The Empty Week- Yarn Along

IMG_7542Welcome to my wonderful, glorious, shiny, happy, no obligations, totally, completely and unexpectedly free week. This is the thing I wait and long for… always.  A week with nothing in it.  This is a close as I get to vacation.  I am a stay at home mom, and I home-school.  Any holidays we have as a family include being a stay-at-home Mom so vacations are just every day life but with the added stress of keeping everyone entertained including a husband.

This NEVER happens!

Never.  Ever. Ever.

Of course my kids are here working on their education and I naturally have a list of things to catch up on… all of which I am studiously ignoring as I relax in the sanctuary of my home office in my Grammie’s old chair knitting Meritance and reading a load of total trash.  As befitss a do-nothing week I am joining up with Ginny  rather late in the day for a Yarn Along.

Happy.

xx Joanna

Olive and Pit

Olive and Pit

Olive and Pit

Living in the sticks is challenging.  We have no cell reception. If the power goes out it can stay off for days and days while PG&E search the hills for the fault.  Our cars need new tires… a lot.

BUT we also have found ourselves in an amazing community.  We know every one of our neighbors and if we need some support (or they do) then there is always someone who has the knowledge or time that can help.  One of our neighbors used his tractor to plow our field the first year we were here; in turn when they were away and a tree fell on their drive M. went up and cut it up and moved it off the drive so when they got home late they would come home to a clear road.  We Llama-sit occasionally for another neighbor and in turn they chicken-sit for us. Equally one of our neighbors give E. a lift to her volunteer program in Boonville and we have yet to find something that can repay that generosity.

The Chicks: Stupid, Dash, Newsa, and Nutmeg

The Chicks: Stupid, Dash, Newsa, and Nutmeg

So last week when we got the call from  one neighbor about another who had been bereaved in January and just desperately needed to be rid of a Bantam hen and her chick to ease her worries: of course we said yes.  We really aren’t Bantam people (useless pet chicken anyone?) but the need was there and we had the space and time to help.

Olive and Pit

Olive and Pit

So it is that Olive and little Pit joined our farm.  She is a masterful escape artist and a little firecracker with other chickens but she is sweet and placid with us.  We are having to keep her in a separate enclosure as one of the white Delaware took an instant dislike to Olive and while she has that little chick Olive has no intention of making peace.  The younger chickens are still in the broody-hen hutch so Olive and Pit are in a rabbit cage adapted slightly for her needs.

The Chicks: Pigwidgen, Baby, Stupid, Dash, Newsa, and Nutmeg

The Chicks: Pigwidgen, Baby, Stupid, Dash, and Nutmeg

I know she adds to our daily chore list but really that’s what living in the country is about: we look after each-other and in the end our lives are all the richer for it.

xx Jo

Meritence- Yarn Along

IMG_7507I did decide to cast on Meritence for myself, but I am probably going to have to start the other project before I get too far done with My Meritence.  Oh my Giddy Aunt is this pattern a headache!  Its all correct and it works just fine but the way it’s written requires so much mental gymnastics I dread picking it up and figuring out where I’m at!  I’m sure it will all get easier once I’m past the armpits and onto the looong stockinette section.

I have just finished reading  The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice.  For years I have been avoiding Jane Austen spin offs after an unfortunate run in with Pride, Prejudice and Zombies (followed by a sad encounter with Death Comes to Pemberly) but I actually really enjoyed The Forgotten Sister!  It is a first person narrative but set against the back drop of Pride and Prejudice it feels much broader because you already know what was happening the room next door!  I actually didn’t believe the love story but the rest of it was magnificent!

I’m linking up with Ginny for a Yarn Along.

xx Joanna

Les Trois Soeurs on Etsy

Les Trois Soeurs by Sweet Little WoodLes Trois Soeurs by Sweet Little Wood are in my Etsy shop.

Les Trois Soeurs by Sweet Little WoodLes Trois Soeurs are beautiful and elegant earrings designed to look like glass but with a light and easy feel in your ears.

Les Trois Soeurs by Sweet Little Wood
They are designed and handmade in Northern California by my whole family using quality materials and an eye for precision using a unique process and finished with crystal beads. High quality silver-filled hooks ensure a beautiful but affordable finish without the risk of allergic reactions to metal.  The resin finish allows light opaquely through the jewelry like stained glass.  They are always more beautiful in person!

