Thursday, April 28, 2011

My First Give Away!

     A few days ago, my tenth follower jumped on board.  Yay for the small victories! And since my day was brightened, I thought I would do my best to brighter yours too. So here it goes!

Miss G thinks give-aways are almost as good as a goldfish!
Edit: Give away now closed
     My first give away! This is one on my favorite books.  I think it is a must read for anyone.  It covers how to sew a button, of course, but also how to start a book club, how start a fire, how can the food it teaches you to grow, and so much more. There are ten sections to make things easy to find: cooking, gardening, cleaning, nesting, thriving, saving, joining, and entertaining. Erin Bried, the author, writes with such humor, you almost don't realize that you're learning, and learning volumes at that.  I don't think there is a single idea in here that I won't use, and I think you'll say the same thing after you read it.

      So how do you win? Just leave me a comment letting me know one of your small victories! One comment per person please. Please also leave your email address in your comment, so I can contact you if you win! That's it! Spread the word, and celebrate the little things in life that bring us all one step closer to our goals. I'll pick a winner by random on Monday Night, May 2 (a giveaway can always make Mondays better).

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Silver Polishing - The Easy Way

     No really. There really is an easy way to make silver shine! I didn't believe it, when I was about 10 I insisted on polishing my tea set, it took me forever and I finally believed my mom that it just wasn't worth it.  So when I read this method in my house keeping books, I didn't fall for it, not even for a moment. But this morning my curiosity got the better of me.  I had the baking soda out already (it cleans everything), and the water was just about boiling and I decided why not, I'll give it a go.  My mind was blown in about three seconds flat. I immediately ran to get my camera and find all the my mom's silver.  I had to show this to you. (Yes I was geeking out, yes my inner dork was taking over, but heck, this was just plain cool!)

     Do you see the difference here?? That was almost instantaneous! No polishing, no scrubbing, no special creams or cloths. How is this possible? I'm really not sure, but I would be the last one in the word to question it!  How did I do it? Easy peasy! Take a pan (I used a loaf pan the first time, and it wasn't big enough so the ladle handle stuck out (but that turned out to be an awesome thing, because it lets everyone see the amazing change!) and a cake pan the second time) and line it with crumpled tin foil. Then add your silver pieces, and cover them with a generous amount of baking soda. 

     Then just pour boiling water over everything.  I found that actually pouring the water over each spoon produced the best results. The baking soda will fizz and bubble. I think this is the chemical reaction that is actually removing the tarnish, but don't quote me on that.

See how much better everything looks already? And this is less than 30 seconds later!

     Then just wait until the water has cooled enough that you can pour it off.  Rinse the silver pieces and admire your upsidedown-self reflected in the reflection.

Note: I'm not sure how this would work with larger pieces like cups or bowls, but I'm sure there is a way to make it work. If you figure it out, please let me know!

                                                                                                                                  I'm Linking to:

Weekend Bloggy Reading

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Une Salade

      Our church had a supper on Thursday, and we were asked to bring a salad. I was less than thrilled.  I was a little happy because I didn't have to cook and as I was frantically sewing to try to get my Easter Dress and the husbandman's shirt done before he got home and I didn't really have time to spend obsessing over dessert in the kitchen. (I did get my dress done, but the husbandman's shirt still looks more like an unhemmed vest)  But on the other hand, I've never been good about eating my vegetables, and salads are pretty boring, and you can't really put a spin on it.  Unless you're my mom.  She had a way to shoot the normal pot luck salad clear out of the water.  What was it? Quite simple really, she brought home one of the prettiest flowers I had even seen and declared that it was not only pretty, but edible, and rather yummy!  It's called a Nastrutium. Here is an article from about how to grow and cook them. The Nasturtium Lemon Butter sounds very good. My mom says the blossoms taste a little like radishes. I have somehow gotten away with never eating radishes before (don't tell) and think they taste like lettuce with a little bit of a bite.  And using them in a salad could not be easier.

