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Archive for February, 2011

 

            Have you ever really thought about where your food comes from?  Whether you have or not, I recommend reading the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver takes you on a year long journey through eating off of the land.  She walks you through the experience every step of the way and allows you to truly appreciate the majesty of Mother Nature while discussing the current issues of our food system.

            Recently, our nation has been dramatically concerned with the rising prices of fuel.  Many of us try to cut back in our driving by taking closer vacations and carpooling or taking public transportation.  But have you ever noticed how the food in your kitchen plays a part?  Consider the California tomatoes you purchase, they travel thousands of miles using a great amount of fuel and energy to keep them “fresh.”  I expect that there are truly fresh tomatoes at a farmers market within 20 miles from your home.  Try the local tomatoes.  Even in the grocery store, if you have the choice between apples from a neighboring state and apples from a far away country, choose the one more local.

            Not only does choosing local foods help reduce the negative impact on our environment, fresher food tastes better.  When I was a little girl, my grandmother had a raspberry bush in her backyard.  I used to eat the berries right as soon as they were ripe.  To this day I have not tasted a raspberry with so much flavor.  I long for those raspberries.  To me, they are the epitome of summer.  The book includes several recipes to help you take advantage of produce that is in season, which you can find at www.animalvegetablemiracle.com.

            This book also further instilled in me the desire to know exactly what I am putting in my body.  Studies have shown that free-range eggs and commercial eggs have significantly different nutritional properties.  The same goes for beef.  The information in this book and other research I’ve done has pushed me to make sure that my food does not contain added hormones or genetically modified ingredients. 

            I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s best to leave plants and animals as God intended them.  What a concept.  At the end of the day, you are what you eat: a hormonally injected and genetically modified being or fresh, local flavor.

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This bread recipe has replaced my need for store bought bread!  It’s so easy and can be done in an afternoon with about half an hour of actual work.  I adapted it from Meghan Monahan’s Honey Wheat Bread recipe at http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/honey-wheat-bread-ii/Detail.aspx.  I changed All-Purpose Flour to Bread Flour.  The bread flour makes the deliciously chewy quality of bread.

I recommend using Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Flour and King Arthur Bread Flour. 

Yield: 2 loaves

Ingredients:

2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 cups whole wheat flour

4 1/3 cups bread flour

Directions:

Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add honey and stir well.  Mix in whole wheat flour, salt, and vegetable oil.  Work bread flour in gradually.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 15 minutes.  When dough is smooth and elastic, place it in a well oiled bowl.  Turn it several times in the bowl to coat the surface of the dough and cover with a damp cloth.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough.  Shape into two loaves and place into two well greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.  Allow to rise until dough is 1 to 1 ½ inches about pans, 30 to 45 minutes.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes.

Place bread onto a cooling rack.  Do not cut into bread until it has fully cooled.  Freeze one loaf and save for later.

How to know when you are done kneading:

When you can stretch a small piece of the dough into a very thin, translucent rectangle without tearing it, you are done kneading.  If you knead the dough by hand, you cannot knead it too much, so just keep going!  Also, when the dough is done, it will be smooth and when you press it slightly with your finger, it will bounce back.  For more information, go to http://www.wikihow.com/Knead-Dough and http://www.make-your-own-bread.com/kneading.html.

How to know when your bread is done:

Your bread should slide out of the pan on its own when it is turned upside down.  The bottom will be hard to the touch.

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Why Sew???

  • Clothes Fit the Way they Should

Standard store clothes rarely fit me in a way that is flattering and exactly as it should be.  For me, shopping has turned into more of a chore than a fun activity.  It is crazy that all women supposedly fit into a handful of sizes, which don’t allow for different bust or hip sizes.  Sewing allows me to create clothes that flatter my shape and fit correctly.

  • Halloween

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday.  I love dressing up in crazy outfits.  Because I know how to sew, I’m not confined to whatever is available in stores.  Whatever I can imagine I can create.

  • Bring Old Clothes Back to Life
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I’ve become more conscious of myself as a consumer and my impact on the world.  I don’t like to see things go to waste.  Now I can update old clothes by embellishing or adding to them.  I can also combine multiple old pieces into something new.  I feel innovative, creative, and thrifty!

  • Become More Self-Reliant

I have great respect for people who are self-sufficient.  My mother’s side of the family moved from Norway to homestead in North Dakota at the turn of the 20th century.  They built a farm, a home, a life; you name it, they did it.  Even if it’s comparatively a small accomplishment, I feel good that I can hem, alter, and create my own clothing.  No more taking clothes to the tailor!

