Sunday, March 30, 2014

This Weekend - Leather, Cake, Coconut and a Family Dinner + Recipes (and a Funky Music Video that Ethan Likes)

If you had stopped by our house this weekend, you might have found that you could detect the smell of chocolate in the air, even outside. If you entered at another time, you'd find that it our home was wrapped in the smell of warm leather and wax. Our house was abuzz with activity this weekend.
On Saturday I made a German Chocolate Cake from scratch, and oh my, is it every lovely. The cake itself was easy and quick to make. (I am not sure that I will ever make a chocolate cake from a box mix again - it was that delicious and easy!) The coconut and pecan frosting that goes between the layers, now that was a trick and a process. I think it took me over 2 hours to make the frosting alone. And then there is the ganache - easy and silky, but oh so sinfully rich. Interestingly, both the cake and the frosting are not very sweet, and certainly not at all like the it-is-so-sweet-that-it-hurts-my-teeth kind of sweet that you get from a grocery store German chocolate cake. Next Friday is the Colorado Teen Literature Conference Committee and Author dinner. Each year I make the keynote speaker's favorite dessert and this is what A.S. King has requested. I wanted to make sure that the recipe is great - and it is. However, it is both expensive and takes a lot of time, as well as patients, to make the cake, so I will only make it for special occasions in the future. I'm thinking about making the cake and making it into a Black Forest cake by adding cherries and whipped cream for some other function.
Ethan and I also did more leather work. We both made belts. It is pretty cool to go from a belt blank (see below) to a nice, brown, decorated belt. It was a lot of fun.
Ethan was very clever when he figured out how to use the small tools we had on hand to make an anchor.

He also made a holster for when he is using his Leatherman tools as a pair of plyers. (I will add that photo soon.)

German Chocolate Cake
via:Bobby Flay & The Food Network

For the Cake:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light muscovado sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups strong brewed black coffee, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Make the cake: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch-round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.

Melt the 12 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the muscovado and granulated sugars and whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Add the coffee, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract and continue whisking until smooth and just combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir until the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the wire rack and let cool at least 1 hour before frosting.

For the Frosting:
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 3/4 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup goat's milk or additional whole milk
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, cold
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons coconut rum (optional)
1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
1 1/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

Make the frosting: Combine the whole milk, coconut milk and goat's milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Keep warm while you prepare the caramel.

Combine the sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over high heat and cook without stirring until a deep amber color, 8 to 10 minutes. Slowly and carefully whisk in the warm milk mixture and continue whisking until smooth. Add the vanilla seeds and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the sauce is reduced by half and the consistency of a caramel sauce, about 55 minutes.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla extract, salt and rum (if using). Transfer the sauce to a medium bowl and stir in the pecans and shredded coconut. Let the frosting cool to room temperature, stirring it occasionally, before frosting the cake.

To assemble the cake, slice each cake in half horizontally. Place 1 cake layer on a cake round and spread one-third of the frosting evenly over the top. Repeat to make 3 layers, then top with the remaining cake layer, top-side up.

For the Ganache:
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted, for garnish
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted, for garnish
Coconut Whipped Cream, for serving

Make the ganache: Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl, add the hot cream and the corn syrup and let sit for 30 seconds. Gently whisk until smooth. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Set the cake on a wire rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the chocolate ganache over the cake, letting the excess drip down the sides. Sprinkle the top with toasted coconut and pecans. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours before slicing.

Slice the cake and top with a dollop of Coconut Whipped Cream.


Heavenly Hummus Wrap
via: The Pioneer Woman

1 Tablespoon Butter Or Olive Oil
1/2 whole Red Onion, Halved And Sliced
1 whole Spinach Flour Tortilla (large)
1/4 cup Hummus (homemade Or Storebought) - More If Needed
1 whole Roasted Red Pepper (jarred), Sliced
3 whole Canned Artichoke Hearts, Halved
2 cups Mixed Greens
1 Tablespoon Your Favorite Balsamic Vinaigrette (homemade Or Storebought)
1/4 cup Feta Cheese Crumbles

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the red onions and cook slowly for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and deep golden brown. Set aside and let them cool slightly.

