Friday, February 26, 2010

Cutest Darn Bear For A Good Cause

I'm at Stitches West for the weekend.  Living amongst rows and rows of beautiful yarn.  I purposely didn't bring my rolling shopping cart this year, so I wouldn't buy too much yarn.  What I did buy was an ornament from the Mother Bear Project.  It was 20 dollars and the proceeds will send 6 bears to Africa.  The Mother Bear Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing comfort and hope to children, primarily those affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations, by giving them a gift of love in the form of hand-knit and crocheted bears.

I'd like to help by making some bears for this project.  I see they sell their pattern.  I need to find a machine knit pattern.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Best Recipe In The World

My mom has been making this recipe for as long as I can remember.  It was written on a recipe card when I asked for it when I moved out.  She didn't know where she had gotten the recipe.  She said probably in the newspaper.  Over the years she'd lose her card or I'd lose mine.  Between the two of us one of us will have it.  I've searched on the internet in desperate times and can't find it, which is pretty unusual.

A few years ago my dad cleaning out the office told my mom she had too many cookbooks and she had to get rid of them.  Well, you know us women and our cookbooks!  I know my mom too and her great love for books in general.  My dad can be quite the dictator.  It's best not to rock the boat some times.  I told her I'd take them home with me and she could look at them at my house.  Also that maybe one book at a time we'd get them back into the house.  Bwahahaha!

Anyhow I was organizing my craft closet where the books were and there was a cookbook called "Savory Stews."  It flipped opened to a dog eared page and low and behold there was "Deviled Short Ribs of Beef!"  I thought I better get it on the internet for all to enjoy and for the next time I lose my recipe card.  From the cookbook "Savory Stews" by Mary Savage.  Copyright 1969.

Deviled Short Ribs of Beef

4 pounds short ribs of beef
1 medium onion, sliced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 heaping teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
More water, if needed
Instant flour

Spread out short ribs in cold stewpot and set pot over moderately high heat. Brown ribs well on all sides and discard the fat. Cover pot and reduce heat to low and cook for an hour and 45 minutes. Pour off all grease again. Add onion and bay leaf and return to low heat. Mix ginger, brown sugar, salt and pepper together in small bowl, stir in lemon juice and then the soy sauce. Add to ribs. Mix ketchup and water together and add to pot. Cover and cook for at least half an hour, until meat is tender. Pour off cooking liquid to measure it and add water to make 2 cups if needed. Discard bay leaf and shake flour into the liquid to make a thin sauce. Return to pot and bring to a light boil, stirring well, and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6

Lynne's note:  These are the short ribs with bones.  I've tried boneless just doesn't come out right even accounting for bones and using less meat.  Short ribs use to be really cheap and we had this probably once a month at my house when I was growing up.  Now I make it 2 or 3 times during the winter.  I don't use instant flour I use cornstarch to thicken the sauce.  I serve this with rice.  That's how we ate it when I was a kid and it's very good.  Recently, though my parents served this when we were visiting and my dad served it with mashed potatoes.  I didn't like it as well, but everyone else thought it was great.  I asked my dad when did he and mom switch to mashed potatoes from rice.  He said, "We've always served it with mashed potatoes...what are you talking about?!"  He thinks I'm crazy. I think he's senile.  hahaha

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Another Sign I'm Getting Old

I like news radio.  I like history podcasts.  I like recorded books.  I prefer all of the above to listening to music.  GASP!!  Don't get me wrong I do like music and still listen to music.  If push comes to shove though I'll listen to news, history or someone reading me a book while I do house work or drive.

Why I say it's a sign of getting old is because when I was 17 I moved in with my Grandma to go to college.  Every morning while getting ready for her day, which included at least an hour of as she called it "putting on her face" and then another hour of teasing up her hair, she'd listen to talk radio.  I remember at the time thinking it was the most boring thing I'd ever heard.  Why listen to someone talking when you could be dancing!

Now I feel why listen to music when I could be learning.  Save dancing for times I have nothing else to do or when the mood strikes me.

