Thursday, November 29, 2012


With my good Mr. Dub out of town for the last week I have been spending my nights laying in bed listening to the burglars rattling around downstairs. And waiting for them to come upstairs. You know, so that it (the battle) can finally start. The suspense is killing me.

One night this week it was super windy and the house was creaking and whistling and there was one super loud creak that woke me up from dozing, and was followed swiftly by a ringing "bong" that sounded like the plumbing coming apart. So I realized while I was laying with my heart pounding that what had happened was that one side of the house had settled/sunk down as much as 8 inches, thereby popping the outside faucet off the main water line that leads into the house. I was pretty sure bricks were falling off the front and side of the house.

My imagination sometimes gets away from me when Mr. Dub is away at night. Sometimes I am okay during his trips, and other times, I'm not. I think it might be related to where I am in my cycle. There is a sort of hysteria/mayhem/headache/fatigue/insomnia thing which comes along as part of that, and then when I add in some anxiety about fighting off the bad guys by myself and my normal routine being out of whack because I don't have him here leaving and coming home at the usual times, and I'm left to lay awake at night and imagine things.

Last night I finally just got out of bed and cleaned out my closet. I ended up with a bag to donate, a bag of trash, stray craft supplies that were relocated, some Christmas decorations that had escaped from their bins were put out with the rest of the decorations, and other decorative items were rearranged and re-purposed into new pretties for my bathroom - two apothecary jars filled with natural and tumbled rocks.

I like pretty or interesting rocks. Some of them I've picked up or purchased in places we've visited, and many of them my children, knowing that I like rocks, have collected for me.

Today I've gone into my closet a few times just to enjoy the new peace and spaciousness. It's a good feeling.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Out of chaos, beauty

At least, getting closer to beauty.

I sewed for hours and hours and hours yesterday, making this gift. It's not done yet, as you can plainly see.

We pulled down the Christmas tree and all the Christmas decorations last night because my Little Friend is inexplicably chomping at the bit to get Christmas up and running this year. I don't remember ever having our decorations out in November, but this year it's happening.

So all of our regular home decoration items have been moved and disrupted and are waiting to be put away for the next month, all the Christmas bins and boxes and halfway-put-out decorations waiting to be arranged and rearranged and otherwise stowed, the tree has been removed from its box, put together and fluffed, but only 2/3 lit and consequently otherwise undecorated because some of our lights apparently got tossed when Christmas got put away last year, along with all of yesterday's "normal-everyday-living" mess which didn't get cleaned up as the day went along because of the hours I spent sewing instead of doing chores.

Have you ever noticed that most times, things get worse before they get better?

I'm not sure where to start on this chaotic mess today, but I do know that there is beauty hiding underneath it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

food waste

Are you tired of hearing about this yet?

This week saw a few things going into the trash:
  • a full bottle of sage. I'm not sure if it started out as ground sage or sage leaves in 1995, but when I pulled it down from the back of the very tip-top kitchen cabinet, which is at least 3 feet over my head, it was sort of fluffy and dusty and had no more fragrance.
  • a full bottle of honey mustard. I thought about this before I threw it out because I'm not sure either honey or mustard ever go bad but it had turned dark brown in the bottle and looked more like barbecue sauce. It must have other stuff in it besides honey and mustard.
  • a handful of squishy grapes.
Things bought by Mr. Dub who promptly went to France for a week without them, and which I must now deal with:
  • a package of fresh spinach
  • 1 1/2 bananas
I already put the bananas in the freezer before they had a chance to get freckled, and I am looking into how to freeze fresh spinach. Maybe if I lightly steam it, then squeeze it dry and put it in a freezer bag? It would be good in quiche or lasagna.

