Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Searching for Some New Year's Eve Recipe Inspiration

Kyle's helping me plan a New Year's Eve feast by checking out recipes in one of my favorite cookbooks. (He talks about Isa as if she's a close personal friend who lives nearby. I kinda wish she did.)

I think he found a good one.

I'm actually leaning towards making Dim Sum after reading about it in the latest issue of VegNews. Those recipes aren't online but here are some others.

Spinach and Vegetable Dim Sum
How to Make Vegetarian Dim Sum
Dim Sum: Steamed Money Bag Dumplings, Rice Paper Rolls, Hot and Sour Soup
Fun Yum Dim Sum

Monday, December 29, 2008

That's a Wrap!

It's hard to find time to post when everyone is home but I'm sneaking this quick post in. Here's a peek at a hat and mitten set I made for my niece. I was especially pleased with this one because it's the one that used three strands of fingering yarn to create a worsted weight equivalent.

Can you believe I even got the boxers finished? Each son ended up with 8 pairs. Here's a peek at a few of them.

I confess to going right down to the wire on the crafting. This included staying up to almost 3:30am on Christmas morning as I frantically put the finishing touches on two forgotten sock projects, one knitted and one sewn from fleece. Naturally, because of their frantic finishing there are no pictures of them, which is a shame. They came out really well.

The fleece sock pattern is one I'd tried before with minimal success. I think it came out much better this time because I had a better understanding of how the sock went together. The allowed me to customize the fit to the recipient, who fortunately has the same size feet as I do.

I've gained a lot more confidence in my sewing skills which probably explains why I tackled a last minute sewn tote bag for my sister. Clearly I was out of my mind because I formulated the plan and cut the pieces out right before going to bed, at about 2:00am. The sewing didn't happen until Christmas morning between our brunch guests and our dinner guests. I felt really good about it though. In fact, I felt really good about the way the holiday went in general.

I'm especially pleased with the way my kids all pitched in and made their own handmade contributions. They made Leen made scarves for her brothers, a sleeping cap for Jim and Tasha, slippers for me and mug cake mixes for the rest of the family. Tasha made bulletin boards for her brothers, helped make mug cake for the rest of the family and gave gift certificates for haircuts and manicures to everyone. Rob made potholders, bookmarks, ornaments and dishcloths. Kyle also made potholders, bookmarks and ornaments. They all worked hard and they were rightfully proud of their work.

The secret of their happy participation seems to rest solely in the fact that they chose their projects. The ones I tried to get them to do, like those damn dinosaur ornaments that didn't get done last year either, were just a source of frustration. They were very good at knowing what they were capable of and joyfully dove into those tasks. (FYI, I tossed the dinosaur ornament kit, it was a frustrating mass of kiddie hell mascarading as holiday ornaments and no one else should be tortured by it.)

As 2008 winds down, I'm spending my time organizing (it's an ongoing challenge for me!) So far I've attacked my recipe binder, mainly because it fell on the floor and 10 or so years of recipes dumped out. The result was a grocery bag full of recycling. I also put all my sewing and knitting patterns back into the binder I keep them in. Next up, my crafting supplies. Time to look over what's left from all this Christmas crafting and store the useful stuff in a way that I can find it. I've also gotten some requests for things to be made so I'll be looking to see what raw materials I have for those projects.

My posts will likely be sporadic until Monday but let me know how your frugal holiday went. Let's inspire each other.

Happy Holidays to All!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Crafting Down to the Wire

I'm practically too busy to post as we come right down to the wire. The whole family is in on the crafting at this point. Here's a peek at the headbands that I made.
Here's the box that I put them in. Can you believe how well they fit?
Here's another hat and mitten set. I think the pompom is the best part.

So what's the point of me showing all this stuff? I mean honestly, how does what I've made help you? I was wondering about this myself the last few days.

Ultimately, I hope to inspire you the way some of the blogs I read inspire me. Look at how many different mittens you can make with a variety of scrap yarn and the knowledge/mastery of one pattern. (Although mastery is a strong word when it comes to knitting thumbs. Perhaps general understanding would be more appropriate.) Same with the hats. Every hat I've made, with the exception of the beret, comes from one basic hat pattern that has variations in it for different sizes and styles.

The hat and mitten set that I'm working on now (the last one thankfully) uses three strands of fingering weight yarn knit at the same time to create a worsted weight product. I use what I have on hand and hope to inspire you to do the same.

Tasha was looking for ideas for her brothers when she thought of making bulletin boards for them. Would you believe I have a roll of cork? Someone was getting rid of it and it ended up in my basement. She was looking for a backing when I remembered some picture frames I had gotten from freecycle. She's using two of the 10" x 13" ones to create her bulletin boards. I can't wait to see how they turn out.

So let's all check in. How are we doing? Do you have any last minute ideas to share?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday Crafting Day 10

Yesterday was not the crafting extravaganza that I'd hope it would be and, so far, today isn't shaping up much better. Fortuntately, my commitments outside the house are limited today. I'm hoping to make a lot of progress.

The headband project continues. I'm knitting one now with multicolored ribbon yarn. What an absolute pain in the rear to work with. I'm finding you have to be very careful that you don't stab through it as you knit. I do like the way the finished project is looking though. The plan is to wrap up headband production this evening and move on to another pair of mittens.

I mentioned kit type gifts yesterday. The idea for this comes from my sons. They've been pestering me about wanting to build something. I keep saying wait for your father so he can tell you what's ok to use and what's not. It occurred to me that a collection of wood, nails, screws and maybe even a screwdriver and hammer that were for them to use as they pleased might be a really good gift. I'm not sure if we'll actually do this but I like the concept. I'm sure there are many ways it could be incorporated to fit any kids' area of interest. Hmm...must be time for more planning.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Crafting Day 9

Here's a peek at the finished earflap hat and beret.

Here's the other side of the beret.

Here's the beginnings of three headbands. One of the funniest things about knitting is the reactions my teenagers have to my projects. At first there's often the shrug that says, "what are you knitting now??" Later when the projects are closer to looking like the final project that is replaced with the raised eyebrows that says, "that's cool, can you make me one too??" The headbands are no exception.

All of the crotch seams are sewn on the boxers. Next it's time for the leg seams. The leg seams are probably the biggest pain in the butt to sew, since the legs have to be even. I may just wait to start them until tomorrow since the two hour delay we had this morning is giving me a late start.

No new projects to discuss yet. I'm just going to focus on finishing up the current ones for the moment. Although, there are some "kit" ideas being tossed around but more on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday Crafting Day 8

The hat with earflaps is finished and the beret is moving along. I confess to not touching the boxers at all yesterday. The thought of setting up the sewing machine on the kitchen table only to put it away an hour later, exhausted me mentally.

Tonight the boys have promised to help me make some gift wrap out of the brown bags that our bulk beans, grains and flour comes in. I still have everything in the baskets that my yarn is usually in which makes me feel like I've accomplished very little. It will be good to see the pile begin to grow under the tree. BTW, if you're letting kids decorate wrapping paper let them do it before you wrap the presents. You never know when a marker might run through the paper onto the project you worked so hard on.

Are you still stuck for ideas? Check out this post from Threadbanger with links o'plenty to get your creative juices flowing.

Here are some alternative gift giving ideas from buynothingchristmas.org.

Here's a site I just stumbled on with some idea for kids presents. You have to scroll down to see the handmade ideas.

I'm looking for some headband and hair accessory ideas for a little girl. Here's what I've found so far.

