Friday, February 28, 2014

The Friday Five Good Things

Five good things that happened this week.

1. I got my ears lowered. Looks like I had my hair lightened, but I didn't

2. Went out to lunch with my friend, Teague.

3. And Teague surprised me with a Willow Tree Angel, "With Affection."

4. Did a good deed and took my elderly neighbor, Prissy to the bank.

5. Finished the commission I was working on before the client deadline

How was your week?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On The Bard

One of the things I love about my job, is helping a client visually interpret words. Technology makes this so much easier and quicker. I can do a rough "drawing", scan it into the computer, and send it to the client for suggestions or approval.

For this piece to be given as a birthday gift, the client wanted a few stars, and originally I had placed them at the top and bottom edge of the illuminated initial. Very traditional.

The client sent the piece back saying she wanted the stars in a flourish to even out the attribution line. She had drawn a small flourish which I used to get the shape and smoothed for a more graceful line.

I love the clean lines of this piece. I also enjoyed the collaboration. The client will be pleased to give a gift she helped create.

Ziller Glossy Black, Brause 3/4 mm and 1/2 mm. on Arches 90 lb. watercolor paper.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Go Ahead and Laugh

I've been taking some ribbing for my Mary on the Prairie kick. Making my own sourdough starter. Baking sourdough bread. Making my own yogurt. Go ahead and laugh. If there's a zombie apocalypse and the bakeries are destroyed, and you're craving a loaf of freshly, baked sourdough bread, you'll be in a world of hurt.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Proof of the Yogurt

is in the eating. As yogurts go, this recipe isn't bad. Though strained for "Greek" yogurt, it was not as thick as commercial yogurt. Thickness could be remedied next time around by using gelatin. The yogurt had a nice, creamy consistency, similar to Dannon's Light and Fit the commercial yogurt I buy. I used honey for the sweetener, though next time around I'll cut the amount a little. The recipe yielded eight, 1/2 cup servings from a half gallon of milk.

So, pros and cons of making your own yogurt.

No additives or preservatives
You control the amount of sweetness
Clean up was easy as I used a crockpot liner.

Takes a long time. Next time, I'd start the process earlier in the day.
Not as thick as Greek-style yogurt
Because of no preservatives, the yogurt won't last more than a week in the fridge.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

WTH Are You Doing Now?

Crockpot swaddled in towels
I asked myself that when I went to bed at 1AM and again, when I got up at 4AM. I have no idea why the Mary on the Prairie bug has bit me so hard, but it did.

I came across a recipe to make yogurt using a crockpot. Seemed pretty simple. Heat milk and walk away. And it was simple, but I should have walked away. No, I had to test the temperature of the milk to see if it had reached 180o F. as the reciped indicated it would. The magic number would kill any bugs even though the milk had already been Pasteurized.

I started the whole process at 6 PM so the milk solids could sit in the fridge overnight and turn into Greek-style yogurt by morning. At 8:30 PM, the temperature of the milk had barely reached 150o degrees. At 1 AM, I was still waiting, and I think the temperature came very close. Per recipe instructions I turned the crockpot off. Three hours later, a 1/2 cup of plain yogurt cultures was to be added and then the crockpot covered with towels. I debated staying up until 4 in the blessed AM, but went to bed, set my alarm, and got up to do task. And then went back to bed. I should have just added Greek yogurt to the grocery list, and called it good.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Friday Five Good Things

Five good things that happened this week:

1. Had a three hour breakfast with friends. Our girlies were in elementary school together. We haven't seen each other since the girls were in high school. All the girlies are graduating this Spring, so there was a lot to catch up on.

2. Client was pleased with the rough I sent.

3. Had to go to the Registry (DMV to the rest of the world). Went to the Registry in Southbridge and didn't have a long wait time.

4. Had an art session over Skype with a friend. We hope to do it again next week.

5. Wicked cool icicles hanging like dragon's teeth on the back of the house. Warm temps and the high angle of the sun made short work of them.

How was your week?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Word

Have you ever decided you wanted to make a special dish or dessert? You go to the store and buy the ingredients you need. You decide you don't have the time that day so you put the items away only to start your prep a day or two later to find the locusts* descended and your special ingredient is gone. I found all I had to do was label the item with one small word. Stops the locusts right in their tracks.

