Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What's going on here?

So, now that I'm making a conscious effort to eschew as many processed foods as possible, I can honestly say that I feel really good about it, and it's not that difficult.  With the help of Bountiful Baskets, it's so much easier to eat well and at a reasonable cost.  Being an ovo-lacto-pescatarian has helped tremendously.  With the lack of meat and processed foods, my grocery bill has plummeted.  Everything I need, I can make.  Chocolate chip cookies?  Check.  Banana bread?  Check. Pie crust?  Check.  If I can't make it, I probably don't need it.  Of course there are exceptions; pasta, some canned beans and vegetables...probably quite a few things, but nonetheless, it's helped my pocketbook AND my waistline.

The container garden is going great guns.  I've got beets, mint, cilantro, strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, cantaloupe and watermelon, not to mention a bucket of zinnias which I hope will flower, as they'll make a pretty addition to the house.  

On the food front, a couple of ideas.  A frittata is possibly the world's most versatile meal.  If you've never had one, they're ridiculously simple to make, good for you and a great way to use up leftover stuff hanging around in the fridge.  It's basically a big non-folded omelet.  One of my favorites is caramelized onion, goat cheese and sage, but yesterday I knocked up a potato and leek version.  As you're dealing with eggs, you'll need a big, ovenproof, nonstick skillet.  I sliced up a couple of small potatoes and sauteed them in a little oil in the skillet until they were tender.  I actually was being impatient, so what I usually do when that happens is add a little water to the pan, cover it, and that speeds up the cooking process.  Remember to season every step.  When the tats were soft, I poured in a mixture of a couple of whole eggs, some egg whites, and some leftover egg substitute I had hanging around in the back of the fridge.  You'll need enough of that mixture to cover the tats.  Also into the egg I put a good handful of Parmesan cheese and some sliced and sauteed leeks.  Mix it up and pour it over the tats.  Let it sit on the stovetop over medium low heat just until it begins to set.  I forgot to mention that you should have preheated your oven to 325°.  Slap the whole thing in the oven and let it go for 15-20 minutes, or until it's set in the middle.  Take it out, let it sit for 5 minutes, slice and serve.

Completely easy, completely tasty, completely good for you.  I serve it with a salad (courtesy BB goodies).

Here's my idea for leftover salad:  Vacuum seal it.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I seal my leftover salad in large Mason jars and it will stay in the fridge WAY longer than usual.  Then, you have a salad ready to go whenever you feel like it.  Pop the top, add some dressing if you want, screw the lid back on and give it a shake, and you're good to go.  No excuse ever to not have salad!

On the crafty front, I wanted to show you my easy window treatments.  Stupidly easy.  Take cloth napkins.  Line them up so they're overlapping (see the photo).  Fold them over. Stitch a line about an inch down from the fold. Run curtain rod through.  That's it.   Colorful, easy to change out, cheap.  I sewed large buttons on for contrast, and the hanging thingys are art-glass pieces from a studio shop in Lafayette Indiana.

Yes, you can make this stuff!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday! Another opportunity to excel.

Things are happening! In the "garden," the radishes are going like gangbusters and there's even a couple of beets starting to make an appearance.

I did the responsible thing and put up a clothesline.  It's kinda rigged, but it works.  The dryer is just such an energy suck and waste of resources, so I thought I'd use the clothesline occasionally to help out.

I'm rearranging the house a bit to make ourselves an official office/studio space.  I put up some of dad's planes and man, it's weird going in there because they really look like they're flying!  I've got a small design wall up (that's an apple hat for young Connor L. on there, ready to assemble), and my studio table/sewing table is installed and ready for use.  I just need to re-route the cable for my work computer and everything will be finished.  There'll even be room for a sleeper in case we have more guests than the spare bedroom can hold.

The SO has started an interesting project, too.  Being a Texas Hold 'em fan, he's commandeered the dining room table for a poker table.  It's a good alternate use for the dining room, because it's kind of out of the way, but close to the kitchen for easy snack access.  The table is a large oval, which is perfect for poker.  He's making a removable rail and top for the table, which can easily be put on and taken off, whilst leaving the table unscathed and ready for dinner.  Here's the table with the "speed cloth" laid out. 

The speed cloth is specifically designed for cards to easily slide over the surface.  It has a woven-in card suit pattern on it, and it's a beautiful shade of blue.
A 4' x 8' sheet of particle board was procured and the shape of the table traced on to it.  It was then cut out with a jigsaw.  The center will be cut out, leaving a 4" wide "rail."

Here's where he is so far.  Will follow up with more photos as it progresses!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Beginnings Thursday

Yes, it's a new beginning.  Finally bit the bullet and officially started my own company.  With a website and company credit card and everything! 

