Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Easy Christmas Cookies

(Sorry for the poor lighting!)

These cookies are the result of my baking so far today. I've made about 16 dozen of these cake mix cookies: Devil's Food Chocolate Chip, Milk Chocolate Chocolate Chip, & Snickerdoodles. Each batch takes 1 box of cake mix, 1 stick of butter, 2 eggs, and 1 tsp vanilla. The chocolate chip cookies each have 2/3 cup of chocolate chips and 1/3 cup of chopped pecans. The snickerdoodles were rolled in 1/3 cup sugar and 3 tsp cinnamon before baking. All were baked at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Easy peasy!

Next I'd like to try an iced lemon cookie or an oatmeal raisin carrot cake cookie. I'll let you know how that goes.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Instant masala chai

This morning I was texting one of my friends before she went to work. She has an Indian step-mother and is a big chai lover like me. I told her that I'd have a travel cup of chai ready for her if she was inclined to do a drive-by at Mik's Cafe. She was so inclined! This got me thinking...I had made up a batch of my chai masala for her but she's usually too tired to go through the whole process of boiling the water, tea, milk & spices at the end of the day to make it. What if I whipped up a batch of instant chai mix for her? She could even take it to work and make herself a cuppa whenever she wanted one?

Here's what I came up with:

Mik's Instant Masala Chai

1/2 cup dry milk powder
1 1/2 cups non-dairy creamer (try vanilla flavored creamer if you don't have vanilla sugar)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vanilla sugar (vanilla beans left in a container of sugar)
1/4 cup honey powder (found at a local Korean market - may substitute with sugar)
3/4 cup unsweetened instant tea
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/2 tsp cardamom
dash ground nutmeg
dash black pepper

Use 3 rounded kitchen teaspoonsful (not measuring spoons) per 8 oz boiling water. I'm not sure how many servings this batch will make.

Please let me know if you try this and what changes you make to suit your taste.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Turkey & Wild Rice Soup

This is a really easy recipe and a great use of leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

Turkey & Wild Rice Soup
2 Tbsp. butter
1 carton fresh button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 large onion, diced very small
1 1/2 cups chopped, cooked turkey (or chicken will work, too)
1 box Rice A Roni Long Grain & Wild Rice mix with spice pouch
3 cans chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup 1/2 & 1/2 cream

Saute mushrooms and onion in butter. Add chopped turkey, rice mix, spice pouch, broth, and water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer until rice is cooked and starts to curl. When ready to serve, add cream and just heat through.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Homecoming 2009

Here are some pictures of my son, Anthony, his date, Kelly, and their friends this past Saturday. I'm sure they all had a great time, especially since they won their game the night before against Chaparral High School by a score of 56-6! I don't know if this is just a Vegas thing, but their "party bus" had a stripper pole in it!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yay! My water kefir is fizzy!

I must have brewed 4 batches before I started on the right track. There is so much conflicting information out there. Most people say that water kefir needs to breathe, just like kombucha, and should be covered with a cloth or filter, whilst others say you need a sealed container. My previous batches were not fizzy at all so, at the risk of exploding my container, I sealed my jar and wrapped it in a towel. I even put it cabinet under the sink just in case. I left it there for two days and checked it this morning. Voila! Fizzy cranberry flavored water kefir! The fizziness only lasted a few seconds but it was good while it lasted.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shhhhh...Kombucha is sleeping!

I'm not sure why, but my kombucha brewing environment was so good that I was bottling way more than I could drink. I was doing the continuous brewing method with two batches (1 gal & 1.5 liter containers) and they were both ready to bottle within 2 days after the last bottling. I decided this morning to put one of my SCOBYs to sleep. It was the larger of the two, the one in the 1 gallon jar. That batch was particularly quick to reach drinkable stage. I found that I only had to leave the bottles out for second fermentation for one day as they reached my desired level of carbonation by that time. I was also able to find a 3 liter glass sun tea jar (plastic spigot not optimal but seems most readily available) at my local grocery store and transferred the 1.5 liter batch to the larger container, which I topped off with fresh tea/sugar solution. The pineapple is still my favorite flavor but I do enjoy a splash of guava nectar in it.

