well. I believe H's direct quote was 'Can't we just buy bread at the store like normal people?' Brats. I do a one and-a-half batch of this bread to make three full loaves. My kitchen aid won't work a full double batch. The big-daddy kitchen aid is next on my appliance upgrade list. Also, I find that it's really important to weigh your flour because the way you scoop and measure it, may make the difference of about a cup when you compare weight to volume.

First rising

Punched down and risen again

use a bench scraper to divide into three equal balls and allow to rest on the counter

roll each ball with a pin into a rectangle and then roll up into a loaf and place in pans to raise for a third time

Third rising complete and ready to go into a 350 oven for 40 minutes

Golden Delicious

cool before cutting

Unless you baked it, and then you get a warm slice with honey and butter

Do you have a favorite bread recipe?
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