Bread!

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Winter is back. It was in the teens last night and we have snow in the forecast for tonight. Spring will come. It always does and since we can’t do anything about Mother Nature I guess we will have to just keep on going with winter. A great time for hot, tasty bread. I am sharing a few tips I have found helpful. I am not offering any recipes right now because I use many different ones and there are a ton online and in many cook books. Just keep trying different ones and you will find the ones you like best.

I have discovered sourdough bread. I am getting better at it almost every time I make it. I love how it looks when it comes out of the oven and I love how it smells and sounds. It crackles for a while as it cools down.

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Of course to make sourdough bread you need a starter. The first time I made it I found most of my starter on the floor and all down the sides of the jar. It overflowed. I have since started using a larger jar.

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To proof my sourdough bread I used a bowl with flour covered towels and it didn’t work well. The dough, which can be a bit sticky, stuck to the towels and it was hard to flip it into a baking pan. I proof it in a cast iron pan now and cook it right in the same pans. It isn’t the best way so I am going to order some proofing baskets soon.

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I want to get better at the sourdough and will keep trying. Practice makes perfect!

I make bread a lot. I don’t like to buy it. It is expensive and it doesn’t always taste that good. Trouble, for me, is that sometimes the bread doesn’t come out that well. Sometimes it has a hole in the middle. (Good for egg in a hole). Sometimes it is dry and crumbly and doesn’t slice well. I keep making it though because most times it is good and everyone eats it right up.

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I use a good bread flour and also whole wheat flour that I get at the health food store. I just think it is a bit fresher. Whole wheat flour can get rancid smelling and tasting if it is old. I keep whole wheat flour in the fridge.

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Testing yeast is always a good thing. I try and not rush. If the yeast doesn’t bubble up you won’t get bread to rise.

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I use my stand mixer to make bread. It is the main reason I bought it. It is great at kneading the dough and it is less work for me. Often I take it out and knead it by hand for a bit more until it is really ready. Then in a bowl it goes to rise up! Then shape it and let it rise again. Then slash it a few times with a sharp tool, I use a razor. Then wait for it to cook in a hot oven. That is sometimes the hardest part because you have to smell it while it cooks.

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Doesn’t that look yummy?

 

 

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Refreshed and Energized

 

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At least I hope I am. Right now I feel that way. This has been a weird winter for me. Normally I am happy and find plenty to do that excites me during the winter. This winter though, I have been a little down. I blame it on the dreary weather. Seems like we have not seen the sun much this season.

I just got back from visiting my three sons! One lives in Bristol, about an hour and a half away and the other two live in South Portland which is another hour from Bristol. I spent the night with one son in his house and I slept in a hotel while visiting the other two. Who doesn’t like a hotel once in a while?

While away I was lazy, watched junk TV in the hotel, had wonderful thought provoking conversations, ate great food, and collected my thoughts. Driving is good for that. If you can go without music anyway. I made some lists, updated my journal, made some phone calls, and feel much more ‘caught up’. And maybe a bit cheerful.

I still came home to a disorganized house but I have a plan for that. Soon Spring will come and with that a very big Spring Clean!

I tried to visit a few quilt and fiber shops but for some reason most are closed on Sunday and Monday. Oh well, next time I will plan a mid week getaway.

Things are not perfect in my brain but much better. I can see some light anyway. For a variety of reasons 2017 had been a doozy of a year and I think I am still healing. Maybe we all are. It seems like many people I talk to are feeling the same way as me right now. Winter, grey days, politics, our world, what ever the reason, it is what it is and we must all go on. Now, after a bit of a break I feel I can go on a little easier.

 

 

The Great Outdoors

We live in Maine. It gets cold. It snows. Sometimes it snows a lot and gets really cold. So far we have had just that kind of winter. Lucky for us we love to get out in it and play!

A few days after Christmas we took a little trip to Boston to skate on Frog Pond. We are not city savvy so it was an adventure for us. It was a blast though. It happened to be a warm 0 degrees in Boston that week. You could say we headed south to warm up because Maine was in the double digit negatives! Despite the cold though we had a wonderful time. 1228171351_resized

The girls have started cross country ski lessons again. I snowshoe while they ski. I enjoy walking in the woods, thinking, and seeing nature up close. Winter gives everything a different look. My husband bought snowshoes this year so we have been going out together at times.

