Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bananas and Muffins


I don’t know what it is about muffins for breakfast, but I love them. What I don’t love are the processed flavors some of them have. 

Personally, I like a good, hearty muffin that will fill me up rather than an oily one that leaves me wanting more within an hour. So off to the kitchen I went to search through the cupboards and see what was available to me. Immediately the rapidly ripening banana situation I had going on in the fruit bowl informed me that they were quite ready to be mashed and baked into something delicious. And since I do like my muffins filling, oats and whole wheat flour would add extra protein and fiber to do the trick. I also don’t like them too sweet, so I knew I’d be using about half as much sugar as for, say, a cupcake. Now, after looking online and in my plethora of cookbooks, I decided that I’m confident enough to just make up a recipe without fear of it being, well, a failure. So I started writing down my ingredients and measurements then went into the kitchen to bake up a batch. 


Cory’s Banana Oat Nut Muffins

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1½ cups old fashion oats
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 ripe bananas, mashed
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup honey
1/3 cup canola oil
½ cup buttermilk
2 eggs
½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Scatter the walnuts on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove walnuts when the oven tells you it is up to temperature and allow to cool slightly before chopping. Combine the first 7 ingredients and set aside. Mix the sugar, honey, oil and eggs together then add buttermilk and bananas until blended. Add flour and oat mixture until completely incorporated and then add the walnuts. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners or grease liberally. Evenly distribute mixture between cups and bake for 18-24 minutes. For a little added interest, top with a little brown sugar, butter, oats and chopped walnuts mixed together with your fingers either before baking or halfway through baking. Makes 1 dozen.


If you do like your muffins sweet, simply double the brown sugar and honey. I am also planning on varying the recipe to try different types of muffins. Instead of walnuts and bananas, I’m going to make a batch using almonds and dried cranberries for which I might double the honey but leave the brown sugar the same. These would also be great with a half a cup of chocolate chips either with or without the bananas. As always, have fun in the kitchen! Don’t limit yourself to your ingredients. Sometimes thinking outside the box will yield amazing results.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

One Thousand Days


The last few months my blog has been, well, a little blah. I think I need some time to refocus.

Today marks my one-thousandth day of continuous blogging. A lot has happened. A lot has changed. A lot still needs to be done. However, I feel like this last two to three months has been a struggle to simply write down anything. Every once in a while I’d get inspired, and then there are times I’m simply fumbling for words and it shows. In the words of a mother to her three year old child once overheard in a Kmart, “It’s time to focus, regroup, and make a better decision.”

So starting today, I will no longer kick myself to come up with something to blog about. Starting today, I will stop worrying about making sure I have internet access whenever we go on vacation so I can post. Starting today, there will be some changes.

Now, this does not mean I’m signing off for good, just that I won’t be posting a new blog every day. There will be quilting updates, recipes, chicken and duck news, pet information, cleaning ideas and the works, but all without the mundane “sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy” poetry crap. Okay, so perhaps there will still be a poem or two if it is relevant. Honestly I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my mornings while I drink coffee and try to wake my brain up, which was the main reason for starting the blog in the first place. That and the fact that I was an unemployed homemaker feeling the need to connect to others even if it was only in a virtual universe.

Perhaps this will allow me more time to write what I’m passionate about. Perhaps this will give me more time to focus on getting my children’s books or young adult novels published. Perhaps this will get me motivated to come up with a dozen new quilt designs and make a book. Perhaps this will allow my passions for cooking and baking to blossom into a new or second career. Perhaps I better just savor these last few sentences before I publish this entry, because over the past few years this blog has been a huge part of my life. It started off as a way to motivate myself into fixing up our old house and turned into a challenge to get up every morning and write. I for one can’t wait to see what tomorrow may bring.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Spotty Bananas


When life gives you brown bananas, make banana bread was my old motto. Now I’m looking to do something different.

Bananas brown pretty quickly in our house. This could be because I’m the only one who eats them as my husband has a violent physical reaction to bananas from a fairly traumatic childhood where he was [gasp!] forced to eat them. I try to buy only what I will eat in a week, but even then they are mushy and far too sweet for my tastes. So, alas, I am in search of something new to do with my brown banana situation. My brain keeps wanting me to look up oatmeal muffins with bananas and walnuts on the internet for a recipe. These would be perfect to freeze individual muffins and toss into my bag for work to eat during my midmorning hunger crisis that I would normally turn to a banana for. And so my weekend mission, should I choose to accept, will be to find a recipe and make the muffins.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Desperate Housewife’s Quilt: Block Forty Six


After another unproductive day off, I felt the urge to do something well, you know, productive. I decided to sew.

