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!!

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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

The Knitter’s Dilemma- Yarn Along

I am nearly done with my Margaret Dashwood Shawl.  It is going to be delicious.  But now I am planning my next project and I am stuck between two:

Knit Picks, Gloss Fingering in Hawk @ Sweet Little Wood1: I was firmly determined to make Meritance for me from Knit Picks Gloss Fingering in Hawk.  Its just my cardigan.  I wear this style ALL THE TIME but I have never tried to knit an every-day-wear for myself.  All my knits are special wear or specific outfit knits.  For the every day stuff I always go buy cheap cardigans from Target wear them out and throw/donate them when they get too far gone for me.  But…

Berroco Vintage in Curry @ Sweet Little Wood2: I went to Chico and there I found the perfect yarn for a Heliopath Vest which I want to make for a gift. The yarn store (Heartstrings) was delicious! One of the best stocked that I’ve seen since moving to CA and it was really really hard to decide not to buy random stash yarn!  There was Sweet Georgia which I’ve never come across before but was so temptingly yummy.  Sadly it was faaaaaarrrrrrrrr outside my price range! Instead I got Borrocco Vintage in Caramel: it is mostly acrylic which I usually avoid… squeaky yarn… SHUDDER.  It feels very nice though- not squeaky- and it is for a younger girl and summer wear so washing frequently will be an issue.

So now I’m stuck in that delicious dilemma.  I have patterns, needles and yarn for both… which to cast on… hmmm.

I am reading very little at the moment that isn’t quick and done in less than 5 minutes. I’ve been busy and traveling but I have still got Sylvia’s Farm on the back burner and a library copy of Folks This Ain’t Normal in my waiting list.  I’m linking up with Ginny today.

Have a wonderful downward slide to the weekend!

xx Joanna

Bread Part 2: Naan Bread

Like many British men M. has a fixation with Curry.  Hotter is better.

Naan Bread for curry, soups and pitta

M. spent the first 10 years of his career in food safety and built up amazing relationships with many of the restaurateurs he dealt with.  So slowly over time M. started to learn how to make his own curry.  Eventually he made his own recipe up from what he learned and called it “Hubby Curry.”  Hubby Curry nights meant Momma had enough and had quit for the night so dinner was not on the table and the Husband was on duty.  Their were periods of time when Hubby Curry nights happened a lot. 

Naan bread (a must for curry aficionado) were always problematic.  Store bought Naan were never quite right.  Even the nice supermarket Naan were just O.K…. ish.  So M. started to learn to make Naan.  Its quite a process to do right and kinda complicated.  So he landed on what was a totally easy and delicious alternative to REAL Naan… simple home made dough patted into oblong egg shapes fried on a very  hot dry pan. 

These days M. rarely makes Hubby Curry and it is usually pre-planned when he does.  I however cook Indian dishes pretty frequently.  I am totally in awe of The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon its totally thorough and really delicious!

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Easy Naan Bread:

Start with simple 2 Hour Bread dough which has risen for 1 hour. Put a heavy frying pan (M. likes to use cast iron) on a medium-high heat. Do not grease the pan or season it.  Divide the dough into 12 balls for large Naan or 24 balls for small Naan.  Pat out the balls into Naan shapes and fry on the pan turning it when the first side is a bit browned.  Enjoy with Curry or soups!  They also make good pitta breads!

xx Jo

The Monday Project: 2 Hour Homemade Bread

It has been awhile since I’ve shared a Monday Project so I thought I’d make this a good one!Easy 2 Hour Bread

I make our own bread.

We eat bread almost daily: sometimes two loaves a day.  In total I usually make about 30 loaves a month using about 70 lbs of flour and I can guarantee you if this were a difficult thing to do I would not be doing it!!  I only buy two loaves of bread from the super market each month and I put them in the freezer for those days when we need bread to eat but I need the extra time more.

