Tuesday, January 31, 2012

For You, Jane

Because she thought she spotted a deer antler on my kitchen counter in one of the pictures in this morning's post, Jane at Hard Work Homestead wondered if the picture of the deer I took first thing this morning was quickly followed by me trading camera for gun and viola, deer antler on the counter and venison in the freezer.

What you saw, Jane, was a unique bottle opener Papa Pea got for Christmas from our very creative and talented carpenter and good friend, B!

I don't know how B did it, but the antler fits your hand very comfortably enabling one to open bottle after bottle of beer with very little fatigue.

I hadn't even realized the antler opener was in the picture this morning. Guess it just goes to prove you can't put anything past Ms. Jane!

I Appreciate . . .

Caring, sharing neighbors who would (quite literally) give you the shirt off their back.

My new kitchen cabinets that are so ample and convenient.

Good health. Amen.

Living in an area where there is still an abundance of nature's beauty.

A full pantry at the end of January.

The luxury of having the time to experiment with a new cookie recipe.

The fact that no matter what happened yesterday, today is a new beginning.

Indoor plumbing. (This may not resonate with those who have not lived without indoor plumbing. I have, and I am VERY appreciative of having it.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hooray, Hook Information!

I was going to wait to include this information in the next installment of the crocheted rag rug tutorial, but thought some of you might be able to benefit from it before then.

A few minutes ago I got the nicest e-mail from one of my readers who had information on the size and availability of the honkin', big gray hook I've used for my rugs.

Tina (thank you, thank you, thank you, Tina) said the hook is a Size "P" and in her area of the country it is sold in Wal-Mart stores in a dual package with an even larger blue hook, labeled Size "Q".

So for all of you eager rug makers that might be a place to check first if that source is available to you.

That's all for now. This Monday morning is bringing us some much needed snowfall, but only about 2" so far. Now at 11 o'clock it seems to have stopped but the air still feels very heavy and looks gray so if we keep our fingers crossed we might get some more yet today.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Crocheted Rag Rug Tutorial: Part One

In the construction of the two rag rugs I've crocheted, I've used 100% cotton fabric. You can use any fabric of your choice. I'm guessing denim or wool or a wool blend would be more difficult to work with. Jersey or some such softer fabric, like that from t-shirts, would be easier to work with than the 100% cotton. Old sheets would be a good choice as they'd be soft and pliable plus you'd get a lot of mileage (strips) out of them.

The crochet hook I use (in the center of above picture) is a big one. It measures 3/8" in diameter, but has no marking on it as to what regulation size it might be. In the picture, you can see how big it is in comparison to the size of a standard pencil and also as compared to a Size K hook which is the largest one in my set of crochet hooks. I haven't checked it out myself but I'm wondering if a giant hook of this size would be readily available at one of the large fabric or craft stores.

The strips of fabric I use are cut 1-1/2" wide. You can make these strips by marking your fabric with a pencil or pen and then cutting with scissors but using an acrylic ruler, rotary cutter and mat make the job much, much easier and quicker. And you are going to be cutting a LOT of strips.

You can cut your strips from the width of your fabric (usually 42" to 44" wide) or you can cut the strips parallel to the selvage of the fabric. That way if you have a piece of fabric 2 yards long, your strip will be 72" long compared to 40-some inches long. Since you will need to join your strips together, the longer strips mean less piecing.

I join my strips with a 1/4" seam on the sewing machine. This could easily be done by hand using thread and needle but is much faster using a machine.

I've found the strips of fabric are easier to crochet with if I take the time to iron them in half before using.

The above picture possibly shows how the strips are folded and ironed better than the previous one.

You can "fold as you go" when you're crocheting, but I prefer to iron them first.

If you're making a scrappy looking rug (as my demonstration rug will be) it doesn't matter how long the strips of each fabric and color are. If you have a definite color scheme in mind, you'll need enough of one fabric to complete the number of rounds (which will make the width or band of color) desired. It's amazing how fast a strip of fabric will be used up with this crocheting method (big "yarn" and big hook) so don't hesitate to make long chains of fabric.

If you have crocheted before, making one of these rugs will be easy. Only two stitches are required: a chain stitch to start your foundation row and a single crochet for the body of the rug. At the very beginning, a slip knot will be used and your last finishing stitch will be a slip stitch, both very simple.