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The place we go to a lot has a nice warming Yurt. It really is nice on these extremely cold days to be able to go inside to thaw out.

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I would love to go to some different places here in Maine. I know about the Maine Huts to Trails. We have never gone but would love to. I am more interested in finding some trails that are free! If you know of any could you let me know?

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Yesterday we trudged through the woods with our ice skates in hand and skated on frozen pools throughout the woods. It was so beautiful and the ice was so smooth. The air was cold, but the sun was shining. I didn’t get any pictures! That’s okay though, we were in the moment, and enjoying every bit of it. This is why winter is one of my favorite seasons. There is time to enjoy the outdoors. There are minimal outdoor chores to do. I love the crisp clean air. No humidity. Once you get moving you stay warm. I hope you are able to get out and enjoy this beautiful season!

Public, Private, Charter, Home?

My oldest daughter is 14. She has been homeschooling all her life. It is getting time to think about formal education of some sort. If not for the education then for the social opportunities. Rural Maine living makes it very hard to meet other kids and it is even harder when you homeschool. Where we live right now the choices for teen socialization is very limited.

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My daughter tried Jr. High school at the public school last September but realized it just wasn’t what she wanted. Maybe it was culture shock, maybe it was the work load. Maybe it was a combination. She is currently attending a democratic style private school program that meets twice a week. It is about 45 minutes away. She spends the night with a friend that is also attending the program. Normally it would be pretty expensive (for us) but they offered her a full scholarship because they are just starting out and want to attract other students. It is working for now.

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“For now” are the key words. I always have to have my eye on what is next. I won’t be able to pay for the tuition next year. Unless they offer another scholarship I really don’t see her going there again. Also, two days is kind of a disruption in a way. She does some math and reading here at home and a couple of subjects at the school but I am not sure she is really delving into anything deeply. Maybe she doesn’t need to.

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We just heard about a new charter high school that may be opening up. It is a bit closer and would be free because my state recognizes charter schools and my town would pay the tuition. I haven’t been to a meeting yet but I imagine it would be every day. I would need to drive her there and then pick her up.

There is always public High School. My daughter didn’t like the Jr. High but maybe high school is different. She would be able to continue being in the orchestra program.

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I have been a parent long enough to know that this has to be what is best for her. I am a little worried that at her age she may only be thinking about sociability. I am not worried about college. If that is what she wants then it will be possible even if she stayed home through high school. I want her to make an informed decision about education. Where will she have the most opportunity to learn new things. Find her passion. All at the same time as making quality, lasting friendships.

I guess I’ll keep you posted.

First and Full

I woke up early this morning. Before 5. I was rested and couldn’t sleep anymore so I got up. It was clear and cold and bright as day but of course the sun had not come up yet. The moon was full.  The first full moon on the first of the year. That is pretty special. It was so pretty I had to go outside. I could see every tree, every shadow of every tree. It was beautiful. What a way to start a morning.

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I am back to CurlyCueCreates after a bit of a break. I haven’t been blogging for a couple of months. I haven’t been reading many blogs either. Truth be known I find myself on my phone more these days. I am not happy about it and mean to change it. In all fairness to myself, I have been pretty busy getting ready and enjoying the holidays.

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Like many people I do use this time of year to reflect and resolve. I don’t have any big resolutions this year. I did some new things last year. Went outside my comfort zone so to speak and I am happy with that. This year I resolve to get better at what is working and do better at what is not. How is that? Enough for me.

Since I was last here it did get considerably colder. I wrote how it had been such a warm fall and that I didn’t think we would get winter. Well, of course we have. We have almost two feet of snow and the temperatures have been very, very cold. Over a week now of single and negative digit temps. Brrrr! We decided to go a bit south after Christmas. Only to Boston. The temps were a bit warmer but still quite nippy. We went to Frog Pond to skate and visited Little Italy for supper. It was so fun!

