Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dark Days: Macaroni & Romanesco

I'm joining the Dark Days Challenge again this year.  This is a weekly meal using local, organic food.  I use quite a few local, organic ingredients, but once a week, I will use only those things.  It's a disciplined creativity - maybe it's a game like my patchwork?

This year I'm going to focus less on recipes (but you can always ask if you want me to post one!), and more on the menu itself and my family's reaction to it.

My first dark days meal was actually unintentional.  I was almost ready to set dinner on the table when I realized it was local. . . except for the dratted macaroni.  Had I been paying attention, I would have made the pasta or searched out local pasta.  I paid enough attention to photograph it then.

Macaroni and cheese with romanesco - local organic eggs, milk, cheese, romanesco.

Plus, a version of stewed tomatoes to eat on top of the macaroni.  I take a quart of home canned local tomatoes, throw them in on top of sauteed local onions, and simmer them down for almost an hour.  A pinch of some marjoram and basil, but not much - it's not spaghetti sauce.

And a green salad with purple cabbage, all local and organic.  It was dressed with a vinaigrette with local garlic.

My family's opinions:

Ben, age 3:  I love the macaroni and cheese and sauce, but not the salad.

Genevieve, age 6:  I liked the macaroni and cheese, but I did not like the broccoli [romanesco].

Husband: Very comforting meal.  And knowing I'm getting fresh vegetables is intellectually comforting.  Rating 4.9 out of 5 [5 = perfect] because the sauce was too juicy.

Monday, November 28, 2011

An Eighth of Beef

For several years now, we buy beef when our friend, a retired veterinarian, has his steers butchered. Steaks, roasts, cubes, and ground. And bones.

I'm not sure of the exact cost per pound.  The bottom line here is not money, but it is thrift nonetheless:  buying local organic meat is better for the economy, the environment, and our health.

I filled my mom's slow cooker and mine with bones.  Plus water, carrot tops, onions, peppercorns, salt, and - most importantly - a splash of vinegar.  The vinegar draws the calcium out of the bones into the stock.  Amen for calcium!  It's not just in milk!

I simmered the whole business for 4 days and nights.  Truthfully, it doesn't smell all that great.

Then I let it cool down, strained off the fat (tallow), and canned the stock with Rebecca's pressure canner because my freezer was chock full of beef.  Oh my.  I had never had a bomb (pressure canner) in my kitchen before, but Rebecca and the owner's manual were both clear and reassuring.

I think I'm going to try to make soap with my little bit of tallow - why not?  It's a lovely pale green from the carrot tops.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Letting the Patchwork Out

I make little guidelines for my sewing projects because, I guess, it makes a little game to me.

1.  use only things from my scrap bag - the stuff in my scrap bag is small pieces left from other projects
2.  trim off as little as possible - very little waste
3.  use upcycled things for filler - not going out to purchase special heat resistant batting

And I feel like a sculptor who says that she just chips out the figure that was already in the block of marble, that she didn't impose her will on the raw block.  I like that new angle to my game:  just releasing the patchwork pattern that was already there!

Off to work on buttercream yellow hotpads that my mother commissioned.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Breakfast After Thanksgiving

I was just too full after Thanksgiving dinner yesterday to eat pie.  What a shame!

So I made a savory breakfast for myself (hot cereal with walnuts, tomato-basil feta, and spinach) to eat my pie then.

Cranberry apple pie with maple syrup and walnuts.

And no one else was up yet - bliss.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ben's Market Job

Somebody has to sort out the onions and potatoes because I eschew the plastic bags at market.

It's a perfect task for a 3 year old who is always asking for "a kitchen job, Mommy."

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Ruffle Scarf for a Little Girl

Because I thought the neck of her sweater seemed too open in the sharpening wind. 

And she loves pretty things.

And by happy accident, Aunt Mel got her a little purple beanie and now it all goes together.

Even the flannel argyle seems to go with her backpack.  I chose the argyle with future sweaters and coats in mind - although it was such a fun little sewing project that I'm sure I wouldn't mind making more to match.

Genevieve wore her ruffle scarf to school, excited to tell her teacher about it. . . but what she actually said was "my mom has an etsy shop!"  I love that glimpse into a child's perspective.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Piles of Fabric

I'm busily replacing a raft of hanging hand towels that sold out of my etsy shop.  What I am dying to sew is a carrying bag for my new yoga mat - oh the non-matching possibilities!

