Thursday, May 5, 2016

Weekly Brain Dump - w/ unconnected pictures

Good morning, my visitors. Did you have some good rest? 
I am considering a name change for the blog. I'm thinking "Before Sun-Up" would be appropriate. Or possibly something about untangling ideas before bed, before sun-up... I don't know yet. I'm chewing on it. 
That part of the day has slowly become my favorite. Tyson and I get up around 4:45am and he bustles around making his lunch and getting ready for work. I stumble through the kitchen getting his breakfast and trying not to bump into thing. Then we sit down to breakfast/coffee/Bible reading and I read until he's done eating and then we take turns the rest of his time that's left.
After that, he gets his boots on, I hand him his lunch and he's off. 
Then the fun starts. I now have about an hour of half-light quiet where I can get any studying done that I have planned and then, maybe, maybe, hopefully draw or knit and cut leather or lay on the carpet and think of things. It's great, 
I haven't been drawing very much lately, but an itch has been developing and I finally found a subject yesterday. A very fat and happy raccoon has been wandering in around dusk to see if the kids left the compost lid ajar. Tuesday we watched him climb the cherry tree and hang out in a fork about 30 feet up. He was beautiful. These pictures happened the next morning. 

Also this week: London finally got the hair-cut she wanted. She has been asking for shorter hair for a couple weeks now and after being patient and consistent in her request I decided she really did mean it. She has loved it so much! It's as if this new personality was released when she shed her hair. She is so grown-up and fiery! She also loves running by the bathroom mirror to check it out, " I look like a different person..." She ran with this idea and Tuesday afternoon inhabited this disguise shown below.

It's been rainy this week, but we had a really good weekend and made the most of our Saturday afternoon by hijacking some friends and going for a hike at Robin Park and then doing some Risk playing and teepee tea-partying.

How has your spring been developing? It's been so nice and gradual this year, it's feeling like an extended season. I hope you can make some good memories in the sun!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

overnight cinnamon-raisin-walnut bread

Good morning, sunshine. It's actually cloudy just on the other side of this porch window at my elbow. But little birds are chirping and the trees are glowing with pride over their brand new leaves. The rain this week is helping everything bust out all over.
 I thought we could start the day with some toothsome and nourishing cinnamon-raisin-walnut bread. 
 Bread baking is an almost daily occurrence in my oven. This is not because I have nothing better to do. This is because home-baked bread is worth it to me. Even if you buy the better flour, like King Arthur Flour, it is such a fraction of the price. Additionally, it will not have any cheap throw away oils or preservatives in it. 

Let's be clear about this: I do not raise or slaughter my own chickens. I do not grow all my own vegetables. I do not keep sheep, sheer wool or spin my own yarn. We no longer cut firewood. What's my point? You do not have to devote your life to being a wilderness "do-it-yourselver" to make your own bread. Choose your battles, and once you get the hang of it, bread is such a worthy and pleasant endeavour.

If you choose to go the sourdough route you have the added benefit of the grain having been broken down by the useful and healthful bacteria, similar to the bacteria found in yogurt. If you have trouble digesting wheat bread you may find sourdough much more comfortable in your gut.

This recipe uses a "before bed, before breakfast" sourdough technique that makes frequent bread making possible for a busy Mom. 

Cinnamon-Raisin-Walnut Sourdough

The night before:
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup warm water
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
at least 1/2 cup raisin
at least 2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup whole wheat or rye flour
between 1 1/2 cups and 2 cups of all-purpose unbleached flour
cornmeal for baking

In a glass large non-metal bowl mix together all your ingredients up to the all-purpose flour. 
Mix in enough of the flour to get a sticky dough that holds it's shape with a little sagging. Like this:
Cover it with a towel or a dinner plate and leave it over night at room temperature. 
The Next Morning:
When you wake up and first make your way to the kitchen peek inside your bowl and breath in the smell of that sourdough doing it's amazing job. It will have spread and filled the bottom of the bowl. 
Stir it with a spoon by pulling the dough up from underneath and stretching it over the top. Do this over and over all the way around until it is fully deflated and smooth. If it is so sticky that it won't pull like elastic, sprinkle some extra flour in until it will come together like a soft ball.