*You're wondering why I used locusts and not vultures. At least vultures leave bones.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Friday Five Good Things.

Five good things that happened this week.

1. Himself attended a Master Clinic for black belts. With him out of the house, it was a perfect excuse not to cook. I took The Eldest out to dinner.

2. New books arrived.

3. As Chip would say: Ten degrees down bubble. Level off at XXX feet.

4. Perhaps,  new work on the drawing board. Waiting for confirmation.

5. Valentine's Day. Any excuse to eat chocolate.

How was your week?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Which Design Aesthetic Are You

Prompted by How About Orange's blog, I took the Buzzfeed quiz Which Design Aesthetic Are You because I had a few minutes to kill before lunch.

I really had to laugh at my results.

I'm a Wes Anderson movie? Who? I had to Google Wes Anderson. Have never seen one of his movies and probably never will. Not my twee cup of tea. Though I adore bad puns.

Paperback books don't have to be vintage for me to enjoy them.

Franciose Hardy records. Does anyone still listen to records? And who is Hardy?

Cardigans. Yes, at this stage of the game, I prefer cardigans. First you're hot, then you're cold. Then hot again. Much easier to pull a cardigan on and off than to pull a crewneck sweater on and off all day long. And my "cardigan du jour" is actually a rattie hoodie with a sherpa fleece lining.

Knee socks? Not since I was in elementary school. But I do occasionally adjust my crew socks.

Thrift-store sifting skills. The Little Princess doesn't really like to shop and hates sifting through racks or bins. I'm not into the thrill of the hunt.

Practicing your cursive. Dead on.

Did you take the quiz?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tools, Gadgets, and Widgets - Cupcake Liners

You know when you've spent a morning baking muffins or cupcakes, and you sit down to relax with one of the tasty beauties, and you peel the paper off and most of the muffin sticks to the paper? Yeah, not good. Until now. I found a package of silicone baking cups at Walmart. Unfortunately, the Little Princess can't remember the price. Probably $5 or $6 for the package of 8. And a note to the manufacturer, muffin pans have 12 holes.

Initially expensive, but they are reusable and dishwasher safe. And muffins and cupcakes release easily. I only found them in happy, primary colors.Though if baking for school, fund raiser, or taking to someone's house, I would still use the paper baking cups so the silicone ones wouldn't get thrown away accidentally. I'm cheap frugal that way.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Golden Thread

I can see productivity today is going down hill. Ewan Clayton's The Golden Thread, The Story of Writing arrived. I was fortunate to be able to study Half-Uncials with Ewan at Odyssey 2001. He's a patient and knowledgeable instructor. The book will be a good read.

What are you reading?

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Friday Five Good Things

Five good things that happened this week

1. Picked up the dining room chair from the Antique Doc. You can't even tell the arm was repaired

2. Got an idea for The Graceful Envelope Contest

3. Sunday, the washer leaked a bit of water into the basement. The repairman arrived Tuesday afternoon. Turns out there was a clog of gunk in the soap dispenser tube. Happily, the Little Princess didn't have to go to the laundromat.

4. The college where Himself and The Eldest work, closed on Wednesday due to bad weather. Another snow day with everyone home safe and sound. Too bad, The Young One had to miss a snow day. She's still in CA working on her MQP

5. Eldest asked if I wanted to watch TV with her on her day off. Twenty-somethings don't always want to hang out with the old lady. It was nice to be included in her interests.

How was your week?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What Do You Do

when you're sick of the cold and snow? And Mother Nature dumps another 14 inches of snow on top of you? You make your own little corner of Spring.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Feast of Saint Blase

Today, is the Feast of Saint Blase. I always thought his name should be spelled Blaise, otherwise his name looks like blasé. Blase was a physician, Bishop, and a later a martyr (fast track to sainthood) around the 5th or 6th century. Supposedly, he cured a child who was choking on a fish bone. Blase was the saint you asked to protect you from illness and diseases of the throat. 

When I was in elementary school, the nuns would herd us across the street to the lower church every 3. February (if the day fell on a school day) for a Mass and blessing of the throat ceremony. We were probably too noisy or it would take too long for the some 200 or 300 of us to go to Mass with the adults upstairs.