Then I want to make myself a copper-brown wool skirt, another school shirt for Genevieve, and start to possibly think about maybe making a Christmas crafting list.

There's one new hand towel in the shop - more waiting to be photographed!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dill, Differently

Dill in okra pickles.  My husband made them and they were a hit - Genevieve requested them in her school lunch.

And, more oddly, dill in apple crisp!  I got the recipe here

I would call this more of a cobbler - I think of crisps as having a crunchy top.  I had made ice cream just in case the apple cobbler was a bomb, but it turned out to be delicious, although no one could guess the mystery flavor.

I don't think we ate these 2 dilly things in the same meal, but I don't exactly recall.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Scrapbooking the Old-Fashioned Way

My children love to go through the recycling bin, find store circulars and cut out pictures.  Or they cut out comics from the newspaper.  So far, these things have just gotten returned to the recycling bin. . .

until Rebecca reminded me of the old way of scrapbooking, before die-cuts, parties, and Creative Memories. 
People used to cut out poems, pretty pictures, and the like, and paste them in brown-paper scrapbooks.  I suddenly remembered sitting on a little stool at my great-grandmother's feet while she rocked and cut out pictures from seed catalogs.  I have a scrapbook she made in this manner. 

I also remembered my mother making scrapbook pages to give to retiring principals and golden-anniversary parents.  She kept a box where she laid away pretty cards and clippings, much the same way I build my fabric stash now.

In a flash, I dug out some blank books, scissors, and gluesticks for my kids.  They were immediately, deeply, absorbed.  Now my children have scrapbooks.  Now they have a way to process all the delightful images they see.  I am so pleased to have given them supplies at the crucial point in their fad.

I hope this is also a way to handle their budding consumerism.  I don't want to encourage my children to pore over circulars, but if they do, they can at least paste their infatuation in their scrapbooks.  And maybe that will lay the covetousness to rest (or not - time will tell).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Victorian-Orphan Soup

I tell you it's tasty soup (Cabbage and Barley Soup from More with Less), but I made the mistake of using purple cabbage.  At first the soup was a light lavender, but then it turned an odd shade of grey.

The former cabbage, barley, and carrots became unidentifiable things floating in sludge.  Isn't that what storybook orphans were fed?

No one pounced on these leftovers, and they died in the compost pile. 

Lesson learned:  we eat with our eyes. 
Second lesson learned:  use purple cabbage in raw preparations only.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A New Dress for the Clothespins

Last Saturday, my clothespin bag finally, truly, broke.  Seeing as the children were with my parents visiting alpacas, I indulged myself and immediately made a new one.

It's a bit wonky.  And I meant to use all lounge-suit polyester for durability, but in my excitement, I grabbed yellow cotton knit.  Oh well.

When it wears out from its heavy load, I'll get another thrill from whipping up a new one.  It's pure fun to make household items that don't have to match my sweaters or a school dress code.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Comfort of Leeks Vinaigrette (updated with recipe)

After a complicated day involving no less than three family babysitters for the children and a husband gone til who-knows-when, I was tearing home from my job to heat up leftover soup.

When I realized that lights were on and my husband was in the kitchen.

Thanks be to God: real food to go with the leftover soup.

Leeks Vinaigrette. 

We fought over them a little, they were so good.  They were soft leeks, dressed in vinaigrette and anchovies, with parsley and sliced boiled eggs on top. 

I am already planning to eat them, alone, with good bread and wine, just as soon as I buy more leeks at market.  The recipe was from Alice Waters, the Art of Simple Food.  I think this recipe is the epitome of the title.

And Mr. Thrift saved the leek boiling water.  And Mrs. Thrift threw the leek tops into it and made vegetable broth.  And the house smelled delicious - amen.

Updated with recipe:

Trim and clean 6 medium leeks.
Cook for 7-12 minutes in abundant, boiling salted water until soft when pierced.
Drain and set aside to cool.

Whisk together vinaigrette:
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. dijon mustard
salt, fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 c. olive oil

Squeeze cooled leeks gently to get out excess water. Cut in half lengthwise.  Arrange on shallow serving dish, spoon vinaigrette over, and turn gently to coat.  Sprinkle with parsley, chopped anchovy fillets, and 1-2 hard cooked eggs. (Alice Water recommends 4 salt-packed anchovy fillets, but my husband used half a small can of oil packed).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Need a Sauerkraut Crock

I was a bit dubious when I started this kitchen project: I don't know much about fermenting, and it seemed weird that something good would happen simply from brine over cabbage 2 weeks in the basement.

