Monday, March 26, 2012

I May Never Toss a TP Roll Again

You may remember my seed starting project awhile back with tomatoes, pumpkins and sunflowers.  All are growing and thriving in their TP roll homes!  This alone was enough to make me think about saving my toilet paper rolls for next year.

But it seems like a lot more little projects are popping up to utilize this oft tossed bathroom remnant.

I bet you've seen them used as a way to organize extension cords and keep them de-tangled.  Works for all kinds of long cords, actually.  Not necessarily new, but a great idea!  And easy to cover with wallpaper, scrapbook paper or spray paint if you want something to blend into your decor better than a plain brown tube.

And how about to slip over rolls of wrapping paper?  I like this idea to keep them rolled up in storage.  It's annoying, to me anyway, when the paper gets ripped because part of it has unrolled itself while sitting in my storage box.

I also found another garden idea that I'm going to save them up for next year.  I think I like this idea a lot better than the newspaper seed tapes I made this year.  Awesome way to keep them neat and organized before you plant the garden.  The only thing I'd add to this idea is to write the kind of seed that is on the tape at the top of the tube.

And perusing Pinterest just now I found dozens of craft projects using toilet paper rolls.  There was everything from paint stamps, to gift boxes, to animal figure craft projects suitable to make with small kids, to amazingly intricate decor pieces that look a little like over-sized quilling projects to decorate your walls. Here's a couple of them that I might like to try one day...  Spray paint the flowers in pastel shades and wouldn't that wreath be pretty on the front door for spring?  And I think those black 'tiles' would be awesome on a wall in my master bedroom... maybe 2 on each side of the picture window or in a grouping above the headboard if I  move the quilt hanging that's there now.

So fun to contemplate!  Now... if I can just collect enough rolls for all the stuff I suddenly seem to want to make!

Yep, it's true.  Toilet paper rolls might just be my new favorite upcycle item.  I'm serious when I say I may NEVER toss a TP roll again!

(All of these pictures came from Pinterest.  I snapped none of them and claim no credit beyond the ability to cut and paste.)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Girly-Girl Look

Just letting you all know that after a few requests to girlify the Sock-Style Baby Booties I've updated the pattern to include an option for a frothy, frilly and oh-so-girly-girl ruffle on the cuff.  So now you can make these booties that moms report actually stay on the baby's feet...

With a ruffle.

Or a plain cuff.

Download the updated pattern here or on the Crafts and Other Downloadables page link on the sidebar.

I've shared this post at The Country Garden Showcase - Week 13 at White Wolf Summit Farmgirl.  (Tomorrow I'll get back to the garden... sore tired muscles need Sunday's off that kind of work!!)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Ever since the sourdough bread came out so nice last time and was surprisingly easy to make I've been thinking about using the dough for cinnamon rolls.  Oh mama!!  Most brilliant idea since topping them off with cream cheese frosting!

Even if I did have to learn to make my own powdered sugar because I guessed wrong in not buying some at the grocery store yesterday and the packages in the storage room were brown sugar and not powdered sugar.  It was another kitchen thing I'd never done before but is exceptionally easy and probably a lot cheaper.  You  just put regular granulated sugar and cornstarch (1-2 Tbl cornstarch to each cup of sugar) in the blender or coffee grinder and whip it up.  The cornstarch is just to help it not cake in your canister.  Easy peasy...

I tried a tiny bit on the end of my tongue when it started to look "right" as I was hoping to show you with this inside shot of the blender.  It was still grainy and needed a few more seconds of pulsing but it really made me think about this article on the damage sugar does inside your body.  I first thought of it when the instructions I found said not to use a glass blender cup because the sugar would permanently scratch it but pressing those sugar grains against the roof of my mouth with my tongue is when it really made sense that Dr. Dwight Lundell said sugar is abrasive to the insides of your veins and the body's natural defense to injury is  inflammation which with our high sugar diets is a chronic thing and causes heart disease and other ailments.  It's worth the few minutes it takes to read the article then get just a few grains of sugar on your tongue and rub them against the roof of your mouth.

It's almost as astounding as this package of cookies I bought yesterday...  I rarely even like this kind of stuff, but every now and then a mint flavored Oreo is the only thing that will hit the spot.  Kid-O's are Kroger's knockoff and they taste about the same for quite a lot less money.  See that little blue graphic on the bottom left of the package?  It's the nutritional info for a serving... 2 cookies.  It tells you the fat, calories, sodium, etc.

