Curtains

When I first moved into this house I made actual lined drapes with the pleats for my family room.  They were necessary because once upon a time the family room was the TV room of the house, and the afternoon/evening sun blazed in and disturbing viewing.  But the windows were short, because the family room is in the basement.  I made short lined blue drapes, crisp with pleats and curtain hooks.  When I think back about them, I am kind of amazed at myself that I got them made as well as I did.  No pictures, it was far too long ago.  The curtains eventually succumbed to sun fade and cats.  It was kind of a sad day when they came down for the last time.

The lesson I learned was that I could make curtains.  Now mind you, just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you WANT to.

20160120_184905Six years ago, during a real, honest-to-goodness blizzard when work was cancelled and I was trapped at home, I made a project of making made lined, tab topped curtains for my large new replacement sliding glass door in the dining room. The new door had replaced French doors that I had made lace panels to fit top and bottom inside the frame for the glass.  They were not “private”, but very pretty.  The door had to be replaced eventually though and I opted for a sliding glass door.

This door is huge, and it takes a lot of fabric to adequately cover it.  As luck would have had it, I had a giant piece of lightweight wheat upholstery fabric that was given to me some time ago, and that I found was suddenly begging to become a new curtain.  Applying measurements and math, I found was just short enough that I was not going to have enough to make curtains with adequate fullness — unless I got creative.  With nothing but snow and time on my hands, I found some brown fabric that I added to the top and bottom, and tabs making my curtain a perfect fit.

The lesson I learned from these curtains is I certainly can make them, but I don’t really like making them.  Curtains this size are usually big, bulky, hard to measure in small spaces without using the floor, and really difficult to press on a standard ironing board.  I have a short memory.

20160130_150727Four or five years later, and having forgotten lessons, I decided I must finally re-cover the window formerly covered by the crisp blue pleated curtains.  An inexpensive upholstery remnant from Pottery Barn, some white fabric for lining and they turned out pretty nicely.  This particular window may be wide, but nice and short, so there’s not a lot of bulk required.  It helped that the fabric was exactly wide top to bottom to not require much cutting at all.

In December, I stained my bathroom cabinets.  Turns out gel stain is apparently communicable.  Note the lovely stain spot on the above large curtain.  That stain isn’t coming out.  At all.  Ever.  I also noticed that after six years of use, the curtain was pretty worn on the lower right corner too — lots of rubbing by dogs going in and out of the door.  The brown fabric had faded, and there was no amount of starch that was going to make them look crisp again.
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I also had a big bolt of light beige upholstery fabric that was screaming at me, “make me curtains.”  I used the prior curtains for measurements, found a nice coordinating upholstery fabric for the top and bottom, and set out to make curtains.

Now I remember as I’m crawling on the floor — I don’t like making huge curtains.  At all.  But I’m committed, and here they are.  I see errors — this fabric was wider than the original fabric and I didn’t account for that, so they’re pretty full.  I also measured the lining without taking the top stripe in account, so the lining is a bit too short.  But they’re done and I’ve decided I’m my own worst critic.  They don’t have a spot on them so I’m happy.

On to the next project.  And it won’t be curtains.

How Did I Get Here?

I am Milady.

How did I get here?  It’s a fundamental question.  It is probably a question everyone reflects on in some unconscious way all the time, but because they know the answer it just flies in and out of their head without much consideration.

I can’t really do that.  I am Milady.  My parents are Rose Evelyn and Information Not Given.  I can’t remember anything from birth to age four, save a couple of snippets of my grandfather’s home on North 11th Street in Kansas City, Kansas.  I remember my grandfather very fondly, then he died.  I spent the years between four and 10 essentially living out of a turd brown 1962 Chevy Nova station wagon.  The next eight years, from 10 to 18, are the ones that probably shaped me more than any other, but it still doesn’t answer the fundamental question, how did I get here?

BlankBox.JPGJust to be clear, I have never really fixated on the missing information.  It’s just there, and it is what it is.  It would come up every now and then.  That blank box.  The one that kept me from filling out my passport application online because the form wouldn’t accept anything other than a full name for parental information.  The one that made me worry about my security check for my Federal job.

