Friday, July 27, 2012

Daring Bakers' Project for July - Crackers

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers' Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

My first attempt was a simple, homemade Ritz cracker. I found the recipe at the Cupcake Project. These crackers didn't quite have the flakey texture of store-bought Ritz, but they won Dan's aproval. I liked them best, myself, topped with a bit of peanut butter.

The second batch of crackers I made were called Health Crackers. The recipe for these tasty crisps was provided by our Daring Baker host, Dana, and I've copied it below the photos. In my opinion these crackers were better than the Ritz ones, maybe because I topped them with one of my "faves" . . . sesame seeds . . . and some Kosher salt. They were especially good with a thin slice of cheddar. 

Health Crackers (Roll these by hand):

Servings: Approximately 80 crackers


3 cups (720 ml) (240 gm)(8½ oz) rolled oats
2 cups (480 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup (240 ml) (80 gm) (2¾ oz) wheat germ
3 tablespoons (45 ml) (40 gm)(1½ oz) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
¾ cup (180 ml) vegetable oil
1 cup (240 ml) water
1 large egg white
Cracker topping:
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, nigella (onion) seeds, salt
Salt sprinkling


1. Mix the oats, flour, wheat germ sugar and salt together in a large bowl or bowl for the standup mixer.
2. Combine the water and oil and stir into the oat mixture until it comes together and a dough forms.
3. Form dough into a disk and allow to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes but up to a day if you are making the ahead.
4. Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3.
5. Divide the dough into quarters and work with one piece at a time, allowing the remaining pieces to stay in the fridge as you proceed with rolling out the crackers.
6. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/16 inch (1½ mm) thick and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet by carefully wrapping the dough around the rolling pin.
7. Brush the dough with the egg white mixed briefly with a tablespoon of water and sprinkle with seeds and salt of your choice.
8. Cut the dough with a pizza wheel and bake for 25-30 minutes until browned. Crackers that are not crispy once cooled may be returned to the oven.
9. Store in an airtight container and eat within two weeks

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

So Why Have I Been Hanging Out in Cemeteries?

It's a new volunteer effort that I'm trying out, with an organization known as Find a Grave.'s mission is to create an on-line database of burial plots around the world, through the work of volunteers. It currently holds 83 million memorial records. Many of those records simply include the name, dates of birth and death, and the name and location of the cemetery. I have volunteered to be a photo volunteer. Some photo volunteers actually take on an entire cemetery, and create a record with a photo for every grave. Others, like myself, respond to requests for headstone photos, coming from family, friends, or those interested in locating graves of their ancestors.

When I read some of the touching stories of folks who were so grateful to have a visual record of their ancestor or loved one's final resting place, I thought, "That's something I could do!"

I started last week. So far I have responded to three requests. Two of those I have completed, and I'm still searching for the third.

I enjoy my excursions. Yesterday, for instance, I drove about six miles out of town to a very old country cemetery. It was peaceful and quiet; the birds were singing; there were beautiful old trees; and some of the inscriptions on the stones were fascinating. It was really rewarding to locate the stone for which I was searching. After posting the photo to, I got a very nice thank you email back from the requester.

A nice side-benefit: It gets me outside for a little exercise.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Visit with Angels

I walked around the Hillcrest Cemetery, here in Temple, today and enjoyed photographing some of the beautiful angel statuary. I'll explain in my next post why I was at the cemetery.

This one was my favorite. Doesn't he have a sweet little face?

Not really angels, but this little boy and little girl caught my eye. Not sure why anyone would leave an 8-ball in the bowl.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

To the Rodeo!

After the 4th of July festivities, in Spring, we brought Clara home with us for a few days. We came home on Thursday, and that evening went to a big rodeo at the Bell Co. Expo Center. Friends of ours from church, Robert and Susan, gave us reserved front row tickets! Robert works at a bank, and gets complimentary tickets, because the bank is one of the rodeo sponsors. Robert also provided tickets for the church youth group. Before the rodeo started, we joined up with the teens and some of their parents for a hot dog dinner at Robert and Susan's house. Clara enjoyed getting to know some of the girls.

The show was three hours long, and that was a tad bit too long for a tired, squirmy little girl, who had already had a couple days of 4th of July activities. Clara told me she liked the horses, but didn't like the bulls. She especially loved the pretty girls doing trick horseback riding. They really were phenomenal, but I think that it was the glitter on the rumps of the horses that actually impressed Clara most.

I took pictures, but they didn't turn out good. I kept looking at the results on my 3" LCD screen, and thought they were fine, but when I got home and loaded them onto the computer, I discovered that they were all pretty blurry. I should have used a much faster shutter speed. Next time I'll know better, although I may never have such a good opportunity again. Those seats were fantastic. We were close enough to reach out and touch some of the horses, from our seats (but we didn't). And close enough to get dirt (and glitter) thrown into our faces. Here are a few blurry images which, at least, show some of the action.

Friday, July 6, 2012


Ever since Clara was a newborn, Chris has taken her to "Daddy-Daughter Breakfast" on Saturday mornings. After breakfast they go to Jill's Books, where Clara gets to pick out a used book to take home. Jill has befriended the family, and she was the reason we got such an outstanding spot from which to watch the fireworks. She reserved a couple of her store parking spots for Chris & Co. Those parking spots are directly across from the spot where The Woodlands launches their fireworks. Thank you Jill for helping to make our 4th of July so special.

Here's our crew minus me and Robert:

Robert preferred watching the fireworks from the safety of his car. As you can see, he kept his hands over his ears or hovering nearby, out of respect for those big booms.

And here are a few shots. It was a magnificent display that lasted an hour or so.

Happy Fourth of July!

Dan and I drove over to Spring on the third. Our plans were to go, with Chris, Kelsey and the kids, to a patriotic outdoor concert that evening, but dark clouds and thunder changed our plans. Instead we went to dinner at a great little deli, where Clara had fun in the old-fashioned photo booth. She did two sessions; one with Daddy and one with Mommy.

The next morning - the Fourth - started early. We were on our way to The Woodlands for the parade by around 7:00 a.m. That got us there early enough to get a nearby parking place, and to set up "camp" at a perfect spot along the parade route.

We ate our breakfast there, while we waited for the start of the festivities.

After awhile some street performers arrived, which helped keep us entertained until the beginning of the parade. Clara got a glittery star stamped onto her sweet face.

And both children got balloon animals -- a ladybug for Clara and a giraffe for Robert.

All sorts of people (and superheroes) showed up!

The kids got a little weary with waiting for the parade to begin.

But, FINALLY, it started, with marching bands, horses, floats, boy scouts, girl scouts and tributes to the military. It was a first-class celebration of America's independence.

After the parade we went back to Chris and Kelsey's place for a little lunch, and then we all took afternoon naps. Aaaah!

Late that afternoon Chris threw burgers and brats onto the grill and friends came over to share a backyard meal. 

Robert had the right idea for cooling off.

A Fourth of July celebration wouldn't be a proper celebration without fireworks, so I'll post my fireworks pictures in the next post.