Turn it out onto the counter with a little flour underneath it fold it over itself a few times, pressing the seams together to make a smoothish shape. You can make it round or oblong.
Place your shape on an upside- down cookie sheet sprinkled with enough cornmeal to keep from sticking. Leave in a warm place.
Put a heavy pot with lid in your oven and turn the heat on to 425.. Leave the pot to warm for about 20 minutes to half an hour. You can put your dough on the stove top, just make sure it isn't directly in the way of the vent.
Bring the pot out to the stove top and quickly sprinkle a little cornmeal in the bottom. The dough also has cornmeal stuck to it so you don't need a lot. Very gently lift your dough into the pot. If it is too floppy, lift the whole cookie sheet and gently turn the dough over on it's side into the pot. BE CAREFUL OF YOUR FINGERS. 
Put the lid on and pot back in the oven for 25 minutes. 
 After 25 minutes carefully remove the lid and turn your oven down to 350. The bread will be pale, and at this stage it is up to you how crispy you decide to let it get. Try 10 minutes without the lid and see how it looks. If it still looks a little light give it 5 more minutes.
When it looks right, take everything out and let the bread cool on a rack. Do not cut it when it's still steaming. This is still part of the baking and the inside will be gummy if you rush it.
 It's a lot of writing, but once you've got the feel of it you can bake this bread by principle. Trying adding more flour to make a little stiffer of a dough, Try some seeds, or stone ground flour. Herbs and minced garlic make e a wonderful dinner bread.

If you have any questions let me know, I would love to answer them. 
And if you have success, I would love to hear about it.
Enjoy your bread! 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

using up that tahini

How many times have you bought a jar of tahini? You open it up, stir and stir and stir that rock hard sediment at the bottom splashing sesame oil all over your hands, get it perfectly smooth and creamy. You make your delicious batch of hummus, and then that jar that you worked so hard for, and paid a fair amount for, goes in the fridge. Which is such a shame. 
You see it sitting next to the peanut butter. You think "I really should find some way to use that up." You take out the peanut butter, and forget about the tahini. Maybe even until it spoils. 
So how about a few recipes to use some of it up? 

The first idea I have for you is to mosey over to Smitten Kitchen. She has a - Carrot Tahini Muffin - recipe that I had to try because it sounded so wacky. It was really good! I highly recommend going all the way with the tahini glaze on top. The only difference with mine was that I added some orange to brighten up the flavors a little (thus the orange on my cutting board below), but I will leave it out next time and just enjoy the earthy sesame flavor.

This next one is of my own. Have you heard of the 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies? Peanut butter, sugar, and eggs mixed together to turn out as a fudgy, almost truffle like cookie? This is a vegan version with tahini substituting some of the peanut butter. It has a grown-up complicated flavor that is so nice with coffee.

4 Ingredient Peanut-Tahini Cookies

3/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup tahini
1 cup of sugar
1 tbsp flax seeds, ground in a grinder, or whole
optional add-ins:
chocolate chips
peanut butter chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degree fahrenheit. 

In a small bowl stir your flax seeds with 2 tbsps of cold water. Let sit.

Mix the rest of the ingredients. 

Check on your seeds. They will have a slightly eggy texture. If it seems like they have soaked up most of your water and there wasn't anything left over to make a smooth and slimy consistency add a splash of cold water and stir it in. Add to the peanut butter mixture.

Mix mix mix. 

Roll into balls about the size that your forefinger and thumb make when making an OK sign and place on a cookie sheet. 

Bake for about 8 minutes. If they look wet bake them for another minute. But trust me, leave these soft. The fudgey center is completely safe because there aren't any eggs!

Next up, oil-free dressing! You can hack this one so many ways, including adding oil if you'd like. 

Tahini Dressing

1/3 cup tahini
2 tbsp tamari or soy-sauce
2 tsp honey or maple syrup
water to thin to desired consistency
optional add-ins:
fresh minced garlic
apple-cider vinegar
lemon juice sub for tamari

Mix it up!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

beauty among the brown

Does discontent lead to wanderlust, or does wanderlust lead to discontent? 
Either way, I've had a bad case of both this spring A few f our friends and family have gone on some major trips, or relocated. Watching them go through the excitement of change gets my imagination working over-time. I've lived in the same place for almost 10 years (not because of a lack of effort on my part) and there are just so many other places to be!
 But I do live in a beautiful place, so the other night when I went for a walk I grabbed my camera and made an effort to find the beauty around me and enjoy where I am. If I had moved here from somewhere else there would be plenty of things to be excited about. These pictures are all from within 5 feet of the road, and it took me about 25 minutes to find them. 
 While I was shooting them it struck me that with such a brown backdrop the fresh little shoots really glow with their colors, and their sharp miniature shapes stand out a little clearer.