My mother told me one story, then another, and then others.  I always knew that there might have been a shred of truth in each story, but none of them were “the” story.  Mom had what I called convenient memory — she remembered things the way that was most convenient to her, and then she believed it, so it was truth to her.  What was inconvenient or embarrassing to her, just didn’t make it into her story, and she really didn’t think much about how she told it.  She had no problem telling me as a child that I was not loved or wanted.  But it is what it is, and I never spent a lot of time pondering it and just assumed I’d never really know.  Over the years others had approached my mom with questions, and she was just as creative with them.  We got some great quotes though.  Glenda, who was my “mom” for many years, was adamant I needed to know and she had a long conversation with my mom once.  All she got out of it was that apparently the sex was “hot,” but nothing more.  And yes, that was the word used.  Ick.

I once had a client that was a private detective.  To help pay his bill with me, he did some research on a name and story that my mother had settled on after I was 12.  I just kind of assumed that the shred of truth was that second name.  My step-dad had once found my mother crying over an obituary when I was 15 or 16, and she claimed then it was the man that was my father.  She told my aunt the name, giving a certain amount of credence to the story.  The detective researched, found the obituary my mom likely had referenced.  He died in the mid-1970s, so the timing was right.  I just filed the info away in my brain and left it with that.  I had a sneaking suspicion that he, or whoever it was, never even knew I existed, and if he were dead, my mom didn’t have to give it another thought.

In 2014, my husband gave me a Ancestry.com DNA kit for Christmas.  I sat and stared at it for six months before I finally spit in the vial and sent it off.  I’m not sure why I waited, other than it was just that blank box thing again.  I just wasn’t sure it would tell me anything new.  I’ve always felt like I was on the periphery of my family anyway, and it wasn’t going to change any of that.

EthnicityEstimateIn 2015, I got my ancestry profile.  It actually was kind of fun.  I’d always assumed that I was predominantly Scotch/Irish based on my mother’s ancestry.  Well, not so much.  Turns out I’m primarily Western European and British — my mother’s ancestors came from France and England.  That was news to me.  I felt a little let down that I wasn’t as Celtic as I’d imagined, but it is what it is.

I shared my results with my maternal cousins, and one took an interest.  He was so curious, he did his own DNA kit.

PredictedRelationshipThe first confirmation was that Ancestry.com immediately matched our DNA and made our relationship first cousins.  A fact has been established.  This is just about the most concrete evidence of where I came from that I’ve ever had.

Then we noticed something.  We had shared DNA matches.  Ancestors on my mother’s side.  It was an actual path that I could follow.  My husband was fascinated by the whole thing and worked my genealogy back to something like 700 AD.  There’s landlords, Countesses and castles in the lineage.  Perhaps I am a little bit of a milady after all.

That lead me to the DNA matches that my cousin and I did not share.  The obvious implication is they came from whoever my father was.  My closest relative on that side is a second cousin.  That means we have shared great grandparents.  I’ve talked to her, and her aunt on her mom’s side, and it seems logical that I’m from her mother’s branch of her family tree, because that’s the branch that was from Kansas City.  We haven’t quite figured it all out, and I still can’t say I know who my father is, but I can tell you who he wasn’t.  He wasn’t the name my mother gave me when I was 12, that she cried over an obituary for, and that the private investigator researched for me many years later.  He may be one of the names mom mentioned in her waning years as dementia was taking over.  I will never know.  Based on the little bit of evidence I have, it looks like the possible candidate, who is deceased now, was at time of my conception substantially younger than my mom, probably around the age of 20 to her age 31.  That would have been a fling that my mother would never in a million years have admitted to because it would have been far too embarrassing for her.  Que that convenient memory.

The one conclusion I can come to is it is very reasonable to believe that my father, whoever he was, had absolutely no idea he ever had a child named Milady out there.  I can believe that telling me I was not loved or wanted was at its least unfair.  That may be all I ever get, but it’s more than I had.  It is what it is.  I’m here.

I am Milady.

A Little Catching Up

I have a new toy.  I bought a Singer XL-400 sewing/embroidery machine.  It replaces my starter embroidery machine, a Singer CE-100, which I hated.  Or it hated me.  I’m not sure which.  Fortunately, things are working out better with the new relationship.  I use the XL-400 for embroidery, and I still sew on my old metal Universal, or my Brother electronic.

