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.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Book Review Times Two

This month   last week, I read two books.

I'm also currently reading Middlemarch (but it's very long and very detailed and very tedious and very slow).  So I needed a quick read and a break from the other.
First, I grabbed Labor Day.  Labor Day is one of the books I wanted to read because I like to read books before I see the movie made from a book.  I also chose this one from my stack because it looked short.  And, it was.  I finished it in just a few hours.  Yes, I'm a fast reader, but really, the book wasn't very long.
It wasn't a heavy book, it took place all in the space of one weekend, and then a little follow-up tossed on to the end.  Based on the picture on the cover, I knew from the very beginning what would happen by the end of the book.  It wasn't hard to figure out - there wasn't a lot of puzzlement between the lines.  The characters were both strange and interesting.  You can't REALLY get to know a character from reading about their lives in ONE weekend... or at least in this book I couldn't, but the characters only went so deep anyway.  Things were both not believeable and also somewhat predictable.  It was a bit depressing even though it had a happy ending, everything tied up very neatly in a bow at the end.  Anyway - give it a read, the time won't cost you much.  It's an entertaining story for the most part.  See the movie too - I'm sure it will match the book, sounds easy to produce in movie form - haven't seen it yet.  All in all, I'd give it a 3 out of 5.
Then, I moved onto Divergent.  I used to read everything in the young adult section so I'd keep up with things that kids liked, but as my kids have gotten older, I've backed off from the young adult world.  This book for me falls into the post-apocalyptic genre.  It's the first of a trilogy.  It's science fiction-ish but the characters are just regular people, no aliens or anything.  From the first page I knew I would be fully entertained.  Again, it's not terribly deep and complex, but I don't always require that of a book.  Sometimes I just want it to take me on an adventure and this book did.  I more than half of it in one night when my lower back was hurting and I couldn't sit up to watch the olympics, so I reclined and read.  The next morning I read the rest of the book.  This book will be a movie in March.  In fact, I saw the trailer and it made me want to read it before I saw the movie.  I'm always interested to see how an author pictures our world when it has been decimated by war and people are trying to survive in a new sort of world.  The entire world of this book takes place in what was the city of Chicago...but there are two more books in the trilogy (already out - yes, I'll be reading book #2 as soon as I get it).  I enjoyed this book and I cannot wait to see how they depict all that is described in the movie.  It could be quite visually stunning and definitely one to see on the big screen.
As for Labor Day - the movie, wait til you can get it free on cable or netflix, no need to see that one on the big screen.
Did you read either of these books?  If so, let me know what you thought of them. 
This book review is part of "The Year of Books."  I am participating in these reviews over at Circle of Pine Trees blog.  Feel free to join in (button on right of my blog, take you there in one click).
BY THE WAY - Kate Winslet happens to have a role in both films, and no, I didn't know that when I picked up the books!


Friday, February 14, 2014

Facebook Valentines for the Snowbound

Here's an idea for you if you are stuck inside due to several feet of snow blocking your way outside... Facebook your Valentines with photo design software.

Here's what I posted for my lovely hubby today:

See more Valentines/Anniversary photos I designed for him and read about this post over at my other blog by CLICKING HERE.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Square Talk

Do you remember THIS POST when I told you I would be following along with A CONVERSATION WITH MOO blog and her weekly crochet squares?  Well, I also told you that I decided to follow along with her un-invited.  I've been a bit worried about that over the past few weeks.  Then, no more squares were posted.  OH MY!  Did I cause her bad luck, make her mad? I wasn't sure.  But, I did hear from her (Terri) today and she's just been busy.  She's got two more squares coming.  WHEW...

I did make a couple of squares on my own in the mean time - what can it hurt right?  The two squares I made plus the two she will post shortly will catch me right up to 6 total squares and put me right in line with the 2nd week in February.  COOL.  Right on track.

Here are my two squares:

This one is called Edwardian Fancy

This one is called Briar Rose 

You can follow along with the squares if you wish.  They are all from the book, 200 Crochet Blocks by Jan Eaton.  I'm using cottonish dk yarn in a variety of colors and a size F hook.  The finished squares are about 6 inches.  Follow me on pinterest, I've got a board going just for these squares!

I'm sure there will be more squares yet to come!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hearts aBrewin' amidst the Snows

 Woke up Sunday to find this little curled up fur ball in my bed - she snuck in when no one was looking and was very still and quiet.

Ran some errands Sunday afternoon just as the first few snowflakes began to fall.  We were expecting an inch or less.  The sidewalks and streets coated up pretty fast with the cold temperatures (it's been well over a week since we've seen temperatures over the FREEZING mark aka 32F).