Home made bread is much cheaper: even buying the local organic flour from our Co-op I save a lot of money on bread.  Home made bread is so delicious even the artisan stuff doesn’t compare to a hot loaf fresh out of the oven.  You can make an organic real food loaf for less than half the price of the shop bought stuff with none of the hidden ingredients. If you find a recipe that works for you its easy to tweak it till it suits your tastes perfectly!  For example: M. likes his bread with a little sweetness but when my mother in law is over I bake loaves with no sugar added because she doesn’t like the sweetness.Easy 2 Hour Bread

Until I hurt my back and couldn’t knead the loaves I was doing it all by hand.  My back forced me into making the decision to get a stand mixer, I’m super happy to have the mixer but trust me that your bread will come out just as nice (maybe even better) and takes only 5 minutes more kneaded by hand.  There is a lot of scary snobbery about bread making:  You don’t need to be a baker or wonder chef to do it!  You don’t need a special oven that gets to extra ordinary temperatures!  And you don’t need to devote half a day to the task!  This recipe  makes two 2lb loaves and is super versatile and takes 2 hours start to finish (1 hour of which you aren’t even doing anything to it).  Later in the week I will share with you some variations on the recipe that we use all the time to make pizza bases, cinnamon/pumpkin rolls, and naan bread.

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Ingredients:

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550 ml (1/2 qt) warm (to touch) water

2 Tbs dry yeast

2 Tbs sugar or Honey

1 kg (2 lbs 3 oz) bread flour (Do weigh it out- it is far more accurate than measuring in cups) I use different flour mixes depending on what I want the loaf to be like but if you use less than 2/3 white bread you need to up the water content of the loaf and increase it rising time.  I like to substitute 300 grams of white flour for 200 g home-ground whole wheat, 50 g chia seed, and 50 g oat bran and add another 30 mls water.

1 tsp salt

2 Tbs olive oil

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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 oil and salt are all optional but I find it gives a nicer loaf.  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 10 minutes- but don’t sweat it- a relatively easy bit of kneading will do.  In a stand mixer I let it mix for about 4-5 min. Set it aside in the same large bowl in a warmish spot and let it rise for an hour. When our house is cold I put on a pot of coffee and put the bread bowl on top.

Before you start the next step preheat your oven to 430 F and very thinly smear butter (I use the wax papers that come around the butter sticks) inside your two 2 lb loaf pans and lightly sprinkle flour over the buttered surface. You can make any loaf shape you like and if you don’t have loaf pans just make two rounded loaves on a baking sheet (like the photo at the top).

Knock back your dough (which should be twice the size it was- if it isn’t find a warmer spot for it and leave it till it is. If it doesn’t smell yeasty you may have killed your yeast with too hot water).  You don’t really need to knead it again but if you want a finer crumb bread knead it for just a minute or two- I don’t bother I just squish it around in my hands a little.  Divide the lump into two halves and smooth them into fat tube shapes.  Fold the ends under a little for a nice shape but its really not important how you shape it… its just aesthetics! Plonk one in each loaf pan.Easy 2 Hour Bread

Get your hands wet and just smooth them over the top of the loaf, sprinkle the moist surface with a little salt and then a fine coating of flour. Use a knife to cut a line down the center of your loaf about 1/2 in deep.Easy 2 Hour BreadAllow the loaves to rise about 10 minutes before you put them in the center of the hot oven.

Cook them for 8 minutes then open your oven door and reduce the temperature to 330 F.   My oven takes less than 2 minutes to get down to 330 F before it kicks in heating again.  Cook for 30 minutes more.  This will give you a light crust which is a little crispy on top and more soft around the sides.  If you like a much darker crust you can up the temperatures.  I have read (in a recipe that makes a simple white loaf totally hard work) that you can start your bread at 500 F and reduce to 430 F.

Easy 2 Hour Bread

Enjoy!

