Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Eve Breakfast

 Homemade salted sesame bagels, toasted and buttered.  Grapefruit and orange salad.  Eggnog sans rum.  Black coffee for the adults.  Really a perfect holiday breakfast. 

Then we opened our presents before packing up for the mountain lodge and snow. 

You can't tell from the photo, but the Lego was Ben's present.

Genevieve adores Aunt Shana's dollhouse, saved carefully with its 1970s furniture.

But meeting baby cousin Levi at the moutains trumps all the toys.  See the big sister graciously allowing her brother to hold the baby first? See the little brother, so rapt with the baby he can't smile or talk?  It was a lovely weekend at the mountain with all the cousins.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Creamsicle Curtain for the Bathroom

You know how you just stop noticing your familiar, everyday house?  And after a while something prompts you to look at it, and good grief, you can't believe you live with such unfinished trim, faded curtains, and old paint (I'm describing areas of my house)?  Well, my husband has gently suggested that nothing is stopping me from sewing the living room drapes

So I looked at all the curtains in my house and promptly invented a new curtain to replace the dingy, amateurish one in the bathroom.  Five years ago, my mom gave me her old Singer and the first thing I made was a kind of curtain-shade for our newly renovated bathroom.  Now, a few years later, I have a dandy Bernina and a lot more sewing skills. 

To make a thick curtain, I sandwiched the old curtain between the creamsicle fabric and a piece of an old white sheet.  The rod pocket, on the back, is a strip of blue and grey patchwork left from this comforter.

Sometimes the new curtain is tied up with blue ribbons, to match the pale blue-grey walls.  But golly, my serene bathroom needed that punch of creamsicle orange.

Now I guess I have to sew living room drapes.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Home Again Soup & Climbing Biscuits

We are home from the snowy mountains - whew.  And what you want after all the rich food and infinite Christmas cookies and midnight snacking while playing cards is a good, plain, homemade supper that reassures you that you are, indeed, home.

Potato soup with fennel and parsley.  Pickled beets.  Climbing biscuits.

My cousin Jubilee made towering, flaky, buttery biscuits for breakfast one morning - I immediately wanted to know her recipe.  Turns out, it's the method of baking that makes the biscuits so tall.  Jubilee lays the cut biscuits snugly inside a pan to bake, not spread out on a cookie sheet the way I thought everyone did.  When I got off the mountain, I called Rebecca:  she said oh yes, you put them in a pan so they climb higher.  So Hattie's Lighter-Than-Lead Biscuits climbed quite high and I'm even more in love with biscuits.

Friday, December 24, 2010

"Christmas Tonight"

"While I am writing this, I listen to the sound of the bells in the nearby St. Theresita's Church playing - of all things - 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing.' We are in Caracas, Venezuela, on a concert tour through South America, and the words of Phillips Brooks come to my mind:"

Christmas in the lands of the fir tree and pine;
Christmas in lands of the palm tree and vine;
Christmas where snow peaks stand solemn and white;
Christmas where corn fields lie sunny and bright;
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.

- Maria Augusta Trapp, 1950, the Trapp Family Songbook

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Vegetarian Reubens

I like corned beef, but it's surprising how little it contributes to a Reuben.  Just using rye bread  (I used my sourdough whole wheat - close enough), swiss cheese, 1000 island dressing*, and sauerkraut makes a great Reuben.  Incidentally vegetarian.  A delicious winter lunch.

*I make 1000 island by eyeballing the following:  equal parts ketchup and mayo, some chopped pickle or pickle relish, sprinkle paprika

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Stripey Bias Tape

I love my bias tape maker - that shiny thing in the middle of my ironing board.  Feed a strip of fabric in the wide end and hey presto! it's tidily tucked in when it comes out the other end and under the hot iron. 

Here I'm making blue and white striped bias tape to go around some pot holders. 

I'm working on a shop update because my mother complained that she's spreading the word on my etsy shop and it's looking rather bare.  Yesterday after I made a batch of pickled red beets, a double recipe of pepper cabbage, butterhorns, and three meals, I got right on it.  More stuff in the shop, soon!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holly Hobbie and Her Pinafore

I came across my ragged copy of Holly Hobbie Around the House a few weeks ago.  With my childhood eyes, I had seen all the friends and puppies and cupcakes.  With my adult eyes, I noticed the shabby chic dresses, calico bloomers, and pinafores.  I hadn't thought of pinafores for decades, but even before enjoying Holly Hobbie again,  I made one for Genevieve to wear over her red plaid dress.  The green hair ribbon was her idea.

The pinafore turned out quite differently than I thought.  I was picturing how a white pinafore looked when it was frilled and flounced, but the white pinafore I made was plain and tailored. . . and looked like a medical uniform.  So I added silver buttons and handstitched black straight stitch across the pocket tops and around the hem.  Much better.  Also, instead of facing the sheer white linen, I lined the whole pinafore.

