Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Araina has been sold!

So now just Paul is available!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Paul & Araina--handmade dolls, recycled fabrics

These dolls (named Paul and Araina only for purposes of identification) are of original design, handmade by me, and for sale in my Etsy shop, http://www.bybarbarabell.etsy.com/. I have pictures of some other dolls that aren't for sale that I wanted to post here, but they're not quite on the computer yet, so till then, you're welcome to look at these--and the others in my shop.Paul and Araina are soft stuffed dolls made of all recycled fabrics--body and clothes. Even their hair is cotton knit fabric (old T-shirts) cut in narrow strips and wrapped or twisted to make wigs. I especially like Araina's cornrows, trimmed with multicoloured heart-shaped beads! Their shoes and stockings are integral (non-removable) but their outer clothes are on-and-off, with elastic instead of buttons or other fasteners. Their faces are hand-embroidered but most of the other sewing on these dolls is by machine, as they're intended to be used in creative play by children. I'd say "small children" but because of Araina's bead-trimmed cornrows they probably should be kept for those over the age of three...unless you wanted to remove the beads and just tie a knot to keep the twists from unraveling.

"Rhythm & Roots" festival, Bristol TN

Daughter(12) and I just came back from a pleasant morning in Bristol TN at the annual "Rhythm & Roots" festival held in celebration of country music. Her choir, the East TN Children's Choir, sang at 9:30 am, and after they were finished she and I traipsed up and down State Street looking into all the little booths selling musical instruments, jewelry, handbags, toys, clothing, food and other goods. (Well, we tried to stay away from the food as much as we could, and concentrate on the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we had brought with us; but in the end we did buy a stick of teriyaki chicken from an Asian vendor.)

Did you know that State Street in Bristol goes right down the state line between Virginia and Tennessee? We had been to Bristol, and on State Street, any number of times, but because we were driving and not walking, we had never noticed the little stamped metal plates fixed along the double yellow line every few yards designating "VIRGINIA/TENNESSEE" so you knew which state you were in at that moment. Since State Street was closed to motorized traffic for the festival, we--and several thousand other people--could stroll right down the line if we chose, saying, "Now I'm in Virginia and you're a whole state away from me..."

We got to play some beautiful handmade mandolins manufactured by a company called Eastman. There was one similar to mine that I thought I could live with and enjoy playing, if it were mine. I wrote down the model and serial number just in case I ever have that much $$ on hand, and nowhere else to spend it. (And it wasn't even one of the more expensive ones!)

We also admired, and played with, wooden puzzle boxes at another booth, and in another place we talked to an artist who creates handmade one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces from recycled vintage fabrics and papers. You can see the work of this artist, Betsy Carr, at her Etsy store, http://www.foundling.etsy.com/. It was delightful to talk to someone else who agrees with me about the unique pleasure of creating original art from old or previously used materials.

Speaking of Etsy...you can view MY shop, too! Here's where: http://www.bybarbarabell.etsy.com/.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My current sprouted-grain bread recipe

I start with 8 cups of wheat, measured BEFORE sprouting. It makes about a gallon, sprouted. This amount makes 3 batches of bread, each batch consisting of 3 to 4 loaves depending on the size of the pans, so if you just want to make one batch, I guess you would use about 1/3 this amount, say 2 1/2 to 3 cups.

Put the wheat in a jar and cover it with fresh cool water. Fasten a piece of coarse cloth over it (cheesecloth, a piece cut from an old sheer curtain, a piece of nylon window screen, etc.--or just use a new J-cloth, which will work in a pinch) with a rubber band. If you are making just a small batch, like 2 cups, you can use a quart canning jar and use the "band" part of the lid screwed on over the cloth.

Soak the wheat for 24 hours. After the 24 hours is up, drain the water off through the cloth top, refill with fresh water, swish around and pour off. Leave the jar on its side in a fairly warm spot on the kitchen counter. Do this about 3 times a day or until you see tiny white sprouts on the wheat, 1/16 to 1/8 inch long. When the sprouts get to this stage, it's time to make bread!

NOTE: Timing is very important, especially in warm summer weather when everything grows fast! If wheat sprouts get too long--say, as long as the grains themselves, or longer-- there is an enzyme change that happens and the texture of the bread dough will be soggy and gummy no matter how much flour you try to work into it. If this should happen to your sprouts, they are still perfectly edible and delicious in salads, etc., but won't make good bread. So, if you don't have time to make bread from start to finish when your sprouts are ready, you can grind the sprouts and then put them in a covered container in the fridge, where they will keep for a day or two till you have time to finish making your bread. You can also freeze the sprouts before or after grinding.

