Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring Forth into Pesticide Free Produce

Hey There -

I'm not sure about other parts of the world, but here in the USA, those of us who wish to eat healthy must combat not only terribly long ingredient lists and lots of nutrition confusion but also produce that's laden with PESTICIDES!  It's super hard to remember what you MUST buy organic and what is still okay non-organic.  Local is usually best.

As the weather improves, the farmer's market comes to town more than just once per month (as in the winter market) and the produce aisles of your local stores begin to show more fruit and veg color than you've seen all winter, keep this in mind.

The CLEAN FIFTEEN and the DIRTY DOZEN - list the safest produce veggie wise as well as the worst.  I will NOT eat certain items - or order them at restaurants or eat them at a friends house or consume them at pot lucks no matter WHAT!!!  Yes, it's tough.  Strawberries have over 90 toxic chemicals sprayed on them, apples likewise.

Here is a link to the lists of good and bad.  Copy the link to your smartphone or snap a photo of the pictures of produce and keep them on your phone for easy shopping reference!


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Squares are HIP and Up to Date

Sometimes it IS hip to be square - just like they used to sing to me on Sesame Street!

I haven't had much hooky time of late because the rest of life is currently taking over in strong demand of my time!  However, I am at least up to date on the square a week challenge I gave myself for 2014.

Here's how they all look unblocked, tails aflutter and sitting on the craft room floor.  (9 weeks into 2014)


Next time I post about the squares I will do some individual closeups as well as indicate the patterns I used.  All of the squares pictured above are made with Cottonish dk yarn and an F size hook. I'm using a range of colors but there will be a bit of the creamy white color in every square. The finished squares are about 6 inches each.  They aren't coming out the exact same size and I'll need to add a row of single crochet to a few of them to make them a bit bigger as I'm sure you can tell.

Ta ta for now.  Sher

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fresh Flowers, Crochet Tins and Roasted Soup


Until this morning, I had a bunch of dead daffodils staring at me from the mantel - no worries, I didn't not photograph that.  Usually that means I haven't been grocery shopping - and yep, we were out of just about EVERYTHING... I do the bulk of my shopping at Trader Joe's and each time I'm there, I freshen the flowers around my space.

What did I get today?



Something called WAX flowers.  They are tall and have greenery that looks something like fresh rosemary.  At their tippy tops are little purple flowers.  They don't look SUPER like spring - they look like the perfect flower for a winter that just won't end and so are perfect for my house right now (yes, we had another snow day two days ago).



Each week, I also stuff some tulips (2 colors if I dare to afford them both) and some unbloomed daffodils - I like to buy them all tight and closed and watch them open day by day until they reach their full bloom.  The daffodils usually come from England or Ireland - so thanks to all my UK friends for sending your lovely yellow flowers to brighten my day.

Last week I got a few potted bulbs.  One is a light purple hyacinth which I can smell as soon as I walk in the front door.  It's trying very hard to droop over so I've tied it to a chop stick.  I also got some really tiny daffodils in a pot which haven't yet reared their pretty heads.  I put the potted plants each into a crab meat tin I had saved some months ago.  AND... earlier this week I crocheted some bright and happy little tin covers for them.  All the color on the mantle is helping to counter the drab colors and constant white blanket of snow covering any such green on the ground.





I took down the very dried roses but I thought they still looked pretty.





I hopped up and grabbed some yarn to make the tin covers after perusing the blog Color & Cream.  I love the colors she puts together - some people just have such a knack for colors and their color schemes seem to really define them and they utilize their particular colors so well - all the time.  I seem to be a scatterbrain with color - I can't decide what my scheme is.  I apparently have a bunch of different things I like in the color world.  But, putting colors together myself is not a skill I possess... I really have a defunct color building skill. Therefore, I copy color a lot.  Ah well - you can't be good in all areas, I'll have to settle for being a copy cat.  I didn't use any patterns to make the tins, just kind of dreamed them up as I went.

Tonight I'm teaching crochet class #2 of 8.  I teach one class each Wednesday night.  This class is the perfect size with 9 students.  The class is taught to beginners and intermediates alike.  Three of the students have taken my class before but 6 of them are learning to crochet for the first time.  The first session I taught of crochet there were 12 people - all beginners... a bit tough at that size.  The next time there were SEVENTEEN!!! I had panic attacks before every class.  The third time there were 6 students and that was a bit small.  I think 8-12 is a good number especially when it's folks at different skill levels.  I teach the class Montessouri style so that crocheters may progress at their own speed.  But generally, I'm teaching a pretty big group the same skills at the same time so it works.