As far as my new foray into water kefir brewing, I am not sure it's going well. I got my live kefir grains in the mail on Thursday and brewed my first batch that day. I let it sit for 48 hours as was suggested. The water got slightly opaque, which is normal, I think, but not carbonated at all. I bottled it and hoped it would progress into the fizzy, soda pop-like beverage everyone is raving about, but it did not. I hate to say but I tossed it. It didn't have much flavor at all. Sortof a flat, very weak lemonade. I brewed my second batch and it, too, grew slightly opaque and looks like it's getting fizzy, but I'll see tomorrow. So as easy as it is to brew, compared to kombucha, it seems as though I'm a better kombucha brewer!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pineapple Kombucha. Yum!

I have been doing the continuous brew method so far for my two different kombuchas. I have already made three bottles for second fermentation that I've flavored differently. One black tea kombucha has cherries & ginger. That is quite good. One black tea kombucha has blueberries. Also quite good. My favorite thus far, however, is the green tea kombucha with pineapple. Yum, yum, yum! They're all slightly sweet and fizzy.

Because the SCOBY baby had gotten thicker and opaque, I decided to bottle what was left in my container and start a fresh batch instead of continuously brewing that batch. I read that new babies don't form when you're continuously brewing (not sure if this is true) and I want to build up a supply of a couple of SCOBYs before doing more continuous brewing. Also, I'd like to get myself a 1-gallon sized container to do this in, preferably something with a spigot but the only ones I've seen have either plastic or metal spigots. I've just been ladling it out a bit at a time so far and that has been working.

Just to show how quickly the baby forms, check out these pictures of my green tea SCOBY over a three day period. The last picture shows the much smaller mother culture and the new, larger baby above it.

Next up will be my foray into water kefir, which is also a probiotic loaded drink. I've just ordered some live water kefir grains from an eBay vendor and will document the process here as well.

UPDATE: While doing my grocery shopping at my local Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, I found a 1 gallon glass "cracker jar" container for under $6.00. It was just what I was looking for and the cheapest I've seen thus far. They had sun tea jars with spigots but they were plastic, so I passed on them. After washing thoroughly, I put my green KT in it and topped it off with some fresh brew.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

My Kombucha!

I'm not quite sure how I got interested in kombucha again. What is it and why should I drink it? The last time I brewed my own kombucha was 15 years ago when a classmate introduced me to it. She had problem skin and was told it would help clear it up. I don't remember why I was interested enough in it to make me want to drink it. What I do remember is that I made it in a large Tupperware bowl (not recommended anymore!) on top of my fridge and that I didn't have any instructions other than how to make it. The internet was new to me back then and I didn't think to look it up. However, with a 2 year old at home and me going to school full-time, it fell by the wayside. Back then, my friend gave me a nice big healthy SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) with which to brew my kombucha, but this time I didn't have one of those.

I started my first batch on 9/2/09 with some sweet black tea and a 16 oz. bottle of High Country Original Kombucha I purchased at Whole Foods. By this time, I had ordered a small SCOBY from a vendor on eBay, which I received on 9/6/09. I started the second batch that day with some sweet green tea. After 7 days, my first batch has formed a small SCOBY on the surface. It's still quite thin, getting a bit opaque, and has a couple of chunks of culture that were in my bottle of prepared kombucha. The smell is wonderful! It is still on the sweet side with a slight tang. The color has also changed from a typical black tea to what looks more like green tea. I need to let it go for a couple more days probably before I decant it. I'll let it sit on the counter, capped, for a couple of days further to let it develop some fizz (hopefully). I'm just afraid it'll explode!

The second batch (with the purchased SCOBY) still has a way to go. The SCOBY is resting on the bottom of the container and little chunks of a new culture are forming on the surface of the tea. It doesn't have the wonderful fermented smell yet, but it's young. I can't wait to taste the difference between the black tea and the green tea kombuchas.

I also want to try putting fruit and ginger in my tea when I decant it. I have some cherries, blueberries, and cranberries to add. Maybe even pineapple? I really love GT Dave's Kombucha drinks, especially the Synergy line. I'm especially fond of the Guava Goddess. I can see blending the homemade kombucha with some guava juice to get the same effect. Yum!

I'll post more on this later.