Here's a close up.  If you can't quite make it out because of my lack of any real photography skills, it says they are a vegetable.  A vegetable.  Yes, I did stand at the counter blinking at the package for several minutes because my brain just couldn't fathom the marketing spin that makes cookies into a vegetable.  I still can't find the words to email Kroger to ask for an explanation.  A vegetable?


I've shared this post on The Country Homemaker Hop - Week 12 at White Wolf Summit Farmgirl.

and on Barn Hop #54 at Homestead Revival.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree

I looked out my window and what did I see?
Popcorn popping on the apricot tree!
Spring has brought me such a nice surprise,
Blossoms popping right before my eyes.
I can take an armful and make a treat,
A popcorn ball that would taste so sweet.
It wasn't really so, but it seemed to me
Popcorn popping on the apricot tree!

And with a week of good weather ahead and a few bees buzzing in the blossoms... it might actually fruit this year!

Spring brought me another surprise, too!  A few weeks ago I answered a phone call from Domino's and they were doing a survey about their oven baked sandwiches.  Those sandwiches are quite tasty, by the way!  The thank you gift for answering maybe a dozen questions was a $25 VISA card.  I'd forgotten all about that until it came today.

Yay!  I love happy surprises!!

I've shared this post on The Country Homemaker Hop - Week 12 at White Wolf Summit Farmgirl.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Granola Movement

For about as long as I can remember I've heard people who embrace holistic and earth-friendly lifestyles referred to as "Granolas."  Presumably this a way to poke fun at those who are content to munch on the twigs and pebbles of the food chain.  Well if this is what twigs and pebbles taste like, count me in!!  I'll proudly bear the title of Granola.

I was hoping the first taste of my home-made granola would invoke a reaction that played out like a bad imitation of a Jim Carey movie.  You know... the whole tongue hanging out past the chin, slapping my hands and face and yanking myself forcibly away from the counter where it is cooling.  I didn't get quite that kind of good.


But not quite.  Yet.

With a bit more tweaking I think we'll get there, though.  Don't get me wrong... it is delicious.  Eating it up will not be a hardship!

What I don't like is that it didn't cluster up as much I wanted.  To solve this, I'm going to increase the wet ingredients a little next time.  It tastes slightly over-cooked because I baked it for about 15 minutes longer than called for because it was so thick on my jelly roll pan.  It also needs a bit more texture for my liking.

Here's what I did:

Yes, I threw in chocolate chips that are not in the recipe.
I love chocolate but this was a mistake I won't repeat.
In a very large bowl, I combined 6 cups of old fashioned oats, 2 cups of crisp rice cereal, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 Tbl salt and 1/8 cup cinnamon.

You're right... it does look like baby poop.  Everything I've
ever made with melted peanut butter does but thankfully
it doesn't taste like crap when you're done.
In a smaller bowl that can be used in the microwave, I mixed 1/3 cup brown sugar, 2/3 cup canola oil, 1 cup mild clover honey, 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter, 1/4 cup water and 1 tsp vanilla.  Microwave in 1 minute increments until combined.

Way too thick!  Use 2 pans...
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix gently until well incorporated and clusters begin to form.  If you want to add dried fruit or nuts or chocolate bits, do it now.  Turn out onto a lightly oiled jelly roll pan and bake at 325F for 20 minutes.  Stir and bake 15 minutes longer.  Let cool and store airtight.

In case you are wondering, I do have plan to fix the  minor inadequacies I saw in this batch of granola.  I'm going to up the measurement of oil to 1 cup, the brown sugar to 1/2 cup and the water to 1/2 cup.  I'm also planning on substituting 1 cup of nuts for 1 cup of oats and perhaps another 1/2 cup with sunflower or pumpkin seeds.  Those changes should give me the "more clusters and more texture" that I want.

I'm also thinking up some things to mix up the flavor.  Some time I'm going to try substituting maple syrup for honey, sliced almonds for 1 cup of the oats, almond extract for the vanilla, more oil to replace the fats from the peanut butter and add dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.  I'd also leave out the cinnamon on this combo.