Ribbon Headband

Easy Knitted Headband

Silky Headband

Easy Headband

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Crafting Days 5, 6 & 7

I fixed the links for the beret patterns in my last post. I'm not sure how I messed those up in the first place but at least they work now.

I had a request for a hat with earflaps in shades of blue. It's almost done. I just need to finish the i-cord and add tassels at the ends.

While I was working on the i-cord it occurred to me that I hadn't a clue how to make the tassels for the ends of the cord. I shrugged it off and decided to search the internet after I blogged. Then it hit me, it is so much easier to be frugal now than it ever was before. Think about it, almost any information you could need on frugality is available with a simple google search. Do you need to learn how to fix something or make something or use something in place of something else? It's all out there for us. We don't even need to run to the library hoping the book with the information we need is checked in. It's right here on our computer. Now do a search on some aspect of frugality that you were curious about, right now!!

If you were wondering about making tassels to embellish your knitting try these sites.
Knitting About.Com

Here's a video
that shows you how to make pompoms and tassels.

Here's the beret that I'm making for Tasha

The boxer project continues...All side seams are now sewn, all the seams that were mistakenly sewn have been ripped out. It's time to sew the crotch seams together. Progress is slow but steady. The next project coming up on the horizon is some mittens for a little girl and a cloth checkerboard bag.

Tasha and Leenie gave a test drive to this recipe. It was quite good and they to use it as a gift for their friends. I think it would probably make a nice teacher gift as well.

Since Christmas is my holiday to entertain, food is on my mind as well. I made this fig cake recipe last night. It was easy to make, tasted good and I still have a lot of dried figs so it will probably be on my holiday menu.

How are your holiday preparations progressing?

Friday, December 12, 2008

We Interrupt Day Four of Holiday Crafting to Ask, What Did You Put In the Split Pea Soup??

Does the fact that I think the thumbs on these mittens are just adorable mean there is something wrong with me? I kept showing them to everyone in the house while saying, "Look at the thumbs!" My sanity must be slipping.

If you've forgiven me for the thumb thing, beware what I did to last night's dinner is a doozy. I was making a batch of split pea soup, which I've done a thousand times before. I got the brilliant idea to toss in some frozen radishes because their peppery spiciness is lessened during cooking and pepperiness is good in split pea soup. (I think Ruthie made this observation recently as well.)

I went into the freezer and took out what I thought were frozen radishes and tossed them in but alas I was incorrect, they were frozen apples. Of course I didn't notice this until almost an hour of cooking. (Hey, I was busy pinning boxers, because I'm just too cowardly to go freehand. Ruthie and AnnMarie you are my heroes. I'm going to try one freehand but I'm scared!!) So there I was standing in the kitchen staring into a pot of split peas and apples, with the peels on so there was no hiding them!

I figured blending them would get rid of the visual evidence but what about the taste. I added a little extra vegetable broth as well as a bit of tamari and hoped for the best. Rob commented it was the best split pea soup he'd ever had and ate a second bowl. In fact everyone enjoyed it. I couldn't take it, I had to confess when the meal was over. Everyone was mildly horrified. I promised to be more careful. Tis the season for forgiveness so all was okay in the end.

My crafting agenda once again returns me to the sewing of the boxers and the finding of a knit beret pattern. Check out these sites for beret ideas.

This is the one I'm doing to match this pocket scarf I made for Tasha

Mock Beret Pattern

Taos Beret

A directory of hat patterns

Purl Beret - thanks Ruthie for letting me know about this pattern

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Crafting Days 2 & 3

You know that old saying, haste makes waste? I sure proved it on Tuesday when I accidentally stitched part of the boxers together that weren't supposed to be stitched. I did it on 5 pairs. Thankfully when I got back to sewing on Wednesday I caught the mistake before I made it another 11 times! However, it still meant ripping out 10 seams, all the while ranting under my breath. Fortunately I was home alone, no child should see their mother cursing while sewing, or unsewing, Christmas presents.

Here's my basket of partially finished boxers. The good news is, the first set of seams are now done, correctly, on all 16 pairs of boxers. Today I'm aiming to get the side seams done. The sewing goes quickly, it's the pinning that slows me down.

The hat and mitten project is going well. Two hats and one set of mittens are already made. I started the second pair of mittens this morning. I really like that mitten pattern I mentioned Monday. It's the least scary mitten pattern that I've ever seen. It doesn't even use double pointed needles. Try it, you'll like it!

I've also vowed to finish sewing the last seam on this pair of socks which has been sitting unfinished since September! (What is my problem?) These will make a perfect gift for...

As the end is in sight for these projects the time has come to choose the next round of holiday crafts. Ruthie has some great links for ideas the other day.

I'm especially interested in homemade games this year. Money's tight for everyone and we're no exception I want to see if we can really buy nothing this Christmas without anyone feeling cheated. In some ways this is easy. Leen's & Tasha both opted for one big present for their birthdays and Christmas this year. That still leaves the boys. Hmm...

Here's some links I'm planning to peruse for ideas. Feel free to jump in with your own ideas and links.

DIY Network

Five Stones Game

Making Your Own Children's Book

Dime Store Games

Here's a cool slipper pattern that has absolutely nothing to do with games but what the heck. Wait here's an even cooler one. If you wanted them to be non-skid and you happened to have a beat up yoga mat lying around (and really, who doesn't?) you could add a sole.

Oh the wheels are turning...
There are so many great things on the web, share what you've discovered. We all need the ideas.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Day One of Holiday Crafting...

CHeck out all my raw materials. What a mess!

I cut out and pinned 18 pairs of boxers, made one hat and started a pair of mittens yesterday. I also donated all the shirts (a rather large stash) that wouldn't be made into boxers. The cleared space almost made me happier than getting the boxers cut out.

In keeping with the season, while being inspired by Chile's ever present need to clear clutter, I also put together a bag of clothing that's being picked up today by a family in need. I can't justify having spare, spare coats (yes, that's two spares) when other people are in need of one. It feels good to help in whatever small way that I can.

Today, I plan to get some sewing done on the boxers and maybe finish up a mitten or two. If things go well, I may start another hat. I know I'll be sitting and waiting for at least 1 1/2 hours later today so I'll save knitting for then (it's portable) and I'll focus on sewing now (because it's not).

BTW, for anyone in search of a simple mitten pattern, check this one out. It's super simple and she even says in the materials description, a great project for using up leftovers! What more can a frugal gal ask for??

Monday, December 08, 2008

On Your Mark, Get Set, SEW!!

It's Monday morning 8:59am. The last of the children got on the bus 30 minutes ago and I'm making a plan for my day. Since we're planning a handmade holiday, I've got some major work to do. Right now the living room is spread with fabric and yarn as I get ready to shift into high gear. Thankfully, the coffee is already brewed and the fire is already burning.

I've already know that my first project is making 7 pairs of boxers for each of my sons. That project which started off so strong over the summer just got so derailed. It's become a pile of partially cut fabric that just mocks me at every turn and is punctuated by both of my sons' wondering aloud, "when will mommy make the boxers?"

It must end now! I must complete this project and get the fabric piles out of the living room. (I've heard chairs are for sitting on, but I've no proof of it. I thought they were fabric resting places!) I've got all day to get them cut and at least the side seams sewn. I can do it!

I've also been cross stitching some ornaments and cards like this one
There's some knitting going on too but right now I must focus on boxers!

