The Bride Loves Sunflowers: Boutonnieres for an Autumn Wedding

Something simple, understated, perhaps. That's what the bride wanted for the boutonnieres in her autumn wedding. The groom enjoys nature and is basically a simple guy.

The bride showed me a picture of what she had in mind. I looked at it once and then couldn't find it again. As I recall, it had some seedpods, maybe some grain. Well, we knew we wanted to include wheat in the wedding. The bride's grandfather and uncle are farmers who have raised wheat for many years and her aunt gave me a generous supply of stalks. Combining the wheat with the beautiful leaves of the season and adding a sprinkling of  dried centaurea or little orange and golden flowers seemed almost too simple, but bride assured me this was the look she wanted. I finished the boutonniere by wrapping the stems with raffia. The cost was minimal.

Let me mention that we have loved the centaurea and have included it in almost everything, including the bridal and bridesmaids bouquets and some of the corsages. It is natural material, but dyed a brilliant "chili".  It looks like something you would expect to find growing wild on a Kansas prairie, but is actually imported from Italy. We purchased it at Hobby Lobby.

Should you wish to make something similar, I'd be glad to show you how I did it. Let me preface the instructions by telling you that I am not a professional florist, just someone who enjoys playing with flowers. 

Begin by wiring the leaves. I snipped leaves from a bush. These are silk oak leaf bushes purchased at Hobby Lobby. The long narrow oak leaves work better than something short and squat like maple leaves for the shape of this boutonniere. Using a straight pin, I poked a hole in the leaf, threaded the wire through and twisted in down the stem. The wire gives me a longer stem to work with and allows me to move them where I want them.  This is the most time consuming and most tedious part, but you do it first and then you're done with that part. 

Line up your material. I sometime resist being so organized, preferring to pick and choose as I go, but it really does make things go faster and smoother.
Lay two leaves together, slightly overlapping.

Lay three stalks of wheat on top, angling them as desired. Top with little flowers or centuarea. Twist a wire around your grouping at the neck. Twist all the wires around and down the stem.
Snip off the end, leaving about  a 1 1/2 inch stem.

Wind floral tape around the stem, stretching the tape so that it sticks. 

Wrap raffia around the stem, leaving a 6 inch tail as you begin. A drop of hot glue at the bottom of the stem will keep the raffia from slipping off the end (something it is inclined to do). Wrap it loosely back up the stem until you are about even with your tail. Snip the raffia and tie in a double knot. Snip again to even out your tails.

 Your boutonniere is complete. Repeat as necessary.

 Now you're almost ready for a lovely wedding.
Boutonniere on the groom

Sunflowers for the bride, wheat for the groom

Want to read more about our Autumn wedding? Click here.

Parenting Problems

Nestled under some brush, a determined Edna sits on her eggs.
The desire to reproduce runs strong in most animals. Hank and Edna, our resident guinea fowl are no different. Each day during the spring and summer Edna takes time out of her busy day of eating bugs and seeds to lay an egg. It is a light tan color and slightly smaller than a chicken egg. She returns to the same place day after day. The place is of her choosing, not ours and it’s her secret. She looks for an out-of-the-way spot, because she wants to sit on those eggs and hatch them.  Eventually she will have a clutch of fifteen to twenty-five eggs. It will take around four weeks for the eggs to hatch once she is sitting on the nest if all goes well. But for Edna it has never gone well.

A guinea fowl sitting on a nest day after day and night after night is vulnerable. While the male will stay close during the day offering an element of protection, a loud warning if nothing else, when the day becomes dusk, he heads for the roost up in the pine tree. It is a noisy parting. It almost seems that Hank doesn’t want to leave Edna on her nest on the ground, but his instinct to roost in the trees is as strong as hers are to sit on the nest. In the house, her humans are also turning out the lights and crawling into bed leaving her with no real protection from the unknown nightlife in our neighborhood. We can hear coyotes howls on some nights and we know there are raccoons and possums in the area, but we can only guess what is prowling around in the dark of the night.

Edna’s first nest was in the middle of a poison ivy patch in our neighbor’s yard. She was almost impossible to see as she sat immovable among the green vines. We kept a respectful distance, but a predator had no such inhibitions. One night he moved in. Edna was able to escape but the predator destroyed and ate the eggs.  This did not discourage our guinea pair. It only meant that she would locate a new place for her next batch. We make it our business to try to discover just where the next nest is in hopes that we can somehow prevent another disaster or at least save some of the eggs. 

