right now

right now

Jan 29, 2011

a great mail day!

They're HERE!

This all came in the mail in one day!  And no bills, I might add...  :)

 This is everything ordered this year.   Truth be told, I didn't even "need" anything besides peas and bean seeds, but of course I'm always on the search for new varieties, and I order Brandywine every year, that's my one tomato I can't live without.

More bonus - the surprise for hubby!  Hubby makes fantastic bubbly thin crispy pizzas already, but thanks to Jane's post over at Hard Work Homestead, I just HAD to let him try this pizza flour!  He'll be very excited to be working with some pro supplies.  I also ordered some mozzarella curd so we can have some family fun making mozzarella.  We can't source unpasteurized milk here, so making it from the curd is the next best thing.  I feel a project for the kids post coming on here...

With the kids in school yesterday and hubby gone with a friend biking, what's a newbie quilter girl to do?  Find the nearest quilt shop and check it out!  The guy in there was fantastic, talked to me for about an hour, gave me advice on machines (and they don't even sell them!) and technique, fabrics, local repair shop reputations, wow - I'll definitely be doing business with them.  So anyone in the Virginia Beach area that is feeling a bit intimidated and shy by being new to the craft and going into a "real" shop, don't be... go see Jerry, he's great and will make you feel like a pro when you leave :)

Mama Pea, look away now... last night was Minnesota Fancy Nancy's standard of pot roast, veggies, baking powder biscuits and gravy.  Haha, you know who you are, stop lurking and jump on here!

No, the 4 of us didn't eat this ALL - we ate mostly veggies as the meat was destined for the soup I'm making today for the freezer.

We are really hoping to get outside for a bit of cleaning up the ugly winter garden & yard, it's supposed to be 48-50º today, but as of 11 am there is still frost on the ground.  I'm sure it will warm up a bit about 1-2 pm, but then we'll be fighting that limited winter daylight thing.  I'm getting anxious to be out there working and enjoying mild temps as spring is very short here and it heats up unbearably very quickly.  We pretty much go from winter to humid, hot summer.  The neighbors will think I'm nuts as usual working out there when it's so "cold"... if you ask me 52-62º is about perfect for outdoor work, so I'll jump at any chance we get.

Jan 28, 2011

my test kitchen results!

Some of you may know that while I love to "cook", am pretty decent at it and never use recipes, I CAN'T BAKE worth a darn!  Sure, I can follow recipes for cakes and cookies, etc and have acceptable results but at the very core I have never understood how baking ingredients work together and cannot veer away from a recipe when it comes to doughs or pastry crusts.  I really envy those of you who can.

Well, I've done it!  The following recipe has been tweaked for about a year in order to get all the ingredients I wanted in there, specifically incorporating soy, flax, wheat germ and oats while subtracting basic white flour down to the bare minimum that still works in a cookie.  It was loosely based on my mom's wheat germ choc chip cookies she has made forever, yum!  

Welcome to my new, relatively healthy (there's still butter & sugar in there) cookie recipe.  I need a name, I'm thinking "Hippie Cookies" since there's a lot of good stuff in there, hubby loves them and he's from Oregon, and well - you know those Oregonians......  :)

If any of you decide to make these be forewarned that they have a definite nutty flax taste to them so if you don't like that you can omit it and replace with the same amount of wheat germ or oats.  Most of the sweet tooth craving is gained by the dark chocolate chips.  They stay chewy and freeze well also.

Guiltless Hippie Cookies
1/2 c. soft butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c. regular flour
1/4 c. soy flour  (I was able to get an extra 1/4 c. in there for a total of 1/2 c. but wait til the end to see if your dough ball is moist enough to allow you to get away with it)
1/2 c. oats
1/3 c. flax
3/4 c. dark chocolate chips

1.  mix butter & sugars to cream consistency
2.  add egg & vanilla and mix into sugars
3.  mix in wheat germ, baking powder, flours, salt
4.  stir in oats & dark chocolate chips
5.  drop by spoonful onto cookie sheet and bake 350º approx 15 mins (my oven is electric so adjust as needed)
* makes 3 dozen cookies

I would have loved to not use any white flour but a certain ratio has to be met so they will rise and "cookie up", for lack of a better phrase!  If any of you super bakers can improve on it, let me know - but these are delicious, not too sweet, and perfect for satisfying a sweet tooth without guilt.  There also a heck of a lot better for kids' lunches than those pre-packaged sweet things some kids take to school!

Jan 27, 2011

Look ma, * TWO * hands!

And then one day it clicked...!  Finn has started playing piano with both hands, it was an exciting night to be a mom :)

(he wasn't too happy about me wanting to record him, but I'll take it!)

Stock has been strained and put into freezer containers, throughout the whole event I had bystanders...

