Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wonderful Lettuce as a Wonderful Side Dish

I have eaten lettuce as a side dish for lunch for 6 days straight now since I read about this in the newspaper last week.  I regretfully cannot quote the writer or article, because most of the article was about the French vinaigrette she fell in love with and took years to re-create at home.  But she did mention that she puts excellent olive oil, flake salt, and fresh ground pepper on butter lettuce and it's so good it doesn't need vinegar.  

This is a game changer!  No tedious salad prep! No emulsifying a vinaigrette! I adore green salads, but I consider them kind of a production.  I wash and dry the lettuce, chop and shred some veggies, sometimes toast some nuts, make a dressing or vinaigrette if there's not one sitting in the fridge, and hope for leftovers so I can have some for lunch the next day.  

But!  If you simply pull some lettuce leaves into a bowl, drizzle with your best olive oil, sprinkle with some flake salt and fresh pepper, stir, and oh-my-goodness-EAT IT, it is wonderful and fast and I can have it whenever I want!

I am extremely fortunate to have local farmers who grow gorgeous, organic lettuce year-round in their greenhouses or hydroponically; their lettuce is clean enough to skip the washing and drying steps, hallelujah. 
My favorite serving dish, from Grandma Weaver.
When I steam broccoli or something like that, I sprinkle it with salt and pepper and give it a slick of butter or olive oil when it's done.  So that's what's going on with the lettuce here - that's why I call it "side dish lettuce" instead of a salad.  

You could add vinegar or lemon juice if that's what you do with your steamed broccoli (and then you could go on to add other veggies. . . and you've got salad). I am just thrilled for the simplicity that allows me to assemble side dish lettuce in the 33 seconds it takes to microwave the toddler some lunch. 

You may also be interested to see this study by the Center for Disease Control that ranks vegetables and fruits according to their nutrient density; leaf lettuce outranks kale, collards, cabbage and others as a nutrient-dense powerhouse vegetable.  Hooray for lettuce!

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Bright Wool Wrap Skirt with a Kilt Pin

I bought this wool from my favorite thrift store: 3 yards of soft, pure wool in a gorgeous plaid for $5.  Amazing!

I was a little nervous to cut into it, but you can see that I did in this post.  And I matched the plaid by making sure I laid the bottom of the pattern pieces on the same stripe in the plaid. I decided to line the skirt to make dressing even easier and wearing even more comfortable (I hate when my slip and my skirt/dress don't move in the same way so that I'm conscious of two separate layers - lining eliminates this!). I used a navy lining fabric from JoAnn's and simply made a duplicate skirt.  The waistband facing at the top holds the lining in place, as does my handstitching at both sides.  I left the lining hem free of the skirt hem.

The kilt pin is pretty and also functional when you have kids crawling across your lap randomly.  I'm still debating if I should put belt carriers on the waistline like the pattern calls for.

Thanks to the deep green in this skirt, I'm having a new color crush.  I don't know what it looks like on your monitor, but it's a deep jewel green.  Like cobalt blue is to navy, this deep green is to the 80s hunter green.  It's lively.

I bought this elbow-sleeve sweater at the thrift store for $3 and got it home to realize it was kelly-green. So gauche next to the deep rich colors in the skirt. So I dyed the sweater! 

The sweater in these photos was overdyed with Rit Dark Green #35. I did it the Saturday night before I wore it to church, while Ben and a friend roared through the dishes (nothing broke, just the silverware drawer spilled over the floor, so I took the opportunity to clean the silverware tray while the sweater simmered on the stove).  And the girls shrieked in and out of the kitchen, and I told my husband I was dyeing a sweater, and he said, "I'm impressed, but not surprised."  Isn't he the best?  I flopped the wet sweater on the radiator overnight, and wore it (I confess) smugly to church the next morning.  And these whimsical green gems that I bought from an opera-singer neighbor years ago finally have an outfit!  I still have some wool plaid left:  maybe I can get one of my girls to wear a matching skirt.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Best Jobs for Toddlers

I found a great job for Phoebe and she agrees (key point of this being a great job).  I let her stand on the stool (important!) in order to pinch off the eyes of the storage potatoes.  She can't really break the potatoes or the basket I keep them in.  She can see her progress, and this is a truly useful way to keep our potatoes nice. 

