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“The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread.”

-Steven Wright

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an avid cook. I like to cook. And…I like to bake stuff. It’s just that I have a few other things that I like to do more. I’m sure there are those among you who understand this conundrum. However, I’ve recently decided that I want to bake bread. Lots of bread. All kinds of bread. Okay, that’s not quite true. I want to bake all kinds of yeast bread.  It’s my Mom’s fault. She’s been baking bread & we got to help eat it when we went to see her. I mean, seriously, who can resist homemade bread?

So now I have three new bread pans & have been sorting through all sorts of bread recipes. Along the way, I’m seeing recipes for all kinds of grain breads, french breads, bread sticks, pizza dough….you name it.

Today it was Honey Wheat Bread. Although the recipe I used was called “Simple Whole Wheat Bread.” I found it on www.allrecipes.com.  I chose it because it has 5 stars with 733 reviews. Seems like a winner, huh? But since it is made with honey, I changed its name. One thing I noticed was the the photo on that site shows the bread with something on the top…like oats? Or wheat germ? Or something. And there’s nothing in the recipe that mentions putting anything on top. The next time I make it, I’m going to put something up there…. I tried dusting two of my loaves with wheat flour, but they did little to add top texture.

Honey Wheat Bread

Ingredients:
 

  • 3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast (If you’re measuring bulk yeast, that’s 4.5 Tsps.)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Directions  

  1. In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.
  2. Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky – just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.
  3. Punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not overbake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely.

I know why this recipe had so many good reviews. I’ll be giving one myself. It’s delicious! I took one of the loaves to some neighbors. It will be great for toast and sandwiches. I’m also anxious to try it with all wheat flour. This is an easy recipe. Give it a try, but do follow the directions to the letter regarding water temperature, etc. Oh, and I used my Kitchenaid mixer with the bread hook to do the mixing – when the dough wanted to crawl out of the bowl, I turned it onto the floured board to finish kneading and prepare it for the bowl to rise.

One note: The bread is nestled in one of my recent baskets. It’s a Twin-Bottomed Egg Basket with a four point God’s Eye lashing.

And all photography was done with my beloved Nikon D300 & Nikkor 85mm 1.4D lens.

Bon Appétit!

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I returned to Oklahoma Basket Supply yesterday and came home with a LOT of new supplies. I should insert here that I didn’t actually make sure that I had what I needed for any specific pattern. Ahem.

So today, I made my first Market Basket.

The market basket is quite a different animal than a rib basket. What with all that upsetting and clipping and sore fingers. However, I persevered and I’m quite pleased with the result. Now don’t get me wrong here…..there are definitely mistakes in it. I know there are. And I could easily point them out. But I won’t. That would just take all the fun out of it.

So I used a pattern….sort of.  As mentioned previously,  I didn’t have all the right sizes of reed, so I did what they do in football. I punted. I used what I had. Therein lies some of the reasons for the previously mentioned mistakes. But I digress. Because the thing I like about basket weaving is that it’s so easy to be creative and throw in your own curve balls here and there…just to keep things interesting. Besides, who wants to just copy someone else’s work?  It’s all about being creative. Right? Right. And punting too… it’s about punting.

So here we have it: My first Market Basket.

And here’s how it came about:

  1. Beautiful rolls of Natural and Smoked Reed
  2. After all the pieces are cut to size and soaked, the reeds are laid out.
  3. The weaving begins.
  4. Upsetting the reeds so weaving the sides can begin.
  5. The closeup of the handle is thrown in just because I liked the shallow depth of field on the shot. A piece of smoked reed was glued to the handle before the weaving was started.
  6. Smaller natural reed was used to form a pattern. (This varied a lot from the directions I had.)
  7. After the pattern was complete, more rows of smoked reed were added.
  8. Lashing was added to the top in forming the rim. It’s harder than it looks because it’s holding two strong pieces of thicker reed in place to form the top edge of the basket.

And there you have it. I’ll be happy to answer any questions….if I can.

Once again, I must add that the photos were taken with my Nikon D300 and the fantastic Nikkor 85mm 1.4D lens. It offers up the most amazing bokeh to any photo. I said it.

And if you’re looking for a portrait lens….it can’t be beat. You’ll find it gives you gorgeous, natural colors.



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This basket weaver was more than a trifle unhappy with the previously posted flat-bottom basket.

There were many mistakes in it that I simply could not stand.

Therefore, last night, I took the scissors to the basket and whacked out  all the reeds – leaving nothing but the two hoops. Boy did that ever feel good! :-)

I started again and made every attempt to follow the directions to the letter. In spite of that, I still could not get all ten ribs (per side) worked into the basket. I had four..FOUR sets left over. Never-the-less, I’m much happier with this effort than the first.

