Sunday 27 January 2013

First Try At Breadmaking

I'm still stuck in the house nursing my knee.  It's really not such a bad thing because I'm making real progress on straightening out cabinet drawers, sewing curtains and whittling away at my Pinterest pins.

You all assured me I could make bread.  You gave me tips and offered recipes.  You also told me to make cinnamon buns first. I'd have made a terrible Dorothy in Oz because I never want to "begin at the beginning".

Here is official loaf #1! ~

It's doesn't look quite like the one from The Italian Dish ~

I'll grant you that mine is considerably smaller and rather resembles a bowling ball.  Hey, she's had more practice than I have and writes an amazing, full scale cooking blog.  You really should check out her site!  It's  one of my favourite foodie blogs.  Everything is made from scratch, with natural ingredients and the directions are detailed and easy to understand.  She includes videos of methods that may be difficult to grasp by just reading them.  Trust me on The Italian Dish being worth the hop over there!  You have to go over there, anyway, for the recipe because it's wayyy too long for me to write out.

The ingredient list is simple enough.  I've bought fresh yeast, like Mel from Mellywood's Mansion told me to and took her advice on storing it in the freezer.  Other than that, I needed sea salt, flour and water.  Of course I deviated from the recipe and used organic whole wheat flour.  ~

Are we all still hating my kitchen counter?  Let's all just look at the Medalta bowl and the wooden spoon from Greece.  That's better.

The whole process got a little more difficult when I put the yeast in the warm water.  It appears yeast makes Maeve crazy!  This 3 pound cat's normal voice is only a whisper.  If she's very frightened OR you put yeast in water, you can hear her scream a mile away! ~

I keep pushing her away with my foot and mix the whole thing together with the wooden spoon because I don't have a fancy, shmancy mix master with a dough paddle.  I also don't have a special dough keeper box so I stretch some cling wrap over the bowl and poke a hole in the top to let the gasses out.  

It's kind of cold in this old house, with our double digit low temps this week, so I put the bowl on my warming element set on low and left the dough to rise for 2 hours. ~

Into the fridge it goes (the dough, not the cat) and sets overnight.

I had a little more trouble with the shaping part.  You have to stretch the top down and wrap it under the bottom until it forms a smooth 'gluten cloak'.  It's supposed to take 30 seconds for this operation.  Uh huh. I know I'm handling the dough too much, but I'm determined to get a 'gluten cloak'.

Six tries later, I gave up and decided my bread was a fuzzy lumberjack shirt wearer!~

Let 'er rise for another 30 mins. and pop it in the oven for 30 mins. ~

It sings, like she said it would, with little crackling sounds.  It's baked right through.  It sounds hollow when you tap it.  

Now, for the taste test. ~

Yummm!  This stuff is good for a few extra pounds!  Yes, I gave Maeve some and she heartily approved of home made bread.

There you have it.  I've made artisan (bowling ball shaped) bread for about 40 cents a loaf.  You guys were right - I can do it!  

Thursday 24 January 2013

Water Slide Decals

There is an up side to being laid up with a bum knee.  I'm attacking all those small projects and Pinterest pins I've been storing up to do.

Before Christmas, I ordered some water slide decals from Carol at The Polka Dot Closet.  She has a great tutorial on how to make your own here.  Since I didn't have the foggiest notion how to do a water slide decal transfer, I decided to order the ones she had already made and skip the design process.  To check out her shop click here.

She sent me three sheets of black and white and coloured designs. ~

Following her detailed directions and her advice to start with a small decal, I transferred a vanilla label to an antique bottle that I bought for 10 cents. ~

The whole process took less than a minute and was easy peasy to do!  I moved on to a medium size decal and put it on a dollar store glass container that nicely holds a full package of Q-tips. ~

It's a simple process of cutting out the decal from the sheets and immersing it in warm water for 15 to 30 seconds.  Place the decal in place and slide the paper backing off.  Smooth out any bubbles and let the decal dry for an hour.  For more detailed instructions, go to Carol's tutorial at The Polka Dot Closet.

These decals work on any non porous surface and the possibilities are endless.  What a simple and easy process to add script and pattern to painted furniture pieces!  Everyday glass, ceramics and metal become something special with a decal added!  Or, how about adding labels to spice jars and canisters?

Carol's blog is one of the sites I go to for regular inspiration.  She has a gift for making things pretty and, as a long time dealer in antiques and collectibles, is wonderful for sharing her ideas, methods and experience in reselling treasures.