Friday, August 21, 2009

New QAYG Table Runner

I have been wanting to try another QAYG (quilt-as-you-go) quilt but I'm settling for a table runner at this point. I couldn't decide which method to use but decided upon the one that uses sashing strips for the front and back, and makes a completely reversible quilt. I decided upon autum colors and found a lovely batik and a fall leaves print. I'm using blocks that finish to 6" and are not pieced, just quilted. Hopefully I can finish it by Sunday as I'm kinda busy this weekend. I chose to hand sew the sashing strips down on the back side and I'm sure I'm happier with the result than I would be had I sewn them down by machine.
It goes together pretty quickly once all the pieces are cut. Bigger blocks would have been good, too. I will put a traditional binding on it in the burgundy colored fabric, which matches both sides. The sashing strips are cut to 1 1/8" for the front and left flat and 1 3/4" for the back and are pressed in half lengthwise. I found many sites online with instructions and here is just one of them from quilterscache.com.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cutting hexagon templates faster!

I don't know how many other hexie enthusiasts are cutting their own paper hexagon templates, but I wanted to share how I do it. I have been using Robyn's 2 inch hexagon template. Thanks Robyn! What I do is cut her template sheet apart in rows and then take 1-2 sheets of plain paper and accordion fold them to fit the size of the hexagons. I then put a staple in the center of each hexagon to help maintain the integrity of the template while cutting through several layers. Then I cut around each hexagon shape. This will net me around 170+ hexagon templates per template sheet! Now, if I could only sew them together that fast!

Yep, I'm back to sewing them together by hand rather than machine. It was a great experiment but I enjoy having some hand-work to do while watching TV and prefer the way hand-pieced motifs look more than machine-pieced. I still don't have a grand plan but right now it's all about the journey rather than the destination.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Back from Hawaii...

and trying to get back into the swing of things. It's hard to do when I've been gone for a month! My body is still on Hawaiian time, which is 3 hours behind Nevada time. I had very limited access to a computer while I was there since I didn't bring my own. I have loads of pictures to go through. I'd like to create a little photo album of our trip, which I've never done before.

The crocheted pot holders and hot pads were a big hit. Now I want to get more sewing done. I have a couple of apron patterns to try. This one, by Mary Mulari, is the closest thing I've found to the aprons worn on my beloved Korean dramas! I wanted to buy one but couldn't find any and didn't want to take my mom's apron from her. She offered but I resisted! My sister-in-law brought it back from Japan for her and it's too cute. If it turns out all right, I'll make one for her. As it happens, she really liked the cap I made for her to wear over her curlers and wants me to make her more in various colors. I've got to get working on that! Gina wants one in purple so she can wear it while on her new purple Harley! I bought the pattern from a seller on Etsy and it was very easy to make but I was looking for something a little more fitted, somewhat like a doo-rag. I guess I'll have to draft my own pattern.

For as long as I was there, there are a few things I failed to do. I really wanted to bring home a bunch of fabric but decided to wait until my last day to go to Fabric Mart. In the end, I had so much to do that last day that I forgot to stop at the fabric store. I wanted to bring home some food but didn't get to that either. I did manage to bring home a few little goodies for my friends and some shirts for Bernie. In the end, though, I think he's just happy to have me home and finally get some home cooked meals. It feels good to cook! I didn't do any cooking at my mom's house and since I didn't want her to feel pressured to cook for us, we ate the majority of our meals out. I'm afraid to step on the scale! Time to get back on an exercise regime and eat better!

Picture taken by my friend, David of (from L to R) his mom, Cora, my BIL, Jeff, my sister, Gina, me, my friends, Tom & his wife, Julie

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

EPP by machine getting easier!

I think I like it! This little piece, which I think will be turned into a table mat, took me about 5 hours to complete. That includes cutting and basting all the hexies, piecing the flower motifs and then sewing them all together with the border. I don't think 5 hours is so bad for this.

Once I got the hang of it, it went much faster. **Note to self: Next time, graph my design out and piece in strips rather than flowers.** In this machine pieced method, I think it would have been much easier to assemble that way. It's just so much fun, though, to see a bunch of flowers put together. I'm glad I now have an alternative to hand sewing my hexies. I still prefer the look of the hand pieced, but if I have to make a quick gift, this is the way to go.

I don't think the stitches are as noticable as they appear in the photo. I think the light from the flash just picked up the monofilament thread. I tried using cotton thread in a sample piece but it was too noticable. I could match the thread to the petals but when it came time to sew around the center yellow hexagon, the colored thread was too much, so I decided to stick with the clear monofilament.

Please let me know if you try doing it this way. I'd love to know how it worked out!

English Paper Piecing By Machine

Today I received my copy of English Paper Piecing By Machine by Julie Higgins. I bought it from an Amazon.com I have no idea why this book is selling for up to $170.00! I was fortunate enough to buy a new copy for less than $10.00!