On the menu this week:
  • Try to eat all the fresh food in the refrigerator/pantry. There are a variety of things - a couple of slices of leftover pizza, one leftover chicken sausage, stuffing, eggs, lots of fresh vegetables, some cheese, some pie crust dough. There is not quite 2 cups of pureed pumpkin which will become pumpkin bread that I will give to some friends. I am trying to spend only $10 for fresh food at the grocery store this week. I have also allotted some money for food storage items depending on what goes on sale.
  • I have at least a dozen fresh lemons that I got from my neighbor in a trade. I will try to find some things to make with them.
I rearranged the top shelf in the cabinet where I found the sage and honey-mustard. Now there are things up there that I like to have on hand all the time but that don't go bad, like extra boxes of salt and baking soda.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I'm taking some time while my good Mr. Dub is out of town to work on a Christmas present.

A few days ago I had a momentary glimpse, a vision, you might say, of what my front room would look like if I didn't have all my crafting stuff in there. It would be emptier for sure, but so much more peaceful and serene and there would be so much less accusation and guilt.

While I was rifling through my things looking for the supplies for this project I realized again just how much there is for how many projects and I felt a little overwhelmed and alarms started going off in my head. All I can do now is refrain from buying any more things and make all the still very awesome and cool projects I'm supplied for right now. I've managed to stop the too much shopping and not enough doing, because otherwise I'm no different from those crazies that get put on TV. Whenever I feel like getting more stuff for a new project all I need to do is go in there and remind myself of all I currently own and get going on some of it.

It's a lot.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Country bread

I am making dressing for Thanksgiving tomorrow, from scratch, for the first time ever - up until now I've always bought the packaged cubes or crumbs of bread to make "homemade" dressing with. I found a recipe that sounded good and decided to make it. The recipe calls for "country bread" which sounds fancy and perhaps expensive but I found a recipe in one of my cookbooks for "country loaf", had all the ingredients on hand, and figured "why not?" so I baked it! (What I didn't do was take a pic before slicing into it but you can't tell in the pic.)

It's different, and delicious! It's very large, about 12" in diameter, and if/when I made it again, I will divide it into two smaller round loaves to make it more convenient for sandwiches and toast.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Food Waste Report

There's a lot on the "thrown out" list today:
  • more taco meat. I need to think about whether I should stop making tacos at home unless we have guests. Except for me, no one who lives here likes them, and I have a hard time getting through a lb. of taco meat all by myself before it becomes questionable.
  • beet greens that turned to a black mush
  • some not-so-fresh spinach
  • 3/4 cup cooked rice*
  • 2 Activia yogurt cups that expired in September*
  • 1 can chopped mustard greens that expired in the year 2010*
This week's successes:
  • made some very tasty potato salad with some homemade sweet pickles that were given to us last Christmas, some pickled peppers from a jar in the fridge, and some celery and green onions from the crisper bin. The potatoes were beginning to sprout eyes but I cut those off and the potatoes seemed fine otherwise. Do you find that Yukon Gold potatoes start to go bad more quickly than russet potatoes? It seems like I hardly have them in the house before I suddenly need to use them up quickly.
  • made pinto beans and ham with the ham bone I had in the freezer and a random bag of beans that I think I got for free from the grocery store when I bought something else. I bought the ham a couple of months ago and trimmed lots of meat off of the bone but wasn't sure what to do with it after that. I'm glad I saved it because after simmering for hours with the beans I found a lot of meat to go back in with the beans. The ham and beans were so good, and really hit the spot when we got some cold weather. I made some corn muffins to go with them.
  • found a recipe for a jam tart that I intend to make with a pint of strawberry-fig jam that we received as a gift last Christmas. The jam might very well be delicious, but it is kind of icky looking - brownish and chunky and syrupy - which is why we still have it. I intend to blend it up into a smooth paste and make the tart with it. If we don't like it, well, at least I tried.
  • organized the kitchen pantry a bit and found some things that I had forgotten about.
Meal plan for this week:
  • the rest of the ham and beans.
  • chicken sausages from the freezer with leftover potato salad.
  • cod from the freezer baked with pesto I found in the pantry. I will serve this with a long grain/wild rice mix I have in the cupboard.
  • Thanksgiving Dinner.
  • turkey paninis with pesto from the pantry and some cheese I have in the fridge. I might try my hand at making homemade ciabatta bread, or I may see if they have any on the day-old bakery rack at the store. I will make another potato salad with the remaining potatoes, pickles, pickled peppers, celery, and green onions to go with the paninis.
  • turkey soup with leftover rolls.