For those of you who have never crocheted, I think the best way to learn the two stitches would be to watch a YouTube demonstration or check out a book on learning to crochet at your local library showing these simple stitches.

The actual crocheting of the rugs goes very fast. Preparing all the strips . . . not so fast. For this rug, I decided to spend some time today getting a whole bunch of strips ready.

In the next installment of this tutorial, I'll show you how to begin by making the foundation row and then we'll do a few rounds on the start of our oval rag rug.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I Double Dog Dare Ya!

Last Thursday, Susan at e-i-e-i-omg infected us (her words) with a wild and crazy scheme. She gave us the opportunity to participate in the Hand Made Pay It Forward 2012 challenge.

She had already joined and wanted us to get in on the fun. So just what is the fun? Well, she pledged to send something she makes with her own two little hands to each of the first 5 commenters on her post. (This must be done by the end of this year, 2012.)

The little bitty teeny tiny slight catch (but definitely part of the fun) is that each of the five commenters (and lucky recipients of Susan's talent) has to offer the same deal on her/his blog.

Sounded good to me! I willingly (well, let's face it, I just could not resist) jumped in with both feet 'cause it would give me an excuse to do more handwork . . . something I enjoy immensely but something that too often gets pushed aside in favor of toilet cleaning or some such unavoidable task.

So here I am in turn offering you, my dear readers, a chance to join the merriment. I promise to send a hand made something to each of the first five commenters to this post. And then you promise to continue by offering the Hand Made Pay It Forward 2012 challenge on your blog.

The item you make can be anything of your choice, simple or complicated, big or small, just so it's hand made. And since this is only the end of January, you have eleven more months to fulfill your promise. Knit a pair of mittens? Send a jar of home made jam from your garden? A photograph you took? A poem you wrote? A little jar of powdered garlic from your crop? A quilted pot holder? A crocheted head band? A batch of star shaped cookies for 4th of July? Your options are endless.

So come on, go for it. I dare ya . . . be one of my first five commenters and I'll start thinking about what I can make for you!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Crocheted Rag Rug #2 - Finished

I woke early this morning and couldn't fall back asleep so I got up and used the time to finish the rug I've been working on.

I was shooting for a finished size of 2' x 3'. Final measurement: 23" x 35". Close enough, I say.

I made it to go at the bottom of the stairs going up to Papa Pea's office. (Wanna guess how many trips he made up and down before he noticed it?) I'm happy with the way it looks there. It may look even better when the permanent flooring gets laid over the plywood the rug is on now.

Okay. Now on to Crocheted Rag Rug #3, The Tutorial, coming up!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Have Ya Ever Noticed . . .

There's a word or term for it, but I don't know what it is.

For instance, have you ever noticed:

- when you finally get around to doing some serious sorting out, whether it be of old clothing or kitchen utensils or books, and give away an item that you haven't used in y-e-a-r-s, within the next few days you have a desperate need of that particular item and wish to high heaven you hadn't given it away?

Have you ever noticed:

- when you have a particularly witty or intelligent or useful comment to leave on someone's blog post, it's a blog that Blogger won't let you comment on?

Have you ever noticed:

- when you loan out a piece of equipment or tool that you use only perhaps twice a year, the next day there is an immediate need for that very same tool . . . but, of course, it's at a friend's house 20 miles away?

Have you ever noticed:

- when you have a cut or crack or scrape or burn on one of your fingers, it's inevitable you bang, hit or otherwise re-injure that same spot on your finger six or seven times a day?

Anyone have some of your own to add to the list?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Planning the Garden for 2012

There are no doubt lots of other things I could/should be putting my time on these last days of January rather than garden planning. I mean it's still more than two months until I can even think of starting seeds inside. But because I didn't garden last year (ask me if I'm eager to get my hands back in the dirt this year), and because of all those luscious seed catalogs piled on my desk, I just can't stop myself. The official Garden Planning Book (ratty, old 3-ring binder) has come out and I'm plotting out the raised beds, field garden and pumpkin patch.

We've got twenty-six 4 x 8' raised beds, a field garden (part of it shown above) approximately 35 x 45' and a plot I plant to pumpkins and/or squash that is 14 x 23'.

Certain crops lend themselves more to the raised beds, others to the open plots of ground.