Lately, I've been in love with and I don't mean I'm going to marry it, but I really really like the podcasts from "Stuff You Missed in History Class."  It's a free podcast I get off iTunes.  It's claim is "Didn’t pay attention in history class? HowStuffWorks has you covered."  Well, I did pay attention in history class.  These podcasts take single subject and really delve into all the bits of info that make it interesting.  Kind of a CliffsNotes kind of idea. They are usually about 20 minutes long give or take a few minutes, which makes it easy to squeeze them in on car trips or waiting in line or doing a load of dishes.  Every topic is so varied from the other, but some topics will spin off a future podcast on a bit of information that can be expanded upon.  For instance there was a podcast on William Randolph Hearst, which spun off a podcast on Hearst Castle and later a podcast on Patty Hearst.

I love these podcasts, because they jog my memory on what I know, fill in gaps and even add new info I've never heard of.  And they do it quickly in 20 minute bursts.  They are done educating me before I can figure out whether or not I'm in the mood to dance.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day To Me

I decided to drag out an old craft pamphlet when I found an unadorned red sweatshirt in my closet last week.  I made a heart sweatshirt many years ago and it wore out.  I always really liked it.  I found the pamphlet in my fabric bin and it even had the original pattern I made.  PERFECT!

The first sweatshirt I decorated I used heart fabric that had hearts in a preprinted square grid.  Made it very easy to stitch.  This time I couldn't find any heart fabric like that.  I saw a fat quarter with wonderful crazy colors and decided I would really like to use it.
First thing I did was cut out the heart and serge the edge to keep it from raveling in subsequent washes.  Then I turned the sweatshirt inside out found the center line of the sweatshirt and the heart.  I pinned them together.  Using a very large stitch I basted the heart to the sweatshirt using a starburst pattern each line beginning from the center.  This held my heart in place for all the grid stitching I needed to do.
The pattern said to use chalk to mark grid lines and that just wasn't working.  The lines just weren't showing up as well as I would have liked.  I ended up using a black felt tip pen.  I used it lightly not letting it bleed through to the sweatshirt.  I figured if the black felt tip pen didn't wash out it would at least be on the back of the colorful fabric and also under the sweatshirt stitching.  Bottom line it would show.  I just checked and all the pen marking did indeed wash out.  I was lucky.
I used yellow thread to show on top.  Quite frankly it scared me half to death.  It seemed SO bright when deciding which color to use.  I kept coming back to it as being the one that accented the fabric the best.  I decided to quit being such a scaredy-cat and just do it.  I'm glad I did as it's not obnoxious at all.  It really does accent nicely.

After the stitching was the job of going back through and snipping each thread tale off.  Lots of thread tales!  Then I went through with my pointy sharp Fiskars scissors and cut each block.  After everything was cut it needed to be washed to get the flaps to curl.  For the next couple washes it will curl a bit more.

I already wore it out today to go to the Weavers and Spinners Open House and I got lots of compliments.  Compared to their work I didn't think it deserved mentioning.  I think though that other creative people appreciate other people's works of art.  This shirt definitely qualifies as that.

The pamphlet I used is called Mc Call's Creates Snip Snip Sweatshirts.  It's copywrited 1991.  It seems I make one about every 10 years.  I'll have to pack it for 2020.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mashed Potatoes Any Time

We don't need a special occasion at my house to have mashed potatoes.  Any time there is an opportunity for gravy and/or someone feels like peeling potatoes we'll have mashed potatoes.  For years I made Swanson's Skinny Mashed Potatoes.  They are actually quite good and fit well with Weight Watchers.

Skinny Mashed Potatoes
Serves: 6
3 1/2 cups Swanson® Natural Goodness® Chicken Broth
5 large potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
Generous dash ground black pepper

Heat the broth and potatoes in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes well in a colander, reserving the broth.

Mash the potatoes with 1 1/4 cups broth and black pepper. Add additional broth, if needed, until the potatoes are the desired consistency.
Weight Watchers Points®*: 3
Dietary Exchanges: 2 Starch, 1/2 Other Carbohydrate
USDA MyPyramid: 1 cup Vegetables

Now I'm on my "who are we kidding" chapter of my life and I went wild last Thanksgiving and made Pioneer Woman's Creamy Mashed Potatoes.  I did them exactly how she said to do them and boy were they good.  Decadent even.  They were good without gravy.
Tonight I wanted to make mashed potatoes and thought I'm going to do them like Pioneer Woman's, but I have to admit I just couldn't go all the way with the butter and the half n half.  So, I went part of the way and they were still wonderful.

