Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Back to life, back to bread, back to child, back to husband, you can't live in the woods."
--The Baker's Wife, Into the Woods

To kutt [cut] the upper crust of a loaf of bread for your soverayne [sovereign] was good manners in 1460. The custom at the time was to slice the choice top portion off a loaf and present it to the highest ranking guests at the table. Centuries later, this practice led to calling the elite who ate the upper crust "the upper crust."

"Without bread, without wine, love is nothing."
--French proverb

I've had my old bread machine for many years--sometimes I forget I have it. But it worked just great the other night and easily produced this tall, fluffy loaf of soul-warming homemade bread!

Here's the recipe I used in my machine, adding ingredients in order:
1 cup fat-free milk
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups flour
Spread flour around in the pan and tomp down a couple of times to settle it. Then on top add:
1 package active dry yeast

I just used the basic setting--and 3 1/2 hours later we had nice warm, huge bread slices to go with dinner. This also makes great French toast the next day! Get out your bread machine!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Aloha Aloe Vera


I probably would not be sharing this, if my sister had not encouraged it! So here goes. It was Sunday morning. I was getting ready for church, and, as usual, after the treadmill, I took my steamy mug-o-coffee out on my greenhouse porch to hang out with my lounging cats and look at my plants. Then, I saw it. I almost dropped my mug of coffee. My glorious aloe vera plant--several years old--looked like it had been through the French revolution and sent to the guillotine. Many of its fat, succulent stems were laying all over the floor around it, with their precious aloe extracts smashed into the greenhouse floor. I heard someone screaming. It was me.

I had to sit down and think for a minute, because I just couldn't imagine what had happened. It wasn't like the whole plant had been knocked over by the cats, and nobody at my house would have decided to trim my precious aloe plant, at least not the vibrant green healthy stems. Then it hit me. My precious little nephews had visited the day before, and they had been running around the house and the greenhouse.

Now, these are two very sweet boys, and yes, they are also very active. But, they are kind little souls, and would not do anything to purposely hurt their Aunt Sandy's feelings. Yet, you could look at Marie Antoinette (that's what I've renamed her) and see the work of little hands breaking off her stems, one by one. Sometimes, I let these kinds of things go. But I truly felt upset, and I let my sister know that I thought the boys had done this mischief.

As it happens, the boys admitted to it. I don't think they realized they were destroying a plant. They were running around, playing, and this plant got in their way (the five-year-old told me it was "scratching his arm" every time he went by it). Once they decided to prune it, they just went all the way. It must have been really fun breaking off those juicy stems and seeing that aloe vera extract go everywhere. The boys are even smart enough to know that it's a medicinal plant! It just didn't occur to them that this was a bad choice--they always help in the garden, and this was like gardening!

Many hours later, after church, after lunch, and after my daughter and I were busy planning her birthday party, the boys showed up. They had spent the afternoon writing "I'm Sorry" cards to Aunt Sandy, emptying their piggie banks and shopping for a new aloe vera plant. They even bought me special cactus soil and the cutest little cactus plant in a self-watering pot!

Of course, I didn't want them to spend their money, but their mother felt like this was an important part of the lesson they were learning. They were very proud to help me plant the new aloe vera, and make sure it was in a safe spot on the greenhouse. Their sweet, remorseful little faces said it all. They are both budding gardeners, and I know being around the garden teaches them a lot. This aloe vera incident taught us all lessons: patience, understanding, and that a hug can fix many things--even Marie Antoinette. It was not the end of the world, (as we had heard the day before), just the end of a vera.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Every Inchie Monday Theme Today: Solitude

I'm definitely seeking some peace and solitude very soon.  
When I think of it, I place myself in my lush garden, mid-July, with a mug of coffee, the morning sun, and gorgeous butterflies enjoying the zinnias.

In the meantime, it was a hectic, stormy, late-May Monday and I made my Inchie on the go! Just grabbed my little crafty kaboodle, which is always packed with cloth, floss, needles, and knitting too, took it with me, and whipped up my butterfly while eating my pasta salad lunch. Pretty good! Happy Monday! I think my quiet little Inchie butterfly really did stitch some solitude into the middle of my day. 

Visit all the Inchie creativity at

"Every so often I'm presented with a day alone, with no obligations, when the children have clattered out the door, and the husband is off on a trip, and the cat and I are a community. And as someone with a taste too, for solitude, such days are utter bliss."
--Catherine Calvert

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Could this be a blue ribbon salsa?

Do you ever get sidetracked and need a big motivator to pull you back on the road to creativity? I sure do! My May has been so busy, and now that I'm winding down just a little for a couple of weeks, you would think I would get right back into the middle of my creative projects.