Easy 2 Hour Bread

White loaf.

xx Jo

Mothering Nerves

I am currently suffering from a great deal of maternal worry-warting!  So the thing is: M. has to go away with work overnight… I hate it when he goes away, he hates it when he goes away.  Our mutual spouse-addiction does not allow for separate quarters… so the plan was we could all go with him.  However the girls don’t want to go as they are in the midst of some serious Spring Break R&R and suddenly we have all these baby rabbits and baby chickens that need daily input.Ice Skating. Snoopy's Home Ice Santa RosaSo for the first time ever we have decided to leave the girls ALONE overnight. It is terrifying!

Ice Skating. Snoopy's Home Ice Santa RosaI have absolutely, ABSOLUTELY no concerns with the capability of my children to look after themselves and be responsible.  But I keep thinking up all these wildly unlikely scenarios which might require adult intervention or a complicated plan so they know how to respond:

1: someone breaks a leg or gets bitten by a snake while out rambling cross the fields and hills! (I actually worry over this one nearly daily as they go off into the blue where no cell phone signal reaches)

2: a wild critter gets into the animal’s hut in the night! (I can’t help it… I worry about this one regularly too)

3: the house catches on fire! (this one is a little more reasonable as our home is heated with wood-burning stoves exclusively but it doesn’t usually worry me)

4: someone breaks down in our driveway and turns out to be a homicidal maniac!

5: Ebola! (OK that one is pretty far fetched)

Ice Skating. Snoopy's Home Ice Santa Rosa

M. keeps trying to talk me into a cheerful state of anticipation for the first child-free get away we have had in two years because he is (annoyingly) an eternal optimist.  What the optimist in him doesn’t know is that the realist (I formally reject the word “pessimist”) in me needs to work through all the worst case scenarios.  I just have to pretend that they could happen, until I know that if the very worst case scenario happens I have confidence in their response.

Once I’ve done that and gotten far enough away from the house to warrant calling them every couple of hours I will be fine knowing that if a coyote attacks the chickens and one of the children breaks a leg chasing it off so they have to flag down a passing car that is driven by a homicidal maniac who sets our house on fire before he dies of Ebola: we got that covered!

Ice Skating. Snoopy's Home Ice Santa Rosa

Phew, got that off my chest!

xx

Joanna

Castle Pockets and Other Wonders- Yarn Along

I’ve had a very productive knitting run since I last joined in with Ginny’s Yarn Along.  There is nothing quite so wonderful as pulling a finished piece of craft off its final pins and letting it get on with its purpose for existing!Kitty's Green Dream- Christmas Morning SweaterK.’s Green Dream is done and being worn nearly daily!

Esther's Pollen Collectors- Honey's Pollen Collectors Leg WarmersE’s Pollen Collectors were finished in the nick of time for this flash of colder (for California) weather we are having.

Margaret Dashwood Shawl

And I am back to Margaret Dashwood’s Shawl which is a dream to knit and soooooooo easy to modify for size etc. I’m reading Sylvia’s Farm (recommended by Ginny a few weeks ago on the Yarn Along).  Its very inspirationally written but also a little frustrating.  She uses descriptions that defy common use.  I have to wheedle out from her words her meaning and I don’t feel at all like I’m certain I’ve gotten it right!

J. has continued with her shawl and it is coming on beautifully but on top of that she also finished and gifted a project of her own design: J’s Castle pockets!Grimm SatchelJ. made K. a laptop bag for her 16th birthday and had the ingenious idea of a fairy tale theme.  She wanted it to look very simple and mature from the outside but open up to the enchanting world of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (a long time fascination for K. who could easily write a dissertation on the repetitive female characters in the Grimm’s tales).  The bag was sized off a little shopper bag M. was given by the local water district which is the most perfect size for almost any thing you can imagine… I am definitely making myself one of these soon!

Grimm Satchel So she chose a fabric from Heather Ross’s Far Far Away range, an old moth eaten felt army blanket which had a delicious mossy color but needed some selective cutting, leather, hardware, and her own sewing and knitting prowess (with a little help from Mommy)!