Headed out in slippered feet to check the progress - yep, just a coating.  Off to bed.

6am - awoke to find more than a coating had fallen over night.  Instead it was 3-4 inches.  Fortunately no school delay or cancellation.  I didn't even bother to get out of my pjs, just started a pot of coffee, made a school lunch, popped a pair of boots on my rainbow sleep socks and headed out at 6:40am to shovel.

I was not alone, a few other neighbors were out, clearing away - again.

By 7:20am hubby and son had headed off to work/school and I was clearing the snow from the final car, preparing for my own departure for BE Fit exercise class.  I hadn't been to class in over a week so after an hour of shoveling my own property and the neighbor and the driveways, sidewalks and cars, I wondered how my muscles would cooperate for the class!

Climbing out of the car after exercise class I gazed up at the brilliant blue sky and dark green pines and delighted in the cotton balls that hung from every branch.  This had been a light and fluffy snow, just enough to cover the grey ice with white fluff and make it look all pretty again.  The sun was out and I was warm from the class (a great class which I did manage to get through quite well).  Added some color to my cheeks...

Treated myself to some citrus water.  I love my new (scavenged and free!) citrus juicer.  I've been doing lemon, lime and clementine and adding the mixture to my ice water - very refreshing after a workout and it feels so summery!

Tho still below freezing, the sun was really doing its work on the sidewalks and the streets were almost back to black!

The tulips and daffodils on the mantel were blooming with flourish - enjoying the warmth of the house and the sun.

And OH MY LUNCH.  YUM. YUM. YUM.  toasted taco shells with refried beans, sharp cheddar from the farmer's market, shredded spinach and cabbage (way easier to keep fresh and crisp than lettuce), topped with some homemade guacamole - delish.  YES!  I ate it ALL and wanted more.

This morning (Tuesday) I headed off to running group.  It had been two weeks since I'd run - for a variety of reasons and only one of those reasons being the weather.  I wasn't sure how I'd do.  I was slow, there were hills, it was cold but I did it.  Three miles, slow - mighty slow.  But hey, I was out there.  When I returned home I saw two things... clear streets and more sunshine!!!  

Checked my weather app after the run and saw it was 20F degrees!  That's 12 degrees below freezing on the Fahrenheit scale.  It was a cold run but by the time it was over I was well thawed out and sweaty even!  Hmmmm what's that little red exclamation point, I think I'll click on it and see.  Yesterday, the weather report said we had 2 inches of snow coming Wednesday night.  OH MY!

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  6 to 10 MORE inches, with a layer of sleet in the middle, heavy, icy, branch breaking, power killing ice between the bouts of snow.  OH MY.  Coming tomorrow night and sticking around all day and night on Thursday.  UGH.

Well today I will just enjoy the sunshine filtering thru the windows and the flowers popping open with power!

OH... and a bit of something red pink and heart-ish happening on the hook.  I have a plan, for Valentine's Day - which is not only Valentine's Day but my 25th ANNIVERSARY!!!!  I hope the roads are clear and the power is on and the public transportation is running on Friday cuz Hubby and I have some plans.

Oh yeah, one more little thing happened last night - I went to my last ever swim meet.  Child #4 of 4 competed in his last diving meet - and the whole dive team even did a swim relay just for fun - they didn't do half bad.  It was a fun meet and certainly an end of an era for the Jenkins clan.

senior posters

son Sawyer w/ girlfriend and her sister

senior Sawyer send off with parents

the seniors and their coaches.

TATA - stay warm.  Sher

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Book Clubs and I'm Invited

I've always been a reader.

I read a lot.

I read fast.  I cannot get to the words fast enough to satisfy myself.  I pour through a good book like there's no tomorrow.  I get attached, I can't put it down and then it ends.

Sometimes it's weird because I've been in "book land" - kind of similar to blog land except the blog land characters sometimes converse with me - and then all the characters in book land disappear and I feel lonely until I find new friends in a new book.  Yep - I'm weird.
Click on the book to see it at Amazon.  This series is one of my all time favorites.  If you haven't read it and you don't know "Jamie and Claire" goodness I'm excited for you!  Truly one of my faves.

I remember hot summers in Maryland where I grew up.  My neighbor Rachel and I would walk to the PG County Library and get as many books as we could carry home.  The walk was a good mile away!  Sometimes we'd bring home 12 or more chapter books each.  In about 2 weeks we had both finished them all.  When we ran out of book recommendations, we'd walk along the stacks with our eyes closed and pick out whatever we touched and try to read it and like it - sometimes that worked out.
Here's another series I like.  It's a simpler subject matter but I really wish there was an Elm Creek Quilts retreat center in Pennsylvania - I'd sign up in a second!

