Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Celebrating Half Birthdays

The girls enjoy celebrating their half birthdays. It's something that my family didn't do when I was growing up, but thought it would be a fun tradition to start.

Half birthdays aren't as "formal" as real birthdays, but they come with a special breakfast and dinner (chosen by the birthday girl), a few presents, and a cake with candles.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Olivia Doing Therapeutic Horseback Riding

The riders (including both Sophia and Olivia) are doing through the grove of walnut trees. There are pictures of horses attached to various trees.

The riders have to guide the horses throughout the trees, stop at the pictures, verbally describe and/or talk about the horse pictures, and then continue on to another picture.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An Unexpected Visitor

Curt and Family
Originally uploaded by Pictures by Ann
Had an expected visitor - a gentleman who lived in the home when he was a boy in the early- to mid-1930s. He is the second one from the left in the picture (wearing the navy blue shirt).

He shared many memories while walking through the home. Since returning to his summer home in CT, he sent me an email with more memories. Once he gets back to his winter home in Sanibel to his computer, he'll send me the rest of recollections of the home and his time here which are stored on that computer. I'm looking forward to reading more about them.

This home was built in 1890. He remembers it when it didn't have electricity or plumbing. He slept on a cornhusk bed which provided "adequate" nights of sleep.

He remembers listening to a show once a week on the battery-powered radio about "gang busters;" collecting eggs from the chicken coop; picking beans in the garden; and a wood stove in the kitchen.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sashiko Fabric is Stitched

Finally done! Finished stitching the different pieces of fabric for the sasiko quilt I'm making. Each of the squares on the big piece of fabric took about an hour and a half or so to stitch, depending on the complexity of the pattern.

Sashiko embroidery is a type of Japanese embroidery. The stitching is simple - it's just a basic running or straight stitch. The fabric itself is a deep blue/navy.

The pattern for each of the squares was printed onto the fabric. After stitching, you scrub it off, revealing only the hundreds (maybe thousands if I'd count all the fabric) of stitches that were done.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Triple Ginger Cookies

Tried a new cookie recipe with three types of ginger: fresh (minced), crystallized, and ground (dry). Was very happy with how they turned out.

They are spicy and full of flavor. In some bits, you can taste the ground ginger…and in others you get a tiny piece of the crystallized or fresh ginger.

They were a hit with everyone. They are soft cookies when they come out of the oven and remain soft and tender when cooled.

(The recipe was shared as part of the 52 Weeks of Baking Swap on Swap-Bot.)

Here's the recipe:

Triple Ginger Cookies
(Recipe is from the internet)


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup light (mild-flavored) molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh peeled ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup (about) sugar


Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, crystallized ginger, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until creamy and light, about 2 minutes.

Gradually beat in both brown sugars. Beat on medium-high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add egg, molasses, fresh ginger, ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat to blend. Add flour mixture in 2 additions, beating on low speed just to blend between additions.

Place 1/3 cup sugar in small bowl. Measure 1 tablespoon dough. Roll into ball between palms of hands, then roll in sugar in bowl to coat; place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cookie dough, spacing cookies 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.

Bake cookies until surfaces crack and cookies are firm around edges but still slightly soft in center, about 15 minutes. Cool completely on sheets on rack.

Note: I used dairy-free butter; and 1 cup of dark brown sugar rather than ½ cup each of golden and dark brown sugar. For the sugar, I used baker’s sugar rather than granulated. I only baked them for 12 minutes (rather than 15 minutes).

Lesson Learned

If You Go Out to Eat and Like What You Ate, Try to Find A Similar Recipe to Make at Home: The triple ginger cookie recipe is one that I found after eating a triple ginger cookie at a bakery in Minneapolis. My sister and I went to food market where there were many bakeries, restaurants, and stores in one building. This particular bakery had the most delicious cookies.

I was determined to find a recipe that could be made at home that was similar enough to the bakery version. At $1.50 (or was it $2) per cookie (my sister treated)…I knew a substantially less-expensive version could be made at home.

Same thing with another recipe I made this week (an artichoke and spinach dip similar to Olive Garden's recipe). Although I had never eaten the dip at Olive Garden, there are books that have recipes that are clones of food made in some restaurants. These are worth looking it. Especially when things are tight financially, it’s nice to feel like you are having the same type of food that is being served in nice bakeries and restaurants.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Olivia Making a Circular Quilt

Made the ironing board much shorter so that Olivia could iron the quilt she's working on for the county fair.