Grill the tortilla on a grill pan over medium heat for 1 minute, just until it has grill marks on the outside. (If you don't have a grill pan, just use a skillet.) The tortilla should still be soft and pliable; just with a little bit of color! Let the tortilla cool slightly.

To assemble the wrap, spread the hummus down the middle third of the tortilla. Arrange the cooked onion slices and the sliced roasted red peppers all over the hummus. Add the artichoke heart halves.
Toss the salad greens in the balsamic dressing, then lay them on the wrap. Finally, sprinkle the crumbled feta all over the greens.

Carefully wrap up the tortilla, tucking in the ends. Slice the wrap down the middle, share with a friend, and chow down!

Here's a video that Ethan is enjoying today:

Friday, March 28, 2014

Life on a Tall Ship - Life on Deck

Ethan and the crew of the Hawaiian Cheiftan spend the majority of their time on deck, regardless of the weather. There is always someone standing on guard whether they are in port, or in transit (sailing). The crew takes turn taking watch. Each day the crew is given assignments. From time to time they have emergency drills.
Ethan is often working with or on the sails. This photo is of the bosman's chair and bucket. Many sailors work barefoot so that they can use the dexterity in their toes and feet to help them stay balanced and safe.
Here is the outside of the galley (kitchen). I have great respect for the cooks on the ships. Theirs is an important, but difficult, hot and cramped job. Still, they seem to do it with pride and joy. Thank God for Rosie and the other cooks who do such a great job of feeding my boy so well.
Here you can see the butterfly windows from the outside. That doorway next to the windows is the exit where the ladders leads to. The top part slides back to make it possible to exit.
Ethan also works with the ropes a lot. He has a strong arm and can throw the ropes to the deck. Sometimes a sailor will miss the mark, while other times they will throw the rope with such vigor that he/she sails overboard, too. Ethan tells me that most of the old time sailors did not know how to swim. If they were under sail, they were as good as dead since the boats were wind powered and could not turn around fast enough to get them. Going overboard, even at port, is dangerous as you run the risk of getting pulled under the boat.

Here are a few videos that show a bit more of what life is like on the ship. The first one was done by Willow Jon, a friend of Sophie, one of the sailors. He spent a short bit of time on the boats and hanging with the crew. Ethan thought he was nice. Willow Jon needed some new boots so they went into town. After Willow Jon purchased a new pair, he set the old pair neatly by a trash can so that some other person could claim them and use them. Ethan's friend, Sophie, is in the film. She is the blonde sitting on deck with a guitar.

The next two give you an idea of what the battle sails are like. I think they are a favorite. Each ship uses real cannons, real gun powder, but only shoots out air. Each week they do a real battle with a score being kept. The sound of the air hitting the ship in different places takes on different tones. The Cheiftan usually wins.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Life on a Tall Ship - Life on the Inside

Ethan posted the following quote. I think it has been one of the guides that he is using to make meaning in his life. He is striving to have a balance between useful purpose and adventure. I think he has achieved that balance.

"I left my home and all I knew because I feared the complacency that was growing in me. I feared that I would be content to never experience anything of America beyond the city in which I was born. But after hearing Whitman, this complacency became unthinkable, and my comfort became my greatest burden."

