Bird in Hand Farm

Bird in Hand Farm is an imaginary place.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winter Quilts

You can tell the season in our home by looking at the quilts in the beds.  Winter means flannel.  On Saturday, we put the Christmas quilt on the bed.  The kiddo pulled out her House Quilt a week or so ago.
The Christmas Quilt is a basic log cabin in red and green flannels cut in big strips.  I think the finished logs are 2.5 inches.  It's big and it works.  The flannel is cut off grain and the plaids go in every direction, but because it is only two colors, it hangs together.  I made a smaller one with a border for my in-laws and it hangs on the wall of their living room.

Kiddo's quilt is a pattern that was serialized in Quilter's Newsletter magazine during 2002 or 2003.  I modified it down to twin sized.  This is what it usually looks like.  
 I think quilts are part of what makes our house a home.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stuff in a jar...

I have seen homemade cookies, etc in jars for a long time but I have never gifted them, nor have I ever received one.  Time to try it out.

One of the people on our gift list this year is a little boy.  I look around at all the stuff our kiddo has.  While I'm sure he likes toys, I bet he has lots.  I decided to try to give him an experience rather than more stuff.   Little kids like to cook, and I already made him a fish hat last year; so this this might be something sort-of-handmade that he might appreciate.

These are the three recipes I went with:

It took an hour to put all three together, write up the cards and tidy up.  It also cleaned out my pantry.  I used up the last of the: chocolate chips, raisins, dried cranberries, flour, and brown sugar.  Not bad.  I'm going to try to make him an apron and chef's hat to go with it.

Oh, I can post this 'cause the kid cannot read.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shhh! It's a secret.

I have a dilemma.  This blog is mostly about the crafty stuff I do.  Well, for the next month, the crafty stuff I am doing is making presents.  And guess who reads this blog?  The very people I am making presents for!  This has the potential to really put a cramp in my posting.  Or, maybe you could all just act surprised when you open stuff.  Could you do that?  Please?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

The secret to a perfect turkey is Alton Brown's Brine Turkey Recipe.  It is the best.  There is nothing else to say.
 The kiddo named ours Steve.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Beer Bread and Turban Squash Soup

A friend mentioned that her son had made beer bread.  My ears immediately perked up.  I can make that.  We have homemade beer.

I like this recipe from because it has the directions for both with and without self-rising flour.  I have never used self-rising flour, and I'm not going to buy some special to try out a bread recipe.  I used a German Spaten beer because that is what the farmer grabbed when he went to the basement, but I'm looking forward to trying this with other beers.  I also cut the butter down to 1/4 cup as suggested and that was plenty.  It mixed up in a snap.

The bread was great.

Since I wanted to try making the bread, I had to make a soup to go with it.  I decided to use the last turban squash. I based my soup on the Spicey Turban Squash Soup recipe.
  • 1 Turban Squash 
  • 4 Potatoes, diced
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large Carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 daikon radishes peeled and chopped
  • 4 chicken broth
  • 1cup milk
  • 1 TBS Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Turmeric
  • 1 tsp Fresh Ginger, minced
  • 1 TBS Red Pepper
  • 1 TBS Sugar
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

    Basically, I used every root vegetable I could find in the house.   I didn't have what the recipe called for, but it did not matter.

    I roasted my squash at 375 for an hour and let it cool before I scooped it out.

    Saute the onion and garlic and then add everything but the milk and simmer until fork tender.

    Blast with a stick blender and then add the milk and adjust the spices until you are happy.  Mine has a bit of a kick.  
It is very good with the bread.  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

We're Jamming!

Yes, that is a hokey title.

We decided to make jam.  My Mom used to make jam when I was a kid.  The Farmer and I gave away mini jams as wedding favors.  I remember at the end of the party his Grandfather telling his Grandmother to put as many of the leftover jars as she could in her purse.  It was cute.