How's your holiday prep going? Do you have something you need to focus on as well? Are you still searching for ideas? Check out these links
Lion Free Yarn Patterns

Crunchy's Holiday Gidt Basket Ideas

Sew Mama Sew's Gift Ideas

Or check my archives under sewing, knitting and frugal holiday ideas.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

You Say Your Kids Loose Their Gloves? Make Them a Scarf With Pockets!

Here's a picture of the finished scarf with pockets that I made for Natasha. This is a super easy knitting project. If you can knit, own a pair of any size knitting needles and you have leftover yarn, you can make this project. Really, you can!!

It's a choose your own adventure sort of a knitting project. Here are some of the choices you need to make.

What yarn will I use?
I'm a big fan of knitting with two strands of yarn at the same time but then we already knew I was a chronic color combiner.

I start by choosing a base color, in this case deep pink. Usually I use the base color throughout the entire scarf and a secondary color or colors that I use along with the base yarn for the pockets and any striping I might want.

I choose what I want to use for the pockets, in this case a chunky multi color yarn. I divide the pocket yarn into two approximately equal balls. (Personally, I eyeball this but you could measure if you felt the need.) The reason for the equal yarn balls is to make sure I have enough to do both pockets since the scarf is knit as one long piece. (The pockets are made by simply folding over the ends of the scarf.) I like to use really funky yarn for the pockets. I used sparkly blue eyelash yarn on one that I made for one of my daughter's more funky dressing friends.

If you are intending to make yarn changes along the length of the scarf, always divide the yarn so you have approximately equal amounts so your stripes will be more or less even.

Make sure you use the same thickness of yarn or you'll need to do something like I did on this scarf. I accidently used a worsted weight and a sport weight and ended up with the middle section being narrower than the ends. It actually worked out well because I was able to crochet on a pink border around the black which really tied the whole scarf together nicely but I've had other accidents that didn't turn out quite so happy.

Now that you've got some idea about the yarn...

What Needles Will You Use?
Use what you have but think about what kind of yarn you're using too. Do you want a dense thick scarf or a looser knit? There's no right answer, it's totally up to you. I usually knit a row or two decide I don't like it and then rip out and start over a few times. This is not such a big deal because you're not really ripping apart that much, a scarf is just not that wide...or is it? That's up to you because the next thing you need to think about is...

How Many Stitches Should I Cast On?
Again, this is your choice. Natasha's is 22 stiches wide done on size 13 needles with two strands of yarn. I'm working on a more delicate one that is only 16 stitches wide done on size 6 needles using a double strand of yarn but one strand is fingering and the other is worsted weight. It's the blue one here.

How Long Should I Make It?
I like to make mine long enough to wrap around the neck once and have the hand fits into the pockets. Measure the person you're making it for or sit next to them when you knit so you can periodically drape it around them or use yourself as the model. Yarn stretches so you have some leeway here.

How Do I Make The Pockets?
There is one rule here, make sure the pockets fold over on the same side of the scarf! I pin them in place, right side facing in, using a knitting needle. This allows me to make sure they are the same size and make the join invisible. Don't forget to take into account the size of the hands of the scarf's intended recipient.

To join the edges together, I use the technique described for Step 2 in the instructions for this knitting tote bag here. This works well and is sturdy and invisible one you turn the pocket right side out.

So that's pretty much it. What do you think?

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Christmas Carol

Yesterday I started reading A Christmas Carol to the boys. I always wanted to do this with the girls but it never seemed to work out. Interestingly, despite the wordy, unfamiliar English of Charles Dickens, the boys are really into it. I'm sure telling them that when Scrooge keeps saying, "Good evening," he really means, "piss off," helped immensely. (You have to say it in your best Cockney accent or its just plain wrong. I'm kind of hanging my head in shame as I admit it.)

Jim's working nights this week so expect my posts to appear at odd times.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hope You All Had A Happy Thanksgiving!

I finished up the deep pink scarf this morning but my model is sleeping after covering a 5:30am lifeguarding shift this morning. I'll try to get some pictures up later.

We're just relaxing around the house accomplishing a bit here and there. We're eating leftovers from yesterday. True to my word, I kept it low key. Sourdough pancakes with homemade blueberry syrup, crumb cake, a tofu scramble with vegetables, orange juice and coffee made up our brunch.

For dinner I made a stuffing combining sauteed onions, mushrooms, brussell sprouts and butternut squash with bulgur. I placed this in a roasting pan and then topped it with Isa's quick gluten recipe from Veganomicon. I covered it and cooked it in a 325 degree oven. Viola, simple stuffed seitan which I served with biscuits and a simple gravy. The results were very good and I wasn't stressed.

I confess we did go shopping today but it was for tires. I don't think it should count as shopping since tires are a place where bald is definitely not beautiful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Traveling to Training By Train

I know tomorrow is Thanksgiving but I'm taking a very laid back approach to my cooking for it. This morning one of my yoga students asked if I was going grocery shopping today to get ready for Thanksgiving. I thought for a moment and answered that it depended on your perspective. Either I came home to a very clean fridge or a very empty fridge but either way a trip to the grocery store was inevitable.

It's likely that I'll do something with sietan and some kind of rice stuffing. In anticipation of this I bought some baby portabello mushrooms to put in the gravy. If you're in need of a gravy recipe, check out Chile's. If you're looking for more concrete Thanksgiving food inspiration check out Isa's blog post with links o' plenty.

I wanted to talk a bit about my decision to travel to Florida by train rather than air. First, and probably most obvious, I hate flying. Still, that alone isn't reason enough to sit on my behind for 25 hours. Cost was part of the reason but because flight prices did go down, other attendees flew in for about $25 more than my train ticket. Then again, there were other costs associated with flying like the car service to and from the airport (which in most cases was a little over an hour away) so although the ticket price was cheaper, the whole trip wasn't.

In the end, I chose to travel by train mainly because it's a more environmentally friendly way to travel. According to the US Department of Energy, train travel is 17% more efficient than domestic airline travel and 21% more efficient than auto travel on a per-passenger-mile basis (Transportation Energy Data Book, 2007, Table 2.13 and 2.14).

Ruthie wanted to know what I knitted on the ride. Here's a peek

You're looking at two almost completed scarves and a baby bib. If you're wondering why I didn't complete scarves, it's because I ran out of the yarn.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Food While in Florida

There was a Whole Foods about three miles from my hotel in Sarasota. I walked there on my first day in Florida. It felt really good to move after 25 hours on the train (more on train travel tomorrow).

I stocked up on foods for the week, bearing in mind that I had very limited time to cook. I spent a total of $34.32 and walked home armed with enough food to last most of the week. I opted to buy a few Fantastic Food mixes (hummus, tabbouleh) as well as Road's End Mac and Chreese for my entrees.

A trip back midweek became necessary when an unexpected friend visited (ladies you understand...). That trip cost $27.83, $8.95 of which was organic tampons (are they made of gold in Florida? I can get them for $2 less in NY.) I also splurged and got myself food from the hot food bar to the tune of almost $9.00. The rest of the money went towards crackers, falafel mix and olive oil (because, although the hotel had pans in the room, I had nothing to grease them with.)

It really worked out great. I cooked at night which allowed me to enjoy most of my two hour lunch break poolside every day. If it sounds like a slice of heaven, that's because it was.

I had planned to go grocery shopping in anticipation of Jim arriving with the boys for the second week when I hit an unexpected jackpot. Many of the people from the first weeks training weren't staying for the second week. Since they knew I was, they gave me most of their leftover food including raw organic almond butter, organic peanut butter, organic fruit spread, 3 kinds of cereal, 3 partial loaves of bread, two kinds of juice, soy yogurt, almond milk, breakfast bars, assorted nuts, olives, and a few vegetables. I couldn't believe my luck.