Oh, gawd.  That means I'm going to have to go out and sell myself.  That's something of which I'm not very adept.

Oh, gaawwd.  That also means taxes and bookkeeping and being accountable.  Hm. I think I can fake that.


Okay - here's what's been going on at the homestead.  I finally put together my composting system, and made it entirely of stuff I had laying around the garage and yard.  I used old lattice pulled from the deck when we re-did it, and some stakes that mom and dad had stashed in the garage that they used for big plants.  Wired it all together with used wire and - yes - cut up telephone cords. Talk about recycling! The first section is for yard waste, the second for kitchen scraps and the third for finishing the compost. 

Thanks to the Bountiful Baskets, I've got a lot of kitchen scraps.  Everything that's left over from dispatching my produce to the freezer (or using it outright) goes in there, as well as things like eggshells and coffee grounds. And speaking of the co-op, my last visit there was a whopper.  Because I volunteered, I got to pick up some extras and it really was a display of overabundance. 

 Here's a couple of snaps of us working last Saturday at the co-op pickup:

I didn't order a basket for this week as I already had a bunch of stuff left from the previous weeks. 

I've also been busy making more bird feeders.  There's been a ton of activity at them recently; we've had chickadees, tufted titmice, cardinals, doves and goldfinches.

And, spring fever has already got a hold on me - probably not a good idea, but what the hell.  I repurposed the old planters and rubber horse feed tubs and the cheapskate in me only allowed the purchase of some clearance sale tubs for the bigger "crops."  I drilled holes in the bottom for drainage and will put broken terra cotta pots in there to help it (more recycling!).  I planted onion sets, radishes and beet seeds.  The mint is a holdover from last year.  I have to put everything in pots as the whole yard is either trees or deck, so we'll see what happens.  I have a bunch of things I'd like to try to plant in containers, such as beans, carrots, and hard winter squashes.  Can't wait for my seed catalog to come in the mail!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Food Truck Friday

I’ve jumped on the Food Truck bandwagon, and I’m holding on for dear life.  I’m not quite sure what the appeal is.  Maybe it’s the limited menus, or the brightly colored trucks, or the idea that you can be driving somewhere and all of a sudden come across a gem of an eatery that wasn’t there yesterday and may not be there tomorrow.  I admit there’s a bit of an adrenaline rush, too … I desperately needed a cupcake yesterday, and Red Jett Sweets (www.redjettsweets.com) just happened to be close to the SO’s work and we needed to drop off the moving truck.  BUT – they were only going to be there for 30 more minutes and I needed it and where was it and Google the address and dodge the traffic and that damn stoplight and WHY ARE YOU DRIVING SO SLOWLY?? and WHEW!!!!!  Made it.  Oh, my God, I thought I was going to go down in flames in search of a cupcake.   

This particular food truck has celebrity status;  they were featured on Cupcake Wars and even though they didn’t make it to the end, they gave it the ol’ college try and did us Metroplexians proud.  I had the Glinda's Peppermint Cloud cupcake and obviously Florian and Sprinkles Lady don’t know what they’re talking about because mine was FABOO.  The peppermint buttercream frosting tasted just like the mints I used to make years ago for weddings; it was creamy and pepperminty and just perfectly sweet. I bought the SO the Red Velvet and it sounded like a pack of hyenas tearing into a zebra carcass.  Didn't dare get my hand too close. 

Last week the SO and I ventured out to the Fort Worth Food Park (www.fwfoodpark.com).  Apparently there are a lot of restrictions on "Mobile Food Vendors" in Fort Worth, but they've created this place where the food trucks can nest at night and ply their wares in a semi-organized fashion.  It's a weird location, I have to say - in the middle of an industrial complex just north of downtown - but it sure was hopping last Saturday night. There's a rotating selection of trucks and everything we had was very good.  I have to give special props to Good Karma Kitchen (www.thegoodkarmakitchen.com) for their vegetarian chili … it was insanely delicious and really hit the spot on a chilly night.  The SO had a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich from The Bacon Wagon. I had a bite of the bit without any bacon and I would go back and get that again whenever I was not caring about my calorie intake.  The goat cheese in it was a nice change of pace and melded well with the cheddar.  

We also sampled the tacos from So-Cal Tacos.  I had a fish taco, and it was fine, nothing special.  I think I should have tried the Chipotle Salmon one...that probably should have been the way to go.  However, the SO really enjoyed his Al Pastor, and, after living in Mexico City, this man knows his tacos.  We're on a perpetual hunt for the Best Taco.  It's hard work, but someone's gotta sacrifice.