Another idea I'm toying with is substitute white sugar for the brown, more oil in place of the peanut butter, big shreds of coconut in place of any nuts and using a combination of dried strawberries and banana slices.  Again, I'd leave the cinnamon out on this one.

What's your favorite granola recipe?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Come Listen to a Prophet's Voice

Come listen to a prophet's voice,
And hear the word of God,
And in the ways of truth rejoice,
And sing for joy aloud.

Those are the opening lines of a hymn we sing at Church (Hymns #21).  And tonight I had just that opportunity.  M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles is the speaker at our Stake Conference this weekend.  Accompanying him is Gary L. Crittenden of the Quorum of the Seventy.  They both gave some great counsel this evening.

There's only one thing that bothers me when such well-known General Authorities come to Stake Conference.  It seems that some people put much more importance on the 'name' and giving them almost celebrity status than on the message they bring.  Elder Crittenden even pointed it out when he admitted to being a country music fan and told  about attending a concert.  He said he and his wife arrived at the venue and a band was already playing.  That band finished and another group took the stage and performed their set.  Then another while they wondered "When is the main event?"  He went on to point out that was how we must all feel waiting through other speakers for Elder Ballard to step to the pulpit.

I wish we could all take the stars out of eyes and hear what they are trying to tell us.

Elder Ballard started off quoting from a talk President Hinckley gave in the Priesthood Session of General Conference in October 1998.

"Now, brethren, I want to make it very clear that I am not prophesying, that I am not predicting years of famine in the future. But I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order.

So many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings.

We have witnessed in recent weeks wide and fearsome swings in the markets of the world. The economy is a fragile thing. A stumble in the economy in Jakarta or Moscow can immediately affect the entire world. It can eventually reach down to each of us as individuals. There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed."

He went on to talk about how the prophesied conditions and signs of the last days are escalating and the degraded moral fiber of America and repeated the phrase, "I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order."

He asked each of us to think carefully about what we need to do to prepare ourselves and our family... to get the gospel from our minds and the institution of the church and into our hearts.  So many fall away because they have an intellectual testimony and not a spiritual testimony that only can come from interacting with the Spirit.  He also suggested that we need to keep our eyes on the eternal perspective and realize there comes a time when we must choose to trust God, His will, and His plan more than we want to control the situation ourselves.

New information?  No.  It's the same counsel that has been repeated so many ways by so many people.  But obviously we as members of the church are not getting it. We need to keep hearing the same message until we do get it.

In his talk, Elder Critttenden made that point.  He talked of a family who started every Family Home Evening with the song "Love One Another."  When one of the children reached the early teen years and started to question everything, she asked her father why they always sang the same song since there were so many good hymns in the Hymnal to pick from.  The dad replied, "When you understand the first lesson, we'll move on to the second one."

Now to really truly understand that first lesson...

Friday, March 16, 2012

I Am A Dirty Dirty Girl

I just came in from doing yard work and I'm once again covered head to toe in dirt.  I'm sweaty and stinky and I have mud smeared on my face.  I love it!!  I think I should have been born a farmer...

With the calendar showing just mid-March it almost feels too early for any real gardening but yesterday we hit the 70 degree mark for the first time this year.  The radio weatherman this morning promised it again today... but he lied!  It's windy and chilly and there's already full cloud cover for the next approaching storm front.  He said the horrifying words "back into the 40's for Sunday and Monday."  I hope he lied about that, too!

Around the yard things are beginning to sprout and show signs of life.

I pulled back the leaves that had packed themselves in around the Chives late last fall so they could get some light and air.  Hopefully next week I'll get back out to this bed to rip out the Balloon Flower vines that have crawled back through the fence from next door and do some heavy (and long overdue) pruning on the rose bushes.

The Eqyptian Walking Onions are already up and growing well.  The weeds are doing really well, too.

And the Rhubarb is doubling in size just about everyday!  I swear a couple of days ago it looked like a pile of pink Easter eggs with those funky bulby sprouts and now they've uncurled into good sized leaves.  I need to get the mulch down here very soon.

Most of the trees and the grapevines have leaf and/or flower buds swelling.  This is the Apricot tree.  With a few days of crappy weather in the forecast, I guess it's a good thing I'm allergic to apricots and won't be too heart broken if it gets caught in a frost like last year.  Actually last year it wasn't the frost that killed the buds... it scared the bees back into their hives so nothing got pollinated.  Hence the fruitless year.