*My good Mr. Dub bought these things and never ate them, and my Little Friend and I don't eat yogurt or mustard greens. (I don't think Mr. Dub eats mustard greens either. He bought the one can at least 2 1/2 years ago and never ate them.) He cooked the rice for his breakfast one day two weeks ago and then gave up on it before he finished it.
The blame for the rest of the thrown-out items rests fully upon my own shoulders.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

goals for the week

I had some productive days this week.

Things I've accomplished:
  • Cleaned up a few little piles of stuff that I had made of things I wasn't sure what to do with. They had been there so long that I'd forgotten what was in them. I've sorted, made decisions, and then filed, shredded, put away, and otherwise dealt with everything in those piles. I also went through my "regular" piles of stuff and did the same thing; these two piles - by the telephone and on the desk - are a sort of holding area for things that I use all the time like my address/telephone books and temporary things like coupons, school notes, business cards and other bits and bobs that I might (or might not) need in the near future.
  • Went through two desk drawers and pulled out and shredded old bills and insurance documents that I no longer need to keep.
  • Found a place very near my home that accepts plastic bottles and cardboard for recycling. (The recycling bins at our elementary school across the street only accept paper.) In the true spirit of recycling and frugality I have turned sturdy, waxed cardboard boxes into recycling bins for paper/cardboard and plastic bottles. I have yet to create a system/routine/habit whereby I actually take these items over there in a timely manner, but it's still a tiny step forward. The goal there is to not turn the garage into a hoarded-out trash heap propped up by good intentions.
  • Made some delicious but simple meals out of ingredients I had on hand, which was good because that instantly freed up some room in the budget to get the big, acorn-laden oak trees in our front yard trimmed.
  • Searched for and printed out recipes to use up some of the things in the pantry that will otherwise never be used. I've realized that although some of the responsibility is mine, other people do play a part in this by buying items for themselves that they don't have a plan for or never get around to eating, or by people outside my family giving food items to us as gifts that I don't know how to use. It is my responsibility to eliminate food waste coming out of my own kitchen and at the same time not become intolerably controlling of the other people I live with or an ungracious receiver of thoughtful gifts from people who care about me.
  • Kept myself caught up on daily tasks like laundry, dishes, and tidying up. It really is true that when you have fewer things you have less mess to clean up at the end of each day.
Goals for next week:
  • spend time each day with Jake discussing algebra and the Spanish language.
  • clean up the pine needles out of the flower beds and rain gutters.
  • organize and contain our camping gear. This includes trying to get the musty, mildewy odor out of the family-size tent.
  • get everything out of James's closet and put painter's tape around the shelves and trim in anticipation of painting the walls in there.
  • Organize and contain more efficiently the items that James has kept.
  • work on handmade Christmas gifts for extended family members.
  • order supplies I still need for other handmade Christmas gifts.
  • call a couple of dear friends and set up a time that I can visit with them.
  • stop dilly-dallying about whether or not I should continue with a nasty book I've been reading and just throw it away.
  • finalize the menu for our Thanksgiving dinner, study the sales circulars and shop for the ingredients, prepare as much as possible ahead of time, and make meal plans that use up the leftovers.
  • make and pressure-can stock with the turkey carcass on Black Friday.
  • make a Christmas card list and start collecting addresses.

Friday, November 16, 2012

pantry cooking

Today I cobbled together some online recipes to make a pot of soup that I am calling:

Enchilada Soup

1 lb lean ground beef (I used a pint jar of pressure-canned ground beef)
2 tablespoons dehydrated onion flakes (or 1/4 cup chopped yellow onion)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
1 11 oz can whole kernel corn, undrained
1 15 oz can red kidney OR pinto beans, rinsed
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed (I used some cooked black beans I had in the freezer)
1 20 oz can red enchilada sauce
1 cup beef broth (I used 1 cup very hot water and 1 tsp. beef base paste)

Brown the ground beef with the onion and garlic. Add the other ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Serve in bowls and top with tortilla chips, shredded colby-jack cheese, and a spoonful of sour cream if desired.

