Patchwork Christmas Stockings

Two years ago I wanted to sew my own Christmas stockings, but that was the year we decided that everyone gets a handmade quilt for Christmas.  I went as far as to find and print a pattern, but I ran out of time that year and stashed the pattern in my bin of fabric.

Last year I was far too pregnant to make Christmas stockings.  Although I wanted to, I didn’t have the energy nor the motivation to actually do it.  Just the trip to the fabric store, likely with a toddler in tow, sounded exhausting.  Few people have ever gone fabric shopping with me, but those who have know how indecisive I am and how long it takes me to try to select my fabrics.  We’re talking hours sometimes.

But this year I FINALLY did it!Read More »

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Woodpile in November

The weather has been relatively mild so far this year.  Many years we’ve had snow on the ground by now, but we’ve only had one minor snowfall this season that has long since melted.  And the temperatures have been quite moderate.

The furnace has been going pretty much nonstop all month, but we’ve never really needed  a roaring fire and it often goes out overnight.  My husband will relight it before work, or I’ll do it when I get up in the morning.Read More »

My Kid Doesn’t Sleep (and other recent happenings)

Well, that was an unanticipated, almost 3-week, hiatus from my blog.  I’ve been busy and I’ve been exhausted.  I haven’t been sleeping much because my 10-month old still gets up 2 to 6 times per night.  And only 2 times constitutes a good night.  We have bedtime, second bedtime, sometimes third bedtime.  He’s usually up again around midnight, then at least once more after that… although every two hours has been the standard.  Last night it was midnight, 1 am, 1:45, 3:30, and 6:45.  That, of course, was after bedtime and second bedtime.  We almost had third bedtime but he only fussed for about a minute and fell back asleep.

Only once in recent weeks was the lack of sleep self-inflicted – I stayed up until 1:15 am on election night.  I’m not going to open that can of worms, but I watched it up until the AP called Pennsylvania.  And I found out the ultimate result around 3 am…. and I’ll bet you can guess why I was up then….Read More »

Homemade Italian Meatballs

I used to be able to get away with making spaghetti as a meatless dish.  Our homemade sauce was sufficient to make it a satisfying meal.  It was a dish I could get on the table with little work and no planning ahead.

Unfortunately for me, I decided one time that I was going to be fancy and make some homemade meatballs to go with it.  The next time I made spaghetti without them I was met with “Don’t you usually add some meat to this?”  So, now whenever I want to make spaghetti I have to make meatballs too.

If you have (or are) an Italian grandmother, you’ll probably want to stop reading now.  I’m not making any claims that these are authentic Italian meatballs. However, I wanted to make the distinction because you’re not going to want to slather them in barbecue sauce and serve them as an appetizer.

So, here’s how I make my meatballs… Feel free to adjust the amount of this or substitute for that.  I won’t be insulted, I promise.

Read More »

Woodpile in October

I have a love/hate relationship with our wood furnace.  I love keeping the house warmer than average in the winter and I love not paying for propane.  I never feel bad using the furnace early in the fall or late in the spring.  We have even lit a small fire a time or two on damp, cool summer days just to take some moisture out of the air.

However, I hate lighting it.

My husband doesn’t have any issues with it, but if it’s raining, snowing, damp, warm, or windy outside I have trouble getting it going.  I load the box up with newspaper, cardboard, the driest split wood I can find, and a little oak to get a nice coal bed.  I take a match, light the paper and… well… lets just say it takes a certain skill to only have half of the paper burn before it goes right out.Read More »

Apple Caramel Sauce (From Scratch)

I love caramel on my ice cream… second only to pineapple.  I’ve been making my caramel sauce from scratch for awhile now because it’s just so simple.  It’s hard to go wrong with plain caramel, but since it’s fall and I have a gallon of pressed apple cider in my fridge I decided to get a little creative, and the results turned out amazing.

It tastes like the inside of an apple pie – spoon some of this sauce over vanilla ice cream and it tastes like apple pie a la mode.Read More »

Homemade Sauerkraut

This past summer we grew three large cabbages.  I planted four but at the end of the season we had a rainy spell and one ended up rotting from the inside out.  Each cabbage ended up weighing in at about 10 pounds once it was trimmed down to the edible portion.

Since the variety I planted was a white kraut cabbage, I figured I should try making some.  Besides, one can only eat so much cole slaw.

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I found this amazing tutorial on how to make sauerkraut in small batches: http://www.killerpickles.com/klassic-kraut/

I wanted to do it in small batches because if something went awry I didn’t lose the whole batch and all my time and effort.Read More »

Peanut Butter Cookies

I halve a lot of recipes – especially cookies.  We just don’t need 4 dozen cookies laying around the house because you know what happens?  We eat 4 dozen cookies.  Half batches usually give me the right amount for my husband’s lunches for the week plus a few extra for us to munch on.

Way back when I shared my peanut butter blondies post I mentioned my husband likes peanut butter cookies.  However, I made soft, chewy peanut butter cookies for years before he told me he prefers them thin and crispy.  What’s nice about these cookies is that you can make them chewy or crispy without altering the recipe – it’s all in how much you flatten them before you bake them.  If you want soft cookies, press them with the back of your fork a little bit.  If you want them crispy, press them down a lot!

If 2 dozen cookies is still too much, or you want to multiply the recipe and stockpile some cookie dough for later, this dough is great for freezing. Read More »

Extending the Shelf Life – A “Bread-speriment”

Few things are better than homemade bread.  The flavor is hard to beat, and it makes the kitchen smell amazing.  However, the shelf life often leaves much to be desired.  It’s not something you need to worry about if you intend to gobble up your loaf right away, but if you make a loaf on Sunday and want it to last through lunch on Friday you might end up disappointed when by Thursday the loaf starts to mold.  And lets face it, you’re not saving any money making your own bread if you have to throw it out.

I usually have good luck with my bun recipe lasting a full week.  My recipe uses an egg, and the lecithin in the egg yolk can act as a preservative, so that could be why.  However, as wonderful as my bun recipe is, sometimes I want to make a different kind of bread.  I know, crazy, right?  Besides, I wouldn’t mind squeaking a few more days of freshness out of my buns from time to time.

I don’t want to go out and buy a commercial dough enhancer because they’re pretty expensive and the reviews on whether they work or not seem pretty mixed.  In hopes of finding a cheaper alternative, I decided to embark on an adventure to try to find if there is something, natural or commercial, that I can add to a bread recipe that will help extend its shelf life.  My first contender: Vital wheat gluten with vitamin C.

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Vital wheat gluten is better known to improve the texture of breads, however this product has vitamin C, which is an additive that should improve shelf life. Read More »

Help Me Paint My Kitchen!

Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to do any manual labor….

Over the last 8 years we’ve done significant work on every room in the house except our kitchen.  We plan on remodeling it, but that realistically isn’t going to happen for probably 10-15 years.  The kitchen was by far the most agreeable as far as color palette and functionality, so we were in no rush to do anything to it.  My husband has repainted the ceiling, turned the coat closet into a walk-in pantry, and installed a dishwasher – that’s about all that’s been done.

About a month or two ago I was moving something and hit the bottom of one of the drawers next to the fridge and took out a chunk of the veneer on the drawer face.  I decided then I’m sick of how the kitchen looks we need to do something to it in the interim. If you look closely, some of the veneer on the cabinets is starting to get worn and chipped, and the stuff in front of the sink has some water damage.  Nothing is bad, it all just needs some freshening up.Read More »