Thursday, September 27, 2012

Handmade Clothes For Ben, Finally

Ben finally got some clothes that mom made this fall, and I'm so gratified by his pleasure. 

First there was the first-day-of-school shirt.  It's a basic camp shirt, actually from a pajama pattern.

When I sewed it up, I used similar brown tortoiseshell buttons, not matching, just similar. It beat running out to the store for 4 brown buttons! I don't think anyone cares or notices that the buttons don't match.

  I made a size 4, which seemed reasonable given the listed measurements on the pattern and Ben's measurements.  Well.  It's rather small, probably won't fit in the spring.  Ben picked the fabric himself (I wanted madras) and I cut it out when we were at the beach

So when I made flannel pajamas for Ben, I made them a size SIX. 

The hope here is that these jammies will last for at least another winter.  Look, I finished the sleeve and pants hems with tidy bias tape so that when they're turned up, they look nicer.

Ben wants you to see his treasured "blue brick" buttons.  He always loved them in my button jar, and I was so delighted to realize they were the perfect size, number, and color for his pajamas.

These pajamas and the first-day-of-school shirt are giving some real joy to a little boy and his mom, let me tell you.  His quilt is still inching through the mom shop, though, and may not be done in time for quilt weather.
I love this boy, this photo, so much.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fresh Corn Salad

These photos are from last week, and the corn is really over.  I apologize in advance for talking about summer food when actually, what I did in my kitchen today was bake a pumpkin pie.  We're having that for dessert tonight after black-eyed peas, greens, and cornbread.  I do not enjoy uploading photos, so sometimes things are just out of sync here on the blog.  Don't worry:  I'm going to upload a whole batch of interesting project photos I did recently, so I'll churn out those posts in the next few days.

So I discovered a wonderful corn salad, right at the end of summer.  It's raw corn, simply cut off the cob, marinated in a simple vinaigrette, with goodies added.  It's great, and I love skipping the blanching step with the corn.

I found the recipe when I was looking for a dish to take to a potluck.  Then, I made it again because we liked it so much - we had it at home with sauteed mushrooms, vegetarian crab (zucchini) cakes and wacky cake with caramel sauce. 

I had made the caramel sauce with half-and-half, so it wasn't as tempting as the version made with heavy cream.  But spooned warm over chocolate cake?  Well, that was amazing.  My husband had seconds and he does not have a sweet tooth.

Fresh Corn & Tomato Salad
(originally from Fix-it and Forget-it Potluck Heaven, but I made a number of changes)
1 1/2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
fresh ground pepper
pinch sugar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 ears corn, cut off cob
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1/3 cup cubed mild cheese or avocado
2 scallions, thinly sliced
about 1 cup fresh basil leaves, snipped
1.  Stir together vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar in salad bowl.  Slowly add the olive oil, whisking continuously, until dressing thickens (emulsifies).
2.  Stir in corn.  This part may sit, even overnight in the fridge, if needed.  Otherwise, add the rest of the ingredients and serve immediately at room temperature.  (At the potluck, I added the basil at the last minute.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Found Wrapping Paper

I was wrapping a gift for my mother-in-law recently and just up and decided that my next baby step is going to be found wrapping paper.  "Found" comes from the poetry that we assembled in middle school:  found poems are those made from snips of phrases from magazines and newspapers.

So my found wrapping paper is going to be the newspaper comics, the brown wrapping paper that comes as packaging in amazon boxes, and fabric.

I like this organic approach to more eco-conscious choices.  The next good thing seems to come to me when I'm ready to do it without resentment or strain. (I say this knowing there are still a number of rolls of "real" wrapping paper in my closet).

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Applesauce Factory

Preliminary:  Children to wash 1 bushel apples, children to wash jars and place in oven.

Left to right:

Holding Tank (bowl):  hot applesauce waits here to be placed into jars

Sterile Prep (4-quart crockpot):  lids and rings are kept hot in water

Staging Area (cutting board): jars are filled here; dishcloth, hotpads, and tongs kept in readiness

Initial Vat (stockpot):  apples first are cooked down for about an hour over medium heat; stirred often

Furnace (oven): hot, sterile jars are kept at 200 degrees in readiness for hot applesauce

Secondary Vat (enamel canner):  7 full jars at a time are processed in the boiling water bath for 20 minutes; jar lifter kept at readiness to the right

Saucing Station (Foley food mill over pot):  cooked apples are sieved into sauce here; hotpads, silicone spatula, small enamel saucepan stationed here as well

Not shown:  Large crockpot with apple butter, a new project for the factory this year.  Results to be evaluated.  Small output until results are evaluated.

