Frolicking Food Scientist and Fiber Fanatic
 
That's what Cosmic Ray says when people ask me why I knit socks.  "What - Wal-mart isn't selling socks anymore?!!?" He calmly replies, "NO".  Sometimes people look like they actually believe that beautiful bald-headed guy I married.  

To me, knitting Scarves gets boring. Socks keep me engaged....just when I get bored knitting the cuff, it's time to start the leg pattern. When that gets boring, it's about time to start the heel.  Once the heel is finished, you start on the foot and before you know it, you're closing the toe.  Then comes the tricky part - you have to do it all again.  I don't have any one-legged family members or friends, so that's when you have to pick up the needles and start the second one.  Don't ask me how many sets of "ONE" knitted socks I have finished....I frequently become a victim of the rare and dreaded SSS -"Second Sock Syndrome". 
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The socks pictured above are Monkey Socks by Cookie A.  Probably my favorite sock pattern ever.  I've knitted them multiple times in multiple colors.  Sock to the left was a complicated pattern  -I lost a few Sunday School lessons
while I was knitting it.

Top 5 Reasons why I knit socks:
1. Who needs a sweater in South GA - it's barely ever cold enough here to wear a hand-knitted wool sweater, but we have  frequently have days where socks are necessary.
2. Socks are portable - I can knit in waiting rooms; in the car (not while driving, though);  in the airport  and while visiting my children and relatives in far off states
3. Great conversation starters - "what are you Crocheting?" "I'm KNITTING a sock."
4. Lots of different sock yarns out there - I now have enough sock yarn to continually knit socks until I die.  But there's always another color or brand to try.....

5. And last but not least -  Socks are a challenge but  FUN to knit! 

Great SALE at Craftsy!
 
 
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There are few things in life better than homemade bread.  Just the smell of it has orchestrated instant marriage proposals; motivated children and teenagers to instant obedience; brought about world peace.....ok, maybe not world peace but I'm willing to bet it wouldn't hurt the efforts.

This is how my Mom made homemade bread - kneading by hand, lots of flour, lots of effort, lots of time....you get it.  Probably why not many of us busy working Moms make bread by hand anymore.  Below are 2 modern conveniences that have revolutionized the process.
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The bread machine, and the dough hook for my Kitchen-Aid mixer.  Both items make the messiest and trickiest part of mixing homemade bread  - the kneading - a breeze.  Too often it's easy to add too much flour while kneading, resulting in a heavy, tougher  loaf of bread.

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I like using the bread machine to mix and knead the dough.  Check the manual for your particular bread machine, but I add the wet ingredients first, then the dry ingredients on top. I like to make a 'well' in the flour and add the yeast last.  I start my bread machine and use it on the 'dough' setting - this is where I'm a bit old fashioned....I like to bake my loaf in my oven in a traditional loaf pan.

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Finished!   Now to find the butter and pear preserves.....

 
 
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I love chickens! And I love chocolate! And chickens love chocolate! And for a Friday that sounds like some perfect Utopian combination I just had to blog about....

Backyard chickens are great fun.  They are amusing to watch, develop distinct personalities, are fairly cheap to feed, and most importantly, give you EGGS to eat!  Cosmic Ray is all about those pets that give something in return for all that feed he buys....Just for fun, give your chickens half of a watermelon you've eaten most of the center from.  Come back a little bit later and you'll have a perfectly cleaned out watermelon 'bowl'...right down to the rind.  Almost made me want to serve something out of it, but I didn't.

I love trying to photograph them.  Trying to get a chicken to be still is like trying to ________________ well, you fill in the blank with your version.  It's much easier to photograph these:
They don't move around as much.   And they are a wonderful gift from some fluffy hens who live in my yard.  There's lots of websites and articles on keeping backyard chickens - and just as many ideas on the best way to keep them.   The biggest issue I've had with keeping chickens is keeping the neighbors dogs from eating them....a string of electric wire around the bottom of your pen might just be the ticket!

He's slightly easier to photograph....Simba, warrior Kitty, keeper of the chickens.

And now, for a brief commercial message....

 Craftsy is having a flash sale this Friday
& Saturday on Yarn and Fabric products at up to 80% off! You can check out
each sale here:

Craftsy yarn sale!  Save
up to 80% on yarn for 48 hours, November 15 & 16.


Craftsy fabric sale! 
Save up to 65% on fabric for 48 hours, November 15 &
16.