Wrong. It is just not happening. I am functioning on the level of getting done what needs to be done, plus cooking and cleaning and shopping--and after that, I'm just lazy! My garden planting is overdue, and there are knitted squares and an adorable cross-stitch project calling my name! My play needs some tweaks, I owe my publisher a catalog intro for the script collection she just bought. And, then, there's my novel. Oh, the novel. I love that thing, and it too is calling my name. So I've been wondering what would jumpstart my creative engine. Then, it hit me.

My dear friend Helen happened to post a Facebook status about how she has filled out the entry form to enter her photography in the Fair again. That was the trigger. THE FAIR!!!

Back during the winter, I had entertained the idea of entering my canned salsa, canned tomatoes, zinnias, a fabric mixed-media piece, and some photography in the Fair! I imagined this whole scenario of seeing my entries on display with gorgeous ribbons tied onto them. It sounded like good old-fashioned fun.

My mind wandered back to the Victorian days of my Great Aunt Sis. She was a beautiful lady and I imagined her walking around the busy Fairgrounds in her long dress and little beaded purse, listening to the band music, oohing and ahing over the quilts, and peach pies and homemade breads with blue ribbons hanging off of them. She and I share the same birthday, so I have no doubt she was creative! The Fair had to be the highlight and social gathering of the season back then. 

Not so much now. But, I think it could be fun to enter several different items in the "Family Living" categories, like trying my hand at a photography entry. Helen is actually an excellent photographer, and she has won many times, and she has what I would call a real camera. I do not claim to be a photographer, but once in awhile, I take a picture that makes me wonder if it would do any good. And every year, when the first crop of tomatoes come out of my garden, they go right into my first batch of salsa. So why not see if my salsa could win a ribbon? That could also lead to a baking entry--and this year they have a special prize for yeast breads that is not too shabby. Whereas, most of the cash prizes are definitely lacking. 

I think it's the idea, though, of seeing my creations displayed, the idea of being able to say, "Yes, that's my blue ribbon salsa!" Ha! But most of all, knowing that I need to make up my mind and turn in the forms by June, and actually show up with my entries by July, is my new kick-in-the-pants to get creating. Perfect. I need it. It's nothing that will make me rich, and yet, in some ways, it will.

Every year our Fair has a theme, and if I would have really been on top of my game, I would have entered the contest to think of the theme! Oh well. I think that entering the Fair itself is pretty good. And it's not my first time at the rodeo. Before my daughter was even born (and she's a teenager) I used to enter huge cross-stitch pieces, but never achieved above "third premium winner" and yet it was fun to get those ribbons and gift certificates to Michaels!

My mixed-media cross-stitch quilt might be a possibility!
So here we go. I have printed out the entry forms, and rules, and I am making myself a little notebook to keep it all organized, and plan out exactly what I'll be working on. The Family Living categories are endless--which is what also makes it so much fun. It's funny too, because the last time I entered something in the Fair, they didn't have a website, and you certainly couldn't pull up all the forms online! Times have changed! I will keep you updated on my progress and my little journey to become the Fairest of the Fair! (I am cracking myself up. I just want a ribbon.)

"After rain comes fair weather."
--James Howell

Friday, May 13, 2011

Craving Time At Home

"Ah! There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort."

--Jane Austen

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."

--Robert Brault

"No matter how beautiful everything else is, home is what matters."

--Liza Minnelli

Monday, May 9, 2011

In the Pink - Every Inchie Monday

I love creating something fun for Every Inchie Monday and I love Pink! This week's theme at is pink, and all that it implies. 

Everything pink I could stuff together and stitch together, I did! A big pink sequin, a hot pink sparkling heart button, little pink beads, and layers of pink fabric all went together.

After a busy weekend--which included an absolutely lovely Mother's Day--I was quickly stitching my inchie this afternoon just in time to photograph it before sunset!

An inchie is a little, dreamy one-square-inch of art, and on some inchies, I go simple, and on others, I load them up! The theme leads the way, and I just never know. That's what makes it so fun!

My husband is in an awesome play right now, The Foreigner, and his character's name is Froggy! This is his opening night bouquet. I love it!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Every Inchie Monday with a Little Heart

This Monday's Inchies are going to be filled with love--the theme is Heart. And since I love stitching hearts, I had fun cross-stitching a tiny heart Inchie on 18-count white aida cloth. I used a dark pink varigated DMC floss, and buttoned it all up by stitching on two teeny tiny buttons, and a felt backing. I think it will be a cute addition, overall, to the entire Inchie collection I now have going on. 

Visit these one-square-inch works of art with big creativity at

I also hope to catch up on the Inchie's I missed soon. I am studying for a big test this week, so maybe after that! Happy stitching and creating everyone!

Joseph says hello to everyone!