Lynne's Scaled Back Pioneer Woman's Creamy Mashed Potatoes
2 to 3 pounds of peeled Idaho Potatoes, cut into pieces about the same size
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese straight from the fridge
2 T butter
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Lawry's Season Salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper

Place prepared potatoes in pan and just cover with water.  Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook until potato chunk when forked slides right through.  Remove from heat and drain.  Don't worry if a little water is left in pan.  I just tip it carefully over the sink enough so the potatoes don't fall out, but water drains.  Return to stove (hot burner but turned off) add cream cheese, butter, salt and pepper and begin mashing.  Once cream cheese and butter are warmed up I pull pan off hot burner and keep mashing until it's the consistency I like.  Serve.

Tonight we once again thought they were so good that gravy was just an added bonus.  I had a small serving and DH and DS ate all but 2 cups of the mashed potatoes.  I could see them circling and knew I might want more potatoes maybe tomorrow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

There's An Airplane In Front Of My House?!

First off... I can't believe I didn't take a picture.  Secondly, the airplane was on a trailer, but really even on a trailer how many times has someone looked out their front window and seen an airplane parked in front of their house?  I opened my blinds for the day and there it was.  I have a wide spot in front of my house for my convenience, but many people use it for their own.  As was it with the airplane people.  I wondered if the airplaned tried to take off, because 3 men were frantically running around the airplane checking it's tie downs and adding more.  Now that would have been a site and airplane crashed in front of my house.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Decorated Cake In A Hurry

Dear Hubby was bragging about my delicious cakes at work and his supervisor asked him if I would make a cake to celebrate PeriAnestheisa Nurse Week.  He comes home all excited and tells me the news.  I say, "Make a cake for peri whosit whatsit week?!"  He excitedly tells me that's what he and his fellow coworkers are called.  I know he works in Same Day Surgery and I know he's an RN, but I didn't know he was a PeriAnestheisa Nurse.  So, I quiz him on what kinds of things they do trying to get a feel for how I should decorate this cake.  I really needed to talk to a woman, because after talking to him I really had no creative ideas for this cake.
I was so uninspired by this cake that I completely forgot I was supposed to make until the day before.  I still had no ideas on how to decorate it.  I thought though that I better get it baked and frosted at the very least and worry about decorating it then.  I did my ususal half yellow and half chocolate.  It covers all bases and still to this day everyone is amazed there are 2 flavors.  It's really not amazing at all.  I take 2 cake mixes (I prefer Duncan Hines).  I mix them both up doing vanilla first, so I don't have to wash the bowl and beater between mixing.  I put the vanilla in a separate bowl.  Then mix the chocolate cake mix.  I then pour both cake mixes at the same time in my prepared cake pan.  I try to make sure they go to the half way line and empty as much as will pour out on it's own.  I then scrape each bowl to their respective sides and bake.
While cake cools I mix up the frosting.  I use the Wilton Buttercream recipe except I double the shortening and don't use butter.  I also in addition to the vanilla extract I also add one teaspoon of Wilton's Butter flavored extract.  This frosting smells so wonderful anyone in the house will start circling your kitchen again, because you've already shooed them out after the cake came out of the oven.