The sale only lasts 48 hours and products will sell
out fast, head over to Craftsy today and check some items off your crafting wish
list!


 
 
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I love pickles!  My dad has been making garlic dills for as long as I've been alive, and they are still my favorites.  He made a simple counter-top recipe ...I remember him boiling the vinegar/water/salt brine on our stove and pouring it into big jars he had layered with  dill, small whole Kirby Cukes, and cloves of garlic. He let them stand on the counter a few days, then put them in the fridge. I don't remember how long they last in the fridge, because I  ate them all before they had a chance to spoil....when I go back to Pennsylvania for a visit in late summer, I still enjoy eating his pickles.  I've made them at home, but somehow they just don't taste the same. He adds some sort of magic I don't seem to capture in mine.

Cosmic Ray and I enjoy making Lime pickles - pictured here.  We soak cucumber slices in a water and lime mixture overnight, then rinse well and soak in cold water for a few hours.  We then mix vinegar, sugar, salt and pickling spices in a large pot, bring it to a boil, put in the cucumber slices and boil for 35 or 40 minutes. Pack those babies into jars, pour the hot syrup over the top and seal.  If you really want to try these, there's a good recipe right on the back of the Pickling Lime container. 

I used to think pickles were only made from cucumbers - I was wrong!  Pickled okra is wonderful!  So are pickled peppers (even if you're not Peter Piper...)  pickled beets, pickled eggs...the list goes on and on.   My friend, Elizabeth Andress, Ph.D, from the University of Georgia wrote a great book So Easy to Preserve. It is the canners/freezers dream cookbook with all sorts of recipes and safety tips for preserving food.  Go forth and pickle!
 
 
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I love spinning wool into yarn!  And I love demonstrating how to spin wool into yarn!  One of my favorite places to do this is right in my hometown - the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village.  You just might find me there on Saturdays in the fall spinning or dying wool or cotton with natural dyes. 

You'd be surprised to know ( and maybe you're one of them....) how many people think I'm using a 'sewing machine' or a 'loom' to spin wool into yarn.  My apparatus has a very complicated name - it's referred to as a 'spinning wheel'.  And all my wheel does is add 'twist' to the wool fibers I've 'drafted' into a thinner yarn as it enters my wheel.  Once I get a bobbin full of 'singles', I ply 'singles' into 'doubles'(2-ply yarn) in the opposite direction I spun the singles. This makes the fiber stronger, just like rope, with many lengths of fibers twisted together.

Tada!!  Here's some finished yarn!  Trying to decide if I want to knit a hat or fingerless gloves...
 
 
How did that whole underwater basketweaving thing start anyway?  I'm pretty sure I could have taken basket-weaving in the art department at Penn State, but I can't for the life of me figure out how I would do this underwater.....Someday I'll Google that and find out. But for now I got your attention, and you're looking at my latest creation - a wool-drying basket.  Last weekend, while freezing at SAFF with my fiber friends, I wove my first basket with legs.  I've woven many baskets before - the one pictured below is one of my favorites.  But I never added legs.  There's something about legs that makes everything better....I know I'm very thankful for mine.  I'm thankful my table and desk have legs, too, because I don't get up off the floor that easily anymore....
Sometimes people ask me if I sell my baskets, and someday I might.  Right now I'm happy just weaving them and using them myself.  And I think Larry, my boss, is happy (most days, anyway...) that I don't give up my ag research job to become a full-time basket weaver.   I shall remain, for now, "outstanding in my field...."
 
 
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It's November!  And as the ABAC college students reminded me last night, it's also No-shave November.  And, no, those 2 things have nothing to do with each other, but I decided to make pumpkin bread anyway.  My friend, Cindy, shared this recipe with me and it's a winner.

In a large bowl blend 2 cups pumpkin, 3 cups sugar, 1 cup oil,  4 eggs (preferably without the shells....if you accidentally drop in a shell, offer a Hershey bar to whoever finds it.)  Add 2/3 cup water, (you can also cut the oil to 1/2 cup and add 1/2 cup applesauce if you're watching fat intake, but I prefer the full-fat version). Then add 3 1/2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon ginger. Now for my favorite part....add about 1 cup of chocolate chips.  Good for the soul, and whatever else is ailing you.....

Pour batter in 2 loaf pans. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes.   Let cool in pans 5 minutes, then remove from pans and cool on rack.  Enjoy!!
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Next time I'll clean my oven before I do oven shots....