"Bludgeoning hard times with a rolling pin"

"Bludgeoning hard times with a rolling pin"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I-can-do-it apple pie

Think you can’t make a decent apple pie? Do you feel these types of desserts should be left to the blue ribbon winners at the fair?

Well, throw those notions out just like that uncooperative batch of pie dough. Try this recipe instead!

Start with the pie crust…

Pie crust: (You’ll say, “You must be joking. This crust doesn’t hate me!”)
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons milk

Mix the above ingredients together and work it with your hands to make a big ball of dough.

Take about half of the dough and press it evenly into a greased pie plate. Keep the remaining half nearby.

Apple pie filling:
6 apples, washed, cored, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Place the apple slices inside the formed pie crust.

In a saucepan, heat the butter and flour together to make a paste. Mix in the remainder of the ingredients (sugar, brown sugar, water and cinnamon). Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat down, but keep on the stove, stirring every once in a while. Don’t keep the heat on longer than 5 minutes or so.

That is just enough time to…

Roll out the remainder of the pie crust dough on a floured surface. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes. Lay them on top of the apples in an attractive design. (Extra dough freezes well.)

Pour the stovetop mixture over the top of the apples and the cookies on top. Just pour, pour, pour--making sure not to overflow or splash.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 and bake for another 40 minutes.

You might want to place a sheet of foil under the pie plate to save your oven from any overflows (mine did not overflow, however—probably depends on the size of your pie plate.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Not worth my time? So says Convenience.

The Mertz Log Cabin at Faust Park, Chesterfield, Missouri

I wrote the other day about how Worry paralyzes me from doing what is necessary. Let me introduce you to my other frenemy, Convenience.

Convenience says, "Kris, it's not worth your time to bake bread and mix your own orange juice." It continues, "Just pick up a loaf at the store and while you're there, grab one of those gallon jugs of orange drink, too."

Stop it, Convenience. Stop it, right now!

I see you giggling with Worry behind my back. You two are like mean girls gushing over my new sweater before glancing eye rolls at each other. I'm onto you guys.

At best Worry and Convenience are enablers. At worst, they are saboteurs. Oh yeah, those days are over. I must find new, like-minded pals.

I am learning that the spare change saved from domestic activities such as cooking from scratch add up. And, money saved is actually better than money earned because you don't have to pay taxes on it.

Implementing even more do-it-myself projects should really ca-ching" into some major dough (I regret the pun).

Are you with me?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stinky bug, stinky bug...in my bathtub


In our upstairs bathroom, I thought I trapped two wasps. I didn’t stick around long enough to investigate--just shut the door and reported the sighting to hubby. Turns out, they weren’t wasps at all but stinkbugs.

“This is new,” I thought.

We have been getting accustomed to seasonal ladybug guests, sometimes covering the back of the house almost completely. But stinkbugs? They’re not even cute. Or ladylike.

After a bit of research, I learned stinkbugs are a relatively new problem around here. They love to suck the juices from soybean crops and also wreak havoc on apple trees.

I thought the bugs might die off during the winter, but after more digging learned the stinkers lay low, such as under piles of leaves, and are very much waiting for springtime. Pesticide sprays are known to miss, because these pests are so good at hiding.

So, what should a homemaker do? Rule number one is Do Not Smash Stinkbugs. That’s how they become stinky. Some remedies have included flushing them down the toilet and sucking them up in the vacuum cleaner (throw the vacuum cleaner bag away). Rule number two is to make sure there are no openings in screens where the buggers can easily enter a home.

What do stinkbugs smell like? I’ve read they can smell like skunk or even cilantro. Their scent is dependent on the interpretation of the one smelling them.

Smells like one more inconvenience to me.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I have acknowledged my nemesis. His name is Worry.

"No, Worry, No!" (Imagine a horror movie scream)

The economy recently lost 95,000 jobs because of government layoffs. The business news channels on television report each twitch which may affect stock portfolios.

Someone's thumb slipped and the backsides of everyone's investments are bloody from all the downhill skidding. The market's up. The market's down.

Are you on the edge of your seat?

My lookie-loo nature is tempted every time I sign in to my e-mail account. The search engine constantly refreshes the Dow Jones green arrow up or red arrow down. I suspect the down arrow appears more often, but I don't know really. It's kind of like approaching a traffic light. You don't know if it will be red or green. Whichever it is, that's reality and we must accept it.