-Grayzon Ozias IV

Today I want to show you what the interior of the boat looks like. It is a very small space, but it seems that it is well appointed. Ethan likes being part of a team. The parts that I will show you house about 14 sailors. The leadership and the cook have a seperate space on the boat that I do not have photos of.
This is the dining room and living room where the sailors eat their meals, play lots of games, watch videos, etc. When they are traveling everything has to be tied down. Ethan has a lot of good times in this room.
Just behind this spot is the library, which is really just one shelf of books. They are in port often enough that many of the readers on the boat just read on their tablets, computers, etc. Ethan is just about to finish Jack Kerouac's On The Road. Once he is finished he will either read more of Kerouac's works, or he might reread the Jack London stories.
The coyote pelt in this photo is from a ceremonial event that the Hawaiian Chieftan and her crew took part in a while back (before Ethan's time on the boat.) It was a representative peace-making event where the crews on the tall ships and representatives of the Native Indians of the area traded gifts.
These are the bunks. They have the tied down curtain to keep the sleeper from rolling out of the bunk during rough waters. The space is not tall enough to sit up in, but that does not appear to be a problem. The boat has a metal hull and so the temperatures from outside travel inside. There is also a constant condensation issue, so the sleeping space is nearly always damp. During this season, it is very cold. During the summer, it will be very hot. They take their bedding out from time to time to air it out and dry it. The sailors like to pull shenanigans which means that sometimes a sailor will hide another sailor's sleeping gear, or the pad, etc. It is usually taken as good fun.
There are a variety of water tight hatches where parts of the ship can be closed off, if needed.
This ladder leads to the deck of the boat. The ship has two bikes that the sailors can use to get themselves places when they are docked.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Leather Work - Spending Time with Ethan + Buttermilk Biscuits and Sausage Gravy Recipes

Ethan and I have been working on some projects together. He made sheath (a rig) for his rigger's knife and marlin spike. I made a pouch for one of his compasses. We had a great time together. We started out with a breakfast of freshly made biscuits and sausage gravy. We also took Remmie to the dog park and we went to the Tandy Leather store.
He was very clever and managed to create an anchor using the various leather stamps that we had on hand. Our good friend, Aaron, loaned us a large box of leather working tools.
The sea is already calling him back. It has been calling since the day after he returned home. When he was working construction, living elsewhere, here always felt like home and he was simply away. Now, the boat feels like home and when he is here, it more of a visit. I think that it will be a much longer time before he returns home again. We may even loose him to San Francisco.

Buttermilk Biscuits
via: Bon Appetit, February 2014
(I made a half recipe and that was more than enough for Ethan and I. A half recipe made 9 biscuits.)

3 teaspoons baking powder
2½ teaspoons kosher salt (omit this if you are using salted butter)
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
5½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more
1½ cups (3 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces (I pulse this in the food processor before I actually begin putting the recipe together.)
1½ cups chilled buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten to blend (I do not use this. I top the uncooked biscuits with melted butter instead.)

Preheat oven to 375°. Pulse baking powder, salt, sugar, baking soda, and 5½ cups flour in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until the texture of coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Mix in buttermilk with a fork, then gently knead just until a shaggy dough comes together.

Pat out dough on a lightly floured surface until 1¼” thick. Cut out biscuits with a 3” biscuit cutter, rerolling scraps once.

Place biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush tops with egg. Bake until golden brown, 30–35 minutes.


Sausage Gravy
This is a family recipe. It is really wonderful, but not at all healthy. I still think that it is worth making.

1 pound Breakfast Sausage (links or roll)
2-3 TBL. Bacon Fat (or butter)
2 1/2 cups Milk (2%, some people use whole milk. Other even use some milk and some heavy cream - this is too rich for me.)
1/4 cup Flour

Cook the sausage in a skillet, breaking it up into bite size pieces. Once it is nearly cooked, add in the bacon grease/butter. Put the milk and flour in a canning jar (spaghetti sauce jar), shaking it to blend the flour into the cold milk. Pour this into the skillet once the bacon grease/butter has melted. Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir it as it thickens over medium heat.
Season to taste.

Serve over the biscuits.

Ellie: First Camping Trip of the Season + a Knitting Pattern for a Hat + Warm Beet, Peppers, Kale & Pistachio Salad Recipe

Spring break is here and our plans have shifted. Grandpa Don has been moved to rehab. and will be there for at least a week. Larr and Ethan spent a day driving in the mountains. I've already reorganized the cabinet in my craftroom and have plans to sew.