I’m finding myself somewhat ambivalent about the whole machine embroidery thing.  On the one hand, there’s a science to it, and getting the embroidery to come out looking neat and professional is definitely something that requires practice.  On the other hand, unless you are your own digitizer, you’re really just applying designs someone else has created to your stuff.  It’s nice to personalize things, like the coin purses below, and even the kitchen set had a little bit of personalization on it, but it’s not like I actually made the artwork I’m using myself, I’m just interpreting someone else’s work.  I’ll come to terms eventually I suppose.

So some recent things I’ve been doing.  Coin purses.  Lots and lots of them.  I made them for Christmas gifts for friends and family.  Did I mention I made a lot of them?  I based my little pouches this year on instructions  at sewmehappyblog, and personalizing them with my handy-dandy embroidery machine.  http://sewmehappyblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/coin-purse-tutorial.html

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Coin Purses

In the midst of making coin purses, I realized my fabric stash was a mess.  If I can distract myself from the project at hand, I certainly will.  I found the organizing project very liberating though and am glad I made time for it.

I started the gift-giving season with a gathering apron for my cousin, who raises chickens.  This apron was made from scratch, using the instructions found Sew4Home, http://www.sew4home.com/projects/kitchen-linens/easy-half-apron-jumbo-pockets, and then I embroidered it.

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Gathering Apron

A few other gifts:

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Dollar Tree Holiday Placemats with embroidered monogram.  The dreaded metallic thread conquered.  (Adorn monogram from Designs by JuJu)

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Dollar Tree kitchen set – required disassembly to embroider.

 

Jewelry travel pouch from Instructables for a friend who makes her own beaded jewelry.

A giant foam finger required a custom Chiefs cuff and optional costume change cuff.  My hubby carried it to the Chiefs v. Raiders game (we won, advancing to the AFC playoffs) on January 2nd.  I created this cuff from scratch and it attaches with a velcro closure in the back.  The Chiefs logos came from a licensed flag we bought specifically to cannibalize and add with Heat ‘N Bond.

A couple of pre-made cheapo aprons that I embroidered.  The green one was for a friend that does ceramics, and the red one I did for myself and used on Thanksgiving Day.

This apron is a crafting tool belt apron I made several years ago.  I’m not sure I remember where I got this idea from, but I’m thinking with a little modification, I could make this a little more user friendly and a cute addition to my project lineup.

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Crafting tool belt.

I also made a purse that I love, started on a base for a costume my husband is making for Comicon, and I worked very hard on an awesome RenFest dress for me.  I’ll add pics of those to another article.

And lastly, today’s project, which is the prototype for a craft show item I’m contemplating.  This heart coin pouch is an “in the hoop” design from Five Star Fonts. My friend that does ceramics wants to combine talents and have a mixed media craft show display sometime in 2016, where we both sell our wares, so I’m pondering what is unique enough, cute enough, and quick enough to make in quantity to do that.  And the back of this cute purse is a lovely blank space just begging for some sort of embroidered saying or appliqued initials.  I’m still pondering.

HeartCoinPrototype

Heart Coin Pouch with zipper

The next project I have planned is a sewing only project.  I stained my bathroom vanity and medicine cabinet over the holidays using General Finishes Java gel stain.  Gel stain somehow migrates all over everywhere if you’re not careful, and apparently I was not.  I somehow managed to stain, and ruin in my estimation, my sliding glass door curtain (also made by me) while letting the dogs out.  The good news is this project is all serging straight lines, the fabric I have was a gift, and I don’t have even measure that much, because I can use the current curtain as a guide.  Hopefully I can get it done quickly.

20160120_184905See the spot?  The curtain is six years old and definitely showing wear so it’s time for a new one.

But the bathroom looks amazing.

 

 

It’s been a while ….

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It’s been a while, and I’ve been busy.  I have a new embroidery machine, and made tons of cute personalized coin purses at Christmas.  I’m working on aprons.

And then there’s my latest project, pillows.  The pillows were created from an unwanted king sized dust ruffle for a bed. The biggest constraint was the fabric was only 16″ wide, challenging the size of pillows I could make.  I wound up with four 16″x12″ rectangular pillows, two 14″ bolsters, and a cute round sunburst pillow.  I’ll post more later, but here’s pics of the pillows. These are for a friend, and a project I held off doing much too long.