In my raised beds, the soil is very good which enables me to plant intensively. This also makes the beds easy to maintain because very few weeds grow in between the veggies.

I have cold frames that fit on top of the raised beds which enable me to start some things much earlier than I would be able to without the added frost protection of the cold frames. Our summers are (usually) cooler than needed for tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers so I leave the cold frames (with tops open during the day) on these veggies through the summer and into fall to extend our short, short growing season.

So, the crops that will go in the raised beds this year are:

- cherry tomatoes
- beets

- storage onions
- scallions
- salad greens

- Swiss chard
- radishes

-sweet peppers
- carrots
- spinach
- lettuce
- slicing cucumbers
- lemon cucumbers
- broccoli

In the field garden I'll plant:

- shell peas

- bush beans

- potatoes
- pickling cucumbers
- dill
- cabbage
- full sized tomatoes
- sweet corn

- red kuri squash

That leaves the pumpkin patch for:

- small pie pumpkins
- large jack-o-lantern pumpkins

I haven't planted full sized tomatoes or sweet corn in a couple/few years but last summer was so warm I decided to give them a try again. I just hope I don't jinx all hopes of us having a nice, hot summer this year by my planting of corn and tomatoes! I'll still have to give them some protection, probably hot caps over the corn early on and some kind of plastic cages for the tomatoes.

That's the start of planning for my 2012 garden. Now to go through my stash of seeds and see if I need to order more of anything.

I hope this post wasn't boring as all-get-out for you, dear readers. It sure did help me start thinking about this year's gardening. The colorful pictures gave me a boost in this kinda drab time of year, too.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rug Is A'growin'

My crocheted rag rug is about 20" x 32" now and I think I'm going to add only two more color bands to it.

I'm already eager to start another rug which I think is really going to be very multicolored without much rhyme or reason to the color scheme. Most of the reason I want to start another one right away is to use it for a tutorial to post for those of you who asked for some instruction on how to make your own.

This present rug seems to be going a lot faster than the first one I made. Hmmm. Must mean I'm actively working on it more, huh? (What a masterfully deductive mind.)

Got a lot of little putzy things done today that have been on my list for a long time. That always feels good. Still many things remaining on the list, but I'm working very hard on appreciating those tasks I do get done. Because I'm coming to realize I will never reach the end of my list, I'm trying to enjoy the every day journey more than I have (had the sense to do) in the past.

Some wise person once said, "You can never have a happy ending to an unhappy journey." Plus, if you're emitting bad vibrations all the time, I suspect they will bounce right back attcha and keep you from ever getting just where you want to be.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tour Of Tiny Room (It Won't Take Long)

Here's the tour of our living room to-be I promised you last night.

The door to the kitchen is on the far left of this picture. The south facing side of the living room has two big windows. This is mainly of the left one.

Going around the room clockwise, this is the right hand south window and end of the couch on the west stairway wall.

The couch and Papa Pea's current chair so positioned so he can be close to the open fire at night and toast his tootsies. (Note box of old files he's slogging his way through at night.)

Papa Pea's chair again and the north wall of the living room. The wall paneling is photographing strangely. It looks pale and freckled.

Next you can see the wood stove and the storage unit taken out of the old kitchen/living room area. This will go up into hubby's office and we'll build a similar unit with sides that will go from floor to ceiling. It will have a wood box on the left bottom with drawers for storage on the right. The floor to ceiling side on the left will be covered with fire-proof material as will the walls behind the wood stove, probably Z-Brick. The top of the cabinet part of the unit will hold a new, moderately sized flat screen TV for DVD watching and Mama Pea will celebrate when the very old, very large, clunky cabinet, small screen TV leaves the bedroom. Shelves for books will go above the TV. The door to the right leads into the kitchen.

That's the 25¢ tour. Hope you can get some idea of what the room looks like. There's too much furniture squished in there and not of the style I want but it's a place for us to park our buttinskis of a winter evening for right now.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Playing With Furniture

Made a list this morning that I thought was very reasonable and do-able. This was it:

- trim fingernails
- clean kitchen counters
- go through catalogs on desk
- hem Papa Pea's pants
- mend Chicken Mama's pants
- mend my sweats
- switch shower curtain
- make kombucha

It's 6:19 p.m. right now and wanna know what I've checked off that list?

