Tuesday, April 7, 2020

It's Nice To Have Fabric Stashed Away

I tend to buy fabric at stores in two-yard lengths when I find something I like, even if I don't have an immediate project for it. That is coming in handy right now, as I sew face masks for family for grocery trips and other times when they have to go out in public. I also buy the large spools of thread, so I should have enough to use, because I think all the suppliers are either closed or out of stock right now. 

I downloaded two patterns recommended by hospitals, but they obviously are not pattern-writing experts, so I am altering them a bit to make them more sewable for me.  And since elastic is now as scarce as hen's teeth, I used a 2 1/2" wide jelly roll to make ties on each side. 

The little space in the house where I do crafting was all set up for cardmaking, but I put all that away and set up for sewing and serging so I can make more masks.  Hopefully as I do more of them, they won't take as long as this first one did.  I have now learned that I don't sew as well at 8 pm as I do at 8 am, probably true of most things but definitely true of sewing.
I have a rolling chair that's elevated to be higher than the desk height of this table, to try to minimize back pain and to allow me to roll around to the ironing board, sewing machine and the serger. 

And a big jug to keep hydrated!

Sewing masks makes me feel useful while locked down in Louisiana, so that family have a way to protect themselves and others.

Hopefully this lock down status will ease up soon, but I think at that time the masks will be even more important as the State transitions back to regular times of work, shopping and church.

Back now to the sewing project.  By the time I've made all I plan to do, I'll probably know how to do them!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Self-Serve Yogurt at Home

Yesterday I pulled out a gallon of organic milk and a starter of plain Fage Greek Yogurt and made eight cups of homemade yogurt.  If you've never made and tried homemade yogurt, it's so much better and tastier than store-bought, and can be made in quantity and stored in small pint mason jars in the refrigerator. 

For breakfast I made a bowl of blackberries and strawberries with fresh yogurt right out of the crockpot and some honey drizzled on top. 

While staying at home I'm trying to go as long as I can without making a trip to the grocery store.  Baking bread and making yogurt helps extend the time between trips to buy groceries. 

And bonus, it is fresh and tasty, too.

Go to my "It's a Yogurt Thing" post if you want to see the process in action. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Why Is There No Bread In The Store?

Hello from socially-distanced Louisiana, where I have been baking bread at home because there is none in the grocery store to buy for sandwiches.

I posted a message on March 1 just to say hello, still here. And since then the Coronavirus Pandemic has come into full force, and here we are on March 30, staying at home to avoid spreading the virus.  Businesses, the museums, the library and schools are all shut down.

I had a bag of flour in the freezer and half a jar of yeast, so I started baking sandwich loaves when I couldn't find bread in the store, but now flour and yeast are in short supply.

I'm planning to make a big batch of yogurt today so I can avoid going to the grocery store.  Here is a link to my yogurt-making post, "It's a Yogurt Thing."

Life has turned upside down right now. Yesterday the Boyce Methodist Church held services on Facebook Live instead of in person, second Sunday with the church not open for live services.

I'm doing yard work while it's not raining. I've cleaned the house and pulled out some half-finished knitting projects to complete while staying at home.  Thinking of doing some french lessons on Rosetta to brush up my dormant french.  Using this time as an opportunity, until this crisis passes and the country goes back as much as possible to what we're used to seeing.  Stay positive, stay home, stay healthy.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The World Is Still Turning and I'm Still Riding Around On It

Yes, I'm back writing a blog post. It's been so long, I'm not sure I remember how to do it. And I'm sure a lot of things have changed in the blogging world. 

Since my health scare in 2015 I've been keeping a low profile, trying to get well and enjoy life.  I'm still working at a law firm, and I'm doing art, but I haven't been making jewelry or components.  The studio where the faux-tiques were made has been boxed up, and I'm doing just a little artwork in a room in the house.  Mostly I'm doing paper art, painting and making handmade cards.  It keeps me creative but doesn't require the torching, soldering and glass fusing I was doing in 2015. 

I'm not sure anyone is still around to read this short update post, and I'm also not sure if this is the beginning of a new round of blogging from me, but I wanted to pop in and just say HELLO and that I'm still around, after all this time.  Lately I've been teaching monthly card making classes at the Downtown Branch of the Rapides Parish Public Library, and maybe that's motivated me to drop into my old blog space again. 

Cheers, until I return, hopefully soon.  Lynn - LLYYNN

Friday, December 11, 2015

Grateful And Peaceful

Hello, friends. I've been away most of this year, due to some serious health complications.

All my life I've been very lucky and very healthy. I had never had surgery, almost never got sick, and had no serious or even minor health issues. I don't know that I appreciated my good fortune as much as I should have.