Anyway, given my new obsession with hexies, I could not wait to get this book. Like me, although this author liked to English paper piece by hand, she wondered if it could be done by machine. I really like the projects shown in this book and I went to work right away to see if I could do it. She happens to whipstitch the pieces together with right sides facing, just as you'd do it by hand, except she does it on her machine. I didn't like the way mine looked because with this method the thread was very visible. I tried it with monofilament thread but because I had to remove the piece from the machine after sewing each joining seam, the monofilament unraveled.

In the end, I decided to assemble the flowers my own way, which is not covered in the book, by butting the pieces together and sewing them flat with a narrow width (2.5 to 3.0) zig-zag stitch with a length of 1.4. I tried them with both right sides facing up and wrong sides facing up. I prefer to sew them with right sides facing up so that the monofilament is coming off of the spool and the regular cotton thread is in the bobbin. This produces the result in picture #4 and in the flower on the right-hand side in the examples below. The flowers on the left-hand side were assembled by hand, the traditional way.

The result was just satisfactory but I did enjoy the speed by which I could put a flower together (about 20 minutes). I will have to experiment more. I think the book is very inspirational and the projects are certainly do-able with this method.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Football camp then Hawaii, woohoo!

My oldest son left for football camp in Utah this morning. He will come back on Thursday and then Friday night we head for the airport for our early morning flight to Hawaii. I'm not getting excited yet. I usually don't until I start to pack, which I always leave until the last minute. I try to make a list ahead of time so it's just a matter of gathering things together, then I pack my list in the suitcase so I don't forget to bring anything home with me. My mom has requested that I bring her some Chicharrones from a Mexican meat market or carniceria that she likes here. Yes, they make Chicharrones in Hawaii but they are more expensive and she wants a bunch. In fact, my cousin, John, who came here and made me some pinacbet, has also requested I bring some for him, along with dried cherries from Trader Joe's. It seems that they are hard to come by (or are too expensive) in Hawaii. A friend at work makes cookies with them and he wants her to make some for him. At least he promised to let me taste them!

I know Anthony is just less than 2 hours away but I miss him. Chris is excited because he gets me all to himself. This is Anthony's last high school football camp and I'm pretending that this is how I'm going to feel when he leaves for college. I don't like this feeling! Can you imagine that he doesn't want to go to Hawaii with me? He wants to hang out with his friends here for the summer. I told him that any of his friends would love the chance to go to Hawaii and that he's only going to be there for 12 days before he has to come home for football practice. This may be the last time I can get him to Hawaii with me as I don't know where he'll be after graduation. I'm hoping he can get accepted at the University of Hawaii so I can make more excuses to visit my family, yet if he goes to the University of Nevada, Reno or even University of Nevada, Las Vegas, I'd be happy to get to see him more often. I just hope he gets in somewhere as his grades aren't the greatest and he hasn't taken the SATs or ACT yet so we don't know what scores we're dealing with. Oh my son! Sometimes I want to smack him for not taking school more seriously! Now that he's going to be a senior he can see what we've been trying to drill into him for years, but I'm afraid it's too late. I know I'm not fun to be around sometimes as I usually get on the subject of school and then it turns into lecture hall, but as a mom, I only want what's best for him.

On the needles/hook? I've been crocheting more pot holders as this is so relaxing to me at night. I've been trying to set more time aside to work on my hexies but the crochet has been winning out. I even went to my opthalmologist to get a different contact lens for my right eye so that I don't have to wear my reading glasses so much anymore. I'm used to the change in vision that the two different lenses cause temporarily. I used to feel a bit nauseous when I first put my lenses in but now I don't. It's great.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Weenie Hut Jr.

The other day, the kids and I were watching Spongebob Squarepants and this episode came on. I remarked how much my little one, Chris, looked like one of the fish in the Weenie Hut Jr., the one with the braces and glasses. Of course, he took offense, and I don't blame him. I think it's pretty cool. I love my Chris!!!!!!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hot Pads

I saw these two hot pad patterns and just had to try them. They both look way more difficult than they actually are. In fact, once you make one of each you've basically memorized the patterns.

Here is the pattern for the flower shaped Starburst Hot Pad.
The assembly video is a must see as the pattern is not well written.

Here is the pattern for the Crochet Flower Hot Pad.