Nuthin'. Not one thing. What happened??

I called a guy who was advertising for a small couch or love seat. Well, we've got two because that was all we could ever fit into our teeny tiny living room area before the remodel. One was in storage and one was in our to-be living room. He said the one we wanted to get rid of didn't sound like what he was looking for but would call us later if he decided to come look at it.

Well, I kinda figured him taking the couch was a no-go but got a bee in my bonnet that we really should get rid of that couch so wanted to get the couch in storage into the to-be living room and the one in the to-be living room (that I decided to get rid of) out to storage where it would be easier to load into someone's truck when we found a taker. (Still with me?)

To make this exchange, we had to take off two doors (one inside door and one outside door) and muscle one couch out and the other couch in.

This is the couch we are keeping . . . for now.

Once we got the couch I wanted to keep in, I wanted to see if I could find a better furniture arrangement in our small to-be living room. I coerced hubby into helping me and tried out four (4!) different arrangements before finally going back to the original one because that was the only one that worked . . . even marginally. Don't get me wrong, it's not a good arrangement, but better than the others. Ugh.

When we get the living room finished this spring, I'm going shopping for new furniture. It will have to be just the right pieces because of the small size of the room and I'm determined to have a place for at least six people to sit in there comfortably. (I realize this may be Mission Impossible.)

This post (as most of mine are) is getting too long tonight but tomorrow I'll post pictures of what the living room looks like now (after all my unprofitable shuffling around today).

Hope you all had a good weekend. Our temperature has gone back up into a moderate range, a high in the upper 20s today. Good thing, too, since we spent a while with one outside door completely off!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Building Strong Fingers And Wrists

I'm making another crocheted rag rug like the one I made a year ago.

This is the first one I made and it has held up to lots of wear and tear and washings with no problem at all. Here it's pictured on the (still) plywood floor of our to-be living room. It's heavy enough to lay nice and flat and yet washes well.

So here's the progress so far on the new one. I'm using more of an assortment of colors to create a rug that will be a little brighter and cheerier in color. I don't have one whole round of the red color on yet and I'm now wondering if I should have added it sooner. Don't worry, I am NOT going to tear any of the work out to add the red in sooner. (What, you think I'm crazy? It's a rag rug, for heaven's sake.) I'm just pushing along hoping it will look better when I get another band of a red added later on.

I'm using strips of fabric that are cut 1-1/2" wide.

I've taken the time to press the strips in half which makes the crocheting go better for me.

A rug like this takes a tremendous amount of fabric and I sure wouldn't go out and buy new fabric for this project . . . because I couldn't afford to! But I have a lot of fabric that was born around the 1980s that I'm glad to use up, so this is turning out to be a good place for the 30 year old fabric. I'm shooting for a size of approximately 2' x 3'. We'll see how close to that I actually come before my right hand fingers and wrist fall off.

As an aside, dear readers, I still can't comment on several of your blogs. I actually think I'm having trouble on more of them than ever. It's so frustrating. I've implemented all the tips and suggestions but the problem is still definitely there. I feel like I'm banging on your comment doors and no one will let me in. So don't think I'm not reading your wonderful posts. I am, but just can't comment. So come on, Blogger, this problem seems to be widespread and has been going on for a while now. Let's get fixed what's broken!

Friday, January 20, 2012

I'll Show You Mine If You'll Show Me Yours

Okay, Sue, you asked to see my junk drawer so here it is.

I think I've done a pretty good job of slimming down what used to be a whole drawer in the kitchen. These days it's just a smallish box in the corner of a big drawer that holds . . .
. . . this.

The bulk of the stuff that would normally be in a real junk drawer is in the picture below.

This floor to ceiling unit holding pull-out baskets is in our entry room, on the left of our outdoor clothes closet.

This basket holds all my important junk including my own set of tools. And, boy-oh-boy, is there heck to pay if "somebody" borrows one of my tools and doesn't return it to this drawer within about ten minutes!

There. Now wasn't that just about the most interesting thing you've seen in ages?

Anybody else wanna get wild and crazy and reveal YOUR junk drawer?

Remembering To Appreciate . . .