Marley is so intent here it appears she has no ears!  This is the herding look she gets when going in for an ankle bite LOL.

They know a special plate is just for them:

Not to be eaten in one session of course!  I used to work in a veterinary hospital so I've seen what can happen there!  I already know that marrow is too rich for Marley's stomach, so I separate that from the actual meat bits and carrots and plain soup bones, which are very safe for them to chew on.  They will have a little topping of meaty bits and carrots with dinner each night this weekend, and I'll pop the bones right back into the freezer to be issued to "good dogs" at a later date.  We try to use everything about the lovely animal we bought our beef share from, right to the very end literally, since this was the last of our share until the next one is finished out on pasture this spring.  (There is no forced timetable for pastured meat, they get to butcher weight in their own sweet time unlike their factory farmed friends forced to eat corn, huge amounts and quickly... oh sorry, there's the rant again!)

Of course, we had to have a "good dog" moment right away tonight!

It's a good house to be a dog in!

Jan 26, 2011

Still no seeds...but lots of stock!

Seeds haven't arrived yet, hubby has taken to yelling "mailman's here!" daily when he sees her stop.  He's home during the day now since he's working nights and I'll admit it's hard to get things done now while trying to be quiet while he's sleeping in the mornings.  I tend to work in the evenings these days.  Funny how his schedule affects the whole household that way.

Last night I dove into the blog, changing things up a bit.  I'm a person who rearranges furniture monthly so I'm not sure why I haven't revamped the page in awhile, but it needed a spring cleaning, and it certainly is helping to inspire me in other ways.  This time of year can be kind of monotonous without much (nothing!) going on out in the garden.  I put a few links in to albums of things we grow and cook from the garden, hoping that will inspire me to get creative in the kitchen during the dreary months of winter and be able to add to it.

Today I'm making beef stock.  I've been putting it off since the soup bones were at the bottom of the freezer, and sure enough, getting them out spurred another freezer cleaning adventure, as everything came tumbling out while digging to the bottom!  Nothing like getting hit on the head by some venison burgers to wake you up at 7 am!

Used up the rest of the batch of soup bones from the farm, a few come with my beef share, but I always pick up extras from the barn freezers when I go, at a buck a pack you can't go wrong!  They have smaller ones packed together especially for the dogs, but Marley got sick from eating the marrow with her sensitive stomach so now I just give her one from the soup pot after it's all been cooked out.  Sprocket doesn't seem to mind a bit.  I'll take them all from the pot tonight and freeze them for the girls.  This is the first time I have owned dogs that can chew bones together socially without any growling drama, it's pretty nice!

I used up the rest of the dried herb stalks I had hung, I definitely need to do more next year.

When the kids got home from school and walked in they both said how good the house smelled and asked what was cooking - when I told them it was beef stock to make soup with tomorrow they grumbled and asked if I was going to muck it up with veggies and greens again, sigh...  They haven't quite made the connection yet that those veggies in the pot already were what was half the yummy smell, I'm anxiously awaiting the day where they stop grumbling about all this good stuff!

Plans tonight:  straining stock and freezing it, setting aside some for the soup I'll make tomorrow, and thinking about reading a book!  I haven't indulged in my love of fiction lately, no doubt as soon as I get into it, those seeds will show up!

Jan 25, 2011

a "Plan B" kind of day

Plan A was to finish my first quilt before my seeds arrive and I have to start getting things in place for seedlings.  That plan was pretty much taken away from me last night and again today.

Sunday night:  quilt top was laid out and basted together to be quilted, this went well.

Monday:  started quilting, I thought everything was going okay, I got to last couple rows of vertical grid quilting when the machine started kicking and bucking and basically self destructing.  

For the next hour, I was able to limp it along by just leaving the cover off and tightening the belt and disassembling and reassembling the stop motion knob every 2 minutes before it went down in blaze of glory screaming "nicht mehr, genug!"

Today I begged hubby to look at it and the diagnosis wasn't good.  No, he isn't a sewing machine technician but he IS a mechanic by trade and this is a basic mechanical machine.  Looks as if it's more than just a new belt needed, the clutch is hosed and quite possibly a broken motor mount.  DONE.  It will be 2 weeks before I can get a new machine, some tax refund funds have been earmarked for that, so in the meantime I had to put away my first quilt sadly.  I can't believe my first project is a UFO!

With all the fun sucked out of the morning, I decided to get some things done before the little ones (seeds!) arrive.  I cleaned out my "canning closet".  It will be nice when the time comes to be able to find everything and have the boxes ready for storing since we've been using our canned stuff and as the jars get cleaned I've been just shoving them willy nilly back in there!  I was able to separate the lids too so I know which have been used for actual canning and recycle them for just freezer use this season and know exactly where the "new" lids are.  
Before:  mess!