This spring, in May, I had something apparently minor turn into something very serious and eventually life-threatening. It all happened so quickly, it was hard to understand what was going on. Fortunately my family, and especially my wonderful daughter, helped me with hospitalization and tests and surgery and recovery. I am more grateful than ever for her, and for church friends and others who stood beside me and helped me through a very scary and difficult time.

I was hospitalized for almost a month, and spent another month at home healing and recovering. I was prepared for the fact that six months after the original surgery I would have another surgery, to complete the healing process.  It has been a long six months, and somewhat anxious, but I have appreciated each day feeling better, being able to move more, having less pain and anxiety. More gratitude to friends and family, for all the small things they have done to support me through all the changes.

Now, I am on the other side of my second surgery and home recovering again. This time I was only hospitalized for a week, and the healing process is going very well.  I am grateful I was home before Thanksgiving, and in time to enjoy the Christmas tree my daughter and granddaughter set up for me to come home to share.

I now understand what health changes are like, what is involved with surgery, and how it alters life and mindsets, in a way I didn't understand up to now. I am grateful to the home health caretakers who came regularly to help me with recovery, and thankful to be able to be in my own home and sleep in my own bed!

Often I have heard others who have had health issues and have recovered talk about how it increased their appreciation for the small things of each day, how it changed their perspectives and increased their appreciation of others in their lives. I understand that attitude much better now after the last half-year, and share that feeling intensely.

For those who have wondered about my absence and silence, that should help you understand what's been happening. I've been concentrating on recovery and healing, and in finding peace in life after a brush with the stark fact of my own mortality.  Whew! That sounds way more ponderous than it should, especially coming from me!

I haven't chosen to put the details of my illness here - I don't think it really matters, especially since I believe I'm now on the downhill slope back toward wellness. I don't expect any future recurrence of illness from this, but if this has taught me anything, it has taught me that we really can't know what tomorrow will bring and to just live as fully and mindfully as possible, every day.

Thank you to friends, family and healthcare professionals who stood with me and lifted me up to reach this hopeful point.  I have been doing some small creative projects here and there as I could, but it will be a while before I'm able to really do art again. When I do, I will have a lot of new ideas and feelings to express, that's for certain.

And if you are reading this, and you have been wondering where I've been, give me a comment to encourage me to keep on the path to full recovery. And thank you in advance - I appreciate this, too. Hugs and best wishes to all of you.  Nothing is more important than remembering friends, gratitude and maintaining a peaceful existence.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hi! A New Chapter

Wondering where I've been?
I'm here and there, very quiet and apart.
It's almost Easter time with the grandchildren. I think all holidays are more fun with small children to enjoy them with.

The garden is just waking up, here at the end of March.
I'm still working on my goal to "eat from the garden" and decided to include more flowers and color right along with the edible vegetables. I need to pull up the overgrown lettuce and plant some new things. Maybe over the weekend, if the rain stops long enough.

A year ago I added a screened-in porch to the side of the house, with a deck and brick patio. I spend a lot of time sitting on the porch, watching the birds. Reading a book. Crocheting an afghan. Relaxing.

I've been doing some bookbinding, with handmade papers and embellished papers decorated using a Gelli plate, acrylics, watercolors and colored pencils. I'm crocheting and knitting quite a bit, because it's fun and gives me a restful break.

I just got a delivery of some jewelry findings, so I can make an intaglio necklace I've had pictured in my mind. If it turns out well, I'll take some pictures to share. It will be the first jewelry piece I will have made in a long time, if I do. And I think I will.

I've given myself permission to do whatever thing creatively that I enjoy doing. Or as little as I feel like doing. No production pressures, or pressures for deliveries. Just doing things that I find fun and fulfilling.

And that make me feel creative and productive. And just plain happy.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

In Ground and In Pots

 I have a section of the garden that has small pots full of herbs next to the raised beds. The pots allow me to move things around as the season changes. And hopefully, when winter comes I'll be able to move some of the pots indoors, for fresh herbs all winter.

Here there's thyme, cilantro and purple basil. I want lots of purple basil, so I can use the leaves to make glorious basil jelly!

This container has my special "On The Deck" corn seeds sprouting. This type of corn is supposed to be able to bear well even in a half whiskey barrel. I have this one that's sprouted already, and a second one that is planted but not sprouted yet, to extend the hoped-for sweet corn  harvest. 

I've never grown corn before, my little raised beds are kind of small for it to be successful, but I'm hoping these new seeds from Burpee will turn out well in this container.

