Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hot Cross Bun Bread

I do love making hot cross buns each year. This year I wanted to try making hot cross bun loaves -- basically a giant hot cross bun big enough to feed a family. I was very pleased with the results and thought you all might like to have the recipe.

The Cooks Next Door was already booked solid this week with some great ideas for Easter brunch, gluten-free Easter desserts, and some delicious Easter cupcakes (be sure to check them out!). So, the only place left to put this recipe was here......

(Heather LeFebvre)

2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1/2 c. warm water
1/2 c. scalded milk
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter (2 ounces or 4 Tbsp.)
2 eggs
5 cups unbleached white flour
zest of 1 orange
1-2 tsp. mixed spice, depending on taste (or 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice plus 1/4 tsp. ground coriander)
1/2 c. yellow raisins (sultanas)
1/2 c. currants

1 egg white plus 2 Tbsp. sugar for glaze

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Pour scalded milk over sugar, salt, and butter. Cool milk mixture to lukewarm and add the dissolved yeast. Mix. Add eggs, 3 cups flour, spice, orange zest, raisins and currants. Add enough extra flour to make a smooth dough -- do not add too much flour.

Turn dough out on floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic -- about 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Divide into two and shape into round, semi-flat loaves. Place on a greased cookie sheet and let rise, about 30 minutes. Lightly slash a cross in the top of each loaf.

Brush loaves with beaten egg white mixed with sugar. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes or until nicely browned and cooked through. Cool on wire racks.

Makes 2 loaves. This recipe is easily doubled, tripled or quadrupled -- although a bread mixer is nice for doing larger quantities.

GLAZE: mix together 1/4 cup butter, 2 cups confectioners' sugar and enough milk to make a thick, but spreadable glaze. Use glaze to draw a cross on the bread.

Friday, March 26, 2010

And the Winner.....

.....of Christina's Spring Pattern Booklet

is WILLOW!!!!! Congratulations!

So, if you'll send me an email, I'll get Christina to email you the pdf booklet!!!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Check Box #4

After nearly four months of work I've completed my first adult-sized cardigan!!!! Actually, I finished this nearly a month ago and haven't had a good chance to take a picture and post about it.

This is another one of Christina's patterns, which can be found here on Ravelry.

Overall, I'm pleased with the results although, being my very first go at a full-size sweater, I think I've learned a lot and will count this as a learning experience more than anything.

First off, I made a larger size than I should have. I wanted to wear this while I was pregnant, so went with my current measurements. But, I feel it turned out too big under the arms and through the chest.

That may be due to the fact that this merino wool was very stretchy and when I wet it to block it just flew away from me in size. I think the wool would have done better with a smaller needle size. However, the pattern is meant to have a loose look.

When I first finished the cardigan the sleeves were far too long. So, I measured and re-knitted them to the shorter size. Now I feel they are shorter than I want. :( oh well. I am NOT putting more time into this cardi, especially since it may not fit me well AT ALL once the baby comes.

I loved the feel of the merino wool as I knitted -- softer and silkier than anything I've used before. I still think it should have been used for a tighter knitting project. Christina reminds me that because it is recycled that also may cause it to stretch a bit more. Yes, this was recycled wool, the sweater of which I paid $2 at Goodwill. Not a bad price for a project.
And, I'm nearly finished with my second sweater -- I can hardly believe it. I'm knitting Christina's Lamb's Lace Cardi and hope to have it finished by Easter. If you haven't signed up for the pattern giveaway, scroll down and do so before Friday!!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Tea

As you may have read about on The Cooks Next Door, it is our family tradition to have a spring tea on the first day of spring. I decided the "next' day of spring was close enough and we could have our tea on Sunday since I like to have something special for Sunday lunch anyway.

Our simple little tea morphed into a party of 13 overnight and we all had a great time around the table together.

I found some near-bursting branches in the woods and mom showed up with some flowers to stick in with the branches. I loved the effect!

We used the traditional spring embroidered tablecloth for the center and of course included strawberries in the menu.

There was quiche, fruit salad, and an incredible green salad which will have to make an appearance on TCND, and piles of scones with 3 kinds of homemade jam and cream. And all the tea and coffee one could drink.

Good times!!!!
The kids and I enjoyed another afternoon tea yesterday with the leftovers. Leftovers are such a welcome thing around here (at least for the mother).
Don't forget to sign up for the knitting pattern giveaway!!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Christina's Spring Collections Pattern Giveaway

Today is the launch of my sister's new spring pattern collection called Whispers of Spring. We are all SO EXCITED!!!!! There are five patterns included: a sweater, cowl, hat, fingerless gloves and shawl. And, Christina has kindly offered to give a pattern booklet away on this blog! So, leave a comment and I'll enter you into the drawing to win this fabulous pdf booklet! I'll close the giveaway on Friday and announce the winner then.

If you don't win the giveaway, you can find the pattern booklet for sale on Ravelry here.
And, Christina informs me that some of the patterns will soon be offered separately, if you don't want to knit the whole collection.

Isn't it all so beautiful!!! I'm actually 3/4 through knitting the sweater for myself -- in a lovely teal color which will be perfect for spring. (Another distraction from my baby projects.)

I'm afraid these pictures turned out small, but it's better these than nothing. :) Isn't the hat so cute! Apparently, as you will read in the booklet, it was designed after something being worn by Emma in the latest Masterpiece Theatre production.

And the cowl, in this bright green, is just the thing for spring.

I wish you could see the lace detail on the gloves. Those of you that are members of ravelry can log on and have a look!

