Aprons

 Cooking and baking have been two of my favorite pastimes for several years. I can’t remember how many times I put dirty shirts covered with flour and who knows what else in the laundry, much to my mother’s chagrin. She always said, “Just wear an apron!” But I would usually forget during the hustle of meal preparation.

 In the last couple years, I’ve acquired several aprons, and subsequently I’ve become a much more faithful apron-wearer. Although I still occasionally forget until bacon grease spatters all over! 🙂 Instead of changing from my nicer clothes to a “cooking” outfit, all I have to do is put on an apron.

My sister Gretchen is doing an apron blog carnival on her blog, so now I get to share with you the aprons I love to wear!

One of my sister’s aprons

This polka dot apron was given me for my fifteenth birthday, and it even has a J monogrammed on the pocket. Polka dots and pink…you can’t get much better than that!

I love this apron! My cousin Abbie brought it back with her from Africa. She and my cousin Melissa have similar ones, but we have yet to snap a picture of all three of us wearing them at the same time.

As I was taking the pictures, I found this apron stuffed in our official apron and hot pads drawer. I don’t think I’ve ever worn it before, but I love the pink, so next time I’ll have to give it a try!
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Homemade Honey…or something like that

Caleb’s new hobby, as of this last spring, is beekeeping. Although he’s gotten stung at least five times (twice in the eye!), he’s still a great beekeeper. While Will and Natalie were here, Natalie donned an official beekeeping costume–old work coveralls belonging to “Carter”–and helped Caleb inspect the hive. I still haven’t been brave enough to do it, but maybe next time. 🙂
Capped honey–when the honey is stored for winter, the bees put a small waxed capping over it which means it’s well-seasoned.

Five frames full of honey!
Uncapping the frames
Spinning the extractor to get all the honey out of the frames
Honey!!!!
End product: 6 quarts of honey! Not bad for the first year, and it tastes delicious!

Creativity– Culinary and Crafty

National Scrapbook Day rolled around earlier than usual this year, in anticipation of the arrival of my newest niece or nephew. Preparing the border and card samples is usually one of my NSD tasks, so earlier in the week I spent several hours making these with Creative Memories‘ new stencils and beautiful papers. I can’t claim any creative genius, because I made most of the borders straight from instruction sheets. Although the cards were my own idea. 🙂 Listening to Chip Ingram’s sermon series “From Good to Great in God’s Eyes” helped the hours pass by quickly, keeping my brain occupied and also convicting me in areas of my spiritual life, especially time in spent in prayer.

Notice the border with all the circles? Well, each of those five circles has five circles in it, folded in quarters with the top quarter folded back. And those are mounted on white paper, which is mounted on yellow paper, which is mounted on blue paper, which is…oh wait, that’s all. I’m embarrassed to admit that I spent an hour on that one border!

This year’s theme was “Blooms,” so Mom purchased these adorable plates. Not too bad for Dollar Tree, I’d say!

I landed on this orange muffin recipe for the morning snack after spending hours searching all my cookbooks. Actually, not at all. I googled orange muffins, and this one was the first to appear. I made it for the first time Saturday morning, and according to the ladies’ reports, they were a success. (Caleb isn’t brave enough to try them, because I made the mistake of telling him they contained orange peel!)

Sparkling grape juice

Ham and turkey croissants (please pronounce the French way, “cwa-son“…that’s the best I can do at showing you how to say it!)

Cheese…how exciting.

These raspberry truffle brownies were amazing–at least they look that way! I haven’t been so tempted to stop my diet until making these. The brownie part has coffee granules, and the frosting has cream cheese, melted chocolate chips, and raspberry jam. Oooh, isn’t your mouth simply watering? I’m just dying.

I also made Taste of Home’s lemon cheesecake bars for the first time. They looked delicious too, but cutting cheesecake is not my strong point. Oh well! 🙂 
 That was my Saturday. And I guess I should fill you in on the earlier part of the week too! On Sunday afternoon I played for my harp adjudication, and thankfully I got superiors. I’ve been extremely busy trying desperately hard to get As in chemistry and algebra with school, and a week from Tuesday I have my piano adjudication. Sometime soon I’m also going to become an auntie again, but that won’t take much work on my part. 🙂 Of course I’m not a bit excited about meeting Niece #3 or Nephew #1 this month!!!!!