Les Trois Soeurs by Sweet Little Wood

I also want to say congratulations to Donna of Knit1Spin2 (the recipient of a free pair of Les Trois Soeurs earrings) and thank you for the plug for my Etsy shop on your blog!

xx Joanna

Bread Part 4: Soft Cinnamon Rolls

This is the post K. E. and J. have been looking forward to all week… Cinnamon Rolls.Soft Cinnamon Rolls @ Sweet Little Wood

If you follow the recipe your rolls will be fluffy with a light sweetness but you can adapt the recipe for super sticky sugary rolls too.  I like to top them with butter frosting rather than the usual drizzled water based icing which means my kids and M. can have heaps of icing to increase the sweetness and I can have less and enjoy the lighter less extreme version!

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Start with 2 Hour Homemade Bread dough allowed to raise for one hour.

Lightly spread butter in a large dish and sprinkle with flour, ensure all the inner surface is coated and then shake out any excess flour.  Gather soft butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Mix  3 Tbs cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cloves.

Roll your dough on a floured surface in a rough rectangle till it is about 1/4 inch thick: It should measure about 2 foot by 1 foot .  Spread the soft butter onto the surface of the dough ensuring you have a fairly good coating of butter to every edge. Sprinkle the surface with the spice mixture and about 3/4 cup sugar.

If you like your rolls super sticky and sweet double the sugar sprinkled over the top.   If you are a fan of pumpkin pie try mixing a 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree with your sugar, spices and butter and spread that over your dough (my personal favorite).

Soft Cinnamon Rolls @ Sweet Little Wood

Slice the dough into strips about 2 inches wide.  I use a pizza slice which makes the process so easy and tidy.

Soft Cinnamon Rolls @ Sweet Little Wood

Pumpkin Spice Rolls

Roll each strip into a tight spiral and settle them into your dish with about 1/2 an inch between each roll.  Its okay to squeeze them a little closer or a little farther apart if you need to to fit them to your dish.

Soft Cinnamon Rolls @ Sweet Little Wood

Set the rolls aside for 1/2 and hour to puff up and heat your oven to 350 F.  Bake your rolls for about 30-35 minutes.  Your rolls will take less time to cook if they are more widely spaced.

Soft Cinnamon Rolls @ Sweet Little Wood

Top with your preferred icing.  I mix about 3/8 cup of butter with a 1/4 cup of cream cheese, 1 Tbs milk and a dash of vanilla and enough icing sugar to create a thick creamy paste.  If you over shoot with the icing sugar and it gets a little too thick add a tiny bit more milk.Soft Cinnamon Rolls @ Sweet Little Wood

I really hope you have enjoyed the 2 Hour Homemade Bread and this week’s tumble down recipes (here and here)!

Have a wonderful weekend darlings! xx Jo

A Worrier Justified

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

 M. and I had a fantastic time away while our children learned the value of having an unpaid slave about the house who does 90% of the house work without being asked… yeah it feels great to have your 16 year old admit she is so glad your back because being Mom is not as easy as it looks!

I would like to say that my worrying was totally justified!  I am not kidding that I got 2 out of 5… almost:  First of all a man DID break down and knock at our door while we were away… fortunately he wasn’t a psychopath… he just wanted to call AAA… unfortunately K. E. and J. didn’t do the things we had prearranged in case a random stranger showed up at the door.  SIGH.

And second: one of our chickens was taken.  We don’t know when but we suspect it was at night as one of the Delaware hens was particularly stupid (for a chicken): she would sit on the roosting bar all day and then get stuck outside the hutch when the automatic door closed at night.  The girls forgot to check and didn’t do a count in the evening… anyhow we found a mess of feather’s outside the hutch door and a path to where the varmint dug under the enclosure leaving some of it’s fur behind on the barbed wire.  So one stupid hen down and one coyote/fox/raccoon/bobcat well fed.

On the bright side we came home to find the baby rabbits had opened their eyes  and are so adorable!

New Zealand Rabbit kit, 14 days old @ Sweet Little Wood

They are starting to get out of their nest which makes Champagne a very grumpy Mamma Rabbit!

New Zealand Rabbit kits, 14 days old @ Sweet Little Wood

Sleepy Bunnies. So sweet!

M. and I went to Chico.  Its a beautiful town (in the middle) and a bog standard San Joaquin town on the outskirts.  M. and I were pretty happy to enjoy the time we had and explore some of the green (and sometimes not green) spaces.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Lower Bidwell Park. Bidwell is the largest municipal park in CA.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

The only proof I have that I was even there!

 

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

A potentially grungy Highway 99 underpass painted to look like a forest was unexpectedly charming.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Little Owl. x

Sadly Bidwell Mansion was not open when I was there but I enjoyed looking around the grounds none the less.

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Afterwards we drove out to Oroville and visited the lake and dam.  The situation in Lake Oroville is pretty horrifying: so little water! So take note LA county… your water supply is low… stop watering those darn lawns!

Lake Oroville, California

Look at the huge swathe of dry bank… at the end of winter with a 6% snow pack in the Sierras!!

