These Are a Few of MY Favorite Things!

I like to browse after I finish my necessary shopping whether at the grocery store or any other store. I don’t buy everything I see, but when I find something that works for my hobbies, my health, or my comfort, I’m willing to indulge. So, thought I’d share a few of my current favorite things.

We are gluten-free at our house because of my husband’s intolerance to wheat products. It took us years to discover the problem so never going to change that aspect of our life. If any of you are gluten-free, I’m willing to bet one of the things you miss the most is any kind of bread product. Yes, you can bake a sort of, not really, reasonable facsimile but it is never quite as satisfying as the real deal. I was an avid bread baker until we had to change the family diet around. You CAN produce a reasonable bread-like outcome on a gluten-free diet but the texture of the dough and the process is different.

I was cruising the Internet a few weeks ago and discovered Authentic Foods – Steve’s Gluten-Free Bread Flour. It promised great things and I purchased some with not too much hope. Bingo! First loaf of bread was amazing with the right texture and a wonderful yeast rise. I currently have a 25-pound bag of the stuff in my former wheat flour storage container! Definitely, number one on my discoveries of late.

Here is an odd, new favorite – Hemp hearts! I saw this at Costco and was intrigued. It has a lot of vitamins including three grams of fiber per serving. Supposedly, it claimed to taste good, too. And, it does! It now gets sprinkled on salads, blended in smoothies, and even enjoyed by the spoonful. I gave one of my sons a bag for his apartment living and his three roommates enjoy it, too. Great for those between-meal hunger pains.

Dry weather and being a constant knitter, crocheter, seamstress is very hard on my hands. I am seldom without chapped hands and split fingers. Buy stock in Liquid Bandage as I keep two bottles in the house constantly. Discovered O’Keeffe’s Skin Repair 48-hour lotion. It stated it was guaranteed to relieve extremely dry and itchy skin. I was desperate. I used it at bedtime and the next morning there was noticeable improvement. Found it at Walmart.

In the realm of gluten-free again, two other flour blends are good additions to my baking/cooking efforts in the kitchen: BetterBatter and Pamela’s All-Purpose Gluten-Free Artisan Flour (Dairy-free, too!) are now staples in my cupboard. BetterBatter has a multitude of recipes on their Internet site for inspiration. Pamela’s is cup for cup for using in formerly favorite regular recipes and especially nice for baking cookies. Again, you can find recipes on-line and try some of your own favorites from the gluten day. I usually buy my flour blends on-line as it is less expensive than health store prices.

My addiction to yarn and crocheting/knitting was satisfied recently. I love making projects with varicolored yarn but couldn’t find exactly the mix of colors that pleased me in the usual offerings. Several months ago, I was looking at the yarn aisle and there was something new! It was a yarn that was soft, came in a larger amount than others for a good price and . . . it was variegated in the most interesting color combinations. I liked the whimsical names of the various choices, too. I recently completed a blanket for one daughter in the color blend ‘Gnome’. It was a wild assortment of vivid almost neon colors with enough somber ones to create a nice result. I’m now working on a blanket for my older son’s birthday and it is called ‘Sphinx’ which is a manly (can we still use the word manly in this day and age?) combination of brown and blue tones. The really nice thing about this yarn is that each skein has a lot more yardage than other brands which makes the under $5.00 a skein actually a bit of a bargain. Right now, Walmart is the only store selling this yarn. It is called Mandala and produced by Lion Brand Yarns.

End of sharing time. Laundry calls and I still haven’t invented dinner for this evening! Would rather be crocheting but them’s the breaks!

Abstract Sewing?

I was an art major in college but marriage and children distracted me from my painting years ago. Discovered, however, that the abstract artist in me is always finding ways to show up in either my cooking/baking or sewing! This week, I got the idea of being more creative with the Little Dresses for Africa and liked what evolved in the course of my sewing!

I had a couple of yards of fabric on the shelf which was enough to make a dress but the color on its own was a bit dull. I went to one of my scrap boxes (yes, I have more than one, don’t ask!) and found some complementary bits and pieces of fabric that worked well and with a little applique time, turned into a ‘original’ creation. The second dress didn’t have enough fabric for one dress but with some cutting and adjusting, it melded into a whole dress that will probably never be repeated.

Summer Time Snickerdoodles

There seems to be two schools of thought on Snickerdoodles. Some people like to make them small and predominately crisp. I am on the side of big with crisp edges and a softer, chewy center. Besides, if you only allow yourself one cookie, make it count, right?

These cookies pack well and would be a welcome to any summer picnic or a good offering to a summer barbecue invitation.

Giant Snickerdoodles

3 cups sugar
1 cup softened butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon
Dash of ground cloves

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, blending well. Add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Mix well.

Combine the 4 tablespoon sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Measure out 1/4 cups of dough and form into balls. Roll balls in cinnamon/sugar mixture and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until set. Remove immediately from baking sheets onto a cooling rack.

Makes approximately 3 ½ dozen big cookies. Can be made smaller but be sure to adjust baking time.

Quilt Scraps and the Budget Quilt – Sort of . . .

Nothing I like better is a quilt order that leaves it up to my discretion as how it will turn out! In this case, my daughter asked for a new quilt for her birthday in March. She said she wanted it to be varied in subject with rainbows, colors, and . . . and . . . and. My cue to dig through my scraps and find fabric so I could make one of my ‘world vision’ quilts. Translation: Every square has some kind of picture/scene in it and anything goes. I also have tentative plans for the back of the quilt but haven’t finalized them yet. Someone told me that the backs of my quilts are almost as elaborate as the front. Yesterday, i finished the 30 preliminary squares for the quilt and hope to have time to start putting on the borders.  As usual, I have a quilt on the shelf that needs a few more hand stitches, one that is pieced and awaiting some backing fabric, and now this current creation.

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Sending off Little Dresses for Africa!

P1000804I had some time, last week and over the days managed to get eight more dresses down for Little Dresses for Africa. Anyone who likes to sew, might look into trying this. The dresses are basic which leaves lots of room for artistic touches like pockets and trims. Fun to imagine, too, that some little girl in Africa will have a wonderful surprise one of these days when the latest shipment of little dresses arrive.

Christmas Crafts – Tis the Season All Too Soon!

P1000793 P1000794 P1000795Working on Christmas crafts. Yes, it is ONLY the end of August but, count the days, we will be sitting down to turkey dinners before you know it and realizing the Christmas Season is around the corner. Lots of opportunities for creativity at the various stores. The plain, cutouts and little boxes provide a lot of empty space to fill with paint and faux jewels.