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Don’t eat the felted fruit!

As you may know, I run a small preschool.  It is an earth-friendly preschool with organic food and lots of nature-based activities.  I do my best to give the kiddos plastic-free toy options, but it is nearly impossible this day and age.  There are just not that many options for plastic alternatives.  Luckily, I am creative enough (thanks, Mom!) to solve my toy dilemma.  I went to the local yarn shop and purchased wool roving.  It’s so fun to buy.  It’s like balls of rainbow-colored cotton candy for sale!  I bought way, way too many colors.  When I got home, I realized that I just had to do something with those 20 different candy colors.  That is how my felted fruit were grown (see what I did there?).

The above picture shows (from left to right): pear, apple, and green grapes.  All three fruits were made from balling up the roving in my hands, kind of like making a snowball.  Then I fine-tuned them with felting needles.  The most important part of felting that I’ve learned is that you need to continue to felt something a while after it looks done.   Too many felted items will fall apart if you stop when they look good enough.

Oh, and the other thing is: don’t eat the felted fruit.  But that’s advice I usually reserve for the preschoolers!

Homemade and UNhealthy?!?

Thank you loyal readers for checking in on my blog- I apologize for having been gone.  It wasn’t you, it was me.  You see, over a month ago I caught a cold.  Then it turned into bronchitis.  Then that gave way to pneumonia.  After two heavy doses of antibiotics and a bag full of cold medicines, I thought I was better.  But then this weekend my doctor told me that I’ve had a lingering sinus infection since the pneumonia left my system.  So, I am sad to say- I’ve been home and unhealthy.  Very, very unhealthy.  But I am working on getting my strength and energy back.  Hang in there- I’m cooking up some delicious surprises for you soon!

The Wall

The wall between my living room and kitchen is brick.  Old, red brick.  I don’t like it.  On the wall facing the kitchen there is yellowing ceramic tile that covers that brick.  It is the back splash for my stove.  This is even worse!  The brick at least has character.  This ceramic tile is old and plain and very ugly.  With every cup of tea and every pot of stew, it mocks me….

My husband and I remodeled our kitchen a few years ago.  It’s pretty, with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances.  “Leave the back splash to me”, I said.  “I love to mosaic!” I said.  Three years later, it’s still the saddest part of the kitchen.

So now I have finally decided to “tear down the wall”.  Well, in a psychological sense.  I actually have to cover the ceramic tiles.

Word of caution: laying tile over ceramic tile is time-consuming, messy, and risky.  I was lucky that it worked.

First, I jumped up on my stove (it was off) and hammered all the tiles for at least an hour to create a dimpled/cracked tile wall.  If you must tile over tiles, the ones you cover cannot remain smooth or it will not work.  Not at all.

I also got out some sandpaper and roughened everything up a bit that way, too.

Then I got to work!  Here’s me at the beginning and with the end product.  It’s the “Tree of Life”.

Cookie Monster!

When I was a kid in the 80s, one of my favorite characters on Sesame Street was Cookie Monster.  I liked Cookie Monster because he liked cookies and so did I.  It didn’t take a lot for me to like you back then!  These days, things are a little more complicated.  I’m pickier about who I like.   I’ve also graduated beyond eating chocolate chip cookies or sugar cookies.  The cookie recipe I have today is complex: sweet, zingy, nutty, and buttery.  It is the perfect adult cookie, but it will make you smile like a kid again!

Orange and Walnut Shortbread Cookies

  • 4 C. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 C. crushed walnuts
  • 1 C. light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 1/2 T. finely grated orange peel
  • 2 T. fresh orange juice
  • 2 C. unsalted butter, room temperature

Preparation:

Mix flour, salt, sugar, walnuts, and orange peel in a large bowl.  Add the orange juice.  Slowly cut in butter until the mixture forms small pea-size crumbles. Work the dough with hands until it holds together.  Do not overwork it.  Put the large ball of dough in the center of wax paper or plastic wrap.  Roll it into a large log shape.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove log of dough from refrigerator and slice it into pieces about 1/2″ thick.  Put cookies slices on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes (until dry and firm, but not browned on top). Cool and then glaze or dust with powdered sugar.  Enjoy!

Healthy Vacation

Over the holidays my husband and I went on a long vacation to Sedona, Arizona.  I’m not one for rocks and desert landscape, but it was pretty nice.  I really enjoyed learning to horseback ride, and “boulder” (rock climb) some of the enormous rock structures out there.  It was a strange landscape (I felt like I was on another planet), and some of the people there made me feel even more like I was on another planet.  It seemed there were two types of people: cowboys and new hippies.  I left having learned to make cornbread on a grill (mmmmm!) and with a crystal for healing in my pocket.  Can’t say the healing has begun yet, but I am definitely up for making more cornbread soon!

Have you ever gone on a vacation that left you feeling healthy and refreshed?  If so, where was it?

Poll: What do you think of homemade gifts?

Wicked witches and delightful apples…

What is it about wicked witches and their apples?  Do you think that there is some symbolism there?  I guess I could be over-analyzing, but I have been reading the book “Wicked” and watching the t.v. show “Once Upon A Time” lately, so I’ve got witches on my mind.

Well,  I’m not a wicked witch (or a witch of any sort, though I would be offended if you claimed I reminded you of Glinda), but I really like apples.  Especially certain varieties.  Like Honeycrisp or Granny Smith.  Yum!

But when it’s cold and blustery outside, a cold, crisp apple is not the most appealing.  You want food that’s warm and cozy.  Like apple pie.  Or, even better for the easily expanding waistline of winter: warm and spicy applesauce.  I prefer to make mine with a mixture of sweet apples and sour apples, but you can use whatever you have on-hand.

I will tell you this much: I love my warm and spicy apple sauce so much that I will challenge it against most apple pies.  (I said most!)

I challenge you not to eat it right out of the pan- it is that good (or should I say “bewitching”?)

“BEWITCHING” WARM AND SPICY APPLESAUCE

6-8 apples, cored, peeled, and rough-chopped (I’m never perfect with my peeling; I like a little texture in my applesauce)

4 T. water

1/8 C. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ginger

Toss your rough-chopped apples into a huge pot with the water and spices.  Turn your heat on to a low-medium.  Stir the apples at least once ever 5 minutes or so, so that they evenly breakdown.  You want them to be nice and soft, with juices coming out, before you add the sugar.  This should take about 20 minutes, maybe more depending on heat and size of apple pieces.  After they have substantially softened, add the sugar and stir, stir, stir.  You do not want it to burn!  Let the sugars, fruit, and spices meld for about another 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat.  Now you have a chunky applesauce.  It is really good this way (like apple pie filling), but if you prefer a smooth sauce, wait until it has cooled and transfer to a food processor or blender and blend to your heart’s desire.

Enjoy!