I’ve taken quite the hiatus from the Desperate Housewife’s Quilt as of late (http://quiltjane.blogspot.com) and decided to check which blocks I still need to do. There are a lot of them. However, I found a block pattern, picked out the fabrics, and started cutting. Within the hour I had a complete block, albeit with some obvious mistakes. Mistakes, as in, I mixed up a few of the pieces. Oh well. I long ago decided that these blocks were not all going to be the same size since they don’t all end up being the same size while doing them. I even left the ironing board in case the urge strikes again today after work.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Internet


I’m an information whore. When I want to research something, I research the shit out of it.

The internet is a magical place, full of hope and wonder and joy… and joyness. Okay, so that is quoting from the YouTube animated hit Candy Mountain, but still, it can apply. It seems that just about anything you want to know more about can be found online. This is a double edged sword. On the one hand, having all this knowledge at your fingertips is great, but then it is difficult to stop because, well, there is just so much of it out there. And then you have to discern which is true and which is crap.

When I’m researching a new recipe because, say, I want to make something I’ve never made before and isn’t similar to another dish I have made, I look up a few recipes online. However, when I’m researching how to make a certain type of quilt block, I get suckered into an abyss of cotton and end up forgetting what I was looking up in the first place. Fail. Worst yet is when is when I’m on Pinterest, find a picture that looks amazing and want to know more about it based off the short description underneath only to find out the link has been removed and I end up spending hours in search of where the original might still be located. Epic fail.

The moral of the story is that the internet is a magical place. But not all magic has good intentions.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Neglecting Housework


This summer I’ve pretty much stopped cleaning. Now that the husband is back to work, it’s time to get back into the habit.

Vacuuming, laundry, dishes, the list goes on. It’s time to pull everything off the shelves and walls and dust them off. It’s time to move furniture and vacuum in the crevices and places not normally in its path. Okay, so after taking another look, it really hasn’t gotten as bad as I thought it was. Perhaps tomorrow afternoon I’ll tackle all of this… and find out once and for all where that smell is coming from in the office/craft room!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Of Guilt and Cupcakes


Being poor means when someone asks you to make something for free so they can make money off of it you can so no without feeling guilty, right? My brain didn’t get that memo.

I got an email yesterday asking to donate some cupcakes for an upcoming fundraiser. How does one tactfully decline due to strained finances? I mean, I don’t even know if I have enough money to buy the ingredients. Alas, I am pondering my response.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Give Them Cake


There’s a reason I stopped making cakes. There’s also a reason I still want to do it.

The last few days, my husband and I have been arguing, I mean, er, talking about me getting back into the cake business. With Washington’s new Cottage Bakery Law in place, it certainly will make it easier to do it legally this time, but my concerns over how to do it and not lose my sanity still persist. The time and energy needed to pull off a multi-tier wedding cake usually exceed my allotted allowance of both. However, when push comes to shove, I know I can do it.

I’ve fretted over a three tier fondant covered wedding cake until four in the morning for a cake that I wasn’t even getting paid enough to cover the cost of the cake because she was a coworker and couldn’t afford a nice wedding cake that wasn’t from Crapmart (our employer at the time) and it was the fourth of July and it was the second wedding cake I had to deliver that morning after working a nine hour shift the day before. I’ve taken time off to work on a wedding cake large enough to feed three hundred people because they were freaking out there wouldn’t be enough cake and ended up only needing enough for the thirty people who showed up for the wedding and stayed for the reception, not getting paid the extra amount they requested last minute or for the time off work I had to take to accommodate the request, and not having a way to legally get paid for it.

On the flipside, I’ve been able to explore so many different decorating techniques and learned how to decorate more efficiently that birthday and special event cakes were becoming quicker and easier to produce. Once during a dinner party I excused myself to frost and decorate 150 cupcakes and was back to enjoy the party in less than ten minutes. I’ve churned out a three tier Tinkerbell birthday cake with less than a day’s notice, albeit by cheating and using a plastic flying Tinkerbell topper instead of making one out of fondant or modeling chocolate. The less I use those skills, the more they slip away. The more they slip away, the less inclined I am to pick them back up again.

Perhaps it is time I look into all I need to do to become a legal cottage baker. Perhaps it is time to not be dictated by fear or afraid of a little hard work. Perhaps it is time to take another chance.









Saturday, September 15, 2012

Quilt Designing


When I think about a quilt, I think of a few different criteria: Is it easy to make; does it fit the recipient’s style; how am I going to pay for it? Once those are met, it’s time to start.