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Directions for the round pillow are from Sew4Home, and found here. http://www.sew4home.com/projects/pillows-cushions/round-piped-pillow-gathered-top

Projects in the Works

Ironing table made from a $10 tray table from WalMart, and 100% cotton upholstery fabric and natural fiber batting.

It’s been a couple of months, but I have been busy. In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some blogs on a tea wallet for your purse; a tray table transformation to an ironing board; string backpacks (that I organized the pictures for and now can’t find them); and my foray into making coasters with 13 cent white tiles from Home Depot, embroidered fabric scraps, Mod Podge and pourable resin. teaoutside

I’ve learned a lot about my embroidery machine and using embroidery with resin. My first experiment has … well, let’s just say it has “character”. Learned a lot about stray threads and ironing my scraps as flat as I can get them. I’m curing a second batch of tiles now and am anxious to see the final results.

I’m also in the midst of organizing my massive recipe collection into an electronic form using Google Drive to store.  Using this method, I can get to them from anywhere and with any device, including my handy-dandy new Android tablet.  This is a project that’s turning out to be a lot bigger than I’d hoped, but I’m having fun with it and it’s already paying off in saved time hunting for recipes.

Before Christmas I finished up a “Christinaline” doll for our 10yo who loved, loved, loved the movie, “Coraline”.  This will probably be my one picture on this project, but if anyone is interested, I bought the pattern from a very talented young textile student in Australia.  She did a great job putting together a pattern and directions for what was a fairly complicated project.  I’m particularly proud of Christinaline’s rubber rain boots.Christinaline - modeled after the doll featured in the movie "Coraline".

I’m working on a really cute apron made from a pair of repurposed blue jeans.  I haven’t documented this one with pictures as well as I would have liked to, but I’m sure I’ll get some sort of blog out of it.

So hang on for some blogs.

Valentine Love

Home is home, be it ever so humble

(Proverb)love

This past year or so has become the year of the door decoration for me.  It might be because at one point in the not so distant past, I went almost an entire year with the same Christmas wreath on my front door.  As recompense, I’ve resolved to create door designs of my own this year for the important days of our lives.  This is my interpretation of a pin I saw on Pinterest recently, of a door decoration for Valentine’s day.

Materials:

  • Four precut balsa letters in the 6” to 7” size.  I chose XOXO.
  • One precut wood script.  I chose “Love” for Valentine’s Day.
  • Wooden 2” craft sticks.  I don’t know what they call these in the package, but they look like short popsicle sticks.
  • 1 package 1” wood heart shapes.
  • Two rolls of complimentary ¼” wide ribbon.  I chose a roll of solid deep pink and a roll of pastel polka-dot pink.
  • Acrylic project paints.  For this project I used white, red and blue, and mixed the pink and purple myself.  I also had a small tub of red glitter paint that I used on one heart.

Tools:

  • Hot glue gun
  • Exacto Knife
  • Paint brushes
  • Small bowls to mix paints

The instructions are pretty simple.  Paint the wooden letters in whatever colors and patterns you choose.  Choose darker or more distinct colors or patterns for these pieces because they form the base of your project on which the script will need to stand out.  Oh, and make sure you get your edges painted!  Then paint your script in white or a very light color, and I also lined the edges of the script with a red glitter paint to give it dimension.  (A toothpick is a handy tool to have here.  It helps clean up your outlines so they look nice and straight.)  Lastly, paint four or five of the heart shapes in varying complimentary colors to embellish with. Try some glitter paint in the same color over your painted hearts to give your project a bit of sparkle.

(I’m envisioning Modge Podge and fabric covered letters for a project as well.  This would really give a project some creative patterns to work with.)

Once the paint is dry, start assembling.  I used the crafts stick to anchor the letters together, by hot gluing them to the back of my project.  Place the sticks so they’re not visible from the front or in an area that will be covered by your embellishments.  You may need to use smaller pieces, so carefully cut those with your Exacto knife.

Once the base made of letters is dry, turn the project over and glue the painted script to the front, along with your painted hearts.  Then embellish with bows made of ribbon.  I found the cutest bow idea on Pinterest, and this is my interpretation of how to do it.  It only takes a couple of bows to dress out your project.