Makes 3 quarts of soup which I have placed in the freezer for dinner on cold wintry nights.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Cucurbit:  (ky-kûrbt)
n. 1. Any of various mostly climbing or trailing plants of the family Cucurbitaceae, which includes the squash, pumpkin, cucumber, gourd, watermelon, and cantaloupe.
2. A gourd-shaped flask forming the body of an alembic, formerly used in distillation.
I've known for 30 years that I am allergic to watermelon and cantaloupe, and have figured out in the last 10 years that cucumbers really do a number on me too. I'm talking itchy, watery eyes, itching and swelling tongue, mouth, and inside my ears. My stomach and intestinal tract are also not happy when I eat those foods.
I've never had a problem with zucchini. Not long ago I realized that is because I always eat zucchini cooked, not raw like I would eat watermelon or cucumbers. Did you know that heat - otherwise known as "cooking" - denatures the proteins that causes allergic reactions in people? It's not a foolproof fix, but it lets me eat a bit of an otherwise totally off-limits food.
I thought pumpkin was okay for me. Not so. Having food waste on my mind yesterday, and realizing that I was waiting for two pumpkins to go bad so that I could finally throw them away (pumpkins that my Pretty Girl and my sweet little Buttercup picked out at the pumpkin patch) a light went on and I decided that I would roast them and puree them and freeze them for pies and other pumpkin goodies. (Did you know that the demand for pumpkins in the U.S. each Halloween equals 1.1 billion pounds, most of which is discarded and headed to landfills after the holiday? Meanwhile, children are starving right here in our own communities...)
Well, after cutting open and gutting them and generally fiddling with them trying to get them ready for the freezer,  I now know that that whole Cucurbitaceae family bothers me greatly. The skin on my hands was so itchy they were throbbing. I sincerely hope that this doesn't mean I have increased my sensitivity to pumpkin and that I will still get to eat some pumpkin pie next week. Because pumpkin pie is my favorite, and it will really be disappointing if I can't eat it anymore.

I think the word "cucurbits" substitutes nicely for any cuss word.

Monday, November 12, 2012

throwing it out

More food waste this week:
  • a few wilted, slimy green onions.
  • some (more than some, actually, more like quite a bit) freeze-dried strawberries that had turned black.
  • a cup or so walnut halves that I found in the cupboard that had gone rancid.
  • three bananas from the freezer that turned to black liquid when I thawed them to make banana bread.
  • a moldy orange.
I need to be more careful and aware about what I'm buying at the store and then have a more definite plan to use what does come home from the store with me. I am learning something about myself and that is I am very random. "Spontaneous" sounds better though, don't you think? But honestly, I have all these random things in my fridge and pantry and no idea what to do with them. I think it comes from my long-standing habit of buying ingredients rather than meals and will be solved by better meal planning and recipe organization and plain ol' care and thoughtfulness.

It is also taking me some time to get used to buying less and cooking smaller meals which I need to do now that most of my children have flown the coop. I don't have a good sense yet of exactly how many potatoes to peel, for example, and it's getting tedious trying to eat up all the dinner leftovers for lunch every single day.

I also need to have a meal plan and recipes for "food storage" items like the freeze-dried strawberries before I buy them instead of impulsively buying them because they look interesting. Because as it turns out, none of us ever choose a handful of freeze-dried strawberries for a snack or meal.