      First gather your regular ingredients, anything you like in a salad really. We used lettuce, celery, red bell pepper, cucumbers, croutons (old fashioned cut butter and garlic style). Chop them to bite size (or bigger than bite size if you want to watch everyone try to figure out how to politely eat salad that doesn't fit easily onto a fork. Not really, please don't do that, it's not very nice.) Hint I learned: if you have large sticks of celery and you are worried that they might be a little bitter, chop them very thinly, and then they will just add crunch and not overwhelm the salad.

      Then I ran out to the greenhouse to pick some of these. They will wilt very quickly, so pick them as late into the game as possible.

      Then boil some eggs.  I tend to boil a lot of eggs at once, since everyone seems to like to eat them, but no one else will bother boiling them.  Then, this is the key step, forget about them entirely.  Our carrots from the greenhouse were still to small to use and we had to leave early to go by the grocery store to buy some, and with one thing and another, we all forgot about the eggs.

      Lastly, toss everything, add a little dressing, place the blossoms on top, and serve. Doesn't that look better than the average salad?

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sheep Shearing

      Our sheep Aggie needed a haircut.

      So he got one! This was the first year he didn't faint, which seems to help the shearers a lot.  Yes, my sheep faints.  Apparently it's fairly common.  It's kinda sorta hilarious if you're not the one who has to drag him back to where he's supposed to be.  He once fainted on my bother in our creek. I guess trying to roll a 200 pound sheep up a creek bank isn't so funny in the moment, but it makes a great mental image.  (the creek is only about six inches deep, so no worries about drowning.)

     Aggie is kinda sorta a little overweight, I think his last weigh in was at around 300 pounds.  I guess it's what happens when you name a boy sheep Agnes, he develops a complex and uses food as a comfort. (We were told he was an ewe, but found out the truth when shearing time came around, but the name stuck.) It's not quite as bad as a three-legged sheep named Peggy though.

     Even though he made a mad dash for it when they were done, he seemed to quickly get over the trauma and even enjoy the breeze.

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A List

     I’ve been kinda blue lately.  I would have just started my last week of college if I hadn’t gotten this crazy idea to get married.  I have never once regretted this decision.  But after having gotten into the University of Mary Washington with honors, but then leaving with a far less than stellar GPA only to fail at online classes, after a massive bout of depression, it’s been hard to shut out the what ifs.   But I am not going to be beat by them, I’m tired of being blue.  So after much needed rant fest (my mom is the best listener ever) I came up with this list. These are all the things that college would have never taught me.  Some are things that I have learned the hard way, some have been really obvious.  But it is this knowledge who makes me who I am today.

80's night at UMW

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Country Living Cupcakes

      Sorry this is even later than planned, yesterday was my youngest brother's 15th birthday, and I was happily spending time with family and forgot to make a cake.

     But anyways, here is the final cake of my baking marathon: Country Living's Red Velvet Cupcakes

The Husbandman's Ranking: Unkown (He's way too far away in Geogria for work this week, and saddly can not give me his opinion)
The Little Wife's Ranking: 9

     It's a very thick batter, which makes getting the batter into the cupcake tins much, much easier.
     It's very chocolatey.
     Since you have less drips, clean up is a breeze.

     Uses just the egg yolk, it always seems a little wasteful
     It's just a tad drier than the other recipes, but this might have been my fault for not reducing the bake time when I made mini cupcakes.

Other Notes:
     I would be really careful not to overfill the cupcake tins, and just as a precaution, I would definitely take their hint on spraying the top of the tray so that the tops of the cupcakes don't stick.  I torn the tops of a few cupcakes off trying to get mine out.

The Winner!
     It depends.  If you want to make cupcakes, I would defiantly use Country Living. But on the other hand, if you want to make a sheet or layer cake, it's a toss up between Farm Chicks and Pioneer Woman's. Both are very good, easy to make, and almost foolproof. Go with your gut, both will lead you right!

     I've really enjoyed my baking marathon, I think I'll try it again in May.  Any suggestions for what to make? There has already been a request for cinnamon rolls, if you have read this post, I think you can guess who it's from.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekend Sewing Book Review

     The good news ~ Since I had to push the Baking Marathon back, I had time to finish a book review that I have been working on for a little while now!
     The really good news~ It's Friday! Happy Friday everyone!!
     The bad news ~ What bad news, it's Friday!!