IMG_6108

En-route home we stopped of at an awesome little flea-market where I picked up a collection of  Spode Fairy Dell china:  $20.  I am so thrilled!

Spode, Copeland, Fairy Dell chin

Spode, Copeland, Fairy Dell chin

I was happy to be home and in my own bed but I do miss being away  just a little:  the hotel room had the most enormous bath in the main bedroom suite without any children knocking to use the restroom, and I didn’t have to think about feeding anyone for awhile.  Oh well, back to being the unpaid house slave.

xx Joanna

Bread Part 3: Homemade Pizza

Easy 1 1/4 hour Homemade Pizza @ Sweet Little WoodPizza is the perfect exhausted Mom food!  I used to buy it in town and pull it out of the freezer.  It was the perfect… “Uh-oh whats for dinner?” meal.  After I started making my own bread all the time I decided some day to give home made bases a go with the intention of freezing them as pre-made half baked pizzas.  Since then I have never once bothered to freeze a pizza.  It is so easy to just churn one of these out in an hour and requires no pre-planning so if I forget to defrost something… pizza it is then.  One hour and fifteen minutes start to finish!

The girls like good old Pepperoni or Cheese but when I can be bothered I throw all the good stuff on the adult’s portion of the pizza so the boring picky ones can have their plain pizza and M. and I get to feast on baked olives, pepper and onions!

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One batch of dough will make two  large pizzas.

Use the 2 Hour Homemade Bread recipe with the variations noted below:

530 ml warm (to touch) water

2 Tbs dry yeast (If you prefer a slightly less bready- more crispy style crust use only 1 Tbs)

2 Tbs sugar or Honey

1 kg (2 lbs 3 oz) white bread flour or plain flour (Do weigh it out- it is far more accurate than measuring in cups)

1 tsp salt

1/4 c olive oil

For the Pizza:

A little flour mixed with a handful of corn meal

About 8 oz Mozzarella grated

About 4 oz Cheddar grated

1 small tin of tomato puree

1 each: garlic & onion stock cube (or puree a garlic clove or two and a wedge of onion)

Toppings of your choice… Yummmmm

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The Method:

Stir the sugar and yeast into the warm water in a large mixing bowl.  Make sure your water is not hot, it should be only a little warm.  Let it sit about 5- 10 minutes till it looks foamy. Stir/mix in the other ingredients- the sugar and salt are optional but I find it gives a nicer dough.  This dough is a little sticky but not difficult to handle.  If at this point your dough feels hard to push into you haven’t got enough liquid if it is difficult to get unstuck from your hands you have too much liquid.

Hand knead on a floured surface for 15 minutes- pizza dough should be springy.  In a stand mixer I let it mix for about 8 min.  Less kneading is totally ok too:  your crust may be a little harder to spread thin without tearing but if you are short on time or energy it will still taste divine!

In a large bowl put a drizzle of olive oil and roll your balled dough in the oil. Cover it and set it aside to rise for about 1/2 and hour to 3/4 hour.  If you have time let it rise the whole hour.Easy 1 1/4 hour Homemade Pizza @ Sweet Little Wood

Now heat your oven high – our oven goes up to 500 F so that’s what I use but hotter is good too just reduce the cooking time accordingly.  Prep your surface with a handful of the flour/cornmeal mix (I am actually using semolina left over from grinding my own wheat and works just as well as the corn meal) and stir the crumbled garlic and onion stock cubes into your tin of tomato puree: Homemade Pizza Sauce that costs about 50 cents to make!Homemade Pizza Sauce

Knead your dough a little and divide it into two balls. If your brave (or totally awesome) you could toss the dough like the pizza gurus do! I am neither brave or totally awesome so I use my hands and just push the dough into a flattish round shape and use the weight of the dough to pull out any too large lumps by lifting it up and working it gently.Easy 1 1/4 hour Homemade Pizza @ Sweet Little Wood

Easy 1 1/4 hour Homemade Pizza @ Sweet Little Wood

Easy 1 1/4 hour Homemade Pizza @ Sweet Little WoodPut it on your pan and do the other ball.

Easy 1 1/4 hour Homemade Pizza @ Sweet Little WoodSpread the tomato mix thinly split between the two pizzas.  Less is more here so it should look thinly spread. Sprinkle your cheeses over the pizza and add any toppings you like.Easy 1 1/4 hour Homemade Pizza @ Sweet Little WoodPut your pizzas in your super hot oven for 10-12  minutes. Our oven is not convection so I do 12 minutes in general but I always check it at 10 because Mozzarella has variable moisture content so cooking times can be different.

Easy 1 1/4 hour Homemade Pizza @ Sweet Little Wood

I serve it with salad from our Salad Table. Enjoy!

xx Jo