November 22, 2010

Cider Press

On the last weekend of October Mike and I headed north to Sedro Woolley to partake in the 2nd Annual Franklin Apple Pressing.

My sisters and I have many fond childhood memories of heading to Peshastin, WA to press apples at my uncle's house, and a couple of years ago we started talking about how to make that a memory for my nephew too. Last year, by sheer luck, Clayton won an electric apple cider press in a raffle at a county fair.

This press is beautiful, handmade and well-made, and best yet, has an electric motor for grinding the apples (no hand cranking!).

We started by moving 900 lbs of apples from the crate into a water bath.

Not a bad idea to taste-test the apples first - particularly the ones shaped like butts.

For those who've never made cider before, the premise is very simple. Drop apples in the top hopper, turn on the motor (or start hand-cranking), and watch the fragrant pulp drop into the barrel below the hopper. Once that barrel is full, slide it over underneath the press portion. Turn the press crank and cider starts to seep out the bottom. Make sure you have a bucket ready to catch it!

Eating a few bites of apple, then throwing them on the ground for the dog to finish was a popular past-time for the small children. I don't think they'd ever seen so many apples in one place before!

Our bottling operation: After the cider was pressed, it went through a couple of strainers to further eliminate pulp. From there we funneled it into gallon jugs (collected, cleaned and donated by all the participants of the pressing).

An incredible 55 gallons! There were at least 30 people participating in the press, and everybody went home with some cider. Mike and I took three gallons, and at the suggestion of others, stuck them in the freezer when we got home. We just pulled out a gallon to thaw when we felt like cider. Sadly, we're down to our last few drops, but looking forward to the 3rd annual Apple Pressing!

November 18, 2010

Maxwell, the doll

Baby “Sweetcheeks” Maxwell turned 1 earlier this month!

He has grown into such a handsome devil, that when Mama Katie asked that I make him a doll for this birthday, I thought no one better to model it after than Maxwell himself.

For the doppelganger Maxwell doll I used the Benny the Monkey pattern by Beth Doherty as my base pattern (see blue/green monkey below left). Naturally, I dropped the monkey muzzle, eyes and ears. I also shortened the legs, and added my own ears and facial features.

I used cotton worsted weight yarn for the body so was able to needle-felt the eyes and cheeks directly onto the head. Maxwell has a great head of reddish-curls, and his doll follows suit with some lovely angora curls. The overalls are removable and the straps are secured with snaps.

Gotta love those Bobble-toes!

November 14, 2010

Ninkasi-inspired Soft Pretzels

In early October Mike and I went to Eugene for our annual football game, and while there we went to check out the Ninkasi Brewing Company's tasting room.

Ninkasi is one of my favorite breweries, but until recently they didn't have any sort of local retail component. They don't have a full pub, but their tasting room has many of their beers on tap and they do offer some great little snacks; including the best soft pretzel that I've ever had. It took close to 25 minutes to get it, but it was well worth the wait.

As a result of that great pretzel, I became determined to go home and make my own. Alton Brown's recipe on the Food Network was the first recipe I found so I went with it.

I've made the recipe twice so far and have found it to be super easy and yields some very tasty results.


  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt


Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt (or asiago cheese, as shown below).

Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Enjoy plain, or with a variety of mustard. Ninkasi served theirs with the Beaver Honey Mustard, which is now my soft pretzel mustard of choice.

November 11, 2010

Fish Mobile

In early October my cousin, Brendan, and his wife Katrina, became parents to a beautiful little boy, Cohen. It's been many years since our clan had a new edition, and I'm so glad to welcome Cohen into it.

Brendan and Katrina are both advocates and appreciators of nature, and in particular fish. It seemed more than appropriate to make Cohen a little fishy mobile.

I began planning this mobile many months ago when I learned that he was on the way, and my first thoughts were to crochet it. But I started by needle-felting the elf, then decided it was time for a crochet break, and before I knew it, the whole thing was felted.

Everything is needle-felted except for the log/ground that the elf is on. That is a flat sheet of thick wool felt rolled around pipe cleaners. I did needle the edge closed. The hanger is brown yarn, which is also wrapped around a wooden hoop at the top. I glued some leaves to the yarn, which were cut from a thin sheet of flat wool felt. The fish are hanging from crochet thread.

Welcome to the world, Cohen - enjoy the mobile!

November 10, 2010


In late October Papa came to town to give me one of my birthday gifts (from August). This incredibly gracious gift was to remove the horrendous yucca growing in our front yard.

Many people like yucca, and I won't pass judgement upon their plant preferences. However Mike and I cannot stand the stuff. It has dense, thick roots & stalks, it collects garbage from the park next door, grows too high for cars to safely see into the intersection and it is incredibly sharp and pokey. It's also not easy to remove. Apparently a previous owner had attempted to remove it and it all grew back.

Papa brought the tools: power tiller and axe, and at times had to resort to the hatchet. He also had to sharpen all the tools, because, as I mentioned above, that yucca is dense.

After a long day's work, the yucca was gone! Or so it appears. Of course the ground is full of the yucca roots, which would be pointless to dig up since we're bound to miss one. Our plan for now is to attack each new shoot with round-up, or similar, and then hack it down. It may be years before it's ever really gone, but we'll still try to plant something new there in the spring. For now, it's just really pleasant to see the clear dirt patch. Thanks Papa!

November 1, 2010

Ohio: part V

Collection of type

One thing that I was really looking forward to on our recent trip to Ohio was getting to play around with Sara and Bobby's Vandercook letterpress. They create all sorts of awesome things with it for their company Just A Jar Design Press (see some of their wares for sale here), and I wanted to see what it was like. Coming from the computer world, it was a whole new way to work with type, but after I got started it was really fun. One can be very creative with this thing!

Picking out my letters

Set type (Sara and Bobby had to set my type for me)

Getting my printin' clothes on

Sara mixing my ink, trying to achieve just the right color

Applying ink to the rollers

Feeding my paper through the press - stay tuned for a future post on what I made.
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