Monday, October 1, 2018

Another Green Dress

When I made my first green dress, I told you I had a second green one planned from this pattern.  Here it is! It's been finished for weeks, but just not photographed.

This fabric is so delicious.  I got it at a rummage sale for a few dollars.  It's the soft green color of money, with an obvious weft of white thread running through it - looks like linen, but it's soft and light like cotton shirting. 

Also, that border print and striping is so pleasing to my eye, although it gave me fits to lay this dress out and plan and match the stripes.  I had to rip a few seams to get the stripes to line up, and even still, if you look closely, they don't match exactly.

I skipped the shoulder ties and allowed the border print to dictate a longer length.  So this dress feels a little dressier than my green calico.  I put on the scarf and jacket for the cool morning - I was pleased with the dash of red next to the green.  Christmas can't claim all the red and green!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

More Thoughts on Straws

When I made a straw roll-up for my purse, my dear friend Rachel asked me to make her one, too.  And another one for utensils (the red one pictured below).  I had so much fun putting together fun scraps for her! 

And I love that I was inspired to ditch disposable straws by a PTO dad, and then my blog post inspired Rachel.  I think little actions can have wide ripples and little actions are worth doing!

I do not always remember to whip out my straws.  We don't go out to eat very often, so I'm not in the habit the way I am taking reusable bags into any store I'm shopping at.

Sometimes restaurant servers will lay down a handful of straws on the table and then that's easy to push them aside and pull out my reusable straws.  Sometimes the server will bring the waters with the straws already in them, with the paper left on top.  So that's a bummer, because those straws are destined for the trash already, whether we drink through them or not. 

Recently at a restaurant, there was a sign on the table that drinks are served without straws unless you request one.  Now that's a successful approach!  It prompts people to thought and choice.

Monday, September 10, 2018

An Ode to Homegrown Green Beans

Ah, green beans, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.

1.  Easy to grow.  I grow Blue Lake beans, bush variety, and after you soak the seeds and plant them according to the spacing directions on the package, that's it!  No staking, no pruning, no other support needed.  They just grow.

2.  And they grow fast and furious! The seedlings come up quickly, the plants produce and produce and produce as long as I keep picking.  I thank my plants as I pluck off their beans and tell them they can keep making more (if the neighbors are outside, I do this silently; I'm not totally crazy).

3. Their flavor - unlike the flavorless strings at the store or even from some farmers enamored with uniform shape and color - homegrown green beans are buttery, hefty, "beany beans" as my mom calls them.  

4. Green beans are so versatile!  Steam them and then put a little sheen of brown butter on them for a sidedish that goes with anything.  Put a hot bacon dressing on them for main-dish beans. Pickle them (they don't go mushy, like canned cucumber pickles tend to). Treat them with curry flavors.  Treat them with Italian flavors and Parmesan. Blanch them and freeze them for later. 

5.  Because of their versatility and abundance, I got to experience the joy of giving my own garden produce away! That was a rush to this small city gardener.  I actually pickled enough, froze enough, and ate enough to joyfully give away several bags of green beans.

I planted a packet of Blue Lake beans and thanks to the increased sun in our yard this summer, plus the abundant heat and rain, they did amazingly well. In fact, our garden is rather jungle-like with tomato vines sprawling on top of the beans and herbs.  Herbs also do pretty well for me, but if I don't have the bandwidth to start them from seed, they are more pricey.  How did your garden grow this summer?

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Now I Jog

I have always hated, loathed, and despised running.  When we had to run a mile in gym class, I thought I was dying.  I would be near the end of the pack, and I walked every chance I got.  My gym teacher yelled her theory that my long legs were made for running, but no, I am a lumbering-gait kind of tall person, that's all.  Some of my friends ran cross-country. Some of my friends run marathons.  Who runs for fun? It's painful to run!  Why invite pain?

 I confess I kept this mindset until June of this year (sorry, runner-friends! so sorry).
I have three reasons why I started jogging in June (I like to call it bouncing, based on this very inspiring article).

First of all, I am middle-aged (I'd have to do some math to tell you exactly), which means my metabolism has slowed down.  And it was showing.  Hoo boy, I was getting pudgy.  I basically like my clothes, and I didn't want to get new clothes. Jogging has trimmed off some fluff and my clothes fit better now.

Secondly, since having babies, I also have bouts of clinical depression that I manage with self-care (partly chocolate, duh) and antidepressants. I get a little mental-health high from running.  I don't know if it's the same "runner's high" that real runners talk about, but it works to reset my brain, wipe out anxious thoughts, and bring me happily back to my reality.  I'm a much nicer person after a run.

Thirdly, jogging is so efficient, and I do love efficiency.  I can have my heart pounding and the sweat dripping within minutes - much faster than walking or biking, my other reliable forms of exercise. I don't really know how far I'm jogging, but I usually am gone from home about 30 minutes. Then I stretch a little, shower, and drink some extra water, all pleased with myself.