This raised bed has all herbs, onions and garlic. Some herbs are perennials, like rosemary, so this bed doesn't get changed out every season like some of the others. This is the bed the harvested garlic bulbs came from. See how some are lying on their sides? It's probably time to get them out, too.

It's so nice to run out to the garden, snip some parsley and rosemary, cut some cilantro and thyme, and run back in to the kitchen and use it! I used to dread it when recipes called for "fresh parsley" or "sprigs of fresh rosemary" - but now I love it!

I have onions, garlic, cilantro, two kinds of sage, rosemary, parsley and bee balm in this bed. I hope by summertime it will be tall and fragrant and bushy with fresh herbs for the kitchen. It is 4 foot by four foot in size.

Monday, May 6, 2013

It's a Yogurt Thing

This is what happens to fresh ripe strawberries. Loaded up with homemade yogurt on top of almond cake. Tastes like springtime, tart and creamy. Sometimes with a drizzle of local honey on top.

I make my own yogurt every other week. I never liked yogurt much, until I tried making it at home and tasted it. It's fantastic when it's freshly made, nothing like the store's yogurt, with its long list of ingredients.

For a starter I use 2% Fage Yogurt because it has 4 cultures in it, and for the milk I splurge and get a gallon of organic milk.
I make the yogurt in the crockpot. I've never had a batch fail, and it really doesn't take that much time.

Before I do anything, I boil water in the kettle and sterilize everything. The crockpot and its lid, the ladle and whisk. Anything that's going to touch the milk gets a boiling water bath, to make sure only the good bacteria get a chance at the milk.

This is 10 cups of organic milk in the crockpot. I turn it on high and cover with a dishtowel, checking every so often until the milk is 180 degrees F.

I check with a candy thermometer until it reaches the right temperature. I try not to boil the milk, turning the crockpot off when the milk reaches 180 degrees.

I like a thick yogurt, so I add 1/3 cup of powdered dry milk per quart. I take some of the hot milk out of the crockpot with the ladle into a sterilized two-cup measuring cup, add the dry milk to that, and use the whisk to mix together. It's too hard to get all the lumps out if you add the dry milk directly to the whole crockpot at once.

Sometimes I add the dry milk in two batches, to make sure there's enough milk to really mix them together well before putting the hot milk back into the crockpot with the remainder of the milk.

I keep the Fage yogurt out on the counter so it can reach room temperature. It isn't time to add it to the milk yet, but that way when it is time it isn't refrigerator temperature when it's added in.

If honey, sugar or vanilla extract are added, this is the time, and they are added the same way as the dry milk. Then the cover goes back on the crockpot and it cools down until it is 110 degrees F. That can take an hour or so depending on the temperature of the room.

When the thermometer reads 110 degrees F, some of the milk is taken out and put into the 2-cup measuring cup, the starter yogurt is added and whisked in well, and all of it is added back to the main crockpot mixture.

Wrapped in a large beach towel, the covered crockpot is put into the oven with the oven light on overnight. The oven light puts out just enough warmth to maintain the 110 degrees for 8 to 10 hours in the oven. But don't forget and turn the oven on!

I usually put the crockpot in the oven before bedtime and take it back out the next morning. The yogurt has firmed up, and it's ready to be ladled into sterilized mason jars. If I plan to make frozen yogurt, I will use a quart jar and make the full gallon of milk. With 10 cups, I like to use the small mason jars with lids, and use one per day at breakfast and on desserts.

Here's a week's supply or so, depending on how many I eat each day, and whether I use a recipe to cook with some of it. It's sweet, tart and thick like cream. Super deluxe on anything you add it to.

With vanilla wafers on the bottom of a bowl, bananas cut up in the middle, a generous dollup of homemade yogurt with local honey drizzled on top - it's just like banana pudding!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cooking With A Green Thumb

This is the first yellow squash of the season. It was raised from seed started in February, and already it's fruiting, here at the very beginning of May.

The garden is varied, with raised beds combined with containers and hanging planters. The main idea is to maximize the amount of food coming out of a small space, including herbs, fruits and vegetables. The raised beds are either 4 foot by 4 foot or 3 by 3, to make it easy to reach inside the beds and take care of the plants. The cedar planks separating the beds are walkways, and keep the weeds down. Plus, they look nice next to the cedar raised beds.

The lettuce is doing really well. We eat a fresh garden salad almost every night. I planted more mixed lettuce seeds yesterday, hoping to get more started before the really hot weather starts.

I've never raised strawberries before, and last October I found two of these strawberry jars on sale and bought them. This spring I filled them with strawberry plants. And look! They are making fruit already, and turning red! These strawberries are nothing like what you find in the store - they are sweet and red all the way to the center of the berry. Strawberries are perennials, so I hope to get even more plants going soon, now that I've seen what I need to do to raise them.

