Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On the Trail of the Quarter-Sheet

I was ripping up paper into quarter-sheets for scrap paper the other day and thought I would tell you about it.  I adore tiny little housekeeping details.

We use nice one-side-blank scrap paper in our computer printer. But if it's wrinkly or stapled, I tear it into quarter sheets to use as scrap paper. 

Recently, doing zone cleaning, I redded out a stash of old curricula that had been copied on one side only - hundreds of holepunched sheets.  I stacked them on the dining room buffet and every time I had a few minutes as I waited for a child to tell me a story or finish lunch or put on shoes or the million little scheduling gaps in a day, I would rip paper into scrap paper. 

My children try to do the ripping too, and it takes me back to my childhood to recally my envy of my tall mother and her skillful hands.

I keep scrap paper, pencils, and scissors at five locations in our house. I love having those tools at hand - we use them quite frequently.

Tell me about the trail of scrap paper at your house, please.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sunday Dinner and Dark Days 10: Leg of Lamb

The thing about buying a whole animal for meat is that you must figure out how to cook its various parts.  I handled lamb chops and lamb stew easily, but leg of lamb intimidated me for over a year.

So I studied up.

I rubbed on herbs and poked in garlic slivers, mostly following Simply in Season.

When we came home from church, the house smelled wonderful. . . but the lamb was rather rare for my liking.  It was, thankfully, tender and flavorful.

I served it with mint jelly made specifically for this purpose; I was not a fan of the flavors together, but my husband and kids really liked it.  In fact, I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with the rest of that mint jelly.  Can't face it on toast in the morning or with peanut butter. . .

roast leg of lamb
mint jelly
baked potatoes with butter
steamed spinach with butter and lemon

Friday:put lamb in fridge to thaw
bring mint jelly up from basement - so pretty

Sunday morning:
rub lamb, set on timed bake
wash potatoes, place in oven as well

Sunday noon:
wash and steam spinach
set table
light candles because these are the dark days (I love that phrase, "dark days")

I divided the leftovers for the freezer in three ways: one bag of meat chunks, another bag of meat chunks plus a little bag of pan drippings (I'm thinking shepherd's pie), and the meaty bone for soup.

Specifically, dark days ingredients, all local and where noted, organic:  organic leg of lamb, organic garlic, organic potatoes, homemade mint jelly, spinach, butter

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sorting the Canning Paraphernalia

My husband has collected several sets of cast-off kitchen cupboards for to use as basement canning storage.  This is great, but I just kept avoiding the organizing task because our basement is kind of a pit.

Today, finally, I sorted the marked, used lids from the new lids.  Each kind got its own drawer after I wiped out the grime.  I separated the canning rings and put them in their own box because there were too many for a drawer. 

I put all the empty jars together (broke the obligatory jar, too). Discovered a forgotten flat of canned salsa after I told my family last week that we had eaten the last jar. 

A very satisfying little sorting task to cross off my list. 

The sheets are almost dry on the line - just need to make beds, finish the sticky buns for breakfast, and then after a church event tonight, I should have time to sew.  Lovely

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mashed Potatoes in the Crockpot

I've been trying to use my slow cooker more, especially since I started working part time.  Last Sunday, I tried a new potato recipe.  Essentially, I made mashed potatoes on Saturday, put them in the crock, stashed them in the fridge, and then heated them up in the crockpot on low while we were at church.  They tasted just fine.

But golly, it made a lot of mashed potatoes.

I had a casserole idea tickling away at the back of my brain.  I read recipes all the time for my job and although I can't pinpoint it, I'm sure that's where I got this idea.  I've got lots of sauerkraut in my freezer, so I'm playing around with it and seeing what else I can do besides cook it with pork.

This time, I mixed white sauce with mushrooms with a jar of sauerkraut and spread the mashed potatoes on top to make a shepherd's-pie-like casserole. 

We ate it with peas on the side for a recent supper.  It was good, but not transcendent.  Can I expect transcendent in January?  This part of winter seems to go on forever - or maybe that's just my chest cold talking.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When I Shall Have a Room of My Own

Renovations are underway in our house again.  Our house is complicated because it's a big house with three apartments.  We nip away at the second-floor apartment now and again, and add rooms to our own living space. 

The last nip, two years ago, brought us a big room, a balcony, and a little galley kitchen.  We finally figured out how to use the space.

Soon I will have a little workroom to myself!  I'll make it a sewing room, but also my desk space where I deal with the day-to-day finances of our household.