Of course, my day couldn't end without a little adventure.  I had just finished doing the decals and was sitting down to sew when the power went out.  We're in a deep freeze here in Ontario with temperatures hitting -28 C.  No power means no heat!  Where I live in the country, it means no water, too.

For five hours there was nothing to do but take a step back in time.  I lit a great many candles, fired up the Vermont Castings wood stove and settled in with Jane Austen's Mansfield Park.  Add in a couple of cats, basking in the heat from the fire, and it was one perfect day to me!

This week I'm partying over at ~ Rustic Restorations Weedkend Linky PartyThat DIY PartyCreative Bloggers Party And HopMonday Funday Link PartyMake It Pretty MondayTransformed TuesdaysNifty Thrifty TuesdayBudget Decorating PartyTweak It TuesdayTransformation TuesdayAll Star Block PartyClever Chicks Blog HopA Crafty SoireeUnder $100 Linky PartyThe Wildly Original CrowdShare You Cup ThursdayOpen House ThursdaysThursday Favorite Things Blog HopSaturday Nite Special

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Birthdays And Barometers

So many emails have come in asking me where the heck I've been that I knew I had to get a post up today. I'm here guys and I'm fine (well sort of fine) and I meant to let you know several hours ago.  But .... I crashed my computer and I know absolutely nothing about fixing it.  I couldn't even get into Google, where someone knows how to fix everything.  I fixed it myself!!!  Just because I love you all so much, I've worked on this baby for 4 hrs. and it's 1 a.m. and I'm posting!

This is a perfect end to my last ten days.

Day 1  - Have to do more renos on the property I'm trying to sell and refuse to tell you about it because it's getting embarrassing that a professional stager cannot get her own rental property sold!  Climb 12' ladder to clean out gutters.  Manage to not fall off ladder.  Cross street to get tools from my house and fall in middle of highway.  Have no idea why I'm lying in middle of highway, in great pain.  Make it back to my house.  Feed chickens and go back to rental with tools.  Tell everyone I'm working with that I don't think I can keep at it because my knee is badly swollen.  Have sister insist on taking me to emergency and spend entire evening waiting to have knee X-rayed.  Knee is not broken but tendon is damaged.

Day 2,3,4,5 - Try to get through to my doctor's office by hitting speed dial all day.  Get sick from meds given at hospital.  Fall in love with an ice pack.  Refuse to tell you another ridiculous thing has happened to me!

Day 7,8 - Wish someone had run over me when I was in middle of road and ended my torture.

Day 9 - Wait four hours in doctor's office to find out I have torn tendon in knee and that is why I fell.  Get new drugs.  Feel kind of grateful tendon didn't tear when I was up on ladder!

Day 10 - Wonder how long I can stay on these steroids without yelling at people or becoming a pro cyclist.

Last Friday was my birthday and my daughter and grandkids drove down from the farm to give me an impromptu birthday lunch. The little kids decorated the cake themselves and proved there's no such thing as too many sprinkles in the icing! ~ 

My tablescape is an interesting mixture of silver, Royal Doulton china, plastic containers, vintage linen napkins, drinking boxes and wrinkled tablecloth.  I expect you will all want to copy the look. ~

Amish Girl found a brightly coloured stuffed toy upstairs and fell in love with it.  I explained that I couldn't give it to her because he was Mr. Happy and he takes in all the sadness and anger someone has and sends back happy feelings.  You all know how competent Amish Girl is.  She also has a lot of bad feelings from the time before she joined our family.  She is very accomplished at letting those feelings out in legendary rages.  In a teeny, tiny voice she said, "I have a lot of anger and sadness."  Her sisters nodded, vehemently, in agreement.  "Couldn't you just keep a picture of Mr. Happy and let me take him home?".

What a great idea and she thought it all up herself!  ~

Amish Girl and I need to remember the lesson I learned when I bought an antique barometer.  I thought it was broken, because it always registered CHANGE in the weather with a slight tip toward FAIR. ~

I had decided to get rid of it and then I realized it wasn't broken at all.  The weather did always change and, sooner or later, the weather would be fair!


Tuesday 15 January 2013

Simple Onion Cheese Loaf

It's soup weather here in Canada and what's a bowl of soup without an nice, big hunk of bread to go along with it!  One of my goals this year is to learn how to make my own bread.  So far, I'm really good at pinning recipes for the most amazing artisan breads and that's about it.

I have made a simple onion and cheese loaf for years and thought I'd make one today to chase away the January blahs.  This is a no yeast, no rising and kneading loaf that takes absolutely no baking skills to turn out.  I've no idea where I got the original recipe but suspect it may have been one of those Company's Coming cookbooks.