This week's successes:
  • gave away some powdered fruit drink to someone who will use it. We didn't care for its bitter grapefruit taste. When I bought it I was under the impression it was orange or tangerine flavor.
  • ate the last bowl of bordering-on-stale cereal from a box that had to be either eaten or thrown out. Cereal is something we don't eat much of now that my older children are gone.
  • made nearly all meals from the pantry, fridge and freezer instead of buying lots of new groceries.
  • ate all the lettuce that was threatening to turn pink by adding it to whatever I was eating at lunch. Why does iceberg lettuce turn pink when all other greens turn brown or black? It's a mystery.
On this week's menu:
  • more lemon-poppy seed muffins for breakfasts and snacks, made with two lemons that have been hiding under some other stuff in the crisper bin. I have no idea how long they've been there but they still look fresh.
  • chicken salad sandwiches made with green onions and craisins on homemade rolls.
  • ham and pinto bean soup. I will use up the "trimmings" of the ham to make stock and use it in the soup. I will make cornbread to eat with this.
  • chicken and rice soup using some single-serving size packages of frozen rice/veggie mix. I have no idea where these came from and it's not something I would ever buy but they are taking up valuable real estate in the freezer. (I have had three young adults, each with their own cars and money and agendas, living with me for months in the last year so it's entirely possible that one of them bought these things and I haven't totally lost my marbles.) I also have homemade chicken stock in the freezer that will be used up in this soup. We will eat the soup with leftover rolls from the chicken salad sandwiches.
  • I need to figure out what to do with some leftover homemade macaroni and cheese. I wonder if it would turn creamy again if I add a little more milk while reheating it? And then added some ham chunks to turn it into a new dinner?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Progress feels great!

I don't claim to be very financially savvy, but I know that in order to raise your chin above the filth you have to live on less money than you make, and that when you owe people money they own a part of you.

A couple of months ago my good Mr. Dub said to me, "I'll never be able to retire, will I?" and that hit me like a ton of bricks. I think I do pretty well managing our budget and I feel like I'm learning more all the time, but time passes like a speeding train and with our kids currently in the "high rent districts" of teenager-hood and young-adult-dom and not a lot of decades left until retirement age there is clearly a lot of improvement that is needed. One of the blogs I read talks a lot about living on what has seemed to me a drastically low percentage of your income in order to retire early and enjoy what he terms "financial independence" but is actually a way of life in which you can do whatever you want including quit your 9-5 job so long as you keep a tight grip on your spending. So I have thought a lot about how low I can go in regards to spending Mr. Dub's hard-earned salary so that he does not have to work at his job one more day than he absolutely wants to.

This week we paid off one of our three loans (which include our mortgage, a car loan, and a home equity loan). The home equity loan is paid off three years early, and it looks like, barring an unseen and very costly emergency, we are set to pay off the car in a couple of months which will be nearly four years early. That will leave us starting the new year 2013 owing money only on our mortgage and freeing up a lot of my good Mr. Dub's salary to put toward our own financial independence.

I think with our new president elected to another term it is even more important to have your financial house in order and plenty of food and money safely tucked away for that proverbial rainy day.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


About a month ago I went away for two days and while I was gone there was a leak under the kitchen sink. The mopping up of which precipitated a powdered cleanser spill. Consequently everything came out of the cabinet and without me here to supervise the putting back of it all I haven't been able to see/reach/get to the cleaners I use on a daily basis.

So today I pulled it all out and vacuumed, wiped down, did a bit of de-cluttering, and reorganized. Which turned into a whole morning spent doing the very same thing to all my lower kitchen cabinets and my extra pantry shelf cabinet. I did some serious decision-making in my baking pan cabinet and chose to keep only the things that I use more than once a year. I hope this means that it will be easier to get things in and out of this cabinet now that there's more room. I've seen racks that are meant to hold baking pans in a straight instead of tipping vertical position but I wonder if they are more trouble than they are worth, or if there are ones that cost a bit more but are more efficient and sturdy? I may check into that, because I can't deal with fiddly and troublesome in the kitchen even if it looks cute while it's not being used.