I'm excited, but I'd be untruthful if I didn't tell you that I hate the process.  I'm not very fond of changes to begin with, and when dirt and chaos are in the mix, I can be very cranky and yelly.  An orderly, peaceful house gives me deep serenity. 

But it's coming along nicely, thanks to my handy husband.  At this point, my contribution is picking up his household responsibilities so he can put that time into the renovation.  I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dark Days 9: One-Pot

The Dark Days' Challenge is giving some extra challenges by having theme weeks.  This week was one-pot meals.  Frankly, I like more variety and flavors on my plate, but we achieved that in this meal by having dessert and pickles with our pot.

This was our centerpiece, courtesy of 3-year-old Ben.  He must collect something on a walk, and I think the little glass dish elevates the sweet-gum balls nicely.

My dad joined us for dinner.  He liked the Bounty Rice so much, he called the next day to make sure he was getting the details right as he told Mom about it.  I was tickled.

Bounty Rice (referred to in this previous DD post)
Pickled Beets
Dill Pickles
Cherry Cobbler
Pouring Custard

Specifically dark days ingredients, all local and where noted, organic:  organic cabbage, bell peppers, home-canned tomatoes, organic garlic, ground beef, homemade yogurt, organic raw milk cheese, organic beets, organic cucumber dills, sour cherries, organic ww pastry flour, milk, organic eggs

Non-local:  a little onion, organic brown rice, sugar, salt, the dried herbs.
Comments on the non-locals:  The last local onions disappeared from market around Christmas.  The farmers grew storage onions, but customers bought them out.  It could be seen as a good problem, but it's been happening for years.  I bet the farmers think their local onions aren't important, so they just fill in with shipped onions when theirs run out.  I told the farmers how much I wanted to depend on storage crops from them:  onions, carrots, apples, potatoes. 

Also, I have never dried my own herbs, but I think this will be the summer for taking on this new project.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Canned Cranberry Sauce Melts

I forget where I learned this little deliciousness:  slice canned cranberry sauce into a sandwich with brie and arugula.

Here, I made it into melts with wilted spinach and swiss.  We ate the melts beside creamy pumpkin soup.  I cook towards Thanksgiving flavors  all through the winter because I love them so much.

Rebecca wanted me to tell you how I wilted the spinach - to take its bounce away and make it easier in sandwiches. 

I simply washed the leaves, put them in a lidded casserole and popped them in the hot oven for 10 or so minutes.  I was baking something else, which now escapes me, but all I needed for the spinach was some moist heat, so I created it in the already hot oven.  A little thriftiness, but I like to think it adds up over time.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mastering the Separating Zipper and Then (Finally) Refashioning My Sweater

Ben's coat zipper died.  Last year (I cringe) I threw away a coat with a broken zipper

This year, I found a good tutorial online and went for it.  This was after I kept eyeing that dang zipper and thinking, in my naive way, that it didn't look that hard.  Guess what?!  It's NOT HARD - in fact, I would say putting in a separating zipper is easier than a regular zipper!  It's much more intuitive, for one thing.  There's also much less chance of sewing on the zipper teeth accidentally and breaking a needle.

So I fixed Ben's coat.  Then I took a deep breath and cut up my lambswool crewneck sweater.  I've been all talk about this project for close to 2 years now (scaredy-cat).

The sweater is a lovely material and color, but I hate to commit to crewnecks because what if I get too hot?  Then I have to wiggle out of it, and by this point in winter, I'm getting tired of putting on all those clothes and I want easy layers.

I cut off the sleeves and slit the sweater up the middle.  I expect I'll use the cutoff sleeves as filler for hotpads.  I finished the newly-raw edges with bias binding.  I treated the sweater as if it was made of woven fabric; this was not successful with the armholes, which sagged out quite a bit.
So I made darts under the the armholes, to pinch in the excess.

Then I put in a bright green separating zipper.  I am so pleased with how this turned out!  Especially with my hefty Gap  men's flannel shirt from the thrift store.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Genevieve and Her Sewing Machine

Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa, Genevieve got a sewing machine for Christmas.  She's been itching to sew since it's my favorite hobby and I snatch time for it weekly.  Here she's working on a watermelon skirt for her dolly Bella.

I'm amazed all over again at adult sewing machine knowledge, when I realize all the tiny steps I have to show her.  She's a willing, patient pupil, though.  I confess I'm slightly terrified she's going to get a needle in her finger (it's happened to me!)