The Bantam hen was a gentle mother to the little guineas.
A nest right next to the neighbor’s shed, but very near our barn, didn’t seem like the best location. Since she left the nest at least once a day, Mike decided to remove a few of the eggs when she was away. There was a bantam hen in the chicken pen that was showing signs that she would like to set on eggs. Since there is no rooster in the chicken pen, it would be an exercise in futility to set on chicken eggs, but she was more than happy to set on the guinea eggs. She settled in on a nest that was placed in a pen in the barn and sat. And sat. Chicken eggs hatch in three weeks, while guinea eggs will take another week. We wondered if she would give up after three weeks. She was persistent and four keets were hatched. She was a dedicated mother, guiding, nudging and teaching her active hatchlings. The fuzzy keets had orange legs and had interesting combination of their parents coloring. At first it appeared that were just like their  Pearl father with spotted gray and black feathers. But no, they also have white feathers on the lower part of their bodies. After a few months, the young guineas were sold to a farmer.

Waiting on a woman
Edna's clutch of eggs in the day lilies
Last summer Edna found a spot to nest right in the middle of the daylilies that border the vegetable garden. As far as locations go, this one wasn’t too bad. Almost completely hidden in the tall green leaves, it seemed quiet and remote. Hank often waited on the fence while Edna laid her daily egg. Still, we knew that odds were not in her favor and after consulting with a knowledgeable poultry expert, we decided to attempt to move her and her eggs to a safer place inside a fence. The recommendation was pretty specific. Sometime when she was off the nest we were suppose to move the eggs and nesting materials into a container. Mike chose a large plastic tub and made the change. Edna settled right back on her nest without a problem. The next step was a little more difficult. In the dark of the night a blanket should be thrown over her and the nest and mama could be relocated. Alas, things do not always go as planned. Especially when the all-important blanket, so vital in any abduction, was neglected. From the house I heard the unmistakable squawk of an unhappy guinea. Then came the report that during the move she had flown away. Once off the nest, she did not return. To make the best of a bad situation, Mike recruited a red hen from the chicken pen. She too, was eager to set on some eggs. And that's just what she did. During the worst of the brutally hot summer, she sat until four little keets were hatched. 

The red hen was a ferocious mother (which makes photography difficult).
The young guineas now share a pen with several young chickens.

The red hen was a ferocious mother. Come too close and she'd peck you. It was hard to even see the keets because when anyone was close to the pen, she would call her babies to the furthest corner. After a few weeks, the young guineas could take care of themselves and so Mike decided to move the hen back with the other chickens in the conjoining pen. But both the hen and the youngsters made such a racket, that Mike, tough guy though he is, returned the red hen to her charges. 

Can you see Edna under the cedar branches?
Tonight, Edna is again on a nest. This time it is under the one of the cedar trees bordering our property. Autumn is here. The weather is getting colder. This cannot possibly have a happy ending. I have a little talk with Edna. "Edna," I say, "Let it go." She is not listening.


Want to read more about Hank and Edna? Click here.
Or here. Or here.

Sausage and Bacon Sourdough Waffles Do Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

Sourdough Waffles and sausage or bacon are a great combination. But don't just serve sausage and bacon beside your waffles when you can have them inside your waffles! Yes, sausage or bacon waffles are a comforting meal at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Topped with fried apples or just a drizzle of syrup, they are a meal you'll want to have again and again.

Like Sourdough Pancakes, Sourdough Waffles begin the evening or about eight hours before you will be serving them. It's nothing complicated, it just means planning ahead. 

Sourdough starter is a white liquid.
2 cups flour
2 cups milk (or water)
1/2 cup sourdough starter

Cover with plastic wrap and let sit a room temperature overnight or for about eight hours.

When the starter mixes with the flour and milk, the bubbles begin.
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons canola oil
3 eggs

Mix together thoroughly. 

Meanwhile,  or perhaps before mixing up the batter, cook 4-12 slices of bacon until done, but not crisp. Drain.

Cook 1/2-1 pound of bulk sausage until no longer pink. Drain. 

The amount of meat you cook will vary according to how many waffles you want of each kind. All sausage? Cook about a pound. All bacon? Twelve slices. A mixture or some just plain? You do the math. If you have leftover cooked meat, pop it into the freezer and use it another time. You don't even have to defrost. I have often sprinkle frozen cooked sausage over a waffle and it works fine.

 Pour batter onto a preheated waffle griddle sprayed with canola oil. My waffle griddle is large and I use about one cup of batter per waffle. On my griddle with this recipe, I get four or five waffles.

