Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thrift Scores

I love a good thrift store and I hadn't been in a few weeks so I thought I'd run by a couple of my favorites this week, plus one new one. I've found some great stuff. I found a Coach might be a knockoff, I don't know...but it's a pretty good one if it is, I paid $4.95 for it. I found one of those yarn project folding baskets for $2.99. I found three sewing patterns for $.75, 2 yds of cotton fun polk a dot fabric for $2. A wonderfully seasoned cast iron skillet (not as big as the one was hunting...but perfect nonetheless) for $10 and a ton of clothes for O. and the boys. Sometimes I can find clothing so cheaply that it doesn't even pay to sew them...although I do like to sew still.
The thrifting brings me to mind that I'm going to have to tighten my belt significantly. Our tenants just gave notice last night and I don't know how long it will be before I will find some one to rent the place. I'm so sad to see them go. They were tidy, quiet and not once did they pay the rent late. I had one last hurrah before I knew they were moving out. I was at Tuesday Morning yesterday where I scored a ton of yarn and a Boye needlemaster set, but today I'm feeling like I should return everything. I'm not loving the needlemaster set and even if it's cheap, if it's not fun to knit on then it's not a bargain right? I'm used to addy's and knitpicks and the needlemasters don't seem very smooth or fast. I'm knitting a scarf for O. out of 100% wool and it's so grabby. I'll try a bit more and if I'm still struggling I'll return them this afternoon. I belong to a co-op and I was saving up for some Hiya-Hiya's, they are suppose to have an interchangeable set coming out.
I guess this a great motivation to continue with the deal a friend and I struck. We are pledging to shop our own stash for craft project. It's very reasonable for me to do fact I don't know why I keep buying more stuff. I have so much yarn and fabric it's really insane. So...I'm saying it here, I'm on a moratorium. I have 2 co-op buys outstanding, but then no mas...I'm shopping at that exclusive boutique Chez Sabrina, lol.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday's meal

Well, it's just a few days before Thanksgiving, my most favorite holiday! I was thinking about dishes I had prepared thoughout my years of doing big holiday meals, you know the kind where you eat until you finally have to push yourself from the table and waddle to the couch until you can digest a bit of food and then come back for more. Well, the following dish is one of my favorites because squash is probably my most favorite vegetables. I love it in the summer, but hey why not enjoy it in the winter too? So...enjoy!

Squash casserole

4 cups sliced yellow squash
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tsp of minced garlic
3 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled w/the drippings reserved
30 buttery round crackers, crushed
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Place squash, garlic and onion in a large skillet over medium heat. Pour in a small amount of water. Cover, and cook until squash is tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well, and place in a large bowl. Now cook your bacon until crispy. Drain bacon on paper towel and reserve the drippings.
In a medium bowl, mix together cracker crumbs and cheese. Stir half of the cracker mixture into the cooked squash mixture. Add the bacon and the drippings. In a small bowl, mix together eggs and milk, then add to squash mixture. Stir in 1/4 cup melted butter, and season with salt and pepper. Spread into a 9x13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cracker mixture.
Bake covered in preheated oven for 20 minutes, uncover and bake 5-10 minutes more or until lightly browned and the cheese is melted.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I've Been Tagged!

Don't you just love the Internet? I never realized when I began blogging how many cool people I would meet and how interconnected our lives are. I just got tagged by one such mega cool mama, Chi-Chi of the blog Where there's a will there's a way. I so admire her style, prose and poise. You rock, mama! Anyway she tagged me so not only do I need to complete a list of requirements, but I need to tag seven others.

First the rules:

So...let's see, seven random or weird facts about myself.
1. I despise coconut, I think it has the texture of hair and it makes me want to go ah, eh, ah, eh and wipe it off my tongue.
2. I never go barefooted. I hate it. Even in the summer I either have on flip flops, sock or slippers. As a result of always wearing slippers I go through several pairs/year.
3. I can't take naps. No matter how tired I am in the daytime I just can't sleep if the sun is up. It kind of sucks since occasionally I'd love to just take a little siesta.
4. I've suffered from migraines most of my life and I distinctly remember the very first one I ever had when I was about eight years old.
5. I can't eat any food that know that has a waxy pickles. It's like nails on a chalkboard to me and it sets my teeth on edge. I know...kind of weird, huh?
6. I've time traveled...Well sort of. When we lived overseas and were flying there, we crossed the international dateline. So behind us it was one day and ahead it was another...I lost a day so I traveled into the future essentially...even if it was just for a day, lol.
7. My most favorite books of all time are "Pride and Prejudiced" and "A Prayer for Owen Meany". I mean who doesn't love Pride and Prejudiced, it's timeless. Doesn't every girl want to find love? Doesn't every girl have a crazy, dysfunctional family...with a bad sister and a mother who is all up in your business? Ok...maybe it's just my family, lol...but I know that story by heart. And Owen...come on, you have to love this story of the triumph of the human spirit. Owen is an amazing fully developed character. One of the best written characters I've ever read and that's saying a lot since I read constantly.