I've had it. I'm done trying to outguess the economy's next turn. All this suspense is not useful. It is not convenient. It is not joyful. It is actually hindering efficiency.

I've been hovering over the news like a new parent next to a baby monitor. Why be on worry-alert status? What a waste of time. I don't even "play" the market. There isn't a thing I can do to help the world economy.

Of course, we all can try to drum up business ourselves, make responsible purchases and hire when we are able. Maybe invent something. But that's about it.

Worrying about something so far beyond our control impedes are ability to make individual progress. Yes, teeny-tiny progress. But homemade bread in the freezer is something.

I'm sure that if a catastrophe occurs, I'll find out. Waiting for it to happen is a real downer and fairly morbid.

It's time to be joyful and BUSY. If something earth-shattering does happen, it is best to be prepared. When a tornado approaches, you don't run outside to watch. You hope you've prepared well and take cover.

The watching is over. The worrying is over.

How about you?

Happy. Happy. Happy. Busy. Busy. Busy.

Graphics provided by Designed To a T. (Thank you).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mark time and then some

Having been a "flag girl" in high school, I am aware of the trials, sacrifices, drama and exhaustion that goes with the activity. But that was back in the day. Back in nineteen eighty *something*.

Nowadays, flag and rifle lines are called "guard" and have their own activity, winter guard, of which the band is not invited (tee hee).

These days expectations are more demanding. Lines are straighter, tosses are higher and, what's this? The guard smiles now. We used to be instructed to look intimidating, kind of mean even--being at attention and all.

Competitions are ALL DAY LONG. When I say ALL DAY LONG...I mean, the day starts at 5 a.m. and bedtime isn't until 4 a.m.

Competitions are such long affairs, the seasons change. One arrives in summer, sporting a light jacket. A sweat attack occurs in the afternoon--everyone wishes they'd worn shorts and halter tops (well, maybe not everyone).

When the sun goes down, flags and rifles are fumbled due to cold-numbed fingers. The spectators watch the awards ceremony wrapped in blankets. Some parents cause near riots at the concession stand for the warmth of a cup of hot chocolate to hold. Trash can fires are considered.

These competitions are the icing on the cake. They are the big deals which bands have been preparing for since the heat of mid-summer during band camp. Competitions are prepared for by arriving at school an hour early every morning and staying late for practices nearly every day.

To say that marching band is an extreme sport is an understatement.

Anyway...a salute to the bands (and parents) in the throes of marching season right now.

It's tough out there!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Look deeply. Can you see it?

I wish there was a way to take a photo of what's happening inside my head. If I were an artist, there would be a painting of it.

I used to think it would be a worthy goal to become totally self-sufficient; but family and friends always pooh-pooh this notion. After years of considering details, I agree absolute self-sufficiency is unlikely.


Wouldn't it be awesome to provide as much as possible for oneself? Here is a "word picture" of my dream:

Imagine a small cabin. No big whoop. I don't care if it's made from wood or mud. I don't care if it is a school bus, a discarded grain silo or shipping container.

Home blooms anywhere.

One of our first chores would be to erect a clothesline. Planting those poles would cement our claim, symbolizing strength as it would also celebrate escaping conformity, community associations and subdivision restrictions. This simple, domestic staple screams "FREEDOM." At last, no fear of citation. Clothes will flap as flags of independence.

We would catch water from the sky and the sun's rays would purify it. I've heard this is possible. A composting toilet would suffice, even providing fertilizer for fruit trees and non-edibles.

We would have a small array of solar panels. Not that we would need them. Prior to electricity, humans lived totally without it, obviously. What a secure feeling knowing we can survive without the spoiling of our modern era.

Let's go beyond a backyard garden--further even than chickens and goats. What about growing grain? How about raising bayberry for candle wax? A trip to the craft store is what suburbanites do.

Why choose to be dependent?

Our days would be spent gently tending the garden and animals. Some days we would work harder than others. Mostly, we would just consistently chug about the grounds and relax fireside in the evenings. We would enjoy sing-a-longs with neighbors.

And smile a lot.

I read a storybook in grade school about a little girl and her playhouse. Its details soaked into my psyche: flowers in window boxes, dainty curtains, stuffed animal roommates, a tea party. This current homestead vision is similarly charming.


If only I could take a photo of a dream.