Now onto my Book Review
Image from Amazon

Baking Marathon Postponed

     Unfortuantly, I'm going to have to postpone the last day of the baking marathon. I'm feeling a bit under the weather, and I don't want to risk getting everyone else sick.   And since I'm going to visit my amazing brother, his lovely wife, and the too cute for words Miss G this weekend, it is being pushed back till Monday. But on the bright side, you know you'll have something to look forward to!
Image From Google

   But stay tuned! I still have a post for you today!!

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Farm Chicks' Red Velvet Cake

Today I made the Farm Chicks' Red Velvet Cake.

The Husbandman's Ranking: 9
The Little Wife's ranking: 8.5

     It has a real butter base
     It's tasty
     It's the perfect shade of red
     It has just the right amount of cocoa.
     It is really, really easy to make.


     Does NOT make cupcakes.  I repeat, it does NOT make cupcakes. They don't rise into a pretty dome.  They rise enough to spill over the edges into a pancake and then burn.

Other Notes:

     However, I have made this recipe many, many times before and know that it makes wonderful sheet or layer cake,  it rises just enough to fill a normal cake pan perfectly, and since it doesn't dome you don't have to trim your cake before you ice it.

     See, it makes very pretty cakes, just not cupcakes. But that's my fault for trying to make it into something its not...

     And since I don’t have much of a post tonight,  I’ll share a tip! If you ever have to fill an icing bag by yourself (having someone hold it open while you scoop it in is easiest, but it requires  4 hands) Put your tip on your icing bag and then put the icing bag in a tall glass or cup or mason jar (or whatever). Make sure you fold the tip up, so your icing doesn't leak out as you lift up the bag.  Then if you fold the top of the bag down, it stays open and doesn’t flop over! (oh, and a freezer bag with a very small art of the corner cut off works like a dream in a pinch.)

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I spy

      One of my favorite blogs, Little Miss Momma has started a weekly I spy post.  I loved the idea, and really wanted to play along.  But this week's topic is The Neighborhood.  And I don't exactly live anywhere near a neighborhood.  So I'm cheating a little and tweaking so that I can show you my "neighborhood" (just pretend that the trees and sheep and neighbors!)

     I was having a really crummy day today, and so rather than stay inside and risk exploding, I went for a walk. Wanna come along?

      The first thing that I see everyday is the tree graveyard.  (No one calls it that but me) But several years ago, Hurricane Isabelle ripped through here and tore up a lot of huge trees.  Our neighbor (a real human neighbor!) piled all the downed trees here. 

Martha Stewart's Red Velvet cake

Today I made Martha Stewart's Red Velvet Cupcakes.

The Husbandman's Ranking: 8
The Little Wife's Ranking: 8.5

     Clear and simple directions
     The taste is subtle, not too chocolaty, not too sweet
     My mom says this recipe looks a lot more like the red velvet she grew up with (the others were apparently too red)
     Just an all-round good recipe.

     The batter was very, very runny, which as you know makes me nervous, but it all turned out OK.
     The husbandman says that he doesn't like my icing as much as cream cheese icing, which sparked a debate on the proper icing to use on red velvet, but that was the thing he didn't like about it.
     And it doesn't use butter or Crisco, but rather a lot of vegetable oil, which isn't wrong, just a little weird.

Other Notes

    Well rather than ranting at you, I thought I might show you.  Since Martha doesn't have many pictures of the finished result, let alone a walk through (like Pioneer Woman's) I thought I would take you through step by step. Ok?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Betty Crocker's Red Velvet Cake

The Husbandman’s Rating: 5
The Little Wife’s Rating: 1

     Well, it was easy to clean up…

     A box mix Betty Crocker? A box mix? You sadden me…

Other Notes
     Before you think that I am a horrible cake snob, I just want to say that I have no problem with box mixes.  They are quick and easy to use with much less clean up at the end.  However, I don’t understand why you would give me a recipe that calls for cake mix, and then have me mix in red food coloring, when I could have just bought a red velvet mix.  I just really don’t get the two extra steps.  If you are going to give me a recipe, please give me a full one, if you are going to tell me to buy a box, when then just tell me to buy the box and not waste the money for food dye…

     That said, there isn’t anything actually wrong with the cake, its plenty good.  I just was saddened that Betty Crocker didn’t have a full recipe…
     Oh! If you are going to make a sheet cake, make sure you actually have a tray or a dish big enough for it. I panicked, cut mine in half, found that I still didn’t have a plate big enough, scrounged into the depths of our hutch, found the summer tray, and the put my cake bake together. It was far more difficult than it should have been.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

A Day According to my Camera

I wanted to learn how to make Hollandaise Sauce, so my mom went out and picked my some asparagus. 