Ben was in tears yesterday because he so desperately wanted to sew while Genevieve was at school.  He was not placated when I offered to hold him on my lap while I sewed new hand towels for the shop.  Genevieve can barely reach the foot pedal to sew, and he's still a good head shorter than her.    He's beyond sewing cards and stringing beads. . . what to do, what to do?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dark Days 8: Down by the (Vegetarian) Bay

Vegetarian "Crab" Cakes (zucchini fritters, essentially, with a good dose of Old Bay)
Cocktail Sauce
Baked Sweet Corn
Green & Purple Lettuces with Radishes, Carrots, and Vinaigrette

We like a lot of horseradish in our cocktail sauce!  And a splash of hot sauce, too.

And then we invited our friend, who is also our plumber, to sit down and eat a bit with us before he fixed a leak in our laundry room.

So the photos ended, and the conversation got lively.  I didn't think to ask my family for their rating of the meal, but they ate enthusiastically and there was a polite, but deadly, argument over the last crab cake.

Specifically, the Dark Days' ingredients, all local and where noted, organic
organic zucchini from the freezer, egg, organic scallions, homemade breadcrumbs from organic flour, homemade ketchup from organic tomatoes, horseradish, corn, another egg, milk, organic lettuces, organic radishes, organic carrots, organic garlic clove in the vinaigrette

Non-local ingredients:  oil, Old Bay, hot sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, salt, pepper

Monday, January 16, 2012

Thrift-Store Brightness in Mid-Winter

The universe gave me brightness for a few bucks - how welcome in the middle of January!  It tickles me that my three favorite purchases were multi-color brightness. . . and not on my list.

The afghan is wool and looks like it was accidentally felted.  All those gorgeous color combinations make me giddy and deeply inspired. (For $3, I have to say)

The little ripple afghan ($2!) is too small for anything that I've figured out yet. I've got it tossed across my shoulders right now like a Tasha Tudor shawl, but it's really too skimpy.  But those colors!

All I went to the thrift store for was to get a sheet to use as backing for Ben's quilt, and a tin for Christmas 2012's fruitcake.  I've never made a proper fruitcake before, and I'm not going to miss my window of opportunity again, nor am I going to plop the grand thing in Tupperware.

Besides the chambray sheet, I got a stack of vintage tea towels.  I'm sure they'll resurface sometime in my etsy shop as hanging hand towels.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Capturing Contentment

The pleasure of using pretty, vintage ric rac to brighten an oven towel.

Happy is the girl who becomes a mommy again on Christmas morning with a new dolly. 

A dolly with history, who belonged to my cousin Kassie long ago.  A dolly who wears real baby clothes and came with a sweet 80s wardrobe, all aqua and pink and poly-blend.

Genevieve named her Bella, and chuckled contentedly for a full 20 minutes.  When we went to Grandma and Grandpa's house in the sunshine, Bella rode flopped over the Christmas gifts.  It was funny - and got several startled glances.

And the real part of this post is that I'm relying on old photos because I've been working so hard at being content.  I'm struggling with acid reflux yet.  It casts a long shadow on my days right now. 

I fight my bad feelings by keeping the sink clean, hanging the laundry in the sun, and going to bed with a good book at a decent time.  It's the tonic and strength of my quotidian work.  And I got a lift from looking at these Christmas photos of Genevieve - she is such a capable little mama and very devoted to her dolly.  Thank you, God, for the sweetness of life that catches me off guard.

Linking up with Leila and Rosie's collection of pretty, happy, funny, real.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dark Days 7: More Greens (but dessert too!)

If I wasn't documenting a Dark Days meal, I would never post these photos. They're terrible, taken at suppertime in the dead of winter. The meal was good, though, and it was all local food, so I'm posting it.

Menu: organic black eyed peas, cornbread with local cornmeal, eggs, milk, and butter, and collard greens with local organic bacon; dessert was Peach Kuchen (local peaches from the freezer, local organic whole wheat pastry flour, butter, egg, and homemade yogurt from local milk).

The black eyed peas were cooked long and slow, salted, and then thickened at the very end with a little milk and flour batter.  They were plain and creamy.  Then the collards were spicy, meaty, and touched with vinegar.  A lovely counterpoint.

Family's opinions:
Husband:  Great supper.
Ben, age 3:  I liked the cornbread.
Genevieve, age 6:  I liked the beans.