At least now, I can concentrate on a new one. I won’t be whacking this one apart….It can stay.  ;-)

I stained it with a mixture of instant coffee & tea. Marcia Balleweg, owner of Oklahoma Basket Supply, shared her recipe for this stain:

  • 3/4c. Hot Water
  • 4 tbs. Instant coffee
  • 3 tbs. Instant tea

According to her directions: “Mix together and heat until all coffee and tea granules are dissolved. Put mixture into a spray bottle and spray your dried basket. Add water to spray bottle if you like a lighter color. I usually lightly spray the first coat and let it dry. It will dry lighter in color. You can spray again and let dry if you want your basket to be darker.”

I followed her directions for mixing. I took the basket outside to the patio and sat it in a large box & sprayed. I left it out in the breeze & sun to dry. I’m very happy with the color now, but we’ll see how it looks tomorrow when it’s completely dry. I really like the thought of  using a natural, non-toxic stain. Wait,  are coffee and tea “natural?”  Yeah, I think they are.

Now, I need more reeds! I want some big ones this time. :-)

Postscript:

Again, I must add that the above photo was shot with my beloved Nikkor 85mm 1.4D. The bokeh it delivers is beyond delicious. :-)

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I have learned two things about basket weaving in the last five/six hours. You must do one or the other.

  • Follow the basket weaving directions to the letter.
  • OR abandon the basket weaving directions completely.

Here’s where I apologize to Lyn Siler. Lyn is the author of the book I used today. Lyn’s Flat-Bottom Egg Basket is beautiful.

MY Flat-Bottom Egg Basket is ….. is…… well, I think you could put eggs in it. :-D

One of the first and important steps was to assemble two hoops – one would provide the handle & the other would provide the top rim of the basket. It was important that the handle hoop be on the outside when they were fastened together. To assure this, we were to put our initials on the inside bottom of the vertical (handle) hoop. I did that. The reason is so the handle hoop will not be able to move. It was after I became so engrossed in weaving the “ears” on the sides of the handle, that I forgot about the “initials.” Oopsie. ;-) And after the ears were woven & the basket weaving started, I saw the initials on the side of the horizontal hoop. ;-) I left it that way. Sorry, Lyn. I promise to do it right next time.  Here’s what it looked like at that stage.

The thing about a ribbed basket is that you are supposed to add ribs as you weave. I found this to be more difficult that I thought it would be.  In fact. I had a few ribs that I trimmed. And a few ribs that I stuck in at random…and a few ribs left over. Sorry Lyn. I’m determined to do it right the next time.

It was at this point that I completely abandoned the instructions. Obviously this is not recommended.  When I finished the weaving of the basket, I was tempted to leave off any trim that was to be around the top of the basket. However, having nothing to lose at this point and all to gain, I added the trim. I’m rather pleased with the trim.

Tomorrow I will stain the basket with a coffee/tea concoction, as I like the richness those colors that add. Plus maybe all the mistakes won’t be so noticeable.

 

Post Script: I need to add  that these photos were shot with my beloved Nikkor 85mm 1.4. I dearly love how fast that little lens is in low light & also the delicious bokeh (shallow depth of field = blurry background.) OH, and the top banner shot was done with it as well.

Update: FYI, this basket was chopped to shreds last night…and re-woven. You may see the new one here.

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It was a day for birding.

The temperature was 37° Fahrenheit.
The mister and I took a drive to Sooner Lake in northern Oklahoma. We saw the usual Buffleheads, Goldeneyes, Mallards, Coots, Cormorants, Scaups, and Gulls – plus a few Harriers. Oh yes, and one Canada Goose acting strange…swimming around with his neck level with the water and his head in the water…we had to watch it for a while to figure out what it was. And the ducks are definitely pairing up…lots of head bobbing & squabbles among the Buffleheads.

But the one surprise for the day came when we heard a Loon – even before we saw it. We watched it swim and dive for a while before we eventually saw it come up with a fish. And here was the kicker, that fish (possibly a Hybrid Striped Bass) was at least as big as the Loon’s head. The drizzle and fog did little to help me out with photography. The poor Loon wrestled that fish for at least 15-20 minutes – even stopping mid-way through to do a little wing-flap. Part way through the tussle, a gull checked in to see what was going on. The Loon finally gave up and went away hungry. But perhaps it learned a little something. ;-)

Here are a few Cool Facts about Loons from All About Birds.

  • The Common Loon swims underwater to catch fish, propelling itself with its feet. It swallows most of its prey underwater. The loon has sharp, rearward-pointing projections on the roof of its mouth and tongue that help it keep a firm hold on slippery fish.
  • Migrating Common Loons occasionally land on wet highways or parking lots, mistaking them for rivers and lakes. They become stranded without a considerable amount of open water for a long takeoff. A loon may also get stranded on a pond that is too small.
  • Loons are water birds, only going ashore to mate and incubate eggs. Their legs are placed far back on their bodies, allowing efficient swimming but only awkward movement on land.
  • The Common Loon is flightless for a few weeks after molting all of its wing feathers at the same time in midwinter.

I can’t wait until the Loons come into full breeding colors. They’re such beautiful birds & their call is mesmerizing!