I did make a $20 trip to the grocery store to fill in the holes in our newfound bounty because the difference between one person eating and four people eating is huge. All that food was demolished by the time we left. However, because we were traveling home by train, we could bring food on board. Once again we found ourselves the recipients of peoples leftover bounty. This combined with one final trip to the grocery store ($22.57) to once again fill in the holes make our train ride home much cheaper.

The food bills were clearly higher because cooking from scratch didn't fit in so well with long days of training, even if they did include two hour lunches! Still I'm really pleased with the way things went.

I did visit two great restaurants while in Sarasota. Pad Thai and Simon's Coffee House. Although very different experiences, both were delicious and very veg friendly.

Now I need to get back into the cooking from scratch groove. Last night's dinner was a crock pot full of all the leftovers from the first week I was gone. Everyone dutifully put leftovers into the freezer once it was clear they wouldn't be finished in a day or two, just like I'd requested! They seemed to think it was magic because it tasted really good but the reality was, most of those flavors went together really well.

So now I have a clean slate, an almost empty fridge, Thanksgiving in two days and I've promised I'd take my daughters to see Twilight tonight. I think I've got my work cut out for me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wasn't I Wearing a Tank Top Just the Other Day?

Well the sun is shining and the sky is blue but 33 degrees is a far cry from the tank top weather I left behind in Florida. We finally pulled into the driveway a few minutes before 11:00pm last night and so ends my two weeks of yoga training in Florida. I'm a little too addle brained and backed up on laundry to go into great details about how I kept costs down while I was there but I'll give a peek into my technique.

Perhaps the biggest bit of wisdom I have to share is this: Sometimes the hotel that costs a bit more is clearly the better choice.
How can this be my frugal friends? Let me explain. I opted to stay at the hotel the training was being held at. It cost about $20/night more than some other local choices, even with the groups discounted rate. However, because I didn't need to worry about getting to my training every day, I eliminated the need to rent a car ($44/day before all those screwy charges they add on) or take a bus ($3.00/day unlimited transfers).

This hotel also had a fairly complete kitchenette, including fridge, stovetop, microwave, pots, pans, plates, cups, utensils and a dishwasher. This allowed me to go grocery shopping when I got there and eliminated the need for eating out which is always a big savings.

Additionally, this hotel had a massive continental breakfast every morning with lots of choices that a creative veg or vegan guest could partake of. They even had dinner included Mondays thru Thursdays with free unlimited wine and beer. No, I didn't eat the meatloaf or pulled pork in the name of frugality and I didn't need to pour myself into bed after a few too many but I was able to make a hearty salad every night to have along with whatever I prepared in my room. Best of all, the coffee was free and fresh 24 hours a day!

They also had a courtesy shuttle bus that would take you anywhere within a 3 mile radius, including back to the Amtrak stop so we could start our journey home.

Another bit of wisdom comes courtesy of my husband and a woman I met on the train ride down: Before deciding you need to rent a car so your kids and hubby can see the sights, check out the local bus system. The SCAT bus system was friendly and super easy to navigate. Jim was able to visit:
Siesta Key Beach

Coquina Beach on Longboat Key

Mote Aquarium

I'll share more but now I've got to get back to being mom (that's code for doer of laundry, maker of dinner, payer of bills, and general organizer of daily life.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Greetings From Sarasota Florida!

Just a quick post to let everyone know that my first week of yoga training was just amazing. I expect my second week to be the same. I've been keeping a food journal to keep track of my meal costs, including on the train, but I won't be sharing that until I'm back in NY a week from Monday. The weather is far too beautiful for me to be inside blogging.

Om Shanthi to all.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Frugal Veggie Train Travel

I managed to get a few more things made including:
Cuban Black Beans

Lima Bean bake


vegan rice krispy treats

bread crumb cookies with Halloween chocolate used as chips

Thinking I was pretty much off the hook with the food for people staying, I turned to Simple Foods for the Pack (thanks again Ruthie!!) for inspiration. I want to try to avoid buying food on the train ride as much as possible. If I'm spending money on eating out, it has to be a little more impressive than an overpriced veggie burger. I'm saving my money for a few vegetarian places in Sarasota.

So here's what I've put together for my train ride down:

Carob Fudge

Seed Date Fudge

unsalted mixed nuts

2 Clif Bars

3 aeseptic packs of chocolate Silk

dried cranberries

dried papaya

I figure there's no way to avoid buying coffee and water once the batch I leave with runs out, so I'll be buying those. Let's see how little I can spend and still have a good time.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Did You Ever Try to Think Like the Instructions on a TV Dinner?

I'm leaving for two weeks of yoga training early Saturday morning. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity (Thanks Jim!! Everyone be extra nice to my hubby, he's obviously a saint.) but I'm not even close to being ready. How hard is it to throw your yoga mat, neti pot and a few clothes in a bag, you ask? Geez, that's the simple part. It's making sure everyone at home is set up and able to function in my absence that's slowing me down.

I am the chief organizer and chef in residence at our house. It sounds much grander than it really is. It just means everything that has to be done on any given day is written in my planner and it's my job to make sure everyone gets to where they need to go with whatever they need. It also means I know the answer to the ever present question, "What is there to eat? I'm hungry!" As a result the thought of me not being here is causing a bit of panic.

To make things easier for everyone and to prevent the budget from being blown completely, I've begun making meals to get them through the first week. Aside from being time consuming, this is mentally exhausting, because I'm trying not to leave any food prep steps out as I write out instructions for reheating these meals.

I love cooking and there's a calm that goes along with knowing that most culinary problems, except the giant crater in the middle of your cake, can be fixed. Besides, even cakes with craters taste good. However, that zen-like calm does not come easy to new and infrequent cooks. So everything is labeled with prep instructions and what to serve with it. With any luck the instructions that I write out for each night will be clear to everyone (at leat as clear as the instructions on a tv dinner, I hope).

So what's in the freezer so far?

Sliced gluten with applesauce to be served with steamed greens that are seasoned with a little toasted sesame oil and topped with sesame seeds

Red Beans with greens (recipe from 125 Best Vegetarian Slow cooker Recipes) to be served with cornbread

Red Lentil Roast to be served with sweet potatoes. Although, I haven't made the gravy yet.

3 loaves of Cornell Bread for quick breakfasts on the run

Now I've got to get back into the kitchen

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Moving Forward

I stayed up to see it happen and I'm still slightly stunned. This is an amazing time to be a member of an interracial family. My children, especially my young sons, have a role model that I never dreamed they would have. This is by no means a political blog so I'll simply say this, for the first time in 8 years I feel a little hope politically.

Now it's time to get back to the business of frugal veggie living...

The holiday season is just around the corner. ThriftyFun ran a list of homemade holiday gift ideas to get you started on your holiday planning. You can also check out the holiday idea archives on my blog here. Of course you may decide to forego gifts alltogether in which case you'll want to check out Buy Nothing Christmas.

No matter what you decide, you'll need some great food to go along with your decision. Check out the archives on vegetarian holiday cooking.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Like, Crazy Daddy-O

Halloween always finds me pinning or stitching right up until the last possible second on someone's costume and this year was no exception. Although the boys had their costumes under control, the girls did not.

