December Monthly Moos {Belle The Farm Dog}

Friday, December 27, 2013

A few years ago before we moved to Tennessee we bought a little Australian Shepherd puppy.  We named her Belle and she was a tiny little ball of fur that fell in love with our horse, Promise.   

 We could not keep her out of the horse corral no matter what we did.  We finally decided to just leave her alone - even though we knew all it would take was one little mis-step of a horse hoof.   But this bond developed between the horse and dog that was unbelievable and it wasn't long before the two of them were completely inseparable.  

When Belle was about six months old we made the move across the United States from the sand in the Southwest to the grass in the Southeast.  Its a very long story for another day, but our horse Promise had a very hard time adapting to life in the humid South.  Belle became almost a life line for her - maybe a bit of a reminder of "home".    We believe that it was Belle that kept her alive.  (Now aren't you curious for that story?!)

Belle is 3 1/2 years old now and Promise is still her very best friend!  You rarely see one that you don't see the other nearby.  While Promise grazes, Belle naps.  

Belle loves her cows too.  She isn't the greatest "cow dog" as far as helping with them - at least the way we would like her to help; however, she thinks she's helping!

This is a very common sight on these cold winter mornings.  Belle laying on the crest of the hill with the horse, but keeping a watch out for deer!  

And then when they've had enough of that, they nap together in the warm winter sunshine!

Eldon and I asked our daughter if she would mind taking a picture of us for our Christmas cards... we were never intending to have any animals in it but here came Promise sticking her whole body between us and of course there is Belle looking up at her beloved horse.  

The two of them are rascals and get into lots of mischief.  Recently I was sitting at my piano and realized that there was a strange noise at the front door.  So I turned to look and what did I see but horse AND dog standing on the porch with faces pressed against the front door just listening to the music.   Couldn't capture it with my camera in time though!  

Belle is probably my favorite dog of the few that we have owned in our married life.  She is the perfect farm dog that loves all the animals, the grandkids, and us too!  She never has a bad day! 

Christmas Almond Braid

Monday, December 16, 2013

I have always loved making home-made bread.  I think there is just something so wonderfully homey about the smell of bread baking.   So for me, a loaf of bread is one of the funnest gifts to give.  Many years ago I happened on this recipe for Almond Braid and have made it for so many gifts and occasions.  I decided to share it with you today.

You will need to start with your bread dough.  (You can use a favorite basic bread dough recipe or you can purchase frozen bread dough and use that!)  Place your dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise until double.  (This will vary in time depending on if you're using fresh dough of if it was frozen dough.)  

While your dough is rising, make your almond filling:

In a mixing bowl combine:

eight ounces of cream cheese
1 egg yolk (reserve the egg white for later)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon flour

Mix together with hand mixer until smooth and creamy.  Set aside.

When your dough has risen, pour it out onto a floured surface and roll out your dough to a nice rectangle.  Mine was about 9 inches wide by about 12 inches long.  

Gently pick it up and place it in a buttered 11 x 14 jelly roll pan.

Using a pizza cutter, VERY lightly score your bread dough lengthwise into 3 equal portions.  Do NOT cut through the dough, just lightly score it.  

Now, take your pizza cutter and cut your dough into 1 inch diagonal sections on each side, up to the scored lines.  If your pizza cutter has a hard time cutting all the way through, you can also do this with kitchen scissors.  (It looks tricky, but it is very easy.  Your diagonal sections do not need to be perfect either.)

Place your almond filling in the center section stopping about an inch from the top and the bottom. 

Now, this is where we start braiding.  (And its not really a braid, more like a criss-cross fashion. )  
Take the very tiny little middle section on the top and fold it down (kind of like the flap of an envelope) and then take a diagonal piece from each side and criss-cross over that.   (The purpose of folding over that top flap is to keep the filling from spreading out when it cooks.)

Keep going in this way, just taking a diagonal piece from each side and crossing over the other piece.

When you are two or three sections from the bottom, take that bottom center section and fold it like you did the top (closing the "envelope" flap again).  Fold those bottom two diagonal pieces in also.  Then, go back up and cross in the remaining two pieces from each side.

 Your "braid" will look something like this.  
Cover it lightly with a tea towel and let it rise for 15 minutes or so.

Now, take your reserved egg white and beat with a fork til foamy.  Brush the egg white carefully all over the dough, covering every inch so it takes on a shiny appearance.

Sprinkle with sliced almonds and raw sugar.  (Or leave the almonds off.  Don't leave off the raw sugar though!!)

Pop in a 375 degree oven and bake until golden brown; about 15 - 20 minutes.   This is positively yummy fresh out of the oven, but yummier the next day after the filling has had a chance to set up a bit.  

I wrapped my cooled braid in saran wrap and sealed it up tight.  Then I lightly wrapped it in unbleached parchment paper and tied some twine around it.