Finally, create your hanger.  I braided three pieces of ribbon together, long enough that after I glued each end to the back of my project, I could still tie a bow at the top.  This would be a good spot to use jute as well.  Make it your own!

Spur of the Moment

bunsHomemade Hamburger Buns

Sunday in January.  It is 18 degrees outside.  I am cleaning my house, dressed in sweats with no makeup on.  I’m not leaving unless I **have** to leave.  I mean, this house would have to be on fire.  And it would have to be a fire I couldn’t manage myself.  I am not leaving.

In the slow cooker I’ve got a pork loin roast cooking to make pulled pork.   Then it hits me.  I have no buns, or bread for that matter, in the house.  I could get dressed and go buy buns, but I really, really don’t want to.  Really.

Oh, wait.  I’ve got this awesome appliance called a bread machine.  In fact, I have two of them – and a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook.

The first bread machine was released in Japan in 1986.  It is a home appliance for baking bread whose pan consists of a tall, square-ish tube at the bottom of which are one or more built-in paddles.  The pan locks into the center of a small special-purpose oven.  There’s your Wiki lesson for the day.

Oh, for future reference, I never bake in my bread machine, I just make dough.  I dislike the shape and denser texture of the bread baked in the bread maker, so I dump the dough ball out into a loaf pan, let it rise again, and then bake.

Back to the machine:  Once upon a time these handy machines cost several hundred dollars each – some still may – but as they became more popular, the prices went down.  They are also huge.  In my kitchen I’d lose an entire counter to a bread maker.  When it comes to the whole “how much of my kitchen counter is this thing going to occupy” question, the answer in my case is “most of it.”  Considering the amount of counter or storage space the machine takes, and how infrequently most folks use them, I found bread machines have become quite popular garage sale and Craigslist finds.  I found both of mine as free giveaways on Freecycle.org.  They live in my garage.

I love my bread machines.  And they love my hips.  Carb heaven.

Off to find a recipe.  There are a million of them.  I like simple recipes without any exotic ingredients, stuff I could normally have in my kitchen.  That usually eliminates a large number of recipes.  Then I tweak – sometimes a lot – to make the recipe my own.

I had thought hamburger buns would be a lot more exotic than they turned out to be.  In fact, they’re surprisingly simple.  I usually try each recipe I find as written the first time, and tweak afterwards, but I’ve used my bread machines enough to know what I need to do to make the perfect bread.

Oh, and on the subject of flours – oh, look!  Squirrel! – I never buy bread flour.  I use all purpose flour keep a box of vital wheat gluten on hand for baking bread, especially breads that incorporate wheat flour.  While some folks don’t add gluten, I do, because it gives that nice elasticity you need and the dough tends to rise higher resulting in a softer, airier loaf.  So in the recipe below, if you’re using all bread flour, you don’t have to add the vital wheat gluten.  However, like I say, I use just plain old all purpose flour and add gluten.

I also rarely, if ever, sift.  I should, I just dislike doing it.

Homemade Hamburger Buns

1-1/4 c milk, slightly warmed (I zapped it for about a minute in the microwave)

1 beaten egg

2 tbsp butter, softened

1/4 c white sugar

3/4 tea salt

1-1/4 c whole wheat flour

2-1/2 c white flour*

3 tbsp vital wheat gluten*

1-1/4 tea active dry yeast (one packet)

(If you don’t have wheat flour, or want white bread buns, using 3-3/4 c all purpose flour and is more than acceptable.)

1.      Place all ingredients in your bread machine pan in the order suggested by your manufacturer (usually liquids first, then dry ingredients, then yeast in a well in the center of the dry ingredients)

2.      Set the machine for the dough cycle setting and process.

3.      When the dough cycle is complete, turn the dough ball out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the ball into 12 balls.  I usually start by dividing in half, then half again, then thirds.

4.      Form round balls with each ball, then gently pat into patties.  With a rolling pin, roll each ball until flat and about the size of a hamburger bun.  You’ll have to gently turn each dough patty and roll both sides because the dough is very elastic and will snap back into a ball if you’re not patient with your rolling.

5.      Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper (or you can lightly grease them) and place six buns per sheet, leaving plenty of space between each bun.

6.      Lightly brush each bun with an egg wash and a pastry brush for that lovely golden top.  (Egg wash is one beaten egg with a dab of water or milk.)  Do not over apply the wash.

