Friday, September 26, 2014

Ballet Is...

Last week Belle and I embarked on our new Wednesday morning routine....she goes to hourly care on post for a few hours while I take a ballet class in Tacoma. She was NOT happy when I dropped her off and they said that she was sad most of the time but did calm down somewhat. I need some time for me, she needs to play with other kids and get used to being places without me, I need to exercise, and I miss ballet. As I left my ballet class (which kicked my butt by the way) I kept thinking about what ballet is for me, to me, and well just what ballet is. What it means....am I making any sense? Probably not but I'm going to write this out anyway.


Ballet is:
  • my foundation. It's the foundation for all things dance as far as I'm concerned.
  • peace of mind. During a class no matter how hard a combination is or how much I'm sucking because I haven't been in a class in years my mind is totally clear. It's the only time I am able to completely shut out the rest of my life. I forgot it was like this and it's incredible. 
  • work. HARD work. 
  • ballet. Non-dancers may not understand that but there's nothing quite like a good ballet class. There's nothing that can get you back in "ballet shape" other than, you guessed it, ballet. 
  • a part of me. No matter how beat up my body is I will always have the desire take a class and work as hard as I can to dance to the best of my ability on that day.

P.S. That photo up there ^ yeah...that was nine years ago. NINE. How is that even possible!?  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Homemade with House 6: Apricot Jam



Last summer when I started going to all the local farmers markets and indulging in all the wonderful local produce I got to thinking about making my own jam. I love good jam on toast with butter, goat cheese, or peanut butter. It's a great way to sweeten or flavor plain or vanilla yogurt. My first round of jam making I made apricot and a triple berry (blueberry, blackberry, and strawberry). The apricot was worth repeating this year...the triple berry wasn't a big enough hit in my house to make again. 



This Apricot Jam recipe is so so simple and always turns out perfectly. Canning Homemade has endless recipes for any type of canning you might want to do. I highly suggest you spend some time searching through the recipes if you are interested in getting in to canning. 

This year I made two batches of Apricot Jam with  pesticide free apricots from local farms. Hopefully it will last us at least a year along with the other flavors I made. My favorite thing to do with it is to warm some goat cheese on toast and then spread jam on top...also one of Belle's favorites. 

Now, if you are just starting canning here are my suggestions on getting started. Get a REALLY big pot. It doesn't have to be anything fancy but the bigger the better. I found my canning pot at the thrift store for $8 and it's perfect for boiling enough water to sterilize and seal your jars. You can use a large stock pot but it will take longer as you can't boil as many jars at a time. A home canning kit and canning rack are invaluable as well. I waited to buy the canning rack and once I bought it I felt like an idiot for waiting as long as I did. Seriously, spend the $15 and get one....your un-burned hands from reaching in boiling water will thank you.


Personally, I prefer to boil my lids and rings in a separate, smaller, pot. This serves two purposes. First, you avoid burning your fingers trying to fish them out of your giant pot. Second, the rubber seal stays hot longer since you can just take one out of the hot water at a time.

I promise you the rack is worth it. Such a simple thing makes getting jars out infinitely easier.

This is my canning set-up. 
Also, if you think/know a recipe makes, say, 6 half pint jars boil 7-8 jars just in case you end up with a little more. Better to have boiled an extra jar or two and not need them than have extra jam and not enough jars ready. Well, there you have it...all my great wisdom on canning. But seriously...make the jam. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Crazy (Awesome) Summer: Our Last Visitors

Well, this is the last installment of our Crazy (Awesome) Summer. Over Labor Day weekend my old college roommates, Jenna and Nyla, flew up for a visit. While I know they were excited to see The LT and I, I also know that they were far more excited to see Belle. They got in super late on Thursday night and Friday after breakfast we made our way up to Seattle. Another friend of mine, Caitlin, who I danced with in high school was also in town with her fiancee and we were able to meet them for lunch before taking the girls exploring. 
Take note that Caitlin (top right picture) could easily pass as Belle's mother.
The rest of the weekend was spent hanging out, going to the park, playing with Belle, cooking and enjoying good meals, and girl time...lots of girl time, plus The LT. 