Anyway, I've always liked to read.  My love of reading helped me pick my college majors (English for the reading and Journalism for the writing).  I would read an entire bookshelf of novels every college semester.
I think I've pretty much read every novel written about Arthurian legend.  I specialized in that for my English degree and have read most of the classics and anything else I could find as well.

Once I graduated and had kids, I was still reading regularly - to my kids - to myself.  I read adult books as well as just about everything in the young adult section and most of the Newberry book winners.  I tried to read everything the kids were assigned in English that I hadn't before read.

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This one is a great series too - I've read them all!

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Another great series.  I went to west Africa 10 years ago but this series has me dying to visit Mma Ramatswe in Botswana in the south.  Wonderful characters and Alexander McCall Smith can REALLY write his female characters!

So you get it, I love books and I love to read.  A lot of people know this about me.  I talk often of my love of reading with loads of acquaintances and friends.  Bunches of my friends started or were already in book clubs.  Every time I heard of a book club I'd say, "I've always wanted to be in a book club."  That was followed by total silence and a lack of invitations to join.  And believe me, there have been tons and tons of book clubs in the neighborhoods around where I live.  Every time I heard of one, I suggested my interest.  Never have I been invited to join.  I've lived here 18 years.

Yes, it hits a sore spot.  Yes, I'm confused. 

So last month, for the first time EVER I was invited to join a book club.  The club has been going on for years and years - 15 years, maybe longer.  I know almost everyone in it.  It's always been a closed group.  And somehow, it opened and someone asked me to join and I said YES before she could finish her sentence.  She told me what we were reading and I bought it from Amazon, free 2 day shipping (typically I'm a library borrower but I was too excited for that) and had the book finished in 2 days!

The day after I finished the book, I came across a blog post about a girl who wanted to start a very informal blogger book club.  It would just be a group of people who would read a book once a month - any book, blog about it and join the linky party connecting their blog about the book.  There is also a group on GoodReads but I haven't figured all that out just yet.

Nonetheless - YAY!  I feel like at age 50, I finally get to do something I've always dreamed of!  SO SO excited.  We had our first meeting in the neighborhood for the January book club meeting.  There is one other girl that is new to the group - she's also new to the neighborhood and she's a fab gal so I'm excited to join alongside her.

Here's what I read in January:

Here's my review:  I love historical  fiction and I'm always interested to learn about a place or a time period or a historical even that I don't know much about.  Much of the setting of this book was in Spain in the 1500s, during the time of the Spanish Inquisition.  Much of it takes place in a convent.  Some of it carries across the ocean to "new Spain" aka Latin America.  The book covers a lot of angles about women through the centuries and has some interesting characters and stories.  However, there are a LOT of characters who have a lot of stories and sometimes I got a little confused.  The ending wraps up all a bit too nicely, but you want it to do that as much as you don't want it to be predictable.  There are some inconsistencies in characterizations but mostly I really enjoyed the book and was quite blown away by the time span over which the Spanish Inquisition had such an influence!

Here's what I'm going to read for the next neighborhood book group:

We have 2 months to read this one because it's apparently very very long.  AND as an English major I cannot believe I haven't read this.

Because I read fast, and we have 2 months for Middlemarch, I'm also going to try and read this book:

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One of my reading goals is to read all the books that are coming out as movies this year and next.

You can find a list of those books by CLICKING HERE and CLICKING HERE.

There are some REALLY awesome books being made into movies.  I can't wait for The Giver, one of my favorite young adult books.

So if you noticed, I added photos of books between my paragraphs - some of my favorites and put a little caption about each one.  I hope you enjoy my referrals.

And I don't think it's too late to join along with the GOOD READS bloggy book group.  There's a button in my side bar that will take you right there to the post about it.

Happy Reading, Sher

PS.  If you need more book selections I could give you LOADS of them.

Valentine Trimmings

Above the fireplace, I decorated the mantel to be more in line with Valentine's Day.  Hubby hates it when the Christmas decorations leave the house looking bare and longs for some festive d├ęcor.  For me, it makes a fabulous excuse for filling the house with crochet and flowers~

Makes me want to run upstairs and crochet more stuff with hearts!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Paper Heart Valentine Critters

I have another blog.  It's mostly about Digital Scrapbooking, Traditional Scrapbooking, Personal Photo Organizing and Memory Preservation.

Today I posted a bunch of Paper Heart Valentine Critters.  Maybe you'd like to play with paper and hearts too.  If you'd like to see all 6 of the photo tutorials for the cute little Valentine Critters, CLICK HERE.

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