So far so good this year.  Even the plants indoors are doing great.  You might remember awhile back I tried my hand at starting some  Tomato and Pumpkin seedlings.  My house was a cold 58F all winter and I didn't give them any supplemental heat to get going so they were very slow in coming up but counting the ones that are barely breaking ground, and I am,  I've got 100% success.  For now, I've taken the lid off the plastic container and mist them lightly morning and night to keep moisture levels pretty even.  And they sit in the kitchen window soaking up all the light and afternoon sun they can get.  Next week, when the weather warms up again and they start to get true leaves, I plan on putting them outside for a bit each day gradually working the time up.  And then I'll have to choose which seedling lives to go in the garden and give the rest a quick clip with the scissors.  I've been so pleased with this experiment that I'm planting sunflower seeds in a smaller strawberry container this afternoon.

And finally... even dirty girls need pretty things!  This is one of the big pink Hyacinth in the very beat up front flower bed.  I'm so glad it survived all the digging and getting stepped on last summer.  Waiting to see what else may have survived is hard... I so want to get this bed back to looking good!

I've linked this post to the Farmgirl Friday Bloghop #49 at White Wolf Summit Farmgirl.

And to the link party at No Ordinary Homestead

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Important Conversations

There are a lot of important conversations you participate in during your lifetime.  Talking with parents and family members helps us learn the skills to grow up successfully.  Conversing with friends adds fun and spice and balance to those sometimes hard to learn lessons of family.  In due time we also speak with teachers, coaches, employers, congregants in our church, neighbors, those we encounter in charity work, service people... and the list could go on.  As humans we have a lot of interaction with each other.

But perhaps the most important and most neglected conversation is the one we have with our self.  What does that inner voice say to us?  Does it tell us we are capable and acceptable?  Or does it always tell us we aren't enough?  And just what drives that inner voice?

If it isn't helping us obtain the reality we want , can the message that voice delivers be changed?  How do we change it?  What kind of personal revolution might that start in our life?

Consider this quote from Neale Donald Walsch:  "What we call “reality” is a circle... Perspective creates perception, perception creates belief, belief creates behavior, behavior creates experience, experience creates “reality,” and “reality,” in turn, creates our next perspective."

Today I'm trying to have one of those important conversations with myself and if I used the scale represented in the picture above, I'm tentatively standing on the "How Do I Do It?" step.  In a broad sense my conversation is about economics.  My financial situation is getting to a critical point... I need an income flow to cover basic life sustaining necessities like food and shelter.  At the same time, I desperately do not want to go back to the corporate world of work.  Over the past 6 months I've tried several different things to generate a bit of self-produced income and they've been utter and abysmal failures.  I'm struggling to find the lesson in that and not just perceive it as I am a failure.

How do I change that from a destructive perception to a positive one that will let me move forward with purpose and success?  How do I turn my perceived lack into a perception of abundance?  Abundance implies plenty to give away...  Can I believe that I have anything to give?   And if I can find a way to believe it, do I have the inner faith to do it?

It's not that I'm seeking to be rich.  What society sees as wealth is a burden in and of itself that I don't wish to carry.  Monetarily all I'm interested in is enough to let me live in simplicity.  Money is a tool, an item to trade for things we need and want, a way of keeping score in the absurd game we play and call life.  More doesn't bring happiness.  It's a matter of having enough... and recognizing what is enough.  So for now I'm going to go outside and enjoy some mid-March sunshine and physical labor doing garden prep while I count the many blessings I do enjoy.  And even though I'm still worried about making the mortgage on April 1, I'm going to let sunshine, hard work, and the life I have be enough.

That's the important conversation I'm having with myself today.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Puzzle

Some treasures don't require a map so much as a little elbow grease.  I've been trying to force myself to clean out and organize more in the storage room the past few days.  Bleh!  It's an awful task that I have to force myself to get up and do a bit at a time.  But today's effort paid off!!  I found a box of Mexican Talavera tile pushed into the back corner of the furnace section of my storage room.  I am a long-time Talavera fan so this is a real treasure!