After: it's small, but better than a mess!

some of you may have seen my poster last year, but it's right opposite the canning closet so it reminded me today of just how close seed starting time is.

I will not be starting seeds as early this year.  Last year I had to start seeds in batches since I grow them for the Master Gardener Plant Sale as well and don't have that much room.  I noticed through this process that the smaller ones started very late got planted alongside the tomatoes I had started the last week in January and not only did they catch up in growth in a week outside in the beds, they turned out to be healthier plants for me!  Live and learn... and I just bought myself a couple extra weeks of time!

I guess without a sewing machine I'll just be straightening things out all week and waiting for that tax refund, LOL!  I also have to replace all the closet doors in our rental unit and clean, our new tenant moves in soon.  Hubby is working nights now, he never gets to see the kids but I'm finding I get more done in the evening now than usual!  Thinking about putting the kids to bed and working on the blog a bit, I still haven't tallied up my harvest from last year for a total.  Luckily I don't have any "big messes" to deal with right now, but lots of little random messes - if you visit the blog and it looks all wonky tonight, that means I got motivated to tackle it!  First warm day in the garden watch out... now out there... that's a big mess!

Jan 23, 2011

Learning a new skill...

I finally got around to it!  My previous 2 forays into the sewing world were post #1 where I tried to clean and make peace with a 20 year old machine with a little whiskey for courage, and #2 where I did my first project of Christmas gift bags.  Other than that, I knew nothing other than the basic how-to on sewing a straight line.  I've put this off until I could have an organized area to learn in, and knocked out a few other things on my "to-do" list that had more priority.  Yesterday was my chance...

Why quilting?  Why not? I have always loved the look of the 30's & 40's style quilts but do not decorate that way in my house.  I am a huge fan of mid-century modern and scandinavian style and it occurred to me (lightbulb!) that a quilt can by any style I want, not just country or folk.  (Which I do love, by the way!)  The creativity here is the hook!  

I am normally a fan of getting used or library books, but for my first foray into this world, I used a gift card and splurged on a new, nice spiral bound "Quilting 101" type book.  It has the latest basic techniques and takes you step-by-step through 4 basic beginner style quilts.  I tend to want to "do it all" right away, but I know with my low patience level I needed to start small and figure out the basics.

The biggest challenge was figuring out what to do with all this "stuff" I had purchased, meaning all the cutting and measuring, oops probably not in that order :)  By the 2nd set of squares I was getting the hang of it.  For those of you put off by the "random and abstract" concept of knitting, this is the complete opposite I've found.  It's all math and geometry and it's easy to visualize the final product during the process.  Loch my little math whiz was pretty interested in this part of it.  I want to thank Mama Pea & APG for telling me the basic sizes of cutting mat and grid ruler I would need, you were exactly right - they worked for everything I needed without having to spend extra $$ on stuff I wasn't familiar with yet, and for any newbies, these supplies aren't cheap - use coupons and use the sales for everything, they usually go on sale every other week at a fabric store, and if you have a local Craigslist, check there since this seems like one of those things where people with lots of $$ buy everything and never do it so they sell it, kind of like a treadmill, hahaha!

For my first quilt, I channeled my inner Marsha Brady and went for a nice retro floral print and peach, and the border and binding chose a dark fabric to hide my beginner stitchery!

 Here's the blocks after cutting, just laid out into the pattern that will be the quilt top.  This is a basic style called a "single patch" quilt.  Already at this stage my head was spinning with possibilities of adding other colors and shapes, I had to remind myself to slow down and start easy with something I won't end up in tears over.  If you want to see tears and have a laugh at my expense, see the post of my first time learning to knit :)

This was the not-fun part, but only because of my machine.  Hubby saw that I was ready to sew on that thing and disappeared to a buddy's house to go build "an obstacle course" for their mountain bikes.  Even the kids disappeared into their room!  I had to disassemble the shuttle 15 times to dig thread out, had to completely remove the stop-motion knob in order to wind a bobbin, and Mama Pea, check out your pink duct tape!  I had to use that as a 1/4" guide since my machine has no markings smaller than 5/8"!  But all in all, the machine DID sew the quilt top, and my sanity is still intact.

Above, after sewing the squares into strips... so that's how they do it, I didn't even know that!  Below, the finished quilt top:

Today I will move on to the next lessons on the actual border, quilting, backing and binding...

The reason I was able to get this all done yesterday is that I finally got my seed order put in Friday evening and was able to tackle and do our taxes yesterday morning, the two big things that have been weighing on my mind.

Taxes already, you say?  You betcha, thanks to hubby being deployed for the past year in a combat zone, our taxable income according to the government indicates we should be living in a cardboard box under the freeway - so that means refund time!  I don't waste time when it comes to getting money, and after some bills are paid, I'm hoping to stimulate the economy by getting a new sewing machine!