I think the shawl temps me the most because it is so delicate and beautiful. Another reason you need to go to ravelry and see proper pictures. :) If I didn't have a baby to get ready for.......
Okay, so now it's time to leave a comment and get your yarn ready!!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Finding Inspiration

I must be a visual person. I love looking at beautiful things and beautiful things inspire me to make more beautiful things. :)

Recently I cleaned off the top of a dresser in my closet, took the framed art off the walls and redecorated with things that currently are inspiring to me.

My craft room is definately a much happier place to be now!

Although, my display is gradually dwindling as I'm knitting a spring sweater with the turquoise yarn and baby socks with the skein of Spud and Chloe pink.
It's sunny out today and we are off on a walk, those of us that can make it. Poor Rachel is still quite under the weather with fever and a terrible sore throat. It's a long-lasting bug. UGH!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Craft Idea

We are enjoying spring weather! Sunshine, temperatures in the 60's and the chance to get outside. Never mind that we're supposed to see snow flurries on Sunday.

I came across this cute idea somewhere on the web for spring crafts for the little kids. James and David loved gluing the popcorn onto tree trunks to make a spring picture.

We've started piano lessons for Andrew and Rachel so this afternoon we'll be off for our next lesson (except for Rachel who is the latest victim of the sore throat bug). And we'll be having corned beef for dinner -- a little late, but it's still fun to be festive.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Passing it On

As you can tell, I'm quite passionate about handcrafts. It is hard for me to resist the urge to be busy with my hands at one thing or another. Another part of my passion involves passing skills onto other people -- multiplying the joy you take in something by getting others excited about it as well. What better way to learn a craft! It certainly beats trying to figure it out from the internet.

Last week I had two girls over to show them how to make felted purses. We had a great time and at the end of 3 1/2+ hours they each had a beautiful bag!

Here's the setup -- in my bathroom of all places. It just happend to be the most convenient place -- close to the supplies, sewing machine and felted sweater stash.

The girls each picked out a sweater and designed the shape and color scheme. Despite my apparent lack of spring sweaters, the girls managed to create some very spring-like designs.

And here is the first bag. We lined the bags and attached faux-leather handles. The shape was terrific (very classy) and the lining matched the center flower.

This was a winter sweater with snowflakes as part of the design, but look how well it converted to a spring purse. It's lined in a green that matches the leaves of the flowers.

I loved the resulting color combination!

And here are the girls with their purses!!!

Way to go girls!!!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Try a Flowering Tea Ball

At the mall earlier this year I went into a tea store and saw some amazing "blooming" tea balls. You brew them in a glass teapot so you can watch as the tea leaves unfurl and a beautiful flower comes out. Well, the price wasn't in my ball park, so I left the store without any.

Then, I was at a friend's house and she pulled out a little packet of these she had obtained at Marsh (local grocery store). Voila! It was the same idea. She sent me home with the remaining two and here's what they looked like:

It's just the kind of thing to pull out when you have someone special over for a visit. And, you are meant to be able to get three steepings out of each tea ball. There were three balls in the original packet and all three bloomed differently.

Now I just need to find a glass teapot so I don't have to use the coffee pot! Oh! We have a tea cozy give-away going on over at The Cooks Next Door. So stop on over there for a week of Irish recipes and the giveaway!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Checkbox Diversion #1

My attention was diverted from my checklist last week by these sweet little Easter baskets. I could not resist making them.

I made several versions:

And it was hard to choose a favorite. Each of the bags was lined in a different fabric that coordinated with the flowers on the outside.

Saturday we took them up to The Village Yarn Shop where they will be waiting for owners. :)

And this morning I'm back to quilting the baby's quilt. But, as soon as I put in my day's worth on that I'll be working on my other diversion.....to be posted soon.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Tissue Paper Flowers

My sisters and I grew up making tissue paper flowers. They are relatively easy and lots of fun. Recently my mom was over and made some with the kids.

We start with several squares of tissue paper, folded and cut as if you were going to cut a snowflake (so it looks like an ice-cream cone when you hold it). Then we cut a design along the top of the "ice-cream cone".

We stick a pipe cleaner through the middle of the opened up "ice-cream cone". Sometimes we make stamens to attach to the pipe cleaner before we poke it through the "ice-cream cone" petals.
Then we secure everything with scotch tape or florist tape at the base of the paper.

It's a fun way to bring spring indoors.

Adults can get quite fancy with theirs, but we just let the kids play around with what they want.

The sun is shining again today! Two gallons of scorched yogurt are down the drain but 10 loaves of bread are being made as penance. And now it's time to do chores and get ready for the weekend.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Check Box #2 & #3

On the list to be finished were spring purses for my mom and myself. Mom's purse is her old purse, but the handles were wearing thin. She liked their style, and so I came up with this solution to keep the old: a new felted band along the top, encompassing the hold handles. It turned out quite well, and mom chose the bright pink flower for a decoration.

This is my new spring purse. I just realized that the flower I couldn't part with, and which I designed the whole decoration around, never made it on the purse -- somehow a smaller, pinker flower got in the center. So, there is still a corner of the check box to fill in when I rip of the wrong flower and put the right one in its place.

I like the basket design of the purse and the lovely cables that still show from the original sweater.

I couldn't resist including a picture of the daffodils that are sitting on our table right now. No, they're not from our garden, but they really do brighten up the room and remind us that spring is just around the corner.

Right now I'm working on a few "check box diversions" which I'll show you soon. In the mean time there are quiet times to be had, chores to do, and a plan to make for the next few days. Michael is away on church business and we'll be on our own.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Check Box #1

As I mentioned, I'm trying hard to check things off my list of to-do's in the craft department before this baby comes!

Last week I finally finished up a very belated wedding gift -- this is a set of 6 linen napkins embroidered with the couples' last initial.

I do love embroidery, and am reminded of that every time I do a little project that involves it. With the napkins finished I moved onto my spring purse as well as one for my mom. More pictures to come....