This is everything you are going to need for this loaf.  I'll give you the measurements at the end of the post. ~

Most people decant their wine.  I decant my milk into a glass bottle.  Try it!  The milk is so much colder and better tasting!

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. ~

Cut the cold butter into the dry goods until it's crumbly. ~

Stir in the grated cheese. ~

Pretty simple so far.  Fry minced onion in butter until it's golden brown and add to a lightly beaten egg and milk.  Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour it in.  ~

Mix the whole shebang together with a wooden spoon just until the flour has all been moistened. ~

This makes a small, dense loaf when baked so it's best to use an eight inch pan.  Grease the pan and shape your dough into a loaf shape in it.  Sprinkle some grated cheese on top and bake in a pre-heated oven at 400F for 25 minutes.  

You can play around with the flavourings and add herbs, garlic, chili powder, etc.;  whatever works with your kind of soup! ~

Put wayyy too much butter on it for your own good and enjoy!


1.5 cups all purpose flour (I use unbleached)
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. cold butter
1/2 cup grated, cheddar cheese
Combine dry ingredients and cut in butter.  Add cheese.

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tbsp. butter
Fry onion in butter until golden brown

1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
Combine beaten egg, milk and onion and pour into well in centre of dry ingredients.  Stir until flour is moistened and forms a soft dough.  Pat dough into an 8", greased pan.

Sprinkle cheese on top and bake in oven preheated to 400 F for 25 mins.

This is my warm up to making a real loaf of bread.  Honestly, I'm going to do it!

Friday 11 January 2013

The Correct Way To Burn Candles

One of the cheapest ways to create ambiance in the home is to have lovely candles lit. ~

When I opened my first home decor shop, I approached a company about carrying their line of upscale candles.  They agreed to be my supplier on the condition that I allowed their representative give me instruction on how to correctly burn a candle.  Duh, I think I know how to do that already.

It turns out this company knew what they were doing.  If someone pays $10 or more for a candle, they will return it if it doesn't meet their expectations.  That looks bad for the company and the shop and, as it happens, I didn't know quite as much as I thought!

You need to trim the wick to no more than 1/4 of an inch in length.  Any longer and the flame is too large.  The heat from the flame will melt the candle at an accelerated rate. This causes excessive wax dripping. ~

If you want to avoid your candle burning too deep rather than evenly across to the outsides, you must burn it as many hours as it is wide each time you light it. ~

This pillar candle is 2 1/2 inches wide and should only be lit if you intend to leave it burning for 2 1/2 hours.  Opt for a smaller candle if you think you will not be having it lit that long.  A 1" or votive candle would be a better choice in that case.

I always trimmed the wicks before I wrapped up my customer's candle purchase.  In six years, I only had one candle returned.  She was a good customer and I promptly refunded her money.  Each day, at work, I lit that candle and burned it for the full 4 hours the width indicated.  It burned evenly to a tiny puddle of wax in the end.  Because this customer knew me so well, I felt comfortable showing her the end result and she became a regular user of the line.

It's important to use the appropriate holder for your candle.  A votive will burn evenly and completely in a container that fits snugly to it's sides.  Too short or too loose a container will cause it to burn too quickly.  The holder on the left is perfect and the one on the right will leave you with a melted mess! ~

 Tea lights need to be left in the metal holder to keep their shape and for fire safety.  You can disguise the metal holder with candle sand, salt, coffee beans, etc. ~

For fire safety and to protect my walls, I always use a sconce with a glass shield.  Candle sand, which is available in a variety of colours, is an extra level of security.  It also lets the melted wax harden and it can be lifted off the sand in a single sheet. ~

If the area is unsafe or if I'll be leaving the candle unattended, I go to battery operated candles  ~

A bobeche is a cup or ring that catches melted wax as it drips down the side of tapers.  You can buy simple ones at department and dollar stores.  This one is from the Victorian era and has lovely crystal prisms.  It's not original to the mercury  glass candlestick but I like the look of them together.  Like the girondelles (mirror backed candle sconces), of the time when all lighting was by candle, they are intended to reflect the light of the flame and double it's effectiveness. ~

I have a habit of tossing all my candles in a drawer and the soft wax picks up all kinds of dust and bits of stuff.  Stretch a pair of pantyhose over your hand and that stuff buffs right off the candle! ~

It's nice to have a long necked candle lighter and a candle snuffer.  If you don't have a snuffer, hold your finger vertically in front of the candle before you blow it out.  That stops the wax from spraying outward from the candle. ~ 

Remember that the flame throws off a lot of heat.  A tight grouping of candles is very pretty but it does cause them all to burn down quicker and less evenly. And, of course, you need to remove the paper labels before you light them. ~

A hurricane protects your candle from drafts and ensures an even burn.  Any heat resistant material will do the job just fine.  I use everything from sealer jars to cut crystal vases.  This HOPE hurricane is a favourite of mine! ~ 

With a few, simple pointers you can get maximum use from your candles and surround yourself with all the beauty and romance of candlelight.