Cooling Area:  Filled jars are left to cool and finish sealing for 24 hours.  Then they are labeled and stored in a cool, dark place (the basement), ready to be a delicious addition to a winter meal at a moment's notice.

Observations:  This job requires a person with four arms, minimum.  Four people are too many bodies, but four arms is perfect.  Fewer arms leads to exhaustion and decreased efficiency.  Lunch break is necessary.  Better with cold leftover pizza.  Kitchen must have hotpads in various sizes and thicknesses.

Total output of factory day:  21 quarts, 1/2 pint of applesauce; 3 1/2 pints of apple butter

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Lego Circle

The Lego was taking over the house. 

It was always on the table and we only have one table, but then the children hated to clean it up.  Or if the Lego was on the floor, my husband would obsess about getting every piece of Lego off the floor every time the vacuum cleaner came out.

In short, I decided to buy one of those cool round storage bags.  But I quailed when I saw that even the cheapest one was $50.
So I decided to try again at making one.  And it worked!

I used this pattern.  I made buttonholes instead of fooling around with grommets. 

However, I decided to make my circle larger than the pattern, and having very little understanding of circle geometry and being slap-dash with my cutting, there are some puckers here and there.  Plus, I didn't cut the cord long enough for it to lie exactly flat.

But everyone is happy:  no more cleaning up Lego!  The children play with it on the circle and pull the drawstring when they're done.  It has a nifty slider to keep the cord cinched up.  I get a happy little twitch every time I walk by and see the Lego circle helping with housekeeping!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Breakfast Avocado with Red Pepper Marmalade - updated with recipe

I'm putting red pepper marmalade everywhere these days:  on bagels with cream cheese, on toast with avocado, on our English muffin egg sandwiches with Swiss this morning.

It's delicious.  I'm glad I made another batch this year!

But here's the thing:  I have been having a murderous little tug-of-war with Genevieve over food recently, specifically school lunches and breakfasts. 

Without knowing this, a dear friend casually remarked over the weekend that she's glad she has sons because she would be too overbearing with a daughter.  Oh.  Lightbulb.  And my best friend gently advised me to leave my girl alone. 

This morning, I did not ask anybody what condiment he or she wanted on the egg sandwiches, and my girl gobbled up her sandwich with no remarks from either of us.   It was a good start to a morning where she then almost missed her bus.

I'm working up (see tug-of-war, above) to do some posts about school lunches. 

updated for Hazel:

Hot Pepper Marmalade - from Simply in Season, with some of my tweaks

3-5 chili peppers, 4-5 medium bell peppers (use more or less chili peppers - you have to guess at the heat you are working with and the outcome you want; using all red peppers makes the prettiest marmalade)

Chop the peppers very finely.  I use my food processor. 

Combine in a saucepan:
4 cups very finely minced peppers
1 cup white or apple cider vinegar
2 cups sugar

Gradually stir in:
1 package no-sugar-needed pectin (or use regular pectin and read the directions to adjust the sugar in the recipe)

Stir until dissolved.  Bring to a boil, stirring.  Boil and stir one minute. 
Ladle into hot, sterile half-pint jars.  Leave 1/2" headspace.  Add sterilized lids and rings and process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. (I did not use the water bath because of the sugar and vinegar; this is called open kettle canning and is not recommended by canning authorities.  Now you are warned.)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Picking Limas

My dad called yesterday and said this was a good year for lima beans and did we want to pick some Saturday morning? 

Well, yes, although I wasn't looking to add anything to my busy weekend and my freezer is nearly full.  My husband and I chose to view this trip out to my father's childhood farm as a refreshing break from the city and a special time with family.

It's a perfect early fall day, almost too cool for tee-shirts, with a brilliant blue sky; it was a lovely way to get fresh air, spend time with family, and come home with some more food for the freezer. For $18, we have a large bucket of limas, a dozen bi-color corn, a quart of Roma beans, a pint of grape tomatoes, and 4 frying peppers.

Tonight, we'll shell the limas to a movie after the kids are in bed - I just went down to the library and got Casablanca and Cabaret, so my husband can choose.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Small and Good Blogs

A shout-out to some of my favorite small and good blogs that I enjoy reading - I do read more than the blogs in my sidebar.  I'm linking up with Meghan's linky party to broadcast the news.