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I have been knitting and quilting! Lots of sewing and creating. I made my sons pillowcases and bought them new pillows for Christmas. My husband and I put together many home made food items for them too. Granola, salsa, and apple rings. This year I made my daughters new winter quilts.

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I will post more about the quilts but for now just snippets. I am still sewing the bindings on. I wrapped the quilts with the bindings on but not sewn to the backside. I just ran out of time! But they loved them and thought they were beautiful. They are very warm because I used wool batting. As I sew on the binding I am covered up in the quilts and now I really want one for me! Something to cover up with on these very cold nights.

Today my husband returns to work after a long vacation. The girls and I are not getting right back into our full schedule. Music lessons start up as does ballet. Cross country ski-ing does too. I think some baking, reading, games and crafts are still in order for a while before we get back into our real schedule.

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Enjoy the New Year!!

Bringing it Inside

Today is warm-ish. It is 58 degrees on a November morning. The house is warm without a fire. The weatherman says that November reality will hit tomorrow. I am ready!

I harvested the last (maybe) of the spinach, arugula, and lettuce yesterday. I picked raspberry leaves to dry for tea. I picked the last of the flowers that were blooming and made a nice bouquet.  I dug up two pepper plants that were still flowering and re-potted them. I am hoping for some winter peppers. It felt good walking around and realizing that soon everything will be covered in snow. Hopefully. I like snow.

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This is the season for apples! Pie making is in full swing and I peeled, cored, and sliced many apples to dry. My kids love dried apples. They are so sweet. I will need to do another batch though, since they get eaten so fast. They are great in oatmeal, granola, or just eaten like chips. Healthy chips!

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Even though it is warm, it is rainy and it feels as though we should be inside. So here we are, tucked in. The birds are at the feeder, girls are doing their thing, and I am ready to make some soup! How are you getting ready for winter?

 

I Made the Plunge! I’m Teaching!

For a while now I have wanted to teach sewing classes. I hoed and hummed about it. Planned it out in my head. Thought about it some more and then one morning I got on my computer and posted classes! I got a huge response and was very encouraged.

I started with a four week beginner sewing class. I was so amazed that I had a blast! It wasn’t stressful at all. I enjoyed teaching these ladies (no men signed up) to sew. I just had my second session beginner sewing class the other night and I have added a beginner Quilt class to my list that starts this Saturday.

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I started out teaching about the machine. How to thread it. What the parts all did. We took it slow. I had amazing students. They really wanted to learn to sew.

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Our first project was a pillowcase using the burrito method. My classes include everything. I have a lot of fabric to use up! I think including everything is helpful to a beginner anyway. I remember when I started to sew I didn’t even know what types of fabric were good for what!

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I am using my home right now. I have a finished off basement that is cozy and warm and inviting. I have a big table and desk and ironing station. It worked out well. I did have an offer from a store owner to teach there but once I made it clear that I include fabric and supplies in my classes and that I would not be ‘selling’ fabric she decided it wouldn’t work. Oh well.

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Next up we made drawstring bags. It was so fun to see their faces when the bags started forming. I think one of the best things about teaching is seeing how happy the students are about sewing.

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My first Beginner Quilt class starts on Saturday. Last night I spent some time preparing. I can’t wait!

If you are in Maine and are interested in classes here are the links.

Quilt class and Sewing class.

Just in Time

We have been having some cool mornings here. I love it! So nice to be able to wear a soft, warm handknit. I really want to have lots of different hand made things to wear. I have been sewing more clothes too. I don’t have many hand knits so this summer I was a knitting fool! I finished two sweaters and a shawlette. I have two more sweaters planned.

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I am not a fast knitter by any stretch. One sweater was knit in worsted weight. It knit up fairly fast. The other sweater took longer as it was fingering weight. Both sweaters were top down and no sewing on the sleeves. The sleeves were 3/4 length. One sweater was just knit or purl and the other had a very challenging pattern to it.  They were fun to make. I now have three sweaters made by me!

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I knit a shawlette for a wedding I am going to. I will wear it over a black dress.

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Not a great picture but it shows the lace. I had some trouble with this pattern at the start but found my groove. I really love it.