  • Get Exactly What You Want
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Have you ever gone into a store and found the perfect shirt if only it was in a different color?  Or the perfect dress but they don’t have your size?  Or the perfect skirt if only it was a different length?  Sewing gives you the power to take that image and create it exactly how you want.  I get more comments on clothes that I make than clothes that I buy.  Why?  Because they express my personality, fit the way they should, and I feel great wearing them!

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This winter a co-worker of mine took a knitting class and raved about it.  She brought in her book Stitch ‘n Bitch by Debbie Stoller and showed me all of the projects she was working on.  She made it sound like so much fun and I wanted some kind of wrist warmers while I worked on my computer at night.  Like I need another hobby…but I couldn’t resist!  She taught me the basics and I started Googling knitting patterns at night.

I found the best website for knitting patterns, which made me even more excited about knitting, www.garnstudio.com.  Garn Studio features DROPS Design patterns and the patterns are free!  They also have fantastic tutorial videos that I continue to use.

To learn the basics, I made this scarf from the pattern I found at http://knitswellwithothers.blogspot.com/2002/02/alpaca-furry-goodness-scarf.html.

My hands were still chilly, so I found a DROPS pattern I loved.  It was definitely trial and error learning how to work circularly and do a cable pattern.  They are not perfect, but they get the job done.

My husband saw my warm hands and wanted some of his own.  He didn’t want the cable, of course, so I altered the pattern the best I knew how and made him black wrist warmers with a ribbed pattern.  Now his hands are warm too!

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While my parents visited this summer, they bought me a sewing machine.  When I was little, my mom always made my Halloween costumes from scratch.  No matter what I wanted to be, she would find a way to make it.  I loved it!  When I wanted a specific Homecoming dress, she would make it.  For my wedding, my grandma made my veil and attached it to a hair comb with white flowers.  My dress was cream with champagne trim and she dyed the flowers with tea to match it perfectly. 

When I have kids, I want to be able to make them any Halloween costume they want.  I want to be able to alter and hem clothing without taking it to a tailor.  I want to be able to create clothes that fit perfectly.  I want to create the clothes I imagine in my dreams.

I’m just a beginner…these are my first projects.

While my mom was in town, she helped me go through a project from beginning to end so I would know the gist of the process and be able to navigate a pattern on my own.  I chose an easy full length summer dress and added a belt.  The fabric is so breezy and comfortable.  I can’t wait for summer to wear it again!

 

After that, I tried some small projects on my own: a black vest to wear with a long-sleeve knit shirt or a button down, a cropped eye-lit jacket that looks great with a white tank top in spring, and a scarf from some fabric left over from a dress.  However, my favorite project so far is the plaid dress.

 

Then I started wondering if there was anything I could do to spruce up old clothes in my closet that I didn’t wear anymore.  I had grey pants and black pants that I didn’t wear anymore and I made them into this vest!  I used the grey pants as the main part of the vest and the welts and the black pants for part of the lining and the ruffle at the bottom.  The only thing I bought was the buttons.

 

I want to turn more of my old clothes into new clothes that I feel good about wearing.  If you have any ideas, please comment!

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Here is my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe I tweaked from Gourmet magazine, which was adapted from Carla Rollins.  They are perfectly gooey, sweet, and delicious!

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking soda

1 ½ tsp salt

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 ½ tsp vanilla

1 12-oz. bag Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  Beat butter and sugars in a large bowl at high speed until pale and fluffy (about 2 to 3 minutes).  Add the three eggs to the butter mixture, beating until creamy (about 1 minute).  Beat in vanilla.  Reduce mixer to low speed and mix in flower mixture until just blended, then stir in chocolate chips.  Using a cookie scoop, place small balls of cookie mixture on greased cookie sheet.  Bake until golden, about 10 minutes.

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I am a member of a local organization called the DuPage Art League in Wheaton, IL.  It is a place where members can submit their artwork for sale, take classes, and surround themselves with art and artists.  Each month there is a new theme and members are allowed to submit two pieces for judging.

February’s theme was “Games People Play.”  I submitted these two pieces.  “Summer Games” received a merit award.

Summer Games

The Dog who Lost the Poker Game

 

I’m working on a piece for March’s gallery.  The theme is “Green.”  Seems broad…but I thought it was kind of tricky…we’ll see how it turns out…

Work in Progress

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