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I’ve Moved

Click over to my new blog. I’ve been playing with my sewing machines, come see what I’ve made.

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Sprouted Wheat Crackers

For a while, I’ve been wanting to make sprouted wheat bread. You can buy this stuff at a health food store but it’s really pricey. Besides, I like to do things the long, drawn out way in the kitchen.

The first step is to sprout the wheat. Put 2 cups of wheat berries in a jar and cover them with water. Let them soak overnight. The next day, pour off the extra water (strain through a cheesecloth or use a handy-dandy sprouting lid on your jar) and rinse them.

Rinse them a couple times each day. Mine sprouted within 2 days. When they have a tiny “tail”, they are ready.

Spread the sprouted wheat on a cookie sheet and dry it. I used my oven set on 200 degrees. I let it dry for a few hours and that did the trick. While it was drying (baking?), the house smelled so good — really malty and toasty.

After drying, grind the wheat (this is complicated, eh?). I use a grain mill. If you don’t have one, you are out of luck. Maybe you could grind the wheat a bit by bit in a coffee grinder? Or a super high-powered blender? Or maybe just skip this recipe. My yield was just over 3 cups of flour.

At this point, I had several days invested in my sprouted wheat loaf. I was getting closer to baking time so the excitement was building. I used my regular pizza dough recipe to make the loaf. I kept mixing and kneading (and kneading….and kneading). The dough had no “spring.” There seemed to be no gluten development.

At this point, I knew a loaf of soft, fluffy bread was not going to happen. Time for another plan. So, I made crackers.

I rolled the dough thin, brushed with water & sprinkled with salt and then cut them into squares & pricked them with a fork. After baking for 20 minutes at 350.

And they are good. Very good — tasty accompaniment to homemade soup. Were they worth all the effort? Not really.

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Goodbye Gram

Last week my Grandmother, Elizabeth, died. She was 97 and a half.

I made a trip back to Pittsburgh with my cousin Erin to say goodbye to her. It was only fitting that we went together since, as children, we said goodbye to her husband, Pap, as a team.

Gram had a hard life. She was born to immigrant parents in a coal mining town, only went to school for a few years, and lived in poverty for most of her young life. There was not much glamor or glory in her life and her existence was, for the most part, hardscrabble.

Losing Gram closes a door on a very special part of my childhood. My cousin and I spent much time with Gram and Pap as children. A week at her house, just the two of us, was our favorite vacation. She’d let us drink coffee (really it was milk, lots of sugar, and a touch of joe — delicious!). Gram would make donuts for us and always give us a piece of dough to shape into our own before frying them. She made the best homemade noodles. In her little town, we had the freedom to walk to the store and buy candy or slush puppies. Erin and I loved to go watering at the cemetery — the old graves with the strange names captivated us. We’d walk the tracks in the evening with Pap and go to church with him on Sundays. We felt special up in the choir loft, cozying up to him while he sang along with his deep voice. Gram would take us visiting — we’d walk down the street and visit her cousins or her sister and sit in strange houses. They’d sometimes speak Slavik which neither Erin or I understood. We’d while our time away, swinging our legs while sitting on hard chairs and nibbling cookies, until it was time to skip back down the street, back to Grams bright house and big yard. Avella, the town Gram lived in, was magical and fun to us.

Going back for her funeral and seeing Avella as an adult was so starkly different than how I viewed it as a child. Now, I see poverty and harshness where once I saw excitement and mystery and comfort. I realize how difficult life must have been for Gram but I also know there was love and joy there. Gram was happy when Erin and I were there. She smiled and made us feel loved and cared for. I know her life was not so happy at all times. Pap died almost thirty years ago and Gram missed him every single day — she bemoaned that she still lived — every single day. She was a harsh woman in many ways — it would be nearly impossible to not be given the struggles she had — but I knew nothing but soft and sweet kindness from her.

As I said goodbye to Gram, I vowed to look below the surface of places and people. A town that is depressing or run down is still a town that may harbor a heart of joy in a child. A person that is mean and spiteful contains a soft spot for someone special. I truly feel that Erin and I were that soft spot for Gram. She was greatly loved by us and will be greatly missed.

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Pop-Tart Books

These were made to occupy my kids during a lengthy, family restaurant evening. We used the debris from that morning’s breakfast. Yeah, Pop-Tarts, I know. Not exactly the breakfast of champions but, well, what can I say? We love them.

To make these, we cut apart the boxes, folded plain paper and tucked the paper inside the folded cardboard. I ran the book through my sewing machine using a long stitch length with a heavy-duty needle, then trimmed the pages. These are so simple to make that even explaining the process seems like overkill. The amount of time put into these was minimal and my kids were very excited. They fought over who got which flavor book. But all was good and they served their purpose well.

We need to make more. I know what I’ll be serving for breakfast today.

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My Dolls

I love dolls. My kids do not really like them. Mojo has had a few over the years but never developed interest in playing with them. In fact, they won’t sleep in a room with dolls looking at them. I don’t get it. “It’s the eyes,” my kids say. “They’re creepy.”

While digging in my craft box, they found some googly eyes and started to play “doll.”

Ok……now, I get it.

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Happy Feet

This is one present I could not wait to give to Oli — elf slippers.

My friend, Laura, hand makes these. I meant to save them for the big day but I just couldn’t.

I swear there is magic in these slippers — the skipping, the giggles, and the silliness — it is just contagious. Even my feet are tapping a little more quickly and I can’t stop grinning as Oli twirls by me for, oh, maybe the hundredth time today. For anyone interested, Laura’s slippers can be found here.

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Home Building

It is finally finished! After over 20 pieces of gingerbread, 1 hour of painstaking assembly, 24 hours of drying, 6 boxes of candy, 3 hyper kids, and a whirlwind of decoration, I present the gingerbread house of 2009.

Our home.

Front view:

Back view:

Yes, that is a pony in the back yard. No, we do not have a pony but it’s Christmas time so we can pretend.

It even has a chicken coop and sagging roof. There are cracks and mismatched bits and pieces. In short it is just like home sweet home.

The dough recipe came from here. In the past, I’ve used a recipe that includes butter, but, since no one here actually eats the gingerbread, I made a shortening-based recipe this year. This dough was the perfect consistancy to work with. We’re already dreaming of next year’s creation. I’m thinking it’s time to simplify.

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