Holiday Preparations and a Christmas Miracle

I spent most of Christmas Eve Eve baking a cake for Christmas dinner. I have made hundreds of cakes but never one this fancy. It took me about 5 hours I think. 😚 The recipe is Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries on King Arthur Baking website. I also made a double batch of cranberry sauce.

Today I roasted the turkey, got it deboned, and made a huge batch of gravy. It was a 26.6# turkey so ot made a lot of drippings. I also made a big batch of buttermilk potato rolls and deviled eggs for tomorrow.

So all I have to do for dinner on Christmas is make sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and a fresh veggie platter with dip. Oh and I’ll probably make a batch of cinnamon rolls for breakfast in the morning. Whew!

I referred in my title to a Christmas miracle. Remember that messy skein of yarn? Well, while I was making that cake yesterday, my husband spent most of the day untangling it.

I can’t believe he had the patience for it, but wonders never cease. 😊

Merry Christmas!

Vintage Knitting Project Start

Before I get to the new project I am working on, here’s a quick update on the Wonderful Wallaby. As you can tell I have the pocket done and it is taking a break.

I was too excited to get knitting on the vintage baby sweater so I picked a color and cast on for the back. I decided to go with a neutral color, Graphite, in Classic Merino Superwash Sock yarn. I think it may take some of a second skein since this is around a 12 month size. I thought that would be a good starting point and can work other sizes from there.

I know it’s not too exciting yet, because the back is plain, but it will go pretty fast even at such a small gauge. The fronts and sleeves will be a bit more decorative. 😊

One last thing to share. I made home made spaghetti sauce and rolls for dinner today. It was all yummy. I forget to get a picture of the meal but here’s the bread for you to drool over. 🤤

New Pattern Shapely Mitts

Hey there, 👋

I know it’s been a little quiet on the blog lately. I am still plugging along on the afghan and making slow progress. I completed another color and have five more to go. That’s 30 hexagons for those of you keeping score.

Here’s the color I am working on currently.

I had a birthday 🎂 last week. Jerry took me out to our favorite place for pizza and local craft beer. I made one of my favorite desserts too, instead of cake, lemon meringue pie. Here’s my go to recipe for it. Works perfectly every time. You can thank me later.

You may recall last year that I was knitting a pair of fingerless mitts in my Classic Merino Superwash Sock yarn. I had a few requests for the pattern and I have finally gotten to writing and publishing it. I have it on Ravelry and on my website.

I am extending the special introductory offer that I ran last week from my social media. Beginning today and running through February 8, 2021, you can have the pattern for free with purchase of a skein of yarn to make it. I wrote the pattern for both fingering weight and sport weight yarn. I linked the fingering weight above and here’s the Classic Merino Superwash Sport yarn.

Lavender, Damson Plum,Midnight Blue, Sapphire, Winter Sky, Peacock, Robin Egg, Atlantic
Heather, Orchid, Quartzite, Pewter, Slate, Obsidian, Graphite, Earl Grey
Glacier, Ironstone, Emerald, Lichen, Jade, Honeydew, Fern, Marigold
Tea Rose, Cerise, Crimson, Garnet, Paprika, Sea Coral, Chamomile, Sea Oat

The special free pattern offer is good only on my website. Just pick your yarn and color and then add it and the Shapely Mitts pattern to the cart. Add the code SHAPELY when you begin the check out process for $5 discount. If you have any problems or questions please contact me at Thanks for reading!

Pizza Day

More baking today. Is pizza 🍕 technically baking? I mean you cook it in the oven right, so that’s close enough for me.

Love my trusty Kitchenaid mixer!

Well anyway it’s one of my favorite things and I have been craving it for awhile. I had to take a break from cheese, as I have to do periodically. But I decided it would be okay to indulge so I went for it.

Dough is fully proofed and ready for rolling out. I just love that my oven has a bread proofing setting. I don’t always use it but it’s especially handy on cooler days.

All ready for the oven. I have a pizza stone preheating and it’s almost time for baking.

😋 Yummy! Don’t forget the beer 😉 . I’m having and Yazoo Hop Perfect IPA today. 🍻 Cheers!