The red Mary Janes still make the dress and get compliments wherever she goes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Beef Jello

You know your stock is good when it turns to gelatin in the fridge.  Here, I'm spooning out borsch to reheat:  it stays in a lump on the spoon.

Broth is made with meat only, whereas stock includes the bones.  And long, slow cooking with a little vinegar ensures that all the good stuff is extracted from the bones.  My Amish butcher told me they simmer their beef stock for days and when it's done, the dogs aren't even interested in the scraps and bones.  Here's a short article that explains why homemade stock is so good and so different from commercial junk.

I encourage you to make stock:  it's thrifty, nutritious, and simple to do.  And really delicious.

1.  get chicken backs/wings/necks or beef bones
2.  roast them for an hour or so at low heat (this gives better color and flavor, but you can skip this step)
3.  put the bones in a pot with water to cover, a few unskinned onions and some other savory vegetables; a few peppercorns, some salt, and about 1/4 c. vinegar for a big stock pot
4.  simmer for at least 12 hours and up to 3 days
5.  strain, skim the fat if you wish, and package in several sizes;  refrigerate for up to a week or freeze it

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Joy to the Weird!"

That's Ben's 2-year-old pronunciation of "Joy to the World" which he loves listening to on a children's Christmas CD.  I put it on repeat until I can't stand it any longer.

Here's Christmas around our house. . .

Baking gingerbread cookies with the children.  The only batch of Christmas cookies at our house this year.

Genevieve figured out how to make snowflakes by herself.  Her method involves colored paper and tape.

Then we hung some white snowflakes on our Christmas card garland.  Give me a better idea for pinning up the single-side cards.  I'm sure there's something prettier than black binder clips.

The stockings are hung and now bursting since I snapped the photo.

We like to go to a funny little tree farm and cut our own tree.  This year, my husband announced we were getting a tree to suit our tall Victorian ceilings - I said dumb things like how is this going to fit in our little Nissan, I don't have enough lights, and are you crazy.  He prevailed.

It's an eight footer, bought for a suitably thrifty price of $28, probably because it's not proportionally fat.  I cut branches out of the back where the tree stands against the wall, and used the branches to decorate.

Teacher gifts - hot chocolate mix.

Two stockings I made for my mother to fill for the children at her house. Ben is telling me there's no stuff in his stocking. Genevieve is being tolerant and amused in a very adult way.

That was my to-do list for our Christmas season:

1.  cut tree; decorate tree, eggnog
2.  set up manger scene
3. hang and fill stockings
4.  gifts (it got more detailed here with names and ideas)
5.  make gingerbread cookies with the children
6.  Christmas caroling
7.  decorate porch with greens

Anything else Christmas-y that happened around here was gravy.  I don't want to hate this season or allow our family to be overwhelmed and busy.  Even with this short list, I still felt breathless most of December.  Ha.  I'm writing as if December and Christmas are over, when it's only that I've crossed off all the items on my list and I'm ready to start savoring all the joy. . .you know, the joy that comes to the weird.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Second Consignment

So, I haven't stocked my etsy shop recently because I've gotten another load of scarves out to another local consignment shop. 

See the olive and pale seafoamy green scarf?  That olive linen is the same I used for the giveaway oven towel too.  When I prewashed the linen, it got very raveled on the edge and I had to cut quite a bit off. What a waste!  I want to remember to run a quick zig zag stitch down the raw edges before washing linen yardage.

The tasseled one, my favorite.  There's a bit of Genevieve's plaid mixed in with its flowers.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Homemade Eggnog

[Please note that the pictures are cropped so you can't actually see that Ben is only wearing a tee and sweater; I like the niceties of life, yes.]

I really love eggnog, even the crazy commercial kind.  I've made eggnog a few times, but this recipe is my favorite now.  It's so lusciously light and rich at the same time.  I made it for tree-decorating last week.  Do you make eggnog?  Recommend a recipe?

[How do you like that moue, Jennifer Jo?  Totally his idea.]

Eggnog, Method II   Joy of Cooking 1954

Separate 3 eggs.

In a small bowl, whip the whites with a pinch of salt and a pinch of cream of tartar until stiff.  Set aside.

In a larger bowl, beat the yolks until light.
Beat in gradually
1/2 c. sugar

Add slowly, beating constantly
1 c. heavy cream
1 1/3 c. milk
nutmeg to taste (I used 1/8 tsp.)

Fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture.  Add a few slugs of dark spiced rum for the adults (or for the children if they're yipping and bouncing and it's bedtime). 

Clearer photos are coming soon, I hope!  I got the rest of my camera apparatus in the mail yesterday.

Monday, December 13, 2010

How to Turn a Man's Shirt Collar

Did you ever read, in an old novel, that the women cleverly extended the life of their clothes by "turning" frayed collars and cuffs? 

