Heartfelt Wreath Craft Tutorial

One of the things you learn when you sell at conventions is that you will invariably have downtime.  You’ll find yourself sitting in your booth with no customers around.  You have one of two choices: either sit there, staring at everyone who wanders by with that hungry look of “Come buy from meeeee!” or you can find busy work that keeps the aura of desperation at bay.  I quickly took up playing with felt in between customers.  I started off just making little creatures for my daughter from the Aranzi Cute Stuff Book.  Soon I moved on to making less little kid friendly projects: Gothic Love Charms, Poisoned Posies and the like.

Which is where this tutorial comes in.  I found myself with some leftover green felt from the pumpkins project.  I already had some red on hand, and I needed a wreath for the holiday season.  Thus, the Heartfelt* Wreath was born.

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VikingDad says, “Make dough staying at home!”

Yeah, I know, bad internet-money-making-scheme reference as metaphor for baking bread.  It’s totally legit though, since I am VikingDad the Bread-Master.

OK, so it’s not that hard to be a bread-master, really.  To show what I mean (and with the help of the shield-maiden) I’ve documented the process I use for baking bread that has earned me the bread-master moniker.

Anyroad, the ingredients are simple, the process easy and the required tools are pretty easy to come by.  This process takes about 4 ½ hours.

(I’ve adapted it from this recipe)

Cooking utensils you’ll need:

Large bowl x2 (you’ll want the bigger one to hold your rising dough and the other big enough to hold the flour below)

Kitchen towel

Fork

Loaf pans x2

Oven Mitts

Mixing spatula (though you could also use a butter knife)

Oven (of course)

3-cup (minimum) capacity measuring cup (or you could use a smaller, 1-cup measuring cup and empty contents into a separate bowl)

Brush (used to coat the loaf pans with the cooking oil, so if you don’t have one, that’s OK, you can use a paper towel or even your fingers, if you’re not concerned about getting a little dirty)

Cooling Rack (optional, but handy)

 

Ingredients:

 

6 ½ cups: All Purpose (though any other type will work as well) Flour.

1 ½ tablespoons:  Active Dry Yeast.

1 tablespoon:  Salt.

3 cups:  Luke-warm Water.

Cooking Oil (I use olive oil, but other cooking oil will work just fine): this is used to coat your loaf pans so you won’t knead (hah, see what I did there… another bread-making play on words) it right away.

 

 

Process:

 

(Helpful Hint: 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon, so I use a teaspoon measure for the yeast and salt putting in 4 ½ teaspoons and 3 teaspoons respectively)

 

  • Put the yeast and salt in the larger of the two bowls.
  • Put the flour in the smaller of the two bowls.

 

The ingredients before mixing them.
The ingredients before mixing them.

 

  • Get the water and put it in the bowl with the yeast and salt, mix with your fork until almost all of the yeast is mixed in and the salt is dissolved (there shouldn’t be any sediment on the bottom of the bowl).
  • Once it’s mixed, pour the flour in and stir it with the fork. You’ll want to make sure that it is mixed well enough so that there are no more dry spots of flour in the bowl.

 

This is what the dough should look like after mixing the yeast/salt, flour and water. You can now cover it to let it rise.
This is what the dough should look like after mixing the yeast/salt, flour and water. You can now cover it to let it rise.

 

  • Cover with the kitchen towel and let rise for 2 hours.
  • Once the two hours have passed, your dough should be pushing up against the towel. This is totally OK.  You should coat the entirety of the loaf pans (make sure you also put the oil on the lips as sometimes the dough overflows a bit and rises past it.  You really don’t want the bread sticking to that, otherwise getting it out of the pan later will be a hot mess) with the cooking oil.
  • Uncover the risen dough, pour into the loaf pans, separating the giant glob of dough with the spatula (or bread knife) by applying pressure with the utensil against the edge of the bowl and in a cutting motion, working it along the edge until it separates. It may take some practice to make the two loaves almost equal in size. Don’t worry, they taste the same.

 

This is after two hours of rising, ready to pour into the two loaf pans.
This is after two hours of rising, ready to pour into the two loaf pans.

 

This is after pouring into the loaf pans. Ready to cover for another 45 minutes.
This is after pouring into the loaf pans. Ready to cover for another 45 minutes.
  • Once the dough is separated in the loaf pans, re-cover them with the same towel (or if there’s a bunch of dough stuck to that one, use another) and let rise for another 45 minutes.
  • At the 35 minute mark, turn your oven on at 450 degrees and lower your oven racks to the two bottom most levels.
  • At the 45 minute mark (or after your oven has been heated to 450 degrees for about ten minutes, in case you forgot the above step) uncover and put the loaves in the oven for 22 minutes.

 

The dough after 45 minutes of rising. Ready for the oven!
The dough after 45 minutes of rising. Ready for the oven!