The main problem I had was finding containers heavy enough to tamp down the cabbage and yet slender enough to fit in the mouths of my jars (the water-filled bags did not work for me).  A can of tomato paste and a jar of olives.

So, I would like a crock.  Because at $1.25 for a huge cabbage, I will be making sauerkraut again. 
The flavor is wonderful. I froze some sauerkraut in pint jars, thinking happily of reubens.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Face After 10 Miles

In the dusk, just home from a day at my job, after biking the 10 miles home.  I am so proud of myself!

I am fortunate enough to take the bus out to my job in the morning, with my bike on the bus rack.  Then in the evening, I bike the 10 miles home.  It's a beautiful ride, a perfect antidote to a desk job (even a desk job I love).

I aim to bike home once a week, but between a rainy summer and wintry dark and cold, I don't get out there so often anymore.

I bike because
1.  my husband thinks it's cool
2.  it's exercise
3.  it feels a little like flying
4.  I'm proud of myself (10 miles was a really big deal to me when I started)
5.  I get to pass buggies sometimes

The equipment I use/acquired to make this bike ride possible:
1.  my old Schwinn bike
2.  helmet
3.  sunglasses with mirror attached
4.  padded biking shorts
5.  running tights to wear under the shorts for warmth
6.  blinking taillight and headlight
7.  bike rack with saddlebags for change of clothes, lunch, and book to read on the bus

Riding my bike home from work is not directly thrifty (the equipment, even carefully researched and bought, cost money), but the way it soothes my mind and exercises my body is a wonderful bargain for me.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Twirliest Twirly Skirt

Genevieve says she wants to wear dresses (not skirts), but it took me a while to realize that what she was after was the twirl factor.

Inspired by Jennifer Jo's daughter, I made her the fattest twirly skirt I could for her birthday.

The last ruffle was 9 yards in length.  Nine YARDS.  It was rather chaotic under my needle.  The finished skirt looks like there's a crinoline under there, there's so much fabric. 
I didn't use a pattern, and all the plaids were passed on from Mrs. R.  The shorts were made from an orphan pillowcase from my friend Kim.  All free to me.

I also made Genevieve little red shorts with blue topstitching, but in these photos she opted for purple pants and white Easter shoes. 

She is a 6 year old with her own style!

Six.  Holy cow.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Meal for a New Baby

I loved receiving meals when we had our babies, so I am quick to volunteer for this now.  I enjoy tailoring the meals to the family, so I don't have a standard menu.  However, I do mark the meals I make in my supper notebook.  This way, I have some fallback menus and I can note which food was easy to transport.  (In college, I made a homemade pizza for dear friends in my 2.5 foot diameter pizza pan.  Then I was stumped when it came time to transport the big, hot pizza.  Duh.)

What I aim to do:

1.  Make a generous meal, but light on dessert.

2.  Make a double batch and then my family eats the same supper.  Efficient.

3.  Take the food in containers and bags that do not need to be returned (I recall the headache it was to to keep containers straight and then transport them back to church, all while juggling a new baby).

4.  Make some burpcloths for the baby.  Pretty and practical, plus easy for me to pull off.

Yesterday's menu was for a family that doesn't eat red meat: 

San Francisco Fish Stew (from More with Less)
brown rice
green salad with poppyseed dressing
Wacky Cake

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Pretty:  the cabin. The light reflected from the snow makes rumpled beds look good - or is that just the yummy vintage rose blanket?

Happy:  a boy and his granny doing puzzles at the cabin.  It was a little vintage manger scene puzzle my mom got for dime at a garage sale a few miles away.

Funny:  that I choose stamps so assiduously, with an eye to color and theme.  This is a letter off to friends - I'm keeping up with my letter pledge!

Real: the life of a craft-seller.
Deb, from the cool local shop, is sending my scarves back to me.  They sold well last winter, but not a one this fall. Gah.

My self esteem is not built on these scarves, the etsy shop or even this blog, but still it's a downer.  The silver lining must be that I will have more time to sew family projects that are percolating in my head. 

Linking up with Rosie's collection of everyday contentment.  A lovely discipline.