7.      Place both sheets in a warm dry spot, cover with a cloth, and let rise for at least an hour.

8.      Preheat oven to 350F and when the dough has risen to double, bake for 9-10 minutes until golden.

OMG.  These things are wonderful.  Light, fluffy and so fresh tasting.  Who would have thought such a simple thing would have made me so happy to make.

It would take us weeks to eat 12 buns, and without preservatives, they’ll mold pretty quickly.  I wrap each bun in plastic wrap, then drop the wrapped buns into a freezer zip top bag.  The double wrapping help keep ice crystals from forming and making your defrosted buns soggy.

Outtake:

Here’s a picture of my sandwich — and a reason to pay attention to the background when taking pictures for publication.

dog bun

Download an 8-1/2″ x 11″ recipe card:  Homemade Hamburger Buns

A Cake Served with Coffee is a Coffee Cake

I’m a big fan of coffee cake – I never developed the taste for coffee, but I’m all about the cakes that go with it.  My predilection may be because coffee cakes are full of all the fattening things in life, like butter and sour cream or cream cheese  –  and don’t contain coffee.  Throw some fat into a sweet, tender cake, and I’ll be right over.

Coffee CakeI apologize for the picture here – I made this cake for a birthday gathering at work, and forgot to take a picture before I left home.  By the time I remembered at the office, this is what was left, which I think means it turned out well – despite us all.  You would think grown, employed people would remember when someone says, “I’m taking Monday off for my birthday.”  But no, we all had our treats for our gathering made for a Monday morning meeting, to which the intended recipient was not present.  I suppose the good news is we all managed to remember over a weekend to bring treats on Monday morning.  Despite the lovely cookies, muffins and cake staring at us on Monday morning, we shamed one another into abstaining until Tuesday.  I’d call it willpower, but we all know it was group shaming.  Nobody wanted to be “that person,” the one that cut the cake, took a muffin, or messed up the pretty cookie display before the recipient got to see them.  So the cake sat from Sunday evening to Tuesday morning.  I was afraid it would dry out, even in my 50-year-old covered cake-taker, but I’m happy to report it stayed moist and tasty.

Oh, by the way, did you know that National Coffee Cake Day is April 7th?  Yeah, I didn’t either.  But I have since learned that National Coffee Cake Day is sandwiched between National Caramel Popcorn Day on April 6th, and National Empanada Day on April 8th.  And, National Sandwich Day is November 3rd.

Awesome Cinnamon and Sugar Coffee Cake

Cake Ingredients

1 cup sour cream

3/4 cup butter, softened

3/4 cups white sugar

3/4 cups brown sugar

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

Filling Ingredients

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup white or brown sugar

1/4 cup finely chopped pecans  (I didn’t have any pecans the first time I made the cake.  It doesn’t *need* them, but I’m imagining they would make this cake even more awesome.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease one 10 inch Bundt pan with a moderate amount of shortening; don’t skimp, but don’t get carried away either.  Instead of powdering the surface with flour, I mixed up about two tablespoons of a cinnamon sugar blend, light on the cinnamon, and floured the pan with that.  Be aware cinnamon can burn, so go light on the cinnamon on this step.

Cream sugar and eggs until well blended, then add the sour cream and butter or margarine and beat well. Slowly beat in the flour, baking soda, and baking powder, mixing thoroughly. Beat in vanilla.

STOP!  Don’t pour it all into your pan yet!

Mix the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the cinnamon and nuts separately in a small bowl.

NOW you can pour your batter – but only half!

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. It will be thick, and you’ll need to spread it around a bit with a spatula.  Once you’ve poured in half the batter, make a little trough around the middle, then sprinkle your small bowl of cinnamon, sugar, nut mixture over the entire cake.  Now pour on the remaining cake batter, to cover it all up.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 8 minutes, then lower your oven to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 40 minutes.

Cool on a rack until you can pick up the pan and turn it.  Turn out onto a rack and continue to cool.  Once thoroughly cooled, glaze with your favorite glaze.

Coffee Cake Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 Tbsp. whole milk or heavy cream

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Cream all ingredients together until thoroughly incorporated and spreading consistency.  Fill an icing bag, or if you’re cheap like me, a sandwich bag, snip the corner, and pipe the glaze over the cake.