At the ceremony, we'd line up by class along the altar rail. The priest and an altar boy would come down the line stopping at each child. The priest held a pair of crossed candles and shoved the V of the candles under the neck. At the same time and very quickly like he was an auctioneer, he would intone the blessing:
Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (He said Ghost back in the olden days). He'd make the Sign of the Cross and move on down the line. 

As a little kid, I was terrified of the candles. They weren't the delicate, dining room tapers pictured here, but the honking, size of your mother's arm candles. I'd worry that the candles would be lit and my beanie (part of the school uniform) and my hair would catch on fire. As the candles were jammed under the throat, each kid would make an involuntary choking sound, try to respond Amen while making the Sign of the Cross before returning to the pew.

Even though St. Blase had his own feast day, he must have been a minor saint because we never got his day off from school. On holy days of obligation, the feast day of St. Patrick (17. March), patron saint of the school, and the feast of St. Joseph (19. March) patron saint of the order of the nuns who taught at the school, we'd be dismissed and sent home after Mass.

Was the ceremony effective? It probably had the same success rate as a rodent predicting the end of winter, but certainly didn't hurt.  Wait, I think I smell ozone! 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

That's More Like It

 I used a combination of two recipes. This recipe for the ingredient amounts. The recipe made two loaves of bread so I cut the amounts in half (just in case I had to dump the loaf in the garbage, again). The addition of the yeast meant shorter proofing and rise times. Not authentic, but the yeast would insure a happy outcome.

The recipe called for the bread to be baked at a high temperature, but also called for a steam bath to be placed under the loaf so the bread would brown nicely. So after I had already mixed the ingredients and they were proofing, I came across this recipe at King Arthur Flour (brand of flour I use). The recipe was similar and called for the bread to be baked at a higher temperature too, but to get the nice, golden brown color, water was spritzed on the bread before baking. Much easier than the steam bath. The bread was lighter than the doorstop I baked. It had a crispy crust, soft texture, and a mild tangy flavor.

While the bread was proofing and rising, I read Werewolves of Wisconsin, and didn't creep myself out. Okay, I did,  but it only happened on the story where a lonely traveler stops at a tavern for the night and ends up drinking a beer from a stein filled with spiders. I have an irrational fear of spiders. Even when they are in books or movies.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

How Not to Bake Sourdough Bread

I've been baking bread for many years and consider myself an intermediate bread baker. Earlier this week, I decided to try my hand at baking sourdough bread, and I made sourdough starter. Fed and watered Francisco and on Friday it was ready to use. I followed the recipe and instructions to bake a delicious loaf. Since the process was to take a long time, I started at noon. I thought by 6pm, the house would be filled with an amazing aroma and I'd have a nice, crunchy loaf of sourdough bread.

At midnight, I was still waiting for the dough to rise. Himself and The Eldest had gone to bed. I played on Facebook. Checked if there were any blog postings. Then I cruised Amazon and Barnes and Noble looking for ebooks. Happily found my pal, Andy Fish's graphic novel, Werewolves of Wisconsin was finally available as an ebook.  Had a bit of panic when I couldn't find the book in my Nook selections. Took me awhile to figure out there's a separate comic listing.

I live in a rural area. No sidewalks, no street lights at night. My neighbor, Prissy, had gone to bed, and I couldn't even see the outline of her house in the dark. It was deathly silent, and then I thought I saw a flash of movement by the dining room window. Andy's character with the top hat and leering smile ( he looks like Baron Samedi) beamed up at me from the book. That was it! I was too creeped out and will have to wait until broad daylight to finish.

Somewhere, around 1:30 AM, I decided to go take a nap, get up and bake the bread around dawn. The dough looked like it had finally risen. I set the oven and the timer. The bread was a nice, golden brown and as heavy as a brick. Instead of baking a loaf of bread, I baked a beautifully shaped, door stop.

What did I learn? I'm too old to pull all-nighters. Too much of a candyass to read creepy stories in the dead of night. Next time, if I follow this recipe again, I'll let the sponge proof over night so the baking can be done in the morning.