Some jogging bonuses: it's easy to do anywhere with no equipment. I love the wide-open space and big trees in the cemetery where I jog. I get to connect with more friends over jogging.  Sometimes my sister or Genevieve jogs with me, and once I took Phoebe in the jogging stroller.

While I jog, I admire the names on the tombstones going by and find my place, humbly, in the whole gamut of humanity.  I sometimes say the name of a pressing problem over and over again to the sky and that seems to take care of that problem. I sometimes throw little one-sentence prayers at God.  I give myself kind and hopeful messages: my clothes fit nicely now! I love how my strong legs look as they pound down the path! I am doing this for my mood! For my children! For my sweetheart!

At this point, I aim to jog twice a week and do a Pilates DVD at home twice a week.  All free and relatively quick. I've noticed that I have fewer aches and pains, that I can bend down and stand up more easily (no joke as you enter middle age!). I sleep better on the days that I jog.  I may have more energy, but since I've also taken up a second cup of coffee in the afternoon, it's hard to tell.

I've tweaked my diet just a little bit, too.  I really try to be in tune with my hunger because sometimes I get confused by stress, boredom, or thirst. I only eat to being "not hungry" instead of "full." I'm often surprised by how small a portion I actually need, so I try not to mindlessly dish out a portion I would have eaten in my freewheeling thirties, in my nursing days, back before my metabolism shifted. I do not eat anything at all after supper, nothing until breakfast. I haven't cut out desserts, but I have reduced  portions and frequency.

I tell you all this to inspire you.  That you can be trim, healthy, and happy without a lot of money and time.  This is, after all, a blog about thrift.  I bought one pair of running shorts and I need to buy a new pair of sneakers soon. I haven't paid gym or class fees, or set up a home gym; if that's your thing, I'm glad it works for you.

Are you a jogger (or a bouncer, haha)?  Discuss. I'd also take recommendations for Pilates youtube videos that are less than 20 minutes.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Barbecued Chicken

You guys.  I am so overwhelmed by my life right now that I'm treating myself to a few minutes of blog time to cope.  Plus, you need to know that this chicken is delicious and pretty fool-proof and pretty easy.  It's your basic American delicious kind that wants to have all the fresh veggies beside it and some potato salad.  It's not fancy, just satisfyingly good.

I hope you can get some on the grill before grilling season is over.  The overnight brine/marinade is the key to succulent chicken, and the BBQ sauce gets put on at the end of grilling for just enough char.

I see that my sidedish here is coleslaw with wakame (seaweed) in it - a happy discovery from our Maine vacation.  Which, I'm sorry, will have to wait for another post because I need to go wake the napper and pick the big kids up from the pool.  August, you are nuts.

Summer BBQ Chicken

Marinate overnight in the fridge:
3-4 lbs. chicken parts, bone in, skin on
1-2 cups thin yogurt, kefir, or buttermilk
1 Tbsp. salt

At some point, mix up the BBQ sauce in a small saucepan:
1 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. paprika (bonus if it's smoked!)
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne, or to taste, optional

Simmer sauce for 5-8 minutes.  Cool.  Keep in jar in fridge. Enough for 9 lbs. chicken or for other recipes.  (You could probably use commercial BBQ sauce - I don't keep it on hand.)

So, back to the marinating chicken. . .
Thirty minutes before grill time (about 1 hour 10 minutes before you want delicious hot chicken), drain off and discard marinade.  Allow chicken to sit at room temp for 30 minutes.

Preheat grill to 400F.  Sear chicken pieces on each side, about 3-4 minutes a side.
Turn heat to low/med and grill for 30 minutes without flipping or peeking. Turn pieces.  Brush topside with BBQ sauce. Continue to grill for 5 minutes.  Flip pieces.  Brush topsides with BBQ sauce.  Grill 5 more minutes.  Done!

Monday, August 13, 2018


In a suddenly adult moment, I realized that my children were not going to be taught how to type by their schools.  I guess the schools can only focus on state testing? Expect students to use their texting thumbs forever? It was up to me to launch them into the world as typists.  I expect this skill to be useful for at least a few years until whatever new mind-blowing device appears that we can't even imagine yet. I decided it was worth it. 

I scrolled through a few free typing programs and settled on BBC's Dance Mat Typing.  This proved to be too silly for Genevieve, so I let her switch to this program, but the rest of us go around cooing "type on me" in a British accent.

I make Genevieve and Ben work on their typing every day as part of their chores.  They complain about it.  They don't see the need for this skill (please weigh in if you think this a useful skill anymore!). I was hoping they'd be great typists by summer's end, but they're both only about three-quarters of the way through memorizing the keys.  Oh well.  There's always next summer.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

I Made My Perfect Summer Dress

I first saw this pattern courtesy of Zoe, and finally made some time to sew it up.  Boy, am I glad I did! It's pretty easy to make, so comfortable to wear, and flattering on top of all that.  The trifecta!

