Tuesday, November 30
There are more NSF personnel down there this year than ever before and Antarctica is not a forgiving place for accidents or miscalculations. If you get a minute, please say a prayer for safe travel and a safe season for all involved.
Although I don't agree with everything it says, the article brings up some ideas and connections I hadn't thought about before with widespread ramifications. It's one of those articles that sticks with you, to be chewed on and digested slowly. If this is a subject you're passionate about, or you're interested in broadening your horizons a bit, you can find it here.
Just a quick note, as much to remind myself as everyone else - I came upon a fun little book called How to Sew a Button by Erin Bried.
It's a really fun, cute book with mini lessons on basic household/ independent living skills that huge swaths of modern women never learned growing up. Sewing a button back on, stain removal, baking bread, writing a budget, etc. It was very well done, and I kept thinking it would be a great gift for a new high school or college grad headed out on their own.
So if you have anyone in your life that fits that description (or will this coming May/June), consider picking up a copy while you're out Christmas shopping anyway in the next couple weeks. Slap a sticky note with their name on it, tuck it in your closet or wherever you hide gifts and pat yourself on the back for being ahead of the game!
PS - If you're prone to losing things because you "put them somewhere safe", you might want to write yourself a reminder on your calendar or in your planner so when May rolls around you can find it again...
While everyone is out doing their Christmas shopping in the upcoming weeks, I thought I'd toss an idea out there -
They gave us a beautiful butterfly fabric that my pictures can't really do justice. I took it with me when Eric and I traveled for Thanksgiving, and he was generous enough to drive so that I could stitch - and I finished it! It turned out really well, and now I can back and bind the quilt top that I made in my first quilting class over the summer. This isn't a great picture, so you can't see all the stitching, but that's probably just as well... it was my first practice piece, after all! :0)
Monday, November 22
Have you seen the SodaStream Genesis Soda Maker? Laughably promoted as a healthier (no HFCS or aspartame) and greener alternative to buying 2 liter bottles of soda at the store, it allows people to make their own soda at home. Seriously?
For the record, the sucralose/sugar combo and artificial coloring are not better for you than regular soda. Nor are the little bottles of syrup and CO2 canisters you need to buy better for the environment.
Similarly crazy ideas include the mini cupcake maker and mini donut maker. Really cute but totally beyond reason unless you're starting your own novelty bakery.
Both are, however, more palatable ideas than the Vinturi Deluxe Red Wine Aerator. That is an unequivocal flirtation with the end of civilized society as we know it. Either take your wine seriously, buying the good stuff and taking time to properly appreciate it, or avoid it altogether. Anything else is just an insult. *ahem* Stepping off my soapbox now...
The one cool thing I have seen so far is a Portable Scanner Wand. I would have LOVED for these to exist when I was in college! With Keuka's library being so tiny and trips to other libraries so expensive, it would have been a huge benefit to be able to scan the relevant pages of books (including cover pages for copyright info) and then take them back to one's room to read electronically or print rather than taking copious and time consuming notes by hand. Everyone once in a while, things like this make the science fiction I read in high school seem much less like fiction than a quickly approaching phase of reality... though hopefully without the ravenously militant aliens!
Anyway, what comes to mind most often when reading Christmas catalogs is that pretty soon we're all going to need apartments like the one Bruce Willis has in The Fifth Element. Everything from the shower to the fridge stacked on top of something else, sliding up, down or into a wall as needed so the same tiny main living space serves every function. How else are we going to accommodate the flood of gadgets and mini-appliances we're being sold without finding ourselves totally buried?
I recommend skipping the appliance deluge and heading to the library instead. Pick up Pioneer Woman's cookbook and taste decadence on a plate. Start with the cinnamon rolls and chicken fried steak (but not at the same meal). Absolutely divine.