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How did two months pass without a blog post? Must have been that pre-Christmas/Christmas/post-Christmas thing. Whatever the case, here we go. BTW – Happy New Decade!

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For those of you familiar with the Weight Watchers eating plan, you’ll know what I mean when I talk about my daily points. For those of you who are not familiar with WW, basically described, your new eating plan is based on a daily point allotment which is assigned by your weight at the beginning of the program. As you lose weight, your point allotment goes down. My current allotment is 18 points per day. (Which is also the minimum amount that it will ever be. Thankfully!!!)

In addition to your daily point allotment, you have a certain number of weekly points that you may use at any given time. For instance, when you NEED those french fries and you’re out of points. Tonight, I was heading into dinner with 5 points remaining. Instead of one of the WW meals (many are very good!) which normally contain from 4-6 points, I opted for stir fry veggies. I would normally like to use fresh veggies, but I was in a bit of a hurry and decided to use a package of frozen. Upon checking the content of calories, fat, and fiber, I learned that one serving of the stir-fry veggies contained (here comes the good part) ZERO POINTS.   We WW people LOVE those ZERO POINT items. I especially love them when I’m craving veggies. I grabbed the wok, smeared some olive oil around in it, let it heat & then dumped in the veggies. Mmmm. Seven minutes later – Voilà!  There’s just something very satisfying about stirring veggies around in a wok with a big ole wooden spoon. The package of veggies contained a nice assortment: broccoli, sugar snap peas, green beans, carrots, celery, water chestuts, onions and red peppers. And I just love the crunch those water chestnuts add. Yum.

Now understand this, another reason that I like the sound of ZERO points tonight, was that I wanted a glass of vino with dinner. And since it has 2 points per glass, I had to figure that into the equation. Since I wasn’t having any meat or other food, I doubled the veggie serving to 1.5 cups which = 1 point. Now add in the 2 point glass of Beringer White Zinfandel. For what it’s worth, I’m far from a wine geek and that might not be (probably isn’t)  the right wine for veggies, but it’s my very favorite wine. So there.

Now, if you’ve been paying attention and keeping track of the points, you know that I’ve had my veggies and vino and I still have 2 points left for the day. Just enough for yet another glass of vino OR popcorn!

And for the record, if you’re wondering, WW is a very healthy, slow way to lose weight and learn how to eat sensible portions and healthy foods. I heartily recommend it. I’m doing it with the online program and have never felt that I was on a diet. I’ve been on it (with a few ups & downs) for over a year and am over half way to my goal.

Now, a bit about the photos. They were taken with my handy, dandy iPhone & processed in a cool app called ‘Camerabag.’ If you’d like some different looks to process your photos, check it out. You can instantly convert a photo to one of several filters – including: Helga, Colorcross, Lolo, Magazine, Instant, 1974, Cinema, Mono, 1962, Fisheye and Infrared. These were processed with Lolo – instantly. Check it out. It wasn’t pricey. 1.99 I think.

Bon Appétit!

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This is the first Autumn that I’ve actively collected seeds for next year’s gardens. My Gardening Mother has been very encouraging and has collected a few for me as well. I’m still doing a little research on how to keep them through winter. It appears some seeds need to freeze in order to germinate. I’ll get back to you on that later….

Basically, the collection of seeds simply means that instead of dead-heading flowers in the fall, let them dry completely. Then collect the dried bloom and break open the center. I did this over a paper plate and let them get completely dry before storing in a paper envelope. They have to be dry so they won’t start growing mold. Once you’re sure they’re dry, place in a cool, dry place for the winter season.

So far, my list of seeds includes:

  • Double Pink Coneflowers
  • Cosmos
  • Dwarf Sunflowers
  • Cockscomb
  • Becky Daisies
  • Gerber Daisies
  • Impatiens
  • Tall Verbena
  • Silky Lupine

I have faith in most of them. I know that a lot of plants will re-seed themselves. Take Cockscomb for instance…it comes up EVERYWHERE! Plus, it survives the hot & dry Oklahoma summers and still shows off. I highly recommend it if you have those conditions. Plus, it can be transplanted and does not mind at all. I have transplanted some that were 24 inches tall and they hardly seemed to mind at all. Also, the Impatiens re-seed themselves – but they are very late in coming up in the summer.

I’m not sure what will happen with the Lupine. I collected the seeds in Colorado. I absolutely love their colors and tall, gorgeous stems covered with blooms. Stand by and we’ll see if they will germinate and grow in Oklahoma.

The Cosmos & Tall Verbena seeds are from my Mom. Hers were gorgeous this past season. I can only hope that they’ll do as well for me.

And here’s what I hope will happen with the seeds I’ve collected this Fall.

Are you a seed collector? Do you have any hints for me? I’d love to hear them!

[Photography Note: New Header Shot & Seed Envelopes shot with Nikkor 85mm f/1.4  Love that lens!]

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