Ellie, Kohlton and Mayo are camping. They had planned to go camping in Moab, or perhaps in a campground higher in the mountains, but it is still rather cold which means they would need a lot of bedding to keep warm. Their plans shifted, too, to camping at one of the local reservoirs where we could drive in, get them set up and camp. They just want to do something fun: ride their bikes, hang out together and have a bit of independence.

It is the first camping trip that Ellie has planned by herself and it is rather exciting to see. We discussed menus and I helped do the prep work for the meals, but the rest is Ellie. They are having:
* Breakfast Burritos (bacon, potatoes, eggs, cheese, tortillas)
* Pancakes with Bacon cooked in the middle
* Ham and Swiss Sandwiches
* Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwiches
* Chili Cheese Dogs
* Spaghetti and Garlic Bread
* Frito Pie (Frito chips with chili and cheese)
* Roasted Apples with a Cinnamon Sugar & Butter filling
* S'Mores (of course)
* Russian Tea (Tang orange drink mix, instant tea, lemonade, cinnamon & allspice (or cloves))
* Hot Chocolate
(I am sure that I have forgotten some things on their menu.)

Remmie wanted to go camping with them, but it would not work out. He would be a wild and crazy dog, a large, furry dog in the tent and he would limit what they could do. I think he would run and explore if someone did not have hold of him every minute. He returned home with me instead, disappointed, I think.
Anticipating the cold rides the kids were likely to go on, I made them new beanies to fit under their helmets.

1 skein Cascade 220 Superwash Wool, worsted weight
16" Circular Needles, 3 US
16" Circular Needles, 1 or 2 US*
1 Set 1 or 2 US Double Pointed Needles*
Yarn Needle
Stitch Markers

Cast on 104 stitches onto the #3 circular needles. Knit one row to establish the stitches.
Place a stitch marker to indicate the beginning of the row. Join the row to make a circle on row 2, (k2,p2)repeat to create a ribbed band. Continue this until the ribbed band is as wide as you would like it. (Mine are usually 1.5" - 2".)
Switch over to just knitting. Making the hat nearly as long as you would like it to be. (Ellie's hat = _________, Kohlton's hat = __________, made for going under a bike helmet and not including any length to allow for turning up the cuff. If you want that feature, make the hat longer.)
About .5" from where you will begin to decrease the hat, consider switching to the smaller needles. This makes the top of the hat so that it is knit in a tighter fashion. ** If you do not have the smaller set of needles, continue to knit with the size 3 needles.
To begin the decrease, knit a row, placing a marker after every 8th stitch until the end of the round. Continue knitting, reducing each round when you come to a stitch marker by knitting 2 stitches in one. Continue this until it is too tight to continue with the circular needles. At that point, switch over to the double pointed needles and continue reducing the number of knitted stitches. do this until there are 6 stitches left on the needles. Cut the yarn off about 6" from that point. Thread the yarn through the yarn needle. Run the yarn through each of the loops on the knitting needles, removing the needles. Pull the yarn tight. This should close the small hole at the top of the hat. Using the yarn on the needle, place the yarn on the inside of the hat. Turn the hat inside out and go through some of the knitted loops, putting it tight and then looping over it again before going onto another loop. I continue doing this in a circle at the top of the hat to tighten and re-enforce the stitches so that there are no holes at the top of the hat where I joined the stitches together. This makes the very top of the hat a bit thicker.


I made a nice, arm salad for Larr:

Warm Beet, Peppers, Kale & Pistachio Salad

2 large or 6 small Peppers, I opted for 2 small reds, 2 small oranges and 2 small yellows, chopped into bite size pieces
1/2 Red Onion, chopped into bit size pieces
Olive Oil
Pickled Beets, chopped into bit size pieces
6-10 cups Kale, chopped into bit size pieces (I actually used a Kale Super Salad from the store. It included shredded carrots.)
Balsamic Vinegar Reduction or Glaze

In a skillet, saute the pepper and onion in olive oil until they are tender. Add in the beets, as well as the pistachios and saute until they are heated through, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the kale and heat until it just begins to wilt.