Now let's solve the puzzle and figure out how I can put them together for an art piece on one of my bare family room walls...  Once I have a layout I'll figure out what to back them with, how to adhere them and what to frame it with.  If you have thoughts on that, I'd love to hear them as well..  All are 4" square and glazed with some combination of a pale off-white and rather deep true shades of blue, green and yellow.

To work with, I have: 

3 in this pattern of blue and off-white.

5 that are plain off-white with no pattern at all.

5 in this pattern of blue and yellow on off-white.

25 of this pattern with blue, yellow and green on the off-white background.

Ideas anyone?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

We're All A Little Bit Irish

With St. Patrick's Day just a week away, I was reminded of a saying I heard a few years ago - Everybody's Irish on St. Paddy's Day!  The shamrocks and leprechauns that decorate every storefront are constant reminders of that Irish heritage that everyone claims whether they have Irish ancestry or not.

My grandpa Clarke, I'm told, is one who always claimed an Irish heritage.  And I've heard stories that he drank enough beer to live up to the stereotype.  But as I could piece bits of genealogy together all I could find were English names... and one stray Jamaican that was his grandfather, James Gorman.  Seeking information on him, I found Jamaica and Ireland have unique connection that goes back many hundreds of years.  Why did I never learn this in history classes?  At some point in my research I copied and pasted a document of the history from a website detailing Jamaican genealogy records and historical documents.  I've posted a copy here for those who will take the time to read it, and I think you'll be as surprised as I was that many Irish were imported to Jamaica by the English as slaves.  I haven't found proof that he, or more likely his father or grandfather, were Irish slaves but it seems to be the best hypothesis I've found to explain how I have a Jamaican ancestor... and an Irish one.

And it gives me a real connection to these wonderful little Irish blessings rather than just a smile when they start to pop up in March each year.  In our current pop-culture, we so often associate the Irish with luck.  Luck o' the Irish, we say... But historically they were not a lucky people.  They saw much violence, hatred, hardship and ethnic discrimination.   And when I think about that it's even more amazing that they still have the fortitude to be happy and to wish such beautiful things for others.

Maybe that's the real reason to celebrate St. Patrick's Day!

Resilience in the face of adversity is a gift.  One I need to focus on developing more in my own life.  So... this coming week as I celebrate the wearing o' the green and wish you a Happy St. Patrick's Day what I hope you're hearing is this Irish blessing:

May you always be blessed with...
Walls for the wind, a roof for the rain,
A warm cup of tea by the fire,
Laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
And all that your heart might desire.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Master Bedroom Quandry

Due to faulty backups and a fried motherboard on an old laptop, this is the only before picture I have of my master bedroom.  It was taken the day I got the keys to the house... June 2, 2007.

Gone is the ruffled curtain, green wall paper and brown (I think) carpet.  It sat like that and was used as a storage room for everything else that needed to be put away for over a year because I didn't have the furniture I thought I wanted and I hadn't decided on a color scheme.

The floor is now a beautiful Mexican Cherry laminate and the walls have been smoothed and painted a soft dove gray.  And finally I moved my parents old bedroom set in the room.  It's a 1920's era bed, chest of drawers, vanity and bench my dad purchased used sometime after he came home from the Army following WWII.  All the pieces have some condition problems that need to be addressed and will be when time and finances allow it.

I also want to modify the bed slightly to fit a queen-size mattress and springs.  That's been one of the major hold ups to finishing the room, actually.  The bed isn't truly either a full or a queen.  It's sized somewhere in between.  My favorite furniture store sold me a set of universal extenders... which fit the foot board perfectly but don't work with the shape of this particular headboard.  The extender will need to be custom fabricated and I need longer rails to fit the bigger box springs.  So the mattress and springs are leaning on the wall in another room waiting while I sleep here on a very old and broken down full-size.

I'm liking the gray and green combination with crisp white and a bit of pink.  After looking at the picture of the bed, however, I'm wondering about the pink.  I'd never realized there was that much of it...  And in decorating, this is kind of where I'm stalled out on the room.  I keep changing my mind about details like window treatments, art, overhead lighting and lamp(s), a throw rug and now the amount of pink in the room.  Which could throw off any ideas currently floating in my brain on all those other details.... again.