I used a sprightly vintage calico that I love beyond telling - the deep dark green background feels so cool and foresty, but spicy with all those bright flowers, yet not cutesy which I could never pull off.  I am not cute.

I did add a patch pocket to the front left side - always handy for dropping in keys, rogue clothespins, loose coins, my phone, you know.  Stuff.

I also had to modify the waistband a little bit.  The extra seam allowance is supposed to be enough to form the casing for the elastic, but I had to use a smaller elastic, and then, after two wearings, the stitching pulled through the edge of the casing (I guess I am pretty active in my summer days, what with all the kid and laundry and food wrangling).  So I had to strengthen the casing with some bias tape (the same yellow I used to finish the hem).  I do also have to wear this dress with an x-back bra or else my bra straps show and I'm not that type.

I seriously love this dress.  I am already planning another and it happens to be green as well, which means, I suppose, that I have a crush on green.  I do wish I had some photos of it in action, but thanks to Genevieve for these quick porch photos so I can get back into the blog world with news of a new dress.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

All My Faves Hotpads

My old hotpads were stained with that greasy feel that only partly abates after washing.  Some of the edges were flame-crisped, too (oops).  Time for some new ones! 

I dug through my piece bag and pulled out all my favorite scraps that said "happy kitchen" to me.

Such a good feeling to grab these bright hotpads out of the drawer.  They are my go-to hotpads for size and thickness.  For filler this time, I used one layer of old towel sandwiched inbetween some knit fabric scraps. For me, this is enough heft for heat protection while still allowing give and bending. 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sunday Dinner: Amish, with Red Beet Eggs and Apple Butter

I went all Pennsylvania-Dutch with this Amish Sunday dinner.  I marinated hardboiled eggs in my canned red beet brine, and set out tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, bread, and apple butter.  

I think my husband got out the mayo, too, and made himself a tomato sandwich (looks like he got out the wine, too!).  But we all ate various combinations.  I experimented with cheese and apple butter, and it was wonderful!  Until now, I had used apple butter like a spread on toast, or dolloped on cottage cheese as you find on the food buffets around here. But I now highly recommend that you make some cheese toast and spread some apple butter on top - it's been my breakfast for a few mornings running.

This was the Sunday dinner where I had made a pie, a French fruit tart with blueberries and blackberries. It did not photograph well, nor was it popular with the kids for various reasons.  Humph.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Phoebe's Easter Dress

When was Easter? April? Well, Easter Sunday was pleasantly warm around here and Phoebe actually wore the little outfit that I had fun making her.  And then, Sundays were chilly or we were away or because I rarely stage photo shoots for my blog, it was not until June that I actually got pictures of her to document the outfit.

The pattern is McCall's 8121 (used for Phoebe before) and I added  yellow bias-tape ruffles to the bloomers because how could I not?

 I recall that I was aiming for a little French girl in the spring, but where my inspiration came from is a mystery to me.  So the fabric is a lovely slubby blue cotton - very soft and fine.  The dress is quite plain with striped buttons down the back.  I used black elastic and more bias tape to make a bright headband to go with it.  The flowers are sort-of poppies with their black bias-tape centers.  

On Easter, she wore knee socks - I adore the classic look of little girls in dresses and knee socks.  She also did wear a black cardi on Easter, too. 

But now it's summer! And nobody is thinking about Easter. Phoebe wears her sleeveless dress now with sandals. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Last Straw

I was at a school meeting where a meal was served on styrofoam plates with bottled water and plasticware.  One of the dads casually whipped a reusable fork/knife/spoon set out of his work bag and avoided the plasticware.  I was thrilled. All the plates, plasticware, and water bottles were thrown away as trash, of course (which drives me crazy - our city has an excellent, comprehensive recycling program and has made recycling mandatory!! but enforcement and education lag behind, of course).

However, this dad inspired me to think about how I could replace the plastic trash with reusables when I go out. I have napkin rolls that already make potlucks and picnics easy - I'm going to start carrying them more places.  I've seen Zoe (on Instagram) take her own containers along to restaurants for any food leftovers.  And I have stopped using plastic straws (more education at this website). 

I made this little roll-up of metal straws to keep in my purse.  I bought the set of straws at a local store, and the handy cleaning brush came with them.  I got this set up before a big vacation to Maine (another post for another day!), but I am planning to be straw-free at home, too. 

The other day, Genevieve wanted to make a little project with plastic straws, and I had none whatsoever in the house.  But when I went for a little jog around our neighborhood, I found no less than 4 straws among the rest of the litter and brought them home to sterilize for her to use.

The thought of all those dumb plastic straws out there as litter is maddening. I'm going to try to do my part, and I might even turn into one of those people who decline the straw and then furthermore try to educate the person offering the straw. Might.


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