Leenie, who dressed up as a rockstar, had a last minute urgent need for a sweatshirt to cut up a la Jennifer Beals in Flashdance. Fortunately, there's always a ratty sweatshirt or two hanging around our house. In fact, Jim and I both volunteered sweatshirts to the cause.

Tasha decided to be a beatnik. She planned to dress all in black, wear a beret and carry a Jack Kerouac book. But wait...we don't have a beret! "We'll make one for you," I announced with so much false confidence at 3pm on Friday afternoon that I even convinced myself. I did a quick google search on "easy beret" and came up with this pattern and tutorial. Now all we needed was some black fabric...

I came up with a very dark gray shirt that I'd somehow gotten a huge stain on the front of. Since Tasha planned to wear dark gray flats, this was perfect. I set about following the tutorial. Naturally I couldn't find bowls to match the sizes listed, so we improvised with slightly smaller bowls.

We worked assembly line style, I cut the pattern while Tasha set up the sewing machine (which brings up the fact that I really need to get rid of the bobbins that don't fit my machine. They just slow me down as I check to see if they fit for the millionth time!) It was definitely an easy pattern. In about an hour, including the time it took to do the google search and finding the fabric, the beret was done.

The beret came out remarkably well considering the haste with which it was assembled. It really completed her costume. Tasha liked it so much she wore it to a family party on Saturday and she's asked me to make her one in red. Go figure!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Do You Have a Drooling Problem?

I've got just a few short hours to get things organized before the Halloween mayhem starts. I'm in denial. At least the candy has already been bought and the costumes are more or less figured out. Can you tell I'm not a huge Halloween fan?

Here's the bib I just finished making for my new nephew using the pattern in Mason Dixon Knitting (The pattern isn't on the blog, it's in the book). I decided to add a border around the edge which made a simple pattern a lot more complicated, thanks to a lot of tangly yarn.

I decided to go the whole distance and make a matching burp cloth, also from a pattern in Mason Dixon Knitting. Here they are together.

I really like the color combination. It felt like a very fall color choice. I just enjoy knitting things and trying to personalize them to their intended recipients. I really hope the people I give them to enjoy using them. I think the worst is when people think the hand knit things you give them are too "nice" to use. (Dish cloths often fall into this category.)

Now I'm off to make some caramel popcorn using the recipe in The Tightwad Gazette.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Have You Got a Stinky Gas Smell in Your Car?

Not flatulence! I'm talking about that delightful experience of having gas splash back on you as you're pumping gas into your car. It seems to happen every few years. Usually it's the clothes that get the gas smell but this time it was the car itself. Jim must have had it on his shoes as he got back into the car. We didn't notice a problem until the temperature went down and he started using the heat. Suddenly the car stank like gas.

After some mechanical checking, he determined it wasn't a mechanical problem which led me to the conclusion he had gotten gas on the floor of the car. I sprinkled baking soda liberally all over the driver's side floor and seat of the car and let it sit for a day. Then we covered the seat, leaving the baking soda underneath, and Jim drove the car to work yesterday. I figured the baking soda needed to be there while the heat was turned since this activated the smell.

The result is no more stinky gas smell! Although now we need to find time to vacuum the baking soda off the floor and seat of the car.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Proper Care & Feeding of the Oral Surgery Patient

Things are finally getting back to normal. Tasha went back to school today and Leenie is on track to go back tomorrow. They lived on soft things like yogurt, ice cream, oatmeal and pureed versions of our regular meals. My mom & dad brought them ice pops, more ice cream and some homemade pumpkin muffins. Last night they graduated to nibbling on non-pureed Chinese food. They looked like bunnies as they chewed with just their front teeth!

Yesterday, while they convalesced, Jim, the boys and I escaped the sick ward and headed into the great outdoors. Actually, we were just in the front yard doing yardwork that should have been done months ago. There was a small section of lawn/flower bed alongside our deck stairs that needed help. It was just a hilly mess with dirt falling over the side.

I kept telling Jim not to worry, I had a plan to fix it without buying anything but I had my doubts that it would actually work. My thought was to use the extra sections of red edging, turn them on their sides and stack them to creat a mini retaining wall. Imagine my surprise when it actually worked and looked good too!

The scruffy grass needs to be trimmed and the dirt mess in the front will be covered later today with patio pavers. Which leads me to another outdoor project, finishing fixing the front path. Every year the grass sort of overtakes the path and we have to dig the pavers out. Jim's also trying to reposition the pavers to make the slight hill less of a wintertime death trap.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Come On Give Me a Big Toothy Grin!

My daughters would both shout "NO" if they could only open their mouths wide enough. We spent the day at the oral surgeon's (two different ones because the health care system in America is in fact broken. The girls were having two different procedures. One fell under our medical insurance, one under our dental and naturally no oral surgeon in the area accepts both. I guess I should just be grateful I have insurance to bitch about.)

I'm spending the weekend on soft food duty. So far the girls are living on homemade yogurt and oatmeal. We'll see what else I can come up with.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

You Can't Use It If You Don't Know Where It Is...Or What It Is

Bulk spices from our food cooperative generally come in one pound foil bags. I use them to refill my spice jars and store the extra in the freezer. The problem is, when I run out of onion powder, I have to did through all the foil bags until I find it. This aggravates me to no end and sometimes results in multiple bags of the same spice being bought, which aggravates me even more. As an added bonus, they don't stack well and often fall out of the freezer at inopportune times. It's time for a change.

I've gathered up some one quart canning jars, some used canning lids (am I the only loon who doesn't throw these out?) and some canning rings. I like the canning jars because the color of what's in the jar will give me a clue that the foil bags couldn't. They also won't absorb the aromas of the spices. Is glass in the freezer a good idea? I'll leave that to each person to decide. I'm just not letting the younger kids touch them.

The goal is to get all of the spices from the foil bags, into the jars and back into the freezer. Ready, set, go!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Since the Oven Is On Anyway...

There's a tiny bit of blue peeking through an otherwise gray sky this morning. Although it's not as cold as it's been, clearly fall is here and winter is nipping at her heels. I don't think I'm mentally ready to say goodbye to the final reminders of summer like CSA pickups, the food dehydrator and the canning supplies.

The thing I do like about the colder weather is the way cooking just feels like a natural part of it. The woodstove warms the majority of the house while the food cooking warms the kitchen.

I cooked the first acorn sqaush of the season last night along with some of the last corn of the season. The seeds from acorn squash can be baked the same as you would pumpkin seeds. I always hate trying to seperate the stringy orange goo that holds the seeds together. I pulled out the big bits but gave up on the smaller, harder to grab ones and just tossed them onto a greased cookie sheet, tiny orange bits and all. In the cooking process the orange goo dried up and largely disappeared. I'm definitely going to try that again.

I'm sure I broke some culinary law but I put the seeds and the squash in the oven at the same time (on different baking sheets) at 350 degrees for an hour. Half an hour into their cooking time I put in the corn on the cob in a covered 9" x 13" pan into the oven. (Ok, actually it's a 9" x 13" pan with a cookie sheet covering the top but it works!) The oven was full, and therefore less wasteful, plus everything was done at the same time which is always nice.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Odds & Ends

I just finished knitting two more pairs of mittens from scraps. They're currently in the washing machine felting away as I try to get caught up on laundry. There's never a shortage of laundry to be done around here even though the girls do their own.

I feel like I've accomplished very little today aside from laundry, finishing the mittens and spending almost two hours sorting out a problem with my antivirus software. Maybe that's enough for one day though. Sometimes we all need a break, especially after the circus that was our weekend.