What are you knitting up these days?

 

 

 

Oh, My Golly!

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Don’t you hate hearing people say “I’ve been sooo busy!” ? I do, but I find myself saying it. I’ve read articles on how to not be so busy or at least to think about the busyness in a different way.  Like finding joy along the way. Like how we saw a beautiful rainbow on our way to orchestra class last Friday. My busy times have been good ones so it isn’t a negative thing. I do regret not really having time to sit and blog. ‘They’ say it’s all about making the time. So, hear I go!

I finally stopped itching! We are still having summer here in Maine so at least I get to enjoy some of it! I was out in the garden yesterday. I thinned beets while my daughter harvested zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and a few small cukes. The garden is still producing and it is middle of September! I am thinking of ordering some chicks. They would be laying by Spring. The only thing stopping me is my inability to make a decision. I am worried it will be too cold. The chicken FB site says it will be fine. I really should just do it. I have a beautiful, large and safe coop that has gone unused for a year. It is time.

I have been knitting, and sewing. I made a dress ( A Washi ) and I have been doing some alterations for a friend. I am knitting a shawlette for a wedding I may be going to. (I say may because I still have not settled childcare for the girls yet) I am also working on socks. I am finding my groove again. Even making up menus and baking bread again. Routines work so well for me.

Speaking of routines we have a brand new one this year. My oldest daughter is going to school. Eighth grade! I am at home with just one child. That hasn’t happened since 1991! My youngest daughter and I have started Bullet Journals together. So far it is very fun. We are taking our ‘school’ year pretty slow. Planning what we want to do. I know it will have sewing and art. Yes, a little math too. We even put in a rest and relaxation (knitting) time in our schedule. That I love.

I missed the boat in blogging about all our camping trips, the girls’ camps, and some landscaping project that we have been working on all summer. I am looking forward to my 50th birthday! Wow, Oh my Golly, 50! I can’t decide what I want to do. I am torn between going away by myself for some quiet and pampering or a get together with our family here at home. Maybe I will have to do both!

I hope you all are in your fall groove. It feels good!

 

August First!

For the first time in a long while, if not ever, the summer is going by too fast. It is August first. Already! Slow down please. Maybe it is us. Maybe we are going too fast. Not having enough time spent just sitting. Just being home. It just isn’t that kind of summer I guess. We have been on the move quite a bit.

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We went to visit Dean’s sister that was staying in Maine. She rented a log cabin on a high hill and it had the most beautiful views. We just returned home yesterday from a three day camping trip to the coast. We biked some trails in Portland and visited with two of our sons. We had lobster! We celebrated our 27th year being married too!

We have had our share of home days but they just seem to be busy this year. The girls have been working for friends and neighbors to earn money for the school program they want to attend. It is pretty pricey, at least for us it is. They are very good workers and they are getting a nice amount saved up.

My redone flower garden is looking good. Makes all the heartache and work worth it. The vegetable garden is coming along as well. It was a late start to warmth this year in Maine and the garden is a little behind but doing okay.

We did have a hot spell or two and we stayed inside with the shades drawn. I was cleaned out and organized all my seeds. I had seed packets from five years ago! This week I need to go plant some fall veggies. Beets, carrots and kale. Spinach too but not for a few more weeks. It bolts so fast in this weather. So far my broccoli is doing okay this year but I have decided to not plant it again. I have been trying for years and really it isn’t worth all the time and money for netting, soap for the flea beetles, and all the extra time it takes to care for it. I can’t plant enough for storage in the freezer and it takes up valuable space that I could grow things I can store. Like beets or cabbage. So next year no broccoli. I can get it at the farmers market.

The blueberries and raspberries are really coming now. And just yesterday my daughter showed me some blackberries that are ripening. It is a great time of year for berries.

The girls have been working on crocheting. Sometimes we do a lesson together using YouTube lessons. But a lot of times they just sit and do their own thing. It is fun. I finished a hat for a baby shower gift. I still need to knit up the booties. I want to do a sweater but I am running out of time. We’ll see.

Hope you are enjoying your summer!