Quarantine Life

How are you all doing today? We are getting through alright here. We are excited to report that we found actual toilet paper for sale in Kroger on Thursday! We were allowed to purchase two packages. My faith in civilization was restored just a little bit. LOL!

Making bread today

So, lots going on here at home to share with you this week. First of all we were notified that Jerry’s truck damage from the tornado was deemed a total loss. We thought it was going to be repaired all this time but the repair shop discovered after they began working on it that nearly everything was worse than they could determine at first. Mostly it was due to glass, probably not the glass from his truck but flying in the atmosphere. There was a huge debris ball and I suspect that was the culprit. Fortunately his truck was worth more than the payoff so we were able to get a replacement. He decided to go with something a bit different. He likes it a lot. It has a pretty awesome sound system!

2019 Nissan Frontier Pro-4x

I have made some progress on my Honeydew Lace Square fingering weight edition. I have five more rounds of the inner border and then it’s on to the edging.

We are trying to make the best use of our time during this quarantine/safer-at-home time. Jerry has been out in the shop a lot in the last week. He did a lot of tidying, re-arranging and de-cluttering. After that he got back to work on a big batch of Yarn Boxes that were all ready for sanding. We have some available on the website now if you were planning to pick up one at a festival this spring.

sanding, sanding, and more sanding

I have not been idle either. I have been cooking and baking more lately as is evidenced by the bread baking above. I have also been out at the dye pots a couple of times this week. New Era Fiber Mill has been keeping my busy (gainful employment which is appreciated more than ever about now). Here’s a batch I did the other day using my new work space, which I love, BTW. Did I mention my husband is amazing? Because he is. <3

Okay, stay well, and safe everyone! Make good use of your time and search for the silver lining! There is always something to be thankful for.

Let them eat cake

So, today is my birthday. We don’t make a big fuss in our house about them but we always make cake. The birthday person gets to pick what kind. I usually pick carrot cake. My favorite recipe is this one from King Arthur Flour.  2012 01 26_0211.JPG

The only modification I make is to leave out the pecans and press them into the frosting. I do that because a couple of people in our family object to them in the cake and my second son has peanut allergy. What I do is cut out a quarter of the cake and leave it plain and then add the nuts to the rest. 2012 01 26_0221.JPG

It is the best carrot cake recipe I know. Turns out perfect every time and even a less experienced baker would have no trouble with it.

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What goodies did I get? Well, I treated myself a week or two back to a new pair of headphones that I have had my eye on for awhile. They are still in the “burn in” stage, but are totally awesome already. For the non-audiophiles out there, these are the highly regarded Sennheiser HD650’s. They are my constant companion whenever I am at my computer.  I am actually listening to some music with them as I am writing this post. You should hear what they do for a movie played from a Blu-Ray. It’s like being in a theater. 2012 01 26_0220.JPG

Another thing I recently got isn’t a birthday present but it DOES have to do with getting older, LOL! I finally conceded that I needed a pair of reading glasses, and man, does these help! Who knew? 2012 01 26_0212.JPG

I was working on the Pei Scarf and was on the rows with the nupps(hate those little buggers) and they were making me crazy! So, I got this CRAZY idea to put on the glasses. Whoa! Why didn’t I think of that earlier? I didn’t realize that some of the stress was because I COULDN’T SEE clearly where to position the needle to get those 5 stitches to knit together through the back loop. I still don’t love doing them, but it did help.

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My oldest son took this shot of a squirrel raiding our bird feeder this morning.  I don’t really mind if they sneak a meal. I saw a couple blue birds and a titmouse feeding from it yesterday, so I guess they don’t mind sharing either.

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Lights in the darkness

I know I have been a lazy blogger. I swear this has been the grayest, wettest December EVER and maybe that is what is making me want to do nothing but read and knit. I have done a fair bit of both, well maybe more reading than knitting. The only knitting progress I have to show is the finished first sock and a good 40% on the second sock.

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I have finished several books in the last month. At the moment I have picked back up where I left off on Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I just finished book #3 Voyager and started #4 Drums of Autumn. I have never been into this type of book before. I guess you would call it a cross between and adventure story and a romance? They are pretty good, if you don’t mind a series that has so far 7 books of 900-1000 pages each.

