Village Yarn Brand Craft Cotton Yarn

Review of Village Yarn Craft Cotton Yarn

This is a complete, unbiased review of Village Yarn brand Craft Cotton yarn. Just so you know…I have not been paid nor asked by Herrschner’s who sells this yarn to do this review.

I sell my own handmade items online on a number of sites. In the last couple of years, the sale of my crochet cloths has skyrocketed. In 2016, I literally sold almost 3,000 of these cloths! I keep waiting for my fingers to be “whittled off” but fortunately, they’re still attached and hence I keep crocheting!

For assorted reasons, I recently decided to try different brands of cotton yarn because I felt it was time to consider a change in the brand that I used for years. One brand I tried (and WILL use in making cloths to sell) is Herrschner’s Village Yarn brand Craft Cotton yarn. This is a brand you won’t see in any store. It seems to be a brand exclusive to Herrschners.com. So, it can only be purchased online at the Herrschner’s website. I believe some view it as one of the “underdogs” in cotton yarns since it’s not a major brand that cannot be found in many different stores or websites. However, after trying it, I believe it needs a bit more recognition and praise.

Here is what I found regarding specific points that may be of interest to anyone using cotton yarn…

Ease of Use…Flow Over Crochet Hook  (∗∗∗∗∗)
I have made crochet cloths with this yarn using an I size (5.00mm) crochet hook with a half-double crochet stitch for the body of the cloth and a single crochet stitch for the edging. I found it to flow smoothly over the hook with little effort. It was a joy to work with and I found I could work pretty fast with this yarn with little issue.

Although I have not tried knitting with this yarn, I feel it would be a great yarn for knitting any project calling for a 4-ply medium weight cotton yarn.

“Feel” of the Yarn (∗∗∗∗∗)
This yarn has a nice soft feel/touch to it, unlike some other brands of cotton yarn. The finished cloth is soft enough to use as a facial washcloth, yet it is still tough enough to do the job as a dishcloth. I think the softness also helps in giving it a smooth feel on the hook, allowing for “smooth” crochet action.

Ease of Flow of Yarn from Skein (∗∗∗)
The end of the yarn coming from the center of the skein is not readily available. So, it seems it’s designed to be used from the outer end of the skein. Perhaps one could “dig” into the center to pull the yarn from the middle (which might be best), but I have not tried that approach yet (maybe I will…it might flow better that way!). So, when working from the outer end, the yarn does not flow smoothly. I had to stop crocheting and  unwind yarn before I could keep working. This is a simple thing, and may not be an issue for many people. But when making thousands of cloths in a year, this represents a good bit of time. Although I really DO love this yarn, I wish it was wound differently so it would flow more readily from the skein.

Size of Skein and Price (∗∗∗∗∗)
The solid skeins contain 2.5 oz/71 g/115 yards
The ombre skeins contain 2 oz/56 g/92 yards
This yarn also comes in a 16 oz cone/454 g/ 743 yards

I have only purchased the small solid color skeins so far. They are usually priced at $2.39/ball. When 3 or more skeins are purchased (in any color combination), they are reduced to $2.19/ball. The cones are normally $14.99 each.

Herrschner’s does not automatically offer free shipping with larger orders; however, they often run specials with assorted discounts and/or free shipping. If you join their mailing list, you’ll receive discount/sale notices pretty often. Careful shopping can save you money when ordering this product during a special sales event.

When using the small skeins (solid colors), I get two crochet cloths per ball, with very little yarn left over. This is absolutely perfect for me! My cloths are about 7-1/2 to 8″ square. This brings my cost per cloth to $1.10 each, assuming I purchased the yarn in bulk (which I always do), and also assuming that I got free shipping (or a discount large enough to offset shipping costs). From my experience, this price is about average for many cotton yarns. Some are cheaper, while others would cost more. I feel this yarn is worth the price.

Colorfastness (∗∗∗∗∗)

Yarn did not bleed!

Yarn did not bleed!

This is REALLY an important point for me. Some brands of cotton yarn lose color readily and that can lead to unhappy customers. So, I tested this yarn for colorfastness. I took small scraps of sage and white yarns and made a small swatch of a cloth (see picture). I didn’t bother cutting off ends nor weaving them in since this was just a test for color fastness. I used the cloth that is pictured in washing dishes numerous times. The sage did NOT bleed at all. If it did, I would have noticed it in the dish water, and also the white yarn would have been stained. As you can see, the white yarn is still white, not a pale green. Hence, I’m VERY please to say that it did not bleed!

I also tested a piece of the parsley green yarn in water that was heated in the microwave, almost to boiling. The yarn was placed in the water and left there for a few minutes. NO bleeding!

From these two tests, it certainly seems this brand of yarn is color safe. Yeah!!!

Thickness (∗∗∗∗∗)
This is classified as a medium weight 4-ply yarn. However, many cotton yarns are classified the same way, yet some feel very thin while others feel extremely thick and stiff. This yarn seems to meet the “Goldilocks test” where it feels “just right” being nice and thick, but not SO thick that it’s stiff and hard to work with. The stitches in the finished product are nicely filled out, looking evenly distributed, yet it retains flexibility. With these attributes, the crochet cloths are a delight to use!

Yarn Twist vs Splitting (∗∗∗∗∗)
Anyone who crochets or knits knows what it’s like to work with a yarn that splits easily. It’s annoying to say the least. Uncorrected splits can cause weak and even unsightly areas in a project. They are to be avoided if at all possible.

Any yarn can be subject to splitting, but some a lot more than others. That being said, the twist or spin of the yarn makes all the difference. The more or better the twist or spin, the less likely a yarn is to split. Once again, this yarn seems to meet the “Goldilocks test” where it has just the right amount of spin to hold the strands together making it unlikely to split when being used. Yet it doesn’t have SO much spin that it knots up when the yarn is unwound from the skein. Most of the time, I can make entire cloths with this yarn without having even one splitting episode! Yeah!!

Color Options (∗∗∗∗∗)

Colors I Purchased

Colors I Purchased

There are a total of 43 color options available in this line of yarn, with 26 solids and 17 ombres. While no one brand carries absolutely ALL colors possible, this brand does have a good selection to choose from.

The colors I purchased were…

Top row, left to right:
White, Cream, Honey, Linen, Brown

Second row, left to right:
Burgundy, Apple Red, Morning Sky, Turquoise, Deep Sea, Parsley, Sage

Are the Colors True to Their Names? (∗∗∗∗)
I purchased 12 of the solid colors to explore for now. I found that most of the colors I purchased were true to their names. However, two of them were questionable to me. I even double checked the color number on the label with the catalog number to be sure I was looking at the right color! 

Apple Red yarn comparison

Apple Red yarn comparison

The “Apple Red” color is not apple red. This was a surprise because the color in the catalog clearly looks to be an apple red. I took a picture of the ball of yarn next to a Red Delicious apple (left), a Braeburn apple (middle) and a Clementine tangerine (right) for comparisons. As the picture shows, the yarn is far from an apple red, yet it’s clearly not orange. It’s somewhere in between. Perhaps the dye lot was off in this batch? Maybe it should be called red coral? Maybe deep conch? Maybe orange-red? I really can’t decide what it should be called. Village Craft does have a “Really Red” color of yarn in this line. Maybe it would be more of an apple red color. I have not purchased that color, so I can’t verify it.

Turquoise Comparison

Turquoise Comparison

Another color that I found questionable was the turquoise. The picture in the catalog does look like a turquoise blue. However, the actual skein of turquoise that I purchased looks more like a very nice medium blue color. (See picture…Morning Sky on the left, Turquoise in the middle, Deep Sea on the right.) I really don’t see the “turquoise” in it. To truly appear “turquoise” it may need a bit more green in the dye. Again, maybe it’s just the dye lot of this skein. I’m more inclined to call my skein medium blue and not turquoise. So…if you truly need a deep turquoise yarn, this may not be it.

With the above being said, the colors are not that bad at all, with two colors out of twelve being somewhat off. My suggestion to you: If specific colors are very important in a project, buy one skein of each color you’ll need to be sure they’ll be right for you before investing a lot in a project.

Knots (∗∗∗∗)
I’ve used a number of different brands of yarn. It seems that just about any brand can be subject to having knots in the skeins. However, some brands (yarn mills) do a better job than others of minimizing their knots.

Knot in Parsley Yarn

Knot in Parsley Yarn

I’ve made a good number of cloths with this yarn and I don’t recall having any issues with knots along the way. However, when taking pictures for this article, I did easily notice a knot in one of the skeins. (See picture.) Obviously, the yarn mill could have done a little better job of minimizing the knot. When working with this skein, I’ll need to cut the yarn and redo the knot to make it less visible.

Conclusion

Finished Crochet Cloths

Finished Crochet Cloths

I’m very happy with the finished cloths I made with this yarn and will continue to use specific colors in meeting my customer needs. Note that I will be using more than one brand of yarn because I try to carry a wide array of color options in my crochet cloths. However, this brand will meet some of my needs and I’m very happy with it.

I recommend this brand for those who are looking for a good quality cotton yarn! The colors hold up very well. The finished projects are soft yet very durable and scrub dishes well. Crochet cloths wring out easily and dry well overnight. I believe this yarn would perform equally well when used in knitted projects. Overall, I found this to be a great quality cotton yarn. I suggest you try it!

Happy crocheting and knitting!
Judi

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Making Kombucha with Less Sugar

I have made fermented food products for many years, especially yogurt. I raised my children on homemade yogurt and the whole family ate it on a regular basis. So, I’m familiar with culturing foods.

I recently got introduced to kombucha and have realized the value in it for its probiotic qualities. I purchased a scoby and my kombucha has been thriving for a good while now and I’ve been drinking it everyday! Yum!

I’ve seen many posts online with the question about making kombucha with less sugar. Those questions are usually answered with scaled down recipes, but still calling for the same ratio of water to sugar to tea bags. To me, that’s not answering the question. Well…here’s your answer!

Since I drink it daily (maybe about a cup to 1-1/2 cups a day), I thought I’d try less sugar. It always seemed to me that 1 cup of sugar per gallon of water (the standard recipe) was more sugar than would be truly needed. NOTE that the standard recipe may be right IF your gallon batch of kombucha lasts a month or more, without fresh tea being added, as in a continual brew. 

So…to my continual brew of kombucha (this is plain kombucha, not the soda pop type with fruit juice added) I started using HALF the amount of sugar that the original recipe calls for. I’ve been doing this now for a couple weeks and my scobies (note that’s plural) are multiplying and thriving in my jar. Even the original scoby is still alive and thriving. They seem to be extremely happy, even though the sugar content of the brew has been reduced. My kombucha tastes perfectly fine to me and I feel good that it has less sugar in it.

I am adding freshly made tea/sugar mixture to the jar as needed, maybe 4 cups every few days with the reduced sugar and I have noticed nothing negative happening in the jar. The taste is the same, the scobies are multiplying and thriving, and all is well.

SO…For those of you who want to subject yourself to less sugar in your kombucha, it appears that HALF the recommended amount of sugar is fine as long as you continue to add to the batch as you drink it. Note that this recommendation is for plain kombucha. It is not the brewed drink made with fruit juice and double fermented, yielding a soda pop-like beverage. I suspect it may work well with that recipe too since fruit juice has naturally occurring sugar in it, but I have not tried it, so I cannot guarantee it will work.

Here is the ratio of ingredients that I now use:

1 gallon (16 cups ) filtered water : 8 black tea bags : 1/2 cup sugar
8 cups filtered water : 4 black tea bags : 1/4 cup sugar
4 cups filtered water : 2 black tea bags : 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups filtered water : 1 black tea bag : 1 tablespoon sugar

I am not including the complete directions here on how to make kombucha. I’m assuming the reader already knows how to brew it. If not, please just do an internet search for how to make kombucha and you’ll find countless sites with complete directions online. Simply cut the recommended amount of sugar in half and your brew should be just fine and you’ll consume less sugar along the way. YES, the sugar is needed for the culture, but the ratio of 1 cup per gallon is more than is needed for the culture to thrive.

Happy kombucha making!
Judi

Overcharged on Produce at Walmart in Carroll, Iowa

I don’t normally write such a post, but this one is warranted. We shopped at the Walmart store in Carroll, Iowa yesterday (October 29, 2016). We eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, so of course, I purchased a number of items that needed to be weighed at the register.

When checking out, I didn’t watch the prices as the cashier rang up our items (my mistake). It wasn’t until this morning that I actually looked at our receipt. What really caught my eye was the fact that I saw the price for the ONE honey crisp apple that I bought. I’ve never tried one and since they’re expensive, I just bought one to try. I noticed that the ONE apple cost $3.60. “What??” I yelped! I looked at the weight and according to the receipt that one apple weighed 1.35 lbs. I have an accurate digital kitchen scale. I weighed the apple and it weighed less than 8 ounces. Hence, I was charged more than double what I should have been for that one apple. (Note that at the store, I put the apple was in one of those produce lightweight plastic bags that you can grab from a dispenser, which I had removed after bringing the food home. So the “tare” weight was not added in, but there’s NO way that little plastic bag weighed over 8 ounces. I’m sure it weighed way less than an ounce.)

Then I got out the eggplant that I purchased and have not yet cut in any way. It too rang up for a lot more weight and cost than it should have. Then I checked other items that we had not used, and they ALL weighed more on the receipt than they actually did…way more…sometimes double the weight or more.

I called the store and spoke with someone in customer service. She said they check their register scales every other day. She got the register number from my receipt and said she would go check the scale right away.

This may be an innocent problem, but I’ve heard of such schemes in the past (where stores alter their scales to show items weighing more than they actually do) and I know from reading online that the law has cracked down on such things. I don’t know if this was deliberate or not, but knowing how Walmart does their best to make as much money as they can, any way they can, I suspect that they might deliberately calibrate their scales so they overcharge customers on items that must be weighed.

So…it’s time for all of us to check this out and make it known to any store that overcharges that you caught them in the act. We could go back to that store and easily prove our point by carrying the items back to have them reweighed. However, we live in a different town and that store is about 30 minutes drive from here (country driving, so we’re talking about 30 miles one way). If I lived closer, I’d carry the produce back and have customer service weigh them again and prove my point. I’m estimating I was overcharged $10 to $15 or more (total) on the assortment of produce I purchased that had to be weighed. Because of the cost in gasoline and time factor in going back to the store, I’m opting to make this event known to the public this way, and absorbing the loss rather than driving back to the store. I doubt I’ll ever purchase anything that must be weighed at that store again. AND I’ll watch prices on items as they’re rung up at any store I shop in from now on.

I hope this helps you as a reader in some way, if nothing more than making you aware that such things can and do happen and that we should ALL watch the monitor as items are being rung up at any cash register. As I’ve learned, it pays to watch.

Stop Crochet Pain NOW!!

Stop Crochet Pain NOW!!!

I have been crocheting off and on for probably 50 years and never had an issue with pain in my hand/wrist until recently. I’m sure it’s from overuse of my hand since I’m selling oodles of crochet cloths…hence I’m crocheting for hours every day.

In an effort to alleviate the pain, I tried a number of different things from widening my grip with a foam cushion to investing in different hooks and gadgets. The changes helped, but didn’t really do the trick in stopping the pain.

Then I finally evaluated why my wrist hurt. The bottom line was my hand position. I took roughly a month to force myself to change my hand position and finally, finally (!!) the pain stopped. Now I can crochet all I need to without issue. No surgery, no special braces, no doctor visits.

Take a few minutes to watch my video below as I explain what I did to discover the source of my hand/wrist pain and how I stopped it. You too can do this!

Judi

Athena's Elements Crochet Hook Set

Unbiased Review of Ergonomic Crochet Hook Set by Athena’s Elements

This is an unbiased review of an ergonomic crochet hook set by Athena’s Elements. FYI, I have not been paid for this review; I have not received free product in exchange for my opinion; nor have I been prompted in any way to write these comments. This was written purely on my own accord to help those who are shopping for ergonomic crochet hooks to help them in their crafting endeavors. Now that the facts have been made clear, I hope the following will help you in making your decision on what YOU should get!

I have been crocheting since I was very young (and I am now considered a senior citizen by some criteria). I have always used the standard thin metal crochet hooks. I have gravitated toward using the Boye-style hooks because that’s what I learned on and have used for many years, so I’m used to working with them and hence, prefer them over other style hooks.

In the last year or so, I started an online business selling crochet cloths. The business has blossomed into more than I imagined and hence, I’m doing a LOT of crocheting! Recently I noticed my hand (left hand, that is…I’m a lucky leftie) was feeling very “tired”, was starting to ache and my finger tips felt numb. It was obviously from all the crocheting I was doing. So, I decided to see what I could do to help the situation before I seriously damaged my hand. Hence I shopped for ergonomic crochet hooks. I ended up buying a set of hooks from Athena’s Elements. Here’s what I found…

Crochet Hook Case

Crochet Hook Case

Nice Set with a Handy Case
The set I purchased came with a cute case with a Velcro closure. There were color options to choose from, so there should be some color that will appeal to most anyone.

The set comes with 11 crochet hooks ranging from size B (2.25mm) to size J (6.0mm). The case holds all the hooks in their own small slots, and also come with a packet of stitch markers (like plastic safety pins), a hook size conversion chart, and a nice letter from the founder of the company.

Crochet Hook Size Conversion Chart

Crochet Hook Size Conversion Chart

The case feels sturdy and I imagine it will outlast my lifetime. The hooks seem to be of excellent quality and as long as I don’t lose them, they should also outlast me.

Color Coded Handles
The hooks all have different colored handles, so that makes it easy to find the hook you need if you’re working with the same few sizes routinely.

Hook Length and Style
There is 1-1/2″ length of the metal hooks before the start of the grip handle. I have found this to be enough length when making my crochet cloths. I have not tried it with some of the elaborate stitching techniques that may require more hook length. You would need to determine if that’s enough length for projects you typically make.

The hook end is a Boye-style tip. I find that easy and desirable to work with. However, that may be simply personal preference.

Hook Size Markings
The hook size marking on the handle only indicates the mm size, not the US conversion (ie 5.0mm=size H). The mm size is marked on the upper handle of each hook by being cut into the grip on the hook. This way the marking should never wear off nor wear down because it’s on a part of the handle that you don’t hold consistently.

The fact that only the millimeter size is indicated on the handle is only a slight inconvenience for me, since I’m used to using the US lettering system rather than millimeter sizes. As long as I don’t lose the conversion chart, I should be OK. However, I’m sure that conversion information could easily be found on the Internet if the guide does get lost. This may be an issue for some people, but overall I feel like it’s only a slight problem that can be shrugged off.

Crochet Hook View 1

Crochet Hook View 1

Ergonomic Grip Handles

Above all, the ergonomic grip handles are why someone would purchase this set in the first place. I don’t know what the grip handles are made from…probably some type of rubber or vinyl with a texture or “gripiness” to it.

 

Crochet Hook View 2

Crochet Hook View2

The “gripiness” prevents the hook from slipping in my hand or along my fingers. I will admit that the feature took some time to get used to. However, after a few days of adjustment, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. That feature allows me to release my “death grip” on the crochet hook and hold it much more loosely because it doesn’t slip in my fingers. This relieves any tension in my hand and has virtually stopped my numb fingers. I no longer have a “tired” hand after crocheting for some period of time!

Also, the grip handles have a shape to them where you hold them allowing for a good yet light grip, again without having to hold it tightly, and without it slipping in your hand as you work.

Crochet Cloth

Crochet Cloth

Allow Time to Adjust
It took me several days of using these hooks to actually adjust to working with them comfortably. During that time, I wondered if I could really use them in my work. But with time, I adjusted and regained my speed and accuracy in making my stitches. Other people may not need such an adjustment period. I feel the effort was well worth it because of the relief I feel in my hand with the thicker, non-slip, easy grip handles. No more death-grip on the hook. No more numb finger tips. No more tired hand and wrist muscles. No aches and pains!

The time it took to adjust to these new ergonomic crochet hooks was well worth it, and I don’t believe I’ll ever go back to standard less-than-pencil-thin crochet hooks.

I truly hope this information can help you in making your personal decision about any changes you need to make in your crochet tools. The change was worth the effort for me and I highly recommend these hooks!

Let me know (in the comment section below) if this information has been helpful to you!

Happy crafting,
Judi

Hot Cross Buns (Bakery Recipe)

Hot Cross Buns (Bakery Recipe)

There were a few holidays where I would literally stay up all night baking to meet orders due to be picked up the next day. Easter was one of those holidays. I had countless orders for hot cross buns. If you’ve never tried these rolls, you’re missing something! The recipe is below, followed by a video demonstrating how I make them.

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns

Enjoy!
Judi

Hot Cross Buns
Makes 12 Buns

1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 oz (4 Tbsp) butter

15 oz (3 cups) all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 oz (2-1/4 tsp) RapidRise yeast1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried lemon peel
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

2 large eggs
1/2 cup dried currants
1/4 cup sweetened dried pineapple, finely chopped

1 egg white, beaten
2 Tbsp water

Vanilla Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 1-1/2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a saucepan, heat milk, water and butter to 120-130°F.

Meanwhile, place flour, sugar, yeast, salt, lemon peel and nutmeg in a mixer bowl; combine dry ingredients. Add warmed liquid mixture and eggs to flour mixture. Stir to combine ingredients. Add currants and chopped dried pineapple. Mix with stand mixer (or hand knead) on low to medium-low speed for 8 to 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Scrape sides of bowl, coat dough with nonstick spray, cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

On a lightly floured board, with a knife, cut dough into 12 equal size pieces. Roll dough pieces into balls and place them in a greased 9×13″ baking pan. Place on the rack in the middle of an oven that was warmed by only the light bulb and a pan of boiling water placed on the bottom rack (or cover the pan and allow the buns to rise in a warm place of choice). Allow buns to rise for about 30 minutes, until doubled in size.

Brush rolls with a mixture of one beaten egg white and 2 tablespoons of water. Bake at 350°F for 15 to 18 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Pipe a cross on each bun with vanilla glaze.

To Make Vanilla Glaze
Combine glaze ingredients in a small bowl, adding only a small amount of milk at a time. Add enough milk to make it a piping consistency. Adjust consistency if needed by adding more milk (if too thick) or powdered sugar (if too thin). Place in a piping bag with a small round tip and pipe a cross (or other design, if desired) onto buns.

Handmade Quilted Table Runner2040

Handmade Quilted Table Runner, Patchwork Tapered Blue, 13″x52″

To my great delight, the color blue is once again becoming fashionable in home decor. Blue is my husband’s favorite color and I too enjoy blue. So, the color blue has always been in our home. It’s nice to have it “fashionable” again, so I can enjoy making more table mats in blue. The following is my latest and it’s a gem!

The runner measures 13″ x 52″ from longest point to longest point. The sides are 38″ long before tapering starts. The assorted blue cotton fabrics were aligned in an angled pattern moving outward from the diamond centerpiece. The runner is bordered in the same dark blue as the diamond center. It’s truly striking AND is a one-of-a-kind item! If you would like to adopt this runner, it’s available on my website (as of the date this post was written), http://www.handmadeiniowa.com/over_40_long.html

Enjoy the pics!

Judi

Handmade Quilted Table Runner2040 (13"x52")

Quilted Table Runner2040

 

Center view plus backing (Runner2040)

Center view plus backing (Runner2040)

 

Close view of tapered end (Runner2040)

Close view of tapered end (Runner2040)

 

Close view of centerpiece (Runner2040)

Close view of centerpiece (Runner2040)

Build a Better Salad

Build A Better Salad

We love salads…BIG salads. Whole meal salads are what I’m referring to here. These are complete meals in a bowl and not just with a little lettuce, tomato and cheese. These salads are filled with assorted vegetables, protein sources, and fruit. What’s even better is the fact that they are totally flexible in what is put in them, so they can be tailored to individual likes and dislikes as well as what’s available at the moment. These salads are better (to us) than any salad we can get in a restaurant because they’re made the way WE like them, with ingredients WE prefer! You too can build a better salad, YOUR way. The following are the basics of how I build a better salad…

Start with a lettuce bed of mixed greens. Use a mixture of assorted greens as the foundation of your salad. Use whatever you can get and mix them up…iceberg, Romaine, green and/or red leaf lettuces, arugula, baby kale, spring mix, spinach, red or green cabbage, etc. Get creative!

Add a big assortment of fresh veggies. Again, get creative. Use what you have available to you and don’t be afraid to try something new. Suggestions include: cucumber, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini squash, celery, red, green, and/or yellow bell pepper, fresh broccoli and/or cauliflower, lightly steamed (and cooled) asparagus, jicama, red or yellow onion, scallions, chives, minced garlic, lightly steamed (and cooled) green beans, roasted (and cooled) Brussels sprouts… Explore the produce isle of your favorite grocery store and let your imagine run wild!

Add a protein source (or two…or three). I always add thawed frozen green peas to our salads. They make a nice addition to any green salad and are packed full of protein. They’re for starters. From there, I add garbanzo beans (to my salad), diced cheese, assorted nuts of choice, and sometimes sliced hard boiled egg. If you’re a fan of meats in your salads, thinly sliced grilled steak or chicken breast would be a flavorful addition. Grilled salmon would be a prized addition, too. Whether you add meat or not, there are plenty of options to choose from so that your salad will provide enough protein to meet anyone’s needs.

Build a Better Salad

Build a Better Salad

Add fruit for color, sweetness and eye candy. We started adding fruit to our meal salads after my husband returned from a trip to Hawaii with his college jazz band. He found that restaurants there added fruit to their salads and he really enjoyed it. Thanks Hawaii! Good fruits to include are fresh or canned pineapple, chopped fresh apple, blueberries, strawberries, tangerine (Clementine) sections, grapes (seedless would be preferred). Even diced pear would make a good addition! Try fresh raspberries for added sweet/tang!

Dress your salad…but don’t overdo it. Dressings are added to salads for flavor, moisture and binding properties. The problem with dressings is that many people simply add too much. This can make salads unhealthful to eat. The veggies and fruit are not the culprits. It’s the dressing. The above salad suggestions would go well with just about any dressing you choose. Just strive to go light on the dressing and still enjoy the wonderful flavors of the vegetables, fruits, and protein foods you used to construct your meal. If you can’t taste the other components, then you have too much dressing. Make it your goal to avoid using too much dressing. This will keep your salads healthful and calorie-controlled.

We usually use oil and vinegar as our salad dressing. The ratio will vary according to individual tastes, but a general rule of thumb is 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. A lot of flavor variation can be obtained by using different vinegars at different times: red wine, apple cider, tarragon, raspberry, and rice vinegars all lend different flavors to a salad, so experiment. Added herbs can also bring a new flavor to your salad. Suggestions include: oregano, dill, parsley, and tarragon (used individually, not all in the same salad). Get creative!

Here’s a video showing the construction of the salads in the featured photo. Enjoy! Judi

 

Whole Wheat Flax Bread (Bakery Recipe)

Whole Wheat Flax Bread (Bakery Recipe)

There were select breads that sold consistently well when I ran my bakery. Whole Wheat Flax Bread was one of them. It’s a light wheat bread with flax meal added to it. It’s wholesome and delicious! The recipe is below, followed by a video on how to make it. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Flax Bread
Makes 2 Loaves

1-1/3 cups milk
1/3 cup honey
1-1/2 oz (3 Tbsp) butter
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 lb (3-1/4 cups) bread flour
7-1/2 oz (1-1/2 cups) whole wheat flour
1/4 oz (2-1/4 tsp) RapidRise yeast
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup ground flaxseed

Heat milk, honey and butter in a saucepan to 120-130°F. Meanwhile, place dry ingredients (including yeast) into a mixer bowl; stir to combine ingredients. Add warmed liquid plus eggs to the dry mixture. Stir with a spatula to moisten dry ingredients. Using a dough hook and a stand mixer, mix on low speed for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth. Alternatively, the dough may be hand kneaded on a lightly floured board for 8 to 10 minutes until smooth. Be careful not to work in too much extra flour.

Remove dough hook and spray the dough with nonstick spray, and (optionally) cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap to retain moisture. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

On a lightly floured board, divide dough into 2 equal parts. Form each part into a loaf and place each into a greased 8″x5″ loaf pan. Allow dough to rise until doubled in a warm place. Preferred method: place a medium size pot of boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven. Turn the oven light on (but do not turn the oven heat on). Place UNCOVERED loaves on upper rack in the middle of the oven. Close oven door and allow loaves to rise. Alternative rising method: Spray loaves with nonstick spray, cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper. Place in a warm place and cover with a clean towel. Allow to rise until doubled in size or until an indentation remains in the loaf when lightly pressed with a finger.

Whole Wheat Flax Bread (Sliced)

Whole Wheat Flax Bread (Sliced)

Remove pan of water and unbaked loaves from oven after they have proofed (if using that method). Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake loaves in the middle of the oven in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until golden. Brush with melted butter and allow bread to cool on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy this fabulous bread any way you eat sliced loaf bread!

Setting Health, Wellness and Fitness Goals

Well, it’s that time of year again, when people are setting resolutions and goals to (hopefully) achieve in the new year. In reality, many people do not realize those goals. They keep them for a little while, then they silently slip away often without notice.

I too played that game in my earlier years, especially when it came to exercise. I was not a “habitual” exerciser yet I knew how important it was. I knew I would feel better and be healthier if I exercised on a regular basis. Yet, I’d start a program and it wouldn’t last long. If I got interrupted only once from my newly established “routine”, it went down the drain. Such is the case with way too many people.

Then one day I had a horrible health-related episode (not going there right now). THAT episode sparked me into realizing I wasn’t doing myself any good with my off and on exercise regimen. So, I decided once and for all I would tackle it. Here’s what I did…

(1) I truthfully examined my daily schedule to see if I could find a time of day when I would be the LEAST interrupted. After all, it was those “interruptions” that would literally wipe out my regimen. I found it… EARLY in the day. I started setting my alarm clock one hour earlier than I was used to. (Sure it wasn’t easy, but so what!) I would then get up before anyone else in the house, before the phone started ringing, before I had to get the kids going off to school, even before my husband got out of bed! It WORKED! I put in 45 minutes to 1 hour of exercise regularly, without interruption and that started what became a lifelong habit (from there on out).

(2) I developed a “motto” that has literally kept me going for decades. Really. I was 38 years old at the time and wanted to be in shape by age 40. Not a bad or unrealistic goal. So…here’s the motto or goal list I established:

I wanted to be…
Firm at 40
Fit at 50
Sexy at 60
Sophisticated at 70
Elegant at 80

Well, at the time I couldn’t think of anything for 90, so I pondered that literally for decades. Recently I ran all this by our younger son and he came up with the next line…

Naughty at 90 (LOVE it!!)
With that I was able to finish it out with…
With God’s help, still standing at 100! Done

The above goal list or motto has kept me moving for decades (I won’t share where I’m at in the scheme of decades). It worked.

Initially I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it. Now it’s well ingrained in my memory banks so no written reminder is needed.

I suggest YOU set such a goal list, especially if you’re having trouble keeping those ever-renewed new year resolutions. Making changes for our health’s sake should be a lifelong endeavor. Not for 6 weeks, 2 months, 6 months or 2 weeks. The best way to realize change is to be consistent and to do it over time. If you get off the band wagon, forgive yourself. Life happens. Then get back on it as soon as possible and carry onward. That’s the only way you’ll really benefit and gain the health and wellness you’re wanting.

These simple tricks have worked for me. Starting out, I was no different than the average person, knowing I needed to exercise, but having an almost impossible time doing it. I truly hope my story helps spark something in you that will get you moving and living a healthier lifestyle. One you know you need, but have had a hard time establishing. Let me know if this works for you.

Best wishes and happy new year to all!
Judi