If you are a Ravelry member, you can see more great examples of both of these!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Richard Armitage is bringing sexy back!

Found this fan vid on YouTube, of course!

I first became aware of Richard Armitage from watching the final two episodes of the Vicar of Dibley, which was one of my favorite British comedies, starring Dawn French as the vicar. I then saw him in a BBC miniseries called North & South. He is one very handsome man! Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so. He looks like he coule be the UK's answer to Hugh Jackman. His fan base is kindof freakish in their demonstrations of admiration as evidenced by the following clip. Enjoy!:

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Canned and good to go!

After doing my research on canning/preserving, I ran out to the store this morning and bought some 1/2 pint canning jars, which I think are a much more manageable size for my marmalade. I reheated the marmalade and sterilized my jars and rings, etc. I followed the instructions here. The coolest thing is hearing the little "popping" sound the lids make when they seal as they're cooling. I knew I was on the right track then. The only bad thing is that I think I lost some of that pretty pink color (it darkened a bit) when I reheated it. I'll do better next time for sure. I canned 5 jars and put the remainder in the fridge to enjoy now. All I have to do is figure out who I'll share these goodies with.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pink Grapefruit Marmalade

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to find a jar of Elsa's Story Pink Grapefruit Preserves at Home Goods. I think I paid under $6.00 for it. It was amazing! I was hooked and immediately wanted to make some for myself. Only problem was that I had never made preserves or marmalade before and didn't know how to proceed. I Googled for recipes and when I found this one on Recipezaar.com, it sounded too good to be true. Too easy! I figured I had nothing to lose but a couple of grapefruit and some sugar. I happened to be watching the final season of Ballykissangel on DVD and one of the episodes involved a jam making competition. That was the impetus I needed to get off my butt and make the marmalade. Since I altered the recipe and process a little, I'll post the recipe here so I don't forget what I did.

Pink Grapefruit Marmalade

3 red grapefruit
1 kilo white sugar
6 tbsps. Realemon lemon juice

Place grapefruit in pressure cooker and add enough water to cover fruit halfway. Cook on high pressure 40 minutes. Release pressure and remove fruit to a large bowl with a large spoon so as not to lose any pulp. Cut fruit with a fork and knife into small pieces. Add lemon juice. Pour cut fruit into a large pot and add sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. If you have a thermometer, bring to jel stage or 220 degrees. I did not have a thermometer so I just had faith that it would turn out.

Since I made this marmalade on the spur of the moment, I didn't think enough ahead to get some canning jars so I made a quick dash to the store and bought some pint containers. I figured that whomever I gave the marmalade to would just have to consume it all within 3 weeks or risk food poisoning. I was assured by one friend that this wouldn't be a problem and after tasting it, I am sure it won't be!

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Glue stick basted hexagons

I thought I blogged about this already but I guess it must have been a dream. I've been making my hexagons like this lately for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's much faster than basting with needle and thread and secondly, my eyesight isn't what it used to be. I've realized that I need reading glasses to see what I'm doing, especially since I am making such small stitches and using needles with tiny eyes. Also, I don't see too well when I'm up at 2:00 a.m. trying to sew! I don't sleep well at all these days. In fact, I have to be completely exhausted in order to fall asleep and stay that way. I'm thinking it might be the dreaded "change of life". Anyway, back to the glue stick basting...in case you're concerned that it will be difficult to remove the papers once the hexagons are sewn together, don't be. They release just fine! I honestly haven't come across a reason not to do it this way, especially since the glue will come off in the wash and the glue sticks are readily available in any drug store and are very inexpensive! Try it, you'll like it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My new computer

My husband thinks he's pretty slick. He went behind my back and bought me a new notebook to replace the one that died. It's pretty nice but as with any new computer, you have to get used to a different keyboard.

I'm having fun playing with it. I still haven't looked at the manual, so I don't yet know what I'm missing.

I'm still plugging away at my hexagon flowers. I am now up to 3 colors, purple, pink, and teal. They all have the same yellow centers so although they're different, they work together. I only have 22 flowers put together so far but I've been steadily making at least 2 per day. I'm also testing the washable glue stick method of basting. Much faster but I don't know how great it will be when it comes time to remove the papers. The glue really sticks!

I also made a little zippered wristlet upon which I've appliqued a teacup. I just wish I put in a layer of batting or interfacing to give it a little structure, but then again, I really didn't think it would turn out.