Word of the Day!

Word of the Day

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Tale of Two Breads

Actually, one bread, done twice. I found a neat recipe in a Cooking For 2 magazine that I borrowed, for a mini challah loaf. The first time I made it I was a little rushed, and so I omitted the first rise time (the recipe called for letting it rise 1 hr, then shaping the bread, and letting it rise 45 min.). I just shaped it immediately and let it rise. It turned out pretty good, but I wanted to see if it would be any better (puffier) if I did it according to the directions, so I made it again, only I doubled the recipe so I could give a loaf to my mother-in-law (The problem with the Cooking for 2 magazine is that they are very serious about all the recipes being small batches. This bread is technically 8 servings, and Brandon and I will eat one in two meals. Most of the main dish recipes are 2 servings with NO LEFTOVERS.). The doubled recipe also turned out well. Maybe a little puffier, it is hard to tell.

I have to confess, my scientific method was a little flawed in this experiment (besides doubling the second batch), because yesterday as I waited for the 2 loaves to rise, I realized I was about to run out of time to get it finished before bible class at 7:30, which was when I was going to give the loaf to Brandon's mom, and I cut the second rise time short by 15 min. So I may have to do it again just to make sure. :) Not that I really need a lot of excuse to make homemade bread.

I could not find the recipe online (at the Cooking for 2 website, this particular recipe is restricted to subscribers only) but here is a similar one. If you halved it, it would make two mini loaves or one regular loaf.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Feeding my love affair with the written word

I have been a member of BookMooch since May of 2007 (about 9 months now). BookMooch is just about the coolest thing since sliced bread (of course, I never thought sliced bread was that nifty, so it doesn't take much).

BookMooch.com is a book trading site that works on a points system. 1 point = 1 book you can ask someone else to send you. You put up your inventory of books that you are willing to send to others, and you recieve 1/10th of a point for each book listed. This gives you enough points to mooch one or two books before anyone sees your books and mooches from you. You also recieve 1/10th a point for letting the system know when you have recieved books that you mooched. There is a limit to the number of "free" points you can actually use, however, since to continue to be allowed to mooch from others, you must maintain a good ratio of books sent to others as compared to books recieved.

It's not really free books, since you have to earn points by sending out books to others, but it is very cheap books, since sending a paperback by media mail is usually around $2. I have had very good experiences with BookMooch. I get books that I want, I get rid of books I don't, and although some people are slow sending out books, or have rejected my mooch requests, I haven't felt that these infrequent happenings have tarnished my overall experience. If I want a particular book, I search BookMooch first, and then half.com (because a lot of the time I can find the books I want there for $4 or $5) and then amazon.com (last because the shipping on secondhand books from various vendors is higher than that on half.com, and I usually only buy new books as impulse purchases in brick-and-mortar stores or as a last resort when there are no good affordable secondhand copies to be found).

Looking at my stats, I see that I have recieved 15 books since joining, and sent out 14.

I love getting packages in the mail, which is probably part of why I love BookMooch so much. I like the anticipation of waiting for the mail when I know something good is coming.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Quilting and Novel-Writing

This is the first quilt I did. I finished it almost three years ago. It's completely a scrap quilt. Many of the pieces are leftover fabric from dresses or other projects of mine over the years. Some were pieces my from my mom's stash, and some were pieces she received in a quilt block swap. As you can see, it's throw sized. I didn't give much thought to color and composition, I just sewed blocks together and tried not to get any two of the same design too close together. Like most first projects, I learned a lot.

Making a quilt (yes, even a baby quilt) seems to me the sewing equivalent of writing a novel. It takes a long time, and planning is required. As you go (or at least, as I go) your plans change and morph. You take the pieces and lay them out, shuffle them around, see how they look one way, and then another. Although I will say that "cut and paste" is much easier than "rip out and re-sew". You add some things and take some away. Maybe you let it set awhile and then come back to it much later and finish it in a burst of inspiration (that's how my first quilt went, anyway, and many of my short stories).

And when it is all over, you have something to be proud of, even if it is a little bit homely by other's standards. :) Although, it's much easier to go back and revise the rough draft of a novel than to revise a whole quilt. (Well, I say that, but ask me again later when I'm actually doing the revision of my novel and we'll see.)

Speaking of novel writing, I am not doing so well in that department. I've written maybe six whole pages this month. I have been doing a lot of research reading, however, which is good. It keeps the novel on top of my mind, so that I am thinking about it and planning and trying out different ideas. When I will really get worried is when I'm not thinking about it anymore. It's a short jump from not thinking about a story to not finishing it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Starting the baby quilt

Ever since my sister found out she was pregnant, I've been planning a baby quilt for her. I've had the main fabrics for months. Originally I was just going to make it with plain squares in a sort of checkerboard, but then the fancy-quilt bug bit me, and I wanted to do the star square (it is paper pieced). I've had the design picked out and all planned. It turns out I will not be using the star square. I just don't like how the monkeys in the star are going all different directions. It would take a lot of care to line them up on every square. For me, it might be impossible.