This is the pole bean tee-pee. They have reached the six foot high top already, and are trying for the sky now. I need to cut the growing tips off the tops, so they will bush out more from the bottom. They are blooming like crazy, and baby beans are starting on them. I planted them in February and covered them with a mini-greenhouse until they sprouted and got several inches high. They are Fortex and Kentucky Wonder pole beans. I hope to be harvesting some fresh green beans soon.

And the zucchini is starting to bloom. It always amazes me how huge their leaves get. They are inside a frame with a bug netting over them, to keep the squash bugs off of them.

Tonight the low is going to be in the lower 40 degrees. Chilly for the first week of May. But the garden seems to like the cooler temperatures. With raised beds to grow in, and containers, it's easier to cover them if the temperatures dip down too low overnight.

Eventually the squash, strawberries and beans will be harvested like the lettuce and end up on the menu!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bulbs of Flavor

In October, the garlic bulbs went into the ground in the garden beds. Not having grown garlic before, there was a sense of discovery in planting it. Over the long winter, it grew big stalks and kept an area looking alive and green in the winter garden beds in the months of short, cold days.

The garlic is called "Kilarney Red" - but the planted cloves were white. The books say that when the stalks start to fall over and the lower leaves turn brown, it's time to pull up the garlic. So a few were tentatively dug up, to find fully formed cloves underground.

Growing from October until May from a single clove each, these bulbs are now drying on a rack so they will keep for later use. The outer skins will turn papery and thin, and the bulbs sweet and mild.

It's easy to see now why the bulbs of this garlic is called Kilarney Red!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Happy May Day Feast

Beet, mint and lentil salad served chilled.

Fresh hot brussel sprouts pan-seared with a coating of asiago cheese, grated right before it goes into the bowl.

Mesquite grilled pork loin.
What a dinner on Sunday evening!

The brussel sprouts came home with me on Saturday from Inglewood Farm Harvest Barn, and they are so pretty. Like tiny cabbages.

Cut in half, they're rolled in a bowl with a generous dollop of olive oil before going into a hot saucepan.

Cooked flat side down first to get a nice crust, then rolled over to let the back side get toasted too. It doesn't take very long, but it adds so much to the flavor cooking them this way. When they come out of the pan, the fresh grated asiago cheese is sprinkled over them while they're still warm.
Best eaten right away, crispy and good!
There's a recipe you can check out here.

The beets also came from Inglewood Farms. I cut the tops off but saved those for a salad later. There's also fresh picked mint and dried lentils to be added to the beets.

Look at those bright red beets. Beautiful!

Boil until tender, cool slightly then cut up into small cubes. Once boiled, the outer skins just peel right off, and they are shiny red globes!

Lentils don't have to be soaked before cooking like so many dried beans. They cook up very quickly, in 20 minutes or less.

 Spread out flat into a clear pan, they will cool off quickly so they can be added to the waiting beet cubes.

Vinagrette dressing in a mason jar, fresh and waiting to go over everything, to give a lift and a zing to the flavors. Add all the dressing ingredients, put on the jar lid and give it a good shaking to mix them up well.

Rolled mint leaves, cut into thin strips, are put over the top of this salad just before serving, with the addition of the vinaigrette dressing to boot. All put together, it has a beautiful color and tastes just wonderful. Served cold, it does improve in taste the next day. All the fresh vegetables provide a flavor boost that's impossible to beat!

And healthy ... Here's a recipe to get you started.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Inglewoods Farm Saturday

On Saturday my daughter and I went to Inglewoods Farm, to their Harvest barn. Many of the things they have are already in my garden, but I got some fresh brussel sprouts and beets. In another post, I'll show you what I did with them! They didn't last long, for certain.

Their produce is just beautiful! and they have the prettiest eggs, some of them have sky blue shells. Just like natural easter eggs.

Such gorgeous strawberries - I bought two baskets of them. I washed them and cut off the tops, but left them whole in the refrigerator. I slice them up right before I eat them! So sweet, they don't need any sugar, but honey is a plus.

They have a really nice setup. Lots of organic vegetables, plants for transplanting, a chicken house and covered greenhouse.

There were quite a few people there, taking classes and buying produce. It was a beautiful day. I was tempted to take home some transplants, but I'm almost out of room in my raised beds, so I held myself back.

Here they are cutting up the roasted pig for our sandwiches at lunch. They had quite a setup for cooking it, I'd never seen it done that way before.

That's their cooker, that big black enclosure. I'm sure it has a name, but I don't know what it's called. But the results were very tasty!