(Clip art provided by Designed to a T.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Elegant cherry turnovers

These turnovers are so simple to make!

Just remember to buy Phyllo dough…the rest is probably on hand.

Here’s all you need:

melted butter, cherry pie filling or other flavor, Phyllo dough, sugar, powdered sugar.

Butter each sheet of Phyllo dough. Stack the buttered layers.

Cut the stack into squares (however big you want).
Top each square with a dollop of pie filling.
Fold each square over and pinch to close.
Brush each turnover with butter and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 350 for about 20 to 25 minutes, until dough is golden brown. Let cool.

Drizzle with a powdered sugar and water glaze.

***This recipe featured on A Moderate Life's Two for Tuesdays Recipe Blog Hop. Lots of great recipes there. Check it out!!***

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Almost apple-pickin' time

Are you eagerly waiting a fall apple picking trip? Me, too!

Have a lovely Sunday!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A little customer appreciation over here, please?

This is not a photo of me :-)

Why won't that one big box behemoth at least pretend to care about its customers? I don't like to dwell on the negative, but today's occurrence will be life altering for me. So, dwell I must.

I was checking out at the garden center cash register. My total only came to about $12 and I paid cash--a $20 bill. The cashier gave me my receipt but no change (this isn't my gripe).

I asked him for my change and he said, "Sorry, you're right." And he gave me my change. No big deal. It happened quickly...in the time it would have taken him to sneeze and for me to say, "bless you." There definitely was no argument, no scene, no scuffle of any sort.

The door "greeter" was stationed a mere 10 feet away. There were only a handful of people in the general area. As there was nothing else going on, the "greeter" most likely witnessed our quick transaction.

On my way out the door, the "greeter" asked to see my receipt. Of course, I complied. As I walked to the car, I got angrier and angrier. On top of the store not giving me my change, they implied it was probably my fault. That's how it felt to me and that's probably how it looked to anyone paying attention.

The customer behind me did not get her receipt checked--this made me even angrier. Why me? Why did they neglect to give me my change and then imply I was the criminal? How dare they!

When I got home, I called the store.

The manager told me the "greeters" are instructed to randomly check receipts. They don't do it to everyone. I told the manager it is much worse to randomly check receipts as it makes those who must stop appear suspicious.

She said she would talk to the "greeter." I told her I didn't blame the "greeter" at all as it seemed she only did as she was instructed. I also told the manager I realized the corporation was too big to really care about customers and I'm sure I didn't matter to her one bit, but...

I refuse to shop where I'm treated as a criminal.

I shall not support that store or any of their world-wide locations from this point forward. It will be a challenge. I will cook from scratch and search bargains from locally-owned groceries. Things I should have been doing anyway.

I know I shouldn't take this personally. But I feel kind of stupid supporting a store which doesn't give a whit about me, while the local store down the street is extremely friendly and gracious. And, by the way, I DO actually have a choice.

I choose to live better and not be under suspicion.

(I'm so mad I could spit.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Here comes the parade

Don't you just love a parade?

Thought I'd post some photos from yesterday's "Wabash Days" parade.

Have a lovely Sunday!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pistachio pudding cake...from scratch

Here is a pudding-in-the-mix kind of cake from scratch. On a whim, I made one the other day. Wasn't much effort at all.

Pistachio Pudding Cake

3 egg whites
2 ¼ cups flour
1 box pistachio pudding mix (or substitute another flavor)
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour a 9 x 13 glass pan.
Beat the egg whites until a bit frothy.
Mix the flour, pudding mix, salt and baking powder together. Set aside.
In a mixer, blend the milk, oil, vanilla and sugar.
Mix in the eggs.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat until combined.
Beat on high speed for 1 full minute, scraping bowl as needed.
Bake for 30 minutes or a little longer--until a toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool.

Ice your cake with this yummy frosting:

½ cup shortening
½ cup butter
¼ cup milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 cups powdered sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
Chopped pistachios, optional

Blend ingredients and spread on cake.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Toilet paper wars

As morning broke on Tuesday, evidence of overnight toilet paper pranks became apparent in my neighborhood.

School is back in session and evenings have turned cooler. It seems the traditional Junior/Senior war for 2010 has now begun.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Then we considered breakfast

Hubby and I stumbled across this rustic log cabin a few days ago. Look! It’s for sale, too. The sign out front read, “Bed and Breakfast.” Oh my goodness. Pinch me.