And which brings me to the other complication - the main bath.  Notice I didn't call it a master bath?  The house is classic 1953 construction.  (Go ahead, scroll up and look in complete awe now at the size of my closet.  They're like that all over the house, by the way.  And yes, my neighbors do have closet envy.)  They didn't do master baths in most homes in 1953.  The main bath serves not only the master bedroom but has the only bathing facility on this floor (there are 2 more bedrooms) and has to function as a place for guests to go potty.  Great big job, itsy bitsy room.  And this one is a disaster.

But I do love a good disaster....  I want this room to coordinate with the master bedroom when everything is finally done.  Here's the before picture.  About all that's been done is to remove the shower doors.  I don't know what was used to caulk/seal/whatever them but I tell you it was meant to last throughout all eternity!  You can't grind it off with a dremel or chip it off without taking huge pieces of enamel off the bathtub!  I love old cast iron tubs and how they hold the heat when you want to sit and soak!  Maybe I can get it re-enameled.  Doable, right?

And see all that burgundy tile?  My first reaction was that it just had to go.  HAD. TO. GO.  But with time, I've found I sort of like it.  Ok... I really like it.  A lot.  And I have a lot of art pieces (peach/red/burgandy rose pictures and deep blood red glassware) that match and are strangely the right scale for the walls in this room.  I'm thinking maybe the tile stays.  Or replacement tile in the same color since this tile stops at the edge of the vanity and I want to change that out for one that's more open and the wall behind is semi-visible.

So... comments?  Thoughts?  Ideas?  Should the pink be re-purposed to another room and go with a bit of peachy tones instead?  Should I wipe the slate clean and start fresh?   How would you tackle the decor?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sourdough Bread - 1st Time

To those of you with lots of real homemaking or simplicity experience this may sound silly... but I've been so excited the past week watching my sourdough starter re-hydrate and get to doing exactly what the pamphlet from the website said it should!  It bubbled up right on schedule, it formed the liquid on top just as anticipated. It even has that sourdough smell.  So today, I made bread.  Yes, it's true... I am a sourdough virgin no longer.

Last night before I (finally) went to bed, I decided on the Alaska Sourdough Bread from the Carl Griffiths 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Pamphlet and per those instructions, took 1 cup of starter and in one of my biggest Tupperware bowls combined it with 3 cups of flour and 2 1/2 cups of water.  This sat inside my oven with the seal on the bowl and the light on in the oven overnight to form the sponge that is the basis for bread.

To the remaining starter, I added 1 cup flour, 1 cup water and 1Tbl sugar and set it back in the fridge.  And yes, I know I didn't perfectly follow the feeding instructions for starter but this morning it's doing just what it should so I'm gonna be happy and go with it.

Today when I was ready to dig into making up my bread dough, I added 4 Tbl canola oil, 1 Tbl salt, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 cup sugar and enough flour that it made a ball that pulled cleanly away from the bowl and off my fingers.  The recipe calls for 5 more cups but I didn't need that much.  It only needed a touch more than 3 cups to form a beautiful, smooth, elastic-y dough.   Put just a touch of oil on top of the dough ball to help condition it and prevent it from drying out, snapped the seal back on the bowl and set it back in the oven (with the light still on to keep it just barely warm) to raise until doubled.

Next, I divided the dough into fourths and shaped into balls for those traditional round sourdough loaves.  Then covered with a damp tea towel and set them in the oven to raise a bit.  When they were getting close to size, I set them on top of the range and brought the oven temperature up to 375F.  Then I cut the expansion slashes and set them inside to bake for almost an hour.  In my research I read that moisture in the oven is what makes sourdough bread nice and crusty so I also put a cake pan with about 1 inch of water on the bottom shelf while they baked.

The result?

Oh yes!  I AM a domestic godess!!

I've linked this post the the Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop #48 at White Wolf Summit Farmgirl.

and A Country Saturday #3 at Life on a Mini Farm.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Quick Chili

Yesterday was a lovely and sunny 65F outside.  Overnight the wind kicked up again and blew in the next storm front.  I awoke to a cloudy day where we hit the day's high temp before 10:00 a.m.  The radio announcer this morning said rain would be moving in during the afternoon turning to snow overnight.  That's just the kind of day that calls for a big pot of chili.  And with my Quick Chili recipe, I can have one ready to eat in under 30 minutes!