 

  • At 22 minutes, open the oven, check the tops of the loaves, if they are golden brown and solid, then your bread is done and pull it out.

 

After 22 minutes in the oven.  Ready to pop out and let cool.
After 22 minutes in the oven. Ready to pop out and let cool.

 

  • Give the loaf pans a twist, like you’re separating ice cubes in an ice-tray. This will help separate the bread from the pan. If you’re lucky (and did a great job coating the loaf pan) then the bread will clearly separate.  If not, you can use a bread knife (leading with the dull side) to separate them.

 

They are done! They don't look very tall, but that's just the angle of the camera, they're about as tall as a regular loaf of bread.  Enjoy!
They are done! They don’t look very tall, but that’s just the angle of the camera, they’re about as tall as a regular loaf of bread. Enjoy!

 

  • Allow them to cool for a bit and ta-DAH, you have two loaves of bread. Enjoy!

 

Peter Rubi

Saturday is usually market day for us, which means heading out to Peter Rubi.  It is a bit of a drive from us; a trip that takes us out through farmland and by the Dupage River.  Despite the drive, the trip is always worth it, enough for us to make it weekly.  And by picking up our produce first, it makes planning meals for the week easier.  It also assures that I’m planning meals that use up all the produce so we don’t have sad, ruined veggies sitting in the fridge at the end of the month.

This time around we spent a total of $17 on a bunch of spinach and romaine lettuce, lemons, limes, two pineapples, a package of raspberries and blackberries, a pomegranate, two 8-lb bags of potatoes (for $1 each), garlic, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, and oranges for Charlotte’s lunch.  Factor in what we spent on gas and that’s about $25 for a week plus of food.

We make a lot of crock pot soups and stews, which is where most of the potatoes and carrots will go.  The berries, pomegranate and pineapple will go into fruit salads for breakfast or desert.  My goal is also to have salad with every dinner this week, which will use up the bulk of romaine, spinach and cucumbers.  And Stephan has offered to make potato pancakes.

Peter Rubi’s focus is on locally grown produce, which is probably why the food on their shelves always seems better than what I come across at my local grocery stores.  I would love to see more of these types of grocers open up, especially in areas that are underserved by the larger grocery store chains.  Shops like FARM:shop that bring urban farming into a grocery setting, and selling “ugly” produce like in France could help to get more vegetables and fruits to people who don’t have as many options. That would certainly be a more productive move than chastising people for “poor food choices” and trying to ban them from buying soda with food stamps.

VikingDad Pro-Tip #13 (Holiday Eating)

So, with the holidays here, our house (dubbed “The Hollow”) is becoming filled with an assortment of wonderfully delicious (and highly caloric) goodies.  In order to combat my low-impulse control when it comes to things like cookies, fudge, the shield-maiden’s banana bread, etc… I have instituted this wonderful little regimen and hopefully it will help you all as well:

Every time I want a <insert delectable here>, I do 50 push-ups and a one-minute plank.  If, after that (roughly two minutes of exercise) I still want the <insert delectable here>, I can have it and have earned it.

That said, today I’m currently up to 100 push-ups and two minutes of plank.

While that number is my number, it may not be the number for you, so please, if this is something that appeals to you, find two exercises that you enjoy and stay within the parameters of fatigue.  i recommend, however, that one of those activities be something ab/core related, which is why I love planks.

Anyroad, hope this helps and Happy Holidays!

Tikkun Olam

The Hebrew expression “Tikkun Olam” literally means “to repair the world.” Ideologically, it suggests a wholehearted acceptance of the world’s brokenness along with our ability to repair it, or at least our ability to try. It does not point to a particular time or transgression. it does not cast blame. It does not indulge the notion of absolute good or evil. It simply accepts that we live in a broken world and can, or should (if and when we are ready), reach toward its repair. I consider this a reasonable position. Like the sentiment behind the lovely Buddhist saying “Live joyfully in a world of sorrows,” Tikkun Olam recognizes the folly of life but never shirks from reaching for the good.

—Harriet Fasenfest, A Householder’s Guide to the Universe

 

Thanksgiving/Thanksgaming 2014

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  Most of my fondness comes from my childhood.  I remember every year heading over to my grandparents’ place, where the rest of our extended family had gathered.  Cousins ran around while my grandma, mother and aunts got the dinner ready.  Everyone brought some dish or dessert (mostly desserts).  Around two o’clock the food would be laid out, buffet style, over kitchen counters and the isle and then took seats at one of the many tables set up throughout the house.  Yes, there was an adults’ table, and several kids’ tables.  After was more running around for the kids, football for the adults and hours devoted to seconds and thirds.  Come the evening, after board games and pinochle, the leftovers would be parceled out.  We’d all head home, stuffed and happy.

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