The dreaming began…

Oh, I know. I know! “How about we run our own bed and breakfast?” I said.

Just saying it aloud gave value to the statement. We started talking seriously. Logistically. Realistically.

Pro: I love to bake and get gooey over hospitality.

Pro: Hubby is great at handyman fix-it-up things and troubleshooting.

Pro: The cabin is near Historic Main Street, a hopping tourist destination.


As we drove further from the property, we were forced to own up. We live a few cities away from this place. We would have to wake up excruciatingly early to make breakfast and then drive it all the way over there. Truthfully? Breakfast isn’t our thing. (I’m eating a toaster pastry at this very moment).

We laughed how we most likely would hurriedly buy our guests value meal breakfasts from some drive-through during commute. We giggled about the misfortune of overnighters enduring breakfast from the likes of us.

Running a bed and breakfast would not be a good idea at all, we decided. It would be disaster, heartache and probably bankruptcy waiting to happen.

Now, opening a bakery, on the other hand…

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lovely day for a triathlon

Was a gorgeous morning yesterday for a triathlon. Boy, was I TIRED! Taking photos is EXHAUSTING. :-P

Have a lovely day.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Now is the time," said the typewriter

I was skimming blogs the other day and discovered a post about how the blogger received a typewritten résumé from a job applicant. I thought, “How sweet. Someone typed their résumé.”

I love typewriters.

Well the post wasn’t about typewriters at all, but about how the applicant was so lame he must not even know how to use a computer. The blogger pondered, “Why would anyone use a typewriter?”

I experienced swift and immediate pity for this person. Hadn’t he ever been exposed to the tactical joys of typewriting?

The clicking sound of the keys called to me at an early age. The doctor’s secretary typed. The school secretary typed. City hall workers typed. The 1960’s office ambiance was enticing—metal desk and files, spinny rolodex, carbon paper, and the leader of the pack…the clacking typewriter. Recalling those scenes makes me nostalgic.

Putting aside my own typewriter affections, I believe others also harbor a fondness for this machine. Think about the many journalists who enthusiastically pecked away at each top story.

Consider cabin-bound eccentric writers, isolating themselves in the woods with little more than cigarettes, booze and a sturdy typewriter.

What about Mary Richards (The Mary Tyler Moore Show)? She was so hip at her city job, composing each newscast on her typewriter. She probably wouldn’t have thrown her hat in the air if she had to use a computer.

And columnists. Think Andy Rooney. For years an old typewriter sat behind him on the set of 60 Minutes. His computer doesn't evoke any particular feelings.

Students have been double-spacing and whiting-out for years. Even to those of us who now use computers, seeing or hearing a typewriter stirs many a college memory. Do kids in *keyboarding* class warm up by typing, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of his country?” Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.

Mysteries have been solved by deciphering the “hand-writing” of a typewritten note. A detective would declare, “Clyde is the murderer! I know because his typewriter drops its f’s. See here? The f’s in this letter match those in the ransom note. It’s elementary.”

If you want to hear squeals of curiosity from your kids, introduce them to a typewriter. Teach them not to type directly on the platen and to type rhythmically so the keys don’t jumble. Tell them that using a typewriter takes responsibility—and that you trust them. They will be so thrilled with this new discovery and proud to be trusted to use it.

There are many pro-typewriter bloggers who post actual type-written copy. Some of these people are also busy buying and reconditioning typewriters. Check out backspacetypewriters.blogspot.com, clickthing.blogspot.com and typeclack.blogspot.com.

See, I am not the only one.

That anti-typewriter blogger didn’t realize how typewriting is much more than putting words to paper. How naive.

Admittedly, a computer and printer do that job more efficiently and the job applicant probably should have conformed for the sake of employment.

But where is the romance?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kid stuff, with an adult vocabulary

Warning: Rant switch is *on*

It's happening everywhere:

Someone parks their cart in the middle of the grocery aisle so no one can pass;
Someone steals a turn at a stop sign;
Someone talks on a cell phone instead of addressing the cashier at the checkout;
Someone does not thank a waitperson while being served;
Someone does not return an informal good-will smile;
Someone parks in a no-parking area.

The list of offenses goes on, but you get the idea. People are so absorbed with their own lives, or their own self worth, or something…they simply will not acknowledge others.