While I was down on the floor with a bucket of hot water and some rags I decided to wipe out the inside of the oven as well. I read a tip online months and months ago that you can clean up sticky, baked-on messes in the oven with baking soda and water. Which may be true for some people but not for me. I was left with an even bigger mess and gave up on it and have lived with the slowly browning baking soda crust in the oven ever since. It did come up pretty easily today with plain old hot water so maybe the tip I read is meant to take a long time to work. The oven looks pretty good now and I'm not wheezing and choking from overpowering oven cleaner fumes so that's good and as they say, all's well that ends well.

(I also heard a tip for cleaning the oven racks which I am trying right now and will report on later. I heard that if you put your oven racks in a big trash bag with some ammonia and seal it up and let it sit for a few hours, that the fumes from the ammonia will clean the racks and the baked on orange-brown flecks on the racks will wipe right off. We'll see.)

Also de-cluttered and reorganized is the kids' bathroom closet. I try to keep things in there that visitors might need but I think there is still quite a bit more of that than we will need in a year or so, and not enough of the things that the little boy who lives here will need in the next year.

So I have started a box of items that will live in my coat closet that are up for grabs. Stuff that is still good (like dishes and baking sheets) or brand new (like cleaning products, candles, and men's body wash which my Little Friend with his sensitive skin will never use). Whenever my friends or family visit they can look through the box and pick what they like and take it home.

You know, my own Grammy used to have a box like that. There really is a circle of life.

Friday, November 9, 2012


(Sorry about the blurry pic)

Somebody I used to know a long time ago taught me how to make these. They are awesome. You kind of have to know how to cook from scratch to make them, because how well they turn out depends on how well you are able to judge what you're doing. There are official recipes out there with ingredient amounts and cooking times and so forth but to me this is the kind of food you learn how to make by watching your grandmother or some other family member do it.

  • Make a batch of regular white bread dough. Use whatever recipe you normally use for plain white bread. (You could use frozen bread dough but I've never done that and am not familiar with it but for sure let it thaw completely.) Let the dough have its first rising.
While your dough is rising do the following:
  • Prepare according to package directions a box of beef-flavored Rice-A-Roni or something similar and equivalent. I think the rice is not typically traditional for bierock and if you decide not to use it you could either increase the amount of meat, cabbage, veggies, or just make fewer bierocks. 
  • Brown and jab into crumbles a package of breakfast-style sausage (like Jimmy Dean's or Owens) and a lb. of ground beef. I do this with them both together in the same pan. It's all getting mixed up anyway.
  • Finely shred and then chop some cabbage. When you're done the cabbage bits should be about the same size as grains of rice and you'll want a few cups, about as much as you have rice and sausage. Other recipes have longer/larger shreds but I don't want to have to deal with big pieces of cabbage coming out of my bierock when I take a bite.
  • Finely chop some vegetables: onion, something to add color/flavor/texture like a green and/or red bell pepper or a shredded carrot, and depending on how spicy your sausage is, you might like some minced garlic.
  • You don't need seasonings because the sausage is very flavorful and boxed rice mixes are typically salty enough to season the cabbage and other vegetables too. If you use plain white rice you could add some salt and pepper and maybe some beef bouillon granules to its cooking liquid. 
Combine all of your cabbage, rice, meat, and vegetables into a giant bowl. I do this while the meat and rice are still very hot to let the cabbage and other vegetables have just a little bit of cooking from the heat because except for the relatively short baking time this is the only cooking your veggies will get. You'll want them chopped up pretty finely for that reason. Set it all aside and let it cool a bit.

Punch down your bread dough a bit and let it rest for a few minutes to relax it. Cut it into chunks a bit smaller than a tennis ball or baseball. I usually get 24-30 and try (but never really succeed) to get them all about the same size. It doesn't matter if they're not perfect. Roll out one of the chunks on a floured surface into a circle about 6-8 inches in diameter and place 1/4 cup or so filling into the center. Fold the dough over and pinch/crimp/seal the edges very well. (Your bierock will look like a calzone or an empanada. That's the idea here. In fact you could say that a bierock is a German style calzone or empanada or turnover.) Place it on a lightly greased baking sheet and keep making until your baking sheet is filled - I usually get 6 on a sheet. You could let them raise a bit more but making them one at a time like this they usually rise a little and I bake them off immediately and get busy with the next pan. Bake for 18-22 minutes (it depends on the size of your bierocks and how puffy they got while you were working) in a 375 degree oven. Cool on a wire rack. I store leftovers wrapped in foil and placed in a big ziploc bag in the refrigerator or freezer.

