Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Can't Catch Me. . ."

"I'm the gingerbread man!"

Currently, Ben's favorite book is this story (our version has great shmaltzy pictures by Elfrieda).  And Genevieve's favorite book is Little Mommy by Sharon Kane, in which the little girl bakes "cookies and ginger cake."
As I read bedtime stories one evening this week, I realized I needed to use up or freeze the soured cream in my fridge.  So I took advantage of a cool evening and made gingerbread (from More with Less). 

We ate it with peaches and vanilla ice cream.  I would have preferred plain whipped cream, but alas, the occasion for the gingerbread was the sour cream.  The combination of spicy, earthy gingerbread, vanilla ice cream, and sweet sweet juicy peaches was still fabulous, something to repeat for sure.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Dress Up

Genevieve makes some very creative dress up outfits, completely by herself.

This one uses an old slip, dresser scarf, and chip clip and her adored high heels from a friend.  She looks bridal, but I didn't say that to her.

Here she raided the winter wraps (it was in the 90s outside) . . .

which conveniently allows me to add two more things to the Record.  I made her bonnet using angry chicken's pattern with the colorful flannel on outside and pale blue and white polka dot flannel lining.  She's wearing it with the front brim at her neck, and her face peeping out the neck hole.

I also made knitted her scarf and (it's not well illustrated in the photo) embroidered bright yarn flowers on it.  The flowers were supposed to ease the transition between the two black and white parts where I ran out of yarn.  I'm hoping the scarf is long enough and beloved enough to carry her through childhood.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Frugal Lemons & Limes

I am all for buying local food (see the Dark Days Challenge on the sidebar), but I also embrace the trade routes that bring me olives, spices, and citrus. 

Year round, I keep lemons and limes in the fridge; their flavor is irreplaceable.  Here's how I get the most out of them.
Although citrus fruits keep best in the fridge, they give up their juice better at room temperature.  If you forget to set them out, a quick zap in the microwave is better than nothing.

For maximum citrus flavor, I often add the zest as well as the juice when only the juice is called for in a recipe (the zest is tiny bits of the peel, obtained with a small-size grater or zester; the pith, the spongy white part between the peel and juicy fruit, has less flavor and more bitterness).    I've done this in salads, sauces, puddings, and drinks.
That's my zester with the black handle behind the cutting board. 
In the winter, the final frugal thing I do with citrus before it hits the compost pile is simmer the used-up peels  in some water on the stove with cloves or cinnamon sticks.  Not only is the scent lovely, but I'm adding much-needed humidity to the air.  Hard to imagine that now, in high summer.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why My Lawn is Mostly Weeds

a.  I'm too lazy to figure out a good way to get rid of them.

b.  so I tell myself it's providing imaginative fodder for the children - they harvest different weeds for different plays.

c.  Our yard stays green even when the cultivated grass lawns on either side of us go brown and croaking at the first lack of water.

d.  It's how I get my jollies (as my dad would say), being slightly kooky.  This is my version of socially risky behavior.

e.  And, yes, I'm too lazy to reseed grass and keep the children off while it grows.

Isn't my reel mower nice?  (I did put shoes on to actually mow - I forget why my feet are bare in this photo).  Maybe if I got the mower sharpened every year, my yard would look more tidy when I was done mowing.  But I have different priorities - food and fabric, for starters.

I'm wearing the first skirt I made in my new era (the old era was high school and sewing patterns that always had "1 hour" in the title and turned out hideous).  It's from this book and it's the most basic A-line.
I used a bias tape maker to make the bias tape, which was so narrow it gave me fits at the pockets.  And I had finished the hem with that bias tape, but it looked so bad I just cut it off a year later and put in a shirttail hem. I made it before I got my Bernina, so it's at least 2.5 years old.  It's become my serious or dirty work skirt and now it's on the Record.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Camping Lists

We are back from camping and already I have forgotten the sheer work involved and am thinking mistily of what a good time we had. But what I was thinking during the weekend was: I don't feel like walking to the bathhouse with 20 other women and remembering everything for a shower. . . I wish I had brought jam, a tongs, ziploc bags, my sink, and bacon. . .I want my bed and my pillow. . . just my bed. I really want my bed. . .