Well, I have now done it! 

I didn't notice the frayed collar on this $3 thrifted dress shirt for my husband until I had it home and washed. I was annoyed. In the process of peering and fingering, I realized that I could just rip out the seam and flip the collar over and sew the seam again.

And, readers dear, it was exactly that easy. Truly. You don't need advanced sewing skills to do this. Just a seam ripper, a sewing machine with thread to match the shirt's seams, and about 20 minutes.

Giveaway Winner

The winner of the oven towel is #20, EvaGirl!!  I feel like this is poetic justice since I won a giveaway on her blog a while back.  Thanks to all for your kind words; I was pleased to "meet" some of you for the first time.

Here is your sequence:




Timestamp: 2010-12-13 23:19:23 UTC

Saturday, December 11, 2010

We are One Year Old! Giveaway

One year ago on Sunday, I started this blog.  And I started it with an oven towel, so it seems fitting to celebrate with an oven towel. 

I made this towel, to give away to one of you, my dear readers.

 If you hang it up in December, it could be thought to be a Christmas towel:  the substantial linen is an attractive olive-y color and the topper is true red. 

But the rest of the year, it's just a pretty hand towel featuring the complementary colors red and green (when in doubt, use complementary colors - they're famous together for a reason!).  The button is from a vintage 1950s wool cape that I have; I had to replace the vintage buttons because some were missing when I bought the cape and I found a close, but not exact, match. 

Now, officially, I want to thank my readers.  You all make this blog more fun and more real than if I was just keeping A Record in a journal somewhere.  I confess that I hang on to your every comment, question, and suggestion.  I adore conversation in real life and bloggy life. 

And I would be so honored if all my lurkers (I know you're out there!) would introduce themselves in the comments of this anniversary post.

To enter the first-ever Thrift at Home giveaway, just leave a comment on this post.  I'll close the comments on Monday evening, December 13, at 6:30pm E.S.T. and draw a winner.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Around My Kitchen Sink

This is for Leila's linky party because she's right:  I do need a lovely, calm spot in which to feel like a dignified, successful homemaker.

This is what my counter looked like this morning - a knowing reader will understand that there's more than breakfast dishes there.  My command center is to the left, the four lists on the side of the fridge:  grocery list, weekly menu sketch, weekly to-do, and non-food shopping list.  Hidden inside the cupboard door is my zone list and weekly sparkle and shine run-down (not for me, but for anyone who wants to fill my homemaking shoes).

Then I cleaned up and my bird's eye photo was blurry!   But here is the decorative part of my sink area:  the hippo soap dish, the charming hand lotion, and the bamboo with its freshly scrubbed vase and stones.

  I have thought of putting some words to ponder or nice pictures above the sink, but so far I prefer the blank space to let my thoughts wander as I work.  Since I've become a mother, I don't listen to music or the radio very much or put many things on my walls - children can be so over-stimulating that I crave the quiet calmness.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Eating the Turk's Cap

OK, so we did finally get a Christmas tree yesterday.  I think I was waiting to eat up all the pumpkins first before I put up wreaths.

When I bought this Turk's cap pumpkin, I asked the Amish girl if it was edible.  She looked surprised, but said, well sure.

So we ate it. 

I made Butternut Harvest Stew and Vegetarian Groundnut Stew, both from Simply in Season. Both delicious.  So think twice before you throw your autumn pumpkins in the compost bin (or heaven forfend, the trash).  But I'm ready for evergreens now.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Old Velvet, New Make Up

My cousin Shelley Ann turned 30 and there was A Big Party.  Cocktail attire requested. 

hand me down red velvet shawl from Aunt Mim with glittery beads:  $0
black tank from TJMaxx: $3
cast off black skirt from same aunt: $0
lace hose: $ 9
break-my-ankle silver heels from Shana:  $0
rhinestone bracelet from downtown boutique: $30
borrowed dangly earrings from Shelley Ann at the party proper:  $0

Total outfit:  $42

This is a game my best girl A started in high school.  We would add up the cost of our outfits and whoever's was cheapest was the winner.  A usually won because she always had hand me down clothes.  But I'm going to beat her at her own game - my thrifting skills have gotten much sharper and I've had an influx of cast off clothes.  In another post, I'll tell you how you can play too.

The new thing I was wearing was my Benefit Erase Paste, bought at a gaspy experience at Sephora.   Ben recently dumped my college bottle of Mary Kay foundation all over the bed (it was as bad as you can imagine), so I needed a replacement under-eye concealer.  I have not shopped at the mall for so long.  The Sephora salesgirls were very nice, but I'm sure I was breaktime conversation with my naked face and cut-to-the-chase shopping speed.  I use very little make up, but I buy the good stuff. Because it was Shelley's bash and she adores shoes and make up, I tried to go all out for her.