That's seven. I could go on. But, I'll save some things for another time.

Ok, I'm going to tag the following people.

1. Brandy of the blog The Baldwin Girls
2. Steph of Steph's Random Life
3. Dawn of Olabelhe
4. Mary of Confessions of a craft addict.
5. Tonya of Everything I've got
6. Samantha of The Handmade Dress
7. I want to tag Heather of the blog HeatherK, but when I went today she had posted that she was on hiatus and I couldn't leave a comment. Heather, I hope you see this and know that I'm thinking about you and hope all is well with you. Take care, mama!

I won! I won! I won!

Lot's of the craft type blogs have awesome giveaways and although I don't consider myself to be particularly lucky in that manner, I decided to enter one recently and I won! My prize finally arrived and I couldn't be more excited. It came from Dawn of the blog Olabelhe and it's the niftiest little portfolio and pencil roll ever. It's just so clever and just the perfect item for journal writing, list making me. I've told her that she definitely needs to sale these. Her craftmanship is superb and wouldn't you like to have one too?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A simple holiday

I haven't been online much this week as you can tell. In fact I've been hard at work crafting. I've been talking about how I want a scaled back, low key holiday. The funny thing is as part of a very consumer driven society sometimes it's hard for me to stay focused on that. So I thought I'd develop some rules to live by
1. A want
2. A need
3. Play
4. Read
So far, so good, right? Sounds like it should be simple. Yet, it's not. Coming up with thoughtful, not "crap" stuff is pretty hard...especially when you have four very different children to get gifts for. So, let's start w/O. I haven't figured out the want yet, although I might do a Barbie since she absolutely loves Barbie. I think the quilt is the need...well, sort of. For the play, the dollhouse and the read...a book of fairytales. Then there's S. as a tween he's got very specific ideas about what he deems a good gift, lol. But, I think I have him pretty well figured out. It's just not terribly frugal though. There's E & M. I'm not above regifting. So the other day I found a huge and I mean huge...probably at least a $100 worth of leggo for $5 at a thrift store. I'm going to get a nice big rubbermaid container and put them in and use my labelmaker to make a clever title for them such as "M & E's imagination kit". I've picked up a bunch of Thomas the tank stuff and sock yarn from A.C. Moore on sale. I did get a game for E. yesterday. I think he'll love it. I'll probably do the crayon roll & portfolio set if I get time, but that will be something extra.
I'm starting to feel like coming up with clever ideas is harder than just going shopping. But...I forge on. I'm almost done with one of E.'s socks. I hope I can finish before Christmas. I see on Ravelry where people finish socks in a few days...uh yeah.
Well, I just thought I'd check in, now it's back to my list.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday's meal

So much going on lately trying to knock out some handmade holiday gifts that I thought I better fire up the old crockpot. So, here's one that offers delicious stick to your ribs chicken with a Southwest flair.

Black beans and Chicken Crockpot

4-5 boneless chicken breasts
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can black beans
1 (15 ounce) can corn
1 (15 ounce) jar salsa, your favorite kind
1(8 ounce) package softened cream cheese

Place the frozen, boneless chicken breasts put into crock pot. Add 1 can of black beans, drained, 1 jar of salsa, 1 can of corn drained. Turn crock pot on high for about 4-5 hours or until chicken is cooked.
Add 1 package of cream cheese to the top and turn the crockpot down to low for about 1/2 hour. Finito! You can serve it solo or over chips for a delicious meal, enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Zen and the art of knitting

