A Long Holiday

Knitting And Gift Bag | Whims And Fancies

Various reasons called for a long holiday this year and I obliged.  For me that typically means going into hibernation, at home or sometimes elsewhere on a trip.  These getaway trips would be completely impossible for us without our fabulous pet sitter, Nanci.  She not only takes care of the basic necessities of our kitties, she also spends time with them and reads aloud to them.  She even warmed her way into the hearts of my shy kitties enough that they are completely relaxed around her.

During our Sweden vacation, we got this mug for her as a thank you.  That was in September, but with one thing and another we didn’t get to see each other again until after the holidays.
 
Knitting And Sewing Gift Bag | Whims And Fancies

Pattern at One Lucky Day

As soon as I finished the first bag using the pattern on One Lucky Duck, I had to make another one for Nanci.  It made a great gift bag, the mug fits in it perfectly.  Nanci is a quilter herself.  She also runs a craft workshop for her occupational therapy patients.  She was very excited about the bag and I shared the pattern link with her for her workshop.

 

Yellow Knitted Mittens | Whims And Fancies

Harvest Date Mitts

She spends a lot of time outside, so I made these yellow mitts for her to keep her hands warm while she is out and about.  As soon as she pulled them out of the mug, she put them on right away.  She was very happy with her handmade gifts and that in turn made me smile big.

The pattern links for both the bag and the mitts are under each photo if you want to make them.  They are very quick to make and they make great gifts!

 

Pattern Writing Blog Series

 
Speaking of patterns, Cheryl from Meadow Mist Design is starting a series on Quilt Pattern Writing.  If you are interested in writing patterns or ever wondered what goes into writing them, you won’t want to miss this.  She is also doing round table discussions and I am one of the designers participating.  It will be great to see both the similarities and the differences the various designers will bring to the table.  I had a great fun writing my answers before I started my holiday.
 
Lego Harry Potter | Whims And Fancies

This year’s holidays were all about indulging my inner child.  My husband and I love the Lego Harry Potter video games.  We spent large chunks of time playing and laughing at the silliness in the game.  The settings and the music in the game are very comforting for us and we love to get lost in that world.
 

Sticky Toffee Pudding Recipe | Whims And Fancies

This is sticky toffee pudding, the most delectable dessert I have ever had.  I only make it for the holidays using Nigella Lawson’s easy recipe with reduced sugar for the sauce.  I had it for breakfast one morning with vanilla ice cream!  I really don’t care about the calorie consumption, having it for breakfast once a year won’t kill me!

 

Mary's Bread | Whims And Fancies

My friend Mary shared her bread recipe which I made during the holidays.  The bread came out perfect the very first time and was incredibly delicious!

 

Yosemite Tunnel View | Whims And Fancies

The holidays ended with a trip to Yosemite National Park.  There was an unexpected road closure due to a major rockfall.  That resulted in three separate three-hours-a-piece detours in and out of the park on icy and snowy roads instead of our usual 15-minute jaunt from the hotel.  On the second evening, on our way back, we were very happy to learn that they were about to reopen the quick route back to the hotel.

While we were waiting for the road to reopen that evening, we drove to the Tunnel View vista point.  The drifting cloud from the cold and overcast day was starting to settle into an even colder Yosemite Valley night.

Happy Creating, everyone!
-Soma
 

It’s All In The Clouds

Scones

It was really overcast a couple of days ago.  For some strange reason, the cloudy, cool weather gave me a huge urge to bake.  I gave in and became a mad baking lady.   I kicked off the baking session with these easy scones.  We treated ourselves to a couple of warm ones that afternoon with butter and jam.   I sometimes like to eat them with just butter and sprinkled sugar.

Peach Crumble

Once the scones came out of the oven, I prepped a peach crumble.  Since I am allergic to all fruits with pits and cores, I can only eat canned peaches.  First I drained the syrup from the peaches and added shredded coconut and sugar.  Then I prepared the crumble, added some coconut to that as well and then into the oven it went at 375F for 30 minutes.   If I could, I would add coconut to everything!  I almost wanted to skip dinner and go straight to dessert that night!

Whole Wheat Bread

Last but certainly not least, I baked three loaves of bread.  I really love homemade bread, but I haven’t been able to bake for a while because I had been a bit under the weather.   Since I am feeling a lot better now, I just had to bake bread.  Once I had made up my mind, there was no going back.  This bread is really not that hard to make, just a lot of waiting around.  Since I was puttering around the kitchen anyway, the timing was perfect.  I love the smell of freshly-baked bread wafting through the house.

Charlie kitty On Quilt

After I finished all that baking, I felt like Charlie in this picture.  By the way, this is the reason why this quilt is still not finished.  I partially hand quilted it.  Every time I got up for five minutes, he was on it, sleeping.  I finally finished the quilting last week and I am feverishly hand sewing the binding now.  It is a queen size quilt, so there’s a lot of binding to sew.  Currently this is the only quilt I am working on.  Since I am not touching anything else until it’s finished, hopefully I will be able to show it here very soon.