I like the thought that these signs probably had a very inhospitable message on them at one point. And there's no trace of it left.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

what happens during nap-time - making my own non-TOMS with mistakes

Good morning, I hope you're having a lovely week. And if you're not, maybe a project would help!
Over the winter I bought a pair of TOMS shoes online and stashed them until them the weather got nice. Since I pulled them out I've worn almost nothing else! They really are as comfortable as everyone has said and I'm already a little worried about that inevitable day when they've worn out. And they will, there's nothing to them. They are canvas with a foam bottom. 
Which is why I will also never pay full price for them. But they are REEAALLY comfortable. So I'm going to make some. This is my first attempt at getting the shaping right. If you have any tips or ideas about what to use for a sole, or on getting the upper more structured, let me know in the comments. 
Also, I apologize for the grainy pictures. London has been using my camera and she must have clicked through to the menu because when I transferred the pictured to the computer I realized the pixel setting was at the absolute lowest option. Oh well.

 I started by rolling the shoe across a piece of paper and following the shape with my pencil as it went. it gave me this outline, which turned out to be too big, but we'll get to that later.
 I cut my pattern piece out of canvas and started pinching it around my foot to see where the darts should be...

 ... then I pinned the darts in place.
 I marked the fold where the dart started and where the fold lay against the fabric.
 then I unpinned the darts and marked my points on my paper version so I could recreate it for the other shoe.
 I put the darts back in and top stitched them into place. Here's my toe box!
 I folded the raw edge under the stitched it in place
 I did the same tracing technique for the heal piece and this is what I came up with. I folded and stitched the top edge.
 Then I draped both pieces onto my foot making sure the toe box wasn't pulled too tightly back and pinned the heal to the top at their intersection.
 The bottom of the heal was obviously going to be a little floppy so I put a small dart there as well. Then I stitched along the side seams and the instep seams and hold the front and back parts together.
 I traced the bottom of the shoe with a little extra room for a seam allowance and pinned the upper pieces to the sole and stitched all the way around.
 There is obviously a little extra going on around the back of the heal...
 ...and the outside edge of the toe box
 so I turned it inside out and ran a pencil along my toe line....
 ... and my heal. I stitched along these lines and then clipped off the extra. *MISTAKE # 1 - This extra flab turned out to be caused by extra TOP material, not just largeness in general. When I stitched along this line it brought in the sole outline as well which made the sole too small. Next time I will be more discerning about where the excess is coming from and if it's only from the top I will tear out the stitching and pull the upper fabric tighter against my foot instead of altering the sole outline as well.(please excuse the weird looking scar on my ankle.)
 Not bad! The pattern for the front upper turned out to be too big, which made the darts deeper than they needed to be. I'll have to work on getting it a tad more snug depth-wise. And I will be ruminating for structure ideas. If I lined it with an inside-out version of it's self it would cover the raw seams inside and add some extra shape, but I'm not sure I want them any thicker. It's the minimalism that I like so much. Perhaps leather would hold it's own...
And the sole. Should I hijack a cheap pair of flats and use the rubber? Perhaps contact cement it to my own shoe?
 I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

getting out

SPRING TIME! Oh glorious air! Even though the winter wasn't as punishing as last year, it's still a coming to life when things start to green up We have been doing some intense catching up with Spencer's school work lately. That's a story for another time. But after all that intense brain-work I try to make sure we get outside, somewhere, somehow. Sometime it's just running around on the side street, other times it's driving to a trail. Here's some shots of us expending our energy in the fresh air!

Chesterfield Gorge - Chesterfield, NH

Bear's Den Natural Area - Gilsum, NH
It's difficult to see the glacial potholes because they're so high above eye level, but there are these rounded channels carved out of this boulder that course from the top down to these rounded basins.

In the darkest shadow of this picture is the largest basin. It's full of leaves and mud and looks pretty soft and squishy (cont)

(cont) Becca's and London's toes are pointed at the muckiness.
There is a rounded lip around the basin that I'm standing on while I'm talking to Becca and London on the other side. So naturally we start joking about not falling into all that yuck, I grab a stick and start poking around to see how far down the stone bottom is, and guess what! The stick disappears! Then we start thinking, oh, we really should be careful not to slip int0 this thing!

We haven't found the bear's dens yet. The trail was too wet to follow it, but I talked to my local librarian and she gave me some tips on how to get there.
Till next time!