Anyway, we have not made jam in a few years.  Recently the kid has figured out that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are pretty good.  I'm hoping that homemade jam will knock her socks off.
We made a mixed berry jam using: most of a 5# bag of frozen strawberries that the Farmer picked up at Maine's (a restaurant supply store), a bag of mixed berries I found in the back of the freezer, the raspberries we picked this summer, and finally, some of the blueberries we picked at Stan's Berry Patch. 

The Farmer also found pectin at Maine's.  He called me and was asking what kind to get, but his cell phone kept cutting out in the store so he would go outside to call me back.  But, by the time he got out there he had forgotten what the two different kinds were.  I was telling him "Why are you asking me what kind to get when you cant remember what they are?  Just read the box and get the ones that say jam."  My co-workers were laughing at me.
Today, we played with the berry lava.  The actual process of making jam is really easy.
1. Prep your jars and supplies
2. Prep your fruit, measure it, and dump in big pot
3. Dump in pectin and bring to a boil.
4. Dump in a ton of sugar and bring back to a boil
5. Jar (the big deal here is that the rims are clean so you get a good seal)
6. Boil the jars and make sure that the lid "pops" down to ensure that it is sealed.
Read the directions.  Pay close attention to the stuff that needs to be sterile.  But, don't be intimidated by canning.  It took us just over 2 hours start to finish, but it did not demand our constant attention.  It would have been less time, but we made a triple batch.  We ended up with 22 jars.  We would have had 23, but for the first time ever, a jar broke while it was in the boil.  Not sure what caused it, but if it was meant to be I'm glad it happened in the canner, not on my counter.
It's easy to read a jam recipe and start to go into a hyper-glycemic shock because of the massive amounts of sugar the recipe calls for.    They do make pectin formulated for low/no sugar recipes, but in my experience it does not set well.  The trick is to mix the two in double or larger batches.  A double batch with one of the regular and one of the low sugar versions will cut the sugar in half.   Today's batch is a 2/3 regular-1/3 low sugar recipe.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What makes a good gift?

Christmas is coming and I am making presents.  I get very anxious that the gifts I make will be "good enough."  I really, really, really want the recipient to like them.  I think my work is decent, but I am clearly a hobbyist, not an artist.
I try to think about the person I am making the gift for and what they would like.  I try to make something they would actually use.  I try to do a good job.  Still, I worry.

That got me thinking about my favorite presents.  Ultimately, my favorite gifts are the people in my life.  But, since I cannot give out people, I'm going to focus on stuff.  I think these are my top 9 (could not stop at 5 and did not have a 10th), but I'm sure I will think of other gifts and wish I had included them.

In no particular order:

1. The CRX.  My Dad sold it to me for a dollar.  I loved it.  It was fun to drive and is still my favorite car of all time.
2. The Granny Square Afghan.  The Farmer's Grandmother made it and gave it to me one Christmas.  I love it as an object: the workmanship, colors, and warmth.  I also love it because in a way it symbolizes my acceptance into his wonderful family.

3.  My 
Harmony Wood knitting needles from Knitpicks.  I picked them out but the Farmer and my Dad got them for me.  I love the color of the wood and how they feel in my hands.

4. Kiddo's bracelet.  It's actually mine, but the name makes sense if I explain.  When kiddo was born, the Farmer bought me a silver bracelet with her initials engraved on the outside and her name and birthday on the inside.  I adore it.  The other bracelet is a Mexican silver bracelet from my Dad that I also really love.
5. My bedroom rug.  It is an oriental that is technically a floral, but it is the most geometric floral pattern I have ever seen.  About once a week I walk into that room and see the rug and think "God, I love that!

6. My Kitchen Aid Mixer.  It was a present from coworkers when the farmer and I got married.  It rocks.
7. My Bachelors Degree.  My Dad paid for it and it is a big gift.  It opened so many doors and put me on paths to get where I am now.

8. My sewing machine.  My mom gave it to me when I graduated from college.  I have sewn miles of stitches in the past 18 years. There is a fortune cookie tag taped to it that says "Beautiful quilts are made from rags."
9. My wedding rings.  They symbolize my marriage and family.  My life.
Not sure I like my fingers blow up 11x...
Maybe if I could understand why those object gave me such joy, I could make and give better presents.