Probably going to hunt down the food trucks again tonight.  I'll make sure I bring my camera this time!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Storage Unit Thursday

It was one of "those" days.  You know, one where you want to do nothing but stay in bed? I was suffering from interview hangover, so I let it go for a while, then the thought of coffee snuck into my brain.

Ah, coffee.  That magical elixir that makes even the dreariest day seem a little bit better.  The perfect pick-me-up.  Low calorie, high energy, oh, so warm and yummy.  I don't know what I would do without you.  Well, you and tea.  Coffee in the morning, tea in the evening, that's the rule.

The SO took the day off work and got a moving truck to try to clear some of the stuff out of the garage.  Instead of getting rid of it though, it just got moved to a storage unit, which is hardly an improvement.  This notion of storage units is ridiculous to me.  What it effectively says is, "I have SO MUCH STUFF, an entire house isn't big enough to contain it." I guess it's a little bit different in our case, as we had to combine three households worth of stuff and we did try very hard to sell all the surplus.  The good thing is that it frees up a lot of space in the garage, which was desperately needed.  It looked like we should have been on an episode of Tidy Hoarders.  Now we'll have room for activities.  Sooooo.........

Crumbles are easy to make and a great use for whatever leftover fruit you have lying around. Well, most fruits – I’m not sure how well a banana crumble would go over. With one of the jars of blackberries in the fridge, I made Blackberry Crumble for Two. I winged it, so I’m certainly not going to guarantee your results, but it’s hard to screw up.

Bung the berries in a bowl and dump in some sugar of your choice (I like Florida Crystals Organic Cane Sugar). Not too much, you don’t want to drown out the flavor of the berries. Add a splash of lemon juice, stir it all up and let it sit for a while, 30 minutes or so.

Take a handful of rolled oats. I actually used a rolled 6-grain cereal blend. Use as much as you think will take to make a nice blanket over your fruit. I like lots of crumble, so I’m a bit heavy on it. Add in some sugar (brown, white, beige, whatever you have), cinnamon and some flaked almonds if you have them. I had a bag of ground almonds in the freezer, so I used some of that. Plop in a wad of butter, or fat of your choice. I guess you could use a little oil if you didn’t have any buttery-type stuff. Don’t use too much, you don’t want it to be greasy. Rub it all in with your fingers until the mix is homogenous.

Somewhere in there you should have turned on your oven to 350°.

Dispatch your fruit to an oven-proof container. Stick it in and let it go by itself for about 10 or 15 minutes. Take it out and sprinkle your topping on – back into the oven for another 10-15-20 – keep checking to make sure it’s not getting too brown on top. When it’s to your liking, take it out and let it cool a little (or a lot). Serve with whatever accompaniment you have; cream, spray cream, ice cream, yogurt. Yum!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Interview Wednesday


I had my interview today, and for the most part it was great.  They asked good questions, and I gave good answers. Made 'em laugh, which I think is a plus.  I was charming and articulate and for once, I smelled good as I figured it would be a good occasion for a shower. I was punctual, insightful, enthusiastic.  A model employee, actually.

Then came The Test.

There was a 2-part practical exam to this interview; part one involved recreating a double sided flyer and part two, manipulating a Photoshop image, both of which I can do in my sleep.  However, I can't do it in 45 minutes, with no ruler, no scanner and having to recreate a logo from scratch.  I felt so stupid - here I am extolling my virtues and telling them how great and capable I am, AND I CAN'T EVEN COMPLETE THIS SIMPLE TEST. I felt like I was on Chopped for Graphic Artists.  "Go ahead and open your basket.  Inside you will find, a flyer, and …what's that in the corner of the basket?  Oh yeah … NOTHING."  My pantry was empty of scanner, ruler, loupe, time. "Five, four, three, two…one.  Time's up. Artist, step away."

I did the best I could - I wanted it to be perfect.  I can only hope the rest of the interview will carry me.  The final beating was when I checked my email in the car.  Yet another rejection letter.  I think I want to cry.


So, I finally finished a project I've been working on sporadically for the past few weeks. I decided, since it's hard for me to find pants and skirts to fit, that I would make my own.  I've sewn quite a bit in the past, but I've never made really tailored things and I've certainly never started out by making my own pattern.

The whole pattern-making process is very interesting to me.  It combines the precise, technical stuff I like with unlimited creativity.  I was very surprised it worked.  I can actually wear this!  It makes me want to branch out into other aspects of fashion design.  Like I need any more projects.