Jim and I spent Saturday closing the cabin down for the winter. Since it was our first time, we knew it would take a bit longer than future attempts but we were totally unprepared for the eons each small task took to complete. Of course it didn't help that there was a huge amount of general cleaning to be done. You can't leave a crumb anywhere or mice move in. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. The moral of the story is, make sure you really leave plenty of time for trying new tasks and it helps to have really flexible babysitters. (Thanks mom & dad!)

Sunday was spent in a frenzy of outdoor activity with the whole family pitching in. Weed pulling, trim painting and lawn mowing (done by Rob with a manual mower) all got done.

There's been a lot of talk about depression era and war era cookbooks on several lists I belong to as people look to trim their food costs. Here's one that is free to download. It's called Foods That Will Win the War. Although I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, I like this one because it's free and it goes into details about the time. I really love culinary history.

Before I print out a copy, I intend to delete the recipes I will never use to save some paper (there goes the entire meat section!) I also intend to change the margins for the same reason.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Your Dishwater is My Broth!

Maybe I've finally gone round the bend but yesterday it occured to me, as I finished the leftover Thai Noodles that Leenie had made, that all that leftover peanut sauce stuck to the side of the bowl was going to go to waste. Granted the waste would be pretty minimal, but still it was waste. (Leftover leftovers?)

As I pondered the best way to rescue this residue, while at the same time questioning my own sanity, I put up a kettle for tea. When the kettle boiled, I decided to pour some into the bowl (it was metal) and whisk it around to get the residue. The result was about a quart of really tasty broth which I used in last night's lima bean stew. I was so inpsired, I even tossed the rest of the cheeze sauce from the weekend into the stew, rinsed the bowl and threw that "broth" in as well.

Thinking back, it seems so logical. I always put a bit of water in the jelly jars and give a shake to get the last bit of sweetness. I usually toss it into pancakes or something similar. I do the same with ketchup, tomato sauce, salsa...come to think of it, I do it with just about every container. Why hadn't I thought of it with serving bowls before?

Well now I did and we're both smarter because of it! I guess it just takes plunging financial markets to get my thinking cap on correctly. One warning, your significant other may not be as inspired by your brilliant use of leftover leftovers, no matter how tasty the end product is. I knew my kids would be grossed out by my tale but I was unprepared for the grimace Jim made as he pleaded with me to say no more. Geez, I even waited until bedtime before I tried to share. It's okay, you can tell me about it. I'll still think you're brilliant. It will be our little secret!

Happy Weekend to All!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vegan Macaroons are Marvelous!

Courtney asked if the macaroon recipe I mentioned in my last post was really vegan. I swear on a stack of PETA leaflets, it was. Actually, I've only made vegan macaroons. I'm not even sure what the non vegan part would be. (I'm guessing eggs but I don't care enough to do a google search or open a traditional cookbook.) I'll share the two macaroon recipes that I've used.

The first one comes from No Cholesterol Passover Recipes:
Festive Macaroons I
Makes about 20
2 cups shredded coconut
4 ripe mashed bananas
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients together and form pyramids on cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. These are the ones I tinkered with this weekend.

The second recipe is my personal favorite. It comes from Simple Treats by Ellen Abraham. If you're looking to impress, this is the one to use.
Coconut Macaroons
Makes about 18
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs barley flour (I use whole wheat pastry)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups shredded toasted coconut (toast raw shredded coconut in 300 degree oven for 10 minutes on ungeased cookie sheet)
8 pitted dates (I've also used 8 Tbs raisins or chopped dates with good results)
1/2 cup Sucanat or other vegan sugar
5 Tbs water

The short version of the cooking instructions are this. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put all dry ingredients into food processor. Give a whirl. Add coconut, dates and sugar. Whirl until the dates are all chopped and the mixture starts to come together. Add in water through top while running just until a ball forms. Drop spoonfuls and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 16-18 minutes.

If you increase the sugar to 1 cup and add 1/2 cup of cocoa powder she calls these Coconut Chocolate Chews. They are just sinful!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Can You Make With THAT??

We spent this weekend relaxing in the Adirondacks after picking up our CSA share Saturday morning. Aside from slowing down and taking some time to enjoy the beauty of the fall weather and each other's company, the challenge of the weekend was how to make yummy meals out of the very limited food staples left in the cabin.

I did make a run to the grocery store for salsa, tortilla chips and salad dressing (I know, I'm ashamed to admit the salad dressing but supplies really were that low!) I only had chickpeas and red lentils so most meals revolved around them. In addition to the bounty of the CSA share, I had oatmeal, flour, sugar, maple syrup, cheap pancake syrup (I didn't buy it but I couldn't bear to throw it out), shredded coconut (doesn't that sound exotic compared to everything else?), bulgur, homemade cheeze sauce mix, a little chickpea miso and a very small amount of quinoa. What could this become?

Saturday evening dinner: An oniony chickpea stew
Going by memory, which is often dangerous but necessary when you've left your cookbooks at home and have no internet access, I chopped up several leeks and began to make onion soup. To this I added, chick peas, green beans, red peppers and that tiny bit of quinoa. It was not long after that I discovered my lack of tamari. I used miso instead and it worked out nicely.

I attempted to make biscuits to go along with this, also from memory, and this did not turn out well at all. I used too much baking soda (I had no baking powder on hand) and they were salty. YUCK!!

I roasted corn to go along with it, which was lovely. Finally, I made the cheese sauce in case anyone wanted it on their biscuits or if they wanted a dollop in their soup. I was pretty sure there was a slight after taste to this recipe so I sauteed some red peppers first and then poured in the cheeze sauce mix and water. It worked very well.

Dessert seemed important, especially since I discovered my daughters' friend was going to join us. I did have a cookbook in the house that had a simple macaroon recipe. I didn't have the cocoa powder it called for but I did have some homemade cappuchino mix that the girls had forgotten about. I gave it a try and the results were very good.

Sunday morning breakfast: Apple pancakes, home fries and baked chickpea scramble
Everything in pretty self explanatory in this meal except the baked chickpea scramble. It amounted to some chickpeas, a tablespoon of maple syrup, a tablespoon of nutritional yeast and a sprinkle of salt baked along with the home fries.

Lunch was of the mundane pbj variety if eaten at all. We had all slept late and breakfast had been eaten at about 11:00am.

Sunday evening dinner: An oniony chickpea stew redux!
I didn't want to have to tote leftovers home so to this end I chopped some kale and placed it in the bottom of a greased baking pan. I topped this with the leftover chickpea stew. The I cut the leftover corn off the cob and added that as well. Next, I gave Jim a choice, Sesame Ginger salad dressing or cheese sauce on top. He chose the salad dressing. A smaller batch of chickpeas was mixed with the last tiny bit of salsa and baked as well.

Toasted bread with cheeze sauce and a green salad rounded out the meal. Jim made the right choice because the dressing made the leftovers delicious.

In that one cookbook there was also a pudding recipe. It called for 3 Tbs of cornstarch and 1/4 cup of maple syrup, which I actually had, but it also called for cocoa powder. Did I dare try the cappuchino mix again? I figured I didn't have much to lose so I did. The leftover macaroons had gotten soggy so I broke them up into crumbs and tossed them into the oven to crisp up. The pudding thickened beautifully, which is always a challenge when using soymilk. I served it with the macaroon crumbs on top. This was a stunning success.

Monday Morning Breakfast: Apple pancakes, home fries and little breakfast burgers
Again the only real explanation required comes with the breakfast burgers. It's just all of the leftover chickpea dishes mashed together with oatmeal thrown in to bind it all together. I formed them into little burgers and baked them.