Oh, and just for fun, if you start to stress out about how your house looks heading into the hectic holiday season, hop over to Hulu and watch an episode of Hoarders (the A&E series). Realizing that people all over the country have houses literally labeled with giant red tags declaring them unfit for human habitation or piled so high with detritus that they actually don't know when a homeless person is living in a nest they made in their basement is guaranteed to make you feel better about whatever small messes hit your home over the holidays. (Note: if you are a compulsive cleaner like myself and a few of my friends who also watch this show, please limit yourself to one episode per week. Failure to do so will lead to nightmares. I'm not kidding.)
One more thing and I'll quit spilling the contents of my ball-of-wire-brain: HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!
Wednesday, November 17
Watch and pray. Hard.
Update: The Senate voted to continue pursuing the bill and will finalize voting post Thanksgiving. An amendment has been introduced to exempt small farms but it's terribly frustrating to see the bill move forward.
Tuesday, November 16
Most people who know us by now have heard that we grind our own wheat. Well the CVMC is where we get that wheat. We mostly stick to hard reds or hard whites because they're the best for bread making, but the company does offer a variety of other options as well.
If you're into food storage, you can do what we do and buy the wheat whole and grind it yourself. If not, you can buy flour; please note that flour loses its nutritional value quickly and needs to be frozen if you're not grinding as needed. Either way, its worth it to check this company out - seriously, we just ordered another 100 lbs of wheat for $50. Considering that a 5 lb bag of whole wheat flour is $6 at the store (and has already lost both its nutritional value and best cooking baking properties long before purchase), its easy to see how drastically this cuts our grocery bills!
If you don't have a grinder, you can check them out here (they come in manual and electric versions). I strongly encourage anyone who bakes regularly or who is trying to improve their diet to check out this company. Their customer service is as excellent as their product!
Thanksgiving is near at hand - do you have wine on hand to toast the blessings bestowed on you? Finger Lakes wine, specifically... God knows it would be bad form to toast heaven's bounty with the nonsense coming out of California that they have the nerve to label wine! ;0)
Eric & I were blessed to make one of our semi-annual pilgrimages out to wine country this last weekend to restock our wine rack. In case you haven't heard, 2010 was a stellar year for grapes, which means next year's wine will be off the charts amazing! Whoo hoo! I love our days in wine country - driving along the lakes, chatting with vintners who love their jobs and know their stuff and enjoying one of the few traditions our constantly-changing schedules accommodates every year.
Whether or not you're usually into wine, if you drink at all I highly recommend snagging yourself a bottle of Dr. Frank's semi-dry Gewurtz, dry Riesling or a bottle of the brand new Gruner if you haven't yet picked out wine for Thanksgiving. I guarantee it will be worth every penny!
On a completely opposite note, I am finding the news this week of great interest. [If you're not interested in apocalyptic talk, stop reading now please.]
I usually assume TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) will come as a zombie apocalypse, but recent headlines suggest we might just get our revolution in the streets after all.
First off, something fun: a bra holster for handguns. Completely unnoticeable under clothing. How awesome is that!?
Next up, the public outrage is finally swelling to critcal proportions in the face of TSA insanity at airport checkpoints and Texas Public Safety officials trying to get cameras and checkpoints instated on highways. A public opinion survey by Reuters found that 96% of travelers can and are making alternative plans to avoid airports because they refuse to be subjected to the full body scanners (which, by the way, have not been proven safe for use on humans) or intrusive pat-downs.
Also fun to listen to are the debates over the missile launched over California and explained away as an airplane contrail... apparently that's the newest version of the old "it was a weather balloon" line.
I find great reason to celebrate in the news that Ron Paul has been made "chairman of the House Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy", which means there's actually a chance of abolishing the insidious Federal Reserve! Keep on eye on this one... its going to be ugly, but possibly one of the most impressive and decisive battles of our era!
While you're keeping your eyes open, watch for both Smart Meters attached to your electricity meter or in new appliances (don't buy the marketing hype - these are a dangerous idea!) and facial recognition technology on vending machines (again, sounds novel but is a terrible idea in practice).
That about wraps up the major events of note. And people wonder why I so often just stop reading the news...