But I'm not going to dwell on that, because truly, we had a wonderful time.  The only thing we didn't do from Gyo Fujikawa's poem was swing in a hammock because by the time we got the camp set up and started on the process that was dinner, we didn't feel like hanging up the hammock.

We did follow the menu plan, with the exception of Saturday when my mother came to our site (she was lonely for her grandbabies) and yearned so seriously for a hot dog over the fire that we left the hummus in the ice chest and went to the camp store. My mother bought average hot dogs at the camp store for $4.50 a pound. I had bought locally grown & made organic sausage the day before for $5.50 a pound.

I don't usually have the opportunity or memory to compare prices so directly, so I was reminded again what a high price convenience and lack of planning really does have. And I resolved that next time we went camping, I would be sure to bring all the traditional camp foods that we hunger for.

Notes for Future Camping
1. put food in plastic lidded tub, a portable pantry, instead of all over the front seat of the car
2. tea kettle for campfire
3. longer clothesline
4. big mat in front of tent door
5. get/borrow ice chest with a drain plug
6.  tongs, ziploc bags
7.  sleeping bags for kids

Things To Repeat for Future Camping

1. matches, newspaper in coffee can to keep dry
2. self-inflating sleeping mats
3. 2 dishpans and a bucket
4.  the menu (plus bacon and hot dogs)
5.  tinfoil, clothespins in leftover container
6.  book light

Corn on the Cob Over the Fire
1. Strip a few top layers of husk off the ears of corn - you don't want to see/feel the kernels through what's left on the ear.  Lay the ears of corn in buckets or dishpans of water and soak for up to an hour.
2. Turn your gas grill on low or prepare a bed of coals.
3.  Line a grill with foil over a campfire and lay the wet ears of corn on in a single layer (I don't use foil at home on the gas grill). 
4.  Occasionally dribble more water over the corn and turn so that all sides are exposed to the heat source.  The corn is steaming inside its husk, so it needs to stay damp.
5.  Check in 45-60 minutes.  The husk imparts wonderful flavor, but the coveted part of the corn is where it has turned amber brown. Even better, however, is if you have a layer of burlap over the corn.

We set our small children up to the bench of the picnic table on their little chairs. It works beautifully, better than this photo shows (where is Ben's plate?).

This is a design note to myself of the gorgeous combination
of the grey sheet with rosebuds against the plaid sleeping bag. 

Friday, July 23, 2010


Summertime - Gyo Fujikawa in Oh, What a Busy Day!

Rock in a hammock
Go on a hike
Dunk in a pool.
Have a picnic.
Sleep in a tent.

We're hoping to accomplish all of that this weekend when we're tent camping.

The food plan, from the master list on my beloved clipboard:

corn on the cob over the fire
mountain pies with caprese salad inside

coffee, milk

hummus, bread
tomatoes, cukes
Monster cookies

sausage sandwiches
green beans

fruit & yogurt

hummus, bread,
caprese salad

We're going camping because the children will love it so much.  It's also a super-thrifty vacation: we're camping for $68 this weekend and borrowing all the gear from friends at church, thanks to our church's sharing list.  I'll be back next week, after I crawl out from the pile of laundry!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hitty's Coral Beads

". . .whatever caught Poebe Preble's fancy sooner or later managed to find its way inter her hands or her father's pockets.  She soon had strings of silver and coral and little twinkling shells.  There was even a string for me, of round red coral. . ." Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field

On a recent rainy day, I reread Hitty and fulfilled a girlhood wish to have coral beads.  Of course, I don't think these beads are coral, but they answer for the picture in my mind.  I've had the supplies for months, but I think the whole necklace cost something under $10, thanks to a coupon.

What's your favorite part in Hitty?  If you haven't read it, you've got a treat ahead!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Local Garlic

All through last winter, especially as I cooked for the Dark Days Challenge (see category on the sidebar), I complained and complained of not finding any local garlic.  It's entirely growable in our area.

My friend Rachel suddenly bought a half bushel!  Friends of hers grew it, and she generously shared half with me.  She repeated the storage instructions:  cool and dark.  I packed the garlic bulbs between newspaper in a cardboard box and set it next to the floor on my pantry shelves.  Did I do right?  Is there a better way to store garlic in my city house?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chocolate and Lime

A new chocolate twill skirt, seen here after a hard day of church, family reunions, and playing in the park.