After making my sister-in-law’s quilted pillow for her birthday as a preview of her Christmas present, it got me rethinking how I wanted to do her quilt. I’d never done wonky 8-point stars before, but figured it couldn’t be too difficult. Sure enough, it was super simple and the finished block turned out even better than I imagined. With my original four and nine patch sketch now looking like a turd by comparison, I decided to go with the larger star pattern for the whole quilt. Because the finished quilt blocks are eighteen and a half inches square, I figure I can get away with making twelve of these blocks for a lap quilt. Of course, I could make twenty for a bed sized, but I’m not even sure she’d use it on her bed as she has so many comforters and would diminish the first criteria of easy.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Morning too Soon


Oh, Morning!
Why must thou cometh so soon?
Was the clock not just at ten?
Yet the hens cackle
And ducks quack
And cats mew
And the dog’s tail knocks the wall!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Another New Neighbor: Part Two


I am happy to report that the meeting with the new neighbor went well. Then again, I hope these coffee talks don’t become a regular thing.

When my husband first told me that our new neighbor was coming over for coffee the next morning, my first reaction was, “This isn’t Wisteria Lane.” I mean, you know just show up at someone’s house expecting them to give you coffee and listen to you talk. Alas, I relented, made a large pot and awaited his arrival. My husband made both chocolate chip and blueberry muffins. We talked about typical getting-to-know-you stuff like how we met, what the neighborhood is like, San Francisco’s bipolarism, blah blah blah. Overall it was a good talk. I don’t see us becoming besties or anything, but at least we can be friendly towards one another and have bite-sized conversations when in passing. The jury is still out on if he wants more, however.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Another New Neighbor


Apparently our neighbor has been dying to meet me since he moved in next door. So much so that he has invited himself over for coffee this morning. This should prove interesting.

I’m not exactly sure what to expect from someone so aggressive about meeting us because we are “family.” To clarify, he’s also gay. Now, when I think of family, I think of, you know, my family and really close friends, not random strangers who share the same sexual orientation I do. The term may make more sense where gays are ostracized and hidden code is necessary to ensure one’s safety, but here in the Pacific Northwest? Not so much. From what my husband has told me, he’s from San Francisco, arguably the gayest city of them all. I don’t know. Maybe they have a close-knit community or something, but here we just sort of blend in to the rest of society. Hopefully he won’t be clingy and get all stereotypical on us.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Christmas Planning


It is that time of year to start planning Christmas gifts. Assuming, that is, we can afford to!

In September, usually right after Labor Day, I like to plan out my Christmas gift making and/or buying. I do this for a few reasons, but mainly so I have a list to check off. The last three to four years have been, well, lackluster in the gift department. Perhaps this is simply the new normal. However, I really want to make an effort this year despite monetary deficiencies. I’m not really certain what I will do, be it ornaments or cards, but I do know that I’m not going to let our lack of finances dictate our gift giving. We will simply have to be creative with what we’ve got supply-wise. And honestly, we’ve got a lot.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fabric Finds


While we were out of town in Idaho and Eastern Oregon over the weekend, my friend Sarah and I decided to stay in town while my husband and his mom went to the house to drop off the groceries and one of the dogs who decided to hitch a ride. Now, downtown Ontario is nothing to write home about, but I will say there are more cute shops popping up than there used to be. Of course, our real reason for wanting to get out was to check out the local quilt shop. What can we say, fabric has a real appeal.

The shop was cute and had a lot of nice fabric, but nothing that jumped out at us as needing to buy. Feeling a bit defeated, we walked next door to a thrift shop, rather prevalent in this town, which took up the next four shops on the block. It was here we found a section with some interesting yardage. While it was mostly apparel fabric, there was some quilting material to be found. I quickly spotted a monkey themed fabric in brown and grey and a few others I decided to get because they were fun, including a paper drink umbrella fabric. Of course, I have no idea about any of these fabrics as to their fiber makeup, but used my obscene amount of experience spotting polyester and blends to deduct that the ones I got were all cotton. But then we went to the Salvation Army and found a super cute kitten print on yellow that I’m pretty sure is an 80/20 cotton/polyester blend, but don’t care. It has vintage charm.





Sunday, September 9, 2012

Drive Home


As uneventful a drive as could be
Was certainly what the hope was
And thankfully was so

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sunrise in Idaho


Light filtering through vines
Dew glistening on grapes
Alfalfa glowing as if on fire
Sunrise at Hawk Hollow

Friday, September 7, 2012

Quilts


This morning I showed my mother-in-law the Fall Quilt because, well, I wanted to show it off. She loved it and said it was better than some of the quilts displayed at a local quilt show. We may have to check that out today when we go into town for weekend provisions. I mean, it’s not like I want to brag about my quilt being better, I just love looking at quilts and how experienced quilters develop a unique style that makes it easy to spot their work. Then again, I love seeing novice quilters work alongside veterans. Something about passing a longstanding tradition from generation to generation without feeling the need to be constricted by previous rules but embracing new ideas and new structures is appealing. Yes, we will make the time today to go.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pillow Talk


In a bid to be creative, I sewed something yesterday. Unable to finish a quilt (due to my inability to think ahead) I opted to make a pillow as a preview to a Christmas present. I love it.