Friday, November 12
This, while not a great picture, is the Creamy Sausage Stew referenced in a previous post (I threw in some carrots, which do not technically appear in the recipe). Love this stuff!
This is a mini-batch of Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls just before I rolled them up. (Please note - her original recipe makes a freaking million rolls, so if you want to try it scale it down drastically first!) These are to die for, but for the sake of your waistline I recommend making them only occasionally. (I am making them as a treat, since Eric and I celebrate our 6th anniversary tomorrow. Yeah! Where has the time gone?)
Just to prove I do something besides play in my kitchen, I'll share some updates on what we're doing around the apartment. I've mentioned before that this is the first place Eric and I have really invested in making a home that reflects us and our tastes instead of just a place to crash around work and school. I had a surprisingly hard time finding decent pillows for the living room, but was delighted to hit on these pseudo-suede treasures at Bed Bath & Beyond this week. They barely cost any more than the pillow forms I would have needed to make my own (which I was considering), and are super squishy to boot - perfect!
Much more impressively, we actually put together a bathroom set that not only matches, but that tames our obnoxious blue floor! Whoo hoo! This picture doesn't do it justice, but the sea blue and chocolate brown color combination does a really good job of polishing up the space and making the disparate pieces stuffed in there when we moved in look like they were intentional design elements instead of multi-step renovations done by blind men with leftover stock. :0) SO happy that we got this done! There are a few more little touches to add here and there, but this is a vast improvement and very exciting!I've probably mentioned this already too, but it continues to blow my mind so I'm posting it again. Seriously, this book has made me want to cry more than once and I'm only a little more than halfway through it.
Next post I'll try to have a picture of the adorable practice quilt we made in my finishing class.
I'd like to finish with an entertaining PSA regarding Facebook. As you have probably heard, some moron in California is suing because she got fired after posting nasty things about her boss on Facebook. She claims that her freedom of speech has been violated. It's rather embarrassing, actually, to think that we do such a lousy job as Americans of teaching our children what freedom of speech is (and is not) that she honestly thinks this. Even more embarrassing that public tax money is being spent to put it through the courts.
Really what should have happened is that when she approached a lawyer with this idea, he/she should have politely explained that freedom of speech means you have the right to say whatever you want as long as it doesn't physically put someone else in harm's way (i.e. falsely yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater). It does not exempt you from the consequences of your actions. We're all entitled to our opinions, and we're all equally responsible for demonstrating discretion in which ones to air and how to do so in an appropriate, civilized fashion.
If you walked into your boss's office and told him off, it would be insubordination and you would be fired. Choosing to indirectly tell him off via Facebook is no different. If anything, its worse; you've now publicly humiliated and slandered someone which could quite potentially get you sued!
I am not a fan of Facebook and cannot comprehend what it is about the site that makes users so convinced that it is a separate entity from the real world. It is not Vegas, people. Things that happen on Facebook do not stay on Facebook. Please give yourself a reality check and then go sign up for a basic etiquette class. Please and thank you. :0)
Tuesday, November 9
Just a quick note I thought I'd pass along. Found this gem at the library, and it has a ton of simple and yummy recipes. If you're looking for a way to simplify holiday snack sharing, check it out. Everyone knows a pan of bars transports more easily and safely than a plate of cookies, and you can cut them to a variety of sizes which is helpful if you're not sure how many people you'll need to serve or if you have people watching their waistlines who want "just a taste".
Wednesday, November 3
It literally has homemade recipes for everything from Kahlua to bath crayons for your kids. Every recipe uses household ingredients and includes a cost comparison, telling you on average how much you'll save making your own (the safety and health factors involved in staying away from processed crap, of course, are priceless). I wish I'd found this earlier - it would have saved me hours of scouring the Internet for recipes exactly like these!
[Note: Proper credit must be given to the amazing Patrice Lewis who first alerted me to this book by posting one of its recipes on her blog. Thank you for sharing, Patrice!]