It’s intriguing because most of the offenders are nicely dressed, otherwise seemingly successful people, yet they have not conquered that basic life skill—manners.

Perhaps they’ve bought into the reality TV trash attitude best summed up by a “celebrity” who recently said, “Yeah, I’m a _____ and I’m proud of it.” Isn’t that a lovely demeanor? Are we supposed to admire and emulate this woman as she gives no regard for others? Please.

Apparently she and those like her have been misled into thinking that the way to get ahead is to tromp on pesky “other people” because they have the nerve to exist. Others are the competition. Others are in the way. Others must be crushed.

I would tell that reality TV woman, “Oh, honey, that barbaric attitude is so history. Get with the now.”

Though countless marketing sources recite the “it’s all about you” mantra, it’s really not. We need to GROW UP.

Cooperation is the new competition. We must learn to get along, share and respect each other. If we cannot relate with civility to one another over the little things, how in the world are we going to relate to each other during the big things?

We mustn’t let the invasion of alpha-dogging poison our communities. Refuse to participate. If someone is wetting their pants to arrive first at the stop light, let them.

Smile. Wave. Open a door for someone. It’s difficult when friendly gestures aren’t returned, but we must pervade. Have patience, for "rudies" need to be shown the way.

This is a matter of extreme importance to society. I hope you’ll help.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sweet, flourishing basil

Photo above: My baby.

After growing basil from seeds this spring, my windowsill crop is flourishing and about ready for harvest. Trouble is, I hate to use any.

I feel so green-thumbed when I look over at my buddy, all grown-up. He's the herb I coddled from infancy. While I'm doing dishes, I think, "I'm his mother."

When one of his leaves is rubbed, a lemony/minty aroma is released. Natural perfume!

I'm quite proud.

Nevertheless, I should get over myself and realize the purpose of growing basil is, in fact, to use it. It is food. Or as eco people might say, on my windowsill I practice "food production."

Here's what's happening with my basil bumper crop:

Drying basil for use during the year. Here's how:
Clip some sprigs.
Wash and dry them thoroughly.
Gather the bunches of sprigs
Hang them upside down until dried. Try to find a dark, dry spot.
When the basil is dry, crush them a bit and store in a container.

And, you know...a discussion about basil wouldn't be complete without a recipe for pesto!

About 2 cups of fresh basil (not dried)
At least one whole clove of garlic--more if you like
1/2 cup of nuts (pine nuts are traditional, but substitute peanuts, walnuts or almonds)
One cup of Parmesan cheese
One cup of olive oil
Salt and pepper

In a blender or food processor, pulse the garlic and nuts.
Add the basil and pulse some more.
Add the cheese and process.
Sprinkle in some salt and pepper.
Add olive oil gradually. Continue processing until the mixture is creamy.

Fresh pesto lasts about one week in the refrigerator.
Freeze some in ice cube trays for quick-grab-pesto.

Top pasta dishes with pesto instead of a red sauce or use as the sauce on pizza. Pesto is also tasty as a dip or on crackers.

What about you? Is it sweet basil harvest time at your house?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Awwww, Mom

"Was the bus on time? Do you like your teachers? What did you eat for lunch?"

There are million things mothers are dying to know about the first day of school.

What kid would be annoyed if Mom pried about their life via cake?

You have to admit, it’s an original approach. Cheap, too. (not as cheap as talk...but still)

I used gumballs to jazz up the border without too much huff.

“So…how was your day?”

Friday, August 13, 2010

Familial sewing basket neglect

I recently inherited my grandmother’s sewing basket. She wasn’t much of a seamstress and neither am I. We received baking genes instead.

Yet, there is something special about having her sewing basket. It just may be precisely because she and I were both out to lunch about sewing. Just as I can relate to her rolling out pie crusts, I can also relate to her obligation of mending—even though it wasn’t her thing.

We were kindred spirits in this regard. We shared a kind of “yeah, I don’t get it, either”-ness.

Oh sure, we could hold our own with a needle and thread…to a point. Buttons? No problem. Buttonholes? Uh, um *cough*. Excuse us, while we check the bread dough.

The other day, I organized this symbol of domesticity—for the both of us. I merged her notions and mine into her larger green sewing box. (My small pink basket remains from a childhood Christmas and hasn’t been able to handle the needs of a growing family.)

Tangled threads—be gone! I snipped and color-coordinated like there was no tomorrow. I also found some interesting items.