. . . sunshine

. . . goals and plans to look forward to

. . . a husband who will eat anything I put in front of him

. . . a source for raw milk products

. . . excellent garden soil

. . . not having to work a job off the homestead

. . . chickens that are laying in this Arctic cold weather

. . . Minnesota-raised granddogs who like being outside on cold, sunny days

. . . enough $$ to purchase garden seeds and plants (within reason!)

. . . our fantastic local library and staff

. . . new glass frames that are so light (Flexon) I forget I have them on

. . . enough kitchen cabinets that I still have one EMPTY drawer!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Are We Still Here?

We had such horrendous winds (again!) last night I feared we might be doing a remake of "The Wizard of Oz."

It was 12 below zero when we got up this morning . . . which was not early, because we were up about three hours in the middle of the night fighting downdraft smoke in the house and 50 mph winds that threatened to batter us to a pulp. I had visions of all trees within sight being blown down. Fortunately, that was not the case once we were up and surveyed the scene.

We had gotten about 1-1/2" of snow when we went to bed but all of that was blown who-knows-where during the night and any open spaces are again scoured clean of snow.

But the day has dawned calm, and very cold with a high of -1 expected, and full of glorious sunshine. The birds at the feeders are zipping around like little maniacs on speed. They must have burned lots of calories trying to keep warm in that wind last night. (Where do they go for the night time hours? Do they just cling to a branch somewhere? And why don't the 50 mph winds tear them right off their perches?)

I guess winter has truly arrived in the North Woods.

The sunshine energizes me one moment, the next I feel like I'm going to fall asleep in my tracks which is no doubt from my abbreviated night's sleep. Maybe I need to follow the birds' example and go ingest more calories in order to make it through the day.

What? You think that's a pretty lame excuse for having a piece of the Raspberry Winter Crumble Pie sitting on the kitchen counter? Okay, you're right. I'll go have a big drink of water instead. (Whoopdeedo.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fresh Air Is Good For You

We bundled up and walked out to get the mail today. (Maybe not the brightest idea.) You see, the temp read 10 above but the wicked wind blowing must have made the wind chill around 90 below. Or near that. At least. But fresh air is good for you, right? Must say I had a few moments when I was wondering if the old, stale, WARM air inside the house wouldn't have been better.

Although it may not look like it, I could see. But I will admit I was having trouble breathing with that scarf wrapped around my face in mummy fashion.

Papa Pea had to take his mitts off to take the picture and was not happy about how instantly his hands became fro-ZEN!

I guess we need to get hardened off . . . fast. This is our first real cold snap of the winter. We've been lulled into complacency by our unusually mild temps up until now.

Please, Mr. Old Man Winter, if you would just bring us a good covering of snow, it wouldn't seem so bad. And if you want to lose that wind for the rest of the cold months that wouldn't be bad either.

It's Hard To Believe . . .

Looking out on our barren landscape this morning when it's 4 degrees above zero and the wind is sending what little snow we have scudding across the frozen ground . . .

. . . it's hard to believe that we're living in the same spot that will look like this in a short few months from now.

But, hey, that's what living in a place where you have a definite change of seasons is all about, right? Right! We chose this area to make our permanent home many years ago, and we've never regretted the decision. I'm not in any way complaining, I'm just saying . . .

Wow, what a contrast!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Long, Slow Winter . . . Where?

Jane at Hard Work Homestead beat me to the punch this morning when she stated in her post that she has yet to notice a slowing down of time in the winter . . . you know, when we're all supposed to have more time and get to read a lot, stay in our jammies all day, watch as many movies as we want, sleep late . . . that sort of thing. Well, padiddlepoo! It seems to me that just the job of living in the winter takes more time than in the summer. At least for those of us who choose to live in the northern part of the country where we get to deal with the harsher side of Mother Nature.

Even though we've had a scarcity of snow this year, Papa Pea has to scamper up to our roof top frequently to clear this one section of snow.

Our garage roof comes into the house roof at a wonky angle and if we don't keep it snow-free, the sun melts the snow and we end up with a nasty ice dam that causes a leak around the skylight in our back entry porch roof.

Then there's the general snow removal to deal with: the driveway, paths to the wood sheds, animal pens, bird feeders, and keeping the deck clear for the dogs' private lounging area on sunny days.

Since we heat with wood, we need to bring the wood from the wood sheds to the wood box on the back porch, and finally into the house and storage by two stoves in the house and one in Papa Pea's workshop area of the garage.