Place in a large bowl and drizzle with enough balsamic vinegar reduction/glaze to coat lightly. Serve warm.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Two Hands Paperie and Peace, Love & Chocolate - Girl's Day Out, Part 3

Natalie and I made two more stops before heading home last Saturday.
We stopped by Peace, Love and Chocolate because I knew she would love the way the store was set up. (Natalie loves merchandising and beautiful stores). And, they have amazing chocolate, especially hot chocolate. Plus, I always like to admire the signage as our friend, Mark, created the logo and all of the signs. I love how one of the original mock-ups hangs in the bathroom.
We tasted samples, we considered exotic flavors of chocolate bars and she bought some truffles for her family. Both of us were still too full from our meal to need hot chocolate. I guess that we will simply have to make another stop during another visit to Boulder.
We also went next store to Two Hands Paperie. How could I be in Boulder and not stop by one of my favorite stores? I always love to see how the displays have changed, pick up some things for projects, etc. This time I got a few things to make crepe paper flowers at home. Natalie found an unusual pencil sharpener for Ben.
It was also fun to see the new displays. They are handmade kites created by Melanie Walker and George Peters, a couple from Boulder.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fabricate & Nomad Beads - Girl's Day Out, Part 2

[ Don Update: He is still in the ICU, but the prognosis is better and more hopeful. Today would have been Grandma Eleanor's birthday, if she were still with us. We will place flowers at her grave this afternoon. It will be nice that Uncle Doug will be with us to do this. ]

After the wonderful Brunch at the Boulder Teahouse on Saturday, we headed to Fabricate. It is a wonderful fabric show with fun fabrics, lots of light and great people who care about offering nice stuff. I think you can see that in the photos I have below.
It is a fairly new store and I was so happy to find it. One of my most favorite quilting stores, Great American Quilt Factory, closed several years ago. Their closing meant that it was much, much harder for me to find the bright, vibrant, interesting prints that I love. When I first stumbled into Fabricate, I knew that the gap had been filled.
During a quick stop before taking a class over at Two Hands Papiery, I stopped in and found a few fabrics that I loved. I want to bring a bit of spring into my home and so I thought it would be nice to make a springy quilted runner for our coffee table. They had the perfect fabric, but I had not decided on a design or taken measurements, so I did not buy any of that print that day. I looked for something similar at other stores, but I did not find it anywhere else. I did not want to make the 45 minute trip to Boulder to buy it, so I was happy to find that it was still available on Saturday.

Natalie enjoyed the shop, too. She bought fabric and the Amy Butler "Barcelona" skirt pattern. She also scored a super cute skirt from their class samples rack.

I love the light and the openness of the shop. Don't you?
I love how there is an emphasis on having space available for classes or projects. When we were shopping one of the teachers was setting up for a birthday where each little girl would get to make a doll quilt and pillow using two fat quarters and some stuffing. What a great idea that was.

I also love the extra special trims and buttons. They are so different from what I can find at the standard fabric shops. Their collection reminds me of what I can find at Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver.

They also have a few specialty items like canvas, and vinyl backed fun fabric.

While I went in to get the fabric I wanted for my table runner, I was also looking for some fun fabric to make into a new skirt. (I am so tired of the stuff I have hanging in my closet!) I found a great fabric with birds at the edge. I've washed and dried it. Now I just have to find the time to make it. I am a bit stymied over the design of the skirt since most patterns have a curve at the bottom and the bird are in a straight line. I may have to cut it off, cut the curved pattern and add it on afterwards, or I may change my design from a full A-line to something more like a straight skirt. (I will include a photo of the fabrics soon.)

If you are in Boulder, you should check it out. It is near the Pearl Street Mall on the east end of it.

As if Fabricate was not enough of a creative jumpstart, we also went to Nomad Beads on the west end of town. I had not been to it before, but I am sure to go back. Natalie loved it, too.

They had tons of great beads to buy, including steam punk gears and images. (I really loved some of the octopus items.) We both thought the merchandising was really well done.

They also had handmade jewelry for sale and lots of fun classes, including beginner sessions for free on Saturdays.