What are your favorite gifts?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

There ought to be a pony around here somewhere...

Those are square foot tiles on the kitchen floor.
We like steel cut oats for breakfast, especially with blueberries.  We eat it most mornings and have been doing this for over a year.   I used to like regular oatmeal but steel cut oatmeal is so much better.  The problem is is that it can be hard to find.  McCains makes it and so does Bob's Red Mill, but both charge $3+ a pound (cue cheapskate theme music).  Occasionally, we can get it in bulk for about $2 a pound. 

I got the bright idea to look on line to buy it in bulk.  We found Honeyville Grain selling 50# for $50.  They ship anywhere in the continental US for $4.49.  We took the plunge.  

I figure we have about a year and a half's worth of oats.  Research says you can freeze them so they don't go stale.  In the freezer, they are good for up to 2 years.  I hope we still like it then...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Christmas Soap

This weekend was really warm for upstate NY in November.  I decided to take advantage of the ability to open windows and make soap.   I made a similar batch this summer.  The Farmer is using it all up at a rapid pace, so I doubled and tweaked it to work with what I had on hand.   This recipe, which is an adaption of Dr. Bob's Aloe Vera and Tea Tree Oil recipe, is probably the best soap I have ever made, and well worth a recap.  My goal is to give it away for Christmas and have enough on hand to keep the Farmer happy until spring.

Christmas Soap (inspired by Dr Bob)
24 oz lye dissolved in 1,300 g of aloe juice
450 g olive oil
1,300 g palm oil
1,300 g soy oil
1300 g coconut oil
100g canola oil
25 g tea tree oil
75 g aloe vera gel
1.75 oz of peppermint oil with a 15 ish drops of vanilla fragrance oil.

It made 16 of the six oz bars from the loaf mold and 24 five ounce bars from the tray molds.

The Dragon pic is for Maggie.
The house smells like Christmas.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I'm cooking for the cat? Seriously?

Come on.  Stop taking pictures and feed me!
Ella (aka Skinny Cat) is still skinny.  Maybe skinnier.  She seems to tolerate the prescription dry cat food that costs $30 for a 10 pound bag.  But she still pukes and really only seems to be loosing more slowly.  She just feels bony when i pet her.  She won't take the medicine in any form.  She is iffy about the canned cat food I have bought.  I think that commercial foods have a ton of fillers.  Two food culprits for cat allergies are corn and seafood products.  Corn seems to be in everything.

I'm going to try an experiment.  I'm going to supplement her diet with homemade cat food.  Tonight I ground some cooked chicken (approx 1.5 cups) with some cooked oatmeal (.75 cups) and grated carrots (handful).  She loves it.  That's a good thing.  My hope is that she will be able to digest it and maybe put a little bit of weight on.  I know she needs nutrients that a cooked diet cannot provide, but maybe this will help.  I don't think it will hurt her, given that the vet does not know what else to do.  I honestly don't know what to do either.  It's worth a shot anyway.
Darwin likes the cat food too. He just looks innocent.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


This made me cry the first time I watched it.

It happened at Macy's in Philadelphia on Saturday, October 30th.  Macy's is in the Wanamaker Building and is home to the Wanamaker Organ.  It was organized by the Philadelphia Opera and the Knight Foundation.  There are 650 singers comprised of the opera and many local choirs.  

I was going to wait until Black Friday to post this, but it is too good to hold onto.  I love the contrast of the commercialism of the season with the Arts and the religious message of the piece.  Sometimes, I need reminders to appreciate the Arts in my community.  This was a good one.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Another adventure in the quest for all things homemade.

I read about making this on Ravelry of all places.  It is intriguing 'cause good vanilla extract is expensive.    Lots of people must be making this because a quick Google search yielded 2,520,000 results.  I read a bunch, but this one from Instructables was my favorite. 