I made my gift tag by printing a greeting on an Avery label, adhering that to a red card stock circle, punching a hole in the tag and threading it to the twine. 

I added some fresh greenery and berries.  Perfect Holiday gift!  Mine is going to our closest neighbors that live on the adjoining farm!

It's really the perfect gift to give on Christmas Eve because it is the absolute best breakfast for Christmas Morning!  

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

My Kitchen {Completely Lived In}

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I recently had an email from a reader asking if I would do an update on my kitchen now that we are moved in and its been in service for a few months!  The last kitchen post I did (here) was when it was finished, but we weren't moved in.  So, here is an update of the place I spend the majority of my time!  (So sorry that when it comes to my kitchen there are lots of pictures.  Do you have your coffee ready?)

There is not one single thing that I don't just absolutely love about my kitchen!

But probably  my favorite thing is this baking area.  I designed the cabinet to be shorter so I could use it for rolling out dough and things that are hard for me on a regular height counter top (since I'm short).  The drawers are also large and hold my Bosch Mixer and all the attachments.  

Above it on my open shelves are my mixing bowls, measuring cups, favorite cook books and aprons.

I've had my vintage Pyrex for years and I use them every single day.

I love the vintage locker basket with my aprons and table cloths in it!

Do you remember this red stool that I restored?  It sits right next to this baking area and is a favorite of everyone.  All ages sit in this chair while I cook:  my mother, my daughters, my grand-girls, my girlfriends!  Above it is a magnet board for Jillian and Rosetta's artwork, recipes I want to try and other important things!

The other end of the kitchen is my coffee area and other canisters.  I love my glass front cabinets that show my beautiful turquoise china, my tea cups, hob nail glasses, and my bright colored Fiestaware!

Just to the right of that area is this wooden coke crate that I absolutely love.  I have my oils, vinegars, sat and pepper shakers, and a few other frequently used items.  I just love how it looks and how handy it is to grab things from it.  (I also love the turquoise colored words!)

Then there's my little kitchen window!  Eldon made me a cutting board from some left over butcher block and I love it.  It is very handy to have right next to my stove top for my hot cast iron skillets!  (See the salt and pepper shaker there?  Those are little vintage glass jars and I punched holes in the lids for salt and pepper.  I love them!)

You might be wondering about my custom Range hood.  If you remember, my original plan was to have a microwave with vent above my range and I changed my mind and designed the above vent hood. I am so happy with my decision.  I haven't once regretted not having a microwave and I love how the vent hood looks and works.  It is amazing.   Plus it holds the chalkboard that I made!  (Who knew that I would have so much fun changing it out for the seasons?!)

Then across from the Range and wall counter tops is my amazing island.  Let me tell you that this thing is so awesome!  We've had a lot of company and we've served all kinds of buffet style meals off this island.  It is also a fun place for everyone to lean on, sit on, and pile their junk on!  

I had originally thought I would really use some big profound item to decorate my island top.  I found that I love having it empty.  Because it basically sits in the living room it looks very cluttered if there is anything much on it.   Also, I love how beautiful the butcher block is.

So I keep this little crate with my dish soap and cleaners and usually a bowl of fruit and that is it!  (Not counting the things that get dumped on the counter as we come in the door!)

I also wanted to pile on the vintage, colorful clutter on the tip top of the cabinets but I reined myself in!  Old canisters, an old jar with vintage utensils and an old lard bucket did the trick!

Do you remember the Fresh Eggs sign I made?  (You can read about it here.)  This was the spot on the wall I had picked for it from the very beginning.  It is the perfect fit!

And next to the kitchen is our little dining room.  It is small, but there is actually room to add both leaves to my lovely antique table and it works just fine.  I love the painted white plank ceiling, the plaid curtains I made, and the simple decorations.  It is a great continuation of the kitchen.  

Just a few little notes to answer some questions I've had in recent weeks:  
1)  I love the barn lights.  They were the perfect choice for my kitchen.  Because of the wattage, they are plenty bright and the kinks in the cords even straightened out (remember that?!).  
2)  The butcher block counter tops are awesome.  I would choose the same thing again in a heart beat. They hold well to the wear and tear of continual cooking and twice I've sanded off some imperfections and oiled them and they are good as new.  I think they are beautiful and give a very warm glow to the kitchen.   If you want to read more about them, I did a post here.
3)  Our flooring is probably a bit darker than I would do again.  However, I do love it and have had to just accept that things will show up more on a dark floor.  

Well, there you have it.  My lovely kitchen in our sweet little house on the hill!  

P.S.  We had a house full of company over Thanksgiving week and it was just about the best week we've had in a long time.  There is nothing like family and very close friends to make a person so very thankful!  Below is a picture of all of us!  

Linking to the following fabulous party: