Friday, December 21, 2012

A Jigaaw Puzzle From Scratch

    Our Amish friends own a wood shop where they make gorgeous furniture. Everything from serving trays to desks to dressers. They are able to take raw boards and produce stunning masterpieces.

    The younger boys help out in the shop by doing small things. Thy make drawers, glue boards together, etc... But they also like to work on little projects of their own with the scraps of wood that thier father and older brother don't use.
    The book above is kind of like a sewing pattern. They traced the squirrel on regular school lined paper, cut out the shapes, and then traced the shapes onto their scrap of wood.

    This large jigsaw is used to cut the squirrel out. The sharp blade goes up and down and all the boys have to do is maneuver the piece of wood through the blade and keep their fingers of the way. Did you ever wonder why they're called jigsaw puzzles? It's because they're all cut out with jigsaws like this one.

    A smaller jigsaw is used to cut the pieces out because it lets the craftsman be more detailed. My brother has started working in this shop off and on and really enjoys it ... almost as much as I love working in the bakery.

    Now every piece is sanded. This sander is powered through gas and beats a sandpaper block any day of the week. In fact, the trick is not to sand it too much because then the pieces won't be nice and snug. The tale on this squirrel got sanded a little too much and will barely stay on ... you can see it in the second to last picture.

     Now the boys are going to use some leftover varnish to complete their squirrel, but I won't be here to take pictures of that process. I'm headed for College in Idaho.

    Gotta love being with friends and family . There's nothing like it in the world ...I  Love You All!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Buggy Ride to the Bridge of Dreams

There's nothing like going on a buggy ride. It's Serenity: Pure and Simple.
   My Amish girl friend decided to take me and my English friend (The Amish call anyone who is not Amish English) on a buggy ride, which was super nice of her, especially since it took a lot of time to harness the horse and hitch the buggy up to it.

    This is the inside of the buggy. It has room for two people comfortably and three uncomfortably in the front. One of the seats folds down and there's the equivalent of a trunk in the back, but we had my Amish gril friend's little sister in the back.
    Now there are differnet kinds of buggies, ones with back seats, but we only needed the small one today. Plus, the horse we used was smaller and could pull less.

    This is the foot break on the floor. A Buggy is a different than a car in a lot of ways but the biggest is that it has a brain and the car doesn't. This can be a good thing: The horse won't run into anything. But it can also bee a bad thing: The horse can get scared and run away. That's when the foot break is absolutely necessary.

    These are switches on the buggy's wall. In some Amish districts they allow buggies to have lights on the back so that at night a car doesn't come upon them unawares. Some districts are also allowed to have turn signals.

    Well how do they power those lights anyway?
    It's all powered by a battery that sits under the seat. This buggy seat is empty right now though.

    We kept warm with lots of blankets

    This was the first time my friend drove a buggy on the highway (of course this isn't the highway in the picture), and she did an extremely good job. I think i was scared more than the horse was whenever a car passed us.

    There is a log right at the bridge's entrance that all visitors sign. I wrote my name, the date, and "The Gospel Is True ..." in the note section. I love leaving a trail behind me.

    Indulge me for a moment. I took a lot of pictures on the bridge, but i only put six or seven on here, so don't let me scare you away.

    This is me and my English friend ... she's also a member of The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (A.K.A Mormon :) She's headed on a mission in just a few months and will be gone eighteen months. In The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, girls can go on missions at nineteen and boys can go at eighteen.
    I'll miss her, but I'm glad we were able to spend some time together before she left. She doesn't know where she's going yet, so we're both anxiously waiting.

    This is a buggy that I saw off the bridge. Just like English people can recognize their friend's cars, Amish people can recognize their friend's buggies and horses. We were too far away to tell who it was though.

    As we drove home I snapped a picture of The Bridge Of Dreams as we went under it
    What a beautiful afternoon. It was cold, but just beautiful!

Peace, Love & Hominy

    I had no idea what Hominy was before today ... what an adventure! It was an all day experience, but we were able to enjoy it with our good Amish friends. 
   Hominy, for all those who are as naive as I was, is corn that expands through a rigorous boiling and soaking process. Our friends eat it warm with beef gravy. 

    First we had to take all the kernels off of the corn cobs. The corn we used was not sweet corn, it was a variety of field corn. I thought field corn was just for horses, but today I guess I learned differently didn't I?  