I have come to realize that I'm a process knitter. I'd like to say I'm highly productive and I have a lot to show for the amount of money I've spent on my yarn stash...but I don't. I don't really produce very much at all if I'm honest with myself. I knit quite a bit though. I like starting something and trying out new techniques, then when I get bored or want to try something else...I rip it out. When I knit, however poorly, the rhythmic action of working with my hands, yarn and a set of needles takes me to another place. It's really is kind of zen experience for me. I can lose myself in the knitting, in the intricate patterns that are produced from a seemingly simple pattern of loops and knots. I think about how for centuries women (and men too) have taken needles and fiber in hand and created. It makes me feel connected to the past through this simple craft. I think that might be why knitting is such the craze. It really is a simple thing too. Aren't we all just looking for a simple way to quiet our souls?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Holiday Gift Giving Goals

Of course with the holidays approaching, I've been thinking a lot about what to give. I committed our family to doing a less commercial, more thoughtfully given Christmas a few years ago and I have to say it's been much nicer in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, I have or will purchase some items. I've have a wooden dollhouse for O., Leggo, trains and other items for the boys. But, I'd like to make a good portion of the gifts, but I don't know if I'll have the time to do all I want. I hope that I can accomplish a good deal though. But, what to make? O. should be easy right? I think because she loves to help me cook so much I'm going to make her a chef set with a hat, apron and oven mit. Of course I'm finishing the quilt and perhaps I can make a doll quilt for her Waldorf doll. For the boys? Hmm...that's a bit harder, I'll have to think about that. My friend Dawn of the blog Olabelhe had a great idea about an artist portfolio and crayon/pencil roll. I think I'm going to borrow that idea. I'll also probably do another bag or two for M.'s train collection to go in. I'm not sure what to make for E. yet, bedside knitting him a hat and socks. For S. I'm going to make a hoodie sweatshirt, some boxer shorts and lounge pants. Gosh with the length of that list I should be sitting at my sewing machine right now. I also wanted to make a couple things for my sisters. Thank goodness I started some of these items in the summer. I let you know how things go. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday's Meal

I love to cook. I admit it. At our house we love pasta. Any good cook should know how to make a basic white sauce and a basic red sauce. They are so versatile and you can use them to make any number of dishes, don't be afraid to experiment. I thought I'd share some recipes for both a white and red sauce. The white sauce as you can see is very simple, but you can add cheese to it, or lemon and garlic and you have the start of a delicious meal...go wild! For the red sauce you can make a smooth or chunky style sauce. You can spice it up by adding more or less of your favorite herb. Add shallots or capers to the sauce or serve it over you favorite pasta. The possibilities are unlimited.

Basic White Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until the butter and flour are well combined. Pour in milk, stirring constantly to thicken to desired consistency.

Basic Red Sauce

2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 minced garlic clove
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup white wine

If you like a smoother sauce you can blend the following ingredients in a blender or food processor until well blended and smooth; diced tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped parsley, minced garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. If you like a chunkier style sauce just mix them all together well in a dutch oven and set aside until ready to add your other ingredients
In a skillet over medium heat saute the finely chopped onion in olive oil until they become translucent, about 2-3 mins. Add the onions and white whine to blended tomato sauce and cover, simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Bernina dream come true

Finally, finally I have acquired a Bernina. I'm thrilled! I found it on craigslist and maybe it was providence but it had just been posted. Perhaps no one else was looking for one or they were turned off by the fact that it was for sale without the power cord or foot pedal, but I was not. I drove over as fast as I could and claimed her. I paid $45 (I know, insane!) and although it doesn't have the manual, it did come with five of those very pricey Bernina feet that were probably worth way more than what I paid. I headed right over to Elegant Stitches my local Bernina dealership to get a cord. Two of the ladies were very excited for me and Brenda (the one who teaches the classes) even went over all the feet and what other things I could use them for with me. I found out that although the vintage cord for the 801 was for sale for $357, I could get the same cord used by the 1008 for under $100...better still one of the ladies from one of the machine list I belong to had one for sale for 1/3 of the price and it's on it's way, woohoo! I just love a new machine. I've spent the last few days giving her a bit of a spa treatment. As far as I can tell the only issue she has is a frozen darning lever. I will work on getting that unstuck, in the meantime I tested her out using the borrowed 1008 cord from ES and she fired right up...even the light bulb still worked.
I can't wait to find out why everyone says "Nothing sews like a Bernina, nothing".

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's here! It's here!