This recipe is not hard to make. It is time consuming and there are a lot of steps and then afterwards the mess in the kitchen is huge - flour all over the kitchen counters, bits of chopped cabbage everywhere including on the floor, every big bowl and cooking pot and baking sheet you own get dirty, etc. That's part of the reason why I think that only experienced cooks would make something like this. If you are used to no more effort than sliding a frozen lasagna into the oven or putting cans and bags of pre-prepared food into the crockpot then this is going to be quite overwhelming for you.

But if you can get past that the recipe makes a lot of food and they are delicious and easy to reheat for lunch or dinner for the next few days.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Emergency prep

I made some fire starters yesterday for the good low price of FREE. I would use them in the event that I don't have utilities during a disaster (like a hurricane) but still wanted to eat cooked food or if I needed heat. I would definitely only start a fire outside, not in the house. When we made these in Relief Society a couple of months ago we lit one as a test and it burned for 15 or 20 minutes, and left a small greasy wax stain on the concrete sidewalk. (I should check sometime when I'm at church if it's still there or it has worn/washed away.) Because of the stain I wouldn't want to burn one in my family room fireplace.

I used:
  • a cardboard egg carton
  • sawdust
  • dryer lint
  • an old candle
That's it.

It took me a while to eat a dozen eggs, and save up enough dryer lint. I got the bag of sawdust from a friend with a woodworker husband. The unscented candle is from a wedding I helped with about a year ago. I shaved a big pile of candle wax (which turned out to be way easier than I thought it would be - I used an old serrated steak knife) and melted it in an empty tin can in a small pot of simmering water, put a spoonful of sawdust in the bottom of each egg cup, stuffed as much dryer lint into each cup as I could, then poured the melted wax over everything. I let them set until completely cool and hard and will store them in a drawer in my storage room. I will make more eventually but need to eat a few more eggs before I'll have another egg carton to use.

To use them, you cut or tear one of the cups away from the carton and light the paper with a match. The paper and lint are very combustible and the wax and sawdust keep the whole thing burning for a good while.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Into the abyss

So... I've been sick. Remember a couple weeks ago when I said I was sort of sick? Yeah, well, it got worse.

I ended up in the doctor's office and she gave me some antibiotics for a sinus infection and bronchitis and some antiviral cream for an ugly sore on my nose.

(Lately the skin on my nose gets very upset when I have to blow more than a couple of times. It responds to lots of blowing by getting all oozy and hurty and infected. I need to find a better way to deal with nose-blowing.)

So I have spent a lot of time at home alone in the last couple of weeks. I have been:
  • Taking naps. 
  • Washing my hands.
  • Disinfecting things.
  • Contemplating the universe.
  • Perusing facebook.
  • Wishing that I got beautiful and tragic when I get sick instead of drippy and crusty and ugly.
  • Thinking about my wish to do a "no-spend" month and deciding that it best wait until after Christmas.
  • Looking around at all the things I have to work on and do and create already in my possession.
  • Sorting through some of my craft supplies.
  • Deciding that I don't have to wait for an official no-spend month to stop spending on craft/project materials.
  • Getting busy on finishing up some unfinished projects.
I started the project which you get a glimpse of in the photo a few years ago. Bernat (the yarn company) had a "crochet along" project on their blog wherein you (or I, actually) and anyone else who wanted to join in online would check in every week for a clue (the pattern) for that week and make it. The end result would be an afghan but you wouldn't know what it looked like until you had created all the squares and saw the last clue which was going to be the directions on how to put it all together. I dutifully made all the squares each week, learning how to do new crochet stitches and how to block crocheted items, but still growing more and more worried that I wouldn't like my end result, and sure enough - when I saw the final week's instructions and how the finished project was supposed to look I was sad and unhappy and not impressed at all. So I put the whole thing  away and felt bad and guilty for wasting money on the yarn, and disappointed about all the time and anticipation and hope and dreams for a project I would never love. And I never finished it.