I wish I could tell you that I slit a bunch of vanilla beans and tossed them into liquor bottles, but it is not quite that easy.  First of all, vanilla beans are expensive.  Wegman's (the best grocery store on Earth) charges $7 for 2 beans.  I bought 6.  I could have gotten them much cheaper on-line but I am impatient.  Also, with Wegmans, I'm confident in what I am getting.  You also need to sterilize the jars.  An annoying, but necessary step.

The ratio everyone uses is 3 beans to a cup of vodka or rum.  Supposedly as you use it, you can top off the jar and the beans will continue to flavor the extract for up to about 3 cups of booze.  I did not know if we would like vodka or rum better, so I made a jar of each.  They are hanging out in the kitchen pantry.   In 6-8 weeks, I'll post about them and which we like better.  I really hope that this stuff is as great as it is cracked up to be, because I have invested $39 so far.  Now compared to $2.99 for 1 oz of McCormick vanilla, I'm doing great, but in the organic section, they have 4 oz for $6.99. 

And, yes, I bought the cheapest booze I could find. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

We made a Sheppard's Pie last weekend and I considered writing about it, but decided against it.  I thought it was too boring.  I regretted the decision when I overheard two co-workers discussing that they had both also made Sheppard's Pie over the weekend. The season  for casseroles has arrived.  There is something wonderful about meat, vegetables and a starch baked together in layers.  

We also made a Chicken Pot Pie.  Wow, was it better than any of the little, fozen pot pies I remember from my childhood.  The farmer still remembers them fondly.  His Mom used to carve his initial into the top of his before she baked it.  Now it is one of his comfort foods.

I used the pie dough recipe from Smitten Kitchen without the sugar.  Is it bad that I have it memorized?  I doubled it, so it was 10 T of butter and 2 cups of flour blended in the kitchen aide and 2 pinches of salt.  I substituted milk for the water.  It pulled together as dough with about 1/2 a cup.

The Farmer used the Chicken Pot Pie recipe from All Recipes as a jumping off point.  It was the first Google search result but it's rated as 5 stars with 3,445 reviews.  Why keep looking?   He used shredded chicken left over from making stock and mixed frozen vegetables.  We will be making this again.

Chicken Pot Pie and Sheppard's pie are both wonderful ways to clean out the fridge.  They are very forgiving of variations in ingredients and are the perfect meal for a cold November night.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I lied yesterday...

Sorry about that.  This was my first monster.  I made it a year ago for my nephew.  The pattern is Brain Monster Hat from Half Assed Patterns.  Its a simple pattern and looks really cute.  Oh, and it is free.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My First Monster

My friend Amy brought a monster with her to Saturday knitting.  She got the pattern from Danger Crafts on Etsy.  They have a bunch of really cool patterns.  I had to make one, so I got the pattern and this little girl emerged.  You might recognize the yarn.  Laura from SuddenExpression gave it to me during the Blog Hub swap.  The colors look wintry and girl-y to me so I whipped the first monster off for the kiddo.  She took one Sunday to make.  I made some mistakes.  Mostly, she is a bit crooked, but maybe that's how a monster is supposed to look?  Who really knows?  I think she is sweet.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Simple Solution

This summer I went shopping on-line at Webs.  They have 4/8 Wool Mill Ends on cones.  It is about 1,000 yards for $15.  That's a steal.  I picked up a cone of teal green with no particular idea of what to do with it.  I finally decided on this felted project.  But knitting off a cone is not easy.  It falls over and rolls away.  It had to be below me or I had to stop every so often to pull the yarn off the cone.  I started to think about either rewinding into cakes or buying one of those those plastic yarn jars.  Amazon has them for under $10.

Then the Farmer offered an empty oatmeal canister to the kid for whatever crafting she wanted to do with it.  She decided that the best thing to do with it was to create a storage container.  She took it, papered it, and painted it.    

The next morning, we realized that it would make a perfect yarn jar.  It is tall and has a lid that we cut a slit in and a hole for the yarn to come out of.  It does not fall over and the yarn feeds out of it easily.  I love it.  It was free.  Best of all, my daughter made it for me.