There has been some Christmas baking going on here too. We have a few traditional ones we love to do every year and the children have taken it on the last few years. They seem to enjoy making them almost as much as eating them.

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We also relented and put the presents out early this year. We usually wait until Christmas Eve so that they don’t get pawed over but space is limited and for want of anywhere else to stash them, we put them under the tree.

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More decking of the halls went on, literally. LOL!

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Bread 101

I have been trying to get this post written for days. One thing or another has gotten in the way, but I managed to find a few hours this afternoon, so here goes. Hope you don’t mind lots of pictures. Smile

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I was inspired to learn how to bake bread about 18 years ago. My first attempts were less than stellar, and I was intimidated by the whole thing. Yeast baking seemed like such a mysterious and unpredictable process and I would follow the directions for proofing and mixing, but just couldn’t seem to get it to work successfully. My dough would either not rise or if it did rise my loaves would be sort of, shall we say, brick-ish. I was determined to learn though and began in earnest to learn this in the way I learn any new thing, immersion. I went to the library and checked out dozens of books on the subject. I wanted in particular to be successful at not just bread, whole grain bread.

Two of the books that I read made me into a life long bread baker; Breadtime, and Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book. The first was the most helpful in teaching me a method and had not heard of before; a cool rise sponge method. My lack of success before was because I was attempting to make whole wheat bread using straight dough methods which are better for white bread. Once I understood how yeast does it’s thing I better understood why my previous efforts were less than they could have been.

So what is the sponge method? If you do a search for it, you can find more info, but basically it’s where you start with all the liquid and roughly half of the flour, along with the yeast and a shot of sweetener for a boost to proof the yeast. Once you let this rise you add the rest of the flour, salt and any other ingredients like oil and sweetener if you desire. After kneading the dough it gets two bowl rises and one shaped rise before baking. That’s the pithy directions, anyway. Winking smile

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Want more details? Okay. Here’s my basic everyday whole wheat bread recipe. Oh and a note about flour, for best results use the freshest and highest gluten you can get. I have a stone mill for fresh grinding my wheat. I prefer Hard White Wheat berries over Hard Red Wheat berries, but either will work. We prefer the milder flavor and softer crust of the white wheat,which is really more golden than white. I buy mine from Honeyville Grain. Here’s my mill.

Golden Grain grinder

I bought this in 1999 and have never had a day’s trouble from it. It’s made by hand from a small business much like our own. It looks like they are still in business.


wheat in

This is my wheat bin that is in the bottom drawer of the little cabinet where my grinder is sitting in my dining room. Okay, so most of you aren’t going to go hard core and get a mill. I know. I recommend in that case King Arthur Flour if you can get it. My local Kroger carries it and I use their unbleached bread flour. It really is superior and what I like best is that it’s certified organic, grown and milled in America, and if you can’t find it local you can order online.

Anyway, back to the recipe.

3 1/4 cup. warm water

1/4 cup honey plus a tbsp. for proofing yeast

1 tbsp. active dry yeast

7 cups fresh whole wheat flour

2 1/2 – 3 cups unbleached bread flour

1/4 cup canola or other vegetable oil

1 tbsp. salt

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I like to make two big loaves so I start with 3 1/4 cups of water. I warm this until I can stick my finger in it and only hold for a count of 4. Any longer and it’s too cool, keep warming. Any warmer, it will kill the yeast, let it sit until it’s right. There is a temp you are going for if you like to use a thermometer; so if you must, it’s 105 to 115 degrees. Pour all the water except for 1/4 a cup or so into the mixing bowl. In the 1/4 cup of water add a tbsp. or so of honey and a scant tbsp. of active dry yeast. Sprinkle in the yeast and let it dissolve some then mix thoroughly until completely dissolved. Allow that to sit until the yeast has developed a good foam on top. This is “proofing” the yeast. This should take 5-7 minutes. While that is going on, add 4 cups of the whole wheat flour to the water in the mixing bowl and mix well until the gluten strands start to form. That’s the sticky, stretchy structure that allows the dough to rise as the yeast expels gas. I like to use a heavy duty mixer for this and the kneading, however I did do it all by hand for the first 2-3 years I made bread. It’s a work out but the kneading is actually kind of relaxing once you get into it. I will be honest with you though, I was pretty excited when I got my Kitchen Aid. Smile