Don't forget the frequent cleaning out of the ashes from same wood stoves.

Unfortunately, we don't yet have space to get all our vehicles under cover so after each snowfall, they all have to be cleaned of snow and sometimes ice.

Care of the critters takes more time and effort in the winter. They're confined most of the time so they make more of a mess in their living quarters. Water freezes and needs to be replaced a couple of times each day. Eggs tend to freeze, too, so more frequent gathering is needed.

Just getting ourselves dressed each and every time to go outside sure takes more time than in the summer when you maybe have to only change footwear before dashing outside.

Then, of course, we use the winter months to try to catch up indoors on all the odd little (okay, some big) jobs that go by the wayside when we spend so many of our waking hours outside in the nice weather.

When you think about it, it's no wonder there doesn't seem to be a lot of extra time to be had on the homestead in the winter. It's amazing we don't wise up and stop thinking there will be.

If you hear of anyone complaining of the long, slow winter who is bored and having difficulty filling their daylight hours, feel free to send them our way.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Italian Bread

A dear reader, Karen L., has been patiently waiting longer than she should have had to for me to post this recipe for Italian Bread. After planning on making the bread for more days than I can tell you, I finally did it today.

This is one of those strange bread recipes that rises in the refrigerator. Why that doesn't give the yeast chilblains and cause it to shrivel up and die, I've never been able to figure out. But I do make a few different breads by this method and I always have good luck in turning out nice looking loaves. ("Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die." Who said that?)

So for you, kind and patient Karen, here is my Italian Bread recipe.


4-1/2 to 5-1/2 cups unsifted white flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 rounded tablespoons dry yeast
1-3/4 cups warm water (120-130 degrees)
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cold water

In a large bowl thoroughly mix 1-1/2 cups of the flour, sugar, salt and the undissolved yeast.

Using a candy thermometer, warm 1-3/4 cups water and the butter until temp on thermometer reaches about 125 degrees.

Gradually add this water mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of a mixer. Add about 3/4 cups more flour and beat at high speed 2 minutes more.

By hand stir in enough additional flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. (Add small amounts of additional flour if needed in order to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. Or the floured surface.)

Cover dough with plastic wrap and then a towel. Let rest 20 minutes. (The dough, not you.)

Next I divide the dough into four equal pieces and form each piece into a small loaf and place on a cookie sheet that has been greased and lightly sprinkled with corn meal. Brush loaves with oil or soft lard.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator.

Uncover dough and let stand at room temp for about 10 minutes. Make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts on top of each loaf with sharp knife.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 18 minutes.

Remove from oven and brush with egg white mixed with cold water. Return to oven and bake 8 to 10 minutes longer until golden brown.

NOTES: One of these loaves made into Garlic Cheese Bread . . .

. . . serves 2 people alongside an entree of spaghetti or lasagna. It's also great combined with a large tossed salad for two fresh from the garden in the summer time. OR it can serve only you if you're home alone, really ravenous and want to sit down and eat a whole loaf washed down with a couple glasses of good red wine. (Big cheesy grin!)

I make my Garlic Cheese Bread by combining minced garlic with butter, spreading the butter on both sides of slices of this bread, grating a combination of mozzarella, cheddar and Parmesan cheese which I push in between each bread slice, and over the top of the loaf. Put in a 425 degree oven until cheese melts and starts to get little golden brown spots on it. See if you can wait to eat it until it cools enough so you don't burn your lips, tongue and roof of your mouth.

(You may notice an absence of cornmeal on my cookie sheet in the pictures. I discovered I was plumb out and was too lazy to get out my grinder and corn to make more. Please forgive me.)

I don't put a pan of water in the oven to get a super-crisp crust on my Italian Bread because I almost always make Garlic Cheese Bread with it and don't need the lovely hard crust I might want if serving it plain. But you certainly could add the pan of water during baking as I'm sure it would help in creating a crustier loaf.

When a recipe says to let rise in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours, I've read that the optimum time to bake your bread is after it's risen for 8 hours. Today I baked the loaves after they had risen for 6 hours and I think they turned out great.

So there you have it, Karen, and anyone else who may be interested. I hope the recipe works for you. (Sincere thanks for your patience, Karen!)