Pattern, from Mrs. R., is a mock wrap skirt with a nice big pocket. Vintage button.  I topstitched in tan all over it.

It fills a hole in my wardrobe left by the first brown twill skirt I made, using my mother's old 1970s Singer which frustrated my efforts at every turn. I was a very new sewer, and two weeks ago, suddenly realized how badly it showed in that skirt (uneven hem, chewed up topstitching, crooked zipper) and dropped it in the trash. I know: I have lost the right to say I'm thrifty (and shortly after the trashcan incident, I sat straight up in bed and realized I had forgotten to take out the perfectly reusable zipper!).

Lemonade Sirup (from Joy of Cooking, 1953) - made with limes, a 10-for-$2-deal at the grocery store
Boil for 5 minutes:
2 c. sugar
1 c. water
Rind of 2-3 limes (I shaved it off with my vegetable peeler)
1/8 tsp. salt

Cool.  Strain.  Add the juice of 6 limes; you can strain that as well, but I like the pulp.  Drop a lime slice in for pretty.  Store in fridge. 

To make a glass of limeade, add 2-3 Tbs. to a tall glass of ice water or "charged water" (seltzer). 

Perfect with Sunday evening popcorn.  Pretty against a summer skirt.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Canning Beets, with Brownies

Last week, I canned pickled beets, a delicious pickle that brightens winter meals for many Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish (recipe in Simply in Season; or say the word and I'll print it here).  I told the farmer I wanted two gallons of beets;  he charged me a measly $6 for what turned out to be three gallons of local, organic beets.  I put my children down for their quiet times and tied my apron on with grim purpose.

First I had to cook those softball-sized beets for an hour until they were tender:  a vat of boiling beets heating up my house!  The boiling canner was next.

I whisked the hot jars of beets outside to get as much heat out of my house as possible - you know, like the pie cooling on the back porch that the kids like to steal.

I rewarded myself with a brownie, straight from the freezer, and an ice cold glass of milk.  Plus a cold shower and fresh clothes.  Then the children woke up and we took a picnic supper to the park.

Frosted Zucchini Brownies
from Country Home Cooking by Marjorie Rohrer

Combine in large bowl:
1 c. WW pastry flour
1 c. white flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Combine separately:
2 c. shredded zucchini
1 1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. oil
1/2 c. chopped nuts
2 tsp. vanilla

Add the wettish stuff to the dry.  Mix well.  Spread in greased and floured 9x13 and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

For the frosting, bring to a boil over medium heat:
3 Tbs. butter
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. milk

Boil and stir for one minute.  Off the heat, add:
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. mini marshmallows (or ripped/chopped big ones, which is what I had to do)

Spread this glop over the brownies.  They're easiest to cut after the frosting has dried and hardened somewhat.

The unbaked brownies just look strange.  And I want to go on record as being anti-hiding-vegetables-in-food; I was happily surprised with how successfully the zucchini replaced the eggs in this recipe.  And according to this post, zucchini adds fiber too. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Our Favorite Summer Salad

Caprese salad.

 Pretty.  Simple.  Fantastically delicious.  Goes with any summer meal, even breakfast buttered toast.

This is the method I came across years ago.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thoughts on Hand Quilting

(no new pics of the quilt to show - just a fun beach cottage photo)

1.  It's soooooo sloooooow.  I'm not sure this quilt will be finished this summer.

2.  It hurts!  An experienced quilter told me I will simply develop callouses on my finger and thumb where the needle pricks over and over.  I remember my late grandmother with a piece of tape on her poor quilting thumb and now I wish I could ask her about that.

3.  Practice does make perfect.  My beginning stitches are big and awkward; a few hours later, now my stitches are even and tiny.

4.  Hand quilting is wonderful handwork, if a bit bulky to carry around the quilt.  It's way more fun than knitting, in my opinion, and easy to look around (watch a movie, make eye contact with someone while talking, look out the window while riding in a car).