Raw veggies, squished on tray with olive oil, salt and peper

Veggies about 30 mins later, roasted at 400F

Roasted Veggies cut small to add to soup
I head out the door for class before 6:30pm which makes dinner tight.  So... I planned to have some vegetable soup tongiht - to get full flavor in my soup I'm trying to make the soup with pre-roasted veggies.  I never use recipes - esp. not for soup - so in my usual flair - I'm winging this.  Here are the veggies I'm roasting in the over to prepare for the soup - what do you think? will it work? have you made soup this way before?  Well, I guess we will see.

Success!  It tastes GOOD! And, I tried the juice of one lemon squeezed in - man that did the trick.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March Book Review: Dark Places



If you've been following me the past few months, you know that I joined a REAL LIFE book club in my neighborhood as well as a virtual book club started by the Circle of Pine Trees blog.  You can click the button on the right side of my blog "A Year in Books" to join up - it's never too late!

With my real life book club I am trudging along through the book Middlemarch by George Eliot.  Seriously, when the club leaders said we would have 2 months to read this book, I scoffed. I'm a very fast reader, I can simply absorb books.  WOW have I been put in my place.  I need at least 6 months for this baby!  And thanks to all those who commented or emailed me telling me not to give up on Middlemarch.  Actually I don't dislike Middlemarch, but it is very tedious and very detailed and very very long.  It's like reading all of Jane Austen (with less humor and lighthearted romance) wrapped up into one book.  And I happen to be an Austen fan (Sense and Sensibility is my absolute FAVE Austen).



So, enough about that - I'm on like page 178 of a kazillion pages!  Basically not even a third of the way through.  I am not sure if I will finish by the time our next club meeting happens.

To keep myself from getting too overwhelmed, I've been slipping in some quick reads.  My book to report on for March (for the virtual book club) is Dark Places.  This book is by Gillian Flynn, the same author of the popular read, Gone Girl.  I didn't read Gone Girl but when someone offered me Dark Places and I saw it was the same author and had heard a lot of people had liked Gone Girl, I decided to give it a whirl.

I did NOT like this book.  Really, it didn't have anything to do with the writing or the author.  BUT... the subject matter was disturbing.  The main character is a pretty messed up gal (around 30 yrs old during most of her narration) and most of her family was brutally murdered.  When I read a book, I often fall in love with the characters even though they are very different from me or from other characters I read about.  I like several genres of books and love all kinds of characters, current, historical, international etc... However, I did not like spending time with the characters in this book.  The main character wasn't necessarily BAD but her life was totally depressing to me - as were the lives of most of the characters.  Some chapters I could hardly read because they depressed me so much.  This book is not a bad book - it just wasn't my type of read and literally left me with chills and a completely yucky feeling as I read it.

Did you read Gone Girl?  Was it any different?  Do you like this type of book or characters.  I'm wondering if I'm a total odd-ball for feeling this way about the book.  I'd love to hear your opinion.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bread Glorious Bread






When it comes to the bread recipe I just found there is no "KNEAD" to worry that it won't be perfect every time!  No-knead artisan bread recipes are all over the internet right now - and now I can attest that I understand why!

It's AWESOME and it's EASY!

Tho I could cite a ton of places where I've read about this no knead method of bread successes, it was this recipe that finally gave me the courage to give it a go.

Why? Simplicity.

I followed her suggestions pretty much EXACTLY... I used the same yeast she did (got it on Amazon), I used King Arthur flour (because I really like it), I got the same dough whisk (again, Amazon) and I finally purchased myself an enamel coated dutch oven (which I have been coveting for a while), I got this one (you guessed it, Amazon).

Yesterday at 2 pm, I threw together the "batter" for 2 loaves.  I was pretty sure the white bread would work but not so sure about the whole wheat (actually more of a light wheat as it's a blend of wheat and white), but it did.  This morning at 6:30am, I baked them off.

white loaf
The white loaf used 2 cups of organic all purpose unbleached and 1 cup of organic bread flour (both King Arthur).

wheat loaf
The wheat-ish loaf used 1 cup of organic all purp., 1 cup of organic bread flour and 1 cup or organic whole wheat.  I added another 1/4t of yeast to the wheat-ish batter as folks had said their wheat attempts didn't rise well - apparently, the extra 1/4 t did the trick.

amazing crusty bread with such fabulous texture!

And yes, if you think it looks good, it tasted even better.  This bread scenario will DEFINITELY happen again.


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