Other best jobs for toddlers?  Phoebe has lots of energy to spare!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New Candles From Old Scraps

I play a little game where I try to reduce the trash we produce weekly. Our volume is a little high right now because Phoebe wears disposables overnight, but I'm looking at the big picture.  We have an excellent recycling program in the city, and often our recycling bins are fuller than our trash bins. 

I wondered if I could do anything with this big pillar candles that burn through their wick in the center and leave behind a heavy chunk of wax for the trash.  I did a little research and successfully made some new votives!

Supplies I used:
wax from old candles 
a metal coffee can + a saucepan to make a water bath to melt wax
small paper cups
candle wick string
container to hold candle molds while I poured

I put all the old candle chunks, wicks and cinders and whatever included, in the metal coffee can and set it in water in the saucepan over low heat.  Stay in the room while you do this - liquid wax is a fire hazard! Once the wax was totally liquid, the impurities went to the bottom.

I had set up my little votive molds by greasing the paper cups, and putting the wicks in the middle by punching a hole in the bottom of the cup, knotting the wick underneath, and then tying the wick to the toothpick at the top.

I set the molds in a newspaper-lined tray, and poured the hot wax in each mold. You can see that I did two color batches.  The votives hardened fairly quickly, but also left a sinkhole in the middle of each votive.  Since I made these just for winter evenings for us, I don't care, but I'm sure there are ways to prevent that sinkhole. 

And the votives burn very nicely! So I've started collecting scraps of wax and candles again in a bag for an easy, thrifty project that reduces our trash volume and keeps the house bright. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Super-Simple Ranch Dressing

I forget exactly when and how Rebecca cracked the code on making authentic (read: Hidden Valley) ranch dressing at home.  The secret is so funny: chicken bouillon powder!

I make this on the fly and don't measure a thing, but I'll guess at the measurements to give you a helping hand.

Mix together:
3/4 cup regular yogurt (use Greek yogurt if you want a dip)
1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon powder
pinches of dried herbs such as basil, oregano, dill, thyme, or marjoram
sprinkle of garlic powder or minced garlic clove

Taste and add more bouillon powder if needed. If you have a bare pantry for whatever valid reason, just use salt. Possibly add pepper. Play around!  How many variations on the Hidden Valley Ranch flavor are there? As many as you want to make!

Probably the flavor would deepen if you had time to let the ranch dressing sit a little bit, but I've made it and served it right away in the supper rush, and it was delicious.  See, I also grabbed my camera in the supper rush to present you with photographic evidence of this dressing. It also keeps just fine in the fridge for a week or so. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Let's Do Our Phoebes!

About a year ago, my husband started doing push-ups with Phoebe on his back for extra weight.  Then he added the lifts you see in the video (be sure to note the way he extends up on to his toes at the top of the lift). 

He also dips Phoebe behind his back. 

Phoebe adores ordering her daddy to the floor to "do our Phoebes!" She usually counts out loud, incorrectly but with great purpose, for him.

All of this strength training is good for him, fun for Phoebe, and 100% free (if you don't add up the cost of feeding and housing a toddler - let's not - otherwise, very thrifty strength training).

Every day Phoebe gets incrementally older and heavier - how many years can they keep this up? 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A Beatrix Potter Blouse for Phoebe

There are two Peter Rabbit buttons and two Jemima Puddleduck buttons, compliments of my mother-in-law redding out her button stash. 

The blouse fabric was given to me by a blog reader - I think it's actually vintage feedsack in a charming flower.  I love that Phoebe has this pretty blouse to wear under her denim jumper or overalls, or with this sweet little fair isle cardigan that Genevieve wore when she was little.

Instead of buttoned cuffs like that pattern called for, I just put elastic in bias-tape casing inside the wrists.  So much faster to sew and also faster to put on a toddler who has lots of postcards to read, marbles to roll, and dollies to tend.  And clothes to take off.  That girl.  She rarely keeps the same clothes on from morning to night if she can get into her dresser drawer without me noticing.