I used some wool purchased in Scotland in 1985.  I was going to make a kilt from it (it's our family's tartan), but it just got forgotten in the back of a closet.  I had to cut around some moth holes, but other than that, it's fine.  I made the initial pattern from taped-together graph paper, and made a proof from muslin.  The final item is lined in red, and is quite startling. I've got a couple of hand-finishing things to do, but other than that, it's done.  Now, if only I had a new job to which to wear it....

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Clean-Closet Tuesday

Well, Mondays are always hard, no matter if you're gainfully employed or not.  So yesterday, I decided that I would get up at "normal" time (6:30-ish) and actually get something done.  I thought accomplishing a task might make me feel better, and it did - for a while.  My task of choice (insert ominous movie music here)?  The Closet.

The Closet had gradually morphed from an organized safe room to a pit of shoe-lined chaos. It was an embarrassment, not that anyone but me ever looked in it. Here's the Before:

After making coffee and pulling everything out, it looked like a bomb had gone off in Filene's Basement. It was so bad that the cats, who normally like to be in the middle of any unusual activity, gave it a w-i-d-e berth.

After an hour or so of concentrated activity (and unearthing my stripper shoes - from a costume, not actually ever used on stage), this is how I ended up:

Not bad.  I was able to find a few things to donate, which is always good.  I did feel pretty good for getting this done, and the rest of the day I kept going back there and staring at it.  One good task a day....


I ordered my Bountiful Basket (www.bountifulbaskets.org) for pick up on Saturday. Can't wait to see what's in it!  Another week that I don't have to buy overpriced produce at the ShitMart, and another chance to be creative in the kitchen.  I said that I'd tell you what I did with all the stuff from last week's basket, so here's the run-down:

Somehow, I ended up with five English cucumbers.  Not a problem for me, as I love cukes, but five is a lot by anyone's standards.  The first thing I did with one of them was make quick pickles.  They're not anything, really... EXCEPT YUMMY.  Slice your cukes thinly (I also had beautiful fat radishes in my basket, so I added one of those), mix up some rice vinegar and sweetener of your choice - I used Splenda as I didn't want to waste time heating the vinegar to dissolve sugar - till it's the right balance for you.  Bung it in with the cukes and stir up.  That's it.  If I have a red onion, I'll slice some of that up really thinly and add it, or I'll add julienned carrots, or whatever crunchy veggie I have that I need to use.  It'll keep in the fridge for a while. On day two, I added it to soba noodles and sauteed tofu for lunch.  Gone.

One of the best decisions I've ever made (seem to be few and far between) was to buy a vacuum sealer.  If you're intent on a frugal lifestyle, I can't recommend it enough.  Mine's a Black and Decker, it's a lot less expensive than the FoodSaver and seems to work fine.  However, DO NOT BUY THE CHEAP BAGS.  I can't stress that enough.  Spring for the FoodSaver bags - they're the only ones that work.  I wash and re-use mine, so I save money that way, and I also invested in a jar-sealer (bought online for cheap) which is a lifesaver.   Canning jars are pretty inexpensive and obviously can be re-used indefinitely.  If you're buying produce by the basket, I don't think I could do it without my sealer.  

Here's what I had in my basket, other than the aforementioned cukes and radishes:
Romaine Lettuce • Spinach • Tomatoes • Avocados • Asian Pears • Tangerines • Apples • Bananas • Blackberries • Grapes.

Some of the spinach, grapes, tangerines, apples, Asian pears, cuke, and some denizens of the crisper were immediately dispatched to the juicer. 

The problem with juicing is that you're supposed to drink it immediately before it oxidizes to get the most benefit from it. The other problem with juicing is that it makes a holy mess, so much so that you don't want to do it very often, which is a shame.  Enter the vacuum sealer.  We made two batches, one we immediately installed in our gullets (sooooo good) and one we decanted into mason jars and sealed.  If you take all the air out of it, and bung it in the fridge, it can't oxidize.  Well, too much, anyway.  It'll separate, but just shake it up and you're golden.  You can use it as a base for smoothies, too. 

On to the rest.  The spinach and broccoli was washed, blanched, cooled and frozen, then packed into bags, vacuumed and stored in the freezer.  The romaine was washed, rolled in a tea towel and refrigerated and used the next day for salads. Radishes were washed, topped and tailed and refrigerated in a bag. Blackberries were washed, dried, and vacuumed into mason jars, and put in the fridge.  Grapes?  Washed and used for snacking. Avocados and tomatoes are still ripening.  Apples, bananas and tangerines are awaiting noshing. 

The other thing I got in my basket was five loaves of multigrain bread.  Used one immediately, froze the others until hard and vacuum sealed them, stuck them back in the freezer.  Bread for five weeks, right there.  It's comforting to know I have a freezer full of good, natural, nutritious food for the taking.