Days Until Christmas....

Friday, October 15, 2010

Weekend Creation - Vintage Style Ice Skates

Vintage Style Felt Ice Skates
It's been another busy week here, with my oldest son's 10th birthday, more family coming through town for a visit, and our regular busy lives!

I have had to 'squeeze' in some creating time.   I know as we get closer to Christmas, the faster time goes!  I wanted some gifts ready ahead of time.  (I'm a "plan-it-and-have-it-done-in-plenty-of-time" type of person.  I like to be prepared!)

These Vintage Style Ice Skates are so fun to make.  I really enjoy sitting down and doing hand-stitching.  It makes me slow down, and my mind clears!

Anyway, here is a quick look at what I've been up to.   How about you?  What are you creating lately?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fresh Bread in the Breadmaker

The kitchen is not my favorite room in our home for the simple reason that I am not a good cook. We get by. After all, we have to eat! I must say that I'm improving as the years go by, but by necessity, not the pure enjoyment of cooking. However, when I became a diabetic a few years ago, we made dietary changes and one of them was to eat less preservatives. I'm constantly on the lookout for ways to do just that. And that is why I decided to try a breadmaker.

I found a breadmaker at a local thrift store. I didn't want to put too much money into this project until I was sure I wanted to continue with it.  I did an online search for the instruction manual to match the breadmaker that I had purchased, and I was off to make my first loaf of bread. My goal was to make only whole grain bread. Whole wheat bread was taking a toll on our grocery budget, and I wanted to make my own with no preservatives.

I got the bread pan out of the breadmaker and added the ingredients. My two boys (ages 6 and 10) were very interested in this machine that was going to give us fresh bread. After three and a half hours, and the delicious aroma of fresh bread in the house, we had our first flop! That's right. I made a ball of bread that looked like a brown cannon ball. It did not raise much and was heavy. I pondered what I might have done wrong.  Did I add too much water, or too little yeast?  I did another internet search and found it could have been any of many different issues. In Florida, it was possibly a high humidity issue that had to be adjusted for also. I kept going. 

My boys were still interested as I mixed another loaf.  They were anxious to peek in the churning machine, and were teased by wonderful scent of fresh bread again, only to view a final heavy glob.
This happened over and over. Many loaves of bread went into the trash. Then one night, fighting with the breadmaker recipe quite late, I was too tired to do more than empty the bread onto a wire rack, drape a towel over the loaf and head to bed. I had intended to take it to the outside trash can, but decided it could wait. The next morning, I woke up to my husband and the kids eating loaf number nine! It might not have raised to the big puffy, beautiful loaf that I had envisioned, but it was edible! Looking back, the earlier loaves were probably edible, as well, even though they didn't raise very much. When hot, the yeast has a strong odor when the bread is cut open.  Once cooler, the yeast smell disappeared.  The  taste was wonderful. 

I kept playing with the ingredients and finally got the recipe that works. It's completely whole wheat, which was important to me. I prepare many (Ziploc) twist lock containers of the mix ahead of time to keep in the pantry. When I make bread, sometimes I add additional ingredients for variety. (Rosemary, sage, and chives from the herb garden make Herb Bread. Chopped, fresh garlic can be added for Garlic Bread. Fresh or frozen whole cranberries make a wonderful Cranberry Bread, and there is the always favorite Raisin and Cinnamon Bread).

Recently I was reading the top ways to cut costs on Yahoo! news, and there it was: Buy a Breadmaker! Yes, we've cut some food costs by making our own. Depending on what ingredients are in your recipe, making your own bread will be less expensive. (Our bread is around two dollars per loaf).

Over the past few months, I've encouraged a few friends to get started with their own bread making. I enjoy listening to how their experience is going. (And encourage them to try to eat their mistakes!) They are having as much fun as we are, so far.

Recently, in a school journal, my son had to write about a scent that reminded him of something. He wrote about how the scent of fresh bread reminded him of our home. I felt so proud....Proud that the bread we make is a healthier, preservative-free choice, and that my guys still love it so much. It makes our home smell homey, and my guys appreciate that as much as they do when they eat it.  Their friends drop by and like to sit down for warm bread with melting peanut butter and strawberry jam. And I'm thankful for what my husband calls my "tenaciousness" that didn't let those first loaves beat me! 

All in all, it's been worth it.  I am still using the same breadmaker that I started with.  It's proven to be worth every penny!  

Here's our recipe.  It's basic, with simple ingredients.  If you have questions or comments about breadmaking, please share!

Whole Wheat Breadmaker Bread
9 Ounces of Water (1 Cup and 2 TBSP)
1 Tbsp Molasses
2 Tbsp Honey
2 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Dry Milk
2 Tbsp Flax, ground or semi-ground
1 1/4 Tsp Salt
1 1/2 Fast Rise Yeast
3 1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

Add wet ingredients first. Then add dry ingredients, except yeast. Make a small well with your finger and add the yeast into the well. Follow Breadmaker Instructions for Whole Wheat Bread settings.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Painting with Brenda

My dear friend, Brenda (from, is a wonderful decorative painter.  She makes beautiful ornaments, decorations, wall hangings, and more.  In fact, if it stands still long enough, it will likely get a coat of paint, a cute little face, or a beautiful rose added to it!

Brenda recently mentioned she could teach me to paint.  (I had attempted before.  Sorry Donna Dewberry, but you helped very little on my past attempts!)  Brenda was optimistic and with her encouragement.  I agreed to try again.  Time flies when Brenda and I chat on the porch swing.  Well, if the worst that could happen would be us spending an afternoon together laughing and chatting, and I might learn to paint a simple shape,  then I'd take the chance!  Brenda got the brushes and acrylic paint ready!
I did it!  Snowman Sled by Rebecca

I was stunned to see my first project when I arrived.  A painted sled  awaited me.  Brenda gave me a book to choose an idea of what to put on it.  The ideas in the book looked difficult.....a santa face or a snowman face?!  How was I going to do this?  Brenda was still looking optimistic as she put the sled in my hands, so I didn't share that I  actually thought I'd return home later that day with something that looked like it was  from my son's kindergarten art class!  It was my first real painting class after all!

Brenda is quite a teacher.  She has taught many projects to her local artist group.  She gave me a list of necessary supplies and explained painting terms to me.  She taught in an organized step by step manner and explained as she went.  Brenda slowly worked the techniques, like shading, and then had me practice the same.  She has many painting tricks from her years of experience, and is quite happy to share them, unlike many crafters that I've met who know, who guard their craft closely!  It was a pleasant afternoon.  And like time chatting on the porch swing, the time sped by!

I got home that evening and amazed my family with the sweetest snowman face painted on a sled wall hanging.  Brenda taught me to create eyes with a lively little sparkle, and make a unique grin for my little snow guy.   My snowman actually resembled a snowman!  Just like it was supposed to be!  I have much yet to learn, however, I'm not intimidated by the mighty paint and brush anymore.  The next time Brenda happens to mention "You could paint that",  I might even believe her!  In the meantime, I'll be practicing my painting and probably running to Brenda for help with the right techniques and tips often!

Check out Brenda's latest.  She's filling up her etsy store for the upcoming holidays.  She does beautiful work.  You are invited to view her etsy store and blog site!   She has a tutorial on her blog about how to paint a light bulb Santa!  It's fascinating how it progresses from a burned out bulb into such a jolly character!   and
Make sure you leave her a comment and tell her where you read about her!

(Isn't this a fun ornament?!)