In a large skillet or dutch oven I combine the following:
2/3 -3/4 lb cooked, crumbled and then frozen hamburger   (see comments following recipe)
3 17.5 oz cans of kidney beans
2 packages of frozen chopped tomatoes  (see comments)
2 packets of mild chili seasoning  (see comments)
1 package of frozen chopped zucchini (optional - see comments)
1/2 cup catsup
Salt and pepper to taste

Simmer until thick.  Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Photo via Pinterest
I was too hungry and ate mine
before I could take a picture!
Hamburger - Even as a single person, I buy hamburger 5 pounds at a time.  I cook the whole package, then after it has cooled portion it out into ziplok bags and freeze.  The bigger packages of meat are cheaper per pound so this works out to be very cost efficient for  me.

Tomatoes - When there is an abundance of fresh tomatoes in the garden every August, I cut them into rough 1-inch dices and freeze them in ziplok bags to use during the coming winter in soups, chili, spaghetti and casseroles.  It doesn't take any special preparation... just wash them and cut them and scoop into the bags.  It's frugal, yes.  But it's also a matter of flavor.  Frozen tomatoes keep that really bright fresh tomato flavor that canned ones do not have.  For purposes of this recipe, you can substitute 2 cans of diced tomatoes with or without peppers.

Zucchini - I also cube and partially saute zucchini to freeze in 2 cup quantities.  It makes a good filler in dishes like chili or meatloaf where there is a strong flavor to cover it.  This coming summer I'm thinking about putting the tomatoes, zucchini and some chopped and sauted onions together in a larger ziplock so all the vegetables are in one package.

Chili Seasoning - I often make my own using this Taco Seasoning recipe.  The spices are so similar that I've started using this one pretty universally in Southwestern-themed cooking.  2 Tbl is equivalent to a commercially prepared package.

Taco Seasoning Mix

¼ cup dried minced onions
2 Tbl chili powder
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp crushed dried red pepper flakes
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried marjoram
1 Tbl salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 Tbl corn starch
1 Tbl dried minced garlic
1 tsp cumin

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl using a wire whisk until well incorporated.  Store airtight in a cool dry place for up to 6 months.  2 Tbl = 1 packet of commercial Taco Seasoning.

To use:  Brown 1 lb ground beef, drain fat.  Add ½ cup water and 2 Tbl Taco Seasoning.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Makes enough meat filling for 8-10 tacos.

I also use this to season hamburger for Chili.

 I've linked this post to the Made From Scratch Blog Hop # 9 at The Way Grandmama Does It.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Purpose of Life

When God is trying to get my attention, He seems to direct other people here on earth to be His angels and, as it so often requires, bombard me with the same message.  Over and over and over again.  Until I finally get it.  This morning was one of those times.  Take a look at these things that were placed in front of me just this morning::

Various posters from Facebook and Pinterest which are scattered throughout this post.

This gut-wrenching post from one of my most unlikely favorite blogs, Single Dad Laughing.  I would absolutely call it a must-read post.  So much of it echoed my own feelings and experiences with a near-death experience.

This quote from Neale Donald Walsch, "What is important in your life is what you decide is important - and this decision will indelibly create who you are."

And this one from William Wallace (given modern fame the movie Braveheart and who I'm told I have some ancestral relation to), “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.

And I started thinking about my own struggles and blessings and search for myself over the past year.  About being broke and broken and trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces and stack them differently this time.  About who I am and who I want to be in the future.  About my contribution to the world around me.  Taking the time to reflect on it didn't really change the reality that I'm broke - what do I expect after being a full year without a paycheck and all the independent business things I've tried to do for myself look like miserable failures?  At the same time, my needs have been met so I haven't missed a mortgage payment or had to go hungry yet.  Nor did simple reflection resolve the question within myself of why some of the things I want most from life are the very things that have been withheld and still sit just beyond my grasp.  And I'm still figuring out just how to stack the pieces so that this time I get a solid and level foundation that doesn't topple over.  

I'm doing the best that I can with what I've got.  And that's actually pretty darned good!  What I did realize is that despite all the things that appear to be against me right now, I am happy.  I am calm.  I am confident.

I can do this.

I will face whatever challenges and choices lay before me with the same attitude of success.