Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Oh, Captain! My Captain.

Fifteen years ago today I married my best friend. We stood up in front of all our family and friends and vowed to a lot of very improbable things. To say that we had no idea what we were getting into would be an understatement.
We've been married for fifteen years but we've been partners in crime for almost 18. We've had quite a few adventures in that time. A couple of really great kids. A couple of dogs and a few cats. We've bought a house and built another one. We've seen most of our friends get married and have their own kids. We've lost family members and a few friends. We've had some health scares and we've come close to splitting a couple of times. There's been more than a few times when I've felt like it was the two of us against the world. And we've travelled probably a million miles on road trips.
The Captain drives a tow boat for 28 days at a time and even though he's the one on a boat, I'm the one left adrift. You see, he is my home. It doesn't matter where we are as long as we are together we are home. And when he is not at home neither am I.
So Happy Anniversary to my Captain, my best friend, and my partner for life. I could not be me without you.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

DIY Yarn Wreath with Felt Flowers

My new sister-in-law, Ginger*, just had a birthday. And Boyd, my brother and her husband, decided to be helpful and shared with me her Etsy wish list. On said list was a couple of really pretty wreaths made out of yarn and felt flowers.
 Unfortunately, her birthday was a week away and I didn't have time to have anything shipped.
Fortunately, though, I did have time to make a run to the craft store and put in some time making something.
Unfortunately, I had no idea how to make felt flowers.
Fortunately, I have a smart phone with a data plan and there are more than a few tutorials on the interwebs.
The whole project wasn't too very difficult but it did take a bit of time. Anyone with a modicum of craftiness should be able to pull this off. On a scale of Paris Hilton to Martha Stewart, I give it a Marie Osmond.

What You'll Need
1 Styrofoam Wreath Form (mine was 16")
1 Skein Yarn (I used a thick marled variety)
Felt in Various Colors (I got 4 different colors in the pre-cut sheets)
Assorted Trimmings (I used some green wired roping and a couple of burlap floral picks. But you could use anything that fit with your theme. Good choices are wired ribbon or roping, floral picks with flowers or berries.)
Floral Pins (the U-shaped kind)
Straight Sewing Pins
Fabric Glue
Needle and Thread

Start by wrapping a loop of yarn around the wreath form tying off the end with a double knot, trimming the tail.

Continue wrapping the yarn, going slowly and scooting the yarn to close any gaps.

Pause about every 5"-6" to secure with a floral pin.

Once you reach the end keep wrapping to form a 1/2" overlap. Cut a 6" tail and form a loop, trimming the tail.

To form the flowers, cut rough spirals from the felt. (You can vary the size of your flowers by varying the size of the spirals you cut.) Starting from the inside carefully wrap your felt in a inverted cone shape. Use a needle and a corosponding colored thread to throw in a few stitches into the back of the flower to secure. I used two or three X shaped stitches - you may need a few more on the larger flowers.
Continue cutting and forming your flowers until you've used 3 different colored sheets of felt.

Use the fourth color to cut out rough leaf shapes.

Fold each leaf in half and stitch a seam along the edge of the fold, leaving a bit on each end.

Arrange your flowers, leaves and trim as you would like them. Use floral pins to secure the leaves (I also used them to secure the roping in a loose free form looping shape)

Then use the straight sewing pins to stab the center of each flower into the wreath form to secure them where you would like them. Tuck in any remaining trim you wish to use, securing with pins if necessary.
Finally, use scraps to cut circles (roughly about the size of a pencil eraser) out of each color of felt, one circle for each flower. Use the fabric glue to secure each circle over the center of each flower, covering the sewing pin.

Stand back and admire your handiwork.

*As always, no actual names are used on this site.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Salted Caramel Root Beer Floats

Bubbo wanted Root Beer Floats. I wanted Salted Caramel Ice Cream. And thus was born Salted Caramel Root Beer Floats.

I made the Salted Caramel Ice Cream and it could not be easier. (Seriously, it barely qualifies as home made.) But you could just as easily use a good quality vanilla ice cream, then drizzle a bit of caramel on top.
We scooped the ice cream into frosty mugs, topped with Root Beer and . . . Voila!

Salted Caramel Ice Cream
2 Cups Heavy Cream
2 Cups Whole Milk
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tbs. Vanilla Bean Paste or 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
3/4 Caramel dessert topping
1 Tbs Sea Salt

Mix first 4 ingredients together. Whisk until Sugar dissolves. Process in Ice Cream Maker according to manufacturers directions.
10 minutes before end of ice cream freezing cycle place Caramel topping in microwave safe container. Microwave for 20-30 seconds until topping becomes very pourable. Mix in the sea salt. Set aside to cool a bit.
Meanwhile, remove the ice cream to a freezer safe container; alternating layers of ice cream and thin layers of Salted Caramel drizzle, finishing with caramel. Freeze at least 12 hours before scooping.

Monday, June 8, 2015

He Belongs to All of Us Now

photo from usa today
Something happened Saturday evening that had not occurred in my entire lifetime. A horse won the Triple Crown. Not just any horse.
A Kentucky horse.
American Pharoah, bred and foaled at Stockplace Farm in Winchester. He will retire at stud at Ashford Stud in Versailles.
But not so fast.
American Pharoah still has some run left in him, or so say his owners the Zayat family.
In an interview on The Today Show this morning the family patriarch, Ahmed Zayat, said that he wanted to race American Pharoah a few more times for the fans. "He belongs to all of us now," he said.
You see, Zayat gets it. He's a true fan of the sport and he knows that this Triple Crown win is bigger than big. It's bigger than any one owner, trainer, or jockey. It's all about the horse. American Pharoah IS horse racing.
And, yes, Zayat has been involved in controversies over the years. Namely financial and gambling related type things that he has been cleared of, but which still may tarnish his image. But I say, 'who cares?' I'd much rather listen to a man who is a true fan of horse racing than that overstuffed Yosemite Sam knockoff, Steve Coburn. The owner of last years, oh so close, California Chrome. That jackass acted like a spoiled little girl who didn't get voted prom queen.
So Congratulations to the Zayat family!
Congratulations to Victor Espinoza!
And even Congratulations to Bob Baffert, you shady bastard.
But most of all Congratulations to American Pharoah! You have made Kentucky proud.