Store covered and be prepared for many oohh’s and aahh’s when served.

15 Bean Soup (Pressure Cooker)

It’s 104°F outside.  Not exactly “soup” weather, but I’ve sworn off usage of all massive heat producing equipment in my house — no daytime dishwasher use, no dryer use (I’m letting Mother Nature and her 104°F fury dry my clothes outside), and no oven.

Surprisingly, not using the oven has been more limiting than I initially thought and has forced a bit of grill and stovetop creativity.  I’ve broken out the pressure cooker for pot roast, grilled everything from salmon and tuna to steak and kabobs.  Ready for something different, I decided to try beans in the pressure cooker again today.

One of my favorites, Navy Bean soup, I’ve always made in a crockpot.  My problem with that is not only do you have to cook beans 8 to 10 hours in a crockpot, you have to soak beans at least 12 hours before you cook them.  That’s more prep than I’m capable of preplanning for on most days.

The pressure cooker has always intrigued me, and one of the first things I made in a pressure cooker was homemade bean glue … I mean, soup.  It was thick, and had a glue-like consistency.  And it smelled funny.  I have not tried it again, until today.  And today’s try was absolutely a resounding success.

First, you can’t get away from the presoak.  I’m sure there are many “quick” methods, but for me, the 12 hour soak cannot be replaced.  Buy a package of 15 bean soup mix* and put the beans in a pot and cover with 2 quarts of water.  Cover the pot and walk away for 12 hours (an overnight soak is perfect).  When the soak time is over, rinse the beans and pick out debris.  Now you’re ready to cook.

15 Bean Soup

1-1 pound bag of 15 Bean Soup beans*.  Discard the seasoning packet.
1 smoked ham hock
2 Tbsp. oil
1 cup chopped celery (about two ribs)
1 carrot, shredded
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 bay leaf
1 48 oz. can chicken broth and enough water added to make 2 quarts
Additional cooked, chopped ham (optional)

Soak the beans overnight in 2 quarts of water.  You’ll discard the seasoning packet and the soak water.

In your pressure cooker, heat oil and saute the celery, onion, jalapeno and carrot just until tender.

Once the veggies are tender, add ham hock, beans, seasonings and 2 quarts of liquid.  Heat to boil, lower heat and simmer 10 minutes.  After simmer, cover the pressure cooker, lock the lid and bring to full pressure.  Reduce heat to maintain a steady hiss, and pressure cook for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove from heat and allow pressure to release naturally.  Once you’re able to remove the lid, remove the ham hock and set aside to cool.  Once cool, remove any meat on the hock and return it to the pot, along with any additional cooked ham you wish to add at this point.

Dish up and serve!

*If you want to make your own 15 bean mix, I found a site that suggesting combining 1 pound each of dried black beans, red beans, kidney beans, navy beans, great northern beans, baby lima beans, large lima beans, pinto beans, green split peas, yellow split peas, black eyed peas, red lentils, green lentils, brown lentils and cranberry beans.  The advantage of making your own mix is of course you can leave out beans you don’t care for (I am so not a fan of large lima beans).  I’ve never seen cranberry beans in my life, and if I actually find them, I’ll certainly post where.  I’m actually curious as to how making your own mix might compare, cost-wise, to buying the one pound packages at the store.

Dollar Store Organization

Typical 3-bedroom, 2-1/2 bath suburban dweller that I am, space always seems to  be at a premium at my house.  Tonight I tackled a couple of simple girl’s room challenges – scarves and headbands.

Sounds silly, but until you’ve had to sort through a wad of scarves knotted up in a drawer, shoved under a bed, or otherwise situated where they aren’t easily retrieved, it’s a big deal.  Same with headbands and various other hair accessories.

First, the solution for easily accessible scarves (and belts) as it turns out is a hanger and a set of $1 shower curtain rings.  Add another $1 for the optional handy, dandy over the door hook and you’ve also got the beginnings of a cute, decorative element in the room.

I feel a fun hanger cover-up coming on …

Now headbands.  I only bought one tonight, but I see a couple more in my future.  The solution?  Expandable hat/coat rack.  Also $1 at the dollar store.

I’ve seen this idea used for jewelry also.

Simple, cheap and effective.

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