I got it all out and looked at it again while I was sick. I put aside my least favorite squares. I took the squares that I like and lined them up into an afghan configuration. I left it there on the floor for a while while I went to do something else and then came back to get my "first impression". I did this a few times before I came up with something I truly liked. It turned out that to get an afghan that was a good size I needed to crochet a few more squares of the patterns that I liked the most so I did that. And now I am connecting them all together to create an afghan that I will be satisfied with. I found an awesome way to do that that is less time consuming and more attractive (to me, at least) here, since sewing it together (for any knitted or crocheted project) is my least favorite part of yarn projects.

I think it will be pretty. I think it will be a gift. I'm not sure who will get it. I get a lot of gift-giving anxiety when I give something handmade because not everyone likes stuff like that and I don't want other people to have to watch their own homes become cluttered up with crap I made because they can't get rid of it because I made it. At the same time, my own house is already filled up with crap I made so it has to go somewhere. I have considered that I could stop making the crap, but I do enjoy doing crafts and it fills my time. It keeps me both off the streets and away from the slothfulness and consumerism generated by daytime TV, you know?

Speaking of filling my time, I did a real job this week. Where I got dressed up in a skirt and some real shoes which were not flip flops and went and talked to complete strangers for hours and hours, and will be paid by a real company for doing this. I was filling in for a friend of mine whose job this is while she was on vacation, and may never have or take the opportunity to do it again. But it was interesting and boring at the same time, just like a lot of my own "work", and I learned that while I don't totally suck at it I don't really want to do it all the time either. I am infinitely grateful that I don't have to, and also grateful that I know I can do it if I need to.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Food waste

Although I continue to have some food waste, it is better than it was before I was keeping track. I find myself actively thinking about it and planning accordingly while I'm gazing in to the refrigerator.

Wasted last week:
  • one serving size heap of a long grain/wild rice concoction we didn't love when I served it for dinner
  • 1/4 cup leftover green beans
  • 1/3 bottle Caesar salad dressing
  • 2 slices of stale homemade whole wheat bread
Last week's successes:
  • baked the last of the sugar pie pumpkins that I bought a couple weeks ago to can. I had filled up the pressure canner before I got to this last pumpkin and didn't want to run another batch. I've baked this pumpkin and will puree it in the food processor and freeze for a pie to be baked later this month.
  • used up a bit of bottled lemon juice from the fridge and some poppy seeds that I've had in my pantry for years in these muffins. The texture of these muffins was really great, although the lemon flavor wasn't quite obvious enough for me. I will make these again when I have a fresh lemon on hand and will add some lemon zest to the batter in addition to the juice.
  • baked some pumpkin/chocolate chip cookies out of the one jar of pumpkin that didn't seal when I canned pumpkin.
On the menu for this week:
  • Apple pie with pie dough from the freezer and apples from the crisper bin.
  • Bierocks with filling from the freezer.
  • Tacos with ground beef and cheese from the freezer, tortillas from the pantry, and lettuce and tomato from the veggie bin. I am about to lose the lettuce if it doesn't get eaten soon!
  • Chicken enchiladas using up the rest of the corn tortillas in the pantry. Also enchilada sauce and bottled chicken from the pantry, and cheese from the freezer. I will freeze half of the enchiladas for dinner another week. I will serve the enchiladas with some tex-mex style rice made with rice, dehydrated onions, and homemade tomatillo salsa from the pantry, and some fresh cilantro paste from the fridge.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Empty space

One of the things I love about our home's main living area is that there is empty space available to look at. Not a lot, but enough. When I look through/under/between the chairs and tables I can see corners, walls, carpet, baseboards, etc.

It's restful.

I love keeping my bathroom counter cleared off too. For the same reason.