J. sewsThese castle pockets were knitted specifically to fit pencils and K’s cell phone after felting.  J. followed some excellent advice I gleaned from the forums and wonderfully friendly knitters over at the Tiny Owl Knits Ravelry group  as she winged the pre-felted knitting.Grimm Satchel

J. knitted the castle pockets in garter stitch from Knit Pick’s Pallete in Gosling which felted into a sturdily dense fabric.  I gave her a hand with the rambling rose embroidery as her time was running very short!  I think I might have to add castle pockets to some of my dresses because I want to look at them all the time.Grimm SatchelHave a wonderful Wednesday and a happy Yarn Along snoop through everyone’s WIP!

xx Jo

Bunny Watch: Champagne’s Kittens

4 day old kits, Champagne , New Zealand doe, litter #1Sunday night/ Monday morning Champagne had her litter.  The clever girl had 8 largish kittens all in her box and all alive and well. We thought she was done but 24 hours later I went out to check the kits and found a dead one about twice the size of the others on top of her nesting materials.  This is a pretty common thing when a doe has bigger kits. They can get stuck and then they die in the birth canal.  Sometimes a dead kit can kill a doe if she never manages to birth it. I think Champagne is in the clear now as she is feeding the kittens and eating and drinking happily.

1 day old bunny, Champagne , New Zealand doe, litter #1

I have managed to misplace my camera-computer port link (it does sometimes get hijacked by K. so I am not entirely certain I misplaced it but it does seem likely I’m the culprit) so there are no photos with this post… but I will add them in when I find the port!  My port finally showed up… I was totally the culprit who didn’t put it away properly.  🙂

Newborn kittens are hairless, soft as suede and their eyes are closed.  They look kind of like little tiny Bull Terriers!  Champagne’s litter is a mix of black and broken (black and white spotted).  When you pick them up they squeak and nudge your fingers looking for milk and if they just want to be somewhere warmer and quieter they dig with their tiny little soft claws against your fingers trying to get covered again… so adorable!

4 day old bunny, Champagne , New Zealand doe, litter #1

There is an old wives tale that you should never handle kittens when they are young because the doe will reject them.  Any rabbit breeder will tell you differently.  You MUST handle your kits even if just to check they are all alive and not rotting in the nest passing on infections etc.  If  you have handled your doe enough she should be rather disinterested in you handling the kits.  Champagne is interested enough to sniff around where the nest should be when we take it out every day to check on the bunnies but she is totally laid back about our handling the kits.

4 day old kit, Champagne , New Zealand doe, litter #1

I sincerely don’t know where this week has gone but I wish it would come back so I could get more jobs done!  For now… I’ve gotta get myself back to doing all the millions of things that need done around an old farmhouse.

Take care my lovelies. xx

Joanna

Sweet

K. is celebrating her 16th birthday today.

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And we are all celebrating the beautiful wonderful girl that she is!  K. is not an extrovert and is not particularly fond of being in the lime light so I will leave it at this:

She is one of the nicest people I know.  Discerning but fiercely devoted to fairness.

Happy Birthday my darling.

xx

Mommy

Bunny Watch: Champagne

Champagne (our biggest New Zealand doe) is going to kit this week.

Champagne, New Zealand doe

A few facts:

30 days = a rabbit’s gestation

once in 24 hours= the frequency of the doe feeding her kits

3 to 5 days= about how long before the babies get fur

10 days= the time the bunnies will open their eyes

2 weeks= about the time before the babies are ready to leave the nest and begin hopping about the cage

Champagne is a lovely doe, and currently very docile.  She is happy to be stroked and likes her nose scratched but this is our first litter from her so until we see her caring for them appropriately we don’t know what sort of breeder she will make.

Champagne, New Zealand doe

I promise pictures of tiny baby bunnies when we start to see them!  Welcome to bunny watch 2015! 🙂

xx

Joanna