Sprinkle batter with crumbled sausage.

Or top with several slices of bacon.

A Sausage Waffle
A Bacon Waffle

Once the waffle is done, you barely tell that what these waffles have inside.

Other possible additions include blueberries and nuts. You may also wish to make some without any additions. Those are yummy, too.
Good to the last bite!
Sourdough Waffles

2 cups flour
2 cups milk (or water)
1/2 cup sourdough starter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons canola oil
3 eggs

Mix flour, milk or water and sourdough starter. Cover and let stand overnight or for about 8 hours. Add sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Beat in eggs. Spread batter on a sprayed griddle. Cook 5-6 minutes until done. Makes about four-six servings.

Source: Rita Davenport's Sourdough Cookery, with some changes

A Birthday Bash in the Breakroom

How are birthdays celebrated at your workplace? At the school where I work we draw names at the beginning of the school year and then bring treats for the birthday person on or around their special day. We bring a nice selection of treats, clear off a corner on the big table in the break room and everyone digs in.  Its a great system, but there's a bit of a "feast or famine" element as there are sometimes weeks between celebrations or as is the case in October, great feasting, as quite a few birthdays are packed one after another in just a few weeks. This was a banner week as I both celebrated my birthday with yummy goodies brought by a dynamic language arts teacher and got to bring treats for one of our outstanding math teachers. Here are some of the things I brought:
 Cereal Mix
12.5 ounce box Rice Chex (sometimes I use Crispex)
12 ounce can salted peanuts,
 2 ounce package dried cranberries (about a cup or more if you like)
16 ounce package Almond Bark candy coating (might not need all of it)

Pour Rice Chex, peanuts and cranberries into a very large bowl or pan. Melt candy coating according to directions. Pour over mixture and stir until coated. Serve when coating has hardened.

Maple Sugar Fruit Dip
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2/3-1 cup brown sugar
2-3 tablespoon real maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Mix together. Give it a few minutes for the sugar to dissolve. Serve at room temperature with apples and pears.

The birthday girl likes chocolate and is partial to Almond Joy candy bars. This is a great recipe that includes both chocolate and coconut as well as a cream cheese topping.

 German Chocolate Coffee Cake
Mix well with an electric mixer:
1 box Swiss or German Chocolate cake mix (I use any chocolate cake mix)
2 eggs, beaten
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup shredded coconut
Spread above into a greased 9X13 pan.

Combine the following and spread over the top of the chocolate mixture:
2 eggs, beaten
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.
Serves about 20. Very rich!
Source: Among Friends with Heart and Soul

Roasted Pepper Dip 

Apples Announce Autumn's Arrival

Perhaps there is no perfect food, but consider the apple. Round and smooth, crisp and juicy, sweet and tart...and it's nutritious!  That's very close to perfection. There are thousands of varieties to choose from and most taste great. A crunchy fresh apple is delicious but so is one that is cooked in a crisp, cake or bread. Cinnamon is apple's comforting companion and together they announce that autumn has arrived!

The scent of apple bread baking is almost worth the effort of making it, but when you taste it, there will be no regrets! Sourdough Oatmeal Apple Bread is loaded with apples and oatmeal gives it a delightful chewy texture. If you're into sourdough, this is a recipe you will want to try. If you don't have sourdough, keep looking because I am also including a recipe for apple crisp.

Sourdough Oatmeal-Apple Loaf

 1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 cup sourdough starter
2/3 cup oatmeal
2 cups shredded apple, with peel
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream together sugar, oil and eggs. Add sourdough starter along with the dry ingredients. Mix well. Fold in apple.  Pour in a well-greased loaf pan and in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes or until done.  I have used my small mini-pans and baked for about 30 minutes. 

Source: Rita Davenport's Sourdough Cookery, some changes made

Apple Crisp reminds me of my mother as it something she often made. The soft spicy apples contrasting with the crispy buttery topping make it one of the ultimate comfort foods. In my book, its as good as pie and much less work.

Apple Crisp
First of all, let me admit that I don't usually measure these first ingredients. There's some flexibility to this part of the recipe.

5-6 cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3/4-1 cup sugar
2-3 tablespoons corn starch 
 1/2-1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix together in an 8X8 pan. 

Next make the crisp topping, which I do measure, mix together in a separate bowl:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup softened butter

I usually use a fork to stir, just until it kind of holds together. It should be crumbly. Sprinkle on top of apple mixture. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Crisp is done when top is browned and apples are soft when tested with a fork. Best served warm and on the day it was made. 
Warm and Wonderful