One of the things I am most thankful for, and have been especially appreciative of this week, is real food. Shared meals - even simple ones - made with love should nourish both body and soul, and are a precious time for relaxation and reflection.
With that in mind, I plan to continue sharing some of my favorite recipes this month in hopes that they will bless others as they bless me.
Cheesy Enchilada Stack
This is an easy recipe to dress up or stretch as desired. If you want to bulk it up a little, just throw a layer of rice in there. This is a great make-ahead recipe because it holds well and only needs 15 min in the oven.
6 oz shredded cheese (I use cheddar)
2 oz green chilis, diced (optional)
8 oz enchilada sauce
1 onion, diced
1 can black beans
1/2 lb ground beef (optional)
Grease an 8" square baking dish. Layer tortillas, sauce, chilis, beans, onions, ground beef and cheese. Repeat. Finish with tortillas and sauce. Bake 15 minutes at 400*.
Note: I have amazing and dirt cheap homemade recipes for enchilada sauce and tortillas I'd be happy to share if anyone wants them.
Crab Au Gratin
This is a new one I was inspired to try after having had a similar dish at a restaurant. I used canned crab meat and it worked fine - just make sure you read the back of the cans and get real crab meat with no scary additives! This would be an awesome holiday appetizer if you're throwing a party.
2 tbsp minced carrots
2 tbsp minced celery
2 tbsp minced red peppers
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 tsp tarragon
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used raw whole milk)
1 1/2 cups lump crab meat
splash of lemon juice
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
In a saucepan, cook carrot, celery and bell pepper in butter 1 minute. Add broth, wine and tarragon and boil until liquid is reduced to 1 tbsp. Add cream and 1/4 cup Parmesan and boil 1- 2 minutes. Stir in crab and lemon juice and season to taste with salt & pepper. Transfer to oven safe dish(es), sprinkle with additional Parmesan and broil 2 minutes. Serve with toasted baguette slices or crackers.
Tuesday, November 2
My Hand Grain Mill - Even Better Than I Hoped!
When my husband and I commenced our real food and preparedness living journeys, I was devastated to discover that whole wheat flour was both more expensive and harder to use than all purpose white flour. I love to bake and store bought whole wheat flour created only hard, dense loaves. It didn't even offer the increased nutrient content that might have compensated for the lack of taste because it had been sitting on the store shelves so long that all the nutrients had bled out or gone rancid!
I started researching alternatives. Scouring bread and baking books, I came to the conclusion that our best option was to grind our own flour.
More research ensued. Finally, we took a chance and ordered a Hand Grain Mill and two Superpails of wheat – one each of soft white and one hard red. That purchase has revolutionized my life!
I love my grain mill! A little practice (and building up of strong arm muscles) allows me to quickly and efficiently grind all the grain we need. Fresh ground whole wheat flour used within a few days or stored in the freezer retains all of its rich nutrient content and is exponentially cheaper than buying flour. Whether purchased in Superpails or 50# bags from a local milling company, we purchasing wheat for pennies a pound, cutting our food budget substantially and creating a solid base for our food storage program.
Having grain on hand means never having to run to store if I want to bake and find myself out of flour. It also makes it much more feasible to keep both pastry flour (soft wheat) and bread flour (hard wheat) on hand, giving me more flexibility in my baking. The grinder is small, quiet and easy to store when not in use.
And the results? Outstanding! Freshly ground wheat bakes up into light, soft bread, biscuits and cakes with none of the heaviness, graininess or “whole wheat” aftertaste inherent to commercial flour. People are amazed when I tell them I used whole wheat in a recipe; I always point them to my grain mill and tell them if they get one of their own they'll never go back. I know I never will!
I realize that it's ironic to put holiday themed material up here after I just posted a reminder that November is about Thanksgiving, not Christmas, but I submitted a blog post to Preparedness Pantry's Guest Post Blog Giveaway and wanted to share it here as well. You can find a button for the Preparedness Pantry website on the right hand side of this blog, or use the link above to specifically check out their giveaway - it's a great deal! They're a great company and run an ongoing gift card giveaway for guest blog posts on preparedness, food storage, and survival themed topics. You can submit as many posts as you want, and for every one they use they'll send you a $10 gift card. I'll let you know if they pick mine. :0)
Disclaimer: The people and items mentioned in this post are for example purposes only.
