Friday, January 27, 2012

The year of the Dragon!

There has been a lot of celebrating this week here at the Hoffman School for Wayward Boys. Chinese New Year is here and it is the year of the dragon! We made our own Chinese meal on Monday with bean curd, egg drop soup and longevity noodles. The next night we had a great takeout meal from our local Chinese restaurant.
 We made our own chinese lanterns to make things more festive. Then our wonderful neighbor stopped by and shared a book with us. Miss Ann brought Lao Lao of Dragon Mountain by Margaret Bateson-Hill. This was a wonderful Chinese folk tale about it a woman that has tremendous skills in making beautiful papercut treasures for all of her fellow villagers. Not only are they beautiful, but they are a great surprise, because it is not until you unfold them that you are able to appreciate what they are.  The book is written in English and Chinese. It includes some information on how Chinese writing is different from English writing. It includes some templates and instructions for making your own papercuts. It seems impossible that you will be able to create them, but some are not very hard, like the snowflakes, which we did. The results are wonderful! I highly recommend this book and I am glad that our neighbor was kind enough to share this story.
Our Snowflakes!

     Miss Ann, herself an accomplished artist,also sent us some links for making our own Chinese dragon. Here are a few:

and the one that we used:

     The results were beautiful and it was a lot of fun!

Does Vlad ever look normal in an action shot?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Veggie dogs, now with video!

A long way back I came up with a recipe for making your own vegetarian hot dogs.  I finally got around to making a crude video for it. So, I am reposting my original recipe with a link to the video. Enjoy! Or at least compliment yourself on your far cleaner, more organized kitchen!  By the way, my son was helping me cook, so he was wearing a bib as an apron. I swear, he doesn't still wear a bib! He wants me to stress this point :)

After several batches, I came up with a recipe for veggie hot dogs that suits my family's palate.  The nice thing about this recipe is it is for a basic hot dog.  It will accommodate many tastes as is, but could be reworked by adding favorite spices, such as red pepper flakes to become a specialty dog.  There really aren't many recipes out there.  I first tried the recipe on this site, thrifty living, which was really good, but too tofu-ish and soft for my taste.  I also looked at vegan Dad's recipe, but did not try it.  I combined this with my experience working with seitan and finally came up with this recipe after several tries.  Here goes!

Veggie (Vegan) Hot Dogs
1/2  of a 15.5 oz. can of chickpeas (about 3/4 cup or so)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2/3 cup water
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2 tsp paprika 
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 cup + 3 Tbsp Vital Wheat Gluten 
1.  Combine in blender all ingredients EXCEPT Vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast.  Liquefy!!!!
2.  Combine this with the vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast in a bowl by hand or in a mixer with a bread hook.  If doing by hand, knead until it no longer sticks to the bowl and is well combined.
3.  Dump out and pat into pizza shape.  Cut into 8 equal slices, like cutting a pizza.

4.  Roll each slice into a hot dog shape and place each on their own piece of foil, close like a candy wrapper. 
If you like a very smooth lovely shape, first wrap with a small piece of parchment paper and then foil.

5.  Place in a steamer with seams facing down and steam for 45 minutes.

6.  You can now eat them or you can chill or freeze for later, dropping the unwrapped defrosted wieners (love that word ;p ) into boiling water for 2 minutes.  They can also be pan fried if you want  that sort of thing.  I imagine these would be nice on the grill, but it is winter, so I'll wait to try that out.
7. Enjoy!!!!!! 

Update: If you like this, check out some other great ideas at frugal days, sustainable ways blog hop!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Junk mail to super sweetness in no time flat!

     One of my favorite Holiday traditions occurs after the decorations come down. That's when I go through all the Christmas cards I received for the year and upcycle them into next year's gift tags. I love doing this because it is so nice to go through the cards one last time, I love beautiful tags and upcycling just feels good.

     This leads me to my latest junk mail craft. For some time now I have been saving my junk mail that had security envelopes enclosed with it. Today I had to make one of those phone calls where you know you will be on hold for an eternity while waiting for a customer service tech. I decided to break out my stash of security envelopes and my tools from upcycling the Christmas cards. It helped to pass the time and make that "on hold" muzak tolerable!
I love these punches! When I had really good coupons, I would use them to pick one up. The kids can use them and we can punch all kinds of things with them.
     I punched out lots of tag shapes, but also some flowers and circles which will make pretty decorations for greeting cards, kid's art, etc...