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Okay back to the yeast. Once it’s “proofed” add it to the mixture. It should have a good head on it almost like a draft beer. Mug If it doesn’t, add a little fresh warm water. You may have not warmed it enough. If that doesn’t work, you may have killed it with water too hot, or it’s old. Try again and if it still doesn’t work, get new yeast. We will assume it worked and move on for now. Winking smile

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After adding the yeast, add another cup of whole wheat flour and mix again for a few minutes. Now it’s time to let the “sponge” rise. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or some plastic wrap and wait a couple hours. It should rise at least a couple inches, but if you get busy and it rises more that’s all the better. It won’t even hurt at this point if it rises enough to actually fall back. Ever heard of sourdough? This is a slightly like that only less fermented.

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Now you attach your dough hook if using a mixer, and add the salt, oil, and honey. Mix and add the remaining 2 cups of whole wheat flour one a at time, mixing well after each. It should start to form a soft dough ball as you continue adding flour a cup at a time. I usually start adding unbleached flour at this point and the last cup or so gets added a spoon at a time until the dough ball is well formed and the dough is cleaning the bottom of the bowl. Let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes now before you start the kneading time. This helps the dough absorb all the flour and relax the gluten. Now knead the dough for 6-8 minutes on speed 2 (on my mixer).

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Very lightly flour the counter surface and dump out the dough on it. Roll it to coat it and cover with damp towel or plastic again for another 5-10 minute rest.

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Prepare your rising bowl with a light coating of oil. I like to use a crockery bowl rather than metal, since it will hold in just the right amount of heat without being too warm. The goal is a good room temperature rise away from drafts. Knead the dough once more briefly until it feels satiny and smooth, and place it in the bowl, turning to coat leaving the smooth side up in the bowl.

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Cover again to rise until the point where it can’t rise further. You can tell when this has happened when you lightly tough the top and you finger leaves a slight depression. It it springs back immediately, let it go a it longer.

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When it is ready, carefully deflate it and gently knead to reorganize the gluten and put it back for a second bowl rise. This will usually take less time than the first since the yeast will have multiplied. Test it the same way and notice that you can smell a more noticeable yeasty, fermented smell? That’s what you want. It’s time for the final shaped rise. You can use bread pans or sometimes I like to shape baguettes or round hearth loaves and bake those on a flat jelly roll pan.

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Okay, gently roll the dough out onto a counter, no flour this time. Divide in half with a sharp knife and deflate the gases. Knead very briefly and give the balls another 5-10 minute rest while you grease the pan(s). I like to use softened butter, but lard or shortening will do also. After the dough has relaxed the gluten will be easier to coax out into a flat circle for shaping into whatever loaf shape you are making. No matter what shape you make, just remember to have the smooth even surface on the top and the seam on the bottom. Also take care not to be too rough with the dough at this point. The gluten is very well developed and if you tear it you won’t get as nice a rise.

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Once the dough is shaped, cover again and keep a closer eye on it. You want to catch the rise and get it in the oven before it hits the maximum volume. The last push in the hot oven gives the crust that nice rounded texture which make the loaf pretty and easier to slice. It should be almost doubled and slightly spring back when you touch it as in the bowl rises. When it’s almost there, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and get a good serrated knife to slash the top. This allows the interior to rise a bit more in the heat without cracking the crust.

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See it rising more?

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Bake 50 minutes, or until you can hear a hollow sound when you remove from the bread and thump the bottom. I like to remove them from the pan to a cooling rack and brush with melted butter to cool. It’s best to let it cool at least 30 minutes to an hour before slicing. The crust will soften and get chewy which makes it so much easier to slice.

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Now the best part is to enjoy! My favorite way is while it’s still slightly warm and fresh to eat it with butter and maybe a little honey. Or maybe peanut butter. Or maybe one of each. Open-mouthed smile

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