Wednesday, December 21, 2011


One of my favorite things about the month of December is baking! I let go of some of my strictness regarding quantity and nutritional quality of food, and bake way more sweets than I normally do. I wish I could bake like this all the time, but I do think our health would eventually suffer. As I type, the house is filled with the scent of macaroons, and I'm sure Jon ate half a dozen before I could even drizzle the chocolate over them.

I have wanted to bake more, especially bread. Many years ago, I used to make our bread with a bread machine we were given when we got married. I used that machine till it died. Recently, distressed by the cost and general blandness of organic bread, I thought I might like to get a bread machine again. However, I didn't want to spend a whole lot on something I wasn't sure I'd use much. I have never liked the way bread machines turn out hard loaves with thick, cardboard-like crust, so I knew there was some experimenting I'd need to do. So a few weeks ago I looked on Craig's List and found a like-new high end machine for $40. When I researched it a little, the cost of a replacement pan alone is $100. Here's the secret to really great bread: Don't let the machine bake the bread. Set it on the "dough" setting, let it do all the work, then take it out, knead it quickly, let it rise for 30 minutes and bake in a regular oven. It takes all of ten active minutes to do.

Olivia is learning how to do it on her own. Here's a loaf of organic whole wheat and oats...

And because I don't want to spend very much while we live in this house (ha! and in general), and because this Christmas has stretched my resourcefulness and creativity skills, I decided to do a little spray painting again. I had these ugly golden yellow chargers that I'd use for "fancy dinners" with the kids. Every now and then on a regular week night, we'd have a fancy dinner so that I could (attempt) to teach the kids more sophisticated table manners in a low-pressure atmosphere. But the chargers were truly ugly and I'm all for change.

Last week I sprayed them with a primer, and just yesterday I sprayed a couple coats of chalkboard paint over them.



I'll stack them with a dinner and a salad plate, and though the end product is a little more "arts and crafts" than my preferred style, I think they will be fun. The kids can occupy themselves between courses...

Here are the little place settings Olivia and I made. She stamped the names, and I tied together the pieces of chalk to the decorations.

And just for fun, here's a picture of one of my little pirates. They played all afternoon. I even let them tear up some old undershirts. They used presents from under the tree as "ship cargo" and colored their faces with with markers.

Yay for winter break!



  1. You are so creative.The decorations look lovely and I can almost smell the is loaded,dog to be delivered to the kennel and then we are off to Rochester for the night......San Diego....we are on our way !!!!

  2. i love your name tags. such a cute idea. my sister makes yummy bread and has never used a machine. not sure how she does it, but someday i'm going to tackle the project that seems so overwhelming to me. your bread looks delish. Merry Christmas.


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