This needle (dagger?) struck me as strange. What project would have required such a scary device? And look how it’s bent at the bottom. I think it might have something to do with drapes. Or tractor tires.

Isn’t this package for blue jean patches cute as can be? And look at the way it was priced at 29 cents. Adorable.

A paper of “le chic” buttons—with only one button still clinging. The whole set was priced a mere dime!

Thread on a wooden spools, vintage book of needles and various other notions.

Grandma did own a sewing machine and perhaps during her teen years she made her own dresses as so many women did. I would love to know more about those times in her life.

Her hand-written recipes tell a lot about my Grandmother. The splatters and stains indicate which ones were her favorites. But this sewing basket also tells a story about the woman--a woman who would rather not, yet must sometimes, sew.

We’re the same that way. She and I.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

10 ways to endure difficult times

Photo above: tomato plants

Preparing for tough economic times seems to be a skill with which we have lost touch. From the bible to fairy tales, preparedness has been lauded as a virtue.

There are some simple ways we all can make sure our homes are lean and operating efficiently, even under the current challenging conditions of rising oil prices and inflation at the grocery store.

Check out these 10 suggestions:

Take inventory of what you already have. Put like items together so you’ll be able to find them quickly, such as: kitchen gadgets, office supplies, tools and sewing supplies. If you already have something, you won’t have to purchase another one.

Keep more food on hand for emergencies. When you are at the store, trade that bag of empty calories for some cans of beans or corn. The prices will probably rise anyway, so buy now and enjoy the piece of mind a full pantry offers. (Remember to heed expiration dates.)

Get out of debt. Of course, this will offer huge savings in interest. But it’s easier said that done. Dave Ramsey has been helping people for many years crawl out from under that burden. Check out his website here or borrow one of his books from the library.

Cooking from scratch has the potential to save big bucks. It may be the one area in the family budget that can be reduced so drastically. Here is a great website for doing just that.

Consolidate car trips. This is just a matter of thinking ahead. Eliminate trips to the store for just one item. Make a list and venture out less frequently.

Vacation near home—or at home. Getting away is just a state of mind. Declare your home a bed and breakfast for a few days. Don’t do any work at all. Lounge around. Go out to dinner nearby. Rent movies. Play games. Spoil yourself.

Plant a garden. This doesn’t have to be rows of corn and asparagus in the backyard. Plant a tomato plant in a container and set outside in the sun. Water and tend to it. Pretty soon, you’ll feel smug eating tomatoes for a fraction of the cost to buy them. Check out this website for more container gardening information.

Repair items, such as clothes, instead of buying new ones. We have been spoiled with inexpensive clothes for such a long time. The temptation to run to the store at the first sign of button failure is so great. But there is no reason not to break out the thread and a needle to repair a rip, sew on a button or even fix a hole in a sock. It not only saves the price of a new garment, it saves gas getting to the store as well.

Hang clothes instead of tumble drying them. Depending on your rates, machine drying clothes could cost about 50 cents per load. Don’t fret, you are still able to hang dry your things, even if the subdivision restrictions say otherwise. Set up a rod in the laundry room or over a bathtub and hang some things. Maybe everything won’t fit, but at least all the laundry doesn’t have to be machine dried. If there is space, erect a clothesline in the basement.

Wash your hair every other day instead of every day. I heard somewhere that models prefer day two for styling their hair, because too soon after a wash, hairstyles don’t work as well. So, we can save water and shampoo all while sporting better hairdos.

These painless steps are just a beginning into the life of conservation and frugality. When we become aware of our habits, it becomes so much easier to recognize where we can cut back.

The good thing is that once we have our own lives in order, we are more prepared to help others during their struggles.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Life is imperfect. Participate anyway.

This quilt was handmade. Its imperfections make it a one-of-a-kind treasure.

I wrote the following a while back for a local paper; yet I still have to convince myself to live this way...

I love visiting historical homes but wish I could have seen them as they were being used. During daily life, wooden floors probably weren’t polished. There definitely were no "keep-out" red ropes in place.

Instead of viewing a still life (in real life), I would rather see what’s cooking in the kitchen and what’s hanging on the line out back. The residents were messy, unpredictable and inefficient, just like we are today. Dressing up their lives portrays a false image.

We do not have to be ready-for-show to do what we love. If we wait for conditions to be perfect before embarking on a project or fulfilling a dream, it will never happen.