Face it girls, we all look better in the light of a flickering candle! 

I'm sharing with:  Make It Pretty MondayThursday Favorite Things Blog HopTransformation ThursdayWildly Original Link Party

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Kitchen Notions Box

 I've tweaked a corner of the kitchen. ~

It's the kind of day where you want to stay inside, putter around the kitchen and leave the riverbank to hardier species than I. ~

When my friend Wendy saw that I was using cobalt blue accents for the kitchen she gifted me with a little box with four blue china drawers.  It isn't vintage and had the white, chalky primer paint usual to far east wooden pieces.  I  gave the box a quick coat of the grey paint I used on the cabinets and left it at that until after Christmas.

Today, I used a Coats thread advertisement I found on The Graphics Fairy to give it a bit more interest.  I just printed out the label and glued it on to the top of the box. ~

I've been saving this image on my Pinterest Printables board and this is the perfect application for a sewing notions ad.  Coats is my grandmother's maiden name.

I printed off a notions label and glued that on the box as well.  The little drawers are perfect for holding all those odds and ends that wind up in the kitchen.  Elastic bands, rings, and twist ties are easy to find and hidden from sight. ~

I didn't have a single blue accessory in this house until I came upon this rather rare, early 1800's flow blue plate.  I absolutely had to have it!  The pattern is called Middleport and that's the name of the village where I live. ~

Sorry the picture isn't very clear, but I didn't take it for the blog and had no intention of showing it to you until I had the whole display put together perfectly.

That will never happen.  You see, with all the family here on Christmas Eve, I took the wire bread basket off the wall.  See the basket to the right of the plates? ~

Without lowering my arm, I popped my head around the corner to answer a question and ...CRASH!  Down came the plate, shattered into a dozen pieces.  I stared in disbelief that a plate wasn't safe hanging above the doorway.  Everyone was talking at once until I asked them to give me a moment to grieve.  A couple of minutes later I came back in the room, told them I was over it and we could carry on with dinner.

Nary a trace of that plate was in sight and it's never been mentioned since.

Now you all know that I'm an antique plate murderer and can't be trusted with things even if they're hung three feet above my head!

I'm sharing this with:  Graphics Fairy Brag MondayWow Us WednesdaysTransformed TuesdaysMake It Pretty MondayTweak It TuesdayKnick Of Time TuesdayBudget Decorating PartyBloom Link PartyAll Star Block PartyWildly Original Link Party, Creative Things,  Thursday Favorite Things Blog HopA Crafty SoireeFrugal FridayA Favorite ThingNifty Thrifty SundaySaturday Show & TellOpen House Party ThursdaysDIY Project ParadeMore The Merrier MondayCreative Bloggers Party & HopMonday Funday Link PartySilver Pennies Sunday

Sunday 6 January 2013

It's Okay To Be Different

My eldest grandchild, Michael, is a painter.  Not a house painter.  That would be very helpful to me right now.  He's an artist.  This family has way too many artists and not nearly enough trades people.  Which means, it's very difficult to get anything fixed but we have endless ways of immortalizing whatever is broken.  At this very moment I can't drive my car unless I want to go everywhere with the alarm blaring and the lights flashing.  I'll have to drive it like that to some other woman's grandchild and get it fixed.  My grandson can paint an amazing work about the angst of public humiliation and my daughter can write a social commentary song about people who are forced to drive old, purple station wagons.  That's before we get to the ones who work in film, literature, etc!

Anyway, I'm chatting away with Michael about how he gets inspired to paint and what drives him to choose his subject matter.

I like this interpretation of an earlier, somewhat well known artist's work.  Her smile has always been considered mysterious. ~

This one may be a leetle bit easier to work into my home decor. ~

Some works are studies of humanity. ~

Some are more abstract. ~

As we talked about the nature of art and what it means to create, I asked him how living with physical limitations affected his creative choices.  Mic has Cerebral Palsy and has had to deal with impaired use of one arm and leg throughout his life.  He answered, "No more than being left handed has affected me."  