Not to sound redundant but...Lunch was of the mundane pbj variety if eaten at all. We had all slept late and breakfast had been eaten at about 11:00am.

Monday Evening Dinner: Turkish Red Lentil Stew and bulgur
Once again I worked largely from memory. I used the last of the ketchup in place of the tomato paste the recipe calls for. I also used the last of the red peppers.

The pudding had been such a big hit and there was just enough vanilla soymilk left, so I made vanilla pudding. By this time I had run out of maple syrup and pancake syrup went in its place. I also toasted the remaining cup or so of shredded coconut. When the pudding was done I added the coconut. Jim, who is a huge coconut custard pie fan, was in coconut heaven.

By the time we left, the chickpeas, maple syrup, shredded coconut, quinoa, cheeze sauce mix, salsa, tortilla chips, and homemade cappuchino mix were gone. And so ended our frugal food weekend at the cabin. What creative cooking is going on in your kitchen?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Where Do You Fit in the Frugal Universe?

As more people have begun to look for ways to save money, I've been pondering the many faces of frugality. I've even heard someone besides myself tell their kids, "no, we can't afford that." Some use coupons, some bargain hunt, and some just quietly cut down on the nonessentials. A few I've encountered are just ignoring everything and spending just like always.

Then there are those who go for pure function in their frugality. You wear what's warm regardless of how it looks, you find new uses for what you have (asthetics be damned), you eat what you grow, you get really creative with pantry staples and if you don't have it and can't afford it you do without.

I was trying to figure out where I personally fit in these categories, that exist only in my head I should mention! It seems we're closest to the pure function folk. After all, I spent a part of yesterday cutting out boxer short pattern pieces from my husband's old shirts. But then again, I'm not a fan of going out of the house looking like I'm wearing scraps from the rag bin. If that sounds as ineloquent to you as it does to me, I apologize.

Perhaps what I'm trying to express is, in addition to being vegan and frugal, I'm just a regular suburban mom and wife. I slide between both communities, because let's face it, they don't always comingle, even in a college town like the one I live in. I think I do a pretty good job blending in either community and I think, for me, that's the best way to spread the frugal veggie word, as it were.

People see me as that slightly odd, eclectic mom. You know, the one who knits and sews at swim meets and practices. I'm that one who's always making something. I'm also that one who always packs a cooler full of vegetarian food for swim meets because we don't eat hotdogs. (People are always shocked that we don't eat hotdogs. They are the armpit of meats in my opinion.) Believe me, I don't fall below the radar at all, but then again, I look very average.
No one is going to pick me out in a crowd as someone who shops in a thrift store or makes/remodels some of her own clothes.

I think that's the crux of what I'm trying to say. Too many people I meet think that being frugal and reusing everything available to you means you're going to be wearing something that looks like the scarf in this link. I guess my goal in life is to show people that's one option but it's not much harder to blend if that's your personal preference. I enjoy the challenge of making things look like their store-bought counterparts or better.

What about those times when my project is a bust? I try to look at early attempts at a particular project like the first pancakes off a griddle. They might look ugly, but they still taste good and you won't be hungry after you eat them. My first attempts at dishcloths were ghastly, but they still cleaned dishes and later dishcloths were much better. My first hats were a little too big, but they still kept my sons' heads warm. My first boxers had one panel of fabric cut out backwards but it didn't stop Kyle from wearing them proudly (he even asked me to bring them to the hospital when he was allowed to wear his own clothes.) Ask yourself honestly, are the flaws that you see in your own projects even visible to others?

I think the fear of trying something new can be debilitating. This is where the support of our internet community is such a benefit. I know if I can do this stuff, you can too. Why not share some of your goals or pictures of some of your finished projects? What are you doing or planning to do to be more frugal this winter? Do you have a great link to share? Come on and share, you might be somebody elses next great resource.

And before you leave, go visit Ruthie's blog and check out the great article she posted. Now I'm off to cut more boxers...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Falling Into the Rhythm of Fall

Today the kids are off and we've embarked on a general cleaning and food preservation spree. There are a ton of apples cooking down on the stove. The rest are in the food dehydrator. Cuban black beans simmering in the slow cooker. Tomatillo salsa is simmering away awaiting the addition of cilantro. Some of this salsa will be used with the Cuban black beans for dinner tonight while the rest will go into the freezer for a special wintertime treat. Later on I will tackle the many beets that have begun to accumulate in my refrigerator.

The swirling smells of apples and salsa are a fine complement to the whirring of the vacuum as we try to keep the dog hair at bay. Throw in a little music and we're making some good progress and having a pretty good time.

This is the time of year to sip your coffee and get yourself organized for the winter. My goal is to make most of the things that we'll need for winter. I'm already on my third pair of scrap yarn mittens. What are you doing to get ready for winter?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Watch This

This is my sad little watch band. The little loops that hold the band in place fell off months ago. It didn't stop me from wearing it but I suppose it's not a very elegant look. Then, to my horror, it started falling off because of the lack of loop support. What could I do??

I kept waiting to stumble upon a watchband at a thrift store but it was not to be. Yesterday inspiration struck compliments of Threadbangers Blog. If you scroll down on the right side they have a list of "learn how to make..." I clicked on macrame bracelet or necklace. Suddenly I knew I could solve my watch band dilemma using what I already had on hand (a wise idea considering the economic turbulence going on).

I dug into my sewing box and came up with black and white elastic cording. I wanted something I could take off when I showered so elastic seemed like the best choice. I began following the instructions when I discovered the band was too thin. Another go round through the sewing box revealed a thicker elastic. I opted to use this in the center and the thinner ones on the sides. The center one essentially just acts as an achor for the other two to wrap around.

Once it was as long as I wanted, I attached the face of the watch by threading the thicker elastic around the pins that held the original watch band in. After knotting everything behind the face of the watch, I sewed the thicker elastic in place and used it as a case to hold in the smaller elastic ends. Here's the result.

Now I don't pretend that this is a tutorial. If what I'm suggesting doesn't make sense go to the original Threadbangers tutorial, it's very clear.

What other creative frugal ways have you solved problems like this one?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Thank You Peter Brady?

Isa's post yesterday immediately called to mind my childhood as she remembered Peter Brady saying, “Pork chops and appleshauche, porkchops and appleshauche…” However when I was done reminiscing, and it did take a while, I remembered that the combination of pork chops and applesauce was quite good. Could it be that seitan really would work as well? Isa seemed to think so.

First let me say, Isa's recipe is probably seven billion times better than what I did but in spite of this, I was pretty pleased with the results. Also, I would never have come up with this in a thousand years if she hadn't written that post. So go over there and try hers, I'll join you when all my kids move out.

I was intrigued by her mention of using chickpea flour in place of nutritional yeast. I never thought of them as substitutes for each other. I figured what the heck and gave it a try. I used the very much simplified seitan recipe from Veganomicon as my base recipe. Holy cow, that is the simplest seitan recipe I've ever seen and it tastes great. Jim liked it much better than any of the other versions I make. I confess, I did bake my seitan for 1 1/2 hours at 325 degrees in a covered pan. I just like the texture so much better using this method.

Once my seitan was cooking, and warming up my once chilly kitchen, I pondered my next move. I had plenty of apples but with kids I walk a fine line. Did I dare include ginger? In the end, I opted to just chop 6 appples and simmer then down into applesauce. I added nothing to them because they are some of the tastiest Cortland apples I've ever encountered. BTW, I always leave the skins on the apples.