Realizing this, and realizing that I was running out of time, I had to pick a new pattern. Saturday I found a different pattern in a book from the library, that just uses squares and rectangles. Now I have all the pieces cut out. Her shower is March 9, and the baby is due around April 8. I doubt I will make it to the shower with a finished quilt, but we will see.

The sashing will be orange. For a baby quilt, it is very bright, but I like brights, and I figure that it will be something my nephew can keep in his room even when he's older and it won't look too babyish.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Nifty Craft Gadget

I usually don't go in for super-specialized craft tools like this. I mean, it makes heart-shaped punches, and that's it. I only bought it because last year I needed it to make wedding invites and thank-you cards, and I figured it was worth the $10 or so to do that.

But I've found a couple of other surprising special-occasion uses for it. I used it to make little tags for the hostess gifts at my shower. Also it has been great at Valentines Day.

Last year I used it to cut lots of little hearts out of cardstock (actually, I think they were the ones left from cutting heart shapes out of the invites and thank-you cards). On each one I wrote something I admired about Brandon, and I put them all in a little tin box. Oh yeah, with a little vintage trunk key and a note that said "Keys to my heart". (It's funny, I am not usually so sappy romantic.)

This Valentines, I used it to make a card for Brandon (the photos are cut out from a leftover copy of our engagement photo), and then I made lots of little heart shapes from recycled greeting cards and on the back of each one wrote a coupon, for example "one chicken fried steak dinner". I saved three bucks on a Hallmark card, but I will definitely pay it out in sweat. :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Another Pattern, Another Muslin

So being as the vintage jeans jacket pattern isn't going to work for the corduroy and minky, I had to find another pattern that required only 1.5 yards of 60" fabric, which severely limits my options. This is the second candidate, and the one I will use, if I can get a couple of kinks worked out.

I made a muslin (out of black fleece and some scraps of houndstooth flannel from my jumper) up yesterday. There are reasons that I rarely cut out and finish sewing anything in one day. For one, the quality of my work suffers as I get frustrated and in a hurry. If I spread things out, and work at them at my leisure, I don't get nearly so upset about things like, oh, redoing the pockets three times before I get it right.

However, this did turn out wearable, and I like it except for a few imperfections that were totally caused by me doing a lined jacket as unlined, without a clear understanding of how that affected the construction and shaping of the pattern pieces. I had to make several "design decisions" like edging the front with bias tape made from the houndstooth. I also lengthened the sleeves, but not quite enough. They need another inch or two. I can eke another inch out by letting out the 1" hem and making some more bias tape to edge the sleeves.

I think it looks cute with the jumper that it matches, too, and the collar gives it a very retro look. The best part, though, is the buttons. They're like giant pound symbols.

McCall's 5007, by the way, appears to have just gone out of print, but Etsy seller backalleydesign has some new and uncut in her store, for very reasonable prices (they are listed in a batch with three other patterns, but when I asked she was willing to break the batch up and sell me only the ones I wanted).

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

About My Novel

By request, I'm going to talk a little about the novel I'm working on. I'm about 3/4 done, and I have been working on it since, oh, June or something. It's going much slower than I originally intended, but I keep plugging along. After I finish the first draft, I'll have quite a bit of revision to do to really make it readable.

It's partly a murder mystery, but that is a secondary plot. I won't try to explain the whole thing here, but I will say the people at the library must think I have a sad life. I've been doing research for it, and I've checked out probably six books on domestic violence and four or five on alcoholism and children of alcoholics.

I don't know if I would call this a Christian novel, but it is written from my viewpoint as a Christian, and the one of the two main characters is a Christian. Nobody gets "saved" by the end, though.

I'm having a difficult time deciding how many of the details of the murder are really necessary. I find many forensic-type murder mysteries (and even worse, I think, shows like CSI) really have more detail than they need to to get the point across, and I wonder about a culture where that is considered "entertainment". But forensics is a real part of life, and is very valuable for catching and convicting criminals. For my research I've read several nonfiction books written by forensic anthropologists and other forensic scientists, and it is fascinating even as it is really kind of gross. I think just like doctors or morticians, it takes a special kind of personality to stand up to that kind of job.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


I have been tagged by Donna

These are the rules: (and I'm glad she posted them, because I didn't really know what it meant when she said she tagged me.)
*Link to the person who tagged you. (this means to make their name a clickable link, which I did.).
*Post the rules on your blog.
*Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.
*Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
*Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.

Six facts about me:

1. My favorite novel, if I have to choose one, is The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck.

2. I have visited four foreign countries: Mexico, Canada, Peru, and Ecuador.

3. I am on page 220 of my first novel (Not my first novel attempt, however. None of the others made it past page 40.)

4. My current goals include reading through the New Testament in Spanish, and sewing a pair of jeans that fit well. Both may take awhile to accomplish.

5. I used to be a certified EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), but I'm pretty sure my certification has lapsed. I live too far out in the country now to make any kind of reasonable response time to calls.

6. I always thought it would be pretty cool to go hang-gliding.

Now to tag some random people (okay, not six, because then I would have to get really random): Retro Grace, TootsieGrace, Patternaholic