5.  If I hand quilt a whole quilt again, I want to experiment with using thicker thread, a bigger needle, and bigger stitches; I want all that laborious quilting to show up!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Raw Beets

Don't gross out!  I'm not talking about some strange cleansing diet or vegan delight.  Think, instead, of making  a salad with raw grated carrots. As my husband said recently to a visiting friend, it's not the Harvard beets of our childhood, in their cornstarchy sweet sauce.  And did you know, just like carrots or potatoes, peeling beets is optional?
The other evening we ate beet salad with grilled eggplant obsession and toasted bread and cheese.  As for the eggplant obsession, who cares about the eggplant:  I was eating the tahini sauce straight and brainstorming what else I could put it on.

Raw Beet Salad (from my friend Rebecca, from the Farmer John Cookbook)

Make the dressing by shaking together in a lidded jar:
1/2 c. olive oil
3 Tbs. vinegar (white wine or something mild)
1 tsp. Dijon or brown mustard
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
salt, pepper

Pour over 4 medium beets, coarsely grated.  Marinate for at least an hour.

I would not attempt to make this salad if I didn't have fresh dill; luckily, I got some volunteers in my flowerbed this year (and apparently every year hereafter, people tell me).

Updated Jan. 2011:  I made this salad using dill pickles and some stray capers.  It was good, but not as great as fresh dill.  Still, a nice change from all the cooked roots around here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Haircut at Home

Ben is a good hair-grower. So every few weeks, I sit him down and trim around the edges.  This time, we went outside.

First, I dampen his hair.

 I did look at a few library books on cutting children's hair and I usually pay attention on my yearly trip to the salon, but otherwise, I am learning experientially here.

If children's haircuts are $10, I figure I justified the cost of my $20 scissors and $3 cape months ago. If I ever feel like expanding my skills or changing Ben's haircut, my friend down the street has a clippers with attachments.  For now, Ben's hair is styled after his daddy's, who had a 1970s blonde mop when he was little.

I enjoyed sewing this fabric roll with pockets to hold all my haircutting equipment.  All I have to do is grab the boy, the spray bottle, and the roll.

(thanks to my husband for the photos)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Freezing Green Beans

A friend invited me to pick her green beans; she said she was tired of picking and freezing them.  I jumped on the chance and came home with a dishpan two-thirds full.  Hooray for generous friends with bountiful gardens!

So often my housework requires me to be on my feet and I am really dragging in this heat, so I enjoyed sitting with my feet up in my shady backyard, topping and tailing beans, watching the children play. 


1. bring a larg pot of water to full rolling boil

2. dump the beans in - they should have plenty of room - put the lid back on

3. time for 3 minutes

4. prepare a ice/water bath in the sink

5. get the beans into the water bath as soon as possible (I drained off the hot water in the other sink and then dumped the beans into the water bath; you can also use a strainer basket and just lift the basket of beans out of the hot water)

6. when cool, drain and pack them into freezer boxes or bags; label

8. freeze (try to imagine a winter afternoon, planning dinner in wool socks with mug of tea in hand; think of tasting those summery beans in the cozy darkness of a December supper)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Meat Loaf

I know the menu seems rather wintry for July, but we had a rainy almost-cool day on Saturday.  Plus, I'm not sure I've ever made meatloaf before!  I found a recipe in a Mennonite cookbook that called for surrounding a meatloaf with green beans and sliced potatoes, with cream of mushroom soup poured over the vegetables.  I didn't have room in the slowcooker for all that, so I just steamed the green beans (and put brown butter on them, you know).  I skipped the mushroom soup, too, and just oiled the sliced potatoes.  I thought the meatloaf was fine, not amazing:  it called for tomato juice, cracker crumbs, chopped onion, eggs, salt and pepper and I added a little Worcestershire sauce.  Any advice or favorite meatloaf recipes for me?  I think this is an area I want to explore and I have plenty of ground beef in the freezer to experiment with.

meatloaf with potatoes
green beans
German slaw
zucchini cake with chocolate on top

put ground beef in fridge to thaw
bake zucchini cake
top and tail green beans
crush crackers for meat loaf
whiz a quart of canned tomatoes into juice
used another cabbage to make another batch of German slaw

Sunday morning:
mixed up meat loaf - put in slow cooker with potatoes; turn on high
set green beans in pot

Sunday noon:
set table (with many helping hands)
cook green beans
make coffee

We shared this meal with dear friends who needed a lift before their moving day this week.  I know that made it more delicious.