It was so great to see my girls and see Belle with them. I miss them so much and I really look forward to a day where we get to see them regularly and they become familiar people to Belle. It was incredibly bitter sweet to see them go but knowing that it wouldn't be too terribly long before we can see them again made it a little easier. 

Well y'all, that's the end of our summer adventures. It was a truly incredible summer but I was glad to get back to "regular" life and our routine again. I had also taken most of the summer off from working so I was happy to get back to my sewing machine and keeping House 6 Creations going. Speaking of House 6 Creations....The End of Summer Sale is still going on so get some great stuff at amazing prices while it lasts!!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Homemade with House 6: Stand Mixer Breads




So, again, fueled by my desire to cut cost, consume fewer preservatives, and by Belle's dairy allergy I started trying to make our own bread. I tried several recipes that I just couldn't get right...some never rose right, some rose and fell, others were too dry, and the list goes on. Here are two of my favorites and I feel are pretty fool proof. Also, if left unattended The LT will consume at least half a loaf as soon as they are cool enough to eat.



This Honey Whole Wheat Bread is simple and absolutely delicious. It always turns out fluffy and light. Just enough sweetness from the honey and just all together delectable. I use unsweetened plain coconut milk so that Belle can eat it and because I never seem to have it, I substitute All Purpose Flour for the Bread Flour. 

Now, if you're in the mood for a good old fashioned White Sandwich Bread I've got you covered too. While the original recipe works just fine if you were to have made a batch with old yeast that didn't rise, then went to the store to get more flour and fresh yeast, and THEN came home to realize you had bought fast rising bread machine yeast I have an excellent adaptation for you to be able to use that yeast!

Quick Rising Stand Mixer White Sandwich Bread

Ingredients:
-5 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
-1 T kosher salt
-2 1/4 t (1 packet) Fast Rising Bread Machine Yeast
-16 oz. very warm water
- 1 T extra virgin olive oil
- 3 1/2 T honey

Instructions:
-Mix all your dry ingredients in your stand mixer bowl.
-Add wet ingredients to dry.
-Turn mixer on lowest speed using dough hook and allow ingredients to combine. Depending on the humidity I sometimes have to drizzle a little extra water (1/2 T at a time) down the side of the mixing bowl to help get all dry ingredients incorporated.
-Once dough has come together slowly increase speed to about 5 and allow bread to knead for 3 minutes. Right at the end of the 3 minutes sprinkle a little flour down the sides of the bowl which will help keep the dough from sticking to the bowl when you try to get it out.
-Remove dough from mixing bowl and place on to a well floured surface. Hand knead a few times then place a clean towel over the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.
-While your dough is resting get your loaf pans oiled and ready to go.
-Once your dough is done resting divide it in half. Knead a few more times and form into a log. Place log into your oiled pan and repeat for other half of the dough.
-Cover your loaf pans and place in a warm dark place for approximately 45 minutes (or until at least doubled) to rise. 
-Pre-heat your oven for 375 degrees. Drizzle or spray the top of both loaves with olive oil. Place your loaves in the oven and bake 25-30 minutes or until they are golden brown on top and sound hollow when you tap on the crust. 
-Remove from loaf pans and place on a cooling rack. 
-Optional: Slice while still warm, spread some butter and homemade jam on top, and devour!





Monday, September 15, 2014

Crazy (Awesome) Summer: Miece and Papa

A few days after we returned from Canada Belle's Miece and Papa came for a visit! Miece and Papa (yes, they have regular names) are my sister's in-laws and have become what I call my "bonus-in-laws." They love Belle as if she was their own biological grandchild  and boy did she fall in love with them during their visit. They don't have to be grandparents to her, they choose to be, which makes their relationship even more special to me. 