Toothpaste, Clif bars, and spinach ice cream

I felt inspired this week to broaden my horizons in regards to being earthy. We’ve never been that type of family, unless you count making homemade granola and wearing Birkenstocks as “earthy.” (Not me, though! Wearing Birkenstocks, I mean. I remain resolute in my refusal to wear them.) One of my 2011 resolutions was to try new things, so this week I decided to act upon it. The result: spinach ice cream, homemade Clif bars, and homemade toothpaste. Now, I cannot take credit for creating any of these. All I did was follow recipes. But it’s daring to try new things that counts, right?

First up: spinach ice cream. Since I’ve been on an elimination diet for two months, I’m always looking for new ways to “cheat” and add new items to my rather limited menu. I was ecstatic when Mom found this recipe in a Costco Connections magazine. It’s so easy, and absolutely delicious! An additional bonus is that I love all things green, and this is as green as it gets. Are you ready for the recipe?

3/4 cup half and half or coconut milk (I used the coconut milk as required by my diet)
1/4 cup agave nectar (I might try some honey next time)
2 cups spinach, lightly packed
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract (this seems like an exorbitant amount, and it was rather vanilla-y, so I think I’ll use only a couple teaspoons next time)
2 1/2 cups ice cubes

Then you blend it in the blender until it’s smooth, and then you freeze it immediately so it doesn’t separate. Make sure you leave some out to try for yourself!

I recently rediscovered my friend Theresa’s sister Karen’s blog (catch that?) Appetite of Living. I’ve immensely enjoyed browsing her posts and getting inspired to do something wild and daring. Like making toothpaste, for instance. Not like running a half-marathon, which she also did. I try to set attainable goals for myself. 🙂 

 The other day Mom brought home several Clif bars for the rest of the family to eat. Alas, they contained sugar, so I felt sorry for myself as usual. Then I remembered reading about Karen’s homemade Clif bars, and my life was suddenly better. I made them for the first time, tweaking just a few things so that they were safe for me to eat. (I used all honey instead of any sugar, and left out the wheat germ and powdered milk.) They’re so easy, and make you feel so healthful! I can’t wait till next time, when I’ll try making them look more bar-like. If I succeed, I’ll share a better picture with you all.

Then I decided to make toothpaste. Again, inspiration and recipe came directly from Karen’s blog.  The four ingredients are baking soda, glycerin, salt, and peppermint extract–talk about easy! 

Ahh, being earthy/creative/industrious leaves me with such a feeling of accomplishment. It might be addicting, too, because next up…deodorant!

Snow

We got snow the first time this entire year!!! I was probably more excited than my snow-veteran niece would be. 🙂

My boyfriend, Mr. Snow. A few years ago I had one named Spike, but Spike didn’t stick around too long. I’m afraid Mr. Snow might do the same thing. *sob*

Caleb’s creation
I feel very productive on snow days. This morning I read my Bible, worked out, killed a spider with my Mary Kay moisturizer bottle, made bread (one loaf, a dozen buns), tried Grace King’s bagel recipe, baked a honey-oatmeal blueberry crisp that I can actually eat, and of course threw a few snowballs and made Mr. Snow. Now I should do such necessary things as make my bed (playing in the snow is much more important), clean the kitchen, and knock out some Spanish and chemistry. But since it never, ever snows in our town–except, of course, on days like today–I think I’ll forgive myself for taking one morning to just simply enjoy myself.  
I love snow.

Chocolate Cake with Ganache

I got this delicious recipe from some friends of ours, and made it for Mom’s birthday. It’s really yummy!

Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups whipping cream, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan. In a large bowl combine sugar, butter, eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, cocoa, and cream; mix well. (Batter will be thick.) Pour mixture into prepared bundt pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool before frosting with chocolate ganache.

Chocolate Ganache

16 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups whipping cream

Melt chocolate with cream in a heavy saucepan and cook over very low heat until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and refrigerate until cooled but not too firm, 30 to 45 minutes. Using a handheld mixer, beat on high speed until thick and creamy. Spread on cake immediately. (I used thick chocolate syrup to decorate the top, too.)

Lemon Drops

Here’s a delicious lemon cookie recipe from the Presidential Cookies cookbook. These are really good, for not having chocolate–although Dad insisted on adding some chocolate chips halfway through. These were President Grant’s favorite. I doubled the recipe, because Caleb loves them. (Note to self: do not write out cookie recipes when on a no-sugar diet. It’s very tempting, looking at the picture…)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. finely grated lemon rind
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter, margarine, and sugars. Add egg, lemon juice, and lemon rind, mixing well. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt together. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until smooth. Add remaining flour and mix well. Drop by teaspoon on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Remove cookies to a rack and cool thoroughly. Dust with powdered sugar.

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