We will never have enough money, time or the approval from others. So what? We are allowed to play, even if we don’t “perform” flawlessly.

Don’t listen to those promoting insecurities. Ultimately, in the very end, we are judged by our hearts, not by the orderliness of our lives.

What a relief.

Perfection is not the goal. You don’t get recognition for being perfect and it is incredibly dull anyway. Celebrate your individuality and get on with your passions.

I wish I could kick naysayers in the teeth sometimes (figuratively speaking) and write without reserve. Get out the guitar again. My life, my business. Ya know?

What have you been holding back on?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Honey baked popcorn--way too easy!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Get 2/3 cups of popcorn popping in an air popper.
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add 4 tablespoons of honey. Stir.
In large mixing bowl, toss popped corn with honey butter mixture.
Spread on a baking sheet and bake about 6 minutes.
Sprinkle with salt before serving.

You’ll receive rave reviews.

**This recipe was posted on the Two for Tuesday Recipe Blog Hop. Check it out!!**

Friday, July 30, 2010

Blackberries: jovial and stand-off-ish

After planting blackberry bushes last year, we are thrilled to finally have some harvesting to do.

The berries in the photo appear to be more raspberry-ish, but I assure you they are blackberries. They are thornless and very approachable, friendly even.

As a special bonus, we also found some wild blackberries. Not wanting to take any chances, we summoned the expertise of our county extension service for confirmation. Yep, we have lots of blackberries! Happy. Happy. Happy.

This was a practical discovery, considering their zero cost; however, the wild bunch is very much NOT thornless. They are aloof and quite persnickety--but that's no deterrent when one is determined about cobbler.

As a side note, the raspberry bushes we planted last year fizzled. Apparently, it is not OK to plant raspberries and blackberries too close together.

Live and learn. And eat blackberries!

How are your gardening attempts going so far?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Using the sun to cook dinner

Solar cookers provide a way to save on your utility bill while saving energy, too.

Check out this video of a woman using a solar oven in Minnesota. The temperature was nine degrees that day. (Note: Wash hands often when dealing with raw meat)

A solar oven could cost upwards of $200, but the design is simple. If you are still financially reeling from a recent pizza delivery splurge, use the pizza box to create your own solar oven. (Note: Use eco-friendly paints and glues)

Follow this link for instructions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWbtuDnlBVw.

(Sunshine image from www.designedtoat.com)

Friday, July 23, 2010

The fresh scent of line-dried sheets. Not.

Who would have thought times would change so drastically that people would have to fight for the right to use a clothesline on their own property?

I would love to hang out my laundry, but I’m fairly certain particular covenants and restrictions prohibit such a thing where I live.

Let’s look it up.

The precise wording from our community association is as follows:
“No permanent poles for attaching wires or lines for the purpose of hanging laundry thereupon shall be erected, installed or constructed on any Lot.”

I spoke to the coordinator at the community association and he told me laundry poles were the issue, not the laundry itself. If we rigged up a retractable system, that would be fine. He also told me to check with the city to make sure they did not have an ordinance against drying laundry outside.

So, I spoke with the code enforcement representative for our city. She told me there was no ordinance she knew of against it; but that almost no one hangs their laundry outside here. She said maybe one or two people have done it within the last five years. And sometimes when residents do hang their clothes, their neighbors report them to code enforcement—even though there is no ordinance against line-drying.

She *helpfully* took my street name so there is now a record of my phone call, just in case someone complains about our laundry outside. Once again…I don’t know why it matters since there is no ordinance against it!

I doubt I’ll soon be so rebellious and radical as to hang out my laundry. Yet I hope someone will step up and be nervy enough to act within the city code and do something perfectly legal—to make hanging laundry outside acceptable once again.

Actually there is a movement afoot in favor of “right to dry” legislation--you may know about it. Check out the Action Center on Project Laundry List’s website at www.laundrylist.org. While you’re there view photos of how simply gorgeous a clothesline can be.

The benefits of hanging laundry are so many—energy conservation, sterilization by sunlight, money savings, aesthetics (clotheslines are beautiful, after all!).

Perhaps one day I'll be able to hang out the laundry without making the neighbors fussy.

What about you?

Do you love a clothesline? Or are you dryer-all-the-way?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pretzels, get your pretzels here

This recipe is economical and incredibly yummy. Bake some and see what you think.