It’s not all his fault though, for my not finishing the quilt, I must share part of the blame.  Puffy clouds and cool weather have been inviting me to go play outside, and I must heed their call.  I have been out and about with my camera a lot lately.  This is our first year here in the Napa Valley.  Fall is like a second spring, only all the leaves turn into blooms.  I thought I’d share some of my favourite photos here.

Fall Colours Napa Valley Vineyard

 Napa Valley Vineyard

Fall Colours Napa Valley Vineyard

  Napa Valley Vineyard

Fall Colours Napa Valley Vineyard

 I had no idea that grape leaves change colour too.

Fall Colours Napa Valley Vineyard

Afternoon sunlit leaves

Fall Colours Napa Valley Calistoga

 Looks like red blooms – it’s spring in fall

Fall Colours Napa Valley Calistoga

Gorgeous reds

Fall Colours Napa Valley Calistoga

 Yellow-softened asphalt

Fall Colours Napa Valley Calistoga

 Soft leaves under my feet

Dark, overcast clouds or puffy white clouds, I am happy to be able entertain myself on all occasions!

Cheers!
-Soma

Simple Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

I have been working steadily on the Wonky Castle blocks this week.  While working on those blocks today, I needed a little break and I thought it would be nice to share my favorite bread recipe with you.  Couple of years ago, I wanted to give bread-making a try.  I started looking for an easy, no-fuss bread recipe on the web and came across this one –

Simple Whole Wheat Bread

Believe me when I say this one is a simple bread recipe and has become our staple bread.  I made only a few changes to the recipe.

  • My breads weren’t rising enough.  So I added 3 (0.25-ounce) packages active dry yeast instead of the 2 that the recipe calls for.  That made all the difference for me.
  • In the second half of the recipe I added 1/2 cup of honey instead of 1/3 cup because I wanted the bread to be mildly sweeter than the original recipe.
  • I add 4 tbsp of Gluten in the bread when I add the melted butter, honey and salt.  The original version was a little too crumbly for my taste.

A few handy tips –

  • Have some room temperature butter handy.
  • For the most part, I use my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer to make the bread.  However, the quantity is a little more than my stand mixer can handle.  So I let it do most of the work and then finish up the last bit of kneading by hand.
  • From the very beginning, try to keep the dough in an area that has stable temperature and is draft-free.  I live in an apartment, so I stash mine in the bedroom walk-in closet and close the door.   Just a cautionary note, the closet will smell of wheat at the end, but I like it.  When I pull the closet door back open, it aerates out easily.
  • I also cover the dough with a paper towel.  I tried dishtowels before.  Dough got stuck to the dishtowel and it was really hard to clean.  Since then I use paper towels.

Last week I made three loaves and this time I remembered to take photos.   Hopefully you will find them helpful if you decide to give this bread a try.

Simple Whoe Wheat Bread Recipe     Simple Whoe Wheat Bread Recipe

Step 1 – This is before and after the yeast mixture rising.  Sometimes it takes more than 30 minutes for the yeast mixture to rise nicely.

Simple Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

Step 2 –  I finish most of this step using my stand mixer.  I add the 3.5 cups of the flour in 1/2-cup increments.  I have an extra large cutting board which I sprinkle some flour on, put the dough on top and finish kneading by hand.  It doesn’t take much time after the stand mixer has done its job – maximum of 5 minutes to get the dough smooth.  You really don’t need to be too fussy about it, because as the dough rises it smooths out.  Just make sure that everything is mixed in nicely.

Simple Whole Wheat Bread Recipe    Simple Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

Step 2 – This is before and after the dough rises in the bowl.  I use a large mixing bowl for this.  This step can sometimes also take more than 30 minutes to rise.  You don’t have to let it rise that much like you see in my photo.  I was doing something else and completely forgot about the dough!  Make sure it doubles its original size, and you are good to go.

Simple Whole Wheat Bread Recipe   Simple Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

Step 3 –  This is before and after the dough rising in the loaf-pan.  This takes about 45 – 50 minutes for me.  I only took a picture of one loaf pan.  There are two other pans that look very similar.  You will need to stretch the dough a little to fill the pan when you first put the dough in.

Simple Whole Wheat Bread Recipe   Simple Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

Step 4 –  I bake the dough for 30 minutes.  Then I pop them out of the pans on a wire rack.  I brush the loaves with room temperature/soft butter instead of melted butter.  Then I let them cool completely.

Few tips on freezing from my personal experiences –

I cut the loaves into slices later on the same day and freeze them.  If you decide not to freeze and you’re not going to use them right away, make sure to wrap them in plastic wrap, otherwise they will get stale and hard.

When I freeze bread, I pack the freezer bags loosely and I do not stack the the bags too high.  Otherwise, the weight of the upper bags will compress the lower bags before the slices freeze and become hard.  Once the breads have been frozen completely, then you can stack them as much as you want to free up freezer space.

If you ever wanted to make bread but were apprehensive about the whole process, this is a really easy recipe to try.  Only thing to remember is not to schedule any outing that day.  Each step doesn’t take much time, but there are waiting periods in between.

Don’t forget to visit next week for February’s Wonky Castle block.  I will also have a little surprise for you on Friday.

Until next time,
-Soma