     We used this nifty contraption that we sat over a galvanized tub. It spun the corn and used spikes to strip the cob. It took some muscle to turn the wheel, but we had a lot of willing hands.

     We had to blow away all the chaff before butting the corn in the kettle.We tried lots of different tactics and the one that worked the best was pouring it slowly from one pail to another while one of the Amish girls flapped her apron next to it. 

    This is what it looked like at the bottom of the boiler. The burner is gas powered and gets really hot, but it's hard to see the flame because a gas flame is colorless.

   This is the gas line that feeds the burner through a little door on the side..

Mother & Daughter
     We all took turns stirring the corn with this enormous paddle thing ... in future pictures you'll be able to see what it looks like in the end.

    We added lye to the water part way through. The lye was to crack the corn's hard outer shell. The black speck in the water are the ends of the kernels which were stripped off by the lye. 

     This is what the contents of the kettle looks like after it's boiled for the allotted time. The liquid that the corn is swimming in has turned thick like maple syrup, but it smells like burn cornmeal.

Don't Burn Yourself!

     Now we wash and wash and WASH the corn until all the lye is gone. The average number of washes is six. but it's really until the water remains clear.
    Recognize these tubs? Yes, these are the same tubs we washed the clothes in.

     Then it's boiled again, longer this time. This time without lye.


    See how the corn has swelled to nearly three times it's size? 

    Now it soaks for two days. The water has to be changed every two hours, which can get tedious I'm sure. After it's done soaking it's canned or frozen and stored for the winter.

 Here are some close ups of how it looks.

    It has a gummy/chewy texture and tastes like cornmeal. I'm eager to try it with gravy.

     Mom is going to use it to make matsza out of it and try making our own corn tortillas. That is going to be yet another adventure! I Love My Life!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Family Favorite: Pumpkin Cake

    Just two days ago, someone requested that I post this recipe. I had some pictures, but not as many pictures as I wanted so I was waiting to post it. However, it will be quite a while before I make pumpkin cake again so if I want to add more photos later then I will.

   This is a great recipe for those who love punkin pie, but don't want to spend all that time making or buying a crust. This cake as three layers, well four if you count the coconut oil. First you mix up the pumpkin cake batter (very similar to pumpkin pie filling) and pour it into your baking dish.

    The second layer is a flour-sugar-baking powder-salt layer that turns flaky in the oven. It's everyone's favorite layer. Sprinkle this on top of the pumpkin layer, but only after you have your nuts cut up and your oil melted because if it sits too long it will sink and harden ... not good.

    Then we cut up our nuts. The recipe calls for pecans, which are scrumptious, but expensive so we use almonds. We've cut them up in the blender before, but I don't mind using a knife.

    This is the third layer.  Sprinkle the chopped nuts onto the flour layer ... but in the picture there's a portion that doesn't have nuts! I know. My youngest sister doesn't like nuts on hers so I don't put nuts on a piece or two because I'm nice like that.

    The last layer is coconut oil dribbled over the entire thing, even the no-nut portion. The recipe calls for butter, but we use coconut oil. This layer helps everything on top to be really crispy and tasty.  After that you bake the cake and wait for a WHOLE HOUR while the whole house fills with the yummiest smells!

    This is where I wish I had more pictures ... you don't even get to see what it looks like inside. Oh well. When I get home from college I'll make this pumpkin cake and take more pictures to add here. 
    But, despite the lack of evidence, this has got to be in my top ten favorite desserts. It's my Dad's all time favorite and he can smell it all the way from his office.

  Pumpkin Layer
     - 3 1/2 cup or 29oz cooked pumpkin
     - 4 eggs
     - 1 can or 12oz of milk
     - 1 1/2 tsp salt
     - 1 tsp cinnamon
     - 3/4 cup sugar

  Flour Layer
     - 2 1/2 cups flour
     - 1 cup sugar
     - 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
     - 1 tsp salt
  Other Layers
     -  1/4 cup melted butter/coconut oil
     - 1-1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts/almonds/pecans

    Mix the pumpkin layer together until smooth before pouring into a 9x11 baking pan. In a separate bowl mix the flour layer together but do not spread on top of the pumpkin layer until the butter/coconut oil is melted, the nuts are chopped, and the oven is preheated.
    Spread flour mixture evenly over the pumpkin layer, sprinkle nuts over top of both layers, and pour the butter/coconut oil over all three layers. Bake at 350 for an hour.
    Serving straight out of the oven may result in burns so let it stand and cool for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy every bite!