I took a Wilton's Cake Decorating class at my local craft store about 15 years ago and I think the one technique that I learned and still impresses me the most was this large decorating tube.  This one tube probably shaved 1 to 2 hours off my decorating time.  I know longer do a crumb coat.  That step always frustrated me.  Plus I'd have to frost the whole cake and then frost it again.  Now I do it once.
Wilton had use over lap the strips of frosting with the large tube, but personal preference for a tad less frosting makes me space them out a bit.  Above I've filled the cake.  I slice the big sheet cake in half length wise using another handy dandy Wilton tool called the cake levelor.  I used it to level the cake and slice it in half for the filling.  How do I get the top off to fill the cake without breaking it in half.  I use the pan I baked it in.  I slide it on to the bottom of the cake pan.  Then to put it back on I line edges up and slide the cake pan out from under the cake.  It's more or less a controlled fall.  One can still ease it into to place if it falls slightly off kilter.  One thing I must stress is if your cake cracks or breaks frosting is your friend.  Frost covers a multitude of sins.  I've never had anyone say with alarm, "I'm not eating this cake it has a crack in it!"
As you can see the tube frosts a whole side of the cake in a couple seconds.
Then I frost the whole cake.  One doesn't have to be perfect as you will be running a spatula or a plain ole butter knife over the top of the frosting to make sure it's adhered to the cake and smoothed out as best you can.
Again you don't have to smooth it out perfectly either.  After it's smoothed as best as I can get it with a spatula I let it sit and dry for a few minutes.  Then I take a clean paper towel to it.  I lay the paper towel on the cake.  I hold the towel by the edge with my left hand and gently rub the cake threw the paper towel.  Then I lift the towel up.  If it sticks to the cake let it dry a bit longer.  You will reach a stage where the paper towel will not stick.  I proceed to rub the whole cake with the paper towel.  It's amazing how you can smooth and even mold the frosting.  Making it smooth and even giving it the pattern of the paper towel. 
This is another thing people are amazed with... "How did you get the cake so smooth and with that interesting pattern."  My mom used a clean "for cake only" sponge.  That made a nice texture too.

Now the cake was frosted and I had to get creative.  This is usually my favorite part, but since I had no real idea how to decorate it for this occasion I just winged it.  I knew the cake would be extra tasty and they'd forgive my lack of creativity.  One thing my husband kept stressing was how much time the spent on the telephone talking to patient families, doctors and setting up appointments.  So, I knew I'd put a telephone on it.  While mixing the color for the phone I realized it started out a bandaide color.  So, I asked DH do you guys ever use bandaides.  Yes, was the answer.  So, I drew on a couple bandaides before I tweaked the frosting color to brown.  My daughter and I decided blue should be the color of the words.  I wanted to get them on next to make sure I had room for all that writing.  That's when I noticed the medicine syringe had blue writing on it that match my blue frosting perfectly. That is another thing my husband said they did a lot of. Administering medicine by mouth. So, I put a cute little syringe on it.  At this point I felt the decorating balanced out and I was done.  I didn't feel very creative, but I knew know one would throw it away.
DH told me he took the cake in and hid it.  BUT as I mentioned above even wrapped up my frosting smells incredibly good.  The hunt was on.  People were calling DH asking where the cake was, because they could smell it and wanted a piece.  DH was saving it for the boss thinking she should be the one to bring it out and slice it.  DH said had he not hid the cake by the time the boss got in it would have been sliced up.  His boss loved it.  Everyone who initially asked for a small piece came back for seconds.

And BTW this cake took me about 4 hours from baking to delivery.  I wasn't working every minute as things needed to cool and or dry.  Some might pop out to the store for a cake, but I like spending the time and having a delicious cake.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

Who knew that we have our very own groundhog right here in Orangevale.

At first I think she saw her shadow, but scampered under a tree and decided she didn't see her shadow.  She's a true California girl and is ready for spring.  She does not want another 6 weeks of winter.
All kidding aside I had a lot of fun crocheting this little cutie.  Don't ask what came over me.  I just saw a photo of this pattern and wanted to have one of my very own. I bought the yarn at Fig Tree Alley Fiber Arts.  Yeah I could have used cheaper yarn, but this yarn had been calling to me ever since my friend opened her yarn shop. The varigated brown skein just screamed “GROUNDHOG.” It really wasn't expensive.  It just wasn't cheap Red Heart.  I really loved the feel and look of this yarn and will definitely be using it again in the future.  The yarn was Brown Sheep Lanaloft Worsted weight.  The color was maple praline.  Doesn't it sound yummy?!  It comes in many gorgeous colors.

I bought the pattern off of PlanetJune's blog.  She has a lot of other very cute patterns.  If you like to crochet check out her site.  She also has free lessons on how to make your crocheted items look their best.  I used the Magic Ring Technique.  I also used the Invisible Decrease Technique.  All the rest was single crochet.