Homemade Soft Pretzels


4 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ¼ cups warm water

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve above ingredients and let sit for about 10 minutes. The mixture should foam a little.

Into the yeast mixture, add the following:
3 ½ cups flour
½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

On a floured plate or board, knead the dough. Add about one cup more flour as needed during kneading.

Lightly oil a large bowl and roll the dough in it, so that all sides of the dough are lightly covered with oil.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a greased towel and let rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Shape dough into 12 pretzel shapes or about 24 twisty sticks. It seems twisty sticks are faster to shape, easier to handle, and brown more uniformly when baking (but you do what you want).

In a saucepan, dissolve ½ cup of baking soda into 4 cups of hot water. Simmer gently.

Dunk one or two pretzels at a time into the water. Use a slotted spoon or wire basket-type spatula so some of the water drains off. (Stir water mixture often to prevent baking soda from clinging to the pretzels).

Bake pretzels on a greased baking sheet for about 8 minutes or until golden brown.

Immediately brush with melted butter.

Then, enjoy them as is…or
*dip them in a bowl of Parmesan cheese; or
*sprinkle a cinnamon/sugar mixture on top; or
*sprinkle course salt on top.

These are so soft and delicious--you’ll want to eat them all at once.

Do you love soft pretzels?

**This recipe was posted on the Two for Tuesday Recipe Blog Hop. Check it out!!**

Sunday, July 18, 2010

He couldn't possibly have a dark side

I’m aware some people have ongoing, raging combat with raccoons. But really, how can you not love that sweetie-pie face?

We spotted this guy a while back. We drove all around him, snapping photos. He waddled here and there, but never seemed extremely concerned about being followed.

I think we’ll name him...Bandit. (Like you didn’t expect that?)

Have a lovely Sunday!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pork spareribs supper with carrots and rice

Honey baked pork spareribs were a hit the other night at our house. I purchased the meat for 1.49/lb at a local grocery store (not big-box).

Here’s the recipe:

Honey Baked Pork Spareribs

2 pounds pork spareribs
garlic powder
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/8 cup soy sauce
salt and pepper

Cut spareribs into manageable serving-size pieces and place into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Salt and pepper the meat. Cover with foil and bake at 325 degrees for an hour.

Heat honey, vinegar, soy sauce and some garlic powder in a saucepan until boiling. Discard the liquid from the sparerib pan.

Spoon the honey mixture over the spareribs. Turn the oven up to 350 degrees and bake uncovered for another 20 to 30 minutes. Baste with juices. Serve with some bbq sauce.

White rice and brown sugared carrots go well with these ribs.

Brown sugared carrots
Place one pound of baby carrots into a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with water and microwave for 15 minutes. Drain the water and melt some butter over the carrots. Add a couple tablespoons of brown sugar into buttered carrots, creating a caramel sauce.

What have you been serving at your house??

**This recipe was posted on the Two for Tuesday Recipe Blog Hop. Check it out!!**

Friday, July 16, 2010

Playing house, or um, camping

Recently, my husband and I visited one of the many awesome county parks in our area. The views were breathtaking and the walking trails exhilarating; but the cabins were most intriguing. I think every little girl or grown-up little girl will find something magical in these teeny “homes.”

As we peeked inside one of the structures, my husband probably thought something along the lines of,

“Electricity for laptop. Bring bug spray.”

This is what I thought…

“Wouldn’t a vase of daisies on the dining room table be lovely? Oh, let’s sew window curtains in a fabric of pink and green gingham and, of course, stitch bed quilts to match!

We will sit in rocking chairs on the front porch and that’s where we will knit and sing.”

“We will roll out pie crust and then bake our masterpiece over coals outside. After chasing kitty from the windowsill, we will place our pie there to cool. Fresh air will dance with delicious aroma, filling the room with a homey scent.”

“Our kitty will be calico and her name shall be Pinky. She will be adorned with a hot pink collar studded with diamonds--and she will sleep with us.”

“If any extra boys want to play, they can be the dogs. If they don’t like being dogs, then they can just go home.”

The daydream ended as we headed back to the car. Real-life kitchens, laundry and pets aren’t nearly as much fun to contemplate as the possibilities found in these cabin playhouses.

Yes, these cabins happen to be located in the woods and, no, they do not have bathrooms or running water; so using them is, technically, camping.

But, isn’t it way more fun to play house?