      Why yes, that is my foot in the bottom right corner, thanks for noticing.  Maxi hasn't yet realized that he is a 65 pound German Shepard/Pitt Bull mix and not a Pug.  He thinks all laps were meant just for him.

    The Koi are the only fish in the big tank, the Tilapia fry are still too little to go in the shed tank.

       When weeds have root systems like this, no wonder they start to take over! (It's a plant called Dock)

     And this is a sassafras blossom.  Aren't they pretty?

     And this is how the tulip poplar got its name.  The buds look like tulips! Do you see it? When I tag along with my parents on their reviews of the farm and its workings, I learn an amazing amount and so I thought I might share it with you.

       I love how white the pear flowers look against the black of night

     I love my life!

                                                                                                                                     I linked up at:
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The Pioneer Woman’s Red Velvet cake

Today I baked The Pioneer Woman's Red Velvet Cake

The Husabandman’s ranking: 7.5
The Little Wife’s ranking: 8.5 

I have to stand on a stool to stir anything on the counters comfortably.

     Its very red
     The icing is amazing
     I really like the directions for this recipe, especially the icing recipe.  They are very clear.  My favorite example is when thickening the flour and milk mixture.  Most recipes would simple tell you to thicken it and leave it at that which drives me crazy because there is a huge range of consistencies that fall under the “thick” heading.  This recipe tells you that it need to be thicker than the cake batter, almost like brownies.  That is so much more helpful!
     I also really liked this order of ingredients, the recipe adds the red food coloring and cocoa powder last, so that the batter can do double duty as a white cake if you just skip the last step.  I also like that because you mix almost everything and then set it aside, before blending the butter and sugar it seems much easier (it also gives me more time to bring my butter to room temperature)
     This cake really was so easy to bake.
     It’s very, very moist
     It has a very light and subtle flavor (which seems classier than most of my red velvet cakes)
     I loved the recipe, it was honestly fun to read (but anything Ree writes is) and the pairing of this cake with this icing is very nice.

I dusted it with cocoa powder to give it more pizazz (and to hide crumbs)

      I don’t like that it has a shortening base rather than a butter base, it makes clean-up messier (I absolutely hate the feeling of Crisco on my hands) and I think that a butter base just tastes better.
     The batter is very runny before you cook it (which always makes me very nervous)
     The batter is very sticky.  I greased and floured the pans as well as humanly possible, but it was still a little difficult to de-pan, and the cake layers also stuck to the cooling rack
     The cake had an odd texture, it still tasted wonderful, but the texture was a little different than most cakes.
     I would have liked to have a little more cocoa taste.

Cooling near a window

Other Notes

     Baking this cake reminded me of why I don’t bake during the summer months (it was in the upper 80’s today) we grill as much as humanly possible (we don’t have a/c) and eat outside as much as we can. This is the same reason that I am probably the only one in the world hoping for a few more cooler days before summer.
     Cool the cake (and the flour and milk mixture) in a window – no seriously! I know it sounds corny, but it really does the trick (especially on a windy day like today.) I guess you could cool it under an air vent, but we don’t have any, and it is not nearly as homey.


   When the directions say to cool the cake, you really need to cool it.  I usually skip this step.  Not a good idea with this cake.  You will end up with a huge mess (but very yummy) on your hands because the butter in the icing will melt and take everything with it as is slides off the side of the cake, slithers over the cake plate and pools all over the counter. Stick it in the fridge or even the freezer if you are the impatient type (like me) just don’t forget about it (like me.) I would suggest making the cake, making and having dinner, and then icing the cake right before you serve it for desert.
     If you are not going to make it in a sheet pan, I would cook it for an addition 10 to 15 min.

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