Remember me mentioning I had ordered a Super Automatic Espresso machine. Well, it arrived last night and my dh and I had anxiously unwrapped it to give it a test run. Ok...I have to admit it, I love it!!! Although, it might take me some time getting used to the strong brew. I'm a huge coffee drinker and I actually felt a bit buzzy after making myself 2 long shot mocha's this morning. I see my coffee consumption going way down, lol. There is such a huge difference in the quality of coffee/espresso you end up with. The Delonghi is so easy to use too. You simply do what the LCD tells you to do and before you know it you are sipping away. I'm going today to get a stainless steel pitcher to froth the milk in. I'm going to try frothing up some milk for a cappuccino so dh can have his favorite drink to.

Oh and I guess I can't forget to mention this. History was made last night. The first person of color was elected to the Presidency of the USA. I say person of color because I don't view him as an "African American" in the classic sense of the word, but I do see him as a person of color and I have to say I was beyond amazed that this country actually elected him. Many people will say that race isn't a factor in this country today, but I'm a black woman living in this country and racism is very much a factor in this country still. I'm cautiously optimistic about what his presidency could mean for our nation and I look on with hope in my heart.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Clutter Control Update

It's been awhile since I talked about my efforts to purge and get organized. I must say I've been doing pretty well. Things didn't turn out exactly how I had planned, however I learned a few lessons along the way. First off, I actually like my stuff. Of course I probably have more stuff than I should, but I'm not an impulse shopper, in fact generally I'm a bargain shopper and take awhile to make a purchase. I have come to realize that I don't want or desire a minimalist life. I want to have a life with purpose that is filled with the people and things that I love. For some it might seem like too much, but I've come to realize for me it's just enough most of the time. Of course I go through periods where there are too many toys lying around, too many clothes to wash or I need to take a break from buying yarn or fabric. But overall I'm okay with having material possessions. That's a huge realization for me. It seems sort of counter intuitive to other aspects of my life and my desire to lead a less consumer driven life. I think I combat that by recycling and reusing as much as I can in my life.
I have also come to realize that the key for me was not necessarily purging down to the bare bones...but purging excess stuff and getting what remained organized. I've been doing that by looking at our life with clear eyes. What do we need? What do we use? Could this be better used by someone else? I've been honest and realistic about what our needs are and that has been refreshingly liberating. I've also invested in some organizational systems and enlisted all my family members to play a part. Our home has never been so clean and organized. It feels good to reach a balance. It was surprisingly so much easier than I thought it would be. There's a new calm and sense of harmony in our home. I seem to have a bit more time with the kids and to do things we all enjoy. Maybe it's because I don't feel as stressed and overwhelmed by everything.
When I originally planned this blog post I thought I would talk about letting go of material things, but I think what I've been able to let go of has been so much more significant.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Monday's meal

I do love kitchen appliances. It's a fact. I even love that oft ignored appliance known as the bread machine. They are abundant in thrift stores. I think people buy them imagining the smell of fresh baked bread but get turned off by the shape of the bread or other factors. But, I'm one that doesn't mind and actually really enjoys my bread machine, in fact I own two. It's been awhile since I shared a recipe for the bread machine so I thought I'd share this one. Dust off that bread machine and get baking.


This recipe makes a 1 1/2 lb loaf.
Cook a new or small russet potato in the microwave until soft and cut it into chunks. Do not peel. The machine will mash it during the kneading. Place potato into liquid measuring cup and add water up to
the level needed to measure 1 1/2 cups. Add ingredients in order as listed and then press start for basic or white setting.

6oz potato plus water for 1-1/2 cups
1-1/2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups bread flour
1-1/2 tsp Bread Machine or instant yeast.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Superidity Duper!

After of months of agonizing research and reading every review and forum I could find. I have finally, finally bit the bullet and purchased my super automatic espresso machine and it should arrive on Tuesday. Woo Hoo!
It was such an overwhelming decision for me for some reason...I guess because it seems like a lot of money to spend on a coffee machine. But I do love some coffee and I drink a lot of it so I figured it would save me in the end. Now I considered going fact that's originally what I intended to do and was going to purchase a Rancilio...but dh talked me out of it. He said that he just wanted to push a button and I have to agree. The difference I realized between me and the folks that were posting to all the myraid of coffee machine forums is that they loved the process and really wanted to be "one with the bean". They really put a ton of thought in to getting just the right shot. It was a quest for them. It's not for me. I just want to stop going to caribou yet still enjoy the occasional mocha latte.
Anyway I can't wait for it to arrive and for me to fire the thing up. I'll let you know how it goes.