Grind the sprouted wheat using a regular electric grinder (such as is used for meat or vegetables), a hand-operated food grinder, or a food processor or blender. You don't need a "grain mill" for this as the soaked, sprouted wheat is quite tender.

I divide my 8-cup batch of ground-up wheat sprouts into 3 more or less equal portions. You can weigh the portions if you're particular about measurements.

For 2 lb, of wheat sprouts, add 2 c. of warm water and the ingredients listed below.

For 1 1/2 lb. of wheat sprouts, add 2 1/4 c. of warm water and the ingredients listed below.


Ground-up wheat sprouts and warm water (see above for quantities)
2 T. yeast
1 t. sugar

Put these ingredients into bowl together and allow to set until the yeast dissolves and begins to bubble. Mix well to combine. (I use my KitchenAid mixer, but you can do all of this by hand.)


white flour (about 3 - 4 cups? I didn't measure)
1/2 c. rolled oats (optional)
1/4 c. flaxseed, or flaxseed meal (optional)
1/4 c. gluten (optional--if you use it, mix it in with the other dry ingredients before adding)
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. oil
4 t. salt (about 1 1/3 T.)
1 egg

Mix well until a thick batter is formed. Then add flour a cup or so at a time and mix by machine, using a dough hook, until dough clears the bowl--just the way you would usually make bread. Or knead by hand until dough is smooth and even in consistency. Don't put in too much flour. You should JUST be able to handle it without it being too sticky.

You can use whole-wheat flour instead of part or all of the white flour. Your bread will be a little denser and heavier, but of course it will be much better bread. I usually have just white flour on hand these days, so I give you my current recipe in case you want it pretty much like mine.

If you want to experiment with using more sprouted wheat per batch, go ahead--bread can be made with 100% sprouted wheat and no flour at all if you prefer. The loaves will be denser and heavier but will taste heavenly, and will make the best, crunchiest toast you have ever had in your life. Sprouted grain bread is naturally lower-carb than bread made with flour--the sprouting process turns part of the carbs in the grain into protein. When I make all-sprouted-grain bread, I use the whole 8 cups of sprouts to make a single batch of three or four loaves of bread, along with the other ingredients (but no added water or flour.)

You can add other things like 1/4 c. toasted wheat germ or whole or crushed sunflower seeds. Also, small amounts (like a cup or two) of other kinds of flour, like rye, can be used in place of part of the white flour. You can also replace one tablespoon of regular flour with one tablespoon of soy flour for each cup of flour in the recipe, to make a higher-protein bread. You can also add small amounts (half a cup or so) of whole-grain or multi-grain cooked cereals (I used to use a lot of Wheatena when I couldn't find whole-wheat flour in the grocery store; it gave plain white bread a nice toasty wheat appearance and texture.)

You can use other kinds of shortening, such as lard, butter, margarine, or even freshly rendered chicken or turkey fat, which can make very nice bread.

Let the bread rise once in the bowl till it is doubled. Punch down and shape into loaves. For a 9 x 5 inch pan I use about 1 5/8 lb. of dough; 1 3/8 lb. for an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch pan. Small leftover bits (or the whole batch if you prefer) can be made into buns, cinnamon rolls, bread sticks, individual pizza crusts, etc. etc., or if there are any children around give them each a piece and let them make whatever they like, including shapes using cookie cutters. Kids often enjoy making their own cinnamon rolls, or even better, individual pizzas--use leftover pasta sauce and any other pizza toppings you have on hand: chopped cooked meat, onion, peppers, any kind of cheese, etc....mine began playing with dough as soon as they could stand on a chair at the kitchen counter more or less safely, and at 10 and 12 years old they are still doing it occasionally.

Let the bread rise in the pans till it is well rounded above the edge of the pans (about double) and then bake at 375 degrees F. till nicely browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom with your fingers. My oven usually takes about 25 to 29 minutes to accomplish this. If the bottoms of the loaves aren't quite as brown as the tops, I pop the bread out of the pans and bake it without the pans for a few minutes longer and that gives them a nice brown bottom crust too.

You can brush the tops of the loaves lightly with oil or butter just after they come out of the oven, if you prefer a softer top crust.

Cool loaves on a wire rack or a clean kitchen towel. If you don't have a rack or a towel, perch the loaf crosswise on the empty pan so air can circulate underneath it. If the crust is done enough it won't sag too much between the sides of the pan.

Don't bag the bread until it is cool or it will sweat inside the plastic bags.

Freeze bread to keep it fresh after the first day or two. If you slice it before freezing it will be easier to thaw when you need it.

Hope you have fun with this recipe!

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at barahobbit@gmail.com.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

School all year round

Our two homeschoolers, now 10 1/2 and 12 1/2, are officially "out" for the year (they have been attending a university-model school two partial days a week and it's finished till next fall.) But my jokes (which they take as threats) about "year-round schooling" are turning out to have some truth in them, as the best jokes often do.