Who knew that security envelopes had such pretty patterns! I never noticed all the beautiful patterns used for these envelopes until I started collecting them. The mind reels at all the ways this paper could be reused! Please feel free to link any junk mail projects you have taken on, I can't wait to try some new ones now!

Knit along!

luvinthemommyhoodI joined my first Knit along (KAL)!  I love Luv in the mommyhood. First of all, it is written by someone named Shannon, which of course is my name. She is also a hairdresser, I am a barber. She loves to knit and sew, I love to knit and sew. She picks great projects, has a great weekly post of weekend wishes, and always has excellent pictures. I like nice pictures. Long story short, I recommend her blog highly.
     Matt bought me some delicious yarn for Christmas. I just haven't been able to pick a pattern that seems good enough for it. So, I thought a hat KAL would push me to get going before winter is over! Plus, I have been moaning about never getting to join a knitting group because of my schedule conflicts and this will give me a little knitting company.
This is baby alpaca grande in the colorway dark cherry stripe (2691), purchased at River Colors Studio at the border of Lakewood and Rocky River.
     I am torn between two patterns.


So far I am leaning towards Capucine, but we shall see!  Wish me good luck!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Twenty Twelve! Goals and our latest homeschool projects.

The new year is officially upon us, I know, I know, we are halfway through January, but the year is still young. I really didn't feel like making any major resolutions this year, but I have spent the past few weeks  reflecting and goal setting. I like to set small goals for myself. It challenges me and keeps me from getting in a rut. I don't care for winter, so it keeps my spirits up to look forward to things. Here are some of the things I am looking forward to in 2012:

Cooking Goals:
I finally conquered my fear of bread and yogurt making and now no longer rely on store bought. I make 4 loaves (at once), once a week and at least a gallon of yogurt a week and we are covered. Now what? I received a beautiful antique cast iron waffle iron. So, I need to get it cleaned up and ready for my old recipe from my youth (when I made waffles for the 10 people at home on the weekends, gotta get those waffle skills back!) I also received some springerle molds from my Mom a good while back (25 cents each at a church rummage sale! She is that darn good!) I need to try that out already. I think pierogis and homemade pasta and raviolis may be in order for this year too.
Look at these glorious molds! Why have I not made them yet?

I finally met my sock goal and wrote my own pattern for a cowl, so I think it is time to try a bigger project like a sweater or something. Not sure yet. I would like to try knitting cable-knits too. Maybe some lace crochet.
The boys are enjoying their new hand-knit socks that were made with the yarn they selected. An unusual color, I think they released balloons after we left to celebrate finally selling that yarn!

I NEED to break this swearing habit which has reached f'ing big a$$ proportions! Nuff said. Less complaining is in order as well. I think the key word for the year should be "positive". Words, actions, attitude should reflect positiveness.

Staying the course, meaning not letting the day to day get in the way of my plans. I need to anticipate the week better.  I want to add a new thing to our weeks, which is an animal project. I hope to focus on a different animal each week with a different type of project related to it. We have had 2 successes with this thus far. Our first week we went with an animal he loves and knows a ton about, the cuttlefish. We tried out google docs for making a power point presentation. This was fun. He learned how to fact check, organize his thoughts and dabbled with summarizing. Here is his report:

 This week he focused on beavers. We were inspired by a new magazine, Click, that he received from Grandma Kathy for Christmas. They showed a diagram of a beaver's lodge which we recreated.

So far, I feel we are off to a good start with this. I hope to incorporate our new zoo passes into this project too.
     This year should hold a lot of new and exciting challenges for me. Let me put a challenge out there to the people I love.... What was the last thing you tried for the very first time? If you can't remember, it has been too long! Try something new, a new recipe, different kind of book than you normally read, a puzzle, hobby, different type of exercise, unfamiliar cuisine, etc... As my Mom used to say, "Try it, you'll like it."