I’ve been having issues coming up with a pattern for the quilt so I have been fiddling with that instead of, well, quilting. Of course, I am my own worst enemy when it comes to these things. I plan and plan and plan and end up doing something spontaneous that doesn’t involve a plan most of the time. So I decided to make a pillow yesterday afternoon using the same fabrics I picked out for the quilt. This would accomplish two things: First, it would gauge whether the colors would actually work together; and Second, it would allow me to present to the birthday girl a little taste of what her Christmas present will be. If she hates it, I’m back to square one.


The pillow was made almost entirely of five inch squares, or charms, with a four-patch in the center surrounded by wonky half-square triangles to create an eight point star. The half-square triangles I used the solids I’d picked out from my stash, while using Kate Spain’s Fandango from Moda for the four-patch. Honestly, after making the pillow, I might just use that pattern for the quilt because it looks fantastic!


I quilted the pillow front to cotton batting using a free-motion amoeba-like technique. Why? Because I love how it looks after washing it. It gets a crinkly and instantly looks cozy. It originally was a little too big for the sixteen inch pillow form I had lying around from a previous project that never saw the light of day, as in three inches too big, but after quilting, washing and drying the cover, it fits the pillow form perfectly! For the back I used a tea stained muslin and sewed it in two sections with a flap in the center for easy removal and washing. I have to say, I love how it turned out and can’t wait to make the quilt now.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Fandango Dilemma Continues


When all else fails, go with what you’ve got. But what if what you’ve got is crap?

After realizing my original sketch for a quilt using my two Fandango Charm packs would be too small, I decided to intermix with warm pastel solids. After realizing my finances wouldn’t allow me to start this for at least another couple months, I decided to utilize solids within my stash. Now I’m at an impasse. I’m debating on whether to incorporate solid ivory squares between the four and nine patches and using ivory for the five regular nine patch squares that aren’t going to be smaller four patches for a lighter quilt, or simply changing the sizes of my original sketch to enlarge the quilt. I guess a little more fiddling is in order.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Ducks


Ducks are messy, loud, foul creatures. Well, maybe fowl is more accurate.

Preparing for their independence, we decided it would be best if the ducks had their own shelter separate from the coop. That way they could have access to the pool when we aren’t home. I half expected to either find the uneaten remains of two ducks or nothing at all. Pessimistic? A little. But in all seriousness, I don’t know if these girls are really going to fare well as domesticated ducks when, well, they aren’t. Okay, so maybe a little. They are rather attached to the two pullets they were raised with and vice versa.

So yesterday afternoon we were trying to figure out if a coop extension with the pool inside would work, but decided that would not only be too much work, but also not very practical as it would also have to be predator proof and we don’t have any extra half-inch wire mesh to cover it. Then I thought we could simply make something with the fence sections that have been leaning against the neighbors fence since we moved in, but that just won’t work either for various reasons. We decided on Lucy’s (our Great Dane) old plastic puppy kennel before we switched to a larger metal one. We were going to put it together and leave the door off, but then after looking at half of it on the ground, realized just half would be sufficient. Now, if only they would realized that this was for them because I think they spent all last night huddled next to the damn thing instead of inside it. Weirdos.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Tale of Two Homes


I’m not sure why, but I randomly spaced out this morning and started thinking about my childhood. Growing up in a divorced family meant two homes, and with that, two sets of rules. This wasn’t a bad thing as it taught us how to deal with different people in very close situations. Perfect for the work environment in the real world. I may post my arguments here on this blog which make me sound rather, well, unilateral in my decision making, but trust me when I say I can handle and welcome debates from opposite points of view. One thing I miss about working at Crapmart was having such political with a coworker during our lunch hour. Okay, so I really don’t miss those that much as the guy was a complete asshole, but still, it was fun to watch other people think we’d be about to rip each other’s throats out and end the conversation with a handshake.

Growing up with different people meant learning to live with differing capabilities. Perhaps that is also why I have so much patience when it comes to training new people at work. Having brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters and stepbrothers, meant learning different family dynamics and different rules for various circumstances. Honestly, it could be a bit mind boggling at times, but as a grownup, I’m able to go with the flow in any number of environments. Now, if it only would have helped me have a bit more confidence in myself.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Role Reversal


In the summer there is a role reversal at play. I continue to work and my husband takes on more of the household duties. However, that’s about to change back to normal with the start of the school year. Drats. As it is this morning, I have to get ready for work shortly while he is in the kitchen making waffles from scratch. Yummo. I hear the waffle iron announcing another waffle is ready. Time to eat.