Peace (of mind) on Earth
A quick jaunt to any store will reveal shelves already stocked to overflowing with holiday paraphernalia. Boxes of Christmas cards in all colors and sizes proclaim “Peace on Earth!” in glittering calligraphic letters.
Yet sifting through the isles of cheap plastic toys and pricey electronics (certain to be outdated in a year) offers me no peace of mind. Shiny and expensive as these gifts might be, they could never accurately communicate to a recipient the holiday wishes I really hold for the ones I love – safety, security and comfort in the dark moments of life.
So this year, I've decided to exchange my old holiday shopping habits for something better.
I'm shopping preparedness style!
For my sister, recently moved into her own apartment, I'm buying The Charger™ Emergency Hand Crank Flashlight with Mobile Phone Adapter and a modest but functional first aid kit.
For my brother, who commutes regularly down back roads in all weather, I'll wrap up a few reflective emergency blankets, some Hotties hand/ body warmers, and a few packs of nutrient dense food like trail mix to tuck under the seat of his truck.
My cousins who just bought a house will love the Big Buddy portal heater I found to keep their garage workshop comfortable during the winter months My best friend, hectically juggling work and kids, will be delighted by the #10 can of her favorite food - Fettucinne Alfredo – that requires nothing but hot water and has dinner on the table in ten minutes. Her kids will think I'm the coolest thing since sliced bread when they unwrap the freeze dried Neapolitan ice cream slices and ice cream sandwiches I picked up for them.
The options and combinations for everyone on my list are pretty much endless, but they all bring me back to the same idea. This year, if only in small ways, I am giving more than a Christmas present to the ones I love: I am giving them security and comfort that will reach far into the new year. In doing so, I give myself a precious gift as well - peace of mind.
Monday, November 1
I would like to take this moment to remind everyone that there is a very important holiday between Halloween and Christmas... Thanksgiving! Despite what the stores may lead you to believe, their shelves already bursting with Christmas decor, November should not be pre-holiday madness time; that can wait until Black Friday, thank you very much. November is a month to be thankful, to enjoy our loved ones and the last crisp days of fall. (Check out the (In)Courage website for a free, beautiful November desktop wallpaper for your computer!)
To help you with that endeavor, I am pleased to share a new recipe I have tried and loved - chocolate syrup! Probably I am the only person who reads the back of chocolate syrup bottles or hot chocolate canisters and gets apoplectic over the clutter of toxic ingredients, but if you have done so you will be as excited as I am to find a cheap, healthy, easy and safe recipe for homemade chocolate syrup.
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar (I used 1/2 cup of honey)1 dash salt
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp vanilla
Stir together. Boil 2-5 min or until thickened. Store in the fridge. Yum!
I was finally able to take a halfway decent picture of the lamp I mentioned in a previous post. The smaller of the two in the set, anyway. The picture doesn't do it justice, but I really like them!
Unfortunately for Eric, I'm an expensive habit. We'd been talking about buying me a dresser, since it looks like we'll be in this apartment for a while (lots of moving tends to lead to a minimalist approach to furniture so I've been avoiding getting a dresser), and when he asked me what kind I wanted I was ready with an answer. So yesterday we took a drive out to The Wood Carte in Queensbury - I love that store! We got the very last model in the finish I wanted - black to match our wrought iron bed, with a stained wood top to match the wood of Eric's dresser. Isn't it beautiful?! I promise I'm done being an expensive habit now... for a little while anyway. :0)
While we were there we picked up a sign too. Lovely carved wood with a brass tack flowers design that says "Home is Where Your Story Begins"; we hung it over the arch that leads from the living room to the dining room. This apartment feels more like home than anywhere else we've lived!