Had Olivia look on Flickr for ideas about what she wanted her quilt to look like. She saw on that was circular that had a rainbow of colors on a white background.

Her idea was to take a lot of fabric that had blue in it (her favorite color) and make the circle. The inside of the circle and background will be white.

Not sure yet how she's going to quilt the top. She'll need to figure that out next week.

I helped her by showing her how to make a circle, dividing it into parts (she drew the lines), and making a pattern piece (adding 1/4 inch on each long side for the seam allowance).

She cut the pieces out and sewed them together (I need to operate the pedal since her feet don't reach the floor).

Since we were creating our own pattern, she did need to add a couple of extra pieces to the circle. However, by doing this and modifying some of the seam allowances, the circle quilt now lays flat.

In this case, the quilt is more about the PROCESS of sewing rather than the PRODUCT. She's learning how to create a pattern, machine sew unusual shapes together, modify a project so that it can be taken to the next stage, hand-sew and try to hide the stitching, and how to iron.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Rosemary Focaccia

Rosemary Focaccia
Originally uploaded by
Pictures by Ann

Tried a new recipe that has frozen bread dough as the base, and then olive oil, sliced onions, mozzarella cheese, and fresh rosemary (from the garden) on top. It was delicious...especially the rosemary.

Will make this recipe again, but use a combination of herbs from the garden.

(The recipe was shared as part of the 52 Weeks of Baking Swap on Swap-Bot.)

Here's the recipe:

Rosemary Focaccia
(Taste of Home Magazine)


1 loaf (1 pound) frozen bread dough, thawed
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ thinly sliced onion
1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary


Roll the dough onto an ungreased 15”x10” baking pan. Build up the edges slightly. Brush with oil; top with onion, garlic, cheese, and rosemary. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Yield: 15 servings.

I’ve been making a lot of bread from scratch recently, but decided to buy the frozen bread dough instead so I could try this recipe. Oh my gosh…this was devoured by everyone!

Made ¾ of the focaccia with cheese and ¼ of it without (this was so that it was dairy-free for Sophia). I went to the garden and cut the rosemary. As I was cutting the rosemary, I thought about the day that Sophia, Olivia, and I planted the herb and vegetable garden and how it is growing so nicely this year.

The flavor of the onions, garlic, and rosemary is subtle and not overpowering. Any one of those ingredients could be increased (probably doubled to start with) for greater flavor.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Journal Quilt for May

This is the journal quilt that I made in May. Each month this year I've been making a miniature quilt (this one is about 9" x 12").

Some new things I did with this quilt:

- French knots (finally learned how to do these!)

- Sewing with transparent thread on the fish and turtles

- Machine quilted the majority of the quilt - all the layers are machine-sewn along the edges. The fish, turtles, shells, and book are hand-sewn onto the quilt.

- Using bias tape - up until this point I've just cut the backing about an inch or so bigger than the front and wrapped it around. Used bias tape this month for a more finished edge.

Symbolism of the quilt:

- My trip to Texas - visited Sea Turtle, Inc. (a rescue and rehabilitation facility for sea turtles); collected some shells from the Gulf of Mexico (3 of the shells I found are hand-sewn onto the journal quilt); and explored South Padre Island (the largest barrier island in the world, of which the majority is undeveloped).

- Finished teaching a crafting for charity class to homeschoolers. We used bias tape for making pillowcase dresses for girls who are orphans in Africa. This is a way to remember the class and the impact that the girls/teens made through crafting.

- Mother's Day - Did blue French knots on one fish to represent my mom (blue is her favorite color). Also chose 7 different fabrics for the water since I gave her 7 gifts (one to open daily from Mother's Day and for the next 6 days).

- Being a Mom - My daughters are adopted from China and there's a proverb that says: "An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break." I hand-stitched red lines onto the two turtles' backs.

Also chose one of the fabrics in the water that had purple and green (my two favorite colors); and made purple French knots on one of the fish.

- Visit from a friend - My friend, his wife, and their dog visited in the middle of May. We went to Koi Acres and saw hundreds of beautiful koi - from tiny ones to ones that were over 2 1/2 feet long. The two fish in the journal quilt represent the nice time we had together.

- Completion of Homeschooling for the Year - Finished homeschooling the girls for 1st and 3rd grade. The book on the beach in the quilt represents the many books we read and all the interesting information we learned during the past year.


A color copy of the quilt and a description of the symbolism behind the quilt (in greater detail) was sent to two partners for a swap on Swap-Bot.