1.  Natasha over at Hong Kong Housewife

Natasha offers fascinating observations on life abroad, as well as personal anecdotes.  She just had a baby, too, which makes for interesting life (and blog) changes.

2.  Jodi over at Life & Oh-La-Dee-Dah

Jodi has great photos and great style.  She tells interesting stories and gives family an honest, yet sweet look.  I love following her on Pinterest, too.

3. Polly over at The Trinity Chronicles

Polly is a ponderer with a joyous heart.  I am encouraged and inspired when I visit Polly's blog.  I became an even bigger fan of Polly's after she sent me fabric and books out of the kindness of her heart! 

Who is your favorite small blog?  Let's find some new favorites!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Off to the Consignment Store

So, after ranting about garage sales, I'm off to see if I can get ahead at the kids' consignment store.

I poked under the children's bed and in their closet to find all the cold-weather clothes.  They tried most of them on.  Now I have three groups:  outgrown things nice enough to consign, mostly worn-out things for the thrift store, and a list of needed items.

They made mustaches, with no idea that these are trendy right now!

My local kids' consignment store is picky about what they take.  They want namebrands, barely worn, in perfectly clean condition.  The first time I tried to consign my stroller, they told me it was too dirty; boy, I scrubbed that thing and consequently, they took it and paid me $45.

Genevieve has two pairs of outgrown patent leather shoes.  They had little scuff marks all over them.  A little googling led me to try wiping the shoes with nail polish remover.  Success!  With minimal effort, the shoes are now bright and shiny.   In the box they go with scrubbed-up snow boots and outgrown clothes, all threads and fuzzies carefully trimmed off. 

My plan is to consign the outgrown ones and put the money towards replacement items from the consignment store.  Conveniently, this store pays cash up front with no appointment necessary, so I always scrounge around for a few nice items to consign when I go shopping there.

What the consignment store doesn't take, I will drop at the thrift store or see how I feel about selling it on ebay.

This process is one of the ways I choose to spend my homemaking time.  Some people simply go to a store and buy the first suitable item, making time for other aspects of homemaking they care more about.  I, however, like to scheme on the best price, the best return on my old-clothes-investment, and the most efficient car trip.  And I love the chilly weather outside that makes me feel like a squirrel, busily storing things away ahead of the snow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Little Rant About Yard Sales

You know when a household prices their stuff and sets it in their garage/yard/porch to sell?  I've decided that it's not worth my time to browse their stuff.

playing sushi restaurant - the Fisher Price house is the cash register

Because here's the thing:  their style might not be my style, so even if they have a mirror for sale and I'm in the market for a mirror, chances are that it's not the mirror I had in mind, but I will buy it anyway because they are watching me

There's no way to window-shop discreetly at a yard sale.  When you pull the car over or step onto the porch, you've declared your intent.  To leave without buying anything feels insulting - I can do it, yes, but I feel bad in a way I don't feel in a thrift store where the people who donated the stuff are not sitting there pretending not to watch me.

I've also tried to throw my own sale and make a lot of money which I've heard can be done.  Well.  It didn't work for me, and it was annoying to donate all that junk that I had carefully priced to the thrift store where I should have put it in the first place.  And that's why there is usually a small bag of thrift store donations in my car trunk - I'm not saving them for no yard sale, no how.

This, then, is the story of how I bought 4 cloth napkins I didn't need for a buck at a yard sale down the street on my way home from market on Saturday. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

I'm Never Scheduling Anything For the End of August Again

This is a note to myself:  the end of August and the beginning of September are full enough, do not add anything else that can possibly be avoided.

 1. Children start school. That means groggy adjustments to bedtime and morning rush, plus the previous weeks of figuring out what school things needed to be bought or made.

2. We have an anniversary to celebrate. Our mothers have birthdays.

 3. The tyranny of the produce is at its height. My preserving notebook has proved this over and over, and these red peppers were no exception. Rebecca called with a note of hilarious panic in her voice. Well, shoot, I want to eat pimento cheese in the dead of winter, so yes, Ben and I went at it. Bless his heart, he tried very hard to wash the jars like his big sister who was away at school.

Add to this a number of social and church obligations that I should have put off until other weeks, and it has been exhausting. I think, maybe, I'm on the other side now.
The wash is on the line, I've got yogurt to make and chicken breasts to poach (for this salad), and I'm hoping to pick up my repaired sewing machine today.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Last Corn

Corn was scarce at market this week and my favorite farmer confirmed that this would be the last corn from her farm.  Hello, fall!
They saved the silk and any wiggly worms to play with.  Poor wormies.