They arrived in the morning so we headed straight to Seattle for lunch and a walk around Pike Place Market. As soon as we got home Belle got straight to playing and giggling with her Miece and Papa. She kept grabbing Papa's hand and walking him around the house which was very surprising to me. Belle is usually very leery of new men and it takes her a while to really warm up to them....Papa was quite the exception. 


We took a day trip out to Crystal Mountain, no hiking this time, and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful views on an amazing day. 


The rest of their visit was filled with excursions to Olympia, Steilacoom, the park, American Lake, and outings in search of delicious food. Papa had a LOT of tea with Belle, there were many books read, and giggling. Oh boy was there giggling. Belle would follow Papa upstairs and I would hear endless giggles from upstairs for what seemed like hours. It was incredible how quickly she became attached to them. Anytime we were out somewhere she wanted to hold one of their hands, eat whatever they had, you name it. The days following their departure it was visible that Belle was missing their presence. I will never really be able to express my gratitude to them for assuming a grandparent role for my child. After my mother died, the fact that my children would only have one set of grandparents made my heart ache. I desperately wanted them to have two sets like most children...and because of Miece and Papa, they will. 


Friday, September 12, 2014

She Loves Him

When The LT returned from his 10 weeks at Yakima Belle wanted nothing to do with him. She didn't want to be held by him or even be near him for the first few days. It probably took a good week and a half before I could even leave them in a room together without her starting to get upset. It was irritating for me on a personal level because I desperately needed some me time after such a long time just Belle and I. On the flip side, it broke my heart to see how uncomfortable she was around him and how it hurt him as well. After about a month she was comfortable enough with him for me to be able to run errands and leave them at home together. By the time The LT was prepping to go to NTC you could really tell she loved him and was comforted by him and his presence. She got excited when he walked in the door and was so joyful when he played with her. Then he left again....

I was so so worried that upon his return we would be starting the cycle all over again. There was about 2 minutes of her trying to figure out what was going on the day we picked him up after NTC and then it was like they had never been apart. The last few months I see so many of these amazing daddy-daughter moments. You can see how much she loves him which is a direct reflection of how much he loves her. I try to catch them on camera whenever I can so I figured I'd share some of them here. Enjoy the sweetness. 

She wanted him to pick her up but wouldn't let him until she had her favorite things, to include her bunny and baby doll.

I don't remember why but this particular morning I didn't head downstairs right away so The LT got her up and watched cartoons with her while I was upstairs.

She imitates his posture and mannerisms all the time. It's stinking adorable.

She doesn't like to be confined in any way but she let him snuggle like this while watching cartoons in our bed early one morning.

The way she's looking at him says it all.

They stayed like this for several minutes which is practically an eternity in Belle cuddling. 


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Homemade with House 6: Greek Seasoning

Growing up in my house Cavender's Greek Seasoning was the go to seasoning for pretty much everything. Chicken, beef, pork, veggies, fish, and pretty much anything savory. My favorites growing up were baked chicken with it and steamed green beans with a little butter and Cavender's. 
via

After we moved to Washington I figured there had to be a way for me to make it myself. Save some money as well as get rid of the MSG...a discovery in my favorite seasoning that made me a little sad. It took me a few tries to get it just right but I think I've got a pretty good mix now. 

WARNING: Once you start using this mix you will want to put it on everything.



Caitlin's All Purpose Greek Seasoning
  • 1 T Crushed Black Pepper
  • 4T Salt
  • 2T Onion Powder
  • 2T Garlic Powder
  • 2T Oregano
*Just place all ingredients in a bowl or jar and mix! It's that simple!



I keep ours in a 12oz mason jar with a re-purposed Parmesan cheese container top so I can just shake it out on to whatever I'm cooking. If you use a 12 oz jar, a doubled recipe will almost fill your jar. Put your jar in your spice cabinet and you will always have some on hand when you need it!
 
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