I took a class in "Backyard Chickens" and my daughter took a class in "Juicing and Healthy Snacks." They were well done, and we had a great time. We picked up some grass-fed beef to try, too.

Do you have something similar near you? I feel really lucky to have this resource so close to me, here in Louisiana.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pasta From Scratch, Garden Style

Have you ever tasted fresh, homemade pasta noodles? They are so good, you really don't need much of a sauce. A little butter and salt is enough, and a fresh basil pesto can be like noodle heaven.

This bowl of pasta is what I like - fresh peas and basil and baby broccoli from the garden in a light cream sauce. I picked and shelled the peas right before lightly steaming them, so they still had that garden-fresh green taste. Nothing compares to things picked right before eating.

 I haven't been able to find semolina flour locally in the grocery store, so I ordered a pound of it and had it shipped to me. It arrived this week, so I had to take it for a test run. It really doesn't take all that long to make homemade noodles from scratch, and there aren't many ingredients.

This is my pasta-making setup. I use a large bowl and my pasta machine to make homemade fettucini. It's not a fancy pasta machine, I got it on sale, and it does everything I need for pasta making. You can use a rolling pin if you don't have a pasta machine, it's just a bit tricky to get the thinnest dough. You'll need a large area and a long, skinny rolling pin. Here are the simple ingredients:

Fresh Semolina and Egg Pasta Ingredients 
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups semolina flour
1 pinch salt
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
(use the good stuff if you have some)

Thoroughly sift together the all-purpose flour, semolina flour, and pinch of salt. I've made it many times without the semolina, and I wondered if having both types of flour would make a difference. It really does! The dough is stiffer and the noodles roll out better. The texture of the noodles is better, too. So if you don't have the semolina, make the effort to find some. It really is worth it.

In a deep bowl, make a mountain out of the sifted flour mixture then make a deep well in the center. Break the eggs into the well and add the olive oil. 
Just think, if I get hens in the backyard someday, I might be using my own eggs for this! But that's a while down the road. For now, these will have to do. 

Whisk egg and oil mixture very gently with a fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the well.
Here I was using a whisk, and really a fork works much better. So ignore the whisk in the picture and just use a regular sized fork.
Or if you're really in a hurry you can put everything in the food processor and whizz it up almost to the point it's ready, and finish it by hand. But doing it by hand doesn't really take very long, and you can get the feel of the dough as it gets silky and ready to use. So try it with your hands, like this.

When the mixture is too thick to mix with a fork, begin kneading with your hands. Knead dough for 8 to 12 minutes, until it is smooth and supple. Dust dough and work surface with semolina as needed to keep dough from becoming sticky. If dough seems too dry, moisten your hands and continue to knead with wet hands rather than adding liquid to the dough. Your moistened hands will get the water into the dough much more easily.
I set a timer and really give the at least 10 full minutes of kneading. That way I know it is well-kneaded and I don't have to guess if it's ready or not.

Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. This is a good time to prepare your sauce, get your pot of boiling water set up, and get your pasta machine assembled and ready, if you haven't done that yet.

After the dough has rested for 30 minutes, cut off 1/4 or 1/3 of the ball, and re-wrap the test in plastic wrap. Flatten the cut off piece with your hands so it's a ribbon shape. Then roll out the ribbon of dough with a pasta machine to the desired thickness and cut into your favorite style of noodle. I start at the largest opening, number one on my pasta machine, and roll through a couple of times. If the dough is silky and not sticky, I start going through smaller and smaller roller settings, down to number 6. I usually cut the ribbon into two pieces before I cut it with the pasta machine into fettucini noodles, so they aren't too long.

These noodles are a little too long, so I had to hang them over the edge of the counter off the drying rack.

To eat immediately, bring water to a boil in a large pot, then add 4 teaspoons salt. Cook noodles until tender but not mushy, 1 to 5 minutes depending on thickness. Fresh pasta doesn't take very long to cook, so don't overcook it. The noodles will swell up and get nice and thick.

I don't drain and rinse the noodles when they're done, I take them right out of the water and put into the saucepan with the sauce, to let them get lots of flavor. Just toss well with your favorite sauce right in the pan the sauce is simmering in. That means you have to prepare the sauce while the pasta is resting, and let it simmer so it's ready when the fresh pasta is cooked. To dry and store for later, hang noodles on a drying rack and leave overnight.

The noodles will be brittle when dry, so store in a tall spaghetti jar with a hermetic seal, or in a large bag sealed with a twist-tie. This is my homemade pasta storage jar.

I'm so glad my semolina flour came, it was well worth it to make these great, tasty homemade noodles. You'll have to try for yourself to see how easy it really is - and how great they taste.