That totally took me by surprise until he explained that being left handed, in a right handed world, meant always accommodating yourself to someone else.  You have to make sure you don't bump the right handed person's elbow during dinner and accept everything being placed where it is more convenient for the bulk of the population to reach it.  He could easily rhyme off a dozen ways a left handed person tries to fit in with the rest of the world.  Having any kind of a disability is just an exaggerated case of having to fit into a world that doesn't do a heck of a lot to make sure everyone is considered.

One day, Mic decided he wasn't going to try to be like everyone else any more and started living life on his own terms.  That's when he started to really paint and he hasn't slowed down since.

It made me think of all the time we waste in our lives working at being just like everyone else.  From our hairstyles and clothing to our designer dogs and cars, we are looking to be accepted.  

The really strange part of it all is that we admire and copy people who are noticeably different.  This guy sure doesn't fit the mould but he has thousands of grown men wearing plastic bead bracelets! ~

Growing up in a family of six kids, you had to be fast to get the favourite spoon for your morning cereal  ~

The black plastic handle was rather worn.  The rest was plain old stainless steel.  So what was so wonderful about it that we all fought over it?  It was different.  There was only one and that made it special!

So, I'm thinking the first key to being inspired is to give yourself permission to be one of a kind!  

Maybe it is useful to have a grandson that is an artist.  Thanks for the inspiration Michael Grey Shepherd!
(Even if you can't fix my car)

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Inspiration In 2013

The old year has crept away with all it's good times and bad and left behind it's customary gift for allowing it to share 365 days with us.  That gift, of course, is experience.

I look back at the old year and am amazed at where I started and how it unfolded.  My year started in fear and sadness.  It seemed as if the universe was conspiring to pull the rug out from under my feet every way it could.

 The daughter you know as Farm Girl wasn't recovering from her last grand mal seizure.  Life revolved around caring for her, pulling strings to get her in to see the best neurologist in the country and caring for her children.  Tests results were not good.  She was having almost continuous small seizures and the body cannot withstand that for very long.

I was away from home a great deal, staying at the farm, and my beloved Sarah cat was ill.  For eleven years that, once feral, cat had been a constant source of comfort to me.  As terrified as she was of people, she never bit or scratched a soul.  She loved me so much the vet asked me to leave the room because they couldn't hear her heart for the purring she was directing my way.  She couldn't be saved and continued to purr for me until her last breath.

They say trouble comes in threes and my tenant stopped paying rent and was destroying my rental property. A long and costly legal battle began to evict her and an equally long and costly renovation began to make the place saleable.

I often looked at this old postcard on my desk and wondered if things would ever get any better.

So, I chose a word to focus on and made a little sign to hang on my bedroom wall. ~

It reminded me that I might not be able to change everything around me, but I could search for ways to be at peace with each day.  It took months to begin to sink in and become part of who I was.  Little by little, I learned to live in the moment and not dwell in the past.  I learned to accept the good in the day and not anticipate terrible things that may happen tomorrow.  I was not running the universe nor was I responsible for every bad thing that happened in it.  I began to feel a true sense of peace within myself.

I still miss Sarah but I know I had something very special with her.  I've had many wonderful four legged friends and I'm very, very lucky to have had one that was so in tune with me, and I with her, that her absence is still felt so acutely a year later.

The rental property is in better condition than it ever was and on the market waiting for a new family to love it as much as my parents did, when it was their home.

Best of all, is that Farm Girl responded well to new medications and is back to running her farm and caring for her large family with all her old passion and joy!

I wouldn't dream of starting into this new year without a word!

I have chosen Inspiration for 2013.  The Oxford dictionary describes it as:  The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something;  esp. to do something creative:  "flashes of inspiration".

Inspiration, in my belief, isn't something that comes in a lightning bolt from the sky.  You have to go looking for it.  It's all around me in the people I know and the natural world.  It's in books, art, music and film.  It's all over the Internet and the airwaves.  It's in our houses of faith and our institutions of learning.  Most certainly it  is there in the people who are working for positive change in our world!

I'm going to seek it out and pass as much of it on as I can to you in 2013!

Feel free to download any of these images if you are inspired to use them.

Here's a black and white version of the postcard as well. ~

You didn't know how much your friendship and kind words meant to me last year, did you?  You didn't have any idea that you were a large part of my finding peace.  I wonder how many people you have helped and inspired.  We never really know, do we?  Now you know of one who thanks you from the bottom of her heart and wishes you a wonderful and happy new year!

Have a day filled with inspiration!

I'm sharing this with Jennifer's Sometimes Creative LifeWord Of The Year (2013) Link PartyWord Of The Year Link Party