Friday, June 5, 2015

National Doughnut Day

APPARENTLY it considered somewhat suspect to drink at breakfast. (Except for Mimosas right? I mean Mimosas totally don't count!) So what is one supposed to do?
It being National Doughnut Day and all, I thought I'd help a person out, and since it's Flashback Friday (or so I'm told) I thought I'd throw it way back with this post about Bourbon Glazed Doughnuts.

Bourbon Glazed Doughnuts

1 pkg. active dry yeast (please don't get the Rapid Rise kind - it sucks!)
2 Tbs. warm water
3/4 Cup warm milk (Microwave for about 1 min. is just about right)
1/4 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 large egg
2 1/2 Cups bread flour*
Vegetable Oil

Combine yeast and warm water in a 1 cup liquid measuring cup, let stand 5 minutes. (If yeast doesn't proof after 2-3 minutes try adding about 1 tsp. sugar and try again.)
Combine yeast mixture, milk, and next six ingredients in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Add 1 cup flour, mixing completely. Use an electric mixer. Stir in remaining flour. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down using rubber spatula. Dough will be sticky! Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead several times. Roll dough to 1/2" thickness, and cut with 2 1/2" doughnut cutter. (If you don't have doughnut cutter, cut into 2" x 3" strips with a pizza cutter) Cover with a damp tea towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
Pour oil to depth of 2-3" in a heavy pan; heat oil to 375 degrees. Cook doughnuts 2-3 at a time. Do not crowd your pan! Cook for 1 minute on each side. Drain well on paper towels.
Dip each doughnut in glaze while still warm, letting the excess drip off. Cool on wire racks. If you have excess glaze you can brush it on the doughnuts. Don't waste that stuff!

Bourbon Glaze
3 Cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 milk
1/4 Bourbon
1/4 tsp. vanilla
Mix all ingredients together until smooth. Use immediately. Place in shallow dish such as a pie plate to allow for easier dipping.

* A quick note about bread flour. It is totally worth buying. The difference is that bread flour contains more protein than regular flour which leads to more gluten production. This gives a lighter texture to the dough. This is how you get that pig pillow-y texture in things like doughnuts, rolls, and the like.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

When Life Hands You Strawberries . . .

Peanut is in High School now (lets not dwell on that too much, ok?) and a member of the Future Farmers of America - otherwise known as FFA. A less likely farmer I've never seen, but that's beside the point.
The point is that Peanut is in the FFA and one of our local FFA's most popular fundraisers is selling fresh strawberries. They've partnered with a grower in Florida to ensure that we get the first and freshest strawberries of the season.
When they sent the order form around there was about a foot of snow on the ground and fresh strawberries sounded pretty dang good. So, what did I do? I ordered a flat. A whole flat of strawberries. That's eight quarts of strawberries.
They pick the berries on a Thursday, drive them up I75 on Friday, and we pick them up on Saturday. On Sunday I was up to my elbows in Strawberry Jam.
Because, you know, what else are you gonna do?
I made a double recipe of Strawberry Jam and still had two quarts of Strawberries left over. I must say, they were the freshest, juiciest strawberries I've had in a while. And they made the most beautiful, ruby-red jam.

This is the recipe I used. It's just the regular old Sure Jell recipe that comes in the box. But I do recommend Sure Jell and not any other brand. I have tried a couple of different brands and my jam never sets up as good as with Sure Jell.

Strawberry Jam
5 Cups Prepared Strawberries (trimmed, hulled, and mashed)
1 Box Sure Jell Fruit Pectin
1/2 Tbs. Butter (not Margarine) to prevent foaming
7 Cups Sugar

Follow directions on box of Sure Jell for cooking and processing. If you have more jam than you have jars, or if you have any jars that don't seal correctly just refrigerate for up to 3 months.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Squirrel Brownies

Tuesday is Cream Cheese Brownie Day. A completely made up arbitrary holiday, to be sure. But one worth celebrating nonetheless. When I noticed it mentioned online it reminded me of a recent kitchen exchange between The Captain and myself.
The Captain: Whatcha makin' there? (After seeing me get out the cream cheese, eggs, and sugar)
Me: Cheesecake Swirl Brownies.
The Captain: What did you say?
Me: Cheesecake. Swirl. Brownies.
The Captain: (Busts out laughing) I thought you said 'squirrel brownies'!
Me: Oh, that's what we're going to call 'em from now on! (with one eyebrow raised and a slow head nod)

Even though there's not really a recipe, they're super easy to make. Just use whatever your favorite boxed brownie mix is (the 13x9 family size). Mix according to package directions and pour into lightly sprayed baking dish.
In separate small bowl mix together one 8oz. package of softened cream cheese, 1 egg, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Add 1/4 tsp. vanilla if you're feeling fancy. Mix together with a wire whisk. Really put your arm into it. It might take a minute, but I feel that it's enough of an arm workout to justify eating the brownies.
Pour cheesecake mix on top of brownie mix. Using a skewer or sharp knife gently swirl the two ingredients together, without actually mixing them into one another.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until the center is slightly set. Let cool before cutting.