For a side dish, I chopped some onions, and carrots and sauteed them in olive oil before adding some bulgur. I served this along with a mixed green salad, probably one of the last of the year, compliments of our CSA.

Serving is important around here since the need to segregate food on the dinner plate is still a priority to some of my kids. I opted to put the applesauce next to the seitan rather than on top but I urged everyone to combine with reckless abandon.

The reaction was mixed as everyone came to the table, although I saw a gleam of recognition in Jim's eye (perhaps he too was channeling Peter Brady.) Once everyone got over their initial suspicion, the meal was a big hit. I'm definitely filing that one away for future use.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Scrambling For an Answer?

Breakfasts on the weekend are a bit of a celebration around our house. Jim and I like nothing better than to sit down to a leisurely hot breakfast complete with pancakes, scramble, smoothie and coffee. If you're wondering what a vegan scramble might be, ponder no more. I'm here to solve the mystery.

A scramble might be very reminiscent of the scrambled eggs you remember from your childhood. If that's what you're looking for, try the Scrambled Eggless Eggs recipe from How It All Vegan. This recipe uses medium tofu and will satisfy your scrambled egg craving.

What if you're not fooled by close fascimiles of non-veg favorites? Then try something totally different to round out your big breakfast. Chickpea scramble is one of our favorites.

What if you've got some leftover beans and some leftover veggies that you want to use up? Toss them into a hot frying pan and cook them until crispy. Add some seasonings (a tablespoon of maple syrup, a tablespoon of nutritional yeast and a tablespoon of tamari go a long way towards making any scramble breakfasty) and you're good to go.

Just yesterday I combined leftover greens with sweet and sour sauce and leftoverFennel Bulb Navy Bean Soup, added the maple syrup combination mentioned above and cooked until crispy. It made a yummy addition to our apple pancakes and apple straawberry banana smoothie.

In short a scramble can be anything you want it to be. What's your favorite?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Soup's On!

Check out my new friend. The boys watched him for hours the other day. They even got to see him pounce on and then leisurely eat a giant fly.

The temperature started to drop yesterday and the wind picked up a bit. It's really starting to feel like fall. I celebrated this by making split pea soup last night. Although split pea soup is one of those simple recipes that is always a hit around our house, I'm always looking to get it closer to my pre-veg version. You know, the one with the ham in it.

I know liquid smoke is supposed to do the trick but I've never bought the stuff. I've tried adding bits of seitan with pretty good results. (I find baked seitan works best.) Last night I didn't have any leftover seitan so I decided to try a little tvp.

While my cast iron frying pan was heating up, I tossed in:
3 cups dry tvp
3 cups of water
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp basil
about a tablespoon of tamari
several squirts of ketchup

I stirred this together and let it cook until it was dry and a bit crispy. You'll notice that the inspiration for this is once again drawn from Russell's Sausage recipe (which I'd link to but I can't find. Ruthie where is it???)

I served it sprinkled on top of the split pea soup, although a few food purists in the house demanded that I serve it on the side. (I can't stand the "I don't like my foods touching" phase of childhood.) Everyone liked the way it came out. I've got to store that one away for future reference.

The CSA pickup last week had mixed greens in it. The flavors were too strong for salad and initially I was at a loss. I think making greens palatable is such a challenge sometimes. Oddly enough, I don't include kale, collard and swiss chard in this. My family is already very willing to accept them. Perhaps in time, the mixed greens will join that list but in the interim, I still had a problem.

I opted to make sweet and sour sauce. I use the one in The Compassionate Cook for inspiration. I mixed it in the bottom of large Pyrex bowl and then put the chopped greens on top. I covered the bowl with a plate and microwaved it long enough to wilt the greens. Next, I tossed the wilted greens to distribute the sauce on the bottom. The result was some very palatable steamed greens. BTW, I didn't use any thickener (ie. cornstarch, arrowroot or flour). I didn't think it would work out well the way I was using the sauce.

Happy almost weekend to everyone!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Useless Bits Turn Fabulous with Felting

This is part of the pile of yarn pieces that I mentioned a while back. On the left side there are two balls of what looks like multicolored yarn. Actually, I've been knotting the small pieces together making two nearly identical yarn balls.

I gave this mitten pattern a try because it looked simple, had no gauge and I already had the double pointed needles needed to do it. I was really skeptical. There were knots everywhere and I couldn't imagine that felting was going to help much. Plus the mittens looked huge, even though I knew they would shrink significantly.

To actually felt them, I just threw them in with the 3 laundries that I did one day. That seemed to work out well because they shrunk down enough to fit my hand. I spent some time trimming the loose ends but here's the finished product.

I'm pleased with the way they came out. They are definitely thick, warm and a great use of little yarn pieces. The pattern on them is a result of the way I tied the yarn pieces together. The knitting pattern was definitely an easy one to follow. Best of all, the knots are barely noticeable in the finished product, although, I plan to pull all the knots through to the inside of the mitten on the next pair I make.

So now I'm putting together the remaining yarn bits for the next pair.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

It's All Leenie's Fault...

She's been pestering me to read Twilight for a long time. I finally gave in and started it Thursday evening. Next thing I knew I was a Twilight junkie. I had to know what happened. I had to read more. By Monday night I had read all four books in the series and those books aren't short. Thankfully, I'm a fast reader.

So I confess, I haven't been blogging because every spare minute of my time has been filled with the saga of Bella and Edward. Now that they have their happy ending, I can return to my productive life.

Just for the record, since my daughter tells me these things are important among Twilight fans, I hate Jacob and Edward should have bit Bella and turned her into a vampire three books earlier.

images added by eileeeen :] !

Friday, September 26, 2008

Since You Can't Play Outside in the Rain...

It's a rainy day in the Hudson Valley and it looks like its leading into a rainy weekend. Since there's no hope of doing outdoor things, it looks like we can focus on indoor projects, which range from putting laundry away and taking winter clothes out of the attic to bigger things like finishing that bathroom project we never got around to completing and ripping the nasty carpet out of our bedroom.

Jim & I like to put it all on paper so we can track our progess. It also helps us plan what to do when. Over the years we've found we generally work best together and with music in the background. We get silly but we get stuff done. I suppose that's pretty abnormal after 18 years of marriage but then again, we never claimed to be normal.

It would be hard to have both of us working in the tiny bathroom that is still a work in progress. However, if Jim works on the bathroom which is in our bedroom, I could be working on laundry or even possibly ripping up that smelly old carpet in our bedroom. (I'm partial to destruction. I love being the removal person. There is something so therapeutic about the process.)

Similarly, if I'm canning apples, Jim can be helping with the apple prep or doing one of the other zillion tasks in the kitchen living room area. It works for us. Other people I know prefer to work in solitude and that's fine too.

So if we plan to spend the weekend accomplishing things, I need to get the weekends menu organized now. This will prevent me from accidentally getting so involved in accomplishing things that I make it to 6:00pm Saturday without giving an ounce of thought to dinner. (I see you all shaking your heads in agreement. We've all been there.) Slow cooker meals sound like the way to go. Here's a link to more slow cooker recipes on VegWeb

Tonight is pizza night. My challenge is to get it on the table by 5:00pm so we're not late for swim team. Sounds easy enough until you factor in taking the girls to work at 3:00pm for a staff meeting, the school conference at 3:15 and picking the girls up from the staff meeting. I'd better get started now. Thankfully the dough was already made and is just defrosting/rising.