All summer, the children have come running when I yelled for them to husk the corn.  I bought a dozen ears, occasionally two dozen.

Usually there were a few ears left over and that's how I preserved my corn this year!  I didn't buy a big batch, I just cut it off here and there as we had extra ears.  I got that tip from my mom.

Sometimes I grilled the corn if it was terribly hot, but other times I boiled it.  I've got jars of both, down in the freezer.  I don't actually know how much is down there, but I need to organize the freezer a bit before we get our eighth of beef in November.

I should tell you about these black chairs, too.  Our neighbor set them out for the trash this spring because he was cleaning up his weedy, neglected back yard and the chairs were mossy with 1970s cushions.  I'm guessing that was his reasoning, anyway, because neither party has acknowledged to the other that we now have these nice sturdy chairs.
My husband painted the chairs black with paint we had on hand, and I stalked the mall sales until I got 2 reversible cushions on sale from the Bon-Ton for $60 total.  They are all-weather cushions, which means the rain doesn't hurt them.  That's handy, since our backyard can get quite neglected too.  Maybe it's the neighborhood theme?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Accidentally Felted Skirt, Repurposed

I washed this skirt without realizing it was wool because the fabric came to me from Mrs. R.  While I do love found fabric, I have to figure out its fiber content and this time I was wrong.  I thought it was cotton because it was deeply lush and not scratchy at all.  It's probably cashmere or something equally expensive and special.

Well, I ran the shrinky-dink skirt through hot water and the dryer to be certain it was felted, then I cut it up as hotpad filler.  It makes a plump, sturdy hotpad, so I am mostly consoled.  Who else has cashmere-filled hotpads?

They're in the shop, along with some other new goodies!

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Report on the Summer Goals

Summer is fading into fall - time to take a direct look at how our summer goals went.  Honestly, after I posted the paper on the fridge, I didn't look at it again.   Also, we enforced quiet time only when somebody, kid or adult, was tired and cranky.

Here are the goals from the original post - and my observations in purple below.

Goals for the 6-year old to learn:1. clean sinks
She can do a decent job on the bathroom sink, but I have to be nearby or she gets carried away with the vinegar spray.  We never progressed to Bon Ami and the kitchen sink.

2. spray and clean mirrors/windows
She does a good job on the bathroom mirror.  I ask her to clean the mirror and she gets out the supplies and does it!
She wanted to thread the needle.

3. use sewing machine [I need to find an owner's manual for her machine first]
After some frustrating research, I finally just purchased the PDF of the owner's manual and printed it out.  I finally set up the machine last week because I ran out of excuses when Genevieve reminded me that this was a summer goal (I know, there's no excuse for my behavior), and she enjoyed herself immensely.  When I suggested that I help her sew little napkins for her and Ben's lunchpails, she wasn't as thrilled.

4. vacuum a room
She can do a decent job, and she can get out and set up the vacuum by herself.  We made progress on this goal.

5. dust a room
Same outcome as the previous goal, vacuuming.  It's wonderful to have such good help!

Setting the table is becoming routine for them.  Hooray!

6. sweep a sidewalk
She is helpful, but my husband focused more on Ben for this goal.

7. wipe a counter or table - wringing a cloth
She can do it if I ask, but she has a hard time wringing the cloth out hard enough. She also finds loose bits tricky to deal with as she wipes up.

8. organize an area such as a drawer or desk of art supplies
Oh, I tried so hard to make progress on this goal!  But I think I still needed to dial down my instructions and make the tasks smaller.  We made very little progress on this goal.
Trying to sort the toys - poor dear.  Where is her mother?

Goals for the 4-year-old1. dust/wipe the steps
He does this well, but with excruciating slowness.

2. fold laundry
He can do this job with his sister without weeping.  He is remembering basic folding patterns from session to session, although he struggles to execute them.  Of course!  He's four!

3. sweep a sidewalk
His daddy supervised this goal usually on days when I was at my job.  He can do a pretty good job with some coaching.  His speed and focus have improved.


Ben has also become very good at taking all the rugs outside and shaking them so someone can vacuum.  Both children were excellent helpers with canning and preserving. Genevieve has become accustomed to drying dishes, and very soon, I will start her on washing.  She adores the idea of having her hands in all that water. 

This post was so helpful for me, because when I glanced at the list of goals at the end of the summer, I only noticed the goals that we had not progressed very far on.  Perish the thought -  we made good progress this summer!