It's summer here in the heart of the Appalachians, and things have slowed down a bit. Sitting around in the evenings reading or making things, going for walks to the bank or the library, or riding in the car, we talk. Sometimes I find myself pontificating--a useful work meaning, I think, "to act like a pontiff" (the Pope being a well-known pontiff), one who feels himself called upon to make a pronouncement upon everything. When I catch myself doing this, I usually attempt to bring an end to my official pronouncement as soon as possible, knowing that most people, including children, don't like to be lectured. But husband and I and the children often share information back and forth. If, for example, I want to know about a certain kind of a dinosaur, or the details of a forgotten Greek myth, I ask one of my children, as they know much more than I do. On matters of language, history, science, manners and morals, however, husband and I are usually the ones who offer our superior wisdom.

Today I was resting/thinking/talking to husband in our bedroom/office, and youngest son was sculpting at the kitchen table in the next room. He heard me mentioning a review I had read for a book we'd just heard about. I heard him ask his father what the difference was between a preview and a review. Then, suddenly, son began to laugh uproariously.

"I get it!" he exclaimed. "'Pre-' means 'before,' and 'view' means 'see,' so a 'preview' is 'something you see beforehand.' And 're-' means 'again,' so a 'review' is, um, a 'review' is...'something you see again.'" Congratulating him on his discovery, I remarked that this was why a working knowledge of the Latin roots could be so useful. Then I began wondering how he had come to have this knowledge. We haven't given our children Latin lessons, nor have they had more than a cursory introduction to the language in any of their "formal" classes; yet son had apparently picked up a bit here and a bit there, possibly from his own reading, possibly in one or more of our ongoing discussions about language; enough to draw a conclusion for himself.

Later on, husband was telling me about a church small-group meeting he had attended the previous evening. I hadn't been there due to another engagement, so he related how one of the young people at the meeting had brought up a question which I immediately realized I would have had a hard time answering myself, if I had been there. (So much for lengthy pontificating.)

So, what answer was given? This was the kind of meeting where anyone could put in 2 cents worth; the leader would sometimes tie everything together or explain further if it was needed.

"It was daughter [12 1/2] who had the answer," said husband.


The answer she gave referred back to a topic she and I had been talking about several days previously, and she had applied one of the concepts from that conversation, neatly and accurately, to the current discussion. So! She HAD been listening all that time! She'd remembered the illustration I'd used--but how had she come up with it, at just the right time, in a different situation?

Monday, May 5, 2008

The beautiful spring in eastern TN

Husband and I finally realized (or decided) that the "Bird Sanctuary" signs posted at the city limits around this town refer, in fact, to the entire town. That's why there are so many birds singing up a storm during all hours of the day and night in our neighbourhood. It's like paradise. We recognize robins, jays, cardinals and mockingbirds, but some I don't know. I especially enjoy the mockingbirds because they're so multi-talented, even if they do pester our cat when she ventures outside. To my knowledge she has never made a single move in the direction of their nests this year or last year, yet they feel they must harass her on sight.

Sitting on our big Southern front porch in the early hours of the day, drinking tea, reading, praying and looking around at our colourful neighbourhood is made even more enjoyable by the presence of these noisy birds. I'm reminded of Thomas Alva Edison, who was almost completely deaf as a result of an accident in childhood. He used to tell people that he didn't mind being deaf; he said the silence helped him think better. Later in life, however, he wrote, "I haven't heard a bird sing in forty years." Well, the sound of birds singing may be background noise to some people, but when I think of Mr. Edison I appreciate the birds, and my hearing, even more.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Work" -- a poem by Henry van Dyke

Let me but do my work from day to day,
In field or forest, at the desk or loom;
In roaring marketplace or tranquil room,
Let me but find it in my heart to say
When vagrant wishes beckon me astray:
"This is my work; my blessing, not my doom.
Of all who live, I am the one by whom
This work can best be done in the right way."

Then shall I see it not too great, nor small,
To suit my spirit and to prove my powers;
Then shall I cheerful greet the laboring hours,
And cheerful turn, when the long shadows fall
At eventide, to play and love and rest;
Because I know for me my work is best.

Why are the woods so noisy around here?

Hello everyone! The title of my blog is based on a favourite quote from Henry van Dyke:

"Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best."

Excellence in any craft is something we, perhaps, should strive for. I'd like to suggest, however, that a damaging perfectionism is sometimes substituted for the desire for excellence, in some of our lives and at least part of the time--to the point that we often refuse to even try things that are outside our comfort zone, lest we not do them well.

More on all this later!